Constantine Dalassenos (duke of Antioch)

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Constantine Dalassenos (Greek: Κωνσταντίνος Δαλασσηνός) was a prominent Byzantine aristocrat and general of the first half of the 11th century. An experienced and popular general, he twice came close to ascending the imperial throne and marriage to the porphyrogenita Empress Zoe (r. 1028–1050), and suffered a long period of imprisonment under Michael IV the Paphlagonian (r. 1034–1041), who feared that he plotted against him.


Constantine was born probably circa 965/970,[1] the eldest son of the magistros Damian Dalassenos, who held the important post of doux of Antioch from 995/996 until his death in battle against the Fatimids at Apamea in 998. Constantine, along with his brothers Romanos and Theophylact, was also present at the battle.[2][3][4] He was probably one of the two sons of the magistros who, according to the Christian Arab historian Yahya of Antioch, were captured by the Fatimids, taken to Cairo, and ransomed only in 1008.[5][6]

Constantine reappears in spring 1024, when he held his father's old post as doux of Antioch, with the rank of patrikios. His career between 1008 and 1024 is unknown, but he probably held a succession of military commands.[2][6] He enjoyed the favour of Emperor Constantine VIII (r. 1025–1028), who on his deathbed reportedly considered naming him his heir and wedding him to his eldest daughter Zoe. Constantine Dalassenos thus set out from his estates in the Armeniac Theme, where he was living, but before reaching Constantinople the situation changed: the emperor's advisors, who preferred a weak ruler whom they could control, had persuaded him to choose Romanos III Argyros (r. 1028–1034) instead, and to order Dalassenos to return home.[6][7] Under Romanos III, Dalassenos served in the failed campaign of 1030 against Aleppo; Arab sources and the chronicle of Matthew of Edessa blame Dalassenos and his conspiring against Romanos for the expedition's failure.[6][8]

During the reign of Argyros's successors, Michael IV the Paphlagonian (r. 1034–1041) and Michael V (r. 1041–1042), Constantine Dalassenos emerged as the leader of the aristocratic opposition. He enjoyed not only the support of several prominent Anatolian families, most notably the powerful Doukai – the later emperor Constantine X Doukas (r. 1059–1067) was married to Dalassenos's daughter – but also, according to Michael Psellos, of the populace both in Constantinople and especially in his old command, Antioch.[9]

John the Orphanotrophos sends Phagitzes with relics to Constantine Dalassenos, miniature from the Madrid Skylitzes

The accession of the low-born Michael IV in particular reportedly enraged Dalassenos, who derided the new emperor as a "vulgar and three-penny man". Consequently, Michael's eunuch brother and chief minister, John the Orphanotrophos, tried to neutralize Constantine Dalassenos. With the promise of titles and honours, he tried to lure Dalassenos from his estates in the Armeniac Theme to Constantinople. Dalassenos at first refused, but after receiving assurances for his safety, guaranteed by an oath on some of the Empire's holiest relics, he left for the imperial capital.[8][10] Initially, he was treated well, receiving a promotion and gifts, but in summer 1034, a revolt broke out in Antioch against the local governor, Michael IV's brother Niketas. The uprising was triggered by heavy taxation, but John the Orphanotrophos chose to blame it on the Dalassenoi: Constantine, his brothers and relatives, including his son-in-law Constantine Doukas and other nobles associated with them, were imprisoned and exiled.[11][12][13]

John the Orphanotrophos sends Constantine Dalassenos to exile at Plate Island, miniature from the Madrid Skylitzes

Constantine himself was first exiled to an island in the Sea of Marmara, but later, to prevent his escape, he was transferred to a tower in the Walls of Constantinople, along with Constantine Doukas. His military expertise, however, continued to be so highly valued that John the Orphanotrophos considered sending him as a military advisor to his brother Constantine in a campaign against Abasgia.[11] A later tradition has it that during Dalassenos's detainment in the capital, Zoe, who had yet to conceive a child, carried out a secret relationship with him in hopes of getting pregnant.[13] At some point in 1041, Constantine was also forced to become a monk. The accounts here are contradictory: Psellos writes that Michael V did this upon his accession in December, but Michael Attaleiates in contrast records that Michael V had Dalassenos liberated from confinement.[9][11]

After Michael V was deposed in a popular uprising in April 1042, Constantine VIII's daughters Zoe and Theodora were left as de facto rulers of the Byzantine Empire. Following both custom and her own inclination, Zoe decided to choose another husband (her third) to be emperor. Constantine Dalassenos, who had almost become her first husband in 1028, was her first choice. He was brought for an audience before the Empress, but during their conversation, his austere principles and his independent and forceful manner displeased Zoe, and he was passed over in favour of the more pliant and amenable Constantine IX Monomachos (r. 1042–1055). Constantine Dalassenos disappears thereafter from the sources.[9][11][14]



Last known title holder:
Michael the koitonites (1011)
Doux of Antioch
Succeeded by
Michael Spondyles