Romanus III Argyrus (1028-1034)



At the beginning of the 11th century the Byzantine Empire was at the height of its glory. After the conquests of Basil II, the Christian Empire of Byzantium was the greatest power in Europe and Middle East and it was extended from South-Italian Themata (provinces) Calabria, Apulia and Basilicata to the Armenian lands in the east, the Syrian desert in the south, Macedonia in the north and Crimea in the Black Sea (Efxinos Pontus).



Romanos III Argyros was of a noble and wealthy family. His father was Leon Argyros and his grand mother Agathe was daughter of the Emperor Romanos I Lecapenos. He was Eparchos (prefect) of Constantinople and he was forced by the Emperor Constantine VIII to divorce his wife and marry the emperor's daughter Zoe, who was then fifty years old. The marriage took place on November 12, 1028 and three days later Constantine VIII died, leaving Romanos III sole Emperor of the Greek Empire of Byzantium.

As a member of the aristocracy himself tried to relieve the pressure of taxation on rich people, allowing at the same time peasant freeholders to suffer from the voracity of the aristocrats because of the loss of the small properties and the collapse of the Byzantine economy. The new emperor spent large sums of money upon new buildings, churches and monasteries. Among the buildings that he had constructed was the Monastery of Theotokos Peribleptos in the region of Psamathia.

"This city of Constantinople contains many great churches and monasteries, but most of them are in ruins; though it seems clear that, in former times, when the city was in its youth, it was the most renowned city in the world. They say that even now there are three thousand churches, large and small; and within the city there are fountains and wells of sweet water; and in a part below the church which is dedicated to the Holy Apostles, there is a bridge reaching from one valley to another, over houses and gardens, by which water used to come, for the irrigation of those gardens. In a street which leads to one of the gates of the city, opposite Pera, there is a pair of stocks fixed in the ground, for men who are to be imprisoned, or who break any of the city regulations, or who sell meat or bread with false weights. Such persons are taken to this place, and left there day and night, exposed to the weather. Between the city walls and the sea, opposite Pera, there are many houses, in which many things are sold, and warehouses. The city of Constantinople is near the sea, as you have been told, and two sides face the sea; and in front is the city of Pera. Between the two cities is the port, and Constantinople is thus like Seville, and Pera is like Triana, with the port and the ships between them; and the Greeks do not call it Constantinople as we do, but Escomboli (Is tin Polin - Istanbul).

On that same day we further visited the Church of St Mary Peribleptos. Before its gateway stands a great court filled with cypresses, elms, walnut trees and many others. The main building of the church is adorned externally with numerous figures and designs richly wrought after diverse fashions in gold and blue and other colours. On the left hand side as you enter the church are several sacred pictures, among the rest a figure representing St Mary our Lady, while to right and left of the same appear the portraits of an Emperor and an Empress. Below the figure of St Mary, being at her feet, are represented thirty castles and cities, each with its name attached inscribed in the Greek character. They say that these various cities and castles are all of the lordship belonging to this church, having been conferred and granted to the same by a certain Emperor whose name was Romanus, and he lies buried elsewhere in the church."

Ruy Gonzalez de Clavijo (1403)


In 1030, Romanos III launched a campaign against Arabs of Verroia (Aleppo), as a reaction to the frequent invasions against the lands of the Empire in Cilicia. Although Romanos had no experience in military matters, he decided to lead his army of 20000 in person. He reached Antiochia (city of Antiochos) in the summer of 1030. Despite ignoring his own generals' advice to avoid the battle in the middle of the summer. Thus, he rejected the peace offer of the Arabs and advanced to Azaz, where he set up the charax (camp). The Arabs sieged the camp making the Greeks suffer from thirst and hunger. Every attempt to break the siege failed. Finally, on 10 August, the Arabs made the crucial attack forcing the disorganized byzantine army to retreat to Antiochia. The Christian Emperor only escaped thanks to the intervention of his bodyguards. The Saracens seized the imperial baggage train and tent with all of its treasures. It is said that the muslims used over 250 camels in order to transport the riches of the Christians.

"In the year 479 of the Armenian Era (1030) Romanus, massed all the troops of the land of the Greeks and advanced with this multitude against the land of the Tachiks. The Greeks came and encamped near the secure fortress called Azaz, close to the city of Aleppo. The troops of the Tachiks assembled in a countless multitude and came against Emperor Romanus. The emperor was terrified and did not dare to fight with the Tachiks. He was frightened since he was a coward, weak, and very malicious, and one who greatly cursed the Armenian faith (anti-Chalcedonians). For these reasons, the troops were not at one with him and planned to abandon him in the midst of the Tachik troops during battle, while they themselves would turn from the fight, and thereby the impious emperor would be killed. Now it happened that one of the princes of his troops, who was called Apuk'ap, and who previously had been the guard of the tent of Curopalate Dawit' of Georgia, notified the emperor about the treachery in his army. When the emperor heard about this, he was greatly frightened. Arising, he fled at night with his grandees. When the troops of the Tachiks learned of this, they went after the Byzantine troops, attacking them and causing severe destruction, killing some 20,000 men."
Matthew of Edessa (1030)




"THE GREEKS IN SYRIA

The Greeks, who had recently been losing ground in Syria, now seized what seemed to them an opportunity of improving their position. The territory of Aleppo was twice invaded (1029 and 1030), both times unsuccessfully. The Emperor Romanus shared in the second invasion, a very ill-judged attempt. The Greek army suffered so much in the neighbourhood of Azaz from the hot season, lack of water, and fever that it was compelled to retreat in a few days and lost heavily as it retired (August 1030). The Emir of Aleppo, reckoning his triumph an occasion of conciliation and not of defiance, at once opened negotiations for peace. A treaty was signed on terms that were distinctly unfavourable to the Muslim city. Aleppo again became tributary to the Empire, and a Greek deputy was allowed to reside in the city and watch over the due performance of the conditions of peace (April 1031)."

The Cambridge Medieval History, Volume V (1926)




"Romain Argiros, desireux tout simplement de depasser la reputation du grand Basile, avait quitte Constantinople au printemps de l'an 1030. Il comptait bien, dans sa naive vanite, achever la conquete de la Syrie et pousser au moins jusqu' a Jerusalem! Il suivit certainement pour gagner la Syrie la plus usitee des grandes routes militaires a travers l'Anatolie, par Nicee, Dorylee, Polybotos, Philomelion et Iconium, route celebre que j'ai decrite a plusieurs reprises. Certainement aussi, les contingents de chaque theme reunis dans les camps fixes echelonnes sur le chemin, rallierent l' armee au fur et a mesure de sa marche en avant.

(Romanos Argyros left Constantinople in the spring of 1030. He wanted to conquer Syria and reach even Jerusalem. He followed the military route of Nicaea (Iznik), Doryleon (Eskisehir), Polybotos, Philomelion and Iconion.)

Alors les bandes Sarrasines innombrables, enhardies par ce facile succes, pousserent l' audace jusqu' a tenter d' envelopper de toutes parts de leurs mouvants escadrons le camp imperial lui meme, coupant toute issue aux Grecs pour les affamer, massacrant les convois, massacrant quiconque tentait d'aller faire de l' eau ou du furrage. Evidemment les Byzantins se gardaient fort mal. Bientot hommes et chevaux, ne pouvant se ravitailler, souffrirent tant du manque d'eau que les soldats risquerent mille morts pour etancher leur soif.

(The Saracenes encircled the Greeks, massacred the convoys and anyone who desperately searched for water or food. Men and horses suffered from thirst and the soldiers had 1000 casualties in search of water.)

Puis, soudain, se retournant a un signal, bondissant de toutes parts, ils enveloppent a grands cris les Grecs dans un tourbillon effroyable de combattants hurlant, et de chevaux emballes. Attaques en tete, en queue, serres sur les flancs par des masses sans cesse grossissantes, qui ne luttent jamais en rangs serres, mais toujours par groupes eparpilles, qui ne s' ecartent un moment que pour revenir a la charge plus nombreux et plus audacieux, les Byzantins, couverts de traits, commencent a flotter. C'est la repetition du combat precedent. Bientot les soldats de Constantin Dalassenos sont eux aussi accables par le nombre. Hommes et chevaux, violemment isoles les uns des autres, sont haches a coups d' epees et de lances.

(The Greeks were encircled and were attacked by all sides. The previous massacre was repeated. The soldiers of Constantine Dalassenos were cut in pieces from swords and lances.) "

Gustave Schlumberger (1904)


Encouraged by the victory in Azaz, the muslims demanded from the Christian commander of Doliche (Teleuch or Duluk) Yeorgios (George) Maniakes to surrender the city to them and evacuate the area, falsely claiming to have arrested the Greek Emperor. But Maniakes was a brilliant Strategos (general) and very well educated in the Pandidaktirion (University of Constantinople). Maniakes feigned compliance, offering a great amount of wine as a sign of his sincerity. The muslims received the wine and all the night celebrated the imminent capture of the christian city. When the Arabs fell asleep, Maniakes opened the gates of the castle and charged against the muslim camp, killing all of them. This unexpected victory led Romanos III Argyros to appoint Maniakes chief commander of the army on the Eastern Front. In 1032, Maniakes attacked Edessa (Urfa), which was yielded to him by the emir of Martyropolis (Silvan). When the Arab leader tried to retake the city, Maniakes defeated and repulsed him. Aleppo remained a Greek possession for the next 50 years. For this success George Maniakes was awarded with the honorary title of Patrikios, but despite the thriumph of the Christian army in the Syrian lands, Romanos never recovered his popularity in the Greek capital.

"In that year the protospatharios George Maniakes (Γεώργιος πρωτοσπαθάριος ο Μανιάκης), the son of Goudelios Maniakes, the commander of the cities on the Euphrates who resided at Samosata, attempted to take the city of Edessa. This city was controlled by Salaman having been entrusted to him by the emir of Miepherkeim but, bribed with gifts, promises and honours, he surrendered it to Maniakes in the middle of the night. Maniakes secured three heavily fortified towers and vigorously repulsed the would-be besiegers. When the emir of Miepherkeim (Silvan or Martyropolis), heard of their fall, he promptly appeared with a considerable army and laid siege to the towers, but George stoutly withstood him. The emir was thrown back and was at a loss what to do. He razed the finest buildings and pillaged what was of beauty in that city, even in the Great Church itself. He loaded the finest objects onto camels and, putting the rest of the city to the flames, returned to Martyropolis (Silvan)."
Skylitzes Ioannes (Cambridge University - Translated by John Wortley)


Romanus and Zoe's marriage was not happy. The Emperor neglected Zoe, after he had realized that she could not have any children with him. He spent most of his time with mistresses and refused to give her money for her personal needs. However, Zoe had taken a young man called Michael as a lover and he and Zoe apparently had Romanos murdered while taking his bath in the loutro (byzantine bath) of his palace.



As we read in the european sources, the Byzantines were called "Greeks" by the Europeans. Byzantium was then called the "kingdom of the Greeks" in the west. Nowadays, under Turkey's pressure the term "Greeks" has been eliminated, because Turkey stubbornly refuses to admit the genocide that the Turks have commited against the Greek people of Asia Minor, which in the 9th century was 100% Christian and 100% Greek. Now after the genocide committed by the Turks, Asia Minor is 100% muslim and 100% Turkish.