A history of Byzantine foreign relations, A.D. 1047-57

Diplomacy gone to seed: a history of Byzantine foreign relations, A.D. 1047-57

Paul A. Blaum

The reign of the Byzantine emperor Constantine IX Monomachus (1042-55) was a watershed in the history of the Middle East. For the Christian nations of the “Orient,” particularly Armenia, his reign proved a disastrous turning point, since it was in his time that the Seljuk Turks launched their first massive ghazwa or raid into Byzantine Armenia (1048) and the Byzantine frontier in the East was forever breached. The raid–led by Ibrahim Inal, uterine brother of the sultan Toghrul Beg–was marked by the horrific sack of Arzen or Artze, a huge commercial center near the modern Erzerum, and a short time later by the fierce nocturnal battle near the castle of Kapetrou (Saturday, September 10). Here, a combined Byzantine and Georgian army of 50,000 met the Turks head-on, fought hard, but failed to administer the coup de grace. The nineteenth century British historian George Finlay writes of the holocaust at Arzen: “Never was so great a conflagration witnessed before, and it has only been rivaled by the burning of Moscow. One hundred and forty thousand persons are said to have perished by fire and sword, yet the Turks captured so many prisoners that the slave-markets of Asia were filled with ladies and children from Arzen. The Armenian historians dwell with deep feeling on this terrible calamity, for it commenced a long series of woes which gradually reduced destroyed all the capital accumulated by ages of industry in the mountains of Armenia, and reduced one of the richest and most populous countries in the East to a poor and desolate region.” (1) In all places through which he passed, Ibrahim Inal left behind a tableau of stupendous devastation. The Arab chronicler Ibn al-Athir notes that Ibrahim brought back from Byzantine territory 100,000 captives and a vast booty loaded on the backs of ten thousand camels. Included in his spoil were eighty thousand coats of mail and an infinite number of beasts of burden. In 1051/52, Eustathius Boilas, a Byzantine magnate who emigrated from Cappadocia to the theme of Iberia (the former Taiq, northeast of Erzerum), could still find the land “foul and unmanageable … inhabited by snakes, scorpions, and wild beasts.” (2)

This period can in no way be understood without accounting for the foreign policy–and indeed the character–of Constantine IX Monomachus, sovereign over the Byzantine Empire for thirteen tumultuous years. Fortunately, his reign is well chronicled, three of the Byzantine sources being contemporaries: Michael Psellus, John Scylitzes, and Michael Attaliates. All three men were not only literary, but they were prominent in the world of affairs. Psellus, best known of the three, was a confidante of successive emperors beginning with Constantine IX, under whom he was state secretary and vestarches. Under the Emperor Isaac I Comnenus (1057-59), he would be named proedrus or President of the Senate. Scylitzes, a native of the Thracesian theme in western Asia Minor, first held the rank of protovestarius (keeper of the emperor’s private purse), then drungarius of the watch (commander of the garrison troops in Constantinople), and finally curopalates or “lord of the palace.” Attaliates, while not an important personage in Constantine IX’s time, rose to be judge, vestis, and magistros. Another valuable contemporary source is the Armenian vardapet Aristakes of Lastivert, who witnesses firsthand the initial Turkish invasions of Byzantine Armenia. Within two centuries after Constantine IX, the Byzantine historian John Zonaras, the Armenian chronicler Matthew of Edessa, the Monophysite chroniclers Michael the Syrian and Bar Hebraeus, and the Muslim Arab historian Ibn al-Athir provided a great deal of supplementary information. From their varied reports, we can draw a composite photo of Constantine IX, the man and emperor.

A blending of these accounts reveals that Constantine IX was pious yet sensuous, easygoing yet calculating in time of adversity, and light-hearted sometimes to the point of frivolity. Despite his excruciating gout, stomach disorders and other ailments, he was almost always kind and generous to others. Michael Psellus writes: ‘They do say that he rode very well too and was a very fast runner, supple and light, and absolutely without a rival in the pentathlon, so strong was he and agile and swift of foot.” He had come to the throne by accident, having been selected by the sexagenarian “Macedonian” empress Zoe to be her third husband. Constantine IX then ruled as part of a curious triumvirate consisting of himself, Zoe, and he slightly less elderly and quirky sister, Theodora. A third female in the picture was Constantine’s cherished mistress, Sclerena. Such an arrangement was not conducive to his being taken seriously by historians, of his own day and later. Yet he was no mediocrity. He was eager to patronize learning and the arts, and he gave considerable attention to charity, such as construction of hospices for the poor and elderly in Constantinople. The Nestorian priest and physician, Ibn Butlan, after visiting Byzantine Antioch in 1049, wrote a friend in Baghdad: “In the town is a Bimaristan (or hospital), where the patriarch himself tends the sick; and every year he causes the lepers to enter the bath, and he washes their hair with his own hands. Likewise the king [Constantine IX] also does this service every year to the poor. The greatest of the lords and patricians vie in obtaining from him permission to wash these poor people, after the like fashion, and serve them.” (3) It does not surprise us that Constantine IX, amiable and well favored, found his share of admirers. The contemporary poet Christopher of Mytilene writes of him:

Who needs pearls with a skin as fair as yours

What price gold with hair as blond as yours.

Precious stones are just a bore

With riches such as yours

A plague on the base world

Now that you have a realm such as yours.

Christopher’s encomium is more than corroborated by Michael Psellus, the Emperor’s friend and adviser (and impartial observer):

His beauty, we are told, was that of Achilles or Nireus. But

whereas, in the case of these heroes, the poet’s language, having in

imagination endowed them with a body compounded of all manner of

beauties, barely sufficed to their description, with Constantine it

was different, for Nature, having formed him in reality, and brought

him to perfection, with the fine skill of the sculptor shaped him

and made him beautiful, surpassing with her own peculiar art the

imaginative effort of the poet. And when she had made each of his

limbs proportioned to the rest of his body, his head and the parts

that go with it, his hands and the parts that go with them, his

thighs and his feet, she shed over of them severally the colour that

befitted them. His head she made ruddy as the sun, but all his

breast, and his lower parts down to his feet, together with their

corresponding back parts, she coloured the purest white all over,

with exquisite accuracy. When he was in his prime, before his limbs

lost their virility, anyone who cared to look at him closely would

have likened his head to the sun in its glory, so radiant was it,

and his hair to the rays of the sun, while in the rest of his body

he would have seen the purest and most translucent crystal. His

personal characteristics, too, contributed to the general harmony of

the man, his refined speech, his charming conversation, and a

singularly attractive smile which exercised an immediate fascination

over those who saw him.” (4)

In his scheme of governance, Constantine IX was considered by many to be a purely civilian emperor whose chief focus of attention was the court and Constantinople. It seems true enough that Constantine’s reign and that of his immediate successors, Theodora and Michael VI Stratioticus, show an overall continuity in both domestic and foreign policy. The losers under their system were the military aristocrats, particularly those of Asia Minor, while the civilian or bureaucratic party came increasingly to dominate the government and direct its actions. So at least has been canonical view of historians until recently. Upon closer examination, we see that the line of demarcation between military and bureaucratic parties in Byzantium cannot be drawn so sharply and that Constantine IX may have had entertained a more coherent, holistic policy of reordering the state than has been supposed up until now. Without question, his reign was characterized by severe internal tensions within the Empire, exacerbated by various stresses–some financial, some religious, some ethnic. But these conflicts might have been far less destructive in their consequences had not the outside world become so much more volatile and dangerous in the thirteen years that he ruled. Once the Seljuk Turks plunged into Byzantine Armenia and discovered its vulnerability to attack, the balance of power changed forever in the Middle East. Thus, immediate adjustments were demanded of a system that had hitherto seemed to be in good repair. Because this ominous paradigm shift occurred under Constantine’s watch, his own generation and those that followed held him accountable. Few disputed the verdict of John Zonaras a century later: “That man [Constantine IX] will be judged responsible by the impartially minded for the subjection of the eastern parts of the Empire by the barbarian spear.” (5) How much of the Emperor’s ill-starred legacy can be traced to his own foreign relations is a question requiring careful analysis. Michael Psellus tells us:

More than once already I have remarked that Constantine was like a

man who had fought the waves in a great storm, and then put in to a

shore where all was peace, the calm waters of an imperial harbour,

and he had no intention of sailing the high seas a second time. In

other words, he wanted to rule his empire in peace, and not fight

any wars, exactly like most of the emperors before him … Affairs

did not go as he had hoped. Waves of trouble, one after another,

descended upon him. At one time the empire was gravely perturbed by

civil wars, at another by the incursions of barbaric tribes, who

plundered most of our provinces and returned to their own countries

laden with useful articles of all kinds and with booty to their

hearts’ content.” (6)

Yet in other places Psellus contradicts this assessment. A thorough sifting of facts reveals that Constantine IX was by no means a pacifist; he clearly desired to make his mark as ruler, by the sword if necessary. Psellus himself notes: “He [Constantine IX] was moody and inconsistent, but he had one object above all others: to make his country great and famous. I must admit that, in this respect, he was not altogether unsuccessful, for the boundaries of the Empire were much extended in the east, and a considerable part of Armenia was annexed. Certain kings of that country were deposed and forced to acknowledge Roman suzerainty.” (7) Constantine IX issued miliaresia (silver coins worth one-twelfth of a gold nomisma or bezant) depicting the Emperor in armor on the reverse, his right hand holding the cross and his left hand resting on the hilt of his sheathed sword. (8) If we may judge by the disastrous annexation of the Bagratid capital of Ani, some of the travails that befell Byzantium during the Emperor’s watch resulted from his pursuing the arts of war, not peace.

The Emperor nevertheless seems to have fancied himself an accomplished negotiator, strove to be an arbiter of nations, and engaged in a surprisingly wide range of diplomatic activity. One proof of this is the so-called Crown of Constantine Monomachus, discovered by a Hungarian plowman and now in the Hungarian National Museum. It consists of gold and enamel plaques representing Constantine IX, Zoe, Theodora, two dancing girls, two allegorical female figures, and the apostles St. Andrew and St. Peter. The crown was almost certainly a gift from Constantine IX to King Andrew I of Hungary, who came to his throne in 1046. (9) That same year, Constantine concluded a lasting peace with Yaroslav, the Russian prince of Kiev, whose vast expedition against Constantinople three years before had failed ignominiously by sea and land. The treaty with the Rus was sealed by the marriage of Yaroslav’s son, Vsevolod, to an unnamed daughter of Constantine IX; the issue of this union was the celebrated Vladimir II Monomakh. Pleasant intercourse between Constantine and the German emperor Henry III is noted by the German ecclesiastical historian Adam of Bremen, remarkable for being the first European writer to note the existence of “Vinland” or North America. Adam of Bremen relates that in 1054 “the most powerful emperor of the Greeks” Constantine IX sent congratulations to Henry for the political triumphs he had achieved with the aid of his chief counselor, Adalbert, archbishop of Bremen-Hamburg. Henry, pleased with this compliment, responded that, as a descendant of Emperor Otto II and the Byzantine princess Theophano, he wished to rule in Byzantine fashion. These niceties bore solid fruit. In the following year, while tarrying in Italy, Henry sent Otho, bishop of Novara, to meet with Constantine IX in Constantinople and negotiate a treaty between the Western and Eastern Empires. In foreign affairs, Constantine’s lack of jingoism and sectarian bigotry was much in his favor. He was an interesting mix of the devout and sensual, who loved Christ and his Church as much he loved charming and beautiful women. On the whole, he was refreshingly free of intolerance toward Monophysite Christians, Latin Christians or “Franks,” and even Muslims. Because he was slave to no rigid ideologies, Constantine IX could embark upon diplomatic ventures with every prospect of success–as long as diplomacy alone was suffice for the task.


Constantine’s preferred method of dealing with foreign disputes can be gathered from an incident that occurred in the Muslim year 439 (June 28, 1047-June 15, 1048). A Muslim mahdi named al-Asfar al-Taghlibi twice went forth from the city of Resaina (Ra’s al-Ain) and led plundering expeditions into Byzantine territory. Both times he returned to his country with so many captives that a good-looking slave could be had on the market for a bargain price. Constantine’s response to these attacks was to seek the intervention of a respected Muslim potentate who was in a position to contain al-Asfar. The emir in question was Abu Nasr Ahmad Nasr ad-Daulah, a Kurd of the Marwanid dynasty and master of the province of Diyar Bakr and the strategic region around Akhlat (Khelat), at the northwest corner of Lake Van. He was friendly with the Byzantines, with whom he had agreed to a pact of mutual non-aggression. Constantine IX wrote thus to Nasr ad-Daulah: “Between us and thee there is peace. If this thief be one of thy subjects, it is right that thou shouldst restrain him: If he is not, inform us and will act for ourselves.” This message struck the right chord with Nasr ad-Daulah. He first tried to talk sense into al-Asfar but without success. He then summoned chieftains of the Banu Numair, a bellicose Arab tribe, and said to them: “This Asfar will provoke to wrath the Rhomaye [i.e. Byzantines] against us, and if they come out there will be no rest either for us or for you. Therefore it is right for you to make a plan and seize him.” Thereupon a group of Bedouin horsemen went to al-Asfar and congratulated him for the zeal he had shown in behalf of Islam. He basked in their praise and rode out with them, joining the Bedouins in their equestrian exercises. When this merry group had traveled some distance into the open country, the Bedouins turned on al-Asfar, took him prisoner, and delivered him to Nasr ad-Daulah, who put him in chains and clapped him into jail. In this wise, he preserved peace with the Byzantines. (10) The technique of employing Muslim rulers to police their own troublemakers was not without drawbacks, however. During that same Muslim year of 439, Constantine IX had concluded a ten-year treaty with the Fatimid caliph of Egypt, al-Mustansir; of this treaty more will be said later. Among the nominal vassals of al-Mustansir at this time was the Zirid emir of Tunisia, al-Mu’izz ibn Badis, who presumably would have been bound by this treaty and prohibited from aggressions against Byzantium. However, al-Mu’izz soon afterward began to assert his independence of the Shi’ite Fatimids, and in the Muslim year 443 (1051/52) he officially renounced Fatimid suzerainty, seeking investiture instead from al-Ka’im, the Sunni caliph in Baghdad. Al-Mu’izz, apparently as early as 1047/48, felt sufficiently detached from the Fatimids to dispatch a fleet against the Byzantines which actually penetrated into the Sea of Marmora and reached the Princes Islands, near Constantinople itself. According to Ibn al-Athir, the Muslim fleet came away victorious and returned with booty. Byzantine sources say nothing of this mortification suffered in the very environs of the capital, which suggests that Ibn al-Athir may have exaggerated the scope of this raid or misdated it. (11)

In his dealing with foreign peoples, Constantine IX often showed keen diplomatic aptitude. The cordial, even reverential, welcome he gave the Armenian Catholicus Peter Getadartz (“River-Turner”) in Constantinople was an oblique attempt to reconcile the recently annexed Armenians of Ani to Byzantine rule, a priority of the first order. The first Byzantine viceroy at Ani after its capture in 1045 had been the vestis Michael Iasites, governor of the theme of Iberia; Aristakes of Lastivert tells us that he had “covered with honors the patriarch Petros [Getadartz] and received the submission of all the country.” The Catholicus received quite different treatment from the vestis Nicephorus Katakalon surnamed Kekaumenos or Cecaumenus (“the Burned”), who succeeded Iasites as governor of Iberia. Kekaumenos–called Kamenas by Armenian writers–denounced Peter in letters to Constantine IX and had him abruptly removed from Ani to the ill-fated city of Arzen, then to the fortress of Khaltoyaritch, about forty kilometers west of Theodosiopolis, the modern Erzerum (Epiphany, January 6, 1046). (12) Constantine IX was determined, however, not to be so heavy-handed toward the leader of the Armenian Church. He wrote a letter to Peter, inviting him to Constantinople, and Peter agreed to come (Easter). Before setting out, Peter took the precaution of consecrating his successor, his nephew Katchik II, and secretly hiding the miwron or holy oil used by the Armenian Church for consecration. To prevent its seizure by Byzantine officials, the miwron was sequestered in massive iron urns submerged in the Akhurian River, near the main gate of Ani. (13) Peter then set out for Constantinople in great estate, being accompanied by 300 highborn men bearing arms; an ecclesiastical retinue of 100 vardapets, bishops, musicians, monks, and priests, all mounted on splendid mules; and 200 servants on foot. Upon arriving in the Byzantine capital, Peter was greeted by the entire population and escorted to Hagia Sophia, where Constantine IX and the Ecumenical Patriarch Michael Cerularius received him in splendor. On the first day of their meeting, the Emperor gave Peter a kentenarion or hundred pounds of gold; the next day, he presented him with a golden throne worth one thousand tahegans (Armenian gold dinars). Matthew of Edessa writes:

With such honorable treatment as this, his lordship Peter remained

in Constantinople among the Romans [i.e. Byzantines] for four years;

from day to day more and more praise and honor were accorded him

while he was in the midst of the Greeks. Whenever he went to the

palace of the emperor, his crosier was carried before him; moreover,

when the emperor saw him, he would prostrate himself before the

catholicos and would command his nobles to go forth to present

themselves to his lordship Peter. After four years Monomachus and

the patriarch [Michael Cerularius] gave many gifts, consisting of

treasures of gold and brocade, to his lordship Peter. The emperor

also gave insignias and high positions to the noblemen of Peter’s

household and elevated his sister’s son, his lordship Anane, to the

rank of syncellus [liaison between Emperor and patriarch]. The

Armenian patriarch was given all sorts of precious garments and then

was sent away in peace and with very great largess. (14)

According to Aristakes of Lastivert, the Emperor treated Peter with the utmost respect and awarded him a considerable pension, but still feared to send him back to Ani, lest he become the point person in a rising against Byzantium. Peter’s gilded captivity ended when the Emperor yielded to the entreaties of Atom, son of Senek’ erim, former Ardzrunian king of Vaspurakan, and one of the two Armenian kings of Sebaste (modern Sivas) in Byzantine territory. At Atom’s request, Constantine IX allowed Peter to reestablish his see at Sebaste, where Atom provided him a residence in the monastery of the Holy Cross. Matthew of Edessa notes that … he [Peter] was not able to go to the city of Ani, but went and lived in the city of Sebastia, near the son of Senek’erim, in great splendor.” (15)

Constantine IX, to his credit, paid sharp attention to the Caucasus, putting great stock in his relations with the Georgians. He assumed the role of benefactor for the Georgian saint Keorki (George) Mthatsmidel, who became abbot of the Iberian monastery on Mt. Athos about the year 1051. At the request of the Georgian queen mother Mariam, Constantine IX granted the monastery a yearly payment of one pound of gold in perpetuity. The foreign policy implications of this were not without moment given the immense value attached by Byzantium to allies from the Caucasus. 16 Constantine IX took special pains to cultivate Liparit IV Orbelian, high constable of Georgia under the king Bagrat IV and a member of the eminent Liparitid-Orbeli family, an offshoot of the celebrated Armenian house of Mamikonian. He had recently wrested from Bagrat IV control of the southwestern half of Georgia–and at this point was the second most powerful man in the Georgian kingdom. With good reason, the Arab chronicler Ibn al-Athir calls him “king of the Abasgians [i.e. Georgians].” Liparit, called Liparites by Byzantine writers, was at the same time a quasi-Byzantine functionary with the prestigious rank of magistros (and possibly also curopalates). During the Turkish ghazwa of 1048, he had brought numerous reinforcements to the Byzantines and directed the Christian center at Kapetrou, which the Georgian Chronicles locates between the fortresses of “Ordro” (Ordorou or Osortrou) and “Ukumi,” the Byzantine Comium or Castrocomium. It is worth noting that Michael Attaliates makes Liparit the Christian commander-in-chief in the great battle against Ibrahim Inal. Equal to the fray, Liparit fought heroically but was taken prisoner and sent as a trophy of war to Toghrul Beg, then residing at Isfahan in Iran. According to the Armenian historians, the Byzantine generals, Katakalon Kekaumenos and Aaron, had left him in the lurch at Kapetrou; Aristakes specifically accuses Aaron, vestis and katepano (governor) of Vaspurakan. These charges are refuted by the indefatigable efforts made by Constantine IX to secure Liparit’s release from Muslim captivity.

John Scylitzes writes that the Emperor was inconsolable at the capture of Liparit. He thus sent to Toghrul Beg an ambassador named George Drosus, hypogrammateus or undersecretary to Aaron, who by this time appears to have succeeded Katakalon Kekaumenos as governor of Iberia and Ani. Drosus brought splendid gifts and large sums of money to ransom Liparit and was otherwise entrusted with arranging a peace with the sultan. Approached in this way, Toghrul Beg felt a surge of generosity and sent back Liparit to the Emperor, preferring, writes Scylitzes, “to be a great sovereign instead of a miserable trafficker.” The sultan, according to Scylitzes’ Byzantine contemporary Attaliates, released Liparit because he admired his courage and greatness of spirit. Toghrul Beg gave the Emperor’s ransom money to Liparit and set him free with the recommendation that henceforth he show himself a friend to the Turks and cease to make war upon them. The Georgian Chronicles–which vaguely corroborate the Byzantine account–tell us that Liparit kept troth with his pledge to Toghrul and thereafter maintained friendship with both the sultan and the Emperor in Constantinople.

While not mutually exclusive, the Oriental narratives–Arab, Syriac, and Armenian–differ in some details from the Byzantine version. According to Ibn al-Athir, the Emperor, eager to secure Liparit’s freedom, used as an intermediary with Toghrul Beg the venerable Kurdish emir of Diyar Bakr, Nasr ad-Daulah. In the Muslim year 442 (1050/51), Toghrul Beg had sent an ambassador to Nasr ad-Daulah, demanding he submit himself to Seljuk suzerainty. Bar Hebraeus relates: “And Bar Marwan [Nasr ad-Daulah] received the envoy with alacrity, and he gave him thirty bales of rich stuffs, and five hundred dinars, and hangings and curtains for tents, and ten mules loaded with goods, and an Arab horse …” This put the Kurdish emir in an excellent position to serve others as intercessor with Toghrul Beg. Psellus later complained of Constantine IX that, when assertiveness was required, he often sent ambassadors to other rulers “with letters that were abject, quite unworthy of an emperor.” (17) Prepared to be abject, Constantine IX wrote to Nasr ad-Daulah: “I know that Sultan Toghrul Beg is magnanimous, and he will not detain [Liparit] if you will beg from him by my mouth.” (18) Liparit had already offered for his ransom thirty thousand dinars and gifts worth another one hundred thousand dinars. Toghrul had spurned this offer, but, when approached by Nasr ad-Daulah, he liberated Liparit “without demanding any payment or anything in return.” Not relying alone on his good offices, Nasr ad-Daulah had sent to Toghrul the sheik ul-Islam, the spiritual authority of whom lent much weight to his appeal. According to the Armenian chronicler Matthew of Edessa, Toghrul Beg released Liparit after the Georgian, in the sultan’s presence, had cut down a formidable Negro champion in single combat. Loaded with presents, Liparit went like a conquering hero to the court of Constantinople, who accorded him a joyous welcome, showered him with honors, and allowed him to go home to his wife and children. (19)

The Georgian Chronicles–only translated into English within the past decade–may provide the best insight as to why Toghrul Beg chose after two years to release Liparit in a transparent display of bigheartedness. Following the capture of Liparit at the battle of Kapetrou, the Georgian eristhavs or magnates, along with Liparit’s sons Ivane and Niania, had restored king Bagrat IV to full power over his own dominion. Bagrat IV soon consolidated his position enough to imprison Liparit’s sons (though he soon released Ivane) and assist the Byzantines in person in their successful attempt to relieve Kurdish Gandja, then tenaciously besieged by Turkmen nomads. More about this campaign will be said later. After Bagrat’s brilliant success at Gandja, his prospects seemed bright enough that the people of Tiflis, a Muslim enclave, invited Bagrat to take possession of their city. The Georgian Chronicles note that “… they escorted him inside, and there was great joy and amity.” It was at this point that Toghrul Beg turned loose Liparit with the likely purpose of creating dissension in Georgia. If that were indeed his intention, he succeeded all too well. Liparit first went to Ani, soon to learn that Bagrat had left Tiflis and was marching south against him. Liparit thought it expedient then to visit Constantinople and pay his respects to Constantine IX, who furnished him troops for the fight against Bagrat. The sultan’s cunning repatriation of Liparit was proving a mixed blessing for Christian unity in those perilous times. In 1054, Bagrat IV, along with his mother Mariam, went himself to confer with Constantine IX in the Byzantine capital. The Emperor appointed him a nobilissimus, which made him in effect a member of the imperial family, and extended to him “great glory and honor.” Nevertheless, because of the intrigues of his favorite Liparit, Constantine IX maintained the Georgian king in gilded captivity for what proved to be three (or more likely two) years. During the king’s absence, Liparit had Bagrat’s young son Keorki (George) crowned king under his own tutelage and the guardianship of Bagrat’s sister, Gourandoukht. Liparit for a time had things much his own way, since he now managed to be friends with both Toghrul and the Byzantine emperor. After awhile, the princes in Liparit’s own camp wearied of his sovereignty, arrested him, and turned him over to Bagrat IV, who by now had returned from Constantinople “in great glory with gifts and incalculable treasure.” Ultimately, Bagrat and Liparit came to terms, and Liparit left Georgia in gilded exile, ending his turbulent career as a monk under the name Antony. He died in Constantinople between 1062 and 1064. (20) As cleverly as he placed his bets, Constantine IX had many races to watch and did not always back the right horse.

After the first Turkish ghazwa in 1048, Toghrul had sent a sharif or descendant of Muhammad as ambassador to Constantine IX, directing the Emperor to accept the status of tributary. Apparently, the sultan took the word of Ibrahim Inal that the raid had been an unqualified success when in fact the Byzantine left and right wings at Kapetrou had triumphed and pursued the Turks “until cock’s crow.” Constantine IX adamantly dismissed any talk of tribute and ordered the fortification of places on the Azerbaijani frontier. Toghrul was unable to take further action against the Byzantines because of the revolt of his half-brother, Ibrahim Inal, instigated–the Byzantines said–by Toghrul’s own jealousy. Ibrahim Inal took refuge in the virtually impregnable bastion of Sarmaj in the Jibal, and Toghrul Beg only captured the place after a protracted siege and with the help of 100,000 men. This took place in the Muslim year 441 (1049/50). Toghrul Beg, perhaps in recognition of his brother’s prowess as warrior, forgave him and allowed him to take charge in the Jibal and Azerbaijan. (21) For the moment, Toghrul had tidying up to do in his house, and he refrained from further military adventures.


While Toghrul Beg was occupied in civil strife with Ibrahim Inal, Constantine IX immediately took the opportunity to contain Muslim advances in the Caucasus. One of his concerns was to strike back against the Seljuk leader Kutlumush ibn Arslan, first cousin to Toghrul, who had established himself in Azerbaijan with a body of Turkmens and likely had been the Turkish co-commander at the battle of Kapetrou. The year before (1047), Kutlumush’s horde had lay siege to the city of Gandja, then ruled by the Shaddadid dynast, al-Lashkari ‘Ali ibn Musa. With a rare persistence for nomads, Kutlumush had maintained the blockade of Gandja for a year and a half. At the same time, the Byzantines had scores to settle with the bellicose Shaddadid emir of Dwin, Abu’l-Aswar Shawur, al-Lashkari’s uncle, who had long waged ghazi warfare against his Christian neighbors in Transcaucasia. The Byzantines had a particular grievance against Abu’l-Aswar, who had been drawn by Byzantine connivance into the struggle to annex the Bagratid kingdom of Ani. The fighting over Ani requires some explanation, since it exemplifies the baffling complexity of politics in the Caucasus. In 1022, the Bagratid ruler of Ani, John-Smbat, had named the Byzantine emperor as heir to his kingdom that consisted of Ani and the province of Shirak; in return, he was appointed magistros and named archon or “governor” of Ani and Great Armenia. When John-Smbat died childless in 1041, the Byzantines had claimed Ani as its inheritance and found powerful supporters in the Catholicus Peter Getadartz and Sarkis, a prince of the rival Siwni dynasty and the chief palace administrator for John-Smbat. Sarkis held the Byzantine title of vestis, much used at this time; it originally signified the official in charge of the imperial vestments or wardrobe. Sarkis, who coveted Ani for himself, confiscated the royal Bagratid treasury and went over to the Georgian king Bagrat IV, himself half Armenian. According to the Georgian Chronicles, he entrenched himself in a fortress and occupied nine castle belonging to the kingdom of Ani; an important exception was Amberd or Anberd. In 1041, the Byzantines had attempted to take Ani by force but had been beaten with great loss, and the Armenians proclaimed a new king, the eighteen-year-old Gagik II. For a few years, Byzantium was too distracted by other emergencies to renew its grab for Ani.

Then, probably at the dawn of the year 1044, the respite ended for Bagratid Armenia. Constantine IX, for the moment disembarrassed of other cares, demanded that Gagik cede Ani as specified by the original treaty made twenty-two years before. When Gagik refused, Constantine IX named the vestis Michael Iasites as governor of the theme of Iberia and dispatched him to Ani with troops. Though he strove manfully, Iasites found the going rough in Armenia, so that Constantine IX saw fit to send in a second and much larger force (spring 1044). This formidable army was led by one of the most prominent of imperial officials, the eunuch Nikolaos, who held the civilian titles of proedrus and parakoimomenus (grand chamberlain), as well as the military rank of Domestic of the Schools or commander-in-chief of all imperial forces in Anatolia. At the same time, the Emperor sent letters to Abu’l-Aswar (the Byzantine “Aplesphares”), inviting him to attack the territory of Ani. When Nikolaos arrived at the seat of war, he too wrote Abu’l-Aswar, encouraging him with gifts and promises to do the Emperor’s will. Abu’l-Aswar wrote back to Nikolaos that he would cooperate as long as the Emperor guaranteed him in writing that he could keep whatever territory he won by the sword. Constantine IX accepted this condition and ordered that his pact with Abu’l-Aswar be confirmed with a chrysoboullos logos or official document sealed with a golden bull. The Kurd rose to the bait and quickly seized a section of Armenian territory with its fortresses and towns. While unheroic, the Byzantine overtures to Abu’l-Aswar were not a violation of warlike etiquette long practiced in the Caucasus by Christian and Muslim alike.

At last, Constantine IX–with the help of Sarkis and the pro-Byzantine faction at Ani–finagled Gagik II into traveling to Constantinople to discuss terms, sending him as a sign of his good faith holy relics and one of the multitudinous fragments from the True Cross. Prodded by Sarkis and the others, Gagik went to plead his cause in the Byzantine capital, leaving as his representatives in Ani Sarkis and the Catholicus Peter Getadartz. Gagik was at first treated as an honored guest in Constantinople, then badgered him to surrender Ani for other lands. When he balked, Constantine IX deported him to an island. Now in a quandary, the Armenian defenders of Ani weighed three candidates for the Bagratid throne: David Anholin (David Lackland), the aged but still pugnacious Bagratid king of Tashir; Bagrat IV of Georgia, whose mother Mariam was daughter of the late king Senek’erim, king of Vaspurakan; and–in their desperation–even Abu’l-Aswar, who was married to the sister of David Anholin. At this juncture, the Catholicus Peter and Sarkis turned over Ani to the Byzantine troops. The Georgian Chronicles note, curiously enough, that the inhabitants of Ani surrendered their city to Mariam, mother of Bagrat IV and a royal Armenian of the Ardzrunian house. The pro-Byzantine party sent the forty keys of Ani to Constantine IX, who summoned Gagik and showed him the keys and the letter of capitulation. For thirty more days, Gagik refused to accept the surrender, then, with all hope gone for recovered his ancestral domain, he agreed to abdicate. In return, he was awarded the title of magistros and, while barred from Ani, he received large estates in three Byzantine themes, all in eastern Anatolia, as well as a palace in Constantinople. According to John Scylitzes, Gagik resigned himself “to a peaceful and tranquil life.” The greatly truncated kingdom of Ani was now attached to the theme of Iberia and placed under the jurisdiction of its doux or duke. In modern eyes, the episode of Ani might appear utterly sordid, reflecting no credit on any of the parties and certainly not Constantine IX. Nevertheless, many, if not most, of the Armenian populace resigned themselves to this new state of affairs, and Gagik’s faithful old generalissimo, Vahram Pahlavuni, was content to serve as an auxiliary commander in the subsequent Byzantine expedition against Abu’l-Aswar. “Thus,” writes George Finlay, “the oldest Christian kingdom was erased from the list of independent states by a Christian emperor.”

Right after the annexation of Ani, Constantine IX had the nerve to command Abu’l-Aswar to turn over those Armenian strongholds and towns he had captured as a Byzantine ally against Gagik. When Abu’l-Aswar reminded him of the chrysobull and refused to surrender his gains, the Emperor resorted to military coercion. He commanded that the Byzantine forces combine with the native garrisons of Ani and “Iberican” army and take the field. Scylitzes’ “Iberican” military may signify either indigenous soldiers from the theme of Iberia, formerly the Armeno-Georgian principality of Taiq, or auxiliaries sent from Georgia by Liparit Orbelian. In any event, the Emperor put into the field a redoubtable host. When these troops had assembled, Nikolaos entrusted them to Michael Iasites, duke of Iberia and now also a vestarches, and the magistros Constantine the Alan and sent them against Dwin, known to Byzantines as Tibion. In the face of such overwhelming force, Abu’l-Aswar craftily withdrew his troops within the walls of Dwin, while damming up the course of the river Azat (Garni Chai) and inundating the level country all around the city, converting it into a swamp. All around the foot of the city walls were rows of vineyards; there the Kurd posted in ambush a strong corps of foot-archers. He instructed his men to wait for the trumpet sound and then launch their attack. The Christian army presently arrived in complete disorder, slogging through the mud and not bothering to keep formation; some of the cavalrymen had even been separated from their mounts. Seeing the country flooded and no enemy in sight, the Christian commanders convinced themselves that the conquest of Dwin would be an easy matter. Carelessly, they followed the roads that went through the vineyards and drew near to the city. At that moment, Abu’l-Aswar sounded the trumpet blast. The Shaddadid infantry rose from its hiding places and showered the Christian army with arrows and stones, while the invaders were further galled by missiles thrown or fired from the walls. The Christian soldiers–immobilized in the quagmire and assaulted on all sides by enemies barely visible–was routed with terrible loss; among the dead was Vahram Pahlavuni and his son Gregory. Even those troops who remained on horseback were prevented from flight by the muddy pools that lay in their path. Thus, many of the Byzantine troops, along with their allies, were taken captive and sold as slaves. Iasites and Constantine the Alan escaped with difficulty and made their way back to Ani, where they announced the calamity to Nikolaos (autumn 1045).

Once he learned of this debacle, Constantine IX had Nikolaos replaced as strategos autokrator or commander-in-chief by the grand heteriarch Constantine, a eunuch of “Saracen” birth and one of the Emperor’s most trusted intimates; he had a record of distinguished past services to the state. The Armenian chronicler Matthew of Edessa describes him as “an illustrious Roman nobleman who was called a telarches.” Katakalon Kekaumenos meanwhile superseded Michael Iasites as duke of Iberia. During the winter of 1046/47, Constantine with a large army encamped before the gates of Dwin, but numbing cold and torrential, flailing rains forced him to pull back and return unvanquished to Byzantine territory. Constantine and Katakalon Kekaumenos shrank from further attack on the Shaddadid capital and contented themselves in the spring of 1047 with devastating the hinterland around Dwin. Matthew of Edessa writes: “He [Constantine] caused much suffering and anguish in that area and, despoiling all the Muslims with the sword and enslavement, peacefully returned to the country of the Greeks.” Constantine and Katakalon Kekaumenos then set about to recover those citadels that Abu’l-Aswar had taken from the king of Ani. With their precipitous walls of stone and sturdy fortifications, that would be no easy task. The Byzantines captured three–St. Mary (Surmelu), Ampier (Amberd), and St. Gregory–after beating off every attempt by Abu’l-Aswar to relieve them. Constantine and Katakalon Kekaumenos were aided in these efforts by Liparit Orbelian, who arrived in person at the head of his army. Constantine and Katakalon Kekaumenos next besieged the fortress of Chelidonium, perched on a precipitous height close to Dwin. The imperial generals surrounded this place, after the ancient Roman fashion, with a trench and palisaded rampart and subjected it to an impenetrable blockade. From the beginning, the Muslim garrison was short on food, so rapidly had the Byzantines descended upon them, and they were shut off from any additional provisions brought in by coreligionists. Chelidonium was on the verge of falling when a new emergency faced the Byzantine government in the west. The patrician Leo Tornicius, a former duke of Iberia tonsured into monkhood, raised the standard of rebellion in Thrace and was proclaimed emperor at Hadrianople (Edirne) in opposition to Constantine IX (September 1047). Backed by troops bored with inactivity and eager for booty, he soon besieged the Emperor in Constantinople. Constantine IX had few troops at hand and furthermore, according to Scylitzes, inspired little loyalty among the masses in the Byzantine capital. The Emperor sent then a mounted courier to the grand heteriarch Constantine, ordering him to get his army back to Constantinople at once. Constantine had no choice but to withdraw from Chelidonium and arrange a peace with Abu’l-Aswar, who swore the most terrible oaths that he would remain faithful to the Emperor and make no more trouble for Byzantium. Constantine then returned by forced marches to Constantinople, leaving Katakalon Kekaumenos to guard the theme of Iberia. Tornicius’ revolt collapsed by the end of the year, but the damage was done. The first great Turkish ghazwa into Byzantine Armenia, led by Ibrahim Inal, found the garrison forces on the eastern frontier gravely depleted, with the result that Arzen and much of Byzantine Armenia was savaged and Kapetrou had to be written off as a drawn battle (September 1048). There be no doubt that, when Ibrahim Inal marched through Azerbaijan to attack Byzantium, the Shaddadid Abu’l-Aswar forgot his promises to the Emperor and gave avid support to his fellow Muslims. Thus, a fresh campaign was needed to bring him to heel.

Either in late 1048 or early 1049, Constantine mobilized all available troops on the eastern frontier and entrusted them to Nicephorus, a former priest who had risen to be one of the Emperor’s favorite household eunuchs. At that time, Nicephorus held the lofty palatial title of rector, which allowed him to wear a white robe with cape and sleeves threaded with gold, a cope also embroidered with gold, and a purple veil decorated with roses woven of gold. Constantine IX now gave him the even more extraordinary rank of stratopedarches or commander-in-chief, honoring him thus, writes Scylitzes, “not because of his military talents but because that man was very devoted to him.” It is likely that Constantine IX had sense enough to give his favorite a veteran staff of subordinates to improve his odds of success–coming to mind would be those generals at hand like Katakalon Kekaumenos and the Norman emigre, Herve Francopoulos. For all his meager parts, Nicephorus conducted his mission with remarkable boldness. The fighting eunuch at once advanced into Azerbaijan and appeared before Gandja, then blockaded by a Turkmen force under “Abimelech” (Abu Malik?), brother to Kutlumush. Constantine IX had already sent word to Bagrat IV to assist Nicephorus with all his forces, and Bagrat joined the Byzantines at Gandja, called by the Byzantines Kantzakion. In the face of their combined strength, the Turkmens abandoned the siege, decamped at once, and retreated headlong toward the east. News of the Christian triumph at Gandja reached Tiflis, still a Muslim principality, the people of which asked Bagrat IV to occupy their city, a handsome repercussion for Georgia. While Bagrat proceeded to Tiflis, Nicephorus turned back and invaded the emirate of Abu’l-Aswar, ravaging it from end to end and forcing the emir to take refuge inside Dwin. Abu’l-Aswar, temporarily cowed, again made terms and acknowledged Byzantine suzerainty. According to Scylitzes, he had to yield as a hostage his nephew Ardashir (Artasyros in Greek), son of his brother “Phatlun, emir of Kantzakion” [i.e. Fadlun or Fadl, emir of Gandja]. In reality, this Ardashir was the son of Abu’l-Aswar’s nephew, Al-Lashkari’ Ali ibn Musa, who also had been driven to submission by Nicephorus and was the one compelled to surrender a hostage. With Ardashir in his train, Nicephorus returned to Constantinople as the architect of a brief but brilliant campaign. His expedition had proved that, even after the ghazwa of 1048, the state of the Byzantine military could hardly be described as parlous.

Al-Lashkari, Shaddadid emir of Gandja, had been reduced from a border emir of some consequence to a glorified refuge, moving his headquarters from castle to castle until he died during the Muslim year 441 (1049/50). He was succeeded by his son Anushirvan, apparently a minor, with the hajib or chamberlain Abu’l Mansur serving as regent. Abu-Mansur, along his army chiefs, immediately agreed to surrender several frontier fortresses to the Georgians and Byzantines, in order, says a local chronicle, “to restrain their greed for Arran [northern Azerbaijan].” This ignominious decision, following so hard upon the successful Byzantine offensive, provoked the leading men of Shamkur to revolt under al-Haytham ibn Maymun al-Bais, chief of the tanners in that city. They noted thus: “Should these fortresses and districts fall into the hands of the unbelievers, this city would (also) go and nothing would remain for us except to emigrate from it altogether with our families and children, and we shall not survive that humiliation.” Abu-Mansur, then residing at Shamkur, attempted to arrest al-Haytham, but al-Haytham and his ghulams (servants) “drew their daggers” and declared for Abu’l-Aswar, to whom they opened the gates. Abu’l-Aswar occupied Shamkur, settled its affairs, and returned to Gandja. He arrested Anushirvan, whose reign ended abruptly after two months, as well as Abu-Mansur and his relations. The anonymous chronicle called the Ta’rikh al-Bab wa Sharvan says: “Abu’l-Aswar seized them all, and restored the name of the dynasty (daula) to life after it had nearly died out. He became strong and the situation of the subjects and the army became orderly.” In the Muslim year 445 (1053/54), he resumed the offensive against the Georgians and took from them the fortress of Basra, which he supplied with “men, victuals and arms.” That same year he sent out his son Abu-Nasr Iskander to assume the duties of viceroy over Dwin and its dependencies. Despite the fact that he now controlled all Arran and ruled over a united Shaddadid emirate, Abu’l-Aswar still found himself a pawn between the two expanding powers, Byzantium and the Seljuk Turks. Like all the other princes, Kurdish and Armenian, who ruled buffer states between the two, he could anticipate only a future of vassalage to one or the other. (22)


The liberation of Liparit Orbelian from Turkish captivity in 1050/51 led to a thaw in the icy relations between Constantine IX and the sultan Toghrul Beg. To please the sultan’s pious sensibilities, the Emperor restored the mosque at Constantinople, provided it with salaried muezzins, and instructed that prayers in the khutba or Friday sermon there be given for Toghrul Beg and his protege, the Abbasid caliph at Baghdad, al-Ka’im. This signified Byzantine recognition that the Sunni caliph was the theocratic leader of Islam, not al-Mustansir, Fatimid caliph of Egypt and the spiritual head of all Shi’ite Muslims. “And,” writes Bar Hebraeus, “he [Constantine IX] sent to Toghrul Beg one thousand bales of silken cloth, and five hundred pieces of various other kinds of stuff, and five hundred horses, and three hundred Egyptian asses, and a thousand goats, with black eyes and horns, which were very nearly as large as asses.” (23) During the Muslim year 443 (May 15, 1051-May 2, 1052), Constantine IX sent to al-Ka’im a letter penned in Greek and Arabic and written in gold ink on purple vellum–the Emperor saluted the caliph as his “beloved and honorable friend Abu Ja’far al-Ka’im, the head of the Muslims and the Amir of the Believers.” (24) Constantine IX appears to have pledged some kind of tribute to the caliph, a final strategy to placate Toghrul Beg, a staunch Sunni and self-appointed protector of the Abbasid caliphate. These gestures were not without enormous impact on Byzantine relations with Fatimid Egypt, hitherto the paramount Muslim power in the Near East. As early as the Muslim year 437 (1045/46), Constantine IX had dispatched an embassy to al-Mustansir, seeking to renew the ten-year peace agreed upon by Byzantines and Fatimids in the Muslim year 429 (1037/38). Constantine IX sent the caliph magnificent gifts, which are listed in detail by the anonymous author of a document called Kitab al-Daha’ir wa’l-tuhaf. The presents consisted of one hundred and fifty of the finest mules and horses, each one wearing a caparison of silk fabric, and another fifty mules, each carrying two chests wrapped in silk. The chests contained one hundred gilded and enameled jars; a thousand bolts of silk fabric; red sashes of Byzantine manufacture, threaded with gold; large turbans embroidered with gold; and three hundred curtains and towels of silk. These various gifts were valued at thirty qintars or centenaria of gold, each qintar being equivalent to seventy-two hundred Byzantine dinars or ten thousand Arab dinars–their total worth then was two hundred and sixteen thousand Byzantine dinars or three hundred thousand Arab dinars. Two hundred men led the procession, all Muslims taken prisoner by the Byzantines. The author of the Kitab al-Daha’ir states that never before had a Byzantine sovereign sent more splendid gifts to a Muslim caliph and credits Constantine IX for this unprecedented generosity, citing his greatness of heart and exceptional civility. (25) The Emperor’s efforts were rewarded. During the Muslim year 439 (June 28, 1047-June 15, 1048), Byzantines and Fatimids renewed their treaty, with Constantine IX and al-Mustansir sending each other the usual complement of gorgeous presents. (26) At the same time, the Fatimids are known to have been in diplomatic communication with the Georgians, who shared their apprehension of a Seljuk advance from the east.

The concordat between Constantine IX and al-Mustansir did not mean that Byzantines and Fatimids ceased to watch each other with a wary eye or that they rushed to dismantle the cordon of fortifications which separated them. On February 4, 1047, the Persian traveler Nasir-i Khusrau arrived in Tripoli, a Fatimid fortress-city in what is today northern Lebanon, close to the Byzantine frontier. He notes: “The walls are of hewn stone and have battlements and embrasures, and there are ballistae on top of the walls, as they lived in constant dread of naval attacks by the Byzantines.” (27) Nasir-i Khusrau proceeded on to Egypt, where he visited the port city of Tinnis and observed that “there is a full armed garrison stationed there as a precaution against attacks by Franks [Italians?] and Byzantines.” (28) On the Byzantine side, a similar cold war mentality remained in place, at least on the surface. The priest-doctor Ibn Butlan, having made a sojourn to Antioch in 1049, writes thus to his friend in Baghdad: “Antakiyyah is an immense city. It possesses a wall and an outer wall (fasil). The wall has three hundred and sixty towers, and these are patrolled in turn by four thousand guards, who are sent to Antakiyyah every year, from the presence of the king in Constantinople, as warrant for the safe-keeping of the city, and in the second year they are changed.” (29) For the native populations, however, the borders between Byzantium and the sundry Muslim states were relatively permeable, and merchants, professionals, intellectuals, and most average people could to and fro without much hindrance. When the ambition of princes did not stir up fanaticism (an increasing rarity), Christian and Muslim tended to get along, especially in commercial matters. Nasir-i Khusrau points out, for instance, that Tripoli was not only a fortress but also a customs station, which received vessels from Byzantium, Christian Europe, Andalusia (i.e. Muslim Spain), and the Maghrib (i.e. north Africa). The Fatimid caliph in turn kept ships at Tripoli, from whence they sailed to Byzantium, Sicily, and the Maghrib to trade. (30) In 1049, during his journey from Baghdad to Cairo, Ibn Butlan, a Christian, passed through Aleppo, where he received with honor by the Mirdasid Arab emir Thimal Mu’izz ad-Daulah. Thimal was planning the construction of a hospital at Aleppo, and Ibn Butlan advised him on the healthiest location for it. At the emir’s request, Ibn Butlan also drew up a code of regulations for Christian worship at Aleppo, but the native Christians did not take to it. In the summer of 1054, Ibn Butlan would arrive in Constantinople, where the Orthodox Patriarch of Constantinople, Michael Cerularius, was no less deferential to him than the Muslim emir of Aleppo and asked him to compose treatises on the doctrine of the Eucharist and the use of unleavened bread. (31) For Christians everywhere, the most important consequence of improved relations between the Byzantines and Fatimids was permission given by the Fatimid caliph to rebuild the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem. Characteristically generous funding from Constantine IX had made possible the final reconstruction of the church in 1048. That indefatigable traveler, Nasir-i Khusrau, had visited Jerusalem twice during the preceding year and noted that “from the Byzantine realm and other places too come Christians and Jews to visit the churches and synagogues located there.” (32) He gives a memorable description of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in his time:

It is large enough to hold eight thousand people inside and is

extremely ornate, with colored marble and designs and pictures. It

[the church interior] is arrayed with Byzantine brocades and is

painted. Much gold has been used, and in several places there are

pictures of Jesus riding on an ass and also pictures of other

prophets such as Abraham, Ishmael, Isaac, and Jacob and his sons,

which are varnished in oil of sandarac and covered with fine,

transparent glass that does block any of the painting. This they

have done so that dust and dirt cannot harm the pictures, and every

day servants clean the glass … There is one place in this church

painted in two parts to represent heaven and hell and their

inhabitants; in all the world there is nothing to equal it. Many

priests and monks remain here to read the Gospel, pray, and occupy

themselves with acts of devotion all day and night. (33)

Tensions between Byzantium and Fatimid Egypt, apparently eased by the treaty of 1047/48, seem to have risen anew when the Fatimids yielded to an old hankering to annex Aleppo, long a Byzantine tributary. In 1042, the emir Thimal Mu’izz ad-Daulah had negotiated with the Empress Theodora, when she and Zoe ruled together briefly in their own right prior to Zoe’s marriage to Constantine IX (June 11). Theodora not only acknowledged Thimal’s recent occupation of Aleppo and abolition of Fatimid rule but conferred on him the lofty rank of magistros and bestowed the title of patrician on his masterful wife, as-Sayyida al-‘Alawiyya. Byzantine magnanimity did not stop there. The imperial government also gave the rank of vestarches to Thimal’s cousin, the emir Mukallid ibn Kamil, while granting the position of patrician to five other brothers, cousins, and nephews of Thimal. Many of the Mirdasid house of Aleppo were thus co-opted at one stroke into the Byzantine aristocracy. In return, the emirate of Aleppo agreed to resume sending tribute to the Byzantine Empire. The Fatimids seem to have taken little stock of Byzantine ties to Aleppo when they sent an expedition against the city and suffered a repulse. The Fatimid government dispatched a larger army against Aleppo two years later; an elderly eunuch Abu’l-Fadl Rifk, recently appointed governor of Damascus, was in command. For this important task, Rifk was given 30,000 men and a war chest of four hundred thousand dinars. Constantine IX, who supported Thimal, sent an ambassador to Rifk to dissuade him from this campaign, and Byzantine and Fatimid negotiated at Rifk’s camp in Ramlah in Palestine. Rifk spurned the Emperor’s attempts at mediation and continued his march toward Aleppo. Fortunately for Thimal, the Fatimid army that was descending upon him was a heterogeneous and no doubt disorderly throng of Berbers, Negroes, Turks, and Arab Bedouins that Rifk, we suspect, could barely keep under control. Thimal was able to win a crushing victory at the Djabal Djawshin, near Aleppo (August 1050). Rifk was wounded and taken captive; three days later he died insane. Surprised perhaps by the magnitude of his own triumph, Thimal took the path of moderation and treated amicably with the Fatimid caliph al-Mustansir, who recognized his right to rule the emirate of Aleppo under nominal Fatimid suzerainty. (34) The fact stood, however, that the little emirate of Aleppo had put Fatimid Egypt to ignominious rout. In Byzantine eyes, the Fatimids had perhaps come to resemble a straw giant, and thus Constantine IX had no compunction about further strengthening his bonds with Aleppo. In the Muslim year 443 (1051/52), Thimal’s minister, ‘Ali ibn Ahmad ibn al-Aisir, arrived in Constantinople bringing the stipulated tribute from Aleppo. Constantine IX rewarded the envoy for his loyalty by appointing him vestarches, while promoting Mukallid ibn Kamil to magistros and Thimal to proedrus. At the same time, he ordered that the most expensive and complimentary gifts be sent back to Thimal.

With Fatimid Egypt effectively contained, Constantine IX could feel free to make overtures to Toghrul Beg and the Sunni caliph al-Ka’im without undue concern about repercussions in Cairo. Still, the Emperor did not wish to place his Fatimid alliance in jeopardy. In 1051/52, the Zirid emir of Tunisia, al-Mu’izz ibn Badis–casting off his allegiance to the Shi’ite Fatimid caliph–sent an envoy named Abu Ghalib ash-Shaizari to Baghdad, announcing that he was having prayers for the Sunni caliph said in the khutba throughout his dominions and, for that commendable act of obedience, he was requesting a robe of investiture. Al-Ka’im presented Abu Ghalib with the vestment, an official compact in writing, and the black banner of the Abbasid caliphate. Since Abu Ghalib feared capture if he went back through Fatimid territory, he attempted to return through Byzantine country, and Constantine IX had him arrested. Even though he was carrying on talks with Toghrul Beg, the Emperor by no means wished to break off relations with the Fatimids; a consideration perhaps above all others was that they controlled access to Jerusalem and the Holy Land. At that moment, a Fatimid ambassador happened to be tarrying in Constantinople. Constantine IX turned over Abu Ghalib to the Fatimid envoy, who took him back to Egypt. Abu Ghalib was led about on public display through the streets of Cairo, sitting on a camel and facing its rump. Around his neck, al-Mustansir had tied the written peace agreement between al-Mu’izz ibn Badis and al-Ka’im. Afterward, the caliph commanded that the treaty document be torn to pieces and the robe of honor along with the Abbasid banner be publicly burned. News of this outrage reached Baghdad the following year–the Muslim year 444 (May 3, 1052-April 22, 1053). About this time, a literary tract was circulated within the Abbasid realm challenging the authenticity of Fatimid descent from ‘Ali. While this may have roiled the Sunni masses, it did nothing to secure the release of Abu Ghalib. The captive ambassador found a more powerful defender in Toghrul Beg, who instructed his representative in Constantinople, Abu ‘Ali ibn Kabir, to join with the Zirid ambassador in demanding Abu Ghalib’s freedom. In the month of Safar of the Muslim year 444 (June 1052), Constantine IX received both envoys and heard their request that ambassadors from al-Mu’izz be subject to no further rough treatment. Constantine explained to them his dilemma: he was respectful of their wishes but if he sought the release of Abu Ghalib, he risked jeopardizing his existing treaty with the Fatimids. Finally, however, he agreed to arrange Abu Ghalib’s repatriation. (35)

Constantine IX maintained a steady correspondence with al-Mustansir, the tone of which was generally fawning, though sometimes laced with double entendres. Psellus writes:

In the case of the Sultan of Egypt, for example, he was far too

conciliatory–deliberately so, to all appearances–and the Sultan

flattered himself because of Constantine’s humility. Like a wrestler

who is losing his fight, he changed his tactics. Instead of allowing

his opponent to dictate the strategy of the contest, he introduced

grips of his own–and won. He was proud of it, too. Many a time the

emperor trusted me with secret despatches and ordered me to write

them for him (he recognized my patriotism and my love for the

Romans), suggesting that I should voluntarily humiliate himself and

glorify the Egyptian. Nevertheless, I conveyed exactly the opposite

impression by subtle allusion: what I wrote had one meaning for

Constantine and another for the Sultan. I had sly digs at the latter

and hurt his dignity without being too overt. And that is why

letters to the Egyptian were in future dictated by Constantine

himself, my own efforts being ambiguous. (36)

Around Easter Day (April 11) in 1053, Constantine IX sent a legation to Egypt with all sorts of presents for al-Mustansir. According to the Arab historian al-Kadi ar-Rashid, the Byzantine envoy brought Turkish slaves, all about the same age; some young Turkish girls; a number of white partridges, peacocks, storks, crows, and starlings; some pointer dogs called zaghari but nicknamed zabibi after their dry grape color; and seventeen hundred bottles of excellent lataf or wine which only the emperor imbibed. We are told that this wine was stored in the emperor’s own treasury and was protected from intruders with a lead seal; the price of each bottle on the Byzantine market was seven dinars. The imperial ambassador arrived in a chelandion or royal barge at the Egyptian port of Tinnis and from thence traveled to Cairo. An official named Jamal ad-Daulah Subh arranged to have some of the gifts sent to the caliph in the chelandion, while the heavier items were shipped by boat; a special clearance was required for the wine. Constantine IX seems also to have sent five exquisitely made damascene dishes to al-Mustansir’s mother, a former slave of Sudanese black origin. The dishes were decorated with glass each of a different color: red, white, black, blue, and azure. He further sent to al-Mustansir three enameled and gilded saddles said to have once been used by Alexander the Great. After his visit with the caliph, the Byzantine envoy returned in the chelandion to Tinnis. Marines from the Fatimid “fleet of Syria” accompanied the ambassador along the coast as far as Jaffa, where he proceeded inland to Jerusalem, prayed in the Holy Sepulcher, and offered gifts to the church donated specially by the Emperor. These presents consisted of the following: a gold vestment encrusted with rare and precious stones; two large crosses of gold ornamented with rubies and other gems, each worth a qintar or one hundred pounds of gold; numerous patens decorated with rare stones; two gold jars adorned with rubies and other gems, each containing twenty liters of liturgical wine; several gold chandeliers suspended by gold chains and embellished with crystal and precious stones; and a large number of long curtains woven from thick silk and bedecked profusely with gems. (37) That same year, the Fatimid caliph had shipped to Constantine IX an elephant and a camelopardalis (“camel-leopard”) or giraffe. The Emperor had the giraffe exhibited to the people of Constantinople, who could scarcely have been more astonished had they laid eyes on a unicorn. This creature inspired a curiously detailed description in the history of Michael Attaliates, who among his many trades is not otherwise known to have been a zoologist. (38) In sending exotic animals to Constantinople, al-Mustansir had more pressing reasons than merely to provide the Emperor and his subjects with entertainment. During this same Muslim year of 444 (1052/53), the annual flooding of the Nile failed to take place, with the result that Egypt’s narrow ribbon of arable land could no longer feed all its multitudes. Soon there was widespread famine and plague, which only grew worse with time; within another decade and a half Egypt would be reduced to rampant starvation and cannibalism. During the Muslim year 446 (April 12, 1054-April 2, 1055), a low Nile caused the death of one thousand persons a day. By now, the Fatimid government had exhausted its reserve of grain, and al-Mustansir and his vizier, Hasan al-Yazuri, turned for help to Byzantium. They dispatched the kadi Abu ‘Abdallah al-Kuda’i to Constantinople with an urgent request to Constantine IX to supply Egypt with grain. The Emperor arranged for a huge shipment of wheat to be sent to Egypt under a stipulated contract; the amount of grain has been variously given as four thousand ardabb (thirty-six million liters) or, less precisely, two million bushels. Preparations for this immense work of relief were still in progress when the Emperor died. For the moment, Christian and Muslim were willing to put aside their petty conflicts in recognition of the fragility of human life in the face of inexorable nature.


The eleventh century was a time of mass migrations from the vast steppes north of the Black and Caspian Seas. These were veritable human glaciers moving, however, with such velocity that large blocs of tribesmen, almost always mounted archers, could be transported from one corner of Eurasia to another within two generations. As the wisest of rulers knew, the force of these migrations–like the sex drive–could not be suppressed but only domesticated. History has told us much about the advance of the Seljuk Turks from central Asia through Khurasan and northern Iran into Azerbaijan–and from thence into the Byzantine Empire. A lesser-known chapter in Turkish annals is that of the Patzinaks or Petchenegs, a nation of predatory nomads whose path of exodus from Central Asia took them through present-day Ukraine as far as the country just north of the lower Danube. Michael Psellus has left us a vivid description of the Patzinaks, which can be cited in part.

More than other nations they are difficult to fight and hard to

subdue … There is no order in their retreat. They scatter in all

directions, in small groups. One hurls himself into a river, and

either swims to land or is engulfed in its eddies and sinks; another

goes off into a thick wood and so becomes invisible to his pursuers;

a third escapes in some other way. They all disperse at the same

moment, but later, in some strange fashion, they meet again, one

coming down from a mountain, another from some ravine, another from

a river, all from different hiding-places. When they are thirsty, if

they find water, either from springs or in the streams, they at once

throw themselves down into it and gulp it up; if there is no water,

each man dismounts from his horse, opens its veins with a knife, and

drinks the blood. So they quench their thirst by substituting blood

for water. After that they cut up the fattest of the horses, set

fire to whatever wood they find ready to hand, and having slightly

warmed the chopped limbs of the horse there on the spot, they gorge

themselves on the meat, blood and all. The refreshment over, they

hurry back to their primitive huts and lurk, like snakes, in the

deep gullies and precipitous cliffs which serve as their walls.

Taken in the mass, this is a nation to be feared, and a treacherous

one. Treaties of friendship exercise no restraining influence over

these barbarians, and even oaths sworn over their sacrifices are not

respected, for they reverence no deity at all, not to speak of God.

To them all things are the result of chance, and death they believe

to be the end of everything.

For a century or more, the Patzinaks proved a terrible scourge to the Russian principality of Kiev, until at last Yaroslav the Wise staggered them with a crushing defeat in battle (1036). Beaten out of Russia, the Patzinaks turned their attention to Byzantium. The Byzantines had already experienced a few unpleasant visits from the Patzinaks and dreaded their power, but as long as Bulgaria remained independent, it served as a buffer against the nomads. The conquest of Bulgaria by Basil II in 1018 inadvertently removed this buffer, just as the annexation of the Armenian and Armeno-Georgian kingdoms of Taiq, Vaspurakan, and Ani–no matter how justified by realpolitik–took away the barrier separating Byzantium from the Seljuk Turks. Between 1027 and 1036, the Patzinaks launched a series of devastating attacks on Byzantine Bulgaria; some were beaten off, others were carried out with apparent impunity. Then, after their pummeling by Yaroslav the Wise, the Patzinaks made no great stir. This changed in the middle years of the reign of Constantine IX.

The khan of the Patzinaks at this time was Tyrach, while the chief of their forces was the humbly born but brave and capable Keghenes (or Kegenis). Fearing Tyrach’s dangerous envy, Keghenes was forced to seek refuge in Byzantine territory with 20,000 men. He ensconced himself on an island in the Danube, near the fortress of Dorystolum (modern Silistra), and from there expressed his desire to strive in the Emperor’s service. Constantine IX, delighted to have the support of so renowned a warrior, ordered that Keghenes and his men be given a cordial welcome and admitted into Byzantine territory. Keghenes and a group of companions went under escort to Constantinople, where the Emperor accorded them a splendid reception and made a Keghenes a patrician after his baptism by the monk Euthymius. After receiving the usual honors and gifts, Keghenes returned to his people accompanied by Euthymius, who took charge of their baptism en masse. The imperial government established Keghenes and his men in three fortresses along the southern bank of the Danube, where they might serve as excellent border guards. However, the ways of predatory nomads are not easily changed. Keghenes began to lead raids against those of his countrymen still ruled by Tyrach, carrying off throngs of captives and making a handsome profit selling them, especially young women and children, in Byzantine slave-markets. Outraged, Tyrach protested to Constantine IX but found his words ignored. In normal times, the Patzinak khan would have been barred from crossing the Danube by a flotilla of a hundred ships, but the winter of 1048/49 proved unusually cold, and the Danube froze over, with the ice as hard as stone. Tyrach took this opportunity to cross the river with his hordes and begin a cruel devastation of Byzantine Bulgaria. Byzantine forces, joined by Keghenes and his pro-Byzantine Patzinaks, bore down on Tyrach, many of whose warriors were wiped out by disease, famine, and attacks by the enemy. Before long, Tyrach found himself compelled to surrender with his remaining forces. Keghenes urged the Byzantine generals to slaughter his fellow tribesmen at once, since, he said, it was best to kill the viper when it was benumbed with the cold and not wait for it to revive and spew forth its venom. Constantine IX was too humane and perhaps too desperate for soldiers to heed this advice, and he made plans to settle the Patzinaks on depopulated lands near Sardica and Naissus, the present-day Sofia and Nish. Tyrach and 140 of his principal chiefs were brought to Constantinople, where the Emperor had them baptized and treated them with his traditional kindness and deference.

At this point, Constantine IX had been faced with the ghazwa of Ibrahim Inal into Armenia, and he thought of using the Turkish Patzinaks against their Seljuk cousins. The imperial government enrolled 15,000 of the sturdiest Patzinaks in an auxiliary corps under four of their chieftains: Sultzun, Selte, Karaman, and Kataleim. The Byzantines supplied them with excellent weapons and mounts and sent them over the Bosporus en route for Armenia. They camped first at Chrysopolis (Scutari), where they were placed under the command of the patrician Constantine Hadrobalanus. The Patzinaks had proceeded only a few miles to Damatrys, when they decided to hold a council. Some favored deserting the Byzantine army and taking refuge in the mountains of northwestern Anatolia; others preferred to remain loyal to the Empire and march onward. Kataleim carried the day by urging that they return at once to the Balkans and rejoin their compatriots now settled as agricultural colonists. The Patzinaks hastened back to the Bosporus. Not without difficulty, Hadrobalanus escaped their wrath by hiding in a granary near Damatrys. Having reached the monastery of St. Tarasius, where the Bosporus is most narrow, the Patzinaks found no boats to ferry them across them across. Kataleim, undaunted, assembled a group of cavalry and led them in person across the Bosporus, oblivious to its swift and treacherous current and the fact that the strait is hundreds of feet deep. Once he had arrived on the European side, Kataleim found a number of boats with which to transport the entire Patzinak host over the waters. The Patzinaks wasted no time in linking up with their fellow tribesmen at Sardica and Naissus, and the united Patzinak nation swarmed northward to the Danube. The magistros Constantine Arianites–then Domestic of the Schools or commander-inchief of Byzantine troops in the Balkans–followed hard after them, but succeeded only in occupying the camp of one of their chiefs, Selte. The latter remained apart from his fellows and established his headquarters at Lobitzos (Lovech), on the northern slopes of the Balkan range. Meanwhile, the bulk of the Patzinaks entrenched themselves in a strategically located place called the “Hundred Hills,” probably close to modern-day Nikopol. From that strong position, the Patzinaks rode out on plundering expeditions throughout the surrounding districts.

Constantine IX, hoping to counter these incursions, summoned Keghenes to Constantinople for a conference. Keghenes and his warriors hastened to the Byzantine capital and camped outside the walls in the suburb of Maitas. The first night after their arrival at Constantinople, three Patzinaks slipped inside Keghenes’ tent and struck him several blows with the sword, though none were fatal. Keghenes’ guards surprised the would-be assassins, who quickly were apprehended by a mob of Patzinaks, including Keghenes’ son, Baltzar. In the morning, Baltzar placed his father on a four-wheeled war wagon drawn by two horses and with the assassins chained to the wheels. He would let the Emperor adjudicate this matter. Baltzar and his brother, Goulinos, set out on foot for Constantinople, with the wagon in front of them and the Patzinak warriors following behind on horseback. This curious procession advanced into the heart of the city until they reached the Hippodrome, where they found Constantine IX attending the horse races. Already alerted by rumors of his coming, the Emperor granted Baltzar an immediate audience. When he asked the young prince why he had not executed the assailants, Baltzar replied they had appealed to the Emperor and for that reason he had stayed his hand. Baltzar had not finished his remarks when Constantine cut him off and asked the three Patzinaks their reason for wanting to kill Keghenes. They answered that they had acted out of loyalty to the Emperor, explaining that Keghenes had planned to burst into Constantinople at daybreak, slit the throats of the Emperor and his subjects, plunder the city, and then rejoin his countrymen on the Danube. Constantine IX, without bothering to examine the truth of this wild accusation, took the assassins at their word and imprisoned Keghenes in the Sacred Palace, in the so-called Ivory Chamber, giving out that he wished to place Keghenes under the care of physicians. At the same time, he had Keghenes’ sons arrested and imprisoned in separate locales. The bulk of the Patzinak force returned to their camp outside the walls, and Constantine, with a show of benevolence, ordered that plates of food and containers of alcoholic beverages in great quantity be carried out to them. His intention was to get these barbarians so intoxicated that they would fall asleep and in their drunken state easily disarmed. However, the Patzinaks, aroused already by the treachery meted out to Keghenes and his sons, saw through the Emperor’s ruse. While pretending to welcome his refreshments, they resolved to pay him back for his perfidy. That night, without the knowledge of the Byzantines, they mounted their horses to a man and rode off with quiet celerity. On the third day, they passed through the defiles of the Balkan range. They did not stop until they had rejoined their compatriots on the banks of the Danube. Burning to avenge their captive leaders, the entire Patzinak horde headed south and arrived in the vicinity of Hadrianople, where they set up the traditional Turkish aul or fortified camp. The magistros Constantine Arianites, at the head of troops from the themes of Thrace and Macedonia, came out against them and won a few successes over scattered bands of foragers. Then Arianites decided to throw his army against the main body of Patzinaks near the fortress-city of Dampolis, the modern Jambol in Bulgaria. Unfortunately, he gave his men no time for rest, so that, when battle was joined, man and horse alike were harassed by fatigue and thirst. As a result, the Patzinaks defeated the Byzantine army with immense slaughter. Arianites fled to Hadrianople, where he sent word of the disaster to the Emperor and requested fresh troops. Even before Arianites’ messengers arrived at the palace, Constantine IX had received word of this defeat and responded by summoning Tyrach and the other Patzinak leaders still detained in Constantinople. Having loaded them with presents, he made them swear an oath of fidelity to the Empire and ordered them to go back to their people and persuade the Patzinaks to return to their allegiance. In the meantime, he sent word to his commanders in Armenia to bring back as many troops as possible to fight in this new theater of war. Leading the reinforcements were Katakalon Kekaumenos, now stratelates or commander-in-chief of all troops in the East, and Herve Francopoulos, an able and valiant Norman mercenary who had prospered in the Emperor’s hire. This transfer of troops from Armenia to the Patzinak front took place before the end of 1049. As the war only grew more serious, similar reassignments of soldiers to Thrace would occur in the next year and the year after that. (39) It was fortunate for the Empire that Toghrul Beg and his Seljuk multitudes were then too embroiled with internal affairs to repeat the ghazwa of 1048.

Katakalon Kekaumenos and Herve Francopoulos reached the straits and crossed in two divisions, one at Chrysopolis, the other at Abydos. With a reconstituted army reading to face the Patzinaks, Constantine IX entrusted it to his old favorite, the castrated rector Nicephorus. The choice was not all that bad, since Nicephorus had recently managed a most successful campaign against the Turkmens and Shaddadids in the Caucasus. By now, the Patzinaks had returned to their cantonments in the Hundred Hills region. In the spring of 1050, the rector Nicephorus, showing the same initiative he had displayed at Gandja, promptly crossed the Balkan range and moved straight for the enemy. He arrived at a place called Diacene, close to the Hundred Hills, and there he built his encampment, surrounding it with a deep ditch. He decided to attack the Patzinaks the next day, leaving behind in his camp baggage and impedimenta and leading his men forward lightly armed. Deceived perhaps by the success of his maiden campaign, Nicephorus had convinced himself that the Patzinaks would give away at the first shock of battle; his primary concern was that none of them should escape. He had apparently so imbued his troops with his confidence that they brought along ample supplies of ropes and straps with which to tie up their prospective captives. The Patzinaks, taken by surprise at his sudden appearance, were at that moment split up into several widely separated detachments. Katakalon Kekaumenos, with his usual fervor, urged Nicephorus to attack the Patzinaks before they had time to concentrate, and destroy them in detail. Kekaumenos had given similar advice to his colleague, Liparit Orbelian, before the battle of Kapetrou when Ibrahim Inal came before them with his army straggling about in scattered, disorderly bands. It was Liparit’s superstitious refusal to heed his counsel that had prevented the Christians from making short work of Ibrahim Inal. Now, at the battle of Diacene, fate unveiled the same script. Even though the Byzantine army gave unanimous support to Kekaumenos’ plan, the rector Nicephorus abruptly told him to obey orders, check his ardor, and confront the full army of the Patzinaks. Nicephorus’ reasoning, not without some merit, was that, if the Byzantines vanquished only one detachment of Patzinaks, the rest would fade away into the mountains and forests and regroup for another day. That night, Nicephorus got his wish as the Patzinaks pulled their forces together and faced him with all their strength the next morning. At their head were Tyrach and the other Patzinak chieftains just released by Constantine IX; they had disavowed every pledge of loyalty and no doubt the baptismal font.

Battle was joined with the rector Nicephorus commanding the Byzantine center, the place of honor. Katakalon Kekaumenos led the right wing, and Herve Francopoulos the left. At the first charge of the Patzinaks, the great majority of the Byzantine troops broke and ran in an ignominious rout. Their losses, it must be said, were slight; it was the brave and stalwart who perished. Deserted by either his fortune or his skill, Nicephorus was in the forefront of the fugitives. Only Katakalon Kekaumenos stood his ground, flanked by a handful of courageous men made up of his guards and kinsmen. This little band fought heroically but in the end all were cut down. The Patzinaks, astonished at their easy victory, dared not pursue the Byzantines too vigorously since they feared an ambush. Instead, they occupied themselves in stripping the Byzantine dead, gathering up a number of weapons, and plundering the baggage. They spent their night of victory in the Byzantine camp with its surrounding fosse. One of the Patzinaks, named Galinos, was rifling the cadavers on the battlefield when he peered down at a corpse that seemed not to have been thoroughly looted. To his astonishment, the body was that of Katakalon Kekaumenos, whom he recognized from the days when Kekaumenos was governor of the Byzantine forts along the lower Danube. Moreover, Kekaumenos, though unconscious, was still breathing. He had received two hideous wounds. His helmet having fallen off, he sustained a crashing blow on the head, his skull being split from crown to eyebrow. He had also been wounded in the throat, with the gash extending from his mouth to the back of his tongue. Galinos placed Kekaumenos on his horse, led him back to his camp, and put him up in his tent. The Patzinak cared for him with such devotion and skill that Kekaumenos not only recovered but returned to the Emperor’s service.

The Patzinaks followed up their triumph by ravaging with impunity a huge swath of Byzantine territory. Constantine IX cashiered the rector Nicephorus and restored Constantine Arianites to his command. Arianites led his troops to Hadrianople, where, assisted by the patrician and vestarches Michael Doceianus, he entrenched himself under the walls in a huge, fosse-enclosed camp. On June 8, 1050, a formidable army of Patzinaks appeared on the scene. Arianites opted to remain on the defensive, but such caution did not please one of his lieutenants, Samuel Burtzes, commander of the infantry and the officer in charge of guarding the fosse. Without waiting for orders from his superiors, Burtzes led his army outside the camp and engaged the nomads. The Patzinaks flung themselves upon him in a furious attack. Burtzes, gravely outnumbered, appealed to Arianites, who went to his assistance only to be overwhelmingly defeated. The Byzantine rank and file suffered relatively few casualties since most of them were able to regain shelter inside their camp. Arianites, pierced by a javelin, succumbed after three days. Michael Doceianus fell into enemy hands and was being interrogated by one of the Patzinak chiefs, when, shouting defiance, he seized a sword and threw himself on his examiner, giving him a severe wound to the throat and cutting off one of his hands. The Patzinaks hacked him to pieces, disemboweling him and replacing his intestines with his chopped off hands and feet. After this discomfiture, the imperial army once again took refuge in their fortified camp beneath the walls of Hadrianople. The Patzinaks blockaded them all around. With wild abandon, the nomads were bent on filling up the fosse with stones and branches and taking the camp by assault. They were not far from achieving their objective when one of the principal Patzinak chiefs, Sultzun, was brought down by a spear hurled by a catapult; the javelin transfixed man and horse at the same moment. This unlooked-for blow struck terror into the Patzinaks, already nervous about the impending arrival of the syncellus Basil, leading native Bulgarian troops. At that moment, the protospatharius Nicetas Glabas, topoterete or commander of the elite guard of Scholarians, approached the scene of conflict. The Patzinaks, thinking that Glabas’ small force was that of the syncellus Basil, panicked and dispersed at once, their horde melting away into the Balkan wilderness.

During the second half of the year 1050 and through the following winter, the Patzinaks harried relentlessly the themes of Thrace and Macedonia, penetrating as far as Arcadiopolis (modern Luleburgaz). Only the walled cities escaped their fury. In the words of the Armenian chronicler Matthew of Edessa, “… many horrible events and fearful things took place because of the rapacious and wickedly abominable nation of the Pechenegs [Patzinaks], those perverse and bloodthirsty beasts …” (40) One of their bands even advanced as far as Katasyrtes, a suburb of Constantinople. Indignant at this outrage, some of the bolder spirits in Constantinople, upon the Emperor’s request, joined themselves with some platoons of the imperial guard and sallied forth against the Patzinaks. The patrician John, surnamed the Philosopher, a eunuch from the household of the recently deceased Empress Zoe, assumed the leadership of this force. At his suggestion, the improvised militia attacked the nomads by night, after they had feasted carelessly and fallen asleep in a drunken stupor. The Patzinaks were slaughtered to a man, and their heads, thrown into tumbrels, were carried to the palace and presented to the Emperor. Constantine mobilized yet another army, in part by recalling 20,000 horsemen from the eastern frontier. They came from three stations; the theme of Teluch (the ancient Doliche); the “Black Mountain” region north of Antioch, corresponding to the Amanus range; and the fortress of Karkaron (Gargar or Gerger), on the western bank of the Euphrates. Since Fatimid invasions were no longer to be feared and the emirate of Aleppo was a faithful tributary, Constantine IX could withdraw their troops without repercussions. He entrusted his freshly assembled army to the patrician Nicephorus Bryennius, at native of Hadrianople, and bestowed on him the extraordinary title of ethnarch or commander-in-chief. The Emperor gave him for a colleague an equally competent general, the patrician Michael, a “Latin” (Italian?) who in the capacity of akolouthos (“acolyte”) commanded the Varangian mercenaries from Russia and Scandinavia. Constantine IX gave Bryennius and Michael strict orders to curb the Patzinaks without risking a major pitched battle. Believing, however, that the Patzinaks could still be won over through diplomacy, the Emperor freed Keghenes, now healed of his wounds, and secured his promise that he would persuade his nation to make peace. Keghenes set out for the north, prepared to treat with the Patzinaks (early spring 1051). He approached his old enemy, Tyrach, and asked for a safe-conduct, which Tyrach granted under oath. No sooner did Keghenes put himself in the power of the Patzinaks than they murdered him and chopped his body into pieces. Meanwhile, Bryennius and the akolouthos Michael joined forces at Hadrianople and set about to destroy isolated groups of the enemy. Michael annihilated one Patzinak detachment at Goloe and another at Toplitzon, on the river Maritza. He and Bryennius learned next that a large body of Patzinaks had established themselves near the fortified town of Chariopolis. A forced march by night brought them to that place, and they slipped inside without notice from the enemy. The next morning, the Patzinaks engaged themselves in the congenial task of plundering the surrounding country, burning the villages, and carrying off booty. In the evening, they returned to the gates of Chariopolis, which they believed to be devoid of defenders. With careless abandon, they began to drink and divert themselves with the sound of flutes and cymbals. During the night, the Byzantine forces made a sortie from Chariopolis and feel upon the unsuspecting Patzinaks, butchering most of them. Only a few were able to elude death by finding sanctuary in dense forests. For the remainder of the year 1051 and all during the next year, the Patzinaks, their confidence shaken, greatly curtailed their range of activity.

In the spring of 1053, Constantine IX resolved to administer the coup de grace and end the Patzinak war for good. He removed one main distraction by making peace with the Serbian prince of Zeta (Montenegro), Michael, whose father, Stephan Voislav, had rebelled successfully against the Byzantines ten years before. Constantine appointed the Serb a protospatharius and listed him among the friends and allies of Byzantium. The Emperor collected an imposing army made up of troops from both the Anatolian and Balkan themes. He named as generalissimo the syncellus Basil, a eunuch and, like the rector Nicephorus, a former priest. He was at that time pronoitis or governor of Bulgaria and had charge of the indigenous troops of his province. Basil’s second in command was the akolouthos Michael, with his indomitable Varangians. The Byzantine army again crossed the Balkan range and entered the northeast corner of Bulgaria, where most of the Patzinaks were concentrated. They found the enemy at the old Bulgarian city of Peristhlava or Preslav, where Tyrach and his Patzinaks were established in a huge fortified camp with high, palisaded walls and a deep fosse. At the Byzantine approach, the Patzinaks withdrew inside their camp and braced for a siege. The syncellus Basil and Michael blockaded them in an odd reversal of roles for Byzantine and nomad. After a time, the Byzantines ran short of food for men and fodder for horses; perhaps the country all around was too devastated to support them for long. On the other hand, the Patzinaks had stored up ample provisions and suffered not the slightest discomfort. They were quite aware of the Byzantines’ privations, and bands of Patzinaks would venture outside their camp to hurl insults at their enemy, then gallop off in malicious glee. At length, Basil and Michael determined that their best option was to raise the siege of Peristhlava. One night, they quietly broke camp and headed south toward the mountains through which they had come. A Byzantine renegade revealed these plans to Tyrach. The Patzinak khan secretly followed the retreated Byzantines while sending some of his warriors ahead to occupy the clisurae or mountain passes. As the Byzantine troops filed through the defiles, they found themselves furiously assailed in the dark from front and rear. Though made mostly of sterling stuff, the Byzantine army was caught at a hopeless disadvantage, exacerbated by the fact that the soldiers were already demoralized by hunger and fatigue. The troops panicked in the confusion and suffered a total defeat, suffering terrible losses both among officers and men. The syncellus Basil attempted to flee on a fast mount but was thrown off while crossing a ditch; his Patzinak pursuers hacked him to pieces with their swords. The relics of the Byzantines led by the akalouthos Michael arrived in shambles at Hadrianople. (41) Amid this catastrophe, the honor of the Byzantine military was to some degree redeemed by the exploits of one of its officers, the future emperor Nicephorus Botaniates. According to Michael Attaliates, a Byzantine detachment led by Botaniates retreated from the field of disaster, hounded by the Patzinaks at every step, night and day. The troops maintained their formation in good order, though pressed hard by their foemen who showered them continually with arrows and darts. Botaniates’ men stood firm and warded off these missiles with their bucklers. For a while, the Byzantines followed the banks of a river, probably the Maritza, which separated them from the Patzinaks. The nomads shot down all of their horses, one by one, and the Byzantines were forced to proceed on foot, taking off their coats of mail to make better time. When the Patzinaks came to close grips with his men, Botaniates–a doughty warrior–met them in hand-to-hand combat and made large gaps in their ranks. At one point, the Byzantine troops came upon three horses, one of which they offered to Botaniates. He refused to mount it, declaring that he preferred to remain on foot with his men; to make his point, he cut the hocks of the horse with his own hand. This gesture inspired his soldiers with fresh courage and renewed hope. After a march of eleven days, with the Patzinaks at their heels till the last moment, they finally returned safely to Hadrianople. The Patzinak war showed the Byzantine army at its worst and its best.

Constantine IX, with unbroken resolve, mobilized yet another army of native troops and mercenaries. Fortunately, the Patzinaks were no less bloodied and wearied than the Byzantines, and they sent envoys to the Emperor seeking peace. Michael Attaliates tells us that Constantine, despairing of arms as the solution, sought to placate the Patzinaks with huge subsidies and the usual distribution of honors. Attaliates is somewhat unfair to Constantine, who was not all wrong in throwing money at war instead of soldiers. In any event, Constantine IX arranged a thirty-year treaty with the Patzinaks that allowed them permanent settlements in Bulgaria as military colonists. Byzantine foreign policy during this time is incomprehensible without an appreciation of the horrific losses sustained by the Empire in fighting the Patzinaks between 1049 and 1053. The imperial troops gave as well as they received; otherwise, the Patzinaks might easily have engulfed the eastern Balkans up to the walls of Constantinople. With the Seljuk hordes now poised to advance from the east, the Anatolian provinces were no less threatened than those in Byzantine Europe. In an instant, Constantine IX had to shift his attention to the Armenian frontier and look to its defense, making the most of steadily diminishing resources, human and financial. The Byzantine Empire was already in danger of drowning in a Turkish sea.

For two years after the ghazwa of 1048, Toghrul Beg, as already noted, was too distracted by domestic concerns to send further expeditions into the bilad ar-Rum–the Byzantine Empire. This was a great stroke of luck for Byzantium, with the Patzinaks on a rampage in the Balkans. Still, Byzantium and the Seljuk Turks, fresh from their first savage encounter, must have remained in a state of suspended hostility, and Constantine IX prudently began to fortify his eastern cities. Following the release of Liparit Orbelian in 1050/51, Constantine IX–we have already seen–restore the mosque at Constantinople, had prayers in the khutba given in the name of Toghrul Beg and the Sunni caliph al-Ka’im, and sent lavish gifts to Toghrul Beg. For next several years, inspired by the Emperor’s gestures of respect for Toghrul and the Sunni caliph, interaction warmed between Emperor and sultan; he contemporary Michael Attaliates writes: “At that time there began relations of the sultan with the Emperor of the Romans, and they were sending each other ambassadors and salutations to renew their friendship.” Constantine IX no doubt would have preferred to keep things on that basis. (42) Toghrul Beg, meanwhile, continued to be concerned most with internal matters. In 1050/51, he besieged the fortified city of Isfahan for a year. While Toghrul Beg was customarily unlucky with his sieges–he rationalized that only the weak needed walls–Isfahan under its Dailamite ruler Faramarz was in time reduced to great straits. With provisions running out, its people wrote to the caliph al-Ka’im, requesting him to mediate in their behalf. Toghrul Beg has long been asking al-Ka’im to grant him honorary titles “which befitted his kingship,” and the caliph had hitherto declined. This time, however, he agreed and sent an envoy to Toghrul with a letter giving Toghrul the titles of “lawful king” and “Asylum of the Muslims” and “Rukn ad-Din Sultan Toghrul Beg.” Having sweetened this communication with flatteries, he took the opportunity to intercede in behalf of the people of Isfahan. Toghrul Beg honored al-Ka’im’s entreaty and in return for the caliph’s official recognition sent him twenty thousand dinars for his treasury and two thousand dinars to “the administrators of the kingdom [caliphate].” Toghrul Beg then chose Isfahan for his capital instead of Rayy, close to modern Tehran. From this time forth, Toghrul had inscribed at the head of his seal his personal tughra or sign, written in the form of a bow; inside the bow were his newly granted titles from the caliph.

Toghrul Beg, the child of the steppes, whose earlier years were full of perils and privations, was now in his fifties and eager to take his place in the elite society of monarchs. His lust for titles was not mere vanity, but part of his quest for respectability in the best of Muslim circles. In return for their recognition, he had a great deal to offer. With the Islamic world approaching the nadir in political and spiritual fragmentation, he alone seemed capable of restoring unity to the Muslim umma or community. What part of him was adventurer and what part religious reformer, no one can ever say; he was much of both. Islam no doubt sat lightly on many of his followers but he himself practiced his faith assiduously. Bar Hebraeus notes, “On the second and fifth days [of the week] he used to fast. And he never at any time omitted [to say] his five prayers.” Though he claimed to be (as he said) of royal Hunnic stock, he did not put on airs; he wore simple garments of white cotton, and he held court holding in his hand two arrows, “with which he used to play.” To the degree that religion dictated his foreign policy, Toghrul Beg was most preoccupied with eliminating the Shi’ite dynasties that had hitherto dominated the Muslim world: the Buyids in Iran and Iraq and the Fatimids in Egypt and the Maghrib. He did indeed put an end to the Buyid emirates and free the Sunni caliph from Buyid tutelage; eradication of the Fatimids would only be achieved a century later by the Kurd Saladin. Toghrul Beg never showed a pronounced animus against Christians and at no time held such a deep-seated animosity toward Byzantium that he desired its extinction. In his early correspondence with Nasr ad-Daulah, emir of Diyar Bakr and Akhlat, Toghrul Beg reminded the Kurd of his obligation to harass the Christian infidels whenever possible–presumably he meant Byzantines, Armenians, and Georgians. Nasr ad-Daulah had many Christian subjects, however, and he was by nature charitable toward all creeds. As the ruler of a small state surrounded by larger states, he fathomed the value of getting along with his neighbors; he was the soul of pragmatism, a great abettor of tolerance. Furthermore, even though a devout Muslim, Nasr ad-Daulah was very much the hedonist in sexual and culinary matters, and he maintained a harem of 360 concubines. Thus, he ignored the sultan’s directive, and Toghrul Beg ignored the fact that he ignored it.

For all his good intentions, Toghrul Beg still had the formidable task of channeling the huge Turkmen (or Ghuzz) migrations that were flooding the northern tier of the Middle East and had already begun to transform Azerbaijan from an Iranian into a Turkish land. Bar Hebraeus recalls the sheer numbers of Toghrul’s Turkmens:

And his [Toghrul Beg’s] troops used to come, company by company, to

do homage before him, each company consisting of two thousand men,

and they dismounted a certain distance from him, and kissed the

ground and stood upright. Then one of those who were before him made

a sign that their salutations had been accepted. And again they

kissed the ground, and then mounted their animals and departed, and

another company came up. No man goeth near him, and no man hath

speech with him. In every place where his troops meet together they

plunder, and destroy and kill. And no one district (or, quarter) is

able to support them for more than one week because of their vast

number. And from sheer necessity they are compelled to depart to

another quarter in order to find food for themselves and their


So great was the scope of Turkmen migration that some of the Turkmens or Ghuzz had long bypassed the Middle East and surged westward across the steppes of what is now Ukraine. This group of Ghuzz tribesmen, known to the Byzantines as Uzes, reached the banks of the Dnieper River and the territory of the Patzinaks, fellow Turks who nonetheless felt the full force of their onslaught. The aforementioned Keghenes, leading the Patzinak forces, won several successes over the Ghuzz or Uzes, but at the same time excited the jealousy of the Patzinak khan Tyrach. The bitter rivalry between Tyrach and his too successful lieutenant led to blows, after which Keghenes, vanquished in battle, fled into the swamps north of the lower Danube. After long holding out in that sanctuary, he was forced to thrown himself on the mercy of the Byzantines, a story already covered. Tyrach himself would soon follow, leading his warriors over the frozen Danube with the Ghuzz no doubt in eager pursuit. Fifteen years later, the Ghuzz domiciled north of the Black Sea would themselves be forced to cross the Danube and invade Byzantine Europe in great swarms. To a large degree, Toghrul Beg shared with his Byzantine counterpart the same grim task of managing these nomadic migrations that were as inexorable and elemental as forces of nature.

Toghrul’s dilemma was that his power rested entirely upon the warlike prowess of the nomads with their swift horses and dreaded bows. In any test of arms, he required their support, yet they sabotaged his claims of legitimacy by wreaking havoc among the settled populations of Iran and Iraq. Of the ferocity of the nomads, Toghrul Beg faced constant reminders. It was exemplified, for instance, by the fate meted out to Hulwan, a flourishing town in western Iran ruled by the Annuzids, a quasi-independent Kurdish dynasty with Arab connections. Known to gourmands for its dried figs, Hulwan lay near the entrance to the Paytak gorge through the Zagros range–its site can be found today in the village of Sar-i Pul-i Dhuhab. In the Muslim year 437 (1045/46), the Ghuzz tribesmen under Ibrahim Inal devastated the city beyond recovery, and its oblivion was consummated three years later by earthquake. Bar Hebraeus gives details of the Turkish visit: “The Ghuzzaye captured the city of Hulwan and burnt it, and they tortured the men until they brought out all their hidden treasures and gave them to them. And they committed fornication with their wives before their eyes, and they deflowered their virgins.” At times, the Sunni caliph al-Ka’im, proving that he was no cipher, would protest the depredations of the Ghuzz. On these occasions, Toghrul Beg would answer as he did on one occasion: “I take care to be upright. And if some of the hungry men who are with me act wickedly, what am I to do?” The sultan made a similar excuse to Constantine IX when stray Turkmen bands crossed the Byzantine frontier and committed enormities. Michael Attaliates writes that for a few years Constantine IX and Toghrul Beg exchanged friendly embassies, but that “the Huns, driven by their instinct for pillage, did not cease their incursions.” When the matter was brought up to Toghrul Beg, he offered the excuse (with much truth) that these rogue tribesmen were not known to him but were acting in their own behalf like “savage wolves.” (43)

The best-known Turkmen emir ensconced on the Byzantine frontier was Toghrul Beg’s cousin, Kutlumush, with whom he was frequently estranged. Kutlumush and Ibrahim Inal represented the old school of Turkmen, which preferred the anarchic freedom of the nomad to the constricting centralism favored by Toghrul Beg. The sedentary, citified ways of the Islamic masses were not for them. Kutlumush, accompanied by “Melech” (Malik?), son of Ibrahim Inal, fled from Toghrul Beg in 1052 and at the head of 6,000 tribesmen took refuge in “Persarmenia,” probably the region around Khoi in Persian Azerbaijan. Kutlumush sent “Melech” as ambassador to Constantinople to win support from Constantine IX and secure recognition for Kutlumush as a friend and ally of the Byzantine Empire. While awaiting the results of the embassy, Kutlumush showed his true colors. He invaded the still independent Armenian province of Vanand and attacked by night the rich and flourishing city of Kars–it was the day of Epiphany (January 6) in the year 1054. The Turks engaged in a promiscuous massacre, collected booty and prisoners, burned the city, and returned to their haunts in Azerbaijan. Only the citadel of Kars was spared the holocaust. (44) By now, Toghrul Beg–for reasons which can only be guessed–decided to carry out his own ghazwa into the Byzantine Empire, most of the imperial troops (as he no doubt knew) having been withdrawn into the Balkans to fight the Patzinaks. His intelligence system, as usual, appeared to have been well informed. It is likely that Toghrul Beg had a twofold purpose for his attack on Byzantium. First, he would demonstrate to his Turkmen followers that he too knew how to conduct lucrative raids against the foremost Christian infidel. Secondly, Toghrul Beg may have seen this as an opportunity to drive the Byzantines from their holdings in Armenia as far west as Theodosiopolis. These territories he may well have thought belonged within the Muslim orbit; to recover them for Islam would bring him much prestige both among his tribesmen and the settled classes.

In the Muslim year 446 (1054/55), Toghrul Beg advanced through Persian Azerbaijan, stopping off at Tabriz, where he received the submission of the Kurdish Rawwadid emir of Tabriz, Wahsudan ibn Mamlan. He moved on to Gandja, where he acknowledged the like subservience of the Shaddadid emir, Abu’-Aswar Shawur. Bar Hebraeus writes: “All the countries of the Persians being in subjection to Rukn ad-Din Toghrul Beg, he set his face toward the countries of the Rhomaye [Byzantines).]” In his invasion of Byzantium, Toghrul Beg, we suspect, did not count on defiance from the Georgians, whose military power had been neutered equally by the sultan’s success in converting Liparit Orbelian from enemy to neutral and by the decision of Constantine IX to detain Bagrat IV in Constantinople. Judging from the silence of history, Toghrul Beg was coldly correct in anticipating resistance only from the Byzantine Empire.

The Turks forged on into Byzantine Armenia around the beginning of September 1054. Toghrul Beg brought with him a formidable army, which included war elephants and excellent siege equipment. Among his camp followers were women and children, which suggests that he intended to plant colonies in whatever parts of Armenia he could conquer. Toghrul Beg first attacked the fortress-city of Berkri (modern Muradiye), near the northeast tip of Lake Van. The Turks took the city by assault and massacred many of the inhabitants, carrying off the chief men into captivity. Other towns fell, and the sultan next appeared before Ardjish, on the northeastern corner of the lake. For eight days, he subjected its people to a violent attack until they agreed to make terms, offering him many presents: gold, silver, horses, and mules. He moved on to the fortress-city of Manzikert or Manazkert, known as Malazgerd to Arabs and Turks. Strategically placed north of Lake Van, Manzikert was one of the oldest cities of Armenia, located in the gawar or canton of Apahuniq and the province of Dourouperan. At this moment, Manzikert and its environs formed part of the Byzantine theme of Basparacania or Vaspurakan. Lying in the midst of a big plain, Manzikert was defended by a triple wall and irrigated with numerous fountains. Toghrul Beg assessed the strength of Manzikert and determined that, in the likely event of a long siege, his hordes could not subsist indefinitely on the surrounding country. He then sent divisions of his army to fan out and make separate thrusts to the north, west, and south. Many of the Armenian inhabitants tried to find sanctuary in the more remote districts of Khordzean (Khorzianene) and Khanzit, hiding in caves and in the forests. The Turks pursued them relentlessly and massacred a great number. One of the Turkish columns assailed the still independent Armenian kingdom of Vanand, where the Bagratid king Gagik-Abas attempted a brave resistance only to be crushed in battle. Another Turkish detachment barged through the Byzantine theme of Iberia, the former Taiq, and crossed the Chorokh River into the theme of Chaldia, arriving in the mountainous country south of Trebizond. They enjoyed a remunerative raid, sweeping up booty and prisoners, and began their return. They came to the fortified town of Baberd or Paipert (modern Bayburt), where they encountered, much to their surprise, a corps of Varangians. The Varangians routed the Turks, killed their leader and many of his men, sent the rest flying, and recovered the spoil. Aristakes of Lastivert writes that the Varangians also freed the prisoners, “who praised God and each one went his own way.” But the Varangians dared not pursue the enemy for fear of colliding with a much larger Turkish army.

Toghrul Beg himself had only remained at Manzikert three days, unaware that its garrison lacked supplies both for man and beast. He pushed on past Okomi or Castrocomium as far as Theodosiopolis, which, accompanied by small retinue, he personally spied out the city from a precipitous height that overlooked the city. After weighing his chances for several hours, he opted against a siege and returned to his camp. The Byzantines had learned well their lesson from the ghazwa of 1048, and Toghrul Beg found the whole area studded with strong fortresses, which balked any attempt at occupation and provided a secure refuge for people and animals. Hearing that Byzantine forces were mobilizing at the Cappadocian metropolis of Caesarea (present-day Kayseri), Toghrul decided to fall back on Vaspurakan, only to find once again the population sheltered behind the ramparts of powerful strongholds. It was then that he besieged Manzikert in earnest. During his absence, its defenders had taken the opportunity to go out and gather food for themselves and for their livestock, for it was the time of harvest. When the Turks again stood before Manzikert, the inhabitants were amply supplied with provisions. They also had a brave and capable commander in the patrician Basil Apocapes, son of the patrician Michael Apocapes or Abu K’ab, who had once served as tent-guard for David the Great, the last independent ruler of Taiq. His father was Armenian; his mother, Georgian. Basil Apocapes inspired the people of Manzikert to make a valorous defense, even though Toghrul Beg ordered that the city be attacked twice, once at daybreak, the other in the evening.

One of Toghrul’s first tactics was to try to dig a tunnel under the walls and enter the city from within. The garrison of Manzikert built a counter tunnel and intercepted the whole body of Turkish sappers, who were taken to the top of the ramparts and executed en masse. After experimenting with engines of war, Toghrul now ordered that a catapult of colossal size be hauled to Manzikert from Bitlis. This monstrosity had been built thirty-two years before by Basil II when be besieged the Muslim city of Khoi in Azerbaijan. The Armenian historians tell us that the catapult weighed fifteen adil or about seventy-five hundred pounds, required 400 men to pull it, and could hurl a stone weighing sixty pounds. After a lucky shot from a Christian ballista smashed the tie beams of the catapult, Toghrul Beg took the added precaution of shielding it with a protective barrier made of bales of cotton and like material. The catapult then began to wreak enormous damage to the walls, and Apocapes knew something had to be done. He called for a volunteer to go forth and burn the catapult. If he succeeded, Apocapes promises him gold and silver, as well as many horses and mules; he would also receive a lofty rank from the emperor. A mercenary and stranger took up his offer. His name has been lost to history, and we know only that he was a “Frank” or “Latin”–a soldier of fortune from Western Europe. Matthew of Edessa recalls his words to Apocapes and the people of Manzikert: “I will go forth and burn down that catapult, and today my blood shall be shed for all the Christians, for I have neither wife nor children to weep over me.” Mounted on a sturdy charger, the Frank rode out of Manzikert, wearing only a helmet for his head and a buckler to cover his back. At this end of his spear, he carried a letter and in his bosom, he cradled three glass jars of an inflammable substance, remembered by Aristakes of Lastivert as a mixture of naphtha and sulphur. The Frank rode boldly into the Turkish camp, crying out that he brought a message from the garrison of Manzikert. As he drew near, the Turks saw the letter on the tip of his lance and assumed that he spoke the truth. It was the hottest part of a hot day, and most of the Muslims were taking a siesta in their tents. The Frank approached the catapult and appeared to be admiring it, so thought the Turks. In an instant, he produced one of the jars of incendiary material and hurled it against the catapult. He circled the catapult and threw the second jar and the third. Violet flames shot up, devouring the catapult and reducing it to ashes, along with its protecting wall of cotton bales. The Frank wheeled his horse around and rode hard for Manzikert, while the Turks scrambled after him. He regained the walls unwounded. Matthew of Edessa writes: “All the Christian faithful were extremely happy, and the Frank was honored with largess by all the townspeople. When the emperor Monomachus heard of this, he sent for him and elevated him to a high rank. Even the sultan marveled greatly at what the Frank had done, and he asked to see this person who had accomplished such a courageous feat so that he might give him gifts; however, the Frank refused to go.”

Toghrul Beg again resorted to using sappers to undermine the walls, but when they came close to the city they were skewered with iron hooks, hoisted up the walls, and killed. Baffled by his repeated ill fortune, Toghrul Beg wished to abandon the siege. One of his generals approached him, however, and beseeched him to carry on for one more day. Unremembered by the Armenian chroniclers, this man is called Alkan by John Scylitzes, who describes him as the commander of the sultan’s troops from Chorasmia (Khwarizm), in what is now Uzbekistan. Toghrul Beg granted his request to make one more assault on Manzikert, and Alkan made his dispositions for the next day. At dawn, Alkan had all Turkish engines of war massed at the eastern gate of the city, where the ramparts appeared most vulnerable to attack. Toghrul and his principal officers stationed themselves on high ground to watch the assault. The Turkish artillery bombarded the walls with a ceaseless rain of stones, and Toghrul’s bowmen showered the parapets with arrows. Under this cover, a large storming party led by Alkan himself moved forward under the protection of ponderous four-wheeled mantelets sheathed with hides. After a time, the Turks noticed that no defender returned their fire, and they assumed that their artillery and archers had cleared the walls. Alkan and his men, sheltered by the wheeled mantelets, advanced to the foot of the wall and prepared to climb over. At that moment, Basil Apocapes cried out, “May Christ be with us!” This was the signal for all the defenders to rise up as one man and one woman. Some of the Christians were equipped with huge wooden beams sharpened at the end. They used these prods to ram the mantelets and send them toppling over to the ground, exposing the Turks to a full range of defensive weaponry. Some fell victim to the dreaded crampons, which impaled attackers and dragged them up to the top of the wall, there to be butchered. The rest found themselves overwhelmed by a cloudburst of rocks, javelins, and arrows, until not one member of the storming party was left alive. Alkan, like the others, had been concealed beneath one of the mantelets. His magnificent armor betrayed him as a person of importance, so that two young soldiers came out of Manzikert, seized him, and dragged him by the hair into the city. Apocapes at once ordered his head cut off and catapulted into the midst of the Turks. Filled with bravado, the defenders of Manzikert catapulted a sow into the Turkish camp, proposing to Toghrul that, if he married the pig, he could have Manzikert for a dowry.

Toghrul Beg withdrew from Manzikert after having besieged the city for one month. According to Scylitzes, he informed the people of Manzikert that urgent matters called him home but that he would come back the next spring with even greater forces. In the course of his retreat, the sultan passed by the Armenian city of Ardzke or Artzike (modern-day Dhat al-Gauz), built on a hill overlooking Lake Van. The waters of the lake provided a natural bulwark on one side, while on its landward side the city was protected by imposing fortifications. Thus, the inhabitants of Ardzke were not alarmed by Toghrul’s approach. But the Turks–either through a traitor’s help or their own ingenuity–discovered a sand bank, forded the lake, and stormed into the city. They massacred many of the people, took prisoners and booty, and departed for Azerbaijan, allowing the sultan some salve to his honor. While Byzantine Armenia had suffered fearfully, neither had the Turks returned unscathed, which belied the statement by Michael the Syrian, in referring to the two ghazwas of 1048 and 1054, that the Turks devastated Armenia and brought back captives, “… without anyone going forth to confront them.” (45) Indeed, Toghrul Beg’s departure seems to have hastened by stiffening Byzantine resistance. Constantine IX was ailing badly now but he quickly sent to the eastern front whatever troops he could muster. They were led the patrician and akolouthos Michael, who was instructed by Constantine IX to concentrate the detachments of Frankish and Varangian mercenaries posted throughout the themes of Iberia and Chaldia. Hearing of these preparations, Toghrul Beg decided not to risk battle, but broke camp in haste and retreated toward Tabriz. About the same time, Constantine IX transferred Byzantine troops to the East from the Balkan theme of Macedonia, led by the proven veteran, Nicephorus Bryennius. A popular superstition arose at this time, predicting that an army like the one which conquered Persia under Alexander the Great would put an end to the Turks. Constantine IX gave this rumor credence and made sure that the reinforcements sent to the Turkish front came from the theme of Macedonia.

Toghrul Beg had at first intended to attack Manzikert again the following year. During this time, however, he had been in secret communication with Ibn al-Muslima, vizier to the Sunni caliph al-Ka’im, who urged him to march on Baghdad and liberate that city from the Shi’ite Buyids and their deputy, the slave-born Turk, Arslan al-Basasiri. Toghrul Beg opted for the latter course. Soon after his return from Manzikert, the sultan mobilized his troops anew and concentrated a vast supply of munitions at Hamadan. In the meantime, he left behind his general Samukh in southern Azerbaijan, entrusted him with a detachment of 3,000 men, and ordered him to organize regular attacks on the Armeno-Byzantine frontier. According to Byzantine sources, Samukh was a man of humble origins but warlike gifts who had already figured conspicuously in Turkish raids on the Empire. (46) After the ghazwa of 1054, he remained near the border for many years, orchestrating or leading in person many bloody attacks on Byzantine Armenia. Samukh would soon be joined by an even more eminent Turkish leader, Yakuti, son of Toghrul Beg’s brother Caghri Beg; he is commonly known in the sources as the Salar of Khurasan. (47) About the same time–in a show of rare diplomatic cheek–Toghrul Beg made secret overtures to the Byzantines in an effort to win their support against the Fatimid caliph. So we are told in a Sira or biography of the Fatimid da’i or missionary, al-Mu’ayyad fi’l-Din, who supposedly learned of this maneuver from a Byzantine source in the Muslim year 446 (April 12, 1054-April 2, 1055). (48) These negotiations may have occurred not in the waning months of Constantine IX’s reign but in the early days of his successor, Theodora, who much preferred to treat with Toghrul Beg than with the Fatimids. During this same period, a significant change of military command was made on the eastern frontier. From about 1050, Romanus Sclerus, a close friend of the Emperor and brother of his late mistress Sclerena, held the post of doux or duke of Antioch, first with the rank of magistros and later proedros. Either shortly before or after the Emperor’s death, the imperial court recalled Sclerus and replaced him as duke of Antioch with the renowned Katakalon Kekaumenos, now holding the title of magistros. (49) This may have reflected renewed estrangement from the Fatimids, as Byzantium sought to apply diplomacy as well as force in coping with Toghrul Beg.

The sultan was in fact playing the diplomatic game as cunningly as Constantine IX, seeking to obtain from the Byzantines the benefits of nominal peace–provided certain conditions were met–while indulging in war on the sly. Furthermore, under Constantine IX the combined exigencies of war and diplomacy had been severe, and the Empire was much weaker at the end of his watch than at the beginning, both in military and financial terms. At the time of his death in 1025, Basil II, greatest of the “Macedonian” emperors, had left an extraordinary treasury of six thousand Baghdadian qintars or fifty-four million dinars–in all, six hundred thousand pounds of good. The Byzantine chroniclers, while more pedantic and less precise, say that Basil left behind two hundred thousand talents. (50) Within one generation, that huge sum seems to have evaporated. If we may believe Michael Attaliates, Constantine IX was forced during the last two years of his reign to adopt the most rapacious methods of collecting revenue. He had the records of tax collectors audited and imposed harsh fines upon those accused of shortchanging the imperial fisc. He even ordered a wholesale investigation made of endowments to churches and monasteries throughout the Empire, and he prepared to dismiss church administrators who balked at surrendering this wealth. The Emperor died before he could carry out this last program, however. Attaliates writes, “The general opinion was that it was a stroke of Heaven that brought him low, because he attempted to overthrow the well established order which undergirds pious government.” (51)

After the sudden death of his mistress Sclerena from asthma (late 1044?), Constantine IX had set about to indulge his sexual cravings elsewhere. After a succession of bedmates, he fell captive to another mistress, a white-skinned Alan (Ossete) princess from the Caucasus. Psellus writes that Constantine “… lived with this girl alone and conceived for her a most violent passion.” Another contemporary, the Armenian vardapet Aristakes of Lastivert, concurs with Psellus about the Emperor’s womanizing and gives that as another reason for the misfortunes that befell Armenia during his regime. Constantine’s wife Zoe died in 1050, and the Emperor might have married the Alan had it not been for the opposition of his sister-in-law Theodora and the Byzantine Church. Constantine IX had to be content with giving his lover the title of Augusta and assigning her a bodyguard. Her ultimate fate is unknown; probably Theodora, once she succeeded Constantine IX, had the girl sent back to her mountains. Even in this matter, Constantine IX may not have been completely at the mercy of his gonads, since the Alans were a warlike people and worth cultivating as allies and auxiliaries. For him to take an Alan empress would have demonstrated a certain diplomatic acumen, even though his health had reached a point of near collapse.

For most of his reign, Constantine IX had been tormented by gout in hands and feet, as well as other ailments. Feeling the cold breath of mortality, he left his palace and took up residence in the elegant Church of St. George of Mangana, which he had had constructed at immense cost to the public. To ease his pain, he had built nearby a deep outdoor pool in the middle of a park filled with apple and pear orchards. There, he would bathe several times a day in the warm water. One day, he caught a chill and contracted pleurisy. After a brief rally, he succumbed on January 11, 1055. He was buried with splendid ceremonies in the Church of St. George of Mangana, and his body placed in a magnificent sarcophagus next to that of his beloved mistress Sclerena. Few rulers in history have lived in more cataclysmic times or been destined to wear a heavier and thornier crown.


Constantine IX was succeeded, not after a flurry of palace intrigue, but by his elderly sister-in-law, Theodora, the last scion of the Macedonian house. The new sovereign–daughter and niece of emperors–was plain of face, tall, and willowy, with a somewhat undersized head. A lifelong recluse, she nevertheless had a ready tongue, cheerful temperament, and iron will. She soon demonstrated that she was not to be trifled with, not even by the generals. Hearing of the death of Constantine IX, Nicephorus Bryennius led his men back to Chrysopolis, on the opposite shore of the Bosporus from Constantinople. His intentions are not clear, but Theodora chose to regard his unauthorized return as an act of treason. She ordered him to be arrested, stripped of all rank and property, jailed, and finally exiled. She commanded his soldiers to return to the eastern frontier, and with astonishing docility they obeyed. (52) Theodora furthermore demoted the magistros Isaac Comnenus, one of the foremost military aristocrats of Anatolia. Isaac was replaced as stratopedarches and Domestic of the Schools in the East with one of her most loyal partisans, the eunuch Theodore, also named proedrus in the bargain.

During the brief time she governed, Theodore engaged in a considerable round of diplomatic activity, much of it well advised. It was most likely Theodora who allowed the Georgian king Bagrat IV, in the third year of his detainment (1056?), to leave Constantinople and return to his own country. According to the Georgian Chronicles, she requested Bagrat IV to send his daughter Martha to Constantinople so that she could be raised as Theodora’s own adopted daughter. Martha set out for Constantinople, where she joined her grandmother Mariam, Bagrat’s mother, and the Georgian saint Keorki (George) Mthatsmidel. By the time she arrived, however, Theodora had died, and Martha soon returned to Georgia. (53) Theodora showed particularly good judgment in reversing the punitive measures taken by her predecessor against a princely Armenian family settled in the theme of “Mesopotamia,” around the impregnable fortress of Arghana or Arkni (modern Ergani, northwest of Diyarbakir). In the Armenian year 500 (March 9, 1051-March 7, 1052), a Byzantine expedition by the katepano Peros arrived in the territory of Arghana to verify reports that the local Armenian princes were plotting rebellion. Peros, apparently exceeding his mandate from Constantine IX, laid waste the entire district and strove to take captive its feudal lords. Through treachery, he occupied Arghana itself and seized three brothers named David, Leo, and Constantine, referred to by Matthew of Edessa as “valiant and mighty men and illustrious Armenian princes.” Peros carried them off to Constantinople, after which they were banished to an island. Theodora freed the brothers, treated them with honor, and allowed them to return to Arghana, “… admonishing them to never again work against the empire.” Theodora recalled Peros and replaced him with a member of the celebrated Melissenus family. Matthew of Edessa, who occasionally recognizes good Byzantines, writes of Melissenus: “He was a benevolent and reputable man, merciful to widows and captives, one who brought prosperity to the land, and a person endowed with all kinds of noble qualities.” Theodora’s conciliation of the Armenians was both charitable and politically astute, since they were gatekeepers of most of the eastern frontier and fielded some of the finest troops in the Empire. If the Turks launched another massive invasion of Byzantine Armenia–such was nervously expected–the loyalty of the Armenians would be absolutely necessary to keep the Turks from breaking through into Anatolia and the heartland of the Byzantine Empire. Toghrul Beg lost no time in reminding the new sovereign that he still had to be reckoned with.

Hearing that Theodora had succeeded Constantine IX, the sultan sent representatives to Constantinople. According to Aristakes of Lastivert, he issued the following ultimatum to Theodora: “Either return to me the cities and regions which your ancestors took from the Tadjiks [i.e. Muslims], or pay me a daily tribute of one thousand tahegans [Armenian gold dinars].” Theodora elected not to defy the sultan but to turn away his wrath through conciliation and concession. She sent the customary presents to Toghrul Beg: fine horses and white mules, a large number of precious objects, and vestments of purple. Her tactic appeared to succeed. Toghrul Beg accepted the gifts with pleasure, although he detained the Byzantine envoy that brought them. With the imperial ambassador in his train, he set out for Baghdad, marching west to Hulwan and then over the Zagros range. Al-Basisiri fled before him, and on December 18, 1055, he entered Baghdad in triumph. On that day, the history of the Middle East was wrenched onto a new path. Theodora in the meantime sent an envoy to al-Ka’im, and she “strengthened the peace” by confirming the tribute promised to the caliph by Constantine IX. (54) Theodora thus clearly cast her lot with Toghrul Beg, not the Fatimids, with the view that negotiation, not war, was the way to contain him. As far as is known, Aristakes of Lastivert was not a first-hand observer of Theodora’s court, yet his words merit study.

After the death of Monomachus, the lioness [Theodora] uttered within

her lair the roaring of a lion, like the lion which appeared to

Daniel in his vision. She summoned the notables of the city

[Constantinople] and the great dignitaries and said to them: ‘If

there is anyone among you who feels capable of setting out for the

East with the army, who would stop the incursions of the Persians

[Turks}, and who would restore peace to the country, let him dare to

present himself and he will become emperor, for, according to the

law of God, he is worthy to reign. If you yourselves refuse this, I

am myself capable of occupying that place.’ The dignitaries, having

heard her, without responding returned each one to his own house.


Thus, Theodora announced her intention of dealing with the Turks in her own fashion, without consulting the military aristocrats of Asia Minor.

From the first, Theodora showed scant respect for the Fatimid caliphate, perhaps in her view no longer worth cultivating. For the past few years, the emir of Aleppo, Thimal Mu’izz ad-Daulah, had shown himself a loyal Fatimid vassal by having dinars minted at Aleppo bear the name of al-Mustansir. This arrangement continued into the reign of Theodora, when in April 1055, the Fatimid caliph sent an ambassador to Aleppo bearing a robe of honor for Thimal. At about the same time, however–that is, during the Muslim year 447, which began April 2, 1055–the practice was stopped of stamping the name of al-Mustansir on Aleppine dinars. During the identical Muslim year, Thimal had a falling out with his minister, ‘Ali ibn Ahmad ibn al-Aisar, who, fearing for his safety, bolted for Egypt. Thimal filled his position with two brothers, Salim ibn ‘Ali ibn Taghlib and Maslama ibn ‘Ali ibn Taghlib, the first of whom was dispatched as plenipotentiary to Constantinople with the customary gifts. At Thimal’s request, Theodora recognized Salim ibn ‘Ali as Thimal’s new minister and gave him the rank of vestarches in the place of Ibn al-Aisar, now a fugitive in Egypt. For the Fatimids, this was a small slight compared to another Theodora committed, perhaps inadvertently, at almost that same moment. Early in the Muslim year 447, Toghrul Beg sent as ambassador to Constantinople the sharif Nasir ibn Isma’il–he may have headed the legation mentioned by Aristakes of Lastivert. Toghrul Beg requested that this envoy be allowed to say the prayer following the Friday khutba or sermon in the mosque at Constantinople. Theodora granted this request, after which Nasir ibn Isma’il, as was natural, mounted the pulpit and delivered his prayer in the name of the Abbasid caliph, al-Ka’im. The Fatimid ambassador, al-Kuda’i, happened to be present and was infuriated to learn for the first time that Byzantium acknowledged the Sunni, not the Shi’ite, caliph as lord of Islam. Word of this transgression soon reached the ears of al-Mustansir in Cairo. The Fatimid caliph requited this insult by ordering his officials to seize the treasures in the Church of the Holy Sepulcher in Jerusalem. (56)

But Theodora, out of sheer peevishness, managed to cause even greater offense. The grain that Constantine IX had promised to send to Egypt had not yet sailed, and Theodora took this opportunity to demand that al-Mustansir sign a defensive alliance as part of the bargain. He refused, and Theodora ordered the grain held up. Al-Mustansir was so enraged that he mobilized a considerable body of troops, entrusted them to the supreme command of Makin ad-Daulah al-Hasan ibn Mulhim, and ordered him to lead an expedition against the Byzantine port of Laodicea (Al-Ladhikiyah). Thimal of Aleppo attempted to mediate the quarrel between Fatimids and Byzantium, but without success. Having apparently achieved nothing by his advance on Laodicea, Ibn Mulhim withdrew to the Fatimid stronghold of Apamea (Afamiyah), only to march northward, presumably following the river Orontes, and invade the territory of Antioch. There his attack degenerated into the usual slave raid, as he plundered the country and dragged away captives. The duke of Antioch at that moment was the magistros Katakalon Kekaumenos, the premier general in the Empire and probably the one most trusted by the central government; it was his lot to be assigned the most critical posts. He seems to have been joined in this theater of war by Isaac Comnenus, only recently recalled by Theodora as stratopedarches in the East but dispatched to Antioch (it appears) as supreme commander. Theodora’s successor, Michael VI Stratioticus, would later accuse both Katakalon Kekaumenos and Isaac Comnenus of gross misconduct of affairs during this phase of their careers; the truth of his indictment, because of the lack of sources, can neither be denied nor affirmed. Michael Psellus–who considers the Emperor’s allegations to be pure slander–writes: “He [Michael VI] charged him [Isaac Comnenus] with all but losing Antioch and with corrupting his army; he had shown no sign of gallantry or leadership; on the contrary, he had levied the people’s money for his own use, and instead of using his command to win glory, he had made it a pretext for satisfying his own personal greed.” In any event, the government of Theodora responded to the Fatimid attack on Antioch with energy and dispatch. A Byzantine fleet of eighty galleys carrying reinforcements put in near the scene of fighting, and the tide turned at once. The Byzantines and Fatimids fought several battles, in which the Byzantines came off the victor and took prisoner a large part of the Muslim army, including Ibn Mulhim himself (June 1055). It was no doubt to avenge this discomfiture that al-Mustansir–already piqued by the recognition given to the Sunni caliph–was doubly eager to confiscate the wealth of the Church of the Holy Sepulcher, known to Muslims as the Bayt al-Kumana. Visits by Western pilgrims to the Holy Places suddenly became vexatious. In 1055, Lietbert, bishop of Cambrai, set out for the Holy Land, only to meet fellow pilgrims ordered out of the country. He himself was denied an exit-visa by the Byzantine governor of Laodicea and was compelled to take ship for Cyprus. In the following year, the Fatimids forbade Western pilgrims to enter the Church of the Holy Sepulcher and expelled 300 Christian residents of Jerusalem, forcing them to take refuge in the West. (57) For whatever reason, Theodora made the lot of pilgrims even harder by instructing her customs officials in the Holy Land and perhaps even Jerusalem itself to levy a tax on pilgrims and their horses. This caused sufficient offense in the West for Pope Victor II to write Theodora in December 1056–unknown to him, she had died in the interval–and entreat her to revoke the tax. Testimony to the increasingly troubled conditions in the Holy Land is given in the Georgian Chronicles. An anonymous continuator to that history writes as follows:

After this [the death of Theodora?) Queen Mariam, mother of King

Bagrat, left the capital [Constantinople] and went to the city of

Antioch. For she intended to go to the holy city of Jerusalem to

pray and worship at the holy places of salvation. She had a royal

order for the governor and the patriarch of Antioch, that they

should escort her with all majesty and honour. But the patriarch and

governor took counsel and decided, with the advice of Father Giorgi

[Keorki Mthatsmidel], that: “It is not good for the mother of

sovereigns of the east to go to the land of the Saracens, since on

account of our sins they rule the country.” They informed the queen

of this through the mediation of her mentor Giorgi Mtacmideli that

he should be concerned with her soul, just as he had been in the

past, and work for her salvation, since she herself had not been

worthy to go to the holy places of Jerusalem. And (she asked him) to

take to Jerusalem the money that she had set aside for the journey,

and to distribute it among the poor and indigent of that holy city

and the holy monasteries that are built in the neighborhood.

For the Byzantines, no particular good came out of the Fatimid war, which if anything aggravated the plight of native Christians in Palestine and made Western pilgrimages much more difficult. On the other hand, serious damage resulted from Theodora’s policy of appeasing Toghrul Beg and overlooking the aggressions of his lieutenants in Byzantine Armenia. The truth was that Theodora, even more than Constantine IX, had miscalculated greatly in thinking that crafty dealings, presents to Toghrul Beg, and tribute to the Sunni caliph would end the Turkish raids on her eastern frontier. Indeed, it was under Theodora, herself of distant Armenian descent, that the Turkish attacks on Byzantine Armenia first became recurrent and systematic. In their assaults on Armenia, the Turks again found an ally in the Shaddadid emir Abu’l-Aswar Shuwar, who, having made his submission to Toghrul Beg at his capital of Gandja, reverted to his old habits as a Muslim ghazi. In this congenial role, the Kurd launched a sanguinary raid on Byzantine Armenia in the Armenian year 504 (March 8, 1055–March 7, 1056). He (or his lieutenants) advanced into the province of Shirak, many inhabitants of which attempted to find shelter behind the walls of Ani. They hastened toward the principal entrance into the city, which led over the river Akhurian, and some made it inside. At nightfall, however, the sentries closed the gates, leaving a great throng of fugitives stranded outside the city. The Shaddadid army, refusing to break stride in the darkness, threw themselves upon the masses huddled at the gates of Ani. They slaughtered a large number without hindrance, took a multitude of captives and much spoil, and returned home in triumph. (58) About the same time, the Turks attacked the Byzantine theme of Taron, a former Armenian principality that incorporated the area around Mush, west of Lake Van. Taron was then governed by Theodore, whose father Aaron–son of the last independent king of Bulgaria–had been katepano of Vaspurakan and had fought with Katakalon Kekaumenos and Liparit Orbelian at the battle of Kapetrou. A group of Turkmens, perhaps fleeing from Toghrul Beg and his efforts at centralization, arrived from the east and placed themselves under Theodore’s authority. To demonstrate their fidelity, these nomads invaded the region around Akhlat, still controlled by the Marwanid Kurd, Nasr ad-Daulah. Though for some time a Seljuk vassal, Nasr ad-Daulah was the same humane and progressive ruler determined to go on well with the Byzantines. The attack on his lands appears to have been completely unprovoked. Ravaging the territory of Akhlat, the pro-Byzantine Turkmens took considerable booty and carried it back to Taron. The sultan’s officers in Iran ordered Theodore to surrender the renegades; if he refused, they threatened to carry off the people of Taron as slaves. Theodore refused to turn over the Turkmens, and hostilities broke out. Theodore fought two or three battles with the Turks–Aristakes of Lastivert does not give the issue–and he strove with valor. In the end, however, he was grievously wounded and died after a few days. Theodore must have inspired much affection among the Armenian provincials, since Aristakes of Lastivert writes of him: “His death was worthy of bitter regrets. Through his youth and his handsome appearance, he recalled the prophet David; he surpassed in bravery the majority of men. His demise was premature.” (59) Winter came, but the Turkish raids continued. A sinister pattern developed, as the Turks first spent out spies to determine which towns were populous, rich, and undefended. Then the Turkish bands swept forward by night and took their prey unaware. They made two separate attacks on the day of Epiphany (January 6) in 1056. One force surprised the large market town of Mankan Gom (“the Manger”), in the Armenian province of Hark. Surprising the inhabitants as they celebrated the nocturnal liturgy, they massacred many of them and carried off captive a host of others. As the Turks crossed the frozen river Aradzani or Arsanias (now the Murad Su), the ice gave away, and Turks and Armenians alike plunged into a watery oblivion. The second army bore down on the wealthy commercial city of Okomi or Castrocomium, northeast of modern-day Hasankale, in the Armenian gawar or canton of Basean. Forging their way through a deep bed of snow, the Turks broke into the city and slaughtered as many as 30,000 persons in a three-day carnival of horror. They returned unscathed, their beasts of burden loaded with booty and provisions of wheat. (60) Strangely enough, contemporary Byzantine writers say nothing of these attacks. Psellus writes: “Throughout the Empire the seasons of the year went well, and the harvest was abundant. No Roman territory was plundered by marauding barbarians. There was no open warfare. No section of the state was discontented, for justice was maintained everywhere.” John Scylitzes, usually far better informed than Psellus about foreign affairs, races through his account of Theodora’s reign, making no mention of war, rebellion, pestilence, or earthquake–the favorite fare of medieval chroniclers. If Byzantines in Constantinople thought that the reign of Theodora had returned them to the piping days of peace, they were soon to be undeceived.

Although seventy-six years of age, Theodora anticipated many more years of life, and a clique of ascetic monks encouraged her in this belief. Then, in a wink, the house of illusion came crashing down. Theodora, the last of the Macedonian dynasty, found herself assailed by an intestinal disorder–probably an enteric infection, although possibly cholera or food poisoning. The initial symptoms were loss of appetite and vomiting, followed by violent diarrhea, which could not be stanched. In an instant, the Empress lay on her deathbed. The bureaucrats and palace eunuchs had to move quickly, knowing that her fatal illness invited the gravest tumults. When it became clear that Theodora would not recover, her prime minister, Leo Paraspondylus, hurriedly summoned a council to select a new ruler. The bureaucrats and eunuchs scurried to join him, their immediate concern, almost certainly, being to forestall a coup by the generals of Anatolia. The person chosen to succeed Theodora was Michael, surnamed Stratioticus, a wealthy and respectable senator with the rank of patrician. He was a member of the eminent Bringas family, and his ancestor, Joseph Bringas, had been first minister under the Emperor Romanus II and Empress Theophano, Theodora’s paternal grandparents. John Scylitzes tells us that Michael was “‘a man born in Constantinople, simple and innocuous, and from his boyhood well-acquainted with wars.” (61) Michael the Syrian, equally laconic, wrote of him a century later: “Then reigned the old man Michael for one year. The latter was very upright. The objects of goldsmithing which he privately made with his own hands are much prized today …” (62)

Judging from the name Stratioticus, Michael held the post of logothetes tou stratiotikou or chief financial officer for the imperial army. He was not, however, a true soldier but a bureaucratic manager of soldiers, and he would soon reveal a disastrous contempt for the military aristocrats. Through all the negotiations involving Michael, the palace establishment, and the fading Theodora, the Ecumenical Patriarch, Michael Cerularius, played a prominent, and perhaps the paramount, role. His overwhelming prestige and dominating personality made him the natural liaison between the Empress’s quarters and the anxiously expectant court. From her deathbed, Theodora made feeble nods of the head to Cerularius to show that she approved the selection of Michael Stratioticus. The Patriarch then went off to Michael and gave him a lecture about his duties as autokrator or Emperor of the Byzantines. At the same time, Michael Stratioticus had to swear a solemn oath that he would do nothing contrary to the wishes of the prime minister Leo Paraspondylus and the officialdom that had served Theodora. With these preliminary out of the way, Cerularius crowned Michael with the appropriate diadem, and Michael received oaths of allegiance from the palace guards, including the fabled Varangians. In the winter of his years, a fusty accountant thus found himself thrust up as the leader of a world power. It was the evening of August 31, 1056. While the bureaucrats, eunuchs, and Patriarch collected around their new sovereign, Theodora sank slowly into her final slumber; about 11 p.m., she slipped into eternity. In the words of Matthew of Edessa, she “was taken up to Christ after having sincerely confessed her sins.” In the Byzantine fashion, her body was interred in a monastery she herself had founded, and the Empire passed to the man known to some simply as Michael the Aged.


In his salad days, Michael VI Stratioticus might have made a tolerable emperor. Unfortunately, by the time he came to the throne, he was an old duffer, feeble and irresolute, and long past his prime as a capable executive. Michael Attaliates, a judicious observer, states that Theodora’s ministers preferred him to a strong ruler because he would allow them a free rein and indeed his pliability seems to have been his chief recommendation as emperor. The haste of the bureaucrats in placing him on the throne was not without logic, since the demise of the Macedonian dynasty invited pretenders from every hand; even a stronger and younger man than Michael Stratioticus would have been vulnerable to revolution. This was demonstrated from the beginning of his reign. No sooner was his accession announced than the president of the senate, Theodosius Monomachus, attempted to stage a coup in Constantinople. As the nephew of Constantine IX, Monomachus claimed hereditary right to the throne, armed his domestic slaves, and cobbled together a motley group of followers. He and his band marched through the streets of the capital, broke open the prisons, and obtained further dubious support from among the inmates. He let it be known that a new order was at hand. When word of this uprising reached the Sacred Palace, the officers of the imperial guard, consisting of both native troops and Varangians, marched against him posthaste, and his little army deserted him to a man. Monomachus attempted to seek sanctuary in Hagia Sophia but the doors were closed against him, and his pursuers found him sitting alone on the steps, accompanied only by his son. The populace, dismissing his emeute as a ludicrous joke, circulated a lampoon for the occasion, and Michael VI sensibly contented himself with exiling Monomachus to Pergamum. This experience–and indeed the recognition of his vulnerability to further and more dangerous revolts–convinced Michael VI that he had better cement his natural constituencies. Thus, he decided, no doubt through instinct, to base his support on the people of Constantinople, the guilds, the civil service, and especially the senators. His attempts to win their collective affection with gifts and titles soon degenerated into prodigality. Psellus, who studied the Emperor firsthand, writes:

In the case of the aged Michael the conferring of honours surpassed

the bounds of propriety. He promoted individuals, not to the

position immediately superior to that they already occupied, but

elevated them to the next rank and the one above that. In fact, the

emperor’s courtiers had only to put themselves forward as candidates

for a fourth promotion and he would readily consider their claims.

Thereupon another, standing at his other side and plucking at his

other sleeve, so to speak, would ask for and get a fifth. His

generosity led to a state of absolute chaos. (63)

On the other hand, Michael VI demonstrated an unconcealed disdain for the military caste (perhaps he had old scores to pay). At his accession, he had deprived Katakalon Kekaumenos of his command as duke of Antioch, accusing him of extorting money from the inhabitants and reducing the number of his troops so as to pocket funds set aside for their pay. It is more likely that Katakalon Kekaumenos fell victim to ham-handed nepotism, since he was replaced by the Emperor’s own nephew, the magistros Michael Uranus. (64) The Emperor was similarly peevish in his treatment of Nicephorus Bryennius, who had been cashiered and impoverished by his predecessor Theodora. Michael VI gave him back his military command, but refused to return his personal fortune. In personal audience with the Emperor, Bryennius sought the restitution of his property, only to be interrupted with a curt maxim, “Finished work alone merits wages.” He assigned Bryennius to lead a detachment of 3,000 men and sent him to reinforce the troops in Cappadocia. Bryennius went to his post seething his anger. By this time, a cabal of high officers had already formed a conspiracy against Michael VI; their principal leaders were Isaac Comnenus, Romanus Sclerus, Michael Burtzes, and Nicephorus Botaniates. They communicated their plans secretly to Katakalon Kekaumenos and Nicephorus Bryennius, both now on the eastern frontier, and found them eager to take part in their plot. The implications for Byzantine foreign policy, particularly in regard to the Turkish front, would be catastrophic beyond words.

It required all the Emperor’s shortsightedness not to see the trouble he was making for himself. At this point, Michael VI showed himself even more perverse in his handling of Herve Francopoulos, the Norman adventurer who had served the Empire loyally for almost twenty years. Herve approached the Emperors and requested with some insistence the title of magistros. Michael VI not only denied his petition, he but rained down on his head mockery and insults. The Norman was of too proud a temper to endure this tonguelashing from Michael the Aged. He returned to his estate at Dabarama in the theme of Armeniakon, in eastern Anatolia; recruited for his purposes 300 Frankish or Norman troops from the surrounding garrisons; and fled into Muslim territory, where he deserted to Samukh. Herve Francopoulos and Samukh made common cause for a time, then quarreled. Samukh maintained a pretense of good will, but Herve warned his men to be on their guard. Suddenly, while the Franks were taking their leisure in camp, the Turks suddenly descended on them. They leapt on their horses, which at Herve’s command they always kept bridled, and met Samukh’s onslaught. After a violent struggle, they put him to flight, after killing many Turks. Samukh fled for refuge to Akhlat and sought the protection of the Marwanid emir, Nasr ad-Daulah. Despite Herve’s appeals, the Franks pursued the Turks to Akhlat. Nasr ad-Daulah offered to make terms with them, and the Franks, taking him at his word, rode into Akhlat, eager for a bath and refreshments after their recent battle with Samukh. Herve again warned his men that treachery was afoot, but, finding them obdurate, he accompanied them into Akhlat, warning them all the time to hold fast to their weapons. Once inside the walls of Akhlat, the Franks began a round of hard drinking. In the meantime, Nasr ad-Daulah made an agreement with Samukh and the inhabitants of Akhlat that at a given signal they would fall on the Franks and take them dead or alive. This ruse succeeded without difficulty, since almost all the Franks were lying about in a drunken stupor. The Muslims cut down some of the Franks, while capturing and binding others; a few Franks escaped this ambush by leaping down from the walls of the city. Herve himself was taken prisoner and placed in irons. Nasr ad-Daulah–who seems never to have swerved from his allegiance to Byzantium–immediately sent word to Michael VI assuring him of his obedience and announcing that he held captive the renegade Herve. (65)

The episode of Herve at Akhlat bears a curiously inverted resemblance to the story of al-Asfar, the Muslim marauder who was contained so cleverly by Constantine IX only a decade before. In both cases, Nasr ad-Daulah, the Kurdish emir of Diyar Bakr and Akhlat, served the Byzantines as an enforcer, but the international context had changed enormously in ten years–this time the misbehaving party was an eminent Byzantine general driven to revolt against his will. The imperial government would a few years later apparently repent of its shabby victory over Herve Francopoulos and arrange his extradition to Byzantine territory.

Michael VI, like Constantine IX and Theodora, put great stock in negotiation and high-level baksheesh as means to placate the Muslim powers, especially the Seljuk Turk. However, while he played the same game, he was much less adept at it. Toghrul Beg, for his part, sought to improve official relations with Byzantium, which made matters worse by sending Michael the wrong cues. During the Muslim year 448 (1056/57), Toghrul dispatched an embassy to Michael headed by the emir Qutb ad-Daulah and the sharif Nadjiya ibn Isma’il al-Hasani, perhaps the same sharif Nasir ibn Isma’il sent by Toghrul Beg to Theodora. Toghrul Beg sent the following gifts, none of them contemptible: a sudra (vestment?) decorated with pearls and a ruby worth forty-five mitqals and embossed with the “seal of Solomon”; silver chandeliers with large candles to be employed in royal processions; one hundred and fifty porcelain dishes; one hundred sheets of fabric brocaded with gold; two hundred sheets of fabric made of a material called siglaton; two hundred carpets; and ten drums of camphor and aloes worth twenty-four hundred dinars. The total value of these gifts came to over fifty thousand dinars. (66)

The sheer wealth of these presents suggest that Toghrul Beg was sincere in his overtures to the imperial government and, in the long view, saw no benefit in upsetting the accepted equilibrium between Byzantium and Islam, especially if it meant disrupting time-honored trade routes. There is some reason to believe that more enlightened minds among the Seljuks–and Toghrul Beg should be included among these–appreciated the skilled craftsmanship and technological expertise to be found in the Byzantine Empire and wished to take advantage of them in peaceful ways, through the mutual wealth-building of commerce instead of the predatory and destructive ghazwa. As proof of this, we might cite a work called Taba’i al-Hayawan or “The Properties of the Animals,” written not long after this period by Sharaf al-Zaman Tahir al-Marvazi, court physician to Toghrul Beg’s grandnephew, the sultan Malik-Shah (ruled 1072-92). Al-Marvazi writes of the Byzantines:

The Rum [Byzantines] are a great nation. They possess many extensive

lands, abounding in good things. They are gifted in crafts and

skilful in the fabrication of (various) articles, textiles, carpets

and vessels … For Muslims in Constantinople there is a hostel

(khan) in which no one except them is put up, and they enjoy honour

and great esteem with the (Rum). This [is] because the major part of

the latter’s revenue is the customs (maks) which they collect from

the merchants. From anyone entering the country they take one

seventh of what he brings, and from anyone leaving it one ninth of

what he carries. Goods abound in their country, for ships from every

region visit them, coming to their town by the Circumambient Sea,

and very few fail to do so. Also caravans reach them by land from

the direction of Syria, from the Slavs and Rus and other peoples.


However, from the standpoint of the Byzantine East in the mid-eleventh century, with nomadic bands pressing against its frontiers in ever increasing numbers, diplomacy between Byzantium and the Muslim powers had become a charade that had no connection to political reality. This was particularly true of the niceties carried on with Toghrul Beg, who maintained the facade of good relations with Byzantium while authorizing Samukh and Yakuti to pursue their attacks on Byzantine Armenia. The true situation, only hinted at by contemporary Byzantine writers, is reported by Michael the Syrian, albeit from the vantage point of a century later. Michael notes:

By the greatness of his [Michael VI’s] neglect, the Turks became

more powerful in the empire of the Romans. The Emperor, seeing that

the Turks were coming up and arriving as far as the Black Sea while

making captives, pillaging, burning, sent, through pity for the

Christian people, horses and wagons, and after the people had loaded

their movable property, he had them pass beyond the sea. (The Turks)

pillaged the towns and the villages in all the region of the Black

Sea. As the towns and villages were empty of inhabitants, that

profited the Turks who found there a place to live. And while all

the world blamed the Emperor, we say that this did not come from him

but from on high. (68)

Even more damning testimony comes from the Armenian chronicler, Aristakes of Lastivert. Unlike Michael the Syrian, he did not write from the position of hindsight. If we may believe Aristakes, Michael VI was infatuated enough to believe that he could buy peace with the Seljuk Turks. He tells us that when the generals of Asia Minor heard of Michael’s accession and came to pay him their respects, he received them with harsh words: “March against the Persian [Turk] and spare the country from ruin. Otherwise, I will pay the salaries which are due you to the Persian, and with that same money I will preserve peace in the land.” (69)

The devastation wrought by the Turks in Byzantine Armenia led to a rapid collapse in imperial authority, which in turn gave an opportunity to aggrieved or traitorous adventurers. The story of Herve Francopoulos, who under Michael VI defected to the Turks, has already been told. He had a counterpart in the Georgian Ivane, son of Liparit Orbelian, who fled his homeland not long after Bagrat IV returned to Georgia from Constantinople (1056?). Ivane’s brother, Niania, had already departed for Ani and died there in the employ of the Byzantines. Ivane likewise offered his services to the imperial government, which appointed him governor over the city of Erez, in the Armenian province of Hachteanq. During the civil tumults that broke out in the late spring of 1057, Ivane seized the chance to build a fiefdom in the war-ravaged area around Theodosiopolis (Erzerum). While his father remained a faithful partisan of Michael VI, Ivane decided to profit from the general confusion and occupied two important strongholds: Olnout or Elants-berd (“the Fortress of the Does”) and Havatchitch, known to the Byzantines as Khabtzitzin and to Arab writers as Hafdjidj. At Havatchitch, Ivane arrested the imperial representative and forced him to surrender his treasury as well as his stable of horses and mules. Ivane next went to Theodosiopolis, where he sought entry by orders of the Emperor. The garrison of Theodosiopolis saw through this stratagem and refused to admit him. He besieged the city but withdrew when the Byzantine governor of Ani sent an army to its relief. In his frustration at being balked of this prize, he called the Turks to his aid and guided them on a bloody and profitable raid into the theme of Chaldia. The Turks did not neglect to share with Ivane some of their spoil. A short time later, Liparit Orbelian persuaded Bagrat IV to grant an amnesty to Ivane, who returned to Georgia, there to receive a fiefdom by royal decree. The disreputable role he had played in his few years as imperial functionary would be emulated by others as Byzantine power withered in the Armenian provinces. (70)

In only a decade, the pragmatic system of Constantine IX–which in its heyday used war and diplomacy interchangeably–had been reduced to a farce in the feeble hands of Michael VI. On Easter Day 1057, a delegation of the Anatolian generals, led by Isaac Commenus and Katakalon Kekaumenos, arrived at the palace and tendered the usual requests for promotions. When Michael the Aged gave them the scornful treatment he had given Herve Francopoulos, the game was up for the bureaucrat-emperor. The generals understood that only a revolution could succeed in eliminating the system in Constantinople. The revolt that followed would open a new era in Byzantine, and indeed Middle Eastern, history but in a way that no one could have suspected.


1 George Finlay, A History of Greece from Its Conquest by the Romans to the Present Time: B.C. 146 to A.D. 1864, II (New York: AMS Press, 1970), 443. Finlay’s work was originally published in 1877 in Oxford, England. See also Claude Cahen, Pre-Ottoman Turkey: A General Survey of the Material and Spiritual Culture and History, c. 1071-1330, tr. from French into English by J. John Williams (New York: Taplinger Publishing Company, 1968), 68. Outside of the chroniclers John Scylitzes and Matthew of Edessa–the first Byzantine, the second, Armenian–the chief source for the siege of Arzen is the Armenian vardapet and historian Aristakes of Lastivert, a native of the city who seems to have written his history between 1072 and 1087. He was an eyewitness to the events he describes. Nevertheless, he gives surprisingly few details, and his account of the siege, quite understandably, often degenerates into a verbose jeremiad loaded with Biblical allusions.

2 Speros Vryonis, Jr., “The Will of a Provincial Magnate, Eustathius Boilas (1059)” in Byzantium: Its Internal History and Relations with the Muslim World (London: Variorum Reprints, 1971), 276; Gustave Schlumberger, L’Epopee Byzantine a la Fin du Dixieme Siecle, III (Darmstadt: Scientia Verlag Aalen, 1969), 563, n. 2. L’Epopee Byzantine, III was originally published in 1905 by Librairie Hachette in Paris.

3. Encyclopaedia of Islam (EI), 2nd ed., s.v. “Ibn Butlan” (J. Schacht); Guy Le Strange, Palestine under the Moslems: A Description of Syria and the Holy Land from A.D. 650 to 1500 (Beirut: Khayats, 1965), 371.

4. Michael Angold, The Byzantine Empire: 1025-1204: A Political History (Longman: London and New York, 1984), 36; Michael Psellus, The Chronographia, tr. from Greek into English by E.R.A. Sewter (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1953), 126, 164-65.

5. Angold, The Byzantine Empire, 36.

6. Psellus, Book VI, 72, 140-41.

7. Ibid., Book VI, 189, 190.

8. A.P. Kazhdan and Ann Wharton Epstein. Change in Byzantine Culture in the Eleventh and Twelfth Centuries (Berkeley, Los Angeles, and London: University of California Press, 1985), 115.

9. Gyula Moravcsik, “Hungary and Byzantium in the Middle Ages,” in The Cambridge Medieval History, ed. by Joan M. Hussey (Cambridge, London, New York, and Melbourne: Cambridge University Press, 1966), IV, Part I, 576-77.

10. Bar Hebraeus (Gregory Abu’l-Faradj), Chronography, I, tr. from Syriac into English by Ernest A. Wallis Budge (London: Oxford University Press, 1932), Book X, 205; Schlumberger, L’Epopee Byzantine, III, 565-66, n. 1. The original source for this story is Ibn al-Athir.

11. Schlumberger, L’Epopee Byzantine, III, 566, n. 1, citing Ibn al-Athir, EI, 2nd. ed., s.v. “al-Mu’izz b. Badis” (M. Talbi) and “al-Mustansir” (H.A.R. Gibb and P. Kraus.).

12. Aristakes of Lastivert, Recit des Malheurs de la Nation Armenienne, French translation from the Russian text of Karen Yusbashian by Marius Canard and Haig Berberian (Brussels: Editions de Byzantion, 1973), Chapter X, 63-64, 55-57; Wolfgang Felix, Byzanz und die islamische Welt im fruheren 11. Jahrhundert (Vienna: Der Osterreichischen Akademie Der Wissenschaften, 1981), 161, n. 88; Rene Grousset, Histoire de L’Armenie Des Origines a 1071 (Paris: Payot, 1947), 592.

13. Armenia and the Crusades, Tenth to Twelfth Centuries: The Chronicle of Matthew of Edessa, tr. from Armenian into English by Ara Edmond Dostourian (Lanham, New York, and London: University Press of America, 1993), Part I, 93, 77; Grousset, Histoire de L’Armenie, 593.

14. Matthew of Edessa, Part I, 93, 78.

15. Ibid.; Grousset, Histoire de L’Armenie, 593-94.

16. Schlumberger, L’Epopee Byzantine, III, 548, n. 1.

17. Bar Hebraeus, I, 230, 205-06; Psellus, Book VI, 189, 190.

18. Bar Hebraeus, I, 230, 206.

19. Matthew of Edessa, Part I, 94, 79.

20. Rewriting Caucasian History: The Medieval Armenian Adaptation of the Georgian Chronicles, tr. from Armenian into English by Robert W. Thomson (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1966), 302-06, 294-98; Schlumberger, L’Epopee Byzantine, III, 548, n. 1 and 563, n. 2.

21. A History of the Seljuks: Ibrahim Kafesoglu’s Interpretation and the Resulting Controversy, tr. from Turkish into English by Gary Leiser (Carbondale and Edwardsville: Southern Illinois University Press, 1988), 41; Guy Le Strange, The Lands of the Eastern Caliphate: Mesopotamia, Persia, and Central Asia from the Moslem Conquest to the Time of Timur (New York: Barnes & Noble, 1966), 189. Le Strange’s book was first published in 1905.

22. The Shaddadid expedition led by the rector and stratopedarches Nicephorus and the subsequent unification of the Shaddadid realm under Abu’l-Aswar are described by the following sources: Georgian Chronicles, 302, 295; Ta’rikh al-Bab wa Sharvan, tr. from Arabic into English by Vladimir Minorsky, 5-25 in Minorsky, Studies in Caucasian History (London: Taylor’s Foreign Press, 1953), 18-19 and 59-64; John Scylitzes-George Cedrenus, Compendium of the Histories, ed. by B.G. Niebuhr, in Corpus Scriptorum Historiae Byzantinae (Bonn: Weber, 1839), II, 593-94; Cahen, Pre-Ottoman Turkey, 68; Grousset, Histoire De L’Armenie, 601; Kafesoglu, A History of the Seljuks, 41; W.Madelung,” The Minor Dynasties of Northern Iran,” in Cambridge History of Iran, ed. by Richard N. Frye (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1975), IV, 241-42; Schlumberger, L’Epopee Byzantine, III, 596-97.

23. Bar Hebraeus, I, 230, 206; Kafesoglu, A History of the Seljuks, 41.

24. Bar Hebraeus, I, 231, 207; Schlumberger, L’Epopee Byzantine, III, 613-14.

25. Muhammad Hamidullah, “Noveaux documents sur les rapports de L’Europe avec L’Orient Musulman au Moyen Age,” in Arabica: Revue D’Etudes Arabes VII (1960): 288.

26. Schlumberger, L’Epopee Byzantine, III, 566, n. 1.

27. Naser-e Khosraw’s Book of Travels (Safarnama), tr. from Persian into English by W.M. Thackston, Jr. (New York: The Persian Heritage Foundation, 1986), 13.

28. Ibid., 39.

29. Le Strange, Palestine under the Moslems, 370.

30. Naser-e Khosraw, 13.

31. EI, 2nd ed., s.v. “Ibn Butlan.”

32. Naser-e Khosraw, 21.

33. Ibid., 38.

34. EI, 2nd. ed. s.v. “Mirdas” (Th. Bianquis); Felix, Byzanz und die islamische Welt, 116.

35. EI, 2nd. ed. s.v. “Fatimids” (Marius Canard); Felix, Byzanz und die islamische Welt, 117-19.

36. Psellus, Book VI, 190, 190-91; Marius Canard, “Les sources arabes de l’histoire Byzantine aux confins des dixieme et onzieme siecles,” in Byzance et les musulmans du Proche Orient (London: Variorum Reprints, 1973), 291.

37. Canard, “Les sources arabes de l’histoire Byzantine,” 291-92; Felix, Byzanz und die islamische Welt, 119, n. 221; Hamidullah, “Noveaux documents,” 288-90; EI, 2nd ed. s.v. “Kalb” (F. Vire).

38. Michael Attaliates, History, tr. from Greek into French by Henri Gregoire in Byzantion 28 (1959): Chapter XXIX, 357-58; Scylitzes-Cedrenus, II, 607; Schlumberger, L’Epopee Byzantine, III, 612.

39. Schlumberger, L’Epopee Byzantine, III, 579-87; Speros Vryonis, Jr., The Decline of Medieval Hellenism in Asia Minor and the Process of Islamization from the Eleventh through the Fifteenth Century (Berkeley, Los Angeles, and London: University of California Press, 1971), 87.

40. Matthew of Edessa, Part I, 95, 79-80. Matthew correctly dates these events to the Armenian year 499 (1050/51).

41. Attaliates, Chapter XXII, 349-50; Scylitzes-Cedrenus, II, 607-08; Angold, The Byzantine Empire, 16; Schlumberger, L’Epopee Byzantine, III, 590-94.

42. Attaliates, Chapter XXVI, 355; Kafesoglu, A History of the Seljuks, 41.

43. Attaliates, Chapter XXVI, 355.

44. Aristakes of Lastivert, Chapter XV, 83-84, 74-75; Scylitzes-Cedrenus, II, 606; Grousset, Histoire De L’Armenie, 595-96, who erroneously makes Ibrahim Inal the destroyer of Kars. Schlumberger, L’Epopee Byzantine, III, 598.

45. Michael the Syrian (Jacobite Patriarch of Antioch), Chronicle, tr. from Syriac into French by J.B. Chabot (Brussels: Culture and Civilization, 1963), III, Book XV, 158. Chabot’s translation was originally published in 1905 by Ernest Leroux in Paris.

46. Scylitzes-Cedrenus, II, 616; Grousset, Histoire De L’Armenie, 602.

47. Cahen, Pre-Ottoman Turkey, 69; Kafesoglu, A History of the Seljuks, 42.

48. EI, 2nd, ed., s.v. “al-Mu’ayyad fi’l-Din” (I. Poonawala).

49. Angold, The Byzantine Empire, 46; Felix, Byzanz und die islamische Welt, 120, n. 224; Gustave Schlumberger, Sigillographie De L’Empire Byzantine (Paris: Ernest Leroux, 1884), 308.

50. Finlay, A History of Greece, II, 387; Hamidullah, “Noveaux documents,” 298.

51. Attaliates, Chapter XXX, 359; Angold, The Byzantine Empire, 46-47.

52. Scylitzes-Cedrenus, II, 611; Schlumberger, L’Epopee Byzantine, III, 753-55.

53. Georgian Chronicles, “Appendix,” 377-78; Schlumberger, L’Epopee Byzantine, III, 548, n. 1.

54. Bar Hebraeus, I, 231, 207; Schlumberger, L’Epopee Byzantine, III, 766, n. 1.

55. Aristakes of Lastivert, Chapter XVIII, 101, 92.

56. Ibn Khallikin, “Toghrul Beg,” in the Biographical Dictionary, tr. from Arabic into English by MacGuckin deSlane (Paris: Oriental Translation Fund of Great Britain and Ireland, 1842-71), III, 227.

57. Gaston Wiet, L’Egypt Arabe de la Conquete Arabe a la Conquete Ottomane 642-1517 de L’Ere Chretienne, IV in Histoire de la Nation Egyptienne (Paris: Societe De L’Histoire Nationale and Librairie Plon, 1937), 230; Steven Runciman, A History of the Crusades, I (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1962), 49; Schlumberger, L’Epopee Byzantine, III, 766-67, n. 1; EI, 2nd ed., s.v. “al-Mustansir.” The most precise account of the war between Byzantines and Fatimids in the territories of Laodicea and Antioch is to be found in Felix, Byzanz und die islamische Welt, 120.

58. Aristakes of Lastivert, Chapter XVII, 96, 89; Grousset, Histoire De L’Armenie, 600-01.

59. Aristakes of Lastivert, Chapter XVII, 96-97, 89-90; Grousset, Histoire De L’Armenie, 601-2.

60. Aristakes of Lastivert, Chapter XVII, 97, 90 and Chapter XVIII, 102, 93-94; Grousset, Histoire De L’Armenie, 602-03.

61. Scylitzes-Cedrenus, II, 612.

62. Michael the Syrian, III, Book XV, 160.

63. Psellus, Book VII, 2, 209-10.

64. Schlumberger, Sigillographie, 308.

65. Scylitzes-Cedrenus, II, 616-19; Grousset, Histoire De L’Armenie, 603; Schlumberger, Sigillographie, 658-59.

66. Hamidullah, “Noveaux documents,” 290.

67. Sharaf al-zaman Tahir al-Marvazi, Taba’i’ al-hayawan (“The properties of the animals”), tr. from the Arabic into English by Vladimir Minorsky in Minorsky, Medieval Iran and its Neighbors (London: Variorum Reprints, 1982), VII, 1, 457 and 12, 462-63.

68. Michael the Syrian, III, Book XV, 160.

69. Aristakes of Lastivert, Chapter XVIII, 103, 95.

70. Georgian Chronicles, 305, 298; Aristakes of Lastivert, XVIII, 106-07, 96-99; Matthew of Edessa, II, 5, 90; Grousset, Histoire De L’Armenie, 603-05; Ernst Honigmann, Die Ostgrenze Des Byzantinische Reiches Von 363 Bis 1071 (Brussels: Institute of Philology and Oriental History, 1935), 183.


Primary sources:

Aristakes of Lastivert. Recit des Malheurs de la Nation Armenienne, French translation from the Russian text of Karen Yusbashian by Marius Canard and Haig Berberian (Brussels: Editions de Byzantion, 1973).

Attaliates, Michael. History, tr. from Greek into French by Henri Gregoire in Byzantion: Revue Internationale des Etudes Byzantines 28 (1959).

Bar Hebraeus (Gregory Abu’l-Faradj). Chronography, tr. from Syriac into English by Ernest A. Wallis Budge (London: Oxford University Press, 1932).

The Georgian Chronicles. Rewriting Caucasian History: The Medieval Armenian Adaptation of the Georgian Chronicles, tr. from Armenian into English by Robert W. Thomson (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1996).

Ibn Khallikin. “Toghrul Beg,” in the Biographical Dictionary, tr. from Arabic into English by MacGuckin deSlane (Paris: Oriental Translation Fund of Great Britain and Ireland, 1842-71).

Al-Marvazi, Sharaf al-zaman Tahir. Taba’i’ al-hayawan (The properties of the animals), tr. from Arabic into English by Vladimir Minorsky in Minorsky, Medieval Iran and its Neighbors (London: Variorum Reprints, 1982).

Matthew of Edessa. Armenia and the Crusades, Tenth to Twelfth Centuries: The Chronicle of Matthew of Edessa, tr. from Armenian into English by Ara Edmond Dostourian (Lanham, Md.: University Press of America, 1993).

Michael the Syrian (Jacobite Patriarch of Antioch). Chronicle, tr. from Syriac into French by J.B. Chabot (Brussels: Culture and Civilization, 1963). Ernest Leroux in Paris originally published Chabot’s translation in 1905.

Naser-e Khosraw. Book of Travels (Safarnama), tr. from Persian into English by W.M. Thackston, Jr. (New York: The Persian Heritage Foundation, 1986).

Psellus, Michael. Chronographia, tr. from Greek into English by E.R.A. Sewter (New Haven: Yale University Press, 1953).

Scylitzes, John. The chronicle of John Scylitzes (A.D. 811-1057) is incorporated in George Cedrenus, Compendium of the Histories, ed. by B.G. Niebuhr in Corpus Scriptorum Historiae Byzantinae (CSHB) (Bonn: Weber, 1839).

Ta’rikh al-Bab wa Sharvan, tr. from Arabic into English by Vladimir Minorsky, Studies in Caucasian History (London: Taylor’s Foreign Press, 1953).

Zonaras, John. Epitome of the Histories, ed. by Theodor Buttner-Wobst, in CSHB (Bonn: Weber, 1897).

Secondary sources:

Angold, Michael. The Byzantine Empire: 1025-1204: A Political History (Longman: London and New York, 1984).

Cahen, Claude. Pre-Ottoman Turkey: A General Survey of the Material and Spiritual Culture and History, A.D. c. 1071-1330, tr. from French into English by J. Jones-Williams (New York: Taplinger Publishing Company, 1968).

Felix, Wolfgang. Byzanz und die islamische Welt im fruheren 11. Jahrhundert (Vienna: Osterreichischen Akademie Der Wissenchaften, 1981).

Finlay, George. A History of Greece from its Conquest by the Romans to the Present Time; B.C. 146 to A.D. 1864 (New York: AMS Press, 1970). Finlay’s work was originally published in 1877 in Oxford, England.

Grousset, Rene. Histoire de L’Armenie des Origines a 1071 (Paris: Payot, 1947).

Honigmann, Ernst. Die Ostgrenze Des Byzantinische Reiches Von 363 Bis 1071 (Brussels: Institute of Philology and Oriental History, 1935).

Kazhdan, A.P. and Ann Wharton Epstein. Change in Byzantine Culture in the Eleventh and Twelfth Centuries (Berkeley, Los Angeles. And London: University of California Press, 1985).

Kafesoglu, Ibrahim. A History of the Seljuks: Ibrahim Kafesoglu’s Interpretation and the Resulting Controversy, tr. from Turkish into English by Gary Leiser (Carbondale and Edwardsville: Southern Illinois University Press, 1988).

Le Strange, Guy. The Lands of the Eastern Caliphate: Mesopotamia, Persia, and Central Asia from the Moslem Conquest to the Time of Timur (New York: Barnes & Noble, 1966). This work was first published in 1905.

Le Strange, Guy. Palestine under the Moslems: A Description of Syria and the Holy Land from A.D. 650 to 1500 (Beirut: Khayats, 1965).

Minorsky, Vladimir. Studies in Caucasian History (London: Taylor’s Foreign Press, 1953).

Runciman, Steven. A History of the Crusades, I (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1962).

Schlumberger, Gustave. L’Epopee Byzantine a la Fin du Dixieme Siecle, III (Darmstadt: Scientia Verlag Aalen, 1969). Librairie Hachette in Paris originally published L’Epopee Byzantine, III in 1905.

Vryonis, Speros, Jr. The Decline of Medieval Hellenism in Asia Minor and the Process of Islamization from the Eleventh through the Fifteenth Century (Berkeley: University of California Press, 1971).

Schlumberger, Gustave. Sigillographie De L’Empire Byzantine (Paris: Ernest Leroux, 1884).

Wiet, Gaston. L’Egypt Arabe de la Conquete Arabe a la Conquete Ottomane 642-1517 de L’Ere Chretienne, IV in Histoire de la Nation Egyptienne (Paris: Societe De L’Histoire Nationale and Librairie Plon, 1937).

Book Chapters:

Canard, Marius. “Les sources arabes de l’histoire Byzantine aux confins des dixieme et onzieme siecles,” in Byzance et les musulmans du Proche Orient (London: Variorum Reprints), 1973.

Hamidullah, Muhammad. “Noveaux documents sur les rapports de L’Europe avec L’Orient Musulman au Moyen Age,” in Arabica: Revue D’Etudes Arabes VII (1960): 288.

Madelung, Wilferd. “The Minor Dynasties of Northern Iran,” in The Cambridge History of Iran, ed. by Richard N. Frye (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 1975), IV, 198-249.

Moravcsik, Gyula. “Hungary and Byzantium in the Middle Ages,” in The Cambridge Medieval History, ed. by Joan M. Hussey (Cambridge, London, New York, and Melbourne: Cambridge University Press, 1966).

Vryonis, Speros, Jr. “The Will of a Provincial Magnate, Eustathius Boilas (1059),” in Byzantium: Its Internal History and Relations with the Muslim World (London: Variorum Reprints, 1971).

Encyclopedia Entries:

Encyclopedia of Islam (EI), 2nd ed. s.v. “Ibn Butlan” (J. Schact); “al-Mu’izz b. Badis” (M. Talbi); “al-Mustansir” (H.A.R. Gibb and P.Kraus); “Mirdas” (Th. Bianquis): “Fatimids” (Marius Canard); “Kalb” (F. Vire); “al-Mu’ayyad fi’l-Din” (I. Poonawala).

Paul A. Blaum, an independent scholar specializing in medieval Middle Eastern studies, is a member of the board of The International Journal of Kurdish Studies. Author of The Days of the Warlords: A History of the Byzantine Empire, A.D. 969-991, he has contributed numerous historical monographs to the journal and to the Armenian-American quarterly Ararat.

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