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7-08-2015, 20:53

Central administration and imperial ideology

The state of emergency in the empire also led to a tightening up of the administration and a change in the emperor’s role. The departments established in the seventh century remained in operation – the logothesia, each under the direction of a logothete – and we know about their organisation in detail from the Taktikon Uspensky. The general (genikon) logothesion was a sort of finance ministry, collecting taxes and distributing money. The strati¯otikon logothesion was the department managing the army. The logothesion of the Drome (tou dromou) managed the roads, intelligence and diplomacy. Other departments or functions grew in importance during this period, and there has been considerable debate as to their continuity from Roman institutions. The sakellarios, originally a eunuch who kept the emperor’s purse, became a key figure who, by the end of Theophilos’ reign, was the chief organiser of expenditure and had more authority than the general logothete himself. Likewise, the office of the eidikon, a treasury whose functions are unclear, makes its appearance in the ninth century.103 The tightening up of the administration around the emperor enabled him to govern more directly, especially since the offices of the logothetes were located in the Great Palace. This immediacy of power is also a feature of the military sphere: from the time of Heraclius, emperors had led their armies into battle in person. This was particularly true under the Isaurians and Leo V, who went on campaign nearly every year. This tradition of the warrior emperor makes Irene’s reign even more anomalous: as a woman, she could not lead the army. In diplomatic relations with newer, neighbouring states, the emperors continued a policy of impressing their subjects with the empire’s superiority and prestige. Theophilos adorned the reception hall of theMagnaura with a throne surrounded by automata of roaring lions and chirping birds in a plane tree, which Liudprand of Cremona described in the tenth century.104 John the Grammarian’s embassy to Baghdad on behalf of Theophilos was celebrated for its richness and splendour. The organ which Pepin the Short received as a gift from Constantine V also contributed to the empire’s renown amongst the Franks (see below, p. 414). Imperial building projects had the same goal and here, too, Theophilos was a master. He remodelled the Great Palace where, it is thought, Constantine V had built the church of the Mother of God of the Pharos in the previous century;105 of the many buildings added by Theophilos, the best-known are the Triconch of the Sigma and the Sigma itself. Across the Bosporus Theophilos constructed the Palace of Bryas, which has yet to be identified with certainty, and he adorned St Sophia with the bronze doors that are still in place.106 This restructuring of the emperor’s image went hand in hand with the reinforcement of dynastic rule. From Heraclius on, rulers crowned their eldest sons as co-emperors, although the form of coronation sometimes varied. In 776 Leo IV added to the ceremony an oath of loyalty to both emperors, which civilian and military officials, as well as notables, had to swear; this vow not to accept any emperor other than Leo’s newly crowned son Constantine was signed by all and deposited in St Sophia.107 The gold coinage gives an excellent example of the insistence on dynastic rule under the iconoclast emperors, for on their coins both the Isaurians and Theophilos showed images not only of their descendants, sometimes including their daughters, but also of their ancestors. So Constantine VI’s father, grandfather and great-grandfather are all squeezed in on the reverse of his nomisma.108 In this as in other areas, Irene is an exception; she was the only sovereign in the history of the empire to put her bust on both sides of the nomisma. The Isaurians appear to have done most to boost the dynastic aspect of the imperial office. Indeed, it was Constantine V who created the legitimising concept of porphyrogenitus for his son Leo; being born-in-the-Porphyra – the chamber in the imperial palace covered with red marble – would become a prerequisite for the Macedonian emperors.109 At the Easter ceremonies in 769, Constantine V made official the hierarchy of court titles given to members of the imperial family: his sons were given the titles of caesar and nobelissimos, as recorded in the Book of ceremonies.110 Indeed the emperor’s reception for the poor – given on the eighth day after Christmas in the Hall of the Nineteen Couches – should be dated to Constantine’s period of rule, since a token of a ‘pauper of the Nineteen Couches’ dating from his reign has been found.

 

 

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