Out of all of the Byzantine dynasties, which one do you think was the best?

Mar 2016
1,207
Australia
#2
The Macedonian dynasty seems like the most reasonable choice. While there were undoubtedly some weak leaders, like with every dynasty, their negative effects weren't quite severe enough to entirely destroy the achievements that the stronger monarchs established. It was under the Macedonians that the empire reached its greatest extent in the medieval era, and was arguably at its peak in terms of power projection, military strength, and artistic and cultural developments.
 
Likes: Futurist
#3
I can't answer the question with much objectivity since I recently wrote a thesis discussing the Tetrarchy as a dynasty, but if we count the Tetrarchy (I note that some histories of Byzantium begin with the third century and Diocletian), I think their achievements were pretty important. After all, they stabilized an empire that was wracked with civil war, foreign incursions and economic woes. That being said, the Tetrarchic power arrangement did not make for a great long-term method of imperial leadership, as is evidenced by the regime's decline following Diocletian's abdication and collapse following the death of Galerius. So perhaps the credit for achievements in this period should better go to Diocletian than to the Tetrarchic dynasty. But we should also not lose sight of the fact that his colleagues Maximian, Constantius and Galerius all won great achievements themselves, most notably with Constantius defeating the Romano-British-Gallic regime of Carausius and Allectus, and Galerius winning the greatest victory over the Sassanian Persians of the third and fourth centuries. Then again, many other dynasties achieved great things as well, so I'm not personally going to state that one was the greatest.
 
Likes: Futurist

Maki

Ad Honorem
Jan 2017
3,098
Republika Srpska
#4
The Macedonian dynasty seems like the most reasonable choice. While there were undoubtedly some weak leaders, like with every dynasty, their negative effects weren't quite severe enough to entirely destroy the achievements that the stronger monarchs established. It was under the Macedonians that the empire reached its greatest extent in the medieval era, and was arguably at its peak in terms of power projection, military strength, and artistic and cultural developments.
I have to agree. The Komnenoi are pretty great as well, but Andronikos I kind of ruins their image.
 
Likes: Futurist
Jan 2016
1,137
Victoria, Canada
#5
It depends on what you mean by "best", really. The Komnenians were far and away the most politically, diplomatically, and militarily successful relative to their starting position, taking an extremely beleaguered, reduced, war-torn Empire and restoring it to something approaching and in some ways even surpassing its early medieval glory, the dynasty's three main members all significantly and consistently furthering this goal in their own ways. Alexios, John, and Manuel took Romania from this in 1089:



To this in 1180 (without showing Kerchite, Hungarian, and Crusader client states):



By the end of John II's reign, Rome had been pulled, in the space of half a century, from an ebb far lower than any seen since the days of Hannibal into a position of advantage surpassing that of the 8th, 9th, and even early-mid 10th centuries. Systematic Komnenian fortification in Western Anatolia, was, further, instrumental in allowing the region to serve as the base for the 13th century reconstitution of the Empire, and it was under their supervision (or immediately afterwards) that Thessalonica and Constantinople itself reached their post-Antique/pre-Modern demographic heights. That being said, they did rule in a fairly nepotistic fashion, turning the Komnenos-Doukas family into a far-reaching aristocracy of blood, and Andronikos I -- though not quite as bad an Emperor as often portrayed -- certainly led the dynasty offstage on a low note.

The (so-called) Macedonians, for their part, may not have embarked on such sweeping campaigns of reconquest nor been as consistently successful in their military/political ventures as the Komnenians, but they governed in a more efficient, sustainable fashion -- separating their family from politics, promoting the re-establishment of traditional Roman law and legal systems, raising new men into the military and bureaucracy, promoting the interests of the peasantry, keeping the aristocracy strictly in line, etc. -- lasted twice as long (with some interruptions), and brought the medieval Empire to the height of its prestige, influence, population, and territorial expansion (well, very nearly -- these, perhaps with the exception of prestige, were actually reached around 1037-49, under Michael IV and Constantine XI, although both were married to Zoe so they are connected).

The Empire upon Basil I's accession:



The Empire in 1025 (though note that some isolated Islamic fortresses still held out in Roman Armenia at this time):



I also think, finally, that the Heraclians deserve at least an honorary mention. Despite his failure to halt the initial expansion of the Arabs, Heraclius's defeat of the Persians was an incredible feat -- effectively leading to the complete collapse of the Sassanid state -- and the efforts of Constans II, Constantine IV, and to a fair extent even Justinian II in stabilizing the frontiers, reorganizing the provinces, reforming the military, and thwarting Arab designs on the Eastern Mediterranean islands, Anatolia, and Constantinople were absolutely crucial in allowing the Roman state to continue on for another 800 years.
 
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Kirialax

Ad Honorem
Dec 2009
4,816
Blachernai
#6
The Komnenoi have a reputation for three capable emperors followed by a despot and then extreme decline that resulted in the Fourth Crusade. Yet this picture is largely one that William of Tyre and Niketas Choniates have prepared for us, and should be treated carefully. How do the Komnenoi come out if label later members of the dynasty as they labelled themselves? We refer to Alexios III as Angelos, yet on his seals he calls himself Komnenos, a perfectly valid claim since he's a direct grandson of Alexios I, as was his brother Isaakios II Angelos. We can say the same about Theodore I Laskaris, who places Komnenos on his seals before Laskaris, and who seems to have delayed his own official crowning because he was waiting on a member of the Komnenos house with a better direct claim.
 
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Futurist

Ad Honoris
May 2014
20,095
SoCal
#7
The Komnenoi have a reputation for three capable emperors followed by a despot and then extreme decline that resulted in the Fourth Crusade. Yet this picture is largely one that William of Tyre and Niketas Choniates have prepared for us, and should be treated carefully. How do the Komnenoi come out if label later members of the dynasty as they labelled themselves? We refer to Alexios III as Angelos, yet on his seals he calls himself Komnenos, a perfectly valid claim since he's a direct grandson of Alexios I, as was his brother Isaakios II Angelos. We can say the same about Theodore I Laskaris, who places Komnenos on his seals before Laskaris, and who seems to have delayed his own official crowning because he was waiting on a member of the Komnenos house with a better direct claim.
Were Alexios III and Theodore I actually good emperors, though?
 

Kirialax

Ad Honorem
Dec 2009
4,816
Blachernai
#8
Were Alexios III and Theodore I actually good emperors, though?
I'll reserve my judgement on Alexios III until we have a modern study of his reign that takes into account the hostile narrative source material. As for Theodore I, yeah, I think he's pretty impressive. He was dealt one of the worst hands of any incoming Byzantine emperor - uncertainty over whether even to take the throne, Constantinople in the hands of Latins, and competing post-Byzantine states in Epirus and Trebizond. His early years were a bit rocky, but he stayed on the throne despite reverses from the Latins, attained a modus vivendi with Trebizond, and he won a major victory over the Turks of Rum in 1211 (the claim that he killed the sultan in single combat actually seems to be true, even if it was a bit less glorious than Choniates' oration would suggest). That said, much of what he was able to accomplished is owed to a century of careful Komnenian management of Anatolia, which by ca. 1200 had undergone some two centuries of economic and demographic growth.
 
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botully

Ad Honorem
Feb 2011
3,544
Amelia, Virginia, USA
#9
It’s interesting that the nominees span 1000 years. I think we often overlook one of the real strengths of the Empire, the continuity of an educated, professional bureaucracy. The state was surprisingly nimble under crisis. Not the men who received the honorifics of a post and income, but all those “middle managers” and men who kept the accounts, and records, and all those things that enable a government to organize great expeditions, feed armies, distribute payroll etc.