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CONSTANTINE VII

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Originally appearing in Volume V06, Page 992 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
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CONSTANTINE VII. Porphyrogenitus (Gr. Porphyrogennetos, " born in the purple ") (905—959), East Roman emperor, author and patron of literature, was the son of Leo VI. the Wise. Though nominally emperor from 912—959, it was not until 945 that Constantine could really be called sole ruler. During this period he had been practically excluded from all real share in the government by ambitious relatives. Though wanting in strength of will, Constantine possessed intelligence and many other good qualities, and his reign on the whole was not unsatisfactory. He was poisoned by his son Romanus in 959. Constantine was a painter and a patron of art, a literary man and a patron of literature; and herein consists his real importance, since it is to works written by or directly inspired by him that we are indebted for our chief knowledge of his times. He was the author or inspirer of several works of considerable length. (I) De Thematibus, an account of the military districts (Themata) of the empire during the time of Justinian, chiefly borrowed from Hierocles and Stephanus of Byzantium. (2) De administrando imperio, an account of the condition of the empire, and an exposition of the author's view of government, written for the use of his son Romanus; it also contains most valuable information as to the condition and history of various foreign nations with which the Byzantine empire had been brought into contact on the east, west and north. (3) De cerimoniis aulae Byzantinae, which describes the customs of the Eastern Church and court. (4) A life of Basilius I., his grandfather, based on the work of Genesius. (5) Two treatises on military subjects are attributed to him; one on tactics, which, as the title shows, was really written by his grandson Constantine VIII., the other a description of the different methods of fighting in fashion amongst different peoples. (6) A speech on the despatch of an image of Christ to Abgar, king of Edessa. Of works under-taken by his instructions the most important were the Encyclopaedic Excerpts from all available treatises on various branches of learning. (I) Historica, in 53 sections, each devoted to a special subject; of these the sections De legationibus, De virtutibus et vitiis, De sententiis, De insidiis, have been wholly or partly preserved. (2) Basilica, a compilation from the different parts of the Justinian Corpus Juris, subsequently the text-book for the study of law. (3) Geoponica, agricultural treatises, for which see GEOPONICI and BASSUS, CASSIANUS. (4) latrica, a medical' handbook compiled by one Theophanes Nonnus, chiefly from Oribasius. (5) Hippiatrica, on veterinary surgery, the connexion of which with Constantine is, however, disputed. (6) Historia animalium, a compilation from the epitome of Aristotle's work on the subject by Aristophanes of Byzantium, with additions from other writers such as Aelian and Timotheus of Gaza. On Constantine VII. generally the most important work is A. Rambaud, L'Empire grec au dixibme sibcle (187o) ; see also Gibbon, Decline and Fall, ch. 53, and G. Finlay, Hist. of Greece, ii. 294 (1877). Many of his works will be found in Migne, Patrologia Graeca, cix., cxii., exiii.; for editions of the rest, C. Krumbacher, Geschichte der byzantinischen Literatur (1897), and the article by Cohn in Pauly-Wissowa's Realencyclopadie der classischen Alteriumswissenschaft (1900) should be consulted. The former contains a valuable note on the " Gothic Christmas " described in detail in the De cerimoniis; see also Bury in Eng. Hist. Rev. xxii. (1907).
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