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Basil II (A.D. 976-1025)

Catherine Holmes
University College, Oxford


For Byzantine and modern historians alike the reign of Basil II marks the apogee of the Middle Byzantine Empire. Between 976 and 1025 Byzantine territorial and cultural frontiers expanded considerably. Bulgaria was annexed in 1018. In the east Basil also absorbed the Georgian princedom of Tao and the Armenian state of Vaspurakan. Towards the end of his reign Byzantine forces became more active in southern Italy, consolidating and expanding Byzantine authority in the face of a variety of powers including the Ottonian emperors of Germany. At the time of his death the emperor was planning to invade Muslim Sicily. It was also during Basil's reign that Vladimir, prince of Kiev, converted to Christianity.[[1]]    In later centuries Basil the 'Bulgarslayer' came to be compared with the most prestigious and successful emperors of Late Antiquity. Michael Choniates writing in the early thirteenth century bracketed Basil with Heraclius (610-641). Basil's reputation was a powerful propaganda tool for successive imperial dynasties. The Comnenian emperors in the twelfth century consistently sought to associate their images with Basil. Michael VIII Palaeologus translated Basil's relics from their original burial place at the Hebdomon (see below) to his own family monastery near Selymbria.[[2]]

Yet, despite this glorious posthumous reputation, Basil experienced many setbacks during his own lifetime. Civil war was endemic in the first thirteen years of his adult reign. His long campaign against the Bulgarians included several heavy defeats. Even after his annexation of Bulgaria, dissent persisted within Byzantium itself. Moreover, within half a century of Basil's death, the empire had disintegrated, torn apart by internal discord and external adversaries. Some historians argue that Byzantium's collapse in the eleventh century should be attributed to Basil's own overweening ambition, arguing that the emperor's campaigns overstretched the capacities of the empire.[[3]]   In what follows I will argue rather a different case. Despite his fearsome military image, Basil's approach to government was flexible enough to accommodate his territorial conquests. The decline that occurred after his death was caused by factors outside the emperor's own control.


One of the greatest difficulties facing any historian of Basil's reign is a very uneven medieval historiographical record. The most substantial contemporary accounts are by Yahya ibn Sa'id (Arabic) and Stephen of Taron (Armenian). But these come from the eastern periphery of the empire, are contained within texts which cover a longer period than the reign of Basil alone, and are written in languages other than Greek.[[4]]  Leo the Deacon is the only contemporary historian of the reign who wrote in Greek; yet his real interest lay in the reigns of Phocas and Tzimisces and he included only a few pages about Basil before ending his account in 989/990. Fuller Greek accounts of the reign only surface in the mid to late eleventh century with the testimonies of Michael Psellus and John Scylitzes. Neither is particularly satisfactory. Psellus's assessment is little more than a character sketch of Basil. Scylitzes's testimony is more substantial but is far from comprehensive. He deals at length with the early civil wars and Basil's campaigns with Bulgaria, but covers little else. He makes many chronological and topographical mistakes, mainly as a result of his fondness for compressing large and diverse bodies of material into short summary passages. Scylitzes also tends to focus on those individuals whose families remained famous in his own later eleventh-century lifetime while marginalising those whose families had died out. He often proves more interested in didactic moralising than accurate reporting.[[5]] Furthermore, much of his coverage of the early civil wars seems to be drawn from a source sympathetic to the rebel general Bardas Sclerus; as a result his text is dominated by the viewpoint of one of the emperor's chief adversaries.[[6]]

Yet, even when the different narrative accounts of Basil's reign are aggregated the historian is still faced with problems. The first thirteen years of the reign are quite fully represented: many texts describe the revolts of the generals Bardas Sclerus and Bardas Phocas, the deposition of Basil the Parakoimomenos, warfare with Fatimid Egypt, and Basil II's disastrous campaign against the Bulgarians in 986. But after 989 the picture becomes thinner. During the final decade of the tenth century only events in the east are clearly described. Scylitzes's coverage of the Balkans is exceptionally piecemeal. A brief description by John the Deacon of the naval and trading agreement deal struck in 992 between the empire and Venice lacks diplomatic context.[[7]] After 1000 the record becomes even more exiguous. Until 1014 there is almost complete silence about Asia Minor, the eastern frontier, and Constantinople itself. Stephen of Taron's testimony ends in 1004. Yahya only refers to the erratic behaviour of the Fatimid caliph al-Hakim.[[8]]   Scylitzes's material on the Balkans is limited to a few terse and generalised references to military action. This gloom only lifts after 1014. Yahya includes more detailed material on Byzantine-Fatimid relations in northern Syria; Scylitzes presents some vivid snapshots relating to the conquest of Bulgaria in 1018; many historians from north and south of the Alps chart the collaboration between the rebel Meles and the Normans in southern Italy in 1017-18. Finally a series of interlinked events between 1019-1022 attract widespread attention: the absorption of Vaspurakan; Basil II's campaigns against the Georgians; and the revolt of Nicephorus Phocas and Nicephorus Xiphias.

Of course alternative written and material sources can be used to supplement this rather piecemeal historiographical picture. For Basil's wars with the Bulgarians there is an anonymous later tenth-century military manual, anecdotes from the advice book of Cecaumenus, the history of the Priest of Diocleia (which contains traces of the life of a local ruler St Vladimir of Diocleia), archive materials from Mount Athos, and a variety of hagiographical materials (including the Lives of Athanasius of the Lavra and Saint Nikon of Sparta).[[9]]   The letters of Leo of Synada shed light on Byzantine diplomacy with Germany and the Papacy.[[10]]   Local monastic archive documents, annals, and several saints lives, including that of Nilus, a Greek-speaking monk who was spiritual advisor to emperor Otto III, illuminate events in southern Italy. On the eastern frontier Yahya and Stephen can be fortified with material from other histories in Arabic, Syriac, Armenian and Georgian. Particularly important for the civil wars of Basil's reign is the Georgian Life of John and Euthymius which outlines the Georgian contribution to the emperor's victory over Sclerus in 979. The military tactica and letters of Nicephorus Uranus, Basil's most trusted general in the east, are also useful.[[11]]   Heterogeneous materials reflect on the court and imperial administration in Constantinople: the 'Escorial Tacticon', the 996 novel against the 'powerful', a diplomatic report, an encomium by Leo the Deacon, Basil's own epitaph, the poetry of John Geometres, the miracle collection connected to the Hospital of Sampson and the Life of St Symeon the New Theologian.[[12]]    There are also important material sources: inscriptions in paint, silk and stone from across the empire; coins; and most important of all lead seals recording the careers of Basil's principal civil and military officers.[[13]]   Nevertheless, while such written and material sources can offer interesting insights into the reign, they cannot always substitute for lacunae in the historiography. My own view is that we can learn more about Basil and his empire from the surviving historiographical record as long as we are explicit about the problems that the medieval historians present.

Early Life

Basil II was the eldest son of Romanus II, grandson of Constantine VII Porphyrogenitus and great-grandson of Romanus I Lecapenus. When his father died in 963 Basil and his younger brother Constantine were still very young. Their mother Theophano briefly ruled on their behalf with the support of the eunuch Joseph Bringas. This regime was soon replaced, however, by the general Nicephorus (II) Phocas and Basil II's own half-uncle, another palace eunuch, Basil Lecapenus (also known as Basil the Parakoimomenos). Having married TheophanoNicephorusacted as guardian and senior emperor to Basil and Constantine. All three emperors appear on the coinage produced during Nicephorus's reign. In 969 Nicephorus was assassinated by another general, John (I) Tzimisces. After being prohibited by the Patriarch Polyeuctus from marrying Theophano, Tzimisces sent the empress into exile while keeping her sons in Constantinople.[[14]] When Tzimisces died in January 976, Basil aged about twenty, assumed adult rule, with his brother Constantine ruling as junior emperor.[[15]]

Civil war 1: The Sclerus Revolt

During the first thirteen years of his reign Basil faced external adversaries as well as severe threats from within Byzantium. In the west attacks came from Bulgaria; in the east from the Fatimids of Egypt, the Buyids of Iraq, and a variety of Kurdish and Bedouin tribes. However, the principal danger was domestic: revolts led by the generals Bardas Sclerus and Bardas Phocas. Plentiful coverage of these revolts by medieval historians means that a reasonably clear picture of what happened during the civil wars of 976 to 989 can be distilled.[[16]]   Nonetheless, Scylitzes use of a pro-Sclerus source introduces certain important distortions in the narrative which need to be identified to make sense of the early years of Basil's reign.  The first period of civil war was precipitated in the spring or early summer of 976, when Bardas Sclerus, dux of Mesopotamia (the general in charge of the army based east of the Anti Taurus mountains) rebelled. From his base at Kharput (Hisn Ziyad) in the Anzitene plain, Sclerus marched westwards. Once he had captured Melitene, he declared himself emperor. An imperial embassy led by the metropolitan of Nicomedia was unable to dissuade Sclerus from this action. The early phases of the war were dominated by a series of inconclusive skirmishes in the Anti-Taurus between Sclerus's armies and imperial forces led by Eustathius Maleinus and Michael Burtzes, the dux of Antioch. Sclerus drew on a wide support base: Armenians in the army, local eastern Christian populations and dignitaries, and even neighbouring Arab Muslim princes, such as Abu Taghlib, Hamdanid prince of Mosul. Yet although it was wide, this alliance was also fragile. Before he even crossed the Anti-Taurus, Sclerus had to execute his hetaireiarch, the head of his immediate retinue, on suspicion that he was about to desert to Basil. Once Sclerus finally mustered the strength to cross the Anti-Taurus he encountered an imperial army in open combat at Lapara on the eastern Anatolian plateau. The date of this battle is unknown: either late 976 or early 977. It was a Sclerus victory. Shortly afterwards Michael Burtzes was captured and his deputy at Antioch surrendered to Sclerus. Sclerus secured control of an important fleet at Attaleia through the agency of his admiral Michael Curticius (although the date of this episode is uncertain).[[17]] Another imperial embassy, this time led by Leo the protovestiarius, was unable to come to terms with Sclerus.

For the next two years the rebels held the initiative. Sclerus achieved another victory over an imperial field army at Rhageas, an unknown location in Phrygia. The city of Nicaea, guarded by Manuel Eroticus, forbear to the emperor Alexius Comnenus, fell to the rebels. Abydus was also successfully besieged by Sclerus's son Romanus, an action which threatened grain supplies to Constantinople. So difficult was the imperial position that by the spring of 978 Basil the Parakoimomenos recalled Bardas Phocas, the nephew of the deposed emperor Nicephorus II Phocas, from internal exile. He was appointed domesticus of the scholai, head of the imperial field army. He headed for Caesarea in Cappadocia where he raised an army which included those, like Michael Burtzes, whose precise loyalties during the early years of the revolt had been uncertain.  What happened next is a matter of controversy. According to Scylitzes at least three battles were fought between Phocas and Sclerus in Anatolia; the first a victory for Sclerus at Amorium in the west; the second another Sclerus victory at Basilica Thema in the east; the third a victory for Phocas on the plain of Pankaleia by the Halys River, achieved only after imperial forces had been reinforced by several thousand Georgian troops from the principality of Tao. In contrast Yahya alludes to only two battles: the first at Pankaleia on June 19, 978, which Sclerus won; the second at an unknown location on March 24, 979, where Phocas was victorious. As John Forsyth's work has shown, this confusion can be reconciled by using evidence from Leo the Deacon, the Life of John and Euthymios, and an inscription from the Georgian monastery of Zarzma.[[18]] The most plausible resolution is that the first battle was fought at Pankaleia close to Amorium on the western reaches of the plateau in June of 978; the second at Basilica Therma in the eastern Anatolian theme of Charsianon in March 979. The third and final battle reported by Scylitzes, in which Sclerus and Phocas fought a single-handed duel, did not occur. For Forsyth this engagement was nothing more than a literary figment on the part of Scylitzes.
Between 976 ad 979 Sclerus presented an important challenge to Basil's imperial rule. But it is important not to overstate the severity of that challenge. Scylitzes certainly interprets this three-year period as a relentless Sclerus initiative against a pusillanimous imperial court. Yet, this depiction may owe much to his use of a pro-Sclerus source. Other evidence suggests that Sclerus was rather less dangerous. He was never able to threaten Constantinople permanently. Whenever he approached the city imperial armies consistently drove him back onto the Anatolian plateau. His power at sea was only partial. Important naval victories were won for the emperor by Bardas Parsacutenus and Theodore Carantenus. At a crucial point in his campaign Sclerus lost his wealthy eastern Hamdandis allies, when Abu Taghlib, emir of Mosul, was defeated by the Buyids of Baghdad. In short, although Sclerus was a good general, he simply did not have the resources to defeat Basil II.

Civil War 2: the Phocas Revolt

The suppression of the Sclerus rebels did not bring stability to Basil's regime. Sclerus and his immediate retinue took refuge with the Buyid ruler of Baghdad, Adud al-Dawla. Sclerus's presence in Iraq was the subject of intense diplomatic exchange between the Byzantine court and the Buyids during the early 980s. Byzantine ambassadors to Baghdad included Basil's closest associate at court, Nicephorus Uranus, the keeper of the imperial inkstand. One of the Buyid envoys who travelled to Constantinople, Ibn Shahram, left an invaluable account of his own expedition to Constantinople c.981.[[19]] Shahram indicates that Basil wanted to surrender the empire's client state of Aleppo in northern Syria in return for Sclerus. This policy attracted considerable opprobrium from Basil's advisors including his military chiefs Bardas and Leo Phocas, and his own great-uncle, Basil the Parakoimomenos, the most important official at court. These tensions within the Byzantine court reached a crisis in 985. First there were rumours that Basil Lecapenus was about to incite a palace coup against his great-nephew. Next the armies of the east suspended their operations against the Fatimids in northern Syria. But their expectations of a change of regime proved premature. Rather than removing Basil, the Parakoimomenos found himself dislodged from power. The emperor then reorganised military high command in the east, recalling Leo Melissenus, dux of Antioch, and replacing him with Bardas Phocas, who was transferred from the office of domesticus of the east. Meanwhile, Basil took control of 'foreign policy' by attacking Bulgaria in August 986.  When this initiative collapsed in ignominious defeat, a second period of civil war ensued. First of all Bardas Sclerus was released from Baghdad in the winter of 987. He re-entered imperial territory and immediately revived his rebellion in the area around Melitene. His operation was bankrolled by Baghdad; his troops were drawn from local Bedouin and Kurdish tribesmen. By spring 987 Phocas was hastily reassigned to his erstwhile position of domesticus to deal with the Sclerus threat. However, his loyalty to the emperor soon evaporated. By August or September at the very latest Phocas had declared himself emperor. He probably spent the summer negotiating a military alliance with Sclerus which included as one of its terms the eventual division of the empire between the two generals. The exact timing and nature of the Phocas/Sclerus agreement are obscure, but it is likely Sclerus was promised little more than the empire's eastern frontier region rather than the whole of Asia Minor as is sometimes argued. One of the reasons why working out what happened during the Phocas/Sclerus negotiations and their subsequent joint revolt is so difficult is because once again Scylitzes's testimony exaggerates Sclerus's strengths. Scylitzes claims that Sclerus was so clever that he allied himself with Phocas, while at the same time dispatching his son Romanus to work for Basil II just in case the emperor was victorious. Yahya in contrast maintains that Romanus distrusted Phocas and went over to the emperor of his own accord. Yahya's account is more plausible. Shortly after the two generals agreed terms Phocas imprisoned Sclerus. The truth was that Sclerus was in a much weaker position than Scylitzes indicates. He had been forced into alliance with Phocas because his Bedouin and Kurdish troops had deserted him.

In contrast, while Scylitzes provides relatively little information about the Phocas rebels, they were clearly more dangerous opponents than the Sclerii for Basil. Once rebellion broke out in the summer of 987 they consistently threatened Constantinople from the Asian side of the Bosphorus. It was impossible for Basil to drive Phocas back from the coast as had been the case with Sclerus a decade previously. Phocas commanded the loyalty of all the eastern armies and most senior commanders. Only the smaller western armies and a handful of generals stayed loyal to the emperor. Romanus Sclerus helped Basil to defend crucial sites such as Abydus. Gregory Taronites (another erstwhile Sclerus supporter) tried unsuccessfully to rally local leaders along the eastern frontier only to find himself defeated by troops from Tao loyal to the Phocades. The peril which Basil faced demanded a desperate solution. He sent his sister Anna as a bride to Vladimir, prince of Kiev, in return for around six thousand Rus mercenary troops. This was a spectacular, and ultimately successful, gamble. In late 988 or early 989, Rus troops helped Basil to destroy a rebel army led by Calocyrus Delphinas at Chrysopolis. On April 13th 989 the emperor took the field against Phocas in battle at Abydus carrying the Blachernae icon of the Virgin. Basil's brother Constantine was also present, later claiming that his was the spear which slew the rebel. Yet, as both Scylitzes and Psellus acknowledge, the exact fate of Phocas was unknown. Some contemporaries believed he fell in battle; others that he was poisoned. What is clear is that Basil decided to make brutal examples of the rebels. Delphinas had been impaled after his defeat. After Abydus Phocas's head was sent on a grisly tour of the empire. The terrifying warning was successful. By November 989 Leo Phocas ceded Antioch. Meanwhile at an unknown date, but certainly before his death on March 6, 991, Bardas Sclerus surrendered to the emperor. The civil wars were over.

After 989: legislation and propaganda

While it is relatively straightforward to construct a narrative account of the civil wars of 976 to 989, it is much more difficult to understand what was at stake politically. Often it is argued that these revolts were the culmination in a long tenth-century conflict between the Macedonian emperors and Byzantium's great aristocratic families over the material resources of the empire. In fomenting revolt the Sclerus and Phocas families displayed the potency of the greater families; in brutally defeating the rebels and later crushing their families Basil re-established imperial power.[[20]]   Two pieces of evidence appear to support this view. The first is a long series of novels issued by the Macedonians during the tenth century which tried to prevent the so-called 'powerful' (dunati) from accumulating estates at the expense of the 'poor' and the imperial fisc. The last, and most draconian, novel in the corpus was issued in 996 by Basil II. This required that all properties acquired by the 'powerful' within free peasant choria (village) since 927 should be restored to their former owners without compensation. It abolished the prevailing practice that such properties were immune from investigation after the passage of forty years. It also identified the Phocades as typical of the worst kind of 'powerful' offenders. The second strand in the evidence is Michael Psellus's pen portrait of the emperor which appears to suggest that after defeating Sclerus and Phocas Basil crushed the greater families of the empire and took sole control of imperial governance.[[21]] However, there are reasons for doubting that the civil wars were about a struggle between emperor and landed aristocracy. In the first place it is unlikely that the balance of material resources was slipping in the tenth century inexorably away from the emperors towards the aristocracy. Contemporaries within and outside the empire consistently point to the Byzantine emperors' substantial income. This had been significantly augmented by the eastern conquests of Basil's imperial predecessors.[[22]]   In addition events during the civil wars indicated that revolt was not sustained by private wealth and manpower but instead by the tenure of public office, especially command over imperial armies. Whenever Sclerus and Phocas held high military office they were dangerous: as generals they were able to negotiate alliances with neighbouring states, hold imperial fortresses, and sequester taxes. Without public office they lost these resources and their revolts immediately fizzled out. This is exactly what happened when Sclerus returned from exile in 987. Another reason for thinking that the revolts were not primarily about an irreconcilable hatred between the greater families and the emperor, is the fact that after the insurrection was over many rebels were treated generously. The Sclerus family had their lands returned and were restored to public office. Bardas Sclerus even received the title of curopalates. Meanwhile Bardas Phocas's son Nicephorus was given a new estate. While the Phocas family were probably deprived of public office for the rest of Basil's reign, several of their allies, including Leo Melissenus, were restored to command. As research into the prosopography of Basil's reign indicates, the emperor continued throughout his reign to employ great families within his armies, particularly during his conflict with the Bulgarians.[[23]]

Rather than turning on implacable opposition between emperor and aristocracy, the conflicts which characterised the early years of Basil's reign were more about foreign policy and control of the army. That the army was a critical structural element within the Byzantine state was a principle long recognised by contemporaries, including Basil's grandfather Constantine VII in the mid tenth century: the army is to the state as the head is to the body; if it changes the whole must change with it, and whoever does not carefully supervise it, endangers his own safety.[[24]] The coups of Nicephorus Phocas and John Tzimisces had set the precedent for experienced generals to seize imperial power. When Basil came to the throne in 976 he was very young. Those with greater experience clearly wished to dominate his decisions, particularly about military affairs, and if necessary replace him. Conflict was the result. When he visited Constantinople in 981 Ibn Shahram reported that Basil himself believed that his argument with Bardas Phocas about imperial policy towards Aleppo could lead to his deposition. Scylitzes alleges that one of the reasons for the Phocas rebellion in 987 was that many leading generals had been denied a role in the Bulgarian expedition of 986.[[25]]  But if control over the army and foreign policy rather than competition for private resources lay at the heart of political tensions during the early years of Basil's reign, it is clear that the emperor's defeat of Sclerus and Phocas in 989 did little to alleviate the difficulty. For while power remained vested in the army, whoever commanded the army would continue to threaten the emperor. And indeed, for several years after 989, military commanders, particularly those in the east, worried Basil persistently. The foremost example was Michael Burtzes, an experienced soldier whose loyalty to the emperor during the first Sclerus revolt had wavered (see above). His relationship with Basil remained tense during the 990s when he was dux of Antioch. The two argued about levels of troops and the treatment of Muslim envoys. Burtzes was eventually dismissed in 995. I would suggest that it was only after 1000-01, when Basil was able to reach a peace settlement with the Fatimids, that the problem caused by the eastern generals could be resolved (see below).  Yet, if the Phocas and Sclerus revolts were primarily conflicts about control of the army, how should we interpret Michael Psellus's allegations and the provisions of the 996 novel? My reading is that neither text is primarily about conflict between Basil and the great families. In the novel the emperor's hostility towards the 'powerful' families is of secondary significance: the Phocades, for instance, are named only in a later scholium rather than in the main body of the text. Instead the novel's main purpose seems to have been to impose Basil's authority over a court and administration which had for so long been dominated by the influence and reputation of his great-uncle, Basil the Parakoimomenos. This Basil had been an experienced general, diplomat and administrator, located at the very centre of politics throughout the third quarter of the tenth century. He remained powerful in the early years of Basil II's reign, but increasingly his authority was rejected by the emperor. Ibn Shahram reported that by 981 the two were estranged over Aleppo. Basil II finally dismissed his great-uncle from office in 985. The Parakoimomenos died shortly afterwards. Yet the struggle between the two Basils for control over the central levers of power continued long after this date. This much can be ascertained from the novel of 996, which indicates that more than ten years after the Parakoimomenos's death Basil II was still trying to annul the grants and privileges issued by his great-uncle, still trying to unpick a complex web of political affiliations, still trying to browbeat his own officials into recognising his omniscient and omnipotent position at the heart of Byzantine government.[[26]]

Interpreted in this way, the novel of 996 becomes part of the changes that occurred when one member of the Macedonian-Lecapenus imperial family replaced another as the fulcrum of imperial government. That Basil wished to place himself explicitly at the centre of the state in the minds of his subjects and officials may also explain some of the material artefacts of his reign. Imperial omnipotence is graphically represented in the frontispiece to Basil II's Psalter. Here Basil appears in military dress, in the guise of an emperor of Late Antiquity, crowned by Christ, supported by his friends the military saints, and receiving the submission of a multitude of peoples. Recent research suggests that these peoples were as likely to be Basil's own subjects as his overseas adversaries. Another index of Basil's all-seeing, all-knowing self-image is the epitaph to his tomb. The emperor describes his constant vigilance: for none saw my spear lie still from the time the emperor of heaven called me great emperor autocrator of the earth….. now campaigning manfully to the west…. now to the very borders of the east. This rhetoric was absorbed by contemporary historians. The obituary for Basil recorded by Yahya ibn Sa'id may have been taken from an official eulogy issued at the time of the emperor's death. Yahya describes Basil as an emperor who: throughout his reign looked into every matter, great or small, in his empire.[[27]]   A rather similar picture surfaces in Michael Psellus's austere portrait of Basil. He describes Basil's omniscience and conscientious scrutiny of every aspect of government; he reports Basil's constant watchfulness over the empire's frontiers; he stresses the emperor's fondness for modest attire and his disdain for luxury; he emphasises Basil's successful expansion of the imperial treasury, a characteristic also picked up by Yahya. More to the point he describes, in very similar terms to the novel of 996, the emperor's attempt to censor his great-uncle's legislation. In many senses Psellus's account of Basil's reign is a diptych of the two Basils: Emperor and Parakoimomenos.In his account Psellus even reorders events so that the demise of the Parakoimomenos forms the centre-point of his narrative. This structural change means that Psellus makes the demise of the Parakoimomenos the catalyst which changes Basil II from a dilettante into an autocrat. This textual reordering also suggests that for Psellus the conflict between the two Basils was more important than the emperor's conflict with the powerful families. In Psellus's account Sclerus and Phocas become two of many problems that Basil faced rather than the central problem. Psellus's focus on the Parakoimomenos has been interpreted in a variety of ways. Perhaps Psellus saw in the story of the rise and fall of the Parakoimomenos something of his own thwarted career in imperial service? Perhaps as a neo-pagan hostile towards established religion, Psellus dwells on the Parakoimomenos because he wants to savour the moment when the emperor destroyed the most potent symbol of his great-uncle's power, his monastery?[[28]]   Matters may, however, be more straightforward. I would argue that Psellus makes the conflict between the two Basils the central event of the reign because this was how contemporaries during the reign itself saw the matter. In stressing the extent to which the rise of Basil the emperor sprang from the fall of Basil the Parakoimomenos, Psellus merely echoes the novel of 996.[[29]]

Basil II faced considerable domestic problems in the first half of his reign: civil wars fomented by his generals; a long struggle for control over the central government with his great-uncle. Psellus seems to suggest that the fundamental question of Basil's reign was: who was to guide the ship of state? The erosion of the imperial fisc and the growth of private estates were at most secondary issues. From as early as Ibn Shahram's embassy to Constantinople in 981, it is clear that Basil wanted to be in charge. His struggle to achieve this goal would take him many years. However, after 1000, as we shall see below, reality began to align with the emperor's rhetoric.

The East

The area where imperial policy changed most dramatically as a result of Basil's determination to captain the ship of state was Byzantium's eastern frontier. For much of the century before Basil came to power this area had been the focus of Byzantine military aggression. Following the collapse of the Abbasid caliphate, Byzantine armies had forced their way over the Taurus and Anti-Taurus mountains into Cilicia, northern Syria, and northern Mesopotamia, territorially redefining a Byzantine east that had previously been limited to the Anatolian plateau. When Basil came to the throne Byzantium's new eastern territories were areas where administrative structures still remained very fluid and imperial authority had yet to be fully imposed.

At the time of his accession the empire's most threatening eastern neighbours were the Fatimids, a militant Shia dynasty from north Africa, who had conquered Egypt and much of Syria in 969-70. During the first half of Basil's reign, competition between the two powers focused on two strategic targets: the coastal ports of northern Syria and Lebanon, and Aleppo, the Hamdanid emirate in northern Syria, a Byzantine client state since 969/70. Various generals were involved in conflict with the Fatimids between 976-988, including Michael Burtzes (see above), Leo Melissenus, and Bardas Phocas. A brief period of peace occurred in 988 when the Fatimids agreed to a Byzantine embassy which asked for a truce so that Basil's energies could be devoted to fighting the Phocas revolt. Conflict however broke out again, and with greater seriousness, during the 990s, as Fatimid armies repeatedly besieged Aleppo. Byzantine armies based at Antioch under the leadership of Michael Burtzes were defeated in open battle in 992 and 994. The second of these reverses was so serious that Basil II marched from his wars in Bulgaria with a detachment of the Byzantine field army, crossed Anatolia in a little over two weeks, and arrived unexpectedly in northern Syria in the early spring of 995. The Fatimid army fled and Michael Burtzes was sacked as dux. This was not the last occasion that Basil was forced to intervene personally in eastern warfare. In 998 Byzantine forces based at Antioch under the command of Damian Dalassenus suffered another defeat. Basil responded by ravaging Fatimid-held territory in the Orontes valley before cutting westwards to the coast to invest Tripoli. Although the siege was unsuccessful, Basil's swift military response to the defeat of Dalassenus persuaded the advisors surrounding the young Fatimid caliph, al-Hakim, to come to terms. The result was a peace which lasted without serious rupture from 1001 to 1016. It was unshaken even by al-Hakim's destruction of the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem in 1009.[[30]]  For at least the first seven years of this period of peace Basil's close associate Nicephorus Uranus served as the emperor's second-in-command on the eastern frontier. Known as 'krator of the east', according to his seals at least, Nicephorus appears to have exercised plenipotentiary powers over the whole eastern frontier, in command of both civil and military administration. Not much can be ascertained of his career in the east, although his military manual and letters give us some clues about Byzantine tactics in eastern warfare at the end of the tenth century. Only occasional glimpses of Nicephorus's military activities and his fearsome reputation are visible in the eastern historical narratives and the letters of his friend the judge of Tarsus, Philetus Synadenus.[[31]]   Yet, perhaps the sources' silence, especially that of Yahya, during this period is significant. We learn little of Nicephorus and the eastern frontier simply because very little happened. The most Nicephorus had to do was deal with local revolts like that of the dervish insurrectionary al-Asfar in the Diyar Mudar in 1006-7.[[32]]   Peace with the Fatimids in 1001 allowed Basil to concentrate the empire's military energies in the west, safe in the knowledge that his frontier army in the east was under the tutelage of his most loyal associate. And although this situation deteriorated to some extent when Fatimid forces occupied Aleppo in 1016, Byzantino-Fatimid rivalry remained highly localised. There was no return to the full-scale hostilities that characterised the pre-1000 period.

Further east the Djazira frontier, which stretched along the Upper Euphrates and Upper Tigris rivers, was still an area of active hostility between Byzantium and local Muslim powers in 976. When Basil came to the throne Bardas Sclerus was immediately appointed to military command in this area as dux of Mesopotamia. According to Scylitzes, Sclerus regarded this appointment as a backwater posting. Yet, events preceding Sclerus's appointment suggest that Scylitzes was mistaken in this impression. Far from being a backwater this was a 'hot frontier' where Byzantine armies during the reign of John Tzimisces had been particularly active. Imperial forces had attacked Edessa and Nisibis in 972 and Amida in 973.[[33]]   One can speculate that the imperial authorities in Constantinople on the death of Tzimisces, perhaps in an effort to save money, wanted to scale back the offensive. But a reining in of the offensive rather than the remoteness of his command is more likely to have been the real nub of Sclerus's complaints and the catalyst to his revolt (see above).[[34]]

While the exact cause of Sclerus's revolt is obscure, its impact on this sector of the frontier was immediate. The Byzantine offensive stopped. And when the Buyid emir, Adud ad Daula, expelled Abu Taghlib, Sclerus's regional ally, from Mosul, Mayafariqin and Amida in 978-9, the empire found itself faced by a potent foe.[[35]] For  the next five years, until he died in 983, Adud unified a vast landmass around his base in Baghdad; an empire which stretched from Persia in the east to the Diyar Bakr in the west. Adud soon showed himself willing to intervene in Byzantium's civil wars in the hope of territorial gain. Having given the Sclerus party 'sanctuary' in a Baghdad prison in 979, Adud's negotiations with Basil turned on the premise that he would return Sclerus in exchange for either a series of mountain fortresses in the Diyar Bakr or control of Aleppo. Although the potency of the Buyid threat waned with Adud's death, Buyid Baghdad continued to sponsor Sclerus when he returned to the empire in 987.[[36]]

By the time Sclerus returned to the empire Arab bedouin and Kurdish nomad tribes were beginning to replace the Buyids as regional authorities in the Djazira. The last Buyid governor left Mosul in 996 and was replaced by the Uqalids. Meanwhile the Kurdish emirate founded by Bad ibn Dustuk absorbed the Diyar Bakr, as well as a variety of urban sites on the northern shores of Lake Van in Armenia. During the Phocas revolt, Bad took advantage of the mayhem inside Byzantium to raid the plain of Mus in Taron, an Armenian princedom annexed by Byzantium in 966/7. It was only in 992/3, after Bad's death and a series of Byzantine punitive raids around Lake Van, that Basil was able to negotiate a lasting peace with the Kurdish emirate. In 1000 this deal was further solidified when Basil II offered Bad's nephew, ibn Marwan, the title of magistros, the office of dux of the east, and the promise that imperial troops would assist the Marwanids if they came under outside attack.[[37]]   This was one of many instances in the second half of his reign when  Basil proved willing to use a local potentate to control frontier territories. Deals of this sort enabled the emperor to cut down the size of the Byzantine army garrisoned along the frontier and thereby reduce the political threat of eastern army commanders to emperors in Constantinople.

In western Caucasia Byzantium's neighbours were predominantly Christian princes, who rarely threatened the empire directly, but whose political confidence and economic prosperity were both growing in the later tenth century. Their prosperity was based on their ability to tax the international trade routes that ran north-south and east-west through their domains. They then invested these revenues in extensive building programmes: constructing churches, monasteries and even cities. Their confidence sprang from military success, particularly against the Muslim emirates of Lake Van and Azerbaijan. Foremost of these princes was David of Tao, whose regional prominence grew particularly strong during the Sclerus and Phocas revolts. In 978/9 he supplied Basil II with reinforcements in the struggle against Sclerus. His reward was the lifetime stewardship of key imperial territories, including the city of Theodosiopolis and the plain of Basean. His good fortune changed at the end of the 980s. Having supported Phocas, he was forced in the aftermath of the rebels' defeat to make the emperor Basil II the legatee of his princedom of Tao. This agreement destroyed a previous arrangement by which David had made his adopted son Bagrat III of Abasgia his heir.[[38]] When David died early in 1000, Basil II happened to be in the east of the empire, wintering on the plain of Tarsus following his raids against the Fatimids in northern Syria. On hearing of David's death he marched north-eastwards to collect his inheritance. Having dispersed token resistance to the Byzantine take-over from the local Georgian nobility, the emperor garrisoned the key fortresses of Tao. He also accepted obeisance from a variety of neighbouring Caucasian princes, Muslim as well as Christian, who were rewarded with imperial titles. The following year, one of these princes, Gurgen of Iberia (K'art'li), unhappy that he had only received the title of magistros, invaded Tao. His attempts were thwarted by a Byzantine army led by Nicephorus Uranus, the new dux of Antioch (see above). Yet, despite this Byzantine victory, little further effort was made to impose imperial authority. Instead while Basil was busy fighting the Bulgarians in the west, a powerful Georgian state began to emerge. In 1008 Bagrat III ruler of Abasgia, and erstwhile adopted son of David of Tao, inherited Iberia (K'art'li) from his natural father Gurgen, thus uniting a region extending from the eastern shore of the Black Sea, to the foothills of the Caucasus mountains. Bagrat also conquered the princedom of Kakhetia, north east of Tiflis, and acquired the city of Ardanoutzin, a trading station north of Tao which enjoyed an immense customs revenue that was coveted by successive tenth-century Byzantine emperors including Basil II. When he died in 1014 Bagrat left his son George a considerable legacy, including a longstanding claim to those territories in Tao which were in Byzantine hands.

It was in the context of Tao that relations with Christian Caucasia became more important during the final decade of Basil's reign. With the accession of George in 1014, a disagreement immediately broke out about David's patrimony. Having warned George to stay out of David's former princedom, Basil sent an imperial army to crush Iberian resistance in 1014. This army was decisively defeated. However, once the annexation of Bulgaria was completed in 1018 (see below), preparations for a larger-scale campaign were set in train, beginning with the refortification of Theodosiopolis. Three years later Basil marched east. Although his first incursion into Iberia in the autumn of 1021 proved to be inconclusive, another offensive in the spring of 1022 resulted in a crushing victory. In return for peace, George handed over several fortresses and his son Bagrat as a hostage. Meanwhile, Basil's interest in Caucasia did not stop with Georgia but extended into Armenia. In the winter of 1021/2 John Smbat, prince of the Armenian kingdom of Ani, made Basil his heir. His territories eventually passed to the Byzantines in 1042, long after Basil had died. At around the same time Senecherim, the Artsruni prince of Vaspurakan, took a rather similar decision. He surrendered his hereditary lands south of Lake Van to Byzantium in return for a miscellany of titles, offices, and estates within the empire.The date of this agreement is, however, obscure. Was it 1016 (Scylitzes), 1019 (Aristakes), or 1021-2 (Yahya)?[[39]]   Equally unclear is the strategic context. Although later Armenian historians, such as Matthew of Edessa, assert that the decision was precipitated by Turcoman raids, it is likely that pressure on the Artsruni came from elsewhere: either the Marwanids (see above), the Shaddadids of Dvin, or the Rawwadids of Azerbaijan([[40]] That the Rawwadids may have been the principal danger is suggested by the action Basil took after he defeated George of Abasgia in 1022. When he left Tao, he marched to Vaspurakan, and then headed east to the plain of Her, west of Lake Urmia. Although the emperor was forced to turn westwards when the early autumn snows fell, Basil's target seems to have been the emirate of Azerbaijan located to the east of Lake Urmia.

Basil II's final expedition to the east lasted for nearly three years. Yet, this interest in the east at the very end of the emperor's life was relatively unusual in the context of the reign as a whole. Before the annexation of Bulgaria in 1018 Basil preferred peaceful relations with his neighbours in the east, both Christian and Muslim. In this outlook Basil departed radically from his imperial predecessors, Nicephorus Phocas and John Tzimisces. Basil rarely campaigned in the east. Even in 995 and 999-1000 his interest was focused on using force to compel his neighbours to accept treaties and alliances. After 1000 local potentates supervised by the dux of Antioch were used to police the frontier. The number and size of Byzantine garrisons were reduced. Many forts were abandoned or even deliberately destroyed. Eastern territories within the Byzantine empire were governed and taxed through indigenous Christian and Muslim officials who reported to a small number of centrally-appointed Constantinople administrators. Policies inaugurated by Nicephorus Phocas which encouraged eastern Orthodox communities, such as Monophysite Armenians and Syrians, to settle in Byzantine eastern territories were continued. Even Muslims were allowed to remain in the empire if they paid a head tax.[[41]]


It is relatively easy to track Basil's policies and achievements in the east because so many historical texts report on this region. In contrast Basil's relations with Bulgaria are much harder to trace in the medieval historical record. Only John Scylitzes provides any detailed treatment of the region. Some of his coverage is typified by colourful narrative. More usual, however, are short chapters full of isolated references to raids and sieges. Such chapters are devoid of strategic context and expressed through bland military vocabulary. Information is brutally edited and often telescoped. Dates and topographical data are casualties. Chronology is often sacrificed to theme. It is particularly difficult to know what to make of the large geographical and chronological confusions and lacunae in the text. Do they mean that Basil was only sporadically at war with the Bulgars here? Or do they mean that Basil II was constantly at war with Bulgaria but that this reality is obscured by Scylitzes's methods of composition and his particular historical interests?

Working out why and when Basil and Bulgaria came to blows at all is a considerable problem. Not much is known about Byzantino-Bulgarian relations after 971 when John Tzimisces had won important victories over a joint Russo-Bulgarian army in eastern Bulgaria. At this point the Rus were expelled from Bulgaria and the Bulgarian tsar Boris was captured and paraded with his imperial regalia in Constantinople. But, from this point on the picture of Bulgaria becomes obscure, illuminated only by coins, seals, inscriptions, archaeology and occasional textual references (principally a list of imperial officials known as the 'Escorial Tacticon'). From such evidence it appears that Preslav (renamed Theodoropolis by Tzimisces) in eastern Bulgaria became the centre of a Byzantine province. Roman forts on the Danube were rebuilt to defend Bulgaria from further Rus attack. Yet, establishing how these new administrative and military structures developed is problematic because so little of the surviving evidence can be dated with pinpoint accuracy. Sigillographical and textual evidence can be used to reconstruct the careers of several individuals who held offices in the Balkans in the later tenth and early eleventh centuries. But it is more difficult to build a convincing narrative of Byzantine rule simply by synthesising these careers with Scylitzes's confused chronology. As far as the late tenth century is concerned, the available evidence cannot really indicate how far Byzantine administration penetrated into Bulgaria during the 970s, and how long it survived the death of Tzimisces in 976.[[42]]

The main problem with working out what happened to Byzantine rule in Bulgaria after 971 stems from Scylitzes's method of composition. Rather than offering a chronological account, Scylitzes summarises events between 971 and Basil's first invasion of Bulgaria in 986 in two separate summary chapters. The first chapter is chronologically displaced occurring, rather disconcertingly, in his narrative about Nicephorus Phocas's rise to power in 963. The second chapter forms a preface to his longer narrative treatment of Basil II's 986 invasion.[[43]] Both passages lack detail. In the first Scylitzes refers to Peter, emperor of the Bulgars, who sent his two sons to the Byzantines as hostages. He goes on to mention the death of that emperor (Peter) and how the two sons were subsequently dispatched by the Byzantines to fight the rebels David, Aaron, Samuel and Moses Cometopuli, sons of the most powerful comes in Bulgaria. The second passage states that the Cometopuli rebelled only when John Tzimisces died. At this time Peter's sons, Boris and Romanus, escaped to Bulgaria from Constantinople. Boris died en route shot by a 'friendly fire' arrow. Romanus stayed in Bulgaria before returning to Constantinople at an unstated time in the future. Meanwhile, all the Cometopuli died except for Samuel. Moses and David perished in battle; Aaron was killed by Samuel for favouring the Byzantines. Finally, Samuel overran Thrace, Macedonia, the suburbs of Thessalonica, Thessaly, Hellas and the Peloponnese. He besieged and took many places, including Larissa, the main city in the fertile plain of Thessaly.

Some of confusions in these summary accounts can be unravelled using other evidence. Alternative narrative material in Scylitzes's own account of Tzimisces's reign and in Leo the Deacon's history demonstrates that Peter's son Boris was not held hostage continuously in Constantinople between 963 and the 970s. Instead he was emperor of the Bulgars between 969 and 971. Unfortunately, however, very few reconstructions of this type are possible because other sources of evidence are either non-existent or extremely difficult to date. My own reading of the evidence is that if Scylitzes' testimony is analysed in the context of his own working methods, then it soon becomes clear that assembling a reliable chronology to the outbreak of Bulgaro-Byzantine hostility (and indeed to the rest of the conflict) is all but impossible. In these first two summary passages, Scylitzes is not even trying to provide an accurately dated appraisal of the rise of Bulgarian power. Instead, he is sketching a general background to form a backdrop for his account of Basil's expedition in 986. It is not at all clear that the limited information in these summary chapters necessarily preceded August 986; some events may have happened later. Support for this idea comes from an interpolation made into Scylitzes's text by Michael of Devol, an early twelfth-century Macedonian bishop who took an interest in Basil's conflict with the Bulgarians. According to Michael, Aaron Cometopulus was still alive when Basil invaded in 986. Indeed he was part of the Bulgarian army that fought with the emperor in the Haemus passes.[[44]] In these circumstances the most we can say about the period before 986 is that there was a serious revival in Bulgarian political power, although it is impossible to know how extensive this was and how far the Byzantine gains of 971 were eroded. It is likely, although difficult to prove, that the Cometopuli were able to consolidate their power in western Macedonia while the empire's resources were focused on fighting Sclerus, the Fatimids and Buyids.

Whatever the state of Bulgar and Byzantine relations before 986, Basil's invasion in August paradoxically tipped the balance towards Bulgaria. This invasion is a rare occasion in the course of Basil's relations with the Balkans where other narrative sources can be used to refine the picture presented by Scylitzes. According to Scylitzes, Basil's army invaded Bulgaria with the intention of besieging the city of Sardica (modern day Sofia). At first Samuel and his Bulgarian forces looked on from their mountain fastnesses, afraid to meet the emperor in open battle. But once the siege was underway, distrust spread among the senior officers of the Byzantine army. Stephen (or Contostephanus), who held the office domesticus of the west, accused his rival Leo Melissenus of plotting against the emperor. Basil and his army withdrew in panic, only to be attacked by Samuel as they retreated. When rumours of a conspiracy proved to be false, Basil reacted angrily, and according to Scylitzes threw Contostephanus by his beard to the ground([[45]] Yet, comparison with the other accounts of Basil's defeat in 986 suggest that Scylitzes prizes the entertaining anecdote over more fundamental reasons for the expedition's failure. Leo the Deacon was an eye-witness on the 986 expedition. He does not even mention the conspiracy story, but instead consistently indicates that the campaign failed because the Byzantines were incompetent, complacent, and lacked supplies. The Byzantines were not simply routed as they returned home, but subjected to constant raids throughout the campaign.[[46]] This logistical interpretation is supported by Stephen of Taron and by a contemporary military manual. This military handbook, devoted to Byzantine warfare in the Balkans, dwells on how military success can be achieved in a Balkan context. It stresses the need for a strong camp, regular supplies, and adequate defence in the passes. So close are the parallels between these recommendations and Leo's diagnosis of defeat, that it has been suggested that this manual was composed in response to the disaster of 986, and that it was used as a handbook for Basil's subsequent campaigns in Bulgaria.[[47]]

Basil's defeat in Bulgaria precipitated new rebellions by Sclerus and Phocas (see above). Trapped in Constantinople Basil was unable to contemplate action in the Balkans between 987 and 989. Instead, it is likely that the Bulgarians continued to gain the upper hand. Documentary evidence from Mount Athos refers to Bulgarian raiding against the town of Hierissos near Thessalonica. The sombre poetry of the former soldier John Geometres refers to a constant Bulgarian menace in this period.[[48]]  It was only once the civil wars were over that the emperor could turn once again to Bulgaria.

Various eastern sources allude to a renewed Byzantine offensive in the Balkans led by Basil early in the 990s. Yahya and Stephen of Taron both mention an invasion in 991.[[49]]   At least one, and possibly two, embassies from Aleppo met the emperor when he was on active campaign in the Balkans.[[50]]   It was only the Fatimid victory over Michael Burtzes in 994 that forced Basil to turn his attentions away from Bulgaria to the eastern frontier.[[51]]   In addition to military campaigns the emperor also clearly attempted to counter the Bulgars through diplomatic alliances. Documentary evidence from Athos refers to a Serbian embassy (possibly sent by the Prince of Diocleia) in 993.[[52]]   Meanwhile, it is possible that the Byzantino-Venetian alliance of 992 (see below and above) was struck in a Bulgar-related context. Curiously, however, Scylitzes pays little attention to this picture of active military and diplomatic campaigning on the part of Basil, but concentrates instead on the activities of the emperor's commanders. He includes a lot of material, for example, on Gregory Taronites dux of Thessalonica: he expounds on Gregory's heroic death in an ambush, the capture of his son Ashot, and the subsequent marriage of that son into the Bulgarian royal family. All these aspects to this story reflect Scylitzes's characteristic interest in aristocratic pedigrees, particularly of those families like the Taronites who were politically important at the time when Scylitzes was writing. That such interests can mislead, however, is made clear by Stephen of Taron's testimony. Like Scylitzes Stephen mentions the Taronites, yet unlike Scylitzes he sets their achievements in the context of active campaigning by Basil II.[[53]]

The extremely fragmentary nature of the historical record makes it difficult to assess the successes and failures of Basil's initiative. Yet it is likely that for much of the 990s the emperor's position remained parlous. Several Byzantine senior military officials were eliminated by Bulgarian attack: in addition to Ashot Taronites, John Chaldus, another dux of Thessalonica, was also taken captive, probably after 995.[[54]]   Scylitzes claims that several local commanders and prominent townsmen in Byzantine-held territory conspired with Samuel. These officials included two strategi from Adrianople, and a certain Malacenus, who can probably be identified with the strategus of Hellas whose disgrace is mentioned in an undated passage in the life of St Nikon of Sparta.[[55]]   Scylitzes makes these allegations in a summary chapter dedicated to the theme of defection which may include materials from a wide time period. However, evidence from Athos suggests that at least one individual Scylitzes accuses of collusion, Paul Bobos, an archon in Thessalonica, was found guilty before 996.[[56]]   Yet, the strongest evidence for Byzantine weakness during the 990s comes, paradoxically, from the crushing victory that Basil's close associate Nicephorus Uranus achieved over Samuel at the river Spercheius (close to Thermopylae) in 997.[[57]]    The unexpected glee, relief and surprise that Uranus’s victory at Spercheius caused among his circle of correspondents, including Leo, Metropolitan of Synada, reflect just how dangerous Byzantines believed the Bulgarians to be.[[58]]

Uranus's victory at Spercheius is one of those rare events to which Scylitzes dedicates a detailed description. However, tracing what happened in the Balkans after Uranus's triumph from Scylitzes's testimony is more difficult. Scylitzes makes some superficial dated references to precise events. In 1000 a large Byzantine army was sent against targets in eastern Bulgaria including Preslav and Pliska. In 1001 Basil himself led an army against a series of mountain forts west of Thessalonica. In 1002 Basil led a campaign against Vidin on the Middle Danube; on his return south he raided Skopje. Such brief references are usually used to support the idea that by the early eleventh century Basil had restored Byzantine control over eastern Bulgaria, the central Danube, and the frontier west of Thessalonica. It has even been suggested that by 1005 Basil had succeeded in pinning Samuel back inside the Macedonian Lakes area. Control over the Adriatic had been re-established through the empire's ally the Doge of Venice, who by 1000 was calling himself dux of Dalmatia (see below). Meanwhile the key Adriatic port of Dyrrachium came back into Byzantine hands when the ruling local family, the Chryselioi, surrendered the city. At this point, the emperor agreed a ten-year peace deal with Samuel on terms favourable to the Byzantines.[[59]]

There are, however, objections to this neat analysis. First it is not at all clear that eastern Bulgaria was fully conquered in 1000. Scylitzes himself construes the campaign of 1000 as a morale boosting assault rather than a permanent occupation: "in the year 6508 the emperor, having sent out a heavy force against the Bulgarian castles (kastra) on the other side of the Haimus [mountains], which was led by the patrician Theodorokan and the protospatharius Nicephorus Xiphias, took Great and Little Preslav and Pliska and the Roman army withdrew unharmed and with trophies."[[60]]   Indeed, a Bulgarian attack on Adrianople in 1002,  while Basil II was campaigning against Vidin on the Middle Danube, suggests that the struggle for eastern Bulgaria continued into the early years of the eleventh century. The first positive sign that Byzantine armies had reoccupied eastern Bulgaria and taken the Byzantine frontier back up to the Danube comes as late as 1016 with Scylitzes's identification of Tzotzicius as the Byzantine strategus at Dristra on the Lower Danube.[[61]]   Meanwhile, even the forts along the western Macedonian mountain frontier were probably not permanently conquered. In a later section of his text when Scylitzes deals with the situation in the Balkans c.1014, we find locations such as Berrhoia, Servia and Bodina back in Bulgarian hands.[[62]]

The situation in the Adriatic is equally uncertain. It is unclear whether Venice's actions can be tied to the Bulgar conflict. John the Deacon, an exact contemporary, interprets the Venetian action as a unilateral decision to rid the area of Croat pirates.[[63]] Meanwhile, the status of Dyrrachium is hard to determine for the first two decades of the eleventh century. References to the city's return to Byzantine rule occur in an undated chapter in Scylitzes's narrative which is located after his account of Spercheius.[[64]] Yet, the chapter does not refer to a single episode but instead to a series of events which have Dyrrachium as a common theme: a description of the city being given to Ashot Taronites by Samuel; the defection of Ashot back to the Byzantines; the city's surrender to Basil by the Chryselioi; the arrival of Eustathius Daphnomeles as the emperor's representative.[[65]]    All of these events have been dated to 1005 on the grounds that Yahya claims a complete victory for Basil over the Bulgars in this year. Yet, there is nothing in Scylitzes's testimony to indicate that Dyrrachium was in Daphnomeles' hands by this point. Instead the reference to Daphnomeles as commander of the city probably refers to later administrative arrangements made at the very end of Basil's conflict with the Bulgarians. As Scylitzes himself indicates, when the Bulgarians surrendered in 1018,  Daphnomeles was given control over Dyrrachium as a reward for defeating a renegade Bulgarian commander.[[66]] The best interpretation of Scylitzes's earlier Dyrrachium chapter is that it is a thematic unit with its own internal chronology which stretches across the entire reign. It is not a single component within a linear chronological narrative of Basil's wars with Bulgaria.

If it is impossible to date the return of Dyrrachium to Byzantine control,  then the arguments that Basil and Samuel agreed to a peace treaty in 1005 look fragile. My own sense is that warfare continued between Basil and Samuel at a low level for most of the period between 1005 and 1014. Scylitzes himself alleges that Basil invaded Bulgaria every year, a statement that I would take to mean that the historian was summarising an excess of material he found dull rather than fictionalising events which did not occur. It is, after all, striking just how many other writers from very different milieus refer to Basil's long wars with the Bulgarians: the author of the life of St Nikon, al-Rudrawari, Elias of Nisibis, and Ademar of Chabannes.[[67]]   It is possible that these annual invasions were merely seasonal raids. The all-year-round campaigns Psellus mentions may only include Basil's eastern adventures of 999-1000 and 1021-23. Yet, still there is a strong case for annual raids led by the emperor supported by low level frontier warfare. As Paul Stephenson has shown,  the testimonies of Scylitzes, Cecaumenus and the Priest of Diocleia are replete with short stories about warfare and diplomacy among border warlords.[[68]] Certainly, it is in the context of annual campaigns led by the emperor that Scylitzes refers to the battle of Kleidion, a contest in the passes near Strumitza north of Thessalonica, during which a Bulgarian blockade was broken by an attack from the rear by Basil's general Nicephorus Xiphias. According to one narrative strand in Scylitzes's account this victory was so overwhelming that Basil blinded fifteen-thousand Bulgarian captives, an event which caused Samuel to die of a heart attack.[[69]]   Yet, victory was almost certainly not this complete. Shortly before Kleidion itself, another Byzantine attack led by Theophylact Botaneiates, dux of Thessalonica, was heavily defeated. As a result Basil II chose to retreat rather than follow up his triumph; he only decided to winter in the Balkans when the death of Samuel was announced to him. But, even then, it still took four years for Basil to turn victory into final surrender.[[70]]

In his relatively detailed account of the events which led up to Byzantine victory in 1018, Scylitzes stresses the punitive raids that were conducted by Basil's senior generals.[[71]] Yet, it is likely that diplomacy was equally important to Basil's success. Embassies passed between Basil and a variety of local potentates: Samuel's son Gabriel Romanus, Samuel's nephew John Vladislav (the son of Aaron), John Vladimir the prince of Diocleia, and a host of other Bulgarian warlords. This diplomatic dimension is particularly stressed by the narrative of the Priest of Diocleia who accuses Basil of persuading John Vladislav to murder Gabriel Radomir.[[72]] Whether or not Basil lay behind the murder of Gabriel in 1015, he continued to face a hostile Bulgarian state led by Gabriel's assassin John Vladislav. Basil responded with brutal force and hidden diplomacy. The emperor invaded Bulgaria, plundered western Macedonia, and once again blinded all his Bulgarian prisoners. Vladislav himself was eventually killed in 1018 in battle outside the city of Dyrrachium, the event which finally persuaded the Bulgarian royal family and senior army commanders to surrender to the emperor.[[73]] Yahya ibn Sa'id records that when the Bulgarian dignitaries surrendered to Basil they were sent to Constantinople and given Byzantine brides.[[74]]   However, it is Scylitzes who records the surrenders in greatest detail, possibly because at the time when he was writing many Byzantine aristocrats claimed descent from the Bulgarian royal family, particularly the branch represented by John Vladislav.[[75]]  This surrender clearly involved much public spectacle, as did Basil's celebration of his 'victory': Basil first journeyed through Macedonia receiving submissions from the Bulgar leaders and acclaim from his army. A stage was especially constructed for these shows. Then he went to Athens to give thanks at the Church of the Virgin (the Parthenon). Finally he returned to Constantinople, where he entered the city in triumph wearing a crown of victory (toupha) and displaying the human and material booty he had acquired from his Balkan 'conquest'.[[76]]

The administration of Bulgaria after Basil's conquest is difficult to reconstruct. Scylitzes presents a picture of military rule: old fortifications were seized; new castles were built; senior commanders heroically continued the conquest in more remote areas. However, other evidence suggests that just as on the eastern frontier, Basil preferred to govern with a relatively light hand. Apart from a permanent garrison at Skopje operating under the authority of a regional military commander, Byzantium's military presence in the Balkans was soon modified. Garrisons briefly installed at renovated Late Roman forts on the Middle Danube were soon withdrawn, if not by Basil himself then by his immediate successors.[[77]]   Many fortifications were dismantled during Basil's own reign.[[78]]  Meanwhile, just as in the east Basil disdained fiscal and administrative dislocation. Former Byzantine prisoners of war settled in Bulgaria by Samuel were allowed to retain their holdings rather than rejoin the Byzantine army. The local population continued to be taxed in kind. The emperor appointed basilikoi to manage local finances. In the east such figures were often local notables.[[79]]  It has still to be established whether the same was true in the Bulgarian sphere. However, if a parallel can be drawn between ecclesiastical and financial administration then it is likely that financial bureaucracy was devolved to locals. In the episcopal field Basil deprived the Bulgarian church of its status as an independent patriarchate, but granted the metropolitan of Ochrid an autocephalous position and control over several neighbouring bishoprics. This metropolitan was a local.[[80]]   The use of more Constantinopolitan officials and introduction of cash taxes were unpopular innovations introduced only after Basil's death.

The West:

While a lack of sustained narratives stymie an understanding of Byzantium's relations with Bulgaria in Basil II's reign, the history of Byzantine activity in southern Italy is somewhat easier to piece together from annals and archive documents. Such evidence has been used in recent years to inquire into the administration of Byzantine southern Italy in the tenth and eleventh centuries.]]81]]  Less extensive research has been done on the politics of the region between 972, the year when Otto II married the Byzantine princess Theophano and the mid eleventh century. Gay was the last historian to write about southern Italy in Basil's reign. His view was that civil wars in Byzantium and conflict in Bulgaria kept Basil's attention away from southern Italy until the final decade of his reign.[[82]]   There is some evidence however, to suggest that Basil's enthusiasm for Byzantine southern Italy and for diplomatic relations with other western states was more pronounced than Gay imagined.

During the first half of Basil's reign Byzantine southern Italy was regularly attacked by the Muslims of Sicily and North Africa. Brief entries in local annals and saints' lives record how such raids regularly devastated large areas. In 986 Gerace in Calabria was occupied briefly and the walls of Cosenze destroyed; in 988 and 1003-4 Bari was threatened; in 1009 Cosenze was reoccupied. In 992 a landowner from Conversano talked of the 'misery' that such raids brought to the hinterland of Bari.[[83]] Such raids affected not only Byzantine provinces but other areas of southern and central Italy too. It was ostensibly to deal with this Arab threat that the German emperor Otto II invaded Byzantine southern Italy in 982. The Byzantines neither supported nor opposed this invasion. When Otto was eventually defeated it was by the emir of Sicily at Stilo in Byzantine Calabria.

Until 1018 the Byzantines preferred to contain Muslim attacks rather than take the offensive. Nonetheless, they did not abandon southern Italy. Senior army commanders from Constantinople were dispatched throughout Basil's reign to act as governors. A garrison of troops from the main Byzantine field army was constantly deployed at Bari, the main Byzantine administrative centre. Active diplomacy was also pursued. The protection of southern Italy was one context for Byzantino-Venetian relations. A marriage deal was struck early in the eleventh century between the Doge's son and Maria Argyra, the daughter of a prominent member of Basil's court. In 1003/4 Venice helped to defend Bari from Arab siege. But Venice was not Byzantium's only Italian naval ally. In 1006 the Pisans contributed to a Byzantine victory off Reggio.[[84]] Indeed the Byzantines may also have looked further afield than Italy for naval support including to the Umayyads of southern Spain, who were themselves adversaries of the Muslims of Sicily and North Africa. Basil may also have attempted to use more direct diplomatic channels to mitigate the impact of Muslim attacks. The survival of a list of gifts sent from the emperor to the emir of Sicily suggests that the emperor tried to bribe the local Arabs into ceasing hostilities.[[85]]

The surviving chronicles indicate that the worst of the Arab raids were over after the first decade of the eleventh century. Yet, after this the Byzantines faced a new problem: internal revolt, especially the insurrection led by Meles, a rich citizen from Bari. The first mention of this revolt comes in 1009 when Meles led a local conspiracy against the catepan (governor) John Curcuas. This revolt was suppressed within a year by Curcuas's successor Basil Mesardonites, possibly with support from a fleet led by Basil Argyrus, the strategus of Samos. Six years later, however, revolt broke out again, after Meles had built an alliance of outside protagonists who included the Lombard rulers of Capua-Beneventum, and a motley assortment of Norman mercenaries and pilgrims. Together they defeated a Byzantine army led by the catepan Contoleo Tornicius. In December 1017 reinforcements arrived led by a new catepan, Basil Boiannes. Meles was soon defeated.   A few years later, in 1025, Boiannes took part in a campaign against Sicily. He joined the eunuch commander Orestes, a veteran of the Bulgar campaign, who had sailed with an advance party of troops and landed in Messina. Basil II's death, however, meant that the main expeditionary force did not set off and the mission against Sicily failed.

The arrival of Boiannes in southern Italy is usually seen as the beginning of a more offensive Byzantine policy. Boiannes was particularly active in consolidating Byzantine authority in the Troia, a wasteland bordering the territories of the Lombard princes to the north. Forts were built; garrisons were installed. Pandulf, the Lombard prince of Capua, became a Byzantine client and participated in joint Lombard-Byzantine military actions. Yet, it is possible that rather than being a new initiative, Boiannes's actions were merely a stage in a gradual re-imposition of Byzantine authority in southern Italy which had been underway for much of the second half of Basil's reign. There are several signs of a long-term strengthening of the Byzantine position. Several commanders sent from Constantinople after 995 served for very long periods: Gregory Tarchaneiotes (998-1006); Basil Mesardonites (1010-1016); Boiannes (1017-c.1028). This contrasts with the turbulent early years of Basil's reign when many senior officers in the region served for only a few months (Calocyrus Delphinas: 982-3; John Amiropulus: 988-9). Nor was Boiannes the first catepan to flex his muscles among neighbouring Lombard princes. In 1011, after the first Meles revolt had been crushed, Basil Mesardonites had conducted a progress through Lombard territory. Greater Constantinopolitan interest in southern Italy may also be visible in the region's architectural record. Art historians have detected metropolitan support for the building of a series of large basilical churchs at Bari, Taranto, Bovino and Vieste in the early eleventh century.[[86]]

Nonetheless, while Constantinople may have taken a greater interest in southern Italy as Basil's reign progressed, it is important not to overstate the case. In the first place it is clear that when the region came under sustained attack, as was the case in 1021-2 during an invasion by the German emperor Henry II, there was very little that the Byzantine senior commanders could do except wait patiently in Bari until the enemy's alliances with local Lombard princes fell apart and concerns beyond the Alps diverted their energies northwards again. Furthermore, it is clear that in southern Italy as on other Byzantine frontiers during Basil's reign, imperial authority had to adapt to local administrative practices, indigenous bureaucrats and provincial power structures. Even in the Troia Byzantine authority was based as much on encouraging local Lombards to settle as on building new fortifications. Yet the wisdom of this outlook was soon visible. Local charters record a surge in economic activity in the Troia including the excavation of irrigation canals, the erection of mills and cultivation of vines. [[87]]

Further afield, Byzantine relations with other western states were almost exclusively characterised by diplomacy rather than military might. This was certainly true of relations between Basil and the German empire in the decades between Otto II's disastrous expedition of 982 and Henry II's invasion in 1021. As early as 991 Otto III, son of Otto II and the Greek princess Theophano, sent two embassies to Byzantium with requests for an imperial bride. The progress of these marriage negotiations in the later 990s is illuminated by the letters of Leo of Synada, the Byzantine envoy to the Ottonians. They not only indicate how intense diplomatic contacts could be at this time, but also highlight the complex web of rivalry and co-operation which typified Byzantino-Ottonian relations. Competition for control over and influence in Rome was particularly fierce. At one point during Leo's embassy (996-998) the Byzantines backed an alliance between the Crescenti, a local Roman family, and Otto's tutor Philagathus, a Greek from southern Italy. Together they deposed Otto III's candidate Gregory V and declared Philagathus Pope.[[88]] Although Otto returned to Rome, reinstalled Gregory, and later appointed Gerbert of Aurillac as Pope Sylvester II, he found it difficult to impose full control over the city. After Otto died in 1002,  relations between the Ottonians and Basil become harder to trace, although in 1021-1022 Byzantine and German interests once again clashed as Henry II invaded southern Italy.

The surviving source materials mean that we know more about Byzantine contacts with Germany than with any other western power during Basil's reign. Yet contacts may also have been established with other states north of the Alps. Nascent western aristocratic and royal families consistently tried to associate themselves with Byzantine imperial splendour and charisma. In 988 Hugh, the first Capetian king of France, requested a Byzantine bride from Basil II for his son. By the 1020s and 1030s aristocratic pilgrims began to appear regularly at the Byzantine court in Constantinople on their way to Jerusalem. Meetings with the Byzantine emperor usually yielded gifts of fine fabrics and even relics, charismatic items to be taken back to northern Europe and used in the adornment of family monasteries.[[89]]

The North: Rus

Basil II's reign is significant in many different respects. It marked the high water point in the medieval history of Byzantium. It brought Bulgaria within the Byzantine political sphere. It resonates through the modern history of the Balkans as Greek, Bulgarian and Macedonian nationalists have used and abused Basil's personality and achievements in the construction and destruction of national claims. But it is in connection with the long-term history and identities of the Russians that Basil's reign, almost by accident, enters world history. For it was during Basil's reign in 988 that Vladimir prince of Kiev converted to Orthodox Christianity. Even if, as historians now believe, there were many Rus conversions in this period and many Rus principalities, the importance of 988 lay in the fact that the Russian Primary Chronicle, compiled in its current form in the early twelfth century, chose to record the conversion of Vladimir as the seminal moment in the creation of Kiev, that principality to which all others eventually became subordinate.

But while the Russian Primary Chronicle dedicates extensive coverage to the events surrounding the conversion of Vladimir[[90]], it is striking that historians writing from within the Byzantine empire registered little interest in the acceptance of Christianity among the Rus. Scylitzes notes the context to the conversion of the Rus: the marriage of Basil's sister Anna to Vladimir and the arrival of Rus troops to fight Bardas Phocas in the late 980s. But he says nothing of the conversion itself. Indeed it is only the Arab historians who make it clear that Vladimir's acceptance of Christianity was part of a nexus of arrangements with the Byzantines involving a marriage and the dispatch of mercenaries.

Such a fragmented source base means that the precise chronology and the detail of the component events of Vladimir's conversion remain highly contested. Particularly uncertain is the motivation for the Rus attack on the Byzantine outpost of Cherson in the Crimea shortly after Vladimir had sent troops to Basil. Was it a friendly action on the part of Vladimir, who was determined to help his brother-in-law Basil against Phocas'  supporters in Cherson? Or was it that Vladimir grew tired when Basil failed to dispatch Anna in accordance with the agreement struck between the two rulers?[[91]]

The enormous scholarly effort applied to understanding Byzantine-Rus relations at the time of the conversion itself is in some senses a reflection of modern preoccupations with the birth of a nation.[[92]]  It also reflects the fact that most of the medieval written evidence about Byzantino-Rus relations in Basil's reign clusters around these events. References outside the Slavonic record to other Rus activities in Basil's reign are extremely rare and somewhat inconsequential. Scylitzes records two apparently random episodes: a joint Byzantino-Rus attack on Khazaria in 1016 involving Sphengos the brother of Vladimir; and the adventures of Chrysocheir, another relative of Vladimir, who came to Byzantium towards the end of Basil's reign as a mercenary. On his arrival in Constantinople he argued with imperial authorities, attacked Abydus and was eventually defeated at sea off the island of Lemnos. Other historians of Basil's reign mention of the presence of Rus mercenaries in Byzantine armies all over the empire.[[93]]

Yet, while references such as these are elusive, they suggest that Vladimir's acceptance of Christianity had the very practical impact of strengthening and extending long-standing strategic, religious and commercial ties between the Byzantines and Rus. The Russian Primary Chronicle, Byzantine chronicle and administrative texts, and archaeological evidence all demonstrate that such connections had begun to develop long before Vladimir converted. Rus trade routes from Kiev to Constantinople down the Dniepr river had been exploited from the early tenth century. Rus troops had participated in Byzantine expeditions to southern Italy (935) and Crete (949, 961). Vladimir's grandmother Olga had negotiated with the Byzantine court in the course of converting to Christianity (946 or 957). Such ties were considerably strengthened by Vladimir's own conversion. At the most obvious level Vladimir's conversion precipitated a growing traffic in religious personnel and objects. Priests, bishops, artists, architects, precious objects were all transported to Kiev. Some were sent by Basil as gifts; others were bought or employed by Vladimir; some were more brutally sequestered, in particular at the Rus sack of Cherson. But besides religious contact, pragmatic links also grew exponentially. In addition to the greater use of Rus mercenaries in Byzantine armies, trading connections seem to have blossomed. Archaeological evidence suggests that islands in the Dniepr estuary, once prohibited to Rus merchants, became active trading stations. Vast numbers of fragments of Byzantine imported amphorae, glass and jewellery have been discovered. It has been suggested that one reason why Vladimir inaugurated an ambitious building programme of earthworks and fortified settlements around Kiev was to protect Rus ships bound for Constantinople from nomad attack. Greeks who were skilled in baking bricks seem to have built the forts.[[94]]  Finally, while Basil may initially have been reluctant to send his sister Anna to Kiev and to support Rus conversion, there are signs that for the rest of his reign, he monitored and exploited political events north of the Black Sea for his own ends. Thietmar of Merseberg indicates that when Boleslav, king of Poland, entered Kiev on behalf of the Rus prince Sviatopluk in 1018, he immediately sent envoys to inform Constantinople of what had happened.[[95]]   It has also been argued that Byzantium's joint expedition with Sphengos against Khazaria in 1016 could be interpreted as a Black Sea naval alliance struck between Basil and another princely competitor for supremacy among the Rus, perhaps Mstislav of Tmutokoran. 'Khazaria' in this case may refer to the Kasogian, peoples of the Kuban and northern Caucasus region whom it is known from other sources were conquered by Mstislav.[[96]]    In a characteristically muddled passage Scylitzes alleges that the Rus and Byzantines captured the local ruler George Tzoulas. It is unlikely that Tzoulas was the leader of the Kasogians; he may, however, have been a notable at the Byzantine outpost of Cherson. The Tzoulas family are known from seal evidence to have been prominent in the Byzantine Crimea.[[97]]   While it is difficult to say why the expedition attacked Cherson, the important general point is that in the decades which separated Rus conversion from Basil's death, Byzantine and Rus relations blossomed and multiplied at many different levels.

The End of the Reign

When Basil died in 1025 he left the Byzantine empire with strong frontiers. He had imposed imperial authority on frontier territories and on the empire's neighbours with a mixture of force and diplomacy. Basil used warfare most extensively in Bulgaria. Elsewhere he preferred if possible to use diplomacy. However, even where he deployed force to conquer territories, he was often happy to consolidate imperial rule through the use of indigenous civil administrators and local fiscal and ecclesiastical practices. There is little sign that Basil's style of governance was rejected. Obituaries in eastern sources refer to the emperor's astute management of his empire and his sound political sense. In this context recent arguments that Basil's campaigns and conquests overstretched the empire's resources and led inexorably to collapse in the eleventh century seem misplaced (see above). It was the political and administrative inability of Basil's successors to manage an expanded empire rather than expansion itself which contributed to collapse.  In this sense there is much to be said for Michael Psellus' allegations in the Chronographia that the decline of Byzantium stemmed from the irresponsibility of the successors of the iron emperor.

Yet, for all the favourable obituaries that Basil earned, it is clear that he faced considerable opposition at the very end of his reign. This is something which Michael Psellus does not mention in his account of Basil's reign, perhaps because he did not want to disturb the perfect equilibrium of his imperial portrait. Psellus's depiction of the sybaritic dilettante turned by harsh circumstance into a military man of steel could not allow for failure in the emperor's waning years. More difficult, however, than explaining why Psellus concealed the problems which occurred in the sunset of Basil's career is determining precisely what those problems were and why they occurred.

The most serious insurrection that Basil faced at the end of his reign occurred in central Anatolia during the course of his campaign against the Georgians. It was led by Nicephorus Xiphias and Nicephorus Phocas in 1021-2.[[98]]   So serious was this revolt that when it was eventually crushed by Theophylact Dalassenus, the strategus of the Anatolicon, Basil had the head of Phocas brought to the imperial camp on the Georgian border and paraded among the troops. Xiphias was stripped of office and sent to a monastery. Some historians have interpreted these events as a return of the inexorable threat of the powerful families; the financial and manpower resources of clans like the Phocades proved too strong for the emperor. Yet, I would argue against this reading. Careful analysis of the many narratives that comment on this revolt make it clear that this revolt was not in fact fomented by the Phocades, but instead by Nicephorus Xiphias, one of Basil's most consistently loyal generals, believed by many to have been responsible for Basil II's victory at Kleidion.[[99]]   Indeed these sources demonstrate that Xiphias was the organiser who simply used Phocas as a famous name to 'front' his revolt. What this then suggests is that rather than being about the return of the 'powerful' families, the Xiphias-Phocas revolt was about a bid for power by a senior general in the twilight years of Basil's reign. At issue in 1021-2 was a long-standing tension: control over the army. Since the turn of the century Basil had been in control. But as the emperor approached his seventieth birthday, challenges were bound to occur.[[100]]

There were other signs that the end of Basil's reign was characterised by worries about who was going to control the main instruments of state when the emperor died. According to the Armenian historian Aristakes Lastivert, so great was the uncertainty in that the emperor went on parade through the city of Constantinople to reassure the citizens that he was still alive. One obvious reason for such uncertainty was the fact that Basil had no heir except his aged brother Constantine, who himself had three unmarried, childless, and middle-aged daughters. More important,  few of Basil's senior advisors wanted Constantine to become emperor. They even discouraged Basil from summoning Constantine to the imperial palace when he was on his deathbed.[[101]]   The extent to which Constantine ever played an active role in imperial governance during Basil's reign is unclear. Psellus suggests that he was removed from power at some point in the first half of Basil's reign.[[102]]   Modern historians, however, sometimes suggest that Constantine may have exercised considerable authority particularly in Constantinople and the imperial palace.[[103]] My own view is that Constantine had rarely fulfilled more than a ceremonial role. He certainly did not control the palace at the end of Basil's reign. Instead the most important Constantinopolitan official was John the protonotarius.[[104]]   It was individuals like John who were concerned lest power was about to be handed over to a senile cipher. And it may have been such uncertainty about the future which explains why Basil continued to campaign and plan new offensives until his death. Endless fighting was the only way of keeping control of the levers of state power. Maintaining control, in particular over the army, may also have dictated the emperor's rather unusual choice of burial place. Rather than being buried in the elaborate tomb that he had prepared for himself in the Mausoleum of Constantine in the Church of the Holy Apostles, Basil suddenly decided to be interred in the church of the monastery of St John the Evangelist, that he had refounded, outside the walls of the city at the Hebdomon, close to the imperial parade grounds. In death as in life Basil could keep watch over his troops.[[105]]

Basil's epitaph stressed his lifetime's vigilance in guarding the frontiers to east and west (see above). In practice, though, Basil had realised that watching the frontiers could take many forms other than martial strength. Diplomacy and devolution of power were also crucial. It was a combination of skill and luck which meant that in the second half of his reign Basil was able to choose where he fought and where he ruled by indirect means. The crucial difference between Basil and many of his successors, particularly those who ruled Byzantium after 1050, was that few of them enjoyed this luxury of choice. Instead they found themselves faced with a triple assault on three frontiers: from Normans in the west, Pechenegs in the north and Turks in the east.

Select Bibliography:

Primary sources:

Al-Rudhrawari: Eclipse of the Abbasid Caliphate, ed. and trans. H.Amedroz and D.Margoliouth (6 vols., Oxford, 1920-1), Vol. 6

Aristakes Lastivert: Récit des malheurs de la nation arménienne, trans. M.Canard and H.Berbérian according to the edition and Russian translation by K.Yuzbashian (Brussels, 1973)

Campaign Organisation and Tactics: G.T.Dennis, Three Byzantine Military Treatises (CFHB XXV, Washington D.C., 1985)

Cecaumenus: Cecaumeni Consilia et Narrationes, ed. and trans. G.Litavrin (Moscow, 1972)

Georgian Royal Annals: R.Thomson, Rewriting Caucasian History: The Georgian Chronicles (Oxford, 1996)

John Geometres, Anecdota Graeca, E Codd. Manuscriptis Bibliothecae Regiae Parisiensis, J.A.Cramer (ed.), 4 Vols (Oxford, 1839-1841)

John the Deacon: 'La cronaca Veneziana del Giovanni Diacono', Chronache Veneziane, (ed.) G.Monticolo, Fonti per la Storia d'Italia (1890)

John Scylitzes: Ioannis Skylitzae Synopsis Historiarum, ed. I.Thurn (CFHB V, Berlin and New York, 1973)

Life of John and Euthymius: B.Martin-Hisard, 'La Vie de Jean et Euthyme: le statut du monastère des Ibères sur l'Athos', REB 49(1991), pp.67-142

Leo the Deacon: Leonis Diaconi Caloënsis Historiae Libri Decem, ed. C.B.Hase (CSHB, Bonn, 1828)

Leo the Deacon (speeches): I. Sykutres, Leontos tou Diakonou anekdoton enkomion Basileiou II, Epeteris Hetaireias Byzantinon Spoudon 10 (1932), pp.425-34

Leo of Synada: The Correspondence of Leo, Metropolitan of Synada and Syncellus, ed. M.P.Vinson (Washington D.C. D.C., 1985)

Listes: N.Oikonomides, Les Listes de préséance byzantines des IXe et Xe siècles (Paris, 1972)

Lupus Protospatharius, MGH SS V

Michael Psellus: Michel Psellus: Chronographie, ed. and trans. E.Renauld, (2 vols., Paris, 1926, reprinted 1967); or Michele Psello Imperatori di Bisanzio (Cronografia), ed. S.Impellizzeri and trans. S.Ronchey (2 vols., Rome, 1984)

Miracles of Saint Eugenius: new edition of the material relating to Basil's reign in: N.M.Panagiotakes, 'Fragments of a Lost Eleventh-Century Byzantine Historical Work', in E.Jeffreys et al. (eds.), Filellhn, Studies in Honour of Robert Browning (London, 1996), pp.321-57

Nicephorus Uranus: J.Darrouzès, Épistoliers byzantins du Xe siècle (Paris, 1960) (letters); McGeer (see below)

Priest of Diocleia: Letopis Popa Dukljanina, (ed.) F. Šišiæ (Belgrade and Zagreb, 1928)

Russian Primary Chronicle: The Russian Primary Chronicle, Laurentian Text, ed. and trans. S.H.Cross and O.P.Sherbowitz-Wetzor (Cambridge (Mass.), 1953)

Saint Nikon: The Life of St. Nikon, ed. and trans. D.F.Sullivan(Brookline, Mass.1987)

Saint Symeon the New Theologian: 'Vie de Syméon le Nouveau Théologien (949-1022) par Nicétas Stéthatos', ed. and trans. P.I.Hausherr, Orientalia Christiana 12 (Rome, 1928)

Stephen of Taron: Des Stephanos von Taron armenische Geschichte, trans. H.Gelzer and A.Burckhardt (Leipzig, 1909)

Yahya ibn Sa'id al-Antaki, 'Histoire', ed. and trans. I.Kratchkovsky and A.Vasiliev, PO 23 (1932), pp.349-520; 'Histoire de Yahya ibn Sa'id d'Antioche', ed. I.Kratchkovsky, trans. F.Micheau and G.Troupeau, PO, 47 (1997), 373-559; see also Yahya al-Antaki Cronache dell'Egitto Fatimide e dell'Impero Bizantino 937-1033, trans. B.Pirone (Bari, 1998)

J.Zepos and P.Zepos (eds.), Ius Graecoromanum (8 vols., Athens, 1931)

Select secondary literature:

N.Adontz, 'Tornik le moine', Byzantion 13 (1938), pp.143-64

N.Adontz, 'Samuel l'arménien roi des Bulgares', reprinted in Études arméno-byzantines (Lisbon, 1965), pp.347-407.

M.Angold, The Byzantine Empire 1025-1204 (London and New York, 2nd edition 1997)

M.Arbagi, 'The Celibacy of Basil II', Byzantine Studies/Études byzantines 2(I) (1975), pp.41-5

A.D.H.Bivar, 'Bardes Sclerus, the Buwayids and the Marwanids at Hisn Ziyad in the Light of an Unnoticed Arab Inscription', in S.Freeman and H.Kennedy (eds.), Defence of the Roman and Byzantine Frontiers (BAR International Series, Oxford, 1986), pp.9-21

S.Blondal/ B.S.Benedikz, The Varangians of Byzantium (Cambridge, 1978)

W.G.Brokkaar, 'Basil Lacapenus. Byzantium in the Tenth Century', in W.F.Bakker, A.F.van Gemert, and W.J.Aerts (eds.), Studia Byzantina et Neohellenica Neerlandica 3 (Leiden, 1972), pp.199-234

M.Canard, 'Deux documents arabes sur Bardas Sklèros', Studi Bizantini e Neoellenici 5 (1939), pp.55-69

M.Canard, 'La destruction de l' Église de la Resurrection par le Calife Hakim et l'histoire de la descent du feu sacré', B 25 (1955), pp.16-43

B.Crostini, 'The Emperor Basil II's Cultural Life', B 64 (1996), pp.53-80

A.Cutler, 'The Psalter of Basil II', in Imagery and Ideology in Byzantine Art (Variorum/Aldershot, 1992), no III.

J.Darrouzès, 'Sur la chronologie du patriarche Antoine III Stoudite', Revue des Études Byzantines 46 (1988), pp.55-60

V.von Falkenhausen, Untersuchungen über die byzantinische Herrschaft in Süditalien vom 9. bis ins 11. Jahrhundert (Wiesbaden, 1967)

W.A.Farag, 'Byzantium and its Muslim Neighbours during the Reign of Basil II (976-1025) (Univ. of Birmingham Ph.D. thesis, 1979)

W.Felix, Byzanz und die islamische Welt im früheren 11. Jahrhundert (Vienna, 1981)

J.V.A.Fine, 'Basil II and the Decline of the Theme System', Studia Slavico-Byzantina et Medievalia Europensia I (Ivan Duijcev Center for Slavo-Byzantine Studies, Sofia, 1989), pp.44-7

J.H.Forsyth, 'The Chronicle of Yahya ibn Sa'id al-Antaki' (Univ. of Michigan Ph.D. thesis, 1977)

S.Franklin and J.Shepard, The Emergence of Rus 750-1200 (Cambridge, 1996)

J.Gay, L'Italie méridionale et l'empire byzantin depuis l'avènement de Basil I jusqu' à la prise de Bari par les Normands (867-1071) (Paris, 1904)

L.Garland, 'Basil II as Humorist', B 67 (1999), pp.321-343

H.Grégoire, 'Du nouveau sur l'histoire bulgaro-byzantine. Nicétas Pegonitès, vainqueur du roi bulgare, Jean Vladislav', B 12 (1937), pp. 289-91

H.Grégoire and N.Adontz, 'Nicéphore au col roide', B 8(1935), pp. 203-212

A.Guillou, Studies on Byzantine Italy (Variorum, 1970)

A.Guillou, Culture et société en Italie byzantine (Variorum, 1978)

J.Haldon, Warfare, State and Society in the Byzantine World, 656-1204 (London, 1999)

C.J.Holmes, 'Basil II and the Government of Empire' (Univ. of Oxford D.Phil. thesis, 1999)

C.J.Holmes, 'How the East was Won in the Reign of Basil II', in Eastern Approaches to Byzantium, ed. A.Eastmond (Aldershot, 2001)

\C.J.Holmes, 'Political Elites in the Reign of Basil' in P.Magdalino (ed.), Byzantium in the Year 1000 (forthcoming)

E.Honigmann, Die Ostgrenze des byzantinischen Reiches von 363 bis 1071, nach griechischen, arabischen, syrischen und armenischen Quellen (Brussels, 1935)

J.D.Howard-Johnston, 'Crown Lands and the Defence of Imperial Authority in the Tenth and Eleventh Centuries', Byzantinische Forschungen XXI (1995), pp.76-99

V.Ivanisevic, 'Interpretations and Dating of the Folles of Basil II and Constantine VIII - the Class of A2', ZVRI 27 (1989), pp.37-39

F.Janssens, 'Le lac de Van et la stratégie byzantine', B 42 (1972), pp.388-404

M.Kaplan, 'Les grands propriétaires de Cappadoce', in C.D.Fonseca (ed.), Le aree omogenee della civiltà rupestre nell'ambito dell'impero bizantino: la Cappdocia (Lecce, 1981), pp.125-158

V.Laurent, 'La chronologie des gouverneurs d'Antioche sous la seconde domination byzantine', Mélanges de l'Université Saint-Joseph de Beyrouth 38 (1962), pp.221-254

E.McGeer, 'Tradition and Reality in the Taktika of Nikephoros Ouranos', Dumbarton Oakes Papers 45 (1991), pp.129-40

E.McGeer, Sowing the Dragon's Teeth: Byzantine Warfare in the 10th Century (Washington D.C., 1995)

J.P.Mahé, 'Basile II et Byzance vus par Grigor Narekac'i', Travaux et Mémoires11(1991), pp.555-72

S.G.Mercati, 'Sull'epigrafio di Basilio II Bulgaroctonos', Collectectanea Bizantina (2 vols., Rome, 1970)

R.Morris, 'The Poor and the Powerful in Tenth-Century Byzantium: Law and Reality', Past and Present 73 (1976), pp.3-27

R.Morris, 'Succession and Usurpation: Politics and Rhetoric in the late Tenth Century', in P.Magdalino (ed.), New Constantines: the Rhythms of Imperial Renewal in Byzantium (Variorum, 1994)

S.Der Nersessian, 'Remarks on the Date of the Menologium and the Psalter written for Basil II', B 15 (1940-1), pp.104-125

D.Obolensky, 'Cherson and the Conversion of the Rus: an Anti-Revisionist View', Byzantine and Modern Greeek Studies 13 (1983), pp.244-256.

N.Oikonomides, 'L'évolution de l'organisation administrative de l'empire byzantin au XIe siècle', TM 6 (1976), pp.125-52.

G.Ostrogorsky, 'Une ambassade serbe auprès de l'empereur Basile II', B 19 (1949), pp.187-94

G.Ostrogorsky, History of the Byzantine State (trans. J.Hussey), 3rd edn. (Oxford, 1968)

A.Poppe, 'The Political Background to the Baptism of the Rus', DOP 30 (1976), pp.196-244

T.Reinach, 'Un contrat de mariage du temps de Basil le Bulgaroctone', inMélanges offerts àM.Gustave Schlumberger (2 vols., Paris, 1924)

L. Robert, 'Sur les lettres d'un métropolite de Phrygie au Xe siècle', Journal des Savants (1961), pp.97-166; (1962), pp.1-74

V.R.Rozen, Imperator Vasilij Bolgarobojca. Izvlechenija iz letopisi Jach-i Antiochijskago: the Emperor Basil Slayer of the Bulgarians, Extracts from the Chronicle of Jahja of Antioch (St Petersburg, 1883; reprint London 1972)

S.Runciman, History of the First Bulgarian Empire (London, 1930)

W.B.R. Saunders, 'The Aachen Reliquary of Eustathius Maleinus 969-970', DOP 36(1982), pp.211-219

G.Schlumberger, L'Épopée byzantine à la fin du dixième siècle (3 vols., Paris, 1896-1905)

W.Seibt, 'Untersuchungen zur Vor- und Frühgeschichte der "bulgarischen" Kometopulen', Handes Amsorya 89 (1975), pp.65-98

W.Seibt, 'Ioannes Scylitzes - Zur Person des Chronisten', Jahrbuch der Österreichischen Byzantinistik 25 (1976), pp.81-6

W.Seibt, Die Skleroi (Vienna, 1976)

W.Seibt, 'Die Eingliederung von Vaspurakan in das byzantinische Reich', Handes Amsorya 92 (1978), pp.49-66

I.Ševèenko, 'The Illuminators of the Menologium of Basil II', DOP 16 (1962), pp.243-276

C.S.Sifonas, 'Basile II et l'aristocratie byzantine', B 64 (1994), pp.118-133

P.Stephenson, Byzantium's Balkan Frontier (Cambridge, 2000)

P.Stephenson, 'The Legend of Basil the Bulgar-slayer', BMGS 24 (2000), pp.102-132

N.Svoronos, 'Remarques sur la tradition du texte de la novelle de Basile II concernant les puissants', Recueil des Travaux de l'Inst. d'Ét. byz,, Mélanges G.Ostrogorsky II (Belgrade, 1964)

P.M.Tarchnishvili, 'Le soulèvement de Bardas Sklèros', Bedi Kartlisa 17-18 (1964), pp.95-7

A.Ter Ghevondyan, The Arab Emirates in Bagratid Armenia (Lisbon, 1976)

C.Toumanoff, 'The Bagratids of Iberia from the Eighth to the Eleventh Centuries', Le Muséon 74 (1961), pp.5-42

W.Treadgold, A History of the Byzantine State and Society (Stanford, California, 1997)

A.Wharton-Epstein, The Art of Empire: painting and architecture of the Byzantine periphery: a comparative study of four provinces(Pennsylvania State University, 1988)

M.Whittow, The Making of Orthodox Byzantium (Oxford, 1996)

K.N.Yuzbashian, 'L'administration byzantine en Arménie aux Xe et XIe siècles', Revue des Études Armeniennes 10 (1973-4), pp.139-83

[[1]]For a comprehensive narrative of the reign see G.Schlumberger, L'Épopée byzantine à la fin du dixième siècle, 3 vols. (Paris, 1896-1905), Vols 1, 327-777 and II, passim; see also G Ostrogorsky, History of the Byzantine State (trans. J.Hussey), 3rd edn. (Oxford, 1968), pp.298-315; W.Treadgold, A History of the Byzantine State and Society (Stanford, California, 1997), pp.513-33; M.Whittow, The Making of Orthodox Byzantium (Oxford, 1996), pp.358-390.

[[2]] Summarised in P.Stephenson, 'The Legend of Basil the Bulgar-slayer', BMGS 24 (2000), pp.102-132; see also L.Garland, 'Basil II as Humorist', B 67 (1999), p.333.

[[3]]M.Angold, The Byzantine Empire 1025-1204 (London and New York, 2nd edition 1997), pp.24-34.

[[4]]Yahya ibn Sa'id al-Antaki, 'Histoire', ed. and trans. I.Kratchkovsky and A.Vasiliev, PO 23(1932), pp.372-520; 'Histoire de Yahya ibn Sa'id d'Antioche', ed. I.Kratchkovsky, trans. F.Micheau and G.Troupeau, PO, 47 (1997), 373-481; Des Stephanos von Taron armenische Geschichte, trans. H.Gelzer and A.Burckhardt (Leipzig, 1909), pp.137-217.

[[5]]Leonis Diaconi Caloënsis Historiae Libri Decem, ed. C.B.Hase (CSHB, Bonn, 1828), pp.169-76; Michel Psellus: Chronographie, ed. E.Renauld (2 vols., Paris, 1926), Vol I, pp.1-24 (see also Michele Psello Imperatori di Bisanzio (Cronografia), ed. S.Impellizzeri and trans. S.Ronchey (2 vols., Rome, 1984), Vol I, pp.8-40; Ioannis Scylitzae Synopsis Historiarum, ed. I.Thurn (CFHB, Berlin, 1973), pp.314-69; on Scylitzes see also W.Seibt, 'Ioannes Scylitzes - Zur Person des Chronisten', JÖB 25 (1976), pp.81-6

[[6]]C.J.Holmes, 'Basil II and the Government of Empire' (Univ. of Oxford D.Phil. thesis, 1999), chapter 3.

[[7]] 'La cronaca Veneziana del Giovanni Diacono', Chronache Veneziane, (ed.) G.Monticolo, Fonti per la Storia d'Italia (1890), p.149.

[[8]]M.Canard, 'La destruction de l'Église de la Resurrection par le Calife Hakim et l'histoire de la descente du feu sacré', B 25 (1955), pp.16-43

[[9]] See bibliography for references.

[[10]] Leo of Synada: The Correspondence of Leo, Metropolitan of Synada and Syncellus, ed. M.P.Vinson (Washington D.C. D.C., 1985), especially letters 1-13.

[[11]]E.McGeer, Sowing the Dragon's Teeth: Byzantine Warfare in the 10th Century (Washington D.C., 1995), pp.79-167; J.Darrouzès, Épistoliers byzantins du Xe siècle (Paris, 1960), pp.217-248.
[[12]]N.Oikonomides, Les Listes de préséance byzantines des IXe et Xe siècles (Paris, 1972), pp.265-273;J.Zepos and P.Zepos (eds.), Ius Graecoromanum 8 vols (Athens, 1931), Vol I, pp.259-72; N. Svoronos, 'Remarques sur la tradition du texte de la novelle de Basile II concernant les puissants', Recueil des Travaux de l'Institut d'Études Byzantines, Mélanges G.Ostrogorsky, 2 vols (Belgrade, 1964), Vol 2, pp.427-34; Ibn Shahram's report in Al-Rudhrawari: Eclipse of the Abbasid Caliphate, ed. and trans. H.Amedroz and D.Margoliouth, 6 vols. (Oxford, 1920-1), Vol. 6, pp.23-34; I. Sykutres, Leontos tou Diakonou anekdoton enkomion Basileiou II, Epeteris Hetaireias Byzantinon Spoudon 10 (1932), pp.425-34; S. G. Mercati, 'Sull' Epigrafio di Basilio II Bulgaroctonos', Collectanea Bizantina, 2 vols. (Rome, 1970), Vol 2, p.230; M.Lauxtermann, 'John Geometres - Poet and Soldier', B 58 (1999), pp.356-380; P. I. Hausherr, ed. and trans., 'Vie de Syméon le Nouveau Théologien (949-1022) par Nicétas Stéthatos', Orientalia Christiana 12(Rome, 1928); J. McGuckin, 'Symeon the New Theologian and Byzantine Monasticism', in Mount Athos and Byzantine Monasticism, A. Bryer and M. Cunningham eds. (Aldershot, 1996), 17-35; 'Miracles of Sampson', PG 115: 278-308.

[[13]]Some examples can be found at: R.Janin, Constantinople byzantine: Développement urbain et répertoire topographique, 2nd edn (Paris, 1964), pp.268, 276, 297); H.Maguire, 'The Beauty of Castles: a Tenth-Century Description of a Tower at Constantinople', Deltion tes Cristianikes Archaiologikes Hetaireias 17 (1993-4), pp.21-24 (I am grateful to Jim Crow for this reference); A.Muthesius, 'Silken Diplomacy,' in J.Shepard and S.Franklin (eds.), Byzantine Diplomacy (Aldershot, 1992), pp.244-6); Schlumberger, L'Épopée, Vol. 2; P.Grierson, Catalogue of the Byzantine Coins in the Dumbarton Oaks Collection and in the Whittemore Collection, 5 vols (Washington DC, 1966-99), Vol 3.2, pp.599-633.

[[14]]Ostrogorsky, Byzantine State, pp.283-298; Treadgold, Byzantine State and Society, pp.498-513.

[[15]]Establishing Basil's exact age is difficult. Psellus claimed that he was seventy-one when he died; Skylitzes that he was seventy. This would mean that Basil was born some time around 956.

[[16]]The best account of the period 976 to 989 is J.H.Forsyth, 'The Chronicle of Yahya ibn Sai'd al-Antaki' (Univ. of Michigan Ph.D. thesis, 1977), pp.370-462. See also N.Adontz, 'Tornik le moine', B 13 (1938), pp.143-64; W.Seibt, Die Skleroi (1976), pp.29-58.

[[17]]Scylitzes, p. 319 claims that Attaleia went over to Sclerus at a relatively early point in the campaign. Leo the Deacon, a contemporary, suggests a rather later date, after Bardas Phocas had been appointed to lead the imperial armies (Leo the Deacon, p. 170; see below).

[[18]]Forsyth, 'Yahya', pp.384-93.

[[19]]Al-Rudhrawari, pp.23-34.

[[20]]Ostrogorsky, Byzantine State, pp.303-308.

[[21]]Zepos and Zepos, Ius, Vol 1, pp.260-72; Psellus, Chronographie, Vol 1, pp.1-24.

[[22]]G.Dennis, Three Byzantine Military Treatises (Washington D.C., 1985), p.217; Ibn Hawkal: La Configuration de la terre, trans. J.H.Kramers and G.Wiet, 2 vols (Beirut/Paris, 1964), Vol 1, p.193; J.D.Howard-Johnston, 'Crown Lands and the Defence of Imperial Authority in the Tenth and Eleventh Centuries', Byz Forsch XXI (1995), pp.86-95.

[[23]]Seibt, Die Skleroi, pp.56-65; Psellus, p.6; Yahya, PO 23 (1932), pp.427, 440, 466; Stephen of Taron, p.199; Scylitzes, pp.338, 340; J.P.Mahé, 'Basile II et Byzance vus par Grigor Narekac'i', TM 11 (1991), pp.560, 565-67; C.S.Sifonas, 'Basile II et l'aristocratie byzantine', B 64 (1994), pp.118-133.

[[24]]Zepos and Zepos, Ius, I, 222.

[[25]]Al-Rudrawari, pp.28-35; Scylitzes, p.332.

[[26]]These arguments are developed more fully in C.J.Holmes, 'Political Elites in the Reign of Basil' in P.Magdalino (ed.), Byzantium in the Year 1000, forthcoming.

[[27]]A.Cutler, 'The Psalter of Basil II', in Imagery and Ideology in Byzantine Art (Variorum/Aldershot, 1992), no III; Mercati, 'Sull'epigrafio', p.230; Yahya, PO 47 (1997), p.483. Translations by Jonathan Shepard (epitaph) and Feras Hamza (from Yahya's Arabic).

[[28]]Psellus, Vol I, especially pp.12-14; B.Crostini, 'The Emperor Basil II's Cultural Life', B 64 (1996), p.64; A.Kaldellis, The Argument of Psellos's Chronographia (Leiden, 1999), pp.92-5.

[[29]] Indeed, so closely does Psellus's interpretation of the reign echo contemporary imperial propaganda that one wonders whether he could have constructed his account using materials from the emperor's own records. As an official at the imperial court, Psellus certainly had access to imperial archives.

[[30]]For relations with the Fatimids see Forsyth, 'Yahya', pp.416-423, 478-510, 532-557; W.A.Farag, 'Byzantium and its Muslim Neighbours during the Reign of Basil II (976-1025) (Univ. of Birmingham Ph.D. thesis, 1979), pp.227-273.

[[31]]E.McGeer, 'Tradition and Reality in the Taktika of Nikephoros Ouranos', DOP 45(1991), pp.129-40; Darrouzès, Épistoliers, pp.256, 258-9.

[[32]]Yahya, pp.466-7.

[[33]]M.Canard, 'La date des expéditions mésopotamiennes de Jean Tzimiscès', Mélanges Henri Grégoire, Ann. de l'Inst. de Phil. et d'Hist. Or. et Slav. 10 (1950), pp.99-108.

[[34]]Holmes, 'Basil II', pp.293-299.

[[35]]For relations with the Buyids see Forsyth, 'Yahya', pp.393-416; Farag, 'Byzantium and its Muslim Neighbours', pp.71-144.

[[36]]M.Canard, 'Deux documents arabes sur Bardas Sklèros', Studi Bizantini e Neoellenici 5 (1939), pp.55-69.

[[37]]For relations with the Marwanids see: Forsyth, 'Yahya', pp.510-515; Farag, 'Byzantium and its Muslim Neighbours', pp.145-147.

[[38]]For relations with the Christian Caucasian powers in Basil's reign see Forsyth, 'Yahya', pp.464-74, 557-581; C.Tourmanoff, 'Armenia and Georgia', in J.Hussey (ed.), The Cambridge Medieval History, Vol. IV, Pt. 1, The Byzantine Empire: Byzantium and its Neighbours (Cambridge, 1967), pp.615-620. For the impressive material culture of this region in the tenth and eleventh centuries a good introduction is: H.C Evans and W.D.Wixom, The Glory of Byzantium: Art and Culture of the Middle Byzantine Era 843-1261 (New York (Metropolitan Museum) 1997), pp.336-363.

[[39]]For further discussion see W.Seibt, 'Die Eingliederung von Vaspurakan in das byzantinische Reich', Handes Amsorya 92 (1978), pp.49-66.

[[40]]For the Muslim powers near Lake Van see V.Minorsky, 'New light on the Shadaddids of Ganja (951-1075)', Studies in Caucasian History (London, 1953), pp.14-20; A.Ter Ghevondyan, The Arab Emirates in Bagratid Armenia (Lisbon, 1976), pp.101-121.

[[41]]C.J.Holmes, 'How the East was Won in the Reign of Basil II', in Eastern Approaches to Byzantium, ed. A.Eastmond (Aldershot, 2001).

[[42]]For a narrative of Tzimisces's and Basil's campaigns in Bulgaria see P.Stephenson, Byzantium's Balkan Frontier (Cambridge, 2000), chapter 2. Stephenson makes full use of a wide range of sources to reconstruct Byzantine administration in the Balkans during these two reigns. Some of his analysis is convincing, although he rarely makes explicit the many problems associated with the evidence he uses. His narrative of imperial rule in the Balkans is expressed with a degree of absolute certainty which the literary and material sources cannot always support.

[[43]]Scylitzes, pp.255-256, 328-330; see also W.Seibt, 'Untersuchungen zur Vor- und Frühgeschichte der "bulgarischen" Kometopulen', Handes Amsorya 89 (1975), pp.65-98.

[[44]]Scylitzes, p.331.

[[45]]Scylitzes p.330-1; see previous chapter.

[[46]]Leo the Deacon, pp.171-3.

[[47]]Stephen of Taron, pp.185-186; Dennis, Three Treatises, pp.242-43.

[[48]] Actes de Lavra I. Des origines à 1204, Archives de l'Athos V, eds. P.Lemerle, A.Guillou, N.Svoronos, D.Papachyrssanthou (Paris, 1970), doc. 8; John Geometres: Anecdota Graeca, E Codd. Manuscriptis Bibliothecae Regiae Parisiensis, J.A.Cramer (ed.), 4 Vols (Oxford, 1839-1841), Vol 4, pp.271-3, 282-3.

[[49]]Yahya, PO 23 (1932), pp.430-1; Stephen of Taron, p.198.

[[50]]Al-Rudrawari, pp.229, 232.

[[51]]Yahya, PO 23 (1932), p.442.

[[52]]Actes de Lavra, doc. 10.

[[53]]Skylitzes, pp.341-2; Stephen of Taron, p.198.

[[54]]Scylitzes, pp.347, 357; Actes d'Iviron I. Des origines au milieu du XIe siècle, Archives de l'Athos XIV, eds. J.Lefort, N.Oikonomides, D.Papachryssanthou, H.Métrévéli (Paris, 1985), doc. 8.

[[55]]Scylitzes, p.343; The Life of St. Nikon, ed. and trans. D.F.Sullivan (Brookline, Mass. 1987), ch. 43.

[[56]]Actes d'Iviron, doc. 10.

[[57]]The circumstances of Uranus's appointment are obscure. One possibility is that he was sent westwards as domesticus while Basil II was campaigning against the Fatimids in the east during the mid 990s.

[[58]]Leo of Synada, letter 13.

[[59]]Stephenson, Balkan Frontier, pp.66-71.

[[60]]Scylitzes, p.343-4.

[[61]]Scylitzes, p.356.

[[62]]Ibid, pp.350-360.

[[63]]John the Deacon, pp.155-60.

[[64]] Scylitzes, pp.342-3

[[65]]Scylitzes p.361-3.

[[66]]Scylitzes, p.365.

[[67]]Scylitzes, p.348; al-Rudhrawari, p.119; La chronographie de Mar Elie bar Sinaya, Métropolitain de Nisibe, ed. and trans. L.J.Delaporte (Paris, 1910), p.142; for Ademar see M.Arbagi, 'The Celibacy of Basil II', Byzantine Studies/Études byzantines 2(I) (1975), pp.41-5.

[[68]]Stephenson, Balkan Frontier, chs. 2 and 4 passim.

[[69]]Scylitzes, pp.348-350.

[[70]]Whittow, Making of Orthodox Byzantium, pp.387-8.

[[71]]Scylitzes, pp.350-65 for the period 1014-1018.

[[72]]The Priest of Diocleia, p.336; but see also Scylitzes, pp.350-65.

[[73]]H. Grégoire, 'Du nouveau sur l'histoire bulgaro-byzantine. Nicétas Pegonitès, vainqueur du roi bulgare, Jean Vladislav', B 12 (1937), pp. 289-91.

[[74]]Yahya, PO 47 (1997), pp.407-08.

[[75]]Holmes, 'Basil II', pp.96-8.

[[76]]Scylitzes, pp.364-5.

[[77]]Stephenson, Balkan Frontier, pp.125-30.

[[78]]Yahya, p.407; Holmes, 'How the East was won', pp.48-50.

[[79]]Ibid; Scylitzes, p.363.

[[80]]Stephenson, Balkan Frontier, pp.75-9.

[[81]]V.von Falkenhausen, Untersuchungen über die byzantinische Herrschaft in Süditalien vom 9. bis ins 11. Jahrhundert (Wiesbaden, 1967); A.Guillou, Studies on Byzantine Italy (Variorum, 1970); Culture et société en Italie byzantine (Variorum, 1978).

[[82]]For a narrative of this period see: J.Gay, L'Italie méridionale et l'empire byzantin depuis l'avènement de Basil I jusqu'à la prise de Bari par les Normands (867-1071) (Paris, 1904), pp.324-429.

[[83]]Gay, L'Italie, p.368.

[[84]]D.Nicol, Byzantium and Venice. A Study in Diplomatic and Cultural Relations (Cambridge, 1988), pp.38-50; K.Ciggaar, Western Travellers to Constantinople. The West and Byzantium, 962-1204 (Leiden, 1996), pp.265-266; Gay, L'Italie, pp.368-70.

[[85]]C.Melville and A.Ubaydi (trans.), Christians and Moors in Spain, 3 vols. (1988-1992), Vol.3, doc. 84; M.Hamidullah, 'Nouveaux documents sur les rapports de l'Europe avec l'Orient musulman au moyen âge', Arabica 7 (1960), pp.291-296.

[[86]]A.Wharton-Epstein, The Art of Empire: painting and architecture of the Byzantine periphery: a comparative study of four provinces (Pennsylvania State University, 1988), pp.147-156.

[[87]]Von Falkenhausen, Untersuchungen, pp.103, 128-131. A.Guillou, 'La Lucanie byzantine', B 35 (1965), pp.119-149; J-M. Martin, 'Une frontière artificielle: la Capitanate italienne', Acts of the 14th International Congress 1971 (Bucharest, 1974), Vol 2, pp.379-85.

[[88]]Leo of Synada, letters 1-13.

[[89]]Gerbert of Aurillac, The Letters of Gerbert, with his Papal Privileges as Sylvester II (ed. and trans.) H. Lattin (New York, 1961): letter 119; Rodulfi Glaber Historiarum Libri Quinque ed and trans. J.France (Oxford Medieval Texts, 1989), pp.97-8; Ciggaar, Western Travellers, especially chs. 1-2 and pp.168-9.

[[90]] The Russian Primary Chronicle, Laurentian Text, ed. and trans. S.H.Cross and O.P.Sherbowitz-Wetzor (Cambridge (Mass.), 1953), pp.90-135.

[[91]]A.Poppe, 'The Political Background to the Baptism of the Rus', DOP 30 (1976), pp.196-244; debates summarised by S.Franklin and J.Shepard, The Emergence of Rus 750-1200 (Cambridge, 1996), pp.159-62.

[[92]]See for example an entire volume of articles about the conversion in Harvard Ukrainian Studies, 12 (1988).

[[93]]Scylitzes, p.354, 367; Yahya p.458; Stephen of Taron p.210; Aristakes Lastivert p.4.

[[94]]Franklin and Shepard, Emergence of Rus, pp.162-180.

[[95]]Thietmar Meresburgensis episcopi Chronicon, ed. R.Holtzmann, MGH (Berlin, 1955), p.532.

[[96]]Franklin and Shepard, Emergence of Rus, p.200.

[[97]]I.V.Sokolova, 'Les sceaux byzantins de Cherson', in Studies in Byzantine Sigillography, (ed.) N.Oikonomides, Vol. 3 (Washington, D.C., 1993), p.104.

[[98]]This revolt usually commands little attention from historians. One exception is H. Grégoire and N. Adontz, 'Nicéphore au col roide', B 8 (1935), pp. 203-212.

[[99]]Skylitzes, p.348.

[[100]]Skylitzes, pp.366-367; Yahya, PO 47, pp.463-9; Aristakes, pp.17-19; Georgian Royal Annals, p.283.

[[101]]Aristakes, p.25.

[[102]]Psellus, p.14.

[[103]]S. Runciman, 'The Country and Suburban Palaces of the Emperors', in Essays in Honor of Peter Charanis, ed. A. E. Laiou-Thomadakis (New Brunswick, New Jersey, 1980), 219.

[[104]]Skylitzes, p.369.

[[105]]Skylitzes, p.369; Yahya, PO 47, pp.481-483.

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