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Basil II 976 – 1025

The circumstances in which the emperor John Tzimisces met his death have already been described (in the history of Leo Diaconus).**1 Basil and Constantine, the sons of Romanus,**2 were now the legitimate heirs to an Empire which through the efforts of their predecessor had won many triumphs and greatly increased its power.
Passing a lazy existence
Both princes had seen the last of their boyhood days, but their interests lay far apart, for whereas Basil, the elder of the two, always gave an impression of alertness, intelligence, and thoughtfulness, his brother was to all appearances apathetic, passing a lazy existence, and devoted to a life of luxury. It was natural, therefore, that they should abandon the idea of a diarchy. By mutual consent all real power was vested in Basil, and Constantine was associated with him as emperor in name only.

It was a wise decision, for if the Empire was to be well governed it was essential that the older and more experienced brother should inherit the highest position in the state. There is perhaps something admirable in Constantine’s renunciation of most of his privileges on this occasion, because legally he was entitled to share his father’s inheritance on equal terms with his brother–and by ‘inheritance’ I mean the Empire.

Basil II – What makes his decision the more remarkable is the fact that he was very young at the time, just at the age, in fact, when lust for power is most easily kindled. One must remember, too, that Basil, far from being already a full-grown man, was still a mere stripling: to use the common expressions he was still ‘growing his first beard’, and yet Constantine [12] allowed him to take precedence. It is only right, therefore, that I should pay this tribute to the younger brother at the outset of this history.

Basil II part 19

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15. Psellus seems to have misunderstood the chronology of Basil’s reign, for the Lord Chamberlain was deposed in 985 and died in exile soon after. Cedrenus (699, p. 443) implies that his downfall coincided...

Basil II part 18

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3. Basil the Lord Chamberlain (parakoimomenus) was the illegitimate son off Romanus I Lecapenus (9l9-944) and had been promoted to his high office by Nicephorus II Phocas, with the additional title of President of...

Basil II part 17

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When he gave rein to his horse and rode in the assault, he was erect and firm in his saddle, riding uphill and downhill alike, and when he checked his steed, reining it in,...

Basil II part 16

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34. Basil’s character was two-fold, for he readily adapted himself no less to the crises of war than to the calm of peace. Really, if the truth be told, he was more of a...

Basil II part 15

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His experience of army matters went further than that: the duties of the protostate,**20 the duties of the hemilochites, **21 the tasks proper to the rank immediately junior to them– all these were no...

Basil II part 14

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31. By humbling the pride or jealousy of his people, Basil made his own road to power an easy one. He was careful, moreover, to close the exit-doors on the monies contributed to the...

Basil II part 13

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29. On this note their conversation came to an end. Sclerus went off to the country estate which had been apportioned him, and soon afterwards he died. We will leave him and return to...

Basil II part 12

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27. Agreement was reached on these conditions, and the emperor set out from the capital to one of his most magnificent estates, there to receive the rebel and ratify the treaty.**17 Basil seated himself...

Basil II part 11

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No attempt was made to overwhelm the enemy in actual operations, but his transports were invariably stopped in convoys, he was cut off from free use of the roads, all merchandise being conveyed to...

Basil II part 10

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22. Let us return to the emperor. Now that he observed the diverse character of his dominions, and saw that it was no easy matter to wield such tremendous power, Basil abjured all selfindulgence....

Grand Balkan Tour

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