De Administrando Imperio

De Administrando Imperio ("On the Governance of the Empire") is the Latin title of a Greek-language work written by the 10th-century Eastern Roman Emperor Constantine VII. The Greek title of the work is Πρὸς τὸν ἴδιον υἱὸν Ρωμανόν ("To [my] own son Romanos"). It is a domestic and foreign policy manual for the use of Constantine's son and successor, the Emperor Romanos II.

Author and background

Constantine was a scholar-emperor, who sought to foster learning and education in the Eastern Roman Empire. Emperor Constantine VII gathered a group of educated people and dedicated himself to writing books about the administration, ceremonies, and history of the Eastern Roman Empire. A circle educated people formed around Constantine VII written three unfinished books ( De Administrando Imperio, De Ceremoniis and On the Themes) and finished a biography of his grandfather, Basil I.[1] De Administrando Imperio was written between 948 and 952.[2][3] It contains advice on running the heterogeneous empire as well as fighting foreign enemies. The work combines two of Constantine's earlier treatises, "On the Governance of the State and the various Nations" (Περί Διοικήσεως τοῦ Κράτους βιβλίον καί τῶν διαφόρων Έθνῶν), concerning the histories and characters of the nations neighbouring the Empire, including the Turks, Pechenegs, Kievan Rus', South Slavs, Arabs, Lombards, Armenians, and Georgians; and the "On the Themes of East and West" (Περί θεμάτων Άνατολῆς καί Δύσεως, known in Latin as De Thematibus), concerning recent events in the imperial provinces. To this combination were added Constantine's own political instructions to his son, Romanus.


The book content, according to its preface, is divided into four sections:[4]

  • a key to the foreign policy in the most dangerous and complicated area of the contemporary political scene, the area of northerners and Scythians,
  • a lesson in the diplomacy to be pursued in dealing with the nations of the same area
  • a comprehensive geographic and historical survey of most of the surrounding nations and
  • a summary of the recent internal history, politics and organization of the Empire.

As to the historical and geographic information, which is often confusing and filled with legends, this information is in essence reliable.[4]

The historical and antiquarian treatise, which the Emperor had compiled during the 940s, is contained in the chapters 12—40. This treatise contains traditional and legendary stories of how the territories surrounding the Empire came in the past to be occupied by the people living in them in the Emperor's times (Saracens, Lombards, Venetians, Serbs, Croats, Magyars, Pechenegs). Chapters 1—8, 10—12 explain imperial policy toward the Pechenegs and Turks. Chapter 13 is a general directive on foreign policy coming from the Emperor. Chapters 43—46 are about contemporary policy in the north-east (Armenia and Georgia). The guides to the incorporation and taxation of new imperial provinces, and to some parts of civil and naval administration, are in chapters 49—52. These later chapters (and chapter 53) were designed to give practical instructions to the emperor Romanus II, and are probably added during the year 951–52, in order to mark Romanus' fourteenth birthday (952).

Manuscripts and editions

There are four surviving copies:

P = codex Parisinus gr. 2009Michael (John Doukas' confidential secretary)late 11th centuryEarliest copyBibliothèque Nationale, Paris
V = codex Vaticanus-Palatinus gr. 126Antony Eparchus1509Notes in Greek and Latin added by later readersVatican Library
F = codex Parisinus gr. 2967Eparchus, then Michael Damascene1509–1529 (?)Copy of VBibliothèque Nationale, Paris
M = codex Mutinensis gr. 179Andrea Darmari1560–1586 (?)Copy (incomplete) of PModena

The Greek text in its entirety was published seven times. The editio princeps, which was based on V, was published in 1611 by Johannes Meursius, who gave it the Latin title by which it is now universally known, and which translates as On Administering the Empire. This edition was published six years later with no changes. The next edition – which belongs to the A. Bandur (1711) – is collated copy of the first edition and manuscript P. Banduri's edition was reprinted twice: in 1729 in the Venetian collection of the Byzantine Historians, and in 1864 Migne republished Banduri's text with a few corrections.

Constantine himself had not given the work a name, preferring instead to start the text with the standard formal salutation: "Constantine, in Christ the Eternal Sovereign, Emperor of the Romans, to [his] own son Romanos, the Emperor crowned of God and born in the purple".


The language Constantine uses is rather straightforward High Medieval Greek, somewhat more elaborate than that of the Canonic Gospels, and easily comprehensible to an educated modern Greek. The only difficulty is the regular use of technical terms which – being in standard use at the time – may present prima facie hardships to a modern reader. For example, Constantine writes of the regular practice of sending basilikoí (lit. "royals") to distant lands for negotiations. In this case, it is merely meant that "royal men", i.e. imperial envoys, were sent as ambassadors on a specific mission. In the preamble, the emperor makes a point that he has avoided convoluted expressions and "lofty Atticisms" on purpose, so as to make everything "plain as the beaten track of common, everyday speech" for his son and those high officials with whom he might later choose to share the work. It is probably the extant written text that comes closest to the vernacular employed by the imperial palace bureaucracy in 10th-century Constantinople.

Modern editions

In 1892 R. Vari planned a new critical edition of this work and J.B. Bury later proposed to include this work in his collection of Byzantine Texts. He gave up the plan for an edition, surrendering it to Gyula Moravcsik in 1925. The first modern edition of the Greek text (by Gy. Moravscik) and its English translation (by R. J. H. Jenkins) appeared in Budapest in 1949. The next editions appeared in 1962 (Athlone, London) then in 1967 and 1993 (Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection, Washington D.C.).


  1. Logos 2019, pp. 10, 10B.
  2. Günter Prinzing; Maciej Salamon (1999). Byzanz und Ostmitteleuropa 950-1453: Beiträge zu einer table-ronde des XIX. International Congress of Byzantine Studies, Copenhagen 1996. Otto Harrassowitz Verlag. pp. 24–. ISBN 978-3-447-04146-1.
  3. Angeliki E. Laiou (1 January 1992). Byzantium: A World Civilization. Dumbarton Oaks. pp. 8–. ISBN 978-0-88402-215-2.
  4. Ostrogorsky 1995, p. 105, note.


This article is issued from Wikipedia. The text is licensed under Creative Commons - Attribution - Sharealike. Additional terms may apply for the media files.