A history of the First Bulgarian Empire

Steven Runciman




Appendix X

Symeon’s imperial marriage scheme



In the couse of Symeon’s second war with the Empire we hear of a marriage scheme of his to unite his family with the Imperial family. The only two references to it are very vague, but they show that it was





obviously a matter of great importance. Eutychius of Alexandria, writing, a few years later, a short garbled account of Constantine VII’s minority, traced Symeon’s declaration of war to the refusal by the Emperor, for whom his mother Zoe governed, to permit his sister to marry the Bulgar monarch’s son, as Symeon desired. [1] In the winter of 920–1, when Romanus was firmly on the throne, Nicholas wrote to Symeon reminding him that he had sought previously for a marriage-alliance with the Emperor, but the Imperial Government of the time had refused it. Now, he said, it was possible; Romanus was willing to marry either an Imperial prince to a Bulgarian princess or vice versa. Nicholas laid great emphasis on the fact that Symeon could now achieve his desire. But Symeon apparently ignored the proposal. His reply was to demand Romanus’s deposition. [2]


Eutychius was almost certainly misinformed as to the persons whom it was proposed to marry. Constantine’s only sister to survive childhood was his half-sister, the Augusta Anna, born well before A.D. 892, whom Leo had crowned as a stop-gap Empress after her mother’s death, and whom he had proposed in 898 to marry to Louis of Provence. This marriage did not take place, but we hear no more of Anna; and this silence, considering the importance at the time of every existing member of the Imperial family, justifies us in regarding her to have died soon afterwards. It is scarcely possible that this princess was the object of Symeon’s eager matrimonial suggestions. But apart, possibly, from her, there was only one unmarried member of the Imperial family living in 913–9; that was the Emperor himself.


Symeon’s aim must therefore have been to marry the young Emperor to one of his daughters. This is far more convincing; as father-in-law to the Emperor, he would be in a position from which he might well reach the Imperial



1. Eutychius of Alexandria, Greek translation, p. 1151.


2. Nicholas Mysticus, ep. xvi, p. 112.





throne—just as Romanus, in fact, managed to do. And this would explain why he disdained Nicholas’s proposals in 920–1. It was too late then; Constantine was already married—to Helena Lecapena, and her father was Emperor. Symeon could only demand angrily that Romanus should abdicate.


The question arises as to when Symeon put forward the proposal. The obvious occasion was his interview with Nicholas in August 914; and probably his proposal was favourably received and the marriage vaguely promised. Nicholas in his desire for peace would welcome rather than reject it. But Zoe, the Emperor’s mother, would clearly hold other views. Her accession to power was therefore an excuse for Symeon to return to arms. This would explain Nicholas’s silence on the subject till it was a thing of the past; considering his own promise, and the refusal of the Government that he was serving to countenance it, it would have embarrassed him to refer to it. That, I think, is the meaning of these dark references to a marriage. Symeon planned to mount the Imperial throne by first marrying his daughter to its occupant; and Nicholas half promised to enable him to do so. It was only Zoe’s mother-love and the fact that the same idea had occurred to the Grand Admiral that saved the Emperor and the Empire.


[Previous] [Next]

[Back to Index]