Basil I., or Basilius, surnamed the Macedonian, emperor of the East, born in the province of Macedon about 825, died March 1, 886. At a very early age he was taken prisoner by a party of Bulgarians, who carried him into their country and sold him as a slave. Having obtained his liberty, he proceeded to Constantinople, where a monk caused him to be presented to Theophilus the Little, a relative of the emperor. Accompanying his master to Greece, he won the favor of a rich widow, who made him her heir, and whose wealth enabled him to purchase large estates in his native country. He continued in the service of Theophilus till 842, when he brought himself to the notice of the emperor Michael III. by vanquishing in single combat a gigantic Bulgarian. He gradually rose to the dignity of chief chamberlain, and repudiated his wife in order to marry one of the emperor's concubines. He formed a conspiracy against Bardas, on whom the dignity of Caesar had been conferred, caused him to be assassinated in the presence of Michael, and soon afterward was created Augustus and recognized as heir apparent. Henceforward, in consequence of the inebriety and incapacity of Michael, the whole administration of the government devolved upon him.
The emperor, perceiving himself reduced to a cipher, became jealous and resolved on Basil's ruin; but the plot was revealed to Basil, and on Sept. 24, 867, Michael III. was murdered. Basil was now proclaimed emperor, and during a reign of over 18 years displayed a vigor and ability which few of his predecessors had equalled. He removed the patriarch Photius from the see of Constantinople, because of the religious feuds which he had excited there, and installed Ignatius in his place; reduced the revolted Pauli-cians to obedience; compelled the Arabs to raise the siege of Ragusa in 872, vanquished them in Syria and Mesopotamia in several engagements, and attempted to drive them out of Italy. His general Procopius was defeated and slain through the treachery of his lieutenant Leo, whom Basil accordingly caused to be mutilated and sent into exile. Basil meanwhile became jealous of his own son Leo, owing to the slanders of a courtier; but, convinced at the last moment of the young man's innocence, he restored him to his affections, and punished his calumniator. The emperor died in consequence of a wound received from a stag.
He made a collection of some of the laws of the eastern empire, which was entitled the "Ba-silican Constitutions," and wrote a small work on the moral, religious, social, and political duties of sovereigns, which he dedicated to his son and successor Leo the Philosopher. This work is still extant; the best edition of it is that published in Gottingen, 1674. - Basil II., emperor of the East, eldest son of Romanus II., born in 958, died in 1025. Romanus had decreed that his infant sons Basil and Constan-tine should reign together under the guardianship of their mother. Immediately after the death of Romanus, however, their mother married Nicephorus Phocas, and raised him to the throne; and the brothers did not succeed to their inheritance till 976. Constan-tine gave himself up to licentiousness, and the whole administration of the government devolved on Basil. His reign was a series of domestic and foreign wars. He put down the formidable revolt of Sclerus, defeated the attempt of Otho II., emperor of Germany, to enforce his claim to Calabria and Apulia in Italy, in right of his wife Theophania, the sister of Basil; and was repeatedly engaged in war with the caliph of Bagdad, from whom he made valuable conquests, and with his old allies the Sicilian Arabs. But his most important war was that which resulted in the conquest of Bulgaria. This war broke out in 987, and lasted, with few intermissions, till 1018. In the first years of it Basil conquered a considerable portion of the southwestern division of that kingdom; but in 996 Samuel, its king, overran all Macedonia and Thessaly, laid siege to Thcssalonica, and penetrated into the Peloponnesus. During his homeward march, however, he was encountered by Basil on the banks of the Sperchius, and defeated.
In 999 Nice-phorus Xiphias, the general of Basil, captured two of the most important strongholds in Bulgaria proper; and in 1002 Samuel again invaded Macedonia and Thrace, and even took Adrianople, but was driven back to his own kingdom. Basil gave his enemies such an overthrow at Zetunium that they never recovered from the blow. On this occasion the emperor showed no mercy to the vanquished. Of 15,000 prisoners he ordered the eyes of all to be put out save those of one in every 100, who was to guide his 99 unfortunate brethren in arms to their native land. The cries of these poor wretches, as they approached the camp of their countrymen, had an effect on the Bulgarian monarch which the shouts of his foes could never produce; he fell to the ground insensible, and expired on the third day after. The conquest of Bulgaria was, however, not entirely completed till 1018, when it became a Greek province and was subjected to the rule of a Greek governor. Basil contemplated the expulsion of the Arabs from Sicily; but in the midst of his preparations for it he was seized with an illness which terminated his life. To expiate the sins of his youth, Basil wore the hair shirt of a monk beneath his imperial robe, and lived the abstemious life of an ascetic.
Notwithstanding his incessant wars, he accumulated from his surplus revenue during his reign an enormous fortune, estimated to have been equal to £8,000,000 sterling.