Early Members of the Macedonian Dynasty of Byzantium

Pankalo och Basileios
Pankalo admonishing Basileios to remain at home (left); Pankalo throwing rocks at eagles (believing them a threat) that had descended to protect the infant Basileois from the harsh sunlight (right). From Madrid Skylitzes, fol. 82r.


This house, which spawned an emperor of Byzantium, is named from its supposed origins in the Byzantine theme of Macedonia.  They are, however, said to have first come from Armenia and then settled in Macedonia proper.  Later writings imaginatively purport filiations with the Arascids, the emperor Konstantinos I, and Alexander the Great.  All these inventions were made in later generations to strengthen the position of ruling members of the family.[i]  During the lifetime of Basileios I his low-ranking origins were more significant as they were used to compare him to the biblical king David: both are said to have been raised to royal dignity by divine powers.[ii] There is also no evidence to support the often repeated descent from emperor Leo V: the decent given by Settipani (1991, p. 187; 2006, p. 264) is chronologically impossible.  Gregoria, mother of Bardas Skleros (see The Skleroi of Byzantium), cannot have been born around 910 and have a son born about 920.  The generational gap is also much too narrow to presume that Pankalo (mother of emperor Basileios I) was born 815 and to have had four children all between 831/2 and 835.  Furthermore, according to Skylitzes, Pankalo was married before the Bulgarian conquest of Adrianopolis in 813.[iii]  As an explanation for this, it’s proposed that it was Pankalo’s mother who was taken captive and thus that it is an error to state that it was Pankalo herself, however there is no support for this statement in the available source material.  The same author stands by his conclusions in his 2006 edition.  With regard to the descent from Leo V, the argument goes that the stepfather of Maïktes was really Leo V himself.  This fact is supposed to have been intentionally obfuscated by Theophanes Continuatus, the author of Basileios I’s vita.  The reason for this is that their contemporaries considered Leo V an unsuitable ancestor for having been an iconoclast, when they themselves lived in an iconodulic environment.[iv] All of this is pure speculation, although the chronology around Pankalo was improved, it nevertheless appears that Settipani has massaged the dates to fit in Leo V as an ancestor of the Macedonian dynasty.  I will consequently adhere to statements that are more securely supported by the source material.

Tab. 1

Maïktes (Hmayek),[v] of Armenian heritage, but a resident of Adrianopolis.[vi]  Said to have become acquainted with a countryman, Leo, during a journey to Constantinople, which eventually led to Maïktes’ marriage to Leo’s daughter.[vii] — M. during the reign of Constantine VI (780-797) to a woman whose name is forgotten, daughter of Leo, who was also said to be of Armenian origins but then holding a prominent position at Constantinople.[viii]

C h i l d :

Nomen nescio, born at Adrianopolis, and was, according to Skylitzes, in rude health and fine physical form.[ix] Farmer.[x] When the Bulgars conquered Adrianopolis in 813, he and his family are to have been taken by the khan Krum, and transported along with the rest of the population, perhaps to the area between the Donau and Dnjestr rivers; returning to Adrianopolis, possibly around 836/38, he died shortly afterwards.[xi] —  M. to Pankalo who also came from Adrianopolis, but had Greek ancestry.[xii] She is named by Const. Porph.[xiii] and is said to have been known for her beauty.[xiv] Their son, Basileios became the head of the family following his father’s death, and intended to seek his fortune at Constantinople against the wishes of Pankalo.[xv] Skylitzes states that she eventually gave in because of poverty, but other authors that she did so following a dream in which the prophet Elias revealed to her that her son would become emperor if he was allowed to leave.[xvi] She was bur. at St. Euphemia’s Abbey, Byzantium.[xvii]

C h i l d r e n :

Basileios I, kejsare av Bysans 867-886.[xviii]

Marianos, domestichos ton scholon, magister et c.[xix]


Bardas, se Tab. 2


Tab. 2

Bardas, expressley mentioned as the brother of Basileios I and as the father of the rhaiktor Basileios by Theodosius of Melitene.[xxi] He was present when his brother Basileios planned to murder the emperor Bardas outside of Constantinople. The emperor was tricked into travelling towards Crete, but on the 21/4 866 at Kepoi in the theme of Thrakesion, the conspirators attacked him with lethal consequences.[xxii] Bardas is also said to have stood guard outside the successor, Michael III:s, bedroom in the Palace of St. Mamas, when this emperor, too, was murdered by Basileios 23/9 867.[xxiii] Without direct evidence, it has also been theorized that this Bardas is the same as the Bardas who was appointed patrikios and strategos in Macedonia around about the time of the ascension of Basileios to the throne: a probable, but not provable, suggestion.[xxiv]

S o n :

Basileios, was rhaiktor (a high-ranking ceremonial court position) and magistros (a title used, at this time, to signify one of the highest ranks at court).[xxv] He is known as the son of Bardas and nephew of emperor Basileios I from two different sources cited by Seibt: Skutariotes and Georgius Monachus continuatus.[xxvi]

S o n :

Bardas, like his daughter only known from Skutariotes in his capacity as her father and as the son of Basileios the rhaiktor.[xxvii]

D a u g h t e r :

Gregoria, born at the end of the 9th century or, at the very latest, during the first few years of the 10th, as her son Bardas was born around 920.[xxviii]  She is only known from Skutariotes, who states that she was the daughter of Bardas, granddaughter of the rhaiktor and magistros Basileios, in his turn the nephew of emperor Basileios I.[xxix] It has been assumed by modern scholars that she is the same as the Gregoria mentioned in a funeral poem by a contemporary poet Ioannes Geometres, and that this Gregoria is the same as the mother of Bardas Skleros, though this is entirely conjectural as no familial connections are mentioned in the poem.[xxx] — M. to Munīr (Pantherios) Skleros (see The Skleroi of Byzantium).



Madrid Skylitzes: Skylitzes, I. (ca. 1057) Codex Græcus Matritensis Ioannis Skyllitzes, Biblioteca Nacional de España, Madrid, document number MS Graecus Vitr. 26-2 south-Italian copy by an unknown hand from the 12th-14th century, from World Digital Library

PBE: Martindale, John et al., (2001, 2015). Prosopography of the Byzantine Empire (641-867). Online upplaga från http://www.pbe.kcl.ac.uk

PMBZ: Lille, R.-J., Ludwig, C., Zielke, B., Pratsch, T. (2013) Prosopographie der mittelbyzantinischen Zeit. Berlin: De Gruyter. (förk. PMBZ) Digital database, here: de Gruyter


Other works:

Adontz, N. (1933) ”L’age et l’origine de l’empereur Basile I (867-886)” i Byzantion, vol. 8, pp. 475-500.

Adontz, N. (1934) ”L’age et l’origine de l’empereur Basile I (867-886) (suite)” i Byzantion, vol. 9, pp. 223-260.

Const. Porph.: Reiske, J. J., & Leich, J. H. (eds.) (1829) Constantini Porphyrogeniti Imperatoris De Ceremoniis Aulæ Byzantinæ libri duo græce et latini e recensione Io. Iac. Reiskii cum eiusdem commentariis integris, vol. 1. Bonn: Weber.

Cramer, J. A. (1841) Appendix ad excerpta poetica: codex 352 suppl., Anecdota Graeca e Codd. Manuscriptis Bibliothecae regiae Parisiensis, vol. IV. Oxford: Oxford University, p. 266, lines 1 to 19.  On Hathi Trust, here: https://babel.hathitrust.org/cgi/pt?id=uva.x002635836;view=1up;seq=5

Hlawitschka, E. (2006) Die Ahnen der hochmittelalterlichen deutschen Könige, Kaiser und ihrer Gemahlinnen Band I: 911-1137 Teil 2. München: Monumenta Germaniæ Historica.

Lauxtermann, M. D. (1998) “John Geometres – Poet and Soldier” in Byzantion, vol. 68.2, pp. 356-380, with ref. p. 367 note 48.

Lauxtermann, M. D. (2003) Byzantine Poetry from Pisides to Geometers: Text and Contexts, vol. 1. Wien: Der Österreichischen Akademie der Wissenschaften, p. 221 note 26 – where Gregoria is referred to as “Gregoria Skleraina” – suggesting either that she is no longer the mother but a scion of the same family, OR that the Byzantines took their husband’s surname.

Markopoulos, A. (1994) ”Constantine the Great in Macedonian Historiography: Models and Approaches” i Magdalino, P. (ed.) New Constantines: the Rhythm of Imperial Renewal in Byzantium, 4th-13th Centuries. Aldershot: Variorum, pp. 159-170.

Seibt, W. (1976) Die Skleroi: eine prosopographish-sigillographische Studie. Wien: Böhlau verlag.

Settipani, C. (2006) Continuité des élites à Byzance durant les siècles obscurs: les princes caucasiens et l’empire du VIe au IXe siècle. Paris: de Boccard.

Theo. Cont.: Becker, I. (ed.) (1838) Theophanes Continuatus, Ioannes Cameniata, Symeon Magister, Georgius Monachus. Bonn: Weber.

Treadgold, W. (1988) The Byzantine Revival. Stanford: Standford University Press.

Wolf, G. (1995) ”Nochmals zur Frage: wer war Theophano?” in Satura Mediaevalis: Gesammelte Schriften Herausgegeben zum 65. Geburtstag, b. II, pp. 355-370.

Wortley, J. (trans.) (2010) John Skylitzes: A Synopsis of Byzantine History, 811-1057. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press.


[i] PMBZ 832A; PBE Basilios 7; Wortley (2010), p. 118 n. 11.

[ii] Markopoulos (1994), pp. 162-163.

[iii] PBE Pankalo 1; PMBZ 832A, 5679; Settipani (1991), p. 187; Wortley (2010), p. 117.

[iv] Settipani (2006), pp. 255-258; 308.

[v] The name in Armenian, cf. Settipani (2006), p. 253.

[vi] PMBZ 4664; PBE Maiktes 1; Theo. Cont., before abt. 959, book V.3 (in Becker’s edition, p. 215.3) gives the story about Maïktes (Μαΐκτης) journey to Constantinople and his encounter with Leo, as well as the marriage to his daughter.  The fantastical descent from earlier emperors and other aristocratic families is also included.

[vii] Wortley (2010), p. 117; Theo. Cont., V.3, p. 215.

[viii] PMBZ 4362, 4664A; PBE Anonyma 29, Leo 110; Theo. Cont., V.3, p. 215.

[ix] PBE Pankalo 1; PMBZ 832A, 5679; Wortley (2010), p. 117.

[x] PBE Anonymus 232; Theo. Cont. V.5-7.

[xi] PBE Pankalo 1; Theo. Cont., V.4-5, pp. 216-219; Wortley (2010), p. 118.

[xii] PBE Pankalo 1; PMBZ 5679; Treadgold (1988), pp. 202-203.

[xiii] Wortley (2010), p. 117 n. 10.  Constantinos Porphyrogenetos (ca. 956/9) de ceremoniis aulæ Byzantinæ, p. 648.11 in Reiske’s edition from 1829: ”…Παγκαλὼ ἡ μήτηρ Βασιλείον…”.

[xiv] PBE Pankalo 1; Theo. Cont. V.3, p. 215.19.

[xv] PBE Pankalo 1; Theo. Cont, V.7, pp. 220-221; Wortley (2010), p. 120.

[xvi] PBE Pankalo 1; Theo. Cont. V.8, pp. 221-222; Wortley (2010), p. 121.

[xvii] PBE Pankalo 1; Const. Porph., Reiske, p. 648.

[xviii] PBE Basileios 7; PMBZ 832 och 20837.

[xix] PBE Marianos 4; PMBZ 4768.

[xx] PBE Symbatios 2; PMBZ 7168.

[xxi] PMBZ 801/corr cites the text from Theodosiusof Melitene wherein Marianos is mentioned first as the brother of Basileios,whereafter Symbatios and Bardas are mentiond togeter as “brothers of the same” (ἀδελφοὶ αὐτοῦ). PBE interprets this as if Symbatios and Bardas were brothers, but not of Basileios and Marianos (cf. PBE Symbatios 1 and Bardas 7). As we know, from other sources (see sub. the son Basileois) that Basileios, the son of Bardas, was the nephew of Basileios the emperor, it is nevertheless credible, with some small doubt, that Bardas was a brother of the emperor Basileios I.  For more on this see Adontz (1934) pp. 230-231 with notes.  That Bardas was excluded from the family tomb at St. Euphemia’s Abbey (c.f. PBE Symbatios 2) could be considered counter-evidence of a filiation, but such an exclusion can be caused by a number of things and does not directly prove that Bardas is not related to the other herein mentioned family members.  See also Hlawitschka (2006), p. 154; Seibt (1976), p. 28 and n. 44; Settipani (2006), p. 263; Wolf (1995), p. 366.

[xxii] PBE Bardas 7; PMBZ 801/corr.

[xxiii] PBE Bardas 7; PMBZ 801/corr; Adontz (1933), p. 475.

[xxiv] Settipani (2006), p. 263.

[xxv] Hlawitschka (2006), p. 154; PMBZ 20886; Seibt (1976), p. 28 and n. 44; Wolf (1995), p. 366.

[xxvi] Hlawitschka (2006), p. 154; PBE Basilios 11; PMBZ 20886; Seibt (1976), p. 28 and n. 44; Wolf (1995), p. 366.

[xxvii] Hlawitschka (2006), p. 153; PMBZ 20768; Seibt (1976), p. 28 and n. 44; Wolf (1995), p. 366.

[xxviii] PMBZ 22345.

[xxix] Hlawitschka (2006), p. 153; PMBZ 22345; Seibt (1976), p. 28 and n. 44.

[xxx] Cramer (1841), p. 266.1-19; Lauxtermann (1998), p. 367, n. 48; ibid. (2003), p. 221, n. 26; PMBZ 22345

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