Michael IV the Paphlagonian
Michael IV the Paphlagonian was Byzantine Emperor from 11 April 1034 to his death on 10 December 1041. He owed his elevation to Empress Zoe
Zoe (empress)
Zoe reigned as Byzantine Empress alongside her sister Theodora from April 19 to June 11, 1042...

, daughter of Emperor Constantine VIII and wife of Romanos III Argyros.

Early life and career

Michael came from a family of Paphlagonia
Paphlagonia was an ancient area on the Black Sea coast of north central Anatolia, situated between Bithynia to the west and Pontus to the east, and separated from Phrygia by a prolongation to the east of the Bithynian Olympus...

n peasants, one of whom, the parakoimomenos
The parakoimōmenos was a Byzantine court position, usually reserved for eunuchs. Many of its holders, especially in the 9th and 10th centuries, functioned as the Byzantine Empire's chief ministers.-History and functions:...

John the Eunuch
John the Eunuch
John the Eunuch, also known as the Orphanotrophos , was the chief court eunuch during the reign of the Byzantine Emperor Romanus III . Being unable to father children himself, he sought to found a dynasty for his family through his brother Michael, to which end he introduced him to the reigning...

 had come to preside over the woman's quarters at the imperial palace. John brought his younger brothers into the court and there the empress Zoe became enamoured of the youngest, Michael, who became her chamberlain in 1033. Prior to his court appointment, Michael was originally a money-changer, but it was believed that he was also secretly a forger of false coins.

The two soon became lovers. Zoe flaunted Michael openly, and spoke about making him emperor. Hearing the rumours, Romanos was concerned and confronted Michael, but he denied the accusations, swearing his innocence on some holy relics. Then, on April 11, 1034, Zoe’s husband, Romanos III was found dead in his bath. Rumours soon began circulating that Zoe and Michael had decided to use a slow poison to kill him. However, becoming impatient with the poison Michael had had him strangled or drowned. Adding weight to the rumours was the speed with which Zoe and Michael were married, on the very day that Romanos III died.

The next day, April 12, 1034, the couple summoned the Patriarch
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....

 Alexios I to officiate in the coronation of the new emperor. Although he initially refused to co-operate, the payment of 50 pounds of gold helped change his mind. He proceeded to crown Michael IV as the new emperor of the Romans.

Domestic policies

Michael IV was handsome, clever, and generous, but he was uneducated and suffered from epileptic
Epilepsy is a common chronic neurological disorder characterized by seizures. These seizures are transient signs and/or symptoms of abnormal, excessive or hypersynchronous neuronal activity in the brain.About 50 million people worldwide have epilepsy, and nearly two out of every three new cases...

 fits. This meant he was initially very reliant upon someone to direct the government in his name, and although Zoe believed Michael would prove to be a more devoted husband than Romanos, she was sadly mistaken. Michael IV was concerned about Zoe turning on him the way she had turned on Romanos, and so he excluded Zoe from politics altogether. Given this background and his health status, he proceeded to leave the government in the hands of his brother John, who had already become an influential minister under Constantine VIII and Romanos III. Zoe was confined to the palace gynaeceum
A Gynaeceum or Gynaeconitis in Ancient Greece was a building or was the portion of a house reserved for women, generally the innermost apartment. In other words, a women's quarters, similar to the Persian zenana...

, and kept under strict surveillance, while Michael’s visits grew more and more infrequent.
John's reforms of the army and financial system revived for a while the strength of the Empire, which held its own successfully against its foreign enemies. But the increase in taxation caused discontent among both nobles and commoners. John's monopoly of the government, and his policies, such as the introduction of the Aerikon tax, led to several failed conspiracies against him, and, by extension, Michael. There were local revolts at Antioch
Antioch on the Orontes was an ancient city on the eastern side of the Orontes River. It is near the modern city of Antakya, Turkey.Founded near the end of the 4th century BC by Seleucus I Nicator, one of Alexander the Great's generals, Antioch eventually rivaled Alexandria as the chief city of the...

, Nicopolis
Nicopolis — or Actia Nicopolis — was an ancient city of Epirus, founded 31 BC by Octavian in memory of his victory over Antony and Cleopatra at Actium the previous year. It was later the capital of Epirus Vetus...

 and Bulgaria
Bulgaria , officially the Republic of Bulgaria , is a parliamentary democracy within a unitary constitutional republic in Southeast Europe. The country borders Romania to the north, Serbia and Macedonia to the west, Greece and Turkey to the south, as well as the Black Sea to the east...

. Local discontent was exacerbated by poor harvests and famine caused by bad weather and a locust plage in 1035, and when Michael tried to exercise a measure of control over Aleppo
Aleppo is the largest city in Syria and the capital of Aleppo Governorate, the most populous Syrian governorate. With an official population of 2,301,570 , expanding to over 2.5 million in the metropolitan area, it is also one of the largest cities in the Levant...

, the local citizens drove off the imperial governor.

In 1034, Constantine Dalassenos
Constantine Dalassenos (duke of Antioch)
Constantine Dalassenos was a prominent Byzantine aristocrat and general of the first half of the 11th century. An experienced as well as popular general, he twice came close to ascending the imperial throne and marriage to the porphyrogenita empress Zoe, and suffered a long period of imprisonment...

 was arrested by Michael on suspicion of treason, accused of fomenting insurrection at Antioch. In 1037, Zoe was involved in a conspiracy to have John the Eunuch poisoned. In 1038, there was an uprising in the armies in Anatolia
Anatolia is a geographic and historical term denoting the westernmost protrusion of Asia, comprising the majority of the Republic of Turkey...

, which was suppressed by Michael’s brother, Constantine. In 1040, there was a conspiracy involving the patrician Michael Keroularios, who became a monk to save his life and was later elected as 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....

. Finally, during the Bulgarian uprising of 1040, John the Eunuch was forced to arrest suspected plotters in Anatolia and Constantinople who were hoping to take advantage of the turmoil. He was unable to capture the Strategos
Strategos, plural strategoi, is used in Greek to mean "general". In the Hellenistic and Byzantine Empires the term was also used to describe a military governor...

 of Theodosiopolis
Theodosiopolis can refer to:* Theodosiopolis , the modern Erzurum* Theodosiopolis , also known as Resaina, the modern Ra's al-'Ayn in Syria...

, who joined the rebellion and attempted to capture Thessalonica.

Foreign and military affairs

In military affairs, Michael's reign began badly. The Arabs sacked Myra
Myra is an ancient town in Lycia, where the small town of Kale is situated today in present day Antalya Province of Turkey. It was located on the river Myros , in the fertile alluvial plain between Alaca Dağ, the Massikytos range and the Aegean Sea.- Historical evidence :Although some scholars...

, the Serbs
The Serbs are a South Slavic ethnic group of the Balkans and southern Central Europe. Serbs are located mainly in Serbia, Montenegro and Bosnia and Herzegovina, and form a sizable minority in Croatia, the Republic of Macedonia and Slovenia. Likewise, Serbs are an officially recognized minority in...

 had thrown off Byzantine authority, and the Pechenegs were raiding almost at will up to the gates of Thessalonica. Yet the situation was soon stabilised; by 1035, on the eastern frontier, Arab pirates who had been raiding were either captured or killed, the Byzantines had taken the Muslim
A Muslim, also spelled Moslem, is an adherent of Islam, a monotheistic, Abrahamic religion based on the Quran, which Muslims consider the verbatim word of God as revealed to prophet Muhammad. "Muslim" is the Arabic term for "submitter" .Muslims believe that God is one and incomparable...

 fortress of Perkri, while the important fortress of Edessa
Edessa, Mesopotamia
Edessa is the Greek name of an Aramaic town in northern Mesopotamia, as refounded by Seleucus I Nicator. For the modern history of the city, see Şanlıurfa.-Names:...

 was relieved after a prolonged siege, and eventually ceded back to the empire in 1037.

On the western front, in Sicily
Sicily is a region of Italy, and is the largest island in the Mediterranean Sea. Along with the surrounding minor islands, it constitutes an autonomous region of Italy, the Regione Autonoma Siciliana Sicily has a rich and unique culture, especially with regard to the arts, music, literature,...

, Michael and John ordered the general George Maniakes to drive the Arabs out of the island. Beginning in 1038, Maniakes landed in southern Italy and soon had captured Messina. He then began defeating the scattered Arab forces and taking towns in the west and south of the island, and almost succeeded in driving the Arabs from the island. By 1040, he had stormed and taken Syracuse. Then however Maniakes fell out with his Lombard
The Lombards , also referred to as Longobards, were a Germanic tribe of Scandinavian origin, who from 568 to 774 ruled a Kingdom in Italy...

 allies, while his Norman mercenaries, unhappy with their pay, abandoned the Byzantine general and raised a revolt on the Italian mainland, resulting in the temporary loss of Bari
Bari is the capital city of the province of Bari and of the Apulia region, on the Adriatic Sea, in Italy. It is the second most important economic centre of mainland Southern Italy after Naples, and is well known as a port and university city, as well as the city of Saint Nicholas...

. Maniakes was about to strike against them when he was recalled by John the Eunuch on suspicion of conspiracy. After the recall of Maniakes most of the Sicilian conquests were lost throughout 1041, and a subsequent expedition against the Normans suffered several defeats, although Bari was recaptured.

In the north, Pecheneg pressure had initially forced the Serbs to seek the protection of the Byzantine Empire and acknowledge Byzantine authority. In 1040 however, the Serbs again revolted as did the Bulgarians
The Bulgarians are a South Slavic nation and ethnic group native to Bulgaria and neighbouring regions. Emigration has resulted in immigrant communities in a number of other countries.-History and ethnogenesis:...

 in western Bulgaria and Macedonia
Macedonia (region)
Macedonia is a geographical and historical region of the Balkan peninsula in southeastern Europe. Its boundaries have changed considerably over time, but nowadays the region is considered to include parts of five Balkan countries: Greece, the Republic of Macedonia, Bulgaria, Albania, Serbia, as...

 in the same year. This revolt was partly caused by the heavy taxation in coin (and not, as before, in kind) imposed on Bulgaria at the time, but it also aimed at the restoration of the Bulgarian state under the leadership of Peter Delyan
Peter Delyan
Peter Delyan was the leader of the local Bulgarian uprising against the Byzantine rule, started in the Theme of Bulgaria during summer of 1040. He was proclaimed Tsar of Bulgaria, as Samuel`s grandson in Belgrade...

. The rebels seized Belgrade
Belgrade is the capital and largest city of Serbia. It is located at the confluence of the Sava and Danube rivers, where the Pannonian Plain meets the Balkans. According to official results of Census 2011, the city has a population of 1,639,121. It is one of the 15 largest cities in Europe...

 and proclaimed Peter "Emperor of Bulgaria". The rebels quickly took Skopje
Skopje is the capital and largest city of the Republic of Macedonia with about a third of the total population. It is the country's political, cultural, economic, and academic centre...

. Michael IV made things worse by removing from command the doux
Dux is Latin for leader and later for Duke and its variant forms ....

of Dyrrhachium, who had been marching against Peter Delyan, accusing him of a conspiracy. His troops, largely Bulgarian, joined the revolt, and Michael IV was chased out of the vicinity of Thessalonica. By now Dyrrhachium was lost and Peter had not only defeated the strategos
Strategos, plural strategoi, is used in Greek to mean "general". In the Hellenistic and Byzantine Empires the term was also used to describe a military governor...

of Hellas
Hellas (theme)
The Theme of Hellas was a Byzantine military-civilian province located in southern Greece. The theme encompassed parts of Central Greece, Thessaly and, until circa 800, the Peloponnese...

, but most of the theme of Nicopolis
Nicopolis (theme)
The Theme of Nicopolis or Nikopolis was the name of a Byzantine theme located in western Greece, encompassing Aetolia-Acarnania and southern Epirus...

 had risen up against Michael, disgusted with the greed of John the Eunuch. Michael, however, returned with an army of 40,000 men in 1041, assisted by Norse mercenaries including the future King Harald III of Norway. Gathering his forces at Mosynopolis
Mosynopolis , known in late Antiquity as Maximianoupolis, was a Byzantine town in Thrace located on the Via Egnatia near the modern Greek city of Komotini. The town was destroyed by the Bulgarian tsar Kaloyan in 1207 after his victory over the Latin Empire in the battle of Mosynopolis...

, the emperor waited for the Bulgarian army; the military success of the Byzantines was aided by internal dissension among the Bulgarians and eventually their leaders were defeated and captured. Michael IV returned to Constantinople in triumph, but by now it was obvious that he was dying.

Final illness and death

As early as 1038, Michael's epilepsy had been growing steadily worse, and he developed a severe case of dropsy. He sought heavenly aid by visiting the shrine of Saint Demetrius at Thessalonica and by building or rebuilding churches. In 1039, he gave monetary gifts to every monk and priest in the empire, and also to any parents who made him a godfather to their children, but to no avail. John the Eunuch, eager to ensure that power remained in his hands, forced Zoe to adopt Michael V, the son of Michael IV's sister. After taking Holy Orders, on 10 December 1041 Michael IV died, refusing to the last to see his wife, who begged that she be allowed to see him one more time before he died.

Secondary Sources

The source of this article is wikipedia, the free encyclopedia.  The text of this article is licensed under the GFDL.