Constantine X Doukas was born in the beginning of the 11th century, around 1006, as we gather from Michael Psellos, who wrote that when he died in 1067 “he lived just over sixty years”. His place of birth cannot be ascertained, but we can assume that he was born in his family's estate in Paphlagonia,1 where he spent a large part of his life. About his parents almost nothing is known, apart from the fact that his father was named Andronikos. The same name was given to one of Constantine’s sons, as well as to his nephew, the son of his brother John. As for John, he was one of Constantine's closest associates throughout his life.
Constantine Doukas got married twice. His first wife (before 1034) was the daughter of the eminent military commander Constantine Dalassenos, who died at a young age, possibly without having any children, and her name has not been recorded. Constantine was married for a second time, again the daughter of an eminent family, Eudokia Makrembolitissa, niece of the patriarch Michael Keroullarios, daughter of his sister and his close friend John Makrembolites. With Eudocia they had seven children: Michael, a son whose name is not known, Andronikos, Theodora, and two “purple-born” children, who were born after Constantine had become emperor in 1059 – a son, Constantine, and a daughter, Zoe.
It seems that the Doukas lineage in the 11th century, with the brothers Constantine X and John Doukas, was related only to the female branch of the family of Doukas who lived in the beginning of the 10th century, since the men of that family had been killed after the unsuccessful attempt of Constantine Doukas to become emperor in 913. Nevertheless, the glory of the name of Doukas remained unabated until the end of the Byzantine Period. Many emperors and aristocrats strived to add the name Doukas to their own names, Doukas being the first family name to become that of an imperial dynasty.
Before the events of 1057 and the rise of Isaac I Komnenos to the imperial throne, Constantine Doukas, even though he had already entered the highest circles of the capital, is mentioned only once in the historical sources, on the occasion of teh arrest of his first father-in-law, Constantine Dalassenos (31 August 1034), whom Emperor Michael IV considered as a threat. It was the period after the death of emperor Romanos III Argyros, when the family of Paphlagonians and Emperor Michael IV had not yet established their authority. The revolt of Elpidios Brachamios in Antioch and the populace's reaction against the new duke of Antioch and brother of Michael IV, Niketas, had been partly associated with the populace's devotion to the previous , Constantine Dalassenos. Thus, after the supression of the revolt, in the summer of 1034, Constantine Dalassenos was exiled at the island of Plati, while many of his friends who had supported him shared his fate. Constantine Doukas was imprisoned to a tower. After he was released, he probably returned to his family estate in Paphlagonia.
The following mention of Doukas in the sources occurs in 1057, that is more than two decades later, as a member of the military aristocracy of Asia Minor, which had rallied around Isaac Komnenos and managed to crown him emperor. Although he came from Asia Minor, Constantine had close ties to Constantinople, because at that time he was married to the niece of patriarch Keroularios, the man with the greatest influence at that time in the capital. It is possible that Constantine may have been related to Isaac Komnenos himself, as mentioned by the historian Michael Attaleiates.2 After the success of the powerful men of Asia Minor and the coronation of Isaac Komnenos (on the 1st or the 4th of September 1057), Constantine received from the new emperor the high title of .
2.1. During the reign of Isaac I Komnenos
During the two-year reign of Isaac Komnenos, Constantine Doukas developed even stronger ties with important people of great influence at Constantinople. In spite of the deposition and death of patriarch Michael Keroularios, the family and followers of Constantine Doukas managed to maintain a great part of their influence. Apart from that, Constantine Doukas could count on the support of one of the most powerful men in the highest circles of the capital, Michael Psellos. As an educator and tutor of the nephews of the late Michael Keroularios, Michael Psellos developed a close relationship with the patriarch’s son in law, Constantine Doukas. Thus, Psellos was one of those that truly helped Doukas ascend to the throne, by convincing on the one hand Isaac Komnenos to retire to the Monastery of Stoudios in the capital and on the other Constantine Doukas to accept the throne. The transition was smooth and Constantine Doukas was crowned on the 24th of November 1059.3
2.2. The reign of Constantine X Doukas
After his ascend to the throne, Constantine X Doukas refuted many of his predecessor’s decisions that had led him to resignation. In his effort to win the aristocracy of Constantinople over, he reinstated several people who had been stripped of their offices by Isaac, appointed many new and permitted the purchase of dignities and titles. He also tried to be generous to the church, which had been heavily taxed by Isaac Komnenos. However, in order to find the necessary funds for such a policy, he had to increase taxation significantly. At the same time, he tried to increase the State revenues with taxation leasing and cut of the expenses on the army, thus causing the weakening of Byzantine army and neglecting the military aristocracy that had brought Isaac to the throne.4
His policy caused discontent, resulting in a revolt against him that broke out at Constantinople in the dawn of April 23, 1060, only five months after his coronation.5 Constantine X Doukas survived by chance from the conspirators' plans to kill him. The fact that among the conspirators was the along with members of the imperial fleet, attests to the seriousness of the attempt. In spite of all these, Constantine X was lenient in his penalties. The conspirators were exiled and their estates confiscated, but the emperor, perhaps due to his rather unstable position, decided not to impose harder penalties.6
2.3. External policy
Assuming command of the Empire at a period in which the enemies of Byzantium were powerful both in the East and the West, Constantine X Doukas had neither the ability nor the strength to repulse completely enemy attacks. In the West the Normans started their operations against Byzantine land in southern Italy, the Oguz and the Pechenegs brought desolation to the Balkan provinces, while in the East a major threat emerged with the expansion of the Seljuks, who already during the reign of Constantine demonstrated clearly how dangerous opponent they would prove for the Empire.
The area of the Balkans was undefended to the attacks of the , who for two years, 1064 and 1065, pillaged imperial territories with no serious military retribution from Constantinople. Constantine X organised a campaign against them, but the forces he was able to gather could pose no real threat to the Oguz. The Emperor returned without having to engage in any battle, since the Oguz had to retreat because of accidental factors. In the end, the danger for Byzantium became extinct because the Oguz were decimated by epidemics.7
More serious and of far-reaching consequences was the threat at the eastern border, where the rising power of the Seljuks crushed the Arab rule over Persia and continued to expand, while they offered their support to the Turkmen, who raided the Byzantine territories. The Byzantine army, weakened by the policies of Constantine X, was in no position to resist effectively. In 1064, the Byzantines lost the city of Anion, while Iberia and the lands of Armenia had suffered devastating raids. The fall of this city at the eastern borders demonstrated the seriousness of the danger to the Empire. A few years later, in 1071, the defeat at Manzikert would finally pave the way for the infiltration of the Seljuks in Asia Minor, with Byzantium essentially unable to react.8
In the West, the emergence of the Normans in South Italy coincided with the strain on the dispute between the pope and Byzantium over the ecclesiastical jurisdiction at the region; a dispute that, along with the dogmatic controversies, had led to the schism of 1054 In 1059, Pope Nicolas II recognised the Norman leader, Robert Guiscard, as the duke of Apulia and Calabria. The papal support legitimized the Norman expansion at the expense of the Byzantine dominion. In 1060, after the fall of the capital of Calabria, Region, Constantine X sent an army to Italy, in an effort to at least regain the territory of Apulia. The Byzantines had only temporary successes, and by 1062 the cities that had been recovered passed again under Norman rule.9
3. The end of Constantine X Doukas. Assessment
In the summer of 1066, yet another rebellion against Constantine I Doukas broke out in Larisa; caused, once again, by his fiscal policy. The rebellion was supressed and its leader exiled, but Constantine I had no longer the strength to fight. In October 1066, the emperor fell seriously ill and he died in the following year, on May 22nd/23rd 1067.
Constantine X Doukas proved unable to face the power of rising enemies, and for this reason he is frequently considered by Byzantinists as one of those responsible for the undermining of imperial power and for unsuccessful governanse of the State. His fiscal policy had disastrous effects on the army, which has been acknowledged even by his praiser Michael Psellos.10 But besides the enffeeblement of military power, the collapse of Byzantine power in Syrian and Armenian territories was partly due to the ecclesiastical policy of Constantine X, who tried to impose the chalcedonian doctrine upon the populations of those areas, thus alienating them. Despite the serious problems that the Emperor proved unable to cope with, Michael Psellos draws the attention to the positive aspects of his rule. He accentuates his love for justice, his compassion and his active support to the scholars and the intellectual life of the capital, an attitude that comes in contrast with that of Constantine's predecessor. The picture drawn by Psellos is that of a reasonable, cultivated emperor who was anable to face the challenges of the era.11
After the death of Constantine Doukas, his wife, Eudokia Makrembolitissa assumed power and became the regent of her three sons, after giving an oath that she would not marry again, in order to secure Constantine’s sons rights to the throne. This had been the expressed wish of Constantine X, who hoped to ensure this way the estabishment of his dynasty. However, the actual ruler of the State was the late emperor’s brother John Doukas, and Michael Psellos.However, the needs of the Empire for organized military leadership soon forced Eudocia to break her oath. With the approval of patriarch John Xiphilinos,and in spite of the objections of caesar John and Psellos, Eudocia married Romanos Diogenes,who then (beginning of 1068)was acclaimed emperor(Romanos IV).
1. D. Polemis, The Doukai. A Contribution to Byzantine Prosopography (London 1968), p. 8 and note 2.
2. Bekker, I. (ed.), Michaelis Attaliotae historia (Bonn 1853), p. 56.
3. P. Lemerle, Cinq études sur le XIe siècle buzantin (Paris 1977), pp. 294-5.
4. Bekker, I. (ed.), Michaelis Attaliotae historia (Bonn 1853), p. 76.
5. Cheynet, J.-Cl., Pouvoir et contestations à Byzance (963- 1210) (Paris 1990, 21996), p. 71. Regarding the older date in 1061, see Polemis, D., The Doukai: a Contribution to Byzantine Prosopography (London 1968), p. 31.
6. D. Polemis, “Notes on Eleventh-Century Chronology (1059-1081)”, Byzantinische Zeitschrift 58 (1965), pp. 61-62.
7. Polemis, D., The Doukai. A Contribution to Byzantine Prosopography (London 1968), p. 32. Despite the facts, Psellos, a supporter of the Doukid dynasty, praises Constantine for warding off this threat from the North.
8. Magdalino, P. «The medieval empire (780-1204)» in Mango, C. (ed.), The Oxford History of Byzantium (New York 2002), p. 183.
9. Magdalino, P. «The medieval empire (780-1204)» in Mango, C. (ed.), The Oxford History of Byzantium (New York 2002), p. 189. Cf. Λουγγής, Τ., Η βυζαντινή κυριαρχία στην Ιταλία. Από το θάνατο του Μ. Θεοδοσίου ως την άλωση του Μπάρι (395-1071 μ.Χ.) (Αθήνα 1989), p. 239.
10. Renauld, É. (επιμ.), Michel Psellos. Chronographie ou histoire d'un siècle de Byzance II (Paris 1928), p. 146.
11. Polemis, D., The Doukai. A Contribution to Byzantine Prosopography (London 1968), pp. 32-3. Cf. Renauld, É. (επιμ.), Michel Psellos. Chronographie ou histoire d'un siècle de Byzance II (Paris 1928), pp. 139, 146-147. Psellos dedicated two orations to Constantine X, Kurtz, E. – Drexl, Fr. (ed.), Michel Psellos. Scripta Minora magnam partem adhuc inedita I (Milano 1936), pp. 33-41.