Michael I. or Michael Rhanga'be
or RHAGA'BE (Μιχαὴλ ὁ Ῥανγάβη
, or Π̓αγαβή
), emperor of Constantinople from A. D. 811 to 813, was the son of Theophylactus, one of the high functionaries who, together with Stauracius, conspired against the emperor Constantine VI., and the grandson of one Rhangabe, from whom he derived his surname. Michael was at once honest, handsome, and gifted with many talents, but he was of a weak character, and his amiability could not always efface the unfavourable impression which his want of energy made upon persons of stouter hearts than his.
He stood in great favour with the emperor Nicephorus I. (802-811), who, by creating him master of the palace, raised him to the highest rank in the empire after the emperor and his family, and finally gave him his daughter Procopia in marriage. Stauracius, however, the son and successor of Nicephorus, was far from sharing the sentiments of his father towards the master of the palace, and feeling himself dying from the effects of a wound, received some months previously on the battle-field where his father was slain by the Bulgarians, he gave orders to blind Michael, in order that his wife Theophano, to whom lie intended to bequeath the throne, might find no obstacles at her succession. One Stephanus was charged with executing the emperor's order.
He wisely refrained from doing so, and informed Michael of it. They immediately assembled the chief officers of the state, and being all willing to support Michael, they proclaimed him emperor while Stauracius was still alive (2nd of October, 811).
The dying emperor implored and obtained mercy from his brother-in-law, and went to expire in a convent.
The accession of Michael caused great joy among the people, though little in the army: the soldiers, however, were soon satisfied by the liberal use which the new emperor made of the rich treasures hoarded up by the late Nicephorus. Michael, a peaceful man, began his reign by restoring peace to the disturbed church, and recalling from exile Leo Armenus, a celebrated general, who now enjoyed the emperor's full confidence, for which he afterwards rewarded him by hurling his benefactor from his throne.
In the spring of 812, Crum, the king of the Bulgarians, again invaded the territories of the empire. Michael set out at the head of his army to meet him, but committed the imprudence of allowing the empress Procopia to accompany him.
A general discontent and symptoms of sedition among the troops were the consequences of his thoughtlessness; a woman with more than seeming authority in the camp being then an unheard of thing. Distrusting the army, the emperor hastened back to the capital, followed by a host of reckless barbarians who laid the country waste with fire and sword.
At their approach, multitudes of people, mostly iconoclasts, fled before them; and a sedition in consequence broke out among the numerous iconoclasts in Constantinople, which was quelled, not without difficulty, by Leo Armenus: their leader Nicolaus was confined in a convent; and they were finally all driven out of the city and dispersed in the provinces, by order of the emperor. About the same time great numbers of Christians of all sects took refuge within the empire, flying from the dominions of the khalifs, which were then filled with commotion and civil wars. Crum, meanwhile, pursued his victorious course, and laid siege to Mesembria, whereupon he made offers of peace, which, on account of their moderation, the emperor was inclined to accept, but his councillors were for further resistance. Mesembria was now taken by assault, and the danger from the Bulgarians grew daily more alarming. In February 813, Michael once more set out to meet them, again accompanied by his wife Procopia. Her presence in the camp had the same consequences as before. Leo Armenus secretly fomented the discontent of the troops, and carried on those intrigues which led to the loss of the battle of Adrianople (22d of June, 813), the flight of Michael to Constantinople, and his deposition by the successful rebel, as is related in the life of LEO V.
The deposed Michael retired into a convent, where he led an obscure, but quiet and happy life, during more than thirty years. Leo succeeded him on the throne. (Cedren. p. 48, &c. Zonar. vol. ii. p. 125, &c.; Const. Manass. p. 94; Theoph. Contin. p. 8; Author. incert. post Theoph, p. 428, &c.; Glycas, p. 286; Joel, p. 178; Genesius, p. 2, &c.; Leo Gram. p. 445, &c.: Symeon Metaphrastes, p. 402.)