Michael III "the Drunkard", with Theodora, 842-867. Solidus (Gold, 20 mm, 4.46 g, 6 h), Constantinopolis, 843-856. IҺSЧS XRISTOS✱ Half-length bust of Christ Pantokrator facing, with cross, holding book of Gospels in his left hand and raising his right in benediction. Rev. + mIXAHL S ΘЄOδORA Crowned facing busts of Michael III, on the left and wearing chlamys, and Theodora, on the right and wearing loros; between their heads, cross above and pellet below. DOC 2. SB 1687. Very rare. A splendid, lustrous example of this important issue. Extremely fine.
Michael III went down in history as a weak ruler, but his epithet Methysos, 'the Drunkard', does not tell the full story of his reign. Michael ascended to the throne in 842 at the age of just three years, which left the empire in the hands of his energetic mother Theodora, shown here together with her underage son on the reverse. The queen mother ruled the empire together with the eunuch Theoktistos until 856, when Michael's uncle Bardas cloistered her and took over the regency. Bardas appointed the famous scholar Phoitos to Patriarch of Constantinople, with whom he not only enacted a series of important reforms but also made great progress in the Christianization of the Rus, the Slavs and the Bulgarians, culminating in the baptism of the Bulgarian ruler Boris I in 863. Even more important were the Byzantine successes on the eastern front, where Michael's uncle Petronas won an overwhelming victory over the Abbasids in 863 in the Battle of Lalakaon. Hostile later sources have often diminished Michael's role in these events by painting him as a lethargic drunk, but contemporary Arabic sources confirm that the emperor forcefully participated in the military campaigns of the 860s, which eventually laid the foundation for the reconquest of Asia Minor by the Byzantines in the 10th century. Nonetheless, Michael was killed in 867 by his new favorite Basil the Macedonian, who usurped the throne and founded the Macedonian dynasty.