Vladimir was born in 1053, the son of Vsevolod I, grand duke of Kiev, and 'Irene' Maria Monomacha. His mother was the daughter of Emperor Constantine IX Monomachos, the origin of his epithet of Monomakh (Greek for 'Fighting in single combat' or 'One who fights alone'). Through his maternal grandmother's family, Vladimir was apparently a descendant of the Argyros and Skleros families of the Byzantine empire, and thus could have traced his bloodline to several other emperors such as Romanus I and Leo V. These Greek connections played an important role in his foreign affairs.
Eupraxia of Kiev, a half-sister of Vladimir, was the second wife of Emperor Heinrich IV, but divorced by him without progeny in 1093.
Vladimir was married at least twice, possibly three times. His first wife was Gytha of Wessex, daughter of Harold II, king of England, and Eadgyth Swannesha. They had at least five children of whom only Mstislav I, Vladimir's heir, would have progeny. By an unnamed second wife, believed to have been a Byzantine noblewoman, he had at least six children, of whom Youry Dolgoruki and Agafija Vladimirovna would have progeny. His daughter Jevfemija Vladimirovna, who would have progeny, probably came from this marriage, though some sources give her as from his first marriage. Some sources record that his third marriage was to a daughter of Aepa, Khan of the Polowcen, a clan belonging to the Kipchaks, a confederation of pastoralists and warriors of Turkic origin. However the Russian Primary Chronicle (an early history of Kievan Rus') identifies Aepa as father-in-law to Youry Dolgoruki from his second marriage, with Vladimir negotiating the marriage in the name of his son. Whether father and son married sisters or the identity of the intended groom was misidentified is unclear. In any event no progeny is recorded from Vladimir's third marriage.
In his famous _Instruction_ (also known as _The Testament_) to his own children, Vladimir mentions that he conducted 83 military campaigns and 19 times made peace with the Polovtsi. At first he waged war against the Great Steppe jointly with his cousin Oleg, but after Vladimir was sent by his father to rule Chernigov and Oleg made peace with the Polovtsi to retake that city from him, they parted company. Since that time, Vladimir and Oleg were bitter enemies who would often engage in internecine wars. The enmity continued among their children and more distant posterity.
From 1094 his chief patrimony was the southern town of Pereyaslav, although he also controlled Rostov, Suzdal, and other northern provinces. In these lands he founded several towns, notably his namesake, Vladimir, the future capital of Russia. In order to unite the princes of Rus' in their struggle against the Great Steppe, Vladimir initiated three princely congresses, the most important being held at Lyubech in 1097 and Dolobsk in 1103.
When Sviatopold II died in 1113, the Kievan populace revolted and summoned Vladimir to the capital. The same year he entered Kiev to the great delight of the crowd and reigned there until his death in 1125. As may be seen from his _Instruction,_ he promulgated a number of reforms in order to allay the social tensions in the capital. These years saw the last flowering of Ancient Rus, which was torn apart ten years after his death.
Vladimir died on 19 May 1125, and is buried in the Saint Sophia Cathedral in Kiev. Succeeding generations often referred to his reign as the golden age of that city. Numerous legends are connected with Vladimir's name, including the transfer from Constantinople to Rus of such precious relics as the icon Theotokos of Vladimir (Our Lady of Vladimir) and the Vladimir/Muscovite crown called Monomakh's Cap.