Michael IV the Paphlagonian
Michael IV the Paphlagonian (Greek: Μιχαήλ Δ΄ Παφλαγών, Mikhaēl IV Paphalgōn), (1010 – December 10, 1041), was Byzantine emperor from April 11, 1034 to December 10, 1041. He owed his elevation to Empress Zoe, daughter of Emperor Constantine VIII and wife of Romanos III Argyros.
Michael came from a family of Paphlagonian peasants, one of whom, the parakoimomenos John the Eunuch had come to preside over the woman's quarters at the imperial palace. John brought his younger brothers into the court and there the empress Zoe became enamoured of Michael, who became her chamberlain. They probably poisoned her husband Romanos III and Zoe immediately married Michael, on April 11, 1034. Michael IV was also proclaimed emperor and reigned together with Zoe until his death in 1041.
Michael IV was handsome, smart, and generous, but he was uneducated and suffered from epileptic fits. Therefore he left the government in the hands of his brother John, who had already become an influential minister of Constantine VIII and Romanos III. John's reforms of the army and financial system revived for a while the strength of the Empire, which held its own successfully against its foreign enemies. But the increase in taxation caused discontent among both nobles and commoners. John's monopoly of the government led to several failed conspiracies against him in 1034, 1037, 1038 and 1040 one of which was led by the Empress Zoe herself. The last conspiracy involved the patrician Michael Keroularios, who became a monk to save his life and was later elected as Patriarch of Constantinople.
On the eastern frontier the important fortress of Edessa was relieved after a prolonged siege. The western front the Muslims were almost driven out of Sicily by George Maniakes (who campaigned there between 1037 and 1040); but an expedition against the Italian Normans suffered several defeats, and after the recall of Maniakes most of the Sicilian conquests were lost (1041).
In the north the Serbs revolted successfully in 1040, as did the Bulgarians in western Bulgaria and Macedonia in the same year. This revolt was partly caused by the heavy taxation in coin imposed on Bulgaria at the time, but it aimed at the restoration of the Bulgarian state under the leadership of Peter Delyan. Although Michael IV was chased out of the vicinity of Thessalonica by the rebels, he returned in 1041 assisted by Norse mercenaries including the future King Harald III of Norway. The military success of the Byzantines was aided by internal dissention among the Bulgarians and eventually their leaders were defeated and captured. Michael IV returned to Constantinople in triumph but he was now decrepit with illness and died on December 10, 1041.
- (primary source) Michael Psellus, Chronographia.
- The Oxford Dictionary of Byzantium, Oxford University Press, 1991.
- This article incorporates text from the Encyclopædia Britannica Eleventh Edition, a publication now in the public domain.
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