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Staurakios:' A few more prayers and relics and I will soon be up and active again'.

Byzantine emperor Staurakios had one of the most pointless reigns of any monarch. He was ruler for about three months in 811 after receiving a blow to the head that had left him paralysed from the neck downwards. This injury had been administered to him when he followed his father emperor Nikephoros I up a valley in the Balkans with their army to fight the Bulgarians. At the final whistle it was Bulgaria 5, Byzantine Empire -20,000. Captain Nikephorus was killed, his head cut off and turned into a drinking bowl by Khan Krum.


Staurakios could have lived a life of bureaucratic nonentity but his career was changed when his father Nikephoros deposed empress Irene in 802 and succeeded to the throne. At some stage, Nikephorus (who was no warrior) made his son a co-ruler. This had become pretty standard practice, make your son your work partner but it rarely worked out in practice. Staurakios was to show this was very true.

Since he was barely old enough to shave, Staurakios was kept in the background at first until his fathed decided the boy required a wife. That Nikephorus couldn't remember the name of his own wife (her name is a mystery), eventually chose to unite his family with that of ex-empress Irene (now dead). A woman called Theophano was chosen after she claimed to be a long lost cousin of Irene. Anyway, something like that happened. Staurakios had a wife, probably a lot older than him and definitely not a virgin as Theophano had already run through a string of other lovers. It would do.


A purposeful Prokopia makes her imperial move.

Nothing much happened with Staurakios after his marriage. There are no reports of any children from his marriage to Theophano. As co-emperor with his father he got to sit on the main throne now and again when his father was away but that was it until 811.

Staurakios tried to help his father as Krum's boys moved into the kill. It was then he was crippled by a blow from a a wild eyed Bulgar with bulging eyes. He was dragged away and, propped up in a chair, called for a general retreat. Those Byzantines who managed to escape thanked Staurakios and shouted his name as the 'new emperor'. He was taken back to Constantinople where his physicians said the wounds would heal if given time and some heavy praying. On his purple bed Staurakios was covered in crosses and surrounded by icons. The room was filled with incense and a few lighted spliffs as teams of monks and nuns worked on rota to envoke intercession from God. However, Staurakios just got worse. His injuries had been life changing and in Staurakios case, quite obviously terminal.

Whilst the emperor lay immobile in bed, the Byzantine Empire's many enemies saw opportunities to attack. The Bulgars were still on their Balkans rampage. The Abbasid caliphate made plans to invade again whilst in the West, emperor Charlemagne nagged away to be treated as an imperial equal by Staurakios. These attempts had been answered by letters from the Byzantines describing Charlemagne as an 'insolent, ignorant Frank not fit to be called a Caesar'.

This state of affairs could not carry on. Since Staurakios had no physical heirs, the choice of ruler lay between his sister Prokopia and her weak beer husband Michael Rhangabe or Theophano. Since Staurakios couldn't abide his brother-in-law, he chose Theophano as his successor. When Prokopia learnt about this, she tipped her brother out of his bed and threatened to kill him. Staurakios changed his mind and Michael became emperor.


Staurakios was carted off to a monastery where he lingered on till the early 812. Officially the death was said to be from his injuries. However Staurakios's wife Theophano was sure his death was speeded up with a mystery bottle of liquid sent to him by her sister-in-law Prokopia. It had been marked DRINK ME BROTHER.

Shortly after making her accusations, Theophano was exiled from the imperial court. She was allowed to found her own religious establishment, chosing a place near to where her husband had died. It was later turned into a shrine to both their memories and when Theophano eventually died (or got poisoned herself), she was buried with her late husband. The local clergy hoped their tomb would gain a reputation for miracle cures or prayers answered. It turned out to be a dud. Just like Staurakios himself.

Preceded by:
Nikephoros I
Byzantine Emperor
Succeeded by:
Michael I