Map 1 The Byzantine Commonwealth

other northern neighbours of Byzantium, such as the Alans, had been baptised by its priests. They were following a pattern already created in the mid-ninth century with the conversion of the Bulgarians. The credit for these conversions was claimed first and foremost for the emperor and in official correspondence rulers whose forebears had been baptised at Byzantine hands were termed 'spiritual child' of the emperor. In the mid-tenth century, Bulgarian, Alan and-more tendentiously - Armenian leaders were being addressed in this way.2

2 Constantine Porphyrogenitus, De cerimoniis aulae byzantinae, ed. I. I. Reiske (Bonn: Ed.

The enamel plaques most probably sent by Michael VII Doukas (1071-78) to the Hungarian ruler Geza make a clear visual statement of the Byzantine version of the correct order of things: Michael and his son are portrayed with nimbuses round their heads; Geza's garb is plainer and he lacks a nimbus. But he wears a crown of sorts, and the object which the plaques adorned was probably itself a crown, perhaps designed for Geza's noble Byzantine-bornbride and sent to her in the mid-i070s. Bride, crown and enamelled portraits jointly declared Geza's place among established leaders, and the Greek inscription beside Geza calls him king (KpaAr^).3 Such marks of imperial favour also suggested the patronage, which Geza might now be able to dispense to deserving magnates of his own.

These enamels offer a snapshot of Byzantine diplomacy at work. It seems that enamels were only used on crowns designed for external potentates, standing reminders of the superlative craftsmanship of the Byzantines. Yet the fate of Michael Doukas's gift to Geza demonstrates the diversity of uses to which potentates put their associations with the basileus: before long, the enamels were forming the lower part of what became known as 'the crown of St Stephen'. What had been intended by Michael as a demonstration of hegemony ended up as the quintessential symbol of an autonomous Hungarian realm. For many potentates, receipt of titles, gifts and emblems from the emperor was compatible with aspirations to control their own dominions; more confident regimes would adapt, if not mimic, symbols, which the basileus considered his sole prerogative. Through acts of appropriation and overt references to the imperial court, such potentates were primarily concerned to consolidate their rule over heterogeneous, often inchoate populations. Such unmistakable marks of authority could help transcend local differences and rivalries, providing a visual vocabulary of power that all subjects could understand.

Like Geza, most early medieval potentates sought to demonstrate their right to the throne, whether it was inherited, usurped or still being fashioned. They sought respect, if not obedience, from their kinsmen and other figures of substance in the region, and from those living within their nominal dominions and beyond. The bestowing of offices and concomitant determination of status tended to be viewed as a measure of a ruler's authority. Here, too, Byzantium had much to offer. The notion of the emperor as God's viceroy on earth and

3 The doubts of J. Deer as to whether the plaques originally decorated a crown, rather than some other diplomatic gift, are well put, but do not rule out the a priori likelihood that a crown was the enamels' original holder: J. Deer, Die heilige Krone Ungarns (OAW: Philosoph.-hist. Klasse, Denkschriften 91) (Vienna: Bohlau, 1966), 72-80.

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