Alexander (Byzantine emperor)

For other emperors named Alexander, see Emperor Alexander (disambiguation).

Byzantine Mosaic portrait of Emperor Alexander in the Hagia Sophia. In his left hand he holds a globus cruciger, and in his right the akakia.
Emperor of the Byzantine Empire
Reign 11 May 912 – 6 June 913
Predecessor Leo VI
Successor Constantine VII
Born (870-11-23)November 23, 870
Died June 6, 913(913-06-06) (aged 42)
Spouse None
Full name
Dynasty House of Macedon
Father Basil I
Mother Eudokia Ingerina

Alexander (Greek: Αλέξανδρος, Alexandros, 870   6 June 913), sometimes numbered Alexander III,[note 1] ruled as Emperor of the Byzantine Empire in 912–913.


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.[1] As a child, Alexander was crowned as co-emperor by his father around 879.[2]

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.[3] 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.[4] The patriarchate was again conferred on Nicholas Mystikos, who had been removed from this position because he had opposed Leo's fourth marriage. 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 of exhaustion after a game of tzykanion on June 6, 913, allegedly fulfilling his brother's prophecy that he would reign for 13 months.

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 in hope of curing his impotence.[5]

See also


  1. Enumerated after Alexander Severus, and the usurper Domitius Alexander.


  1. Schmitz, Leonhard (1867). "Alexander". In William Smith. Dictionary of Greek and Roman Biography and Mythology. 1. Boston: Little, Brown and Company. p. 115.
  2. Ostrogorsky, George (1969). History of the Byzantine State. Rutgers University Press. p. 233. ISBN 0-8135-0599-2.
  3. Ostrogorsky (1969), pp. 261ff.
  4. Ostrogorsky (1969), p. 261.
  5. Runciman S., A history of the First Bulgarian empire, London, G.Bell & Sons, 1930, p. 155

Other sources

Born: 870 Died: 6 June 913
Regnal titles
Preceded by
Leo VI
Byzantine Emperor
11 May 912 – 6 June 913
Succeeded by
Constantine VII
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