Romanos IV Diogenes

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Romanos IV Diogenes
Emperor and Autocrat of the Romans
Romanus IV coin crop.png
A silver miliaresion of Romanos IV Diogenes
Byzantine emperor
Reign1 January 1068 –
1 October 1071
PredecessorConstantine X Doukas
SuccessorMichael VII Doukas
Died1072 (aged 42)
Eudokia Makrembolitissa
IssueConstantine Diogenes
Nikephoros Diogenes
Leo Diogenes
FatherConstantine Diogenes

Romanos IV Diogenes (Greek: Ρωμανός Δ΄ Διογένης), also known as Romanus IV, was a member of the Byzantine military aristocracy who, after his marriage to the widowed empress Eudokia Makrembolitissa, was crowned Byzantine Emperor and reigned from 1068 to 1071. During his reign he was determined to halt the decline of the Byzantine military and to stop Turkish incursions into the Byzantine Empire, but in 1071 he was captured and his army routed at the Battle of Manzikert. While still captive he was overthrown in a palace coup, and when released he was quickly defeated and detained by members of the Doukas family. In 1072, he was blinded and sent to a monastery, where he died of his wounds.

Accession to the throne[edit]

Romanos Diogenes was the son of Constantine Diogenes and a member of a prominent and powerful Byzantine Greek family from Cappadocia, the Diogenoi,[1] connected by birth to most of the great aristocratic nobles in Asia Minor.[2] His mother was a daughter of Basil Argyros, brother of the emperor Romanos III.[3] Courageous and generous, but also impetuous, Romanos rose with distinction in the army due to his military talents, and he served on the Danubian frontier.[4] At that time some parts from the theme of Bulgaria were organized as a new province with the centre at Serdica, and he became a duke of that province in 1067.[5] However, he was eventually convicted of attempting to usurp the throne of the sons of Constantine X Doukas in 1067.[1] While waiting to receive his sentence from the regent Eudokia Makrembolitissa, he was summoned into her presence and advised that she had pardoned him and that she had furthermore chosen him to be her husband and the guardian of her sons as emperor.[6] She took this course of action primarily due to her concern that unless she managed to find a powerful husband, she could easily lose the regency to any unscrupulous noble, and also because she was infatuated with the popular Romanos.[1] Her decision was met with little protest as the Seljuk Turks had overrun much of Cappadocia and had even taken the important city of Caesarea, meaning that the army needed to be placed under the command of an able and energetic general.[2]

After a written oath promising never to remarry, extracted from Eudokia by Constantine X, had been set aside by the Patriarch of Constantinople, John Xiphilinos, and the approval of the senate obtained, on 1 January 1068 Romanos married the empress and was crowned Emperor of the Romans.[1]

Campaigns against the Turks[edit]

Gold histamenon of Romanos IV: Michael VII Doukas flanked by his brothers Andronikos and Konstantios on the obverse, Romanos IV and Eudokia Makrembolitissa crowned by Christ on the reverse

Romanos IV was now the senior emperor and guardian of his stepsons and junior co-emperors, Michael VII, Konstantios, and Andronikos Doukas.[7] However, his elevation had antagonised not only the Doukas family,[citation needed] in particular the Caesar, John Doukas who led the opposition of the palace officials to Romanos' authority, but also the Varangian Guard, who openly expressed their discontent at the marriage of Eudokia.[8] Romanos therefore decided that he could only exercise his authority by placing himself at the head of the army in the field, thereby focusing the whole government's attention on the war against the Turks.[8]

By 1067, the Turks had been making incursions at will into Mesopotamia, Melitene, Syria, Cilicia, and Cappadocia, culminating with the sack of Caesarea and the plundering of the Church of St Basil.[9] That winter they camped on the frontiers of the empire and waited for the next year's campaigning season. Romanos was confident of Byzantine superiority on the field of battle, looking on the Turks as little more than hordes of robbers who would melt away at the first encounter.[10] He did not take into account the degraded state of the Byzantine forces,[10] which had suffered years of neglect from his predecessors, in particular Constantine X Doukas. His forces, mostly composed of Sclavonian, Armenian, Bulgarian, and Frankish mercenaries, were ill-disciplined, disorganised, and uncoordinated, and he was not prepared to spend time in upgrading the arms, armour, or tactics of the once-feared Byzantine army.[11] It was soon evident that while Romanos possessed military talent, his impetuosity was a serious flaw.[citation needed]

Campaign of 1068[edit]

The first military operations of Romanos did achieve a measure of success, reinforcing his opinions about the outcome of the war. Antioch was exposed to the Saracens of Aleppo who, with help from Turkish troops, began an attempt to reconquer the Byzantine province of Syria.[12] Romanos began marching to the southeastern frontier of the empire to deal with this threat, but as he was advancing towards Lykandos, he received word that a Seljuk army had made an incursion into Pontus and had plundered Neocaesarea.[13] Immediately he selected a small mobile force and quickly raced through Sebaste and the mountains of Tephrike to encounter the Turks on the road, forcing them to abandon their plunder and release their prisoners, though a large number of the Turkish troops managed to escape.[13]

Returning south, Romanos rejoined the main army, and they continued their advance through the passes of Mount Taurus to the north of Germanicia and proceeded to invade the Emirate of Aleppo.[13] Romanos captured Hierapolis, which he fortified to provide protection against further incursions into the south-eastern provinces of the empire.[11] He then engaged in further fighting against the Saracens of Aleppo, but neither side managed a decisive victory.[13] With the campaigning season reaching its end, Romanos returned north via Alexandretta and the Cilician Gates to Podandos. Here he was advised of another Seljuk raid into Asia Minor in which they sacked Amorium but returned to their base so fast that Romanos was in no position to give chase. He eventually reached Constantinople by January 1069.[13]

Campaign of 1069[edit]

Copper follis of Romanos IV. The obverse shows Christ Pantokrator, while the reverse depicts a cross quartered with the letters ϹΒΡΔ for the motto Σταυρὲ σου βοήθει Ρωμανόν δεσπότην ("Thy Cross aid the Lord Romanos").[14]

Plans for the following year's campaigning were initially thrown into chaos by a rebellion by one of Romanos' Norman mercenaries, Robert Crispin, who led a contingent of Frankish troops in the pay of the empire. Possibly due to Romanos not paying them on time,[15] they began plundering the countryside near where they were stationed at Edessa, and attacking the imperial tax collectors. Although Crispin was captured and exiled to Abydos, the Franks continued to ravage the Armeniac Theme for some time.[15] In the meantime, the land around Caesarea was again overrun by the Turks, forcing Romanos to spend precious time and energy in expelling the Turks from Cappadocia.[15] Desperate to begin his campaign proper, he ordered the execution of all prisoners, even a Seljuk chieftain who offered to pay an immense ransom for his life.[15] Having brought a measure of peace to the province, Romanos marched towards the Euphrates via Melitene, and crossed the river at Romanopolis, hoping to take Akhlat on Lake Van and thus protect the Armenian frontier.[15]

Romanos placed himself at the head of a substantial body of troops and began his march towards Akhlat, leaving the bulk of the army under the command of Philaretos Brachamios with orders to defend the Mesopotamian frontier.[15] Philaretos was soon defeated by the Turks, whose sack of Iconium[4] forced Romanos to abandon his plans and return to Sebaste. He sent orders to the Dux of Antioch to secure the passes at Mopsuestia, while he attempted to run down the Turks at Heracleia.[15] The Turks were soon hemmed in in the mountains of Cilicia, but they managed to escape to Aleppo after abandoning their plunder. Romanos once again returned to Constantinople without the great victory he was hoping for.[15]

Affairs at Constantinople[edit]

Romanos was detained at Constantinople[11] in 1070, while he dealt with many outstanding administrative issues, including the imminent fall of Bari into Norman hands. They had been besieging it since 1068, but it had taken Romanos two years to respond.[16] He ordered a relief fleet to set sail, containing sufficient provisions and troops to enable them to hold out for much longer. The fleet was intercepted, however, and defeated by a Norman squadron under the command of Roger, the younger brother of Robert Guiscard,[16] forcing the final remaining outpost of Byzantine authority in Italy to surrender on 15 April 1071.[17]

Meanwhile, Romanos was undertaking a number of unpopular reforms at home.[11] He reduced a great deal of unnecessary public expenditure on court ceremonials and beautifying the capital.[18] He reduced the public salaries paid to much of the court nobility, as well as reducing the profits of tradesmen. His preoccupation with the military had also made him unpopular with the provincial governors and the military hierarchy, as he was determined to ensure they could not abuse their positions, especially through corrupt practices.[18] He incurred the displeasure of the mercenaries by enforcing much needed discipline. Romanos was also deeply unpopular with the common people, as he neglected to entertain them with games at the hippodrome, nor did he alleviate the burdens of the peasants in the provinces.[18] All this animosity would help his enemies when the time came to move against him.

Nevertheless, he did not forget his principal target, the Turks. Being unable to go on campaign himself,[11] he entrusted the imperial army to one of his generals, Manuel Komnenos, nephew of the former emperor Isaac I, and elder brother to the future emperor Alexios.[19] He managed to engage the Turks in battle, but was defeated and taken prisoner by a Turkish general named Khroudj. Manuel convinced Khroudj to go to Constantinople and see Romanos in person to conclude an alliance, which was soon completed.[19] This act motivated the Seljuk Sultan Alp Arslan to attack the Byzantine Empire, besieging and capturing the important Byzantine fortresses of Manzikert and Archesh.[20] Romanos, in return, offered to officially exchange Manzikert and Archesh for Hieropolis in Syria, which Romanos had taken three years previously.[20]

Battle of Manzikert and capture by Alp Arslan[edit]

Alp Arslan humiliating Emperor Romanos IV. From a 15th-century illustrated French translation of Boccaccio's De Casibus Virorum Illustrium.[21]

Early in the spring of 1071, whilst conducting negotiations with Alp Arslan over Manzikert,[20] Romanos marched at the head of a large army with the intent of recovering the fortress.[22] It was soon evident that the army had a serious discipline problem, with soldiers regularly pillaging the area around their nightly camps. When Romanos attempted to enforce some stricter discipline, a whole regiment of German mercenaries mutinied, which the emperor only managed to control with the greatest difficulty.[23]

Believing that Alp Arslan was nowhere near Manzikert, he decided to divide his army. One part of the army he dispatched to attack Akhlat, at that time in possession of the Turks.[24] Romanos himself advanced with the main body of the army on Manzikert, which he soon recaptured.[24] At this point his advance guard met the Seljuk army, which was rapidly approaching Manzikert. Romanos ordered the forces attacking Akhlat to rejoin the army, but their portion of the army unexpectedly came across another large Turkish army, forcing them to retreat back into Mesopotamia.[24] Already under strength, Romanos' army was further weakened when his Uzes mercenaries deserted to the Turks.[25]

Arslan had no desire to take on the Byzantine army, so he proposed a peace treaty with favourable terms for Romanos.[25] The emperor, eager for a decisive military victory, rejected the offer, and both armies lined up for a battle, which took place on 26 August 1071.[26] The battle lasted all day without either side gaining any decisive advantage, until the emperor ordered a part of his centre to return to camp. The order was misunderstood by the right wing,[27] however, and Andronikos Doukas, who commanded the reserves, and was the son of Caesar John Doukas, took advantage of the confusion to betray Romanos. Claiming that Romanos was dead, he marched away from the battle with some 30,000 men, instead of covering the emperor's retreat.[28] The Turks now began to press in on the Byzantine army.

When Romanos discovered what had happened, he tried to recover the situation by making a defiant stand. He fought on valiantly after his horse was killed under him, but he received a wound in the hand, which prevented him from wielding a sword, and he was soon taken prisoner.[29]

According to a number of Byzantine historians, including John Skylitzes, Arslan at first had difficulty believing the dusty and tattered warrior brought before him was the Roman Emperor.[30] He then stepped down from his seat and placed his foot on Romanos' neck.[31] After this sign of ritual humiliation, however, Arslan raised Romanos from the ground and ordered him to be treated like a king. From then on he treated him with extreme kindness, never saying a cruel word to him during the Emperor's eight-day stay in his camp.[31] He then released the Emperor in exchange for a treaty and the promise of a hefty ransom. At first Alp Arslan suggested a ransom of 10,000,000 nomismata to Romanos IV, but he later reduced it to 1,500,000 nomismata, with a further 360,000 nomismata annually.[18]


In the meantime, the opposition faction scheming against Romanos IV decided to exploit the situation. The Caesar John Doukas and Michael Psellos forced Eudokia to retire to a monastery, and they prevailed upon Michael VII to declare Romanos IV deposed.[17] They then refused to honor the agreement made between Arslan and the former emperor.[32] Romanos soon returned, and he and the Doukas family gathered troops. A battle was fought between Constantine, Andronikos Doukas and Romanos. Romanos was defeated and retreated to the fortress of Tyropoion, and from there to Adana in Cilicia. Pursued by Andronikos, he was eventually forced to surrender by the garrison at Adana upon receiving assurances of his personal safety.[33] Before leaving the fortress, he collected all the money he could lay his hands on and sent it to the Sultan as proof of his good faith, along with a message: "As emperor, I promised you a ransom of a million and a half. Dethroned, and about to become dependent upon others, I send you all I possess as proof of my gratitude".[34] He abdicated on 1 October 1071.[35]

Andronikos stipulated that his life would be spared if he resigned the purple and retired into a monastery. Romanos agreed, and this agreement was ratified at Constantinople.[34] However, John Doukas reneged on the agreement and sent men to have Romanos cruelly blinded on 29 June 1072 in Kotyaion.[4] According to Attaleiates, the emperor was led away, pleading for mercy, to be blinded by an "inexperienced Jew" who required three attempts to blind the emperor while he "bellowed like a bull". Per Attaleiates, "when he arose, his eyes were drenched with blood, a pathetic and pitiable sight that made everyone who saw it cry uncontrollably." He was then sent into exile to Prote in the Sea of Marmara. Without medical assistance, his wound became infected, and he soon endured a painfully lingering death.[citation needed] The final insult was given a few days before his death, when Romanos received a letter from Michael Psellos, congratulating him on the loss of his eyes.[36] He finally died, praying for the forgiveness of his sins, and his widow Eudokia was permitted to honor his remains with a magnificent funeral.[34] "His enemies", wrote John Julius Norwich, "martyred a courageous and upright man."


By his first wife, an unnamed daughter of Alusian of Bulgaria, Romanos IV Diogenes had at least one son:

By his second wife, the Empress Eudokia Makrembolitissa, he had:

See also[edit]


  1. ^ a b c d Norwich 1993, p. 344
  2. ^ a b Finlay 1854, p. 30
  3. ^ Cheynet & Vannier 2003, p. 78.
  4. ^ a b c Kazhdan 1991, p. 1807
  5. ^ Alexandru Madgearu, Ruled indeed Basil Apokapes the Paradunavon Theme?, "Acta Musei Varnensis", 3 (The Bulgarian Lands in the Middle Ages, 7th–18th Centuries. International Conference. A tribute to Prof. Alexander Kuzev's 70th anniversary, Varna, 12–14 September 2002), Varna, 2005, p. 273-282.
  6. ^ Finlay 1854, p. 29
  7. ^ Dumbarton Oaks 1973, p. 785.
  8. ^ a b Finlay 1854, p. 31
  9. ^ Norwich 1993, p. 343
  10. ^ a b Finlay 1854, p. 32
  11. ^ a b c d e Norwich 1993, p. 345
  12. ^ Finlay 1854, p. 33
  13. ^ a b c d e Finlay 1854, p. 34
  14. ^ Soloviev 1935, pp. 156–158
  15. ^ a b c d e f g h Finlay 1854, p. 35
  16. ^ a b Finlay 1854, p. 45
  17. ^ a b Norwich 1993, p. 355
  18. ^ a b c d Finlay 1854, p. 42
  19. ^ a b Finlay 1854, p. 36
  20. ^ a b c Norwich 1993, p. 347
  21. ^ Çoban 2020, p. 51
  22. ^ Norwich 1993, p. 346
  23. ^ Finlay 1854, p. 38
  24. ^ a b c Norwich 1993, p. 348
  25. ^ a b Norwich 1993, p. 349
  26. ^ Norwich 1993, p. 351
  27. ^ Finlay 1854, p. 41
  28. ^ Norwich 1993, p. 352
  29. ^ Norwich 1993, p. 353
  30. ^ Norwich 1993b, p. 353
  31. ^ a b Norwich 1993, p. 354
  32. ^ Norwich 1993, p. 358
  33. ^ Norwich 1993, p. 356
  34. ^ a b c Finlay 1854, p. 44
  35. ^ The date was traditionally given as 24 October based on Michael Attaliates statement that Michael VII reigned "6 years and 6 months" reckoning from his abdication on 24 March 1078 (cf. P. Schreiner, Kleinchroniken I 161; Kleinchroniken II 156)
  36. ^ Norwich 1993b, pg 357
  37. ^ Finlay 1854, p. 74
  38. ^ Garland 2007.
  39. ^ Kazhdan 1991, p. 627
  40. ^ Comnena, Book 9, Chapter 6.


Primary sources[edit]

  • Comnena, Anna, The Alexiad

Secondary sources[edit]

  • Cheynet, J.C.; Vannier, J.F. (2003), "Les Argyroi", Zbornik Radova Vizantološkog Instituta (in French), 40, pp. 57–90
  • Çoban, R. V. (2020). The Manzikert Battle and Sultan Alp Arslan with European Perspective in the 15st Century in the Miniatures of Giovanni Boccaccio's "De Casibus Virorum Illustrium"s 226 and 232. French Manuscripts in Bibliothèque Nationale de France. S. Karakaya ve V. Baydar (Ed.), in 2nd International Muş Symposium Articles Book (pp. 48-64). Muş: Muş Alparslan University. Source
  • Dumbarton Oaks (1973), Catalogue of the Byzantine Coins in the Dumbarton Oaks Collection and in the Whittemore Collection: Leo III to Nicephorus III, 717–1081, p. 785
  • Finlay, George (1854), History of the Byzantine and Greek Empires from 1057 to 1453, 2, William Blackwood & Sons
  • Garland, Lynda (25 May 2007), Anna Dalassena, Mother of Alexius I Comnenus (1081–1118), De Imperatoribus Romanis
  • Kazhdan, Alexander, ed. (1991), "Romanos IV Diogenes", Oxford Dictionary of Byzantium, p. 1807, ISBN 978-0-19-504652-6
  • Norwich, John Julius (1993), Byzantium: The Apogee, Penguin, ISBN 0-14-011448-3
  • Norwich, John Julius (1993b) [1992], Byzantium: The Apogee, Byzantium, II
  • Soloviev, A.V. (1935), "Les emblèmes héraldiques de Byzance et les Slaves", Seminarium Kondakovianum (in French), 7: 119–164

Further reading[edit]

External links[edit]

Romanos IV Diogenes
Born: unknown Died: 1072
Regnal titles
Preceded by Byzantine emperor
1068 – 1071
Succeeded by