As Seen from the perspective of the eighteen-year old Basil II and that of his closest advisors the world in 976 was one which had changed radically over the previous century. When Basil’s namesake, his great great grandfather, Basil I, seized the throne in 867 the empire’s eastern borders had not reached the Taurus and Anti-Taurus ranges; Armenia had effectively been an Arab sphere of influence, and the long-standing alliance with the Khazar qaghanate had been one of the fixed points of imperial policy. In the Balkans the empire had faced the powerful Bulgar state. Crete and Cyprus had been in Arab hands, and Sicily had rapidly been going the same way. On the south Italian mainland the imperial presence had amounted to little more than the outposts of Otranto and Reggio. At John Tzimiskes’ death in January 976 the empire stretched to Syria and the Djazīra. The former raiding emirates of Melitene, Kālīkalā and Tarsos were the seats of Byzantine strategoi; Aleppo was a Byzantine protectorate and the ruler of Damascus recognised himself to be the emperor’s subject. Western Armenia was imperial territory to within a day’s ride of Lake Van; further east most of the greater Armenian naxarars were effectively the emperor’s clients.
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