Constantine VII Porphyrogennetos (945–959)

Constantine VII Porphyrogennetos (945–959)

constantine vii 1.jpgRomanos I Lekapenos was overthrown by his sons Stephen and Constantine in late December 944. A month later, the two Lekapenoi were deposed in favor of Constantine VII, who finally acquired sole power thirty-seven years after being crowned by his father, Leo VI. Despite the renewed employment of the Phokas family in the upper echelons of the army, Constantine’s reign was, from a military perspective, unspectacular. Although the Byzantines regularly campaigned across the Euphrates, Sayf al–Dawla continued to plague them with a number of devastating raids into the empire, notably in 953. However, from 957 when Bardas Phokas was replaced as commander by his son Nikephoros, he, along with a number of young commanders such as John Tzimiskes, began to turn events in Byzantium's favor. To the south Constantine made a hugely expensive attempt to recover Crete which failed utterly.

constantine vii 2.jpgConstantine, based on his reputation in contemporary sources, stands at the center of what has been called the Macedonian Renaissance. The intellectual production of his reign, much as during his father’s, was largely one of compilation and encyclopedism. In his name are works on foreign policy (De administrando imperio), the themes (De thematibus), and imperial ceremony (De ceremoniis), as well as a biography of his grandfather and a number of speeches delivered to the troops. Constantine continued where Romanos I had left off by issuing legislation to protect both the poor and the empire's soldiers' lands from encroachment by the powerful.

Constantine’s seals maintain the realistic portrait that was revived on seals by Romanos (and on coins by Leo VI). He is depicted with a characteristically long face and beard. Constantine issued two types of seals. On the first he is depicted alone, the first Macedonian with a crowned son to be shown this way, and the inscription combines the titles basileus Romaion with autokrator, "sole ruler." These are a conjuncture, on seals at least, of pre- and later-Macedonian titulature. It is perhaps possible too see, in Constantine's choice of an individual portrait and the title autokrator, that the repercussions of nearly three decades lived in the shadow of regents and rival emperors. The second, rarer type displays Constantine on the obverse and his son Romanos on the reverse. For the seals of Constantine's family see the Macedonian Dynasty in the Dynasties of Empire section.

 
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