Nothing reveals Basil II’s narrow conception of his responsibilities so starkly as his lack of interest in the succession. Although he could hardly have disinherited his old and ailing 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 an undistinguished reign of three years, even Constantine waited until he was on his deathbed to see his daughter Zoë married. The forty-nine-year-old Zoë cared mostly for cosmetics, and Constantine’s officials recommended her new husband Romanus Argyrus chiefly because they believed they could control him easily. 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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