Constantine VII

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Constantine VII and his mother Zoë .

Constantine VII , called Konstantin Porphyrogennetos or Porphyrogenitus ( Greek Κωνσταντῖνος Ζʹ Πορφυρογέννητος “the purple born ” because he was born in the purple making of the imperial palace ; * 905 in Constantinople was the son of Emperor Leo byzantine ; † November 9th, 959 in Constantinople ; † byzantine ) VI. and his later fourth wife Zoe Karbonopsina . From 913 to 959 he was Byzantine emperor . Constantine became famous mainly for his works De Administrando Imperio and De cerimoniis , which are related to the so-called Macedonian Renaissance .

Life and government

Constantine was the illegitimate son of Leo VI. Born, because he - according to the resolutions of the Trullan Synod - was initially refused a fourth marriage to Zoë Karbonopsina by the Patriarch of Constantinople Nicholas I. In order to secure his claims nevertheless, Constantine was born in the purple chamber of the imperial palace, in which usually the legitimate and intended successors of the Byzantine emperors were born. He was proclaimed heir to the throne by his father and his uncle Alexander on May 15, 908. After the death of his father in 912 and his uncle in 913, Constantine VII ascended the throne at the age of seven under the reign of Patriarch Nicholas I of his The reign was marked by the conflict with Simeon of Bulgaria , whom he - in order to secure the peace - as " Tsar (Emperor, Gr. Basileus) of the Bulgarians and Rhomeans " (= Byzantines ). recognized. Because of this concession, Nicholas I was ousted from the reign by Constantine's mother Zoë Karbonopsina.

Since Zoë was just as unsuccessful in the dispute with the Bulgarians - she terminated the treaties concluded with them - after years of slow rise, Romanos I. Lakapenus , Byzantine admiral and now Constantine's father-in-law, ascended the throne as co-regent of the young ruler. From then on, Constantine was kept away from the government. Because of his unattractive appearance, his taciturnity and because he had to step back in line to the throne behind Romanos I's eldest son Christopher , Constantine had a rather sad youth. As an intelligent young man, however, he used the years that he was effectively excluded from power for a wide variety of studies, especially ceremonial about the Byzantine court .

After Romanos I was forced to resign by his sons Stephanos and Constantine in 944, Constantine VII secured the power of government in the ensuing schemes, which he exercised as sole ruler from 945 (now 39 years old). Soon afterwards he crowned his son Romanos II as co-regent. Since he had never been introduced to the exercise of power, he delegated most of the tasks and powers to courtiers and generals, not least to his resolute wife Helena Lekapene.

Nevertheless, he passed laws to protect stratiotes and small farmers. During his reign the empire was successfully defended against the Arabs in Asia Minor and against the Magyars in the Balkans. He even managed to win back territories for Byzantium in the east. The internal and external consolidation of the empire that had begun under Romanos continued under his reign. In the middle of the 10th century Byzantium was once again the most important power in the Mediterranean, which was also reflected in extensive diplomatic activities: Constantine's pomp embassies traveled to see Caliph Abd ar-Rahman III , among others . from Córdoba and to King Otto I in Quedlinburg . In the autumn of 957, Olga from Kiev , princess of the Kievan Rus, came to Byzantium. The reason for this visit has not yet been clarified. In any case, the princess was baptized Helena in Constantinople and the Christianization of her compatriots began.

Constantine VII Porphyrogennetus died on November 9, 959; According to a rumor, he was poisoned by his son Romanus II or his daughter-in-law Theophanu .

With his wife Helena Lekapene, Constantine had several children, including Leo, who died young, his successors Romanos and Theodora , who was married to the Byzantine emperor Johannes Tzimiskes .

The emperor as a writer

Constantine VII will be remembered as an author by posterity. He wrote or had three works on Byzantine statecraft written in his name. Constantine himself did not give the works any titles because they were not intended for publication, but only for his successors. They are written in Greek; the titles commonly used today come from the first printed editions, which were later produced in Italy and therefore have Latin titles. De cerimoniis aulae byzantinae (The ceremonies at the imperial court), describes the Eastern Roman court ceremonies and the functions of the palace servants and gives an insight into the power center of the Byzantine state at the time of the Macedonian dynasty. De thematibus (About the Themes ) contains a description of the Byzantine themes that replaced the old civil administration of the provinces. De Administrando Imperio (From the Government of the Empire) deals with the domestic and foreign policy of the Empire; the book was intended as a guideline for Constantine's successor.

The emperor was also an avid collector of books and works of art, and he was also active as a painter.


  • De administrando imperio
  • De thematibus
  • De cerimoniis aulae Byzantinae
  • Narratio de imagine Edessena
  • Oratio de translatione Chrysostomi
  • Oratio ad milites


  • Leopold Breyer (Ed.): From the farm to the imperial throne: The life of the emperor Basil I, the founder of the Makedon. Dynasty. Described by his grandson, the Emperor Constantine VII Porphyrogennetus . Translated, introduced and explained by Leopold Breyer. Graz / Vienna / Cologne 1981, ISBN 3-222-10292-9 .
  • Ernst Doblhofer : Sections of the Priskos and Menander Protector selected from the Excerpta de legationibus of Konstantinos Porphyrogennetos: Byzantine diplomats and Eastern barbarians. (= Byzantine historians . Volume 4). Trans., Included. u. explained by Ernst Doblhofer. Graz / Vienna / Cologne 1955.
  • John F. Haldon: Constantine Porphyrogenitus. Three treatises on imperial military expeditions. Introduction, edition, translation and commentary. Publishing house of the Austrian Academy of Sciences, Vienna 1990, ISBN 3-7001-1778-7 .
  • Albert Vogt : Le Livre des Cérémonies. Texts établi et traduit by Albert Vogt. Les Belles Lettres, Paris 1967 ( Byzantine Collection ).


Web links

Commons : Constantine VII.  - Collection of images, videos and audio files
Wikisource: Constantine VII.  - Sources and full texts
predecessor Office successor
Alexander Emperor of Byzantium
Romanos II