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Emperor of the Byzantine Empire
Solidus-Nicephorus I and Staraucius-sb1604.jpg
Staurakios (right) on a coin issued by his father Nikephoros I (left)
Reign July 26, 811 – October 2, 811.
Predecessor Nikephoros I
Successor Michael I
Died January 11, 812
Consort Theophano
Father Nikephoros I
Nikephorian dynasty
Nikephoros I 802–811
with Staurakios as co-emperor, 803–811
Staurakios 811
Michael I 811–813
with Theophylact as co-emperor, 811–813
Preceded by
Isaurian dynasty
Followed by
Leo V and the Amorian dynasty

Staurakios or Stauracius (Greek: Σταυράκιος; died January 11, 812) was Byzantine Emperor from July 26 to October 2, 811 in succession to his father, Nikephoros I, who had fallen at the Battle of Pliska. His rule was cut short by a severe wound suffered in the same battle, and he was forced into retirement in a monastery by his brother-in-law, Michael I Rangabe, where he died soon after.


The son of Emperor Nikephoros I, Staurakios had been crowned as co-emperor by his father in December 803.[1] The chronicler Theophanes the Confessor, on top of stating that he was completely unfit to become co-emperor[2] also claimed that Staurakios was guilty of rape,[1] a claim perhaps colored by his hostility to Nikephoros I.[3] On 20 December 807, the Athenian Theophano, a relative of the deposed Empress Irene,[4] was selected by Nikephoros as Staurakios' wife from a company of young ladies, assembled from around the Empire in a bride show. The two were married that same day.[5] During his father’s reign, he had been given command of the elite tagma of the Hikanatoi.[6]

Staurakios participated in his father's expedition against Krum of Bulgaria in 811,[7] and barely escaped with his life from the disastrous Battle of Pliska, in which his father was killed.[8] However, Staurakios was paralyzed by a sword wound near his neck,[9] and was saved by the Imperial guard which retreated from the battlefield towards the safety of Adrianople.[10] Fleeing with him were his brother-in-law, the curopalates Michael Rangabe, the Domestic of the Schools Stephen, and the magistros Theoktistos.[11] Gathered around Staurakios’s bedside, they debated the succession. Because of his uncertain condition, he was hastily proclaimed Emperor by Stephen, who had the backing of the army.[12] This was the first time an Emperor of the Eastern Empire had been crowned outside Constantinople.

At the same time however, Theoktistos had been pressing Michael Rangabe to claim the Imperial throne for himself – given Staurakios’ injuries, and his being the son-in-law of the slain Nikephoros, Theoktistos believed he was best placed to deal with the imminent Bulgar threat. Michael however continued to support his brother-in-law.[13] Meanwhile, to secure his accession to the throne, Staurakios presented himself feebly before the remains of the Byzantine army at Adrianople and sought to reassure them by indulging in some criticism of his now dead father, which met with their approval.[11] Staurakios was soon taken by litter from Adrianople to Constantinople.

Due to his debilitating wound, paralysis of the legs and constant pain, it was quickly evident that Staurakios would be unable to exercise actual authority.[14] As his condition worsened, the court was split between the factions of his wife Theophano and his sister Prokopia, who hoped that her husband, Michael Rangabe, would be chosen as the Emperor's heir.[15] As he had no children of his own to succeed him, it soon became evident that Staurakios intended to designate Theophano as his successor.[16] Under his wife’s influence, he began to freeze out both the Domestic Stephen and the magistros Theoktistos,[13] and to ensure the transfer of power, he attempted to have Michael blinded on 1 October 811. This act was frustrated by the actions of Stephen.[17] There was also a popular rumor that Staurakios planned to abolish the Empire and re-establish a republic.[18] The supporters of Michael, which now included both Stephen and Theoktistos, as well as the Patriarch Nikephoros I, who was alarmed at Staurakios’ plans to pass the throne to Theophano,[19] forced the Emperor to abdicate on 2 October.[20] Hearing of the accession of his brother-in-law, Staurakios took Holy Orders. Before being escorted from the palace, he was visited by his sister Prokopia, brother-in-law Michael, and the Patriarch, all of whom justified their actions by the fact of his severe injuries, while Staurakios reproached them bitterly, in particular the Patriarch.[21]

Staurakios retired to a monastery[22] where he died from the effects of his wound on January 11, 812.[23] Michael Rangabe became Emperor as Michael I.[24]


Primary Sources

Theophanes, Chronographia.

Secondary Sources

  • Warren Treadgold, A History of the Byzantine State and Society (Stanford University Press, 1997) ISBN 0-8047-2630-2
  • Whittow, Mark, The Making of Byzantium, 600-1025 (University of California Press, 1996) ISBN 0-520-20497-2
  • Kazhdan, Alexander, ed. (1991), Oxford Dictionary of Byzantium, Oxford University Press, ISBN 978-0-19-504652-6<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Norwich, John Julius (1993), Byzantium: The Apogee, Penguin, ISBN 0-14-011448-3<templatestyles src="Module:Citation/CS1/styles.css"></templatestyles>
  • Vasiliev, A. A., History of the Byzantine Empire, 1952
  • Bury, J. B., A History of the Eastern Roman Empire, from the Fall of Irene to the Accession of Basil I, 1912
  • George Finlay, History of the Byzantine Empire from 716 – 1057, William Blackwood & Sons, 1853
  • 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>


  1. 1.0 1.1 Kazhdan, pg. 1945
  2. Chronographia, 480:14-15
  3. Whittow, pg. 12
  4. Kazhdan, pg. 1946
  5. Bury, pg. 15
  6. Whittow, pg. 169
  7. Norwich, pg. 8
  8. Treadgold, pg. 428-9; Vasiliev, pg. 271
  9. Treadgold, pg. 429
  10. Kazhdan, pg. 1946; Finlay, pg. 127
  11. 11.0 11.1 Bury, pg. 16
  12. Kazhdan, pg. 1946; Treadgold, pg. 429; Finlay, pg. 127
  13. 13.0 13.1 Bury, pg. 17
  14. Treadgold, pg. 429; Norwich, pg. 9
  15. Treadgold, pg. 429; Bury, pg. 17
  16. Kazhdan, pg. 1946; Norwich, pg. 9
  17. Treadgold, pg. 429; Kazhdan, pg. 1946; Bury, pg. 19
  18. Bury, pg. 18
  19. Bury, pg. 19
  20. Norwich, pg. 10
  21. Bury, pg. 20
  22. Treadgold, pg. 429; Finlay, pg. 128
  23. Dumbarton Oaks, Catalogue of the Byzantine Coins in the Dumbarton Oaks Collection and in the Whittemore Collection: Leo III to Nicephorus III, 717-1081 (1973), pg. 362
  24. Kazhdan, pg. 1362; Whittow, pg. 150

External links

Born: unknown Died: 11 January 812
Regnal titles
Preceded by
Nikephoros I
Byzantine Emperor
Succeeded by
Michael I