41 Facts About Basil II

1.

Basil II Porphyrogenitus, nicknamed the Bulgar Slayer, was the senior Byzantine emperor from 976 to 1025.

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2.

Early years of Basil II's reign were dominated by civil wars against two powerful generals from the Anatolian aristocracy; first Bardas Skleros and later Bardas Phokas, which ended shortly after Phokas's death and Skleros's submission in 989.

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3.

Basil II then oversaw the stabilization and expansion of the eastern frontier of the Byzantine Empire and the complete subjugation of the First Bulgarian Empire, its foremost European foe, after a prolonged struggle.

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4.

Basil II conducted a campaign against the Khazar Khaganate that gained the Byzantine Empire part of Crimea and a series of successful campaigns against the Kingdom of Georgia.

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5.

Basil II is seen as a Greek national hero but is a despised figure among Bulgarians.

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6.

Courtier and historian Michael Psellos, who was born towards the end of Basil II's reign, gives a description of Basil II in his Chronographia.

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7.

Basil II had light-blue eyes, strongly arched eyebrows, luxuriant side whiskers—which he had a habit of rolling between his fingers when deep in thought or angry—and in later life a scant beard.

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8.

Psellos states that Basil II was not an articulate speaker and had a loud laugh that convulsed his whole frame.

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9.

Basil II is described as having ascetic tastes and caring little for the pomp and ceremony of the Imperial court, typically wearing a sombre, dark-purple robe furnished with few of the gems that usually decorated imperial costumes.

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10.

Basil II is described as a capable administrator who left a well-stocked treasury upon his death.

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11.

Basil II supposedly despised literary culture and affected scorn for the learned classes of Byzantium.

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12.

Basil II was a porphyrogennetos, as were his father Romanos II and his grandfather Constantine VII; this was the appellation used for children who were born to a reigning emperor.

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13.

Basil II immediately had his mother brought back from her convent.

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14.

Basil II was a very successful soldier on horseback and through his achievement he proved himself to be an able general and a strong ruler.

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15.

The younger Basil II waited and watched without interfering, devoting himself to learning the details of administrative business and military science.

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16.

The Rus' warriors taken into Basil II's army were instrumental in ending the rebellion; they were later organized into the Varangian Guard.

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17.

Basil II burned his camp and retreated to Damascus without battle.

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18.

Basil II's troops raided as far as Heliopolis, placed a garrison at Larissa, and burnt three minor forts in the vicinity of Abu Qubais, Masyath and Arca.

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19.

Basil II sought to restore former territories of the Byzantine Empire.

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20.

Basil II escaped with the help of his Varangian Guard and attempted to recover his losses by turning Samuel's brother Aron against him.

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21.

Aron was tempted by Basil II's offer of his sister Anna in marriage, but the negotiations failed when Aron discovered the bride he was sent was an imposter.

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22.

Basil II conducted damaging raids into Byzantine territory as far as central Greece.

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23.

In 1001, Basil II, operating from Thessalonica, regained control of Vodena, Verrhoia and Servia.

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24.

In 1014, Basil II was ready to launch a campaign aimed at destroying Bulgarian resistance.

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25.

Basil II showed considerable statesmanship in his treatment of the defeated Bulgarians, giving many former Bulgarian leaders court titles, positions in provincial administration, and high commands in the army.

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26.

Basil II's successors reversed this policy, a decision that led to considerable Bulgarian discontent and rebellion later in the 11th century.

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27.

Basil II entered in an alliance with the Fatimid caliph of Egypt, al-Hakim, forcing Basil to refrain from an acute response to George's offensive.

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28.

Basil II plundered the country and withdrew for winter to Trebizond.

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29.

In 992, Basil II concluded a treaty with the Doge of Venice Pietro II Orseolo under terms reducing Venice's custom duties in Constantinople from 30 nomismata to 17 nomismata.

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30.

Basil II was popular with the country farmers, the class that produced most of his army's supplies and soldiers.

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31.

In 1002, Basil II introduced the allelengyon tax as a specific law obliging the dynatoi to cover for the arrears of poorer tax-payers.

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32.

Basil II was praised by his army because he spent most of his reign campaigning with it rather than sending orders from Constantinople, as had most of his predecessors.

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33.

Basil II lived the life of a soldier to the point of eating the same daily rations as the rest of the army.

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34.

Basil II took the children of dead army officers under his protection and offered them shelter, food and education.

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35.

Basil II did not innovate in terms of military organization: in the conquered territories he introduced both the small themes or strategiai, centred around a fortress town, that were such a common feature of the 10th-century reconquests of the East under Phokas and Tzimiskes, as well as the extensive regional commands under a doux or katepano .

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36.

Basil II later secured the annexation of the sub-kingdoms of Armenia and a promise that its capital and surrounding regions would be willed to Byzantium following the death of its king Hovhannes-Smbat.

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37.

The body of Basil II was transferred to the Monastery of the Saviour at Selymbria.

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38.

Basil II crushed rebellions, subdued the feudal landowners, conquered the enemies of the Empire, notably in the Danubian provinces and the East.

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39.

Basil II's reign is one of the most significant in Byzantine history.

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40.

Basil II was particularly compared with Alexander the Great who was believed to be Basil's ancestor.

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41.

Basil II lacked heirs due to the "dearth of cousins found within the Macedonian dynasty", so he was succeeded by his brother Constantine and his family, who proved to be ineffective rulers.

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