Emerged as sole ruler of the Byzantine world in 867 and established a dynasty that would last for nearly 200 years, Basil I died on this very day, in 886.
Constantine’s biography pictured Basil as a busy administrator and protector of the poor, who was also (despite his rough origins) a significant patron of the arts.
Basil I the Macedonian was born in either Thrace or Macedonia in 811. To our knowledge, he came to change his fortune in Constantinople and he did. His physical strength allowed him to enter the court. More specifically, his victory over several Bulgarian wrestlers supposedly helped him to have the attention of the emperor of the time, Michael III. He soon married Eudokia Ingerina, the emperor’s former mistress. It is also known that Basil I put the Caesar Bardas in the shade and took his place on the Emperor’s side. Basil soon became co-emperor with Michael in 866. However, the following year witnessed the unfortunate murder of the emperor. Thus, Basil I emerged as sole ruler of the Byzantine world in 867 and established a dynasty that would last for nearly 200 years.
The circumstances of Basil’s rise were, indeed, unexpected. The embarrassment of the unfortunate events was carried by the later members of the dynasty. Although his act of overthrowing the previous dynasty was illegal, his grandson Constantine VII tried to show that the result was inevitable due to the corrupted reign of Amorian dynasty. Constantine VII was, in fact, did not leave it to chance and he personally wrote (or had written by a close associate) a biography of Basil I, the Vita Vasilii.
Pierre Willemart’s numismatic collection at Pera Museum hosts a coin from the reign of Basil I. On the obverse of the gold solidus, the bearded Jesus Christ is depicted. He is in a seated position while holding the Holy Bible in his left hand.
On the reverse, two imperial figures hold a patriarchal cross between them with their right hands. The figure on the left is Basil I, while the figure on the right is Constantinus who is depicted in a rather small size with no beard.