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This coin struck during the regency of Theodora shows how Michael was less prominent than his mother, who is represented as ruler alone on the obverse, and even than his sister Thecla, who is depicted together with the young Michael on the reverse of this coin.
(http://www.cngcoins.com)

Michael III the Drunkard (Greek: Μιχαήλ Γ΄, Mikhaēl III ), (January 19, 840 – September 23/24, 867), Byzantine Emperor from 842 to 867. Michael III was the third and traditionally last member of the Amorian Dynasty.


Life

Michael was the youngest child of Emperor Theophilos and Theodora. Already crowned co-ruler by his father in 840, Michael III had just turned two years old when he succeeded as sole emperor on January 20, 842.

During his minority, the empire was governed by his mother Theodora, her uncle Sergios, and the minister Theoktistos. The empress had iconodule sympathies and deposed Patriarch John VII of Constantinople and replaced him with the iconodule Methodios in 843. This put an end to the second spell of Iconoclasm. The internal stabilization of the state was not matched on the frontiers. The Byzantine forces were defeated in Pamphylia, Crete, and on the border with Syria by the Abbasids, but the Byzantine navy did score a victory over the Arabs in 853. The imperial government undertook the resettlement of Paulicians from the eastern frontier into Thrace (thus cutting them off from their coreligionists and populating another border region) and launched an expedition against the Slavs in the Peloponnese.

As the emperor was growing up, the courtiers around him fought for influence. Increasingly fond of his uncle Bardas, Michael invested him as kaisar (Caesar) and allowed him to murder Theoktistos in November 855. With Bardas' support, Michael III overthrew the regency on March 15, 856, and relegated his mother and sisters to a monastery in 857.

Michael III's marriage with Eudokia Dekapolitissa was childless, but the emperor did not want to risk a scandal by attempting to marry his mistress Eudokia Ingerina. The solution he chose was to marry Eudokia Ingerina to his favorite courtier and chamberlain Basil the Macedonian. While Michael carried out his relationship with Ingerina, Basil was kept satisfied with the emperor's sister Thekla, whom her brother retrieved from a monastery. Basil gained increasing influence over Michael, and in April 866 he convinced the emperor that the Caesar Bardas was conspiring against him and was duly allowed to murder Bardas. Now without serious rivals, Basil was crowned co-emperor in May 867 and was adopted by the much younger Michael III. This curious development may have been intended to legitimize the eventual succession to the throne of Eudokia Ingerina's son Leo, who was widely believed to be Michael's son.

If this had been Michael's plan, it backfired. Ostensibly troubled by the favor Michael was beginning to show to another courtier, Basil had Michael assassinated in his sleep in September 867, and succeeded as sole emperor.

Michael's unflattering reputation in later centuries was largely a result of Basil's propaganda, which sought to justify his usurpation of power.

Family

Michael III had no children by his wife Eudokia Dekapolitissa, but was believed to have fathered one or two sons by his mistress Eudokia Ingerina:

  • Leo VI, who succeeded as emperor in 886.
  • Stephen I, patriarch of Constantinople.



Preceded by: Theophilus
Byzantine Emperor
Succeeded by: Basil I

References

  • The Oxford Dictionary of Byzantium, Oxford University Press, 1991.
  • Cyril Mango, "Eudocia Ingerina, the Normans, and the Macedonian Dynasty," Zbornik radova Vizantoloskog Instituta, XIV-XV, 1973, 17-27.
  • This article incorporates text from the Encyclopædia Britannica Eleventh Edition, a publication now in the public domain



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