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Dudley Fey 


3 1924 088 466 184 

Cornell University 

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the Cornell University Library. 

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the United States on the use of the text. 





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Contributors, and Editorial Revisers 

Prof. Adolf Erman, University of Berlin. 

Prof. Joseph Halevy, College of France. 

Prof. Thomas K. Cheyne, Oxford University. 

Prof. Andrew C. McLaughlin, University of Chicago. 
Prof. David H. Miiller, University of Vienna. 

Prof. Alfred Rambaud, University of Paris. 
Capt. F. Brinkley, Tokio. 

Prof. Eduard Meyer, University of Berlin. 

Dr. James T. Shotwell, Columbia University. 

Prof. Theodor Noldeke, University of Strasburg. 
Prof. Albert B. Hart, Harvard University. 

Dr. Paul Bronnle, Eoyal Asiatic Society. 
Dr. James Gairdner, C.B., London. 

Prof. Ulrich von Wilamowitz Mollendorff, University of Berlin. 
Prof. H. Marczali, University of Budapest. 

Dr. G. W. Botsford, Columbia University. 

Prof. Julius Wellhausen, University of Gottingen. 

Prof. Franz E. von KroneB, University of Graz. 
Prof. Wilhelm Soltau, Zabern University. 

Prof. B. W. Eogers, Drew Theological Seminary. 
Prof. A. VambSry, University of Budapest. 

Prof. Otto Hirschfeld, University of Berlin. 

Dr. Frederick Eobertson Jones, Bryn Mawr College. 

Baron Bernardo di San Severino Quaranta, London. 
Dr. John P. Peters, New York. 

Prof. Adolph Harnack, University of Berlin. 

Dr. A. S. Eappoport, School of Oriental Languages, Paris. 
Prof. Hermann Diels, University of Berlin. 

Prof. C. W. C. Oman, Oxford University. 

Prof. W. L. Fleming, Louisiana State University. 

Prof. I. Goldziher, University of Budapest. 

Printed in the United states. Prof. E. Koser, University of Berlin. 






















































Introductory Essay. A Survey of the History op the Middle Ages. By- 
James T. Shotwell, Ph.D. xiii 

History in Outline op the Later Eoman Empire in the East ... 1 


The Reign op Arcadius (395-408 a.d.) . . . .25 

A comparison of the two empires, 25. Greatness of Constantinople, 28. The 
East and the "West, 30. Alaric's revolt, 30. Eutropius the Eunuch, 33. Tribigild 
the Ostrogoth; the fall of Eutropius, 35. St. John Chrysostom, 39. 


Reign of Theodosius the Younger to the Elevation op Justinian (408-527 a.d.) 


The Huns, 45. Ammianus Marcellinus describes the Huns, 47. Attila, king of 
the Huns, 48. The diplomacy of Attila, 54. Attempt to assassinate Attila, 58. Suc- 
cessors of Theodosius, 60. 


Justinian and Theodora (525-548 a.d.) . . . .66 

The factions of the Circus, 69. Avarice and profession of Justinian, 74. The 
building of St. Sophia, 79. Other buildings of Justinian, 81. Fortifications, 82. 
Suppression of the schools, 85. Extinction of the Roman consulship, 87. The Van- 
dalic War, 87. Belisarius, 89. Belisarius enters Carthage, 92. Triumph and meek- 
ness of Belisarius, 96. Solomon's wars with the Moors, 98. Military tactics under 
Justinian, 100. Dacadence of the soldiery, 103. 


The Later Tears of Justinian's Reign (535-565 a.d.) . . 106 

Byzantium rids Rome of the Goths, 106. Finlay's estimate of Belisarius, 109. 
The Goths renew the war, 110. Belisarius in Rome, 111. Gibbon's estimate of Beli- 
sarius and his times, 113. Barbaric inroads, 114. Slavic incursions, 116. Turks and 
Avars, 119. Relations of the Roman Empire with Persia, 121. The revolt in Africa, 
124. Invasion of the Cotrigur Huns, 127. End of Belisarius, 129. Death of Jus- 
£tinian, 130. Justinian as a legislator, 131, Bury's estimate of Justinian, 136. 




Reign of Justin II to Heraclius (565-629 a.d.) . . .137 

Reign of Tiberius, 140. The Emperor Maurice, 142. The Persian "War, 143. 
The Avars, 147. State of the Roman armies, 150. Rebellion against Maurice, 151. 
Phocas emperor, 153. Heraclius emperor, 155. Heraclius plans to remove the 
capital to Carthage, 158. The awakening of Heraclius, 159. Triumph of Heraclius, 
162. The siege of Constantinople, 164. Third expedition of Heraclius, 165. Battle 
of Nineveh, 166. The end of Chosroes, 167. 


Heraclius and his Successors (610-717 a.d.) . . . 170 

The provinces under Heraclius, 173. Barriers against the Northern barbarians, 
176. Religious activities of Heraclius, 177. Wars with the Mohammedans, 179. The 
reign of Constans II, 182. Religious feuds, 183. The growing danger from the 
Saracens, 184. Reign of Constantine IV, 186. Saracen wars and siege of Constan- 
tinople, 187. Justinian II, 189. The government of Leontius, 192. Justinian 
recovers the throne, 193. Anarchy, 194. 


Leo the Isaurian to Joannes Zimisces (717-969 a.d.) . . 197 

Leo (ni) the Isaurian, 201. The siege of Constantinople, 202. Revolt against 
Leo, 205. The Iconoclasts, 207. Iconoclasm after Leo, 209. The reign of Constan- 
tine (V) Copronymus, 210. Government of Copronymus ; the Saracen wars, 211. 
Wars with Bulgaria, 212. Council of 754, 214. Leo IV and Constantine VI, 215. 
The empress Irene,- 216. Irene and iconoclasm, 217. End of Byzantine authority at 
Rome, 219. Nicephorus and Michael I, 220. Leo the Armenian, 221. The Amorian 
dynasty (820-867 a.d.) : Michael II, 222. Theophilus, 222. Theodora and Michael 
the Drunkard, 223. The Basilian or Macedonian dynasty (867-1057 A.D.) : Basil, 
225. Leo (VI) the Philosopher, 228. Constantine VII Porphyrogenitus, 228. 
Romanus Lecapenus, 229. Romanus II, 230. Nicephorus Phocas, 231. The wars 
of Nicephorus, 231. 


Glory and Decline op the Empire (969-1204 a.d.) . . . 235 

The Russian war, 237. War with the Saracens, 241. The apex of glory, 242. 
Basil II and his successors, 243. Separation of Greek and Latin churches, 250. The 
Comneni, 251. Romanus in the field, 253. Captivity of the emperor, 255. The 
sons of Constantine XI and Nicephorus III, 257. Anna Comnena's history, 259. 
Troubles of Alexius, 259. The Norman invasion, 260. Joannes (II) Comnenus 
(Calo- Joannes), 263. Manuel I, 264. The adventures of Andronicus, 266. Alexius 
II, 269. Andronicus I emperor, 270. Gibbon's review of the emperors, 271. Isaac 
(115 Angelus, 273. Intervention of the crusaders, 273. The capture of Constan- 
tinople, 275. Second capture, and sack of the city, 278. 




The Latin Empire (1204-1261 a.d.) . . . .282 

The election of an emperor, 283. Baldwin crowned, 284. Division of the terri- 
tory, 285. The pope acknowledged, 286. Fate of the royal fugitives, 287. Baldwin 
quarrels with Boniface, 288. Other conquests, 290. The Bulgarian War, 291. De- 
feat of the Latins, 292. - The fate of Baldwin, 295. Henry of Hainault, 296. Pierre 
de Courtenai and Robert of Namur, 298. Jean de Brienne, 299. Baldwin II, 300. 
The crown of thorns, 300. Progress of the Greeks, 301. Constantinople recovered 
by the Greeks, 302. 


The Restoration op the Greek Empire (1204-1391 a.d.) . . 304 

Theodore (I) Lascaris and Joannes Vatatzes, 304. Theodore (H) Lasearis and 
Joannes (IV) Lascaris, 305. Michael (VIII) Palseologus, 305. Michael Palseologus 
crowned emperor, 307. Return and rule of the Greek emperor, 308. The provinces 
of the empire, 311. Andronicus II, 317. The Catalan Grand Company, 320. The 
duchy of Athens, 322. Walter de Brienne and Cephisus, 322. Andronicus II to the 
restoration of the Palaeologi, 323. The crusade of the fourteenth century, 329. The 
empire tributary to the Turks, 330. 

Manuel II to the Fall op Constantinople (1391-1453 a.d.) . . 331 

Manuel II, 331. Reign of Joannes VII, 336. Brief union of the Greek and 
Roman churches, 337. Reign of Constantine XIII, 338. War with Muhammed, 
340. Church dissensions, 341. Preparations for defence, 342. The siege begins, 
344. The final assault, 349. The sack of Constantinople, 352. End of the Comneni 
and Palaeologi, 356. 

Brief Reference-List of Authorities by Chapters 359 



Introduction 361 

Odoacer to the Triumph op Narses (476-568 a.d.) . . . 377 

The rise of Theodoric, 380. The Goths move upon Italy, 383. Theodoric the 
Great, 385. Theodoric and the Church, 389. The fate of Boethius and Symmachus, 
391. The troubles of Amalasuntha, 394. Justinian intervenes, 396. Witiges king 
of the Goths, 399. Belisarius and the siege of R<5me, 399. Sufferings of the 
Romans, 402. The pope deposed, 403. A three months' truce, 404. Last efforts of 
the Goths, 405. Jealousy of the Roman generals, 406. A Frankish invasion, 407. 
The test of Belisarius' fidelity, 409. The rise of Totila, 410. Belisarius again in 



Italy, 412. Second siege of Rome, 413. Totila captures Rome, 415. Belisarius re- 
mantles the deserted city, 416. Totila again, takes Rome, 417. Narses returns to 
Italy, 418. Battle of Taginse and death of Totila, 419. Progress of Narses, 420. In- 
terference of the Franks, 422. Battle of Capua, or the Vulturnus, 423. End of 
Gothic sway, 424. 


Lombard Invasion to Liutprand's Death (568-744 a.d.) . . 426 

Early history of the Lombards, 426. Their wanderings from the Elbe to the 
Danube, 427. The Lombards in the region of the Danube, 429. Wars with the Gepids, 
431. Alboin annihilates the Gepid power, 433. Alboin plans to invade Italy, 434. 
The end of Narses, 435. The Lombards enter Italy, 436. The end of Alboin, 437. 
Extent of Lombard sway, 440. The reign and wooing of Authari, 442. Lombard 
government and law, 443. The decay of Rome, 444. The Lombard kings, 445. De- 
cline of the Lombard kingdom, 446. Reign of Liutprand, 447. Liutprand and 
Martel, 448. Liutprand and the Italian powers, 449. Liutprand, the pope, and Con- 
stantinople, 450. Peace with Rome, 454. Hodgkin's estimate of Liutprand, 455. 

The Franks to the Time of Charles Martel (55 b.c-732 a.d.) . 457 

First conflicts with Rome, 460. Franks in the Roman army, 462. Early kings 
and the Salic Laws, 463. The reign of Clovis, 466. Clovis turns Christian, 469. 
Successors of Clovis to Pepin, 477. The rise of Pepin, 481. Pepin of Heristal, 482. 
The career of Charles Martel, 488. 

Charles Martel to Charlemagne (732-768 a.d.) . . . 497 

The Saracens repelled, 498. The affairs of Rome, 499. The pope calls to Charles, 
500. Carloman and Pepin the Short, 502. Pepin sole ruler, 504. Secularisation, 
506. The anointing of Pepin, 507. Lombard affairs, 509. The pope visits Pepin, 
511. Pepin invades Italy, 513. Second war with the Lombards, 513. Desiderius 
made Lombard king, 515. Pepin and the Aquitanians, 516. 

Charlemagne (768-814 a.d.) 520 

His biography, by a contemporary, 520. The Italian War, 523. The Saxon 
War, 524. The pass of Roncesvalles, 525. Third visit to Italy, 526. Bavarian War 
with Tassilo, 526. Wars in the North and with the Avars, 527. Danish War, 528. 
Glory of Charlemagne, 528. His family, 530. His personal look and habits, 532. 
His imperial title, 635. His death, 535. His will and testament, 537. Giesebrecht 
on Charles the Great, 539. The final subjugation of the Saxons, 543. The imperial 
coronation, 544. Administration and reforms of Charles, 546. Last years of Charles, 
552. The legendary Charlemagne, 554. The Monk of St. Gall's story, 554. Shep- 
pard's summary of the legends, 555. 




Charlemagne's Successors to the Treaty of Verdun (814-843 a.d.) . 557 

Louis le Debonnaire, or Pious, 557. Humiliation 'of Louis, 560. Louis returns to 
power, 561. Last years of Louis, 563. Quarrels of his successors, 565. Charles thej 
Bald and Ludwig the German unite, 566. Lothair brought to terms, 560. Oppression 
of the Saxon freemen, 570. The Treaty of Verdun, 571. 

The Birth of German Nationality (843-936 a.d.) . . . 574 

The reign of Ludwig the German, 575. "War with the Slavonic tribes, 576. 
Ludwig turns against Charles the Bald, 577. The end of Lothair, 578. Ludwig and 
Charles divide Lothair's possessions, 580. Last years of Ludwig the German, 580. 
The sons of Ludwig the German ; Charles the Fat, 582. Ludwig the Younger, 583. 
Ravages of the Northmen, 586. Charles the Fat, 587. Arnulf, 589. Arnulf enters 
Italy, 591. The Babenberg feud,'593. The Hungarian invasions, 694. Conrad I, 595. 
Reign of Henry (I) the Fowler, 598. The unification of the empire, 599. Wars 
against outer enemies, 601. 

Otto the Great and his Successors (936-1034 a.d.) . . 608 

The coronation of Otto I, 608. The overthrow of the Stem duchies, 609. The 
tenth-century renaissance, 610. The strengthening of the marks, 613. Victory over 
the Magyars and Wends, 613. The revival of the Roman Empire, 614. The imperial 
coronation, 615. Wars in Italy against Byzantium, 617. Comparison of Henry the 
Fowler and Otto with Charlemagne, 618. The unforeseen evils of Otto's reign, 620. 
Otto II, 621. Otto in France and Italy, 622. Quelling of the Slavs, 622. Otto III, 
623. Otto III makes and unmakes popes, 624. Henry (II) the Saint, 626. Henry's 
policy, 627. Relation of Italy to the empire at death of Henry II, 628. 

The Franconian, or Satjan Dynasty (1024-1125 a.d.) . . 630 

A national assembly, 631. Conrad II increases his power, 633. Conrad in Italy 
and Germany, 635. The accession of Henry III, 638. Henry's efforts for peace, 639. 
The papacy subordinated to Henry, 640. The truce of God, 644. Sorrows of Henry's 
last years, 645. Henry IV, 646. Quarrel between Henry IV and Gregory VII, 648. 
"Going to Canossa": a contemporary account, 650. Henry's struggle to regain 
power, 653. Henry and Conrad, 654. End of Henry IV, 655. Henry V and the 
war of investitures, 656. 

Brief Reference-List of Authorities by Chapters 660 


Written Specially fob the Present Woek 


Of Columbia University 


The fifth century is, in a way, the beginning of the history of Europe. 
Until the hordes of Goths, Vandals, and Franks came out from the fastnesses 
beyond the Rhine and Danube and played their part upon the cleared arena 
of the empire itself, the history of the world was antique. The history of 
the later empire is still a part of the continuous but shifting history of the 
Mediterranean peoples. The civilisation which the legions of Constantine 
protected was not the product of Rome, it was the work of an antiquity 
which even then stretched farther back, three times farther, than all the dis- 
tance which separates his time from ours. The empire was all antiquity, 
fused into a gigantic unit, and protected by the legions drawn from every 
quarter of the world, from Spain to Syria. As it grew old its roots sank 
deeper into the past. When it had taken all that Greece had to offer in art 
and literature, the tongue of Greece gave free access to the philosophy of the 
orient, and as its pantheon filled with all the gods of the world, its thought 
became the reflex of that of the Hellenised east. If Rome conquered the 
ancient world, it was made captive in return. The last pagan god to shine 
upon the standards of the legions was Mithras, the Sun-god of the Persians, 
while Isis shared with Jupiter the temple on the Capitol. This world 
entrenched behind the bulwarks that stretched from Solway to Nineveh, 
brooding upon its past, was quickened with but one new thought, — and that 
was an un-Roman one, — the strange, unworldly, Christian faith. The peoples 
that had become subjects of Rome were now to own a high allegiance to one 
whom it had condemned as a Jewish criminal ; on the verge of its own 
destruction the empire became Christian. It is the fashion to decry the evil 
influences of the environment of early Christianity, but it was the best that 
human history has ever afforded. How would it have fared with Christian 
doctrine if it had had to do with German barbarians instead of with Greek 
philosophers, who could fit the new truths into accordance with the teachings 
of their own antiquity, and Roman administrators who could forge from the 



molten enthusiasm of the wandering evangelists, the splendid structure of 
Catholicism. Before the storm burst which was to test the utility of all the 
antique civilisation, the church was already stronger than its protectors. And 
so, at the close, the empire stood for two things, antiquity and Christianity. 

In structure, too, the government and society were no longer Roman in 
anything but name. The administration of the empire had become a Persian 
absolutism, and its society was verging towards oriental caste. If the art, 
philosophy, and science of the ancients could be preserved only by such con- 
ditions, it was well that they should pass away. The empire in ceasing to 
be Roman had taken up the worst as well as the best of the past, and as it 
grew respectable under Stoic or Christian teaching, it grew indifferent to the 
high impulses of patriotism, cold and formal outwardly, wearying inwardly 
of its burden. 

The northern frontiers of this empire did not prove to be an unbroken 
barrier to the Germans, however, and for two centuries before the sack of 
Rome, they had been crossing, individually or in tribes, into the peaceful 
stretches of the civilised world. Their tribal wars at home made all the 
more alluring the attractions of the empire. For a long time the Roman 
armies kept these barbarians from anything resembling conquest, but even the 
vanquished who survived defeat found a home in Roman villas or among 
the federated troops. The fifth century merely brought to light what had 
been long preparing, and it took but few invaders to accomplish the final 
overthrow. The success of these last invasions has imposed an exaggeration 
of their extent upon historians. They were not true wanderings of nations, 
but rather incursions of adventurers. The barbarians we call by the name 
of Goths were a mixture of many nations, while the army of Clovis was hardly 
more than a single Roman legion. Yet the important fact is that the inva- 
sions of the fifth century were successful, and with them the new age begins. 

There were two movements which brought about the overthrow of the 
Roman Empire ; one among the barbarians, the other within the empire 
itself. The Huns were pressing from the east upon the German peoples, 
whom long civil wars had weakened to such a degree that they must yield 
or flee. Just as the strength of the Roman frontier was to be tested, whether 
it could hold back the combined impulsion of Teuton and Hun, the West Goth 
within the empire struck at its heart. The capture of Rome by Alaric did 
not end the empire ; it does not seem to have created the universal consterna- 
tion with which we now associate it. Poets and orators still spoke of Rome 
as the eternal city, and Alaric's successor, Ataulf, sought the service of that 
state which he felt unable to destroy. But the sack of Rome was not the 
worst of the injuries inflicted by Alaric ; it was one of the slightest. A 
disaster had been wrought before he reached the walls of Rome for which 
all the zeal of Ataulf could not atone. For, so the story runs, Stilicho the 
last heroic defender of the old empire called in the garrisons from along 
the frontiers to stay the Gothic advance. The incursions of Alaric within the 
confines of Italy opened the way to the hesitating but still eager barbarians 
along the Rhine. The storm bursts at once ; the Germans are across the 
Rhine before Alaric can reach Rome. Instead of their German forests, they 
have the vineyards of the Moselle and the olive orchards of Aquitaine. The 
proud nobles in Gaul, unaccustomed to war or peril, can but stand by and 
watch while their villas lend their plunder to the raiders. After all, the 
storm, — this one at least, — -soon passes. The Suabians and the Vandals 
cross the Pyrenees and the West Goths come up from Italy ^ with the var- 
nish of culture upon them, to repress their lawless cousins, and drive them 


into the fastnesses , of Leon or across to Africa. But in Gaul, as Salvianus 
tells us, the "barbarians " come as a welcome relief to a portion of the over- 
taxed population. The country has been only partly changed. The noble 
Sidonius Apollinaris dines with the king Theodoric and is genially interested 
in his Burgundian neighbours who. have settled in the eastern part. By the 
middle of the century, unaided by the shadow emperors in Italy, this mixture 
of peoples, conscious of the value of their present advantages, unite to defeat 
the invading Huns at the battle of Chalons. But another and more barbarous 
people is now taking possession of the North. The Franks are almost as 
different from the Visigoths as the Iroquois from the Norman Crusaders. 
Continually recruited from the forests of the lower Rhine, they do not cut 
themselves off from their ancient home and lose themselves in the midst of 
civilisation ; they first break the Roman state north of the Loire and then 
crowd down the Visigoths towards Spain. By the year 500 Gaul has become 
Frank! and, and the Franks have become Catholic Christians. Add to these 
facts the Saxon conquest of England, the Ostrogothic kingdom in Italy, and 
the overthrow of the empire in the West, and we have a survey of part of 
the transformation which the fifth century wrought in Western Europe. 
With it we enter upon the Middle Ages. 

Such is our introduction to the new page of history. Behind us are now 
the fading glories of old Rome ; the antique society is outwardly supplanted 
by the youthful and untutored vigour of the Teutonic peoples. But the num- 
bers of the invaders is comparatively few and the world they conquered large 
in extent, and it had been romanising for four hundred years. The antique 
element still persisted ; in the East it retained its sovereignty for another 
thousand years, in the West it compromised with the Teutonic element in the 
creation of a Roman Empire on a German basis, which was to last until 
the day of Napoleon, and in the recognition of the authority of the Roman 
hierarchy. The Church and the Empire, these two institutions of which we 
hear most in the Middle Ages, were both of them Roman, but both owed their 
political exaltation to the German Carolingian kings. It was Boniface the 
Saxon, that "proconsul of the Papacy," who bound the Germans to the Roman 
See; but Pepin lent his strong aid, and Charlemagne doubly sealed the 

The coronation of the great king of the Franks as emperor of the Romans 
forecasts a line of history that was not followed, however, in the way he 
had in mind. The union of Teuton and Roman, or better, of Teuton and 
antiquity, was not destined to proceed so simply and so peacefully. Instead 
of an early revival of the great past, the world went down into the dark age, 
and was forced to struggle for many centuries slowly upward towards the day 
when i* - jould again appreciate the antiquity it had forgotten. In other words 
the Middle Ages intervened to divide the renaissance of Charlemagne from 
that which culminated in Erasmus. How can we explain this phenomenon? 
What is its significance ? It is essential that we face these questions if we 
would understand in the slightest the history of Europe. And yet as 
we examine the phenomenon itself we may find some reconstruction of our 
own ideas of it will be necessary. 


Let us now turn to the Middle Ages. We shall find something of nov- 
elty in the act, for in all the world's history there is no other period which 
ordinarily excites in us so little interest as this. Looking back across the 


centuries from the heights of Modern Times, we have been taught to train 
our eyes upon the far but splendid table-lands of Rome, and to ignore the 
space that intervenes, as though it were nothing but a dreary blank between 
the two great epochs of our history. Dark Ages and Middle Ages are to 
most of us almost synonymous terms, — a thousand years filled with a confu- 
sion, with no other sign of life than the clash of battle or the chanting of 
hymns, a gruesome and unnatural world, dominated by either martial or 
monastic ideals, and void of almost everything we care for or seekafter to-day. 

It is strange'that such a perspective has persisted so long, when it requires 
but the slightest analysis of the facts to prove its utter falsity. The merest 
glance along the centuries reveals the fact that this stretch of a thousand 
years is no level plain, no monotonous repetition of unprogressive generations, 
but is varying in character and progressive in all the deeper and more essen- 
tial elements of civilisation ; in short, is as marked by all the signs of evolu- 
tion as any such sweep of years in all the world's history. Yet the mistake 
in perspective was made a long time ago ; it is a heritage of the Renaissance. 
When men looked back from the attainments of the sixteenth century to the 
ancient world which so fascinated them, they forgot that the very elevation 
upon which they stood had been built by the patient work of their own ances- 
tors, and that the enlightenment which they had attained, the culture of the 
Renaissance itself, would have been impossible but for the stern effort of 
those who had laid the foundations of our society upon Teutonic and Chris- 
tian basis in the so-called Middle Ages. The error of- the men of the Renais- 
sance has passed into history and lived there, clothed with all the rhetoric of 
the modern literatures, and upheld with all the fire of religious controversy. 
How could there be anything worth considering in an age that on the one 
hand was void of a feeling for antique ideas and could not write the periods of 
Cicero, and on the other hand was dominated by a religious system which has 
uot satisfied all classes of our modern world ? But if we condemn the Middle 
Ages on these grounds, we are turning aside from the up-building of the 
Europe of to-day, because its aesthetic and religious ideals were not as varied 
or as radical as ours. And for this we are asked to pass by that brilliant 
twelfth century which gave us universities, politics, the dawn of science, a 
high philosophy, civic life, and national consciousness, or the thirteenth cen- 
tury that gave us parliaments. Is there nothing in all this teeming life but 
the gropings of superstition ? It is clear that as we look into it, the error 
of the Renaissance grows more absurd. Our perspective should rather be 
that of a long slope of the ascending centuries, rising steadily but slowly from 
the time of the invasions till the full modern period. 

Let us look at the details. The break-up of the Roman world which 
resulted in the first planting of the modern nations, did not cause that vast 
calamity which we call the Dark Age. The invasion of the Teutons and the 
infusion of their vigour into the effete society of southern Europe was not a 
fatal blow to civilisation. Rude as they were when first they crossed the 
frontiers of the empire, the German peoples, and especially their leaders, gave 
promise that almost in their own day whatever was of permanent value in 
the Roman world should be re-incorporated into the new society. This series 
of recoveries had to be repeated with every new people, but it finally seemed 
about to culminate in the wider renaissance of Charlemagne. By the year 800 
it looked as though Europe were already on the clear path to modern times. 
But just as the young Teutonic civilisation reached the light, a second wave 
of invasion came dashing over it. The Vikings, whom Charlemagne's aged 
eyes may have watched stealing past the hills of Calais, not only swept the 


northern seas, but harried Frankland from the Rhine .to the Rhone, until 
progress was at a standstill and the only thought of the ninth century was 
that of defence. Then the Hungarians came raiding up the Danube valley, 
and the Slavs pressed in upon the North. Along the coasts of the Mediter- 
ranean the Moorish corsairs were stifling the weak commerce of Italian towns, 
and landing they attacked such ports as Pisa and even sacked a part of Rome. 
The nascent civilisation of the Teutons was forced to meet a danger such as 
would call for all the legions of Augustus. No wonder the weak Caroling 
kings sank under the burden and the war lords' of -the^different tribes grew 
stronger as the nerveless state fell defenceless before the second great migra- 
tion, or maintained but partial safety in the natural strongholds of the land. 

In such a situation self-defence became a system. The palisade upon 
some central hill, the hedge and thicket in the plain, or the ditch in the 
morass, became the shelter and the centre of life for every neighbourhood 
that stood in the track of the new barbarians. The owner of the fastness 
led his neighbours and his tenants to battle ; they gave him their labour for 
his protection, the palisades grew into stone walls and the " little camps " 
(castella) became the feudal castles. Those grim, battlemented towers, that 
rise up before us out of the dark age, were the signs of hope for the centuries 
that followed. Society was saved, but it was transformed. The protection 
of a time of danger became oppression in a time of safety, and the feudal 
tyranny fastened upon Europe with a strength that cities and kings could 
only moderate but not destroy. 

From the tenth century to the-present,* however, the history of Europe is 
that of one continuous evolution, slow, discouraging at times, with many 
tragedies to record and many humiliations to be lived down. But all in all, 
no century from that to this has ended without some signal achievement in 
one line or another, in England, in France, in Italy, or in Germany. By the 
middle of the tenth century the first unyielding steps had been taken when 
the Saxon kings of Germany began to build their walled towns along the 
upper Elbe, and to plant the German colonists along the eastern frontiers, as 
Rome had long before shielded the northern frontiers of civilisation. By the 
end of the century the Magyars have settled in the middle Danube, under a 
king at once Christian and saint, and the greatest king of the Danes is cham- 
pion of Christendom. In another fifty years the restless Normans are off on 
their conquests again, but now they carry with them to England and to Italy 
the invigorating touch of a youthful race who are in the front of their time, 
and not its enemies. 

This new movement of the old Viking stock did good rather than harm 
in its own day, but it has done immeasurable harm to history. For writers 
and readers alike have turned at this point from the solid story of progress 
to follow the banners of these wandering knights, to live in the unreal world 
of chivalry at the hour when the whole society of Europe was forming itself 
into the nations of to-day, when the renaissance of commerce was building 
cities along all the highways of Europe, and the schools were crowded with 
the students of law and philosophy. From such a broad field of vital interests 
we are turned aside to follow the trail of some brutal noble who wins useless 
victories that decide nothing, or besieges cities to no discoverable purpose, 
and leaves a transient princedom for the spoil of his neighbours. These are 
the common paths of history through the Middle Ages, and what wonder if 
they are barren, in the track of such men. 

But the age of chivalry was also the age of the universities. Turn from 
the knight-errant to the wandering, scholar if we would find the true key to 


the age, but still must leave it in the realm of romance. Few have ever 
guessed that the true Renaissance was not in the Florence of Lorenzo nor 
the Rome of Nicholas V, but rather in that earlier century when the great 
jurists of Bologna restored for all future time the code of Justinian. The 
greatest heritage of Rome was not its literature nor its philosophy, but its 
law. The best principles that had been evolved in all the ancient world, 
on justice, the rights of man, and property, — whose security is the basis of 
all progress, — all these invaluable truths were brought to light again through 
the revival of the Roman law, and incorporated again by mediaeval legists 
into the structure of society two centuries before the literary Renaissance of 
the Italian cities. The crowds of students who flocked to Bologna to study 
law, and who formed their guild or university on so strange a basis, mark 
the dawn of modern times fully as well as the academy at Florence or the 
foundation of a Vatican library. Already the science of politics was revived 
and the problems of government given practical and scientific test. 

Then came the gigantic tragedy of the Hundred Years' War, retarding 
for more than a century that growth of industry and commerce upon which 
even the political structure rests. But while English and French alike are 
laying waste the fairest provinces of France, the University of Paris is able 
to dictate the policy of the universal church and for a generation to reduce 
the greatest absolutism of the age, that of the papacy, to the restrictions of 
parliamentary government. The Council of Constance was in session in the 
year of the battle of Agincourt. And, meanwhile, there is another develop- 
ment, far more important than the battles of the Black Prince or the marches 
of Du Guesclin. Commerce thrives along the shores of Italy, and in spite 
of their countless feuds and petty wars, the cities of Tuscany and Lombardy 
grow ready for the great artistic awakening. The story of the Middle Ages, 
like that of our own times, comes less from the camp fire than from the city 
square. And even there, how much is omitted ! The caravans that line the 
rude bazaar could never reach it but for the suppression of the robbers by 
the way, largely the work of royalty. The wealth of the people is the 
opportunity for culture, but without the security of law and order, neither 
the one nor the other can be attained. In the last analysis, therefore, the 
protection of society while it developed is the great political theme of the 
Middle Ages. And now it is time to confess that we have touched upon 
but one half of that theme. It was not alone feudalism that saved Europe, 
nor royalty alone that gave it form. Besides the castle there was another 
asylum of refuge, the church. However loath men have been in recent 
years to confess it, the mediaeval church was a gigantic factor in the preser- 
vation and furthering of our civilisation. 

The church was the only potent state in Europe for centuries, — an insti- 
tution vastly different from our idea of it to-day. It was not only the religious 
monitor and the guardian of the salvation of mankind, it took up the duty 
of governing when the Roman Empire was gone. It helped to preserve the 
best things of antiquity ; for when the barbarians were led to destroy what 
was of no use to them, it was the church, as Rashdall says, that widened the 
sphere of utility. It, more than the sword of Charlemagne tamed the bar- 
barian Germans, and through its codes of penance with punishments almost 
as severe as the laws of Draco, it curbed the instincts of savagery, and 
taught our ancestors the ethics of Moses while promising them the salvation 
of Christ. It assumed much of the administration of justice in a lawless age, 
gave an inviolate asylum to the persecuted, and took in hand the education 
of the people. Its monks were not only the pioneer farmers in the fast- 


nesses of the wilderness, but their entertainment of travellers made com- 
merce possible. Its parish church furnished a nursery for democracy in the 
gatherings at the church door for counsel and deliberation. It opened to 
the sons of peasants a career that promised equality with the haughtiest 
seigneur, or even the dictation over kings. There was hardly a detail of 
daily life which did not come under the cognisance or control of the church, 
— questions of marriage and legitimacy, wills, oaths, even warfare, came 
under its surveillance. 

But in depicting this wonderful system which so dominated Europe in 
the early Middle Ages, when kings were but shadows or military dictators 
over uncertain realms, we must be careful not to give too much of an air of 
religiosity to the whole Middle Age. The men of the Middle Ages did not 
all live in a cowl. Symonds in his brilliant history of the Renaissance in 
Italy likens the whole mediaeval attitude to that of St. Bernard, the greatest 
of its ascetics. St. Bernard would walk by the blue, waters of Lake Geneva 
intent only upon his rosary and prayer. Across the lake gleam the snows 
of Mont Blanc, — a sight no traveller forgets when once he has seen it ; but 
the saint, with his cowl drawn over his eyes, sees only his own sin and the 
vision of the last judgment. So, says Symonds, humanity walked along its 
way, a careful pilgrim unheeding the beauty or delight of the world around. 
Now this is very striking, but is it true ? First of all, the Middle Ages, as 
ordinarily reckoned, include a stretch of ten centuries. We have already 
seen how unlike these centuries were, how they differed from each other as 
much as any centuries before or since. The nineteenth is hardly more dif- 
ferent from the eighteenth than the twelfth was different from the eleventh. 
So much for the universalisation as we go up and down the centuries ; it 
can hardly apply to all. Some gave us the Chansons des Gestes, the Song 
of Roland, the legends of Charlemagne and his paladins. Others gave us 
the delicious lyrics of the minnesingers and troubadours, of Walter von der 
Vogelweide and Bertran de Born. And as for their variety, we must again 
recall that the same century that gave us St. Francis of Assisi — that jong- 
leur of God — and the Divine Comedy, gave us also Magna Charta and repre- 
sentative government. 

But even if we concede that the monks dominated mediaeval society 
as Symonds paints it, we must not imagine that they were all St. Bernards. 
Few indeed — the sainted few — were alone able to abstract themselves so 
completely from this life as to be unconscious of their surroundings. The 
successive reforms, Clugny, Carthusians, Cistercians, beginning in poverty 
and ending in wealth and worldly influence, show what sort of men wore 
the cowl. The monks were not all alike ; some were worldly, some were 
religious, some were scholars, and some were merely indolent. The monas- 
tery was a home for the scholar, a refuge for the disconsolate, and an asylum 
for the disgraced. And a monk might often be a man whose sensibili- 
ties, instead of being dull, were more sharply awake than our own to-day. 
His faith kindled an imagination that brought the next world down into his 
daily life, and one who is in communion with eternity is an unconscious poet 
as well as a devotee. Dante's great poem is just the essence of a thousand 
years of such visions. Those phases of the Middle Ages farthest removed 
from our times and our habits of thought are not necessarily sombre. They 
are gilded with the most alluring light that ever brightened humanity — 
the hope and vision of immortality. 

It has seemed necessary to say this much at least about the ecclesiasti- 
cism of the Middle Ages so that we may get a new or at least a more sym- 


pathetic point of view as we study its details. Humanity was not in a 
comatose condition for a thousand years, to wake up one fine day and dis- 
cover itself again in a Renaissance. Such an idea gives false conceptions of 
both the Middle Ages and that slow change by which men acquired new 
interests, — the Renaissance. 

What then was the Italian Renaissance ? What was its significance and 
its result ? First of all no new birth of the human spirit, as we have been 
commonly taught, could come after that wonderful twelfth and busy thir- 
teenth centuries. It would sound strange to the wandering jongleur or the 
vagabond student, whose satirical and jovial songs of the twelfth century 
we still sing in our student societies, to be told that he had no, joy in the. 
world, no insight into its varying moods, no temperament capable of the 
comprehension of beauty. If any man ever "discovered himself," surely 
that keen-witted, freedom-loving scholar, the goliard, was the man, and yet 
between him and the fall of Constantinople, that commonest date for the 
Renaissance, there are two hundred years or more. A little study of pre- 
ceding centuries shows a world brimming with life and great with the promise 
of modern times. Lawyers were governing in the name of kings ; universi- 
ties were growing in numbers and influence. It has been said, and perhaps 
it is not far wrong, that there were three great powers in Europe in the 
Middle Ages — the Church, the Empire, and the University of Paris. And 
not all the men at the universities of Paris or Oxford or Bologna were busy 
counting how many angels could dance on the point of a needle, as we are 
apt to think when we read Lord Bacon's denunciation of the scholastics. If 
half of them, — and that is a generous estimate, — were busied over theology, 
not all that half were for their religious edification. Their 
interests were scientific. In a way they were scientists, — scientists of the 
world to come, — not of this transient life. They were analysing theology 
with about the same attitude of mind as that of the physicist of to-day in 
spite of all that has been said against their method. When one examines a 
world which he cannot yet reach, or a providence whose ways are not as 
the ways of man, he naturally will accept the authority of those whom he 
believes to be inspired, if he is to make even a little headway into the great 
unknown. The scholastics stretched the meaning of the word inspired, and 
accepted authority too easily. But they faced their problem with what 
seems something like a scientific spirit even if they had not yet attained a 
scientific method. And I may add in passing that to my mind the greatest 
tragedy of the human intellect is just here, — in this story of the abused 
scholastics. Starting out confident that all God's ways can be comprehended 
and reduced to definite data, relying in calm security upon the power of the 
human intellect to comprehend the ways of Divine governance, they were 
forced point by point, through irreconcilable conclusions and inexplicable 
points of controversy, to admit that this doctrine and that, this fact and that 
one, lie outside the realms of reason and must be accepted on faith. Baffled 
in its vast endeavour to build up a science of things divine the reason of 
man turned from the task and grappled with the closer problems of the 
present world. If the work of the scholastics was futile, as so many claim, it 
was a grand futility that reaches to tragedy. But out of its very futility 
grew the science of to-day. 

And now with all this intellectual activity of which scholasticism is only 
a part, where did the so-called Renaissance come in? By the year 1300 the 
problem of the scholastics was finished. In the works of Thomas Aquinas 
lay codified and systematised the whole positive product of their work. Not 


until after that was their work empty and frivolous, but when scholasticism 
turned back upon itself, even the genius of the great Duns Scotus but dis- 
covered more and more its futility. Men of culture began to find it distaste- 
ful ; they did not care to study law, — the other main interest. It was time 
for a new element in the intellectual realm. The need was no sooner felt 
than supplied. The study of the antique pagan world afforded scholars and 
men of leisure the desired change. The discovery of this antique world was 
not a new process ; but the features that had been ignored before, the art 
and literature of the pagan world, now absorbed all attention. The " human- 
ities " gradually crowded their way into university curricula, especially in 
Germany.and .England, and from the sixteenth century to the present day 
the humanities have been the dominant study at the universities. Looking 
over the era of the Renaissance, we commonly begin it in the fourteenth 
century, just where our previous sketch of the other intellectual conditions 
stopped. The age of Petrarch was its dawn. France and England, where 
most progress had been made before, were now to be absorbed in the bar- 
barism of international and civil wars; and so the last stage of that long 
Renaissance which we call the Middle Ages became the task and the glory 
of Italy. 

It may seem at first as if, in exalting the achievements of the Middle 
Ages, we have undervalued the work of the humanists. It would not be in 
accord with the attempted scientific judicial attitude which it is now our 
ambition to attain, if this charge were to be admitted. We must give full 
credit to the influence of that new knowledge, that new criterion, and espe- 
cially to that new and healthy criticism which came with the Italian Renais- 
sance. Its work in the world was absolutely necessary if modern society 
was to take up properly its heritage of all those splendid ages which adorned 
the Parthenon and made the Forum the centre of the world. All the intel- 
lectual energy which had gone into antique society must be made over into 
our own. But after all, the roots of our society are Teutonic and Christian 
even more than they are Roman or antique. We must learn to date our 
modern times not merely from the literary revival which witnessed the 
recovery of a long-lost pagan past ; but from the real aud splendid youth of 
Europe when it grappled with the earnest problems of law and order and 
put between itself and the Viking days the barriers of the national state, — 
king and people guarding the highways of the world for the protection of 
the caravans that made the cities. It is as essential for us to watch those 
boats that ascended the Rhone and the Rhine, and the merchants whose 
tents were pitched at the fairs of Champagne, as it is to know who discov- 
ered the proper derivation of agnu». 




The period upon which we are now entering presents peculiar difficulties 
for the historian. The body politic under consideration is in some respects 
unique. Historians are not even agreed as to the name by which it should 
properly be designated. It is an empire having its capital at Constantinople ; 
an empire not come suddenly into being in the year 395, at which point, for 
the sake "of convenience, we are now taking up this history; but which is in 
Teality nothing more or less than the continuation of that Roman Empire 
in the East, the affairs of which we left with the death of Theodosius. That 
emperor, as we have seen, held sway over an undivided Roman common- 
wealth. On his death the power that he had wielded passed to his two sons, 
one of whom nominally held sway in the East, the other in the West. The 
affairs of the Western division of the empire under Honorius and his suc- 
cessors have claimed our attention up to the time of the final overthrow 
of Rome in the year 476. We are now returning to follow the fortunes of 
Arcadius, the other heir of Theodosius, and his successors. 

But whether this Eastern principality should properly be spoken of as 
the Later Roman Empire, or as the Eastern, Byzantine, or Greek Empire, 
is, as has been suggested, a moot point among historians. The difficulty is 
perhaps met to the best advantage if we disregard the controversial aspects 
of the question and make free use of each and all of these names; indeed, in 
so doing, convenience joins hands with logicality. The empire of Arcadius 
and his immediate successors was certainly entitled to be called the Roman 
Empire quite as fully as, for example, were the dominions of Diocletian and 
Constantine. There was no sudden breach of continuity, no thought of 
entrance upon a new epoch with the accession of Arcadius. It was no new 
thing that power was divided, and that there should be two capitals, one in 
the East and one in the West. On the contrary, as we have seen, there had 
been not merely a two-fold but a four-fold division of power most of the time 
since the day of Diocletian. No contemporary could have predicted that 
after the death of Theodosius the Roman dominions in the East and in the 
j West would never again be firmly united under a single head. Nor indeed 
is it quite true that the division was complete and permanent; for, as we 
shall see, there were to be rulers like Justinian and Zeno who had , a 

H. W. — VOL. VII. B 1 


dominating influence over the Western territories, and who regarded them- 
selves as masters of the entire Roman domain. And even when the division- 
became complete and permanent, as it scarcely did before the time of Charle- 
magne, it could still be fairly held that the Roman Empire continued to- 
exist with its sole capital at Constantinople, whither Constantine had trans- 
ferred the seat of power, regardless of the fact that the Western domin- 
ion had been severed from the empire. The fact that this Western dominion 
included the city of Rome itself, which had given its name to the empire, and 
hence seemed indissoluble from it, is the chief reason for the seeming incon- 
gruity of applying the term Later Roman Empire to the dominion of the East. 

It must not be overlooked, however, that there were other reasons for 
withholding the unqualified title of Roman Empire from the Eastern 
dominions. The chief of these is that the court of Constantinople departed 
very radically from the traditions of the West, taking on oriental manners, 
and customs, and, what is most remarkable, gradually relinquishing the 
Latin speech and substituting for it the language of Greece. We have 
seen in our studies of earlier Roman history the marked tendency to the 
Hellenisation of Rome through the introduction of Greek culture from 
the time when the Roman Republic effected the final overthrow of Greece. 
It will be recalled that some of the most important histories of Rome, nota- 
bly those of Polybius and Appian and Dionysius and Dion Cassius, were 
written in Greek. The emperor Marcus Aurelius wrote his Meditations in 
the same language. But this merely represented the tendency of the 
learned world. There was no propensity to substitute Greek for Latin as. 
the language of everyday life so long as the seat of empire remained in the 
West. Now, however, as has been intimated, this strange substitution was 
effected ; the writers of this Later Roman Empire in the East looked exclu- 
sively to classical Greece for their models, and in due course the language 
of court and of common people alike came to be Greek also, somewhat modi- 
fied from the ancient idiom with the sweep of time, but in its essentials the 
same language which was spoken at Athens in the time of Pericles. Obvi- 
ously there is a certain propriety in this use of the term Greek Empire as 
applied to a principality whose territory included the ancient realms of 
Athens, and whose customs and habits and speech thus preserved the tradi- 
tions of ancient Hellas. 

The use of the terms Eastern Empire and Byzantine Empire requires no 
elucidation, having an obvious propriety. As has been said, we shall find it 
convenient here to employ one or another of the four terms indiscriminately; 
giving preference perhaps, if a choice must be made, to the simplest and 
most non-committal form, Eastern Empire. 

By whatever name designated, the principality whose fortunes we are to 
follow will hold our interest throughout a period of more than a thousand 
years, from the death of Theodosius in 395 to the final overthrow of Con- 
stantinople in 1456. This period is almost exactly coincident with the 
epoch pretty generally designated by historians as the Middle Ages, and. 
usually estimated as a time of intellectual decadence. 

As a general proposition this estimate is doubtless just. It must be 
born in mind, however, that the characterisation applies with far less force 
to the conditions of the Eastern Empire than to the conditions of Western 
Europe. The age of Justinian was certainly not a dark age in any proper 
acceptance of that term. If no subsequent period quite equalled this, 
in brilliancy, yet there were epochs when the Eastern Empire showed 
something of its old-time vitality. Indeed, there was an almost incessant 


intellectual output which served at least to sustain reminiscences of ancient 
culture, though it could not hope to rival the golden ages of the past. In 
point of fact, the chief defect of the literature of the time was that it did 
attempt to rival the classical literature. We have just pointed out that the 
later Byzantine Empire was essentially Greek in language and thought. 
Unfortunately the writers of the time failed to realise that in a thousand 
years of normal development the language — always a plastic, mobile thing, 
never a fixed structure — changes, grows, evolves. 

Instead of contenting themselves with the use of the language with 
which they were familiar in everyday speech as the medium of their written 
thoughts, they insisted on harking back to the earlier classical period, con- 
sciously modelling their phraseology and style upon authors who had lived 
and died a thousand years earlier. No great art was ever produced by such 
conscious imitation. Great art is essentially spontaneous, never consciously 
imitative; the epoch-making works are done in the vernacular by artists 
whose first thought is to give expression to their spontaneous feelings and 
emotions, unhampered by tradition. It was thus that Homer, Sophocles, 
Euripides, Herodotus, and Aristophanes wrote ; and if Virgil, Horace, Ovid, 
Livy, and Tacitus were more conscious craftsmen, somewhat in the same 
measure were they less great as artists. 

But the Byzantine writers were rather to be compared with the Alexan- 
drians of the age of the Ptolemies. They were far more scientific than 
their predecessors and proportionately less artistic. As grammarians they 
analysed and criticised the language, insisting on the retention of those 
chance forms of speech which the masters of the earlier day had used spon- 
taneously. The critical spirit of the grammarian found its counterpart 
everywhere in the prevalence of the analytical rather than the synthetic cast 
of thought. As the masters of the past were the models, so were their 
stores of knowledge the chief sources on which to draw. What Aristotle 
had said must be considered the last word as regards physical knowledge. 
What the classical poets and historians had written must needs be copied, 
analysed, and praised as the final expression of human thought. Men who 
under different auspices and in a different atmosphere might perhaps have 
produced original works of some significance, contented themselves with 
elaborating anthologies, compiling dictionaries and encyclopaedias, and epit- 
omising chronicles of world history from the ancient sources. It is equally 
characteristic of the time that writers who did attempt creative work found 
prose romance the most congenial medium for the expression of their ideals. 
Even this measure of creative enthusiasm chiefly marked the earliest period 
of the Byzantine era and was stifled by the conservatism of the later epoch. 


But if the reminiscent culture of the Byzantine Empire failed to pro- 
duce an Herodotus, a Thucydides, or a Livy, it gave to the world, never- 
theless, a line of historians and chronologists of the humbler class, beginning 
with Procopius the secretary of Justinian's general, Belisarius, and ending 
with Ducas, Phrantzes, Laonicus Chalcocondyles, and Critobulus, the de- 
picters of the final overthrow of Constantinople, who have left us a tolerably 
complete record of almost the entire life of the Eastern Empire. A list of 
these historians — numbering about half a hundred names — has been given 
in our general bibliography of Rome in Volume VI. 


Hjre we shall add only a very brief resume of the subject, naming the 
more important authors. For the later period of the undivided Roman 
Empire and 1ihe earlier Byzantine epoch we have, among others, the follow- 
ing works : the history of the war with Attila, bringing the story of the 
empire to the year 474, by Priscus, a Thracian, and the continuation of 
his history to the year 480 by Malchus of Philadelphia ; the important his- 
tory of Zosimus, which we have had occasion to quote in an earlier volume ; 
and, most important of all, the historical works of Procopius of Caesarea in 
Palestine. The last-named author was, as already mentioned, the secretary 
of Justinian's famous general, Belisarius. He accompanied that general on 
many of his campaigns and apparently was associated with him on very 
intimate terms. This association, together with the character of his writ- 
ings, has caused Procopius to be spoken of rather generally in later times 
as the Polybius of the Eastern Empire, — a compliment not altogether 

His works are by far the most important of the Byzantine histories, 
partly because of their intrinsic merit and partly because of the character of 
the epoch with which they deal. The more pretentious of his works has two 
books on the Persian War, two on the war with the Vandals, and four on the 
Gothic war. Curiously enough, anofher work ascribed to Procopius, and 
now generally admitted to be his, deals with the lives of Justinian and 
Theodora and to some extent with that of Belisarius himself, in a very 
different manner from that employed in the other history just mentioned. 
This so-called secret history was apparently intended for publication after 
the author's death ; it therefore gives vent to the expression of what are 
probably the true sentiments of the author, showing up the character of his 
patrons in a very different and much less complimentary light from that in 
which they are depicted in the earlier work. As an illustration of the 
difference between the diplomatic and the candid depiction of events this 
discrepancy of accounts coming from the same pen is of the highest interest. 
The moral for the historian — vividly illustrative of Sainte-Beuve's famous 
saying that history is a tradition agreed upon — need hardly be emphasised. 

Among the later Byzantine historians the names of John Zonaras, of 
Nicetas Acominatus, of Nicephorus Gregoras, occur as depicters of the events 
of somewhat comprehensive periods ; Agathias, Simocatta, Epiphaneia, Anna 
Comnena, and George Phrantzes as biographers or writers on more limited 
epochs. Of these Anna Comnena in particular is noteworthy because her 
life of her father Alexius I has been spoken of as the only really artistic 
historical production of the period. It is popularly known as having sup- 
plied Sir Walter Scott with the subject and some of the materials for his last 
romance, Count Robert of Paris. But most noteworthy of all is the fact 
that this is the first important historical production, so far as is known, that 
ever came from the pen of a female writer. 

The list of chronologies or epitomes of world history includes the 
Ohronieon Paschale, and the works of Georgius Syncellus, Malalas, Cedrenus, 
Michael Glycas, and Constantine Manasses. In some respects more important 
than any of these were the collections of excerpts from ancient authors which 
were made by Stobseus, by Photius, and by Suidas. These have preserved 
many fragments of the writings of historians of antiquity that would otherwise 
have been altogether lost. A very noteworthy collection of excerpts, com- 
prising in the aggregate a comprehensive history of the world made up from 
the writings of the Greek historians, forms one portion of the encyclopaedia 
which the emperor Constantine (VII) Porphyrogenitus — himself a writer of 


some distinction — caused to be compiled in the tenth century. This work 
contained extracts, often very extensive, from the writings of most of the 
Greek classical historians. It was apparently very popular in the Middle 
Ages, and has been supposed to be responsible for the loss of many of the 
works from which it made excerpts. Unfortunately, the encyclopaedia itself 
has come down to us only in fragments ; but, even so, it gives us excerpts 
from such writers as Polybius, Dionysius of Halicarnassus, Diodorus, Nicholas 
of Damascus, Appian, and Dion Cassius, and of numerous Byzantine histories 
that are not otherwise preserved. 

Taken together, even the extant portions of the Byzantine histories make 
up a very bulky literature. Being produced in this relatively recent time, a 
correspondingly large proportion of it has been preserved. Not, indeed, that 
many of the original manuscripts of the Byzantine historians have come down 
to us, but they appear to have been copied very extensively by the monks of 
western Europe, who found in them an interest which the classical writings 
often failed to arouse. The very fact that so many of these writings epito- 
mise ancient history furnishes, perhaps, the explanation of this popularity. 
In the day when the reproduction of books was so laborious a process, con- 
densation was naturally a merit that appealed to the bookmaker. Hence, as 
has been suggested, the epitome was often made to do service for the more 
elaborate original work, which latter was allowed to drop altogether out of 
view. But the modern world has not looked upon the Byzantine writings 
with the same interest. For the most part they had never been translated 
into modern European languages, and the original texts have been collated, 
edited, and printed in comparatively recent times. 

On the other hand, these writings were almost the first to be subjected 
to the critical analysis of the historian, working with what we speak of as 
the modern spirit. Tillemont began the laborious process of reconstructing 
in detail the chronology of later Roman history, with the aid of these ma- 
terials, and the work was taken up a little later by Edward Gibbon, and 
carried to completion in what is incontestably the greatest historical work 
of modern times, — if not, indeed, the greatest of any age, — The Decline and 
Fall of the Roman Umpire. In this work, Gibbon not only set an epochal 
standard for future historians, but he so exhaustively covered the ground 
as to leave almost nothing for a successor in the same field. His work, is 
the more remarkable because it was produced at a time when the general 
tendency was to accept the writings of the ancients in a much less critical 
spirit than that to which they have been more recently subjected. Gibbon, 
however, vaulted at once to the critical heights. Indeed, he went a step 
beyond most critics of more recent generations, in that he insisted on apply- 
ing to the traditions and superstitions of all ancient nations the same critical 
standards. Most of Gibbon's contemporaries and a large proportion of his 
successors, until very recent times, while looking askance at the traditions 
of Greece and Rome, have wished to adjudge Hebrew traditions by a dif- 
ferent standard. It has been a curious illustration of the illogicality of even 
critical minds, that the very critics who have inveighed against the credulity 
of the ages which could accept the myths of Greece and Rome as historical, 
should have inveighed also against the mind which had the breadth of view 
to see that all ancient myths and traditions must be weighed in the same 
historical balance. Only in our own day have considerable numbers of 
critics attained the plane of historical impartiality which Gibbon had reached 
a century and a quarter ago, but in most other regards his example found a 
readier following. 



The Roman Empire, permanently divided at the death of Theodosius (395) into an 
eastern and a western section does not, nevertheless, lose its unity as an organisation. 
The period of dieintegration has set in, and the extinction of the western section in 
476 is an event in this disintegration rather than the " fall " of an empire. It was 
not until 800, the year of Charlemagne's accession, that there were really two 
empires, and that the term "Eastern Empire" may properly be applied. But for 
convenience we call the history of Arcadius and his successors that of the Eastern 

*•»• Roman Empire. 

395 Arcadius, co-regent, and elder son of Theodosius, continues to reign at Constanti- 
nople. The Huns ravage Asia Minor, and the Visigoths, under Alaric, rise in 
Moesia and Thrace. At the death of Rufinus, the eunuch Eutropius becomes chief 
adviser of the emperor, supported by Gainas. 

398 Alaric becomes governor of Eastern Illyricum. 

399 Death of Eutropius. 

401 Death of Gainas. The emperor comes entirely under the influence of his dissolute 

wife, Eudoxia. 
408 Theodosius II succeeds his father. He is but seven years of age and is controlled by 

his sister Pulcheria. Alaric moves upon Rome. 
410 Death of Alaric. 

421 Theodosius marries Athenais (Eudocia). War breaks out with Persia. 
425 Organisation of the University of Constantinople. 

438 Publication of the Theodosian Code. 

439 Genseric takes Carthage. 

441 War with Persia, War with the Huns and Vandals continues. 

442 Invasion of Thrace and Macedonia by Attila. 
447 Peace of Anatolius made with the Huns. 

450 Death of Theodosius. Marcian is raised to the throne by Pulcheria, whom he mar- 
ries. He makes a wise ruler and resists payment of tribute to the Huns. 
457 The Theodosian dynasty comes to an end with Marcian. The choice of the emperor 

rests with the army, and the general Aspar brings about the election of Leo I, a 

native of Thrace. 
465 Great fire at Constantinople. 
468 With the co-operation of Anthemius, Leo plans a great expedition against Genseric in 

Africa, but it fails through treachery of Aspar, who is executed, 469. 
474 Leo I dies, leaving empire to his grandson Leo II. The latter dies the same year and 

Zeno, his father, reigns, but Basiliscus at once drives him out and rules for twenty 

months, when Zeno recovers the throne. 
476 With the resignation of Romulus Augustulus the western division is definitely detached 

from the empire. 
478-481 The Ostrogoths invade the Balkan peninsula. 
483 Promulgation of the Henoticon. 

488 Zeno induces Theodoric and the Ostrogoths to leave Illyricum and attack Rome. 
491 At death of Zeno, Anastasius I is proclaimed emperor, through influence of the 

empress Ariadne, who marries him. 
491-496 The Isaurian War instigated by the supporters of Longinus results favourably for 

499 The Bulgarians invade Thrace. 

502-505 Unsuccessful war with Persians, who take several provinces. 
507 The " Long Wall " of Thrace is built to keep out the Goths. 
514 Revolt of Vitalianus. 
518 Death of Anastasius ; Justin I, an illiterate Dlyrian peasant, obtains the emperorship 

through the army. With him the empire enters on a new era. He prepares his 

nephew Justinian to succeed him. 

527 Justinian created augustus. 

528 Justin dies ; Justinian I, " the great," sole monarch. He is the chief figure of his 

time. His wife is the empress Theodora. He begins active warfare at once against 
the Arians, Jews, and pagans. Belisarius appointed commander-in-chief in the East. 

529 First edition of the Justinian Code published. 

530 Belisarius defeats the Persians at Dara. 

531 Chosroes ascends the Persian throne. 


•532 Peace -made with Persia. Insurrections break out in Constantinople. St. Sophia 
burned. Belisarius quells the riots. 

533 Belisarius begins a campaign against the Vandals in Africa. The Pandects published. 

534 Belisarius captures the Vandal king Gelimer and destroys his kingdom, and for this is 

made sole consul. 
535-540 Belisarius in Italy and Sicily against the Ostrogoths. He makes himself master 

of Rome and other cities. 
540 Recall of Belisarius. Persian invasion of Syria. 

542 Repulse of the Persians. Belisarius degraded by Theodora on his return from the 

campaign. The great plague. 

543 Totila, king of the Goths, captures Naples. 

544 Belisarius proceeds to Italy against Totila. 

545 Five years' peace with Persia. Totila besieges Rome. Belisarius has not sufficient 

forces to resist him. 

546 Capture of Rome by Totila. 

547 Romans recover Rome. 

548 Totila retakes Rome. Belisarius returns to Constantinople. Death of Theodora. 

Conspiracy against Justinian. 

549 The imperial armies occupy the lands of the Lazi. 

550 Slavonians and Huns invade the empire. 

551 Battle of Sinigaglia. The Goths lose Sicily. 

552 The eunuch Narses arrives in Italy as commander-in-chief. Recovers Rome. Defeat 

and death of Totila. 

553 End of the Ostrogothic War. 

554-557 Terrible earthquakes visit Constantinople and other cities. 

558 Belisarius repels the invading Huns under Zabergan. 

562 Fifty years' peace with Persia. Narses continues his victorious career in Italy. 

565 Death of Justinian. 


565 Justin II succeeds Justinian I. He determines to change Justinian's unpopular 
system and refuses payment to an embassy of Avars, which is the cause of serious 
depredations in the provinces. 

567 The Gepid kingdom overthrown by Lombards and Avars. 

568 Lombard invasion of Italy. 

571 Birth of Mohammed. 

572 War breaks out with the Persians. They make several important conquests, and 

574 Justin, realising his inability to govern, makes Tiberius, the captain of the guard, 


575 Peace with Persia. 

576 Battle of Melitene. The Romans reach the Caspian Sea. 
578 Justin dies. Tiberius emperor. 

581 The imperial army led by Maurice defeats the Persians at Constantina. 

582 Maurice elected emperor. Death of Tiberius. 

584 Treaty with the Avars, whose depredations have become very serious. 
586 Roman victory at Solachon. 

589 Persian victory at Martyropolis. Slavonic colonies begin to settle in the Peloponnesus. 

590 Maurice crowns his son Theodosius at Easter. Rebellion of Vaharan of Persia, who 

deposes Hormisdas or Hormuz. 

591 Maurice puts Chosroes II on the Persian throne. He proceeds against the Avar 

invasion of Thrace. 

602 Rebellion in the army. Phocas, the centurion, made emperor. Maurice put to death. 

603 War with Persia breaks out. 

604 Treaty of peace with the Avars. 

■606-608 Disastrous invasion of Asia Minor by the Persians. They advance to Chalcedon. 

609 Revolts in Africa and Alexandria. 

■610 Heraolius, son of the governor of Africa, accomplishes the overthrow and death of 

■614 The Persian War continues. Damascus captured. 

615 Jerusalem taken by the Persians. 

616 Persian invasion of Egypt. 

617 Occupation of Chalcedon by the Persians. Heraclius contemplates moving to Carthage. 
620 Peace made with Avars who have attempted to seize the emperor. 

622 Heraclius takes command in person of the Persian War. 


622-628 The war is vigorously conducted. Campaigns in Cappadocia, Pontus, Armenia, 
Cilicia, and Assyria, ending 

628 With treaty of peace with Siroes. 

629 Heraclius restores the holy cross to Jerusalem. 

632 Death of Mohammed. 

633 The Mohammedan conquests begin. The imperial cities fall before them in the 

following order: Bosra (634), Damascus (635), Emesa, Heliopolis, Antioch, Chalcis, 
Bercea, Edessa (636), Jerusalem (637). 

638 Constantine, the king's son, fails in an attempt to recover Syria. Mesopotamia lost 

to the Mohammedans. 

639 Amru invades Egypt. 

641 Death of Heraclius. Death of Constantine III, after three months' reign. Another 
son of Heraclius, by Martina, Heracleonas, whom Heraclius appointed to reign 
conjointly with Constantine, reigns alone for five months and then is banished. 
His brother David is appointed emperor under the name of Tiberius. His fate is 
unknown. Constans II, son of Constantine, becomes emperor. Alexandria taken 
by the Mohammedans. 

647 Mohammedans drive the Romans out of Africa. 

648 The Type of Constans published. 

649 Mohammedans invade Cyprus. 

650 They take Aradus. 

652 Armenia falls into their hands. 

654 They capture Rhodes. 

655 They defeat Constans in the great naval battle off Mount Phoenix in Lycia. Pope 

Martin is banished to the Chersonesus. 
658 Campaign of Constans against the Slavs. Peace made with the Mohammedans. 
661 Constans leaves Constantinople and spends winter at Athens. 
662-663 Great Mohammedan invasion of Asia Minor. 
603 Constans in Rome. 

668 Mohammedans advance to Chalcedon and hold Amorium for a short time. Assassi- 

nation of Constans at Syracuse. His son Constantine (IV) Fogonatus succeeds. 

669 Mohammedans invade Sicily and carry off 180,000 prisoners from Africa. 

670 Foundation of Kairwan, near Carthage. 

673-677 Mohammedans besiege Constantinople. The Romans use the newly invented 
Greek fire against them. 

678 Peace concluded with the Mohammedans. 

679 Bulgarian War. and foundation of the Bulgarian kingdom. 

681 Constantine deprives his brothers Heraclius and Tiberius of the imperial title. The 

troops of the Orient had demanded that they, too, should receive the crown, and 

thus the Trinity in heaven might be represented on earth. 
685 Justinian II succeeds his father. The caliph and emperor make peace. 
687 Transference of the Mardaites from Lebanon to Thrace and Asia Minor. 
689-690 Successful expedition of Justinian against the Bulgarians and Slavs. The Greeks 

are forced to emigrate from Cyprus ; two hundred thousand Slavs transported to 

Asia Minor. 
692 Battle of Sebastopolis. Symbatius revolts. Mohammedan subjection of Armenia. 


695 In consequence of his cruelties the general Leontius deposes Justinian, cuts off his nose, 
and banishes him to the Chersonesus. LeontiuB emperor. 

697 Revolt of Lazica. Great Mohammedan invasion of Asia Minor. Hassan proceeds- 

against Africa with success. Carthage taken. 

698 The Mohammedans retake Carthage. Leontius dethroned. Aspimar becomes emperor 

as Tiberius III. The Mohammedans continue to ravage the empire. 
705 Justinian II, now named Rhinotmetus, from his nasal mutilation, recovers the 

709 Tyana falls before the Mohammedans in their ravages on the Bosporus. 

710 Great cruelty shown to Ravenna and the Chersonesus by the emperor. 

711 Justinian overthrown by Bardanes, who becomes emperor under the name of Philip- 

picus. In his reign the Mohammedans invade Spain (711) and the Bulgarians 
ravage Thrace (712). The Mohammedans take Antioch in Pisidia. 
713 Philippicus dethroned and his eyes put out. Artemius his secretary is raised to the 
emperorship as Anastasius II. He tries honestly to bring about reforms, and sends 
an embassy to Damascus to arrange a peace with the Mohammedans. 


715 The army determines to depose Au astasius, and chooses an obscure person, Theodosius 

III, who unwillingly assumes the purple. 

716 The Mohammedans again invade Asia Minor and besiege Amorium. Leo III the 

Isaurian relieves the town, makes a truce with the besiegers, and is proclaimed 
emperor by the army. 


717 Mohammedans besiege Pergamus. They begin the siege of Constantinople, which is 

raised the following year. 

726 The dispute over image-worship arises. Publication of the first iconoclastic decree. 
The great iconoclastic schism begins, immersing the empire in many calamities and 
revolts, leading to the final separation of the Greek and Latin churches. 
The Mohammedans invade Cappadocia. 

727-728 Revolts in Italy and Greece. 

734 Mohammedan invasion of Asia Minor. 

739 Battle of Acronum. 

740 Constantine (V) Capronymus succeeds his father. 

742 Defeat of the rebel Artavasdes, who has obtained possession of Constantinople. 
744-747 The Great Plague devastates the empire. 
746 Mohammedan invasion of Cyprus. 

750 Fall of the Omayyad dynasty. Two rival Saracen powers are formed. Ravenna 

taken by the Lombards. 

751 Capture of Melitene and Theodosipolis by Constantine. 

753 Invasion of Italy by Pepin. Council of Constantinople favours iconoclasm. 

755 Invasion of Thrace by the Bulgarians. Pepin continues invasion of Italy. 

757 The Bulgarians driven back to their own territory with great slaughter. 

760-765 Constantine invades Bulgaria. Victory of Anchialus, 762. 

766 Wreck of the Roman fleet at the mouth of the Danube. Edicts against image-worship 

extended and vigorously enforced. 
773-774 Campaigns against the Bulgarians. Victory of Lithosoria. Peace made with the 

Bulgarian monarch, which Constantine breaks. 
775 Leo IV, son of Constantine, succeeds him. He is a zealous iconoclast. He marries the 

empress Irene. 
778 Successful campaign against the Bulgarians. 

780 Capture of Semaluos by Harun-ar-Rashid. Death of Leo. Irene becomes regent for 

the ten-year-old Constantine VI. 

781 Revolt of Elpidius in Sicily. 

782 The Mohammedans under Harun-ar-Rashid invade Asia Minor. 

787 Council of Nicsea sanctions image-worship. 

788 The Bulgarians gain a victory at the Strymon. 

789 The Arabs invade Rumania. 

790 Constantine assumes control of the government. Irene is unwilling to relinquish 

power and a struggle between the two begins. 

791 The emperor conducts a campaign against the Bulgarians. 

792 A conspiracy formed against Constantine by his uncles is suppressed and severely- 

punished. Irene's dignity restored. Second campaign against the Bulgarians. 

795 Constantine divorces his wife Maria and marries Theodota. 

796 Third Bulgarian campaign of Constantine. 

797 Irene, taking advantage of Constantine's unpopularity on account of his treatment of 

Maria, imprisons him and has his eyes put out. She now reigns alone. Conspiracy 
to place one of Constantine V's sons on the throne. 

798 Peace made with the Mohammedans. 

800 Revival of the western division of the empire by the coronation of Charlemagne. 
There are now two distinct empires. 

802 Conspiracy against and deposition of Irene. Nicephorus I, the treasurer, chosen 

emperor. He maintains political order but is a hard fiscal oppressor. 

803 Death of Irene in exile. Bardanes, the general, proclaims himself emperor, but 

receiving no support, negotiates for his own pardon. Treaty with Charlemagne, 
regulating confines of the two empires. 
806 Humiliating peace with Harun-ar-Rashid. 

808 Unsuccessful attempt of Arsaber to obtain throne. 

809 Death of Harun-ar-Rashid reopens the struggle with the Mohammedans. 

810 Treaty of peace with Charlemagne, who unsuccessfully tries to make the Venetians and 

their allies tributary to him. 


811 The emperor at war with .the. Mohammedans and .Bulgarians. '■ Death of Nicephorus 
in an attack by the Bulgarians. His son Stauracius succeeds. He is unable to 
hold out against the unpopularity of his father's fiscal severity. After two months' 
reign, a revolution places Michael (I) Rhangabe on the throne. The Mohamme- 
dans, owing to civil strife, do not trouble the empire, but the Bulgarians continue 
their attacks, with such success that 

813 Michael is deposed, and the general Leo (V) the Armenian is saluted as emperor. 

Michael retires to a monastery. The Bulgarians approach the walls of Constanti- 

814 Annihilation of the Bulgarian army by Leo, at Mesembria. Thirty years' truce con- 

cluded. Leo pursues a variable policy in regard to image-worship. 

820 Leo assassinated in a conspiracy in favour of Michael (II) the Stammerer, who 

takes the throne. 

THE AMORIAN DYNASTY (820-867 a.d.) 

821 Rebellion of Thomas, a claimant of the throne. He is crowned at Antioch, and lays 

siege to Constantinople. 

822 The Bulgarians, taking advantage of civil discord, invade the empire. Thomas 

delivered up to Michael, and hanged. 

823 The Mohammedans capture Crete. 

827 Mohammedan conquest of Sicily begun. It is not completed until 878. 
829 Theophilus succeeds his father. He is a zealous iconoclast. 

831 A Mohammedan invasion of long duration begins. 

832 Brilliant victory of Theophilus in Charsiana. The Mohammedans capture Heraclea. 
836 Theophilus destroys Zapetra. 

838 Mohammedan victory at Dasymon. Amorium is captured. 

842 Death of Theophilus, due to chagrin at Mohammedan successes. His son Michael 
(III) Porphyrogenitus, or the Drunkard, succeeds at the age of four, with his 
mother Theodora as regent. Image-worship restored at Council of Constantinople. 
End of the Iconoclastic controversy. Slavonic insurrection in the Peloponnesus sup- 
pressed. Failure of an attempt to conquer the Abasges, and to recover Crete. War 
with the Mohammedans continues. 

845 Truce with the Mohammedans. 

847 Conversion of the Khazars to Christianity. The Bulgarians follow their example a few- 

years later. 

848 Revolt of the Paulicians, who join the Arabs. 
854 Theodora retires to private life. 

856 Bardas, her brother, becomes caesar. Photius elected patriarch in place of the deposed 

858 A great war with the Arabs begins. Omar lays Pontus waste. Successful campaign. 

of Leo, the commander-in-chief, who is finally captured by the Mohammedans. 
860 Michael badly defeated near Melitene. 

862 Omar invades Cappadocia, Pontus, and Cilicia. 

863 Battle of Amasia. Great victory of Petronas, the emperor's uncle. Death of Omar. 

The end of trouble with the "Mohammedans for some years. 

865 First appearance of the Russians in the empire. They attack Constantinople, but are 

driven off. 

866 Michael kills Bardas with the aid of Basil the Macedonian, who becomes csesar. 

£67 Assassination of Michael at the instigation of Basil, who takes the throne. Basil 
removes Photius and restores Ignatius. 

THE BASHJAN DYNASTY (867-1057 a.d.) 

871 The Paulicians attacked and reduced to obedience. 

872 Basil takes the field against the Mohammedans. 
875-876 Victories of Basil in Cilicia. 

877 Death of Ignatius. Photius regains the patriarchate. 

881 Basil plans to drive the Mohammedans out of Sicily and Italy. Cyprus recovered and 
held for eleven years. 

885 Nicephorus Phocas expels the Mohammedans from Italy. They still hold Sicily. 

Accusation against Leo, the emperor's son, by Santabaren, in which the former 
narrowly escapes death. 

886 Death of Basil, who is wounded while hunting. His son, Leo (VI) the Philosopher 

succeeds. He has Santabaren's eyes put out, and banishes him. Photius deposed 


887-888 Arabs invade Asia Minor, and attempt to regain Italy. They give up the attempt 
on the latter country in 891. 
Stylianus, Leo's father-in-law and prime minister, by his treatment of Bulgarian mer- 
chants, precipitates a war with Bulgaria. This country wins several victories, and 

■893 Leo makes a treaty of peace. 

■895 Conspiracy of Samonas against the emperor. Further Arab invasions of Sicily. 

$04 The Arabs capture Thessalonica with a fleet. The last remains of the senate's 
authority destroyed by a constitution of Leo. Second Russian expedition to Con- 

$11 Mohammedan naval victory off Samos. Death of Leo. His infant son, Constantine 
(VII) Porphyrogenitus, and his brother Alexander rule together. 

•912 Death of Alexander. He nominates, before dying, a regency of six members, exclu- 
sive of the patriarch, to act during Constantine's minority. Attempt of Constantine 
Ducas to gain the throne suppressed by John Eladas, one of the regents. Zoe 
Carbonopsina, mother of Constantine, admitted to supreme power by the regency. 

$13-914 Simeon, king of Bulgaria, invades the empire with no positive results. 

917 The Patzinaks defeat Leo Phocas at Achelous, which causes Romanus Lecapenus to 
intrigue for the throne. 

919 Constantine marries Romanus' daughter Helena. Romanus (I) Lecapenus crowned 
emperor as colleague to Constantine. 

'920 Christopher, son of Romanus, is raised to the imperial dignity. 

921 The war with the Bulgarians assumes serious proportions; further increased 

•923 by an alliance between King Simeon of Bulgaria and the Mohammedans. 

$26 A temporary end is put to the troubles with the Bulgarians and Arabs by an inter- 
view between Romanus and Simeon. 

927 Peter, Simeon's successor, enters Byzantine territory, demanding war or the hand of 

the emperor's granddaughter. Romanus agrees to the latter alternative. 

928 Romanus makes his sons, Stephanus and Constantine VIII, associate emperors. 

There are now five emperors. 

931 Death of Christopher. 

934-940 Period of complete peace in the empire, except for petty warfare with Lombard 
princes. Constantine VII plans to regain the sole power. 

941 A Russian fleet of ten thousand galleys appears before Constantinople. Romans drive 
them ofE with small force. 

944 Stephanus and Constantine VIII at instigation of Constantine VII banish their father 
to Prota. Constantine VII then regains full power, and banishes Stephanus and 
Constantine VIII likewise to Prota, 945. 
During the remainder of Constantine's reign the war with the Mohammedans is prose- 
cuted with great vigour, especially when Nicephorus Phocas succeeds in assembling 
a large army. Many conspiracies against Constantine by the deposed emperors. 

959 Death of Constantine, the result of poison administered by his son Romanus II, who 
becomes emperor. 

961 Brilliant conquest of Crete by Nicephorus. The Mohammedans expelled after occu- 

pation of 150 years. 

962 Nicephorus attacks Aleppo, but is unable to take the citadel. 

963 Death of Romanus, which has been attributed to poison administered by the empress 

Theophano. Nicephorus (II) Phocas marries Theophano and obtains the throne. 

His chief aim is to break the Mohammedan power. 
964-965 Conquest of Tarsus by the Byzantines. Nicephorus recalled to Constantinople by 

troubles with Bulgarians and Hungarians. To repel them he makes alliance with 

Sviatoslaff, prince of Kieff, which causes a bloody war with the Russians. 
965 Embassy of Liutprand to Constantinople. The emperor imprisons him. 

968 Nicephorus returns to Asia Minor and recovers Antioch, 328 years in the Mohammedan 

power. He prepares to attack Baghdad. 

969 Joannes Zimisces, the general, and Theophano conspire against Nicephorus, who is 

assassinated. Joannes (I) Zimisces takes the throne. He associates with him the 
young sons of Romanus II, Basil II, and Constantine IX, who were nominal rulers 
during reign of Nicephorus. The brother of Nicephorus, Leo, and his son Bardas 
Phocas make unsuccessful attempts to invite rebellion and regain the throne. They 
are banished. 

970 Sviatoslaff conquers Bulgaria and invades Thrace. Philippopolis taken and inhabit- 

ants massacred. 

971 Joannes proceeds against the Russians. Capture of Presthlava and King Boris of Bul- 

garia. Siege and capture of Dorystolon. Peace with the Russians. Bulgaria again 
a part of the empire and Boris a pensioner of the Byzantine court. The Mohamme- 
dan wars carried on. 


972 Marriage of Otto the Great and Theophano, daughter of Eomahus II. 

973 Imperial victory at Nisibis. Defeat at Amida. 

974 Joannes takes command of the Mohammedan War. 

975 Many victories but futile siege of Tripolis. Antioch shuts out the imperial force. 

976 Death of Joannes Zimisces, probably by poison. Basil II head of affairs with his 

brother for colleague. He is one of the greatest of the Eastern emperors. 

Beginning of Period of Greatest Splendour of the Empire 

979 Defeat of Sclerus by Bardas Phocas, the general, after a desperate revolt to capture the 
throne. The Bulgarians begin a long struggle to regain their independence. 

982 On death of Otto, Basil consolidates his authority in southern Italy. 

989 Death of Bardas Phocas, who for two years has been in revolt against the emperor. 
Sclerus, conspiring for the second time against the throne, dies. 

991 Southern Iberia ceded to the empire by King David. 

995 Campaign of Basil in Syria. Aleppo taken. Unsuccessful attack on Tripolis. 

996 Great defeat of King Samuel of Bulgaria at the Sperchius. 

1002 Samuel invades Thrace, takes Hadrianopolis, but is driven off. The war now pro- 
ceeds for some years in desultory fashion. 

1014 Basil resumes the Bulgarian War in earnest. Great victory under Nicephorus Xiphias 
at Zetunium. Basil puts out the eyes of 15,000 prisoners. Death of Samuel. 
The emperor's cruelty engenders a last effort in the Bulgarians, but by 1018 the 
destruction of the kingdom is complete. Gibbon calls this the most important 
triumph of Roman arms since the time of Belisarius. 

1022 Victory of Basil over a coalition of Armenian princes. They sue for peace. 

1025 Basil prepares to expel Mohammedans from Sicily, but dies. His brother Con- 
stantine IX becomes sole emperor. 

1027 Attack by the Patzinaks and Mohammedans repulsed. 

1028 Constantine on his deathbed appoints Romanus (III) Argyrus his successor, makes 

him divorce his wife, and marry his daughter Zoe. 

1030 Romanus defeated by the Mohammedans at Azaz and takes refuge in Antioch. He 

becomes the prey of melancholy, and Zoe takes the reins of government. 

1031 Mohammedan pirates ravage Illyricum and Corfu. They are driven of£ by the people 

of Ragusa. 

1032 Conspiracy and death of Constantine Diogenes. 

1033 Capture of Edessa by the imperial fleet. 

1034 Death of Romanus, probably by slow poison administered by Zoe, who now causes 

her paramour, Michael (IV) the Faphlagonian, to be proclaimed emperor, and 
marries him the day of ner husband's death. Earthquake at Jerusalem lasting 
forty days. Great famine throughout the empire. 

1037 The Mohammedans attack the empire on all sides. They capture Edessa. The 

Patzinaks invade Thrace. 

1038 The Mohammedans regain Edessa, by a stratagem that is the origin of the Tale of 

Ali Baba and the Forty Thieves. 

1039 The imperial force and the Normans attack the Mohammedans in Sicily. Messina 

(Messana) and Syracuse taken. 

1040 A fresh Mohammedan army from Africa utterly defeated in Sicily. The Norman 

power begins to get the control in the island. The Bulgarians attempt to recover 
independence. They invade Thrace and Macedonia. 

1041 Michael drives them back and brings the country again to Byzantine rule. Death of 

Michael. Zoe attempts to rule alone, but finds herself unequal to the task. She 
adopts her husband's nephew, Michael (V) Calaphates, and makes him emperor. 
He expels Zoe. At his imprudent acts the people rise in rebellion. 

1042 After a fierce battle between the people of Constantinople and the adherents of 

Michael, the latter and his uncle flee. Zoe and her sister Theodora are pro- 
claimed co-empresses. Zoe has the eyes of Michael and his uncle put out. Jealous 
of her sister, Zoe marries Constantine (X) Monomachus. Rebellion of Mani- 
aces, brother of Constantine's mistress Sclerena. He is murdered in the midst of 
his camp. 

1043 Invasion of the Russians ; driven back after a defeat by Catacalon. 

1045 Successful war with Cacicus, vassal king of Armenia and Iberia, ending in destruction 
of his kingdom. " ' 

1047 Rebellion of Tornicius. 

1048 The Patzinaks invade the empire with a large army. Attack of the Seliuk Turks 

under Toghril. Indecisive battle of Capetron. 


1050 Toghril retires to Persia. Death of Zoe. 

1052 Second invasion of Toghril. 

1053 The Patzinaks driven back to their own territory. 

1054 The great schism between the Greek and Roman churches begins. Death of Michael. 

Theodora reigns alone. 

1056 Death of Theodora, after appointing Michael (VI) Stratioticus her successor. 

Attempt of Theodosius Monomachus to seize throne. 

1057 Battle of Hades. Defeat of Michael by Isaac Comnenus and Catacalon. 


1057 Isaac (I) Comnenus proclaimed emperor. Michael retires to a monastery. The 
emperor introduces a system of great economy into all branches of the government. 

1059 Invasion of the northern frontier by Hungarians and Patzinaks. Treaty of peace con- 
cluded. Isaac, after a severe illness, resigns crown into the hands of Constantine 
(XI) Ducas. Through motives of economy the latter materially reduces the size 
of the army. 

1060-1064 Toghril Beg and Alp Arslan invade the empire from Mesopotamia. Ani cap- 
tured, 1064. 

1064 The Uzes, a nomad Turkish tribe, invade from the north. They are driven back by 
outbreak of the plague. 

1067 Death of Constantine. The imperial title conferred on his young sons, Michael (VII) 
Ducaa Parapinaces Andronicus, and Constantine (XII) Ducas. The empress 
Eudocia is regent. She marries Romanus (IV) Diogenes, who is proclaimed as 
emperor. Great ravage of the Turks. Massacre of Csesarea. 

1068-1069 Successful campaign of Romanus against the Turks. 

1070 Manuel Comnenus takes command against the Turks. Alp Arslan captures Man- 

zicert. Romanus returns to the command. 

1071 Byzantine expedition to Sicily defeated by Normans. Surrender of Bari. End of the 

imperial authority in Italy. Romanus taken prisoner by Alp Arslan at Manzicert. 
Restored to liberty and makes a treaty of peace. Refused admittance to Constan- 
tinople. Michael VII regains power reigning conjointly with Constantine XII. 
Romanus blinded, dies of his wounds. 

1072 Alp Arslan, unable to obtain payment of Romanus' ransom, invades empire. He 

finally conquers the Byzantine part of Asia Minor, giving it to Suleiman to rule. 
1074 Rebellion of Ursel. Treaty with the Turks. 
1076 The Turks take possession of Jerusalem. 
1078 Bryennius attempts to gain the throne. After a severe struggle Michael abdicates in 

favour of Nicephorus (III) Botaniates. 
1081 Nicephorus, after a constant struggle with many aspirants, is dethroned by Alexius 

(I) Comnenus after the capture and sack of Constantinople. Many pretenders are 

put down. Treaty of peace with Suleiman. Defeat of Alexius by Robert Guiscard. 

1084 Defeat of Bohemond, the Norman leader. Relief of Larissa. 

1085 Alexius recovers Dyrrhachium from the Normans. 
1087-1099 Patzinak war ending in imperial victory at Levounion. 

1092 Tzachas, emir of Smyrna, assumes title of emperor. 

1093 Murder of Tzachas at instigation of Alexius. « 
1096 The first crusaders appear at Constantinople. 

1097-1098 With the help of the crusaders, Alexius regains Nicaea, Antioch, and the whole 

of Asia Minor. 
1103-1108 War of Alexius with Bohemond, prince of Antioch. 
1110-1116 War against the Turks in Asia Minor, ending in many Turkish losses, enabling 

Alexius to make treaty of peace. 
1111 Hostilities of Alexius with Tancred and the crusaders. 

1118 Death of Alexius. Joannes Comnenus, his son, succeeds. Failure of conspiracy of 
Anna Comnena and Nicephorus Bryennius to place latter on throne. 

1119 Joannes takes Laodicea and 

1120 Sozopolis in campaigns against the Turks. 

1122 Great victory of Joannes over the Patzinaks in Macedonia. 

1124 Joannes drives back the Servians who have seized Belgrade and Branitzova. He now 

proceeds again against the Turks of Iconium and holds Castamonia and Gangra for 

a short time. 
1131 Campaign against Livo of Cilicia, whose dominions 

1137 are united to the empire. 

1138 Joannes proceeds against Raymond of Antioch, who refuses to recognise him for his 


liege-lord. Raymond apologises and helps Joannes in a successful campaign against 
the Turks in Syria. 

1141 Joannes defeats the sultan of Iconium. 

1142 He sets out for Cilicia to conquer all the Latin principalities taken from the empire, but 

1143 dies as the result of a wound received while hunting. His son Manuel (I) Com- 

nenus succeeds. 

1144 Raymond, prince of Antioch, compelled to renew bonds of vassalage. 

1145 Manuel invades Isauria and concludes treaty of peace with Turks. 

1147 Manuel promises to aid the Second Crusade, but gives secret information of it to the 


1148 War with Roger of Sicily, who attempts to invade Greece. Manuel quickly repels an 

invasion of Patzinaks, and with the help of Venice proceeds against the Normans 
at Corfu. 

1149 Fortress at Corfu taken. Roger invites the Hungarians and Servians to attack from 

the north. 

1152 Imperial repulse in Cilicia, but great successes in Italy. 

1153 Peace made with King Geisa of Hungary. 

1153-1155 The Norman war turns against the empire. Many defeats. Mains, the Sicilian 

admiral, lands at Constantinople. 
1155 Peace made with William of Sicily, Roger's successor. Punishment of Reynolf of 

Antioch, successor of Raymond, and his reduction to vassalage. 
1157 Renewal of war with sultan of Iconium. Peace made. 
1161 War breaks out with Stephen HI of Hungary. 
1163 Short interval of peace in Hungarian War. 
1168 Battle of Zeugmin. Great imperial victory. End of Hungarian War. Manuel joins 

with Almeric of Jerusalem in an attack on Egypt. 
1171 Failure of attack through jealousy of Almeric. War with Venice over, Manuel 

attacks the Lombards. After an unprofitable contest 
1174 peace made with Venice. 

1176 Renewal of war with Kilidj-Arslan, sultan of Iconium. Crushing defeat of Manuel 

near Myriocephalus. Dishonourable peace made by Manuel. 

1177 Manuel breaks peace. Imperial victory on the Maeander. Honourable peace. 

1180 Death of Manuel. His son, Alexius (II) Comnenus, succeeds, under guardianship 
of mother, Maria of Antioch. 

1183 Andronicus (I) Comnenus usurps the throne after inducing Alexius to have his 

mother put to death, and then killing him. Marries Alexius' widow, Agnes, 
daughter of Louis VII of France. 

1184 Isaac, sent to Cyprus to govern by the emperor, causes rebellion by his misgovem- 

ment, which entirely separates the island from the empire. 

1185 Silician invasion at instigation of Greek fugitives. William n destroys Thessa- 

lonica, but is induced to desist from attack on Constantinople. The lieutenant, 
Hagiochristophorites, incites rebellion at Constantinople against Isaac. The people 
take Isaac's part and proclaim him emperor. Death of Andronicus at hands of 
mob. Isaac (II) Angelus emperor. Victory at Demerize over Silician invaders. 

1186 Rebellion of the Bulgarians and Wallachians owing to unjust taxation. 

1187 Defeat of rebels by Joannes Cantacuzenus. Alexius Branas given command of army. 

He takes advantage of victories to proclaim himself emperor and appears before 
Constantinople, but is defeated and killed by Isaac's brother-in-law, Conrad of 
Montferrat. William II of Sicily gives up his conquests in Greece. 

1188 Wallachian successes lead to formation of independent kingdom. 

1189 Emperor Frederick I of Germany appears with 150,000 crusaders. The terrified Isaac 

offers to make alliance with Saladin, but the latter declines. 
Theodore Mancaphas proclaims himself emperor. He is pardoned, and gives up claim. 
Careers of the " False Alexius " and other pretenders. 
1191 Capture of Cyprus by Richard I of England. It is lost forever to the empire. 

1194 Isaac recognises the Wallachian kingdom. 

1195 Isaac deposed by the nobles, and his brother Alexius (III) Angelus-Comnenus 

" the tyrant " made emperor. Alexius has Isaac's eyes put out, and imprisons him in 
a Constantinople dungeon. Alexius' extravagant conduct completes the destruc- 
tion of the financial mechanism of the Roman Empire. Great disorder and anarchy 
throughout the empire. 

1197 Peace purchased from Mueddin, sultan of Angora. 

1198 War with the sultan of Iconium. 

1199 Rebellion of Chryses, the Wallachian officer. Alexius makes peace, leaving him in 

possession of several towns. 

1200 Ivan the Bulgarian attempts to found independent monarchy in Thrace and Macedonia- 


1202 Alexius, son of Isaac TI, escaping to Italy, brings about treaty between Venetians and 

crusaders to replace Isaac and himself on the throne. 

1203 Siege of Constantinople. Flight of Alexius III to Italy. Crusaders occupy the city. 

Isaac III and Alexius (IV) Angelus on the throne. Great fire in Constantinople. 
Constant trouble between Alexius and the crusaders, in consequence of which 

1204 Alexius (V) Ducas " Murzuphlus," a party leader, seizes the throne. Murder of 

Alexius IV. Isaac dies of grief. Alexius finds it impossible to hold out against the 
crusaders. Capture and sack of Constantinople by crusaders and Venetians. Treaty 
of partition. End of true Byzantine Empire. The Latin Empire of Romania 
founded with Baldwin, count of Flanders. The Greek Empire continues at Nicaea, 

THE LATIN EMPIEE OF ROMANIA (1204-1261 a .d.) 

1204 Baldwin I elected emperor. His dominions consist only of Constantinople and Thrace,. 

for the rest of the empire is divided among the Flemish, French, and Venetian 

1205 Joannice of Bulgaria revolts, and obtains possession of Hadrianopolis. Capture of 

Baldwin in siege of town. He dies in captivity. His brother Henry I succeeds. 

1206 Treaty with David Comnenus, brother of the emperor of Trebizond, in the interest of 

the latter. 

1207 Death of Joannice. Henry marries his daughter, and thus effects peace with Bul- 

garia. Treaty with Theodore Lascaris, emperor of Nicsea. 
1209 Parliament of Ravenika (ancient Chalcidice) summoned by Henry to determine defi- 
nitely the feudal relations of all subjects of the empire. 

1214 War between Henry and Theodore. Defeat of Henry in Bithynia. Siege of Pema- 

nene. Peace, ceding to Theodore all territory east of Sardis and Nicaea. 

1215 A mock union between the Greek and Roman churches in Henry's dominions. 

1216 Death of Henry during expedition against Theodore, the despot of Epirus. Pierre^ 

de Courtenai, then in France, chosen emperor. He falls into the hands of Theo- 
dore of Epirus on his way to Constantinople, and dies in captivity, 1219. 

1221 His second son, Robert de Courtenai, after a delay of two years, is made emperor. 

1222 Theodore of Epirus takes possession of the Lombard kingdom of Thessalonica. De- 

feat of Robert at Serres. 

1223-1224 Robert invades Nicaea with many losses. Revolt of the Greeks in Hadriano- 
polis. Theodore of Epirus takes the city. 

1228 Death of Robert. His young brother, Baldwin II, succeeds. Jean de Brienne, 
titular king of Jerusalem, elected guardian and colleague. The empire is attacked 
by Joannes Vatatzes of Nicaea and John Asan, king of Bulgaria. 

1233 Jean de Brienne routed in Bithynia. 

1234 Alliance between Vatatzes and Asan to attack Constantinople. They ravage the whole 

Latin Empire. 

1236 Danger to Constantinople averted by help from the Venetians and Geoffrey of 


1237 Death of Jean de Brienne. The Bulgarian king abandons Nicaea and makes alliance 

with Latins. Baldwin visits western Europe to obtain help. Louis IX of France 

gives pecuniary assistance. 
1240 Baldwin with his new army attacks Nicaea and obtains some advantage. 
1243 Baldwin makes alliance with Seljuk Turks, but in spite of this is compelled to- 
1245 revisit western Europe for assistance. 
1259 On the accession of Michael Palaeologus, the Nicaean Empire attacks the Latin 

1261 Recovery of Constantinople by the Greeks of Nicaea. End of the Latin Empire of 

Romania. Although driven from their dominions, the descendants of Baldwin II 

are known in eastern Europe as titular emperors until 1383 when, with the death. 

of James de Baux, the family of Baldwin became extinct. 

THE GREEK EMPERORS AT NIOffiA (1204-1261 a.d.) 

1204 After the capture of Constantinople Theodore Lascaris, leader of the anti-Latin party, 
flees to Bithynia, and makes himself master of the city of Nicaea. 

1206 Theodore (I) Lascaris crowned emperor by the Greek patriarch. His title is 
contested by several princes, among them Alexius Comnenus, reigning as emperor 
of Trebizond. David Comnenus, the latter's brother, proceeds against him, but is 
badly defeated on the Sangarius. 


1210 Alexius, father-in-law of Theodore, claims throne, supported by the sultan of Iconium. 

The latter slain in battle, Alexius falls into Theodore's hand, and is put into a 

1214 War with Henry of Romania. Peace defining limits of empire. 
-1214-1222 Years of peace. 
1222 Death of Theodore. His son-in-law, Joannes (III) Ducas Vatatzes, succeeds. 

Theodore Angelus, despot of Epirus and iEtolia, assumes title of emperor of 


1224 Victory of Pemanene over Robert, the Latin emperor. 

1225 Peace with the Latins. Conspiracy of Nestongos. 

1233 Defeat of the Latins by Joannes in Bithynia. Naval campaign to obtain sovereignty 

of the sea. The Greek fleets driven back to Asia by the Venetian, Marino Sanuti. 

1234 Alliance of Joannes Vatatzes and Asan of Bulgaria against Baldwin II. Vatatzes 

reduces the empire of Thessalonica to a despotat (despotat of Epirus). 

1236 Attack of the allies on Constantinople unsuccessful. 

1237 Asan breaks the alliance as Constantinople is about to be attacked the second time. 

1241 On the death of John Asan of Bulgaria, Vatatzes begins to assert his supremacy over 

the emperor of Thessalonica. 

1242 Joannes Comnenus, the Thessalonian emperor, reduced to rank of despot by Vatatzes. 

Alliance with the sultan of Iconium to resist threatened invasion of Mongols who 
, have already destroyed the Seljuk empire. 

1245 "Joannes Vatatzes reconquers Byzantine dominions in Thrace from the infant king 

Michael of Bulgaria. 

1246 Vatatzes unites despotat of Epirus to the empire. 

1251-1253 War with Michael II, despot of Epirus, ending in a peace ceding some Thracian 

territory to Vatatzes. 
1254 Death of Joannes Vatatzes. His son Theodore (II) Lasoaris succeeds. 
1255-1256 War with Bulgaria resulting in slight concessions to Theodore. 

1257 War with Michael of Epirus conducted by Michael Palseologus, with unfavourable 


1258 Death of Theodore. Succeeded by his young son Joannes (IV) Lascaris. The 

prime minister Muzalon and the patriarch Arsenius are regents. 

1259 Michael (VIII) Palaeologus proclaimed emperor as the result of a, successful con- 

spiracy. Muzalon murdered. The emperor goes to war with Michael of Epirus 
and puts him to flight. Battle of Pelagonia. Capture of William Villehardouin, 
prince of Achaia. 
1261 The general Strategopulus captures Constantinople. Fall of the Latin Empire 
Michael removes the seat of empire thither. 


1261 Michael imprisons Joannes IV and has his eyes put out. For this Arsenius excom- 
municates Michael. Important commercial treaty with the Genoese renewed after 
hostilities in 1275. Pope Urban IV frees Villehardouin from his promises to 
Michael on his release. Warfare results. 

1263 Urban IV mediates between Michael and Villehardouin. 

1264 Peace between the emperor and Michael of Epirus. 

1265 Deposition of Arsenius causing the Arsenite schism. 

1269 Charles of Anjou, aided by Joannes of Thessaly and Michael of Epirus, takes up arms 

against the emperor to restore Baldwin II. 
1271 Great defeat of the imperial forces at Demetriades (Volo). Constantinople in danger. 

Michael proposes union of Greek and Latin churches as a means of saving his throne. 
1274 Union of churches effected at council of Lyons. It is opposed by a large faction in the 

Greek church. It was never really completed, and falls to pieces at Michael's death. 
1380 The Seljuk Turks take Nyssa. 

1281 Treaty of Orvietto between the pope, Naples, and Venice to conquer the Greek Empire 

for Philip, son of Baldwin II. The plan is frustrated by the Sicilian Vespers. 

1282 Death of Michael in an expedition against Joannes Ducas of Thessaly. He is a con- 

spicuous example of the misuse of despotic power. His son Andronicus (II) 
Palaeologus succeeds. Ecclesiastical troubles compel the emperor to neglect mili- 
tary matters for a time. 

1290 Unsuccessful attack upon Nicephorus of Epirus. 

1295 Michael IX, son of Andronicus, receives the imperial title from his father. 

1301 Foundation of Ottoman Empire by Osman, who attacks the Greek Empire. Disgrace- 
ful defeat of Greeks commanded by Michael, near Nicomedia. The command 


given to a Tatar chief. The Ottomans gradually conquer all the Byzantine posses- 
sions in Asia. 

1303 The Catalan Grand Company, engaged by Michael to help fight the Turks, and headed 

by Roger de Flor, lands in Constantinople. 

1304 Relief of Philadelphia by Roger. He conceives the idea of forming a principality in 

the East. 

1305 Roger de Flor visits Constantinople to demand pay for his men. 

1306 Turks retake Philadelphia. Plan of Ferdinand of Majorca to conquer a kingdom in 

the Greek Empire. 

1307 Roger de Flor created csesar. He sets out for Asia but is assassinated. The company 

breaks its ties with Michael, and sets out to conquer territory for itself. Battle of 
Apros. The company takes possession of several districts. Excommunication 
of Andronicus by Clement V. 

1310 The company and their Turkish auxiliaries enter service of the duke of Athens. 

Conquest of Rhodes by knights of St. John. 

1311 Battle of the Cephisus and victory of the Catalan Grand Company over the duke of 

Athens pave way for the conquest of Attica. The Turkish auxiliaries return home. 
1315 Victory of Philes Palseologus over Turks at Bizya. 

1320 The emperor Michael dies. 

1321 Beginning of civil war by partisans of the emperor's grandson Andronicus led by 

Cantacuzenus and Synadenus. 

1322 Peace of Epibates concludes civil war. 

1325 Andronicus compelled to bestow imperial crown on his grandson Andronicus (III) 
Palasologus ; the two reign together. 

1327 Andronicus II brings charges against Andronicus III. Civil war breaks out again. 

1328 Synadenus overcomes garrison of Constantinople. Abdication of Andronicus. II 

puts an end to civil war, but the court remains full of intrigue. 

1329 Imperial defeat at Pelekanon by the Ottoman Orkhan. 

1330 Surrender of Nicsea to Orkhan. 

1330-1337 Ottoman invasions of the European provinces. 
1334-1337 Expedition of Andronicus into Epirus. 

1337 The Mongols cross the Danube and ravage northern district. Anne regent for Ni- 

cephorus II, despot of Epirus, turns the despotat over to Andronicus. 

1338 Surrender of Nicomedia to Orkhan. 

1339 Revolt in the despotat of Epirus put down. 

1341 Death of Andronicus. His young son Joannes (V) Palaeologus succeeds with 

Empress Anne of Savoy as regent. Rebellion of the prime minister Joannes (VI) 
Cantacuzenus, who is proclaimed emperor and guardian of Joannes. He often 
calls himself Joannes V. Apocauchus and Joannes Apri intrigue against Canta- 
cuzenus. A long civil struggle commences. 

1342 Stephen Dushan of Servia allies himself with rebels and invades empire. 

1343 Cantacuzenus makes alliance With Turks. The war continues with violence. 

1344 Cantacuzenus takes Gratianopolis and makes treaties with Servia and Bulgaria. 

1345 Murder of Apocauchus. Vicinity of Constantinople devastated. 

1346 Defection of Orkhan from Anne's cause leads to triumph of Cantacuzenus. Earth- 

quake at Constantinople destroys portion of St. Sophia. 

1347 Treaty of Cantacuzenus with Anne recognises right of former to rule for ten years. 

The Black Death rages. 

1350 Cantacuzenus uses money sent by Russians to rebuild St. Sophia to pay Ottoman 


1351 Joannes V takes up arms against Cantacuzenus. 

1352 Peace with Genoa after three years' war. Cantacuzenus hires Turkish mercenaries to 

fight Bulgarians and Servians. 

1353 Cantacuzenus proclaims his son Matthseus emperor, and a deadly strife between him 

and the Palseologus family ensues. 

1354 Cantacuzenus dethroned. Joannes V sole emperor. Matthseus Cantacuzenus continues 

civil war. 
1357 Matthseus Cantacuzenus delivered to Joannes by his captors the Servians and made 

to renounce all rights to the throne. 
1361 The Ottoman Turks under Murad I take Hadrianopolis. This seals the fate of the 

Greek Empire. 
1363 The Ottomans take Philippolis and Serres. Defeat of Louis of Hungary. 
1369-1370 Joannes visits Rome to obtain help for his falling empire, but is unsuccessful. 

On way home is arrested for debt in Venice and released with money raised by his 

son, Manuel. 
1375 Andronicus, Joannes' eldest son, conspires against him while the emperor is absent on 

h. w. — VOL. VII. c 


a visit to Murad. He is aided by Saugdi, eldest son of Murad. Murad hastens to 
Europe and quells rebellion. Both Andronicus and Saugdi have their eyes put out. 

1377 Andronicus escapes from prison, imprisons his father, and confers title on his own son. 

1381 Joannes rescued by Venetians under Carlo Zeno. Concludes treaty with Andronicus, 
recognising his and his son's rights to the title. Treaty with Murad in which 
Joannes acknowledges himself the vassal of the Ottoman Empire. 

1384 Manuel, second son of Joannes, proclaimed emperor and crowned. 

1389 Battle of Kossova. Great Ottoman victory over the Servians. Assassination of Murad. 

Bajazet succeeds, renews treaty with Joannes, and puts Manuel at head of Greek 
troops in Ottoman army. 

1390 Ottomans capture Philadelphia the last independent Greek community in Asia 


1391 Death of Joannes. Manuel (II) Palaeologua sole emperor. He hastens to Constanti- 

nople, fearing his brother -will seize the crown. 
1396 Great victory of Bajazet at Nicopolis. He now determines to proceed against Con- 
stantinople. Manuel visits France for help. 

1398 Marshal Boucicault arrives at Constantinople with his fleet. The Tatar conqueror, 

Timur, distracts Bajazet's attention from the empire. 

1399 Joannes of Selymbria, son of Andronicus, enters Constantinople and is proclaimed 

emperor. Manuel visits European courts for help. 

1402 Manuel returns home, his mission unsuccessful. Battle of Angora. Crushing defeat 

of Bajazet by Timur. 

1403 Treaty of Suleiman and Manuel, the former yielding up territory in Macedonia and 


1410 Musa, Suleiman's brother, after the latter's death, reconquers territory ceded by Sulei- 
man to Manuel. 

1412 Musa begins a feeble siege of Constantinople, but is soon distracted by civil troubles. 

1413-1421 During reign of Muhammed I, the Greek Empire enjoys uninterrupted peace. 
Manuel employs time in reorganising administration and consolidating his power. 

1419 Manuel makes his son, Joannes (VII) Palaeologua, co-emperor. 

1422 Murad II besieges Constantinople to punish Manuel for his intrigues. He is obliged 

to raise siege in order to proceed against his brother, Mu staph a. 

1423 Manuel assumes monastic habit, taking name of Matthew. Joannes sole emperor. 

The empire is now reduced to the city of Constantinople and vicinity, Thessalonica, 
and a part of the Peloponnesus. The finances are exhausted through payment of 
tribute to the Turks. The empire enters its final stage of lethargy. 

1430 Murad II conquers Thessalonica. The Genoese of Galata attack Constantinople on 

account of trade dispute in Black Sea. 

1431 Terrible epidemic in Constantinople. 

1439 Joannes and the Greek patriarch attend council of Florence and ratify union of the 

Greek and Roman church. The pope promises to aid the empire, but forgets agree- 
ment to send fleet to Constantinople. 

1440 On return of the emperor, the bishop of Ephesus succeeds in confining the union only 

to the palace. The emperor's brother Demetrius attempts to gain throne, but fails. 

1447 Murad marches against the emperor's brother Constantine, who is ruling over the 

Peloponnesus. Corinth and Patras taken. Treaty with Constantine, who pays 

1448 Death of Joannes. His brother Constantine (XIII) Palaeologua or Dragases, 

despot of Sparta, succeeds. 

1449 Muhammed II succeeds Murad II. His chief ambition is the conquest of Constanti- 

nople, and he at once prepares for it. Builds a fort on the Bosporus. 

1452 Joannes appeals to Pope Nicholas V for aid. Cardinal Isidore and a small body of 

auxiliaries are sent. 

1453 Siege and capture of Constantinople by Muhammed II. Death of Constantine in. 

battle. Muhammed enters his new capital. End of the Eastern Empire. 

THE EMPIRE OF TREBIZOND (1204-1461 jv.d.) 

Isaac Angelus, as soon as he is placed on the throne by the exasperated mob that slew 
the tyrannical Andronicus I (1185), has the eyes of Manuel Comnenus, the murdered 
emperor's eldest son, put out. Manuel dies under the operation, leaving two sons, 
Alexius and David. They live in obscurity in Constantinople until the crusaders 
besiege the capital (1203), when they escape to the coast of Colchis. Alexius gathers 
around him a small force and 
1204 about the time of the fall of Constantinople enters Trebizond, the ancient Trapezus, 


on the Black Sea, having been proclaimed "emperor of the Romans." He calls 
himself Alexius (I) Grand-Comnenus, to distinguish himself from the family of 
Alexius Angelus-Comnenus. The weakness of the expelled house of Angelus per- 
mits Alexius to found his empire and begin a career of conquest. In the course of 
a few months the whole country from the Phasis to the Thermodon is his. David 
Comnenus adds the coast from Sinope to Heraclea to the new empire. 

1206 Defeat of David on the Sangarius, by Theodore (I) Lascaris. Alexius badly beaten at 
Amisus by the sultan of Iconium or Rum in league with Theodore. David makes 
treaty with the emperor Henry of Romania, in the interest of his possessions. 

1214 Theodore I attempts to reunite David's territory to the empire of Nicaea. Death of 
David in defence of Sinope, besieged and captured by the Turks. Pontus assailed 
by the Turks. Colchis by the Georgians. 

1216 Alexius compelled to declare himself a vassal of the sultan of Iconium. 

1222 Death of Alexius. His son-in-law, Andronicus (I) Ghidua, succeeds. Joannes the 
eldest son being passed over. 

1224 Treaty with Ala ad-Din, sultan of Iconium. Hayton, Turkish governor of Sinope, seizes 
a Trebizontine ship. Andronicus attacks Sinope; Ala ad-Din breaks treaty and 
attacks Trebizond. Andronicus drives him off and by a treaty frees himself from 

1226 Andronicus acknowledges himself vassal of Gela ad-Din, shah of Khwarizm. 

1230 On defeat of Gela ad-Din by the Mongols, Andronicus renews vassalage to Iconium. 
The Iberian provinces of Trebizond unite with the new Iberian kingdom where 
King David still retains his independence against the Turks. 

1235 Death of Andronicus. His brother-in-law, Joannes (I) Auxuchus, succeeds. 

1238 Death of Joannes. His brother, Manuel (I) the Great Captain, succeeds. There is 
little information about the events of his reign, but he was a vassal of the Seljuks; 
and, after their defeat, in 1244, at Kusadac of the Mongol khan, Octar. 

1263 Andronicus II succeeds his father. 

1266 George succeeds his brother. The power of the Monguls and Seljuks in Asia Minor 
declines, and George frees himself from them. He attempts to conquer more terri- 
tory but in 

1280 is deserted by his nobles on an expedition and captured by the Turkomans. Joannes 
III succeeds. He is invited by a party in Constantinople, disgusted at Michael 
VIII's union with the Latin church, to place himself at the head of the orthodox 
Christians and of the Greek Empire ; but Joannes fears to do this. 

"\281 Michael sends George Acropolita, the historian, on a mission to Joannes to induce him 
to lay aside title of emperor of the Romans or accept matrimonial alliance with his 
family. It is unsuccessful. An insurrection at Trebizond deprives Joannes of 
his power, but he soon recovers it. 

1282 Joannes agrees to marry Michael's daughter Eudocia. The ceremony is performed at 
Constantinople, and Joannes gives up title " emperor of the Romans," taking that 
of " emperor of all the East, Iberia, and Peratea." David of Iberia makes an 
unsuccessful attack on Trebizond. George released by Turkomans, but fails in 
an attempt to regain throne. 

1285 Joannes' sister, Theodora, assembles an army and mounts throne, but Joannes soon 
recovers it and drives her from it. Pope Nicholas IV invites Joannes to assist in 
crusade to recover Ptolemais, but affairs at home prevent his doing so. 

1297 Death of Joannes. His son Alexius II succeeds at age of fifteen. He soon frees 
himself from his guardian, Andronicus II of Constantinople. 

1302 Alexius repels a Turkoman invasion in a great battle near Kerasunt. 

1310 After many trade disputes with the Genoese establishments on the Black Sea, Genoa 
demands a favourable treaty with Alexius, which he refuses. The enraged Genoese 
burn a portion of Trebizond, but fear of the Venetians compels them to agree to 
trading on the old terms. 

1314 Sinopian pirates set fire to Trebizond and much damage is done. 

1330 Death of Alexius. His eldest son, Andronicus III, succeeds. A period of anarchy 
and civil war begins. Andronicus supposed to have put two brothers to death. 
Another brother and an uncle flee to Constantinople. 

1332 Death of Andronicus. Accession of his young son, Manuel II, with everyone in 
power attempting to gain the direction of affairs. Taking advantage of the condi- 
tion of affairs the Turkomans invade the empire, which is in great danger, and 
Basil, the fugitive son of Alexius II, is invited to become emperor. Manuel 
deposed. Basil proves a profligate monarch, and marries his mistress in spite of 
the fact that he has a wife. The power becomes decentralised. 

1340 Death of Basil. His lawful wife, Irene Palseologina, daughter of the Byzantine 
emperor, is placed on the throne by her adherents. C'vil war breaks out. 


1341 Anna Anachoulu, daughter of Alexius II, is placed by the Comnenian party on the 

throne. Irene deposed. Michael, second son of Joannes II, claims throne. He is 
imprisoned, but a party forms around his son, Joannes. 

1342 Joannes III gains throne from Anna. She is strangled. 

1344 Disgusted with Joannes' conduct the young nobles release his father, Michael, from 
prison and make him emperor. Michael confines Joannes in a monastery, and 
afterwards sends him to Hadrianopolis. He tries to improve the condition of 
affairs and decrease the power of the nobles, but is not strong enough for the task. 

1347 The Great Plague (Black Death) rages in Trebizond. The Turkomans ravage the 

empire up to the walls of the capital. 

1348 Turks capture Kerasunt. Genoese men of war attack Trebizond. The Greeks mas- 

sacre the Franks for revenge. 

1349 Michael makes peace with Genoese, ceding them fortress of Leontokastron. Civil 

riots break out. Michael dethroned and Alexius III, son of Basil, and his mistress, 
Irene of Trebizond, are brought from Constantinople to occupy the throne. The 
rebellions of the aristocracy continue. 

1355 The rebels headed by the grand duke Nicetas appear with a fleet before Trebizond. 
Alexius drives them off. He begins to consolidate his power, but the Turkomans 
gradually seize territory from the empire until there is only a narrow strip of sea- 
coast left. 

1380 Alexius quarrels with Megollo Lesoari, a Genoese merchant, who fits out galleys to 
ravage the Black Sea. Alexius submits and confirms trade privileges of the Genoese. 

1390 Death of Alexius. His son Manuel III succeeds. 

1400 Manuel sends troops to the army of Timur, but does not himself take part in the bat- 
tle of Angora (1402). 

1405 After Timur's death Manuel delivers empire from tribute to the Mongols. 

1417 Death of Manuel. His son Alexius IV succeeds. After the retreat of the Mongols 
the empire is overrun by the two great Turkoman hordes of the Black and White 
Sheep. Kara Yusuf , chief of the Black Horde, compels Alexis to send a daughter 
to marry his son, and exacts tribute. 

1420 Death of Kara Yusuf — the emperor ceases to pay tribute to the Black Horde. 

1426 Rebellion of Alexius' son Calo-Joannes, who has been raised to imperial dignity. The 
nobles rescue the emperor. Alexius confers rights of heir apparent and imperial dig- 
nity on his second son Alexander, who dies soon afterwards. 

1442 First attack of Ottoman Turks on Trebizond is repulsed. 

1446 Second rebellion of Calo-Joannes. He murders Alexius and succeeds as Joannes IV. 
He is hated for his crimes. 

1449 The sheikh of Ertebil fails in an attempt to capture Trebizond. Joannes forms plan 
to expel Ottomans from Asia Minor and Muhammed II forced to invade the empire. 
Joannes compelled to become vassal of Muhammed and pay tribute. 

1458 Death of Joannes as he is forming a great league against the Ottomans. A four-year- 
old son is set aside in favour of his brother David who continues Joannes' work on 
the league. 

1461 Siege and capture of Trebizond by Muhammed II. End of the empire of Trebizond. 
David retires to Mavronaros which he receives in exchange for his empire, and a few 
years later is put to death at Constantinople for refusing to join the Moslem faith. 

THE KINGDOM OF SALONICA (1204-1222 a.d.) 

1204 In the division of the Byzantine Empire among the crusaders, Boniface, marquis of 
Montferrat, commander-in-chief, receives a feudatory kingdom in Asia, but not lik- 
ing to be so far from his Italian domains, he exchanges it for the province of Mace- 
donia with Thessalonica for his capital. He calls it the kingdom of Salonica. He 
also believes himself entitled to Crete, and exchanges it with the Venetians for por- 
tions of Thessaly. Boniface would like to maintain an independent realm, but 
Baldwin I of Romania promptly compels him to do homage. 

1204-1207 Boniface defeats attempts of the Greeks to recover his kingdom. He marches 
into the Peloponnesus and lays siege to Corinth and Argos, but is recalled by a rebel- 
lion in Thessalonica. 

1207 Death of Boniface in a skirmish with the Bulgarians. Demetrius his son two years 
old succeeds with the queen, Margaret, as regent. 
The kingdom is protected against the prince of Epirus and the king of Bulgaria by the 
Romanian emperor, until after the death of Pierre de Courtenai. 

1222 While Demetrius is still completing his education in Italy, Theodore, prince of Epirus, 
conquers the kingdom and is crowned emperor of Thessalonica. Demetrius mak^a 


unsuccessful attempts to recover his kingdom. The title is held by the descendants 
of Demetrius until William marquis of Montferrat cedes it to the Byzantine emperor 

1266 Baldwin II, then titular emperor of Romania, granted the kingdom of Salonica to the 

house of Burgundy, where it remained until Eudes IV sold it to Philip of Tarentum, 
titular emperor of Romania in 1320. 


1204 After the conquest of Constantinople, Michael I, a natural son of Constantine 
Angelus and uncle of Isaac II and Alexius III, escapes into Epirus, marries a native 
lady, and establishes a government in the territory west of the Pindus Mountains. 
His capital is at Joannina. It is a typical Byzantine state, totally different from the 
Frankish feudatory governments. Michael and his descendants all take name of 
Angelus Comnenus Ducas. He is an able military leader, and extends his princi- 
pality over all Epirus, Acarnania, .iEtolia, and a part of Macedonia and Thessaly. 
He is virtually independent, but acknowledges Theodore Lascaris I as the lawful 
emperor of the East. 

1214 Assassination of Michael by one of his slaves. His brother Theodore succeeds, having; 
sworn fidelity to the throne of Nicaea. He at once begins to extend his dominions. 

1217 Theodore captures the Latin emperor, Pierre de Courtenai, who is on his way to Con- 

1222 Theodore drives the Lombards out of Salonica, and is crowned emperor of Thessalonica. 

The Empire of Thessalonica 

1224 Theodore takes Hadrianopolis. His empire now extends from the Adriatic to the 
Black Sea. He plans attack on Constantinople, but becomes involved in war with 
John Asan of Bulgaria. 

1230 John Asan takes Theodore prisoner and puts out his eyes. Theodore's brother 
Manuel assumes imperial title. 

1232 John Asan marries Theodore's daughter and releases him. Theodore returns to 
Thessalonica and forms party strong enough to drive Manuel out. Theodore's 
blindness prevents him from reigning, so his son Joannes takes the title. Manuel 
escapes to Nicaea and returns with aid from Joannes Vatatzes, but Theodore persuades 
him and his brother Constantine to aid in defending the empire against Nicaea. 

1234 Vatatzes takes Thessalonica. Joannes compelled to give up imperial dignity and 
assume rank of despot. 

The Despolat of Epirus 

1244 Demetrius succeeds his brother Joannes. 

1246 Joannes Vatatzes, owing to disputes, drives Demetrius from office and unites Thessa- 
lonica to the Greek Empire. A natural son of Michael I, Michael is, however, in 
possession of a portion of the despotat and the blind Theodore of another. Joannes 
Vatatzes makes Michael II despot under promise of absolute fidelity, but Theodore, 

1251-1255 by his intrigues, involves Michael in war with Vatatzes. 

1255 Michael delivers up Theodore and makes peace with Vatatzes. Michael is expelled 
from his dominions, but recovers the southern portion and rules there. 

1267 Death of Michael. Nicephorus. his son, receives title and marries daughter of 

Theodore Lascaris II. He extends his territory in Acarnania and jEtolia. 

1290 Nicephorus attacked by Andronicus II and the Genoese, but he repels them with 
help of the prince of Achaia and the count of Cephalonia. 

1293 Death of Nicephorus. His son Thomas succeeds. 

1318 Murder of David by his nephew, Thomas II, the count of Cephalonia, who is mur- 
dered by his wife Anne, who is guardian of her son, Nicephorus II, twelve years 
old, when in 

1337 Andronicus III invades the country. Anne turns the despotat over to him. Niceph- 
orus killed, 1358, in a battle with the Albanians while attempting to recover the 

The Wallachian Princes of Thessaly 

1259 Joannes Ducas I, natural son of the despot Michael II, marries daughter of the Wal- 
lachian chief in Thessaly. He founds an independent government, fighting with or 
against Epirus or Constantinople, as suits his interests. 


1290 Succeeded by his son, name not known. 

1300 Joannes Duoaa (II) succeeds under guardianship of Guy II, duke of Athens, his cousin. 

1308 On death of Joannes, his possessions are divided among the frontier states. 

The Servian Despots of Epirus 

1367 Thomas Frelubos recognised by Stephen Dushan as prince of Joannina or Arta. 
1385 Assassination of Prelubos on account of his cruelties. His widow marries Esau 
Buondelmonte, who wars with the Albanians until captured in 1399. 

The Tocco Family in Epirus (Despotat of Romania) 

1400 Charles Toooo, grandson of Leonardo Tocco, who was invested with Cephalonia by 
Robert of Tarentum, titular emperor of Romania, invades Epirus about 1390, and 
finally conquers enough territory to declare himself despot of Romania. 

1429 Charles II succeeds his uncle. 

1431 The Turks capture Joannina and Mto]ia. 

1433 Charles becomes a citizen of Venice in order to obtain the protection of- that republic. 

1452 Leonard succeeds his father. 

1469 The Turks drive Leonard from the throne. 

THE DUCHY OF ATHENS (1205-1456 a.d.) 

The House of de la Roche 

Between the kingdom of Salonica and the Peloponnesus lie several feudal states 
apportioned among the crusaders. Of these the duchy of Athens is the most im- 

1205 Otto de la Roche, a Burgundian noble, takes possession of Athens. He is master 
of all Attica and Boeotia, but does homage to Boniface of Salonica. 

1207 On death of Boniface Thebes is taken from Otto and added to Salonica, but is 
returned later by Henry of Romania. 

1225 Otto prefers to return to his fief in France and resigns in favour of his nephew, Guy I. 

1264 John succeeds his father. He assists Joannes Ducas against the Byzantine army and 
forms a close alliance with him later on. John captured in the battle of Oreus by 
the forces of Michael VIII and is released without payment of ransom. 

1275 John succeeded by his brother, 'William I. 

1280 William assumes the government of Achaia during minority of Isabella Villehardouin. 

1290 Death of William. His son, Guy II, succeeds. 

1293 Guy is invited to administer the dominions of the despot of Wallachia, his ward. 
Anna, widow of Nicephorus of Epirus, prepares to attack him, but withdraws 
through fear. 

1304 Guy on his marriage to Maud of Hainault receives a fief in the Morea, but claims the 
whole principality of Achaia. 

1308 Death of Guy before he can force his claim. His cousin, Walter de Brienne, 

The House of Brienne 

The despots of Epirus and Wallachia threaten invasion. Walter makes alliance with 
Catalan Grand Company for defence and 

1310 Walter defeats his enemies, but the Catalans refuse to quit the land. 

1311 The Catalans defeat Walter at the battle of Cephisus. The Frankish power falls in 

northern Greece ; the house of Brienne still holds fiefs in Nauplia and Argos. 

The Catalan Grand Company 

Roger Deslau appointed duke of Athens. His dominions are extended north and 

The House of Aragon, Duke of Athens and Neopatras 

1326 On death of Roger, Manfred, son of Frederick II of Sicily, is invested with the duchy, 
which becomes an appanage of the house of Aragon. 

1330 William, Manfred's brother, succeeds. 

1331 The son of Walter de Brienne makes unsuccessful attempt to regain duchy. 
1338 John, brother of William and Manfred, succeeds. 


1348 Frederick, marquis of Randazzo, son of John, succeeds. He never visits Athens. 
1355 Frederick III, king of Sicily, succeeds the marquis of Randazzo. 
1377 Maria, daughter of Frederick III, succeeds to the duchy. 

1386 Conquest of Athens by Nerio Acciajuoli, governor of Corinth, in a war concerning the 
countess of Salona and her heritage. 

The House of Acciajuoli 

1394 Nerio I confirmed in the duchy by King Ladislaus of Naples. Nerio taken prisoner 
by Navarrese troops and purchases his liberty. Death of Nerio ; his natural son, 
Antonio, succeeds. Bajazet recognises his authority. Athens enjoys a tranquil rule 
of forty years. 

1435 Nerio II, grand-nephew of Nerio I, succeeds on death of Antonio. The administra- 
tion comes into hands of his brother, Antonio, while Nerio is in western Europe. 

1443 Nerio pays tribute to the despot of Morea. 

1450 Nerio joins forces with Muhammed II and becomes Ottoman vassal. 

1453 Infant son of Nerio succeeds on his father's death with his mother as regent. 

1455 Muhammed orders duchy conferred on Franco, nephew of Nerio II. 

1456 Muhammed finding the Athenians disgusted with Franco annexes duchy to the Ottoman 

There are other feudal states north of the isthmus of Corinth, ruled by the lords of 
Budonitza, Salona, and Negropont, but details of their history are lacking. Like 
Athens they are finally merged in the Ottoman Empire. 


1205-1208 Guillaume de Champlitte, receiving territory in the Peloponnesus as his share of 
the Byzantine Empire, is joined by Geoffrey Villehardouin, nephew of the chronicler, 
and conquering about half the peninsula within three years organises a strong feudal 
government. Geoffrey is his most important feudal vassal, and receives the fief of 

1210 Guillaume returns to France leaving his relative Hugh in charge, but the latter dying, 
Geoffrey is elected in his place. Geoffrey possesses himself of the principality. 
He strengthens it in every possible way. 

1218 Geoffrey II succeeds his father. 

1219-1222 Serious quarrel of Geoffrey with the pope. The ban of excommunication is 
finally removed. 

1246 Death of Geoffrey. His brother Guillaume Villehardouin succeeds. He proposes to 

complete conquest of Peloponnesus. 

1247 Conquest of Nauplia with help of Venetians of Modon. 

1248 Conquest of Monemvasia. Before the end of the year the entire Peloponnesus is under 

Frankish domination. 

1259 Guillaume assists his father-in-law Michael II of Epirus in his war against Michael 
VIII of Constantinople. Battle of Pelagonia, and capture of Guillaume, by Michael 

1261 Guillaume released by ceding Monemvasia, Misithra, and Maina, three strong cities, to 
Michael VIII. 
Pope Urban IV releases Guillaume from promise not to wage war on Michael. War- 
fare results in the Morea. 

1263 Urban IV mediates between Michael and Guillaume. 

1267 The principality becomes a dependency of the kingdom of Naples, having been that of 
the Romanian emperors. 

1277 Death of Guillaume. His daughter Isabella succeeds. 

1278 Death of Isabella's husband Philip of Anjou. Guillaume de la Roche, duke of Athens, 

governs for ten years. 

1291 Isabella marries Florenz of Hainault. 

1297 Death of Florenz and end of last prosperous period of the principality. The suzer- 
ainty of Achaia has been transferred to Philip of Tarentum. 

1301 Isabella marries Philip of Savoy. 

1304 Isabella and Philip leave Greece in consequence of disputes with their vassals and 
with Philip of Tarentum. 

1311 Death of Isabella in Italy. Her daughter Maud of Hainault, widow of Guy II of 
Athens, succeeds. 

1313 Maud marries Louis of Burgundy. 


1315 Maud and Louis leave for Greece. Ferdinand of Majorca claims principality and sets 

out to take it. 

1316 Death of Ferdinand in battle -with Louis. 

1317 Death of Louis. The house of Anjou try to marry Maud to Count John of Gravina, 

but finds she has already married Hugh de la Pallisse. King of Naples declares this 
marriage null, and Maud is compelled to go through ceremony with John. She is 
then imprisoned and dies about 1324. Philip of Tarentum takes title of prince. 

1332 Robert, titular emperor of Romania, succeeds his father Philip as prince, while his 
mother Catherine of Valois becomes suzerain. John of Gravina still disputes the 
principality. The Achaean barons fail in attempt to transfer their fealty to Con- 
stantinople and to Don Jayme II of Majorca. 

134G At death of Catherine de Valois, Robert becomes suzerain of Achaia as well as prince. 

1364 Death of Robert, leaving principality to his widow Bjlary of Bourbon, the suzerainty 
devolving on Philip III titular emperor of Romania. Mary establishes herself in 
Greece, but is unable to hold the position. 

1373 James de Baux becomes suzerain. 

1387 Mary retires to Italy. She is last sovereign to rule over the whole of the principality. 
Achaia falls into a state of anarchy. The country is ravaged by the Seljuk and 
Ottoman Turks ; the strategi and despots of the Palaeologus family established by 
the emperor of Constantinople in the Morean territory that was the price of William 
Villehardouin's ransom, gradually reconquer the Peloponnesus from the French 
feudal lords. About 1425, Murad II sets about ruining the Byzantine possessions in 
the Peloponnesus. After this the Ottoman power in the land steadily increases. 
In 1458 Muhammed II visits the Peloponnesus, and it is finally conquered by him 
in 1460, except some cities still in the hands of the Venetians. For world-historic 
interest, perhaps the most important feature of the feudal states in Greece is thus 
stated by Finlay : " The Franks ruled the greater part of the Peloponnesus for two 
centuries, and the feudal system which they introduced was maintained in full vigour 
for sufficient time to admit of its effects on civilised communities living under the 
simpler system of personal rights, traced out in the Roman law, being fully devel- 
oped. The result was that the Franks were demoralised, the Greeks impoverished, 
and Greece ruined." 


In the partition of the Byzantine Empire, the republic of Venice receives about three- 
eighths of the whole empire of Romania ; but her resources not being adequate to 
conquer this amount of territory, she makes no effort to take a considerable portion 
of her share. We have seen how a portion of Thessaly was exchanged with Boni- 
face of Montferrat, and a considerable amount of land falls into the hands of the 
other adventurers. Venice pursues the policy, allowing her barons personally to 
conquer certain territories, on condition that they be held as fiefs of the republic. 
Thus the Dandolo and Viaro families take Gallipoli and the island of Andros ; the 
Ghisi seize Tinos, Scyros, Mycone, and other islands. Ceos falls to the Justiniani 
and Michicle, Lemnos to the Navigajosa, Astypalia to the Quirini. The twelve 
islands of the Archipelago forming the Byzantine theme of the JEgean Sea are taken 
by Mark Sanduno. He invades Naxos about 1207. The Sanduno and Delia Carceri 
rule the islands, vassals of Romania and Venice — uneventful rules in which a fierce 
Seljuk invasion of Naxos in 1330 is perhaps the most important event — until 1381 
when through conspiracy the Crispo family seizes the duchy. In the treaty between 
Muhammed II and Venice after the capture of Constantinople, the dukes of the 
Archipelago act as subjects of Venice. When the republic and the Ottoman Em- 
pire engage in hostilities, the duke of the Archipelago is compelled to become a 
vassal of the Sublime Porte, 1537. In 1566, on complaint of the Greek residents, 
the sultan Selim II seizes the duchy and adds it to his empire, and the last fief 
of the Romanian Empire is extinguished. 



[395-408 a.d.] 

The Emperor Theodosius I died in Mediolanum 
on the 17th of January, 395, after a long illness. A 
few months before this he had defeated at Frigidus, 
in the pass of the Julian Alps, Eugenius, the second 
pretender to lay claim to the throne during his reign. The pious monarch 
met his death in a different manner from his young co-rulers, Gratian and 
Valentinian II, but as had many of his predecessors. No murderous steel of 
mercenary aspirants put an end to his life, but surrounded by faithful friends 
and followers, and attended by the venerable Bishop Ambrose, his great soul 
departed from a body long worn out with trouble and anxiety and the many 
struggles of an almost incessant war. He was not old when he died, for 
having been born in 346 he had not yet reached the age of fifty, and so, 
according to the prospect of longevity, it had been thought that he would 
have a much longer reign. 

There had never been a more prosperous time for the Roman world than 
just then ; for, after the defeat of Eugenius, the whole of the Roman Empire 
had once more passed under the undivided control of one man. Theodosius 
with his two-sided policy — openly to welcome the Germans pressing into his 
country, if they agreed to keep peace and friendship, or strongly to oppose 
their hostile advances — would have been well able to withstand the over- 
crowding of the west by the tribes persecuted by the Huns for many years 
longer ; but the death of so powerful an enemy, who was greatly feared even 
by the barbarians, was the signal for an internal rising as well as for an 
external revolt. 

In the midst of all this trouble and distress the ruler now died, leaving 
the kingdom to his two sons Arcadius and Honorius, the former but a youth, 
the latter a child of eleven years. With regard to the dividing of the empire, 
that was all settled, at least as far as Arcadius was concerned, for it was 
certainly not on his death-bed that the careful Theodosius had first consid- 
ered the matter. The eastern half, formerly ruled by the father, was left to 
Arcadius as the elder son ; whilst before the murder of Valentinian II a part of 
the Occident was probably intended to be divided between him (Valentinian) 
and Honorius. 


The Western Empire consisted of Britain as far as the frontier wall of 
Hadrian, of Gaul, of Germany up to the limes transrhenanus, of Spain, of Italy, 
of the western part of the province of Illyricum which embraced Noricum, 



[395 A.D.] 

Pannonia, and Dalmatia, and of which the boundary stretched southeast- 
wards from the mouth of the Scodra (Scutari) over the Bosnian Mountains, 
along the Drinus (Drina) to the Savus (Save), and of the entire north coast 
of Africa from the Atlantic Ocean to the Barca plain. The eastern half 
bequeathed to Arcadius included the Balkan peninsula, bound on the north 
by the Danube, Asia Minor, the Tauric peninsula (Crimea), Syria, Pales- 
tine, Egypt, Lower Libya, and the Pentapolis. 

A mere glance on the map shows that the area of the western half by far 
exceeded that of the east. Indeed, Honorius' realm spread over about one 
and one half times the area of that of his brother Arcadius. The produc- 
tiveness and fertility of the individual quarters of the Occident also exceeded 
that of the Orient ; Britain, the farthest link of the Western Roman Empire, 
brought, according to Strabo's report, tin from the Cornwall peninsula, corn 
and splendid cattle from the flat southeast ; from the hills of the west and 
north, gold, silver, and ore. The Gauls were renowned pig and sheep breeders, 
Italy supplied cloth and pickled meats, whilst the flat north and east pro- 
duced such quantities of grain that at the end of the fourth century the in- 
habitants of Rome could well have dispensed with the corn sent from Africa 
and had their wheat brought from Gaul. Spain, although not successful in 
the cultivation of grain, was amply compensated by the splendid wines which 
it produced ; the rivers yielded gold dust, the mountains silver, copper, and 
iron, and the sea a wealth of fish. 

Africa, owing to the fertility which for centuries filled the granaries of 
Rome, was so thickly populated that in the fourth century there were 123 
bishops' sees in Numidia, and 170 in the consular province of Africa, com- 
pared with which Tripolis on the borders of the Sahara was far behind. 
Italy was and is still to a far greater extent a land of agriculture than 

The Eastern Empire on the other hand shows at first glance a remarkable 
lack of flat land and a great number of mountains. The Balkan peninsula, 
for instance, is almost entirely composed of chains of mountains which cross 
and recross in such a manner as to render exploration very difficult ; even 
up to the present day little is known of the country. Owing to the moun- 
tainous character of the Balkan peninsula only a portion of the ground (of 
which to-day 30 per cent, is unproductive in Turkey, but in Greece quite 
58.9 per cent.) could be cultivated. The expansive north was so favourable 
to the cultivation of corn, especially in the valleys near the rivers, that 
Thrace once enjoyed the distinction of producing the finest and heaviest 
wheat for exportation to Greece ; whilst in Greece itself only Thessaly and 
Boeotia were noted for their agricultural soil, the remaining districts being 
best suited to pasture land for cattle. 

Furthermore, in Asia Minor and on the east coast of the Mediterranean 
but a part of the land repays the trouble of cultivation, for it is only the 
western valleys of the rivers emptying themselves into the iEgean Sea and 
the northern border of the Black Sea which yield good harvests of wine, oil, 
and corn ; for the Mediterranean coast, with the exception of the rich district 
of Adana, offers no specially productive ground. 

The eastern portion of the Roman Empire, though certainly far behind the 
west not only in size but also in its products, enjoyed in other ways many 
advantages denied to the Occident. On account of the vastness of the 
Western Empire the various cities and places of importance were widely 
scattered and separated from the chief centre by great distances, which 
arrangement was undoubtedly advantageous to discontented legions and 



ambitious officers desirous of revolting against the lawful head of the state. 
The wide expanse to the northwest, however, occasioned a fatal lengthening 
of the eastern border line guarded by the easily crossed Rhine and Danube. 

The Orient, on the contrary, had its sole coast-line bound by the Medi- 
terranean, a much navigated and frequented sea. No city or town was 
separated from the others by long stretches of land, for the sea enabled 
the troops from one garrison to reach another in a few days. The Danube 
was a weak defence against the barbarians marching from the north, and 
the natural highway of Baku would not lead invaders into the valley 
of a river opening into Asia Minor, but straight into Armenia, which being 
full of chasms and ravines, was easy to defend. Even in the case of an 
invasion from the north the whole of the East, excepting Egypt, would offer 
but wild uninhabited country to the enemy. 

It was not only the sameness of climate and the consequent similarity 
of products which bound the various divisions of the East closer together 
than were those of the West, but it was rather the one spiritual teaching and 
the equable advancement of education which placed the Orient before the 
Occident. This latter dominion had two great works of civilisation before 
it — to instil religious knowledge into the minds of the inhabitants of the 
northwestern provinces, and to introduce Catholic Christianity, as yet un- 
known to them. The East on the other hand consisted entirely of pure 
Greeks or of those who had long learned not only to speak but to think in 
Greek from their ancestors who, seven centuries before, had accompanied 
Alexander in his glorious triumphal march to the Hydaspes. The whole 
populace had long since been turned from the Arian belief, so that any dif- 
ferences in the interpretation of a dogma were now taken up and carefully 
thought over by all, rich and poor, from north to south alike. 

In the Occident, however, there was a strong pagan party at court 
which had only been outwardly overthrown by the downfall of Eugenius, 
and needed but a favourable opportunity to reproclaim polytheism, even 
though it were at the cost of their patriotism. 

Ambrose states that Theodosius, when on his death-bed, was far more 
concerned about the sanctity of the church than the welfare of the state, 
for he little thought that the two portions of his empire would be sepa- 
rated and become as two worlds with totally different histories. He died in 
the firm belief that his sons and descendants would never lose sight of the 
value and importance of unity, and that each would make his own the 
perils of the other. 

By reason of this the two dominions remained united, at least to all out- 
ward appearances, for many centuries. All laws and regulations of both 
were without exception headed by the names of the two rulers, and they 
were all drawn up in Latin up to the time of Justinian ; the year was then 
as now named after the two consuls, one of whom was appointed by each 

In Europe north of the Danube the country was being constantly in- 
vaded, and consequently the neighbouring provinces, such as Scythia, Mcesia 
Secunda, Dacia Ripensis, and Moesia Prima, had numerous troops which 
were under the command of duces. Thirty-one regiments of cavalry, thirty- 
nine auxiliaries, a portion of which consisted of well-trained scouts (explora- 
tores), thirty-two legiones riparenses, three of them being exploratores, and 
three detachments of sailors (nauclerii) were quartered in the numerous 
fortresses situated either right - on the banks of the Danube or as close as 
possible, especially in Noviodunum, Durostorum, Viminacium, Cebrum, and 


[395 a.d.] 

Margus. The whole of the active military forces consisted, as far as in- 
fantry is concerned, of seventy legions, which, all told, would present an army 
of 420,000 men and thus exceed the Turkish peace army of 151,129 (in war 
758,000 men) which occupied that territory in 1885. 

As the frontiers of the country were so well protected it may be sup- 
posed, though there is but scanty information on the subject, that there 
was also a strong navy. The fleet served to protect military transports and 
the grain ships, and helped in the transmission of troops and baggage. 

The Eastern as well as the Western Empire had a fleet on the Rhine and 
on the Danube controlled by those governing the army in that quarter, but 
the positions of the stations cannot be given with certainty. 

Arms for the entire forces by land and by sea were manufactured in 
enormous state factories, the post of a workman being an hereditary one, like 
that of a decurio. Everything was under the direct supervision of the 
magister officiorum. In the Orient Damascus forged shields and other 
weapons, and Antioch shields and mail for horse and man. In Odessa 
shields and necessaries for fitting out the ships were manufactured, and in 
Irenopolis (Cilicia) spears and lances. The diocese of Pontus in Caesarea 
(Cappadocia) supplied mail and shields ; in Asia there was only one manu- 
factory for weapons and that was in Sardis, whilst in Thrace for the same 
purpose there were many buildings. 


The capital of the Eastern dominions, now separated forever from the 
Western, was Constantinople, the city which had hitherto stood second to 
Rome. It would be impossible even to compare its history and existence 
with that of Rome, yet, owing to its excellent position, it was superior. It 
would have been the greatest possible mistake for Constantino the Great to 
have chosen either Sardica, Thessalonica, the territory of Ilium or Chalcedon, 
between which places he hesitated some time, to be the new Rome of the 
East, for however richly nature may have endowed them all, to elect any one 
would have seemed but the satisfying of a princely caprice; as Constan- 
tinople on the straits of the Bosporus was then and always will be the one 
natural city commanding the whole of the Balkan peninsula, Asia Minor, 
and the numerous seas and rivers uniting at this spot. 

Where is such another city on the main sea to be found on which nature's 
favours have been so profusely showered? It is from here that the way 
leads by Thessalonica and Dyrrhachium to the Occident ; by Philippopolis, 
Hadrianopolis, Sardica, and along the Morava into the heart of Europe ; on the 
other side one goes across country over the plains of Asia Minor to the great 
metropolis of Antioch, to Babylon, and yet further on straight to the spices, 
pearls, and precious stones of rich India. By sea the way is open to the rich 
corn districts on the coast of Pontus, eastward to Trebizond, the Phasis, 
and still further in this direction is Tiflis with the Caspian Sea and central 
Asia ; southward to the flourishing Grecian colonies on the west coast of Asia 
Minor and past Rhodes to the valuable land of Egypt ; and lastly southwards 
to the island world in the JEge&n Sea, Athens, and away to the west of the 
Mediterranean. Constantinople was specially suited to the carrying on of 
such a gigantic shipping trade, since, in the deeply indented " Golden Horn," 
it possessed one of the most beautiful and best sheltered harbours that may 
be found the world over. 


[395 A.D.] 

For the maintenance of the inhabitants the sea was richly supplied with 
fish, and millions of tunny fish passed yearly through the sea of Marmora, 
which when caught were salted and smoked. Although in the course of 
years this wealth of fish began to diminish, a number of the people could and 
do still earn their livelihood by fishing ; for besides this special species quanti- 
ties of sword-fish, anchovies, etc.; are caught. The land provided hares, 
swine, and pheasants, splendid quail and partridges, and the generally mild 
climate was favourable to the growth of nourishing figs. 

Although the environs of Thrace had in earlier days supplied sufficient 
wheat to supply the wants of the people, the increase of population now 
demanded more food, and Pontian and Egyp- 
tian corn were introduced into the country. 

Unfortunately this city, otherwise so per- 
fect, was frequently disturbed by earth- 
quakes, sometimes accompanied by great 
upheavals of the sea ; but in spite of the 
unsafe foundations of the buildings, espe- 
cially of the larger and more important ones, 
the emperors did not hesitate to enrich the 
city, rebuilt by Constantine the Great in 
330, with imposing edifices. As Constan- 
tine himself, with a perennial passion for 
building, had endeavoured to cover the land 
for about fifteen furlongs around the city 
with edifices of every possible kind, the 
succeeding emperors were not to be thought 
lacking; and so, up to the time when the 
two empires were separated, the residences 
of the emperors on the seven hills in the 
fourteen departments were, according to 
models of Rome, of no mean pretensions. 

In the first division, which took in the 
east points of the neck of land washed by 
the Golden Horn and the Bosporus, was the 
great imperial palace, which included, besides 
the private residence of the emperor, with the 
throne room and the apartment made entirely 
of porphyry in which the princes and prin- 
cesses were born, the houses of all the chief 
people in office at court, extensive laundries, 
and a host of most beautiful halls, courts, 
and gardens. Other palaces were attached, 
as the one inhabited by Theodosius' daughter Placidia, and there were also 
fifteen private baths supplied by the warm springs of Arcadia ; and through 
the chaloe, with its surrounding piazza and gilded roofed entrance, the 
way led to the second division, in which stood the " great church " built 
by Constantine and rebuilt later by Justinian as St. Sophia, and the resi- 
dences of the senators, all carried out in the best style with the costliest 
marble. The inartistic Constantine had had the statues of the Rhodian 
Zeus and the Athene of Lindos taken from their original standing places 
and put in front of these buildings. Lastly came the Baths of Zeuxippus 
in the Grove of Zeus, sufficiently immense to enable two thousand men to 
bathe there daily.* 

Byzantine Emperor 
(Based on Mongez) 


[395 a.d.] 


The number and importance of the Gothic forces in the Roman armies 
during the reign of Theodosius had enabled several of their commanders 
to attain the highest rank ; and among these officers, Alaric was the most 
distinguished by his future greatness. 

The death of Theodosius threw the administration of the Eastern Em- 
pire into the hands of Rufinus, the minister of Arcadius ; and that of the 
Western, into those of Stilicho, the guardian of Honorius. The discordant 
elements which composed the Roman Empire began to reveal all their incon- 
gruities under these two ministers. Rufinus was a civilian from Gaul ; and, 
from his Roman habits and feelings and western prejudices, disagreeable to the 
Greeks. Stilicho was of barbarian descent, and consequently equally unaccept- 
able to the aristocracy of Rome ; but he was an able and popular soldier, and 
had served with distinction both in the East and in the West. As Stilicho 
was the husband of Serena, the niece and adopted daughter of Theodosius 
the Great, his alliance with the imperial family gave him an unusual influ- 
ence in the administration. The two ministers hated one another with all 
the violence of aspiring ambition ; and, unrestrained by any feeling of pa- 
triotism, each was more intent on ruining his rival than on serving the state. 
The greater number of the officers in the Roman service, both civil and 
military, were equally inclined to sacrifice every public duty for the gratifi- 
cation of their avarice or ambition. 


At this time Alaric, partly from disgust at not receiving all the prefer- 
ment which he expected, and partly in the hope of compelling the govern- 
ment of the Eastern Empire to agree to his terms, quitted the imperial 
service and retired towards the frontiers, where he assembled a force suffi- 
ciently large to enable him to act independently of all authority. Availing 
himself of the disputes between the ministers of the two emperors, and per- 
haps instigated by Rufinus or Stilicho to aid their intrigues, he established 
himself in the provinces to the south of the Danube. In the year 395 he 
advanced to the walls of Constantinople ; but the movement was evidently 
a feint, as he must have known his inability to attack a large and populous 
city defended by a powerful garrison, and which even in ordinary times 
received the greater part of its supplies by sea. After this demonstration, 
Alaric marched into Thrace and Macedonia, and extended his ravages into 
Thessaly. Rufinus has been accused of assisting Alaric's invasion, and his 
negotiations with him while in the vicinity of Constantinople authorise the 
suspicion. When the Goth found the northern provinces exhausted, he 
resolved to invade Greece and Peloponnesus, which had long enjoyed pro- 
found tranquillity. The cowardly behaviour of Antiochus the proconsul of 
Achaia, and of Gerontius the commander of the Roman troops, both friends of 
Rufinus, was considered a confirmation of his treachery. Thermopylae was left 
unguarded, and Alaric entered Greece without encountering any resistance. 

The ravages committed by Alaric's army have been described in fearful 
terms ; villages and towns were burned, the men were murdered, and the 
women and children carried away to be sold as slaves by the Goths. But 
even this invasion affords proofs that Greece had recovered from the deso- 
late condition in which it had been seen by Pausanias. The walls of Thebes 


[395 A.D.] 

had been rebuilt, and it was in such a state of defence that Alaric could 
not venture to besiege it, but hurried forward to Athens. He concluded 
a treaty with the civil and military authorities, which enabled him to enter 
that city without opposition ; his success was probably assisted by treach- 
erous arrangements with Rufinus, and by the treaty with the municipal 
authorities, which secured the town from being plundered by the Gothic 
soldiers ; for he appears to have really occupied Athens rather as a federate 
leader than as a foreign conqueror. 

The tale recorded by Zosimus « of the Christian Alaric having been in- 
duced by the apparition of the goddess Minerva to spare Athens, is refuted 
by the direct testimony of other writers, who mention the capitulation of 
the city. The fact that the depredations of Alaric hardly exceeded the 
ordinary license of a rebellious general, is, at the same time, perfectly estab- 
lished. The public buildings and monuments of ancient splendour suffered 
no wanton destruction from his visit ; but there can be no doubt that Alaric 
and his troops levied heavy contributions on the city and its inhabitants. 
Athens evidently owed its good treatment to the condition of its population, 
and perhaps to the strength of its walls, which imposed some respect on the 
Goths ; for the rest of Attica did not escape the usual fate of the districts 
through which the barbarians marched. The town of Eleusis, and the great 
temple of Ceres, were plundered and then destroyed. Whether this work 
of devastation was caused by the Christian monks who attended the Gothic 
host, and excited their bigoted Arian votaries to avenge the cause of religion 
on the temples of the pagans at Eleusis, because they had been compelled to 
spare the shrines at Athens, or whether it was the accidental effect of the 
eager desire of plunder or of the wanton love of destruction among a dis- 
orderly body of troops, is not very material. Bigoted monks, avaricious 
officers, and disorderly soldiers were numerous in Alaric's band. 

Gerontius, who had abandoned the pass of Thermopylae, took no measures 
to defend the Isthmus of Corinth, or the difficult passes of Mount Geranion, 
so that Alaric marched unopposed into the Peloponnesus, and, in a short 
time, captured every city in it without meeting with any resistance. Cor- 
inth, Argos, and Sparta, were all plundered by the Goths. The security in 
which Greece had long remained, and the policy of the government, which 
discouraged their independent institutions, had conspired to leave the prov- 
ince without protection, and the people without arms. The facility which 
Alaric met with in effecting his conquest, and his views, which were directed 
to obtain an establishment in the empire as an imperial officer or feudatory 
governor, rendered the conduct of his army not that of avowed enemies. 
Yet it often happened that they laid waste everything in the line of their 
march, burned villages, and massacred the inhabitants. 

Alaric passed the winter in the Peloponnesus without encountering any 
opposition from the people ; yet many of the Greek cities still kept a body 
of municipal police, which might surely have taken the field, had the imperial 
officers performed their duty and endeavoured to organise a regular resistance 
in the country districts. The moderation of the Goth, and the treason of 
the Roman governor, seem both attested by this circumstance. The govern- 
ment of the Eastern Empire had fallen into such disorder at the commence- 
ment of the reign of Arcadius, that even after Rufinus had been assassinated 
by the army the new ministers of the empire gave themselves very little 
concern about the fate of Greece. 

Honorius had a more able, active, and ambitious minister in Stilicho, and 
he determined to punish the Goths for their audacity in daring to establish 



i A.D.] 

themselves in the empire without the imperial authority. Stilicho had 
attempted to save Thessaly in the preceding year, but had been compelled 
to return to Italy, after he had reached Thessalonica, by an express order of 
the emperor Arcadius, or rather of his minister Rufinus. In the spring of 
the year 396, he assembled a fleet at Ravenna, and transported his army 
directly to Corinth, which the Goths do not appear to have garrisoned, and 
where, probably, the Roman governor still resided. Stilicho's army, aided 
by the inhabitants, soon cleared the open country of the Gothic bands, and 
Alaric drew together the remains of his diminished army in the elevated 
plain of Mount Pholoe, which has since served as a point of retreat for the 

northern invaders of Greece. Stilicho contented 
himself with occupying the passes with his army ; 
but his carelessness, or the relaxed discipline of 
his troops, soon afforded the watchful Alaric an 
opportunity of escaping with his army, of carrying 
v- s,h ,cj*/ .# .. off all the plunder which they had collected, and, 

f / % by forced marches, of gaining the Isthmus of 

(^ (jf >€k Corinth. 

^S Jy >^ ^^ Alaric succeeded in conducting his army into 

j ^^^r ^'\\/^ MtS^ Epirus, where lie disposed his forces to govern 

and plunder that province, as he had expected to 
rule Peloponnesus. Stilicho was supposed to have 
winked at his proceedings, in order to render his 
own services indispensable by leaving a dangerous 
enemy in the heart of the Eastern Empire ; but 
the truth appears to be that Alaric availed himself 
so ably of the jealousy with which the court of 
Constantinople viewed the proceedings of Stilicho, 
as to negotiate a treaty, by which he was received 
into the Roman service, and that he really entered 
Epirus as a general of Arcadius. Stilicho was 
again ordered to retire from the Eastern Empire, 
and he obeyed rather than commence a civil war 
by pursuing Alaric. The conduct of the Gothic 
troops in Epirus was, perhaps, quite as orderly as 
that of the Roman legionaries ; so that Alaric was 
probably welcomed as a protector when he ob- 
tained the appointment of commander-in-chief of 
the imperial forces in eastern Illyricum, which he 
held for four years. During this time he prepared 
his troops to seek his fortune in the Western Empire. The military com- 
manders, whether Roman or barbarian, were equally indifferent to the fate of 
the people whom they were employed to defend ; and the Greeks appear to 
have suffered equal oppression from the armies of Stilicho and Alaric. 

The condition of the European Greeks underwent a great change for the 
worse, in consequence of this unfortunate plundering expedition of the Goths. 
The destruction of their property and the loss of their slaves were so great, 
that the evil could only have been slowly repaired under the best government 
and perfect security of their possessions. In the miserable condition to which 
the Eastern Empire was reduced, this was hopeless ; and a long period elapsed 
before the mass of the population of Greece again attained the prosperous 
condition in which Alaric had found it ; nor were some of the cities which 
he destroyed ever rebuilt. The ruin of roads, aqueducts, cisterns, and public 

Byzantine Peasant 


[396 A.D.] 

buildings, erected by the accumulation of capital in prosperous and enter- 
prising ages, was a loss which could never be repaired by a diminished and 
impoverished population. 

History generally preserves but few traces of the devastations which affect 
only the people ; but the sudden misery inflicted on Greece was so great, 
when contrasted with her previous tranquillity, that testimonies of her suf- 
ferings are to he found in the laws of the empire. Her condition excited 
the compassion of the government during the reign of Theodosius II. There 
exists a law which exempts the cities of Illyricum from the charge of con- 
tributing towards the expenses of the public spectacles at Constantinople, 
in consequence of the sufferings which the ravages of the Goths and the 
oppressive administration of Alaric had inflicted on the inhabitants. There 
is another law which proves that many estates were without owners, in 
consequence of the depopulation caused by the Gothic invasions ; and a third 
law relieves Greece from two-thirds of the ordinary contributions to govern- 
ment, in consequence of the poverty to which the inhabitants were reduced. 

This unfortunate period is as remarkable for the devastations committed 
by the Huns in Asia as for those of the Goths in Europe, and marks the 
commencement of the rapid decrease of the Greek race and of the decline of 
Greek civilisation throughout the empire. While Alaric was laying waste 
the provinces of European Greece, an army of Huns from the banks of the 
Tanais penetrated through Armenia into Cappadocia, and extended their 
ravages over Syria, Cilicia, and Mesopotamia. Antioch, at last, resisted their 
assaults and arrested their progress; but they took many Greek cities of 
importance, and inflicted an incalculable injury on the population of the 
provinces which they entered. In a few months they retreated to their 
seats on the Palus Mseotis, having contributed much to accelerate the ruin 
of the richest and most populous portion of the civilised world.0 


The first events of the reign of Arcadius and Honorius are so intimately 
connected that the rebellion of the Goths and the fall of liufinus have already 
claimed a place in the history of the West. 

Eutropius, one of the principal eunuchs of the palace of Constantinople, 
succeeded the haughty minister whose ruin he had accomplished, and whose 
vices he soon imitated. Every order of the state bowed to the new favourite ; 
and their tame and obsequious submission encouraged him to insult the laws 
and, what is still more difficult and dangerous, the manners of his country. 
Under the weakest of the predecessors of Arcadius, the reign of the eunuchs 
had been secret and almost invisible. They insinuated themselves into the 
confidence of the prince ; but their ostensible functions were confined to the 
menial service of the wardrobe and imperial bedchamber. 

Now in the senate, the capital, and the provinces, the statues of Eutropius 
were erected in brass or marble, decorated with the symbols of his civil and 
military virtues, and inscribed with the pompous title of the third founder of 
Constantinople. He was promoted to the rank of patrician, which began to 
signify, in a popular and even legal acceptation, the father of the emperor ; 
and the last year of the fourth century was polluted by the consulship of a 
eunuch and a slave. 

The bold and vigorous mind of Rufinus seems to have been actuated by a 
more sanguinary and revengeful spirit ; but the avarice of the eunuch was 

B. W. — VOL. VII. D 


[39&-399 A.D.] 

not less insatiate than that of the prefect. As long as he despoiled the 
oppressors, who had enriched themselves with the plunder of the people, 
Eutropius might gratify his covetous disposition without much envy or 
injustice ; but the progress of his rapine soon invaded the wealth which had 
been acquired by lawful inheritance or laudable industry. 

Among the generals and consuls of the East, Abundantius had reason to 
dread the first effects of the resentment of Eutropius. He had been guilty 
of the unpardonable crime of introducing that abject slave to the palace of 
Constantinople; and some degree of praise must be allowed to a powerful 
and ungrateful favourite who was satisfied with the disgrace of his benefac- 
tor. Abundantius was stripped of his ample fortunes by an imperial rescript, 
and banished to Pityus, on the Euxine, the last frontier of the Roman world, 
where he subsisted by the precarious mercy of the barbarians, till he could 
obtain, after the fall of Eutropius, a milder exile at Sidon in Phoenicia. 

The destruction of Timasius required a more serious and regular mode 
of attack. That great officer, the master-general of the armies of Theodo- 
sius, had signalised his valour by a decisive victory which he obtained over 
the Goths of Thessaly ; but he was too prone, after the example of his sover- 
eign, to enjoy the luxury of peace and to abandon his confidence to wicked 
and designing flatterers. Timasius had despised the public clamour, by pro- 
moting an infamous dependent to the command of a cohort ; and he deserved 
to feel the ingratitude of Bargus, who was secretly instigated by the favour- 
ite to accuse his patron of a treasonable conspiracy. 

The general was arraigned before the tribunal of Arcadius himself ; and 
the principal eunuch stood by the side of the throne to suggest the questions 
and answers of his sovereign. But as this form of trial might be deemed 
partial and arbitrary, the further inquiry into the crimes of Timasius was 
delegated to Saturninus and Procopius ; the former of consular rank, the 
latter still respected as the father-in-law of the emperor Valens. The ap- 
pearances of a fair and legal proceeding were maintained by the blunt 
honesty of Procopius ; and he yielded with reluctance to the obsequious 
dexterity of his colleague, who pronounced a sentence of condemnation 
against the unfortunate Timasius. His immense riches were confiscated, in 
the name of the emperor and for the benefit of the favourite ; and he was 
doomed to perpetual exile at Oasis, a solitary spot in the midst of the sandy 
deserts of Libya (399). 

The public hatred and the despair of individuals, continually threatened, 
or seemed to threaten, the personal safety of Eutropius, as well as of the nu- 
merous adherents who were attached to his fortune and had been promoted 
by his venal favour. For their mutual defence, he contrived the safeguard 
of a law, which violated every principle of humanity and justice. 

(1) It is enacted, in the name and by the authority of Arcadius, that all 
those who shall conspire, either with subjects or with strangers, against the 
lives of any of the persons whom the emperor considers as the members of 
his own body, shall be punished with death and confiscation. 

(2) This extreme severity might, perhaps, be justified, had it been only 
directed to secure the representatives of the sovereign from any actual violence 
in the execution of their office. But the whole body of imperial dependents 
claimed a privilege, or rather impunity, which screened them, in the loosest 
moments of their lives, from the hasty, perhaps the justifiable, resentment 
of their fellow-citizens ; and, by a strange perversion of the laws, the same 
degree of guilt and punishment was applied to a private quarrel and to a 
deliberate conspiracy against the emperor and the empire. The edict of 



Arcadius most positively and most absurdly declares that, in such cases of 
treason, thoughts and actions ought to be punished with equal severity ; that 
the knowledge of a mischievous intention, unless it be instantly revealed, 
becomes equally criminal with the intention itself ; and that those rash men 
who shall presume to solicit the pardon of traitors, shall themselves be 
branded with public and perpetual infamy. 

(3) " With regard to the sons of the traitors," continues the emperor, 
" although they ought to share the punishment, since they will probably imi- 
tate the guilt, of their parents, yet, by the special effect of our imperial lenity, 
we grant them their lives ; but, at the same time, we declare them incapable 
of inheriting, either on the father's or on the mother's side, or of receiving 
any gift or legacy from the testament either of kinsmen or of strangers. 
Stigmatised with hereditary infamy, excluded from the hopes of honours or 
fortune, let them endure the pangs of poverty and contempt, till they shall 
consider life as a calamity, and death as a comfort and relief." In such 
words, so well adapted to insult the feelings of mankind, did the emperor, 
or rather his favourite eunuch, applaud the moderation of a law which trans- 
ferred the same unjust and inhuman penalties to the children of all those 
who had seconded or who had not disclosed these fictitious conspiracies. 
Some of the noblest regulations of Roman jurisprudence have been suffered 
to expire ; but this edict, a convenient and forcible engine of ministerial 
tyranny, was carefully inserted in the codes of Theodosius and Justinian ; 
and the same maxims have.been revived in modern ages to protect the electors 
of Germany and the cardinals of the church of Rome. 


Yet the sanguinary laws which spread terror among a disarmed and dis- 
pirited people were of too weak a texture to restrain the bold enterprise of 
Tribigild the Ostrogoth. The colony of that warlike nation, which had been 
planted by Theodosius in one of the most fertile districts of Phrygia, impa- 
tiently compared the slow returns of laborious husbandry with the successful 
rapine and liberal rewards of Alaric ; and their leader resented, as a personal 
affront, his own ungracious reception in the palace of Constantinople. 

A soft and wealthy province, in the heart of the empire, was astonished 
by the sound of war ; and the faithful vassal who had been disregarded or 
oppressed was again respected as soon as he resumed the hostile character of 
a barbarian. The vineyards and fruitful fields, between the rapid Marsyas 
and the winding Mseander, were consumed with fire ; the decayed walls of 
the city crumbled into dust at the first stroke of an enemy ; the trembling 
inhabitants escaped from a bloody massacre to the shores of the Hellespont j 
and a considerable part of Asia Minor was desolated by the rebellion of Tribi- 
gild. His rapid progress was checked by the resistance of the peasants of 
' Pamphylia ; and the Ostrogoths, attacked in a narrow pass, between the city 
of Selgse, a deep morass, and the craggy cliffs of Mount Taurus, were defeated 
with the loss of their bravest troops. But the spirit of their chief was not 
daunted by misfortune ; and his army was continually recruited by swarms 
of barbarians and outlaws, who were desirous of exercising the profession of 
robbery under the more honourable names of war and conquest. The rumours 
of the success of Tribigild might for some time be suppressed by fear or 
disguised by flattery ; yet they gradually alarmed both the court and the 


[399 A.D.] 

The approach of danger and the obstinacy of Tribigild, who refused all 
terms of accommodation, compelled Eutropius to summon a council of war. 
After claiming for himself the privilege of a veteran soldier, the eunuch in- 
trusted the guard of Thrace and the Hellespont to Gainas the Goth, and 
the command of the Asiatic army to his favourite Leo ; two generals who 
differently, but effectually, promoted the cause of the rebels. Leo, who from 
the bulk of his body and. the dulness of his mind was surnamed the Ajax 
of the East, had deserted his original trade of a woolcomber to exercise, with 
much less skill and success, the military profession ; and his uncertain opera- 
tions were capriciously framed and executed, with an ignorance of real diffi- 
culties and a timorous neglect of every favourable opportunity. The rashness 
of the Ostrogoths had drawn them into a disadvantageous position between 
the rivers Melas and Eurymedon, where they were almost besieged by the 
peasants of Pamphylia ; but the arrival of an imperial army, instead of com- 
pleting their destruction, afforded the means of safety and victory. Tribigild 
surprised the unguarded camp of the Romans in the darkness of the night ; 
seduced the faith of the greater part of the barbarian auxiliaries, and dissi- 
pated, without much effort, the troops which had been corrupted by the 
relaxation of discipline and the luxury of the capital. 

The bold satirist, who has indulged his discontent by the partial and 
passionate censure of the Christian emperors, violates the dignity rather 
than the truth of history by comparing the son of Theodosius to one of 
those harmless and simple animals who scarcely feel that they are the prop- 
erty of their shepherd. Two passions, however, fear and conjugal affection, 
awakened the languid soul of Arcadius ; he was terrified by the threats of a 
victorious barbarian ; and he yielded to the tender eloquence of his wife, 
Eudoxia, who, with a flood of artificial tears, presenting her infant children 
to their father, implored his justice for some real or imaginary insult which 
she imputed to the audacious eunuch. The emperor's hand was directed to 
sign the condemnation of Eutropius ; the magic spell, which during four 
years had bound the prince and the people, was instantly dissolved ; and 
the acclamations that so lately hailed the merit and fortune of the favourite, 
were converted into the clamours of the soldiers and people, who reproached 
his crimes and pressed his immediate execution. 

In this hour of distress and despair his only refuge was in the sanctuary 
of the church, whose privileges he had wisely or profanely attempted to cir- 
cumscribe ; and the most eloquent of the saints, John Chrysostom, enjoyed 
the triumph of protecting a prostrate minister, whose choice had raised him 
to the ecclesiastical throne of Constantinople. The archbishop, ascending the 
pulpit of the cathedral, that he might be distinctly seen and heard by an 
innumerable crowd of either sex and of every age, pronounced a seasonable 
and pathetic discourse on the forgiveness of injuries and the instability of 
human greatness. The agonies of the pale and affrighted wretch who lay 
grovelling under the table of the altar, exhibited a solemn and instructive 
spectacle ; and the orator, who was afterwards accused of insulting the mis- 
fortunes of Eutropius, laboured to excite the contempt that he might assuage 
the fury of the people. The powers of humanity, of superstition, and of 
eloquence prevailed. The empress Eudoxia was restrained, by her own 
prejudices or by those of her subjects, from violating the sanctuary of the 
church ; and Eutropius was tempted to capitulate, by the milder arts of per- 
suasion and by an oath that his life should be spared. 

Careless of the dignity of their sovereign, the new ministers of the palace 
immediately published an edict to declare that his late favourite had dis" 


[399-400 A.».] 

graced the names of consul and patrician, to abolish his statues, to confiscate 
his wealth, and to inflict a perpetual exile in the island of Cyprus. A des- 
picable and decrepit eunuch could no longer alarm the fears of his enemies ; 
nor was he capable of enjoying what yet remained — the comforts of peace, of 
solitude, and of a happy climate. But their implacable revenge still envied 
him the last moments of a miserable life, and Eutropius had no sooner 
touched the shores of Cyprus than he was hastily recalled. The vain hope 
of eluding by a change of place the obligation of an oath, engaged the em- 
press to transfer the scene of his trial and execution from Constantinople to 
the adjacent suburb of Chalcedon. The consul Aurelian pronounced the 
sentence ; and the motives of that sentence 
expose the jurisprudence of a despotic gov- 
ernment. The crimes which Eutropius 
had committed against the people might 
have justified his death, but he was found 
guilty of harnessing to his chariot the sa- 
cred animals which, from their breed or 
colour, were reserved for the use of the 
emperor alone. 

While this domestic revolution was 
transacted, Gainas openly revolted from 
his allegiance ; united his forces, at Thy- 
atira in Lydia, with those of Tribigild ; 
and still maintained his superior ascendant 
over the rebellious leader of the Ostro- 
goths. The confederate armies advanced, 
without resistance, to the straits of the 
Hellespont and the Bosporus ; and Arca- 
dius was instructed to prevent the loss 
of his Asiatic dominions by resigning his 
authority and his person to the faith of 
the barbarians. The church of the holy 
martyr Euphemia, situate on a lofty emi- 
nence near Chalcedon, was chosen for the 
place of the interview. Gainas bowed 
with reverence at the feet of the emperor, 
whilst he required the sacrifice of Aurelian 
and Saturninus, two ministers of consular 
rank ; and their naked necks were exposed 
by the haughty rebel to the edge of the 
sword, till he condescended to grant them 
a precarious and disgraceful respite. The Goths, according to the terms of 
the agreement, were immediately transported from Asia into Europe ; and 
their victorious chief, who accepted the title of master-general of the Roman 
armies, soon filled Constantinople with his troops and distributed among his 
dependents the honours and rewards of the empire. 

In his early youth, Gainas had passed the Danube as a suppliant and a 
fugitive; his elevation had been the work of valour and fortune, and his 
indiscreet or perfidious conduct was the cause of his rapid downfall. Not- 
withstanding the vigorous opposition of the archbishop, he importunately 
claimed for his Arian sectaries the possession of a peculiar church ; and the 
pride of the Catholics was offended by the public toleration of heresy. [The 
Emperor, at Gainas' demand, melted the plate of the church of the Apostles.} 

Byzantine Priest 


[400-401 A.D.] 

Every quarter of Constantinople was filled with tumult and disorder; 
and the barbarians gazed with such ardour on the rich shops of the jewellers 
and the tables of the bankers, which were covered with gold and silver, that 
it was judged prudent to remove those dangerous temptations from their 
sight. They resented the injurious precaution ; and some alarming attempts 
were made, during the night, to attack and destroy with fire the imperial 
palace. In this state of mutual and suspicious hostility, the guards and the 
people of Constantinople shut the gates and rose in arms to prevent or to 
punish the conspiracy of the Goths. During the absence of Gainas, his troops 
were surprised and oppressed; seven thousand barbarians perished in this 
bloody massacre. In the fury of the pursuit the Catholics uncovered the 
roof, and continued to throw down flaming logs of wood, till they over- 
whelmed their adversaries, who had retreated to the church or conventicle 
of the Arians. Gainas was either innocent of the design or too confident of 
his success; he was astonished by the intelligence that the flower of his 
army had been ingloriously destroyed, that he himself was declared a pub- 
lic enemy, and that his countryman, Fravitta, a brave and loyal confederate, 
had assumed the management of the war by sea and land. 

The enterprises of the rebel against the cities of Thrace were encoun- 
tered by a firm and well-ordered defence; his hungry soldiers were soon 
reduced to the grass that grew on the margin of the fortifications ; and Gainas, 
who vainly regretted the wealth and luxury of Asia, embraced a desperate 
resolution of forcing the passage of the Hellespont. He was destitute of 
Vessels ; but the woods of the Chersonesus afforded material for rafts, and 
his intrepid barbarians did not refuse to trust themselves to the waves. But 
Fravitta attentively watched the progress of their undertaking. As soon as 
they had gained the middle of the stream, the Roman galleys, impelled by 
the full force of oars, of the current, and of a favourable wind, rushed for- 
wards in compact order and with irresistible weight; and the Hellespont 
was covered with the fragments of the Gothic shipwreck. 

After the destruction of his hopes and the loss of many thousands of his 
bravest soldiers, Gainas, who could no longer aspire to govern or to subdue 
the Romans, determined to resume the independence of a savage life. A 
light and active body of barbarian horse, disengaged from their infantry and 
baggage, might perform in eight or ten days a march of three hundred miles 
from the Hellespont to the Danube. This design was secretly communicated 
to the national troops, who devoted themselves to the fortunes of their leader ; 
and before the signal of departure was given, a great number of provincial 
auxiliaries whom he suspected of an attachment to their native country, were 
perfidiously massacred. 

But a formidable ally appeared in arms to vindicate the majesty of the 
empire, and to guard the peace and liberty of Scythia. The superior forces 
of Uldin, king of the Huns, opposed the progress of Gainas ; a hostile and 
ruined country prohibited his retreat ; he disdained to capitulate, and after 
repeatedly attempting to cut his way through the ranks of the enemy, he 
was slain, with his desperate followers, in the field of battle. Eleven days 
after the naval victory of the Hellespont, the head of Gainas, the inestimable 
gift of the conqueror, was received at Constantinople with the most liberal 
expressions of gratitude ; and the public deliverance was celebrated by festi- 
vals and illuminations. The triumphs of Arcadius became the subject of epic 
poems ; and the monarch, no longer oppressed by any hostile terrors, resigned 
himself to the mild and absolute dominion of his wife, the fair and artful Eu- 
doxia, who has sullied her fame by the persecution of St. John Chrysostom. 




Born of a noble and opulent family in the capital of Syria, Chrysostom 
had been educated by the care of a tender mother, under the tuition of the 
most skilful masters. His piety soon disposed him to renounce the lucrative 
and honourable profession of the law, and to bury himself in the adjacent 
desert, where he subdued the lusts of the flesh by an austere penance of six 
years. His infirmities compelled him to return to the society of mankind, 
but in the midst of his family and afterwards on the archiepiscopal throne 
Chrysostom still persevered in the practice of the monastic virtues. The 
ample revenues which his predecessors had consumed in pomp and luxury he 
diligently applied to the establishment of hospitals ; and the multitudes who 
were supported by his charity preferred the eloquent and edifying discourses 
of their archbishop to the amusements of the theatre or the circus. 

The pastoral labours of the archbishop of Constantinople provoked and 
gradually united against him two sorts of enemies — the aspiring clergy who 
envied his success, and the obstinate sinners who were offended by his 
reproofs. [Chrysostom's sermons from the pulpit of St. Sophia on the de- 
generacy of the Christians had their severest application in court circles where 
there was a large share of guilt to be divided among a relatively small num- 
ber of criminals.] The secret resentment of the court encouraged the dis- 
content of the clergy and monks of Constantinople, who were too hastily 
reformed by the fervent zeal of their archbishop. He had condemned from 
the pulpit the domestic females of the clergy of Constantinople, who, under 
the name of servants or sisters, afforded a perpetual occasion either of sin 
or of scandal. 

The silent and solitary ascetics who had secluded themselves from the 
world were entitled to the warmest approbation of Chrysostom ; but he 
despised and stigmatised, as the disgrace of their holy profession, the crowd 
of degenerate monks who, from some unworthy motives of pleasure or profit, 
so frequently infested the streets of the capital. To the voice of persuasion 
the archbishop was obliged to add the terrors of authority ; and his ardour 
in the exercise of ecclesiastical jurisdiction was not always exempt from pas- 
sion ; nor was it always guided by prudence. Chrysostom was naturally of a 
choleric disposition. Although he struggled, according to the precepts of the 
gospel, to love his private enemies, he indulged himself in the privilege of 
hating the enemies of God and of the church ; and his sentiments were some- 
times delivered with too much energy of countenance and expression. 

Conscious of the purity of his intentions, and perhaps of the superiority 
of his genius, the archbishop of Constantinople extended the jurisdiction of 
the imperial city, that he might enlarge the sphere of his pastoral labours ; 
and the conduct which the profane imputed to an ambitious motive appeared 
to Chrysostom himself in the light of a sacred and indispensable duty. In 
his visitation through the Asiatic provinces, he deposed thirteen bishops 
of Lydia and Phrygia ; and indiscreetly declared that a deep corruption of 
simony and licentiousness had infected the whole episcopal order. If those 
bishops were innocent, such a rash and unjust condemnation must excite a 
well-grounded discontent. If they were guilty, the numerous associates of 
their guilt would soon discover that their own safety depended on the ruin 
of the archbishop, whom they studied to represent as the tyrant of the 
Eastern church. 

This ecclesiastical conspiracy was managed by Theophilus, archbishop 
of Alexandria, an active and ambitious prelate, who displayed the fruits of 


[403-404 A.D.] 

rapine in monuments of ostentation. His national dislike to the rising great- 
ness of a city which degraded him from the second to the third rank in the 
Christian world, was exasperated by some personal disputes with Chrysostom 
himself. By the private invitation of the empress, Theophilus landed at Con- 
stantinople with a stout body of Egyptian mariners to encounter the populace, 
and a train of dependent bishops to secure, by their voices, the majority 
of a synod. 

The synod was convened in the suburb of Chalcedon, surnamed the Oak, 
where Rufinus had erected a stately church and monastery ; and their pro- 
ceedings were continued during fourteen days or sessions. A bishop and 
a deacon accused the archbishop of Constantinople; but the frivolous or 
improbable nature of the forty-seven articles which they presented against 
him may justly be considered as a fair and unexceptionable panegyric. 
Four successive summons were signified to Chrysostom ; but he still refused 
to trust either his person or his reputation in the hands of his implacable 
enemies, who, prudently declining the examination ox any particular charges, 
condemned his contumacious disobedience and hastily pronounced a sentence 
of deposition. The synod of the Oak immediately addressed the emperor 
to ratify and execute their judgment, and charitably insinuated that the 
penalties of treason might be inflicted on the audacious preacher, who had 
reviled, under the name of Jezebel, the empress Eudoxia herself. The 
archbishop was rudely arrested, and conducted through the city by one of 
the imperial messengers, who landed him, after a short navigation, near the 
entrance of the Euxine ; but two days later he was gloriously recalled. 

The first astonishment of his faithful people had been mute and passive ; 
they suddenly rose with unanimous and irresistible fury. Theophilus 
escaped ; but the promiscuous crowd of monks and Egyptian mariners was 
slaughtered without pity in the streets of Constantinople. A seasonable 
earthquake justified the interposition of heaven; the torrent of sedition 
rolled forwards to the gates of the palace; and the empress, agitated by 
fear or remorse, threw herself at the feet of Arcadius and confessed that the 
public safety could be purchased only by the restoration of Chrysostom. 

The short interval of a perfidious truce was employed to concert more 
effectual measures for the disgrace and ruin of the archbishop. A numer- 
ous council of the Eastern prelates, who were guided from a distance by the 
advice of Theophilus, confirmed the validity, without examining the justice, 
of the former sentence ; and a detachment of barbarian troops was intro- 
duced into the city, to suppress the emotions of the people. On the vigil of 
Easter, the solemn administration of baptism was rudely interrupted by the 
soldiers, who alarmed the modesty of the naked catechumens, and violated 
by their presence the awful mysteries of the Christian worship. Arsacius 
occupied the church of St. Sophia and the archiepiscopal throne. The 
Catholics retreated to the baths of Constantine, and afterwards to the fields ; 
where they were still pursued and insulted by the guards, the bishops, and 
the magistrates. The fatal day of the second and final exile of Chrysostom 
was marked by the conflagration of the cathedral, of the senate house, and 
of the adjacent buildings ; and this calamity was imputed, without proof 
but not without probability, to the despair of a persecuted faction. 

Instead of listening to his humble prayer that he might be permitted to 
reside at Cyzicus or Nicomedia, the inflexible empress assigned for his exile 
the remote and desolate town of Cucusus, among the ridges of Mount Taurus 
in the Lesser Armenia. A secret hope was entertained that the archbishop 
might perish in a difficult and dangerous march of seventy days, in the heat 


[404-408 A.D.] 

of summer, through the provinces of Asia Minor, where he was continually- 
threatened by the hostile attacks of the Isaurians and the more implacable 
fury of the monks. Yet Chrysostom arrived in safety at the place of his 
confinement ; and the three years which he spent at Cucusus, and the 
neighbouring town of Arabissus, were the last and most glorious of his life. 
His character was consecrated by absence and persecution ; the faults of his 
administration were no longer remembered, but every tongue repeated the 
praises of his genius and virtue ; and the respectful attention of the Christian 
world was fixed on a desert spot among the mountains of Taurus. 

From that solitude the archbishop, his active mind invigorated by misfor- 
tunes, maintained a strict and frequent correspondence with the most distant 
provinces ; exhorted the separate congregation of his faithful adherents to per- 
severe in their allegiance ; urged the destruction of the temples of Phoenicia, 
and the extirpation of heresy in the isle of Cyprus ; extended his pastoral 
care to the missions of Persia and Scythia; negotiated, by his ambassadors, 
with the Roman pontiff and the emperor Honorius ; and boldly appealed from 
a partial synod to the supreme tribunal of a free and general council. The 
mind of the illustrious exile was still independent ; but his captive body was 
exposed to the revenge of the oppressors, who continued to abuse the name 
and authority of Arcadius. An order was despatched for the instant removal 
of Chrysostom to the extreme desert of Pityus ; and his guards so faithfully 
obeyed their cruel instructions that, before he reached the sea-coast of the 
Euxine, he expired at Comana, in Pontus, in the sixtieth year of his age. 
The succeeding generation acknowledged his innocence and merit. The 
archbishops of the East, who might blush that their predecessors. had been 
the enemies of Chrysostom, were gradually disposed, by the firmness of the 
Roman pontiff, to restore the honours of that venerable name. At the pious 
solicitation of the clergy and people of Constantinople, his relics, thirty years 
after his death, were transported from their obscure sepulchre to the royal 
city. The emperor Theodosius advanced to receive them as far as Chalce- 
don ; and falling prostrate on the coffin implored, in the name of his guilty 
parents, Arcadius and Eudoxia, the forgiveness of the injured saint. Yet 
a reasonable doubt may be entertained whether any stain of hereditary 
guilt could be derived from Arcadius to his successor. Eudoxia was a 
young and beautiful woman, who indulged her passions and despised her 
husband ; Count John enjoyed, at least, the confidence of the empress ; 
and the public named him as the real father of Theodosius the Younger. 
The birth of a son was accepted, however, by the pious husband as an 
event the most fortunate and honourable to himself, to his family, and to the 
Eastern world. In less than four years afterwards, Eudoxia, in the bloom 
of youth, was destroyed by the consequence of a miscarriage (404), and in 
four more years (May, 408), after a reign (if we may abuse that word) of 
thirteen years, three months and fifteen days, Arcadius expired in the palace 
of Constantinople. It is impossible to delineate his character ; since in a 
period very copiously furnished with historical materials, it has not been 
possible to remark one action that properly belongs to the son of the great 


[408-527 A.D.] 

Arcaditts was succeeded by his son Theodosius, who at the time of his 
father's death was a mere child. The Roman world was deeply interested 
in the education of its master. A regular course of study and exercise was 
judiciously instituted, of the military exercises of riding and shooting with 
the bow ; of the liberal studies of grammar, rhetoric, and philosophy ; the 
most skilful masters of the East ambitiously solicited the attention of their 
royal pupil, and several noble youths were introduced into the palace, to 
animate his diligence by the emulation of friendship. Pulcheria alone dis- 
charged the important task of instructing her brother in the arts of govern- 
ment ; but her precepts may countenance some suspicion of the extent of her 
capacity or of the purity of her intentions. 1 

But Theodosius was never excited to support the weight and glory of an 
illustrious name ; and instead of aspiring to imitate his ancestors, he degen- 
erated (if we may presume to measure the degrees of incapacity) below the 
weakness of his father and his uncle. Arcadius and Honorius had been 
assisted by the guardian care of a parent whose lessons were enforced by his 
authority and example. But the unfortunate prince who is born in the 
purple must remain a stranger to the voice of truth ; and the son of Arca- 
dius was condemned to pass his perpetual infancy encompassed only by a 
servile train of women and eunuchs. The ample leisure which he acquired 
by neglecting the essential duties of his high office, was filled by idle amuse- 
ments and unprofitable studies. Hunting was the only active pursuit that 
could tempt him beyond the limits of the palace ; but he most assiduously 
laboured in the mechanic occupations of painting and carving ; and the ele- 
gance with which he transcribed religious books entitled the Roman emperor 
to the singular epithet of Calligraphes, or a fair writer. 

Separated from the world by an impenetrable veil, Theodosius trusted 
the persons whom he loved ; he loved those who were accustomed to amuse 

P The praetorian prefect Anthemius assumed the guidance of the state until Pulcheria was 
created augusta in 414, and, says Bury,« "the measures which were passed during these six years 
exhibit an intelligent and sincere solicitude for the welfare of the people and the correction of 
abuses." Anthemius protected the borders of Moesia and Scythia against the Huns and materially 
assisted the Illyrian provinces to recover from the ravages of the Visigoths.] 



[408-444 A.D.] 

and flatter his indolence, and as he never perused the papers that were pre- 
sented for the royal signature, acts of injustice the most repugnant to his 
character were frequently perpetrated in his name. The emperor himself 
was chaste, temperate, liberal, and merciful ; but these qualities, which can 
only deserve the name of virtues when they are supported by courage and 
regulated by discretion, were seldom beneficial and they sometimes proved 
mischievous to mankind. His mind, enervated by a royal education, was 
oppressed and degraded by abject superstition ; he fasted, he sang psalms, 
he blindly accepted the miracles and doctrines with which his faith was 
continually nourished. He devoutly worshipped the dead and living saints 
of the Catholic church. 

The story of a fair and virtuous maiden exalted from a private condition 
to the imperial throne might be deemed an incredible romance, if such a 
romance had not been verified in the marriage of Theodosius. The cele- 
brated Athenais was educated by her father Leontius in the religion and 
sciences of the Greeks; and so advantageous was the opinion which the 
Athenian philosopher entertained of his contemporaries, that he divided his 
patrimony between his two sons, bequeathing to his daughter a small legacy 
of one hundred pieces of gold, in the lively confidence that her beauty and 
merit would be a sufficient portion. The jealousy and avarice of her brothers 
soon compelled Athenais to seek a refuge at Constantinople ; and, with some 
hopes either of justice or favour, to throw herself at the feet of Pulcheria. 
That sagacious princess listened to her eloquent complaint ; and secretly des- 
tined the daughter of the philosopher Leontius for the future wife of the 
emperor of the East, who had now attained the twentieth year of his age. 

Athenais, who was easily persuaded to renounce the errors of paganism, 
received at her baptism the Christian name of Eudocia ; but the cautious 
Pulcheria withheld the title of Augusta till the wife of Theodosius had 
approved her fruitfulness by the birth of a daughter, who espoused, fifteen 
years afterwards, the emperor of the West. The brothers of Eudocia obeyed, 
with some anxiety, her imperial summons ; but as she could easily forgive 
their fortunate unkindness, she indulged the tenderness, or perhaps the 
vanity, of a sister, by promoting them to the rank of consuls and prefects. 
In the luxury of the palace she still cultivated those ingenuous arts which 
had contributed to her greatness ; and wisely dedicated her talents to the 
honour of religion and of her husband. Eudocia composed a poetical para- 
phrase of the first eight books of the Old Testament, and of the prophecies 
of Daniel and Zachariah ; a cento of the verses of Homer, applied to the life 
and miracles of Christ, the legend of St. Cyprian, and a panegyric on the 
Persian victories of Theodosius ; and her writings, which were applauded 
by a servile and superstitious age, have not been disdained by the candour 
of impartial criticism. 

The fondness of the emperor was not abated by time and possession ; and 
Eudocia, after the marriage of her daughter, was permitted to discharge her 
grateful vows by a solemn pilgrimage to Jerusalem. Her ostentatious prog- 
ress through the East may seem inconsistent with the spirit of Christian 
humility. But this pilgrimage was the fatal term of the glories of Eudocia. 
Satiated with empty pomp, and unmindful perhaps of her obligations to 
Pulcheria, she ambitiously aspired to the government of the Eastern Em- 
pire ; the palace was distracted by female discord, but the victory was at 
last decided by the superior ascendancy of the sister of Theodosius. 

As soon as the empress perceived that the affection of Theodosius was 
irretrievably lost, she requested the permission of retiring to the distant 


[420460 A.D.] 

solitude of Jerusalem. She obtained her request ; but the jealousy of Theo- 
dosius, or the vindictive spirit of Puloheria, pursued her in her last retreat. 
The remainder of the life of Eudocia, about sixteen years, was spent in exile 
and devotion ; and the approach of age, the death of Theodosius, the mis- 
fortunes of her only daughter, who was led a captive from Rome to Car- 
thage, and the society of the holy monks of Palestine, insensibly confirmed 
the religious temper of her mind. After a full experience of the vicissi- 
tudes of human life, the daughter of the philosopher Leontius expired at 
Jerusalem, in the sixty-seventh year of her age ; protesting with her dying 
breath that she had never transgressed the bounds of innocence and friend- 
ship (460). 1 

The gentle mind of Theodosius was never inflamed by the ambition of 
conquest or military renown, and the slight alarm of a Persian war scarcely 
interrupted the tranquillity of the East. The motives of this war were just 
and honourable. In the last year of the reign of Jezdegerd, the Persian 
king, a bishop, who aspired to the crown of martyrdom, destroyed one of 
the fire-temples of Susa. His zeal and obstinacy were revenged on his 
brethren : the Magi excited a cruel persecution ; and the intolerant zeal of 
Jezdegerd was imitated by his son Varanes, or Bahram, who soon afterwards 
ascended the throne. Some Christian fugitives, who escaped to the Roman 
frontier, were sternly demanded and generously refused ; and the refusal, 
aggravated by commercial disputes, soon kindled a war between the rival 
-monarchies. The mountains of Armenia and the plains of Mesopotamia 
were filled with hostile armies ; but the operations of two successive cam- 
paigns were not productive of any decisive events. 

A truce of one hundred years was solemnly ratified, and although the 
revolution of Armenia might threaten the public tranquillity, the essential 
conditions of the treaty were respected near fourscore years by the succes- 
sors of Constantine and Artaxerxes. & 

Before taking up the subject of the coming of the Huns the following 
extract from J. B. Bury's History of the Later Roman Empire will enable 
the reader to understand how it was that the barbaric invasions had such 
different effects on the Eastern and Western divisions of the Empire.* 

" When we read the chronicles of the reign of Theodosius II, we at first 
receive the impression that it was a period of few important events, though 
set with curious stories. The invasions of Attila and the general council 
of Ephesus are the only facts which seem to stand out prominently in the 
chronicles, while they are full of stories and interesting traits which attract 
the imagination, such as the life of Athenais, the martyrdom of Hypatia, 
the monastic life of the imperial votaries Pulcheria and her sisters, the 
story of the waking of the seven sleepers — the young saints who in the 
reign of Decius had fallen asleep in a cave. But on further study we come 
to the conclusion that it was a period of capital importance, — a period in 
which the empire was passing a vital crisis. 

" To an unprejudiced observer in the reign of Arcadius it might have 
seemed that the empire in its eastern parts was doomed to a speedy decline. 
One possessed of the insight of Synesius might have thought it impossible that 
it could last for eight hundred years more when he considered the threatening 
masses of barbarians who environed it, the corruptions and divisions of the 
imperial court, the oppression of the subjects, and all the evils which Syne- 
sius actually pointed out. For with the beginning of the fifth century a 

[} There was a rumour at court that a certain Paulinus, master of the offices, who was exe- 
cuted when Pulcheria became powerful, had been Eudocia's lover.] 

[178-375 A.D.] 

critical time approached for the whole empire. At the end of the same cen- 
tury we find that while the western half had been found wanting in the day 
of its trial, the eastern half had passed the crisis and all the dangers suc- 
cessfully ; we find strong and prudent emperors ruling at New Rome, dis- 
posed to alleviate the burdens of the subjects, and in the court a different 
atmosphere from that of the days of Arcadius. 

" Now the significance of the reign of Theodosius II is that it was the 
transition from the court of Arcadius to the court of the steady reforming 
emperors in the latter half of the century, and it partook of both characters. 
This double-sidedness is its peculiarity. Theodosius was weak, like his 
father, but he was not so weak, and he seems to have profited more by his 
education. The senate struggles with effect against irresponsible officialism, 
and although we hear that there was venality and corruption in the days 
of Pulcheria, a great improvement is in progress. In the chronicles we do 
not hear much about the senate, everything is attributed to Pulcheria or 
Theodosius ; but the words of Socrates that the emperor was much beloved 
' by the senate and people ' are significant, and there is no doubt that the 
much-lauded wisdom of Pulcheria's regency consisted in the wisdom of the 
senate which she supported. And although towards the close of the reign 
eunuchs had power, the ground gained by the senate was not lost ; the spirit 
of its administration and the lines of its policy were followed by the suc- 
ceeding emperors, and it guided the state safely through a most momentous 
period which proved fatal to the integrity of the western provinces. 

" The two most important acts of Theodosius were the foundation of a 
university at Constantinople and the compilation of the code called after his 
name. The inauguration of the university was an important measure for 
Byzantine life, and indicates the enlightenment of Theodosius' reign. It 
was intended to supersede the university of Athens, the headquarters of 
paganism, and thereby to further the cause of Christianity. 

" In the year 429 Theodosius determined to form a collection of all the 
constitutions issued by the 'renowned Constantine, the divine emperors 
who succeeded him, and ourselves.' The new code was to be drawn up on 
the model of the Gregorian and Hermogenian codes, and the execution of 
the work was entrusted to a commission of nine persons, among whom was 
Apelles, professor of law at the new university. In 438 the work was com- 
pleted and published." e 


The question of the race affinities of the Huns has been the occasion for 
a great deal of controversy. By various writers they have been connected 
with the Mongols, the Turks, the Ugrians, etc., but as yet no agreement has 
been reached that has placed this question on a safe basis." 

The history of the Huns is generally commenced with the narratives of 
Ammianus Marcellinus and Jordanes ; but they were known in Europe at 
an earlier date. Ptolemy (175-182 A.D.) mentions the Chunni between the 
Bastarnse and Roxolani, and places them on the Dnieper; but Schafarik 
suggests that this may be an interpolated passage ; see the Slavische Alter- 
thilmer, 1-322. Dionysius Periegetes, about 200 A.D., names them among 
the borderers of the Caspian, in this order : Scyths, Huns, Caspiani, Albani. 

It was in 374 or 375 that the Huns made their first really important ad- 
vance into Europe. Jordanes tells us their leader was named Balamir, or, as 
some of the Mss. make it, Balamber ; see Thierry, History of Attila and His 


[375-461 a.d.) 

Successors, p. 617. Ammianus tells us that the Huns, being excited by an 
unrestrainable desire of plundering the possessions of others, went on 
ravaging and slaughtering all the nations in their neighbourhood, till they 
reached the Alani. Having attacked and defeated them, they enlisted 
them in their service, and then- proceeded to invade the empire of the 
Ostrogoths, or Grutungs, ruled over by Hermanric. Having been beaten in 
two encounters with them, Hermanric committed suicide. His son, Withimir, 
continued the struggle ; but was also defeated and killed in battle, and the 
Ostrogoths became subject to the Huns. The latter now marched on towards 
the Dniester, on which lived the Visigoths or Thervings. Athanaric, the 
king of the latter, took great precautions, but was nevertheless surprised 
by the Huns, who forded the river in the night, fell suddenly upon his camp, 
and utterly defeated him. He now attempted to raise a line of fortifications 
between the Pruth and the Danube, behind which to take shelter ; but was 
abandoned by the greater portion of his subjects, who, under the command 
of Alavivus, crossed the Danube, and by permission of the emperor Valens 
settled in Thrace. 

The Huns now occupied the country vacated by the Goths ; they suc- 
ceeded in fact to the empire of Hermanric, and apparently subjected the 
various nations over which he ruled. They did not disturb the Roman world 
by their invasions for fifty years, but contented themselves with overpowering 
the various tribes who lived north of the Danube, in Sarmatia and Germany. 
Many of them, in fact, entered the service of the Romans. Thus, in 405 
one Huldin, a king of the Huns, assisted Honorius in his struggle against the 
Visigoths of Radagaisus. 

During the regency of Placidia, sixty thousand Huns were in the Roman 
service, according to Thierry. Meanwhile, although they did not attack 
Rome directly, the Huns were gradually forcing the tribes of Germany, the 
Suevi, the Vandals, the Alans, etc., across the Rhine, and gradually pushing 
themselves along the valley of the Danube. In 407, they appeared under 
their chief, Octar, in the valley of the Rhine, and fought with the Bur- 
gundians on the Main; [see Thierry]. This Octar was the brother of 
Mundzuk, the father of Attila; there were two other brothers, Abarre and 
Ruas, who divided between them the greater part of the Hunnic tribes. 

The latter became a notable sovereign, and has lost a reputation, as 
so many others have, by having a more fortunate successor. He was the 
friend of Aetius. The emperor Theodosius the Second paid him an annual 
stipend of 350 pounds of gold, and created him a Roman general. This 
good feeling was disturbed by the Romans having given refuge to cer- 
tain revolted Hunnic tribes, the Annuldsuri, Ithimari, Tonosuri, and Boisi 
(according to Priscus, cited by Thierry), the same confederacy that, as I 
have already mentioned from Jordanes was the first to cross the Maeotis. 
This quarrel led to the sending of envoys who arrived after the death of 
Ruas, and were received by his nephews, Attila and Bleda. 

In 448, Attila conquered the Akatziri Unni, says Priscus, another Hunnic 
confederacy on the Pontus, which afterwards revived under the name of 
Khazars. Having destroyed their chiefs, except one named Kuridakh, he 
placed his son Ellah in authority over them. He then proceeded to subdue 
the various Slavic and Germanic tribes that still remained independent, 
extending his conquests to the Battick. There followed the long and gen- 
erally Victorious struggle which he carried on against Rome, and which con- 
cluded with the terrible fight on the Catalaunian fields c [Chalons, in which 
Theodoric I king of the Visigoths was slain]. 


They never shelter themselves under roofed houses, but avoid them as 
people ordinarily avoid sepulchres, as things not fitted for common use. Nor 
is there even to be found among them a cabin thatched with reeds : but they 
wander about, roaming over the mountains and the woods, and accustom 
themselves to bear frost and hunger and thirst from their very cradles. 
And even when abroad they never enter a house unless under the compul- 
sion of extreme necessity ; nor, indeed, do they think people under roofs as 
safe as others. 

They wear linen clothes, or else garments made of the skins of field-mice; 
nor do they wear a different dress out of doors from that which they wear at 
home ; but after a tunic is once put round their necks, however it becomes 
worn, it is never taken off or changed till, from long decay, it becomes act- 
ually so ragged as to fall to pieces. 

They cover their heads with round caps, and their shaggy legs with the 
skins of kids ; their shoes are not made on any lasts, but are so unshapely as 
to hinder them from walking with a free gait. And for this reason they are 
not well suited to infantry battles, but are nearly always on horseback, their 
horses being ill shaped, but hardy ; and sometimes they even sit upon them 
like women if they want to do anything more conveniently. There is not a 
person in the whole nation who cannot remain on his horse day and night. 
On horseback they buy and sell, they take their meat and drink, and there 
they recline on the narrow neck of their steed, and yield to sleep so deep 
as to indulge in every variety of dream. 

And when any deliberation is to take place on any weighty matter, they 
all hold their common council on horseback. They are not under the au- 
thority of a king, but are contented with the irregular government of their 
nobles, and under their lead they force their way through all obstacles. 

Sometimes when provoked, they fight; and when thej r go into battle, 
they form in a» solid body, and utter all kinds of terrific yells. They are very 
quick in their operations, of exceeding speed, and fond of surprising their 
enemies. With a view to this, they suddenly disperse, then reunite, and 
again, after having inflicted vast loss upon the enemy, scatter themselves 
over the whole plain in irregular formations ; always avoiding a fort or an 

And in one respect you may pronounce them the most formidable of all 
warriors, for when at a distance they use missiles of various kinds tipped 
with sharpened bones instead of the usual points of javelins, and these bones 
are admirably fastened into the shaft of the javelin or arrow ; but when they 
are at close quarters they fight with the sword, without any regard for their 
own safety ; and often while their antagonists are warding off their blows 
they entangle them with twisted cords, so that, their hands being fettered, 
they lose all power of either riding or walking. 

None of them plough, or even touch a plough-handle ; for they have no 
settled abode, but are homeless and lawless, perpetually wandering with their 
wagons, which they make their homes ; in fact they seem to be people always 
in flight. Their wives live in these wagons, and there weave their miser- 
able garments ; and here too they sleep with their husbands, and bring up 
their children till they reach the age of puberty; nor, if asked, can any 
one of them tell you where he was born, as he was conceived in one place, 
born in another at a great distance, and brought up in another still more 


[375-434 A.D.] 


The Western world was oppressed by the Goths and Vandals, who fled 
before the Huns; but the achievements of the Huns themselves were not 
adequate to their power and prosperity. Their victorious hordes had spread 
from the Volga to the Danube, but the public force was exhausted by the 
discord of independent chieftains ; their valour was idly consumed in obscure 
and predatory excursions ; and they often degraded their national dignity 
by condescending, for the hopes of spoil, to enlist under the banners of their 
fugitive enemies. In the reign of Attila, the Huns again became the terror 
of the world ; and we shall now describe the character and actions of that 
formidable barbarian, who alternately insulted and invaded the East and the 
"West, and urged the rapid downfall of the Roman Empire. 

In the tide of emigration which impetuously rolled from the confines of 
China to those of Germany, the most powerful and populous tribes may com- 
monly be found on the verge of the Roman provinces. The accumulated 
weight was sustained for a while by artificial barriers ;. and the easy conde- 
scension of the emperors invited, without satisfying, the insolent demands 
of the barbarians, who had acquired an eager appetite for the luxuries of 
civilised life. The Hungarians, who ambitiously insert the name of Attila 
among their native kings, may affirm with truth that the hordes which were 
subject to his uncle Roas (Ruas) or Rugilas had formed their encampments 
within the limits of modern Hungary, in a fertile country which liberally 
supplied the wants of a nation of hunters and shepherds. 

In this advantageous situation, Rugilas and his valiant brothers, who 
continually added to their power and reputation, commanded the alternative 
of peace or war with the two empires. His alliance with the Romans of the 
West was cemented by his personal friendship for the great Aetius, who was 
always secure of finding, in the barbarian camp, a hospitable reception and a 
powerful support. At his solicitation, and in the name of Joannes the usurper, 
sixty thousand Huns advanced to the confines of Italy ; their march and their 
retreat were alike expensive to the state ; and the grateful policy of Aetius 
abandoned the possession of Pannonia to his faithful confederates. 

The Romans of the East were not less apprehensive of the arms of 
Rugilas, which threatened the provinces, or even the capital. Some ecclesi- 
astical historians have destroyed the barbarians with lightning and pesti- 
lence ; but Theodosius was reduced to the more humble expedient of 
stipulating an annual payment of 350 pounds of gold, and of disguising this 
dishonourable tribute by the title of general, which the king of the Huns 
condescended to accept. The public tranquillity was frequently interrupted 
by the fierce impatience of the barbarians and the perfidious intrigues of 
the Byzantine court. Four dependent nations, among whom we may dis- 
tinguish the Bavarians, disclaimed the sovereignty of the Huns ; and their 
revolt was encouraged and protected by a Roman alliance, till the just 
claims and formidable power of Rugilas were effectually urged by the voice 
of Eslaw his ambassador. Peace was the unanimous wish of the senate. 
Their decree was ratified by the emperor ; and two ambassadors were 
named, Plinthas, a general of Scythian extraction but of consular rank, and 
the quaestor Epigenes, a wise and experienced statesman, who was recom- 
mended to that office by his ambitious colleague. 

The death of Rugilas suspended the progress of the treaty. His two 
nephews, Attila and Bleda, who succeeded to the throne of their uncle, con- 
sented to a personal interview with the ambassadors of Constantinople ; but 


[431 A.D.] 

as they proudly refused to dismount, the business was transacted on horse- 
back, in a spacious plain near the city of Margus, in the upper Mcesia. 
The kings of the Huns assumed the solid benefits as well as the vain honours 
of the negotiation. They dictated the conditions of peace, and each condi- 
tion was an insult to the majesty of the empire. Besides the freedom of a 
safe and plentiful market on the banks of the Danube, they required that 
the annual contribution should be augmented from 350 to 700 pounds of 
gold ; that a fine or ransom of eight pieces of gold should be paid 
for every Roman captive who had escaped from his barbarian master ; that 
the emperor should renounce all treaties and engagements with the enemies 
of the Huns ; and that all the fugitives 
who had taken refuge in the court or 
provinces of Theodosius should be de- 
livered to the justice of their offended 
sovereign. This justice was rigorously 
inflicted on some unfortunate youths of 
a royal race. They were crucified on the 
territories of the empire, by the command 
of Attila ; and as soon as the king of 
the Huns had impressed the Romans 
with the terror of his name, he indulged 
them in a short and arbitrary respite, 
whilst he subdued the rebellious or inde- 
pendent nations of Scythia and Germany. 

Attila, the son of Mundzuk, deduced 
his noble, perhaps his regal descent from 
the ancient Huns, who had formerly con- 
tended with the monarchs of China. His 
features, according to the observation of 
a Gothic historian, bore the stamp of his 
national origin, and the portrait of Attila 
exhibits the genuine deformity of a mod- 
ern Kalmuck ; a large head, a swarthy 
complexion, small deep-seated eyes, a flat 
nose, a few hairs in the place of a beard, 
broad shoulders, and a short square body, 
of nervous strength though of a dispro- 
portioned form. The haughty step and 
demeanour of the king of the Huns ex- 
pressed the consciousness of his superior- 
ity above the rest of mankind ; and he had a custom of fiercely rolling his 
eyes, as if he wished to enjoy the terror which he inspired. Yet this savage 
hero was not inaccessible to pity ; his suppliant enemies might confide in the 
assurance of peace or pardon, and Attila was considered by his subjects as a 
just and indulgent master. He delighted in war ; but after he had ascended 
the throne in a mature age, his head, rather than his hand, achieved the con- 
quest of the north; and the fame of an adventurous soldier was usefully 
exchanged for that of a prudent and successful general. 

The effects of personal valour are so inconsiderable, except in poetry or 
romance, that victory, even among barbarians, must depend on the degree 
of skill with which the passions of the multitude are combined and guided for 
the service of a single man. The Scythian conquerors, Attila and Jenghiz, 
surpassed their rude countrymen in art rather than in courage ; and it may 

H. W. — VOL. VII. E 

Costume of a Byzantine Emperor 


[434-144 A.D.] 

be observed that the monarchies, both of the Huns and of the Mongols, were 
erected by their founders on the basis of popular superstition. The miracu- 
lous conception which fraud and credulity ascribed to the virgin mother 
of Jenghiz, raised him above the level of human nature ; and the naked 
prophet, who, in the name of the Deity, invested him with the empire of the 
earth, pointed the valour of the Mongols with irresistible enthusiasm. The 
religious arts of Attila were not less skilfully adapted to the character of 
his age and country. 

It was natural enough that the Scythians should adore, with peculiar 
devotion, the god of war ; but as they were incapable of forming either an 

abstract idea or a corporeal representation, they 
worshipped their tutelar deity under the symbol 
of an iron scimitar. One of the shepherds of the 
Huns perceived that a heifer, who was grazing, 
had wounded herself in the foot, and curiously fol- 
lowed the track of the blood till he discovered, 
among the long grass, the point of an ancient 
sword, which he dug out of the ground and pre- 
sented to Attila. That magnanimous, or rather 
that artful prince accepted with pious gratitude 
this celestial favour ; and, as the rightful possessor 
of the sword of Mars, asserted his divine and inde- 
feasible claim to the dominion of the earth. 

If the rites of Scythia were practised on this 
solemn occasion, a lofty altar, or rather pile of 
fagots, three hundred yards in length and in 
breadth, was raised in a spacious plain ; and the 
sword of Mars was placed erect on the summit 
of this rustic altar, which was annually consecrated 
by the blood of sheep, horses, and of the hundredth 
captive. Whether human sacrifices formed any 
part of the worship of Attila, or whether he pro- 
pitiated the god of war with the victims which 
he continually offered in the field of battle, the 
favourite of Mars soon acquired a sacred char- 
acter, which rendered his conquests more easy and 
more permanent ; and the barbarian princes con- 
fessed, in the language of devotion or flattery, that 
they could not presume to gaze with a steady eye 
on the divine majesty of the king of the Huns. 
His brother Bleda, who reigned over a considerable 
part of the nation, was compelled to resign his sceptre and his life. Yet even 
this cruel act was attributed to a supernatural impulse ; and the vigour with 
which Attila wielded the sword of Mars convinced the world that it had been 
reserved alone for his invincible arm. But the extent of his empire affords 
the only remaining evidence of the number and importance of his victories ; 
and the Scythian monarch, however ignorant of the value of science and 
philosophy, might perhaps lament that his illiterate subjects were destitute 
of the art which could perpetuate the memory of his exploits. 

If a line of separation were drawn between the civilised and the savage 
climates of the globe, between the inhabitants of cities who cultivated the 
earth and the hunters and shepherds who dwelt in tents, Attila might aspire 
to the title of supreme and sole monarch of the barbarians. He alone, 

Byzantine Imperial Guard 


[444 A.D.] 

among the conquerors of ancient and modern times, united the two mighty 
kingdoms of Germany and Scythia ; and those vague appellations, when 
they are applied to his reign, may be understood with an ample latitude. 
Thuringia, which stretched beyond its actual limits as far as the Danube, 
was in the number of his provinces ; he interposed, with the weight of a 
powerful neighbour, in the domestic affairs of the Franks ; and one of his 
lieutenants chastised, and almost exterminated, the Burgundians of the 
Rhine. He subdued the islands of the ocean, the kingdoms of Scandinavia, 
encompassed and divided by the waters of the Baltic ; and the Huns might 
derive a tribute of furs from that northern region which has been protected 
from all other conquerors by the severity of the climate and the courage of 
the natives. 

Towards the east it is difficult to circumscribe the dominion of Attila 
over the Scythian deserts ; yet we may be assured that he reigned on the 
banks of the Volga ; that the king of the Huns was dreaded, not only as a 
warrior, but as a magician ; that he insulted and vanquished the khan of 
the formidable Geougen; and that he sent ambassadors to negotiate an 
equal alliance with the empire of China. In the proud review of the 
nations who acknowledged the sovereignty of Attila and who never enter- 
tained, during his lifetime, the thought of a revolt, the Gepidae and the 
Ostrogoths were distinguished by their numbers, their bravery, and the per- 
sonal merit of their chiefs. 

The ambassadors of the Huns might awaken the attention of Theodo- 
sius by reminding him that they were his neighbours, both in Europe and 
Asia; since they touched the Danube on one hand, and reached with 
the other as far as the Tanais. In the reign of his father Arcadius, a band 
of adventurous Huns had ravaged the provinces of the East ; from whence 
they brought away rich spoils and innumerable captives. They advanced, by 
a secret path, along the shores of the Caspian Sea ; traversed the snowy 
mountains of Armenia ; passed the Tigris, the Euphrates, and the Halys ; re- 
cruited their weary cavalry with the generous breed of Cappadocian horses ; 
occupied the hilly country of Cilicia, and disturbed the festal songs and dances 
of the citizens of Antioch. Egypt trembled at their approach ; and the monks 
and pilgrims of the Holy Land prepared to escape their fury by a speedy 
embarkation. The memory of this invasion was still recent in the minds of 
the Orientals. The subjects of Attila might execute, with superior forces, 
the design which these adventurers had so boldly attempted; and it soon 
became the subject of anxious conjecture whether the tempest would fall on 
the dominions of Rome or of Persia. 

Some of the great vassals of the king of the Huns, who were themselves 
in the rank of powerful princes, had been sent to ratify an alliance and 
society of arms with the emperor, or rather with the general, of the West. 
They related, during their residence at Rome, the circumstances of an 
expedition which they had lately made into the East. After passing a desert 
and a morass, supposed by the Romans to be the lake Mseotis, they pene- 
trated through the mountains, and arrived at the end of fifteen days' march 
on the confines of Media, where they advanced as far as the unknown cities 
of Basic and Cursic. They encountered the Persian army in the plains of 
Media ; and the air, according to their own expression, was darkened by a 
cloud of arrows. But the Huns were obliged to retire before the numbers 
of the enemy. Their laborious retreat was effected by a different road ; they 
lost the greatest part of their booty ; and at length returned to the royal camp,, 
with some knowledge of the country and an impatient desire for revenge. 


[441-447 A.D.J 

In the free conversation of the imperial ambassadors, who discussed at 
the court of Attila the character and designs of their formidable enemy, the 
ministers of Constantinople expressed their hope that his strength might be 
diverted and employed in a long and doubtful contest with the princes of the 
house of Sassan. The more sagacious Italians admonished their Eastern 
brethren of the folly and danger of such a hope, and convinced them that 
the Medes and Persians were incapable of resisting the arms of the Huns ; 
and that the easy and important acquisition would exalt the pride as well as 
power of the conqueror. Instead of contenting himself with a moderate 
contribution and a military title, which equalled him only to the generals of 
Theodosius, Attila would proceed to impose a disgraceful and intolerable 
yoke on the necks of the prostrate and captive Romans, who would then be 
encompassed on all sides by the empire of the Huns. 

While the powers of Europe and Asia were solicitous to avert the im- 
pending danger, the alliance of Attila maintained the Vandals in the posses- 
sion of Africa. An enterprise had been concerted between the courts of 
Ravenna and Constantinople for the recovery of that valuable province; 
and the ports of Sicily were already filled with the military and naval forces 
of Theodosius. But the subtle Genseric, who spread his negotiations round 
the world, prevented their designs, by exciting the king of the Huns to in- 
vade the Eastern Empire ; and a trifling incident soon became the motive, or 
pretence, of a destructive war. 

Under the faith of the treaty of Margus, a free market was held on the 
northern side of the Danube, which was protected by a Roman fortress, sur- 
named Constantia. A troop of barbarians violated the commercial security ; 
killed or dispersed the unsuspecting traders, and levelled the fortress with the 
ground. The Huns justified this outrage as an act of reprisal ; alleged that 
the bishop of Margus had entered their territories, to discover and steal a 
secret treasure of their kings ; and sternly demanded the guilty prelate, the 
sacrilegious spoil, and the fugitive subjects who had escaped from the justice 
of Attila. The refusal of the Byzantine court was the signal of war; and 
the Mce.sians at first applauded the generous firmness of their sovereign. 
But they were soon intimidated by the destruction of Viminiacum and the 
adjacent towns ; and the people was persuaded to adopt the convenient 
maxim that a private citizen, however innocent or respectable, may be 
justly sacrificed to the safety of his country. The bishop of Margus, who 
did not possess the spirit of a martyr, resolved to prevent the designs which 
he suspected. He boldly treated with the princes of the Huns ; secured, by 
solemn oaths, his pardon and reward ; posted a numerous detachment of 
barbarians in silent ambush on the banks of the Danube ; and, at the 
appointed hour, opened with his own hand the gates of his episcopal city. 
This advantage, which had been obtained by treachery, served as a prelude 
to more honourable and decisive victories. 

The Illyrian frontier was covered by a line of castles and fortresses ; and 
though the greatest part of them consisted only of a single tower, with a small 
garrison, they were commonly sufficient to repel, or to intercept, the inroads 
of an enemy, who was ignorant of the art and impatient of the delay of a 
regular siege. But these slight obstacles were instantly swept away by the 
inundation of the Huns. They destroyed, with fire and sword, the populous 
cities of Sirmium and Singidunum, of Ratiaria and Marcianopolis, of Naissus 
and Sardica ; where every circumstance of the discipline of the people and 
the construction of the buildings had been gradually adapted to the sole 
purpose of defence. The whole breadth of Europe, as it extends above five 


[447 A.D.] 

hundred miles from the Euxine to the Adriatic, was at once invaded, and 
occupied, and desolated, by the myriads of barbarians whom Attila led into 
the field. The public danger and distress could not, however, provoke 
Theodosius to interrupt his amusements and devotion, or to appear in person 
at the head of the Roman legions. But the troops which had been sent 
against Genseric were hastily recalled from Sicily, the garrisons on the side 
of Persia were exhausted ; and a military force was collected in Europe, 
formidable by their arms and numbers, if the generals had understood the 
science of command and their soldiers the duty of obedience. The armies 
of the Eastern Empire were vanquished in three successive engagements ; and 
the progress of Attila may be traced by the fields of battle. The two former, ' 
on the banks of the Utus and under the walls of Marcianopolis, were fought 
in the extensive plains between the Danube and Mount Haemus. [In the 
latter battle Arnegisclus, the Roman commander, was slain.] 

As the Romans were pressed by a victorious enemy, they gradually, and 
unskilfully, retired towards the Chersonesus of Thrace ; and that narrow 
peninsula, the last extremity of the land, was marked by their third and 
irreparable defeat. By the destruction of this army Attila acquired the 
indisputable possession of the field. From the Hellespont to Thermopylae and 
the suburbs of Constantinople, he ravaged, without resistance and without 
mercy, the provinces of Thrace and Macedonia. Heraclea and Hadrianopo- 
lis might perhaps escape this dreadful irruption of the Huns ; but the words 
the most expressive of total extirpation and erasure are applied to the 
calamities which they inflicted on seventy cities of the Eastern Empire. 
Theodosius, his court, and the unwarlike people, were protected by the walls 
of Constantinople ; but those walls had been shaken by a recent earthquake, 
and the fall of fifty-eight towers had opened a large and tremendous breach. 
The damage indeed was speedily repaired ; but this accident was aggravated 
by a superstitious fear that heaven itself had delivered the imperial city to 
the shepherds of Scythia, who were strangers to the laws, the language, and 
the religion of the Romans. 

In all their invasions of the civilised empires of the south, the Scythian 
shepherds have been uniformly actuated by a savage and destructive spirit. 
The laws of war, that restrain the exercise of national rapine and murder, are 
founded on two principles of substantial interest — the knowledge of the per- 
manent benefits which may be obtained by a moderate use of conquest, and 
a just apprehension, lest the desolation which we inflict on the enemy's 
country may be retaliated on our own. But these considerations of hope 
and fear are almost unknown in the pastoral state of nations. The Huns of 
Attila may, without injustice, be compared to the Moguls and Tatars, 
before their primitive manners were changed by religion and luxury ; and 
the evidence of oriental history may reflect some light on the short and 
imperfect annals of Rome. 

After the Mongols had subdued the northern provinces of China, it was 
seriously proposed, not in the hour of victory and passion but in calm, delib- 
erate council, to exterminate all the inhabitants of that populous country, 
that the vacant land might be converted to the pasture of cattle. The firm- 
ness of a Chinese mandarin, who insinuated some principles of rational policy 
into the mind of Jenghiz, diverted him from the execution of this horrid 
design. But in the cities of Asia, which yielded to the Mongols, the inhuman 
abuse of the rights of war was exercised with a regular form of discipline, 
which may, with equal reason though not with equal authority, be imputed 
to the victorious Huns. 


[447-448 A.D.] 

The three great capitals of Khorasan, Marn, Neisabur, and Herat were 
destroyed by the armies of Jenghiz ; and the exact account which was taken 
of the slain amounted to 4,347,000 persons. Timur, or Tamerlane, was edu- 
cated in a less barbarous age, and in the profession of the Mohammedan 
religion ; yet, if Attila equalled the hostile ravages of Tamerlane, either the 
Tatar or the Hun might deserve the epithet of the Scourge of God. 

It may be affirmed with bolder assurance that the Huns depopulated the 
provinces of the empire, by the number of Roman subjects whom they led 
away into captivity. ' In the hands of a wise legislator, such an industrious 
colony might have contributed to diffuse through the deserts of Scythia the 
rudiments of the useful and ornamental arts ; but these captives, who had been 
taken in war, were accidentally dispersed among the hordes that obeyed the 
empire of Attila. The estimate of their respective value was formed by 
the simple judgment of unenlightened and unprejudiced barbarians. Per- 
haps they might not understand the merit of a theologian, profoundly skilled 
in the controversies of the Trinity and the Incarnation ; yet they respected 
the ministers of every religion, and the active zeal of the Christian mission- 
aries, without approaching the person or the palace of the monarch, success- 
fully laboured in the propagation of the gospel. 

The pastoral tribes, who were ignorant of the distinction of landed prop- 
erty, must have disregarded the use, as well as the abuse, of civil jurispru- 
dence ; and the skill of an eloquent lawyer could excite only their contempt 
or their abhorrence. The perpetual intercourse of the Huns and the Goths 
had communicated the familiar knowledge of the two national dialects; and 
the barbarians were ambitious of conversing in Latin, the military idiom 
even of the Eastern Empire. But they disdained the language and the 
sciences of the Greeks ; and the vain sophist, or grave philosopher, who had 
enjoyed the flattering applause of the schools, was mortified to find that his 
robust servant was a captive of more value and importance than himself. 
The mechanic arts were encouraged and esteemed, as they tended to satisfy 
the wants of the Huns. 

An architect in the service of Onegesius, one of the favourites of Attila, 
•was employed to construct a bath; but this work was a rare example of 
private luxury; and the trades of the smith, the carpenter, the armourer, 
were much more adapted to supply the wandering people with the useful in- 
struments of peace and war. But the merit of the physician was received 
with universal favour and respect; the barbarians, who despised death, 
might be apprehensive of disease ; and the haughty conqueror trembled in 
the presence of a captive to whom he ascribed, perhaps, an imaginary power 
of prolonging or preserving his life. The Huns might be provoked to insult 
the misery of their slaves, over whom they exercised a despotic command ; but 
their manners were not susceptible of a refined system of oppression, and 
the efforts of courage and diligence were often recompensed by the gift of 


The timid or selfish policy of the western Romans had abandoned the 
Eastern Empire to the Huns. The loss of armies and the want of discipline 
or virtue were not supplied by the personal character of the monarch. 
Theodosius might still affect the style as well as the title of Invincible 
Augustus ; but he was reduced to solicit the clemency of Attila, who impe- 
riously dictated these harsh and humiliating conditions of peace. 

[448 A.D.] 

(1) The emperor of the East resigned, by an express or tacit convention, 
an extensive and important territory which stretched along the southern 
banks of the Danube, from Singidunum or Belgrade as far as Novae, in the 
diocese of Thrace. The breadth was denned by the vague computation of 
fifteen days' journey ; but from the proposal of Attila to remove the situation 
of the national market, it soon appeared that he comprehended the ruined 
city of Naissus within the limits of his dominions. 

(2) The king of the Huns required, and obtained, that his tribute or 
subsidy should be augmented from seven hundred pounds of gold to the 
annual sum of twenty-one hundred ; and he stipulated the immediate pay- 
ment of six thousand pounds of gold to defray the expenses, or to expiate 
the guilt, of the war. One might imagine that such a demand, which scarcely 
equalled the measure of private wealth, would have been readily discharged 
by the opulent Empire of the East ; and the public distress affords a remark- 
able proof of the impoverished or at least of the disorderly state of the 
finances. A large proportion of the taxes, extorted from the people, was 
detained and intercepted in their passage through the foulest channels to 
the treasury of Constantinople. The revenue was dissipated by Theodosius 
and his favourites in wasteful and profuse luxury ; which was disguised by 
the names of imperial magnificence or Christian charity. The immediate 
supplies had been exhausted by the unforeseen necessity of military prepara- 
tions. A personal contribution, rigorously but capriciously imposed on the 
members of the senatorian order, was the only expedient that could disarm, 
without loss of time, the impatient avarice of Attila ; and the poverty of the 
nobles compelled them to adopt the scandalous resource of exposing to public 
auction the jewels of their wives and the hereditary ornaments of their 

The king of the Huns appears to have established, as a principle of national 
jurisprudence, that he could never lose the property which he had once acquired, 
in the persons who had yielded either a voluntary or reluctant submission to 
his authority. From this principle he concluded, and the conclusions of 
Attila were irrevocable laws, that the Huns who had been taken prisoners in 
war should be released without delay and without ransom ; that every 
Roman captive who had presumed to escape should purchase his right to 
freedom at the price of twelve pieces of gold ; and that all the barbarians 
who had deserted the standard of Attila should be restored, without any 
promise or stipulation of pardon. In the execution of this cruel and igno- 
minious treaty, the imperial officers were forced to massacre several loyal and 
noble deserters, who refused to devote themselves to certain death ; and the 
Romans forfeited all reasonable claims to the friendship of any Scythian peo- 
ple, by this public confession that they were destitute either of faith or power 
to protect the suppliant who had embraced the throne of Theodosius. 

The firmness of a single town, so obscure that, except on this occasion, it 
has never been mentioned by any historian or geographer, exposed the dis- 
grace of the emperor and empire. Azimus, or Azimuntium, a small city of 
Thrace on the Illyrian borders, had been distinguished by the martial spirit 
of its youth, the skill and reputation of the leaders whom they had chosen, 
and their daring exploits against the innumerable host of the barbarians. 
Instead of tamely expecting their approach, the Azimuntines attacked, in 
frequent and successful sallies, the troops of the Huns, who gradually declined 
the dangerous neighbourhood ; rescued from their hands the spoil and the 
captives, and recruited their domestic force by the voluntary association of 
fugitives and deserters. 


[448 A.D.] 

After the conclusion of the treaty, Attila still menaced the empire with 
implacable war unless the Azimuntines were persuaded or compelled to com- 
ply with the conditions which their sovereign had accepted. The ministers 
of Theodosius confessed with shame and with truth that they no longer 
possessed any authority over a society of men who so bravely asserted 
their natural independence; and the king of the Huns condescended to 
negotiate an equal exchange with the citizens of Azimus. They demanded 
the restitution of some shepherds, who, with their cattle, had been acci- 
dentally surprised. A strict, though fruitless, inquiry was allowed ; but the 
Huns were obliged to swear that they did not detain any prisoners belong- 
ing to the city, before they could recover two surviving countrymen whom the 
Azimuntines had reserved as pledges for the safety of their lost companions. 

Attila, on his side, was satisfied, and deceived, by their solemn assever- 
ation that the rest of the captives had been put to the sword, and that it 
was their constant practice immediately to dismiss the Romans and the 
deserters, who had obtained the security of the public faith. This prudent 
and officious dissimulation may be condemned or excused by the casuists as 
they incline to the rigid decree of St. Augustine or to the milder sentiment 
of St. Jerome and St. Chrysostom ; but every soldier, every statesman, must 
acknowledge that if the race of the Azimuntines had been encouraged and 
multiplied, the barbarians would have ceased to trample on the majesty of 
the empire. 

It would have been strange, indeed, if Theodosius had purchased by the 
loss of honour a secure and solid tranquillity ; or if his tameness had not 
invited the repetition of injuries. The Byzantine court was insulted by 
five or six successive embassies, and the ministers of Attila were uniformly 
instructed to press the tardy or imperfect execution of the last treaty ; to 
produce the names of fugitives and deserters, who were still protected by 
the empire ; and to declare, with seeming moderation, that unless their 
sovereign obtained complete and immediate satisfaction, it would be impos- 
sible for him, were it even his wish, to check the resentment of his warlike 

Besides the motives of pride and interest which might prompt the king 
of the Huns to continue this train of negotiation, he was influenced by the 
less honourable view of enriching his favourites at the expense of his ene- 
mies. The imperial treasury was exhausted to procure the friendly offices 
of the ambassadors and their principal attendants, whose favourable report 
might conduce to the maintenance of peace. The barbarian monarch was 
flattered by the liberal reception of his ministers ; he computed with pleasure 
the value and splendour of their gifts, rigorously exacted the performance 
of every promise which would contribute to their private emolument, and 
treated as an important business of state the marriage of his secretary Con- 
stantius. That Gallic adventurer, who was recommended by Aetius to the 
king of the Huns, had engaged his service to the ministers of Constanti- 
nople for the stipulated reward of a wealthy and noble wife; and the 
daughter of Count Saturninus was chosen to discharge the obligations of 
her country. The reluctance of the victim, some domestic troubles, and 
the unjust confiscation of her fortune, cooled the ardour of her interested 
lover ; but he still demanded, in the name of Attila, an equivalent alliance ; 
and, after many ambiguous delays and excuses, the Byzantine court was 
compelled to sacrifice to this insolent stranger the widow of Armatius, whose 
birth, opulence, and beauty placed her in the most illustrious rank of the 
Roman matrons. 


[448 A.D.] 

For these importunate and oppressive embassies, Attila claimed a suit- 
able return ; he weighed, with suspicious pride, the character and station 
of the imperial envoys ; but he condescended to promise that he would 
advance as far as Sardica, to receive any ministers who had been invested 
with the consular dignity. The council of Theodosius eluded this proposal 
by representing the desolate and ruined condition of Sardica ; and even ven- 
tured to insinuate that every officer of the army or household was qualified 
to treat with the most powerful princes of Scythia. Maximin, a respectable 
courtier, whose abilities had been long exercised in civil and military em- 
ployments, accepted with reluctance the troublesome, and perhaps danger- 
ous, commission of reconciling the angry spirit of the king of the Huns. 
His friend, the historian Priscus, embraced the opportunity of observing 
the barbarian hero in the peaceful and domestic scenes of life ; but the 
secret of the embassy, a fatal and guilty secret, was intrusted only to the 
interpreter Vigilius. The two last ambassadors of the Huns, Orestes a 
noble subject of the Pannonian province, and Edecon a valiant chieftain 
of the tribe of the Scyrri, returned at the same time from Constantinople to 
the royal camp. Their obscure names were afterwards illustrated by the 
extraordinary fortune and the contrast of their sons ; 
the two servants of Attila became the fathers of the 
last Roman emperor of the West and of the first bar- 
barian king of Italy. 

The ambassadors, who were followed by a numerous 
train of men and horses, made their first halt at Sardica 
at the distance of 350 miles, or thirteen days' journey 
from Constantinople. As the remains of Sardica were 
still included within the limits of the empire, it was 
incumbent on the Romans to exercise the duties of 
hospitality. They provided, with the assistance of the 
provincials, a sufficient number of sheep and oxen ; and 
invited the Huns to a splendid or at least a plentiful 
supper. But the harmony of the entertainment was 
soon disturbed by mutual prejudice and indiscretion. 

The greatness of the emperor and the empire was 
warmly maintained by their ministers ; the Huns with 
equal ardour asserted the superiority of their victorious 
monarch. The dispute was inflamed by the rash and 
unseasonable flattery of Vigilius, who passionately re- 
jected the comparison of a mere mortal with the divine 
Theodosius ; and it was with extreme difficulty that 
Maximin and Priscus were able to divert the conver- 
sation, or to soothe the angry minds of the barbarians. 
When they rose from table, the imperial ambassador 
presented Edecon and Orestes with rich gifts of silk weapons of the Huns 
robes and Indian-pearls, which they thankfully accepted . 

Yet Orestes could not forbear insinuating that he had not always been treated 
with such respect and liberality ; and the offensive distinction which was 
implied, between his civil office and the hereditary rank of his colleague, 
seems to have made Edecon a doubtful friend and Orestes an irreconcilable 

After this entertainment, they travelled about one hundred miles from 
Sardica to Naissus. That flourishing city, which had given birth to the 
great Constantine* was levelled with the ground ; the inhabitants were 


[418 aj>.] 

destroyed or dispersed ; and the appearance of some sick persons, who were 
still permitted to exist among the ruins of the churches, served only to 
increase the horror of the prospect. The surface of the country was 
covered with the bones of the slain ; and the ambassadors, who directed 
their course to the northwest, were obliged to pass the hills of modern 
Servia, before they descended into the flat and marshy grounds which are 
terminated by the Danube. 

When Attila first gave audience to the Roman ambassadors on the banks 
of the Danube, his tent was encompassed with a formidable guard. The 
monarch himself was seated in a wooden chair. His stern countenance, 
angry gestures, and impatient tone astonished the firmness of Maximin ; but 
Vigilius had more reason to tremble, since he distinctly understood the 
menace that, if Attila did not respect the law of nations, he would nail the 
deceitful interpreter to a cross and leave his body to the vultures. The 
Romans, both of the East and of the West, were twice invited to the ban- 
quets where Attila feasted with the princes and nobles of Scythia- Maximin 
and his colleagues were stopped on the threshold till they had made a de- 
vout libation to the health and prosperity of the king of the Huns, and were 
conducted after this ceremony to their respective seats in a spacious hall. 
Before they retired they enjoyed an opportunity of observing the manners 
of the nation in their convivial amusements. In the midst of intemperate 
riots, Attila alone, without a change of countenance, maintained his steadfast 
and inflexible gravity, which was never relaxed, except on the entrance of 
Irnac, the youngest of his sons ; he embraced the boy with a smile of pater- 
nal tenderness, gently pinched him by the cheek, and betrayed a partial 
affection which was justified by the assurance of his prophets that Irnac 
would be the future support of his family and empire. 

Two days afterwards the ambassadors received a second invitation; 
and they had reason to praise the politeness as well as the hospitality of 
Attila. The king of the Huns held a long and familiar conversation with 
Maximin ; but his civility was interrupted by rude expressions and haughty 
reproaches ; and he was provoked, by a motive of interest, to support with 
unbecoming zeal the private claims of his secretary, Constantius. " The 
emperor," said Attila, "has long promised him a rich wife; Constantius 
must not be disappointed ; nor should a Roman emperor deserve the name 
of liar." On the third day the ambassadors were dismissed ; the freedom 
of several captives was granted, for a moderate ransom, to their pressing 
entreaties ; and, besides the royal presents, they were permitted to accept 
from each of the Scythian nobles the honourable and useful gift of a horse. 
Maximin returned by the same road to Constantinople ; and, though he was 
involved in an accidental dispute with Beric, the new ambassador of Attila, 
he flattered himself that he had contributed, by the laborious journey, to 
confirm the peace and alliance of the two nations. 


But the Roman ambassador was ignorant of the treacherous design 
which had been concealed under the mask of the public faith> . The sur- 
prise and satisfaction of Edecon, when he contemplated the splendour of 
Constantinople, had encouraged the interpreter Vigilius to procure for him a 
secret interview with the eunuch Chrysaphius, who governed the emperor 
and the empire. After some previous conversation and a mutual oath of 


[448-449 A.D.] 

secrecy, the eunuch, who had not from his own feelings or experience im- 
bibed any exalted notions of ministerial virtue, ventured to propose the 
death of Attila, as an important service by which Edecon might deserve a 
liberal share of the wealth and luxury which he admired. The ambassador 
of the Huns listened to the tempting offer ; and professed, with apparent 
zeal, his ability as well as readiness to execute the bloody deed ; the design 
was communicated to the master of the offices, and the devout Theodosius 
consented to the assassination of his invincible enemy. But this perfidious 
conspiracy was defeated by the dissimulation or repentance of Edecon ; and, 
though he might exaggerate his inward abhorrence for the treason which he 
seemed to approve, he dexterously assumed the merit of an early and volun- 
tary confession. 

If we now review the embassy of Maximin, and the behaviour of Attila, 
we must applaud the barbarian, who respected the laws of hospitality and 
generously entertained and dismissed the minister of a prince who had con- 
spired against his life. But the rashness of Vigilius will appear still more 
extraordinary, since he returned, conscious of his guilt and danger, to the 
royal camp, accompanied by his son and carrying with him a weighty purse 
of gold, which the favourite eunuch had furnished to satisfy the demands 
of Edecon, and to corrupt the fidelity of the guards. The interpreter was 
instantly seized and dragged before the tribunal of Attila, where he asserted 
his innocence with specious firmness, till the threat of inflicting instant death 
on his son extorted from him a sincere discovery of the criminal transaction. 

Under the name of ransom or confiscation, the rapacious king of the 
Huns accepted two hundred pounds of gold for the life of a traitor whom 
he disdained to punish. He pointed his just indignation against a nobler 
object. His ambassadors, Eslaw and Orestes, were immediately despatched 
to Constantinople, with a peremptory instruction which it was much safer 
for them to execute than to disobey. They boldly entered the imperial 
presence, with the fatal purse hanging down from the neck of Orestes, who 
interrogated the eunuch Chrysaphius, as he stood beside the throne, whether 
he recognised the evidence of his guilt. But the office of reproof was re- 
served for the superior dignity of his colleague Eslaw, who gravely addressed 
the emperor of the East in the following words : " Theodosius is the son of 
an illustrious and respectable parent ; Attila likewise is descended from a 
noble race ; and he has supported, by his actions, the dignity which he in- 
herited from his father Mundzuk. But Theodosius has forfeited his pater- 
nal honours, and, by consenting to pay tribute, has degraded himself to the 
condition of a slave. It is, therefore, just that he should reverence the man 
whom fortune and merit have placed above him ; instead of attempting, 
like a wicked slave, clandestinely to conspire against his master." 

The son of Arcadius, who was accustomed only to the voice of flattery, 
heard with astonishment the severe language of truth; he blushed and 
trembled ; nor did he presume directly to refuse the head of Chrysaphius, 
which Eslaw and Orestes were instructed to demand. A solemn embassy, 
armed with full powers and magnificent gifts, was hastily sent to deprecate 
the wrath of Attila ; and his pride was gratified by the choice of Nomius and 
Anatolius, two ministers of consular or patrician rank, of whom the one was 
great treasurer, and the other was master-general of the armies of the East. 
He condescended to meet these ambassadors on the banks of the river 
Drenco ; and though he at first affected a stern and haughty demeanour, his 
anger was insensibly mollified by their eloquence and liberality. He con- 
descended to pardon the emperor, the eunuch, and the interpreter ; bound 


[449-450 A.D.] 

himself by an oath to observe the conditions of peace ; released a great num- 
ber of captives ; abandoned the fugitives and deserters to their fate ; and 
resigned a large territory to the south of the Danube, which he had already 
exhausted of its wealth and inhabitants. But this treaty was purchased at 
an expense which might have supported a vigorous and successful war ; 
and the subjects of Theodosius were compelled to redeem the safety of a 
worthless favourite by oppressive taxes, which they would more cheerfully 
have paid for his destruction. 

The emperor Theodosius did not long survive the most humiliating cir- 
cumstance of an inglorious life. As he was riding or hunting in the neigh- 
bourhood of Constantinople, he was thrown from his horse into the river 
Lycus ; his spine was injured by the fall ; and he expired some days 
afterwards, in the fiftieth j r ear of his age, andthe forty-third of his reign. 
His sister Pulcheria, whose authority had been controlled both in civil 
and ecclesiastical affairs by the pernicious influence of the eunuchs, was 
unanimously proclaimed empress of the East ; and the Romans, for the first 
time, submitted to a female reign. No sooner had Pulcheria ascended the 
throne, than she indulged her own and the public resentment by an act of 
popular justice. Without any legal trial, the eunuch Chrysaphius was exe- 
cuted before the gates of the city ; and the immense riches which had been 
accumulated by the rapacious favourite served only to hasten and to justify 
his punishment. 


Amidst the general acclamation of the clergy and people, the empress 
did not forget the prejudice and disadvantage to which her sex was exposed ; 
and she wisely resolved to prevent their murmurs by the choice of a colleague 
who would always respect the superior rank and virgin chastity of his wife. 
She gave her hand to Marcian, a senator, about sixty years of age ; and the 
nominal husband of Pulcheria was solemnly invested with the imperial 
purple. The zeal which he displayed for the orthodox creed, as it was estab- 
lished by the council of Chalcedon, would alone have inspired the grateful 
eloquence of the Catholics. But the behaviour of Marcian in a private life, 
and afterwards on the throne, may support a more rational belief that he 
was qualified to restore and invigorate an empire, which had been almost 
dissolved by the successive weakness of two hereditary monarchs. 

He was born in Thrace, and educated to the profession of arms ; but 
Marcian's youth had been severely exercised by poverty and misfortune, 
since his only resource, when he first arrived at Constantinople, consisted 
in two hundred pieces of gold, which he had borrowed of a friend. He 
passed nineteen years in the domestic and military service of Aspar and his 
son Ardaburius ; followed those powerful generals to the Persian and African 
wars ; and obtained, by their influence, the honourable rank of tribune and 
senator. His mild disposition and useful talents, without alarming the jeal- 
ousy, recommended Marcian to the esteem and favour of his patrons ; he 
had seen, perhaps he had felt, the abuses of a venal and oppressive adminis- 
tration, and his own example gave weight and energy to the laws which he 
promulgated for the reformation of manners. 

After Pulcheria's death, he gave his people the example of the religious 
worship that was due to the memory of the imperial saint. Attentive to the 
prosperity of his own dominions, Marcian seemed to behold with indifference 
the misfortunes of Rome ; and the obstinate refusal of a brave and active 


[463-468 A.D.] 

prince to draw his sword against the Vafldals was ascribed to a secret 
promise, which had formerly been exacted frbm him when he was a captive 
in the power of Genseric. 

The death of Marcian, after a reign of seven years, would have exposed 
the East to the danger of a popular election, if the superior weight of a 
single family had not been able to incline the balance in favour of the can- 
didate whose interest they supported. The patrician Aspar might have 
placed the diadem on his own head, if he would have subscribed the Nicene 
Creed. During three generations, the armies of the East were successively 
commanded by his father, by himself, and by his son Ardaburius ; his bar- 
barian guards formed a military force that overawed the palace and the 
capital; and the liberal distribution of his immense treasures rendered 
Aspar as popular as he was powerful. He recommended the obscure name 
of Leo of Thrace, a military tribune and the principal steward of his house- 
hold. His nomination was unanimously ratified by the senate ; and the ser- 
vant of Aspar received the imperial crown from the hands of the patriarch 
or bishop, who was permitted to express, by this unusual ceremony, the suf- 
frage of the Deity (457). 

This emperor, the first of the name of Leo, has been distinguished by the 
title of " the great " from a succession of princes, who gradually fixed, in 
the opinion of the Greeks, a very humble standard of heroic or at least of 
royal perfection. Yet the temperate firmness with which Leo resisted the 
oppression of his benefactor showed that he was conscious of his duty and of 
his prerogative. When Leo had delivered himself from that ignominious 
servitude, he listened to the complaints of the Italians ; resolved to extirpate 
the tyranny of the Vandals, and declared his alliance with Marcian's son-in- 
law Anthemius, whom he solemnly invested with the diadem and purple of 
the West. 

In all his public declarations the emperor Leo assumes the authority and 
professes the affection of a father, for his son Anthemius with whom he had 
divided the administration of the universe. The situation and perhaps the 
character of Leo dissuaded him from exposing his person to the toils and 
dangers of an African war. But the powers of the Eastern Empire were 
strenuously exerted to deliver Italy and the Mediterranean from the Van- 
dals ; and Genseric, who had so long oppressed both the land and sea, was 
threatened from every side with a formidable invasion. The campaign 
was opened by a bold and successful enterprise of the prefect Heraclius. 
The expense of the naval armament, which Leo sent against the Vandals, 
has been distinctly ascertained ; and the curious and instructive account dis- 
plays the wealth of the declining empire. The royal demesnes, or private 
patrimony of the prince, supplied seventeen thousand pounds of gold ; forty- 
seven thousand pounds of gold and seven hundred thousand of silver were 
levied and paid into the treasury by the praetorian prefects. But the cities 
were reduced to extreme poverty ; and the diligent calculation of fines and 
forfeitures, as a valuable object of the revenue, does not suggest the idea of 
a just or merciful administration. 

The whole expense, by whatsoever means it was defrayed, of the African 
campaign amounted to the sum of 130,000 pounds of gold [about ,£5,200,000 
or $26,000,000], at a time when the value of money appears, from the com- 
parative price of corn, to have been somewhat higher than in the present 
age. The fleet that sailed from Constantinople to Carthage consisted 
of 1113 ships, and the number of soldiers and mariners exceeded 100,000 
men. Basiliscus, the brother of the empress Verina, was entrusted with this 


[468-491 a.d.) 

important command. His sister, the wife of Leo, had exaggerated the merit 
of his formei exploits against the Scythians. But the discovery of his guilt, 
or incapacity, was reserved for the African War ; and his friends could only 
save his military reputation by asserting that he had conspired with Aspar 
to spare Genseric, and to betray the last hope of the Western Empire. 

He returned to Constantinople with the loss of more than half of his fleet 
and army, and sheltered his guilty head in the sanctuary of St. Sophia, till 
his sister, by her tears and entreaties, could obtain his pardon from the indig- 
nant emperor. Leo confirmed and dishonoured his reign by the perfidious 
murder of Aspar and his sons, who too rigorously exacted the debt of grati- 
tude and obedience. The inheritance of Leo and of the East was peaceably 
devolved on his infant grandson, Leo II, the son of his daughter Ariadne ; and 
her Isaurian husband, the fortunate Trascalisseus, exchanged that barbarous 
sound for the Grecian appellation of Zeno. After the decease of the elder 
Leo, he approached with unnatural respect the throne of his son, humbly 
received as a gift the second rank in the empire,, and soon excited the public 
suspicion on the sudden and premature death of his young colleague, whose 
life could no longer promote the success of his ambition. But the palace of 
Constantinople was ruled by female influence, and agitated by female pas- 
sions ; and Verina, the widow of Leo, claiming his empire as her own, pro- 
nounced a sentence of deposition against the worthless and ungrateful 
servant on whom she alone had bestowed the sceptre of the East. 

As soon as she sounded a revolt in the ears of Zeno, he fled with 
precipitation into the mountains of Isauria, and her brother Basiliscus, 
already infamous by his African expedition, was unanimously proclaimed 
by the servile senate. But the reign of the usurper was short and turbulent. 

Basiliscus presumed to assassinate the lover of his sister ; he dared to 
offend the lover, of his wife, the vain and insolent Harmatius, who, in the 
midst of Asiatic luxury, affected the dress, the demeanour, and the surname 
of Achilles. By the conspiracy of the malcontents, Zeno was recalled from 
exile ; and the armies, the capital, the person of Basiliscus, were betrayed ; 
and his whole family was condemned to the long agony of cold and hunger 
by the inhuman conqueror who wanted courage to encounter or to forgive 
his enemies. [It was after Zeno's return to the throne that Theodoric, the 
Ostrogothic king, left Illyricum with his people to invade Italy (488). This 
event will be fully described in Chapter I of the " Western Empire."] 

The haughty spirit of Verina was still incapable of submission or repose. 
She provoked the enmity of a favourite general, embraced his cause as soon 
as he was disgraced, created a new emperor in Syria and Egypt, raised an 
army of seventy thousand men, and persisted to the last moment of her -life 
in a fruitless rebellion, which, according to the fashion of the age, had been 
predicted by Christian hermits and pagan magicians. While the East was 
afflicted by the passions of Verina, her daughter Ariadne was distinguished 
by the female virtues of mildness and fidelity ; she followed her husband in 
his exile, and after his restoration she implored his clemency in favour of her 
mother. On the decease of Zeno, Ariadne, the daughter, the mother, and 
the widow of an emperor, gave her hand and the imperial title to Anastasius, 
an aged domestic of the palace, who survived his elevation above twenty- 
seven years, and whose character is attested by the acclamation of the peo- 
ple : " Reign as you have lived ! " & 

Anastasius' accession was not undisputed. Zeno's brother Longinus 
claimed the throne and with his brother Isaurians fought for it. A five 
years' war beginning in 491 was the result. Constantinople furnished the 


[491-618 A.D.] 

scene for several bloody riots, especially when, after a decisive victory of the 
troops at Colyseum in 493, Anastasius issued an edict expelling the Isaurians 
from the capital. The adherents of the banished nation kept up desultory 
fighting until in 496 Longinus and his brother were taken. The Isaurian 
War was the temporary ruin of Asia Minor, and the Persian monarch Kobad 
found it no difficult task to seize Martyropolis, Amida, and other Armenian 
strongholds in 503. The cause of this hostile act is a matter of dispute ; 
it may have been that the emperor refused a payment promised by Leo, or 
Anastasius may have declined to grant Kobad a loan he wished to raise. The 
consequence of this war might have been most serious for the empire had 
not the Huns invaded Persia at this critical moment. Kobad was now anxious 
to sue for peace, the more so since the new Roman general Celer was fast 
undoing the mistakes of his predecessor, Hypatius. The treaty was signed 
in 505. The next few years are marked chiefly with the revolt of Vitalian, 
the Goth. In 514 he attempted to seize the throne, but Anastasius brought 
him to terms with the office of magister militum of Thrace, and a present of 


Justin I is said to have been an illiterate Illyrian peasant, who, with two 
other peasants of the same village, deserted for the profession of arms the 
more useful employment of husbandmen or shepherds. On foot, with a 
scanty provision of biscuit in their knapsacks, the three youths followed the 
high road to Constantinople, and were soon enrolled, for their strength and 
stature, among the guards of the emperor Leo. 

Under the two succeeding reigns, the fortunate peasant emerged to wealth 
and honours ; and his escape from some dangers which threatened his life 
was afterwards ascribed to the guardian angel who watches over the fate of 
kings. His long and laudable service in the Isaurian and Persian wars would 
not have preserved from oblivion the name of Justin ; yet they might warrant 
the military promotion which in the course of fifty years he gradually ob- 
tained — the rank of tribune, of count, and of general, the dignity of senator, 
and the command of the guards, who obeyed him as their chief at the impor- 
tant crisis when the emperor Anastasius was removed from the world. The 
powerful kinsmen, whom he had raised and enriched, were excluded from 
the throne ; and the eunuch Amantius, who reigned in the palace, had secretly 
resolved to fix the diadem on the head of the most obsequious of his creatures. 
A liberal donative, to conciliate the suffrage of the guards, was entrusted for 
that purpose in the hands of their commander. But these weighty arguments 
were treacherously employed by Justin in his own favour ; and as no com- 
petitor presumed to appear, the Dacian peasant was invested with the purple, 
by the unanimous consent of the soldiers, who knew him to be brave and 
gentle, of the clergy and people, who believed him to be orthodox, and of 
the provincials, who yielded a blind and implicit submission to the will of 
the capital. 

The elder Justin, as he is distinguished from another emperor of the same 
family and name, ascended the Byzantine throne at the age of sixty-eight 
years ; and, had he been left to his own guidance, every moment of a nine 
years' reign must have exposed to his subjects the impropriety of their choice. 
His ignorance was similar to that of Theodoric ; and it is remarkable that in 
an age not destitute of learning two contemporary monarchs had never been 
instructed in the knowledge, of the alphabet. But the genius of Justin was 


[518-527 A.D.] 

far inferior to that of the Gothic king ; the experience of a soldier had not 
qualified him for the government of an empire, and, though personally brave, 
the consciousness of his own weakness was naturally attended with doubt, 
distrust, and political apprehension. But the official business of the state 
was diligently and faithfully transacted by the quaestor Proclus, and the 
aged emperor adopted the talents and ambition of his nephew Justinian, an 
aspiring youth whom his uncle had drawn from the rustic solitude of Dacia, 
and educated at Constantinople, as the heir of his private fortune and at 
length of the Eastern Empire. 

Since the eunuch Amantius had been defrauded of his money, it became 
necessary to deprive him of his life. The task was easily accomplished by 
the charge of a real or fictitious conspiracy; and the judges were informed, 
as an accumulation of guilt, that he was secretly addicted to the. Manichsean 
heresy. Amantius lost his head ; three of his companions, the first domestics 
of the palace, were punished either with death or exile ; and their unfor- 
tunate candidate for the purple was cast into a deep dungeon, overwhelmed 
with stones, and ignominiously thrown, without burial, into the sea. 

The ruin of Vitalian was a work of more difficulty and danger. That 
Gothic chief had rendered himself popular by the civil war which he boldly 
waged against Anastasius for the defence of the orthodox faith, and, after 
the conclusion of an advantageous treaty, he still remained in the neighbour- 
hood of Constantinople, at the head of a formidable and victorious army 
of barbarians. By the frail security of oaths, he was tempted to relinquish 
this advantageous situation, and to trust his person within the walls of a 
city whose inhabitants, particularly the blue faction, were artfully incensed 
against him by the remembrance even of his pious hostilities. The emperor 
and his nephew embraced him as the faithful and worthy champion of the 
church and state, and gratefully adorned their favourite with the titles of 
consul general ; but in the seventh month of his consulship, Vitalian was 
stabbed with seventeen wounds at the royal banquet; and Justinian, who 
inherited the spoil, was accused as the assassin of a spiritual brother, to 
whom he had recently pledged his faith in the participation of the Christian 

After the fall of his rival, he was promoted, without any claim of mili- 
tary service, to the office of master-general of the eastern armies, whom 
it was his duty to lead into the field against the public enemy. But, in 
the pursuit of fame, Justinian might have lost his present dominion over the 
age and weakness of his uncle; and instead of acquiring by Scythian or 
Persian trophies the applause of his countrymen, the prudent warrior solicited 
their favour in the churches, the circus, and the senate of Constantinople. 
The Catholics were attached to the nephew of Justin, who, between the 
Nestorian and Eutychian heresies, trod the narrow path of inflexible and 
intolerant orthodoxy. 

In the first days of the new reign, he prompted and gratified the popular 
enthusiasm against the memory of the deceased emperor. After a schism 
of thirty-four years, he reconciled the proud and angry spirit of the Roman 
pontiff, and spread among the Latins a favourable report of his pious respect 
for the apostolic see. The thrones of the East were filled with Catholic 
bishops devoted to his interests, the clergy and the monks were gained by 
his liberality, and the people were taught to pray for their future sovereign, 
the hope and pillar of the true religion. The magnificence of Justinian 
was displayed in the superior pomp of his public spectacles, an object not 
less sacred and important in the eyes of the multitude than the creed of 


1527 A.D.] 

Nicsea or Chalcedon ; the expense of his consulship was esteemed at 288,000 
pieces of gold ; twenty lions and thirty leopards were produced at the same 
time in the amphitheatre, and a numerous train of horses, with their rich 
trappings, was bestowed as an extraordinary gift on the victorious charioteers 
of the circus. 

While he indulged the people of Constantinople, and received the addresses 
of foreign kings, the nephew of Justin assiduously cultivated the friendship of 
the senate. That venerable name seemed to qualify its members to declare the 
sense of the nation, and to regulate the succession of the imperial throne ; 
the feeble Anastasius had permitted the vigour of government to degener- 
ate into the form or substance of an aristocracy; and the military officers who 
had obtained the senatorial rank were followed by their domestic guards, a 
band of veterans whose arms or acclamations might fix in a tumultuous mo- 
ment the diadem of the East. The treasures of the state were lavished to 
procure the voices of the senators ; and their unanimous wish, that he would 
be pleased to adopt Justinian for his colleague, was communicated to the 
emperor. But this request, which too clearly admonished him of his 
approaching end, was unwelcome to the jealous temper of an aged monarch, 
desirous to retain the power which he was incapable of exercising; and 
Justin, holding his purple with both his hands, advised them to prefer, since 
an election was so profitable, some older candidate. 

Notwithstanding this reproach, the senate proceeded to decorate Justinian 
with the royal epithet of nobilissimus ; and their decree was ratified by the 
affection or the fears of his uncle. After some time the languor of mind and 
body to which he was reduced by an incurable wound in his thigh, indispen- 
sably required the aid of a guardian. He summoned the patriarch and sena- 
tors ; and in their presence solemnly placed the diadem on the head of his 
nephew, who was conducted from the palace to the circus, and saluted by 
the loud and joyful applause of the people. The life of Justin was pro- 
longed about four months, but from the instant of this ceremony he was 
considered as dead to the empire, which acknowledged Justinian, in the 
forty-fifth year of his age, for the lawful sovereign of the East.& 

H. W. — VOL. VII. F 


[525-548 A.D.] 

In the exercise of supreme power, the first act of Justinian was to divide- 
it with the woman whom he loved, the famous Theodora, whose strange eleva- 
tion cannot be applauded as the triumph of female virtue. Under the reign 
of Anastasius, the care of the wild beasts maintained by the green faction at 
Constantinople was entrusted to Acacius, a native of the isle of Cyprus, 
who, from his employment, was surnamed the master of the bears. This 
honourable office was given after his death to another candidate, notwith- 
standing the diligence of his widow, who had already provided a husband 
and a successor. 

Acacius had left three daughters, Comito, Theodora, and Anastasia, the 
eldest of whom did not then exceed the age of seven years. On a solemn festi- 
val, these helpless orphans were sent by their distressed and indignant mother, 
in the garb of suppliants, into the midst of the theatre ; the green faction re- 
ceived them with contempt, the blues with compassion ; and this difference, 
which sunk deep into the mind of Theodora, was felt long afterwards in the 
administration of the empire. As they improved in age and beauty, the three 
sisters were successively devoted to the public and private pleasures of the 
Byzantine people ; and Theodora, after following Comito on the stage, in 
the dress of a slave, with a stool on her head, was at length permitted to 
exercise her independent talents. She neither danced, nor sang, nor played 
on the flute ; her skill was confined to the pantomime arts ; she excelled in 
buffoon characters, and as often as the comedian swelled her cheeks and 
complained with a ridiculous tone and gesture of the blows that were in- 
flicted, the whole theatre of Constantinople resounded with laughter and 
applause. The beauty of Theodora was the subject of more flattering praise 
and the source of more exquisite delight. Her features were delicate and 
regular ; her complexion, though somewhat pale, was tinged with a natural 
colour ; every sensation was instantly expressed by the vivacity of her eyes ; 
her easy motions displayed the graces of a small but elegant figure. 

[The question of the beauty of Theodora has been a subject for much 
discussion. "A contemporary," says Bury,* " said it was impossible for mere 
man to describe her comeliness in words, or to imitate it by art " ; but he 
adds that we cannot judge how far this remark was due to the enthusiasm 
of adulation. He admits, however, that she was doubtless beautiful, although 
somewhat short in stature and of pale complexion.] 

In the most abject state of her fortune and reputation, some vision, either 
of sleep or of fancy, had whispered to Theodora the pleasing assurance that 
she was destined to become the spouse of a potent monarch. Conscious of 



[525-527 A.D.] 

her approaching greatness, she returned from Paphlagonia to Constanti- 
nople ; assumed, like a skilful actress, a more decent character ; relieved her 
poverty by the laudable industry of spinning wool ; and affected a life of 
chastity and solitude in a small house, which she afterwards changed into a 
magnificent temple. Her beauty, assisted by art or accident, soon attracted,, 
captivated, and fixed the patrician Justinian, who already reigned with 
absolute sway under the name of his uncle. Perhaps she contrived to en- 
hance the value of a gift which she had so often lavished on the meanest of 
mankind; perhaps she inflamed, at first by modest delays and at last by 
sensual allurements, the desires of a lover who from nature or devotion was 
addicted to long vigils and abstemious diet. When his first transports had. 
subsided, she still maintained the same ascendancy over his mind, by the 
more solid merit of temper and understanding. Justinian delighted to> 
ennoble and enrich the object of his affection; the treasures of the East, 
were poured at her feet, and the nephew of Justin was determined, perhaps 
by religious scruples, to bestow on his concubine the sacred and legal char- 
acter of a wife. But the laws of Rome expressly prohibited the marriage of 
a senator with any female who had been dishonoured by a servile origin or 
theatrical profession ; the empress, a barbarian of rustic manners but of irre- 
proachable virtue, refused to accept a prostitute for her niece. 

These obstacles were removed by the inflexible constancy of Justinian. 
He patiently expected the death of the empress ; he despised the tears of 
his mother, who soon sank under the weight of her affliction ; and a law was 
promulgated in the name of the emperor Justin, which abolished the rigid 
jurisprudence of antiquity. A glorious repentance (the words of the edict) 
was left open for the unhappy females who had prostituted their persons on 
the theatre, and they were permitted to contract a legal union with the most 
illustrious of the Romans. This indulgence was speedily followed by the 
solemn nuptials of Justinian and Theodora; her dignity was gradually 
exalted with that of her lover; and, as soon as Justin had invested his 
nephew with the purple, the patriarch of Constantinople placed the diadem 
on the heads of the emperor and empress of the East. But the usual honours 
which the severity of Roman manners had allowed to the wives of princes 
could not satisfy either the ambition of Theodora or the fondness of Justin- 
ian. He seated her on the throne as an equal and independent colleague in 
the sovereignty of the empire, and an oath of allegiance was imposed on the 
governors of the provinces in the joint names of Justinian and Theodora. 
The eastern world fell prostrate before the genius and fortune of the 
daughter of Acacius. 

Her private hours were devoted to the prudent as well as grateful care 
of her beauty, the luxury of the bath and table, and the long slumber of the 
evening and the morning. Her secret apartments were occupied by the 
favourite women and eunuchs, whose interests and passions she indulged at 
the expense of justice ; the most illustrious personages of the state were 
crowded into a dark and sultry antechamber, and when at last, after tedious 
attendance, they were admitted to kiss the feet of Theodora, they expe- 
rienced, as her humour might suggest, the silent arrogance of an empress 
or the capricious levity of a comedian. Her rapacious avarice to accumulate 
an immense treasure may be excused by the apprehension of her husband's 
death, which could leave no alternative between ruin and the throne ; and 
fear as well as ambition might exasperate Theodora against two generals 
who, during a malady of the emperor, had rashly declared that they were 
not disposed to acquiesce in the choice of the capital. 


[527-548 A.D.] 

But the reproach of cruelty, so repugnant even to her softer vices, has 
left an indelible stain on the memory of Theodora. Her numerous spies 
observed, and zealously reported, every action, or word, or look injurious to 
their royal mistress. Whomsoever they accused were cast into her peculiar 
prisons, inaccessible to the inquiries of justice ; and it was rumoured that the 
torture of the rack, or scourge, had been inflicted in the presence of a female 
tyrant, insensible to the voice of prayer or of pity. Some of these unhappy 
victims perished in deep unwholesome dungeons, while others were permitted, 
after the loss of their limbs, their reason, or their fortune, to appear in the 
world the living monuments of her vengeance, which was commonly extended 
to the children of those whom she had suspected or injured. The senator or 
bishop whose death or exile Theodora had pronounced, was delivered to a 
trusty messenger, and his diligence was quickened by a message from her 
own mouth : " If you fail in the execution of my commands, I swear by 
Him who liveth forever, that your skin shall be flayed from your body." 

If the creed of Theodora had not been tainted with heresy, her exem- 
plary devotion might have atoned, in the opinion of her contemporaries, 
for pride, avarice, and cruelty. But if she employed her influence to assuage 
the intolerant fury of the emperor, the present age will allow some merit 
to her religion, and much indulgence to her speculative errors. The name 
of Theodora was introduced, with equal honour, in all the pious and chari- 
table foundations of Justinian ; and the most benevolent institution of his 
reign may be ascribed to the sympathy of the empress for her less fortunate 
sisters. A palace, on the Asiatic side of the Bosporus, was converted into a 
stately and spacious monastery, and a liberal maintenance was assigned to 
five hundred women, who had been collected from the streets and brothels 
of Constantinople. In this safe and holy retreat they were devoted to per- 
petual confinement ; and the despair of some, who threw themselves head- 
long into the sea, was lost in the gratitude of the penitents, who had been 
delivered from sin and misery by their generous benefactress. The prudence 
of Theodora is celebrated by Justinian himself; and his laws are attributed to 
the sage counsels of his most reverend wife, whom he had received as the gift 
of the Deity. Her courage was displayed amidst the tumult of the people 
and the terrors of the court. Her chastity, from the moment of her union 
with Justinian, is founded on the silence of her implacable enemies. 

The wishes and prayers of Theodora could never obtain the blessing of 
a lawful son, and she buried an infant daughter, the sole offspring of her 
marriage. Notwithstanding this disappointment, her dominion was perma- 
nent and absolute ; she preserved, by art or merit, the affections of Jus- 
tinian ; and their seeming dissensions were always fatal to the courtiers who 
believed them to be sincere. Perhaps her health had been impaired by the 
licentiousness of her youth ; but it was always delicate, and she was directed 
by her physicians to use the Pythian warm baths. In this journey, the 
empress was followed by the praetorian prefect, the great treasurer, several 
counts and patricians, and a splendid train of four thousand attendants. 
The highways were repaired at her approach, a palace was erected for her 
reception ; and as she passed through Bithynia, she distributed liberal alms 
to the churches, the monasteries, and the hospitals, that they might implore 
heaven for the restoration of her health. At length, in the twenty-fourth 
year of her marriage, and the twenty-second of her reign, she was consumed 
by a cancer ; and the irreparable loss was deplored by her husband, who, in 
the room of a theatrical prostitute, might have selected the purest and most 
noble virgin of the East. 




A material difference may be observed in the games of antiquity; the 
most eminent of the Greeks were actors, the Romans were merely spectators. 
The Olympic stadium was open to wealth, merit, and ambition ; and if the 
candidates could depend on their personal skill and activity they might pur- 
sue the footsteps of Diomede and Menelaus, and conduct their own horses in 
the rapid career. Ten, twenty, forty chariots were allowed to start at the 
same instant ; a crown of leaves was the reward of the victor, and his fame, 
with that of his family and country, 
was chanted in lyric strains more 
durable than monuments of brass 
and marble. But a senator, or even 
a citizen, conscious of his dignity, 
■would have blushed to expose his 
person or his horses in the circus of 
Rome. The games were exhibited 
at the expense of the republic, the 
magistrates, or the emperors; but 
the reins were abandoned to servile 
hands ; and if the profits of a favour- 
ite charioteer sometimes exceeded 
those of an advocate, they must be 
considered as the effects of popular 
extravagance and the high wages of 
a disgraceful profession. The race, 
in its first institution, was a simple 
contest of two chariots, whose driv- 
ers were distinguished by white and 
red liveries ; two additional colours, 
a light green and a cerulean blue, 
were afterwards introduced ; and as 
the races were repeated twenty-five 
times, one hundred chariots contrib- 
uted in the same day to the pomp of the circus. The four factions soon 
acquired a legal establishment, and a mysterious origin, and their fanciful 
colours were derived from the various appearances of nature in the four sea- 
sons of the year ; the red dog-star of summer, the snows of winter, the deep 
shades of autumn, and the cheerful verdure of the spring. 

Another interpretation preferred the elements to the seasons, and the 
struggle of the green and blue was supposed to represent the conflict of the 
earth and sea. Their respective victories announced either a plentiful har- 
vest or a prosperous navigation, and the hostility of the husbandmen and 
mariners was somewhat less absurd than the blind ardour of the Roman 
people, who devoted their lives and fortunes to the colour which they had 
espoused. Such folly was disdained and indulged by the wisest princes; 
but the names of Caligula, Nero, Vitellius, Verus, Commodus, Caracalla, 
and Elagabalus were enrolled in the blue or green factions of the circus; 
they frequented their stables, applauded their favourites, chastised their 
antagonists, and deserved the esteem of the populace by the natural or 
affected imitation of their manners. The bloody and tumultuous contest 
continued to disturb the public festivity, till the last age of the spectacles of 
Rome ; and Theodoric, from a motive of justice or affection, interposed his 

Coats of Mail, very early Period 


authority to protect the greens against the violence of a consul and a patri- 
cian, who were passionately addicted to the blue faction of the circus. 

Constantinople adopted the follies, though not the virtues, of ancient 
Rome ; and the same factions which had agitated the circus raged with 
redoubled fury in the hippodrome. Under the reign of Anastasius, this pop- 
ular frenzy was inflamed by religious zeal ; and the greens, who had treach- 
erously concealed stones and daggers under baskets of fruit, massacred, 
at a solemn festival, three thousand of their blue adversaries. From the 
capital this pestilence was diffused into the provinces and cities of the East, 
and the sportive distinction of two colours produced two strong and irrecon- 
cilable factions, which shook the foundations of a feeble government. The 
popular dissensions, founded on the most serious interest or holy pretence, 
have scarcely equalled the obstinacy of this wanton discord, which invaded 
the peace of families, divided friends and brothers, and tempted the female 
sex, though seldom seen in the circus, to espouse the inclinations of their 
lovers or to contradict the wishes of their husbands. 

Every law, either human or divine, was trampled under foot, and as long 
•as the party was successful, its deluded followers appeared careless of private 
distress or public calamity. The license, without the freedom, of democracy 
was revived at Antioch and Constantinople, and the support of a faction 
became necessary to every candidate for civil or ecclesiastical honours. 
A secret attachment to the family or sect of Anastasius was imputed to 
the greens ; the blues were zealously devoted to the cause of orthodoxy and 
Justinian, and their grateful patron protected, above five years, the disorders 
of a faction whose seasonable tumults overawed the palace, the senate, and 
the capitals of the East. Insolent with royal favour, the blues affected to 
strike terror by a peculiar and barbaric dress — the long hair of the Huns, 
their close sleeves and ample garments, a lofty step, and a sonorous voice. 

In the day they concealed their two-edged poniards, but in the night they 
boldly assembled in arms, and in numerous bands, prepared for every act of 
violence and rapine. Their adversaries of the green faction, or even inof- 
fensive citizens, were stripped and often murdered by these nocturnal rob- 
bers, and it became dangerous to wear any gold buttons or girdles, or to 
appear at a late hour in the streets of a peaceful capital. A daring spirit, 
rising with impunity, proceeded to violate the safeguard of private houses ; 
and fire was employed to facilitate the attack or to conceal the crimes of 
those factious rioters. No place was safe or sacred from their depredations ; 
to gratify either avarice or revenge, they profusely spilt the blood of the 
innocent ; churches and altars were polluted by atrocious murders ; and it 
was the boast of the assassins that their dexterity could always inflict a 
mortal wound with a single stroke of their dagger. 

The dissolute youth of Constantinople adopted the blue livery of disorder ; 
the laws were silent, and the bonds of society were relaxed ; creditors were 
compelled to resign their obligations, judges to reverse their sentence, 
masters to enfranchise their slaves, fathers to supply the extravagance of 
their children ; noble matrons were prostituted to the lust of their servants ; 
beautiful boys were torn from the arms of their parents ; and wives, unless 
they preferred a voluntary death, were ravished in the presence of their hus- 
bands. The despair of the greens, who were persecuted by their enemies 
and deserted by the magistrate, assumed the privilege of defence, perhaps of 
retaliation ; but those who survived the combat were dragged to execution, 
and the unhappy fugitives, escaping to woods and caverns, preyed without 
mercy on the society from whence they were expelled. Those ministers of 


1532 A.D.] 

justice who had courage to punish the crimes and to brave the resentment 
of the blues, became the victims of their indiscreet zeal ; a prefect of Con- 
stantinople fled for refuge to the holy sepulchre ; a count of the East was 
ignominiously whipped, and a governor of Cilicia was hanged, by the order 
of Theodora, on the tomb of two assassins whom he had condemned for the 
murder of his groom and a daring attack upon his own life. 

An aspiring candidate may be tempted to build his greatness on the pub- 
lic confusion, but it is the interest as well as duty of a sovereign to maintain 
the authority of the laws. The first edict of Justinian, which was often 
repeated and sometimes executed, announced his firm resolution to support 
the innocent, and to chastise the guilty, of every denomination and colour. 
Yet the balance of justice was still inclined in favour of the blue faction, by 
the secret affection, the habits, and the fears of the emperor ; his equity, after 
an apparent struggle, submitted, without reluctance, to the implacable passions 
of Theodora, and the empress never forgot, or forgave, the injuries of the 
comedian. At the accession of the younger Justin, the proclamation of 
equal and rigorous justice indirectly condemned the partiality of the former 
reigns. " Ye blues, Justinian is no more ! ye greens, he is still alive ! " 

A sedition, which almost laid Constantinople in ashes, was excited by the 
mutual hatred and momentary reconciliation of the two factions. In the 
fifth year of his reign, Justinian celebrated the festival of the ides of Janu- 
ary : the games were incessantly disturbed by the clamorous discontent of 
the greens ; till the twenty-second race, the emperor maintained his silent 
gravity ; at length yielding to his impatience, he condescended to hold, in 
abrupt sentences and by the voice of a crier, the most singular dialogue that 
ever passed between a prince and his subjects. 

The first complaints were respectful and modest ; they accused the sub- 
ordinate ministers of oppression, and proclaimed their wishes for the long 
life and victory of the emperor. " Be patient and attentive, ye insolent 
railers," exclaimed Justinian ; " be mute, ye Jews, Samaritans, and Mani- 
chaeans ! " The greens still attempt to awaken his compassion. " We are 
poor, we are innocent, we are injured, we dare not pass through the streets : 
a general persecution is exercised against our name and colour. Let us die, 
O emperor ! but let us die by your command, and for your service ! " But 
the repetition of partial and passionate invectives degraded, in their eyes, 
the majesty of the purple ; they renounced allegiance to the prince who 
refused justice to his people ; lamented that the father of Justinian had been 
born ; and branded his son with the opprobrious names of homicide, an ass, 
and a perjured tyrant. " Do you despise your lives ? " cried the indignant 
monarch. The blues rose with fury from their seats ; their hostile clamours 
thundered in the hippodrome ; and their adversaries, deserting the unequal 
contest, spread terror and despair through the streets of Constantinople. 

A military force, which had been despatched to the aid of the civil magis- 
trate, was fiercely encountered by an armed multitude, whose numbers and 
boldness continually increased ; and the Heruli, the wildest barbarians in 
the service of the empire, overturned the priests and their relics, which, from 
a pious motive, had been rashly interposed to separate the bloody conflict. 
The tumult was exasperated by this sacrilege ; the people fought with enthu- 
siasm in the cause of God ; the women from the roofs and windows showered 
stones on the heads of the soldiers, who darted firebrands against the houses ; 
and the various flames, which had been kindled by the hands of citizens and 
strangers, spread without control over the face of the city. The conflagra- 
tion involved the cathedral of St. Sophia, the baths of Zeuxippus, a part of 


[532 A.D.J 
the palace from the first entrance to the altar of Mars, and the long portico 
from the palace to the forum of Constantine ; a large hospital, with the sick 
patients, was consumed ; many churches and stately edifices were destroyed, 
and an immense treasure of gold and silver was either melted or lost. From 
such scenes of horror and distress, the wise and wealthy citizens escaped over 
the Bosporus to the Asiatic side ; and, during five days, Constantinople 
was abandoned to the factions, whose watchword, Niha (vanquish), has given 
a name to this memorable sedition. 

As long as the factions were divided, the triumphant blues and despond- 
ing greens appeared to behold with the same indifference the disorders of 
the state. They agreed to censure the corrupt management of justice and the 
finance ; and the two responsible ministers, the artful Tribonian and the ra- 
pacious Joannes of Cappadocia, were loudly arraigned as the authors of the 
public misery. The peaceful murmurs of the people would have been disre- 
garded; they were heard with respect when the city was in flames; the 
quzestor and the prefect were instantly removed, and their offices were filled 
by two senators of blameless integrity. After this popular concession, Jus- 
tinian proceeded to the hippodrome to confess his own errors, and to accept 
the repentance of his grateful subjects ; but they distrusted his assurances* 
though solemnly pronounced in the presence of the holy Gospels ; and the 
emperor, alarmed by their distrust, retreated with precipitation to the strong 
fortress of the palace. 

The obstinacy of the tumult was now imputed to a secret and ambitious 
conspiracy, and a suspicion was entertained that the insurgents, more espe- 
cially the green faction, had been supplied with arms and money by Hypatius. 
and Pompeius, two patricians, who could neither forget with honour nor re- 
member with safety, that they were the nephews of the emperor Anastasius. 
Capriciously trusted, disgraced, and pardoned by the jealous levity of the 
monarch, they had appeared as loyal servants before the throne ; and during 
five days of the tumult they were detained as important hostages; till at 
length, the fears of Justinian prevailing over his prudence, he viewed the 
two brothers in the light of spies, perhaps of assassins, and sternly com- 
manded them to depart from the palace. 

After a fruitless representation that obedience might lead to involuntary 
treason, they retired to their houses, and in the morning of the sixth day 
Hypatius was surrounded and seized by the people, who, regardless of his 
virtuous resistance and the tears of his wife, transported their favourite to 
the forum of Constantine, and, instead of a diadem, placed a rich collar on 
his head. If the usurper, who afterwards pleaded the merit of his delay, 
had complied with the advice of his senate and urged the fury of the multi- 
tude, their first irresistible effort might have oppressed or expelled his trem- 
bling competitor. The Byzantine palace enjoyed a free communication with 
the sea ; vessels lay ready at the garden stairs ; and a secret resolution was 
already formed to convey the emperor with his family and treasures to a 
safe retreat, at some distance from the capital. 

Justinian was lost, if the prostitute whom he raised from the theatre had 
not renounced the timidity as well as the virtues of her sex. In the midst 
of a council, where Belisarius was present, Theodora alone displayed the 
spirit of a hero; and she alone, without apprehending his future hatred, 
could save the emperor from the imminent danger and his unworthy fears. 
" If flight," said the consort of Justinian, " were the only means of safety, 
yet I should disdain to fly. Death is the condition of our birth ; but they 
who have reigned should never survive the loss of dignity and dominion. 


[532 A.D.] 

I implore heaven that I may never be seen, not a day, without my diadem and 
purple ; that I may no longer behold the light, when I cease to be saluted 
with the name of queen. If you resolve, O Caesar ! to fly, you have treas- 
ures ; behold the sea, you have ships ; but tremble lest the desire of life 
should expose you to wretched exile and ignominious death. For my own 
part, I adhere to the maxim of antiquity, that the throne is a glorious 

The firmness of a woman restored the courage to deliberate and act, and 
courage soon discovers the resources of the most desperate situation. It 
was an easy and a decisive measure to revive the animosity of the factions. 
The blues were astonished at their own guilt 
and folly, that a trifling injury should provoke 
them to conspire with their implacable ene- 
mies against a gracious and liberal benefactor ; 
they again proclaimed the majesty of Justinian, 
and the greens, with their upstart emperor, 
were left alone in the hippodrome. The fidel- 
ity of the guards was doubtful ; but the mili- 
tary force of Justinian consisted in three 
thousand veterans, who had been trained to 
valour and discipline in the Persian and Illyr- 
ian wars. 

Under the command of Belisarius and Mun- 
dus, they silently marched in two divisions from 
the palace, forced their obscure way through 
narrow passages, expiring flames, and falling 
edifices, and burst open at the same moment 
the two opposite gates of the hippodrome. 
In this narrow space, the disorderly and af- 
frighted crowd was incapable of resisting on 
either side a firm and regular attack ; the blues 
signalised the furyof their repentance ; andit 
is computed that above thirty thousand persons 
were slain in the merciless and promiscuous 
carnage of the day. 1 Hypatius was dragged 
from his throne, and conducted with his 
brother Pompeius to the feet of the em- 
peror; they implored his clemency; 
but their crime was manifest, their 
innocence uncertain, and Justinian 
had been too much terrified to for- 
give. The next morning the two 
nephews of Anastasius, with eighteen illustrious accomplices of patrician or 
consular rank were privately executed by the soldiers; their bodies were 
thrown into the sea, their palaces razed, and their fortunes confiscated. The 
hippodrome itself was condemned during several years to a mournful silence ; 
with the restoration of the games the same disorders revived, and the blue 
and green factions continued to afflict the reign of Justinian, and to disturb 
the tranquillity of the Eastern Empire, which still embraced the nations 
beyond the Adriatic and as far as the frontiers of Ethiopia and Persia. 

1 Marcellinus™ says in general terms : Innumeris populis in circo trucidatis. Procopius 
numbers 30,000 victims ; and the 35,000 of Theophanes are swelled to 40,000 by the more recent 
Zonaras. Such is the usual progress of exaggeration. 

A Byzantine Costume 


[527-565 a.d.] 


Justinian reigned over sixty-four provinces and 935 cities, his dominions 
were blessed by nature with the advantages of soil, situation, and climate ; 
and the improvements of human art had been perpetually diffused along the 
coast of the Mediterranean and the banks of the Nile, from ancient Troy to 
the Egyptian Thebes. Abraham had been relieved by the well-known plenty 
of Egypt ; the same country, a small and populous tract, was still capable of 
exporting each year 260,000 quarters of wheat for the use of Constantinople ; 
and the capital of Justinian was supplied with the manufactures of Sidon, 
fifteen centuries after they had been celebrated in the poems of Homer. 

The subjects of Justinian were dissatisfied with the times and with the 
government. Europe was overrun by the barbarians, and Asia by the monks ; 
the poverty of the West discouraged the trade and manufactures of the 
East ; the produce of labour was consumed by the unprofitable servants of 
the church, the state, and the army, and a rapid decrease was felt in the 
fixed and circulating capitals which constitute the national wealth. The 
public distress had been alleviated by the economy of Anastasius, and that 
prudent emperor accumulated an immense treasure, while he delivered his 
people from the most odious or oppressive taxes. His example was neg- 
lected, and his treasure was abused, by the nephew of Justin. The riches 
of Justinian were speedily exhausted by alms and buildings, by ambitious 
wars, and ignominious treaties. His revenues were found inadequate to his 

Every art was tried to extort from the people the gold and silver which 
he scattered with a lavish hand from Persia to France ; his reign was marked 
by the vicissitudes, or rather by the combat, of rapaciousness and avarice, 
of splendour and poverty ; he lived with the reputation of hidden treasures, 
and bequeathed to his successor the payment of his debts. Such a character 
has been justly accused by the voice of the people and of posterity ; but 
public discontent is credulous, private malice is bold ; and a lover of truth 
will peruse with a suspicious eye the instructive anecdotes of Procopius.e 
The secret historian represents only the vices of Justinian, and those vices 
are darkened by his malevolent pencil. Ambiguous actions are imputed to 
the worst motives, error is confounded with guilt, accident with design, and 
laws with abuses ; the partial injustice of a moment is dexterously applied 
as the general maxim of a reign of thirty-two years. The emperor alone is 
made responsible for the faults of his officers, the disorders of the times, and 
the corruption of his subjects ; and even the calamities of nature, plagues, 
earthquakes, and inundations, are imputed to the prince of the demons, who 
had mischievously assumed the form of Justinian. 

After this precaution, we shall briefly relate the anecdotes of avarice and 
rapine, under the following heads : (1) Justinian was so profuse that he 
could not be liberal. The civil and military officers, when they were admitted 
into the service of the palace, obtained a humble rank and a moderate stipend ; 
they ascended by seniority to a station of affluence and repose ; the annual 
pensions, of which the most honourable class was abolished by Justinian, 
amounted to four hundred thousand pounds ; and this domestic economy was 
deplored by the venal or indigent courtiers as the last outrage on the majesty 
of the empire. The posts, the salaries of physicians, and the nocturnal illumi- 
nations, were objects of more general concern ; and the cities might justly 
complain that he usurped the municipal revenues which had been appro- 
priated to these useful institutions. Even the soldiers were injured ; and 


t527-565 a.d.] 

such was the decay of military spirit that they were injured with impunity. 
The emperor refused, at the return of each fifth year, the customary donative 
of five pieces of gold, reduced his veterans to beg their bread, and suffered 
unpaid armies to melt away in the wars of Italy and Persia. 

(2) The humanity of his predecessors had always remitted, in some aus- 
picious circumstance of their reign, the arrears of public tribute ; and they 
dexterously assumed the merit of resigning those claims which it was imprac- 
ticable to enforce. " Justinian, in the space of thirty-two years, has never 
granted a similar indulgence ; and many of his subjects have renounced the 
possession of those lands whose value is insufficient to satisfy the demands of 
the treasury. To the cities which had suffered by hostile inroads, Anastasius 
promised a genei'al exemption of seven years; the provinces of Justinian 
have been ravaged by the Persians and Arabs, the Huns and Slavonians ; 
but his vain and ridiculous dispensation of a single year has been confined to 
those places which were actually taken by the enemy." Such is the language 
of the secret historian, who expressly denies that any indulgence was granted 
to Palestine after the revolt of the Samaritans ; a false and odious charge, 
confuted by the authentic record, which attests a relief of thirteen centenaries 
of gold (,£52,000 or $260,000) obtained for that desolate province by the 
intercession of St. Sabas. 

(3) Procopius has not condescended to explain the system of taxation, 
which fell like a hail-storm upon the land, like a devouring pestilence on its 
inhabitants ; but we should become the accomplices of his malignity, if we 
imputed to Justinian alone the ancient, though rigorous principle, that a whole 
district should be condemned to sustain the partial loss of the persons or prop- 
erty of individuals. The annona, or supply of corn for the use of the army 
and capital, was a grievous and arbitrary exaction, which exceeded, perhaps 
in a tenfold proportion, the ability of the farmer ; and his distress was aggra- 
vated by the partial injustice of weights and measures, and the expense and 
labour of distant carriage. In a time of scarcity, an extraordinary requisition 
was made to the adjacent provinces of Thrace, Bithynia, and Phrygia ; but 
the proprietors, after a wearisome journey and a perilous navigation, received 
so inadequate a compensation that they would have chosen the alternative of 
delivering both the corn and price at the doors of their granaries. These 
precautions might indicate a tender solicitude for the welfare of the capital ; 
yet Constantinople did not escape the rapacious despotism of Justinian. 
Till his reign, the straits of the Bosporus and Hellespont were open to the 
freedom of trade, and nothing was prohibited except the exportation of arms 
for the service of the barbarians. At each of these gates of the city a praetor 
was stationed, the minister of imperial avarice ; heavy customs were imposed 
on the vessels and their merchandise ; the oppression was retaliated on the 
helpless consumer ; the poor were afflicted by the artificial scarcity and 
exorbitant price of the market ; and a people, accustomed to depend on the 
liberality of their prince, might sometimes complain of the deficiency of water 
and bread. The aerial tribute, without a name, a law, or a definite object, 
was an annual gift of ,£120,000 or $600,000, which the emperor accepted from 
his praetorian prefect; and the means of payment were abandoned to the 
discretion of that powerful magistrate. , 

(4) Even such a tax was less intolerable than the privilege of monopo- 
lies, which checked the fair competition of industry, and, for the sake of a 
small and dishonest gain, imposed an arbitrary burden on the wants and 
luxury of the subject. "As soon," says Procopius,« "as the exclusive 
sale of silk was usurped by the imperial treasurer, a whole people, the 


[627-565 A.D.J 

manufacturers of Tyre and Berytus, was reduced to extreme misery, and 
either perished with hunger, or fled to the hostile dominions of Persia." A 
province might suffer by the decay of its manufactures ; but in this example 
Procopius has partially overlooked the inestimable benefit which the empire 
received from Justinian's introduction of silk-culture. His addition of one- 
seventh to the ordinary price of copper money may be interpreted with the 
same candour ; and the alteration, which might be wise, appears to have 
been innocent ; since he neither alloyed the purity nor enhanced the value 
of the gold coin, the legal measure of public and private payments. 

(5) The ample jurisdiction, required by the farmers of the revenue to ac- 
complish their engagements, might be placed in an odious light, as if they had 
purchased from the emperor the lives and fortunes of their fellow-citizens. 
And a more direct sale of honours and offices was transacted in the palace, 
with the permission, or at least with the connivance, of Justinian and Theo- 
dora. The claims of merit, even those of favour, were disregarded ; and it 
was almost reasonable to expect that the bold adventurer, who had under- 
taken the trade of a magistrate, should find a rich compensation for infamy, 
labour, danger, the debts which he had contracted, and the heavy interest 
which he paid. A sense of the disgrace and mischief of this venal practice 
at length awakened the slumbering virtue of Justinian ; and he attempted, 
by the sanction of oaths and penalties, to guard the integrity of his govern- 
ment : but at the end of a year of perjury, his rigorous edict was suspended, 
and corruption licentiously abused her triumph over the impotence of the 

(6) The testament of Eulalius, count of the domestics, declared the emperor 
his sole heir, on condition, however, that he should discharge his debts and 
legacies, allow to his three daughters a decent maintenance, and bestow each 
of them in marriage, with a portion of ten pounds of gold. But the splen- 
did fortune of Eulalius had been consumed by fire ; and the inventory of 
his goods did not exceed the trifling sum of 564 pieces of gold. A similar 
instance in Grecian history admonished the emperor of the honourable part 
prescribed for his imitation. He checked the selfish murmurs of the treas- 
ury, applauded the confidence of his friend, discharged the legacies and debts, 
educated the three virgins under the eye of the empress Theodora, and 
doubled the marriage portion which had satisfied the tenderness of their 
father. The humanity of a prince (for princes cannot be generous) is enti- 
tled to some praise ; yet even in this act of virtue we may discover the invet- 
erate custom of supplanting the legal or natural heirs, which Procopius 
imputes to the reign of Justinian. His charge is supported by eminent 
names and scandalous examples ; neither widows nor orphans were spared ; 
and the art of soliciting, or extorting, or supposing testaments, was benefi- 
cially practised by the agents of the palace. This base and mischievous 
tyranny invades the security of private life ; and the monarch who has in- 
dulged an appetite for gain, will soon be tempted to anticipate the moment 
of succession, to interpret wealth as an evidence of guilt, and to proceed 
from the claim of inheritance to the power of confiscation. 

(7) Among the forms of rapine, a philosopher may be permitted to name 
the conversion of pagan or heretical riches to the use of the faithful ; but in 
the time of Justinian this holy plunder Avas condemned by the sectaries alone, 
who became the victims of his orthodox avarice. 

Dishonour might be ultimately reflected on the character of Justinian ; 
but much of the guilt, and still more of the profit, was intercepted by the 
ministers, who were seldom promoted for their virtues, and not always 

From the dawn of light to 


[527-SG5 A.D.] 

selected for their talents. The merits of Tribonian the quaestor will here- 
after be weighed in the reformation of the Roman law ; but the economy of 
the ; East was subordinate to the praetorian prefect, and Procopius/ has justi- 
fied his anecdotes by the portrait which he exposes in his public history of 
the notorious vices of Joannes of Cappadocia. 

The corruption of his heart was equal to the vigour of his understanding. 
Although he was suspected of magic and pagan superstition, he appeared 
insensible to the fear of God or the reproaches of man ; and his aspiring 
fortune was raised on the death of thousands, the poverty of millions, the 
ruin of cities, and the desolation of provinces 
the moment of dinner he assidu- 
ously laboured to enrich his mas- 
ter and himself at the expense of 
the Roman world ; the remain- 
der of the day was spent in sen- 
sual and obscene pleasures, and 
the silent hours of the night 
were interrupted by the perpet- 
ual dread of the justice of an 
assassin. His abilities, perhaps 
his vices, recommended him to 
the lasting friendship of Justin- 
ian; the emperor yielded with 
reluctance to the fury of the 
people ; his victory was dis- 
played by the immediate restora- 
tion of their enemy; and they 
felt above ten years, under his 
oppressive administration, that 
he was stimulated by revenge, 
rather than instructed by misfortune. Their murmurs served only to fortify 
the resolution of Justinian ; but the prefect, in the insolence of favour, pro- 
voked the resentment of Theodora, disdained a power before which every 
knee was bent, and attempted to sow the seeds of discord between the em- 
peror and his beloved consort. 

Even Theodora herself was constrained to dissemble, to wait a favourable 
moment, and by an artful conspiracy, to render Joannes of Cappadocia the 
accomplice of his own destruction. At a time when Belisarius, unless he 
had been a hero, must have shown himself a rebel, his wife Antonina, who 
enjoyed the secret confidence of the empress, communicated his feigned 
discontent to Euphemia, the daughter of the prefect ; the credulous virgin 
imparted to her father the dangerous project, and Joannes, who might have 
known the value of oaths and promises, was tempted to accept a nocturnal, 
and almost treasonable, interview with the wife of Belisarius. An ambuscade 
of guards and eunuchs had been posted by the command of Theodora ; they 
rushed with drawn swords to seize or to punish the guilty minister; he 
was saved by the fidelity of his attendants ; but, instead of appealing to a 
gracious sovereign, who had privately warned him of his danger, he pusil- 
lanimously fled to the sanctuary of the church. 

The favourite of Justinian was sacrificed to conjugal tenderness or 
domestic tranquillity ; the conversion of a prefect into a priest extinguished 
his ambitious hopes, but the friendship of the emperor alleviated his dis- 
grace, and he retained, in the mild exile of Cyzicus, an ample portion of 

A Byzantine Goblet 


[527*565 A.D.) 

his riches. Such imperfect revenge could not satisfy the unrelenting hatred 
of Theodora ; the murder of his old enemy, the bishop of Cyzicus, afforded 
a decent pretence ; and Joannes of Cappadocia, whose actions had deserved a 
thousand deaths, was at last condemned for a crime of which he was inno- 
cent. A great minister, who had been invested with the honours of consul 
and patrician, was ignominiously scourged like the vilest of malefactors ; a 
tattered cloak was the sole remnant of his fortunes ; he was transported in 
a bark to the place of his banishment at Antinopolis in Upper Egypt, and the 
prefect of the East begged his bread through the cities which had trembled 
at his name. 

During an exile of seven years, his life was protected and threatened by 
the ingenious cruelty of Theodora; and when her death permitted the 
emperor to recall a servant whom he had abandoned with regret, the ambi- 
tion of Joannes of Cappadocia was reduced to the humble duties of the sacer- 
dotal profession. His successors convinced the subjects of Justinian that 
the arts of oppression might still be improved bj r experience and industry ; 
the frauds of a Syrian banker were introduced into the administration of the 
finances ; and the example of the prefect was diligently copied by the quaestor, 
the public and private treasurer, the governors of provinces, and the prin- 
cipal magistrates of the Eastern Empire. 

The edifices of Justinian were cemented with the blood and treasure of 
his people ; but those stately structures appeared to announce the prosperity 
of the empire, and actually displayed the skill of their architects. Both the 
theory and practice of the arts, which depend on mathematical science and 
mechanical power, were cultivated under the patronage of the emperors ; 
the fame of Archimedes was rivalled by Proclus and Anthemius; and if 
their miracles had been related b}' intelligent spectators, they might now 
enlarge the speculations instead of exciting the distrust of philosophers. 
A tradition has prevailed that the Roman fleet was reduced to ashes in the 
port of Syracuse by the burning-glasses of Archimedes ; and it is asserted 
that a similar expedient was employed by Proclus to destroy the Gothic 
vessels in the harbour of Constantinople, and to protect his benefactor 
Anastasius against the bold enterprise of Vitalian. A machine was fixed 
on the walls of the city, consisting of an hexagon mirror of polished brass, 
with many smaller and movable polygons to receive and reflect the rays 
of the meridian sun ; and a consuming flame was darted to the distance, 
perhaps, of two hundred feet. 

The truth of these two extraordinary facts is invalidated by the silence 
of the most authentic historians ; and the use of burning-glasses was never 
adopted in the attack or defence of places. Yet the admirable experiments 
of a French philosopher [Buffon] have demonstrated the possibility of such 
a mirror ; and, since it is possible, we are more disposed to attribute the art 
to the greatest mathematicians of antiquity, than to give the merit of the 
fiction to the idle fancy of a monk or a sophist. According to another 
story [told by John MalalasA], Proclus applied sulphur to the destruction of 
the Gothic fleet ; in a modern imagination, the name of sulphur is instantly 
connected with the suspicion of gunpowder, and that suspicion is propagated 
by the secret arts of hisdisciple Anthemius. 

The fame of Metrodorus the grammarian, and of Anthemius the mathe- 
matician and architect, reached the ears of the emperor Justinian, who invited 
them to Constantinople ; and while the one instructed the rising generation 
in the schools of eloquence, the other filled the capital and provinces with 
more lasting monuments of his art. In a trifling dispute, relative to the 


[532 A.D.] 

walls or windows of their contiguous houses, he had been vanquished by the 
eloquence of his neighbour Zeno ; but the orator was defeated in his turn 
by the master of mechanics, whose malicious, though harmless, stratagems 
are darkly represented by the ignorance of Agathias. In a lower room, 
Anthemius arranged several vessels or cauldrons of water, each of them cov- 
ered by the wide bottom of a leathern tube, 
which rose to a narrow top, and was arti- 
ficially conveyed among the joists and raf- 
ters of the adjacent building. A fire was 
kindled beneath the cauldron ; the steam 
of the boiling water ascended through the 
tubes ; the house was shaken by the efforts 
of imprisoned air, and its trembling inhab- 
itants might wonder that the city was un- 
conscious of the earthquake which they 
had felt. 

At another time the friends of Zeno, 
as they sat at table, were dazzled by the 
intolerable light which flashed in their eyes 
from the reflecting mirrors of Anthemius ; 
they were astonished by the noise which 
he produced from the collision of certain 
minute and sonorous particles ; and the 
orator declared in tragic style to the senate, 
that a mere mortal must yield to the power 
of an antagonist who shook the earth with 
the trident of Neptune, and imitated the 
thunder and lightning of Jove himself. 
The genius of Anthemius and his colleague 
Isidore the Milesian was excited and em- 
ployed by a prince whose taste for archi- 
tecture had degenerated into a mischievous 
and costly passion. His favourite archi- 
tects submitted their designs and difficul- 
ties to Justinian, and discreetly confessed 
how much their laborious meditations were 

surpassed by the intuitive knowledge or celestial inspiration of an emperor 
whose views were always directed to the benefit of his people, the glory of 
his reign, and the salvation of his soul. 

A Byzantine Noble 


The principal church, which was dedicated by the founder of Constanti- 
nople to St. Sophia, or the eternal Wisdom, had been twice destroyed by 
fire ; after the exile of John Chrysostom, and during the Nika of the blue 
and green factions. No sooner did the tumult subside than the Christian 
populace deplored their sacrilegious rashness ; but they might have rejoiced 
in the calamity, had they foreseen the glory of the new temple which, at the 
end of forty days, was strenuously undertaken by the piety of Justinian. 
The ruins were cleared away, a more spacious plan was described, and, 
as it required the consent of some proprietors of ground, they obtained 
the most exorbitant terms from the eager desires and timorous conscience o£ 


[532-538 A.D.] 

the monarch. Anthemius formed the design, and his genius directed the 
hands of ten thousand workmen, whose payment in pieces of fine silver was 
never delayed beyond the evening. The emperor himself, clad in a linen 
tunic, surveyed each day their rapid progress, and encouraged their diligence 
by his familiarity, his zeal, and his rewards. 

The new cathedral of St. Sophia was consecrated by the patriarch, five 
years, eleven months, and ten days from the first foundation ; and in the 
midst of the solemn festival, Justinian exclaimed with devout vanity, " Glory 
be to God, who hath thought me worthy to accomplish so great a work ; I 
have vanquished thee, O Solomon ! " But the pride of the Roman Solomon, 
before twenty years had elapsed, was humbled by an earthquake, which over- 
threw the eastern part of the dome. Its splendour was again restored by 
the perseverance of the same prince ; and, in the thirty-sixth year of his 
reign, Justinian celebrated the second dedication of a temple, which remains, 
after twelve centuries, a stately monument of his fame. The architecture 
of St. Sophia, which is now converted into the principal mosque, has been 
imitated by tbe Turkish sultans, and that venerable pile continues to excite 
the fond admiration of the Greeks, and the more rational curiosity of Euro- 
pean travellers. The eye of the spectator is disappointed by an irregular 
prospect of half domes and shelving roofs ; the western front, the principal 
approach, is destitute o'f simplicity and magnificence ; and the scale of 
dimensions has been much surpassed by several of the Latin cathedrals. 
But the architect, who first erected an aerial cupola, is entitled to the praise 
of bold design and skilful execution. 

The altar itself, a name which insensibly became familiar to Christian 
ears, was placed in the eastern recess, artificially built in the form of a demi- 
cylinder ; and this sanctuary communicated by several doors with the sacristy, 
the vestry, the baptistery, and the contiguous buildings, subservient either to 
the pomp of worship or the private use of the ecclesiastical ministers. The 
memory of past calamities inspired Justinian with a wise resolution, that no 
wood, except for the doors, should be admitted into the new edifice ; and 
the choice of the materials was applied to the strength, the lightness, or 
the splendour of the respective parts. The solid piles which sustained the 
cupola were composed of huge blocks of freestone, hewn into squares and 
triangles, fortified by circles of iron, and firmly cemented by the infusion of 
lead and quicklime ; but the weight of the cupola was diminished by the 
levity of its substance, which consists either of pumice-stone, that floats in 
the water, or of bricks from the isle of Rhodes, five times less ponderous than 
the ordinary sort. The whole frame of the edifice was constructed of brick ; 
but those base materials were concealed by a crust of marble ; and the inside 
of St. Sophia, the cupola, the two larger and the six smaller semi-domes, 
the walls, the hundred columns, and the pavement, delight even the eyes of 
barbarians with a rich and variegated picture. 

A poet, who beheld the primitive lustre of St. Sophia, enumerates the 
colours, the shades, and the spots of ten or twelve marbles, jaspers, and por- 
phyries, which nature had profusely diversified, and which were blended and 
contrasted as it were by a skilful painter. The triumph of Christ was 
adorned with the last spoils of paganism ; but the greater part of these 
costly stones was extracted from the quarries of Asia Minor, the isles and 
continent of Greece, Egypt, Africa, and Gaul. Eight columns of porphyry, 
which Aurelian had placed in the temple of the sun, were offered by the piety 
of a Roman matron ; eight others, of green marble, were presented by the 
ambitious zeal of the magistrates of Ephesus : both are admirable by their 


[538 A.D.] 

size, and beauty ; but every order of architecture disclaims their fantastic 

A variety of ornaments and figures was curiously expressed in mosaic ; 
and the images of Christ, of the Virgin, of saints, and of angels, which have 
been defaced by Turkish fanaticism, were dangerously exposed to the super- 
stition of the Greeks. According to the sanctity of each object the precious 
metals were distributed in thin leaves or in solid masses. The balustrade of 
the choir, the capitals of the pillars, the ornaments of the doors and galleries, 
were of gilt bronze ; the spectator was dazzled by the glittering aspect of the 
cupola ; the sanctuary contained forty thousand pounds' weight of silver ; 
and the holy vases and vestments of the altar were of the purest gold, en- 
riched with inestimable gems. Before the structure of the church had risen 
two cubits above the ground, 45,200 pounds were already consumed ; and 
the whole expense amounted to 320,000 pounds ; each reader, according to 
the measure of his belief, may estimate their value either in gold or silver ; 
but the sum of ,£1,000,000, or $5,000,000, is the result of the lowest compu- 
tation. A magnificent temple is a laudable monument of national taste and 
religion, and the enthusiast who entered the dome of St. Sophia might be 
tempted to suppose that it was the residence, or even the workmanship, of 
the Deity. Yet how dull is the artifice, how insignificant is the labour, if it 
be compared with the formation of the vilest insect that crawls upon the 
surface of the temple ! 


So minute a description of an edifice which time has respected may attest 
the truth and excuse the relation of the innumerable works, both in the capi- 
tal and provinces, which Justinian constructed on a smaller scale and less 
durable foundations. 1 In Constantinople alone, and the adjacent suburbs, 
he dedicated twenty-five churches to the honour of Christ, the Virgin, and 
the saints ; most of these churches were decorated with marble and gold ; 
and their various situation was skilfully chosen in a populous square, or a 
pleasant grove ; on the margin of the seashore, or on some lofty eminence 
which overlooked the continents of Europe and Asia. 

The Virgin of Jerusalem might exult in the temple erected by her im- 
perial votary on a most ungrateful spot, which afforded neither ground nor 
materials to the architect. A level was formed, by raising part of a deep 
valley to the height of the mountain. The stones of a neighbouring quarry 
were hewn into regular forms ; each block was fixed on a peculiar carriage, 
drawn by forty of the strongest' oxen, and the roads were Widened for the 
passage of such enormous weights. Lebanon furnished her loftiest cedars 
for the timbers of the church ; and the seasonable discovery of a vein of red 
marble supplied its beautiful columns, two of which, the supporters of the 
exterior portico, were esteemed the largest in the world. 

The pious munificence of the emperor was diffused over the Holy Land : 
and if reason should condemn the monasteries of both sexes which were built 
or restored by Justinian, yet charity must applaud the wells which he sank, 

1 The six books of the Edifices of Prooopmsy are thus distributed. The first is confined to 
Constantinople ; the secoritl includes Mesopotamia and Syria ; the third, Armenia and the Euxine ; 
the fourth, Europe ; the fifth, Asia Minor and Palestine ; the. sixth, Egypt and Atrica. Italy is 
forgotten by the emperor or the historian, who published this work of adulation before the date 
(55o a.i>.) of its final conquest, 
li. w. — vol. vn. a 


[527-5C5 A.D.7 

and the hospitals which lie founded, for the relief of the weary pilgrims. 
The schismatical temper of Egypt was ill entitled to the royal bounty ; but 
in Syria and Africa some remedies were applied to the disasters of wars and 
earthquakes, and both Carthage and Antioch, emerging from their ruins, 
might revere the name of their gracious benefactor. 

Almost every saint in the calendar acquired the honours of a temple ; 
almost every city of the empire obtained the solid advantages of bridges, 
hospitals, and aqueducts ; but the severe liberality of the monarch disdained 
to indulge his subjects in the popular luxury of baths and theatres. While 
Justinian laboured for the public service, he was not unmindful of -his own 
dignity and ease. The Byzantine palace, which had been damaged by the 
conflagration, was restored with new magnificence ; and some notion may be 
conceived of the whole edifice by the vestibule, or hall, which, from the 
doors perhaps, or the roof, was surnamed chaloe, or the brazen. The dome 
of a spacious quadrangle was supported by massy pillars ; the pavement and 
walls were encrusted with many-coloured marbles — the emerald green of 
Laconia, the fiery red and the white Phrygian stone, intersected with veins 
of a sea-green hue ; the mosaic paintings of the dome and sides represented 
the glories of the African and Italian triumphs. 

On the Asiatic shore of the Propontis, at a small distance to the east of 
Chalcedon, the costly palace and gardens of Herseum were prepared for the 
summer residence of Justinian, and more especially of Theodora. The poets 
of the age have celebrated the rare alliance of nature and art, the harmony 
of the nymphs of the groves, the fountains, and the waves ; yet the crowd of 
attendants who followed the court complained of their inconvenient lodgings, 
and the nymphs were too often alarmed by the famous Porphyrio, a whale of 
ten cubits in breadth and thirty in length, who was stranded at the mouth 
of the river Sangaris, after he had infested more than half a century the seas 
of Constantinople. 


The fortifications of Europe and Asia were multiplied by Justinian ; but 
the repetition of those timid and fruitless precautions exposes to a philosophic 
eye the debility of the empire. From Belgrade to the Euxine, from the con- 
flux of the Save to the mouth of the Danube, a chain of above fourscore 
fortified places was extended along the banks of the great river. Single 
watch-towers were changed into spacious citadels ; vacant walls, which the 
engineers contracted or enlarged according to the nature of the ground, were 
filled with colonies or garrisons ; a strong fortress defended the ruins of 
Trajan's bridge, and several military stations affected to spread beyond the 
Danube the pride of the Roman name. But that name was divested of its 
terrors ; the barbarians, in their annual inroads, passed and contemptuously 
repassed before these useless bulwarks ; and the inhabitants of the frontier, 
instead of reposing under the shadow of the general defence, were compelled 
to guard, with incessant vigilance, their separate habitations. 

The solitude of ancient cities was replenished ; the new foundations of 
Justinian acquired, perhaps too hastily, the epithets of impregnable and 
populous ; and the auspicious place of his own nativity attracted the grate- 
ful reverence of the vainest of princes. Under the name of Justiniana Prima 
the obscure village of Tauresium became the seat of an archbishop and a pre- 
fect, whose jurisdiction extended over seven warlike provinces of Illyricum, 
and the corrupt appellation of Griustendil, still indicates, about. twenty miles. 


[527-565 A.D.] 

to the south of Sophia, the residence of a Turkish sanjak. For the use of 
the emperor's countrymen, a cathedral, a palace, and an aqueduct were 
speedily constructed; the public and private edifices were adapted to the 
greatness of a royal city ; and the strength of the walls resisted, during 
the lifetime of Justinian, the unskilful assaults of the Huns and Slavonians. 
Their .progress was sometimes retarded, and their hopes of rapine were dis- 
appointed, by the innumerable castles which, in the provinces of Dacia, 
Epirus, Thessaly, Macedonia, and Thrace, appear to cover the whole face 
of the country. Six hundred of these forts were built or repaired by the 
emperor: but it seems reasonable to believe that the far greater part 
consisted only of a stone or brick tower, in the midst of a square or circular 
area, which was surrounded by a wall and ditch, and afforded in a moment 
of danger some protection to the peasants and cattle of the neighbouring 

Yet these military works, which exhausted the public treasure, could not 
remove the just apprehensions of Justinian and his European subjects. The 
warm baths of Anchialus in Thrace were rendered as safe as they were salu- 
tary; but the rich pastures of Thessalonica were foraged by the Scythian 
cavalry; the delicious vale of Tempe, three hundred miles from the Danube, 
was continually alarmed by the sound of war ; and no unfortified spot, how- 
ever distant or solitary, could securely enjoy the blessings of peace. The 
straits of Thermopylae, which seemed to protect, but which had so often 
betrayed, the safety of Greece, were diligently strengthened by the labours 
of Justinian. From the edge of the seashore, through the forest and valleys, 
and as far as the summit of the Thessalian Mountains, a strong wall was con- 
tinued, which occupied everjr practicable entrance. Instead of a hasty crowd 
of peasants, a garrison of two thousand soldiers was stationed along the ram- 
part ; granaries of corn and reservoirs of water were provided for their use ; 
and by a precaution that inspired the cowardice which it foresaw, convenient 
fortresses were erected for their retreat. The walls of Corinth, overthrown 
by an earthquake, and the mouldering bulwarks of Athens and Plataea, were 
carefully restored; the barbarians were discouraged by the prospect of 
successive and painful sieges ; and the naked cities of Peloponnesus were 
covered by the fortifications of the Isthmus of Corinth. 

At the extremity of Europe, another peninsula, the Thracian Chersone- 
sus, runs three days' journey into the sea, to form, with the adjacent shores 
of Asia, the straits of the Hellespont. The intervals between eleven popu- 
lous towns were filled by lofty woods, fair pastures, and arable lands ; and 
the isthmus, of thirty-seven stadia or furlongs, had been fortified by a Spar- 
tan general nine hundred years before the reign of Justinian. In an age of 
freedom and valour, the slightest rampart may prevent a surprise ; and Pro- 
copius appears insensible of the superiority of ancient times, while he praises 
the solid construction and double parapet of a wall whose long arms 
stretched on either side into the sea, but whose strength was deemed 
insufficient to guard the Chersonesus, if each city, and particularly Gal- 
lipoli and Sestos, had not been secured by their peculiar fortifications. 

The long wall, as it was emphatically styled, was a work as disgraceful 
in the object as it was respectable in the execution. The riches of a capital 
diffuse themselves over the neighbouring country, and the territory of Con- 
stantinople, a paradise of nature, was adorned with the luxurious gardens 
and villas of the senators and opulent citizens. But their wealth served 
only to attract the bold and rapacious barbarians; the noblest of the 
Romans,, in. the bosom of peaceful indolence, were led away into Scythiau 


[527-565 A.D.] 

captivity, and their sovereign might view, from his palace, the hostile flames 
-which were insolently spread to the gates of the imperial city. At the dis- 
tance only of forty miles, Anastasius was constrained to establish a last 
frontier ; his long wall, of sixty miles from the Propontis to the Euxine, 
proclaimed the impotence of his arms ; and as the danger became more 
imminent, new fortifications were added by the indefatigable prudence of 

Asia Minor, after the submission of the Isaurians, remained without ene- 
mies and without fortifications. Those bold savages, who had disdained to 
be the subjects of Gallienus, persisted 230 years in a life of independence 
and rapine. The most successful princes respected the strength of the 
mountains and the despair of the natives ; their fierce spirit was some- 
times soothed with gifts, and sometimes restrained by terror ; and a mili- 
tary count, with three legions, fixed his permanent and ignominious station 
in the heart of the Roman provinces. 

If we extend our view from the tropic to the mouth of the Tanais, we 
may observe on one hand the precautions of Justinian to curb the savages 
of Ethiopia, and on the other the long walls which he constructed in 
Crimea for the protection of his friendly Goths, a colony of three thousand 
shepherds and warriors. From that peninsula to Trebizond, the eastern 
curve of the Euxine was secured by forts, by alliance, or by religion ; and 
the possession of Lazica, the Colchos of ancient, the Mingrelia of modern 
geography, soon became the object of an important war. Trebizond, in after 
times the seat of a romantic empire, was indebted to the liberality of 
Justinian for a church, an aqueduct, and a castle, whose ditches are hewn 
in the solid rock. From that maritime city, a frontier line of five hundred 
miles may be drawn to the fortress of Cir cesium, the last Roman station on 
the Euphrates. 

Among the Roman cities beyond the Euphrates, we distinguish two 
recent foundations, which were named from Theodosius and the relics of 
the martyrs, and two capitals, Amida and Edessa, which are celebrated in 
the history of every age. Their strength was proportioned, by Justinian, 
to the danger of their situation. A ditch and palisade might be sufficient to 
resist the artless force of the cavalry of Scythia ; but more elaborate works 
were required to sustain a regular siege against the arms and treasures of the 
great king. His skilful engineers understood the methods of conducting 
deep mines, and of raising platforms to the level of the rampart ; he shook 
the strongest battlements with his military engines, and sometimes advanced 
to the assault with a line of movable turrets on the backs of elephants. In 
the great cities of the East the disadvantage of space, perhaps of position, 
was compensated by the zeal of the people, who seconded the garrison in the 
defence of their country and religion ; and the fabulous promise of the Son 
of God, that Edessa should never be taken, filled the citizens with valiant 
confidence and chilled the besiegers with doubt and dismay. 

The subordinate towns of Armenia and Mesopotamia were diligently 
strengthened, and the posts which appeared to have any command of ground 
or water were occupied by numerous forts, substantially built of stone or 
more hastily erected with the obvious materials of earth and brick. The eye 
of Justinian investigated every spot ; and his cruel precautions might attract 
the war into some lonely vale, whose peaceful natives, connected by trade 
and marriage, were ignorant of national discord and the quarrels of princes. 
Westward of the Euphrates, a sandy desert extends above six hundred miles 
to the Red Sea. Nature had interposed a vacant solitude between the 


[520-54* a.d.] 

ambition of two rival empires; the Arabians, till Mohammed arose, were 
formidable only as robbers, and in the proud security of peace the fortifi- 
cations of Syria were neglected on the most vulnerable side. 


Justinian suppressed the schools of Athens and the consulship of Rome,, 
which had given so many sages and heroes to mankind. Both these institu- 
tions had long since degenerated from their 
primitive glory ; yet some reproach may be 
justly inflicted on the avarice and jealousy of 
a prince by whose hands such venerable ruins 
were destroyed. 

The schools of Athens were protected by 
the wisest and most virtuous of the Roman 
princes. The library which Hadrian founded 
was placed in a portico, adorned with pictures, 
statues, and a roof of alabaster, and supported 
by one hundred columns of Phrygian marble. 
The public salaries were assigned by the gen- 
erous spirit of the Antonines; and each pro- 
fessor, of politics, of rhetoric, of the platonic, 
the peripatetic, the stoic, and the epicurean 
philosophy, received an annual stipend of 
ten thousand drachmae [more than J&300, or 
$1500]. After the death of Marcus these 
liberal donations, and the privileges attached 
to the thrones of science, were abolished and 
revived, diminished and enlarged ; but some 
vestige of royal bounty may be found under 
the successors of Constantine, and their arbi- 
trary choice of an unworthy candidate might 
tempt the philosophers of Athens to regret the 
days of independence and poverty. It is re- 
markable that the impartial favour of the 
Antonines was bestowed on the four adverse sects of philosophy, which 
they considered as equally useful, or at least as equally innocent. 

The Gothic arms were less fatal to the schools of Athens than the estab- 
lishment of a new religion, whose ministers superseded the exercise of reason, 
resolved every question by an article of faith, and condemned the infidel or 
sceptic to eternal flames. In many a volume of laborious controversy they 
exposed the weakness of the understanding and the corruption of the heart, 
insulted human nature in the sages of antiquity, and proscribed the spirit of 
philosophical inquiry, so repugnant to the doctrine or at least to the temper 
of an humble believer. The surviving sect of the platonists, whom Plato 
would have blushed to acknowledge, extra v-agantly mingled a sublime theory 
with the practice of superstition and magic ; and as they remained alone ia 
the midst of a Christian world, they indulged a secret rancour against the 
government of the church and the state, whose severity was still suspended 
over their heads. 

About a century after the reign of Julian, Proclus was permitted to teach, 
in the philosophic chair of the academy ; and such was his industry that he> 

Gothic Weapons and Helmet 


[527-565 A.D.] 
frequently, in the same day, pronounced five lessons and composed seven 
hundred lines. His sagacious mind explored the deepest questions of morals 
and metaphysics, and he ventured to urge eighteen arguments ; against the 
Christian doctrine of the creation of the world. But, in the intervals of 
study, he personally conversed with Pan, ^Esculapius, and Minerva, in whose 
mysteries he was secretly initiated, and whose prostrate statues he adored in 
the devout persuasion that the philosopher, who is a citizen of the universe, 
should be the priest of its various deities. An eclipse of the sun announced 
his approaching end ; and his life, with that of his scholar Isidore, com- 
piled by two of their most learned disciples, exhibits a deplorable picture of 
the second childhood of human reason. 

Yet the golden chain, as it was fondly styled, of the Platonic succession, 
continued forty-four years from the death of Proclus to the edict of Justinian, 
which imposed a perpetual silence on the schools of Athens, and excited the 
grief and indignation of the few remaining votaries of Grecian science and 
superstition. Seven friends and philosophers, Diogenes and Hermias, Eula- 
lius and Priscian, Damascius, Isidore, and Simplicius, who dissented from the 
religion of their sovereign, embraced the resolution of seeking in a foreign 
land the freedom which was denied in their native country. They had heard, 
and they credulously believed, that the republic of Plato was realised in the 
despotic government of Persia, and that a patriot king reigned over the hap- 
piest and most virtuous of nations. They were soon astonished by the 
natural discovery that Persia resembled the other countries of the globe; 
that Chosroes, who affected the name of a philosopher, was vain, cruel, and 
ambitious ; that bigotry and a spirit of intolerance prevailed among the Magi; 
that the nobles were haughty, the courtiers servile, and the magistrates un- 
just ; that the guilty sometimes escaped, and that the innocent were often 

The disappointment of the philosophers provoked them to overlook the 
real virtues of the Persians ; and they were scandalised, more deeply perhaps 
than became their profession, with the plurality of wives and concubines, 
the incestuous marriages, and the custom of exposing dead bodies to the dogs 
and vultures, instead of hiding them in the earth or consuming them with 
fire. Their repentance was expressed by a precipitate return, and they 
loudly declared that they had rather die on the borders of the empire, than 
enjoy the wealth and favour of the barbarian. From this journey, however, 
they derived a benefit which reflects the purest lustre on the character of 
Chosroes. He required that the seven sages, who had visited the court of 
Persia, should be exempted from the penal laws which Justinian enacted 
against his pagan subjects; and this privilege, expressly stipulated in a 
treaty of peace, was guarded by the vigilance of a powerful mediator. 1 

Simplicius and his companions ended their lives in peace and obscurity ; 
and as they left no disciples, they terminate the long list of Grecian philoso- 
phers, who may be justly praised, notwithstanding their defects, as the wisest 
and most virtuous of their contemporaries. The writings of Simplicius are 
now extant. His physical and metaphysical commentaries on Aristotle have 
passed away with the fashion of the times; but his moral interpretation 
of Epictetus is preserved in the library of nations as a classic book, 
most excellently adapted to direct the will, to purify the heart, and to con- 
firm the understanding, by a just confidence in the nature both of God and 

1 Agathias « relates this curious story. Chosroes ascended the throne in the year 531, and 
made his first peace with the Romans in the beginning of 533. 


X541 A.D.] 


About the same time that Pythagoras first invented the appellation of 
philosopher, liberty and the consulship were founded at Rome by the elder 
Brutus. The first magistrates of the republic had been chosen by the people 
to exercise, in the senate and in the camp, the powers of peace and war which 
were afterwards translated to the emperors. But the tradition of ancient 
dignity was long revered by the Romans and barbarians. The Gothic histo- 
rian Jordanes* applauds the consulship of Theodoric as the height of all 
temporal glory ; 1 the king of Italy himself congratulates those annual favour- 
ites of fortune, who without the cares enjoyed the splendour of the throne ; 
and at the end of a thousand years two consuls were created by the sovereigns 
of Rome and Constantinople, for the sole purpose of giving a date to the year 
and a festival to the people. But the expenses of this festival, in which the 
wealthy and the vain aspired to surpass their predecessors, insensibly arose 
to the enormous sum of £80,000 [1400,000] ; the wisest senators declined a 
useless honour, which involved the certain ruin of their families ; and to this 
reluctance we should impute the frequent chasms in the last age of the 
consular fasti. 

The predecessors of Justinian had assisted from the public treasures the 
dignity of the less opulent candidates ; the avarice of that prince preferred 
the cheaper and more convenient method of advice and regulation. Seven 
processions or spectacles was the number to which his edict confined the 
horse and chariot races, the athletic sports, the music and pantomimes of 
the theatre, and the hunting of wild beasts ; and small pieces of silver were 
discreetly substituted for the gold medals which had always excited tumult 
and drunkenness when they were scattered with a profuse hand among the pop- 
ulace. Notwithstanding these precautions and his own example, the succes- 
sion of consuls finally ceased in the thirteenth year of Justinian, whose despotic 
temper might be gratified by the silent extinction of a title which admonished 
the Romans of their ancient freedom. 


When Justinian ascended the throne, about fifty years after the fall of 
the Western Empire, the kingdoms of the Goths and Vandals had obtained 
a solid, and, as it might seem, a legal establishment, both in Europe and 
Africa. The titles which Rcjman victories had inscribed were erased with 
equal justice by the sword of the barbarians; and their successful rapine 
derived a more venerable sanction from time, from treaties, and from the 
oaths of fidelity, already repeated by a second or third generation of obedi- 
ent subjects. 

After Rome herself had been stripped of the imperial purple, the princes 
of Constantinople assumed the sole and sacred sceptre of the monarchy ; 
demanded, as their rightful inheritance, the provinces which had been sub- 
dued by the consuls or possessed by the Caesars ; and feebly aspired to 
deliver their faithful subjects of the West from the usurpation of heretics 
and barbarians. The execution of this splendid design was in some degree 
reserved for Justinian. During the first five years of his reign, he reluctantly 
waged a costly and unprofitable war against Persia ; till his pride submitted 

[ ] Theodoric himself, according to CassindorusJ claimed to model his policy on the Roman, 
and said to Anastasius, " Our kingdom is an imitation of yours."] 


[523-OS3 A.D.] 

to his ambition, and he purchased, at the price of £440,000 [$2,200,000], 
the benefit of a precarious truce which, in the language of both nations, was 
dignified with the appellation of " the endless peace." The safety of the East 
enabled the emperor to employ his forces against the Vandals ; and the 
internal state of Africa afforded an honourable motive and promised a power- 
ful support to the Roman arms. 

According to the testament of the founder, the African kingdom had 
lineally descended to Hilderic, the eldest of the Vandal princes. A mild 
disposition inclined the son of a tyrant, the grandson of a conqueror, to pre- 
fer the counsels of clemency and peace ; and his accession was marked by the 
salutary edict which restored two hundred bishops to their churches, and 
allowed the free profession of the Athanasian Creed. But the Catholics 
accepted, with cold and transient gratitude, a favour so inadequate to their 
pretensions, and the virtues of Hilderic offended the prejudices of his 
countrymen. The Arian clergy presumed to insinuate that he had renounced 
the faith, and the soldiers more loudly complained that he had degenerated 
from the courage of his ancestors. His ambassadors were suspected of a 
secret and disgraceful negotiation in the Byzantine court ; and his general, 
the Achilles, as he was named, of the Vandals, lost a battle against the naked 
and disorderly Moors. 

The public discontent was exasperated by Gelimer, whose age, descent, 
and military fame gave him an apparent title to the succession. He assumed, 
with the consent of the nation, the reins of government ; and his unfortunate 
sovereign sank without a struggle from the throne to a dungeon, where he 
was strictly guarded, with a faithful counsellor and his unpopular nephew, 
the Achilles of the Vandals. But the indulgence which Hilderic had shown 
to his Catholic subjects had powerfully recommended him to the favour of 
Justinian, who, for the benefit of his own sect, could acknowledge the use 
and justice of religious toleration ; their alliance, while the nephew of Jus- 
tin remained in a private station, was cemented by the mutual exchange of 
gifts and letters, and the emperor Justinian asserted the cause of royalty 
and friendship. 

In two successive embassies, he admonished the usurper to repent of his 
treason, or to abstain at least from any further violence, which might pro- 
voke the displeasure of God and of the Romans ; to reverence the laws of 
kindred and succession, and to suffer an infirm old man peaceably to end his 
days, either on the throne of Carthage or in the palace of Constantinople. 
The passions or even the prudence of Gelimer compelled him to reject these 
' requests, which were urged in the haughty tone of menace and command ; 
and he justified his ambition in a language rarely spoken in the Byzantine 
court, by alleging the right of a free people to remove or punish their chief 
magistrate, who had failed in execution of the kingly office. After this 
fruitless expostulation, the captive monarch was more rigorously treated, 
his nephew was deprived of his eyes, and the cruel Vandal, confident in his 
strength and distance, derided the vain threats and slow preparations of 
the emperor of the East. Justinian resolved to deliver or revenge his friend, 
Gelimer to maintain his usurpation ; and the war was preceded, according to 
the practice of civilised nations, by the most solemn protestations that each 
party was sincerely desirous of peace. 

The report of an African war was grateful only to the vain and idle 
populace of Constantinople, whose poverty exempted them from tribute and 
whose cowardice was seldom exposed to military service. But the wiser 
citizens, who judged of the future by the past, revolved in their memory the 


[530-533 A.D.] 

immense loss, both of men and money, which the empire had sustained in 
the expedition of Basiliscus. The troops, which after five laborious cam- 
paigns had been recalled from the Persian frontier, dreaded the sea, the 
climate, and the arms, of an unknown enemy. 

The forces of the Vandals were diminished by discord and suspicion ; 
the Roman armies were animated by the spirit of Belisarius, one of those 
heroic names which are familiar tp every age and to every nation. 


The Africanus of New Rome was born, and perhaps educated, among the 
Thracian peasants, 1 without any of those advantages which had formed the 
virtues of the elder and younger Scipio — a noble origin, liberal studies, and 
the emulation of a free state. The 
silence of a loquacious secretary may 
be admitted to prove that the youth 
of Belisarius could not afford any sub- 
ject of praise ; he served, most as- 
suredly with valour and reputation, 
among the private guards of Justinian ; 
and when his patron became emperor, 
the domestic was promoted to military 
command. After a bold inroad into 
Pers- Armenia, in which his glory was 
shared by a colleague and his progress 
was checked by an enemy, Belisarius 
repaired to the important station of 
Dara, where he first accepted the 
service of Procopius,/the faithful com- 
panion and diligent historian of his 

Peace relieved him from the guard 
of the eastern frontier, and his con- 
duct in the sedition of Constantinople 
amply discharged his obligations to 
the emperor. When the African war 
became the topic of popular discourse 
and secret deliberation, each of the 
Roman generals was apprehensive, 
rather than ambitious, of the dangerous 
honour ; but as soon as Justinian had 
declared his preference of superior 
merit, their envy was rekindled by the 

unanimous applause which was given to the choice of Belisarius. The tem- 
per of the Byzantine court may encourage a suspicion that the hero was 
darkly assisted by the intrigues of his wife, the fair and subtle Antonina, who 
alternately enjoyed the confidence and incurred the hatred of the empress 
Theodora. The birth of Antonina was ignoble ; she descended from a fam- 
ily of charioteers ; and her chastity has been stained with the foulest reproach. 

P Procopius/ says he was born in a district of Thrace called Germania. According to Von 
Hammer* his name is a Slavonic word, " Belitzar," meaning " white prince." Bury l also thinks 
it Slavonic, but translates it " white dawn."] 

A Vandal Chief 


[533 A.D.] 

Yet she reigned with long and absolute power over the mind of her illustrious 
husband ; and if Antonina disdained the merit of conjugal fidelity, she 
expressed a manly friendship to Belisarius, whom she accompanied with 
undaunted resolution in all the hardships and dangers of a military life. 

The preparations for the African war were not unworthy of the last contest 
between Rome and Carthage. The pride and flower of the army consisted 
of the guards of Belisarius, who, according to the pernicious indulgence of the 
times, devoted themselves by a particular oath of fidelity to the service of 
their patrons. Their strength and stature, for which they had been curi- 
ously selected, the goodness of their horses and armour, and the assiduous 
practice of all the exercises of war, enabled them to act whatever their cour- 
age might prompt ; and their courage was exalted by the social honour of 
their rank, and the personal ambition of favour and fortune. 

Five hundred transports, navigated by twenty thousand mariners of 
Egypt, Cilicia, and Ionia, were collected in the harbour of Constantinople. 
The smallest of these vessels may be computed at thirty, the largest at five 
hundred tons ; and the fair average will supply an allowance, liberal but not 
profuse, of about one hundred thousand tons, for the reception of thirty- 
five thousand soldiers and sailors, of five thousand horses, of arms, engines, 
and military stores, and of a sufficient stock of water and provisions for a 
voyage "perhaps of three months. The proud galleys, which in former ages 
swept the Mediterranean with so many hundred oars, had long since disap- 
peared ; and the fleet of Justinian was escorted only by ninety-two light 
brigantines, covered from the missile weapons of the enemy and rowed by 
two thousand of the brave and robust youth of Constantinople. Twenty- 
two generals are named, most of whom were afterwards distinguished in the 
wars of Africa and Italy ; but the supreme command, both by land and sea, 
was delegated to Belisarius alone, with a boundless power of acting according 
to his discretion, as if the emperor himself were present. The separation of 
the naval and military professions is at once the effect and the cause of the 
modern improvements in the science of navigation and maritime war. 

If Gelimer had been informed of the approach of the enemy, he must 
have delayed the conquest of Sardinia for the immediate defence of his 
person and kingdom. 

A detachment of 5000 soldiers and 120 galleys would have joined the 
remaining forces of the Vandals ; and the descendant of Genseric might have 
surprised and oppressed a fleet of deep-laden transports, incapable of action, 
and of light brigantines, that seemed only qualified for flight. Belisarius 
had secretly trembled when he overheard his soldiers, in the passage, embold- 
ening each other to confess their apprehensions ; if they were once on shore, 
they hoped to maintain the honour of their arms ; but if they should be 
attacked at sea, they did not blush to acknowledge that they wanted courage 
to contend at the same time with the winds, the waves, and the barbarians. 
The knowledge of their sentiments decided Belisarius to seize the first oppor- 
tunity of landing them on the coast of Africa, and he prudently rejected, in 
a council of war, the proposal of sailing with the fleet and army into the 
port of Carthage. 

Three months after their departure from Constantinople, the men and 
horses, the arms and military stores, were safely disembarked, and five soldiers 
were left as a guard on board each of the ships, which were disposed in the 
form of a semicircle. The remainder of the troops occupied a camp on 
the sea shore, which they fortified according to ancient discipline with a aitch 
and rampart ; and the discovery of a source of fresh water, while it allayed 


1533 A.D.] 

the thirst, excited the superstitious confidence, of the Romans. The next 
morning, some of the neighbouring gardens were pillaged ; and Belisarius, 
after chastising the offenders, embraced the slight occasion, but the decisive 
moment, of inculcating the maxims of justice,' moderation, and genuine 
policy. "When I first accepted the commission of subduing Africa, I 
depended much less," said the general, " on the numbers, or even the 
bravery, of my troops, than upon the friendly disposition of the natives 
and their immortal hatred to the Vandals. You alone can deprive me of 
this hope ; if you continue to extort by rapine what might be purchased for 
a little money, such acts of violence will reconcile these implacable enemies, 
and unite them in a just and holy league against the invaders of their 

These exhortations were enforced by a rigid discipline, of which the sol- 
diers themselves soon felt and praised the salutary effects. The inhabitants, 
instead of deserting their houses or hiding their corn, supplied the Romans 
with a fair and liberal market ; the civil officers of the province continued 
to exercise their functions in the name of Justinian; and the clergy, from 
motives of conscience and interest, assiduously laboured to promote the 
cause of a Catholic emperor. 

Belisarius advanced without opposition as far as Grasse, a palace of the 
Vandal kings, at the distance of fifty miles from Carthage. The near 
approach of the Romans to Carthage filled the mind of Gelimer with anx- 
iety and terror. He prudently wished to protract the war till his brother, 
with his veteran troops, should return from the conquest of Sardinia; and 
lie now lamented the rash policy of his ancestors, who, by destroying the 
fortifications of Africa, had left him only the dangerous resource of risk- 
ing a battle in the neighbourhood of his capital. The Vandal conquerors, 
from their original number of 50,000, were multiplied, without including 
their women and children, to 160,000 fighting men ; and such forces, ani- 
mated with valour and union, might have crushed at their first landing 
the feeble and exhausted bands of the Roman general. But the friends of the 
•captive king were more inclined to accept the invitations than to resist 
the progress of Belisarius ; and many a proud barbarian disguised his aver- 
sion to war under the more specious name of his hatred to the usurper. Yet 
the authority and promises of Gelimer collected a formidable army, and his 
plans were concerted with some degree of military skill. 

An order was despatched to his brother Ammatas, to collect all the 
forces of Carthage and to encounter the van of the Roman army at the dis- 
tance of ten miles from the city ; his nephew Gibamund, with two thousand 
horse, was destined to attack their left, when the monarch himself, who 
silently followed, should charge their rear, in a situation which excluded 
them from the aid or even the view of their fleet. But the rashness of 
Ammatas was fatal to himself and his country. He anticipated the hour of 
the attack, outstripped his tardy followers, and was pierced with a mortal 
wound, after he had slain with his own hand twelve of his boldest antago- 
nists. His Vandals fled to Carthage ; the highway, almost ten miles, was 
strewed with dead bodies; and it seemed incredible that such multitudes 
could be slaughtered by the swords of three hundred Romans. The nephew 
of Gelimer was defeated, after a slight combat, by the six hundred Massa- 
getse ; they did not equal the third part of his numbers, but each Scythian 
was fired by the example of his chief, who gloriously exercised the privilege 
of his family by riding foremost and alone to shoot the first arrow against 
the enemy. 



In the meanwhile. Gelimer himself, ignorant of the event and misguided 
by the windings of the hills, inadvertently passed the Roman army and 
reached the scene of action where Ammatas had fallen. He wept the fate 
of his brother and of Carthage, charged, with. irresistible fury the advancing 
squadrons, and might have pursued and perhaps decided the victory if he 
had not wasted those inestimable moments in the discharge of a vain though 
pious duty to the dead. 1 

While his spirit was broken by this mournful office, he heard the trumpet 
of Belisarius, who, leaving Antonina and his infantry in the camp, pressed 
forward with his guards and the remainder of the cavalry to rally his flying 
troops and to restore the fortune of the day. Much room could not be 
found in this disorderly battle for the talents of a general ; but the king fled 
before the hero; and the Vandals, accustomed only to a Moorish enemy, 
were incapable of withstanding the arms and discipline of the Romans. 2 
Gelimer retired with hasty steps towards the desert of Numidia ; but he had 
soon the consolation of learning that his private orders for the execution of 
Hilderic and his captive friends had been faithfully obeyed. The tyrant's 
revenge was useful only to his enemies. The death of a lawful prince excited 
the compassion of his people ; his life might have perplexed the victorious 
Romans ; and the lieutenant of Justinian, by a crime of which he was inno- 
cent, was relieved from the painful alternative of forfeiting his honour or 
relinquishing his conquests. 


Belisarius was soon satisfied that he might confide, without danger, in the 
peaceful and friendly aspect of the capital. Carthage blazed with innumer- 
able torches, the signals of the public joy; the chain was removed that 
guarded the entrance of the port ; the gates were thrown open, and the peo- 
ple, with acclamations of gratitude,- hailed and invited their Roman deliver- 
ers. The defeat of the Vandals and the freedom of Africa were announced 
to the city on the eve of St. Cyprian, when the churches were already adorned 
and illuminated for the festival of the martyr, whom three centuries of 
superstition had almost raised to a local deity. The Arians, conscious that 
their reign had expired, resigned the temple to the Catholics, who rescued 
their saint from profane hands, performed the holy rites, and loudly pro- 
claimed the creed of Athanasius and Justinian. One awful hour reversed 
the fortunes of the contending parties. 

The suppliant Vandals, who had so lately indulged the vices of conquer- 
ors, sought a humble refuge in the sanctuary of the church; while the 
merchants of the East were delivered from the deepest dungeon of the palace 
by their affrighted keeper, who implored the protection of his captives, and 
showed them, through an aperture in the wall, the sails of a Roman fleet. 
But the imperial fleet, advancing with a fair wind, steered through the nar- 
row entrance of the Goletta, and occupied, in the deep and capacious lake 

I 1 Bury' calls-this an " amiable imprudence." ] 

2 The army of Belisarius was chiefly composed of barbarian mercenaries, whom he had 
trained to Roman discipline and strategy. But the inferiority of the Vandals, whose ancestors 
had conquered hosts still better drilled, proceeded from the degeneracy which was already com- 
mencing, after a residence of only thirty years in Africa. Now that they had been for a 
century masters of the country, the cause, which was shown then to have enervated them, had 
operated with progressive effect, and reduced them to a state almost as helpless arid hopeless as 
that of the people whom they had subjugated. 


[S33-S34 A.D.] 

of Tunis, a secure station about five miles from the capital. No sooner was 
Belisarius informed of their arrival than he despatched orders that the great- 
est part of the mariners should be immediately landed to join the triumph 
and to swell the apparent numbers of the Romans. Before he allowed them 
to enter the gates of Carthage, he exhorted them, in a discourse worthy of 
himself and the occasion, not to disgrace the glory of their arms ; and to 
remember that the Vandals had been the tyrants, but that they were the 
deliverers of the Africans, who must now be respected as the voluntary and 
affectionate subjects of their common sovereign. 

The Romans marched through the streets in close ranks, prepared for 
battle if an enemy had appeared ; the strict order maintained by the general 
imprinted on their minds the duty of obedience ; and in an age in which 
custom and impunity almost sanctified the abuse of conquest, the genius of 
one man repressed the passions of a victorious army. The voice of menace 
and complaint was silent ; the trade of Car- 
thage was not interrupted ; while Africa 
changed her master and her government, 
the shops continued open and busy ; and the 
soldiers, after sufficient guards had been 
posted, modestly departed to the houses 
which were allotted for their reception. 
Belisarius fixed his residence in the palace. 
He seated himself on the throne of Gen- 
seric ; accepted and distributed the barbaric 
spoil; granted their lives to the suppliant 
Vandals ; and laboured to repair the dam- 
age which the suburb of Mandracium had 
sustained in the preceding night. 

The fortifications of Carthage had alone 
been exempted from the general proscription; 
but in the reign of ninety-five years they 
were suffered to deeay by the thoughtless 
and indolent Vandals. A wiser conqueror 
restored with incredible despatch the walls 
and ditches of the city. His liberality 
encouraged the workmen ; the soldiers, the 
mariners, and the citizens vied with each 

other in the salutary labour ; and Gelimer, who had feared to trust his 
person in an open town, beheld with astonishment and despair the rising 
strength of an impregnable fortress. 

That unfortunate monarch, after the loss of his capital, applied himself 
to collect the remains of an army scattered, rather than destroyed, by the 
preceding battle ; and the hopes of pillage attracted some Moorish bands to 
the standard of Gelimer. He encamped in the fields of Bulla, four days' 
journey from Carthage ; insulted the capital, which he deprived of the use 
of an aqueduct ; proposed a high reward for the head of every Roman ; 
affected to spare the persons and property of his African subjects, and 
secretly negotiated with the Arian sectaries and the confederate Huns. 

Under these circumstances, the conquest of Sardinia served only to aggra- 
vate his distress ; he reflected with the deepest anguish that he had wasted, in 
that useless enterprise, five thousand of his bravest troops ; and he read, with 
grief and shame, the victorious letters of his brother Zano, who expressed a 
sanguine confidence that the king, after the example of their ancestors, had 

Byzantink Oil Vase 


[534 A.D.J 

already chastised the rashness of the Roman invader. " Alas ! my brother," 
replied Gelimer, " heaven has declared against our unhappy nation. While 
you have subdued Sardinia, we have lost Africa. No sooner did Belisarius 
appear with a handful of soldiers, than courage and prosperity deserted the 
cause of the Vandals. Your nephew Gibamund, your brother Ammatas, 
have been betrayed to death by the cowardice of their followers. Our 
horses, our ships, Carthage itself, and all Africa, are in the power of the 
enemy. Yet the Vandals still prefer an ignominious repose, at the expense 
of their wives and children, their wealth and liberty. Nothing now remains 
except the field of Bulla and the hope of your valour. Abandon Sardinia ; 
fly to our relief ; restore our empire, or perish by our side." On the receipt 
of this epistle, Zano imparted his grief to the principal Vandals ; but the 
intelligence was prudently concealed from the natives of the island. 

The troops embarked in 120 galleys at the port of Cagliari, cast anchor 
the third day on the confines of Mauretania, and hastily pursued their march 
to join the royal standard in the camp of Bulla. Mournful was the interview. 
The two brothers embraced, they wept in silence ; no questions were asked 
of the Sardinian victory, no inquiries were made of the African misfortunes ; 
they saw before their eyes the whole extent of their calamities, and the 
absence of their wives and children afforded a melancholy proof that either 
death or captivity had been their lot. 

The languid spirit of the Vandals was at length awakened and united by 
the entreaties of their king, the example of Zano, and the instant danger 
which threatened their monarchy and religion. The military strength of 
the nation advanced to battle ; and such was the rapid increase that, before 
their army reached Tricameron, about twenty miles from Carthage, they 
might boast, perhaps with some exaggeration, that they surpassed in a ten- 
fold proportion the diminutive powers of the Romans. But these powers 
were under the command of Belisarius ; and as he was conscious of their 
superior merit, he permitted the barbarians to surprise him at an unseason- 
able hour. The Romans were instantly under arms. A rivulet covered their 
front ; the cavalry formed the first line, which Belisarius supported in the 
centre, at the head of five hundred guards ; the infantry, at some distance, 
was posted in the second line ; and the vigilance of the general watched the 
separate station and ambiguous faith of the Massagetse, who secretly reserved 
their aid for the conquerors. 

Zano, with the troops which had followed him to the conquest of Sardinia, 
was placed in the centre ; and the throne of Genseric might have stood, if 
the multitude of Vandals had imitated their intrepid resolution. Casting 
away their lances and missile weapons, they drew their swords, and expected 
the charge. The Roman cavalry thrice passed the rivulet, they were thrice 
repulsed ; and the conflict was firmly maintained till Zano fell, and the stand- 
ard of Belisarius was displayed. Gelimer retreated to his camp ; the Huns 
joined the pursuit, and the victors despoiled the bodies of the slain. Yet no 
more than fifty Romans and eight hundred Vandals were found on the field 
of battle ; so inconsiderable was the carnage of a day which extinguished 
a nation and transferred the empire of Africa. 

In the evening Belisarius led his infantry to the attack of the camp ;. 
and the pusillanimous flight of Gelimer exposed the vanity of his recent 
declarations that to the vanquished death was a relief, life a burden, and 
infamy the only object of terror. His departure was secret ; but as soon as 
the Vandals discovered that their king had deserted them, they hastily dis- 
persed,, anxious only for their personal* safety and: careless. j.of every. object: 


[534 A.D.] 

that is dear or valuable to mankind. The Romans entered the camp 
without resistance, and the wildest scenes of disorder were veiled in the 
darkness and confusion of the night. Every barbarian who met their 
swords was inhumanly massacred ; their widows and daughters, as rich heirs 
or beautiful concubines, were embraced by the licentious soldiers ; and avarice 
itself was almost satiated with the treasures of gold and silver, the accumu- 
lated fruits of conquests or economy in a long period of prosperity and peace. 
In this frantic search the troops, even of Belisarius, forgot their caution and 
respect. Intoxicated with lust and rapine, they explored in small parties, or 
alone, the adjacent fields, the woods, the rocks, and the caverns, that might 
possibly conceal any desirable prize ; laden with booty, they deserted their 
ranks, and wandered, without a guide, on the high-road to Carthage; and if 
the flying enemies had dared to return, very few of the conquerors would 
have escaped. 

Deeply sensible of the disgrace and danger, Belisarius passed an appre- 
hensive night on the field of victory; at the dawn of day he planted his 
standard on a hill, recalled his guards and veterans, and gradually restored 
the modesty and obedience of the camp. It was equally the concern of the 
Roman general to subdue the hostile and to save the prostrate barbarian ; 
and the suppliant Vandals, who could be found only in churches, were pro- 
tected by his authority, disarmed, and separately confined, that they might 
neither disturb the public peace nor become the victims of popular revenge. 
After despatching a light detachment to tread the footsteps of Gelimer, he 
advanced with his whole army about ten days' march, as far as Hippo Regius, 
which no longer possessed the relics of St. Augustine. The season, and the 
certain intelligence that the Vandal had fled to the inaccessible country of 
the Moors, determined Belisarius to relinquish the vain pursuit and to fix 
his winter quarters at Carthage. From thence he despatched his principal 
lieutenant to inform the emperor that, in the space of three months, he had 
achieved the conquest of Africa. 

Belisarius spoke the language of truth. The surviving Vandals yielded, 
without resistance, their arms and their freedom ; the neighbourhood of Car- 
thage submitted to his presence, and the more distant provinces were suc- 
cessively subdued by the report of his victory. Tripolis was confirmed in 
her voluntary allegiance ; Sardinia and Corsica surrendered to an officer 
who carried, instead of a sword, the head of the valiant Zano ; and the isles 
of Majorca, Minorca, and Yvica consented to remain a humble appendage 
of the African kingdom. Ctesarea, a royal city, which in looser geography 
may be confounded with the modern Algiers, was situate thirty days' march 
to the westward of Carthage ; by land, the road was infested by the Moors : 
but the sea was open, and the Romans were now masters of the sea. 

An active and discreet tribune sailed as far as the straits, where he occu- 
pied Septem or Ceuta, which rises opposite to Gibraltar on the African coast; 
that remote place was afterwards adorned and fortified by Justinian ; and he 
seems to have indulged the vain ambition of extending his empire to the 
columns of Hercules. He received the messengers of victory at the time 
when he was preparing to publish the pandects of the Roman law : and the 
devout or jealous emperor celebrated the divine goodness, and confessed, in 
silence, the merit of his successful general. Impatient to abolish the tem- 
poral and spiritual tyranny of the Vandals, he proceeded without delay to the 
full establishment of the Catholic church. Her jurisdiction, wealth, and im- 
munities, perhaps the most essential part of episcopal religion, were restored 
and amplified with a liberal hand;, the Ari#n worship was suppressed; the 


[534 A.D.] 

Donatist meetings were proscribed, and the synod of Carthage, by the voice 
of 217 bishops, applauded the just measure of pious retaliation. 

On such an occasion, it may not be presumed that many orthodox prel- 
ates were absent ; but the comparative smallness of their number, which in 
ancient councils had been twice or even thrice multiplied, most clearly indi- 
cates the decay both of the church and state. While Justinian approved 
himself the defender of the faith, he entertained an ambitious hope that his 
victorious lieutenant would speedily enlarge the narrow limits of his dominion 
to the space which they occupied before the invasion of the Moors and Van- 
dals ; and Belisarius was instructed to establish five dukes or commanders in 
the convenient stations of Tripolis, Leptis, Cirta, Csesarea, and Sardinia, and 
to compute the military force of palatines or borderers that might be sufficient 
for the defence of Africa. The kingdom of the Vandals was not unworthy 
of the presence of a praetorian prefect ; and four consulars, three presidents, 
were appointed to administer the seven provinces under his civil jurisdiction. 
After the departure of Belisarius, who acted by a high and special commis- 
sion, no ordinary provision was made for a master-general of the forces ; but 
the office of prsetorian prefect was entrusted to a soldier ; the civil and mili- 
tary powers were united, according to the practice of Justinian, in the chief 
governor ; and the representative of the emperor in Africa, as well as in 
Italy, was soon distinguished by the appellation of exarch. 


Yet the conquest of Africa was imperfect till her former sovereign was 
delivered, either alive or dead, into the hands of the Romans. Doubtful of 
the event, Gelimer had given secret orders that a part of his treasure should 
be transported to Spain, where he hoped to find a secure refuge at the court 
of the king of the Visigoths. But these intentions were disappointed by 
accident, treachery, and the indefatigable pursuit of his enemies ; when the 
royal captive accosted his conqueror, he burst into a fit of laughter. The 
crowd might naturally believe that extreme grief had deprived Gelimer of 
his senses ; but in this mournful state, unseasonable mirth insinuated to more 
intelligent observers that the vain and transitory scenes of human greatness 
are unworthy of a serious thought. 

Their contempt was soon justified by a new example of a vulgar truth — 
that flattery adheres to power, and envy to superior merit. The chiefs of 
the Roman army presumed to think themselves the rivals of a hero. Their 
private despatches maliciously affirmed that the conqueror of Africa, strong 
in his reputation and the public love, conspired to seat himself on the throne 
of the Vandals. Justinian listened with too patient an ear ; and his silence 
was the result of jealousy rather than of confidence. An honourable alter- 
native, of remaining in the province or of returning to the capital, was 
indeed submitted to the discretion of Belisarius ; but he wisely concluded, 
from intercepted letters and the knowledge of his sovereign's temper, that 
he must either resign his head, erect his standard, or confound his enemies 
by his presence and submission. Innocence and courage decided his choice; 
his guards, captives, and treasures were diligently embarked, and so pros- 
perous was the navigation that his arrival at Constantinople preceded any 
certain account of his departure from the port of Carthage. Such unsus- 
pecting loyalty removed the apprehensions of Justinian ; envy was silenced 
and inflamed by the public gratitude; and the third Africanus obtained the 


[534-635 A.D.] 

honours of a triumph, a ceremony which the city of Constantine had never 
seen and which ancient Rome, since the reign of Tiberius, had reserved for 
the auspicious arms of the Caesars. 

The glorious procession entered the gate of the Hippodrome, was saluted 
by the acclamations of the senate and people, and halted before the throne 
where Justinian and Theodora were seated to receive the homage of the 
captive monarch and the victorious hero. They both performed the cus- 
tomary adoration ; and, falling prostrate on the ground, respectfully touched 
the footstool of a prince who had not unsheathed his sword and of a prosti- 
tute who had danced on the theatre ; some gentle violence was used to bend 
the stubborn spirit of the grandson of Genseric, and, however trained to 
servitude, the genius of Belisarius must have secretly rebelled. He was 
immediately declared consul for the ensuing year, and the day of his 
inauguration resembled the pomp of a second triumph; his curule chair 
was borne aloft on the shoulders of captive Vandals ; and the spoils of war, 
gold cups, and rich girdles, were profusely scattered among the populace. 1 

But the purest reward of Belisarius was in the faithful execution of a 
treaty for which his honour had been pledged to the king of the Vandals. 
The religious scruples of Gelimer, who adhered to the Arian heresy, were 

Byzantine Silver Cup 

incompatible with the dignity of senator or patrician ; but he received from 
the emperor an ample estate in the province of Galatia, where the abdicated 
monarch retired with his family and friends, to a life of peace, of affluence, 
and perhaps of content. The daughters of Hilderic were entertained with 
the respectful tenderness due to their age and misfortune ; and Justinian 
and Theodora accepted the honour of educating and enriching the female 
descendants of the great Theodosius. 

The bravest of the Vandal youth were distributed into five squadrons of 
cavalry, which adopted the name of their benefactor and supported in the 
Persian wars the glory of their ancestors. But these rare exceptions, the 
reward of birth or valour, are insufficient to explain the fate of a nation 
whose numbers, before a short and bloodless war, amounted to more than 
six hundred thousand persons. After the exile of their king and nobles, 

f 1 "When he beheld the splendour of the imperial court," Bury' says of Gelimer, "he 
merely said 'Vanity of vanities, all is vanity,' a remark which, as Ranke™ notices, had a sort 
of historical signification. For along with Gelimer, Belisarius brought to Constantinople those 
vessels of gold, of which Gaiseric (or Genseric) had robbed Rome, and of which Titus had 
■despoiled Jerusalem. They were part of the riches of the king to whom the words ' Vanity of 
vanities' are traditionally attributed.." Ab Gibbon states, the vessels were later returned to 
the Christian church of Jerusalem.] 

a. w. — VOL. VII. H 


" ' ' [439-534 A.D.J 

the servile crowd might purchase their safety by abjuring their character, 
religion, and language ; and their degenerate posterity would be insensibly 
mingled'With the common herd of African subjects. Yet even in the 
present age, and in the heart of the Moorish tribes, a curious traveller has 
discovered the white complexion and long flaxen hair of a northern race ; 
and it was formerly believed that the boldest of the Vandals fled beyond 
the power, or even the knowledge, of the Romans, to enjoy their solitary 
freedom on the shores of the Atlantic ocean. Africa had been their empire, 
it became their prison ; nor could they entertain a hope, or even a wish, of 
returning to the banks of the Elbe, where their brethren, of a spirit less, 
adventurous, still wandered in their native forests. 

It was impossible for cowards to surmount the barriers of unknown seas 
and hostile barbarians; it was impossible for brave men to expose their 
nakedness and defeat before the eyes of their countrymen, to describe the 
kingdoms which they had lost, and to claim a share of the humble inherit- 
ance, which, in a happier hour, they had almost unanimously renounced. 
In the country between the Elbe and the Oder, several populous villages of 
Lusatia are inhabited by the Vandals: they still preserve their language, 
their customs, and the purity of their blood; support, with some impa- 
tience, the Saxon or Prussian yoke ; and serve with secret and voluntary 
allegiance the descendant of their ancient kings, who in his garb and 
present fortune is confounded with the meanest of his vassals. The name 
and situation of this unhappy people might indicate their descent from one 
common stock with the conquerors of Africa. But the use of a Slavonian 
dialect more clearly represents them as the last remnant of the new colonies, 
who succeeded to the genuine Vandals, already scattered or destroyed in 
the age of Procopius. 


If Belisarius had been tempted to hesitate in his allegiance, he might 
have urged, even against the emperor himself, the indispensable duty of 
saving Africa from an enemy more barbarous than the Vandals. The origin 
of the Moors is involved in darkness ; they were ignorant of the use of 
letters. Their limits cannot be precisely defined : a boundless continent 
was open to the Libyan shepherds ; the change of seasons and pastures regu- 
lated their motions ; and their rude huts and slender furniture were trans- 
ported with the same ease as their arms, their families, and their cattle,, 
which consisted of sheep, oxen, and camels. During the vigour of the 
Roman power, they observed a respectful distance from Carthage and the 
sea shore ; under the feeble reign of the Vandals, they invaded the cities 
of Numidia, occupied the sea coast from Tingis (Tangier) to Csesarea, and 
pitched their camps, with impunity, in the fertile province of Byzacium. 

The formidable strength and artful conduct of Belisarius secured the 
neutrality of the Moorish princes, whose vanity aspired to receive, in the 
emperor's name, the ensigns of their regal dignity. They were astonished 
by the rapid event, and trembled in the presence of their conqueror. But 
his approaching departure soon relieved the apprehensions of a savage and 
superstitious people ; the number of their wives allowed them to disregard 
the safety of their infant hostages ; and when the Roman general hoisted 
sail in the port of Carthage, he heard the cries, arid almost beheld the flames, 
of the desolated province. Yet he persisted in his resolution ; and leaving 


[534-635 aj>.] 

only a part of his guards to reinforce the feeble garrisons, he entrusted 
the command of Africa to the eunuch Solomon, who proved himself not un- 
worthy to be the successor of Belisarius. 

In the first invasion, some detachments, with two officers of merit, were 
surprised and intercepted ; but Solomon speedily assembled his troops, 
marched from Carthage into the heart of the country, and in two great 
battles destroyed sixty thousand of the barbarians. The Moors depended 
on their multitude, their swiftness, and their inaccessible mountains ; and the 
aspect and smell of their camels are said to have produced some confusion 
in the Roman cavalry. But as soon as they were commanded to dismount, 
they derided this contemptible obstacle ; as soon as the columns ascended 
the hills, the naked and disorderly crowd was dazzled by glittering arms 
and regular evolutions ; and the menace of their female prophets was re- 
peatedly fulfilled, that the Moors should be discomfited by a beardless antag- 
onist. The victorious eunuch advanced thirteen days' journey from Carthage, 
to besiege Mount Aurasius, the citadel and at the same time the garden of 
Numidia. That range of hills, a branch of the great Atlas, contains, within 
a circumference of 120 miles, a rare variety of soil and climate ; the inter- 
mediate valleys and elevated plains abound with rich pastures, perpetual 
streams, and fruits of a delicious taste and uncommon magnitude. This fair 
solitude is decorated with the ruins of Lambesa, a Roman city, once the seat 
of a legion, and the residence of forty thousand inhabitants. 

The Ionic temple of iEsculapius is encompassed with Moorish huts ; and 
the cattle now graze in the midst of an amphitheatre, under the shade of 
Corinthian columns. A sharp perpendicular rock rises above the level of 
the mountain, where the African princes deposited their wives and treasure ; 
and a proverb is familiar to the Arabs, that the man may eat fire who dares 
to attack the craggy cliffs and inhospitable natives of Mount Aurasius. This 
hardy enterprise was twice attempted by the eunuch Solomon. From the 
first, he retreated with some disgrace ; and in the second, his patience and 
provisions were almost exhausted; and he must again have retired, if he 
had not yielded to the impetuous courage of his troops, who audaciously 
scaled, to the astonishment of the Moors, the mountain, the hostile camp, 
and the summit of the Geminian rock. A citadel was erected to secure this 
important conquest, and to remind the barbarians of their defeat ; and as 
Solomon pursued his march to the west, the long-lost province of Maure- 
tanian Sitifi was again annexed to the Roman Empire. The Moorish War 
continued several years after the departure of Belisarius ; but the laurels 
which he resigned to a faithful lieutenant may be justly ascribed to his own 

The experience of past faults, which may sometimes correct the mature 
age of an individual, is seldom profitable to the successive generations of 
mankind. The nations of antiquity, careless of each other's safety, were 
separately vanquished and enslaved by the Romans. This awful lesson 
might have instructed the barbarians of the West to oppose, with timely 
counsels and confederate arms, the unbounded ambition of Justinian. Yet 
the same error was repeated, the same consequences were felt ; and the Goths 
both of Italy and Spain, insensible of their approaching danger, beheld with 
indifference, and even with joy, the rapid downfall of the Vandals. 

After the failure of the royal line, Theudes, a valiant and powerful chief, 
ascended, in 531, the throne of Spain, which he had formerly administered in 
the name of Theodoric and his infant grandson. Under his command the 
Visigoths besieged the fortress of Ceuta on the African coast ; but while they 


[535-625 A.D.] 

spent the sabbath day in peace and devotion, the pious security of their 
camp, was invaded by a sally from the town ; and the king himself, with 
some difficulty and danger, escaped from the hands of a sacrilegious enemy. 
It was not long before his pride and resentment were gratified by a suppliant 
embassy from the unfortunate Gelimer, who implored in his distress the aid 
of the Spanish monarch. But, instead of sacrificing these unworthy passions 
to the dictates of generosity and prudence, Theudes amused the ambassadors, 
till he was secretly informed of the loss of Carthage, and then dismissed 
them with obscure and contemptuous advice, to seek in their native country 
a true knowledge of the state of the Vandals. 

The long continuance of the Italian War delayed the punishment of the 
Visigoths ; and the eyes of Theudes were closed before they tasted the fruits 
of -his mistaken policy. After his death, the sceptre of Spain was disputed 
by a civil war. The weaker candidate solicited the protection of Justin- 
ian ; and ambitiously subscribed a treaty of alliance, which deeply wounded 
the independence and happiness of his country. Several cities, both on the 
ocean and the Mediterranean, were ceded to the Roman troops, who after- 
wards refused to evacuate those pledges, as it should seem, either of safety 
or payment ; and as they were fortified by perpetual supplies from Africa, 
they maintained their impregnable stations, for the mischievous purpose of 
inflaming the civil and religious factions of the barbarians. Seventy years 
elapsed before this painful thorn could be extirpated from the bosom of the 
monarchy ; and as long as the emperors retained any share of these remote 
and useless possessions, their vanity might number Spain in the list of their 
provinces, and the successors of Alaric in the rank of their vassals. * 


During the time Justinian's generals were changing the state of Europe 
and destroying some of the nations which had dismembered the Western 
Empire, circumstances beyond the control of that international system of 
policy, of which the sovereigns of Constantinople and Persia were the arbi- 
ters, produced a general movement in the population x>£ central Asia. The 
whole human race was thrown into a state of convulsive agitation, from the 
frontiers of China to the shores of the Atlantic. This agitation destroyed 
many of the existing governments, and exterminated several powerful 
nations ; while, at the same time, it laid the foundation of the power of new 
states and nations, some of which have maintained their existence to the 
present times. 

The Eastern Empire bore no inconsiderable part in raising this mighty 
storm in the West and in quelling its violence in the East, in exterminat- 
ing the Goths and Vandals, and in arresting the progress of the Avars and 
Turks. Yet the number and composition of the Roman armies have often 
been treated by historians as weak and contemptible. It is impossible, in 
this sketch, to attempt any examination of the whole military establish- 
ment of the Roman Empire during Justinian's reign ; but in noticing the 
influence exercised by the military system on the Greek population, it is 
necessary to make a few general observations. The army consisted of two 
distinct classes — the regular troops, and the mercenaries. The regular 
troops were composed both of native subjects of the Roman Empire, raised 
by conscription, and of barbarians, who had been allowed to occupy lands 
within the emperor's dominions and to retain their own usages on the 


[527-565 a.d.] 

condition of furnishing a fixed number of recruits for the army. The Roman 
government still clung to the great law of the empire, that the portion of 
its subjects which paid the land tax could not be allowed to escape that bur- 
den by entering the army. The proprietors of the land were responsible 
for the tribute; the cultivators of the soil, both slaves and serfs, secured 
the amount of the public revenues ; neither could be permitted to forego 
their fiscal obligations for their military duties. 

For some centuries it had been more economical to purchase the service 
of the barbarians than to employ native troops ; and perhaps, if the oppres- 
sive system of the imperial administration had not impaired the resources of 
the state and diminished the population by consuming the capital of the 
people, this might have long continued to be the case. Native troops were 
always drawn from the mountainous districts, which paid a scanty tribute, 
and in which the population found difficulty in procuring subsistence. The 
invasions of tne barbarians, likewise, threw numbers of the peasantry of the 
provinces to the south of the Danube out of employment, and many of these 
entered the army. A supply of recruits was likewise obtained from the idle 
and needy population of the towns. The most active and intelligent soldiers 
were placed in the cavalry — a force that was drilled with the greatest care, 
subjected to the most exact discipline, and sustained the glory of the Roman 
arms in the field of battle. As the higher and middle classes in the prov- 
inces had, for ages, been excluded from the military profession, and the army 
had been at last composed chiefly of the rudest and most ignorant peasants, 
of enfranchised slaves, and naturalised barbarians, military service was 
viewed with aversion ; and the greatest repugnance arose among the civil- 
ians to become soldiers. In the meantime, the depopulation of the empire 
daily increased the difficulty of raising the number of recruits required for 
a service which embraced an immense extent of territory and entailed a 
great destruction of human life. 

The troops of the line, particularly the infantry, had deteriorated con- 
siderably in Justinian's time ; but the artillery and engineer departments 
were not much inferior, in science and efficiency, to what they had been in 
the best days of the empire. Military resources, not military knowledge, 
had diminished. The same arsenals continued to exist ; mere mechanical 
skill had been uninterruptedly exercised ; and the constant demand which 
had existed for military mechanicians, armourers, and engineers had never 
allowed the theoretical instruction of this class to be neglected, nor their 
practical skill to decline from want of employment. This fact requires to 
be borne in mind. 

The mercenaries formed the most valued and brilliant portion of the 
army ; and it was the fashion of the day to copy and admire the dress and 
manners of the barbarian cavalry. The empire was now surrounded by 
numbers of petty princes who, though they had,seized possession of provinces 
once belonging to the Romans, by force* and had often engaged in -war with 
the emperor, still acknowledged a certain degree of dependence on the 
Roman power. Some of them, as the kings of the Heruli and the Gepidae, 
and the king of Colchis, held their regal rank by a regular investiture from 
Justinian. These princes, and the kings of the Lombards, Huns, Saracens, 
and Moors, all received regular subsidies. Some of them furnished a num- 
ber of their best warriors, who entered the Roman service and served in 
separate bands, under their own leaders and with their national weapons, 
but subjected to the regular organisation and discipline of the Roman armies, 
though not to the Roman system of military exercises and manoeuvres. 


[527-56S A.D.] 

Some of these corps of barbarians were also formed of volunteers, who were 
attracted by the high pay which they received and the license with which 
they were allowed to behave. 

The superiority of these troops arose from natural causes. The northern 
nations who invaded the empire consisted of a population trained from 
infancy to warlike exercises, and following no profession but that of arms. 
Their lands were cultivated by the labour of their slaves, or by that of the 
Roman subjects who still survived in the provinces they had occupied ; but 
their only pecuniary resources arose from the plunder of their neighbours 
or the subsidies of the Roman emperors. Their habits of life, the celerity 
of their movements, and the excellence of their armour rendered them the 
choicest troops of the age ; and their most active 
warriors were generally engaged to serve in the 
imperial forces. The emperors preferred armies 
composed of a number of motley bands of mercenary 
foreigners, attached to their own persons by high 
pay, and commanded by chiefs who could never 
pretend to political rank and who had much to lose 
and little to gain by rebellion ; for experience proved 
that they perilled their throne by entrusting the com- 
mand of a national army to a native general, who, 
from a popular soldier, might become a dangerous 
rival. Though the barbarian mercenaries in the 
service of Rome generally proved far more efficient 
troops than their free countrymen, yet they were on 
the whole unequal to the native Roman cavalry of 
Justinian's army, the cataphraeti, sheathed in com- 
plete steel on the Persian model, and armed with 
the Grecian spear, who were still the best t&oops in 
a field of battle, and were the real type of the 
chivalry of the Middle Ages. 

Justinian weakened the Roman army in several 
ways by his measures of reform. His anxiety to 
reduce its expenditure induced him to diminish the 
establishment of camels, horses, and chariots, which 
attended the troops for transporting the military 
machines and baggage. This train had been pre- 
viously very large, as it was calculated to save the 
peasantry from any danger of having their labours 
interrupted, or their cattle seized, under the pretext 
of being required for transport., Numerous abuses 
were introduced by diminishing the pay of the troops, and by neglecting to 
pay them with regularity and to furnish them with proper food and clothing. 
At the same time, the efficiency of the army, in the field was more seriously 
injured by continuing the policy adopted by Anastasius, of restricting the 
power of the generals ; a policy however which, it must be confessed, was 
not unnecessary in order to avoid greater evils. This is evident from the 
numerous rebellions in Justinian's reign, and the absolute want of any 
national or patriotic feeling in the majority of the Roman officers. 

.Large armies were at times composed of a number of corps, each com- 
manded by its own officer, over whom the nominal commander-in-chief had 
little or no authority ; and it is to this circumstance that the unfortunate 
results of some of the Gothic and Persian campaigns are to be attributed, 

A Goth 


1527-565 A.B.] 

and not to any inferiority of the Roman troops. Even Belisarius himself, 
though he gave many proofs of attachment to Justinian's throne, was watched 
"with the greatest jealousy. He was treated with constant distrust, and his 
officers were at times encouraged to dispute his measures, and never pun- 
ished for disobeying his orders. The fact is that Belisarius might, if so 
disposed, have assumed the purple, and perhaps dethroned his master. Narses 
was the only general who was implicitly trusted and steadily supported ; but 
Narses was an aged eunuch, and could never have become emperor. 

The imperial military forces consisted of 150,000 men ; 1 and though the 
extent of the frontier which these troops were compelled to guard was very 
great, and lay open to the incursions of many active hostile tribes, still 
Justinian was able to assemble some admirably appointed armies for his 
foreign expeditions. The armament which accompanied Belisarius to Africa 
consisted of ten thousand infantry, five thousand cavalry, and twenty thou- 
sand sailors. Belisarius must have had about thirty thousand troops under 
his command in Italy before the taking of Ravenna. Germanus, when he 
arrived in Africa, found that only one-third of the Roman troops about Car- 
thage had remained faithful, and the rebels under Stozas amounted to eight 
thousand men. As there were still troops in Numidia which had not joined 
the deserters, the whole Roman force in Africa cannot have been less than 
fifteen thousand. Narses, in the year 551, when the empire began to show 
evident proofs of the bad effects of Justinian's government, could assemble 
thirty thousand chosen troops, an army which defeated the veterans of Totila 
and destroyed the fierce bands of Franks and Alamanni which hoped to 
wrest Italy from the Romans. The character of the Roman troops, in 
spite of all that modern writers have said to depreciate them, still stood 
so high that Totila, the warlike monarch of the Goths, strove to induce 
them to join his standard by offers of high pay. No army had yet proved 
itself equal to the Roman on the field of battle ; and their exploits in 
Spain, Africa, Colchis, and Mesopotamia, proved their excellence ; though 
the defeats which they sustained, both from the Persians and on the Danube, 
reveal the fact that their enemies were improving in military science, and 
watching every opportunity of availing themselves of any neglect of the 
Roman government in maintaining the efficiency of the army. 


Numerous examples could be cited of almost incredible disorder in the 
armies, originating generally in the misconduct of the imperial government. 
Belisarius attempted, but found it impossible, to enforce strict discipline, 2 
when the soldiers were unpaid and the officers authorised to act indepen- 
dently of his orders. Two thousand Heruli ventured to quit his standard in 
Italy, and, after marching round the Adriatic, were pardoned by Justinian 
and again engaged in the imperial service. Procopius mentions repeatedly 
that the conduct of the unpaid and unpunished troops ruined the provinces ; 
and in Africa, no less than three Roman officers, Stozas, Maximin, and Gon- 
tharis, attempted to render themselves independent, and were supported by 
large bodies of troops. The Greeks were the only portion of the population 

1 Agathias" states that the military establishment of the empire once consisted of 645,000 
men. It probably included the local militia and the garrisons. 

2 According to Trocopius/ Belisarius told his troops that the Persians excelled them rin 


[527-665 A.D.J 
who were considered as sincerely attached to the imperial government, or at 
least who would readily defend it against every enemy ; and accordingly 
Gontharis, when he wished to secure Carthage, ordered all the Greeks to be 
murdered without distinction. The Greeks were, however, from their posi- 
tion and rank in society as burgesses or taxpayers, almost entirely excluded 
from the army, and though they furnished the greater part of the sailors for 
the fleet, they were generally an unwarlike population. Witiges, the Gothic 
king, calls the Roman army of Belisarius an army of Greeks, a band of 
pirates, actors, and mountebanks. 

One of the most unfortunate measures of Justinian was the disbanding all 
the provincial militia. This is incidentally mentioned in the Secret Shtory 
of Procopius, who informs us that Thermopylae had been previously guarded 
by two thousand of this militia ; but that this corps was dissolved, and a 
garrison of regular troops placed in Greece. As a general measure it was 
probably dictated by a plan of financial reform, and not by any fear of popu- 
lar insurrection ; but its effects were extremely injurious to the empire in the 
declining state of society, and in the increasing disorganisation of the central 
power; and though it may possibly have prevented some provinces from 
recovering their independence by their own arms, it prepared the way for the 
easy conquests of the Avars and Arabs. Justinian was desirous of centralis- 
ing all power, and rendering all public burdens uniform and systematic ; and 
had adopted the opinion that it was cheaper to defend the empire by walls 
and fortresses than by a movable army. The practice of moving the troops 
with great celerity to defend the frontiers had induced the officers to aban- 
don the ancient practice of fortifying a regular camp ; and at last even the 
art of encamping was neglected. The barbarians, however, could always 
move with greater rapidity than the regular troops of the empire. 

To secure the frontiers, Justinian adopted a plan of constructing extensive 
lines supported by innumerable forts and castles, in which he placed garrisons, 
in order that they might be ready to sally out on the invading bands. 
These lines extended from the Adriatic to the Black Sea, and were further 
strengthened by the long wall of Anastasius, which covered Constantinople 
by walls protecting the Thracian Chersonesus and the peninsula of Pallene, 
and by fortifications at Thermopylae, and at the Isthmus of Corinth, which 
were all carefully repaired. At all these posts permanent garrisons were 
maintained. The eulogy of Procopius on the public edifices of Justinian 
seems almost irreconcilable with the events of the latter years of his reign j 
for Zabergan, king of the Huns, penetrated through breaches he found unre- 
paired in the long wall, and advanced almost to the very suburbs of Constan- 

Another instance of the declining state of military tactics may be men- 
tioned, as it must have originated in the army itself, and not in consequence 
of any arrangements of the government. The combined manoeuvres of the 
divisions of the regiments had been so neglected that the bugle-calls once 
used had fallen into desuetude, and were unknown to the soldiers. The 
motley recruits, of dissimilar habits, could not acquire with the requisite 
rapidity a perception of the delicacy of the ancient music, and the Roman 
infantry no longer moved 

" In perfect phalanx, to the Dorian mood, 
Of flutes and soft recorders." 

It happened, during the siege of Auximum in Italy, that Belisarius was 
placed in difficulty from the want of an instantaneous means of communicat- 


[527-565 A.D.] 

ing orders to the troops engaged in skirmishing with the Goths. On this 
occasion it was suggested to him by Procopius, his secretary and the historian 
of his wars, to replace the forgotten bugle-calls by making use of the brazen 
trumpet of the cavalry to sound a charge, and of the infantry bugle to summon 
a retreat. 

Foreigners were preferred by the emperors as the occupants of the highest 
military commands ; and the confidence with which the barbarian chiefs were 
honoured by the court enabled many to reach the highest rank in the army. 
Narses, the most distinguished military leader after Belisarius, was a Pers- 
Armenian captive. Peter, who commanded against the Persians in the cam- 
paign of 528, was also a Pers-Armenian. Pharas, who besieged Gelimer in 
Mount Pappua, was a Herulian. Mundus, who commanded in Illyria and 
Dalmatia, was a Gepid prince. Chilbud, who, after several victories, per- 
ished with his army in defending the frontiers against the Slavonians, was of 
northern descent, as may be inferred from his name. Solomon, who governed 
Africa with great courage and ability, was a eunuch from Dara. Artaban 
was an Armenian prince. Johannes Troglita the patrician, the hero of the 
poem of Corippus called the Johannid, is also supposed to have been an 
Armenian. Yet the empire might still have furnished excellent officers, as 
well as valiant troops ; for the Isaurians and Thracians continued to distin- 
guish themselves in every field of battle, and were equal in courage to the 
fiercest of the barbarians. 

It became the fashion in the army to imitate the manners and habits of 
the barbarians ; their headlong personal courage became the most admired 
quality, even in the highest rank ; and nothing tended more to hasten the 
decay of the military art. The officers in the Roman armies became more 
intent on distinguishing themselves for personal exploits than for exact 
order and strict discipline in their corps. Even Belisarius himself appears 
at times to have forgotten the duties of a general in his eagerness to exhibit 
his personal valour on his bay charger ; though he may, on such occasions, 
have considered that the necessity of keeping up the spirits of his army was 
a sufficient apology for his rashness. Unquestionably the army, as a mili- 
tary establishment, had declined in excellence ere Justinian ascended the 
throne, and his reign tended to sink it much lower ; yet it is probable that 
it was never more remarkable for the enterprising valour of its officers or 
for their personal skill in the use of their weapons. The death of numbers 
of the highest rank, in battles and skirmishes in which they rashly engaged, 
proves this fact. There was, however, one important feature of ancient 
tactics still preserved in the Roman armies, which gave them a decided 
superioritj' over their enemies. They had still the confidence in their dis- 
cipline and skill to form their ranks, and encounter their opponents in line ; 
the bravest of their enemies, whether on the banks of the Danube or the 
Tigris, only ventured to charge them, or receive their attack, in close 
masses. <* 


[535-565 a.d.] 

The empire of the Ostrogoths, though established on principles of a just 
-administration by the wisdom of the great Theodoric, soon began to suffer 
;as complete a national demoralisation as that of the Vandals, though the 
■Goths themselves, from being more civilised and living more directly under 
the restraint of laws which protected" the property of their Roman subjects, 
had not become individually so corrupted by the possession of wealth. 

The conquest of Italy J had not produced any very great revolution in the 
•state of the country. The Romans had long been accustomed to be defended 
in name, but in fact to be ruled, by the commanders of the mercenary 
troops in the emperor's service. The Goths, even after the conquest, 
■allowed them to retain two-thirds of their landed estates, with all their 
movable property ; and as they had really been as completely excluded from 
-military service under their own emperors, their social condition underwent 
•but little change. Policy induced Theodoric to treat the inhabitants of 
Italy with mildness. The permanent maintenance of his conquests required 
a considerable revenue, and that revenue could only be supplied by the 
industry and civilisation of his Italian subjects. His sagacity told him 
that it was wiser to tax the Romans than to plunder them, and that it was 
necessary, in order to secure the fruits of a regular system of taxation, to 
leave them in the possession of those laws and privilege's which enabled 
them to defend their civilisation. 

The kingdom which the great Theodoric left to his grandson Athalaric, 
under the guardianship of his daughter Amalasuntha, embraced not only 
Italy, Sicily, and a portion of the south of France ; it also included Dalma- 
tia, a part of Illyricum, Pannonia, Noricum, and Raetia. In these extensive 
dominions, the Gothic race formed but a small part of the population ; and 
yet the Goths, from the privileges which they enjoyed, were everywhere 

[ J For a fuller account of the war in Italy, see the latter part of this volume, under " The 
Western Empire. " ] 



£535-537 a.d.]. 

regarded with jealousy by the bulk of the inhabitants. Dissensions arose in 
the royal family; Athalaric died young; Amalasuntha was murdered by 
Theodatus, his successor; and as she had been in constant communication 
with the court of Constantinople, this crime afforded Justinian a decent pre- 
text for interfering in the affairs of the Goths. To prepare the way for the 
reconquest of Italy, Belisarius was sent to attack Sicily, which he invaded 
with an army of 7500 men, in the year 535, and subjected without difficulty. 
During the same campaign, Dalmatia was conquered by the imperial arms, 
recovered by the Goths, but again reconquered by Justinian's troops. A 
rebellion of the troops in Africa arrested, for a while, the progress of Beli- 
sarius, and compelled him to visit Carthage ; but he returned to Sicily in a 
short time, and crossing over to Rhegium marched directly to Neapolis. 
As he proceeded, he was everywhere welcomed by the inhabitants, who were 
then almost universally Greeks ; even the Gothic commander in the south of 
Italy favoured the progress of the Roman general. 

The city of Neapolis made a vigorous defence ; but after a siege of three 
weeks it was taken by introducing into the place a body of troops through 
i;he passage of an ancient aqueduct. The conduct of Belisarius, after the 
capture of the city, was dictated by policy, and displayed very little human- 
ity. As the inhabitants had shown some disposition to assist the Gothic 
garrison in defending the city, and as such conduct would have greatly 
increased the difficulty of his campaign in Italy, in order to intimidate 
the population of other cities he appears to have winked at the pillage of the 
town, to have tolerated the massacre of many of the citizens in the churches, 
where they had sought an asylum, and to have overlooked a sedition of the 
lowest populace, in which the leaders of the Gothic party were assassinated. 
From Neapolis, Belisarius marched forward to Rome. 

Only sixty years .had elapsed since Rome had been conquered by Odo- 
acer; and during, this period its population, the ecclesiastical and civil au- 
thority of its bishop who was the highest dignitary of the Christian world, 
and the influence of its senate which still continued to be in the eyes of man- 
kind the most honourable political body in existence, enabled it to preserve 
a species of independent civic constitution. Theodoric had availed himself 
■of this municipal government to smooth away many of the difficulties which 
presented themselves in the administration of Italy. The Goths, however, 
in leaving the Romans in possession of their own civil laws and insti- 
tutions, had not diminished their aversion to a foreign yoke; yet as they 
possessed no distinct feelings of nationality apart from their connection 
with the imperial domination and their religious orthodoxy, they never 
.aspired to independence, and were content to turn their eyes towards the 
emperor, of the East as their legitimate sovereign. Belisarius, therefore, 
entered the Eternal City rather as a friend than as a conqueror ; but he had 
hardly entered it before he perceived that it would be necessary to take 
•every precaution to defend his conquest against the new Gothic king Witiges. 
He immediately repaired the walls of Rome, strengthened them with a breast- 
work, collected large stores of provisions, and prepared to sustain a siege. 

The Gothic war forms an important epoch in the history of the city of 
Rome ; for within the space of sixteen years it changed masters five times, 
.and suffered three severe sieges. Its population was almost' destroyed ; its 
public buildings, and its walls must have undergone many changes, accord- 
ing to the exigencies of the various measures required for its defence. 
It has, consequently, been too generally assumed that the existing walls 
indicate the exact position of the walls of Aurelian. This period is also 


[537-640 AJ>. J 

memorable for the ruin of many monuments of ancient art, which the gen- 
erals of Justinian destroyed without compunction. 1 

Witiges laid siege to Rome with an army said by Procopius*** to have 
amounted to 150,000 men ; yet this army was insufficient to invest the whole 
circuit of the city. The Gothic king distributed his troops in seven fortified 
camps ; six were formed to surround the city, and the seventh was placed 
to protect the Milvian bridge. Five camps covered the space from the Prae- 
nestine to the Flaminian gates, and the remaining camp was formed beyond 
the Tiber, in the plain below the Vatican. By these arrangements the 
Goths only commanded about half the circuit of Rome, and the roads to 
Naples and to the ports at the mouth of the Tiber remained open. The 
Roman infantry was now the weakest part of a Roman army. Even in the 
defence of a fortified city it was subordinate to the»eavalry, and the military 
superiority of the Roman arms was sustained by mercenary horsemen. It is 
strange to find the tactics of Jihe Middle Ages described by Procopius in 
classic Greek. 

In spite of the prudent arrangements adopted by Belisarius to insure sup- 
plies of provisions from his recent conquests in Sicily and Africa, Rome suf- 
fered very severely from famine during the siege ; but the Gothic army was 
compelled to undergo equal hardships, and suffered far greater losses from 
disease. The communications of the garrison with the coast were for a time 
interrupted, but at last a body of five thousand fresh troops and an abundant 
supply of provisions, despatched by Justinian to the assistance of Belisarius, 
entered Rome. Shortly after the arrival of this reinforcement, the Goths 
found themselves constrained to abandon the siege, in which they had per- 
severed for a year. Justinian again augmented his army in Italy, by sending 
over seven thousand troops under the command of the eunuch Narses, a. 
man whose military talents were in no way inferior to those of Belisarius, 
and whose name occupies an equally important place in the history of Italy. 
The emperor, guided «by the'prudent jealousy which dictated the strictest 
control over all the powerful generals of the empire, had conferred on Narses 
an independent authority over his own division, and that general, presuming 
too far on his knowledge of Justinian's feelings, ventured to throw serious 
obstacles in the way of Belisarius. The dissensions of the two generals 
delayed the progress of the Roman arms. The Goths availed themselves of 
the opportunity to continue the war with vigour ; they succeeded in recon- 
quering Mediolanum, which had admitted a Roman garrison, and sacked the 
city, which was second only to Rome in wealth and population. They mas- 
sacred the whole male population, and behaved with such cruelty that three 
hundred thousand persons were said to have perished — a number which 
probably only indicates the whole population of Mediolanum at this period. 

Witiges, finding his resources inadequate to check the conquests of Beli- 
sarius, solicited the aid of the Franks, and despatched an embassy to Chos- 
roes to excite the jealousy of the Persian monarch. The Franks, under 
Theodebert, entered Italy, but they were soon compelled to retire ; and Beli- 
sarius, being placed at the head of the whole army by the recall of Narses, 
soon terminated the war. Ravenna, the Gothic capital, was invested • but 

[* " With the conquest of Rome by Belisarius," says Finlay,' "the history of the ancient city 
may be considered as terminating ; and with his defence against Witiges commences the history 
of the Middle Ages — of the time of destruction and change." Similarly, though from different 
reasons, Bury* says of the plague of 542 a.d., "If we may speak of watersheds in history, this- 
plague marks the watershed of what we call the ancient and what we call the mediaeval age. 
Really nothing is more striking than the difference between the first-half and the last half of 
Justinian's reign.] 


f540 A.D.] 

the siege was more remarkable for the negotiations which were carried on 
during its progress than for the military operations. The Goths, with the 
consent of Witiges, made Belisarius the singular offer of acknowledging him 
as the emperor of the West, on condition of his joining his forces to theirs, 
permitting them to retain their position and property in Italy, and thus 
ensuring them the possession of their nationality and their peculiar laws. 

Perhaps neither the state of the mercenary army which he commanded 
nor the condition of the Gothic nation rendered the project very feasible. 
It is certain that Belisarius only listened to it, in order to hasten the sur- 
render of Ravenna and secure the person of Witiges without further blood- 
shed. Italy submitted to Justinian, and the few Goths who still maintained 
their independence beyond the Po pressed Belisarius in vain to declare him- 
self emperor. But even without these solicitations, his power had awakened 
the fears of his sovereign, and he was recalled, though with honour, from his 
command in Italy. He returned to Constantinople leading Witiges captive, 
as he had formerly appeared conducting Gelimer. 

finlay's estimate of belisarius 

Great as the talents of Belisarius really were, and sound as his judgment 
appears to have been, still it must be confessed that his name occupies a 
more prominent place in history than his merits are entitled to claim. The 
accident that his conquest put an end to two powerful monarchies, of his 
having led captive to Constantinople the representatives of the dreaded Gen- 
seric and the great Theodoric, joined with the circumstance that he enjoyed 
the singular good fortune of having his exploits recorded in the classic 
language of Procopius, the last historian of the Greeks, have rendered a 
brilliant career more brilliant from the medium through which it is seen. 
At the same time the tale of his blindness and poverty has extended a sym- 
pathy with his misfortunes into circles which would have remained indiffer- 
ent to the real events of his history, and made his name an expression for 
heroic greatness reduced to abject misery by royal ingratitude. 

But Belisarius, though he refused the Gothic throne and the empire of 
the West, did not despise nor neglect wealth ; he accumulated riches which 
could not have been acquired by any commander-in-chief amidst the wars 
and famines of the period, without rendering the military and civil adminis- 
tration subservient to his pecuniary profit. On his return from Italy he 
lived at Constantinople in almost regal splendour, and maintained a body of 
seven thousand cavalry attached to his household. 

In an empire where confiscation was an ordinary financial resource, and 
under a sovereign whose situation rendered jealousy only common prudence, 
it is not surprising that the wealth of Belisarius excited the imperial cupidity, 
and induced Justinian to seize great part of it. His fortune was twice 
reduced by confiscations. The behaviour of the general under his misfor- 
tunes, and the lamentable picture of his depression which Procopius has 
drawn, when he lost a portion of his wealth on his first disgrace, does not 
tend to elevate his character. At a later period, his- wealth was again con- 
fiscated on an accusation of treason, and on this occasion it is said that he 
was deprived of his sight, and reduced to such a state of destitution that he 
begged his bread in a public square, soliciting charity with the exclamation, 
" Give Belisarius an obolus ! " But ancient historians were ignorant of this 
fable, which has been rejected by every modern authority in Byzantine 


[540-644 A.D.J 

history. Justinian, on calm reflection, disbelieved the treason imputed to a 
man who, in his younger days, had refused to ascend a throne ; or else he- 
pardoned what he supposed to be the error of a general to whose services h& 
was so deeply indebted ; and Belisarius, reinstated in some part of his fortune,, 
died in possession of wealth and honour. 


Belisarius had hardly quitted Italy when the Goths reassembled their 
forces. They were accustomed to rule, and nourished in the profession of 
arms. Justinian sent a civilian, Alexander the logothete, to govern Italy, 
hoping that his financial arrangements would render the new conquest 

a source of revenue to the imperial treasury. 1 
The fiscal administration of the new governor 
soon excited great discontent. He diminished 
the number of the Roman troops, and put a stop 
to those profits which a state of war usually 
affords the military; while at the same time 
he abolished the pensions and privileges which 
formed no inconsiderable portion of the rev- 
enue of the higher classes, and which had never 
been entirely suppressed during the Gothic 
domination. Alexander may have acted in 
some cases with undue severity in enforcing 
these measures ; but it is evident, from their 
nature, that he must have received express 
orders to put an end to what Justinian con- 
sidered the lavish expenditure of Belisarius. 

A part of the Goths in the north of Italy 
retained their independence after the surrender 
of Witiges. They raised Hildebald to the 
throne, which he occupied about a year when 
he was murdered by one of his own guards. 
The tribe of Rugii then raised Eraric their 
leader to the throne ; but on his entering into 
negotiations with the Romans he was murdered, 
after a reign of only five months. Totila was 
then elected king of the Goths, and had he not 
been opposed to the greatest men whom the 
declining age of the Roman Empire produced, 
he would probably have succeeded in restoring 
the Gothic monarchy in Italy. His successes 
endeared him to his countrymen, while the jus- 
tice of his administration contrasted with the rapacity of Justinian's govern- 
ment, and gained him the respect and submission of the native provincials. 
He was on the point of commencing the siege of Rome, when Belisarius, who 
after his departure from Ravenna had been employed in the Persian War, 
was sent back to Italy to recover the ground already lost. 

A Goth of Quality 

(After Hottenroth) 

[} According to Bury,« "Alexander was called 'Scissors' from his practice of clipping 
coins." Procopius says he "alienated the minds of the Italians from Justinian ; and none of 
the soldiers were willing to undergo the hazard of war."] 


[544r547 A.D.] 

The imperial forces were completely destitute of that unity and military- 
organisation which constitute a number of different corps into one army.. 
The various bodies of troops were commanded by officers completely indepen- 
dent of one another, and obedient only to Belisarius as commander-in-chief. 
Justinian, acting on his usual maxims of jealousy, and distrusting Belisarius; 
more than formerly, had retained the greater part of his bodyguard and. 
all his veteran followers at Constantinople; so that he now appeared in 
Italy unaccompanied by a staff of scientific officers and a body of veteran 
troops on whose experience and discipline he could rely for implicit obedience 
to his orders. The heterogeneous elements of which his army was composed 
made all combined operations impracticable, and his position was rendered 
still more disadvantageous by the change that had taken place in that of 
his enemy. Totila was now able to command every sacrifice on the part 
of his followers, for the Goths, taught by their misfortunes and deprived 
of their wealth, felt the importance of union and discipline, and paid the 
strictest attention to the orders of their sovereign. The Gothic king laid 
siege to Rome, and Belisarius established himself in Porto, at the mouth of 
the Tiber ; but all his endeavours to relieve the besieged city proved unsuc- 
cessful, and Totila compelled it to surrender under his eye and in spite of: 
all his exertions. 

The national and religious feelings of the orthodox Romans rendered, 
them the irreconcilable enemies of the Arian Goths. Totila soon perceived 
that it would not be in his power to defend Rome against a scientific enemy 
and a hostile population, in consequence of the great extent of the fortifica- 
tions, and the impossibility of dislodging the imperial troops from the forts- 
at the mouth of the Tiber. But he also perceived that the Eastern emperors 
would be unable to maintain a footing in central Italy without the support of 
the Roman population, whose industrial, commercial, aristocratic, and eccle- 
siastical influence was concentrated in the city population of Rome. He 
therefore determined to destroy the Eternal City, and if policy authorise' 
kings on great occasions to trample on the precepts of humanity, the king of 
the Goths might claim a right to destroy the race of the Romans. Even the- 
statesman may still doubt whether the decision of Totila, if it had been car- 
ried into execution in the most merciless manner, would not have purified 
the moral atmosphere of Italian society. 

He commenced the destruction of the walls ; but either the difficulty of 
completing his project or the feelings of humanity which were inseparable 
from his enlightened ambition induced him to listen to the representations, 
of Belisarius, who conjured him to abandon his barbarous scheme of devasta- 
tion. Totila, nevertheless, did everything in his power to depopulate Rome ; 
he compelled the inhabitants to retire into the Campania, and forced the sen- 
ators to abandon their native city. It is to this emigration that the utter ex- 
tinction of the old Roman race and civic government must be attributed ; for 
when Belisarius, and at a later period Totila himself, attempted to repeople 
Rome, they laid the foundations of a new society, which connects itself rather 1 
with the history of the Middle Ages than with that of preceding times. 


Belisarius entered the city after the departure of the Goths ; and as he* 
found it deserted, he had the greatest difficulty in putting it in a state* 
of defence. But though Belisarius was enabled, by his military skill, to> 


[547-553 A.D.] 

defend Rome against the attacks of Totila, he was unable to make any head 
against the Gothic army in the open field ; and after vainly endeavouring 
to bring back victory to the Roman standards in Italy, he received permis- 
sion to resign the command and return to Constantinople. His want of 
success must be attributed solely to the inadequacy of the means placed at 
his disposal for encountering an active and able sovereign like Totila. The 
unpopularity of his second administration in Italy arose from the neglect of 
Justinian in paying the troops, and the necessity which that irregularity 
imposed on their commander of levying heavy contributions on the Italians, 
while it rendered the task of enforcing strict discipline, and of protecting 
the property of the people from the ill-paid soldiery, quite impracticable. 
Justice, however, requires that we should not omit to mention that Belisa- 
rius, though he returned to Constantinople with diminished glory, did not 
neglect his pecuniary interests, and came back without any diminution of 
his wealth. 

As soon as Totila was freed from the restraint imposed on his move- 
ments by the fear of Belisarius, he quickly recovered Rome ; and the loss 
of Italy appeared inevitable, when Justinian decided on making a new effort 
to retain it. As it was necessary to send a large army against the Goths, 
and invest the commander-in-chief with great powers, it is not probable that 
Justinian would have trusted any other of his generals more than Belisarius 
had he not fortunately possessed an able officer, the eunuch Narses, who 
could never rebel with the hope of placing the imperial crown on his own 
head. The assurance of his fidelity gave Narses great influence in the 
interior of the palace, and secured him a support which would never have 
been conceded to any other general. His military talents, and his freedom 
from the reproach of avarice or peculation, augmented his personal influence, 
and his diligence and liberality soon assembled a powerful army. The 
choice&t mercenary troops — : Huns, , Herulians,. Ar.mejwans,, and, Lombards — 
marched under his standard with the veteran Roman soldiers. The first 
object of Narses after his arrival in Italy was to force the Goths to risk a 
general engagement, trusting to the. excellence of his. troops and to his own 
skill in the employment of their superior discipline. 

The rival armies met at Tagina (Tadinum) near Nuceria (Nocera), and 
the victory of Narses was complete. 1 Totila and six thousand Goths perished, 
and Rome again fell under the dominion of Justinian. At the solicitation 
of the Goths, an army of Franks and Germans was permitted by Theobald, 
king of Austrasia, to enter Italy for the purpose of making a diversion in 
their favour. Bucelin, the leader of this army, was met by Narses on the 
banks of the Casilinus, near Capua. The forces of the Franks consisted of 
thirty thousand men, those of the Romans did not exceed eighteen thousand ; 
but the victory of Narses was so complete that but few of the former escaped. 
The remaining Goths elected another king, Theias, who perished with his 
army near the banks of the Sarnus (Sarno). His death put an end to the 
kingdom of the Ostrogoths, and allowed Narses to turn his whole attention 
to the civil government of his conquests, and to establish security of. prop- 
erty and a strict administration of justice. He appears to have been a man 
singularly well adapted to his situation, possessing the highest military 
talents, combined with a perfect knowledge of the civil and financial admin- 
istration ; and he was consequently able to estimate with exactness the sum 
which he could levy on the province and remit to Constantinople, with- 

[ 1 Bury* says that the place is in dispute, some placing it near Sassoferrato, and others near 
Scheggia. He fuels that we are justified in placing the date as July or August, 552.] 


[535-625 A.D.] 

out arresting the gradual improvement of the country. His fiscal govern- 
ment was, nevertheless, regarded by the Italians as extremely severe, and he 
was unpopular with the inhabitants of Rome. 

The existence of a numerous Roman population in Spain, connected with 
the Eastern Empire by the memory of ancient ties, by active commercial 
relations, and by a strong orthodox feeling against the Arian Visigoths, 
enabled Justinian to avail himself of these advantages in the same manner 
as he had done in Africa and Italy. The king Theudes had attempted to 
make a diversion in Africa by besieging Ceuta, in order to call off the atten- 
tion of Justinian from Italy. His attack was unsuccessful, but the circum- 
stances were not favourable at the time for Justinian's attempting to revenge 
the injury. Dissensions in the country soon after enabled the emperor to 
take part in a civil war, and he seized the pretext of sending a fleet and 
troops to support the claims of a rebel chief, in order to secure the possession 
of a large portion of the south of Spain. The rebel Athanagild, having 
been elected king of the Visigoths, vainly endeavoured to drive the Romans 
out of the provinces which they had occupied. Subsequent victories ex- 
tended the conquests of Justinian from the mouth of the Tagus, Ebora, and 
Corduba, along the coast of the ocean and of the Mediterranean, almost as 
far as Valentia ; and at times the relations of the Romans with the Catholic 
population of the interior enabled them to carry their arms almost into the 
centre of Spain. The Eastern Empire retained possession of these distant 
conquests for about sixty years. & 


Our estimate of personal merit is relative to the common faculties of 
mankind. The aspiring efforts of genius or virtue, either in active or 
speculative life, are measured not so much by their real elevation as by the 
height to which they ascend above the level of their age or country ; and 
the same stature, which in a people of giants would pass unnoticed, must 
appear conspicuous in a race of pigmies. Leonidas and his three hundred 
companions devoted their lives at Thermopylae; but the education of the 
infant, the boy, and the man had prepared, and almost insured, this memo- 
rable sacrifice ; and each Spartan would approve, rather than admire, an act 
of duty of which himself and eight thousand of his fellow-citizens were 
equally capable. 

The great Pompey might inscribe on his trophies that he had defeated in 
battle two millions of enemies, and reduced fifteen hundred cities from the 
lake Maeotis to the Red Sea ; but the fortune of Rome flew before his eagles ; 
the nations were oppressed by their own fears, and the invincible legions 
which he commanded had been formed by the habits of conquest and the 
discipline of ages. In this view, the character of Belisarius may be de- 
servedly placed above the heroes of the ancient republic. His imperfec- 
tions flowed from the contagion of the times ; his virtues were his own, the 
free gift of nature or reflection ; he raised himself without a master or a 
rival ; and so inadequate were the arms committed to his hand that his sole 
advantage was derived from the pride and presumption of his adversaries. 
Under his command, the subjects of Justinian often deserved to be called 
Romans ; but the unwarlike appellation of Greeks was imposed as a term of 
reproach by the haughty Goths, who affected to blush that they must dispute 
the kingdom of Italy with a nation of tragedians,' pantomimes, and pirates. ' 

H. W. — VOL. VII. I 


[488-663 A.D.J 

The climate of Asia has indeed been found less congenial than that of 
Europe to military spirit; those populous countries were enervated by 
luxury, despotism, and superstition, and the monks were more expensive; 
and more numerous than the soldiers of the East. The regular force of the 
empire had once amounted to 645,000 men : it was reduced, in the time of 
Justinian, to 150,000 ; and this number, large as it may seem, was thinly 
scattered over the sea and land — in Spain and Italy, in Africa and Egypt, 
on the banks of the Danube, the coast of Euxine, and the frontiers of Persia. 
The citizen was exhausted, yet the soldier was unpaid; his poverty was 
mischievously soothed by the privilege of rapine and indolence; and the 
tardy payments were detained and intercepted by the fraud of those agents 
who usurp, without courage or danger, the emoluments of war. Public 
and private distress recruited the armies of the state; but in the field, 
and still more in the presence of the enemy, their numbers were always 

The want of national spirit was supplied by the precarious faith and dis- 
orderly service of barbarian mercenaries. Even military honour, which has 
often survived the loss of virtue and freedom, was almost totally extinct. 
The generals, who were multiplied beyond the example of former times, 
laboured only to prevent the success, or to sully the reputation, of their col- 
leagues ; and they had been taught by experience that, if merit sometimes 
provoked the jealousy, error or even guilt would obtain the indulgence of a 
gracious emperor. 

In such an age the triumphs of Belisarius, and afterwards of Narses, shine 
with incomparable lustre ; but they are encompassed with the darkest shades 
of disgrace and calamity. 1 


Even the Gothic victories of Belisarius were prejudicial to the state, 
since they abolished the important barrier of the upper Danube, which had 
been so faithfully guarded by Theodoric and his daughter. For the defence 
of Italy, the Goths evacuated Pannonia and Noricum, which they left in a 
peaceful and flourishing condition; the sovereignty was claimed by the 
emperor of the Romans, the actual possession was abandoned to the bold- 
ness of the first invader. On the opposite banks of the Danube, the plains 
of upper Hungary and the Transylvanian hills were possessed, since the 
death of Attila, by the tribes of the Gepidae, who respected the Gothic arms 
and despised not indeed the gold of the Romans but the secret motive of 
their annual subsidies. 

The vacant fortifications of the river were instantly occupied by these 
barbarians ; their standards were planted on the walls of Sirmium and Bel- 
grade ; and the ironical tone of their apology aggravated this insult on the 
majesty of the empire. "So extensive, O Caesar, are your dominions, so 
numerous are your cities, that you are continually seeking for nations to 
whom, either in peace or war, you may relinquish these useless possessions. 
The Gepidee are your brave and faithful allies ; and if they have anticipated 
your gifts, they have shown a just confidence in your bounty." Their pre- 
sumption was excused by the mode of revenge which Justinian embraced. 
Instead of asserting the rights of a sovereign for the protection of his sub- 
jects, the emperor invited a strange people to invade and possess the Roman 

[i "Belisarius," says Freeman,/ " was perhaps the greatest commander that ever lived, as 
he did the greatest things with the smallest means."] 


[100-660 A.D.] 

provinces between the Danube and the Alps; and the ambition of the 
Gepidae was checked by the rising power and fame of the Lombards. 

This corrupt appellation has been diffused in the thirteenth century by 
the merchants and bankers, the Italian posterity of these savage warriors : 
but the original name of Langobards is expres- 
sive only of the peculiar length and fashion of 
their beards. 1 About the time of Augustus 
and Trajan, a ray of historic light breaks on 
the darkness of their antiquities, and they are 
discovered, for the first time, between the Elbe 
and the Oder. Fierce beyond the example of 
the Germans, they delighted to propagate the 
tremendous belief that their heads were formed 
like the heads of dogs, and that they drank the 
blood of their enemies whom they vanquished 
in battle. The smallness of their numbers was 
recruited by the adoption of their bravest 
slaves ; and alone, amidst their powerful neigh- 
bours, they defended by arms their high-spirited 

In the tempest of the north, which over- 
whelmed so many names and nations, this little 
bark of the Lombards still floated on the sur- 
face. They gradually descended towards the 
south and the Danube, and at the end of four 
hundred years 2 they again appear with their 
ancient valour and renown. Their manners 
were not less ferocious. The assassination of 
a royal guest was executed in the presence and 
by the command of the king's daughter, who 
had been provoked by some words of insult 
and disappointed by his diminutive stature ; 3 
and a tribute, the price of blood, was imposed 
on the Lombards by his brother the king of 
the Heruli. Adversity revived a sense of moderation and justice, and the 
insolence of conquest was chastised by the signal defeat and irreparable dis- 
persion of the Heruli, who were seated in the southern provinces of Poland. 4 

The victories of the Lombards recommended them to the friendship of 
the emperors ; and at the solicitation of Justinian they passed the Danube 
to reduce, according to their treaty, the cities of Noricum and the fortresses 
of Pannonia. But the spirit of rapine soon tempted them beyond these 
ample limits ; they wandered along the coast of the Adriatic as far as 

A Gothic Chief 

[ x This is the old theory, and Hodgkin? says, "I confess that, to me, the old-fashioned 
derivation, that which was accepted by Isidore* and Paulus, still seems the most probable." The 
word bard, usually allied to the Latin barba, "beard," has also been referred to the old High 
German barta, " axe," and to bord, "shore," and some writers would translate Langobards as 
"Long-axe-men" or "Long-shore-men."] 

2 Hodgkinff says "three hundred years."] 

8 Paulus Diaconus « tells the story, 1. 20. Eodulf was then king of the Heruli, and his brother 
was killed by the servants of King Tato, "seventh Lombard king."] 

[ 4 Hodgkino' calls the Heruli "a perpetual puzzle to ethnologists," and quotes Zeuss,.?' who 
calls them " the most unstable of German tribes. " Their seat at the moment in question is also 
variously guessed; at, Hodgkin inclining to Hungary. This fatal battle took place about 508. 
The Lombards were Ariaris, — how they were converted we do not know, — and they brought 
into Italy a hierarchy of bishops, priests, and deacons.] 


[550-554 A.D.] 

Dyrrhachium, and presumed, with familiar rudeness, to enter the towns and 
houses of their Roman allies, and to seize the captives who had escaped 
from their audacious hands. These acts of hostility, the sallies, as it might 
be pretended, of some loose adventurers, were disowned by the nation and 
excused by the emperor ; but the arms of the Lombards were more seriously 
engaged by a contest of thirty years, which was terminated only by the 
extirpation of the Gepidse. 

The hostile nations often pleaded their cause before the throne of Con- 
stantinople ; and the crafty Justinian, to whom the barbarians were almost 
equally odious, pronounced a partial and ambiguous sentence, and dexter- 
ously protracted the war by slow and ineffectual succours. Their strength 
was formidable, since the Lombards, who sent into the field several myriads 
of soldiers, still claimed, as the weaker side, the protection of the Romans. 
Their spirit was intrepid, yet such is the uncertainty of courage that the two 
armies were suddenly struck with a panic ; they fled from each other, and 
the rival kings remained with their guards in the midst of an empty plain. 
A short truce was obtained, but their mutual resentment again kindled; 
and the remembrance of their shame rendered the next encounter more 
desperate and bloody. Forty thousand of the barbarians perished in the 
decisive battle 1 which broke the power of the Gepidse, transferred the fears 
and wishes of Justinian, and first displayed the character of Alboin, the 
youthful prince of the Lombards and the future conqueror of Italy. 


The wild people who dwelt or wandered in the plains of Russia, Lithu- 
ania, and Poland might be reduced, in the age of Justinian, under the two 
great families of the Bulgarians and the Slavonians. According to the 
Greek writers, the former, who touched the Euxine and the lake of Mseotis, 
derived from the Huns their name or descent ; and it is needless to renew 
the simple and well-known picture of Tatar manners. They were bold 
and dexterous archers, who drank the milk and feasted on the flesh of their 
indefatigable horses ; whose flocks and herds followed, or rather guided, 
the motions of their roving camps ; to whose inroads no country was remote 
or impervious, and who were practised in flight, though incapable of fear. 

The nation was divided into two powerful and hostile tribes, who pur- 
sued each other with fraternal hatred. They eagerly disputed the friendship 
or rather the gifts of the emperor ; and the distinction which nature had. 
fixed between the faithful dog and the rapacious wolf was applied by an am- 
bassador who received only verbal instructions fronvthe mouth of his illiterate 
prince. The Bulgarians, of whatsoever species, were equally attracted by 
Roman wealth; they assumed a vague dominion over the* Slavonian name, 
and their rapid marches could only be stopped by the Baltic Sea, or the 
extreme cold and poverty of the north. But the same race of Slavonians 
appears to have maintained, in every age, the possession of the same coun- 
tries. Their numerous tribes, however distant or adverse, used one common 
language (it was harsh and irregular), and were known by the resemblance 
of their form, which deviated from the swarthy Tatar and approached with- 
out attaining the lofty stature and fair complexion of the German. 

P Jordanes* says that " on both sides there fell over 6000 men. No equal battle has been 
heard of in our times since the days of Attila, except that of Calluc against the same Gepidse, or 
of Mundo with the Goths." The date was about 564.] 


[100-540 A.D.] 

Forty-six hundred villages were scattered over the provinces of Russia 
and Poland, and their huts were hastily built of rough timber, in a country 
deficient both in stone and iron. Erected, or rather concealed, in the depth 
of forests, on the banks of rivers or the edge of morasses, we may, not per- 
haps without flattery, compare them to the architecture of the beaver ; which 
they resembled in a double issue to the land and water for the escape of 
the savage inhabitant — an animal less cleanly, less diligent, and less social 
than that marvellous quadruped. The fertility of the soil, rather than the 
labour of the natives, supplied the rustic plenty of the Slavonians. Their 
sheep and horned cattle were large and numerous, and the fields which they 
sowed with millet and panic, afforded, in the place of bread, a coarse and 
less nutritive food. The incessant rapine of their neighbours compelled 
them to bury this treasure in the earth ; but on the appearance of a stranger 
it was freely imparted, by a people . whose unfavourable character is quali- 
fied by the epithets of chaste, patient, and hospitable. As their supreme 
god, they adored an invisible master of the thunder. The rivers and the 
nymphs obtained their subordinate honours, and the popular worship was 
expressed in vows and sacrifice. 

The Slavonians disdained to obey a despot, a prince, or even a magis- 
trate ; but their experience was too narrow, their passions too headstrong, 
to compose a system of equal law or general defence. Some voluntary 
respect was yielded to age and valour ; but each tribe or village existed as a. 
separate republic, and all must be persuaded where none could be compelled. 
They fought on foot, almost naked, and, except an unwieldy shield, without 
any defensive armour ; their weapons of offence were a bow, a quiver of 
small poisoned arrows, and a long rope, which they dexterously threw from 
a distance, and entangled their enemy in a running noose. In the field the 
Slavonian infantry were dangerous by their speed, agility, and hardiness : 
they swam, they dived, they remained under water, drawing their breath 
through a hollow cane ; and a river or lake was often the scene of their 
unsuspected ambuscade. But these were the achievements of spies and 
stragglers; the military art was unknown to the Slavonians; their name 
was obscure, and their conquests were inglorious. 

The level country of Moldavia and Wallachia was occupied by the Antes 
(or Antai), a Slavonian tribe, which swelled the titles of Justinian with an 
epithet of conquest. Against the Antes he erected the fortifications of the 
lower Danube ; and laboured to secure the alliance of a people seated in 
the direct channel of northern inundation, an interval of two hundred miles 
between the mountains of Transylvania and the Euxine Sea. But the Antes; 
wanted power and inclination to stem the fury of the torrent ; and the light- 
armed Slavonians, from a hundred tribes, pursued with almost equal speed 
the footsteps of the Bulgarian horse. 1 The payment of one piece of gold for 
each soldier procured a safe and easy retreat through the country of the 
Gepidse, who commanded the passage of the upper Danube. 

The hopes or fears of the barbarians, their intestine union or discord, the 
accident of a frozen or shallow stream, the prospect of harvest or vintage, 
the prosperity or distress of the Romans — were the causes which produced the 
uniform repetition of annual visits, tedious in the narrative and destructive 
in the event. The same year, and possibly the same month, in which Ravenna 

I 1 Bury « says, " the Bulgarians soon cease to be mentioned and it appears probable that 
they were subjugated by the neighbouring Slavs." He adds that these Bulgarians of the sixth 
century had nothing to do with the foundation of the Bulgarian Kingdom in the seventh 


[540-565 A.D.] 
surrendered was marked by an invasion of the Huns or Bulgarians, 1 so dread- 
ful that it almost effaced the memory of their past inroads. They spread 
from the suburbs of Constantinople to the Ionian Gulf, destroyed thirty-two 
cities or castles, erased Potidsea which Athens had built and Philip had 
besieged, and repassed the Danube, dragging at their horses' heels 
120,000 of the subjects of Justinian. In a subsequent inroad they pierced 
the wall of the Thracian Chersonesus, extirpated the habitations and the 
inhabitants, boldly traversed the Hellespont, and returned to their com- 
panions, laden with the spoils of Asia. Another party, which seemed a 
multitude in the eyes of the Romans, penetrated without opposition from 

the straits of Thermopylae to the Isthmus of Cor- 
inth ; and the last ruin of Greece has appeared an 
object too minute for the attention of history. 

The works which the emperor raised for the pro- 
tection but at the expense of his subjects served 
only to disclose the weakness of some neglected 
part; and the walls, which by flattery had been 
deemed impregnable, were either deserted by the 
garrison or scaled by the barbarians. Three thou- 
sand Slavonians, who insolently divided themselves 
into two bands, discovered the weakness and misery 
of a triumphant reign. They passed the Danube 
and the Hebrus, vanquished the Roman generals 
who dared to oppose their progress, and plundered 
with impunity the cities of Illyricum and Thrace, 
each of which had arms and numbers to overwhelm 
their contemptible assailants. 

Whatever praise the boldness of the Slavonians 
may deserve, it is sullied by the wanton and delib- 
erate cruelty which they are accused of exercising 
on their prisoners. Without 'distinction of rank, or 
age, or sex, the captives were impaled or flayed alive, 
or suspended between four posts and beaten with 
clubs till they expired, or enclosed- in some spacious 
building and left to perish in the flames with the 
spoil and cattle which might impede the march of 
these savage victors. Perhaps a more impartial nar- 
rative would reduce the number, and qualify the 
nature, of these horrid acts ; and they might sometimes be excused by the 
cruel laws of retaliation. In the siege of Topirns, whose obstinate defence 
had enraged the Slavonians, they massacred fifteen thousand males ; 2 but 
they spared the women and children. The most valuable captives were 
always reserved for labour or ransom ; the servitude was not rigorous, and 
the terms of their deliverance were speedy and moderate. But the subject 
or the historian of Justinian exhaled his just indignation in the language of 
complaint and reproach ; and Procopius has confidently affirmed that, in a 
reign of thirty-two years, each annual inroad of the barbarians consumed two 
hundred thousand of the inhabitants of the Roman Empire. The entire 
population of Turkish Europe, which nearly corresponds with the provinces 

A Byzantine Costume 

[i Procopius d calls the Bulgarians " Huns." Roesler I calls the Cotrigur Huns " Bulgarians." 
The origins of these races will be taken up more fully in the later volumes of modern history.] 

[ 2 Such a slaughter requires a far larger population than the obscure town of Topirus could 
probably have possessed.] 


[545-557 A.D.] 

of Justinian, would perhaps be incapable of supplying six millions of persons, 
the result of this incredible estimate. 

In the midst of these obscure calamities, Europe felt the shock of a revo- 
lution, which first revealed to the world the name and nation of the Turks.* 


Since that period the Turks have always continued to occupy a memorable 
place in the history of mankind, as the destroyers of ancient civilisation. 
In their progress towards the West, they were preceded by the Avars, a 
people whose arrival in Europe produced the greatest alarm, whose dominion 
-was soon widely extended, but whose complete extermination, or amalgama- 
tion with their subjects, leaves the history of their race a problem never likely 
to receive a very satisfactory solution. The Avars are supposed to have 
been a portion of the inhabitants of a powerful Asiatic empire which figures 
in the annals of China as ruling a great part of the centre of Asia, and ex- 
tending to the Gulf of Corea. The great empire of the Avars was over- 
thrown by a rebellion of their Turkish subjects, and the noblest caste soon 
b>ecame lost to history amidst the revolutions of the Chinese Empire. 

The original seats of the Turks were in the country round the great chain 
of Mount Altai. As subjects of the Avars, they had been distinguished by 
their skill in working and tempering iron ; their industry had procured them 
wealth, and wealth had inspired them with the desire for independence. 
After throwing off the yoke of the Avars, they waged war with that people, 
.and compelled the military strength of the nation to fly before them in two 
separate bodies. One of these divisions fell back on China ; the other ad- 
vanced into western Asia, and at last entered Europe. The Turks engaged 
in a career of conquest, and in a few years their dominions extended from 
the Volga and the Caspian Sea to the shores of the ocean, or the Sea of 
•Japan, and from the banks of the Oxus (Gihon) to the deserts of Siberia. 
The western army of the Avars, increased by many tribes who feared the 
'Turkish government, advanced into Europe as a nation of conquerors, and 
not as a band of fugitives. The mass of this army is supposed to have been 
•composed of people of the Turkish race, because those who afterwards bore 
the Avar name in Europe seem to have belonged to that family. It must 
mot, however, be forgotten, that the mighty army of Avar emigrants might 
easily, in a few generations, lose all national peculiarities, and forget its 
native language, amidst the greater number of its Hunnish subjects, even if 
we should suppose the two races to have been originally derived from dif- 
ferent stocks. The Avars, however, are sometimes styled Turks, even by 
the earliest historians. The use of the appellation Turk, in an extended 
isense, including the Mongol race, is found in Theophylactus Simocatta,"* a 
writer possessing considerable knowledge of the affairs of eastern Asia, and 
who speaks of the inhabitants of the flourishing kingdom of Taugus as Turks. 
This application of the term appears to have arisen from the circumstance, 
that the part of China to which he alluded was subject at the time to a 
foreign, or, in his phrase, a Turkish dynasty. 

The _ Avars soon conquered all the countries as far as the banks of the 
Danube, and before Justinian's death they were firmly established on the 
borders of Pannonia.& 

They had followed the well-known road of the Volga, cherished the error 
.of the nations who confounded them with the original Avars, and spread the 


[557-565 A.D.] 
terror of that false though famous appellation, which had not, however, saved, 
its lawful proprietors from the yoke of the Turks. After a long and victorious, 
march, the new Avars arrived at the foot of Mount Caucasus, in the country 
of the Alans and Circassians, where they first heard of the splendour and 
weakness of the Roman Empire. They humbly requested their confederate, 
the prince of the Alans, to lead them to this source of riches; and their 
ambassador, with the permission of the governor of Lazica, was transported 
by the Euxine Sea to Constantinople. The whole city was poured forth to 
behold with curiosity and terror tlie aspect of a strange people ; their long 
hair, which hung in tresses down their backs, was gracefully bound with 
ribbons, but the rest of their habit appeared to imitate the fashion of the 
Huns. When they were admitted to the audience of Justinian, Candish, the* 
first of the ambassadors, addressed the Roman emperor in these terms : " You. 
see before you, O mighty prince, the representatives of the strongest and 
most populous of nations, the invincible, the irresistible Avars. We are will- 
ing to devote ourselves to your service, we are able to vanquish and destroy 
all the enemies who now disturb your repose. But we expect, as the price of 
our alliance, as the reward of our valour, precious gifts, animal subsidies, 
and fruitful possessions." 

At the time of this embassy Justinian had reigned above thirty, he had 
lived above seventy -five years; his mind, as well as his body, was feeble 
and languid; and the conqueror of Africa and Italy, careless of the per- 
manent interest of his people, aspired only to end his days in the bosom 
even of inglorious peace. In a studied oration, he imparted to the senate his; 
resolution to dissemble the insult and to purchase the friendship of the Avars ;, 
and the whole senate, like the mandarins of China, applauded the incompar- 
able wisdom and foresight of their sovereign. The instruments of luxury- 
were immediately prepared to captivate the barbarians; silken garments, 
soft and splendid beds, and chains and collars encrusted with gold. The- 
ambassadors, content with such liberal reception, departed from Constanti- 
nople, and Valentin, one of the emperor's guards, was sent with a similar 
character to their camp at the foot of Mount Caucasus. As their destruction 
or their success must be alike advantageous to the empire, he persuaded 
them to invade the enemies of Rome; and they were easily tempted, by 
gifts and promises, to gratify their ruling inclinations. These fugitives, who> 
fled before the Turkish arms, passed the Tanais and Borysthenes, and boldly 
advanced into the heart of Poland and Germany, violating the law of nations, 
and abusing the rights of victory. 

Before ten years had elapsed, their camps were seated on the Danube and 
the Elbe, many Bulgarian and Slavonian names were obliterated from the 
earth, and the remainder of their tribes are found, as tributaries and vassals, 
under the standard of the Avars. The chagan, the peculiar title of their 
king, still affected to cultivate the friendship of the emperor ; and Justinian 
entertained some thoughts of fixing them in Pannonia, to balance the pre- 
vailing power of the Lombards. But the virtue or treachery of an Avar 
betrayed the secret enmity and ambitious designs of their countrymen ; 
and they loudly complained of the timid, though jealous, policy of detaining 
their, ambassadors, and denying the arms which they had been allowed to. 
purchase in the capital of the empire. 

Perhaps the apparent change in the dispositions of the emperors may he 
ascribed to the embassy which was received from the conquerors of the 
Avars. The immense distance, which eluded their arms, could not extin- 
guish their resentment ; the Turkish ambassadors pursued the footsteps off 


[40O-B27 A.D.] 

the vanquished to the Jaik, the Volga, Mount Caucasus, the Euxine, and 
Constantinople, and at length appeared before the successor of Constantine r 
to request that he would not espouse the cause of rebels and fugitives. 
The emperor renounced, or seemed to renounce, the fugitive Avars, but he-- 
accepted the alliance of the Turks ; and the ratification of the treaty was. 
carried by a Roman minister to the foot of Mount Altai. Under the suc- 
cessors of Justinian, the friendship of the two nations was cultivated by 
frequent and cordial intercourse, c 


The Asiatic frontier of the Roman Empire was less favourable for attack 
than defence. The range of the Caucasus was occupied, as it still is, by a. 
cluster of small nations of various languages, strongly attached to their 
independence, which the nature of their country enabled them to maintain 
amidst the wars and conflicting negotiations of the Romans, Persians, and 
Huns, by whom they were surrounded. The kingdom of Colchis (Mingre- 
lia) was in permanent alliance with the Romans, and the sovereign received 
a regular investiture from the emperor. The Tzans, who inhabited the 
mountains about the sources of the Phasis, enjoyed a subsidiary alliance 
with Justinian until their plundering expeditions within the precincts of the 
empire induced him to garrison their country. Iberia, to the east of 
Colchis, the modern Georgia, formed an independent kingdom under the 
protection of Persia. 

Armenia, as an independent kingdom, had long formed a slight counter- 
poise between the Roman and Persian empires. In the reign of Theodosius; 
II it had been partitioned by its powerful neighbours ; and about the year 
429, it had lost the shadow of independence which it had been allowed to- 
retain. The greater part of Armenia had fallen to the share of the Persians ; 
but as the people were Christians, and possessed their own church and litera- 
ture, they had maintained their nationality uninjured after the loss of their 
political government. The western or Roman part of Armenia was bounded 
by the mountains in which the Araxes, the Boas, and the Euphrates take 
their rise ; and it was defended against Persia by the fortress of Theodosi- 
opolis (Erzerum), situated on the very frontier of Pers-Armenia. From 
Theodosiopolis the empire was bounded by ranges of mountains which cross, 
the Euphrates and extend to the river Nymphseus, and here the city of 
Martyropolis, the capital of Roman Armenia, east of the Euphrates, was- 
situated. From the junction of the Nymphseus with the Tigris the frontier 
again followed the mountains to Dara, and from thence it proceeded to the 
Chaboras and the fortress of Circesium. 

The Arabs or Saracens, who inhabited the district between Circesium and 
Idumsea, were divided into two kingdoms : that of Ghassan, towards Syria, 
maintained an alliance with the Romans ; and that of Hira, to the east, en- 
joyed the protection of Persia. Palmyra, which had fallen into ruins after 
the time of Theodosius II, was repaired and garrisoned ; and the country 
between the gulfs of Ailath.and Suez, forming a province called the Third 
Palestine, was protected by a fortress constructed at the foot of Mount Sinai,' 
and occupied by a strong body of troops. 

Such a frontier, though it presented great difficulties in the way of invad- 
ing Persia, afforded admirable means for protecting the empire ; and accord- 
ingly it had very rarely indeed happened that a Persian army had ever 


[527-^532 a.d J 
penetrated into a Roman province.' It was reserved for Justinian's reign to 
"behold the Persians break through the defensive line, and contribute to the 
Tuin of the wealth and the destruction of the civilisation of some of the most 
nourishing and enlightened portions of the Eastern Empire. The wars which 
Justinian carried on with Persia reflect little glory on his reign ; but the 
celebrated name of his rival, the great Chosroes Nushirvan, has rendered his 
Biisfortunes and misconduct venial in the eyes of historians. 

The Persian and Roman empires were at this time nearly equal in power 
and civilisation ; both were ruled by princes whose reigns form national 
«pochs, yet history affords ample evidence that the brilliant exploits of both 
these sovereigns were effected by a wasteful expenditure of the national re- 
sources and by a consumption of the lives and capital of their subjects which 
proved irreparable. Neither empire was ever able to regain its former state 
of prosperity, nor could society recover the shock which it had received. 
The governments were too demoralised to venture on political reforms, and 
the people too ignorant and too feeble to attempt a national revolution. 

The governments of declining countries often give but slight signs of 
their weaknesses and approaching dissolution as long as the ordinary rela- 
tions of war and peace require to be maintained only with habitual friends 
or enemies, though the slightest exertion, created by extraordinary circum- 
stances, may cause the political fabric to fall to pieces. The armies of the 
Eastern Empire and of Persia had, by long acquaintance with the military 
force of one another, found the means of balancing any peculiar advantage 
of their enemy by a modification of tactics, or by an improvement in mili- 
tary discipline, which neutralised its effect. War between the two states 
was consequently carried on according to a regular routine of service, and was 
continued during a succession of campaigns in which much blood and treasure 
were expended, and much glory gained, with very little change in the relative 
military power, and none in the frontiers,- of the two. empires. 

The avarice of' Justinian, ' or his inconstant plans, often induced him to 
leave the eastern frontier of the empire very inadequately garrisoned ; and 
this frontier presented an extent of country against which a Persian army, 
concentrated behind the Tigris, could choose its point of attack. The option 
of carrying the war into Syria, Mesopotamia, Armenia, or Colchis generally 
lay with the Persians ; and Chosroes attempted to penetrate into the empire 
by every portion of this frontier during his long wars. The Roman army, 
in spite of the change which had taken place in its arms and organisation, 
still retained its superiority. 6 

The first war with the Persians had followed close upon Justinian's 
accession. He had sent Belisarius to build a fortress near Nisibis in 528; 
the Persians under Prince Xerxes invaded Mesopotamia and defeated the 
Romans with heavy loss. The next year was devoted to raids by both sides, 
but in 530 Belisarius, then only twenty-five, won a victory at Daras. " This 
being," says Procopius,^ " the first defeat suffered by the Persians for a long 
time." The next year, however, at Callinicum, Belisarius was badly de- 
feated, and while Procopius, his secretary, says he fought bravely, Johannes 
Malalas n accuses him of cowardice. At any rate he was recalled, and his 
successor Mundus won some glory. Then the old King Kobad died and 
his famous son Chosroes I. came to the Persian throne. « 

And now the war in which Justinian had found the empire engaged on 
his succession was terminated by a peace called "the Everlasting Peace," 
which the Romans purchased by the payment of eleven thousand pounds of 
gold to Chosroes. The Persian monarch required peace to regulate the 


1632-562 A.B.] 

affairs of his own kingdom ; and the calculation of Justinian that the sum 
which he paid to Persia was much less than the expense of continuing the 
war, though correct, was injudicious, as it really conveyed an admission of 
inferiority and weakness. Justinian's object had been to place the great 
body of his military forces at liberty, 
in order to direct his exclusive atten- 
tion to recovering the lost provinces of 
the Western Empire. Had he availed 
himself of peace with Persia to dimin- 
ish the burdens on his subjects, and 
•consolidate the defence of the empire 
instead of extending its frontiers, he 
might perhaps have re-established the 
Roman power. As soon as Chosroes 
heard of the conquests of Justinian in 
Africa, Sicily, and Italy, his jealousy 
induced him to renew the war. The 
solicitations of an embassy sent by Witi- 
ges are said to have had some effect in 
determining him to take up arms. 

In 540 Chosroes invaded Syria with 
a powerful army, and laid siege to An- 
tioch, the second city of the empire in 
population and wealth. He offered to 
raise the siege on receiving payment of 
one thousand pounds' weight of gold, 
but this small sum was refused. Anti- 
och was taken by storm, its buildings 
were committed to the flames, and its 
inhabitants were carried away captive 
and settled as colonists in Persia. Hie- 
rapolis, Beroea (Aleppo), Apamea, and 
Chalcis escaped this fate by paying the 
ransom demanded from each. To save Syria from utter destruction, Beli- 
sarius was sent to take the command of an army assembled for its defence, 
but he was ill supported, and his success was by no means brilliant. The 
fact that he saved Syria from utter devastation, nevertheless, rendered his 
campaign of 543 by no means unimportant for the empire. 6 

In 545 a truce for five years was signed, Justinian paying two thousand 
pounds of gold. In 549 the Romans yielded to the appeal of the Lazi and 
sent troops to aid them to shake off the Persian yoke. After various sieges, 
a new truce was concluded in 551, the Romans paying twenty-six hundred 
pounds of gold. Hostilities went on, none the less, with a result, as Bury« 
notes, that the Persians failed of their design to gain access to the Euxine, 
and "that on the waters of the sea the Romans were to remain without 
jivals." The Romans had, however, to pay, as usual, the price. <* The war 
had been carried on for twenty years, but during the latter period of its 
duration military operations had been confined to Colchis. It was termi- 
nated in 562 by a truce for fifty years, which effected little change in the 
frontiers of the empire. The most remarkable clause of this treaty of peace 
imposed on Justinian the disgraceful obligation of paying Chosroes an an- 
nual subsidy of thirty thousand pieces of gold [=£18,750 or 193,750] ; and he 
•was compelled immediately to advance the sum of 210,000 pounds, for seven 

A Persian Noble 
(Based on Bardon) 


[535-536 A.D.J 

years. The sum, it is true, was not very great, but the condition of the 
Roman Empire was sadly changed, when it became necessary to purchase 
peace from all its neighbours with gold, and with gold to find mercenary 
troops to carry on its wars. The moment, therefore, a supply of gold failed 
in the imperial treasury, the safety of the Roman power was compromised. 

The weakness of the Roman Empire, and the necessity of finding allies in 
the East, in order to secure a share of the lucrative commerce of which Per- 
sia had long possessed a monopoly, induced Justinian to keep up friendly 
communications with the king of Ethiopia (Abyssinia). Elesboas, who then 
occupied the Ethiopian throne, was a prince of great power, and a steady 
ally of the Romans. The wars of this Christian monarch in Arabia are 
related by the historians of the empire ; and Justinian endeavoured, by this 
means, to transfer the silk trade with India from Persia to the route by 
the Red Sea. 

The attempt failed from the great length of the sea voyage, and the diffi- 
culties of adjusting the intermediate commerce of the countries on this line 
of communication ; but still the trade of the Red Sea was so great that the 
king of Ethiopia, in the reign of Justin, was able to collect a fleet of seven 
hundred native vessels, and six hundred Roman and Persian merchantmen, 
which he employed to transport his troops into Arabia. 6 


The review of the nations from the Danube to the Nile has exposed on 
every side the weakness of the Romans; and our wonder is reasonably 
excited that they should presume to enlarge an empire, whose ancient limits 
they were incapable of defending. Bat the wars, the conquests, and the 
triumphs of Justinian are the feeble and pernicious efforts of old age, which 
exhaust the remains of strength and accelerate the decay of the powers of 
life. He exulted in the .glorious act of restoring Africa and Italy to the 
republic; but the calamities which followed the departure of Belisarius 
betrayed the impotence of the conqueror and accomplished the ruin of those 
unfortunate countries. 

From his new acquisitions, Justinian expected that his avarice, as well 
as pride, should be richly gratified. A rapacious minister of the finances 
closely pursued the footsteps of Belisarius ; and as the old registers of 
tribute had been burned by the Vandals, he indulged his fancy in a liberal 
calculation and arbitrary assessment of the wealth of Africa. The increase 
of taxes, which were drawn away by a distant sovereign, and a general re- 
sumption of the patrimony or crown lands soon dispelled the intoxication of 
the public joy ; but the emperor was insensible to the modest complaints 
of the people, till he was awakened and alarmed by the clamours of military 
discontent. Many of the Roman soldiers had married the widows and 
daughters of the Vandals. As their own, by the double right of conquest 
aud inheritance, they claimed the estates which Genseric had assigned to 
his victorious troops. They heard with disdain the cold and selfish repre- 
sentations of their officers that the liberality of Justinian had raised them 
from a savage or servile condition; that they were already enriched by the 
spoils of Africa, the treasure, the slaves, and the movables of the vanquished 
barbarians ; and that the ancient and lawful patrimony of the emperors would 
be applied only to the support of that government on which their own safety, 
and reward must ultimately depend. 


1535-545 A.D.] 

The mutiny was secretly inflamed by a thousand soldiers, for the most 
part Heruli, who had imbibed the doctrines and were instigated by the 
•clergy of the Arian sect ; and the cause of perjury and rebellion was sancti- 
fied by the dispensing powers of fanaticism. The Arians deplored the ruin 
of their church, triumphant above a century in Africa ; and they were justly 
_provoked by the laws of the conqueror, which interdicted the baptism of 
their children and the exercise of all religious worship. Of the Vandals 
^chosen by Belisarius, the far greater part, in the honours of the eastern 
service, forgot their country and religion. But a generous band of four 
lundred obliged the mariners, when they were in sight of the isle of Lesbos, 
"to alter their course ; they touched on Peloponnesus, ran ashore on a desert 
•coast of Africa, and boldly erected on Mount Aurasius the standard of 
independence and revolt. 

While the troops of the province disclaimed the commands of their 
superiors, a conspiracy was formed at Carthage against the life of Solomon, 
-who filled with honour the place of Belisarius ; and the Arians had piously 
Tesolved to sacrifice the tyrant at the foot of the altar, during the awful 
mysteries of the festival of Easter. Fear or remorse restrained the daggers 
of the assassins, but the patience of Solomon emboldened their discontent ; 
and at the end of ten days a furious sedition was kindled in the circus, 
which desolated Africa above ten years. The pillage of the city and the 
indiscriminate slaughter of its inhabitants were suspended only by darkness, 
sleep, and intoxication ; the governor, with seven companions, among whom 
-was the historian Procopius, escaped to Sicily. Two-thirds of the army were 
involved in the guilt of treason ; and eight thousand insurgents, assembling 
in the fields of Bulla, elected Stozas for their chief, a private soldier who 
possessed, in a superior degree, thevirtues «f a rebel. Under the mask of 
ireedom, his eloquence could lead, or at least impel, the passions of his 
■equals. He raised himself to a level with Belisarius and the nephew of the 
■emperor, by daring to encounter them in the field; and the victorious 
generals were compelled to acknowledge that Stozas deserved a purer cause 
and a more legitimate command. Vanquished in battle, he dexterously em- 
ployed the arts of negotiation ; a Roman army was seduced from their alle- 
giance, and the chiefs, who had trusted to his faithless promise, were murdered 
by his order in a church of Numidia. 

When every resource, either of force or perfidy, was exhausted, Stozas 
with .some desperate Vandals retired to the wilds of Mauretania, obtained 
-the daughter of a barbarian prince, and eluded the pursuit of his enemies 
by the report of his death. The personal weight of Belisarius, the rank, the 
spirit, and the temper of Germanus, the emperor's nephew, and the vigour 
and success of the second administration of the eunuch Solomon, restored the 
modesty of the camp, and maintained, for a while, the tranquillity of Africa. 
But the vices of the Byzantine court were felt in. that distant province ; the 
troops complained that they were neither paid nor relieved ; and as soon as 
the public disorders were sufficiently mature, Stozas was again alive, in arms, 
and at the gates of Carthage. He fell in a single combat, but he smiled 
in the agonies of death, when he was informed that his own javelin had 
reached the heart of his antagonist. 

The example of Stozas, and the assurance that a fortunate soldier had 
been the first king, encouraged the ambition of Gontharis, and he promised 
by a private treaty to divide Africa with the Moors, if, with their dangerous 
aid, he should ascend the throne of Carthage. The feeble Areobindus, un- 
skilled in the affairs of peace and war, was raised by his marriage with the 


[543-558 A.D.J 

niece of Justinian to the office of exarch. He was suddenly oppressed by a 
sedition of the guards ; and his abject supplications, which provoked the con- 
tempt, could not move the pity, of the inexorable tyrant. After a reign of 
thirty days, Gontharis himself was stabbed at a banquet, by the hand of 
Artaban ; and it is singular enough that an Armenian prince, of the royal 
family of Arsaces, should re-establish at Carthage the authority of the Roman 
Empire. In the conspiracy which unsheathed the dagger of Brutus against, 
the life of Caesar, every circumstance is curious and important to the eyes of 
posterity ; but the guilt or merit of these loyal or rebellious assassins could 
interest only the contemporaries of Procopius, who, by their hopes and fears,, 

their friendship or resentment, were 
personally engaged in the revolutions, 
of Africa. 

That country was rapidly sinking 
into the state of barbarism, from 
whence it had been raised by the 
Phoenician colonies and Roman laws ; 
and every step of intestine discord 
was marked by some deplorable vic- 
tory of savage man over civilised 
society. The Moors, though igno- 
rant of justice, were impatient of 
oppression ; their vagrant life and 
boundless wilderness disappointed 
the arms and eluded the chains of 
a conqueror, and experience had 
shown that neither oaths nor obliga- 
tions could secure the fidelity of their 
attachment. The victory of Mount 
Aurasius had awed them into mo- 
mentary submission ; but if they respected the character of Solomon, they 
hated and despised the pride and luxury of his two nephews, Cyrus and 
Sergius, on whom their uncle had imprudently bestowed the provincial 
governments of Tripolis and Pentapolis. 

A Moorish tribe encamped under the walls of Leptis, to renew their alli- 
ance, and receive from the governor the customary gifts. Fourscore of their 
deputies were introduced as friends into the city ; but, on the dark suspicion 
of a conspiracy, they were massacred at the table of Sergius ; and the clam- 
our of arms and revenge was re-echoed through the valleys of Mount Atlas,, 
from both the Syrtes to the Atlantic Ocean. A personal injury, the unjust 
execution or murder of his brother, rendered Antalas the enemy of the Ro- 
mans. The defeat of the Vandals had formerly signalised his valour ; the 
rudiments of justice and prudence were still more conspicuous in a Moor ; 
and while he laid Hadrumetum in ashes, he calmly admonished the emperor 
that the. peace of Africa might be secured by the recall of Solomon and his. 
unworthy nephews. The exarch led forth his troops from Carthage ; but at 
the distance of six days' journey, in the neighbourhood of Tebeste, 1 he was- 
astonished by the superior numbers and fierce aspect of the barbarians. He 
proposed a treaty, solicited a reconciliation, and offered to bind himself by 
the most solemn oaths. " By what oaths can he bind himself ? " interrupted 
the indignant Moors. " Will he swear by the Gospels, the divine books of the 

Gold- 'Medallion of Justinian 

I 1 Now Tibesh in Algiers.] 


[558-559 A.D.] 

Christians? It was on those books that the faith of his nephew Sergius was- 
pledged to eighty of our innocent and unfortunate brethren. Before we 
trust them a second time, let us try their efficacy in the chastisement of per- 
jury, and the vindication of their own honour." Their honour was vindicated 
in the field of Tebeste, by the death of Solomon and the total loss of his- 

The arrival of fresh troops and more skilful commanders 1 soon checked 
the insolence of the Moors; seventeen of their princes were slain in the same^ 
battle ; and the doubtful and transient submission of their tribes was cele- 
brated with lavish applause by the people of Constantinople. Successive 
inroads had reduced the province of Africa to one-third of the measure of 
Italy ; yet the Roman emperors continued to reign above a century over 
Carthage and the fruitful coast of the Mediterranean. But the victories and 
the losses of Justinian were alike pernicious to mankind ; and such was the 
desolation of Africa that in many parts a stranger might wander whole days- 
without meeting the face either of a friend or an enemy. 

The nation of the Vandals had disappeared; they once amounted to- 
160,000 warriors, without including the children, the women, or the slaves. 
Their numbers were infinitely surpassed by the number of the Moorish fami- 
lies extirpated in a relentless war ; and the same destruction was retaliated 
on the Romans and their allies, who perished by the climate, their mutual 
quarrels, and the rage of the barbarians. When Procopius first landed, he 
admired the populousness of the cities and country, strenuously exercised in 
the labours of commerce and agriculture. In less than twenty years, that- 
busy scene was converted into a silent solitude ; the wealthy citizens escaped 
to Sicily and Constantinople ; and the secret historian has confidently 
affirmed that five millions of Africans were consumed by the wars and gov- 
ernment of the emperor Justinian. 


The repose of the aged Belisarius was crowned by a last victory which 
saved the emperor and the capital. The barbarians who annually visited the 
provinces of Europe were less discouraged by some accidental defeat than 
they were excited by the double hope of spoil and of subsidy. 

In the thirty-second winter of Justinian's reign, the Danube was deeply 
frozen ; Zabergan led the cavalry of the Cotrigur (or Cotugur) Huns, and 
his standard was followed by a promiscuous multitude. The savage chief 
passed, without opposition, the river and the mountains, spread his troops 
over Macedonia and Thrace, and' advanced with no more than seven thou- 
sand horse to the long walls which should have defended the territory of 
Constantinople. But the works of man are impotent against the assaults 
of nature ; a recent earthquake had shaken the foundations of the wall, and 

[ 1 " The glory of Belisarius deserves to be contrasted with the oblivion which has covered the- 
exploits of Johannes the Patrician, one of the ablest generals of Justinian. This experienced gen- 
eral assumed the command in Africa when the province had fallen into a state of great disorder ;. 
the inhabitants were exposed to a dangerous coalition of the Moors, and the Roman army was in 
such a state of destitution that their leader was compelled to import the necessary provisions for his 
troops. Though Johannes defeated the Moors, and restored prosperity to the province, his name 
is almost forgotten. His actions and talents only affected the interests of the Byzantine Empire, 
and prolonged the existence of the Roman province of Africa ; they exerted ho influence on the 
fate of any of the European nations whose history has been the object of study in modern times, 
so that they were utterly forgotten when the discovery of the poetry of Corippus, one of the' 
last and worst of the Roman poets, rescued them from complete oblivion." — Finlat.*] 


[559 A.D.] 

the forces of the empire were employed on the distant frontiers of Italy, 
Africa, and Persia. The seven schools, or companies of the guards or do- 
mestic troops, had been augmented to the number of fifty-five hundred men, 
"whose ordinary station was in the peaceful cities of Asia. But the places 
of the brave Armenians were insensibly supplied by lazy citizens, who pur- 
chased an exemption from the duties of civil life, without being exposed 
to the dangers of military service. Of such soldiers, few could be tempted to 
isally from the gates ; and none could be persuaded to remain in the field 
unless they wanted strength and speed to escape from the Cotrigurs. 

The report of the fugitives exaggerated the numbers and fierceness of an 
•enemy who had polluted holy virgins and abandoned new-born infants to 
the dogs and vultures ; * a crowd-of rustics, imploring food and protection, 
increased the consternation of the city, and the tents of Zabergan were 
pitched at the distance of twenty miles, on the banks of a small river which 
•encircles Melanthias, and afterwards falls into the Propontis. Justinian 
trembled ; and those who had only seen the emperor in his old age, were 
jpleased to suppose that he had lost the alacrity and vigour of his youth. 
By his command, the vessels of gold and silver were removed from the 
■churches in the neighbourhood and even the suburbs of Constantinople ; 
the ramparts were lined with trembling spectators; the golden gate was 
■crowded with useless generals and tribunes, and the senate shared the fatigues 
and the apprehensions of the populace. 

But the eyes of the prince and people were directed to a feeble veteran, 
who was compelled by the public danger to resume the armour in which he 
had entered ..Carthage and defended Rome. The horses of the royal stables, 
of private citizens, and even of the circus, were hastily collected ; the emu- 
lation of the old and. young was roused by the name of Belisarius, and his 
first encampment wafi in the presence of a victorious enemy. His prudence, 
and the labour of the friendly peasants^ secured with a ditch and rampart 
the repose of the night ; innumerable fires and clouds of dust were artfully 
contrived to magnify the opinion of his strength; his soldiers suddenly 
passed from despondency to presumption, and while ten thousand voices 
demanded the battle, Belisarius dissembled his knowledge that in the hour 
of trial he must depend on the firmness of three hundred veterans. 

The next morning the Cotrigur cavalry advanced to the charge. But 
they heard the shouts of multitudes, they beheld the arms and discipline of 
the front ; they were assaulted on the flanks by two ambuscades which rose 
from the woods ; their foremost warriors fell by the hand of the aged hero 
and his guards ; and the swiftness of their evolutions was rendered useless 
by the close attack and rapid pursuit of the Romans. In this action (so 
speedy was their flight) the Cotrigur Huns lost only four hundred horse ; 
but Constantinople was saved ; and Zabergan, who felt the hand of a master, 
withdrew to a respectful distance. But his friends were numerous in the 
•councils of the emperor, and Belisarius obeyed with reluctance the commands 
of envy and Justinian, which forbade him to achieve the deliverance of his 

On his return to the city, the people, still conscious of their danger, 
accompanied his triumph with acclamations of joy and gratitude, which were 
imputed as a crime to the victorious general. But when he entered the 
palace the courtiers were silent, and the emperor, after a cold and thankless 
embrace, dismissed him to mingle with the train of slaves. Yet so deep was 

[' " As if," comments Agathias," "this alone had been the purpose of their appearance in the 



the impression of his glory on the minds of men that Justinian, in the 
seventy-seventh year of his age, was encouraged to advance near forty miles 
from the capital, and to inspect in person the restoration of the long wall. 
The Cotrigurs wasted the summer in the plains of Thrace ; hut they were 
inclined to peace by the failure of their rash attempts on Greece and the 
Chersonesus. A menace of killing their prisoners quickened the payment 
of heavy ransoms; and the departure of Zabergan was hastened by the 
report that double-prowed vessels were built on the Danube to intercept his 
passage. The danger was soon forgotten; and a vain question, whether 
their sovereign had shown more wisdom or weakness, amused the idleness 
of the city. 


About two years after the last victory of Belisarius, the emperor returned 
from a Thracian journey of health, or business, or devotion. Justinian was 
afflicted by a pain in his head ; and his private entry countenanced the 
rumour of his death. Before the third hour of the day, the bakers' shops 
were plundered of their bread, the houses were shut, and every citizen, with 
hope or terror, prepared for the impending tumult. The senators them- 
selves, fearful and suspicious, were convened at the ninth hour; and the 
prefect received their commands to visit every quarter of the city, and pro- 
claim a general illumination for the recovery of the emperor's health. The 
ferment subsided, but every accident betrayed the impotence of the govern- 
ment and the factious temper of the people ; the guards were disposed to 
mutiny as often as their quarters were changed or their pay was withheld; 
the frequent calamities of fires and earthquakes afforded the opportunities 
of disorder ; the disputes of the blues and greens, of the orthodox and here- 
tics, degenerated into bloody battles; and in the presence of the Persian 
ambassador, Justinian blushed for himself and for his subjects. 

Capricious pardon and arbitrary punishment embittered the irksomeness 
and discontent of a long reign ; a conspiracy was formed in the palace ; and 
unless we are deceived by the names of Marcellus and Sergius, the most 
virtuous and the most profligate of the courtiers were associated in the same 
designs. They had fixed the time of the execution ; their rank gave them 
access to the royal banquet ; and their black slaves were stationed in the 
vestibule and porticoes, to announce the death of the tyrant and to excite 
a sedition in the capital. But the indiscretion of an accomplice saved 
the poor remnant of the days of Justinian. The conspirators were detected 
and seized, with daggers hidden under their garments; Marcellus died by 
his own hand, and Sergius was dragged from the sanctuary. Pressed by 
remorse, or tempted by the hopes of safety, he accused two officers of the 
household of Belisarius ; and torture forced them to declare that they had 
acted according to the secret instructions of their patron. 

Posterity will not hastily believe that a hero who, in the vigour of life, 
had disdained the fairest offers of ambition and revenge, would stoop to the 
murder of his prince whom he could not long expect to survive. His fol- 
lowers were impatient to fly ; but flight must have been supported by rebel- 
lion, and he had lived enough for nature and for glory. Belisarius appeared 
before the council with less fear than indignation. After forty years' service, 
the emperor had prejudged his guilt; and injustice was sanctified by the 
presence and authority of the patriarch. The life of Belisarius was gra- 
ciously spared; but his fortunes were sequestered, and from December to 

H. W. — VOL. VII. K 


[563-565 A.D.] 

July he was guarded as a prisoner in his own palace. At length his inno- 
cence was acknowledged ; his freedom and honours were restored ; and death, 
which might be hastened by resentment and grief, removed him from the 
world about eight months after his deliverance (March, 565). 

The name of Belisarius can never die; but instead of the funeral, the 
monuments, the statues so justly due to his memory, it appears that his 
treasure, the spoils of the Goths and Vandals, were immediately confiscated 
by the emperor. Some decent portion was reserved, however, for the use 
of his widow ; and as Antonina had much to repent, she devoted the last 
remains of her life and fortune to the foundation of a convent. Such is the 
simple and genuine narrative of the fall of Belisarius and the ingratitude of 
Justinian. That he was deprived of his eyes, and reduced by envy to beg 
his bread — " Give a penny to Belisarius the general ! " — is a fiction of later 
times, which has obtained credit, or rather favour, as a strange example of 
the vicissitude's of fortune. 

A Byzantine Castle 


If the emperor could rejoice in the death of Belisarius, he enjoyed the 
base satisfaction only eight months, the last period of a reign of thirty-eight 
and a life of eighty-three years. It would be difficult to trace the character 
of a prince who is not the most conspicuous object of his own times ; but 
the confessions of an enemy may be received as the safest evidence of his 
virtues. The resemblance of Justinian to the bust of Domitian is mali- 
ciously urged; with the acknowledgment, however, of a well-proportioned 
figure, a ruddy complexion, and a pleasing countenance. 

The emperor was easy of access, patient of hearing, courteous and affable 
in discourse, and a master of the angry passions which rage with such destruc- 
tive violence in the breast of a despot. ProcopiusP praises his temper, to 
reproach him with calm and deliberate cruelty; but in the conspiracies 
which attacked his authority and person, a more candid judge will approve 
the justice, or admire the clemency, of Justinian. He excelled in the private 
virtues of chastity and temperance ; but the impartial love of beauty would 
have been less mischievous than his conjugal tenderness for Theodora, and 
his abstemious diet was regulated not by the prudence of a philosopher but 
the superstition of a monk. His repasts were short and frugal ; on solemn 


[527-565 A.D.] 

fasts he contented himself with water and vegetables ; and such was his 
strength, as well as fervour, that he frequently passed two days and as many 
nights without tasting any food. The measure of his sleep was not less rig- 
orous ; after the repose of a single hour, the body was awakened by the soul, 
and, to the astonishment of his chamberlains, Justinian walked or studied 
till the morning light. Such restless application prolonged his time for 
the acquisition of knowledge and the despatch of business; and he might 
seriously deserve the reproach of confounding, by minute and preposterous 
diligence, the general order of his administration. 

The emperor professed himself a musician and architect, a poet and 
philosopher, a lawyer and theologian; and if he failed in the enterprise of 
reconciling the Christian sects, the review of the Roman jurisprudence is a 
noble monument of his spirit and industry. In the government of the 
empire, he was less wise or less successful. The age was unfortunate ; the 
people was oppressed and discontented ; Theodora abused her power ; a suc- 
cession of bad ministers disgraced his judgment ; and Justinian was neither 
beloved in his life nor regretted at his death. The love of fame was deeply 
implanted in his breast, but he condescended to the poor ambition of titles, 
honours, and contemporary praise ; and while he laboured to fix the admira- 
tion, he forfeited the esteem and affection of the Romans. 

The design of the African and Italian wars was boldly conceived and 
executed; and his penetration discovered the talents of Belisarius in the 
camp, of Narses in the palace. But the name of the emperor is eclipsed by 
the names of his victorious generals ; and Belisarius still lives, to upbraid 
the envy and ingratitude of his sovereign. The partial favour of mankind 
applauds the genius of a conqueror who leads and directs his subjects in the 
exercise of arms. 

The characters of Philip II and of Justinian are distinguished by the cold 
ambition which delights in war and declines the dangers of the field. Yet a 
colossal statue of bronze represented the emperor on horseback preparing 
to march against the Persians in the habit and armour of Achilles. In the 
great square before the church of St. Sophia, this monument was raised on a 
brass column and a stone pedestal of seven steps ; and the pillar of Theo- 
dosius, which weighed seventy-four hundred pounds of silver, was removed 
from the same place by the avarice and vanity of Justinian. Future princes 
were more just or indulgent to his memory ; the elder Andronicus, in the 
beginning of the fourteenth century, repaired and beautified his equestrian 
statue ; since the fall of the empire it has been melted into cannon by the 
victorious Turks. , 


The vain titles of the victories of Justinian are crumbled into dust ; but 
the name of the legislator is inscribed on a fair and everlasting monument. 
Under his reign, and by his care, the civil jurisprudence was digested in 
the immortal works of the Code, the Pandects, and the Institutions : the public 
reason of the Romans has been silently or studiously transfused into the 
domestic institutions of Europe, and the laws of Justinian still command 
the respect or obedience of independent nations. Wise or fortunate is the 
prince who connects his own reputation with the honour and interest of 
a perpetual order of men. The defence of their founder is the first cause 
which in every age had exercised the zeal and industry of the civilians. 
They piously commemorate his virtues, dissemble or deny his failings, and 


fiercely chastise the guilt or folly of the rebels who, presume to sully the 
majesty of the purple. The idolatry of love has provoked, as it usually 
happens, the rancour of opposition; the character of Justinian has been 
exposed to the blind vehemence of flattery and invective, and the injustice 
of a sect (the anti-Tribonians) has refused all praise and merit to the prince, 
his ministers, and his laws. 

When Justinian ascended the throne, the reformation of the Roman 
jurisprudence was an arduous but indispensable task. In the space of ten 
centuries, the infinite variety of laws and legal opinions had filled many 
thousand volumes, which no fortune could purchase and no capacity could 
digest. Books could not easily be found ; and the judges, poor in the midst 
of riches, were reduced to the exercise of their illiterate discretion. The sub- 
jects of the Greek provinces were ignorant of the language that disposed 
of their lives and properties ; and the barbarous dialect of the Latins was 
imperfectly studied in the academies of Berytus and Constantinople. As 
an Illyrian soldier, that idiom was familiar to the infancy of Justinian ; his 
youth had been instructed by the lessons of jurisprudence, and his imperial 
choice selected the most learned civilians of the East to labour with their 
sovereign in the work of reformation. The theory of professors was assisted 
by the practice of advocates and the experience of magistrates; 'and the 
whole undertaking was animated by the spirit of Tribonian. This extraor- 
dinary man, the object of so much praise and censure, was a native of Side 
in Pamphilia ; and his genius, like that of Bacon, embraced, as his own, all 
the business and knowledge of the age. 

In the first year of his reign, Justinian directed the faithful Tribonian, 
and nine learned associates, to revise the ordinances of his predecessors, as 
they were contained, since the time of Hadrian, in the Gregorian, Hermo- 
genian, and Theodosian codes; to purge the errors and contradictions, to 
retrench whatever was obsolete or superfluous, and to select the wise and 
salutary laws best adapted to the practice of the tribunals and the use of his 
subjects. The work was accomplished in fourteen months ; and the twelve 
books or tables, which the new decemvirs produced, might be designed 
to imitate the .labours of their Roman predecessors. The new Code of Jus- 
tinian was honoured with his name, and confirmed by his royal signature ; 
authentic transcripts were multiplied by the pens of notaries and scribes. 
A more arduous operation was still behind — to extract the spirit of juris- 
prudence from the decisions and conjectures, the questions and disputes, of 
the Roman civilians. Seventeen lawyers, with Tribonian at their head, were 
appointed by the emperor to exercise an absolute jurisdiction over the works 
of their predecessors. If they had obeyed his commands in ten years, Jus- 
tinian would have been satisfied with their diligence ; and the rapid compo- 
sition of the Digest of Pandects, in three years, will deserve praise or censure, 
according to the merit of the execution. From the library of Tribonian, 
they chose forty, the most eminent civilians of former times ; two thousand 
treatises were comprised in an abridgment of fifty books; and it has been 
carefully recorded that three millions of lines or sentences were reduced, in 
this abstract, to the moderate number of 150,000. The edition of this great 
work was delayed a month after that of the Institutions ; and it seemed reas- 
onable that the elements should precede the digest of the Roman law. As 
soon as the emperor had approved their labours, he ratified, by his legislative 
power, the speculations of these private citizens : their commentaries on the 
twelve tables, the perpetual edict, the laws of the people, and the decrees 
of the senate, succeeded to the authority of the text ; and the text was 


abandoned, as a useless, though venerable, relic of antiquity. The Code, the 
Pandects, and the Institutions were declared to be the legitimate system of 
civil jurisprudence ; they alone were admitted in the tribunals, and they 
alone were taught in the academies of Rome, Constantinople, and Berytus. 
Justinian addressed to the senate and provinces his eternal oracles ; and his 
pride, under the mask of piety, ascribed the consummation of this great design 
to the support and inspiration of the Deity. 

Since the emperor declined the fame and envy of original composition, 
we can only require at his hands method, choice, and fidelity, the humble, 
though indispensable, virtues of a compiler. Among the various combinations 
of ideas, it is difficult to assign any reasonable preference ; but as the order 
of Justinian is different in his three works, it is possible that all may be 
wrong ; and it is certain that two cannot be right. In the selection of 
ancient laws, he seems to have viewed his predecessors without jealousy, 
and with equal regard : the series could not ascend above the reign of 
Hadrian, and the narrow distinction of paganism and Christianity, intro- 
duced by the superstition of Theodosius, had been abolished by the consent 
of mankind. But the jurisprudence of the Pandects is circumscribed within 
a period of a hundred years, from the perpetual edict to the death of Severus 
Alexander : the civilians who lived under the first Caesars are seldom per- 
mitted to speak, and only three names can be attributed to the age of the 
republic. The favourite of Justinian (it has been fiercely urged) was fear- 
ful of encountering the light of freedom and the gravity of Roman sages. 
Tribonian condemned to oblivion the genuine and native wisdom of Cato, 
the Scsevolas, and Sulpicius ; while he invoked spirits more congenial to 
his ora, the Syrians, Greeks, and Africans, who flocked to the imperial 
court to study Latin as a foreign tongue, and jurisprudence as a lucra- 
tive profession. But the ministers of Justinian were instructed to labour, 
not for the curiosity of antiquarians, but for the immediate benefit of his 
subjects. It was their duty to select the useful and practicable parts of the 
Roman law ; and the writings of the old republicans, however curious or 
excellent, were no longer suited to the new system of manners, religion, 
and government. Perhaps, if the preceptors and friends of Cicero were still 
alive, our candour would acknowledge that, except in purity of language, 
their intrinsic merit was excelled by the school of Papinian and Ulpian. 
The science of the laws is the slow growth of time and experience, and the 
advantage both of method' and materials is naturally assumed by the most 
recent authors. The civilians of the reign of the Antonines had studied 
the works of their predecessors : their philosophic spirit had mitigated the 
rigour of antiquity, simplified the forms of proceeding, and emerged from 
the jealousy and prejudice of the rival sects. The choice of the authorities 
that compose the Pandects depended on the judgment of Tribonian; but 
the power of his sovereign could not absolve him from the sacred obliga- 
tions of truth and fidelity. As the legislator of the empire, Justinian might 
repeal the acts of the Antonines, or condemn as seditious the free principles 
which were maintained by the last of the Roman lawyers. But the exist- 
ence of past facts is placed beyond the reach of despotism ; and the emperor 
was guilty of fraud and forgery when he corrupted the integrity of their 
text, inscribed with their venerable names the words and ideas of his ser- 
vile reign, and suppressed by the hand of power the pure and authentic 
copies of their sentiments. The changes and interpolations of Tribonian 
and his colleagues are excused by the pretence of uniformity : but their 
cares have been insufficient, and the antinomies, or contradictions, of the 


[527-565 A.D.] 

Code and Pandects still exercise the patience and subtlety of modern 

But the emperor was unable to fix his own inconstancy ; and while he 
boasted of renewing the exchange of Diomede, of transmuting brass into 
gold, he discovered the necessity of purifying his gold from the mixture of 
baser alloy. Six years had not elapsed from the publication of the Code, 
before he condemned the imperfect attempt by a new and more accurate 
edition of the same work, which he enriched with two hundred of his own 
laws, and fifty decisions of the darkest and most intricate points of jurispru- 
dence. Every year, or according to Procopius each day, of his long reign, 
was marked by some legal innovation. Many of his acts were rescinded by 
himself; many were rejected by his successors; many have been obliterated 
by time ; but the number of sixteen edicts, and one hundred and sixty-eight 
novels has been admitted into the authentic body of the civil jurisprudence. 
In the opinion of a philosopher superior to the prejudices of his profession, 
these incessant, and for the most part trifling, alterations, can be only ex- 
plained by the venal spirit of a prince who sold without shame his judg- 
ments and his laws. 

Monarchs seldom condescend to become the preceptors of their subjects; 
and some praise is due to Justinian, by whose command an ample system , 
was reduced to a short and elementary treatise. Among the various insti- 
tutes of the Roman law, those of Caius were the most popular in the East 
and West ; and their use may be considered as an evidence of their merit. 
They were selected by the imperial delegates, Tribonian, Theophilus, and 
Dorotheus ; and the freedom and purity of the Antonines was encrusted with 
the coarser materials of a degenerate age. The same volume which intro- 
duced the youth of Rome, Constantinople, and Berytus to the gradual study 
of the Code and JPandeets, is still precious to the historian, the philosopher, 
and the magistrate. The Institutions of Justinian are divided into four books : 
they proceed, with no contemptible method, from Persons to Things, and 
from Things to Actions; and the article of Private Wrongs is terminated 
by the principles of Criminal Law. c 

The faults or merits of Justinian's system of laws belong to the lawyers 
entrusted with the execution of his project, but the honour of having com- 
manded this work may be ascribed to the emperor alone. It is to be regretted 
that the position of an absolute sovereign is so liable to temptation from 
passing events, that Justinian himself could not refrain from injuring the 
surest monument of his fame, by later enactments, which mark too clearly 
that they emanated either from his own increasing avarice, or from weakness 
in yielding to the passions of his wife or courtiers, i 

It could not be expected that his political sagacity should have devised 
the means of securing the rights of his subjects against the arbitrary exercise 
of his own power; but he might have consecrated the great principle of 
equity, that legislation can never act as a retrospective decision; and he 
might have ordered his magistrates to adopt the oath of the Egyptian 
judges, who swore, when they entered an office, that they would never de- 
part from the principles of equity (law), and that if the sovereign ordered 
them to do wrong, they would not obey. Justinian, however, was too much 
of a despot, and too little of a statesman, to proclaim the law, even while 
retaining the legislative power in his person, to be superior to the executive 
branch of the government. 

But in maintaining that the laws of Justinian might have been rendered 
more perfect, and have been framed to confer greater benefits on mankind, 


[527-565 a.d.] 

it is not to be denied that the work is one of the most remarkable monuments 
of human wisdom ; and we should remember with gratitude, that for thirteen 
hundred years the Pandects served as the magazine or source of legal lore, 
and constitution of civil rights, to the Christian world, both in the East and in 
the West ; and if it has now become an instrument of administrative tyranny 
in the continental monarchies of Europe, the fault is in the nations who refuse 
to follow out the principles of equity logically in regulating the dispensa- 
tion of justice, and do not raise the law above the sovereign, nor render 
every minister and public servant amenable to the regular tribunals for every 
act he may commit in the exercise of his official duty, like the humblest 

The government of Justinian's empire was Roman, its official language 
was Latin. Oriental habits and usages, as well as time and despotic power, 
had indeed introduced modifications in the old forms ; but it would be an 
error to consider the imperial administration as having assumed a Greek 
character. The accident of the Greek language having become the ordinary 
dialect in use at court, and of the church in the Eastern Empire being deeply 
tinctured with Greek feelings, is apt to create an impression that the East- 
ern Empire had lost something of its Roman pride, in order to adopt a Greek 
character. The circumstance that its enemies often reproached it with being 
Greek, is a proof that the imputation was viewed as an insult. As the 
administration was entirely Roman, the laws of Justinian — the Code, the 
Pandects, and the Institutions — were published in Latin, though many of 
the later edicts (novels) were published in Greek. Nothing can illustrate 
in a stronger manner the artificial and anti-national position of the Eastern 
Roman Empire than this fact, that the Latin language was used in the pro- 
mulgation of a system of' laws for an empire, the language of whose church 
and literature was Greek. Latin was preserved in official business, and in 
public ceremonials, from feelings of pride connected with the ancient renown 
of the Romans and the dignity of the Roman Empire. So strong is the hold 
which antiquated custom maintains over the minds of men, that even a pro- 
fessed reformer, like Justinian, could not break through so irrational an 
usage as the publication of his laws in a language incomprehensible to most 
of those for whose use they were framed. 

The laws and legislation of Justinian throw only an indistinct and vague 
light on the state of the Greek population. They were drawn entirely from 
Roman sources, calculated for a Roman state of society, and occupied with 
Roman forms and institutions. Justinian was so anxious to preserve them 
in all their purity that he adopted two measures to secure them from altera- 
tion. The copyists were commanded to refrain from any abridgment, and 
the commentators were ordered to follow the literal sense of the laws. All 
schools of law were likewise forbidden, except those of Constantinople, Rome, 
and Berytus, a regulation which must have been adopted to guard the Roman 
law from being corrupted by falling into the hands of Greek teachers, and 
becoming confounded with the customary law of the various Greek prov- 
inces. This restriction, and the importance attached to it by the emperor, 
prove that the Roman law was now the universal rule of conduct in the 

Justinian took every measure which prudence could dictate to secure the 
best and purest legal instruction and administration for the Roman tribunals ; 
but only a small number of students could study in the licensed schools, and 
Rome, one of these schools, was, at the time of the publication of the law, in 
the hands of the Goths. It is therefore not surprising that a rapid decline 


[527-565 A.D.] 
in the knowledge of Roman law commenced very shortly after the promulga- 
tion of Justinian's legislation. 

Justinian's laws were soon translated into Greek without the emperor's 
requiring that these paraphrases should be literal ; and Greek commentaries 
of an explanatory nature were published. His novels were subsequently 
published in Greek when the case required it; but it is evident that any 
remains of Greek laws and customs were rapidly yielding to the superior 
system of Roman legislation, perfected as this was by the judicious labours 
of Justinian's councillors. Some modifications were made in the jurisdiction 
of the judges and municipal magistrates at this time ; and we must admit 
the testimony of Procopius as a proof that Justinian sold judicial offices, 
though the vagueness of the accusation does not afford us the means of ascer- 
taining under what pretext the change in the earlier system was adopted. 
It is perhaps impossible to determine what share of authority the Greek 
municipal magistrates retained in the administration of justice and police, 
after the reforms effected by Justinian in their financial affairs, and the 
seizure of a large part of their local revenues. The existence of Greek cor- 
porations in Italy shows that they possessed an acknowledged existence in 
the Roman Empire. 6 


The sixth century may be called the age of Justinian. He may be 
likened to a colossal Janus bestriding the way of passage between the ancient 
and mediaeval worlds. On the one side his face was turned towards the 
past. His ideal, we are told, was to restore the proud aspect of the old 
Roman Empire, and this was chiefly realised by the conquests in Italy, Africa, 
and Spain. The great juristic works executed at the beginning of his reign 
breathe to some degree the spirit of ancient Rome. Moreover he represents 
the last stage in the evolution of the Roman imperium ; in him was fulfilled 
its ultimate absolutism. 

In four departments Justinian has won an immortal name : in warfare, 
in law, in architecture, and in church history. Standing on the shore of the 
mediaeval or modern period, he cast into the waters of the future great stones 
which created immense circles. His military achievements decided the course 
of the history of Italy, and affected the development of western Europe ; his 
legal works are inextricably woven into the web of European civilisation; 
his St. Sophia is one of the greatest monuments of the world, one of the 
visible signs of the continuity of history, a standing protest against the usur- 
pation of the Turk; and his ecclesiastical authority influenced the distant 
future of Christendom, e 



[565-629 a.d.] 

During the last years of Justinian, his infirm mind was devoted to 
heavenly contemplation, and he neglected the business of the lower world. 
His subjects were impatient of the long continuance of his life and reign ; 
yet all who were capable of reflection apprehended the moment of his death, 
which might involve the capital in tumult and the empire in civil war. 
Seven nephews of the childish monarch, the sons or grandsons of his brother 
and sister, had been educated in the splendour of a princely fortune ; they 
had been shown in high commands to the provinces and armies ; their char- 
acters were known, their followers were zealous, and as the jealousy of age 
postponed the declaration of a successor, they might expect with equal hopes 
the inheritance of their uncle. He expired in his palace after a reign of 
thirty-eight years ; and the decisive opportunity was embraced by the friends 
of Justin, the son of Vigilantia. 

At the hour of midnight, his domestics were awakened by an impor- 
tunate crowd, who thundered at his door, and obtained admittance by 
revealing themselves to be the principal members of the senate. These wel- 
come deputies announced the recent and momentous secret of the emperor's 
decease ; reported, or perhaps invented, his dying choice of the best beloved 
and the most deserving of his nephews, and conjured Justin to prevent the 
disorders of the multitude, if they should perceive, with the return of light, 
that they were left without a master. After composing his countenance to 
surprise, sorrow, and decent modesty, Justin, by the advice of his wife 
Sophia, submitted to the authority of the senate. He was conducted with 
speed and silence to the palace ; the guards saluted their new sovereign, and 
the martial and religious rites of his coronation were diligently accomplished. 
By the hands of the proper officers he was invested with the imperial gar- 
ments, the red buskins, white tunic, and purple robe. A fortunate soldier, 
whom he instantly promoted to the rank of tribune, encircled his neck with 
a military collar ; four robust youths exalted him on a shield ; he stood firm 
and erect to receive the adoration of his subjects, and their choice was sanc- 
tified by the benediction of the patriarch, who imposed the diadem on the 
head of an orthodox prince. 

The Hippodrome was already filled with innumerable multitudes; and 
no sooner did the emperor appear on his throne than the voices of the blue 



[565-574 A.D.] 

and green factions were confounded in the same loyal acclamations. In 
the speeches which Justin addressed to the senate and people, he promised 
to correct the abuses which had disgraced the age of his predecessor, dis- 
played the maxims of a just and beneficent government, and declared that, 
on the approaching calends of January, he would revive, in his own person, 
the name and liberality of a Roman consul. The immediate discharge of 
his uncle's debts exhibited a solid pledge of his faith and generosity ; a train 
of porters laden with bags of gold advanced into the midst of the Hippo- 
drome, and the hopeless creditors of Justinian accepted this equitable pay- 
ment as a voluntary gift. Before the end of three years his example was 
imitated and surpassed by the empress Sophia, who delivered many indigent 
citizens from the weight of debt and usury ; an act of benevolence the best 
entitled to gratitude, since it relieves the most intolerable distress, but in 
which the bounty of a prince is the most liable to be abused by the claims of 
prodigality and fraud. 

On the seventh day of his reign Justin gave audience to the ambassadors 
of the Avars, and the scene was decorated to impress the barbarians with 
astonishment, veneration, and terror. The late emperor had cultivated, de- 
clared Targetius, the chief of the embassy, with annual and costly gifts, 
the friendship of a grateful monarch, and the enemies of Rome had re- 
spected the allies of the Avars. The same prudence would instruct the 
nephew of Justinian to imitate the liberality of his uncle, and to purchase 
the blessings of peace from an invincible people, who delighted and excelled 
in the exercise of war. The reply of the emperor was delivered in the 
same strain of haughty defiance, and he derived his confidence from the God 
of the Christians, the ancient glory of Rome, and the recent triumphs of 
Justinian. "The empire," said he, "abounds with men and horses, and 
arms sufficient to defend our frontiers and to chastise the barbarians. You 
offer aid, you threaten hostilities; we despise your enmity and your aid. 
The conquerors of the Avars solicit our alliance; shall we dread their 
fugitives and exiles? The bounty of our uncle was granted to your misery, 
to your humble prayers. From us you shall receive a more important 
obligation, the knowledge of your own weakness. Retire from our pres- 
ence ; the lives of ambassadors are safe ; and if you return to implore our 
pardon, perhaps you will taste of our benevolence." x 

On the report of his ambassadors, the chagan was awed by the apparent 
firmness of a Roman emperor, of whose character and resources he was 
ignorant. Instead of executing his threats against the Eastern Empire, he 
marched into the poor and savage countries of Germany, which were subject 
to the dominion of the Franks. After two doubtful battles, he consented to 
retire ; and the Austrasian king relieved the distress of his camp with an 
immediate supply of corn and cattle. Such repeated disappointments had 
chilled the spirit of the Avars ; and their power would have dissolved away 
in the Sarmatian desert, if the alliance of Alboin, king of the Lombards, had 
not given a new object to their arms, and a lasting settlement to their 
wearied fortunes. 

The annals of the second Justin are marked with disgrace abroad and 
misery at home. In the West the Roman Empire was afflicted by the loss of 
Italy, the desolation of Africa, and the conquests of the Persians. Injustice 
prevailed both in the capital and the provinces ; the rich trembled for their 
property, the poor for their safety, the ordinary magistrates were ignorant 

I 1 The account of this embassy is found in the poems of the African Corippus," who described 
in Latin hexameters the circumstances of Justin's accession.] 


[574 A.D.] 

or venal, the occasional remedies appear to have been arbitrary and violent, 
and the complaints of the people could no longer be silenced by the splendid 
names of a legislator and a conqueror. 

The opinion which imputes to the prince all the calamities of his times 
may be countenanced by the historian as a serious truth or a salutary preju- 
dice. Yet a candid suspicion will arise that the sentiments of Justin were 
pure and benevolent, and that he might ha\e filled his station without 
reproach if the faculties of his mind had not been impaired by disease, which 
deprived the emperor of the use of his feet and confined him to the palace, a 
stranger to the complaints of the people and the vices of the government. 
The tardy knowledge of his own impotence determined him to lay down 
the weight of the diadem; and in the choice of a worthy substitute, he 
showed some symptoms of a discerning and even magnanimous spirit. 

The only son of Justin and Sophia died in his infancy ; their daughter 
Arabia was the wife of Baduarius, superintendent of the palace, and after- 
wards commander of the Italian armies, who vainly aspired to confirm the 
rights of marriage by those of adoption. While the empire appeared an 
object of desire, Justin was accustomed to behold with jealousy and hatred 
his brothers and cousins, the rivals of his hopes ; nor could he depend on the 
gratitude of those who would accept the purple as a restitution, rather than 
a gift. Of these competitors, one had been removed by exile, and after- 
wards by death ; and the emperor himself had inflicted such cruel insults on 
another, that he must either dread his resentment or despise his patience. 
This domestic animosity was refined into a generous resolution of seeking a 
successor, not in his family, but in the republic ; and the artful Sophia recom- 
mended Tiberius, his faithful captain of the guards, whose virtues and for- 
tune the emperor might cherish as the fruit of his judicious choice. 

The ceremony of his elevation to the rank of ceesar, or augustus, was 
performed in the portico of the palace, in the presence of the patriarch and 
the senate. Justin collected the remaining strength of his mind and body ; 
but the popular belief that his speech was inspired by the Deity betrays a 
very humble opinion both of the man and of the times: "You behold," 
said the emperor, " the ensigns of supreme power. You are about to receive 
them not from my hand, but from the hand of God. Honour them, and 
from them you will derive honour. Respect the empress your mother ; }'ou 
are now her son ; before, you were her servant. Delight not in blood ; 
abstain from revenge ; avoid those actions by which I have incurred the 
public hatred ; and consult the experience, rather than the example, of your 
predecessor. As a man, I have sinned ; as a sinner, even in this life, I have 
been severely punished ; but these servants," and he pointed to his ministers, 
"who have abused my confidence, and inflamed my passions, will appear 
with me before the tribunal of Christ. I have been dazzled by the splen- 
dour of the diadem ; be thou wise and modest ; remember what you have 
been, remember what you are. You see around us your slaves and your 
children; with the authority, assume the tenderness, of a parent. Love 
your people like yourself; cultivate the affections, maintain the discipline 
of the army ; protect the fortunes of the rich, relieve the necessities of the 
poor." 1 

The assembly, in silence and in tears, applauded the counsels and sym- 
pathised with the repentance of their prince : the patriarch rehearsed the 
prayers of the church ; Tiberius received the diadem on his knees, and 

I 1 This speech which John of Ephesusd says was taken down in shorthand is quoted with 
an apologetic claim of accuracy by Theophylactus Simocatta.e] 


[574^578 A.D.] 

Justin, who in his abdication appeared most worthy to reign, addressed the 
new monarch in the following words : " If you consent, I live ; if you com- 
mand, I die ; may the God of heaven and earth infuse into your heart what- 
ever I have neglected or forgotten." The four last years of the emperor 
Justin were passed in tranquil obscurity ; his conscience was no longer 
tormented by the remembrance of those duties which he was incapable of 
discharging, and his choice was justified by the filial reverence and grati- 
tude of Tiberius. & 

The reigns of Justinian and Justin mark a significant turning-point in 
history. As early as the reign of Justinian the official fiction, by which 
Latin was assumed to be the language of the empire, had shown signs of 
breaking down ; from this time forward it steadily yields ground to Greek. 
The Lombard and Syrian annalists were not slow to mark the change ; they 
indicate it by heading the list of "Greek" emperors with the name of 

Johannes of Ephesus d quotes a satire pasted up by some wit reflecting 
the opinion of the time in a manner unflattering to Justin : 

" Build, build aloft thy pillar, 
And raise it vast and high ; 
Then mount and stand upon it, 
Soaring proudly in the sky : 
Eastward, south and north and westward, 
Wherever thou shalt %aze, 
Nought thou'lt see but desolations, 
The work of thy own days." 


Among the virtues of Tiberius, his beauty (he was one of the tallest and 
most comely of the Romans) 'might introduce him to the favour of Sophia ; 
and the widow of Justin was persuaded that she should preserve her station 
and influence under the reign of a second and more youthful husband. But 
if the ambitious candidate had been tempted to flatter and dissemble, it was 
no longer in his power to fulfil her expectations or his own promise. The 
factions of the Hippodrome demanded, with some impatience, the name of 
their new empress ; both the people and Sophia were astonished by the proc- 
lamation of Anastasia, the secret, though lawful, wife of the emperor Tiberius. 1 
Whatever could alleviate the disappointment of Sophia, imperial honours, a 
stately palace, a numerous household, was liberally bestowed by the piety of 
her adopted son ; on solemn occasions he attended and consulted the widow 
of his benefactor ; but her ambition disdained the vain semblance of royalty, 
and the respectful appellation of mother served to exasperate, rather than 
appease, the rage of an injured woman. While she accepted, and repaid 
with a courtly smile, the fair expressions of regard and confidence, a secret 
alliance was concluded between the dowager empress and her ancient ene- 
mies ; and Justinian, the son of Germanus, was employed as the instrument 
of her revenge. 

On the first intelligence of her designs Tiberius returned to Constanti- 
nople, and the conspiracy was suppressed by his presence and firmness. 

[} This is the story of Theophanes,/ but John of Ephesus* tells an anecdote in direct con- 
tradiction, according to which Sophia knew of the wife's existence, but refused to permit her to 
reside at the palace, being resolved that no other queen should reign while she lived. When, how- 
ever, Tiberius was crowned he brought Anastasia to the palace and compelled her recognition.] 


[678-582 A.D.] 

From the pomp and honours which she had abused, Sophia was reduced to a 
modest allowance ; Tiberius dismissed her train, intercepted her correspond- 
ence, and committed to a faithful guard the custody of her person. But the 
services of Justinian were not considered by that excellent prince as an 
aggravation of his offences; after a mild reproof, his treason and ingrati- 
tude were forgiven ; and it was commonly believed that the emperor enter- 
tained some thoughts of contracting a double alliance with the rival of his 

With the odious name of Tiberius, he assumed the more popular appella- 
tion of Constantine, and imitated the purer virtues of the Antonines. After 
recording the vice or folly of so many Roman princes, it is pleasing to repose, 
for a moment, on a character conspicuous by the qualities of humanity, jus- 
tice, temperance, and fortitude; to contemplate a sovereign affable in his 

Byzantine Spur and Bit 

palace, pious in the church, impartial on the seat of judgment, and victorious, 
at least by his generals, in the Persian War. The most glorious trophy of 
his victory consisted in a multitude of captives whom Tiberius entertained, 
redeemed, and dismissed to their native homes with the charitable spirit 
of a Christian hero. The merits or misfortunes of his subjects had a dearer 
claim on him, and he measured his bounty not so much by their expectations 
as by his own dignity. This maxim, however dangerous in a trustee of the 
public wealth, was balanced by a principle of humanity and justice which 
taught him to abhor the gold extracted from the tears of the people. 

The wise and equitable laws of Tiberius excited the praise and regret of 
succeeding times. 1 Constantinople believed that the emperor had discovered 
a treasure ; but his genuine treasure consisted in the practice of liberal econ- 
omy, and the contempt of all vain and superfluous expense. The Romans 
of the East would have been happy if the best gift of Heaven, a patriot 
king, had been confirmed as a proper and permanent blessing. But in less 
than four years after the death of Justin, his worthy successor sank into 
a mortal disease, which left him only sufficient time to restore the diadem, 
according to the tenure by which he held it, to the most deserving of his 
fellow-citizens. He selected Maurice from the crowd, a judgment more pre- 
cious than the purple itself. The patriarch and senate were summoned to the 
bed of the dying prince ; he bestowed his daughter and the empire ; and his 
last advice was solemnly delivered by the voice of the quaestor. Tiberius 
expressed his hope that the virtues of his son and successor would erect the 
noblest mausoleum to his memory. 

[} Bury,c however, declares that "there is considerable reason to remove Tiberius from his 
pedestal," as he "did not make a good emperor."] 


[582-602 a.d.] 

The emperor Maurice derived his origin from ancient Rome, but his 
immediate parents were settled at Arabissus in Cappadocia, and their singular 
felicity preserved them alive to behold and partake the fortune of their august 
son. The youth of Maurice was spent in the profession of arms ; Tiberius 
promoted him to the command of a new and favourite legion of twelve 
thousand confederates ; his valour and conduct were signalised in the Per- 
sian War ; and he returned to Constantinople to accept, as his just reward, 
the inheritance of the empire. Maurice ascended the throne at the mature 
age of forty-three years ; and he reigned above twenty years over the East 
and over himself ; expelling from his mind the wild democracy of passions, 
and establishing (according to the quaint expression of Evagrius) a perfect 
aristocracy of reason and virtue. 

Some suspicion will degrade the testimony of a subject, though he pro- 
tests that his secret praise should never reach the ear of his sovereign, and 
some failings seem to place the character of Maurice below the purer merit 
of his predecessor. His cold and reserved demeanour might be imputed to 
arrogance ; > his justice was not always exempt from cruelty, nor his clemency 
from weakness ; and his rigid economy too often exposed him to the re- 
proach, of avarice. But the rational wishes of an absolute monarch must 
tend to the happiness of his people ; Maurice was endowed with sense and 
courage to promote that happiness, and his administration was directed by 
the principles and example of Tiberius. The pusillanimity of the Greeks 
had introduced so complete a separation between the offices of king and of 
general, that a private soldier, who had deserved and obtained the purple, 
seldom or never appeared at the head of his armies. Yet the emperor 
Maurice enjoyed the glory of restoring the Persian monarch to his throne ; 
his lieutenants waged a doubtful war against the Avars of the Danube ; and 
he cast an eye of pity, of ineffectual pity, on the abject and distressful state 
of his Italian provinces. 

From Italy the emperors were incessantly tormented by tales of misery 
and demands of succour, which extorted the humiliating confession of their 
own weakness. The expiring dignity of Rome was only marked by the 
freedom and energy of her complaints. " If you are incapable," she said, 
" of delivering us from the sword of the Lombards, save us at least from the 
calamity of famine." Tiberius forgave the reproach, and relieved the dis- 
tress ; a supply of corn was transported from Egypt to the Tiber ; and the 
Roman people, invoking the name not of Camillus but of St. Peter, repulsed 
the barbarians from their walls. But the relief was accidental, the danger 
was perpetual and pressing ; and the clergy and senate, collecting the re- 
mains of their ancient opulence, a sum of three thousand pounds of gold, 
despatched the patrician Pamphronius to lay their gifts and their complaints 
at the foot of the Byzantine throne. The attention of the court and the 
forces of the East were diverted by the Persian War; but the justice of 
Tiberius applied the subsidy to the defence of the city ; and he dismissed 
the patrician with his best advice, either to bribe the Lombard chiefs or to 
purchase the aid of the kings of France. 

The arts of negotiation, unknown to the simple greatness of the senate 
and the csesars, were assiduously cultivated by the Byzantine princes ; and 
the memorials of their perpetual embassies repeat, with the same uniform pro- 
lixity, the language of falsehood and declamation, the insolence of the bar- 
barians, and the servile temper of the tributary Greeks 


[572-576 A.D.] . 

THE PERSIAN WAR (572-591) 

In the useless altercations that precede and justify the quarrels of princes, 
the Greeks and the barbarians accused each other of violating the peace which 
had been concluded between the two empires about four years before the 
death of Justinian. The sovereign of Persia and India aspired to reduce 
under his obedience the province of Yemen or Arabia Felix — the distant 
land of myrrh and frankincense, which had escaped, rather than opposed, the 
conquerors of the East. After the defeat of Abrahah under the walls of 
Mecca, the discord of his sons and brothers gave an easy entrance to the Per- 
sians ; they chased the strangers of Abyssinia beyond the Red Sea, and a 
native prince of the ancient Homerites was restored to the throne as the 
vassal or viceroy of the great Nushirvan. But the nephew of Justinian de- 
clared his resolution to avenge the injuries of his Christian ally the prince 
of Abyssinia, as they suggested a decent pretence to discontinue the annual 
tribute, which was poorly disguised by the name of pension. The churches 
of Pers- Armenia were oppressed by the intolerant spirit of the magi ; they 
secretly invoked the protector of the Christians, and after the pious murder 
of their satraps, the rebels were avowed and supported as the brethren and 
subjects of the Roman emperor. The complaints of Nushirvan were disre- 
garded by the Byzantine court ; Justin yielded to the importunities of the 
Turks, who offered an alliance against the common enemy ; and the Persian 
monarchy was threatened at the same instant by the united forces of Europe, 
of Ethiopia, and of Scythia. 

At the age of fourscore, the sovereign of the East would perhaps have 
chosen the peaceful enjoyment of his glory and greatness ; but as soon as 
war became inevitable, he took the field with the alacrity of youth, whilst the 
aggressor trembled in the palace of Constantinople. Nushirvan, or Chosroes, 
conducted in person the siege of Dara ; and although that important fortress 
had been left destitute of troops and magazines, the valour of the inhabitants 
resisted above five months the archers, the elephants, and the military engines 
of the Great King. 

In the meanwhile his general Adarman advanced from Babylon, traversed 
the desert, passed the Euphrates, insulted the suburbs of Antioch, reduced to 
ashes the city of Apamea, and laid the spoils of Syria at the feet of his master, 
whose perseverance, in the midst of winter, at length subverted the bulwark 
of the East. But these losses, which astonished the provinces and the. court, 
produced a salutary effect in the repentance and abdication of the emperor 
Justin ; a new spirit arose in the Byzantine councils ; and a truce of three 
years was obtained by the prudence of Tiberius. That seasonable interval 
was employed in the preparations of war ; and the voice of rumour pro- 
claimed to the world that, from the distant countries of the Alps and the 
Rhine, from Scythia, Moesia, Pannonia, Illyricum, and Isauria, the strength 
of the imperial cavalry was reinforced with 150,000 soldiers. Yet the king 
of Persia, without fear or without faith, resolved to prevent the attack of the 
enemy, again passed the Euphrates, and dismissing the ambassadors of Tibe- 
rius, arrogantly commanded them to await his arrival at Csesarea, the metropo- 
lis of the Cappadocian provinces. 

The two armies encountered each other in the battle of Melitene ; the 
barbarians, who darkened the air with a cloud of arrows, prolonged their 
line and extended their wings across the plain ; while the Romans, in deep 
and solid bodies, expected to prevail in closer action by the weight of their 
swords and lances. A Scythian chief, who commanded their right wing, 


[576^589 A.D.] 

suddenly turned the flank of the enemy, attacked their rear-guard in the 
presence of Chosroes, penetrated to the midst of the camp, pillaged the royal 
tent, profaned the eternal fire, loaded a train of camels with the spoils of 
Asia, cut his way through the Persian host, and returned with songs of vic- 
tory to his friends, who had consumed the day in single combats or ineffec- 
tual skirmishes. The darkness of the night, and the separation of the 
Romans, afforded the Persian monarch an opportunity of revenge ; and one 
of their camps was swept away by a rapid and impetuous assault. But the 
review of his loss and the consciousness of his danger determined Chosroes 
to a speedy retreat ; he burned, in his passage, the vacant town of Melitene, 
and, without consulting the safety of his troops, boldly swam the Euphrates 
on the back of an elephant. After this unsuccessful campaign, the want of 
magazines, and perhaps some inroad of the Turks, obliged him to disband or 
divide his forces ; the Romans were left masters of the field, and their general 
Justinian, advancing to the relief of the Pers-Armenian rebels, erected his 
standard on the banks of the Araxes. 

The great Pompey had formerly halted within three days' march of the 
Caspian ; that inland sea was explored for the first time by a hostile fleet, 
and seventy thousand captives were transplanted from Hyrcania to the isle 
of Cyprus. On the return of spring, Justinian descended into the fertile 
plains of Assyria, the flames of war approached the residence of Nushirvan, 
the indignant monarch sank into the grave, and his last edict restrained his 
successors from exposing their person in a battle against the Romans. Yet 
the memory of this transient affront was lost in the glories of a long reign ; 
and his formidable enemies, after indulging their dream of conquest, again 
solicited a short respite from the calamities of war. 

The throne of Chosroes Nushirvan was filled by Hormuz, or Hormisdas, 
the eldest or most favoured of his sons (579). In every word and in every 
action the son of Nushirvan degenerated from the virtues of his father. His 
avarice defrauded the troops ; his jealous caprice degraded the satraps ; the 
palace, the tribunals, the waters of the Tigris were stained with the blood 
of the innocent, and the tyrant exulted in the sufferings and execution of 
thirteen thousand victims. As the excuse of his cruelty, he sometimes con- 
descended, to observe that the fears of the Persians would be productive of 
hatred, and that their hatred must terminate in rebellion ; but he forgot 
that his own guilt and folly had inspired the sentiments which he deplored, 
and prepared the event which he so justly apprehended. Exasperated by 
long and hopeless oppression, the provinces of Babylon, Susa, and Carmania 
erected the standard of revolt ; and the princes of Arabia, India, and Scythia 
refused the customary tribute to the unworthy successor of Nushirvan. The 
arms of the Romans, in slow sieges and frequent inroads, afflicted the fron- 
tiers of Mesopotamia and Assyria ; one of their generals professed himself 
the disciple Si Scipio, and the soldiers were animated by a miraculous 
image of Christ, whose mild aspect should never have been displayed in the 
front of battle. At the same time the eastern provinces of Persia were in- 
vaded by the great khan, who passed the Oxus at the head of three or four 
hundred thousand Turks. The imprudent Hormuz accepted their perfidious 
and formidable aid ; the cities of Khorasan or Bactriana were commanded to 
open their gates ; the march of the barbarians towards the mountains of 
Hyrcania revealed the correspondence of the Turkish and Roman arms; 
and their union must have subverted the throne of the house of Sassan. 

Persia had been lost by a king ; it was saved by a hero. While the 
nation trembled, while Hormuz disguised his terror by the name of suspicion, 


[58^590 A.D.] 

and his servants concealed their disloyalty under the mask of fear, Bah- 
rain alone displayed his undaunted courage and apparent fidelity ; and as 
soon as he found that no more than twelve thousand soldiers would follow 
him against the enemy, he prudently declared that to this fatal number 
heaven had reserved the honours of the triumph. The steep and narrow 
descent of the Pule Rudbar, or Hyrcanian rock, is the only pass through 
which an army can penetrate into the territory of Rei and the plains of 
Media. From the commanding heights, a band of resolute men might over- 
whelm with stones and darts the myriads of the Turkish host ; their emperor 
and his son were transpierced with arrows, and the fugitives were left, with- 
out council or provisions, to the revenge of an injured people. 

The patriotism of the Persian general was stimulated by his affection for 
the city of his forefathers ; in the hour of victory every peasant became a 
soldier, and every soldier a hero ; and their ardour was kindled by the gor- 
geous spectacles of beds, and thrones, and tables of massy gold, the spoils of 
Asia, and the luxury of the hostile camp. A prince of a less malignant 
temper could not easily have forgiven his benefactor, and the secret hatred 
of Hormuz was envenomed by a malicious report that Bahrain had pri- 

Byzantine Coloured Glass Bracelets 

vately retained the most precious fruits of his Turkish victory. But the 
approach of a Roman army on the side of the Araxes compelled -the impla- 
cable tyrant to smile and to applaud ; and the toils of Bahram were rewarded 
with the permission of encountering a new enemy, by their skill and disci- 
pline more formidable than a Scythian multitude. 

Elated by his recent success, he despatched a herald with a bold defiance 
to the camp of the Romans, requesting them to fix a day of battle, and to 
choose whether they would pass the river themselves or allow a free passage 
to the arms of the Great King. The lieutenant of the emperor Maurice pre- 
ferred the safer alternative, and this local circumstance, which would have 
enhanced the victory of the Persians, rendered their defeat more bloody 
and their escape more difficult. But the loss of his subjects and the danger 
of his kingdom were overbalanced in the mind of Hormuz by the disgrace of 
his personal enemy; and no sooner had Bahram collected and reviewed 
his forces, than he received from a royal messenger the insulting gift of a 
distaff, a spinning-wheel, and a complete suit of female apparel. Obedient 
to the will of his sovereign, he showed himself to the soldiers in this unworthy 
disguise ; they resented his ignominy and their own ; a shout of rebellion 
ran through their ranks, and the general accepted their oath of fidelity and 
vows of revenge. A second messenger, who had been commanded to bring 
the rebel in chains, was trampled under the feet of an elephant, and mani- 
festoes were diligently circulated, exhorting the Persians to assert their free- 
dom against an odious and contemptible tyrant. The defection was rapid 
and universal ; his loyal slaves were sacrificed to the public fury, and the troops 
deserted to the standard of Bahram. 

H. W. — VOL. VII. L 


[590-691 A.D.] 

As the passes were faithfully guarded, Hormuz could only compute the 
number of his enemies by the testimony of a guilty conscience and the daily 
defection of those who, in the hour of his distress, avenged their wrongs or 
forgot their obligations. He proudly displayed the ensigns of royalty ; but 
the city and palace of Modain had already escaped from the hand of the 
tyrant. Among the victims of his cruelty, Bindoes, a Sassanian prince, had 
been cast into a dungeon ; his fetters were broken by the zeal and courage 
of a brother ; and he stood before the king at the head of those trusty guards 
who had been chosen as the ministers of his confinement, and perhaps of his 
death. Alarmed by the hasty intrusion and bold reproaches of the captive, 
Hormuz looked round, but in vain, for advice or assistance ; discovered that 
his strength consisted in the obedience of others, and patiently yielded to 
the single arm of Bindoes, who dragged him from the throne to the same 
dungeon in which he himself had been so lately confined. 

Chosroes, the eldest of the sons of Hormuz, escaped from the city. 
Attended only by his concubines, and a troop of thirty guards, he secretly 
departed from the capital, followed the banks of the Euphrates, traversed 
the desert, and halted at the distance of ten miles from Circesium. About the 
third watch of the night the Roman prefect was informed of his approach, 
and he introduced the royal stranger to the fortress at the dawn of day. 
From thence the king of Persia was conducted to the more honourable resi- 
dence of Hierapolis ; and Maurice dissembled his pride and displayed his 
benevolence, at the reception of the letters and ambassadors of the grandson 
of Nushirvan. They humbly represented the vicissitudes of fortune and 
the common interest of princes, exaggerated the ingratitude of Bahram, the 
agent of the evil principle, and urged, with specious argument, that it was 
for the advantage of the Romans themselves to support the two monarchies 
which balance the world, the two great luminaries by whose salutary influ- 
ence it is vivified and adorned. The anxiety of Chosroes was soon relieved 
by the assurance that the emperor had espoused the cause of justice and 
royalty ; but Maurice prudently declined the expense and delay of his useless 
visit to Constantinople. 

In the name of his generous benefactor, a rich diadem was presented to 
the fugitive prince, with an inestimable gift of jewels and gold ; a powerful 
army was assembled on the frontiers of Syria and Armenia, under the com- 
mand of the valiant and faithful Narses, and this general, of his own nation 
and his own choice, was directed to pass the Tigris and never to sheath his 
sword till he had restored Chosroes to the throne of his ancestors. After 
the junction of the imperial troops, which Bahram vainly struggled to 
prevent, the contest was decided by two battles on the banks of the Zab 
and the confines of Media. The Romans, with the faithful subjects of Persia, 
amounted to sixty thousand, while the whole force of the usurper did not 
exceed forty thousand men; the two generals signalised their valour and 
ability, but the victory was finally determined by the prevalence of numbers 
and discipline. With the remnant of a broken army, Bahram fled towards 
the eastern provinces of the Oxus ; the enmity of Persia reconciled him to 
the Turks ; but his days were shortened by poison, perhaps the most incura- 
ble of poisons — the stings of remorse and despair and the bitter remembrance 
of lost glory. Yet the modern Persians still commemorate the exploits of 
Bahram ; and some excellent laws have prolonged the duration of his troubled 
and transitory reign. 

The restoration of Chosroes was celebrated with feasts and executions ; 
and the music of the royal banquet was often disturbed by the groans of 


[570-602 a.d.] 

dying or mutilated criminals. A band of a thousand Romans, who con- 
tinued to guard the person of Chosroes, proclaimed his confidence in the 
fidelity of the strangers ; his growing strength enabled him to dismiss this 
unpopular aid, but he steadily professed the same gratitude and reverence to 
his adopted father ; and till the death of Maurice the peace and alliance of 
the two empires were faithfully maintained. Yet the mercenary friend- 
ship of the Roman prince had been purchased with costly and impor- 
tant gifts ; the strong cities of Martyropolis and Dara were restored, and 
the Pers-Armenians became the willing subjects of an empire whose eastern 
limit was extended, beyond the example of former times, as far as the banks 
of the Araxes and the neighbourhood of the Caspian. A pious hope was 
indulged that the church, as well as the state, might triumph in this revolu- 
tion ; but if Chosroes had sincerely listened to the Christian bishops, the 
impression was erased by the zeal and eloquence of the magi ; if he was 
armed with philosophic indifference, he accommodated his belief, or rather 
his professions, to the various circumstances of an exile and a sovereign. 


While the majesty of the Roman name was revived in the East, the pros- 
pect of Europe is less pleasing and less glorious. By the departure of the 
Lombards and the ruin of the Gepidae, the balance of power was destroyed 
on the Danube ; and the Avars spread their permanent dominion from the foot 
of the Alps to the sea coast of the Euxine. The reign of Baian is the bright- 
est era of their monarchy ; their chagan, who occupied the rustic palace of 
Attila, appears to have imitated his character and policy ; but as the same 
scenes were repeated in a smaller circle, a minute representation of the copy 
would be devoid of the greatness and novelty of the original. The pride 
of the second Justin, of Tiberius and Maurice, was humbled by a proud bar- 
barian, more prompt to inflict than exposed to suffer the injuries of war ; 
and as often as Asia was threatened by the Persian arms, Europe was op- 
pressed by the dangerous inroads or costly friendship of the Avars. 

When the Roman envoys approached the presence of the chagan, they 
were commanded to wait at the door of his tent till, at the end perhaps of 
ten or twelve days, he condescended to admit them. If the substance or the 
style of their message was offensive to his ear, he insulted, with real or 
affected fury, their own dignity and that of their prince ; their baggage was 
plundered, and their lives were only saved by the promise of a richer present 
and a more respectful address. But his sacred ambassadors enjoyed and 
abused an unbounded license in the midst of Constantinople; they urged, 
with importunate clamours, the increase of tribute or the restitution of 
captives and deserters ; and the majesty of the empire was almost equally 
degraded by a base compliance, or by the false and fearful excuses with 
which they eluded such insolent demands. 

In the language of a barbarian without guile, the prince of the Avars 
affected to complain of the insincerity of the Greeks ; yet he was not inferior 
to the most civilised nations in the refinements of dissimulation and perfidy. 
As the successor of the Lombards, the chagan asserted his claim to the 
important city of Sirmium, the ancient bulwark of the Illyrian provinces. 
The plains of lower Hungary were covered with the Avar horse, and a fleet 
of large boats was built in the Hercynian wood, to descend the Danube 
and to transport into the Savus the materials of a bridge. But as the strong 


[579-592 A.D.] 

garrison of Singidunum, which commanded the conflux of the two rivers, 
might have stopped their passage and baffled his designs, he dispelled their 
apprehensions by a solemn oath that his views were not hostile to the empire. 
He swore by his sword, the symbol of the god of war, that he did not, as the 
enemy of Rome, construct a bridge upon the Savus. " If I violate my oath," 
pursued the intrepid Baian, " may I myself, and the last of my nation, perish 
by the sword ; may the heavens and fire, the deity of the heavens, fall upon 
our heads ! may the forests and mountains bury us in their ruins ! and the 
Savus returning, against the laws of nature, to his source, overwhelm us in 
his angry waters ! " 

After this barbarous imprecation, he calmly inquired what oath was 
most sacred and venerable among the Christians, what guilt of perjury it 
was most dangerous to incur. The bishop of Singidunum presented the Gos- 
pel, which the chagan received with devout reverence. " I swear," said he, 
" by the God who has spoken in this holy book, that I have neither false- 
hood on my tongue nor treachery in my heart." As soon as he rose from 
his knees, he accelerated the labour of the bridge, and despatched an envoy 
to proclaim what he no longer wished to conceal. " Inform the emperor," 
said the perfidious Baian, " that Sirmium is invested on every side. Advise 
his prudence to withdraw the citizens and their effects, and to resign a city 
which it is now impossible to relieve or defend." 

Without the hope of relief, the defence of Sirmium was prolonged above 
three years ; the walls were still untouched ; but famine was enclosed within 
the walls, till a merciful capitulation allowed the escape of the naked and 
hungry inhabitants. Singidunum, at the distance of fifty miles, experienced 
a more cruel fate ; the buildings were razed, and the vanquished people was 
condemned to servitude and exile. Yet the ruins of Sirmium are no longer 
visible; the advantageous situation of Singidunum soon attracted a new 
colony of Slavonians, and the conflux of the Savus and Danube is still 
guarded by the fortifications of Belgrade, or the White City, so often and so 
obstinately disputed by the Christian and Turkish arms. From Belgrade to 
the walls of Constantinople, a line may be measured of six hundred miles ; 
that line was marked with flames and with blood ; the horses of the Avars 
were alternately bathed in the Euxine and the Adriatic ; and the Roman 
pontiff, alarmed by the approach of a more savage enemy, was reduced to 
cherish the Lombards as the protectors of Italy. The despair of a captive, 
whom his country refused to ransom, disclosed to the Avars the invention 
and practice of military engines ; but in the first attempts, they were rudely 
framed and awkwardly managed ; and the resistance of Diocletianopolis and 
Bercea, of Philippopolis and Hadrianopolis, soon exhausted the skill and 
patience of the besiegers. 

The warfare of Baian was that of a Tatar ; yet his mind was susceptible 
of a humane and generous sentiment : he spared Anchialus, whose salutary 
waters had restored the health of the best beloved of his wives; and 
the Romans confessed that their starving army was fed and dismissed by the 
liberality of a foe. His empire extended over Hungary, Poland, and Prus- 
sia, from the mouth of the Danube to that of the Oder ; and his new subjects 
were divided and transplanted by the jealous policy of the conqueror. The 
eastern regions of Germany, which had been left vacant by the emigration 
of the Vandals, were replenished with Slavonian colonists ; the same tribes 
are discovered in the neighbourhood of the Adriatic and of the Baltic, and 
with the name of Baian himself the Illyrian cities of Neisse and Lissa are 
again found in the heart of Silesia. In the disposition both of his troops 


[592-694 A.D.] 

and provinces the chagan exposed the vassals, whose lives he disregarded, 
to the first assault ; and the swords of the enemy were blunted before they 
encountered the native valour of the Avars. 

The Persian alliance restored the troops of the East to the defence of 
Europe ; and Maurice, who had supported for ten years the insolence of 
the chagan, declared his resolution to march in person against the bar- 
barians. In the space of two centuries, none of the successors of Theodosius 
had appeared in the field; their lives were supinely spent in the palace of 
Constantinople, and the Greeks could no longer understand that the name 
of emperor, in its primitive sense, denoted the chief of the armies of the 
republic. The martial ardour of Maurice was opposed by the grave flattery 
of the senate, the timid superstition of the patriarch, and the tears of the 
empress Constantina ; and they all conjured him to devolve on some meaner 
general the fatigues and perils of a Scythian campaign. 

Deaf to their advice and entreaty, the emperor boldly advanced seven 
miles from the capital ; the sacred ensign of the cross was displayed in the 
front, and Maurice reviewed, with conscious pride, the arms and numbers 

A Byzantine Sacred Vessel 

of the veterans who had fought and conquered beyond the Tigris. Anchialus 
saw the last term of his progress by sea and land. He solicited, without suc- 
cess, a miraculous answer to his nocturnal prayers ; his mind was confounded 
by the death of a favourite horse, the encounter of a wild boar, a storm of 
w ind and rain, and the birth of a monstrous child ; and he forgot that the 
best of omens is to unsheathe our sword in the defence of our country. Under 
the pretence of receiving the ambassadors of Persia, the emperor returned to 
Constantinople, exchanged the thoughts of war for those of devotion, and 
disappointed the public hope by his absence and the choice of his lieutenants. 
The blind partiality of fraternal love might excuse the promotion of his 
brother Peter, who fled with equal disgrace from the barbarians, from 
his own soldiers, and from the inhabitants of a Roman city. That city, if we 
may credit the resemblance of name and character, was the famous Azimun- 
tium, which had alone repelled the tempest of Attila. The example of her 
warlike youth was propagated to succeeding generations ; and they obtained, 
from the first or second Justin, an honourable privilege, that their valour 
should be always reserved for the defence of their native country. The 
brother of Maurice attempted to violate this privilege, and to mingle a 
patriot band with the mercenaries of his camp ; they retired to the church. 
He was not awed by the sanctity of the place ; the people rose in their cause, 
the ramparts were manned ; and Peter proved himself a coward. 


[594-600 A.D.] 

The military fame of Comentiolus is the object of satire or comedy 
rather than of serious history, since he was even deficient in the vile and 
vulgar qualification of personal courage. His solemn councils, strange evo- 
lutions, and secret orders always supplied an apology for flight or delay. 
If he marched against the enemy, the pleasant valleys of Mount Heenms 
opposed an insuperable barrier ; but in his retreat he explored with fearless 
curiosity the most difficult and obsolete paths, which had almost escaped 
the memory of the oldest native. The only blood which he lost was drawn, 
in a real or affected malady, by the lancet of a surgeon ; and his health, 
which felt with exquisite sensibility the approach of the barbarians, was 
uniformly restored by the repose and safety of the winter season. A prince 
who could promote and support this unworthy favourite must derive no 
glory from the accidental merit of his colleague Priscus. In five successive 
battles, which seem to have'been conducted with skill and resolution, 17,200 
barbarians were made prisoners ; near sixty thousand, with four sons of the 
chagan, were slain. The Roman , general surprised a peaceful district of 
Gepidse, who slept under the protection of the Avars ; and his last trophies 
were erected on the banks of the Danube and the Theiss. Since the death 
of Trajan, the arms of the empire had not penetrated so deeply into the old 
Dacia; yet the success of Priscus was transient and barren, and he was 
soon recalled, by the apprehension that Baian, with dauntless spirit and 
recruited forces, was preparing to avenge his defeat under the walls of 


The theory of war was not more familiar to the camps of Caesar and Trajan 
than to those of Justinian and Maurice. The iron of Tuscany or Pontus 
still received the keenest temper from the skill of the Byzantine workmen. 
The magazines were plentifully stored with every species of offensive and 
defensive arms. In the construction and use of ships, engines, and fortifica- 
tions, the barbarians admired the superior ingenuity of a people whom they 
so often vanquished in the field. The science of tactics, the order, evolu- 
tions, and stratagems of antiquity, were transcribed and studied in the books 
of the Greeks and Romans. But the solitude or degeneracy of the provinces 
could no longer supply a race of men to handle those weapons, to guard 
those walls, to navigate those ships, and to reduce the theory of war into 
bold and successful practice. 

The genius of Belisarius and Narses had been formed without a master, 
and expired without a disciple. Neither honour, nor patriotism, nor gener- 
ous superstition, could animate the lifeless bodies of slaves and strangers, 
who had succeeded to the honours of the legions. It was in the camp alone 
that the emperor should have exercised a despotic command ; it was only 
in the camps that his authority was disobeyed and insulted ; he appeased 
and inflamed with gold the licentiousness of the troops; but their vices 
were inherent, their victories were accidental, and their costly maintenance 
exhausted the substance of a state which they were unable to defend. After 
a long and pernicious indulgence, the cure of this inveterate evil was under- 
taken by Maurice ; but the rash attempt, which drew destruction on his 
own head, tended only to aggravate the disease. A reformer should be 
exempt from the suspicion of interest, and he must possess the confidence 
and esteem of those whom he proposes to reclaim. The troops of Maurice 
might listen- to the voice of a victorious leader ; they disdained the admoni; 


[600-602 a.d.] 

tions of statesmen and sophists; and when they received an edict which 
deducted from their pay the price of their arms and clothing, they execrated 
the avarice of a prince insensible of the dangers and fatigues from which he 
had escaped. 

The camps both of Asia and Europe were agitated with frequent and 
furious seditions ; the enraged soldiers of Edessa pursued, with reproaches,, 
with threats, with wounds, their trembling generals ; they overturned the 
statues of the emperor, cast stones against the miraculous image of Christ, 
and either rejected the yoke of all civil and military laws or instituted a 
dangerous model of voluntary subordination. The monarch, always distant 
and often deceived, was incapable of yielding or persisting according to the 
exigence of the moment. But the fear of a general revolt induced him too 
readily to accept any act of valour or any expression of loyalty as an atone- 
ment for the popular offence ; the new reform was abolished as hastily as it 
had been announced, and the troops, instead of punishment and restraint, 
were agreeably surprised by a gracious proclamation of immunities and 
rewards. But the soldiers accepted without gratitude the tardy and reluc- 
tant gifts of the emperor ; their insolence was elated by the discovery of his 
weakness and their own strength, and their mutual hatred was inflamed 
beyond the desire of forgiveness or the hope of reconciliation. 

The historians of the times adopt the vulgar suspicion that Maurice 
conspired to destroy the troops whom he had laboured to reform ; the mis- 
conduct and favour of Comentiolus are imputed to this malevolent design ; 
and every age must condemn the inhumanity or avarice of a prince who, by 
the trifling ransom of six thousand pieces of gold, might have prevented 
the massacre of twelve thousand prisoners in the hands of the chagan. 1 
In the just fervour of indignation, an order was signified to the army of the 
Danube that they should spare the magazines of the province, and establish 
their winter quarters in the hostile country of the Avars. The measure 
of their grievances was full ; they pronounced Maurice unworthy to reign, 
expelled or slaughtered his faithful adherents, and, under the command of 
Phocas, a simple centurion, returned by hasty marches to the neighbourhood 
of Constantinople. 


After a long series of legal successions, the military disorders of the third 
century were again revived ; yet such was the novelty of the enterprise that 
the insurgents were awed by their own rashness. They hesitated to invest 
their favourite with the vacant purple ; and while they rejected all treaty 
with Maurice himself, they held, a friendly correspondence with his son 
Theodosius, and with Germanus, the father-in-law of the royal youth. So 
obscure had been the former condition of Phocas that the emperor was igno- 
rant of the name and character of his rival ; but as soon as he learned that 
the centurion, though bold in sedition, was timid in the face of danger, 
" Alas ! " cried the desponding prince, " if he is a coward, he will surely be 
a murderer." 

Yet if Constantinople had been firm and faithful, the murderer might 
have spont his fury against the walls; and the rebel army would have 
been gradually consumed or reconciled by the prudence of the emperor. In 
the games of the circus, which he repeated with unusual pomp, Maurice 

[} Finlay * suggests that these men may have been deserters, but gives very meagre reasons 
for his charitable supposition.] 


[602 a.d.] 

disguised, with smiles of confidence, the anxiety of his heart, condescended 
to solicit the applause of the factions, and flattered their pride by accept- 
ing from their respective tribunes a list of nine hundred blues and fifteen 
hundred greens, whom he affected to esteem as the solid pillars of his 
throne. Their treacherous or languid support betrayed his weakness 
and hastened his fall; the green faction were the secret accomplices of 
the rebels, and the blues recommended lenity and moderation in a contest 
with their Roman brethren. 

The rigid and parsimonious virtues of Maurice had long since alienated 
the hearts of his subjects ; as he walked barefoot in a religious procession, 
he was rudely assaulted with stones, and his guards were compelled to 
present their iron maces in the defence of his person. A fanatic monk ran 

through the streets with a drawn sword, denounc- 
ing against him the wrath and the sentence of God ; 
and a vile plebeian, who represented his counte- 
nance and apparel, was seated on an ass and pur- 
sued by the imprecations of the multitude. 

The emperor suspected the popularity of Ger- 
manus with the soldiers and citizens ; he feared, he 
threatened, but he delayed to strike ; the patrician 
fled to the sanctuary of the church ; the people rose 
in his defence, the walls were deserted by the 
guards, and the lawless city was abandoned to the 
flames and rapine of a nocturnal tumult. In a 
small bark the unfortunate Maurice, with his wife 
and nine children, escaped to the Asiatic shore ; but 
the violence of the wind compelled him to land at 
the church of St. Autonomus, near Chalcedon, from 
whence he despatched Theodosius, his eldest son, 
to implore the gratitude and friendship of the Per- 
sian, monarch. For himself he refused to fly; his 
body was tortured with sciatic pains, his mind was 
enfeebled by superstition ; he patiently awaited the 
event of the revolution, and addressed a fervent and 
public prayer to the Almighty, that the punishment 
of his sins might be inflicted in this world rather 
than in a future life. 

After the abdication of Maurice, the two fac- 
tions disputed the choice of an emperor; but the 
favourite of the blues was rejected by the jealousy 
of their antagonists, and Germanus himself wag 
hurried along by the crowds, who rushed to the 
palace of Hebdomon, seven miles from the city, to adore the majesty oi 
Phocas the centurion. A modest wish of resigning the purple to the rank 
and merit of Germanus was opposed by his resolution, more obstinate and 
equally sincere; the senate and clergy obeyed his summons; and as sood 
as the patriarch was assured of his orthodox belief, he consecrated the 
successful usurper in the church of St. John the Baptist. On the third 
day, amidst the acclamations of a thoughtless people, Phocas made his 
public entry in a chariot drawn by four white horses; the revolt of the 
troops was rewarded by a lavish donative, and the new sovereign, after 
visiting the palace, beheld from his throne the games of the Hippodrome. 
In a dispute of precedency between the two factions, his partial judgment 

A Byzantine Officer 


[602-610 A.D.] 

inclined in favour of the greens. " Remember that Maurice is still alive," 
resounded from the opposite side ; and the indiscreet clamour of the blues 
admonished and stimulated the cruelty of the tyrant. The ministers of 
death were despatched to Chalcedon ; they dragged the emperor from his 
sanctuary ; and the five sons of Maurice were successively murdered before 
the eyes of their agonising parent. At each stroke, which he felt in his 
heart, he found strength to rehearse a pious ejaculation : " Thou art just, 
O Lord ! and thy judgments are righteous." And such, in the last moments, 
was his rigid attachment to truth and justice, that he revealed to the soldiers 
the pious falsehood of a nurse who presented her own child in the place of a 
royal infant. 

The tragic scene was finally closed by the execution of the emperor himself, 
in the twentieth year of his reign and the sixty -third of his age (602). The 
bodies of the father and his five sons were cast into the sea, their heads were 
exposed at Constantinople to the insults or pity of the multitude ; and it 
was not till some signs of putrefaction had appeared that Phocas connived 
at the private burial of these venerable remains. In that grave the faults 
and errors of Maurice were kindly interred. His fate alone was remem- 
bered ; and at the end of twenty years, in the recital of the history of Theo- 
phylact, the mournful tale was interrupted by the tears of the audience. 


Such tears must have flowed in secret, and such compassion would have 
been criminal, under the reign of Phocas, who was peaceably acknowledged 
in the provinces of the East and West. The images of the emperor and his 
wife, Leontia, were exposed in the Lateran to the veneration of the clergy 
and senate of Rome, and afterwards deposited in the palace of the Caesars, 
between those of Constantine and Theodosius. As a subject and a Chris- 
tian, it was the duty of Gregory to acquiesce in the established government ; 
but the joyful applause with which he salutes the fortune of the assassin 
has sullied with indelible disgrace the character of the saint. 

The successor of the Apostles might have inculcated with decent firmness 
the guilt of blood and the necessity of repentance ; he is content to cele- 
brate the deliverance of the people and the fall of the oppressor ; to rejoice 
that the piety and benignity of Phocas have been raised by providence to 
the imperial throne ; to pray that his hands may be strengthened against all 
his enemies ; and to express a wish, perhaps a prophecy, that, after a long 
and triumphant reign, he may be transferred from a temporal to an everlast- 
ing kingdom. We have already traced the steps of a revolution so pleasing, 
in Gregory's opinion, both to heaven and earth ; and Phocas does not appear 
less hateful in the exercise than in the acquisition of power. The pencil of 
an impartial historian has delineated the portrait of a monster — his diminu- 
tive and deformed person, the closeness of his shaggy eyebrows, his red hair, 
his beardless chin, and his cheek disfigured and discoloured by a formidable 
scar. Ignorant of letters, of laws, and even of arms, he indulged in the 
supreme rank a more ample privilege of lust and drunkenness, and his bru- 
tal pleasures were either injurious to his subjects or disgraceful to himself. 
Without assuming the office of a prince, he renounced the profession of a 
soldier ; and the reign of Phocas afflicted Europe with ignominious peace 
and Asia with desolating war. His savage temper was inflamed by passion, 
hardened by fear, exasperated by resistance or reproach. 


[602-610 A.D.] 

The flight of Theodosius to the Persian court had been intercepted by a 
rapid pursuit or a deceitful message ; he was beheaded at Nicsea, and the last 
hours of the young prince were soothed by the comforts of religion and 
the consciousness of innocence. Yet this phantom disturbed the repose of the 
usurper ; a whisper was circulated through the East that the son of Maurice 
was still alive; the people expected their avenger, and the widow and 
daughters of the late emperor would have adopted as their son and brother 
the vilest of mankind. In the massacre of the imperial family, the mercy, 
or rather the discretion, of Phocas had spared these unhappy females, and 
they were decently confined to a private house. But the spirit of the 
empress Constantina, still mindful of her father, her husband, and her sons, 
aspired to freedom and revenge. At the dead of night, she escaped to the 
sanctuary of St. Sophia ; but her tears, and the gold of her associate Ger- 
manus, were insufficient to provoke an insurrection. Her life was forfeited 
to revenge, and even to justice : but the patriarch obtained and pledged an 
oath for her safety ; a monastery was allotted for her prison, and the widow 
of Maurice accepted and abused the lenity of his assassin. 

The discovery or the suspicion of a second conspiracy dissolved the 
engagements and rekindled the fury of Phocas. A matron who commanded 
the respect and pity of mankind, the daughter, wife, and mother of empe- 
rors, was tortured like the vilest malefactor, to force a confession of her 
designs and associates ; and the empress Constantina, with her three inno- 
cent daughters, was beheaded at Chalcedon, on the same ground which had 
been stained with the blood of her husband and five sons. After such an 
example, it would be superfluous to enumerate the names and sufferings of 
meaner victims. Their condemnation was seldom preceded by the forms 
of trial, and their punishment was embittered by the refinements of cruelty : 
their eyes were pierced, their tongues were torn from the root, the hands and 
feet were amputated ; some expired under the lash, others in the flames, others 
again were transfixed with arrows ; and a simple speedy death was mercy which 
they could rarely obtain. The Hippodrome, the sacred asylum of the pleasures 
and the liberty of the Romans, was polluted with heads and limbs and mangled 
bodies ; and the companions of Phocas were the most sensible that neither his 
favour, nor their services, could protect them from a tyrant, the worthy rival 
of the Caligulas and Domitians of the first age of the empire. 

A daughter of Phocas, his only child, was given in marriage to the patri- 
cian Crispus, and the royal images of the bride and bridegroom were in- 
discreetly placed in the circus by the side of the emperor. The father 
must desire that his posterity should inherit the fruit of his crimes, but the 
monarch was offended by this premature and popular association: the tribunes 
of the green faction, who accused the officious error of their sculptors, were 
condemned to instant death : their lives were granted to the prayers of the 
people ; but Crispus might reasonably doubt whether a jealous usurper could 
forget and pardon his involuntary competition. The green faction was alien- 
ated by the ingratitude of Phocas and the loss of their privileges ; every 
province of the empire was ripe for rebellion ; and Heraclius, exarch of Africa, 
persisted above two years in refusing all tribute and obedience to the centurion 
who disgraced the throne of Constantinople. 

By the secret emissaries of Crispus and the senate, the independent exarch 
was solicited to save and to govern his country; but his ambition was 
chilled by age, and he resigned the dangerous enterprise to his son Hera- 
clius, and to Nicetas, the son of Gregory, his friend and lieutenant. The 
powers of Africa were armed by the two adventurous youths ; they agreed 


[602-610 A.D.] 

that the one should navigate the fleet from Carthage to Constantinople, 
that the other should lead an army through Egypt and Asia, and that 
the imperial purple should be the reward of diligence and success. A faint 
rumour of their undertaking was conveyed to the ears of Phocas, and the 
wife and mother of the younger Heraclius were secured as the hostages of 
his faith : but the treacherous art of Crispus extenuated the distant peril, 
the means of defence were neglected or delayed, and the tyrant supinely 
slept till the African navy cast anchor in the Hellespont. Their standard 
was joined at Abydos by the fugitives and exiles who thirsted for revenge ; 
the ships of Heraclius, whose lofty masts were adorned with the holy sym- 
bols of religion, steered their triumphant course through the Propontis ; and 
Phocas beheld from the windows of the palace his approaching and inevitable 
fate. The green faction was tempted by gifts and promises to oppose a fee- 
ble and fruitless resistance to the landing of the Africans ; but the people, 
and even the guards, were determined by the well-timed defection of Crispus ; 
and the tyrant was seized by a private enemy, who boldly invaded the soli- 
tude of the palace. Stripped of the diadem and purple, clothed in a vile 
habit, and loaded with chains, he was transported in a small boat to the impe- 
rial galley of Heraclius, who reproached him with the crimes of his abom- 
inable reign. "Wilt thou govern better?" were the last words of the despair 
of Phocas. After suffering each variety of insult and torture, his head was 
severed from his body, the mangled trunk was cast into the flames, and 
the same treatment was inflicted on the statues of the vain usurper and the 
seditious banner of the green faction (610 A.D.). 


The voice of the clergy, the senate, and the people, invited Heraclius to 
ascend the throne which he had purified from guilt and ignominy ; after 
some graceful hesitation, he yielded to their entreaties. His coronation was 
accompanied by that of his wife Eiidocia ; and their posterity, till the fourth 
generation, continued to reign over the Empire of the East. The voyage of 
Heraclius had been easy and prosperous, the tedious march of Nicetas was 
not accomplished before the decision of the contest; but he submitted 
without a murmur to the fortune of his friend, and his laudable intentions 
were rewarded with an equestrian statue and a daughter of the emperor. 
It was more difficult to trust the fidelity of Crispus, whose recent services 
were recompensed by the command of the Cappadocian army. His arrogance 
soon provoked, and seemed to excuse, the ingratitude of his new sovereign. 
In the presence of the senate, the son-in-law of Phocas was condemned to 
embrace the monastic life ; and the sentence was justified by the weighty 
observation of Heraclius that the man who had betrayed his father could never 
be faithful to his friend. 

Even after his death, the republic was afflicted by the crimes of Phocas, 
which armed with a pious cause the most formidable of her enemies. 
According to the friendly and equal forms of the Byzantine and Persian 
courts, he announced his exaltation to the throne ; and his ambassador 
Lilius, who had presented him with the heads of Maurice and his sons, was 
the best qualified to describe the circumstances of the tragic scene. How- 
ever it might be varnished by fiction or sophistry, Chosroes turned with 
horror from the assassin, imprisoned the pretended envoy, disclaimed the 
usurper, and declared himself the avenger of his father and benefactor. 


[602-615 A.D.] 

The sentiments of grief and resentment, which humanity would feel and 
honour would dictate, promoted, on this occasion, the interest of the Persian 
king ; and his interest was powerfully magnified by the national and reli- 
gious prejudices of the magi and satraps. In a strain of artful adulation 
which assumed the language of freedom, they presumed to censure the 
excess of his gratitude and friendship for the Greeks — a nation with whom 
it was dangerous to conclude either peace or alliance; whose superstition 
was devoid of truth and justice, and who must be incapable of any virtue, 
since they could perpetrate the most atrocious of crimes — the impious 
murder of their sovereign. For the crime of an ambitious centurion, the 
nation which he oppressed was chastised with the calamities of war ; and the 
same calamities, at the end of twenty years, were retaliated and redoubled 
on the heads of the Persians. The general who had restored Chosroes to 
the throne, still commanded in the East ; and the name of Narses was the 
formidable sound with which the Assyrian mothers were accustomed to 
terrify their infants. 

But the hero could not depend on the faith of a tyrant ; and the tyrant 
was conscious how little he deserved the obedience of a hero. Narses was 
removed from his military command ; he reared an independent standard at 


.. mm 


Hierapolis in Syria : he was betrayed by fallacious promises, and burned 
alive in the market-place of Constantinople. Deprived of the only chief 
whom they could fear or esteem, the bands which he had led to victory were 
twice broken by the cavalry, trampled by the elephants, and pierced by the 
arrows of the barbarians ; and a great number of the captives were beheaded 
on the field of battle by the sentence of the victor, who might justly con- 
demn these seditious mercenaries as the authors or accomplices of the death 
of Maurice. Under the reign of Phocas, the fortifications of Merdin, Dara, 
Amida, and Edessa were successively besieged, reduced, and destroyed by 
the Persian monarch ; he passed the Euphrates, occupied the Syrian cities, 
Hierapolis, Chalcis, and Beroea or Aleppo, and soon encompassed the walls 
of Antioch with his irresistible arms. The rapid tide of success discloses 
the decay of the empire, the incapacity of Phocas, and the disaffection of his 
subjects ; and Chosroes provided a decent apology for their submission or 
revolt, by an impostor who attended his camp as the son of Maurice and the 
lawful heir of the monarchy. 

The first intelligence from the East which Heraclius received, was that of 
the loss of Antioch ; but the aged metropolis, so often overturned by earth- 
quakes and pillaged by the enemy, could supply but a small and languid stream 
of treasure and blood. The Persians were equally successful and more fortu- 
nate in the sack of Caesarea, the capital of Cappadocia. 

After the reduction of Galilee, and the region beyond the Jordan, whose 
resistance appears to have delayed the fate of the capital, Jerusalem itself 


[615-617 A.D.] 

was taken by assault. The sepulchre of Christ, and the stately churches of 
Helena and Constantine, were consumed, or at least damaged, by the flames ; 
the devout offerings of three hundred years were rifled in one sacrilegious 
day; the patriarch Zachariah and the True Cross were transported into 
Persia ; and the massacre of ninety thousand Christians is imputed to the 
Jews and Arabs who swelled the disorder of the Persian march. The fugi- 
tives of Palestine were entertained at Alexandria by the charity of Joannes 
the archbishop, who is distinguished among a crowd of saints by the epithet 
of alms-giver; and the revenues 
of the church, with a treasure of 
three hundred thousand pounds, 
were restored to the true propri- 
etors, the poor of every country 
and every denomination. 

But Egypt itself, the only 
province which had been exempt, 
since the time of Diocletian, from 
foreign and domestic war, was 
again subdued by the successors 
of Cyrus. Pelusium, the key of 
that impervious country, was sur- 
prised by the cavalry of the Per- 
sians ; they passed, with impunity, 
the innumerable channels of the 
Delta, and explored the long val- 
ley of the Nile, from the pyramids 
of Memphis to the confines of 
Ethiopia. Alexandria might have 
been relieved by a naval force, 
but the archbishop and the pre- 
fect embarked for Cyprus; and 
Chosroes entered the second city 
of the empire, which still pre- 
served a wealthy remnant of 
industry and commerce. His 
western trophy was erected, not 
on the walls of Carthage, but in 
the neighbourhood of Tripoli ; 
the Greek colonies of Cyrene 
were finally extirpated; and the 
conqueror, treading in the footsteps of Alexander, returned in triumph 
through the sands of the Libyan desert. In the same campaign, another 
army advanced from the Euphrates to the Thracian Bosporus; Chalcedon 
surrendered after a long siege, and a Persian camp was maintained above ten 
years in the presence of Constantinople. The sea coast of Pontus, the city 
of Ancyra, and the isle of Rhodes, are enumerated among the last conquests 
of the great king ; and if Chosroes had possessed any maritime power, his 
boundless ambition would have spread slavery and desolation over the prov- 
inces of Europe. 

From the long-disputed banks of the Tigris and Euphrates, the reign of 
the grandson of Nushirvan was suddenly extended to the Hellespont and 
the Nile, the ancient limits of the Persian monarchy. But the provinces, 
which had been fashioned by the habits of six hundred years to the virtues 

A Byzantine Pkiest 


[618 A.D.] 

and vices of the Roman government, supported with reluctance the yoke of 
the barbarians. The idea of a republic was kept alive by the institutions, 
or at least by the writings, of the Greeks and Romans, and the subjects of 
Heraclius had been educated to pronounce the words of liberty and law. 
But it has always been the pride and policy of oriental princes to display 
the titles and attributes of their omnipotence ; to upbraid a nation of slaves 
with their true name and abject condition, and to enforce, by cruel and inso- 
lent threats, the rigour of their absolute commands. 

The Christians of the East were scandalised by the worship of fire and 
the impious doctrine of the two principles ; the magi were not less intolerant 
than the bishops, and the martyrdom of some native Persians, who had de- 
serted the religion of Zoroaster, was conceived to be the prelude of a fierce 
and general persecution. By the oppressive laws of Justinian, the adver- 
saries of the church were made the enemies of the state ; the alliance of the 
Jews, Nestorians, and Jacobites had contributed to the success of Chosroes, 
and his partial favour to the sectaries provoked the hatred and fears of the 
Catholic clergy. Conscious of their fear and hatred, the Persian conqueror 
governed his new subjects with an iron sceptre ; and as if he suspected the 
stability of his dominion, he exhausted their wealth by exorbitant tributes 
and licentious rapine, despoiled or demolished the temples of the East, and 
transported to his hereditary realms the gold, the silver, the precious mar- 
bles, the arts, and the artists of the Asiatic cities. 

While the Persian monarch contemplated the wonders of his art and 
power, he received an epistle from an obscure citizen of Mecca, inviting him 
to acknowledge Mohammed as the apostle of God. He rejected the invita- 
tion, and tore the epistle. " It is thus," exclaimed the Arabian prophet, 
"that God will tear the kingdom, and reject the supplications of Chosroes." 
Placed on the verge of the two great empires of the East, Mohammed ob- 
served with secret joy the progress of their mutual destruction ; and in the 
midst of the Persian triumphs, he ventured to foretell that, before many years 
should elapse, victory would again return to the banners of the Romans. 


At the time when this prediction is said to have been delivered, no 
prophecy could be more distant from its accomplishment, since the first 
twelve years of Heraclius announced the approaching dissolution of the em- 
pire. If the motives of Chosroes had been pure and honourable, he must 
have ended the quarrel with the death of Phocas, and he would have em- 
braced, as his best ally, the fortunate African who had so generously avenged 
the injuries of his benefactor Maurice. The prosecution of the war revealed 
the true character of the barbarian ; and the suppliant embassies of Hera- 
clius to beseech his clemency that he would spare the innocent, accept a trib- 
ute, and give peace to the world, were rejected with contemptuous silence or 
insolent menace. Syria, Egypt, and the provinces of Asia were subdued by 
the Persian arms, while Europe, from the confines of Istria to the long wall 
of Thrace, was oppressed by the Avars, unsatiated with the blood and rapine 
of the Italian War. 

By these implacable enemies, Heraclius, on either side, was insulted and 
besieged : and the Roman Empire was reduced to the walls of Constanti- 
nople, with the remnant of Greece, Italy, and Africa, and some maritime cities, 
from Tyre to Trebizond, of the Asiatic coast. After the loss of Egypt, the 


[616-622 A.D.] 

capital was afflicted with famine and pestilence ; and the emperor, incapa- 
ble of resistance and hopeless of relief, had resolved to transfer his person 
and government to the more secure residence of Carthage. His ships were 
already laden with the treasures of the palace ; but his flight was arrested by 
the patriarch, who armed the powers of religion in the defence of his country, 
led Heraclius to the altar of St. Sophia, and extorted a solemn oath, that he 
would live and die with the people whom God had entrusted to his care. 

The chagan was encamped in the plains of Thrace ; but he dissembled 
his perfidious designs, and solicited an interview with the emperor near the 
town of Heraclea. Their reconciliation was celebrated with equestrian 
games ; the senate and people in their gayest apparel resorted to the festival 
of peace ; and the Avars beheld, with envy and desire, the spectacle of Roman 
luxury. On a sudden the Hippodrome was encompassed by the Scythian 
cavalry, who had pressed their secret and nocturnal march : the tremen- 
dous sound of the chagan's whip gave the signal of the assault ; and Hera- 
clius, wrapping his diadem round his arm, was saved with extreme hazard by 
the fleetness of his horse. So rapid was the pursuit, that the Avars almost 
entered the golden gate of Constantinople with the flying crowds ; but the 
plunder of the suburbs rewarded their treason, and they transported beyond 
the Danube 270,000 captives. On the shore of Chalcedon, the emperor held a 
safer conference with a more honourable foe, who, before Heraclius descended 
from his galley, saluted with reverence and pity the majesty of the purple. 

The friendly offer of Sain, the Persian general, to conduct an embassy 
to the presence of the Great King, was accepted with the warmest gratitude, 
and the prayer for pardon and peace was humbly presented by the praetorian 
prefect, the prefect of the city, and one of the first ecclesiastics of the patri- 
archal church. But the lieutenant of Chosroes had fatally mistaken the 
intentions of his master. " It was not an embassy," said the tyrant of Asia, 
" it was the person of Heraclius, bound in chains, that he should have brought 
to the foot of my throne. I will never give peace to the emperor of Rome 
till he has abjured his crucified God, and embraced the worship of the sun." 
Sain was flayed alive, according to the inhuman practice of his country ; and 
the separate and rigorous confinement of the ambassadors violated the law 
of nations, and the faith of an express stipulation. Yet the experience of six 
years at length persuaded the Persian monarch to renounce the conquest qf 
Constantinople, and to specify the annual tribute or ransom of the Roman 
Empire : a thousand talents of gold, a thousand talents of silver, a thousand 
silk robes, a thousand horses, and a thousand virgins. Heraclius subscribed 
these ignominious terms ; but the time and space which he obtained to collect 
such treasure from the poverty of the East was industriously employed in 
the preparations of a bold and desperate attack. 


Of the characters conspicuous in history, that of Heraclius is one of the 
most extraordinary and inconsistent. In the first and the last years of a long 
reign, the emperor appears to be the slave of sloth, of pleasure, or of super- 
stition, the careless and impotent spectator of the public calamities. But 
the languid mists of the morning and evening are separated by the brightness 
of the meridian sun : the Arcadius of the palace arose the Caesar of the 
camp; and the honour of Rome and Heraclius was gloriously retrieved by 
the exploits and trophies of six adventurous campaigns. 



It was the duty of the Byzantine historians to have revealed the causes 
of his slumber and vigilance. At this distance we can only conjecture, that 
he was endowed with more personal courage than political resolution ; that 
he was detained by the charms, and perhaps the arts, of his niece Martina, 
with whom, after the death of Eudocia, he contracted an incestuous mar- 
riage ; and that he yielded to the base advice of the counsellors, who 
urged as a fundamental law that the life of the emperor should never be 
exposed in the field. Perhaps he was awakened by the last insolent demand 
of the Persian conqueror ; but at the moment when Heraclius assumed the 
spirit of a hero, the only hopes of the Romans were drawn from the vicis- 
situdes of fortune which might threaten the proud prosperity of Chosroes, 
and must be favourable to those who had attained the lowest period of de- 

To provide for the expenses of war was the first care of the emperor ; 
and for the purpose of collecting the tribute, he was allowed to solicit the 
benevolence of the Eastern provinces. But the revenue no longer flowed in 
the usual channels ; the credit of an arbitrary prince is annihilated by his 
power ; and the courage of Heraclius was first displayed in daring to borrow 
the consecrated wealth of churches, under the solemn vow of restoring, with 
usury, whatever he had been compelled to employ in the service of religion 
and of the empire. The clergy themselves appear to have sympathised with 
the public distress, and the discreet patriarch of Alexandria, without admit- 
ting the precedent of sacrilege, assisted his sovereign by the miraculous or 
seasonable revelation of a secret treasure. 1 Of the soldiers who had conspired 
with Phocas, only two were found to have survived the stroke of time and 
of the barbarians ; the loss, even of these seditious veterans, was imperfectly 
supplied by the new levies of Heraclius, and the gold of the sanctuary united, 
in the same camp, the names, and arms, and languages, of the East and West. 
He would have been content with the neutrality of the Avars ; and his 
friendly entreaty, that the chagan would act, not as the enemy but as the 
guardian of the empire, was accompanied with a more persuasive donative of 
two hundred thousand pieces of gold. Two days after the festival of Easter, 
the emperor, exchanging his purple for the simple garb of a penitent and 
warrior, gave the signal of his departure. To the faith of the people Hera- 
clius recommended his children ; the civil and military powers were vested 
in the most deserving hands, and the discretion of the patriarch and senate 
was authorised to save or surrender the city, if they should be oppressed in 
his absence by the superior forces of the enemy. 

The neighbouring heights of Chalcedon were covered with tents and 
arms : but if the new levies of Heraclius had been rashly led to the attack, 
the victory of the Persians in the sight of Constantinople might have been 
the last day of the Roman Empire. As imprudent would it have been to 
advance into the provinces of Asia, leaving their innumerable cavalry to in- 
tercept his convoys, and continually to hang on the lassitude and disorder 
of his rear. But the Greeks were still masters of the sea ; a fleet of galleys, 
transports, and store-ships was assembled in the harbour; the barbarians 
consented to embark ; a steady wind carried them through the Hellespont ; 
the western and southern coast of Asia Minor lay on their left hand ; the 
spirit of their chief was first displayed in a storm ; and even the eunuchs of 
his train were excited to suffer and to work by the example of their master. 

1 Baronius^ gravely relates this discovery, or rather transmutation of barrels, not of honey 
but of gold. Yet the loan was arbitrary, since it was collected by soldiers, who were ordered t > 
leave the patriarch not more than one hundred pounds of gold. 


[622-623 A.D.] 

He landed his troops on the confines of Syria and Cilicia, in the Gulf of Scan- 
deroon, where the coast suddenly turns to the south ; and his discernment 
was expressed in the choice of this important post. 

From all sides, .the scattered garrisons of the maritime cities and the 
mountains might repair with speed and safety to his imperial standard. The 
natural fortifications of Cilicia protected, and even concealed, the camp of 
Heraclius, which was pitched near Issus, on the same ground where Alex- 
ander had vanquished the host of Darius. The angle which the emperor 
occupied was deeply indented into a vast semicircle of the Asiatic, Arme- 
nian, and Syrian provinces; and to whatsoever point of the circumference 
he should direct his attack, it was easy for him to dissemble his own motions, 
and to prevent those of the enemy. In the camp of Issus, the Roman gen- 
eral reformed the sloth and disorder of the veterans, and educated the new 
recruits in the knowledge and practice of military virtue. Unfolding the 
miraculous image of Christ, he urged them to revenge the holy altars which 
had been profaned by the worshippers of fire ; addressing them by the 
endearing appellations of sons and brethren, he deplored the public and pri- 
vate wrongs of the republic. The subjects of a monarch were persuaded 
that they fought in the cause of freedom ; and a similar enthusiasm was 
communicated to the foreign mercenaries, who must have viewed with equal 
indifference the interest of Rome and of Persia. 

Heraclius himself, with the skill and patience of a centurion, inculcated 
the lessons of the school of tactics, and the soldiers were assiduously trained 
in the use of their weapons, and the exercises and evolutions of the field. 
The cavalry and infantry, in light or heavy armour, were divided into two 
parties ; the trumpets were fixed in the centre, and their signals directed the 
march, the charge, the retreat, or pursuit ; the direct or oblique order, the 
deep or extended phalanx ; to represent in fictitious combat the operations 
of genuine war. Whatever hardship the emperor imposed on the troops, 
he inflicted with equal severity on himself ; their labour, their diet, their 
sleep, were measured by the inflexible rules of discipline ; and, without 
despising the enemy, they were taught to repose an implicit confidence in 
their own valour and the wisdom of their leader. 

Cilicia was soon encompassed with the Persian arms ; but their cavalry 
hesitated to enter the defiles of Mount Taurus, till they were circumvented 
by the evolutions of Heraclius, who insensibly gained their rear, whilst he 
appeared to present his front in order of battle. By a false motion, which 
seemed to threaten Armenia, he drew them, against their wishes, to a gen- 
eral action. They were tempted by the artful disorder of his camp ; but 
when they advanced to combat, the ground, the sun, and the expectation of 
both armies were unpropitious to the barbarians ; the Romans successfully 
repeated their tactics in a field of battle, and the event of the day 1 declared 
to the world, that the Persians were not invincible, and that a hero was 
invested with the purple. 

Strong in victory and fame, Heraclius boldly ascended the heights of 
Mount Taurus, directed his march through the plains of Cappadocia, and 
established his troops for the winter season in safe and plentiful quarters 
on the banks of the river Halys. His soul was superior to the vanity of 
entertaining Constantinople with an imperfect triumph : but the presence 
of the emperor was indispensably required to sooth the restless and rapa- 
cious spirit of the Avars. 

[} A lunar eclipse two days earlier, fixes the date of the battle in January, 623.] 

h. w. — VOL. VII. M 


[623-625 A.D.] 

Since the days of Scipio and Hannibal, no bolder enterprise has been 
attempted than that which Heraclius achieved for the deliverance of the 
empire. He permitted the Persians to oppress for a while the provinces, and 
to insult with impunity the capital of the East ; while the Roman emperor 
explored his perilous way' through the Black Sea and the mountains of 
Armenia, penetrated into the heart of Persia, and recalled the armies of the 
Great King to the defence of their bleeding country. With a select band of 
five thousand soldiers, Heraclius sailed from Constantinople to Trebizond ; 
assembled his forces which had wintered in the Pontic regions ; and from 
the mouth of the Phasis to the Caspian Sea, encouraged his subjects and 
allies to march with the successor of Constantine under the faithful and 
victorious banner of the cross. 

When the legions of Lucullus and Pompey first passed the Euphrates, 
they blushed at their easy victory over the natives of Armenia. But the 
long experience of war had hardened the minds and bodies of that effeminate 
people ; their zeal and bravery were approved in the service of a declining 
empire ; they abhorred and feared the usurpation of the house of Sassan, 
and the memory of persecution envenomed their pious hatred of the enemies 
of Christ. The limits of Armenia, as it had been ceded to the emperor 
Maurice, extended as far the Araxes ; the river submitted to the indignity 
of a bridge ; and Heraclius, in the footsteps of Mark Antony, advanced 
towards the city of Tauris or Gandzaca, the ancient and modern capital of 
one of the provinces of Media. At the head of forty thousand men, Chosroes 
himself had returned from some distant expedition to oppose the progress of 
the Roman arms ; but he retreated on the approach of Heraclius, declining 
the generous alternative of peace or battle. 

The rapid conquests of Heraclius were suspended only by the winter 
season ; a motive of prudence or superstition determined his retreat into the 
province of Albania, along the shores of 'the Caspian ; and his tents were 
most probably pitched in the plains of Mogan, the favourite encampment of 
oriental princes. In the course of this successful inroad, he signalised the 
zeal and revenge of a Christian emperor : at his command, the soldiers ex- 
tinguished the fire and destroyed the temples of the magi ; the statues of 
Chosroes, who aspired to divine honours, were abandoned to the flames ; and 
the ruin of Thebarma or Ormia, which had given birth to Zoroaster himself, 
made some atonement for the injuries of the Holy Sepulchre. A purer spirit 
of religion was shown in the relief and deliverance of fifty thousand captives. 
Heraclius was rewarded by their tears and grateful acclamations ; but this 
wise measure, which spread the fame of his benevolence, diffused the mur- 
murs of the Persians against the pride and obstinacy of their own sovereign. 

Amidst the glories of the succeeding campaigns, Heraclius is almost lost 
to our eyes, and to those of the Byzantine historians. From the spacious 
and fruitful plains of Albania, the emperor appears to follow the chain of 
Hyrcanian Mountains, to descend into the province of Media or Irak, and to 
carry his victorious arms as far as the royal cities of Casbin and Ispahan, 1 which 
had never been approached by a Roman conqueror. Alarmed by the clanger 
of his kingdom, the powers of Chosroes were already recalled from the Nile 
and the Bosporus, and three formidable armies surrounded, in a distant and 
hostile land, the camp of the emperor. The Colchian allies prepared to 

[i This is Gibbon's* opinion, but Finlay * thinks it " rests on a very doubtful conjecture."] 


[625-626 a.d.] 

desert his standard ; and the fears of the bravest veterans were expressed, 
rather than concealed, by their desponding silence. " Be not terrified," said 
the intrepid Heraclius, "by the multitude of your foes. With the aid of 
heaven, one Roman may triumph over a thousand barbarians. But if we 
devote our lives for the salvation of our brethren, we shall obtain the crown 
of martyrdom, and our immortal reward will be liberally paid by God and 
posterity." 1 These magnanimous sentiments were supported by the vigour 
of his actions. He repelled the threefold attack of the Persians, improved 
the divisions of their chiefs, and by a well-concerted train of marches, re- 
treats, and successful actions, finally chased them from the field into the 
fortified cities of Media and Assyria. 

In the severity of the winter season, Shahr Barz (or Sarbaraza) deemed 
himself secure in the walls of Salban ; he was surprised by the activity of 
Heraclius, who divided his troops and performed a laborious march in the 
silence of the night. The flat roofs of the houses were defended with useless 
valour against the darts and torches of the Romans : the satraps and nobles 
of Persia, with their wives and children, and the flower of their martial youth, 
were either slain or made prisoners. The general escaped by a precipitate 
flight, but his golden armour was the prize of the conqueror ; and the sol- 
diers of Heraclius enjoyed the wealth and repose which they had so nobly 

On the return of spring, the emperor traversed in seven days the moun- 
tains of Kurdistan, and passed without resistance the rapid stream of the 
Tigris. Oppressed by the weight of their spoils and captives, the Roman 
army halted under the walls of Amida; and Heraclius informed the senate 
of • Constantinople of his safety and success, which they had already felt by 
the retreat of the besiegers. The bridges of the Euphrates were destroyed 
by the Persians; but as soon as the emperor had discovered a ford, they 
hastily retired to defend the banks of the Sarus, in Cilicia. That river, an 
impetuous torrent, was about three hundred feet broad; the bridge was for- 
tified with strong turrets, and the banks were lined with barbarian archers. 
After a bloody conflict, which continued till the evening, the Romans pre- 
vailed in the assault, and a Persian of gigantic size was slain and thrown 
into the Sarus by the hand of the emperor himself. The enemies were dis- 
persed and dismayed; Heraclius pursued his march to Sebastein Cappadocia ; 
and at the expiration of three years, the same coast of the Euxine applauded 
his return from a long and victorious expedition. 

Instead of skirmishing on the frontier, the two monarchs who disputed 
the empire of the East aimed their desperate strokes at the heart of their 
rival. The military force of Persia was wasted by the marches and com- 
bats of twenty years, and many of the veterans, who had survived the perils 
of the sword and the climate, were still detained in the fortresses of Egypt 
and Syria. But the revenge and ambition of Chosroes exhausted his king- 
dom ; and the new levies of subjects, strangers, and slaves were divided into 
three formidable bodies. The first army of fifty thousand men, illustrious 
by the ornament and title of the golden spears, was destined to march against 
Heraclius ; the second was stationed to prevent his junction with the troops 
of his brother Theodorus ; and the third was commanded to besiege Con- 
stantinople, and to second the operations of the cliagan, with whom the 
Persian king had ratified a treaty of alliance and parti tior. 

[ J The words are given by Theophanes/ but Bury? finds the lines so metrical that he thinks 
they must have been quoted from a lost work by George of Pisidia, whose Ileraclian Persian 
Expedition and War with the Avars are important sources of information in this respect.] 




> A.D.] 

Shahr Barz, the general of the third army, penetrated through the prov- 
inces of Asia to the well-known camp of Chalcedon, and amused himself 
with the destruction of the sacred and profane buildings of the Asiatic sub- 
urbs, while he impatiently waited the arrival of his Scythian friends on the 
opposite side of the Bosporus. On the 29th of June, thirty thousand bar- 
barians, the vanguard of the Avars, forced the long wall, and drove into the 

capital a promiscuous crowd 
of peasants, citizens, and sol- 
diers. Fourscore thousand of 
his native subjects, and of the 
vassal tribes of Gepidae, Rus- 
sians, Bulgarians, and Sla- 
vonians advanced under the 
standard of the chagan; a 
month was spent in marches 
and negotiations, but the whole 
city was invested on the 31st 
of July, from the suburbs of 
Pera and Galata to the Bla- 
chernse and seven towers ; and 
the inhabitants descried with 
terror the flaming signals of the 
European and Asiatic shores. 
In the meanwhile the mag- 
istrates of Constantinople re- 
peatedly strove to purchase 
the retreat of the chagan ; but 
their deputies were rejected 
and insulted ; and he suffered 
the patricians to stand before 
his throne, while the Persian 
envoys, in silk robes, were 
seated by his side. " You see," 
said the haughty barbarian, 
"the proofs of my perfect 
union with the Great King; 
and his lieutenant is ready to 
send into my camp a select band of three thousand warriors. Presume no 
longer to tempt your master with a partial and inadequate . ransom : your 
wealth and your city are the only presents worthy of my acceptance. For 
yourselves, I shall permit you to depart, each with an undergarment and a 
shirt ; and, at my entreaty, my friend Shahr Barz will not refuse a passage 
through his lines. Your absent prince, even now a captive or fugitive, has 
left Constantinople to its fate ; nor can you escape the arms of the Avars 
and Persians, unless you could soar into the air like birds, unless like fishes 
you could dive into the waves." 

During ten successive days, the capital was assaulted by the Avars, who 
had made some progress in the science of attack; they advanced to sap 
or batter the wall, under the cover of the impenetrable tortoise ; their engines 
discharged a perpetual volley of stones and darts ; and twelve lofty towers 
of wood exalted the combatants to the height of the neighbouring ramparts. 

Trophy of Roman Arms and Ensign 


[626-627 A.D.] 

But the senate and people were animated by the spirit of Heraclius, who had 
detached to their relief a body of twelve thousand cuirassiers ; the powers of 
fire and mechanics were used with superior art and success in the defence 
of Constantinople ; and the galleys, with two and three ranks of oars, com- 
manded the Bosporus, and rendered the Persians the idle spectators of the 
defeat of their allies. The Avars were repulsed ; a fleet of Slavonian 
canoes was destroyed in the harbour ; the vassals of the chagan threatened to 
desert, his provisions were exhausted, and after burning his engines, he gave 
the signal of a slow and formidable retreat. The devotion of the Romans 
ascribed this signal deliyerance to the Virgin Mary ; but the mother of 
Christ would surely have condemned their inhuman murder of the Persian 
envoys, who were entitled to the rights of humanity, if they were not pro- 
tected by the laws of nations. 


After the division of his army, Heraclius prudently retired to the banks 
of the Phasis, from whence he maintained a defensive war against the fifty 
thousand gold spears of Persia. His anxiety was relieved by the deliver- 
ance of Constantinople ; his hopes were confirmed by a victory of his brother 
Theodorus ; and to the hostile league of Chosroes with the Avars, the 
Roman emperor opposed the useful and honourable alliance of the Turks. At 
his liberal invitation, the horde of Khazars transported their tents from the 
plains of the Volga to the mountains of Georgia ; Heraclius received them 
in the neighbourhood of Tiflis, and the khan with his nobles dismounted 
from their horses, if we may credit the Greeks, and fell prostrate on the 
ground, to adore the purple of the csesar. Such voluntary homage and 
important aid were entitled to the warmest acknowledgments ; and the 
emperor, taking off his own diadem, placed it on the head of the Turkish 
prince, whom he saluted with a tender embrace and the appellation of son. 
After a sumptuous banquet he presented Ziebel with the plate and orna- 
ments, the gold, the gems, and the silk, which had been used at the imperial 
table, and, with his own hand, distributed rich jewels and earrings to his 
new allies. 

In a secret interview he produced the portrait of his daughter Eudocia, 
condescended to flatter the barbarian with the promise of a fair and august 
bride, obtained an immediate succour of forty thousand horse, and nego- 
tiated a strong diversion of the Turkish arms on the side of the Oxus. The 
Persians, in their turn, retreated with precipitation ; in the camp of Edessa, 
Heraclius reviewed an army of seventy thousand Romans and strangers; 
and some months were successfully employed in the recovery of the cities of 
Syria, Mesopotamia, and Armenia, whose fortifications had been imperfectly 
restored. Shahr Barz still maintained the important station of Chalcedon ; 
but the jealousy of Chosroes, or the artifice of Heraclius, soon alienated the 
mind of that powerful satrap from the service of his king and country. A 
messenger was intercepted with a real or fictitious mandate to the cadarigan, 
or second in command, directing him to send, without delay, to the throne, 
the head of a guilty or unfortunate general. The despatches were transmitted 
to Shahr Barz himself ; and as soon as he read the sentence of his own death, 
he dexterously inserted the names of four hundred officers, assembled a mili- 
tary council, and asked the cadarigan whether he was prepared to execute 
the commands of their tyrant? The Persians unanimously declared that 


[627 A.D.] 

Chosroes had forfeited the sceptre ; a separate treaty was concluded with the 
government of Constantinople ; and if some considerations of honour or 
policy restrained Shahr Barz from joining the standard of Heraclius, the em- 
peror was assured that he might prosecute, without interruption, his designs 
of victory and peace. 

Deprived of his firmest support, and doubtful of the fidelity of his sub- 
jects, the greatness of Chosroes was still conspicuous in its ruins. The 
number of five hundred thousand may be interpreted as an oriental meta- 
phor, to describe the men and arms, the horses and elephants, that covered 
Media and Assyria against the invasion of Heraclius. Yet the Romans 
boldly advanced from the Araxes to the Tigris, and the timid prudence of 
Rhazates was content to follow them by forced marches through a desolate 
country, till he received a peremptory mandate to risk the fate of Persia in 
a decisive battle. Eastward of the Tigris, at the end of the bridge of Mosul, 
the great Nineveh had formerly been erected ; the city, and even the ruins 
of the city, had long since disappeared : the vacant space afforded a spacious 
field for the operations of the two armies. But these operations are neglected 
by the Byzantine historians, and, like the authors of epic poetry and 
romance, they ascribe the victory, not to the military conduct, but to the 
personal valour of their favourite hero. 


On this memorable day, Heraclius, on his horse Phallus, 1 surpassed the 
bravest of his warriors ; his lip was pierced with a spear, the steed was 
wounded in the thigh, but he carried his master safe and victorious through 
the triple phalanx of the barbarians. In the heat of the action, three valiant 
chiefs were successively slain by the sword and lance of the emperor ; among 
these was Rhazates himself ; he fell like a soldier, but the sight of his head 
scattered grief and despair through the fainting ranks of the Persians. His 
armour of pure and massy gold, the shield of 120 plates, the sword and belt, 
the saddle and cuirass, adorned the triumph of Heraclius ; and if he had not 
been faithful to Christ and his mother, the champion of Rome might have 
offered the fourth opime spoils to the Jupiter of the Capitol. In the battle 
of Nineveh, which was fiercely fought from daybreak to the eleventh hour, 
twenty-eight standards, besides those which might be broken or torn, were 
taken from the Persians ; the greatest part of their army was cut in pieces, 
and the victors, concealing their own loss, passed the night on the field. 
They acknowledged, that on this occasion it was less difficult to kill than to 
discomfit the soldiers of Chosroes ; amidst the bodies of their friends, no 
more than two bow-shot from the enemy, the remnant of the Persian cavalry 
stood firm till the seventh hour of the night ; about the eighth hour they 
retired to their unrifled camp, collected their baggage, and dispersed on all 
sides, from the want of orders rather than of resolution. 

The diligence of Heraclius was not less admirable in the use of victory ; by 
a march of forty-eight miles in four-and-twenty hours, his vanguard occupied 
the bridges of the great and the lesser Zab ; and the cities and palaces of 
Assyria were open for the first time to the Romans. By a just gradation 
of magnificent scenes, they penetrated to the royal seat of Dastagherd, and 
though much of the treasure had been removed, and much had been ex- 
pended, the remaining wealth appears to have exceeded their hopes, and 

[} According to others the name should be Phalbas or Dorkon.] 


[627-628 A.D.] 

even to have satiated their avarice. Whatever could not be easily trans- 
ported, they consumed with fire, that Chosroes might feel the anguish of 
those wounds which he had so often inflicted on the provinces of the empire ; 
and justice might allow the excuse, if the desolation had been confined to the 
works of regal luxury, if national hatred, military license, and religious zeal, 
had not wasted with equal rage the habitations and the temples of the guilt- 
less subject. 

The recovery of three hundred Roman standards, and the deliverance of 
the numerous captives of Edessa and Alexandria, reflect a purer glory on the 
arms of Heraclius. From the palace of Dastagherd he pursued his march 
within a few miles of Modain or Ctesiphon, till he was stopped on the banks 
of the Arba, by the difficulty of the passage, the rigour of the season, and 
perhaps the fame of an impregnable capital. The return of the emperor is 
marked by the modern name of the city of Sherhzur ; he fortunately passed 
Mount Zara before the snow, which fell incessantly thirty -four days ; and 
the citizens of Ganzaca, or Tauris, were compelled to entertain his soldiers 
and their horses with an hospitable reception. 


When the ambition of Chosroes was reduced to the defence of his hered- 
itary kingdom, the love of glory, or even the sense of shame, should have 
urged him to meet his rival in the field. In the battle of Nineveh, his cour- 
age might have taught the Persians to vanquish, or he might have fallen 
with honour by the lance of a Roman emperor. The successor of Cyrus 
chose rather, at a secure distance, to expect the event, to assemble the relics 
of the defeat, and to retire by measured steps before the march of Heraclius, 
till he beheld with a sigh the once-loved mansions of Dastagherd. Both his 
friends and enemies were persuaded that it was the intention of Chosroes to 
bury himself under the ruins of the city and palace ; and as both might 
have been equally adverse to his flight, the monarch of Asia, with Sira and 
three concubines, escaped through a hole in the wall nine days before the 
arrival of the Romans. The slow and stately procession in which he showed 
himself to the prostrate crowd was changed to a rapid and secret journey ; 
and the first evening he lodged in the cottage of a peasant, whose humble 
door would scarcely give admittance to the Great King. His superstition 
was subdued by fear : on the third day he entered with joy the fortifications 
of Ctesiphon; yet he still doubted of his safety till he had opposed the 
river Tigris to the pursuit of the Romans. 

It was still in the power of Chosroes to obtain a reasonable peace ; and 
he was repeatedly pressed by the messengers of Heraclius to spare the blood 
of his subjects, and to relieve a humane conqueror from the painful duty of 
carrying fire and sword through the fairest countries of Asia. But the pride 
of the Persian had not yet sunk to the level of his fortune : he derived a 
momentary confidence from the retreat of the emperor ; he wept with impo- 
tent rage over the ruins of his Assyrian palaces, and disregarded too long 
the rising murmurs of the nation, who complained that their lives and for- 
tunes were sacrificed to the obstinacy of an old man. That unhappy old 
man was himself tortured with the sharpest pains, both of mind and body ; 
and, in the consciousness of his approaching end, he resolved to fix the tiara 
on the head of Merdaza, the most favoured of his sons. But the will of 
Chosroes was no longer revered, and Siroes, who gloried in the rank and 


[628 A.D.] 

merit of his mother Sira, had conspired with the malcontents to assert and 
anticipate the rights of primogeniture. Twenty-two satraps, they styled 
themselves patriots, were tempted by the wealth and honours of a new reign ; 
to the soldiers, the heir of Chosroes promised an increase of pay ; to the 
Christians, the free exercise of their religion ; to the captives, liberty and 
rewards ; and to the nation, instant peace and the reduction of taxes. 

It was determined by the conspirators that Siroes, with the ensigns of 
royalty, should appear in the camp ; and if the enterprise should fail, his 
escape was contrived to the imperial court. But the new monarch was 
saluted with unanimous acclamations ; the flight of Chosroes (yet where 
could he have fled?) was rudely arrested, eighteen sons were massacred 
before his face, and he was thrown into a dungeon, where he expired on the 
fifth day. The Greeks and modern Persians minutely described how Chos- 
roes was insulted, and famished, and tortured, by the command of an in- 
human son, who so far surpassed the example of his father ; but at the time 
of his death, what tongue would relate the story of the parricide — what eye 
could penetrate into the tower of darkness ? According to the faith and 
mercy of his Christian enemies, he sank without hope into a still deeper 
abyss ; and it will not be denied that tyrants of every age and sect are the 
best entitled to such infernal abodes. The glory of the house of Sassan 
ended with the life of Chosroes ; his unnatural son enjoyed only eight months 
the fruit of his crimes ; and in the space of four years the regal title was 
assumed by nine candidates, who disputed with the sword or dagger the 
fragments of an exhausted monarchy. Every province, and each city of 
Persia, was the scene of independence, of discord, and of blood ; and the 
state of anarchy prevailed about eight years longer, till the factions were 
silenced and united under the common yoke of the Arabian caliphs. 

As soon as the mountains became passable, the emperor received the wel- 
come news of the success of the conspiracy, the death of Chosroes, and the 
elevation of his eldest son to the throne of Persia. The authors of the rev- 
olution, eager to display their merits in the court or camp of Tauris, pre- 
ceded the ambassadors of Siroes, who delivered the letters of their master to 
his brother the emperor of the Romans. In the language of the usurpers 
of every age, he imputes his own crimes to the Deity, and, Without de- 
grading his equal majesty, he offers to reconcile the long discord of the two 
nations, by a treaty of peace and alliance more durable than brass or iron. 
The conditions of the treaty were easily defined and faithfully executed. 

In the recovery of the standards and prisoners which had fallen into the 
hands of the Persians, the emperor imitated the example of Augustus : their 
care of the national dignity was celebrated by the poets of the times, but 
the decay of genius may be measured by the distance between Horace and 
George of Pisidia ; the subjects and brethren of Heraclius were redeemed 
from persecution, slavery, and exile ; but instead of the Roman eagles, the 
true wood of the holy cross was restored to the importunate demands of 
the successor of Constantine. The victor was not ambitious of enlarging the 
weakness of the empire; the son of Chosroes abandoned without regret 
the conquests of his father ; the Persians who evacuated the cities of Syria 
and Egypt were honourably conducted to the frontier, and a war which had 
wounded the vitals of the two monarchies, produced no change in their 
external and relative situation. The return of Heraclius from Tauris to 
Constantinople was a perpetual triumph; and after the exploits of six 
glorious campaigns, he peaceably enjoyed the sabbath of his toils. After a 
long impatience, the senate, the clergy, and the people, went forth to meet 


[628-629 A.D.] 

their hero, with tears and acclamations, with olive-branches and innumer- 
able lamps ; he entered the capital in a chariot drawn by four elephants ; 
and as soon as the emperor could disengage himself from the tumult of 
public joy, he tasted more genuine satisfaction in the embraces of his mother 
and his son. 

The succeeding year was illustrated by a triumph of a very different 
kind, the restitution of the true cross to the Holy Sepulchre. Heraclius 
performed in person the pilgrimage of Jerusalem, the identity of the relic 
was verified by the discreet patriarch, and this august ceremony has been 
commemorated by the annual festival of the exaltation of the cross. Before 
the emperor presumed to tread the consecrated ground, he was instructed to 
strip himself of the diadem and purple, the pomp and vanity of the world : 
but in the judgment of his clergy, the persecution of the Jews was more 
easily reconciled with the precepts of the Gospel. He again ascended his 
throne to receive the congratulations of the ambassadors of France and 
India : and the fame of Moses, Alexander, and Hercules was eclipsed, in the 
popular estimation, by the superior merit and glory of the great Heraclius. 
Yet the deliverer of the East was indigent and feeble. Of the Persian 
spoils, the most valuable portion had been expended in the war, distributed 
to the soldiers, or buried, by an unlucky tempest, in the waves of the 

The conscience of the emperor was oppressed by the obligation of restor- 
ing the wealth of the clergy, which he had borrowed for their own defence ; 
a perpetual fund was required to satisfy these inexorable creditors; the 
provinces, already wasted by the arms and avarice of the Persians, were 
compelled to a second payment of the same taxes; and the arrears of a 
simple citizen, the treasurer of Damascus, were commuted to a fine of one 
hundred thousand pieces of gold. The loss of two hundred thousand 
soldiers who had fallen by the sword, was of less fatal importance than the 
decay of arts, agriculture, and population, in this long and destructive war : 
and although a victorious army had been formed under the standard of 
Heraclius, the unnatural effort appears to have exhausted rather than exer- 
cised their strength. While the emperor triumphed at Constantinople or 
Jerusalem, an obscure town on the confines of Syria was pillaged by the 
Saracens, and they cut in pieces some troops who advanced to its relief : an 
ordinary and trifling occurrence, had it not been the prelude of a mighty 
revolution. These robbers were the apostles of Mohammed ; their fanatic 
valour had emerged from the desert; and in the last eight years of his 
reign Heraclius lost to the Arabs the same provinces which he had rescued 
from the Persians. 6 


[610-717 a.d.] 

" Everyone who reads the history of Heraclius," says Bury,* " is met by 
the problems: how did the great hero of the last Persian War spend the first 
ten years of his reign ; and why did he relapse into lethargy after his final 
triumph ? " 

Many explanations have been attempted to account for the actions of this 
man, who first built up an empire, and then allowed it to crumble under his 
feet. Bury's explanation is the assumption that his will was naturally weak 
and his sensibilities strong, and that for a time he was raised above himself, 
as it were, by an inspired enthusiasm. When in later years this cloak of en- 
thusiasm was withdrawn, the weakness of his true character was laid bare. 

The reign of Heraclius is one of the most remarkable epochs, both in the 
history of the empire and in the annals of mankind. It warded off the almost 
inevitable destruction of the Roman government for another century ; it laid 
the foundation of that policy which prolonged the existence of the imperial 
power at Constantinople under a new modification, as the Byzantine mon- 
archy ; and it was contemporary with the commencement of the great moral 
change in the condition of the people which transformed the language and 
manners of the ancient world into those of modern nations. The Eastern 
Empire was indebted to the talents of Heraclius for its escape from those 
ages of barbarism which, for many centuries, prevailed in all western Europe. 
No period of society could offer a field for instructive study more likely to 
present practical results to the highly civilised political communities of mod- 
ern Europe ; yet there is no time of which the existing memorials of the con- 
stitution and frame of society are so imperfect and unsatisfactory. 

It was perhaps a misfortune for mankind that Heraclius was by birth a 
Roman rather than a Greek, as his views were from that accident directed 
to the maintenance of the imperial dominion, without any reference to the 
national organisation of his people. His civilisation, like that of a large por- 
tion of the ruling class in the Eastern Empire, was too far removed from 
the state of ignorance into which the mass of the population had fallen, for the 
one to be influenced by the feelings of the other, or for both to act together 
with the energy conferred by unity of purpose in a variety of ranks. Hera- 



[610-641 A.D.] 

clius, being by birth and family connections an African noble, must have 
regarded himself as of pure Roman blood, superior to all national prejudices, 
and bound by duty and policy to repress the domineering spirit of the Greek 
aristocracy in the state, and of the Greek hierarchy in the church. 

Language and manners began to give to national feelings almost as 
much power in forming men into distinct societies as political arrangements. 
The influence of the clergy followed the divisions established by language, 
rather than the political organisation adopted by the government : and as 
the clergy now formed the most popular and the ablest portion of society, 
the church exerted more influence over the minds of the people than the 
civil administration and the imperial power, even though the emperor was 
the acknowledged sovereign and master of the patriarchs and the pope. 

It is necessary to observe here, that the established church of the em- 
pire had ceased to be the universal Christian church. The Greeks had 
rendered themselves the depositaries of its power and influence ; they had 
already corrupted Christianity into the Greek church ; and other nations 
were rapidly forming separate ecclesiastical societies to supply their own 
spiritual wants. The Armenians, Syrians, and Egyptians were induced by 
national aversion to the ecclesiastical tyranny of the Greeks, as well as 
by spiritual preference of the doctrines of Nestorius and Eutyches, to op- 
pose the established church. At the time Heraclius ascended the throne, 
these national and religious feelings already exercised their power of modi- 
fying the operations of the Roman government, and of enabling mankind 
to advance one step towards the establishment of individual liberty and 
intellectual independence. 

In order fully to comprehend the lamentable state of weakness to which 
the empire was reduced, it will be necessary to take a cursory view of the 
condition of the different provinces. The continual ravages of the bar- 
barians who occupied the country beyond the Danube has extended as far 
as the southern shores of the Peloponnesus. The agricultural population 
was almost exterminated, except where it was protected by the immediate 
vicinity of fortified towns, or secured by the fastnesses of the mountains. 
The inhabitants of all the countries between the Archipelago and the Adri- 
atic had been greatly diminished, and fertile provinces remained everywhere 
desolate, ready to receive new occupants. As great part of these countries 
yielded very little revenue to the government, they were considered by the 
court of Constantinople as of hardly any value, except in so far as they 
covered the capital from hostile attacks, or commanded the commercial 
routes to the west of Europe. At this time the Indian and Chinese trade 
had in part been forced round the north of the Caspian Sea, in consequence 
of the Persian conquests in Syria and Egypt, and the disturbed state of 
the country immediately to the east of Persia. The rich produce trans- 
ported by the caravans, which reached the northern shores of the Black 
Sea, was then transported to Constantinople, and from thence distributed 
through western Europe. 

Under these circumstances, Thessalonica and Dyrrhachium became points 
of great consequence to the empire, and were successfully defended by the 
emperor amidst all his calamities. These two cities commanded the ex- 
tremities of the usual road between Constantinople and Ravenna, and con- 
nected the towns on the Archipelago with the Adriatic and with Rome. 
The open country was abandoned to the Avars and Slavonians, who were 
allowed to effect permanent settlements even to the south of the Via 
Egnatia ; but none of these settlements were suffered to interfere with the 


[610-641 A.D.] 

lines of communication, without which the imperial influence in Italy would 
have been soon annihilated, and the trade of the West lost to the Greeks. 
The ambition of the barbarians was inclined to dare any attempt to encroach 
on the wealth of the Eastern Empire, and they tried to establish a system of 
maritime depredations in the Archipelago ; but Heraclius was able to frus- 
trate their schemes, though it is probable that he owed his success more 
to the exertions of the mercantile population of the Greek cities than to 
the exploits of his own troops. 

National distinctions and religious interests tended to divide the popu- 
lation, and to balance political power, much more in Italy than in the other 
countries of Europe. The influence of the church in protecting the people, 
the weakness of the Lombard sovereigns, from the small numerical strength 
of the Lombard population, and the oppressive fiscal government of the 
Roman exarchs, gave the Italians the means of creating a national existence, 
amidst the conflicts of their masters. Yet so imperfect was the unity of 
interests, or so great were the difficulties of communication between the 
people of various parts of Italy, that the imperial authority not only de- 
fended its own dominions with success against foreign enemies, but also 
repressed with ease the ambitious or patriotic attempts of the popes to 
acquire political power, and punished equally the seditions of the people 
and the rebellions of the chiefs, who, like Joannes Compsa of Neapolis and 
the exarch Eleutherinus, aspired at independence. 

Africa alone, of all the provinces of the empire, continued to use the 
Latin language in ordinary life ; and its inhabitants regarded themselves, 
with some reason, as the purest descendants of the Romans. After the vic- 
tories of Johannes the Patrician, it had enjoyed a long period of tranquillity, 
and its prosperity was undisturbed by any spirit of nationality adverse to 
the supremacy of the empire, or by schismatic opinions hostile to the church. 
The barbarous tribes to the south were feeble enemies, and no foreign state 
possessed a naval force capable of troubling its repose or interrupting its 
commerce. Under the able and fortunate administration of Heraclius and 
Gregoras, the father and uncle of the emperor, Africa formed the most 
flourishing portion of the empire. Its prosperous condition, and the wars 
raging in other countries, threw great part of the commerce of the Mediter- 
ranean into the hands of the Africans. Wealth and population increased to 
such a degree that the naval expedition of the emperor Heraclius, and the 
army of his cousin Nicetas, were fitted out from the resources of Africa 
alone. Another strong proof of the prosperity of the province, of its 
importance to the empire, and of its attachment to the interests of the Hera- 
clian family is afforded by the resolution which the emperor adopted, in the 
ninth year of his reign, of transferring the imperial residence from Con- 
stantinople to Carthage. 

In Constantinople an immense body of idle inhabitants had been collected, 
a mass that had long formed a burden on the state, and acquired a right to a 
portion of its resources. A numerous nobility, and a permanent imperial 
household, conceived that they formed a portion of the Roman government 
from the prominent part which they acted in the ceremonial that connected 
the emperor with the people. Thus, the great natural advantages of the 
geographical position of the capital were neutralised by moral and political 
causes ; while the desolate state of the European provinces, and the vicinity 
of the northern frontier, began to expose it to frequent sieges. As a fortress 
and place of arms, it might still have formed the bulwark of the empire 
in Europe; but while it remained the capital, its immense unproductive 


[610-641 a.d.] 

population required that too large a part of the resources of the state should 
be devoted to supplying it with provisions, to guarding against the factions 
and the seditions of its populace, and to maintaining in it a powerful garrison. 
The luxury of the Roman court had, during ages of unbounded wealth and 
unlimited power, assembled round the emperor an infinity of courtly offices, 
and caused an enormous expenditure, which it was extremely dangerous to 
suppress and impossible to continue. 

No national feelings or particular line of policy connected Heraclius with 
Constantinople, and his frequent absence during the active years of his life 
indicates that, as long as nis personal energy and health allowed him to 
direct the public administration, he considered the constant residence of the 
emperor in that city injurious to the general interests of the state. On the 
other hand, Carthage was, at this time, peculiarly a Roman city; and in actual 
wealth, in the numbers of its independent citizens, and in the activity of its 
whole population, was probably inferior to no city in the empire. It is not 
surprising, therefore, that Heraclius, when compelled to suppress the public 
distributions of bread in the capital, to retrench the expenditure of his court 
and make many reforms in his civil government, should have wished to place 
the imperial treasury and his own resources in a place of greater security, 

A Saracenic Metal Casket 

before he engaged in his desperate struggle with Persia. The wish, there- 
fore, to make Carthage the capital of the Roman Empire may, with far greater 
probability, be connected with the gallant project of his eastern campaigns, 
than with the cowardly or selfish motives attributed to him by the Byzantine 
writers. Carthage offered military resources for recovering possession of 
Egypt and Syria, of which we can only now estimate the extent by taking 
into consideration the expedition that placed Heraclius himself on the throne. 
Many reasons connected with the constitution of the civil government of the 
empire might likewise be adduced as tending to influence the preference. 


Egypt, from its wonderful natural resources and its numerous and indus- 
trious population, had long been the most valuable province of the empire. 
It poured a very great portion of its gross produce into the imperial treasury; 
for its agricultural population, being destitute of all political power and 
influence, were compelled to pay, not only taxes, but a tribute, which was 
viewed as a rent for the soil, to the Roman government. At this time, how- 
ever, the wealth of Egypt was on the decline. The circumstances which 
had driven the trade of India to the north, had caused a great decrease in 
the demand for the grain of Egypt on the shores of the Red Sea, and for its 


[610-641 A.D.] 

manufactures in Arabia and Ethiopia. The canal between the Nile and the 
Red Sea, whose existence is intimately connected with the prosperity of 
these countries, had been neglected during the government of Phocas. 

A large portion of the Greek population of Alexandria had been ruined, 
because an end had been put to the public distributions of grain, and poverty 
had invaded the fertile land of Egypt. Joannes the Almsgiver, who was 
patriarch and imperial prefect in the reign of Heraclius, did everything in 
his power to alleviate this misery. He established hospitals, and devoted 
the revenues of his see to charity ; but he was an enemy to heresy, and con- 
sequently he was hardly looked on as a friend by the native population. 
National feelings, religious opinions, and local interests, had always nour- 
ished, in the minds of the native Egyptians, a deep-rooted hatred of the 
Roman administration and of the Greek church ; and this feeling of hostility 
only became more concentrated after the union of the offices of prefect and 
patriarch by Justinian. A complete line of separation existed between 
the Greek colony of Alexandria and the native population, who, during the 
decline of the Greeks and Jews of Alexandria, intruded themselves into, 
political business, and gained some degree of official importance. The 
cause of the emperor was now connected with the commercial interests of 
the Greek and Melchite parties, but these ruling classes were regarded by 
the agricultural population of the rest of the province as interlopers on their 
sacred Jacobite soil. Joannes the Almsgiver, though a Greek patriarch and 
an imperial prefect, was not perfectly free from ,the charge of heresy, nor, 
perhaps, of employing the revenues under his control with more attention 
to charity than to public utility. 

The exigencies of Heraclius were so great that he sent his cousin the 
patrician Nicetas to Egypt, in order to seize the immense wealth which the 
patriarch Joannes was said to possess. In the following year the Persians 
invaded the province; and the patrician and patriarch, unable to defend 
even the city of Alexandria, fled to Cyprus, while the enemy was allowed 
to subdue the valley of the Nile to the borders of Libya and Ethiopia, 
without meeting any opposition from the imperial forces, and apparently 
with the good wishes of the Egyptians. The plunder obtained from pub- 
lic property and slaves was immense ; and as the power of the Greeks was 
annihilated, the native Egyptians availed themselves of the opportunity to 
acquire a dominant influence in the administration of their country. 

For ten years the province owned allegiance to Persia, though it enjoyed 
a certain degree of doubtful independence under the immediate government 
of a native intendant-general of the land revenues named Mokaukas, who 
subsequently, at the time of the Saracen conquest, acted a conspicuous part 
in the history of his country. During the Persian supremacy, he became so 
influential in the administration that he is styled by several writers the 
prince of Egypt. Mokaukas, under the Roman government, had con- 
formed to the established church, in order to hold an official situation, but 
he was, like most of his countrymen, at heart a monophysite, and conse- 
quently inclined to oppose the imperial administration, both from religious 
and political motives. Yet it appears that a portion of the monophysite 
clergy steadily refused to submit to the Persian government ; and Benjamin 
their patriarch retired from his residence at Alexandria when that city fell 
into the hands of the Persians, and did not return until Heraclius had 
recovered possession of Egypt. 

Mokaukas established himself in the city of Babylon, or Misr, which 
had grown up, on the decline of Memphis, to be the native capital of the 


[G10-641 ajb.] 

province and the chief city in the interior. The moment appears to have 
been extremely favourable for the establishment of an independent state by 
the monophysite Egyptians, since, amidst the conflicts of the Persian and 
Roman empires, the immense revenues and supplies of grain formerly paid 
to the emperor might have been devoted to the defence of the country. But 
the native population appears, from the conduct of the patriarch Benjamin, 
not to have been united in its views ; and probably the agricultural classes, 
though numerous, living in abundance, and firm in their monophysite tenets, 
had not the knowledge necessary to aspire at national independence, the 
strength of character required to achieve it, or the command of the precious 
metals necessary to purchase the service of mercenary troops and provide 
the materials of war. They had been so long deprived of arms and of all 
political rights, that they had probably adopted the opinion prevalent among 
the subjects of all despotic governments, that public functionaries are inva- 
riably knaves, and that the oppression of the native is more grievous than 
the yoke of a stranger. The moral defects of the people could certainly, at 
this favourable conjuncture, alone have prevented the establishment of an 
independent Egyptian and Jacobite state. 

It is said that about this time a prophecy was current, which declared 
that the Roman Empire would be overthrown by a circumcised people. 
This report may have been spread by the Jews, in order to excite their own 
ardour and assist their projects of rebellion ; but the prophecy was saved 
from oblivion by the subsequent conquests of the Saracens, which could 
never have been foreseen by its authors. The conduct of the Jews excited 
the bigotry, as it may have awakened the fears, of the imperial government, 
and both Phocas and Heraclius attempted to exterminate the Jewish religion 
and if possible to put an end to the national existence. Heraclius not only 
practised every species of crueltj^ himself to effect this object within the 
bounds of his own dominions, but he even made the forced conversion or 
banishment of the Jews a prominent feature in his diplomacy. He consoled 
himself for the loss of most of the Roman possessions in Spain, by inducing 
Sisibut to insert an article in the treaty of peace concluded in 614, engaging 
the Gothic monarch to force baptism on the Jews ; and he considered that, 
even though he failed in persuading the Franks to co-operate with him 
against the Avars, in the year 620, he had rendered the empire and Chris- 
tianity some service by inducing Dagobert to join in the project of exter- 
minating the unfortunate Jews. 

Asia Minor had become the chief seat of the Roman power in the time 
of Heraclius, and the only portion in which the majority of the population 
was attached to the imperial government and to the Greek church. Before 
the reign of Phocas, it had escaped any extensive devastation, so that it still' 
retainsd much of its ancient wealth and splendour ; and the social life of the 
people was still modelled on the institutions and usages of preceding ages. 
A considerable internal trade was carried on ; and the great roads, being 
kept in a tolerable state of repair, served as arteries for the circulation of 
commerce and civilisation. That it had, nevertheless, suffered very severely 
in the general decline caused by over-taxation, and by reduced commerce, 
neglected agriculture, and diminished population, is attested by the magnifi- 
cent ruins of cities which had already fallen to decay, and which never again 
recovered their ancient prosperity. 

The power of the central administration over its immediate officers was 
almost as completely destroyed in Asia Minor as in the more distant prov- 
inces of the empire. A remarkable proof of this general disorganisation of 


[610-641 A.D.] 

the government is found in the history of the early years of the reign of 
Heraclius ; and one deserving particular attention from its illustrating both 
his personal character and the state of the empire. Crispus, the son-in-law 
of Phocas, had materially assisted Heraclius in obtaining the throne ; and 
as a recompense, he was charged with the administration of Cappadocia, one 
of the richest provinces of the empire, along with the chief command of the 
troops in his government. Crispus, a man of influence, and of a daring, 
heedless character, soon ventured to act, not only with independence, but 
even with insolence, towards the emperor. He neglected the defence of his 
province ; and when Heraclius visited Csesarea to examine into its state and 
prepare the means of carrying on the war against Persia in person, he dis- 
played a spirit of insubordination and an assumption of importance which 
amounted to treason. Heraclius, who possessed the means of restraining his 
fiery temperament, visited the too-powerful officer in his bed, which he kept 
under a slight or affected illness, and persuaded him to visit Constantinople. 
On his appearance in the senate, he was arrested, and compelled to become 
a monk. His authority and position rendered it absolutely necessary for 
Heraclius to punish his presumption, before he could advance with safety 
against the Persians. 

Many less important personages, in various parts of the empire, acted with 
equal independence, without the emperor's considering that it was either 
necessary to observe, or prudent to punish, their ambition. The decline of 
the power of the central government, the increasing ignorance of the people, 
the augmented difficulties in the way of communication, and the general 
insecurity of property and life, effected extensive changes in the state of 
society, and threw political influence into the hands of the local governors, 
the municipal and provincial chiefs, and the whole body of the clergy. 


Heraclius appears to have formed the plan of establishing a permanent 
barrier in Europe against the encroachments of the Avars and Slavonians. 
For the furtherance of this project, it was evident that he could derive no 
assistance from the inhabitants of the provinces to the south of the Danube. 
The imperial armies, too, which in the time of Maurice had waged an active 
war in Illyricum and Thrace and frequently invaded the territories of the 
Avars, had melted away during the disorders of the reign of Phocas. The 
loss was irreparable ; for in Europe no agricultural population remained to 
supply the recruits required to form a new army. 

The only feasible plan for circumscribing the ravages of the northern 
enemies of the empire which presented itself, was the establishment of 
powerful colonies of tribes hostile to the Avars and their eastern Slavonian 
allies, in the deserted provinces of Dalmatia and Illyricum. To accomplish 
this object Heraclius induced the Serbs, or western Slavonians, who occu- 
pied the country about the Carpathian Mountains and who had successfully 
opposed the extension of the Avar empire in that direction, to abandon their 
ancient seats, and move down to the south into the provinces between the 
Adriatic and the Danube. The Roman and Greek population of these prov- 
inces had been driven towards the sea coast by the continual incursions of 
the northern tribes, and the desolate plains of the interior had been occupied 
by a few Slavonian subjects and vassals of the Avars. The most important 
of the western Slavonian tribes who moved southward at the invitation of 


[lilO-041 A.D.] 

Heraclius were the Servians and Croatians, who settled in the countries still 
peopled by their descendants. Their original settlements were formed in 
consequence of friendly arrangements, and, doubtless, under the sanction of 
an express treaty ; for the Slavonian people of Illyricum and Dalmatia long 
regarded themselves as bound to pay a certain degree of territorial allegiance 
to the Eastern Empire. 

The measures of Heraclius were carried into execution with skill and 
vigour. From the borders of Istria to the territory of Dyrrhachium, the 
whole country was occupied by a variety of tribes of Servian or western 
Slavonic origin, hostile to the Avars. These colonies, unlike the earlier 
invaders of the empire, were composed of agricultural communities; and 
to the facility which this circumstance afforded them 
of adopting into their political system any remnant 
of the old Slavonic population of their conquests, it 
seems just to attribute the permanency and prosperity 
of their settlements. Unlike the military races of 
Goths, Huns, and Avars, who had preceded them, the 
Servian nations increased and flourished in the lands 
which they had colonised ; and by the absorption of 
every relic of the ancient population, they formed 
political communities and independent states, which 
offered a firm barrier to the Avars and other hostile 

The fame of Heraclius would have rivalled that of 
Alexander, Hannibal, or Caesar, had he expired at 
Jerusalem, after the successful termination of the 
Persian War. He had established peace throughout 
the empire, restored the strength of the Roman gov- 
ernment, revived the power of Christianity in the 
East, and replanted the holy cross on Mount Calvary. 
His glory admitted of no addition. Unfortunately, 
the succeeding years of his reign have, in the general 
opinion, tarnished his fame. Yet these years were 
devoted to many arduous labours ; and it is to the 
wisdom with which he restored the strength of his 
government during this time of peace that we must 
attribute the energy of the Asiatic Greeks who arrested 
the great tide of Mohammedan conquest at the foot 
of Mount Taurus. Though the military glory of 
Heraclius was obscured by the brilliant victories 
of the Saracens, still his civil administration ought 
to receive its meed of praise, when we compare the resistance made by 
the empire which he reorganised with the facility which the followers of 
Mohammed found in extending their conquests over every other land from 
India to Spain. 

A Saracen 


The policy of Heraclius was directed to the establishment of a bond of 
union, which should connect all the provinces of his empire into one body, 
and he hoped to replace the want of national unity by identity of religious 
belief. The church was far more closely connected with the people than 
any other institution, and the emperor, as political head of the church, 

H. W. — VOL. VII. N 


[610-641 A.D.] 

hoped to direct a well-organised body of churchmen. But Heraclius en- 
gaged in the impracticable task of imposing a rule of faith on his subjects, 
without assuming the office, or claiming the authority of a prophet or a 
saint. His measures, consequently, like all ecclesiastical and religious 
reforms which are adopted solely from political motives, only produced 
additional discussions and difficulties. In the year 630, he propounded the 
doctrine that in Christ, after the union of the two natures, there was but 
one will and one operation. Without gaining over any great body of the 
schismatics whom he wished to restore to the communion of the established 
church by his new rule of faith, he was himself generally stigmatised as a 
heretic. The epithet Monothelite was applied to him and to his doctrine, 
to show that neither was orthodox. 

In the hope of putting an end to the disputes which he had rashly 
awakened, he again, in 639, attempted to legislate for the church, and pub- 
lished his celebrated Ecthesis, which, though it attempts to remedy the 
effects of his prior proceedings, by forbidding all controversy on the ques- 
tion of the single or double operation of the will in Christ, nevertheless 
includes a declaration in favour of unity. The bishop of Rome, already 
aspiring after an increase of his spiritual authority, though perhaps not yet 
contemplating the possibility of perfect independence, entered actively into 
the opposition excited by the publication of the Ecthesis, and was supported 
by a considerable party in the Eastern church, while he directed the pro- 
ceedings of the whole of the Western clergy. 

On a careful consideration of the religious position of the empire, it can- 
not appear surprising that Heraclius should have endeavoured to reunite 
the Nestorians, Eutychians, and Jacobites to the established church, particu- 
larly when we remember how closely the influence of the church was con- 
nected with the administration of the state, and how completely religious 
passions replaced national feelings in these secondary ages of Christianity. 
The union was an indispensable step to the re-establishment of the imperial 
power in the provinces of Egypt, Syria, Mesopotamia, and Armenia ; and it 
must not be overlooked that the theological speculations and ecclesiastical 
reforms of Heraclius were approved of by the wisest councillors whom he 
had been able to select to aid him in the government of the empire. The 
state of society required some strong remedy, and Heraclius only erred in 
adopting the plan which had always been pursued by absolute monarchs, 
namely, that of making the sovereign's opinion the rule of conduct for his 
subjects. We can hardly suppose that Heraclius would have succeeded bet- 
ter, had he assumed the character or deserved the veneration due to a saint. 

The marked difference which existed between the higher and educated 
classes in the East, and the ignorant and superstitious populace, rendered 
it next to impossible that any line of conduct could secure the judgment of 
the learned, and awaken the fanaticism of the people. As a further apology 
for Heraclius it may be noticed that his acknowledged power over the ortho- 
dox clergy was much greater than that which was possessed by the Byzan- 
tine emperors at a later period, or that which was admitted by the Latin 
church after its separation. In spite of all the advantages which he pos- 
sessed, his attempt ended in a most signal failure ; yet no experience could 
ever induce his successors to avoid his error. His effort to strengthen his 
power by establishing a principle of unity, aggravated all the evils which he 
intended to cure ; for while the monophysites and the Greeks were as little 
disposed to unite as ever, the authority of the Eastern church, as a body, 
was weakened by the creation of a new schism, and the incipient divisions 


[633-641 a.d.] 

between the Greeks and the Latins, assuming a national character, began 
to prepare the way for the separation of the two churches. 

While Heraclius was endeavouring to restore the strength of the empire 
in the East, and enforce unity of religious views, — the pursuit of which has 
ever been one of the greatest errors of the human mind, — Mohammed, by a 
juster application of the aspiration of mankind after unity, had succeeded in 
uniting Arabia into one state and in persuading it to adopt one religion. 
The force of this new empire of the Saracens was directed against those 
provinces of the Roman Empire which Heraclius had been anxiously en- 
deavouring to reunite in spirit to his government. The difficulties of their 
administration had compelled the emperor to fix his residence for some years 
in Syria, and he was well aware of the uncertainty of their allegiance, before 
the Saracens commenced their invasion. The successes of the Mohammedan 
arms, and the retreat of the emperor, carrying off with him the holy cross 
from Jerusalem, have induced historians to suppose that his latter years 
were spent in sloth, and marked by weakness. His health, however, was in 
so precarious a state that he could no longer direct the operations of his 
army in person ; at times, indeed, he was incapable of all bodily exertion. 
Yet the resistance which the Saracens encountered in Syria was very dif- 
ferent from the ease with which it had yielded to the Persians at the com- 
mencement of the emperor's reign, and attests that his administration had 
not been without fruit. 

Many of his reforms could only have been effected after the conclusion 
of the Persian War, when he recovered possession of Syria and Egypt. He 
seems indeed never to have omitted an opportunity of strengthening his 
position ; and when a chief of the Huns or Bulgarians threw off his alle- 
giance to the Avars, Heraclius is recorded to have immediately availed him- 
self of the opportunity to form an alliance, in order to circumscribe the 
power of his dangerous northern enemy. Unfortunately, few traces can be 
gleaned from the Byzantine writers of the precise acts by which he effected 
his reforms ; and the most remarkable facts, illustrating the political history 
of the time, must be collected from incidental notices, preserved in the 
treatise of the emperor Constantine Porphyrogenitus, concerning the ad- 
ministration of the empire, written for the instruction of his son Romanus. 


In the year 633 the Mohammedans invaded Syria, where their progress 
was rapid, although Heraclius himself was in the neighbourhood. The im- 
perial troops made considerable effort to support the military renown of the 
Roman armies, but were almost universally unsuccessful. The emperor 
intrusted the command of the army to his brother Theodore, who had distin- 
guished himself in the Persian wars. Vartan, who commanded after Theodore, 
had also distinguished himself in the last glorious campaign in Persia. [As 
we have already said] the health of Heraclius prevented his taking the field . 
in person, and the absence of all moral checks in the Roman administration, 
and the total want of patriotism in the officers and troops at this period, 
rendered the personal influence of the emperor necessary at the head of his 
armies in order to preserve due subordination, and enforce union among the 
leading men of the empire. 

Towards the end of the year 633, the troops of Abu Bekr laid siege to 
Bostra, a strong frontier town of Syria, which was surrendered early in the 


[633-640 A.D.] 

following year by the treachery of its governor. During the campaign of 
634 the Roman armies were defeated at Adjnadin, in the south of Palestine, 
and at a bloody and decisive battle on the banks of the river Yermouk, in 
which it is said that the imperial troops were commanded by the emperor's 
brother Theodore. Theodore was replaced by Vartan, but the rebellion of 
Vartan's army and another defeat terminated this general's career. In the 
third year of the war the Saracens gained possession of Damascus by capitu- 
lation, and they guaranteed to the inhabitants the full exercise of their 
municipal privileges, allowed them to use their local mint, and left the 
orthodox in possession of the great church of St. John. About the same 
time, Heraclius quitted Edessa and returned to Constantinople, carrying 
with him the holy cross which he had recovered from the Persians, and 
deposited at Jerusalem with great solemnity only six years before, but which 
he now considered it necessary to remove into Europe for greater safety. 
His son, Heraclius Constantine, who had received the imperial title when 
an infant, remained in Syria to supply his place and direct the military 
operations for the defence of the province. Wherever the imperial garrison 
was not sufficient to overawe the inhabitants, the native Syrians sought to 
make any arrangement with the Arabs which would insure their towns from 
plunder, feeling satisfied that the Arab authorities could not use their power 
with greater rapacity and cruelty than the imperial officers. The Romans 
still retained some hope of reconquering Syria, until the loss of another 
decisive battle in the year 636 compelled them to abandon the province. 
In the following year, 637 A.D., the Arabs advanced to Jerusalem, and the 
surrender of the Holy City was marked by arrangements between the patri- 
arch Sophronius and the caliph Omar. The facility with which the Greek 
patriarch of Jerusalem, Sophronius, at this time, and the patriarch of Con- 
stantinople, Gennaddius, at the time of the conquest of the Byzantine 
Empire by Muhammed II (1453 A.D.), became the ministers of their 
Mohammedan conquerors, shows the slight hold which national feelings 
retained over the minds of the orthodox Greek clergy. Heraclius concen- 
trated an army at Amida (Diarbekr) in the year 638, which made a bold 
attempt to regain possession of the north of Syria. Emesa was besieged; 
but the Saracens soon assembled an overwhelming force ; the Romans were 
defeated, the conquest of Syria was completed. 

The Arab conquest not only put an end to the political power of the 
Romans, which had lasted seven hundred years, but it also soon rooted out 
every trace of the Greek civilisation introduced by the conquests of Alex- 
ander the Great, and which had flourished in the country for upwards of nine 
centuries. The year after Syria was subdued, Mesopotamia was invaded, 
and proved an easy conquest. 

As soon as the Arabs had completed the conquest of Syria, they invaded 
Egypt. The emperor Heraclius sent an Armenian governor, Manuel, with 
a body of troops, to defend the province. The fortune of the Arabs again 
prevailed, and the Roman army was defeated. If the accounts of historians 
can be relied on, it would seem that the population of Egypt had suffered 
less from the vicious administration of the Roman Empire, and from the 
Persian invasion, than any other part of their dominions ; for about the time 
of its conquest by the Romans it contained seven millions and a half, exclu- 
sive of Alexandria, and its population was now estimated at six millions. 

A year after Amru had completed the conquest of Egypt, he had estab- 
lished the water communication between the Nile and the Red Sea : and, by 
sending large supplies of grain by the canal to Suez, he was able to relieve the 


[640-646 A.D.] 

inhabitants of Mecca, who were suffering from famine. After more than one 
interruption from neglect, the policy of the caliphs of Baghdad allowed it to 
fall into decay, and it was filled up by Almansor, 762-767 a.d. 

As soon as the Arabs had settled the affairs of the native population, they 
laid siege to Alexandria. This city made a vigorous defence, and Heraclius 
exerted himself to succour it ; but, though it held out for several months, it 
was at last taken by the Arabs, for the troubles which occurred at Constan- 
tinople after the death of Heraclius prevented the Roman government from 
sending reinforcements to the garrison. The confidence of the Saracens 
induced them to leave a feeble corps for its defence after they had taken it ; 
and the Roman troops, watching an opportunity for renewing the war, re- 
covered the city, and massacred the Mohammedans, but were soon compelled 
to retire to their ships, and make their escape. In less than five years (646 
A.D.), a Roman army, sent by the emperor Constans under the command of 
Manuel, again recovered possession of Alexandria, by the assistance of the 
Greek inhabitants who had remained in the place ; but the Mohammedans 
soon appeared before the city, and, with the assistance of the Egyptians, 
compelled the imperial troops to abandon their conquest. 1 The walls of 
Alexandria were thrown down, the Greek population driven out, and the 
commercial importance of the city destroyed. Thus perished one of the 
most remarkable colonies of the Greek nation, and one of the most renowned 
seats of that Greek civilisation of which Alexander the Great had laid the 
foundations in the East, after having flourished in the highest degree of pros- 
perity for nearly a thousand years. 

The conquest of Cyrenaica followed the subjugation of Egypt as an 
immediate consequence. The Greeks are said to have planted their first 
colonies in this country 631 years before the Christian era, and twelve cen- 
turies of uninterrupted possession appeared to have constituted them the 
perpetual tenants of the soil ; but the Arabs were very different masters 
from the Romans, and under their domination the Greek race soon became 
extinct in Africa. It is not necessary here to follow the Saracens in their 
farther conquests westward. In a short time both Latin and Greek civili- 
sation was exterminated on the southern shores of the Mediterranean. 

Though Heraclius failed in gaining over the Syrians and Egyptians, yet 
he succeeded completely in reuniting the Greeks of Asia Minor to his gov- 
ernment, and in attaching them to the empire. His success may be esti- 
mated from the failure of the Saracens in their attacks on the population 
of this province. The moment the Mohammedan armies were compelled to 
rely on their military skill and religious enthusiasm, and were unable to 
derive any profit from the hostile feeling of the inhabitants to the imperial 
government, their career of conquest was checked ; and almost a century 
before Charles Martel stopped their progress in the west of Europe, the 
Greeks had arrested their conquests in the East, by the steady resistance 
which they offered in Asia Minor. 

The difficulties of Heraclius were very great. The Roman armies were 
still composed of a rebellious soldiery collected from many discordant na- 
tions ; and the only leaders whom the emperor could venture to trust with 
important military commands, were his immediate relations, like his brother 
Theodore and his son Heraclius Constantine, or soldiers of fortune who 
could not aspire at the imperial dignity. The apostasy and treachery of a 
considerable number of the Roman officers in Syria warranted Heraclius in 

1 Eutychius, 2, 339. Ookley, i. 325. 


[641-668 A.D.) 

regarding the defence of that province as utterly hopeless ; but the meagre 
historians of his reign can hardly be received as conclusive authorities, to 
prove that on his retreat he displayed an unseemly despair, or a criminal in- 
difference. The fact that he carried the holy cross, which he had restored 
to Jerusalem, along with him to Constantinople, attests that he had lost all 
expectation of defending the Holy City ; but his exclamation of " Farewell, 
Syria ! " was doubtless uttered in the bitterness of his heart, on seeing a 
great part of the labours of his life for the restoration of the Roman Empire 
utterly vain. 

The disease which had long undermined his constitution finally put an 
end to his life about five years after his return to Constantinople. He 
died in March, 641, after one of the most remarkable reigns recorded in his- 
tory, chequered by the greatest successes and reverses, during which the 
social condition of mankind underwent a considerable. change, and the germs 
of modern society began to sprout ; yet there is, unfortunately, no period of 
man's annals covered with greater obscurity. 


After the death of Heraclius, the short reigns of his sons, Constantine III, 
or Heraclius Constantine, and Heracleonas, were disturbed by court intrigues 
and the disorders which naturally result from the want of a settled law of 
succession. In such conjunctures the people and the courtiers learn alike to 
traffic in sedition. Before the termination of the year in which Heraclius 
died, his grandson Constans II mounted the imperial throne at the age of 
eleven, in consequence of the death of his father Constantine, and the 
dethronement of his uncle Heracleonas. 1 An oration made by the young 
prince to the senate after his accession, in which he invoked the aid of that 
body, and spoke of their power in terms of reverence, warrants the conclu- 
sion that the aristocracy had again recovered its influence over the imperial 
administration ; and that, though the emperor's authority was still held to 
be absolute by the constitution of the empire, it was really controlled by the 
influence of the persons holding ministerial offices. 2 

Constans grew up to be a man of considerable abilities and of an ener- 
getic character, but possessed of violent passions, and destitute of all the 
amiable feelings of humanity. The early part of his reign, during which 
the imperial ministers were controlled by the selfish aristocracy, was marked 
by the loss of several portions of the empire. The Lombards extended their 
conquests in Italy from the maritime Alps to the frontiers of Tuscany ; and 
the exarch of Ravenna was defeated with considerable loss near Mutina; 
but still they were unable to make any serious impression on the exarchate. 
Armenia was compelled to pay tribute to the Saracens. Cyprus was ren- 
dered tributary to the caliph, though the amount of the tribute imposed was 
only seventy-two hundred pieces of gold — half of what it had previously 
paid to the emperor. This trifling sum can have hardly amounted to the 
moiety of the surplus usually paid into the imperial treasury after all 
the expenses of the local government were defrayed, and cannot have borne 
any relation to the amount of taxation levied by the Roman emperors. 

[ J At Constans' coronation a compact was made with the army under whose terms Heracle- 
onas' brother David was crowned emperor, and assumed the name of Tiberius. " What became 
of the emperor Tiberius," says Bury,» " we are not informed."] 

[ 2 It is found in Theophanes.d] 

[641-653 A.D.] 




As soon as Constans was old enough to assume the direction of public 
business, the two great objects of his policy were the establishment of the 
absolute power of the emperor over the orthodox church, and the recovery 
of the lost provinces of the empire. With the view of obtaining and secur- 
ing a perfect control over the ecclesiastical affairs of his dominions, he pub- 
lished an edict, called the Type, in the year 648, when he was only eighteen 
years old. It was prepared by Paul the patriarch of Constantinople and was 
intended to terminate the disputes produced by the Ecthesis of Heraclius. 
All parties were commanded by the Type to observe a profound silence on 
the previous quarrels concerning the oper- 
ation of the will in Christ. Liberty of 
conscience was an idea almost unknown 
to any but the Mohammedans, so that 
Constans never thought of appealing to any 
such right ; and no party in the Christian 
church was inclined to waive its orthodox 
authority of enforcing its own opinions 
upon others. 

The Latin church, led by the bishop of 
Rome, was always ready to oppose the 
Greek clergy, who enjoyed the favour of 
the imperial court, and this jealousy en- 
gaged the pope in violent opposition to 
.the Type. But the bishop of Rome was 
not then so powerful as the popes became 
at a subsequent period, so that he durst 
not attempt directly to question the 
authority of the emperor in regulating 
such matters. Perhaps it appeared to him- 
hardly prudent to rouse the passions of a 
young prince of eighteen, who might prove 
not very bigoted in his attachment to any 
party, as, indeed, the provisions of the 
Type seemed to indicate. 

The pope Theodore therefore directed 
the whole of his ecclesiastical fury against 
the patriarch of Constantinople, whom 
he excommunicated with circumstances of 
singular and impressive violence. He 
descended with his clergy into the dark 
tomb of St. Peter in the Vatican, now 
under the centre of the dome in the vault of the great cathedral of 
Christendom, consecrated the sacred cup, and, having dipped his pen in the 
blood of Christ, signed an act of excommunication, condemning a brother 
bishop to the pains of hell. To this indecent proceeding Paul the patriarch 
replied by persuading the emperor to persecute the clergy who adhered to 
the pope's opinion, in a more regular and legal manner, by depriving them 
of their temporalities, and condemning them to banishment. 

The pope was supported by nearly the whole body of the Latin clergy, 
and even by a considerable party in the East ; yet, when Martin, the suc- 
cessor of Theodore, ventured to anathematise the Ecthesis and the Type, he 

Robes of a Pope of the Seventh 


[(S50-658 A.D.] 

was seized by order of Constans, conveyed to Constantinople, tried, and con- 
demned on a charge of having supported the rebellion of the exarch Olym- 
pius, and of having remitted money to the Saracens. The emperor, at the 
intercession of the patriarch Paul, commuted his punishment to exile, and 
the pope died in banishment at Cherson in Tauris. Though Constans did 
not succeed in inculcating his doctrines on the clergy, he completely suc- 
ceeded in enforcing public obedience to his decrees in the church, and the 
fullest acknowledgment of his supreme power over the persons of the clergy. 
These disputes between the heads of the ecclesiastical administration of the 
Greek and Latin churches afforded an excellent pretext for extending the 
breach, which had its real origin in national feelings and clerical interests, 
and was only widened by the difficult and not very intelligible distinctions 
of monothelitism. Constans himself, by his vigour and personal activity in 
this struggle, incurred the bitter hatred of a large portion of the clergy, and 
his conduct has been unquestionably the object of much misrepresentation 
and calumny. 


The attention of Constans to ecclesiastical affairs induced him to visit 
Armenia, where his attempts to unite the people to his government by regu- 
lating the affairs of their church, were as unsuccessful as his religious inter- 
ference elsewhere. Dissensions were increased ; one of the imperial officers 
of high rank rebelled ; and the Saracens availed themselves of this state of 
things to invade both Armenia and Cappadocia, and succeeded in rendering 
several districts tributary. The increasing power of Moawyah, the Arab 
general, induced him to form a project for the conquest of Constantinople, 
and he began to fit out a great naval expedition at Tripolis in Syria. A 
daring enterprise of two brothers, Christian inhabitants of the place, rendered 
the expedition abortive. These two Tripolitans and their partisans broke 
open the prisons in which the Roman captives were confined, and placing 
themselves at the head of an armed band which they had hastily formed, 
seized the city, slew the governor, and burned the fleet. 

A second armament was at length prepared by the energy of Moawyah, 
and as it was reported to be directed against Constantinople, the emperor 
Constans took upon himself the command of his own fleet. He met the 
Saracen expedition off Mount Phoenix in Lycia and attacked it with great 
vigour. Twenty thousand Romans are said to have perished in the battle ; 
and the emperor himself owed his safety to the valour of one of the Tripoli- 
tan brothers, whose gallant defence of the imperial galley enabled the empe- 
ror to escape before its valiant defender was slain and the vessel fell into 
the hands of the Saracens. The emperor retired to Constantinople, but the 
hostile fleet had suffered too much to attempt any further operations, and 
the expedition was abandoned for that year. The death of Othman, and the 
pretensions of Moawyah (or Muaviah) to the caliphate, withdrew the attention 
of the Arabs from the empire for a short time, and Constans turned his forces 
against the Slavonians, in order to deliver the European provinces from their 
ravages. They were totally defeated, numbers were carried off as slaves, 
and many were compelled to submit to the imperial authority. No certain 
grounds exist for determining whether this expedition was directed against 
the Slavonians who had established themselves between the Danube and 
Mount Haemus, or against those who had settled in Macedonia. The name 
of no town is mentioned in the accounts of the campaign. 


[658-665 A.D.] 

When the affairs of the European provinces, in the vicinity of the capi- 
tal, were tranquillised, Constans again prepared to engage the Arabs ; and 
Moawyah, having need of all the forces he could command for his contest 
with Ali, the son-in-law of Mohammed, consented to make peace, on terms 
which contrast curiously with the perpetual defeats which Constans is always 
represented by the orthodox historians of the empire to have suffered. The 
Saracens engaged to confine their forces within Syria and Mesopotamia, and 
Moawyah consented to pay Constans, for the cessation of hostilities, the sum 
of a thousand pieces of silver, and to furnish him with a slave and a horse 
for every day during which the peace should continue (659 a.d.). 

During the subsequent year, Constans condemned to death his brother 
Theodosius, whom he had compelled to enter the priesthood. The cause 
of this crime, or the pretext for it, is not mentioned. From this brother's 
hand, the emperor had often received the sacrament ; and the fratricide is 
supposed to have rendered a residence at Constantinople insupportable to 
the conscience of the criminal, who was reported nightly to behold the spec- 
tre of his brother offering him the consecrated cup, filled with human blood, 
and exclaiming, " Drink, brother ! " Certain it is that, two years after his 
brother's death, Constans quitted his capital, with f the intention of never 
returning ; and he was only prevented, by an insurrection of the people, 
from carrying off the empress and his children. He meditated the recon- 
quest of Italy from the Lombards, and proposed rendering Rome again the 
seat of empire. On his way to Italy the emperor stopped at Athens, where 
he assembled a considerable body of troops. This casual mention of Athens 
by Latin writers affords strong evidence of the tranquil, flourishing, and popu- 
lous condition of the city and country around. The Slavonian colonies in 
Greece must, at this time, have owned perfect allegiance to the imperial 
power, or Constans would certainly have employed his army in reducing 
them to subjection. From Athens, the emperor sailed to Italy ; he landed 
with his forces at Tarentum, and attempted to take Beneventum, the chief 
seat of the Lombard power in the south of Italy. His troops were twice 
defeated, and he then abandoned all his projects of conquest. 

The emperor himself repaired to Rome. His visit lasted only a fortnight. 
According to the writers who describe the event, he consecrated twelve days 
to religious ceremonies and processions, and the remaining two he devoted 
to plundering the wealth of the church. His personal acquaintance with 
the affairs of Italy and the state of Rome, soon convinced him that the Eter- 
nal City was ill adapted for the capital of the empire, and he quitted it for 
Sicily, where he fixed on Syracuse for his future residence. Grimwald, the 
able monarch of the Lombards, and his son Romwald, the duke of Beneven- 
tum, continued the war in Italy with vigour. Brundusium and Tarentum 
were captured, and the Romans expelled from Calabria, so that Otranto 
and Gallipoli were the only towns on the eastern coast of which Constans 
retained possession. 

When residing in Sicily Constans directed his attention to the state of 
Africa. His measures are not detailed with precision, but were evidently 
distinguished by the usual energy and caprice which marked his whole con- 
duct. He recovered possession of Carthage, and of several cities which the 
Arabs had rendered tributary ; but he displeased the inhabitants of the prov- 
ince, by compelling them to pay to himself the same amount of tribute as 
they had agreed by treaty to pay to the Saracens ; and as Constans could not 
expel the Saracen forces from the province, the amount of the public taxes 
of the Africans was thus often doubled, since both parties were able to 


[665-668 A.D.] 

levy the contributions which they demanded. Moawyah sent an army from 
Syria, and Constans one from Sicily, to decide who should become sole mas- 
ter of the country. A battle was fought near Tripolis ; and though the army 
of Constans consisted of thirty thousand men, it was completely defeated. 
Yet the victorious army of the Saracens was unable to take the small town 
of Geloula (Usula), until the accidental fall of a portion of the ramparts laid 
it open to their assault ; and this trifling conquest was followed by no farther 
success. In the East, the empire was exposed to greater danger, yet the 
enemies of Constans were eventually unsuccessful in their projects. In con- 
sequence of the rebellion of the Armenian troops, whose commander, Sapor, 
assumed the title of emperor, the Saracens made a successful incursion into 
Asia Minor, captured the city of Amorium, in Phrygia, and placed in it a 
garrison of five thousand men ; but the imperial general appointed by Con- 
stans soon drove out this powerful garrison, and recovered the place. 

It appears, therefore, that in spite of all the defeats which Constans is 
reported to have suffered, the empire underwent no very sensible diminution 
of its territory during his reign, and he certainly left its military forces in a 
more efficient condition than he found them. He was assassinated in a bath 
at Syracuse, by an officer of his own household, in the year 668, at the age 
of thirty-eight, after a reign of twenty-seven years. The fact of his having 
been murdered by one of his own household, joined to the capricious violence 
that marked many of his public acts, warrants the supposition that his char- 
acter was of the unamiable and unsteady nature, which rendered the accusa- 
tion of fratricide, so readily believed by his contemporaries, by no means 
impossible. It must, however, be admitted, that the occurrences of his reign 
afford irrefragable testimony that his heretical opinions have induced ortho- 
dox historians to give an erroneous colouring to many circumstances, since 
the undoubted results do not correspond with their descriptions of the pass- 
ing events. 


Constantine IV, called Pogonatus, or the Bearded, has been regarded by 
posterity with a high degree of favour. Yet his merit seems to have con- 
sisted in his superior orthodoxy, rather than in his superior talents as emperor. 
The concessions which he made to the see of Rome, and the moderation that 
he displayed in all ecclesiastical affairs, placed his conduct in strong contrast 
with the stern energy with which his father had enforced the subjection of 
the orthodox ecclesiastics to the civil power, and gained for him the praise 
of the priesthood, whose eulogies have exerted no inconsiderable influence 
on all historians. Constantine, however, was certainly an intelligent and 
just prince ; he did not possess the stubborn determination and talents of his 
father, and was destitute also of his violent passions and imprudent character. 

As soon as Constantine was informed of the murder of his father, and 
that a rebel had assumed the purple in Sicily, he hastened thither in person 
to avenge his death, and extinguish the rebellion. To satisfy his vengeance, • 
the patrician Justinian, a man of high character, compromised in the rebellion, 
was treated with great severity, and his son Germanus with a degree of inhu- 
manity that would have been recorded by the clergy against Constans as an 
instance of the grossest barbarity. The return of the emperor to Constanti- 
nople was signalised by a singular sedition of the troops in Asia Minor. 
They marched towards the capital, and having encamped on the Asiatic 
shores of the Bosporus, demanded that Constantine should admit his two 


[668-681 A.D.] 

brothers, on whom he had conferred the rank of augustus, to an equal share 
in the public administration, in order that the Holy Trinity in heaven, which 
governs the spiritual world, might be represented by a human trinity, to 
govern the political empire of the Christians. The very proposal is a proof 
of the complete supremacy of the civil over the ecclesiastical authority, in 
the eyes of the people, and the strongest evidence, that in the public opinion 
of the age the emperor was regarded as the head of the church. Such rea- 
soning as the rebels used could be rebutted by no arguments, and Constantine 
had energy enough to hang the leaders of the sedition, and sufficient mod- 
eration not to molest his brothers. But several years later, either from 
increased suspicions or from some intrigues on their part, he deprived them 
of the rank of augustus, and condemned them to have their noses cut off 
(681 a.d.). Theophanes <* says that the brothers of Constantine IV lost their 
noses in 669, but were not deprived of the imperial title until 681. 


The great object of the imperial policy at this period was to oppose the 
progress of the Mohammedans. Constans had succeeded in arresting their 
conquests, but Constantine soon found that they would give the empire no 
rest unless he could secure it by his 
victories. He had hardly quitted 
Sicily to return to Constantinople, 
before an Arab expedition from 
Alexandria invaded the island and 
stormed the city of Syracuse, and, 
after plundering the treasures accu- 
mulated l>\ Constans, immediately ?;?^S?DV- JS^/^Hj^^''''''^^^^- . 
abandoned the place. In Africa the 
war was continued with various 
success, but the Christians were not 
long left without any succours from 
Constantine, while Moawyah sup- 
plied the Saracens with strong 
reinforcements. In spite of the Saracenic metal work Brazier 

courage and enthusiasm of the Mo- 
hammedans, the native Christian population maintained their ground with 
firmness, and carried on the war with such vigour that in the year 676 a 
native African leader, who commanded the united forces of the Romans and 
Berbers, captured the newly founded city of Kairowan, which at a subsequent 
period became renowned as the capital of the Fatimite caliphs. 

The ambition of the caliph Moawyah induced him to aspire at the con- 
quest of the Roman Empire ; and the military organisation of the Arabian 
power, which enabled the caliph to direct the whole resources of his domin- 
ions to any single object of conquest, seemed to promise success to the enter- 
prise. A powerful expedition was .sent to besiege Constantinople. The time 
required for the preparation of such an armament did not enable the Saracens 
to arrive at the Bosporus without passing a winter on the coast of Asia 
Minor ; and on their arrival in the spring of the year 672, they found that the 
emperor had made every preparation for defence. Their forces, however, 
were so numerous that they were sufficient to invest Constantinople by sea 
and land. The troops occupied the whole of the land side of the triangle 


[672-678 A.D.] 

on which the city is constructed, while the fleet effectually blockaded the 

The Saracens failed in all their assaults, both by sea and land ; but the Ro- 
mans, instead of celebrating their own valour and discipline, attributed their 
success principally to the use of the Greek fire, which was invented shortly 
before this siege, and was first used on this occasion. The military art had 
declined during the preceding century, as rapidly as every other branch of 
national culture ; and the resources of the mighty empire of the Arabs were 
so limited by the ignorance and bad administration of its rulers, that the 
caliph was unable to maintain his forces before Constantinople during the 
winter. The Saracen army was nevertheless enabled to collect sufficient 
supplies at Cyzicus to make that place a winter station, while their powerful 
fleet commanded the Hellespont and secured their communications with 
Syria. When spring returned, the fleet again transported the army to en- 
camp under the walls of Constantinople. This strange mode of besieging 
cities, unattempted since the times the Dorians had invaded Peloponnesus, 
was continued for seven years ; but in this warfare the Saracens suffered far 
more severely than the Romans, and were at last compelled to abandon their 

The land forces tried to effect their retreat through Asia Minor, but were 
entirely cut off in the attempt ; and a tempest destroyed the greater part of 
.their fleet off the coast of Pamphylia. During the time that this great body 
of his forces was employed against Constantinople, Moawyah sent a division 
of his troops to invade Crete, which had been visited by a Saracen army in 
651. The island was now compelled to pay tribute, but the inhabitants 
were treated with great mildness, as it was the policy of the caliph at this 
time to conciliate the good opinion of the Christians by his liberal govern- 
ment, in order to pave the way for future conquests. Moawyah carried his 
religious tolerance so far as to rebuild the church of Edessa at the inter- 
cession of his Christian subjects. 

The destruction of the Saracen expedition against Constantinople, and 
the advantage which the mountaineers of Lebanon had contrived to take of 
the absence of the Arab troops, by carrying their incursions into the plains 
of Syria, convinced Moawyah of the necessity of peace. The hardy moun- 
taineers of Lebanon, called Mardaites, had been increased in numbers, and 
supplied with wealth, in consequence of the retreat into their country of a 
mass of native Syrians who had fled before the Arabs. They consisted 
chiefly of melchites and monothelites, and on that account they had adhered 
to the cause of the Roman Empire when the monophysites joined the Sara- 
cens. Their Syrian origin renders it probable that they were ancestors of 
the Maronites, though the desire of some Maronite historians to show that 
their countrymen were always perfectly orthodox has perplexed a question 
which of itself was by no means of easy solution. The political state of the 
empire required peace ; and the orthodox Constantine did not feel personally 
inclined to run any risk in order to protect the monothelite mardaites. 
Peace was concluded between the emperor and the caliph in the year 678, 
Moawyah consenting to pay the Romans annually three thousand pounds 
of gold, fifty slaves, and fifty Arabian horses. It appears strange that a 
prince, possessing the power and resources at the command of Moawyah, 
should submit to these conditions ; but the fact proves that policy, not pride, 
was the rule of the caliph's conduct, and that the advancement of his real 
power, and of the spiritual interests of the Mohammedan religion, were of 
more consequence in his eyes than any notions of earthly dignity. 


[678-711 a.d.] 

In the same year in which Moawyah had been induced to purchase peace 
by consenting to pay tribute to the Roman emperor, the foundations of the 
Bulgarian monarchy were laid, and the emperor Constantine himself was 
compelled to become tributary to a small horde of Bulgarians. One of the 
usual emigrations which take place amongst barbarous nations had induced 
Asparuch, a Bulgarian chief, to seize the low country about the mouth of the 
Danube; his power and activity obliged the emperor Constantine to take 
the field against these Bulgarians in person. The expedition was so ill con- 
ducted that it ended in the complete defeat of the Roman army, and the 
Bulgarians subdued all the country between the Danube and Mount Hsemus, 
compelling a district inhabited by a body of Slavonians, called the seven 
tribes, to become their tributaries. These Slavonians had once been for- 
midable to the empire, but their power had been broken by the emperor 
Constans. Asparuch established himself in the town of Varna, near the 
ancient Odessus, and laid the foundation of the Bulgarian monarchy, a king- 
dom long engaged in hostilities with the emperors of Constantinople, and 
whose power tended greatly to accelerate the decline of the Greeks and 
reduce the numbers of their race in Europe. 

The event, however, which exercised the most favourable influence on the 
internal condition of the empire during the reign of Constantine Pogonatus, 
was the assembly of the sixth general council of the church at Constantinople. 
This council was held under circumstances peculiarly favourable to candid 
discussion. The ecclesiastical power was not yet too strong to set both 
reason and the civil authorities at defiance. Its decisions were adverse to 
the monothelites ; and the orthodox doctrine of two natures and two wills 
in Christ was received by the common consent of the Greek and Latin par- 
ties as the true rule of faith of the Christian church. Religious discussion had 
now taken a strong hold on public opinion, and as the majority of the Greek 
population had never adopted the opinions of the monothelites, the decisions 
of the sixth general council contributed powerfully to promote the union of 
the Greeks with the imperial administration. 


Justinian II succeeded his father Constantine at the age of sixteen, and 
though so very young, he immediately assumed the personal direction of the 
government. He was by no means destitute of talents, but his cruel and 
presumptuous character rendered him incapable of learning to perform the 
duties of his situation with justice. He turned his arms against the 
Saracens though the caliph Abdul-Malik offered to make additional conces- 
sions in order to induce the emperor to renew the treaty of peace which had 
been concluded with his father. Justinian sent a powerful army into 
Armenia under Leontius. All the provinces which had shown any disposi- 
tion to favour the Saracens were laid waste, and the army carried off an 
immense booty, and drove away a great part of the inhabitants as slaves. 
The caliph being engaged in a struggle for the Caliphate with powerful 
rivals, and disturbed by rebels even in his own Syrian dominions, arrested 
the progress of the Roman arms by purchasing peace on terms far more favour- 
able to the empire than those of the treaty between Constantine and Moawyah. 

Justinian, at the commencement of his reign, made a successful expedi- 
tion into the country occupied by the Slavonians in Macedonia, who were 
now closely allied with the Bulgarian principality beyond Mount Hsemus. 


[689-692 A.D.] 

This people, emboldened by their increased force, had pushed their plunder- 
ing excursions as far as the Propontis. The imperial army was completely 
successful, and both the Slavonians and their Bulgarian allies were defeated. 
In order to repeople the fertile shores of the Hellespont about Abydos, Jus- 
tinian transplanted a number of the Slavonian families into the province of 
Opsicum. This colony was so numerous and powerful that it furnished a 
considerable contingent to the imperial armies. 

The peace with the Saracens was not of long duration. Justinian re- 
fused to receive the first gold pieces coined by Abdul-Malik, which bore the 
legend, " God is the Lord." > The tribute had previously been paid in money 
from the municipal mints of Syria ; and Justinian imagined that the new 
Arabian coinage was an attack on the Holy Trinity. He led his army in per- 
son against the Sara- 
cens, and a battle 
took place near Se- 
bastopolis, on the 
coast of Cilicia, in 
which he was en- 
tirely defeated, in 
consequence of the 
treason of the leader 
of his Slavonian 
troops. Justinian 
fled from the field 
of battle, and on his 
way to the capital 
he revenged himself 
on the Slavonians 
who had remained 
faithful to his stand- 
ard for the desertion 
of their countrymen. 
The Slavonians in 
his service were put 
to death, and he even 
ordered the wives 
and children of those 
who had joined the 
Saracens to be murdered. The deserters were established by the Saracens on 
the coast of Syria, and in the island of Cyprus ; and under the government 
of the caliph they were more prosperous than under that of the Roman emperor. 
It was during this war that the Saracens inflicted the first great badge 
of civil degradation on the Christian population of their dominions. Abdul- 
Malik established the haratch, or Christian capitation tax, in order to raise 
money to carry on the war with Justinian. This unfortunate mode of taxing 
the Christian subjects of the caliph, in a different manner from the Moham 
medans, completely separated the two classes, and reduced the Christians to 
the rank of serfs of the state, whose most prominent political relation with 
the Mussulman community was that of furnishing money to the government. 
The decline of the Christian population throughout the dominions of the 
caliphs was the consequence of this ill-judged measure, which has probably 
tended more to the depopulation of the East than all the tyranny and military 
violence of the Mohammedan armies. 

Part of a Saracen Standard 


> A.D.] 

The restless spirit of Justinian naturally plunged into the ecclesiastical 
controversies which divided the church. He assembled a general council 
called usually in Trullo, from the hall of its meeting having been covered 
with a dome. The proceedings of this council, as might have been expected 
from those of an assembly controlled by such a spirit as that of the emperor, 
tended only to increase the growing differences between the Greek and 
Latin parties in the church. Of 102 canons sanctioned by this council, 
the pope finally rejected six, as adverse to the usages of the Latins. And 
thus an additional cause of separation was permanently created between 
the Greeks and Latins, and the measures of the church, as well as the 
political arrangements of the times, and the social feelings of the people, 
all tended to render union impossible. 

A taste for building is a common fancy of sovereigns who possess the 
absolute disposal of large funds without any feeling of their duty as trustees 
for the benefit of the people whom they govern. Even in the midst of the 
greatest public distress, the treasury of nations, on the very verge of ruin 
and bankruptcy, must contain large sums of money drawn from the annual 
taxation. This treasure, when placed at the irresponsible disposal of princes 
who affect magnificence, is frequently employed in useless and ornamental 
building ; and this fashion has been so general with despots, that the princes 
who have been most distinguished for their love of building, have not un- 
frequently been the worst and most oppressive sovereigns. It is always a 
delicate and difficult task for a sovereign to estimate the amount which a 
nation can wisely afford to expend on ornamental architecture ; and from 
his position he is seldom qualified to judge correctly on what buildings 
ornament ought to be employed in order to make art accord with the taste 
and feelings of the people. Public opinion affords the only criterion for the 
formation of a sound judgment on this department of public administration ; 
for, when princes possessing a taste for building are not compelled to con- 
sult the wants and wishes of their subjects in the construction of national 
edifices they are apt, by their wild projects and lavish expenditure, to create 
evils far greater than any which could result from an exhibition of bad taste 

In an evil hour the love of building took possession of Justinian's mind. 
His lavish expenditure soon obliged him to make his financial administration 
more rigorous, and general discontent quickly pervaded the capital. The 
religious and superstitious feelings of the population were severely wounded 
by the emperor's eagerness to destroy a church of the Virgin, in order to 
embellish the vicinity of his palace with a splendid fountain. Justinian's 
own scruples required to be soothed by a religious ceremony, but the patri- 
arch for some time refused to officiate, alleging that the church had no 
prayers to desecrate holy buildings. The emperor, however, was the head 
of the church and the master of the bishops, whom he could remove from 
office, so that the patriarch did not long dare to refuse obedience to his 
orders. It is said, however, that the patriarch showed very clearly his dis- 
satisfaction by repairing to the spot and authorising the destruction of the 
church by an ecclesiastical ceremony, to which he added these words, " to 
God, who suffers all things, be rendered glory, now and forever. Amen." 
The ceremony was sufficient to satisfy the conscience of the emperor, who 
perhaps neither heard nor heeded the words of the patriarch. The public 
discontent was loudly expressed, and Justinian soon perceived that the fury 
of the populace threatened a rebellion in Constantinople. To avert the 
danger, he took every measure which unscrupulous cruelty could suggest ; 


[695-698 A.D.] 

but, as generally happens in periods of general discontent and excitement, 
the storm burst in an unexpected quarter, and the hatred of Justinian left 
him suddenly without support. Leontius, one of the ablest generals of the 
empire, whose exploits have been already mentioned, had been thrown into 
prison, but was at this time ordered to assume the government of the prov- 
ince of Hellas. He considered the nomination as a mere pretext to remove 
him from the capital, in order to put him to death at a distance without 
any trial. 

On the eve of his departure, Leontius placed himself at the head of a 
sedition ; Justinian was seized, and his ministers were murdered by the 
populace with the most savage cruelty. Leontius was proclaimed emperor, 
but he spared the life of his dethroned predecessor for the sake of the bene- 
fits which he had received from Constantine Pogonatus. He ordered Justin- 
ian's nose to be cut off, and exiled him to Cherson. From this mutilation 
the dethroned emperor received the insulting nickname of Rhinotmetus, 
or " docknose," by which he is distinguished in Byzantine history. 


The government of Leontius was characterised by the unsteadiness 
which not unfrequently marks the administration of the ablest sovereigns 
who obtain their thrones by accidental circumstances rather than by system- 
atic combinations. The most important event of his reign was the final 
loss of Africa, which led to his dethronement. The indefatigable caliph 
Abdul-Malik despatched a powerful expedition into Africa under Hassan ; 
the province was soon conquered, and Carthage was captured after a feeble 
resistance. An expedition sent by Leontius to relieve the province arrived 
too late to save Carthage, but the commander-in-chief forced the entrance 
into the port, recovered possession of the city, and drove the Arabs from 
most of the fortified towns on the coast. The Arabs constantly received new 
reinforcements, which the Roman general demanded from Leontius in vain. 
At last the Arabs assembled a fleet, and the Romans, being defeated in a 
naval engagement, were compelled to abandon Carthage, which the Arabs 
utterly destroyed, — having too often experienced the superiority of the 
Romans, both in naval affairs and in the art of war, to venture on retaining 
populous and fortified cities on the sea coast. This curious fact affords 
strong proof of the great superiority of the Roman commerce and naval 
resources, and equally powerful evidence of the shameful disorder in the 
civil and military administration of the empire, which rendered these ad- 
vantages useless, and allowed the imperial fleets to be defeated by the naval 
forces collected by the Arabs from among their Eg} r ptian and Syrian sub- 
jects. At the same time it is evident that the naval victories of the Arabs 
could never have been gained unless a powerful party of the Christians had 
been induced, by their feelings of hostility to the Roman Empire, to afford 
them a willing support ; for there were as yet neither shipbuilders nor 
sailors among the Mussulmans. 

The Roman expedition, on its retreat from Carthage, stopped in the 
Island of Crete, where a sedition broke out among the troops, in which their 
general was killed. Apsimar, the commander of the Cibyraiot troops, was 
declared emperor by the name of Tiberius. The fleet proceeded directly to 
Constantinople, which offered no resistance. Leontius was taken prisoner, 
his nose cut off, and his person confined in a monastery. Tiberius Apsimar 


[698-711 A.D.] 

governed the empire with prudence, and his brother Heraclius commanded 
the Roman armies with success. The imperial troops penetrated into Syria ; 
a victory was gained over the Arabs at Samosata, but the ravages committed 
by the Romans in this invasion surpassed the greatest cruelties ever inflicted 
by the Arabs ; for two hundred thousand Saracens are said to have per- 
ished during the campaign. Armenia was alternately invaded and laid 
waste by the Romans and the Saracens, as the various turns of war favoured 
the hostile parties, and as the changing interests of the Armenian popula- 
tion induced them to aid the emperor or the caliph. But while Tiberius 
was occupied in the duties of government, and living without any fear of a 
domestic enemy, he was suddenly surprised in his capital by Justinian, who 
appeared before Constantinople at the head of a Bulgarian army (705). 


Ten years of exile had been spent by the banished emperor in vain 
attempts to obtain power. His violent proceedings made him everywhere 
detested, but he possessed the daring enterprise and the ferocious cruelty 
necessary for a chief of banditti, joined to a singular confidence in the value 
of his hereditary claim to the imperial throne ; so that no undertaking 
appeared to him hopeless. After quarrelling with the inhabitants of Cher- 
son, and with his brother-in-law, the king of the Khazars, he succeeded, by 
a desperate exertion of courage, in reaching the country of the Bulgarians. 
Terbelis, their sovereign, agreed to assist him in recovering his throne, and 
they marched immediately with a Bulgarian army to the walls of Constan- 
tinople. Three days after their arrival, they succeeded in entering the 
capital during the night. Ten years of adversity had increased the natural 
ferocity of Justinian's disposition ; and a desire of vengeance seems hence- 
forward to have been the chief motive of his actions. 

The population of Constantinople had now sunk to the same degree of 
barbarism as the nations surrounding them, and in cruelty they were worthy 
subjects of their emperor. Justinian gratified them by celebrating his res- 
toration with splendid chariot races in the circus. He sat on an elevated 
throne, with his feet resting on the necks of the dethroned emperors, 
Leontius and Tiberius, who were stretched on the platform below, while 
the Greek populace around shouted the words of the psalmist, " Thou shalt 
tread down the asp and the basilisk, thou shalt trample on the lion and 
the dragon." The dethroned emperors and Heraclius, who had so well 
sustained the glory of the Roman arms against the Saracens, were after- 
wards hung from the battlements of Constantinople. Justinian's whole 
soul was occupied with plans of vengeance. Though the conquest of Tyana 
laid open Asia Minor to the incursions of the Saracens, instead of opposing 
tnem, he directed his disposable forces to punish the cities of Ravenna and 
Cherson, because they had incurred his personal hatred. Both the proscribed 
cities had rejoiced at his dethronement ; they were both taken and treated with 
savage cruelty. The Greek city of Cherson, though the seat of a flourishing 
commerce, and inhabited by a numerous population, was condemned to utter 
destruction. Justinian ordered all the buildings to be razed with the ground, 
and every soul within its walls to be put to death ; but the troops sent to 
execute these barbarous orders revolted, and proclaimed an Armenian, called 
Bardanes, emperor, under the name of Philippicus. Seizing the fleet, they 
sailed directly to Constantinople. 

h. w. — VOL. VII. o 


[711-715 A.D.] 

Justinian was encamped with an army in Asia Minor when Philippicus 
arrived, and took possession of the capital without encountering any resist- 
ance. He was immediately deserted by his whole army, for the troops 
were as little pleased with his conduct since his restoration, as was every 
other class of his subjects ; but his ferocity and courage never failed him, 
and his rage was unbounded when he found himself abandoned by every 
one. He was seized and executed, without having it in his power to offer 
the slightest resistance. His son Tiberius, though only six years of age, 
was torn from the altar of a church, to which he had been conducted for 
safety, and cruelly massacred; and thus the race of Heraclius was extin- 
guished, after the family had governed the Roman Empire for exactly a 
century (610 to 711 a.d.). 


During the interval of six years which elapsed from the death of Justin- 
ian II to the accession of Leo the Isaurian, the imperial throne was occu- 
pied by three sovereigns. Their history is only remarkable as proving the 
inherent strength of the Roman body politic, which could survive such con- 
tinual revolutions, even in the state of' weakness to which it was reduced. 
Philippicus was a luxurious and extravagant prince, who thought only of 
enjoying the situation which he had accidentally obtained. He was soon 
dethroned by a band of conspirators, who carried him off from the palace 
while in a fit of drunkenness, and after putting out his eyes, left him helpless 
in the middle of the hippodrome. The reign of Philippicus would hardly 
deserve notice, had he not increased the confusion into which the empire had 
fallen, and exposed the total want of character and conscience among the 
Greek clergy, by re-establishing the monothelite doctrines in a general coun- 
cil of the Eastern bishops. 

As the conspirators who had dethroned Philippicus had not formed any 
plan for choosing his successor, the first secretary of state was elected 
emperor by a public assembly held in the great church of St. Sophia, under 
the name of Anastasius II. He immediately re-established the orthodox 
faith, and his character is consequently the subject of eulogy with the his- 
torians of his reign. The Saracens, whose power was continually increas- 
ing, were at this time preparing a great expedition at Alexandria, in order 
to attack Constantinople. Anastasius sent a fleet with the troops of the 
theme Opsicium, to destroy the magazines of timber collected on the coast 
of Phoenicia for the purpose of assisting the preparations at Alexandria. 
The Roman armament was commanded by a deacon of St. Sophia, who 
also held the office of grand treasurer of the empire. The nomination of a 
member of the clergy to command the army gave great dissatisfaction to the 
troops, who were not yet so deeply tinctured with ecclesiastical ideas and 
manners, as the aristocracy of the empire. A sedition took place while 
the army lay at Rhodes ; Joannes the Deacon was slain, and the expedition 
quitted the port in order to return to the capital. The soldiers on their 
way landed at Adramyttium, and finding there a collector of the revenues 
of a popular character, they declared him emperor, under the name oi 
Theodosius III. 

The new emperor was compelled unwillingly to follow the army. For 
six months, Constantinople was closely besieged, and the emperor Anasta- 
sius, who had retired to Nicsea, was defeated in a general engagement. The 
canital was at last taken by the rebels, who were so deeply sensible of their 


[711-717 A.D.] 

real interests, that they maintained strict discipline, and Anastasius, whose 
weakness gave little confidence to his followers, consented to resign the 
empire to Theodosius, and to retire into a monastery, that he might secure 
an amnesty to all his friends. Theodosius was distinguished by many good 
qualities, but on the throne he proved a perfect cipher, and his reign is only 
remarkable as affording a pretext for the assumption of the imperial dignity 
by Leo III, called the Isaurian. This able and enterprising officer, per- 
ceiving that the critical times rendered the empire the prize of any man 
who had talents to seize, and power to defend it, placed himself at the 
head of the troops in Asia Minor, assumed the title of emperor, and soon 
compelled Theodosius to quit the throne and become a priest. 

During the period which elapsed between the death of Heraclius and the 
accession of Leo, the few remains of Roman principles of administration 
which had lingered in the imperial court, were gradually extinguished. 
The long-cherished hope of restoring the ancient power and glory of the 
Roman Empire expired, and even the aristocracy, which always clings the last 
to antiquated forms and ideas, no longer dwelt with confidence on the mem- 
ory of former days. The conviction that the empire had undergone a great 
moral and political change, which severed the future irrevocably from the 
past, though it was probably not fully understood, was at least felt and 
acted on both by the people and the government. The sad fact that the 
splendid light of civilisation which had illuminated the ancient world had 
now become as obscure at Constantinople as at Rome, Antioch, Alexandria, 
and Carthage was too evident to be longer doubted; the very twilight of 
antiquity had faded into darkness. It is rather, however, the province 
of the antiquary than of the historian to collect all the traces of this truth 
scattered over the records of the seventh century. 

The disorganisation of the Roman government at this period, and the 
want of any influence over the court by the Greek nation, are visible in the 
choice of the persons who occupied the imperial throne after the extinction 
of the family of Heraclius. They were selected by accident, and several 
were of foreign origin, who did not even look upon themselves as either 
Greeks or Romans. Philippicus was an Armenian, and Leo III, whose 
reign opens a new era in Eastern history, was an Isaurian. On the throne 
he proved that he was destitute of any attachment to Roman political 
institutions, and any respect for the Greek ecclesiastical establishment. It 
was by the force of his talents, and by his able direction of the state and of 
the army, that he succeeded in securing his family on the Byzantine throne ; 
for he unquestionably placed himself in direct hostility to the feelings and 
opinions of his Greek and Roman subjects, and transmitted to his successors 
a contest between the imperial power and the Greek nation concerning 
picture worship, in which the very existence of Greek nationality, civilisa- 
tion, and religion, became at last compromised. From the commencement 
of the iconoclastic contest, the history of the Greeks assumes a new aspect. 
Their civilisation, and their connection with the Byzantine Empire, become 
linked with the policy and fortunes of the Eastern church, and ecclesiastical 
affairs obtain a supremacy over all social and political considerations in 
their minds. 

The geographical extent of the empire at the time of its transition from 
the Roman to the Byzantine Empire affords evidence of the influence which 
the territorial changes produced by the Saracen conquests exercised in 
conferring political importance on the Greek race. The frontier towards 
the Saracens of Syria commenced at Mopsuestia in Cilicia, the last fortress 


[711-717 A.D.] 

of the Arab power. It ran along the chains of mounts Amanus and Taurus 
^to the mountainous district to the north of Edessa and Nisibis, called, after 
•the time of Justinian, the Fourth Armenia, of which Martyropolis was the 
^capital. It then followed nearly the ancient limits of the empire until it 
reached the Black Sea, a short distance to the east of Trebizond. On the 
northern shores of the Euxine, Cherson was now the only city that acknow- 
ledged the supremacy of the empire, retaining at the same time all its wealth 
and commerce, with the municipal privileges of a free city. In Europe, 
Mount Hsemus formed the barrier against the Bulgarians, while the moun- 
tainous ranges which bound Macedonia to the northwest, and encircle the 
territory of Dyrrhachium, were regarded as the limits of the free Slavonian 
states. It is true that large bodies of Slavonians had penetrated to the 
south of this line, and lived in Greece and Peloponnesus, but not in 
the same independent condition with reference to the imperial administra- 
tion as their northern brethren of the Servian family. 

Istria, Venice, and the cities on the Dalmatian coast, still acknowledged 
the supremacy of the empire, though their distant position, their commercial 
■connections, and their religious feelings, were all tending towards a final 
separation. In tho centre of Italy, the exarchate of Ravenna still held 
Rome in subjection, but the people of Italy were entirely alienated from 
the political administration, which was now regarded by them as purely 
Greek, and the Italians, with Rome before their eyes, could hardly admit 
the pretensions of the Greeks to be regarded as the legitimate representa- 
tives of the Roman Empire. The loss of northern and central Italy was 
consequently an event in constant danger of occurring; it would have 
required an able and energetic and just government to have repressed the 
national feelings of the Italians, and conciliated their allegiance. The condi- 
tion of the population of the south of Italy and of Sicily was very different. 
There the majority of the inhabitants were Greeks in language and manners ; 
but at this time the cities of Gseta (Caieta), Naples (Neapolis), Amain, and 
Sorrento (Surrentum), the district of Otranto, and the peninsula to the south 
of the ancient Sybaris, now called Calabria, were the only parts which re- 
mained under the Byzantine government. Sicily, though it had begun to 
suffer from the incursions of the Saracens, was still populous and wealthy. 
Sardinia, the last possession of the Greeks to the westward of Italy, was 
conquered by the Saracens about this time (711 a.d.).c 


[717-969 jl.d.] 

With the accession of Leo the Isaurian to the throne of Constantinople 
a new era opens in the history of the Eastern Empire. The progress of 
society had been deliberately opposed by imperial legislation. The legisla- 
tors of the empire were persuaded that each order and profession of its citi- 
zens should be fixed by hereditary succession, and an attempt had been made 
to divide the population into castes. But the political laws not only impov- 
erished but depopulated the empire, and threatened the dissolution of the 
very elements of society. Under their operation the Western Empire became 
the prey of the smaller northern nations, and the Eastern Empire was on the 
verge of being overrun by the Saracen invaders. a 

Leo III mounted the throne, and under his government the empire not 
only ceased to decline, but even began to regain much of its early vigour. 
Reformed modifications of the old Roman authority developed new energy 
in the empire. Great political reforms, and still greater changes in the con- 
dition of the people, mark the eighth century as an epoch of transition. 

When Leo III was proclaimed emperor, it seemed as if no human power 
could save Constantinople from falling as Rome had fallen. The Saracens 
considered the sovereignty of every land in which any remains of Roman 
civilisation survived, as within their grasp. Leo, an Isaurian, 1 and an icono- 

l 1 Isauria is an obsolete name referring to a district in Asia Minor bounded by Cilicia„ 
Lycaonia, Phrygia, and Pisidia. The region was eold and rugged and the Isaurians accordingly 
independent and fond of raids. In 75 b.c, the Roman proconsul, P. Servilius, brought them to 
terms and received the epithet Isauricus, but the Romans were eventually glad to grant them 
freedom in return for peace. Justinian claimed to have subdued them. Two emperors came 
from Isauria, Zeno (474-495) and the epoch-making Leo. 

Hertzberg* says that Leo was called Isaurian "probably from the nativity of his parents," 1 
and thinks he was " born about 675 at Germanicia, on the borders of Cappadocia, Armenia, and 
Syria," whence he was taken to Mesembria in Thrace by his parents after the Arab invasion. 
K. Schenk,o however, says, " I employ the epithet consecrated by the error of centuries, 
although Leo was sprung from Germanicia, and therefore is a Syrian." Gelzer<* accordingly 
calls Leo "the Syrian (Isaurian) emperor." He calls the accession of Leo "a moment of true* 
world-historical meaning."] 



[717 A.D.] 

clast, consequently a foreigner and a heretic, ascended the throne of Con- 
stantine, and arrested the victorious career of the Mohammedans. He then 
reorganised the whole administration so completely in accordance with the 
new exigencies of Eastern society, that the reformed empire outlived for 
many centuries every government contemporary with its establishment. 

The Eastern Roman Empire, thus reformed, is called by modern histo- 
rians the Byzantine Empire ; and the term is well devised to mark the 
changes effected in the government, after the extinction of the last traces of 
the military monarchy of ancient Rome. The social condition of the inhab- 
itants of the Eastern Empire had already undergone a considerable change 
during the century which elapsed from the accession of Heraclius to that of 

This change created a new phase in the Roman Empire. The gradual 
progress of this change has led some writers to date the commencement of 
the Byzantine Empire as early as the reigns of Zeno and Anastasius, and 
others to descend so late as the times of Maurice and Heraclius. 1 But as the 
Byzantine Empire was only a continuation of the Roman government under 
a reformed system, it seems most correct to date its commencement from the 
period when the new social and political modifications produced a visible 
effect on the fate of the Eastern Empire. This period is marked by the 
accession of Leo the Isaurian. 

The administrative system of Rome, as modified by Constantine, con- 
tinued in operation, though subjected to frequent reforms, until Constanti- 
nople was stormed by the crusaders, and the Greek church enslaved by papal 
domination. The general council of Nicaea, and the dedication of the impe- 
rial city, with their concomitant legislative, administrative, and judicial insti- 
tutions, engendered a succession of political measures, whose direct relations 
were uninterrupted until terminated by foreign conquest. The government 
of Great Britain has undergone greater changes during the last three centu- 
ries than that of the Eastern Empire during the nine centuries which elapsed 
from the foundation of Constantinople in 330, to its conquest in 1204. 

Yet Leo III has strong claims to be regarded as the first of a new series 
of emperors. He was the founder of a dynasty, the saviour of Constanti- 
nople, and the reformer of the church and state. He was the first Christian 
sovereign who arrested the torrent of Mohammedan conquest ; he improved 
the condition of his subjects ; he attempted to purify their religion from the 
superstitious reminiscences of Hellenism, with which it was still debased, 
and to stop the development of a quasi-idolatry in the orthodox church. 
Nothing can prove more decidedly the right of his empire to assume a new 
name than the contrast presented by the condition of its inhabitants to that 
of the subjects of the preceding dynasty. Under the successors of Heraclius, 
the Roman Empire presents the spectacle of a declining society, and its 
thinly peopled provinces were exposed to the intrusion of foreign colonists 
and hostile invaders. But, under Leo, society offers an aspect of improve- 

l 1 Clinton « says, "The empire of Rome, properly so called, ends at 476 a.d.," which is the 
third year of Zeno. Numismatists, like Saulcy,/ place the commencement of the Byzantine 
Empire in the reign of Anastasius I. Gibbon g tells us, " Tiberius by the Arabs, and Maurice by 
the Italians, are distinguished as the first of the Greek Csesars, as the founders of a new 
dynasty and empire. The silent revolution was accomplished before the death of Heraclius." 
Bury, a on the other hand, vehemently denies the justice of using the word " Byzantine " at all, 
saying " no Byzantine Empire ever began to exist ; the Roman Empire did not come to an end 
until 1453." He accordingly clings to the expression " Later Roman Empire." None the less, 
since Finlay i finds the word Byzantine a convenient term and places its proper beginning here, 
and since so many other historians old and new have given the word authority, it may well be 
allowed to stand. J 


[717 A.D.] 

ment and prosperity ; the old population revives from its lethargy, and soon 
increases, both in number and strength, to such a degree as to drive back all 
intruders on its territories. In the records of human civilisation, Leo the 
Isaurian must always occupy a high position, as a type of what the central 
power in a state can effect even in a declining empire. 

Thus after the accession of Leo III, a new condition of society is appar- 
ent ; and though many old political evils continued to exist, it becomes evi- 
dent that a greater degree of personal liberty, as well as greater security for 
property, was henceforth guaranteed to the mass of the inhabitants of the 
empire. Indeed, no other government of which history has preserved the 
records, unless it be that of China, has secured equal advantages to its sub- 
jects for so long a period. The empires of the caliphs and of Charlemagne, 
though historians have celebrated their praises loudly, cannot, in their best 
days, compete with the administration organised by Leo on this point ; and 
both sank into ruin while the Byzantine Empire continued to nourish in full 
vigour. It must be confessed that eminent historians present a totally dif- 
ferent picture of Byzantine history to their readers. Voltaire speaks of it 
as a worthless repertory of declamation and miracles, disgraceful to the 
human mind. Even the sagacious Gibbon,^ after enumerating with just 
pride the extent of his labours, adds : " From these considerations, I should 
have abandoned without regret the Greek slaves and their servile historians, 
had I not reflected that the fate of the Byzantine monarchy is passively 
connected with the most splendid and important revolutions which have 
changed the state of the world." 

The history of the Byzantine Empire divides itself into three periods, 
strongly marked by distinct characteristics. 

The first period commences with the reign of Leo III in 716, and ter- 
minates with -that of Michael III in 867. It comprises the whole history of 
the predominance of the iconoclasts in the established church, and of the 
reaction which reinstated the orthodox in power. It opens with the efforts 
by which Leo and the people of the empire saved the Roman law and the 
Christian religion from the conquering Saracens. It embraces a long and 
violent struggle between the government and the people, the emperors seek- 
ing to increase the central power by annihilating every local franchise, and 
even the right of private opinion, among their subjects. The contest con- 
cerning image worship, from the prevalence of ecclesiastical ideas, became 
the expression of this struggle. Its object was as much to consolidate the 
supremacy of the imperial authority, as to purify the practice of the church. 
The emperors wished to constitute themselves the fountains of ecclesiastical 
as completely as of civil legislation. 

The long and bloody wars of this period, and the vehement character of 
the sovereigns who filled the throne, attract the attention of those who love 
to dwell on the romantic facts of history. Unfortunately, the biographical 
sketches and individual characters of the heroes of these ages lie concealed 
in the dullest chronicles. But the true historical feature of this memorable 
period is the aspect of a declining empire, saved by the moral vigour devel- 
oped in society, and of the central authority struggling to restore national 
prosperity. Never was such a succession of able sovereigns seen following 
one another on any other throne. The stern iconoclast, Leo the Isaurian, 
opens the line as the second founder of the Eastern Empire. His son, the 
fiery Constantine, who was said to prefer the odour of the stable to the per- 
fumes of his palaces, replanted the Christian standards on the banks of the 
Euphrates. Irene, the beautiful Athenian, presents a strange combination 



[717 A.D.J 

of talent, heartlessness, and orthodoxy. The finance minister, Nicephorus, 
perishes on the field of battle like an old Roman. The Armenian Leo falls 
at the altar of his private chapel, murdered as he is singing psalms with his 
deep voice, before day-dawn. Michael the Amorian, who stammered Greek 
with his native Phrygian accent, became the founder of an imperial dynasty, 
destined to be extinguished by a Slavonian groom. The accomplished The- 
ophilus lived in an age of romance, both in action and literature. His son, 
Michael, the last of the Amorian family, was the only contemptible prince 

of this period, and he was certainly the 
most despicable buffoon that ever occu- 
pied a throne. 

The second period commences with 
the reign of Basil I in 867, and termi- 
nates with the deposition of Michael VI 
in 1057. During two centuries the im- 
perial sceptre was retained by members 
of the Basilian family, or held by those 
who shared their throne as guardians 
or husbands. At this time the Byzan- 
tine Empire attained its highest pitch 
of external power and internal prosper- 
ity. The Saracens were pursued into 
the plains of Syria. Antioch and Edessa 
were reunited to the empire. The Bul- 
garian monarchy was conquered, and 
the Danube became again the northern 
frontier. The Slavonians in Greece 
were almost exterminated. Byzantine 
commerce filled the whole Mediterra- 
nean, and legitimated the claim of the 
emperor of Constantinople to the title 
of "autocrat of the Mediterranean Sea." 
But the real glory of this period consists 
in the power of the law. Respect for 
the administration of justice pervaded 
society more generally than it had ever done at any preceding period of the 
history of the world — a fact which seems to have been completely over- 
looked by some of our greatest historians, though it is all-important in the 
history of human civilisation. 

The third period extends from the accession of Isaac I (Comnenus) in 
1057, to the conquest of the Byzantine Empire by the crusaders, in 1204. 
This is the true period of decline and fall of the Eastern Empire. It com- 
menced by a rebellion of the great nobles of Asia, who effected an internal 
revolution in the Byzantine Empire by wrenching the administration out 
of the hands of well-trained officials, and destroying the responsibility 
created by a systematic procedure. A despotism supported by personal 
influence soon ruined the scientific fabric which had previously upheld the 
imperial power. The people were ground to the earth by a fiscal rapacity, 
over which the splendour of the house of Comnenus throws a thin veil. 
The wealth of the empire was dissipated, its prosperity destroyed, the ad- 
ministration of justice corrupted, and the central authority lost all control 
over the population, when a band of 20,000 adventurers, masked as crusaders, 
put an end to the Roman Empire of the East. 

A Byzantine Peasant 


[716-717 A.D.] 

Leo III (Leo the Isaurian), 717-741 a.d. 

When Leo was raised to the throne, the empire was threatened with 
immediate ruin. Six emperors had been dethroned within the space of 
twenty-one years. Of these, four perished by the hand of the public 
executioner, one died in obscurity, after being deprived of sight, and the 
other was only allowed to end his days peacefully in a monastery because 
Leo felt the imperial sceptre firmly fixed in his own grasp. Every army 
assembled to encounter the Saracens had broken out into rebellion. The 
Bulgarians and Slavonians wasted Europe up to the walls of Constanti- 
nople ; the Saracens ravaged the whole of Asia Minor to the shores of the 

Amorium was the principal city of the theme Anatolicum. The caliph 
Suleiman had sent his brother, Moslemah, with a numerous army, to com- 
plete the conquest of the Roman Empire, which appeared to be an enterprise 
of no extraordinary difficulty, and Amorium was besieged by the Saracens. 
Leo, who commanded the Byzantine troops, required some time to concert 
the operations by which he hoped to raise the siege. To gain the neces- 
sary delay, he opened negotiations with the invaders, and, under the pretext 
of hastening the conclusion of the treaty, he visited the Saracen general 
engaged in the siege with an escort of only five hundred horse. The Sara- 
cens were invited to suspend their attacks until the decision of Moslemah, 
who was at the head of another division of the Mohammedan army, could 
be known. 

In an interview which took place with the bishop and principal inhabit- 
ants of Amorium, relating to the proffered terms, Leo contrived to exhort 
them to continue their defence, and assured them of speedy succour. The 
besiegers, nevertheless, pressed forward their approaches. Leo, after his 
interview with the Amorians, proposed that the Saracen general should 
accompany him to the headquarters of Moslemah. The Saracen readily 
agreed to an arrangement which would enable him to deliver so impor- 
tant a hostage to the commander-in-chief. The wary Isaurian, who well 
knew that he would be closely watched, had made his plan of escape. On 
reaching a narrow defile, from which a cross-road led to the advanced posts 
of his own army, Leo suddenly drew his sabre and attacked the Saracens 
about his person ; while his guards, who were prepared for the signal, easily 
opened a way through the two thousand hostile cavalry of the escort, and all 
reached the Byzantine camp in safety. Leo's subsequent military disposi- 
tions and diplomatic negotiations induced the enemy to raise the siege of 
Amorium, and the grateful inhabitants united with the army in saluting him 
emperor of the Romans. But in his arrangements with Moslemah, he is 
accused by his enemies of having agreed to conditions which facilitated the 
further progress of the Mohammedans, in order to secure his own march to 
Constantinople. On this march he was met by the son of Theodosius III, 
whom he defeated. Theodosius resigned his crown, and retired into a mon- 
astery ; * while Leo made his triumphal entry into the capital by the Golden 
Gate, and was crowned by the patriarch in the church of Sophia on the 25th 
of March, 717. 

The position of Leo continued to be one of extreme difficulty. The 
caliph Suleiman, who had seen one private adventurer succeed the other 
in quick succession on the imperial throne, deemed the moment favourable 

1 Theodosius ended his life at Ephesus, where he was buried in the church of St. Philip. He 
ordered that his tombstone should bear no inscription but the word IT EI A (Health). 


[717 A.D.] 

for the final conquest of the Christians ; and, reinforcing his brother's army, 
he ordered him to lay siege to Constantinople. The Saracen Empire had 
now reached its greatest extent. From the banks of the Sihun and the 
Indus to the shores of the Atlantic in Mauretania and Spain, the orders 
of Suleiman were implicitly obeyed. The recent conquests of Spain in 
the West, and of Fergana, Kashgar, and Sind in the East, had animated 
the confidence of the Mohammedans to such a degree that no enterprise 
appeared difficult. The army Moslemah led against Constantinople was 
the best-appointed that had ever attacked the Christians; it consisted of 
eighty thousand warriors. The caliph announced his intention of taking 
the field in person with additional forces, should the capital of the Christians 
offer a protracted resistance to the arms of Islam. The whole expedition is 
said to have employed 180,000 men ; and the number does not appear to be 
greatly exaggerated, if it be supposed to include the sailors of the fleet and 
the reinforcements which reached the camp before Constantinople. 


Moslemah, after capturing Pergamus, marched to Abydos, where he was 
joined by the Saracen fleet. He then transported his army across the Hel- 
lespont, and, marching along the shore of the Propontis, invested Leo in 
his capital both by land and sea. 1 The strong walls of Constantinople, the 
engines of defence with which Roman and Greek art had covered the ram- 
parts, and the skill of the Byzantine engineers, rendered every attempt to 
carry the place by assault hopeless, so that the Saracens were compelled 
to trust to the effect of a strict blockade for gaining possession of the city. 
They surrounded their camp with a deep ditch, and strengthened it with a 
strong dike. Moslemah then sent out large detachments to collect forage 
and destroy the provisions which might otherwise find their way into the 
besieged city. The presence of an active enemy and a populous city required 
constant vigilance on the part of a great portion of his land forces. 

The Saracen fleet consisted of eighteen hundred vessels of war and trans- 
ports. In order to form the blockade, it was divided into two squadrons ; 
one was stationed on the Asiatic coast, in the ports of Eutropius and Anthi- 
mus, to prevent supplies arriving from the Archipelago ; the other occupied 
the base in the European shore of the Bosporus above the point of Galata, in 
order to cut off all communication with the Black Sea and the cities of Cher- 
son and Trebizond. The first naval engagement took place as the fleet was 
taking up its position within the Bosporus. The current, rendered impetu- 
ous by a change of wind, threw the heavy ships and transports into confu- 
sion. The besieged directed some fire-ships against the crowded vessels, 
and succeeded in burning several, and driving others on shore under the walls 
of Constantinople. The Saracen admiral, Suleiman, confident in the number 
of his remaining ships of war, resolved to avenge his partial defeat by a com- 
plete victory. He placed one hundred chosen Arabs, in complete armour, 
in each of his best vessels, and, advancing to the walls of Constantinople, 
made a vigorous attempt to enter the place by assault, as it was entered long 
after by Doge Dandolo. Leo was well prepared to repulse the attack, and, 
under his experienced guidance, the Arabs were completely defeated. A num- 
ber of the Saracen ships were burned by the Greek fire which the besieged 

[} This was in August, 717, according to western authorities, though the Arabs set it in 716.] 


[717-718 a.d.] 

launched from their walls. After this defeat, Suleiman withdrew the Euro- 
pean squadron of his fleet into the Sosthenian bay. 

The besiegers encamped before Constantinople on the 15th of August, 
717. The caliph Suleiman 1 died before he was able to send any reinforcements 
to his brother. The winter proved unusually severe. The country all round 
Constantinople remained covered with deep snow for many weeks. The 
greater part of the horses and camels in the camp of Moslemah perished ; 
numbers of the best soldiers, accustomed to the mild winters of Syria, died 
from having neglected to take the requisite precautions against a northern 
climate. The difficulty of procuring food ruined the discipline of the troops. 
These misfortunes were increased by the untimely death of the admiral, Sulei- 
man. In the meantime, Leo and the ^inhabitants of Constantinople, having 
made the necessary preparations for a long siege, passed the winter in secur- 
ity. A fleet, fitted out at Alexandria, brought supplies to Moslemah in the 
spring. Four hundred transports, escorted by men-of-war, sailed past Con- 
stantinople, and, entering the Bosporus, took up their station at Kalos Agros. 
Another fleet, almost equally numerous, arrived soon after from Africa, and 
anchored in the bays on the Bithynian coast. These positions rendered the 
current a protection against the fire-ships of the garrison of Constantinople. 
The crews of the new transports were in great part composed of Christians, 
and the weak condition of Moslemah's army filled them with fear. Many 
conspired to desert. Seizing the boats of their respective vessels during the 
night, numbers escaped to Constantinople, where they informed the emperor 
of the exact disposition of the whole Saracen force. Leo lost no time in tak- 
ing advantage of the enemy's embarrassments. Fire-ships were sent with a 
favourable wind among the transports, while ships of war, furnished with 
engines for throwing Greek fire, increased the confusion. This bold attack 
was successful, and a part of the naval force of the Saracens was destroyed. 
Some ships fell a prey to the flames, some were driven on shore, and some 
were captured by the Byzantine squadron. 

The blockade was now at an end, for Moslemah's troops were dying from 
want, while the besieged were living in plenty ; but the Saracen obstinately 
persisted in maintaining possession of his camp in Europe. It was not until 
his foraging parties were repeatedly cut off, and ail the beasts of burden were 
consumed as food, that he consented to allow the standard of the prophet to 
retreat before the Christians. The remains of his army were embarked in 
the relics of the fleet, and on the 15th of August, 718, Moslemah raised the 
siege, after ruining one of the finest armies the Saracens ever assembled, by 
obstinately persisting in a hopeless undertaking. The troops were landed 
at Proconnesus, and marched back to Damascus, through Asia Minor ; but 
the fleet encountered a violent storm in passing through the Archipelago. 
The dispersed ships were pursued by the Greeks of the islands, and so many 
were lost or captured that only five of the Syrian squadron returned home. 

Few military details concerning Leo's defence of Constantinople have 
been preserved, but there can be no doubt that it was one of the most brill- 
iant exploits of a warlike age. 

The vanity of Gallic writers has magnified the success of Charles Martel 
over a plundering expedition of the Spanish Arabs into a marvellous victory, 
and attributed the deliverance of Europe from the Saracen yoke to the valour 
of the Franks. A veil has been thrown over the talents and courage of Leo, 
a soldier of fortune, just seated on the imperial throne, who defeated the 

[! On the 8th of October, according to TheophanesJ] 



[718-739 a.d.] 

long-planned schemes of conquest of the caliphs Welid and Suleiman. It is 
unfortunate that we have no Isaurian literature.^ 

The world-historical importance of this event cannot be too highly- 
esteemed. The Arabian onslaught had reached its climax. Byzantium, and 
its emperor who had thrown it off, had rescued Christianity and Western 
civilisation. Still to-day in the Acathistus-hymn the orthodox church thanks 
the three great heroes Heraclius, Constantine IV, and Leo III for the rescues 
from the A vara, the Persian, and the Arab dangers. <* 

The catastrophe of Moslemah's army, and the state of the caliphate dur- 
ing the reigns of Omar II and Yazid II, relieved the empire from all imme- 
diate danger, and Leo was enabled to pursue his schemes for reorganising 
the army and defending his dominions against future invasions. The war 
was languidly carried on for some years, and the Saracens were gradually 
expelled from most of their conquests beyond Mount Taurus. In the year 
726, Leo was embarrassed by seditions and rebellions, caused by his decrees 
against image-worship. Hisham seized the opportunity, and sent two 
powerful armies to invade the empire. Csesarea was taken by Moslemah ; 
while another army, under Moawyah, pushing forward, laid siege to Nicaea. 
Leo was well pleased to see the Saracens consume their resources in attack- 
ing a distant fortress ; but though they were repulsed before Nicaea, they 
retreated without serious loss, carrying off immense plunder. The plunder- 
ing excursions of the Arabs were frequently renewed by land and sea. In 
one of these expeditions, the celebrated Sid-al-Battal carried off an individual 
who was set up by the Saracens as a pretender to the Byzantine throne, 
under the pretext that he was Tiberius, the son of Justinian II. Two sons 
of the caliph appeared more than once at the head of the invading armies. 
In the year 739 the Saracen forces poured into Asia Minor in immense num- 
bers, with all their early 
energy. Leo, who had 
taken the command of the 
Byzantine army % accom- 
panied by his son Con- 
stantine, marched to meet 
Sid-al-Battal, whose great 
fame rendered him the 
most dangsrous enemy. 
A battle took place at 
Acroinon, in the Anatolic 
theme, in which the Sara- 
cens were totally defeated. 
The valiant Sid, the most 
renowned champion of Is- 
lamism, perished on the 
field ; but the fame of his 
exploits has filled many 
volumes of Moslem ro- 
mance, and furnished 
some of the tales that have adorned the memory of the Cid of Spain, three 
hundred years after the victory of Leo. The Western Christians have robbed 
the Byzantine Empire of its glory in every way. After this defeat the Sara- 
cen power ceased to be formidable to the empire, until the energy of the 
caliphate was revived by the vigorous administration of the Abbassides, who 
succeeded the Omayyads in 750. 

An Eighth Centuky Galley 


[726-729 A.D.] 

Leo's victories over the Mohammedans were an indispensable step to the 
establishment of his personal authority. But the measures of administrative 
wisdom which rendered his reign a new era in Roman history, are its most 
important feature in the annals of the human race. 


The whole policy of Leo's reign has been estimated by his ecclesias- 
tical reforms. These have been severely judged by all historians, and they 
appear to have encountered a violent opposition from a large portion of his 
subjects. The general dissatisfaction has preserved sufficient authentic in- 
formation to allow of a- candid examination of the merits and errors of his 

Leo commenced his ecclesiastical reforms in the year 726, by an edict 
ordering all pictures in churches to be placed so high as to prevent the people 
from kissing them, 1 and prohibiting prostration before these symbols, or any 
act of public worship being addressed to them. Against this moderate edict 
of the emperor, the patriarch Germanus and the pope Gregory II made 
strong representations. The despotic principles of Leo's administration, and 
the severe measures of centralisation which he enforced as the means of 
reorganising the public service, created many additional enemies to his gov- 
ernment, as is hereafter more fully shown. 

The rebellion of the inhabitants of Greece, which occurred in the year 
727, seems to have originated in a dissatisfaction with the fiscal and admin- 
istrative reforms of Leo, to which local circumstances, unnoticed by histori- 
ans, gave peculiar violence, and which the edict against image-worship fanned 
into a flame. The unanimity of all classes, and the violence of the popular 
zeal in favour of their local privileges and superstitions, suggested the hope 
of dethroning Leo, and placing a Greek on the throne of Constantinople. A 
naval expedition, composed of the imperial fleet in the Cyclades, and attended 
by an army from the continent, was fitted out to attack the capital. Agalli- 
anus, who commanded the imperial forces stationed to watch the Slavonians 
settled in Greece, was placed at the head of the army destined to assail the 
conqueror of the Saracens. The name of the new emperor was Cosmas. In 
the month of April the Greek fleet appeared before Constantinople. It soon 
appeared that the Greeks, confiding in the goodness of their cause, had 
greatly overrated their own valour and strength, or strangely overlooked 
the resources of the iconoclasts. Leo met the fleet as it approached his 
capital, and completely defeated it. Agallianus, with the spirit of a hero, 
when he saw the utter ruin of the enterprise, plunged fully armed into the 
sea rather than surrender. Cosmas was taken prisoner, with another leader, 
and immediately beheaded. Leo, however, treated the mass of the prisoners 
with mildness. 

The opposition Leo encountered only confirmed him in his persuasion 
that it was indispensably necessary to increase the power of the central gov- 
ernment in the provinces. As he was sincerely attached to the opinions of 
the iconoclasts, he was led to connect his ecclesiastical reforms with his politi- 
cal measures, and to pursue both with additional zeal. In order to secure 
the active support of all the officers of the administration, and exclude all 
image-worshippers from power, he convoked an assembly, called a silentium, 

f 1 According to Hefele m this commonly accepted statement is not true, since Leo's first order 
was the total abolition of images.] 


[729-751 A.D.] 

consisting of the senators and the highest functionaries in the church and 
state. In this solemn manner it was decreed that images were to be removed 
from all the churches throughout the empire. 

Gregory II sent Leo strong representations against his first edicts on the 
subject of image- worship, and after the silentium he repeated these representa- 
tions, and entered on a more decided course of opposition to the emperor's 
ecclesiastical reforms, being then convinced that there was no hope of Leo 
abandoning his heretical opinions. It seems that Italy, like the rest of the 
empire, had escaped in some degree from the oppressive burden of imperial 
taxation during the anarchy that preceded Leo's election. But the defeat 
of the Saracens before Constantinople had been followed by the re-establish- 
ment of the fiscal system. To overcome the opposition now made to the 
financial and ecclesiastical reforms, the exarch Paul was ordered to march to 
Rome and support Marinus, the duke, who found himself unable to contend 
against the papal influence. 

The whole of central Italy burst into rebellion at this demonstration 
against its civil and religious interests. The exarch was compelled to shut 
himself up in Ravenna ; for the cities of Italy, instead of obeying the imperial 
officers, elected magistrates of their own, on whom they conferred, in some 
cases, the title of duke. Assemblies were held, and the project of electing 
an emperor of the West was adopted ; but the unfortunate result of the 
rebellion of Greece damped the courage of the Italians ; and though a rebel, 
named Tiberius Petasius, really assumed the purple in Tuscany, he was 
easily defeated and slain by Eutychius, who succeeded Paul as exarch of 
Ravenna. Liutprand, king of the Lombards, taking advantage of these dis- 
sensions, invaded the imperial territory, and gained possession of Ravenna ; 
but Gregory, who saw the necessity of saving the country from the Lom- 
bards and from anarchy, wrote to Ursus the duke of Venice, one of his 
warm partisans, and persuaded him to join Eutychius. The Lombards were 
defeated by the Byzantine troops, Ravenna was recovered, and Eutychius 
entered Rome with a victorious army. Gregory died in 731. Though he 
excited the Italian cities to resist the imperial power, and approved of the 
measures they adopted for stopping the remittance of their taxes to Con- 
stantinople, he does not appear to have adopted any measures for declaring 
Rome independent. 

From 733 a.d., the city of Rome enjoyed political independence under 
the guidance and protection of the popes ; but the officers of the Byzantine 
emperors were allowed to reside in the city, justice was publicly administered 
by Byzantine judges, and the supremacy of the Eastern Empire was still 
recognised. So completely, however, had Gregory III thrown off his alle- 
giance, that he entered into negotiations with Charles Martel, in order to 
induce that powerful prince to take an active part in the affairs of Italy. 
The pope was now a much more powerful personage than the exarch of 
Ravenna, for the cities of central Italy, which had assumed the control of 
their local government, entrusted the conduct of their external political rela- 
tions to the care of Gregory, who thus held the balance of power between 
the Eastern emperor and the Lombard king. In the year 742, while Con- 
stantine V, the son of Leo, was engaged with a civil war, the Lombards 
were on the eve of conquering Ravenna, but Pope Zacharias threw the whole 
of the Latin influence into the Byzantine scale, and enabled the exarch to 
maintain his position until the year 751, when Aistulf, king of the Lom- 
bards, captured Ravenna. The exarch retired to Naples, and the authority 
of the Byzantine emperors in central Italy ended.™ 


[717-723 A.D.] 

Leo III died in 741. * He was succeeded by his son Constantine V, called 
Copronymus, whom he had crowned emperor in the year 720, and married 
to Irene, the daughter of the khan of the Khazars, thirteen years later. 
Before proceeding with the later reigns, we must pause to consider that 
great and bloody controversy which brought Christianity into contempt as 
idolatrous before the Mohammedans, and split the church, or rather split 
the laity from the church. It was the laity which was non-idolatrous ; it 
was the church that clung to the sanctity and active power of images and 
even of relics. The subject is considered at more length under the history 
of the papacy, but cannot be omitted here, since it had its rise in that 
enlightened and fearless Leo Isauricus, who dared to be consistent even to 
the point of barbarity .« 


Since the twelfth year of the Hegira (634 a.d.) the hand of Ishmael had 
lain heavily on the world, nevertheless the rod of the taskmaster had in 
certain respects been useful to the Byzantine Empire, especially in the in- 
terior. Senseless despotism, careless dissimulation, and utter incompetence 
could not assert themselves for long on the throne. This resulted in a 
succession of brave soldiers ascending the throne — Byzantine autocrats 
since the time of Islam had on ah average really been stronger than their 
predecessors — and in the reigning families rapidly detaching themselves. 
"When one or the other dynasty tended to the Merovingian type, it only lasted 
for a short time. Amongst the families which under Islam wore the crown of 
Byzantium, the one founded by Leo Isauricus (717-741) occupied a prominent 
position ; after Justinian it was second in the order of Byzantine dynasties. 

Leo Isauricus, a man of humble birth, who rose from the rank of a com- 
mon soldier to that of a general, and his son Constantine V on whom party 
feeling bestowed the opprobrious nickname of Copronymus, were brave men, 
but they reduced the church and the people to servitude as their predecessors 
had done, and perhaps even more ruthlessly, as is proved by their iconoclastic 
proceedings. Certainly in the beginning of the agitation now in question, 
they were not wanting in a motive which appeared just, and perhaps was 
so for a time. In consequence of the terrible oppression exercised by the 
government authorities, and the spiritual stagnation which generally arises 
from this source, the Byzantine nation had grown accustomed to superficiality 
in religion and, as a consequence, to a worship of images which reached a 
point at which Christianity seemed about to sink back into Hellenism. 

On this important matter, which was frequently a source of great danger 
in the course of the century, Pope Gregory I established an unalterable rule. 
Bishop Serenus of Massilia (Marseilles), having observed that many of his 
parishioners worshipped the images which had been brought into the cathe- 
dral, cast them out and destroyed them. Gregory I commended the zeal with 
which Serenus had forbidden divine honours to be paid to the work of human 
hands, but at the same time censured him for having destroyed the images. 
He also referred to the reason given by other Blathers before him, and by 
Paulinus of Nola in particular ; he writes, " the churches are decorated with 
images so that those who do not know the alphabet may see represented on 
the wall that which they cannot read in the Scriptures." 

[ J June, 741, is the date usually assigned to Leo's death, but Bury" thinks that Theophanesj 
made a miscalculation, and he reckons from a solar eclipse and an Easter date, that Leo's death 
actually occurred in 740.] 



[723-729 B.C.] 

This is the rule of the Catholic church — the places of worship must be 
decorated and these decorations respected. Woe betide him who lays hands 
on them. But the image must not be mistaken for that which it represents, 
it must not be treated as a thing divine. But according to reliable proofs still 
extant, the Greeks of the eighth and ninth centuries did not confine them- 
selves within these limits ; they became iconodules, as the majority of them 
remain to this day. 

The abuse just referred to aroused the calculating ambition of a very 
powerful and hostile neighbour, according to the chronicler Theophanes. 
The caliph Yazid II, son of Abdul-Malik (720-724) successor to Omar II, 
issued a decree that all images should be forcibly re- 
moved from the Christian churches of his empire. 
This occurred in 723, three years before Leo Isauricus 
first prohibited the use of them. Up to that time 
the Moslem ruler had not interfered in the worship 
of his Christian subjects, who had enjoyed without 
molestation the same privileges as the Jews. The 
conduct of Yazid, on the contrary, gave rise to the 
idea that henceforth the caliphs would treat iconolatry 
as idolatry, and that those who adhered to the practice 
would fall under his displeasure, whether within or 
beyond the dominions of the caliphate. The above 
command therefore contained a hidden declaration of 
war against the Byzantine Empire. 

Such was the state of affairs when Leo Isauricus 
determined to take the lead and to wrest from the 
hereditary enemy of the Byzantine crown the weapons 
which he wished to use against it. In 726 he issued 
his first decree against images ; it was moderate in 
tone, prostration before them being alone prohibited. 
A few bishops, partisans of Leo, began to remove the 
images from their churches. When this became known 
the people rebelled, but Leo subdued them by force. 

After this, under Leo and under his son Constan- 
tine Copronymus (741-775), blow after blow was 
dealt. In 729 Leo summoned a conclave and in- 
vited the patriarch Germanus, a man who had almost 
reached the extreme limit of human age, to attend. 
A law was submitted ordering that the images should 
be removed from all churches and the painted walls Captain of Mercenary 
whitewashed. When required to ratify it, the patri- PIK e ' 
arch declared he would rather resign his office. He . 
was taken at his word, exiled to a neighbouring state, and the vacant see was 
conferred on the priest Anastasius, a willing tool. All bishops of the realm 
were obliged to submit to the new law ; the few who resisted were deposed. 

Presently no sacred images were to be seen in the churches or in any 
other places. Over the iron gates of the imperial palace was a beautiful 
image of Christ, reputed to perform miracles, which was specially revered. 
The emperor ordered its removal. Blood was shed in the execution of this 
order. When a soldier at Leo's command mounted on the castle gate, and 
was about to deal the first blow at the image, 1 a crowd of furious women 

[} According to other accounts, he actually smote the statue in the face three times.] 


[729-787 A.D.] 

flung themselves upon him, and pulled down the ladder on which he was 
standing. The soldier fell to the ground and was immediately murdered by 
the mob. Thereupon the rioters rushed to the archbishop's residence, bent 
on destroying it, and on stoning the patriarch Anastasius ; but the latter fled 
to the imperial palace. Meanwhile Leo had taken the necessary precautions : 
the body-guard rushed out and attacked the insurgents ; those who resisted 
were killed or taken prisoners. Leo had gained the victory, and until his 
death in 741, no one dared to disturb the public peace. 


After Leo's death, conspiracies broke out against Constanfcine, his 
successor. These he defeated though with difficulty, and his discovery 
that a party in the church, the Byzantine monks, were 
defending the ancient custom with invincible obstinacy 
and thus supporting his adversaries, changed his struggle 
against iconolatry into ceaseless strife with the monas- 
teries and all other typical forms of Christianity, 
and with the church itself and its mysteries. 
Events such as occurred at the time of the 
Reformation and in the eighteenth century now 
took place. The magistrates received orders to 
suppress all monasteries, many were demolished, 
others were converted into stables for the cavalry 
and camps for the infantry ; the few that remained 
were not allowed to receive novices. The expelled 
monks had to lay aside their distinctive garb and 
■ I'JtJHf'WV //•'/ dress u ^ e other people; the emperor compelled 
film \ willflBtok /// some to marry, nor did lie spare them the weapon 

of ridicule. On one occasion he caused a num- 
ber of monks, each leading a nun by the hand, to 
march up and down the hippodrome, where they 
were met by the jeers of the multitude. 

Under the influence of such proceedings a 
peculiar spirit developed in the court, which was 
composed not only of soldiers and officials but also 
of the wealthy and pleasure-loving classes, a spirit 
which we can only compare to the freemasonry of 
a later day, or to the Bavarian illuminati of the 
eighteenth century. 

The throne was everything, the church appar- 
ently nothing. For the second time the popedom of the Caesars had reached 
a climax, not, as in the days of Justinian, under the form of piety, but under 
that of enlightenment. The Greek bishops patiently bore their yoke, there 
were no more monks, the glory of the empire dazzled the world, for Constan- 
tine was a fortunate ruler and a soldier crowned with glory, having overcome 
the Saracens and the Bulgarians, the enemies of the empire, in many battles. 
During his long reign there arose a race who were acquainted with cloisters 
and monks only by hearsay, and had experience of nothing but freemasonry and 

Nevertheless, after having asserted its authority for half a century, the 
iconoclastic party succumbed and finally disappeared without leaving a trace. 

Chief op Barbarian Merce- 
naries, Byzantine Empire 

h. w. — VOL. VII. p 


[741-842 A.D.] 

Two causes were mainly instrumental in bringing about this remarkable 
conclusion. First, the influence of the head of Christendom. In 726 and 
729, when Leo proceeded to take steps against the icons, he had been vig- 
orously opposed by Pope Gregory II (715-731). Gregory's successors con- 
tinued the opposition and, when the house of Isauricus obstinately refused 
justice, a breach ensued with Byzantium. The discovery that in spite of all 
display of violence the Byzantine court must end by yielding, as soon as the 
Eastern church or even part of it sided in earnest with the see of St. Peter, 
first made in the dogmatic disputes of the fourth and fifth centuries, once 
more stood revealed. 

Now for the second cause. Amongst the Byzantines there arose a great 
man, capable of gathering all elements favourable to the cause of ecclesias- 
tical liberty, hitherto dispersed over the whole of the Eastern Empire, into 
one centre, and thus bringing them into practical touch with Rome. This 
was Theodore, abbot of the monastery of Studion, in Constantinople. With 
the exception of a brief victory, embittered by that unworthy woman, the 
empress Irene, under whose dominion it took place (789-802), and in which 
the adherents of iconolatry, or rather the defenders of ecclesiastical inde- 
pendence, were unable to exert any political influence, the life of Theodore 
was spent in a perpetual struggle, in which he displayed incomparable stoi- 
cism and the highest ability. He died in 826. 

The cause which he had espoused with all the strength of a great soul, 
triumphed after his death and through the seed which he had sown. In one 
respect its triumph was complete, in another, partial only. On the 19th of 
February, 842, the patriarch Methodius of Constantinople set the final seal 
on the right of images in places of worship, by the institution of the feast of 
Orthodoxy. With the icons, unfortunately, the deplorable abuse already 
mentioned returned. Meanwhile it must be noted that in the course of the 
contest the Frankish church had repeatedly and energetically upheld the 
principles laid down by Pope Gregory I with regard to church discipline. 

Opposition to the power which the emperor exercised on the subject of 
images, was only part of the plan which Theodore Studita pursued; the 
church and the people were also to be protected from the tyranny of the 
throne. The empress Irene, no doubt at the instigation of the party of 
Theodore, without whose support she would never have maintained her 
power, remitted some of the most oppressive taxes ; and the emperor Nice- 
phorus, by whom Irene was overthrown in 802, and who, although out of 
fear of Irene's legislation he tolerated the images, evidently trod from the 
first in the steps of Leo Isauricus and his son Constantine Copronymus, 
forthwith restored the full weight of the old taxation. I 


In a long reign of thirty-four years, the son and successor of Leo, Con- 
stantine V, surnamed Copronymus, attacked, with less temperate zeal the 
images or idols of the church. Their votaries have exhausted the bitterness 
of religious gall, in their portrait of this spotted panther, this antichrist, 
this flying dragon of the serpent's seed, who surpassed the vices of Ela- 
gabalus and Nero. His reign was a long butchery of whatever was most 
noble, or holy, or innocent in his empire. In person the emperor assisted at 
the execution of his victims, surveyed their agonies, listened to their groans, 
and indulged, without satiating, his appetite for blood ; a plate of noses was 


[741-777 A.D.] 

accepted as a grateful offering, and his domestics were often scourged or 
mutilated by the royal hand. His surname was derived from his pollution 
of his baptismal font. The infant might be excused ; but the manly pleas- 
ures of Copronymus degraded him below the level of a brute. 

In his religion, the iconoclast was a heretic, a Jew, a Mohammedan, a 
pagan, and an atheist; and his belief of an invisible power could be dis- 
covered only in his magic rites, human victims, and nocturnal sacrifices to 
Venus and the demons of antiquity. His life was stained with the most 
opposite vices, and the ulcers which covered his body anticipated before 
his death the sentiment of hell torture. Of these accusations, which we have 
so patiently copied, a part is refuted by its own absurdity; and in the 
private anecdotes of the life of princes, the lie is more easy as the detection 
is more difficult. Without adopting the pernicious maxim, that where much 
is alleged, something must be true, we can however discern, that Constantine V 
was dissolute and cruel. Calumny is more prone to exaggerate than to 
invent ; and her licentious tongue is checked in some measure by the expe- 
rience of the age and country to which she appeals. Of the bishops and 
monks, the generals and magistrates, who are said to have suffered under 
his reign, the numbers are recorded, the names were conspicuous, the execu- 
tion was public, the mutilation visible and permanent. 


The Catholics hated the person and government of Copronymus ; but 
even their hatred is a proof of their oppression. They dissemble the prov- 
ocations which might excuse or justify his rigour; but even these provoca- 
tions must gradually inflame his resentment, and harden his temper in the 
use or the abuse of despotism. Yet the character of the fifth Constantine 
was not devoid of merit, nor did his government always deserve the curses 
or the contempt of the Greeks. From the confession of his enemies, we 
are informed of the restoration of an ancient aqueduct, of the redemption 
of twenty-five hundred captives, of the uncommon plenty of the times, and of 
the new colonies with which he re-peopled Constantinople and the Thracian 
cities. They reluctantly praise his activity and courage ; he was on horse- 
back in the field at the head of his legions ; and although the fortune of his 
arms was various, he triumphed by sea and land, on the Euphrates and the 
Danube, in civil 1 and barbarian war. Heretical praise must be cast into 
the scale, to counterbalance the weight of orthodox invective. The icono- 
clasts revered the virtues of the prince ; forty years after his death, they still 
prayed before the tomb of the saint. A miraculous vision was propagated 
by fanaticism or fraud ; and the Christian hero appeared on a milk-white 
steed, brandishing his lance against the pagans of Bulgaria : "An absurd 
fable," says the Catholic historian, " since Copronymus is chained with the 
demons in the abyss of hell."0 

Constantine had no sooner found himself firmly established on the throne 
than he devoted his attention to completing the organisation of the empire 
traced out by his father. The constant attacks of the Saracens and Bulga- 
rians called him frequently to the head of his armies, for the state of society 
rendered it dangerous to entrust large forces to the command of a subject. 
In the Byzantine Empire few individuals had any scruple in violating the 

[ ] His brother-in-law Artavasdos rebelled shortly after his accession and held Constantinople 
for two veers before he could be expelled and imprisoned in a monastery.] 


[741-7G6 A.D.] 

political constitution of their country, if by so doing they could increase 
their own power. 

The incursions of the Saracens first required to be repressed. The em- 
pire of the caliphs was already distracted by the civil wars which preceded 
the fall of the Omayyad dynasty. Constantine took advantage of these 
troubles. He reconquered Germanicia and Doliche, and occupied for a time 
a considerable part of Commagene. The Saracens attempted to indemnify 
themselves for these losses by the conquest of Cyprus. This island appears 
to have been reconquered by Leo III, for it had been abandoned to the 
Mohammedans by Justinian II. The fleet of the caliph sailed from Alexandria, 
and landed an army at the port of Cerameia ; but the fleet of the Cibyraiot 
theme arrived in time to blockade the enemy's ships, and of a thousand 
Mohammedan vessels three only escaped (748 A.D.). The war was continued. 
The Saracens invaded the empire almost every summer, but these incursions 
led to no permanent conquests. The mildness and tolerant government of 
the emperor of Romania (for that name began now to be applied to the part 
of Asia Minor belonging to the Byzantine Empire) was so celebrated in the 
East, in spite of his persecution of the image-worshippers at Constantino- 
ple, that many Christians escaped by sea from the dominions of the caliph 
Almansur to settle in those of Constantine. 


The vicinity of the Bulgarians to Constantinople rendered them more 
dangerous enemies than the Saracens, though their power was much inferior. 
To resist their incursions, Constantine gradually repaired all the fortifica- 
tions of the towns on the northern frontier, and then commenced fortifying 
the passes, until the Bulgarians found their predatory incursions attended 
with loss instead of gain. The king [Kormisos] invaded the empire with a 
powerful army. The Bulgarians carried their ravages up to the long wall ; 
but though they derived assistance from the numerous Slavonian colonies 
settled in Thrace, they were defeated, and driven back into their own terri- 
tory with great slaughter (757 A.D.). 1 

Constantine was always ready to carry the war into their territory. The 
difficulties of his enterprise were great, and he suffered several defeats ; but 
his military talents and persevering energy prevented the Bulgarians from 
profiting by any partial success they obtained, and he soon regained the 
superiority. In the campaigns of 760, 763, and 765, Constantine marched 
far into Bulgaria, and carried off immense booty. In the year 766 he 
intended to complete the conquest of the country by opening tlie campaign 
at the commencement of spring. His fleet, which consisted of twenty-six 
hundred vessels, in which he had embarked a considerable body of infantry 
in order to enter the Danube, was assailed by one of those furious storms 
that often sweep the Euxine. The force which the emperor expected would 
soon render him master of Bulgaria was suddenly ruined. The shores of 
the Black Sea were covered with the wrecks of his ships and the bodies 
of his soldiers. Constantine immediately abandoned all thought of continu- 
ing the campaign, and employed his whole army in alleviating the calamity 
to the survivors, and in securing Christian burial and funeral honours to the 
dead. A truce was concluded with the enemy, and the Roman army beheld 

[} So Nicephorus* says, but Theophanes^ says they returned unmolested.] 


1766-775 A.D.] 

the emperor as eager to employ their services in the cause of humanity and 
religion, as he had ever been to lead them to the field of glory and conquest. 
His conduct on this occasion gained him as much popularity with the people 
of Constantinople as with the troops. 

In the year 774 he again assembled an army of eighty thousand men r 
accompanied by a fleet of two thousand transports, and invaded Bulgaria, 
The Bulgarian monarch [Telerig] concluded a treaty of peace — which, how- 
ever, was broken as soon as Constantine returned to his capital. But the 1 
emperor was not unprepared, and the moment he heard that the enemy had 
laid siege to Verzetia, one of the fortresses he had constructed to defend 
the frontier, he quitted Constantinople in the month of October, and, falling 
suddenly on the besiegers, routed their army with great slaughter. The fol- 
lowing year his army was again ready to take the field ; but as Constantine 
was on his way to join it he was attacked by a mortal illness, which com- 
pelled him to retrace his steps. Having embarked at Selymbria, in order to 
reach Constantinople with as little fatigue as possible, he died on board the 
vessel at the castle of Strongyle, just as he reached the walls of his capital, 
on the 23rd of September (775). 

The long war with the Bulgarians had been carried on rather with the 
object of securing tranquillity to the northern provinces of the empire, than 
from any desire of a barren conquest. The necessity of reducing the Slavo- 
nian colonies in Thrace and Macedonia to complete obedience to the central 
administration, and of secluding them from all political communication with 
one another, or with their countrymen in Bulgaria, Servia, and Dalmatia, 
imposed on the emperor the necessity of maintaining strong bodies of troops, 
and. suggested the policy of forming a line of Greek towns and Asiatic 
colonies along the northern frontier of the empire. When this was done, 
Constantine began to root out the brigandage, which had greatly extended 
itself during the anarchy which preceded his father's election, and which Leo 
had never been able to exterminate. Numerous bands lived by plunder, 
in a state of independence, within the bounds of the empire. They were 
called Skamars. Constantine rooted out these bands. A celebrated chief of 
the Skamars was publicly executed at Constantinople with the greatest bar- 
barity, his living body being dissected by surgeons after the amputation of 
his hands and feet. 

The habitual barbarity of legal punishments in the Byzantine Empire can 
hardly relieve the memory of Constantine from the reproach of cruelty, which 
this punishment proves he was ready to employ against the enemies of his 
authority, whether brigands or image-worshippers. His error, therefore, 
was not only passing laws against liberty of conscience — which was a fault 
in accordance with the spirit of the age — but in carrying these laws into 
execution with a cruelty offensive to human feelings. Yet on many occasions 
Constantine gave proofs of humanity, as well as of a desire to protect his 
subjects. The Slavonians on the coast of Thrace, having fitted out some 
piratical vessels, carried off many of the inhabitants of Tenedos, Imbros, and 
Samothrace, to sell them as slaves. The emperor on this occasion ransomed 
twenty-five hundred of his subjects, preferring to lower his own dignity by 
paying tribute to the pirates, rather than allow those who looked to him 
for protection to pine away their lives in hopeless misery. No other act 
of his reign shows so much real greatness of mind as this. He also concluded 
the convention with the Saracens for an exchange of prisoners, which has 
been already mentioned — one of the earliest examples of the exchanges 
between the Mohammedans and the Christians, which afterwards became 


[741-773 A.B.J 

frequent on the Byzantine frontiers. Man was exchanged for man, woman for 
Woman, and child for child. These conventions tended to save the lives of 
innumerable prisoners, and rendered the future wars between the Saracens 
and the Romans less barbarous. 

Constantine was active in his internal administration, and his schemes for 
improving the condition of the inhabitants of his empire were carried out 
on a far more gigantic scale than modern governments have considered prac- 
ticable. One of his plans for reviving agriculture in uncultivated districts 
was by re-peopling them with colonies of emigrants, to whom he secured 
favourable conditions and efficient protection. As usual under such circum- 
stances, we find years of famine and plenty alternating in close succession. 
Yet the bitterest enemy of Constantine, the abbot Theophanes, confesses 
that his reign was one of general abundance. It is true, he reproaches him 
with loading the husbandmen with taxes ; but he also accuses him of being 
a new Midas, who made gold so common that it became cheap. The abbot's 
political economy, it must be confessed, is not so orthodox as his calumny. 

The time and attention of Constantine, during his whole reign, were prin- 
cipally engaged in military occupations. In the eyes of his contemporaries 
he was judged by his military conduct. His strategic abilities and indefati- 
gable activity were the most striking characteristics of his administration. 
His campaigns, his financial measures, and the abundance they created, were 
known to all ; but his ecclesiastical policy affected comparatively few. Yet 
by that policy his reign has been exclusively judged and condemned in 
modern times. The grounds of the condemnation are unjust. He has not, 
like his father, the merit of having saved an empire from ruin; but he 
may claim the honour of perfecting the reforms planned by his father, and 
of re-establishing the military power of the Roman Empire on a basis that 
perpetuated Byzantine supremacy for several centuries. Hitherto historians 
have treated the events of his reign as an accidental assemblage of facts ; but 
surely, if he is to be rendered responsible for the persecution of the image- 
worshippers, in which he took comparatively little part, he deserves credit 
for his military successes and prosperous administration, since these were 
the result of his constant personal occupation. The history of his ecclesias- 
tical measures, however, really possesses a deep interest, for they reflect with 
accuracy the feelings and ideas of millions of his subjects, as well as of the 


When his power was consolidated, he steadily pursued his father's plans 
for centralising the ecclesiastical administration of the empire. To prepare 
for the final decision of the question, which probably, in his mind, related as 
much to the right of the emperor to govern the church, as to the question 
whether pictures were to be worshipped or not, he ordered the metropolitans 
and archbishops to hold provincial synods, in order to discipline the people 
for the execution of the edicts he proposed to carry in a general council of 
the Eastern church. 

This general council was convoked at Constantinople in the year 754. 
It was attended by 338 bishops, forming the most numerous assembly of the 
Christian clergy which had ever been collected together for ecclesiastical 

Neither the pope nor the patriarchs of Antioch, Alexandria, and Jeru- 
salem sent representatives to this council, which was solely composed of the 


[764-776 A.D.] 

Byzantine clergy, so that it had no right to assume the rank of an ecumen- 
ical council. Its decisions were all against image-worship, which it declared 
to be contrary to Scripture. It proclaimed the use of images and pictures 
in churches to be a pagan and anti-Christian practice, the abolition of which 
was necessary to avoid leading Christians into temptation. Even the use 
of the crucifix was condemned, on the ground that the only true symbol of 
the incarnation was the bread and wine which Christ had commanded to be 
received for the remission of sins. 

In its opposition to the worship of pictures, the council was led into the 
display of some animosity against painting itself ; and every attempt at 
embodying sacred subjects by what it styled the dead and accursed art, 
foolishly invented by the pagans, was strongly condemned. The common 
people were thus deprived of a source of ideas, which, though liable to abuse, 
tended in general to civilise their minds, and might awaken noble thoughts 
and religious aspirations. We may fully agree with the iconoclasts in the 
religious importance of not worshipping images, and not allowing the people 
to prostrate themselves on the pavements of churches before pictures of saints, 
whether said to be painted by human artists or miraculous agency ; while at 
the same time we think that the walls of the vestibules or porticoes of sacred 
edifices may with propriety be adorned with pictures representing those 
sacred subjects most likely to awaken feelings of Christian charity. It is 
by embodying and ennobling the expression of feelings common to all man- 
kind, that modern artists can alone unite in their works that combination of 
truth with the glow of creative imagination which gives a divine stamp to 
many pagan works. 

There is nothing in the circle of human affairs so democratic as art. The 
council of 754, however, deemed that it was necessary to sacrifice art to the 
purity of religion. " The godless art of painting " was proscribed. All 
who manufactured crucifixes or sacred paintings for worship, in public or 
private, whether laymen or monks, were ordered to be excommunicated by 
the church and punished by the state. At the same time, in order to guard 
against the indiscriminate destruction of sacred buildings and shrines pos- 
sessing valuable ornaments and rich plate and jewels, by iconoclastic zeal, or 
under its pretext, the council commanded that no alteration was to be made 
in existing churches, without the special permission of the patriarch and the 
emperor — a regulation bearing strong marks of the fiscal rapacity of the 
central treasury of the Roman Empire. The bigotry of the age was displayed 
in the anathema which this council pronounced against three of the most 
distinguished and virtuous advocates of image-worship, Germanus, the 
patriarch of Constantinople, George of Cyprus, and John Damascenus, the 
last of the fathers of the Greek church. The acts of this council, however, 
are only known from the garbled portions preserved by its enemies in the 
acts of the second council of Nicsea and the hostile historians. » 


Leo IV, the son of the fifth, and the father of the sixth Constantine, 
was of a feeble constitution both of mind and body, and the principal care 
of his reign was the settlement of the succession. The association of the 
young Constantine was urged by the officious zeal of his subjects ; and the 
emperor, conscious of his decay, complied, after a prudent hesitation, with 
their unanimous wishes. The royal infant, at the age of five years, was 


[776-797' A.D.] 

crowned with his mother Irene ; and the national consent was ratified by 
every circumstance of pomp and solemnity that could dazzle the eyes, or 
bind the conscience, of the Greeks. An oath of fidelity was administered 
in the palace, the church, and the hippodrome, to the several orders of the 
state, who adjured the holy names of the son and mother of God. 

The first to swear, and the first to violate their oath, were the five sons 
of Copronymus by a second marriage ; and the story of these princes is 
singular and tragic. The right of primogeniture excluded them from the 
throne ; the injustice of their elder brother defrauded them of a legacy of 
about £2,000,000 [$10,000,000]; some vain titles were not deemed a sufficient 
compensation for wealth and power ; and they repeatedly conspired against 
their nephew, before and after the death of his father (780). The first 
attempt was pardoned ; for the second offence they were condemned to the 
ecclesiastical state ; and for the third treason, Nicephorus, the eldest and 
most guilty, was deprived of his eyes, and his four brothers, Christopher, 
Nicetas, Anthemeus, and Eudoxas, were punished, as a milder sentence, by 
the amputation of their tongues. 

For himself, the emperor had chosen a barbarian wife, the daughter of 
the khan of the Khazars ; but in the marriage of his heir, he preferred an 
Athenian virgin, an orphan, seventeen years old, whose sole fortune must 
have consisted in her personal accomplishments. The nuptials of Leo and 
Irene were celebrated with royal pomp ; she soon acquired the love and con- 
fidence of a feeble husband, and in his testament he declared the empress 
guardian of the Roman world, and of their son Constantine VI, who was no 
more than ten years of age. During his childhood Irene most ably and 
assiduously discharged, in her public administration, the duties of a faithful 
mother ; and her zeal in the restoration of images has deserved the name 
and honours of a saint, which she still occupies in the Greek calendar. But 
the emperor attained the maturity of youth; the maternal yoke became 
more grievous ; and he listened to the favourites of his own age, who shared 
his pleasures and were ambitious of sharing his power. Their reasons con- 
vinced him of his right, their praises of his ability to reign ; and he consented 
to reward the services of Irene by a perpetual banishment to the isle of 
Sicily. But her vigilance and penetration easily disconcerted their rash pro- 
jects ; a similar, or more severe, punishment was retaliated on themselves 
and their advisers ; and Irene inflicted on the ungrateful prince the chastise- 
ment of a boy. After this contest the mother and the son were at the head 
of two domestic factions ; and instead of mild influence and voluntary 
obedience, she held in chains a captive and an enemy. The empress was 
overthrown by the abuse of victory ; the oath of fidelity which she exacted 
to herself alone, was pronounced with reluctant murmurs ; and the bold re- 
fusal of the Armenian guards encouraged a free and general declaration that 
Constantine VI was the lawful emperor of the Romans. In this character 
he ascended his hereditary throne, and dismissed Irene to a life of solitude 
and repose. 


A powerful conspiracy was formed for the restoration of Irene ; and the 
secret, though widely diffused, was faithfully kept above eight months, till 
the emperor, suspicious of his danger, escaped from Constantinople, with 
the design of appealing to the provinces and armies. By this hasty flight, the 
empress was left on the brink of the precipice; yet before she implored 


[776-792 A.D.] 

the mercy of her son, Irene addressed a private epistle to the friends whom she 
had placed about his person, with a menace that unless they accomplished, 
she would reveal, their treason. Their fear rendered them intrepid ; they 
seized the emperor on the Asiatic shore, and he was transported to the por- 
phyry apartment of the palace where he had first seen the light. In the 
mind of Irene, ambition had stifled every sentiment of humanity and nature; 
and it was decreed in her bloody council that Constantine should be rendered 
incapable of the throne. The blind son of Irene survived many years, 
oppressed by the court, and forgotten by the world ; the Isaurian dynasty 
was silently extinguished ; and the memory of Constantine was recalled only 
by the nuptials of his daughter Euphrosyne with the emperor Michael 11.9 


The empress was known to favour image-worship. The national vanity 
of the Greeks and the religious feelings of the orthodox required the sanc- 
tion of a constitutional public authority before the laws against image-wor- 
ship could be openly repealed. The Byzantine Empire had at this time an 
ecclesiastical though not a political constitution. The will of the sovereign 
was alone insufficient to change an organic law, forming part of the ecclesi- 
astical administration of the empire. It was necessary to convoke a general 
council to legalise image-worship ; and to render such a council a fit instru- 
ment for the proposed revolution, much arrangement was necessary. No 
person was ever endued with greater talents for removing opposition and 
conciliating personal support than the empress. The patriarch Paul, a de- 
cided iconoclast, was induced to resign, and declare that he repented of his 
hostility to image-worship, because it had cut off the church of Constantinople 
from communion with the rest of the Christian world. This declaration 
pointed out the necessity of holding a general council in order to re-establish 
that communion. 

The crisis required a new patriarch of stainless character, great ability, 
and perfect acquaintance with the party connections and individual charac- 
ters of the leading bishops. No person could be selected from among the 
dignitaries of the church who had been generally appointed by iconoclast 
emperors. The choice of Irene fell on a civilian — Tarasius, the chief secre- 
tary of the imperial cabinet, — a man of noble birth, considerable popularity, 
and a high reputation for learning and probity. 

The iconoclasts were still strong in the capital, and the opposition of the 
soldiery was excited by the determination of Tarasius to re-establish image- 
worship. They openly declared that they would not allow a council of the 
church to be held, nor permit the ecclesiastics of their party to be unjustly 
treated by the court. More than one tumult warned the empress that no 
council could be held at Constantinople. It required nearly three years to 
smooth the way for the meeting of the council, which was at length held at 
Nicsea in September, 787. Three hundred and sixty-seven members attended, 
of whom, however, not a few were abbots and monks, who assumed the title of 
confessors from having been ejected from their monasteries by the decrees 
of the iconoclast sovereigns. The secretary of the two commissioners who 
represented the imperial authority was Nicephorus the historian, subsequently 
patriarch of Constantinople. His sketch of the history of the empire, from 
the years 602 to 770, is a valuable work, and indicates that he was a man of 
judgment whenever his perceptions were not obscured by theological and 


[754-787 A.D.] 

ecclesiastical prejudices. Two other eminent Byzantine writers were also 
present. George, called Syncellus, from the office he held under the patri- 
arch Tarasius. He has left us a chronological work which hag preserved the 
knowledge of many important facts recorded by no other ancient authority. 
Theophanes, the friend and companion of the Syncellus, has continued this 
work ; and his chronography of Roman and Byzantine history, with all its 
faults, forms the best picture of the condition of the empire that we possess 
for a long period. Theophanes enjoyed the honour of becoming, at a later 
day, a confessor in the cause of image-worship. He was exiled from a 
monastery which he had founded, and died in the island of Samothrace, 
in 817 A.D. 

The second council of Nicsea had no better title than the iconoclast coun- 
cil of Constantinople to be regarded as a general council of the church. The 
pope Adrian, indeed, sent deputies from the Latin church ; but the churches 
of Jerusalem, Alexandria, and Antioch, whose patriarchs were groaning under 
the government of the caliphs, did not dare to communicate with foreign 

The second council of Nicsea authorised the worship of images as an 
orthodox practice. Forged passages, pretending to be extracts from the 
earlier fathers, and genuine quotations from the modern, were cited in favour 
of the practice. Simony was already a prevailing evil in the Greek church. 
Many of the bishops had purchased their sees, and most of these naturally 
preferred doing violence to their opinions rather than lose their revenues. 
From this cause, unanimity was easily obtained by court influence. The 
council decided, that not only was the cross an object of reverence, but also 
that the images of Christ, and the pictures of the Virgin Mary — of angels, 
saints, and holy men, whether painted in colours, or worked in embroidery 
in sacred ornaments, or formed in mosaic in the walls of churches — were all 
lawful objects of worship. At the same time, in order to guard against the 
accusation of idolatry, it was declared that the worship of an image, which 
is merely a sign of reverence, must not be confounded with the adoration 
due only to God. The council of Constantinople held in 754 was declared 
heretical, and all who maintained its doctrines, and condemned the use of 
images, were anathematised. The patriarchs Anastasius, Constantinus, and 
Nicetas were especially doomed to eternal condemnation. 

The pope adopted the decrees of this council, but he refused to confirm 
them officially, because the empress delayed restoring the estates of St. Peter's 
patrimony. In the countries of western Europe which had formed parts of 
the Western Empire, the superstitions of the image- worshippers were viewed 
with as much dissatisfaction as the fanaticism of the iconoclasts; and the 
council of Nicsea was as much condemned as that of Constantinople by a 
large body of enlightened ecclesiastics. The public mind in the West was 
almost as much divided as in the East ; and if a general council of the Latin 
church had been assembled, its unbiassed decisions would probably have been 
at variance with those supported by the pope and the council of Nicsea. 

Charlemagne published a refutation of the doctrines of this council on the 
subject of image-worship. His work, called the Caroline Books, consists of 
four parts, and was certainly composed under his immediate personal super- 
intendence, though he was doubtless incapable of writing it himself. 

The dark night of mediseval ignorance and local prejudices had not yet 
settled on the West ; nor had feudal anarchy confined the ideas and wants 
of society to the narrow sphere of provincial interests. The aspect of public 
opinion alarmed Pope Adrian, whose interests required that the relations 


[797-802 a.d.] 

of the West and East should not become friendly. His position, however, 
rendered him more suspicious of Constantine and Irene, in spite of their 
orthodoxy, than of Charlemagne, with all hia heterodox; ideas. The Frank 
monarch, though he differed in ecclesiastical opinions, was sure to be a 
political protector. The pope consequently laboured to foment the jealousy 
that reigned between the Frank and Byzantine governments concerning 
Italy, where the commercial relations of the Greeks still counterbalanced 
the military influence of the Franks. His calumnies must have sunk deep 
into the public mind, and tended to impress on western nations that aver- 
sion to the Greeks, which was subsequently increased by mercantile jealousy 
and religious strife. 


The extinction of the last traces of the su- 
premacy of the Eastern Empire at Rome was 
the most gratifying result of their machinations 
to the popes. On Christmas Day, 800 a.d., 
Charlemagne revived the existence of the West- 
ern Empire, and received the im- 
perial crown from Pope Leo III 
in the church of St. Peter. Hith- 
erto the Frank monarch had ac- 
knowledged a titular supremacy in 
the Eastern Empire, and had borne 
the title of patrician of the Roman 
Empire, as a mark of dignity con- 
ferred on him by the emperors of 
Constantinople; but he now raised 
himself to an equality with the em- 
perors of the East, by assuming the 
title of emperor of the West.™ 

On earth, the crimes of Irene 
were left five years unpunished ; 
her reign was crowned with external 
splendour ; 1 and if she could silence 
the voice of conscience, she neither 
heard nor regarded the reproaches 
of mankind. The Roman world 
bowed to the government of a fe- 
male ; and as she moved through the 
streets of Constantinople, the reins 
of four milk-white steeds were held 
by as many patricians, who marched 
on foot before the golden chariot of their queen. But these patricians were 
for the most part eunuchs ; raised, enriched, entrusted with the first dignities 
of the empire, they basely conspired against their benefactress; the great 
treasurer Nicephorus was secretly invested with the purple; her successor 

[} During the reigns of Leo IV, Constantine VI, and Irene there were frequent conflicts 
with the Saracens, the Bulgarians, and with the troops of Charlemagne, who at one time pur- 
posed to reunite the old Roman Empire by marrying Irene, on which Bury* comments that such 
a marriage of ill-assorted nations would have been followed by a speedy divorce.] 

Robes or an Archbishop, Eighth Century 


[802-813 A.D.] 

was introduced into the palace, and crowned at St. Sophia by the venal 
patriarch. In their first interview, she recapitulated with dignity the revo- 
lutions of her life, gently accused the perfidy of Nicephorus, insinuated that 
he owed his life to her unsuspicious clemency, and, for the throne and treas- 
ures which she resigned, solicited a decent and honourable retreat. His 
avarice refused this modest compensation; and in her exile oh the isle of 
Lesbos, the empress earned a scanty subsistence by the labours of her distaff. 

NICEPHORT7S (802-81L A.D.) AND MICHAEL I (812-813 A.D.) 

Many tyrants have reigned undoubtedly more criminal than Nicephorus, 
but none perhaps have more deeply incurred the universal abhorrence of 
their people. His character was stained with the three odious vices of 
hypocrisy, ingratitude, and avarice; his want of virtue was not redeemed 
by any superior talents, nor his want of talents by any pleasing qualifica- 
tions. Unskilful and unfortunate in war, Nicephorus was vanquished by 
the Saracens, and slain by the Bulgarians ; and the advantage of his death 
overbalanced, in the public opinion, the destruction of a Roman army. His 
son and heir Stauracius escaped from the field with a mortal wound : yet 
six months of an expiring life were sufficient to refute his indecent, though 
popular, declaration, that he would in all things avoid the example of his 

On the near prospect of his decease, Michael, the great master of the 
palace, and the husband of his sister Procopia, was named by every person 
of the palace and city, except by his envious brother. Tenacious of a scep- 
tre now falling from his hand, he conspired against the life of his successor, 
and cherished the idea of changing to a democracy the Roman Empire. 
But these rash projects served only to inflame the zeal of the people, and to 
remove the scruples of the candidate : Michael I accepted the purple, and 
before he sank into the grave, the son of Nicephorus implored the clemency 
of his new sovereign. Had Michael in an age of peace ascended an heredi- 
tary throne, he might have reigned and died the father of his people : but 
his mild virtues were adapted to the shade of private life, nor was he capable 
of controlling the ambition of his equals, or of resisting the arms of the 
victorious Bulgarians. While his want of ability and success exposed him 
to the contempt of the soldiers, the masculine spirit of his wife Procopia 
awakened their indignation. 

Even the Greeks of the ninth century were provoked by the insolence of 
a female who, in the front of the standards, presumed to direct their dis- 
cipline and animate their valour ; and their licentious clamours advised the 
new Semiramis to reverence the majesty of a Roman camp. After an un- 
successful campaign, the emperor left, in their winter quarters of Thrace, 
a disaffected army under the command of his enemies; and their artful 
eloquence persuaded the soldiers to break the dominion of the eunuchs, 
to degrade the husband of Procopia, and to assert the right of a military 
election. They marched towards the capital; yet the clergy, the senate, 
and the people of Constantinople adhered to the cause of Michael ; and the 
troops and treasures of Asia might have protracted the mischiefs of civil 
war. But his humanity (by the ambitious it will be termed his weakness) 
protested, that not a drop of Christian blood should be shed in his quarrel, 
and his messengers presented the conquerors with the keys of the city and 
the palace. They were disarmed by his innocence and submission ; his life 


[813-820 A.D.] 

and his eyes were spared ; and the imperial monk enjoyed the comforts of 
solitude and religion above thirty-two years after he had been stripped of the 
purple and separated from his wife. ,';<, 

LEO THE ARMENIAN (813-820 A.D.) 

A rebel in the time of Nicephorus, the famous and unfortunate Bardanes, 
had once the curiosity to consult an Asiatic prophet, who after prognosticat- 
ing his fall, announced the fortunes of his three principal officers, Leo the 
Armenian, Michael the Phrygian, and Thomas the Cappadocian, the succes- 
sive reigns of the two former, the fruitless and fatal enterprise of the third. 
This prediction was verified, or rather was produced, by the event. Ten 
years afterwards, when the Thracian camp rejected the husband of Procopia, 
the crown was presented to the same Leo, the first in military rank and 
the secret author of the mutiny. As he affected to hesitate — " with this 
sword," said his companion Michael, "I will open the gates of Constanti- 
nople to your imperial sway ; or instantly plunge it into your bosom, if you 
obstinately resist the just desires of your fellow-soldiers." The compliance 
of the Armenian was rewarded with the empire, and he reigned seven years 
and a half under the name of Leo V.ff 

Six days after his coronation, the Bulgarian king, Crumn, assailed 
Constantinople ; a plot to assassinate the Bulgarian failed, but ample revenge 
was taken in the widespread pillage and the carrying off to Bulgaria of fifty 
thousand prisoners. Crumn died while preparing a new invasion; Leo 
destroyed his army at Mesembria and ravaged Bulgaria (814). o 

Educated in a camp, and ignorant both of laws and letters, he introduced 
into his civil government the rigour and even cruelty of military discipline ; 
but if his severity was sometimes dangerous to the innocent, it was always 
formidable to the guilty. His religious inconstancy was taxed by the epithet 
of chameleon, but the Catholics have acknowledged, by the voice of a saint and 
confessors, that the life of the iconoclast 1 was useful to the republic. The zeal 
of his companion Michael was repaid with riches, honours, and military com- 
mand ; and his subordinate talents were beneficially employed in the public 
service. Yet the Phrygian was dissatisfied at receiving as a favour a scanty 
portion of the imperial prize, which he had bestowed on his equal ; and his 
discontent, which sometimes evaporated in a hasty discourse, at length 
assumed a more threatening and hostile aspect against a prince whom he 
represented as a cruel tyrant. That tyrant, however, repeatedly detected, 
warned, and dismissed the old companion of his arms, till fear and resent- 
ment prevailed over gratitude ; and Michael, after a scrutiny into his actions 
and designs, was convicted of treasons, and sentenced to be burned alive in the 
furnace of the private baths. The devout humanity of the empress Theo- 
phano was fatal to her husband and family. A solemn day, the twenty-fifth 
of December, had been fixed for the execution ; she urged that the anni- 
versary of the Saviour's birth would be profaned by this inhuman spectacle, 
and Leo consented with reluctance to a decent respite. 

On the great festivals, a chosen band of priests and chanters was admitted 
into the palace by a private gate, to sing matins in the chapel ; and Leo, 
who regulated with the same strictness the discipline of the choir and of the 
camp, was seldom absent from these early devotions. In the ecclesiastical 

[} He called a General Council which anathematised Tarasius and Nicephorus, and, repealing 
the acts of the Council of Nicasa, reasserted those of 754.] 


[820-829 A.D.] 

habit, but with swords under their robes, the conspirators mingled with the 
procession, lurked in the angles of the chapel, and expected, as the signal of 
murder, the intonation of the first psalm by the emperor himself. The 
imperfect light, and the uniformity of dress, might have favoured his escape, 
while their assault was pointed against a harmless priest ; but they soon 
discovered their mistake, and encompassed on all sides the royal victim. 
Without a weapon and without a friend, he grasped, a weighty cross, and 
stood at bay against the hunters of his life ; but as he asked for mercy, — 
" This is the hour, not of mercy, but of vengeance," was the inexorable reply. 
The stroke of a well-aimed sword separated from his body the right arm and 
the cross, and Leo the Armenian was slain at the foot of the altar. 

The Amorian Dynasty (820-867 a.d.) 

michael ii (820-829 a.d.) 

A memorable reverse of fortune was displayed in Michael II, who, from 
a defect in his speech, was surnamed the Stammerer. He was snatched from 
the fiery furnace to the sovereignty of an empire ; and as in the tumult a 
smith could not readily be found, the fetters remained on his legs several 
hours after he was seated on the throne of the Caesars. The royal blood, 
which had been the price of his elevation, was unprofitably spent ; in the 
purple he retained the ignoble vices of his origin; and Michael lost his 
provinces with as supine indifference as if they had been the inheritance of 
nis fathers. 1 His title was disputed by Thomas, the last of the military 
triumvirate, who transported into Europe fourscore thousand barbarians 
from the banks of the Tigris and the shores of the Caspian. He formed the 
siege of Constantinople ; but the capital was defended with spiritual and 
carnal weapons ; a Bulgarian king assaulted the camp of the Orientals, and 
Thomas had the misfortune, or the weakness, to fall alive into the power of 
the conqueror. The hands and feet of the rebel were amputated ; he was 
placed on an ass, and, amidst the insults of the people, was led through the 
streets, which he sprinkled with his blood. After the death of his first wife, 
the emperor, at the request of the senate, drew from her monastery Euphros- 
yne, the daughter of Constantine VI. Her august birth might justify a 
stipulation in the marriage contract that her children should equally share 
the empire with their elder brother. But the nuptials of Michael and 
Euphrosyne were barren ; and she was content with the title of mother of 
Theophilus, his son and successor. 

THEOPHILUS (829-842 A.D.) 

The character of Theophilus is a rare example in which religious zeal has 
allowed, and perhaps magnified, the virtues of a heretic and a persecutor. 
His valour was often felt by the enemies, and his justice by the subjects, of 
the monarchy ; but the valour of Theophilus was rash and fruitless, and 

[} " ' Crete and Sicily ' were conquered by the Saracens without offering the resistance that 
might have been expected from the wealth and number of their inhabitants. Indeed, we are 
compelled to infer that the change from the orthodox sway of the emperors of Constantinople to 
the domination of the Mohammedans was not considered by the majority of the Greeks of Crete 
and Sicily so severe a calamity as we generally believe." — Finlat."] 


[ A.D.] 

his justice arbitrary and cruel. He displayed the banner of the cross against 
the Saracens ; but his five expeditions were concluded by a signal over- 
throw (838); Amorium, the native city of his ancestors, was levelled with 
the ground, and from his military toils, he derived only the surname of the 
Unfortunate. The wisdom of a sovereign is comprised in the institution of 
laws and the choice of magistrates, and while he seems without action, his 
civil government revolves round his centre with the silence and order of 
the planetary system. But the justice of Theophilus was fashioned on the 
model of the oriental despots, who, in personal and irregular acts of author- 
ity, consult the reason or passion of the moment, without measuring the 
sentence by the law, or the penalty by the offence. For some venial offences, 
some defect of equity or vigilance, the principal ministers, a prefect, a 
quaestor, a captain of the guards, were banished, or mutilated, or scalded 
with boiling pitch, or burned alive in the hippodrome ; and as these dreadful 
examples might be the effects of error or caprice, they must have alienated 
from his service the best and wisest of the citizens. 

Theophilus might inflict a tardy vengeance on the assassins of Leo and 
the saviours of his father ; but he enjoyed the fruits of their crime ; and 
his jealous tyranny sacrificed a brother and a prince to the future safety of his 
life. A Persian of the race of the Sassanidse died in poverty and exile at 
Constantinople, leaving an only son, the issue of a plebeian marriage. At 
the age of twelve years, the royal birth of Theophobus was revealed, and his 
merit was not unworthy of his birth. He was educated in the Byzantine 
palace, a Christian and a soldier ; advanced with rapid steps in the career of 
fortune and glory ; received the hand of the emperor's sister ; and was pro- 
moted to the command of thirty thousand Persians, who, like his father, had 
fled from the Mohammedan conquerors. 


These troops, doubly infected with mercenary and fanatic vices, were 
desirous of revolting against their benefactor, and erecting the standard of 
their native king : but the loyal Theophobus rejected their offers, discon- 
certed their schemes, and escaped from their hands to the camp or palace of 
his royal brother. A generous confidence might have secured a faithful and 
able guardian for his wife and his infant son, to whom Theophilus, in the 
flower of his age, was compelled to leave the inheritance of the empire. But 
his jealousy was exasperated by envy and disease : he feared the dangerous 
virtues which might either support or oppress their infancy and weakness ; 
and the dying emperor demanded the head of the Persian prince. With 
savage delight he recognised the familiar features of his brother : " Thou art 
no longer Theophobus," he said ; and sinking on his couch, he added with a 
faltering voice, " Soon, too soon, I shall be no more Theophilus ! " 

Yet his last choice entrusted his wife Theodora with the guardianship of 
the empire and her son Michael, who was left an orphan in the fifth year of 
his age. The restoration of images, and the final extirpation of the Icono- 
clasts, 1 has endeared her name to the devotion of the Greeks ; but in the 
fervour of religious zeal, Theodora entertained a grateful regard for the 
memory and salvation of her husband. After thirteen years of a prudent 

[} " It is the boast of orthodox historians that ten thousand Faulicians perished in this man- 
ner. Far greater numbers, however, escaped into the province of Melitene, where the Saracen 
emir granted them protection, and assisted them to plan schemes of revenge." — Fihlay.»] 


[854-867 A.D.] 

and frugal administration, she perceived the decline of her influence ; but 
the second Irene imitated only the virtues of her predecessor. Instead of 
conspiring against the life or government of her son, she retired, without a 
struggle, though not without a murmur, to the solitude of private life, de- 
ploring the ingratitude, the vices, and the inevitable ruin of the worthless 

Among the successors of Nero and Elagabalus, we have not hitherto 
found the imitation of their vices, the character of a Roman prince who con- 
sidered pleasure as the object of life, and virtue as the enemy of pleasure. 
Whatever might have been the maternal care of Theodora in the education 
of Michael III, her unfortunate son was a king before he was a man. If 
the ambitious mother laboured to check the progress of reason, she could 
not cool the ebullition of passion ; and her selfish policy was justly repaid 
by the contempt and ingratitude of the headstrong youth. At the age of 
eighteen he rejected her authority, without feeling his own incapacity to 
govern the empire and himself. With Theodora, all gravity and wisdom 
retired from the court : their place was supplied by the alternate dominion 
of vice and folly ; and it was impossible, without forfeiting the public 
esteem, to acquire or preserve the favour of the emperor. The millions of 
gold and silver which had been accumulated for the service of the state, 
were lavished on the vilest of men, who flattered his passions and shared his 
pleasures ; and in a reign of thirteen years, the richest of sovereigns was 
compelled to strip the palace and the churches of their precious furniture. 
Like Nero, he delighted in the amusements of the theatre, and sighed to be 
surpassed in the accomplishments in which he should have blushed to excel. 
Yet the studies of Nero in music and poetry betrayed some symptoms of a 
liberal taste, ; the more ignoble arts of the son of Theophilus were confined 
to the chariot race of the hippodrome. 

But the most extraordinary feature in the character of Michael is the 
profane mockery of the religion of his country. The superstition of the 
Greeks might indeed excite the smile of a philosopher ; but his smile would 
have been rational and temperate, and he must have condemned the ignorant 
folly of a youth who insulted the objects of public veneration. A buffoon 
of the court was invested in the robes of the patriarch ; his twelve metro- 
politans, among whom the emperor was ranked, assumed their ecclesiastical 
garments ; they used or abused the sacred vessels of the altar ; and, in their 
bacchanalian feasts, the holy communion was administered in a nauseous 
compound of vinegar and mustard. Nor were these impious spectacles con- 
cealed from the eyes of the city. On the day of a solemn festival, the 
emperor, and his bishops or buffoons, rode on asses through the streets, 
encountered the true patriarch at the head of his clergy, and, by their licen- 
tious shouts and obscene gestures, disordered the gravity of the Christian 
procession. 1 The devotion of Michael appeared only in some offence to 
reason or piety; he received his theatrical crowns from the statue of the 
Virgin ; and an imperial tomb was violated for the sake of burning the 
bones of Constantine the Iconoclast. By this extravagant conduct the son of 
Theophilus became as contemptible as he was odious; every citizen was 
impatient for the deliverance of his country; and even the favourites of the 
moment were apprehensive that a caprice might snatch away what a caprice 
had bestowed. In the thirtieth year of his age, and in the hour of intoxica- 
tion and sleep, Michael III was murdered in his chamber by the founder of 

f 1 Finlay « thinks that some of these stories may be the inventions of flatterers of Michael's 
assassin and successor, Basil.] 


[867 a.d.] 

a new dynasty, whom the emperor had raised to an equality of rank and 
power. 9 

It was in his reign that Photius was illegally made Patriarch and such a 
dissension created that the Roman pope was appealed to, as is described in 
the next volume under the Papacy. In 865 also the Russians made a raid 
on Constantinople. This was their first appearance to the civilized world, 
and though they were driven off, they made a deep impression by their 
savagery. « 

The Basilian oe Macedonian Dynasty (867-1057 a.d.) 
basil (sg7-886 a.d.) 

The Arsacides, the rivals of Rome, possessed 
the sceptre of the East near four hundred years ; 
a younger branch of these Parthian kings con- 
tinued to reign in Armenia; and their royal 
descendants survived the partition and servi- 
tude of that ancient monarchy. Two of these, 
Artabanus and Chlienes, escaped or re- 
tired to the court of Leo I, his bounty 
seated them in a safe and hospitable exile, 
in the provinces of Macedonia; Hadrian- 
opolis was their final settlement. 

During several generations they main- 
tained the dignity of their birth ; and their 
Roman patriotism rejected the tempting 
offers of the Persian and Arabian powers, 
who recalled them to their native country. 
But their splendour was insensibly clouded 
by time and poverty ; and the 
father of Basil was reduced to a 
small farm, which he cultivated 
with his own hands ; yet he scorned 
to disgrace the blood of the Arsa- 
cides by a plebeian alliance; his 
wife, a widow of Hadrianopolis, 
was pleased to count among her an- 
cestors the great Constantine ; and 
their royal infant was connected by some dark affinity of lineage or country 
with the Macedonian Alexander. No sooner was he born than the cradle 
of Basil, his family, and his city,, were swept away by an inundation of 
the Bulgarians ; he was educated a slave in a foreign land ; and in this 
severe discipline he acquired the hardiness of body and flexibility of mind, 
which promoted his future elevation. In the age of youth -or manhood 
he shared the deliverance of the Roman captives, who generously broke 
their fetters, marched through Bulgaria to the shores of the Euxine, de- 
feated two armies of barbarians, embarked in the ships which had been 
stationed for their reception, and returned to Constantinople, from whence 
they were distributed to their respective homes. But the freedom of 
Basil was naked and destitute ; his farm was ruined by the calamities of 
war. After his father's death, his manual labour or service could no longer 
support a family of orphans ; and he resolved to seek a more conspicuous 

H. W. — VOL. VII. Q 

A Scholae of the Ninth Century 


[835-886 A.D.] 

theatre, in which every virtue and every vice may lead to the paths of 

The first night of his arrival at Constantinople, without friends or money, 
the weary pilgrim slept on the steps of the church of St. Diomede ; he was 
fed by the casual hospitality of a monk, and was introduced to the service of 
a cousin and namesake of the emperor Theophilus, who, though himself 
of a diminutive person, was always followed by a train of tall and handsome 
domestics. Basil attended his patron to the government of Peloponnesus ; 
eclipsed, by his personal merit, the birth and dignity of Theophilus, and 
formed a useful connection with a wealthy and charitable matron of Patras. 
Her spiritual or carnal love embraced the young adventurer, whom she 
adopted as her son. Danielis presented him with thirty slaves; and the 
produce of her bounty was expended in the support of his brothers, and 
the purchase of some large estates in Macedonia. His gratitude or ambi- 
tion still attached him to the service of Theophilus ; and a lucky accident 
recommended him to the notice of the court. 

A famous wrestler, in the train of the Bulgarian ambassadors, had defied, 
at the royal banquet, the boldest and most robust of the Greeks. The 
strength of Basil was praised ; he accepted the challenge, and the barbarian 
champion was overthrown at the first onset. A beautiful but vicious horse 
was condemned to be hamstrung ; it was subdued by the dexterity and cour- 
age of the servant of Theophilus ; and his conqueror was promoted to an 
honourable rank in the imperial stables. But it was impossible to obtain 
the confidence of Michael without complying with his vices ; and his new 
favourite, the great chamberlain of the palace, was raised and supported by 
a disgraceful marriage with a royal concubine, and the dishonour of his sister 
who succeeded to her place. 

The public administration had been abandoned to the ca?sar Bardas, the 
brother and enemy of Theodora ; but the arts of female influence persuaded 
Michael to hate and to fear his uncle ; he was drawn from Constantinople, 
under the pretext of a Cretan expedition, and stabbed in the tent of audi- 
ence, by the sword of the chamberlain and in the presence of the emperor. 
About a month after this execution, Basil was invested with the title of 
Augustus and the government of the empire. He supported this unequal 
association till his influence was fortified by popular esteem. His life was 
endangered by the caprice of the emperor ; and his dignity was profaned by 
a second colleague, who had rowed in the galleys. Yet the murder of his 
benefactor must be condemned as an act of ingratitude and treason; and 
the churches which he dedicated to the name of St. Michael were a poor 
and puerile expiation of his guilt. 

But the most solid praise of Basil is drawn from the comparison of a 
ruined and a flourishing monarchy, that, which he wrested from the dissolute 
Michael, and that which he bequeathed to the Macedonian dynasty. 1 The 
evils which had been sanctified by time and example were corrected by his 
master-hand ; and he revived, if not the national spirit, at least the order 
and majesty of the Roman Empire. His application was indefatigable, his 
temper cool, his understanding vigorous and decisive ; and in his practice he 
observed that rare and salutary moderation, which pursues each virtue at an 
equal distance between the opposite vices. His military service had been 
confined to the palace ; nor was the emperor endowed with the spirit or the 
talents of a warrior. Yet under his reign the Roman arms were again for- 

f 1 " Basil founded," says Finlay ", " the largest dynasty that ruled in the Byzantine empire."] 


[867-886 a.d.] 

raidable to the barbarians. 1 As soon as he had formed a new army by disci- 
pline and exercise, he appeared in person on the banks of the Euphrates, 
curbed, the pride of the Saracens, and suppressed the dangerous though just 
revolt of the Manichseans. 2 

But his principal merit was in the civil administration of the finances and 
of the laws. To replenish an exhausted treasury, it was proposed to resume 
the lavish and ill-placed gifts of his predecessor ; his prudence abated one 
moiety of the restitution, and a sum of £1,200,000 [16,000,000] was in- 
stantly procured to answer the most pressing demands, and to allow some 
space for the mature operations of economy. Among the various schemes 
for the improvement of the revenue, a new mode was suggested of capita- 
tion, or tribute, which would have too much depended on the arbitrary dis- 
cretion of the assessors. A sufficient list of honest and able agents was 
instantly produced by the minister; but, on the more careful scrutiny of 
Basil himself, only two could be found who might be safely entrusted with 
such dangerous powers ; and they justified his esteem by declining his confi- 
dence. But the serious and successful diligence of the emperor established 
by degrees an equitable balance of property and payment, of receipt and 
expenditure; a peculiar fund was appropriated to each service ; and a public 
method secured the interest of the prince and the property of the people. 
After reforming the luxury, he assigned two patrimonial estates to supply 
the decent plenty of the imperial table ; the contributions of the subject 
were reserved for his defence ; and the residue was employed in the embel- 
lishment of the capital and provinces. 

In the character of a judge he was assiduous and impartial, desirous to 
save, but not afraid to strike ; the oppressors of the people were severely 
chastised, but his personal foes, whom it might be unsafe to pardon, were 
condemned, after the loss of their eyes, to a life of solitude and repentance. 
The change of language and manners demanded a revision of the obsolete 
jurisprudence of Justinian. The voluminous body of his Institutes, Pan- 
dects, Code, and Novels was digested under forty titles, in the Greek idiom ; 
and the Basilica, 8 which were improved and completed by his son and grandson, 
must be referred to the genius of the original founder of their race. This 
glorious reign was terminated by an accident in the chase. A furious stag 
entangled his horns in the belt of Basil, and raised him from his horse ; he was 
rescued by an attendant, who cut the belt and slew the animal ; but the fall 
or the fever exhausted the strength of the aged monarch, and he expired in 
the palace amidst the tears of his family and people. If he struck off the head 
of the faithful servant for presuming to draw his sword against his sovereign, 
the pride of despotism, which had lain dormant in his life, revived in the 
last moments of despair, when he no longer wanted or valued the opinion 
of mankind. 

Of the four sons of the emperor, Constantine died before his father, whose 
grief and credulity were amused by a flattering impostor and a vain appari- 
tion. 4 Stephen, the youngest, was content with the honours of a patriarch 

[} The Saracens were driven out of various Italian strongholds which gave allegiance to Con- 
stantinople. But Sicily was lost in 878, and though Cyprus was regained, it was also lost again.] 

[ 2 That is, the colony o£ Paulician fugitives formed at Tephrike after the persecutions of 

[ 3 " The Basilica remained the law of the Byzantine empire," says Finlay," " till its conquest 
by the Franks, and it use as the national law of the Greeks at Nicsea, Constantinople, 
and Trebizond and in the Morea, until they were conquered by the Ottomans."] 

[* Constantine was proclaimed Augustus in 868 and died in 879. He was the eighth of the 
name according to Eckhel and the ninth according to Humphreys.] 


£886-911 A.D.] 

.and a saint ; both Leo and Alexander alike were invested with the purple, 
hut the powers of government were solely exercised by the elder brother.0 


The Saracen War continued during his reign ; the chief evils suffered 
being the loss of the second city of the empire, Thessalonica, which was 
taken after a bitter siege, 904, and sacked with great ruthlessness. Over 
twenty thousand of the inhabitants, escaping death, were sold into slavery. 
The Romans also suffered naval defeat in 912. The Bulgarians in 893 had 
forced a shameful peace on Leo.« 

The name of Leo VI has been dignified with the title of philosopher, and 
the union of the prince and the sage, of the active and speculative virtues, 
would indeed constitute the perfection of human nature. But the claims of 
Leo are far short of this ideal excellence. 

If we still inquire the reason of his sage appellation, it can only be replied 
that the son of Basil was less ignorant than the greater part of his contem- 
poraries hi church and state ; that his education had been directed by the 
learned Photius ; and that several books of profane and ecclesiastical science 
were composed by the pen, or in the name, of the imperial philosopher. But 
the reputation of his philosophy and religion was overthrown by a domestic 
vice, the repetition of his nuptials. 

In the beginning of his reign Leo himself had abolished the state of con- 
cubines, and condemned, without annulling, third marriages ; but his patri- 
otism and love soon compelled him to violate his own laws and to incur the 
penance which in a similar ease he had imposed on his subjects. In his first 
three alliances, his nuptial bed was unfruitful ; the emperor required a female 
companion and the empire a legitimate heir. The beautiful Zoe was intro- 
duced into the palace as a concubine ; and after a trial of her fecundity and 
the birth of Constantine, her lover declared his intention of legitimating the 
mother and the child by the celebration of his fourth nuptials. But the 
patriarch Nicholas refused his blessing ; the imperial baptism of the young 
prince was obtained by a promise of separation, and the contumacious hus- 
band of Zoe was excluded from the communion of the faithful. Neither the 
fear of exile, nor the desertion of his brethren, nor the authority of the Latin 
church, nor the danger of failure or doubt in the succession to the empire, 
could bend the spirit of the inflexible monk. After the death of Leo, he was 
recalled from exile to the civil and ecclesiastical administration; and the 
edict of union which was promulgated in the name of Constantine con- 
demned the future scandal of fourth marriages, and left a tacit imputation 
on his own birth. 


In the Greek language purple and porphyry are the same word ; and as the 
colours of nature are invariable, we may learn that a dark deep red was the 
Tyrian dye which stained the purple of the ancients. An apartment of 
the Byzantine palace was lined .with porphyry ; it was reserved for the use 
of the pregnant empresses; and the royal birth of their children was ex- 
pressed by the appellation of porphyrogenite, or born in the purple. Several 
of the Roman princes had been blessed with an heir ; but this peculiar sur- 
name was first applied to Constantine VII. His life and titular reign were 


[919-944 a.d.] 

of equal duration ; but of fifty-four years, six had elapsed before his father's 
death ; and the son of Leo was ever the voluntary or reluctant subject of 
those who oppressed his weakness or abused his confidence. His uncle Alex- 
ander, who had long been invested with the title of Augustus, was the first 
colleague and governor of the young prince ; but in a rapid career of vice 
and folly, the brother of Leo already emulated the reputation of Michael ; and 
when he was extinguished by a timely death, he entertained a project of 
castrating his nephew, and leaving the empire to a worthless favourite. 


The succeeding years of the minority of Constantine were occupied by 
his mother Zoe, and a succession or council of seven regents, 1 who pursued 
their interest, gratified their passions, abandoned the republic, supplanted 
each other, and finally vanished in the presence of a soldier. From an ob- 
scure origin, Romanus Lecapenus had raised himself to the command of the 
naval armies ; and in the anarchy of the times, had deserved, or at least had 
obtained, the national esteem. With a victorious and affectionate fleet, 2 he 
sailed from the mouth of the Danube into the harbour of Constantinople, 
and was hailed as the deliverer of the people, and the guardian of the prince. 
His supreme office was at first defined by the new appellation of father of 
the emperor ; but Romanus soon disdained the subordinate powers of a min- 
ister, and assumed with the titles of Caesar and Augustus the full indepen- 
dence of royalty, which he held near five-and-twenty years. His three sons, 
Christopher, Stephanus, and Constantine VIII, were adorned with the same 
honours, and the lawful emperor was degraded from the first to the fifth rank 
in this college of princes. Yet, in the preservation of his life and crown, he 
might still applaud his own fortune and the clemency of the usurper. 

The examples of ancient and modern history would have excused the 
ambition of Romanus; the powers and the laws of the empire were in his 
hand ; the spurious birth of Constantine would have justified his exclusion ; 
and the grave or '.he monastery was open to receive the son of the concu- 
bine. But Lecapenus does not appear to have possessed either the virtues 
or the vices of a tyrant. The studious temper and retirement of Constan- 
tine disarmed the jealousy of power: his books and music, his pen and 
his pencil, were a constant source of amusement ; and, if he could improve 
a scanty allowance by the sale of his pictures, if their price was not enhanced 
by the name of the artist, he was endowed with a personal talent, which 
few princes could employ in the hour of adversity. 

The fall of Romanus was occasioned by his own vices and those of his 
children. After the decease of Christopher, his eldest son, the two surviving 
brothers quarrelled with, each other, and conspired against their father. At 
the hour of noon, when all strangers were regularly excluded from the 
palace, they entered his apartment with an armed force, and conveyed him, 
in the habit of a monk, to a small island in the Propontis, which was peopled 
by a religious community. The rumour of this domestic revolution excited 

[ J During the regency the Byzantines won a battle in Caria, and invaded Saracen territory 
with success.] 

[ a According to Finlay, w Romanus had sailed away without a battle, after the land-forces had 
been crushingly defeated by the Bulgarian king, Simeon, at Achelous, 917. In 921, and again in 
923, Simeon penetrated to the walls of Constantinople. In 934 and in 9-13 the Hungarians had 
like success, being bought off on both occasions. In 963, however, they were defeated. Thj 
Italian provinces underwent similar vicissitudes.] 


[944-963 A.D.] 

a tumult in the city ; but Porphyrogenitus alone, the true and lawful em- 
peror, was the object of the public care ; and the sons of Lecapenus were 
taught, by tardy experience, that they had achieved a guilty and perilous 
enterprise for the benefit of their rival. Their sister Helena, the wife of 
Constantine, revealed, or supposed, their treacherous design of assassinating 
her husband at the royal banquet. His loyal adherents were alarmed ; and 
the two usurpers were prevented, seized, degraded from the purple, and 
embarked for the same island and monastery where their father had been so 
lately confined. Old Romanus met them on the beach with a sarcastic smile, 
and, after a just reproach of their folly and ingratitude, presented his im- 
perial colleagues with an equal share of his water and vegetable diet. 

In the fortieth year of his reign, Constantine VII obtained the posses- 
sion of the Eastern world, which he ruled, or seemed to rule, near fifteen 
years. But he was devoid of that energy of character which could emerge 
into a life of action and glory ; and the studies which had amused and dig- 
nified his leisure were incompatible with the serious duties of a sovereign. 
The emperor neglected the practice to instruct his son Romanus in the 
theory of government; while he indulged the habits of intemperance and 
sloth, he dropped the reins of the administration into the hands of Helena 
his wife ; and, in the shifting scene of her favour and caprice, each minister 
was regretted in the promotion of a more worthless successor. Yet the birth 
and misfortunes of Constantine had endeared him to the Greeks ; they ex- 
cused his failings; they respected his learning, his innocence and charity, 
his love of justice ; and the ceremony of his funeral was mourned with the 
unfeigned tears of his subjects (959). The body, according to ancient cus- 
tom, lay in state in the vestibule of the palace ; and the civil and military 
officers, the patricians, the senate, and the clergy, approached in due order 
to adore and kiss the inanimate corpse of their sovereign. Before the pro- 
cession moved towards the imperial sepulchre, a herald proclaimed this 
awful admonition : " Arise, O king of the world, and obey the summons of 
the King of kings ! " 

ROMANUS II (959-963 A.D.) 

The death of Constantine was imputed to poison ; and his son Romanus, 
who derived that name from his maternal grandfather, ascended the throne 
of Constantinople. A prince, who, at the age of twenty, could be sus- 
pected of anticipating his inheritance, must have been already lost in the 
public esteem ; yet Romanus was rather weak than wicked ; and the largest 
share of the guilt was transferred to his wife, Theophano, a woman of base 
origin, masculine spirit, and flagitious manners. The sense of personal glory 
and public happiness, the true pleasures of royalty, were unknown to the 
son of Constantine ; and while the two brothers, Nicephorus and Leo, tri- 
umphed over the Saracens, the hours which the emperor owed to his people 
were consumed in strenuous idleness. 

In strength and beauty he was conspicuous above his equals ; tall and 
straight as a young cypress, his complexion was fair and florid, his eyes 
sparkling, his shoulders broad, his nose long and aquiline. Yet even these 
perfections were insufficient to fix the love of Theophano ; and, after a reign 
of four years, Theophano mingled for her husband the same deadly draught 
which she was thought to have composed for his father. 

By his marriage with this impious woman, Romanus the Younger left two 
sons, Basil II and Constantine IX, and two daughters, Theophano and Anne. 


[963-369 A.D.] 

The elder sister was given to Otto II emperor of the West; the younger 
became the wife of Vladimir, grand duke and apostle of Russia, and, by the 
marriage of her granddaughter with Henry I, king of France, the blood of 
the Macedonians, and perhaps of the Arsacides, still flows in the veins of the 
Bourbon line. 

After the death of her husband the empress aspired to reign in the name 
of her sons, the elder of whom was five, and the younger only two years of 
age ; but she soon felt the instability of a throne which was supported by a 
female who could not be esteemed, and two infants who could not be feared. 
Theophano looked around for a protector, and threw herself into the arms of 
the bravest soldier ; her heart was capacious ; but the deformity of the new 
favourite rendered it more than probable that interest was the motive and 
excuse of her love. 


Nicephorus Phocas united, in the popular opinion, the double merit of a 
hero and saint. In the former character, his qualifications were genuine and 
splendid : the descendant of a race illustrious by their military exploits, lie 
had displayed in every station and in every province the courage of a sol- 
dier and the conduct of a chief; and Nicephorus was crowned with recent 
laurels, from the important conquest of the isle of Crete. His religion was 
of a more ambiguous cast ; and his hair-cloth, his fasts, his pious idiom, and 
his wish to retire from the business of the world, were a convenient mask 
for his dark and dangerous ambition. Yet he imposed on a holy patriarch, 
by whose influence, and by a decree of the senate, he was entrusted, during 
the minority of the young princes, with the absolute and independent com- 
mand of the oriental armies. As soon as he had secured the leaders and the 
troops, he boldly marched to Constantinople, trampled on his enemies, 
avowed his correspondence with the empress, and, without degrading her 
sons, assumed, with the title of Augustus, the pre-eminence of rank and the 
plenitude of power. But his marriage with Theophano was refused by 
the same patriarch who had placed the crown on his head; by his second 
nuptials he incurred a year of canonical penance ; a bar of spiritual affinity 
was opposed to their celebration ; and some evasion and perjury were re- 
quired to silence the scruples of the clergy and people. The popularity 
of the emperor was lost in the purple ; in a reign of six years he provoked 
the hatred of strangers and subjects, and the hypocrisy and avarice of the 
first Nicephorus were revived in his successor. In the use of his patrimony, 
the generous temper of Nicephorus had been proved, and the revenue was 
strictly applied to the service of the state ; each spring the emperor marched 
in person against the Saracens, and every Roman might compute the employ- 
ment of his taxes in triumphs, conquests, and the security of the Eastern 
barrier. 9 


The darling object of Nicephorus was to break the power of the Saracens, 
and extend the frontiers of the empire in Syria and Mesopotamia. In the 
spring of 964, he assembled an army against Tarsus, which was the fortress 
that covered the Syrian frontier. Next year (965), Nicephorus again formed 
the siege of Tarsus with an army of forty thousand men. The place was 
inadequately supplied with provisions ; and though the inhabitants were a 


[965-968 A.D.] 
warlike race, who had long carried on incursions into the Byzantine terri- 
tory, they were compelled to abandon their native city, and retire into Syria, 
carrying with them only their personal clothing. A rich cross, which the 
Saracens had taken when they destroyed the Byzantine army under Stypiotes 
in the year 877, was recovered and placed in the church of St. Sophia at 
Constantinople. The bronze gates of Tarsus and Mopsuestia, which were 
of rich workmanship, were also removed and placed by Nicephorus in the 
new citadel he had constructed to defend the palace. In the same year 
Cyprus was reconquered by an expedition under the command of the patrician 

For two years the emperor was occupied at Constantinople by the civil 
administration of the empire, by a threatened invasion of the Hungarians, 
and by disputes with the king of Bulgaria; but in 968 he again resumed 
the command of the army in the East. Early in spring he marched past 
Antioch at the head of eighty thousand men, and without stopping to besiege 
that city, he rendered himself master of the fortified places in its neighbour- 
hood, in order to cut it off from all relief from the caliph of Baghdad. He 
then pushed forward his conquests ; Laodicea, Hierapolis, Aleppo, Area, and 
Emesa were taken, and Tripolis and Damascus paid tribute to save their 
territory from being laid waste. In this campaign many relics were sur- 
rendered by the Mohammedans. In consequence of the approach of winter, 
the emperor led his army into winter quarters, and deferred forming the 
siege of Antioch until the ensuing spring. He left the patrician Burtzes in 
a fort on the Black Mountain, with orders to watch the city and prevent the 
inhabitants from collecting provisions and military stores. The remainder 
of the army, under the command of Peter, was stationed in Cilicia. As he 
was anxious to reserve to himself the glory of restoring Antioch to the 
empire, he ordered his lieutenants not to attack the city during his absence. 
But one of the spies employed by Burtzes brought him the measure of the 
height of a tower which it was easy to approach, and the temptation to take 
the place by surprise was not to be resisted. Accordingly, on a dark winter 
night while there was a heavy fall of snow, Burtzes placed himself at 
the head of three hundred chosen men, and gained possession of two of the 
towers of Antioch. He immediately sent off a courier to Peter, requesting 
him to advance and take possession of the city ; but Peter, from fear of the 
emperor's jealousy, delayed moving to the assistance of Burtzes for three 
days. During this interval, however, Burtzes defended himself against 
the repeated attacks of the whole population, though with great difficulty. 
The Byzantine army at length arrived, and Antioch was annexed to the 
empire after having remained 328 years in the power of the Saracens. The 
emperor Nicephorus, instead of rewarding Burtzes for his energy, dismissed 
both him and Peter from their commands. 

The Fatimite caliph Moez reigned at Kairowan, and was already contem- 
plating the conquest of Egypt. Nicephorus not only refused to pay him the 
tribute of eleven thousand gold byzants, stipulated by Romanus I, but even 
sent an expedition to wrest Sicily from the Saracens. The chief command 
was entrusted to Nicetas, who had conquered Cyprus ; and the army, con- 
sisting chiefly of cavalry, was more particularly placed under the orders of 
Manuel Phocas, the emperor's cousin, a daring officer. The troops were 
landed on the eastern Coast, and Manuel rashly advanced, until he was sur- 
rounded by the enemy and slain. Nicetas also had made so little preparation 
to defend his position that his camp was stormed and he himself taken pris- 
oner and sent to Africa. 


[965-969 a.d.] 

The affairs of Italy were, as usual, embroiled by local causes. Otto, the 
emperor of the West, appeared at the head of an army in Apulia, and having 
secured the assistance of Pandulf, prince of Beneventum, called Ironhead, 
carried on the war with frequent vicissitudes of fortune. Ironhead was 
taken prisoner by the Byzantine general, and sent captive to Constantinople. 
But the tyrannical conduct of the Byzantine officials lost all that was gained 
by the superior discipline of the troops, and favoured the progress of the 
German arms. Society had fallen into such a state of isolation that men 
were more eager to obtain immunity from all taxation than protection for 
industry and property, and the advantages of the Byzantine administration 
ceased to be appreciated. 

The European provinces of the empire were threatened with invasion both 
by the Hungarians and Bulgarians. In 966 Nicephorus was apprised of the 
intention of the Hungarians, and he solicited the assistance of Peter, king of 
Bulgaria, to prevent their passing the Danube. Peter refused, for he had 
been compelled to conclude a treaty of peace with the Hungarians, who 
had invaded Bulgaria a short time before. It is even said that Peter took 
advantage of the difficulty in which Nicephorus appeared to be placed, by 
the numerous wars that occupied his troops, to demand payment of the tribute 
Romanus I had promised to Simeon. Nicephorus, in order to punish the 
insolence of one whom he regarded as his inferior, sent Calocyres, the son of 
the governor of Cherson, as ambassador to Russia, to invite Sviatoslaff, the 
Varangian prince of Kieff, to invade Bulgaria, and entrusted him with a sum 
of fifteen hundred pounds' weight of gold, to pay the expenses of the expe- 
dition. Calocyres proved a traitor : he formed an alliance with Sviatoslaff, 
proclaimed himself emperor, and involved the empire in a bloody war with 
the Russians. 

With all his defects, Nicephorus was one of the most virtuous men and 
conscientious sovereigns that ever occupied the throne of Constantinople. 
Though born of one of the noblest and wealthiest families of the Eastern 
Empire, and sure of obtaining the highest offices at a proud and luxurious 
court, he chose a life of hardship in pursuit of military glory ; and a con- 
temporary historian, Leo Diaconus,o who wrote after his family had been 
ruined by proscription and his name had become odious, observes, that no one 
had ever seen him indulge in revelry or debauchery even in his youth.'* 

Among the warriors who promoted his elevation, and served under his 
standard, a noble and valiant Armenian had deserved and obtained the most 
eminent rewards. The stature of Joannes Zimisces was below the ordinary 
standard ; but this diminutive body was endowed with strength, beauty, and 
the soul of a hero. By the jealousy of the emperor's brother, he was degraded 
from the office of general of the East, to that of director of the posts, and 
his murmurs were chastised with disgrace and exile. But Zimisces was 
ranked among the numerous lovers of the empress. On her intercession he 
was permitted to reside at Chalcedon, in the neighbourhood of the capital ; 
her bounty was repaid in his clandestine and amorous visits to the palace ; 
and Theophano consented with alacrity to the death of an ugly and penurious 
husband. Some bold and trusty conspirators were concealed in her most 
private chambers ; in the darkness of a winter night Zimisces, with his prin- 
cipal companions, embarked in a small boat, traversed the Bosporus, landed 
at the palace stairs, and silently ascended a ladder of ropes, which was east 
down by the female attendants. Neither his own suspicions, nor the warn- 
ings of his friends, nor the tardy aid of his brother Leo, nor the fortress 
which he had erected in the palace, could protect Nicephorus from a domestic 


foe, at whose voice every door was opened to the assassins. As he slept on 
a bearskin on the ground, he was roused by their noisy intrusion, and thirty 
daggers glittered before his eyes. 

It is doubtful whether Zimisces imbrued his hands in the blood of his 
sovereign ; but he enjoyed the inhuman spectacle of revenge. The murder 
was protracted by insult and cruelty ; and as soon as the head of Nicephorus 
was shown from the window, the tumult was hushed, and the Armenian was 
emperor of the East. On the day of his coronation, he was stopped on the 
threshold of St. Sophia by the intrepid patriarch ; who charged his conscience 
with the deed of treason and blood ; and required, as a sign of repentance, 
that he should separate himself from his more criminal associate. This sally 
of apostolical zeal was not offensive to the prince, since he could neither love 
nor trust a woman who had repeatedly violated the most sacred obligations , 
and Theophano, instead of sharing his imperial fortune, was dismissed with 
ignominy from his bed and palace. 

In their last interview, she displayed a frantic and impotent rage ; accused 
the ingratitude of her lover ; assaulted with words and blows her son Basil, 
as he stood silent and submissive in the presence of a superior colleague ; and 
avowed her own prostitution in proclaiming the illegitimacy of his birth. 
The public indignation was appeased by her exile and the punishment of the 
meaner accomplices ; the death of an unpopular prince was forgiven ; and 
the guilt of Zimisces was forgotten in the splendour of his virtues. Perhaps 
his profusion was less useful to the state than the avarice of Nicephorus ; 
but his gentle and generous behaviour delighted all who approached his 
person ; and it was only in the paths of victory that he trod in the footsteps 
of his predecessor. The greatest part of his reign was employed in the camp 
and the field. His personal valour and activity were signalised on the Dan- 
ube and the Tigris, the ancient boundaries of the Roman world ; and by his 
double triumph over the Russians and the Saracens, he deserved the titles of 
saviour of the empire and conqueror of the East.? 



[969-1204 a.d.] 

The Russian war was the great event of the reign of Joannes Zimisces. 
The military fame of the Byzantine emperor, who was unquestionably the 
ablest general of his time, the greatness of the Russian nation, whose power 
now overshadows Europe, the scene of the contest, destined in our day to be 
again the battle-field of Russian armies, and the political interest which 
attaches to the first attempt of a Russian prince to march by land to Con- 
stantinople, all combine to give a practical as well as a romantic interest 
to this war. 

The first Russian naval expedition against Constantinople in 865 would 
probably have been followed by a series of plundering excursions, like those 
carried on by the Danes and Normans on the coasts of England and France, 
had not the Turkish tribe called the Patzinaks rendered themselves masters of 
the lower course of the Dnieper, and become instruments in the hands of the 
emperors to arrest the activity of the bold Varangians. The northern rulers 
of Kieff were the same rude warriors that infested England and France, but 
the Russian people was then in a more advanced state of society than the mass 
of the population in Britain and Gaul. The majority of the Russians were 
freemen ; the majority of the inhabitants of Britain and Gaul were serfs. 

After the defeat in 865, the Russians induced their rulers to send envoys 
to Constantinople to renew commercial intercourse, and invite Christian 
missionaries to visit their country ; and no inconsiderable portion of the peo- 
ple embraced Christianity, though the Christian religion continued long after 
better known to the Russian merchants than to the Varangian warriors. 
The commercial relations of the Russians with Cherson and Constantinople 
were now carried on directly, and numbers of Russian traders took up their 
residence in these cities. The first commercial treaty between the Russians 
of Kieff and the Byzantine Empire was concluded in the reign of Basil I. 
The intercourse increased from that time. In the year 902, seven hundred 
Russians are mentioned as serving on board the Byzantine fleet with high 
pay ; in 935, seven Russian vessels, with 415 men, formed part of a Byzan- 
tine expedition to Italy ; and in 949, six Russian vessels, with 629 men, were 
engaged in the unsuccessful expedition of Gongyles against Crete. In 966, 



[907-944 A.D.] 

a corps of Russians accompanied the unfortunate expedition of Nicetas to 
Sicily. There can be no doubt that these were all Varangians, familiar, like 
the Danes and Normans in the West, with the dangers of the sea, and not 
native Russians, whose services on board the fleet could have been of little 
value to the masters of Greece. 

But to return to the history of the Byzantine wars with the Russians. 
In the year 907, Oleg, who was regent of Kieff during the minority of Igor 
the son of Ruric, assembled an army of Varangians, Slavonians, and Croa- 
tians, and, collecting two thousand vessels or boats of the kind then used on 
the northern shore of the Euxine, advanced to attack Constantinople. The 
exploits of this army, which pretended to aspire at the conquest of Tzara- 
grad, or the City of the Cassars, were confined to plundering the country 
round Constantinople ; and it is not improbable that the expedition was 
undertaken to obtain indemnity for some commercial losses sustained by 
imperial negligence, monopoly, or oppression. The subjects of the emperor 
were murdered, and the Russians amused themselves with torturing their 
captives in the most barbarous manner. At length Leo purchased their 
retreat by the payment of a large sum of money. Such is the account trans- 
mitted to us by the Russian monk Nestor, for no Byzantine writer notices 
the expedition, which was doubtless nothing more than a plundering incur- 
sion, in which the city of Constantinople was not exposed to any danger. 
These hostilities were terminated by a commercial treaty in 912, and its con- 
ditions are recorded in detail by Nestor. 

In the year 941, Igor made an attack on Constantinople, impelled either 
by the spirit of adventure, which was the charm of existence among all the 
tribes of Northmen, or else roused to revenge by some violation of the treaty 
of 912. The Russian flotilla, consisting of innumerable small vessels, made 
its appearance in the Bosporus while the Byzantine fleet was absent in the 
Archipelago. Igor landed at different places on the coast of Thrace and 
Bithynia, ravaging and plundering the country ; the inhabitants were treated 
with incredible cruelty ; some were crucified, others were burned alive, the 
Greek priests were killed by driving nails into their heads, and the churches 
were destroyed. Only fifteen ships remained at Constantinople, but these 
were soon fitted up with additional tubes for shooting Greek fire. This 
force, trifling as it was in number, gave the Byzantines an immediate superi- 
ority at sea, and the patrician Theophanes sailed out of the port to attack 
the Russians. Igor, seeing the small number of the enemy's ships, sur- 
rounded them on all sides, and endeavoured to carry them by boarding ; but 
the Greek fire became only so much more available against boats and men 
crowded together, and the attack was repulsed with fearful loss. In the 
meantime, some of the Russians who landed in Bithynia were defeated by 
Bardas Phocas and Joannes Curcuas, and those who escaped from the naval 
defeat were pursued and slaughtered on the coast of Thrace without mercy. 
The emperor Romanus ordered all the prisoners brought to Constantinople 
to be beheaded. Theophanes overtook the fugitive ships in the month of 
September, and the relics of the expedition were destroyed, Igor effecting 
his escape with only a few boats. The Russian chronicle of Nestor says that, 
in the year 944, Igor, assisted by other Varangians, and by the Patzinaks, 
prepared a second expedition, but that the inhabitants of Cherson so alarmed 
the emperor Romanus by their reports of its magnitude, that he sent ambas- 
sadors, who met Igor at the mouth of the Danube, and sued for peace on 
terms to which Igor and his boyards consented. This is probably merely a 
salve applied to the vanity of the people of Kieff by their chronicler ; but it 


[914-970 AJ}.] 

is certain that a treaty of peace was concluded between the emperors of 
Constantinople and the princes of Kieff in the year 945. 

The cruelty of the Varangian prince Igor, after his return to Russia, 
caused him to be murdered by his rebellious subjects. 1 Olga, his widow, 
became regent for their son Sviatoslaff. She embraced the Christian reli- 
gion, and visited Constantinople in 957, where she was baptized. The 
emperor Constantine Porphyrogenitus has left us an account of the cere- 
mony of her reception at the Byzantine court. A Russian monk has pre- 
served the commercial treaties of the empire ; a Byzantine emperor records 
the pageantry that amused a Russian princess. The high position occupied 
by the court of Kieff in the tenth century is also attested by the style with 
which it was addressed by the court of Constantinople. The golden bulls of 
the Roman emperor of the East, addressed to the prince of Russia, were 
ornamented with a pendent seal equal in size to a double solidus, like those 
addressed to the kings of France. 

THE RUSSIAN WAE (970-971 A.D.) 

We have seen that the emperor Nicephorus II sent the patrician Calo- 
cyresto excite Sviatoslaff to invade Bulgaria, and that the Byzantine ambas- 
sador proved a traitor, and assumed the purple. Sviatoslaff soon invaded 
Bulgaria at the head of a powerful army, which the gold brought by Calo- 
cyres assisted him to equip, and defeated the Bulgarian army in a great 
battle, 968 A.D. Peter, king of Bulgaria, died shortly after, and the coun- 
try was involved in civil broils ; taking advantage of which, Sviatoslaff took 
Presthlava the capital, and rendered himself master of the whole kjngdom. 

Nicephorus now formed an alliance with the Bulgarians, and was prepar- 
ing to defend them against the Russians, when Sviatoslaff was compelled to 
return home, in order to defend his capital against the Patzinaks. Nicepho- 
rus assisted Boris and Romanus, the sons of Peter, to recover Bulgaria, and 
concluded an offensive and defensive alliance with Boris, who occupied the 
throne. After the assassination of Nicephorus, Sviatoslaff returned to invade 
Bulgaria with an army of sixty thousand men, and his enterprise assumed the 
character of one of those great invasions which had torn whole provinces from 
the Western Empire. His army was increased by a treaty with the Patzinaks 
and an alliance with the Hungarians, so that they began to dream of the con- 
quest of Constantinople, and hoped to transfer the empire of the East from 
the Romans of Byzantium to the Russians. It was fortunate for the Byzan- 
tine Empire that it was ruled by a soldier who knew how to profit by its supe- 
riority in tactics and discipline. The Russian was not ignorant of strategy, 
and having secured his flank by his alliance with the Hungarians, he entered 
Thrace by the western passes of Mount Hsemus, then the most frequented 
road between Germany and Constantinople, and that by which the Hungari- 
ans were in the habit of making their plundering incursions into the empire. 

Joannes Zimisces was occupied in the East when Sviatoslaff completed the 
second conquest of Bulgaria and passed Mount Haemus, expecting to subdue 
Thrace during the emperor's absence with equal ease, 970 a.d. The empire 
was still suffering from famine. Sviatoslaff toqk Philippopolis, and mur- 
dered twenty thousand of the inhabitants. An embassy sent by Zimisces 
was dismissed with a demand of tribute, and the Russian army advanced to 

1 Leo DiaconusS calls his murderers Germans, meaning doubtless Northmen. 


[970-971 A.D.] 

Arcadiopolis, where one division was defeated by Bardas Sclerus, and the 
remainder retired again behind Mount Haemus. 

In the following spring, 971, the emperor Joannes took the field at the head 
of an army of fifteen thousand infantry and thirteen thousand cavalry, be- 
sides a body-guard of chosen troops called the Immortals, and a powerful 
battery of field and siege engines. 1 A fleet of three hundred galleys, attended 
by many smaller vessels, was despatched to enter the Danube and cut off the 
communications of the Russians with their own country. 2 

The emperor Joannes marched from Hadrianopolis just before Easter, when 
it was not expected that a Byzantine emperor would take the field. He knew 
that the passes on the great eastern road had been left unguarded by the Rus- 
sians, and he led his army through all the defiles of Mount Hsemus without 

encountering any difficulty. The 
Russian troops stationed at Presth- 
lava, who ought to have guarded the 
passes, marched out to meet the 
emperor when they heard he had 
entered Bulgaria. Their whole army 
consisted of infantry, but the soldiers 
were covered with chain armour, 
and accustomed to resist the light 
cavalry of the Patzinaks and other 
Turkish tribes. 3 They proved, how- 
ever, no match for the heavy-armed 
lancers of the imperial army; and, 
after a vigorous resistance, were com- 
pletely routed by Joannes Zimisces, 
leaving eighty-five hundred men on 
the field of battle. On the following 
day Presthlava was taken by escalade, 
and a body of seven thousand Rus- 
sians and Bulgarians, who attempted 
to defend the royal palace, which 
was fortified as a citadel, were put 
to the sword after a gallant defence. Sphengelos, who commanded this 
division of the Russian force, and the traitor Calocyres, succeeded in escaping 
to Dorystolon, where Sviatoslaff had concentrated the rest of the army; 
but Boris, king of Bulgaria, with all his family, was taken prisoner in his 

The emperor, after celebrating Easter in Presthlava, advanced by Plis- 
cova and Dinea to Dorystolon, where Sviatoslaff still hoped for victory, 
though his position was becoming daily more dangerous. The Byzantine 
fleet entered the Danube and took up its station opposite the city, cutting 
off all the communications of the Russians by water, at the same time that 
the emperor encamped before the walls and blockaded them by land. Zim- 
isces, knowing he had to deal with a desperate enemy, fortified his camp with 

1 These numbers are given by Leo Diaconus.6 Cedrenusc gives five thousand infantry and 
four thousand cavalry; Zonaras,"! the same number. The proportion affords some insight into 
the constitution of Byzantine armies at this period of military glory. The cavalry served as the 
model for European chivalry, but the sword of the legionary could still gain a battle. 

2 Leo Diaconus i> calls the larger vessels triremes, though they certainly had not more than 
two tiers of oars. 

8 The Russians then wore armour similar to that worn by the Normans in western Europe 
at a later period, according to Leo Diaconus.6 

Types of early Chain Armour. 


[971 A.D.] 

a ditch and rampart according to the old Roman model, which was tradi- 
tionally preserved by the Byzantine engineers. The Russians enclosed 
within the walls of Dorystolon were more numerous than their besiegers, and 
Sviatoslaff hoped to be able to open his communications with the surround- 
ing country, by bringing on a general engagement in the plain before all the 
defences of the enemy's camp were completed. He expected to defeat the 
attacks of the Byzantine cavalry by forming his men in squares, and, as 
the Russian soldiers were covered by long shields that reached to their feet, 
he expected to be able, by advancing his squares like moving towers, to clear 
the plain of the enemy. But while the Byzantine legions met the Russians 
in front, the heavy-armed cavalry assailed them with their long spears in 
flank, and the archers and slingers under cover watched coolly to transfix 
every man where an opening allowed their missiles to penetrate. The battle 
nevertheless lasted all day, but in the evening the Russians were compelled, 
in spite of their desperate valour, to retire into Dorystolon without having 
effected anything. 

The infantry of the north now began to feel its inferiority to the veterar 
cavalry of Asia sheathed in plate, armour, and disciplined by long campaigns 
against the Saracens. Sviatoslaff, however, continued to defend himself by 
a series of battles rather than sorties, in which he made desperate efforts to 
break through the ranks of the besiegers in vain, until at length it became 
evident that he must either conclude peace, die on the field of battle, or be 
starved to death in Dorystolon. Before resigning himself to his fate, he 
made a last effort to cut his way through the Byzantine army ; and on this 
occasion the Russians fought with such desperation that contemporaries 
ascribed the victory of the Byzantine troops, not to the superior tactics of the 
emperor, nor to the discipline of a veteran army, but to the personal assistance 
of St. Theodore, who found it necessary to lead the charge of the Roman 
lancers, and shiver a spear with the Russians himself, before their phalanx 
could be broken. The victory was complete, and Sviatoslaff sent ambas- 
sadors to the emperor to offer terms of peace. 

The siege of Dorystolon had now lasted more than two months, and the 
Russian army, though reduced by repeated losses, still amounted to twenty- 
two thousand men. The valour and contempt of death which the Varangians 
had displayed iii the contest, convinced the emperor that it would cause the 
loss of many brave veterans to insist on their laying down their arms ; he 
was therefore willing to come to terms, and peace was concluded on condition 
that Sviatoslaff should yield up Dorystolon, with all the plunder, slaves, and 
prisoners in possession of the Russians, and engage to swear perpetual amity 
with the empire, and never to invade either the territory of Cherson or the 
kingdom of Bulgaria ; while, on the other hand, the emperor Joannes en- 
gaged to allow the Russians to descend the Danube in their boats, to supply 
them with two medimni of wheat for each surviving soldier to enable them to 
return home without dispersing to plunder for their subsistence, and to renew 
the old commercial treaties between Kieff and Constantinople, July, 971. 

After the treaty was concluded, Sviatoslaff desired to have a personal 
interview with his conqueror. Joannes rode down to the bank of the 
Danube clad in splendid armour, and accompanied by a brilliant suite of 
guards on horseback. The short figure of the emperor was no disadvantage 
where he was distinguished by the beauty of his charger and the splendour 
of his arms, while his fair countenance, light hair, and piercing blue eyes 
fixed the attention of all on his bold and good-humoured face, which con- 
trasted well with the dark, sombre visages of his attendants. Sviatoslaff 


[971-988 A.D.] 

arrived by water in a boat, which he steered himself by an oar. His dress 
was white, differing in no way from that of those under him, except in 
being cleaner. Sitting in the stern of his boat, he conversed for a short time 
with the emperor, who remained on horseback close to the beach. The ap- 
pearance of the bold Varangian excited much curiosity, and is thus described 
by a historian who was intimate with many of those who were present at the 
interview : The Russian was of the middle stature, well formed, with strong 
neck and broad chest. His eyes were blue, his eyebrows thick, his nose flat, 
and his beard shaved, but his upper lip was shaded with long and thick 
mustaches. The hair of his head was cropped close, except two long locks 
which hung down on each side of his face, and were thus worn as a mark of 
his Scandinavian race. In his ears he wore golden earrings. 

Sviatoslaff immediately quitted Dorystolon, but he was obliged to win- 
ter on the shores of the Euxine, and famine thinned his ranks. In spring he 
attempted to force his way through the territory of the Patzinaks with his 
diminished army. He was defeated, and perished near the cataracts of the 
Dnieper. Kour, prince of the Patzinaks, became the possessor of his skull, 
which he shaped into a drinking-cup, and adorned with the moral maxim, 
doubtless not less suitable to his own skull, had it fallen into the hands of 
others, " He who covets the property of others, oft loses his own." We have 
already had occasion to record that the skull of the Byzantine emperor, 
Nicephorus I, had ornamented the festivals of a Bulgarian king ; that of a 
Russian sovereigu now figured in the tents of a Turkish tribe. 

The results of the campaign were as advantageous to the Byzantine Empire 
as they were glorious to the emperor Joannes. Bulgaria was conquered, a 
strong garrison established in Dorystolon, and the Danube once more became 
the frontier of the Roman Empire. The peace with the Russians was uninter- 
rupted until about the year 988, when, from some unknown cause of quarrel, 
Vladimir the son of Sviatoslaff attacked and gained possession of Cherson 
by cutting off the water. 

The Greek city of Cherson, situated on the extreme verge of ancient 
civilisation, escaped for ages from the impoverishment and demoralisation 
into which the Hellenic race was precipitated by the Roman system of con- 
centrating all power in the capital of the empire. Cherson was governed 
for centuries by its own elective magistrates, and it was not until towards 
the middle of the ninth century that the emperor Theophilus destroyed its 
independence. "When Vladimir the sovereign of Russia attacked it in 988, 
it was betrayed into his hands by a priest, who informed him how to cut 
off the water. The great object of ambition of all the princes of the East, 
from the time of Heraclius to that of the last Comnenus of Trebizond, was 
to form matrimonial alliances with the imperial family. Vladimir obtained 
the hand of Anne, the sister of the emperors Basil II and Constantine IX, 
and was baptized and married in the church of the Panaghia at Cherson. 
To soothe the vanity of the empire, he pretended to retain possession of his 
conquest as the dowry of his wife. Many of the priests who converted the 
Russians to Christianity, and many of the artists who adorned the earliest 
Russian churches with paintings and mosaics, were natives of Cherson. The 
church raised Vladimir to the rank of a saint; the Russians conferred on 
him the title of " the great." 

Joannes Zimisces, having terminated the Russian War, compelled Boris to 
resign the crown of Bulgaria, and accept the title of " magister," as a pen- 
sioner of the Byzantine court. The frontier of the Eastern Empire was 
once more extended to the Danube. 


[972-975 a.d.] 


The Saracen War had heen carried on vigorously on the frontiers of 
Syria, while the emperor Joannes was occupied with the Russian campaign. 
The continued successes of the Byzantine arms had so alarmed the Moham- 
medan princes, that an extensive confederacy was formed to recover Antioch, 
and the command of the army of the caliph was entrusted to Zoher, the 
lieutenant of the Fatimites in Egypt. The imperial army was led by the 
patrician Nicolaus, a man of great military skill, who had been a eunuch 
in the household of Joannes Zimisces ; and he defeated the Saracens in a 
pitched battle, and saved Antioch for a time. But in the following year 
(973) the conquest of Nisibis filled the city of Baghdad with such conster- 
nation, that a levy of all Mussulmans was ordered to march against the 
Christians. The Byzantine troops in Mesopotamia were commanded by an 
Armenian named Temelek Melchi, who was completely routed near Amida. 
He was himself taken prisoner, and died after a year's confinement. 

With all his talents as a general, Joannes does not appear to have pos- 
sessed the same control over the general administration as Nicephorus ; and 
many of the cities conquered by his predecessor, in which the majority of the 
inhabitants were Mohammedans, succeeded in throwing off the Byzantine 
yoke. Even Antioch declared itself independent. A great effort became 
necessary to regain the ground that had been lost ; and, to make this, Joannes 
Zimisces took the command of the Byzantine army in person in the year 
974. He marched in one campaign from Mount Taurus to the banks of the 
Tigris, and from the banks of the Tigris back into Syria, as far as Mount 
Lebanon, carrying his victorious arms, according to the vaunting inaccuracy 
of the Byzantine geographical nomenclature, into Palestine. His last cam- 
paign, in the following year, was the most brilliant of his exploits. In 
Mesopotamia he regained possession of Amida and Martyropolis ; but these 
cities contained so few Christian inhabitants that he was obliged to leave 
the administration in the hands of Saracen emirs, who were charged with 
the collection of the tribute and taxes. Nisibis he found deserted, and from 
it he marched by Edessa to Hierapolis or Membig, where he captured many 
valuable relics, among which the shoes of Jesus, and the hair of John the 
Baptist, are especially enumerated. From Hierapolis Joannes marched to 
Apamea, Emesa, and Baalbec, without meeting any serious opposition. The 
emir of Damascus sent valuable presents, and agreed to pay an annual trib- 
ute to escape a visit. 

The emperor then crossed Mount Lebanon, storming the fortress of 
Borzo, which commanded the pass, and, descending to the sea-coast, laid 
siege to Berytus, which soon surrendered, and in which he found an image 
of the crucifixion that he deemed worthy of being sent to Constantinople. 
From Berytus he marched northward to Tripolis, which he besieged in vain 
for forty days. The valour of the garrison and the strength of the fortifica- 
tions compelled nim to raise the siege ; but his retreat was ascribed to fear 
of a comet, which illuminated the sky with a strange brilliancy. As it was 
now September, he wished to place his worn-out troops in winter quarters 
in Antioch ; but the inhabitants shut the gates against him. To punish 
them for their revolt, he had the folly to ravage their territory, and cut 
down their fruit trees; forgetting, in his barbarous and impolitic revenge, 
that he was ruining his own empire. Burtzes was left to reconquer Antioch 
for the second time ; which, however, he did not effect until after the death 
of the emperor Joannes. 

H. W. — VOL. VII. R 


[975-976 A.D.] 

The army was then placed in winter quarters on the frontiers of Cilicia, 
and the emperor hastened to return to Constantinople. On the journey, as 
he passed the fertile plains of Longias and Dryze, in the vicinity of Ana- 
zarba and Podandus, he saw them covered with flocks and herds, with well- 
fortified farmyards, but no smiling villages. He inquired with wonder to 
whom the country belonged, in which pasturage was conducted on so grand 
a scale ; and he learned that the greater part of the province had been 
acquired by the president Basilios in donations from himself and his prede- 
cessor, Nicephorus. Amazed at the enormous accumulation of property in 
the hands of one individual, he exclaimed, "Alas ! the wealth of the empire 
is wasted, the strength of the armies is exhausted, and the Roman emperors 
toil like mercenaries, to add to the riches of an insatiable eunuch ! " This 
speech was reported to the president. He considered that he had raised 
both Nicephorus and Joannes to the throne ; his interest now required that 
it should return to its rightful master, and that the young Basil should enjoy 
his heritage. The emperor Joannes stopped on his way to Constantinople 
at the palace of Romanus, a grandson of Romanus I ; and it is said he there 
drank of a poisoned cup presented to him by a servant gained by the presi- 
dent. Certain it is that Joannes Zimisces reached the capital in a dying 
state, and expired on the 10th of January, 976, at the age of fifty-one. « 


"The period of greatest Byzantine power," says Gelzer,/ "is reached in 
the reigns of Nicephorus II (963-969), Joannes Zimisces (969-976), and 
Basil Bulgaroctonus (976-1025)." Finlaye also calls it the "Period of 
Conquest and Military Glory." That the glory was understood at the time 
is evident from the enthusiastic outbursts of the anonymous continuator of 
Georgius Monachus.0 Of Nicephorus Phocas he says, "Then Phocas flashed 
like lightning and stormed against the enemies of the Romans. He ravaged, 
burned, and led into captivity the cities and lands of the barbarians. 
Myriads of foreign lands he smote, and broadened the realm and the might 
of the Romans. The Arabs trembled, the Armenians and Syrians shook, 
the Saracens were scared and the Turks took flight ; and the Romans seized 
their strongholds and provinces, and Phocas' name was fearful to all." Of 
Zimisces the same chronicler is equally enthusiastic : " And the nations 
were in great fright before Zimisces' fury. And he spread the realm of the 
Romans abroad ; the Saracens and Armenians fled ; the Persians shook and 
from all sides brought him gifts ; they begged him for mercy and peace. He 
led even to Edessa and to the river Euphrates ; and the earth was full of the 
tents of the Romans. Syrians and Phoenicians were trampled by the Roman 
steeds. He fetched home mighty victories, and the sword of Christ mowed 
like a scythe." 

And yet in Zimisces, Gelzer sees a retrogression of empire and an expan- 
sion of feudalism ; more and more he sees that the old Roman military and 
civil state takes on a military and aristocratic physiognomy. After his 
death the movement continued with usury." 

The premature death of Zimisces was a loss, rather than a benefit, to the 
sons of Romanus II. Their want of experience detained them twelve years 
longer the obscure and voluntary pupils of a minister, who extended his 
reign by persuading them to indulge the pleasures of youth, and to dis- 
dain the labours of government. In this silken web, the weakness of 


[976 A.D.] 

Constantine was forever entangled ; but his elder brother felt the impulse of 
genius and the desire of action ; he frowned, and the minister was no more. 
Basil was the acknowledged sovereign of Constantinople and the provinces 
of Europe; but Asia was oppressed by two veteran generals, Phocas and 
Sclerus, who, alternately friends and enemies, subjects and rebels, main- 
tained their independence, and laboured to emulate the example of successful 

Against these domestic enemies, the son of Romanus first drew his sword, 
and they trembled in the presence of a lawful and high-spirited prince. 
The first, in the front of battle, was thrown from his horse by the stroke 
of poison, or an arrow ; the second, who had been twice loaded with chains, 
and twice invested with the purple, was desirous of ending in peace the 
small remainder of his days. As the aged suppliant approached the throne, 

War Galley, Eighth and Ninth Centuries 

with dim eyes and faltering steps, leaning on his two attendants, the 
emperor exclaimed, in the insolence of youth and power: "And is this 
the man who has so long been the object of our terror ? " After he had 
confirmed his own authority and the peace of the empire, the trophies of 
Nicephorus and Zimisces would not suffer their royal pupil to sleep in the 
palace. His long and frequent expeditions against the Saracens were 
rather glorious than useful to the empire; but the final destruction of 
the kingdom of Bulgaria appears, since the time of Belisarius, the most 
important triumph of the Roman arms. ft 


The reign of Basil II is the culminating point of Byzantine greatness. 
The eagles of Constantinople flew during his life, in a long career of victory, 
from the banks of the Danube to those of the Euphrates, and from the moun- 
tains of Armenia to the shores of Italy. Basil's indomitable courage, terrific 


[9T6-981 A .».] 

cruelty, indifference to art and literature, and religious superstition, all com- 
bine to render him a true type of his empire and age. The great object of 
his policy was to consolidate the unity of the administration in Europe by 
the complete subjection of the Bulgarians and Slavonians, whom similarity 
of language had almost blended into one nation, and had completely united 
in hostility to the imperial government. 

Four sons of a Bulgarian noble of the highest rank had commenced a 
revolutionary movement in Bulgaria against the royal family, after the death 
of Peter and the first victories of the Russians. In order to put an end to 
these troubles, Nicephorus II had, on the retreat of Sviatoslaff, replaced 
Boris, the son of Peter, on the throne of Bulgaria ; and when the Russians 
returned, Boris submitted to their domination. Shortly after the death of 
Joannes I (Zimisces), the Bulgarian leaders again roused the people to a 
struggle for independence. Boris, who escaped from Constantinople to 
attempt recovering his paternal throne, was accidentally slain, and the four 
brothers again became the chiefs of the nation. In a short time three per- 
ished, and Samuel, who alone remained, assumed the title of king. The forces 
of the empire were occupied with the rebellion of Sclerus, so that the vigour 
and military talents of Samuel succeeded both in expelling the Byzantine au- 
thorities from Bulgaria, and in rousing the Slavonians of Macedonia to throw 
off the Byzantine yoke. Samuel then invaded Thessaly, and extended his 
plundering excursions over those parts of Greece and the Peloponnesus still 
inhabited by the Hellenic race. He carried away the inhabitants of Larissa 
in order to people the town of Prespa, which he then proposed to make his 
capital, with intelligent artisans and manufacturers ; and, in order to attach 
them to their new residence by ties of old superstition, he removed to Prespa 
the body of their protecting martyr, St. Achilles, who some pretended had 
been a Roman soldier, and others a Greek archbishop. Samuel showed him- 
self, both in ability and courage, a rival worthy of Basil ; and the empire 
of the East seemed for some time in danger of being transferred from the 
Byzantine Romans to the Slavonian Bulgarians. 

In the year 981, the emperor Basil made his first campaign against the 
new Bulgarian monarchy in person. His plan of operations was to secure 
the great western passes through Mount Hsemus, on the road from Philip- 
popolis to Sardica, and by the conquest of the latter, city he hoped to cut 
off the communication between the Bulgarians north of Mount Hsemus and 
the Slavonians in Macedonia. But his military inexperience, and the re- 
laxed discipline of the army, caused this well-conceived plan to fail. Sar- 
dica was besieged in vain for twenty days. The negligence of the officers 
and the disobedience of the soldiers caused several foraging parties to be 
cut off; the besieged burned the engines of the besiegers in a victorious 
sortie, and the emperor felt the necessity of commencing his retreat. As 
his army was passing the defiles of Heemus, it was assailed by the troops 
Samuel had collected to watch his operations, and completely routed. The 
baggage and military chest, the emperor's plate and tents, all fell into the 
hands of the Bulgarian king, and Basil himself escaped with some difficulty 
to Philippopolis, where he collected the relics of the fugitives. Leo Diaco- 
nus,& the Byzantine historian, who accompanied the expedition as one of the 
clergy of the imperial chapel, and was fortunate enough to escape the pur- 
suit, has left a short but authentic notice of this first disastrous campaign 
of Basil, the slayer of the Bulgarians, in his Historic/,. x 

1 Leo Diaconus,* 171. 


[981-1001 a.d.] 

The reorganisation of his army, the regulation of the internal adminis- 
tration of the empire, the rebellion of Phocas, and the wars in Italy and 
on the Asiatic frontier, prevented Basil from attacking Samuel in person 
for many years. Still a part of the imperial forces carried on this war, 
and Samuel soon perceived that he was unable to resist the Byzantine gen- 
erals in the plains of Bulgaria, where the heavy cavalry, military engines, 
and superior discipline of the imperial armies could all be employed to 
advantage. He resolved, therefore, to transfer the seat of the Bulgarian 
government to a more inaccessible position, at Achrida. Here, therefore, 
Samuel established the capital of the Bulgaro-Slavonian kingdom he founded. 

The dominions of Samuel soon became . as extensive as the European 
portion of the dominions of Basil. The possessions of the two monarchs 
ran into one another in a very irregular form, and both were inhabited by a 
variety of races, in different states of civilisation, bound together by few 
sympathies, and no common attachment to national institutions. Samuel 
was master of almost the whole of ancient Bulgaria, the emperor retaining 
possession of little more than the fortress of Dorystolon, the forts at the 
mouth of the Danube, and the passes of Mount Hsemus. But the strength 
of the Bulgarian king lay in his possessions in the upper part of Macedonia, 
in Epirus, and the southern part of Illyricum, in the chain of Pindus, and in 
mountains that overlook the northern and western slopes of the great plains 
of Thessalonica and Thessaly. He was indefatigable in forming a large mili- 
tary force, and employing it constantly in ravaging the plain of Thessaly, 
and attacking the Greek cities. 

In 996 he marched rapidly through Thessaly, Bceotia, and Attica, into 
the Peloponnesus ; but the towns everywhere shut their gates, and prepared 
for a long defence, so that he could effect nothing beyond plundering and 
laying waste the open country. In the meantime, the emperor sent Niceph- 
orus Uranus, with all the force he should be able to collect, in pursuit of 
Samuel. Uranus entered Thessaly, and pushed rapidly southward to the 
banks of the Sperchius, where he found Samuel encamped on the other side, 
hastening home with the plunder of Greece. In the night the people showed 
Uranus a ford, by which he passed the river and surprised the Bulgarians 
in their camp. Samuel and his son Gabriel escaped with the greatest diffi- 
culty. The Bulgarian army was completely annihilated, and all the plunder 
and slaves made during the expedition fell into the hands of Uranus, in the 
year 996 a.d. This great defeat paralysed the military operations of Samuel 
for some time. 

Basil at length arranged the external relations of the empire in such 
a way that he was able to assemble a large army for the military operations 
against the kingdom of Achrida, which he determined to conduct in person. 
The Slavonians now formed the most numerous part of the population of 
the country between the Danube, the iEgean, and the Adriatic, and they 
were in possession of the line of mountains that runs from Dyrrhachium, in a 
variety of chains, to the vicinity of Constantinople. Basil saw many signs 
that the whole Slavonic race in these countries was united in opposition to 
the Byzantine government, so that the existence of his empire demanded the 
conquest of the Bulgaro-Slavonian kingdom which Samuel had founded. 
To this arduous task he devoted himself with his usual energy. 

In the year 1000, his generals were ordered to enter Bulgaria by the 
eastern passes of Mount Hsemus ; and in this campaign they took the cities 
of greater and lesser Presthlava and Pliscova, the ancient capitals of Bulga- 
ria. In the following year, the emperor took upon himself the direction of 


[1001-1014 A.D.] 

the army destined to act against Samuel. Fixing his headquarters at Thes- 
salonica, he recovered possession of the fortresses of Vodena, Bercea, and 

In the following campaign (1002), the emperor changed the field of 
operations, and, marching from Philippopolis through the western passes 
or Mount Hsemus, occupied the whole line of road as far as the Danube, and 
cut Samuel off from all communication with the plains of Bulgaria. Samuel 
formed a bold enterprise, which he hoped would compel Basil to raise the 
siege of Widdin, or, at all events, enable him to inflict a deep wound on the 
empire. By a long march into the heart of the empire, Samuel rendered 
himself master of great booty. His success prevented his returning as 
rapidly as he had advanced, but he succeeded in passing the garrison of 
Philippopolis and crossing the Strymon and the Wardar in safety, when 
Basil suddenly overtook him at the head of the Byzantine army. Samuel 
was encamped under the walls of Scupi ; Basil crossed the river, stormed 
the Bulgarian camp, captured the military chest and stores, and recovered 
the plunder of Hadrianoplis. He had thus the satisfaction of avenging the 
defeat he had suffered from Samuel, one-and-twenty years before, in the 
passes of Mount Hsemus. 

In the year 1014, Basil considered everything ready for a final effort to 
complete the subjection of the Slavonian population of the mountainous dis- 
tricts round the upper valley of the Strymon. The emperor is said to have 
taken fifteen thousand prisoners, and, that he might revenge the sufferings 
of his subjects from the ravages of the Bulgarians and Slavonians, he grati- 
fied his own cruelty by an act of vengeance, which has most justly entailed 
infamy on his name. His frightful inhumanity has forced history to turn 
with disgust from his conduct, and almost buried the records of his military 
achievements in oblivion. On this occasion he ordered the eyes of all his 
prisoners to be put out, leaving a single eye to the leader of every hundred, 
and in this condition he sent the wretched captives forth to seek their king 
or perish on the way. When they approached Achrida, a rumour that the 
prisoners had been released induced Samuel to go out to meet them. On 
learning the full extent of the calamity, he fell senseless to the ground, over- 
powered with rage and grief, and died two days after. He is said to have 
murdered his own brother to secure possession of his throne, so that his 
heart was broken by the first touch of humanity it ever felt. 1 

The cruelty of Basil awakened an energetic resistance on the part of the 
Slavonians and Bulgarians, and Gabriel Radomir, the brave son of Samuel, 
was enabled to offer unexpected obstacles to the progress of the Byzantine 

Gabriel, the king of Achrida, though brave, alienated the favour of his 
subjects by his imprudence, and his cousin, John Ladislas, whose life he had 
saved in youth, was base enough to become his murderer, in order to gain 
possession of the throne. Ladislas, in order to gain time, both for strength- 
ening himself on the throne and resisting the Byzantine invasion, sent 

1 Cruelty similar to that of Basil was perpetrated on a smaller scale by Richard Cceur-de-Lion, 
though of course it is not necessary to place strict reliance on the numbers reported by the Byzan- 
tine historians. Richard, to revenge the loss of a body of men, ordered three hundred French 
knights to be thrown into the Seine, and put out the eyes of fifteen, who were sent home blind, 
led by one whose right eye had been spared. Philip Augustus, nothing loath, revenged himself 
by treating fifteen English knights in the same way. — Putting out men's eyes was, for several 
centuries, a common practice all over Europe, and not regarded with much horror. As late as 
the reign of Henry IV. 1403 a.d., an Act of Parliament was passed, making it felony for Eng- 
lishmen to cut out one another's tongues, or put out their neighbours' eyes. 


[1014-1019 A.D.] 

ambassadors to Basil with favourable offers of peace ; but the emperor, satis- 
fied that the struggle between the Slavonians and Greeks could only be 
terminated by the conquest of one, rejected all terms but absolute submission, 
and pushed on his operations with his usual vigour. After laying waste all 
the country round Ostrovos and Moliskos that was peopled by Slavonians, 
and repairing the fortifications of Beroea which had fallen to decay, he 
captured Setaina, where Samuel had formed great magazines of wheat. 
These magazines were kept well filled by Ladislas, so that Basil became 
master of so great a store that he divided it among his troops. At last the 
king of Achrida approached the emperor at the head of a considerable army, 
and a part of the imperial troops was drawn into an ambuscade. The 
emperor happened to be himself with the advanced division of the army. 
He instantly mounted his horse and led the troops about him to the scene of 
action, sending orders for all the other divisions to hasten forward to support 
him. His sudden appearance at the head of a strong body of the heavy- 
armed lancers of the Byzantine army, the fury of his charge, the terror his 
very name inspired, and the cry, " The emperor is upon us ! " soon spread 
confusion through the Bulgarian ranks, and decisively changed the fortune 
of the day (1018). 

Ladislas, whose affairs were becoming desperate, made an attempt to 
restore his credit by laying siege to Dyrrhachium. Its possession would 
have enabled him to open communications with the enemies of Basil in Italy, 
and even with the Saracens of Sicily and Africa, but he was slain soon after 
the commencement of the siege. The Bulgarian leaders gave up all hope of 
resistance. The emperor continued to advance by Scupi, Stypeia, and 
Prosakon, and on reaching Achrida he was received rather as the lawful 
sovereign than as a foreign conqueror. He immediately took possession of 
all the treasures Samuel had amassed ; the gold alone amounted to one hun- 
dred centners (this sum is not quite equal to £480,000 or $2,400,000), and 
with this he paid all the arrears due to his troops, and rewarded them with a 
donative for their long and gallant service in this arduous war. Almost the 
whole of the royal family of Achrida submitted, and received the most 
generous treatment. Three sons of Ladislas, who escaped to Mount Tmorus, 
and attempted to prolong the contest, were soon captured. The noble Bul- 
garians hastened to make their submission, and many were honoured with 
rank at the imperial court. 

Nothing, indeed, proves more decidedly the absence of all Greek nation- 
ality in the Byzantine administration at this period, than the facility with 
which all foreigners obtained favour at the court of Constantinople ; nor can 
anything be more conclusive of the fact that the centralisation of power in 
the person of the emperor, as completed by the Basilian dynasty, had now 
destroyed the administrative centralisation of the old Roman imperial sj^stem, 
for we have proofs that a considerable Greek population still occupied the 
cities of Thrace and Macedonia, though Greek feelings had little influence 
on the government. 

After passing the winter in his new conquests, Basil made a progress 
through Greece. At Zetunium he visited the field of battle where the 
power of Samuel had been first broken by the victory of Nicephorus Ura- 
nus, and found the ground still strewed with the bones of the slain. The 
wall that defended the pass of Thermopylae retained its ancient name, 
Scelos ; and its masonry, which dated from Hellenic days, excited the empe- 
ror's admiration. At last Basil arrived within the walls of Athens, and he 
was the only emperor who for several ages honoured that city with a visit. 


[1078-1081 A.D.J 

multiplied the Comnenian alliances with the noblest Greeks ; of the five 
sons, Manuel was stopped by a premature death ; Isaac and Alexius restored 
the imperial greatness of their house, which was enjoyed without toil or 
danger by the two younger brethren, Adrian and Nicephorus. Alexius, the 
third and most illustrious of the brothers, was endowed by nature with the 
choicest gifts both of mind and body ; they were cultivated by a liberal 
education, and exercised in the school of obedience and adversity. The 
youth was dismissed from the perils of the Turkish War, 1 by the paternal 
care of the emperor Romanus ; but the mother of the Comneni, with her 
aspiring race, was accused of treason, and banished, by the sons of Ducas, to 
an island in the Propontis. The two brothers soon emerged into favour and 
action, fought by each other's side against the rebels and barbarians, and 
adhered to the emperor Michael, till he was deserted by the world and by 

In his first interview with Botaniates, " Prince," said Alexius, with a 
noble frankness, " my duty rendered me your enemy ; the decrees of God 
and of the people have made me your subject. Judge of my future loyalty 
by my past opposition." The successor of Michael entertained him with 
esteem and confidence ; his valour was employed against three rebels, who 
disturbed the peace of the empire, or at least of the emperors. Ursel, 
Bryennius, and Basilacius were formidable by their numerous forces and 
military fame : they were successively vanquished in the field, and led in 
chains to the foot of the throne ; and whatever treatment they might receive 
from a timid and cruel court, they applauded the clemency, as well as the 
courage, of their conqueror. But the loyalty of the Comneni was soon tainted 
by fear and suspicion ; nor is it easy to settle between a subject and a des- 
pot the debt of gratitude, which the former is tempted to claim by a revolt, 
and the latter to discharge by an executioner. The refusal of Alexius to 
march against a fourth rebel, the husband of his sister, destroyed the merit 
or memory of his past services ; the favourites of Botaniates provoked the 
ambition which they apprehended and accused ; and the retreat of the two 
brothers might be justified by the defence of their life or liberty. 

The women of the family were deposited in a sanctuary, respected by 
tyrants ; the men, mounted on horseback, sallied from the city, and erected 
the standard of civil war. The soldiers, who had been gradually assembled 
in the capital and the neighbourhood, were devoted to the cause of a victo- 
rious and injured leader ; the ties of common interest and domestic alliance 
secured the attachment of the house of Ducas ; and the generous dispute of 
the Comneni was terminated by the decisive resolution of Isaac, who was the 
first to invest his younger brother with the name and ensigns of royalty. 
They returned to Constantinople, to threaten rather than besiege that im- 
pregnable fortress ; but the fidelity of the guards was corrupted ; a gate was 
surprised, and the fleet was occupied by the active courage of George Palse- 
ologus, who fought against his father, without foreseeing that he laboured 
for his posterity. Alexius ascended the throne ; and his aged competitor 
disappeared in a monastery. An army of various nations was gratified with 
the pillage of the city ; but the public disorders were expiated by the tears 
and fasts of the Comneni, who submitted to every penance. 

[} The Turkish war was renewed in 1072 when Alp Arslan was unable to obtain payment of 
Romanus' ransom. He finally conquered the Byzantine portion of Asia Minor and gave it to 
Suleiman to rule over. In 1076 Jerusalem fell before the Seljuks, and this event was the direct 
cause of the Crusades. Nor were these the only foreign troubles of the empire at this period. 
In 1073 the Bulgarians made a desperate attempt to regain their liberty. J 

[1081 A.D.] 




The life of the emperor Alexius has been delineated by a favourite ; 
daughter, who was inspired by a tender regard for his person, and a lauda- 
ble zeal to perpetuate his virtues. Conscious of the just suspicion of her 
readers, the princess Anna Comnena 1 ' repeatedly protests, that, besides her 
personal knowledge, she had searched the discourse and writings of the most 
respectable veterans ; that, after an interval of thirty years, forgotten by, 
and forgetful of, the world, her mournful solitude was inaccessible to hope 
and fear ; and that truth, the naked, perfect 
truth, was more dear and sacred than the mem- 
ory of her parent. Yet, instead of the simpli- 
city of style and narrative which wins our 
belief, an elaborate affectation of rhetoric and 
science betrays in every page the vanity of 
a female author. The genuine character 
of Alexius is lost in a vague constellation of 
virtues ; and the perpetual strain of pane- 
gyric and apology awakens our jealousy, to 
question the veracity of the historian and 
the merit of the hero. We cannot, how- 
ever, refuse her judicious and important 
remark, that the disorders of the times were 
the misfortune and the glory of Alexius ; 
and that every calamity which can afflict a 
declining empire was accumulated on his 
reign by the justice of heaven and the vices 
of his predecessors. 


In the East, the victorious Turks had 
spread from Persia to the Hellespont the 
reign of the Koran and the crescent ; the 
West was invaded by the adventurous valour 
of the Normans ; and, in the moments of 
peace, the Danube poured forth new swarms, 
who had gained in the science of war what 
they had lost in the ferociousness of manners. 
The sea was not less hostile than the land ; and while the frontiers were 
assaulted by an open enemy, the palace was distracted with secret treason 
and conspiracy. ft 

One of the earliest acts of the reign of Alexius was to conclude a treaty 
of peace with the Seljuk emir Suleiman, who acted in Asia Minor as if he 
were completely independent of the grand sultan Malekshah. The treach- 
ery of Nicephorus Melissenos had placed Suleiman in possession of Nicsea, and 
his troops occupied several posts on the shores of the Bosporus and the Sea 
of Marmora ; while Alexius, who required the whole forces of the empire to 
resist the invasion of Robert Guiscard, was compelled to purchase peace at 
any price. Under such circumstances, it was only to be expected that the 
immediate neighbourhood of Constantinople could be kept free from the 
Turks, and accordingly the boundaries of the Roman Empire in Asia Minor 

A Byzantine Soldier 


[1081 4..D.] 

were by this treaty reduced to very narrow limits. The country immedi- 
ately opposite the capital, as far as the mouth of the river Sangarius and 
the head of the Gulf of Nicomedia, was evacuated by the Turks, as well as 
the coasts of the Sea of Marmora, from the little stream called Draco, which 
falls into the Gulf of Nicomedia, westward to the city of Prusias. Already 
the mountains of the Turkish territory were visible from the palace of Alex- 
ius and the dome of St. Sophia ; but the Crusades were destined to repel 
the Mohammedan invasion from the shores of Europe for several centuries. 


The spirit of enterprise and conquest which, when placed under the guid- 
ance of religious enthusiasm, carried the bravest warriors of western Europe 
as crusaders to the East, had, in the preceding generation, under the direc- 
tion of civil wisdom, produced the conquest of England and southern Italy 
by the Normans. These conquests had raised their military reputation and 
self-confidence to the highest pitch ; and Robert Guiscard, who was lord of 
dominions in Italy far superior in wealth to the duchy of Normandy, hoped 
to eclipse the exploits of Duke William in England by conquering the 
Byzantine Empire. But as he knew that he must expect a more prolonged 
resistance than England had offered to its conqueror, he sought a pretext 
for commencing the war which would conceal his own object, and have a 
tendency to induce a party in the country to take up arms against the 
government he was anxious to overthrow. His daughter Helena had been 
betrothed to Constantine Ducas, the son of Michael VII, and was still so 
young that she was residing in the imperial palace at Constantinople, to 
receive her education, when Michael was dethroned. Nicephorus III sent 
the child to a convent, and Robert her father stood forward as the champion 
of Michael's right to recover the throne from which he had been expelled. 
Under the cover of this pretext, the Norman expected to render himself 
master of Constantinople, or at all events to gain possession of the rich prov- 
inces on the eastern shore of the Adriatic. 

The preparations of Robert Guiscard were far advanced when Alexius 
ascended the throne. To inflame the zeal of his troops, he persuaded Pope 
Gregory VII that a Greek monk, who had assumed the character of Michael 
VII, was really the dethroned emperor, and thus induced the pope to approve 
of his expedition, and to grant absolution to all the invaders of the Byzan- 
tine Empire, as if they had been about to commence a holy war. The sol- 
diers were impressed with a deep conviction of the justice of their cause 
and were inflamed with hopes of plunder and glory. 

In the month of June, 1081, Robert Guiscard sailed from Brindisi with a 
well-appointed fleet of a hundred and fifty ships, carrying an army of thirty 
thousand chosen troops. His first operation was to render himself master of 
the rich island of Corcyra (Corfu), which then yielded an annual revenue 
of fifteen hundred pounds' weight of gold to the Byzantine government. He 
then seized the ports of Butrinto, Avlona, and Kanino, on the mainland, and 
laid siege to the important city of Dyrrhachium, the strongest fortress on 
the eastern coast of the Adriatic, and the capital of Byzantine Illyria. It 
was fortunate for the empire that George Palaeologus, one of its bravest 
officers, had entered the place before Robert commenced the siege. 

The interests of Venice bound them to the cause of the Byzantine gov- 
ernment at this time. They were alarmed lest their lucrative trade with 


[1081-1084 A.D.] 

Greece and the Levant should be placed at the mercy of the rapacious 
Normans, in case Robert Guiscard should succeed in gaining possession 
of the entrance to the Adriatic. They plunged, therefore, into the war 
without hesitation or reserve. 

The doge Dominic Sylvio sailed from Venice with a powerful fleet to 
attack the Normans before the emperor Alexius could collect his army and 
march to the relief of Dyrrhachium. The Norman fleet, which was com- 
manded by Bohemund, the illustrious son of Robert Guiscard, suffered a 
complete defeat, and the communications of the invading army with Italy 
were cut off. This difficulty only excited Robert to press the siege with 
additional vigour. He employed every device then known for the attack of 
towns. The military proceedings of Alexius, when he reached the neigh- 
bourhood of Dyrrhachium, were very injudicious. The battle which took 
place was as disgraceful to the Byzantine arms as to the emperor's judgment. 

In the month of February, 1082, a Venetian, who guarded one of the 
towers, betrayed the city to Robert, who had previously put his army into 
winter quarters at Glabinitza and Joanina, in order to escape the severe 
cold of the winter farther north. Alexius collected the remains of the 
Byzantine army at Deavolis, and repaired himself to Thessalonica, where 
he passed the winter collecting a second army, which he was enabled to do, 
as he had replenished his military chest from the church plate of the richest 
cathedrals and monasteries in his dominions. The affairs of Italy, before 
the opening of the second campaign, fortunately compelled Robert Guiscard 
to quit Illyria, and leave his son Bohemund in command of the Norman 

In the spring of 1083, Alexius had collected an army so powerful that 
he again marched forward to attack the Normans. In order to break the 
terrible charge of their cavalry, which no Byzantine horse could resist, the 
emperor placed a number of chariots before his own troops, armed with 
barbed poles extending in front like a line of lances, and in these chariots he 
stationed a strong body of heavy-armed infantry. Bohemund, however, 
on reconnoitring this strange unwieldy measure of defence, broke up his 
line of cavalry into two columns, and leaving the centre of the Byzantine 
army with the chariots unassailed, fell with fury on the extremity of the 
two wings. The resistance was short, and the emperor Alexius again fled. 

Alexius, having procured a subsidiary force of seven thousand light 
cavalry from Suleiman and the sultan of Nicaea, again took the field in the 
spring of 1084. He formed his army into two divisions, and advanced to 
engage the Normans before Larissa. His preparation for a battle was on 
this occasion made with considerable skill. Bohemund, seeing that he was 
in danger of being cut off from his resources, retreated to Kastoria. As 
soon as the Norman army was cut off from plunder, and without any hope 
of making further conquests, it began to display a mutinous spirit ; and 
Bohemund was compelled to return to Italy, to obtain supplies of money 
and fresh troops. Brienne, the constable of Apulia, who commanded in 
his absence, found himself compelled to surrender Kastoria to the emperor 
Alexius, and to engage not to bear arms again against the Byzantine Empire. 

While Bohemund was carrying on the war against the emperor of the 
East, Robert Guiscard had driven the emperor of the West out of Rome ; 
and after vanquishing Henry IV, he had plundered the Eternal City like 
another Genseric. He was now ready to resume his schemes of ambition in 
the East. Collecting a powerful fleet to carry over his victorious army into 
Epirus, he raised the siege of Corfu (Corcyra), which was invested by the 


[1084r-1118 A.D.\ 

combined naval forces of the Byzantine Empire and the Venetian Republic. 
The united fleets were completely defeated in a great naval battle, in which, 
according to Anna Comnena,* they lost thirteen thousand men. But in the 
month of July, 1085, Robert died in the island of Cephallenia, and with 
him perished all the Norman projects of conquest in the Byzantine Empire. 
Dyrrhachium was recovered by Alexius with the assistance of the Venetian 
and Amalphitan merchants established in the place, and the services of the 
Venetians in this war were rewarded by many commercial privileges which 
were conferred on them by a golden bull.e 

The Norman War was scarcely finished when the Patzinaks invaded the 
empire (1086). This war lasted five years, until, in fact, Alexius concluded 
a treaty with the Romans, allies of the Patzinaks, and then dealt the latter 
a crushing blow at Levounion in 1091. Minor wars with Servia and Dal- 
matia do not deserve mention, but the progress of the Seljuk Turks con- 
tinued to hasten the decline of the empire. They dared everything, and in 
1092 Tzachas, emir of Smyrna, assumed the title of emperor. He was put 
down, but retained sufficient strength to besiege Abydos in 1093. But 
Alexius accomplished his murder the same year. The relations of Alexius 
and the First Crusade will be fully treated in the account of the Holy Wars. 
The ancient enmity of Alexius and Bohemund was rekindled when the latter 
entered into his principality of Antioch. The war lasted from 1103 to 1108, 
or until Bohemund's death. The last years of Alexius' reign were occupied 
with hostilities with the crusaders and again with the Seljuk Turks. The 
latter sustained a succession of heavy losses, and in 1116 were glad to make 
peace. This was the end of Alexius' military career. « 

In the tempest of the Crusades Alexius steered the imperial vessel with 
dexterity and courage. At the head of his armies, he was bold in action, 
skilful in stratagem, patient of fatigue, ready to improve his advantages, 
and rising from his defeats with inexhaustible vigour. 

In his intercourse with the Latins, Alexius was patient and artful ; his 
discerning eye pervaded the new system of an unknown world ; and we shall 
hereafter describe the superior policy with which he balanced the interests 
and passions of the champions of the First Crusade. In a long reign of 
thirty-seven years, he subdued and pardoned the envy of his equals ; the 
laws of public and private order were restored ; the arts of wealth and 
science were cultivated ; the limits of the empire were enlarged in Europe 
and Asia ; and the Comnenian sceptre was transmitted to his children of the 
third and fourth generation. 

Anna is a faithful witness that his happiness was destroyed, and his 
health was broken, by the cares of a public life ; the patience of Constanti- 
nople was fatigued by the length and severity of his reign ; and before 
Alexius expired, he had lost the love and reverence of his subjects. The 
clergy could not forgive his application of the sacred riches to the defence of 
the state ; but they applauded his theological learning and ardent zeal for 
the orthodox faith, which he defended with his tongue, his pen, and his 
sword. His character was degraded by the superstition of the Greeks ; and 
the same inconsistent principle of human nature enjoined the emperor to 
found a hospital for the poor and infirm, and to direct the execution of a 
heretic, who was burned alive in the square of St. Sophia. 

In his last hours, when he was pressed by his wife Irene to alter the suc- 
cession, he raised his head, and breathed a pious ejaculation on the vanity of 
this world. The indignant reply of the empress may be inscribed as an 
epitaph on his tomb — "You die, as you have lived — a hypocrite ! " (1118). 


I111S-U43 A.D.] 


It was the wish of Irene to supplant the eldest of her surviving sons, in 
favour of her daughter, the princess Anna, whose philosophy would not have 
refused the weight of a diadem. But the order of male succession was as- 
serted by the friends of their country ; the lawful heir drew the royal signet 
from the finger of his insensible or unconscious father, and tho empire obeyed 
the master of the palace. Anna Comnena was stimulated by ambition and 
revenge to conspire against the life of her brother ; and when the design was 
prevented by the fears or scruples of her husband, she passionately exclaimed, 
that nature had mistaken the two sexes, and had endowed Bryennius with 
the soul of a woman. 

The two sons of Alexius, Joannes and Isaac, maintained the fraternal con- 
cord, the hereditary virtue of their race ; and the younger brother was content 
with the title of Sebastocrator, which approached the dignity, without shar- 
ing the power, of the emperor. In the same person, the claims of primo- 
geniture and merit were fortunately united ; his swarthy complexion, harsh 
features, and diminutive stature, had suggested the ironical surname of 
Calo-Joannes, or John the Handsome, which his grateful subjects more seri- 
ously applied to the beauties of his mind. 

After the discovery of her treason, the life and fortune of Anna were 
justly forfeited to the laws. Her life was spared by the clemency of the em- 
peror ; but he visited the pomp and treasures of her palace, and bestowed 
the rich confiscation on the most deserving of his friends. That respectable 
friend, Axuch, a slave of Turkish extraction, presumed to decline the gift, 
and to intercede for the criminal ; his generous master applauded and imi- 
tated the virtue of his favourite, and the reproach or complaint of an injured 
brother was the only chastisement of the guilty princess. After this exam- 
ple of clemency, the remainder of his reign was never disturbed by conspir- 
acy or rebellion ; feared by his nobles, beloved by his people, Joannes was 
never reduced to the painful necessity of punishing, or even of pardoning, his 
personal enemies. 

During his government of twenty-five years, the penalty of death was 
abolished in the Roman Empire, a law of mercy most delightful to the hu- 
mane theorist, but of which the practice, in a large and vicious community, 
is seldom consistent with the public safety. Severe to himself, indulgent to 
others, chaste, frugal, abstemious, the philosophic Marcus would not have 
disdained the artless virtues of his successor, derived from his heart, and not 
borrowed from the schools. He despised and moderated the stately magnifi- 
cence of the Byzantine court, so oppressive to the people, so contemptible 
to the eye of reason. Under such a prince, innocence had nothing to fear, 
and merit had everything to hope ; and without assuming the tyrannic office 
of a censor, he introduced a gradual though visible reformation in the public 
and private manners of Constantinople. The only defect of this accom- 
plished character was the frailty of noble minds — the love of arms and mili- 
tary glory. Yet the frequent expeditions of John the Handsome may be 
justified, at least in their principle, by the necessity of repelling the Turks 
from the Hellespont and the Bosporus. The sultan of the Iconium was con- 
fined to his capital, the barbarians were driven to the mountains, and the 
maritime provinces of Asia enjoyed the transient blessings of their deliver- 
ance. From Constantinople to Antioch and Aleppo, he repeatedly marched 
at the head of a victorious army, and in the sieges and battles of this holy 
war his Latin allies were astonished by the superior spirit and prowess of a 


[1143-1180 A.D.] 

Greek. As he began to indulge the ambitious hope of restoring the ancient 
limits of the empire, as he revolved in his mind, the Euphrates and the 
Tigris, the dominion of Syria, and the conquest of Jerusalem, the thread of 
his life and of the public felicity was broken by a singular accident. He 
hunted the wild boar in the valley of Anazarbus, and had fixed his javelin 
in the body of the furious animal ; but, in the struggle, a poisoned arrow 
dropped from his quiver, and a slight wound in his hand, which produced a 
mortification, was fatal to the best and greatest of the Comnenian princes. 

MANUEL I (1143-1180 A.D.) 

A premature death had swept away the two eldest sons of John the 
Handsome ; of the two survivors, Isaac and Manuel, his judgment or affec- 
tion preferred the younger ; and the choice of their dying prince was rati- 
fied by the soldiers, who had applauded the valour of his favourite in the 
Turkish War. The faithful Axuch hastened to the capital, secured the 
person of Isaac in honourable confinement, and purchased with a gift of two 
hundred pounds of silver the leading ecclesiastics of St. Sophia, who pos- 
sessed a decisive voice in the consecration of an emperor. With his veteran 
and affectionate troops, Manuel soon visited Constantinople ; his brother ac- 
quiesced in the title of Sebastocrator ; his subjects admired the lofty stature 
and martial graces of their new sovereign, and listened with credulity to the 
flattering promise, that he blended the wisdom of age with the activity and 
vigour of youth. By the experience of his government, they were taught, 
that he emulated the spirit, and shared the talents, of his father, whose social 
virtues were buried in the grave. A reign of thirty-seven years is filled by 
a perpetual though various warfare against the Turks, the Christians, and 
the hordes of the wilderness beyond the Danube. The arms of Manuel were 
exercised on Mount Taurus, in the plains of Hungary, on the coast of Italy 
and Egypt, and on the seas of Sicily and Greece ; the influence of his nego- 
tiations extended from Jerusalem to Rome and Russia ; and the Byzantine 
monarchy, for a while, became an object of respect or terror to the powers of 
Asia and Europe. 

Educated in the silk and purple of the East, Manuel possessed the iron 
temper of a soldier, which cannot easily be paralleled, except in the lives 
of Richard I of England, and of Charles XII of Sweden. Such was his 
strength and exercise in arms, that Raymond, surnamed the Hercules of 
Antioch, was incapable of wielding the lance and buckler of the Greek 
emperor. In a famous tournament, he entered the lists on a fiery courser, 
and overturned in his first career two of the stoutest of the Italian knights. 
The first in the charge, the last in the retreat, his friends and his enemies 
alike trembled, the former for his safety and the latter for their own. After 
posting an ambuscade in a wood, he rode forwards in search of some perilous 
adventure, accompanied only by his brother and the faithful Axuch, who 
refused to desert their sovereign. Eighteen horsemen, after a short combat, 
fled before them ; but the numbers of the enemy increased ; the march of 
the reinforcement was tardy and fearful, and Manuel, without receiving a 
wound, cut his way through a squadron of five hundred Turks. In a battle 
against the Hungarians, impatient of the slowness of his troops, he snatched 
a standard from the head of the column, and was the first, almost alone, who 
passed a bridge that separated him from the enemy. In the same country, 
after transporting his army beyond the Save, he sent back the boats with an 


[1143-1180 A.D.] 

order, under pain of death, to their commander, that he should leave him to 
conquer or die on that hostile land. In the siege of Corfu, towing after 
him a captive galley, the emperor stood aloft on the poop, opposing against 
the volleys of darts and stones a large buckler and a flowing sail ; nor could 
he have escaped inevitable death, had not the Sicilian admiral enjoined his 
archers to respect the person of a hero. In one day, he is said to have slain 
above forty of the barbarians with his own hand ; he returned to the camp, 
dragging along four Turkish prisoners, whom he had tied to the rings of his 
saddle ; he was ever the foremost to provoke or to accept a single combat ; 
and the gigantic champions, who encountered his arm, were transpierced by 
the lance, or cut asunder by the sword, of the invincible Manuel. The story 
of his exploits, which appear as a model or copy of the romances of chivalry, 
may induce a reasonable suspicion of the veracity of the Greeks ; yet we 
may observe, that, in the long series of their annals, Manuel is the only 
prince who has been the subject of similar exaggeration. With the valour of 
a soldier, he did not unite the skill or prudence of a general ; his victories 
were not productive of any permanent or useful conquest ; and his Turkish 
laurels were blasted in his last unfortunate campaign, in which he lost his 
army in the mountains of Pisidia, and owed his deliverance to the generosity 
of the sultan. 

But the most singular feature in the character of Manuel, is the contrast 
and vicissitude of labour and sloth, of hardiness and effeminacy. In war he 
seemed ignorant of peace ; in peace he appeared incapable of war. In the 
field he slept in the sun or in the snow, tired in the longest marches the 
strength of his men and horses, and shared with a smile the abstinence or 
diet of the camp. No sooner did he return to Constantinople, than he re- 
signed himself to the arts and pleasures of a life of luxury ; the expense of 
his dress, his table, and his palace, surpassed the measure of his predecessors, 
and whole summer days were idly wasted in the delicious isles of the Pro- 
pontis, in the incestuous love of his niece Theodora. The double cost of a 
warlike and dissolute prince exhausted the revenue, and multiplied the taxes ; 
and Manuel, in the distress of his last Turkish campaign, endured a bitter 
reproach from the mouth of a desperate soldier. As he quenched his thirst, 
he complained that the water of a fountain was mingled with Christian blood. 

" It is not the first time," exclaimed a voice from the crowd, " that you 
have drunk, O emperor ! the blood of your Christian subjects." 

Manuel Comnenus was twice married ; to the virtuous Bertha or Irene of 
Germany, and to the beauteous Maria, a French or Latin princess of Antioch. 
The only daughter of his first wife was destined for Bela, a Hungarian prince, 
who was educated at Constantinople, under the name of Alexius ; and the 
consummation of their nuptials might have transferred the Roman sceptre 
to a race of free and warlike barbarians. But as soon as Maria of Antioch 
had given a son and heir to the empire, the presumptive rights of Bela were 
abolished, and he was deprived of his promised bride ; but the Hungarian 
prince resumed his name and the kingdom of his fathers, and displayed such 
virtues as might excite the regret and envy of the Greeks. The son of Maria 
was named Alexius ; and at the age of ten years, he ascended the Byzantine 
throne, after his father's decease had closed the glories of the Comnenian 

The fraternal concord of the two sons of the great Alexius had been some- 
times clouded by an opposition of interest and passion. By ambition, Isaac 
the Sebastocrator was excited to flight and rebellion, from whence he was 
reclaimed by the firmness and clemency of John the Handsome. The errors 


[1143-1180 A.D.] 

of Isaac, the father of the emperors of Trebizond, were short and venial ; but 
Joannes, the elder of his sons, renounced forever his religion. Provoked by a 
real or imaginary insult of his uncle, he escaped from the Roman to the 
Turkish camp ; his apostacy was rewarded with the Sultan's daughter, the 
title of Chelebi, or noble, and the inheritance of a princely estate ; and in 
the fifteenth century Muhammed II boasted of his imperial descent from the 
Comnenian family. 

The Adventures of Andronicus 

Andronicus, the younger brother of Joannes, son of Isaac, and grandson of 
Alexius Comnenus, is one of the most conspicuous characters of the age ; and 
his genuine adventures might form the subject of a very singular romance. 
To justify the choice of three ladies of royal birth, it must be observed, that 
their fortunate lover was cast in the best proportions of strength and beauty ; 
and that the want of the softer graces was supplied by a manly countenance, 
a lofty stature, athletic muscles, and the air and deportment of a soldier. 
The preservation, in his old age, of health and vigour, was the reward of 
temperance and exercise. A piece of bread and a draught of water was 
often his sole and evening repast ; and if he tasted of a wild boar, or a stag, 
which he had roasted with his own hands, it was the well-earned fruit of a 
laborious chase. Dexterous in arms, he was ignorant of fear ; his persuasive 
eloquence could bend to every situation and character of life; his style, 
though not his practice, was fashioned by the example of St. Paul : and, 
in every deed of mischief, he had a heart to resolve, a head to contrive, and 
a hand to execute. 

In his youth, after the death of the emperor Joannes, he followed the 
retreat of the Roman army; but in the march through Asia Minor, design 
or accident tempted him to wander in the mountains ; the hunter was 
encompassed by the Turkish huntsmen, and he remained some time a 
reluctant or willing captive in the power of the Sultan. His virtues and 
vices recommended him to the favour of his cousin; he shared the perils 
and the pleasures of Manuel ; and while the emperor lived in public incest 
with his niece Theodora, the affections of her sister Eudocia were seduced 
and enjoyed by Andronicus. Above the decencies of her sex and rank, she 
gloried in the name of his concubine ; and both the palace and the camp could 
witness that she slept or watched in the arms of her lover. She accompanied 
him to his military command of Cilicia, the first scene of his valour and 
imprudence. He pressed, with active ardour, the siege of Mopsuestia ; the 
day was employed in the boldest attacks, but the night was wasted in song 
and dance, and a band of Greek comedians formed the choicest part of his 

Andronicus was surprised by the sally of a vigilant foe ; but while his 
troops fled in disorder, his invincible lance transpierced the thickest ranks 
of the Armenians. On his return to the imperial camp in Macedonia, he 
was received by Manuel with public smiles and a private reproof ; but the 
duchies of Naissus, Braniseba, and Kastoria were the reward or consolation 
of the unsuccessful general. Eudocia still attended his motions ; at mid- 
night, their tent was suddenly attacked by her angry brothers, impatient to 
expiate her infamy in his blood ; his daring spirit refused her advice, and 
the disguise of a female habit ; and, boldly starting from his couch, he drew 
his sword, and cut his way through the numerous assassins. It was here 
that he first betrayed his ingratitude and treachery; he engaged in a 


11143-1180 A.D.] 

treasonable correspondence with the king of Hungary and the German em- 
peror, approached the royal tent at a suspicious hour with a drawn sword, and 
under the mask of a Latin soldier, avowed an intention of revenge against 
a mortal foe ; and imprudently praised the fleetness of his horse as an instru- 
ment of flight and safety. The monarch dissembled his suspicions ; but, after 
the close of the campaign, Andronicus was arrested, and strictly confined in 
a tower of the palace of Constantinople. 

In this prison he was left above twelve years, a most painful restraint, 
from which the thirst of action and pleasure perpetually urged him to escape. 
Alone and pensive, he perceived some broken bricks 
in a corner of the chamber, and gradually widened 
the passage, till he had explored a dark and for- 
gotten recess. Into this hole he conveyed himself 
and the remains of his provisions, replacing the 
bricks in their former positions, and erasing with 
care the footsteps of his retreat. At the hour of 
the customary visit, his guards were amazed with 
the silence and solitude of the prison, and reported, 
with shame and fear, his incomprehensible flight. 

The gates of the palace and city were instantly 
shut : the strictest orders were despatched into the 
provinces for the recovery of the fugitive ; and his 
wife, on the suspicion of a pious act, was basely 
imprisoned in the same tower. At the dead of 
night she beheld a spectre : she recognised her hus- 
band; they shared their provisions; and a son was 
the fruit of the stolen interviews ; which alleviated 
the tediousness of their confinement. In the cus- 
tody of a woman, the vigilance of the keepers was 
insensibly relaxed ; and the captive had accomplished 
his real escape, when he was discovered, brought 
back to Constantinople, and loaded with a double 

At length he found the moment and the means of 
his deliverance. A boy, his domestic servant, in- 
toxicated the guards, and obtained in wax the im- 
pression of the keys. By the diligence of his friends, 
a similar key, with a bundle of ropes, was introduced 
into the prison, in the bottom of a hogshead. An- 
dronicus employed, with industry and courage, the instruments of his safety, 
unlocked the doors, descended from the tower, concealed himself all day 
among the bushes, and without difficulty scaled in the night the garden- 
wall of the palace. 

A boat was stationed for his reception ; he visited his own house, em- 
braced his children, cast away his chain, mounted a fleet horse, and directed 
his rapid course towards the banks of the Danube. At Anchialus in Thrace 
an intrepid friend supplied him with horses and money ; he passed the river, 
traversed with speed the desert of Moldavia and the Carpathian hills, and 
had almost reached the town of Halicz, in Polish Russia, when he was inter- 
cepted by a party of Wallachians, who resolved to convey their important 
captive to Constantinople. 

His presence of mind again extricated him from this danger. Under the 
pretence of sickness, he dismounted in the night, and was allowed to step 

A Byzantine Soldiek 


[1143-1180 A.D.] 

aside from the troop ; he planted in the ground his long staff ; clothed it 
with his cap and upper garment ; and, stealing into the wood, left a phan- 
tom to amuse, for some time, the eyes of the Wallachians. From Halicz he 
was honourably conducted to Kieff, the residence of the great duke ; the 
subtle Greek soon obtained the esteem and confidence of Yaroslaff; his 
character could assume the manners of every climate ; and the barbarians 
applauded his strength and courage in the chase of the elks and bears of the 
forest. In this northern region he deserved the forgiveness of Manuel, who 
solicited the Russian prince to join his arms in the invasion of Hungary. 
The influence of Andronicus achieved this important service ; his private 
treaty was signed with a promise of fidelity on one side, and of oblivion on 
the other; and he marched, at the head of the Russian cavalry, from the 
Borysthenes to the Danube. In his resentment, Manuel had ever sym- 
pathised with the martial and dissolute character of his cousin ; and his 
free pardon was sealed in the assault of Zemlin, in which he was second, and 
second only, to the valour of the emperor. 

He was removed from the royal presence by an honourable banishment, 
a second command of the Cilician frontier, with the absolute disposal of the 
revenues of Cyprus. In this station, the Armenians again exercised his 
courage, and exposed his negligence ; and the same rebel, who baffled all 
his operations, was unhorsed and almost slain by the vigour of his lance. 
But Andronicus soon discovered a more easy and pleasing conquest, the 
beautiful Philippa, sister of the empress Maria, and daughter of Raymond of 
Poitou, the Latin prince of Antioch. For her sake he deserted his station, 
and wasted the summer in balls and tournaments ; to his love she sacrificed 
her innocence, her reputation, and the offer of an advantageous marriage. 
But the resentment of Manuel for this domestic affront interrupted his 
pleasures. The emperor still thirsted for revenge ; and his subjects and 
allies of the Syrian frontier were repeatedly pressed to seize the person, and 
put out the eyes, of the fugitive. In Palestine he was no longer safe ; but 
the tender Theodora revealed his danger and accompanied his flight. After 
a long circuit round the Caspian Sea and the mountains of Georgia, he finally 
settled among the Turks of Asia Minor, the hereditary enemies of his coun- 
try. The sultan of Colonia afforded a hospitable retreat to Andronicus, his 
mistress, and his band of outlaws ; the debt of gratitude was paid by fre- 
quent inroads in the Roman province of Trebizond, and he seldom returned 
without an ample harvest of spoil and of Christian captives. 

His vigilance had eluded or repelled the open and secret persecution of 
the emperor ; but he was at length ensnared by the captivity of his female 
companion. The governor of Trebizond succeeded in his attempt to sur- 
prise the person of Theodora ; the queen of Jerusalem and her two children 
were sent to Constantinople, and their loss embittered the tedious solitude 
of banishment. The fugitive implored and obtained a final pardon, with 
leave to throw himself at the feet of his sovereign, who was satisfied with 
the submission of this haughty spirit. Prostrate on the ground, he deplored 
with tears and groans the guilt of his past rebellion ; nor would he presume 
to arise unless some faithful subject would drag him to the foot of the throne. 

This extraordinary penance excited the wonder and pity of the assembly ; 
his sins were forgiven by the church and state ; but the just suspicion of 
Manuel fixed his residence at a distance from the court, at GSnoe, a town 
of Pontus, surrounded with rich vineyards, and situate on the coast of the 
Euxine. The death of Manuel, and the disorders of the minority, soon 
opened the fairest field to his ambition. 


[1180-1183 A.D.] 

ALEXIUS II (1180-1183 A.D.) 

The emperor was a boy of twelve or fourteen years of age, without vigour, 
or wisdom, or experience ; his mother, the empress Mary, abandoned her 
person and government to a favourite of the Comnenian name ; and his 
sister, another Mary, whose husband, an Italian, was decorated with the title 
of Caesar, excited a conspiracy, and at length an insurrection, against her 
odious stepmother. The provinces were forgotten, the capital was in flames, 
and a century of peace and order was overthrown in the vice and weakness 
of a few months. A civil war was kindled in Constantinople ; the two fac- 
tions fought a bloody battle in the square of the palace, and the rebels sus- 
tained a regular siege in the cathedral of St. Sophia. The patriarch laboured 
with honest zeal to heal the wounds of the republic, the most respectable 
patriots called aloud for a guardian and avenger, and every tongue repeated 
the praise of the talents and even the virtues of Andronicus. In his march 
from OEnoe to Constantinople, his slender train insensibly swelled to a crowd 
and an army ; his professions of religion and loyalty were mistaken for the 
language of his heart ; and the simplicity of a foreign dress, which showed 
to advantage his majestic stature, displayed a lively image of his poverty and 
exile. All opposition sank before him ; he reached the straits of the Thra- 
cian Bosporus ; the Byzantine navy sailed from the harbour to receive and 
transport the saviour of the empire ; the torrent was loud and irresistible, 
and the insects who had basked in the sunshine of royal favour disappeared 
at the blast of the storm. It was the first care of Andronicus to occupy the 
palace, to salute the emperor, to confine his mother, to punish her minister, 
and to restore the public order and tranquillity. He then visited the sepul- 
chre' of Manuel ; the spectators were ordered to stand aloof, but, as he bowed 
in the attitude of prayer, they heard a murmur of triumph and revenge. 

" I no longer fear thee, my old enemy, who hast driven me a vagabond 
to every climate of the earth. Thou art safely deposited under a sevenfold 
dome, from whence thou canst never arise till the signal of the last trumpet. 
It is now my turn, and speedily will I trample on thy ashes and thy pos- 
terity." From his subsequent tyranny we may impute such feelings to the 
man and the moment. But it is not extremely probable that he gave an 
articulate sound to his secret thoughts. In the first months of his admin- 
istration, his designs were veiled by a fair semblance of hypocrisy, which 
could delude only the eyes of the multitude : the coronation of Alexius was 
performed with due solemnity, and his perfidious guardian, holding in his 
hands the body and blood of Christ, most fervently declared, that he lived, 
and was ready to die, for the service of his beloved pupil. After blacken- 
ing her reputation, and inflaming against her the passions of the multitude, 
the tyrant accused and tried the empress for a treasonable correspondence 
with the king of Hungary. His own son, a youth of honour and humanity, 
avowed his abhorrence of this flagitious act, and three of the judges had the 
merit of preferring their conscience to their safety ; but the obsequious 
tribunal, without requiring any proof, or hearing any defence, condemned the 
widow of Manuel, and her unfortunate son subscribed the sentence of her 
death. Maria was strangled, her corpse was buried in the sea, and her mem- 
ory was wounded by the insult most offensive to female vanity, a false and 
ugly representation of her beauteous form. The fate of her son was not 
long deferred : he was strangled with a bowstring, and the tyrant, insensible 
to pity or remorse, after surveying the body of the innocent youth, struck it 
rudely with his foot. 


[1183-1185 A.D.J 

The Roman sceptre, the reward of his crimes, was held by Andronicus 
about three years and a half, as guardian, then sovereign of the empire. 
His government exhibited a singular contrast of vice and virtue. When he 
listened to his passions he was the scourge, when he consulted his reason, 
the father, of his people. In the exercise of private justice, he was equitable 
and rigorous ; a shameful and pernicious venality was abolished, and the 
offices were filled with the most deserving candidates by a prince who had 
sense to choose, and severity to punish. He prohibited the inhuman prac- 
tice of pillaging the goods and persons of shipwrecked mariners ; the prov- 
inces, so long the objects of oppression or neglect, revived in prosperity and 
plenty ; and millions applauded the distant blessings of his reign, while he 
was cursed by the witnesses of his daily cruelties. The ancient proverb, 
that blood-thirsty is the man who returns from banishment to power, had 
been applied with too much truth to Marius and Tiberius ; and was now 
verified for the third time in the life of Andronicus. His memory was 
stored with a black list of the enemies and rivals who had traduced his 
merit, opposed his greatness, or insulted his misfortunes ; and the only 
comfort of his exile was the sacred hope and promise of revenge. The 
necessary extinction of the young emperor and his mother imposed the fatal 
obligation of extirpating the friends, who hated, and might punish, the as- 
sassin ; and the repetition of murder rendered him less willing, and less 
able, to forgive. 

The noblest of the Greeks, more especially those who, by descent or 
alliance, might dispute the Comnenian inheritance, escaped from the mon- 
ster's den ; Nicsea or Prusa, Sicily or Cyprus, were their places of refuge ; 
and as their flight was already criminal, they aggravated their offence 
by an open revolt, and the imperial title. Yet Andronicus resisted the 
daggers and swords of his most formidable enemies ; Nicsea and Prusa 
were reduced and chastised ; the Sicilians were content with the sack of 
Thessalonica ; and the distance of Cyprus was not more propitious to the 
rebel than to the tyrant. His throne was subverted by a rival without 
merit, and a people without arms. Isaac Angelus, a descendant in the 
female line from the great Alexius, was marked as a victim, by the pru- 
dence or superstition of the emperor. In a moment of despair, Angelus 
defended his life and liberty, slew the executioner, and fled to the church 
of St. Sophia. The sanctuary was insensibly filled with a curious and 
mournful crowd, who, in his fate, prognosticated their own. But their 
lamentations were soon turned to curses, and their curses to threats : they 
dared to ask, " Why do we fear ? why do we obey ? we are many, and he 
is one ; our patience is the only bond of our slavery." With the dawn of 
day the city burst into a general sedition, the prisons were thrown open, 
the coldest and most servile were roused to the defence of their country, 
and Isaac, the second of the name, was raised from the sanctuary to the 

Unconscious of his danger, the tyrant was absent, withdrawn from the 
toils of state, in the delicious islands of the Propontis. When fear had 
ceased, obedience was no more ; the imperial galley was pursued and taken 
by an armed brigantine, and the tyrant was dragged to the presence of 
Isaac Angelus, loaded with fetters, and a long chain round his neck. His 
eloquence, and the tears of his female companions, pleaded in vain for his 
life ; but, instead of the decencies of a legal execution, the new monarch 


[1185-1204 A.D.] 

abandoned the criminal to the numerous sufferers whom he had deprived 
of a father, a husband, or a friend. His teeth and hair, an eye and hand, 
were torn from him, as a poor compensation for their loss ; and a short 
respite was allowed, that he might feel the bitterness of death. Astride on 
a camel, without any danger of a rescue, he was carried through the city, 
and the basest of the populace rejoiced to trample on the fallen majesty of 
their prince. After a thousand blows and outrages, Andronicus was hung 
by the feet between two pillars that supported the statues of a wolf and a 
sow ; and every hand that could reach the public enemy inflicted on his 
body some mark of ingenious or brutal cruelty, till two friendly Italians, 
plunging their swords into his body, released him from all human punish- 
ment. In this long and painful agony, " Lord, have mercy upon me ! " and 
" Why will you bruise a broken reed ? " were the only words that escaped 
from his mouth. Our hatred for the tyrant is lost in pity for the man ; nor 
can we blame his pusillanimo-is resignation, since a Greek Christian was no 
longer master of his life. 

The branches that sprang from the Comnenian trunk had insensibly 
withered ; and the male line was continued only in the posterity of Androni- 

A Saracen Bkass Vessel 

cus himself, who, in the public confusion, usurped the sovereignty of Trebi- 
zond, so obscure in history, and so famous in romance. A private citizen 
of Ph