Constantine IX Monomachos
Constantine IX Monomachos, Latinized as Constantine IX Monomachus , c. 1000 – January 11, 1055, reigned as Byzantine emperor from June 11, 1042 to January 11, 1055. He had been chosen by the Empress Zoe
Zoe (empress)
Zoe reigned as Byzantine Empress alongside her sister Theodora from April 19 to June 11, 1042...

 as a husband and co-emperor in 1042, although he had been exiled for conspiring against her previous husband, Emperor Michael IV the Paphlagonian. They ruled together until Zoe died in 1050.

Early life

Constantine Monomachos was the son of Theodosios Monomachos, an important bureaucrat under Basil II and Constantine VIII. At some point Theodosios had been suspected of conspiracy and his son's career suffered accordingly. Constantine's position improved after he married, as his second wife, a niece of Emperor Romanos III Argyros
Romanos III
Romanos III Argyros was Byzantine emperor from 15 November 1028 until his death.-Biography:...

. Catching the eye of the Empress Zoe, Constantine was exiled to Mytilene
Mytilene is a town and a former municipality on the island of Lesbos, North Aegean, Greece. Since the 2011 local government reform it is part of the municipality Lesbos, of which it is a municipal unit. It is the capital of the island of Lesbos. Mytilene, whose name is pre-Greek, is built on the...

 on the island of Lesbos by her second husband, Michael IV. The death of Michael IV and the overthrow of Michael V in 1042 , saw Constantine recalled from his place of exile and appointed judge in Greece. However, prior to commencing his appointment, Constantine was summoned to Constantinople
Constantinople was the capital of the Roman, Eastern Roman, Byzantine, Latin, and Ottoman Empires. Throughout most of the Middle Ages, Constantinople was Europe's largest and wealthiest city.-Names:...

. There, the fragile working relationship between Michael V’s successors, the empresses Zoe and Theodora
Theodora (11th century)
Theodora was a Byzantine Empress. Born into the Macedonian dynasty that had ruled the Byzantine Empire for almost two hundred years, she was co-empress with her sister Zoe for two months in 1042 and sole empress from 11 January 1055 to after 31 August 1056...

, was breaking down. After two months of increasing acrimony between the two, Zoe decided to search for a new husband, thereby hoping to prevent her sister from increasing her popularity and authority. After her first preference displayed his contempt for the empress, and her second died under mysterious circumstances, Zoe’s remembered the handsome and urbane Constantine. The pair were married on June 11, 1042, without the participation of Patriarch
Originally a patriarch was a man who exercised autocratic authority as a pater familias over an extended family. The system of such rule of families by senior males is called patriarchy. This is a Greek word, a compound of πατριά , "lineage, descent", esp...

 Alexius I of Constantinople, who refused to officiate over a third marriage (for both spouses). On the following day Constantine was formally proclaimed emperor together with Zoe and her sister Theodora.


Constantine continued the purge instituted by Zoe and Theodora, removing the relatives of Michael V from the court. The new emperor was pleasure-loving and prone to violent outbursts on suspicion of conspiracy. He was heavily influenced by his mistress, Maria Skleraina, a niece of his second wife, and Maria's relatives. In August 1042, under the influence of the Skleroi the emperor relieved General George Maniakes from his command in Italy
Italy , officially the Italian Republic languages]] under the European Charter for Regional or Minority Languages. In each of these, Italy's official name is as follows:;;;;;;;;), is a unitary parliamentary republic in South-Central Europe. To the north it borders France, Switzerland, Austria and...

, and Maniakes rebelled, declaring himself emperor in September. He transferred his troops into the Balkans
The Balkans is a geopolitical and cultural region of southeastern Europe...

 and was about to defeat Constantine's army in battle, when he was wounded and died on the field, ending the crisis in 1043.

Immediately after the victory, Constantine was attacked by a fleet
Rus'-Byzantine War (1043)
The final Rus'–Byzantine War was, in essence, an ,unsuccessful naval raid against Constantinople instigated by Yaroslav I of Kiev and led by his eldest son, Vladimir of Novgorod, in 1043.The reasons for the war are disputed, as is its course...

 from Kievan Rus'
Kievan Rus'
Kievan Rus was a medieval polity in Eastern Europe, from the late 9th to the mid 13th century, when it disintegrated under the pressure of the Mongol invasion of 1237–1240....

; it is "incontrovertible that a Rus' detachment took part in the Maniakes rebellion". They too were defeated, with the help of Greek fire
Greek fire
Greek fire was an incendiary weapon used by the Byzantine Empire. The Byzantines typically used it in naval battles to great effect as it could continue burning while floating on water....

. Constantine married his daughter Anastasia to the future Prince Vsevolod I of Kiev, the favorite son of his dangerous opponent Yaroslav I the Wise by Ingegerd Olofsdotter.

Constantine IX’s preferential treatment of Maria Skleraina in the early part of his reign saw rumours spread that she was planning to murder both Zoe and Theodora. This led to a popular uprising by the citizens of Constantinople in 1044, which came dangerously close to actually harming Constantine who was participating in a religious procession along the streets of Constantinople. The mob was only quietened by the appearance of Zoe and Theodora at a balcony, who reassured the people that they were not in any danger of assassination.

In 1045 Constantine annexed the Armenia
Armenia , officially the Republic of Armenia , is a landlocked mountainous country in the Caucasus region of Eurasia...

n kingdom of Ani, but this expansion merely exposed the empire to new enemies. In 1046 the Byzantines came into contact for the first time with the Seljuk Turks. They met in battle in Armenia
Armenia , officially the Republic of Armenia , is a landlocked mountainous country in the Caucasus region of Eurasia...

 in 1048, and settled a truce the following year. However, Constantine foolishly disbanded the Armenian troops to save money in 1053, leaving the eastern frontier poorly defended at precisely the moment when its defences should have been strengthened. Even if Seljuk rulers were willing to abide by the treaty, their unruly Turcoman allies showed much less restraint. Thus Constantine weakened the Byzantine forces, which in turn led to their cataclysmic defeat at the battle of Manzikert
Battle of Manzikert
The Battle of Manzikert , was fought between the Byzantine Empire and Seljuq Turks led by Alp Arslan on August 26, 1071 near Manzikert...

 in 1071.
In 1047 Constantine was faced by the rebellion of his nephew Leo Tornikios
Leo Tornikios
Leo Tornikios was a mid-11th century Byzantine general and noble, who in 1047 rebelled against the Byzantine emperor Constantine IX Monomachos ....

 in Adrianople. Tornikios gained support in most of Thrace
Thrace is a historical and geographic area in southeast Europe. As a geographical concept, Thrace designates a region bounded by the Balkan Mountains on the north, Rhodope Mountains and the Aegean Sea on the south, and by the Black Sea and the Sea of Marmara on the east...

 and vainly attempted to take Constantinople. Forced to retreat, Tornikios failed in another siege, and was captured during his flight. The revolt had weakened Byzantine defenses in the Balkans and in 1048 the area was raided by the Pechenegs, who continued to plunder it for the next five years. The emperor's efforts to contain the enemy through diplomacy merely exacerbated the situation, as rival Pecheneg leaders clashed on Byzantine ground, and Pecheneg settlers were allowed to live in compact settlement in the Balkans, making it difficult to suppress their rebellion. Faced with such difficulties, Constantine may have sought Hungarian
Kingdom of Hungary
The Kingdom of Hungary comprised present-day Hungary, Slovakia and Croatia , Transylvania , Carpatho Ruthenia , Vojvodina , Burgenland , and other smaller territories surrounding present-day Hungary's borders...


Internally, Constantine sought to secure his position by favoring the nobility (dynatoi) and granted generous tax immunities to major landowners and the church. Similarly, he seems to have taken recourse to the pronoia
Pronoia refers to a system of land grants in the Byzantine Empire.-The Early Pronoia System:...

system, a sort of Byzantine feudal contract in which tracts of land (or the tax revenue from it) were granted to particular individuals in exchange for contributing and maintaining military forces. Both expedients gradually compromised the effectiveness of the state and contributed to the development of the crisis that engulfed Byzantium in the second half of the 11th century.

In 1054 the centuries-old differences between the Greek
Eastern Orthodox Church
The Orthodox Church, officially called the Orthodox Catholic Church and commonly referred to as the Eastern Orthodox Church, is the second largest Christian denomination in the world, with an estimated 300 million adherents mainly in the countries of Belarus, Bulgaria, Cyprus, Georgia, Greece,...

 and Roman
Roman Catholic Church
The Catholic Church, also known as the Roman Catholic Church, is the world's largest Christian church, with over a billion members. Led by the Pope, it defines its mission as spreading the gospel of Jesus Christ, administering the sacraments and exercising charity...

 churches led to their final separation
East–West Schism
The East–West Schism of 1054, sometimes known as the Great Schism, formally divided the State church of the Roman Empire into Eastern and Western branches, which later became known as the Eastern Orthodox Church and the Roman Catholic Church, respectively...

. Legates
Papal legate
A papal legate – from the Latin, authentic Roman title Legatus – is a personal representative of the pope to foreign nations, or to some part of the Catholic Church. He is empowered on matters of Catholic Faith and for the settlement of ecclesiastical matters....

 from Pope Leo IX excommunicated
Excommunication is a religious censure used to deprive, suspend or limit membership in a religious community. The word means putting [someone] out of communion. In some religions, excommunication includes spiritual condemnation of the member or group...

 the Patriarch of Constantinople
Patriarch of Constantinople
The Ecumenical Patriarch is the Archbishop of Constantinople – New Rome – ranking as primus inter pares in the Eastern Orthodox communion, which is seen by followers as the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church....

 Michael Keroularios when Keroularios would not agree to adopt western church practises, and in return Keroularios excommunicated the legates. This sabotaged Constantine's attempts to ally with the Pope against the Normans
The Normans were the people who gave their name to Normandy, a region in northern France. They were descended from Norse Viking conquerors of the territory and the native population of Frankish and Gallo-Roman stock...

, who had taken advantage of Maniakes' disappearance to take over Southern Italy.

Constantine tried to intervene, but he fell ill and died on January 11 of the following year. Although he was persuaded by his councillors, chiefly the logothetes tou dromou
Logothetes tou dromou
The logothetēs tou dromou , in English usually rendered as Logothete of the Course/Drome/Dromos or Postal Logothete, was the head of the department of the Dromos, the Public Post , and one of the most senior ministers of the Byzantine Empire.- History and functions :The exact origin and date of...

John, to ignore the rights of Theodora
Theodora (11th century)
Theodora was a Byzantine Empress. Born into the Macedonian dynasty that had ruled the Byzantine Empire for almost two hundred years, she was co-empress with her sister Zoe for two months in 1042 and sole empress from 11 January 1055 to after 31 August 1056...

 and to pass the throne to the doux
Dux is Latin for leader and later for Duke and its variant forms ....

of Bulgaria, Nikephoros Proteuon, the elderly daughter of Constantine VIII who had ruled with her sister Zoe since 1042, was recalled from her retirement and named empress.

Overall, his reign was a disaster for the Byzantine empire; in particular, the military weakness for which he was largely responsible greatly contributed to the subsequent loss of Asia Minor to the Turks, and the ultimate fall of Constantinople to the Muslim Ottomans in 1453.

Architecture and Art

Constantine IX was also a patron of the arts and literature, and during his reign the university in Constantinople expanded its juridical and philosophical programs. The literary circle at court included the philosopher and historian Michael Psellos, whose Chronographia records the history of Constantine's reign. Psellos left a physical description of Constantine in his Chronographia: he was "ruddy as the sun, but all his breast, and down to his feet... [were] colored 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 surely 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."

Immediately upon ascending to the throne in 1042, Constantine IX set about restoring the Church of the Holy Sepulchre
Church of the Holy Sepulchre
The Church of the Holy Sepulchre, also called the Church of the Resurrection by Eastern Christians, is a church within the walled Old City of Jerusalem. It is a few steps away from the Muristan....

 in Jerusalem, which had been substantially destroyed in 1009 by Caliph
The Caliph is the head of state in a Caliphate, and the title for the ruler of the Islamic Ummah, an Islamic community ruled by the Shari'ah. It is a transcribed version of the Arabic word   which means "successor" or "representative"...

 al-Hakim bi-Amr Allah
Al-Hakim bi-Amr Allah
Abu ‘Ali Mansur Tāriqu l-Ḥākim, called Al-Hakim bi Amr al-Lāh , was the sixth Fatimid caliph and 16th Ismaili imam .- History :...

. Permitted by a treaty with al-Hakim's son Ali az-Zahir
Ali az-Zahir
ʻAlī az-Zāhir was the Seventh Caliph of the Fātimids . Az-Zāhir assumed the Caliphate after the disappearance of his father Tāriqu l-Ḥakīm bi Amr al-Lāh...

 and Byzantine Emperor Romanus III, it was Constantine IX who finally funded the reconstruction of the Church and other Christian establishments in the Holy Land. The reconstruction took place during the reign of the Caliph Ma'ad al-Mustansir Billah.


Constantine Monomachos was married three times:
  1. to a wife of unknown identity.
  2. to Helena Skleraina, daughter of Basil Skleros, great-granddaughter of Bardas Skleros
    Bardas Skleros
    Bardas Skleros or Sclerus was a Byzantine general who led a wide-scale Asian rebellion against Emperor Basil II in 976–979.-Background:...

    , and niece of Emperor Romanus III.
  3. to the Empress Zoe

After the death of his second wife, Constantine also took her first cousin Maria Skleraina as his mistress. At the time of Constantine's death in January 1055, the emperor had another mistress, a certain "Alan
Alania may refer to:*Alania, the medieval state of the Alans or Alani people in the North Caucasus*The short name of the modern North Ossetia-Alania, one of the Caucasian republics in the Russian Federation...

 princess", probably Irene, daughter of the Georgian
Georgia (country)
Georgia is a sovereign state in the Caucasus region of Eurasia. Located at the crossroads of Western Asia and Eastern Europe, it is bounded to the west by the Black Sea, to the north by Russia, to the southwest by Turkey, to the south by Armenia, and to the southeast by Azerbaijan. The capital of...

Bagrationi Dynasty
The Bagrationi dynasty was the ruling family of Georgia. Their ascendency lasted from the early Middle Ages until the early 19th century. In modern usage, this royal line is frequently referred to as the Georgian Bagratids, a Hellenized form of their dynastic name.The origin of the Bagrationi...

 prince Demetrius
Demetrius of Anacopia
Demetrius was a Georgian prince of the Bagrationi royal dynasty, and a claimant to the throne of Georgia. He was the younger son of George I of Georgia by his second wife Alda, daughter of the king of Alania....


He had no children with his first wife or with the ageing Zoe. With either Helena or Maria Sklerina he had a daughter named Anastasia, who married Vsevolod I of Kiev in 1046. Constantine's family name Monomachos ("one who fights alone") was inherited by his Kievan grandson, Vladimir II Monomakh.

Primary Sources

  • Michael Psellus, Fourteen Byzantine Rulers, trans. E.R.A. Sewter (Penguin, 1966). ISBN 014 0441697

Secondary Sources

  • Michael Angold, The Byzantine empire 1025–1204 (Longman, 2nd edition, 1997). ISBN 0582 29468 1
  • Jonathan Harris, Constantinople: Capital of Byzantium (Hambledon/Continuum, 2007). ISBN 978 1847251794
  • George Finlay, History of the Byzantine Empire from 716 – 1057, William Blackwood & Sons, 1853
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