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European Kingdoms



Eastern Roman (Byzantine) Empire
AD 395 - 1453

In AD 395, the Roman empire finally split permanently between Eastern and Western empires, acknowledging what had existed in practise for many years. As the Western empire declined in the face of barbarian incursions and settlement, the Eastern empire survived and, in some periods, actually thrived. The citizens of the Eastern empire thought of themselves as the true survivors and inheritants of Rome's power and glory, and they referred to themselves Romans until at least the end of the first millennium.

The accession of Honorius and Arcadius was marked by a basic change in the role of the emperor. It affected east and west differently, and what happened is of major importance in comprehending what occurred subsequently in the two halves of the empire. Roman emperors after Theodosius were heads of state but no longer held effective power. This now fell into the hands of their chief ministers. The change was complete in the west, but less so in the east where occasional emperors still took direct command. Perhaps the crucial difference was that in the east the ministers were usually civilians, but in the west they were almost without exception professional soldiers who tended to dominate their emperors.

(Additional information from Slovenska zgodovina do razsvetljenstva, Peter Štih & Simoniti Vasko (1996, in Slovenian), from An Introduction to the History of the Turkic Peoples, Peter B Golden (1992), from The Chronicle of Theophanes Confessor, Byzantine and Near Eastern History, AD 284-813, Cyril Mango & Roger Scott (1997), from Prosopographie der mittelbyzantinischen Zeit, Volume 1, Ralph-Johannes Lilie, Claudia Ludwig, Thomas Pratsch, & Ilse Rochow, from the World Heritage Encyclopaedia, from Viking-Rus Mercenaries in the Byzantine-Arab Wars of the 950s-960s: the Numismatic Evidence, Roman K Kovalev, from The Russian Primary Chronicle (Laurentian Text), Samuel Hazzard Cross & Olgerd P Sherbowitz-Wetzor (Eds and translators, Mediaeval Academy of America), and from External Links: Turkic History, and History Extra.)

Dynasty of Theodosius

From the start, the eastern capital was based at Constantinople, dedicated by the emperor Constantine the Great in 330.

395 - 408


Son of Theodosius, last sole ruler of Rome.

405 - 408

Arcadius is dominated by his praetorian prefect, Anthemius, who is the real power behind the throne.

Map of Central Asia - Turkic Expansion AD 300-600
Turkic origins are hard to pin down precisely, but the region around the Altai Mountains would seem to have served as a general incubator during their development, and the Romans would soon come to know them (click or tap on map to view full sized)

408 - 450

Theodosius II

Nephew of Honorius.

423 - 425

Upon the death of the Western Roman emperor, Honorius, his patrician elevates Johannes as emperor. Theodosius II elevates Valentinian III first to Caesar, then to co-emperor as Augustus. In late 424, he sends Aëtius to the Huns to seek military help, but while Aëtius is away Johannes is betrayed and captured. Aëtius returns with sizable Hunnic army and comes to an agreement that establishes the political landscape of the Western Roman empire for the next thirty years. The Huns are paid off and sent home, while Aëtius is promoted to magister militum.

434 - 453

Although highly successful in his initial command of the Huns, Attila never takes his people into the Roman empire to settle among the rich villa estates. Instead he leads major incursions into Roman, Byzantine and Goth territory.

450 - 457


m Pulcheria, granddaughter of Theodosius I.

Dynasty of Leo

Emperor Anastasius enacted vast reforms which restored Constantinople's economic and military strength. These paved the way for Justinian's later invasion of Italy.

457 - 474

Leo I

459 - 462

Unchallenged by the now-dissipated power of the Huns, the Ostrogoths under Valamir are themselves powerful. A dispute with Leo I causes Valamir to lead the his Ostrogoths against him. With the barbarians at the gates, Leo agrees to pay an annual subsidy of gold.

Map of Eastern Europe AD 450-500
Soon after the middle of the fifth century AD the Hunnic empire crashed into extinction, starting with the death of Attila in 453. His son and successor, Ellac, was killed in battle in 454, and the Huns were defeated by the Ostrogoths in 456, ending Hunnic unity (click or tap on map to view full sized)


As a result of the sack of Rome and piracy in the Mediterranean, both Western Roman and Eastern Roman empires send a fleet against the Vandali. The Western fleet is captured, and the Eastern one is destroyed through the use of fire ships. The Vandali invade the Peloponnese in retaliation but are driven back with heavy losses by the Maniots at Kenipolis. Rome soon abandons its policy of warfare against the Vandali.


The Vandali-occupied island of Sardinia is liberated by Marcellin, newly arrived from Constantinople. He frees Sardinia and then Sicily before joining up with the forces of Flavius Basilisk, later Eastern Roman emperor. Thanks to the latter's ineptitude the expedition ultimately fails and Marcellin is assassinated by one of his captains. Upon his death, Sardinia is retaken by the Vandali.


With battles by the Kutrigurs and Utigurs against the Ostrogoths and Eastern Romans seemingly ongoing for the past decade, Dengisich son of Atilla the Hun is now killed by Anagastes, the Roman general in Thrace, and his head is taken to Constantinople to be paraded through the city. His brother, Ernakh, is probably now the dominant Hunnic ruler on the Pontic-Caspian steppe via the Utigurs and Altyn Ola.


Leo sends his own candidate to rule the remains of the Western empire. Upon the arrival of Julius Nepos, Glycerius immediately surrenders.


Leo II

474 - 491

Zeno the Isaurian (Tarasikodissa)

Sent the Ostrogoths to regain Italy for the East.


The last Western Roman emperor is removed from office and Odoacer, the Gothic commander of the army, rules Italy directly. Zeno still regards Julius Nepos as rightful emperor of the West until the latter's death in 480, and Odoacer is persuaded to accept this (in name, at least). A similar situation obtains in the Roman domain of Soissons in northern Gaul where the Roman general Syagrius mints coins in Nepos' name until his own defeat in 486. By a collusion of convenience the Western Empire continues to exist after 476, but only as a legal formality.

475 - 476

[Basiliscus / Flavius Basilisk]


The Ostrogoths, settled in Pannonia and nominally Eastern Roman allies, are problematic at best (the Romans have already used the Bulgars to help subdue them in 480). Their restlessness is creating increasing problems in their management for Emperor Zeno. Working with Theodoric to find a solution, the emperor invites him to invade Italy and overthrow the troublesome Gothic viceroy there, Odoacer. The Ostrogoths immediately win the Battle of Isonzo on 28 August 489, close to Aquileia, and Odoacer is forced to withdraw. A second battle is fought at Verona in the same year.

490 - 493

A further battle is fought on the River Adda in 490, and in 493 Theodoric takes Ravenna. On 2 February the same year, Theodoric and Odoacer sign a treaty that divides Italy between them, but at a banquet to celebrate the terms, Theodoric murders Odoacer with his own hands. Now unopposed, he is able to found an Ostrogothic kingdom based in Rome.

491 - 518

Anastasius I


Anastasius returns the Western Roman imperial regalia which Constantinople had received in 476, confirming acceptance of Theodoric's Ostrogothic kingdom of Italy.


Some Heruli do not join the migration of the rest of their people to Scandinavia. After seeking refuge with the Gepids, some of them are now allowed to resettle depopulated land in Singidunum (modern Belgrade) by the emperor.

Dynasty of Justinian

518 - 527

Justin I

Rebuilt the Roman empire.

523 - 525

Under pressure from Byzantium, the Christian kingdom of Ethiopia installs a Christian king in Yemen (Saba).

Byzantine coins of Justin I
Typical coins issued under Justin I and Justinian I

527 - 565

Justinian I

533 - 534

General Belisarius is sent to North Africa with an army, and in one campaigning season, the Vandali are conquered. Ancient Carthage becomes the exarchate of Africa. In this and later campaigns by the general, the Heruli feature as notable members of his forces, even supplying his personal guard. Corsica and Sardinia, both former Vandali possessions, are also captured and appended to the empire (in 534 and 533 respectively).

535 - 537

After the death of Theodoric, Ostrogothic control in Italy had never been quite so complete. The disruption has increased to such an extent that in 535 General Belisarius is sent to conquer the peninsula and bring it back under imperial control. He enters Rome in 536, shortly before it is besieged by King Vittigis. The city suffers starvation until the siege is lifted and Belisarius pursues his opponents. Before he does this he is ordered by Empress Theodora in Constantinople to depose Pope Sylverius in favour of her choice, Vigilius. So begins a period of over two hundred years in which the Eastern Roman emperors dominate the papacy.

541 - 542

The 'Plague of Justinian' strikes Constantinople with the arrival of bubonic plague, probably carried on grain ships from Egypt. Justinian is one of the few to contract the disease and survive, but the rest of the Eastern Roman empire is devastated by it, and critically weakened at the point at which it is about to conquer all of Italy and bring it under the rule of one Roman emperor for the first time since AD 395. It probably also contributes to the rapid rise of the Islamic empire in the following century, as the number of available troops, fighting on many fronts to secure the empire, is too low to contain the Arab tidal wave.

543 - 545

This period sees missionary work carried out by Julian, who proselytises in Nobatia on behalf of the Eastern Roman empire. The new religion appears to be adopted with considerable enthusiasm.


The Gothic writer Jordanes, a bureaucrat in the Eastern Roman capital of Constantinople, completes his sixth century work at this time, entitled Getica. Among many other things, it provides an account of the origins of the Sclavenes or Sclaveni (Slavs, but various translations produce the two different plural suffixes seen here).

In relation to them he mentions two other kinds of professional warriors, the Antes and 'Venethi' or 'Venethae', although he appears confused as to the exact relationship between the three groups. This could be due to that relationship being a confused one in the real world, with the Venedi probably undergoing a gradual absorption by newly-arriving Slav groups and also by their various masters over the ensuing centuries (Huns, Goths, Avars, Magyars, etc). The Venethae (Vinidi, or Venedi) are associated with the great fourth century king of the Ostrogoths, Hermanarich, while the Antes are linked with his successor, King Vinitharius. No specific deeds with regard to the Sclaveni are ascribed to any Gothic ruler, showing that they are essentially a post-Gothic institution.


The death of Totila at the Battle of Taginae allows Rome to be retaken by Constantinople, which governs Italy from Ravenna. The city of Rome remains under domination by the Eastern Romans until the eighth century but a civil government slowly emerges to take control of Roman regional affairs in the late ninth century, often vying for power with the pope.

565 - 578

Justin II


Over the past two decades, the Langobards have been granted subsidies by Justinian I and encouraged to fight the Gepids, who have established a large kingdom in Dacia. In effect, they are being hired as mercenaries, a role they fulfil to perfection. The Gepid kingdom is destroyed by 567 while their capital, Sirmium, reverts to the Eastern Romans.

568 - 571

The Lombards invade Italy from the north, and the power of Byzantium from its base at Ravenna wanes over the course of the next two centuries. The emperor sends Longinus as exarchate of Ravenna to stem the Lombard advance, but he can do little else but defend the coastal territories with the powerful Byzantine fleet. Much of Italy is very quickly lost to the Lombards who create their own kingdom in the north, and two independent duchies in the centre: Spoleto and then Benevento.

574 - 578

Tiberius II

Caesar (junior emperor). Became sole emperor in 578.

578 - 582

Tiberius II

Former Caesar.


Tiberius II reorganises the surviving Roman territories in Italy into five provinces which are given the Greek name eparchies. This use of Greek instead of Latin is part of a gradual shift for the Eastern Romans away from their Italian roots and towards greater integration with their permanent homeland in Greece. The new provinces are the Annonaria in northern Italy around Ravenna (which incorporates the duchy of the Pentapolis, a strip of five Adriatic coastal cities immediately south of Ravenna, and below that the duchy of Perugia, both governed directly from Ravenna), Calabria, Campania, Emilia, and Liguria, and the Urbicaria around the city of Rome (Urbs). To the north, the duchy of Venice remains nominally under the service of the Eastern Romans.

582 - 602


Murdered by General Phocas and the throne usurped.


The ancient city of Sirmium, a Roman city, on and off, since the first century BC, is now conquered and destroyed by the Avars, temporarily removing Eastern Roman influence in Dacia.

580s - 590s

According to a much later story, a large group of proto-Bulgars under the command of three brothers reaches the River Tanais (the modern Don) from Central Asia. Here one of the brothers, called Bulgarios, takes 10,000 people with him, parts with his brothers and, with the permission of Emperor Maurice, settles in Upper and Lower Moesia and Dacia. Here, no doubt, they can be used as a buffer against the Avars whom Maurice pushes to the north of the Danube by 599. Other Bulgars, along with Barsils and Pugars, are used as a buffer against steppe nomads in the northern Caucuses.


Ancient Nubia is once more brought into the orbit of the Mediterranean world by the arrival of Christian missionaries from the Eastern Roman empire. The kingdom of Dongola converts to Christianity, as does Alodia and Nobatia. Axum's influence is strong there, and the missionary work is carried out by the first Monophysite bishop of Nobadia, Longinus. The church of Alodia remains subordinate to the bishop of Alexandria from the start.


Maurice's reign has been troubled by financial difficulties and almost constant warfare. Now a dissatisfied general named Phocas usurps the throne, having Maurice and his six sons executed in the process. This event proves a disaster for the empire, sparking devastating war with the Sassanids.


602 - 610


Usurper. Overthrown.

early 600s

The empire loses the territory of Epirus to Slavic émigrés.

607 - 616

The Sassanid Persians invade and conquer Byzantine Syria, Egypt and Asia Minor.

608 - 610

In conjunction with his son, Heraclius the Younger, Exarch Heraclius of Africa revolts against the usurper Phocas. The younger Heraclius uses Africa as a base from which he is able to overthrow Phocas and begin his own Heraclian dynasty in Constantinople. His father passes away shortly after learning the news.

Dynasty of Heraclius

610 - 641

Heraclius / Herakleios

Son of Heraclius Crispus, exarch of Africa.

619 - 620

Following growing discontent with the emperor, the exarch of Ravenna, Eleutherius, notes the emperor's focus is on fighting the Sassanids and takes the opportunity to declare himself emperor. In 620 he marches on Rome, intent on making it his capital, but he is murdered by his own troops.

623 - 628

Now allied with the Western Göktürks, Heraclius attacks the Sassanids as part of the Third Perso-Turkic War (627-630) to regain territory including Syria and Palestine which has been lost for a decade. His campaigns also return Armenia to Byzantine control. The Sassanid ruler, Khusro, is overthrown by his own nobles following the defeats.

c.626 - c.641

Slavs which include the Croats are invited by Emperor Heraclius to help him fight the Avars. The dominance of the Avars is broken by their defeat at Constantinople, which also allows the Slav Kingdom between Carinthia and Moravia to flourish. In the same period a similar tribal confederation also forms on the northern Black sea coast, that of Great Bulgaria, with both confederations possibly being part of a Roman-inspired chain of defences against the Avars.

Map of Eastern Europe AD 632-665
In AD 632, Qaghan Koubrat came to power as the head of an Onogur-Bulgar confederation on the Pontic-Caspian steppe, and three years later he was able to throw off Avar domination and found Great Bulgaria (click or tap on map to view full sized)

The Croats receive their present-day lands to settle as a reward, but the Slav presence in Dalmatia and Istria leads to the destruction of churches, and Pope John IV, a Dalmatian, is forced to pay large sums of money to free prisoners. The relics of some of the more important Dalmatian saints are interred in Rome.

634 - 638

The Islamic invasion of the Eastern Roman region of Syria begins in 634, with Arab troops emerging into the Levant from the southern deserts, surprising the Roman forces which are stationed along the regular line of defence facing the Persians. Between then and 638, several battles are fought across the region until the Romans have been forced northwards. The scale of the defeat is such that the Romans are unable to mount any kind of retaliatory offensive. Syria quickly becomes the centre of the growing Islamic empire.

640 - 641

The invasion of Egypt begins in the later months of 640. An Islamic victory at the Battle of Heliopolis ends Roman control of much of the country, but the Babylon Fortress (in the region of modern-day Coptic Cairo) has to be besieged for several months before it surrenders. The former Roman capital at Alexandria, capital of Egypt for a thousand years, surrenders a few months later and a peace treaty is signed in late 641 in the ruins of a palace in Memphis.


Constantine III



641 - 668

Constans II Pogonatus

Last emperor to visit Rome. Last consul of the empire (642).


Following the loss of Egypt and Libya in 639-640 to the Islamic empire, the exarchate of Africa is declared an independent state by its prefect, Gregory the Patrician.

Emperor Constans II
This light solidus was minted during the eventful reign of Eastern Roman Emperor Constans II, with his face on the obverse


Egypt is briefly re-conquered by Roman forces, but their victory is short-lived. They are defeated at the Battle of Nikiou and Egypt is secured by the Islamic empire for good.


With the end of the Persian Marzban of eastern Armenia, the eastern state is fully reunited under Byzantine control.

647 - 667

The troops of Gregory the Patrician in the exarchate of Africa are severely defeated by the invading troops of the Islamic empire, and Gregory himself is killed in 648. The province appears to be occupied for perhaps a year or so before being abandoned in 649, allowing Constans II to regain some level of control there. The incident prompts changes elsewhere in the Eastern Roman hierarchy. Direct control of Sardinia is exchanged for a more localised form of government in which legates are appointed to control the regions, rather than leaving power concentrated in the hands of a lone individual.


The Islamic empire begins to threaten Armenia. Aided by the Eastern Romans, Armenia defends itself, but the Arab campaign continues northwards into the Caucuses under General Salman. He concentrates on the towns and settlements of the western coast of the Caspian Sea and on defeating the Khazars. A description of this campaign is based on a manuscript by Ahmed-bin-Azami, and it mentions that '...Salman reached the Khazar town of Burgur... He continued and finally reached Bilkhar, which was not a Khazar possession, and camped with his army near that town, on rich meadows intersected by a large river'. This town is usually connected by historians to the proto-Bulgars.


Emperor Constans II is highly interested in affairs in southern Italy, which causes him to move his capital to Syracuse on Sicily. He appoints a native of Naples, one Basil, as the new dux, the military commander of the city. This is not the first dux to be appointed, but it seems to be the first about whom anything concrete is known, the previous incumbents being foreigners who had been forced to answer directly to the strategos of Sicily. Now Naples is its own master.

668 - 685

Constantine IV

674 - 677

The Islamic empire also besieges Constantinople.

680 - 681

The Sixth Council (Constantinople III) is held. The Monotheletism which is supported by Constantinople is condemned and suppressed, despite the Pope's failure to win the emperor over to Orthodoxy.


North African Morocco is lost to the Islamic empire.

685 - 695

Justinian II Rinotmetus



These emperors belong to no dynasty and obtained brief power in a disturbed period when the Islamic empire was sweeping through the Byzantine North African possessions.

695 - 698


695 - 697

The Islamic Wali of Ifriqiyya and the Maghreb, Hasan ibn al-Nu'man, captures Carthage and the Byzantine administration retreats, possibly to Caralis on Sardinia. This gives the Arabs a firm base from which to launch more sustained attacks on Sicily.

698 - 705

Tiberius III

697 - 698

Despite the arrival of a Byzantine fleet to retake Carthage, it is permanently lost to the Islamic empire following defeat at the Battle of Carthage. The new Islamic territory eventually evolves into the modern countries of Tunisia and Algeria.


Armenia is lost to the Islamic empire. In the same year, one of many Berber or Moorish raids on Sardinia is documented for the first time. The raids are forcing the island's legates to become increasingly self-reliant as it becomes clear that the empire is unable to protect them.

705 - 711

Justinian II



The exarchate of Ravenna is further weakened, this time by the Byzantine emperor himself. Justinian II sends an expedition against Ravenna, commanded by the patrician Theodore. The reason is not clear, but it may be related to a rebellion which involved some of the the city's inhabitants and which dethroned Justinian in 695. Theodore invites all of Ravenna's leading citizens to attend a banquet, where they are captured as they arrive and thrown onto a ship to be taken back to Constantinople. The city itself is subsequently sacked. Exarch Theophylactus is apparently not involved either in prosecuting or defending against the action, but he is replaced in the following year.


Prior to his accession as Emperor Leo III, Leo the Isaurian is sent on a diplomatic mission to bribe the Alani into severing links with the pro-Islamic kingdom of Abasgia. The mission proves successful.

711 - 713

Philippicus Bardanes

713 - 716

Anastasius II

716 - 717

Theodosius III

717 - 718

During the reign of the Islamic empire's Caliph Sulayman, Constantinople is put under protracted siege, but it eventually fails, marking the end of any serious Islamic ambitions to conquer the Byzantine empire.

Isaurian (Syrian / Iconoclastic) Dynasty

717 - 741

Leo III the Isaurian


Corsica is conquered by the Lombards, ending almost two centuries of insecure and very poorly recorded Byzantine governance there. Lombard rule is brief, but this is just a taste of defeats to come for Constantinople.

726 - 728

Byzantine control of the exarchate of Ravenna is briefly lost as the Lombards take control.

741 - 775

Constantine V Capronymus


The Byzantines permanently lose control of the exarchate of Ravenna to the Lombards. With that they also lose Rome and the power to select each new Pope. This defeat marks the end of any effective control and influence that Constantinople is able to exert over Western Europe.


Details of Antiochus, strategos of Sicily, are very sparse save for his involvement in a conspiracy in this year against Emperor Constantine. Theophanes the Confessor records that Antiochos and eighteen other military governors (strategoi) and senior officials are led by brothers Strategios and Constantine Podopagouros in a plot against the emperor. Once it is uncovered, the conspirators are paraded and humiliated at Constantinople's Hippodrome on 25 August 766. Strategios and Constantine are subsequently beheaded at the Kynegion and the others are blinded and exiled.


Georgian Abasgia rises in revolt and throws off Byzantine rule.

775 - 780

Leo IV the Khazar

780 - 797

Constantine VI

Blinded & murdered by his mother, Irene.

780 - 790

Empress Irene

Regent and mother.

781 - 782

Elpidius is appointed strategos of Sicily by Empress Irene in February 781. Theophanes the Confessor records that he has already served as the governor of Sicily in the past, although a precise date is not known. Almost immediately he is suspected of being involved in a plot to remove her from the throne, replacing her with Nicephorus (later Nicephorus I). He is ordered to return to Constantinople but refuses with the support of the Byzantine military and people on Sicily. The result is that his wife and children are publicly flogged and then imprisoned.

Either towards the end of the year, or early in 782, Irene sends a large fleet which defeats Elpidius' own weak military forces in several battles. Elpidius, along with Dux Nikephoros (his second-in-command, who probably governs Calabria), flees to North Africa with the remnants of the island's treasury. The Abbasids welcome him and quietly support his self-proclamation as emperor.

797 - 802

Empress Irene

Former regent. Deposed.


Empress Irene is deposed by the eldest surviving son of Constantine V, Nicephorus I, whose reign heralds the end of the Isaurian (Syrian) dynasty but who is also known as the founder of the Nicophoran dynasty.

End of the Isaurian Dynasty / Nicophoran Dynasty

802 - 811

Nicephorus I

Son of Constantine V. Killed in battle by Bulgar Khan Krum.


The intervention of the Niceta fleet reaffirms Byzantine sovereignty over the lagoon region of Venice, Istria and Dalmatia.

Map of the Frankish Empire in AD 800
Under Charlemagne's leadership, the Franks greatly expanded their borders eastwards, engulfing tribal states, the Bavarian state and its satellite, Khorushka, and much of northern Italy, with the Avars now an eastern neighbour (click or tap on map to view full sized)



811 - 813

Michael I Rhangabé

813 - 820

Leo V the Armenian


Cyprus is taken by the Islamic empire.

Phrygian (Amorian) Dynasty

820 - 829

Michael II the Stammerer

826 - 828

Tourmarches Euphemius, commander of the Byzantine fleet of Sicily, forces a nun to marry him. Michael II orders Sicily's strategos, Constantine, to seize Euphemius and remove his nose in punishment. Given no choice, Euphemius revolts, killing Constantine and occupying Syracuse in the process. Subsequently he is driven off the island and takes refuge with Emir Ziyadat Allah I in Tunis. He and the emir launch an invasion of Sicily in the following year. The Aghlabids win the first battle, and a large Byzantine force sent from Palermo which is assisted by a fleet from Venice under the personal command of the doge, Giustiniano Partecipazio, is subsequently defeated. Sicily is in the hands of the Arabs as part of the Islamic empire. This loss virtually ends Roman domination of the Western Mediterranean, and one of its remaining possessions, Sardinia, is left isolated.

829 - 842

Theophilus I

832 - 833

Abbasid Caliph Ma'mun follows up on a recent minor success against the Byzantine empire by capturing the strategically important fortress of Loulon. A large army is collected together with the intent of conquering Anatolia piecemeal. The caliph's general, al-Abbas ibn al-Ma'mun, wali of Syria, marches into Byzantine territory on 25 May 833, creating a military base at Tyana. The caliph's main force follows in July, just as the caliph himself becomes ill and dies unexpectedly. The invasion is abandoned.

842 - 867

Michael III

Drunkard & gambler. Murdered by Basil I.

856 or 860

In the fourteenth year of Michael's reign (although this produces at least two different dates), Constantinople is attacked by a new enemy - the Rus. The attack comes as a complete surprise to the Byzantines, but it is a clear sign that a new power in Eastern Europe is flexing its muscles. The Russian Primary Chronicle states that the Byzantines are only saved because the weather turns against the Rus fleet and scatters it. The attack has been ascribed to Askold and Dir of Kiev but without any firm foundation.


[Theophilus II]

Macedonian Dynasty

867 - 886

Basil I

883 - 884

The Byzantine empire is enjoying a resurgence of fortune in southern Italy. Under Nicephorus Phocas the Elder, the Byzantine forces slowly reconquer Calabria from 883, with attacks being concentrated on territory around Benevento. Following the deposing of Duke Radelchis in Benevento, his successor, Aione, responds by capturing Bari, although he loses it again within a year. The eastern portion of Sicily is also recaptured.

886 - 912

Leo VI the Wise

886 - 913


891 - 895

Duke Orso of Benevento is deposed after the principality is captured by Sybbaticius, the Byzantine strategos of Calabria. Benevento is made the capital of the thema of Langobardia until the region is taken from Byzantine hands by Duke Guy IV of Spoleto.


The Alani and the Khazars join together to defeat a Byzantine-led coalition which is aimed against the Khazar king, Benjamin.

911 - 912

Extant documents begin to speak of a Varangian-Rus presence in Byzantine military service, starting in this period in which seven hundred Rus (Rhos) are recruited as naval troops in the unsuccessful imperial expedition against Arab-held Crete. For this service they are paid one kentenarion, equivalent to thirty-two kilograms, perhaps of gold.

Curiously, however, there seems to be no apparent numismatic record in the lands surrounding a Byzantine-Rus conflict of 911 to show that Rus mercenaries are able to take home their rewards. This could be proof that the Byzantines are maintaining a mid-fifth century ban on silver and gold being exported from the empire into barbarian lands.

912 - 959

Constantine VII Porphyrogenitus

The most important single source on Hungarian prehistory is the De Administrando Imperio of Emperor Constantine VII Porphyrogenitus. The tenth century work makes free and critical use of earlier sources and of information provided by Hungarians. It relates that the early Magyars, called at this stage Sabartoi asphaloi, live in the neighbourhood of the Khazars in a region called Levedia (named after their most senior chief). They are closely allied to the Khazars with whom they live together for three years, and whose king gives his daughter to their chief, Lebedias. It goes on to describe the Magyar exodus which delivers them to the Carpathian basin where they found their new state.


As the latest in a series of conflicts with the Saracens, the forces of the new Byzantine strategos of Bari in Italy, one Nicolaus Picingli, assemble alongside those of various other southern Italian princes in the Christian League. It includes Landulf I of Benevento, John I and Docibilis II of Gaeta, Gregory IV and John II of Naples, Pope John X, Guaimar II of Salerno, and Alberic I of Spoleto. The allied Byzantine-Lombard army fights and defeats the Fatamids at the Battle of Garigliano, a drawn-out combination of fights and a siege. The Saracens find themselves in a worsening situation and eventually attempt to flee, only to be captured and killed. It is a militarily significant victory in the fight against Islamic advances in Italy.


Byzantium retakes Epirus.

919 - 944

Romanus I Lecapenus


Constantine (VIII)

Son of Romanus, attempted usurpation.

944 - 945


944 - 945

Constantine (?)


By the time of De Administrando Imperio, which is completed in this year, the Byzantine authorities no longer list Sardinia as an imperial province, suggesting that they already consider it to be lost to them. By now the transformation from imperial governor to independent petty ruler is probably well under way, and may already be complete, but nothing is known of this process until the early eleventh century, when it is already over.


In conflict against the Byzantine empire in almost every year between 950 and his death, Emir Sayfud Dawla of Aleppo now wins a notable victory near Germanikeia in the Taurus Mountains (modern Kahramanmaraş in Turkey). The patrikios, Leo Maleinos, is killed, while General Bardas Phocas the Elder is badly wounded.


The Byzantines under Leo Phocas, brother of future Emperor Nicephorus II Phocas, end a run of victories by Sayfud Dawla after he is ambushed and heavily defeated at Raban. Sayfud Dawla does not regain the initiative and in 962 his palace outside Aleppo is even sacked.

959 - 963

Romanus II

960 - 962

Rus mercenary units are involved in a successful Byzantine naval expedition against Crete between 960-961, during which the amir of Crete is captured along with his large treasury and the rest of the wealth that is found on the island (including silver and gold).

It is likely that the Rus units are then transferred to the Byzantine expedition to Cilicia which resumes in early 962 as part of the campaign to reconquer Syria. That year, fifty-four forts belonging to the amir of Tarsus are captured along with Anazarbus. Later in the same year, the Byzantines capture and raid Sayfud Dawla's capital of Aleppo (apart from its citadel). Germanikeia is taken towards the year's end.


Regency of Theophano


Theophano, widow of Romanus II, regent for her infant sons Basil II and Constantine VIII (IX).

963 - 969

Nicephorus II Phocas

m Theophano. Murdered by John I.

964 - 966

Fresh from their sweeping victory on Crete in 961, the Byzantines launch an attack on Kalbid Sicily between 964-965. Rus mercenary units participate in the campaign which aims to capture at least part of Sicily but which is unsuccessful. They also seize more than twenty fortresses in Cilicia, including Adana, Anazarbus, al-Maṣîṣa, and Ṭarsus. In 966, amongst other cities, the Byzantines capture Hierapolis and, in 968, reach as far south as the fortress of Arqa, to the south of Tripoli (which is not captured). Tripoli and Damascus are forced to pay tribute.


Cyprus is recovered from the Islamic empire, but the final Byzantine stronghold on Sicily falls to the Fatamids. By this time communications between Constantinople and Sardinia have already been severed, leaving that island isolated and pushing the empire out of the western Mediterranean.


Antioch is recaptured from the Islamic empire, by Michael Bourtzes and Peter the Eunuch on behalf of Emperor Nikephoros II. The city becomes the seat of a doux who commands the forces of the local themes which are vital for holding onto this eastern border region. Aleppo is reduced to vassal status.

Varangian Guards
The Varangian Guards of the Byzantine court in the tenth century were recruited from eastern-travelling Vikings who came to Greece through the lands of the Rus

969 - 976

John I Zimiskes

Held power.

963 - 976

Basil II Bulgaroctonus

970 - 971

Grand Prince Sviatoslav finally breaks the long peace between the Rus and the Byzantines which had been encouraged and supported by his late mother. He launches an invasion of the lower Danube in 970 and engages the Byzantine armies there in major battles between then and 971. Unfortunately for him, the forces of Emperor John Tzimisces are stronger than his.

972 - 977

A Sunni Turk named Alp Takin drives the Fatamids out of Damascus and holds it for five years, negotiating with the Byzantines to prevent them from sweeping in to take over. In 977, Fatamid Caliph al-Aziz manages to regain control and tame the dissident Sunnis.

976 - 1028

Constantine VIII (IX)

976 - 1025

Basil II Bulgaroctonus

Remained co-emperor.


Bulgaria takes the Greek region of Epirus from the Byzantine empire.

In the same year, Grand Prince Vladimir I of the Rus dispatches four or six thousand (sources vary) Varangians to Constantinople at the request of the emperor. This is the first resumption of the supply of Varangian-Rus troops since Grand Prince Sviatoslav's attack of 970-971. With this supply of men he is able to establish the Varangian Guard. In effect, the guard are the formalisation of the practice of using Varangians that goes back at least to 911.


Basil II agrees the first important commercial treaty with Venice, which give their merchants an advantage.


Basil II 'Bulgar Slayer' captures and blinds most of the 15,000-strong Bulgarian army on 29 July. Epirus is regained.

1028 - 1050

Zoë Porphyrogenita

1028 - 1034

Romanus III Argyrus

1034 - 1041

Michael IV the Paphlagonian


Sons of Tancred de Hauteville of the Cherbourg Peninsula, the Hauteville brothers arrive in southern Italy from Normandy. They have been enticed there after receiving requests for help from fellow Norman, Rainulf Drengot, count of Aversa. Soon after becoming involved with them, Guaimar IV of Salerno is required to send troops to support a Byzantine expedition under General Giorgio Maniace. Guaimar sends a cohort of Lombards and Normans, prominent amongst whom is William de Hauteville who, in Sicily, wins the epithet 'Iron Arm'.

1041 - 1042

Michael V Calaphates

1042 - 1050

Theodora Porphyrogenita

Joint Empress with Zoë.


Zoë marries and confers the diadem on:

1042 - 1055

Constantine IX (X) Monomachus

1050 - 1056


Sole Empress from 1055


The patriarch of Constantinople, Michael I Cćrularius, refuses to acknowledge the primacy of the apostolic successor to Peter. Pope Leo IX sends a legatine mission under Cardinal Humbert to Constantinople to discuss the church in the troublesome south of Italy, but Humbert promptly excommunicates the patriarch. In return the patriarch excommunicates Humbert. This point is officially recognised as the start of the schism between the Eastern (Orthodox) and Western (Catholic) Churches based at Byzantium and Rome respectively.


1056 - 1057

Michael VI Stratioticus

Prelude to the Comnenian Dynasty

1057 - 1059

Isaac I Comnenus


1059 - 1067

Constantine X (XI) Ducas


Armenia is conquered by the Seljuq Turks invading Asia Minor.

1067 - 1071

Romanus IV Diogenes


Constantine (XII)

Claimed title.

1071 - 1078

Michael VII Ducas

1071 & 1074

A unit of six hundred Alani fight in 1071 under the command of the Byzantines against the Seljuq Turks and a further six thousand men in 1074 fight against the Normans in Italy. This cooperation lasts only a short because the Alani are badly paid.

1078 - 1081

Nicephorus III Botaniates

Revolt of Nicephorus Bryennius.

Dynasty of the Comneni

1081 - 1118

Alexius I Comnenus

1082 - 1085

A 'Golden Bull' is agreed with the Venetians, establishing new commercial privileges. In 1085, Alexius formally declares Venice to be independent of Byzantium.


The Turkic sultanate of Rum is established out of Byzantine territories in Asia Minor.


The conquest of Sicily is completed with the removal of local emir, Yusuf Ibn Abdallah. He is deposed peacefully, and with due deference for Arab custom, with the result that Butera and Noto, on the southern tip of Sicily, are firmly in Christian hands. Much of Malta is captured in the same year, with the island's Christian population welcoming the Normans as liberators. The generally Byzantine Orthodox tradition on the island is gradually replaced by that of Latin Catholicism due to Lombard and Norman immigration.

Norman-Sicilian tombstone 1148
Occupation by Byzantine Greeks, Islamic Moors, and Christian Italians left Sicily with a rich cultural vein which is reflected in this tombstone of a Norman-Sicilian woman in 1148, inscribed in Latin (left), Greek (right), Hebrew (top), and Arabic (bottom)


The First Crusade is called by Pope Urban II in 1095 during a momentous speech in Clermont-Ferrand in France. Having traversed Europe from west to east, the nobles, soldiers, and camp followers of the First Crusade assemble in Constantinople. At last Emperor Alexius feels that his continued call for help from Europe against Islam has been answered. Nicaea in western Anatolia is the first Islamic town to fall to the Crusaders, who cross the Bosphorus alongside Byzantine forces. The Christian soldiers briefly besiege the town before it falls. Islam is divided and in conflict with itself, and the ruling Seljuq Turks are in no position to offer immediate retaliation. The Crusaders move on into what becomes known to them as Outremer.

1118 - 1143

John II Calojohannes


Returning from the Holy Land, Domenico Michiel conquers Tyre, Spalato (Split), Sebenico (Šibenik), and other Byzantine cities for Venice.

1143 - 1180

Manuel I

1163 - 1180

The Serbs and Bosnians fall to Byzantium.


Manuel Comnenus orders the arrest of all Venetians living in Constantinople


The Byzantines are defeated by the Seljuqs of Rum at the Battle of Myriocephalon. The empire enters a period of uncertainty and gradual decline which also affects its allies. Kiev is especially weakened by the continuing drop in trade goods, reducing its own wealth and importance even further than has already been the case.

1180 - 1183

Alexius II

1183 - 1185

Andronicus I

Dynasty of the Angeli

1185 - 1195

Isaac II Angelus


1191 - 1192

Fresh from freeing his sister from the clutches of Tancred on Sicily, King Richard of England arrives on Cyprus to free his intended bride from the clutches of Isaac Komnenos, the breakaway Byzantine governor. The ship carrying Princess Berengaria of Navarre had been forced to put in during a storm, on its way to join Richard's forces in the Third Crusade. Isaac has already seized and plundered two wrecked crusader ships, but this time he has picked the wrong adversary. Richard storms and takes Limassol, marries Berengaria in the chapel of St George, and proceeds to conquer the entire island with the help of Guy de Lusignan shortly after the latter's arrival on the island from Jerusalem.

1195 - 1203

Alexius III

1203 - 1204

Isaac II


1203 - 1204

Alexius IV


Alexius V Ducas Murtzuphius


The capture of Constantinople is the Fourth Crusade's 'success', and Latin emperors are established in the city. The Byzantines withdraw to Nicća in Anatolia, but rival claimants also established holdings in Trebizond and Epirus so that, at one point, there are four claimants to the Byzantine throne, as well as the Bulgar and Serb states. Close allies of Constantinople through intermarriage and trade, including Alania and the Rus, are badly affected by this disaster.

Eastern Roman Emperors in Nicća

1204 - 1222

Theodorus I Lascaris

1222 - 1254

John III Ducas Vatatzes


Epirus is defeated by John III and its ruler is reduced to a despot.


Thessalonica falls to John III.

1254 - 1258

Theodorus II Lascaris

1258 - 1261

John IV Lascaris

1259 - 1282

Michael VIII Palćologus

Returns to Constantinople.


Constantinople is recaptured and the Eastern Roman Emperors are re-established there.

Rival Eastern Emperors in Trebizond

Claimants to the Byzantine throne set up rival powerbases, including this one in the Pontic Greek cities of Trebizond, Sinope and Paphlagonia. Trebizond was the last of the Byzantine territories to fall to the Ottoman empire, earning it the occasional title of the last Greek empire.

1204 - 1222

Alexius I Comnenus

1222 - 1235

Andronicus I Gidus

1235 - 1238

John I Axuch

1238 - 1263

Manuel I

1263 - 1266

Andronicus II

1266 - 1280


1280 - 1297

John II

1297 - 1330

Alexius II

1330 - 1332

Andronicus III

Retook Epirus.


Manuel II

1332 - 1340


1340 - 1341

Irene Palaeologina

1341 - 1342

Anna Comnena

Also ruled for a short time in early 1341.



First rule.

1342 - 1344

John III

1344 - 1349



1349 - 1390

Alexius III

1390 - 1416

Manuel III

1416 - 1429

Alexius IV

1429 - 1459

John IV

1459 - 1461

David Komnenos


Trebizond falls to Ottoman Sultan Mehmed II when Emperor David Komnenos surrenders. Coming eight years after the fall of Constantinople, it marks the final end of the Eastern Roman empire.

Rival Eastern Emperors in Epirus (Thessalonica)

Claimants to the Byzantine throne set up rival powerbases, including this one in the territory of the former Greek kingdom of Epirus. Its territory also included the principality of Arbanon (Arbër in Albanian), centred on Croia (Kruja) in the central northern section of modern Albania.

1204 - 1215

Michael I Ducas

1215 - 1230

Theodore Ducas

Emperor in Thessalonica 1227-30. Captured by John II Asen.


The Crusader kingdom of Thessalonica is gained, and the Epirians move their court there. From 1231, Michael II rules Epirus as a subsidiary state.

1230 - 1237


Emperor in Thessalonica.

1237 - 1242


Emperor in Thessalonica.


John is defeated by John III Ducas Vatatzes of Nicća, and is reduced to a despot.

1242 - 1244



1244 - 1246




Thessalonica falls to John III Ducas Vatatze of Nicća. Epirus is isolated.

Byzantine icon
An icon showing four episodes from the life of Christ probably painted in Thessalonica, which was the most important artistic centre in the crumbling empire after Constantinople

1231 - 1271

Michael II

Granted title of despot of Epirus by John III in 1249.

1271 - 1296

Nicephoras I

1296 - 1318


1213 - 1323

Nicholas Orsini

1323 - 1335

John Orsini

1335 - 1337

Nicephoras II

Re-established his claim in 1340.

1337 & 1340

Epirus absorbed by Byzantine Emperor Andronicus III.

Latin Emperors at Constantinople

With the conquest of Constantinople by the Fourth Crusade in 1204, Latin rulers govern the city and much of the former empire, backed by Venice and France. The leader of the Fourth Crusade also sets up other minor Crusader states in Greece.

1204 - 1205

Baldwin I of Flanders

Count Baldwin IX of Flanders.

1206 - 1216

Henry of Flanders

Count of Flanders.


Peter de Courtenay

1217 - 1219

Yolanda of Flanders

Countess of Flanders.

1221 - 1228

Robert de Courtenay

1228 - 1237

John of Brienne

1228 - 1261

Baldwin II

The Byzantine Emperor returned to Constantinople.

Dynasty of the Palćologus


Emperor Michael, based at Nicaea, returns to Constantinople.

1261 - 1282

Michael VIII Palćologus


As soon as Pope Gregory takes office, having spent time on Crusade with King Edward I of England, he convenes the Second Council of Lyon. The council is called so that the pope can attempt to act upon a pledge made by Emperor Michael VIII to reunite the eastern and western churches. Despite the apparent intention of both sides to agree to reunification, the Byzantine people are staunchly against it, and any agreement is soon abolished by Michael son when he succeeds to the throne. Pope Gregory X himself dies following the council, as he is travelling back from Lyon to Rome, removing another supporter from the cause.

1282 - 1328

Andronicus II


During the reign of Andronicus II, the Knights of the Hospital of St John of Jerusalem capture the island of Rhodes.

1293 - 1320

Michael IX

1320 - 1328

In a period of anarchy Prusa [Bursa] is lost to the Ottomans in 1326.

Byzantine icon
An icon showing four episodes from the life of Christ probably painted in Thessalonica, which was the most important artistic centre in the crumbling empire after Constantinople

1328 - 1341

Andronicus III

1341 - 1376

John V Cantacuzenes

1341 - 1354

John VI


Semi-rival to the title sets up a power base in Morea, and in 1354 - 1376 is the only Byzantine power.

Despots of Morea

Morea was the name by which the Peloponnesus peninsula in Greece was known during the Middle Ages. After the Latin conquest of Byzantine Constantinople in 1204, Venice gained control of part of it, until this Byzantine rival territory rose to power in southern Greece.

1348 - 1380

Manuel Cantacuzenus

1380 - 1383

Matthew Cantacuzenus


Demetrius Cantacuzenus

1383 - 1407

Theodore I Palaeologus

1407 - 1443

Theodore II Palaeologus

1428 - 1449

Constantine XI Dragases

Only remaining claimant for the Byzantine crown.

1428 - 1460

Thomas, Despot of Morea

Daughter Zoe married Ivan III of the Russian Moscow State.


The principality of Achaia is inherited.


Mistra, Morea, falls to Ottoman Turk Mehmed II. Venice holds on to some sections of Morea, and further wars are fought up to 1718, until the Turks finally secure all of it.

Dynasty of the Palćologus (Continued)

1376 - 1379

Andronicus IV

1379 - 1391

John V



John VII

1391 - 1425

Manuel II

1425 - 1448


1449 - 1453

Constantine XI (XIII) Dragases

Despot of Morea. Last Byzantine Emperor.


Constantinople, capital and heart of the fading Eastern Roman empire, is captured by Mahomet II of the Ottoman empire, and Greece becomes an Ottoman province. The loss is viewed as a disaster for the Christian world, despite Rome's frequent differences with the Orthodox church in Constantinople over the centuries, and with its emperors. It also completely realigns the balance of power amongst the Turkic tribes and kingdoms to the east and north. Hajji Giray of the Crimean khanate moves quickly to establish a military alliance with Ottoman Sultan Mehmed.

Fall of Constantinople
The fall of Constantinople not only ended the last vestiges of the Roman empire, now dating back almost two millennia in its many forms, but it also opened up south-eastern Europe to the Ottoman Turks


Trebizond falls to Mehmet. End of the Roman empire.

1461 - 1924

Much of the former empire is not subsumed within the Ottoman empire. Initially much of northern Greece is known as Rumelia by the Ottomans, meaning 'land of the Romans'.

1821 - 1829

Greece fights a war of independence which leads to the founding of the kingdom of Greece.

Fourth Crusade States

All of these small states were founded by Boniface, Marquis of Montferrat in 1204.

Kingdom of Thessalonica
AD 1204 - 1224

1204 - 1207

Boniface, Marquis of Montferrat

Founder. Killed.


Falls to the Rival Eastern Emperor in Epirus, who takes title of Emperor of Thessalonica.

Duchy of Athens
AD 1205 - 1456


Conquered by Ottoman Sultan Mehmed II.

Principality of Achaia
AD 1205 - 1432


Inherited by the Byzantine Palaeologi Dynasty.