Staurakios or Stauracius (Greek: Σταυράκιος; After 778 – 11 January 812 AD) was Byzantine Emperor from 26 July to 2 October 811. He was born some time after 778 AD, to Nikephoros I and an unknown woman. Nikephoros seized the throne of the Byzantine Empire from Irene of Athens in 802, and elevated Staurakios to co-emperor in December 803. After Nikephoros fell in the Battle of Pliska on 26 July 811, Staurakios was declared emperor, despite his severe injuries. However, due to these injuries his reign was short, he was usurped by his brother-in-law, Michael I Rangabe, on 2 October 811, after which he was sent to live in a monastery, where he stayed until he died of gangrene on 11 January 812.
|Emperor of the Romans|
A coin minted for Staurakios
|Co-Emperor of the Byzantine Empire (With Nikephoros I)|
|Tenure||803 – 26 July 811|
|Emperor of the Byzantine Empire (Sole rule)|
|Tenure||26 July – 2 October 811|
|Predecessor||Nikephoros I and Staurakios|
After 778 AD
|Died||January 11, 812 AD|
|Burial||Monastery of Braka|
|Consort||Theophano of Athens|
|with Staurakios as co-emperor, 803–811|
|with Theophylact as co-emperor, 811–813|
Leo V and the Amorian dynasty
Staurakios was born sometime after 778 AD, to Nikephoros I and an unknown woman. Nikephoros had been a logothetēs tou genikou (finance minister) before he revolted against Byzantine Empress Irene, and seized the throne for himself. He was one of the few "strong emperors" who had not previously been a general, although it is considered likely that he had some military training, because he led armies into the field. Nikephoros consolidated power towards the throne, instituted caesaropapism, and strict fiscal laws. For these reasons, he was hated by many, especially the contemporary ecclesiastical historians, who are the main source of history for his reign, leading many historians to doubt their assertions of his malevolent character.
Staurakios was elevated to the status of co-emperor in December 803. Nikephoros put much effort into finding a suitable consort for Staurakios, and thus invited a large number of young noble women to the palace on 20 December 807. Theophano of Athens was selected, likely due to the fact that she was a kinsman of Irene, and therefore would help add legitimacy to both Nikephoros and Staurakios' rule. Nikephoros and Staurakios were generally successful in maintaining the borders of the Byzantine Empire, although they were not met with huge military success, occasionally being forced to make humiliating concessions to powerful enemies, such as the Abbasid Caliph Harun al-Rashid. In May 811, Nikephoros and Staurakios, alongside Michael Rhangabe, the Kouropalates and son-in-law of Nikephoros, led a campaign over the Haemus Mons into the Bulgarian Empire. The Byzantines were beaten decisively at the on 26 July 811, at the Battle of Pliska, where Nikephoros was slain, and much of his forces were destroyed.
The remaining Byzantine forces retreated to Adrianople, including a severely wounded Staurakios. Staurakios had serious spinal injuries, which along with Staurakios' lack of previous demonstrations of ability, led the three uninjured influential people who had travelled with Nikephoros and Staurakios, Magistros Theoktistos, Domestic of the Schools Stephanos, and Michael Rhangabe, to consider the issue of Nikephoros' successor. The severity of Staurakios' injury led to speculations as to whether he would live, although eventually they judged he would make the best candidate, as the legitimate successor, and declared him emperor. He was proclaimed emperor by the Byzantine Army at Adrianople sometime later, possibly 28 July. Almost immediately after Staurakios ascended the throne, Michael was pressured to usurp it, due to the legitimacy granted to him by his marriage to Staurakios' sister, Prokopia, and his military abilities. Theoktistos and others attempted to convince Michael to take the throne, although he repeatedly refused at this time.
Staurakios was brought by litter to Constantinople. At this point the issue of Staurakios' successor was raised. Prokopia and many others backed Michael, whereas Theophano backed herself, hoping to take the throne in the same way that her kinsman Irene had. The only proof of such intrigues given by contemporary historians is records that Staurakios became hostile to Theoktistos, and Michael, which would suggest he was aware of their plottings, and Prokopia, who he suspected of conspiring to kill him. As Staurakios became more and more aware that his days were numbered, he wavered between two possible options for succession. The first, to make Theophano empress, and the second, attested in a ninth-century chronicle, to institute a form of imperial democracy. The second option is considered to be the machinations of an addled brain, if it did in fact happen. After hearing the two options Staurakios was considering, the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople, Nikephoros I, aligned himself with Stephanos, Theoktistos, and Michael. On 1 September 811, Staurakios summoned Stephanos, whom he trusted wholly, likely due to the fact that Stephanos was the first to proclaim Staurakios emperor, to propose blinding Michael, who Staurakios was unaware had the support of Stephanos himself. Stephanos assured Staurakios of the strength of his position, and dissuaded him from having Michael blinded.
The next day, on 2 October, Michael was proclaimed emperor by the senators at the Hippodrome of Constantinople. Staurakios, upon hearing the news, hastened to abdicate, to avoid being executed to prevent the possibility of Staurakios returning to retake the throne. He was tonsured and dressed in monastic garb by a monk named Simeon, who was a kinsman of his. He died of gangrene on 11 January 812, and was buried in the Monastery of Braka, which was given to Theophano by Prokopia.
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