This is one of several translated excerpts from Byzantine sources produced and mounted with historical introduction and commentary by Paul Stephenson.


 

THEOPHANES CONTINUATUS
The marriage between Tsar Peter of Bulgaria and Maria Lekapena, AD 927

 

Theophanes Continuatus, ed. Bekker, pp. 412-15

(Cf. Symeon Logothete [Georgius Monachus Continuatus], ed. Bekker, pp. 904-7)

 

Reign of Romanos

 

22. [p. 412] Learning of Symeon's death, the surrounding foreign peoples ( ethnê ), the Croats and Magyars, determined to march against the Bulgarians. The Bulgarian people was gravely oppressed by a great famine and locusts, they feared the invasion of the other peoples, but all the more they feared the arrival of the Romans. So having held a council they march out against the Romans and arrive in Macedonia engendering fear, so it seemed, in the Romans. Then learning that the emperor Romanos was to march out to meet them, Peter and George [Soursoboulês, regent for the young Peter] secretly send a certain monk named Kalokyris, of Armenian stock, bearing a gold-sealed missive ( chrysoboullion ). Its content related in detail that they welcomed peace with Romanos and were eager to ratify this; but not only that, but also if they [the Romans] wanted, to arrange a marriage covenant. The emperor received this monk with great delight, and forthwith sent [p. 413] the monk Theodore Aboukês and the imperial priest Constantine Rodios by warship to Mesembria – this was formerly called Menebria, from Menos the Thracian who settled it, and Bria, the name of the city of some of the Thracians; it was named Mesembria to sound better – to make the arrangements for peace with the Bulgarians. They arrived and having discussed what was reasonable, set off by dry land with Stefan the Bulgarian. Behind them came George Soursoboulês and Symeon Kalouterkanos, Ousampsos, and Symeon the brother of the wife of the [late] ruler ( archêgos ) of Bulgaria. And besides these his next-of-kin Stefan, and also Magotinos, Kronos and Mênikos were included [in the delegation] to the Lord Romanos. Seeing the daughter of the [junior] emperor Christopher [Lekapenos, son of Romanos], and greatly pleased by her, they wrote to Peter to come quickly, having previously made agreements about the forthcoming peace. Nikêtas, the magistros and brother-in-law of the emperor Romanos was sent to meet Peter and escort him as far as the City. When Peter of Bulgaria arrived, the emperor Romanos boarded a launch and went to Blachernae, and welcomed Peter when he saw him approaching. When they had exchanged appropriate words, they signed the peace treaty and the marriage contract, the prôtovestiarios Theophanês acting as intermediary in these matters and discreetly settling affairs between the Romans and Bulgarians.

 Map of Constantinople

[p. 414] On 8th October the patriarch Stephanos went out, together with the prôtovestiarios Theophanês and Maria, the daughter of the emperor Christopher, and the whole senate, to the church of the all holy Mother of God at Pêgê, and he [Patriarch Stephen] blessed Peter and Maria and placed the wedding crowns on their heads, with Theophanês prôtovestiarios and George Soursoboulês [the Bulgarian] attending upon them. 1 An excellent and bountiful banquet was prepared, and all other wedding customs observed joyously, then the prôtovestiarios Theophanês accompanied Maria, the emperor's daughter, into the city. On the third day of the wedding, the emperor Romanos held a sumptuous feast at Pêgai on the landing-stage, 2 which was decked out in woven silks, and on which landing-stage the imperial launch was moored. Within this stood Romanos,   together with Peter of Bulgaria, his [Romanos'] son-in-paw Constantine, and his [Romanos'] son Christopher. When the Bulgarians raised no small objection ( enstasis ), that Christopher be acclaimed first, before Constantine, the emperor Romanos acceded to their objection, and their request came about. 3 When all matters relating to the wedding were completed, and Maria was already on the point of departing for Bulgaria with her husband Peter, her parents and the prôtovestiarios Theophanês accompanied her as far as the Hebdomon. 4 When they were about to depart, they embraced their daughter and wept bitter tears [p. 415], which were fitting at the loss of their great sweetheart, entrusted her to the hands of their son-in-law, and returned to the palace. Thus entrusted to Bulgarian hands, Maria departed for Bulgaria, rejoicing and aggrieved: aggrieved that she had left her beloved parents, the imperial palace, and the company of her kinsfolk; but rejoicing at being united to an emperor for a husband, and having been proclaimed mistress of the Bulgarians ( despoina Boulgarôn ). She departed conveying with her abundant wealth and innumerable pieces of baggage.


 

Basic Bibliography

 

Shepard, J., “A marriage too far? Maria Lekapena and Peter of Bulgaria,” in: A. Davids, ed., The Empress Theophano. Byzantium and the West at the turn of the first millennium (Cambridge, 1995), pp. 121-49

Dujchev, I., “On the treaty of 927 with the Bulgarians,” Dumbarton Oaks Papers 32 (1978), 217-95, which oration fails to mention the marriage at all in praising Romanos for the peace. Cf. Theodore Daphnopates .


 

Notes

 

1 That is to say playing the roles, in modern western parlance, of  “best man” and “bridesmaid.” In fact both were “groomsmen.” The great prominence of prôtovestiarios Theophanês may suggest that he was the author of an account of the proceedings, which was incorporated into the panegyrical account of Romanos' reign upon which this section of Theophanes Continuatus draws. One might even wonder, extremely tentatively, whether he was the author of the “biography.”

2 Which should not be confused with the church at Pêgê, where the first stage of the wedding took place. The former lay to the south of the city, beyond the walls, the latter on the Golden Horn to the north of the city. However, the subsequent reference to the departure from the Hebdomon may suggest that the event did, in fact, also take place at Pêgê, and the text should be emended. The symbolism of the latter is obvious, given that Tsar Symeon is said to have burnt it just three years earlier ( Theophanes Continuatus , ed. Bekker, p. 406). See Shepard 1995, p. 129.

3 The order of acclamations is of the greatest significance, and the fact that this shift in the hierarchy of emperors is attributed to the (alleged) objection of the Bulgarians should not blind us to its domestic importance. In effect, Constantine the porphyrogennêtos , the purple-born heir to the throne, which throne Romanos had usurped, was subordinated to Romanos' own son and heir. See Shepard 1995, pp. 132-4, 140.

4 So, to the palace which stood two Roman miles beyond Constantinople's land walls, along the coast.

 


Paul Stephenson, 3 January 2004; January 2012