Alexander (Byzantine emperor)

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Emperor and Autocrat of the Romans
Mosaic of Emperor Alexander in Hagia Sophia. In his left hand he holds a globus cruciger, and in his right the akakia.
Roman emperor
Reign11 May 912 – 6 June 913
Coronationc. September 879[a]
PredecessorLeo VI
SuccessorConstantine VII
Born23 November 870[4]
(now Istanbul, Turkey)
Died6 June 913 (aged 42)
Regnal name
Alexander Augustus[5]
FatherBasil I
MotherEudokia Ingerina

Alexander[b] (Greek: Άλέξανδρος, Alexandros, 23 November 870 – 6 June 913) was briefly Roman emperor from 912 to 913, and the third emperor of the Macedonian dynasty.


Born in the purple, Alexander was the third son of Emperor Basil I and Eudokia Ingerina. Unlike his older brother Leo VI the Wise, his paternity was not disputed between Basil I and Michael III because he was born years after the death of Michael.[12] As a child, Alexander was crowned as co-emperor by his father in early 879, following the death of Basil's son Constantine.[13]

Alexander ordering the dismissal of Patriarch Euthymius.

Upon the death of his brother Leo on 11 May 912, Alexander succeeded as senior emperor alongside Leo's young son Constantine VII. He was the first Byzantine emperor to use the term "autocrator" (αὐτοκράτωρ πιστὸς εὑσεβὴς βασιλεὺς) on coinage to celebrate the ending of his thirty-three years as co-emperor.[14] Alexander promptly dismissed most of Leo's advisers and appointees, including the admiral Himerios, the patriarch Euthymios, and the Empress Zoe Karbonopsina, the mother of Constantine VII whom he locked up in a nunnery.[14] The patriarchate was again conferred on Nicholas Mystikos, who had been removed from this position because he had opposed Leo's fourth marriage.

Emperor Alexander rebuffs the Bulgarian envoys, refusing to pay tribute.

During his short reign, Alexander found himself attacked by the forces of Al-Muqtadir of the Abbasid Caliphate in the East, and provoked a war with Simeon I of Bulgaria by refusing to send the traditional tribute on his accession. Alexander died soon after, allegedly because of a stomach disease caused by excessive eating and alcohol.[15]

On his deathbed, Alexander finally concedes power to his nephew Constantine VII.

The sources are uniformly hostile towards Alexander, who is depicted as lazy, lecherous, drunk, and malignant, including the rumor that he planned to castrate the young Constantine VII in order to exclude him from the succession. At least that charge did not come to pass, but Alexander left his successor a hostile regent (Nicholas Mystikos) and the beginning of a long war against Bulgaria. The sources also accused the Emperor of idolatry, including making pagan sacrifices to the golden statue of a boar in the Hippodrome and had it provided with new teeth and genitals in hope of curing his impotence.[16]

See also[edit]


  1. ^ There is some evidence that Alexander was already crowned by August 879, but most sources agree that he was appointed co-emperor following the death of his brother Constantine.[1][2] He was certainly made co-emperor before November 879.[3]
  2. ^ Alexander is most commonly not assigned a regnal number.[6][7][8] If assigned one, he is rarely regarded as Alexander II, after Severus Alexander (r.222–235)[9] or even more rarely as Alexander III[10] after both Severus Alexander and Domitius Alexander (r.308–310). He has also been called Alexander I (though there was no later emperor by the name).[11]


  1. ^ "Alexandros (#20328)". De Gruyter.
  2. ^ Tougher 1996, pp. 475–476.
  3. ^ Mango, Cyril (2018) [1958]. The Homilies of Photius. Dumbarton Oaks studies. Vol. 3. p. 179. ISBN 9781532641381.
  4. ^ Grierson 1973, p. 475.
  5. ^ Coinage from 912-913, unlike the coins issued during his co-rules, refers to him as Alexandros Augustos
  6. ^ Browning 1980, p. 297.
  7. ^ Haldon 2005, p. 176.
  8. ^ Lawler 2015, p. 37.
  9. ^ Jenkins 1999, p. 101.
  10. ^ Granier 2018, p. 224.
  11. ^ Tougher 1996, p. 209.
  12. ^ Schmitz, Leonhard (1867). "Alexander". In William Smith (ed.). Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology. Vol. 1. Boston: Little, Brown and Company. p. 115.
  13. ^ Ostrogorsky 1969, p. 233.
  14. ^ a b Ostrogorsky 1969, p. 261.
  15. ^ Skylitzes, Ioannes (2010) [1100]. Synopsis of History. Translated by John Wortley. p. 190. [Alexander] came down to play ball (tzykanion). A pain arose in his entrails which had been overloaded with an excess of food and excessive drinking. He went back up into the palace haemorrhaging from his nose and his genitals; after one day he was death.
  16. ^ Karlin-Hayter 1969.


Born: 870 Died: 6 June 913
Regnal titles
Preceded by Byzantine emperor
11 May 912 – 6 June 913
Succeeded by