Emperor of Constantinople, son of the Emperor Nicephorus I. [NICEPHORUS I.], first the colleague of his father, and after his death for a short time sole emperor.
He was solemnly crowned as emperor in the month of December A. D. 803 in the second year of his father's reign in the ambo or pulpit of the great Church (St. Sophia) at Constantinople, by the hand of the patriarch Tarasius : being altogether unfitted, according to Theophanes, either in personal appearance, bodily strength, or judgment, for such a dignity. Possibly this unfitness arose from his youth, for it was not until Dec. 807, four years after his coronation, that Stauracius was married. His bride was Theophano, an Athenian lady, kinswoman of the late Empress Irene [IRENE], who was selected by Nicephorus for his son after a careful search among the unmarried ladies of the empire, notwithstanding she was already betrothed to a husband, with whom, though not fully married to him, her union had been consummated.
The choice of so contaminated a partner dishonoured the unhappy prince to whom she was given as a wife, and the unbridled lust of Nicephorus cast additional contempt on his son by the seduction about the time of the marriage of two young ladies more beautiful than Theophano, and who had been selected as competitors with her for the hand of the young emperor. In May A.D. 811 Stauracius left Constantinople with his father to take the field against the Bulgarians at the head of an army, the number of which struck terror into the heart of the Bulgarian king and induced him to sue for peace, which was refused.
The first encounters, which were favourable to the Greeks, appear to have been directed by Stauracius, for his father ascribed them to his skill and good fortune. The Bulgarians again sued for peace and again their suit was rejected.
In the following fatal battle, in which Nicephorus was killed and the Greek army almost annihilated, Stauracius received a wound in or near the spine, under the torture of which he escaped with difficulty to Adrianople. Here he was proclaimed autocrator,sole emperor, by the officers who surrounded him, and this announcement was received by those who had escaped with him from the slaughter with a delight which evidenced his personal popularity. Michael the Curopalata, who had married Procopia, daughter of Nicephorus, and who had also escaped from the slaughter, but unwounded, was solicited by some of his friends to assume the purple; but he declined, professedly out of regard to the oaths of fealty which he had taken to Nicephorus and Stauracius, perhaps from a conviction that the attempt would not succeed. Stauracius was conveyed in a litter to Constantinople, where he was exhorted by the patriarch Nicephorus [NICEPHORUS, Byzantine writers, No 9] to seek the Divine mercy and to make restitution to those whom his father had oppressed. "Being," says Theophanes " the genuine inheritor of his father's disposition," but perhaps influenced by the exhaustion of the imperial finances through an unfortunate war, he replied, that he could not spare for restitution more than three talents. " This," says the irate historian, " was but a small part of what he (Nicephorus) had wrongfully taken."
The painfulness of his wounds, the suggestions of Theophano, who hoped, like Irene. to grasp the sceptre, and probably the intrigues of the parties themselves, alienated Stauracius from his brother-in-law Michael and several of the great officers of the court, and he is said to have contemplated bequeathing the empire to his wife, or even restoring the ancient forms of the Roman Republic. His courtiers conspired against him, and Stauracius having proposed to put out the eves of Michael, matters were brought to a crisis; Michael was proclaimed emperor (Oct. 811), and Stauracius having put on the habit of a monk, was deposed, and died soon after his deposition, having reigned only two months and six days after his father's death. His widow Theophano embraced a monastic life, and employed the wealth which the humanity or policy of Michael [MICHAEL I. RHANGABE] allowed her, in converting her palace into a monastery called " Hebraica" (τὰ Ἑβραϊκὰ
) and by corruption Braca (τὰ Βραχᾶ
), and at a later period Stauraca (Σταυρακᾶ
), because in it the body of Stauracius, and afterwards that of Theophano, were buried.
According to some writers his body was deposited in (perhaps transferred to) the monastery of Satyrus.
The character of Stauracius is drawn in the most unfavourable colours by Theophanes, Zonaras, and others : but it was the misfortune of Nicephorus and his son to come between the two sovereigns, Irene and Michael Rhangabe, whose services to orthodoxy or profusion to the church made them great favourites with the ecclesiastical annalists of the Byzantine empire ; and their evanescent dynasty was founded by the deposition of one and overthrown to make way for the elevation of the other of these favourites of the church.
It is reasonable therefore to suppose that their characters have been unfairly represented; and, in the case of Stauracius especially, things harmless or unimportant have been described as evidences of the greatest depravity. (Theophanes, Chronog.
pp. 405-419, ed. Paris; pp. 322-332,ed. Venice; pp. 745-769, ed. Bonn; Leo Grammaticus, Chronog.
pp. 204-206, ed. Bonn; Cedrenus, Compend.
pp. 477-482, ed. Paris; vol. ii. pp. 33-43, ed. Bonn; Le Beau, Bas Empire,
liv. lxvii, ch. x. xxviii--xxxv.; Gibbon, Decline and Fall,