Episode 189 – End of Act Two

Sultan Tughril Beg on 1 Manat 2009 Banknote from Turkmenistan

Sultan Tughril Beg on 1 Manat 2009 Banknote from Turkmenistan

As Constantine IX leaves the stage we see him desperately searching for ways to raise tax revenue.

Period: 1054-55

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Categories: Podcast | 2 Comments

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2 thoughts on “Episode 189 – End of Act Two

  1. Myriokephalon

    As someone who most enjoys the big picture stuff, the cutting summaries of the large scale economic/social/political forces driving events, this was my favorite episode since either the Triumph of Orthodoxy or the 3 episodes covering the reign of Nikephoros I.

    Speaking of which, Nikephoros I think provides an alternative archetype for the ruler Byzantium needed at this moment: a financial wizard and far seeing statesmen who was able to anticipate how the Empire’s institutions would need to change to deal with the next century of geopolitics.

    Interestingly, he was no more legitimate than Monomachos was when he took office, and yet he took all kinds of unpopular decisions (crackdowns on tax evasion, forced migrations, forced loans issued by the state) and didn’t face any serious internal threats as far as we can tell before the Bulgars cut his head off. I wonder what political advantages he had that Constantine didn’t. Were the ecclesiastical elites so terrified of an iconoclast successor to Irene and so were willing to back any emperor who would protect them, even one who raised their taxes? Did the circle of civilian elites that had formed around Irene that he retained defend him vigorously? Was the military still totally beaten down by Irene’s purges? Was he actually a far better political animal than the portrait drawn by Theophanes suggests?

    • A fantastic comparison, love it 🙂 You are right that is the sort of figure that the Empire needed urgently.

      I suspect the difference lies in the power of the state versus the people. In 800 Constantinople dominated its hinterlands far more than in 1050. In part because the Empire was much smaller and the elites even more dependent on the government for their wealth and security. Nicephorus did not have to face either a magnate class with a track record of military success or a population at the capital who had overthrown his predecessor. Even then Nicephorus felt the need to gain military prestige to bolster his legitimacy.

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