16 min

1059 to 1081

Byzantine Empire: Doukid dynasty

by Something Something

The Byzantine Empire was ruled by emperors of the Doukas dynasty between 1059 and 1081. There are six emperors and co-emperors of this period: the dynasty's founder, Emperor Constantine X Doukas (r. 1059–1067), his brother John Doukas, katepano and later Caesar, Romanos IV Diogenes (r. 1068–1071), Constantine's son Michael VII Doukas (r. 1071–1078), Michael's son and co-emperor Constantine Doukas, and finally Nikephoros III Botaneiates (r. 7 January 1078 – 1 April 1081), who claimed descent from the Phokas family.

Under the rule of the Doukids, Byzantium was fighting a losing battle against the Seljuk Turks, losing most of its remaining possessions in Asia Minor following the catastrophic defeat at the Battle of Manzikert in 1071 and the following civil war after the death of Romanos IV Diogenes. Byzantium also incurred substantial loss of territory in the Balkans, to the Serbs, as well as losing its final foothold in Italy, to the Normans.

Although the Crusades gave the empire a temporary respite during the 12th century, it never recovered fully and eventually entered its period of fragmentation and terminal decline under the pressure of the Ottomans in the late medieval period.

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Contemporary portrait of Constantine X Doukas


Reign of Constantine X Doukas

1059 Nov 23 -

İstanbul, Turkey

Constantine X Doukas or Ducas (Greek: Κωνσταντῖνος Δούκας, Kōnstantinos X Doukas, 1006 – 23 May 1067), was Byzantine emperor from 1059 to 1067. He was the founder and first ruling member of the short-lived Doukid dynasty. During his reign, the Normans took over much of the remaining Byzantine territories in Italy while in the Balkans the Hungarians occupied Belgrade. He also suffered defeats by the Seljuk sultan Alp Arslan.

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The Weakening of the frontier

1060 Jan 1 -


Severely undercutting the training and financial support for the armed forces, Constantine X disbanded the Armenian local militia of 50,000 men at a crucial point of time, coinciding with the westward advance of the Seljuk Turks and their Turcoman allies. Undoing many of the necessary reforms of Isaac I Komnenos, he bloated the military bureaucracy with highly paid court officials and crowded the Senate with his supporters.

His decisions to replace standing soldiers with mercenaries and leaving the frontier fortifications unrepaired led Constantine to become naturally unpopular with the supporters of Isaac within the military aristocracy, who attempted to assassinate him in 1061. He also became unpopular with the general population after he raised taxes to try to pay the army.

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Zvonimir Grbasic


The Norman Conquest of Calabria

1060 Jan 2 -

Calabria, Italy

At the very start of his reign, the Normans under Robert Guiscard completed the conquest of Byzantine Calabria, except for the territory around Bari, though a resurgence of interest in retaining Apulia occurred under his reign, and he appointed at least four catepans of Italy: Miriarch, Maruli, Sirianus, and Mabrica.


Alp Arslan conquers Ani

1064 Jan 1 -

Ani, Gyumri, Armenia

Alp Arslan marched into Armenia and Georgia, which he conquered in 1064. After a siege of 25 days, the Seljuks captured Ani, the capital city of Armenia. An account of the sack and massacres in Ani is given by the historian Sibt ibn al-Jawzi, who quotes an eyewitness saying:

Putting the Persian sword to work, they spared no one... One could see there the grief and calamity of every age of human kind. For children were ravished from the embraces of their mothers and mercilessly hurled against rocks, while the mothers drenched them with tears and blood... The city became filled from one end to the other with bodies of the slain and bodies of the slain became a road. The army entered the city, massacred its inhabitants, pillaged and burned it, leaving it in ruins and taking prisoner all those who remained alive...The dead bodies were so many that they blocked the streets; one could not go anywhere without stepping over them. And the number of prisoners was not less than 50,000 souls. I was determined to enter city and see the destruction with my own eyes. I tried to find a street in which I would not have to walk over the corpses; but that was impossible.

| ©Ubisoft


Oghuz Turks invade the Balkans

1065 Jan 1 -


The roots of Uzes can be traced back to Oghuz Yabgu State (750-1055) located to the east of Caspian Sea. Oghuz State was the neighbour of the Khazar Khaganate in the west and north of the Caspian Sea. Oghuz-Khazar relations were not stable. Oghuz State was sometimes an ally and sometimes an enemy of the powerful Khazar Khaganate. In the 10th century a group of Oghuz people fought in the Khazar army. (Dukak, the father of Seljuk was one of them.) They fought mainly against Pechenegs, a rival Turkic people. After the Khazar Khaganate disintegrated, they had to move west because of Kypchaks raids from the east.

In 1054 they settled around Dnieper river. However five years later they were defeated by the Kievan Rus. They further moved west to Danube river where they were repelled by their old enemy the Pechenegs in 1065. After 1065 they paid hommage to Byzantine Empire and the Russian princes. Most of them converted to Christianity. They served as soldiers in the Byzantine Empire. During the battle of Manzikert between the Byzantines and the Seljuks in 1071 they served in the right flank of the Byzantine army. However according to some accounts they switched sides and contributed to the Seljuks victory.

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Battle of Caesarea

1067 Jan 1 -

Kayseri, Turkey

The Battle of Caesarea occurred in 1067 when the Seljuk Turks under Alp Arslan attacked Caesarea. Caesarea was sacked and its Cathedral of St. Basil desecrated. Following Caesarea, the Seljuk Turks made another attempt invading Anatolia, with an assault on Iconium in 1069. This provoked Romanos IV Diogenes' second campaign.

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Campaigns of 1067

1067 Jan 1 -

Antakya/Hatay, Turkey

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. 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. He did not take into account the degraded state of the Byzantine forces, 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. It was soon evident that while Romanos possessed military talent, his impetuosity was a serious flaw.

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


Reign of Romanos IV Diogenes

1068 Jan 1 -

İstanbul, Turkey

Romanos IV Diogenes, 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.

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Campaign of 1068

1068 Jan 1 -

Aleppo, Syria

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. 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. 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.

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. Romanos captured Hierapolis, which he fortified to provide protection against further incursions into the south-eastern provinces of the empire. He then engaged in further fighting against the Saracens of Aleppo, but neither side managed a decisive victory. 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.


Siege of Iconium

1069 Jan 1 -

Konya, Turkey

The Siege of Iconium (Greek: Μάχη του Ικονίου, Turkish: Konya Muharebesi) was an unsuccessful attempt by the Turkish Seljuk Empire to capture the Byzantine city of Iconium, modern day Konya. After sacking Ani and Caesarea in 1063 and 1067, respectively (some sources suggest as early as 1064), the Byzantine army in the East was in too poor a shape to resist the advance of the Turks. Had it not been for the efforts of the emperor Romanos IV Diogenes the Byzantine Empire would have suffered her "Manzikert" disaster sooner. From Syria, a successful counter-attack drove the Turks back. After the attack on Iconium was repelled, Romanos IV launched his second campaign. Further campaigning was met with some success by Romanos, despite the ill nature of his army which had been poorly led since the death of Basil II.

The victory was a short respite - sometime after Manzikert, in the midst of civil conflict, Iconium fell to the Turks. The city saw a brief return to Christendom during the First Crusade, possibly under Byzantine rule but the Turks counter-attacked at the Crusade of 1101 and Konya would form the capital of Byzantium's most dangerous opponent. On 18 May 1190, Iconium was briefly regained for Christianity by the forces of Frederick I, Holy Roman Emperor at the Battle of Iconium during the Third Crusade.

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Norman mercenaries rebel

1069 Jan 1 -

Şanlıurfa, Turkey

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, 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.  Robert was arrested by Romanos after the rebellion.

Depiction of Michael VII Doukas on the back of the Holy Crown of Hungary


Reign of Michael VII Doukas

1071 Jan 1 -

İstanbul, Turkey

Michael VII Doukas (Greek: Μιχαήλ Ζ΄ Δούκας), nicknamed Parapinakes (Greek: Παραπινάκης, lit. "minus a quarter", with reference to the devaluation of the Byzantine currency under his rule), was Byzantine emperor from 1071 to 1078.

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Final Byzantine outpost in Italy lost

1071 Apr 15 -

Bari, Metropolitan City of B

Romanos was detained at Constantinople 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. 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, forcing the final remaining outpost of Byzantine authority in Italy to surrender on 15 April 1071.

Battle of Manzikert | ©Kings and Generals


Battle of Manzikert

1071 Aug 26 -

Malazgirt, Muş, Turkey

The Battle of Manzikert or Battle of Malazgirt was fought between the Byzantine Empire and the Seljuk Empire on 26 August 1071 near Manzikert, theme of Iberia (modern Malazgirt in Muş Province, Turkey). The decisive defeat of the Byzantine army and the capture of the Emperor Romanos IV Diogenes played an important role in undermining Byzantine authority in Anatolia and Armenia, and allowed for the gradual Turkification of Anatolia. Many of the Turks, who had been travelling westward during the 11th century, saw the victory at Manzikert as an entrance to Asia Minor.

The brunt of the battle was borne by the Byzantine army's professional soldiers from the eastern and western tagmata, as large numbers of mercenaries and Anatolian levies fled early and survived the battle. The fallout from Manzikert was disastrous for the Byzantines, resulting in civil conflicts and an economic crisis that severely weakened the Byzantine Empire's ability to adequately defend its borders. This led to the mass movement of Turks into central Anatolia—by 1080, an area of 78,000 square kilometres (30,000 sq mi) had been gained by the Seljuk Turks. It took three decades of internal strife before Alexius I (1081 to 1118) restored stability to Byzantium. Historian Thomas Asbridge says: "In 1071, the Seljuqs crushed an imperial army at the Battle of Manzikert (in eastern Asia Minor), and though historians no longer consider this to have been an utterly cataclysmic reversal for the Greeks, it still was a stinging setback." It was the first, and only, time in history a Byzantine emperor became the prisoner of a Muslim commander.

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Uprising of Peter III and Georgi Voyteh (1072)


Uprising of Georgi Voyteh

1072 Jan 1 -

Ohrid, North Macedonia

The Uprising of Georgi Voyteh was a Bulgarian uprising in the Byzantine theme of Bulgaria in 1072. It was the second major attempt to restore the Bulgarian Empire after the Uprising of Peter Delyan in 1040-1041.

The main prerequisites for the uprising were the weakness of Byzantium after the invasions of the Pechenegs in the lower Danube, the great defeat at the hands of the Seljuk Turks in the battle of Manzikert (1071) and the invasion of the Normans from southern Italy as well as the rising taxes during the reign of Michael VII. The uprising was prepared by the Bulgarian nobility in Skopje led by Georgi Voyteh. They chose the son of Serbian Prince of Duklja Michael, Constantine Bodin as their leader, as he was a descendant of the Bulgarian Emperor Samuil. In the autumn of 1072 Constantine Bodin arrived at Prizren where he was proclaimed Emperor of the Bulgarians under the name Peter III. The Serbian Prince sent 300 soldiers led by Vojvoda Petrilo.

An army under Damianos Dalassenos was immediately sent from Constantinople to help the strategos of the Theme of Bulgaria, Nikephoros Karantenos. In the battle that followed the Byzantine army was completely defeated. Dalassenos and other Byzantine commanders were captured and Skopie was taken by the Bulgarians troops.

After that success the rebels tried to expand the area under their control. Constantine Bodin headed north and reached Naissus (modern Niš). Because some Bulgarian towns with Byzantine garrisons did not surrender, they were burned down. Petrila marched southwards and captured Ochrid (modern Ohrid) and Devol.

Another army was sent from Constantinople under Michael Saronites. Saronites seized Skoupoi and in December 1072 he defeated the army of Constantine Bodin at a place known as Taonios (in the southern parts of Kosovo Polje). Constantine Bodin and Georgi Voyteh were captured. The army which Prince Michael sent to relieve his son did not achieve anything because its commander, a Norman mercenary defected to the Byzantines. The rebellion was finally crushed in 1073 by doux Nikephoros Bryennios.

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Byzantines lose again

1073 Jan 1 -

Antakya/Hatay, Turkey

After Manzikert, the Byzantine government sent a new army to contain the Seljuk Turks under Isaac Komnenos, a brother of the future emperor Alexios I Komnenos, but this army was defeated and its commander captured in 1073.


Reign of Nikephoros III Botaneiates

1078 Jan 7 -

İstanbul, Turkey

Nikephoros came into conflict with Emperor Michael in 1078 when he pleaded with the emperor to address the worsening situation in Byzantine Anatolia, insulting Michael with his frankness. In order to protect himself, Nikephoros gathered an army of native troops and Turkish mercenaries and declared himself emperor in July or October 1077. Nikephoros gathered a strong support base due to his military acumen and family renown and was later recognized by the Byzantine Senate on 7 January 1078, after which he seized the throne with the help of the citizens of Constantinople. As emperor, Nikephoros faced numerous revolts, including those of Nikephoros Bryennios, Nikephoros Basilakes, and Constantine Doukas, as well as an attempted assassination by the Varangian Guard. Nikephoros embraced the trappings of an emperor, performing many acts to increase his legitimacy and support, such as spending large amounts on donatives for the army and his supporters, forgiving all debt in arrears, and instituting minor legal reforms. Diplomatically, Nikephoros secured the submission of Theodore Gabras and Philaretos Brachamios, governors of Trebizond and Antioch, respectively, who had become de facto independent of the Byzantine Empire due to the constant incursions of the Seljuks into Byzantine Anatolia.


Rebellion of Nikephoros Bryennios

1078 Feb 1 -

İstanbul, Turkey

During the reign of Nikephoros, he had to contend with four revolts and plots before the revolt of Alexios I Komnenos which ultimately ended his reign. The first revolt was that of Nikephoros Bryennios, who had contended for the throne of Michael VII at the same time as Nikephoros III; Nikephoros, now too old to command armies, sent Alexios Komnenos to defeat him. Once Bryennios was defeated, Nikephoros III had him blinded, but granted him and his partisans amnesty.


The Rebellion of Nikephoros Basilakes

1078 Mar 1 -

Durrës, Albania

Another revolt came from a supporter of Bryennios, Nikephoros Basilakes the protoproedros, rebelled in Dyrrhachium (modern-day Durrës) in 1078, but he was quickly defeated by Alexios, and similarly blinded.


Rebellion of Paulician

1078 Apr 1 -


n 1078 the Paulician sect attempted to use the chaos of the rebellions of Bryennios and Basilakes and their growing popularity in the Balkans to rise up against Nikephoros; Leca the Paulician agitated against Nikephoros and attempted to convince the Pechenegs, with whom Basilakes had earlier attempted to ally, to invade Byzantine land.


Rebellion of Dobromir the Paulician

1078 May 1 -

Nesebar, Bulgaria

At the same time, Dobromir the Paulician stirred up a revolt in Mesembria, in co-operation with Leca, and began to pillage the surrounding areas. Leca and Dobromir soon abandoned their rebellion after they were informed that Nikephoros was quickly assembling an army to defeat them. Knowing their few loyalists would not be able to confront the Byzantine army, they begged Nikephoros for forgiveness, fearing that they would share the same punishment as Bryennios and Basilakes; Nikephoros showed mercy and granted them amnesty, along with both gifts and titles.


Assassination attempt by Varangians

1079 Jan 1 -

İstanbul, Turkey

In 1079 the Varangian Guard attempted to murder Nikephoros during an evening inspection, but they were unsuccessful as Nikephoros was able to command his retinue and defend himself until his imperial guards could arrive to defeat the Varangians. Nikephoros had the ringleaders of the plot sent to remote forts and granted amnesty to the rest.


Alexios's Rebellion

1081 Apr 1 -

İstanbul, Turkey

Norman Duke Robert Guiscard of Apulia prepared to invade the Byzantine Empire in 1081 under the pretext of defending the succession of Constantine Doukas, who had been engaged to Robert's daughter Helena; at the same time, the Seljuks captured the town of Cyzicus. Alexios was entrusted with a substantial army to defeat the Norman threat but conspired with his relative John Doukas to instead take the throne for himself. Alexios raised a rebellion against Nikephoros and was able to quickly surround Constantinople and put it to siege due to the lack of a defensive army. Nikeophoros was unable to secure the support of either the Seljuk Turks or Nikephoros Melissenos, his traditional rivals, and thus was forced to prepare to abdicate. Nikephoros decided that his only choice was to abdicate in favor of Melissenos, who was nearby in Damalis in Anatolia, and sent messengers to him across the Bosphorus; however, these messengers were intercepted by George Palaiologos, a general of Alexios, who persuaded them to support Alexios. Alexios and his forces broke through the walls of Constantinople on 1 April 1081 and sacked the city; Patriarch Cosmas convinced Nikephoros to abdicate to Alexios rather than prolong the civil war. Nikephoros then fled to the Hagia Sophia and sought sanctuary inside of it. Michael, the logothete of Alexios, then escorted Nikephoros to the Monastery of Peribleptus, where he abdicated and became a monk. He died later that year.


Battle of Rodosto

1206 Feb 1 -

Tekirdağ, Süleymanpaşa/Tekir

The battle of Rodosto (Bulgarian: Битка при Родосто) took place in February 1206 in the town of Rodosto (today Tekirdağ, Turkey) between the Bulgarians led by Emperor Kaloyan and the Crusaders. It resulted in a Bulgarian victory After the Bulgarians annihilated the Latin army in the battle of Rusion on 31 January 1206 the remnants of the shattered Crusader forces headed to the coastal town of Rodosto to seek refuge. The town had a strong Venetian garrison and was further supported by a regiment of 2,000 troops from Constantinople. However, the fear of the Bulgarians was so great that the Latins panicked with the very arrival of the Bulgarian soldiers. They were incapable to resist and after a short battle the Venetians began to flee to their ships in the port. In their haste to escape many boats were overloaded and sank and most Venetians drowned. The town was looted by the Bulgarians who continued their victorious march through eastern Thrace and captured many more towns and fortresses.

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