De Administrando Imperio
De Administrando Imperio ("On the Governance of the Empire") is the Latin
Latin is an Italic language originally spoken in Latium and Ancient Rome. It, along with most European languages, is a descendant of the ancient Proto-Indo-European language. Although it is considered a dead language, a number of scholars and members of the Christian clergy speak it fluently, and...

 title of a Greek work written by the 10th-century Eastern Roman Emperor Constantine VII
Constantine VII
Constantine VII Porphyrogennetos or Porphyrogenitus, "the Purple-born" was the fourth Emperor of the Macedonian dynasty of the Byzantine Empire, reigning from 913 to 959...

. The Greek title of the work is ("For his own son Romanos"). It is a domestic and foreign policy manual for the use of Constantine's son and successor, the Emperor Romanos II
Romanos II
Romanos  II was a Byzantine emperor. He succeeded his father Constantine VII in 959 at the age of twenty-one, and died suddenly in 963.-Life:...


Author and background

Constantine was a scholar-emperor, who sought to foster learning and education in the Eastern Roman Empire
Byzantine Empire
The Byzantine Empire was the Eastern Roman Empire during the periods of Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages, centred on the capital of Constantinople. Known simply as the Roman Empire or Romania to its inhabitants and neighbours, the Empire was the direct continuation of the Ancient Roman State...

. He produced many other works, including De Ceremoniis
De Ceremoniis
De Ceremoniis is the Latin title of a description of ceremonial protocol at the court of the Eastern Roman emperor in Constantinople. It is sometimes called De ceremoniis aulae byzantinae...

, a treatise on the etiquette and procedures of the imperial court, and a biography of his grandfather, Basil I
Basil I
Basil I, called the Macedonian was a Byzantine emperor of probable Armenian descent who reigned from 867 to 886. Born a simple peasant in the Byzantine theme of Macedonia, he rose in the imperial court, and usurped the imperial throne from Emperor Michael III...

. De Administrando Imperio was written between 948 and 952. It contains advice on running the ethnically-mixed empire as well as fighting foreign enemies. The work combines two of Constantine's earlier treatises, "On the Governance of the State and the various Nations" , concerning the histories and characters of the nations neighbouring the Empire, including the Turks, Pechenegs, 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....

, Arabs, Lombards
The Lombards , also referred to as Longobards, were a Germanic tribe of Scandinavian origin, who from 568 to 774 ruled a Kingdom in Italy...

, Armenians
Armenian people or Armenians are a nation and ethnic group native to the Armenian Highland.The largest concentration is in Armenia having a nearly-homogeneous population with 97.9% or 3,145,354 being ethnic Armenian....

, and Georgians
The Georgians are an ethnic group that have originated in Georgia, where they constitute a majority of the population. Large Georgian communities are also present throughout Russia, European Union, United States, and South America....

; and the "On the Themes of East and West" , concerning recent events in the imperial provinces. To this combination were added Constantine's own political instructions to his son Romanus.


The book content, according to its preface, is divided into four sections: i) a key to the foreign policy in the most dangerous and complicated area of the contemporary political scene, the area of northerners and Scythians, ii) a lesson in the diplomacy to be pursued in dealing with the nations of the same area, iii) a comprehensive geographic and historical survey of most of the surrounding nations and iv) a summary of the recent internal history, politics and organization of the Empire. As to the historical and geographic information, which is often confusing and filled with legends, this information is in essence reliable.

The historical and antiquarian treatise, which the Emperor had compiled during the 940's, is contained in the chapters 12-40. This treatise contains traditional and legendary stories of how the territories surrounding the Empire came in the past to be occupied by the people living in them in the Emperor's times (Saracens, Lombards
The Lombards , also referred to as Longobards, were a Germanic tribe of Scandinavian origin, who from 568 to 774 ruled a Kingdom in Italy...

, Veneti
Adriatic Veneti
The Veneti were an ancient people who inhabited north-eastern Italy, in an area corresponding to the modern-day region of the Veneto....

ans, Slavs, Magyars, Pechenegs). Chapters 1-8, 10-12 explain imperial policy toward the Pechenegs and Turks. Chapter 13 is a general directive on foreign policy coming from the Emperor. Chapters 43-46 are about contemporary policy in the north-east (Armenia
Armenia , officially the Republic of Armenia , is a landlocked mountainous country in the Caucasus region of Eurasia...

 and Georgia
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...

). The guides to the incorporation and taxation of new imperial provinces, and to some parts of civil and naval administration, are in chapters 49-52. These later chapters (and chapter 53) were designed to give practical instructions to the emperor Romanus II, and are probably added during the year 951-952, in order to mark Romanus' fourteen birthday (952).

Manuscripts and editions

The earliest surviving copy, (P=codex Parisinus gr. 2009) was made by John Doukas
John Doukas, Caesar
John Doukas was the son of Andronikos Doukas, a Paphlagonian nobleman who may have served as governor of the theme of Moesia and younger brother of Emperor Constantine X Doukas...

' confidential secretary, Michael, in the late 11th century. This manuscript was copied in 1509 by Antony Eparchus; this copy known as
=codex Vaticanus-Palatinus gr. 126, has a number of notes in Greek and Latin, added by late readers. A third complete copy, known as F=codex Parisinus gr.2967, is itself a copy of V, which was begun by Eparchus and completed by Michael Damascene; V is undated. There is a fourth, but incomplete, manuscript known as M=codex Mutinensis gr. 179, which is a copy of P made by Andrea Darmari between 1560 and 1586. Two of the manuscripts (P and F) are now located in Bibliothèque Nationale in Paris
Paris is the capital and largest city in France, situated on the river Seine, in northern France, at the heart of the Île-de-France region...

, and the third (V) is in the Vatican Library
Vatican Library
The Vatican Library is the library of the Holy See, currently located in Vatican City. It is one of the oldest libraries in the world and contains one of the most significant collections of historical texts. Formally established in 1475, though in fact much older, it has 75,000 codices from...

. The partial manuscript (M) is in Modena
Modena is a city and comune on the south side of the Po Valley, in the Province of Modena in the Emilia-Romagna region of Italy....


The Greek text is its entirety was published seven times. The editio princeps
Editio princeps
In classical scholarship, editio princeps is a term of art. It means, roughly, the first printed edition of a work that previously had existed only in manuscripts, which could be circulated only after being copied by hand....

, which was based on V, was published in 1611 by Johannes Meursius
Johannes Meursius
Johannes Meursius , was a Dutch classical scholar and antiquary.-Biography:...

, who gave it the Latin title by which it is now universally known, and which translates as On Administering the Empire. This edition was published six years later with no changes. The next edition belongs to A. Bandur (1711) which is collated copy of the first edition and manuscript P. Bandur's edition was reprinted twice: in 1729 in the Venetian collection of the Byzantine Historians and in 1864 Migne republished Bandur's text with a few corrections.

Constantine himself had not given the work a name, preferring instead to start the text with the standard formal salutation: "Constantine, in Christ the Eternal Sovereign, Emperor of the Romans, to [his] own son Romanos the Emperor crowned of God and born in the purple
Born in the purple
Traditionally, born in the purple was a term used to describe members of royal families although the term was later expanded to include all children born of prominent or high ranking parents. The parents must be prominent at the time of the child's birth so that the child is always in the spotlight...



The language Constantine uses is rather straightforward High Medieval Greek
Medieval Greek
Medieval Greek, also known as Byzantine Greek, is the stage of the Greek language between the beginning of the Middle Ages around 600 and the Ottoman conquest of the city of Constantinople in 1453. The latter date marked the end of the Middle Ages in Southeast Europe...

, somewhat more elaborate than that of the Canonic Gospel
A gospel is an account, often written, that describes the life of Jesus of Nazareth. In a more general sense the term "gospel" may refer to the good news message of the New Testament. It is primarily used in reference to the four canonical gospels of Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John...

s, and easily comprehensible to an educated modern Greek. The only difficulty is the regular use of technical terms which, being in standard use at the time, may present prima facie hardships to a modern reader: for example, Constantine writes of the regular practice of sending basilikoí (lit. "royals") to distant lands for negotiations - in this case it is merely meant that "royal men", i.e. imperial envoys, were sent as ambassador
An ambassador is the highest ranking diplomat who represents a nation and is usually accredited to a foreign sovereign or government, or to an international organization....

s on a specific mission. In the preamble, the emperor makes a point that he has avoided convoluted expressions and "lofty Atticism
Atticism was a rhetorical movement that began in the first quarter of the 1st century BC; it may also refer to the wordings and phrasings typical of this movement, in contrast with spoken Greek, which continued to evolve in directions guided by the common usages of Hellenistic Greek.Atticism was...

" on purpose, so as to make everything "plain as the beaten track of common, everyday speech" for his son and those high officials with whom he might later choose to share the work. It is probably the extant written text that comes closest to the vernacular employed by the Imperial Palace bureaucracy in 10th century Constantinople.

Modern editions

In 1892 R. Vari planned a new critical edition of this work and J.B. Bury later proposed to include this work in his collection of Byzantine Texts. He gave up the plan for an edition, surrendering it to Gyula Moravcsik in 1925. The first modern edition of the Greek text (by Gy. Moravscik) and its English translation (by R. J. H. Jenkins) appeared in Budapest in 1949. The next editions appeared in 1962 (Athlone, London) then in 1967 and 1993 (Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection, Washington D.C.).


  • De Administrando Imperio by Constantine Porphyrogenitus
    Constantine VII
    Constantine VII Porphyrogennetos or Porphyrogenitus, "the Purple-born" was the fourth Emperor of the Macedonian dynasty of the Byzantine Empire, reigning from 913 to 959...

    , edited by Gy. Moravcsik and translated by R. J. H. Jenkins, Dumbarton Oaks Center for Byzantine Studies, Washington D. C., 1993

External links

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