[Rodolphe Guilland, "Les Eunuques dans l'Empire Byzantin: Étude
de titulature et de prosopographie byzantines", in Études Byzantines,
Vol. I (1943), pp. 197-238.]
Eunuchs in the Byzantine Empire
A Study in Byzantine Titulature and Prosopography
[by Rodolphe Guilland]
The present study cannot be exhaustive, for a number of reasons. It
is part of a series of studies intended to contribute to the history of
administration of the Byzantine Empire, which is still so poorly understood.
It is conceived as an introduction to the study of the titles and dignities
enjoyed by eunuchs in Byzantium. The information given about the persons
is summary, because the complete notes will appear in the Byzantine Prosopography
that is being prepared by my dear friend and knowledgeable colleague R.P.V.
The citations of Byzantine authors are made according to the Bonn Byzantine collection unless otherwise indicated.
Eunuchs (hoi eunouchoi) were very numerous in Byzantium. According to the very strong statement of Constantine VII, they swarmed around the Grand Palace like flies around a cow-shed in the summer (Theoph. Cont. 318). Eunuchs were always very sought after by the Byzantine emperors. Zonaras writes (III 250), "Romaioi peri tous ektomias eptoeemenoi aei [the Byzantines were always passionately excited for castrati]". In the era of Irene (797-802) eunuchs formed a veritable swarm in the Grand Palace: ho polus toon eunouchoon esmos [the number of the eunuchs was as a swarm of bees] (Cedr. II 29). One could not give the emperor any more valuable gift than eunuchs. Among the rich presents given by Danielis to Basil I (867-886) were 300 young slaves, including one hundred eunuchs, because "he knew that there was always room for eunuchs in the imperial palace" (Theoph. Cont. 318). Liutprand relates that Theobald I, marquis of Spoleto (929-936), after having made prisoners of Greek soldiers, turned them into eunuchs and wrote to the general: "Quoniam vestro sancto imperatori spadonibus nil pretiosius esse cognovi, hos studui pauculos sibi verecunde transmittere, plures, Deo propitio, transmissurus." [Since I know of nothing more valued by your holy emperor than eunuchs, I have taken pains humbly to send these few to him, and, God willing, I will send more] (Antapod. PG 136, 861).
The presence of innumerable eunuchs at the Byzantine court seems to be in conflict with the laws that severely prohibited eunuchism. The Roman emperors early formally prohibited this practice, at least within the boundaries of the empire. Domitian (Ammianus Marcellinus XVIII 4) seems to have promulgated the first such prohibition, and Nerva renewed it (Dio Cassius 68.3; Zonaras II 506). Hadrian went even further; he applied the Lex Cornelia de sicariis to doctors who made eunuchs of males and even to the one who suffered the operation (Digest XLVIII 8.4 § 2). In spite of all that, the practice of eunuchism did not disappear. Julian (361-363) had the eunuch Macedonius as his preceptor (Socrates III 1), but he nonetheless put the eunuch Eusebius to death and removed all the eunuchs from the imperial palace (Zonaras III 62). True, the rulers could only legislate within the boundaries of the empire, and it seems that there was no prohibition against trading in eunuchs who came from foreign countries. This trade was quite vigorous. A eunuch under the age of 10 cost 30 solidi, above the age of 10 he cost 50 solidi, and if he was skilled he cost 60 solidi (Code of Justinian VII 1 § 5).
An order of eunuchs was also formed in Byzantium, hee toon eunouchoon taxis (De cer. II 52.70), an order that was as numerous as it was powerful and hierarchically organized. Special titles of nobility were created for them and certain responsibilities were reserved for them (id.). Moreover, eunuchs were known to be skilled in exercising all public functions, with only rare exceptions (De cer. II 52.725). Given equal titles, eunuch dignitaries had precedence over bearded dignitaries (De cer. II 727-730). Ordinary eunuch patricians were a step ahead of anthupatoi [proconsular] bearded patricians, even though the latter exercised the highest military and civilian responsibilities (De cer. II 52 id)
Under Constantine the Great (323-337), who had to renew the old laws on eunuchs that were undoubtedly poorly observed (Code of Justinian IV 42.1: de eunuchis), and under his immediate successors, eunuchs do not seem to have been very numerous in Byzantium. But this fact did not prevent them from being very powerful. Under Constantius II (353-361) the praepositus Eusebius was a power to be reckoned with, surrounded by his young cubicularii who were necessarily eunuchs like himself. It was said sarcastically that the emperor alone had some influence with him (Ammianus Marcellinus XVIII 4). The same Eusebius, an adherent of Arianism, succeeded in winning over the court and the empress to this heresy (Socr. II 2). Ammianus Marcellinus congratulates Domitian for having prohibited eunuchism: "Where would we be today," he writes, "if this type of monster had flourished, since even in small numbers they manage to be a plague?" (XVIII 4).
In the 5th century, Leo I (457-474) prohibited the sale of eunuchs of Roman nationality within the empire, but he had to allow the trade in eunuchs of foreign nationality (Code of Justinian IV 42.2: de eunuchis). The result of Leo I's law was to cause a flood of eunuchs from abroad into Byzantium. However, the practice of eunuchism continued, for Justinian I (527-565) promulgated a specific New Constitution [against it], No. 142. The emperor declared that the laws prohibiting eunuchism were far from being observed and he affirmed the horrifying mortality rate following the operation, since, out of 90 persons undergoing the operation, barely 3 survived. Justinian I punished the perpetrators and accomplices of the operation with the penalty of retaliation; if the condemned person survived, he was sent to the mines and his property was confiscated. The confiscation and deportation were also applied to women who were guilty of having ordered the operation. As for those who were operated on, they were emancipated by law if they were slaves, no matter when they had been made eunuchs and even if the operation had been ordered as treatment for an illness. In any case, free men who submitted to the operation as a result of an illness were not punished by the law. As a result of this New Constitution, all the eunuchs in the empire were emancipated. Procopius of Caesarea (B.G. 471-472) and Zonaras (III 240) tell us that the princes of Abkhasia and Lazika in the Caucasus practiced eunuchism on a large scale for the sake of profit. The majority of the eunuchs designated for service in the Grand Palace were of Abkhasian origin. Justinian I succeeded in causing this practice to cease by demonstrating its barbarity. He sent the Abkhasian palace eunuch Euphrantas to Abkhasia, who no doubt eloquently pleaded the case of eunuchs, for he succeeded in convincing the Abkhasian princes to renounce the practice.
The severe penalties ordered by Justinian I did not succeed, however, in causing the practice of eunuchism to cease, as Leo VI (886-912) affirms. The latter had to intervene again with New Constitution No. 60. But this New Constitution marks a step backward in terms of the suppression of eunuchism. Thinking the ancient law too draconian, Leo abolished the penalty of retaliation for the operators and softened the other penalties. He who had called for the operation was hit with a fine of 10 pounds of gold and exile for 10 years; if the guilty party was a palace official, he was stripped of his office. The one who had performed the operation was whipped and shaved, his property was confiscated, and he was exiled for 10 years; a slave who had been operated on was emancipated. But Leo tolerated voluntary operations on free men and by the decision of a doctor. Moreover, the law did not define the age for giving voluntary consent, and parents were always able to claim that they had consented to the operation for their children.
By an extraordinary contradiction, the rulers, who endeavored to cause eunuchism to disappear through law after law, kept a considerable number of eunuchs in their palaces. There are many reasons that explain the rulers' keen interest in eunuchs. First, it is certain that with the increasing influence of the East on Byzantium, gynaecea needed the service of numerous eunuchs. Moreover, once introduced to the imperial palace, the eunuchs, a skillful and ingratiating kind of people, quickly acquired a profound influence on the emperors and empresses. No doubt the aristocracy and the people displayed a real hatred for the eunuchs, but this hatred did not dare express itself too openly, because the eunuchs were powerful, arrogant, and vindictive. Furthermore, once it was noticed that being a eunuch could bring fortune, power, and honor, parents, even those of the highest classes, consented to the mutilation of one of their children. Eunuchs were found in the greatest families of Byzantium, even in the imperial family. Finally, eunuchs played a significant role in the ceremonial of the Byzantine court. Like angels they surrounded the ruler, who was the representative of God here below. Like seraphim, they approached the ruler while covering their faces in their white sleeves. They brought in visitors who were received for audiences with the ruler, while holding them under the shoulders like angels holding them up with their wings. Eunuchs presented the insignia of coronation to the ruler: they led the ruler after his return from a victorious war into a chapel of the Virgin, and after having removed his armor and sword, they transformed him from a warrior prince to a Christian prince. Finally the eunuchs, like a living mantle of angels, accompanied the ruler to the sacred bath of the Blakhernes, source of the Mother of God, in which he submerged himself in order to be reborn. In Byzantium, the eunuchs represented a celestial power on earth.
The law distinguished two kinds of eunuchs: the ektomiai or ektomoi, i.e. castrati, from whom a surgical operation had removed all means of procreation, and the spadones or thladiai (Nicet. 608), whom a constitutional defect or an illness had rendered incapable of procreation or impotent. For the ektomiai, procreation was a definite impossibility, but for the spadones it was only an improbability. There were significant judicial consequences based on this. Unlike spadones, the ektomiai were not allowed to marry (Digest XXIII 3.39 § 1; XL 2.14 § 1); nor could they adopt children (Institutions I, II § 9; Digest I 8.2 § 1; I 40 § 2) or institute posthumous heirs (Digest XXVIII 2.6). Nonetheless, Leo VI in his New Constitution 26 allowed ektomiai to adopt. Under Nicephorus III Botaniates (1078-1081), we also see the eunuch John offer to adopt George Palaeologus and institute him as his heir (Nic. Bryennius 164). Leo VI, in this New Constitution, objects to the rule by which those who by nature are unable to have children are not allowed to grant themselves the privilege of paternity by law. For, Leo VI declares, it is not nature but the malice of human beings that deprived the ektomiai of the joys of paternity; therefore it is right that the law should offer them compensation. The mute have the ability to express themselves by gestures and by means of writing; the ektomiai are entitled to an equivalent compensation.
Eunuchs enjoyed a significant role in Byzantium through the high positions
that they occupied in the Church, in the army, and in the civilian hierarchy.
Eunuchs in the Church.
The Byzantine Church did not reject eunuchs from the ecclesiastical hierarchy. Their situation was regulated by Canon I of the Council of Nicaea (325) and by Apostolic Canons 21 and 22. "If someone has been made a eunuch," says Nicaean Canon I, "either by surgeons as a result of an illness or by barbarians, he shall remain in the clergy. But he who, while healthy, mutilated himself, must be prohibited if he is in the clergy; and from now on, none of them may be promoted to the clergy." Apostolic Canon 21 authorizes the promotion of him who is a eunuch by birth or who has become a eunuch through the violence of men or as a victim of persecution, provided that he is worthy of it, and Canon 22 absolutely prohibits it to anyone who has mutilated himself. Thus the Byzantine Church included a large number of eunuch clergy, among them patriarchs, metropolitans, bishops, and monks.
Among the eunuch patriarchs, we can cite the following: Germanus I (August 715 - January 730), son of the patrician Justinian, an accomplice in the assassination of Emperor Constans II (642-648), was made a eunuch by order of Constantine IV Pogonatus (668-685), although he had already passed the age in which the operation was usually performed. (Zonaras III 222). - Nicetas I (November 766 - February 780), of servile Slavic origin and totally illiterate, if one credits Zonaras (III 277; cf. Glycas 527), had been raised to the patriarchal throne against the ecclesiastical canons by the will of Constantine V (740-775) (Theoph. 680), while he was a priest in the church of the Holy Apostles (Nic. de CP 85-86; Theoph. 686).
Methodius I (March 843 - June 847) was a spado (Cedr. II, 147-148; Theoph. Cont. 159). Accused of having seduced a woman, Methodius, in order to exonerate himself, undressed and showed the judges the impossibility of his having done it. He declared that he had miraculously acquired this state that preserved him from the desires of the flesh. - Ignatius, his successor (July 847 - October 858 and November 867 - November 877) was an ektomias. Son of Emperor Michael I Rhangabe (811-813) and younger brother of Emperor Nicephorus I (802-811), Ignatius, whose real name was Nicetas, was made a eunuch and a monk after the death of Michael I. He was the abbot of the monastery of Satyros when the Empress Regent Theodora appointed him to the patriarchal throne. (Cedr. II 172; Zonaras III 403; Glyc. 533). - Stephen II (June 925 - July 928), metropolitan of Amasea, (Theoph. Cont. 410; 739. 902), was also a eunuch when he ascended the patriarchal throne. - Theophylactus (February 933 - July 956), the youngest son of Romanus I Lecapenus (919-944), had been made a eunuch while very young, was made a cleric, then a syncellus, and was ordained a deacon (Theoph. Cont. 409, 739). At the age of 16, Theophylactus was made the patriarch of Constantinople and remained in this position for 13 years (Theoph. Cont. 422, 745, 913, Cedr. II 332). - Polyeuctus, who succeeded Theophylactus (April 956 - February 970), had been made a eunuch by his own parents. Anointed patriarch not by the bishop of Heraclea, as was customary, but by Basil, the bishop of Caesarea, Polyeuctus was regarded by some as an illegitimate patriarch. (Cedr. II 334). - Constantine III Likhoudes (February 1059 - August 1063) seems to have been a eunuch. Before becoming patriarch, he had exercised the high office of protovestiary, which was usually given to eunuchs. Ephraim 10092 also called him ektomias tis and protovestiary. - Finally, Eustratius Garidas (1081 - August 1084) was likewise a eunuch (An. Comn. Bonn I, 149; Glyc. 619). If patriarchs were so easily recruited from among eunuchs, it is natural to think that numerous high prelates, metropolitans, archbishops, and bishops were likewise appointed from among the eunuchs. John, the metropolitan of Sides, was a eunuch and was chosen by Michael VII Ducas (1071-1078) as regent of the empire (Cedr. II 705). Pope Leo IX, in his letter to Michael Cerularius, patriarch of Constantinople under Constantine IX Monomachus (1042-1054), criticizes the Byzantine custom of admitting eunuchs to the episcopate despite the Canons of Nicaea (L. Brémone, Le schisme oriental, p. 98). Liutprand, the bishop of Cremona, for his part (Legatio 371), affirmed that he was received at Leucate by a eunuch bishop and that the eunuch bishops were numerous, which was contrary to the ecclesiastical canons.
As for the simple clergy and monks, a large number of them were eunuchs. Under Justin II (565-578), the eunuch Narses, a cubicularius and protospatharius, had the monastery of the Katharoi built (Theoph. 376). This monastery was specially reserved for eunuchs (Note in Theoph. 461. See L. Marin, Les moines à Constantinople, 27). The same Narses created numerous pious foundations, hospices, asylums, etc., probably also reserved for eunuchs (Patria II 249; Codin 104). There seem to have been monasteries in Byzantium specially for eunuchs. Leo VI (886-912) had the convent of Saint Lazarus, which was specially reserved for eunuchs, built in the Topoi district (Leo Gramm. 274).
Disgraced eunuchs were often tonsured as clergy or shaved as monks. Such as Antiochus, patrician praepositus and preceptor of Theodosius II (408-450), whom the irritated ruler forced to enter into orders (Cedr. I 600). And Samonas, the eunuch favorite of Leo VI, whom the latter ordered shaved as a monk and imprisoned in the monastery of Martinakios (Theoph. Cont. 316). Cedrinus (II 339) also relates the story of a certain eunuch cleric, called John, whom Constantine VII Porphyrogenitus forced to adopt the monk's habit as a result of some misdeed. Protected by Romanus II (959-963), John abandoned his monk's robe to reassume the ecclesiastical clothing, and entered into the service of the ruler, despite the objections of the patriarch Polyeuctus. After the death of Romanus II, John hastened to put on the monk's robe once again.
Thanks to the goodwill of the emperor, the eunuchs took their church duties rather lightly. The eunuch Nicephorus, formerly a priest, put off the ecclesiastical clothing to reenter the secular world. This fact did not prevent Constantine IX Monomachus, who had already had him in his service, from entrusting to him the command of an army and conferring on him the high honor of a rector. Nicephorus had no military competency, but the ruler was able to count on his loyalty (Cedr. II 593).
The most illustrious monasteries in Byzantium were open to eunuchs.
The eunuch Nicephorus, not the same as the aforementioned eunuch Nicephorus,
the former protovestiary of Constantine VIII (1025-1028) and titled proedrus,
put on the monk's habit under the reign of Michael IV the Paphlagonian
(1034-1041) and retired to the celebrated monastery of Stoudios (Cedr.
II 514, 480). Moreover, certain functions in the monasteries were always
entrusted to eunuchs (Justinian, New Constitution 133, c. 5). In the women's
convents, the positions of steward and vice-steward were always held by
eunuchs. (Irene Comnenus, Typikon XIV).
Eunuchs in the army.
What is most surprising is the great number of eunuchs whom one encounters as generals and admirals throughout the history of Byzantium, especially after Justinian I. The reason for this is that the rulers found it prudent to entrust the chief command of their armies to eunuchs, to whom they added experienced generals in subordinate roles. One need not have feared a victorious eunuch, while a victorious general could have become a menacing claimant to the throne. However, soldiers do not appear to have had much confidence in these eunuch generals who were imposed on them, and who most often led them into defeat.
Under Justinian I, the celebrated eunuch Narses, originally from Armenia, seems to have been the imperial treasurer at the start of his career (Proc. B. P. 59, 79). A simple cubicularius at first (Malal. 469), Narses contributed to the suppression of the Nika rebellion in 532; he was the cubicularius and the spatharius (Malal. 476; Chr. Pasch. 626). In 538, Narses was placed at the head of an army sent to support Belisarius who was fighting in Italy (Proc. B. G. 199). Recalled to Byzantium, Narses rendered various services to Justinian I; it was probably at this time that he was appointed praepositus. In 550, Narses was appointed to take command of the expeditionary troops sent to Italy. He was 75 years old, and he brought the war against the Goths to a victorious conclusion (Proc. B. G. 570 f.). As a reward, Narses received the title of patrician (Theoph. 367). In an inscription (Orelli, I No. 1162, ann. 565), Narses calls himself: vir gloriosissimus, ex praeposito sacri palatii, ex consule atque patricius [a most glorious man (i.e. male), former praepositus sacri palatii, former consul and patrician]. The office of consul had been abolished in 541. Moreover, as a eunuch, Narses could not have been raised to that position (Ch. Diehl, Justinien Ier, 167-171; 197-198). Narses died around 568, in the reign of Justin II. (On Narses, see A.E.R. Boak and J.E. Dunlap, Two studies in later Roman and Byzantine administration. New York 1924. Part II. § IV. "The grand Chamberlain Narses," pp. 284-299).
Solomon succeeded Belisarius in governing Africa, and played an important role in the wars against the Vandals. He was killed at the Battle of Cillium in 544 (Proc. B. V. passim). According to Procopius, Solomon was born near Dara and became a eunuch due to an accident (B. V. 359). Solomon had been appointed patrician around 535 (Ch. Diehl, L'Afrique byzantine, p. 74 n. 5).
Justin II (565-578) had a favorite called Narses (Corippus, De laud. Just. III 221; IV 363). The emperor felt so much affection for him that they gossiped about it at the court (Theoph. 376). Corippus says he was "formaque insignis et ore" [conspicuous for beauty and speech]. So Narses was cubicularius, therefore a eunuch, and titled protospatharius. A very pious person, Narses built various charitable establishments and monasteries, notably the monastery of the Katharoi which was reserved for eunuchs. This is the Narses to whom the Patria allude (II 249; Codin 104). Narses was likely appointed praepositus and titled patrician. He remained in favor under the reigns of Tiberius II (578-582) and Maurice (582-602) and distinguished himself in various campaigns against the Persians (Theoph. 387, 410). Having revolted against the usurper Phocas (602-610) Narses seized Edessa; he relied on the support of the King of Persia, Khosroes, in fighting against Phocas. The latter sent an army under the command of the eunuch Leontius to fight against the Persians and suppress Narses's uprising. Leontius was defeated by Khosroes. Replaced by Domentziolus, the latter persuaded Narses to surrender and promised to preserve his life. After being sent to Byzantium, Narses was burned alive in 604 in spite of the promises made to him. Narses was a valiant general, and his name alone spread terror among the ranks of his enemies. (Theoph. Simocc. 112, 208, 213, 219; Theoph. 451 f.). Historians have sometimes mixed up the various persons called Narses. There were three Narses: Narses the celebrated eunuch who lived under Justinian I; Narses the brother of Aratius and Isakes, originally from Armenia (Proc. B. P. 59, 79; B. G. 199), who was killed in a battle against the Persians (Proc. B. P. 261, 264 f.): this Narses was not a eunuch. Finally, a third Narses, the one who was burned alive under Phocas. None of the historians mentions that the latter Narses was a eunuch; nonetheless, the titles of cubicularius and praepositus are meaningful enough to confirm this.
Under Heraclius, the cubicularius Novianus was given the charge as general to stop the progress of the Arabs in Egypt. He was defeated and killed (Nic. de CP 28).
Under Constans II, the cubicularius Cacoritzus, most likely a eunuch, commanded a major army (Theoph. 526).
Under Constantine VI (780-797), the eunuch John, a sacellarius, fought against the Arabs in Sicily and achieved some success (Theoph. 704). In 788, John, then logothetos of the army, led an expedition in Calabria, assisted by the patrician Theodorus, a general of Sicily. John was defeated and killed (Theoph. 718). The patrician Theodorus, himself a eunuch, had previously suppressed the revolt of Elpidius in Sicily (Theoph. 705).
Eunuchs were particularly powerful under the actual reign of Irene (797-802). The celebrated Stauracius, patrician and logothetos of the Dromus, Irene's all-powerful prime minister, was a eunuch. He subjugated the Slavs in Greece and obtained the honor of triumph (Theoph. 706 f.). He regularly accompanied Emperor Constantine VI on his campaigns (Theoph. 730). Aetius, a protospatharius and then patrician, who exerted great influence on Irene, was a eunuch (Theoph. 722, 733 f.). Irene placed him in charge of the important eastern provinces of the Anatolians and of the Opsikion (Theoph. 737). His brother Leo, whom he wanted to raise to the throne, was the general of the western provinces of Thrace and Macedonia (Zonaras III 301). Aetius rallied to Nicephorus I. He was killed in the great battle of July 26, 811 that cost the life of the ruler (Theoph. 764). After an unfortunate expedition of Theophilus (829-842) against the Arabs, various military leaders were taken prisoners; among them was the eunuch protospatharius Theodorus Camaterus (Theoph. Cont. 639, 805).
Under Basil I, the protovestiary Procopius, who commanded an army, got himself killed at the head of his troops (Theoph. Cont. 305-307). He was a eunuch, as indicated by his title protovestiary.
Around 888, Leo VI sent an expedition to Italy under the command of Constantine, the patrician and butler, ho epi tees trapezees. Placed at the head of the western provinces, Constantine was defeated; his army was annihilated and he himself barely escaped. (Cedr. II 253; Theoph. Cont. 356, 701, 852, 852). See J. Gay, L'Italie méridionale, 143 f.). Historians do not say expressly that Constantine was a eunuch, but his position as ho epi tees trapezees suffices to indicate it (Cedr. II 52, 725).
During the regency of Empress Zoe, mother of Constantine VII Porphyrogenitus (913-919), the eunuch Damianus was appointed Drungaire of the Watch (Theoph. Cont. 386). - The patrician Constantine Gongylus, one of the empress's favorites (Theoph. Cont. 386, 390, 725, 878; Cedr. II 283, 288), found himself entrusted by Constantine VII with the supreme command of a great expedition against Crete. Gongylus was effeminate and without military value. His negligence and incapacity were the cause of a grave disaster (Cedr. II 336). Leo the Deacon (p. 7) speaks with indignation of the incapacity of Constantine Gongylus, a eunuch originally from Paphlagonia who was made a patrician. Around 944-45, Gongylus was placed at the head of the Byzantine fleet (Theoph. Cont. 436, 753). (See below.) - Around 918 Eustathius, the eunuch general of Calabria, concluded a treaty with the Arabs of Sicily (Cedr. II 355. See J. Gay, L'Italie méridionale, 202).
Under Romanus I Lecapenus (919-944), the patrician Theophanes, a protovestiary, parakimomenos, and paradynastos, was quite likely a eunuch, because in the 10th century the high offices of protovestiary and parakimomenos were reserved for eunuchs (Cedr. II 52, 725). Theophanes had succeeded John the Mystic as the paradynastos and played an important role in the reign of Romanus I Lecapenus (Cedr. II 308, 310; Theoph. Cont. 413 f.). He commanded the great Byzantine fleet sent against the Russian fleet that was threatening the banks of the Bosporus. He won a double naval victory and in reward for his services was appointed parakimomenos (Cedr. II 316 f.; Theoph. Cont. 423-426). (See below.)
In the 10th century, the high military posts of Domestikoi were rarely entrusted to eunuchs. It was no longer so after the second half of this century. In the expedition of 964, Nicephorus II Phocas sent the Byzantine fleet to Sicily under the command of the eunuch patrician Nicetas, navarchos or drungaire of the fleet, who was defeated and taken prisoner (Leo the Deacon 65-67; Cedr. II 360). The ruler had great affection for Nicetas, the brother of his protovestiary, the patrician praepositus and vestes Michael, and he ransomed him. Liutprand (Legatio 361) claims that Nicetas was ransomed for much more than he was worth.
In 970, the Arabs tried to attack the great cities of Aleppo and Antioch. John I Tzimisces sent a reinforcement army under the command of the patrician Nicolas, one of his most loyal eunuchs. Nicolas defeated the Arabs and liberated the cities under siege (Cedr. II 383; Leo the Deacon 103; see Schlumberger, L'Épopée byzantine I, 222 f.). According to Leo the Deacon, Nicolas, a spado and the familiar of the ruler, was an experienced leader.
Peter Phocas, a patrician eunuch and stratopedarch, was a valiant soldier and brave general. Nicephorus II Phocas charged him, along with Michael Bourtzes, to keep watch over Syria and the city of Antioch, then in the control of the Arabs. Peter Phocas and Michael Bourtzes, despite the orders of Nicephorus II Phocas, attacked and took Antioch (Leo the Deacon 81-82; Cedr. II 365-367; Zonaras III 508-510; Glycas 571). John I Tzimisces also utilized the services of Peter Phocas (Leo the Deacon 107-108; Cedr. II 400, 410. Schlumberger, L'Épopée byzantine I, 47, 142). At the start of the reign of Basil II, Peter Phocas was appointed to take command of the imperial troops. Although considered one of the best generals of the age (Cedr. II 417), Peter Phocas, after several successes, was defeated and killed at the battle of Rhageas (Leo the Deacon 169-170; Cedr. II 420, 422-424, 427). Historians confirm that Peter Phocas was an ektomias (Cedr. II 365, 417; Glycas 571; Zonaras II 508, 541).
The protovestiary Leo was sent with an army to join the stratopedarch Peter Phocas, who had just been defeated by Bardas Sclerus. Leo seems to have taken command of the operation in place of Peter Phocas. He was defeated soon after. (Cedr. II 2424, 427; Zonaras III 541-543). Leo, who was a protovestiary, must have been a eunuch. (Cedr. 52, 725). Cedrinus tells us (II 430) that the celebrated eunuch Basil, always fearing revolt by the military leaders, took care to place only eunuchs at the head of imperial armies.
Basil II (976-1025), the warrior sovereign par excellence, did not hesitate to entrust important military commands to eunuchs. We have just seen this in the example of Peter Phocas and Leo. Basil II appointed Romanus, the son of the last Bulgarian czar Peter, as general of Abydos and titled him at the same time patrician-praepositus (Cedr. II 455). Romanus had been made a eunuch by order of the celebrated parakimomenos Bringas (Cedr. II 435); this explains the title that was bestowed on him.
Around 1025, Orestes, cubicularius (Dölger, Reg. 827) and protospatharius, one of the most loyal eunuchs of Basil II, was charged to lead an important expedition to Sicily. An incompetent leader, he was defeated near Reggio (Cedr. II 43, 479, 496: see J. Gay, L'Italie méridionale, 428) and was dismissed as a result (Cedr. II 503).
Constantine VIII entrusted important military posts to eunuchs. Nicolas, as the first eunuch, was promoted to Domestikos of the Scholes and parakimomenos and was titled proedrus, but he does not seem to have remained so for very long (Cedr. II 480-481). He was replaced by Simeon (Cedr. II 495), who was perhaps the third eunuch named Simeon, appointed Drungaire of the Watch and titled proedrus by Constantine VIII. Nicolas was again appointed Domestikos of the Scholes by the porphyrogenita Zoe, after the death of Michael V in 1042 (Cedr. II 541). Under Constantine IX Monomachus, Nicolas commanded an important expedition in Armenia (Cedr. II 552). After several successes, Nicolas was dismissed as a result of the defeat of one of his lieutenants (id, 560).
Eustathius, himself a eunuch, was appointed grand heteriarch by Constantine VIII (Cedr. II 480-481). Spondylus, likewise a eunuch, was named duke of Antioch (Cedr. id). He was defeated and was dismissed by Romanus III who replaced him with his brother-in-law Constantine Carentinus. (Cedr. II 490-491). - Nicetas, originally from Pisidia and a eunuch, was appointed duke of Iberia (Cedr. id). It may be that this Nicetas was the same as Nicetas of Mistheia, a city in Lycaonia, not far from the border of Pisidia, who later became duke of Antioch (Cedr. II 495) around 1030-1034.
Around 1034, John, the chamberlain of Basil II, was placed at the head of the fleet and sent to Italy by Romanus III Argyrus. (Cedr. II 503. See J. Gay, L'Italie méridionale, 435).
Constantine, the brother of Michael IV the Paphlagonian, was a eunuch like his brothers John the orphanotroph and George the protovestiary (Cedr. II 504). Appointed duke of Antioch around 1034, replacing his brother Nicetas, who had died the same year (Cedr. II 512; Zonaras III 588-589), Constantine distinguished himself as a governor and was appointed Domestikos of the Scholes of the East (Cedr. II 515 f.; Zonaras III 590). As such, he was charged to command an expedition sent to Abkhasia (Cedr. II 519).
Michael IV (1034-1041), after having recalled George Maniakes, entrusted the leadership of military operations in Sicily to his brother-in-law Stephen and gave him as his assistant the eunuch Basil Pediaditus, then praepositus. The incompetence of the two leaders led to the loss of Sicily. Stephen and Basil had to take refuge in Italy (Cedr. II 523, 525).
In 1035, the eunuch George Probatas was sent by Michael IV to conclude a treaty with the emir of Sicily, Akhal (Cedr. II 513). A few years later, in 1040, the emperor sent an expedition, under the command of the same George Probatas, to Serbia against Stephanus Voisthlav. An inexperienced leader, George Probatas lost his entire army (Cedr. II 527).
Emperor Constantine IX Monomachus (1042-1054) almost constantly called on eunuchs to command his armies. To lead operations in Armenia, he appointed the eunuch Constantine, the grand heteriarch. Constantine, who was of Arab origin, had been attached to the person of the emperor since before his ascension to the throne (Cedr. II 560). At the time of the revolt of Leo Tornicius, Constantine and his troops were recalled to Byzantium. Saved from the worry of the revolt of Tornicius, and wishing to finish with that of Armenia, Constantine IX sent a final expedition to that country under the command of the eunuch Nicephorus, a defrocked former cleric whom he appointed to the high office of rector and created stratopedarch at the same time (Cedr. II 593). Constantine IX had chosen Nicephorus not for his bravery and military skills but for his loyalty (Cedr. id). In the war against the Petchenegs, he once again called on the rector Nicephorus. He gave him as assistant the celebrated general Catacalon. Nicephorus suffered a shameful defeat at Diakene around 1049 (Cedr. II 597; Schlumberger, L'Épopée byzantine III, 578-582). Vanquished, Nicephorus was replaced by the heteriarch Constantine, who was himself defeated before Adrianople (Cedr. II 600 f.; Schlumberger, id, 583-585). Michael Attaleiates (33-34) confirms the testimony of Cedrinus, in calling the defeated generalissimo "a eunuch, former cleric, titled rector"; as for Constantine, he calls him eunuch praepositus (33-34), Cedrinus designating Constantine this way by his function, and Michael Attaleiates by his dignity.
After their victories, the Petchenegs pushed forward to the vicinity of Constantinople. Constantine IX hastily put together a mercenary army and entrusted its command to the patrician eunuch John the Philosopher, one of the chamberlains of the Empress Zoe (Cedr. II 603). At the very beginning of his reign, Constantine IX, worried about the attitude of George Maniakes in Italy, had replaced him with the protospatharius Pardas, who had no other merit than that the emperor knew him. Pardas was assassinated, and Maniakes, proclaimed emperor, marched on Constantinople. In this extreme danger, Constantine IX placed at the head of his army the eunuch sebastophoros Stephanus, who had brought him the news of his election to the imperial throne. Zonaras (II 622) reports that Constantine IX, not daring to place a capable general at the head of his troops, fearing an uprising on his part, chose one of his eunuch chamberlains in whom he had every confidence. The sebastophoros Stephanus was lucky enough to disperse the army of Maniakes, which was discouraged by the latter's death. Returning to Byzantium, Stephanus obtained the honors of triumph (Cedr. II 548 f.; Attal. 20).
After becoming sole empress, Theodora (1054-1056) hastened to distribute the highest military charges among her eunuchs: Theodorus was appointed Domestikos of the Scholes, Nicetas Xylinitus was made logothetos of the Dromus, and Manuel was made drungaire of the Watch; the latter two had contributed to her elevation to the throne (Cedr. II 610 f.). It was these eunuchs of Theodora, supported by the prime minister, the syncellus Leo Paraspondylus, who designated Michael VI Stratioticus as ruler. The emperor had to promise to the eunuchs to let them administer the empire (Cedr. II 612). Michael VI (1056-1057) seems to have kept the ministers and functionaries selected by Theodora. Leo Paraspondylus or Strabospondylus remained prime minister (Cedr. II 619), Nicetas Xylinitus remained logothetos of the dromus (Cedr. II 628) and Theodorus remained Domestikos of the Scholes (id II 627). The latter was appointed generalissimo of the imperial army at the time of the revolt of Isaac I Comnenus (id II 627). He was defeated.
At the time of the revolt of Nicephorus Melissenus, Nicephorus III Botianates (1078-1081) entrusted the command of the imperial armies to the protovestiary John, a eunuch. Alexius I Comnenus, who for various reasons had declined the command of the troops, gave his troops to the eunuch John despite the protests of the generals who were unhappy about serving under the command of a eunuch. The soldiers, for their part, openly mocked their new general (Bryen. 159). In spite of the warnings of experienced leaders such as George Palaeologus and his nephew Kourtikes, the eunuch John wanted to impose his command and he led his army to defeat. Surrounded by the enemy, John only managed to escape with the help of George Palaeologus. While in danger, the eunuch John had promised to adopt George Palaeologus and make him his heir, but he made sure not to keep his promises (Bryen. 160-166).
Under Alexius I Comnenus (1081-1118), the grand drungaire of the fleet was the eunuch Eustathius Cyminianus; the latter seems to have played a rather active role (Anne Comn. I, 309; II 21, 120, 177; see Chalandon, Alexius I Comnène, 221, 243). Alexius I entrusted him even with guarding Constantinople during his absence (Anne Comn. II 177). - Leo Nikezites also played a certain military role under Alexius I Comnenus and obtained various commands (Anne Comn. I 339; 422; II 199, 316).
In the 12th century, although eunuchs were not excluded from the great commands, they seem nonetheless to have been placed less often at the head of the imperial armies. Under Andronicus I Comnenus (1183-1185), the imperial armies were under the command of four great leaders: John Comnenus, the son of the ruler, the chartularius Chumnus, Andronicus Palaeologus, and the eunuch Nicephorus, honored with the high dignity of parakimomenos (Nicet. 412).
Alexius III Angelus (1195-1203) in his expedition against Chrysus, instead of relying on his generals, followed the imprudent counsel of his eunuchs and their leader, George Oinaiotes (Nicet. 667). The expedition, which was begun poorly, failed. The army services under the command of the eunuch functioned in a deplorable manner (Nic. 670). The troops were under the supreme command of the protovestiary John, who was perhaps a eunuch and who took flight at the first warning, abandoning the green shoes, the sign of his office, to the enemy. (Nicet. 672). The same George Oinaiotes led the troops who retook the imperial palace, which had been invaded by the usurper John Comnenus (Nicolas Mesarites 43, 46; Nicet. 667). Under the same emperor, the eunuch Oenopolita was charged to end the intrigues of an impostor who passed himself off as Alexius II Comnenus and had succeeded in recruiting a rather large number of partisans. (Nicet. 608).
At the end of the 13th century, under Michael VIII Palaeologus (1261-1282), the imperial armies that took part in the battle of Belgrade in 1281 were commanded by the despot Michael, the son-in-law of the ruler, by the grand domestikos Michael Tarkhaniotes, by the grand stratopedarch John Synadenus, and by the eunuch Andronicus Oenopolita, then tatas of the imperial palace (Pachym. I 512). The latter, who perhaps belonged to the family of the eunuch general of Alexius III Angelus, must have been an important person to have been chosen as colleague of the highest dignitaries of the empire.
As of the 14th century, historians no longer expressly mention that
eunuchs exercised military commands. After the 12th century, eunuchs placed
at the head of the armies became more and more rare. By the 12th century,
the dynasties of the Comnenoi and the Angeloi were established well enough
that they did not have to fear military revolutions. Palace intrigues,
plots and conspiracies were then more of a threat than overt revolts. The
idea of legitimacy, on the other hand, was solidly rooted in the people.
In the 13th and 14th centuries, the dynasty of the Palaeologoi held firm
to the empire and military uprisings were rare. Generals might achieve
victories, but they did not feel themselves supported by the army and by
the people enough to dethrone the legitimate emperor. Therefore, there
was no longer any major reason to appeal to eunuchs, who remained confined
to civilian employment. There certainly were still eunuchs in the army
in the 13th and 14th centuries, but the historians seem to avoid pointing
out the eunuch status of the persons whom they mention.
Eunuchs in the civilian hierarchy.
The role of eunuchs in the civilian hierarchy in Byzantium was even more important than their role in the army. Surrounded by a powerful aristocracy, every member of which thought himself worthy to occupy the throne if the occasion presented itself, the rulers were accustomed to seeing a possible pretender in every man made prominent by his position or merit. On the other hand, they felt safe with eunuchs, who, even if they attained the height of honor or power, could never dream of putting on the purple (Evagrius IV 2: PG 86, 2704), especially if they were of humble origin, which was often the case. A eunuch who no longer held favor could be easily gotten rid of, without it causing trouble in the state or in the palace. Moreover, eunuchs had real merits and were often strong ministers and good administrators.
The Ceremonial of Constantine VII Porphyrogenitus in the 10th century demonstrates the important role of eunuchs in the life of the Grand Palace and in the numerous and sumptuous palace ceremonials. Constantine VII never indulges in any unkind remarks about the eunuchs. They have citizen rights in the Sacred Palace; they approach the ruler freely and live in his intimate sphere; in many cases they are even a step ahead of bearded dignitaries. At their head was the Praepositus of the Sacred Chamber, praepositus sacri cubiculi, usually called ho praipositos. This high personage had the absolute confidence of the ruler and often ran the State in the name of his master. The history of the Byzantine empire shows the supreme role enjoyed by eunuchs in power.
Under Constantius (353-361), the premiere eunuch Eusebius managed the State (Ammianus Marcellinus XVIII 4). A convinced Arian, he had the pope Liberius exiled (Theoph. 53, 61), but he was put to death by Julian, who drove the eunuchs from the Palace (Theoph. 71; Socrates III, I, 171 f.; Sozom. V 187).
Under Jovian, the eunuchs of the Grand Palace with their leader Probatius tried, but without success, to obtain from the ruler the appointment of an Arian bishop to Alexandria (Sozom. VI 15).
The famous Eutropius, the only eunuch to become a consul, exercised a veritable dictatorship under Arcadius. After being dismissed by Rufinus, Eutropius became the absolute master of the Grand Palace (Zosimus 256 f.), even keeping the ruler himself under his control (id 261). It appears that Eutropius was the praepositus (Socr. VI 2: PG 67, 674 and Sozom. VII 2: PG 67, 1520). Appointed consul in 399, against all tradition, and titled patrician, Eutropius was all-powerful (Zosimus 268). But his vices, his cruelty, and his acts of violence earned him many enemies. The Goth general Gainas demanded that Eutropius be handed over to him. Abandoned by the emperor, Eutropius sought refuge in the Hagia Sophia. Pursued by public hatred, he would have been massacred if not for Saint John Chrysostomus's saving him. Eutropius was exiled to Cyprus, but was executed not long afterwards, in spite of the promises that had been made to him (Zosimus 268-269). In his homily on Eutropius, Saint John Chrysostomus eloquently juxtaposed the high fortune and terrible fall of Eutropius (Sozom. VIII 7). The poet Claudian gives interesting details about the life of Eutropius, whom he overwhelms with curses and whom he reproaches above all for his being a eunuch (see Boak and Dunlap, id, pp. 272-284).
Empress Eudoxia, the wife of Arcadius, also had her own eunuchs. One of them, Briso, played an important role in the events of the time (Socr. VI 8.16; Sozom. VIII 18).
Theodosius II, if we can believe Cedrinus (I 587), tolerated the domination of eunuchs his entire life. The ruler's masters were first Antiochus, then Eutropius, Lausus, Calopodius, and Chrysaphius, and according to the Patria (I 63; Codin. 185) the praepositus Narcissus. Priscus, for his part, declared that Theodosius II, raised by his eunuchs, continued to obey them (Priscus 226 f.); they treated the emperor like a child. Even at the age of 50, Theodosius docilely accepted their orders and Chrysaphius exercised the supreme power.
Antiochus had been praepositus of Arcadius (Patria II 241). He was of Persian origin (Theoph. 125, 127). At the start of the reign of Theodosius II, he managed public affairs and was titled patrician. He was all-powerful at the court. Very rich, he lived in a magnificent palace in the Hippodrome district (Du Cange, CP christ. II 168). But he likely abused his authority, for the ruler in a fit of fury had him condemned for the crime of lèse-majesté (Theoph. 148; Cedr. I 586, 600; Zonaras III 100, 101, 102; Priscus 227), dismissed him and forced him to enter into orders, after confiscating all his property. Theodosius even issued a law prohibiting the raising of former eunuch praepositi to the patriciate (Malal. 361).
Lausus, who lived under Arcadius and under Theodosius II, also held the highest offices. His palace, one of the most magnificent in Byzantium, was built on the Mese, not far from the Praetorium (Patria II 170; Codin. 37). He succeeded Antiochus and Eutropius in the favor of Theodosius II as patrician and praepositus (Cedr. II 587).
We do not have any precise information about the eunuch Calopodius (Cedr. II id). But we know the eunuch Chrysaphius better. His real name was Taiouma (Theoph. 151) or Tumna (Cedr. I 601) or Tzoumas (Patria II 182; Codin. 47) or even Ztommas (Malal. 3636). Chrysaphius exercised a considerable influence on Theodosius II at the end of this emperor's reign. According to Malalas, Theodosius II loved Chrysaphius for his beauty (Malalas id and 368). According to Malalas, he was cubicularius; according to the Chronicon Paschale, he was a spatharius (p. 390); and according to the Patria (II 182; Codin 47), he was a parakimomenos. All-powerful in the Palace (Theoph. 150; Priscus 227), Chrysaphius was a partisan of Eutyches and a sworn enemy of the patriarch Flavian. Chrysaphius made every effort to depose him and his actions gravely troubled the Byzantine church. Pulcheria, the sister of Theodosius II, was running the empire at the time on behalf of her brother. Chrysaphius succeeded in sowing discord between her and the empress Eudoxia. Pulcheria finally had to leave the court and Eudoxia took the government in hand. She acquired a praepositus to assist him in the management of public affairs. Chrysaphius then became all-powerful in the Palace (Theoph. 151-154). He pursued more overtly than ever his fight against the patriarch Flavian, in favor of Eutyches. But Theodosius decided to do something about it. Chrysaphius was exiled. Nonetheless, according to Zonaras (III 108), he succeeded in getting Anatolus named patriarch in place of Flavian in 449. From the time of his supreme power, Chrysaphius had been trying to have Attila assassinated (Priscus 147-150). The plot was discovered and Attila demanded the head of Chrysaphius. But Theodosius II evaded the demand and Chrysaphius calmed the fury of Attila by sending him presents (Priscus 212 f.).
Having become empress by her marriage to Marcian, Pulcheria had been summoned at the time of the exile of Chrysaphius, while at the same time Empress Eudoxia left the court, having been compromised in an amorous intrigue (Theoph. 154-158). Pulcheria avenged herself against Chrysaphius by handing him over to his mortal enemy Jordanes, who had him put to death (Theoph. 160; Chr. Pasch. 390; Malal. 368; Zonaras; III 107-109, Cedr. I 601-1603). However, according to Malalas, Chrysaphius's cause of death was very different. Chrysaphius had been head of the Green faction, whom Theodosius had protected (Malal. 351). Chrysaphius's death sentence was apparently politically motivated. Supported by the Greens, Chrysaphius may have incited some unrest, and it is known that Marcian was a partisan of the Blues (Malal. 368). This is probably what caused the death of the very conniving eunuch.
The rulers found among the eunuchs those who were ready to carry out all of their orders, no matter what. At the request of Ariadne, Zeno ordered his cubicularius Urbicius to have Illus assassinated. The assassination failed (Theoph. 197) and Illus was able to escape the capital. Urbicius was still in service at the death of Zeno (Cedr. I 92, 421). It was due to him that Anastasius came to the throne (Leo Gramm. 118).
Under Anastasius, the eunuch Calopodius showed that eunuchs did not shrink from any mission, even the most sacrilegious. Calopodius stole the acts of the Council of Chalcedon in the church of Hagia Sophia to deliver them to the ruler (Theoph. 239).
The praepositus Amantius (Theoph. 253), who may have succeeded the incumbent praepositus Antiochus around 500 at the death of Anastasius (C, J. V. 62, 25 de excusat: XII 16, 5, de silent.), had grown so powerful that he might have pushed one of his tools to the throne, the count Theocritus. He had even purchased the consent of Justin for gold. But the people and the army repelled the eunuch's candidate and proclaimed Justin I ruler. The new ruler hastened to put to death Amantius and his accomplice, the cubicularius Andreas, as well as the pretender Theocritus (Theoph. 255; Chr. Pasch. 610-612).
Under Justinian I, one of the authors of the Nika rebellion was the cubicularius and spatharius Calopodius (Theoph. 279; Chron Pasch. 620), who must have possessed very great influence in order to dare disrupt the people of the capital with impunity. Calopodius later became praepositus (Theoph. 360).
Under Justin II, eunuchs seem to have been more particularly charged with intimate service in the Palace, table service, chamber service, vestiary service (Corippus, de laud. Just. III, 214 f.).
Under Maurice, the "grand eunuch" Margarites, one of the most significant personages at the court, had the honor of serving as paranymphos to the emperor at his marriage (Th. Simocc. 52; Theoph. 388 f.). The preceptor of the young princes was Stephanus, a eunuch and a prominent person at the court. Maurice entrusted him with a particularly important mission (Th. Simocc. 329 f.; Theoph. 445).
Under Justinian II, the grand eunuch Stephanus the Persian, imperial treasurer, was all-powerful. He was a wicked and cruel person, who even dared to assault the Empress Mother Anastasia (Nic. 42). His actions contributed much to making the people rise up against the ruler (Theoph. 562). After the fall and mutilation of Justinian II, the populace seized Stephanus and led him through the streets of the capital to the Forum of the Ox, where he was burned alive. (Theoph. 566). After his restoration, Justinian II was no less reliant on eunuchs. He entrusted to the eunuch cubicularius Theophylactus the mission of escorting the empress Theodora and her son Tiberius to Byzantium (Theoph. 575).
Eunuchs were not always impious like Chrysaphius, brutal like Stephanus the Persian, rapacious like Eutropius, or conniving like Amantius. There were among them virtuous men, loyal in particular to their religious convictions. During the fight over iconoclasm, many highly-placed eunuchs preferred disgrace and torture rather than to betray their faith. Nonetheless, eunuchs were no less in the service of the iconoclastic rulers.
Under Constantine V, the eunuch Synesius was charged to carry a letter from the ruler to the king of France, Pepin, in 765 (Dölger Reg. 325).
Under Leo IV the Khazar, the eunuchs Jacob, protospatharius and papias, Theophanes, cubicularius and parakimomenos, Leo and Thomas, both cubicularii, were thrown in prison for their iconophilia. Theophanes was even martyred. After the torment, the survivors entered monasteries (Theoph. 701 f.).
Under Irene, to whom a whole "swarm of eunuchs" gravitated (Cedr. II 29), besides the patrician eunuchs Stauracius and Aetius (see p. 9), numerous eunuchs also occupied high positions in the administration. The patrician eunuch Theodorus obtained the important position of governor of Sicily (Theoph. 703-705); the eunuch Leo Clocas played an important role in the palace coup that brought Nicephorus I to the throne (Cedr. II 29). On the Byzantine diplomatic mission sent to Charlemagne to ask for the hand of his daughter, there were apparently other eunuchs besides the eunuch Elyseus, the imperial notary. The sacellarius Constantine and the primicerius Mamalus were probably eunuchs (Theoph. 705; Dölger 339).
Nicephorus I, having come to the throne with the complicity of the eunuchs, seems to have been surrounded by a great number of them. Many of them died in the disaster of 811 (Theoph. 765).
Theophilus, at the end of his reign, had appointed Theoctistus, patrician and prefect of the Caniclea under Michael II (Genesius 23 f.) and logothetos of the dromus, as tutor of the young ruler Michael III.
Theoctistus ran the State during the regency of Theodora (Genesius 83; Cedr. II 139). All-powerful in the court, Theoctistus was assassinated at the instigation of Bardas, uncle of Michael III (Genes. 86, 90; Cedr. II 157 f.; Theoph. Cont. 657). The rumor had been spread that Theoctistus had married the empress or one of her daughters and was intending to seize the throne. Theodora's despair on learning of the death of Theoctistus seems to prove that these rumors were perhaps not unfounded. The Continuator of Theophanes is the only one to mention that Theoctistus was a eunuch (p. 148). The fact seems hardly likely. No other historian says that Theoctistus was a eunuch and the rumors that circulated about Theoctistus's possible marriage to the empress appear to be meaningful enough.
Damianus, a eunuch, patrician and parakimomenos, was of Slavic origin. He was appointed parakimomenos by Michael III. Damianus disapproved of the excesses of power of the caesar Bardas; he even dared to oppose some of his decisions. At the instigation of Bardas, Damianus was dismissed; the office of parakimonenos, which was always reserved for eunuchs, was given by exception to the future Basil I (Theoph. Cont. 234; Cedr. II 197 f.). At the very beginning, Damianus had favored Bardas and had participated in the assassination of Theoctistus (Leo Gramm. 235-236; Theoph. Cont. 657, 821). Later, Damianus fell out with the caesar Bardas and even refused to give him the honors due to his rank, which led to his arrest (Leo Gramm. 241-242; Theoph. Cont. 675). Damianus, although a eunuch, felt strong enough to enter into battle with the all-powerful minister Theoctistus and with the uncle of the emperor, the caesar Bardas. Besides Damianus, whom Constantine VII himself mentions as a patrician and parakimomenos of Michael III (de adm. imp. 231), one can mention other influential eunuchs under Michael III such as protovestiary Rentacius (Theoph. Cont. 831), praepositus Michael Angures (Leo Gramm. 246; Theoph. Cont. 832), and the koitonitos Ignatius, who was with the emperor at the time of his death. (Theoph. Cont. 836).
Basil I does not seem to have felt a particular affection for eunuchs. He refrained from appointing a parakimomenos during his entire reign (de adm. imp. 231). Nonetheless, Basil I did not distance himself on principle from all eunuchs. Thus, the eunuch Nicetas was sent on a diplomatic mission to the king of Armenia, Ashot, to bring him the royal crown (Dölger, Reg. 506). Above all, Basil I shows great trust in his praepositus Baanes. He enjoyed the rare honor of riding in the imperial carriage with the emperor and empress to the baptism of the young prince Stephanus at the Hagia Sophia (Leo Gramm. 254). The patrician praepositus Baanes held the important office of sacellarius. It was to him that Basil I delegated the powers of sovereignty when leaving on an expedition (Const. VII De Cer. Appendix 503), at least according to tradition.
Under Leo VI, the eunuchs regained their influence. The ruler chose his favorites from among them. One eunuch was sent on a diplomatic mission to the caliph Muktafi (Dölger, Reg. 539) in 903. Likewise, the eunuch Basil accompanied the magistros Leo Choirosphactes, who was sent on a diplomatic mission to Muktafi in 906 (Dölger, id, 547). But it was above all the two parakimomenoi Samonas and Constantine, both patricians, who had a very great influence in the government of Leo VI. Samonas (see R. Janin, "Un arabe ministre à Byzance: Samonas," EO 38, 1935, 308-318), of Arab origin and a simple cubicularius to start, attracted the favor of the emperor by revealing to him a plot; titled protospatharius, he was from then on among the familiars of Leo VI (Theoph. Cont. 362-364, 858 f.). At the height of his power, Samonas fled in secret from Byzantium. His flight caused a great commotion at the court; after a brief disgrace, Leo VI pardoned him and appointed him parakimomenos (Theoph. Cont. 369-370, 708-709; 863-865). In 905, on the birth of Constantine VII Porphyrogenitus, Leo VI apparently appointed Samonas patrician (Leo Gramm. 279). Samonas was all-powerful. he had much to do with the fall of the patriarch Nicolas the mystic (Leo Gramm. id). He took advantage of his credibility to ruin his adversaries, in particular, Andronicus Ducas, whom he hated; he also played a shady role by secretly favoring the Arabs, his compatriots (Leo Gramm. 280-282; Theoph. Cont. 371, 373, 710-711). Samonas was planning to return to his compatriots when he was prevented by Constantine, another favorite of Leo VI. Disgraced, Samonas was shut up in a monastery and Constantine was named parakimomenos in his place (Theoph. Cont. 375-376, 712-713, 869-870; Leo Gramm. 283-284).
Constantine, who was originally from Paphlagonia (Cedr. II 271), had a father of humble origin but who was pious and honest; a dream told him that his son was destined for a high position (Theoph. Cont. 713-715). Despite being a eunuch, Constantine was accused by Samonas of having had intimate relations with the empress Zoe. He was interned in a monastery. But Leo VI soon gave him his entire confidence (Cedr. II 271-273). Constantine was greatly trusted at the court (Cedr. II 288), to the point that the magistros, Leo Phocas, domestikos of the scholes, did not think it beneath him to marry his sister (Cedr. id). Dismissed by the ruler Alexander (de adm. imp. 231), Constantine regained his offices during the regency of Zoe (Theoph. Cont. 386; Cedr. II 283). His influence at the time was very great and he practically ran the government. He supported his brother-in-law Leo Phocas in his battle against Romanus I Lecapenus and made every effort to bring him to the throne (Theoph. Cont. 390-391). Arrested by Romanus I Lecapenus, then set free, Constantine rejoined Leo Phocas who had revolted. Later, though, he seems to have surrendered (Theoph. Cont. 391-387 [? sic]).
While Constantine VII Porphyrogenitus was a minor, eunuchs were all-powerful and played a nefarious role, as shown by the Correspondence of the patriarch Nicolas the Mystic with the Bulgarian czar Symeon (Mélanges Ch. Diehl, I 96). Zoe replaced Alexander's tools with her protégés. Besides the patrician-parakimomenos Constantine, we can cite the two brothers Anastasius and Constantine Gongylus (Cedr. II 283; Theoph. Cont. 386). Originally from Paphlagonia (Leo the Deacon 7; Cedr. II 336) and a great favorite of the empress Zoe, Constantine Gongylus had been kept away during the reign of Romanus I Lecapenus. Constantine Gongylus, titled patrician, exerted a significant influence on the decisions of the empress. It is thanks to him and to the magistros Stephanus that Romanus I Lecapenus escaped torture (Cedr. II 288; Theoph. Cont. 390, 725, 878). Constantine Gongylus and his brother took the side of Leo Phocas, but they do not seem to have persisted in their rebellion (Theoph. Cont. 395 f.).
Romanus I Lecapenus's trusted man, who ran public affairs during a large part of this emperor's reign, was the patrician Theophanes, protovestiary, parakimomenos, and paradynastos. Around 925, Theophanes succeeded John the Mystic, titled anthypathos-patrician, as paradynastos (Cedr. II 307; Theoph. Cont. 413). Theophanes arranged all matters relating to the marriage of Maria, the young daughter of Romanus I, to Peter the king of the Bulgarians; he acted as paranymphos in the wedding ceremony (Cedr. II 308-310; Theoph. Cont. 413 f.). In 934, Theophanes was charged to conclude peace with the Hungarians (Leo Gramm. 322; Cedr. II 316; Theoph. Cont. 423, 746. See Dölger, Reg. 626). In 942 he was appointed to go and receive the famous image of the Christ of Edessa (Theoph. Cont. 432). In 943, Theophanes was once again sent on a diplomatic mission to Hungary. Theoph. Cont. 430, 748; Leo Gramm. 325; Cedr. II 319. See Dölger, Reg. 640).
Constantine VII recalled (de adm. imp. 323) that the patrician Theophanes held the high office of parakimomenos under Romanus I; his successor was the patrician Basil, the bastard son of Romanus I (Cedr. II 226; Theoph. Cont. 442). The fall of Romanus I led to the disfavoring of Theophanes. With several accomplices, Theophanes had conceived a plan to rescue Romanus I from the island of Proti and restore him to the throne. But the plot was discovered and Theophanes was exiled (see p. 208 above).
Under the reign of Constantine VII, the eunuch Solomon Kitonite was sent on an extraordinary mission to Spain and Germany (Liutprand, Antapod. VI 4. Dölger, Reg. 657, 658). But the eunuch who played the most important role under Constantine VII and his successors was Basil. He was the natural son of Romanus I and a Slavic slave. During his father's reign, Basil played a rather effaced role. He seems to have curried favor with Constantine VII and was made protovestiary. After becoming emperor, Constantine VII appointed Basil parakimomenos, titled him patrician, and chose him as paradynastos, to reward him for taking his side against the Lecapenes. (Theoph. Cont. 442, 754; Glycas 631). Contrary to what Cedrinus reports (II 327), Basil had been a eunuch from tender infancy (Psellus, Chronogr. Renault 3). Over his long career, Basil proved to be a remarkable statesman; the chroniclers agree in acknowledging his great qualities, without veiling his faults and in particular his venality (Theoph. Cont. 442; Cedr. II 379; Glycas 651; Psellus, id). Basil played an important political role under Constantine VII. Supported by his sister, the empress Helena, Basil exerted a great influence on Constantine VII, from whom he nearly extracted the order to depose the patriarch Polyeuctus (Cedr. II 334 f.). Basil led a victorious expedition against the Arabs which earned him the honors of triumph in the Hippodrome (Theoph. Cont. 461 f.). He retained the emperor's favor until the end and was present at Constantine VII's final moments (id 466).
In ascending the throne, Romanus II dismissed all the loyal servants of Constantine VII, giving them titles and gifts in compensation. Romanus II chose as paradynastos Joseph Bringas, a patrician, praepositus, drungaire of the fleet, and parakimomenos. (Theoph. Cont. 469; Cedr. II 339). When he died, Romanus II designated the parakimomenos Joseph Bringas as prime minister to his minor sons, Basil II and Constantine VIII (De cer. I 96, 433). During the reign of Romanus II, therefore, Basil lived in a semi-disfavor. He also used all his powers to favor the ascent of Nicephorus II Phocas (Cedr. II 439). After his ascent, the latter seems to have reinstalled Basil in his office as parakimomenos (De Cer. I 96, 437). In recognition of his support, Nicephorus II Phocas titled Basil proedrus, a new dignity and noble title superior to that of magistros (Cedr. II 379; Zonaras III 520; Leo the Deacon 49, 94). Basil apparently held a very high rank at the court at that time and was given many honors and riches (Cedr. II, id and 415). However, he does not seem to have held practical responsibility, which was reserved for the brother of the ruler, the curopalatius Leo Phocas, appointed logothetos of the dromus (Leo the Deacon, id; Cedr. 379, 403; Liutprand, Legatio 349). Otherwise, Basil was greatly respected at the Palace. He is seen discussing important matters with Liutprand (Liutprand, id 350). But probably dissatisfied with a situation that he regarded as beneath his merit, the parakimomenos seems to have maintained secret relations with John Tzimisces. The latter had scarcely ascended to the throne when he named Basil parakimomenos (Leo the Deacon 94) and offered him the post of prime minister. When he assumed office, Basil's first order of business was to exile all the relatives of Nicephorus II Phocas and to dismiss the high officials whom he had appointed and replace them with his own tools. Basil also had the empress Theophano shut up in a convent, despite her protests (Cedr. II 379, 381). While crossing Basil's immense domains, John I Tzimisces could not stop himself remarking that it was a shame to see that all the conquests made at the cost of so much effort had served only to enrich a mere eunuch (Cedr. II 414 f.). Basil did not forgive the ruler for this offensive remark, and according to Cedrinus, he avenged himself by having him poisoned.
While Basil II and Constantine VIII were still minors, Basil administered the state as an absolute ruler. His first act was to recall the empress Theophano (Cedr. II 416) and to discharge the military leaders who might cause him offense (Cedr. II 416-418). Basil had to suppress the terrible revolts of Bardas Sclerus (Leo the Deacon 169 f.; Zonaras III 541-546; Cedr. II 429-433) and of Bardas Phocas (Leo the Deacon 174-175; Zonaras III 553 f.; Cedr. II 444 f.). He showed rare activity and energy in triumphing over these formidable pretenders. Basil was at the time the most important person in the empire (Psellus, id). He appointed and dismissed officials and generals and autonomously decided issues of the State. But Basil II was too authoritarian to accept the tutelage of his prime minister for long. Accused of suspected intrigues, Basil the parakimomenos was asked not to return to the Grand Palace. Soon afterwards, he was exiled to the banks of the Steno and his immense riches were confiscated (Cedr. II 442 f.). In his New Constitution of 996, Basil II annulled, unless otherwise indicated, all the chrysobulls promulgated by the parakimomenos (Dölger Reg. 783). Psellus eulogized Basil whom he regarded as the most outstanding personality of the empire and tells of his disgrace and exile. Basil II pursued the parakimomenos with his hatred even after his fall; the unfortunate, who had managed public affairs under four emperors, died a short time afterwards, paralyzed and in despair (Psellus 3, 12, 13).
Joseph Bringas managed the affairs of State during the reign of Romanus II (Cedr. II 339; Theoph. Cont. 469). He was already patrician and praepositus under Constantine VII. The ruler also appointed him sacellarius and drungaire of the fleet (Theoph. Cont. 445). Joseph Bringas, who was definitely a eunuch (Leo the Deacon 31), belonged to a major family in Byzantium. The ruler Michael VI Stratioticus belonged to the same family (Schlumberger, L'Épopée byzantine III 770). Bringas severely suppressed the conspiracy of Basil Peteinus and the patricians Pascal and Bardas Lips (Cedr. II 342). At the time of his death, Romanus II appointed Bringas prime minister of his two minor sons, and he administered the empire from March 15 to August 15, 963 (Cedr. I 96, 433 f.).
The pride, cruelty and avarice of Bringas earned him many enemies and incited the population of the capital against him. Bringas had reluctantly consented to entrust the command of the great expedition to Crete to Nicephorus Phocas, whose military glory offended him. As soon as the island was conquered, Bringas obtained the removal of Nicephorus Phocas (Cedr. II 34). However, due to the intervention of the Empress Regent Theophano, Nicephorus Phocas received the honors of triumph despite the opposition of Bringas (Cedr. II 345). By skill, Nicephorus Phocas succeeded in putting to rest the suspicions of the prime minister and he was able to rejoin his army (Cedr. id. 345-347). Bringas soon understood that he had been deceived, and he tried by all means to get rid of Nicephorus Phocas, but the event overtook him and Nicephorus Phocas was proclaimed emperor by his troops (Cedr. II 347 f.; De Cer. 96, 434). Despite the promises of Nicephorus II Phocas, Bringas did not let himself be persuaded and he feverishly prepared the resistance of the capital. But the people rose up at the instigation of the former parakimomenos Basil, the sworn enemy of Bringas, who had replaced him. Sensing that the game was lost, Bringas sought refuge in the Hagia Sophia (Cedr. II 348-351; De Cer. I 96, 454-437 [? sic]). Nicephorus II Phocas did not prove too cruel towards his former enemy. Joseph Bringas was exiled first to Paphlagonia, then shut up in the monastery of the Asecritis in Pythiai, where he died two years later (Cedr. II 351).
Romanus II seems to have felt a certain weakness for eunuchs. One of his favorites and pleasure companions was the eunuch John, a former cleric and defrocked monk, a person of bad reputation against whom Constantine VII had had to take rigorous measures. Despite the protests of the patriarch Polyeuctus, Romanus II kept John near him. John disappeared without a sound after the death of the ruler (Cedr. II 339; Glycas 564 f.). The eunuch John has nothing to do with the protospatharius and patrician John Khaevina, appointed grand heteriarch by Romanus II (Theoph. Cont. 469, 470, 757).
At the start of his reign, Nicephorus II Phocas (963-969) had the eunuch John as praepositus (De Cer. I 96, 437. Dölger, Reg. 696). The ruler does not give evidence of any prejudice against eunuchs; he used their services in the interior as well as in the armies. The patrician eunuch Christophorus was apparently one of the praepositi of Nicephorus II Phocas, for we see him replace the emperor in his absence (Liutprand, Legatio 362). It is to the patrician Christophorus that Liutprand addressed himself to obtain authorization to depart, and he reproaches him for having been poorly received (id, 362, 364). The patrician eunuch Nicetas was the brother of patrician-praepositus Michael, vestis and protovestiary. It was probably to him that the mysterious note was addressed that warned Nicephorus II Phocas of his imminent assassination (Leo the Deacon 86). Cedrinus (II 377) also makes reference to this note, after reading which Nicephorus II Phocas gave the order to his protovestiary to conduct an inquest in his gynaeceum. Michael is no doubt identical with Michael, the faithful servant of Nicephorus II Phocas, through whom he corresponded with the Empress Theophano before his ascent to the throne (Cedr. II 348). - In 1014, Basil II entrusted an important diplomatic mission to the eunuch Serge (Cedr. II 460; Dölger Reg. 800).
After becoming sole emperor, Constantine VIII (1025-1028) called his eunuchs to power. In 1028, for example, the eunuch Ergodotes was charged with a confidential mission by the ruler (Cedr. II 484; Dölger Reg. 829). It was on the advice of the eunuch Symeon, apparently the same as the drungaire of the Watch, that Constantine VIII chose Romanus III Agyrus as successor, who seems to have kept the majority of the high eunuch functionaries of Constantine VIII.
Under Michael IV the Paphlagonian (1034-1041), eunuchs became the primary personages of the empire. The imperial family was a family of eunuchs. Michael IV had four brothers, three of whom were eunuchs: Constantine, George, and John. Only Nicetas was not one. Nicetas, appointed duke of Antioch, died soon afterwards (Cedr. II 510) and his successor was his brother Constantine (Cedr. II 512). Shortly thereafter, in 1037, Constantine was appointed domestikos of the scholes (Cedr. II 515; Zonaras III 590). Despite the warnings of Michael IV, Constantine abused his high position (Psellus 58). John, the all-powerful orphanotrophos, supported his brothers and left them full freedom of action (Psellus 58, 61). Under the reign of Michael V, Constantine was in great favor and replaced John in authority. The emperor titled his uncle nobilissimus; it was the first time this title had been conferred on a eunuch (Psellus 90; Cedr. 535). Constantine seems to have had an influence on the young emperor, naturally a vicious one. On the verge of being blinded, Michael V accused his uncle of being responsible for all the evil committed (Cedr. II 540). True, Constantine cast all blame on his nephew (Psellus 105; Cedr. II 538). Forced to flee, Michael V and his uncle sought refuge in the monastery of Stoudios; they were removed to suffer the torture of blinding (Psellus 109-115; Cedr. II 540). George, the second brother of Michael IV was appointed protovestiary replacing the protovestiary Symeon, who had entered a monastery (Cedr. II 511, 512). As for John, he was by far the most intelligent of the four brothers. Psellus, Cedrinus and Zonaras portrayed his political role and his disgrace in great detail. According to his most recent biography (R. Janin, "Un ministre byzantin. Jean l'orphanotrophe, XIe s.," EO 34, 1931, 431-443), John the orphanotrophos was an adventurer who was master of the East under the reigns of Romanus III and Michael IV. Although he only accepted the half-civilian, half-military charge of orphanotrophos, John in fact ran the State under his brother Michael IV and at the start of the reign of Michael V. Michael IV had turned over to John control of the finances and the major part of the civilian administration, reserving for himself the management of the army (Psellus 64). It was due to John that Michael V was proclaimed emperor (Psellus 66 f., 87 f.). John was poorly rewarded for this. For a while, Michael V showed much regard for his uncle, whom he playfully called "emperor" (Zonaras III 607), but not long after, he removed him from the Palace (id). John, who at the time was thinking of appointing himself patriarch (id, 594), was removed from power the first time by Michael V, and finally exiled by order of Constantine IX Monomachus to Mitylene, where he was blinded. He survived his torture by only a few days (Zonaras III 624-625). He was buried in the monastery of the Mother of God Dekapolitissa. Isaac I Comnenus made a donation to the monastery for the upkeep of the tomb of the all-powerful eunuch (Dölger Reg. 940).
Under the reign of Michael V, eunuchs must have been rather numerous in the court, because the ruler had made eunuchs of all of his close relatives, even those who were already fathers and elevated to the highest offices (Psellus 3). Psellus tells us that Michael was surrounded by a bodyguard of eunuchs to whom he had given titles and honors. (Psellus 95).
Under the reigns of the porphyrogenitae Zoe and Theodora (1028-1050) and under that of Constantine IX Monomachus (1042-1054), eunuchs were in great favor. The old empresses lived surrounded by their familiar eunuchs, to whom they had entrusted the highest posts in the army and the administration. The ruler himself gave the eunuchs the responsibility of managing the State. Dissatisfied with his prime minister, Constantine Likhoudes, Michael IX [sic] replaced him with the eunuch John the logothetos. This person of very low heritage, without culture or eloquence and apparently incompetent, was charged with governing the State, appointed paradynastos (Cedr. II 610) and placed at the head of the senate (Zonaras III 649-650; Cedr. 610). Psellus gives us a rather unflattering portrait of John. He grew powerful enough to impose his candidate after the death of Constantine IX Monomachus, but the porphyrogenita Theodora thwarted the move and took power for herself (Zonaras III 650; Cedr. II 610). In this fight, Theodora had been supported by three of her loyal eunuchs, to whom she promised the highest positions: Theodorus, whom she appointed domestikos of the scholes, Nicetas Xylinitus, who was logothetos of the dromus and remained in the office under Michael VI (Cedr. II 623), and Manuel, who became drungaire of the Watch (Cedr. II 610-611).
Michael VI Stratioticus, who had been the eunuchs' candidate, had to promise to leave to them the administration of the State (Cedr. II 612). It seems the ruler kept his word, for he was always hostile to representatives of the old nobility and to men whose courage and services had brought them to prominence. The magistros Isaac Comnenus, the magistros Catacalon Cecaumenus and the vestarch Michael Bourtzes, among other illustrious personages, were treated shamefully by the emperor (Cedr. 615, 619-620). When Michael VI had to defend his throne against Isaac Comnenus, who had revolted, it was to the domestikos of the scholes Theodorus, the old eunuch favorite of Theodora, that the ruler turned (Cedr. II 627). At the time of the attack of the proedrus Theodorus against the imperial palace, it was the eunuchs who alerted the palace guard and who had him disarmed (id, II 613).
Isaac I Comnenus (1057-1059) and his successors do not seem to have been dominated by the eunuchs. No doubt they were still numerous in the Grand Palace, but they did not officially exercise power; they were content with intrigues.
Under Constantine X Ducas, the eunuch Nicephorus, originally from the province of the Bucellaries and nicknamed Nikephoritzes due to his small stature, played a certain role. Nikephoritzes had been brought into the Palace by Constantine IX Monomachus (Zonaras III 707) and had been in the service of Constantine Ducas. Sly and conniving, Nikephoritzes excelled at inciting quarrels and spreading calumnies about the most highly-placed persons. After becoming secretary of Constantine X Ducas, Nikephoritzes did not hesitate to accuse the empress of adultery. Appointed duke of Antioch twice, he governed in such a way that unrest and sedition multiplied in Syria. After being denounced, he ended up being thrown in prison after the death of the ruler.
On the ascent of Romanus IV Diogenes (1067-1071), Nikephoritzes managed to buy his freedom with gold, and was appointed judge of Hellas and the Hellespont. On the recommendation of the caesar John Ducas, Michael VII (1071-1078) chose Nikephoritzes as minister (Bryen. 56) and appointed him logothetos, so much had he been seduced by his servility and cleverness. As a reward to the caesar John Ducas for his good service, Nikephoritzes managed to get Michael VII to be suspicious of him (Zonaras II 708). Nikephoritzes ended up exerting the power of rule, treating the emperor like a valet. Nikephoritzes succeeded the eunuch John of Sides as prime minister (Cedr. II 706; Zonaras II 707 f.; Attal. 181 f.). The latter, whom Michael Attaleiates warmly eulogized (180, 182), was a valuable, energetic and experienced person who made a happy contrast to the incompetent and lazy ruler (Cedr. II 705; Zonaras III 707). Once he became logothetos, Nikephoritzes drew the hatred of the people due to his acts of violence and injustice. The rebellious vestarch Nestor declared that he would not lay down his arms until Nikephoritzes had been driven out, but the ruler refused to separate from his favorite (Zonaras III 713; Cedr. II 719; Attal. 208). However, revolts broke out all over. Nicephorus Bryennius marched on Constantinople and was convinced that the senate would decide in his favor out of hatred for Nikephoritzes (Zonaras III 716; Attal. 199-200, 208, 246; Bryen. 56, 81). In Asia Minor, Nicephorus Botaniates had himself proclaimed emperor and threatened the capital as well. Michael VII, despairing of his cause, withdrew to the monastery of Stoudios, while Nikephoritzes hastened to take flight and rejoin Roussel de Bailleul in Heraclea (Zonaras III 720). But the latter had him thrown in prison. To avenge himself, Nikephoritzes had Roussel imprisoned. Sent to Nicephorus Botianates, Nikephoritzes was relegated to an island near Byzantium. The emperor's entourage mistrusted Nikephoritzes too much to let him live. Under the pretext of forcing him to reveal the location of the treasures that he had accumulated, he was tortured and the grand heteriarch Straboromanus managed it in such a way that he died (Zonaras III 725 f.). It was on the initiative of Nikephoritzes (Bryen. 113 f.) that the corps of the Immortals, the athanatoi, was established. It may be that the seal published by Schlumberger (Sigillum 310) bearing the citation: Nicephorus, sebastophoros, duke of Antioch, was that of Nikephoritzes.
During the short reign of Nicephorus III Botianates (1078-1081) eunuchs seem to have been removed from public affairs. But they remained powerful at the court. Alexius and Isaac Comnenus sought the support of the eunuchs of the gynaeceum to ensure the favor of the empress (Alex. I 84). The mere fact that men like Comnenus were forced to turn to eunuchs shows that they had remained powerful. Nicephorus III Botianates must have been under the influence of his protovestiary, the eunuch John. He entrusted to him the command of the armies at the time of the revolt of Nicephorus Melissenus. The eunuch John loved military glory, but he was irresponsible and unsteady. The soldiers, dissatisfied to be under the command of a eunuch, greeted the new general with ridicule. The eunuch John proved to be a deplorable and arrogant leader, who was shamefully defeated (Bryenn. 160-165). Nicephorus III Botianates had planned to marry the porphyrogenita Zoe, daughter of Constantine X Ducas and Eudocia Dalassena. It was the eunuch Leo Cydoniates who caused this plan to fail (Alex. I 141).
Little mention is made of the eunuchs under the Comnenoi. But they apparently continued to be numerous in the Grand Palace, in the entourage of the emperor, and above all around the empress. Foucher de Chartres, who visited Constantinople at the time of the First Crusade, estimates the number of eunuchs at 20,000 (L. I. c IX). It is likely that at that time the eunuchs still performed important functions, but not at the highest level.
The mother of Alexius I Comnenus (1081-1118), Anne Dalassena, had charged a eunuch monk to take care of her son. The monk never left Alexius I, who was still young, not even in the field (Bryen. 150). The doctors who cared for Alexius I Comnenus included the eunuch Michael (Alex. II 375). Under Alexius I Comnenus, in addition to the eunuchs Eustathius Cyminianus and Leo Nikezites, we may also cite the eunuchs Constantine ho epi trapezees, initially in the service of the ruler and then passing to the service of the empress (Alex. II 180), and Basil Psullus, who was present when the plot against Alexius I Comnenus was discovered (Alex. II 420). Thus Alexius I Comnenus preserved his trust in eunuchs. Nonetheless, he did take one measure against them that was a bit surprising: in 1083 he refused them access to the monasteries of Athos (Dölger, Reg. 1089). However, he gave the order to reintegrate the eunuch monk Symeon, a former grand drungaire, into one of them (Dölger 1090).
John II Comnenus (1118-1143) did not change attitudes about eunuchs. One encounters the name of the eunuch John the Mystic in the typikon of the monastery of the Pantokrator founded by the ruler (Chalandon, Jean II Comnène, 30).
Nicetas signals in particular the good will of Manuel I Comnenus toward eunuchs. Theodora, the mistress of the emperor, had her house filled with eunuchs (Nic. 266). Manuel I sent the eunuch Thomas on a diplomatic mission to the Sultan of Ikonion (Cinnamus 296; Dölger, Reg. 1519). Of poor social status, Thomas had risen very high and acquired a great fortune (Cinnam. 269); he ended his days in prison (Cinnam. 297).
Under Andronicus I Comnenus, in addition to the eunuchs Nicephorus, we find mention of the eunuch Pterygionites, who, at the instigation of the ruler, gave poison to the caesarissa Maria, daughter of Manuel I Comnenus (Nicet. 337) and strangled the empress Maria of Antioch (Nic. 348). Nicetas also shows us John Cantacuzenus inflicting a severe punishment on the eunuch Tzita (Nic. 335).
Under Alexius III Angelus, eunuchs seem to have enjoyed considerable respect at the court (Nic. 646, 703). When Alexius III Angelus gave orders to dig up the graves of the emperors in order to take the precious metals that they contained, he charged two officials with this mission, one of whom was the eunuch Aluattes, of barbarian origin (Nic. 632). The important office of sacellarius was filled under Alexius III Angelus by the eunuch Constantine, a person who was powerful enough to give orders to the palace guard (Nic. 727). Alexius III also frequently charged the eunuchs with diplomatic missions, for example, to Ibankos which had revolted (Nic. 677 f.; Dölger Reg. 1655).
Under the Nicaean emperors (1204-1261), the eunuch certainly had their place in the new hierarchy of titles and offices, but it is difficult to know whether certain offices were always reserved for them, as had been the case until then. George Acropolites does not mention any eunuchs. Thus it is possible to doubt that the offices of protovestiary and cupbearer, for example, were then exclusively reserved for eunuchs. The future John III Vatatzes (1222-1254), Alexius Raul, under the reign of the latter as well as the butler, ho epi trapezees, and Nicephorus Tarkhaniotes were not eunuchs [sic].
With the restoration of the empire under the Palaeologoi (1261-1453), the influence of the West in Byzantium became greater. Byzantine high society adopted Latin customs and also Western prejudices. The eunuch was now regarded as an inferior being and from then on his physical inferiority became a defect rather than an advantage. The rulers, who were safer on the throne, no longer had the same grounds to resort to the service of eunuchs. The texts of the 14th to 15th centuries rarely mention eunuchs. The silence of the texts does not permit the conclusion that eunuchs had disappeared. But it is a likely supposition that their influence on policy and government became less important than ever. We still see Andronicus II Palaeologus (1282-1328) charge the eunuch Oenopolita, grand drungaire at the time, to watch over his father Michael VIII, who had just died and to have his mortal remains transported to Selymbria (Pachym. II 107). The same emperor sent "one of his eunuchs" to arrest the grand primicerius Cassianus, who was accused of high treason (Pachym. II 619). Most of the time, the eunuchs were attached to the service of the palace, and especially the service of the empress. In the description of the marriage of Andronicus III Palaeologus in 1325, John Cantacuzenus mentions the presence of eunuchs in charge of escorting the empress (Cz I 199). He also mentions the numerous eunuchs who surrounded the ministers of the empress regent Anne of Savoy (Cz II 223), and those who were present at the marriage of his own daughter Theodora Cantacuzenus to the Sultan Orkhan. (Cz II 588).
Thus for the entire duration of the Byzantine empire, eunuchs were very
powerful. It is known that the monopolization of power by these men often
caused complaints and protests. The old saying, as preserved for us by
Cedrinus (II 29), was often repeated in Byzantium: "If you have a eunuch,
kill him; if you do not have one, buy one and kill him." We also know that
the people often made fun of eunuchs as they passed, shouting: "klu, klu."
(Bryen. 159). Among many others, we can cite the following verses of the
poet and chronicler Constantine Manasses, from the 12th century, which
are quite typical: "How long will power remain in the hands of eunuchs,
with effeminate minds, perverse by natural propensity, liable to think
up all sorts of misfortunes and carry them out, beings of lustful minds,
instruments of turpitude, guides in illicit acts and receptacles of vices."
(Alexiade, Note 445). Despite these attacks, eunuchs nonetheless did not
lose any of their influence.
[The article ends with an index of proper names, an index of dignities and offices, and a geographical index, which have not been reproduced, however, because computer technology makes an index unnecessary. One can simply use the "FIND" function to find all occurrences of any word(s) one wishes.]