During his minority the empire was governed by his mother Theodora, who in spite of several defeats inflicted upon her generals maintained the frontiers against the Saracens of Baghdad and Crete. The regent displayed her religious zeal by restoring veneration of icons (842) and persecuting the Paulician heretics, but she entirely neglected the education of her son. As a result Michael grew up a debauchee, and fell under the sway of his uncle Bardas, who induced him to banish Theodora to a convent and practically assumed the chief control (857).
Bardas justified this usurpation by introducing various internal reforms; in the wars of the period Michael himself took a more active part. During a conflict with the Saracens of the Euphrates (856-863), the emperor sustained a personal defeat (860), which was retrieved by a great victory on the part of his uncle Petronas in Asia Minor. In 861 Michael and Bardas invaded Bulgaria and secured the conversion of the king to Christianity.
On the sea the empire suffered under the ravages of the Cretan corsairs; and in 865 the first pillaging expedition of the Russians endangered the Bosporus. In 867 Michael was assassinated by Basil the Macedonian, a former groom, who had overthrown the influence of Bardas and in 866 been associated in the Empire.
This entry was originally from the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.