Instituto de Estudios Políticos y Derecho Público "Dr. Humberto J. La Roche"
de la Facultad de Ciencias Jurídicas y Políticas de la Universidad del Zulia
Maracaibo, Venezuela
Esta publicación cientíca en formato digital es continuidad de la revista impresa
ISSN-Versión Impresa 0798-1406 / ISSN-Versión on line 2542-3185Depósito legal pp
ppi 201502ZU4645
Vol.40 N° 73
Recibido el 28/02/2022 Aceptado el 15/05/2022
ISSN 0798- 1406 ~ De pó si to le gal pp 198502ZU132
Cues tio nes Po lí ti cas
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cul tad de Cien cias Ju rí di cas y Po lí ti cas. Ins ti tu to de Es tu dios Po lí ti cos y De re cho Pú bli co
Dr. Hum ber to J. La Ro che. Ma ra cai bo, Ve ne zue la. E- mail: cues tio nes po li ti cas@gmail.
com ~ loi chi ri nos por til Te le fax: 58- 0261- 4127018.
Vol. 40, Nº 73 (2022), 483-494
IEPDP-Facultad de Ciencias Jurídicas y Políticas - LUZ
The legal framework of the foreign
policy of the Byzantine in the era
of Constantine VII Porphyrogenitus
Volodymyr Kuzovkov *
Kyrylo Нorbenko **
Oleksandr Smyrnov ***
Leonid Smyrnov ****
The aim of the article is to determine the legal foundations.
The methodological basis of the study is analysis and synthesis,
systems approach, genetic and comparative methods.
Conclusions: The Byzantine law can be traced to the legislation
of Basil I and Leo VI. However, jus gentium (law of nations)
did not have sucient representation in their codes. Therefore, the legal
basis of Byzantine foreign policy consisted of customs and traditions that
had been formed in diplomatic practice in ancient times. The system of
international relations of Byzantium was hierarchical. The legal status of
each participant in this system was determined by military power, political
potential, tradition and religious identity. The relations between Byzantine
and Kievan Rus’ can serve as a model of the application of international
legal norms, which were based on the treaty of 944, which regulated the
legal status of merchants, property rights, mutual military assistance and
the use of territories on the coast of the Dnieper River estuary, Beloberezhye
and the island of Saint Epherius (Berezan).
Keywords: international law; politics of the Byzantine Empire; Byzantium;
Constantine VII Porphyrogenitus; Kievan Rus.
* PhD of History, Scientic Head of the Scientic Research Laboratory, V.O. Sukhomlynskyi Mykolaiv
National University, Mykolaiv, Ukraine. ORCID ID:
** Senior lecturer at the Department of History, V.O. Sukhomlynskyi Mykolaiv National University,
Mykolaiv, Ukraine. ORCID ID:
*** Senior lecturer at the Department of History, V.O. Sukhomlynskyi Mykolaiv National University,
Mykolaiv, Ukraine. ORCID ID:
**** Research Ocer at the Research Laboratory, V.O. Sukhomlynskyi Mykolaiv National University,
Mykolaiv, Ukraine. ORCID ID:
Volodymyr Kuzovkov, Kyrylo Нorbenko, Oleksandr Smyrnov y Leonid Smyrnov
The legal framework of the foreign policy of the Byzantine in the era of Constantine VII Porphyrogenitus
El fundamento jurídico de la política exterior bizantina
en la época de Constantino VII Bagriano (945-959)
El objetivo del artículo fue determinar los fundamentos jurídicos de
la política exterior del estado bizantino a mediados del siglo X. La base
metodológica del estudio es el análisis y la síntesis, el enfoque de sistemas,
los métodos genéticos y comparativos. Todo permite concluir que, el
derecho bizantino se remonta a la legislación de Basilio I y León VI. Sin
embargo, el jus gentium no tuvo suciente representación en sus códigos.
Por lo tanto, la base legal de la política exterior bizantina consistía en
costumbres y tradiciones que se habían formado en la práctica diplomática
en la antigüedad. El sistema de relaciones internacionales de Bizancio era
jerárquico. El estatus legal de cada participante en este sistema estaba
determinado por el poder militar, el potencial político, la tradición y la
identidad religiosa. Las relaciones entre la Rus bizantina y la de Kiev pueden
servir como modelo de aplicación de las normas jurídicas internacionales,
que se basaron en el tratado de 944, que regulaba el estatuto jurídico de los
comerciantes, los derechos de propiedad, la asistencia militar mutua y el
uso de los territorios en la costa del estuario del río Dnieper, Beloberezhye
y la isla de Saint Epherius (Berezan).
Palabras clave: derecho internacional; política del Imperio Bizantino;
Bizancio; Constantino VII Porphyrogenitus; Rus de
The reign of the emperors from the Macedonian dynasty (867–1056) is
rightly considered the era of the “Byzantine encyclopedism” or “Macedonian
Renaissance”, which is characterised by the ourishing of literature and
science. The peak of this epoch takes place during the reign of Constantine
VII Porphyrogenitus (945-959). He is credited with authoring, or at least
partly concerned with, a series of works on Byzantine relations with
neighbouring states and people.
The foreign-policy realities and motives of diplomatic actions described
in Constantine VII’s writings are often used as classic examples of the
development of these spheres of life in the Byzantine state. However, the
middle of the X century for international relations within the boundaries
of the imperial ecumene was quite a transitional time because the old
structures were abandoned while new ones were being formed. In Western
Europe, the Carolingian Empire had ceased to exist, and its successor, the
Holy Roman Empire, had still not emerged.
Vol. 40 Nº 73 (2022): 483-494
In the East, the Abbasid Caliphate lost its political authority and ceased
to play the role of a centre of attraction for the Islamic emirates. A few
months after the beginning of the independent rule of Constantine VII, the
real power in Baghdad was taken by the Shiite Buyid dynasty. These events
led to the breaking of familiar political ties within the Muslim world and
caused the need for a legal understanding of the changes that had occurred.
The area north of the Black Sea in Eastern Europe was on the scene
as well. Khazar Khaganate gradually lost its inuence here. At the same
time, the relations with the Kievan Rus’ underwent sucient changes in all
spheres - political, economic, religious, and military. And therefore, their
importance had increased dramatically.
Despite the continuing interest in the study of the foreign policy and
diplomacy of Byzantium, as well as the literary legacy of Constantine VII,
many of their aspects still cause lively discussions. The problem of the legal
norms on which Byzantine foreign policy was based in this era received little
attention from scholars. Neither the origins of international law, the extent
of its codication, nor the role of custom had been thoroughly addressed.
Therefore, this study aims to determine the legal foundations of the
foreign policy of the Byzantine state in the middle of the X century. In this
regard, the authors plan to solve such problems as identifying the sources
of legal norms of the Byzantine foreign policy and considering the features
of their practical application in relations with neighbours, in particular with
the Kievan Rus’.
1. Methodology of the research
The methodological basis consists of both general scientic and specic
scientic research methods. In considering international relations of the
middle of the 10th century, a systematic approach is applied. According
to the principles of this approach formulated by L. von Bertalany and R.
Aron, the Byzantine Empire can be considered as the centre of a particular
international system, the “Byzantine Commonwealth of Nations” by D.
Obolensky (Obolensky, 1998).
Analysis and synthesis are used in the process of researching historical
sources. The analysis detects references to the facts of the application of
ordinary legal norms and legal traditions in the treatises of Constantine VII
Porphyrogenitus. Synthesis makes it possible to systematise the identied
The genetic method is practised to examine the origins of the legal
norms on which the Byzantine elite relied in decision-making in foreign
policy. This method traces the evolution of Byzantine international law
from antiquity to Constantine VII.
Volodymyr Kuzovkov, Kyrylo Нorbenko, Oleksandr Smyrnov y Leonid Smyrnov
The legal framework of the foreign policy of the Byzantine in the era of Constantine VII Porphyrogenitus
The comparative method allows drawing parallels between the legal
norms used in international relations in dierent epochs. The study
compares the development of the principles of jus gentium (law of nations)
in Western Europe and the Byzantine Empire.
2. Results and discussion
Legislative reforms became a landmark phenomenon during the reign of
the rst emperors of the Macedonian dynasty —Basil I (867–886) and Leo
VI the Wise (886–912)—grandfather and father of Constantine VII. The
codes “Basilika”, as well as the “Epanagoge” and “Procheiros”, represented
the revision of the Code of Justinian. Since the X century, it is “Basilika”
that has become the main legislative body, although Corpus juris civilis
were still being used for educational needs.
The elements of international law were reected even in Justinian’s
Digest. The statements concerning the existence of jus gentium (the law of
people) and the possibility of their application not only in relation to the
peoples within the empire, but also to the neighbours of Pax Romana are
contained in the quotations of Ulpian and Gaius (Merezhko, 2010).
However, the Code of Justinian regulated relations within a state, and
therefore the rules it contained had little to do with the Roman Empire’s
relations with its neighbours. It is signicant that the extended treatment
of jus gentium of Ulpian’s as the legal basis for international relations has
survived in the West in the “Etymology” of Isidorus and has remained
unknown to the Byzantine East (Grabar, 1901:15).
Therefore, the idea of jus gentium did not get further development
in “Basilika”. The main task of the legislative codes of Basil I and Leo VI
the Wise was to clear the law of obsolete norms. In addition, these codes
covered a range of issues related to social and economic life (Kazhdan,
1958). It is also worth noting the works of Ukrainian researchers Roman
Oleksenko, Yevhenii Bortnykov, Stanislav Bilohur, Nina Rybalchenko,
Natalia Makovetska (2021) and Demian Smernytskyi, Kostiantyn Zaichko,
Yurii Zhvanko, Malvina Bakal, Tetiana Shapochka (2021) which was
published in 2021.
Foreign policy and diplomacy of Byzantium were practically not
reected in “Basilika”. Constantine VII’s work on international relations is
based more on the tradition and experience of foreign policy existing since
A certain stage of systematization of foreign policy experience and
norms of the legal tradition of relations with other peoples is the treatise
“About embassies” or “About Roman Ambassadors to Peoples”. The treatise
Vol. 40 Nº 73 (2022): 483-494
is included in the compendium of extracts (excerpts) from works of ancient
literature, united thematically. The work on the collection had probably
been completed until 945 when the independent rule of Constantine VII
Much of the excerpt “About embassies” was taken from the works of
authors of the Late Roman Empire (IV-VI centuries). Some of them had
diplomatic experience. The most famous in this sense was the author of
“Gothic history”, Priscus, known for his participation in the East Roman
embassy under the Hun chief Attila (448), and Peter the Patrician, the head
of the Roman embassy who made peace with the Sasanids in 562.
Apparently, the purpose of writing the treatise “About embassies” is to
create a database of information on the history of diplomacy and the legal
aspects of foreign policy. The Treatises “On the Governance of the Empire”
and the “De Ceremoniis”, written during Constantine’s VII independent
rule, are thematically oriented to modern diplomatic needs and are intended
for a small group of readers.
The place of the Emperor and Empire in the surrounding world is
determined on the basis of biblical tradition in the form of quotations from
the Old Testament. For this reason, Constantine VII Porphyrogenitus,
while teaching his son and heir, Roman I, asserted the divine origin
of the authority of the Byzantine Emperors, to whom foreigners must
pay tribute and bow to: “The ones who inhabit the land” (Constantinus
Porphyrogenitus, 1967: 46-47). The power of the Byzantine Emperor is
universal. The ruler is to make “the best decisions” for the “common good”
(Constantinus Porphyrogenitus, 1967:44-45).
The concept of the “Gob blessed” world leadership of the Byzantine
Emperor, which was explained to us by Constantine VII Porphyrogenitus,
puts him at the head of an extensive international hierarchy. This hierarchy
has the characteristics of an international system. Its peculiarity lies in the
existence of “hierarchically organized” sovereignty, i.e., the sovereignty
divided between representatives of dierent hierarchy levels (Merezhko,
Certain ideas about the international hierarchy, headed by the
Byzantine Emperor, are given in 48 chapters of the treatise the “De
Ceremoniis” (Сonstantine Porrogenito, 1828: 686- 692). It contains
a list of introductory formulas to ocial messages sent by emperors to
other rulers and ecclesiastical hierarchies. The list includes more than 60
recipients. The materials of the chapter allow us to distinguish several types
of hierarchies of international partners of the Byzantines.
The rst type of hierarchy is based on the principle of the spiritual
kinship of the Byzantine emperor with other addresses. The Pope is seen as
the spiritual father of the emperor. A number of rulers of Western Europe –
Volodymyr Kuzovkov, Kyrylo Нorbenko, Oleksandr Smyrnov y Leonid Smyrnov
The legal framework of the foreign policy of the Byzantine in the era of Constantine VII Porphyrogenitus
the kings of Gallia (France), Saxony (Germany) and Bavaria are considered
spiritual brothers of the emperor. According to Naumenko, the “king
of Bavaria” in this very case is Henry II, Duke of Bavaria (948-955), the
younger brother of Otto I, King of Germany (939-973) (Nazarenko, 2001:
256). The status of a spiritual brother, apparently, meant a kind of equality
among Christian rulers. However, bearing the title of the emperor already
placed the ruler of Byzantine on a higher level in the international hierarchy
compared to the kings of Western Europe.
A separate group of “spiritual sons” of the Byzantine emperor were
the rulers of Armenia, Alanya, and Danube, Bulgaria. However, their full
titles had dierences, in which, evidently, one should see the disparity of
relationship between the Byzantine emperor and each of them.
The second type of hierarchy was reected in the value of gold seals
(bulls), which were attached to imperial messages. Out of the total number
of addresses, such seals are mentioned in relation to 31 rulers. In this
group, the Emir of Egypt stands out separately for having received a seal
worth 18 solidi. This seal signicantly exceeds the cost of the seals for
other addressees and, perhaps, is explained by the emperor’s attempts to
establish closer relations with this ruler (Lugovoi, 2018).
The Caliph of Baghdad with the title of the First Counsellor is mentioned
to have received a seal of 4 solidi. The group of rulers who received the
message with the seal that cost 3 solidi were the patriarchs of Alexandria
and Antioch, the kings of Greater Armenia and Vaspurakan, and the Khazar
The largest group consisted of rulers who received messages