The Armenians in the Byzantine Empire

by Peter Charanis


[12] In his account of the revolt of Thomas the Slavonian (820--823) against the Emperor Michael II (820--829), the Byzantine historian Genesius lists a variety of peoples from whom the armies of the rebel had been drawn: Saracens, Indians, Egyptians, Assyrians, Medes, Abasgians, Zichs, Vandals, Getae, Alans, Chaldoi, Armenians, adherents of the heretical sects of the Paulicians and the Athinganoi (1). Some of these peoples are well known; the identity of others, despite efforts made to determine it, is by no means certain (2). But in any case, their listing by the Byzantine historian illustrates vividly the multiracial character of the Byzantine empire. This was in the ninth century, but the situation was not different for the period before and it would not be different for the period after. The Byzantine empire was never in its long history, a true national state with an ethnically homogeneous population.

Among the various ethnic groups in the Byzantine empire, the Armenians constituted one of the strongest. At the end of the sixth century the Byzantine empire controlled the major part of Armenia. The events of the seventh century, the rise of the Arabs in particular, deprived it of this control, but it still retained some Armenian-speaking lands. The expansion of the empire which began late in the ninth century greatly increased the extent of these lands. By the middle of the eleventh century, all Armenia was in Byzantine hands, though shortly afterwards it was permanently lost to the Seljuk Turks.

The great source of the Armenian element in the Byzantine empire consisted, of course, of the Armenian-speaking lands under its control. Thus in the eighth century, when all Armenia was in Arab hands, the [13] native Armenian population under the control of the empire was not very large; whereas, in the eleventh century when virtually all Armenia was annexed to the empire it was very considerable. But the Armenian element in the Byzantine empire was not restricted to the Armenian lands proper. It found its way into other regions of the empire.

Many Armenians came into the Byzantine empire even when Armenia was under foreign control. They came sometimes as adventurers, but more often as refugees. Thus in 571, following an unsuccessful revolt against the Persians, numerous Armenian noblemen, headed by Vardan Mamikonian and accompanied by the Armenian Catholicus and some bishops, fled to Constantinople (3). Vardan and his retinue entered the Byzantine army; the rest seem to have settled in Pergamon where an Armenian colony is known to have existed in the seventh century. It was from this colony that Bardanes came who, as Phillipicus, occupied the imperial throne from 711 to 713 (4).

The religious ferment in Armenia which in the seventh century gave rise to the Paulician sect had the effect of bringing more Armenians into the Byzantine empire. Armenian Paulicians, driven from their homes sometime before 662, settled in the empire, especially in the region of the junction of the Iris and the Lycus rivers in the territories of the Pontus. Their settlements extended almost as far as Nicopolis (Enderes) and Neocaesarea (Niksar) (5). These were regions where the Armenian element was already considerable. Comana, for instance, is referred to by Strabo as the market of the Armenians (6).

The discontent caused by the Arab conquest of Armenia forced other Armenians to seek refuge in the territories of the empire. Thus, about 700 a number of nakharars [lords] with their retinue fled to the Byzantine empire and were settled by the Emperor on the Pontic frontier. Some of these later returned to Armenia, but others remained (7). More nakharars, completely abandoning their possessions in Armenia, fled to the Byzantine empire during the reign of Constantine V Copronymus (8). [14] Still more came about 790. It is said they numbered 12,000 and they came with their wives, their children, their retinue and their cavalry. They were welcomed by the Emperor and were granted fertile lands upon which to settle (9). We are not told the location of the lands given to them. As their title implies these refugees belonged to the Armenian nobility, who were sometimes criticised for fleeing the country and thus abandoning the poor to the mercy of the Arabs (10). Mass migrations such as took place in the course of the seventh and eighth centuries seem to have subsided in the ninth, but individual Armenians continued to come into the Byzantine empire to seek their fortunes.

The Armenians, however, did not always come willingly. They were sometimes forcibly removed from their homes and settled in other regions of the empire. Justinian had already resorted to this practice, but the numbers involved were small, perhaps a few families (11). Transplantations on a large scale took place during the reigns of Tiberius and Maurice. In 578, 10,000 Armenians were removed from their homes and settled in the island of Cyprus. "Thus", says Evagrius, "land, which had been previously untilled, was everywhere restored to cultivation. Numerous armies also were raised from among them that fought resolutely and courageously against the other nations. At the same time every household was completely furnished with domestics, on account of the easy rate at which slaves were procured" (12).

A transplantation on a vaster plan was conceived by Maurice and it was partially carried out. Maurice, who may have been of Armenian descent, though this is extremely doubtful (13), found the Armenians extremely troublesome in their own homeland. The plan which he conceived called for the cooperation of the Persian king in the removal from their homes of all Armenian chieftains and their followers. According to Sebeos, Maurice addressed the Persian king as follows: The Armenians are "a knavish and indocile nation. They are found between us and are a source of trouble. I am going to gather 'mine and send them to Thrace; [15] send yours to the East. If they die there, it will be so many enemies that will die; if, on the contrary, they kill, it will be so many enemies that they will kill. As for us, we shall live in peace. But if they remain in their country, there will never be any quiet for us". Sebeos further reports that the two rulers agreed to carry out this plan, but apparently the Persians failed to cooperate, for when the Byzantine emperor gave the necessary orders and pressed hard for their execution, many Armenians fled to Persia (14). The Byzantines, however, did carry out the deportation, though only in part. In ordering this removal, Maurice's real motive was, no doubt, the fact that he needed the Armenians as soldiers in Thrace.

Further deportations and settlement of Armenians in the Byzantine empire, especially in Thrace, are attested for the eighth century. During the reign of Constantine V Copronymus, thousands of Armenians and monophysitic Syrians were gathered by the Byzantine armies during their raids in the regions of Germanicea (Marash), Melitene and Erzeroum and were settled in Thrace (15). Others, also from the environs of Erzeroum, were settled along the eastern frontiers. These, however, were subsequently seized by the Arabs and were settled by them in Syria (16). During the reign of Leo IV, a Byzantine raiding expedition into Cilicia and Syria resulted in the seizure of thousands of natives, 150,000 according to one authority, who were settled in Thrace (17). These, however, were chiefly Syrian Jacobites, though some Armenians may have also been included. Many of the Armenians settled in Thrace were seized by the Bulgar Krum (803--814) and carried away, but most of them eventually returned. According to tradition, the parents of the future Emperor Basil I and Basil himself were included among these prisoners, but there is reason to doubt the historical accuracy of this tradition (18).

The diverse ethnic groups established in Thrace were reinforced by later arrivals. In the tenth century, during the reign of John Tzimiskes, a considerable number of Paulicians were removed from the frontier regions of the east and were settled in Thrace, more exactly in the country [16] around Phillippopolis (19). These Paulicians were most probably predominantly Armenians. A little later, perhaps in 988, Armenians were settled also in Macedonia. They were brought there from the eastern provinces of the empire by Basil II in order to serve as a bulwark against the Bulgarians and also to help increase the prosperity of the country (20).

Meanwhile, other Armenians had been settled elsewhere in the empire. Nicephorus I used Armenians, among others, in his resettlement of Sparta at the beginning of the ninth century (21). Some time earlier, about 792, an unsuccessful revolt among the Armeniacs, a corps which was no doubt predominantly Armenian, led to the settlement of a thousand of them in Sicily and other islands (22). In 885 Nicephorus Phocas, grandfather of the tenth century Emperor by the same name, settled a multitude of Armenians in Calabria. These, as Gregoire suggests, may have been of the Paulician faith as Tephrike, the stronghold of that sect, had fallen to the imperial forces only a few years before and the Paulicians had been dispersed (23). Armenians, among others, were also settled in Crete following the recovery of that island in 961 by Nicephorus Phocas, the future Emperor (24). Two Armenian military settlements are known to have existed in western Asia Minor in the tenth century. These were the settlements at Prine and Platanion, which, according to Constantine Porphyrogenitus, furnished a number of Armenian troops in the expedition against Crete during the reign of Leo VI. Armenians, settled in the Thracesian theme, also participated in the expedition against Crete in 949 (25).

It was through the army that the Armenian element in the Byzantine empire exerted its greatest influence. It is well known that the Armenian element occupied a prominent place in the armies of Justinian. Armenian troops fought in Africa, in Italy and along the eastern front. They were also prominent in the palace guard. Procopius mentions by name no less than seventeen Armenian commanders, including, of course, the great Narses (26). But the Armenians were only one among the different ethnic elements which constituted the armies of Justinian. These elements included many barbarians: Erulians, Gepids, Goths, Huns, Lombards, Moors, [17] Sabiri, Slavs and Antae, Vandals; some Persians, Iberians and Tzanis and among the provincials, Illyrians, Thracians, Isaurians and Lycaonians (27). Under the immediate successors of Justinian, the ethnic composition of the Byzantine army remained very much the same. "It is said", writes Evagrius,. "that Tiberius raised an army of 150,000 among the peoples that dwelt beyond the Alps around the Rhine and among those this side of the Alps, among the Massagetae and other Scythian nations, among those that dwelt in Paeonia and Mysia, and also Illyrians and Isaurians and dispatched them against the Persians" (28). The figure given by Evagrius may perhaps be questioned, but the rest of his statement in its essentials cannot be doubted. It is confirmed by Theophanes, though the figure he gives is much smaller (15,000) (29). And John of Ephesus reports that following the breakdown of negotiations with Persia (575--577), a force of 60,000 Lombards was expected in Byzantium (30). The same author states: "Necessity compelled Tiberius to enlist under his banners a barbarian people from the West called Goths--who were followers of the doctrine of the wicked Arius. They departed for Persia, leaving their wives and children at Constantinople" (31). In Constantinople, the wives of these Goths requested that a church be allocated to them, so that they might worship according to their Arian faith. Thus, it seems quite certain that the ethnic composition of the Byzantine army under Tiberius remained substantially the same as it had been during the reign of Justinian.

The situation changed in the course of the reign of Maurice, chiefly as a result of the Avaro-Slavic incursions into the Balkan peninsula. These incursions virtually eliminated Illyricum as a source of recruits and reduced the possibilities of Thrace. They cut communications with the West and made recruitments there most difficult. The empire, as a consequence, had to turn elsewhere for its troops. It turned to the regions of Caucasus and Armenia. In the armies of Maurice, we still find some Huns (32) and also some Lombards (33). We find Bulgars too (34). But the Armenian is the element which dominates. In this respect Sebeos is once more a precious source. He writes in connection with the war which Maurice undertook against the Avars after 591: Maurice "ordered to gather together all the Armenian cavalry and all the noble nakharars skilled in war and adroit in wielding the lance in combat. He ordered also a numerous army to be raised in Armenia, an army composed of soldiers of good will and good [18] stature, organized in regular corps and armed. He ordered that this army should go to Thrace under the command of Musele (Moushegh) Mamikonian and there fight the enemy" (35). This army was actually organized and fought in Thrace. Mamikonian was captured and killed (36), whereupon, the raising of an Armenian force of 2,000 armed cavalry was ordered. This force, too, was sent to Thrace (37). Earlier, during the Persian wars, important Armenian contingents under the command of John Mystacon operated on the eastern front (38). In 602 Maurice issued the following edict: "I need 30,000 cavalrymen by way of tribute raised in Armenia. Thirty thousand families must be gathered and settled in Thrace" (39). Priscus was sent to Armenia to carry out this edict, but before he had time to do so the revolution which overthrew Maurice broke out and the edict apparently was not enforced. It is interesting to observe the correlation of the number of cavalry with the number of families which were to be transplanted to Thrace. Each family was obviously intended to furnish one cavalryman and no doubt each family was going to be given some land. Here we have perhaps an indication that Maurice sought to extend the system of military estates in Thrace (40). But, however that may be, it is quite clear that under Maurice, Armenia became the principal source of recruits for the Byzantine army. The same was true under Heraclius, himself of Armenian descent (41) though that Emperor drew heavily also from among the people of the Caucasus--Lazes, Abasgians, Iberians--as well as on the Khazars (42). All throughout the seventh century indeed the Armenians were one of the most prominent elements in the Byzantine army. And if by the end of the seventh century the conquest of Armenia by the Arabs made it difficult to draw upon that country for new recruits, Armenians continued nevertheless to occupy an important position in the army of the empire. This was not only because some Armenian-speaking lands remained within the boundaries of the empire, but also because a considerable number of Armenians had been integrated into its new military organization.

The dominant feature of the new military organization of the empire was the theme system, a new provincial organization, the essential element [19] of which consisted of the army corps permanently stationed in each province and commanded by an officer who served at the same time as governor of the province, exercising both military and civil authority. The troops constituting these provincial or thematic corps were often drawn from different ethnic groups and as a consequence their permanent assignment to any one province contributed in altering the ethnic composition of that province. The provinces brought into existence by the new organization were called themes and differed from the old ones not only in the form of their administration but also in extent and configuration. The theme system, whatever its origin, took definite form in the seventh century (43).

Among the themes of Asia Minor the Armeniakon was one of the most important, in rank second only to the Anatolikon. It was a large territory, comprising in whole or in part six former provinces as these provinces are known to have existed in the sixth century. Cappadocia I and part of Cappadocia II; Armenia I and what was still in the hands of the empire of Armenia II; Elenopontos and Pontos Polemoniakos. It was roughly in the form of a triangle whose angles were located on the Black Sea, the one at Sinope, the other at a point not far to the east of Trebizond, and the third a little to the south of Tyana (44). The theme had been organized perhaps as early as before 622 (45) and remained a unit throughout the seventh and eighth centuries. In the course of the ninth century it was parcelled out into a number of smaller themes. By 863 there were four themes in the place of the previous one: the Armeniakon. a new and much smaller circumscription, the Charsianon, Chaldia and Koloneia. The new theme of Sebasteia, created about 912, was also formed out of territory which had formerly belonged to the Armeniakon.

According to an important source of the tenth century, the original Armeniakon theme was so called because of the neighboring Armenians and the Armenians who dwelled in it (46). This is not to be interpreted to mean of course that the population of the theme was everywhere predominantly Armenian. Along the Black Sea, especially in the region of Trebizond, the Greek-speaking element was certainly the most numerous. In the interior, in the region between the Iris and the Halys and in the loop [20] which the latter river forms; i. e., the core of the lands which later came to constitute the small Armeniakon and the Charsianon themes, the old Cappadocian native population, by now deeply hellenized, most probably predominated. There were some Armenians, of course, but they were not in any considerable number. Quite different, however, was the situation in the eastern regions of the theme, the regions which were eventually detached from it to form the themes of Chaldia, Coloneia and Sebasteia. Here the Armenians were very numerous. In Chaldia, along the coastal areas there were many Greeks, of course, but in the interior, in districts such as Keltzine, the Armenian element was very strong. It was strong also in the lands which later formed the themes of Coloneia and Sebasteia. These lands lay in the most part in Little Armenia [Armenia Minor/P'ok'r Hayk'] where the Armenian language, despite the progress made by Hellenism, never ceased to be spoken (47). Important Armenian elements were also to be found in the region of the Iris-Lycus rivers where Neocaesarea, Comana, Gaziura, Amaseia and Eupatoria were located (48). This region was retained in the smaller Armeniakon theme.

The comparatively strong Armenian element in the population of these eastern themes reflected, and was reflected by, the ethnic composition of their military organization. The military corps of the original Armeniakon theme consisted primarily of Armenians (49). Of the various themes into which it was broken predominantly Armenian were the armies of Coloneia and Sebasteia (50), and no doubt also of the smaller Armeniakon. The Armenian element must also have been considerable in the army of Chaldia.

It has been said that the Armenian element must have predominated in the Byzantine army from the ninth century to the Crusades (51). The statistical information necessary for an exact evaluation of this statement does not exist. There are, however, some figures. They go back to about the middle of the ninth century and are given by Arabic sources. They cannot be regarded therefore, as official. These Arabic sources list thirteen themes altogether, two in Europe and eleven in Asia Minor and give figures of the military strength of each. According to one set of figures the total [21] military strength of the thirteen themes mentioned numbered 90,000 (52); according to another set, it numbered 80,000 (53). The combined strength of the Armeniakon, which at this time still included Coloneia and Sebasteia, Charsianon and Chaldia is given in the first case as 23,000 or over twenty-five percent of the total; in the second case as 18,000 or over twenty-two percent of the total. As these armies, particularly those of the Armeniakon and Chaldia, were predominantly Armenian or of Armenian origin and as there were also Armenians in other thematic corps (54), we have perhaps in one or the other of these percentages, a rough indication of the strength of the Armenian element in the army of the empire about the middle of the ninth century. This strength did not, of course, make the Byzantine armies Armenian, but it did give to the Armenians a considerable influence in the military structure of the empire.

The significance of the Armenian element in the political and military life of the empire may be further seen by the number of persons of Armenian descent who came to occupy influential positions. They served as generals, as members of the imperial retinue, and as governors of provinces (55). Under Heraclius the Armenian Manuel was named praefectus augustalis in Egypt. Armenian generals served the same emperor in the field. One of these, Vahan, was actually proclaimed emperor by his troops just before the battle of Yermuk. He later retired to Sinai and became a monk. Armenian princes in Constantinople were very influential. They even plotted to overthrow Heraclius and to place on the throne his illegitimate son, Athalaric. In 641 it was the Armenian Valentinus Arsacidus who enabled Constans II to assume the throne following the death of his father. Valentinus was put in command of the troops in the East, but shortly afterwards, having failed in a plot to seize the throne for himself, he was executed. Other Armenian generals are known to have served under Constans II. Two of these, Sabour, surnamed Aparasitgan, and Theodore were commanders of the Armeniacs, as the troops stationed in the Armeniakon theme were called. After the violent death of Constans II, the Armenian Mizizius (Mjej Gnouni) was proclaimed Emperor and though he was not able to maintain himself, he should be included [22] among the emperors of Armenian descent who occupied the Byzantine throne. Later his son John felt strong enough to rebel against Constantine IV, but he too failed and was destroyed. Many Armenians are known to have been prominent in the service of the Empire in the eighth century also. The Armenian Bardanes occupied the throne from 711 to 713. Artavasdos, son-in-law of Leo III and at one time general of the Armeniacs, also tried for the throne, and for a time was actually master of Constantinople. He was ably assisted by other Armenians: his cousin Teridates, Vahtan the patrician, and another Artavasdos. During the brief period when he held Constantinople, he crowned his son Nicephorus co-emperor and made his other son, Nicetas, general of the Armeniacs. The Armeniacs, the vast majority of whom, as has been said, were Armenians, were Artavasdos' strongest supporters. Other eminent Armenians are known to have served the empire under Constantine V Copronymus. Tadjat Andzevatzik, who came to Byzantium about 750, proved to be a successful commander in the course of Constantine's Bulgarian campaigns. Under Leo IV we find him as general of the Bucellarii. He subsequently fled to the Arabs. Another Armenian, the prince Artavazd Mamikonian, who joined the forces of Byzantium about 771, was general of the Anatolikon under Leo IV. More Armenians are mentioned in connection with the reigns of Constantine VI and Irene. Vardas, one time general of the Armeniacs, was involved in a conspiracy to have Leo IV succeeded by his brother Nicephorus and not by his son Constantine. Another Vardas lost his life in the Bulgarian campaign which Constantine VI conducted in 792. Artaseras or Artashir was another Armenian general active during the reign of Constantine VI. Alexius Musele (Moushegh), Drungarius of the Watch and later general of the Armeniacs, seems even to have aspired to the throne. At least he was accused of entertaining this ambition, and was blinded. His family, as we shall see, achieved great distinction in the ninth and tenth centuries. Another great Byzantine family of Armenian descent, the Skleroi, made its appearance in Byzantium at this time or soon thereafter. Leo Skleros, governor of the Peloponnesus at the beginning of the ninth century, is the first member of this family known to us, but the family was already famous. A number of other persons who occupied important positions during the reigns of Constantine VI, Irene and Nicephorus I may also have been Armenians if one may judge from the Armenian name of Vardanes which they bore. These included: Vardanes, patrician and domesticus scholarum; Vardanes, general of the Thracesians; Vardanes, called the Turk, general of the Anatolikon, who made an attempt to overthrow Nicephorus I; Vardanes, called Anemas, a spatharius. Armenian also was the patrician Arsaber who was quaestor under Nicephorus I and who in the unsuccessful plot of 808 to overthrow Nicephorus had been designated the new Emperor.

[23] Illustrious personages of Armenian descent appear frequently also in the annals of the empire in the ninth century. They dominated the imperial throne. Leo V, known as the Armenian, occupied the throne from 813 to 820. He is referred to in one of the sources as digenes, 'twyborn', i. e., born of two races, and these two races are given as Assyrian and Armenian (56). The thorough and careful investigation of all the sources, however, has shown that there is no truth in the tradition (57). Leo was an Armenian who, while still young, had settled in Pidra, an unknown place in the Anatolikon theme, and, like many others of his position, turned to the army for a career and this eventually brought him to the imperial throne. His wife Theodosia, was the daughter of Arsaber (Arschovir), patrician and quaestor, no doubt the Armenian Arsaber who, in the unsuccessful plot of 808 to overthrow Nicephorus, had been designated the new Emperor. Thus Leo V sprang from, and headed, an Armenian family, the Armenian nature of which is further illustrated by the Armenian names which its various members bore (58).

Michael II, the man who in 820 overthrew Leo V, was a semi-hellenized native of the region of Amorion, probably of Phrygian descent (59), but the dynasty which he founded eventually became in part Armenian in blood and fell under the domination of the Armenians. Theodora, the wife of Theophilus, son and successor of Michael II, was a native of Ebissa in Paphlagonia, but she was of Armenian descent at least from her father's side (60). Thus Michael III who succeeded his father Theophilus was partly Armenian. His mother's family dominated his reign. During the early years of his reign, while he was still a minor, the imperial office was provisionally in the hands of his mother Theodora who was assisted by a regency composed of members of her family and Theoctistos, the Logothete of the Course. To be sure, the members of Theodora's family were soon shoved into the background and for nearly fourteen years Theoctistos, of whose racial origins we have no definite intimation, was Theodora's most powerful minister. But his overthrow and murder in 856 brought to the fore Theodora's brother Bardas, who, until his violent death in 866, was the real ruler of the state. At the same time Petronas, Theodora's other brother, was entrusted with important commands in which he showed [24] considerable ability. His son Marianus was later made prefect of the city by Basil I (61). Important positions were also given to the two sons of Bardas, the younger of whom, Antigonos, was only ten years old, and also his son-in-law, whose name, Symbatius, betrays his Armenian origin (62).

Meanwhile, other members of Theodora's family had been placed in positions of some importance. Her father Marinus had served as drungarius and also as turmarch (63). Her brother-in-law, Constantme Babutzikos, married to her sister Sophia, bore the title of magister and was at one time Drungarius of the Watch. He was one of the forty-two Byzantine officers who were put to death by the Arabs following their capture of Amorion in 838 (64). Her other brother-in-law Arshavir, married to another of her sisters, Calomaria or Maria, was patrician and magister, titles which put him very high in the society of Byzantium (65). Both Babutzikos and Arshavir were Armenians. Arshavir's two sons, Stephen and Bardas, both became magisters. Bardas married the daughter of Constantine Kontomytes who was governor of Sicily during the reign of Michael III, while Stephen served in the regency at the time of the minority of Constantine VII (66).

Thus, the Armenian family of Theodora at various times occupied important positions and with the elimination of Theoctistos, it came to control the state. And when the overthrow of Bardas and the destruction of Michael III himself, a year later, brought this control to an end, it was another Armenian family that came to the throne. Basil, the man responsible for the elimination of the now partly Armenian Amorian dynasty was, as is well known, of Armenian descent. His progeny, if we discredit the gossip concerning the paternity of his successor, Leo VI, was to rule the Byzantine state for about 190 years. About this dynasty, more will be said below.

Other Armenians, both related and unrelated to the ruling houses, are known to have played important roles in the political and military life of the empire in the ninth century. Leo V, the Armenian, had a nephew, Gregory Pterotos who served him as a general. When Leo was overthrown, Pterotos was exiled by Leo's successor, Michael II, to the island of Scyrus, but he managed to escape and join Thomas in his revolt against Michael II. In the course of the revolt, however, he tried to shift his allegiance to Michael, but before he could act decisively he was [25] attacked, defeated and killed by Thomas (67). More famous was the Armenian Manuel, known as Amalicites. Protostrator, general of the Armeniacs, Domestic of the Schools, patrician and magister, Manuel served, and served well it would seem, four different emperors, Michael I, Leo V, Michael II and Theophilus, though at one time, during the reign of Michael II, he fled to the Arabs (68). It is this Manuel who is said to have been the uncle of the Empress Theodora, but, as there is some confusion in the sources concerning his career, it may be that Theodora's uncle was another Manuel or even some other person, perhaps the Sergius of Niketia who led an expedition against Crete towards the end of the reign of Michael III (69). Another Armenian, Constantine, surnamed Maniakes, was Drungarius of the Watch, and later, during the reign of Michael III, Logothete. He was a man apparently conscious of his Armenian descent for he is said to have befriended Basil, the future Emperor, very early in his career because, like himself, Basil was an Armenian. Constantine was the father of Thomas the Patrician who served as Logothete of the Course under the regency during the reign of Constantine VII early in the tenth century. As this Thomas was the father of Genesius the historian, Constantine was thus the grandfather of the latter (70).

Armenian also in origin was Alexius Musele to whom the Emperor Theophilus gave his daughter Maria in marriage. Alexius, whose family was also known as the Krenitae, was most probably the son of the Alexius Musele who, as has already been pointed out, had held important administrative posts under Constantine VI and Irene. Alexius bore the high ranking titles of patrician, anthypatus, magister and Caesar. As Caesar, he became the heir presumptive to the throne, but the death of his wife and the birth of Michael, who later became Michael III, brought about a certain coolness between him and the Emperor and he retired to a monastery (71). Alexius had a brother, Theodosios, who, judging from the title of patrician which he bore, must also have been an important personage (72). As the brother of Alexius, Theodosios was, of course, also Armenian. Armenian also was Theophilitzes, the rich courtier and important functionary who is said to have given employment to Basil, the future Emperor, when the latter first arrived in Constantinople, and later introduced him to the imperial court. Theophilitzes' Armenian descent may be inferred from [26] the fact that he was a relative of Michael III and also of Bardas, the brother of the empress Theodora (73).

The two crimes, the assassination of Caesar Bardas in 866 and that of Michael III in 867, which brought Basil I to the throne, illustrate still further the influential position which the Armenian element had come to have in the imperial court. The instigator of both crimes was, of course, Basil himself, but it was only with the assistance of a number of other important persons that he was able to bring them about. It has been said that all these personages, like Basil himself, were of Armenian descent (74). But if for this view there is no absolute proof, it can be shown readily that the majority of Basil's accomplices were indeed Armenians. Among those involved in the assassination of Caesar Bardas three are definitely known to have been Armenians: Marianos, the brother of Basil; Symbatios, the Logothete of the Course, and son-in-law of the Caesar; and Bardas, the brother of Symbatios. One, John Chaldos, known also as Tziphinarites, may also have been Armenian. The racial antecedents of two, Peter Bulgarus and Constantine Toxaras, cannot be determined with any certainty. Another of the conspirators is called Leo the Assyrian by one source, Asylaeon, cousin of Basil, by another. The same person, a cousin of Basil, and as such an Armenian, is probably meant (75). Marianos, John Chaldos, Constantine Toxaras and Asylaeon were also involved in the assassination of Michael III. As for the rest who took part in that conspiracy, there is some confusion in the sources. One of them, Symbatios, to be distinguished from the son-in-law of Caesar Bardas, who had been mutilated not long after the death of the Caesar, was like Marianos, the brother of Basil. Another, Bardas, identified further as the father of Basil the Rector, a personage about whom nothing else is known, may also have been the brother of Basil; or he may have been the brother or Caesar Bardas' son-in-law, who like the latter had participated in the murder of the Caesar. In either case, he was an Armenian (76). Two others, Jacobitzes and Eulogios, are referred to as Persians. The latter is said to have addressed another of the conspirators, Artavasdos, captain of the Hetaireia, the foreign guard, in Persian. It has been suggested that all three, Jacobitzes, Eulogios and Artavasdos, were really Armenians, natives of those Armenian regions which had once been under the control of Persia, hence, the reference to them as Persians (77). The suggestion is tempting, but, as thousands of [27] Persians had deserted to the empire during the reign of Theophilus (78) it is not improbable that these persons, at least Jacobitzes and Eulogies, were indeed Persians. As for Artavasdos, the probability is that he was an Armenian who also knew Persian. Artavasdos is a name which we find borne by a number of persons who served the empire and who are known to have been Armenians. Marianos, the son of Petronas, may have also been involved in the conspiracy against Michael. He is not mentioned among those who actually committed the crime, but his involvement in it is suggested by the fact that Basil made him prefect of the city soon after the elimination of Michael. Marianos was at least partly Armenian. Thus, while not everyone involved in the crimes against Caesar Bardas and Michael III was Armenian, it was a predominantly Armenian group which put an end to the Amorian dynasty and placed on the throne the Armenian Basil. So influential had the Armenian element become in the imperial court!

The Armenian element was prominent also in the intellectual life of the empire in the ninth century. Intellectual activity in the Byzantine empire had never ceased to exist, but it had subsided considerably in the course of the seventh and eighth centuries and certain educational institutions, such as, for instance, the university which Theodosius II had established in the fifth century, had been allowed to decline. But there was a revival in the ninth century, giving a new impetus to learning which would continue now more or less until the final fall of Constantinople. In this revival a number of persons played an important role. Foremost among these was Photios, the future patriarch and no doubt the most encyclopaedic erudite the Byzantine empire produced. John the Grammarian, patriarch from 837 to 843, was another of these persons. John, who had laid the theological foundations for the renewal of iconoclasm in 815, was reputed among his contemporaries to be well versed in the science of the ancients. He had also taught the emperor Theophilus, who came to look upon the promotion of learning as an important aspect of his reign. The revival of learning culminated in the reestablishment of the University of Constantinople, housed in the palace of Magnaura and for that reason known as the School of Magnaura. Caesar Bardas founded and Leo the Philosopher, whose fame as mathematician and master of the science of antiquity extended as far as Bagdad, headed the school. A number of others, for instance, Constantine the Philosopher, the apostle of the Slavs, are known to have contributed to the intellectual activity of the period, but John the Grammarian, Photios, Caesar Bardas and Leo the Philosopher seem to have been the prime movers. All four were, at least in part, of Armenian descent. Bardas's Armenian origin has already been pointed out; that of Leo can be inferred from the fact that he was a cousin of John the Grammarian of whose [28] Armenian origins there can be little doubt (79), and as for Photios, the fact is that his mother, Irene, was the sister of Arshavir, the Arshavir who had married Calomaria, the sister of Bardas and the empress Theodora (80). These people appear, of course, thoroughly hellenized. Indeed it would be preposterous to call Photios anything but a Greek. Yet it may be asked whether their hellenization was not unaffected by their original background, whether in being absorbed they did not modify the culture which absorbed them.


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