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Tuesday, 17 May 2011

Basil I Byzantine emperor (867-886), founder of the Macedonian dynasty.


Born in Macedonia to a peasant family, Basil worked during his youth as a groom in the imperial stables in Constantinople (now Istanbul), but ended up emperor of Byzantum. 

Basil is a notable example of an emperor who "married"  a man in the liturgical rite of adelphopoeisin- twice! Indeed, he owed his extraordinary ascent from an obscure birth to the emperor's throne by skilful seduction. 
"A few centuries later Basil I (867-886), the founder of the Macedonian dynasty that ruled the Byzantine Empire from 867 to 1156, was reported to have been twice involved in ceremonial unions with other men. Although the most important sources for his life -- composed under the rule of his descendants within a century of the events in question -- are contradictory on some points and occasionally unreliable, their take on this matter is largely consistent. His biographers (including Western sources: see below) all agreed that when Basil arrived in Constantinople with nothing but a staff and a knapsack -- a young man from the provinces with no connections in the capital -- he was befriended by a certain Nicholas of the church of St. Diomede, who rescued him from sleeping in the streets, brought him into the church, bathed and clothed him, and supported him for some time until the ambitious Basil was able to attract the attention of a well-placed courtier related to the imperial family.
"In most accounts of their relationship Nicholas and Basil are united in a church ceremony. According to one tradition, on the morning after finding him Nicholas 'bathed and dressed Basil and was ceremonially united to him, and kept him as his housemate and companion. (Chronicle of George in Istrin 2:5). Another version is more explicit about the ceremony 'and on the next day he went with him to the baths and changed [his clothes] and going into the church established a formal union with him, and they rejoiced in each other.' (George in Moravcsik p 120) The odd final phrase would probably recall to a Christian Greek reader the biblical "Rejoice with the wife of thy youth." (Prov 5:18)
"Given the wording in the chronicles (one uses adelphiopioinois, another adelphiopiointos) and the fact that the union is accomplished in a church, there can be little doubt that the writers have in mind some form of the ceremony published and translated in this text."

Boswell, Same Sex Unions in Pre-Modern Europe 
Later, he also had a well-documented relationship with Emperor Michael III, who made him his lover and chamberlain. In 866 he murdered Michael's uncle (with Michael's permission) and became co-ruler of the Byzantine Empire with Michael... and a year later had Michael assassinated.

As sole ruler of the empire, Basil began the reform of the legal code completed by his son Leo VI, introduced other administrative reforms, and restored the scholar Photius to the Patriarchate.

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