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Death of Romanos II

Romanos II or Romanus II (Greek: Ρωμανός Β΄, Rōmanos II) (938–15 March 963) was a Byzantine emperor. He succeeded his father Constantine VII in 959 at the age of twenty-one, and died suddenly in 963.



Romanos II was a son of Emperor Constantine VII and Helena Lekapene, the daughter of Emperor Romanos I and his wife Theodora. Named after his maternal grandfather, Romanos was married, as a child, to Bertha, the illegitimate daughter of Hugh of Arles, King of Italy. On April 6, 945, after the fall of the Lekapenoi, Constantine VII crown his son Romanos co-emperor. With Hugh out of power in Italy and dead by 947, and Bertha herself dead in 949, Romanos secured the promise from his father that he would be allowed to select his own bride. Romanos' choice fell on an innkeeper's daughter named Anastaso, whom he married in 956 and renamed Theophano.

In November 959 Romanos II succeeded his father on the throne, among rumors that he or his wife had sped up the end of Constantine VII by poison. Romanos carried out a virtual purge of his father's courtiers and replaced them with his own friends and those of his wife. Among the persons removed from court were the Empress Mother, Helena, and her daughters, all of them being relegated to a monastery. Nevertheless, many of Romanos' appointees were able men, including his chief adviser, the eunuch Joseph Bringas.

The pleasure-loving sovereign could also leave military matters in the adept hands of his generals, in particular the brothers Leo and Nikephoros Phokas. In 960 Nikephoros Phokas was sent with a fleet of 1,000 dromons, 2,000 chelandia, and 308 transports (entire fleet was manned by 27,000 oarsmen and marines) carrying 50,000 men to recover Crete from the Muslims. After a difficult campaign and the 9-month siege of Chandax, Nikephoros successfully re-established Byzantine control over the entire island in 961. Following a triumph celebrated at Constantinople, Nikephoros was sent to the eastern frontier, where the Emir of Aleppo Sayf al-Daula was engaged in annual raids into Byzantine Anatolia. Nikephoros conquered Cilicia and even Aleppo in 962, sacking the palace of the Emir and taking possession of 390,000 silver dinars, 2,000 camels, and 1,400 mules. In the meantime Leo Phokas and Marianos Argyros had countered Magyar incursions into the Byzantine Balkans.

After a lengthy hunting expedition Romanos II took ill and died on March 15, 963. Rumor attributed his death to poison administered by his wife Theophano, but there is no evidence of this and Theophano would have been risking a whole lot by exchanging the secure status of a crowned Augusta with the precarious one of a widowed Regent of her very young children. Romanos II's reliance on his wife and on bureaucrats like Joseph Bringas had resulted in a relatively capable administration, but built up resentment among the nobility, which was associated with the military. In the wake of Romanus' death, his Empress Dowager, now Regent to the two co-emperors, her underage sons, was quick to marry the general Nikephoros Phokas, and acquire another general, John Tzimiskes, as her lover, having them both elevated to the imperial throne in succession. The rights of her sons were, however, safeguarded and eventually, when Tzimiskes died at war, Basil II (her elder son) became senior emperor.


Romanos II probably never consummated his first marriage to Bertha of Italy. By his second wife Theophano, he had at least three children:

  1. Basil II
  2. Constantine VIII
  3. Anna, who married Vladimir I of Kiev.


External links

Romanos II
Born: 938 Died: 963
Regnal titles
Preceded by
Constantine VII
Byzantine Emperor
Succeeded by
Nikephoros II


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