Michael Vii. or Michael Ducas Parapina'ces
Μιχαὴν ὁ Δοῦκας
, (ὁ Παραπινάκης
), emperor of Constantinople from A. D. 1071 to 1071, was the son of the emperor Constantine XI., Ducas, who created died in 1059, shortly after appointing his three sons, Michael, Andronicus, and Constantine, to succeed him in joint possession of the crown. On account of their tender age, their mother, Eudoxia, reigned for them; and having married Romanus Diogenes, this distinguished general enjoyed the imperial title and power till he was made a prisoner by Alp Arslan, the sultan of the Seljuks, in August, 1071. When hiscaptivitybecame known at Constantinople, Joannes Caesar caused his nephew, Michael, to be proclaimed emperor, with a view of reigning under his name. Soon afterwards Romanus returned from his captivity, but he came too late to retrieve his fate: he was seized and blinded, and died from the operation in October, 1071. Eudoxia was confined in a prison; and these atrocities were committed without Michael taking the least step to prevent them.
John, archbishop of Sida, in Pamphylia, John the Caesar, Nicephorizus, and other ministers, now governed the empire for Michael. Enraged that the ransom for which he had restored the late Romanus to liberty was not paid by Michael, sultan Alp Arslan invaded the empire in 1072. Isaac and Alexis Comnenus commanded the Greek army against him. Owing to the want of discipline of his troops, Isaac lost a battle and his liberty, but was soon ransomed by Alexis.
The two brothers prepared for taking revenge, when affairs received a different turn, through the daring ambition of one Ursel, a kinsman of the kings of Scotland, and the commander of a body of European auxiliaries in the Greek service. Having made himself master of most of the strongholds and mountain passes in the anti-Taurus and portions of Armenia and Lazica, he ceased at once to fight against the Turks and to help the Greeks, intending to make himself independent in those parts. For this purpose he intrigued with John the Caesar, who joined him, and was proclaimed emperor of the Greeks by the Frankish auxiliaries. Both the Greeks and Turks looked at these proceedings with wonder, when the latter, impatient to come to blows, fell upon John and Ursel, defeated them, and made them both prisoners. Ursel soon redeemed himself, and retired into Pontus, whither he was followed by Nicephorus Palaeologus, who gained a decisive battle over him. On his flight, Ursel was again taken by the Turks. Alexis Comnenus, wishing to obtain possession of this dangerous adventurer, offered a large bribe to the Turks for his person; and having attained his ends, sent him to Constantinople (1073), where he was kept in prison.
In 1074 the Bulgarians, exasperated by the insatiable avarice of the minister Nicephorizus, attempted to throw off the Greek yoke, and offered the crown to Bodinus, the grandson of Michael, king of Servia, who accepted it, and came to their assistance with a body of his countrymen. Bulgaria was then governed by Nicephorus Carentenus, a very competent man, who had taken proper measures for quelling the revolt, when he was prevented from carrying them out by the arrival of Damianus Dalassenus, who was sent to supersede him as governor. Dalassenus owed his promotion to some court intrigue. and six weeks after his appointment had the satisfaction of seeing himself a prisoner of the Bulgarians. and his army flying through the country. Bryennius, who had been Caesar after the captivity of John, retrieved the fortune of the Greeks. Bodinus lost several battles, and fell into the hands of Bryennius, who, on the order of Michael, sent him as a state prisoner to some fortress in Syria, whence, however, the young prince escaped and returned to Servia, over which he became king after the death of his father. Bryennius likewise compelled the Servians to sue for peace; purged the Adriatic and the Ionian sea of the Norman pirates; and quelled a dangerous mutiny of some of his barbarian auxiliaries, who were headed by Nestor, the commander-in-chief of the army of observation on the Danube. His success deserved reward, but earning disgrace instead, he listened to the persuasive wishes of his numerous friends, raised the standard of rebellion, and was proclaimed emperor under the walls of Adrianople.
He despatched his brother John to lay siege to Constantinople, while he continued to consolidate his authority in Thrace and Macedonia.
The capital was gallantly defended by Constantine Ducas, Alexis Comnenus, and Ursel, who was restored to liberty on condition of employing his great military talents for the defence of the emperor. Meanwhile, another rebellion broke out in the East. Only ten days after Bryennius had assumed the imperial title his example was followed by Nicephorus Botaniates in Asia Minor, who advanced with an army mostly composed of Turks, and soon penetrated as far as Nicaea.
At that time Constantinople had ceased to be besieged by John Bryennius, whose men were too licentious to hold out long against well-disciplined troops, commanded by the best generals of Greece, and he consequently withdrew to the head-quarters of his brother.
The conduct of the emperor during this crisis was so contemptible that the approach of Botaniates created joy among the people, and caused great satisfaction to a crowd of disaffected generals and ambitious priests: they sent a deputatiom to him, inviting him formally to occupy the imperial throne; and he of course complied with their wishes. Michael, forsaken by all his adherents except Alexis and Isaac Comnenus, who stood with him to the last moment, abandoned all hopes of resisting so formidable an enemy, and without regret resigned the crown to Botaniates, on the 25th of March, 1078.
The ensuing struggle between Botaniates and Bryennius belongs to the history of the former. Michael was allowed to retire into a convent, and Botaniates had so little fear of his harmless character that he made him Archbishop of Ephesus, a post for which the ex-emperor was decidedly more fit than for the throne of Constantinople.
As weak-minded as his father, Michael had the misfortune to be put under the tutorship of the wellknown Michael Psellus, a learned pedant, who, instead of making the young prince fit to rule over man, by teaching him law and history, and enlarging his mind, which was already narrow enough, instructed him chiefly in grammar and rhetoric, thus creating in the young man an artificial taste for such studies, which never left him in after life, and made his mind quite unfit for the severe Ibusiness of government and legislation. While Michael was a boy Psellus was proud of him, because his pupil was more learned than other boys of his age, but when he became a man and a king, Psellus felt ashamed of him and himself, and to this feeling we must needs ascribe the circumstance that he did not extend his history to the reign of Michael, but left off with his accession (Zonar. vol. ii. p. 286, &c.; Bryen. lib. ii. iii. &c.; Scylitz. p. 850, &c.; Glyc. p. 329, &c.; Manass. p. 134, 135; Joel, p. 185.)