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.
In 861 Michael and Bardas invaded Bulgaria and secured the conversion of the king to Christianity.
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.
The dissensions between the patriarch Ignatius and Bardas, the uncle of the youthful Emperor Michael III., brought promotion to Photius.
Meanwhile, the situation was suddenly changed by the murder of Photius's patron, Bardas, by order of the emperor Michael, who was himself assassinated by his colleague Basil in the following year 867).
He succeeded in escaping and was ultimately lucky enough to enter the service of Theophilitzes, a relative of the Caesar Bardas (uncle of Michael III.), as groom.
The next step was to murder the powerful Caesar Bardas, who, as the emperor was devoted to amusement, virtually ruled the empire; this was done with the emperor's consent by Basil's own hand (April 866), and a few weeks later Basil was raised to the imperial dignity.