20 Facts About Basil I


Basil I was given a fortune by the wealthy Danielis and gained Michael's favour, whose mistress he married on his emperor's orders.


In 866, Michael proclaimed him co-emperor, but Basil I ordered his assassination the next year, thus installing himself as sole ruler of the empire.


Basil I was succeeded upon his death by his son Leo VI.


Basil I was born to peasant parents in late 811 at Chariopolis in the Byzantine theme of Macedonia.


Basil I's mother was named Pankalo, and her father was called Leo.


The general scholarly consensus is that Basil I's father was "probably" of Armenian origin, and settled in Byzantine Thrace.


Basil I lived there until 836, when he and several others escaped to Byzantine-held territory in Thrace.


Basil I was ultimately lucky enough to enter the service of Theophilitzes, a relative of the Caesar Bardas, as a groom.


Basil I earned the notice of Michael III by his abilities as a horse tamer and in winning a victory over a Bulgarian champion in a wrestling match; he soon became the Byzantine Emperor's companion, confidant, and bodyguard.


On Emperor Michael's orders, Basil I divorced his wife Maria and married Eudokia Ingerina, Michael's favourite mistress, in around 865.


Basil I became an effective and respected monarch despite being a man with no formal education and little military or administrative experience.


Once in power Basil I soon showed that he intended to rule effectively and as early as his coronation he displayed an overt religiosity by formally dedicating his crown to Christ.


Basil I maintained a reputation for conventional piety and orthodoxy throughout his 19 year-long reign.


Basil I personally oversaw the construction of the Nea Ekklesia cathedral and his palatine hall the Kainourgion.


Emperor Basil I's reign was marked by the troublesome ongoing war with the heretical Paulicians, centered on Tephrike on the upper Euphrates, who rebelled, allied with the Arabs, and raided as far as Nicaea, sacking Ephesus.


Basil I's spirits declined in 879, when his eldest and favorite son Constantine died.


Basil I now raised his youngest son, Alexander, to the rank of co-emperor.


Basil I disliked the bookish Leo, on occasion physically beating him; he probably suspected Leo of being the son of Michael III.


Basil I was saved by an attendant who cut him loose with a knife, but he suspected the attendant of trying to assassinate him and had the man executed shortly before he himself died.


One question that has emerged in modern scholarship is whether or not Basil I was involved in same-sex relationships and if such relationships played a role in his unlikely rise to power.