Romanos II

Death of Romanos II [Source]

Romanos II or Romanus II (Greek: Ρωμανός Β΄, Rōmanos II), (938 – 963) succeeded his father Constantine VII as Byzantine emperor in 959 at the age of twenty-one, and died, poisoned, it was believed, by his wife Theophano, in 963.


Romanos II was a son of Emperor Constantine VII and Helena Lekapene, the daughter of Emperor Romanos I. Named after his maternal grandfather, Romanos was married, as a child, to Bertha, the illegitimate daughter of Hugh of Arles, King of Italy. On April 6, 945, after the fall of the Lekapenoi, Constantine VII associated his son Romanos on the throne. With Hugh out of power in Italy and dead by 947, and Bertha herself dead in 949, Romanos secured the promise from his father that he would be allowed to select his own bride. Romanos' choice fell on an innkeeper's daughter named Anastaso, whom he married in 956 and renamed Theophano.

In November 959 Romanos II succeeded his father on the throne, among rumors that he or his wife had sped up the end of Constantine VII by poison. Romanos carried out a virtual purge of his father's courtiers and replaced them with his own friends and those of his wife. Among the persons removed from court were the Empress Mother, Helena, and her daughters, all of them being relegated to a monastery. Nevertheless, many of Romanos' appointees were able men, including his chief adviser, the eunuch Joseph Bringas.

The pleasure-loving sovereign could also leave military matters in the adept hands of his generals, in particular the brothers Leo and Nikephoros Phokas. In 960 Nikephoros Phokas was sent to recover Crete from the Muslims. After a difficult campaign and the 9-month siege of Candia, Nikephoros successfully re-established Byzantine control over the entire island in 961. Following a triumph celebrated at Constantinople, Nikephoros was sent to the eastern frontier, where he conquered Cilicia and even Aleppo in 962. In the meantime Leo Phokas and Marianos Argyros had countered Magyar incursions into the Byzantine Balkans.

After a lengthy hunting expedition Romanos II took ill and died on March 15, 963. Rumor attributed his death to poison administered by his wife Theophano. Romanos II's reliance on his wife and on bureaucrats like Joseph Bringas had resulted in a relatively capable administration, but built up resentment among the nobility, which was associated with the military.


Romanos II probably never consummated his first marriage to Bertha of Italy. By his second wife Theophano, he had at least three children:


  • The Oxford Dictionary of Byzantium, Oxford University Press, 1991.
  • George Ostrogorsky, History of the Byzantine State, 1969.
  • This article incorporates text from the Encyclopædia Britannica Eleventh Edition, a publication now in the public domain.

Preceded by: Constantine VII
Byzantine Emperor
Succeeded by: Nicephorus II

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