Basil I, 811 – 886 was one of the greatest Emperors of tge Byzantium Empire and the founder of the Macedonian Dynasty. The birthplace of Basil I is not exactly known. According to the traditional version, he was born in Adrianople, and according to another version – in Charioupolis. According to Greek and Armenian sources, Basil was an Armenian born in Macedonia. Despite the fact that an Arabic source speaks of the Slavic origin of Basil I, such assumptions are now rejected by many historians. To date, there is a consensus among historians that Basil was descended from the Armenians who settled in Macedonia.
Basil I was the son of a peasant. He spent a part of his childhood in captivity in Bulgaria, where since 813 his family was also held captive by the Bulgarian Khan Krum. Only in 836 Basil and some others managed to escape to the Byzantine-owned Thrace.
The question of the date of birth of Basil is, at least, controversial. The main source is a biography written by his grandson, Emperor Constantine VII. The problem is that Basil was a baby when the Bulgarian Khan Krum captured Adrianople (in 813), Constantine VII at the same time calls him “a young man”, at a time when he appears at the court of Michael III around the year 856. Many other facts reported by Constantine and other sources indicate that such early birth dates as 811, 812 or 813 are erroneous. Because of this, some authors refer to his birth to a later time, up to the year 836.
Rise to Power
Moving to Constantinople, Basil, thanks to his beautiful appearance and physical strength, got a place in the imperial stables. Here he drew the attention of Emperor Michael III, became the favorite of the emperor and his parakimomenom. Michael III married Vasily with his mistress Evdokia Ingerina.
Eliminating the powerful uncle of the emperor, Vardu, Basil in 866 was instead declared a Caesar, and soon co-ruler. In 867, during the deterioration of relations between Michael and Basil, the latter organized the assassination of the emperor and solely occupied the imperial throne, establishing a new dynasty.
He investigated Patriarch Photios and installed Ignatius, but with the death of the latter he brought Photius back to the patriarchal throne. The reasons for the initial removal of Photius are related to his attitude towards the Pope and the tension that had been caused between the two churches. Basil initially wanted to join the Pope as part of his policy in Italy, but the emperor’s policy of Christianization of the Slavs and the organization of the new church led to a new disagreement between the two churches. Of particular importance is the dependence of the Bulgarians on The Ecumenical Patriarchate and the strengthening of relations (intellectual and commercial) between Byzantium and Bulgaria.
The successful action of his outstanding admirals, Nikita Oyfifa and Nassar, relieved the Adriatic first and the Mediterranean as a whole, as well as the Straits from the Arab raids, and brought back the Byzantine administration to a part of southern Italy. At the same time, after long-standing operations in the East against the Paulicians and Arabs, he succeeded in expanding the Byzantine border.
The Macedonian dynasty
In the period of the Macedonian dynasty, a new codification of the law was also introduced. Basil had ordered the “purification of the old laws”, thus setting the basis for the creation of the well-known King’s collection of his son Leo VI, while he published important collections of laws: Draft Law (870-879) and Rebellion (879-886)
He was a competent emperor. The measures he has taken for the judiciary and the courts have laid the foundations for the strengthening of the state while ensuring the protection of small farmers from the greed and the corruption of civil servants. His legislative work is particularly important. Between the years 879-886, he published the “Revival,” a revised collection of laws. He made brilliant military campaigns, restoring Byzantine domination to Dalmatia and the Adriatic, and laid the foundations for the return of Byzantium to Southern Italy. In the East, he achieved significant victories against the Saracens and neutralized the heretics who, with the support of the Arabs, had become particularly powerful, occupying their base. Finally, there was a major program of repairs, restorations, and erections of monuments, culminating in the New Church in Constantinople.
Finance, the administrative system and the army of Byzantium were upset by the ineffective rule of Michael III. Basil began to vigorously restore order in all areas of public administration. Organized the purge of the bureaucratic apparatus. Systematized Byzantine legislation. In “Epanagogue” for the first time in the history of Byzantium, an attempt was made to define the roles that the emperor, the patriarch and the state itself must play in state legislation, and also to delineate their duties. Basil increased the salaries of soldiers, enlarged the army. With varying success, he fought against the Arabs, returning part of the territories lost by his predecessors.
In search of allies to fight the Arabs, he sought a rapprochement with the German emperors and the papacy. In this regard, in 867, Patriarch Ignatius, an adherent of rapprochement with Rome, was restored to the patriarchal throne of Constantinople.
Basil I died as a result of a hunting accident in 886. There are several versions of a detailed description of his death. For example, that his forehead was hacked by a hunted deer leader and, having hooked on his belt, dragged along the forest for a long time until one of the bodyguards caught up with the emperor and cut the belt with his sword. However, having recovered, the emperor ordered to arrest his liberator, having suspected that in an attempt to murder: “He did not raise his sword to save me, but to kill me.” Due to the lethal bruises received, Basil I died a few days later.
After the death of Basil, his successor was Leo VI, who according to the majority of authors is the illegitimate son of Emperor Michael III.