Constantine VIII

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Constantine VIII (in Greek Konstantinos VIII, written Κωνσταντίνος Η') (960November 15, 1028), Byzantine emperor (December 15, 1025November 15, 1028) was the son of the Emperor Romanus II and Theophano; the younger brother of the eminent Basil II, who died childless and thus left the rule of the Byzantine Empire in his hands.

Technically, Constantine became co-emperor with his brother when Basil assumed the throne in 976 at the age of 18, but during the 49 years that Basil II ruled, his brother had little role in the affairs of state even though Basil was often away from Constantinople fighting wars. Constantine is said to have spent most of this time living in luxury and with little or no responsibility.

When Basil died on December 15, 1025, Constantine finally became sole emperor, although he ruled for less than three years before his own death on November 15, 1028.

Physically Constantine was tall and magnificent where Basil had been short and stocky, and was graceful. He was a superb horseman. By the time he became emperor, he had chronic gout and could hardly walk. His reign was a disaster because he lacked in courage. He reacted to every challenge with cruelty. He ordered the execution or mutilation of hundreds of innocent men. Constantine carried on as he always had: hunting, feasting, and enjoying life - and avoided state business as much as possible. He was poor at appointing officials. Within months, the land laws of Basil II were dropped under pressure from the Anatolian aristocracy.

Like his brother, Constantine died without a male heir. The empire thus passed to his daughter Zoë and a long line of her husbands and children, none of whom distinguished themselves.

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