List of Byzantine emperors

For further information, see History of the Byzantine Empire.
Emperor of the Romans

Constantine XI
First monarch Constantine I
Last monarch Constantine XI
Formation 11 May 330
Abolition 29 May 1453
Residence Great Palace, Blachernae Palace
Appointer Non-specified, de facto hereditary[1]
Pretender(s) None

This is a list of the Byzantine emperors from the foundation of Constantinople in 330 AD, which marks the conventional start of the Byzantine Empire, to its fall to the Ottoman Empire in 1453 AD. Only the emperors who were recognized as legitimate rulers and exercised sovereign authority are included, to the exclusion of junior co-emperors (symbasileis) who never attained the status of sole or senior ruler, as well as of the various usurpers or rebels who claimed the imperial title.

Traditionally, the line of Byzantine emperors is held to begin with the Roman Emperor Constantine the Great, the first Christian emperor, who rebuilt the city of Byzantium as an imperial capital, Constantinople, and who was regarded by the later Byzantine emperors as the model ruler. It was under Constantine that the major characteristics of what is considered the Byzantine state emerged: a Roman polity centered at Constantinople and culturally dominated by the Greek East, with Christianity as the state religion.

The Byzantine Empire was nothing more than the continuation of the eastern half of the Roman Empire following the division of the Roman Empire in 395. All Byzantine emperors considered themselves the rightful "Roman Emperors";[2] the term "Byzantine" was coined by Western historiography only in the 16th century. The use of the title "Roman Emperor" was not contested until after the Papal coronation of the Frankish Charlemagne as "Holy Roman Emperor" (25 December 800 AD), done partly in response to the Byzantine coronation of Empress Irene, whose claim, as a woman, was not recognized by Pope Leo III.

The title of all Emperors preceding Heraclius was officially "Augustus," although other titles such as Dominus were also used. Their names were preceded by Imperator Caesar and followed by Augustus. Following Heraclius, the title commonly became the Greek Basileus (Gr. Βασιλεύς), which had formerly meant sovereign but was then used in place of Augustus. Following the establishment of the rival Holy Roman Empire in Western Europe, the title "Autokrator" (Gr. Αὐτοκράτωρ) was increasingly used. In later centuries, the Emperor could be referred to by Western Christians as the "Emperor of the Greeks." Towards the end of the Empire, the standard imperial formula of the Byzantine ruler was "[Emperor's name] in Christ, Emperor and Autocrat of the Romans" (cf. Ῥωμαῖοι and Rûm).

In the medieval period, dynasties were common, but the principle of hereditary succession was never formalized in the Empire,[3] and hereditary succession was a custom rather than an inviolable principle.[1]

Constantinian dynasty (306–363)

Name Reign Comments
Constantine I "the Great"
(Greek: Κωνσταντῖνος Α' ὁ Μέγας, Latin: Gaius Flavius Valerius Aurelius Constantinus)
19 September 324 –
22 May 337
Born at Naissus ca. 273/4 as the son of the Augustus Constantius Chlorus and Helena. Proclaimed Augustus of the western empire upon the death of his father on 25 July 306, he became sole ruler of the western empire after the Battle of the Milvian Bridge in 312. In 324, he defeated the eastern Augustus Licinius and re-united the empire under his rule, reigning as sole emperor until his death. Constantine completed the administrative and military reforms begun under Diocletian, who had begun ushering in the Dominate period. Actively interested in Christianity, he played a crucial role in its development and the Christianization of the Roman world, through his convocation of the First Ecumenical Council at Nicaea. He is said to have received baptism on his deathbed. He also reformed coinage through the introduction of the gold solidus, and initiated a large-scale building program, crowned by the re-foundation the city of Byzantium as "New Rome", popularly known as Constantinople. He was regarded as the model of all subsequent Byzantine emperors.[4]
Constantius II
(Κωνστάντιος [Β'], Flavius Iulius Constantius)
22 May 337 –
5 October 361
Born on 7 August 317, as the second son of Constantine I. He inherited the eastern third of Roman Empire upon his father's death, sole Roman Emperor from 353, after the overthrow of the western usurper Magnentius. Constantius' reign saw military activity on all frontiers, and dissension between Arianism, favoured by the emperor, and the "Orthodox" supporters of the Nicene Creed. In his reign, Constantinople was accorded equal status to Rome, and the original Hagia Sophia was built. Constantius appointed Constantius Gallus and Julian as Caesares, and died on his way to confront Julian, who had risen up against him.[5]
Constans I
(Κῶνστας Α', Flavius Iulius Constans)
22 May 337 –
January 350
Born c. 323, the third son of Constantine I. Caesar since 333, he inherited the central third of Roman Empire upon his father's death, and became sole emperor in the west following the death of Constantine II in 348. An ardent supporter of Athanasius of Alexandria, he opposed Arianism. Constans was assassinated during the coup of Magnentius.[6]
Julian "the Apostate"
(Ἰουλιανὸς "ὁ Παραβάτης", Flavius Claudius Iulianus)
5 October 361 –
28 June 363
Born in May 332, grandson of Constantius Chlorus and cousin of Constantius II. Proclaimed by his army in Gaul, became legitimate Emperor upon the death of Constantius. Killed on campaign against Sassanid Persia

Non-dynastic (363–364)

Name Reign Comments
(Ἰοβιανός, Flavius Iovianus)
28 June 363 –
17 February 364
Born c. 332. Captain of the guards under Julian, elected by the army upon Julian's death. Died on journey back to Constantinople

Valentinian dynasty (364–379)

Name Reign Comments
Valentinian I
(Οὐαλεντιανός, Flavius Valentinianus)
26 February 364 –
17 November 375
Born in 321. An officer under Julian and Jovian, he was elected by the army upon Jovian's death. He soon appointed his younger brother Valens as Emperor of the East. Died of cerebral haemorrhage
(Οὐάλης, Flavius Iulius Valens)
28 March 364 –
9 August 378
Born in 328. A soldier of the Roman army, he was appointed Emperor of the East by his elder brother Valentinian I. Killed at the Battle of Adrianople
(Γρατιανός, Flavius Gratianus)
9 August 378 –
19 January 379
Born on 18 April/23 May 359, the son of Valentinian I. Emperor of the West, he inherited rule of the East upon the death of Valens and appointed Theodosius I as Emperor of the East. Assassinated on 25 August 383 during the rebellion of Magnus Maximus

Theodosian dynasty (379–457)

Name Reign Comments
Theodosius I "the Great"
(Θεοδόσιος Α' ὁ Μέγας, Flavius Theodosius)
19 January 379 –
17 January 395
Born on 11 January 347. Aristocrat and military leader, brother-in-law of Gratian, who appointed him as emperor of the East. From 392 until his death sole Roman Emperor.
(Ἀρκάδιος, Flavius Arcadius)
17 January 395 –
1 May 408
Born in 377/378, the eldest son of Theodosius I. Succeeded upon the death of his father. Note: In 395, the Roman Empire was permanently divided between the West Roman Empire and the East Roman Empire.
Theodosius II
(Θεοδόσιος Β', Flavius Theodosius)
1 May 408 –
28 July 450
Born on 10 April 401, the only son of Arcadius. Succeeded upon the death of his father. As a minor, the praetorian prefect Anthemius was regent in 408–414. He died in a riding accident.
(Πουλχερία, Aelia Pulcheria)
28 July 450 – July 453Born on 19 January 398 or 399. One of the daughters of Arcadius. She reigned with her husband Marcian.
(Μαρκιανός, Flavius Marcianus Augustus)
450 – January 457Born in 396. A soldier and politician, he became emperor after being wed by the Augusta Pulcheria, sister of Theodosius II, following the latter's death. Died of gangrene.

Leonid dynasty (457–518)

See also: Leonid dynasty
Name Reign Comments
Leo I "the Thracian"
(Λέων Α' ὁ Θρᾷξ, ὁ Μακέλλης, ὁ Μέγας, Flavius Valerius Leo)
7 February 457 –
18 January 474
Born in Dacia ca. 400, and of Bessian origin, Leo became a low-ranking officer and served as an attendant of the Gothic commander-in-chief of the army, Aspar, who chose him as emperor on Marcian's death. He was the first emperor to be crowned by the Patriarch of Constantinople. His reign was marked by the pacification of the Danube frontier and peace with Persia, which allowed him to intervene in the affairs of the western empire, supporting candidates for the throne and dispatching an expedition to recover Carthage from the Vandals in 468. Initially a puppet of Aspar, Leo began promoting the Isaurians as a counterweight to Aspar's Goths, marrying his daughter Ariadne to the Isaurian leader Tarasicodissa (Zeno). With their support, in 471 Aspar was murdered and Gothic power over the army was broken.[7]
Leo II "the Little"
(Λέων Β' ὁ Μικρός, Flavius Leo)
18 January –
17 November 474
Born ca. 467, he was the grandson of Leo I by Leo's daughter Ariadne and her Isaurian husband, Zeno. Raised to Caesar and then co-emperor in autumn 473, soon after his accession Leo II crowned his father Zeno as co-emperor and effective regent. Died shortly after, possibly poisoned.[8]
(Ζήνων, Flavius Zeno)
17 November 474 –
9 April 491
Born ca. 425 in Isauria, originally named Tarasicodissa. As the leader of Leo I's Isaurian soldiers, he rose to comes domesticorum, married the emperor's daughter Ariadne and took the name Zeno, and played a crucial role in the elimination of Aspar and his Goths. He was named co-emperor by his son on 9 February 474, and became sole ruler upon the latter's death, but had to flee to his native country before Basiliscus in 475, regaining control of the capital in 476. Zeno concluded peace with the Vandals, saw off challenges against him by Illus and Verina, and secured peace in the Balkans by enticing the Ostrogoths under Theodoric the Great to migrate to Italy. Zeno's reign also saw the end of the western line of emperors. His pro-Monophysite stance made him unpopular and his promulgation of the Henotikon resulted in the Acacian Schism with the papacy.[9]
(Βασιλίσκος, Flavius Basiliscus)
9 January 475 –
August 476
General and brother-in-law of Leo I, he seized power from Zeno but was again deposed by him. Died in 476/477
Anastasius I Dicorus
(Ἀναστάσιος Α' ὁ Δίκορος, Flavius Anastasius)
11 April 491 –
9 July 518
Born ca. 430 at Dyrrhachium, he was a palace official (silentiarius) when he was chosen as her husband and Emperor by Empress-dowager Ariadne. He was nicknamed "Dikoros" (Latin: Dicorus), because of his heterochromia. Anastasius reformed the tax system and the Byzantine coinage and proved a frugal ruler, so that by the end of his reign he left a substantial surplus. His Monophysite sympathies led to wideaspread opposition, most notably the Revolt of Vitalian and the Acacian Schism. His reign was also marked by the first Bulgar raids into the Balkans and by a war with Persia over the foundation of Dara. He died childless.[10]

Justinian dynasty (518–602)

Name Reign Comments
Justin I
(Ἰουστῖνος Α', Flavius Iustinus)
July 518 –
1 August 527
Born c. 450 at Bederiana (Justiniana Prima), Dardania. Officer and commander of the Excubitors bodyguard under Anastasius I, he was elected by army and people upon the death of Anastasius I.
Justinian I "the Great"
(Ἰουστινιανὸς Α' ὁ Μέγας, Flavius Petrus Sabbatius Iustinianus)
1 August 527 –
13/14 November 565
Born in 482/483 at Tauresium (Taor), Macedonia. Nephew of Justin I, possibly raised to co-emperor on 1 April 527. Succeeded on Justin I's death. Attempted to restore the western territories of the Empire, reconquering Italy, North Africa and parts of Spain. Also responsible for the corpus juris civilis, or the "body of civil law," which is the foundation of law for many modern European nations.[11]
Justin II
(Ἰουστῖνος Β', Flavius Iustinus Iunior)
14 November 565 –
5 October 578
Born c. 520. Nephew of Justinian I, he seized the throne on the death of Justinian I with support of army and Senate. Became insane, hence in 573–574 under the regency of his wife Sophia, and in 574–578 under the regency of Tiberius Constantine.
Tiberius II Constantine
(Τιβέριος Β', Flavius Tiberius Constantinus)
5 October 578 –
14 August 582
Born c. 535, commander of the Excubitors, friend and adoptive son of Justin. Was named Caesar and regent in 574. Succeeded on Justin II's death.
(Μαυρίκιος, Flavius Mauricius Tiberius)
14 August 582 –
22 November 602
Born in 539 at Arabissus, Cappadocia. Became an official and later a general. Married the daughter of Tiberius II and succeeded him upon his death. Named his son Theodosius as co-emperor in 590. Deposed by Phocas and executed on 27 November 602 at Chalcedon.

Non-dynastic (602–610)

Name Reign Comments
(Φωκᾶς, Flavius Phocas)
23 November 602 –
4 October 610
Subaltern in the Balkan army, he led a rebellion that deposed Maurice. Increasingly unpopular and tyrannical, he was deposed and executed by Heraclius.

Heraclian dynasty (610–695)

Name Reign Comments
(Ἡράκλειος, Flavius Heraclius)
5 October 610 –
11 February 641
Born c. 575 as the eldest son of the Exarch of Africa, Heraclius the Elder. Began a revolt against Phocas in 609 and deposed him in October 610. Brought the Byzantine-Sassanid War of 602–628 to successful conclusion but was unable to stop the Muslim conquest of Syria. Officially replaced Latin with Greek as the language of administration.
Constantine III
formally Heraclius New Constantine
(Ἡράκλειος νέος Κωνσταντῖνος, Heraclius Novus Constantinus)
11 February –
24/26 May 641
Born on 3 May 612 as the eldest son of Heraclius by his first wife Fabia Eudokia. Named co-emperor in 613, he succeeded to throne with his younger brother Heraklonas following the death of Heraclius. Died of tuberculosis, allegedly poisoned by Empress-dowager Martina.
(Ἡρακλωνᾶς, Heraclianus)
formally Constantine Heraclius
(Κωνσταντῖνος Ἡράκλειος, Constantinus Heraclius)
11 February 641 –
September 641
Born in 626 to Heraclius' second wife Martina, named co-emperor in 638. Succeeded to throne with Constantine III following the death of Heraclius. Sole emperor after the death of Constantine III, under the regency of Martina, but was forced to name Constans II co-emperor by the army, and was deposed by the Senate in September 641.
Constans II
(Κῶνστας Β', Constantus II)
formally Constantine "the Bearded",
(Κωνσταντῖνος ὁ Πωγωνάτος)
September 641 –
15 September 668
Born on 7 November 630, the son of Constantine III. Raised to co-emperor in summer 641 after his father's death due to army pressure, he became sole emperor after the forced abdication of his uncle Heraklonas. Baptized Heraclius, he reigned as Constantine. "Constans" is his nickname. Moved his seat to Syracuse, where he was assassinated, possibly on the orders of Mizizios.
Constantine IV "the Bearded"
(Κωνσταντῖνος Δ' ὁ Πωγωνάτος)
15 September 668 –
September 685
Born in 652, he succeeded following the murder of his father Constans II. Erroneously called "Constantine the Bearded" by historians through confusion with his father. He called the Third Council of Constantinople which condemned the heresy of Monothelitism, repelled the First Arab Siege of Constantinople, and died of dysentery.
Justinian II "the Slit-nosed"
(Ἰουστινιανὸς Β' ὁ Ῥινότμητος)
September 685 –
Born in 669, son of Constantine IV, he was named co-emperor in 681 and became sole emperor upon Constantine IV's death. Deposed by military revolt in 695, mutilated (hence his surname) and exiled to Cherson, whence he recovered his throne in 705.

Twenty Years' Anarchy (695–717)

Main article: Twenty Years' Anarchy
Name Reign Comments
695–698General from Isauria, he deposed Justinian II and was overthrown in another revolt in 698. He was executed in February 706.
Tiberius III Apsimar
(Τιβέριος Γ' Ἀψίμαρος)
698–705Admiral of Germanic origin, originally named Apsimar. He rebelled against Leontios after a failed expedition. Reigned under the name of Tiberius until deposed by Justinian II in 705. Executed in February 706.
Justinian II "the Slit-nosed"
(Ἰουστινιανὸς Β' ὁ Ῥινότμητος)
August 705 –
December 711
Returned on the throne with Bulgar support. Named son Tiberius as co-emperor in 706. Deposed and killed by military revolt.
Philippikos Bardanes
(Φιλιππικὸς Βαρδάνης)
December 711 –
3 June 713
A general of Armenian origin, he deposed Justinian II and was in turn overthrown by a revolt of the Opsician troops.
Anastasios II
(Ἀναστάσιος Β')
June 713 –
November 715
Originally named Artemios. A bureaucrat and secretary under Philippikos, he was raised to the purple by the soldiers who overthrew Philippikos. Deposed by another military revolt, he led an abortive attempt to regain the throne in 718 and was killed.
Theodosios III
(Θεοδόσιος Γ')
May 715 –
25 March 717
A fiscal official, he was proclaimed emperor by the rebellious Opsician troops. Entered Constantinople in November 715. Abdicated following the revolt of Leo the Isaurian and became a monk.

Isaurian dynasty (717–802)

Name Reign Comments
Leo III "the Isaurian"
(Λέων Γ΄ ὁ Ἴσαυρος)
25 March 717 –
18 June 741
Born c. 685 in Germanikeia, Commagene, he became a general. Rose in rebellion and secured the throne in spring 717. Repelled the Second Arab Siege of Constantinople and initiated the Byzantine Iconoclasm.
Constantine V "the Dung-named"
(Κωνσταντῖνος Ε΄ ὁ Κοπρώνυμος)
18 June 741 –
14 September 775
Born in July 718, the only son of Leo III. Co-emperor since 720, he succeeded upon his father's death. After overcoming the usurpation of Artabasdos, he continued his father's iconoclastic policies and won several victories against the Arabs and the Bulgars. He is given the surname "the Dung-named" by hostile later chroniclers.
June 741/742 –
2 November 743
General and son-in-law of Leo III, Count of the Opsician Theme. Led a revolt that secured Constantinople, but was defeated and deposed by Constantine V, who blinded and tonsured him.
Leo IV "the Khazar"
(Λέων Δ΄ ὁ Χάζαρος)
14 September 775 –
8 September 780
Born on 25 January 750 as the eldest son of Constantine V. Co-emperor since 751, he succeeded upon his father's death.
Constantine VI
(Κωνσταντῖνος ΣΤ΄)
8 September 780 –
August 797
Born in 771, the only child of Leo IV. Co-emperor in 776, sole emperor upon Leo's death in 780, until 790 under the regency of his mother, Irene of Athens. He was overthrown on Irene's orders, blinded and imprisoned, probably dying of his wounds shortly after.
Irene of Athens
(Εἰρήνη ἡ Ἀθηναία)
August 797 –
31 October 802
Born c. 752 in Athens, she married Leo IV. Regent for her son Constantine VI in 780–790, she overthrew him in 797 and became empress-regnant. In 787 she called the Second Council of Nicaea which condemned the practice of iconoclasm and restored the veneration of icons to Christian practice. Deposed in a palace coup in 802, she was exiled and died on 9 August 803.

Nikephorian dynasty (802–813)

Main article: Nikephorian dynasty
Name Reign Comments
Nikephoros I "the Logothete"
(Νικηφόρος Α΄ ὁ Λογοθέτης)
31 October 802 –
26 July 811
General Logothete (finance minister) under Irene, led initially successful campaigns against the Bulgars but was killed at the Battle of Pliska.
26 July 811 –
2 October 811
Only son of Nikephoros I, crowned co-emperor in December 803. Succeeded on his father's death; however, he had been heavily wounded at Pliska and left paralyzed. He was forced to resign, and retired to a monastery where he died soon after.
Michael I Rangabe
(Μιχαὴλ Α΄ Ραγγαβὲ)
2 October 811 –
22 June 813
Son-in-law of Nikephoros I, he succeeded Staurakios on his abdication. Resigned after the revolt under Leo the Armenian and retired to a monastery, where he died on 11 January 844. Reigned with eldest son Theophylact as co-emperor.

Non-dynastic (813–820)

Name Reign Comments
Leo V "the Armenian"
(Λέων Ε' ὁ Ἀρμένιος)
11 July 813 –
25 December 820
General of Armenian origin, born c. 775. He rebelled against Michael I and became emperor. Appointed his son Symbatios co-emperor under the name of Constantine on Christmas 813. Revived Byzantine Iconoclasm. Murdered by a conspiracy led by Michael the Amorian.

Amorian dynasty (820–867)

Name Reign Comments
Michael II "the Amorian"
(Μιχαὴλ Β΄ ὁ ἐξ Ἀμορίου)
25 December 820 –
2 October 829
Born in 770 at Amorium, he became an army officer. A friend of Leo V, he was raised to high office but led the conspiracy that murdered him. Survived the rebellion of Thomas the Slav, lost Crete to the Arabs and faced the beginning of the Muslim conquest of Sicily, reinforced iconoclasm.
2 October 829 –
20 January 842
Born in 813, as the only son of Michael II. Co-emperor since 821, he succeeded on his father's death.
Michael III "the Drunkard"
(Μιχαὴλ Γ΄ ὁ Μέθυσος)
20 January 842 –
23 September 867
Born on 19 January 840, son of Theophilos, he succeeded on Theophilos' death. Under the regency of his mother Theodora until 856, and under the effective control of his uncle Bardas in 862–866. Ended iconoclasm. Murdered by Basil the Macedonian. A pleasure-loving ruler, he was nicknamed "the Drunkard" by later, pro-Basil chroniclers.

Macedonian dynasty (867–1056)

Name Reign Comments
Basil I "the Macedonian"
(Βασίλειος Α΄ ὁ Μακεδὼν)
867 –
2 August 886
Born in the Theme of Macedonia ca. 811, he rose in prominence through palace service, becoming a favourite of Michael III. He overthrew Michael and established the Macedonian dynasty. He led successful wars in the East against the Arabs and the Paulicians, and recovered southern Italy for the Empire.
Leo VI "the Wise"
(Λέων ΣΤ΄ ὁ Σοφὸς)
886 –
11 May 912
Born on 19 September 866, likely either son of Basil I or Michael III, Leo was known for his erudition. His reign saw a height in Saracen (Muslim) naval raids, culminating in the Sack of Thessalonica, and was marked by unsuccessful wars against the Bulgarians under Simeon I.
11 May 912 –
6 June 913
Son of Basil I, Alexander was born in 870 and raised to co-emperor in 879. Sidelined by Leo VI, Alexander dismissed his brother's principal aides on his accession. He died of exhaustion after a polo game.
Constantine VII "the Purple-born"
(Κωνσταντίνος Ζ΄ ὁ Πορφυρογέννητος)
6 June 913 –
9 November 959
The son of Leo VI, he was born on 17/18 May 905 and raised to co-emperor on 15 May 908. His early reign was dominated by successive regencies, first by his mother, Zoe Karbonopsina, and Patriarch Nicholas Mystikos, and from 919 by the admiral Romanos Lekapenos, who wedded his daughter to Constantine and was crowned senior emperor in 920. Constantine was sidelined during the Lekapenos regime, but asserted his control by deposing Romanos's sons in early 945. His reign was marked by struggles with Sayf al-Dawla in the East and an unsuccessful campaign against Crete, and pro-aristocratic policies that saw a partial reversal of Lekapenos' legislation against the dynatoi. He is notable for his promotion of the "Macedonian Renaissance", sponsoring encyclopaedic works and histories. He was a prolific writer himself, best remembered for the manuals on statecraft (De administrando imperio) and ceremonies (De ceremoniis) he compiled for his son, Romanos II.[12]
Romanos I Lekapenos
(Ρωμανὸς Α΄ Λεκαπηνὸς)
17 December 920 –
16 December 944
An admiral of lowly origin, Romanos rose to power as a protector of the young Constantine VII against the general Leo Phokas the Elder. After becoming the emperor's father-in-law, he successively assumed higher offices until he crowned himself senior emperor. His reign was marked by the end of warfare with Bulgaria and the great conquests of John Kourkouas in the East. Romanos promoted his sons Christopher, Stephen and Constantine as co-emperors over Constantine VII, but was himself overthrown by the latter two and confined to an island as a monk. He died there on 15 June 948.
Romanos II "the Purple-born"
(Ῥωμανὸς Β΄ ὁ Πορφυρογέννητος)
9 November 959 –
15 March 963
The only surviving son of Constantine VII, he was born on 15 March 938 and succeeded his father on the latter's death. He ruled until his own death, although the government was led mostly by the eunuch Joseph Bringas. His reign was marked by successful warfare in the East against Sayf al-Dawla and the recovery of Crete by general Nikephoros Phokas.
Nikephoros II Phokas
(Νικηφόρος Β΄ Φωκᾶς)
16 August 963 –
11 December 969
The most successful general of his generation, Nikephoros II was born ca. 912 to the powerful Phokas clan. After the death of Romanos II, he rose to the throne with the support of the army and people as regent for the young emperors Basil II and Constantine VIII, marrying the empress-dowager Theophano. Throughout his reign he led campaigns in the East, conquering much of Syria. He was murdered by his nephew and one-time associate John Tzimiskes.
John I Tzimiskes
(Ἰωάννης Α΄ Κουρκούας ὁ Τσιμισκὴς)
11 December 969 –
10 January 976
Nephew of Nikephoros Phokas, Tzimiskes was born ca. 925. A successful general, he fell out with his uncle and led a conspiracy of disgruntled generals who murdered him. Tzimiskes succeeded Nikephoros as emperor and regent for the young sons of Romanos II. As ruler, Tzimiskes crushed the Rus' in Bulgaria and ended the Bulgarian tsardom before going on to campaign in the East, where he died.
Basil II "the Bulgar-Slayer"
(Βασίλειος Β΄ ὁ Βουλγαροκτόνος)
10 January 976 –
15 December 1025
Eldest son of Romanos II, Basil was born in 958. The first decade of his reign was marked by rivalry with the powerful Basil Lekapenos, an unsuccessful war against Bulgaria, and rebellions by generals in Asia Minor. Basil solidified his position through a marriage alliance with Vladimir I of Kiev, and after suppressing the revolts, he embarked on his conquest of Bulgaria. Bulgaria was finally subdued in 1018 after over 20 years of war, interrupted only by sporadic warfare in Syria against the Fatimids. Basil also expanded Byzantine control over most of Armenia. His reign is widely considered as the apogee of medieval Byzantium.
Constantine VIII "the Purple-born"
(Κωνσταντῖνος Η΄ ὁ Πορφυρογέννητος)
15 December 1025 –
15 November 1028
The second son of Romanos II, Constantine was born in 960 and raised to co-emperor in March 962. During the rule of Basil II, he spent his time in idle pleasure. During his short reign he was an indifferent ruler, easily influenced by his courtiers and suspicious of plots to depose him, especially among the military aristocracy, many of whom were blinded and exiled. On his deathbed, he chose Romanos Argyros as husband for his daughter Zoe.[13]
Zoe "the Purple-born"
(Ζωὴ Πορφυρογέννητη)
15 November 1028 –
June 1050
The daughter of Constantine VIII, she succeeded on her father's death, as the only surviving member of the Macedonian dynasty, along with her sister Theodora. Her three husbands, Romanos III (1028–1034), Michael IV (1034–1041) and Constantine IX (1042–1050) ruled alongside her.
Romanos III Argyros
(Ῥωμανὸς Γ΄ Ἀργυρὸς)
15 November 1028 –
11 April 1034
Born in 968, the elderly aristocrat Romanos was chosen by Constantine VIII on his deathbed as Zoe's husband and succeeded on the throne after Constantine's death a few days later.
Michael IV "the Paphlagonian"
(Μιχαὴλ Δ΄ ὁ Παφλαγὼν)
11 April 1034 –
10 December 1041
Born in 1010, he became a lover of Zoe even while Romanos III was alive, and succeeded him upon his death as her husband and emperor. Aided by his older brother, the eunuch John the Orphanotrophos, his reign was moderately successful against internal rebellions, but his attempt to recover Sicily failed. He died after a long illness.
Michael V "the Caulker"
(Μιχαὴλ Ε΄ ὁ Καλαφάτης)
10 December 1041 –
20 April 1042
Born in 1015, he was the nephew and adopted son of Michael IV. During his reign he tried to sideline Zoe, but a popular revolt forced him to restore her as empress on 19 April 1042, along with her sister Theodora. He was deposed the next day, castrated and tonsured, dying on 24 August 1042.
19 April 1042 –
after 31 August 1056
The younger sister of Zoe, born in 984, she was raised as co-ruler on 19 April 1042. After Zoe married her third husband, Constantine IX, in June 1042, Theodora was again sidelined. After Zoe died in 1050 and Constantine in 1055, Theodora assumed full governance of the Empire and reigned until her death. She nominated Michael VI as her successor.
Constantine IX Monomachos
(Κωνσταντῖνος Θ΄ Μονομάχος)
11 June 1042 –
7/8 or 11 January 1055
Born ca. 1000 of noble origin, he had an undistinguished life but was exiled to Lesbos by Michael IV, returning when he was chosen as Zoe's third husband. Constantine supported the mercantile classes and favoured the company of intellectuals, thereby alienating the military aristocracy. A pleasure-loving ruler, he lived an extravagant life with his favourite mistresses and endowed a number of monasteries, chiefly the Nea Moni of Chios and the Mangana Monastery. His reign was marked by invasions by the Pechenegs in the Balkans and the Seljuk Turks in the East, the revolts of George Maniakes and Leo Tornikios, and the Great Schism between the patriarchates of Rome and Constantinople.[14]

Non-dynastic (1056–1057)

Name Reign Comments
Michael VI Bringas, "Stratiotikos" or "the Old"
(Μιχαὴλ ΣΤ΄ Βρίγγας, ὁ Στρατιωτικός, ὁ Γέρων)
September 1056 –
31 August 1057
A court bureaucrat and military logothete (hence his first sobriquet). Deposed by military revolt under Isaac Komnenos, he retired to a monastery where he died in 1059.

Komnenid dynasty (1057–1059)

Name Reign Comments
Isaac I Komnenos
(Ἰσαάκιος Α΄ Κομνηνὸς)
5 June 1057 –
22 November 1059
Born c. 1005. A successful general, he rose in revolt leading the eastern armies and was declared Emperor; he was recognized after the abdication of Michael VI on 31 August 1057. He resigned in 1059 and died c. 1061.

Doukid dynasty (1059–1081)

Name Reign Comments
Constantine X Doukas
(Κωνσταντίνος Ι΄ Δούκας)
24 November 1059 –
22 May 1067
Born in 1006, he became a general and close ally of Isaac Komnenos, and succeeded him as emperor on his abdication. Named his sons Michael, Andronikos and Konstantios as co-emperors
Michael VII Doukas
(Μιχαὴλ Ζ΄ Δούκας)
22 May 1067 –
24 March 1078
Born in 1050 as the eldest son of Constantine X. Co-emperor since 1059, he succeeded on his father's death. Due to his minority he was under the regency of his mother, Eudokia Makrembolitissa, in 1067–1068, and relegated to junior emperor under her second husband Romanos IV Diogenes in 1068–1071. Senior emperor in 1071–1078, he named his son Constantine co-emperor alongside his brothers. He abdicated before the revolt of Nikephoros Botaneiates, retired to a monastery and died c. 1090.
Romanos IV Diogenes
(Ρωμανὸς Δ΄ Διογένης)
1 January 1068 –
24 October 1071
Born in 1032, a successful general he married empress-dowager Eudokia Makrembolitissa and became senior emperor as guardian of her sons by Constantine X. Deposed by the Doukas partisans after the Battle of Manzikert, blinded in June 1072 and exiled. He died soon after.
Nikephoros III Botaneiates
(Νικηφόρος Γ΄ Βοτανειάτης)
31 March 1078 –
4 April 1081
Born in 1001, he was the strategos of the Anatolic Theme. He rebelled against Michael VII and was welcomed into the capital. He weathered several revolts, but was overthrown by the Komnenos clan. He retired to a monastery where he died on 10 December of the same year (1081).

Komnenid dynasty (1081–1185)

Name Reign Comments
Alexios I Komnenos
(Ἀλέξιος Α' Κομνηνὸς)
4 April 1081 –
15 August 1118
Born in 1056, a nephew of Isaac I Komnenos. A distinguished general, he overthrew Nikephoros III. His reign was dominated by wars against the Normans and the Seljuk Turks, as well as the arrival of the First Crusade and the establishment of independent Crusader states. He retained Constantine Doukas as co-emperor until 1087 and named his eldest son John co-emperor in 1092.
John II Komnenos
(Ἰωάννης Β' Κομνηνὸς)
15 August 1118 –
8 April 1143
Born on 13 September 1087 as the eldest son of Alexios I. Co-emperor since 1092, he succeeded upon his father's death. His reign was focused on wars with the Turks. A popular and frugal ruler, he was known as "John the Good". Named his eldest son Alexios co-emperor in 1122, but he died before him.
Manuel I Komnenos
(Μανουὴλ Α' Κομνηνὸς)
1143 –
24 September 1180
Born on 28 November 1118 as the fourth and youngest son of John II, he was chosen as emperor over his elder brother Isaac by his father on his deathbed. An energetic ruler, he launched campaigns against the Turks, humbled Hungary, achieved supremacy over the Crusader states, and tried unsuccessfully to recover Italy. His extravagance and constant campaigning, however, depleted the Empire's resources.
Alexios II Komnenos
(Ἀλέξιος B' Κομνηνὸς)
24 September 1180 –
October 1183
Born on 14 September 1169 as the only son of Manuel I. In 1180–1182 under the regency of his mother, Maria of Antioch. She was overthrown by Andronikos I Komnenos, who became co-emperor and finally had Alexios II deposed and killed.
Andronikos I Komnenos
(Ἀνδρόνικος Α' Κομνηνὸς)
1183 –
11 September 1185
Born c. 1118, a nephew of John II by his brother Isaac. A general, he was imprisoned for conspiring against John II, but escaped and spent 15 years in exile in various courts in eastern Europe and the Middle East. He seized the regency from Maria of Antioch in 1182 and subsequently throne from his nephew Alexios II. An unpopular ruler, he was overthrown and lynched in a popular uprising.

Angelid dynasty (1185–1204)

Name Reign Comments
Isaac II Angelos
(Ἰσαάκιος Β' Ἄγγελος)
1185 –
March 1195
Born in September 1156, Isaac came to the throne at the head of a popular revolt against Andronikos I. His reign was marked by revolts and wars in the Balkans, especially against a resurgent Bulgaria. He was deposed, blinded and imprisoned by his elder brother, Alexios III.
Alexios III Angelos
(Ἀλέξιος Γ' Ἄγγελος)
March 1195 –
17/18 July 1203
Born in 1153, Alexios was the elder brother of Isaac II. His reign was marked by misgovernment and the increasing autonomy of provincial magnates. He was deposed by the Fourth Crusade and fled Constantinople, roaming Greece and Asia Minor, searching for support to regain his throne. He died in Nicaean captivity in 1211.
Isaac II Angelos
(Ἰσαάκιος Β' Ἄγγελος)
18 July 1203 –
27/28 January 1204
Restored to his throne by the Crusaders, actual rule fell to his son Alexios IV. Due to their failure to deal with the Crusaders' demands, he was deposed by Alexios V Doukas in January 1204 and died on 28 January 1204, perhaps of poison.
Alexios IV Angelos
(Ἀλέξιος Δ' Ἄγγελος)
1 August 1203 –
27/28 January 1204
Born in 1182, the son of Isaac II. He enlisted the Fourth Crusade to return his father to the throne, and reigned alongside his restored father. Due to their failure to deal with the Crusaders' demands, he was deposed by Alexios V Doukas in January 1204, and was strangled on 8 February.
Alexios V Doukas "Mourtzouphlos"
(Ἀλέξιος Ε' Δούκας ὁ Μούρτζουφλος)
5 February 1204 –
13 April 1204
Born in 1140, the son-in-law of Alexios III and a prominent aristocrat, he deposed Isaac II and Alexios IV in a palace coup. He tried to repel the Crusaders, but they captured Constantinople forcing Mourtzouphlos to flee. He joined the exiled Alexios III, but was later blinded by the latter. Captured by the Crusaders, he was executed in December 1205.

Laskarid dynasty (Empire of Nicaea, 1204–1261)

Name Reign Comments
Theodore I Laskaris
(Θεόδωρος Α΄ Λάσκαρις)
December 1221/1222
Born c. 1174, he rose to prominence as a son-in-law of Alexios III. His brother Constantine Laskaris (or Theodore himself, it is uncertain) was elected emperor by the citizens of Constantinople on the day before the city fell to the Crusaders; Constantine only remained for a few hours before the sack of the City and later fled to Nicaea, where Theodore organized the Greek resistance to the Latins. Proclaimed emperor after Constantine's death in 1205, Theodore was crowned only in 1208. He managed to stop the Latin advance in Asia and to repel Seljuk attacks, establishing the Empire of Nicaea as the strongest of the Greek successor states.
John III Doukas Vatatzes
(Ἰωάννης Γ' Δούκας Βατάτζης)
15 December 1221/1222–
3 November 1254
Born c. 1192, he became the son-in-law and successor of Theodore I in 1212. A capable ruler and soldier, he expanded his state in Bithynia, Thrace and Macedonia at the expense of the Latin Empire, Bulgaria and the rival Greek state of Epirus.
Theodore II Laskaris
(Θεόδωρος Β' Λάσκαρις)
3 November 1254–
18 August 1258
Born in 1221/1222 as the only son of John III, he succeeded on his father's death. His reign was marked by his hostility towards the major houses of the aristocracy, and by his victory against Bulgaria and the subsequent expansion into and Albania.
John IV Laskaris
(Ἰωάννης Δ' Λάσκαρις)
18 August 1258–
25 December 1261
Born on 25 December 1250 as the only son of Theodore II, he succeeded on his father's death. Due to his minority, the regency was exercised at first by George Mouzalon until his assassination, and then by Michael Palaiologos, who within months was crowned senior emperor. After the recovery of Constantinople in August 1261, Palaiologos sidelined John IV completely, had him blinded and imprisoned. John IV died c. 1305.

Palaiologan dynasty (restored to Constantinople, 1261–1453)

Name Reign Comments
Michael VIII Palaiologos
(Μιχαὴλ Η' Παλαιολόγος)
1 January 1259–
11 December 1282
Born in 1223, great-grandson of Alexios III, grandnephew of John III by marriage. Senior emperor alongside John IV in 1259, sole emperor since 25 December 1261.
Andronikos II Palaiologos
(Ἀνδρόνικος Β' Παλαιολόγος)
11 December 1282–
24 May 1328
Son of Michael VIII, he was born on 25 March 1259. Named co-emperor in September 1261, crowned in 1272, he succeeded as sole emperor on Michael's death. Favouring monks and intellectuals, he neglected the army, and his reign saw the collapse of the Byzantine position in Asia Minor. He named his son Michael IX co-emperor. In a protracted civil war, he was first forced to recognize his grandson Andronikos III as co-emperor and was then deposed outright. He died on 13 February 1332.
Andronikos III Palaiologos
(Ἀνδρόνικος Γ' Παλαιολόγος)
24 May 1328–
15 June 1341
Son of Michael IX, he was born on 25 March 1297 and named co-emperor in 1316. Rival emperor since July 1321, he deposed his grandfather Andronikos II in 1328 and ruled as sole emperor until his death. Supported by John Kantakouzenos, his reign saw defeats against the Ottoman emirate but successes in Europe, where Epirus and Thessaly were recovered.
John V Palaiologos
(Ἰωάννης Ε' Παλαιολόγος)
15 June 1341–
12 August 1376
Only son of Andronikos III, he had not been crowned co-emperor or declared heir at his father's death, a fact which led to the outbreak of a destructive civil war between his regents and his father's closest aide, John VI Kantakouzenos, who was crowned co-emperor. The conflict ended in 1347 with Kantakouzenos recognized as senior emperor, but he was deposed by John V in 1354, during another civil war. Matthew Kantakouzenos, raised by John VI to co-emperor, was also deposed in 1357. John V appealed to the West for aid against the Ottomans, but in 1371 he was forced to recognize Ottoman suzerainty. He was deposed in 1376 by his son Andronikos IV.
John VI Kantakouzenos
(Ἰωάννης ΣΤ' Καντακουζηνὸς)
8 February 1347–
4 December 1354
A maternal relative of the Palaiologoi, he was declared co-emperor on 26 October 1341, and was recognized as senior emperor for ten years after the end of the civil war on 8 February 1347. Deposed by John V in 1354, he became a monk, dying on 15 June 1383.
Andronikos IV Palaiologos
(Ἀνδρόνικος Δ΄ Παλαιολόγος)
12 August 1376–
1 July 1379
Son of John V and grandson of John VI, he was born on 2 April 1348 and raised to co-emperor c. 1352. He deposed his father on 12 August 1376 and ruled until overthrown in turn in 1379. He was again recognized as co-emperor in 1381 and given Selymbria as an appanage, dying there on 28 June 1385.
John V Palaiologos
(Ἰωάννης Ε' Παλαιολόγος)
1 July 1379–
14 April 1390
Restored to senior emperor, he was reconciled with Andronikos IV in 1381, re-appointing him co-emperor. He was overthrown again in 1390 by his grandson, John VII.
John VII Palaiologos
(Ἰωάννης Ζ' Παλαιολόγος)
14 April 1390–
17 September 1390
Son of Andronikos IV, he was born in 1370, and named co-emperor under his father in 1377–79. He usurped the throne from his grandfather John V for five months in 1390, but with Ottoman mediation he was reconciled with John V and his uncle, Manuel II. He held Constantinople against the Ottomans in 1399–1402, and was then given Thessalonica as an appanage, which he governed until his death on 22 September 1408.
John V Palaiologos
(Ἰωάννης Ε' Παλαιολόγος)
17 September 1390–
16 February 1391
Restored to senior emperor, he ruled until his death in February 1391.
Manuel II Palaiologos
(Μανουὴλ Β' Παλαιολόγος)
16 February 1391–
21 July 1425
Second son of John V, he was born on 27 June 1350. Raised to co-emperor in 1373, he became senior emperor on John V's death and ruled until his death. He journeyed to the West European courts seeking aid against the Turks, and was able to use the Ottoman defeat in the Battle of Ankara to regain some territories and throw off his vassalage to them.
John VIII Palaiologos
(Ἰωάννης Η' Παλαιολόγος)
21 July 1425–
31 October 1448
Eldest surviving son of Manuel II, he was born on 18 December 1392. Raised to co-emperor c. 1416, he succeeded his father on his death. Seeking aid against the resurgent Ottomans, he ratified the Union of the Churches in 1439.
Constantine XI Palaiologos
(Κωνσταντῖνος ΙΑ' Παλαιολόγος)
6 January 1449–
29 May 1453
The fourth son of Manuel II, he was born on 8 February 1405. As Despot of the Morea since 1428, he distinguished himself in campaigns that annexed the Principality of Achaea and brought the Duchy of Athens under temporary Byzantine suzerainty, but was unable to repel Turkish attacks under Turahan Bey. As the eldest surviving brother, he succeeded John VIII after the latter's death. Facing the designs of the new Ottoman sultan, Mehmed II, on Constantinople, Constantine acknowledged the Union of the Churches and made repeated appeals for help to the West, but in vain. Refusing to surrender the city, he was killed during the final Ottoman attack on 29 May 1453.[15]

Palaiologan dynasty (claimants in exile)

Name Claim Comments
Demetrios Palaiologos (Δημήτριος Παλαιολόγος) 1453–
Born c. 1407. Son of Manuel II, brother of John VIII and Constantine XI. Co-despot in Morea to 1460. Died 1470.
Thomas Palaiologos (Θωμᾶς Παλαιολόγος)1453–
12 May 1465
Born c. 1409. Son of Manuel II, brother of John VIII and Constantine XI, Co-despot in Morea to 1460. Died 12 May 1465
Andreas Palaiologos (Ἀνδρέας Παλαιολόγος)12 May 1465–
Born c. 1453. Son of Thomas. Died 1502.

See also


  1. 1 2 Nicol, Donald MacGillivray, Last Centuries of Byzantium, 1261-1453, Cambridge University Press, Second Edition, 1993, p. 72: "Hereditary succession to the throne was a custom or a convenience in Byzantium, not an inviolable principle. Emperors, particularly in the later period, would take pains to nominate their sons as co-emperors, for the rule of a dynasty made for stability and continuity. But in theory, the road to the throne was a carriere ouverte aux talents [career open to talents]..."
  2. Hooker, Richard (1 October 2007). "European Middle Ages: The Byzantine Empire". Washington State University. Archived from the original on 24 February 1999. Retrieved 25 August 2015.
  3. p. 183, Karayannopoulous, Yanis, "State Organization, Social Structure, Economy, and Commerce," History of Humanity - Scientific and Cultural Development from the Seventh to the Sixteenth Centuries, Vol. IV, M. A. Al-Bakhit, L. Bazin, S. M. Cissoko and M. S. Asimov, Editors, UNESCO, Paris (2000)
  4. Gregory, Timothy E.; Cutler, Anthony (1991). "Constantine I the Great". In Kazhdan, Alexander P. Oxford Dictionary of Byzantium. New York; Oxford: Oxford University Press. pp. 498–500. ISBN 978-0-19-504652-6.
  5. Gregory, Timothy E. (1991). "Constantius II". In Kazhdan, Alexander P. Oxford Dictionary of Byzantium. New York; Oxford: Oxford University Press. p. 524. ISBN 978-0-19-504652-6.
  6. Gregory, Timothy E. (1991). "Constans". In Kazhdan, Alexander P. Oxford Dictionary of Byzantium. New York; Oxford: Oxford University Press. p. 496. ISBN 978-0-19-504652-6.
  7. Gregory, Timothy E.; Cutler, Anthony (1991). "Leo I". In Kazhdan, Alexander P. Oxford Dictionary of Byzantium. New York; Oxford: Oxford University Press. pp. 1206–1207. ISBN 978-0-19-504652-6.
  8. Kazhdan, Alexander P. (1991). "Leo II". In Kazhdan, Alexander P. Oxford Dictionary of Byzantium. New York; Oxford: Oxford University Press. pp. 1207–1208. ISBN 978-0-19-504652-6.
  9. Gregory, Timothy E. (1991). "Zeno". In Kazhdan, Alexander P. Oxford Dictionary of Byzantium. New York; Oxford: Oxford University Press. p. 2223. ISBN 978-0-19-504652-6.
  10. Gregory, Timothy E. (1991). "Anastasios I". In Kazhdan, Alexander P. Oxford Dictionary of Byzantium. New York; Oxford: Oxford University Press. pp. 86–87. ISBN 978-0-19-504652-6.
  11. McKay/HillA History of World Societies. Bedford/St. Martin's, 9th edition. 2012
  12. Kazhdan, Alexander; Cutler, Anthony (1991). "Constantine VII Porphyrogennetos". In Kazhdan, Alexander P. Oxford Dictionary of Byzantium. New York; Oxford: Oxford University Press. pp. 502–503. ISBN 978-0-19-504652-6.
  13. Brand, Charles M.; Cutler, Anthony (1991). "Constantine VIII". In Kazhdan, Alexander P. Oxford Dictionary of Byzantium. New York; Oxford: Oxford University Press. pp. 503–504. ISBN 978-0-19-504652-6.
  14. Brand, Charles M.; Cutler, Anthony (1991). "Constantine IX Monomachos". In Kazhdan, Alexander P. Oxford Dictionary of Byzantium. New York; Oxford: Oxford University Press. p. 504. ISBN 978-0-19-504652-6.
  15. Talbot, Alice-Mary (1991). "Constantine XI Palaiologos". In Kazhdan, Alexander P. Oxford Dictionary of Byzantium. New York; Oxford: Oxford University Press. p. 505. ISBN 978-0-19-504652-6.
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