Nothing reveals Basil II’s narrow conception of his responsibilities so starkly as his lack of interest in the succession. Though he could hardly have disinherited his old and feeble brother Constantine VIII, Basil should at least have married one of Constantine’s daughters to a man fit to be emperor while she was young enough to bear children. Yet after a short and undistinguished reign even Constantine waited until he was on his deathbed to see his daughter Zoë married. The forty-nine-yearold Zoë cared mostly for cosmetics, and Constantine’s officials recommended her new husband Romanus Argyrus chiefly because they thought they could control him. Worse yet, similar bureaucrats were to run the government for most of the next half-century, always favoring malleable candidates for the throne.
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