Irene is deposed by the Logothete Nikephoros
The Emperor Nikephoros I is a far-sighted political and financial planner. He places the Empire upon a sound financial footing, Byzantine re-settlement of much of Greece, lost to the Empire for the past two centuries, gains apace during his reign.
Defeat and death of Nikephoros I
Nikephoros meets a gruesome end when his army is defeated by the Bulgar Khan Krum. Originally a Turkic people ruling over Slavic subjects, the Bulgars are a constant worry for Byzantine Emperors and their advisors.
Krum, a formidable adversary, mounts Nikephoros’ skull in silver for use as a drinking cup!
829 to 842
Reign of the Emperor Theophilos
Despite on-going military conflict, the reign of Theophilos is notable for a significant level of cultural contact between Byzantium and the Abbasid Caliphate.
Byzantium’s economic health continues to improve, with on-going expansion of trade and the Empire’s money supply. The Byzantine military is reformed and expanded.
The end of Iconoclasm
Theophilos is the last Iconoclast emperor. Upon his death his widow, Theodora takes control as regent for their young son, Michael III. Theodora presides over the restoration of Icons as an accepted form of Orthodox worship.
842 to 867
Reign of the Emperor Michael III
Michael is a notorious drunkard and makes little personal contribution to his empire. But his reign is marked by a vital cultural life, increased Byzantine prestige, and by the careers of several remarkable individuals - most notably the Emperor’s uncle, Bardas Caesar, the Patriarch Photios, and the missionaries Cyril and Methodios.
Cyril and Methodios are crucial figures in the history of Byzantine influence on Slavic culture and religion. Keen to introduce Christian worship to the Slavs in their own language, Cyril develops the first Slavic alphabet. Bulgaria formally converts to Christianity during the 860s.
First Russian attack upon Constantinople
The Rhos, as they are known to the Byzantines, are a combination of northern Slavs with their Viking overlords. They make their first major appearance in Byzantine history with an abortive attack upon Constantinople.
Michael III is killed. He is succeeded by his murderer, Basil I (the Macedonian)
Basil, Michael’s former favourite, is an ex-peasant and stablehand who worked his way up through the social world of the Byzantine Imperial Court. He founds the long-lived Macedonian dynasty although, ironically enough, it appears that his ‘son’ - the future emperor Leo VI, may have in fact been fathered by Michael (Basil’s wife, Eudokia Ingerina, was Michael’s former mistress).
886 to 912
Reign of Leo VI ("the wise")
Leo sponsors an extensive programme of writing and publication on a range of different topics, most notably on the law, on diplomatic and court protocol, and on military strategy and tactics. In particular, Byzantine law is recodified in the sixty books of the Basilica, or "Imperial Code".
Leo is spectacularly unlucky in his attempts at marriage and production of a male heir. His first two wives die without children and he has to achieve a dispensation from the church to marry a third time. Leo’s third wife, Eudokia Baena, dies in childbirth (their child, a son, died a few days later).
The church forbids Leo to marry a fourth time, so he takes a mistress, Zoë Karbonopsina ("coal - dark eyes"). They have a son, and Leo marries Zoë in order to secure legitimate succession - resulting in a sharp religious and political controversy.