Maternal Haplogroup U3b: Allie is Roma, Explaining Everything

I got my 23andMe back.  My maternal line is Romani.  Which is funny, because every psychic says I get my witchy powers from witches in my mother’s line.   So my ancestresses were Romani in Germany.   It is an extremely rare haplogroup for Europeans, less than 1%, but occurs in preponderance in Romani tribes and they spread it throughout Europe in their travels.  I need to look more into Romani culture, but I CAN tell fortunes with playing cards.

My ancestress from mitochondrial Eve is dubbed “Uma,” and she is from the Caucausus.

From 23andMe:

Migrations of Your Maternal Line

180,000 Years Ago
65,000 Years Ago
59,000 Years Ago
57,000 Years Ago
47,000 Years Ago

Haplogroup L

180,000 Years Ago

If every person living today could trace his or her maternal line back over thousands of generations, all of our lines would meet at a single woman who lived in eastern Africa between 150,000 and 200,000 years ago. Though she was one of perhaps thousands of women alive at the time, only the diverse branches of her haplogroup have survived to today. The story of your maternal line begins with her.


Years Ago

Origin and Migrations of Haplogroup U3

Your maternal line stems from a branch of U called U3. Haplogroup U3 originated after modern humans expanded out of Africa into the Middle East about 45,000 years ago. The two subgroups of U3, called U3a and U3b, appear to have originated sometime before the last Glacial Maximum more than 21,000 years ago. Many individuals carrying U3 still occupy this ancestral homeland. U3 occurs at about 40% in the Jordanians from the Dead Sea, and at 5% in other populations from the Arabian Peninsula. The particularly high frequency of U3 in the Jordanian population is likely due to a founder effect, population growth from only a few individuals. Similarly, groups in the Caucasus Mountains like the Adygei and Nogay carry elevated levels of U3 (5-15%) but have very little genetic diversity in the U3 haplogroup, indicating a recent founder event.

After its origin in the Middle East, U3 was likely present in some of the first farmers who, after adopting wheat agriculture and herds of cattle or sheep, began expanding beyond the Fertile Crescent. One group may have carried haplogroup U3 into Central Asia and India. Another group likely headed West through Turkey into the European continent about 12,000-8,000 years ago. Haplogroup U3 is relatively rare in mainland Europe today, reaching levels above 1% in some Italian and Iberian populations.


Years Ago

Your maternal haplogroup, U3b, traces back to a woman who lived approximately 19,000 years ago.

That’s nearly 760 generations ago! What happened between then and now? As researchers and citizen scientists discover more about your haplogroup, new details may be added to the story of your maternal line.



U3b is relatively common among 23andMe customers.

Today, you share your haplogroup with all the maternal-line descendants of the common ancestor of U3b, including other 23andMe customers.
1 in 590
23andMe customers share your haplogroup assignment.

U3 and the Roma


The culture and music of the Spanish Roma influenced Flamenco.

Haplogroup U3 is most common among the Roma people, also known as the Gypsies. The Roma migrated to southeastern Europe from northern India during the Middle Ages, and then spread throughout the continent. As they historically rarely intermarried with other Europeans they have retained the signatures of this westward migration.

Up to 55% of the Roma today have mitochondrial DNA belonging to U3. Since this haplogroup is common in Spanish, Lithuanian and Polish Roma it probably became incorporated into the Roma population before they diverged throughout Europe.


Theodora the Icon-Lover: Allie’s Ancestor Series

Theodora (wife of Theophilos)

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Theodora (greek icon XIX c).jpg

Theodora as a saint, in a 19th-century Greek icon
Venerated in Eastern Orthodox Church
Feast 11 February
Amorian or Phrygian dynasty
Michael II 820–829
with Theophilos as co-emperor, 822–829
Theophilos 829–842
with Constantine (c. 833–835) and Michael III (840–842) as co-emperors
Michael III 842–867
under Theodora and Theoktistos as regents, 842–855, and with Basil I the Macedonian as co-emperor 866–867
Preceded by
Leo V and the Nikephorian dynasty
Followed by
Macedonian dynasty

Theodora (GreekΘεοδώραMedieval Greek: [θeo’ðora] c. 815 – after 867) was a Byzantine Empress as the spouse of the Byzantine emperor Theophilos, and regent of her son, Michael III, from Theophilos’ death in 842 to 855. For her restoration of the veneration of icons, which ended the Byzantine Iconoclasm, she is venerated as a saint in the Eastern Orthodox Church; her Feast Day is February 11. Several churches hold her as their patron saint.


Originally from Paphlagonia, Theodora was of Armenian aristocratic descent.[1] The names of her parents were preserved in Theophanes Continuatus, the continuation of the chronicle started by Theophanes the Confessor. They were Marinos, a drungarios, and Theoktiste Phlorina. Some modern genealogists, including Cyril Toumanoff and Nicholas Adontz, have suggested a link of Theodora’s family with the Armenian noble clan of the Mamikonian. According to Nina Garsoïan in the Oxford Dictionary of Byzantium, however, “[a]ttractive though it is, this thesis cannot be proven for want of sources.”[2] Thus genealogists attribute Mamikonian ancestry to Marinos; he is an alleged son of Artavazd Mamikonian, who was head of the House in the 770s. Artavazd headed a large-scale Armenian rebellion against the Abbasid Caliphate that was crushed in the Battle of Bagrevand in 775, after which the family lost power, and many of its members found refuge in Byzantium. Manuel the Armenian, a leading general of Theophilos, was her uncle.

Theodora was a sister of Bardas and Petronas. Theophanes also records three sisters: Kalomaria, Sophia and Irene. Irene reportedly married Sergios, brother of Patriarch Photios I of Constantinople.


Modern representation of Theophilos’ choice

Late 14th century icon illustrating the “Triumph of Orthodoxy” under the Byzantine Empress Theodora and her son Michael III over iconoclasm in 843. The empress is identified on the top left. (National Icon Collection 18, British Museum)

In 829, Theophilos succeeded to the throne. He was sixteen-years-old and unmarried. The following year his stepmother, Euphrosyne, proclaimed a bride-show. Potential brides from every theme travelled from their homelands to Constantinople, Theodora among them. The poet Kassia was said to have taken part.

The bride-show took place in May, 830, and Theodora was chosen to become empress, probably by her new mother-in-law. The marriage took place on 5 June 830, in Hagia Sophia. Euphrosyne soon retired to a convent and Theodora remained the only Augusta.

Empress consort[edit]

Theodora as depicted in the Menologion of Basil II

The family of Theodora seems to have followed her to court. Her brothers became officials and her sisters married into the court aristocracy. During her own marriage she bore Theophilus five daughters and two sons, the younger of whom became the future Michael III.

Despite the fact that Theophilus was an iconoclast, Theodora held fast to the veneration of icons which she kept in her chambers in the imperial palace. One story holds that a servant witnessed her venerating her icons and reported her to the emperor. When her husband confronted her about the incident she stated that she had merely been “playing with dolls.”[3]Two of her icons are kept at the monastery of Vatopedi on Mount Athos to this day and are referred to as “Theodora’s Dolls”. They are displayed annually on the Sunday of Orthodoxy.

Theodora is said to have intervened to save Lazarus Zographos from further torture under her husband. Whether their opposing religious beliefs strained their relationship is unclear. Theophilus’ health however eventually failed and he died on 20 January 842. He was about twenty-nine years old.


Gold solidus of Theodora’s regency, with her on the obverse and her son Michael, the nominal emperor, and her daughter Thekla on the reverse.

Following the death of her husband, Theodora served as regent for her son Michael. She overrode Theophilus’ ecclesiastical policy and summoned a council under the patriarch Methodius, in which the veneration, but not worship, of icons (images of Jesus Christ and the saints) was finally restored and the iconoclastic clergy deposed.

She carried on the government with a firm and judicious hand; she replenished the treasury and deterred the Bulgarians from an attempt at invasion.[4] However, it was during her regency that a vigorous persecution of the Paulician heresy commenced.

In order to perpetuate her power she purposely neglected her son’s education, and therefore must be held responsible for the voluptuous character which he developed under the influence of his uncle Bardas,[4] who was Theodora’s brother and likewise of Mamikonian heritage.[5]

Theodora endeavoured in vain to combat Bardas’s authority; in 855 she was displaced from her regency at his prompting, and being subsequently convicted of intrigues against him was relegated to the monastery of Gastria in 857.[6][7] Both Bardas and Michael would eventually be assassinated by Basil I, who would then usurp the throne and establish the Macedonian Dynasty. Theodora would die sometime after her son’s murder in 867, having witnessed the end of the dynasty she had worked so hard to preserve. She was canonizedin recompense for her zeal on behalf of the restoration of icons as objects of veneration.[4] Her feast day is February 11.


The daughters of Theodora being instructed in the veneration of the icons by their grandmother Theoktiste. Miniature from the Madrid Skylitzes

Theodora and Theophilos had seven children. Listed here in the order given by Theophanes:

  • Constantine, co-emperor from c. 833 to c. 835.
  • Thekla (c. 831 – after 867). She was named Augusta and her image appears in coinage during the regency of her mother. Later exiled to a monastery by her brother Michael.
  • Anna (born c. 832). Exiled into the monastery of Gastria. Never recalled.
  • Anastasia (born c. 833). Exiled into the monastery of Gastria. Never recalled.
  • Pulcheria (born c. 836). Exiled into the monastery of Gastria. Never recalled.
  • Maria (c. 838 – c. 842). Betrothed the Caesar Alexios Mosele. Died at the age of four.
  • Michael III (19 January 840 – 23 September/24 September 867), who succeeded as emperor.


The incorrupt relics of St. Theodora the Empress are kept in the Cathedral of the Most Holy Theotokos Speliotissis in Corfu, Greece. The relics are carried in procession on the Sunday of the Triumph of Orthodoxy, the first Sunday of Great Lent.

Theophilos (the Conqueror): Allie’s Ancestor Series

Theophilos (emperor)

From Wikipedia, the free encyclopedia

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Emperor and Autocrat of the Romans
Emperor Theophilos Chronicle of John Skylitzes.jpg

Theophilus, in the Chronicle of John Skylitzes
Emperor of the Byzantine Empire
Reign 2 October 829 – 20 January 842
Predecessor Michael II
Successor Michael III
Born 800-805
Died 20 January 842 (aged 38)
Consort Theodora
Issue ConstantineMichael III, Maria, Thekla, Anna, Anastasia, Pulcheria
Dynasty Phrygian Dynasty
Father Michael II
Mother Thekla
Amorian or Phrygian dynasty
Michael II 820–829
with Theophilos as co-emperor, 822–829
Theophilos 829–842
with Constantine (c. 833–835) and Michael III (840–842) as co-emperors
Michael III 842–867
under Theodora and Theoktistos as regents, 842–855, and with Basil I the Macedonian as co-emperor 866–867
Preceded by
Leo V and the Nikephorian dynasty
Followed by
Macedonian dynasty

Theophilos (GreekΘεόφιλος; sometimes Latinized or Anglicized as Theophilus; 800-805 – 20 January 842 AD) was the Byzantine Emperor from 829 until his death in 842. He was the second emperor of the Amorian dynasty and the last emperor to support iconoclasm.[1] Theophilos personally led the armies in his lifelong war against the Arabs, beginning in 831.



Theophilos on a coin of his father, Michael II, founder of the Phrygian dynasty

Theophilos was the son of the Byzantine Emperor Michael II and his wife Thekla, and the godson of Emperor Leo V the Armenian. Michael II crowned Theophilos co-emperor in 822, shortly after his own accession. Unlike his father, Theophilos received an extensive education from John Hylilas, the grammarian, and was a great admirer of music and art.[1] On 2 October 829, Theophilos succeeded his father as sole emperor.[2]

Theophilos continued in his predecessors’ iconoclasm, though without his father’s more conciliatory tone,[1] issuing an edict in 832 forbidding the veneration of icons. He also saw himself as the champion of justice, which he served most ostentatiously by executing his father’s co-conspirators against Leo V immediately after his accession. His reputation as a judge endured, and in the literary composition Timarion Theophilos is featured as one of the judges in the Netherworld.

War against the Arabs[edit]

The Byzantine embassy of John the Grammarian in 829 to Ma’mun (depicted left) from Theophilos (depicted right)

At the time of his accession, Theophilos was obliged to wage wars against the Arabs on two fronts. Sicily was once again invaded by the Arabs, who took Palermo after a year-long siege in 831, established the Emirate of Sicily, and gradually continued to expand across the island. The defence after the invasion of Anatolia by the Abbasid Caliph Al-Ma’mun in 830 was led by the Emperor himself, but the Byzantines were defeated and lost several fortresses. In 831 Theophilos retaliated by leading a large army into Cilicia and capturing Tarsus. The Emperor returned to Constantinople in triumph, but in the autumn he was defeated in Cappadocia. Another defeat in the same province in 833 forced Theophilos to sue for peace (Theophilos offered 100,000 gold dinars and the return of 7,000 prisoners),[3] which he obtained the next year, after the death of Al-Ma’mun.

During the respite from the war against the Abbasids, Theophilos arranged for the abduction of the Byzantine captives settled north of the Danube by Krum of Bulgaria. The rescue operation was carried out with success in c. 836, and the peace between Bulgaria and the Byzantine Empire was quickly restored. However, it proved impossible to maintain peace in the East. Theophilos had given asylum to a number of refugees from the east in 834, including Nasr, a Persian.[4] He baptized Theophobos, who married the Emperor’s aunt Irene and became one of his generals. As relations with the Abbasids deteriorated, Theophilos prepared for a new war.

Follis of a new type, minted in large quantities in celebration of Theophilos’ victories against the Arabs from ca. 835 on. On the obverse he is represented in triumphal attire, wearing the toupha, and on the reverse the traditional acclamation “Theophilos Augustus, you conquer”.

In 837 Theophilos led a vast army of 70,000 men towards Mesopotamia and captured Melitene and Arsamosata.[5] The Emperor also took and destroyed Zapetra (Zibatra, Sozopetra), which some sources claim as the birthplace of Caliph al-Mu’tasim.[6] Theophilos returned to Constantinople in triumph. Eager for revenge, Al-Mu’tasim assembled a vast army and launched a two-pronged invasion of Anatolia in 838. Theophilos decided to strike one division of the caliph’s army before they could combine. On 21 July 838 at the Battle of Anzen in Dazimon, Theophilos personally led a Byzantine army of 25,000 to 40,000 men against the troops commanded by al-Afshin.[7][8] Afshin withstood the Byzantine attack, counter-attacked, and won the battle. The Byzantine survivors fell back in disorder and did not interfere in the caliph’s continuing campaign.

Al-Mu’tasim took Ancyra, and al-Afshin joined him there. The full Abbasid army advanced against Amorium, the cradle of the dynasty. Initially there was determined resistance. Then a Muslim captive escaped and informed the caliph where there was a section of the wall that had only a front facade. Al-Mu’tasim concentrated his bombardment on this section, and the wall was breached. Having heroically held for fifty-five days, the city now fell to al-Mu’tasim on 12 or 15 August 838.[9]

In 838, in order to impress the Caliph of Baghdad, Theophilus had John the Grammarian distribute 36,000 nomismata to the citizens of Baghdad.[10] Around 841, the Republic of Venice sent a fleet of 60 galleys (each carrying 200 men) to assist the Byzantines in driving the Arabs from Crotone, but it failed.[11]

During this campaign Al-Mu’tasim discovered that some of his top generals were plotting against him. Many of these leading commanders were arrested and some executed before he arrived home. Al-Afshin seems not to have been involved in this, but he was detected in other intrigues and died in prison in the spring of 841. Caliph al-Mu’tasim fell sick in October 841 and died on 5 January 842.

Relations with Bulgaria and Serbia[edit]

In 836, following the expiration of the 20-year peace treaty between the Empire and Bulgaria, Theophilos ravaged the Bulgarian frontier. The Bulgarians retaliated, and under the leadership of Isbul they reached Adrianople. At this time, if not earlier, the Bulgarians annexed Philippopolis (Plovdiv) and its environs. Khan Malamir died in 836.

The peace between the Serbs, Byzantine foederati, and the Bulgars lasted until 839.[12] Vlastimir of Serbia united several tribes,[13] and Theophilos granted the Serbs independence;[14] Vlastimir acknowledged nominal overlordship of the Emperor.[12] The annexation of western Macedonia by the Bulgars changed the political situation. Malamir or his successor may have seen a threat in the Serb consolidation and opted to subjugate them in the midst of the conquest of Slav lands.[12] Another cause might have been that the Byzantines wanted to divert attention so that they could cope with the Slavic uprising in the Peloponnese, meaning they sent the Serbs to instigate the war.[15] It is thought that the rapid extension of Bulgars over Slavs prompted the Serbs to unite into a state.[12]

Khan Presian I (r. 836–852)[16] invaded Serbian territory in 839 (see Bulgarian–Serbian Wars). The invasion led to a three-year war, in which Vlastimir was victorious;[17] Presian was heavily defeated, made no territorial gains, and lost many of his men. The Serbs had a tactical advantage in the hills,[18] and the Bulgars were driven out by the army of Vlastimir.[15]The war ended with the death of Theophilos, which released Vlastimir from his obligations to the Byzantine Empire.[19]

Death and legacy[edit]

The image of Theophilos on a contemporary gold solidus

The health of Theophilos gradually failed, and he died on 20 January 842.[20] Theophilos strengthened the Walls of Constantinople[1] and built a hospital, which continued to exist until the twilight of the Byzantine Empire.


Solidus depicting Theophilos, with his father Michael II and his eldest son Constantine in the reverse

By his marriage with Theodora, Theophilos had seven children:

  • Constantine, co-emperor from c. 833 to c. 835.
  • Thekla (c. 831 – after 867). She was named Augusta and her image appears in coinage during the regency of her mother. Later exiled to a monastery by her brother Michael.
  • Anna (born c. 832). Exiled into the monastery of Gastria. Never recalled.
  • Anastasia (born c. 833). Exiled into the monastery of Gastria. Never recalled.
  • Pulcheria (born c. 836). Exiled into the monastery of Gastria. Never recalled.
  • Maria (c. 838 – c. 842). Betrothed the Caesar Alexios Mosele. Died at the age of four.
  • Michael III (19 January 840 – 23 September/24 September 867), who succeeded as emperor.

Leo VI the Wise, the Theological Shitposter: Allie’s Ancestor Series

“On many occasions he would personally deliver highly wrought and convoluted sermons in the churches of Constantinople.”

Leo VI the Wise

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Leo VI
Emperor and Autocrat of the Romans
Detail of the Imperial Gate mosaic in Hagia Sophia showing Leo VI the Wise.jpg

A mosaic in Hagia Sophia showing Leo VI paying homage to Christ
Emperor of the Byzantine Empire
Reign 29 August 886 – 11 May 912
Coronation 870 as co-emperor[1]
Predecessor Basil I
Successor Alexander
Born 19 September 866
Died 11 May 912 (aged 45)
Burial Church of the Holy ApostlesConstantinople
Issue Eudokia, Anna, Anna, Basil, Constantine VII
Full name
Leo VI “the Wise” or “the Philosopher”
Dynasty Macedonian
Father Basil I or possibly Michael III
Mother Eudokia Ingerina

Leo VI, called the Wise or the Philosopher (GreekΛέων ΣΤ΄ ὁ ΣοφόςLeōn VI ho Sophos, 19 September 866 – 11 May 912), was Byzantine Emperor from 886 to 912. The second ruler of the Macedonian dynasty (although his parentage is unclear), he was very well-read, leading to his epithet. During his reign, the renaissance of letters, begun by his predecessor Basil I, continued; but the Empire also saw several military defeats in the Balkans against Bulgaria and against the Arabs in Sicily and the Aegean. His reign also witnessed the formal discontinuation of several ancient Roman institutions, such as the Roman consul and Senate (in this period also known as the Byzantine Senate), which continued to exist in name only and lost much of their original functions and powers.

Early life[edit]

Leo VI (right) and Basil I, from the 11th-century manuscript by John Skylitzes.

Born to the empress Eudokia Ingerina, Leo was either the illegitimate son of Emperor Michael III[2][3][4] or the second son of Michael’s successor, Basil I the Macedonian.[5][6][7]Eudokia was both Michael III’s mistress and Basil’s wife. In 867, Michael was assassinated by Basil, who succeeded him as Emperor.[8] As the second eldest son of the Emperor, Leo was associated on the throne in 870[9] and became the direct heir on the death of his older half-brother Constantine in 879.[10] However, Leo and Basil did not like each other; a relationship that only deteriorated after Eudokia’s death, when Leo, unhappy with his marriage to Theophano, took up a mistress in the person of Zoe Zaoutzaina. Basil married Zoe off to an insignificant official, and later almost had Leo blinded when he was accused of conspiring against him.[11][12] On August 29, 886, Basil died in a hunting accident, though he claimed on his deathbed that there was an assassination attempt in which Leo was possibly involved.[13]

Domestic policy[edit]

One of the first actions of Leo VI after his succession was the reburial, with great ceremony, of the remains of Michael III in the imperial mausoleum within the Church of the Holy Apostles in Constantinople.[14] This contributed to the suspicion that Leo was (or at least believed himself to be) in truth Michael’s son.[10] Seeking political reconciliation, the new Emperor secured the support of the officials in the capital, and surrounded himself with bureaucrats like Stylianos Zaoutzes (the father of his mistress, Zoe Zaoutzaina)[13] and the eunuch Samonas, an Arab defector whom Leo raised to the rank of patrikios and who stood in as godfather to Leo’s son, Constantine VII.[15] His attempts to control the great aristocratic families (e.g., the Phokadai and the Doukai) occasionally led to serious conflicts,[16] the most significant being the revolt of Andronikos Doukas in 906.[17]

Leo also attempted to control the church through his appointments to the patriarchate.[18] He dismissed the Patriarch Photios,[19] who had been his tutor, and replaced him with his own 19-year-old brother Stephen in December 886.[10] On Stephen’s death in 893, Leo replaced him with Zaoutzes’ nominee, Antony II Kauleas, who died in 901.[16] Leo then promoted his own Imperial secretary (mystikosNicholas, but suspicions that he was involved in the failed assassination attempt against Leo in 903[20] as well as his opposition to Leo’s fourth marriage saw Nicholas replaced with Leo’s spiritual father Euthymios in 907.[17]

The magnificent Church of Ayios Lazaros in Larnaca was constructed during the rule of Leo VI in the late 9th century,[21] and it was built after the relics of St. Lazaros were transported from Crete to Constantinople.[22] The church is one of the best examples of Byzantine architecture. Leo also completed work on the Basilika, the Greek translation and update of the law code issued by Justinian I, which had been started during the reign of Basil.[23]

Bishop Liutprand of Cremona gives an account similar to those about Caliph Harun al-Rashid, to the effect that Leo would sometimes disguise himself and go about Constantinople looking for injustice or corruption. According to one story, he was even captured by the city guards during one of his investigations. Late in the evening, he was walking alone and disguised. Though he bribed two patrols with 12 nomismata and moved on, a third city patrol arrested him. When a terrified guardian recognized the jailed ruler in the morning, the arresting officer was rewarded for doing his duty, while the other patrols were dismissed and punished severely.[citation needed]

Foreign policy[edit]

The Byzantines flee at Boulgarophygon, miniature from the Madrid Skylitzes

Leo VI’s fortune in war was more mixed than Basil’s had been.[24] In indulging his chief counselor Stylianos Zaoutzes, Leo provoked a war with Simeon I of Bulgaria in 894, but he was defeated.[25] Bribing the Magyars to attack the Bulgarians from the north, Leo scored an indirect success in 895.[26] However, deprived of his new allies, he lost the major Battle of Boulgarophygon in 896 and had to make the required commercial concessions and to pay annual tribute.[27]

Although he won a victory in 900 against the Emirate of Tarsus, in which the Arab army was destroyed and the Emir himself captured,[28]in the west the Emirate of Sicily took Taormina, the last Byzantine outpost on the island of Sicily, in 902.[29] Nevertheless, Leo continued to apply pressure on his eastern frontier through the creation of the new thema of Mesopotamia, a Byzantine invasion of Armenia in 902, and the sacking of Theodosiopolis, as well as successful raids in the Arab Thughur.[28]

Then, in 904 the renegade Leo of Tripolis sacked Thessalonica with his pirates – an event described in The Capture of Thessalonica by John Kaminiates – while a large-scale expedition to recover Crete under Himerios in 911–912 failed disastrously. Nevertheless, the same period also saw the establishment of the important frontier provinces (kleisourai) of Lykandos and Leontokome on territory recently taken from the Arabs.[30] In 907 Constantinople was attacked by the Kievan Rus’ under Oleg of Novgorod, who was seeking favourable trading rights with the empire.[29] Leo paid them off, but they attacked again in 911, and a trade treaty was finally signed.[31]


Leo VI caused a major scandal with his numerous marriages which failed to produce a legitimate heir to the throne.[32] His first wife Theophano, whom Basil had forced him to marry on account of her family connections to the Martinakioi, and whom Leo hated,[33] died in 897, and Leo married Zoe Zaoutzaina, the daughter of his adviser Stylianos Zaoutzes, though she died as well in 899.[34] Upon this marriage Leo created the title of basileopatōr (“father of the emperor”) for his father-in-law.[35]

After Zoe’s death a third marriage was technically illegal,[36] but he married again, only to have his third wife Eudokia Baïana die in 901.[28] Instead of marrying a fourth time, which would have been an even greater sin than a third marriage (according to the Patriarch Nicholas Mystikos)[37] Leo took as mistress Zoe Karbonopsina.[38] He married her only after she had given birth to a son in 905,[36] but incurred the opposition of the patriarch. Replacing Nicholas Mystikos with Euthymios,[16] Leo got his marriage recognized by the church (albeit with a long penance attached, and with an assurance that Leo would outlaw all future fourth marriages).[17]


Gold solidus of Leo VI and Constantine VII Porphyrogennetos, 908–912.

The future Constantine VII was the illegitimate son born before Leo’s uncanonical fourth marriage to Zoe Karbonopsina.[36] To strengthen his son’s position as heir, Leo had him crowned as co-emperor on May 15, 908, when he was only two years old.[39] Leo VI died on May 11, 912.[16] He was succeeded by his younger brother Alexander, who had reigned as Emperor alongside his father and brother since 879.[40]


Leo VI was a prolific writer, and he produced works on many different topics and in many styles, including political orations, liturgical poems, and theological treatises.[29] On many occasions he would personally deliver highly wrought and convoluted sermons in the churches of Constantinople.[29]

In the subject matter of legal works and treatises, he established a legal commission that carried out his father’s original intent of codifying all of existing Byzantine law. The end result was a six-volume work consisting of 60 books, entitled the Basilika. Written in Greek, the Basilikatranslated and systematically arranged practically all of the laws preserved in the Corpus Juris Civilis, thereby providing a foundation upon which all later Byzantine laws could be built.[36] Leo then began integrating new laws issued during his reign into the Basilika. Called “Novels”, or “New Laws”, these were codes that dealt with current problems and issues, such as the prohibition on fourth marriages. Both the Basilika and the Novels were concerned with ecclesiastical law (canon law) as well as secular law.[36] Most importantly, from a historical perspective, they finally did away with much of the remaining legal and constitutional architecture that the Byzantine Empire had inherited from the Roman Empire, and even from the days of the Roman Republic.[15] Obsolete institutions such as the Curiae, the Roman Senate, even the Consulate, were finally removed from a legal perspective, even though these still continued in a lesser, decorative form.[36]


The supposed Book of the Eparch and the Kletorologion of Philotheos were also issued under Leo’s name and testify to his government’s interest in organization and the maintenance of public order.[36] The Book of the Eparch described the rules and regulations for trade and trade organizations in Constantinople, while the Kletorologion was an attempt to standardize officials and ranks at the Byzantine court.[36]Leo is also the author, or at least sponsor, of the Tactica, a notable treatise on military operations.[16]

Succeeding generations saw Leo as a prophet and a magician, and soon a collection of oracular poems and some short divinatory texts, the so-called Oracles of Leo the Wise, at least in part based on earlier Greek sources, were attached to the Emperor’s name in later centuries and were believed to foretell the future of the world.[29]

Finally, Leo is credited with translating the relics of St. Lazarus to Constantinople in the year 890. There are several stichera (hymns) attributed to him that are chanted on Lazarus Saturday in the Eastern Orthodox Church. He also composed hymns that are sung on the Great Feast of the Exaltation of the Cross.


By his first wife, Theophano, Leo VI had one daughter:

  • Eudokia, who died in 892.[41]

By his second wife, Zoe Zaoutzaina, Leo had one daughter:

By his third wife, Eudokia Baïana, Leo had one son:

  • Basil, who survived for only a few days.[32]

By his fourth wife, Zoe Karbonopsina, Leo had two children:[38]

Constantine VII, a Fellow Bookworm and Author: Allie’s Ancestor Series

Now this guy I can relate to.

Constantine VII

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Constantine VII
Emperor and Autocrat of the Romans
Constantine VII Porphyrogenitus.jpg
Emperor of the Byzantine Empire
Reign 6 June 913 – 9 November 959,

Junior co-emperor 908–913 and 920–945, sole emperor 913–920 (under regency) and 945–959

Predecessor Alexander
Successor Romanos I Lekapenos
Romanos II
Co-emperors Romanos I Lekapenos (920–944)
Christopher Lekapenos (921–931)
Stephen Lekapenos (924–945)
Constantine Lekapenos (924–945)
Born 17 or 18 May 905[1]
Died 9 November 959 (aged 54)[1]
Spouse Helena Lekapene
Issue Romanos II
Full name
Constantine Porphyrogennetos
(“the Purple-born“)
Dynasty Macedonian dynasty
Father Leo VI
Mother Zoe Karbonopsina

Constantine VII Porphyrogennetos or Porphyrogenitus (“the Purple-born“, that is, born in the purple marble slab-paneled imperial bed chambers; GreekΚωνσταντῖνος Ζ΄ Πορφυρογέννητοςtranslit. Kōnstantinos VII Porphyrogennētos; 17–18 May 905 – 9 November 959) was the fourth Emperor of the Macedonian dynasty of the Byzantine Empire, reigning from 913 to 959. He was the son of the emperor Leo VI and his fourth wife, Zoe Karbonopsina, and the nephew of his predecessor, the emperor Alexander.

Most of his reign was dominated by co-regents: from 913 until 919 he was under the regency of his mother, while from 920 until 945 he shared the throne with Romanos Lekapenos, whose daughter Helena he married, and his sons. Constantine VII is best known for his four books, De Administrando Imperio (bearing in Greek the heading Πρὸς τὸν ἴδιον υἱὸν Ῥωμανόν), De Ceremoniis (Περὶ τῆς Βασιλείου Τάξεως), De Thematibus (Περὶ θεμάτων Άνατολῆς καὶ Δύσεως), and Vita Basilii (Βίος Βασιλείου).

His nickname alludes to the Purple Room of the imperial palace, decorated with porphyry, where legitimate children of reigning emperors were normally born. Constantine was also born in this room, although his mother Zoe had not been married to Leo at that time. Nevertheless, the epithet allowed him to underline his position as the legitimized son, as opposed to all others who claimed the throne during his lifetime. Sons born to a reigning Emperor held precedence in the Eastern Roman line of succession over elder sons not born “in the purple”.


Constantine was born at Constantinople, an illegitimate son born before an uncanonical fourth marriage. To help legitimize him, his mother gave birth to him in the Purple Room of the imperial palace, hence his nickname Porphyrogennetos. He was symbolically elevated to the throne as a two-year-old child by his father and uncle on May 15, 908.

In June 913, as his uncle Alexander lay dying, he appointed a seven-man regency council for Constantine. It was headed by the Patriarch Nicholas I Mystikos, the two magistroi John Eladas and Stephen, the rhaiktor John Lazanes, the otherwise obscure Euthymius and Alexander’s henchmen Basilitzes and Gabrielopoulos.[2] Following Alexander’s death, the new and shaky regime survived the attempted usurpation of Constantine Doukas,[3] and Patriarch Nicholas Mystikos quickly assumed a dominant position among the regents.[4]

Constantine and Simeon dining

Patriarch Nicholas was presently forced to make peace with Tsar Simeon of Bulgaria, whom he reluctantly recognized as Bulgarian emperor. Because of this unpopular concession, Patriarch Nicholas was driven out of the regency by Constantine’s mother Zoe. She was no more successful with the Bulgarians, who defeated her main supporter, the general Leo Phokas, in 917. In 919 she was replaced as regent by the admiral Romanos Lekapenos, who married his daughter Helena Lekapene to Constantine. Romanos used his position to advance to the ranks of basileopatōr in May 919, to kaisar (Caesar) in September 920, and finally to co-emperor in December 920. Thus, just short of reaching nominal majority, Constantine was eclipsed by a senior emperor.

Constantine’s youth had been a sad one due to his unpleasant appearance, his taciturn nature, and his relegation to the third level of succession, behind Christopher Lekapenos, the eldest son of Romanos I Lekapenos. Nevertheless, he was a very intelligent young man with a large range of interests, and he dedicated those years to studying the court’s ceremonial.

Romanos kept and maintained power until 944, when he was deposed by his sons, the co-emperors Stephen and Constantine. Romanos spent the last years of his life in exile on the Island of Prote as a monk and died on June 15, 948.[5] With the help of his wife, Constantine VII succeeded in removing his brothers-in-law, and on January 27, 945, Constantine VII became sole emperor at the age of 39, after a life spent in the shadow. Several months later, Constantine VII crowned his own son Romanos II co-emperor. Having never exercised executive authority, Constantine remained primarily devoted to his scholarly pursuits and relegated his authority to bureaucrats and generals, as well as to his energetic wife Helena Lekapene.

In 949 Constantine launched a new fleet of 100 ships (20 dromons, 64 chelandia, and 10 galleys) against the Arab corsairs hiding in Crete, but like his father’s attempt to retake the island in 911, this attempt also failed. On the Eastern frontier things went better, even if with alternate success. In 949 the Byzantines conquered Germanicea, repeatedly defeated the enemy armies, and in 952 they crossed the upper Euphrates. But in 953 the Hamdanid amir Sayf al-Daula retook Germanicea and entered the imperial territory. The land in the east was eventually recovered by Nikephoros Phokas, who conquered Hadath, in northern Syria, in 958, and by the general John Tzimiskes, who one year later captured Samosata, in northern Mesopotamia. An Arab fleet was also destroyed by Greek fire in 957. Constantine’s efforts to retake themes lost to the Arabs were the first such efforts to have any real success.

The Madrid Skylitzes‘ depiction of Constantine on his deathbed

Constantine had active diplomatic relationships with foreign courts, including those of the caliph of Cordoba Abd ar-Rahman III and of Otto I, Holy Roman Emperor. In the autumn of 957 Constantine was visited by Olga of Kiev, regent of the Kievan Rus’. The reasons for this voyage have never been clarified; but she was baptised a Christian with the name Helena, and sought Christian missionaries to encourage her people to adopt Christianity. According to legends, Constantine VII fell in love with Olga, however she found the way to refuse him by tricking him to become her godfather. When she was baptized, she said it was inappropriate for a godfather to marry his goddaughter.[6]

Constantine VII died at Constantinople in November 959 and was succeeded by his son Romanos II. It was rumored that Constantine had been poisoned by his son or his daughter-in-law Theophano.

Literary and political activity[edit]

Gold solidus of Leo VI and Constantine VII Porphyrogennetos, 908–912.

Constantine VII was renowned for his abilities as a writer and scholar. He wrote, or had commissioned, the works De Ceremoniis (“On Ceremonies”, in Greek, Περί τῆς Βασιλείου Τάξεως), describing the kinds of court ceremonies (also described later in a more negative light by Liutprand of Cremona); De Administrando Imperio (“On the Administration of the Empire”, bearing in Greek the heading Προς τον ίδιον υιόν Ρωμανόν), giving advice on running the Empire internally and on fighting external enemies; a history of the Empire covering events following the death of the chronographer Theophanes the Confessor in 817; and Excerpta Historica (“Excerpts from the Histories”), a collection of excerpts from ancient historians (many of whose works are now lost) in four volumes (1. De legationibus. 2. De virtutibus et vitiis. 3. De insidiis. 4. De sententiis.) Also amongst his historical works is a history eulogizing the reign and achievements of his grandfather, Basil I (Vita Basilii, Βίος Βασιλείου). These books are insightful and of interest to the historian, sociologist, and anthropologist as a source of information about nations neighbouring the Empire. They also offer a fine insight into the Emperor himself.

Gold solidus of Constantine VII Porphyrogennetos, 913–959.

In his book, A Short History of ByzantiumJohn Julius Norwich refers to Constantine VII as “The Scholar Emperor”.[7] Norwich describes Constantine:

He was, we are told, a passionate collector—not only of books and manuscripts but works of art of every kind; more remarkable still for a man of his class, he seems to have been an excellent painter. He was the most generous of patrons—to writers and scholars, artists and craftsmen. Finally, he was an excellent Emperor: a competent, conscientious and hard-working administrator and an inspired picker of men, whose appointments to military, naval, ecclesiastical, civil and academic posts were both imaginative and successful. He did much to develop higher education and took a special interest in the administration of justice.[8]

In 947, Constantine VII ordered the immediate restitution of all peasant lands, without compensation; by the end of his reign, the condition of the landed peasantry, which formed the foundation of the whole economic and military strength of the Empire, was better off than it had been for a century.[9]

In The Manuscript Tradition of Polybius, John Michael Moore (CUP, 1965) provides a useful summary of the commission by Porphyrogenitus of the Constantine Excerpts:

He felt that the historical studies were being seriously neglected, mainly because of the bulk of the histories. He therefore decided that a selection under fifty-three titles should be made from all the important historians extant in Constantinople; thus he hoped to assemble in a more manageable compass the most valuable parts of each author. … Of the fifty-three titles into which the excerpts were divided, only six have survived: de Virtutibus et Vitiis; de Sententiis; de Insidiis; de Strategematis; de Legationibus Gentium ad Romanos; de Legationibus Romanorum ad Gentes. The titles of only about half the remaining forty-seven sections are known.[10]


By his wife Helena Lekapene, the daughter of Emperor Romanos I, Constantine VII had several children, including:

  • Leo, who died young.
  • Romanos II.
  • Zoe. Sent to a convent.
  • Theodora, who married Emperor John I Tzimiskes.
  • Agatha. Sent to a convent.
  • Theophano. Sent to a convent.
  • Anna. Sent to a convent.

Romanos II: Allie’s Ancestor Series

Also known as the Robert Baratheon of the Byzantines.

Romanos II

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Romanos II
Emperor and Autocrat of the Romans
Constantine VII and Romanos II solidus.jpg

Gold solidus with Romanos II and his father, Constantine VII
Emperor of the Byzantine Empire
Reign 9 November 959 – 15 March 963
Coronation 6 April 945 as co-emperor
Predecessor Constantine VII
Successor Nikephoros II
Born c. 938
Died 15 March 963
(aged c. 25)
Spouse Berta of Italy
Issue Basil II
Constantine VIII
Anna Porphyrogenita
Dynasty Macedonian
Father Constantine VII
Mother Helena Lekapene

Romanos (or RomanusII (Greek: Ρωμανός Β΄, Rōmanos II) (938 – 15 March 963) was a Byzantine Emperor. He succeeded his father Constantine VII in 959 at the age of twenty-one and died suddenly in 963.


Known as the “Romanos Ivory“, this carved ivory plaque is thought by some scholars to represent the marriage of Romanos II and the child bride, Bertha/Eudokia being blessed by Christ.

Romanos II was a son of Emperor Constantine VII and Helena Lekapene, the daughter of Emperor Romanos I Lekapenos and his wife Theodora.[1] Named after his maternal grandfather, Romanos was married, as a child, to Bertha, the illegitimate daughter of Hugh of ArlesKing of Italy to bond an alliance. She had changed her name to Eudokia after their marriage, but died an early death in 949 before producing an heir, thus never becoming a real marriage, and dissolving the alliance.[2] On January 27, 945, Constantine VII succeeded in removing his brothers-in-law, the sons of Romanos I, assuming the throne alone. On April 6, 945, Constantine crowned his son Romanos co-emperor. With Hugh out of power in Italy and dead by 947, Romanos secured the promise from his father that he would be allowed to select his own bride. Romanos chose an innkeeper’s daughter named Anastaso, whom he married in 956 and renamed Theophano.

In November 959, Romanos II succeeded his father on the throne amidst rumors that he or his wife had poisoned him.[3] Romanos purged his father’s courtiers of his enemies and replaced them with friends. To appease his bespelling wife, he excused his mother, Empress Helena, from court and forced his five sisters into convents. Nevertheless, many of Romanos’ appointees were able men, including his chief adviser, the eunuch Joseph Bringas.

The pleasure-loving sovereign could also leave military matters in the adept hands of his generals, in particular the brothers Leo and Nikephoros Phokas. In 960 Nikephoros Phokas was sent with a fleet of 1,000 dromons, 2,000 chelandia, and 308 transports (the entire fleet was manned by 27,000 oarsmen and marines) carrying 50,000 men to recover Crete from the Muslims.[4] After a difficult campaign and nine-month Siege of Chandax, Nikephoros successfully re-established Byzantine control over the entire island in 961. Following a triumph celebrated at Constantinople, Nikephoros was sent to the eastern frontier, where the Emir of Aleppo Sayf al-Dawla was engaged in annual raids into Byzantine Anatolia. Nikephoros liberated Cilicia and even Aleppo in 962, sacking the palace of the Emir and taking possession of 390,000 silver dinars, 2,000 camels, and 1,400 mules. In the meantime Leo Phokas and Marianos Argyros had countered Magyar incursions into the Byzantine Balkans.

Death of Romanos II

After a lengthy hunting expedition Romanos II took ill and died on March 15, 963. Rumor attributed his death to poison administered by his wife Theophano, but there is no evidence of this, and Theophano would have been risking much by exchanging the secure status of a crowned Augusta with the precarious one of a widowed Regent of her very young children. Romanos II’s reliance on his wife and on bureaucrats like Joseph Bringas had resulted in a relatively capable administration, but this built up resentment among the nobility, which was associated with the military. In the wake of Romanos’ death, his Empress Dowager, now Regent to the two co-emperors, her underage sons, was quick to marry the general Nikephoros Phokas and to acquire another general, John Tzimiskes, as her lover, having them both elevated to the imperial throne in succession. The rights of her sons were safeguarded, however, and eventually, when Tzimiskes died at war, her eldest son Basil II became senior emperor.


Romanos married firstly on September 944[5] with Bertha, illegitimate daughter of Hugh of ArlesKing of Italy, who changed her name to Eudokia after her marriage. She died in 949, her marriage unconsummated.[6]

By his second wife Theophano he had at least three children:

Anna Porphyrogenita: Allie’s Ancestor Series

Anna Porphyrogenita

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Anna Porphyrogenita
Grand Princess of Kievan Rus
Reign 989–1011
Born March 13, 963
Constantinople, purple chamber of the Byzantine Emperor’s Palace.
Died 1011
Spouse Vladimir the Great of Kiev
House Macedonian dynasty
Father Byzantine Emperor Romanos II
Mother Theophano

Anna Porphyrogenita (Medieval GreekἌννα ἡ Πορφυρογέννητοςtranslit. Anna hē PorphyrogennētosRussianАнна ВизантийскаяUkrainianАнна Порфірогенета; 13 March 963 – 1011) was a Grand Princess consort of Kiev; she was married to Grand Prince Vladimir the Great.[1]

Anna was the daughter of Byzantine Emperor Romanos II and the Empress Theophano. She was also the sister of Emperors Basil IIBulgaroktonos (The Bulgar-Slayer) and Constantine VIII. Anna was a Porphyrogenita, a legitimate daughter born in the special purple chamber of the Byzantine Emperor’s Palace. Anna’s hand was considered such a prize that some theorize that Vladimir became Christian just to marry her.[2]

Anna did not wish to marry Vladimir and expressed deep distress on her way to her wedding. Vladimir was impressed by Byzantine religious practices; this factor, along with his marriage to Anna, led to his decision to convert to Eastern Christianity. Due to these two factors, he also began Christianizing his kingdom. By marriage to Grand Prince Vladimir, Anna became Grand Princess of Kiev, but in practice, she was referred to as Queen or Czarina, probably as a sign of her membership of the Imperial Byzantine House. Anna participated actively in the Christianization of Rus: she acted as the religious adviser of Vladimir and founded a few convents and churches herself. It is not known whether she was the biological mother of any of Vladimir’s children, although some scholars have pointed to evidence that she and Vladimir may have had as many as three children together.[3]

Ingjald the Wolf Heart Eater: Allie’s Ancestor Series


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Ingjald centralizing Sweden

Ingjald illråde or Ingjaldr hinn illráði (Ingold Ill-ruler or Ill-ready) was a semi-legendary Swedish king of the House of Ynglings, son and successor of king Anund,[1] and the father and predecessor of king Olof Trätälja.

Ingjald is mentioned in medieval historiographical sources including Ynglinga sagaHistoria NorvegiæHervarar sagaUpplendinga KonungumÞorsteins saga Víkingssonar and Íslendingabók. The setting of Þorsteins saga Víkingssonar is roughly the 7th century. Johannes Magnus in his 16th-century list of kings places Ingjald (Ingevallus, Ingellus) in AD 883.

Ynglinga saga[edit]

Snorri Sturluson gave an extensive account on the life of Ingjald in the Ynglinga saga which is part of the Heimskringla.


The Ynglinga saga, a part of the Heimskringla relates that the viceroy of Fjädrundaland was named Ingvar and he had two sons, Alf and Agnar, who were of the same age as Ingjald. Svipdag the Blind was the viceroy of Tiundaland, the province of Uppsala where the Tings and the Yule (Midwinter) sacrifices were held (see the Temple at Uppsala).

One Midwinter, when Ingjald and Alf were six years old, many people had assembled at Uppsala for the sacrifices. Alf and Ingjald played, but Ingjald found that he was the weaker boy and became so angry that he almost started to cry (which was strange because people named Ingjald were known to be stronger than average). His foster-brother Gautvid led him to his foster-father Svipdag the Blind and told Svipdag about Ingjald’s lack of manliness and strength. Svipdag said that it was a shame and the next day he gave Ingjald a roasted wolf’s heart to eat. From that day, Ingjald became a very ferocious person and had a bad disposition and breath.

Anund arranged a marriage for his son Ingjald with Gauthild, the daughter of the Geatish king Algaut, who was the son of Gautrek the Mild and the grandson of Gaut. Gautrek consented as he believed that Ingjald had inherited his father’s disposition. Gauthild’s maternal grandfather was Olof the Sharp-sighted, the king of Närke.

The deceit[edit]

Snorri Sturluson relates that when his father Anund had died, Ingjald became the king of Sweden. The kings at Uppsala were the foremost among the kings of the various provinces since Odin ruled the country, and they were the supreme chiefs of the other kingdoms since the death of Agne and Sweden was divided between Erik and Alrik. The descendants of these two kings had spread, cleared land and settled new territories, until there were several petty kings.

In honour of his own ascendance to the throne, Ingjald invited the kings, the jarls and other important men to a grand feast in a newly built hall, just as large and sumptuous as the one in Uppsala. It was called the hall of the seven kings and had seven high seats. Algaut the Geatish king of West Götaland, King Ingvar of Fjädrundaland with his two sons Agnar and Alf, King Sporsnjall of Nerike and King Sigvat of Attundaland came but not King Granmar of Södermanland. The kings filled all seven seats but one. All the prominent people of Sweden had seats, except for Ingjald’s own court whom he had sent to his old hall in Uppsala.

According to the custom of the time for those who inherited kings and jarls, Ingjald rested at the footstool until the Bragebeaker was brought in. Then he was supposed to stand up, take the beaker and make solemn vows, after which he would ascend his father’s high seat. However, when the beaker was brought in, he took a bull’s horn and made the solemn vow that he would enlarge his own kingdom by half towards all the four-quarters, towards which he pointed his horn, or die.

When all the prominent guests were drunk, he ordered Svipdag’s sons, Gautvid and Hylvid, to arm themselves and their men and to leave the building. Outside, they set fire to the building which burnt down and those who tried to escape were killed.

Thus Ingjald made himself the sole ruler of the domains of the murdered kings.


Granmar won allies in his son-in-law the sea-king Hjörvard of the Ylfings and his father-in-law Högne the Geatish king of East Götaland. They successfully withstood Ingjald’s invasion where Ingjald realised that the men from the provinces he had conquered were not loyal to him. After a long standstill there was peace for as long as the three kings lived. However, one night Ingjald and his men surrounded a farm where Granmar and Hjörvard were at a feast and burnt the house down. He later disposed of five more kings, and he thus earned the name Illråde (ill-ruler) as he fulfilled his promise.

Snorri Sturluson tells that it was a common saying that Ingjald killed twelve kings by deceiving them that he only wished for peace, and that he thus earned his cognomen Illråde (ill-ruler or ill-adviser).


Ingjald and his daughter Åsa

Ingjald had two children, a son Olof Trätälja and a daughter Åsa. His daughter had inherited her father’s psychopathic disposition. She married king Guðröðr of Skåne. Before she murdered her husband she managed to make him kill his own brother Halfdan the Valiant, the father of the great Ivar Vidfamne.

In order to avenge his father, Ivar Vidfamne gathered a vast host and departed for Sweden, where he found Ingjald at Ræning. When Ingjald and his daughter realized that it was futile to resist, they set the hall on fire and succumbed in the flames.

Ynglingatal and Historia Norwegiae[edit]

The citation from Ynglingatal does not appear to describe Ingjald as an evil king. It calls his life a brave life frœknu fjörvi:

Ok Ingjald
í fjörvan trað
reyks rösuðr
á Ræningi,
þá er húsþjófr
hyrjar leistum
í gegnum steig.
Ok sá urðr
allri þjóðu
með Svíum þótti,
er hann sjálfr
sínu fjörvi
frœknu fyrstr
um fara vildi.[1]
With fiery feet devouring flame
Has hunted down a royal game
At Raening, where King Ingjald gave
To all his men one glowing grave.
On his own hearth the fire he raised,
A deed his foemen even praised;
By his own hand he perished so,
And life for freedom did forego.”[2]

The Historia Norwegiæ presents a Latin summary of Ynglingatal, older than Snorri’s quotation (continuing after Anund):

Post istum filius suus Ingialdr in regem sublimatur, qui ultra modum timens Ivarum cognomine withfadm regem tunc temporis multis formidabilem se ipsum cum omni comitatu suo cenaculo inclusos igne cremavit. Ejus filius Olavus cognomento tretelgia […][2] After him his son Ingjald ascended the throne. Being abnormally terrified of King Ivar Vidfadme, at that time an object of dread to many, he shut himself up in a dining-hall with his whole retinue and burnt all its inmates to death. His son, Olav, known as Tretelgje,[…][3]

Harald Fairhair: Allie’s Ancestor Series

Harald Fairhair

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Harald Fairhair
Flateyjarbok Haraldr Halfdan.jpg

Harald Fairhair, in an illustration from the fourteenth-century Flateyjarbók.
King of Norway
Reign putatively 872–930
Successor Eric I
Born putatively c. 850
Died putatively c. 932
Burial Haraldshaugen in Haugesund
Spouse Ragnhild Eriksdotter
Åsa Håkonsdotter
Eric I of Norway
Haakon I of Norway
Full name
Haraldr Hálfdanarson
Dynasty Fairhair dynasty
Father Halfdan the Black
Mother Ragnhild Sigurdsdotter
Religion Norse religion

Harald Fairhair (Old NorseHaraldr inn hárfagriNorwegianHarald hårfagre; putatively c. 850 – c. 932) is portrayed by medieval Icelandic historians as the first King of Norway. According to traditions current in Norway and Iceland in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, he reigned from c. 872 to 930. Supposedly, two of his sons, Eric Bloodaxe and Haakon the Good, succeeded Harald to become kings after his death.

Most of Harald’s biography remains uncertain, since the extant accounts of his life in the sagas were set down in writing around three centuries after his lifetime. Indeed, although it is possible to write a detailed account of Harald as a character in medieval Icelandic sagas (as this entry does), it is even possible to argue that there was no such historical figure at all.

His life is described in several of the Kings’ sagas, none of them older than the twelfth century. Their accounts of Harald and his life differ on many points, but it is clear that in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries Harald was regarded as having unified Norway into one kingdom.

Meaning of epithet hárfagri[edit]

Old Norse hár translates straightforwardly into English as ‘hair’, but fagr, the adjective of which fagri is a form, is trickier to render, since it means ‘fair, fine, beautiful’[1] (but without the moral associations of English fair, as opposed to unfair).[2] Although it is convenient and conventional to render hárfagri in English as ‘fair-hair(ed)’,[3][4] in English ‘fair-haired’ means ‘blond‘, whereas the Old Norse fairly clearly means ‘beautiful-haired’ (standing in contrast to the epithet which, according to some sources, Haraldr previously bore: lúfa, ‘(thick) matted hair’).[5][6] Accordingly, some translators prefer to render hárfagri as ‘the fine-haired’[7] or ‘fine-hair’[8][9] (which, however, unhelpfully implies that Haraldr’s hairs were slender) or even ‘handsome-hair’.[10]

Did Harald Fairhair exist?[edit]

Through the nineteenth and most of the twentieth centuries, historians broadly accepted the account of Harald Fairhair given by later Icelandic sagas. However, Peter Sawyer began to cast doubt on this in 1976,[11] and the decades around 2000 saw a wave of revisionist research that suggested that Harald Fairhair did not exist, or at least not in a way resembling his appearance in sagas.[12][13][14][15][16][17] The key arguments for this are as follows:

  • There is no contemporary support for the claims of later sagas about Harald Fairhair. The first king of Norway recorded in near-contemporary sources is Haraldr Gormsson (d. c. 985/986), who is claimed to be the king not only of Denmark but also Norway on the Jelling stones. The late ninth-century account of Norway provided by Ohthere to the court of Alfred the Great and the history by Adam of Bremen written in 1075 record no King of Norway for the relevant period. Although sagas have Erik Bloodaxe, who does seem partly to correspond to a historical figure, as the son of Harald Fairhair, no independent evidence supports this genealogical connection.[18] The twelfth-century William of Malmesburydoes have a Norwegian king called Haraldus visit King Æthelstan of England (d. 939), which chimes with later saga-traditions in which Harald Fairhair fostered a son, Hákon Aðalsteinsfóstri, on Æthelstan.[19] But William is a late source and Harald a far from uncommon name for a Scandinavian character,[20] and William does not give this Harald the epithet fairhair, whereas he does give that epithet to the later Norwegian king Haraldr Sigurðarsson.[21]
  • Although Harald Fairhair appears in diverse Icelandic sagas, few if any of these are independent sources. It is plausible that all these were participating in a shared textual tradition begun by the earliest Icelandic prose account of Harald, Ari Þorgilsson‘s Íslendingabók. Dating from the early twelfth century, this was written over 250 years after Harald’s supposed death.[20]
  • The saga evidence is potentially pre-dated by two skaldic poemsHaraldskvæði[22] and Glymdrápa,[23] which have been attributed to Þorbjörn hornklofi or alternatively (in the case of the first poem) to Þjóðólfr of Hvinir, and are according to the sagas about Harald Fairhair. Although only preserved in thirteenth-century Kings’ sagas, they might have been transmitted orally (as the sagas claim) from the tenth century. The first describes life at the court of a king called Harald, mentions that he took a Danish wife, and that he won a battle at Hafrsfjord. The second poem relates a series of battles won by a king called Harald. However, the information supplied in these poems is inconsistent with the tales in the sagas in which they are transmitted, and the sagas themselves often disagree on the details of his background and biography.[24] Meanwhile, the most reliable manuscripts of Haraldskvæði call the poem’s honorand Haraldr Hálfdanarson rather than Haraldr hárfagri,[25] and Glymdrápa offers no epithet at all. All the poems clearly show is that there was once a king called Haraldr (Hálfdanarson).[20]
  • Sources from the British Isles which are independent of the Icelandic saga-tradition (and partly of each other), and are mostly earlier than the sagas, do attest to a king whose name corresponds to the Old Norse name Haraldr inn hárfagri—but they use this name of the well attested Haraldr Sigurðarson (d. 1066, often known in modern English as Harald Hardrada). These sources include manuscript D of the Anglo-Saxon Chronicle (‘Harold Harfagera’, under the year 1066) and the related histories by Orderic Vitalis(‘Harafagh’, re events in 1066), John of Worcester (‘Harvagra’, s.aa. 1066 and 1098), and William of Malmesbury (Gesta regum Anglorum, ‘Harvagre’, s.a. regarding 1066); Marianus Scotus of Mainz (‘Arbach’, d. 1082/1083); and the Life of Gruffydd ap Cynan (‘Haralld Harfagyr’, later twelfth century, though this may refer to two different kings by this name).[26][27][21]

Thus the Icelandic saga-tradition of Harald Fair-Hair can be seen as part of an origin myth created to explain the settlement of Iceland, perhaps in which a cognomen of Haraldr Sigurðarson was transferred to a fictitious early king of all Norway.[28][29] Sverrir Jakobsson has suggested that the idea of Iceland being settled by people fleeing an overbearing Norwegian monarch actually reflects the anxieties of Iceland in the early thirteenth century, when the island was indeed coming under Norwegian dominance. He has also suggested that the legend of Harald Fairhair developed in the twelfth century to enable Norwegian kings, who were then promoting the idea of primogeniture over the older custom of agnatic succession, to claim that their ancestors had had a right to Norway by lineal descent from the country’s supposed first king.[30]

Saga descriptions[edit]

In the Saga of Harald Fairhair in Heimskringla, which is the most elaborate although not the oldest or most reliable source to the life of Harald, it is written that Harald succeeded, on the death of his father Halfdan the Black Gudrödarson, to the sovereignty of several small, and somewhat scattered kingdoms in Vestfold, which had come into his father’s hands through conquest and inheritance. His protector-regent was his mother’s brother Guthorm.

The unification of Norway is something of a love story. It begins with a marriage proposal that resulted in rejection and scorn from Gyda, the daughter of Eirik, king of Hordaland. She said she refused to marry Harald “before he was king over all of Norway”. Harald was therefore induced to take a vow not to cut nor comb his hair until he was sole king of Norway, and when he was justified in trimming it ten years later, he exchanged the epithet “Shockhead” or “Tanglehair” (Haraldr lúfa) for the one by which he is usually known.[a][31]

In 866, Harald made the first of a series of conquests over the many petty kingdoms which would compose all of Norway, including Värmland in Sweden, which had sworn allegiance to the Swedish saga-king Erik Eymundsson (whose historicity is not confirmed). In 872, after a great victory at Hafrsfjord near Stavanger, Harald found himself king over the whole country, ruling from his Kongsgård seats at Avaldsnes and Alrekstad. His realm was, however, threatened by dangers from without, as large numbers of his opponents had taken refuge, not only in Iceland, then recently discovered; but also in the Orkney IslandsShetland IslandsHebrides IslandsFaroe Islands and the northern European mainland. However, his opponents’ leaving was not entirely voluntary. Many Norwegian chieftains who were wealthy and respected posed a threat to Harald; therefore, they were subjected to much harassment from Harald, prompting them to vacate the land. At last, Harald was forced to make an expedition to the West, to clear the islands and the Scottish mainland of some Vikings who tried to hide there.[b][32]

The earliest narrative source which mentions Harald, the twelfth-century Íslendingabók, notes that Iceland was settled during his lifetime. Harald is thus depicted as the prime cause of the Norse settlement of Iceland and beyond. Iceland was settled by “malcontents” from Norway, who resented Harald’s claim of rights of taxation over lands, which the possessors appear to have previously held in absolute ownership.

There are several accounts of large feasting mead halls constructed for important feasts when Scandinavian royalty was invited. According to a legend recorded by Snorri Sturluson, in the Heimskringla, the late 9th-century Värmlandish chieftain Áki invited both the Norwegian king Harald Fairhair and the Swedish saga-king Erik Eymundsson, but had the Norwegian king stay in the newly constructed and sumptuous one, because he was the youngest one of the kings and the one who had the greatest prospects. The older Swedish king, on the other hand, had to stay in the old feasting hall. The Swedish king was so humiliated that he killed Áki.

Later life[edit]

Harald I’s division of Norway c. 930 CE.

  The domain of the High King of Norway.
  Petty kingdoms assigned to Harald’s kinsmen.
  The domain of the jarls of Hlaðir.
  The domain of the jarls of Møre.

Not shown: the domains of the jarls of Norðreyjar and Suðreyjar.

According to the saga sources, the latter part of Harald’s reign was disturbed by the strife of his many sons. The number of sons he left varies in the different saga accounts, from 11 to 20. Twelve of his sons are named as kings, two of them over the whole country. He gave them all the royal title and assigned lands to them, which they were to govern as his representatives; but this arrangement did not put an end to the discord, which continued into the next reign. When he grew old, Harald handed over the supreme power to his favourite son Eirik Bloodaxe, whom he intended to be his successor. Eirik I ruled side-by-side with his father when Harald was 80 years old. Harald died three years later due to age in approximately 933.

Harald Harfager was commonly stated to have been buried under a mound at Haugar by the Strait of Karmsund near the church in Haugesund, an area that later would be named the town and municipal Haugesund. The area near Karmsund was the traditional burial site for several early Norwegian rulers. The national monument of Haraldshaugen was raised in 1872, to commemorate the Battle of Hafrsfjordwhich is traditionally dated to 872.[33][34]


Harald Haarfager later in his life

While the various sagas name anywhere from 11 to 20 sons of Harald in various contexts, the contemporary skaldic poem Hákonarmál says that Harald’s son Haakon would meet only “eight brothers” when arriving in Valhalla, a place for slain warriors kings and Germanic heroes. Only the following five names of sons can be confirmed from skaldic poems (with saga claims in parenthesis), while the full number of sons remains unknown:[35]

According to Heimskringla[edit]

The full list of sons according to Snorri Sturluson’s Heimskringla:

Children with Åsa, daughter of Håkon Grjotgardsson, Earl of Lade:

Children with Gyda Eiriksdottir:

  • Ålov Årbot (Haraldsdøtter)
  • Rørek Haraldssøn
  • Sigtrygg Haraldssøn
  • Frode Haraldssøn
  • Torgils Haraldssøn – identified as “Thorgest” in the (dates not correct) Irish history

Children with Svanhild, daughter of Eystein Earl:

Children with Åshild, daughter of Ring Dagsson:

  • Ring Haraldsson
  • Dag Haraldsson
  • Gudrød Skirja
  • Ingegjerd Haraldsdotter

Children with Snøfrid, daughter of Svåse the Finn:

Other children:

  • Ingebjørg Haraldsdotter

Halfdan the Black: Allie’s Ancestor Series

Halfdan the Black

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This article is about the ninth-century king of Vestfold and father of Harald I of Norway. For his less famous grandson by the same name, see Halfdan Haraldsson the Black.
Halfdan the Black
Halvdan Svartes saga-Tittelfrise-Gerhard Munthe.jpg

Halvdan Svartes saga.
Gerhard Munthe, Heimskringla, 1899
Born c. 810
Died c. 860
Noble family House of Yngling
Spouse(s) Ragnhild Haraldsdotter Gulskeg
Ragnhild Sigurdsdotter
Father Gudrød the Hunter
Mother Åsa Haraldsdottir of Agder

Halfdan the Black (Old NorseHalfdanr Svarti) (c. 810 – c. 860) was a ninth-century king of Vestfold. He belonged to the House of Yngling and was the father of Harald Fairhair, the first king of a unified Norway.[1]


Petty kingdoms ca. 860 AD. The kingdom of Halfdan the Black is shown in red

According to Heimskringla and Fagsrkinna, Halfdan was the son of the Yngling King Gudrød the HunterHeimskringla also names his mother, as Åsa, daughter of King Harald of Agder, and his half-brother as Olaf Geirstad-Alf. Heimskringla relates that when Halfdan’s father was killed, Åsa took the 1 year-old Halfdan and returned to Agder, where Halfdan was raised. When he was 18 or 19 years old, Halfdan became king of Agder. He quickly began adding to his kingdom, through political negotiation and military conquest. He divided the kingdom of Vestfold with his brother Olaf and, through military action, persuaded King Gandalf of Vingulmark to cede half his kingdom. Based on the formulaic nature of his ties to his predecessors, his strong affiliation with Agder, and the failure of an early saga dedicated to him to name any family connections, some scholars have suggested that the linkage to the earlier Yngling dynasty of Vestfold was a later invention, created to associate a conquering Halfdan and his son Harald Fairhair with the family glorified in the Ynglingatal, whom he had displaced.

Halfdan next is said to have subdued an area called Raumarike. To secure his claim to Raumarike, Halfdan first defeated and killed the previous ruler, Sigtryg Eysteinsson, in battle. He then defeated Sigtryg’s brother and successor Eystein, in a series of battles. This established Halfdan’s claim not only to Raumarike, but also to half of Hedmark, the core of Sigtryg and Eystein’s kingdom. These details are only mentioned in Heimskringla.

Fagrskinna and Heimskringla both agree that Halfdan’s first wife was Ragnhild, daughter of King Harald Gulskeg (Goldbeard) of Sogn. Halfdan and Ragnhild had a son named “Harald” after his grandfather, and they sent him to be raised at his grandfather’s court. Harald Gulskeg, being elderly, named his grandson as his successor, shortly before his death. Ragnhild died shortly after her father, and the young king Harald fell sick and died the next spring. When Halfdan heard about his son’s death, he travelled to Sogn and laid claim to the title of king. No resistance was offered, and Halfdan added Sogn to his realm.

The narrative in Heimskringla then adds another conquest for King Halfdan. In Vingulmark, the sons of Gandalf of Vingulmark, HysingHelsing, and Hake, attempted to ambush Halfdan at night, but he escaped into the forest. After raising an army, he returned to defeat the brothers, killing Hysing and Helsing. Hake fled the country, and Halfdan became king of all of Vingulmark.

According to Heimskringla, Halfdan’s second wife, also named Ragnhild, had been kidnapped from her home by Hake, a “berserker” who encountered her father in Hadeland and killed him. Halfdan had her kidnapped from Hake, so that he could marry her. Fagrskinna does not mention any of these details. However, both sagas agree that Ragnhild and Halfdan had a son who was also named Harald. (Among the more unlikely claims in Fagrskinna and Heimskringla are that this woman was Ragnhild Sigurdsdotter, daughter of Sigurd Hjort, king of Ringerike. This would make Ragnhild the granddaughter or even great-granddaughter of Sigurd Snake-in-the-Eye – an impossibility, given that most sources suggest that Sigurd Snake-in-the-Eye was active only in the late9th century, which would mean that he was born a generation or two after Halfdan the Black.)

Halvdanshaugen at Hadeland Folkemuseum, one of the several burial sites of Halfdan the Black


HeimskringlaFagrskinnaÁgrip and Historia Norwegiæ all relate that Halfdan drowned when he fell through the ice at the inlet Røykenvik in the lake Randsfjorden on his return home from Hadeland. His horse and sleigh broke through ice weakened by cattle dung near a watering hole dug in the frozen lake. He was buried in a mound at Stein in Ringerike.

Heimskringlas narrative adds that each of the districts of his kingdom wanted to claim his grave, and that it was agreed to divide his body into four pieces so each district could bury a piece of it, resulting in four different sites called Halvdanshaugen (from the Old Norse word haugrmeaning mound). According to this version, only his head is buried in Ringerike.[2]


No contemporary sources mention Halfdan, and the details of his life that are provided by later kings’ sagas are considered semi-legendary by modern historians. Although he has his own saga in Heimskringla, it lacks any skaldic verse, which is normally used by Snorri as supporting evidence and this, combined with its rather legendary character, leads historians to be wary of seeing much veracity in it. The “Black” nickname was given to him because of his black hair.[3]

Halfdan is mentioned in Snorri Sturluson‘s Heimskringla (c. 1230), Fagrskinna (c. 1220), Ágrip (c. 1190) and Historia Norwegiæ (late 12th century). The most elaborate story is found in the latest saga, Heimskringla. According to the Latin Historia Norwegiæ, Halvdan was a king “in montanis” (in the mountains), which is usually equivalent to Oppland in the Old Norse.[4] This conflicts with the version told in Heimskringla.