Romanos I Lekapenos is crowned Emperor
Zoë and her young son, Constantine Porphyrogenitos, are left at the centre of a volatile political situation - which results eventually in the usurpation of Romanos Lekapenos.
Previously a high ranking naval officer, Romanos is a basically humane individual who also happens to be a very shrewd politician. He does not formally depose Constantine, but reigns instead as senior emperor.
Romanos’s reign is notable for the first strong indications of a shift in Byzantine politics and society: Land is increasingly accumulated in the hands of powerful officials and military aristocrats. Romanos is plainly worried by this development, which threatens Byzantium’s centralised and tax gathering state structure. He attempts legislation in favour of peasant land-owners, but these measures are largely ineffective.
934 to 976
Conquests on the Eastern Frontier and elsewhere
During this period Byzantium produces a series of fearsomely effective military commanders, including John Kourkuas, Nikephoros Phokas and John Tzimiskes. They lead armies which have become increasingly adapted to the needs of offensive, rather than defensive, warfare.
Arab emirates on the Byzantine border find they can no longer rely upon support from the near-defunct Abbasid Caliphate. The Byzantine advance is delayed for some time, by the talented Hamdanid Arab general Sayf-al-Dawlah, but by the end of the tenth century the entire Arab border zone is under Byzantine control for the first time in over three hundred years.
The Byzantines also consolidate their position in Italy and, in 961, an invasion force led by Nikephoros Phokas succeeds in the reconquest of Crete.
Basil II begins independent rule as Emperor
Basil, grandson of Constantine Porphyrogenitos and legitimate Emperor, had been kept in the political background during the rule of the two usurping soldier-emperors Nikephoros Phokas and John Tzimiskes. At the age of 18 he becomes sole effective ruler of the Empire, only to face serious rebellions from senior members of the military aristocracy.
Basil survives the challenge to his throne, but this experience renders him permanently suspicious of the great provincial families of Asia Minor.
Vladimir, Prince of Kiev, is baptised
Vladimir’s baptism, and marriage to the Byzantine princess Anna, seals an alliance between Basil and the Russian prince. It is also an important milestone for Byzantium’s great cultural influence over Russia.
6,000 Russian warriors are enrolled into the Byzantine Army as the Varangian Guard.