Romanos III Argyros

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Romanos III Argyros
Emperor of the Byzantine Empire
Miliaresion-Romanus III-sb1822.jpg
Silver miliaresion of Romanos III
Reign 15 November 1028 – 11 April 1034
Predecessor Constantine VIII
Successor Michael IV
Born 968 (0968)
Died 11 April 1034 (1034-04-12) (aged 66–67)
Spouse Zoe Porphyrogenita
Dynasty Argyros

Romanos III Argyros, or Romanus III Argyrus (Greek: Ρωμανός Γ΄ Αργυρός, Rōmanos III Argyros; 968 – 11 April 1034), was Byzantine emperor from 15 November 1028 until his death.


Family and early career

Romanos Argyros was the son of an unnamed member of the Argyros family, who may be identifiable with the Pothos Argyros who defeated a Magyar raid in 958 (identified by some scholars with an older namesake) or with Eustathios Argyros, known only for commissioning a poem in honour of Romanos II in 950.[1] Romanos' father was the son of another Romanos Argyros, who had married Agatha, a daughter of Romanos I Lekapenos (r. 919–944).[2]

Romanos had several siblings: Basil Argyros, who served as general and governor under Basil II (r. 976–1025);[3] Leo, who served under Basil and was killed in Italy in 1017;[4] Pulcheria Argyropoulina, who married the magistros Basil Skleros;[5] an anonymous sister who married Constantine Karantenos, who served as doux of Antioch under Romanos;[4] and Maria Argyropoulina, who married Giovanni Orseolo, son of Doge Pietro II Orseolo.[4]

Romanos was born in 968.[5] Romanos served as krites (judge) in Opsikion, with the rank of protospatharios. In this capacity he persecuted heretics at Akmoneia.[6] He was then promoted to the post of quaestor, and became one of the judges of the Hippodrome. In this role he is mentioned in the Peira, a compendium of legal decisions compiled by the notable jurist Eustathios Rhomaios.[7] He was promoted further to the rank of patrikios and the post of oikonomos (steward) of the Great Church, while continuing to preside over a tribunal.[8] At the time of the death of Basil II's successor, Emperor Constantine VIII, in 1028, he held the post of urban prefect of Constantinople.[8]


Romanos attracted the attention of Constantine VIII, who forced him to divorce his wife (sending her into a monastery) and to marry the emperor's daughter Zoe Porphyrogenita. The marriage took place on 12 November 1028, and three days later Constantine VIII died, leaving Romanos III as emperor.

The new emperor showed great eagerness to make his mark as a ruler, but was mostly unfortunate in his enterprises. He spent large sums upon new buildings and in endowing the monks. His endeavour to relieve the pressure of taxation disorganized the finances of the state. Idealizing Marcus Aurelius, Romanos aspired to be a new "philosopher king", and similarly desired to imitate the military prowess of Trajan.

In 1030 he resolved to retaliate upon the incursions of the Muslims on the eastern frontier by leading a large army in person against the Mirdasids of Aleppo, but by allowing himself to be surprised on the march he sustained a serious defeat at Azaz, near Antioch. Though this disaster was reduced by the capture and successful defence of Edessa by George Maniakes in 1032, and by the sound defeat of a Saracen fleet in the Adriatic, Romanos never recovered his early popularity.

The murder of Romanos III Argyros in a bath, from the Chronicle of John Skylitzes.

As a member of the aristocracy, Romanos III abandoned his predecessors' curtailment of the privileges of the nobility and reduced their taxes, at the same time allowing peasant freeholders to fall into a condition of serfdom. In a vain attempt to reduce expenditure, Romanos limited his wife's expenses, which merely exacerbated the alienation between the two.

At home Romanos III faced several conspiracies, mostly centered around his sister-in-law Theodora, as in 1029 and 1030. Although he survived these attempts on the throne, his early death in 1034 was supposed to have been due to poison administered by his wife, though there is also speculation that he was drowned in a bath on his wife's orders. He was buried in the Church of St. Mary Peribleptos, which he built.


By his first wife Helena, Romanos III Argyros had a daughter, who was engaged to Henry III, Holy Roman Emperor. He had no children by his second wife Zoe.



  • Michael Psellus, Chronographia.
  • Cheynet, J.-C.; Vannier, J.-F. (2003). "Les Argyroi" (PDF). Zbornik Radova Vizantološkog Instituta (in French). 40: 57–90. ISSN 0584-9888.CS1 maint: ref=harv (link) CS1 maint: unrecognized language (link)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • The Oxford Dictionary of Byzantium, Oxford University Press, 1991.
  • Public Domain This article incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainChisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). Encyclopædia Britannica (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. Missing or empty |title= (help)CS1 maint: ref=harv (link)<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Lauritzen, F. (2009). "The Miliaresion Poet: the dactylic inscription on a silver coin of Romanos III Argyros". Byzantion. 79: 231–240. ISSN 0378-2506.<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>

External links

Romanos III Argyros
Born: 968 Died: 11 April 1034
Regnal titles
Preceded by
Constantine VIII
Byzantine Emperor
15 November 1028 – 11 April 1034
(with Zoe)
Succeeded by
Michael IV and Zoe