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949*5 F5ih 61-18032 

Flnlay, George 
History of the Byzantine 

E. P. Button [19063 

949*5 F53* 61-18032 

Finlsy, George 

History of the Byzantine 

empire. E. P. Button [1906] 




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HISTORY 



HISTORY OF THE 
BYZANTINE EMPIRE 
BY GEORGE FINLAY 

WITH AN INTRODUCTION BY V. K. R. 



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BYZANTINE 



From DCCXVI 
To M.LVII 
BY GEORGE 

FINEAY 



LONDORPUBLJSHED 
fyJ-MDENT&SONSB 
AND IN NEW YORK 
BVE-PDUTTON5CO 




FIRST ISSUE OF THIS EDITION . February 1906' 
REPRINTED .... April 1906; September 1913 



EDITOR'S INTRODUCTION 

" I WOULD rather," said a former president of Harvard University, 
Professor Felton, "be the author of your histories than Prime 
Minister of England." This was said in a letter to Finlay, reassuring 
and solacing him in his day of dejection. So Atticus once com- 
forted Cicero ; but it is to be feared that Finlay's case was one of 
another order, less consolable. His misgivings were due to a sense 
of disillusion over that very cause, the renaissance of a new Greece, 
to which he had devoted his life with unswerving mind and single- 
ness of purpose. And even that was not all. For his disappoint- 
ment coincided with the beginning of his own physical decline, and 
with the apparent signs too, for so he read them, that his services 
to his day and generation had been in vain. 

Now, we who look back along the steadfast line of his achieve- 
ment, recognise how eminent it was, and how true was the prophecy 
of his friend Felton, uttered almost fifty years ago. We see the 
continuing effects of his labour, forty years long, as an historian, 
and the heroic difficulty of his work as an active and practical 
Philhellene. To gain an estimate of its force and quality, it is 
almost enough to read the books of his Byzantine history that 
follow ; but they ought to be read with the radiant hope of Finlay's 
youth and his first great ardour in the Hellenic cause gleaming upon 
the page. 

Finlay, who died in Athens in 1875, was born at Faversham, 
Kent, in 1799 ; that is a few months before Macaulay, a very different 
master of history. His early circumstances were hardly such as to 
foster his special qualities. He went to no university until he was 
twenty, and had spent some months in a writer's office at Glasgow ; 
and of his schooldays, three years in a Liverpool boarding-school 
were, on his own showing, a lost and useless period. 

But he was fortunate in having a mother who both loved history 
herself and had the art of making it alive to the imagination of 
her boy. When, then, Finlay went from Glasgow to Gottingen to 
study Roman law, he was better primed than the mere chart of his 
early years would seem to show. Moreover, he reached Germany 
at a time when the promise of the new awakening of Greece was 

61 1.8' 



viii Editor's Introduction 

bright, and he breathed the air of its revolt in a kind of intellectual 
ecstasy. He drank in eagerly every word he could of the news of 
the Greek cause, made friends with the one Greek student at the 
college ; and at length, in the autumn of 1823, very shortly after the 
news of Lord Byron's departure for Greece had been announced, 
he too set off thither. He reached Cephalonia in November, and 
met the poet; went on to Athens, and then to Missolonghi. 
Probably it was there that he, like Lord Byron, laid the seeds 
of the fever that afterwards seriously threatened him. It was in 
April, 1824, that Byron died. Finlay had gone on meanwhile 
to Italy, where and in Sicily he spent some time, returning to 
Scotland to pass his examination in civil law. But that accom- 
plished, he felt the power and the hope of Greece all dominant in 
his mind. He could not resist the unsated desire he felt to return 
and be in the very midst of the struggle. He left again for 
its shores in 1825, there to remain for the rest of his life, nearly 
half a century in all, with the intermission only of a few visits 
home. In 1829 Greece was able to declare her independence 
thanks to the aid of many enthusiastic adherents, who, like Byron 
and Finlay, had been ready to give all they had to her cause. 
Alas 1 Finlay lost nearly all he possessed, and often felt that he 
had given his days as well as his wealth in vain in this sacrifice. 

But Finlay, if he doubted at times, and felt that all he had done 
and spent and written had been of no real avail, could never have 
echoed Byron's plaint in " Childe Harold " for the companion 
country : 

There is the moral of all human tales ; 

*Tis but the same rehearsal of the past, 

First Freedom, and then Glory when that fails, 

Wealth, vice, corruption, barbarism at last. 

And History, with all her volumes vast, 

Hath but one page ! . . . . 



Long afterwards, it is true, in 1855, Finlay wrote in the retro- 
spect : 

" Had the hopes with which I joined the cause of Greece in 1823 
been fulfilled, it is not probable that I should have abandoned the 
active duties of life, and the noble task of labouring to improve the 
land, for the sterile task of recording its misfortunes." 

But Finlay was a philosopher in essence, if not always able to 
be philosophical in the common sense about the discrepancy that 
exists between human and; ideal effort and sheer achievement, 
We turn back now to the record of his "sterile task" his 



Editors Introduction ix 

writing of Greek history. Its first results appeared in 1836, when 
his book on the " Hellenic Kingdom and the Greek Nation," was 
published. Then in 1844, his "Greece under the Romans n 
followed in two volumes. His History of the Byzantine and 
Greek Empires was completed in 1854. Two years later came the 
volumes dealing with the Ottoman and Venetian Domination ; and 
in 1 86 1, his History of the Greek Revolution. If his life-work 
then seemed complete, he still did great service by his letters and 
articles contributed to the " Athensum," the "Times," "Saturday 
Review," and other papers and reviews. We have seen already 
that his own feeling in these later years was one of much discourage- 
ment. He had seen the light of a new and regenerate Greece 
wax,- and then wane : and the decline was a more serious one, 
viewed under his gravely human, philosophical estimate, than the 
outer world could perceive. Then his own stock of vitality was 
beginning to run low, and his faith in the validity of his life-work 
considered purely as a literary and scholarly accomplishment and 
apart from the good or evil fortune of his chosen and adopted 
country had been weakened, in spite of the encouragements of his 
peers and fellow-scholars men like the President of Harvard and 
Professor Miiller. Probably, living away in Athens as he did, he 
did not realise the full measure of his influence. But his was an 
order of work that could not hope to attain a great vogue. Sound 
and slow, without the surface brilliancy that made a Macaulay 
enormously popular, it has power to affect the circle of scholars 
and men who were the inner public of the time. It is not readily 
to be known, however, if this has been achieved, and, at any rate, 
the signs were not so deciphered by Finlay from his watch-tower 
at Athens. 

But of the total value of his historical work there is, there can be, 
no question. He was the pioneer of the new movement which in 
England led at last to the re-writing of history with an eye to 
human development and social and economic change, -as it was 
re- written for us by Green in his " History of the English People." 
But Finlay, long before Green, had come to the same sense of the 
true function of history. One passage, and a very remarkable one 
it is, may be quoted to show how he confronted his great task : 

" The vicissitudes which the great masses of the nations of the 
earth have undergone in past ages have hitherto received very 
little attention from historians, who have adorned their pages with 
the records of kings, and the personal exploits of princes and great 
men, or attached their narrative to the fortunes of the dominant 



x Editor's Introduction 

classes, without noticing the fate of the people. History, however, 
continually repeats the lesson that powers, numbers, and the 
highest civilisation of an aristocracy are, even when united, in- 
sufficient to ensure national prosperity, and establish the power of 
the rulers on so firm and permanent a basis as shall guarantee the 
dominant class from annihilation. ... It is that portion only of 
mankind, which eats bread raised from the soil by the sweat of its 
brow, that can form the basis of a permanent material existence." 

In this passage we have Finlay's idea of the philosophy of 
history, and of the historian's exemplification of it in practice. 
It was an idea that was present and that was most devotedly 
pursued to the end in Finlay's own books. The test of a man's 
performance in this, as in other forms of literature, is in the read- 
ing ; and Finlay's readers, here and in other pages of his, will 
decide what his final place is in the common ground where litera- 
ture and history meet. 

We might have added a word from the tribute paid to him by a 
Greek contemporary on his death, who spoke of him as only Byron 
among foreigners had been spoken of previously. But more to the 
purpose here is that of the " Athenaeum," to which he had con- 
tributed for some thirty-six years in all, at his death. In its obituary 
notice, it spoke of the great loss caused to history and to English 
literature by the death of this last of the old generation of Phil- 
hellenes who had followed Byron's lead. And the loss to Greece 
itself, it pointed out, was none the less, since the people needed a 
Mentor so much and so unwillingly endured one. 

" To Finlay," continued the writer in the " Athenaeum," his re- 
searches taught "the practical lesson that the regeneration of 
Greece was not to be sought in the reproduction of classic forms, 
but in the rational development of the people as they are. ... It 
was with this view that he contributed to the ' Times ' a remark- 
able series of letters from Greece . . . which appear to have 
produced a revolution in the Greek mind." 

What, we cannot but ask, would Finlay have said had he wit- 
nessed the melancholy sequel of the last Greek war, with its 
exhibition of even deeper infirmities, with evidence of a far 
graver disorder of state and people, than those he knew and those 
he anticipated ? 

Finlay's last publication was an edition, printed in Paris, of the 
journal kept by Brue, interpreter to the French embassy, who 
accompanied the Grand Vizier, Ali, in the Morean campaign of 
1715, Finlay had purchased the MS. in 1843, and had drawn from 



Editor's Introduction xl 

It freely in his " Greece under the Ottoman and Venetian Domina- 
tion.' 7 

Another passage from the poet who helped to kindle and inspire 
his Hellenic ardour is the best epilogue both to Finlay's sanguine 
first hopes and his last troubled decline. It occurs in " The Siege 
of Corinth " : 

The waters murmured of their name ; 

The woods were peopled with their fame. 

The silent pillar, lone and grey, 

Claimed kindred with their sacred clay ; 

Their spirits wrapped the dusky mountain, 

Their memory sparkled o'er the fountain j 

The meanest rill, the mightiest river, 

Rolled mingling with their fame for ever. 

Despite of every yoke she bears 

That land is Glory's still and theirs ! 

'Tis still a watchword to the earth : 

When man would do a deed of worth 

He points to Greece. . . . 

V. R. R. 



The following is a list of the published works of George 
Finlay ( 1 799-1 875) : 

The Hellenic Kingdom and the Greek Nation, 1836. Remarks 
on the Topography of Oropia and Diacria, 1838. 'ETrtcrroA^ Trpos 
TOVS 'A^vacovs (and other pamphlets on Greek Finance), 1844. 
Greece under the Romans, 1844. On the Site of the Holy Sepul- 
chre^ 1847. Greece to its Conquest by the Turks, 1851. Greece 
under Ottoman and Venetian Dominion, 1856. The Greek 
Revolution, 1861. 'Avn/cciy^eva vp@vra ev *EA.A,aSt, 1869. 
7ra/>aT77pr;crets ITTI rrjs ev 'EA/^eTi^, etc., 1869. The French 
Narrative of Benjamin Brue, 1 870. A History of Greece from 
its Conquest by the Romans to the Present Time, B.C. 146- 
A.D. 1864; 1877 [Clarendon Press reissue of his History, revised 
by himself, and edited by Tozer]. 

Finlay also contributed to the " Times n (1864-70), "Athenaeum/* 
and u Saturday Review." 



CONTENTS 



BOOK I 

THE CONTEST WITH THE ICONOCLASTS 
A.D. 717-867 

CHAPTER PAGE 

I. THE ISAUK.IAN DYNASTY. A.D. 717-797 .... 3 
Sect. I. Characteristics of Byzantine History Its Divisions 

Extent and Administrative Divisions of the Empire . . 3 

Sect* 2. Reign of Leo III., (the Isaurian,} A.D. 717-741 14 

Sect. 3. Constantine V., (Copronymus,) A.D. 741-775 . 43 
Sect* 4. Reigns of Leo IV., (the Khazar,) Constantine VI., 

and Irene, A.D. 775-802 65 

II. THE REIGNS OF NICEPHORUS I., MICHAEL I., AND LEO V. 

THE ARMENIAN. A.D. 802-820 ..... 86 

Sect. I. Nicephorus L, A.D. 802-811 86 

Sect 2. Michael I., (Rhangabe\) A.D. 812-813 , . 100 

Sect. 3. Leo V., (the Armenian,) A.D. 813-820 .105 

III. THE AMORIAN DYNASTY. A.D. 820-867 - .119 
Sect. I. Michael IL, (the Stammerer,) A.D. 820-829 . .119 

Sect. 2. Theophilus, A.D. 829-842 132 

Sect. 3. Michael III., (the Drunkard,) A.D. 842-867 . 149 

IV. STATE OF THE BYZANTINE EMPIRE DOLING THE ICONO- 
CLAST PERIOD 183 

Sect. I. Public Administration Diplomatic and Commer- 
cial relations 183 

Sect. 2. State of Society among the people of the Byzan- 
tine Empire in the eighth and ninth centuries , . 199 



xlv Contents 

BOOK II 

BASILIAN DYNASTYPERIOD OF THE POWER 
AND GLORY OF THE BYZANTINE EMPIRE 

A.D. 867-1057 

CHAPTER PAGK 

I. CONSOLIDATION OF BYZANTINE LEGISLATION AND 

DESPOTISM. A.D. 867-963 . . . . . . 213 

Sect, i. Reign of Basil I., (the Macedonian,) A.D. 867-886 213 
Sect. 2. Leo VI., (the Philosopher,) A.D. 886-912 . .241 
Sect. 3. Alexander Minority of Constantine VII. (Por- 
phyrogenitus) Romanus I. Lacapenus, A.D. 912-944 . . 263 

Sect. 4. Constantine VII. (Porphyrogenitus) Romanus II. 
945-9<>3 274 

II* PERIOD OF CONQUEST AND MILITARY GLORY. A.D. 963- 

1025 30I 

Sect. i. Reigns of Nicephorns II., Phokas, and John I. 
(Zimiskes), A.D. 963-976 301 

Sect. 2. Reign of Basil II., (Bulgaroktonos,) A.D. 976- 
I02 S 334 

III. PERIOD OF CONSERVATISM ON THE EVE OF DECLINE. A.D. 

1025-1057 359 

Sect. i. Constantine VIIL, A. D. 1025-1028 . . . 359 
Sect. 2. The Reigns of the husbands of Zoe, A.D. 1028- 
1054 363 

Sect. 3. Reigns of Theodora and Michael VI., (Stratiotikos, 
or the Warlike,) A. D. 1054-1057 , . , . . .412 



HISTORY OF THE 
BYZANTINE EMPIRE 



BOOK ONE 



THE CONTEST WITH THE ICONOCLASTS 
A.D. 717-367 



CHAPTER I 

THE ISAURIAN DYNASTY. A.D. 717-797 

SECTION I 

CHARACTERISTICS OF BYZANTINE HISTORY ITS DIVISIONS- 
EXTENT AND ADMINISTRATIVE DIVISIONS OF THE EMPIRE 

THE institutions of Imperial Rome had long thwarted the 
great law of man's existence which impels him to better his 
condition, when the accession of Leo the Isaurian to the 
throne of Constantinople suddenly opened a new era in the 
history of the Eastern Empire. Both the material and in- 
tellectual progress of society had been deliberately opposed 
by the imperial legislation. A spirit of conserval'jm per- 
suaded the legislators of the Roman empire that its power 
could not decline, if each order and profession of its citizens 
was fixed irrevocably in the sphere of their own peculiar duties 
by hereditary succession. An attempt was really made to 
divide the population into castes. But the political kws which 
were adopted to maintain mankind in a state of stationary 
prosperity by these trammels, depopulated and impoverished 
the empire, and threatened to dissolve the very elements of 
society. The Western Empire, under their operation, fell a 
prey to small tribes of northern nations ; the Eastern was so 
depopulated that it was placed on the eve of being repeopled 
by Sclavonian colonists, and conquered by Saracen invaders. 

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 condition of the people, mark the eighth century as 
an epoch of transition in Roman history, though the im- 
proved condition of the mass of the population is in some 
degree concealed by the prominence given to the disputes 
concerning image-worship in the records of this period. But 
the increased strength of the empire, and the energy infused 
into the administration, are forcibly displayed by the fact, that 



4 The Contest with the Iconoclasts 

the Byzantine armies began from this time to oppose a firm 
barrier to the progress of the invaders of the empire. 

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, and an 
Iconoclast, consequently a foreigner and a heretic, ascended 
the throne of Constantine, and arrested the victorious career 
of the Mohammedans. He then reorganised the whole ad- 
ministration so completely in accordance with the new exigen- 
cies 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 historians 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 inhabitants 
of the Eastern Empire had already undergone a considerable 
change during the century which elapsed from the accession 
of Heraclius to that of Leo, from the influence of causes to 
be n'oticed in the following pages ; and this change in society 
created a new phase in the Roman empire. The gradual pro- 
gress of this change has led some writers to date the com- 
mencement 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 Con- 
stantine, continued in operation, though subjected to frequent 
reforms, until Constantinople was stormed by the Crusaders, 
and the Greek church enslaved by papal domination. The 

1 Clinton, Fasti Romani, Int. xiii, says, "The empire of Rome, properly so called, 
ends at A.D. 476," which is the third year of Zeno. Numismatists place the commence- 
ment of the Byzantine empire in the reign of Anastasius I. Saulcy, Essai de Classifi,* 
cation des Suites Monetaires Byzantines. Gibbon tells us, " Tiberius by the Arabs, 
and Maurice by the Italians, are distinguished as the first of the Greek Caesars, as the 
founders of a new dynasty and empire. The silent revolution was accomplished before 
the death of Herachus." Decline and Fall) vol. x. chap. liii. p. 154. 



The Isaurian Dynasty 5 

General Council of Nicsea, and the dedication of the im- 
perial city, with their concomitant legislative, administrative, 
and judicial institutions, 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 
centuries 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 Constantinople, and the reformer of 
the church and state. He was the first Christian sovereign 
who arrested the torrent of Mohammedan conquest; he im- 
proved 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 pre- 
sents 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 improvement 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. 

Before reviewing the history of Leo's reign, and recording 
his brilliant exploits, it is necessary to sketch the condition 
to which the Roman administrative system had reduced the 
empire. It would be an instructive lesson to trace the pro- 
gress of the moral and mental decline of the Greeks, from the 
age of Plato and Aristotle to the time of the sixth ecumenical 
council, in the reign of Justinian II.; for the moral evils 
nourished in Greek society degraded the nation, before the 
oppressive government of the Romans impoverished and de- 
populated Greece. When the imperial authority was fully 
established, we easily trace the manner in which the inter- 



6 The Contest with the Iconoclasts 

communication of different provinces and orders of society 
became gradually restricted to the operations of material 
interests, and how the limitation of ideas arose from this 
want of communication, until at length civilisation decayed. 
Good roads and commodious passage-boats have a more direct 
connection with the development of popular education, as we 
see it reflected in the works of Phidias and the writings of 
Sophocles, than is generally believed. Under the jealous 
system of the imperial government, the isolation of place and 
class became so complete, that even the highest members of 
the aristocracy received their ideas from the inferior domestics 
with whom they habitually associated in their own households 
not from the transitory intercourse they held with able and 
experienced men of their own class, or with philosophic and 
religious teachers. Nurses and slaves implanted their ignorant 
superstitions in the households where the rulers of the empire 
and the provinces were reared; and no public assemblies 
existed, where discussion could efface such prejudices. Family 
education became a more influential feature in society than 
public instruction; and though family education, from the 
fourth to the seventh century, appears to have improved the 
morality of the population, it certainly increased their super- 
stition and limited their understandings. Emperors, senators, 
landlords, and merchants, were alike educated under these 
influences; and though the church and the law opened a 
more enlarged circle of ideas, from creating a deeper sense 
of responsibility, still the prejudices of early education cir- 
cumscribed the sense of duty more and more in each suc- 
cessive generation. The military class, which was the most 
powerful in society, consisted almost entirely of mere bar- 
barians. The mental degradation, resulting from superstition, 
bigotry, and ignorance, which forms the marked social feature 
of the period between the reigns of Justinian I. and Leo III., 
brought the Eastern Empire to the state of depopulation and 
weakness that had delivered the Western a prey to small tribes 
of invaders. 

The fiscal causes of the depopulation of the Roman empire 
have been noticed in a prior volume, as well as the extent 
to which immigrants had intruded themselves on the soil of 
Greece. 1 The corruption of the ancient language took place 
at the same time, and arose out of the causes which dissemi- 
nated ignorance. At the accession of Leo, the disorder in 

* Greece under the. Romans^ 60, 70, 238, 



The Isaurian Dynasty 7 

ihe central administration, the anarchy in the provincial govern- 
ment, and the ravages of the Sclavonians and Saracens, had 
rendered the condition of the people intolerable. The Roman 
government seemed incapable of upholding legal order in 
society, and its extinction was regarded as a proximate event. 1 
Ail the provinces between the shores of the Adriatic and the 
banks of the Danube had been abandoned to Sclavonian tribes. 
Powerful colonies of Sclavonians had been planted by Justinian 
II. in Macedonia and Bithynia, in the rich valleys of the 
Strymon and the Artanas. 2 Greece was filled with pastoral 
and agricultural hordes of the same race, who became in many 
districts the sole cultivators of the soil, and effaced the memory 
of the names of mountains and streams, which will be im- 
mortal in the world's literature. 3 The Bulgarians plundered 
all Thrace to the walls of Constantinople. 4 Thessalonica was 
repeatedly besieged by Sclavonians. 5 The Saracens had in- 
undated Asia Minor with their armies, and were preparing to 
extirpate Christianity in the East. Such was the crisis at which 
Leo was proclaimed emperor by the army, in Amorium A.D. 

7 j6 ' 

Yet there were peculiar features in the condition of the 

surviving population, and an inherent vigour in the principles 
of the Roman administration, that still operated powerfully 
in resisting foreign domination. The people felt the necessity 
of defending the administration of the law, and of upholding 
commercial intercourse. The ties of interest consequently 
ranged a large body of the inhabitants of every province round 
the central administration at this hour of difficulty. The very 
circumstances which weakened the power of the court of Con- 
stantinople, conferred on the people an increase of authority, 
and enabled them to take effectual measures for their own 
defence. This new energy may be traced in the resistance 
which Ravenna and Cherson offered to the tyranny of Justinian 
II. The orthodox church, also, served as an additional bond 
of union among the people, and, throughout the wide extent 

1 This feeling can be traced as earl y as the reign of Maurice. Theophylactus Simo- 
catta records that an angel appeared in a dream to the Emperor Tiberius II., and 
uttered these words: "The Lord announces to thee, O emperor, that in thy reign th< 
days of anarchy shall not commence." P. n, edit. Par. 

2 Constant. Porphyr., De Them. ii. 23, edit. Band. Theophanes, 304, 305, 364 
Nicephorus, P. C. 44, edit. Par. 

3 Constant. Porphyr., De Them. ii. 25, Strabonis Epit. torn. iii. 386, edit. Coray. 

" Their place of birth alone is mute 
To sounds which echo farther west, 
Than their sires' islands of the blest. " 

Theophanes, 320. a Tafel, De Thessalonica ejusque Agro^ prol. xciv. 



8 The Contest with the Iconoclasts 

of the imperial dominions, its influences connected the local 
feelings of the parish with the general interests of the church 
and the empire. These misfortunes, which brought the state 
to the verge of ruin, relieved commerce from much fiscal op- 
pression and many monopolies. Facilities were thus given to 
trade, which afforded to the population of the towns additional 
sources of employment The commerce of the Eastern 
Empire had already gained by the conquests of the bar- 
barians in the West, for the ruling classes in the countries 
conquered by the Goths and Franks rarely engaged in^ trade 
or accumulated capital. 1 The advantage of possessing a 
systematic administration of justice, enforced by a fixed legal 
procedure, attached the commercial classes and the town 
population to the person of the emperor, whose authority 
was considered the fountain of legal order and judicial ^ im- 
partiality. A fixed legislation, and an uninterrupted adminis- 
tration of justice, prevented the political anarchy that prevailed 
under the successors of Heraclius from ruining society in the 
Roman empire ; while the arbitrary judicial power of provin- 
cial governors, in the dominions of the caliphs, rendered 
property insecure, and undermined national wealth. 

There was likewise another feature in the Eastern Empire 
which deserves notice. The number of towns was very great, 
and they were generally more populous than the political^ state 
of the country would lead us to expect Indeed, to estimate 
the density of the urban population, in comparison with the 
extent of territory from which it apparently derived its supplies, 
we must compare it with the actual condition of Malta and 
Guernsey, or with the state of Lombardy and Tuscany in the 
middle ages. This density of population, joined to the great 
difference in the price of the produce of the soil in various 
places, afforded the Roman government the power of collect- 
ing from its subjects an amount of taxation unparalleled in 
modern times, except in Egypt, 2 The whole surplus profits 

1 This fact explains the Increase In the numbers of the Jews, and their commercial 
importance, in the seventh century. The conquered Romans were bound to their cor- 
porations by their own law, to which they clung, and almost to the trades of their 
fathers ; for the Romans were serfs of their corporations before serfdom was extended 
by their conquerors to the soil. Compare Cod. Theodos. lib. x. t. 20, 1. 10, with Cod. 
Justin, lib. xi. t. 8, and lib. xL x. 3. One of the three ambassadors sent by Charle- 
piagne to Haroun Al Rashid was a Jew. He was doubtless charged with the commer- 
cial business. 

2 The peculiarities in Egypt, which enabled the government of Mehernet^Ali to 
extract about two millions sterling annually from a population of two millions of 
paupers 3 were the following : The surplus in the produce of the country makes the 



price of the immense quantity produced in Upper Egypt very low. Government can, 
consequently, either impose a tax on the produce of the upper country equal to the 



The Isaurian Dynasty 9 

of society were annually drawn into the coffers of the state, 
leaving the inhabitants only a bare sufficiency for perpetuating 
the race of tax-payers. History, indeed, shows that the agri- 
cultural classes, from the labourer to the landlord, were unable 
to retain possession of the savings required to replace that 
depreciation which time is constantly producing in all vested 
capital, and that their numbers gradually diminished. 

After the accession of Leo III., a new condition of society 
is soon apparent ; and though many old political evils con- 
tinued to exist, it becomes evident 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 subjects 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 flourish in full vigour. It must be confessed 
that eminent historians present a totally different picture of 
Byzantine history to their readers. Voltaire speaks of it as 
a worthless repertory of declamation and miracles, disgraceful 
to the human mind. 1 Even the sagacious Gibbon, after enumer- 
ating 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 re- 
flected 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." 2 The views of 
Byzantine history, unfolded in the following pages, are frequently 

difference of price at Siout and Alexandria, less the expense of transport, or it can con- 
stitute itself the sole master of the transport on the Nile, and make a monopoly both of 
the right of purchase and of freight. The expense of transport jte trifling, as the stream 
carries a loaded boat steadily down the river, while the north wind drives an empty one 
up against the current, almost with the regularity of a locomotive _ engine. The Nile 
offers, in this manner, all the advantages of a railway, nature having constructed the 
road, and supplied the locomotive power ; while a monopoly of their use is vested in the 
hands of every tyrant who rules the country. Mehemet Ali, not content with this, 
created an almost universal monopoly in favour of his government^ The whole produce 
of the country was purchased at a tariff price, the cultivator being only allowed to 
retain the means of perpetuating his class. The number of towns and the density^ of 
population in the Byzantine empire arose from the immense amount of ^capital which 
ages of security had expended in improving the soil, and from its cultivation as garden- 
land with the spade and mattock. Both these facts are easily proved. 

1 Le Pyrrhonisme de FHistoire, chap. xv. note 1. With this remark, the records of 
an empire, which witnessed the rise and fall of the Caliphs and the Carlovingians, aro 
dismissed by one who exclaimed, "fdterai aux nations le bandeau de Ferreur." 

2 Declint and Fall> chap, xlviii. 



io The Contest with the Iconoclasts 

In direct opposition to these great authorities. The defects 
and vices of the political system will be carefully noticed, but 
the splendid achievements of the emperors, and the great 
merits of the judicial and ecclesiastical establishments, will 
be contrasted with their faults. 

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 terminates with that of Michael IIL in 867, It 
comprises the whole history of the predominance of the Icono- 
clasts 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 govern- 
ment and the people, the emperors seeking to increase the 
central power by annihilating every local franchise, and even 
the right of private opinion, among their subjects. The con- 
test concerning image-worship, from the prevalence of ecclesias- 
tical idsas, 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 em- 
perors wished to constitute themselves the fountains of ecclesias- 
tical 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 indi- 
vidual 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 developed 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 ths 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 perfumes of his palaces, replanted 
the Christian standards on the banks of the Euphrates. Irene, 
the beautiful Athenian, presents a strange combination of 
talent, heartlessness, and orthodoxy. The finance minister, 
Nicephoras, perishes on the field of battle like an old Roman. 
The Armenian Leo falls at the altar of his private chapel, 



The Isanrian Dynasty u 

murdered as lie 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 Sclavonian groom. 
The accomplished Theophilus 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 occupied a throne. 

The second period commences with the reign of Basil I. in 
867, and terminates with the deposition of Michael VI. in 
1057. During these two centuries the imperial 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 Byzantine empire attained its highest pitch of exter- 
nal power and internal prosperity. The Saracens were pur- 
sued into the plains of Syria. Antioch and Edessa were 
reunited to the empire. The Bulgarian monarchy was con- 
quered, and the Danube became again the northern frontier. 
The Sclavonians in Greece were almost exterminated. Byzan- 
tine commerce filled the whole Mediterranean, and legitimated 
the claim of the emperor of Constantinople to the title of 
Autocrat of the Mediterranean sea, 1 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 our greatest historians have overlooked, 
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 the 
decline and fall of the Eastern Empire. It commenced by 
a rebellion of the great nobles of Asia, who effected an inter- 
nal revolution in the Byzantine empire by wrenching the 
administration out of the hands of well-trained officials, and 
destroying the responsibility created by 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 

Constant. Porphyr. D* Them. ii. vj Aid rb r^v AbroKfdropa. KUV 
" * 



12 The Contest with the Iconoclasts 

throws a thin veil. The wealth of the empire was dissipated, 
its prosperity destroyed, the administration 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. 

In the eighth and ninth centuries the Byzantine empire 
continued to embrace many nations differing from the Greeks 
in language and manners. Even in religion there was a strong 
tendency to separation, and many of the heresies noticed in 
history assumed a national character, while the orthodox 
church circumscribed itself more and more within the nation- 
ality of the Greeks, and forfeited its ecumenical characteristics. 
The empire still included within its limits Romans, Greeks, 
Armenians, Isaurians, Lycaonians, Phrygians, Syrians, and 
Gallo-Grecians. But the great Thracian race, which had once 
been inferior in number only to the Indian, and which, in the 
first century of our era, had excited the attention of Vespasian 
by the extent of the territory it occupied, was now extermi- 
nated. 1 The country it had formerly inhabited was peopled 
by Sclavonian tribes, a diminished Roman and Greek popula- 
tion only retaining possession of the towns, and the Bulgarians, 
a Turkish tribe, ruling as the dominant race from Mount 
Hemus to the Danube. The range of Mount Hemus gener- 
ally formed the Byzantine frontier to the north, and its moun- 
tain passes were guarded by imperial garrisons. 2 Sclavonian 
colonies had established themselves over all the European 
provinces, and had even penetrated into the Peloponnesus. 
The military government of Strymon, above the passes in the 
plain of Heraclea Sintica, was formed to prevent the country 
to the south of Mounts Orbelos and Skomios from becoming 
an independent Sclavonian province. 

The provincial divisions of the Roman Empire had fallen 
into oblivion. A new geographical arrangement into Themes 
appears to have been established by Heraclius, when he recov- 
ered the Asiatic provinces from the Persians : it was reorganised 
by Leo, and endured as long as the Byzantine government. 3 
The number of themes varied at different periods. The 

1 Herodotus, v. 3. ^ Eustathius Thess., Comm. in Dianys. Periegetem, v. 323. 

2 The country within Mount Hernus, called Zagora, was only ceded to the Bulgarians 
in the reign of Michael III. Cont., Scrip, jost TkeoJ>h. % 102. Symeon Log., 440. 
Cedrenus, i. 446; ii. 541. 

8 The term thema> was first applied to the Roman legion. The military districts, 
garrisoned^ by legions, were^then called tJumata^ and ultimately the word was used 
merely to indicate geographical administrative divisions. Ducange. Glossariunt ittcd, 
et inf. Greecitatis. 



The Isaurian Dynasty 13 

Emperor Constantino Porphyrogenitus, writing about the 
middle of the tenth century, counts sixteen in the Asiatic 
portion of the empire, and twelve in the European. 

Seven great themes are particularly prominent in Asia 
Minor, 1 Optimaton, Opsikion, the Thrakesian, the Anatolic, 
the Bukellarian, the Kibyrraiot, and the Armeniac. In each 
of these a large military force was permanently maintained, 
under the command of a general of the province 5 and in 
Opsikion, the Thrakesian, and the Kibyrraiot, a naval force 
was likewise stationed under its own officers. The commanders 
of the troops were called Strategoi, those of the navy Drangarioi. 
Several subordinate territorial divisions existed, called Tourms, 
and separate military commands were frequently established 
for the defence of important passes, traversed by great lines of 
communication, called Kleisouras. Several of the ancient 
nations in Asia Minor still continued to preserve their national 
peculiarities, and this circumstance has induced the Byzantine 
writers frequently to mention their country as recognised 
geographical divisions of the empire. 

The European provinces were divided into eight continental 
and five insular or transmarine themes, until the loss of the 
exarchate of Ravenna reduced the number to twelve. Venice 
and Naples, though they acknowledged the suzerainty of the 
Eastern Empire, acted generally as independent cities. Sar- 
dinia was lost about the time of Leo's accession, and the 
circumstances attending its conquest by the Saracens are 
unknown. 

The ecclesiastical divisions of the empire underwent frequent 

1 The Asiatic themes were i. Anatolikon, including parts of Phrygia, Lycaonia, 
Isauria, Panophylia, and Pisldia. 2. The ArMeniac t including Pontus and Capp^a- 
docia. 3. The^ Thraksia.n, part of Phrygia, Lydia, and Ionia. 4. Opsikion^ Mysia, 
and part of Bithynia and Phrygia. 5. Optimaton^ the part of Bithynia towards the 
Bosphorus. 6. Bukellarion, Galatia. 7. Paphlagonia. 8. Chaldia.^ the country about 
Trebizond. 9. Mesopotamia.^ the trifling possessions of the empire on the Mesopota- 
mian frontier. 10. Koloneia^ the country between Pontus and Armenia Minor, through 
which the Lycus flows, near Neocassarea. . Sebasteia^ the second Armenia. Scrip, 
post Thepgh. 112. 12. Lycandos t a theme formed by Leo VI. (the Wise) on the borders 
of Armenia. 13. The Kibyrraiot, Caria, Lycia, and the coast of Cilicia. 14. Cyprus. 
15. Sfitnos. 16. The s&gean. Cappadocia is mentioned as a theme. Scrip, jzest. 
Theaph. 112 ; and Charsiania, Genesius, 46. They had formed part of the Armeniac 
theme. 

The twelve European themes were i. Thrace, z. Macedonia... 3. Strymon* 4. 
Thessalonica. 5. Hellas. 6. Peloponnesus. 7, Cephallenia. 8. Nicopolis. 9. Dyrra- 
chiunt. 10. Sicily, xi. Longibardia (Calabria.) 12. Cherson. The islands of the 
Archipelago, which formed the i6th Asiatic theme, were the usual station of the Euro- 
pean naval squadron, under the command of a Drungarias. They are often called 
DodekannesoS) and their admiral was an officer of consideration at the end of the eighth 
century. Theophanes^ 383. The list of the themes given by Constantino Porphyro- 
genitus is a traditional, not an official document. Cyprus and Sicily had been conquered 
by the Arabs long before he wrote. 



14 The Contest with the Iconoclasts 

modifications ; but after the provinces of Epirus, Greece, and 
Sicily were withdrawn, from the jurisdiction of the Pope, and 
placed under that of the Patriarch of Constantinople by 
Leo III., that patriarchate embraced the whole Byzantine 
empire. It was then divided into 52 metropolitan dioceses, 
which were subdivided into 649 suffragan bishopricks, and 13 
archbishopricks, in which the prelates were independent, 
(aiJTOK<aA<H,) but without any suffragans. There were, more- 
over, 34 titular archbishops. 1 

SECTION II 

REIGN OF LEO III. (THE ISAURIAN,) A.D. 7 1 7-741 2 

Saracen war Siege of Constantinople Circumstances favourable to 
Leo's reforms Fables concerning Leo Military, financial, and legal 
reforms Ecclesiastical policy Rebellion in Greece Papal opposition 
Physical phenomena. 

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. Four perished 
by the hand of the public executioner, 3 one died in^Dbscurity, 
after being deprived of sight, 4 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. 5 Every 
army assembled to encounter the Saracens had broken out 
into rebellion. The Bulgarians and Sclavonians wasted Europe 
up to the walls of Constantinople; the Saracens ravaged the 
whole of Asia Minor to the shores of the Bosphorus. 
. Amorium was the principal city of the theme Anatolikon. 6 
The Caliph Suleiman had sent his brother, Moslemah, with a 
numerous army, to complete 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 necessary delay, he opened negotiations 

1 Compare Codinus, Notztia: Grcecorunt Eptscopafunt t with the index to the first 
volume of Lequien, Oriens Christianus. 

2 The most complete work on the history of the .tconolast period is that of 
Schlosser, Geschichte der Bildersturmendcn Kaiser t 1812. ft is a work of learning, and 
original research. 

3 Leontius, Tiberius III., (Apsimar.) Justinian II., Philippics. 

4 Anastasius II. ^ 8 Theodosius III. 

6 Amorium was at the ruins called Hergan Kaleh. Hamilton, Researches in Asia, 
Minor t i. 452. Leake's Tour in Asia Minor % 86. 



The Isaurian Dynasty 15 

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 500 horse. The Saracens 
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 inhabitants 
of the Amorium, relating to the proffered terms, Leo con- 
trived 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 accom- 
pany him to the headquarters of Moslemah. The Saracen 
readily agreed to an arrangement which would enable him to 
deliver so important 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 pre- 
pared for the signa^ 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 monastery j 1 while Leo 
made his triumphal entry into the capital by the Golden Gate, 
and was crowned by the Patriarch in the church of St. Sophia 
on the 25th of March, 717. 

The position of Leo continued to be one of extreme diffi- 
culty. The Caliph Suleiman, who had seen one private 
adventurer succeed the other in quick succession on the 
imperial throne, deemed the moment favourable for the final 
conquest of the Christians; and, reinforcing his brother's army, 

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 
" Health." 



1 6 The Contest with the Iconoclasts 

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 im- 
plicitly obeyed. The recent conquests of Spain in the West, 
and of Fergana, Cashgar, 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 fight- 
ing men. 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 one hundred 
and eighty thousand ; 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. 1 

Moslemah, after capturing Pergamus, marched to Abydos, 
where he was joined by the Saracen fleet. He then trans- 
ported his army across the Hellespont, and, marching along 
the shore of the Propontis, invested Leo in his capital both 
by land and sea. The strong walls of Constantinople, the 
engines of defence with which Roman and Greek art had 
covered the ramparts, 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 dyke. Moslemah then sent out large detach- 
ments 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 transports. In order to form the blockade, it was 
divided into two squadrons : one was stationed on the Asiatic 

1 Compare Constantly Porphyrogenitus, De Adrn, Imp. chap, ax, p._74, with Weil, 
Geschichte der Cftali/en, i. 566, 371 > note, and Price, Mattontmedan JSwt^ire, t. 518. 
These numbers ^enable us to estimate the credit due to the Western chronicles concern- 
ing the plundering expedition of AbcUel-Rahman into France, which was defeated by 
Charles Mattel. Paulus DIaconus, lib. vi. chap. 47, says, that three hundred thousand 
Saracens perished during the siege of Constantinople. 



The Isaurian Dynasty 17 

coast, in the ports of Eutropius 1 and Anthimus, to prevent 
supplies arriving from the Archipelago ; the other occupied 
the bays in the European shore of the Bosphorus above the 
point of Galata, in order to cut off all communication with 
;he Black Sea and the cities of Cherson and Trebizond. 
The first naval engagement took place as the fleet was taking 
up its position within the Bosphorus. The current, rendered 
impetuous by a change of wind, threw the heavy ships and 
transports into confusion. 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 complete 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 number of 
the Saracen ships were burned by the Greek fire which the 
besieged launched from their walls. 2 After this defeat, 
Suleiman withdrew the European squadron of his fleet into 
the Sosthenian bay. 

The besiegers encamped before Constantinople on the 
1 5th August, 717. The Caliph Suleiman died before he was 
able to send any reinforcements to his brother. The winter 
proved unusually severe. The country all round Constanti- 
nople 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, Suleiman. In the mean time, Leo and 
the inhabitants of Constantinople, having made the necessary 

1 Mundi Burnou. 

2 On the subject of Greek fire, see Du Feu Gregois, par Reinaud et Fave, chap. iiL, 
Paris, 1845 ; and Memoire sur la DScowvcrte tres-anciennc en Asie de la, Poudre & 
Catwn et des Armes a Feu, par Paravey, Paris, 1850. The efficacity of Greek fire arose 
from the circumstance of the combatants being compelled to bring large masses into 
more rapid and direct collision than in modern tactics. 

3 Theophanes, 332, and Nicephorus, Pat. 35, with the ordinary love of the marvei- 
lous, say the snow covered the ground for a hundred days. 



1 8 The Contest with the Iconoclasts 

preparations for a long siege, passed the winter in security, 
A fleet, fitted out at Alexandria, brought supplies to Moslemah 
In spring. Four hundred transports, escorted by men-of-war, 
sailed past Constantinople, and, entering the Bosphorus, took 
up their station at Kalos Agros. 1 Another fleet, almost 
equally numerous, arrived soon after from Africa, and 
anchored in the bays on the Bithynian coast. 2 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 Con- 
stantinople, where they informed the emperor of the exact 
disposition of the whole Saracen force. Leo lost no time in 
taking advantage of the enemy's embarrassments. Fireships 
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 posses- 
sion of his camp in Europe. It was not until his foraging 
parties were repeatedly cut off, and all 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 
feet, and on the i5th August, 718, Moslemah raised the siege, 
after ruining one of the finest armies the Saracens ever 
assembled, by obstinately persisting in a hopeless under- 
taking. 3 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 

1 Buyuk-dere, and not a place in Bithynia, as Lebeau, xii. 118, and Schlosser, 151, 
Infer from Nicephoru^, Pat. 35. See Ducange, Const. Christ. 177; and Gyllius, De 
Bosph. Throe, ii. chap, xviii. p. 301. 

2 Theophanes, 332, says this fleet consisted of 360 transports. It anchored at Saty- 
ros, Bryas, and Kartalimen. 

S Theophanes, 334. Nicephorus, Pat. 35, however, says the siege lasted thirteen 
months. The Mohammedan accounts report, that of the one hundred and eighty 
thousand men who composed the expedition, only thirty thousand returned. 



The I saurian Dynasty 19 

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 Constanti- 
nople have been preserved, but there can be no doubt that it 
was one of the most brilliant exploits of a warlike age. The 
Byzantine army was superior to every other in the art of 
defending fortresses. The Roman arsenals, in their best 
days, could probably have supplied no scientific or mechanical 
contrivance unknown to the corps of engineers of Leo's 
army, for we must recollect that the education, discipline, and 
practice of these engineers had been perpetuated in unin- 
terrupted succession from the times of Trajan and Constan- 
tine. We are not to estimate the decline of mechanical 
science by the degradation of art, nor by the decay of military 
power in the field. 1 The depopulation of Europe rendered 
soldiers rare and dear, and a considerable part of the Byzan- 
tine armies was composed of foreign mercenaries. The army 
of Leo, though far inferior in number to that of Moslemah, 
was its equal in discipline and military skill ; while the walls 
of Constantinople were garnished with engines from the 
ancient arsenals of the city, far exceeding in power and 
number any with which the Arabs had been in the habit 
of contending. 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 long-planned 
schemes of conquest of the caliphs Welid and Suleiman. 
It is unfortunate that we have no Isaurian literature. 

The catastrophe of Moslemah's army, and the state of the 
caliphate during the reigns of Omar II. and Yesid II., 
relieved the empire from all immediate 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- 

1 It was in the time of Constantius, A.D. 357, that the largest obelisk at Rome was 
transported from Alexandria. It stands at St. John Lateran, and is said to weigh 445 
tons. (?) Sir Gardner Wilkinson makes the great^ obelisk at Karnak weigh less thaa 
three hundred tons. Modern Egypt and Thebes, ii. 145. 



2O The Contest with the Iconoclasts 

worship. Hescham seized the opportunity, and sent t\ro 
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 attacking a distant 
fortress ; but though they were repulsed before Nicsea, they 
retreated without serious loss, carrying off immense plunder. 
The plundering 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 numbers, with all their 
early energy. Leo, who had taken the command of the 
Byzantine army, accompanied by his son Constantine, marched 
to meet Sid-al-Battal, whose great fame rendered him the 
most dangerous enemy. A battle took place at Acroinon, in 
the Anatolic theme, in which the Saracens were totally de- 
feated. The valiant Sid, the most renowned champion of 
Jslamism, perished on the field ; but the fame of his exploits 
has filled many volumes of Moslem romance, and furnished 
some of the tales that have adorned the memory of the Cid 
of Spain, three hundred years after the victory of Leo. 1 The 
Western Christians have robbed the Byzantine empire of its 
glory in every way. After this defeat the Saracen power 
ceased to be formidable to the empire, until the energy of 
the caliphate was revived by the vigorous administration of 
the Abassides. 

Leo's victories over the Mohammedans were an indispens- 
able 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. His military exploits 
were the result of ordinary virtues, and of talents common in 
every age ; but the ability to reform the internal government 
of an empire, in accordance with the exigencies of society, can 

1 Acroinon was doubtless at Sid-el-Ghazi, nine hours to the south of Esldshehr, 
Dorylseum,) where the tomb of Sid-al-Battal-el-Ghazi is still shown. Leake, Asia 
Minor, ax. Weil, Geschichtc der Ckalifen^ i. 638, calls the hero Abd Allah ; while 
d'Herbelot, Bibliothiq-ue Orteniale^ voce "Batthal," calls him Abu Mohammed. 
TheopbaneSj 345, calls him simply BardX. See also Hammer, Histoirc 
Ottoman, par HelJert t i. 60, 372. 



The Isaurian Dynasty 21 

only be appreciated by those who have made the causes and 
the progress of national revolutions the object of long thought. 
The intellectual superiority of Leo may be estimated by the 
incompetence of sovereigns in the present century to meet 
new exigencies of society. Leo judiciously availed himself of 
many circumstances that favoured his reforms. The inherent 
vigour which is nourished by parochial and municipal respon- 
sibilities, bound together the remnants of the free population 
in the eastern Roman empire, and operated powerfully in 
resisting foreign domination. The universal respect felt for 
the administration of justice, and the general deference paid 
to the ecclesiastical establishment, inspired the inhabitants 
with energies wanting in the West. Civilisation was so gener- 
ally diffused, that the necessity of upholding the civil and 
ecclesiastical tribunals, and defending the channels of com- 
mercial intercourse, reunited a powerful body of the people in 
every province to the central administration, by the strongest 
ties of interest and feeling. 

The oppressive authority of the court of Constantinople 
had been much weakened by the anarchy that prevailed 
throughout the empire in the latter part of the seventh cen- 
tury. The government had been no longer able to inundate 
the provinces with those bands of officials who had previously 
consumed the wealth of the curia ; and the cities had been 
everywhere compelled to provide for their own defence by 
assuming powers hitherto reserved to the imperial officers. 
These new duties had inspired the people with new vigour, 
and developed unexpected talents. The destructive responsi- 
bility of fiscal guarantees and personal services, imposed by the 
administration of imperial Rome as a burden on every class of 
its subjects, from the senator to the ticket-porter, was lightened 
when the Western Empire fell a prey to foreign conquerors, 
and when the Eastern was filled with foreign colonists. 1 The 
curiales and the corporations at last relieved themselves from 
the attempt of the Roman government to fix society in a 
stationary condition, and the relief was followed by immediate 
improvement. Troubled times had also made the clergy more 
anxious to conciliate public opinion than official favour. A 
better and more popular class of bishops replaced the worldly 
priest satirised by Gregory Nazianzenos. 2 The influence of 
this change was very great, for the bishop, as the defender of 

* Compare Cod, Theod. vi. n, De SenatoribuS) and xiv. xxii. Dt S 
E Carmen, De Jtyiscttfzs, v. 150. 



22 The Contest with the Iconoclasts 

the curia, and the real head of the people in the municipality, 
enjoyed extensive authority over the corporations of artisans 
and the mass of the labouring population. From a judge he 
gradually acquired the power of a civil governor, and the curia 
became his senate. The ordinary judicial tribunals being cut 
off from direct communication with the supreme courts, 
peculiar local usages gained force, and a customary law arose 
in many provinces restricting the application of the code of 
Justinian. The orthodox church alone preserved its unity of 
character, and its priests continued to be guided by principles 
of centralisation, which preserved their connection with the 
seat of the patriarchate at Constantinople, without injuring 
the energetic spirit of their local resistance to the progress of 
the Mohammedan power. Throughout the wide extent of the 
Eastern Empire, the priesthood served as a bond to connect 
the local feelings of the parish with the general interests of the 
orthodox church. Its authority was, moreover, endeared to a 
large body of the population from its language being Greek, 
and from its holy legends embodying national feelings and 
prejudices. Repulsive as the lives of the saints now appear to 
our taste, they were the delight of millions for many centuries. 
From the earliest period to the present hour, the wealth of 
most of the cities in the East has been derived from their im- 
portance as points of commercial communication. The insane 
fury of the Emperor Justinian II., in devastating the flourish- 
ing cities of Ravenna and Cherson, failed to ruin these places, 
because they were then the greatest commercial entrepots of 
the trade between India and Europe. But the alarm felt for the 
ruin of commerce throughout the Christian world, during the 
anarchy that existed in the last years of the seventh, and early 
years of the eighth centuries, contributed much to render men 
contented with the firm government of Leo, even though they 
may have considered him a heretic. On the other hand, the 
prevailing anarchy had relieved commerce both from much 
fiscal oppression and many official monopolies. The moment 
the financial burdens of the commercial classes were lightened, 
they experienced all the advantage of possessing a systematic 
administration of justice, enforced by a fixed legal procedure, 
and consequently they very naturally became warm partisans 
of the imperial authority, as, in their opinion, the personal 
influence of the emperor constituted the true fountain of legal 
order and judicial impartiality. A fixed legislation saved 
society from dissolution during many years of anarchy. 



The Isaurian Dynasty 23 

The obscure records of the eighth century allow us to 
discern through their dim atmosphere a considerable increase 
of power in popular feelings, and they even afford some 
glimpses of the causes of this new energy. The fermentation 
which then pervaded Christian society marks the commence- 
ment of modern civilisation, as contrasted with ancient times. 
Its force arose out of the general diminution of slave labour. 
The middle classes in the towns were no longer rich enough 
to be purchasers of slaves, consequently the slave population 
henceforward became a minority in the Eastern Empire ; and 
those democratic ideas which exist among free labourers re- 
placed the aristocratic caution, inseparable from the necessity 
of watching a numerous population of slaves. The general 
attention was directed to the equal administration of justice. 
The emperor alone appeared to be removed above the influence 
of partiality and bribery; under his powerful protection the 
masses hoped to escape official and aristocratic oppression, by 
the systematic observance of the rules of Roman law. The 
prosperity of commerce seemed as directly connected with the 
imperial supremacy as judicial equity itself, for the power of 
the emperor alone could enforce one uniform system of 
customs from Cherson to Ravenna. Every trader, and indeed 
every citizen, felt that the apparatus of the imperial govern- 
ment was necessary to secure financial and legal unity. Above 
all, Leo, the conqueror of the hitherto victorious Saracens, 
seemed the only individual who possessed the civil as well as the 
military talents necessary for averting the ruin of the empire. 
Leo converted the strong attachment to the laws of Rome 
prevalent in society into a lever of political power, and 
rendered the devotion felt for the personal authority of the 
sovereign the means of increasing the centralisation of power 
in the reformed fabric of the Roman administration. The 
laws of Rome, therefore, saved Christianity from Saracen 
domination more than the armies. The victories of Leo 
enabled him to consolidate his power, and constitute the 
Byzantine empire, in defiance of the Greek nation and the 
orthodox church; but the law supplied him with this moral 
power over society. 

As long as Mohammedanism was only placed in collision 
with the fiscality of the Roman government and the intolerance 
of the orthodox church, the Saracens were everywhere vic- 
torious, and found everywhere Christian allies in the provinces 
they invaded. But when anarchy and misfortune had de- 



24 The Contest with the Iconoclasts 

stroyed the fiscal power of the state, and weakened the 
ecclesiastical intolerance of the clergy, a new point of com- 
parison between the governments of the emperors and the 
caliphs presented itself to the attention. The question, how 
justice was administered in the ordinary relations of life, 
became of vital interest. The code of Justinian was com- 
pared with that of the Koran. The courts presided over by 
judges and bishops were compared with those of the Moolahs. 
The convictions which arose in the breasts of the subjects of 
the Byzantine emperors changed the current of events. The 
torrent of Mohammedan conquest was arrested, and as long as 
the Roman law was cultivated in the empire, and administered 
under proper control in the provinces, the invaders of the 
Byzantine territory were everywhere unsuccessful. The in- 
habitants boasted with a just pride, that they lived under 
the systematic rule of the Roman law, and not under the 
arbitrary sway of despotic power. 1 

Such was the state of the Roman empire when Leo com- 
menced his reforms. We must now proceed to examine what 
history has recorded concerning this great reformer. Some 
fables concerning his life and fortunes owe their existence to 
the aversion with which his religious opinions were regarded 
by the Greeks, and they supply us with the means of forming 
a correcter view of the popular mind than of the emperor's 
life. At the same time, it must be recollected that they em- 
body the opinions of only a portion of his subjects, adopted 
towards the close of his reign. 

Leo was born at Germanicia, a city of Armenia Minor, in 
the mountains near the borders of Cappadocia and Syria. 2 
Germanicia was taken by the Saracens, and the parents of 
Leo emigrated with their son to Mesembria in Thrace. They 
were persons of sufficient wealth to make the Emperor 
Justinian II. a present of five hundred sheep, as he was ad- 
vancing to regain possession of his throne with the assistance 

1 Every emperor -was bound to make a confession of faith in a certain formula, 
Kara T& ^Otju,6v. Genesius, n. Compare the coronation oath in Codinus, De Ojfficii* 
ConpL chap, xvii., with Corpus Juris Civ. Cod. i. xiv. 4 and 5 ; Basilica^ Ii. vi. <j and 
10; see also Constantine Porphyrogenitus, De A dm. Itnp. p. 64, edit. Band; in. 84, 
edit. Bonn, and the Ecloga of Leo III. Leunclavius and Freher, Jus Grteco-Romaftutn^ 
i. 178, ii. 83, tit. ii. 4. 

3 The family of Leo, being neither Greek nor Roman, was regarded by these nations 
as foreign. The Isaurians appear to have been the subjects of the empire who had re- 
tained the greatest share of their original nationality. The Armenians and Syrians, 
though numerous, were always regarded as strangers rather than hereditary subjects. 
Theophanes, 327, 330, and Anastasius, Hist. 128, called Leo a Syrian. He seems to 
have considered himself an Armenian, and he married his daughter to an Armenian. 



The Isaurian Dynasty 25 

of the Bulgarians. This well-timed gift gained young Leo the 
rank of spathaiios, the personal favour of the tyrant, and a 
high command on the Lazian frontier. His prudence and 
courage raised him, during the reign of Anastasius II., to 
the command of the Anatolic theme. 

But another history of his life, unknown to the early 
historians, Theophanes and Nicephorus, though both these 
orthodox writers were his bitter enemies and detractors, be- 
came current in after times, and deserves notice as presenting 
us with a specimen of the tales which then fed the mental 
appetite of the Greeks. 1 Prodigies, prophecies, and miracles 
were universally believed. Restricted communications and 
neglected education were conducting society to an infantine 
dotage. Every unusual event was said to have been predicted 
by some prophetic revelation ; and as the belief in the pre- 
science of futurity was universal, public deceivers and self- 
deceivers were always found acting the part of prophets. It is 
said to have been foretold to Leontius that he should ascend 
the throne, by two monks and an abbot. 2 The restoration of 
Justinian II. had been announced to him while he was in 
exile by a hermit of Cappadocia. 3 Philippicus had it revealed 
in a dream, that he was to become emperor; and he was 
banished by Tiberius II., (Apsimar,) when this vision became 
publicly known. 4 It is not, therefore, wonderful that Leo 
should have been honoured with communications from the 
other world; though, as might have been expected from his 
heretical opinions, and the orthodoxy of his historians, these 
communications are represented to have been made by agents 
from the lower rather than the higher regions. 

A circumstance which it was believed had happened to" the 
Caliph Yezid I., proved most satisfactorily to the Greeks that 
Satan often transacted business publicly by means of his agents 
on earth. Two Jews for Jews are generally selected by the 
orthodox as the fittest agents of the demon presented them- 
selves to the caliph claiming the gift of prophecy. They 
announced that, if he should put an end to the idolatrous 
worship of images throughout his dominions, fate had predes- 
tined him to reign for forty years over a rich and flourishing 
empire. Yezid was a man 'of pleasure and a bigot, so that the 
prophecy was peculiarly adapted to flatter his passions. The 

1 Compare Theophanes, 336, who has no objections to calumniate Leo, with the later 
writers, Cedrenus, 450 ; Zonaras, ii. 103 ; Const. Manasses, 86 ; Glycas, a8o ; Leo 
Gramm., 173, edit. Bonn. 2 Theophanes, 307. Nicephorus, Pat. 25. 

8 Theophanes, 313. * 73. 311, 319. 



26 The Contest with the Iconoclasts 

images and pictures which adorned the Christian churches were 
torn down and destroyed throughout the caliph's dominions. 
But Yezid was occupied carrying his decree into execution 
when he died. His son, Moawyah II., sought the Jewish 
prophets in vain. The prince of darkness concealed them 
from his search, and transported them into the heart of Asia 
Minor, where they had new services to perform. 

A young man named Conon, who had quitted his native 
mountains of Isauria, to gain his living as a pedlar in the 
wealthier plains, drove his ass, laden with merchandise, to a 
grove of evergreen oaks near a bubbling fountain, to seek rest 
during the heat of the day, and count his recent gains. The 
ass was turned loose to pasture in the little meadow formed 
by the stream of the fountain, and Conon sat down in the 
shade, by the chapel of St. Theodore, to eat his frugal meal. 
He soon perceived two travellers resting like himself, and 
enjoying their noontide repast. These travellers entered into 
conversation with young Conon, who was a lad of remarkable 
strength, beauty, and intelligence. They allowed the fact to 
transpire that they were Jews, prophets and astrologers, who 
had recently quitted the court of the caliph at Damascus, 
which very naturally awakened in the mind of the young 
pedlar a wish to know his future fortune, for he may have 
aspired at becoming a great post-contractor or a rich banker. 
The two Jews readily satisfied his curiosity, and, to his utter 
astonishment, informed him that he was destined to rule the 
Roman empire. As a proof of their veracity, the prophets 
declared that they sought neither wealth nor honours for 
themselves, but they conjured Conon to promise solemnly 
that, when he ascended the throne, he would put an end to 
the idolatry which disgraced Christianity in the East. If he 
engaged to do this, they assured him that his fulfilling the will 
of Heaven would bring prosperity to himself and to the empire. 
Young Conon, believing that the prophets had revealed the 
will of God, pledged himself to purify the Christian Church ; 
and he kept this promise, when he ascended the throne as 
Leo the Isaurian. But as the prophets had made no stipula- 
tion for the free exercise of their own creed, and their interest 
in Christianity pointed out the true faith, Leo did not con- 
sider himself guilty of ingratitude, when, as emperor, he per- 
secuted the Jewish religion with the greatest severity. 

Such is the fable by which the later Byzantine historians 
explain Leo's hostility to image-worship. This adventure ap- 



me isaunan uynasty 27 

peared to them a probable origin of the ecclesiastical reforms 
which characterise Leo's domestic policy. In the bright days 
of Hellenic genius, such materials would have been woven 
into an immortal tale; the chapel of St Theodore, its fountain, 
and its evergreen oaks, Conon driving his ass with the two 
unearthly Jews reclining in the shade, would have formed a 
picture immortal in the minds of millions ; but in the hands 
of ignorant monks and purblind chroniclers, it sinks into a dull 
and improbable narrative. 

Unfortunately, it is almost as difficult to ascertain the 
precise legislative and executive acts by which Leo reformed 
the military, financial, and legal administration, as it is to 
obtain an impartial account of his ecclesiastical measures. 

The military establishment of the empire had gradually lost 
its national character, from the impossibility of recruiting the 
army from among Roman citizens. In vain the soldier 7 s son 
was fettered to his father's profession, as the artisan was bound 
to his corporation, and the proprietor to his estate. 1 Yet the 
superiority of the Roman armies seems to have suffered little 
from the loss of national spirit, as long as strict discipline was 
maintained in their ranks. For many centuries the majority 
of the imperial forces consisted of conscripts drawn from the 
lowest ranks of society, from the rude mountaineers of almost 
independent provinces, or from foreigners hired as mercen- 
aries ; yet the armies of all invaders, from the Goths to the 
Saracens, were repeatedly defeated in pitched battles. The 
state maxims which separated the servants of the emperor 
from the people, survived in the Eastern provinces after the 
loss of the Western, and served as the basis of the military 
policy of the Byzantine empire, when reformed by Leo. 
The conditions of soldier and citizen were deemed incom- 
patible. The law prevented the citizen from assuming the 
position of a soldier, and watched with jealousy any attempt 
of the soldier to acquire the rights and feelings of a citizen. 
An impassable barrier was placed between the proprietor of 
the soil, who was the tax-payer, and the defender of the state, 
who was an agent of the imperial power. 2 It is true that, after 

1 The tendency of Roman despotism to reduce society to caste Is remarkable. Cod, 
Theod vii. xxu. 8. This feeling may be traced to the last days of the Byzantine power. 
Gemistos Plethon, in the projects of reform at the beginning of the fifteenth century, by 
which he hoped to save the Peloponnesus from the Turks, insists on the separation of 
the classes of soldiers and taxpayers. See his memorial on the State of the Pelopon- 
nesus, addressed to the despot Theodore, at the end of two books of Stobaeus, published 
by Canter, printed by Christopher Plantin, Antwerp, 1575, folio, page 222. ^ 

2 A fixed number of conscripts was drawn from each province after the time of Con- 
stantine; and the proprietors, who were prohibited from serving in person, had to 



28 The Contest with the Iconoclasts 

the loss of the Western provinces, the Roman armies were 
recruited from the native subjects of the empire to a much 
greater degree than formerly; and that, after the time of 
Heraclius, it became impossible to enforce the fiscal arrange- 
ments to which the separation of the citizen from the soldier 
owed its origin, at least with the previous strictness. 1 Still the 
old imperial maxims were cherished in the reign of Leo, and 
the numerous colonies of Sclavonians, and other foreigners, 
established in the empire, owed their foundation to the sup- 
posed necessity of seeking for recruits as little as possible from 
among the native population of agriculturists. These colonies 
were governed by peculiar regulations, and their most im- 
portant service was supplying a number of troops for the 
imperial army. Isauria and other mountainous districts, where 
it was difficult to collect any revenue by a land-tax, also sup- 
plied a fixed military contingent. 2 

Whatever modifications Leo made in the military system, 
and however great were the reforms he effected in the organisa- 
tion of the army and the discipline of the troops, the mass of 
the population continued in the Byzantine empire to be ex- 
cluded from the use of arms, as they had been in the Roman 
times ; and this circumstance was the cause of that unwarlike 
disposition, which is made a standing reproach from the days 
of the Goths to those of the Crusaders. The state of society 
engendered by this policy opened the Western Empire to the 
northern nations, and the empire of Charlemagne to the 
Normans. Leo's great merit was, that without any violent 

furnish conscripts. They were allowed to hire any freeman, beggar, or barbarian, with 
youth and strength. When the recruitment became still more difficult, on account of 
the diminished population, the Emperor Valens commuted the conscription for a pay- 
ment of thirty-six solidi for each conscript. Cod. Theod. vii. xiii. 7. 

1 For the Roman legislation relating to the army, see Cod. Just. x. 33, 17 ; xi. 48, 18 ; 
xii. 33, 2, 4. JDzg". xllx. 16, 9 and 13. Colons and serfs were prohibited from entering 
the army even at those periods of public calamity which compelled the government to 
admit slaves as recruits. The views of Gibbon, vol. Hi. chap. xvii. p. 65, require to be 
modified. 

2 An anecdote of the time of Theodosius II., A.D. 448, gives a correct idea of the 
condition of the Greek population of the Eastern Empire, at least until the time of the 
anarchy under Phocas. Priscus, the envoy of/Theodosius II. to Attila, mentions that, 
in the Scythian territory, he was addressed in Greek by a man in the dress of the 
country a circumstance which surprised him, as Latin was the customary language of 
communication with foreigners, and few strangers, except the slaves brought from 
Thrace and the coast of Illyria, ever spoke Greek. The man proved to be a Greek who 
was living among the Huns. ^He contrasted his past condition, as a citizen under 
the Roman emperors, with his present position as a freeman under Attila. The 
Roman citizen, hejsaid, was compelled to trust for defence to the arms of others, because 
the Roman despotism prohibited the use of arms to the citizen. In the time of war, con- 
sequently, he was a prey either to^the enemy or to the mercenary troops of the emperor, 
while in the time of peace his life was rendered intolerable by fiscal oppression ana 
official injustice, JSxc. e Prisci Historia, 190. Corpus Scrfr. Hist. Byz. pars L, edit. 
Bonn, 



The Isaurian Dynasty 29 

political change he infused new energy into the Byzantine 
military establishment, and organised a force that for five 
centuries defended the empire without acquiring the power of 
domineering in the state. As the army was destitute of 
patriotic feeling, it was necessary to lessen the influence of its 
commanders. This was done by dividing the provinces into 
themes, appointing a general of division for each theme, and 
grouping together in different stations the various corps of 
conscripts, subject nations, and hired mercenaries. 1 The 
adoption likewise of different arms, armour, and manoeuvres 
in the various corps, and their seclusion rrom close inter- 
communication with the native legions, guarded against the 
danger of those rebellious movements which in reality de- 
stroyed the Western Empire. As much caution was displayed 
in the Byzantine empire to prevent the army from endangering 
the government by its seditions, as to render it formidable to 
the enemy by its strength. 

The finances are soon felt to be the basis of government in 
all civilised states. Augustus experienced the truth of this as 
much as Louis XIV. The progress of society and the 
accumulation of wealth have a tendency to sink governments 
into the position of brokers of human intelligence, wealth, 
and labour ; and the finances form the symbol indicating the 
quantity of these which the central authority can command. 
The reforms, therefore, which it was in the power of Leo II L 
to effect in the financial administration, must have proceeded 
from the force of circumstances rather than from the mind of 
the emperor. To this cause we must attribute the durability 
of the fabric he constructed. He confined himself to arrang- 
ing prudently the materials accumulated to his hand. But 
no sovereign, and indeed no central executive authority, can 
form a correct estimate of the taxable capacity of the people, 
Want of knowledge increases the insatiable covetousness sug- 
gested by their position ; and the wisest statesman is as likely 
to impose ruinous burdens on the people, if vested with 
despotic power, as the most rapacious tyrant. The people 
alone can find ways of levying on themselves an amount of 
taxation exceeding any burdens that the boldest despot could 
hope to impose; for the people can perceive what taxes will 
have the least effect in arresting the increase of the national 
wealth. 

1 Leo Is said to have had a body of Frank mercenaries in his service during tfa 
siege of Constantinople. The authority is too modern to be implicitly relied aft. 
A.bulpharagius, Ch. Ara. 130. 



3O The Contest with the Iconoclasts 

Leo, who felt the importance of the financial administration 
as deeply as Augustus, reserved to himself the immediate 
superintendence of the treasury ; and this special control over 
the finances was retained by his successors, so that, during 
the whole duration of the Byzantine empire, the emperors 
may be regarded as their own ministers of finance. The 
grand Logothetes, who was the official minister, was in reality 
nothing more than the emperor's private secretary for the 
department Leo unquestionably improved the central ad- 
ministration, while the invasions of the Saracens and Bul- 
garians made him extremely cautious in imposing heavy fiscal 
burdens on the distant cities and provinces of his dominions. 
But his reforms were certainly intended to circumscribe the 
authority of municipal and provincial institutions. The free 
cities and municipalities which had once been entrusted with 
the duty of apportioning their quota of the land-tax, and 
collecting the public burdens of their district, were now 
deprived of this authority. All fiscal business was transferred 
to the imperial officers. Each province had its own collectors 
of the revenue, its own officials charged to complete the 
registers of the public burdens, and to verify all statistical 
details. The traditions of imperial Rome still required that 
this mass of information should be regularly transmitted to 
the cabinet of the Byzantine emperors, as at the birth of our 
Saviour. 1 

The financial acts of Leo's reign, though they show that he 
increased the direct amount of taxation levied from his sub- 
jects, prove nevertheless, by the general improvement which 
took place in the condition of the people, that his reformed 
system of financial administration really lightened the weight 
of the public burdens. Still, there can be no doubt that the 
stringency of the measures adopted in Greece and Italy, for 
rendering the census more productive, was one of the causes 
of the rebellions in those countries, for which his Iconoclastic 
decrees served as a more honourable war-cry. In Calabria 
and Sicily he added one-third to the capitation; he con- 
fiscated to the profit of the treasury a tribute of three talents 
and a half of gold which had been remitted annually to 
Rome, and at the same time he ordered a correct register to 
be kept of all the males born in his dominions. This last 

1 Luke, chap, ii. v. i. Novel iii. of John Comnenus in Letmclavius, Jus Graeco~ 
Romanian, 147. Novel vi. of Manuel, i. 156. Montreuil, Histoirt du Droit Byzantin, 
4ii. 107. 



The Isaurian Dynasty 31 

regulation excites a burst of indignation from the orthodox 
historian and confessor Theophanes, who allows neither his 
reason nor his memory to restrain his bigotry when recording 
the acts of the first Iconoclast emperor. He likens Leo's 
edict to Pharaoh's conduct to the children of Israel, and adds 
that the Saracens, Leo's teachers in wickedness, had never 
exercised the like oppression forgetting, in his zeal against 
taxation, that the Caliph Abdelmelik had established the 
haratch or capitation of Christians as early as the commence- 
ment of the reign of Justinian II., A.D, 692. 1 

An earthquake that ruined the walls of Constantinople, 
and many cities in Thrace and Bithynia, induced Leo to 
adopt measures for supplying the treasury with a special 
fund for restoring them, and keeping their fortifications 
constantly in a state to resist the Bulgarians and Saracens. 
The municipal revenues which had once served for this 
purpose had been encroached upon by Justinian I., 'and the 
policy of Leo led him to diminish in every way the sphere of 
action of all local authorities. 

The care of the fortifications was undoubtedly a duty to 
which the central government required to give its direct 
attention ; and to meet the extraordinary expenditure caused 
by the calamitous earthquake of 740, an addition of one- 
twelfth was made to the census. This tax was called the 
dikcraton^ because the payment appears to have been 
generally made in the silver coins called keratia, two of 
which were equal to a miliaresion, the coin which represented 
one-twelfth of the nomisma, or gold Byzant. 2 Thus a calamity 
which , diminished the public resources increased the public 

1 Theophanes, 343. , v 

2 Theophaues, 345. Constan. Manasses, 93. Glycas, 286, and the words ^<poA.a 
and Kpd.Tiov in Ducange's Glossarium Med. ct Infinite Gratcttatis. It is very difficult 
to determime which is the miliaresion, and which the keration, among the coins of the 
Lower Empire we possess. I possess a medallion of Heraclius, and Heraclius Con- 
stantine, A.D. 613-641, which weighs 100 grains ; another of Constantine IV. s (Pogo~ 
natus,) in bad preservation, which weighs only 88. These would seem to be imliaresia, 
of which twelve were reckoned to a gold nomisma. Yet some think the silver coin of a 
smaller size is the miliaresion. Of these I possess two, well preserved, of John L, 
Zimiskes, and of Basil II., and Constantine VIIL, A.D. 970-1025, weighing each 
44 grains. If the keration was the half of this piece, from being once the commonest 
silver coin, it has now become the rarest. Of twenty-five gold nomismatain my posses- 
sion, the heaviest is one of Manuel I., A.D. 1143-1180. ^The next is a solidus of Aelia 
Verina, A.D. 457-474, in fine preservation, but which weighs only 68 grains. Seventy- 
two or seventy-four nomismata were coined out of the pound weight of gold, which 
contained 5256 English grains. Compare the observations of Pinder and Friedlauder 



in their excellent dissertation, Die Miinzen Justinians> p. 12, with Const. Porpjiyr., 
De Ceremoniis Ante Byzantine, i. ^459 ; ii. 497, edit. Bonn. The present rarity of 
Byzantine silver is no proof of its being rare formerly. It has been consumed in orna- 



ments and base coin. The gold was preserved by its value as a circulating medium 
from Scandinavia to India. 



32 The Contest with the Iconoclasts 

burdens. In such a contingency It seems that a paternal 
government and a wise despot ought to have felt the necessity 
of diminishing the pomp of the court, of curtailing the 
expenses of ecclesiastical pageants, and of reforming the 
extravagance of the popukr amusements of the hippodrome, 
before imposing new burdens on the suffering population of 
the empire. Courtiers, saints, and charioteers ought to have 
been shorn of their splendour, before the groans of ^the 
provinces were increased. Yet Leo was neither a luxurious 
nor an avaricious prince ; but, as has been said already, no 
despotic monarch can wisely measure the burden of taxation. 

The influence of the provincial spirit on the legislation of 
the empire is strongly marked in the history of jurisprudence 
during Leo's reign. The anarchy which had long interrupted 
the official communications between the provinces and the 
capital lent an increased authority to local usages, and threw 
obstacles in the way of the regular administration of justice, 
according to the strict letter of the voluminous laws of Justinian. 
The consequence was, that various local abridgments of the 
law were used as guide-books, both by lawyers and judges, in 
the provincial tribunals, where the great expense of procuring 
a copy of the Justinianean collection prevented its use. Leo 
published a Greek manual of law, which by its official sanction 
became the primary authority in all the courts of the empire. 
This imperial abridgment is called the Ecloga: it affords some 
-evidence concerning the state of society and the classes of the 
people for which it was prepared. Little notice is taken^ of 
the rights of the agriculturists ; the various modes of acquiring 
property and constituting servitudes are omitted. The Ecloga 
has been censured for its imperfections by Basil L, the founder 
of a legislative dynasty, who speaks of it as an insult to the 
-earlier legislators; yet the orthodox lawgiver, while he pretended 
to reject every act of the heretical Isaurian, servilely imitated 
.all his political plans. The brevity and precision of Leo's 
Ecloga were highly appreciated both by the courts of law and 
the people, in spite of the heterodox opinions of its promul- 
^ator. It so judiciously supplied a want long felt by a large 
portion of society, that neither the attempt of Basil I. to sup- 
plant it by a new official manual, nor the publication of the 
great code of the Basilika in Greek, deprived it of value among 
the jurisconsults of the Byzantine empire. 1 

1 See the works of Zacharias, whose enlightened criticism has shed light on this 
'Obscure period of history. Historian furtt GracO'Romani Delinea.tio % auct. C. . 
14-41. 0' TTp6x i Ps v6pos, Heidelb., 1837, 8vo, p. xviii. &c. 



The Isaurian Dynasty 33 

The legislative labours of Leo were not circumscribed to 
the publication of the Ecloga. He seems to have sanctioned 
various minor codes, by which the regulations in use relating 
to military, agricultural, and maritime law were reduced into 
systematic order. The collections which are attached to the 
copies of the Ecloga, under the heads of military, agricultural, 
and Rhodian laws, cannot, however, be considered as official 
acts of his reign ; still, they are supposed to afford us a correct 
idea of the originals he published. Some abstract of the 
provisions contained in the Roman legislation on military 
affairs, was rendered necessary by the practice of maintaining 
corps of foreign mercenaries in the capital. A military code 
was likewise rendered necessary, in consequence of the changes 
that took place in the old system, as the Asiatic provinces were 
gradually cleared of the invading bands of Saracens. 1 The 
agricultural laws appear to be a tolerably exact copy of the 
enactments of Leo. The work bears the impress of the con- 
dition of society in his time, and it is not surprising that the 
title which perpetuated the merits and the memory of the 
heterodox Leo was suppressed by orthodox bigotry. The 
maritime laws are extremely interesting, from affording a 
picture of the state of commercial legislation in the eighth 
century, at the time when commerce and law saved the 
Roman empire. The exact date of the collection we possess 
is not ascertained. That Leo protected commerce, we may 
infer from its reviving under his government ; whether he pro- 
mulgated a code to sanction or enforce his reforms, or whether 
the task was completed by one of his successors, is doubtful. 

The whole policy of Leo's reign has been estimated by his 
ecclesiastical 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 information 
to allow of a candid examination of the merits and errors of 
his policy. Theophanes considers the aversion of Leo to the 
adoration of images as originating in an impious attachment 
to the unitarianism of the Arabs. His own pages, however, 
refute some of his calumnies, for he records that Leo perse- 
cuted the unitarianism of the Jews, and the tendency to it in 
the Montanists. 2 Indeed, all those who differed from the' most 

3 MontreuH, Histoire du Droit Byzantin, i. 393. 

2 TheophaneSj 336, 343. Montreuil, in his Histoire^ du Drcit Byzanttn t i. 148, cites 
the law against the Jews and Montanists from Bonefidius, Juris Oricntalis Libri Tres, 



34 The Contest with the Iconoclasts 

orthodox acknowledgment of the Trinity, received very little 
Christian charity at the hands of the Isaurian, who placed the 
cross on the reverse of many of his gold, silver, and copper 
coins, and over the gates of his palace, as a symbol for univer- 
sal adoration. In his Iconoclast opinions, Leo is merely a 
type of the more enlightened laymen of his age. A strong 
reaction against the superstitions introduced into the Christian 
religion by the increasing ignorance of the people, pervaded 
the educated classes, who were anxious to put a stop to what 
might be considered a revival of the ideas and feelings of 
paganism. The Asiatic Christians, who were brought into 
frequent collision with the followers of Mahomet, Zoroaster, 
and Moses, were compelled to observe that the worship of the 
common people among themselves was sensual, when compared 
with the devotion of the infidels. The worship of God was 
neglected, and his service transferred to some human symbol. 
The favourite saint was usually one whose faults were found 
to bear some analogy to the vices of his worshipper, and thus 
pardon was supposed to be obtained for sin on easier terms 
than accords with Divine justice, and vice was consequently 
rendered more prevalent. The clergy had yielded to the 
popular ignorance; the walls of churches were covered with 
pictures which were reported to have wrought miraculous 
cures ; their shrines were enriched by paintings not made with 
hands ; 1 the superstitions of the people were increased, and 
the doctrines of Christianity were neglected. Pope Gregory II., 
in a letter to Leo, mentions the fact, that men expended their 
estates to have the sacred histories represented in paintings. 2 

In a time of general reform, and in a government where 
ecclesiastics acted as administrative officials of the central 
authority, it was impossible for Leo to permit the church to 
remain quite independent in ecclesiastical affairs, unless he 
was prepared for the clergy assuming a gradual supremacy in 
the state. The clergy, being the only class in the adminis- 
tration of public affairs connected with the people by interest 

and refers to Cedrenus. But most of the laws cited by Bonefidius from Cedrenus will 
be found in Theophanes and the older Byzantine writers, not published when Bonefidius 
made his compilation ; and reference ought to be made to these authorities. In this case, 
what is called a law seems to have been a series of edicts. Theophanes says that the 
Jews submitted to baptism and mocked the sacraments ; the more conscientious Mon- 
tanists burned themselves in their places of worship. 

1 A^etpOTrofojra. Nothing can better prove the extent to which superstition had 
contaminated religion than the assertion of the Patriarch GermanoR, that miracles were 
daily wrought by the images of Christ and the saints, and that balsam distilled from 
the painted hand of an image of the Virgin Mary. Neander, History of the Christian 
Rtligion and CJivrcft, (Torrey's translation,) iii. 206. 2 Neander, iii. aia. 



The Isaurian Dynasty 35 

and feelings, was always sure of a powerful popular support. 
It appeared, therefore, necessary to the emperor to secure 
them as sincere instruments in carrying out all his reforms, 
otherwise there was some reason to fear that they might con- 
stitute themselves the leaders of the people in Greece and 
Asia, as they had already done at Rome, and control the 
imperial administration throughout the whole Eastern Empire,, 
as completely as they did in the Byzantine possessions in 
central Italy. 

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, and pro- 
hibiting prostration before these symbols, or any act of public 
worship being addressed to them. Against this moderate edict 
of the emperor, the Patriarch Germanos and the Pope Gregory 
II. made strong representations. The opposition of interest 
which reigned between the church and the state impelled the 
two bodies to a contest for supremacy which it required cen- 
turies to decide, and both Germanos and Gregory were sincere 
supporters of image-worship. To the ablest writer of the 
time, the celebrated John Damascenus, who dwelt under 
the protection of the caliph at Damascus, among Moham- 
medans and Jews, this edict seemed to mark a relapse to 
Judaism, or a tendency to Islamism. He felt himself called 
upon to combat such feelings with all the eloquence and 
power of argument he possessed. The empire was thrown 
into a ferment ; the lower clergy and the whole Greek nation 
declared in favour of image-worship. The professors of the 
university of Constantinople, an institution of a Greek char- 
acter, likewise declared their opposition to the edict. Liberty 
of conscience was the watchword against the imperial authority. 
The Pope and the Patriarch denied the right of the civil power 
to interfere with the doctrines of the church; the monks every- 
where echoed the words of John Damascenus, " It is not the 
business of the emperor to make laws for the church. Apostles 
preached the gospel ; the welfare of the state is the monarch's 
care; pastors and teachers attend to that of the church." 1 
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 government. 

The rebellion of the inhabitants of Greece, which occurred'.. 

1 John Damascenus, Orctt. u. xa, quoted in Neander's History ', ui. 009. 



36 The Contest with the Iconoclasts 

in the year 727, seems to have originated in a dissatisfaction 
with the fiscal and administrative reforms of Leo, to which 
local circumstances, unnoticed by historians, 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. Agallianos, who commanded the 
imperial forces destined to watch the Sckvonians 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 Kosmas. 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 over- 
looked the resources of the Iconoclasts. Leo met the fleet as 
it approached his capital, and completely defeated it. Agal- 
lianos, with the spirit of a hero, when he saw the utter ruin of 
the enterprise, plunged fully armed into the sea rather than 
surrender. Kosmas was taken prisoner, with another leader, 
and immediately beheaded. Leo, however, treated the mass 
of the prisoners with mildness. 1 

Even if we admit that the Greeks displayed considerable 
presumption in attacking the Isaurian emperor, still we must 
accept the fact as a proof of the populous condition of the 
cities and islands of Greece, and of the flourishing condition 
of their trade, at a period generally represented as one of 
wretchedness and poverty. Though the Peloponnesus was 
filled with Sclavonian emigrants, and the Greek peasantry were 
in many districts excluded from the cultivation of the land in 
the seats of their ancestors, nevertheless their cities then con- 
tained the mercantile wealth and influence, which passed some 
centuries later into the possession of Venice, Amalfi, Genoa, 
and Pisa. 

The opposition Leo encountered only confirmed him in his 
persuasion that it was indispensably necessary to increase the 
power of the central government in the provinces. As he was 

l Theophanes, 339. calls the insurgents Helladikm^ and Cedrenusj i. 454,^ copies^the 
scornful expression. Had the insurrection been believed to have originated in religious 
feeling, surely the orthodox confessor Theophanes would have regarded the sufferers as 



The Isaurian Dynasty 37 

sincerely attached to the opinions of the Iconoclasts, he was 
led to connect his ecclesiastical reforms with his political 
measures, and to pursue both with additional zeal In order 
to secure the active support of all the officers of the adminis- 
tration, and exclude all image-worshippers from power, he con- 
voked an assembly, called a silention, 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. In the capital 
the change met with no serious opposition. The population 
of Constantinople, at every period of its history, has consisted 
of a mixed multitude of different nations; nor has the majority 
ever been purely Greek for any great length of time. Nicetas, 
speaking of a time when the Byzandne empire was at the 
height of its power, and when the capital was more a Greek 
city than at any preceding or subsequent period, declares that 
its population was composed of various races. 1 The cause of 
image-worship was, however, generally the popular cause, and 
the Patriarch Germanos steadily resisted every change in the 
actual practice of the church until that change should be sanc- 
tioned by a general council 2 

The turn now given to the dispute put an end to the power 
of the Eastern emperors in central Italy. The Latin provinces 
of the Roman empire, even before their conquest by the bar- 
barians, _ had sunk into deeper ignorance than the Eastern. 
Civilisation had penetrated farther into society among the 
Greeks, Armenians, and Syrians, than among the Italians, 
Gauls, and Spaniards. Italy was already dissatisfied with the 
Constantinopolitan domination, when Leo's fiscal and religious 
reforms roused local interests and national prejudices to unite 
in opposing his government. The Pope of Rome had long 
been regarded by orthodox Christians as the head of the 
church; even the Greeks admitted his right of inspection 
over the whole body of the clergy, in virtue of the superior 
dignity of the Roman see. 3 From being the heads of the 
church, the popes became the defenders of the liberties of 
the people. In this character, as leaders of a lawful opposi- 
tion to the tyranny of the imperial administration, they grew 
up to the possession of immense influence in the state. This 
power, having its basis in democratic feelings and energies, 



1 Nicetas. Alexius, ix. 152. 

2 Nicephorus, Pat. 38, fcyeu o 

* Sozomen, Hist. Ecclcs. iii, cbap. 8. 



38 The Contest with the Iconoclasts 

alarmed the emperors, and many attempts were made to cir- 
cumscribe the papal authority. But the popes themselves did 
more to diminish their own influence than their enemies, for 
instead of remaining the protectors of the people, they aimed 
at making themselves their masters. Gregory II., who occupied 
the papal chair at the commencement of the contest with Leo, 
was a man of sound judgment, as well as an able and zealous 
priest He availed himself of all the advantages of his posi- 
tion, as political chief of the Latin race, with prudence and 
moderation; nor did he neglect the power he derived from 
the circumstance that Rome was the fountain of religious 
instruction for all western Europe. Both his political and 
ecclesiastical position entitled him to make a direct opposition 
to any oppressive measure of the emperor of Constantinople, 
when the edicts of Leo III. concerning image-worship prompted 
him to commence the contest, which soon ended in separating 
central Italy from the Byzantine empire. 

The possessions of the Eastern emperors in 1 taly were still 
considerable. Venice, Rome, Ravenna, Naples, Bari, and 
Tarentum were all capitals of well -peopled and wealthy 
districts. The province embracing Venice and Rome was 
governed by an imperial viceroy or exarch who resided at 
Ravenna, and hence the Byzantine possessions in central 
Italy were called the Exarchate of Ravenna. Under the 
orders of the exarch, three governors or dukes commanded 
the troops in Ravenna, Rome, and Venice. As the native 
militia enrolled to defend the province from the Lombards 
formed a considerable portion of the military force, the 
popular feelings of the Italians exercised some influence 
over the soldiery. The ConstantinopolitaD governor was 
generally disliked, on account of the fiscal rapacity of which 
he was^ the agent ; and nothing but the dread of greater 
oppression on the part of the Lombards, whom the Italians 
had not the courage to encounter without the assistance of 
the Byzantine troops, preserved the people of central Italy 
in their allegiance. They hated the Greeks, but they feared 
the Lombards. 

Gregory II. sent Leo strong representations against his first 
edicts on the subject of image-worship, and after the silention 
he repeated these representations, 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 Isaurian Dynasty 39 

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 establishment 
of the fiscal system. To overcome the opposition 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 in- 
fluence. 1 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. 2 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. Luitprand, king of the Lombards, taking ad- 
vantage of these dissensions, invaded the imperial territory, 
and gained possession of Ravenna ; but Gregory, who saw the 
necessity of saving the country from the Lombards and from 
anarchy, wrote to Ursus, the duke of Venice, one of his warm 
partisans, and persuaded him to join Eutychius. The Lom- 
bards were defeated by the Byzantine troops, Ravenna was 
recovered, and Eutychius entered Rome with a victorious 
army. 3 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, 4 he does not appear to have adopted any measures 
for declaring Rome independent. That he contemplated the 
possibility of events taking a turn that might ultimately lead 
him to throw off his allegiance to the Emperor Leo, is never- 
theless evident, from one of his letters to that emperor, in 
which he boasts very significantly that the eyes of the West 
were fixed on his humility, and that if Leo attempted to injure 
the Pope, he would find the West ready to defend him, and 
even to attack Constantinople. The allusion to the protection 
of the king of the Lombards and Charles Martel was certainly, 

1 The Latins accused Leo of ordering Marinus to assassinate the pope. 

2 Anastasius, De Vit. PonL Rom. 69. 

* Baronii, Ann. Eccles. xii. 343, No. xxvii. 4 Theophanes, 338. 



4O The Contest with the Iconoclasts 

in this case, a treasonable threat on the part of the Bishop of 
Rome to his sovereign. 1 Besides this, Gregory IL excom- 
municated the exarch Paul, and all the enemies of image- 
worship who were acting under the orders of the emperor, 
pretending to avoid the guilt of treason by not expressly 
naming the Emperor Leo in his anathema, 2 On the other 
hand, when we consider that Leo was striving to extend the 
bounds of the imperial authority in an arbitrary manner, and 
that his object was to sweep away every barrier against the 
exercise of despotism in the church and the state, we must 
acknowledge that the opposition of Gregory was founded in 
justice, and that he was entitled to defend the municipal insti- 
tutions and local usages of Italy, and the constitution of the 
Romish church, even at the price of declaring himself a rebel. 
The election of Gregory III. to the papal chair was con- 
firmed by the Emperor Leo in the usual form ; nor was that 
pope consecrated until the mandate from Constantinople 
reached Rome. This was the last time the emperors of the 
East were solicited to confirm the election of a pope. Mean- 
while Leo steadily pursued his schemes of ecclesiastical 
reform, and the opposition to his measures gathered strength. 
Gregory III. assembled a council in Rome, at which the 
municipal authorities, whose power Leo was endeavouring to 
circumscribe, were present along with the nobles ; and in this 
council the whole body of the Iconoclasts were excommuni- 
cated. Leo now felt that force alone could maintain Rome 
and its bishops in their allegiance. With his usual energy, he 
despatched an expedition under the command of Manes, the 
general of the Kibyrraiot theme, with orders to send the pope 
a prisoner to Constantinople, to be tried for his treasonable 
conduct. A storm in the Adriatic, the lukewarm conduct of 
the Greeks in the imperial service, and the courage of the 
people of Ravenna, whose municipal institutions enabled them 
to act in an organised manner, caused the complete overthrow 
of Manes. Leo revenged himself for this loss by confiscating 
all the estates of the papal see in the eastern provinces of his 
empire, and by separating the ecclesiastical government of 
southern Italy, Sicily, Greece, Illyria, and Macedonia, from 
the papal jurisdiction, and placing these countries under the 
immediate authority of the Patriarch of Constantinople. 

1 Hisioire des Sotwerains Pontzfes Remains, par le Chev. Artaud de Montor, i, 438. 
This work is more remarkable for popish bigotry than for historical accuracy. Two 
epistles of Gregory II. are preserved among: the acts of the second council of NIcaea f 
yiii. 651, 674. 2 Theophanes, 342, A-nastasius, De Vit. Pont. Rom. 69. 



The Isaurian Dynasty 41 

From this time, A.D. 733, the city of Rome enjoyed political 
independence under the guidance and protection of the popes ; l 
but the officers of the Byzantine emperors were allowed to 
reside in the city, justice was publicly administered by Byzan- 
tine judges, and the supremacy of the Eastern Empire was 
still recognised. So completely, however, had Gregory III. 
thrown off his allegiance, 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. 2 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, intrusted the conduct of their 
external political relations to the care of Gregory, who thus 
held the balance of power between the Eastern emperor and 
the Lombard king. 3 In the year 742, while Constantino 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 Astolph, king of the Lombards, captured 
Ravenna. 4 The exarch retired to Naples, and the authority 
of the Byzantine emperors in central Italy ended. 

The physical history of our globe is so intimately connected 
with the condition of its inhabitants, that it is well to record 
those remarkable variations from the ordinary course of nature 
which strongly affected the minds of contemporaries. The 
influence of famine and pestilence, during the tenth and 
eleventh centuries, in accelerating the extinction of slavery, 
has been pointed out by several recent writers on the subject, 
though that effect was not observed by the people who lived at 
the time. The importance of the late famine in Ireland, as a 
political cause, must be felt by any one who attempts to trace 
the origin of that course of social improvement on which the 
Irish seem about to enter. The severity of the winter of 717 
aided Leo in defeating the Saracens at Constantinople. In 
the year 726, a terrific irruption of the dormant submarine 
volcano at the island of Thera (Santorin) in the Archipelago, 
was regarded by the bigoted image-worshippers as a manifesta- 

1 Anastasius, De Vif. Pont. Rom 74. 

2 Bossuet, Defcns Cltr. Gallic. ii. vi. chap, xviii. 

3 Paulus Diaconus, vi, chap. 54. 

4 The exarchate is usually said to have terminated in 752, after existing 184 years ;^ 
but there is an act of Astolph, dated at Ravenna, 4th July, 751- Fantucci, Monumenti 
Rwoennati^ torn. v. p. xiii. and cciii. Muratori, Ant. ItttL v. 689. 

C 2 



42 The Contest with the Iconoclasts 

tion of divine wrath against Leo's reforms. For several days 
the sea between Thera and Therasia boiled up with great 
violence, vomiting forth flames, and enveloping the neighbour- 
ing islands in clouds of vapour and smoke. The flames were 
followed by showers of dust and pumice-stone, which covered 
the surface of the sea, and were carried by the waves to the 
shores of Asia Minor and Macedonia, 1 At last a new island 
rose out of the sea, and gradually extended itself until it 
joined the older rocky islet called Hieron. 2 

In the year 740, a terrible earthquake destroyed great part 
of the walls of Constantinople. The statue of Arcadius, on 
the Thepdosian column in Xerolophon, and the statue of 
Theodosius over the golden gate, were both thrown down. 8 
Churches, monasteries, and private buildings were ruined : the 
walls of many cities in Thrace and Bithynia, particularly 
Nicomedia, Prsenetus, and Nicsea, were so injured as to require 
immediate restoration. This great earthquake caused the 
imposition of the tax already alluded to, termed the dikeration. 

Leo has been accused as a persecutor of learning. It is by 
no means impossible that his Asiatic education and puritanical 
opinions rendered him hostile to the legendary literature and 
ecclesiastical art then cultivated by the Greeks ; but the 
circumstance usually brought forward in support of his 
barbarism is one of the calumnies invented by his enemies, 
and re-echoed by orthodox bigotry. He is said to have 
ordered a library consisting of 33,000 volumes, in the neigh- 
bourhood of St. Sophia's, to be burned, and the professors of 
the university to be thrown into the flames. A valuable 
collection of books seems to have fallen accidentally a prey to 
the flames during his reign, and neither his liberality nor the 
public spirit of the Greeks induced them to display any 
activity in replacing the loss. 4 

3 Pumice-stone is sometimes found floating in the Archipelago at the present day, 
and there is generally a good deal on the shore of Attica, near Cape Zoster, washed 
thither from Santorin. 




pany 

with Professor Ross of Halle, a most accomplished and profound scholar, and Professor 
C. Hitter, the great geographer of Berlin, in 1837. 

3 Ducange, Constantinofolis Christiana, 78, 81. Scarlatos Byzantios, H KCOP- 
ora-mj'otfTroAis, i. 289. The latter is a work of more pretension than value. 

4 i. Constant. Manasses, 87. Schlosser, Gesckichte der bilderstHrmenden Kaiser. 
163. Spanheim, Historia Imaginvm Restituta, 115. Maimbourg (Histoire de ZHeresii 
des Iconoclast^ i. 58) believes and magnifies the accounts of the later Byzantine 
chronicles, in spite of the silence of Leo's earlier enemies. According to Ephrsemius, v. 
1007, a library of 120,000 volumes had been destroyed by fire in the reign of Zeno, in 



The Isaurian Dynasty 43 

Leo III. died in the year 741. He had crowned his son 
Constantine emperor in the year 720, and married Mm to 
Irene, the daughter of the Khan of the Khazars, in 733. 

SECTION III 

CONSTANTINE V., (COPRONYMUS,) A.D. 741-775 

Character of Constantine V. Rebellion of Artavasdos Saracen War 
Bulgarian War Internal condition of the empire Policy regarding 
image-worship Physical phenomena Plague at Constantinople. 

Constantine V., called Copronymus, 1 ascended the throne 
at the age of twenty-two, hut he had already borne the title 
of emperor as Ms father's colleague one and twenty years, for 
the Byzantine empire preserved so strictly the elective type 
of the Roman imperial dignity, that the only mode of securing 
the hereditary transmission of the empire was for the reigning 
emperor to obtain his son's election during his own lifetime. 
Historians tell us that Constantine was a man possessing every 
vice disgraceful to humanity, combined with habits and tastes 
which must have rendered his company disgusting and his 
person contemptible. Yet they record facts proving that he 
possessed great talents, and that, even when his fortunes 
appeared desperate, he found many devoted friends. The 
obloquy heaped on his name must therefore he ascribed to the 
blind passion inspired by religious bigotry. The age was not 
one of forbearance and charity. The wisest generally con- 
sidered freedom of opinion a species of anarchy incompatible- 
with religious feeling, moral duty, and good government; con- 
sequently, both iconoclasts and image-worshippers approved 
of persecution, and practised calumny in favour of what each 
considered the good cause. Constantine tortured the image- 
worshippers they revenged themselves by defaming the 
emperor. But the persecutions which rendered Constantine 
a monster in the eyes of the Greeks and Italians, elevated 
him to the rank of a saint in the opinion of a large body 
of the population of the empire, who regarded the^wprship 
of pictures as a species of idolatry abhorrent to Christianity. 
His religious zeal, political success, courage, military talents^ 

which was the MS. of the Iliad and Odyssey, written with letters of gold on serpents 1 
akin This MS. was 1*0 feet long. . 

1 Constantine received his name of Copronymus from having defiled the baptismal 
font when the Patriarch plunged him into the water according to the usage of the 
Greek Church. 



44 The Contest with the Iconoclasts 

together with the prosperity that attended his government, all 
conspired to make him the idol of the Iconoclasts, who 
regarded his tomb as a sacred shrine until it was destroyed 
by Michael the orthodox drunkard. 1 

Constantine was able, prudent, active, and brave; but he 
was not more tender of human suffering than monarchs 
generally are. The Patriarch Nicephorus justly accuses him 
of driving monks from their monasteries, and converting 
sacred buildings into barracks. In modern times, orthodox 
papist sovereigns have frequently done the same thing, without 
exciting much ecclesiastical indignation. But when the 
Patriarch assures us that the emperor's mind was as filthy 
as his name, we may be allowed to suspect that his pen is 
guided by orthodoxy instead of truth ; and when we find grave 
historians recording that he loved the odour of horse-dung, 
and carried on amours with old maids, we are reminded 
of the Byzantine love of calumny which could delight in the 
anecdotes of Procopius, and believe that the Emperor Justinian 
was a man of such diabolical principles, that he was not 
ashamed to walk about his palace for many hours of the night 
without his head. 2 An account of the reign of Constantine by 
an intelligent Iconoclast, even if he represented the emperor 
as a saint, would be one of the most valuable illustrations 
of the history of the eighth century which time could have 
spared. He was accused of rejecting the practice of invoking 
the intercession of the Virgin Mary, though it is admitted 
he called her the Mother of God. He was also said to have 
denied the right of any man to be called a saint ; and he had 
even the audacity to maintain, that though the martyrs 
benefited themselves by their sufferings, their merit, however 
great it might be, was not a quality that could be transferred 
to others. His enemies regarded these opinions as damnable 
crimes. 8 Few reputations, however, have passed through such 
an ordeal of malice as that of Constantine, and preserved so 
many undeniable virtues. 

Shortly after his succession, Constantine lost possession 
of Constantinople through the treachery of his brother-in-law 
Artavasdos, who assumed the title of emperor, and kept 
possession of the throne for two years. Artavasdos was an 
Armenian noble who had commanded the troops of the 

3 Scriptores post Thcophancm. Symeon Log., 449. Georg. Hon., 541. 
8 Nicephorus, Pat. 88. Suidas, v. Ktovo'TCU'r/j'OS, Procopius. Historia. Aft.a,nai % 
53, tfo, edit. Bonn. 

8 Neander, History of the Christian Religion^ ii. 218. 



The Isaurian Dynasty 45 

Armeniac theme in the reign of Theodosius III., and aided 
Leo to mount the throne. He was rewarded with the hand 
of Anna, the Isaurian ; s only daughter, and with the dignity 
of caropalates, second only to that of Caesar, a rank then 
usually reserved for the imperial blood. Artavasdos had 
increased his influence by favouring the orthodox; his long 
services in the highest administrative offices had enabled him 
to attach many partisans to his personal cause in every branch 
of the public service. The manner in which Constantine was 
engaged in a civil war with his brother-in-law reflected no 
dishonour on the character of the young emperor. 

The Saracens had pushed their incursions into the Opsikian 
theme, where the imperial guards, under the command of 
Artavasdos, were stationed. Constantine took the field in 
person to oppose the enemy, and advanced to the plains 
of Krasos. Here he ordered Artavasdos, who was at Dory- 
Iseum, to join him with the troops of the Opsikian theme. 
The order alarmed Artavasdos, who seems to have been 
already engaged in treasonable intrigues. Instead of obeying, 
he assumed the title of emperor, and attacked Constantine so 
unexpectedly, that the imperial army was easily dispersed, and 
the young emperor could only avoid being taken prisoner by 
galloping off alone. When his own horse sank from fatigue^ 
Constantine was compelled to seize a post-horse, which he 
happened to find ready saddled, in order to continue his 
flight. He was fortunate enough to reach Amorium in safety. 1 

Artavasdos marched to Constantinople, where, it appears 
from coins, he affected for some time to act as the colleague 
of Constantine ; and it is possible that some treaty may have 
been concluded between the brothers-in-law. 2 The usurper, 
however, soon considered himself strong enough, with the 
support of the orthodox, to set Constantine aside. The pope 
acknowledged him as emperor, pictures were replaced in the 
churches, a strong body of Armenian troops was collected, 
and Nicephorus, the eldest son of Artavasdos, was crowned as 
his father's colleague; while Niketas, the second, took the 
command of the Armeniac theme, where the family possessed 
great influence. All persons suspected of favouring Con- 
stantine were persecuted as heretics hostile to picture-worship. 

In the following year (742) Constantine assembled an army 
composed chiefly of the troops of the Thrakesian and Anatolic 

1 Theophanes, 347. Nicephorus, Pat. 38. Saint Martin, (Lsbeau % xli. 190.) 
Krasos was a town of Phrygia Pacatiana. 

a DC Saulcy, s$ai de Classification des Sui/tf Mon*ta,ir*s ByzAntints^ rst). 



46 The Contest with the Iconoclasts 

themes. With this force he marched to Chrysopolis, (Scutari,) 
hoping that a party in Constantinople would declare in his 
favour; but, being disappointed, he was compelled to with- 
draw to Amorium, where he passed the winter. In spring, 
Artavasdos marched to dislodge him, ordering his son Niketas 
to bring up the Armenian troops to operate on the right flank 
of the young emperor. All the country in the usurper's line 
of march was ravaged, as if it was a territory he never hoped 
to govern. Constantine, whose military genius had been culti- 
vated by his father, formed a daring plan of campaign, and 
executed it in the most brilliant manner. While his enemies 
believed that they were advancing to attack him with superior 
forces, he resolved to move forward with such celerity as to 
become the attacking party, before they could approach near 
enough to combine any simultaneous movements. His first 
attack was directed against Artavasdos, whose numerous army 
was inferior in discipline to that of Niketas, and over which he 
expected an easier victory. A general engagement took place 
near Sardis, on quitting the Kelvian plain, watered by the 
Kaister. The victory was complete. The usurper was closely 
pursued to Cyzicus, from whence he escaped by sea to 
Constantinople. Constantine then moved forward to meet 
Niketas, who was defeated in a bloody battle fought at 
Modrina, in the Boukellarian theme, to the east of the San- 
garius. The Armenian auxiliaries and the troops of the 
Armeniac theme sustained their high reputation, and long 
disputed the victory. 

The emperor then marched to invest Constantinople, cross- 
ing the Bosphorus with one division of his army, and sending 
another, under the command of Sisinnios, the general of the 
Thrakesian theme a to cross the Hellespont at Abydos, and 
reduce the cities on the shores of the Propontis. The fleet of 
the Kibyrraiot theme was ordered to blockade the capital by 
sea. All communications with Greece, one of the strongholds 
of the image-worshippers, were thus cut off. Constantine re- 
pulsed every sally by land, and famine quickly made frightful 
ravages in the dense population of the capital, where no pre- 
parations had been made for a siege. Constantine acted on 
this occasion in a very different manner from Artavasdos during 
the campaign in Asia Minor. He felt that the people suddenly 
besieged were his own subjects ; and his enemies record that 
he allowed all the starving population to seek refuge in his 

Camp. 1 i Nicephorus, p a t. 40, Tbeopbanes, 353- 



The Isaurian Dynasty 47 

Niketas quickly reassembled the fugitives of his own and 
his father's army, and made an attempt to cut off Constantine's 
communications in Bithynia ; but the emperor left the camp 
before Constantinople, and, putting himself at the head of 
the troops in Asia, again defeated Niketas near Nicomedia. 
Niketas and the orthodox archbishop of Gangra were both 
taken prisoners. The belligerent prelate was immediately 
beheaded as a traitor; but Niketas was carried to Constan- 
tinople, where he was exhibited before the walls laden with 
fetters. Artavasdos still rejected all terms of capitulation, and 
Constantine at last ordered a general assault, by which he cap- 
tured the city on the 2nd November, 743. Artavasdos escaped 
by sea to a fortress called Pyzanitis, in the Opsikian theme, 
where he was soon after taken prisoner. His eyes, and those 
of his sons, Nicephorus and Niketas, were put out; and in 
this condition they were exhibited as a triumphal spectacle 
to the inhabitants of Constantinople, at the chariot races given 
by the emperor to celebrate his re-establishment on the throne. 
His brother-in-law and nephews were then immured in a monas- 
tery. Some of their principal adherents were beheaded. The 
head of Vaktageios, the principal minister of the usurper, was 
exhibited for three days in the Augusteon a custom per- 
petuated by the Ottoman emperors in similar circumstances 
until our own times, the heads of rebel viziers having adorned 
the gate of the Serail during the reign of the late sultan. The 
Patriarch Anastasios was pardoned, and allowed to remain in 
possession of his dignity ; yet Theophanes says that his eyes 
were put out, and he was exhibited in the circus, mounted on 
an ass, and exposed to the scorn of the mob. 1 Sisinnios, who 
had commanded one division of the emperor's army, was soon 
found to be engaged in treasonable intrigues, and lost his eyes 
forty days after he entered the capital in triumph with his 
sovereign. 

Constantine 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 Bulgarians called him 

1 Theophanes, 353. The Patriarch Nicephorus, who, in a fragment preserved by 
Photius, (page 86,) has recapitulated all the misdeeds of Constantine with orthodox 
exaggeration, makes no mention of this treatment of his predecessor. Anastasios con- 
tinued to occupy the patriarchal throne ten years after the taking of Constantinople, 
and died A.D. 753. There appears to be some accidental mistake in what Theophanes 
says with regard to Anastasios, for both he and Nicephorus recount similar circum- 
stances as accompanying the deposition and death of the successor of Anastasios, Con* 
atantinos II. Theophanes, 372. Niceph., Pat. 48. 



48 The Contest with the Iconoclasts 

frequently to the head of his armies, for the state of society 
rendered it dangerous to intrust large forces to the command 
of a subject. In the Byzantine empire few individuals had 
any scruple of violating the political constitution of their 
country s if by so doing they could increase their own power. 
The incursions of the Saracens first required to be repressed. 
The empire of the caliphs was already distracted by the civil 
wars which preceded the fall of the Ommiad dynasty. Con- 
stantine took advantage of these troubles. He reconquered 
Germanicia and Doliche, and occupied for a time a consider- 
able part of Commagene; but as he found it impossible to 
retain possession of the country, he removed the Christian 
population to Thrace, where he founded several flourishing 
colonies, long distinguished by their religious opinions from 
the surrounding population, A.D. 746. 1 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 Kerameia; but the fleet of 
the Kibyrraiot theme arrived in time to blockade the enemy's 
ships, and of a thousand Mohammedan vessels three only 
escaped, A.D. 748. The war was continued. In 752 the 
imperial armies took the cities of Melitene and Theodosiopolis, 
but some years later the caliph Mansour recovered Melitene 
and Germanicia : he seems, however, to have considered the 
tenure of the last so insecure, that he transported the inhabi- 
tants into Palestine. The Saracens invaded the empire almost 
every summer, but these incursions led to no permanent con- 
quests. The agricultural population along the frontiers of the 
two empires must have been greatly diminished during these 
successive ravages; for farm-buildings and fruit-trees were 
constantly destroyed, and slaves formed the most valuable 
booty of the soldiers. 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 2 ) was so celebrated in the East, in spite of his persecu- 
tion of the image-worshippers at Constantinople, that many 
Christians escaped by sea from the dominions of the Caliph 
Al Mansour to settle in those of Constantine. 3 In the year 




additi 
holy! 
j. 494. a Theopham 



The Isaurian Dynasty 49 

769 an exchange of prisoners took pkce, but without interrupt- 
ing the course of hostilities, which were continued almost 
incessantly on the frontiers of the two empires, 1 

The vicinity of the Bulgarians to Constantinople rendered 
them more dangerous enemies than the Saracens, though 
their power was much inferior. The Bulgarians were a people 
who looked on war as the most honourable means of acquir- 
ing wealth, and they had long pursued it with profit : for as 
long as the Byzantine frontiers were populous, they obtained 
booty and slaves by their incursions: while, as soon as it 
became depopulated by their ravages, they were enabled to 
occupy new districts with their own pastoral hordes, and thus 
increase their numbers and strength. To resist their incur- 
sions, Constantine gradually repaired all the fortifications 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. Their king 
was now compelled to make the cause of the predatory bands 
a national question, and an embassy was sent to Constanti- 
nople to demand payment of an annual tribute, under the 
pretext that some of the fortifications erected to guard the 
passes were situated in the Bulgarian territory, but, in reality, 
to replace the loss of the plunder which had enabled many of 
the warlike Bulgarians to live in idleness and luxury. The 
demands of the king were rejected, and he immediately 
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 Sclavonian colonies 
settled in Thrace, they were defeated, and driven back into 
their own territory with great slaughter, A.D. 757. 

Constantine carried on a series of campaigns, systematically 
planned, for the purpose of weakening the Bulgarian power. 
Instead of allowing his enemy to make any incursions into 
the empire, he was always ready to carry the war into their 
territory. The difficulties of his enterprise were great, and he- 
suiFered several defeats ; but his military talents and persever- 
ing 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, Con- 
stantine marched far into Bulgaria, and carried off immense- 
booty. In the year 766 he intended to complete the conquest 
of the country, by opening the campaign at the commence- 

1 Theophanes, 374. 



50 The Contest with the Iconoclasts 

ment of spring. His fleet, which consisted of two thousand 
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. Cons tan tine immediately abandoned 
all thought of continuing 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 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. 1 

In the year 774 he again assembled an army of eighty 
thousand men, accompanied by a fleet of two thousand 
transports, and invaded Bulgaria, The Bulgarian monarch 
concluded a treaty of peace whichj however, was broken as 
soon as Constantine returned to his capital But the emperor 
was not unprepared, and the moment he heard that the enemy 
had laid siege to Verzetia, one of the fortresses he had con- 
structed to defend the frontier, he quitted Constantinople 
in the month of October, and, falling suddenly on the be- 
siegers, routed their army with great slaughter. The following 
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 compelled him to retrace his steps. 
Having embarked at Selymbria, in order to reach Constanti- 
nople 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 September, 775- 2 

The long war with the Bulgarians was carried on rather 
with the object of securing tranquillity to the northern pro- 

* Nicephorus, Pat. 47. ^ Theophanes, 368. The great services and victories of 
'Constantine in the Bulgarian war were acknowledged by posterity, Leo Diaconus, 

3:04, edit. Bonn. 

* Strongyle is the same with the Cyclobion or Seven Towers. Banduri, /w/. 
Orient. ii % 530, edit. Ven. Ducange, Const. Christ. 45, 102. Magnaura wa the 
western point of Constantinople, Zonarus, ii. 89 ; though the authority of Theophanes, 
294, would place it at the Hebdornon. Another passage, however, corrects this, 

<p. 331,) and proves that both Magnaura and Cyclobion were without the chain which 
closed the port at the points of the triangle towards the Propontis. Ducange, Const. 
^Christ. 127. Gyllius seems wrong Dt Tojfog. Const* lib. iv. chap. 4. 



The Isaurian Dynasty 51 

vinces of the empire, than from any desire of a barren 
conquest. The necessity of reducing the Sclavonian 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 Dalrnatia, 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, and, like the Bagauds of Gaul, formed 
organised confederacies of outlaws, originally consisting of 
men driven to despair by the intolerable burden of taxation, 
and the severity of the fiscal legislation. 1 When the incursions 
of the Bulgarians had wasted the fields of the cultivator, the 
government still called upon him to pay the full amount of 
taxation imposed on his estate in prosperous times : his 
produce, his cattle, his slaves, and his seed-corn were carried 
away by the imperial officers. He could then only live by 
plundering his fellow-subjects, who had hitherto escaped the 
calamities by which he had been ruined j and thus the oppres- 
sion of the imperial government was avenged on the society 
that submitted to it without striving to reform its evils Con- 
stantine rooted out these bands. A celebrated chief of the 
Skamars was publicly executed at Constantinople with the 
greatest barbarity, 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 Constantiae 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 



1 Compare Ducange, Glossarium Med. ei Tnfin. Latinitatis^ voce Baga-udtz^ with 
Wallon, Histoirede T Esclavagc dans FAntiguitie> in. 287. 



52 The Contest with the Iconoclasts 

Sclavonians 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 two thousand five 
hundred of his subjects, preferring to lower his own dignity, 
by paying a tribute to the pirates, rather than allow those who 
looked to him for protection to pine away their lives in hope- 
less misery. No 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 be- 
tween the Mohammedans and the Christians, which afterwards 
became frequent on the Byzantine frontiers. Man was ex- 
changed for man, woman for woman, and child for child. 1 
These conventions tended to save the lives of innumerable 
prisoners, and rendered the future wars between the Saracens 
and 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 
modem governments have considered practicable. 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. On the banks 
of the Artanas in Bithynia, a colony of two hundred thousand 
Sclavonians was formed. 2 The Christian population of Ger- 
manicia, Doliche, Melitene, and Theodosiopolis was established 
in Thrace, to watch and restrain the rude Sclavonians settled 
in that province ; and these Asiatic colonists long continued to 
flourish and multiply. 3 They are even accused of spreading 
the heretical opinions which they had brought from the East 
throughout great part of western Europe, by the extent of their 
commercial relations and the example of their prosperity and 
honesty. 4 It is not to be supposed that the measures of Con- 
stan tine's administration, however great his political abilities 

^ Theophanes, 374.^ At this time the slave-trade was very active, and the Venetians 
carried on a flourishing commerce in Christian slaves with the Mohammedans. 
Anasrasius, De Vit. Pont. Rom, 79. JSjtist. Hadrian^ i. ep. xii. Even during tho 
anarchy that prevailed in western Europe at the end of the seventh century, Roman 
slave-merchants imported slaves from Britain, as we know from the anecdole of St. 
Gregory, repeated by all our historians. 

a Nicephorus, Pat. 44. Theophanes, 364. 

3 Nicephorus, Pat. 43. Theophanes, 354, 360. 

4 How far the Albigenses were indebted for their doctrines to these colonies is still a 
question. See Schmidt, liistoire at Doctrine de la Secte des Catkatres ou Aibigeois* 

3 Tols. 1849. 



The Isaurian Dynasty 53 

might be, were competent to remove many of the social evils 
of his age. Agriculture was still carried on in the rudest 
manner; and as communications were difficult and insecure, 
and transport expensive, capital could hardly be laid out on 
land to any extent with much profit. As usual under such 
circumstances, 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 load- 
ing the husbandmen with taxes ; but he also accuses him of 
being a new Midas, who made gold so common in the hands 
of all that it became cheap. The abbot's political economy, 
it must be confessed, is not so orthodox as his calumny. If 
the Patriarch Nicephorus, another enemy of Constantine, is to 
be believed, grain was so abundant, or gold so rare, that sixty 
measures of wheat, or seventy measures of barley, were sold 
for a nomisma, or gold Byzant 1 To guard against severe 
drought in the capital, and supply the gardens in its im- 
mediate vicinity with water, Constantine repaired the great 
aqueduct of Valens. The flourishing condition of the towns 
in Greece at the time is attested by the fact, that the best 
workmen in cement were sought in the Hellenic cities and the 
islands of the Archipelago. 2 

The time and attention of Constantine, during his whole 
reign, were principally engaged in military occupations. In 
the eyes of his contemporaries, he was judged by his military 
conduct. His strategic abilities and indefatigable 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 

1 Nicephorus, Pat. 48. Theophanes, 373. As a contrast to this cheapness, Theo- 
phanes, 352, mentions that a measure of barley was sold for twelve nomismata while 
Artavasdos was besieged in Constantinople. 

2 Theophanes, 371. Six thousand nine hundred workmen were ^employed. One 
thousand masons and two hundred plasterers were brought from Asia Minor and Pontus ; 
five hundred workers in cement from Greece and the islands of the Archipelago ; five 
thousand labourers from Thrace, with two hundred potters. 



54 The Contest with the Iconoclasts 

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 weie the 
result of his constant personal occupation. The history of 
his ecclesiastical 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 emperor. 

Constantine was a sincere enemy of image-worship, and in 
his age sincerity implied bigotry, for persecution was con- 
sidered both lawful and meritorious. Yet with all his energy, 
he was prudent in his first attempts to carry out his father's 
policy. While he was struggling with Artavasdos, and labour- 
ing to restore the discipline of his troops, and re-establish the 
military superiority of the Byzantine arms, he left the religious 
controversy concerning image-worship to the two parties of 
the clergy who then disputed for pre-eminence in the church. 
But 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. 1 

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 legislation. Theo- 
dosius, metropolitan of Ephesus, son of the Emperor 
Tiberius III., presided, for the patriarchal chair had been 
kept vacant since the death of Anastasios in the preceding 
year. Neither the Pope nor the patriarchs of Antioch, 
Alexandria, and Jerusalem sent representatives to this council, 
which was solely composed of the Byzantine clergy, so that it 
had no right to assume the rank of an ecumenical council. 
Its decisions were all against image-worship, which it declared 
to be contrary to Scripture. It proclaimed the use of images 

* Thcophanes, 358, ^eXertix <jL\6vTta. Ka0' Kd,(TTTjv ir&Xu* rbv Aadv HirGiGe trpfa 



The I saurian Dynasty 55 

and pictures in churches to be a pagan and antichristian 
practice, the abolition of which was necessary to avoid lead- 
ing Christians into temptation. Even the use of the crucifix 
was condemned, on the ground chat 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 miracu- 
lous 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 mankind, 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 indis- 
criminate 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, with- 
out 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 



56 The Contest with the Iconoclasts 

virtuous advocates of image-worship, Germanos, the Patriarch 
of Constantinople, George of Cyprus, and John Damascenus, 
the last of the fathers of the Greek church. 1 

The ecclesiastical decisions of the council served as the 
basis for penal enactments by the civil power. The ^ success 
of the emperor in restoring prosperity to the empire, induced 
many of his subjects to believe that he was destined to reform 
the church as well as the state, and few thinking men could 
doubt that corruption had entered deep into both. _In many 
minds there was a contest between the superstitions of 
picture-worship and the feeling of respect for the emperor's 
administration; but there were still in the Roman empire 
many persons of education, unconnected with ^ the church, 
who regarded the superstitions of the people with aversion. 
To them the reverence paid by the ignorant to images said to 
have fallen from heaven, to pictures painted by St. Luke, to 
virgins who wept, and to saints who supplied the lamps 
burning before their effigies with a perpetual fountain of oil, 
appeared rank idolatry. 2 There were also still a few men of 
philosophic minds who exercised the right of private judgment 
on public questions, both civil and ecclesiastical, and who felt 
that the emperor was making popular superstition^ the pretext 
for rendering his power despotic in the church as in the state. 
His conduct appeared to these men a violation ^of those prin- 
ciples of Roman law and ecclesiastical legislation which 
tendered the systematic government of society in the Roman 
empire superior to the arbitrary rule of Mohammedan de- 
spotism, or the wild license of Gothic anarchy. The Greek 
church had not hitherto made it imperative on its members 
to worship images; it had only tolerated popular abuse in 
the reverence paid to these symbols so that the ignorant 
monks who resisted the enlightened Iconoclasts might, by 
liberal-minded men, be considered as the true defenders of 
the right of private judgment, and as benefactors of mankind. 
There is positive evidence that such feelings really existed, 
and they could not exist without producing some influence 
on society generally. Less than forty years after the death of 
Constantine, the tolerant party was so numerous that it could 

* The acts of this council are only known from tbe garbled portions preserved by its 
enemies in the acts of the second council of Nicaea and the hostile historians, Coleti, 
Ada. S. Concittorunt, torn. viii. 1457. 

2 At Athens is a church of the blessed Virgin Mary, which has a lamp that burns 
always, and never wants oil. 7/5* Travels o/Saewulf % 33. Early Travels in Pales- 
tint) Bohn's edit. 



The I saurian Dynasty 57 

struggle in the imperial cabinet to save heretics from persecu- 
tion, on the ground that the church had no authority to ask 
that men should be condemned to death for matters of belief, 
as God may always turn the mind of the sinner to repentance. 
Theophanes has recorded the existence of these humane 
sentiments in his eagerness to blame them. 1 

Many of the clergy boldly resisted the edicts of Constantine 
to enforce the new ecclesiastical legislation against images and 
pictures. They held that all the acts of the council of Con- 
stantinople were void, for a general council could only be 
convoked by an orthodox emperor ; and they took upon them- 
selves to declare the opinions of Constantine heterodox. The 
monks engaged with eagerness in the controversy which arose, 
The Pope, the patriarchs of Antioch, Alexandria, and Jeru- 
salem, replied to the excommunications of the council by 
condemning all its supporters to eternal perdition. The em- 
peror, enraged at the opposition he met with, enforced the 
execution of his edicts with all the activity and energy of his 
character; his political as well as his religious views urged 
him to be a persecutor. It is evident that policy and passion- 
were as much connected with his violence against the image- 
worshippers as religious feeling, for he treated many heretics 
with toleration who appeared to be quiet and inoffensive sub- 
jects, incapable of offering any opposition to his political and 
ecclesiastical schemes. The Theopaschites, the Paulicians, 
and the Monophysites enjoyed religious toleration during his 
whole reign. 2 

In the year 766 the edicts against image-worship were 
extended in their application, and enforced with additional 
rigour. The use of relics and the practice of praying to saints 
were prohibited. Many monks, and several members of the 
dignified clergy, were banished; stripes, loss of the eyes and 
of the tongue, were inflicted as legal punishments for prostra- 
tion before a picture, or praying before a relic. Yet, even at 
this period of the greatest excitement, the emperor at times 
displayed great personal forbearance; when, however, either 
policy or passion prompted him to order punishment to be 
inflicted, it was done with fearful severity. 3 

Two cases may be mentioned as affording a correct elucida* 



i Theophanes, 419, 

d acrefi&j' 0dj>aroy. 2 Theophanes, 354, 360. 

3 Theophanes, 370. Bonefidius (/*#.? Qrienta-U^ 4) quotes this edict against relica 
from Ccdrcn.as, Mortrouil, i. 349* 



58 The Contest with the Iconoclasts 

tion of the personal conduct of Constantine. A hermit, named 
Andreas the Kalybite, presented himself before the emperor, 
and upbraided him for causing dissension in the church. " If 
thou art a Christian, why dost thou persecute Christians? 7 ' 
shouted the monk to his prince, with audacious orthodoxy. 
Constantine ordered him to be carried off to prison for insult- 
ing the imperial authority. He was then called upon to sub- 
mit to the decisions of the general council; and when he refused 
to admit the validity of its canons, and to obey the edicts 
;>f the emperor, he was tried and condemned to death. After 
being scourged in the hippodrome, he was beheaded, and his 
body, according to the practice of the age, was cast into the 
-sea. 

Stephen, the abbot of a monastery near Nicomedia, was 
banished to the island of Proconnesus, on account of his firm 
opposition to the emperor's edicts; but his fame for piety 
drew numerous votaries to his place of banishment, who 
flocked thither to hear him preach. This assembly of sedi- 
tious and pious persons roused the anger of the civil authori- 
ties, and Stephen was brought to Constantinople to be more 
strictly watched. His eloquence still drew crowds to the door 
of his prison ; and the reverence shown to him by his followers 
vexed the emperor so much, that he gave vent to his mortifi- 
cation by exclaiming " It seems, in truth, that this monk is 
really emperor, and I am nothing in the empire." This 
speech was heard by some of the officers of the imperial guard. 
Like that of Henry II. concerning Thomas a Becket, it caused 
the death of Stephen. He was dragged from his prison by 
some of the emperor's guard, and cruelly murdered. The 
-soldiery and the people joined in dragging his body through 
the streets, and his unburied remains were left exposed in 
the place destined to receive those of the lowest criminals. 
Both Stephen and Andreas were declared martyrs, and re- 
warded with a place in the calendar of Greek saints. 1 

Orthodox zeal and party ambition combined to form a dan- 
gerous conspiracy against Constantine. Men of the highest 
rank engaged in the plot, and even the Patriarch Constantinos, 
though himself an Iconoclast, appears to have joined the con- 
spirators. He was removed from the patriarchate, and the 
-dignity was conferred on a Sclavonian prelate, named Niketas. 2 

1 Their festival is celebrated on the aSth November, old stylt.Mtnologiutn 
<Gracorum fussu JSasilii Imji>. t 3 torn. fol. Urbini, 1727, torn. i. 216. 

2 Glycas (284) has preserved an anecdote which affords an amusing illustration of 
the fact that the Greek element in society at Constantinople was not yet the all-pre- 



The Isaurlan Dynasty 59 

The deposed Patriarch was brought to trial and condemned to 
death. Constantinos, after his condemnation, and apparently 
with the hope of having his life spared, signed a declaration 
that he believed the worship of images to be idolatry, that the 
decrees of the council of Constantinople contained the true 
doctrines of the orthodox church, and that the faith of the 
emperor was pure. This last article was added because the 
patriarch was accused of having countenanced reports charging 
the emperor with heterodox opinions concerning the Virgin. 
If Constantinos expected mercy by his pliancy, he was mis- 
taken. His sentence was carried into execution in the cruellest 
manner. The head of the Greek church was placed on an ass, 
with his face towards the tail, and conducted through the 
streets of the capital, while the mob treated him with every 
insult. On reaching the amphitheatre his head was struck off. 
It may easily be supposed that, when the highest ecclesiastic 
in the empire was treated in this manner in the capital, the 
severity of the imperial agents in the distant provinces was 
often fearfully tyrannical. 

The spirit of ecclesiastical bigotry which has so often led 
popes, princes, and Protestants to burn those who differed 
from them in matters of opinion, gave the image-worshippers 
as much fortitude to resist as it gave their opponents cruelty to 
persecute. The religious and political reforms of the Isaurian 
emperors were equally a subject of aversion to the Pope and 
the Italians ; and all the possessions of the emperors in central 
Italy had been rendered virtually independent, even before 
Constantine convoked the council of Constantinople. His 
struggle with the Saracens and Bulgarians had prevented his 
making any effort in Italy. At Rome, however, the Popes 
continued to acknowledge the civil and judicial supremacy of 
the emperor of the East, even after the Lombards had con- 
quered the exarchate of Ravenna. But the impossibility of 
receiving any support from Constantine against the encroach- 
ments of the Lombards, induced Pope Stephen to apply to 
Pepin of France for assistance. Pope Paul afterwards carried 
his eagerness to create a quarrel between Pepin and Constan- 
tine so far, that he accused the emperor of hostile designs 

dominant. The Patriarch Niketas may have spoken Latin better than Greek, for there 
was something far from Hellenic in his accent and ideas. One day, reading the New 
Testament, he pronounced the name of the evangelist MarfldToP, and not Ht'Lardcuov. 
One of his suite observed that the vowels of the diphthong were not to be separated. 
The Sclavonic patriarch, displeased at the correction, turned angrily round, and said, 
" Don't talk nonsense ; my soul utterly abhors diphthongs and triphthongs I " 



60 The Contest with the Iconoclasts 

against Italy, which he was well aware Constantine had little 
time or power to execute. 1 Pepin, who was anxious to gain 
the aid of papal authority in his projects of usurpation, made a 
donation of the exarchate of Ravenna to the papal see in the 
year 755, though he had not the smallest right to dispose of it. 
The donation, however, supplied the Pope with a pretext for 
laying claim to the sovereignty over the country ; and there can 
be no doubt that the papal government was at this period 
very popular among the Italians, for it secured them the 
administration of justice according to the Roman law, guaran- 
teed to them a considerable degree of municipal independence, 
and permitted them to maintain their commercial relations 
with the Byzantine empire. The political dependence of 
many of the cities in central Italy, which escaped the Lom- 
bard domination, was not absolutely withdrawn from the 
empire of the East until a new emperor of the West was 
created, on the assumption of the imperial crown by Charle- 
magne, to whom the allegiance of the Italians, who threw off 
Constantine's authority, was at last transferred. 2 

Some remarkable physical phenomena occurred during the 
reign of Constantine. An unnatural darkness obscured the 
sun from the zoth to the i5th of August in the year 746. It 
terrified the inhabitants of Constantinople at the time it 
occurred; and when the great pestilence broke out in the 
following year, it was regarded as a prognostic of that calamity. 
In the year 750, violent earthquakes destroyed whole towns 
in Syria. In the month of October, 763, a winter of singular 
severity commenced long before severe cold generally sets in 
at Constantinople. The Bosphorus was frozen over, and 
men passed on foot between Europe and Asia in several 
places. The Black Sea was covered with ice from the Palus 
Masotic to Mesembria. When the thaw began in the month 
of February, 764, immense mountains of ice were driven 
through the Bosphorus, and dashed with such violence against 
the walls of Constantinople as to threaten them with ruin. 
These icebergs were seventy feet in thickness; and Theo- 
phanes mentions that, when a boy, he mounted on one of 
them with thirty of his young companions. 3 

One great calamity in the age of Constantine appears to 
have travelled over the whole habitable world; this was the 
great pestilence, which made its appearance in the Byzantine 

1 Codex Carolines, ep. 34, 35. .V.D. 758. Schlosser, 219. 

2 Anastasius, De Vitis Pont. J?Jm. 101, xoas. 3 Theophaues, 365. 



The Isaurian Dynasty 61 

empire as early as 745, It had previously carried off a con- 
siderable portion of the population of Syria, and the Caliph 
Yezid IIL perished of the disease in 744. From Syria it 
visited Egypt and Africa, from whence it passed into Sicily. 
After making great ravages in Sicily and Calabria, it spread to 
Greece ; and at last, in the year 749, it broke out with terrible 
violence in Constantinople, then probably the most populous 
city in the universe. It was supposed to have been introduced, 
and dispersed through Christian countries, by the Venetian 
and Greek ships employed in carrying on a contraband trade 
in slaves with the Mohammedan nations, and it spread where- 
ever commerce extended. Monemvasia, one of the commer- 
cial cities at the time, received the contagion with the return 
of its trading vessels, and disseminated the disease over all 
Greece, and the islands of the Archipelago. On the continent, 
this plague threatened to exterminate the Hellenic race. 

Historians have left us a vivid picture of the horrors of this 
fearful visitation, which show us that the terror it inspired 
disturbed the fabric of society. Strange superstitions pre- 
occupied men's minds, and annihilated every sense of duty. 
Some appeared to be urged by a demoniacal impulse to com- 
mit heinous but useless crime, with the wildest recklessness. 
Small crosses of unctuous matter were supposed to appear 
suddenly, traced by an invisible hand on the clothes of 
persons as they were engaged in their ordinary pursuits; 
examples were narrated of their having appeared suddenly 
visible to the eyes of the assembled congregation on the 
vestments of the priest as he officiated at the altar. The 
individual thus marked out was invariably assailed by the dis- 
ease on his return home, and soon died. Crosses were con- 
stantly found traced on the doors and outer walls of buildings ; 
houses, palaces, huts, and monasteries were alike marked. 
This was considered as an intimation that some of the inmates 
were ordered to prepare for immediate death. In the 
delirium of fear and the first paroxysms of the plague, many 
declared that they beheld hideous spectres wandering about ; 
these apparitions were seen flitting through the crowded streets 
of the city, at times questioning the passengers, at times 
walking into houses before the inmates, and then driving the 
proprietors from the door. At times it was said that these 
spectres had even attacked the citizens with naked swords. 
That these things were not reported solely on the delusion 
of the fancy of persons rendered insane by attacks of 



62 The Contest with the Iconoclasts 

disease, is asserted by a historian who was born about ten 
years later, and who certainly passed his youth at Constanti- 
nople. 1 The testimony of Theophanes is confirmed by the 
records of similar diseases in other populous cities. The 
uncertainty of life offers additional chances of impunity to 
crime, and thus relaxes the power of the law, and weakens the 
bonds of moral restraint. Danger is generally what man fears 
little, when there are several chances of escape. The bold and 
wicked, deriding the general panic, frequently make periods of 
pestilence times of revelry and plunder ; the very individuals 
charged as policemen to preserve -order in society, finding them- 
selves free from control, have been known to assume the dis- 
guise of demons, in order to plunder the terrified and super- 
stitious with impunity. The predominant passions of all find 
full scope when the feeling of responsibility is removed ; shame 
is thrown aside, the most unfeeling avarice and the wildest 
debauchery are displayed. But, at the same time, it is on 
such fearful occasions that we see examples of the noblest 
courage, the most devoted self-sacrifice and the purest charity. 
Boccaccio and Defoe, in describing the scenes which occurred 
at Florence in 1348, and at London in 1665, afford a correct 
picture of what happened at Constantinople in 747. 

The number of dead was so great, that when the ordinary 
means of transporting the bodies to interment were insufficient, 
boxes were slung over the pack-saddles of mules, into which 
the dead were cast without distinction of rank. When the mules 
became insufficient, low chariots were constructed to receive 
piles of human bodies, and these frightful hearses were drawn 
through the streets to receive their loads, by a crowd of men 
who received a fixed sum of money with each body. Long 
trenches were prepared without the walls to serve as graves 
for hundreds of bodies, and into these the aged beggar and the 
youthful noble were precipitated side by side. When all the 
cemeteries around the capital were filled, and the panic kept 
the mass of the population shut up in their dwellings, bodies 
were interred in the fields and vineyards nearest to the city 
gates, or they were cast into vacant houses and empty cisterns. 
The disease prevailed for a year, and left whole houses tenant- 
less, having exterminated many families. 2 We possess no 
record of the number of deaths it caused, but if we suppose 
the population of Constantinople at the time to have exceeded 
a million, we may form an estimate of the probable loss it 

1 Theophanes, 355. He was born A.D, 758. * Nkephorus, Pat. 43, 87. 



The Isaurian Dynasty 63 

sustained, by observing that, during the great plague at Milan* 
in 1630, about eighty-six thousand persons perished in the 
course of a year, in a population hardly exceeding one hun- 
dred and fifty thousand souls. 1 

After the plague had completely disappeared, the capital 
required an immense influx of new inhabitants. To fill up 
the void caused by the scourge, Constantine induced many 
Greek families from the continent and the islands to emigrate 
to Constantinople. These new citizens immediately occupied 
a well-defined social position ; for whether artisans, tradesmen,, 
merchants, or householders, they became members of estab- 
lished corporations, and knew how to act in their new rela- 
tions of life without embarrassment It was by the perfec- 
tion of its corporate societies and police regulations, that the 
Byzantine empire effected the translocation of the inhabitants* 
of whole cities and provinces, without misfortune or discon- 
tent. By modifying the fiscal severity of the Roman govern- 
ment, by relieving the members of the municipality from the 
ruinous obligation of mutual responsibility for the total 
amount of the land-tax, and by relaxing the laws that fettered 
children to the profession or handicraft of their parents, the 
Byzantine administration infused new energy into an enfeebled 
social system. It still preserved, as an inheritance from. 
Rome, an intimate knowledge of the practical methods of 
regulating the relative supplies of labour, food, and popula- 
tion in the manner least likely to inconvenience the govern- 
ment, though undoubtedly with little reference to the measures 
best calculated to advance the happiness of the people. 2 

This memorable pestilence produced as great changes irr 
the provinces as in the capital. While the population of Con- 
stantinople lost much of its Roman character and traditions 
by the infusion of a large number of Greek emigrants, Greece 
itself lost also much of its Hellenic character and ancient 
traditions, by the departure of a considerable portion of its 
native middle classes for Constantinople, and the destruction 
of a large part by the plague itself. The middle classes of the 
Hellenic cities flocked to Constantinople, while an inferior 
class from the villages crowded to supply their place, and thus 
a general translocation of the population was effected; and 

1 La- Peste di Milano del 1630 dal Canonlco G. Ripamonti da.1 original Latino dan 
, Francesco CusanL Milano, 1841. At Florence, one hundred thousand are said to have 
dtcd of the plague; at London, ninety thousand. 

- For the Byzantine system of taxation, as far as direct payment by the individual 
ia concerned, see Zonaras, ii. 24 ; Cedrenus, 706-723 ; Mortreuil, Hi. 105. 



64 The Contest with the Iconoclasts 

though this emigration may have been confined principally tc 
the Greek race, it must have tended greatly to separate the 
future traditions of the people from those of an earlier period. 
The Athenian or the Lacedemonian who settled at Constanti- 
nople, lost all local characteristics; and the emigrants from 
the islands, who supplied their place at Athens and Lacede- 
mon, mingled their traditions and dialect with the Attic and 
Doric prejudices of their new homes ; ancient traditions were 
thus consigned to oblivion. The depopulation on the conti- 
nent and in the Peloponnesus was also so great that the 
Sclavonian population extended their settlements over the 
greater part of the open country ; the Greeks crowded into the 
towns, or into the districts immediately under the protection 
of their walls. The Sclavonian colonies, which had been 
gradually increasing ever since the reign of Heraclius, attained 
at this time their greatest extension; and the depopulation 
caused by this pestilence is said by the Emperor Constantine 
Porphyrogenitus, who wrote two centuries later, to have been 
so great, that the Sclavonians occupied the whole of the open 
country in Greece and the Peloponnesus, and reduced it to a 
state of barbarism. 1 The emperor perhaps confounded in 
some degree the general translocation of the Greek population 
itself with the occupation of extensive districts, then abandoned 
to Sclavonian cultivators and herdsmen. It is certain, how- 
ever, that from this time the oblivion of the ancient Hellenic 
names of villages, districts, rivers, and mountains became 
general; and the final extinction of those dialects, which 
marked a direct affiliation of the inhabitants of particular 
spots with the ancient Hellenic population of the same dis- 
tricts, was consummated. The new names which came into 
use, whether Sclavonian or Greek, equally mark the loss of 
ancient traditions. 2 

In closing the history of the reign of Constantine V., it is 
necessary to observe that he deserves praise for the care with 
which he educated his family. The most bigoted image- 
worshippers inform us that he was so mild in his domestic 
circle that he permitted his third wife to protect a nun named 
Anthusa, who was a most devoted worshipper of images ; and 
one of the emperor's daughters received from this nun both 
her name and education. The Princess Anthusa was dis- 
tinguished for her benevolence and piety ; she is said to have 

1 De ThentatibuS) ii. 25. 

2 Stra&onis Epitome^ edit. Almeloven, 1351-1261. Edit. Coray, torn. Hi. 373-386. 



The Isaurlan Dynasty 65 

founded one of the first orphan asylums established in the 
Christian world; and her orthodox devotion to pictures 
obtained for her a place among the saints of the Greek church, 
an honour granted also to her godmother and teacher. 1 



SECTION IV 

REIGNS OF LEO IV., (THE KHAZAR,) CONSTANTINE VI., AND 
IRENE, A.D. 775-802 

Leo IV., A.D. 775-780 Irene regent for her son Restores image- 
worship Second council of Nicsea Extinction of Byzantine authority 
at Rome Constantine assumes the government Divorces Maria, and 
marries Theodota Opposition of monks Persecution of Theodore 
Studita Irene dethrones Constantine VI. Policy of reigns of Con- 
stantine VI. and Irene Saracen war Bulgarian war. 

Leo IV. succeeded his father at the age of twenty-five. 
His mother, Irene, was the daughter of the emperor or ehagan 
of the Khazars, then a powerful people, through whose terri- 
tories the greater part of the commercial intercourse between 
the Christians and the rich countries in eastern Asia was 
carried on. Leo inherited from his mother a mild and 
amiable disposition; nor does he appear to have been desti- 
tute of some portion of his father's talents, but the state of his 
health prevented him from displaying the same activity. His 
reign lasted four years and a half, and his administration was 
conducted in strict accordance with the policy of his father 
and grandfather; but the weak state of his health kept .the 
public attention fixed on the question of the imperial succes- 
sion. Constantine V. had selected an Athenian lady, of great 
beauty and accomplishments, named Irene, to be his son's 
wife, and Leo had a son named Constantine, who was born in 
the year 771. The indefinite nature of the imperial succes- 
sion, and the infancy of Leo's child, gave the two half-brothers 
of the emperor, who had been invested by their father with 
the rank of Cassar, some hope of ascending the throne on 
their brother's death. Leo conferred on his infant son the 
title of Emperor, in order to secure his succession ; and this 
was done in a more popular manner than usual, at the express 
desire of the senate, in order to give the ceremony all the 
character of a popular election. The young emperor's five 

1 Menologium Grcrcorum^ torn. iii. 60-183. The festival of Constantino's daughter 
was celebrated on the iyth April, and that of the nun Amlmsa on the z;tk July. 



66 The Contest with the Iconoclasts 

uncles the two Csesars, and the three who tore the title of 
Nobilissimi were compelled to take the same oath of allegi- 
ance as the other subjects. 1 Yet, shortly after this, the Caesar 
Nicephorus formed a conspiracy to render himself master of 
the government Leo, who felt that he was rapidly sinking 
into the grave, referred the decision of his brother's guilt to a 
Silention, which condemned all the conspirators to death. 
Nicephorus was pardoned, but his partisans were scourged 
and banished to Cherson. The death of Leo IV. happened 
on the 8th of September, ySo, 2 

Constantine was ten years old when his father died, so that 
the whole direction of the empire devolved on his mother, 
Irene, who had received the imperial crown from Constantine 
V, ; for that emperor seems to have felt that the weak state of 
Leo's health would require the assistance of Irene's talents. 
The virtues Irene had displayed in a private station were 
insufficient to resist the corrupting influence of irresponsible 
power. Ambition took possession of her own soul, and it was 
the ambition of reigning alone, not of reigning welL The 
education of her son was neglected perhaps as a means of 
securing her power ; favour was avowedly a surer road to pre- 
ferment than long service, so that the court became a scene of 
political intrigue, and personal motives decided most public 
acts. As no organ of public opinion possessed the power 
of awakening a sense of moral responsibility among tne officers 
of state, the intrigues of the court ended in conspiracies, mur- 
der, and treason. 

The parties strugglixig for power soon ranged themselves 
under the banners of th& ecclesiastical factions that had long 
divided the empire. Little, probably, did many of the leaders 
care what party they espoused in the religious question ; but 
it was necessary to proclaim themselves members of an eccle- 
siastical faction in order to secure a popular following. The 

1 Theophanes, 380. Zonaras, ii. 114, where the popular character of the assembly 
is expressly pointed out Koi &/jLQ<rav airctyres o$x' ot r ^ s Su'y/cX'iJroy (SovXys Kal 
ol rov (TTparetijuaros fj.6vov, dXAd Kal o STJ^S^S o^Aos Kal fyiropoi Kal ol r&v 
pyas7jpMv^irpocrryK6crav Kal #yypa0a irepl TQVTW QtBevro. This mention of 
the corporation of artisans is curious. 

2 I doubt whether the authority of Cedrenus, 469, negatived by the silence of earlier 
zealots, can authorise our believing the anecdote that the Emperor Leo discovered 
pictures of saints under Irene's pillow, and quarrelled with her in consequence ; nor do 
I think_that the story_of his having taken one of the crowns from the church of St. Sophia 
of any importance, since it could not have been the cause of his death. Divine venge- 
ance certainly did not visit Leo with sudden death, whether he took the crown from 
St. Sophia's or not. See the turn Constantine Porphyrogenitus gives the anecdote, D& 
Adm t l*n$. 64. 



The Isanrian Dynasty 67 

Empress Irene was known to favour image-worship; as a 
woman and a Greek, this was natural j yet policy would have 
dictated to her to adopt that party as the most certain manner 
of securing support powerful enough to counterbalance the 
family influence of the Isaurian dynasty, which was now 
wielded by the uncles of the young emperor. The conflict 
between the image-worshippers and the Iconoclasts soon 
commenced. The Csesar Nicephorus, who was as ambitious 
as his sister-in-law, was eager to drive her from the regency. 
He organised a conspiracy, in which several ministers and 
members of the senate took part. Irene obtained full proof 
of all its ramifications before the conspirators were prepared 
to act, seized her five brothers-in-law, and compelled them to 
enter the priesthood. In order to make it generally known 
that they had assumed the sacerdotal character, they were 
obliged to officiate during the Christmas ceremonies at the 
high altar of St. Sophia's, while the young emperor and his 
mother restored to the church the rich jewels of which it had 
been deprived by the Iconoclast emperors. The intendant- 
general of posts, the general of the Armeniac theme, the com- 
mander of the imperial guard, and the admiral of the Archi- 
pelago, who had all taken part in the conspiracy, were scourgecj, 
and immured as monks in distant monasteries. Helpidios s 
the governor of Sicily, assumed the title of emperor as soon as 
he found that his participation in the plot was known at court ; 
but he was compelled to seek shelter among the Saracens, in 
whose armies he afterwards served. Nicephorus Doukas, 
another conspirator, fled also to the Mohammedans. 1 Some 
years later, when Constantine VI. had assumed the govern- 
ment into his own hands, a new conspiracy was formed by the 
partisans of his uncles (A.D. 792). The princes were then 
treated with great severity. The Csesar Nicephorus was de- 
prived of sight ; and the tongues of the others were cut out, 
by the order of their nephew, not long before he lost his own 
eyes by the order of his mother. 

The influence of the clergy in the ordinary administration 
of justice, and the great extent to which ecclesiastical legisla- 
tion regulated civil rights, rendered councils of the church an 
important feature in those forms and usages that practically 
circumscribed the despotic power of the emperor by a frame- 

1 Tbeophanes, 3*33, 384. Theophylactos, son of Rbangabe", was the admiral of the 
Archipelago, or Drunganos of Dodekannesos. This is the earliest mention of the 
twelve islands as a geographical and administrative division of the empire. It was 
retained by the Crusaders when they conquered Greece. 



68 The Contest with the Iconoclasts 

work of customs, opinions, and convictions which he could 
with difficulty alter, and rarely oppose without danger. The 
political ambition of Irene, the national vanity of the Greeks, 
and the religious feelings of the orthodox, required the sanction 
of a constitutional public authority, before the laws against 
image-worship 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 ecclesiastical 
administration of the empire. It was necessary to convoke a 
general council to legalise image-worship ; and to render such 
a council a fit instrument for the proposed revolution, much 
arrangement was necessary. No person was ever endued with 
greater talents for removing opposition and conciliating per- 
sonal support than the empress. The Patriarch Paul, a 
decided 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 establish 
that communion. The crisis required a new Patriarch, of 
stainless character, great ability, and perfect acquaintance 
with the party connections and individual characters of the 
leading bishops. No person could be selected from among 
the dignitaries of the church, who had been generally ap- 
pointed by Iconoclast emperors. The choice of Irene fell on 
a civilian. Tarasios, the chief secretary of the imperial cabinet 
a man of noble birth, considerable popularity, and a high 
reputation for learning and probity was suddenly elevated to 
be the head of the Greek church, and allowed to be not 
unworthy of the high rank. The orthodox would probably 
have raised a question concerning the legality of nominating a 
layman, had it not been evident that the objection would 
favour the interests of their opponents. The empress and her 
advisers were not bold enough to venture on an irretrievable 
declaration in favour of image-worship, until they had obtained 
a public assurance of popular support. An assembly of the 
inhabitants of the capital was convoked in the palace of Mag- 
naura, in order to secure a majority pledged to the cause 
of Tarasios. The fact that such an assembly was considered 
necessary, is a strong proof that the strength of the rival 
parties was very nearly balanced, and that this manifestation 
of public opinion was required in order to relieve the empress 



The Isaurian Dynasty 69 

from personal responsibility. Irene proposed to the assembly 
that Tarasios should be elected Patriarch, and the proposal 
was received with general acclamation. Tarasios, however, 
refused the dignity, declaring that he would not accept the 
Patriarchate unless a general council should be convoked for 
restoring unity to the church. The convocation of a council 
was adopted, and the nomination of Tarasios ratified. Though 
great care had been taken to fill this assembly with image- 
worshippers, nevertheless several dissentient voices made them- 
selves heard, protesting against the proceedings as an attack 
on the existing legislation of the empire. 1 

The Iconoclasts were still strong in the capital, and the 
opposition of the soldiery was excited by the determination 
of Tarasios to re-establish image-worship. They openly de- 
clared 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 
was found necessary to disperse the Iconoclastic soldiery in 
distant provinces, and form new cohorts of guards devoted to 
the court, before any steps could be publicly taken to change 
the laws of the church. The experience of Tarasios as a 
minister of state was more useful to Irene during the first 
period of his patriarchate than his theological learning. It 
required nearly three years to smooth the way for the meeting 
of the council, which was at length held at Nicaea, in Septem- 
ber, 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. 
Some of the persons present deserve to be particularly men- 
tioned, for they have individually conferred greater benefits on 
mankind by their learned labours, than they rendered to 
Christianity by their zealous advocacy of image-worship in 
this council. The secretary of the two commissioners who 
represented the imperial authority was Nicephorus the his- 
torian, subsequently Patriarch of Constantinople. 2 His sketch 
of the history of the empire, from the year 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 ecclesiastical prejudices. Two other eminent Byzantine 

1 Theophanes, 386. Coleti, Acta S. Conciltontm, viii. 677. Schloascr, rjZ. 
* Nicephorus was Patriarch from 806 to 815 ; he died in 8a8. 



yo The Contest with the Iconoclasts 

writers were also present. George, called Syncellus, from the 
office he held under the Patriarch Tarasios. He has left us a 
chronological work, which has preserved the knowledge of 
many important facts recorded by no other ancient authority. 1 
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 kter 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, A.D. Siy. 2 

The second council of Nicsea had no better title than the 
Iconoclast council of Constantinople to be regarded as a 
general council of the church. The Pope Hadrian, 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 authorities. An attempt was 
nevertheless made to deceive the world into a belief that they 
were represented, by allowing two monks from Palestine to 
present themselves as the syncelli of these patriarchs, without 
scrutinising the validity of their credentials. Pope Hadrian, 
though he sent deputies, wrote at the same time to Tarasios, 
making several demands tending to establish the ecclesiastical 
supremacy of the papal See, and complaining in strong terms 
that the Patriarch of Constantinople had no right to assume 
the title of ecumenic. The hope of recovering the estates of 
the patrimony of St. Peter in the Byzantine provinces, which 
had been sequestrated by Leo III., and of re-establishing the 
supremacy of the See of Rome, made Hadrian overlook much 
that was offensive to papal pride. 3 

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 from the 
more modern, were quoted in favour of the practice. Simony 
was already a prevailing evil in the Greek church. Many of 

^ George Syncellus died in Boo. His chronography extends from Adam to Dio- 
cletian. 

2 The chronography of Theophanes extends from Diocletian, A.D. 285, to A.D. 813. 
It is the best authority for Byzantine history after the time of Leo III. His life, by 
Theodoras, abbot of Studion in Constantinople, is prefixed to the editions of the chrono- 



Jchlosser, 279. Coleti, Actet S. Conciliorvm^ viii. 748. Nr*.nOer, iuJ. 228 (Ameri- 
can translation). 



The Isaurian Dynasty yi 

the bishops had purchased their sees, and most of these natur- 
ally preferred doing violence to their opinions rather than lose 
their revenues. From this cause, unanimity was easily ob- 
tained 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 adora- 
tion due only to God. The council of Constantinople held in 
754 was declared heretical, and all who maintained its doc- 
trines, and condemned the use of images, were anathematised. 
The patriarchs Anastasios, Constantinos, and Niketas 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 coun- 
tries 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 Icono- 
clasts ; and the council of Nicsea was as much condemned as 
that of Constantinople by a large body of enlightened ecclesi- 
astics. 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 com- 
posed under his immediate personal superintendence, though 
he was doubtless incapable of writing it himself 1 At all 
events, it was published as his composition. This work con- 
demns the superstitious bigotry of the Greek image-worship- 
pers in a decided manner, while at the same time it only 

* The title of the first edition Is Ofas ittust. virt Caroli Magni Regis Francorum 
efe conira, Synodum q-uce in Parti&us Gr&ti pro Adorandis I-mctginilms StaKde szve 
Arroganter gesta est, etc. 1549. *&no. It was published by Jean du Tillet, (Eli 
Phili,) afterwards bishop of Meaux. There is an edition, with a learned preface, by 
Christopher A. Heumann. Hanover. 1731. ^ 8vo. Alcuin,^ of course, deserves all the 
credit due to the literary and theological merits of the Caroline books. 



72 The Contest with the Iconoclasts 

blames the misguided zeal of the Iconoclasts. Altogether it is 
a very remarkable production, and gives a more correct idea 
of the extent to which Roman civilisation still survived in 
Western society, and counterbaknced ecclesiastical influence, 
than any other contemporary document. 1 In 794 Charle- 
magne assembled a council of three hundred bishops at Frank- 
fort; and, in the presence of the papal legates, this council 
maintained that pictures ought to be placed in churches, but 
that they should not be worshipped, but only regarded with 
respect, as recalling more vividly to the mind the subjects 
represented. 2 The similarity existing at this time in the 
opinions of enlightened men throughout the whole Christian 
world must be noted as a proof that general communications 
and commercial intercourse still pervaded society with com- 
mon sentiments. The dark night of medieval 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 Hadrian, whose interests required that 
the relations of the West and East should not become friendly. 
His position, however, rendered him more suspicious of Con- 
stantine and Irene, in spite of their orthodoxy, than of Charle- 
magne, with all his 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 commer- 
cial relations of the Greeks still counterbalanced the military 
influence of the Franks. When writing to Charlemagne, he 
accused the Greeks and their Italian partisans of every crime 
likely to arouse the hostility of the Franks. They were re- 
proached, and not unjustly, with carrying on an extensive 

1 Charlemagne mentions that he had learned from his ambassadors, that though the 
Greeks expended large sums on decorations and paintings, they allowed their churches 
to fall to ruin ; and he contrasts the magnificent endowments of the Frank churches 
with the meanness of the Greek. It is really surprising how few churches of any size 
appear to have been constructed in the Byzantine empire, when we remember that for 
many^centuries it^was the richest country in the world, and the one most occupied with 
ecclesiastical ^affairs and church ceremonies. Several small Byzantine churches at 
Athens^are said to have been constructed by Irene; common tradition says twelve. A 
few exist ; some were destroyed during the war of the Revolution ; others were swept 
away by the Bavarian plans of the town. 

2 The council of Frankfort blames that of Nicaea for inculcating the worship of 
images ; but the council really draws a distinction between the reverence it inculcates, 
Tifut)Tit&i irpQ<TKtivT]oi5, and the devotion it condemns, \arpeta. This distinction, to 
which, of course, the people paid no attention, serves the Greek church as a defence 
a.gainst the accusation of idolatrous practice. For the opinions of the British clergy on 
the Question, see Spelman, Ad Concilia. Magnar Britannia:, \. 73. 



The Isaurian Dynasty 73 

trade in slaves, who were purchased in western Europe, and 
sold to the Saracens. The Pope knew well that this com- 
merce was carried on in all the trading cities of the West, both 
by Greeks and Latins; for slaves then constituted the prin- 
cipal article of European export to Africa, Syria, and Egypt, 
in payment of the produce of the East, which was brought 
from those countries. The Pope seized and burned some 
Greek vessels at Centumcellse, (Civita-Vecchia,) because the 
crews were accused of kidnapping the people of the neigh- 
bourhood. The violent expressions of Hadrian, in speaking 
of the Greeks, could not fail to produce a great effect in 
western Europe, where the letters of the Popes formed the 
literary productions most generally read and studied by all 
ranks. 1 His calumnies must have sunk deep into the public 
mind, and tended to impress on Western nations that aversion 
to the Greeks, which was subsequently increased by mercan- 
tile jealousy and religious strife. 

The extinction of the last traces of the supremacy of the 
Eastern Empire at Rome was the most gratifying result of 
their machinations to the Popes. On Christmas-day, A.D. 
800, Charlemagne revived the existence of the Western Em- 
pire, and received the imperial crown from Pope Leo III. in 
the church of St. Peter's. Hitherto the Frank monarch had 
acknowledged a titular supremacy in the Eastern Empire, and 
had borne the title of Patrician of the Roman empire, as a 
mark of dignity conferred on him by the emperors of Con- 
stantinople ; but he now raised himself to an equality with the 
emperors of the East, by assuming the title of Emperor of the 
West. The assumption of the title of emperor of the Romans 
was not an act of idle vanity. Roman usages, Roman pre- 
judices, and Roman law still exercised a powerful influence 
over the minds of the most numerous body of Charlemagne's 
subjects; and by all the clergy and lawyers throughout his 
dominions the rights and prerogatives of the Roman emperors 
of the West were held to be legally vested in his person by 
the fact of his election, such as it was, and his coronation 
by the Pope. The political allegiance of the Pope to the 
emperor, which was then undisputed, became thus transferred 

1 Hadriani I. Epist. xa, 13, *' Nefandissimi Neapolitan! et Deo odibiles GrzcL". 
Schlosser, 362. Pope Stephen III. had given an example of national calumny. H,e 
wrote to Charlemagne " Perfida et foetentissimi Langobardorum gensqua: in numero 
gentium nequaquam, computatur, de cujus natione et leprosorum. genus oriri certutn 
est." It is a task of difficulty to extract impartial history from the record* of an u.e 
when the bead of the Christian church used such language. 



74 The Contest with the Iconoclasts 

irom the emperor of the East to the emperor of the West as a 
matter of course; while the papal rights of administration 
over the former exarchate of Ravenna, the Pentapolis, and the 
dukedom of Rome, acquired, under the protection of the 
Franks, the character of a decided sovereignty. Many towns 
of Italy at this time acquired a degree of municipal independ- 
ence which made them almost independent republics. The 
influence of Roman law in binding society together, the mili- 
tary weakness of the papal power, and the rapid decline of the 
central authority in the empire of the Franks, enabled these 
towns to perpetuate their peculiar constitutions and inde- 
pendent jurisdictions down to the French Revolution. 1 

A female regency in an absolute government must always 
render the conduct of public affairs liable to be directed by 
court intrigues. When Irene wished to gain Charlemagne as 
an ally, in order to deprive the Iconoclasts of any hope of 
foreign assistance, she had negotiated a treaty of marriage 
between her son and Rotrud, the eldest daughter of the Frank 
monarch, A.D. 781. But when the question of image-worship 
was settled, she began to fear that this alliance might become 
the means of excluding her from power, and she then broke 
off the treaty, and compelled her son to marry a Paphlagonian 
kdy of the court named Maria, whom the young emperor soon 
regarded with aversion. Constantine, however, submitted 
quietly to his mother's domination until his twentieth year. 
He then began to display dissatisfaction at the state of tutelage 
in which he was held, and at his complete seclusion from pub- 
lic business. A plan was formed by many leading men in the 
administration to place him at the head of affairs, but it was 
discovered before it was ripe for execution. Irene on this 
occasion displayed unseemly violence, in her eagerness to 
retain a power she ought immediately to have resigned. The 
conspirators were seized, scourged, and banished. When her 
son was conducted into her presence, she struck him, and 
overwhelmed him with reproaches and insults. The young 
emperor was then confined so strictly in the palace that all 
communication with his friends was cut off. 

This unprincipled conduct of the regent-mother became the 
object of general reprobation. The troops of the Armeniac 
theme refused to obey her orders, and marched to the capital 
to deliver Constantine. On the way they were joined by 

1 Niebubr's History qf Rome, from ike Pint Punic War to the Death of Con- 
stantine, by L. Schmitz, i. 434. 



The Isaurian Dynasty 75 

o:her legions, and Irene found herself compelled to release 
her son a who Immediately hastened to the advancing army. 
A total revolution was effected at court. The ministers and 
creatures of Irene were removed from office, and some who 
had displayed particular animosity against Constantine were 
scourged and beheaded. 1 Constantine ruled the empire for 
about six years, (A.B. 790-797). But his education had been 
neglected in a disgraceful manner, and his mind was perhaps 
naturally fickle. Though he displayed the courage of his 
family at the head of his army, his incapacity for business, and 
his inconstancy in his friendships, soon lost him the support 
of his most devoted partisans. He lost his popularity by 
putting out the eyes of his uncle, Nicephoras, and cutting out 
the tongues of his four uncles, who were accused of having 
taken part in the plots of their brother. He alienated the 
attachment of the Armenian troops by putting out the eyes of 
their general, Alexis Mouselen, who had been the means 
of delivering him from confinement. The folly of this last act 
was even greater than the ingratitude, for it was done to gratify 
the revengeful feelings of his mother. These acts of folly, 
cruelty, and ingratitude destroyed his influence, and induced 
his sincerest friends to make their peace with Irene, whom it 
was evident her son would ultimately allow to rule the empire. 
The unhappy marriage into which Constantine had been 
forced by his mother, she at last converted into the cause of 
his ruin. The emperor fell in love with Theodota, one of 
his mother's maids of honour, and determined to divorce 
Maria in order to marry her. Irene, whose ambition induced 
her to stoop to the basest intrigues, flattered him in this 
project, as it seemed likely to increase her influence and ruin 
his- reputation. The Empress Maria was induced to retire 
into a monastery, and the emperor expected to be able to 
celebrate his marriage with Theodota without difficulty. But 
the usage of the Byzantine empire required that the Patriarch 
should pronounce the sentence of divorce, and this Tarasios, 
who was a devoted partisan and active political agent of 
Irene, long refused to do. The imprudence of Constantine, 
and the insidious advice of Irene, soon involved the emperor 
in a dispute with the whole body of monks, who had an over- 
whelming influence in society. The Patriarch at last yielded 
to the influence of Irene, so far as to allow his catechist to 
give the veil to the Empress Maria, whom be pronounced 

1 Theophanes, 391*. 



yo me contest witn tne iconociasis 

divorced, and then to permit the celebration of the emperor's 
marriage with Theodota by Joseph, one of the principal clergy 
of the patriarchal chapter, and abbot of a monastery in the 
capital. 1 

In the Byzantine empire, at this time, constant religious 
discussions and pretensions to superior sanctity, had intro- 
duced a profound religious spirit into the highest ranks of 
society. Numbers of the wealthiest nobles founded monas- 
teries, into which they retired. The manners, the extensive 
charity, and the pure morality of these abbots, secured them 
the love and admiration of the people, and tended to dis- 
seminate a higher standard of morality than had previously 
prevailed in Constantinople. This fact must not be over- 
looked in estimating the various causes which led to the 
regeneration of the Eastern Empire under the Iconoclast 
emperors. Security of life and property, and all the founda- 
tions of national prosperity, are more closely connected with 
moral purity than the ruling classes are inclined to allow. It 
may not be quite useless, as an illustration of the state of the 
Byzantine empire, to remind the reader of the violence, in- 
justice, and debauchery which prevailed at the courts of the 
west of Europe, including that of Charlemagne. While the 
Pope winked at the disorders in the palace of Charlemagne, 
the monks of the East prepared the public mind for the 
dethronement of Constantine, because he obtained an illegal 
divorce, and formed a second marriage. The corruption of 
morals, and the irregularities prevalent in the monasteries of 
the West, contrast strongly with the condition of the Eastern 
monks. 2 

The habit of building monasteries as a place of retreat, 
from motives of piety, was also adopted by some as a 
mode of securing a portion of their wealth from confiscation, 
in case of their condemnation for political crimes, peculiar 
privileges being reserved in the monasteries so founded for 
members of the founder's family. 3 At this time Plato, abbot 
of the monastery of Sakkoudion, on Mount Olympus in 

1 Theophanes, 397. 

2 Mosheim, Institutes of Ecclesiastical History -, (translated by Murdoch,) ii. 143, 
193; Soames edit. But not to wrong St. Eligius, see also Arnold, Introductory 
Lectures on Modern History ', ioa. Maitland (TAt Dark Ages^ 102) makes the most 
of Mosheim's error. The times, however, were not better than Mosheim represents 
them. 

8 The abuse of fictitious donations to monasteries had become so great an evil in 
Western Europe, as to require numerous laws to restrain the practice. The Lombard 
law allowed the granters to reserve the faculty of revoking these donations during their 
lives, and itey reserved possession on paying a small annual sum as rent to the monas- 



The Isaurian Dynasty 77 

Bithynia, and his nephew Theodore, who was a relation of 
the new Empress Theodota, were the leaders of a powerful 
party of monks possessing great influence in the church. 
Theodore (who is known by the name Studita, from having 
been afterwards appointed abbot of the celebrated monastery 
of Studion) had founded a monastery on his own property, 
in which he assembled his father, two brothers, and a young 
sister, and, emancipating all his household and agricultural 
slaves, established them as lay brethren on the farms. Most 
of the abbots round Constantinople were men of family and 
wealth, as well as learning and piety; but they repaid the 
sincere respect with which they were regarded by the people, 
by participating in popular prejudices, so that we cannot 
be surprised to find them constantly acting the part of dema- 
gogues. Plato separated himself from all spiritual com- 
munion with the Patriarch Tarasios, whom he declared to 
have violated the principles of Christianity in permitting the 
adulterous marriage of the emperor. His views were warmly 
supported by his nephew Theodore, and many monks began 
openly to preach both against the Patriarch and the emperor. 
Irene now saw that the movement was taking a turn favourable 
to her ambition. She encouraged the monks, and prepared 
Tarasios for quitting the party of his sovereign, Plato and 
Theodore were dangerous enemies, from their great reputa- 
tion ^ and extensive political and ecclesiastical connections, 
and into a personal contest with these men Constantine rashly 
plunged. 

Plato was arrested at his monastery, and placed in confine- 
ment under the wardship of the abbot Joseph, who had 
celebrated the imperial marriage. Theodore was banished to 
Thessalonica, whither he was conveyed by a detachment of 
police soldiers. He has left us an account of his journey, 
which proves that the orders of the emperor were not carried 
into execution with undue severity. 1 Theodore and his 
attendant monks were seized by the imperial officers at a 
distance from the monastery, and compelled to commence 

tery. Charlemagne declared all such donations irrevocable, in order to check the evil. 
The abuse existed among the Anglo-Saxons Lingard's History of England^ i. 517. 
The Empress Irene /ounded the monastery of St. Euphrosyne, where her son Constan- 
tine, Jais divorced wife Maria, and his two daughters were buried ; and also the monas- 
tery in Prince's Island, to which she was sent after her dethronement, and before her 
banishment to Lesbos. 

1 Tkeodori Studita: Oj>f>. 230. Schlosser, 319. Some letters of Theodore Studita 
are given by Baron ius. I have extracted the account of the journey from Schlosser, 
Geschichte efer mtderst&rtHenden, Kaiser^ for I have not been able to supply myself 
with the works of Theodore. 



jB The Contest with the Iconoclasts 

their journey on the first horses their escort could procure, 
instead of being permitted to send for their ambling mules. 
They were hurried forward for three days, resting during the 
night at Kathara in Liviana, Lefka, and Phyraion. At the 
last place they encountered a melancholy array of monks, 
driven from the great monastery of Sakkoudion after the 
arrest of Plato ; but -with these fellow-sufferers, though 
ranged along the road, Theodore was not allowed to com- 
municate, except by bestowing on them his blessing as he 
rode past. He was then carried to Paula, from whence he 
wrote to Plato that he had seen his sister, with the venerable 
Sabas, abbot of the monastery of Studion. They had visited 
him secretly, but had been allowed by the guards to pass the 
evening in his society. Next night they reached Loupadion, 
where the exiles were kindly treated by their host. At Tilin 
they were joined by two abbots, Zacharias and Pionios, but 
they were not allowed to travel in company. The journey 
was continued by Alberiza, Anagegrammenos, Perperina, 
Parium, and Horkos, to Lampsacus. On the road, the 
bishops expressed the greatest sympathy and eagerness to 
serve them ; but the bigoted Theodore declared that his con- 
science would not permit him to hold any communication 
with those who were so unchristian as to continue in com- 
munion with Tarasios and the emperor. 

From Lampsacus the journey was prosecuted by sea. A 
pious governor received them at Abydos with great kindness, 
and they rested there eight days. At Eleaus there was again 
a detention of seven days, and from thence they sailed to 
Lemnos, where the bishop treated Theodore with so much 
attention that his bigotry was kid asleep. The passage from 
Lemnos to Thessalonica was not without danger from the 
piratical boats of the Sclavonians who dwelt on the coast of 
Thrace, and exercised the trades of robbers and pirates as well 
as herdsmen and shepherds. A favourable wind carried the 
exiles without accident to Kanastron, from whence they 
touched at Pallene before entering the harbour of Thes- 
salonica, which they reached on the 25th March, 797. Here 
they were received by a guard, and conducted through the 
city to the residence of the governor. The people assembled 
in crowds to view the pious opponents of their emperor; 
while the governor received them with marks of persona! 
respect, which showed him more anxious to conciliate the 
powerful monks than to uphold the dignity of the weak 



The I saurian Dynasty 79 

emperor. He conducted Theodore to the cathedral, that he 
might return thanks to God publicly for his safe arrival ; he 
then waited on him to the palace of the archbishop, where he 
was treated to a bath, and entertained most hospitably. The 
exiles were, however, according to the tenor of the imperial 
orders, placed in separate places of confinement; and even 
Theodore and his brother were not permitted to dwell to- 
gether. The day of their triumph was not far distant, and 
their banishment does not appear to have subjected them to 
much inconvenience. They were martyrs at a small cost. 

As soon as Irene thought that her son had rendered himself 
unpopular throughout the empire, she formed her plot for 
dethroning him. The support of the principal officers in the 
palace was secured by liberal promises of wealth and advance- 
ment : a band of conspirators was then appointed to seize 
Constantine, but a timely warning enabled him to escape to 
Triton on the Propontis. He might easily have recovered 
possession of the capital, had he not wasted two months in 
idleness and folly. Abandoned at last by every friend, he 
was seized by his mother's emissaries and dragged to Con- 
stantinople. After being detained some time a prisoner in 
the porphyry apartment in which he was born, his eyes were 
put out on the i9th August, 797. 1 Constantine had given his 
cruel mother public marks of that affection which he appears 
really to have felt for her, and to which he had sacrificed his 
best friends. He had erected a statue of bronze to her honour, 
which Iqng adorned the hippodrome of Constantinople. 2 

Irene was now publicly proclaimed sovereign of the 
empire. She had for some time been allowed by her careless 
son to direct the whole administration, and it was his con- 
fidence in her maternal affection which enabled her to work 
his ruin. She of course immediately released all the ecclesi- 
astical opponents of her son from confinement, and restored 
them to their honours and offices. The Patriarch Tarasios 
was ordered to make his peace with the monks by excom- 
municating his creature, the abbot Joseph ; and the closest 
alliance was formed between him and his former opponents, 
Plato and Theodore, the latter of whom was shortly after 
rewarded for his sufferings by being elevated to the dignity of 
abbot of the great monastery of Studion, 

1 Gibbon, ix, 33. The authorities which prove that Constantine did not jdie of the 
inhuman treatment he received, hut was living when Nicephorus dethroned his mother, 
sure, Contin. Const. Porphyr. sc. j>. Theoph. 33. Leo Gramm. aoa, edit Bonn. 

2 Cordinus, Dt Orig. Constantino^. 6au 



8o The Contest with the Iconoclasts 

The Empress Irene reigned five years, during which her 
peace was disturbed by the political intrigues of her ministers. 
Her life offers a more interesting subject for biography than 
for history, for it is more striking by its personal details, than 
important in its political effects. But the records of private 
life in the age in which she lived, and of the state of society 
at Athens, among which she was educated, are so few, that it 
would require to be written by a novelist, who could combine 
the strange vicissitudes of her fortunes with a true portraiture 
of human feelings, coloured with a train of thought, and en- 
riched with facts gleaned from contemporary lives and letters 
of Greek saints and monks. 1 Born in a private station, and 
in a provincial, though a wealthy and populous city, it must 
have required a rare combination of personal beauty, native 
grace, and mental superiority, to fill the rank of empress of 
the Romans, to which she was suddenly raised, at the court 
of a haughty sovereign like her father-in-law Constantine V., 
not only without embarrassment, but even with universal 
praise. Again, when vested with the regency, as widow of an 
Iconackst emperor, it required no trifling talent, firmness of 
purpose, and conciliation of manner, to overthrow an ecclesi- 
astical party which had ruled the church for more than half 
a century. On the other hand, the deliberate way in which 
she undermined the authority of her son, whose character she 
had corrupted by a bad education, and the callousness with 
which she gained his confidence in order to deprive him of 
his throne, and send him to pass his life as a blind monk in 
a secluded cell, proves that the beautiful empress, whose 
memory was cherished as an orthodox saint, was endowed 
with the thoughts and feelings of a demon. Strange to say, 
when the object of Irene's crimes was reached, she soon felt 
all the satiety of gratified ambition. She no longer took the 
interest she had previously taken in conducting the public 
business of the empire, and abandoned the exercise of her 
power to seven eunuchs, whom she selected to perform the 
duties of ministers of state. She forgot that her own eleva- 
tion to the throne offered a tempting premium to success- 
ful treason. Nicephorus, the grand treasurer, cajoled her 
favourite eunuchs to join a plot, by which she was dethroned, 
and exiled to a monastery she had founded in Prince's Island ; 
but she was soon after removed to Lesbos, where she died in 

5 There is a work on the life of Irene, by Abbi Mignot, Histoire de t Imptratrict 
/rent. Amst. 1662. It is inexact as history, and worthless as biography. 



The Isatirian Dynasty 81 

a few months, almost forgotten. 1 Her fate after her death 
was as singular as during her life. The unnatural mother was 
canonised by the Greeks as an orthodox saint, and at her 
native Athens several churches are still pointed out which 
she is said to have founded, though not on any certain 
authority. 2 

Under the government of Constantine VI. and Irene, the 
imperial policy, both in the civil administration and external 
relations, followed the course traced out by Leo the Isaurian. 
To reduce all the Sclavonian colonists who had formed 
settlements within the bounds of the empire to complete 
submission, was the first object of Irene's regency. The 
extension of these settlements, after the great plague in 747, 
began to alarm the government. Extensive districts in Thrace, 
Macedonia, and the Peloponnesus, had assumed the form of 
independent communities, and hardly acknowledged allegiance 
to the central administration at Constantinople. Irene natur- 
ally took more than ordinary interest in the state of Greece. 
She kept up the closest communications with her family at 
Athens, and shared the desire of every Greek to repress the pre- 
sumption of the Sclavonians and restore the ascendancy of the 
Greek population in the rural districts. In the year 783 she 
sent Stavrakios at the head of a well-appointed army to 
Thessalonica, to reduce the Sclavonian tribes in Macedonia to 
direct dependence, and enforce the regular payment of 
tribute. 3 From Thessalonica, Stavrakios marched through 
Macedonia and Greece to the Peloponnesus, punishing the 
Sclavonians for the disorders they had committed, and carry- 
ing off a number of their able-bodied men to serve as soldiers 
or to be sold as slaves. In the following year Irene led the 
young Emperor Constantine to visit the Sclavonian settlements 
in the vicinity of Thessalonica, which had been reduced to 
absolute submission. Berrhoea, like several Greek cities, had 
fallen into ruins ; it was now rebuilt, and received the name 
of Irenopolis. Strong garrisons were placed in Philippopolis 
and Auchialos, to cut off all communication between the 
Sclavonians in the empire, and their countrymen under the 
Bulgarian government. The Sclavonians in Thrace and 

1 Irene must have felt that there was some justice in the saying by which the Greeks 
characterised the hopeless demoralisation of her favourites : " If you have a eunuch, 
kill him ; if you haven't one, buy one, and kill him." 

2 ft is to St. Irene the martyr, and not to the imperial saint, that the present 
cathedral of Athens is dedicated. The festival of the empress saint is on the jch 
Aurust. Mrnfllogi-umi iii. 195. 

3 Stavrakios was one of Irene's favourite eunuchs. Theophanes, 384. 



82 The Contest with the Iconoclasts 

Macedonia, though unable to maintain their provincial 
independence, still took advantage of their position, when 
removed from the eye of the local administration, to form 
bands of robbers and pirates, which rendered the communica- 
tions with Constantinople and Thessalonica at times insecure 
both by land and sea. 1 

After Irene had dethroned her son, the Sclavonian popu- 
lation gave proofs of dangerous activity. A conspiracy was 
formed to place one of the sons of Constantine V. on the 
throne. Irene had banished her brothers-in-law to Athens, 
where they were sure of being carefully watched by her 
relations, who were strongly interested in supporting her cause. 
The project of the partisans of the exiled princes to seize 
Constantinople was discovered, and it was found that the chief 
reliance of the Isaurian party in Greece was placed in the 
assistance they expected to derive from the Sclavonian popu- 
lation. The chief of Velzetia was to have carried off the sons 
of Constantine V. from Athens, when the plan was discovered 
and frustrated by the vigilance of Irene's friends. 2 The four 
unfortunate princes, who had already lost their tongues, were 
now deprived of their sight, and exiled with their brother 
Nicephorus to Panormus, where they were again made tools 
of a conspiracy in the reign of Michael I. 

The war with the Saracens was carried on with varied 
success during the reigns of Leo IV., Constantine VI., and 
Irene. The military talents of Leo III. and Constantine V. 
had formed an army that resisted the forces of the caliphs 
under the powerful government of Mansur; and even after 
the veterans had been disbanded by Irene, the celebrated 
Haroun Al Rashid was unable to make any permanent 
conquests, though the empire was engaged in war with the 
Saracens, the Bulgarians, and the troops of Charlemagne at 
the same time. 

In the year 782, Haroun was sent by his father, the Caliph 
Mahdy, to invade the empire, at the head of one hundred 
thousand men, attended by Rabia and Jahja the Barmecid. 
The object of the Mohammedan prince was, however, rather 
directed to pillaging the country, and carrying off prisoners to 

1 See the danger to which Theodore Studita was exposed, at page 78. 

2 Theophanes, 400. It is difficult to fix the position of Vejzetia. The geographical 
nomenclature of^the Sclavonians gives us the same repetition of the same names, in 
widely-distant districts, that we find in our own colonies. Theophanes, 376, mentions 
Verzetia as a frontier district of Bulgaria. This passage is remarkable for containing 
the earliest mention of the Russians m Byzantme history. 



The Isaurian Dynasty 83 

supply the slave-markets of his father's dominions, than to 
effect permanent conquests. The absence of a considerable 
part of the Byzantine army, which was engaged in Sicily 
suppressing the rebellion of Helpidios, enabled Haroun to 
march through all Asia Minor to the shores of the Bosphoras, 
and from the hill above Sutari to gaze on Constantinople, 
which must then have presented a more imposing aspect than 
Bagdad. Irene was compelled to purchase peace, or rather 
to conclude a truce for three years, by paying an annual 
tribute of seventy thousand pieces of gold, and stipulating to 
allow the Saracen army to retire unmolested with all its 
plunder; for Haroun and his generals found that their ad- 
vance had involved them in many difficulties, of which an 
active enemy might have taken advantage. Haroun Al 
Rashid is said to have commanded in person against the 
Byzantine empire in eight campaigns. Experience taught 
him to respect the valour and discipline of the Christian 
armies, whenever able officers enjoyed the confidence of the 
court of Constantinople ; and when he ascended the throne, 
he deemed it necessary to form a permanent army along the 
Mesopotamian frontier, to strengthen the fortifications of the 
towns with additional works, and add to their means of 
defence by planting in them new colonies of Mohammedan 
inhabitants. 1 During the time Constantine VI. ruled the 
empire, he appeared several times at the head of the Byzan- 
tine armies, and his fickle character did not prevent his 
displaying firmness in the field. His popularity with the 
soldiers was viewed with jealousy by his mother, who laboured 
to retard his movements, and prevent him from obtaining 
any decided success. The Saracens acknowledged that the 
Greeks were their superiors in naval affairs ; but in the year 792 
they defeated the Byzantine fleet in the gulf of Attalia with 
great loss. The admiral, Theophilos, was taken prisoner, and 
solicited by the caliph to abjure Christianity and enter his 
service. The admiral refused to forsake his religion or serve 
against his country, and Haroun Al Rashid was mean enough 
to order him to be put to death. 

When the Saracens heard that Constantine had been de- 
throned, and the empire was again ruled by a woman whom 
they had already compelled to pay tribute, they again plundered 
Asia Minor up to the walls of Ephesus. Irene, whose ministers 
were occupied with court intrigues, took no measures to resist 

1 Weil, GeschicktederCl">K^n. \\. rrx 



84 The Contest with the Iconoclasts 

the enemy, and was once more obliged to pay tribute to the 
caliph. 1 The annual incursions of the Saracens into the 
Christian territory were made in great part for the purpose of 
carrying away slaves ; and great numbers of Christians were 
sold throughout the caliph's dominions into hopeless slavery. 
Haroun, therefore, took the field in his wars with the Byzantine 
empire more as a slave-merchant than a conqueror. Eut this 
very circumstance, which made war a commercial speculation, 
introduced humanity into the hostile operations of the Chris 
tians and Mohammedans : the lower classes were spared, as 
they were immediately sold for the price they would bring in 
the first slave-market ; while prisoners of the better class were 
retained, in order to draw from them a higher ransom than 
their value as slaves, or to exchange them for men of equal 
rank who had fallen into the hands of the enemy. This cir- 
cumstance had at last brought about a regular exchange of 
prisoners as early as the reign of Constantine V., A.D. 769.* 
In the year 797, a new clause was inserted in a treaty for the 
exchange of prisoners, binding the contracting parties to re- 
lease aU supernumerary captives, on the payment of a fixed 
sum for each individual. 3 This arrangement enabled the 
Christians, who were generally the greatest sufferers, to save 
theii^ friends from death or perpetual slavery, but it added to 
the inducements of the Saracens to invade the empire. The 
Byzantine, or, as they were still called, the Roman armies, 
were placed at a disadvantage in this species of warfare. Their 
discipline was adapted to defensive military operations, or to 
meet the enemy on the field of battle, but not to act with 
rapidity in plundering and carrying off slaves ; while the state 
of society in Christian countries rendered the demand for 
slaves less constant than in countries where polygamy pre- 
vailed, and women were excluded from many of the duties of 
domestic service. 

The war on the Bulgarian frontier was carried on simul- 
taneously with that against the Mohammedans. In the year 
788, a Bulgarian army surprised the general of Thrace, who 
had encamped carelessly on the banks of the Strymon, and 
destroyed him, with the greater part of the troops. In 791, 

1 Theophanes gives the Byzantine account of the Saracen war, which has been 
compared with the Arabian authorities by Weil, Geschictt der Chalifen, ii 155. 

2 Theophanes, 374. 

^ * Three thousand seven hundred prisoners were exchanged, exclusive of the ad- 
ditional individuals ransomed by the Christians. A similar treaty was concluded 
between Haroun and Nicephorus in 805. Notices tt Extraits des MS. viii. 193. 



The Isaurian Dynasty 85 

Constantine VI. took the field In person against Cardam, king 
of the Bulgarians, but the campaign was without any result: in 
the following year, however, the Emperor was defeated in a 
pitched battle, in which several of the ablest generals of the 
Roman armies were slain. Yet, in 796, Constantine again led 
his troops against the Bulgarians : though victorious, he obtained 
no success sufficient to compensate his former defeat. The 
effects of the military organisation of the frontier by Constan- 
tine V. are visible in the superiority which the Byzantine 
armies assumed, even after the loss of a battle, and the con- 
fidence with which they carried the war into the Bulgarian 
territory. 1 

The Byzantine empire was at this period the country in 
which there reigned a higher degree of order, and more justice, 
than in any other. This is shown by the extensive emigra- 
tion of Armenian Christians which took place in the year 787. 
The Caliph Haroun Al Rashid, whose reputation among the 
Mohammedans has arisen rather from his orthodoxy than his 
virtues, persecuted his Christian subjects with great cruelty, 
and at last his oppression induced twelve thousand Armenians 
to quit their native country, and settle in the Byzantine 
empire. 2 Some years later, in the reign of Michael III. the 
drunkard, orthodoxy became the great feature in the Byzantine 
administration; and, unfortunately, Christian orthodoxy strongly 
resembled Mohammedanism in the spirit of persecution. The 
Paulicians were then persecuted by the emperors, as the 
Armenians had previously been by the caliphs, and fled for 
toleration to the Mohammedans. 

1 Theophanes, 391-394. Constantine VI. and his grandfather, Constantine V., sao 
said to have been the only emperors before John I., Ziniskes, who defeated the Bul- 
garians in their own country. Leo Diaconus, 104, edit. Bonn. 

2 Cbamich, History of Armenia^ ii. 393. 



CHAPTER II 

THE REIGNS OF NICEPHORUS I., MICHAEL L, AXD 
LEO V. THE ARMENIAN. A.D. 802-820 

SECTION I 

NICEPHORUS I. 8o2-8ll 

His family and character Rebellion of Bardanes Tolerant ecclesiastical 
policy Oppressive fiscal administration Relations with Charlemagne 
Saracen war Defeat o/ Sclavonians at Patras Bulgarian war 
Death of Nicephorus. 

NICEPHORUS held the office of grand logathetes, or treasurer, 
when he dethroned Irene. He was born at Seleucia, in 
Pisidia, of a family which claimed descent from the Arabian 
kings. His ancestor Djaballah, the Christian monarch of 
Ghassan in the time of Heraclius, abjured the allegiance of 
the Roman empire, and embraced the Mohammedan religion. 
He carried among the stern and independent Moslems the 
monarchical pride and arrogance of a vassal court. As he was 
performing the religious rites of the pilgrimage in the mosque 
at Mecca, an Arab accidentally trod on his cloak ; Djaballah, 
enraged that a king should be treated with so little respect, 
struck the careless Arab in the face, and knocked out some of 
his teeth. The justice of the Caliph Omar knew no distinc- 
tion of persons, and the king of Ghassan was ordered to make 
satisfactory reparation to the injured Arab, or submit to the 
law of retaliation. The monarch's pride was so deeply 
wounded by this sentence that he fled to Constantinople, and 
renounced the Mohammedan religion. 1 ' From this king the 
Arabs, who paid the most minute attention to genealogy, 
allow that Nicephorus was lineally descended. 2 

The leading features of the reign of Nicephorus were politi- 
cal order and fiscal oppression. His character was said to be 
veiled in impenetrable hypocrisy ; yet anecdotes are recounted 

1 Abulpharagius, Chron. Syr. 139. Oakley, History of the Saracens, i. 150. Eich- 
horn, De Antiques. Hist. Arab Monumentis, 171, gives an account of the same event 
from Ibn Kathaiba. 

2 Conq-utte de ^Egyj>tt t par Wakedy, pubiiee par Hamaker, 66. Lebeau, ffistoir* 
dv. Bats-Empire, xiv. 393, note 3, edit. St. Mariin. 



Reign of Nicephorus I. 87 

vhich indicate that he made no secret of his avarice, and the 
5ther vices attributed to him. His orthodoxy was certainly 
suspicious, but, on the whole, he appears to have been an able 
ind humane prince. He has certainly obtained a worse reputa- 
:ion in history than many emperors who have been guilty oi 
greater crimes. Many anecdotes are recounted concerning 
bis rapacity. 

^ As soon as he received the Imperial crown, he bethought 
himself of the treasures Irene had concealed, and resolved to 
gain possession of them. These treasures are conceived by 
the Byzantine historians to be a part of the Immense sums 
Leo III. and Constantine V. were supposed to have accumu- 
lated^ The abundance and low price of provisions which had 
prevailed, particularly in the reign of Constantine V,, was 
ascribed to the rarity of specie caused by the hoards accumu- 
lated by these emperors* Irene was said to know where all 
this wealth was concealed ; and though her administration had 
been marked by lavish expenditure and a diminution of the 
axes, still she was believed to possess immense sums. If we 
believe the story of the chronicles, Nicephorus presented him- 
self to Irene in a private garb, and assured her that he had 
only assumed the imperial crown to serve her and save her 
life. By flattery mingled with Intimidation, he obtained 
possession of her treasures, and then, in violation of his 
promises, banished her to Lesbos. 

The dethroned Constantine had been left by his mother in 
possession of great wealth. Nicephorus is accused of in- 
gratiating himself into the confidence of the blind prince, 
gaining possession of these treasures, and then neglecting 
him. Loud complaints were made against the extortion of 
the tax-gatherers in the reigns of Constantine VI. and Irene, 
and Nicephorus established a court of review to revise the 
accounts of every public functionary. But his enemies accused 
him of converting this court into a means of confiscating the 
property of the guilty, instead of enabling the sufferers to 
recover their losses. 

The accession of Nicephorus was an event unexpected 
both by the people and the army ; and the success of a man 
whose name was previously almost unknown beyond the 
circle of the administration, held out a hope to every man of 
influence that an emperor, who owed his elevation to a 
conspiracy of eunuchs and a court intrigue, might easily be 
driven from the throne. Bardanes, whom Nicephorus ap~ 



88 The Contest with the Iconoclasts 

pointed general of the troops of five Asiatic themes to march 
against the Saracens, instead of leading this army against 
Haroun Al Rashid, proclaimed himself emperor. He was 
supported by Thomas the Sclavonian, 1 as well as by Leo the 
Armenian and Michael the Armorian, who both subsequently 
mounted the throne. The crisis was one of extreme diffi- 
culty, but Nicephoras soon convinced the world that he was 
worthy of the throne. The rebel troops were discouraged 
by his preparations, and rendered ashamed of their conduct 
by his reproaches. Leo and Michael were gained over by a 
promise of promotion ; and Bardanes, seeing his army rapidly 
dispersing, negotiated for his own pardon. He was allowed 
to retire to a monastery he had founded in the island of 
Prote, but his estates were confiscated. Shortly after, while 
Bardanes was living in seclusion as an humble monk, a band 
of Lycaonian brigands crossed over from the Asiatic coast 
and put out his eyes. As the perpetrators of this atrocity 
were evidently moved by personal vengeance, suspicion fell so 
strongly on the emperor, that he deemed it necessary to take 
a solemn oath in public that he had no knowledge of the 
crime, and never entertained a thought of violating the safe- 
conduct he had given to Bardanes. This safe-conduct, it 
must be observed, had received the ratification of the Pat- 
riarch and the senate. Bardanes himself did not appear 
to suspect the emperor; he showed the greatest resignation 
and piety ; gave up the use of wheaten bread, wine, oil, and 
fish, living entirely on barley cakes, which he baked in the 
embers. In summer he wore a single leather garment, and in 
winter a mantle of hair-cloth. In this way he lived con- 
tentedly, and died during the reign of Leo the Armenian: 

The civil transactions of the reign of Nicephorus present 
some interesting facts. Though a brave soldier, he was 
essentially a statesman, and his conviction that the finance 
department was the peculiar business of the sovereign, and 
the key of public affairs, can be traced in many significant 
events. He eagerly pursued the centralising policy of his 
Iconoclast predecessors, and strove to render the civil power 
supreme over the clergy and the Church. He forbade the 
Patriarch to hold any communications with the Pope, whom 
he considered as the Patriarch of Charlemagne; and this 
prudent measure has caused much of the virulence with which 
his memory has been attacked by ecclesiastical and orthodox 

1 Concerning Thomas, see pajje zoo, not i, and page tax. note *. 



Reign of Nlcephorus L 89 

historians. 1 The Patriarch Tarasios had shown himself no 
enemy to the supremacy of the emperor, and he was highly 
esteemed by Nicephoras as one of the heads of the party, 
both in the church and state, which the emperor was anxious 
to conciliate. When Tarasios died, A.D. 806, Nicephoras 
made a solemn display of his grief. The body, ckd in the 
patriarchal robes, crowned with the mitre, and seated on 
the episcopal throne, according to the usage of the East, was 
transported to a monastery founded by the deceased Patriarch 
on the shores of the Bosphorus, where the funeral was per- 
formed with great pomp, the emperor assisting, embracing the 
body, and covering it with his purple robe. 2 

Nicephorus succeeded in finding an able and popular 
prelate, disposed to support his secular views, worthy to 
succeed Tarasios. This was the historian Nicephoros. He 
had already retired from public life, and was residing in a 
monastery he had founded, though he had not yet taken 
monastic vows. On his election, he entered the clergy, and 
took the monastic habit This last step was rendered neces- 
sary by the usage of the Greek church, which now only 
admitted monks to the episcopal dignity. To give the 
ceremony additional splendour, Stavrakios, the son of the 
Emperor Nicephorus, who had received the imperial crown 
from his father, was deputed to be present at the tonsure. 

The Patriarch Nicephoros was no sooner installed than the 
emperor began to execute his measures for establishing the 
supremacy of the civil power. Tarasios, after sanctioning 
the divorce of Constantine VI., and allowing the celebration 
of his second marriage, had yielded to the influence of Irene 
and the monks, and declared both acts illegal. The Emperor 
Nicephorus considered this a dangerous precedent, and re- 
solved to obtain an affirmation of the validity of the second 
marriage. The new Patriarch assembled a synod, in which 
the marriage was declared valid, and the abbot Joseph, who 
had celebrated it, was absolved from all ecclesiastical censure. 
The monastic party, enraged at the emperor seeking eman- 
cipation from their authority, broke out into a furious opposi- 
tion. Theodore Studita, their leader, calls this synod an 
assembly of adulterers and heretics, and reproached the 
Patriarch with sacrificing the interests of religion. 3 But 
Nicephorus having succeeded in bringing about this explosion 

1 Theophanes, 419. 2 Ibid. 407. 

* In a letter to the Pope Ba.roniiAnna.les Ecclts. ix. 378, A.D. 806. 



90 The Contest with the Iconoclasts 

of monastic Ire on a question in which he had no persona! 
interest, the people, who now regarded the unfortunate 
Constantine VI. as hardly used on the subject of his marriage 
with Theodota, could not be persuaded to take any part ^in 
the dispute. Theodore's violence was also supposed to arise 
from Ms disappointment at not being elected Patriarch, 

Public opinion became so favourable to the emperor's 
ecclesiastical views, that a synod assembled in 809 declared 
the Patriarch and bishops to possess the power of granting 
dispensations from rules of ecclesiastical law, and that the 
emperor was not bound by legislative provisions enacted for 
subjects, Nicephorus considered the time had now come 
for compelling the monks to obey his authority. He ordered 
Theodore Studita and Plato to take part in the ecclesiastical 
ceremonies with the Patriarch; and when these refractory 
abbots refused, he banished them to Prince's Island, and then 
deposed them. Had the monks now opposed the emperor on 
the reasonable ground that he was violating the ^ principles 
on which the security of society depended, by setting up his 
individual will against the systematic rules of justice, the 
maxims of Roman law, the established usages of the empire, 
and the eternal rules of equity, they would have found a 
response in the hearts of the people. Such doctrines might 
have led to some political reform in the government, and 
to the establishment of some constitutional check on the 
exercise of arbitrary power; and the exclamation of Theo- 
dore, in one of his letters to the Pope, " Where now \s the 
gospel for kings ?" might then have revived the spirit of 
liberty among the Greeks. 

At this time there existed a party which openly advocated 
the right of every man to the free exercise of his own religious 
opinions in private, and urged the policy of the government 
abstaining from every attempt to enforce unity. Some of this 
party probably indulged in as liberal speculations concerning 
the political rights of men, but such opinions were generally 
considered incompatible with social order. 1 The emperor, 
however, favoured the tolerant party, and gave its members 
a predominant influence in his cabinet Greatly to the dis- 
satisfaction of the Greek party, he refused to persecute the 
Paulicians, who had formed a considerable community in the 
eastern provinces of Asia Minor ; and he tolerated the Athin- 
gans in Pisidia and Lycaonia, allowing them to exercise their 

1 Compare TheopJianes, 413 and 419, 



Reign of Nicephoras I. 91 

religion in peace, as long as they violated none of the laws of 
the empire. 1 

The financial administration of Nicephoras is justly accused 
of severity, and even of rapacity. He affords a good personifi- 
cation of the fiscal genius of the Roman empire, as described 
by the Emperor Justin II. , upwards of three centuries earlier.- 2 
His thoughts were chiefly of tributes and taxes ; and, unfortu- 
nately for his subjects, his intimate acquaintance with financial 
affairs enabled him to extort a great increase of revenue, with- 
out appearing to impose new taxes. But though he is justly 
accused of oppression, he does not merit the reproach of 
avarice often urged against him. When he considered expendi- 
ture necessary, he was liberal of the public money. He spared 
no expense to keep up numerous armies, and it was not from 
ill-judged economy, but from want of military talents, that his 
campaigns were unsuccessful. 

Nicephoras restored the duties levied at the entrance of the 
Hellespont and the Bosphorus, which had been remitted by 
Irene to purchase popularity after her cruelty to her son. 8 He 
ordered all the provinces to furnish a stated number of able- 
bodied recruits for the army } drawn from among the poor, and 
obliged each district to pay the sum of eighteen nomismata 
a-head for their equipment enforcing the old Roman prin- 
ciple of mutual responsibility for the payment of any taxes, in 
case the recruits should possess property liable to taxation. 4 
One-twelfth was likewise added to the duty on public docu- 
ments. An additional tax of two nomismata was imposed on 
all domestic slaves purchased beyond the Hellespont. The 
inhabitants of Asia Minor who engaged in commerce were 
compelled to purchase a certain quantity of landed property 
belonging to the fisc at a fixed valuation : and, what 
tended to blacken the emperor's reputation more than 
anything else, he extended the hearth-tax to the property 
of ^the church, to monasteries, and charitable institutions, 
which had hitherto been exempted from the burden ; and he 

1 Theophancs, 413, For the Paulicians, see Gibbon, x. 169 ; Mosheim, II. 255 ; 
Neanderj iii. 244,, 

- u D)e noctuque pro utilitate reiptablzcas subtiliter cogitantes ilia properamus 
renpvare, quanta^ in locls opnorttmis sunt necessaria et maxime pro tributis atque 
reditibus, sine quibus impossible est aliquid agere prosperum." Const. Justini et Ti&. 
vii. a. JDe A dscriptitiis et Colonis Corp. J-ur. Civ. ii, 512, 4to edit. ster. 

3 Theophanes, 401. 

4 Eighteen nomismata Isjtiear!y_ ^10. We see from this that the individual in the 
ranks was more expensive in ancient than in modern times. He acted also a more 
important part. Artillery was then inferior, and less expensive. We must not forget 
that, during the period embraced in this volume, the Byzantine army was tbe finest in 
the world. 



92 The Contest with the Iconoclasts 

enforced the payment of arrears from the commencement of 
his reign. The innumerable private monasteries, which it was 
the fashion to multiply, withdrew so much property from taxa- 
tion that this measure was absolutely necessary to prevent 
frauds on the fisc; but though necessary, it was unpopular. 
Nicephorus, moreover, permitted the sale of gold ^ and silver 
pkte dedicated as holy offerings by private superstition ; and, 
like many modern princes, he quartered troops in monasteries. 
It is also made an accusation against his government, that ^he 
famished the merchants at Constantinople engaged in foreign 
trade with the sum of twelve pounds' weight of gold, for which 
they were compelled to pay twenty per cent interest It is 
difficult, from the statements of the Byzantine writers concern- 
ing the legislative acts, to form a precise idea of the emperor's 
object in some cases, or the effects of the law in Bothers. His 
enemies do not hesitate to enumerate among his crimes the 
exertions he made to establish military colonies in the^ waste 
districts on the Bulgarian frontier, secured by the line of 
fortresses constructed by Constantine V. His object was to 
cut off effectually all communication between the unruly 
Sclavonians in Thrace and the population to the north. There 
can be no doubt of his enforcing every claim of the govern- 
ment with rigour. He ordered a strict census of all agricul- 
turists who were not natives to be made throughout the 
provinces, and the land they cultivated was declared to belong 
to the imperial domain. He then converted these cultivators 
into slaves of the fisc, by the application of an old law, which 
declared that all who had cultivated the same land for the 
space of thirty years consecutively, were restricted to the 
condition of coloni^ or serfs attached to the soil. 1 

The conspiracies which were formed against Nicephorus 
cannot be admitted as evidence of his unpopularity, for the 
best of the Byzantine monarchs were as often victims of secret 
plots as the worst. The elective title to the empire rendered 
the prize to successful ambition one which overpowered the 
respect due to their country's laws in the breasts of the courtiers 
of Constantinople. It is only from popular insurrections that 
we can judge of the sovereign's unpopularity. The principles 
of humanity that rendered Nicephorus averse to religious 
persecution, caused him to treat conspirators with much less 
cruelty than most Byzantine emperors. Perhaps the historians 

* Theojjhanes, 411, 4x3, 414. Cedrenus, ii. 480. Cod. Justin. De Agricolis *t 
C/nsztts, xi. 41-9. 



Reign of Nlcephorus L 93 

hostile to his government have deceived posterity, giving con- 
siderable importance to insignificant plots, as we see modem 
diplomatists continually deceiving their courts by magnifying 
trifling expressions of dissatisfaction into dangerous presages 
of widespread discontent. In the year 808, however, a con- 
spiracy was really formed to pkce Arsaber a patrician, who 
held the office of questor, or minister of legislation on the 
throne. Though Arsaber was of an Armenian family, many 
persons of rank were leagued with him ; yet Nicephoms only 
confiscated his estates, and compelled him to embrace the 
monastic life. 1 An attempt was made to assassinate the em- 
peror by a man who rushed into the palace, and seized the 
sword of one of the guards of the imperial chamber, severely 
wounding many persons before he was secured. The criminal 
was a monk, who was put to the torture, according to the 
cruel practice of the time ; but Nicephoms, on learning that 
he was a maniac, ordered him to be placed in a lunatic asylum. 
Indeed, though historians accuse Nicephoms of inhumanity, 
the punishment of death, in cases of treason, was never carried 
into effect during his reign. 

The relations of Nicephorus with Charlemagne were for 
a short time amicable. A treaty was concluded at Aix-la- 
Chapelle, in 803, regulating the frontiers of the two empires. 
In this treaty, the supremacy of the Eastern Empire over 
Venice, Istria, the maritime parts of Dalmatia, and the south 
of Italy, was acknowledged; while the authority of the 
Western Empire in Rome, the exarchate of Ravenna, and the 
Pentapolis, was recognised by Nicephorus. 2 The commerce 
of Venice with the East was already so important, and the 
Byzantine administration afforded so many guarantees for the 
security of property, that the Venetians, in spite of the 
menaces of Charlemagne, remained firm in their allegiance to 
Nicephorus. Istria, on the other hand, placed itself sub- 
sequently under the protection of the Frank emperor, and 
paid him a tribute of 354 marks. Pepin, king of Italy, was 
also charged by his father to render the Venetians, and the 
allies of the Byzantine empire in the north of Italy, tributary to 

1 Arsaber and Bardanes were both of Armenian descent. Chaimch (or Tchamtchian) 
says, " In this age, three Armenians were elected at different periods to the imperial 
throne of the Greeks. Two of them, Vardan and Arshavir, only held that high post for 
a few days. The other, Levond, (Leo V.) an Arzunian, reigned seven years. Not long 
after, Prince Manuelj of the tribe of the Mamiconians, greatly distinguished himself at 
the court of the emperor (Theophilus) by his undaunted valour and skill in war." 
History of Armenia, (translated by Avdall.) vol. i. 399. 

2 A. Dandolo. Muratori, Scrip. Rer. Itctl, xii. 



94 The Contest with the Iconoclasts 

the Franks ; but NIcephoras sent a fleet into the Adriatic, and 
effectually protected his friends. A body of people, called 
Orobiatse, who maintained themselves as an independent 
community in the Apennines, pretending to preserve their 
allegiance to the emperor of Constantinople, plundered 
Populonium in Tuscany. They afford us proof how much 
easier Charlemagne found it to extend his conquests than to 
preserve order. 1 Venice, it is true, found itself in the end 
compelled to purchase peace with the Frank empire, by the 
payment of an annual tribute of thirty-six pounds of gold, in 
order to secure its commercial relations from interruption ; 
and it was not released from this tribute until the time of 
Otho the Great. 2 It was during the reign of Nicephorus that 
the site of the present city of Venice became the seat of the 
Venetian government, Eivalto (Rialto) becoming the residence 
of the duke and the principal inhabitants, who retired from 
the continent to escape the attacks of Pepin. Heraclea-had 
previously been the capital of the Venetian municipality. In 
8 10, peace was again concluded between Nicephorus and 
Charlemagne, without making any change in frontier of the 
two empires. 

The power of the caliphate was never more actively em- 
ployed than under Haroun Al Rashid, but the reputation of 
that prince was by no means so great among his contem- 
poraries as it became in after times. Nicephorus was no 
sooner seated on the throne, than he refused to pay the caliph 
the tribute imposed on Irene. The Arabian historians pre- 
tend that his refusal was communicated to Haroun in an in- 
solent letter. 3 To resist the attacks of the Saracens, which he 
well knew would follow his refusal, he collected a powerful 
army in Asia Minor ; but this army broke out into rebellion, 
and, as has been already mentioned, proclaimed Bardanes 
emperor. The caliph, availing himself of the defenceless 
state of the empire, laid waste Asia Minor; and when the 
rebellion of Bardanes was extinguished, Nicephorus, afraid to 
trust any of the veteran generals with the command of a large 
army, placed himself at the head of the troops in Asia, and 
was defeated in a great battle at Krasos in Phrygia. 4 After 
this victory the Saracens laid waste the country in every 

1 Egmhard, Ann. Franc. A.D. 809. 

2 Constantine Porphyr. De Adm. Imp. chap. 28, A.D. 962. 

3 Weil, Geschichte der Chalifen> ii. 159, gives the letter of the emperor and the 
answer of the caliph. I cannot suppose they are authentic. 

4 Theophanes, 406. 



Reign of Nicephonis L 95 

direction, until a rebellion in Chorasan compelled Harouis to 
withdraw his troops from the Byzantine frontier, and gave 
Nicephonis time to reassemble a new army. As soon as the 
affairs in the East were tranquillised, the caliph again invaded 
the Byzantine empire. Haroun himself fixed his headquarters 
at Tyana, where he built a mosque, to mark that he annexed 
that city to the Mohammedan empire. One division of his 
army, sixty thousand strong, took and destroyed Ancyra. 
Heraclea on Mount Taurus was also captured, and sixteen 
thousand prisoners were carried off in a single campaign, 1 A,D. 
806. Nicephonis, unable to arrest these ravages, endeavoured 
to obtain peace ; and in spite of the religious bigotry which is 
supposed to have envenomed the hostilities of Haroun, the 
imperial embassy consisted of the bishop of Synnada, the 
abbot of Gulaias, and the economos of Amastris. As winter 
was approaching, and the Saracens were averse to remain 
longer beyond Mount Taurus, the three ecclesiastical ambas- 
sadors succeeded in arranging a treaty; but Nicephonis was 
compelled to submit to severe and degrading conditions. 
He engaged not to rebuild the frontier fortifications which had 
been destroyed by the caliph's armies, and he consented to 
pay a tribute of thirty thousand pieces of gold annually, 
adding three additional pieces for himself, and three for his 
son and colleague Stavrakios, which we must suppose to have 
been medallions of superior size, since they were offered as 
a direct proof that the emperor of the Romans paid a personal 
tribute to the caliph. 2 

Nicephorus seems to have been sadly deficient in feelings 
of honour, for, the moment he conceived he could evade the 
stipulations of the treaty without danger, he commenced 
repairing the ruined fortifications. His subjects suffered for 
his conduct. The caliph again sent troops to invade the 
empire; Cyprus and Rhodes were ravaged; the bishop of 
Cyprus was compelled to pay one thousand dinars as his ran- 
som ; and many Christians were carried away from Asia Minor, 
and settled in Syria. 

The death of Haroun, in 809, delivered the Christians from 
a barbarous enemy, who ruined their country like a brigand, 

1 Gibbon, x. 55, adopts the opinion that the Pontic Heraclea was taken in an earlier 
campaign : but St. Martin, in his notes to Lebeau, xii. 426, points out that this is not 
probable. Theophanes. 407. Schlosser, 350. Weil, u. 160. 

* If these tribute- pieces were medajlions Hke the celebrated medal of Justinian I,, 
which was stolen from, the National Library at Paris, the sight of one would gladden 
the heart of a numismatist. See Finder and Friedlander, Die Mftnzeh. Justinians, 



96 The Contest with the Iconoclasts 

without endeavouring to subdue it like a conqueror. Haroun's 
personal valour, his charity, his liberality to men of letters, and 
his religious zeal, have secured him interested panegyrics, 
which have drowned the voice of justice. The hero of the 
Arabkn Tales and the ally of Charlemagne is vaunted as one 
of the greatest princes who ever occupied a throne. The dis- 
graceful murder of the Barmecides, and many other acts of 
injustice and cruelty, give him a very different character in 
history. His plundering incursions into the Byzantine empire 
might have been glorious proofs of courage in some petty 
Syrian chieftain, but they degrade the ruler of the richest and 
most extensive empire on the earth into a mere slave-dealer. 1 

The Saracens continued their incursions, and in the year 
8 1 1, Leo the Armenian, then lieutenant-governor of the 
Armeniac theme, left a sum of thirteen hundred pounds* weight 
of silver, which had been collected as taxes, at Euchaites, 
without a sufficient guard. A band of Saracens carried off this 
money ; and for his negligence Leo was ordered to Constanti- 
nople, where the future emperor was scourged, and deprived 
of his command. 2 

The Sclavonian colonies in Greece were now so powerful 
that they formed the project of rendering themselves masters 
of the Peloponnesus, and expelling the Greek population. 
The Byzantine expedition, in the early part of the regency of 
Irene, had only subjected these intruders to tribute, without 
diminishing their numbers or breaking their power. 3 The 
troubled aspect of public affairs, after Nicephorus seized the 
throne, induced them to consider the moment favourable for 
gaining their independence. They assembled a numerous 
force under arms, and selected Patras as their first object of 
attack. The possession of a commercial port was necessary to 
their success, in order to enable them to supply their wants 
from abroad, and obtain a public revenue by the duties on the 
produce they exported. Patras was then the most flourishing 
harbour on the west coast of Greece, and its possession would 
have enabled the Sclavonians to establish direct communica- 
tions with, and draw assistance from, the kindred race 
established on the shores of the Adriatic, and from the Saracen 

1 The story of the three apples in the Arabian Nights gives a correct idea of the 
violence and injustice of the celebrated caliph, whose hasty temper was well knownj. For 
the causes of Haroun's injustice to the Barmecides, see Weil, Geschichte der Chc&ifen 
ii. 137. 

2 Theophanes, 414. Script, jost Thtoph. Anon. Cont. 7. Gcnesius, 6. 
9 Theopbanes, 385. 



Reign of Nicephorus I. 97 

pirates, among whose followers the Saclavi, or Sclavonian 
captives and renegades, made a considerable figure. 1 The 
property of the Greeks beyond the protection of the wailed 
towns was plundered, to supply the army destined to besiege 
Patras with provisions, and a communication was opened with 
a Saracen squadron of African pirates who blockaded the gulf. 3 
Patras was kept closely Invested, until want began to threaten 
the inhabitants with death, and compelled them to think of 
surrender. 

The Byzantine government had no regular troops nearer 
than Corinth, which Is three days' march from Patras. But 
the governor of the province who resided there was unable 
Immediately to detach a force sufficient to attack the besieging 
army. In the mean time, as the inhabitants were anxiously 
waiting for relief, one of their scouts, stationed to announce 
the approach of succours from Corinth, accidentally gave the 
signal agreed upon. The enthusiasm of the Greeks was excited 
to the highest pitch by the hopes of speedy deliverance, and, 
eager for revenge on their enemies, they threw open the city 
gates and made a vigorous attack on the besiegers, whom they 
drove from their position with considerable loss. 

The Byzantine general arrived three days after this victory. 
His jealousy of the military success of the armed citizens 
induced him to give currency to the popular accounts, 
which he found the superstition of the people had already 
circulated, that St. Andrew, the patron of Patras, had shown 
himself on the field of battle. The devastations committed by 
the Sclavonians, the victory of the Greeks, and the miraculous 
appearance of the apostle at the head of the besieged, were all 
announced to the Emperor Nicephorus, whose political views 
rendered him more willing to reward the church for St. Andrew's 
assistance, than to allow his subjects to perceive that their own 
valour was sufficient to defend their property : he feared they 
might discover that a well-constituted municipal government 
would always be able to protect them, while a distant central 
authority was often incapable, and generally indifferent. Nice- 
phorus was too experienced a statesman, with the examples of 
Venice and Cherson before his eyes, not to fear that such a 
discovery among the Greek population in the Peloponnesus 
would tend to circumscribe the fiscal energy of the Constant!- 
nopolitan treasury. The church, and not the people, profited 

1 Remaud, Invasions des Sarrazins en France, 237 

2 Constant. Porphyr. DC Adm. hnj!>. chap. 49. 



98 The Contest with the Iconoclasts 

by the success of the Greeks : the imperial share of the spoil 
taken from the Sclavonians, both property and slaves, was 
bestowed on the church of St. Andrew ; and the bishops of 
Methone, Lacedemon, and Corone, were declared suffragans 
of the metropolitan of Patras. This charter of Nicephorus 
was ratified by Leo VI., the Wise, in a new and extended 
act. 1 

The Bulgarians were always troublesome neighbours, as a 
rude people generally proves to a wealthy population. Their 
king, Crumn, was an able and warlike prince. For some time 
after his accession, he was occupied by hostilities with the 
Avars, but as soon as that war was terminated, he seized an 
opportunity of plundering a Byzantine military chest, contain- 
ing eleven hundred pounds of gold, destined for the payment 
of the troops stationed on the banks of the Strymon.^ After 
surprising the camp, dispersing the troops, murdering the 
officers, and capturing the treasure, he extended his ravages 
as far as Sardica, where he slew six thousand Roman soldiers. 

Nicephorus immediately assembled a considerable army, 
and marched to re-establish the security of his northern 
frontier. The death of Haroun left so large a force at his 
disposal that he contemplated the destruction of the Bulgarian 
kingdom ; but the Byzantine troops in Europe were in a dis- 
affected state, and their indiscipline rendered the campaign 
abortive. The resolution of Nicephorus remained, neverthe- 
less, unshaken, though his life was in danger from the sedi- 
tious conduct of the soldiery ; and he was in the end com- 
pelled to escape from his own camp, and seek safety in 
Constantinople. 

In 8 1 1, a new army, consisting chiefly of conscripts and 
raw recruits, was hastily assembled, and hurried into the field. 
In preparing for the campaign, Nicephorus displayed extreme 
financial severity, and ridiculed the timidity of those who 
counselled delay with a degree of cynicism which paints well 
the singular character of this bold financier. Having resolved 
to tax monasteries, and levy an augmentation of the land-tax 
from the nobility for the eight preceding years, his ministers 
endeavoured to persuade him of the impolicy of his proceed- 
ings ; but he only exclaimed, " What can you expect ! God 
has hardened iny heart, and my subjects can expect nothing 
else from me." The historian Theophanes says that these 
words were repeated to him by Theodosios, the minister to 

1 LeuncUviu;, Jus Graeco^Romanum^ 278. Lequieu, Ortetts Ckristia.nus % ii; 179, 



Reign of Nicephoras I. 99 

whom they were addressed. 1 The energy of Nicephoras was 
equal to his rapacity, but it was not supported by a corre- 
sponding degree of military skill He led his army so rapid!)' 
to Markelles, a fortress built by Constantine VI., within the 
line of the Bulgarian frontier, that Cnimn, alarmed at his 
vigour, sent an embassy to solicit peace. 2 This proposal was 
rejected, and the emperor pushed forward and captured a resi- 
dence of the Bulgarian monarch's near the frontiers, in which 
a considerable amount of treasure was found. Crumn, dis- 
pirited at this loss, offered to accept any terms of peace 
compatible with the existence of his independence, but 
Nicephorus would agree to no terms but absolute submis- 
sion. 

The only contemporary account of the following events is 
in the chronicle of Theophanes, and it leaves us in doubt 
whether the rashness of Nicephorus or the treason of his 
generals was the real cause of his disastrous defeat. Even if 
we give Crumn credit for great military skill, the success of 
the stratagem, by which he destroyed a Byzantine army greatly 
superior to his own, could not have been achieved without 
some treasonable co-operation in the enemy's camp. It is 
certain that an officer of the emperor's household had deserted 
at Markelles, carrying away the emperor's wardrobe and one 
hundred pounds' weight of gold, and that one of the ablest 
engineers in the Byzantine service had previously fled to Bul- 
garia. It seems not improbable, that by means of these 
officers treasonable communications were maintained with the 
disaffected in the Byzantine army. 

When Nicephorus entered the Bulgarian territory, Crumn 
had a much larger force in his immediate vicinity than the 
emperor supposed. The Bulgarian troops, though defeated 
in the advance, were consequently allowed to watch the move- 
ments of the invaders, and intrench at no great distance with- 
out any attempt to dislodge them. It is even said that Crumn 
was allowed to work for two days, forming a strong palisade 
to circumscribe the operations of the imperial army, while 
Nicephorus was wasting his time collecting the booty found 
in the Bulgarian palace ; and that, when the emperor saw the 
work finished, he exclaimed, "We have no chance of safety 
except by being transformed into birds ! " Yet even in this 

1 Theoplu. ies, 414. Cedrenus, ii. 481. Zonaras, ii. 124. Theodosips perished with 
his master, therefore these words were repeated while he was a favourite minister. It 
may thence be inferred that some misconstruction has been put on the circumstances by 
the prejudices of Theophanes. 2 Theophancs, 394. 



zoo The Contest with the Iconoclasts 

desperate position the emperor is said to have neglected the 
usual precautions to secure his camp against; a night attack. 
Much of this seems incredible, 

Cramn made a grand nocturnal attack on the camp of 
Nicephorus, just six days after the emperor had invaded the 
Bulgarian kingdom. The Byzantine army was taken by sur- 
prise, and their camp entered on every side ; the whole bag- 
gage and military chest were taken ; the Emperor Nicephoras 
and six patricians, with many officers of the highest rank, 
were slain; and the Bulgarian king made a drinking-cup of 
the skull of the emperor of the Romans, in which the 
Sclavonian princes of the Bulgarian court pledged him in the 
richest wines of Greece when he celebrated his triumphal 
festivals. 1 The Bulgarians must have abandoned their strong 
palisade when they attacked the camp, for a considerable por- 
tion of the defeated army, with the Emperor Stavrakios, who 
was severely wounded, Stephen the general of the guard, and 
Theoctistos the master of the palace, reached Adrianople in 
safety. Stavrakios was immediately proclaimed his father's 
successor, and the army was able and willing to maintain him 
on the throne, had he possessed health and ability equal to 
the crisis. But the fiscal severity of his father had created a 
host of enemies to the existing system of government, and in 
the Byzantine empire a change of administration implied a 
change of the emperor. The numerous statesmen who ex- 
pected to profit by a revolution declared in favour of Michael 
Rhangabe, an insignificant noble, who had married Procopia 
the daughter of Nicephorus. Stavrakios was compelled by 
his brother-in-law to retire into a monastery, where he soon 
died of his wounds. He had occupied the throne two months. 



SECTION II 

MICHAEL I., (RHANGABi), A.D. 812-813 
Religious zeal of Michael Bulgarian war Defeat of Michael. 

Michael I. was crowned by the Patriarch Nicephoros, after 
signing a written declaration that he would defend the church, 
protect the ministers of religion, and never put the orthodox 
to death. This election of a tool of the bigoted party in the 
Byzantine church was a reaction against the tolerant policy of 

* Theophancs, 416. Nicephorus was slain on the 25th July, Six. 



Reign of Michael L 101 

Nicephorus. The new emperor began Ms reign by remitting 
all the additional taxes imposed by his predecessor which had 
awakened clerical opposition. He was a weak, well-meaning 
man ; but his wife Procopia was a lady of superior qualifica- 
tions, who united to a virtuous and charitable disposition 
something of her fathers vigour of mind. Michael's reign 
proved the necessity of always having a firm hand to guide 
that complicated administrative machine which the Byzantine 
sovereigns inherited from the empire of Rome. 

Michael purchased popularity in the capital by the lavish 
manner in which he distributed the wealth left by Nicephorus 
in the imperial treasury. He bestowed large sums on monas- 
teries, hospitals, poor-houses, and other charitable institutions, 
and he divided liberal gratuities among the leading members 
of the clergy, the chief dignitaries of the state, and the highest 
officers of the army. 1 His piety, as well as his party connec- 
tions, induced him to admit several monks to a place in 
his council ; and he made it an object of political importance 
to reconcile the Patriarch Nicephoros with Theodore Studita. 
But by abandoning the policy of his predecessor, after it had 
received the Patriarch's sanction and become the law of the 
church, Michael lost more in public opinion than he gained 
by the alliance of a troop of bigoted monks, who laboured to 
subject the power of the emperor and the policy of the state 
to their own narrow ideas. The abbot Joseph, who had cele- 
brated the marriage of the Emperor Constantine VI., was 
again excommunicated, as the peace-offering which allowed the 
bigots to renew their communion with the Patriarch. 

The counsels of Theodore Studita soon involved the gov- 
ernment in fresh embarrassment. To signalise his zeal for 
orthodoxy, he persuaded the emperor to persecute the Icono- 
clasts, who during the preceding reign had been allowed to 
profess their opinions without molestation. It was also pro- 
posed, in an assembly of the senate, to put the leaders of the 
Paulicians and Athigans to death, in order to intimidate their 
followers and persuade them to become orthodox Christians. 
This method of converting men to the Greek church excited 
strong opposition on the part of the tolerant members of the 
senate; but the Patriarch and clergy having deserted the 




coronation of his son Theophyluctu;,. 



102 The Contest with the Iconoclasts 

cause of humanity, the permanent interests of Christianity 
were sacrificed to the cause of orthodoxy. 

While the emperor persecuted a krge body of his subjects 
on the northern and eastern frontiers of his empire, he ne- 
glected to defend the provinces against the incursions of the 
Bulgarians, who ravaged great part of Thrace and Macedonia, 
and took several large and wealthy towns. The weight of 
taxation which fell on the mass of the popuktion was not 
lightened when the emperor relieved the clergy and the 
nobility from the additional burdens imposed on them by 
Nicephorus. Discontent spread rapidly. A lunatic girl, 
pUced in a prominent position, as the emperor passed through 
the streets of Constantinople, cried aloud "Descend from 
thy seat ! descend, and make room for another ! " The con- 
tinual disasters which were announced from the Bulgarian 
frontier made the people and the army remember with regret 
the prosperous days of Constantine V., when the slave-markets 
of the capital were filled with their enemies. Encouraged by 
the general dissatisfaction, the Iconoclasts formed a conspiracy 
to convey the sons of Constantine V., who were living, blind 
and mute, in their exile at Panormus, to the army. The plot 
was discovered, and Michael ordered the helpless princes to 
be conveyed to Aphinsa, a small island in the Propontis, 
where they could be closely guarded. One of the conspirators 
had his tongue cut out. 

The wars of Mohammed Alemen and Almamun, the sons of 
Haroun al Rashid, relieved the empire from all serious danger 
on the side of the Saracens. But the Bulgarian war, to which 
Michael owed his throne, soon proved the cause of his ruin. 
The army and the people despised him, because he owed his 
elevation, not to his talents, but to the accident of his mar- 
riage, his popularity with the monks, and the weakness of his 
character, which made him an instrument in the hands of a 
party. Public opinion soon decided that he was unfit to rule 
the empire. The year after the death of Nicephorus, Crumn 
invaded the empire with a numerous army, and took the town 
of Develtos. Michael left the capital accompanied by the 
Empress Procopia, in order to place himself at the head of the 
troops in Thrace ; but the soldiers showed so much dissatis- 
faction at the presence of a female court, that the emperor 
turned back to Constantinople from Tzourlou. . The Bulgarian 
king took advantage of the disorder which ensued to capture 
Anchialos, Berrhoea, Nicasa, and Probaton in Thrace; and 



Reign of Michael I. 103 

that province fell Into such a state of anarchy, that many of 
the colonists established by Nicephoras in Philippopolis and 
on the banks of the Strymon abandoned their settlements and 
returned to Asia. 

Cramn nevertheless offered peace to Michael, on the basis 
of a treaty concluded between the Emperor Theodosius III. 
and Cornesius, prior to the victories of the Iconoclast princes. 
These terms, fixing the frontier at Meleona, and regulating 
the duties to be paid on merchandise in the Bulgarian 
kingdom, would have been accepted by Michael, but Crumn 
availed himself of his success to demand that all deserters and 
refugees should be given up. As the Bulgarians were in the 
habit of ransoming the greater part of their captives at the 
end of each campaign, and of killing the remainder, or selling 
them as skves, this clause was introduced into the treaty 
to enable Crumn to gratify his vengeance against a number of 
refugees whom his tyranny had caused to quit Bulgaria, and 
who had generally embraced Christianity. The emperor re- 
mitted the examination of these conditions to the imperial 
council, and in the discussion which ensued, he, the Patriarch 
Nicephoros, and several bishops, declared themselves in favour 
of the treaty, on the ground that it was necessary to sacrifice 
the refugees for the safety of the natives of the empire who 
were in slavery in Bulgaria, and to preserve the population 
from further suffering. But Theoctistos the master of the 
palace, the energetic Theodore Studita, and a majority of the 
senators, declared that such conduct would be an indelible 
stain to the Roman empire, and would only invite the 
Bulgarians to recommence hostilities by the fear shown in 
the concession. The civilians declared It would be an act of 
infamy to consign to death, or to a slavery worse than death, 
men who had been received as subjects ; and Theodore pro- 
nounced that it was an act of impiety to think of delivering 
Christians Into the hands of pagans, quoting St. John, "All 
that the Father giveth me shall come to me, and him that 
cometh to me I will in no wise cast out." 1 The emperor, 
from motives of piety, yielded to the advice of Theodore. 
Could he have adopted something of the firm character of the 
abbot, he would either have obtained peace on his own terms, 
or secured victory to his army. 

While the emperor was debating at Constantinople, Crumn 
pushed forward the siege of Mesembria, which fell into his 

1 Gospel of St. John, vi. 37. 



IO4 The Contest with the Iconoclasts 

hands in November, 812. He acquired great booty, as the 
place was a commercial town of considerable importance; 
and he made himself master of twenty-six of the brazen tubes 
used for propelling Greek fire, with a quantity of the com- 
bustible material prepared for use in this artillery. Yet, even 
after this alarming news had reached Constantinople, the weak 
emperor continued to devote his attention to ecclesiastical 
affairs instead of military. He seems to have felt that he was 
utterly unfit to conduct the war in person ; yet the Byzantine 
or Roman army demanded to be led by the emperor. 

In the spring of 813, Michael had an army in the field 
prepared to resist the Bulgarians; and Crumn, finding that 
his troops were suffering from a severe epidemic, retreated. 
The Emperor, proud of his success, returned to his capital. 
The epidemic which had interrupted the operations of the 
enemy was ascribed to the intervention of Tarasios, who had 
been canonised for his services to orthodoxy; and the emperor, 
in order to mark his gratitude for his unexpected acquisition 
of military renown, covered the tomb of St. Tarasios with 
plates of silver weighing ninety-five lb., an act of piety which 
added to the contempt the army already felt for their sove- 
reign's courage and capacity. 

In the month of May, Michael again resumed the command 
of the army, but instead of listening to the advice of the 
experienced generals who commanded the troops, he allowed 
himself to be guided by civilians and priests, or he listened to 
the suggestions of his own timidity. There were at the time 
three able officers in the army Leo the Armenian, the general 
of the Anatolic theme; Michael the Amorian, who commanded 
one wing of the army ; and John Aplakes, the general of the 
Macedonian troops. Leo and Aplakes urged the emperor to 
attack the Bulgarians ; but the Amorian, who was intriguing 
against Theoctistos the master of the palace, seems to have 
been disinclined to serve the emperor with sincerity. The 
Bulgarians were encamped at Bersinikia, about thirty miles 
from the Byzantine army; and Michael, after changing his 
pkns more than once, resolved at last to risk a battle. 
Aplakes, who commanded the Macedonian and Thracian 
troops, consisting chiefly of hardy Sclavonian recruits, defeated 
the Bulgarian division opposed to him ; but a panic seized a 
party of the Byzantine troops; and Leo, with the Asiatic 
troops, was accused of allowing Aplakes to be surrounded and 
slain, when he might have saved him. Leo certainly saved 



Reign of Leo V. 105 

his own division, and made it the rallying-point for the 
fugitives; yet he does not appear to have been considered 
guilty of any neglect by the soldiers themselves. The em- 
peror fed to Constantinople, while the defeated army retreated 
to Adrianople. 

Michael assembled his ministers in the capital, and talked 
of resigning his crown ; for he deemed his defeat a judgment 
for mounting the throne of his brother-in-law. Procopia and 
his courtiers easily persuaded him to abandon his half-formed 
resolution. The army in the mean time decided the fate 
of the Empire. Leo the Armenian appeared alone worthy of 
the crown. The defeated troops saluted him Emperor, and 
marched "to Constantinople, where nobody felt inclined to 
support the weak Michael; so that Leo was acknowledged 
without opposition, and crowned in St. Sophia's on the 
nth July, 813. 

The dethroned emperor was compelled to embrace the 
monastic life, and lived unmolested in the island of Prote, 
where he died in 845. His eldest son, Theophylactus, who 
had been crowned as his colleague, was emasculated, as well as 
Ms brother Ignatius, and forced into a monastery. Ignatius 
became Patriarch of Constantinople in the reign of Michael III. 1 



SECTION III 
LEO v., (THE ARMENIAN,) A.D. 2 813-820 

Policy of Leo Treacherous attack on Crumn Victory over Bulgarians 
Affairs of Italy and Sicily Moderation in ecclesiastical contests 
Council favourable to Iconoclasts Impartial administration of justice 
Conspiracy against Leo His assassination. 

When Leo entered the capital, the Patriarch Nicephoros 
endeavoured to convert the precedent which Michael I. had 
given, of signing a written declaration of orthodoxy, into an 
established usage of the empire ; but the new emperor excused 
himself from signing any document before his coronation, and 
afterwards he denied the right to require. 3 Leo was inclined 



io6 The Contest with the Iconoclasts 

to favour the Iconoclasts, but he was no bigot. The Asiatic 
party in the army and in the administration, which supported 
him, were both enemies to image-worship. To strengthen the 
influence of his friends was naturally the first step of his 
reign. Michael the Amorian, who had warmly supported his 
election, was made a patrician. Thomas, another general, who 
is said to have been descended from the Sclavonian colonists 
settled in Asia Minor, was appointed general of the federates. 1 
Manuel, an Armenian of the noble race of the Mamiconians, 
received the command of the Armenian troops, and subse- 
quently of the Anatolic theme. 2 At Christmas the title of 
Emperor was conferred on Sembat, the eldest son of Leo, who 
then changed his name to Constantine. 

Leo was allowed little time to attend to civil business, for s 
six days after his coronation, Crumn appeared before the walls 
of Constantinople. The Bulgarian king encamped in the 
suburb of St. Mamas, 3 and extended his lines from the 
Biachernian to the Golden Gate; but he soon perceived that 
his army could not long maintain its position, and he allowed 
his troops to plunder and destroy the property of the citizens 
in every direction, in order to hasten the conclusion of a 
treaty of peace. Leo was anxious to save the possessions of 
his subjects from ruin, Crumn was eager to retreat without 
losing any of the plunder his army had collected. A treaty 
might have been concluded, had not Leo attempted to get rid 
of his enemy by an act of the basest treachery. A conference 
was appointed, to which the emperor and the king were to 
repair, attended only by a fixed number of guards. Leo laid 
a plot for assassinating Crumn at this meeting, and the 
Bulgarian monarch escaped with the greatest difficulty, leaving 
his chancellor dead, and most of his attendants captives. 
This infamous act was so generally approved by the perverted 
religious feelings of the Greek ecclesiastics, that the historian 
Theophanes, an abbot and holy confessor, in concluding his 
chronological record of the transactions of the Roman em- 
perors, remarks that the empire was not permitted to witness 

Genesius ? ii., give the statement in the text, -which is confirmed by Ignatius in his life of 
the Patriarch Nicephoros. Ada. Sanct Mart. 710. The authority of the Patriarch 
Ignatius far outweighs every other. Schlosser, 391. f Neander, iii. 532. The Emperor 
Leo doubtless made the customary general declaration of orthodoxy contained in the 
coronation path, which had appeared so vague as to require the written supplement 
signed by his predecessor. 

1 Genesius, 3-14. Contin. Const. Porphyr. 32. W must conclude that one of the 
parents of Thomas was a Sclavonian, the other an Armenian, (see p. 121, note 2). 

" Cont. Const. Porphyr. 15-68. 

3 Between Eyoub and the walls of Constantinople. 



Reign of Leo V. 107 

the death of Cramn by this ambuscade, In consequence of the 
multitude of the people's sins. 1 

The Bulgarians avenged the emperor's treachery on the 
helpless inhabitants of the empire in a terrible manner. They 
began by destroying the suburb of St. Mamas; palaces s 
churches, public and private buildings were burnt to the 
ground ; the lead was torn from the domes, which were fire- 
proof; the vessels taken at the head of the port were added to 
the conflagration; numerous beautiful works of art were 
destroyed, and many carried off, among which particular 
mention is made of a celebrated bronze lion, a bear, and a 
hydra. 2 The Bulgarians then quitted their lines before 
Constantinople, and marched to Selymbria, destroying on 
their way the immense stone bridge over the river Athyras, 
(Karason,) celebrated for the beauty of its construction. 8 
Selymbria, Rhedestos, and Apres were sacked; the country 
round Ganas was ravaged, but Heraclea and Panion resisted 
the assaults of the invaders. Men were everywhere put to 
the sword, while the young women, children, and cattle were 
driven away to Bulgaria. Part of the army penetrated into 
the Thracian Chersonese, and laid waste the country, 
Adrianople was compelled to surrender by famine, and after 
it had been plundered, the barbarians retired unmolested with 
an incredible booty, and an innumerable train of slaves. 

The success of this campaign induced a body of 30,000 
Bulgarians to invade the empire during the winter. They 
captured Arcadiopolis ; and though they were detained for a 
fortnight, during their retreat, by the swelling of the river 
Rheginas, (Bithyas,) Leo could not venture to attack them. 4 
They regained the Bulgarian frontier, carrying away fifty thou- 
sand captives and immense booty, and leaving behind them a 
terrible scene of desolation. 5 

Emboldened by the apparent weakness of the empire, Cramn 
made preparations for besieging Constantinople, by collecting 
all the machines of war then in use. 6 Leo thought it necessary 
to construct a new waU beyond that in existence at the Blach- 

1 Theophanes, 427. 

2 Theophanes, 427. Leo Grammaticus, 446. Anonym., De Ant. Const.) No. 163, 
No. 246, Gyllius. Banduri, Imp. Orient. . 416. 

* Steph. Byz. A'Gtipas Plum, H. N. Iv. 11-18. 

* Erginus ?' Scylax, 28. Plinii, H. N., 11-18. Hierocks, 31, and Constant, Por- 
phyr. De Them. ii. 2, mention Ganos. 

5 The booty consisted of Armenian blankets, carpets, clothing, and brazen pans. 
Symeon Mag. 410. Con tin. at the end of Theophanes 434- 

A Coruin, of Theophanes, 434, who gives a curious list of the ancient macli::is than 

Sxs Use, 



io8 The Contest with the Iconoclasts 

ernkn gate, and to add a deep ditch, for in this quarter the 
fortifications of the capital appeared weak. Crumn died be- 
fore the opening of the campaign; and Leo, having by the 
greatest exertion at last collected an army capable of taking 
the field, marched to Mesembria. There he succeeded in 
surprising the Bulgarians by a night attack on their camp. 
The defeat was most sanguinary. The Bulgarian army was 
annihilated, and the place where the dead were buried was 
long called the Mountain of Leo, and avoided by the Bulgarians 
as a spot of evil augury. After this victory the emperor in- 
invaded Bulgaria, which he ravaged with as much cruelty as 
Crumn had ever shown in plundering the empire. At last a 
truce for thirty years was concluded with Montagon, the new 
king. The power of these dangerous neighbours was so weak- 
ened by the recent exertions they had made, and by the wealth 
they had acquired, that for many years they were disposed to 
remain at peace. 

The influence of the Byzantine emperors in the West, though 
much diminished by the conquests of Charlemagne, the inde- 
pendence of the Popes, and the formation of two Saracen 
kingdoms in Africa and Spain, continued, nevertheless, to be 
very great, in consequence of the extensive mercantile con- 
nections of the Greeks, who then possessed the most lucrative 
part of the commerce of the Mediterranean. 

At this time the Aglabites of Africa and the Ommiades of 
Spain ruled a rebellious and ill-organised society of Moham- 
medan chiefs of various races, which even arbitrary power 
could not bend to the habits of a settled administration. Both 
these states sent out piratical expeditions by sea, when their 
incursions by land were restrained by the warlike power of 
their neighbours, Michael I. had been compelled to send an 
army to Sicily, to protect it from the incursions of pirates both 
from Africa and Spain. Lampedosa had been occupied by 
Saracen corsairs, and many Greek ships captured, before the 
joint forces of the Dukes of Sicily and Naples, with the vessels 
from Amalfi and Venice, defeated the plunderers and cleared 
the sea for a while. The quarrels of the Aglabites and Omm- 
iades induced the former to conclude a truce for ten years 
with Leo, and to join the naval forces of the Greeks and 
Venetians in attacking the Spanish Saracens. 1 

The disturbances which prevailed in the East during the 
caliphate of Almamun insured tranquillity to the Asiatic frontier 

1 Schlosser, 403. Pope Leo's Letter. Coletti. Ada S. Concil, ix. 157. 



Reign of Leo V. 109 

of the empire, and allowed Leo to devote his whole attention 
to the internal state of his dominions. The church was the 
only public institution immediately connected with the feelings 
of the whole population. By its conduct the people were 
directly interested in the proceedings of the imperial govern- 
ment Ecclesiastical affairs, offering the only field for the 
expression of public opinion, became naturally the centre of 
all political ideas and party straggles. Even in an administra- 
tive point of view, the regular organisation of the clergy under 
parish priests, bishops, and provincial councils, gave the church 
a degree of power in the state which compelled the emperor 
to watch it attentively. The principles of ecclesiastical inde- 
pendence inculcated by Theodore Studita, and adopted by the 
monks, and that portion of the clergy which favoured image- 
worship, alarmed the emperor. This party inculcated a belief 
in contemporary miracles, and in the daily intervention of God 
in human affairs. All prudence, all exertion on the part of 
individuals, was as nothing compared to the favour of some 
image accidentally endowed with divine grace. That such 
images could at any time reveal the existence of a hidden 
treasure, or raise the possessor to high official rank, was the 
common conviction of the superstitious and enthusiastic, both 
among the laity and the clergy; and such doctrines were 
especially favoured by the monks, so that the people, under 
the guidance of these teachers, became negligent of moral 
duties and regular industry. The Iconoclasts themselves ap- 
pealed to the decision of Heaven as favouring their cause, by 
pointing to the misfortunes of Constantine VI., Irene, Nice- 
phorus, and Michael I., who had supported image-worship, 
and contrasting their reigns with the victories and peaceful 
end of Leo the Isaurian, Constantine V., and Leo IV., who 
were the steady opponents of idolatry. 

Leo V., though averse to image-worship, possessed so much 
prudence and moderation, that he was inclined to rest satisfied 
with a direct acknowledgment that the civil power possessed 
the right of tolerating religious difference. But the army 
demanded the abolition of image-worship, and the monks the 
persecution of Iconoclasts. Leo's difficulties, in meddling 
with ecclesiastical affairs, gave his policy a dubious character, 
and obtained for him, among the Greeks, the name of the 
Chameleon, Several learned members of the clergy were 
opposed to image-worship ; and of these the most eminent 
were the abbot John Hylilas, of the illustrious family of the 



no The Contest with the Iconoclasts 

Morochorzanians, and Anthony, bishop of Syllseum. John, 
called, from his superior learning, the Grammarian, was 
accused by the ignorant of studying magic ; and the ^nickname 
of Lekanomantis was given him, because he was said to read 
the secrets of futurity in a brazen basin. 1 The Iconoclasts 
were also supported by Theodotos Kassiteras, son of the 
patrician Michael Melissenos, whose sister had been the third 
wife of Constantine V. These three endeavoured to persuade 
Leo to declare openly against image-worship. On the other 
hand, the majority of the Greek nation was firmly attached 
to image-worship ; and the cause was supported by the Patri- 
arch, by Theodore Studita, and a host of monks. The 
emperor flattered himself that he should be able to bring 
about an amicable arrangement to insure general toleration, 
and commanded John Hylilas to draw up a report of the 
opinions expressed by the earliest fathers of the church on 
the subject of image-worship. 

As soon as he was in possession of this report, he^ asked 
the Patriarch to make some concessions on the subject of 
pictures, in order to satisfy the army and preserve peace in 
the church. He wished that the pictures should be placed 
so high as to prevent the people making the gross display of 
superstitious worship constantly witnessed in the churches. 
But the Patriarch coldly pronounced himself in favour of 
images and pictures, whose worship, he declared, was author- 
ised by immemorial tradition, and the foundation of the 
orthodox faith was formed according to the opinion of the 
church on tradition as well as on Holy Scripture. He added 
that the opinions of the church were inspired by the Holy 
Spirit as well as the Scriptures. The emperor then proposed 
a conference between the two parties, and the clergy was 
thrown into a state of the greatest excitement at this pro- 
position, which implied a doubt of their divine inspiration. 
The Patriarch summoned his partisans to pass the night in 
prayers for the safety of the church, in the cathedral of 
St. Sophia. The emperor had some reason to regard this as 
seditious, and he was alarmed at the disorders which must 
evidently arise from both parties appealing to popular support, 
He summoned the Patriarch to the palace, where the night 
WSLS spent in controversy. Theodore Studita was one of those 
who attended the Patriarch on this occasion, and his steady 
assertion of ecclesiastical supremacy rendered him worthy, 

1 See note 3, p. 132 



Reign of Leo V. ITT 

from his bold and uncompromising views, to have occupied 
the chair of St Peter. ^ He declared plainly to the emperor 
that he had no authority to interfere with the doctrines of 
the^ church, since his rule only extended over the civil and 
military government of the empire. The church had full 
authority to govern itself. Leo was enraged at this boldness, 
and dissatisfied with the conduct of the Patriarch, who 
anathematised Anthony, the bishop of Syllseum, who was 
viewed as the leader of the Iconoclasts ; but for the present 
the clergy were only required to abstain from holding public 
assemblies. 

The Iconoclasts, however, now began to remove images 
and pictures from the churches in possession of the clergy 
of their party, and the troops on several occasions insulted 
the image over the entrance of the imperial palace, which 
had been once removed by Leo the Isaurian, and replaced 
by Irene. The emperor now ordered it to be again removed, 
on the ground that this was necessary to avoid public dis- 
turbance. These acts induced Theodore Studita to call on 
the monks to subscribe a declaration that they adhered firmly 
to the doctrines of the church, with respect to image-worship, 
as then established. The emperor, alarmed at the danger of 
causing a new schism in the church, but feeling himself called 
upon to resist the attacks now made on his authority, deter- 
mined to relieve the civil power from the necessity of engaging 
in a contest with the ecclesiastical, by assembling a general 
council of the church, and leaving the two parties in the 
priesthood to settle their own differences. As he was in 
doubt how to proceed, it happened that both the Patriarch 
and the abbot, John Hylilas, were officiating together in the 
Christmas ceremonies while Leo was present, and that John, 
in the performance of his duty, had to repeat the words of 
Isaiah, "To whom then will ye liken God? or what will ye 
compare unto him ? The workman melteth a graven image, 
and the goldsmith spreadeth it over with gold, and casteth 
silver chains." 1 In pronouncing these words, he turned to 
the emperor, and uttered them in the most emphatic manner. 
A few days after this scene, a band of mutinous soldiers broke 
into the patriarchal palace and destroyed the pictures of the 
saints with which the building was adorned, and committing 
other disorders, until they were driven out by the regular 
guard. At length, in the month of April, 815. Leo ordered 

1 Isaiah, xl. iE> 19. 



H2 The Contest with the Iconoclasts 

a provincial synod to assemble at Constantinople, and before 
this assembly the Patriarch Nicephoros was brought by force, 
for he denied its competency to take cognisance of his 
conduct. He was deposed, and confined in a monastery 
which he had founded, where he survived twelve years a 
time which he passed more usefully for the world, in com- 
piling the historical works we possess, than he could have 
passed them amidst the contests of the patriarchal dignity. 1 

The bigotry of both parties rendered the moderate policy 
of the emperor of no effect ; and public attention became so 
exclusively absorbed by the state of the church, that ^it was 
impossible for him to remain any longer neuter. His first 
decided step was to nominate a new Patriarch hostile to 
image-worship ; and he selected Theodotos Melissenos, a lay- 
man already mentioned, who held a high post in the imperial 
court. The example of the election of Tarasios prevented 
the votaries of image-worship disputing the legality of the 
election of a layman; but they refused to acknowledge 
Theodotos, on the ground that the deposition of Nicephoros 
was illegal, and that he was consequently still their lawful 
Patriarch. Theodotos was nevertheless ordained and con- 
secrated, A.D. 815. He was a man of learning and ability, 
but his habits as a military man and a courtier were said to 
be visible in his manners, and he was accused of living with 
too great splendour, keeping a luxurious table, and indulging 
habitually in society of too worldly a character. 

A general council of the church was now held at Constanti- 
nople, in which the new Patriarch, and Constantine the son of 
Leo, presided ; for the emperor declined taking a personal part 
in the dispute, in order to allow the church to decide on 
questions of doctrine without any direct interference of the 
civil power. This council re-established the acts of that held 
in 754 by Constantine V., abolishing image-worship, and it 
anathematised the Patriarchs Tarasios and Nicephoros, and all 
image-worshippers. The clergy, therefore, who adhered to the 
principles of the image-worshippers were, in consequence, 
deprived of their ecclesiastical dignities, and sent into banish- 
ment ; but the party revolutions that had frequently occurred 

1 Nicephoros died A.D. 828. His works are Breviarium Historic-tan de Reims 
Gestis &b Obit-u. Ma-tericu ad Constantinum usque Cofronymu-rtt) in the Byzantine- 
collection, and a Chronogfraphia annexed to the work of Syncellus. The Patriarch 
PhotJus, in a letter to the Emperor Basil I., mentions that Leo treated the deposed 
Patriarch \vith indulgence. He enjoyed the use of his books and the society of hh 
friends, as well as the possession of his private fortune. P/^/w: EjtstoLz, 97, paga 
1.36, edit I/?nd, 



Reign of Leo V. 113 

In the Greek church had introduced a dishonourable system 
of compliance with the reigning faction, and most of the 
clergy were readier to yield up their opinions than their bene- 
fices. 1 This habitual practice of falsehood received the mild 
name of arrangement, or economy, to soften the public aversion 
to such conduct. 2 

The Iconoclast party, on this occasion, used its victory with 
unusual mildness. They naturally drove their opponents from 
their ecclesiastical offices ; and when some bold monks per- 
sisted in preaching against the acts of the council, they 
banished these non-conformists to distant monasteries ; but it 
does not appear that the civil power was called upon to enforce 
conformity with the customary rigour. 3 The council had 
decided that images and pictures were to be removed from the 
churches, and if the people resisted their removal, or the 
clergy or monks replaced them, severe punishments were In- 
flicted for this violation of the law. Cruelty was a feature 
in the Byzantine civil administration, without any Impulse of 
religious fanaticism. 

Theodore Studita, who feared neither patriarch nor emperor,. 
and acknowledged no authority in ecclesiastical affairs but 
the church, while he recognised nothing as the church but 
what accorded with his own standard of orthodoxy, set the 
decrees of this council at defiance. He proceeded openly 
through the streets of the capital, followed by his monks in 
solemn procession, bearing aloft the pictures which had been 
removed from the churches, to give them a safe asylum within 
the walls of the monastery of Studion. For this display of 
contempt for the law he was banished by the emperor to Asia 
Minor; and his conduct in exile affords us a remarkable 
proof of the practical liberty the monks had acquired by their 
honest and steady resistance to the civil power. All eyes 
were fixed on Theodore as the leader of the monastic party ; 
and so great was the power he exerted over public opinion^ 
that the emperor did not venture to employ any illegal severity 
against the bold monk he had imprisoned. Indeed, the 
administration of justice in the Byzantine empire seems never 
to have been more regular and equitable than during the 
reign of Leo the Armenian. 

1 The historian Theophanes, author of the Chronography, which has been at times. 
our only, and often our best, guide in the preceding pages, was a noble exception to the 
system of compliance He was among those who were banished, and died shortly aftes- 
in exile in Samothrace. 

% Q\KQVO/J,ICL was the word. Neander, iii. 541, 3 Pkotri Ej>. 97. 



114 The Contest with the Iconoclasts 

Theodore from his prison corresponded not only with the 
most eminent bishops and monks of his party, and with 
ladies of piety and wealth, but also with the Pope, to whom, 
though now a foreign potentate, the bold abbot sent deputies, 
as if he were himself an independent Patriarch in the Eastern 
church. 1 His great object was to oppose the Iconoclasts 
in every way, and prevent all those over whose minds he 
exercised any influence from holding communion with those 
who conformed to their authority- One thing seems to have 
distressed and alarmed him, and he exerted all his eloquence 
to expose its fallacy. The Iconoclasts declared that no one 
could be a martyr for Christ's sake, who was only punished 
by the usual power for image-worship, since the question at 
issue had no connection with the truth of Christianity. 
Theodore argued that the night of heresy was darker than 
that of ignorance, and the merit of labouring to illuminate 
it was at least as great. The Emperor Leo was, however, too 
prudent to give any of Theodore's party the slightest hope 
of claiming the crown of martyrdom. He persisted in his 
policy of enforcing the decrees of the council with so much 
mildness, and balancing his own expressions of personal 
opinion with such a degree of impartiality that he excited the 
dissatisfaction of the violent of both parties. 2 

Even in a corrupted and factious society, most men appre- 
ciate the equitable administration of justice. Interest and 
ambition may indeed so far pervert the feelings of an adminis- 
trative or aristocratic class, as to make the members of such 
privileged societies regard the equal distribution of justice to 
the mass of people as an infringement of their rights ; and 
the passions engendered by religious zeal may blind those 
under its influence to any injustice committed against men of 
different opinions. Hence it is that a government, to secure 
the administration of justice, must be established on a broader 
basis than administrative wisdom, aristocratic pre-eminence, 
or religious orthodoxy. In the Byzantine empire, public 
opinion found no home among the mass of the population, 
whose minds and actions were regulated and enslaved by 

1 He seems to have been the chief mover of the foundation of the monastery of 
St. Praxedes at Rome, in which the Greek monks who fled from persecution were 
established by Pope Paschal. Anastassi de Vitis Pont. 150. 

2 The letters of Theodore Studita furnish information concerning the mildness of 
Leo's government. The fact that the banished abbot should carry on so extensive 
a correspondence, proves that the liberty guaranteed by the laws of the Roman empire, 
when these laws were equitably administered, was not an idle phrase at Constantinople 
under the Iconoclasts. 



Reign of Leo V. 115 

administrative influence, by the power of the wealthy, and by 
the authority of the clergy and the monks. 1 One result of 
this state of society is visible in the violence of party passion 
displayed concerning insignificant matters in the capital ; and 
hence it arose at last that the political interests of the empire 
were frequently disconnected with the subjects that exercised 
the greatest influence on the fate of the government Tbe 
moderation of Leo, which, had public opinion possessed any 
vitality, ought to have rendered his administration popukr 
with the majority of his subjects in the provinces, certainly 
rendered it unpopular in Constantinople. Crowds, seeking 
excitement, express the temporary feelings of the people before 
deliberation has fixed the public opinion. Leo was hated by 
the Greeks as an Armenian and an Iconoclast; and he was 
disliked by many of the highest officers in the state and the 
army for the severity of his judicial administration, and the 
strictness with which he maintained moral as well as military 
discipline, so that no inconsiderable number of the class who 
directed state affairs were disposed to welcome a revolution, 
Irene had governed the empire by eunuchs, who had put 
up everything for sale; Nicephorus had thought of those 
reforms only that tended to fill the treasury ; Michael I. had 
been the tool of a bigoted faction. All these sovereigns had 
accumulated opposition to good government. 

Leo undertook the task of purifying the administration, and 
he commenced his reforms by enforcing a stricter dispensation 
of justice. His enemies acknowledged that he put a stop to 
corruption with wonderful promptitude and ability. He re- 
stored the discipline of the army, he repressed bribery in the 
courts of justice, by strictly reviewing all judicial decisions, 
and he re-established an equitable system of collecting the 
revenue. 2 He repaired the fortresses destroyed by the Bul- 
garians, and placed all the frontiers of the empire in a re- 
spectable state of defence. All this, it was universally 
acknowledged, was due to his personal activity in watching 
over the proceedings of his ministers. Even the Patriarch 

1 In the Byzantine, as in the Roman empire, the administration, including the em- 
peror and all his servants, or, as the servants of the state were called, his household, 
formed a class apart from the inhabitants of the empire, governed by different laws, 
while the subjects under the civil laws of Rome were again separated into the rich and 
the poor, oZ 8vva.TO and oi 7r&7)T$ f whom usage more than legislation constituted 
into separate classes. , . 

" A case of his personal decision, where the praetor had refused justice against a 
senator is reported as a proof of his rigid attention to the casual administration of the 
law. Genesius, 8; Contin. Const. Porphyr. 19. Mortreuil, i. 355, gives it from Bon- 
fidius s y t who has extracted it from Cedrenus, ii. 4C3. 



n6 The Contest with the Iconoclasts 

Nicephoros, whom he had deposed, gave testimony to hi 
merits as an emperor. When he heard of Leo's assassination 
he exclaimed, "The church is delivered from a dangerou 
enemy, but the empire has lost a useful sovereign." 

The officers of the court, who expected to profit by a chang< 
of measures, formed a conspiracy to overthrow Leo's govern 
ment, which was joined by Michael the Amorian, who hac 
long been the emperor's most intimate friend. The ambitior 
of this turbulent and unprincipled soldier led him to thini 
that he had as good a right to the throne as Leo ; and wher 
he perceived that a general opposition was felt in Constanti- 
nople to the emperor's conduct, his ambition got the bettei 
of his gratitude, and he plotted to mount the throne. It was 
generally reported that Leo had refused to accept the Imperial 
crown, when proclaimed emperor by the army at Adrianople, 
from his knowledge of the difficulties with which he would 
have to contend, and that Michael forced him to yield his 
assent, by declaring that he must either accept the crown, or 
be put to death to make way for a new candidate. The 
turbulent character of Michael gave currency to this anecdote, 

Michael's conduct had long been seditious, when at length 
his share in a conspiracy against the government was dis- 
covered, and he was tried, found guilty, and condemned to 
death. It is said by the chronicles that the court of justice 
left it to the emperor to order his execution in any way he 
might think proper, and that Leo condemned him to be 
immediately cast into the furnace used for heating the baths of 
the palace, and prepared to attend the execution in person. 
It is needless to say that, though cruelty was the vice of the 
Byzantine court, we must rank this story as a tale fitter 
for the legends of the saints than for the history of the empire. 
The event took place on Christmas-eve, when the empress, 
hearing what was about to happen, and moved with corn- 
passion for one who had long been her husband's intimate 
friend, hastened to Leo, and implored him to defer the execu- 
tion until after Christmas-day. She urged the sin of partici- 
pating in the holy communion with the cries of the dying 
companion of his youth echoing in his ear. Leo who, 
though severe, was not personally cruel yielded to his wife's 
entreaties, and consented with great reluctance to postpone 
the punishment, for his knowledge of the extent of the con 
spiracy gave him a presentiment of danger. After giving 
orders for staying the execution, he turned to the empress and 



Reign of Leo V. 117 

said, " I grant your request : you think only of my eternal wel- 
fare; but you expose my life to the greatest peril, and your 
scruples may bring misfortune on you and on our children.' 9 

Michael was conducted back to his dungeon, and the key 
of his fetters was brought to Leo. It was afterwards told in 
Constantinople that during the night the emperor was unable 
to sleep. A sense of impending danger, disturbing his 
imagination, impelled him to rise from his bed, envelop him- 
self in a mantle, and secretly visit the cell in which Michael 
was confined. There he found the door unlockedj and 
Michael stretched on the bed of his jailor, buried in profound 
sleep, while the jailor himself was lying on the criminal's bed 
on the floor. The emperor's alarm was increased at this 
spectacle. He withdrew to consider what measures he should 
take to watch both the prisoner and the jailor. But Michael 
had already many partisans within the walls of the palace, and 
one of these had, having observed the emperor ? s nocturnal 
visit to the criminal's cell, immediately awakened Michael 
There was not a moment to lose. As a friendly confessor had 
been introduced into the palace to afford the condemned 
criminal the consolations of religion, this priest was sent to 
Theoctistos to announce that, unless a blow was instantly 
struck, Michael would at daylight purchase his own pardon by 
revealing the names of the principal conspirators. This 
message caused the conspirators to resolve on the immediate 
assassination of the emperor. 

The imperial palace was a fortress separated from the city 
like the present serai of the sultan. It was the practice of 
Leo to attend matins in his chapel, and as it was Christmas- 
day, a number of the best singers in Constantinople were that 
morning admitted at a postern-gate before daybreak, in order 
to join in the celebration of the service, whose solemn chant 
was then the admiration of the Christian world. 1 Leo, who 
was of a religious turn of mind, delighted in displaying his 
deep sonorous voice in the choir. He delayed his measures 
for securing Michael and the jailor to hasten to the chapel, and 
the conspirators availed themselves of his presence during the 
celebration of divine service to execute their plans. Disguised 

J Charlemange was profoundly affected by the solemn music of the Greek service 
We may conclude that it bore a closer resemblance to the music of the Russian 
church of to-day than to the nasal melody^ of modern Greek psalmody. See the 
enthusiastic manner in which Joannes Cameniates speaks of Byzantine church-music in 
the tenth century, Df Bxcidio Thessalomcatsi^ chap. x. ; Scriptures post Theopho,ncm t 
p. 326, 



n8 The Contest with the Iconoclasts 

as choristers, with daggers concealed In their clothes, they 
obtained admittance at the postern, and ranged themselves 
among the singers in the imperial chapel. 

The morning was dark and cold, and both the emperor and 
the officiating chaplain were enveloped in furred mantles, 
which, with the thick bonnets they wore as a protection against 
the damp, effectually concealed their faces. But as soon as 
the powerful voice of Leo was heard in the solemn hymns, 
the assassins pressed forward to stab him. Some, however, 
mistaking the chaplain for the emperor, wounded the priest, 
whose cries revealed the mistake, and then all turned on Leo, 
who defended himself for some time with the crucifix which 
he snatched up. His hand was soon cut of}, and he fell be- 
fore the communion-table, where his body was hewed in 
pieces. 

The assassins then hurried to the cell of Michael, whom 
they proclaimed emperor, and thus consummated the revolu- 
tion for which he was under sentence of death. Few sovereigns 
of the Byzantine empire seem to have exerted themselves 
more sincerely than Leo V. to perform the duties of their 
station, yet few have received less praise for their good quali- 
ties ; nor did his assassination create any reaction of public 
opinion in his favour. Though he died with the crucifix in 
his hand, he was condemned as if he had been a bigoted 
Iconoclast His wife and children were compelled to adopt 
a monastic life. 1 

* For the reign of Leo V., see the anonymous author at the end of Theophanes ; 
Leo Grammaticus, 445; the contxnuator of Theophanes, by order of Constantino 
Porphyrogemtus, in Serif tores ^ost ThfojtJianem ; Synieon Log. et Ma?. 411, and 
Georg. Mpn. 500 both in the Scriptores ost Theopk.; Genesius; Cedrenus, 487; 
Zonares, ii. 152 ; and the shorter chronicles. 



CHAPTER II! 
THE AMORIAN DYNASTY, A.D. 820-867 

SECTION I 

MICHAEL IL, (THE STAMMERER,) A.D. 820-829 

Birth of Michael II. Rebellion of Thomas Loss of Crete and Sicily 
Michael's ecclesiastical policy Marriage and death. 

MICHAEL IL was proclaimed emperor with the fetters on Ms 
limbs; and the first spectacle of his reign was the jailor 
delivering him from a felon's bonds. When relieved from his 
irons, he proceeded to the church of St. Sophia, where he was 
crowned by the Patriarch. 

Michael II. was born in the lowest rank of society. He 
had entered the army as a private soldier in early youth, but 
his attention to his duties, and his military talents, quickly 
raised him to the rank of general. His influence over the 
troops aided in placing Leo V. on the imperial throne. 
Amorium was his birthplace an important and wealthy city, 
inhabited by a mixed population of various races and 
languages, collected together by trading interests. 1 The 
Phrygians, who formed the majority, still retained many 
native usages, and some religious ideas adverse ^ to Greek 
prejudices. Many Jews had also been established in the city 
for ages, and a sect called the Athingans, who held that the 
touch of many things was a contamination, had numerous 
votaries. 2 

The low origin of Michael, and the half-suppressed con- 
tempt he disclosed for Greek learning, Roman jpride, and 
ecclesiastical tradition, awakened some animosity in the 
breasts of the pedants, the nobles, and the orthodox of 
Constantinople. 8 It is not surprising, therefore, that the 

1 See page 14, note 6. 

2 The Athingans took their names from Oiyydvw, and the allusion is to Colossians, 
ji t 2I _ Touch not, taste not, handle not. " 

3 TTJ? 'EAA7?J>tK7;y Tratdevcriy foaTrrtfajy, Contin. Const, Porphyr. Sc. post Thcoph* 
31 Abulpharagius (CVfc. Syr. 150) says Michael was the son of a converted Jew. 
Niketas, in his Life of Ignatius, (Condi. Labb. viii. 1183,) says he was of the Sabbauan 
heresy. Some moderns wish to make both the emperor and the Athingans gyP se y s 
without any reason. 

119 



!2O The Contest with the Iconoclasts 

Mstorians who wrote under the patronage of the enemies of 
the Amorian dynasty should represent its founder as a horse- 
Jockey, a heretic, and a stammerer. As he showed no par- 
ticular favour to the Greek party in the Byzantine church, his 
orthodoxy was questioned by the great body of the clergy; 
and as he very probably expressed himself with hesitation in 
the Greek language, as spoken at court, any calumny would 
find credit with the Hellenic populace, who have always been 
Jealous of strangers, and eager to avenge, by words, the com- 
pliance they have been compelled to yield by deeds to foreign 
masters. 

Michael, however, had sagacity to observe the difficulties 
which the various parties in the church and court had the 
power of raising up against his administration. To gain time, 
he began by conciliating every party. The orthodox, headed 
by Theodore Studita and the exiled Patriarch Nicephoros, were 
the most powerful. He flattered these two ecclesiastics, by 
allowing them to return to the capital, and even permitted 
Theodore to resume his functions as abbot of Studion ; but, 
on the other hand, he refused to adopt their suggestions for a 
reaction in favour of image-worship. He seems to have been 
naturally inclined to religious toleration, and he was anxious 
to repress all disputes within the pale of the church, as the 
best means of maintaining the public tranquillity. In order to 
give a public guarantee for the spirit of the civil power, which 
he desired should characterise his reign, he held a silention to 
announce toleration of private opinion in ecclesiastical ques- 
tions ; but it was declared that the existing laws against the 
exhibition of images and pictures in churches were to be 
strictly enforced. 1 The indifference of Michael to the eccle- 
siastical disputes which agitated a church, to many of whose 
doctrines he was at heart adverse, did not create so violent an 
opposition as the sincerer conduct of his predecessors, who 
banished images on religious grounds. 

The elevation of a new emperor, who possessed few claims 
to distinction, awakened, as usual, the hopes of every ambitious 
general. A formidable rival appeared in the person of Thomas, 
the only officer of eminence who had remained faithful to the 
rebel Bardanes, when Leo and Michael deserted his standard. 
Thomas, as has been already mentioned, was appointed 
general of the federates by Leo V., but, owing to some 
circumstances which are not recorded, he had retired into the 

1 Pagi ad Baron, Ann. JZccles, A.D. 821, torn. xiv. 



The Amorian Dynasty 121 

dominions of the caliph, and remained for some time on the 
borders of Armenia. 1 His origin, whether Sclavonian or 
Armenian, by separating him in an unusual degree from the 
ruling classes in the empire for he was, like Michael, of a 
very low rank in society caused him to be regarded as a friend 
of the people ; and all the subject races in the empire espoused 
his cause, which in many provinces took the form of an attack 
on the Roman administration, rather than of a revolution to 
place a new emperor on the throne. 2 This rebellion is re- 
markable for assuming more of the character of a social 
revolution than of an ordinary insurrection. 3 Thomas over- 
ran all Asia Minor without meeting with any serious opposi- 
tion even on the part of the towns ; so that, with the excep- 
tion of the Armeniac theme and Opsikion, his authority was 
universally acknowledged, and the administration was con- 
ducted by his officers. He concluded an alliance with the 
Saracens to enable him to visit Antioch, and receive the 
imperial crown from the hands of the Patriarch Job. 4 This 
alliance with the infidels tended to injure his popularity ; and 
when he returned accompanied by large bodies of mercenary 
troops, collected from the Mohammedan tribes on the 
frontier, the public enthusiasm for his cause became sensibly 
diminished. Thomas, too, feeling more confidence in the 
power of his army, began to show himself careless of the 
good-will of the people. 

The only manner of putting an end to the war was by taking 
Constantinople, and this Thomas prepared to attempt. An im- 
mense fleet was assembled at Lesbos. Gregorios Pterotes, a 
relation of Leo V., who had been banished to Skyros by 
Michael, was sent into Thrace at the head of ten thousand 
men to prepare for the arrival of Thomas, who soon followed 
with the bulk of his army, and formed the siege of Constanti- 
nople. Michael had taken every precaution for sustaining a long 
siege, and Thomas seems to have committed a serious error 
in attacking so strong a city, while the troops of the Armeniac 

* Schlosser, GcschickU der fold* Kaiser \ 437. The letter of Michael to Louis I 
Debonnaire. Baronii, Ann. Eccles, xiv. 62. Fleury, Hist* Eccles. lib, xlviiL art. 2. 4. 

2 Compare Genesius, in. 14, with continuator, (Scrip, fast Tkeoph. 5,} who says 
Thomas was born at the lake Gazouras. The town of Gazouria, near the river Iris m 
Pontus, is mentioned by Strabo, lib. xii. chap. ii. 15, p. 547. Hamilton, Researches 
in- Asia. Minor ^ i. 359. He is said to have lived long among the Saracens, and to have 
given himself out for Constantine VI. Some of the reports seem irreconcilable, and look 
as if the history of two persons had been confounded. 

3 Contin. Scrip, post Ttuopk, 4, vrevt)ev Kal 5ov\oi Kara Sea-jroruv Kal err pa- 

Kara raetroi/, Kal Xo%ayd? Kara, (rrpar'rjyfrou rty X 6 *P a 
/c.r.X. 4 Contin. 35. Genesius, 15. 



122 The Contest with the Iconoclasts 

theme and of Opsikion were in sufficient strength to attack 
his communications with the centre of Asia Minor, and main- 
tain a constant communication with the garrison of Constan- 
tinople from the coast of Bithynia. The army of Thomas, 
though very numerous, was in part composed of an undisci- 
plined rabble, whose plundering propensities increased the 
difficulty of obtaining supplies. On the other hand, Con- 
stantinople, though closely invested, was well supplied with 
all kinds of provisions and stores, and the inhabitants dis- 
played great firmness in opposing an enemy whom they saw 
bent on plunder, while Michael and his son Tneoph ius per- 
formed the duties of able generals. Two attempts were made 
to storm the fortifications, one during the winter, in 821, and 
the other in the spring of 822; and both were equally un- 
successful, and entailed considerable loss on the besiegers. 
In the mean time the partisans of Michael collected a fleet of 
350 ships in the islands of the Archipelago and Greece ; and 
this force, having gained a complete victory over the fleet 
of Thomas, cut off the besiegers from communication with 
Asia. 

The Bulgarians, in order to profit by the civil war, invaded 
the empire, and plundered the country from which the rebels 
were compelled to draw their supplies. Thomas marched to 
oppose them with a part of his army, but was defeated, and lost 
the greater part of his baggage. He was so much weakened 
by this defeat that Michael sallied out from Constantinople, 
again routed him, and compelled the rebel army to retire to 
Arcadiopolis, where Thomas was soon closely besieged. 1 For 
five months the place was obstinately defended, but at last 
Thomas was delivered up by his own followers ; and his 
adopted son, who had been invested with the title of Emperor, 
was captured shortly after in Byza. Both were hanged, after 
their limbs had been cut off. 2 This junction of a son with 
the reigning emperor as his successor, had become a rule of 
the Byzantine constitution, which was rarely neglected by any 
sovereign. Two chiefs attached to the party of Thomas con- 
tinued for some time to defend the towns of Kabala and 
Saniana in Asia Minor, until the latter place was betrayed by 
one who bargained to be appointed archbishop of Neocesarea, 

1 Genesius, 10; Georg. Mon. Script* fast Theofh. 384, mention Arcadiopolis. 
Contin. 31, and the later writers, Cedrentis and Zonares. say Adrianople. Schlosser. 
446 note. 

2 Michael's own letter to Louis le Debonnaire is the authority for this cruelty, at 
well as the early historians. Baronius, xiv. 64. 



The Amorian Dynasty 123 

a fact recorded In a satirical verse preserved by one of the 
Byzantine historians. 1 



. . f emai "kable civil war lasted nearly three years, and is 
distinguished by some features of unusual occurrence from 
most of the great rebellions in the Byzantine empire. The 
large fleets collected on both sides prove that the popuktion 
and wealth of the coasts and islands of the Archipelago had 
not declined under the administration of the Iconoclasts, 
though this part of the empire was likely to be least favoured 
by the central power, as having attempted to dethrone Leo III., 
and having always firmly supported the party of the image- 
worshippers. 2 The most numerous partisans of Thomas, and 
those who gave the strong revolutionary impulse to the rebel- 
lion at ^ its commencement, were that body of the Asiatic 
population which national distinctions or religious opinions 
excluded from participation in public and local affairs, and to 
whom even the ecclesiastical courts were shut, on account of 
their heretical opinions ; and to the ecclesiastical courts alone 
recourse could be had for the equitable administration of 
justice in some cases. The discontent of these classes, joined 
to the poverty created by excessive taxation, supplied the army 
of Thomas with those numerous bands of marauders, eager to 
seek revenge, who spread desolation far and wide, alarmed all 
men possessing property, and ultimately rained his enterprise. 
The indiscipline of his troops, and his incapacity to apply any 
remedy to the financial oppression and religious intolerance 
against which the population of the Asiatic provinces had 
taken up arms, alienated the minds of all who expected to find 
in him an instrument for reforming the empire. But had 
Thomas really been a man of a powerful mind, he might have 
laid the foundation of a new state of society in the Eastern 
Empire, by lightening the burden of taxation, carrying out 
toleration for religious opinions, securing an impartial admin- 
istration of justice even to heretics, and giving every class of 
subjects, without distinction of nationality or race, equal 
security for their lives and property. The spirit of the age 
was, however, averse to toleration, and the sense of justice 
was so defective that these equitable principles could only 
have been upheld by the power of a well-disciplined mer- 
cenary army. 

Saniana was in the mountains of the theme Charsianon. Const. Porphyr* De 
., lib. i. 6, page u. De Adm. Imp. chap. 50. Cont. Scrip. $o$t Tfoeph. 45* 
2 Contin. 40. Genesius, 18. 



124 The Contest with the Iconoclasts 

The necessity of adopting a general measure for improving 
the condition of the people was not felt by Michael II., even 
when this rebellion was suppressed ; and though he saw that 
some reduction of taxation to the lower classes was required, - 
he restricted the boon to the Armeniac theme and Opsikion, 
because these provinces had not joined Thomas in the civil 
war; 1 and even in them he only reduced the hearth-tax to one- 
half of the amount imposed by Nicephorus I. The rest of the 
empire was oppressed more than usual, as a punishment. It 
is certain that this unfortunate rebellion caused an immense 
destruction of property in Asia Minor, and was no inconsider- 
able cause of the accumulation of property in immense estates, 
which began to depopulate the country, and prepare it for the 
reception of a new race of inhabitants. 

The state of society under every known government was at 
this period troubled by civil wars. The seeds of these convul- 
sions may, therefore, be sought in some general cause affecting 
the relations of the various classes of men in the development 
of social progress, and so far it lay beyond the immediate in- 
fluence of the political laws of the respective governments, 
whether Mohammedan or Christian. The frame of society in 
the Saracen and Frank empires betrayed as many signs of 
decay as in the Byzantine. One of the remarkable features of 
the age is the appearance of bands of men, so powerful as to 
set the existing governments everywhere at defiance. These 
bands consisted in great part of men of what may be called 
the middle and higher classes of society, driven by dissatisfac- 
tion with their prospects in life to seek their fortunes as 
brigands and pirates ; and the extent to which slavery and the 
slave-trade prevailed, afforded them a ready means of recruit- 
ing their forces with daring and desperate men. The feeling 
which in our days impels nations to colonise new countries, 
and improve uncultivated lands, in the ninth century led the 
Saracens and Normans to ravage every country they could 
enter, destroy capital, and consequently diminish cultivation 
and population. 

Crete and Sicily, two of the most valuable provinces of the 
Byzantine empire, inhabited almost exclusively by Greeks, and 
both in a high state of civilisation and prosperity, were con- 
quered by the Saracens without offering the resistance that 
might have been expected from the wealth and numbers of 
the inhabitants. Indeed, we are compelled to infer that the 

1 Contin. Scrip, post Theoph. 34. Theophanes, 4x1. 



The Amorian Dynasty 125 

change from the orthodox sway of the emperors of Constanti- 
nople to the domination of the Mohammedans, was not con- 
sidered by the majority of the Greeks of Crete and Sicily so 
severe a calamity as we generally believe. In almost every 
case in which the Saracens conquered Christian nations, 
history unfortunately reveals that they owed their success 
chiefly to the favour with which their progress was regarded by 
the mass of the people. To the disgrace of most Christian 
governments, it will be found that their administration was 
more oppressive than that of the Arabian conquerors. Oppres- 
sion commenced when the rude tribes of the desert adopted 
the corruptions of a ruling class. The inhabitants of Syria 
welcomed the first followers of Mahomet ; the Copts of Egypt 
contributed to place their country under the domination of 
the Arabs; the Christian Berbers aided in the conquest of 
Africa. All these nations were induced, by hatred of the 
government at Constantinople, to place themselves under the 
sway of the Mohammedans, The treachery of the nobles, 
and the indifference of the people, made Spain and the south 
of France an easy prey to the Saracens. The conquest of 
Crete and Sicily must be traced to the same causes, for if the 
mass of the people had not been indifferent to the change, the 
Byzantine government could easily have retained possession 
of these valuable islands. The same disgraceful characteristic 
of Christian monarchies is also apparent at a much later 
period. The conquest of the Greeks, Servians, and Valla- 
chians by the Othoman Turks was effected rather by the 
voluntary submission of the mass of the Christians than by 
the power of the Mohammedans. This fact is rendered 
apparent by the effective resistance offered by the Albanians 
under Scanderbeg. Church and state must divide between 
them this blot on Christian society, for it is difficult to appor- 
tion the share due to the fiscal oppression of Roman centrali- 
sation, and to the unrelenting persecution of ecclesiastical 
orthodoxy. 

Crete fell a prey to a band of pirates. The reign of Al 
Hakem, the Oramiade caliph of Spain, was disturbed by con- 
tinual troubles ; and some theological disputes having created 
a violent insurrection in the suburbs of Cordova, about 15,000 
Spanish Arabs were compelled to emigrate in the year 815. 
The greater part of these desperadoes established themselves 
at Alexandria, where they soon took an active part in the civil 
wars of Egypt. The rebellion of Thomas, and the absence 



126 The Contest with the Iconoclasts 

of the naval forces of the Byzantine empire from the Archi- 
pelago, left the island of Crete unprotected. The Andalusian 
Arabs in Alexandria availed themselves of this circumstance 
to invade the island, and establish a settlement on it, in the 
year 823.* Michael was unable to take any measures for 
expelling these invaders, and an event soon happened in 
Egypt which added greatly to the strength of this Saracen 
colony. The victories of the lieutenants of the Caliph 
Almamun compelled he remainder of the Andalusian Arabs 
to quit Alexandria; so that Abou Hafs, called by Greeks 
Apochaps, joined his countrymen in Crete with forty ships, 
determined to make the new settlement their permanent home. 
It is said by the Byzantine writers that they commenced their 
conquest of the island by destroying their fleet, and construct- 
ing a strong fortified camp, surrounded by an immense ditch, 
from which it received the name of Chandak, now corrupted 
by the Western nations into Candia. 2 The construction of 
the new city, as the capital of their conquests, was part of the 
Saracen system of establishing their domination. The founda- 
tion of Cairo, Cairowan, Fez, Cufa, and Bagdat, was the 
result of this policy. A new state of society, and new institu- 
tions, were introduced with greater facility in a new residence. 
The Saracen pirates derived some facilities towards render- 
ing their conquests permanent, from the circumstance that 
their bands generally consisted of young men, destitute of 
domestic ties, who were seeking family establishments as well 
as wealth. It was thus that they became real colonists, to 
a much greater extent than is usually the case with conquerors 
in civilised countries. The ease, moreover, with which the 
Saracens, even of the highest rank, formed marriages with 
the lower orders, and the equality which reigned among the 
followers of the Prophet, presented fewer barriers to the increase 
of their number than prevailed in the various orders and 
classes of Byzantine society. The native population of Crete 
was in a stationary, if not a declining condition, at the time 
of the arrival of the Saracens, while these new colonists were 
introduced into the country under circumstances extremely 

1 Contin. Scrip, post Theopk. 35, 47. Genesius, at. The Saracens are said to have 
established themselves first at Suda. 

2 The favourable disposition of a portion of the- Cretans Is indicated by the tradi- 
tion, that a native monk pointed out to the Saracens the site of Chandak ; and the 
power of the islanders to^have offered a more effectual resistance than they did, is 
shown by one district obtaining leave to preserve its own laws and usages, without any 
interference on the part of the Saracens. This was probably Sphakia. Contin, 48. 
Genesiuj, 21. 



The Amorian Dynasty 127 

favourable to a rapid increase of their numbers. History, 
however, rarely enables us to mark, from age to age, the 
increase and decrease of the different classes, tribes, and 
nations concerning whose affairs it treats, though no fact is 
more important to enable us to form a correct estimate of 
the virtues and vices of society, to trace the progress of 
civilisation, and understand the foundations of political power. 

The Emperor Michael IL was at length, by the defeat of 
Thomas, enabled to make some attempts to drive the in- 
vaders out of Crete. The first expedition was intrusted to the 
command of Photinos, general of the Anatolic theme, a man 
of high rank and family; it was also strengthened by a re- 
inforcement under Damianos, count of the imperial stables 
and protospatharios ; but this expedition was completely 
defeated. Damianos was slain, and Photinos escaped with 
a single galley to Dia. The second attack on the Saracens 
was commanded by Krateros, the general of the Kibyrraiot 
theme, who was accompanied by a fleet of seventy ships of 
war. The Byzantine historians pretend that their army was 
victorious in a battle on shore, but that the Saracens, rallying 
during the night, surprised the Christian camp, and captured 
the whole fleet. Krateros escaped in a merchant vessel, but 
was pursued and taken near Cos, where he was immediately 
crucified by the Saracens. 

The Saracens, having established their sovereignty over the 
twenty-eight districts into which Crete was then divided, sent 
out piratical expeditions to plunder the isknds of the Archi- 
pelago and the coasts of Greece. Michael, alarmed lest more 
of his subjects should prefer the Saracen to the Byzantine 
government, fitted out a well-appointed fleet to cruise in the 
Egean Sea, and named Oryphas to command it. A choice 
of the best soldiers in the empire was secured, by paying a 
bounty of forty byzants a man ; and in this, a most effective 
squadron, with a body of experienced warriors on board, the 
Byzantine admiral scoured the Archipelago. 1 The Saracen 
pirates from Syria, Egypt, Africa, and Spain, who had been 
stimulated by the successes of their countrymen to plunder 
the Greeks, were pursued and destroyed; but Oryphas was 

It is remarkable, as a Pf9( f * ne relative value of money, that thejprice^ of^a, 
" " ' " * "" 



of the circulating medium, and in the condition of the people throughout the Eastern, 
Empire. Genesius, 23, Undoubtedly gold and silver^ mines must have been worked 
to a considerable extent, in order to maintain this equilibrium. 



128 The Contest with the Iconoclasts 

unable to effect anything, when he attacked the Cretan colony 
on shore. 1 This fleet was subsequently neglected; and, in 
the first year of the reign of Theophilus, an imperial squadron 
was totally destroyed by the Saracens, in a naval engagement 
near Thasos, leaving the corsairs masters of the sea. The 
isknds of the Archipelago were then plundered, and immense 
booty in property and slaves was carried off. 2 The Saracens 
retained possession of Crete for one hundred and thirty-five 
years. 

The conquest of Sicily was facilitated by the treachery of 
Euphemios, a native Greek of high rank, who is said to have 
carried off a nun, and whom the emperor ordered to be 
punished by the loss of his nose ; for though Michael himself 
espoused Euphrosyne, the daughter of Constantine VI., after 
she had taken the veil, he did not intend that any of his sub- 
jects should be allowed a similar license. Euphemios was 
informed of the emperor's order in time to save his nose, by 
exciting a sedition in Syracuse, his native city. 8 In this 
tumult, Gregoras the Byzantine governor was slain. Michael 
then deputed Photinos, whose unsuccessful expedition to 
Crete has been already mentioned, to supply the place of 
Gregoras, and carry on the war against the Saracens of Africa, 
whom Euphemios had already invited into Sicily, to distract 
the attention of the Byzantine military. Ziadet Allah, the 
Aglabite sovereign of Cairowan, had paid particular attention 
to his fleet, so that he was well prepared to carry on the war, 
and delighted to gain an entrance for his troops into Sicily. 
In June, 827, his admiral effected a junction with the ships of 
Euphemios, who had been driven out of Syracuse, and the 
Saracens landed at Mazara. Photinos was defeated in a battle 
near Platana, and retreated to Enna. The Saracens occupied 
Girgenti, but they were not strong enough to commence offen- 
sive operations until the Byzantine fleet was driven off the coast 
by the arrival of a squadron of ships from Spain, which joined 
the Aglabites, and enabled fresh reinforcements to arrive from 
Africa. The war was then carried on with activity : Messina 
was taken in 831 ; Palermo capitulated in the following year; 

1 Symeon, Mag. 414. ^ 2 Contin. 85. 

3 The story that Euphemios carried off a nun is not quite sure, and looks something 
like an invention of the orthodox, who wished to point out that the sin of Michael had 
been punished by a divine judgment. John the Deacon, in his history of the Bishops of 
Naples, only says that he fled to Africa with his wife and son. Muratori, Scrip. Rer. 
Ita.licarum> i. pi. 2-313.. Euphemios is said to have been killed before the walls of 
Syracuse, as he was inviting the inhabitants to throw off the oppressive government Of 
the Byzantine emperors for the lighter yoke of the Saracens. Cedrenus, ii. 512. 



The Amorian Dynasty 129 

and Enna was besieged, for the first time 3 in 836. The war 
continued with various success, as the invaders received assist- 
ance from Africa, and the Christians from Constantinople. 
The Byzantine forces recovered possession of Messina, which 
was not permanently occupied by the Saracens until 843, 
The Emperor Theophilus was too much engaged by his 
military operations in Asia Minor to send effectual aid to the 
Sicilians ;* while his father Michael II. had been too fond of 
his ease on the throne to devote the requisite attention to the 
business of the distant provinces. Michael III. thought of 
nothing but his pleasures. At !ength s in the year 859, Enna 
was taken by the Saracens. Syracuse, in order to preserve 
its commerce from ruin, had purchased peace by paying a 
tribute of 50,000 byzants ; and it was not until the reign of 
Basil I., in the year 878, that it was compelled to surrender, 
and the conquest of Sicily was completed by the Arabs. 2 
Some districts, however s continued, either by treaty or by force 
of arms, to preserve their municipal independence, and the 
exclusive exercise of the Christian religion, within their terri- 
tory, to a later period. 3 

_The loss of Crete and Sicily seems to have been viewed 
with strange apathy by the court at Constantinople. The 
reason of this is probably to be attributed to the circumstance 
that the surplus revenue was comparatively small, and the 
defence of these distant possessions was found often to require 
a military force, which it was deemed might be more advan- 
tageously employed ne^ the capital. These feelings of the 
statesmen at Constantinople were doubtless strengthened by 
the circumstance that a portion of the population, both in 
Crete and Sicily, had acquired a degree of municipal in- 
dependence extremely adverse to the principles which guided 
the imperial cabinet. 

The bold and indefatigable abbot, Theodore Studita, still 
struggled to establish the supremacy of the church over the 
emperor in religious and ecclesiastical affairs. He appears 
to deserve the credit of having discovered the necessity of 

2 Theophilus seems to have named his brother-in-law, Alexis Mousel, Strategos and 
Duke of Sicily, merely to send him into exile. Syrneon Mag. 418. 

2 Ckronic&n Sic-ulum. Bibliothectt Hist. Regni Sicilia: A Carusfo, 6. Symeon Mag. 
places the^ taking of Syracuse in the ninth year of Basil I., which would be nearly two 
years earlier. 

_ s The authorities for the^ conquest of Sicily are reviewed by Schlosser, Geschichte der 
trild. Kaiser,, 455 ; and Weil, Geschichte der Chalifen.^ ii. 249. The Byzantine writers 
who lived nearest to the time conceal the facts, as the ultimate loss of the island 
reflected disgrace on Basil I., the grandfather of their patron Constantine VII., 
(Porphyrogeni tus). 

F 



130 The Contest with the Iconoclasts 

creating a systematic restraint on the arbitrary authority of the 
sovereign; but his scheme for making the ecclesiastical legisla- 
tion superior to the executive power was defective, inasmuch 
as it sought to confer on the church a more irresponsible 
and dangerous authority than that of which the emperor would 
have been deprived. Experience had not yet taught mankind 
that no irresponsible power, whether it be intrusted to king or 
priest, in a monarchy or a republic, can be exercised without 
abuse. Until the law is superior to the executive government 
there is no true liberty; but in the Byzantine empire the 
emperor was above the law, and the imperial officials and the 
clergy had a law of their own, and so the people were doubly 
oppressed. 

The conduct of Michael in conducting ecclesiastical busi- 
ness indicates that he was not destitute of statesmanlike 
qualities, though he generally thought rather of enjoying his 
ease on the throne than of fulfilling the duties of his high 
station. 1 During the civil war he was anxious to secure the 
good-will of the monks and of the Greek party in the church. 
He recalled Theodore from banishment, and declared himself 
in favour of perfect toleration. This was far from satisfying 
the enthusiastic abbot, and the bigoted ecclesiastics of his 
party ; and after the establishment of tranquillity they incited 
the image-worshippers to an open violation of the laws against 
presenting pictures to the adoration of the people. Theodore 
also engaged with fresh zeal in an extensive correspondence 
with all persons of influence whom he knew to be favourable 
to his party. The emperor ordered him to discontinue this 
correspondence, as of a seditious tendency ; but the bold 
abbot ventured to argue the case with Michael himself in a 
long letter, which is preserved in his works. 2 

The policy of forming friendly relations with the western 
nations of Europe was every day becoming more apparent to 
the rulers of the Byzantine empire, as the political influence 
of the Popes extended itself, and the power of the western 
nations increased. Michael II. , in order to prevent the dis- 
contented image-worshippers from receiving support from the 
Franks, opened negotiations with the Emperor Louis le 
Debonnaire, in the hope of obtaining a condemnation of 
image-worship similar to that of Charlemagne. In the year 

1 Constantine Porphyrogenitus accuses Michael of neglecting the interests of the 
empire in Dalmatia as much as in Sicily and Crete.- De Adm. Imp. chap. 29 

a S. Theod. Stud. Ej>ist. t et alia. Scripta. Dogmatica, Paris, 1696, lib. ii. ep. 199, 



The Amorian Dynasty 131 

824, an embassy, bearing a vainglorious and bombastical 
letter, announcing the defeat of Thomas, reached the court 
of ^ Louis- 1 In this epistle Michael recapitulates the religious 
principles which ought to guide the emperors of the Romans 
in their ecclesiastical affairs. He alludes to the condemnation 
of image-worship by the council of Frankfort, and declares 
that he has not destroyed holy images and pictures, but only 
removed them to such an elevation as was necessary to 
prevent the abuses caused by popular superstition. 2 He 
considers the councils held for the condemnation of image- 
worship merely as local synods, and fully recognises the exist- 
ence of a higher authority in general councils of the church, 
giving, at the same time, his own confession of faith, in terms 
which he knew would secure the assent of Louis and the 
Frank clergy. ^ He then solicits the Frank emperor to induce 
the Pope to withdraw his protection from the rebellious image- 
worshippers who had fled from the Byzantine empire to Rome. 
A synod was convoked at Paris in consequence of this com- 
munication, which condemned the worship of images in the 
same terms as the Caroline Books, and blamed the second 
council of Nicasa for the superstitious reverence it had shown 
for images, but, at the same time, approved of the rebuke 
given to the^Eastern emperors, for their rashness in removing 
and destroying images, by Pope Hadrian, A.D. 825. The 
Emperor Louis was also requested by the synod to forward a 
letter to Pope Eugenius, inviting him to write to the Emperor 
Michael, in order to re-establish peace and unity in the 
Christian church. But the Pope, the two emperors, and 
Theodore Studita, were all afraid of plunging into ecclesias- 
tical discussions at this period ; for public opinion had been 
so exercised in these polemics, that it was impossible to fore- 
see the result of the contest. Matters were therefore allowed 
to go^ on during the reign of Michael without any open rupture. 
The imprisonment of Methodios, afterwards Patriarch of Con- 
stantinople, and the condemnation to death of Euthymios, 
bishop of Sardis, were the only acts of extreme severity with 
which the image-worshippers could reproach Michael; and 
these seem to have originated from political and party motives 

1 For this letter, see Barionus, torn. xiv. 66 ; Colet. ConciL ix. 642 ; Mansi Co-nci2. 
xiv. 410. 

_2 Pictures were sometimes^ made godfathers and godmothers at the baptism of 
children. The sacramental wine was mixed with paint scraped from the figures of 
saints, and the consecrated "bread was placed on the hand of the image to make it 
co-partaker in the sacrament. Neander, iii. 546. 



132 The Contest with the Iconoclasts 

rather than from religious opinions, though the zeal of these 
ecclesiastics rendered them eager to be considered as martyrs. 1 

The marriage of Michael with Euphrosyne, the daughter of 
Constantine VL, who had already taken the veil, was also 
made a ground for exciting public reprobation against the 
emperor. It is probable, however, that more ^importance is 
given to this marriage, as a violation of religion, by Jater 
writers, than it received among contemporaries. The Patriarch 
absolved Euphrosyne from her vows, and the senate repeatedly 
solicited the emperor to unite himself with the last scion of 
Leo the Isaurian, the second founder of the Eastern Empire. 
Michael affected to be averse to second marriages, and to 
field only to the public wish. That the marriage of the 
emperor with a nun excited the animosity of the monks, 
who regarded marriage as an evil, and second marriages as a 
delict, is very natural; and it would, of course, supply a fertile 
source of calumnious gossip to the enemies of the Amorian 
dynasty. 

Michael II. died in October, 829, and was buried in a 
sarcophagus of green Thessalian marble, in the sepulchral 
chapel erected by Justinian in the Church of the Holy 
Apostles. 2 

SECTION II 

THEOPHILUS, A.D. 829-842 

Anecdotes concerning the Emperor's love of justice Concerning his 
marriage Ecclesiastical persecution Love of art Colony on the 
Don Saracen war Theophilus destroys Zapetra Motassem destroys 
Amorium Death of Theophilus. 

No emperor ever ascended the throne of Constantinople 
Kath greater personal and political advantages than Theo- 
)hilus. His education had been the best the age could 
supply, and he possessed considerable talent and industry. 
The general direction of his education had been intrusted 
o John the Grammarian, one of the most accomplished as 
rell as the most learned men of the time. 3 In arts and 

1 Contin. Scri$. pest Theoh* 31. Genesms, 23. 

2 Contin. Scvij.Jost Thcopk. 52. 

s John Hylilas, as has been already mentioned, page zio, was called Lekanornant 
y the people, because he was said to use a polished basin for the purpose of divination. 
[e was Patriarch of Constantinople from 832 to 842. He was a member of the 
istinguished family of the Morocharzanians. Contin. 96. Cedrenus, 536. St. Martin 
mjectures that this family was of Armenian origin, and his brother's name was 
rsaber, which, at least, Is an Armenian name. Contin. 97. Lebeau, xiii. 14. 



The Amorian Dynasty 133 

arms, In law and theology, the emperor was equally well 
Instructed : his taste made him a lover of poetry, music, and 
architecture; his courage rendered him a brave soldier, his 
sense of justice a sound legislator- but his theology made 
him a stern bigot ; and a discontented temperament of mind 
prevented his accomplishments and virtues from producing a 
harmonious union. All acknowledged his merit, none seemed 
affectionately attached to his person ; and in the midst of his 
power he was called the Unfortunate. During his father's 
lifetime he had been intrusted with an active share in 
the government, and had devoted particular attention to 
the ecclesiastical department. He embraced the party of 
the Iconoclasts with fervour; and though his father en- 
deavoured to moderate his zeal, his influence seems to have 
produced the isolated acts of persecution during the reign of 
Michael, which were at variance with that emperor's general 
policy. 

Theophilus observed that the population of the empire was 
everywhere suffering from the defects of the central govern- 
ment, and he was anxious to remedy the evil. He erroneously 
attributed the greatest part of the sufferings of the people to 
the corruption of the administration, instead of ascribing it to 
the fact that the central authorities assumed duties which they 
were unable to execute, and prevented local bodies, who 
could easily have performed these duties in an efficient 
manner, from attempting to undertake them. Theophilus, 
however, justly believed that a great reform might be effected 
by improving the administration of justice, and he set about 
the task with vigour ; still many of his measures for enforcing 
equitable conduct on the part of the judges were so strongly 
marked with personality, that his severity, even when 
necessary, was stigmatised as crueL He was in the habit 
of riding through the streets of Constantinople on a weekly 
visit to the church of St Mary at Blachern, in order to afford 
his subjects a public opportunity of presenting such petitions 
as might otherwise never reach his hands. 1 The practice is 
perpetuated in the Othoman empire to this day. The sultan 
pays a public visit to one of the principal mosques of his 
capital weekly for the same purpose. In both cases it may 
be received as a proof of the want of a better and more 
systematic control over the judicial administration of a mighty 
empire. There was no emperor, in the reign of Theophilus, 

1 Contln. Scrip, fost Theofh. 53. 



134 The Contest with the Iconoclasts 

to parade the streets of provincial towns, where control was 
most wanted ; and there is no substitute for the sultan's pro- 
cession to the mosque in the provincial cities of Turkey. 

The first proof Theophilus gave of his love of justice was 
so strangely chosen, that it was represented as originating in 
the wish to get rid of some dangerous courtiers, rather than in 
a sense of equity. He assembled the senate, and, exhibiting 
to its astonished members the candelabrum of which one of 
the branches had been struck off at the assassination of 
Leo V., he demanded whether the laws of the empire and 
divine justice did not both call for the punishment of the men 
who had committed the double sacrilege of murdering their 
emperor, and shedding his blood before the altar. Some 
senators, prepared for the scene, suggested that, in order to 
avert the vengeance of Heaven, it was necessary to put the 
traitors to death. Theophilus immediately ordered the prefect 
of Constantinople to arrest every person concerned in Leo's 
assassination and bring them to trial, whether they belonged 
to the party of the image-worshippers or of the Greek 
ecclesiastics. They were all convicted, and executed in the 
Hippodrome, vainly protesting against the injustice of their 
sentence, since their deed had been ratified and pardoned by 
the Emperor Michael II. , and the reigning emperor confirmed 
that ratification by enjoying the profit of their act. 1 

Other examples of the emperor's severity were less liable to 
suspicion. A poor widow accused Petronas, the emperor's 
brother-in-law, an officer of talents and courage, of having, 
in violation of law, raised his house so high as to render 
hers almost uninhabitable from want of air and light. The 
laws concerning the disposition of private buildings in 
Constantinople were always regarded as an important object 
of imperial legislation. Theophilus ordered the grievance to 
be redressed ; but the complaint was subsequently reiterated, 
and the emperor discovered that his brother-in-law had dis- 
obeyed his decision. He now gave orders that the newly- 
built house should be levelled with the ground, and con- 
demned Petronas to be scourged in the public highway. 2 
Some time after this, Petronas was appointed to the high post 

1 Leo Grammaticus, 440, edit. Par. ; 214, edit. Bonn. 

2 The law of Zeno, giving the rules to be followed in constructing private houses at 
Constantinople, is contained in the Corpus Juris CzvilisCod. Just. viii. 10-12, De 
JEdificiis Pri-vatis. Dirksen has published a memoir containing much information 
explanatory of this law, in the Transactions of the Berlin Academy for 1844: it is 
entitled. Das Polizei-Gesetz des Kaisers Zeno iiber die laulichc Aulage dev 
Prwathduser in Constantinople, 



The Amorlan Dynasty 135 

of ^governor of Cherson, and during the reign of his nephew, 
Michael III., he defeated the Saracens in an important battle 
in Asia Minor, as will be hereafter related. This anecdote 
illustrates the state of society at the Byzantine court, by the 
contrast it presents between the servile feelings of the Romans 
and Greeks of Constantinople, and the independent spirit of 
the Franks and Germans of western Europe. In the Eastern 
Empire the shame of blows was nothing, and a bastinado 
inflicted on an emperor's brother-in-law, who retained his 
official rank, was not likely to be a very painful operation. 
The degradation of the punishment was effaced by the 
arbitrary nature of the power that inflicted it. The sense of 
justice inherent in mankind is always wounded by the inflic- 
tion ^of arbitrary punishment ; cruelty or caprice are supposed 
to dictate the sentence; the public attention is averted from 
the crime, and pity is often created when the sufferer really 
deserves to be branded with infamy. 

On another occasion, as Theophilus rode through the 
streets, a man stepped forward, and, laying his hand on 
the horse the emperor was riding, exclaimed, "This horse 
is mine, O emperor!" On investigating the circumstances, 
it appeared that the horse had really been taken by force from 
its proprietor by an officer of rank, who wished to present 
it to the emperor on account of its beauty. This act of 
violence was also punished, and the proprietor received 
two pounds' weight of gold as an indemnity for the loss he 
had sustained. The horse was worth about one hundred 
byzants. 1 

Theophilus was also indefatigable in examining the police 
details of the capital, and looking into the state of the markets. 
It is true^that the abundance of provisions, and their price at 
Constantinople, was a matter of great importance to the 
Byzantine government, which, like the Roman, too often 
sacrificed the prosperity of the provinces to the tranquillity of 
the capital ; yet still the minute attention which Theophilus 
gave to performing the duties of a prefect, indicate that he 
was deficient in the grasp of intellect required for the clear 
perception of the duties of an emperor. 

The reign of Theophilus was an age of anecdotes and tales. 
It had many poetic aspirations, smothered in chronicles and 
legends of saints. Volumes of tales were then current which 
would have given us a better insight into Byzantine manners 

1 Seventy-two or seventy-four byrants weighed a pound. Leo Gramm. 454. 



136 The Contest with the Iconoclasts 

than the folios of the historians, who have preserved an outline 
of a few of these stories. Theophilus seems to have been 
a kind of Byzantine Haroun Al Rashid. Unfortunately the 
Iconoclasts appear to have embodied more of this species 
of literature in their habits than the orthodox, who delighted 
in silly legends concerning saints rather than in imaginative 
pictures of the deeds of men ; and thus the mirror of truth 
has perished, while the fables that have been preserved are 
neglected from their unnatural stupidity. 1 

Theophilus was unmarried when he ascended the throne, 
and he found difficulty in choosing a wife. 2 At last he 
arranged with his stepmother, Euphrosyne, a project for 
enabling him to make a suitable selection, or at least to make 
his choice from a goodly collection. The ^ empress-mother 
invited all the most beautiful and accomplished virgins at 
Constantinople to a fte in her private apartments. $ When the 
gaiety of the assembled beauties had removed their first shy- 
ness, Theophilus entered the rooms, and walked forward with 
a golden apple in his hand. Struck by the grace and beauty 
of Eikasia, with whose features he must have been already ac- 
quainted, and of whose accomplishments he had often heard, 
he stopped to address her. The proud beauty ^felt herself 
already an empress ; but Theophilus commenced his conversa- 
tion with the ungallant remark, "Woman is the source of 
evil -, " to which the young lady too promptly replied, " But 
woman is also the cause of much good." The answer or the 
tone jarred on the captious mind of the emperor, and he 
walked on. His eye then fell on the modest features of the 
young Theodora, whose eyes were fixed on the ground. To 
her he gave the apple without risking a word. Eikasia, who 
for a moment had felt the throb of gratified ambition, could 
not recover from the shock. She retired into a monastery 
which she founded, and passed her life dividing her time 
between the practice of devotion and the cultivation of her 
mind. She composed some hymns, which continued long 
in use in the Greek church. 3 A short time after this, the 
Empress Euphrosyne retired into the monastery of Gastria, 

1 I presume few persons have now either time or opportunity to read much of the 
Ada, Sanctorum^ fifty-three volumes of which were published at Antwerp from 1643 to 
1793. This only goes as far as the i4th of October ; yet much of the social history of the 
middle ages can be sought for in no other source. 

2 It seems probable he was a widower, from the age of his daughters. See page 
143, note 2. 

3 Zonaras, ii. 141. Codinus, DC Orig. Const. 61, 104, Banduri, Imp. Oricntttle t 
ii. 717, ed. Par. ; 527* ed. Ven. 



The Amorian Dynasty 137 

an agreeable retreat, selected also by Theoctlsta, the mother 
of Theodora, as her residence. 1 

Theodora herself is the heroine of another tale, illustrating 
the corruption of the officials about the court, and the in- 
flexible love of justice of the emperor. The courtiers in the 
service of the imperial family had been in the habit of draw- 
ing large profits from evading the custom-duties to which 
other traders were liable, by engaging the emperor-colleague 
or the empress in commercial adventures. The revenue of 
the state and the commerce of the honest merchant both 
suffered by this aristocratic mode of trading. Theophilus, 
who knew of the abuse, learned that the young empress had 
been persuaded to lend her name to one of these trading 
speculations, and that a ship, laden with a valuable cargo in 
her name, was about to arrive at Constantinople. In order 
to put an end to these frauds by a striking example, he took 
care to be informed as this ship entered the port. When this 
vessel arrived, it displayed the imperial standard, and stood 
proudly towards the public warehouses with a fair wind. 
Theophilus, who had led the court to a spot overlooking the 
port, pretending to be struck by the gallant appearance of 
the vessel, demanded with what military stores she was laden, 
and whence she came. The truth was soon elicited, and 
when he obtained a full confession of the nature of the cargo, 
he ordered it to be landed and publicly burned; for he said, 
it was never heard that a Roman emperor or empress turned 
trader. 2 

The principles of toleration which had guided the imperial 
administration during the preceding reigns were not entirely 
laid aside by Theophilus, and though his religious bigotry was 
strong, he preferred punishing the image-worshippers for dis- 
obedience to the civil laws to persecuting them for their 
ecclesiastical opinions. The emperor's own prejudices in 
favour of the divine right of kings were as intolerant as his 
aversion to image-worship, so that he may really have acted 
as much on political as religious grounds. His father had 
not removed pictures from the walls of churches when they 
were placed in elevated situations; and had Theophilus 
followed his example, Iconoclasts and image - worshippers 

l Contra. 56. Gastria was certainly not selected as a place of exile, as modern 
writers have supposed, or Euphrosyne would, in all^ probability, have been sent back to 
the monastery at Prince's Island, which she had quitted to ascend the throne. 

3 Contin. 55. Zonaras, ii, 143. The reference to Syria by Zonaras is, as Schlosser 
observes, a mistake yiginating in the otiptas of the elder historian. 



138 The Contest with the Iconoclasts 

might at last have accepted the compromise, and dwelt peace- 
ably together in the Eastern church. The monks, too, had 
been wisely allowed considerable latitude within the walls of 
their monasteries, though they were forbidden to preach 
publicly to the people in favour of image-worship. Theophilus 
was inclined to imitate the policy of Leo the Isaurian, but he 
could not venture to dissolve the refractory monasteries and 
imprison the monks. The government of the earlier Icono- 
clasts reposed on an army organised by themselves, and ready 
to enforce all their orders; but in the time of Theophilus, 
the army neither possessed the same power over society, nor 
was it equally devoted to the emperor. 

In the year 832, an edict was issued prohibiting every dis- 
play of picture-worship, and commanding that the word holy^ 
usually placed in letters of gold before the name of a saint, 
should be erased. This edict was at times carried into 
execution in an arbitrary and oppressive manner, and caused 
discontent and opposition. 1 A celebrated painter of ecclesias- 
tical subjects, named Lazaros, who acquired great fame during 
the reign of Michael III., was imprisoned and scourged, but 
subsequently released from confinement at the intercession of 
Theodora. 2 Two monks, Theophanes the Singer and Theo- 
dore Graptos, were much more cruelly treated, for, in addition 
to other tortures, some verses were branded on the forehead 
of Theodore, who from that circumstance received his sur- 
name of Graptos. 3 

Some time after the publication of this edict against image- 
worship, John the Grammarian was elected Patriarch. Though 
a decided opponent of image-worship, he was a man of a 
larger intellect and more tolerant disposition than his imperial 
pupil, over whose mind, however, he fortunately retained con- 
siderable influence. 4 Still, when the emperor found his edict 
unavailing, he compelled the Patriarch to assemble a synod, 

1 Contin. 62.^ Cedrenus, 514. 

2 Lazaros painted a picture of St. John the Baptist while he was suffering from the 
stripes he received, which was reported to have performed many miraculous cures. 

3 Schlosser, GescMchte der bild. Kaiser, 553. 

4 The chronology of John's patriarchate presents some difficulties. Schlosser places 
his election in 833866 his note, page 486. Pagi and Banduri in 832. /#. Orient, ii. 
008. The length of his patriarchate is given differently in the various lists we possess. 
Some fix it at nine years. Zonaras, ii. 153, says he was only six years Patriarch. 
Symeon Mag., 421, says he was elected the eighth year of Theophilus. These two 
writers consequently place his election in 837. The continuator (Scrij $o$t TJuojbha- 



- --<--- .- *--* a t preceded his electio. * t , 

placed by_ Symeon Mag., 419, m the fifth year of Theophilus. Weil, GcschickU der 
n, n. 297, considers that it occurred at the end of the year 833. 



The Amorian Dynasty 139 

which was induced to excommunicate all image-worshippers. 
As the Patriarch was averse to these violent proceedings, it 
can hardly be supposed that they produced much effect within 
the pale of the church ; but they certainly tended to inflame 
the zeal of those marked out for persecution, and strengthened 
the rninds of the orthodox to perform what they considered 
to be their duty, arming them with faith to resist the civil 
power. The spirit of religious strife was awakened, and the 
emperor was so imprudent as to engage personally in contro- 
versies with monks and priests. These discussions ruffled his 
temper and increased his severity, by exposing the lofty 
pretensions he entertained of his dignity and talents to be 
wounded by men who gloried in displaying their contempt for 
all earthly power. Theophilus sought revenge for his injured 
vanity. The monks who persisted in publicly displaying 
images and pictures were driven from their monasteries ; and 
many members of the clergy, distinguished for learning and 
beloved for virtue, were imprisoned and scourged. Yet, even 
during the height of his resentment, the emperor winked at 
the superstition of those who kept their opinions private, 
tolerated the prejudices of the Empress Theodora, and at her 
request released Methodios, the future Patriarch of Constanti- 
nople, from prison. 1 

The wealth of the Byzantine empire was at this peried very 
great, and its industry in the most flourishing condition, 
Theophilus, though engaged in expensive and disastrous wars, 
found the imperial revenue so much increased by the aug- 
mented commerce of his subjects, that he was able to indulge 
an inordinate passion for pomp and display. His love of art 
was gratified by the fantastic employment of rich materials in 
luxurious ornament, rather than by durable works of useful 
grandeur. His architectural taste alone took a direction at 
times advantageous to the public. The walls of Constanti- 
nople towards the sea were strengthened, and their height 
increased. He founded an hospital, which remained one of 

l Gibbon, Decline and Fa.ll, ix. 42, has exaggerated the cruelty of the punishments 
inflicted by Theophilus. Schlosser, 524, remarks that he has found no authority to 
authorise the reproaches of excessive tyranny. Even the Jesuit Maimbourg, Histozre 
d& VHerlsit des Iconoclastes, iL 233, mentions the imprisonment of Methodios with 
a dead robber, and the branding verses on the foreheads of Theodore and Theophanes, 
(if the latter suffered this punishment,) as the most inhuman acts of Theophilus. 
Contin. 65. 

The story that Theodora persuaded her husband to believe that some images of 
saints in her possession were only dolls for her children's amusement, is a popular 
anecdote more deserving of a place in the dull Legends of the Saints than in the 
Byzantine tales. 



140 The Contest with the Iconoclasts 

the most useful institutions of the city to the latest days of 
Byzantine history; 1 but, at the same time, he gratified his 
love of display in architecture, by constructing palaces, at an 
enormous expense, in no very durable manner. One of these, 
built in imitation of the great palace of the caliphs at Bagdat, 
was erected at Bryas, on the Asiatic shore. 2 The varied form, 
the peculiar arches, the coloured decorations, the mathematical 
tracery, and the rich gilding, had induced John the Gram- 
marian, when he visited the Caliph Motassem as ambassador 
from Theophilus, to bring back drawings and plans of this 
building, which was totally different from the Byzantine style 
then in use. Other buildings constructed by Theophilus are 
described by historians in a way that indicates they must have 
been far superior in magnificence to the works of preceding or 
following emperors. 3 

Theophilus was also an enthusiastic admirer of music, and 
as church-music was in his time one of the principal amuse- 
ments of persons of taste, musical science was devoted to add 
to the grandeur and solemnity of ecclesiastical ceremonies. 
In works of art, the emperor's taste appears not to have been 
very pure. A puerile vanity induced him to lavish enormous 
sums in fabricating gorgeous toys of jewellery. In these orna- 
ments, singular mechanical contrivances were combined with 
rich figures to astonish the spectator. A golden plane-tree, 
covered with innumerable artificial birds, that warbled and 
fluttered their wings on its branches, vultures that screamed, 
and lions that roared, stood at the entrance of the hall of 
state. Invisible organs, that filled the ceilings of the apart- 
ments with soft melody, were among the strange things that 
Theophilus placed in the great palace of Constantinople. 
They doubtless formed the theme of many Byzantine tales, of 
which we still see a reflected image in the Arabian Nights. 4 

^ Two laws of Theophilus deserve especial notice : one ex- 
hibits him in the character of a capricious tyrant ; the other 
reveals the extent to which elements adverse to Roman and 
Greek nationality pervaded Byzantine society. The first of 
these edicts ordered all the Romans that is, all the subjects 

1 Codinus, De Orzg. Const. 28. Banduri, Imp. Orient, ii. 648. 

2 Contin. 61. Ducange, Const. Christ. lib. iv. 177. 

3 Symeon Mag., 450, tells us that Leo, a great mathematician, invented a kind of 
telegraph, with a dial, in the palace of Theophilus in Constantinople, which reported 



; Glycas, 292; Cedrenus, 

feuuiuM, ami .uc i*u waters, ivxany ot tuese worKs were exeucted under the direction 
of John Hylilas and Leo the Mathematician. See post. 



The Amorlan Dynasty 141 

of the empire, to wear their hair cropped short, under the 
pain of the bastinado. Theophilus pretended that he wished 
to restore old Roman fashions, but the world believed that the 
flowing locks of others rendered him ashamed of his own bald 
head. The other law declared that the marriage of Persians 
and Romans did in no way derogate from the rights of those 
who were citizens of the empire; and it shows that a very 
great emigration of Persian Christians from the dominions of 
the caliphs must have taken place, or such a law would not 
have become necessary. Theophobus, one of the most dis- 
tinguished leaders of the Persians, who claimed descent from 
the Sassanides, married Helena, the emperor's sister. 1 " 

The wide extended frontiers of the empire required Theo- 
philus to maintain relations with the sovereigns of a large 
portion of Asia and Europe. To secure allies against his great 
enemy, the Caliph of Bagdat, he renewed the ancient alliance 
of the emperors of Constantinople with the sovereign of the 
Khazars; but this people was now too much occupied in 
defending its own territories against a new race of intruders, 
called Patzinaks, to renew their invasions of the northern 
provinces of the Mohammedan empire. The progress of the 
Patzinaks alarmed Theophilus for the security of the Byzantine 
commerce with the northern nations, from which the imperial 
treasury drew immense duties ; and he sent his brother-in-law 
Petronas (whom, as we have mentioned, he had condemned 
to be scourged) to Cherson, which was then a free city like 
Venice, with orders to construct a fortress on the banks of the 
Don. This commercial colony, called Sarkel, was used as the 
trading depot with the north. 2 A friendly intercourse was 
kept up with Louis le Debonnaire and his son Lothaire. The 
Venetians were invited to assist in the naval war for the 
defence of Sicily and southern Italy against the Saracens of 
Africa. 3 An embassy was sent to Abderrahman II. , the caliph 
of Spain, to secure the commerce of the Greeks in the West 
from any interruption, and to excite the Ommiad caliph to 
hostilities against the Abassides of Bagdat. 4 

When Theophilus ascended the throne, the Byzantine and 

1 Contin. 67-70. 

2 Cherson was then governed by a president and senate, elected by^ the citizens,_and 
no governor -was sent from Constantinople. Theophilus succeeded in reducing it to 
complete dependence. See J>ost, Contin. 76. Constant. Porphyr. De Adw. Imp. n. 
chap. 42. Now Bielaveja, near Tcherkask, the capital of the Don Cossacks. Lehrberg, 
Unters-uchungen zur erl&utcrung der alter* Gcsckichtc Russtends. Petersburg, ii6. 
Cedrenus, 415. s Dandolo, Chron* viii. 4-6. 

4 Murphy's History ftht Mohammedan Empire in Spain t 93 ; A.D. 839. 



142 The Contest with the Iconoclasts 

Saracen empires enjoyed peace ; but they were soon involved 
in a fierce contest, which bears some resemblance to the 
mortal combat between the Roman and Persian empires in 
the time of Heraclius. Almamun, who ruled the caliphate 
from 813 to 833, was a magnificent and liberal sovereign, dis- 
tinguished for Ms love of science and literature, and^eager to 
surpass the Greeks in knowledge and the Romans in arms. 
Though not himself a soldier, his armies were commanded by 
several celebrated generals. The want of a moral check on 
the highest officials of arbitrary governments usually prevents 
the existence of a sense of duty in political relations, and 
hence rebellions and civil wars become prevalent. In the 
reign of Aimanrun, the disturbances in Persia reduced the 
population, whether fire-worshippers or Christians, to despair ; 
and a great number, unable to live in their native country, 
escaped into the Byzantine empire, and established themselves 
at Sinope. This immigration seems to have consisted chiefly 
of Christians, who feared equally the government of Almamun 
and the rebel Babek, who, though preaching the equality of 
all mankind, was accused of allowing every license to his own 
followers. The Persian troops at Sinope were placed under 
the command of Theophobos, and their number was increased 
by an addition of seven thousand men, when Afshin, the 
general of the Caliph Motassem, defeated Babek, and ex- 
tinguished the civil war in Persia. 1 

The protection granted by Theophilus to refugees from the 
caliph's dominions, induced Almamun to invade the empire in 
the year 831 ; and the Saracen general, Abu Chazar, com- 
pletely defeated the Byzantine army, commanded by Theo- 
philus in person. The emperor repaired this disgrace in the 
following year by gaining a victory over the Saracens in 
Charsiana, which he celebrated with great pomp and vain- 
glory in the hippodrome of Constantinople. 2 Almamun 
revenged the defeat of his generals by putting himself at the 
head of his army, ravaging Cappadocia, and capturing Her- 
acleia. 

1 The Babek who is said by the Byzantine historians to have fled into the empire with 
seven thousand followers, was certainly a different person from the celebrated leader of 
the rebellion. The arrival of this refugee is placed before the commencement of the war 
between Theophilus and Almamun, A.D. 831. The great rebel Babek sustained an im- 
portant defeat in 833, when many of his followers fled into Armenia and the Byzantine 
provinces, according to the Arabian historians ; but he still^continued the war in Adzer- 
bijan, Compare Contin. 70 j Symeon Mag. 415 ; Cedrenus, ii. 533 ; and Weil, Geschichtt 
der Chalifen t ii. 239. 

2 Constant. Porphyr. De Ceremoniis A-ulas Byzantines, 290, edit. Leich ; torn. L 503, 
edit. Bonn. Reiske considers that this account of the triumph of Theophilus refers to 
his return after the destruction of Zapctra. Tom. ii. 590. 



The Amorian Dynasty 143 

The armies of the Byzantine empire at this period consisted 
in great part of foreign mercenaries. Some secondary causes, 
connected with the development of society, which have escaped 
the notice of historians, operated to render the recruitment of 
armies more than usually difficult among the civilised portions 
of mankind, and caused all the powerful sovereigns of the age 
to exclude their native subjects as much as possible from the 
use of arms. In the Saracen empire this feeling led to the 
transference of all military power Into the hands of Turkish 
mercenaries ; and in the Frank empire it led to the exposure 
of the country, without defence, to the incursions of the 
Normans. It is true that jealousy of the Arab aristocracy 
in one case, and fear of the hostile disposition of the Roman- 
ised population in the other, had considerable influence on 
the conduct of the caliphs and the Western emperors. The 
Byzantine empire, though under the influence of similar 
tendencies, was saved from a similar fate by a higher degree 
of political civilisation. The distrust of Theophilus for his 
generals was shown by the severity with which he treated 
them. Manuel, one of the best officers of the empire, dis- 
gusted at his suspicions, fled to the Saracens, and served with 
distinction in their armies against the rebels of Chorasan. 1 
Alexis Mousel, an Armenian, who received the favourite 
daughter of Theophilus in marriage, with the rank of Qesar, 
was degraded and scourged in consequence of his father-in- 
law's suspicions. 2 

Immediately after the death of Almamun, the emperor sent 
John the Grammarian on an embassy to Motassem, who had 
succeeded his brother as caliph. The object of this embassy 
was to conclude a lasting peace, and at all events to persuade 
Manuel, whose fame in the war of Chorasan had reached the 
ears of Theophilus, to return home. With the caliph the 
negotiations appear not to have been as successful as the em- 
peror expected, but with Manuel they succeeded perfectly. 
The magnificence of John on this occasion gave rise to many 
wonderful tales, and the Greeks were long amused by the 

1 See tlie romantic account of the exploits of Manuel, which, as they set chronology 
at defiance, cannot be received as historical. Contm. 74; Cedrenus. ii. 527. 

2 It would seem, that Theophilus had been married before his father's death. Maria 
the wife of Alexios was the youngest of five daughters, and her marriage, even accord- 
ing to Symeon Mag., who says she was the daughter of Theodora, took place in the 
third year of the reign of Theophilus, (4x7, 418). We must suppose that Theophilus had 
two wives named Theodora, and was a widower at his father's death, after which he 
married the second. But even then difficulties will be found, and the chronology of this 
period Is singularly confused. Thelda, the eldest daughter of Theophilus, received the 
imperial title from her father before the birth of Michael III. 



144 The Contest with the Iconoclasts 

accounts of the marvellous wealth displayed by the priestly 
ambassador. 

Not very long after this embassy, Theophilus, availing him- 
self of the troubles occasioned in the caliph's dominions 
by the civil wars arising out of the heretical opinions concern- 
ing the human composition of the Koran, which had been 
favoured by Almamun, invaded the caliph's dominions. The 
Byzantine troops ravaged the country to the south of Melitene, 
anciently called Commagene, defeated the Saracens with great 
loss, captured Zapetra, and penetrated as far as Samosata, 
which Theophilus also took and destroyed. Zapetra, or 
Sosopetra, lay about two days' journey to the west of the road 
from Melitene to Samosata. 1 The Greeks pretended that it was 
the birthplace of Motassem, and that the caliph sent an 
embassy to the emperor entreating him to spare the town, 
which he offered to ransom at any price ; but Theophilus dis- 
missed the ambassadors and razed Zapetra to the ground. 2 
This campaign seems to have been remarkable for the cruelty 
with which the Mohammedans were treated, and the wanton 
ravages committed by the Persian emigrants in the Byzantine 
service. The Saracens repeated one of the tales in connection 
with this expedition which was current among their country- 
men, and applied, as occasion served, from the banks of the 
Guadalquivir to those of the Indus. In Spain it was told 
of Al Hakem, in Asia of Motassem. A female prisoner, when 
insulted by a Christian soldier, was reported to have exclaimed 
in her agony, " Oh, shame on Motassem J " a The circum- 
stance was repeated to the caliph, who learned at the same 
time that the unfortunate woman was of the tribe of Hashem, 
and consequently, according to the clannish feelings of the 
Arabs, a member of his own family. Motassem swore by 
the Prophet he would do everything in his power to revenge 
her. 

In the mean time Theophilus, proud of his easy victories, 
returned to Constantinople, and instead of strengthening his 
frontier, and placing strong garrisons near the mountain- 
passes, brought his best troops to Constantinople to attend on 
his own person. As he entered the hippodrome in a chariot 

1 Abulfeda, cited by Weil, K. 309, note 2. 

2 Contin. 77. Genesius, 31, says^ it was the birthplace of Motassem's mother. 
Symeon Mag., 421, places the destruction of Zapetra in the seventh year of Theophilus. 

* Gibbon, x. 68. The story, as told of Motassem, is given by Price, Mohttnttneda.n 
History, ii. 147 ; as told of Al Hakem, by Murphy, History of the Mokammedo.* 
Empire in SJ>ain t 90. 



The Amorian Dynasty 145 

drawn by four white horses, wearing the colours of the blue 
faction, his happy return was hailed by the people with loud 
shouts. His welcome was more like that of a successful 
charioteer than of a victorious general. 

The Persian mercenaries, whose number had now increased 
to thirty thousand, were placed in winter-quarters at Sinope 
and Amastris, where they began to display a seditious spirit ; 
for Theophilus could neither trust his generals nor acquire the 
confidence of his soldiers. These mercenaries at last broke 
out into rebellion, and resolved to form a Persian kingdom in 
Pontus, They proclaimed their general Theophobus king ; 
but that officer had no ambition to insure the ruin of Ms 
brother-in-law's empire by grasping a doubtful sceptre ; and he 
sent assurances to Theophilus that he would remain faithful to 
his allegiance, and do everything in his power to put an end 
to the rebellion. Without much difficulty, therefore, this army 
of Persians was gradually dispersed through the different 
themes, but tranquillity was obtained by sacrificing the 
efficiency of one of the best armies in the empire. 

Motassem, having also re-established tranquillity in the 
interior of his dominions, turned his whole attention to 
the war with the Byzantine empire. A well-appointed army 
of veterans, composed of the troops who had suppressed the 
rebellion of Babek, was assembled on the frontiers of Cilicia, 
and the caliph placed himself at the head of the army, on the 
banks of the Cydnus, in the year 838. 1 A second army 
of thirty thousand men, under Afshin, advanced into the 
empire at a considerable distance to the north-east of the 
grand army, under the immediate orders of the caliph. 
Afshin had suppressed the rebellion of Babek after it had 
lasted twenty years, and was considered the ablest general of 
the Saracens. On hearing that the army of Afshin had in- 
vaded Lykandos, Theophilus intrusted the defences of the 
Cilician passes, by which the caliph proposed to advance, 
to Aetios, the general of the Anatolic theme, and hastened to 
stop the progress of Afshin, whose army, strengthened by 
a strong body of Armenians under Sembat the native governor 
of the country, and by ten thousand Turkish mercenaries, who 
were then considered the best troops in Asia, was overrunning 



dea 



1 Contin. 78. Symeon Mag. 423. This last places the defeat of Theophilus and the 
death of Manuel in the ninth year of Theophilus, and the taking of Amorium in 
the tenth. The reign of Theophilus commenced in October 829. They evidently oc- 
curred in one campaign, and the Arabian historians give the asrd September, 838, as the 
date of the capture of Amorium. Weil, ii 315. 



146 The Contest with the Iconoclasts 

Cappadocia, Theophilus, apprehensive that this army might 
turn his flank, and alarmed lest the Armenians and Persians, 
of which it was part composed, might seduce those of the 
same nations in his service, was anxious to hasten an engage- 
ment. The battle was fought at Dasymon, where the Byzan- 
tine army, commanded by Theophobus and Manuel, under the 
immediate orders of Theophilus, attacked the Saracens. The 
field was fiercely contested, and for some time it seemed as if 
victory would favour the Christians; but the admirable 
discipline of the Turkish archers decided the fate of the day. 
In vain the emperor exposed his person with the greatest 
valour to recover the advantage he had lost ; Manuel was 
compelled to make the most desperate efforts to save him, 
and induce him to retreat. The greater part of the Byzantine 
troops fled from the field, and the Persian mercenaries alone 
remained to guard the emperor's person. During the night, 
however, Theophilus was informed that the foreigners were 
negotiating with the Saracens to deliver him up a prisoner, 
and he was compelled to mount his horse, and ride almost 
unattended to Chiliokomon, where a portion of the native 
troops of the empire had rallied. 1 From thence he retired to 
Donylseum, where he endeavoured to assemble an army 
to defend Amorium, Manuel died of the wounds he received 
in saving the emperor. 

While Theophilus was marching to his defeat, the advanced 
guard of the Caliph's army, under Ashnas 2 and Wassif, 
threaded the Cilician passes in the direction of Tyana ; and 
Aetios, unable to resist their advance, allowed the main body 
of the Saracens to penetrate into the central plains of Asia 
Minor without opposition. Abandoning the whole of the 
Anatolic theme to the invaders, he concentrated his forces 
under the walls of Amorium. After ravaging Lycaonia and 
Pisidia, Motassem marched to besiege Amorium. The capture 
of this city, as the birthplace of the Amorian dynasty, had 
been announced by the caliph to be the object of the cam- 
paign ; and it was said that 130,000 men had marched out of 
Tarsus with AMORIUM painted on their shields. Motassem 
expected to carry the place by assault, and the defeat of 
Theophilus by his lieutenants inspired him with the hope 
of carrying his arms to the shores of the Bosphorus, and 

1 Strabo, lib. xii. 561. North of Amasir, the native place of the geographer. 
a ^ Ashnas was a Tuxk. Motassem had collected at this time about 70,000 Turlcs in his 
service. Weil, ii. 304. 



The Amorian Dynasty 147 

plundering the Asiatic suburb of Constantinople. But all his 
attempts to storm Amorium, though repeated with fresh troops 
on three successive days, were defeated by Aetios, who had 
thrown himself into the city with the best soldiers in his 
army, and the caliph found himself obliged to commence 
a regular siege. Theophflus now sued for peace. The bishop 
of Amorium and the leading citizens offered to capitulate, for 
the numerous army within the walls soon exhausted the 
provisions. But Motassem declared that he would neither 
conclude a peace nor grant terms of capitulation ; vengeance 
was what he sought, not victory, Amorium was valiantly 
defended for fifty-five days, but treachery at length enabled 
the caliph to gratify his passion, just as he was preparing 
to try the fortune of a fourth general assault. The traitor who 
sold his post and admitted the Saracens into the city was 
named Voiditzes. In this case both the Christian and 
Mohammedan accounts agree in ascribing the success of the 
besiegers to treason in the Christian ranks, and the defence 
appears to have been conducted by Aetios both with skill and 
valour. 1 The cruelty of Motassem far exceeded that of 
Theophilus. Thirty thousand persons were massacred, and 
the inhabitants who were spared were sold as slaves. The 
city of Amorium was burned to the ground, and the walls 
destroyed. The ambassadors sent by Theophilus to beg for 
peace had been detained by the caliph, to witness his con- 
quest. They were now sent back with this answer, " Tell your 
master that I have at last discharged the debt contracted 
at Zapetra." 

Motassem, however, perceived that a considerable change 
had taken place in the empire since the days in which the 
Saracens had besieged Constantinople. He did not even 
consider it prudent to attempt advancing to the shores of the 
Bosphorus, but returned to his own dominions, carrying with 
him Aetios and forty officers of rank captured in Amorium. 
For seven years these men were vainly urged to embrace the 
Mohammedan faith; at last they were put to death by Vathek, 
the son of Motassem, and they are regarded as martyrs by the 
orthodox church. 2 Theophilus is said to have offered the 
Caliph Motassem the sum of 2400 Ib. of gold to purchase 
peace, and the deliverance of all the Christians who had been 

1 Continuator, 81. 

2 Their martyrdom Is celebrated on 6th March. It occurred in 845. Menofogiurt 
Gracvrttm, Hi. 7. 



148 The Contest with the Iconoclasts 

taken prisoner during the war; but the caliph demanded in 
addition that a Persian refugee named Naser, and Manuel, of 
whose death he appears not to have been assured, should also 
be given up, Theophilus refused to disgrace himself by 
delivering up Naser, and the treaty was broken off. Naser 
was shortly after killed in an engagement on the frontier. 

The war was prosecuted for some years in a languid manner, 
and success rather inclined to the Byzantine arms. The port 
of Antioch, on the Orontes, was taken and plundered by a 
Greek fleet; the province of Melitene was ravaged as far as 
Marash; Abou Said, who had defeated and slain Naser, was 
in turn himself defeated and taken prisoner. At kst a truce 
seems to have been concluded, but no exchange of prisoners 
took place. 1 

Theophilus never recovered from the wound his pride 
received at Amorium. The frequent defeats he sustained in 
those battles where he was personally engaged, contrasted 
with the success of his generals, rankled in his melancholy 
disposition. His sensitive temperament and the fatigues of 
his campaigns undermined his health. To divert his mind, 
he indulged his passion for building ; and so great were the 
resources of the Byzantine treasury, that even at this period of 
misfortune he could lavish enormous sums in idle ornament 
It would have been well, both for him and for the Christian 
world, had he employed some of this wealth at an earlier 
period in fortifying the frontier and diminishing the burden of 
the land-tax. He now erected a new chapel called Triconchos, 
a circus for public races, a staircase called Sigma, a whisper- 
ing gallery called the Mystery, and a magnificent fountain 
called Phiala. 2 But the emperor's health continued to decline, 
and he perceived that his end was not very distant. 

Theophilus prepared for death with prudence and courage, 
but with that suspicion which disgraced his character. A 
council of regency was named to assist Theodora. His 
habitual distrust induced him to exclude Theophobos from 
this council. He feared lest Theophobos might seize the 
throne by means of the army, or establish an independent 
kingdom in the Armeniac theme by means of the Persian 
mercenaries. The conspiracy on the night after the defeat at 
Dasymon had augmented the jealousy with which the emperor 

1 No exchange of prisoners took place until September, 845. Weil, ii. 343. 

2 Contin. 62, 86. Symeon Mag. 424. An account of the buildings of Theopbilus 
will be found in the History of Art, by Dr. Carl Schnaase. Geschickte derbildendett 
K-Qnste im MitUlalUr. Altchristliche und Mohammedaniscke Kunst. i. 151. 



The Amorian Dynasty 149 

regarded his brother-in-law ever after the rebellion of the 
Persian troops at Sinope and Amastris. He now resolved to 
secure his son's throne at the expense of his own conscience, 
and ordered Theophobos to be beheaded. Recollecting the 
fortune of his father, and the fate of Leo the Armenian, he 
commanded the head of his brother-in-law to be brought to 
his ^ bedside. The agitation of the emperor's mind, after 
issuing this order, greatly increased his makdy ; and* when 
the lifeless head of his former friend was placed before him, 
he gazed long and steadily at its features, his mind doubtless 
wandering over the memory of many a battle-field in which 
they had fought together. At last he slowly exclaimed, 
" Thou art no longer Theophobos, and I am no more Theo- 
philus : " then, turning away his head, he sank on his pillow, 
and never again opened his lips. 

SECTION III 
MICHAEL in., (THE DRUNKARD,) A.D. 842-867 

Regency of Theodora Moral and religious reaction Restoration of 
Image- worship Rebellion of the Sclavonians in the Peloponnesus 
Saracen war Persecution of the Paulicians Personal conduct of 
Michael III. Wealth in the treasury Bardas Ignatios and Photius 
Origin of papal authority in the church General council in 861 
Bulgarian war Saracen war Victory of Petronas Russians attack 
Constantinople State of the court Assassinations Origin of the 
tale of Belisarius Assassination of Michael III. by Basil the 
Macedonian. 

Michael the son of Theophilus was between three and four 
years old when his father died. His mother Theodora, having 
been crowned empress, was regent in her own right. The will 
of her husband had joined with her, as a council of ad- 
ministration, Theoktistos, the ablest statesman in the empire ; 
Manuel, the uncle of the empress ; and Bardas, her brother. 1 
Thekla, an elder sister of Michael, had also received the title 
of Empress before her father's death. 

The great struggle between the Iconoclasts and the image- 
worshippers was terminated during the regency of Theodora, 
and she is consequently regarded by the orthodox as a pattern 
of excellence, though she countenanced the vices of her son, 

1 Theoktistos was a eunuch, and held the office of logothetes of the dromos,- a kind 
of postmaster-general. He was made kanicleios, or keeper of the purple ink, with 
which the emperor signed. The postmaster was a most important officer in the Sarace'a 
as well as in the Byzantine empire at this time. 



150 The Contest with the Iconoclasts 

by being present at his most disgraceful scenes of debauchery. 
The most remarkable circumstance, at the termination of this 
long religious contest, is the immorality which invaded all 
ranks of society. The moral and religious sincerity and 
strictness which, during the government of the early Icono- 
clasts, had raised the empire from the verge of social dissolu- 
tion to dignity and strength, had subsequently been supplanted 
by a degree of cant and hypocrisy that became at last 
intolerable. The sincerity of both the ecclesiastical parties, 
In their early contests, obtained for them the respect of the 
people ; but when the political question concerning the sub- 
jection of the ecclesiastical to the civil power became the 
principal object of dispute, official tyranny and priestly am- 
bition only used a hypocritical veil of religious phrases for the 
purpose of concealing their interested ends from popular 
scrutiny. As usual, the people saw much farther than their 
rulers supposed, and the consequence was that, both parties 
being suspected of hypocrisy, the influence of true religion 
was weakened, and the most sacred ties of society rent asunder. 
The Byzantine clergy showed themselves ready on all occasions 
to flatter the vices of the civil government : the monks were 
eager for popular distinction, and acted the part of dema- 
gogues ; while servile prelates and seditious monks were both 
equally indifferent to alleviating the people's burdens. 

Every rank of society at last proclaimed that it was weary 
of religious discussion and domestic strife. Indifference to 
the ecclesiastical questions so long predominant, produced 
indifference to religion itself, and the power of conscience 
became dormant ; enjoyment was soon considered the object 
of life ; and vice, under the name of pleasure, became the 
fashion of the day. In this state of society, of which the 
germs were visible in the reign of Theophilus, superstition 
was sure to be more powerful than religion. It was easier to 
pay adoration to a picture, to reverence a relic, or to observe 
a ceremony, than to regulate one's conduct in life by the 
principles of morality and the doctrines of religion. Pictures, 
images, relics, and ceremonies became consequently the great 
objects of veneration. The Greek population of the empire 
had identified its national feelings with traditional usages 
rather than with Christian doctrines, and its opposition to the 
Asiatic puritanism of the Isaurian, Armenian, and Amorian 
emperors, ingrafted the reverence for relics, the adoration of 
pictures and the worship of saints, into the religious fabric of 



The Amorian Dynasty 151 

the Eastern church, as essentials of Christian worship. What- 
ever the church has gained in this way, in the amount of 
popular devotion, seems to have been lost to popular morality. 

The senate at this time possessed considerable influence 
in administrative business. It was called upon to ratify the 
will of Theophilus, and a majority of its members were gained 
over to the party of the empress, who was known to favour 
image-worship. 1 The people of Constantinople had always been 
of this party; and the Iconoclasts of the higher ranks, tired of 
the persecutions which had been the result of the ecclesiastical 
quarrel, desired peace and toleration more than victory. The 
Patriarch, John the Grammarian, and some of the highest 
dignitaries in the church, were, nevertheless, conscientiously 
opposed to a species of devotion which they thought too 
closely resembled idolatry, and from them no public com- 
pliance could be expected. Manuel, however, the only 
member of the regency who had been a fervent Inconoclast, 
suddenly abandoned the defence of his opinions; and his 
change was so unexpected that it was reported he had been 
converted by a miracle. A sudden illness brought him to the 
point of death, when the prayers and the images of the monks 
of Studion as suddenly restored him to health. Such was the 
belief of the people of Constantinople, and it must have been 
a belief extremely profitable to the monks. 

It was necessary to hold a general council in order to effect 
the restoration of image-worship; but to do this as long as 
John the Grammarian remained Patriarch was evidently im- 
possible. The regency, however, ordered him to convoke a 
synod, and invite to it all the bishops and abbots sequestered 
as image-worshippers, or else to resign the patriarchate. John 
refused both commands, and a disturbance occurred, in which 
he was wounded by the imperial guards. The court party 
spread a report that he had wounded himself in an attempt to 
commit suicide the greatest crime a Christian could commit. 
The great mechanical knowledge of John, and his studies in 
natural philosophy, were already considered by the ignorant 
as criminal in an ecclesiastic ; so that the calumnious accusa- 
tion, like that already circulated of his magical powers, found 
ready credence among the orthodox Greeks. The court seized 
the opportunity of deposing him. He was first exiled to a 
monastery, and subsequently, on an accusation that he had 
picked out the eyes in a picture of a saint, he was scourged, 

1 Continuator, 85. 



152 The Contest with the Iconoclasts 

and his own eyes were put out. His mental superiority was 
perhaps as much the cause of his persecution as his religious 
opinions. 

Methodios, who had been released from imprisonment by 
Theophilus at the intercession of Theodora, was named 
Patriarch, and a council of the church was held at Con- 
stantinople in 842, to which all the exiled bishops, abbots, 
and monks who had distinguished themselves as confessors in 
the cause of image-worship were admitted. Those bishops 
who remained firm to their Iconoclastic opinions were expelled 
from their Sees, and replaced by the most eminent confessors. 
The practices and doctrines of the Iconoclasts were formally 
anathematised, and banished for ever from the orthodox 
church. A crowd of monks descended from the secluded 
monasteries of Olympus, Ida, and Athos, to revive the 
enthusiasm of the people in favour of images, pictures, and 
relics ; and the last remains of traditional idolatry were care- 
fully interwoven with the established religion in the form of 
the legendary history of the saints. 1 

A singular scene was enacted in this synod by the Empress 
Theodora. She presented herself to the assembled clergy, 
and asked for an act declaring that the church pardoned all 
the sins of her deceased husband, with a certificate that 
divine grace had effaced the record of his persecutions. When 
she saw dissatisfaction visible in the looks of a majority of the 
members, she threatened, with frank simplicity, that if they 
would not do her that favour, she would not employ her 
influence as empress and regent to give them the victory over 
the Iconoclasts, but would leave the affairs of the church in 
their actual situation. The Patriarch Methodios answered, 
that the church was bound to employ its influence in relieving 
the souls of orthodox princes from the pains of hell, but, 
unfortunately, the prayers of the church had no power to 
obtain forgiveness from God for those who died without the 
pale of orthodoxy. The church was only intrusted with the 
keys of heaven to open and shut the gates of salvation to the 
living the dead were beyond its help. Theodora, however, 
determined to secure the services of the church for her 
deceased husband. She declared that in his last agony 
Theophilus had received and kissed an image she laid on 
his breast. Although it was more than probable that the 
agony had really passed before the occurrence happened, her 

1 Geneslus, 39. 



The Amoriae Dynasty 153 

statement satisfied Methodios and the synod, who consented 
to absolve its dead emperor from excommunication as an 
Iconoclast, and admit him into the bosom of the orthodox 
church, declaring that, things having happened as the Empress 
Theodora certified in a written attestation, Theophilus had 
found pardon from God. 1 

The victory of the image-worshippers was celebrated by the 
installation of the long-banished pictures in the church of 
St. Sophia, on the igth February, 842, just thirty days after 
the death of Theophilus. This festival continues" to be 
observed in the Greek church as the feast of orthodoxy on the 
first Sunday in Lent. 2 

The first military expedition of the regency was to repress 
a rebellion of the Sclavonians in the Peloponnesus, which had 
commenced during the reign of Theophilus. On this occasion 
the mass of the Sclavonian colonists was reduced to complete 
submission, and subjected to the regular system of taxation ; 
but two tribes settled on Mount Taygetus, the Ezerits and 
MelingSj succeeded in retaining a certain degree of indepen- 
dence, governing themselves according to their own usages, 
and paying only a fixed annual tribute. For the Ezerits this 
tribute amounted to three hundred pieces of gold, and for the 
MeHngs to the trifling sum of sixty. The general who com- 
manded the Byzantine troops on this occasion was Theoktistos 
Briennios, who held the office of protospatharios. 3 

In the mean time Theoktistos the regent, anxious to obtain 
that degree of power and influence which, in the Byzantine as 
in the Roman empire, was inseparable from military renown, 
took the command of a great expedition into Cholcis, to con- 
quer the Abasges. His fleet was destroyed by a tempest, and 
his troops were defeated by the enemy. In order to regain 
the reputation he had lost, he made an attempt in the follow- 
ing year to reconquer the island of Crete from the Saracens. 
But while he was engaged in the siege of Chandax, (Candia,) 
the report of a revolution 'at Constantinople induced him to 
quit his army, in order to look after his personal interests and 
political intrigues. The troops suffered severely after they were 

1 Continuator, 95. 

2 Pagi ad Baron, xiv. 266, note xv. The Patriarch Methodios did not escape the 
calumny which had been employed by his partisans against his predecessor. An accusa- 
tion of adultery was brought against him, but the Patriarch is said to have proved its 
falsity to the assembled clergy in a singular manner. Continuator, 99. 

3 Constantine Porphyr. De Adm. Imj(>. chap. 50. This Theoktistos must^not be 
confounded with the regent, who never returned successful from any expedition. 
Contin. rao". 



154 The Contest with the Iconoclasts 

abandoned by their general, whom they were compelled at 
last to follow, 1 

The war with the caliph of Bagdat still continued, and the 
destruction of a Saracen fleet, consisting of four hundred 
galleys, by a tempest off Cape Chelidonia, in the Kibyrraiot 
theme, consoled the Byzantine government for its other losses. 
The caliph had expected, by means of this great naval force, 
to secure the command of the Archipelago, and assist the 
operations of his armies in Asia Minor. The hostilities on 
the Cilician frontier were prosecuted without any decided 
advantage to either party, until the unlucky Theoktistos placed 
himself at the head of the Byzantine troops. His incapacity 
brought on a general engagement, in which the imperial army 
was completely defeated, at a place called Mauropotamos, 
near the range of Mount Taurus. 2 After this battle, an officer 
of reputation, (Theophanes, from Ferganah,) disgusted with 
the severity and blunders of Theoktistos, deserted to the 
Saracens, and embraced Islamism. At a subsequent period, 
however, he again returned to the Byzantine service and the 
Christian religion. 3 

In the year 845, an exchange of prisoners was effected on 
the banks of the river Lamus, a day's journey to the west of 
Tarsus. This was the first that had taken place since the 
taking of Amorium. The frequent exchange of prisoners 
between the Christians and the Mussulmans always tended to 
soften the miseries of war; and the cruelty which inflicted 
martyrdom on the forty-two prisoners of rank taken at 
Amorium in the beginning of this year, seems to have been 
connected with the interruption of the negotiations which had 
previously so often facilitated these exchanges. 4 

A female regency was supposed by the barbarians to be of 
necessity a period of weakness. The Bulgarians, under this 
impression, threatened to commence hostilities unless the 
Byzantine government consented to pay them an annual 
subsidy. A firm answer on the part of Theodora, accompanied 

1 Contin. 126. About this time Weil, ii. 343, mentions that a Cretan fleet threatened 
to blockade the Hellespont. 2 Georg. MOIL Scrip, post Theoph. 529. 

3 Leo Gramm. 457, 461, Georg. Mon. 533. Guards from Fergana (<f>apydvot 
dvdpes) are mentioned as having "been sent to Italy in the time of Romanus L, A.D. 
93 5-- Constant. Porphyr. De Ceremoniis Aulee Byzantines, 381, 434, edit. Leich. It 
must be observed, however, that there was a country called Fergunna, and Franganea 
Civitates, among the Sclavonians in PolaHa, Schafarik Slawischt Alterthiimer, ii. 
607, 630. So extensive were the relations of the Byzantine empire, that it is not easy to 
decide between the Sclavonians of the West and the Turks of the East. 

4 Abulpharagius, Ch. Arab. 167. Constant. Porphyr. De Cer. Aula: Byzaniintz. 



The Amorian Dynasty 155 

by the display of a considerable military force on the frontier, 
however, restrained the predatory disposition of King Bogoris 
and his subjects. Peace was re-established after some trifling 
hostilities, an exchange of prisoners took place, the commer- 
cial relations between the two states became closer ; and many 
Bulgarians, who had lived so long in the Byzantine empire as 
to have acquired the arts of civilised life and a knowledge of 
Christianity, returning to their homes, prepared their country- 
men for receiving a higher degree of social culture, and with 
it the Christian religion. 

The disturbed state of the Saracen empire, under the 
Caliphs Vathek and Motawukel, would have enabled the 
regency to enjoy tranquillity, had religious zeal not impelled 
the orthodox to persecute the inhabitants of the empire in the 
south-eastern provinces of Asia Minor. The regency unfortu- 
nately followed the counsels of the bigoted paxty, which 
regarded the extinction of heresy as the most important duty 
of the rulers of the state. A numerous body of Christians 
were persecuted with so much cruelty that they were driven to 
rebellion, and compelled to solicit protection for their lives 
and property from the Saracens, who seized the opportunity 
of transporting hostilities within the Byzantine frontiers. 

The Paulicians were the heretics who at this time irritated 
the orthodoxy of Constantinople. They were enemies of 
image-worship, and showed little respect to the authority of a 
church establishment, for their priests devoted themselves to 
the service of their fellow-creatures without forming themselves 
into a separate order of society, or attempting to establish a 
hierarchical organisation. Their social and political opinions 
were viewed with as much hatred and alarm by the ecclesi- 
astical counsellors of Theodora, as the philanthropic principles 
of the early Christians had been by the pagan emperors of 
Rome. The same calumnies were circulated among the 
orthodox against the Paulicians, which had been propagated 
amongst the heathen against the Christians. The populace of 
Constantinople was taught to exult in the tortures of those 
accused of manicheanism, as the populace of Rome had been 
persuaded to delight in the cruelties committed on the early 
Christians as enemies of the human race. 

From the time of Constantine V. the Paulicians had generally 
enjoyed some degree of toleration ; but the regency of Theodora 
resolved to consummate the triumph of orthodoxy, by a cruel 
persecution of all who refused to conform to the ceremonies of 



156 The Contest with the Iconoclasts 

the established church. Imperial commissioners were sent 
into the Paulician districts to enforce ecclesiastical union, and 
every individual who resisted the invitations of the clergy was 
either condemned to death or his property was confiscated. 
It is the boast of orthodox historians that ten thousand Pauli- 
cians perished in this manner. 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. 1 

The cruelty of the Byzantine administration at last goaded 
the oppressed to resistance within the empire j and the injustice 
displayed by the officers of the government induced many, who 
were themselves Indifferent on the religious question, to take 
up arms against oppression. Karbeas, one of the principal 
officers on the staff of Theodotos Melissenos, the general 
of the Anatolic theme, hearing that his father had been cruci- 
fied for his adherence to the doctrines of the Paulicians, fled to 
the emir of Melitene, and collected a body of five thousand 
men, with which he invaded the empire. 2 The Paulician 
refugees were established, by the caliph's order, in two cities 
called Argaous, and Amara ; but their number soon increased 
so much, by the arrival of fresh emigrants, that they formed a 
third establishment at a place called Tephrike, (Divreky,) in 
the district of Sebaste, (Sivas,) in a secluded country of diffi- 
cult access, where they constructed a strong fortress, and dwelt 
in a state of independence. 8 Omar, the emir of Melitene, at 
the head of a Saracen army, and Karbeas with a strong body 
of Paulicians, ravaged the frontiers of the empire. They were 
opposed by Petronas, the brother of Theodora, then general of 
the Thrakesian theme. The Byzantine army confined its 
operations to defence; while Alim, the governor of Tarsus, 
having been defeated, and civil war breaking out in the 
Saracen dominions in consequence of the cruelties of the 
Caliph Motawukel, the incursions of the Paulicians were con- 
fined to mere plundering forays. In the mean time a 
considerable body of Paulicians continued to dwell in several 
provinces of the empire, escaping persecution by outward 
conformity to the Greek church, and by paying exactly all the 

l Continuator, 103. 2 ifcd., 103. 

3 St. Martin, Mlmoires sur fArmente, I. 188. The secluded position of Divreky 
made it the seat of an almost independent band of Kurds when it was visited by Otter 
in 1743. Voyage en Turquie et en Perse t ii. 306. It contains at present about two 
thousand houses, situated in a fertile valley amidst luxuriant gardens. Ainsworth, 
Travels and Researches in Asia, Minor ^ ii. 7 



The Amorian Dynasty 157 

dues levied on them by the Byzantine clergy. The whole force 
of the empire was not directed against the Paulicians until 
some years later, during the reign of Basil I. 1 

In the year 852, the regency revenged the losses inflicted 
by the Saracen pirates on the maritime districts of the empire, 
by invading Egypt A Byzantine fleet landed a body of 
troops at Damietta, which was plundered and burned : the 
country round was ravaged, and six hundred female slaves 
were carried away. 2 

Theodora, like her female predecessor Irene, displayed 
considerable talents for government. She preserved the 
tranquillity of the empire, and increased its prosperity in 
spite of her persecuting policy ; but, like Irene, she neglected 
her duty to her son in the most shameful manner. In the 
series of Byzantine sovereigns from Leo III. (the Isaurian) to 
Michael III., only two proved utterly unfit for the duties of 
their station, and both appear to have been corrupted by the 
education they received from their mothers. The unfeeling 
ambition of Irene, and the heartless vanity of Theodora, were 
the original causes of the folly of Constantine VI. and the 
vices of Michael III. The system of education generally 
adopted at the time seems to have been singularly well 
adapted to form men of ability, as we see in the instances of 
Constantine V., Leo IV., and Theophilus, who were all edu- 
cated as princes and heirs to the empire. Even if we take 
the most extended view of Byzantine society, we shall find 
that the constant supply of great talents displayed in the 
public service must have been the result of careful cultivation 
and judicious systematic study. No monarchical government 
can produce such a long succession of able ministers and 
statesmen as conducted the Byzantine administration during 
the eighth, ninth, and tenth centuries. The remarkable de- 
ficiency of original genius during this period only adds an 
additional proof that the mind was disciplined by a rigid 
system of education. 

Theodora abandoned the care of her child's education to 
her brother Bardas, of whose taste and talents she may have 
been a very incompetent judge, but of whose debauched 
manners she must have seen and heard too much. With the 
assistance of Theoktistos she arrogated to herself the sole 

1 Concerning the Paulicians, see Mosheim, Soames' edit. ii. 251. Neander, ill. 243. 
Gibbon, x. 168. 

2 We owe the knowledge of .this expedition to the Arabic Chronicle of Abui- 
pharagius, p. 170. 



158 The Contest with the Iconoclasts 

direction of the public administration; and viewed with in- 
difference the course of idleness and profligacy by which 
Bardas corrupted the principles of her son in his endeavour 
to secure a mastery over his mind* Both mother and uncle 
appear to have expected to profit by the young emperor's 
vices. Bardas soon became a prime favourite, as he not 
only afforded the young emperor every facility for gratifying 
his passions, but supported him in the disputes with the 
regency that originated on account of his lavish expenditure. 
Michael at last came to an open quarrel with his mother. He 
had fallen in love with Eudocia, the daughter of Inger, of the 
great family of the Martinakes, a connection which both 
Theodora and Theoktistos viewed with alarm, as likely to 
create a powerful opposition to theii political influence. 1 To 
prevent a marriage, Theodora succeeded in compelling 
Michael, who was then in his sixteenth year, to marry 
another lady named Eudocia, the daughter of Dekapolitas. 
The young debauchee, however, made Eudocia Ingerina his 
mistress, and, towards the end of his reign, bestowed her in 
marriage on Basil the Macedonian as a mark of his favour. 
She became the mother of the Emperor Leo VI., the Wise. 2 

This forced marriage enabled Bardas to excite the animosity 
of Michael against the regency to such a degree that he was 
persuaded to sanction the murder of Theoktistos, whose able 
financial administration was so generally acknowledged that 
Bardas feared to contend openly with so honest a minister. 
Theoktistos was arrested by order of the young emperor, and 
murdered in prison. The majority of Michael III. was not 
immediately proclaimed, but Bardas was advanced to the 
office of Master of the Horse, and assumed the direction of 
the administration. He was consequently regarded as the 
real author of the murder of Theoktistos. 8 

Theodora, though her real power had ceased, continued to 
occupy her place as empress-regent ; but in order to prepare 
for her approaching resignation, and at the same time prove 
the wisdom of her financial administration, and the value of 

1 A prophecy is said to have announced that this family should give the empire a 
longer succession of emperors than the Amorian dynasty. Continuator, 75. 

- There seems a doubt whether Eudocia Ingenna's first son, after her marriage with 
Basil, was named Constantine. Symeon Mag. 449 ; Leo. Gramm. 472 ; or Leo George 
the Monk, 540 ; and Leo Grammaticus himself, at page 468, edit. Par. This child, 
whether the one or the other, was generally supposed to be the child of Michael III. 

3 Theophanes of Fergana, who had returned and become captain of the guard, was 
one of the murderers. Symeon Mag. 435. George Mon. 533. The history of the 
murder is detailed in the Continuator, 105, and Genesius, 42. 



The Amorian Dynasty 159 

the services of Theoktistos, by whose counsels she had been 
guided, she presented to the senate a statement of the condi- 
tion of the imperial treasury. By this account It appeared 
that there was then an immense accumulation of specie in the 
coffers of the state. The sum is stated to have consisted of 
109,000 Ib. of gold, and 300,000 Ib. of silver, besides immense 
stores of merchandise, jewels, and plate. The Empress 
Theodora was evidently anxious to guard against all responsi- 
bility, and prevent those calumnious accusations which she 
knew to be common at the Byzantine court. The immense 
treasure thus accumulated would probably have given im- 
mortal strength to Byzantine society, had it been left in the 
possession of the people, by a wise reduction in the amount 
of taxation, accompanied by a judicious expenditure for the 
defence of the frontiers, and for facilitating the conveyance of 
agricultural produce to distant markets. 1 

The Empress Theodora continued to live in the imperial 
pakce, after the murder of Theoktistos, until her regency 
expired, on her son attaining the age of eighteen. 2 Her 
residence there was, however, rendered a torture to her mind 
by the unseemly exhibitions of the debauched associates of 
her son. The eagerness of Michael to be delivered from her 
presence at length caused him to send both his mother and 
his sisters to reside in the Carian Pakce, and even to attempt 
persuading the Patriarch Ignatius to give them the veil. 
After her banishment from the imperial palace, Theodora 
still hoped to recover her influence with her son, if she could 
separate him from Bardas ; and she engaged in intrigues with 
her brother's enemies, whose secret object was his assassina- 
tion. 3 This conspiracy was discovered, and only tended to 
increase the power of Bardas. He was now raised to the 
dignity of curopalat. Theodora and the sisters of Michael 
were removed to the monastery of Gastria, the usual residence 
of the ladies of the imperial family who were secluded from 

1 Continuator, 108. Symeon Mag;. 436.^ The gold may have equalled 3,250,0:0 
sovereigns, and the silver 4,000,000 crown-pieces, equal perhaps in value to more than 
double that sum at Constantinople, and probably more valuable than four times that 
sum m the rest of Europe. But all comparisons of the value of money at different 
times must be jnere conjecture. Coin travels along bad roads with greater difficulty 
than merchandise. 

2 He was more than three years old at his father's death. Continuator, 92, Ke 
reigned with Theodora more than fourteen years. Krug. Chronologic der Byzantznr % 
3. Theoktistos was murdered in the thirteenth year of his reign. Symeon Mag. 435. 
frrom the conclusion of Theodora's regency Michael reigned upwards of eleven years. 
S. Nicehori Chron. ad cal. Syncelli Ckron* 403. Many anecdotes confirm this 
chronology. Schlosser, 572. 3 Symeon Mag, 433. Georg. Mon. 534. 



160 The Contest with the Iconoclasts 

the world. After the death of Bardas, however, Theodora 
recovered some influence over her son ; she was allowed to 
occupy apartments in the palace of St. Mamas, and it was at a 
party in her rural residence at the Anthemian Palace that 
Michael was assassinated. 1 Theodora died in the first year 
of the reign of Basil I. ; and Thekla, the sister of Michael, 
who had received the imperial title, and was as debauched in 
her manners as her brother, continued her scandalous life 
during great part of Basil's reign ; 2 yet Theodora is eulogised 
as a saint by the ecclesiastical writers of the Western as well 
as the Eastern church, and is honoured with a place in the 
Greek calendar. 

Encouraged by the counsels and example of Bardas, Michael 
plunged into every vice. His orgies obtained for him the 
name of the Drunkard ; but, in spite of his vicious conduct, 
his devotion to chariot-races and his love of festivals gave 
him considerable popularity among the people of Constanti- 
nople. The people were amused by his follies, and the 
citizens profited by his lavish expenditure. Many anecdotes 
concerning his vices have been preserved, but they are deserv- 
ing of detailed notice only as proofs of the great demoraliza- 
tion then existing at Constantinople, for, as facts concerning 
Michael, it is probable they have received their colouring 
from the flatterers of the dynasty of his assassin. Michael's 
unworthy conduct, however, ultimately rendered him con- 
temptible to all classes. Had the emperor confined himself 
to appearing as a charioteer in the Hippodrome, it would 
have been easily pardoned ; but he carried his extravagance so 
far as to caricature the ceremonies of the orthodox church, 
and publicly to burlesque the religious processions of the 
clergy. The indifference of the people to this ribaldry seems 
doubly strange, when we reflect on the state of superstition 
into which the Constantinopolitans had fallen, and on the 
important place occupied by the Eastern church in Byzantine 
society. Perhaps, however, the endeavours which had been 
made, both by the church and the emperors, to render church 
ceremonies an attractive species of public amusement, had 
tended to prepare the public mind for this irreverent carica- 
ture. It is always imprudent to trifle with a serious subject, 
and more especially with religion and religious feelings. At 
this time, music, singing, eloquence, magnificence of costume, 

1 Symeon Mag. 451. Georg. Mon. 541. Leo Graram. 468, edit. Par. j 250, edit. 
Bonn. 2 Georg. Mon. 545. Leo Gramm. 471. 



The Amorian Dynasty 161 

and scenic effect, had all been carefully blended with archi- 
tectural decoration of the richest kind in the splendid church 
of St. Sophia, to excite the admiration and engage the atten- 
tion. The consequence was, that religion was the thing least 
thought of by the people, when they assembled together at 
ecclesiastical festivals. Their object was to enjoy the music, 
view the pageantry, and criticise the performers. Michael 
gratified the supercilious critics by his caricatures, and gave 
variety to the public entertainments by the introduction of 
comedy and farce. The necessity of this was felt in the 
Roman Catholic church, which authorised similar saturnalia, 
to prevent the ground being occupied by opponents. The 
Emperor Michael exhibited a clever but very irreverent carica- 
ture of the ecclesiastical processions of the Patriarch and 
clergy of Constantinople. The masquerade consisted of an 
excellent buffoon arrayed in the patriarchal robes, attended by 
eleven mimic metropolitan bishops in full costume, em- 
broidered with gold, and followed by a crowd disguised as 
choristers and priests. This cortege^ accompanied by the 
emperor in person, as if in a solemn procession, walked 
through the streets of the capital singing ridiculous songs to 
psalm tunes, and burlesque hymns in praise of debauchery, 
mingling the richest melodies of Oriental church-music with 
the most discordant nasal screams of Greek popular ballads. 
This disgraceful exhibition was frequently repeated, and on 
one occasion encountered the real Patriarch, whom the 
buffoon saluted with ribald courtesy, without exciting a burst 
of indignation from the pious Greeks. 1 

The depravity of society in all ranks had reached the most 
scandalous pitch. Bardas, when placed at the head of the 
public administration, took no care to conceal his vices ; he 
was accused of an incestuous intercourse with his son's wife, 
while the young man held the high office of generalissimo of 
the European troops. 2 Ignatius the Patriarch was a man of 
the highest character, eager to obtain for the church in the 
East that moral supremacy which the papal power now 
arrogated to itself in the West. Disgusted with the vices of 
Bardas, he refused to administer the sacrament to him on 
Advent Sunday, when it was usual for all the great dignitaries 

1 Contirmator, 124. If the fable of the female Pope Joanna proves anything, It 
may be received as evidence that the state of society in Rome was little better than at 
Constantinople. The imaginary female pope was supposed to be a contemporary of the 
real drunken emperor. 

8 Symeon Mag. 439 ; /jLovoarpaTtjybs r&v ovrttcuir. 



1 62 The Contest with the Iconoclasts 

of the empire to receive the holy communion from the hands 
of the Patriarch, A.D. 857. Bardas, to revenge himself for 
this public mark of infamy, recalled to the memory of the 
young emperor the resistance Ignatius had made to Theo- 
dora's receiving the veil, and accused him of holding private 
communication with a monk who had given himself out to be 
a son of Theodora, born before her marriage with Theophilus. 
As this monk was known to be mad, and as many senators 
and bishops were attached to Ignatius, it would have been 
extremely difficult to convict the Patriarch of treason on such 
an accusation ; and there appeared no possibility of framing 
any charge of heresy against him. Michael was, however, 
persuaded to arrest him on various charges of having com- 
mitted acts of sedition, and to banish him to the island of 
Tenebinthos. 

It was now necessary to look out for a new Patriarch, and 
the circumstances required" that the successor of Ignatius 
should be a man of high character as well as talent, for the 
deposed Patriarch had occupied no ordinary position. His 
father and his maternal grandfather (Michael I. and Niceph- 
orus I.) had both filled the throne of Constantinople; he 
was celebrated for his piety and his devotion to the cause of 
the church. But his party zeal had already raised up a strong 
opposition to his measures in the bosom of the church ; and 
Bardas took advantage of these ecclesiastical dissensions to 
make the contest concerning the patriarchate a clerical strug- 
gle, without bringing the state into direct collision with the 
church, whose factious spirit did the work of its own degrada- 
tion. Gregory, a son of the Emperor Leo V., the Armenian, 
was Bishop of Syracuse. He had been suspended by the 
Patriarch Methodios for consecrating a priest out of his 
diocese. During the patriarchate of Ignatius, the hereditary 
hostility of the sons of two rival emperors had perpetuated 
the quarrel, and Ignatius had probably availed himself with 
pleasure of the opportunity offered him of excommunicating 
Gregory as some revenge for the loss of the imperial throne. 
It was pretended that Gregory had a hereditary aversion to 
image-worship, and the suspicions of Methodios were magni- 
fied by the animosity of Ignatius into absolute heresy. 1 This 
dispute had been referred to Pope Benedict III., and his 

1 Geneslus, 47. Symeon Mag. 443. Schlosser, p. 592, points out that Gregory, one 
of the sons of Leo the Armenian, was the same person with Gregory Asbestas, arch* 
bishop of Syracuse. Cold* Condi, x. 698. Kicetas, Vit# fgnatii. 



The Amorian Dynasty 163 

decision in favour of Ignatius had Induced Gregory and his 
partisans, who were numerous and powerful, to call in question 
the legality of the election of Ignatius. Bardas, availing 
himself of this ecclesiastical contest, employed threats, and 
strained the influence of the emperor to the utmost, to induce 
Ignatius to resign the patriarchate; but in vain. It was, 
therefore, decided that Photius should be elected Patriarch 
without obtaining a formal resignation of the office from 
Ignatius, whose election was declared null. 

^Photius, the chief secretary of state, who was thus suddenly 
raised to the head of the Eastern church, was a man of high 
rank, noble descent, profound learning, and great personal 
influence. If we believe his own declaration, publicly and 
frequently repeated, he was elected against his will ; and there 
seems no doubt that he could not have opposed the selection 
of the emperor without forfeiting all rank at court, and per- 
haps incurring personal danger. 1 His popularity, his intimate 
acquaintance with civil and canon law, and his family alliance 
with the imperial house, gave him many advantages in his new 
rank. Like his celebrated predecessors, Tarasios and Niceph- 
orus, he was a layman when his election took place. On the 
2oth December 857, he was consecrated a monk by Gregory, 
archbishop of Syracuse ; on the following day he became an 
anagnostes; the day after, a sub-deacon; next day he was 
appointed deacon; and on the 24th he received priest's 
orders. He was then formally elected Patriarch in a synod, 
and on Christmas-day solemnly consecrated in the church of 
St. Sophia. 2 

The election of Photius, which was evidently illegal, only 
increased the dissensions already existing in the church ; but 
they drew oiF the attention of the people in some degree from 
political abuses, and enabled Bardas to constitute the civil 
power judge in ecclesiastical matters. Ignatius and the lead- 
ing men of his party were imprisoned and ill treated; but 
even the clergy of the party of Photius could not escape 

1 Photius was the grand-nephew of the Patriarch Tarasios, who like himself had 
been raised from the post of secretary of state to rule the church. Letter of Photius to 
Pope Nicholas in Htstoire de Pkotius, par l'Abb6 Jager, 44^ J a prejudiced and not 
very accurate work. Irene, sister of the Empress Theodora, was married to Sergius, 
the brother of Photius Ducange, Fam, Aug. JByz. 133. Continuator, 109. Cedrenus, 
545. The Abb6 Ja^er says that Arsaber, who married another sister of Theodora, 
(Kalomeria,) was uncle to Photius. 

2 Baronius, A nncdes Eccles. xiv. ; Coleti, Concilia-rum ColLix.. yjoAy^PhotiiEpistolce^ 
London, 1651, are the chief sources of ecclesiastical history for this peiiod. The account 
of Photius in the work of Haukins, De Byza.ntina.rum Rerunt Scriptoribus Crracis^ 
P. 269, deserves attention. 



164 The Contest with the Iconoclasts 

being insulted and carried before the ordinary tribunals, if 
they refused to comply with the iniquitous demands of the 
courtiers, or ventured to oppose the injustice of the govern- 
ment officials. Photius soon bitterly repented having rendered 
himself the agent of such men as Bardas and Michael ; and 
as he knew their conduct and characters before his election, 
we may believe the assertion he makes in his letters to Bardas 
himself, and which he repeats to the Pope, that he was com- 
pelled to accept the patriarchate against his wish. 1 

In the mean time, Ignatius was allowed so much liberty by 
the crafty Bardas, who found Photius a less docile instrument 
than he had expected, that his partisans assembled a synod in 
the church of Irene for forty days. In this assembly Photius 
and his adherents were excommunicated. Bardas, however, 
declared in favour of Photius, and allowed him to hold a 
counter-synod in the Church of the Holy Apostles, in which 
the election of Ignatius was declared uncanonical, as having 
been made by the Empress Theodora in opposition to the 
protest of several bishops. 2 The persecution of Ignatius was 
renewed; he was exiled to Mitylene, and his property was 
sequestrated, in the hope that by these measures he would be 
induced to resign the patriarchal dignity. Photius, however, 
had the sense to see that this persecution only increased hi? 
rival's popularity, and strengthened his party; he therefore 
persuaded the emperor to recall him, and reinstate him in the 
possession of his private fortune. Photius must have felt 
that his own former intimacy with his debauched relation 
Bardas, and his toleration of the vices of Michael, had fixed 
a deep stain on his character in the eyes of all sincere 
Christians. 

It was now necessary to legalise the election of Photius, 
and obtain the ratification of the deposition of Ignatius by a 
general council of the church ; but no general council could 
be convoked without the sanction of the Pope. The Em- 
peror Michael consequently despatched ambassadors to Rome, 
to invite Pope Nicholas I. to send legates to Constantinople, 
for the purpose of holding a general council, to put an end to 
the dissensions in the Eastern Church. Nicholas appointed 
two legates, Zacharias and Rodoald, who were instructed to 
examine into the disputes concerning the patriarchate, and 



Photii Etistoloi) in. and vi. Schlosser, 602, The Histoire de Photiv,s, by tbs 
Jager, gives a letter to Pope Nicholas confirming this unwillingness, pp. 34 and 433. 
Schiosser, 603. 



The Amorian Dynasty 165 

also to demand the restitution of the estates belonging to the 
patrimony of St. Peter in Calabria and Sicily, of which the 
papal See had been deprived in the time of Leo III. 
The Pope, moreover, required the emperor to re-establish 
the papal jurisdiction over the Illyrian provinces, and recog- 
nise its right to appoint the archbishop of Syracuse, and 
confirm the election of all the bishops in the European 
provinces of the empire. 

The Popes were how beginning to arrogate to themselves 
that temporal power over the whole church which had grown 
out of their new position as sovereign princes ; but they based 
their temporal ambition on that spiritual power which they 
claimed as the rock of St. Peter, not on the donation of 
Charlemagne. The truth is, that the first Christian emperors 
had laid a firm foundation for the papal power, by constituting 
the Bishop of Rome a kind of secretary of state for Christian 
affairs. He was employed as a central authority for communi- 
cating with the bishops of the provinces; and out of this 
circumstance it very naturally arose that he acted for a con- 
siderable period as a minister of religion and public instruction 
in the imperial administration, which conferred immense 
power in a government so strictly centralised as that of the 
Roman empire. 1 The Christian emperors of the West, being 
placed in more direct collision with paganism than those of 
the East, vested more extensive powers, both of administration 
and police, in the Bishop of Rome, and the provincial bishops 
of the Western Church, than the clergy attained in the East. 
This authority of the bishops increased as the civil and military 
power of the Western Empire declined ; and when the imperial 
city became a provincial city of the Eastern Empire, the popes 
became the political chiefs of Roman society, and inherited no 
small portion of the influence formerly exercised by the 
imperial administration over the provincial ecclesiastics. It is 
true, the Bishops of Rome could not exercise this power 
without control, but, in the opinion of a majority of the 
subjects of the barbarian conquerors in the West, the Pope 
was the legal representative of the civilisation of imperial 
Rome as well as the legitimate successor of St Peter, and the 
guardian of the rock on which Christianity was founded. 
Unless the authority of the popes be traced back to their 



1 Lex Tkeodosii et Valeniinittni, aptid Scripiorcs rerum Francic. et Gallic, torn, . 
7 63. See Thierry, Historic de la. Conqulte da FAnglcierrc ; Notes et Pieces Jusf> ; 
Cod. Tkeod. xvi. tit. 2, De Episcopis Ecclzsiis et Clericis ; Cod, Justin i. 3, * 
st Clericis. 



1 66 The Contest with the Iconoclasts 

original position as archbishops of Rome and patriarchs of the 
Western Empire, and the institutions of the papal church be 
viewed as they originally existed in connection with the 
imperial administration, the real value of the papal claims to 
universal domination, founded on traditional feelings, cannot 
be justly estimated. The popes only imitated the Roman 
emperors in their most exorbitant pretensions; and the 
vicious principles of Constantine, while he was still a pagan, 
continue to exert their corrupt influence over the ecclesiastical 
institutions of the greater part of Europe to the present day. 

The popes early assumed that Constantine had conferred on 
the Bishop of Rome a supreme ecclesiastical jurisdiction over 
the three European divisions of his dominions, when he 
divided the empire into four prefectures. 1 There were, indeed, 
many facts which tended to support this claim. Africa, in so 
far as it belonged to the jurisdiction of the European pre- 
fectures, acknowledged the authority of the Bishop of Rome ; 
and even after the final division of the empire, Dacia, Mace- 
donia, Thessaly, Epirus, and Greece, though they were 
separated from the prefecture of Illyricum, and formed a new 
province of the Eastern Empire, continued to be dependent on 
the ecclesiastical jurisdiction of the Pope. The Patriarch of 
Antioch was considered the head of the church in the East. 
Egypt formed a peculiar district in the ecclesiastical, as it did 
in the civil administration of the Roman empire, and had its 
own head, the Patriarch of Alexandria. The Patriarchs of 
Jerusalem and Constantinople were modern creations. The 
bishop of Jerusalem, who had been dependent on the Patriarch 
of Antioch, received the honorary title of Patriarch at the 
council of Nicaea, and the Emperor Theodosius II. conferred 
on him an independent jurisdiction over the three Palestines, 
the two Phoenicias, and Arabia ; but it was not until after the 
council of Chalcedon that his authority was acknowledged by 
the body of the church, and it was then restricted to the three 
Palestines, A,D. 451. 

The bishop of Byzantium had been dependent on the 
metropolitan or exarch of Heraclea before the translation of 
the imperial residence to his See, and the foundation of Con- 
stantinople. In the council held at Constantinople in 381, he 
was first ranked as Patriarch, because he was the bishop of the 
capital of the Eastern Empire, and placed immediately after 
the Bishop of Rome in the ecclesiastical hierarchy. St. "Chry- 

1 Zosimus, is. 33. 



The Amorlan Dynasty 167 

sostom and Ms successors exercised the patriarchal jurisdiction, 
both in Europe and Asia, over the Eastern Empire, just 
as the popes of Rome exercised it in the Western, yielding 
merely a precedence in ecclesiastical honour to the representa- 
tive of St. Peter.* In spite of the opposition of the bishops of 
old Rome, the bishops of new Rome thus attained an equality 
of power which made the popes tremble for their supremacy, 
and they regarded the Patriarchs of Constantinople rather as 
rivals than ^ as joint rulers of the church. Their ambitious 
jealousy, joined to the aspiring arrogance of their rivals, caused 
all the evils they feared. The disputes between Ignatius and 
Photius now gave the Pope hopes of re-establishing the 
supremacy of Rome over the whole church, and of rendering 
the Patriarchs of the East merely vicegerents of the Roman 
See. 

The Papal legates sent by Nicholas were present at a general 
council held at Constantinople in the year 86 1, which was 
attended by three hundred and eighteen bishops. Bardas and 
Photius had succeeded in securing the goodwill of the majority 
of the Eastern clergy. They also succeeded in gaining the 
support of the representatives of the Pope, if they did not 
purchase it. Ignatius, who was residing in his mother's palace 
of Posis, was required to present himself before the council. 
He was deposed, though he appealed to the Pope's legates, 
and persisted in protesting that the council did not possess a 
legal right to depose him. It is said that a pen was placed 
forcibly between his fingers, and a cross drawn with it, as his 
signature to the act of deposition. He was then ordered to 
read his abdication, on the day of Pentecost, in the Church of 
the Holy Apostles ; but, to avoid this disgrace, he escaped in 
the disguise of a slave to the Prince's Islands, and concealed 
himself among the innumerable monks who had taken up their 
abode in these delicious retreats. Bardas sent Oryphas with 
six galleys to examine every one of the insular monasteries in 
succession, in order to arrest the fugitive; but the search 
was vain. After the termination of the council, Ignatius re- 
turned privately to his maternal palace, where he was allowed 
to remain unmolested. 2 The discussions of this council are 

* Socrates, Hist. Eccks. vii. 28. Cod. Theodosiamts, xvl. torn. 2. lib. 45. Council 
of Chalcedon, gth, xjth, and aSth canons. 

2 He was said to have been indebted to an earthquake for this mild treatment. 
Bardas was frightened, and Photius was looked upon as impious for declaring from the 
pulpit that earthquakes were produced by physical causes acting upon the waters under 
the earth, and not from divine wrath to awaken mankind to a sense of _their sins. 
Symeon Mag. 445. Photius, like his predecessor, John the Grammarian, was too 



1 68 The Contest with the Iconoclasts 

said by its enemies to have been conducted in a very tumul- 
tuous manner; but as the majority was favoured by the Patriarch, 
the papal legates, and the imperial administration, it is not 
likely that any confusion was allowed within the walls of the 
council, even though the party of Ignatius was supported by 
the Empresses Theodora and Eudock, and by the great ^body 
of the monks. The Emperor Michael, with great impartiality, 
refused to throw the whole weight of his authority in either 
scale. The truth is, that, being somewhat of a freethinker as 
well as a debauchee, he laughed at both parties, saying that 
Ignatius was the patriarch of the people, Photius the patriarch 
of Bardas, and Gryllos (the imperkl buffoon) his own 
patriarch. 1 Nevertheless, Ignatius was deposed, and the acts 
of the council were ratified by the papal legates. 2 

The legates of the Pope certainly yielded to improper 
influence, for, besides approving the measures of the Byzan- 
tine government with reference to the patriarchate, they 
neglected to demand the recognition of the spiritual authority 
of the papal see in the terms prescribed by their instructions. 
They were consequently disavowed on their return to Rome. 
The party of Ignatius appealed to the Pope, who, seeing that 
no concessions could be gained from Michael, Bardas, or 
Photius, embraced the cause of the deposed Patriarch with 
warmth. A synod was convoked at Rome; Photius was 
excommunicated, in case he should dare to retain possession 
of the patriarchal chair, after receiving the papal decision in 
favour of Ignatius, A.D. 863. Gregory, the archbishop of 
Syracuse, who had ordained Photius, was anathematised, and 
declared a schismatic, as well as all those who held com- 
munion with him, if he continued to perform the sacerdotal 
functions. When the acts of this synod were communicated 
to Michael by papal letters, the indignation of the emperor 
was awakened by what he considered the insolent interference 
of a foreign priest in the affairs of the empire, and he replied 
in a violent and unbecoming letter. He told his Holiness that 
he had invited him to send legates to the general council at 
Constantinople, from a wish to maintain unity in the church, 

learned for the populace, and his knowledge was attributed to personal intercourse with 
demons, who in that age were supposed to act as professors of Hellenic literature. 
Symeon gives some curious anecdotes to the disadvantage of Photius. 

1 Gryllos, whom the emperor had employed to enact the patriarch, received from the 
people the name of the hog, from his low debauchery. 

2 This council is called by the Greeks the first and second, from having been held in 
two'separate series of sessions, it seems that it re-enacted the acts of the synod held by 
PJxotius in 857. 



The Amorian Dynasty 169 

not because the participation of the Bishop of Rome was 
necessary to the validity of the acts of the Eastern Church. 
This was all very reasonable ; but he went on to treat the Pope 
and the Latin clergy as barbarians, because they were Ignorant 
of Greek. For this Insult, however, the emperor received a sharp 
and well-merited rebuke from Pope Nicholas, who asked him 
why he styled himself Emperor of the Romans, if he thought the 
language of the Roman empire and of the Roman church a 
barbarous one. It was a greater disgrace, in the opinion of 
the Pope, for the Roman emperor to be Ignorant of the Roman 
language, than for the head of the Roman church to be 
Ignorant of Greek. 

Nicholas had nothing to fear from the power of Michael, so 
that he acted without the restraint imposed on Gregory II. In 
his contest with Leo the Isaurian. Indeed, the recent success 
of the Pope, In his dispute with Lothaire, king of Austrasla, 
gave him hopes of coming off victorious, even In a quarrel 
with the Eastern emperor. He did not sufficiently under- 
stand the effect of more advanced civilisation and extended 
education on Byzantine society. Nicholas, therefore, boldly 
called on Michael to cancel his insolent letter, declaring that 
it would otherwise be publicly burned Dy the Latin clergy ; 
and he summoned the rival Patriarchs of Constantinople to 
appear in person before the papal court, that he might hear 
and decide their differences. 

This pretension of the Pope to make himself absolute 
master of the Christian church, awakened the spirit of resist- 
ance at Constantinople, and caused Photius to respond by 
advancing new claims for his See. He Insisted that the 
Patriarchs of Constantinople were equal in rank and authority 
to the Popes of Rome. The disputes of the clergy being the 
only subject on which the government of the Eastern Empire 
allowed any expression of public opinion, the whole attention 
of society was soon directed to this ecclesiastical quarrel. 
Michael assembled a council of the church in 866, at which 
pretended representatives of the patriarchs of Antioch, 
Alexandria, and Jerusalem were present: and in this assembly 
Pope Nicholas was declared unworthy of his See, and excom- 
municated. There was no means of rendering this sentence 
of excommunication of any effect, unless Louis II., the 
emperor of the West, could be induced, by the hatred he bore 
to Nicholas, to put it in execution. Ambassadors were sent to 
urge him to depose the Pope, but the death of Michael sud- 



170 The Contest with the Iconoclasts 

denly put an end to the contest with Rome, for Basil I. em- 
braced the party of Ignatius. 

The contest between Rome and Constantinople was not 
merely a quarrel between Pope Nicholas and the Patriarch 
Photius. There were other causes of difference between the 
two Sees, in which Ignatius was as much opposed to papal 
pretensions as Photius. Not to mention the old claim of 
Rome to recover her jurisdiction over those provinces of the 
Byzantine empire which had been dissevered from her 
authority, a new conflict had arisen for supremacy over the 
church in Bulgaria. When the Bulgarian king Crumn invaded 
the empire, after the defeat of Michael I., he carried away so 
many prisoners that the Bulgarians, who had already made 
considerable advances in civilisation, were prepared, by their 
intercourse with these skves, to receive Christianity. A Greek 
monk, Theodore Koupharas, who remained long a prisoner in 
Bulgaria, converted many by his preaching. During the inva- 
sion of Bulgaria by Leo V., a sister of King Bogoris was 
carried to Constantinople as a prisoner, and educated with 
care. The Empress Theodore exchanged this princess for 
Theodore Koupharas, and on her return she introduced the 
Christian religion into her brother's palace. 

War subsequently broke out between the Bulgarian monarch 
and the empire, and Michael and Bardas made an expedition 
against the Bulgarians in the year 86 1. 1 The circumstances 
of the war are not detailed ; but in the end the Bulgarian 
king embraced Christianity, receiving the name of Michael 
from the emperor, who became his sponsor. To purchase 
this peace, however, the Byzantine emperor ceded to the Bul- 
garians all the country along the range of Mount Hsemus,. 
called by the Greeks Sideras, and by the Bulgarians Zagora, of 
which Debeltos is the chief town. 2 Michael pretended that the 
cession was made as a baptismal donation to the king. The 
change in the religion of the Bulgarian monarch caused some 
discontent among his subjects, but their opposition was soon 
vanquished with the assistance of Michael, and the most re- 
fractory were transported to Constantinople, where the wealth 
and civilisation of Byzantine society produced such an impres- 
sion on their minds that they readily embraced Christianity. 3 

1 Symeon Mag. 440. In the^ fourth year of Michael's sole government. 

2 The Continuator, 102, attributes this treaty to the Empress Theodora, but the date 
seems more precisely given by Symeon Magister, 440, Gcorg. Mon. 534. This district 
had been ceded to the Bulgarians by Justinian II., but recovered by Constantine V. 

8 Leo Gramm. 462. For the conversion of the Bulgarians, Contin. 101 ; Cedrenus, 
ii. 540 ; Zonaras, ii. 156". 



The Amorian Dynasty 171 

The ^ Bulgarian monarch, fearing lest the influence of the 
Byzantine clergy on his Christian subjects might render him in 
some degree dependent on the emperor, opened communi- 
cations with Pope Nicholas for the purpose of balancing the 
power of the Greek clergy by placing the ecclesiastical affairs 
of his kingdom under the control of the Latins. He expected 
also to derive some political support for this alliance, when he 
saw the eagerness of the Pope to drive the Eastern clergy out 
of Bulgaria, Pope Nicholas appears to have thought that 
Photius would have made great concessions to the papal See, 
in order to receive the pallium from Rome; but when that 
Patriarch treated the question concerning the ecclesiastical 
jurisdiction of the Eastern church in Bulgaria as a political 
affair, and referred its decision to the imperial cabinet, the 
Pope sent legates into Bulgaria, and the churches of Rome 
and Constantinople were involved in a direct conflict for the 
ecclesiastical patronage of that extensive kingdom. At a 
later period, when Ignatius was re-established as Patriarch, 
and the general council of 869 was held to condemn the acts 
of Photius, Pope Hadrian found Ignatius as little inclined to 
make any concessions to the papal See in Bulgaria as his 
deposed rival, and this subject remained a permanent cause of 
quarrel between the two churches. 

Michael, Chough a drunkard, was not naturally deficient in 
ability, activity, or ambition. Though he left the ordinary 
administration of public business in the bands of Bardas, on 
whom he conferred the title of Csesar, which was then almost 
equivalent^ to a recognition of his title as heir-apparent to the 
empire, still he never allowed him to obtain the complete 
control over the whole administration, nor permitted him 
entirely to crush his opponents in the public service. 1 Hence 
many officers of rank continued to regard the emperor, with 
all his vices, as their protector in office. Like all the emperors 
of Constantinople, Michael felt himself constrained to appear 
frequently at the head of his armies. The tie between the 
emperor and the soldiers was perhaps strengthened by these 
visits, but it can hardly be supposed that the personal 

1 The nomination of Bardas as Csesar took place in the year 862, at Easter, accord- 
ing to Genesius, 46. But Symeon Magister places it in the third year of Michael, or 
860, v. hile he places the victory of Petronas (which Genesius says preceded it) in the 
fifth, or 862. George the Monk and Leo Grammaticus follow the same order as Symeon; 
while the Continuator, 114, agrees with Genesius, and places the nomination of Bardas 
after the victory of Petronas. Yet the nomination of Bardas seems to be rightly fixed 
by Genesius, while the Arabian historians prove that the battle of Petronas occurred in 
863, See page 172, note 3. 



172 The Contest with the Iconoclasts 

presence of Michael added much to the efficiency of military 
operations. 

The war on the frontiers of the Byzantine and Saracen 
empires was carried on by Omar, the emir of Melitene, with- 
out interruption, in a series of plundering incursions on a 
gigantic scale. These were at times revenged by daring 
exploits on the part of the Byzantine generals. In the year 
856, Leo, the imperial commander-in-chief, invaded the 
dominions of the caliph. After taking Anazarba, he crossed 
the Euphrates at Samosata, and advanced with his army into 
Mesopotamia, ravaging the country as far as Amida. The 
Saracens revenged themselves by several plundering incursions 
into the different parts of the empire. To stop these attacks, 
Michael put himself at the head of the army, and laid siege 
to Samosata without effect Bardas accompanied the emperor 
rather to watch over his own influence at court, than to assist 
his sovereign in obtaining military glory. The following year 
Michael was engaged in the campaign against the Bulgarians, 
of which the result has been already mentioned. In 860, he 
led an army of 40,000 European troops against Omar of 
Melitene, who had carried his plundering incursions up to the 
walls of Sinope. 1 A battle took place in the territory of 
Dasymon, near the spot which had witnessed the defeat of 
Theophilus, and the overthrow of Michael was as complete as 
that of his father. The same difficulties in the ground which 
had favoured the retreat of Theophilus enabled Manuel, one 
of the generals of Michael, to save the army. 2 

The war was still prosecuted with vigour on both sides. In 
863, Omar entered the Armeniac theme with a large force, and 
took Amisus. Petronas, the emperor's uncle, who had now 
acquired considerable military experience and reputation as 
general of the Thrakesian theme, was placed at the head of 
the Byzantine army. 3 He collected his forces at Aghionoros, 

_ * The Arabian historians pretend that Omar carried off 17,000 slaves, and Karbeas, 
with his Paulicians, 5000 in one expedition. Ali Ibu Yahia, governor of Tarsus, was 
equally^ successful. Abulpharajjius (Bar Hebraeus) says that in a previous campaign the 
Byzantine army had made 20,000 prisoners. Weil, Gesckickte der Ckalifen, Ii. 363, 
note 2, and 365. These devastations deserve notice, as causes of the depopulation of 
the country. 

2 Continuator, no. Genesius, 44. It is evident that the details of the battle of 
Theophilus have been mixed up with those of this battle. The exploits attributed to 
the two Manuels are a mere transcript. There is so much confusion in the narrative 
and chronology of Michael's war with the Saracens, that it would occupy too much 
space to examine its details. See Weil, ii., 365, note i. 

3 For the date, see Abulfeda, Annal. Muss. ii. 209. Abulpharagius, Cfc.. Syr. 171, 
249th year of the Hegira, from 23d February 863 to iath February 864. Also Well, 
ii. 380, note 6. 



The Amorian -Dynasty 173 

near Ephesus, and when Ms army was reinforced by a strong 
body of Macedonian and Tkracian troops, marched towards 
the frontier In several divisions, which he concentrated in such 
a manner as to cut off the retreat of Omar, and enclose him 
with an overwhelming force. The troops under Nasar, the 
general of the Boukelkrian theme, strengthened by the Anne- 
.liac and Paphlagonian legions, and the troops of the theme 
Koloneia, enclosed the Saracens on the north. Petronas 
himself, with the Thrakesian, Macedonian, and Thracian 
legions, secured the passes and advanced from the west; while 
the troops of the Anatolic, Opsikian, and Cappadocian 
themes, with the divisions of the Kleisourarchs of Seleucia 
and Charsiana, having secured the passes to the south, cut off 
the direct line of Omar's retreat. An impassable range of 
rocky mountains, broken into precipices, rendered escape to 
the eastward impracticable. The headquarters of Petronas 
were established at Poson, a place situated on the frontiers 
of the Paphlagonian and Armeniac themes, near the river 
Lalakon, which flows from the north to south. Omar had 
encamped in a plain without suspecting the danger lurking in 
its rugged boundary to the east. He suddenly found himself 
enclosed by the simultaneous advance of the various divisions 
of the Byzantine army, and closely blockaded. He attempted 
to escape by attacking each division of the enemy in succes- 
sion, but the strength of the positions selected by the imperial 
officers rendered aU his attacks vain. Omar at last fell in the 
desperate struggle ; and Petronas, leading fresh troops into the 
plain to attack the weary Saracens, completed the destruction 
of their army. The son of Omar contrived to escape from the 
field of battle, but he was pursued and taken prisoner by the 
Kleisourarch of Charsiana, after he had crossed the Halys. 1 
When Petronas returned to Constantinople, he was allowed to 
celebrate his victory with great pomp and public rejoicings. 
The Byzantine writers estimated the army that was destroyed 
at 40,000, while the Arabian historians reduced their loss to 
only 2000 men. Public opinion in the empire of the caliph, 
however, considered the defeat as a great calamity; and its 
real importance may be ascertained from the fact, that alarm- 

l It is not easy to determine the spot where this battle was fought. Genesius calls 
the place Abysianps, and says it was five hundred miles from ^Aminsos, page 46. A 
valley in the vicinity was called Gyris. Continuator, 113. Edrisi, ii. 308, places the 
valley Merdj Aluskuf twenty-four miles north-west of Baranda, (Laranda), on the road 
from Tarsus to Abydos. This would place it in the Anatolic theme, among the 
Lycaonian counter-forts of Taurus, and would lead to the supposition that Omaz was 
retreating to gain Tarsus, in order to place his booty in security. See Weil, ii. 381. 



174 The Contest with the Iconoclasts 

ing seditions broke out against the government when the news 
reached Bagdat 1 After this victory, too, Jhe eastern frontier 
enjoyed tranquillity for some time. 

In the year 865, a nation hitherto unknown made its first 
appearance in the history of the world, where it was destined 
to act no unimportant part. Its entrance into the political 
system of the European nations was marked by an attempt to 
take Constantinople, a project which it has often revived, and 
which the progress of Christian civilisation seems to indicate 
must now be realised at no very distant date, unless the 
revival of the Bulgarian kingdom to the south of the Danube 
create a new Sclavonian power in the east of Europe capable 
of arresting its progress. In the year 862, Rurik, a Scandina- 
vian or Varangian chief, arrived at Novgorod, and laid the 
first foundation of the state which has grown into the Russian 
empire. The Russian people, under Varangian domination, 
rapidly increased in power, and reduced many of their neigh- 
bours to submission. 2 Oskold and Dir, the princes of Kiof, 
rendered themselves masters of the whole course of the 
Dnieper, and it would seem that either commercial jealousy or 
the rapacity of ambition produced some collision with the 
Byzantine settlements on the northern shores of the Black 
Sea; but from what particular circumstances the Russians 
were led to make their daring attack on Constantinople is not 
known. 3 The Emperor Michael had taken the command of 
an army to act against the Saracens, and Oryphas, admiral of 
the fleet, acted as governor of the capital during his absence. 
Before the Emperor had commenced his military operations, a 
fleet of two hundred Russian vessels of small size, taking ad- 
vantage of a favourable wind, suddenly passed through the 
Bosphorus, and anchored at the mouth of the Black River in 
the Propontis, about eighteen miles from Constantinople." 4 
This Russian expedition had already plundered the shores of 
the Black Sea, and from its station within the Bosphorus it 
ravaged the country about Constantinople, and plundered the 
Prince's Islands, pillaging the monasteries, and slaying the 
monks as well as the other inhabitants. The emperor, in- 

l Weil, ii. 381. 2 photii Ejistotet p. 58. 

8 La Chronique de Nestor, traduite par L. Paris, i. 22. 

4 K6\7TOS f^Xa.5 is the bay at the mouth of the Athyras, Buyuk Tchekmadje. The 
Russian vessels are called jJtov6 v\a ; they must have been only decked boats, and 
twenty men to each will be an ample allowance. They cannot therefore have carried 
more than 4000 men when they passed the Bosphorus. The expedition seems not unlike 
those against which, about this time, Alfred had to contend in England, and Charles the 
Bald in France. 



The Amoriaii Dynasty 175 

formed by Oryphas of the attack on his capital, hastened to 
its defence. Though a daring and cruel enemy, the Russians 
were by no^means formidable to the strength and discipline of 
the Byzantine forces. It required no great exertions on the 
part of the imperial officers to equip a force sufficient to attack 
and put_to flight these invaders; but the barbarous cruelty of 
the soldiers and sailors, and the wild daring of their Varangian 
leaders, made a profound impression on the people of Con- 
stantinople, suddenly rendered spectators of the miseries of 
war, ^in their most hideous form, in a moment of perfect 
security. We need not, therefore, be surprised to find that the 
sudden destruction of these dreaded enemies by the drunken 
emperor, of whom the citizens of the capital entertained pro- 
bably even more contempt than he merited as a soldier, was 
ascribed to the miraculous interposition of the Virgin of the 
Blachern, rather than to the superior military tactics and over- 
whelming numbers of the imperial forces. How far this ex- 
pedition of the Russians must be connected with the enter- 
prising spirit of that vigorous band of warriors and pirates 
from Scandinavia, who, under the name of Danes, Normans, 
and Varangians, became the sovereigns of Normandy, Naples, 
Sicily, England, and Russia, is still a subject of learned dis- 
cussion. 1 

About the same time a fleet, manned by the Saracens of 
Crete, plundered the Cyclades, and ravaged the coast of Asia 
Minor, carrying off great booty and a number of slaves. 2 It 
would seem that the absence of the Emperor Michael from 
Constantinople at the time of the Russian attack was con- 
nected with this movement of the Saracens. 

Our conceptions of the manner in which the Byzantine 
empire was governed during Michael's reign, will become 
more precise if we enter into some details concerning the 
court intrigues and personal conduct of the rulers of the 
state. The crimes and assassinations, which figure as the 
prominent^ events of the age in the chronicles of the time, 
were not, it is true, the events which decided the fate of the 



2 Continuator, 122. This fleet consisted of twenty KOVftQapiuv, seven ya\4as t and 
some ffasroi&pcLS ; but it would perhaps be difficult to determine the size and class of 
these different vessels. 



176 The Contest with the Iconoclasts 

people; and they probably excited less interest among con- 
temporaries who lived beyond the circle of court favour, than 
history would lead us to suppose. Each rank of society had 
its own robberies and murders to occupy its attention. The 
state of society at the court of Constantinople was not amen- 
able to public opinion, for few knew much of what passed 
within the walls of the great palace; but yet the immense 
machinery of the imperial administration gave the emperors* 
power a solid basis, always opposed to the temporary vices of 
the courtiers. The order which rendered property secure, 
and enabled the industrious classes to prosper, through the 
equitable administration of the Roman law, nourished the 
vitality of the empire, when the madness of a Nero and the 
drunkenness of a Michael appeared to threaten political order 
with ruin. The people, carefully secluded from public busi- 
ness, and almost without any knowledge of the proceedings 
of their government, were in all probability little better 
acquainted with the intrigues and crimes of their day than we 
at present. They acted, therefore, when some real suffering 
or imaginary grievance brought oppression directly home to 
their interests or their feelings. Court murders were to them 
no more than a tragedy or a scene in the amphitheatre, at 
which they were not present. 

Bardas had assassinated Theoktistos to obtain power , yet, 
.with all his crimes, he had great natural talents and some 
literary taste. He had the reputation of being a good lawyer 
and a just judge; and after he obtained power, he devoted 
his attention to watch over the judicial department as the 
surest basis of popularity. ' Nevertheless, we find the govern- 
ment of Michael accused of persecuting the wealthy, merely 
for the purpose of filling the public treasury by the confisca- 
tion of their property. This was an old Roman fiscal re- 
source, which had existed ever since the days of the republic* 
and whose exercise under the earlier emperors calls forth the 
bitterness of Tacitus in some of his most vigorous pages. 
After Bardas was elevated to the dignity of Csesar, his mature 
age gave him a deeper interest in projects of ambition than in 
the wild debauchery of his nephew. He devoted more time 
to public business and grave society, and less to the wine-cup 
and the imperial feasts. New boon-companions assembled 
round Michael, and, to advance their own fortunes, strove to 
awaken some jealousy of the Caesar in the breast of the 
emperor. They solicited the office of spies to watch the 



The Amorlan Dynasty 177 

conduct of one who, they said, was aspiring to the crown. 
Michael, seeing Bardas devoted to improving the administra- 
tion of justice, reforming abuses in the army, regulating the 
affairs of the church, and protecting learning, felt how much 
he himself neglected his duties, and naturally began to 
suspect his uncle. The reformation of the Csesar was an act 
of sedition against the worthless emperor. 

The favourite parasite of Michael at this time was a man 
named Basil, who from a simple groom had risen to the rank 
of lord chamberlain. Basil had attracted the attention of 
the emperor while still a stable-boy in the service of an officer 
of the court. The young groom had the good fortune to 
overcome a celebrated Bulgarian wrestler at a public wrestling- 
match. The impression produced by this victory over the 
foreigner, who had been long considered invincible, was 
increased by a wonderful display of his power in taming the 
wildest horses, for he possessed the singular natural gift of 
subduing horses by a whisper. 1 The emperor took him into 
his service as a groom ; but Basil's skill as a sportsman soon 
made him a favourite and a companion of one who showed 
little discrimination in the choice of his associates. At the 
imperial orgies, Basil's perseverance as a boon-companion, 
and his devotion to all the whims of the emperor, raised him 
quickly to the highest offices of the court, and he was placed 
in constant attendance on his sovereign. These favours 
awakened the jealousy of Bardas, who suspected the Mace- 
donian groom of the power of whispering to Michael as well 
as to horses. At the same time it secured Basil the support 
of all the Caesar's enemies, who considered a drunken groon\ 
even though he had risen to great power at court, as a person 
not likely to be their rival in ministerial offices. 

Basil, however, soon received a very high mark of Michael's 
personal favour. He was ordered to divorce his wife and 
marry Eudocia Ingerina, who had long been the emperor's 
mistress ; and it was said that the intercourse continued after 
she became the, wife of the chamberlain. 2 Every ambitious 
and debauched officer about the court now looked to the fall 
of Bardas as the readiest means of promotion. Symbatios an 

1 Basil rendered an ungovernable horse belonging to the emperor as tame as a, sheep v 
by stretching out his hand to its ear. Leo Gramm. 458. _ _ f 

2 The chronicles of Michael's reien accuse the emperor of encouraging a criminal 
intercourse between Basil and Thekla his elder sister, apparently as a recompense for 
his own intimacy with Eudocia Ingerina after she became Basil's wife. Symeon Mag. 
446. Georg, Mon. 536. Leo. Gramm. 464. A> a further illustration of the conduct afi 
these ladies, see Leo Gramm. 471, 472 ; Georg. Mon. 545, sects, viii. and xii. 



178 The Contest with the Iconoclasts 

Armenian, a patrician and postmaster of the empire, who was 
the son-in-law of Bardas, dissatisfied with his father-in-law for 
refusing to gratify his inordinate ambition, joined Basil in 
accusing the Csesar of plotting to mount the throne. The 
emperor, without much hesitation, authorised the two intriguers 
to assassinate his uncle. 

An expedition for reconquering Crete from the Saracens was 
about to sail. The emperor, the Csesar, and Basil all partook 
of the holy sacrament together before embarking in the fleet, 
which then proceeded along the coast of Asia Minor to Kepos 
in the Thrakesian theme. 1 Here the army remained encamped, 
under the pretext that a sufficient number of transports had 
not been assembled. Bardas expressed great dissatisfaction at 
this delay; and one day, while he was urging Michael to give 
orders for the immediate embarkation of the troops, he was 
suddenly attacked by Symbatios and Basil, and murdered at 
the emperor's feet. Basil, who, as chamberlain, had conducted 
Mm to the imperial tent, stabbed him in the back. 

The accomplished but unprincipled Bardas being removed, 
the project of invading Crete was abandoned, and Michael 
returned to the capital. On entering Constantinople, however, 
it was evident that the assassination of his uncle had given 
universal dissatisfaction. Bardas, with all his faults, was the 
best of Michael's ministers, and the failure of the expedition 
against Crete was attributed to his death. As Michael passed 
through the streets, a monk greeted him with this bitter salu- 
tation : " All hail, emperor ! all hail from your glorious cam- 
paign ! You return covered with blood, and it is your own ! " 
The imperial guards attempted in vain to arrest the fanatic ; 
the people protected him, declaring he was rnad. 

The assassination of Bardas took place in spring 866 ; and 
on the 26th of May, Michael rewarded Basil by proclaiming 
him his colleague, with the title of Emperor. 2 

Symbatios expected that his participation in his father-in- 
law's murder would have secured him the title of Cassar ; but 
he soon perceived he had injured his own fortunes by his crime. 
He now sought to obtain by open force what he had failed to 
gain by private murder. He succeeded in drawing Peganes, 
who commanded the troops in the Opsikian theme, into his 
conspiracy. The two rebels took up arms, and proclaimed 
that their object was not to dethrone Michael, but to depose 
Basil. Though they drew together a considerable body of 

1 Probably near Halicarnassus or Cnidtss. 8 Continuator, 129. 



The Amorian Dynasty 179 

troops, rendered themselves masters of a great extent of 
country, and captured many merchant-ships on their passage 
to Constantinople, they did not venture to attack the capital. 
Their plan was ill concerted, for before the end of the summer 
they had allowed themselves to be completely surrounded by 
the imperial troops. Peganes was taken prisoner at Kotaeion, 
and conducted to Constantinople, where his eyes were put 
out He was then placed in the Milion, with a platter in his 
hand, to ask charity from the passers-by. Symbatios was 
subsequently captured at Keltizene. When he reached Con- 
stantinople, he was conducted before Michael. Peganes was 
brought out to meet him, with a censer of earthenware filled 
with^burning sulphur instead of incense. Symbatios was then 
deprived of one of his eyes, and his right hand was cut oft 
In this condition he was placed before the palace of Lausus, 
with a dish on his knees, as a common beggar. After ex- 
hibiting his rebellious officers in this position for three days, 
Michael allowed them to be imprisoned in their own houses. 
When Basil mounted the throne, they were pardoned as men 
no longer dangerous. 

The degrading punishment to which two men of the highest 
rank in the empire were subjected, made a deep impression 
on the people of Constantinople. The figure of Peganes -a 
soldier of high reputation standing in the Miiion, asking for 
an obolos, with a platter in his hand like a blind beggar, 
haunted their imagination, and, finding its way into the 
romances of the age, was borrowed to illustrate the greatest 
vicissitudes of court favour, and give colouring to the strongest 
pictures of the ingratitude of emperors. The fate of Peganes 
and Symbatios, woven into a tale called the Life of Belisarius, 
in which the interest of tragic sentiment was heightened by 
much historical and local truth, has gained immortality in 
European literature, and confounded the critical sagacity of 
eminent modern writers. 1 

One of the few acts which are recorded of the joint reign 

1 Compare Const. Porphyr. Basilius Macedo (Scrfy. ost TJtcaph* 150, 163,) with 
Symeon Mag. 449 ; Georg. Hon. 540 ; and Leo Gramm. 467 ; and for the resemblance 
with the fable of Belisarius, the anonymous author of Antiquities of Constantinople. \ 
in Banduri, Ivnfieriutn. Orientate^ i. 7, and Joannis Tzetzae. Hist. Variarutn. CkiluuZeSy 
94, edit. Kiesslmgu ; also Lord Mahon, Life of Belisarius^ who tries to support the 
fable; and "Belisarius was he blind?" in JBlackwoecE s Magazine for May 1847, 
where the connection of the fable with history is pointed out. It may be worth men- 
tioning, moreover, that Zacharias, Histories Juris Graco-Romani^ Delineatio^ 58 ; arid 
Mortreuil, Histoire du Droit Byzantin^ ii. 499, have both fallen into an error in sup- 
posing this Symbatios, who had lost an eye and his right hand during the reign cf 
Michael III., to be the same person as the Symbatios or Sabbatios who assisted Leo VI. 
in the revision of the Basilika. 



i8o The Contest with the Iconoclasts 

of Michael and Basil was the desecration of the tomb of 
Constantine V. (Copronynius). This base act was perpetrated 
to flatter a powerful party in the church, of which the leading 
members were hostile to Bardas, on account of his persecution 
of Ignatius. The precarious position of Photius after the 
murder of his patron, and the inherent subserviency of the 
Greek ecclesiastical dignitaries, made him ready to counten- 
, ance any display of orthodoxy, however bigoted, that pleased 
the populace. The memory of Constantine V. was still 
cherished by no inconsiderable number of Iconoclasts. Com- 
mon report still boasted of the wealth and power to which 
the empire had attained under the just administration of the 
Iconoclast emperors, and their conduct served as a constant 
subject of reproach to Michael. The people, however, were 
easily persuaded that the great exploits of Constantine V., 
and the apparent prosperity of his reign, had been the work 
of the devil. The sarcophagus in which the body of this 
great emperor reposed was of green marble, and of the richest 
workmanship. By the order of the drunken Michael and the 
Sclavonian groom Basil, it was broken open, and the body, 
after having lain for upwards of ninety years in peace, was 
dragged into the circus, where the body of John the Gram- 
marian, torn also from the tomb, was placed beside it. The 
remains of these great men were beaten with rods to amuse 
the vilest populace, and then burned in the Amastrianon 
the filthiest quarter of the capital, and the place often used 
for the execution of malefactors. 1 The splendid sarcophagus 
of Constantine was cut in pieces by order of Michael, to 
form a balustrade in a new chapel he was constructing at 
Pharos. 

The drunkenness of Michael brought on delirium tremens, 
and rendered him liable to fits of madness. He observed 
that Basil's desire to maintain the high position he had 
reached produced the same reformation in his conduct which 
had been visible in that of Bardas. The Emperor Basil 
became a very different man from Basil the groom. The 
change was observed by Michael, and it rendered him dis- 
satisfied with his colleague. In one of his fits of madness 
he invested another of the companions of his orgies, named 
Basiliskian, with the imperial title. 

1 Georg. Mpn. 540. Leo. Gramm. 467. The anonymous author of the Ant. Con' 
stant. (Banduri, Imp. Orient ale, 20) says that the Amastrianon was a favourite resort 
of demons ; see the notes to torn. Ii. 558, 



The Amorian Dynasty 181 

In such a court there could be little doubt that the three 
emperors, Michael, Basil, and Basiliskian, could not long 
hold joint sway. It was probably soon a race who should be 
the first murdered, and in such cases the ablest man is gener- 
ally the most successful criminal. Basil, having reason to 
fear for his own safety, planned the assassination of Ms bene- 
factor with the greatest deliberation. The murder was carried 
into execution after a supper-party given by Theodora to her 
son in the palace of Anthiinos," where he had resolved to 
spend a day hunting on the Asiatic coast. Basil and his wife, 
Eudocia Ingerina, were invited by the empress-mother to 
meet her son, for all decency was banished Yrom this most 
orthodox court. Michael, according to his usual habit, was 
carried from the supper-table in a state of intoxication, and 
Basil accompanied his ' colleague to his chamber, of which he 
had previously rendered the lock useless. Basiliskian, the 
third of this infamous trio, was sleeping, in a state of intoxica- 
tion, on the bed placed in the imperial apartment for the 
chamberlain on duty. The chamberlain, on following his 
master, found the lock of the door useless and the bolts 
broken, but did not think of calling for assistance to secure 
the entrance in the palace of the empress-mother. 

Basil soon returned, attended by John of Chaldia, a Persian 
officer named Apelates, a Bulgarian named Peter, Constantine 
Toxaras, his own father Bardas, his brother Marines, and his 
cousin Ayleon. The chamberlain immediately guessed their 
purpose, and opposed their entry into the chamber. Michael, 
disturbed by the noise, rose from his drunken sleep, and was 
attacked by John of Chaldia, who cut off both his hands 
with a blow of his sabre. The emperor fell on the ground. 
Basiliskian was slain in the mean time by Apelates. Con- 
stantine Toxaras, with the relatives of Basil, guarded the door 
and the corridor leading to the apartment, lest the officers of 
the emperor or the servants of Theodora should be alarmed 
by the noise. The shouts of the chamberlain and the cries 
of Michael alarmed Basil and those in the chamber, and they 
rushed into the corridor to secure their retreat But the 
tumult of debauchery had been often as loud, and the cries 
of murder produced no extraordinary sensation where Michael 
was known to be present. All remaining silent without, some 
of the conspirators expressed alarm lest Michael should not 
be mortally wounded. John of Chaldia, the boldest of the 
assassins, returned to make his work sure. Finding the 



1 82 The Contest with the Iconoclasts 

emperor sitting on the floor uttering bitter lamentations, he 
plunged his sword into his heart, and then returned to assure 
Basil that all was finished. 

The conspirators crossed over to Constantinople, and 
having secured their entrance into the imperial palace by 
means of two Persians, Eulogios and Artabasd, who were on 
guard, Basil was immediately proclaimed sole emperor, and 
the death of Michael III. was publicly announced. In the 
morning the body of Michael was interred in a monastery at 
Chrysopolis, near the palace of Anthimos. Theodora was 
allowed to direct the funeral ceremonies of the son whom her 
own neglect had conducted to an early and bloody death. 

The people of Constantinople appear to have taken very 
little interest in this infamous assassination, by which a small 
band of mercenary adventurers transferred the empire of the 
Romans from the Amorian dynasty to a Macedonian groom, 
whose family reigned at Constantinople for two centuries, with 
greater power and glory than the Eastern Empire had attained 
since the days of Justinian, 



CHAPTER IV 

STATE OF THE BYZANTINE EMPIRE DURING THE 
ICONOCLAST PERIOD 

SECTION I 

PUBLIC ADMINISTRATION DIPLOMATIC AND COMMERCIAL 
RELATIONS 

Constantinople neither a Greek nor a Roman city The Greek race not 
the dominant people in the empire Circumstances which modified 
despotic power Extent of the empire Military strength Loss o 
Italy, Sicily, and Crete Embassy of John the Grammarian to Bagdat 
Commercial policy Wealth. 

IN ancient times, when the civilisation of the Greek people 
had attained its highest degree of moral culture, the Hellenic 
race was assailed almost simultaneously by the Persians, Car- 
thaginians, and Tyrrhenians. The victories obtained over these 
enemies are still regarded as the triumphs on which the politi- 
cal civilisation of Europe, and of the great dwelling-place of 
liberty beyond the Atlantic, is based. The age of Leo the 
Isaurian found the government of the Byzantine empire in a 
position not very dissimilar from that of the Greek race in the 
time of Miltiades. The Athenian people fought for the poli- 
tical progress of human civilisation on the plain of Marathon. 
Leo battled for the empire of law and administration behind 
the walls of Constantinople; the victory of Miltiades secured 
only one hundred and fifty years of liberty to the Greeks, that 
of the Iconoclast gave nearly five centuries of despotic power 
to a system hostile to the development of the human intellect. 
The voice of fame has conferred immortal glory on the doubt- 
ful virtues of the Athenian general, and treated with neglect 
the profound statesmanship of the stern Isaurian sovereign ; 
and it has done so not unjustly, for the gratitude of all suc- 
ceeding ages is due to those who extend the political ideas 
of mankind, whereas those who only preserve property must 
be satisfied with the applause of the proprietors. Neverthe- 
less the Iconoclast period of Byzantine history presents a 
valuable study to the historian, both in what it did and what 

183 



184 The Contest with the Iconoclasts 

it left undone in the greatness of the Imperial administra- 
tion, and the littleness of the people who were its subjects. 

The Byzantine empire passed through a more dangerous 
ordeal than classic Greece, inasmuch as patriotism is a surer 
national bulwark than mechanical administration. The strug- 
gle for the preservation of Constantinople from the Saracens 
awakens no general feelings and noble aspirations; It only 
teaches those who examine history as political philosophers, 
what social and administrative tendencies a free people ought 
carefully to avoid. On this subject the scanty annals of the 
Greek people, as slaves of the Byzantine emperors, though far 
from an attractive chapter in history, are filled with much 
premonitory instruction for nations in an advanced social 
condition. 

Neither the emperors of Constantinople, though they styled 
themselves Emperors of the Romans, nor their subjects, 
though calling themselves Roman citizens, sought at this 
period to identify themselves with the reminiscences of the 
earlier Roman Empire. The Romans of Italy and the Greeks 
of Hellas had both now fallen very low in public opinion. 1 
Constantinople, as a Christian capital, claimed to be the 
mistress of a new world, and the emperors of the East con- 
sidered themselves masters of all the territories of pagan 
Rome, because the dominion over all Christians was a right 
Inherent in the emperor of the orthodox. But Constantinople 
was founded as an antagonist to old Rome, and this antago- 
nism has always been a portion of its existence. As a Chris- 
tian city, its church and its ecclesiastical language always stood 
in opposition to the church and ecclesiastical language of 
Rome. The thoughts of the one were never transferred in 
their pure conception to the mind of the other. For several 
centuries Latin was the language of the court, of the civil 
government, and of the higher ranks of society at Constanti- 
nople. In the time of Leo IIL, and during the Byzantine 
Empire, Greek was the language of the administration and 
the people, as well as of the church j but we are not to sup- 
pose, from that circumstance, that the inhabitants of the city 
considered themselves as Greeks by descent. Even by the popu- 
lace the term would have been looked upon as one of 
reproach, applicable as a national appellation only to the 




State of the Byzantine Empire 185 

lower orders of society in the Hellenic themes. The people 
of Constantinople, and of the Byzantine empire at large, in 
their civil capacity, were Romans, and in their religious, 
orthodox Christians ; in no social relation, whether of race or 
nationality, did they consider themselves Greeks, 

At the time of the succession of Leo III., the Hellenic 
race occupied a very subordinate position in the empire. The 
predominant influence in the political administration was in 
the hands of Asiatics, and particularly of Armenians, who 
filled the highest military commands. The family of Leo the 
Isaurian was said to be of Armenian descent ; Nicephoras I. 
was descended from an Arabian family; Leo V. was an 
Armenian ; Michael II., the founder of the Amorian dynasty, 
was of a Phrygian stock. So that for a century and a half, 
the Empress Irene appears to be the only sovereign of pure 
Greek blood who occupied the imperial throne, though it is 
possible that Michael Rhangabe was an Asiatic Greek. Of the 
numerous rebels who assumed the title of Emperor, the 
greater part were Armenians. 1 Indeed, Kosmas, who was 
elected by the Greeks when they attacked Constantinople in 
the year 727, was the only rebel of the Greek nation who 
attempted to occupy the throne for a century and a half. 
Artabasdos, who rebelled against his brother-in-law, Constan- 
tine V., was an Armenian. Alexis Mousel, strangled by order 
of Constantine VI. in the year 790 ; Bardan, called the Turk, 
who rebelled against Nicephoras I. ; Arsaber, the father-in-law 
of Leo V., convicted of treason in 808 ; and Thomas, who 
revolted against Michael IL, were all Asiatics, and most of 
them Armenians. Another Alexis Mousel, who married 
Maria, the favourite daughter of Theophilus; Theophobos, 
the brother-in-law of the same emperor; and Manuel, who 
became a member of the council of regency at his death, 
were likewise of foreign Asiatic descent. Many of the 
Armenians in the Byzantine empire at this time belonged to 
the oldest and most illustrious families of the Christian world, 
and their connection with the remains of Roman society at 
Constantinople, in which the pride of birth was cherished, is a 
proof that Asiatic influence had eclipsed Roman and Greek 
in the government of the empire. Before this happened, the 
Roman aristocracy transplanted to Constantinople must have 

i See the conjectures of St. Martin on the Armenian origin of these officers, in his 
edition of Lebeau, Histoire d-u Bos-Empire, xii. 355* note 3 ; 44, note 3 ; 431, note 2 ; 
also, The History 0f_Armenia> by Father Michael Chamich, translated by J. Avdali ; 
Calcutta, 1827 ; vol. i. pp. 395) 399* 



i86 The Contest with the Iconoclasts 

become nearly extinct The names which appear as belong- 
ing to the aristocracy of Constantinople, when it became 
thoroughly Greek, make their first appearance under the 
Iconoclasts; and the earliest are those of Doukas, Skleros, 
and Melissenos. 1 The order introduced into society by the 
political and ecclesiastical reforms of Leo III., gave a per- 
manence to high birth and great wealth, which constituted 
henceforth a claim to high office. A degree of certainty 
attended the transmission of all social advantages which never 
before existed in the Roman empire. This change would 
alone establish the fact that the reforms of Leo III. had ren- 
dered life and property more secure, and consequently circum- 
scribed the arbitrary power of preceding emperors by stricter 
forms of administrative and legal procedure. An amusing 
instance of the influence of aristocratic and Asiatic prejudices 
at Constantinople, will appear in the eagerness displayed by 
Basil I., a Sclavonian groom from Macedonia, to claim descent 
from the Armenian royal family. The defence of this absurd 
pretension is given by his grandson, Constantine VII. (Por- 
phyrogenitus.) 2 

It is difficult to draw an exact picture of the Byzantine 
government at this period, for facts can easily be collected, 
which, if viewed in perfect isolation, would, according to our 
modern ideas, warrant the conclusion, either that it was a 
tyrannical despotism, or a mild legal monarchy. The personal 
exercise of power by the emperor, in punishing his officers 
with death and stripes, without trial, and his constant inter- 
ference with the administration of justice, contrast strongly 
with the boldness dispkyed by the monks and clergy in 
opposing his power. In order to form a correct estimate of 
the real^ position occupied by the Byzantine empire in the 
progressive improvement of the human race, it is necessary to 
compare it, on one hand, with the degraded Roman empire 
which it replaced ; and on the other 3 with the arbitrary govern- 
ment of the Mohammedans, and the barbarous administration 
of the^northern nations, which it resisted. The regularity of 
its civil, financial, and judicial administration, the defensive 
power of its military and naval establishments, are remarkable 
in an age of temporary measures and universal aggression. 
The state of education, and the moral position of the clergy, 
certainly offer favourable points of comparison, even with the 

* Theophanes, inc. Contin. 428. Script. Pest Theoph. 14. 
2 Const. Porphyr. Vita. Basilii, 133. * 



State of the Byzantine Empire 187 

brilliant empires of Haroim Al Rashid and Charlemagne. On 
the other hand 5 fiscal rapacity was the incurable canker of the 
Byzantine, as it had been of the Roman government. From 
it arose all those precautionary measures which reduced 
society to a stationary condition. No class of men was in- 
vested with a constitutional or legal authority to act as de- 
fenders of the people's rights against the fiscality of the 
imperial administration. Insurrection, rebellion, and revolu- 
tion were the only means of obtaining either reform or justice, 
when the interests of the treasury were concerned. Yet even 
in this branch of its administration no other absolute govern- 
ment ever displayed equal prudence and honesty. Respect 
for the law was regarded by the emperors as self-respect ; and 
the power possessed by the clergy, who in some degree partici- 
pated in popular feelings, contributed to temper and restrain 
the exercise of arbitrary rule. 

Yet the Byzantine empire, however superior it might be to 
contemporary governments, presents points of resemblance, 
which prove that the social condition of its population was 
in no inconsiderable degree affected by some general causes 
operating on the general progress of human civilisation in the 
East and the West The seventh century was a period of 
disorganisation in the Eastern Empire, and of anarchy in all 
the kingdoms formed out of the provinces of the Western. 
Even throughout the dominions of the Saxacens, in spite 
of the power and energy of the central administration of the 
caliphs, the nations under its rule were in a declining state. 

The first step towards the constitution of modern society, 
which renders all equal in the eye of the law, was made 
at Constantinople about the commencement of the eighth 
century. The reign of Leo III. opens a new social era for 
mankind, as well as for the Eastern Empire; for when he 
reorganised the frame of Roman society, he gave it the seeds of 
the peculiar features of modern times. Much of this ameliora- 
tion is, without doubt, to be attributed to the abilities of the 
Iconoclast emperors; but something may be traced to the 
infusion of new vigour into society from popular feelings, of 
which it is difficult to trace the causes or the development. 
The Byzantine empire, though it regained something of the 
old Roman vigour at the centre of its power, was unable 
to prevent the loss of several provinces; and Basil I. succeeded 
to an empire of smaller extent than Leo III., although to one 
that was far richer and more powerful. The exarchate of 



i88 The Contest with the Iconoclasts 

Ravenna, Rome, Crete, and Sicily had passed under the 
dominion of hostile states. Venice had become completely 
independent On the other hand. It must be remembered, 
that In 717 the Saracens occupied the greater part of Asia 
Minor and Cyprus, from both which they had been almost 
entirely expelled before 867. The only conquest of which 
the emperors of Constantinople could boast was the complete 
subjugation of the allied city of Cherson to the central 
administration. Cherson had hitherto enjoyed a certain 
degree of political independence which had for centuries 
secured its commercial prosperity. Its local freedom was 
destroyed in the time of Theophilus, who sent his brother- 
in-law Petronas to occupy It with an army, and govern it 
as an Imperial province. The power of the emperor was, 
however, only momentarily Increased by the destruction of 
the liberties of Cherson j the city fell rapidly from the degree 
of wealth and energy which had enabled it to afford military 
aid to Constantine the Great, and to resist the tyranny of 
Justinian IL 3 and lost much of Its commercial importance. 

Historians generally speak of the Byzantine empire at this 
period as If it had been destitute of military power. Events 
as far removed from one another, In point of time, as our own 
misfortunes in India at the Black Hole of Calcutta, and the 
massacre of Cabul, are cited to prove that the Byzantine 
government was Incapable, and the Byzantine army feeble 
and unwarlike. The truth is this, the Byzantine empire was 
a highly civilised society, and consequently its tendencies 
were essentially defensive when those of the rest of the world 
were aggressive. The Saracens, Franks, and Bulgarians were 
nations devoted to war, and yet the Byzantine empire effect- 
ually resisted and long outlived these empires of warriors. 
No contemporary government possessed a permanent military 
establishment so perfectly organised as the emperor of Con- 
stantinople, nor could any bring into the field, on a sudden 
exigency, a better appointed army. The caliphs had the 
power of deluging the frontier provinces with larger bodies 
of light troops than could be prevented from plundering the 
country, for the imperial armies were compelled to act on 
the defensive in order to secure the fortified towns, and 
defensive warfare can rarely protect all the assailable points 
of an extensive frontier. Whole provinces were therefore 
often laid waste and depopulated ; yet, under the Iconoclast 
emperors, the Byzantine territories increased in prosperity. 



State of the Byzantine Empire 189 

The united attacks of the Saracens, Bulgarians, and Franks 
inflicted trifling evils on the Byzantine empire, compared with 
what the predatory incursions of small bands of Normans 
inflicted on the empire of the successors of Charlemagne, 
or the incessant rebellions and civil wars on the dominions 
of the caliphs. 

The Saracens devoted all the Immense wealth of their 
empire to their military establishment, and they were certainly 
more formidable enemies to the Byzantine emperors than the 
Farthians had been to the Romans ; yet the emperors of Con- 
stantinople resisted these powerful enemies most successfully. 
The Saracen troops were no way inferior to the Byzantine in 
arms, discipline, artillery, and military science; their cavalry 
was mailed from head to foot, each horseman bearing a lance, 
a scimitar, and a bow slung over his shoulder. Their dis 
cipline was of the strictest land, and their armies moved not 
only with catapultas and military engines for field service, but 
also with all the materials and machines requisite for besieging 
cities. Under Kassim a band of six thousand men ventured 
to invade India; 1 yet the caliphs never thought of encounter- 
ing the Byzantine army unless with immense numbers of their 
chosen warriors ; and they sustained more signal defeats from 
the emperors of Constantinople than from all the other 
enemies they encountered together. The bloody contests and 
hard-fought battles with the armies of the caliphs in Asia 
Minor, entitle the Byzantine army to rank for several centuries 
as one of the best the world has ever seen. 

The Bulgarians were likewise dangerous enemies. Their 
continual wars gave them no mean knowledge of military 
science j and the individual soldiers, from their habits of life, 
possessed the greatest activity and powers of endurance. In 
the wars at the end of the eighth and the beginning of the 
ninth centuries they fought completely armed in steel, and 
possessed military engines of every kind then known. We 
have the testimony of a Byzantine writer, that the armies of 
Crumn were supplied with every warlike machine discovered 
by the engineering knowledge of the Romans. 2 

In all the scientific departments of war, hi the application 
of mechanical and chemical skill to the art of destruction, 
and in the construction of engines for the attack and defence 

1 Elphinston's History of the Mohammedans in lndia t i. 512. 

a Tiie army of Crtimn consisted of 30,000 6\<wl$T]poi. See also the list of military 
engines. Theopbanes, Incent. Con. 434* 



190 The Contest with the Iconoclasts 

of fortresses, there can be no doubt that the Byzantine 
engineers were no way Inferior to the Roman; for in the 
arsenals of Constantinople, the workmen and the troops had 
been uninterruptedly employed from generation to generation 
in executing and improving the same works. Only one im- 
portant invention seems to have been made, which changed, 
in some degree, the art of defence on shore, and of attack at 
sea : this was the discovery of Greek fire, and the method of 
launching it to a certain distance from brazen tubes. 1 

The aristocracy of the Byzantine empire, though not ex- 
clusively devoted to war, like the nobility of other contem- 
porary nations, was still deeply imbued with the military 
spirit. No people can boast of a greater number of warlike 
sovereigns than the Byzantine empire, from the accession of 
Leo III. to the death of Michael III. During this period of 
a century and a half, not one of the emperors failed to appear 
at the head of the army; and Leo III., Constantine V., 
Leo V., Michael II., and Theophilus, were experienced 
generals; the careless Constantine VI. and the debauched 
Michael III. appeared to greater advantage in the camp than 
in the capital ; and it was only the weak, religious persecutor, 
Michael Rhangabe, who was absolutely contemptible as a 
soldier. 

Amidst this military energy, nothing seems more remarkable 
than the indifference with which the loss of central Italy, and 
the islands of Crete and Sicily, was viewed by the Byzantine 
government. 2 It would seem that the value of these distant 
provinces was estimated at Constantinople solely by the 
amount of revenue they produced to the imperial treasury, 
and that when the expenses of a province absorbed all its 
revenues, or its reconquest was found to entail a degree of 
outlay that was never likely to be repaid, the emperors were 
often indifferent at the loss. 

The foundation of the Frank empire by Charles Martel 
very nearly corresponds with the organisation of the Byzantine 
by Leo III. The invasion of Italy by Pepin, A.D. 754, and 
the temporal authority conceded to the popes, compelled the 

1 De Feu Gregois^ des Feux de Guerre, et des Origines de la. Poudre a Canon, 
par Reinaud et Fav6, 79. Mhnvire sur la Decouvcrte TrZs-ancienne en Asie et 
dans llndo'Perse de la Poudre a Canon et des Armes <i feu. par le Chev. de Paravey : 
Paris, 1850. 

2 The exarchate extended from the Po to Fermo, and included all the country 
between the Adriatic and the Apennines. The Pentapolis, now the Marca d'Ancona, 
comprised the country from Rimini to Fermo. ^The duchy of Rome embraced the 
patrimony of St. Peter and the Campagna. This territory, filled as it then was with 
cities, towns, and slaves, may have contained a population of 2,000,000 of inhabitants. 



State of the Byzantine Empire 191 

Byzantine emperors to enter into negotiations with Charle- 
magne on a footing of equality. The importance of main- 
taining friendly relations with Constantinople is said by 
Eginhard to have influenced Charlemagne in affecting to 
receive the imperial crown from the Pope by surprise; he 
wished to be able to plead that his election as emperor of the 
West was unsought on his part Interest silenced pride on 
both sides, and diplomatic relations were established between 
the two emperors of the East and the West ; embassies and 
presents were sent from Constantinople to Charlemagne and 
Ms successors, treaties were concluded 3 and the Byzantine 
government became in some degree connected with the inter- 
national system of medieval Europe. 1 The superiority still 
held by the court of Constantinople in public opinion, is 
manifest in the Greek salutations with which the Pope flattered 
Charlemagne at the commencement of his letters ; yet Greek 
official salutations had only lately supplanted Latin at Con- 
stantinople itself. 2 

The political alliances and diplomatic relations of the 
Byzantine court were very extensive ; but the most important 
were those with the Khan of the Khazars, who ruled all the 
northern shores of the Caspian Sea, and with the Ommiad 
caliphs of Spain. Scandinavian ambassadors who had passed 
through Russia visited the splendid court of Theophilus ; but 
their mission related rather to mercantile questions, or to the 
manner of furnishing recruits to the mercenary legions at 
Constantinople, than to political alliance. 3 

The remarkable embassy of John the Grammarian, who was 
sent by Theophilus as ambassador to the Caliph Motassem, 
deserves particular notice, as illustrating the external character 
of Byzantine diplomacy. 4 The avowed object of the mission 

1 Michael II. sent a copy of the works attributed to Dionysius the Areopagite to- 
Louis le Dbonnaire, as a valuable present, in 824. The regency of Theodora attached 
considerable importance to the embassies sent to Lothaire and Louis II. -Schlosser, 566* 

2 Constant. Porphyr. De Ceremon. Ante Byzantines t ii. 29. 

3 Schlosser, Geschichte der Bilderstrtnender Kaiser, 488. 

4 There is some difficulty in fixing the precise date of this embassy. Weil, with 
great probability, places it at the end of 833, ii. 297. Compare Continuator, 60; Symeon 
Mag., 419 ; Genesms, 29; Leo Gramm. 452, edit.^Par. ; 218, edit. Bonn. ; also note 4 at 
page 138 of this volume. The people of Constantinople regarded Leo, the archbishop of 
Thessalpnica, as a necromancer or magician, as well as John, on account o_f the great 
mechanical works executed under his direction. This need not appear surprising, when 
we recollect that English tradition ascribes feats of magic to a hero so modern as Sir 
Francis Drake, for executing the aqueduct that supplies Plymouth with water. It was 
completed with wonderful celerity, and hence the people relate that Sir Francis made a. 
contract with the devil, in virtue of which the water flowed after his horse's feet as he 
galloped from the spring to the town. Roger Bacon, on account of his rare knowledge 
as a natural philosopher, and Faustus as the first printer, were both supposed to have 
unlawful dealings with the other world. 



192 The Contest with the Iconoclasts 

was to conclude a treaty of peace, but the ambassador had 
secret instructions to employ every art of persuasion to induce 
Manuel, one of the ablest generals of the empire, who had 
distinguished himself greatly in the civil wars of the Saracens, 
to return to his allegiance. The personal qualities of John 
rendered Mm peculiarly well suited to this embassy. To 
great literary attainments he joined a degree of scientific 
knowledge, which gained him the reputation of a magician, 
and he was perfectly acquainted with the Arabic ^language, 
All these circumstances insured him a good reception at the 
court of Bagdat, which had been so lately and so long 
governed by the Caliph Almamun, one of the greatest en~ 
couragers of science and literature who ever occupied a 
throne. The Byzantine ambassador was equally celebrated 
for his knowledge of medicine, architecture, mechanics, mathe- 
matics, chemistry, astronomy, and astrology; and probably 
even the Caliph Motassem, though a free-thinker, and a dis- 
believer in the divine origin of the Koran, shared so much of 
the popular belief as to credit the tale that the learned Chris- 
tian priest could read the secrets of futurity in a brazen basin, 
and felt great curiosity to converse with a man who possessed 
this rare gift of brazen magnetism. 

On quitting Constantinople, John was furnished with the 
richest furniture, splendid carpets, damasked silk hangings, 
and plate chased and inlaid with the most beautiful orna- 
ments, taken from the imperial palaces, to which was added 
400 Ib. of gold for the current expenses of the embassy. 

According to the usage of the East, the ambassador was 
lodged at Bagdat in a palace furnished by the ^caliph. The 
magnificent style in which the diplomatic priest installed him- 
self in the apartments he reserved for his own use made a 
sensation at the court of Motassem, though many then living 
had witnessed the splendour of Haroun Al Rashid.^ This 
lavish display of wealth was better adapted to gratify the 
vanity of Theophilus than to advance the conclusion of a last- 
ing peace. If we could place implicit confidence in the 
stories recorded by the Byzantine writers, of various tricks to 
which the ambassador resorted in order to augment the 
wonder of the Saracen nobles at the enormous wealth of the 
Christians, we should be inclined to question the judgment of 
John himself. His conduct could only have originated in 
personal pride ; and the course attributed to him would have 
been more likely to excite the Mohammedans to active war- 



State of the Byzantine Empire 193 

fare, where they had prospect of plundering so rich an enemy, 
than of persuading them to conclude a treaty of peace. 

One anecdotej dwelt on with peculiar satisfaction, deserves 
to be recorded. John possessed a splendid golden basin and 
ewer, richly chased and ornamented with jewels, and of this 
he made a great display. Throughout the East, and in many 
parts of European Turkey at the present day, where knives 
and forks are not yet in use, it is the practice to wash the 
hands immediately before commencing a meal, and on rising 
from the table. A servant pours water from a ewer over the 
hands of the guest, while another holds a basin to receive it as 
it falls. ^ This, being done by each guest in turn, would leave 
ample time for observing the magnificent golden utensils of 
John at^the entertainments he was in the habit of giving to 
the leading men in Bagdat At a grand entertainment given 
by the Byzantine ambassador to the principal nobility of the 
caliph's court, the slaves rushed into the hall where the guests 
were assembled, and informed John, in a state of great alarm, 
that his magnificent golden basin was not to be found. The 
Saracens eagerly suggested measures for its recovery; but 
John treated the affair with indifference, and calmly ordered 
his steward to give the slaves another. Soon two slaves ap- 
peared, one bearing in his hand a golden ewer, and the other 
a basin, larger and more valuable, if not more elegant, than 
that which it was supposed had been stolen. These had been 
hitherto kept concealed, on purpose to attract public attention 
by this pitiful trick, 

John, however 9 gained the respect of the Saracens by Ms 
disinterested conduct, for he declined to receive any present 
of value for himself, even from the caliph. Motassem, there- 
fore, presented him with a hundred Christian captives; but 
even then he sent immediately to Theophilus, to beg him to 
return a like number of Saracen prisoners to the caliph. No 
general exchange of prisoners, however, appears to have been 
effected at the time of this embassy, which, with other circum- 
stances, affords a proof that the avowed object of the embassy 
totally failed. When John returned to Constantinople, he 
persuaded the Emperor Theophilus to construct the palace of 
Bryas in the varied style of Saracenic architecture, of which 
those who have seen the interior of the palaces at Damascus, 
or the work of Owen Jones on the Alhambra, can alone form 
an adequate idea. 

The great wealth of the Byzantine government at this period 
H 



194 The Contest with the Iconoclasts 

derived from the commercial pre-eminence it then enjoyed 
among the nations of the earth. The commerce of Europe 
centred at Constantinople in the eighth and ninth centuries 
more completely than it has ever since done in any one city. 1 
The principles of the government, which reprobated monopoly, 
and the moderation of its duties, which repudiated^ privileges, 
were favourable to the extension of trade. While Charle- 
magne rained the internal trade of his dominions by fixing a 
raaanram of prices, and destroyed foreign commerce under 
the persuasion that, by discouraging luxury, he could enable 
Ms subjects to accumulate treasures which he might after- 
wards extort or filch into his own treasury, Theophilus pro- 
hibited the persons about his court from engaging in mercantile 
speculations, lest by so doing they should injure the regular 
channels of commercial intercourse, by diminishing the profits 
of the individual dealer. 2 Theophilus proclaimed that com- 
merce was the principal source of the wealth of his people, 
and that as many derived their means of subsistence from 
trade, and drew from it alone the funds for payment of the 
public burdens, any interference with the liberty of commerce 
was a public as well as a private injury. The political im- 
portance of the commercial classes induced Irene, when she 
usurped the empire, to purchase their favour by diminishing 
the duties levied at the passages of the Bosphorus and the 
Hellespont. 3 

During this period the western nations of Europe drew 
their supplies of Indian commodities from Constantinople, 
and the Byzantine empire supplied them with all the gold coin 
in circulation for several centuries. 

The Greek navy, both mercantile and warlike, was the most 
numerous then in existence. Against the merchantships of the 
Greeks, the piratical enterprises of the Egyptian, African, and 
Spanish Arabs were principally directed. Unfortunately we 
possess no authentic details of the commercial state of the 
Byzantine empire, nor of the Greek population during the 
Iconoclast period, yet we may safely transfer to this time the 
records that exist proving the extent of the Greek commerce 
under the Basilian dynasty. Indeed, we may remember that, 
as the ignorance and poverty of western Europe was much 

1 The short reign of Theodosius III. was distinguished by the conclusion of a very 
important jcommercxal treaty, which was taken as the basis of the fiscal stipulations for 
a long period. Theophanes, 421, not. 665; or 113, edit. Ven. 

2 Compare the Capitularies of Charlemagne, A.D. 805, art. 5, with the conduct of 
Theophilus. Continuator, 55. > Theopaaues, 401. 



State of the Byzantine Empire 195 

greater in the eleventh and twelfth centuries than in the 
eighth and ninth, we may conclude that Byzantine commerce 
was also greater. 

The influence of the trade of the Arabians with the East 
indies on the supply of the markets of western Europe has 
been overrated, and that of the Greeks generally lost sight of. 
This is, in some degree, to be attributed to the circumstance 
that the most westerly nations, in the times preceding the 
Crusades, were better acquainted with the commerce and the 
literature of the Arabs of Spain than with that of the Byzan- 
tine Greeks, and also to the preservation of an interesting 
account of the extensive voyages of the Arabs in the Indian 
seas during this very period, when we are deprived of all 
records of Byzantine commerce. 1 The Byzantine markets 
drew their supplies of Indian and Chinese productions from 
Central Asia, passing to the north of the caliph's dominions 
through the territory of the Khazars to the Black Sea. This 
route was long Frequented by the Christians, to avoid the 
countries In the possession of the Mohammedans, and was the 
highway of European commerce for several centuries. Though 
it appears at present a far more difficult and expensive route 
than that by the Red Sea and the Indian Ocean, it was really 
safer, more rapid, and more economical, in the eighth, ninth, 
and tenth centuries. This requires no proof to those who are 
acquainte 1 with caravan life in the East, and who reflect on 
the imperfections of ancient navigation, and the dangers 
which sailing vessels of any burden are exposed to in the Red 
Sea. When the Venetians and Genoese began to surpass the 
Greeks in commercial enterprise, they endeavoured to occupy 
this route ; and we have some account of the line it followed, 
and the manner in which it was carried on, after the East had 
been thrown into confusion by the conquests of the Crusaders- 
and Tartars, in the travels of Marco Polo. 2 For several 
centuries the numerous cities of the Byzantine empire sup- 
plied the majority of the European consumers with Indian 
wares, and it was in them alone that the necessary security of 
property existed to preserve large stores of merchandise. 
Constantinople was as much superior to every city in the 
civilised world, in wealth and commerce, as London now is to 

1 See Relation dcs Voyages faits far les Arabes et Persons dans tlnde et a la- 
Chine dans U gevse Stick, Traduction et Eclaircissements par Reinaud; Abul- 
pharagius. Hist. JDyn. 284. 

2 The Travels of Marco Polo, greatly amended and enlarged, by Hugh Murray* 
F.R.S.E. Edinburgh, 1844. 



196 The Contest with the Iconoclasts 

the other European capitals. And It must also be borne In 
mind, that the countries of Central Asia were not then In the 
racfe and barbarous condition Into which they have now sunk, 
since nomade nations have subdued them. On many parts of 
the road traversed by the caravans, the merchants found a 
numerous and wealthy population ready to traffic In many 
articles sought after both in the East and West; and the 
single commodity of furs supplied the traders with the means 
of adding greatly to their profits. 

Several circumstances contributed to turn the great highway 
of trade from the dominions of the caliphs to Constantinople. 
The Mohammedan law, which prohibited all loans at Interest, 
and the arbitrary nature of the administration of justice, ren- 
dered all property, and particularly commercial property, in- 
secure. 1 Again, the commercial route of the Eastern trade, 
by the way of Egypt and the Red Sea, was suddenly rendered 
both difficult and expensive, about the year 767, by the Caliph 
Ai Mansur, who closed the canal connecting the Nile with the 
Red Sea, The harvests of Egypt, which had previously filled 
the coast of Arabia with plenty, could no longer be transported 
in quantity to the ports of the Red Sea ; living became expen- 
sive; the population of Arabia declined; and the carrying 
trade was ruined by the additional expenditure required. The 
caliph certainly by this measure impoverished and depopu- 
lated the rebellious cities of Medina and Mecca to such a 
degree as to render their military and political power less 
dangerous to the central authority at Bagdat, but at the same 
time he ruined the commerce of Egypt with India and the 
eastern coast of Southern Africa. Since that period, this 
most important line of communication has never been 
restored, and the coarser articles of food, of which Egypt 
can produce Inexhaustible stores, are deprived of their 
natural market in the arid regions of Arabia. 2 The hostile 
relations between the caliphs of Bagdat and Spain likewise 

1 The picture presented by the Oriental historians of the oppressive rule of the caliphs 
shows how_ little security existed under the most powerful of the Abassides. Price has 
the following passage in the history of A! Mansur., and his testimony is confirmed by 
the recent excellent work of Weil, Geschichtt der Chalifen. : *' But the sufferings of the 
inhabitants of Bagdat had reached that point beyond which there was no further endur- 
ance, A licentious banditti had re-established its sway in that unhappy city; the 
women, the slaves, the property of the inhabitants of every rank and description, had 
once more "become the prey of robbers and outlaws, who regarded neither the authority 
of Mansur nor of any other person. "History of tJu Mohammedan Empire, ii. 132. 

2 The last mejntion of this canal by a European author is in Dicuil, who had heard 
a monk named Fidelis relate that he navigated on a branch of the Nile from Babylon 
<old Cairo) to the Red Sea, Dfcuill,.&7&r de Mensitra. Orbis Terra:, chap, yi, ju 6. 
JR.chcrckes Gfagrapk* tt Critiques^ par Letronne, 23. 



State of the Byzantine Empire 197 

induced a considerable portion of the Mohammedan popula- 
tion on the shores of the Mediterranean to maintain close 
commercial relations with Constantinople. 1 

A remarkable proof of the great wealth of society at this 
period Is to be found in the immense amount of specie in 
circulation. We have already noticed that the Byzantine 
empire furnished all the western nations of Europe with gold 
coin for several centuries; and when the hoards of the 
Mohammedan conquerors of India fell a prey to European 
invaders, it was found that the gold coins of the Byzantine 
emperors formed no small part of their treasures. The sums 
accumulated by Al Mansur and Theophilus were so great, 
that no extortion could have collected them unless the 
people had been wealthy, and great activity had existed 
in the commercial transactions of the age. It is true 
that the Caliph Al Mansur was remarkable for his extreme 
parsimony during twelve years of his reign. During this 
period he is said to have accumulated a treasure amounting 
to six hundred millions of dirhems in silver, (about 
^13,750,000,) and fourteen millions of dinars of gold, 
G6,4i 7,000,) or at the rate of ^1,680,000 a-year. 2 The 
Emperor Theophilus, whose lavish expenditure in various 
ways has been recorded, left a large sum in the imperial 
treasury at his death, which, when increased by the prudent 
economy of the regency of Theodora, amounted to one 
thousand and ninety-nine centenaries of gold, three thousand 
centenaries of silver, besides plate and gold embroidery, that, 
on being melted down, yielded two hundred centenaries of 
gold. The gold may be estimated as equal to about four 
millions and a half of sovereigns, and the weight of silver as 
equal to ^930,000, and the remainder of the treasure as equal 
to 800,000 sovereigns, making the whole equal to a metallic 
coinage of 5,230,000 sovereigns, and of course far exceeding 
that sum in its exchangeable value, from the comparative 
scarcity of the precious metals, and the more circumscribed 
circulation of money. There does not appear to be any 



1 Cardonne, Hi&toire de VAfrigue et de TEspagne sous la Domination 

2 The name of Abou Dowaneck (the Father of a Farthing) was given^to Al^ Mansur 
on account of his avarice. Almamun is said to have expended 300,000 dinars in trans- 
lating the works of the Greeks, Gx37>5> ) -Price, ii. 142. Weil, u. 8 3l note 2, says 
that, according to Cod, Goth. f. 21, Al Mansur left 900,000,000 dinars, and 60,000,000 du- 
hems ; and also that the treasure left by Haxoun Al Rashid amounted to 900,000,000 
dinars, and twice as many dirhems. ii. 127, note 3. It is needless to say that either 
there must here be a fault of the copyist or gross exaggeration. 



198 The Contest with the Iconoclasts 

exaggeration In this account of the sums left in the Byzantine 
treasury at the termination of the regency of Theodora, for 
the historians who have transmitted it wrote tinder the govern- 
ment of the BasiHan dynasty, and under circumstances which 
afforded access to official sources of information. The 
Emperor Constantine Porphyrogenitus, their patron, who 
lived in the third generation after Theodora, would not have 
authorised any misrepresentation on such a subject. 1 

Some further confirmation of the general wealth of the 
countries on the shores of the Mediterranean, in which com- 
merce was allowed some degree of liberty, is found in the 
wealth of Abderrahman III., in Spain, who is said to have 
possessed an annual revenue of 5,480,000 dinars, though some 
historians have calculated the whole income of his treasury at 
12,945,000, which would be equal to ^5,500,000 sterling. 2 
The poverty of Europe at a later period, when the isolation 
caused by the feudal system had annihilated commerce and 
prevented the circulation of the precious metals, cannot be 
used as an argument against the probability of this wealth 
having existed at the earlier period of which we are treating. 3 

In contrasting the state of commercial society in the Byzan- 
tine and Saracen empires, we must not overlook the existence 
of one social feature favourable to the Mohammedans. The 
higher classes of the Byzantine empire, imbued with the old 
Roman prejudices, looked on trade of every kind as a debas- 
ing pursuit, unsuitable to those who were called by birth or 
position to serve the state, while the Saracens still paid an 
outward respect to the antique maxims of Arabian wisdom, 
which inculcated industry as a source of independence even 
to men of the highest rank. In deference to this injunction, 
the Abassid caliphs were in the habit of learning some trade, 
and selling the produce of their manual labour, to be em- 
ployed in purchasing the food they consumed. 4 

Perhaps we may also hazard the conjecture, that a consider- 
able addition had, shortly before the reign of Theophilus, 
been made to the quantity of precious metals in existence by 
the discovery of new mines. We know, indeed, that the 

1 Scrip.post Theoph. Contin. 107. Symeon Mag. 436. 

2 Murphy's Mofiantrttedan Empire in Spain^ 303. 

3 After the conquests of Henry V. In France, the revenues of the crown of England 
in 1431 amounted only to 53,000 sterling; annually. Michelet, Hist, de France, iii. 
658. edit. Brax. 

4 In ancient times a Roman citizen who became an artisan was expelled from his 
tribe. OtSevl y&p %7jv Tw/icuW otfre Ka.7rr)\ov o#re ^a/jor^^ fiiov &X.GLV. 
Dion. Halicar. ix. 25. 



State of the Byzantine Empire 199 

Saracens in Spain worked mines of gold and silver to a con- 
siderable extent, and we may therefore infer that they did the 
same in many other portions of their vast dominions. At the 
same time, whatever was done with profit by the Saracens was 
sure to be attempted by the Christians under the Byzantine 
government. The abundance of Byzantine gold coins still in 
existence leads to the conclusion that gold was obtained in 
considerable quantities from mines within the circuit of the 
Eastern Empire. 

SECTION II 

STATE OF SOCIETY AMONG THE PEOPLE OF THE BYZANTINE 

EMPIRE IN THE EIGHTH AND NINTH CENTURIES 

Decline of civilisation Influence of the Greek church Slavery Ideo- 
logic spirit of the people State of science and art Literature. 

The wealth of nations depends in a great degre on their 
commerce, but the health and strength of a people is derived 
from its agricultural industry. The population which is pressed 
into large cities by commercial pursuits, or crowded into 
little space by manufacturing industry even the wanderers 
with the caravan and the navigators of snips rarely per- 
petuate their own numbers. All these hunters after riches 
require to be constantly recruited from the agricultural popula- 
tion of their respective countries. This constant change, 
which is going on in the population of cities, operates power- 
fully in altering the condition of society in each successive 
generation. Hence we find the nature of society in Con- 
stantinople strongly opposed to the principles of the Byzantine 
government. The imperial government, as has been already 
mentioned, inherited the conservative principles of Roman 
society, and, had it been possible, would have fettered the 
population to its actual condition, and reduced the people to 
castes. The laws of Providence opposed the laws of Rome, 
and society dwindled away. The ruling classes in the Western 
Empire had expired before their place was occupied by the 
conquering nations of the north. In the Eastern Empire, 
the change went on more gradually; the towns and cities 
were far nore numerous, but many of them embraced within 
their own walls an agricultural population, which not only 
recruited the population engaged in trade, but also sent off 
continual colonies to maintain the great cities of the 



200 The Contest with the Iconoclasts 

and especially Constantinople. This great capital, recruited 
from distant towns, and from nations dissimilar in manners 
and language, was consequently always undergoing great 
changes, yet always preserving its peculiar type of a city 
destitute of any decided nationality, and of homogeneity in 
its society. It became In turn a Roman, an Asiatic, and a 
Greek city, as the Roman, the Asiatic, or the Greek aristocracy 
acquired the predominant influence in the administration. 
Under the Iconoclasts, it was decidedly more an Asiatic city 
than either a Greek or a Roman. Whether the Asiatics, the 
Greeks, or the Sckvonians formed the greater number of the 
Inhabitants, cannot be ascertained. The aristocracy was cer- 
tainly Asiatic, the middle classes and artisans were chiefly 
Greeks, but the lowest rabble, the day labourers, the porters, 
and the domestic servants, when not slaves, appear to have 
consisted principally of the Sclavonians of Thrace^ and Mace- 
donia, who, like the Emperor Basil the Macedonian, entered 
the city with a wallet on their shoulder to seek their fortune. 
A similar condition of society exists to-day, and thousands of 
labourers may be seen weekly arriving at Constantinople in 
the steamers from the Asiatic coast of the Black Sea, and 
from the coasts between Smyrna, Thessalonica, and the capital 
The causes of decline in society throughout the Roman 
world have been already noticed, and the nature of the im- 
provement which took place In the Eastern Empire during 
the reigns of Leo III. and his successors has been pointed 
out It is now necessary to examine why the improvement 
of society so soon assumed a stationary aspect, and arrested 
the revival of civilisation. We must not forget that the 
empire was still Roman in its name, traditions, and prejudices. 
The trammels, binding the actions and even the thoughts of 
the various classes, were very slightly relaxed, and the per- 
manent relaxation had been made in the interest of the 
government, not of the people. Men of every rank were 
confined within a restricted circle, and compelled to act in 
their individual spheres in one unvarying manner. Within 
the imperial palace the incessant ceremonial was regarded as 
the highest branch of human knowledge. It was multiplied 
into a code, and treated as a science. In the church, tradi- 
tion, not gospel, was the guide, and the innumerable forms 
and ceremonies and liturgies were hostile to the exercise of 
thought and the use of reason. Among the people at large, 
though the curia! system of castes had been broken down, 



State of the Byzantine Empire 201 

still the trader was fettered to Ms corporation, and often ta 
his quarter or his street, where he exercised his calling amidst 
men of the same profession. The education of the child ? 
and the tendencies of society, both prevented the individual 
from acquiring more than the confined knowledge requisite 
for his position in the empire. No learning, no talent, and 
no virtue could conduct either to distinction or wealth, unless 
exercised according to the fixed formulas that governed the 
state and the church. Hence even the merchant, who travelled 
over all Asia, and who supported the system by the immense 
duties he furnished to government, supplied no new ideas to 
society, and perhaps passed through life without acquiring 
many. 

This peculiar constitution of society affords us the explana- 
tion of the causes which have created some of the vices 
in the character of the Greeks of later times, which are 
erroneously supposed to be an inheritance of the days of 
liberty. The envy and jealousy produced by party contests, 
in small cities acting as independent governments, was 
certainly very great, and, we may add, quite natural, where 
men were violent from their sincerity, and political institutions 
rendered law imperfect The envy and jealousy of modern times 
were baser feelings, and had their origin in meaner interests. 
Roman society crowded men of the same professions together, 
and in some measure excluded them from much intercourse 
with others. The consequence was, that a most violent 
struggle for wealth, and often for the means of existence, 
was created amongst those living in permanent personal con* 
tact. Every man was deeply interested in rendering himself 
superior to his nearest neighbour ; and as the fixed condition 
of everything in the empire rendered individual progress 
unattainable, the only method of obtaining any superiority 
was by the depreciation of the moral or professional character 
of a rival, who was always a near neighbour. Envy and 
calumny were the feelings of the mind which Roman society 
under the emperors tended to develop with efficacy in every 
rank. The same cause produces the same effect in the Greek 
bazaar of every Turkish town of the present day, where trades- 
men of the same profession are crowded into the same street. 
When it is impossible to depreciate the merit of the material 
and the workmanship, it is easy to calumniate the moral 
character of the workman. * 

The influence of the Greek church on the political fabric 



202 The Contest with the Iconoclasts 

of the empire had been long In operation, yet It had failed to 
infuse a sound moral spirit Into either the administration or 
the people. Still It may be possible to trace some of the 
secondary causes which prepared the way for the reforms 
of Leo III. to the sense of Justice, moral respect, and real 
religious faith, infused Into the mass of the population by 
a comparison of the doctrines of Christianity with those of 
Mohammedanism. But the blindness of the age has concealed 
from our view many of the causes which Impelled society to 
co-operate with the Iconoclast emperors in their career^ of 
Improvement and re-organisation. That the moral condition 
of the people of the Byzantine empire under the Iconoclast 
emperors was superior to that of any equal number of the 
human race In any preceding period, can hardly be doubted. 
The bulk of society occupied a higher social position in the 
time of Constantine Copronymus than of Pericles; the masses 
had gained more by the decrease of slavery and the extension 
of free labour than the privileged citizens had lost Public 
opinion, though occupied on meaner objects, had a more 
extended basis, and embraced a larger class. Perhaps, too, 
the war of opinions concerning ecclesiastical forms or subtleties 
tended to develop pure morality as much as the ambitious 
party-struggles of the Pnyx. When the merits and defects 
of each age are fairly weighed, both will be found to offer 
lessons of experience which the student of political history 
ought not to neglect. 

There may be some difference of opinion concerning the 
respective merits of Hellenic 3 Roman, and Byzantine society, 
but there can be none concerning the superiority of Byzantine 
over that which existed in the contemporary empires of the 
Saracens and the Franks. There we find all moral restraints 
weakened, and privileged classes or conquering nations ruling 
an immense subject population, with very little reference to 
law, morality, or religion. Violence and Injustice claimed 
at Bagdat an unbounded license, until the Turkish mercenaries 
extinguished the caliphate, and it was the Norman invaders 
who reformed the social condition of the Franks. Moham- 
medanism legalised polygamy with all its evils in the East. 
In the West, licentiousness was unbounded, in defiance of 
the precepts of Christianity. Charles Martel, Pepin, and 
Charlemagne are said all to have had two wives at a time, and 
a numerous household of concubines. But on turning to the 
Byzantine empire, we find that the Emperor Constantine VI. 



State of the Byzantine Empire 203 

prepared the way for his own ruin by divorcing Ms first wife 
and marrying a second, in what was considered an illegal 
manner. The laws of the Franks attest the frequency of 
female drunkenness; and the whole legislation of Western 
Europe, during the seventh and eighth centuries, Indicates great 
Immorality, and a degree of social anarchy, which explains 
more clearly than the political events recorded in history, the 
real cause of the fall of one government after another. 1 The 
superior moral tone of society in the Byzantine empire was 
one of the great causes of its long duration ; It was its true 
conservative principle. 

The authority exercised by the senate, the powers possessed 
by synods and general councils of the church, and the im- 
portance often attached by the emperors to the ratification 
of their laws by silentia and popular assemblies, mark a 
change in the Byzantine empire In strong contrast with the 
earlier military empire of the Romans. The highest power 
in the state had been transferred from the army to the laws of 
the empire no inconsiderable step in the progress of political 
civilisation. The influence of those feelings of humanity 
which resulted from this change, are visible in the mild treat- 
ment of many unsuccessful usurpers and dethroned emperors. 
During the reign of NIcephorus L, the sons of Constantine V., 
Bardanes, and Arsaber, were all living in monasteries, though 
they had all attempted to occupy the throne. Constantine VI, 
and Michael I. lived unmolested by their successors. 

The marked feature of ancient society was the division 
of mankind Into two great classes freemen and slaves. The 
proportion between these classes was liable to continual varia- 
tion, and every considerable variation produced a correspond- 
ing alteration in the laws of society, which we are generally 
unable to follow. The progress of the mass of the population 
was, however, constantly retarded until the extinction of 
slavery. But towards that boon to mankind, great progress 
was made in the Byzantine empire during the eighth and ninth 
centuries. The causes that directly tended to render free 
labour more profitable than it had been hitherto, when applied 
to the cultivation of the soil, and which consequently operated 
more immediately in extinguishing predial slavery, and re- 
pressing the most extensive branch of the slave-trade, by 
supplying the cities with free emigrants, cannot be indicated 
with precision. It has been very generally asserted that we 

1 Cka.rUmagne t par Capefigue, L 5*, 185. 



204 The Contest with the Iconoclasts 

ought to attribute the change to the influence of the Christian 
religion. If this be really true, cavillers might observe that 
so powerful a cause never in any other case produced its^effects 
so tardily. Unfortunately, however, though ecclesiastical 
influence has exercised immense authority over the internal 
policy of European society, religious influence has always been 
comparatively small; and though Christianity has laboured 
to abolish slavery, it was often for the interest of the church 
to perpetuate the institution. Slavery had, in fact, ceased to 
exist in most European countries, while many Christians still 
upheld its legality and maintained that its existence was not 
at variance with the doctrines of their religion. 1 

The precise condition of slaves in the Byzantine empire at 
this period must be learned from a careful study of the im- 
perial legislation of Rome, compared with later documents. 
As a proof of the improved philanthropy of enlightened men 
during the Iconoclast period, the testament of Theodore 
Studita deserves to be quoted. That bold and independent 
abbot says, " A monk ought not to possess a slave, neither for 
Ms own service, nor for the service of his monastery, nor for 
the culture of its lands ; for a slave is a man made after the 
image of God;" but he derogates in some degree from _ his 
own merits, though he gives a correct picture of the feelings 
of his time, by adding, "and this, like marriage, is only allow- 
able in those living a secular life." 2 

The foundation of numerous hospitals, and other charitable 
institutions, both by emperors and private individuals, is also 
a proof that feelings of philanthropy as well as religion had 
penetrated deeply into men's minds. 

The theologic spirit which pervaded Byzantine society is to 
be attributed as much to material causes as to the intellectual 
condition of the Greek nation. Indeed, the Greeks had ^at 
times only a secondary share in the ecclesiastical controversies 
in the Eastern church, though the circumstance of those con- 
troversies having been carried on in the Greek language has 
made the nations of western Europe attribute them to a 

1 For the extent to which the slave-trade was carried on bjr the Latin Christians, see 
Marin. Storia civile e politico, del Ctmmercio de' Veneziana^ li. 52. 

2 Sanctt Theodori Stvdite Epistoles aZfatfve Script* Dogmatica, in the fifth volume 
tfSirmondz Opera. Varia, p. 66. On the subject of Roman and Byzantine slavery, see 



. , . . 

Blair, An Inquiry into the State of Slavery amongst the Romans; Biot, De t 
de? Escla&age ttncien. en Occident', 
moting the Abolition of Slavery in 
fAtttifuit/i in 3 volumes. This la 
society under the Roman emperors. 



Blar, n nqury nto te ae o avery amongs e omans o, e ovn 
de? Escla&age ttncien. en Occident', Babington, The Influence of Christianity in Pro- 
moting the Abolition of Slavery in Europe; and Walton, Histoirede rEsclavage dans 
i in 3 volumes. This last work is a valuable addition to our knowledge of 



State of the Byzantine Empire 205 

philosophic, speculative, and polemic spirit inherent in the 
Hellenic mind. A very slight examination of history Is 
sufficient to prove, that several of the heresies which disturbed 
the Eastern church had their origin in the more profound 
religious Ideas of the Oriental nations, and that many of the 
opinions called heretical were, In a great measure, expressions 
of the mental nationality of the Syrians, Armenians, Egyp- 
tians, and Persians, and had no connection whatever with the 
Greek mind. 

Even the contest with the Iconoclasts was a dispute In 
which the ancient Oriental opinions concerning the operations 
of mind and matter were as much concerned, as the Greek 
contest between the necessity of artificial symbols of faith on 
the one hand, and the duty of developing the intellectual 
faculties by cultivating truth through the reason, not the 
Imagination, on the other. The ablest writer on the Greek 
side of the question, John Damascenus, was a Syrian, and not 
a Greek. The political struggle to establish the centralisation 
of ecclesiastical and political power was likewise quite as 
Important an element in the contest as the religious question ; 
and as soon as it appeared firmly established, the emperors 
became much more inclined to yield to popular prejudices. 
The victory of the image-worshippers tended to exalt a party 
in the Eastern church devoted to ecclesiastical tradition, but 
little inclined to cultivate Hellenic literature or cherish Hel- 
lenic ideas, which it considered hostile to the legendary lore 
contained in the lives of the saints. From the victory of this 
party, accordingly, we find a more circumscribed circle of 
intellectual culture began to prevail in the Byzantine empire. 
John the Grammarian, Leo the Mathematician, and Photius, 
who acquired his vast literary attainments as a layman, were 
the last profound and enlightened Byzantine scholars; they 
left no successors, nor has any Greek of the same intellectual 
calibre since appeared in the world. 

A greater similarity of thought and action may be traced 
throughout the Christian world in the eighth century than in 
subsequent ages. The same predominance of religious feeling 
and ecclesiastical ceremonials ; the same passion for founding 
monasteries and raising discussions; the same disposition to 
make life subservient to religion, to make all amusements 
ecclesiastical, and to embody the enjoyment of music, paint- 
ing, and poetry in the ceremonies of the church; the same 
abase of the right of asylum to criminals by the ecclesiastical 



206 The Contest with the Iconoclasts 

authorities, and the same antagonsim between the church and 
the state, is visible in the East and the West 1 

The orthodox church was originally Greek; the seven 
general councils whose canons had foced its doctrines were 
Greek ; and the popes, when they rose into importance, could 
only adopt a scheme of theology already framed. ^ The reli- 
gious or theological portion of Popery, as a section of the 
Christian church, is really Greek ; and it is only the ecclesiasti- 
cal, political, and theocratic peculiarities of the fabric which 
can be considered as the work of the Latin church. The 
general unity of Christians was, however, prominent in good 
as well as evil, for if the missionary labours of Boniface among 
the Germans, at the commencement of the eighth century, 
reflect glory on the Latin church, the conversion of the 
Bulgarians in the middle of the ninth, by the ministry of 
Methodios and Kyrillos, is honourable to the Byzantine. 
These two monks, natives of Thessalonica, where they lived 
surrounded by a fierce tribe of Sclavonians, devoted them- 
selves to study the language of these troublesome neighbours. 
Under the regency of the Empress Theodora, they rendered 
their knowledge of the Sclavonian dialect the means of propa- 
gating Christianity and advancing the cause of civilisation, by 
visiting Bulgaria in the character of missionaries^ They are 
universally allowed to have conducted their mission in a 
Christian spirit, and to have merited the great success that 
attended their labours. 2 

The great improvement which took place in the administra- 
tion of justice, and the legal reforms effected by Leo III. and 
Constantine V., have been already noticed. Leo V. and 
Theophilus also gained the greatest praise, even from their 
adversaries, for the strict control they established over the 
forms of proceeding and the decisions of the courts of law. 
The legal monuments of this period, however, by no means 
correspond with the extent of the administrative improvement 
which took place. The era of legislative greatness in the 
Byzantine empire was under the Basilian dynasty, but it was 
under the Iconoclast emperors that new vigour was infused 
into the system, and the improvements were made winch laid 

1 The influence of the monks during the Iconoclast contest became so great that the 
monasteries on Olympus, Athos, and Ida formed themselves into small republics, and 
almost aspired at li>ang independent of the civil power, Genesius, 39. The Emperor 
Theophilos, a man by no means under the dirsct influence of the clergy, formed a new- 
asylum for criminals at the silver tomb of his beloved daughter Maria. Leo Gramm. 451. 
' * Mosheim, Ecclesiastical History \ ii. aSo Soaaies. Nandcr, History o/ tht 
n Rfligw?* and Church^ iii. 307* Torrey. 



State of the Byzantine Empire 207 

the foundation of the stability, wealth, and power of the 
Byzantine empire. 

The scientific attainments of the educated dass in the 
Byzantine empire were unquestionably very considerable. 
Many were invited to the court of the Caliph Aimamun, and 
contributed far more than Ms own subjects to the reputation 
that sovereign has deservedly gained in the history of science. 
The accurate measurement of the earth's orbit in his time 
seems to show that astronomical and mathematical knowledge 
had at no previous period attained a greater height ; and if the 
Byzantine authorities are to be credited, one of their learned 
men, Leo the Mathematician, who was afterwards archbishop 
of Thessalonica, was invited to the court of the caliph, because 
he was universally recognised to be superior to all the scientific 
men at Bagdat in mathematical and mechanical knowledge, 1 
A proof that learning was still cultivated in the distant pro- 
vinces of the Byzantine empire, and that schools of some 
eminence existed in Greece, is to be found in the fact that 
Leo, when a layman, retired to a college in the island of Andros 
to pursue his studies, and there laid the foundation of the 
scientific knowledge by which he acquired his reputation. 
After he was compelled, on account of his opposition to 
image-worship, to resign the archbishopric of Thessalonica, the 
general respect felt for his learning obtained for him from 
Bardas Caesar the appointment of president of the new uni- 
versity, founded at Constantinople in the reign of Michael III., 
in which chairs of geometry and astronomy had been estab- 
lished, as well as the usual instruction in Greek literature. 2 

It was under the direction of Leo that several of those 
remarkable works of jewellery, combined with wonderful 
mechanical contrivances, were executed for the Emperor Theo- 
philus, which have been already mentioned. 3 The perfection 

1 Almamun's astronomers calculated the length of the year at 365 days 3 hours 46 
minutes and 30 seconds. The true length is 363 days 5 hours 48 minutes and 48 seconds. 
Niebuhr has pointed out the exactitude attained by the Etruscans in fixing the length 
of the solar year. Hist. ofRome^ i. 274, The Mexican calendar in use before the dis- 
covery of America was the most perfect before the Gregorian. Humboldt, V*us des 
Cordilleres et Manwmns des Peul$ Indigenes de lAwerigite, 125. For the obligations 
of the Arabs to the Byzantines from the time of Mansur, see Weil, ii. Si, 84, 93. Greek 
physicians and Greek cooks are mentioned in the Arabian Nights. The Caliph Mansur 
was attended by Greek and Indian physicians. 

2 The history of Leo is given at length by the Continuator, 115. He wassailed the 
great philosopher, and it is said that AJmamun wrote to Theophilus requesting him to 
send Leo to the court of Bagdat. Leo studied grammar and poetry at Constantinople ; 
rhetoric, philosophy, and the pure sciences at Andros. In the year 869 he was present 
in the Church of the Virgin, called Sigma C, when it fell in consequence of the shock of 
an earthquake, and all the congregation, with the exception of Leo and a few otherSj 
perished. Syroeon Mag. 454. 3 See page 140 



208 The Contest with the Iconoclasts 

of the telegraph by ire-signals, from the frontiers of the empire 
to the shores of the Bosphoras, and the machinery by which 
the signals were communicated to a dial placed in the imperial 
council-chamber, were also the work of Leo. 1 The fame which 
still attended distinguished artists and mechanicians at Con- 
stantinople shows us that the love of knowledge and art was 
not entirely extinct ; and the relics of Byzantine jewellery, 
often found buried in the most distant regions of Europe, 
prove that a considerable trade was carried on in these works. 

Even the art of statuary was not entirely neglected, for it 
has been noticed already that Constantino VI. erected a statue 
of bronze in honour of his mother Irene. 2 Painting, however, 
was more universally admired, and mosaics were easily adapted 
to private dwellings. There were many distinguished painters 
in the Byzantine empire at this time, and there is reason to 
think that some of their productions were wonderful displays 
of artistic skill, without giving credit to the miraculous powers 
of the works of Lazaros. The missionary Methodios is re- 
corded to have awakened the terror of the King of the Bulga- 
rians by a vivid representation of the tortures of the damned, 
in a painting combining the natural portraiture of frightful 
realities mixed with horrors supplied from a fertile imagina- 
tion. The sombre character of Byzantine art was well adapted 
to the subject, and the fame Methodios acquired among his 
contemporaries, as well as from those in after times who saw 
his paintings, may be accepted as a proof that they possessed 
some touches of nature and truth. It would be unfair to 
decide peremptorily on the effect of larger works of art from 
the illuminated Byzantine manuscripts which still exist. Art 
is subject to strange vicissitudes in very short periods, as may 
be seen by any one who compares a guinea of the reign of 
George III. with a coin of Cromwell or even Queen Anne, or 
who looks at Whitehall and the National Gallery. 3 

The literature of the ancient world was never entirely 
neglected at Constantinople, so that the intellectual culture of 
each successive period must always be viewed in connection 
with the ages immediately preceding. The literary history of 
Constantinople consequently opens immediately a field of 

1 Contlnuator, is2. Symeon Mag. 450. Const. Manasses, 107. 

2 Codinus, De Orig. ConsfyL 6s. 

3 The MSS. of the works of St. Gregory of Nazianzus, in the National Library at 
Paris, and of the Menologitim of Basil in the Library of the Vatican, with their rich 
decorations and miniatures, belong to the ninth century. The copy of the Menologium 
*as prepared for the Emperor Basil I, 



State of the Byzantine Empire 209 

Inquiry too wide to be entered on In the limited space assigned 
to this political history. The works of the classic writers of 
Hellas, of the legists of Rome, and of the fathers of Christian 
theology, all exercised a direct influence on Byzantine literature 
at every period of Its existence, until Constantinople was con- 
quered by the Turks. It has been too much the practice of 
the literary historians of Europe to underrate the positive 
knowledge of ancient literature possessed by the learned in 
the East during the eighth and ninth centuries. What has 
been often called the dawn of civilisation, even in the West, 
was nothing more than an acquaintance with the bad models 
transmitted from the last ages of ancient literature. It is as 
great an error as to suppose that the English of the present 
day are Ignorant of sculpture, because they are occupied in 
adorning the new Houses of Parliament with deformed statues ; 
and of architecture, because they have built a gallery for their 
pictures ill suited to the desired object 1 

The most eminent Byzantine writers of this period were 
George Syncellus, Theophanes, the Patriarch NIcephorus, and 
perhaps John Malalas, in history; John Damascenus (who 
perhaps may be considered as a Syrian) and Theodore Studita* 
in theology ; and Photius, In general literature. 

During the middle ages the Greek scientific writers became 
generally known in western Europe by means of translations 
from Arabic versions, and this circumstance has induced many 
to draw the conclusion that these works were better known 
and more popular among the Arabs at Cordova, Cairo, and 
Bagdat, than among the Greeks at Constantinople. The 
Almagest of Ptolemy affords an example of this double 
translation and erroneous inference. 

1 M. Guizot, from not paying sufficient attention to this fact, has mistaken the 
sophistry of the second century for the rays of a supposed dawn of civilisation in the: 
eighth. In his excellent Histoire de la. Civilisation, en. France > ii. 183, he gives speci- 
mens of a disjbutatio between Alcuin and Pepin, the son of Charlemagne, which he: 
considers as an example of the eager curiosity with which the human mind, while 
young and ignorant, views every unexpected combination of ideas. Unfortunately the 
work he thus characterises is a verbal translation from Secundus, an Athenian sophist of 
the time of Hadrian, or a transcript of part of an ttltercaiio attributed to Hadrian and 
Epictetus. See O#uscula Groecorw*t Veterunt Sententiosa. et MoraUa. Oreilius, i. 2i3, 



HISTORY OF THE 
BYZANTINE EMPIRE 



BOOK TWO 



BASILIAN DYNASTY 

PERIOD OF THE POWER AND GLORY 

OF THE BYZANTINE EMPIRE 

A.D. 867-1057 



CHAPTER I 

CONSOLIDATION OF BYZANTL\ 7 E LEGISLATION AND 
DESPOTISM. A.D. 867-963 

SECTION I 

REIGN OF BASIL I. (THE MACEDONIAN,) A,D. 867-886 

Personal history of Basil Ecclesiastical administration Financial legis- 
lation Military administration Paallcian war Campaigns in Asia 
Minor Saracens ravage Sicily and Italy Court and character of 
Basil L 

THE history of Basil I. has been transmitted to us by writers 
who compiled their works under the eye of his grandson, the 
Emperor Constantine VIL, and by that grandson with his 
own pen. Under such auspices, history is more likely to 
conceal than to divulge the whole truth, and nothing but the 
truth. One instance of falsification may be mentioned. The 
imperial compilations would fain persuade us that the Scla- 
vonian groom was a man of noble descent, 1 and that he 
could trace that descent either through a line of paternal or 
maternal ancestors to Constantine, to the Arsacidae, and to 
Alexander the Great, yet they allow that his father laboured 
as a poor peasant in the neighbourhood of Adrianople, until 
Basil himself, despising the cultivation of the paternal farm, 
sought to improve his fortune by wandering to the capital. 
We are told by other authorities that Basil was a Sclavonian, 
and we know that the whole of Thrace and Macedonia was 
at this period cultivated by Sclavonian colonists. His father's 
family had been carried away captive into Bulgaria when 
Basil was almost an infant, at the time Crumn took Adria- 
nople, A.D. 813. During the reign of Theophilus, some of 
the Byzantine captives succeeded in taking up arms and 
marching off into the empire. Basil, who was among the 

1 The Armenian historians claim Basil as a countryman, but it seems they on]y 
echo the genealogy invented at Constantinople to flatter the emperor. Chamicb, 
History of Armemc^ ii. 8. Lebeau, xiii. 180, 4, and 479. Gibbon, ix. 48. Hamsa of 
Ispahan says he was of Sclavonian race. Reiske, Comwentarii ad Constant^ Perphyr. 
de Ceremoniis Autos Byz. torn* ii. p. 451, edit. Bonn. There is a confirmation of this 
in the expression Kara, 7r6$pe&J>, Genesius, 53, according to Kopitar, 
Ixxi- See Constant. Porphyr. BasUius^ 138 ; and Ephraemius, xxi. 

213 



214 Basilian Dynasty 

number, after serving the governor of Macedonia for a time, 
resolved to seek Ms fortune in Constantinople. 1 He departed, 
carrying all Ms worldly wealth in a wallet on Ms shoulders, 
and reached the capital on a summer's evening without know- 
ing where to seek a night's rest. Fatigued with Ms journey, 
lie sat down in the portico of the church of St. Diomed, near 
the Adrianople gate, and slept there all night In a short 
time he found employment as a groom in the service of a 
courtier named Theophiiitzes, where Ms talent of taming un- 
ruly horses, Ms large head, tall figure, and great strength, 
rendered Mm remarkable ; while his activity, zeal, and intelli- 
gence secured Mm particular notice from Ms master, and 
rapid promotion in Ms household. 2 

Theophilitzes was sent into the Peloponnesus on public 
business by the Empress Theodora, while she was regent; 
and Basil, who accompanied Ms master, fell sick at Patras 
with the fever, still so prevalent in the Morea. Here he was 
fortunate enough to acquire the protection of an old lady of 
immense wealth, whose extraordinary liberality to the un- 
known youth induces us to suppose that she was herself of 
Sclavonian race. 3 She made Basil a member of her family, 
by uniting him with her own son John, in those spiritual ties 
of fraternity wMch the Greek church sanctions by peculiar 
rites ; and she bestowed on him considerable wealth when he 
was able to return to his master. It would appear that Basil 
had already acquired a position of some rank, for the widow 
Danielis furnished him with a train of thirty slaves. The 
riches Basil acquired by the generosity of his benefactress 
were employed in purchasing an estate in Macedonia, and in 
making liberal donations to his own relations. He still con- 
tinued in the service of TheopMlitzes, but his skill in wrestling 
and taming horses at last introduced Mm to the Emperor 
Michael, who immediately became Ms patron. His progress 
as boon-companion, friend, colleague, and murderer of this 
benefactor, has been already recounted. 

The elevation of a man like Basil to the throne of Con- 
stantinople was a strange accident; but the fact that he 
reigned for nineteen years seems still more singular, when we 
recollect that he could neither boast of military service nor 
administrative knowledge. Nothing can prove more com- 

1 Symeon Mag. 434. 2 Constant. Porphyr. &a$iliu$ t 144. 

* Nilcetas, a Sclavonian of Peloponnesus, celebrated for his pride, was connected by 
mama^e with Constantino Porphyrogenitus, the grandson of Basil. See infra. 



Legislation and Despotism 215 

pletdy the perfection of the governmental machine at the 
time of his accession, than the circumstance that a man with- 
out education could so easily be moulded into a tolerable 
emperor. Personally, he could have possessed no partisans 
either in the army or the administration ; nor is it likely that 
he had many among the people. We are tempted to con- 
jecture that he was allowed to establish himself on the throne s 
because less was known about him than about most of the 
other men of influence at court, and consequently less evil 
was laid to his charge, and less personal opposition was created 
by his election. He succeeded in maintaining his position 
by displaying unexpected talents for administration. Able 
and unprincipled, he seems to have pursued a line of conduct 
which prevented the factions of the court, the parties in the 
church, the feelings of the army, and the prejudices of the 
people, from ever uniting in opposition to his personal 
authority. His knowledge of the sentiments of the people 
rendered him aware that financial oppression was the most 
dangerous grievance both to the emperor and the empire ; he 
therefore carefully avoided increasing the public burdens, and 
devoted his attention to the establishment of order in every 
branch of the public service. 

The depravity and impiety of Michael III. had disgusted 
the people. Basil, in order to proclaim that his conduct was 
to be guided by different sentiments, seized the opportunity 
of his coronation in the Church of St. Sophia to make a 
public display of his piety. After the ceremony was con- 
cluded, he knelt down at the high altar and cried with a loud 
voice, " Lord, thou hast given me the crown ; I deposit it at 
thy feet, and dedicate myself to thy service." The crimes and 
intrigues of courts are often kept so long secret in despotic 
governments, that it is possible few of those present who 
heard this declaration were aware that a few hours only had 
elapsed since the hypocritical devotee had buried his sword 
in the bosom of his sovereign and benefactor. 

For two years Basil made no changes in the government 
of the church. Photius, the actual Patriarch, was unpopular 
from his connection with the family of the late emperor, and 
the toleration he had shown for the vices of the court, while 
Ignatius, his deposed predecessor, possessed a powerful body 
of partisans among the people and the monks. Basil attached 
this numerous and active party to his interest by reinstating 
Ignatius in the patriarchate; but at the same time he con- 



216 Basllian Dynasty 

trived to avoid exciting any violent opposition on the part of 
Photiiis, by keeping up constant personal communications 
with that accomplished and able ecclesiastic. Photius was 
at the head of a party possessed of no inconsiderable weight 
in the church and the public administration. The aristo- 
cratic classes, and the Asiatics generally, favoured his cause ; 
while the people of Constantinople and the Greeks of Europe 
were warm supporters of Ignatius. 

The arbitrary authority of the emperor over the church is 
as strongly displayed in the treatment of Photius by Basil, as 
in the persecution of Ignatius by Bardas and Michael. 
Photius had occupied the patriarchal chair for ten years, and 
though his election may have been irregular, his ecclesiastical 
authority was completely established ; and there appeared no 
chance that anything would occur to disturb it, when Basil, 
to gain a body of active political partisans, suddenly rein- 
stated Ignatius. It is said that Photius reproached the em- 
peror with the murder of his benefactor ; but as that Patriarch 
was allowed to remain in office for about two years, his de- 
position must be ascribed entirely to political motives. The 
fact is, that Basil was anxious to secure the support of the 
monks in the East, and of the Pope of Rome in the West, 
yet he feared to quarrel with the party of Photius. 1 

The negotiations with the Pope had occupied some time, 
but when they were brought to a conclusion, a general council 
was held at Constantinople, which is called by the Latins the 
eighth general council of the church. Only one hundred and 
two bishops could be assembled on this occasion, for the 
greater part of the dignified clergy had been consecrated by 
Photius, and many adhered to his party. 2 Photius himself 
was compelled to attend, but his calm and dignified attitude 
deprived his enemies of the triumph they had expected. 
The acts of the council of 86 1, by which Ignatius had been 
deposed, were declared to be forgeries, and the consecration 
of Photius as a priest was annulled. The accusation of 
forgery was generally regarded as false, since it rested only on 
some slight changes which had been made in the translation 
of the Pope's letter to the emperor, and these changes had 
been sanctioned by the papal legates who were present in the 

1 Photius baptised Stephen, the son of Basil, on Christmas-day, 868. Symeon 
Mag, 454. Georg Mon. 544. Leo Grarnm. 471. 

2 This council commenced on the sth October, 860, and terminated on the lath 
February, 8jre. The entire acts are only preserved in the Latin translation of 
Anastasius Bibhothecanus. A Greek abridgment exists. 



Legislation and Despotism 217 

council. The Latins, who expect the Greeks to tolerate them 
in lengthening the Creed, have made a violent outcry against 
the Greeks, on this occasion, for modifying a papal letter in 
a Greek translation. The compliancy of Basii f the reintegra- 
tion of Ignatius, and the subservient disposition of the council 
of ^ 869, induced the Pope to suppose that the time had 
arrived when it would be possible to regain possession of the 
estates belonging to the patrimony of St Peter in the pro- 
vinces of the Eastern Empire, which had been confiscated by 
Leo. III., and that the supremacy of the See of Rome over 
the kingdom of Bulgaria might now be firmly established. 
He even hoped to gain the power of controlling the ecclesi- 
astical affairs of the Eastern church. Such pretensions, 
however, only required to be plainly revealed to insure 
unanimous opposition on the part of the emperor, the clergy, 
and the^ people throughout the Byzantine empire. Ignatius 
and Basil showed themselves as firm in resisting papal usurpa- 
tion as Photius and Michael. 

In the mean time, Photius was banished to the monastery 
of Skepes; and we possess several of his letters, written 
during^ the period of his disgrace, which give a more favour- 
able^ view of his character than would be formed from his 
public life alone. They afford convincing proof of the falsity 
of some of the charges brought against him by his opponents. 
The real fault of Photius was, that the statesman, and not the 
Christian, was dominant in his conduct as Patriarch ; but this 
has been a fault so general at Home, at Constantinople, and 
at Canterbury, that he would have incurred little censure in 
the^West had he not shown himself a devoted partisan of his 
national church, and a successful enemy of papal ambition. 
The majority of the Eastern bishops, in spite of his exile, 
remained attached to his cause, and it was soon evident to 
Basil that his restoration was the only means of restoring 
unity to the Greek church. Accordingly, when Ignatius died 
in the year 878, Photius was reinstated as Patriarch, and 
another general council was assembled at Constantinople. 
This council, which is called the eighth general council of 
the church by the Eastern Christians, was attended by three 
hundred and eighty-three bishops. The Emperor Basil, the 
Pope, and Photius, all resolved to temporise, and each played 
his own game of diplomacy and tergiversation, in the hope of 
ultimately succeeding. The Pope proved the greatest loser, 
for his legates were bribed or at least the Latins say so to 



218 Baslllan Dynasty 

yield up everything that Basil and Photius desired. They arc 
even accused of having allowed a covert attack on the ortho- 
doxy of Rome, in lengthening the Creed, by the addition of 
the words "and the Son/" to pass unchallenged. 1 The passion 
displayed by the clergy of the Greek and Latin churches, 
during the quarrels between Ignatius and Photius, makes it 
difficult to ascertain the truth. It appears, however, that Pope 
John VIII. would have restored the Nicene Creed to its 
original form, by expunging the clause which had been added, 
if he could have secured the concessions he required from the 
Eastern church and the Byzantine emperor to his political 
pretensions. Certainly this is to be implied from the letter 
addressed to Photius ; but papal writers have since defended 
the consistency and infallibility of the popes, by asserting that 
the copy of the letter annexed to the acts of the council is 
a forgery. If either of the churches committed a tithe of the 
iniquities with which they charge one another, we must allow 
that Christianity exercised very little influence on the priestly 
character during the ninth century. 

When the Emperor Leo VI. succeeded his father Basil, 
Photius was again banished, in order to make way for the 
emperor's brother Stephen to occupy the patriarchal throne. 
Photius was exiled to a monastery in Armenia, A.D. 886, and 
he died in this retirement in the year 891, leaving behind him 
the reputation of having been the most accomplished and 
learned man of his time, and one of the last enlightened 
scholars in the East. Even Leo treated him with respect; 
and in his letter to the Pope announcing his exile, he spoke 
of it as a voluntary resignation, which may, perhaps, be 
accounted a proof that it was the result of a political negotia- 
tion. As this distinguished man was one of the most dangerous 
opponents of papal ambition prior to the time of Luther, his 
conduct has been made the object of innumerable misrepre- 
sentations; and the writers of the Romish church even now 
can rarely discuss his conduct in moderate language, and with 
equitable feelings. 2 

The most interesting point of dispute to the heads of the 
Eastern and Western churches in their quarrels, for some 
time, was the supremacy over the church of the Bulgarians. 
This was a momentous political question to the Byzantine 

1 This council commenced in November, 879, and terminated 13th March, 880. 
Its acts are to be found in the collections of Hardouin and Coletti. 

_ 2 The work ^of Abbe Jager may be cited as a proof Histoire de Phoiius. It is 
violent m its opinions, and inaccurate in its facts. 



Legislation and Despotism 219 

emperors, independent of its ecclesiastical importance to the 
patriarchs of Constantinople, for papal influence was sure to 
be employed in a manner hostile to the Eastern Empire. 
Besides this, as the claim of Rome to supremacy over 
Bulgaria rested on the ancient subjection of the Danubian 
provinces to the archbishopric of Thessalonica, in the times 
when that archbishopric was immediately dependent on the 
papal See, the establishment of papal authority in Bulgaria 
would have afforded good ground for commencing a struggle 
for withdrawing Thessalonica itself from the jurisdiction of 
the Patriarch of Constantinople, and placing it under the 
control of the Pope of Rome. The conduct of the emperors 
of Constantinople in these ecclesiastical negotiations was 
therefore the result of sound policy, and it was marked with 
moderation and crowned with success. 

The financial administration of Basil was, on the whole, 
honourable to his government. At his accession, he gave out 
that he found only 300 Ib. of gold, and a small quantity of 
silver coin in the imperial treasury. 1 This served as a pretext 
for a partial resumption of some of the lavish grants of 
Michael to worthless favourites, and in this way Basil collected 
30,000 Ib. of gold without increasing the public burdens. 
With this supply in hand for immediate wants, lie was enabled 
to take measures for effecting the economy necessary to make 
the ordinary revenues meet the demands of the public service. 
His personal experience of the real sufferings of the lower 
orders, and the prudence imposed by his doubtful position, 
prevented him, during the whole course of his reign, from 
augmenting the taxes ; and the adoption of this policy insured 
to his government the power and popularity which constituted 
him the founder of the longest dynasty that ever occupied the 
throne of Constantinople. Though his successors were, on 
the whole, far inferior to his predecessors of the Iconoclast 
period in ability, still their moderation, in conforming to the 
financial system traced out by Basil, gave the Byzantine 
empire a degree of power it had not previously possessed. 

The government of the Eastern Empire was always syste- 
matic and cautious. Reforms were slowly effected ; but when 
the necessity was admitted, great changes were gradually com- 
pleted. Generations, however, passed away without men 

1 Symeon Mag., 436, says thirteen centenaries of gold and nine sacks of miliaresiaj 
so that the ten may have been omitted by a copyist IB the Life of Basil by Constantino 
Porpbyrogenittis, 159. 



22O Basillan Dynasty 

noticing how far they had quitted the customs of their fathers, 
and entered on new paths leading to very different habits, 
thoughts, and Institutions. The reign of no one emperor. If we 
except that of Leo the Isaurian, embraces a revolution in the 
institutions of the state, completed In a single generation ; 
hence it is that Byzantine history loses the Interest to be 
derived from individual biography. It steps over centuries, 
marking rather the movement of generations of mankind than 
the acts of individual emperors and statesmen, and it becomes 
a didactic essay on political progress instead of a living 
picture of man's actions. In the days of the liberty of Athens, 
the life of each leader embraces the history of many revolu- 
tions, and the mind of a single individual seems often to 
guide or modify their course ; but in the years of Constantl- 
nopolltan servitude, emperors and people are borne slowly 
onward by a current of which we are not always certain that 
we can trace the origin or follow the direction. These obser- 
vations receive their best development by a review of the 
legislative acts of the Basilian dynasty. It was reserved to 
Basil I. and his son Leo VI. to complete the reorganisation of 
the empire commenced by Leo III. ; for the promulgation of 
a revised code of the laws of the empire. In the Greek lan- 
guage, was the accomplishment of an idea impressed on the 
Byzantine administration by the great Iconoclast reformer, and 
of which his own Ecloga or manual was the first imperfect 
expression. 

The legal reforms of the early Iconoclast emperors were 
sufficient to supply the exigencies of the moment, in the state 
of anarchy, ignorance, and disorder to which the provinces of 
the empire were then reduced by the ravages of the Scla- 
vonians, Bulgarians, and Saracens. But when the vigorous 
administration of the Isaurian dynasty had driven back these 
invaders, and re-established order and security of property, 
the rapid progress of society called for additional improve- 
ments, and for a systematic reform in the legislation of the 
empire. Enlarged views concerning the changes which it was 
necessary to make in the compilations of Justinian were 
gradually adopted. Nicephorus L and Leo V. (the Armenian) 
seem to have confined their attention to practical reforms in 
the dispensation of justice, by improving the forms of proce- 
dure in the existing tribunals ; " but when Bardas was charged 
with the judicial department, during the reign of Michael III., 
the necessity of a thorough revision of the laws of the empire 



Legislation and Despotism 221 

began to be deeply felt. Bardas was probably ambitious of 
the glory of effecting this reform as the surest step to the 
imperial throne. The legal school at Constantinople, which 
he ^encouraged, certainly prepared the materials for the great 
legislative work that forms the marked feature In consolidating 
the power of the Baslllan dynasty. 1 

The legislative views of BasH I. were modelled in conformity 
to the policy impressed on the Byzantine empire by Leo III. 
They were directed to vest all legislative power in the hands of 
the emperor, and to constitute the person of the sovereign 
the centre of law as much as of financial authority and 
military power. 2 The senate had continued to act as a legis- 
lative council from time to time during the Iconoclast period, 
and the -emperors had often invited it to discuss Important 
laws, in order to give extraordinary solemnity to their sanc- 
tion. Such a practice suggested the question whether the 
senate and the people did not still possess a right to share in 
the legislation of the empire, which opportunity might consti- 
tute into a permanent control over the Imperial authority in 
this branch of government. The absolute centralisation of 
the legislative authority in the person of the emperor was the 
only point which prevented the government of the Byzantine 
empire from being theoretically an absolute despotism, when 
BasH I. ascended the throne, and he completed that centrali- 
sation. Though the senate consisted of persons selected by 
the sovereign, and though it acted generally as a subservient 
agent of the executive power, still, as some of the most 
powerful men in the empire were usually found among its 
members. Its position as a legislative council Invested it with a 
degree of political influence that might have checked the 
absolute power of the emperor. Basil deprived it of all parti- 
cipation in legislative functions, and restricted its duties solely 
to those of an administrative council 8 At the same time, 
the privileges formerly possessed by the provincial proprietors, 
the remains of the Roman curise, or of the more recently 
formed municipalities that had grown up to replace them, were 
swept away as offensive to despotic power. Cherson had been 
robbed of Its free institutions as early as the reign of Theo- 



1 Contimiator, Serif, post Theoph. 119. Zonaras, ii. i6x. Kcti roOj 

roi/s TroKtTtKoiJs afqpijffai. irerotifice, <J>OLTV adrds e& rck &/ccurr?Jpta ^f&j teal 
TTJS TQ&TWV yvdxreus cr^e56v ^/cXeXoturv/as; Trarrdircun.?. 'H fifr o$v ras 
^Trumj/ias mi yxa^^/xara raO B<p$a tTTrovS 

2 Constant. Porphyr. jBas&tus, 161-163. 

* Leonu Novella ', Ixxviii. Corpus Juris CitnSs. 



222 Basllian Dynasty 

pfalliis, 1 But the total abolition of municipal institutions by 
Imperial edict was certainly rather theoretical than practical. 
The long series of progressive alterations in society, which 
had destroyed the efficacy of the older municipalities, had 
replaced them by new societies and corporations having con- 
and local objects, too far beneath the sphere of action of 
the central administration to excite any jealousy on the part 
of those deputed to exercise the imperial power. The bishops 
now lost their position of defenders of the people, for as 
they were chosen by the sovereign, the dignitaries of the 
Byzantine church were remarkable for their servility to the 
civil power. 

The promulgation of the Basilika may^ be ^ considered as 
marking the complete union of all legislative, executive, 
judicial, financial, and administrative power in the person of 
the emperor. . The church had already been reduced to com- 
plete submission to the imperial authority. Basil, therefore, 
may claim to be the emperor who established _ arbitrary 
despotism as the constitution of the Roman empire. The 
divine right of the sovereign to rule as God might be 
pleased to enlighten his understanding and soften his heart, 
was henceforth the recognised organic law of the Byzantine 
empire. 

The compilation of the laws of Justinian is one of the 
strangest examples of the manner in which sovereigns vitiate 
the most extensive and liberal reforms, by their conservative 
prejudices in practical details. Justinian reconstructed the 
legislation of the Roman empire, in order to adapt it to the 
wants of the people who spoke Greek ; yet he restricted the 
benefit of his new code, by promulgating it in Latin, though 
that language had ceased to be in use among three quarters of 
his civilised subjects. The conservative principles of the im- 
perial government, and the pride of the higher classes of Con- 
stantinople in then* Roman origin, induced the emperor to 
cling to the use of the Latin language as marking their con- 
nection with past ages, and drawing a line of separation be- 
tween the government and the mass of the people. Justinian 
himself pronounced the condemnation of his own conduct by 
publishing his latest laws in Greek, and thus leaving his legis- 
lation dispersed in sources promulgated in two different 
languages. 

A Greek school of legists, founded long before the time of 

l Ltonis Novella, xlvi. xlvii. Continuator, 76. 



Legislation and Despotism 223 

Justinian, but which flourished during his reign, did much 
to remedy this defect, by translating the Latin body of the 
law. Greek translations of the Institutions, the Pandects, the 
Code, and the Edicts, as well as Greek commentaries on these 
works, soon replaced the original Latin texts, and became the 
authorities that guided the courts of law throughout the 
Eastern Empire. The decline of knowledge, and the anarchy 
that prevailed during the century in which the empire was 
ruled by the Heraclian dynasty, caused the translations of the 
larger works to be neglected, and the writings of commenta- 
tors, who had published popular abridgments, to be generally 
consulted. The evil of this state of things was felt so strongly 
when Leo III. had restored some degree of order throughout 
the empire, that, as we have already mentioned, he promul- 
gated an official handbook of the kw, called the Edoga. 
From that time the subject of legislative reform occupied the 
attention of the imperial government, as well as of those pro- 
fessionally engaged in the administration of justice; and It 
appears certain that Bardas had made considerable progress 
towards the execution of those legislative reforms which were 
promulgated by Basil L, and completed by Leo VI. Indeed, 
it appears probable that the project was conceived as early as 
the time of Theophilus, whose personal knowledge of the law 
was greater than was possessed by his successors, who have 
gained a high place in history as law reformers. 

The precise share which the predecessors of Basil are 
entitled to claim in the legislative labours of the Basilian 
dynasty cannot be determined with exactitude, but that it is 
not inconsiderable, is evident from the internal evidence 
afforded by the works themselves. Certainly divine right to 
rule the state as emperor could never have rendered the 
Sclavonian groom, who had qualified for the throne as the 
boon-companion of Michael the Drunkard, a fit person to 
direct the progress of legislation. All that could be expected 
from him was, that he should learn to appreciate the import- 
ance of the subject, and adopt the labours of the jurisconsults 
who had assisted Bardas. It seems, therefore, probable that 
he envied the popularity the Caesar had gained by his atten- 
tion to legal business, and understood fully that there was no- 
surer mode of acquiring the goodwill of all classes than by 
becoming himself a law reformer. Basil, however, though 
eager to obtain the glory of publishing a new code, remained 
utterly ignorant of legislation, and personally incapable of 



224 Basilian Dynasty 

guiding the work. A consequence of Ms eagerness to obtain 
the desired end, and of his ignorance of what was necessary to 
the proper performance of the task, is apparent in the first 
legal work published by his authority, called the Procheiron, 
or manual of law. The primary object of this publication was 
to supplant the Ecloga of Leo III., in order to efface the 
memory of the reforms of the Iconoclasts, 1 The Procheiron 
appears to have been promulgated as early as the year 870, 
and it bears marks of having been hurried into premature 
publicity. 2 The first half of the work is executed in a com- 
pletely different manner from the latter part. In the earlier 
titles, the texts borrowed from the Institutions, Pandects, 
Code, .and Novels of Justinian, are arranged in regular order, 
and are followed by the modern laws ; but this well-arranged 
plan is abandoned in the latter titles, apparently in con- 
sequence of a sudden determination having been adopted to 
hurry forward the publication. The much-abused Ecloga of 
Leo III. was then adopted as the most available guide-book, 
and, in conjunction with the Institutes and Novels, became 
the principal source consulted. The Pandects and the Code 
were neglected, because they required too much time and 
study for their arrangement 

This fact suggests the conclusion that a commission of 
jurisconsults had been named as revisers of the law, who had 
been sitting from the time of Bardas ; and these lawyers had 
systematically proceeded to compile a manual of the law in 
forty titles, and a new civil code or revision of the old law in 
sixty books, in which they had made considerable progress, 
when Basil suddenly hurried forward the premature publica- 
tion of the manual in the form it now bears. It is impossible 
that the same spirit can have directed the latter portion of 
the work which dictated the compilation of the earlier. The 
science of Bardas is visible in the one, the ignorance of Basil 
in the other. For many years Basil remained satisfied with 
his performance as a legislator, for he was unable to appreciate 
the legal wants of the empire; but the subject was again 
forced on his attention by the confusion that prevailed in the 
sources of the law, to which the tribunals were still compelled 
to refer. 

At length, in the year 884, a new code, embracing the 

We must recollect that Basil was the colleague of Michael III., when the tomb of 



Legislation and Despotism 225 

whole legislation of the empire in one work, was published 
under the title of the Revision of the Old Law. The respect 
paid to the laws of Rome was so deeply implanted in the 
minds of the people, that new laws, however superior they 
might have been, could not have insured the same solid basis 
for their support, which was claimed by a legislation aspiring 
to be regarded merely as the legitimate representative of the 
Roman jurisprudence, clothed in a Greek dress. The code of 
Basil was nothing but a compilation formed from the Greek 
translations of Justinian's laws, and the commentaries on 
them which had received the sanction, of the Byzantine tri- 
bunals and legal schools. But this revision of the old law 
was hurried forward to publicity on account of some special 
reason, suggested either by imperial vanity or accidental 
policy. In the Procheiron, Basil had announced that the 
revised code about to be promulgated consisted of sixty books, 
yet, when he published it, the work was divided into forty. 
This premature edition was, however, again revised by 
Leo VI.; and it is the new and more complete code pub- 
lished by that emperor in sixty books, as originally announced, 
which we now possess under the title of Basilika, or imperial 
laws ; but no perfect manuscript has been preserved. 1 

The object proposed in the Basilian legislation was too 
simple not to have been long in agitation before the precise 
plan on which it was ultimately executed was adopted. Th& 
Basilika is merely a reunion, in one work, of all the sources of 
Roman law in vigour at the time, without any attempt to con- 
dense them into clearer and more precise rules. Every 
preceding law or maxim of jurisprudence actually in force, is 
arranged under its own head in a series of books and titles, 
distributed so as to facilitate their use in the courts of law and 
chambers of counsel. 2 Some modern commentaries have been 
added to the work as we possess it, which appear not to have 
formed part of the original text. 

After the promulgation of the first edition of the Basilika, 
Basil published a second legal manual, to serve as an intro- 
duction to its study. It is called the Epanagoge, but it 
appears never to have attained the popularity of the Ecloga 
and the Procheiron. 

The Basilika remained the law of the Byzantine empire 

1 A new edition of the Basilika, in the imperfect state in which it has reached us, has 
been lately published hy Heimbach, in five quarto volumes. 

Leo's edict at the commencement of Heimbach's edition of the Basilika. 



226 Basilian Dynasty 

until its conquest by the Franks, and It continued In use as 
the national law of the Greeks at Nicsea, Constantinople, and 
Trebizondj and in the Morea, until they were conquered by 
the Ottomans. The want of a system of law growing up oat 
of the social exigencies of the people, and interwoven In Its 
creation with the national institutions, is a serious defect In 
Greek civilisation. Since the time of the Achalan league, the 
Greeks have not possessed a national government, and they 
have never possessed a national system of laws ; hence their 
communal Institutions and municipal rights have received only 
such protection as the church could afford them ; and even the 
church was generally the subservient Instrument of the Roman, 
Byzantine, and Turkish governments. The evil still exists 
the spirit of Bavarian law and French centralisation have 
prevented an admirable basis for municipal liberties, which 
existed in the communal institutions, from receiving legislative 
development In the spirit of the nation. The pedantry of 
PhanariotSj who cling to Byzantine prejudices, induced the 
rulers of liberated Greece to declare the Basillka, of which no 
perfect copy exists, to be the law of the new Greek kingdom. 1 
Basil found the army In a much better state than the 
financial administration; for, even amidst the disorders of 
Michael's reign, measures had been taken to maintain the dis- 
cipline of the troops. Basil had, consequently, only to maintain 
the army on the footing on which he found It, without augment- 
ing the power of the generals he intrusted with the command of 
large armies. Being personally without either military experi- 
ence or scientific knowledge, Basil can only be considered 
responsible for the general direction of the military affairs of 
his reign ; and in this he does not appear to have displayed 
much talent. He allowed the Saracens to take Syracuse, while 
he kept the marines of the Imperial navy employed In digging 
the foundations of a new church, and the ships in transporting 
marbles and building materials for its construction. 2 Basil, 
indeed, like all his predecessors, appeared more than once at 
the head of his armies in the East ; for this was a duty which 
no emperor of Constantinople since Leo III. had ventured 
to neglect. It is probable, however, that his presence was 
calculated rather to restrain than to excite the activity of his 
generals, who were sure to be rendered responsible for any 

1 On the subject of Byzantine legislation and law, se the able sketch of Zacharia, 
fltsiorue Juris Grcrco-Rometni Delineatio. and the valuable and learned work of 
Mortreuil, Histvire 4v Drrit Byzantin^ 3 vols. Lo Gramm. 473. 



Legislation and Despotism 227 

want of success, and to be deprived of every merit in case of 
victory; while any brilliant personal exploit, which eclipsed 
the glory of the emperor, might have the effect of making 
them objects of jealousy. 

The principal military operation of Basil's reign was the 
war he carried on with the Patilicians, This sect first made 
its appearance in Armenia about the middle of the seventh 
century, in the reign of Constans IL, and it was persecuted by 
that emperor. Constantine IV., (Pogonatus,) Justinian IL, 
and Leo III., all endeavoured to extirpate the heresy as one 
which threatened the unity of the church; for unity in 
religious opinions was then regarded as the basis of the 
prosperity of the empire, and a portion of its political con- 
stitution. 1 Constantine V., after taking Melitene, transported 
numbers of Asiatic colonists into Thrace, many of whom were 
converts to the Paulician doctrines. 2 Under this emperor and 
his immediate successors they enjoyed toleration, and made 
many converts in Pontus, Cappadocia, Phrygia, and Pisidia. 2 
Nicephoras allowed them all the rights of citizens, and they 
continued to be loyal subjects, until Michael I. commenced 
persecuting them in the most barbarous manner. This circum- 
stance, though it affords the orthodox historian Theophanes 
great delight, ultimately prepared the way for the depopulation 
of Asia Minor. 4 These cruelties continued under Leo V., 
until some of the Paulicians, rising in rebellion, slew the 
bishop of Neoca^sarea, and the imperial commissioners 
engaged in torturing them, and withdrew into the province of 
Melitene, under the protection of the caliph. From this 
period they are often found forming the vanguard of the 
Saracen invasions into the south-eastern provinces of the 
Byzantine empire. Under Michael II. and Theophilus some 
degree of religious toleration was restored, and the Paulicians 
within the bounds of the empire were allowed to hold their 
religious opinions in tranquillity. But their persecution re- 
commenced during the regency of Theodora ; and the cruelty 
with which they were treated drove such numbers into rebellion, 
that they were enabled to found an independent republic, as 
has been already mentioned. 5 If we believe the friends of 
the Paulicians, they were strict Christians, who reverenced the 

1 The Montanxsts, in the edict of Leo III., (Theophanes, 336,) are supposed by 
Baronlus to be Manicheans, which was then often an epithet for Paulicians Notes in 
Tkeophanem^ p. 72, edit. Ven. See page 33 of this volume. 

2 Theophanes, 354 and 360. See pages 48 and 57 of this volume. 

S Theophanes, 413. 4 Ibid. 419- 8 See P a S e ^ <>* this volume. 



228 Basllian Dynasty 

teaching of St Paul, and proposed Mm as their sole guide and 
legislator ; but If we credit their enemies, they were Mani- 
cheans, who merged Christianity in their heretical opinions. 

The little republic founded by the Paulicians at Tephrike, 
against which the armies of the Emperor Michael III. had 
contended without any decided success, though it owed its 
foundation to religious opinion, soon became a place of refuge 
for all fugitives from the Byzantine empire ; and its existence 
as a state, on the frontier of a bigoted and oppressive govern- 
ment, became a serious danger to the rulers of Constantinople. 
Chrysochir, the son of Karbeas, succeeded his father in the 
command of the armed bands of Tephrike, and supported his 
army by plundering the Byzantine provinces, as the Danes or 
Normans about the same time maintained themselves by their 
expeditions in France and England. The number of prisoners 
taken by the Paulicians was so great that Basil found himself 
compelled to send an embassy to Tephrike, for the purpose of 
ransoming his subjects. Petras Siculus, the ambassador, 
remained at Tephrike about nine months, but was unable to 
elect any peaceable arrangement with Chrysochir. He has, 
however, left us a valuable account of the Paulician com- 
munity. 1 During his residence at Tephrike, he discovered 
that the Paulicians had sent ambassadors into Bulgaria, to 
induce the king of that newly converted country to form an 
alliance with them, and missionaries to persuade the people to 
receive their doctrines, which were prevalent in some districts 
of Thrace. The ravages committed by the Paulician troops, 
the bad success of the embassy of Peter Siculus, and the 
danger of an increase of the power of Chryoschir by new 
alliances, determined Basil at length to make a powerful effort 
for the destruction of this alarming enemy. It was evident 
nothing short of extermination could put an end to their 
plundering expeditions. 

In 871, Basil made his first attack on the Paulicians; but, 
after destroying some of their villages, he suffered a severe 
check, and lost a considerable portion of his army, he himself 
only escaping in consequence of the valour of Theophylactus, 
the father of the future emperor, Romanus I., who by this 
exploit brought himself forward in the army. 2 Fortunately 

* Petri Siculi Historia Manich&cmim seu Paulicianorum^ Gr. and Lat. Gieseler 
Getting. 1846. 

2 For the first campaign against the Paullcians, see Symeon Mag. 455 ; Georg. Mon. 
544 ; and Leo Gramm. 471 ; and for the second, compare Constant. Porphyr., Basiltus* 
166, and Cedrenus, 570. 



Legislation and Despotism 229 

for Basil, the repeated seditions of the Turkish mercenaries 
at Badgat had weakened the power of the caliphate; a suc- 
cession of revolutions had caused the deposition and murder 
of several caliphs within the space of a few years, and some 
of the distant provinces of the immense empire of the Abas- 
sides had already established independent governments. 1 The 
Paulicians, therefore, at this period could obtain no very 
important aid from the Saracens, who, as we are informed by 
Basil's son, the Emperor Leo VI., in his work on military 
tactics, were regarded as the best soldiers in the world, and 
far superior both to the Bulgarians and Franks, Basil had 
found little difficulty in driving all the plundering bands of 
the Paulicians back into their own territory; but it was 
dangerous to attempt the siege of Tephrike as long as the 
enemy could assemble an army to attack the rear of the 
besiegers in the frontier towns of the caliph's dominions. 
The empires ^ of Constantinople and Bagdat were at war, 
though hostilities had for some time been languidly carried 
on. Basil now resolved to capture or destroy the fortified 
towns which had afforded aid to the Paulicians. After 
ravaging the territory of Melitene, he sent his general, Christo- 
phoros, with a division of the army to capture Sozopetra and 
Samosata; while he himself crossed the Euphrates, and laid 
waste the country as far as the Asanias. On his return, the 
emperor fought a battle with the Emir of Melitene, who had 
succeeded in collecting an army to dispute his progress. The 
success of this battle was not so decided as to induce Basil 
to besiege either Melitene or Tephrike, and he returned to 
Constantinople leaving his general to prosecute the war. In 
the mean time, Chrysochir, unable to maintain his troops 
without plunder, invaded Cappadocia, but was overtaken by 
Christophoros at Agranes, where his movements were circum- 
scribed by the superior military skill of the Byzantine general 
Chrysochir found himself compelled to retreat, with an active 
enemy watching his march. Christophoros soon surprised 
the Paulician camp, and Chrysochir was slain in the battle. 
His head was sent to Constantinople, that the Emperor Basil 
might fulfil a vow he had made that he would pierce it with 
three arrows. Tephrike was taken not long after, and 
destroyed. The town of Catabatala, to which the Paulicians 

1 From the year 861 to 870 the throne of Bagdat was occupied by five caliphs, three 
of whom were dethroned. Egypt and Chorasan rebelled during this oeriod, and several 
Independent dynasties arose. 



230 Basfllan Dynasty 

retired after the loss of Tephrike, was captured in the succeed- 
ing campaign, and the Pauiician troops, enable to continue 
their plundering expeditions, either retreated into Armenia 
or dispersed. Many found means of entering the Byzantine 
service, and were employed in southern Italy against the 
African Saracens. 1 

The war with the Saracens continued, though it was not 
prosecuted with vigour by either party. In the year 876, the 
Byzantine troops gained possession of the fortress of Lulu, 
the bulwark of Tarsus, which alarmed the Caliph Almutamid 
for the safety of his possessions in Cilicia to such a degree, 
that he intrusted their defence to Ms powerful vassal, Touloun, 
the viceroy of Egypt. 2 In the following year, the Emperor 
Basil, hoping to extend his conquests, again appeared at the 
head of the army of Asia, and established his headquarters at 
Csesarea. His object was to drive the Saracens out of Cilicia, 
but he only succeeded in ravaging the country beyond the 
passes of Mount Taurus up to the suburbs of Germanicia, 
Adana, and Tarsus, without being able to gain possession of 
any of these cities, 2 After the emperor's return to Con- 
stantinople, the commander-in-chief of the army, Andrew the 
Sclavonian, continued to ravage the Saracen territory, and 
destroyed an army sent to oppose him on the banks of the 
river Podandos. This defeat was, however, soon avenged by 
the Mohammedans, who routed Stypiotes, the successor of 
Andrew, with great loss, as he was preparing to besiege 
Tarsus. In the thirteenth year of his reign, (780,) Basil again 
invaded the caliphate, but failed in an attempt to take 
Germanicia. The war was subsequently allowed to languish, 
though the Saracens made several plundering expeditions 
against the Christians, both by land and sea ; but the fortress 
of Lulu, and some other castles commanding the passes of 
Mount Taurus, remained in the possession of the Byzantine 
troops. 

The Saracens of Africa had for some time past devastated 
the shores of every Christian country bordering on the 
Mediterranean, and plundered the islands of the Ionian Sea 
and the Archipelago as regularly as the Paulicians had ravaged 
Asia Minor. Basil was hardly seated on the throne before an 
embassy from the Sclavonians of Dalmatia arrived at Con- 

1 Const. Porphyr. "Basil, "192. 

2 JHd., 172. Weil, Gesckicbte der Ckalzfen, u. 472. 

s Const Pcarpbyr. "Basil," 173. Symeon Mag. 456. Cedrenus, 574, 



Legislation and Despotism 231 

stantinopie* to solicit his aid against these corsairs, A Saracen 
fleet of thirty-six ships had attacked Dalmatia, in which a few 
Roman cities still existed, maintaining a partial independence 
among the Sclavonian tribes, who had occupied ail the 
country. Several towns were taken by the Saracens 3 and 
Ragusa, a place of considerable commercial importance, was 
closely besieged. 1 Basil lost no time in sending assist- 
ance to the inhabitants. A leet of a hundred vessels, 
under the admiral Niketas Oryphas, was prepared for sea 
with all possible expedition: and the Saracens, hearing of 
his approach, hastily abandoned the siege of Ragusa, after 
they had invested it for fifteen months. The expedition of 
Oryphas re-established the imperial influence in the maritime 
districts of Dalmatia, and obtained from the Sclavonians a 
direct recognition of the emperor's sovereignty. They re- 
tained their own government, and elected their magistrates; 
and their submission to the Byzantine empire was purchased 
by their being permitted to receive a regular tribute from 
several Roman cities, which, in consideration of this payment, 
were allowed to occupy districts on the mainland without the 
neighbouring Sclavonians exercising any jurisdiction over such 
property. The Roman inhabitants in the islands on the 
Dalmatian coast had preserved their allegiance to the Eastern 
emperors, and maintained themselves independent of the 
Sclavonians, who had conquered and colonised the mainland^ 
receiving their governors and judges from the central 
authority at Constantinople. 2 

As early as the year 842, two rival princes, of Lombard 
race, who disputed the possession of the duchy of Beneven- 
tum, solicited assistance from the Saracens ; and the Infidels, 
indifferent to the claims of either, but eager for plunder, 
readily took part in the quarrel. A body of Saracens from 
Sicily, who had arrived for the purpose of assisting one of the 
Christian claimants, resolved to secure a firm establishment in 
Italy on their own account. To effect this they stormed the 
city of Bari, though it belonged to their own ally. At Bari 
they formed a camp for the purpose of ravaging Italy, and 
made it their station for plundering the possessions of the 

1 Const. Porphyr* " Basil," 179. The towns taken by the Saracens were Boutuma, 
Rosa, and the lower Dekateras.~Const. Prophyr, JDe Adm. Imp. chap. 30. 

2 Const. Porphyr. De Adm. lmj>. chap. xxx. p. 146, edit. Bonn. The tribute paid 
by the Roman cities to the Sclavonians was as follows : Aspalathus (Spalatro,) 200 
nomismata or gold byzants ; Tetrangurium, (Trail,) Opsara, Arbe, Bekla, each roo ; 
Jadcra, (near 2ara,) no J and Ragusa, for its rural district, 72 



232 Baslllan Dynasty 

Frank and Byzantine empires on the coast of the Adriatic. 
In 846, other bands of Sicilian Saracens landed at the mouth 
of the Tiber, and plundered the churches of St. Peter and 
St. Paul, both then without the walls of Rome. ^Indeed, the 
"mistress of the world" was only saved from falling into the 
hands of the Mohammedans by the troops of the Emperor 
Louis II. (850). Shortly after, Pope Leo IV. fortified the 
suburb of the Vatican, and thus pkced the church of St. Peter 
in security in the new quarter of the town called the Leonine 
city. 1 From this period the ravages of the Saracens in Italy 
were incessant, and the proprietors who dwelt in the country 
were compelled to build fortified towers, strong enough to 
resist any sudden attacks, and so high as to be beyond the 
reach of fire kindled at their base. The manners formed by 
this state of social insecurity coloured the history of Italy with 
dark stains for several centuries. In the year 867, the 
Emperor Louis II. exerted himself to restrain the ravages of 
the Saracens, He laid siege to Ban, and sent ambassadors 
to Constantinople to solicit the co-operation of a Byzantine 
fleet The fleet of Oryphas, strengthened by the naval forces 
of the Dalmatian cities, was ordered to assist the operations 
of the Western emperor ; but the pride of the court of Con- 
stantinople (more sensitive than usual), prevented the conclu- 
sion of a treaty with a sovereign who claimed to be treated as 
emperor of the West. 2 In February, 871, Louis carried the 
city of Ban by assault, and put the garrison to the sword. 
The Franks and Greeks disputed the honour of the conquest, 
and each attempted to turn it to their own profit, so that the 
war was continued in a desultory manner, without leading to 
any decided results ; and the cultivators of the soil were in 
turn plundered by the Lombard princes, the Saracen corsairs, 
and the German and Byzantine emperors. The Saracens 
again attacked Rome, and compelled Pope John VIIL to 
purchase their retreat by engaging to pay an annual tribute of 
25,000 merks of silver. The south of Italy was a scene of 
political confusion. The Dukes of Naples, Amalfi, and 
Salerno joined the Saracens in plundering the Roman terri- 

1 A.D. ^852. Voltaire, Annales de I 'Empire, A.D. 847. Estai sur les Mceurs t 
chap. xxviK. 

2 The naval force of the Sclavonians In the Adriatic was not inconsiderable. The 
Chrovatians alone had eighty galleys, (sagenas,) carrying each forty men, and one 
hundred kondnras or boats, carrying twenty, besides merchant-ships. Though a com- 
mercial people, they then abstained from piracy, which we know, from Venetian 
Mstory, all the Sclavonians in the Adriatic were addicted to at a later period. Con- 
stant. Porphyr. DeAdm* Imp. chap. 30, p. 250, edit. Bonn. 



Legislation and Despotism 233 

tory ; but Pope John VIII., placing Hmseif at the head of the 
Roman troops, fought both with Christians and Mohamme- 
dans, won battles, and cut off the heads of Ms prisoners, with- 
out the slightest reference to the canons of the church. The 
bishop of Naples, as bold a warrior as the Pope, dethroned 
his own brother, and put out Ms eyes, on the pretext that he 
had allied himself with the Infidels; yet, when the bishop 
had possessed himself of his brother's dukedom, he also kept 
up communications with the Saracens, and aided them in 
plundering the territory of Rome. This lawless state of afiairs 
induced the Italians to turn for security to the Byzantine 
empire^ The troops of Basil rendered themselves masters of 
Bari^ without difficulty, and the extent of the Byzantine 
province in southern Italy was greatly extended by a series of 
campaigns, in which Nicephoras Phokas, grandfather of the 
emperor of the same name, distinguished himself by his pru- 
dent conduct and able tactics. 1 The Saracens were at last 
expelled from all their possessions in Calabria. The Byzan- 
tine government formed its possessions into a province called 
the Theme of Longobardia, but this province was constantly 
liable to vary in its extent; and though Gaeta, Naples 5 
Sorrento, and Amalfi acknowledged allegiance to the Emperor 
of Constantinople, his authority was often very little respected 
in these cities. 

While Basil was successful in extending his power in Italy, 
the Saracens revenged themselves in Sicily by the conquest of 
Syracuse, which fell into their hands in 878, and placed them 
in possession of the whole island. The city, though besieged 
on the land side by the Saracens established in Sicily, and 
blockaded by a fleet from Africa, made a gallant defence, and 
might have been relieved had the emperor shown more 
activity, or intrusted the force prepared for its relief to a 
competent officer. The expedition he sent, though it was 
delayed until nothing could be effected without rapid move- 
ments, wasted two months in the port of Monemvasia, where 
it received the news of the fall of Syracuse. The loss of the 
last Greek city in Sicily was deeply felt by the people of the 
Byzantine empire, on account of its commercial importance ; 
and it was reported that the news of so great a calamity to 
the Christian world was first made known to the inhabitants 

1 The Emperor Leo. VI. t in his work on military tactics, cites the campaign of 
tficephortis Phokas, in which he took Tarsus, as an example of able generalship. 
Institutions MiUtedres d* SEmperntr Leon It PhUosopki^ traduites par. M. Joly d 
Vlaixeroy, torn, ii., p. 75. 



234 Baslllan Dynasty 

of Greece by an assembly of demons, who met in the forest 
of Helos, on the banks of the Eurotas, to rejoice In the 
event, where their revels were witnessed by a Laconian 
shepherd 1 Basil, however, seems to have treated the ruin of 
a Greek city as a matter of less Importance than did Satan. 
The daring with which the Saracens carried on their naval 
expeditions over the Mediterranean at this period Is a re- 
markable feature In the state of society. The attacks of the 
Danes and Normans on the coasts of England and France 
were not more constant nor more terrible. 

Some of these expeditions deserve to be noticed, in order 
to point out the great destruction of capital, and the dis- 
organisation of society they caused, For some years they 
threatened the maritime districts of the Eastern Empire with 
as great a degree of insecurity as that from which society had 
been delivered by Leo III. In the year 88 1, the emir of 
Tarsus, with a fleet of thirty large ships, laid siege to Chalcis, 
on the Euripus; but Oiniates, the general of the theme of 
Hellas, having assembled the troops in his province, the emir 
was killed In an attempt to storm the place, and the Saracen 
expedition was completely defeated. 2 Shortly after this, the 
Saracens of Crete ravaged the Islands of the Archipelago with 
a fleet of twenty-seven large ships and a number of smaller 
vessels. 3 Entering the Hellespont, they plundered the Island 
of Proconnesus ; but they were at last overtaken and defeated 
by the imperial fleet under Oryphas. Undismayed by their 
losses, they soon fitted out a new fleet, and recommenced 
their ravages, hoping to avoid the Byzantine admiral by 
doubling Cape Taenarus, and plundering the western shores 
of Greece. Niketas Oryphas, on visiting the port of Ken- 
chrees, found that the corsairs were already cruising off the 
entrance of the Adriatic, He promptly ordered all his galleys 
to be transported over the isthmus of Corinth by the ancient 
tram-road, which had been often used for the same purpose in 
earlier times, and which was still kept In such a state of 
repair that all his vessels were conveyed from sea to sea in 
a single night. 4 The Saracens, surprised by this sudden 
arrival of a fleet from a quarter where they supposed there 

1 Constant, Porphyr. 'Basil,' 191. Cedrenus, ii. 585. 

2 Constant. Porphyr " Basil," 184. Cedrenus, ii. 580. 

* Constant. Porphyr. "Basil," 18*;. 

* The breadth of the istiimus is about four geographical miles 5950 metres. 
Zooaras calls the vessels triremes, but they were certainly^ with only two banks of oars, 
aad ware probably the kind of galley called dromones. ii. 171, 



Legislation and Despotism 235 

was no naval force, fought with less courage than usual, and 
lost their whole fleet. The cruelty with which the captives, 
especially the renegades, were treated, was to the last degree 
inhuman, and affords sad proof of the widespread misery and 
deep exasperation their previous atrocities had produced, as 
well as of the barbarity of the age. No torture was spared 
by the Byzantine authorities. 1 Shortly after this an African 
fleet of sixty vessels, of extraordinary size, laid waste Zante 
and Cephallenia. Nasar, the Byzantine admiral, who suc- 
ceeded Niketas Oryphas, while in pursuit of this fleet, touched 
at Methone to re-victual; but at that port all his rowers 
deserted, and Ms ships were detained until the general of the 
Peloponnesian theme replaced them by a levy of Mardaites 
and other inhabitants of the peninsula, 2 The Byzantine 
naval force 9 even after this contrariety, was again victorious 
over the Saracens ; and the war of pillage was transferred into 
Sicily, where the Greeks laid waste the neighbourhood of 
Palermo, and captured a number of valuable merchant-ships, 
with such an abundant supply of oil that it was sold at Con- 
stantinople for an obolos the litra. 

During these wars, Basil recovered possession of the island 
of Cyprus, but was only able to retain possession of it for 
seven years, when the Saracens again reconquered it* 

Much of Basil's reputation as a wise sovereign is due to Ms 
judicious adoption of administrative reforms, called for by the 
disorders introduced into the government by the neglect of 
Michael III. His endeavours to lighten the burden of taxa- 
tion, without decreasing the public revenues, was then a rare 
merit. But the eulogies which his grandson and other 
flatterers have heaped on his private virtues deserve but little 
credit. The court certainly maintained more outward de- 
cency than in the time of his predecessor, but there are many 
proofs that the reformation was merely external. Thekla, the 
sister of the Emperor Michael III., who had received the 
imperial crown from her father Theophilus, had been the 
concubine of Basil, with the consent of her brother. After 
Basil assassinated the brother, he neglected and probably 
feared the sister, but she consoled herself with other lovers. 
It happened that on some occasion a person employed in the 
household of TheHa waited on the emperor, who, with the 

1 Constant. Porphyr. " Basil," iS6. 

2 Mardaites are mentioned by Constant. Porphyr. " Basil,** iSj, bat whether they 
were ?o called because they were descendants of a Syrian colony Is not certain, 

3 Constant. Porphyr. JDe Tk#m'itilw t \, ?. 15. 



236 Basilian Dynasty 

rade facetiousness he Inherited from the stable-yard, asked 
the domestic, "Who lives with your mistress at present?" 
The Individual (Neatokomites) was immediately named, for 
shame was out of the question in such society. But the 
jealousy of Basil was roused by this open installation^ of a 
successor in the favours of one who had once occupied a 
place on the throne he had usurped, and he ordered Neatoko- 
mites to be seized, scourged, and immured for life in a monas- 
tery. It is said that he was base enough to order Thekla to 
be ill-treated, and to confiscate great part of her private 
fortune. 1 The Empress Eudocia Ingerina avenged Thekla, 
by conducting herself on the throne in a manner more 
pardonable in the mistress of Michael the Drunkard than in 
the wife of Basil When her amours were discovered, the 
emperor prudently avoided scandal, by compelling her lover 
to retire privately into a monastery. 

The most interesting episode in the private history of Basil 
Is the friendship of Danielis, the Greek lady of Patras. As 
she had laid the foundation of his wealth while he was only a 
servant of Theophilitzes, we may believe that she was eager to 
see him when she heard that he was seated on the imperial 
throne. But though she might boast of having been the first 
to perceive the merits of Basil, she must have doubted whether 
she would be regarded as a welcome visitor at court Basil, 
however, was not ungrateful to those who had assisted him in 
his poverty, and he sent for the son of his benefactor, and 
raised him to the rank of protospatharios. The widow also 
received an invitation to visit Constantinople, and see her 
adopted son seated on the throne which, it was said, she had 
long believed he was destined by heaven to fill; for it had 
been reported that, when Basil first entered the cathedral of 
St. Andrew at Patras, a monk was seized with a prophetic 
vision, and proclaimed that he was destined to become 

1 This same Joannes Neatokomites had of old been a rival of Basil, for he had 
attempted to put the Caesar Bardas on his guard against the conspiracy by which he 
lost his life. Leo. Grarnm. 244, edit. Bonn. Thekla has been usually called the sister 
of Basil and the concubine of Michael III. Gibbon has adopted this view, for he says, 
" Basil was raised and supported by a disgraceful marriage with a royal concubine, 
(Eudocia,) and the dishonour of his sister, (Thekla,) who succeeded to her place." 
Vol. ix, p. 51. Lebeau, xiii. 284, is more decided, and more detailed. Georg. Mon. 
545, in ^recounting the anecdote, certainly calls Thekla the sister of the emperor, and 
from this it is inferred she must have been the sister of the reigning emperor Basil ; but 
a comparison^ of Leo. Gramm. D. 242, edit. Bonn., and p. 256, (the Latin translation 
calls her the sister of Michael, without this being said in the Greek text, where a word 
has fallen out,) and_ especially Symeon Mag. 446, and Georg. Mon. 536, prove that she 
was the sister jof Michael III. ; and though she had been compelled to adopt the monastic 
dress, to deprive her of the title of Empress, by her brother, was by him bestowed on 
Basil 



Legislation and Despotism 237 

emperor. This prophecy Danlells had heard and believed. 
The Invitation must have afforded her the highest gratification, 
as a proof of her own discernment in selecting one who 
possessed affection and gratitude, as weH as great talents and 
divine favour. The old lady was the possessor of a princely 
fortune, and her wealth indicates that the state of society 
in the Peloponnesus was not very dissimilar in the ninth 
century from what it had been in the first centuries of our 
era, under the Roman government, when Caius Antonius and 
Eurykles were proprietors of whole provinces, and Herodes 
Atticus possessed riches that an emperor might have envied. 1 

The lady Daniels set off from Patras in a litter or covered 
couch, carried on the shoulders of ten slaves; and the train 
which followed her, destined to relieve these litter-bearers, 
amounted to three hundred persons. . When she reached Con- 
stantinople, she was lodged in the apartments of the palace of 
Magnaura appropriated for the reception of princely guests. 
The rich presents she had prepared for the emperor astonished 
the inhabitants of the capital, for no foreign monarch had 
ever offered gifts of equal value to a Byzantine sovereign. 
The skves that bore the gifts were themselves a part of the 
present, and were all distinguished for their youth, beauty, 
and accomplishments. Four hundred young men, one hun- 
dred eunuchs, and one hundred maidens, formed the living 
portion of this magnificent offering. A hundred pieces of the 
richest coloured drapery, one hundred pieces of soft woollen 
cloth, two hundred pieces of linen, and one hundred of cam- 
bric, so fine that each piece could be enclosed in the joint of 
a reed. To all this a service of cups, dishes, and plates 
of gold and silver was added. 2 When Danielis reached Con- 
stantinople, she found that the emperor had constructed a 
magnificent church as an expiation for the murder of his bene- 
factor, Michael III. She sent orders to the Peloponnesus to 
manufacture carpets of unusual size, in order to cover the 
whole floor, that they might protect the rich mosaic pavement, 
in which a peacock with outspread tail astonished every one 
who beheld it by the extreme brilliancy of its colouring. 
Before the widow quitted Constantinople, she settled a con- 
siderable portion of her estates in Greece on her son, the 

1 Greece under the Romans, 58. 

2 The Emperor Constantlne Porphyrogenitus, who knew something about tba. 
matter, says that the old lady knew that eunuchs are collected about the court like blue- 
bottle flies round a sheep-fold. P. 195. A curious dissertation might be written as a 
commentary on the presents. 



238 Basilian Dynasty 

protospatharios, and on her adopted child the emperor, in 
joint property. 

After Basil's death, she again visited Constantinople ; her 
own son was also dead> so she constituted the Emperor Leo 
VI. her sole heir. On quitting the capital for the last time, 
she desired that the protospathar Zenobios might be de- 
spatched to the Peloponnesus, for the purpose of preparing a 
register of her extensive estates and immense property. She 
died shortly after her return ; and even the imperial officers 
were amazed at the amount of her wealth: the quantity of 
gold coin, gold and silver plate, works of art in bronze, 
furniture, rich stuffs in linen, cotton, wool, and silk, cattle and 
slaves, palaces and farms 3 formed an inheritance that enriched 
even an emperor of Constantinople. The slaves, of which the 
Emperor Leo became the proprietor, were so numerous that 
he ordered three thousand to be enfranchised and sent to the 
theme of Longobardia, as Apulia was then called, where they 
were put in possession of land, which they cultivated as serfs. 
After the payment of many legacies, and the division of a part 
of the landed property, according to the dispositions of the 
testament s the emperor remained possessor of eighty farms or 
Tillages. This narration furnishes a curious glimpse into the 
condition of society in Greece during the latter part of the 
ninth century^ which is the period when the Greek race began 
to recover a numerical superiority, and prepare for the con- 
solidation of Its political ascendancy over the Sclavonian 
colonists in the Peloponnesus. Unfortunately, history supplies 
us with no contemporary facts that point out the precise 
causes of the diminution of the relative numbers of the 
Sclavonians, and the rapid increase in the absolute numbers 
of the Greek agricultural population. We are left to seek for 
explanations of these facts in the general laws which regulate 
the progress of population and the decline of society, 

The steps by which Basil mounted the throne were never 
forgotten by the political and military adventurers, who con- 
sidered the empire a fit reward for a successful conspirator. 
John Kurkuas, a patrician of great wealth, who commanded 
the Ikanates, expected to seize the crown as a lawful prize, 
and engaged sixty-six of the leading men in the public ad- 
ministration to participate in his design. The plot was 
revealed to Basil by some of the conspirators, who perceived 
they could gain more by a second treachery than by persisting 
in their first treason. Kurkuas was seized, and his eyes were 



Legislation and Despotism 239 

put out: the other conspirators were scourged in the hippo- 
drome ; ^ their heads were shaved, their beards burned off, and 
.Her being paraded through the capital they were exiled, and 
their estates confiscated. The clemency of Basil in inflicting 
these paternal punishments, instead of exacting the penalties 
imposed by the law of treason, is lauded by his interested 
historians. The fate of Kurkuas, however, only claims our 
notice, because he was the father of John Kurkuas, a general 
whom the Byzantine writers consider as a hero worthy to be 
compared with Trajan and Belisarius. Kurkuas was also the 
great-grandfather of the Emperor John Zimiskes, one of 
the ablest soldiers who ever occupied the throne of Constanti- 
nople. 1 

Though Basil founded the longest dynasty that ruled the 
Byzantine empire, the race proceeded from a corrupt source. 
Constantine, the son of Basil's first wife, Maria, was regarded 
with much affection by his father, and received the imperial 
crown in the year 868, but died about the year 879. The loss 
was severely felt by the emperor, who expressed an eager 
desire to be assured that his favourite child enjoyed eternal 
felicity. The abbot Theodores Santabaren took advantage of 
this paternal solicitude to impose on the emperor's superstition 
and credulity. A phantom, which bore the likeness cf Con- 
stantine, met the emperor while he was hunting, and galloped 
towards him, until it approached so near that Basil could 
perceive the happy expression of his son's face. It then faded 
from his sight; but the radiant aspect of the vision satisfied 
the father that his deceased son was received to grace. 

Leo, the eldest child of Eudocia, was generally believed to 
be the son of Michael the Drunkard ; and though Basil had 
conferred on him the imperial crown in his infancy, (A.D. 870,) 
he seems never to have regarded him with feelings of affection. 
It would seem he entertained the common opinion concerning 
the parentage of Leo. The latter years of Basil were clouded 
with suspicion of his heir, who he feared might avenge the 
murder of Michael, even at the risk of becoming a parricide. 
Whether truly or not, young Leo was accused of plotting 
against Basil's life before he was sixteen years of age. 2 The 
accusation was founded on the discovery of a dagger con- 

1 Const. Porphyr. " Basil," 172. Symeon Mag. 460. 

2 ^Georg. Mon. 541;^ Leo Gramm. 468 ; Zonaras, II. 166, indicate that Leo was 
considered the son of Michael III, Symeon Mag. 455. Georg. Mon., at page 544. and 
Leo Gramm., at page 471, (edit. Par.,) speak of Alexander as the legitimate child 
of Basil in opposition to Leo. Leo was crowned 6th January, 870. Krug. 39. 



240 BasIIIan Dynasty 

cealed in the boot of the young prince, while he was In 
attendance on his father at a hunting-party, when Byzantine 
etiquette demanded that he should be unarmed. The his- 
torians who wrote under the eye of Leo's son, Constantine 
Porphyrogenitus, pretend that the abbot Theodoros Santa- 
baren persuaded Leo to conceal the weapon for his own 
defence, and then informed Basil that his son was armed 
to attempt his assassination. The charge underwent a full 
examination, during which the young emperor was deprived 
of the insignia of the imperial rank; but the result of the 
investigation must have proved his innocence, for, in spite 
of the suspicions rooted in Basil's mind, he was restored to his 
rank as heir-apparent. 1 

The cruelty displayed by Basil in his latter days loosens the 
tongues of his servile historians, and indicates that he never 
entirely laid aside the vices of his earlier years. While 
engaged in hunting, to which he was passionately devoted, 
a stag that had been brought to bay rushed at him, and, 
striking its antlers into his girdle, dragged him from his horse. 
One of the attendants drew his hunting-knife, and, cutting the 
girdle, saved the emperor's life; but the suspicious despot, 
fearing an attempt at assassination, ordered his faithful servant 
to be immediately decapitated. The shock he received from 
the stag brought on a fever, which terminated his eventful life, 
and he ended his reign, as he had commenced it, by the 
murder of a benefactor. Though he was a judicious and able 
sovereign, he has been unduly praised, because he was one 
of the most orthodox emperors of Constantinople in the 
opinion of the Latin as well as of the Greek church. 2 

1 The people of TJhessalonica still show a tower, in which they say Leo was confined 
during the time^he was deprived of the imperial title. I could not succeed in obtaining 
permission to visit it. Perhaps some Byzantine inscription in the walls has caused the 
tradition. A private English traveller, who has neither wealth nor titles, does not meet 
with the same facilities in literary researches as a foreigner. 

2 Basil's determination to keep on good terms with the Pope, his zeal in building 
churdbes,_and his eagerness to baptize Jews, made him powerful friends in his own age, 
whose opinions have been reflected in modern history : but Zonaras represents him as an 
ignorant and superstitious bigot. It is needless to say that he cannot have composed 
the advice to his hopeful son, Leo the Philosopher, which appears la the Byzantine 
Collection as iiis work. 



Legislation and Despotism 241 

SECTION II 
LEO vi, (THE PHILOSOPHER,) A.D. 886-912 

Character and court of Leo VI. Ecclesiastical administration Legisla- 
tion Saracen war Taking of ThessaJonica Bulgarian war. 

Leo the Philosopher gave countenance to the rumour that 
he was the son of Michael III. by one of the first acts of his 
reign. He ordered the body of the murdered emperor to 
be transported from Chrysopolis, where it had been interred 
by Theodora, and entombed it with great ceremony in the 
Church of the Holy Apostles. 

In every characteristic of a sovereign Leo differed from 
Basil, and almost every point of difference was to the disad- 
vantage of the philosopher. The ease with which the throne 
was retained by a man such as Basil had appeared before he 
became sole emperor, is explained, when we see a trifling 
pedant like Leo ruling the empire without difficulty. The 
energy which had re-established the Eastern Empire under 
the Iconoclasts was now dormant, and society had degenerated 
as much as the court. When the foundations of the Byzantine 
government were laid by Leo III., the mass of society was as 
eager to reform its own vices as the emperor was to improve 
the administration; but when Basil mounted the throne, the 
people were as eager to enjoy their wealth as the emperor 
to gratify his ambition. The emperors of Constantinople, as 
the throne was to a certain degree elective, are generally types 
of their age; and though Leo the Philosopher succeeded 
as the son and successor of Basil, no sovereign ever represented 
the character of his age better. He typifies the idle spirit 
of conservatism as correctly as Constantine V. does the 
aggressive energy of progress. 

Leo VI. was a man of learning and a lover of luxurious 
ease, a conceited pedant and an arbitrary but mild despot. 
Naturally of a confined intellect, he owes his title of "the 
Philosopher," or "the Learned," rather to the ignorance of 
the people, who attributed to him an acquaintance with the 
secrets of astrological science, than either to his own attain- 
ments, or to any remarkable patronage he bestowed on learned 
men. 1 His personal character, however, exercised even greater 

1 Leo's works consist of some poetical oracles and hymns, and a treatise on military 
tactics. The oracles are published at the end of Codinus, De Antiguitatibus Con. 
stantinofolitanisi and the Tactics in Lame's edition of the works of Meursius, torn, vi 
There is a French translation of the tactics by Joly de Maizcroy. 



242 Basilian Dynasty 

influence on the public administration of the empire than that 
of Ms predecessors, for the government was now so completely 
despotic that the court, rather than the cabinet, directed the 
business of the state. Hence It was that the empire met with 
disgraceful disasters at a period when Its force was sufficient to 
hare protected all Its subjects. The last traces of the Roman 
constitution were now suppressed, and the trammels of an 
inviolable court ceremonial, and the Invariable routine of 
administrators and lawyers, were all that was preserved of the 
institutions of an earlier and grander period. The extinction 
of the Roman empire, and complete consolidation of Byzantine 
despotism, Is recorded in the edicts of Leo, suppressing the 
old municipal system, and abolishing senatus-consulta.* The 
language of legislation became as despotic as the acts of the 
emperor were abitrary. Two Patriarchs, Photlus and Nikolaos, 
were removed from the government of the church by the 
emperor's order. Leo lived In open adultery on a throne 
from which Constantine VI. had been driven for venturing on 
a second marriage while his divorced wife was living. Yet 
Zoe, the fourth wife of Leo VI., gave birth to the future 
emperor, Constantine Porphyrogenitus, in the purple chamber 
of the Imperial palace, before the marriage ceremony had been 
performed. 2 A Saracen renegade, named Samonas, was for 
years the prime favourite of the infatuated Leo, who raised 
him to the rank of patrician, and allowed him to stand god- 
father to his son Constantine, though great doubts were enter- 
tained of the orthodoxy, or perhaps of the Christianity, of this 
disreputable favourite. 3 The expenditure of the imperial 
household was greatly increased ; the revenue previously 
destined to the service of the empire was diverted to the 
gratification of the court, and corruption was Introduced into 
every branch of the administration by the example of the 
emperor, who raised money by selling places. The Emperor 
Basil, lilce his predecessors, had been contented to make use 
of a galley, with a single bank of oars, in his visits to the 
country round Constantinople; but Leo never condescended 
to move unless in a dromon of two banks of oars, rowed by 
two hundred men and two of these vessels were constantly 
maintained as imperial yachts. 4 Constantine Porphyrogenitus 
recounts an anecdote concerning the corruption of his father's 

1 Leonis Ntmellte. Const, xlvi. Ixxviii. a Con tin. Const. Porphyr. " Leo," 2*8* 

3 Contirraatoiy 231. Symeon Mag. 468. 

4 Const. Porphyr. De Adm, Imp chap. 51. 



Legislation and Despotism 243 

court, which deserves particular notice, as proving, on the 

best^ evidence that the emperor encouraged the system by 
sharing in its profits. Ktenas, a rich man in holy orders^ and 
the best public singer of the time 5 was extremely anxious 
to possess acknowledged rank at the imperial court. He 
secured the support of Samonas, the Saracen grand-chamber- 
Iain, and hoped to obtain the rank of protospatharios, by 
offering to make the emperor a present of forty pounds' weight 
of gold, the pay of the office amounting only to a pound of 
gold annually. The Emperor Leo refused, declaring, as his 
son tells us, that it was a transaction unworthy of the imperial 
dignity, and that it was a thing unheard of to appoint a clerk 
protospatharios. The old man, however, by the means of 
Samonas, increased his offers, adding to Ms first proposal 
a pair of earrings, worth ten pounds of gold, and a richly- 
chased table of silver gilt, also worth ten pounds of gold. 
This addition produced so great an effect on Leo's mind, that, 
according to his own declaration, he disgraced the imperial 
dignity, for he made a member of the clergy a protospatharios. 
Constantine then chuckles at his father's good fortune; for 
after receiving sixty pounds* weight of gold, the new protos- 
patharios only lived to draw two years' pay. 1 

The strongest contrast between the administration of Leo 
and Basil was visible in the financial affairs of the empire. 
Though the direct taxes were not increased, the careless 
conduct of Leo, and his neglect to maintain the strict control 
over the tax-gatherers exercised by his father, allowed every 
species of abuse to creep into this branch of government, and 
the people were subject to the severest oppression, 2 Monopolies 
were also created in favour of the creatures of the court, which 
were the cause of great complaints, and one of these ultimately 
involved the empire in a most disastrous war, with the Bul- 
garians. 

The state of the church in the Byzantine empire was always 

1 Const. Porphyr. De Adm, Imp. chap. 50, page 232, edit. Bonn. 

2 Constantine Pprphyrogenitus mentions the case of an illiterate man being ap- 
pointed judge-admiral, a lawyer being joined with him as deputy to prepare the 
decisions. The administration of the kingdom of Greece was organised^ in a similar 
manner by Count Armansperg, under the especial protection of Great Britain : and King 
Otho has since been liberally calumniated for following a bad system, which he has been 
weak enough to persist in. A good picture of the abuses of authority m a civilised age, 
even in a country where the freedom of the press existed, is given by Sir Walter Scott. 
Ths Chronicles of the Ca.nongae "The Surgeon's Daughter,** chap. ai. Emigrants 
are said to fare often little better at Liverpool in the present day. Yet too ;much_ power 
ought not to be conferred on any central government, for if society cannot cure iu own 
evilSj they will continue to exist- 



244 Basilian Dynasty 

important, as ecclesiastical affairs afforded the only opportunity 
for the expression of public opinion. A considerable body of 
the clergy was more closely connected with the people, by 
feelings and interests, than with the court At this time, 
however, all classes enjoyed a degree of sensual abundance 
that rendered society torpid, and few were inclined to take 
part in violent contests. The majority of the subjects^of the 
Byzantine empire, perhaps, never felt greater aversion ^ to 
the conduct of the government, both In civil and ecclesiastical 
matters; and we may attribute the parade Leo made of his 
divine right to govern both the state and the church, to the 
fact that he was folly aware of the popular feeling ; but^ no 
class of men saw any probability of bettering their condition, 
either by revolution or change, so that a bad government 
began to be looked upon as one of the unavoidable evils 
of an advanced state of civilisation, and as one of the in- 
evitable calamities which Heaven itself had interwoven in 
man's existence. 

The Emperor Leo VI. deposed the Patriarch Photius with- 
out pretending any religious motive for the change. The 
object was to confer the dignity on his brother Stephen, who 
was then only eighteen years of age. Photius retired into 
a monastery, where, as has been already mentioned, he was 
treated with respect by Leo, who pretended that his resigna- 
tion was a voluntary act Photius survived his deposition 
about five years, more universally respected, and probably 
happier, than when he sate on the patriarchal throne, though 
he had been excommunicated by nine popes of Rome. Leo 
dispkyed a mean spirit in his eagerness to punish the abbot 
Theodores Santabaren, whom he regarded as the author of his 
degradation and imprisonment during his father's reign. Fail- 
ing to procure evidence to convict the abbot of any crime, he 
ordered him to be scourged and exiled to Athens. His eyes 
were subsequently put out by the emperor's order. But Leo, 
though a tyrant, was not implacable, and some years later 
Theodoros was recalled to Constantinople, and received a 
pension. 

The predominance of ceremonial feelings in religion is 
shown in a remarkable manner by the legislative acts of the 
Byzantine government, relating to the observance of the 
Sabbath. As early as the reign of Constantine the Great, 
A.D. 321, there is a law commanding the suspension of all 
civil business on Sunday; and this enactment is enforced 



Legislation and Despotism 245 

by a law of Theodosius L, in 3S6. 1 During the contests con- 
cerning Image-worship, society was strict in all religious 
observances, and great attention was paid to Sunday. In the 
year ^906, 'Leo the Philosopher, who was hi from affecting the 
practice of piety, even while he made a parade of ecclesiastical 
observances, revoked all the exemptions which the law had 
hitherto made in favour of the performance of useful labour on 
Sunday, and forbade even necessary agricultural work, as dis- 
honouring the Lord's day. Arguing with the bigotry of the 
predestinarian, that the arbitrary will of God, and not the fixed 
laws which he has revealed to man, gives abundant harvests to 
the earth, the emperor regards the diligence of the agriculturist 
as of no avail. Fate became the refuge of the human mind 
when the government of Rome had rendered the improvement 
of pagan society hopeless; superstition assumed its place 
among the Christians, and the stagnation in the Byzantine 
empire persuaded men that no prudence in the conduct 
of their affairs could better man's condition. 

Ecclesiastical affairs gave Leo very little trouble during his 
reign, but towards its end he was involved in a dispute with 
the Patriarch Nikokos the mystic. After the death of Leo's 
third wife, without male issue, the emperor, not wishing to 
violate openly the laws of the Eastern church, enforced by his 
own legislation, which forbade fourth marriages, installed 
the beautiful Zoe Carbonopsina, a grand-niece of the historian 
Theophanes, as his concubine in the palace* 2 Zoe gave birth 
to a son in the purple chamber, who was the celebrated 
emperor and author, Constantine VII. (Porphyrogenitus). 
The young prince was baptised in the Church of St. Sophia 
by the Patriarch Nikolaos, but that severe ecclesiastic only 
consented to officiate at the ceremony on receiving the 
emperor's promise that he would not live any longer with his 
concubine. Three days after the baptism of Constantine, the 
Emperor Leo celebrated his marriage with Zoe, and conferred 
on her the imperial title, thus keeping his promise to the 
Patriarch in one sense. But Nikolaos, indignant at having 
been paltered with in a double sense, degraded the priest who 
performed the nuptial ceremony, and interdicted the entry of 
the church to Leo. The emperor only thought it necessary to 
pay so much respect to the interdict as to attend the church 

1 Cod. Tkeod. Ii. tit. viii. 18, De Fenis. 

2 Basil had prohibited fourth marriages. Mortreuil, Ii. 280 ; and Leo himself bad 
subjected third marriages to ecclesiastical censure. Const, xc. 



246 Basllian Dynasty 

ceremonies by a private door; and the people, caring little 
about the quarrel, laughed when they saw the imperial philo 
sopher showing so much wit. Leo, however, took measures to 
gain the Pope's goodwill, and when assured of papal support, 
he deposed Nikolaos and appointed Euthymios the syncellus 
his successor. The new Patriarch, though he had been 
a monk on Mount Olympus, recognised the validity ^ of the 
emperor's fourth marriage, on the pretext that the public good 
required the ecclesiastical laws to yield to the exigencies 
of the state. The populace, to excuse their Patriarch, believed 
a report that the emperor had threatened, in case the Patriarch 
refused to recognise the validity of his marriage with Zoe, to 
publish a law allowing every man to marry four wives at the 
same time. This rumour, notwithstanding its absurdity, affords 
strong proof of the power of the emperor, and of the credulity 
with which the Greeks received every rumour unfavourable to 
their rulers. 1 

The legislative labours of Leo's reign are more deserving 
of attention than his ecclesiastical skirmishes, though he only 
followed in the traces of his father, and made use of materials 
already prepared to his hand. We have already noticed that 
he published a revised edition of the Basilika, to which he 
added a considerable amount of supplementary legislation. 
Byzantine law, however, even after it had received all the 
improvements of Basil and Leo, was ill suited to serve as 
a practical guide to the population of the empire. The 
Basilika is an inspiration of imperial pride, not a work 
whose details follow the suggestions of public utility. Whole 
titles are filled with translations of imperial edicts, useless 
in the altered circumstances of the empire; and one of the 
consequences of the ill-devised measure of adopting an old 
code was, that no perfect copy of the Basilika has been pre- 
served. Many books fell into neglect, and have been entirely 
lost. The sovereigns of the Byzantine empire, except while it 
was ruled by the Iconoclasts, felt that their power rested 
on the fabric of the PwOman administration, not on their own 
strength. 

The collection of the edicts or " novels " of Leo, inserted 
in the editions of the Corpus Juris Civilis, has rendered the 
legislation of Leo more generally known than his revised 
edition of the Byzantine code. These edicts were published 
for the purpose of modifying portions of the law, as pro- 

1 Gor;j. Mon. 559, 



Legislation and Despotism 247 

mulgated In the Basilika. The greater number are addressed 
to Sty Manas, who is supposed to have been the father of Zoe s 
Leo's second wife, and it is thought they were published 
between the years 887 and 893, while Sty llanos was master 
of the offices and logothetes. 1 

The military events of Leo*s reign were marked by several 
disgraceful defeats ; but the strength of the empire was not 
seriously affected by the losses sustained, though the people 
often suffered the severest misery. The Asiatic frontier was 
generally defended with success. Nicephoras Phokas, who 
had distinguished himself In Italy during the reign of Basil, 
acquired additional glory by his activity as general of the 
Thrakesian theme. The Saracens, nevertheless, continued to 
make destructive inroads into the empire, as It was found 
Impossible to watch every point where they could assemble an 
army. In the year 887, the town of Hysela In Charslana was 
taken, and its Inhabitants carried away Into slavery. 2 In 888, 
Samos was plundered, and the governor, with many of the 
inhabitants, made prisoner. In 89 3, the fortress of Koron 
in Cappadocia was taken. 3 In 901, reciprocal Incursions were 
made by the Christians and Mohammedans, but the Byzantine 
troops were more successful than the Saracen, for they pene- 
trated as far as the district of Aleppo, and carried off fifteen 
thousand prisoners. This advantage was compensated by the 
victories of the Saracen fleet, which took and plundered the 
island of Lemnos, 4 The Saracen fleet also, in the year 902, 
took and destroyed the city of Demetrias in Thessaly, where 
all the inhabitants who could not be carried away, and sold 
with profit as slaves, were murdered. 5 During these calamities, 
Leo, in imitation of his father, employed the resources of the 
state, which ought to have been devoted to putting the naval 
forces of the empire In an efficient condition, in building 
a new church, and in constructing a monastery for eunuchs. 6 
Before the end of Leo's reign, the Isolated and independent 
position assumed by several of the Saracen emirs on the 
frontier, enabled the Byzantine generals to make some per- 
manent conquests. Melias, an Armenian who had distin- 
guished himself in the Bulgarian war, gained possession of the 

1 Zacharia, Del^teettio^ 50. As a proof of the mental movement throughout Europe, 
it may be observed that the legislation of Alfred is contemporary with that of Leo VI. 
Christian society was moved by some impulses which operated both in England and 
Constantinople. 2 Continuator, " Leo," 2iS. 3 Symeon Mag. 462. 

* Continuator, " Leo," 225. Symeon Mag. 463. Weil, ii. +92. 

5 Continuator, 204. Symeon Mag. 463. Cameniates, De Exctdio 
* (Jeorg. Moru 556. Symeon Mag. 453- 



248 Basilian Dynasty 

country between Mount Amanus and the Euphrates, and this 
district was formed into a new theme called Lykandos. 1 The 
Saracens were also driven from the city of Theodosiopolis 
by Leo Katakalon, and the Araxes was constituted the 
boundary of the empire towards the Iberians. 2 

The ruinous effects of the piratical system of warfare 
pursued by the Saracen fleets, and the miseries it inflicted 
on thousands of Christian families in the Byzantine empire, 
deserves a record in the page of history. Fortunately we 
do not require, in describing what really happened, to indulge 
the imagination by painting what probably occurred, for 
time has spared the narrative of one of the sufferers, in 
which the author describes his own fate, and the calamities 
he witnessed, with the minute exactitude of truth and 
pedantry. Many severe blows were inflicted on the By- 
zantine empire by the daring enterprises of the Moham- 
medans, who took advantage of the neglected state of the 
imperial navy to plunder the richest cities of Greece. But 
the most terrible catastrophe the Christians suffered was the 
sack of Thessalonica, the second city of the empire in popu- 
lation and wealth. Of this event Johannes Cameniates, an 
ecclesiastic of the order of Readers, and a native of the 
place, has left us a full account He shared all the dangers 
of the assault, and after the capture of his native city he 
was carried prisoner to Tarsus, in order to be exchanged at 
one of the exchanges of prisoners which took place between 
the Christians and Saracens from time to time in that city. 3 

Thessalonica is situated at the head of an inner basin 
terminating the long gulf stretching up to the northward, 
between the snowy peaks and rugged mountains of Olympus 
and Ossa to the west, and the rich shores of the Chalcidice 
and the peninsula of Cassandra to the east. The bay, on 
which the city looks down, affords a safe anchorage; and 
in the tenth century an ancient mole enclosed an inner port 
within its arms, where the largest vessels could land or receive 
their cargoes as in a modern dock. This port bounded the 
city on the south, and was separated from it by a wall about 
a mile in length running along the shore. Within, the houses 



1 Constant. Porphyr. D* Adm. ///. chap. 50, p. 228, edit. Bonn. D* 
p. 32, edit. Bonn. 

J Constant. Porphyr. De Adnt. ImJ>. chap. 45, p. aoi, edit Bonn. 
_ s Joannes Cameniates held the office of Kubuklesios or crozier-bearer to the Arch- 
bishop of Tbessalomca. His narrative is contained in the voL^^e *T the Byzantine 
historians entitled Scrijtorts jost Tktojhaium. 



Legislation and Despotism 249 

rose gradually, until the upper part of the city was crowned 
with an acropolis, separata! from the hills behind by a nigged 
precipice. This citadel is now called the Seven Towers. Two 
ravines, running to the sea from the rocky base of the 
acropolis, serve as ditches to the western and eastern walls 
of the city, which to this day follow the same line, and present 
nearly the same aspect as in the reign of Leo the Philosopher. 
Their angles at the sea, where they join the wall along the 
port, are strengthened by towers of extraordinary size. The 
Egnatian Way, which for many centuries served as the high- 
road for the communications between Rome and Constanti- 
nople, formed a great street passing in a straight line through 
the centre of the city from its western to its eastern wall. This 
relic of Roman greatness, with its triumphal arches, still forms 
a marked feature of the Turkish city; but the moles of the 
ancient port have fallen to ruin, and the space between the 
sea-wall and the water is disfigured by a collection of filthy 
huts. Yet the admirable situation of Thessalonica, and the 
fertility of the surrounding country, watered by several noble 
rivers, still enables it to nourish a population of upwards 
of sixty thousand souls. Nature has made it the capital and 
seaport of a rich and extensive district, and under a good 
government it could not fail to become one of the largest and 
most flourishing cities on the shores of the Mediterranean. 1 

Leo of Tripolis was the most active, daring, and skilful 
of the Saracen admirals. He was born of Christian parents, 
at Attalia in Pamphylia, but became a renegade, and settled 
at Tripolis in Syria after he embraced the Mohammedan faith. 
In the year 904, Leo sailed from Tarsus with a fleet of fifty- 
four ships, each carrying two hundred men, besides their 
officers and a few chosen troops. The ablest corsairs in the 
East were assembled for this expedition, and a rumour of the 
unusual care that was shown in fitting out the fleet reached 
the court of the idle philosopher at Constantinople. He 
foresaw that some daring attack on his dominions would be 
made, and would fain have placed the imperial navy in a con- 
dition to defend the islands and shores of the Egean; but 
though the commerce of Greece could have supplied sailors to 

1 The population is said to have varied from 50,000 to 70,000 during" the present 

century. Cameniates mentions that upwards of 22,000 young men, women, and 

1 -i i J i _, _ 3 *^i_ _ i .1 t__j i>.i_^ i_^: ._ j, ^1 .. ^.v 



_apposu- - 

state of society is considered, it may be doubted whether it formed a greater portion 
the population of Thessalonica was then 220,000. De Exddio Thcssal* bcxiii. 



250 BasiHan Dynasty 

man the largest force, the negligence and Incapacity of the 
admiralty had been so great, that several years of misfortune 
were required to raise the Byzantine fleet to the condition 
from which it had fallen. The naval force that was now sent 
to defend the empire did not venture to encounter the Saracen 
fleet, but retired before it, seeking shelter within the Helles- 
pont, and leaving the whole Archipelago unprotected. In the 
mean time fugitives reached Constantinople, who reported 
that the enemy proposed to attack Thessalonica. 

The walls of Thessalonica had been originally of great 
strength, but the fortifications were in a neglected state, and 
the city was almost without a garrison of regular troops. The 
sea-wall was in want of repair, and parts were so low that 
it was not difficult to mount the battlements from the yards of 
the ships in the port. On the land side the floors of the 
towers that flanked the walls had in some places fallen into 
such a state of decay, that the communications of the defenders 
on the curtains were interrupted. The emperor, when in- 
formed of the defenceless state of the place, increased the 
confusion by his injudicious meddling. He sent a succession 
of officers from the capital with different instructions, fresh 
counsels, and new powers ; and, as usually happens in similar 
cases, each of his deputies availed himself of his authority to 
alter the plan of defence adopted by his predecessor. As 
might be expected under such circumstances, the Saracens 
arrived before the fortifications were repaired, and before the 
arrangements for defence were completed. 

The most alarming defect in the fortifications was the con- 
dition of the wall that ran along the border of the port. It 
was too low, without the necessary towers to afford a flanking 
defence, and in several places the depth of the water ad- 
mitted ships to approach close to the quay that ran under its 
battlements. Petronas, the first officer sent by the emperor, 
thinking that there was not sufficient time to raise the wall or 
construct new towers, adopted measures for preventing the 
approach of the enemy's ships. To effect this, he transported 
to the port the sculptured sarcophagi, and immense blocks of 
marble that then adorned the Hellenic tombs on both sides 
of the Egnatian Way, without the western and eastern gates 
of the city, and' commenced laying them in the sea at some 
distance from the quay. His object was to form a mole 
reaching within a few feet of the surface of the water, against 
which the enemy might run their ships, and leave them 



Legislation and Despotism 251 

exposed, for some time, to the missiles and Greek fire of the 
defenders of the city. But the inhabitants of Thessalonica 
showed themselves insensible of danger before it approached, 
and incapable of defending themselves when it arrived. 
Their whole confidence was placed in St. Demetrius, who had 
never deceived them not in their emperor, whose armies and 
fleets were every day defeated. They knew that Thessalonica 
had often repulsed the attacks of the Sclavonians in the 
seventh and eighth centuries ; they boasted that it had never 
been taken by pagan or unbelievers ; and they believed that, 
whenever it had been besieged, St. Demetrius had shown 
himself active in its defence : it was therefore the universal 
opinion, that as patron saint he would now defend a place in 
which he had a strong personal interest ; for in no other spot 
on earth was he worshipped by so numerous, so wealthy, and 
so devoted a community. 1 The fate of Thessalonica proves 
the wisdom of Leo III. in endeavouring to exterminate the 
worship of images and saints. 

Petronas had not made much progress with his work when 
he was superseded by an officer named Leo, who was ap- 
pointed general of the theme of Thessalonica. Leo, finding 
that the wall towards the port was not higher than the im- 
mense stem-galleries of the ships then in use, ordered the 
undertaking of Petronas to be suspended, and every nerve to 
be strained to raise the wall. Reports became every day 
more alarming. At one time it was announced that the 
Saracen fleet had pursued the Byzantine admiral, Eustathios 
Argyros, up the Hellespont as far as Parium. Afterwards 
it became certain that it had quitted the Hellespont and- 
reached Thasos. The people of the city would not, however, 
shake off their apathy, and their confidence in St. Demetrius. 
They showed little aptitude for building or for military disci- 
pline ; the wall advanced slowly, and the militia did not seem 
likely to defend it with alacrity, even should it be completed. 
At this conjuncture a third officer arrived from Constantinople, 
named Niketas. His arrival was of itself sufficient to produce 
some disorder; but, unfortunately, an accident that happened 
shortly after threw everything into confusion, Leo and 
Niketas met on horseback to inspect the defences of the city ; 
the horse of Leo reared, threw his rider, and injured his right 
thigh and side in such a manner that his life was in danger, 

1 J. Cameniates, De Ejctie&o Thessal> dhap. viiL Tafel, Df Thessahnica, ejusgu 
t proleg. IvHL civ. 



252 Basilian Dynasty 

and for several days be was unable to move. This accident 
invested Niketas with the chief command. 

Niketas seems to have had more military experience than 
his predecessor, and he felt that the citizens of Thessalonica, 
though they formed a numerous militia, were not to be 
depended on for defending the place. He therefore endea- 
voured to assemble a body of troops accustomed to war, 
by calling on the general of the theme of Strymon to send 
some of the federate Sclavonians from his government ; but 
the envy or negligence of the general, and the avarice and 
ill-will of the Sdavonian leaders, prevented the arrival of any 
assistance from that quarter. Though Niketas threatened to 
report the misconduct of the general of Strymon to the 
emperor, he could obtain no addition to the garrison, except 
a few ill-equipped Sdavonian archers from the villages in the 
plains near the city. The generals seemed all to place too 
much confidence in human prudence; the people preferred 
relying on St. Demetrius and heaven. To secure the divine 
aid, a solemn procession of all the clergy and citizens, accom- 
panied by every stranger residing in Thessalonica, headed by 
the archbishop and the civil and military authorities, visited 
the church of St. Demetrius. Public prayers were offered 
up day and night with great fervour; but long after, when 
Joannes Cameniates recorded that the intervention of St. 
Demetrius had proved unavailing, he acknowledged that God 
permitted the destruction of Thessalonica to show mankind 
that nothing renders the divine ear accessible to the inter- 
cession of the saints but pious life and good deeds. 

The Saracens stopped a short time at Thasos to prepare 
engines for hurling stones, and other machines used in sieges. 
At last, as the inhabitants of Thessalonica were leaving their 
houses at daybreak, to attend morning prayer, on Sunday the 
29th of July 904, a rumour arose that the enemy was already 
in the gulf, and only concealed from view by Cape Ekvolos. 
The unwarlike city was filled with lamentations, tumult, and 
alarm ; but the citizens enrolled in the militia armed them- 
selves, amidst the tears of their wives and children, and 
hastened to the battlements. The anxious crowd had not long 
to wait before fifty-four ships were seen rounding the cape in 
succession with all sail, set. The sea-breeze bore them rapidly 
forward, and before noon they were at anchor close to the 
city. The entrance of the port between the moles was shut 
by a chain ; and to prevent this chain from being broken by 



Legislation and Despotism 253 

hostile ships impelled by the strong sea-breezes of the summer 
months, several vessels had been sunk across the mouth. 
Leo of Tripolis immediately reconnoitred the fortifications^ 
and examined the unfinished work of Petxoiias, in order to 
ascertain if it were still practicable to approach the wall 
beyond its junction with the mole. After this examination 
was completed a desultory attack was made on the place to 
occupy the attention of the garrison, and induced the besieged 
to show all their force and means of defence. 

Next day the Saracens landed and attacked the gate Roma, 
which was situated in the eastern wall, and not far from the 
sea. Seven of the engines constructed at Thasos were placed 
in battery, and an attempt was made to plant scaling-ladders 
against the fortifications, tinder cover of a shower of stones f 
darts, and arrows; but a vigorous sally of the Byzantine 
troops repulsed the assault and captured the ladders. In the 
afternoon the plan of attack was changed. It was resolved to 
force an entrance by burning down two of the four gates in 
the eastern wall. The gate Roma and the gate Cassandra, on 
the Egnatian Way, were selected. Waggons filled with dry 
wood, pitch, and sulphur, were covered over by fishing-boats 
turned upside down, to prevent those on the wall from setting 
fire to the combustibles at a distance. Sheltered by these 
boats, the Saracen sailors pushed the waggons close to the 
gates, and when they had lighted their fires, they escaped to 
their companions with their shields over their heads, while 
the rising flames, the stones from the baHistae, and the arrows 
of the archers, distracted the attention of the defenders of the 
wall. The iron plates on the doors were soon heated red-hot, 
and, the door-posts being consumed, the gates fell; but 
when the fire burned low, an inner gateway was seen closed 
with masonry, and well protected by flanking towers, so that 
the Saracens gained nothing by the success of this project 
But the real object of the besiegers in all these preliminary 
operations had only been to draw off the attention of the 
Greeks from the point where most danger was to be appre- 
hended. The second night of the siege was a sleepless one 
for both parties. The inhabitants, seriously alarmed at the 
daring courage and contempt of death displayed by the assail- 
ants, deemed it necessary to keep up a strict watch along the 
whole circuit of the fortifications, lest some unguarded spot 
should be found by the besiegers during the darkness. On 
board the fleet an incessant noise of hammers, and of Arabs 



254 Basilian Dynasty 

and Ethiopians shouting, with a constant moving of lights, 
proclaimed that active preparation was going on for renewing 
the attack. 

When Leo of Tripolis reconnoitred the fortifications, he 
had ascertained that his ships could approach the wall in 
several places, and he had carefully marked the spots. The 
interval had been employed in getting everything ready for an 
attack in this quarter, and now the night was devoted to com- 
plete the work, in order that the besieged might remain in 
ignorance of the design until the moment of its execution. 
It was necessary to form stages, in which the assailants could 
overlook the defenders of the place, and from which they 
could descend on the wall. The project was executed with 
ability and promptitude in a very simple manner. Two ships 
were bound firmly together by cables and chains, and the 
long yards of the Immense lateen sails then in use were 
reversed, so as to extend far beyond the bows of the double 
ship. These yards were strong enough to support a framework 
of wood capable of containing a small body of men, who 
were protected by boards on the sides from missiles, while 
shrouds kept up a constant communication with the deck 
below. These cages, when swung aloft from the yards, could 
be elevated above the battlements where the sea-wall was 
lowest, and to the besieged looked like the tops of towers 
suddenly raised out of the sea. In the morning the double 
ships were rowed into their positions, and the fight commenced 
between the besiegers in their hanging towers and the de- 
fenders on the ramparts. Stones, arrows, pots filled with 
flaming combustibles, and fire launched from long brazen 
tubes, the composition of which had been at an earlier period 
a secret known only in the Byzantine arsenal, now came pour- 
ing down from above on the Greeks, who were soon driven 
from the battlements. The Ethiopians of the Alexandrian 
ships were the first to make good their footing on the wall, 
and as soon as they had cleared the whole line of the fortifica- 
tions towards the sea from its defenders, they broke open the 
gates, and the crews of the other ships rushed into the city. 
The sailors employed to collect the booty entered with their 
drawn swords, wearing only their trousers, in order that no 
plunder might be abstracted secretly. The militia fled with- 
out a thought of further resistance : the Sclavonians escaped 
from a gate in the citadel, which they had secured as a means 
of retreat 



Legislation and Despotism 255 

The Saracens divided themselves into bands, and com- 
menced slaughtering every person they found in the streets f 
though they encountered crowds of women and children, who 
had rushed out of their houses to learn the cause of the 
unusual commotion. A number of the inhabitants endeavoured 
to escape by the Golden Gate, which formed the entrance of 
the Egnatian Way into the city from the west, but the crowd 
rendered it impossible to throw open the doors. A party of 
Ethiopians came upon the people as they were straggling to 
effect their purpose. Hundreds were crushed to death or 
suffocated, and the blacks stabbed the rest, without sparing 
age or sex. John Cameniates, Ms father, his uncle, and two- 
brothers, fled towards the wall that separates the town from 
the citadel, intending to conceal themselves in a tower until 
the first fury of the assailants was assuaged. They had hardly 
ascended the wall when a band of Ethiopians reached the 
place in pursuit of a crowd of people, whom they murdered 
before the eyes of the terrified family. The Ethiopians then 
mounted the wall, but a tower was between them and Cameni- 
ates, of which the floor was in such a "ruinous condition that 
it seemed dangerous to pass. As the enemy paused, John 
Cameniates deemed the moment favourable to implore mercy, 
and running quickly over a beam that remained unbroken, he 
threw himself at the feet of the black captain, promising that 
he would reveal where a treasure was hidden, in case his own 
life and that of his relations was spared. His confidence won 
the favour of the barbarians, one of whom understood Greek, 
and the family was taken under their protection ; yet as they 
were marching through the streets, Cameniates received two 
wounds from an Ethiopian belonging to another band. On 
their way to the port the prisoners were carried into the 
convent of Akroullios, where they found the chief of the 
Ethiopians seated in the vestibule. After hearing the promises 
of old Cameniates, he rose and entered the church, in which 
about three hundred Christians had been collected. There, 
seating himself cross-legged on the altar, he made a signal to 
his followers, who immediately put all to death, leaving only 
the family of Cameniates. From this hideous spectacle they 
were conducted to the Saracen admiral. 

After Leo of Tripolis had heard what Cameniates had to 
say, he sent a guard to convey the treasure to the port. 
Fortunately the hoard, which contained all the wealth of 
many members of the family, was found untouched, for had 



256 Baslllan Dynasty 

it not satisfied the avarice of the chiefs, 'the whole family 
would have been murdered, as happened In many other cases. 
This treasure was received by Leo only as a ransom for the 
lives of Ms prisoners, who were embarked in order to be 
exchanged at Tarsus for Saracens in captivity among the 
Christians. Cameniates found Leo, the general of the theme 
of Thessalonica, Niketas, the third envoy of the emperor, and 
Rodophyies, a eunuch of the imperial household, who had 
stopped as he was conveying a hundred pounds 7 weight of 
gold to the Byzantine army in Italy, all among the prisoners. 
Rodophyies was brought before the Saracen admiral, who had 
learned from the captives that he was intrusted with treasure. 
The eunuch boldly replied that he had performed his duty to 
the emperor, by sending away the gold to the general of the 
theme of Strymon as soon as the enemy approached; and 
when Leo of TripoHs found that this was true, he flew into a 
passion, and ordered Rodophyies to be beaten to death on 
the spot 1 

Several days were spent in collecting the booty in the city, 
in releasing such of the captives as had friends in the neigh- 
bourhood able to purchase their liberty by the payment of a 
second ransom, and in negotiating the exchange of two 
hundred persons, for whom an officer of the emperor named 
Simeon engaged that an equal number of Saracen captives 
should be delivered up at Tarsus. When all other business 
was settled, the Saracens threatened to burn the city, and 
succeeded in forcing the general of Strymon to deliver up the 
gold for which Rodophyies had lost his life, in order to save 
the place from destruction. The hostile fleet quitted the har- 
bour of Thessalonica ten days after the capture of the city. 
Cameniates was embarked in the ship of the Egyptian admiral, 
who served under Leo of Tripolis. The crew consisted of 
two hundred men and eight hundred captives ; men, women, 
and children were crowded together on the lower deck. These 
unfortunate people, all of whom were of the higher ranks, 
suffered indescribable misery, and many died of hunger, thirst, 
and suffocation before they reached the island of Crete, where, 
after a fortnight's confinement, they were allowed to land for 
the first time. The fleet had deviated from its course in order 

- Cameniates calls the sum intrusted to Rodophyies two talents, by which he of 
course means centners ; other authors call It only one hundred pounds. Continuator, 
"Leo," 226. Symeon Mag. 4.66. Georg. MOB. 558. Leo Gramm, 277, edit. Bonn. 
Concerning the variety of weight in ancient talents, see Hussey, Essay on Ancient 
Weights and Mont* i 28-42. 



Legislation and Despotism 257 

to avoid falling In with the Byzantine squadron, for it was im- 
possible to fight when every ship was crowded with prisoners. 
It had therefore remained six days at Patmos and two at 
Naxos, which was then tributary to the Saracens at Crete. 

The fleet anchored at Zontarion, a port opposite the island 
of Dia, which afforded better shelter than the harbour of 
Chandax, and where it could obtain the seclusion necessary 
for dividing the slaves and spoil among the different parties 
composing the expedition, in order that each might hasten 
home before the autumnal storms commenced. The whole 
of the captives were landed, and three days were spent by 
them in endeavouring to find their relations, and unite 
families that had been dispersed, many of which were again 
separated by the new division. As not only the fifty-four 
ships of Leo's fleet, but also several Byzantine men-of-war and 
merchantmen, taken in the port of Thessalonica, had been 
filled with prisoners, it is not surprising that the number, even 
after the loss sustained on the passage, still amounted to 
twenty-two thousand souls. Of these, with the exception 
of the small number reserved for exchange at Tarsus, all con- 
sisted of young men and women in the flower of their youth, 
or children remarkable for the bloom of their beauty: they 
had been saved from the slaughter of the older Inhabitants, or 
selected from those seized in the houses, because they were 
sure of commanding a high price in the slave-markets of the 
East. When all the booty had been landed, the spoil was 
divided by lot, and then the fleet dispersed, the ships sailing 
from Crete directly to Alexandria, or to the different ports of 
Syria to which they belonged. Many of the unfortunate 
prisoners, exposed to sale in the slave-markets of Fostal, the 
capital of Egypt and Damascus, were transported to Ethiopia 
and Arabia, and even to the southern parts of Africa; the 
more fortunate were re-purchased from those to whose share 
they had fallen, by the Cretans, and by them re-sold to their 
friends. 

The island of Crete had become a great slave-mart, in con- 
sequence of the extensive piracies of its Saracen population ; 
and at this time the slave-trade was the most profitable 
branch of commerce in the Mediterranean ! 1 A large portion 

1 The prevalence of piracy on the coast of Attica, about the end of the twelfth 
century, after the Saracens Sad been long expelled from the Grecian seas, is proved 
by the Memorial of the Athenians to the JSmperor Alexios III., A.D. 1195-1203, drawn 
tip by their archbishop. Michael Akominatos. Tafel, Thessatonica,, p. 4.63, where 
r%v \en\aalav ru>v BaXarrlfay \yarQf, is spoken of. 



258 Basillan Dynasty 

of the Greek inhabitants of Crete having embraced Moham- 
medanism, and established communications with the Christian 
slave-merchants in the Byzantine empire, carried on a regular 
trade in purchasing Byzantine captives of wealthy families, 
and arranging exchanges of prisoners with their relations. As 
these exchanges were private speculations, and not, like those 
at TarsuSj under the regulation of an official cartel, the 
Christians were generally compelled to pay a considerable 
sum as redemption-money, in order to deliver their relatives, 
in addition to releasing a Saracen captive. After the buying 
and selling of the captives from Thessalonica had been carried 
on for several days, the Saracens embarked their prisoners for 
their ultimate destination. The wife of one of the brothers of 
Cameniates was purchased by a Cretan slave-merchant, but he 
had the misery of seeing his mother, his wife, and two of his 
children, (for the third had died during the voyage,) embarked 
in a ship belonging to Sidon. Cameniates, with his father, 
and the greater part of the captives set apart for the exchange 
at Tarsus, were put on board a Byzantine man-of-war, the 
upper deck of which was occupied by the Saracens, while 
the Christians were crowded on the lower, in filth and dark- 
ness. 

On the passage from Crete to Syria, an event happened 
which shows that Leo, the Saracen admiral, was a man of 
energy and courage, well fitted for his daring occupation, and 
by no means so deaf to the calls of humanity, in the hour 
of the most terrific danger, as his ferocious conduct after 
the taking of Thessalonica might lead us to believe. A violent 
storm threatened one of the smaller galleys with destruction, 
for it broke in the middle an accident to which ancient ships, 
from their extreme length and want of beam, were very liable. 
The Saracens on board were near the admiral's ship, and that 
in which Cameniates was embarked, and they requested Leo 
to order the crew of the Byzantine man-of-war to throw all the 
captives overboard and receive them. The order was given, 
allowing the crew to quit the sinking ship, but the violence of 
the wind had driven the ship in which Cameniates was em- 
barked to such a distance that the signals of the admiral were 
unnoticed or unheeded. Leo, however, ordered his own ship 
to be brought as near the galley as possible, and succeeded in 
saving, not only the Saracen crew, but every Christian on 
board, though the crews and captives of the two vessels 
amounted to upwards of one thousand persons. The Byzan- 



Legislation and Despotism 259 

tine generalSj Leo and Niketas, who were on board Leo's sbip s 
recounted the circumstances to Cameniates, and declared that 
their ship was Ill-calculated to contain so great a crowd, and 
was navigated with great difficulty. After refitting at Cyprus, 
the squadron reached Tripolls on the 1410 of September. The 
father of Cameniates died there, before the prisoners were 
removed to Tarsus. While waiting at Tarsus, in fear of death 
from the unhealthlness of the place, Camenktes wrote the 
account of his sufferings, from which the preceding narrative 
has been extracted ; and we must pardon what he calls the 
feebleness, but what others are more likely to term the In- 
flation of his style, on account of the interesting matter 
embalmed In its verbosity. The worthy Anagnostes appears 
to have returned to his native city, and obtained the office of 
kouboukleslos to the archbishop. 

The taking of Thessalonlca affords a sad lesson of the 
inefficiency of central governments, which deny the use of 
arms to the people, to defend the wealthy and unfortified cities 
of an extensive empire. The tendency of a court to expend 
the revenues of the state on the pageantry of power, on 
palaces, churches, and fetes in the capital, without bestowing 
a thought on the destruction of a village or the loss of a 
parish,^ reveals to us one of the paths by which despotic 
power invariably tends to degrade the mass of human civilisa- 
tion. 

The wealth the Saracens had obtained at Thessalonlca 
invited them to make fresh attacks on the empire, until at last 
the public sufferings compelled the Emperor Leo, in the 
last year of his reign, to make a vigorous attempt to put 
an end to the piracies of the Cretans, A.D. 912. Himerios, 
who had gained a naval victory over the Saracens in the year 
909, was intrusted with the command of a powerful fleet, and 
commenced his operations by clearing the Archipelago of the 
Cretan pirates. His fleet consisted of forty dromons or war- 
galleys of the largest size, besides other vessels ; and it was 
manned by twelve thousand native sailors, besides seven 
hundred Russians, who are considered worthy of especial 
enumeration. A powerful army, under the orders of Romanus 
the future emperor, was assembled at Samos for the purpose 
of besieging Chandax ; but after eight months of insignificant 
demonstrations, the expedition was defeated with great loss by 
the Saracens, under the command of Leo of Tripolis and 
Damian, off the coast of Samos. Himerios escaped with 



260 Baslllan Dynasty 

difficulty to Mitylene, but Romanus saved the remains of the 
imperial force. 1 

In southern Italy, everything was in such a state of con- 
fusion that it is not worth while following the political changes 
it suffered. The dukes of Naples, Gaeta, Salerno and Amalfi 
were at times the willing subjects of the Byzantine emperor, 
and at times their personal ambition induced them to form 
alliances with the Saracens of Africa and Sicily, or, with the 
Pope and the Romans, to carry on war with the Byzantine 
generals of the theme of Longibardia (Apulia). The Italian 
population, as in ancient times, consisted of many nations 
living under different laws and usages, so that only a powerful 
central government, or a system of political equality, could 
preserve order in the discordant elements. The state of civilisa- 
tion rendered the first difficult, the second impossible. The 
popes were always striving to increase their power, allying 
themselves alternately with the Franks and the Byzantines; 
the native Italian population in the cities was struggling 
for municipal independence \ a powerful aristocracy, of Ger- 
manic origin, was contending for power; the Byzantine 
authorities were toiling to secure an increase of revenue, and 
the whole peninsula was exposed to the plundering incursions 
either of the Hungarians or of the Saracens. In this scene of 
confusion the Emperor Leo was suddenly compelled to take an 
active part by the loss of Bari, which was seized by the Duke 
of Beneventum. A Byzantine army regained possession of 
that city, and revenged the injury the Greeks had suffered by 
taking Beneventum, which, however, only remained in pos- 
session of the imperial troops for four years. The Byzantine 
fleet in Italy was subsequently defeated by the Sicilian 
Saracens in the Straits of Messina. In short, the administra- 
tion of Leo the Philosopher in Italy was marked by his usual 
negligence and incapacity, and the weakness of his enemies 
alone preserved the Byzantine possessions. 

The kingdom of Bulgaria had for a considerable period 
proved a quiet neighbour and useful ally. It formed a 
barrier against the Turkish tribes, whom the ruin of the 

1 Constantino Porphyrogenitus gives a curious account of the forces that composed 
tins expedition. DC Ceremon* Auto. Byzant,, torn. I 651. edit. Bonn. Contin. 232. 
Symeon Log. 470. The imperial fleet in the Egean Sea amounted usually to sixty 



active service, carried *wo hundred and thirty rowers and sailors, and seventy soldiers 
or marines. 



Legislation and Despotism 261 

Khazar empire drove into Europe. Leo, however, allowed 
himself to be Involved in hostilities with the Bulgarians by 
the avarice of Ms ministers. Stylianos, the father of his 
second wife Zoe, established a monopoly of the Bulgarian 
trade in favour of two Greek merchants. To conceal the ex- 
tortions to which this monopoly gave rise, the depdt of the 
Bulgarian commerce was removed from Constantinople to 
Thessalonica. 1 The Bulgarians, whose interest suffered by 
this fraud, applied to their King Simeon for protection ; and 
when the Emperor Leo, after repeated solicitations, took 
no steps to redress the injustice, the Bulgarian monarch 
declared war. An almost uninterrupted peace of seventy-four 
years had existed between the sovereigns of Constantinople 
and Bulgaria, for only temporary and trifling hostilities had 
occurred since the treaty between Leo V. and Mortagan in 
814. Bogoris called, after his baptism, Michael had 
governed his kingdom with great prudence, and not only con- 
verted all his subjects to Christianity, but also augmented 
their means of education and wellbeing. His own religious 
views induced him to join the Eastern church, and he sent his 
second son Simeon to Constantinople for his education. Bogoris 
retired into a monastery, and left the throne to his eldest son 
Vladimir, about the year 885. The disorderly conduct of 
Vladimir drew his father from his retreat, who was compelled 
to dethrone and put omt the eyes of this unworthy prince^ 
before immuring him in a monastery. He then placed hi 
second son Simeon on the throne, (A.B. 888,) and, retiring 
again to his cell, died a monk, A.D. 907, 

Simeon proved an able and active monarch. His education 
at Constantinople had enlarged his mind, but inspired him 
with some contempt for the meanness and luxury of the 
Byzantine court, and for the pedantry and presumption of the 
Greek people. He was himself both a warrior and a scholar, 
but he followed the military system of the Bulgarians, and 
wrote in his native language. 2 The Bulgarian nation had now 
attained the position occupied some centuries before by the 
Avars. They were the most civilised and commercial of all 
the northern barbarians, and formed the medium for supply- 

1 At this time Theophano, the first wife of Leo, was still living, and Zoe was only the 
emperor's concubine. Stylianos, who is supposed to be the same to whom the Neraclte 
of Leo are addressed, is called Zaoutzes by^ the Continuator, 220. The name is con- 
nected with the Turkish Chiaous. See TfoSflriot in Ducange, Glossarium med. et. inf. 
Greecitatis. 

2 I follow Schafarick, Slawischce AlUrth&mer t ii. 185, in preference to Ducange, 
Families Byzantines. 



262 Basillan Dynasty 

ing the greater part of Germany and Scandinavia with the 
necessary commodities from Asia, and with Byzantine manu- 
factures and gold. 1 This extensive and flourishing trade had 
gone on Increasing ever since a treaty, fixing the amount 
of duties to be levied on the Byzantine frontier, had been 
concluded in the year 716, during the reign of Theodosius III. 
The stipulations of that treaty had always formed the basis on 
which the commercial relations between the two states had 
been re-established, at the conclusion of every war ; but now 
two Greek merchants, Stavraklos and Kosmas, bribed Mousi- 
kos, a eunuch In the household of Stylianos, to procure an 
Imperial ordinance for transferring the whole of the Bulgarian 
trade to Thessalonica. These Greeks, having farmed the cus- 
toms, felt that they could carry on extortions at a distance 
which could not be attempted as long as the traders could 
bring their goods to Constantinople, and place themselves 
under the Immediate protection of the central administration. 2 
The monopoly, though it inflicted great losses both on the 
Greek and Bulgarian traders, was supported by the favourite 
minister of the emperor, who refused to pay any attention 
to the reclamations of the Bulgarian government in favour 
of its subjects. Simeon, who was not of a disposition to 
submit to contemptuous treatment, finding that he had no 
hope of obtaining redress by peaceable means, invaded the 
empire. The Byzantine army was completely defeated, and 
the two generals who commanded were slain in the first battle, 
But Simeon tarnished his glory by his cruelty : he ordered the 
noses of all the prisoners to be cut off, and sent the Byzantine 
soldiers, thus mutilated, to Constantinople. Leo, eager to 
revenge this barbarity, sent a patrician, Niketas Skleros, to 
urge the Hungarians, a Turkish tribe which had recently 
quitted the banks of the Don to occupy the country still 
possessed by its descendants, to attack the Bulgarians. They 
did so, and defeated them. They sold their prisoners to the 
Emperor Leo, who was compelled, shortly after, to deliver 
them to Simeon, King of Bulgaria, without ransom, in order 
to purchase peace ; for the Magyars were defeated in a second 
battle, and retired from the contest Leo, like many absolute 
sovereigns, had conceived too high an idea of his power and 
prerogatives to pay any respect to his engagements, when 

1 Theophylactus Simocatta says X^yercu y&p & rots tdvevi ro?s 2/cf 0i/toir rb 
TU>V 'A/?dpwv -uireTvai frrpexforoTOV ^i/Ao?, 175. Theophanes, 421. 

2 Contlnuator, " Leo, "220. 



Legislation and Despotism 263 

he thought it for Ms advantage to forget his promises. He 
took the earliest opportunity of seeking for revenge, and 
having assembled what he supposed was an invincible army, 
he sent Leo Katakalon, his best general, to invade Bulgaria, 
This army was completely destroyed at a place called Bnl- 
garophygoSj and after this lesson Leo was glad to conclude 
peace, A.D % &g$. 1 

About the same time the oppressive conduct of the imperial 
governor at Cherson caused an insurrection of the inhabitants, 
in which he was murdered. 

Leo, in spite of his title of "the Philosopher, 5 * was not a 
man in whose personal history mankind can feel much 
interest. Though his reign was undisturbed by rebellion or 
civil war, his life was exposed to frequent dangers. His con- 
cubine Zoe discovered a conspiracy against him, and another 
was revealed by the renegade Samonas, and became the origin 
of his great favour at court. The prime conspirator was 
scourged and exiled to Athens. In 902, an attempt was 
made to murder Leo in the church of St Mokios by a mad- 
man, who was armed only with a stick. The blow was broken 
by the branch of a chandelier, yet the emperor received a 
severe wound. 2 

Leo died in the year 912, after a reign of twenty-five years 
and eight months. 

SECTION III 

ALEXANDER MINORITY OF CONSTANTINE VII. (PORPHYRO- 
GENITUS) ROMANUS I. LECAPENUS, A.D. 912-944 

Reign of Alexander, A.D. 912-913 Minority of Constantine VII., 913- 
920 Sedition of Constantine Dukas Byzantine army defeated by 
Symeon, King of Bulgaria Intrigues at Constantinople Romanus I. 
makes himself emperor, A.D. 920-944 Conspiracies against his 
government Dethroned by his son Stephen. 

Alexander, who succeeded to the throne, or rather to the 
government of the empire, on the death of his brother Leo, 
(for he had long borne the title of Emperor,) was more 
degraded in his tastes, and more unfit for his station, than 
Michael the Drunkard. Fortunately for his subjects, he 
reigned only a year; yet he found time to inflict on the 
empire a serious wound, by rejecting the offer of Simeon, 

1 There is some difficulty in arranging the chronology of the Bulgarian war. 
Symeon Mag. 462. a Contlnuator, "Leo." 222, 224, 225. 



264 Baslllan Dynasty 

king of Bulgaria, to renew the treaty concluded with. Lea 
Alexander, like Ms predecessor, had a taste for astrology: 
and among his other follies he was persuaded that an ancient 
bronze statue of a boar in the Agora was his own genius. 
TMs work of art was consequently treated with the greatest 
reverence; it was adorned with new tusks and other orna- 
ments, and its reintegration in the hippodrome was celebrated 
as a public festival, not only with profane games, but even 
with religious ceremonies, to the scandal of the orthodox. _ ^ 

Leo VI. had undermined the Byzantine system of adminis- 
tration, which Leo III. had modelled on the traditions of 
imperial Rome. He had used his absolute . power to confer 
offices of the highest trust on court favourites notoriously in- 
capable of performing the duties intrusted to them. The 
systematic rales of promotion in the service of the govern- 
ment ; the administrative usages which were consecrated into 
kws; the professional education which had preserved the 
science of government from degenerating with the literature 
and language of the empire, were for the first time habitually 
neglected and violated The administration and the court 
were confounded in the same mass, and an emperor, called 
the Philosopher, is characterised in history for having reduced 
the Eastern Empire to the degraded rule of an Oriental and 
arbitrary despotism. Alexander carried this abuse to a great 
extent, by conferring high commands on the companions of 
his debaucheries, and by elevating men of Sclavonian and 
Saracen origin to the highest dignities. 

The only act of Alexander's reign that it is necessary to 
particularise, is the nomination of a regency to act during the 
minority of his nephew Constantine. The Patriarch Nikolaos, 
who had been reinstated in office, was made one of its mem- 
bers; but Zoe Carbopsina, the young emperor's mother, was 
excluded from it. 

Constantine VII. was only seven years old when he became 
sole emperor. The regency named by Alexander consisted 
of six members exclusive of the Patriarch, two of whom, 
named Basilitzes and Gabrilopulos, were Sclavonians, who 
had attained the highest employments and accumulated great 
wealth by the favour of Alexander. 2 The facility with which 
all foreigners obtained the highest offices at Constantinople, 
and the rare occurrence of any man of pure Hellenic race in 

i Contin: 834. 2?rxew afrrov eti). alSota Kal &$&rras T$ X 
vtrey. 2 Contin. 233. 



Legislation and Despotism 265 

power, is a feature of the Byzantine government that requires 
to be constantly borne in mind, as it is a proof of the tenacity 
with which the empire clung to Roman traditions, and re- 
pudiated any identification with Greek nationality. 

It is difficult, in the period now before us, to select facts 
that convey a correct impression of the condition, both of the 
government and the people. The calamities and crimes we 
are compelled to mention tend to create an opinion that the 
government was worse, and the condition of the inhabitants 
of the empire more miserable than was really the case. 
The ravages of war and the incursions of pirates wasted only 
a small portion of the Byzantine territory, and ample time 
was afforded by the long intervals of tranquillity to repair the 
depopulation and desolation caused by foreign enemies. The 
central government still retained institutions that enabled it 
to encounter many political storms that ruined neighbouring 
nations ; yet the weakness of the administration, the vices of 
the court, and the corruption of the people during the reigns 
of Constantine Porphyrogenitus and his father-in-law Ro- 
manus L, seemed to indicate a rapid decay in the strength of 
the empire, and they form a heterogeneous combination with 
the institutions which still guaranteed security for life and 
property to an extent unknown in every other portion of the 
world, whether under Christian or Mohammedan sway. The 
merits and defects of the Byzantine government are not found 
in combination in any other portion of history, until we 
approach modem times. 

Hereditary succession was never firmly established in the 
Byzantine empire. The system of centralisation rendered the 
prime-minister, who carried on the administration for a minor 
or a weak sovereign, virtually master of the empire. Against 
this danger Alexander had endeavoured to protect his nephew, 
by creating a regency of six members, no one of whom could 
aspire at becoming the colleague of young Constantine. But 
the arbitrary nature of the imperial power created a feeling of 
insecurity in the minds of all officials, as long as that power 
eras not vested in a single individual. This feeling inspired 
svery man of influence with the hope of being able to render 
bdmself sole regent, and with the desire of assuming the title 
Df Emperor, as the only method of permanently maintaining 
:he post of guardian to the young prince. The most popular 
man of the time was Constantine Dukas, who had fled to the 
Saracens with his father Andronikos, in order to escape the 



266 Basiltan Dynasty 

anger of Leo VI. His father had embraced Mohammedanism, 
but Dtikas bad thrown himself on the mercy of Leo rather 
than forsake his religion, and had been rewarded by a com- 
mand on the south-eastern frontier. For three years he served 
with distinction, and his valour and liberality rendered him 
popular among the soldiers. The death of Alexander found 
him commanding a division of the Byzantine army in Asia 
Minor, with the rank of general of the imperial guard ; and 
a party of the officers of state, knowing Ms boundless ambition, 
fixed their eyes on him as the man most likely to overthrow 
the regency. Even the Patriarch Nikolaos was privy to the 
schemes of those who urged Dukas to repair secretly to 
Constantinople, for this ambitious ecclesiastic expected more 
authority over a young man possessing absolute power, than 
over six wary statesmen experienced in every department of 
public business. 

As soon as Dukas reached the capital, he was proclaimed 
emperor by his partisans, who had already prepared the troops 
and the people for a change; and he marched immediately 
to the pakce of Chalke, where the young emperor resided, 
and of which he expected to gain possession without difficulty. 
His attack was so sudden that he rendered himself master 
of the outer court but the alarm was soon given, and all the 
entries into the palace were instantly closed. John Eladas, 
one of the members of the regency, assumed the command 
of the guards on duty, and a furious battle was fought in 
the court. The rebels were repulsed, and the horse of Dukas 
slipping on the flags of the pavement he was slain. Three 
thousand men are said to have fallen in this short tumult, 
in which both parties displayed the most daring courage. 
The conspirators who fell were more fortunate than those 
who were taken by the regency, for these latter were put to 
death with inhuman cruelty; and the Patriarch was justly 
censured for the apathy he showed when men were tortured, 
of whose plots he had been cognisant 1 Several persons 
of jhigh rank were beheaded, and some were hung on the 
Asiatic shore opposite the imperial palace. The wife of 
Constantine Dukas was compelled to take the veil, and 
banished to her property in Paphlagonia, where she founded 
a monastery. Stephen, her only surviving son, was made 
a eunuch, and every other male of the noble house of Dukas 
perished on this occasion. The family that afterwards bore 

1 Zonaras, ii. 184. 



Legislation and Despotism 267 

the name, and ascended the throne of Constantinople, was of 
more modern origin. 1 

The affection of the young emperor for his mother, and the 
intrigues of the different members of the regency, who ex- 
pected to increase their influence by her favour, reinstated 
Zoe Carbopsina in the palace, from which she had been 
expelled by Alexander. As she had received the imperial 
crown, she shared the sovereign authority with the regents 
as a matter of right, and through the influence of John 
EladaSj she soon became the absolute mistress of the public 
administration. Zoe thought of little but luxury and amuse- 
ment. Her administration was unfortunate ? and a complete 
defeat of the Byzantine army by the Bulgarians created 
a general feeling that the direction of public affairs ought no 
longer to be intrusted to a woman of her thoughtless dis- 
position. 

The evils inflicted on the inhabitants of Thrace by Simeon, 
king of Bulgaria, after his rupture with Alexander, equalled 
the sufferings of the empire during the earlier incursions of the 
Huns and Avars. In the year 913, shortly after Alexander's 
death, Simeon marched up to the walls of Constantinople 
almost without opposition; but he found the city too well 
garrisoned to admit of his remaining long in its vicinity : he 
retired after an ineffectual attempt to settle the terms of a 
treaty in a conference with the Patriarch. In 914 he again 
invaded the empire, and in this campaign Adrianople was 
betrayed into his hands by its governor, an Armenian named 
Pankratakas, who, however, as soon as the Bulgarians retired, 
restored it to the Byzantine government. 

A Turkish tribe, called by the Byzantine writers Patzinaks, 
who had contributed to destroy the flourishing monarchy of 
the Khazars, had driven the Magyars or Hungarians before 
them into Europe, and at this period had extended their 
settlements from the shores of the Sea of Azof and the falls 
of the Dnieper to the banks of the Danube. They were thus 
neighbours of the Russians and the Bulgarians, as well as of 
the Byzantine province of Cherson. 2 They were nomades, 
and inferior in civilization to the nations in their vicinity, by 
whom they were dreaded as active and insatiable plunderers, 

1 Zonaras, II. 372. Leo Gramm.. 492. Ducange, Fatn. Byz. too. 

2 Tfae_ Patzmaks are called also Petchenegs. The Magyars are called Turks by 
Constantine Porphyrogenitus, in his curious work, De Administra.ndo Imferio, chap. 
4, 5. The Patzinaks, Magyars, Uzes, and Kumans, who all made their first appearance 
in Europe about this time, were Turkish tribes. 



268 Basllian Dynasty 

always ready for war and eager for rapine. The regency of the 
Empress Zoe, la order to give the people of Thrace some 
respite from the ravages of the Bulgarians, concluded an 
affiance with the Patzinaks, who engaged, on receiving a sum 
of money, to act in co-operation with the imperial forces. 
They were to attack the Bulgarians in the rear, the means of 
crossing the Danube being furnished by the Byzantine govern- 
ment. Zoe in the mean time, trusting to negotiations she 
was carrying on at Bagdat for securing tranquillity in Asia 
Minor, transferred the greater part of the Asiatic army to 
Europe, and prepared to carry the war into the heart of 
Bulgaria, and compel Simeon to fight a battle, in order to 
prevent his country being laid waste by the Patzinaks. A 
splendid army was reviewed at Constantinople, and placed 
undo: the command of Leo Phokas, a man possessing great 
influence with the aristocracy, and a high military reputation. 
Before the troops marched northward they received new arms 
and equipments ; liberal advances of pay were made to the 
soldiers, and numerous promotions were made among the 
officers. The second in command was Constantine the Libyan, 
one of the conspirators in the plot of Dukas, who had escaped 
the search of the regency until he obtained the pardon of 
Zoe's government The fleet appointed to enter the mouth 
of the Danube, in order to transport the Patzinaks over the 
river, was placed under the command of Romanus the grand 
admiral 

Leo Phokas pressed forward, confident of success; but 
Homanus felt no inclination to assist the operation of one 
whom a successful campaign would render the master of the 
empire. He is accused of throwing impediments in the way 
of the Patzinaks, and delaying to transport them over the 
Danube at the time and place most likely to derange the 
operations of the Bulgarians. The conduct of Leo was rash, 
that of Romanus treacherous. Simeon was enabled to con- 
centrate all his forces and fight a battle at a place called 
Achelous, in which the Byzantine army was defeated, with an 
immense loss both in officers and men, 1 (2oth August 917). 

1 Achelous seems to have been the name of both a river and fortress In Bulgaria, 
River : Contin. 240. Symeon Mag. 476. Georg. MOD. 569. Leo Gramm. 491. 
Fortress: Cedrenus, '613. See Krug, Chronologic der Byz. 130, note * * The defeat 
took place jiear Anchialus. Leo Diaconus, 124, edit Bonn. The name Achelous seems 
to have misled Gibbon into a singular complication of errors. His words are, " On 
rlassic ground, on the banks of the Achelous, the Greeks were defeated : their horn 
ras broken by the strength of the barbaric Hercules." He transports the battle into 
jrxeece, calls the Asiatic troops of Leo Phokas Greeks ; and grows more poetical than 
>rid, whom he quotes. Decline and Fall, vol. x. aoi. 



Legislation and Despotism 269 

Leo escaped to Mesembria, where he attempted to rally the 
fugitives; but Romanus, as soon as he heard of the disaster, 
sailed, directly to Constantinople without attempting to make 
any diversion for the relief of his countrymen, or endeavouring 
to succour the defeated troops as he passed Mesembria. He 
was accused of treason on his return, and condemned to lose 
his sight ^ but he retained possession of the fleet by the support 
of the sailors; and the empress, who began to perceive her 
unpopularity, countenanced his disobedience, as she expected 
to make use of his support. 

The partisans of Leo openly urged his claims to be placed 
at the head of the administration, as the only man capable 
by his talents of preventing a revolution; and the chamber* 
lain Constantine urged Zoe to appoint him a member of the 
regency, and invest him with the conduct of public affairs. 
The empress began to distrust Romanus, from the pre- 
ponderating power he possessed as long as the fleet remained 
in the vicinity of the capital The fleet was therefore ordered 
into the Bkck Sea ; but Romanus had already received secret 
encouragement to oppose the designs of Leo from Theodore, 
the governor of the young emperor, and he delayed sailing, 
under the pretext that the sailors would not put to sea until 
their arrears were paid. The crisis was important; so the 
chamberlain Constantine visited the fleet with the money 
necessary for paying the sailors, determined to hasten its 
departure, and perhaps to arrest the grand admiral This 
step brought ^ matters to an issue. Romanus seized the 
money and paid the sailors himself, keeping the chamberlain 
under arrest ^ This daring conduct on the part of a man 
hitherto considered as deficient in ambition as well as 
capacity, spread alarm in the palace, for it revealed to the 
empress that there was another pretender to supreme power. 
Zoe immediately despatched the Patriarch Nikolaos, and 
some of the principal officers of state, to visit the fleet 
in order to induce the sailors to return to their allegiance; 
but the populace, eager for change, and delighted to see the 
government in a state of embarrassment, attacked the envoys 
with stones, and drove them back into the palace. The 
empress, at a loss what measures to adopt, vainly sought 
for information concerning the causes of this sudden revolu- 
tion. At last Theodore, the young emperor's governor, 
declared that the conduct of Leo Phokas and the chamber- 
lain Constantine had caused the popular dissatisfaction, for 



2jo Basilian Dynasty 

Leo had rained the army and Constantine had corrupted the 
administration. He suggested that the easiest mode of 
putting an end to the existing embarrassments would be for 
the young Emperor Constantine to assume the supreme 
power into his own hands. This was done ? and the young 
prince, or rather his tutor Theodore in his name, invited the 
Patriarch and one of the regents named Stephen to consult 
on the measures to be adopted, though both were known to 
be hostile to his mother's administration. This produced an 
Immediate revolution at court The principal officers of state 
attached to the party of Phokas were dismissed from their 
employmentSj which were conferred on men pledged to 
support the new advisers of the young emperor. Leo, not 
perceiving that Romanes was directly connected with the 
new administration, proposed a coalition, but received from 
that wary intriguer only assurances of friendship and support, 
while he openly obeyed the orders of the new ministers, 
Romanus, however, was soon informed by his friend Theo- 
dore that the Patriarch and Stephen had resolved to remove 
him from his command, that they might render him as 
harmless as Leo: bold measures were therefore rendered 
necessary, and without hesitation the admiral ranged his 
fleet in hostile array under the walls of the palace Bukoleon. 
His friends within, under the direction of the patrician 
Niketas, invited him to enter and protect the young emperor, 
and at the same time forced the Patriarch and Stephen to 
retire. 1 The Emperor Constantine had been already pre- 
disposed in favour of Romanus by his tutor, so that he 
received the insurgent admiral in a friendly manner. The 
young prince, accompanied by the court, repaired to the 
chapel in Pharo, where Romanus took an oath of fidelity on 
the wood of the true cross, and was invested with the offices 
of grand master and grand heteriarch, or general of the 
foreign guards, on the 25th of March gig, 2 

Before a month elapsed, the fortunes of Romanus were 
further advanced by the charms of his daughter Helena. 

1 This Niketas was a Sclavonian landed proprietor in the Peloponnesus, whose 
daughter was married to Christopnoros the eldest son of Romanus. His ass-like 
Sclavonian visage, to use an expression which amused the courtiers of Constantinople, 
and has troubled modern scholars, excited the spleen of his imperial rel :tive. Compare 
Contin. 243, Constant. Porphyr. Ds Tkemat. 25, edit. Banduri, and note at page 284 of 
this volume. 

% The date is given by the Coatinuaror, 243 ; Symeon Mag. 478. But the chronology ot 
this period is reviewed with learning and accuracy by Krug, Kritisc&e-r Ve-rsuch Zur 
cLuf&l&rung der Byzantinischen Chronologic, tftii besonderer Rucksicht auf die friihere 
Gesckichtt Russlands ; St Petersburg, iSio, p. 133, 



Legislation and Despotism 271 

Constantlne VII. became deeply smitten with her beauty, 
and the ambition of the father precipitated the marriage in 
order to secure the title of Basileopater, which gave him pre- 
cedence over every other officer of state, 27th April 919. 
He was now even more than prime-minister, and his position 
excited deeper envy. Leo Phokas took up arms in Bithynia 
and marched to Chrysopolis, (Scutari), declaring that his 
object was to deliver the young emperor from restraint; but 
his movement was so evidently the result of disappointed 
ambition that he found few to support him, and he was soon 
taken prisoner and deprived of sight. Another conspiracy, 
having for its object the assassination of the Basileopater, 
also failed. The Empress Zoe was accused of attempting to 
poison him, and immured in a monastery. The governor 
Theodore, perceiving that he no longer enjoyed the confidence 
of the friend he had contributed to elevate, began to thwart 
the ambitious projects of Romanus, and was banished to his 
property in Opsikion. Romanus, finding that there was now 
nothing to prevent his indulging his ambition, persuaded his 
son-in-law to confer on him the title of Caesar, and shortly 
after to elevate him to the rank of emperor. He was crowned 
as the colleague of Constantine Porphyrogenitus by the 
Patriarch Nikokos in the Church of St Sophia, on the i7th 
December gig. 1 

Few men ever possessed the absolute direction of public 
affairs in the Byzantine empire without assuming the imperial 
title, even though they had no intention of setting aside the 
sovereign whose throne they shared. It was well understood 
that there was no other means of securing then* position, for 
as long as they remained only with the rank of prime-minister 
or Caesar, they were exposed to lose their sight, or be put to 
death by a secret order of the sovereign, obtained through 
the intrigues of a eunuch or a slave. But as soon as they 
assumed the rank of emperor of the Romans, their person 
was sacred, being protected both by the law of high treason 
and the force of public opinion, which regarded the emperor 
as the Lord's anointed. Two of the greatest sovereigns who 
ever sate on the throne of Constantinople, Nicephorus II. 
(Phokas), and John I. (Zimiskes), shared the throne with 
Basil II. and Constantine VIII., as Romanus I. did with 
Constantine VII. 

Romanus was a man whose character was too weak to 

* Krug, 140. 



272 Basllian Dynasty 

admit of enlarged Ylews. His vanity was hurt by the fact 
thai lie occupied only the second place in the empire, 
and to gratify his passion for pageantry, and secure the place 
of honour in the numerous ceremonies ^of the Byzan- 
tine court, he usurped the place of his son-in-law, and con- 
ferred the imperial crown on his own wife Theodora, and 
on his eldest son Christophoros, giving both precedence over 
the hereditary emperor. Romanus had served in his youth as 
a marine, and he had risen to the highest rank without 
rendering himself remarkable either for his valour or ability; * 
die successful career of his family, therefore, naturally excited 
the dissatisfaction of the aristocracy and the ambition of 
every enterprising officer. His reign was disturbed by a 
series of conspiracies, all having for their avowed object the 
restoration of Constantine Porphyrogenitus to his legitimate 
rights, though, probably, the real object of the conspirators 
was to gain possession of the power and position occupied by 
Romanus. In the year 921, the great officers of the empire 
the grandmaster of the palace, the minister of fortifications, 
and the director-general of charitable institutions were dis- 
covered plotting. Shortly after, a patrician, with the aid of 
the captain of the guard of Maglabites or mace-bearers, 2 un- 
dismayed by the preceding failure, again attempted to dethrone 
Romanus; and a third conspiracy a planned by the treasurer 
and keeper of the imperial plate 3 one of the chamberlains, 
and the captain of the imperial galley, was organised. All 
were discovered, and the conspirators were punished. In 924, 
BoEas, a patrician, rebelled on the frontiers of Armenia, but 
his troops were defeated by the celebrated general ^ John 
Kurkuas, and he was confined in a monastery. Again, in 
926, one of the ministers of state and the postmaster-general 
formed a plot, which proved equally abortive. 

As years advanced, the feeble character of Constantine 
Porphyrogenitus became more apparent His want of talent, 
and his devotion to literature and art, warned the ablest 
statesmen to avoid compromising their fortunes by supporting 
the cause of one so little qualified to defend his own rights. 
Romanus, too, having assumed his three sons, Christophoros, 
Stephanos, and Constantinos, as his colleagues, and placed 

i His son-in-law calls him an illiterate person of no rank. 'Idtdtmjs K<d dypdfjt,- 
/wtros dv&pwTros. Const. Porphyr, De. Adm. Imp. p. 66, edit. Band. 

* When troops wore plate armour, tiie iron mace was a more effectual weapon than 
the sword in single combat. 



Legislation and Despotism 273 

his son Theophylaktos on the patriarchal throne* considered 
his power perfectly secure. The spirit of discontent was, 
nevertheless, very prevalent ; the people in the capital and the 
provinces were as little inclined to favour the usurping family 
as the nobility. An impostor, born in Macedonia, made his 
appearance in the theme Opsikion, where he announced him- 
self to be Constantine Dukas ; and though taken, and con- 
demned to lose his hand like a common forger, he was 
enabled to raise a second rebellion after his release. He pro- 
cured an artificial hand of brass, with which he wielded Ms 
sword j the common people flocked round him, and resisted 
the government with so much determination that he was 
captured with difficulty, and, to revenge the display he had 
made of the weakness of Romanus's power, he was burned 
alive in the Amastrianon at Constantinople. 1 

In early life Romanus had been a votary of pleasure, but 
when the possession of every wish for three-and-twenty years 
had tamed his passions, he became a votary of superstition. 
Feelings of religion began to affect his mind, and at last he 
allowed it to be discovered that he felt some remorse for 
having robbed his son-in-law of his birthright, in order to 
bestow the gift on his own children, who treated him with 
less respect than their brother-in-law. Christophoros was 
dead, and Stephanos, impelled either by fear that his father 
would restore Constantine Porphyxogenitus to the first place 
in the government, or excited by the usual unprincipled 
ambition that perraded the Byzantine court, resolved to 
secure the possession of supreme authority by deposing his 
father. Romanus was seized by the agents of his son and 
carried off to the island of Prote, where he was compelled to 
embrace the monastic life. Constantinos, his younger son, 
though he had not been privy to the plot, readily joined in 
profiting by his father's ill-treatment. Such crimes, however, 
always excite indignation in the breasts of the people ; and in 
this case the inhabitants of Constantinople, hearing vague 
rumours of scenes of dethronement, banishment, and murder, 
in the imperial palace, became alarmed for the life of their 
lawful sovereign, Constantine Porphyrogenitus. They felt an 
attachment to the injured prince, whom they saw constantly at 
all the church ceremonies, degraded from his hereditary 
place; his habits were known, many spoke in his praise, 
nobody could tell any evil of him. A mob rushed to the 

1 Contin. 261. 



274 Basillae Dynasty 

palace, and* filling the courts, Insisted on seeing the lawful 
emperor. His appearance Immediately tranquilllsed the popu- 
lace, but hopes were awakened in the breasts of many intriguers 
by this sudden display of his Influence. A new vista of 
intrigue was laid open, and the most sagacious statesmen saw 
that his establishment on the throne as sole emperor was the 
only means of maintaining order. Every man in power 
became a partisan of his long-neglected rights, and a restora- 
tion was effected without opposition. The Emperors Stephanos 
and Constantinos were seized by the order of Constantine 
VIL, while they were sitting at a supper-party, and compelled 
to adopt the monastic habit, 2/th January 945. 1 

SECTION IV. 

CONSTANTINE VIL (PORPHYROGENITUS) ROMANUS II. 
945-963. 

Character of CoBStantlne VIL, A.D. 945-959 Literary works Death 

Conspiracies at court Pride of Byzantine government Internal con- 
dition of the empire Sclavonians in the Peloponnesus Mainates 
Saracen war Bulgarian war Character of Romanus II., 959~9 6 3 

Conquest of Crete Condition of Greece. 

We are principally indebted to the writings of the Emperor 
Constantine Porphyrogenitus, or to works compiled by his 
order, for our knowledge of Byzantine history during the 
latter half of the ninth and earlier half of the tenth cen- 
turies. His own writings give us a picture of his mind, for^he 
generally communicates his information as it occurs to him- 
self, without hunting for classic and ecclesiastical phrases, and 
seeking for learned allusions and antiquated words to confuse 
and astonish his readers, as was the fashion with most of the 

2 I may here correct Saulcy, Essai de Classification des Suites -monetaiv-es Byzan- 
ti*t$i 234,' and Victor Langiols, in the new edition of Letires d-u Baron. Ma.rcka.nt sur 
la Nitini$matiqwe % 89. After all, Marchant was right in attributing the coins usually 
ascribed to Romanus II. to Romanus I. The surfrappe engraved by Langlois is too 
imperfect to fix any point as incontestably as he supposes.^ In my^own collection I 
possess three good examples of Constantine VIL, with his long visage struck over 
Romanus. I possess, moreover, a coin of Constantine and Romanus II. struck over 
Romanus I., which is certainly decisive. I own I had entertained no doubt of the 
correctness of Marchant's attribution before meeting with these examples, from the 
great number of the coins I had met with in the Peloponnesus, and which I supposed 
must have been brought to pay the troops of Romanus I. employed^ there against the 
Sclavonians. I possess a Romanus I., also struck over one of the incertains of John 
Zimiskes, as they are called, but which appear to date from the reign of Basil I. The 
coins attributed by Saulcy, 201, to Basil I. and Constantine his son, also belongj in some 
cases at least, to Basil II. and Constantine VIII. I possess a piece in copper, in which 
the youth of both princes leaves no doubt on the subject. 



Legislation and Despotism 275 

Byzantine nobles who affected the literary character. Of Ms 
person we have a correct description in the writings of Ms 
dependants. He was tall and well made, with broad shoulders, 
a long neck, and a long face. This last feature is represented 
in caricature on some of the coins of Ms reign. His skin was 
extremely fair, Ms complexion ruddy, Ms eyes soft and expres- 
sive, Ms nose aquiline, and Ms carriage straight as a cypress. 
He was a lover of good cheer, and kept the best of cooks, 
and a cellar of excellent wine of all the choicest kinds ; but 
he indulged in no excesses, and Ms morals were pure. He 
was reserved and mild in Ms intercourse with his familiars, 
eloquent and liberal to his dependants, so that we must not 
wonder that Ms panegyrists forgot Ms defects. In a despotic 
sovereign, such a character could not fail to be popular. 1 

Constantino's long seclusion from public business had been 
devoted to the cultivation of Ms taste in art, as well as to 
serious study. He was a proficient in mathematics, astro- 
nomy, arcMtecture, sculpture, painting, and music. The 
works of Ms pencil were of course lauded as equal to the 
pictures by Apelles ; Ms voice was often heard in the solemn 
festivals of the church. An encyclopedia of Mstorical know- 
ledge of wMch a part only has reached our time, but even 
tMs part has preserved many valuable fragments of ancient 
historians and treatises on agriculture and the veterinary art, 
were compiled under Ms inspection. 2 

The Mstorical works written by Ms order were a chronicle 
in continuation of the Chronography of Theophanes, embrac- 
ing the period from the reign of Leo V., (the Armenian,) to 
the death of Michael III. The name of the writer is said to 
be Leontios. A second work on the same period, but in- 
cluding the reign of Basil I., was also written by Genesius ; 
and a third work, by an anonymous continuator, carried 
Byzantine Mstory down to the commencement of the reign of 
Ms son Romanus II. 3 

The writings ascribed to Constantine Mmself are peculiarly 

1 Continuator, 292. 

2 The fragments relating to the latter portion of Roman history are collected in the 
first volume of the edition of the Byzantine historians published at Bonn Dsxippi* 
Eunapti^ Petri JPazrzczz, Priscz, Ma.lcJtz % Menandri hisioriaruin quce $uptrsun.t t 
iSaq, 3vo. 

3 The attention of the Emperor Constantine was naturally directed to continuing the 
work of Theoohanes, as that celebrated annalist was his mother's uncle. De Adm. 
Imp, chap. x.\ii. page 76, edit. Bonn. The continuation of Theophanes, and the 
history of the successors of Basil I., are contained in the volume of the Byzantine his- 
torians entitled Scriptores post TJieopfuLnem* Genesius was jirst printed in the 
Venetian edition, but a more correct text is given in the Bonn edition. 



276 Basillan Dynasty 

valuable, for several relate to subjects treated by no other 
author. The life of his grandfather, Basil L, tells some truths, 
from vanity, that an experienced flatterer would have con- 
cealed for fear of wounding family pride. 1 A short geographi- 
cal notice of the themes or administrative divisions of the 
Byzantine empire gives us the means of connecting medieval 
with ancient geography. But the emperor's most valuable 
work is a treatise on the government of the empire, written 
for the use of his son Romanus, which abounds with con- 
temporary information concerning the geographical limits and 
political relations of the people on the northern frontier of the 
empire and of the Blade Sea, with notices of the Byzan- 
tine power in Italy, and of the condition of the Greeks and 
Sclavonians in the Peloponnesus, of which we should other- 
wise know almost nothing. 2 Two essays on military tactics 
one relating to naval and military operations with the regular 
troops of the empire, and the other to the usages of foreigners 
contain also much information. 3 The longest work, how- 
ever, that Constantine wrote, and that on which he prided 
himself most, was an account of the ceremonies and usages of 
the Byzantine court It is probably now the least read of his 
writings, yet it has been edited with care, though it is pub- 
lished without an index which merited more than a trans- 
lation. 4 

The government of Constantine was on the whole mild and 
equitable, and the empire during his reign was rich and 
flourishing. When he became despotic master of the East, he 
continued to think and act very much as he had done in his 
forced seclusion. He displayed the same simplicity of manner 
and goodness of heart. His weakness - prevented him from 
being a good sovereign, but his humanity and love of justice 
preserved him from being a bad one, and he continued all his 
life to be popular with the mass of his subjects. His kind 
disposition induced him to allow his son, Romanus II., to 
marry Theophanp, a girl of singular beauty, and of the most 
graceful and fascinating manners, but the daughter of a man in 

i The Life of Basil Is contained in Scrigtorcs ost Theofkantm* 

2 The works De Thtmatibus and De Administrando Imperio are contained In 
Bandun s Imperium Orientals, and in the Bonn collection. The work De Adm. Im6. 
was terminated in the year 952. Krug, 266. 

3 The^best edition of these treatises is contained in the sixth volume of the works 
of Meursius. 

* Part of the work De Ceremoniis AuLx Byzantinee has been interpolated at a. later 
period, and hence some have conjectured that the whole is the compilation of the 
Emperor Consiantine YJUJU The only complete edition of the Notes is that of Bonn. 



Legislation and Despotism 277 

mean circumstances. The Byzantine historians, who are more 
frequently the chroniclers of aristocratic scandal than of 
political history, and whose appetite for popular calumny 
swallows the greatest improbabilities, have recorded that Theo- 
phano repaid the goodness of the emperor by inducing 
Romanus to poison his father. 1 They pretend that the chief 
butler was gained s and that Constantine partook of a beverage, 
in which poison was mingled with medicine prescribed by his 
physician. Accident prevented him from swallowing enough 
to terminate his life, but the draught injured a constitution 
already weak. To recover from the languor into which he fell, 
he made a tour in Bithynia in order to enjoy the bracing air 
of Mount Olympus, and visit the principal monasteries and 
cells of anchorites, with which the mountain was covered. 
But his malady increased, and he returned to Constantinople 
to die, gth Nov. 959. 

The picture which we possess of the conduct of Constantine 
in his own family is so amiable, that we are compelled to 
reject the accusations brought against Romanus and Theo- 
phano ; we can no more believe that they poisoned Constan- 
tine, than we can credit all the calumnies against Justinian 
recounted by Procopius. To perpetrate such a crime, 
Romanus would have been one of the worst monsters of 
whose acts history has preserved a record ; and a character so 
diabolical would have revealed its inherent wickedness during 
the four years he governed the empire with absolute power. 
Yet he appears only as a gay, pleasure-loving, pleasure-hunting 
prince. His father and his sisters always regarded him with the 
tenderest affection. Agatha, the youngest, was her father's 
constant companion in his study, and acted as his favourite 
secretary. Seated by his side, she read to him all the official 
reports of the ministers; and when his health began to fail, 
it was through her intermediation that he consented to trans- 
act public business. That such a proceeding created no 
alarming abuses, and produced neither serious complaints nor 
family quarrels, is more honourable to the heart of the princess 
than her successful performance of her task to her good sense 
and ability. It proves that affection, and not ambition, 
prompted her conduct. Historians and novelists may recount 
that Romanus, who lived in affectionate intercourse with 
such a father and sister, became a parricide, but the tenor of 

1 Cedrenus 641, and Zonaras, i. 195, both accuse Theophano and Roman us o! 
parricide. 



278 Basillan Dynasty 

actual life rejects the possibility of any man acting suddenly, 
and for once, as a monster of iniquity. 1 

The necessity of a safety-valve for political dissatisfaction, 
such as is afforded by a free press or a representative assembly, 
to prevent sedition, is evident, when we find a popular prince 
like Constantine exposed to numerous conspiracies. Men 
will not respect laws which appear to their minds to be in- 
dividual privileges, and not national institutions. Conspira- 
cies then form an ordinary method of gambling for improving 
a man's fortune, and though few could aspire at the imperial 
throne, every man could hope for promotion in a change. 
Hence, we find a plot concocted to place the old Romanus I. 
again on the throne. Partisans were even found who laboured 
for the worthless Stephanos, who was successively removed to 
Proconessus, Rhodes, and Mitylene. Constantinos also, who 
was transported to Tenedos and then to Samothrace, made 
several attempts to escape. In the last he killed the captain 
of his guards, and was slain by the soldiers. The conspirators 
in all these plots were treated with comparative mildness, for 
the punishment of death was rarely inflicted either by 
Romanus I. or Constantine VII. 

In spite of the wealth of the empire, and though the 
government maintained a powerful standing army and regular 
navy, there were many signs of an inherent weakness in the 
state. The emperors attempted to make pride serve as a veil 
for all defects. The court assumed an inordinate degree of 
pomp in its intercourse with foreigners. This pretension 
exposed it to envy ; and the affectation of contempt assumed 
by the barbarians, who were galled hy Byzantine pride, has 
been reflected through all succeeding history, so that we find 
even the philosophic Gibbon sharing the prejudices of Luit- 
prand. Constantine Porphyrogenitus has fortunately left us 
an unvarnished picture of this senseless presumption, written 
with the foolish simplicity of an emperor who talks of what a 
statesman would feel inclined to conceal. He tells of the 
diplomatic arts and falsehoods to be used in order to prevent 
foreign princes obtaining a dress or a crown similar to that 
worn by the emperor of Constantinople; and he seems to 
consider this not less important than preventing them from 
obtaining the secret of Greek fire. Foreign ambassadors are 
to be told that such crowns were not manufactured on earth, 
but had been brought by an angel to the great Constantine, 

1 Con tan, z36. 



Legislation and Despotism 279 

the first Christian emperor; that they have always been 
deposited In the sacristy of St Sophia's, under the care of 
the Patriarch, and are only to be used on certain fixed cere- 
monies. The angel pronounced a malediction on any one 
who ventured to use them, except on the occasions fixed 
by Immemorial usage; and the Emperor Leo IV., who had 
neglected this divine order, and placed one on his head, had 
quickly died of a brain fever. Similar tales and excuses were 
to be Invented, in order to refuse the demands of princes 
who wished to Intermarry with the imperial family ; and the 
bestowal of Greek fire was to be eluded In the same way. 1 

The attachment of the people had once rendered the 
Patriarch almost equal to the emperor In dignity, but the 
clergy of the capital were now more closely connected with the 
court than the people. The power of the emperor to depose 
as well as to appoint the Patriarch was hardly questioned, and 
of course the head of the Eastern church occupied a very in- 
ferior position to the Pope of Rome. The church of Con- 
stantinople, filled with courtly priests, lost Its political In- 
fluence, and both religion and civilisation suffered by this 
additional centralisation of power in the Imperial cabinet 
From this period we may date the decline of the Greek 
church. 

The Patriarch Nikolaos, the mystic who had been deposed 
by Leo VI. for opposing his fourth marriage, (A.D. 908,) was 
reinstated by Alexander, who acted in opposition to most of 
his brother's measures, A.D. 912. After Romanus I. was estab- 
lished on the throne, Nikolaos yielded so far to the pre-emi- 
nence of the civil power as to consent to a union with the 
party of his successor, Euthymios, and to own that the mar- 
riage of Leo had been sanctified by the act of the Patriarch 
de facto. This was done to avoid what Nikolaos called scandal 
in the church, but the political experience of the bigoted 
ecclesiastic having shown him that he must look for support 
and power to the emperor, and not to the people, he became 
at last as subservient to the court as the mild Euthymios had 
ever been. On the death of Nikolaos, (925,) Stephen the 
eunuch, who was archbishop of Amasia, was appointed his 
successor, who, after a patriarchate of three years, was suc- 
ceeded by Tryphon, (A.D, 928.) Tryphon held the office pro- 
visionally until Theophylaktos, the son of the Emperor 
Romanus L, should have attained the full age for ordination ; 

1 Constant, Porphyr. De Adm. Imp. chap. 13. 



280 Basilian Dynasty 

but in order to avoid too great scandal In the church, Tryphon 
was deposed a year before Theophylaktos was appointed. The 
imperial youth was then only sixteen years of age, but Ms 
father obtained a papal confirmation of his election by means 
of Alberic, consul and patrician of Rome, who kept his own 
brother. Pope John XL, a prisoner at the time. Legates were 
sent to Constantinople, who installed Theophylaktos in the 
patriarchal chair on the 2nd February 933. The highest order 
of priests in the corporation then called the Church, both in 
the East and West, insulted Christianity. The crimes and 
debauchery of the papal court were, however, more offensive 
than the servility and avarice of the Greek hierarchy. John 
XL was appointed Pope at the age of twenty-five, through the 
influence of Ms mother Marosia, (A.D. 931.) Marosia and 
her second husband, Guy of Tuscany, had dethroned, and it 
is supposed murdered, John X., of the family of Cenci. 
John XL, as we have mentioned, was imprisoned by Ms 
brother Alberic, and died in confinement, a victim to the 
political intrigues of his brother and his mother. Alberic 
ruled Rome for about thirty years, and during that time the 
popes were only the patriarchs of the Latin church. On 
Alberic's death, his son Octavian succeeded him as patrician, 
and became Pope at the age of eighteen, under the name of 
John XII., (A.D. 956.) He is generally considered the greatest 
criminal that ever occupied the papal throne, 1 

The conduct of the Patriarch Theophylaktos was not much 
worse than might have been expected from a young man 
whose father had provided him with a bishopric, merely that 
he might enjoy a suitable rank and revenue. As long as his 
father could keep persons about the young man capable of 
controlling his conduct, outward decency was preserved ; but 
age soon rendered him independent of advice, and he openly 
indulged tastes extremely unsuitable to his ecclesiastical dig- 
nity. He lived like a debauched young prince, and sold 
ecclesiastical preferments to raise money for his pleasures. 
He converted the celebration of divine service at St. Sophia's 
into a musical festival, adorned with rich pageantry. His 
passion for horses and for hunting exceeded that of the 
Emperor Basil L, and it caused his death, as it had done that 

1 Baron ins, Ann. Ecctes. Bellarmjne, according to Daunon. calls him almost && 
worst of the popes. De Rom. Pont. ii. chap. jag. Montor, Hisioire des Struveroins 
Pontzfes Romozns, ii. 94, says, " Quant a rautorit religieuse, il fut severe, mais, pape 
legitlme, il usait d'un droit recount." Historians doubt whether he was murdered on 
account of his cruelties or his adulteries. 



Legislation and Despotism 281 

of the imperial groom. The patriarchal stables are said to 
have contained two thousand ^horses. The magnificence of 
the building, and the manner In which his favourite steeds 
were fed, bathed, and perfumed, was one of the wonders of 
Constantinople. On one occasion, as Theophylaktos was 
officiating at the high altar of St Sophia's, a slave crept up to 
him and whispered that his favourite mare had foaled. The 
congregation was alarmed by the precipitation with which the 
" most holy " pontiff finished the service. The young Patriarch 
threw aside his ecclesiastical vestments as quickly as possible, 
and ran to the stable. After satisfying himself that everything 
was done for the comfort of the mare and foal, he returned to 
Ms cathedral to occupy his place in the procession. The 
people of Constantinople submitted to receive religious in- 
struction from this festival and hunting loving Patriarch for 
twenty years; but strange must have been the reports that 
circulated through the provinces of the empire concerning the 
impious proceedings, profane songs, indecent dances, and 
diabolical ceremonies, with which he defiled the Church of the 
Divine Wisdom, could we look into the secret history of some 
provincial Procopius. The death of Theophylaktos was in 
keeping with his life. One of his horses, as self-willed as the 
Patriarch, and as unfit for its duty, dashed him against a wali 
The accident brought on a dropsy, and he died in 956, after 
having too long disgraced the Greek church, and made St 
Sophia's an opera-house. 1 He was succeeded by Polyeuktos, 
an ecclesiastic whose parents had marked him out for an 
ecclesiastical life, 2 

It has been said that the general condition of the inhabi- 
tants of the Byzantine empire was prosperous; but in a 
despotic government, any negligence on the part of the central 
administration is infallibly followed by cruelty and extortion 
on the part of some of its distant agents, who exercise a 
power too great to be left uncontrolled without the certainty 
of abuse. The weakness both of Romanus I. and Constan- 
tine VII. allowed considerable disorder to prevail at Con- 
stantinople, and the grossest acts of tyranny to be committed 
in the provinces. Chases, a man of Saracen extraction, was 
raised to high office by the companions of the debauchery of 

1 These expressions are not stronger than those of Cedrenus, 638, who was scandal- 
ised by the remains of the mummeries Introduced Into the cathedral service by 
Theopbylaktos, and which were^ perpetuated to his time. 

2 The practice of making; children eunuchs to insure their promotion in the church 
was common at this time in the Byzantine empire. 



282 Basilian Dynasty 

Alexander, and was governor of the theme of Hellas during 
the minority of Constantine. His insatiable avarice and in- 
famous profligacy at last drove the inhabitants of Athens to 
despairs and as he was attending divine service in the great 
temple of the Acropolis once dedicated to the Divine 
Wisdom of the pagans they rose in tumult, and stoned their 
oppressor to death at the altar. 1 A governor of Cherson had 
been murdered for oppression at the end of the reign of Leo 
the Philosopher. John Muzalon, the governor of Calabria, 
now shared the same fate* As no attention was paid by such 
officers to protecting the commercial lines of trade either by 
sea or land, the navigation of the Archipelago and the 
Adriatic was infested by pirates, and the great roads of Asia 
and Europe were dangerous from the bands of brigands s who 
remained unmolested in their vicinity. Urso Participatio, the 
seventh doge of Venice, sent his son Petro to Constantinople 
to announce his election, and concert measures to protect the 
commerce of the Adriatic against the Saracen and Sclavonian 
pirates. Petro was honoured with the title of protospatharios, 
and received many valuable presents from the emperor. But 
no measures were adopted for protecting trade ; and as the 
son of the doge of Venice returned home, he was seized by 
Michael, duke of Sclavonia, and delivered to Simeon, king of 
Bulgaria. The Sclavonian kept the presents he had received, 
and the Bulgarian compelled his father to pay a large ransom 
for his release. 2 

Hugh of Provence, king of Italy, sent an embassy to 
Romanus I. The Sclavonians in the neighbourhood of 
Thessalonica attacked the ambassadors, but the Italians of 
their suite defeated the brigands, and captured several, whom 
they carried to Constantinople and delivered to the emperor 
for punishment 3 

1 Contra. 240. An anecdote recorded by the Byzantine writers deserves notice, 
though it f may be an example of Individual wickedness, not general demoralisation. 
An Athenian named Rendakios (who may have been of Sclavonian descent, as he was a 
relative of the patrician Niketas), ruined by debauchery and debt, laid a plot to murder 
Ms father. The old man quitted Athens to live in tranquillity at Constantinople, but 
was taken by pirates and carried to Crete. Rendakios pretended that his father was 
dead, took possession of the family property, sold it, and removed to Constantinople. 
HJS attempt to commit parricide became known, and he was compelled to seek an 
asylum, in the precincts of St. Sophia's ; but an order was given to arrest him. He con- 
trived to escape, and forged letters of recommendation from the Emperor Romanus to 
Simeon, king of Bulgaria, but was captured, and condemned to lose his sight. 
Contin.a 47 . 2 Muratori, Annalz <? Italia., v. 270. Lebeau, xiii. 403. 

3 The stepfather of Luitprand the historian, who was afterwards ambassador from 
Otho to Nicephorus II., was one of the envoys. Among the presents were two im- 
mense boar-hounds^ These dogs were so enraged at the appearance the Emperor 
Romanus made in his imperial robes, that they took him for a wild animal, and were so 



Legislation and Despotism 283 

Weak, however, as the Byzantine empire may appear to us, 
it presented a very different aspect to all contemporary govern- 
ments; for In every other country the administration was 
worse, and property and life were much more insecure. Its 
alliance was consequently eagerly sought by every independent 
state, and the court of Constantinople was visited by am- 
bassadors from distant parts of Europe, Africa, and Ask. The 
Greeks were then the greatest merchants and capitalists in the 
world, and their influence was felt not only by all the nations 
professing Christianity, but by the rival caliphs of Bagdat 
and Cordova, and the hostile Mohammedan princes of Egypt 
and Mauritania ; it extended even to the Saxon monarchs of 
England. 1 

The Sclavonians of the Peloponnesus, who had gained a 
temporary independence during the latter part of the reign of 
Theophilus, remained tranquil from the time of their subjection 
by Theodora's regency, until the careless administration of 
Romanus L again invited them to rebel Two tribes, the 
Melings and Ezerites, who dwelt round Mount Taygetus in a 
state of partial independences conceived the hope of deliver- 
ing themselves from the Byzantine yoke, and boldly refused to 
pay the usual tribute. 2 Krinites Arotras, the general of the 
Peloponnesian theme, was ordered to reduce them to obedience, 
but he was unable to make them lay down their arms until he 
had laid waste their country from March to November, with- 
out allowing them either to reap or sow. On their submission, 
their tribute was increased, and each tribe was obliged to pay 
six hundred byzants annually. But disturbances occurring not 
long afterwards among the Byzantine officers, and a new tribe 
called the Sclavesians entering the peninsula, the Melings and 
Ezerites sent deputies to the Emperor Romanus to solicit a 
reduction of their tribute. The peaceable inhabitants saw 
their property threatened with plunder and devastation if the 
Melings and Ezerites should unite with the Sclavesians ; the 
central government was threatened with the loss of the revenues 
of the province ; so the eqperor consented to issue a golden 
bull, or imperial charter with a golden seal, fixing the tribute 
of the Melings at sixty gold byzants, and that of the Ezerites 
at three hundred, as it had been before their rebellion. 

eager to worry him that they could hardly be held by their keepers from attacking him 
on his throne. Ltiitprand, De Rebus suo Tempore in JSurgfia. gestzs, ill. chap. 5. 
Moratori v 422. Lebeau, xiii. 445, 1 Kemble, n. introd. x. 

2 The classic name of Taygetus was already forgotten, and the mountain was called 
as at present, Pentadaktylos. Const. Porph. De Adm. //. chap. 50. 



284 Basilian Dynasty 

Hie Sdavoaian population of the Peloponnesus was not 
confined to the tributary districts ; nor, indeed, were these the 
only Sclavonians who retained their own local administration. 
The whole country, from the northern bank of the Alpheus to 
the sources of the Ladon and Erymanthus, was in their pos- 
session, and they governed it according to their national usages 
until the Crusaders conquered Greece. A considerable body 
of the Sclayonians had also begun to adopt Byzantine civilisa- 
tion, and some of the wealthiest contended for the highest 
places in the administration of the empire. The patrician 
Mketas took an active share in the intrigues which placed the 
imperial crown on the head of Romanus. His pride and pre- 
sumption, as well as Ms Sclavonian descent, are ridiculed by 
the Emperor Constantine Porphyrogenitus, though the patrician 
had formed an alliance with the imperial family. 1 

From this time we hear nothing more of the Sclavonians 
settled in the Peloponnesus, until the peninsula was invaded 
by the Crusaders, after they had taken Constantinople, and 
established the Frank empire of Romania, (A.D. 1204). 

The condition of the town of Maina and the district about 
Cape Tsenaras presents us with a picture of the vicissitudes 
the Greeks had suffered during the decline of the Roman 
empire. The population of this rugged promontory consisted 
of the poorer class of agricultural Laconians, and it kept pos- 
session of this arid district when the Sclavonians seized the 
rich plain of the Eurotas, and drove the Greeks out of Sparta. 
The strangers occupied all the rich pastures on Mount Taygetus, 
but want of water prevented their advance along the promon- 
tory of Tsenaras, and the fortified town of Maina enabled the 
inhabitants to defend their liberty, and support themselves by 
exporting oil. This secluded country long remained in a state 
of barbarism, and the rural population soon relapsed into 
idolatry, from which they were not converted to Christianity 
until the reign of Basil I. In the time of Constantine Por- 
phyrogenitus, the town of Maina was a place of some com- 
mercial importance, and was governed by an officer appointed 
by the general of the Peloponnesian theme; but the district 
continued to pay only four hundred pieces of gold to the im- 

1 The daughter of Niketas was the wife of the Emperor Christophoros, the eldest 
son of Romanus I, The verse of a Byzantine poet, which Constantine mentions was 
applied to Niketas, has caused much learned discussion. The words seem to say that 
the patrician had an ass-like Sciavonian visage 



i ii. 6. Kopitar, MisctUanea. GratcotZawica, p. 63. 



Legislation and Despotism 285 

perial treasury, which was the amount levied on It in the days 
of the Roman empire. 1 

It was fortunate for the Byzantine empire that the caliphate 
of Bagdat had lost its former military power, for if an active 
enemy on the southern frontier had taken advantage of the 
embarrassments caused by an enterprising warrior like Simeon, 
king of Bulgaria, In the north, the empire might have been 
reduced to the deplorable condition from which it had been 
raised by the vigour of the Iconoclasts. But repeated rebel- 
lions had separated many of the richest provinces from the 
caliphate, and the tyranny of a religious sway, that enforced 
unity of faith by persecution, compelled heresy to appeal to 
the sword on every difference of opinion. This additional 
cause of ruin and depopulation, added to the administrative 
anarchy that was constantly on the increase in the caliph's 
dominions, had greatly weakened the Saracen power. The 
innumerable discussions which a formal orthodoxy created in 
the Greek church were trifling in comparison with those which 
the contemplative tendencies of the Asiatic mind raised in the 
bosom of Islam. 

Several independent dynasties were already founded within 
the dominions of the caliph of Bagdat, which were disturbed 
by several sects besides the Earmathians. Yet, amidst all 
their civil wars, the Mohammedans made continual incursions 
into Asia Minor, and the Byzantine troops avenged the losses 
of the Christians by ravaging Syria and Mesopotamia, Slaves 
and cattle were carried off by both parties, whether victors or 
vanquished, so that the country became gradually depopulated ; 
and in succeeding generations we find the richest provinces 
between the Halys, the Euphrates, and the Mediterranean in 
a state of desolation. The suburbs of the towns were reduced 
to ashes ; valleys, once swarming with inhabitants, and culti- 
vated with the spade, so that they could support millions, were 
reduced to sheep-walks. During the regency of Zoe, Damian, 
emir of Tyre, with a powerful fleet under his command, at- 
tacked Strobelos in Caria, but he was repulsed; 2 and in the 
following year the Byzantine army made an irruption into the 
territories of Germanicia and Samosata, and carried off fifty 
thousand prisoners, according to the accounts of the Arabian 
historians. The empress-regent would have willingly concluded 

* De Adm. /##*. chap. 50, page 224, edit. Bonn. 

2 Strobelos was the ancient Myndos. It is called an island by the Byzantine writers 
from its peninsular situation.. Const. Porphyr. De Them. p. 15, edit. Bonn. 



286 Basilian Dynasty 

peace with the Saracens at this time, for she was compelled to 
transport the greater part of the Asiatic army Into Europe to 
resist Simeon, king of Bulgaria, and it appears that a truce and 
exchange of prisoners took place. The Byzantine arms had 
been so much more successful than the Saracen during the 
preceding campaigns, that when all the Christians had been 
exchanged, the number of Mohammedans still unredeemed 
was so great that the caliph had to pay a hundred and twenty 
thousand pieces of gold for their release, according to the 
stipulated price fixed by the convention. 1 

Romanus I., who had obtained the throne by means of the 
support of the navy, appears to have paid more attention to 
keep It in good order than his predecessors. In the year 926, 
Leo of Tripolis, who visited the Archipelago, seeking to repeat 
his exploits at Thessalonica, was encountered in the waters 
of Lemnos by the imperial squadron under John Radenos, 
and so completely defeated that it was with difficulty he saved 
his own ship. 

The wars of the Karmathians brought the caliphate into 
such a disturbed state that the Christians of Armenia again 
raised their banner, and, uniting their forces with the Byzantine 
generals, obtained great successes over the Saracens. John, 
the son of that Kurkuas, who had been deprived of sight for 
conspiring against Basil I., was appointed commander-in-chief 
by Romanus, and commenced a career of conquest ably fol- 
lowed up a few years later by the Emperors Nicephorus II. 
and John I. (Zimiskes.) The military skill of John Kurkuas, 
the high discipline of Ms army, and the tide of conquest which 
flowed with his presence, revived aspirations of military re- 
nown long dormant at Constantinople. The learned were 
pleased to compare him with Trajan and Belisarius, the heroes 
of the Western and Eastern Empires. 

As early as the reign of Leo. VI., the Armenians under 
Melias had made considerable progress. The territory they 
delivered from the yoke of the Mohammedans was formed into 
a small theme, called Lykandps, and Melias was named its 
general, with the rank of patrician. 2 From the year 920 to 
942, John Kurkuas was almost unintc ruptedly engaged against 
the Saracens. In 927 he ravaged the province of Melitene, 
and took the capital, of which, however, he only retained 

^ l Weil, Geschickte dcr Chalifen., ii. 635. The Byzantine ambassador was at Ba^dat 
sn July, 917. 

2 Constant Porphyr. Dtt Adm. Imp. chap, 50, page 228. 



Legislation and Despotism 287 

possession for a month. 1 Two years after, the Saracen emir 
of Melitene, finding himself unable to resist the Byzantine 
armies, engaged to pay tribute to the emperor. In the mean 
time, the Armenians, with the assistance of a division of 
Byzantine troops, had pushed their conquests to the lake of 
Van, and forced the Saracens of Aklat and Betlis not only to 
pay tribute, but to allow the cross to be elevated in their cities 
higher than the domes of their mosques. The long series of 
annual incursions recorded by the Byzantine and Arabian 
writers may be described in the words plunder, slavery, de- 
population. In the campaign of 941, the Byzantine troops 
are said to have reduced fifteen thousand Saracens to slavery. 
But the exploit which raised the reputation of John Kurkuas 
to the highest pitch of glory, was the acquisition of the 
miraculous handkerchief, with a likeness of our Saviour visibly 
impressed on its texture ; a relic which the superstition of the 
age believed had been sent by Christ himself to Abgarus, 
prince of Edessa. In the year 942, John Kurkuas crossed the 
Euphrates, plundered Mesopotamia as far as the banks of the 
Tigris, took Nisibis, and kid siege to Edessa. The in- 
habitants of the city purchased their safety by surrendering the 
miraculous handkerchief. The victorious general was removed 
from his command shortly after, and the relic was transported 
to Constantinople by others. 2 

The parallel drawn by the people of Constantinople between 
John Kurkuas and Belisarius, seems imperfectly borne out by 
the conquests of the later general ; but the acquisition of a 
relic weighed, in those days, more than that of a kingdom. 
Yet, perhaps, even the miraculous portrait of Edessa would not 
have been compared with the conquest of the Vandal and 
Gothic monarchies, had the two-and-twenty years of John 
Kurkuas's honourable service not been repaid by courtly 
ingratitude* In the plenitude of his fame, the veteran was 
accused of aspiring at the empire, and removed from all his 
employments. Romanus L, like Justinian, when he examined 
the accusation, was convinced of its falsity, but he was jealous 
and mean-spirited. 3 

1 Contiii. 257. Weil, !!. 637. 

2 Georg. Mon. 590. Contin. 268. Krug. 225. In this age there was a vehement 
desire to gain possession of relics. Chamich, History of Armenia, H. 82. 

3 Manuel, a judge and protospatharios, wrote a work in eight books on the exploits 
of John Kurkuas. As the holy handkerchief of Edessa was brought to Constantinople 
after his disgrace, xsth August, 943, his name is not mentioned by the servile historians, 
of the empire in connection with its capture. This fact shows to what extent thes* 
writers conceal the truth. Compare Contin. 365, and Krug. 224. 



288 Basillan Dynasty 

During the government of Constantino VII., the war was 
continued with vigour on both sides. Self Addawalah, the 
Hamdanlte, called by the Greeks Chabdan, who was emir of 
Aleppo, Invaded the empire with powerful armies. 1 ^ Bardas 
PhokaSj the Byzantine general, displayed more avarice than 
energy $ and even when replaced by his son Nicephoras, the 
future emperor, victory was not immediately restored to the 
imperial standards. But towards the end of Constantine's 
reign 9 Nicephoras, having removed various abuses both in the 
military and civil service, which had grown out of the gains 
arising from the traffic in plunder, and slaves captured in the 
annual forays of the troops, at last prepared an army calcula- 
ted to prosecute the war with glory. The result of this labour 
became visible in the reign of Ronianus II. 

After the conquest of Crete, the whole disposable force of 
the empire in Asia was placed under the command of Niceph- 
oniSj who, according to the Arabians, opened the campaign 
of 962 at the head of one hundred thousand men. 2 The 
Saracens were unable to oppose this army in the field; Doliche, 
Hierapolis, and Anazarba were captured, and Nicephoras ad- 
vanced to Aleppo, where Seif Addawalah had collected an 
army to protect his capital The position of the Hamdanite 
was turned by the superior tactics of the Byzantine general, 
his communications with Ms capital cut off, his army at last 
defeated, and his palace and the suburbs of Aleppo occupied. 
A sedition of the Arab troops, and a quarrel between the in- 
habitants and the garrison, enabled Nicephoras to enter the 
city, but the citadel defied his attacks. On the approach of 
a Saracen army from Damascus, Nicephoras abandoned his 
conquest, carrying away immense booty from the city of 
Aleppo, and retaining possession of sixty forts along the range 
of Mount Taurus as the result of his campaign. 

The disastrous defeat of the Byzantine army by the Bul- 
garians at Achelous was the primary cause of the elevation of 
Romanus I. to the throne ; and as emperor, he conducted the 
war quite as ill as he had directed the operations of the fleet 
when admiral, though he could now derive no personal ad- 
vantage from the disasters of his country. In 921, the warlike 
monarch of the Bulgarians advanced to the walls of Constan- 
tinople, after defeating a Byzantine army under John Rector. 
The imperial palace of the fountains, and many villas about 

1 Leo DIaconus, note, page 415, edit. Bonn. D'Herbelot, fTamadan len Hamdoun, 
Weil, m. 14. 2 Leo DIaconus, 378, edit. Bonn. 



Legislation and Despotism 289 

the city, were burned, and Simeon retired unmolested with im- 
mense booty. The city of Adrianople was taken in one cam- 
paign by treachery, lost and reconquered in another by famine. 1 
In the month of September 923, Simeon again encamped 
before the walls of Constantinople, after having ravaged the 
greater part of Thrace and Macedonia with extreme barbarity, 
destroying the fruit-trees and burning the houses of the 
peasantry. He offered, however, to treat of peace, and pro- 
posed a personal interview with Romanus L, who was com- 
pelled to meet Ms proud enemy without the walls, in such 
a way that the meeting had the appearance of a Roman em- 
peror suing for peace from a victorious barbarian. Romanus, 
when he approached the ground marked out for the interview, 
saw the Bulgarian army salute Simeon as an emperor with 
loud shouts and music, while the body-guard of the Bulgarian 
king, resplendent with silver armour, astonished the people of 
Constantinople by its splendour, and the veteran soldiers of the 
empire by its steady discipline. 2 It seems that the rebellion 
of the Sclavonians in the Peloponnesus filled Romanus with 
anxiety; but he affected to solicit peace from motives of 
religion and humanity, that he might alleviate the sufferings 
of his subjects. The basis of peace was settled at this con- 
ference, and Simeon retired to his own kingdom laden with 
the plunder of the provinces and the gold of the emperor. 
The Byzantine writers omit to mention any of the stipulations 
of this treaty, so that there can be no doubt that it was far 
from honourable to the empire. 3 It must be remarked, how- 
ever, that they are always extremely negligent in their notice 
of treaties, and have not transmitted to us the stipulations of 
any of those concluded with the Khazars, or other nations 
through whose territory a great part of the commercial inter- 
course of the Byzantine empire with India and China was 

1 The second capture of Adrianople is placed by all the Byzantine writers in th 
loth indiction, A.D. 922; but Krug gives reasons for placing it in the year ga^Cfovj*. 
der Byz 155. 

2 Simeon is supposed to have formed an alliance with the Pope, who sent him a royal 
crown to reward his hostilities against the Byzantine empire and church. Schafarik, 
Slfwische AlterthUmer^ ii. 187. 

3 There can be no doubt, however, that one of the stipulations of this treaty was the 
public acknowledgment of the independence of the Bulgarian church, and the official 
recognition of the archbishop of Dorostylon as Patriarch of Bulgaria, both by the em- 
peror and the Patriarch of Constantinople. The fact is proved by the list of the pri- 
mates of Bulgaria given by Ducange, Font. A-ug. Byz* 175. The patriarchal dignity in 
Bulgaria was abolished by John I. (Zimiskes), when he conquered the country in 972, 
The Greek writers err in asserting that the head of the Bulgarian church was ever 
officially recognised as a patriarch by the church of Constantinople. Le Quien, Orient 
Christia.nHs> i. iaa7, and ii. 287, and Neale's Htstery *f the Holy Eastern Church^ vol 
i. p. 44, afford no information on this curious question. 



290 Basilian Dynasty 

oiij and from which the wealth of Constantinople was 
in a derived, 

then turned his arms against the^ Servians and 

Croatians, His cruelty in these hostilities is said to have sur- 

anything ever witnessed. The inhabitants were every- 

deliberately murdered, and all Servia was so depopulated 

that its richest plains remained uncultivated for jmany years. 

Every inhabitant not skin was carried Into Bulgaria to be sold 

as a skve ; and the capital was so completely destroyed, that, 

seven years after the retreat of the invaders, only fifty men 

found in its vicinity, living as hunters. 1 At last the 

army was completely defeated by the Croatians, 

whom the cruelty of Simeon had driven to despair. Simeon 

shortly after, and Servia placed itself under the protection 

of the Byzantine government. 

Bulgaria had been formidable at this time by the talents of 
Simeon rattier than its own power. It was now threatened 
with invasion by the Magyars, who were carrying on plunder- 
ing incursions into Germany, Italy, and even into France, 
Peter, who had succeeded Ms father Simeon, was anxious to 
secure his southern frontier by forming a closer union with 
the empire : he married Maria, the daughter of the Emperor 
Christophoros, and a long peace followed this alliance. But 
the ties of allegiance were not very powerful among the Bul- 
garian people, and a rebellion was headed by Michael the 
brother of Peter. The rebels maintained themselves in a state 
of independence after Michael's death, and when they were at 
last compelled to emigrate, they entered the territory of the 
empire, and, passing through the themes of Strymon, Thes- 
salonica, and Hellas, seized on Nicopolis, and retained posses- 
sion of that city and the surrounding country for some time. 
It seems that the incursion of Sclavesians into the Pelopon- 
nesus was connected with this inroad of the Bulgarians. 2 

Thrace bad not enjoyed sufficient respite from the ravages 
of the Bulgarians to recover its losses, before it was plundered 
by the Hungarians, who advanced to the walls of Constanti- 
lople in 934- 3 The retreat of these barbarians was purchased 
:>y a large sum of money, paid in the Byzantine gold coinage, 
vhich was then the most esteemed currency throughout the 



William the Conqu ,. .. 

OTusement. Hume, Hist, of England, chap. iv. 2 Cedrenus, 628. 

3 Con tin. a6a. Symeon Mag. 488. Georg. Mon. 588. Leo Gramm. 506,, 



Legislation and Despotism 291 

known world. In 943, the Hungarians again ravaged Tfaiace s 
and their retreat was again purchased with gold. 1 The last 
year of the reign of Constantine VII. was again marked by 
an invasion of the Hungarians, who approached Constanti- 
nople; but on this occasion they were defeated by the imperial 
troops, who attacked their camp during the night. 2 

The Byzantine wars in Italy present a series of vicissitudes 
connected with political intrigues, based on no national 
object, and leading to no general result. The imperial 
generals at times united with the Saracens to plunder the 
Italians, and at times aided the Italians to oppose the 
Saracens; sometimes occupied to accumulate treasures for 
themselves, and at others to extend the influence of the 
emperor. One of the Byzantine governors, named Krinitas, 
carried his avarice so far as to compel the people of Calabria 
(Apulia) to sell their grain at a low price, and then, having 
created a monopoly of the export trade in his own favour, 
sold it at an exorbitant profit to the Saracens of Africa. 
Constantine VII., hearing of this extortion, dismissed him 
from all employment, and confiscated his wealth; but the 
people who were governed by deputies possessing such powers 
were sure to be the victims of oppression. 3 

During the regency of Zoe (A.D. 915), Eustathios, the 
governor of Calabria, concluded a treaty with the caliph of 
Africa, by which the Byzantine authorities in Italy were bound 
to pay a yearly tribute of 22,000 gold byzants, and the caliph 
engaged to restrain the hostilities of the Saracens of Sicily. 
This tribute was subsequently reduced to 1 1 ,000 byzants, but the 
treaty remained in force until the reign of the Emperor Nice- 
phorus II. 4 Even this distant province in the south of Italy 
was not safe from the plundering incursions of the Hungarians, 
who in the year 948 embarked on the Adriatic, and ravaged 
Apulia under the walls of Otranto. The general interests of 
Christianity, as well as the extent of Byzantine commerce, 
induced the Byzantine government to aid Hugh of Provence 
and the Genoese in destroying the nest of Saracen pirates 
established at Fraxinet, in the Alps, to the eastward of Nice, 5 

Romanus II. was only twenty-one years of age, when he 
ascended the throne. He bore a strong resemblance to his 

1 m A Hungarian prince named Bulograd visited Constantinople about 050, and was 
baptised. He was subsequently taken prisoner while engaged plundering in Germany., 
and hung by the Emperor Otho. Ccdrenus, 636. Krag, 264. 

2 Cont. 288. Symeon Mag. 496. * Cedrenus, 652. 

4 /., 652. 5 Muratori, Annali < Italia, v. 319. 



292 BasIHaE Dynasty 

in person, and possessed much of bis good-nature and 
mildness of disposition, but lie was of a more active and 
determined character. Unfortunately, he indulged in every 
species of pleasure with an eagerness that rained his ^health 
and reputation, though Ms judicious selection of ministers 
prevented its injuring the empire. He was blamed for in- 
humanity, in compelling Ms sisters to enter a monastery ; but 
as Ms object was a political one, in order to prevent their 
marriage, lie was satisfied with their taking the veil, though 
they refused to wear the monastic dress ; and he allowed them 
to live as they thought fit, and dispose of their own private 
fortunes at will. His own object was obtained if he prevented 
any of the ambitious nobles from forming an alliance with 
them, wMch would have endangered the hereditary right of 
his own children. His good-nature is avouched by the fact, 
that when Basilios called the Bird, a favourite minister of 
Ms father engaged a number of patricians in a conspiracy 
to seize the throne, he allowed none of the conspirators to be 
put to death. Though he spent too much of Ms time sur- 
rounded by actors and dancers, both the administration of 
civil and military affairs was well conducted during his reign. 
His greatest delight was in hunting, and he spent much of 
Ms time in the country surrounded by his gay companions, Ms 
horses* and his dogs. His excesses in pleasure and fatigue 
soon rained Ms constitution ; but when he died at the age of 
twenty-four, the people, who remembered Ms tall well-made 
figure and smiling countenance, attributed Ms death to poison. 
His wife, whose beauty and graceful manner never won the 
public to pardon a low alliance, wMch appeared to then- 
prejudices to disgrace the majesty of the purple, was accused 
of tMs crime, as well as of having instigated the death of her 
father-in-law. 1 Romanus on his death-bed did not neglect 
Ms duty to the empire. He had observed that his able prime- 
minister, Joseph Bringas, had begun to manifest too great 
jealousy of Nicephoras Phokas; he therefore left it as his 
dying injunction that Nicephoras should not be removed from 
the command of the army employed against the Saracens. 

Joseph Bringas, who conducted the administration during 
the reign of Romanus II., was a man of talent and integrity. 
His worst act, in the eyes of his contemporaries, was, that he 
withdrew a eunuch, named John Cherinas, from a monastery 
into wMch he had been exiled by Constantine VI L, and con- 

1 Leo Diaconus, 31, edit. Bonn. 



Legislation and Despotism 293 

ferred on Mm the dignity of patrician, with the command of 
the foreign guards. The Patriarch protested in vain against 
this act of sacrilege ; Bringas wanted a man to command the 
guard, over whom he knew the leading nobles could exercise 
no influence ; so the monk quitted his frock, put on armour, 
and became a leading man at court Sisinios, one of the 
ablest and most upright men in the public service, was made 
prefect of Constantinople, and rendered the administration of 
justice prompt and equitable. A general scarcity tried the 
talents and firmness of Bringas, and he met the difficulty by 
his great exertions, though it occurred at the very time it was 
necessary to make extraordinary preparations to provision the 
expedition against Crete. Every measure to alleviate the 
public distress was taken in a disinterested spirit. Everything 
required for the army was immediately paid for ; to prevent 
speculation in corn, the exportation of provisions from the 
capital was prohibited a law which may often be rendered 
necessary as a temporary measure of police, though it is a 
direct violation of the permanent principles of sound com- 
mercial policy. 

The great event of the reign of Romanus II. was the 
conquest of Crete. The injury inflicted on Byzantine com- 
merce by the Saracen corsairs, fitted out in the numerous 
ports on the north side of that island, compelled many of the 
Greek islands of the Archipelago to purchase protection from 
the rulers of Crete by the payment of a regular tribute. The 
trade of Constantinople and its supplies of provisions were 
constantly interrupted, yet several expeditions against Crete, 
fitted out on the largest scale, had been defeated. The over- 
throw of that undertaken in the reign of Leo. VI. has been 
noticed. 1 Romanus I. was unwilling to revive the memory of 
his share in that disaster, and left the Cretans undisturbed 
during his reign ; but Constantine VII., towards the end of 
his reign, prepared an expedition on a very grand scale, the 
command of which he intrusted to a eunuch named Gongyles. 
This expedition was completely defeated ; the Byzantine camp 
was taken, and the greater part of the force destroyed. Gon- 
gyles himself escaped with difficulty. 2 

Romanus was hardly seated on the throne before he 
resolved to wipe off the disgrace the empire had suffered. 

* See page 259. 

2 Leo Diaconus, 6. Cedrenus, 640. Zonaras, it. 195. Constant. Porphyr. JD& 
. Avlae Byst. lib. u. chap. 45; rol. L 664, edit. Bonn. Krug, 293. 



294 Basilian Dynasty 

The of protecting the commerce of the capital and 

the of Greece was to conquer the island of Crete, and 

all the Saracen population. Romanus determined to fit 

out an expedition on a scale suitable for this undertaking, and 

lie knew that In NIcephoras Phokas he possessed a general 

to the enterprise. Bricgas aided the emperor with zeal 

energy, and gave no countenance to the endeavours that 

some courtiers made to awaken the jealousy of Romanus, 

tew much glory might accrue to NIcephoras from the 

successful termination of so great an undertaking. 

The expedition was strong In numbers and complete in Its 
equipments. The fleet consisted of dromons and chelands. 
The dromon was the war-galley, which had taken the place of 
the triremes of the ancient Greeks and the qulnqueremes 
of the Romans; it had only two tiers of rowers, and the 
largest carried three hundred men, of whom seventy were 
marine soldiers. The chelands were smaller and lighter 
vessel adapted for rapid movements, and fitted with tubes for 
launching Greek fire, and their crews seem to have varied 
from 120 to 1 60 men. More than three hundred large trans- 
ports attended the ships of war, freighted with military 
machines and stores. 1 We are not to suppose that the 
dromons and chelands were all fitted for war; a few only 
were required for that purposej and the rest served as trans- 
ports for the army, and the provisions necessary for a winter 
campaign. The land forces consisted of chosen troops from 
the legions of Asia and Europe, with Armenian, Sclavonian, and 
Russian aimHaries. The port of Phygela, near Ephesus, 
served as the place of rendezvous for the ships collected from 
the coasts of Greece and the Islands of the Egean. 2 Every- 
thing was ready In the month of July 960, and Nicephorus 
disembarked his troops In Crete without sustaining any loss, 
though the Saracens attempted to oppose the operation. The 
city of Chandax was prepared to defend itself to the last 
extremity, and the Mohammedans In the rest of the island 
took active measures for resisting the progress of the Byzantine 
troops, and preventing their deriving any supplies from the in- 
terior. Chandax was too strongly fortified to be taken with- 

3 Symeon Mag. 498, gives us the enumeration of the vessels composing the expedi- 
tion. He says there were a thousand dromons, two thousand chelandia, and three 
hundred and sixty transports, and he is an author deserving attention. Our Admiralty 
built at one time a class of frigates called donkey, frigates ; perhaps the Byzantine 
government was no better advised. 

2 Strabo calls itPygela, xiv. 639. Contin. Roman us 297. Symeon Mag. 498. 



Legislation and Despotism 295 

ant a regnlar siege, so that the first operation of Nicephoras 
was to Invest It in form. To insure the fail of the place, even 
at the risk of prolonging the siege, he began his operations by 
forming a complete circumvallation round Ms camp and naval 
station, which he connected with the sea on both sides of the 
city, and thus cut the enemy off from all communication with 
the Saracens In the country. The pirates of Chandax had 
often been at war with all the world, and they had fortified 
their stronghold in such a way that It could be defended with 
a small garrison, while the bulk of their forces were cruising 
In search of plunder. The repeated attacks of the Byzantine 
emperors had also warned them of the dangers to which they 
were ^ exposed. Towards the land, a high wall protected 
the city ; It was composed of sun-dried bricks, but the mortar 
of which they were formed had been kneaded with the hair of 
goats and swine into a mass almost as hard as stone, and it was 
so broad that two chariots could drive abreast on its summit 
A double ditch of great depth and breadth strengthened the 
work, and rendered approach difficult 

One of the parties sent out by Nicephorus to complete the 
conquest of the Island having been cut off, he was compelled 
to take the field in person as soon as he had completed his 
arrangements for blockading the fortress during the winter. 
The Saracens, encouraged by their success, had assembled an 
army, and proposed attempting to relieve the besieged city, 
when they were attacked In their position, and routed with 
great loss. The Byzantine general, in order to intimidate the 
defenders of Chandax, ordered the heads of those slain in 
the country to be brought to the camp, stimulating the activity 
of his soldiers in this barbarous service by paying a piece 
of silver for every head. They were then ranged on spears 
along the whole hne of the circumvallation towards the fortifi- 
cations of the city ; and the number of slain was so great, that 
many more were cast into the place by means of catapults, in 
order to let the besieged see the full extent of the loss of their 
countrymen. 

A strict blockade was maintained during the whole winter. 
When the weather permitted, light galleys cruised before the 
port, and at all times several of the swiftest dromons and 
chelands were kept ready to pursue any vessel that might 
either attempt to enter or quit the port. But though the 
Saracens were reduced to suffer great privations, they showed no 
disposition to surrender, and Nicephorus pressed on the siege as 



296 Basillan Dynasty 

spring advanced with mines and battering-rams. At last a 
practicable breach was effected, and the place was taken by 
storm on the ylh of May, 961. 1 The accumulated wealth of 
many years of successful piracy was abandoned to the troops, 
but a rich booty and numerous slaves were carried to Con- 
stantinopie, and shown in triumph to the people. 

To complete the conquest of the island, it was necessary to 
exterminate the whole of the Saracen population. To effect 
this, the fortifications of Chandax were levelled with the 
ground, and a new fortress called Temenos, situated on a high 
and ragged Mil* about twelve miles inland, was constructed 
and garrisoned by a body of Byzantine and Armenian troops. 
Many Saracens, however, remained in the island, but they 
were reduced to a state approaching servitude. The greater 
part of the Greek population in some parts of the island had 
embraced Mohammedanism during the 135 years of Saracen 
domination. When the island was reconquered, an Armenian 
monk named Nikon became a missionary to these Infidels, and 
he had the honour of converting numbers of the Cretans back 
to Christianity. 2 As soon as the conquest of the island was 
completed, the greater part of the army was ordered to Asia 
Minor; but Nicephoras was invited by the emperor to visit 
Constantinople, where he was allowed the honour of a triumph. 
He brought Kunip, the Saracen emir of Crete, a prisoner in 
his train. 3 

We may here pause to take a cursory view of the state of 
Greece during the ninth and tenth centuries. The preceding 
pages have noticed the few facts concerning the fortunes^ of 
this once glorious land that are preserved in the Byzantine 
annals, but these facts are of themselves insufficient to explain 
how a people, whose language and literature occupied a pre- 
dominant position In society, enjoyed neither political power 
nor moral pre-eminence as a nation. The literary instruction 
of every child in the empire who received any intellectual 
culture was thoroughly Greek : its first prayers were uttered in 
that language : its feelings were refined by the perusal of the 
choicest passages of the Greek poets and tragedians, and its 

1 Leo Dlaconus, xi, edit Bonn. The name Chandax was corrupted into Candia, and 
extended to the wisole Island, by the Venetians. 

a Baromus, Anna2. Eccles. A.D. 961. F. Cornelius, Crete Sacra, L aofi ; ii. 240* 
3 Leo Diaconus, 28, 430, edit. Bonn. Krag, 314. There is a contemporary poem in 
five cantos (acroases) on the conquest of Crete, by Tbeodasius, a deacon, which _gives^a 
tolerably correct, though not a very poetical, picture of the war. It was published in 
the Creta Sacra, of Cornelias, and is given in the volume of the Byzantine historians 
thai contains Leo Diaconus, printed at Bonn. 



Legislation and Despotism 297 

opening mind was enlarged by the writings of the Greek 
historians and philosophers ; but here the influence ended, for 
the moral education of the citizen was purely Roman. The 
slightest glance into history proves that the educated classes 
in the Byzantine empire were generally destitute of all sympathy 
with Greece, and looked down on the Greeks as a provincial 
and alien race. The fathers of the church and the ecclesi- 
astical historians, whose works were carefully studied, to com- 
plete the education of the Byzantine youth, and to prepare 
them for public life, quickly banished all Hellenic fancies from 
their minds as mere schoolboy dreams, and turned their 
attention to the atmosphere of practical existence in church 
and state. Byzantine society was a development of Roman 
civilisation, and hence the Byzantine mind was practical and 
positive : administration and kw were to it what liberty and 
philosophy had been to the Hellenes of old. The imagination 
and the taste of Hellas had something in their natural superi- 
ority that was repulsive to Byzantine pedantry, while their 
paganism excited the contempt of ecclesiastical bigots, A 
strong mental difference was therefore the permanent cause of 
the aversion to Greece and the Greeks that is apparent in 
Byzantine society, and which only begins to disappear after 
the commencement of the eleventh century. Its operation is 
equally visible in the Hellenic race, in whom the spirit of 
local patriotism has always been powerful, and it kept them 
aloof from the Byzantine service, so that the native Greeks 
really occupy a less prominent figure in the social and political 
history of the empire than they were entitled to claim. 

The great social feature of the Hellenic race, during the 
ninth and tenth centuries, is the stationary condition of society, 
for the apathy resulting from the secret protestation of the 
Greek mind against Roman influence was confined to the 
higher classes. The eighth century was unquestionably a 
period of great activity, increase, and improvement among the 
Greeks, as among every other portion of the population of the 
Eastern Empire. But after the subjection of the Sclavonian 
colonists in the first years of the ninth century, and the re- 
establishment of extensive commercial relations over the whole 
Mediterranean, Greek society again relapsed into a stationary 
condition. There is no doubt that the general aspect of the 
country had undergone a total change ; and its condition in 
the tenth century was as different from its condition in the 
seventh, as the state of the southern provinces of Russia, in 



298 Basllian Dynasty 

the present century, Is from their state In the thirteenth, after 
the devastations of the Tartars. Numerous new cities had 
been built 1 

The legendary history of the Greek monasteries tells us 
that the country was once utterly deserted, that the rugged 
limestone mountains were overgrown with forests and thick 
brushwood, and that Into these deserted spots holy hermits 
retired to avoid the presence of pagan Sclavonlans, who 
occupied the rich plains and pastoral slopes of the lower 
hills. In these retreats the holy anchorites dreamed that 
they were dwelling In cells once occupied by saints of an 
earlier day men who were supposed to have fled from 
Imaginary persecutions of Roman emperors, who had de- 
populated whole provinces by their hatred to Christianity, 
Instead of by administrative oppression ; and the hermits saw 
visions revealing where these predecessors had concealed 
portraits painted by St. Luke himself, or miraculous pictures, 
the work of no human hand. Such Is perhaps a not unapt 
representation of a large part of the rural districts of Greece 
during the seventh century. The immense extent of the 
private estates of a few rich individuals, from the time of 
Augustus to that of Leo the Philosopher, left whole provinces 
depopulatedj and fit only to be used as pasture. Landlords, 
robbers, pirates, and slavery had all conspired to reduce 
Greece to a state of degradation and depopulation before the 
Sclavonkns colonised her soil. 

The vigorous administration of the Iconoclasts restored 
order, reduced the aristocracy to obedience, subdued the 
Sclavonlans, and revived Industry and commerce. The state 
of Greece was again changed, the Greek population increased 
as If they had been new colonists settled on a virgin soil, and 
from the end of the ninth century to the invasion of the 
Crusaders, Greece was a rich and flourishing province. The 
material causes of this wealth are as evident as the moral 
causes of Its political insignificance. The great part of the 
commerce of the Mediterranean was in the hands of the 
Greeks ; the wealth and laws of the Byzantine empire placed 
ample capital at their command ; the silk manufacture was to 
Thebes and Athens what the cotton manufacture now is to 
Manchester and Glasgow; Monemvasia was then what Venice 

1 Of tiiese some were constructed on ancient sites, like Lacaedemon, others replaced 
neighbouring ancient cities, like Monemvasia, Piada, Nikli, Veligosti, Andravida, and 
Arkadlau 



Legislation and Despotism 299 

became at a later period ; the slave-trade, though It filled the 
world with misery, and Christian society with demoralisation, 
brought wealth to the shores of Greece. The mass of the 
agricultural population, too, enjoyed as much prosperity as 
the commercial The produce of the country was abundant, 
and labour bore a far higher price than has ever been the 
case in western Europe. This was a natural result of the 
state of things in the vicinity of every town and village in 
Greece. The nature of all the most valuable produce of the 
land rendered the demand for labour at particular seasons 
very great; and this labour yielded immense profits, for it 
fructified olive groves, vineyards, and orchards of the choicest 
kinds, formed by the accumulated capital of ages. The 
labour of a few days created an amount of produce which 
bore no comparison with its cost, and Greece at this time 
possessed a monopoly of the finer kinds of oil, wine, and 
fruit Moreover, the pastoral habits of the Sclavonians, who 
still occupied large provinces at a distance from the principal 
towns, prevented the cultivation of corn over a great extent 
of country; and the ruin of the excellent roads, which in 
ancient times had admitted of the transport of huge blocks 
of marble, and the march of armies accompanied by elephants 
over the roughest mountains, rendered the transport of grain 
to any considerable distance impossible. All these circum- 
stances rendered labour valuable. The cultivation of grain by 
spade husbandry was often a matter of necessity, so that the 
agricultural kbourer could easily maintain a position of com- 
parative ease and abundance. 

In this state of society, the only chance of improvement 
lay in the moral advancement of the citizen, which required 
the union of free local institutions with a well-organised 
central administration of the state, and a system for distri- 
buting justice over which the highest political power could exert 
no influence. Unfortunately no central government on the 
continent of Europe, which has possessed strength sufficient 
to repress local selfishness, and the undue power of privileged 
classes, has ever yet avoided fiscal oppression ; and this was 
the case in the Byzantine empire. The social condition of 
the Greeks nourished intense local selfishness; the central 
operation of the Byzantine government led to severe fiscal 
exactions. The result of the political and financial, as well 
as of the moral state of the country, was to produce a 
stationary condition of society. Taxation absorbed all the 



3QO Basilian Dynasty 

annual profits of industry; society offered no invitation to 
form new plantations, or extend existing manufactures, and 
the age afforded no openings for new enterprises ; each 
generation moved exactly in the limits of that which had 
preceded it, so that Greece, though in a state of material 
prosperity, was standing on the brink of decline. That 
decline commenced the moment the Italians were enabled 
to avail themselves of the natural resources of their country. 
Amalfi, Pisa, Genoa, and Venice, freed from the fiscal oppres- 
sion of a central government, became first the rivals and 
then the superiors of the Greeks in commerce, industry, and 
wealth. 



CHAPTER II 

PERIOD OF CONQUEST AND MILITARY GLORY, 
A.D. 963-1025 

SECTION I 

REIGNS OF NICEPHORUS II., PHOKAS, AND JOHN I. (ZIMISKES). 
A.D. 963-976 

Administration of Joseph Bringas Character of Nicephorus II., 963-969 
Public administration Saracen war Affairs in Sicily, Italy, and 
Bulgaria Assassination of Nicephorus IL Character of John I., 
969-976 Coronation Rebellions of the family of Nicephorus II. 
(Phokas) Russian war Republic of Cherson Saracen war Death 
of John I. 

THE Empress Theophano was left by Romanus II. regent for 
her sons, but as she was brought to bed of a daughter only 
two days before her husband's death, the whole direction 
of public business remained in the hands of Joseph Bringas, 
whose ability was universally acknowledged, but whose severity 
and suspicious character rendered him generally unpopular. 
His jealousy soon involved him in a contest for power with 
Nicephorus Phokas, who, however, did not venture to visit 
Constantinople until his personal safety was guaranteed by the 
Empress Theophano and the Patriarch Polyeuktes. Nicephorus 
was allowed to celebrate his victories in Syria by a triumph, in 
which he displayed to a superstitious crowd the relics he had 
obtained by his victories over the Mohammedans; and the 
piety of the age attached as much importance to these as his 
troops did to the booty and slaves with which they were 
enriched. 1 Bringas saw that the popularity of Nicephorus and 
the powerful influence of his family connections must soon 
gain him the title of Emperor, and his jealousy appears to 
have precipitated the event he feared. He formed a plot 
to have the victorious general seized, in order that his eyes 
might be put out. Nicephorus being informed of his danger, 
and having secured the support of the Patriarch by his devout 
conduct, persuaded Polyeuktes to take prompt measures to 

1 Cedrenus, 646. Zonaras, ii. 198. 
301 



302 Baslllan Dynasty 

protect him from the designs of Bringas. The senate was 
convoked, and the Patriarch proposed that Nicephoras should 
be intrusted with the command of the army in Asia, according 
to the kst will of Romanus II. 1 Bringas did not venture 
to oppose this proposal of the Patriarch, which was eagerly 
adopted; and Nicephoras, after taking an oath never to injure 
the children of Romanus, his kwfui sovereigns, proceeded 
to take the command of all the Byzantine forces in Asia. 

Bringas still pursued his schemes; he wrote to John 
Zimiskes, the ablest and most popular of the generals under 
the orders of Nicephoras, offering him the supreme command 
if he would seize the general-in-chief, and send him to Con- 
stantinople as a prisoner. Zimiskes was the nephew of 
Nicephoras; but his subsequent conduct shows that con- 
science would not have arrested Mm in the execution of any 
project for his own aggrandisement. On the present occasion, 
he may have thought that the power of Bringas was not likely 
to be permanent, and he may have known that he would show 
little gratitude for any service; while the popularity of 
Nicephoras with the troops made fidelity to his general the 
soundest policy. Zimiskes carried the letter of the prime- 
minister to Nicephoras, and invited him to assume the im- 
perial title, as the only means of securing his own life and 
protecting his friends. It is said that John Zimiskes and 
Romanus Kurkuas were compelled to draw their swords, 
and threaten to kill their uncle, before he would allow himself 
to be proclaimed emperor. The same thing had been said 
of Leo V. (the Armenian), that he was compelled to mount 
the throne by his murderer and successor, Michael II. 2 
Nicephoras at kst yielded, and marched immediately from 
Csssarea to Chrysopolis, where he encamped. Bringas found 
little support in the capital. Basilios, the natural son of the 
Emperor Romanus L, armed his household, in which he had 
three thousand skves, and, exciting a sedition of the populace, 
sallied into the streets of Constantinople, and attacked the 
houses of the ministers, most of whom were compelled to seek 
an asylum in the churches. 3 Nicephoras was invited to enter 
the capital, where he was crowned by the Patriarch Polyeuktes, 
in St Sophia's, on the i6th of August, 963. 4 

The family of Phokas was of Cappadocian origin, and had 

1 Leo^Diaconus, 34. 2 iMd., 38. Zonaras, H. 198. 

3 Basilios was the son of a Sclavonian woman ; like many eminent men of his time, 
he was a eunuch. Leo Diaconus, 94. * Leo Diaconus, 48. 



Period of Conquest 303 

now for three generations supplied the empire with dis- 
tinguished generals. 1 Nicephorus proved an able emperor, 
and a faithful guardian of the young emperors; but his 
personal bearing was tinged with military severity, and his 
cold phlegmatic temper prevented his using the arts necessary 
to gain popularity either with the courtiers or the citizens. 
His conduct was moral, and he was sincerely religious ; but he 
was too enlightened to confound the pretensions of the church 
with the truth of Christianity, and, consequently, in spite 
of his real piety, he was calumniated by the clergy as a 
hyjpocrite. 2 Indeed, there was little probability that a strict 
military disciplinarian, who ascended the throne at the age of 
fifty-one, should prove a popular prince, when he succeeded 
a young and gay monarch like Romanus II. 

The coronation of Nicephorus was soon followed by his 
marriage with Theophano, a match which must have been 
dictated to the beautiful widow by ambition and policy rather 
than love ; though the Byzantine writers accuse her of a pre- 
vious intrigue with the veteran general, and record that she 
exerted great authority over him by her persuasive manners. 
The marriage ceremony was performed by the Patriarch, but 
shortly after its celebration he forbade the emperor to enter 
the chancel of St. Sophia's, where the imperial throne was 
placed, declaring that even the emperor must submit to the 
penance imposed by the orthodox church on second marriages, 
which excluded the contracting party from the body of the 
church for a year. 2 The hostile feeling, on the part of Poly- 
euktes, that produced this insolence, also encouraged a report 
that Nicephorus had acted as godfather to one of the children 
of Romanus and Theophano a connection which, according 
to the Greek church, forms an impediment to marriage. The 
Patriarch appears to have adopted this report without considera- 
tion, and threatened to declare the marriage he had celebrated 
null; he had even the boldness to order the emperor to sepa- 
rate from Theophano immediately. But this difficulty was 
removed by the chaplain who had officiated at the baptism. 

1 Luitprand. 347. Cedrenus, 727. 

2 Nicephorus sent a hundred pounds' weight of gold from the spoils of Crete to found 
the monastery of the great Laura on Mount Athos, to which it was said he proposed to 
retire and St. Athanasios, a monk whom he charged with this commission, became 
afterwards indignant when Nicephorus put a crown on his head in place of shavm^it. 
The fanatic thought that he should have preferred the idle life of a cell to the active 
duties of a palace. Leo Diaconus, notes, 426. St. Athanasios reorganised the monastic 
communities of Mount Athos between A.D. 959~9 6 9- Montfoucon, / al&og 
Graca, 452-454. 2 Zonaras, note of Ducange, ii. 87 ; note 25, edit. Ven. 



304 Basillan Dynasty 

He came forwards and declared on oath that Nicephoras had 
not been present, nor had he, the priest, ever said so. _ The 
Patriarch found himself compelled to withdraw his opposition, 
aad s to cover Ms defeat, he allowed Nicephonis ^to enter the 
church without remark. This dispute left a feeling of irrita- 
tion on the mind of the emperor, and was probably the cause 
of some of his severities to the clergy, while it certainly as- 
sisted in rendering him unpopular among his bigoted subjects. 
Hicephorus had devoted great attention to improving the 
discipline of the Byzantine army! and s as it consisted in great 
part of mercenaries, this could only be done by a liberal ex- 
penditure. His chief object was to obtain troops of the best 
qualty s and all the measures of his civil administration were 
directed to fill the treasury. An efficient army was the chief 
support of the empire; and it seemed, therefore, to Nicephonis 
that the first duty of an emperor was to secure the means of 
maintaining a numerous and weE-appointed military force. 
Perhaps the people of Constantinople would have applauded 
his maxims and his conduct, had he been more liberal in 
lavishing the wealth he extorted from the provinces on festivals 
and shows in the capital, A severe famine, at the commence- 
ment of his reign, increased his unpopularity. This scarcity 
commenced in the reign of Romanus II., and, among the 
reports circulated against Joseph Bringas, it was related that 
he had threatened to raise the price of wheat so high, that, 
for a piece of gold, a man should only purchase as much as 
he could carry away in his pockets. It is very probable that 
the measures adopted by Kicephorus tended to increase the 
evil, though Zonaras, in saying that he allowed each merchant 
to use his own interest as a law, would lead us to infer that he 
abolished monopolies and maximums, and left the trade in 
grain free. 1 The fiscal measures of his reign, however, in- 
creased the burden of taxation. He retrenched the annual 
largesses of the court, and curtailed the pensions granted to 
courtiers. The worst act of his reign, and one for which the 
Byzantine historians have justly branded him with merited 
odium, was his violation of the public faith, and the honour 
of the Eastern Empire, by adulterating the coin, and issuing 
a debased coin, called the tetarteron. This debased money 

Zotiaras. it 303-206. Cedrenus, 660. The price of a modios of wheat having 

* __ "Vt * . i L i r__ i _i*n; \ ~L 1J i.. f ^t_ _ 



Period of Conquest 305 

he employed to pay the debts of the state, while the taxes 
continued to be exacted in the old and pure coin of the em- 
pire. The standard of the coinage of the Eastern Empire, it 
must always be borne in mind, remained always the same 
until the taking of Constantinople by the Crusaders. The 
gold coins of Leo III. and of Isaac II. are of the same weight 
and purity ; and the few emperors who disgraced their reigns 
by tampering with the currency have been branded with in- 
famy. Perhaps there is no better proof of the high state of 
political civilisation in Byzantine society. 1 But the strong 
grounds of dissatisfaction against Nicephorus were ripened 
into personal animosity by an accidental tumult in the hippo- 
drome, in which many persons lost their Hves. It happened 
that, while the troops were going through the evolutions of 
a sham-fight, a report arose that the emperor intended to 
punish the people, who had thrown stones at him, and in- 
sulted him as he passed through the streets. This caused 
a rush out of the enclosures, and many persons, men, women, 
and children, perished. The citizens, of course, insisted that 
the massacre was premeditated. 2 

The whole reign of Nicephorus was disturbed by the ill-will 
of the clergy, and one of his wisest measures met with the 
most determined opposition. In order to render the military 
service more popular among his native subjects, and prevent 
the veterans from quitting the army under the influence of 
religious feelings distorted by superstition, he wished the clergy 
to declare that all Christians who perished in war against the 
Saracens were martyrs in the cause of religion. But the 
Patriarch, who was more of a churchman than a patriot, con- 
sidered it greater gain to the clergy to retain the power of 
granting absolutions, than to bestow the most liberal donation 
of martyrs on the church ; and he appealed to the canons of 
St. Basil to prove that all war was contrary to Christian disci- 
pline, and that a Christian who killed an enemy, even in war 
'with the Infidels, ought to be excluded from participating in 
the holy sacrament for three years. With a priesthood sup- 
porting such religious opinions, the Byzantine empire had, need 
of an admirable system of administration, and a series of 
brave and warlike emperors, to perpetuate its long existence. a 
In the first year of his reign, Nicephorus endeavoured to 

A Zonaras. ii. 203. Cedrenus, 658. ,,...- 

* Leo Dlaconus witnessed the insults Nicephorus bore, and admired his equanimity 
but a woman was burnt for throwing a stone at him. P. 65. Zonaras, u. 303. 

* Zonaras, iL 203. Cedrenus, 658. 



306 Basilian Dynasty 

restrain the passion for founding monasteries that then reigned 
almost universally. Many converted their family residences 
Into monastic buildings, in order to terminate their lives as 
monks, without changing their habits of life. The emperor 
prohibited the foundation of any new monasteries and hospi- 
tals, enacting that only those already In existence should be 
maintained; and he declared a!! testamentary donations of 
landed property In favour of the church void. 1 He also ex- 
cited the anger of the clergy, by forbidding any ecclesiastical 
election to be made until the candidate had received the Im- 
perial approbation. He was In the habit of leaving the 
wealthiest sees vacant, and either retained the revenues or 
compelled the new bishop to pay a large portion of his re- 
ceipts annually Into the imperial treasury. 2 

Nicephoras was so well aware of his unpopularity, that he 
converted the great palace Into a citadel, which he made 
capable of defence with a small garrison. As the army was 
devoted to him, he knew that beyond the walls of Constanti- 
nople he was In no danger. In estimating the character and 
conduct of Nicephoras II. , we must not forget that his 
enemies have drawn his portrait, and that, unfortunately for 
his reputation, modern historians have generally attached more 
credit to the splenetic account of the Byzantine court by 
Lultprand, the bishop of Cremona, than diplomatic despatches 
of that age are entitled to receive. Luitprand visited Con- 
stantinople as ambassador from the German emperor, Otho 
the Great, to negotiate a marriage between young Otho and 
Theophano, the stepdaughter of Nicephoras. Otho expected 
that the Byzantine emperor would cede his possessions in 
southern Italy as the dowry of the princess ; Nicephoras ex- 
pected the German emperor would yield up the suzerainty over 
Beneventum and Capua for the honour of the alliance. As 
might be expected, from the pride and rapacity of both parties, 
the ambassador failed in his mission ; but he revenged himself 
by libelling Nicephorus ; and his picture of the pride and sus- 
picious policy of the Byzantine court in its intercourse with 
foreigners gives his libel some value, and serves as an apology 
for his virulence. 3 

2 The Ncvellee of Nicephorus. Leo Diaconus, 309. 

2 Luitprand. Leo Diaconus, 371. 

3 The value of the bishop's evidence as an avTOTTTys may be estimated from his say- 
fBg_that Bardas. the father of Nicephorus, appeared to be a hundred and fifty years old. 
Laitprand had visited Constantinople in 942, as ambassador of Bcrenger, with a present 
of eunuchs, which Verdun then exported. Ke then saw the singing tree, the lions of 



Period of Conquest 307 

The darling object of Nlcephoras 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. The river Cydnus flowed through the city, 
dividing It into two portions, which were united by three 
bridges. The place was populous, well fortified, and amply 
supplied with every means of defences so that the emperor was 
compelled to raise the siege, and lead his army against Adana, 
which he took. He then formed the siege of Slopsuestia, and s 
employing his men to run a subterraneous gallery under the 
wails, he prevented the besieged from observing the operation 
by throwing the earth taken from the excavation Into the 
Pyramus during the night. When his mine was completed, 
the beams which supported the wails were burned 3 and as soon 
as the rampart fell, the Byzantine army carried the place by 
storm. Next- year (965), Nicephoras again formed the siege 
of Tarsus with an army of forty thousand men. The place was 
inadequately supplied with provisions; and though the -in- 
habitants were a warlike race, who had long carried on 
incursions into the Byzantine territory, 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 Nicephoras in the new- 
citadel he had constructed to defend the palace. 1 In the 
same year Cyprus was reconquered by an expedition under the 
command of the patrician Niketas. 

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 
neighbourhood, in order to cut it off from all relief from the 

metal that roared, and the eagle that flapped its wings. Luitgrajidi Hist. lib. vi. 
chap. i. Dara, Histoire de Venise^ L 92. The account of Luitprand's embassy to 
NIcephorus is in Muratori, Scrip* Rer. ItaL torn. ii. 479 ; and in the volume of the 
Byzantine Collection published at Bonn, which contains iJeo Diaconus. 
l Leo Diaconus, 61, Zonaras, ii, 201, 



308 Rasilian Dynasty 

caHpii of Bagdat He then pushed forward Ms conquests ; 
Laodicea, Hieiapolis, Aleppo, Area, and Emesa were taken, 
aad Tripoiis and Damasciis paid tribute to save their territory 
from being laid waste. In this campaign many reHcs were 
surrendered by the Mohammedans. 1 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 Cilacia. 2 As he was anxious to reserve to himself 
the glory of restoring Antioch to the empire, he ordered his 
Leutenants 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 pkce 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 An- 
tioch. 1 He immediately sent off a courier to Peter, requesting 
Mm 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 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 Moe'z reigned at Cairowan, and was 

1 The most remarkable of these relics were an old garment and a bloody tress of hair, 
said to have belonged to John the Baptist, and the tile with the miraculous portrait of 
our Saviour, which last was taken at Hierapolis, Cedrenus, 656. Zonaras, ii. 201. 
This tile was probably an ancient terra-cotta, with a head of Jupiter resembling the 
received type of the Saviour. The sword of Mahomet was also taken in this campaign, 
for the Mohammedans were as much votaries of relics in this age as the Christians. 

2 Peter was a eunuch ; he distinguished himself in single combat with a Russian 
champion, whom he killed with his lance. Leo Diaconus, 109. 

3 The towers of Antioch present very much the appearance they did when they were 
attacked b^ Burtzes. ^ " They are about thirty feet square, and project each way so as to 
defend the interior side, as well as the exterior face of the wall : the latter is from fifty 
to sixty feet high, and eight or ten feet broad at top, which is covered with cut stones 
terminated in a cornice. The towers have interior staircases, and three loop-holed 
stages resting on brick arches, the uppermost having a small platform ; and there is a 
small cistern beneath. Low doors afford a passage along the parapet, so that these 
structures may be regarded as a chain of small castles connected by a curtain, rather 
than as simple towers. "Colonel Chesney. The Expedition for the Survey of the rivers 
Euphrates and Tigris, Vol. i. p. 426, 



Period of Conquest 309 

already contemplating the conquest of Egypt. Nicephores 
not only refused to pay him the tribute of eleven thousand 
gold byzants, stipulated by Romanus L, but even sent an 
expedition to wrest Sicily from the Saracens, The chief 
command was intrusted to Niketas, who had conquered 
Cyprus; and the army, consisting chiefly of cavalry, was 
more particularly placed under the orders of Manuel Phokas, 
the emperor's cousin, a daring officer. 1 The troops were 
landed on the eastern coast, and Manuel rashly advanced, 
until he was surrounded by the enemy and slain. Niketas 
also had made so little preparation to defend his position, 
that his camp was stormed, and he himself taken prisoner 
and sent to Africa. Nicephoras, who had a great esteem for 
Niketas in spite of this defeat, obtained his release by send- 
ing to Moez the sword of Mahomet, which had fallen into 
his hands in Syria. Niketas consoled himself during his 
captivity by transcribing the works of St. Basil, and a MS. 
of his penmanship still exists in the National Library at 
Paris. 2 

The affairs of Italy were, as usual, embroiled by local 
causes. Otho, 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 Byzan- 
tine 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, Nicephoras was apprised of the intention of the Hun- 
garians, 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 

1 He was the son of Lo Phokas, the rival of Romanus I. 

2 Leo Diaconus, 67, 76. Cedrenus seems to consider the conqueror of Cyprus and 
the prisoner of Sicily different persons; but we can hardly suppose there were too 
eunuchs of the name of Niketas who were patricians, and held the office of drungarios 
or admiral. Pp. 654, 655. The MS. is mentioned by Montfaucon, Pal, Gretca^ 45; 
and by Hase, in his notes to Leo Diaconus, 443. 



3io Basllian Dynasty 

the Hungarians, who had invaded Bulgaria a short time 
before. It is even said that Peter took advantage of the 
difficulty In which Nicephoras appeared to be placed, by the 
numerous wars that occupied his troops, to demand payment 
of the tribute Romanus I. had promised to Simeon. 1 Nlce- 
phorasj In order to punish the insolence of one whom he 
regarded as Ms inferior, sent Kalokyres, the son of the 
governor of Ctierson, as ambassador to Russia, to invite 
Swiatoskff, the Varangian prince of Kieff, to invade Bulgaria, 
and intrusted Mm with a sum of fifteen hundred pounds' 
weight of gold, to pay the expenses of the expedition. Kalo- 
kyres proved a traitor : he formed an alliance with Swiatoslaff, 
proclaimed himself emperor, and involved the empire in a 
Moody war with the Russians. 

Unpopular as Nicephoras II. was in the capital, his reign 
was unusually free from rebellions of the troops or insurrec- 
tions in the provinces. His life was terminated in his own 
palace by domestic treachery. His beautiful wife Theophano, 
and Ms valiant nephew John Zimiskes, were his murderers. 
Theophano was said to have been induced to take part in the 
conspiracy from love for Zimiskes, whom she expected to A 
marry after he mounted the throne. Zimiskes murdered his 
friend and relation from motives of ambition. 2 A band of 
conspirators, selected from the personal enemies of the 
emperor, among whom was Burtzes, accompanied John 
Zimiskes at midnight to the palace wall overlooking the pont 
of Bukoleon, and the female attendants of the empress hoisted 
them up from their boat in baskets. Other assassins had 
been concealed in the palace during the day, and all marched 
to the apartment of the emperor. Nicephorus was sleeping 
tranquilly on the floor for he retained the habits of his 
military life amidst the luxury of the imperial palace. 
Zimiskes awoke him with a kick, and one of the conspirators 
gave him a desperate wound on the head, while Zimiskes 
insulted Ms uncle with words and blows : the others stabbed 
Mm in the most barbarous manner. The veteran, during Ms 
sufferings, only exclaimed, "O God! grant me thy mercy," 
John I. was immediately proclaimed emperor by the mur- 

1 Leo DIaconus, 61. 

2 A report was spread that Nicephoras Intended to make eunuchs of Basil and 
Constantine^ and declare his brother Leo his successor. Zonaras, iL 207. This was 
probably an invention of Theophano, but it met with little credit, and her crime was 
scribed to her_ warmth of temperament and the coldness of her husband. There 
was a great fashion of filling monasteries with eunuchs at this time. 



Period of Conquest 311 

derers. The body of Nicephoras was thrown into the court, 
and left ail day on the snow exposed to public view, that 
everybody might be convinced he was dead. In the evening 
it was privately interred. 

Thus perished Nicephoras Phokas on the icth December 
969 a brave soldier, an able general, and, with all his defects, 
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 contemporary historian, 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. 1 

John L was a daring warrior and an able general. 2 He 
was thoughtless, generous, and addicted to the pleasures of 
the table, so that, though he was by no means a better 
emperor than Nicephoras, he was far more popular at Con- 
stantinople : hence we find that his base assassination of his 
sovereign and relative was easily pardoned and forgotten, 
while the fiscal severity of his predecessor was never forgiven. 
The court of Constantinople was so utterly corrupt, that it 
was relieved from all sense of responsibility ; the aristocracy 
knew no law but fear and private interest, and no crime was 
so venial as successful ambition. The throne was a stake 
for which every courtier held it lawful to gamble, who was 
inclined to risk his eyes or his life to gain an empire. Yet 
we must observe that both Nicephorus and John were men 
of nobler minds than the nobles around them, for both 
respected the rights and persons of then* wards and legitimate 
princes, Basil and Constantine, and contented themselves 
with the post of prime-minister and the rank of emperor. 

The chamberlain Basilios had been rewarded by Niceph- 
orus, for his services in aiding him to mount the throne, 
with the rank of President of the Council, a dignity created 

1 Leo DiaconuSj 78. 

2 The name Tzimlskes, an Armenian word, was given to John on account of his 
short stature. Leo Diaconus, 92, 454 : Lebeau, Hhtoire dv Bas-Em^ire, xlv. 100. 
The name is written in a fearful manner, and with variations not adapted to render 
it euphonious, by Avdall in his translation of Chamich. History of Armtnia, IL 77, 
ox. He calls him Johannes Chimishkik in one passage, and in another, Chumusluk 
Keurjan. He was born at Hierapolis, on the Euphrates, in the present pashalik of 
Amida or Diyar-bekr, called by Avdall Chumushkazak, and by Saint Martin, 
Tchemeschgedzeg. Memoires surV Armenia i. 95. 



312 Basillan Dynasty 

on purpose. He was now intrusted by John with the com- 
plete direction of the civil administration. The partisans of 
Nicephoras were removed from all offices of trust, and their 
places filled by men devoted to Zimiskes, or hostile to the 
family of Phokas. All political exiles were recalled, and a 
parade of placing the young emperors, Basil and Constantine, 
on an equality with their senior colleague was made, as an 
insinuation that they had hitherto been retained in an un- 
worthy state of inferiority. At the same time, measures were 
adopted to prevent the rabble of the capital from plundering 
the houses of the wealthy nobles who had been dismissed 
from their appointments, which was a usual proceeding at 
every great political revolution in Constantinople. 1 

The coronation of John L was dekyed by the Patriarch 
for a few days, for Polyeulttes lost no opportunity of showing 
his authority. He therefore refused to perform the ceremony 
until Zimiskes declared that he had not imbued his hands in 
the blood of his sovereign. He pointed out his fellow- 
conspirators, Leo Vakntes and Atzypotheodoros, as the 
murderers, and excused himself by throwing the whole blame 
of the murder on the Empress Theophano. The officers thus 
sacrificed were exiled, and the empress was removed from 
the imperial palace. 2 John was then admitted to the favour 
of the Patriarch, on consenting to abrogate the law of Niceph- 
orus, providing that the candidates for ecclesiastical digni- 
ties should receive the emperor's approbation before their 
election, and promising to bestow all his private fortune in 
charity. After his coronation, he accordingly distributed one- 
half of his fortune among the poor peasants round Constanti- 
nople, and employed the other in founding an hospital for 
lepers, in consequence of that disease having greatly increased 
about this time. He also increased his popularity by re- 
mitting the tribute of the Armeniac theme, which was his 

2 Cedrenus, 663. Gold coins, with the effigies of Nicephorns II. and Basil II. , 
attest that Basil preserved all the honours of Ms rank. Leo Diaconus, 04. 

2 Theophano was sent to the island of Prote, but escaped, and sought asylum in St. 
Sophia's. The chamberlain Basllios took her thence By force, and she was exiled to a 
monastery in the Armeniac theme, founded by her murdered husband. Her indignation 
on hearing the sentence was so great, that she reviled Zimiskes, and boxed the ears of 
the chamberlain, whom she called a barbarian and a Scythian. Leo Diaconus, 99. 
Cedrenus, 664, Gibbon is wrong in saying " she assaulted with words and blows her 
son Basil ; " but Lebeau has committed the same error. Cedrenus says distinctly it was 
the celebrated eunuch she assaulted, and he was the son of a Scythian woman. There 
as not a word about her proclaiming the illegitimacy of the young Basil, nor indeed 
any reason to suppose he was present, from the accounts of Leo Diaconus, Cedrenus, 
and Zonaras. On the contrary, when Basil became the ruler of the empire, he recalled 
Ms mother from banishment.- Cedrenus, 684. 



Period of Conquest 313 

native province, and by adding to the largesses which it was 
customary for the emperor to distribute. 2 

The Patriarch Polyeuktes died about three months after the 
coronation, and Zimiskes selected Basilios, a monk of Mount 
Olympus, as his successor ; and without paying any respect to 
the canons which forbid the interference of the laity in the 
election of bishops, he ordered him to be installed in his 
dignity. The monk proved less compliant than the emperor 
expected- After occupying the patriarchal chair about five 
years, he was deposed for refusing to appear before the 
emperor to answer an accusation of treason. The Patriarch 
declared the emperor incompetent to sit as his judge, asserting 
that he could only be judged or deposed by a synod or genera! 
council of the church. He was nevertheless banished to a 
monastery he had built on the Scamander, and from which he 
is called Scamandrinos. Antonios, the abbot of Studion, was 
appointed Patriarch in his place. 

The family of Phokas had so long occupied the highest 
military commands, and disposed of the patronage of the 
empire, that it possessed a party too powerful to be im- 
mediately reduced to submission. The reign of John was 
disturbed by more than one rebellion excited by its members. 
Leo, the brother of Nicephoras, had distinguished himself by 
gaining a great victory over the Saracens in the defiles of 
Kylindros, near Andrassos, while his brother was occupied 
with the conquest of Crete. During the reign of Nicephoras 
he held the office of curopalates, but had rendered himself 
hated on account of his rapacity. His second son, Bardas 
Phokas, held the office of governor of Koloneia and Chaldia 
when Nicephoras was murdered, and was banished to Amasia. 
Bardas was one of the best soldiers and boldest champions in 
the Byzantine army. In the year 970 he escaped from con- 
finement, and rendered himself master of Csesarea, where he 
assumed the title of Emperor. In the mean time his father, 
escaping from Lesbos, and his elder brother Nicephoras from 
Imbros, attempted to raise a rebellion in Europe. These two 
were soon captured, and John, satisfied that he had rained 
the family when he murdered the Emperor Nicephoras, spared 
their lives, and allowed the sentence which condemned them 
to lose their eyes to be executed in such a way that they 
retained their eyesight. Bardas, however, gave the emperor 
some trouble, and it was necessary to recall Bardas Skleros 

1 Leo Diacouus, 100. 



314 Basilian Dynasty 

from the Russian war to take the command against him. 1 
Phokas, when deserted by his army, escaped to a castle he 
had fortified as a place of refuge, where he defended himself 
until Skleros persuaded him to surrender, on a promise that 
he should receive no personal injury. ZImiskes, who admired 
Ms daring coiirage a condemned him to reside in the island of 
Chios, and adopt the monastic robe. His father Leo, who 
escaped a second time from confinement, and visited Con- 
stantinople in the hope of rendering himself master of the 
during the absence of the emperor, was discovered, 
and dragged from St. Sophia's, in which he sought an asylum. 
His eyes were then put out, and his immense estates con- 
fiscated. 

John, in order to connect himself with the Basilian dynasty, 
married Theodora, one of the daughters of Constantine VII. 
(Porphyrogenitus.) Another more important marriage is passed 
unnoticed by the Byzantine writers. Zimiskes, finding that he 
could ill spare troops to defend the Byzantine possessions in 
Italy against the attacks of the Western emperor, released 
Pandulf of Beneventum, after he had remained three years a 
prisoner at Constantinople, and by his means opened amicable 
communications with Otho the Great. A treaty of marriage 
was concluded between young Otho and Theophano, the 
sister of the Emperors Basil and Constantine. The nuptials 
were celebrated at Rome on the i4th of April 972 ; and the 
talents and beauty of the Byzantine princess enabled her to 
act a prominent and noble part in the history of her time. 2 

A curious event in the history of the Eastern Empire, which 
ought not to pass unnoticed, is the transportation of a number 
of heretics, called by historians Manicheans, from the eastern 
provinces of Asia Minor, to increase the colonies of Paulicians 
and other heretics already established round Philippopolis. 
This is said to have been done by the Emperor John, by 
advice of a hermit named Theodores, whom he elevated to 
the dignity of Patriarch of Antioch. The continual mention 
of numerous communities of heretics in Byzantine history 
proves that there is no greater delusion than to speak of the 
unity of the Christian church. Dissent appears to have been 
quite as prevalent, both in the Eastern and Western churches, 
before the time of Luther, as it has been since. Because the 
Greeks and Italians have been deficient in religious feeling, 

1 The family of Slderos is mentioned In the reign of Nicephorus I. Incert. 
49* 2 Muratori, AiMaK dfltalta, v. 435. 



Period of Conquest 315 

and their superior knowledge enabled them to affect contempt 
for other races, the history of dissent has been neglected, 
and religions investigation decried under the appellation of 
heresy. 1 

The Russian war was the great event of the reign of John 
Zimiskes. 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 in a more successful campaign, 
and the political interest which attaches to the first attempt of 
a Russian prince to march by land to Constantinoplej all 
combine to give a practical as well as a romantic interest to 
this war. 2 

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 Kief were 
the same rude warriors thatpnfested 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. The com- 
merce of the Russians was already so extensive as to influence 
the conduct of their government, and to modify the military 
ardour of their Varangian masters. But this commerce, after 
the fall of the Khazar empire, and the invasion of Europe by 
the Magyars and Patzinaks, was carried on under obstacles 
which tended to reduce its extent and diminish its profits, 
and which it required no common degree of skill and per- 
severance to overcome. The wealth revealed to the rapacious 

* Cedrenus, 665. It cannot be surprising that dissent was prevalent when we read 
how the clergy behaved. The Pope or anti-Pope, called Boniface VII., assassinated 
Benedict VI., and, after despoiling the Vatican, fled to Constantinople, A.D. 074. In 
o&t he returned to Rome, dethroned the reigning Pope,^ John XIV., who perished in 
prison, and occupied the papal throne himself. He died in the following year. 

2 Gibbon observes the singular undeclinable Greek word used to designate the 
Russians, *PcSs. It occurs twice in the Septuagint, but our translation makes no 
mention of the Russians. Ezek. xxviii. 2 ; xxix. i. The Russians appear also to be 
mentioned twice in the Koran. Al Fourlcan, v. 39 ; Sale's Koran> chap. 25 (the Rass 
on which Sale has a note is supposed to mean the Russians) ; and The Letter " Kaf" 
v. ii. Sale, chap. 50. See Hammer, Surles Origines Russcs. 



316 Basilian Dynasty 

chiefs of Kief by the existence of this trade invited 
to Constantinople which appeared to be the centre 

of riches. 

After the defeat In $6$ s the Russians induced their rulers to 
envoys to Constantinople to renew commercial inter- 
invite Christian missionaries to visit their country; 
no inconsiderable portion of the people embraced Chris- 
tianity, though it continued long after better known to the 
Russian merchants than* to the Varangian warriors. 1 The 
commercial relations of the Russians with Cherson and Con- 
stantinople were now carried on directly, and numbers of 
Russian traders took up their residence in these cities. The 
ferst commercial treaty between the Russians of Kief and 
the Byzantine empire was concluded in the reign of Basil I. 2 
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 Byzantine expedition 
to Italy; and in 949, six Russian vessels, with 629 men, were 
engaged in the unsuccessful expedition of Gongyles against 
Crete. 1 In 966, a corps of Russians accompanied the un- 
fortanate expedition of Niketas to Sicily. 4 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 Kief 
during the minority of Igor the son of Rurik, assembled 
an army of Varangians, Sclavonians, and Croatians, 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 Tzaragrad, or the City of the 
Caesars, were confined to plundering the country round Con- 
stantinople; and it is not improbable that the expedition was 
undertaken to obtain indemnity for some commercial losses 
sustained by imperial negligence, monopoly, or oppression. 



1 Continnator, 123. Cedrenus, 551. Pkotii Sfisielat, 58. Compare the observations 
of Wilken on the conversion of the Russians, with Wilken, Ultr die Verkaltnisse de* 
Ritssen xum ByzantiniscJien Reich t 90. Karamsm, Histoire de la Russie t L 148. 

2 Zonaras, XL 173. 

* Constant^PorjAyr.^ Ceremonus Avlac By&> i. 652, 660, 664, edit. Bonn. 

* The Arabian historian Novairi, quoted by Karamsin. 



Period of Conquest 317 

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 
transmitted to us by the Russian monk Nestor, for no Byzan- 
tine writer notices the expedition which was doubtless nothing 
more than a plundering incursion, in which the city of Con- 
stantinople was not exposed to any danger. 1 These hostilities 
were terminated by a commercial treaty in 912, and its con- 
ditions are recorded in detail by Nestor. 2 

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 Bosphonis while the Byzantine 
fleet was absent in the Archipelago. 3 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 hi 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, surrounded them on all sides, and en- 
deavoured 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 mean time, some of the Russians who landed in 
Bithynia were defeated by Bardas Phokas and John Kurkuas, 
and those who escaped from the naval defeat were pursued and 
slaughtered on the coast of Thrace without mercy. The Em- 
peror Romanus ordered all the prisoners brought to Constan- 
tinople to be beheaded. Theophanes overtook the fugitive 
ships in the month of September, and the relics of the ex- 

1 If the Russians really on this occasion transported their fleet over some neck of 
{and, In imitation of the exploit of Niketas Orypbas at the isthmus of Corinth, it may 
have been near Cberson, but not near Constantinople. La Chronique de Nestor^ tra~ 
duite en Fraitfatse par Louis Paris^ i. 36. 2 Nestor, i. 39. Krug, 108 

3 The Byzantine writers and Nestor speak of ten thousand boats, but Luitprand, 
whose stepfather was then at Constantinople as ambassador from Hugh, king of Italy* 
says there were more than a thousand. Lwtyrandi Hist. r. 6. 



318 Basilian Dynasty 

were Igor effecting his escape with only 

a few The Russian Chronicle of Nestor says that, in 

the year 944* Igor, assisted by other Varangians, and by the 

prepared a second expedition, but that the inhabi- 

of Cherson so the Emperor Romanns by their 

of Its magnltade 3 that he sent ambassadors, who met 

Igor at the of the Danube, and sued for peace on terms 

to Igor and his boyards consented. This is probably 

a salve applied to the vanity of the people of Kief by 

chronicler ; but it is certain that a treaty of peace was 
concluded between the emperors of Constantinople and the 
princes of Kief in the year 945- 2 The stipulations of this 
treaty prove the importance attached to the commerce carried 
on by the Russians with Cherson and Constantinople. The 
two Russo-Byzantine treaties preserved by Nestor are docu- 
ments of great importance in tracing the history of civilisation 
b the east of Europe. The attention paid to the commercial 
interests of the Russian traders visiting Cherson and Constan- 
tinople* and the prominence given to questions of practical 
utility instead of to points of dynastic ambition, may serve as 
a. contrast to many modern treaties in the west of Europe. 3 
The trading classes would not have been powerful enough to 
command this attention to their interests on the part of the 
warlike Varangians, had a numerous body of free citizens not 
been closely connected with the commercial prosperity of 
Russia. Unfortunately for the people, the municipal indepen- 
dence of their cities, which had enabled each separate com- 
munity to acquire wealth and civilisation, was not joined to 
any central institutions that insured order and a strict adminis- 
tration of justice, consequently each city fell separately a prey 
to the superior military force of the comparatively barbarian 
Varangians of Scandinavia. The Varangian conquest of Russia 
had very much the same effect as the Danish and Norman con- 
quests in the West. Politically, the nation appeared more 

1 Contin. "Romanes Lecapenus, 1 " 363. L<eo Gramm. 506. Symeon Mag. 490. 
Nestor, L 54. Kjrug 1 , iSfi. 

2 The French translation of Nestor gives 945 as the date of the treaty, but Romanus, 



colleague on the 6th April 945. Krug , aio, considers the treaty as concluded by Con- 
stantino VII. and Romanus II., and it must have been ratified in the Interval before 
Igor's death, which happened before the end of 945. 

$ Commerce, as a means of increasing power and population, was beginning to excite 
the attention of the barbarians in western Europe. Athelstan, 925-941, enacted a law 
to confer tie privileges of a thane on any English merchant who had made three voyages 
to a foreign country on bis own account. Wil^dnSj Leg. Sax. 71. 



Period of Conquest 319 

powerful, but the condition of all ranks of the people socially 
was much deteriorated. It was, however, the Tartar invasion 
which separates the modem and the medieval history of Russia, 
and which plunged the country into the state of barbarism and 
slavery from which Peter the Great first raised It. 

The cruelty of the Varangian prince Igor, after his return 
to Russia, caused Mm to be murdered by his rebellious sub- 
jects. 1 Olga, Ms widow, became regent for their son Swiatoslaff. 
She embraced the Christian religion, and visited Constanti- 
nople in 957, where she was baptised. The Emperor Con- 
stantine Porphyrogenitus has left us an account of the ceremony 
of her reception at the Byzantine court. 2 A monk has pre- 
served the commercial treaties of the empire, an emperor 
records the pageantry that amused a Russian princess. The 
high position occupied by the court of Kief in the tenth cen- 
tury 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. 3 

We have seen that the Emperor Nicephoras II. sent the 
patrician Kalokyres to excite Swiatoslaff to invade Bulgaria, 
and that the Byzantine ambassador proved a traitor and as- 
sumed the purple. Swiatoslaff soon invaded Bulgaria at the 
head of a powerful army, which the gold brought by Kalokyres 
assisted him to equip, and defeated the Bulgarian army in a 
great battle, A.D. 968. Peter, king of Bulgaria, died shortly 
after, and the country was involved in civil broils ; taking ad- 
vantage of which, Swiatosiaff took Presthkva the capital, and 
rendered himself master of the whole kingdom. Nicephoras 
now formed an alliance with the Bulgarians, and was preparing 
to defend them against the Russians, when Swiatoslaff was 
compelled to return home, in order to defend his capital 
against the Patzinaks. Nicephorus assisted Boris and Romanus^ 
the sons of Peter, to recover Bulgaria, and concluded an offen- 
sive and defensive alliance with Boris, who occupied the throne. 
After the assassination of Nicephorus, Swiatoslaff returned to 
invade Bulgaria with an army of 60,000 men, and his enter- 
prise assumed the character of one of those great invasions 
which had torn whole provinces from the Western Empire. 

1 Leo Diaconos, 106, calls his murderers Germans, meaning doubtless Northmen. 

2 Qedrenus, 636. Const. Porphyr. De Cer. A-ul. Byz. I. 594, edit Bonn. Krug,. 
367. Const. Porphyr. De Cer. Aul. Byz. I. 690. Krug, 280, 



320 Basllian Dynasty 

His army was increased by a treaty with the Patzinaks and ao 
alliance with the Hungarians, so that he began to dream of 
the conquest of Constantinople, and hoped to transfer the 
empire of the East from the Romans of Byzantium to the 
Russians. It was fortunate for the Byzantine empire that it 
was ruled by a soldier who knew how to profit by its superiority 
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 Ger- 
many and Constantinople, and that by which the Hungarians 
were in the habit of making their plundering incursions into 
the empire. 

John Zimiskes was occupied in the East when Swiatoslaff 
completed the second conquest of Bulgaria and passed Mount 
Hsemus, expecting to subdue Thrace during the emperor's 
absence with equal ease, A,D. 970. The empire was still suffer- 
ing from famine. 1 SwiatoslafF took Philippopolis, and mur- 
dered twenty thousand of the inhabitants. An embassy sent 
by Zimiskes was dismissed with a demand of tribute, and the 
Russian army advanced to Arcadiopolis, where one division 
was defeated by Bardas Skleros, and the remainder retired 
again behind Mount Hasmus. 2 

In the following spring, 971, the Emperor John took the 
field at the head of an army of fifteen thousand infantry and 
thirteen thousand cavalry, besides a bodyguard of chosen 
troops called the Immortals, and a powerful battery of field 
and siege engines. 3 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. 4 

Military operations for the defence and attack of Con- 
stantinople are dependent on some marked physical features 
of the country between the Danube and Mount Hsemus. 
The Danube, with its broad and rapid stream, and line of 

1 Leo Diaconus, 103. 

2 Leo Diaconus, 105 ; see a note at page 472, by Hase, on the chronology of this 
period. I follow that generally received on the authority of Nestor.^ 

3 The numbers are given by Leo Diaconus, 130. Cedrenus gives five thousand 
infantry and four thousand cavalry, 672; Zonaras ii. axx, the same number. The 
proportion affords some insight into the constitution of Byzantine armies at this period 
of military glorjr. The cavalry served as the model for European chivalry, but the 
sword of the legionary could still gain a battle. 

* Leo Diaconus, 129, calls the larger vessels triremes, though they certainly had not 
more than two tiers of oars. Of the smaller he says, <TW<4/xa Xl/i/3ots Kal d/carlot*, a 
OIVWS ovo/j.dov<ri. 



Period of Conquest 321 

fortresses on its southern bank, would be an impregnable 
barrier to a military power possessing an active ally in 
Hungary and Servia ; for it is easy to descend the river and 
concentrate the largest force on any desired point of attack, 
to cut off the communications or disturb the flanks of the 
invaders. Even after the line of the Danube is lostj that of 
Mount Hsemus covers Thrace; and it formed a rampart to 
Constantinople in many periods of danger under the Byzantine 
emperors. It was then traversed by three great military roads 
passable for chariots. The first, which has a double gorge, 
led from Philippopolis to Sardica by the pass called the Gates 
of Trajan (now Kapou Dervend), throwing out three branches 
from the principal trunk to Naissos and Belgrade, 1 The 
great pass forms the point of communication likewise with 
the upper valley of the Strymon, from Skupi to Ulpiana, and 
the northern parts of Macedonia. Two secondary passes 
communicate with this road to the north-east, affording 
passage for an army that of Kezanlik, and that of Isladi; 
and these form the shortest lines of communication between 
Philippopolis and the Danube about Nicopolis, through 
Bulgaria. The second great pass is towards the centre of 
the range of Haemus, and has preserved among the Turks 
its Byzantine name of the Iron Gate. 2 It is situated on the 
direct line of communication between Adrianople and Roust- 
chouk. Through this pass a good road might easily be con- 
structed. The third great pass is that to the east, forming 
the great line of communication between Adrianople and the 
Lower Danube near Silistria (Dorystolon). It is called b7 
the Turks Nadir Dervend. The range of Haemus has several 
other passes independent of these, and its parallel ridges 
present numerous defiles. The celebrated Turkish position 
at Shoumla is adapted to cover several of these passes, con- 
verging on the great eastern road to Adrianople. 

The Emperor John marched from Adrianople 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 Russians, and 
he led his army through all the defiles of Mount Hsemus 
without encountering any difficulty. The Russian troops 
stationed at Presthlava, who ought to have guarded the passes, 

1 Ammianus Marcellinus, xxi. 10. Sozornenes, Hist. JEccles. ii. 32. Nicephorui 
Giregoras, i. 231. Sardica is Triaditza, now Sophia. 

* Cedrenus, 784, 5t& rijs \yofJt,4vtjs 'EtiSypas. The Turks call it Demir kapou. 

M 



322 Basillan Dynasty 

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 accus- 
tomed to resist the light cavalry of the Patzinaks and other 
Turkish tribes. 1 They proved, however, no match for the 
heavy-armed lancers of the imperial army; and, after a 
vigorous resistance, were completely routed by John 
Zimiskes, leaving eight thousand five hundred men on the 
field of battle. On the following day Presthkva was taken 
by escalade, and a body of seven thousand Russians 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 Kalokyres, succeeded in 
escaping to Dorystolon, where SwiatoslafT had concentrated 
the rest of the army ; but Boris, king of Bulgaria, with all his 
family, was taken prisoner in his capital 

The emperor, after celebrating Easter in Presthlava, ad- 
vanced by Pliscova and Dinea to Dorystolon, where Swiatoslaff 
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. Zimiskes, knowing he had to deal 
with a desperate enemy, fortified his camp with a ditch and 
rampart according to the old Roman model, which was tra- 
ditionally preserved by the Byzantine engineers. The Russians 
enclosed within the walls of Dorystolon were more numerous 
than their besiegers, and Swaitoslaff hoped to be able to open 
his communications with the surrounding country, by bring- 
ing on a general engagement in the plain before all the 
defences of the camp were completed. He hoped 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 

1 The Russians then wore armour similar to that worn by the Normans in western 
Europe At a later period. Leo Diaconus,xo8, 144. 



Period of Conquest 323 

allowed their missiles to penetrate. The battle nevertheless 
lasted aU day, but in the evening the Russians were com- 
pelled, in spite of their desperate valour, to retire into Dory- 
stolon without having effected anything. The infantry of the 
north now began to feel its inferiority to the veteran cavalry 
of Asia sheathed in plate armour, and disciplined by long 
campaigns against the Saracens. Swiatoslaff, however, con- 
tinued to defend himself by a series of battles rather than 
sorties, in which he made desperate efforts to break through 
the ranks of his 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 re- 
signing 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 Swiatoslaff sent ambassadors 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 dis- 
played in 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 Swiatoslaff 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 John engaged 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 Kief and 
Constantinople, 1 July, 971. 

1 Leo Diaconus, 155. I presume the medimnus means here the common measure 
about a bushel, without any reference to Attic measures. A part of the treaty is given 
by Nestor, with the date. Trad. Franc, i. 100. 



324 Basilian Dynasty 

After the treaty was concluded, Swiatoslaff desired to have a 
personal Interview with Ms conqueror. John rode down to the 
tank 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 contrasted well with the dark and sombre visages of his 
attendants. Swiatoslaff arrived by water in a boat, which he 
steered himself with an oar. His dress was white, differing in 
no way from that of those under him, except in being cleaner. 
Sitting in the stem of his boat, he conversed for a short time 
with the emperor, who remained on horseback close to the 
beach. The appearance 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 tiung Gown on 
each side of his face, and were thus worn as a mark of his 
Scandinavian race. In his ears he wore golden earrings 
ornamented with a ruby between two pearls, and his expression 
was stern and fierce. 1 

Swiatoslaff immediately quitted Dorystolon, but he was 
obliged to winter 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. 7 ' 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 sovereign 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 John. 

1 Leo Diaconus, 156. 



Period of Conquest 325 

Bulgaria was conquered, a strong garrison established in Dory- 
stolon, 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 Swiatoslaff 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 impoverish- 
ment and demoralisation into which the Hellenic race was 
precipitated by the Roman system of concentrating all power 
in the capital of the empire. 1 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. The people, how- 
ever, still retained in their own hands some control over their 
local administration, though the Byzantine government lost no 
time in undermining the moral foundation of the free institu- 
tions which had defended a single city against many barbarous 
nations that had made the Roman emperors tremble. 2 The 
inhabitants of Cherson long looked with indifference on the 
favour of the Byzantine emperor, cherished the institutions of 
Hellas, and boasted of their self-government. 3 A thousand 
years after the rest of the Greek nation was sunk in irremedi- 
able slavery, Cherson remained free. Such a phenomenon as 
the existence of manly feeling in one city, when mankind 
everywhere else slept contented in a state of political degrada- 
tion, deserved attentive consideration. Indeed, we may be 
better able to appreciate correctly the political causes that cor- 
rupted the Greeks in the Eastern Empire, if we can ascertain 
those which enabled Cherson, though surrounded by powerful 
enemies and barbarous nations, to preserve 

** A Homer's language murmuring in her streets, 
And in her haven many a mast from Tyre. 39 

The history of mankind in every age shows us that the 
material improvement of the people, the first great public 

1 Cherson replaced the ancient Chersonesos, and Sevastopol now stands near its 
ruins. Strabo, vii. 308. Scylax, 29. Hudson. 

2 Constantino Porphyrogenitus is very particular in explaining the meaaures to be 
adopted in case of insurrections in Cherson. He shows it was in possession of a 
numerous commercial navy, though it imported wheat, wine, and other necessaries. De 
Adm. Intjt. 53. 

3 There is a very late testimony to these facts in a fragment published by Hase, in 
his notes to Leo Diaconus, p. 503, edit. Bonn a,$ror6(J,(ar 8t /tdXiora 



326 Basllian Dynasty 

works of utffity, and the extension of commerce and trade, 
are effected by the Impulsion of local institutions. Such 
progress is the expression of the popular feeling that excites 
every man to better the condition of the mass of humanity. 
Order, unfortunately, too often expresses only the feelings 
of the class possessing wealth. Its necessity^may be felt^by 
all, but the problem of connecting it with equity, and making 
it dependent on justice, is not easily solved, and ^hence 
the pretext of its maintenance serves for the creation ^of 
irresponsible power. The government in which the family 
and the parish occupy the most important part will ever be 
the best, for it will secure to honesty and truth that deference 
which a more extended circle attempts to transfer to the con- 
ventional virtues of honour and politeness. It is in the family 
and the parish that the foundation of all virtue is laid, long 
before the citizen enters the camp, the senate, or the court. 
The twelve nomes of Egypt doubled the extent and wealth of 
the country by digging the Canal of Joseph, and forming the 
lake Moeris, before the Pharaohs became conquerors and 
builders of pyramids. The energy of municipal institutions 
filled the Mediterranean and the Euxine with Greek colonies. 
Rome rose to greatness as a municipality; centralisation 
arrested her progress and depopulated the world. Great 
Britain, with her colonies and Indian empire, affords an 
instance of the superiority of the individual patriotism and 
self-respect generated by local institutions over the strict 
obedience and scientific power conferred by the centralisation 
of authority. But the respective merits of self-government and 
of central authority, by the weight of scientific power, are 
in the course of receiving their fullest development under the 
two mighty empires of the United States of America and 
of Russia. Both these governments have displayed con- 
summate ability in the conduct of their respective political 
systems, and the practical decision of the problem, whether 
local or central government is the basis of the political institu- 
tions best adapted to the improvement of man, as a moral and 
social being, seems by Providence to have been intrusted 
to the cabinet of the emperor of Russia, and to the people of 
the United States of America. 

In the reign of Diocletian, while Themistos was president 
of Cherson, Sauromates, king of Bosporos, passing along the 
eastern shores of the Euxine, invaded the Roman empire. 
He overran Lazia and Pontus without difficulty, but on the 



Period of Conquest 327 

banks of the Halys he found the Roman army assembled 
under the command of Constantlus Chlorus. On hearing of 
this invasion, Diocletian sent ambassadors to invite the people 
of Cherson to attack the territories of the king of Bosporus, in 
order to compel him to return home. Cherson, holding 
the rank of an allied city, could not avoid conceding that 
degree of supremacy to the Roman emperor which a small 
state is compelled to yield to a powerful protector, and the in- 
vitation was received as a command. Chrestos had succeeded 
Themistos in the presidency ; he sent an army against Bos- 
poros, and took the city. But the Cher,sonites, though brave 
warriors, sought peace, not conquest, and they treated the 
royal family and all the inhabitants of the places that had 
fallen into their hands, in a way to conciliate the goodwill of 
their enemies. Their successes forced Sauromates to conclude 
peace and evacuate the Roman territory, in order to regain 
possession of his capital and family. As a reward for their 
services, Diocletian granted the Chersonites additional security 
for their trade, and extensive commercial privileges through- 
out the Roman empire. 

In the year 332, when Constantine .the Great, in his declin- 
ing age, had laid aside the warlike energy of his earlier years, 
the Goths and Sarmatians invaded the Roman empire. The 
emperor called on the inhabitants of Cherson, who were then 
presided over by Diogenes, to take up arms. They sent a 
force well furnished with field-machines to attack the Goths, 
who had already crossed the Danube, and defeated the 
barbarians with great slaughter. Constantine, to reward their 
promptitude in the service of the empire, sent them a golden 
statue of himself in imperial robes, to be placed in the hall of 
the senate, accompanied with a charter ratifying every privilege 
and commercial immunity granted to their city by preceding 
emperors. He bestowed on them also an annual supply of 
the materials necessary for constructing the warlike machines 
of which they had made such good use, and pay for a thousand 
artillerymen to work these engines. 1 This subsidy continued 
to be paid in the middle of the tenth century, in the time of 
Constantine Porphyrogenitus. 

Years passed on, and Sauromates, the grandson of him who 
invaded the empire in the time of Diocletian, determining to 

l Constant. Porphyr. D u Adm* Imp. chap. 53, torn. iii. p. 251, ^edit. Bonn. The 
emperor also sent rings with his portrait engraved, to be used in certain official 
communications. 



328 Basllian Dynasty 

efface the memory of his grandfather's disgrace, declared war 
with Cherson. He was defeated by Vyskos, the president of 
Cherson } at Kapha, and compelled to conclude a treaty of 
peace, by which Kapha was declared the frontier of the terri- 
tory of Cherson. Another Sauromates, having succeeded to 
the throne of Bosporos, determined to regain possession of 
Kapha, when Phamakes was president of Cherson. A single 
combat between the gigantic king and the patriotic president, 
in which Sauromates was slain, terminated this war. The 
dynasty of the Sauromatan family ended, and Bosporos, be- 
coming a free city in alliance with Cherson, raised a statue 
to Phamakes as a testimony of his moderation and philan- 
thropy. 

Again, after an interval of years, Lamachos was president 
of Cherson, but the people of Bosporos, corrupted by the 
memory of a court, and loving pageantry better than liberty, 
had elected a king named Asandros. The Bosporians pro- 
posed that the son of Asandros should marry the only daughter 
of Lamachos, in order to draw closer the alliance between the 
two states ; and to this the Chersonites consented, but only 
on condition that the young Asander should take up his 
residence in Cherson, and engage never to return to Bosporos 
not even to pay the shortest visit to the king his father, or 
any of his relations under pain of death. The marriage was 
celebrated, and Asander dwelt with the young Gycia in the 
palace of Lamachos, which was a building of regal splendour, 
covering four of the quadrangles marked out by the intersec- 
tion of the streets in the quarter of Cherson called Sousa, and 
having its own private gate in the city walls. Two years after 
the celebration of this marriage, Lamachos died ; his daughter 
inherited the whole of his princely fortune, and Zetho was 
elected president of Cherson. At the end of a year, Gycia 
went out to decorate her father's tomb, and wishing to honour 
his memory with the greatest solemnity, she received permis- 
sion from the president and senate to entertain the whole 
body of the citizens of Cherson, with their wives and children, 
at a funeral banquet on the anniversary of her father's death as 
long as she lived. The celebration of this festival suggested 
to her husband a plan of rendering himself tyrant of Cherson, 
and for two years he collected men and warlike stores secretly 
from Bosporos, by means of the ships employed in his com- 
mercial affairs. These he concealed in the immense ware- 
houses enclosed within the walls of his wife's palace. Three 



Period of Conquest 329 

of his own followers from Bosporos were alone entrusted with 
the secret of his plot. After a kpse of two years, Asander 
had collected two hundred Bosporians, with their armour, in 
the palace of Gycia, and was waiting for the approaching 
anniversary of the death of Lamachos to destroy the Hberty of 
Cherson. 

It happened at this time that a favourite maid of Gycia, 
offending her mistress, was ordered to be banished from her 
presence, and confined in a room over the warehouse in which 
the Bosporians were concealed. As the girl was sitting alone^ 
singing and spinning, her spindle dropped, and rolled along 
the floor till it fell into a hole near the wall, from which she 
could only recover it by raising up one of the tiles of the 
pavement. Leaning down, she saw through the ceiling a 
crowd of men in the warehouse below, whom she knew by 
their dress to be Bosporians, and soldiers. She immediately 
called a servant, and sent him to her mistress, conjuring her 
to come to see her in her prison. Gycia, curious to see the 
effect of the punishment on her favourite, visited her im- 
mediately, and was shown the strange spectacle of a crowd of 
foreign soldiers and a magazine of arms concealed in her own 
palace. The truth flashed on her mind ; she saw her husband 
was plotting to become the tyrant of her native city, and every 
feeling of her heart was wounded. 

She assembled her relations, and by their means communi- 
cated secretly with the senate, revealing the plot to a chosen 
committee, on obtaining a solemn promise that when she died 
she should be buried within the walls of the city, though such 
a thing was at variance with the Hellenic usages of Cherson. 
Whether from the danger of attacking two hundred heavy- 
armed men, or to avoid war with Bosporos, the president and 
senate of Cherson determined to destroy the conspiracy by 
burning the enemy in their place of concealment, and Gycia 
willingly gave her ancestral palace to the flames to save her 
country. 

When the day of the anniversary of her father's funeral 
arrived, Gycia ordered the preparations for the annual feast 
to be made with more than ordinary liberality, and Asander 
was lavish in his distribution of wine; but due precautions 
had been taken that the gates of the city should be closed at 
the usual hour, and all the citizens in their dwellings. At 
the banquet in her own palace Gycia drank water out of a 
purple goblet, while the servant who waited on Asander served 



33O Baslllan Dynasty 

him with the richest wines. To the delight of her husband, 
Gyda proposed that all should retire to rest at an early hour, 
and she took a last melancholy leave of her husband, who 
hastened to give his three confidants their instructions, and 
then lay down to rest until the midnight should call him to 
complete his treachery. The gates, doors, and windows of 
the palace were shut up, and the keys, as usual, laid beside 
Gycia. Her maids had packed up all her jewels, and when 
Asander was plunged in a sound sleep from the wine he had 
drank, Gycia rose, locked every door of the palace as she 
passed, and hastened out, accompanied by her slaves. Order 
was immediately given to set fire to the building on every 
side, and thus the liberty of Cherson was saved by the 
patriotism of Gycia. 

The spot where the palace had stood remained a vacant 
square in the time of the Emperor Constantine Porphy- 
rogenitus, and Gycia during her lifetime would never allow 
even the rains to be cleared away. Her countrymen erected 
two statues of bronze to honour her patriotism one in the 
public agora, showing her in the flower of youth, dressed in 
her native costume, as when she saved her country ; the other 
dad as a heroine armed to defend the city. On both in- 
scriptions were placed commemorating her services; and no 
better deed could be done at Cherson than to keep the bases 
of these statues bright and the inscriptions legible, that the 
memory of the treachery of the king's son, and the gratitude 
due to the patriotism of Gycia, might be ever fresh in the 
hearts of the citizens. 

Some years after this, when Stratophilos was president, 
Gycia, suspecting that the gratitude of her countrymen was 
so weakened that they would no longer be inclined to fulfil 
their promise of burying her within the walls, pretended to 
be dead. The event was as she feared ; but when the pro- 
cession had passed the gates, she rose up from the bier and 
exckimed, " Is this the way the people of Cherson keep their 
promise to the preserver of their liberty?" Shame proved 
more powerful than gratitude. The Chersonites now swore 
again to bury her in the city, if she would pardon their false- 
hood. A tomb was accordingly built during her lifetime, and 
a gilded statue of bronze was erected over it, as an assurance 
that the faith of Cherson should not be again violated. In 
that tomb Gycia was buried, and it stood uninjured in the 
tenth century, when an emperor of Constantinople, impressed 



Period of Conquest 331 

with admiration of her patriotism, so unlike anything he had 
seen among the Greek inhabitants of his own wide extended 
empire, transmitted a record of her deeds to posterity. 1 

Cherson retained its position as an independent state until 
the reign of Theophilus, who compelled it to receive a governor 
from Constantinople; but, even under the Byzantine govern- 
ment, it continued to defend its municipal institutions, and, 
instead of slavishly soliciting the imperial favour, and adopt- 
ing Byzantine manners, it boasted of its constitution and 
self-government. 2 But it lost gradually its former wealth and 
extensive trade ; and when Vladimir, the sovereign of Russia, 
attacked it in 988, it yielded almost without a struggle. 
The great object of ambition of all the princes of the East, 
from the time of Heraclius to that of the last Comnenos of 
Trebizond, was to form matrimonial alliances with the im- 
perial family, Vladimir obtained the hand of Anne, the 
sister of the Emperors Basil II. and Constantine VIII., and 
was baptised and married in the Church of the Panaghia 
at Cherson. To soothe the vanity of the empire, he pre- 
tended 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, 3 

John Zimiskes, having terminated the Russian war, com- 
pelled Boris to resign the crown of Bulgaria, and accept the 
title of Magister, as a pensioner of the Byzantine court The 
frontier of the Eastern Empire was once more extended to 
the Danube. 4 

The Saracen war had been carried on vigorously on the 
frontiers of Syria, while the Emperor John was occupied with 
the Russian campaign. The continued successes of the 
Byzantine arms had so alarmed the Mohammedan princes, 
that an extensive confederacy was formed to recover Antioch, 
and the command of the army of the caliph was intrusted to 
Zoher, the lieutenant of the Fatimites in Egypt. The imperial 
army was led by the patrician Nikolaos, a man of great military 
skill, who had been a eunuch in the household of John 

* Constant. Porphyr. Dt A dm. Imp. chap. 53. 

* Fragment % Leo JDiaconus, 503. 

* Nestor, tr. fr. i. 137. Ccdremw, 694* 



332 Basillan Dynasty 

Zintiskes ; and he defeated the Saracens in a pitched battle, 
and saved Antioch for a time. 1 But in the following year 
(973) the conquest of Nisibis filled the city of Bagdat with 
such consternation, that a levy of all Mussulmans was ordered 
to march against the Christians. The Byzantine troops in 
Mesopotamia were commanded by an Armenian named Teme- 
!ek Melchi, who was completely routed near Amida. He 
was himself taken prisoner, and died after a year's confine- 
ment 2 

With all his talents as a generai s John does not appear to 
have possessed the same control over the general administra- 
tion as Nicephoms ; 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 be- 
came necessary to regain the ground that had been lost ; and, 
to make this 5 John Zimiskes took the command of the Byzan- 
tine 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 vaunt- 
ing inaccuracy of the Byzantine geographical nomenclature, 
into Palestine. His last campaign, in the following year, was 
the most brilliant of his exploits. In Mesopotamia he re- 
gained 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 our Saviour, and 
the hair of John the Baptist, are especially enumerated. 
From Hierapolis John marched to Apamea, Emesa, and 
Baalbec, without meeting any serious opposition. The emir 
of Damascus sent valuable presents, and agreed to pay an 
annual tribute to escape a visit The emperor then crossed 
Mount Libanon, storming the fortress of Borzo, which com- 
manded the pass, and, descending to the seacoast, laid siege 
to Berytus, which soon surrendered, and in which he found 
an image of the crucifixion that he deemed worthy of being 

1 Cedrenus, 666. 

2 L^beatt, xiv. 134. Leo Diaconus, 488 and 389. Afalfed* Ann. Musltnt. a. 513, 
edit. Rcisk. " 3 Zonaras, ii. 215. Glycas, 309. 



Period of Conquest 333 

sent to Constantinople. From Berytus he marched north- 
ward to Tripolis, which he besieged in vain for forty days. 
The valour of the garrison and the strength of the fortifications 
compelled him to raise the siege ; but his retreat was ascribed 
to fear of a comet, which illuminated the sky with a strange 
brilliancy. 1 As it was now September, he wished to place his 
worn-out troops in winter-quarters in Antioch ; but the inhabi- 
tants 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, how- 
ever, he did not effect until after the death of the Emperor 
John. 

Thfr army was then placed in winter-quarters on the frontiers 
of Cilicia, and the emperor hastened to return to Constanti- 
nople. On the journey, as he passed the fertile plains of 
Longias and Dryze, in the vicinity of Anazarba 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 con- 
ducted 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 predecessor, 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 John 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 John stopped on his 
way to Constantinople at the palace of Romanes, 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 president. Certain 
it is that John Zimiskes reached the capital in a dying state, 
and expired on the loth of January 976, at the age of fifty-one. 

1 Lo Diaconus, 169. 



334 Basil Ian Dynasty 

SECTION II 

KEIGH OF BASIL II. (BULGARQKTQNQS), 1 A.D. 976-1025. 

Oiaracter of Basil IL Rebellions of Bardas SWeros and of Bardas 

Fhokas Wealth of private Individuals Bulgarian war Defeat of 
Basil II. Samuel, king of Bulgaria, founds the kingdom of Achrida 
Defeats of Samuel Basil puts out the eyes of his prisoners Conquest 
of the kingdom of Achrida Basil visits Athens Conquests in Armenia 
Death of Basil IL 

Basil II. was only twenty years of age when he assumed the 
direction of public affairs, and for some time he continued to 
indulge in the pursuit of pleasure, allowing the president 
Basilios to exercise the imperial power to its fullest extent. 
Indeed, there can be no doubt that the prime-minister would 
have attempted to occupy the place of Nicephorus and Zimis- 
kes, had his condition not effectually excluded him from the 
throne. For some time, however, he ventured to^ exclude Basil 
from any active share in the details of administration, and 
endeavoured to divert his attention to the pomp of the imperial 
court, and to the indulgence of his passions, to which it was 
thought the young man was naturally inclined. This conduct 
probably awakened suspicions in the mind of Basil, who 
possessed a firm and energetic character, and he watched the 
proceedings of his powerful minister with attention. His 
brother, Constantine VIII., who was seventeen when John 
Zimiskes died, enjoyed the rank of his colleague, but was 
allowed no share in the public administration, and appeared 
well satisfied to be relieved from the duties of his station, as he 
was allowed to enjoy all its luxuries. Basil soon gave up all 
idle amusements, and devoted his whole time and energy to 
military studies and exercises, and to public business. Inde- 
fatigable, brave, and stern, his courage degenerated into 
ferocity, and his severity into cruelty. Yet, as he reigned the 
absolute master of an unprincipled court, and of a people 
careless of honour and truth, and as the greater part of his life 
was spent in war with barbarous enemies, we may attribute 
many of his faults as much to the state of society in his age as 
to his own individual character. He believed that he was 

1 Gibbon says he enjoyed the title of Augustus sixty-six years, and the reim of the 
two brothers (Basil and Constantine) is the longest and most obscure of the Byzantine 
history. Dectint and^ Fall^ chap. 48, vol. ix. 69. We possess no contemporary 
historian except Leo DIacpnus, who only supplies a few notices, 169. Cedrenus, how- 
ever, gives some Interesting details concerning the Bulgarian war, 684. The other 
Byzantine sources are Zonaras, il. 9x5 ; Manasses, xao ; Glycas, 309 ; Joel, x3x ; 
Ephrzoiiu*, 196. 



Period of Conquest 335 

prudent, just, and devout; others considered him severe, 
rapacious, cruel and bigoted. For Greek learning he cared 
little, and he was a type of the higher Byzantine moral character, 
which retained far more of its Roman than its Greek origin, 
both in its vices and its virtues. In activity, courage, and 
military skill he had few equals. 1 

Several of the great nobles of the empire considered that 
their power entitled them to occupy the place left vacant by 
the death of Zimiskes ; and as the great qualities of Basil II. 
were still unknown, they envied the influence of the president 
Basilios. Among the leading members of the aristocracy, 
Bardas Skleros, who commanded the army in Asia, gave the 
president most umbrage, from his military reputation and 
great popularity. Skleros was accordingly removed from the 
command of the army, and appointed duke or governor of 
Mesopotamia. This step precipitated his rebellion. The two 
ablest generals in the empire were Bardas Skleros and Bardas 
Phokas : both were men of illustrious families, and both had 
rilled high offices in the state. As early as the reign of 
Michael I., a Skleros had been governor of the Peloponnesus; 2 
and for four generations the family of Phokas had supplied 
the empire with a succession of military leaders. Skleros and 
Phokas had already been opponents in the reign of John I. 
These two men may be taken as types of the military nobles 
of the Byzantine empire in the tenth century ; and no tale of 
daring deeds or romantic vicissitudes among the chivalrous 
adventurers of the West, who had no patrimony but their 
swords, was more strange than many an episode in the lives 
of these two nobles, nursed in silken raiment, whose youth 
was passed in marble palaces on the soft shores of the 
Bosphorus, who were educated by pedantic grammarians, and 
trained by Greek theologians, who deemed the shedding even 
of Saracen blood a sin. Yet these nobles valued themselves 
as much on their personal skill in arms and headlong daring 
as any Danish adventurer or Norman knight 8 

1 Zonaras, ii. 225. Cedrenus, 7x8, mentions that Basil ordered one of his chamber- 
lains, convicted of a plot to assassinate him, to be thrown to the lions. Several acts of 
the basest treachery were at least sanctioned by him. Cedrenus, 714, 717, 718. Though 
Basil is accused of rapacity, he left the public taxes two years in arrear at the time of his 
death ; now, though this fact may be a confirmation of the accusations brought against 
him, it seems more probably a proof that the policy which is visible in bis laws for the 
protection of the poor was also the guide of his financial administration : and though he 
was severe with the rich, he may have been milder with the poor. Cedrenus, 731. 
Glycas, 3x1. * Theophanes, Scrip. Inc. 4*8. 

* There can be no doubt that for several apes the Byzantine nobles were as 
regularly instructed in military discipline during their youth as our boy* are in iheit 



336 Basllian Dynasty 

Bardas Skleros no sooner readied Mesopotamia than he 
assumed the title of Emperor, and invaded Asia Minor. He 
had made no preparations for Ms rebellion; he trusted to 
his military reputation for collecting a small army, and to 
his own skill to make the best use of the troops that joined 
his standard: nor was he wanting to his fame. Some pecuniary 
assistance from the emirs of Amida and Martyropolis recruited 
his finances, and a body of three hundred well-armed Saracen 
horse was considered a valuable addition to his little army. 
Undismayed by partial defeats and immense difficulties, he 
at last gained a complete victory over the Byzantine army at 
Lapara, on the frontiers of Armenia, 1 and a second at Rageas, 
over a generalissimo of the empire, who had been sent to 
repair the preceding disaster. Skleros then marched to 
Abydos, took Nicsea, and sent his son Romanes into Thrace 
to make preparations for the siege of Constantinople. 

The rebellion of Bardas Phokas, and his exile to Chios, 
have been already mentioned. He was now^ called from his 
retreat, and laid aside the monastic dress, which he had worn 
for six years, to resume his armour. The old rivals again met 
in arms, and at first fortune continued to favour Skleros, who 
was a better tactician than Phokas. The imperial army was 
defeated at Amorium, but the personal valour of Phokas 
covered the retreat of his soldiers, and preserved their confi- 
dence; for when Constantine Gabras pressed too closely on 
the rear, Phokas, who was watching his movements, suddenly 
turned his horse, and, galloping up to the gallant chief, struck 
him lifeless with his mace-at-arms, and rejoined his own rear- 
guard unhurt A second battle was fought near Basilika 
Therma, in the theme Charsiana, and Skleros was again vic- 
torious. Phokas retired into Georgia (Iberia), where he re- 
ceived assistance from David, the king of that country, which 
enabled him to assemble a third army on the banks of the 
Halys, He found Skleros encamped in the plain of Pankalia. 
An engagement took place, in which the superior generalship 
of the rebel emperor was again evident, and Phokas, reduced 
to despair, sought to terminate the contest by a personal en- 
counter with his rival. They soon met, and their companions 
suspended the conflict in their immediate vicinity to view the 

Latin grammar. Byzantine education seems to have been excellent before entering on 
public life, and very bad afterwards ; ours is better after than before. 

1 The patrician Petros, who commanded the Imperial army, had been a eunucb 
of the household of the Emperor Nicephorus Phokas, and had distinguished himself by 
Jbi; personal valour in the Russian war. Cedrenus, 685. Leo Diaconus, St. 



Period of Conquest 337 

combat between two champions, both equally celebrated for 
their personal prowess. Skleros was armed with the sword, 
Phokas with the mace-at-arms ; the sword glanced from the 
well-tempered armour, the mace crushed the helmet, and 
Skleros fell senseless on his horse's neck. The guards rush- 
ing to the rescue, Phokas gained an eminence, from which he 
could already see a portion of his army in full retreat. But 
the fortune of the day was changed by an accident. As the 
officers of Skleros were carrying their wounded leader to a 
neighbouring fountain, his horse escaped and galloped through 
the ranks of the army, showing the troops the imperial trap- 
pings stained with blood. The cry arose that Skleros was slain. 
The tie that united the rebels was broken, and the soldiers fled 
in every direction, or laid down their arms. On recovering, 
Skleros found that nothing was left for him but to escape with 
his personal attendants into the Saracen territory, where he 
was thrown into prison by order of the caliph. Several of his 
partisans prolonged their resistance through the winter. 1 

Bardas Phokas continued to command the imperial army 
in Asia for eight years, carrying on war with the Saracens, 
and compelling the emir of Aleppo to pay tribute to Con- 
stantinople. But as the Emperor Basil II. advanced in years, 
his firm character began to excite general dissatisfaction among 
the Byzantine nobles, who saw that their personal influence, 
and power of enriching themselves at the public expense, were 
likely to be greatly curtailed. The attention the emperor 
paid to public business, and his strict control over the con- 
duct of all officials, began to alarm the president Basilios; 
while his determination to command the army in person, and 
to regulate promotions, excited the dissatisfaction of Phokas, 
who allowed his government to become the refuge of every 
discontented courtier. The only campaign in which the em- 
peror had yet commanded was one against Samuel, king of 
Bulgaria, which had proved signally disastrous, so that his 
interference in military matters did not appear to be authorised 
by his experience in tactics and strategy. It seems probable 
that the president excited Phokas to take up arms, as a means 
of rendering the emperor more dependent on his influence 
and the support of the aristocracy ; but Phokas doubtless re- 
quired very little prompting to make an attempt to seize the 

1 Skleros was defeated in the summer of 79, as the rebellion was suppressed in the 
8th induction, in the fourth year of its duration. Leo Diaconus, 169. Cedrenus, 694. 
The 8th induction commenced on the xst September 979, and the rebellion continued 
for some time after the flight of Skleros. 



338 Basilian Dynasty 

throne. Assembling the leading men in Ms government, and 
She principal officers of the army under his command, at the 
palace of Eustathios Maleinos, in the theme Charsiana, he 
was proclaimed emperor on the isth of August 987. 

Nearly about the same time, Bardas Skleros succeeded in 
escaping from the Saracens and entering the empire. He 
had been released from his prison at Bagdat, and intrusted 
with the command of a legion of Christian refugees, with 
which he had distinguished himself in the civil wars of the 
Mohammedans. His adventures in this service were not 
unlike those recorded of Manuel in the reign^of Theophilus. 1 
His sudden appearance in the empire, and his resumption of 
his claim to the imperial throne, brought the two ancient 
rivals again into the field, both as rebel emperors, and it 
seemed that they must decide by a new war which was to 
march as victor against Basil at Constantinople. Phokas 
gained the advantage by treachery. He concluded a treaty 
with his rival, by which a division of Asia Minor was agreed 
on ; and when Skleros visited his camp to hold a conference, 
Phokas detained him a prisoner. 2 Phokas then devoted all 
his energy to dethrone his sovereign ; and during the summer 
of 988, he subdued the greater part of Asia Minor; but at the 
commencement of the following year, a division of his army 
which he sent to the Bosphoras was defeated by the Emperor 
Basil, who had just obtained an auxiliary corps of Varangians 
from his brother-in-law Vladimir, the sovereign of Kief. 3 
Phokas was at this time besieging Abydos, which defended 
itself with obstinacy until the Emperors Basil and Constantine 
arrived with the imperial army to relieve it The imperial 
troops arrived by sea, and, debarking near Abydos, formed 
their camp in the plain. Phokas, leaving part of his force to 
continue the siege, drew out his army to give battle to the 
emperors. When the two armies were taking up their ground, 
Phokas rode along the field, seeking for an opportunity to 
decide the fate of the war by one of those feats of arms in 
which his personal prowess was so distinguished. His eye 
caught a sight of the Emperor Basil engaged in ordering 
the movements of his army, and, dashing forward with his 
mace-at-arms, he prepared to close in single combat with his 

* Cedrenus, 697. 

2 Skleros was confined at Tyropaion, a place Phokas had fortified as a refuge when 
be rebelled against John L Skleros had secured his personal safety on forcing him to 
surrender it. Leo Diaconus, 126. 

* The emperor ordered the general of the rebels to be impaled. Cedrenus, 699* 



Period of Conquest 339 

sovereign. At the very moment when the object of his sudden 
movement flashed on the minds of all, Phokas wheeled round 
his horse, galloped to a little eminence, where he dismounted 
in sight of both armies and lay down on the ground. A long 
interval of suspense occurred. Then a rumour ran along the 
ranks of the rebels that their leader was dead, and the troops 
dispersed without striking a blow. - Phokas had drank a glass 
of cold water as he mounted his horse, according to his usual 
custom, and whether he perished by poison or by a stroke of 
apoplexy was naturally a question not easily settled by the 
suspicious and vicious Constantinopolitans. Thus ended the 
career of Bardas Phokas, by a death as strange as the events 
of his romantic life. He died in the month of April 989. 

Bardas Skleros regained his liberty on the death of his 
rival, but resigned his pretensions to the imperial dignity on 
receiving the pardon of Basil. The meeting of the emperor 
and the veteran warrior was remarkable. The eyesight of 
Skleros had begun to fail, and he had grown extremely corpu- 
lent. He had laid aside the imperial costume, but continued 
to wear purple boots, which were part of the insignia of an 
emperor. As he advanced to the tent of Basil, leaning on 
two of his equerries, Basil, surprised at his infirmity, ex- 
claimed to his attendants, " Is this the man we all trembled 
at yesterday?" But as soon as he perceived the purple boots, 
he refused to receive the infirm old general until they were 
changed. Skleros had then a gracious audience, and was 
requested to sit down. He did not long survive. 1 

The same attention to public business on the part of the 
emperor which caused the rebellion of Phokas, produced the 
fall of the president Basilios, whom Basil deprived of all his 
offices about the same time. His estates were confiscated, 
his acts annulled, the populace of Constantinople were allowed 
to plunder his palace, the sacred offerings and dedications he 
had made were destroyed, and even the monastery he had 
founded was dissolved. The celebrated minister died in 
exile, after having attained a degree of wealth and power 
which marks an unhealthy condition of the body politic in 
the Byzantine empire. No such accumulation of fortune as 
Basilios is reported to have possessed, could ever have been 
obtained by a public servant without the exertion of the 
grossest oppression, either on the part of the individual or 
the government The riches of Basilios must almost have 

1 Cedrcnus, 701. 



340 Baslllan Dynasty 

rivaled the wealth of Crassus; at least, he came under the 
definition of a rich man, according to that wealthy Roman* 
for he was able to maintain an army. At an early part of his 
political career, he armed a household of three thousand 
slaves to aid in placing the imperial crown on the head of 
Nicephoras II. The aristocracy of Constantinople at this 
period bore some resemblance, in its social position, to that 
of Rome at the fall of the Republic, both in wealth and 
political corruption. The estates of Eustathios Maleuios, in 
whose house Phokas raised the standard of revolt, were not 
less extensive than those of the ambitious president. Maleinos 
was fortunate enough to escape punishment for his share in 
the rebellion, but some years after, as Basil was returning 
from a campaign in Syria (A.D. 995), he stopped at the palace 
of Maleinos in Cappadocia, and was amazed at the strength 
of the building, and the wealth, power, and splendour of the 
household. The emperor saw that a man of courage, in 
possession of so much influence, and commanding such a 
number of armed servants, could at any moment commence 
a rebellion as dangerous as that of Skleros or Phokas. 
Maleinos received an invitation to accompany the court to 
the capital, and was never again allowed to visit his estates 
in Cappadocia. At his death, his immense fortune was con- 
fiscated, and most writers ascribed the legislative measures of 
Basil, to protect the landed property of small proprietors 
from the encroachments of the wealthy, to the impression 
produced on his mind by witnessing the power of Maleinos 
in Cappadocia; but we must bear in mind that, from the 
time of Romanus L, the Byzantine emperors had been vainly 
endeavouring to stem the torrent of aristocratic predominance 
in the provinces; and both Constantine VII. (Porphyro- 
genitus) and Nicephorus II., though in general extremely 
dissimilar in character and policy, agreed in passing laws to 
protect the poor against the rich. 1 Basil II. fully appreciated 
all the evils which resulted from the tendency of society to 
accumulate wealth in the hands of a few individuals, and he 
endeavoured to aid the middle classes in defending their 
possessions ; but all the power he could exert was unable to 
prevent the constant diminution that was going on in the 

* Cedrenus, 702. See the laws of Romanus I., Navels^ i, 2, 3 ; Constantine VII., 
fferte/s, i, a ; Nicephorus II., Novels* 3, 5 ; and Basil II., Novels, a, 3, 5. Mortreull, 
Bistoired* D*-oit Bysantin, where inferences to the texts will be found. The laws of 
Nicephorus II. are Nos. IV. and VI. in the Collection annexed to Leo Diaconus, p. 330, 
32*, edit. Bonn. 



Period of Conquest 341 

number of the smaller landed proprietors, the middle classes 
In the towns, and generally of the civilised races of mankind 
throughout the greater part of his empire. The task was 
beyond the power of legislation, and required an improve- 
ment in the moral as well as the political constitution of 
society. The attempts of the emperor to arrest the progress 
of the evil may have been useless, but they were unquestion- 
ably not disadvantageous to the people. It is therefore 
strange to find the Patriarch, the higher clergy, and the 
monks opposed to these measures, and engaged in endeavour- 
ing to turn him from his purpose, particularly when he wished 
to render the rich responsible for the taxes of the ruined poor 
of their district. The Greek church has, however, generally 
been a servile instrument either of the sovereign power or of 
the aristocracy, and has contributed little either to enforce 
equity or civil liberty, when the mass of the lower orders was 
alone concerned. 1 The evil of increasing wealth in the 
hands of a few individuals, and of a gradual diminution of 
the intelligent population in the Byzantine empire, went on 
augmenting from the time of Basil II. Asia and Europe 
both lost their civilised races ; the immense landed estates of 
a few Byzantine aristocrats were cultivated by Mohammedan 
slaves, or Sclavonian, Albanian, and Vallachian serfs ; manu- 
factures and trade declined with the population, the towns 
dwindled into villages, and no class of native inhabitants 
remained possessing strength and patriotism to fight for their 
homes when a new race of invaders poured into the empire. 

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 mountains of Armenia 
to the shores of Italy. Basil's indomitable courage, terrific 
cruelty, indifference to art and literature, and religious super- 
stition, all combine 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 Sclavonians, 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 

1 Cedrenus, 706. 



342 Basilfan Dynasty 

the Russians. In order to put an end to these troubles, 
Nicephoms II. had, on the retreat of SwiatoslafF, replaced Boris, 
the son of Peter, on the throne of Bulgaria; and when 
the Russians returned, Boris submitted to their domination. 1 
Shortly after the death of John I. (Zimiskes), 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 perished, and Samuel alone remained, and assumed 
the title of King. The forces of the empire were occupied 
with the rebellion of Skleros, so that the vigour and military 
talents of Samuel succeeded not only in expelling the Byzan- 
tine authorities from Bulgaria, but also in rousing the Sclav- 
onians of Macedonia to throw off the Byzantine yoke. Samuel 
then invaded Thessaly, and extended his plundering excur- 
sions over those parts of Greece and the Peloponnesus still 
inhabited by the Hellenic race. He carried away the inhabi- 
tants 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 pre- 
tended had been a Roman soldier, and others a Greek arch- 
bishop. Samuel showed himself, 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 Byzan- 
tine Romans to the Sclavonian 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 Haemus, on the road from Philippopolis to Sardica, 
and by the conquest of the latter city he hoped to cut off 
the communication between the Bulgarians north of Mount 
Hasmus and the Sclavonians in Macedonia. But his military 
inexperience, and the relaxed discipline of the army, caused 
this well-conceived plan to fail. Sardica was besieged in vain 
for twenty days. The negligence of the officers and the dis- 
obedience 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 com- 
mencing his retreat. As his army was passing the denies 

1 Cedreans, 646, 666, 694. Leo Diacoou*. Si, 136. 



Period of Conquest 343 

of Haemus, 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 Diaconus, who accompanied the 
expedition as one of the clergy of the imperial chapel, and 
was fortunate enough to escape the pursuit, has left us a short 
but authentic notice of this first disastrous campaign of Basil, 
the slayer of the Bulgarians. 1 

The reorganisation of his army, the regulation of the in- 
ternal administration of the empire, the rebellion of Phokas, 
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 
generals 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. He first selected Prespa as his 
future capital, but he subsequently abandoned that intention, 
and established the central administration of his dominions at 
Achrida. The site was well adapted for rapid communications 
with his Sclavonian subjects in Macedonia, who furnished his 
armies with their best recruits. To Achrida, therefore, he 
transferred the seat of the Bulgarian patriarchate, and to this 
day the archbishop of that city, in virtue of the position 
he received from Samuel, still holds an ecclesiastical juris- 
diction over several suffragans independent of the Patriarch of 
Constantinople. As a military position, also, Achrida had 
many advantages : it commanded an important point in the 
Via Egnatia, the great commercial road connecting the 
Adriatic with Bulgaria, as well as with Thessalonica and Con- 
stantinople, and afforded many facilities for enabling Samuel 
to choose his points of attack on the Byzantine themes of 
Macedonia, Hellas, Dyrrachium, and Nicopolis. Here, there- 
fore, Samuel established the capital of the Bulgaro-Sclavonian 
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 

1 Leo Dlaconus, 171. 



344 Basilian Dynasty 

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 Dory- 
stolon, 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 
Epiras, and the southern part of Illyria, in the chain of 
Pindus, and in mountains that overlook the northern and 
western slopes of the great plains of Thessalonica and 
Thessaly. In all these provinces the greater part of the rural 
population consisted of Sclavonians, who were hostile to the 
Byzantine government and to the Greek race ; and though an 
Albanian and Vallachian population was scattered over some 
parts of the territory, they readily united with Samuel in 
throwing off the Byzantine yoke, and only opposed his 
government when he attempted to augment his monarchical 
power at the expense of their habits of local independence. 
From the nature of his dominions, his only hope of consoli- 
dating a regular system of civil government was by holding 
out allurements to the local chieftains to submit voluntarily to 
his authority. It was only by continual plundering expeditions 
into the Byzantine territory, and especially into Greece, that 
this object could be attained. He was, therefore, indefatig- 
able in forming a large military force, and employing it con- 
stantly in ravaging the plain of Thessaly, and attacking the 
Greek cities. 

In the year 990, Basil visited Thessalonica, to take measures 
for arresting the progress of Samuel, and left Gregory the 
Taronite with a strong garrison to resist the Bulgarians, until 
he himself should be able to turn the whole force of the 
empire against them. 1 For several years Gregory checked the 
incursions of Samuel, but at last he was slain in a skirmish, 
and his son Ashot was taken prisoner. This success secured 
Samuel from all danger on the side of the garrison of Thessa- 
lonica, and he resolved to avail himself of the opportunity to 
complete the conquest of Greece, or at least to plunder the 
inhabitants, should he meet with opposition. He marched 
rapidly through Thessaly, Bceotia, and Attica, into the Pelo- 
ponnesus; but the towns everywhere shut their gates, and 

fr m * brancil of tile A 161 "* 11 princes of Taron, long 



Period of Conquest 345 

prepared for a long defence, so that he could effect nothing 
beyond plundering and laying waste the open country. In 
the mean time, the emperor, hearing of the death of Gregory 
and the invasion of Greece, sent Nicephorus Ouranos with 
considerable reinforcements to take the command of the 
garrison of Thessalonica, and march with all the force he 
should be able to collect in pursuit of Samuel Ouranos 
entered Thessaly, and, leaving the heavy baggage of his army 
at Larissa, 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. Heavy 
rains on Mounts Oeta and Korax had rendered the Sperchius 
which at the end of summer is only a brook an impassable 
torrent at the time Samuel had reached its banks, and Ouranos 
encamped for the night in the vicinity of the Bulgarian army, 
without his arrival causing any alarm. But the people of the 
country had observed that the river was beginning to fall, and 
as they were anxious that both armies should quit their terri- 
tory as fast as possible, they were eager to bring on a battle. 
In the night they showed Ouranos a ford, by which he passed 
the river and surprised the Bulgarians in their camp. Samuel 
and his son Gabriel escaped with the greatest difficulty to the 
counter-forts of Oeta, from whence they gained Tymphrestas 
and the range of Pindus. The Bulgarian army was completely 
annihilated, and all the plunder and slaves made during the 
expedition feU into the hands of Ouranos, A.D. 996. 

This great defeat paralysed the military operations of 
Samuel for some time, and it was followed by a domestic 
misfortune which also weakened his resources. He had been 
induced to allow his daughter to marry Ashot the Taronite, 
whom he had taken prisoner at Thessalonica, and in or4er 
to attach that brave and able young officer to his service, he 
had intrusted him with the government of Dyrrachium. But 
Ashot was dissatisfied with his position, and succeeded in 
persuading the Bulgarian princess to fly with him to Con- 
stantinople. Before quitting Dyrrachium, however, he formed 
a plot with the principal men of the place, by which that 
valuable fortress was subsequently delivered up to the emperor. 
This was a serious political, as well as a grievous domestic 
wound to Samuel; for the loss of Dyrrachium interrupted 
the commercial relations of his subjects with Italy, and 
deprived them of the support they might have derived from 
the enemies of the Byzantine empire beyond the Adriatic. 



346 Basllian Dynasty 

Basil had 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 
Sclavonians now formed the most numerous part of the 
population of the country between the Danube, the Egean, 
and the Adriatic, and they were in possession of the line of 
mountains that runs from Dyrrachium, in a variety of chains, 
to the vicinity of Constantinople. 1 Basil saw many signs that 
the whole Sclavonic race in these countries was united in 
opposition to the Byzantine government, so that the exist- 
ence of his empire demanded the conquest of the Bulgaro- 
Sdavonian 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 Bulgaria. In the following 
year, the emperor took upon himself the direction of the army 
destined to act against Samuel. Fixing his headquarters at 
Thessalonica, he recovered possession of the fortresses of 
Vodena, Berrhcea, and Servia. By these conquests he 
became master of the passes leading out of the plain of 
Thessalonica into the pkins of Pelagonia, and over the Cam- 
bunian mountains into Thessaly, thus opening the way for 
an attack on the flank and rear of the forces of the kingdom 
of Achrida. Vodena or Edessa, the ancient capital of the 
Macedonian princes, had become, like all the cities of this 
mountainous district, Sclavonian. Its situation on a rock 
overhanging the river Lydias, the sublimity of the scenery 
around, the abundance of water, the command of the fertile 
valleys below, the salubrity of the spot, and the strength of 
the position closing up the direct road between Thessalonica 
and Achrida all rendered the possession of Vodena an im- 
portant step to the further operations of the Byzantine arms. 

In the following campaign (1002), the emperor changed 
the field of operations, and, marching from Philippopolis 
through the western passes of Mount Hasmus, occupied the 
whole line of road as far as the Danube, and cut Samuel off 
from all communication with the plains of Bulgaria. 2 He 
then formed the siege of Vidin, which he kept closely invested 

1 Tzetzes, chfl. x. iqa. 

* Cedrenns, 705. The fifteenth Induction extend* to ist September 1002. 



Period of Conquest 347 

during the spring and summer, until at last he took that 
important fortress. Samuel formed a bold enterprise, which 
he hoped would compel Basil to raise the siege of Vidin, or, 
at all events, enable him to inflict a deep wound on the 
empire. Assembling an army at Skoupies, on the upper 
course of the Vardar, he marched into the valley of the 
Stebrus, and by the celerity of his movements surprised the 
inhabitants of Adrianople at a great fair which they held 
annually on the i5th of August, when the Greek church com- 
memorates the death of the Virgin Mary. By this long 
march into the heart of the empire, Samuel rendered himself 
master of great booty. His success rendered it impossible for 
him to return as rapidly as he had advanced, but he succeeded 
in passing the garrison of Philoppopolis and crossing the 
Strymon and the Vardar in safety, when Basil suddenly over- 
took him at the head of the Byzantine army. Samuel was 
encamped under the walls of Skoupies; Basil crossed the 
river and stormed the Bulgarian camp, rendering himself 
master of the military chest and stores, and recovering the 
plunder of Adrianople. He had thus the satisfaction of 
avenging the defeat he had suffered from Samuel, one-and- 
twenty years before, in the passes of Mount Haemus. The 
city of Skoupies surrendered after the victory* and its com- 
mander Romanus, the younger brother of Boris, the last king of 
Bulgaria of the ancient line, whose misfortune prevented his 
becoming a rival to Samuel, was honourably treated by the 
emperor. 1 Basil then laid siege to Pernikon, a fortress of great 
strength, from which he was repulsed by the valour of the Bul- 
garian governor Krakas. He then withdrew to Philippopolis. 
The conquest of Vidin having enabled Basil to deprive 
Bulgaria of relief from Samuel and the Sclavonians of Mace- 
donia, the Byzantine generals easily completed the subjection 
of the whole of the rich country between Mount Hasmus and 
the Danube. The king of Achrida finding himself unable to 
encounter the troops of Basil in the field, and seeing his terri- 
tory constantly circumscribed by the capture of his fortresses, 
determined to fortify all the passes in the mountains that lead 
into Upper Macedonia. By stationing strong bodies of troops, 
and forming magazines behind these intrenchments, he hoped 
to present to his assailants the difficulties of a siege in situa- 
tions where all their supplies would require to be drawn from 
a great distance, and exposed to be captured or destroyed on 

1 Romanus had been made a eunuch by order of Joseph Bringas. Cedreaus, 694. 



348 Basilian Dynasty 

the way by the Bulgarian light troops and the Sclavonian in- 
habitants of the mountains. For several years a bloody and 
indecisive war was carried on, which gradually weakened the 
resources of the kingdom of Achrida, without affecting the 
power of the Byzantine empire. 

In the year 1014, Basil considered everything ready for a 
final effort to complete the subjection of the Sclavonian popu- 
lation of the mountainous districts round the upper valley of 
the Strymon. On reaching the pass of Demirhissar, or the 
Kleisura, then called Kirnbalongo, or Kleidion, he found it 
strongly fortified. Samuel had placed himself at the head of 
the Bulgarian army prepared to oppose his progress. The 
emperor found the pass too strong to be forced ; sitting down, 
therefore, before it, he sent Nicephoras Xiphias, the governor 
of Philippopolis, with a strong detachment, to make the circuit 
of a high mountain called Valathista, which lay to the south, 
that he might gain the rear of the Bulgarian position. This 
manoeuvre was completely successful On the 2gth of July, 
Nicephoras attacked the enemy's rear, while Basil assailed their 
front, and the Bulgarians, in spite of all the exertions of 
Samuel, gave way on every side. It was only in consequence 
of the gallant resistance of his son Gabriel that the king of 
Achrida was saved from being taken prisoner, and enabled to 
gain Prilapos in safety. 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 Sclavonians, he gratified 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 dis- 
gust 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 con- 
dition 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, overpowered 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 

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 num- 



Period of Conquest 349 

After Ms victory, Basil occupied the fort of Matzouklon, 
and advanced on Strampitza, where he ordered Theophylaktos 
Botaniates, the governor of Thessalonica, who had defeated 
a large body of Bulgarians, to join him by marching north- 
ward, and clearing away the intrenchrnents constructed by 
Samuel on the road leading from Thessaionlca directly to 
Strampitza. In this operation Theophylaktos was surrounded 
by the Bulgarians and slain, with the greater part of his troops, 
in the defiles. This check compelled the emperor to retire 
by the Zagorlan mountains to MosynopoHs, having succeeded 
in gaining possession of the strong fortress of Melenik by 
negotiation. At Mosynopolis, on the 24th October 1014, he 
heard of the death of Samuel, and immediately determined 
to take advantage of an event likely to prove so favourable to 
the Byzantine arms. Marching with a strong body of troops 
through Thessalonica and Vodena, he advanced into Pelagonia* 
carefully protecting that fertile district from ravage, and destroy- 
ing nothing but a palace of the Bulgarian kings at Boutelion. 
From thence he sent a division of the army to occupy Prilapos 
and Stobi, and, crossing the river Tzerna (Erigon) with the 
main body, he returned by Vodena to Thessalonica, which he 
reached on the 9th of January IOI5. 1 

The cruelty of Basil awakened an energetic resistance on 
the part of the Sclavonians and Bulgarians, and Gabriel 
Radomir, the brave son of Samuel, was enabled to offer un- 
expected obstacles to the progress of the Byzantine armies. 
Vodena revolted, and expelled the imperial garrison, so that 
Basil was compelled to open the campaign of 1015 with the 
siege of that place, which he reduced. The inhabitants were 
transported to Beleros, to make way for Greek colonists ; and 
two forts, Kardia and St. Elias, were built to command the 
pass to the westward. After receiving an embassy from Gabriel, 
with proposals which he did not consider deserving of atten- 
tion, Basil joined a division of his army engaged in besieging 
Moglena under the immediate command of Nicephorus Xiphias 
and Con stan tine Diogenes, who had succeeded Theophylaktos 

bers reported by the Byzantine 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. Capefigue^ Philippe Augusts^ ii. 102; Vaublanc, La, France CM Temps 
des Croisades, ii. 4. Putting out men's eyes was, for several centuries, a common prac- 
tice all over Europe, and not regarded with much horror. As late as the reign of Henry 
IV., A.D. 1403, an Act of Parliament was passed!, making it felony for Englishmen w 
cut out one another's tongues, or put out their neighbour's eyes. 
1 Cedrenus, 709. 



350 Basillan Dynasty 

as governor of Thessalonica. By turning the course of the 
river, the besiegers were enabled to run a mine under the wall, 
which they supported on wooden props. When the mine was 
completed, it was filled with combustibles, which reduced the 
props to ashes, and as soon as the wall fell and opened a 
breach, Moglena was taken by assault. The whole of the 
Sclavonian population capable of bearing arms was by the 
emperor's order transported to Vasparoukan in Armenia. The 
fort of Notia in the vicinity was also taken and destroyed. 

Gabriel, the king of Achrida, though brave, alienated the 
favour of his subjects by his imprudence, and his cousin, John 
Ladislas, whose fife 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 strengthening himself 
on the throne and resisting the Byzantine invasion, sent am- 
bassadors to Basil with favourable offers of peace; but the 
emperor, satisfied that the struggle between the Sclavonians 
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, laying waste the country about 
Ostrovos and Soskos, and marching unopposed through the 
fertile plains of Pelagonia. 1 The defeat of a portion of the 
Byzantine army by Ibatzes, one of the Bulgarian generals, 
compelled the emperor to march against him in person ; and 
when Ibatzes retreated into the mountains, Basil returned to 
Thessalonica, and shortly after established himself at Mosy- 
nopolis. The conquest of eastern Macedonia was not yet 
completed : one division of the Byzantine troops was placed 
under the command of David the Arianite, which besieged and 
took the fortress of Thermitza on Mount Strumpitza : another, 
under Nicephorus Xiphias, crossing Mount Haemus from Philip- 
popolis, took Boion, near Sardica. 

The Emperor Basil returned to Constantinople in the month 
of January 1016, in order to send an expedition to Khazaria, 
the operations of which had been concerted with Vladimir of 
Russia, his brother-in-law. He also availed himself of the 
opportunity to arrange some difficulties relating to the cession 
of Vasparoukan. When that part of Armenia was annexed to 
the empire, and the conquest of Khazaria terminated, he again 
joined the army at Sardica and laid siege to Pernikon, which 
repulsed his attacks, as it had done fourteen years before. He 

1 Zonaras, ii. 326, says Basil took Achrida ; but this could not be the case, as the 
treasures of the Bulgarian kings only fell into his hands in 1018. -Cedrenus, 713. 



Period of Conquest 351 

lost eighty-eight days before the place, but was at last com- 
pelled to retire to Mosynopolis. 

In the spring of 1017, Basil again turned his arms against 
Pelagonia, Kasloria, a town situated on a rocky peninsula in 
a small lake, resisted his attacks, but the booty collected in the 
open country was considerable ; and this he divided into three 
parts one he bestowed on the Russian auxiliaries who served 
in his army, another he divided among the native Byzantine 
legions, and the third he reserved for the imperial treasury. 1 
The operations of Basil in the west were for a time arrested by 
news he received from the governor of Dorystolon, which 
threatened to render his presence necessary in Bulgaria. 
Ladislas was concerting measures with the Fatzinaks to induce 
them to invade the empire ; but after a slight delay, Basil was 
informed the alliance had failed, and he resumed his activity. 
After laying waste all the country round Ostxovos and Moliskos 
that was peopled by Sclavonians, and repairing the fortifications 
of Berrhosa 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 were 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 ! " 2 soon 
spread confusion through the Bulgarian ranks, and changed 
the fortune of the day. After this victory, Basil, rinding the 
season too far advanced to follow up his success, returned to 
Constantinople, where he arrived in the month of January 
1018. 

Ladislas, whose affairs were becoming desperate, made an 
attempt to restore his credit by laying siege to Dyrrachium, 

1 Cedreims, 711. 

2 Befeire o Ttfap are the words as given by Skylitzes. Cedrenus, 712. Xylander 
says this is fvgite o C&sttr. This suggests three questions. Was Latin used as the 
military language in the Bulgarian army? Do the words represent the language of 
some remains of the language of the ancient Macedonians, or of the dialect of the 
modern Albanians? Or were the Va.IIachia.ns already to he found so far south? 



352 Basilian Dynasty 

which he hoped to take before Basil could relieve it. 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 com- 
mencement of the siege. He reigned two years and five 
months. As soon as the emperor heard of his death, he 
visited Adrianople to make preparations for a campaign, which 
he hoped would end in the complete subjugation of the Bul- 
garian and Sclavotiian population of the kingdom of Achrida. 
The Bulgarian leaders gave up all hope of resistance. Kra- 
kras, the brave chief of Pernikon, who had twice foiled the 
emperor, surrendered that impregnable fortress and thirty-five 
castles in the surrounding district Dragomoutzes delivered 
up the fortress of Strampitza, and both he and Krakras were 
rewarded with the patrician chair. Basil marched by Mosyno- 
polis and Serres to Strampitza, where he received deputations 
from most of the cities in Pelagonia, laying their keys at his 
feet. Even David, the Patriarch of Bulgaria, arrived, bringing 
letters from the widow of Ladislas, offering to surrender the 
capital. The emperor continued to advance by Skopia, 
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 
a hundred centners, 1 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 Truoros, and attempted to prolong the 
contest, were soon captured. The noble Bulgarians hastened 
to make their submission, and many were honoured with high 
rank at the imperial court. Nothing, indeed, proves more 
decidedly the absence of all Greek nationality in the Byzan- 
tine 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 sys- 
tem, for we have proofs that a considerable Greek population 

1 This sum is not quite equal to 480,000 sovereigns. 



Period of Conquest 353 

still occupied the cities of Thrace and Macedonia, though 
Greek feelings had little influence on the government. 1 

The arrangement of the civil and financial administration of 
the conquered territory, which had for so many years been 
separated from the Byzantine empire, occupied the emperor's 
attention during the remainder of the year. He also ordered 
two fortresses to be constructed to command the c mountain 
passes leading to Achrida, one in the lake of Prespa, and the 
other on the road leading to Vodena and Thessalonica. He 
then visited Diavolis, in order to inspect the passage over the 
Macedonian mountains that afforded the easiest communication 
with Northern Epirus. 2 Nicephorus Xiphias was sent at the 
same time to destroy all the mountain forts still in the posses- 
sion of Sclavonian chieftains about Servia and Soskos. 8 The 
taxation of the Sclavonian cultivators of the soil was arranged 
on the same footing on which it had been placed by Samuel. 
Each pair of oxen for the plough paid annually a measure of 
wheat, and one of millet, barley, or maize, and each strema of 
vineyard paid a jar or barrel of wine to the fisc. 4 

Basil now resolved to re-establish the Byzantine influence 
on the coast of Dalmatia. A division of the army was sent 
northward to complete the subjection of the mountainous 
districts of the theme of Dyrrachium as far as the Dalmatian 
and Servian frontiers; and an imperial fleet entered the 
Adriatic to act in co-operation with the authorities on shore. 
The princes of Servia agreed to acknowledge the supremacy of 
the emperor, and Constantine Diogenes, the imperial general 
on the Danube, gained possession of the city of Sirmium by an 
act of the basest treachery. 5 

After passing the winter in his new conquests, Basil made a 
progress through Greece. At Zeitounion he visited the field of 
battle where the power of Samuel had been first broken by 
the victory of Nicephorus Ouranos, and found the ground still 
strewed with the bones of the slain. The wall that defended 

1 Eustathios, the Byzantine governor of Achrida, addresses the Bulgarian soldiers of 
the garrison of Pronista thus, Poyicwoy S J ycJ?, real Pw/Aatos ob rutf friri Qp6.Kfjs Kal 
MaictdovLas QLKO$VT<av dXX' K rijs Mt/cpas A<rias.Cedrenus, 715. 

2 The modern pass of Tjangon or Devol Leake, Travels in. Northern Greece^ i. 

3 'For the city of Servia at present, see Leake, Travels in Northern Greece* iii. 
330. 

4 Modios is the word used. Cedrenus, 747. Joannis, Cvropalatte Hist. (Skylitzes), 
850. The xnodios and medimnos of Byzantine writers seem to be the same measure. 
Suidas says the medimnos was 108 litras, which shows it had nothing to do with the old 
Attic medimnos. The ancient medimnos contained u gallons (7-1456 pints English) ; 
the ancient modios i gallon (7*8576 pints) Smith's Dictionary of Greek and Rowan 

iss. * Lucius &* Rcgno Dalmatian* 297. Cedrenus, 717. 



354 Basillan Dynasty 

the pass of Thermopylae retained its antique name, Skelos ; 
and its masonry, which dated from Hellenic days, excited the 
emperor'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. Many magnificent structures 
in the town, and the whole of the temples in the Acropolis, had 
then hardly suffered any rude touches from the hand of time. 
If the external painting and gilding which had once adorned 
the Parthenon of Pericles had faded from their original splen- 
dour, the Church of the Virgin, into which it was transformed, 
had gained a new interest from the mural paintings of saints, 
martyrs, emperors, and empresses that covered the interior of 
the celia. The mind of Basil, though insensible to Hellenic 
literature, was deeply sensible of religious impressions, and the 
glorious combination of the variety of beauty in art and nature 
" that he saw in the Acropolis touched his stern soul. He testi- 
fied his feelings by splendid gifts to the city, and rich dedica- 
tions at the shrine of the Virgin in the Parthenon. 1 

From Greece the emperor returned to Constantinople, where 
he indulged himself in the pomp of a triumph, making his 
entry into his capital by the Golden Gate, and listening with 
satisfaction to the cries of the populace, who applauded his 
cruelty by saluting him with the title of " The Slayer of the 
Bulgarians," 

I have entered into the history of the destruction of the 
Bulgarian monarchy of Achrida in some detail, because the 
struggle was national as well as political ; and the persevering 
resistance offered by the Sclavonian population of Macedonia 
to a warlike sovereign Hke Basil, proves the density and flourish- 
ing condition of that people, and the complete annihilation of 
all Hellenic influence in extensive provinces, where for ages 
the civilisation and the language of Greece had been predomi- 
nant. Against this national energy on the part of the united 
Bulgarians and Sclavonians, the government of Constantinople 
had nothing to oppose but a well-disciplined army and a well- 
organised administration. The Byzantine empire had never 
less of a national character than at the present period, when 
its military glory had reached the highest pitch. Its Roman 
traditions were a mere name, and it had not yet assumed the 
medieval Greek characteristics it adopted at a later period 
when it was ruled by the family of Cpmnenos. No national 
population followed in the rear of Basil's victories, to colonise 

1 Cedrcnus, 7x7. Zonaras, ii. ara/. 



Period of Conquest 355 

the lands he systematically depopulated by his ravages and 
cruelty ; and hence It appears that extensive districts, instead 
of being repeopled by Greek settlers, remained in a desened 
condition until a nomadic Vallachian population intruded 
themselves. These new colonists soon multiplied so rapidly 
that about a century later they were found occupying the 
mountains round the great plain of Thessaly. 1 The changes 
which have taken pkce in the numbers and places of habita- 
tion of the different races of mankind, are really as important 
a branch of historical inquiry as the geographical limits of 
political governments; and the social laws that regulate the 
increase and decrease of the various families of the human 
race, at the same period, and under the same government, are 
as deserving of study as the actions of princes and the legis- 
lation of parliaments, for they exert no inconsiderable influence 
on the rise and fall of states. 

After the conclusion of the Bulgarian war, the attention of 
Basil was directed to the affairs of Armenia. Great political 
changes were beginning to take place in Asia, from the decline 
of the empire of the caliphs of Bagdat ; but these revolutions 
lie beyond the sphere of Byzantine politics at this time, though 
they began already to exert an influence on the sovereigns of 
Armenia. Before Basil had taken the command of his armies 
in the Bulgarian war, he had made a campaign in Armenia 
(A.D. 991), and gained possession of a considerable portion 
of Iberia or Georgia. The whole kingdom had been left to 
him by the will of David, its last sovereign ; but George, the 
brother of the deceased monarch, advancing his claim to the 
succession, Basil, in order to avoid a war, agreed to leave 
George in possession of the northern part. It is not necessary 
to enter into any details concerning the relations of the empire 
with the different dynasties that then reigned in each of the 
principalities into which Armenia was divided. Basil, in order 
to keep some check on the population of Iberia and Armenia, 
transported colonies of Bulgarians and Sclavonians into the 
East, while at the same time he removed numbers of Armenians 
into Bulgaria. 

In the year 995, Basil visited the East, in order to re-establish 
the Byzantine influence in Syria, where it had fallen into dis- 
credit in consequence of the defeat of the imperial army on 
the banks of the Orontes, in the preceding year. 2 The em- 

1 Benjamin of Tudelau The Itinerary translated and edited by A. Asher, i. 48. 
* Nicephorus Ouranos, who defeated Samuel on the banks of the Sperchius in 996 



356 Basilian Dynasty 

peror soon succeeded in re-establishing his authority. He 
took Aleppo, Hems, and Sheizar, and laid siege to Tripolis ; 
but that city resisted his attacks, as it had done those of John 
Zimiskes; and after his return to Constantinople, the lieu- 
tenants of the Fatimite caliphs of Egypt recovered possession 
of Aleppo. 

In the year 1021, the emperor was compelled to take the 
field in person, to make head against a powerful combination 
of enemies on the Armenian frontier. Senekarim, the prince 
of Vasparoukan, had been so alarmed by the threatening 
aspect of the Mohammedan population on his frontiers that he 
had ceded his dominions to Basil, and received in exchange 
the city of Sebaste and the adjacent country as far as the 
Euphrates, where he established himself with many Armenian 
families who quitted their native seats. Basil undertook to 
defend Vasparoukan against the Turkish tribes that began 
to attack it, and Senekarim engaged to govern Sebaste as 
a Byzantine viceroy. 1 After this cession had been made, 
George, the sovereign of the northern part of Iberia and 
Abasgia, in conjunction with Joannes Sembat, the King 
of Ani, attacked the Byzantine territory, and their operations 
rendered the presence of the emperor necessary. They had 
formed secret relations with Nicephorus Xiphias, who, while 
governor of Philippopolis, had distinguished himself in the 
Bulgarian war, and with Nicephorus, the son of Bar das 
Phokas ; and these two generals broke out into open rebellion 
in Cappadocia, and endeavoured to incite all the Armenians 
to take up arms. Basil was obliged to suppress this rebellion 
before he engaged a foreign enemy, and he availed himself of 
the spirit of treachery inherent among men in power in most 
absolute governments to effect his purpose. He sent letters 
secretly to each of the rebel chiefs, offering pardon to him who 
would assassinate his colleague. Phokas, who was bold and 
daring like his father, immediately communicated the em- 
peror's letter to Xiphias, who, concealing that he had received 
one of similar import, availed himself of his friend's confidence 
to assassinate him at a private interview. The rebel army 
then melted away, and Basil was able to turn all his forces 
against the sovereign of Iberia. In the first battle the victory 

appears to have been taken prisoner by the Saracens in this Hattle Cedrenus, 702. For 
the date of Basil's campaign in Syria, compare Cedrenus 701, and Weil, Geschickte der 
Chaiifcn, iii. 43, note. 

1 Saint Martin, Memoirts xur fArmenie t i. 368. Cbamich, it. ua. 



Period of Conquest 357 

remained doubtful, but in a second the Iberian and Abasgian 
troops were completely defeated (nth September 1022). 
Liparit, the general of the Abasgians, was slain, and the kings of 
Iberia and Armenia were obliged to sue for peace. A treaty 
was concluded on the banks of the lake Balagatsis, by which 
Joannes the King of Armenia, who began to be alarmed at 
the progress of the Turks, ceded his capital, Ani, to Basil after 
his death, on condition of retaining the government in his own 
hands as long as he lived. 1 During this campaign, Basil dis- 
played all his usual foresight and energy : he took measures 
for putting the fortresses on the eastern frontier of the empire 
in a state to resist the Turks, who threatened to invade the 
west of Asia ; and some of the military engines he ordered to 
be constructed were of such power and solidity, that when the 
Seljouk Turks invaded the Byzantine territory in the reign of 
Constantine IX. (Monomachos), they found them still well 
suited for service. 

The next object of Basil's ambition was to expel the 
Saracens from Sicily; and he was engaged in making great 
preparations for reconquering that island, when he was seized 
with an illness, which quickly proved fatal. He expired 
in December 1025, at the age of sixty-eight, after having 
governed the empire with absolute power for fifty years. He 
extended the limits of the Byzantine territory on every side by 
his conquests, and at the end of his reign the Byzantine 
empire attained its greatest extent and highest power. 

The body of Basil was interred in the Church of the 
Evangelists, in the Hebdomon. Two centuries and a half 
had nearly passed away. The Byzantine empire had been 
destroyed by the Crusaders, the Asiatic Greeks were en- 
deavouring to expel the Franks from their conquest, and 
Michael Paleologos their emperor was besieging Constanti- 
nople, when some Greek officers, wandering through the ruins 
of the church and monastery of the Evangelists, admired the 
remains of its ancient magnificence, and lamented to see that 
so splendid a monument of Byzantine piety had been con- 
verted into a stable under the ruinous administration of the 
Frank Caesars. In a corner of the building, a remarkable 
tomb that had been recently broken open arrested their 
attention. A well-embalmed body of an old man lay in the 
sarcophagus, and in his hand some idle herdsman had placed 
a shepherd's pipe. An inscription on the wall showed that 

1 Cedrenus, 761. Chamich, ii, 115. Saint Martin, L 6a. 



358 Basilian Dynasty 

the sarcophagus contained the mortal remains of Basil ^the 
Slayer of the Bulgarians. The Emperor Michael VIII. visited 
the spot, and when he found it necessary to retire from before 
Constantinople for a time, he ordered the body to be removed 
to Selymbria, and interred in the monastery of our Saviour/ 

A.D. 1260. 

1 Cedrenus, 719. Pacbymer, *. 80. 



CHAPTER III 

PERIOD OF CONSERVATISM ON THE EVE OF 
DECLINE, A.D- 1025-1057 

SECTION I 

CONSTANTINE VIIL, A.D. 1025-1028 

Condition of the empire Character of Constantine VIII . Government 
administered by his eunuchs Oppressive financial administration 
Marriage of Zoe with Romanus Arghyros Death of Constantine VIII. 

THE conquest of the Sdavonians in the Thracian, Macedonian, 
and Illyrian mountains gave a degree of security to the Eastern 
Empire which it had not enjoyed since the time of Justinian I. 
If at this period the government had known how to adopt 
measures for developing the resources of the country, or the 
Greek people had possessed the energy and moral convictions 
necessary to force the court to respect their rights as men and 
citizens, the whole of the provinces lying to the south of Mount 
Hsemus might have become thickly peopled by the natural 
increase of the Greek race. Land of the best quality was 
everywhere ready to receive a better cultivation from new 
colonists ; but improvement was checked, on the part of the 
government, by exactions similar to those which arrest the 
progress of society in all arbitrary governments ; and the Greeks 
were now destitute of the sentiment of national patriotism ; 
they were as selfish as their government was rapacious. 
Exorbitant taxes, severe fiscal restrictions, and obstructive 
social trammels, bore heavily on the agricultural classes, and 
left them, as their share of the fruits of their labour, little 
more than was sufficient for perpetuating their race, and 
supplying a due succession of peasants to labour the lands on 
which their predecessors toiled. Great part of the extensive 
provinces, depopulated by the destructive system of hostilities 
pursued by Basil and Samuel, remained long uncultivated, and 
were gradually invaded by nomadic tribes, who were allowed to 
pasture their flocks and herds over the richest plains on paying 
tribute to the Byzantine authorities. 

359 



360 Baslllan Dynasty 

The position of the empire on the death of Basil required a 
judicious and economical sovereign to organise the civil ad- 
ministration on such a scale, as not to absorb too large a 
portion of the funds required for the maintenance of the large 
army with which it was necessary to guard the extensive 
frontiers, and yet on a footing that would insure an equitable 
and prompt administration of justice to the subjugated 
Sclavonians. Unfortunately, Constantine VIII., though he 
was averse to war and military parade, had no taste for order, 
and no care for justice. In his personal appearance he bore 
a strong resemblance to his brother, but any similarity of 
disposition that ever showed itself was only in defects. His 
tall robust figure proclaimed the same strength of body and 
health of constitution, but he was destitute of the activity, 
fortitude, and courage of BasiL After he assumed the govern- 
ment, he continued to live as he had done while his brother 
kept him secluded from public business. In the interior of 
the palace he was surrounded by musicians, singers, dancing- 
girls, and parasites, and he rarely quitted it except to indulge 
in the chase, or to celebrate public spectacles in the hippo- 
drome for his own amusement and that of the idle populace of 
the capital. He left all public business to be transacted by 
his domestic servants, and he shunned the military pageants 
in which the emperors usually took an active part. Indeed, 
he appeared to dread the array of troops as more likely to 
suggest the idea of internal revolutions than foreign wars. 
His fears rendered him a suspicious and cruel tyrant ; and his 
distrust of all men of talent and influence induced him to 
intrust the principal offices of the state to the eunuchs of his 
household : men bred up amidst scenes of dissipation, gam- 
bling, and hunting, and utterly destitute of all experience in 
public business, were suddenly charged with the most impor- 
tant duties in the empire. 1 

The dignities of chamberlain, 2 keeper of the wardrobe, and 
commander of the watch, were intrusted to three eunuchs of 
the domestic establishment of Constantine, and each received 
the title of President of the Senate. The command of the 
foreign mercenaries was conferred on a fourth. The Byzan- 
tine emperors, like other despots, preferred intrusting strangers 

1 Zonaras, ii. 228. 

Cedrenus, 719. Nikolaos was made Ilapa KOtfJubfJievos and Aopfortfcos r&v 
, or minister-at-war. Nicephorus TLpwrofteamdpio ?, and Simeon Apovyyd/wos 



Period of Conservatism 361 

with the guardianship of their persons. 1 A fifth, named Spon- 
dyles, was appointed duke of Antioch, and intrusted with the 
command of the troops charged to resist the ambitious projects 
of the Fatimite caliphs in Syria. The object of the nomina- 
tion was to furnish the army with a leader incapable of pre- 
tending to the throne, not to supply it with an able general. 
The sixth of this domestic band, named Niketas, became duke 
of Iberia. The Emperor Basil II. must have beaten down 
the pride of the aristocracy during the latter part of his reign> 
and effected a great change in the position they had held in 
the time of Basilios the chamberlain and the rebellions of 
Skleros and Phokas, or the direction of the government would 
not have been allowed to remain long in the hands of six 
eunuchs. The spirit of conservatism already pervaded society 
to such a degree as to form a firm support of despotism. The 
patience with which Constantine's measures were endured 
gives us some insight into the social as well as the administra- 
tive changes effected by the long reign of his brother. We 
see that his policy had proved quite as successful in breaking 
the power of the great families, and in diminishing the in- 
fluence of the generals of themes, as in destroying the Bulgarian 
kingdom and subjugating the Sclavonian people. All the 
power the emperor had taken from others was accumulated 
in his own person ; nothing was done to confer any rights on 
the people, nor to secure them against injustice on the part of 
the imperial agents. The emperor's power was made absolute 
in practice as in theory, and thus the worthless creatures of 
Constantine VIII. were enabled to commit acts of greater 
oppression than the aristocratic officials whose power Basil 
had curtailed. Conservatism was now a principle of Byzantine 
policy, and it is usually a factitious phrase to delude the people 
from a devotion to order and justice. 

Basil II. is accused by the Byzantine historians of fiscal 
severity. In this accusation there is reason to suspect that we 
learn rather the murmurs of the nobles and populace of Con- 
stantinople than the deliberate expression of the public opinion 
of the whole empire. Basil endeavoured to levy from the 
rich their due proportion of the public burdens, and to put 

1 The title of the commander of the foreign guard was Myar cratpeiapxys. The 
Varangian corps of the Imperial body-guard was formed about this time, and consisted 
first of Scandinavians and Russians, afterwards of Danes and English. Cedrenus men- 
tions Varangians at page 735, and their commandant Akoulothos atjpage 787. For the 
German guard of Augustus, see Suetonius, InAttf. 49 ; Tetciti Ann.\ , 04 ; and Ernesti'* 
note to Ann. 13, 18. Oberlin, i. 754. 



362 Baslllan Dynasty 

a stop to the absorption of the estates of the poor by the 
aristocracy, while at the same time he refrained from lavish- 
ing immense sums on the shows In the hippodrome. But 
whatever may have been the extent of his avarice, we see 
signs of true liberality in his exertions to lighten the burdens 
of the industrious classes, and real humanity in his endeavours 
to spare the poor. It has been already noticed that the taxes 
were two years in arrear when he died. The proceedings of 
Constantino form a contrast to those of his brother. On one 
hand, he exacted the arrears of the public taxes with the 
greatest severity, while, on the other, he lavished the^ money 
thus extorted from the provinces in wasteful expenditure in 
the capital During his reign of three years he collected and 
expended the revenue of five. His palace, like that of a, 
Saracen caliph, was filled with foreign slaves and eunuchs, 
whose strange appearance and barbarous language astonished 
the natural-bom subjects of the empire. 1 

Though no dangerous insurrection broke out, the general 
discontent could not be mistaken, and it excited the fears of 
Constantine and his creatures. Many eminent men, repre- 
sentatives of families renowned in the annals of the empire, 
were seized, and condemned to lose their sight, because the 
services of their ancestors in past generations appeared ^ to 
give them too much influence on public opinion. It is diffi- 
cult to determine, in each case, whether this was a measure of 
precaution, or a punishment for political imprudence or actual 
conspiracy. The names of some of the sufferers deserve a 
record, because they indicate the position of several distin- 
guished families at the time. Nicephorus Comnenos, the 
governor of Media or Aspourakan, had bravely defended his 
province against the incursions of the Saracens; but his 
troops having given him some signs of indiscipline and 
timidity, he had invited them to take an oath that they would 
never desert him on the field of battle. This excited the 
jealousy of the emperor, who recalled Comnenos to Constanti- 
nople, where he was condemned to lose his sight for ad- 
ministering unlawful oaths to the army. 2 Constantine, the 
son of Michael Burtzes, who took Antioch, was also deprived 
of sight ; but in his case it was notorious that the punish- 
ment was an act of revenge, as this patrician had informed 
Basil of some unseemly practices of his brother, in order that 

1 Zonaras, u. 328. 

a Cdrenus, 7x1. Ducange, Fam. Bys. 170. 



Period of Conservatism 363 

they might be restrained. The grandsons of the rivals, Bardas 
Skleros and Bardas Phokas, were united in misfortune. These 
two patricians lost their sight on some vague accusations 
brought against them by the eunuchs of the imperial palace. 
Basnios Skleros had quarrelled with Prusian, the son of 
Ladislas, the last king of Achrida. Prusian, who held the 
rank of magister, and was governor of the theme Boukellarion, 
fought a duel with Skleros ; for the pride of the Byzantine 
military aristocracy displayed itself with as much courage, if 
not with as much gallantry, as was ever shown by the chivalry 
of western Europe. 1 The two duellists were exiled to different 
islands of the Princes 1 group ; but Basilios was soon deprived 
of his sight, on pretext that he was plotting to escape. 
Romanos Kurkuas, a member of a distinguished Armenian 
family, which had supplied the empire with many able 
generals, and of which the Emperor John Zimiskes was a 
scion, also lost his sight, as well as several individuals who 
bear names not unknown in Byzantine history, and others 
whose barbarous appellations prove that the Bulgarian and 
Sclavonian aristocracy divided with the Greeks and Armenians 
a competent share of political influence at the court of Con- 
stantinople. 3 

The extent of the disorder caused in the provinces by the 
creatures sent to govern them by Constantine and his eunuchs, 
is attested by the notice we possess of some occurrences at 
Naupactos. The government of that province was intrusted 
to an officer called, from his violence, Mad George, who, by 
his tyrannical conduct, drove the people to despair; and in 
an insurrection which ensued, Mad George was slain, and his 
palace plundered by the populace. This insurrection was 
soon quelled ; but Constantine took severe vengeance on the 
inhabitants of Naupactos. Even the archbishop was deprived 
of his sight, for attempting to protect the people against the 
exactions of their tyrant. 

Foreign nations soon heard how Constantine conducted 
the government, and hastened to profit by the disorderly 
state of public affairs. In 1027, the Patzinaks made an 
irruption into Bulgaria, where they laid waste everything on 

1 Cedrenns, 721. Lebeau, xiv. 234, remarks, that this is the first duel recorded^ in 
Byzantine history, Prusianos lost his eyes in the reign of Romanns III., on a suspicion 
that he was plotting with Theodora, the daughter of Constantine VIII., to mount the 
throne. Cedrenus, 723. Zonaras, ii. 230. 

a Cedrenus, 721. Bogdan, Glabas, And Goadelis. Zachanas, who las? his tongue, 
was a. reUtion of & personage called Vestas Pherdatot. 



364 Basillan Dynasty 

their line of march. A Saracen fleet cruised among the 
Cydades, visiting the isknds one after another, and collecting 
booty from all But the spirit infused by Basil into the army 
and navy was not extinct, though their direction had fallen 
into unworthy hands. Diogenes, the governor of Sinmum, 
being created duke of Bulgaria, defeated the Patzinaks, and 
drove them back beyond the Danube. The governors of 
Samos and Chios assembled a naval force, with which they 
attacked the Saracen fleet, and captured twelve of the enemy's 
ships with all the crews. 

Constantine VIII. was suddenly attacked by a disease which 
was evidently mortal. When he was near his end, he fixed his 
eyes on Constantine Dalassenos as his successor. The choice 
was judicious ; and a eunuch of the palace was despatched to 
summon Dalassenos from his residence in the Armeniac theme, 
when Simeon, the commander of the watch, expecting to find 
a weaker and more docile sovereign in Romanus^ Arghyros, 
who was connected with the imperial family, prevailed on the 
emperor to recall his first order, and transfer the empire to 
Romanus. The destined sovereign, on reaching the palace, 
was informed by Constantine that he was selected to mount 
the throne, but that he must divorce his wife, and marry one of 
the imperial princesses. Romanus hesitated to become em- 
peror on this condition; but Constantine, to quicken his 
decision, informed him that he must either ascend the throne 
or lose his eyesight, and gave him a few hours to reflect on the 
choice. The wife of Romanus, learning the alternative, im- 
mediately ordered her head to be shaved, and entered a 
monastery ; thus generously relieving her husband from the 
odium of sacrificing his honour to his timidity or ambition. 
Constantine had destined Theodora, the youngest of his three 
daughters, to be the wife of Romanus ; but she refused to 
participate in the throne by marrying the husband of another 
woman. The emperor was compelled, therefore, to make his 
second daughter Zoe empress, for the eldest had retired into a 
monastery. 1 The daughters of Constantine were already of 
mature age. Their education had been shamefully neglected 
by their father ; and Zoe had taken advantage of the want of 
all moral restraint in which she lived. She had attained the 
age of forty-eight when she became a bride; but the posterity 
of Romanus II. and Theophano were all remarkable for health, 

1 A malady, which may have been tne smallpox:, had disfigured her appearance 
Zonaras, ii. 228. 



Period of Conservatism 365 

vigour, and longevity. 1 Her marriage with Romanus III. and 
their coronation was celebrated on the igth November 1028, 
On the 2ist of the month Constantine VIII. expired. 



SECTION II 

THE REIGNS OF THE HUSBANDS OF ZOE, A.D. 1028-1054 

Personal conduct of Romanus III., 1028-1034 Conspiracies Saracen 
war Defeat of Romanus Exploits of Maniakes Autograph of Christ 
Acquisition of Perkrin Naval operations Death of Romanus III. 
Character of Michael IV. (thePaphlagonian),A.D. 1034-1041 John the 
Orphanotroph Financial oppression Conspiracies Saracen war 
Attempt to surprise Edessa War in Sicily Loss of Servia Rebellion 
of Bulgarians and Sclavonians Energetic conduct of Michael IV. 
Death of Michael IV. Reign of Michael V. (Kalaphates, or the 
Caulker},^ A. D. 1042 Reign of Zoe and Theodora, 1042 Character of 
Constantine IX. (Monomachus), 1042-1054 Skleraina, the concubine 
of Constantine IX. created empress Lavish expenditure Cruelty of 
Theodora Sedition in Cyprus Rebellion of Maniakes Conspiracy of 
the eunuch Stephen Rebellion of Leo Tornikios Court plots Ser- 
vian war Russian war Patzinak war War in Italy Conquest of 
Armenia Invasion of the Byzantine empire by the Seljouk Turks 
Separation of Greek and Latin churches Deaths of Zoe and Con- 
stantine IX. 

For twenty-nine years the empire was ruled by a succession 
of princes who owed their position on the throne to the 
daughters of Constantine VIIL Under such circumstances, 
it is natural that the affairs of the court of Constantinople 
attract more than usual attention in a review of Byzantine 
history. Every class of society in the empire appears during 
this period to have slumbered in prosperity, consuming its 
revenues in a firm conviction that no external power could dis- 
turb the internal security of the state. In no other portion of 
the civilised world did the inhabitants enjoy an equal degree 
of wealth and security for life and property ; and the military 
power and financial resources of every neighbouring government 
appeared far inferior to those of the Byzantine empire. Con- 
servative lethargy was natural under such circumstances. 

Romanus III. was sixty years old when accident made him 
an emperor. He was allied to several of the oldest and most 
illustrious of the aristocracy, and is a type of the kind of 
sovereign a respectable Byzantine noble of conservative ten- 

1 Zonaras, ii. 932, 260, says Zoe was fifty in the reign of Romanus III., and more 
than seventy at her death. The Chronicle of Lupus, Bibliotheca. Hist. Regni Sicitia, 
edited by Carusius, p. 39, says she was seventy at her death, in 1050. 



366 Basilian Dynasty 

dencies made, during a time when the political horizon was 
peculiarly tranquil in the East. He enjoyed the reputation of 
possessing both accomplishments and learning; but his vanity 
somewhat obscured the lustre of his talents. Feeling that his 
sudden elevation would excite the ambition of many of the 
nobility, he adopted measures to conciliate the favour of every 
class of his subjects. The church was propitiated by bestow- 
ing on the clergy of St. Sophia's an annual revenue of eighty 
pounds' weight of gold, secured as a permanent charge on the 
imperial treasury. To gain the nobility and the higher eccle- 
siastical dignitaries, he abolished the Allelengyon, or mutual 
responsibility of the rich for the taxes due by the poor in their 
district. It appears that this law, as established by Basil II. , 
had been executed with such severity that several bishops had 
been reduced to poverty. 1 He also granted a full pardon to all 
persons who had been persecuted by the jealousy of Constan- 
tine VIII. He purchased popularity among the people by 
releasing all who were confined in the public prisons for debt; 
and in order to combine justice with charity, he paid their 
debts to private individuals when he remitted those to the fisc. 
He redeemed the captives taken by the Patzinaks in their 
recent invasion of the empire ; and, in short, he endeavoured 
in many ways to render himself so generally popular as to 
deter any rival from aspiring at the throne. These measures 
for securing popularity were of themselves well chosen, but 
their favourable effect was greatly increased by a coincidence 
beyond the emperor's control. The year of his accession 
proved one of singular fertility every species of grain was 
abundant in the capital, and a rich harvest of olives supplied 
the people of the provinces both with oil and money. 

The piety of Romanus displayed itself in the usual super- 
stition of his age. Considering the failure of his Syrian 
campaign as a punishment for his sins, and not a consequence 
of his ignorance of military affairs, he sought to propitiate 
Heaven by a lavish expenditure on ecclesiastical objects. He 
founded a new monastery of the Virgin called Semneion, on 
the church of which he laid out money with profusion. He 
endowed the monastery with such enormous revenues that 
even Byzantine ecclesiastics, in recording his liberality, blame 
the incongruity of placing monks in the position of luxurious 
nobles, and complain of the emperor seeking to acquire merit 
with God by exactions that ruined his subjects. 2 Romanus 

1 Zonaras, ii. 930. 8 Jbid. t ii. 231. 



Period of Conservatism 367 

also covered the capital of the columns in the churches of 
St Sophia's and Blachern with gilding, and enriched the 
buildings with expensive ornaments. He is said likewise to 
have obtained permission from the Fatimite caliph Daher 
to rebuild the Church of the Holy Sepulchre at Jerusalem, 
which had been destroyed by Caliph Hakem in the year 
10 10. Subsequent disputes with the Egyptian government 
appear to have delayed the commencement of the work until 
the reign of Michael IV., and it was not completed until that 
of Constantine IX. (Monomachus), in the year I048. 1 

Whenever early education has failed to implant moral feel- 
ings in the hearts of men, laws prove ineffectual to supply the 
want, whether in the case of individuals or nations. The 
people of the Byzantine empire were now beginning to have 
the same hankering after hereditary succession which has 
lately been manifested by the continental nations of Europe 
for representative government ; but in both cases there appears 
to have been a want of those firm convictions required for 
attaining any desired end. As usually happens in political 
matters, the fault lay with the higher and educated classes of 
society, who allowed themselves to quit the line of duty to 
pursue any lure held out to their prejudices or passions. 
Hence we find conspiracies and rebellions continuing to 
occur in rapid succession in the Byzantine empire, where they 
were regarded as an unavoidable evil in the lot of man. Con- 
servative tendencies were the most powerless political feeling 
that ever swayed the counsels of Constantinople. But we 
must not forget that the Byzantine empire was a government 
without a nation. 

1 The discussion concerning the site of the Holy Sepulchre seems still undecided. 
The author of this work has endeavoured to show that evidence, and not tradition, 
must have determined the position in the time of Constantine. On the Site of the Holy 
Sepulchre i by George Finlay : London, 1847. Mr. Ferguson, in a very able work, en- 
titled A. n Essay on, the A ncient Tomography of Jerusalem , published in the same year, 
has_ maintained that_ Constantine did not fix on the present site, but that in some later 
period the present site was imposed on mankind as the site selected by Constantine or 
Helena. Though the tradition of the church cannot be received as of much value on a 
topographical question before any site was determined on, it becomes of value from the 
time a variety of nations and sects began to worship at the same shrine : now. as this 
has been the case, ever since the time of Constantine, with the Holy Sepulchre, the 
question arises, At what period was it possible for the priests and pilgrims of many 
different nations and sects to agree on a fraud so abhorrent to the superstitious feelings 
of mankind ? The authorities relating to the destruction and re-edification of the Church 
of the Holy Sepulchre at this period, are as follows: The Saracens set fire to the church 
and burnt the Patriarch of Jerusalem alive, after the victories of Nicephorus II., in. 968. 
Cedrenus, 661. The caliph Hakem, called by Byzantine writers Aziz, razed the church 
and demolished the sepulchre in 1010. Cedrenus, 706. William of Tyre, i, iv. Bon- 
gars, 631. Romanus III. obtained permission to rebuild the church. Cedrenus, 731. 
William of Tyre, i. vi. Bongars, 632. The -new building was completed by Constantin 
IX. (Monomachus), William of Tyre, i. vi. Bongars, 632. 



368 Basilian Dynasty 

The Empress Zoe never forgave her sister Theodora that 
superiority of character which had induced their father to 
offer her the empire, if she would accept the husband of his 
choice ; and Romanus III. disliked her for refusing his hand, 
and feared her on account of her talents. He set a spy over 
her conduct by drawing from his retreat John, one of the 
ministers of Basil II., who had deemed it prudent to retire 
into a monastery on the accession of Constantine VIII. 
John was now appointed syncellus, and intrusted with the 
superintendence of Theodora's household. Prasian, the Bul- 
garian prince who had fought a duel with Romanus Skleros, 
the brother-in-law of the Emperor Romanus III., was accused 
of plotting with Theodora to seize the imperial crown. 
Whether true or false, the jealousy of Zoe and the aversion 
of Romanus were sure to obtain for this accusation a favour- 
able reception. The emperor had already restored his brother- 
in-law to his former rank as magistros ; he now revenged him 
by condemning Prusian to lose his sight, and by banishing 
his mother, the late queen of Bulgaria, to the monastery of 
Mantineion in the Boukellarian theme. Subsequently, when 
the court was alarmed at the prospect of a Bulgarian and 
Sclavonian rebellion under the direction of Constantine 
Diogenes, Prusian was compelled to embrace the monastic 
life. It seems strange that the project of transferring the 
sovereignty of the Byzantine empire to a Bulgarian should 
be recorded by the Byzantine writers, without the smallest 
notice that such an event was likely to wound either the 
Roman pride of the aristocracy of Constantinople, or the 
national vanity of the Greek race; but we must recollect that 
the founder of the Basilian dynasty was generally considered 
to have been a Sclavonian groom. 

Another conspiracy, which was formed soon after that of 
Prusian, was connected with the same interests, and counted 
on the same feelings for success. Constantine Diogenes, the 
governor of Sirmium and duke of Bulgaria, had married a 
niece of the Emperor Romanus III., and had been appointed 
governor of Thessalonica. 1 While there, it was discovered 
that he was engaged in frequent communications with the 
leaders of the Bulgarian and Sclavonian population of the 
empire, and it was deemed necessary to transfer him to 
the government of the Thrakesian theme before arresting 

1 Cedrenus, 723 ; Zonaras, il. 230 ; Ducange, Fam. By*. 153, and in his notes to 
2onauai, p. 90, edit. Vonet., disagree concerning the relationship. 



Period of Conservatism 369 

him. He was found guilty of conspiracy against the em- 
peror, and condemned to be incarcerated as a monk in the 
monastery of Studion. John the syncellus, who seems to 
have been gained over by Theodora, whom he had been 
appointed to watch, Eustathios Daphnomeles, the governor 
of Achrida, two grandchildren of Michael Burtzes, the con- 
queror of Antioch, and George and Varasvatzes, nephews of 
the patrician Theudatos, were ail condemned for participating 
in this conspiracy. 1 They were publicly scourged, and then 
banished. Theodora, who was accused of being privy to 
their plots, was driven from her palace, and imprisoned in 
the monastery of Petrion. 2 Some time after, the Empress 
Zoe visited her sister, and compelled her to assume the 
monastic habit. Constantine Diogenes was also accused by 
the archbishop of Thessalonica of plotting to escape into 
Illyria, in order to assume the title of emperor. To avoid 
the loss of his eyesight, and the disgrace of being scourged 
through the streets of the capital, he threw himself from a 
window, and was killed on the spot. He was buried in the 
place appropriated to those who committed suicide, A.D* 
1032.* 

The negligence of Constantine VIII. had weakened the 
military force of the empire. Spondyles, the eunuch in- 
trusted with the government of Antioch, finding that the 
Saracen emirs who had been rendered tributary by Nicepho- 
rus II. and John Zimiskes refused to pay tribute, undertook to 
re-establish the imperial authority. His rashness and in- 
capacity led to the complete defeat of the Byzantine army 
on the 3ist of October 1029, by which all the imperial pos- 
sessions of Syria were exposed without defence to the attacks 
of the emirs of Aleppo and Tripolis, who pushed their in- 
cursions up to the walls of Antioch, and rendered themselves 
masters of the fort of Menik, which had been recently con- 
structed in its immediate vicinity. 

Romanus III. resolved to redeem the honour of the empire 
at the head of his armies. His brother-in-law, Constantine 
Karantenos, was sent forward to supersede Spondyles. When 
the emperor reached Philomilion in Pisidia, he was met by an 
embassy from the emir of Aleppo, who offered to recognise 

1 Varasvatzes founded the monastery of the Iberians on Mount Athos. Cedrenus, 
7*4. The m account of Mount Athos, by Comnenos, in Montfaucon's PaUogrttpkic* 
Grerc&t omits this fact. 

2 It was situated without the walls, at the head of the pott. Ducange, Nottr im 
2onar<r A nn. p. 90, edit. Venet. * Cedrenun, yat). 



370 Basilian Dynasty 

the supremacy of the empire, and to pay the same tribute he 
had paid to Basil II. The wisest councillors of Romanus 
recommended him to accept these terms, for the season was 
ill suited for invading Syria, where the heat and want of water 
rendered great part of the country better adapted for the 
operations of the light-armed cavalry of the Arabs, than for 
the military tactics of the Byzantine troops, covered with 
heavy armour. 1 The emperor was so destitute of military ex- 
perience, that he believed it would be a matter of little 
difficulty to rival the exploits of Nicephorus, Zimiskes, and 
Basil, and he marched forward to take possession of Aleppo. 
He had arrived at a strong fortress called Azaz, about two 
days' march from that city, when his outposts were attacked 
and driven in by the Arabs, who prevented his cavalry from 
collecting forage, and his troops from approaching the water 
in the neighbourhood. 2 The position of the Byzantine camp 
was ill chosen ; an attempt to repulse the Arabs led to an un- 
premeditated engagement, in which a considerable body of 
troops was defeated, and the fugitives, rushing into the camp, 
spread disorder far and wide. No measures were adopted for 
restoring order, and the victorious Arabs advanced up to the 
intrenchments, and kept the imperial army closely blockaded. 
The emperor was utterly helpless, and under such a com- 
mander there was no choice but to retreat to Antioch. This 
operation was conducted in the most disgraceful manner. At 
daylight Romanus abandoned the camp, leaving his own tents 
and baggage, and the warlike machines, tents, and baggage of 
the army, a prey to the enemy ; and this booty fortunately de- 
tained the Arabs so long that a great part of the flying army 
gained Antioch in safety, August io3o. 3 

Romanus, cured of his passion for military fame, hastened 
back to Constantinople. The generals he left in command of 
the army proved as incapable as their sovereign, and Menik, 
the fort in the vicinity of Antioch, remained in the hands 
of the Saracens. The emperor, however, at last sent Theok- 

1 Cedrenus, 726. 

2 Azaz is about twenty-six miles north by west of Aleppo. The mound on which it 
stands is nearly circular, and partly of limestone, with a circumference of about two 
hundred and fifty yards at the base, and ninety yards at the top of the cone, which 
is about a hundred and twenty feet high ; its natural kernel having been increased 
to this extent, in order that the work might be more defensible. Colonel Chesney, The 
Expedition for the Survey of the rivers Euphrates and Tigris, t. 422. This quotation 
from Colonel Chesney is necessary to prove that Cedrenus is a better authority in 
the present instance than the Arabian geographer Aboulfeda, though a native of 
Damascus, who, according to Weil, iii. 71, note, places Azaz only a mile from, Aleppo. 

* Cedrenivs, 726. Zonaras,- ii. 231. 



Period of Conservatism 371 

tistos, the commander of the foreign mercenaries, with a 
considerable reinforcement of native and foreign troops j and 
this officer having formed an alliance with the emir of Tripolis, 
who was alarmed at the progress of the Egyptian power 
in Syria, succeeded in taking the fort of Menik. Alach, the 
son of the emir of Tripolis, visited the court of iRomamis, and 
so lax were the political and religious ideas of the Byzantines, 
in spite of their ecclesiastical bigotry, that he was honoured 
with the rank of a Roman patrician. 1 

Shortly after the defeat of the Emperor Romanus at Azaz, 
an incident occurred which deserves notice, principally be- 
cause it brought into notice an officer who soon took a promi- 
nent part in the military affairs of the empire, both in Asia and 
Europe. George Maniakes was governor of the small province 
called Telouch. 2 After the flight of the army to Antioch, 
a body of eight hundred Arabs appeared before the walls 
of the fortress in which he was residing, announcing the death 
of the emperor, and the overthrow of the Byzantine power 
in Syria. They ordered Maniakes to evacuate the place, 
or they threatened to storm it next day, and put every person 
within its walls to the sword. Maniakes considered that the 
nature of their summons indicated either their weakness or 
their determination to fall on his troops by treachery; he 
therefore asked to be allowed to remain the night in the 
fortress, to make preparations for his retreat. The Arab camp 
was supplied with food and refreshments in abundance, and at 
midnight Maniakes led out the garrison to attack the enemy, 
who were found plunged in sleep without a guard. The 
greater part were slain, and two hundred and eighty camels, 
laden with the spoil of Romanus's camp, were recaptured. 
This prize was sent as a present to the emperor, accompanied 
with the noses and ears of the vanquished. 

To reward the valour of Maniakes, he was appointed 
governor of Lower Media, of which Samosata was the capital. 3 
The following year the Saracens invaded Mesopotamia, and 
plundered the country as far as Melitene; but in 1032, 
Maniakes contrived to bribe the governor of Edessa, who was 
subject to the emir of Miarfekin (Martyropolis), to deliver up 
the town. But as soon as the Byzantine troops got possession 
of three towers in the wall, they were assailed by the Saracen 

1 Cedrenus, 728. I believe the Grand Mogul was once honoured with the rank 
of Christian knighthood by an English sovereign. 

2 For the family of Maniakes, compare Cedrenus, 727, 731 ; Georg. Mon. 533 J Leo 
Gramm. 46;. * Cedrenus, 7*7- 



37 2 Basilian Dynasty 

inhabitants, and Maniakes was soon attacked by Apomerman, 
the emir of Miarfekin, who hastened to expel him from his 
position. The Saracens, finding it impossible to regain pos- 
session of the towers, and learning that fresh troops were 
marching to the assistance of Maniakes, abandoned Edessa; 
but before quitting it they burned most of the houses, and 
destroyed the great church. Though the Saracens had time 
to carry off the greater part of the wealth of the city they left 
behind them what was infinitely more valuable in the eyes of 
the Christians of that age than the whole wealth of the 
caliphate. The people of Edessa had long boaste* that they 
possessed a letter written by our Saviour to Abgarus, king 
of Edessa ; this precious relic was now brought to Maniakes, 
and by him transmitted to Constantinople. 1 It is not known 
at what period this precious document was fabricated. From 
the city and territory of Edessa a tribute of 50 Ib. of gold was 
annually remitted to the Byzantine treasury. 

The disorganised state of the caliphate of Bagdat, and the 
power acquired by the Turkish mercenaries, induced several 
Saracen emirs to solicit the protection of Romanus. The 
emir of Aleppo, in spite of his victory, became ributary to 
the empire. Aleim, the emir of Perkrin a fortress of great 
importance, on account of its position delivered up that 
place to the emperor ; and a body of six thousand Byzantine 
troops, under a Bulgarian patrician, was stationed to defend 
this advanced post. Aleim was, however, dissatisfied with the 
reward he received, and opened communications with the 
Persians, whom he contrived to introduce into Perkrin. The 
Byzantine garrison was surprised and put to the sword ; but a 
powerful body of native troops and Russian mercenaries soon 
regained possession of the place, which was taken by assault, 
and Aleim was put to death. 2 

The Saracens of Africa and Sicily were still in the habit of 
sending out krge fleets to plunder the coasts of the empire. 
In the year 1031, these pirates laid waste Illyria and the island 
of Corfu, but they were defeated by the people of Ragusa and 
the governor of Nauplia, who destroyed the greater part of 
their fleet. Next year they returned with a large force, and, if 
we believe the accounts of the Byzantine writers, their fleet 

l-Cedrenus, 731. Zonaras, ii. 33*. Glycas, 313. 

* Cedrenus, 732, says Perkrin was near Bagdat ; but this must be a mistake, as ho 
evidently alludes to the city of Percri, mentioned by Const. Porphyr. De Adm. 
chap. 44, a* an important fortress in Armenia. St.- Martin, Mtmoires sur 



Period of Conservatism 373 

consisted of a thousand vessels, and transported ten thousand 
troops. Two divisions of this great armament were defeated 
by Nicephoras Karantenos, the governor of Nauplia, and up- 
wards of a thousand prisoners were sent to Constantinople. 
In 1033, the imperial fleet, under the command of the pro- 
tospatharios Tekneas, made a descent on the coast of Egypt, 
and after collecting considerable booty, and carrying off many 
prisoners, the expedition returned to Constantinople. Every 
government at this time found it much easier to plunder the 
territories of its rivals than to defend its own, for most 
sovereigns had adopted the policy of disarming the great body 
of their subjects, fearing that, if they possessed arms, they 
would employ their strength in delivering themselves from the 
fiscal exactions of their princes. 

During the reign of Romanus III., several parts of Asia 
Minor suffered very severely from earthquakes, locusts, famine, 
and pestilence ; and in a stationary condition of society these 
calamities often destroy an amount of capital which is never 
replaced, and become, therefore, an immediate cause of a rapid 
depopulation. 1 

For two years before his death the emperor was afflicted by 
a disease which gradually wasted his frame, and caused his 
hair and beard to fall off. Many ascribed the disorder to the 
use of aphrodisiacs, which he took to an immoderate extent, 
in the hope of leaving an heir to the empire; but others 
believed that the disease originated in a slow poison ad- 
ministered either by the Empress Zoe or by John the orphano- 
trophos, who expected to raise his brother Michael to the 
throne. This John was a eunuch and a monk, who had 
entered the household of Romanus while he was yet in a 
private station, but who, after he became emperor, received 
the rank of orphanotrophos, or minister of charitable institu- 
tions, an office which proves the existence of a high degree of 
civilisation in the Byzantine administration. John had several 
brothers, one of whom, named Michael, commenced life as a 
goldsmith and money-changer, but while still young, received 
a place in the imperial household. 2 The face of Michael had 
the beauty of a perfect statue ; his figure was full of grace, and 

1 Many of the inhabitants of Asia Minor were reduced to such distress as to sell their 
children as slaves, to save the lives of both parties. Cedrenus, 732. 

2 John had two brothers, Constantino and George, who had been educated as 
doctors, and were, like himself, eunuchs ; another Niketas, and a sister named Maria, 
married to Stephen, who was probably a shipbuilder, though called a caulker.- 
Cedrenus, 733. 



374 Baslllan Dynasty 

his manners were attractive and dignified, but the young man 
was liable to sudden and violent attacks of epilepsy. Zoe, 
though upwards of fifty, is said to have fallen in love with her 
handsome servant, and to have carried on an intrigue with him 
by the assistance of his brother John. Romanus, though in- 
formed of his wife's conduct, paid no attention to the accu- 
sations, which the epilepsy of Michael seemed to render 
improbable. 1 In the mean time, the health of the emperor 
rapidly declined, and on the nth of April 1034 he was taken 
from the bath in a dying state. While life yet remained, he 
was visited by Zoe and some of the officers of the court, but 
he was already speechless, and the empress quitted his side to 
take measures with the orphanotrophos for placing her epileptic 
paramour on the throne. 

The moment that life was extinct in the body of Romanus 
III., Zoe assembled the officers of state in the palace, and 
invested Michael IV. with the imperial robes. He was im- 
mediately proclaimed Emperor of the Romans, and seated 
himself on the vacant throne beside Zoe. The promptitude 
with which this singular step of raising a domestic to the 
throne was conceived and executed prevented its encountering 
the" slightest opposition. The Patriarch Alexios was sum- 
moned to the palace, where he learned the death of Romanus, 
and was, to his great astonishment, ordered to crown Michael 
the Paphlagonian, and celebrate his marriage with the widowed 
empress. The Patriarch would willingly have delayed making 
this open display of contempt for decency, but he saw Michael 
seated on the throne, and he was aware of the power and 
ability of his brother the orphanotrophos ; so, admitting that 
reasons of state might overrule the dictates of virtue, he cele- 
brated the marriage to avoid greater scandal. Thus a single 
night saw the aged Zoe the wife of two emperors, a widow and 
a bride, and Michael a menial and a sovereign. In order to 
render the sudden elevation of a domestic of the palace less 
strange in the distant provinces, John, who became his 
brother's prime-minister, despatched letters to all the 
governors, announcing that Michael had been selected by 
the deceased emperor for his successor, and crowned before 
his death. 

The new emperor, though he ascended the throne in the 



Period of Conservatism 375 

most disgraceful manner, possessed some good qualities ; and 
his natural good disposition appears neither to have been 
corrupted by his education as a money-changer, though 
calumny accused him of having been a fabricator of false 
coin ; nor by his menial service at a corrupt and vicious court, 
of which he was a depraved member. After he mounted the 
throne, he soon lost the gaiety of disposition and tranquillity 
of mind which had increased the beauty of his figure and the 
grace of his manner. In spite of his constitutional infirmity, 
he was not destitute of considerable strength of character, and 
with his vices he united a strong sense of justice. The conduct 
of Zoe awakened in his mind feelings of distrust for his own 
safety, and he had spirit enough to dismiss from her service 
many of the eunuchs of her father's household, who seemed 
fit agents for new plots. His conscience was soon troubled 
by his treachery to his benefactor, and during his whole reign 
he suffered the pangs of remorse. He sought pardon from 
heaven by praying at the shrines of different saints, and he 
wasted the revenues of the empire in building monasteries 
and chapels, and in making lavish donations to priests and 
monks. 1 But as he continued to enjoy every advantage he 
had purchased by his crimes, the historians of his reign justly 
observe that he seemed to trust in the blindness of God for 
the forgiveness of his sins, as if divine justice could regard 
good deeds done at the expense of his subjects as any atone- 
ment for his private sins, or as any proof of sincere repentance 
on the part of the imperial sinner. 2 It must be owned that 
there is more truth in this observation than is agreeable either 
to the Papal or the Greek church. The anxiety produced by 
the cares of his situation soon increased the emperor's malady 
to such a degree that he became liable to sudden attacks ; and 
even at pubHc ceremonies, when he was seated on the throne, 
it was necessary to have the canopy of state hung round with 
curtains, which the chamberlains could let fall to hide him 
from the assembly as soon as his countenance indicated the 
approach of the terrible convulsions to which he was liable. 
When his malady seized him, his features were distorted into 
hideous expressions, his eyes rolled in wild agony, and he 
often struck his head against the wall until he fell exhausted 
on the floor. Though his malady was known to be of old 

1 He sent two pieces of gold to every priest, and one to every monk in all the 
provinces and islands of the empire, and he paid a piece of gold and four miliaresia at 
the baptism of every infant.- Cedrenus, 742. 

2 Cedrenus, 738. Glycas, 3x5. 



376 Basllian Dynasty 

date, the people persisted in regarding it as a judgment for 
his conduct to his benefactor Romanus, and appealed to it as 
a visible interposition of divine power, which abandoned him 
from time to time to be tormented by demons as a punishment 
for his treachery. 1 

Under these circumstances, it appears strange that Michael 
retained the throne with so little difficulty, and met with no 
dangerous rival. It is true, he possessed an able prime- 
minister in his brother, the orphanotrophos, whose interests 
were completely identified with his own, and who was a 
statesman competent to relieve him from all the details of 
administrative labour. Michael could entertain no distrust of 
his brother John, who could neither supplant him on the 
throne nor covet it for his posterity. But though the or- 
phanotroph was a faithful brother and an able minister, he 
was rapacious and tyrannical, and his administration, though 
serviceable to Michael, was injurious to the wealth and re- 
sources of the empire. He is said to have commenced life as 
a travelling doctor. While Romanus III. was in a private 
station, he intrusted John with the direction of his household ; 
but after he became emperor, his intendant, with the modest 
title of Orphanotrophos, and in the humble garb of a monk, 
directed the whole business in the imperial cabinet. When 
his brother ascended the throne, he openly assumed the duties 
of president of the imperial council, and though suffering 
under the loathsome disease of a cancer in the mouth, the 
energetic eunuch humbled the aristocracy and ruled the people 
with a rod of iron. 2 

The administration of John the orphanotrophos deserves 
attention, not only from forming a principal feature in the 
reign of Michael IV., but also from marking the era of a mis- 
chievous change in the financial system of the Byzantine 
government. The taxes were everywhere augmented, and 
collected in a more arbitrary manner. An additional charge of 
from four to twenty byzants was imposed on every landed 
estate, according to its extent. 3 John's avidity compelled the 
collectors of the revenue in the provinces to increase their 
exactions, for when they were regular in their remittances to 
the treasury, and liberal in their presents to the orphanotro- 
phos, their oppressive conduct to the provincials was easily 
overlooked. This system of extortion caused several serious 
insurrections during the reign of Michael IV. At its com- 

* Zonaras, u, *$g, * Ibid., ii. 835. Cedrenus, 737. * Cedrenus, 743. 



Period of Conservatism 377 

mencement the people of Antioch murdered the collector of 
taxes in that city, and, alarmed at the vengeance John was 
likely to take for such an offence, shut their gates against his 
brother Niketas, whom he sent to be their duke. 1 Niketas 
succeeded in entering the city, where his first act was to put to 
death a hundred of the inhabitants, and confiscate the wealth 
of eleven of the richest families. The people of Aleppo also 
expelled the imperial commissioner sent to reside among them 
for fiscal purposes, and their position secured them from the 
vengeance of the Byzantine minister. When Maria, the 
emperor's sister, and mother of the future emperor, Michael V., 
visited the city of Ephesus on a pilgrimage to the shrine of 
St. John the Evangelist, she was struck with compassion at the 
sight of the excessive misery she beheld in all the country on 
her road. When she returned to Constantinople, she urged 
her brother, the orphanotrophos, by every feeling of humanity 
and religion, to moderate the financial exactions which were 
rapidly depopulating the empire. The orphanotrophos replied 
with a smile "You reason like a woman, ignorant of the 
necessities of the imperial treasury." His conduct, however, 
proved in the end unprofitable as a financial operation, for it 
caused an extensive insurrection of the Bulgarian and Sclav- 
onian population, which cost more to suppress than had been 
wrung from them. Even the Greeks found their fiscal suffer- 
ings so great that they seemed disposed to join the Sclavonians 
in an attempt to throw off the Byzantine yoke. The collector 
of the revenues of the theme of Nicopolis was torn in pieces by 
the people, and the western parts of Greece welcomed the 
Bulgarian troops. 2 

A government so unpopular as that of Constantinople at this 
time required not only great talents to direct the central 
administration, but also a numerous body of firm supporters 
dispersed through all the provinces, interested to defend the 
system with all its abuses. This was effected by filling every 
office with men dependent on the family of Michael IV., and 
crowding the senate with creatures of the orphanotrophos. On 
the death of Niketas, Constantine, who was almost as able and 
active as his brother John, was appointed "duke of Antioch, 
and became afterwards grand domestikos. George was ap- 
pointed protovestiarios, their brother-in-law Stephen was in- 
trusted with the command of the fleet, and subsequently 

1 Zonaras, il. 336. Cedrenus, 737, * Ibid* % 747. 



Basilian Dynasty 

named commander-in-chief in Sicily ; while his son Michael, 
called, from his father's early profession, Kalaphates, or the 
caulker, was appointed by his uncle Caesar, which was almost 
tantamount to proclaiming him heir-apparent to the Byzantine 
empire. 

John even carried his ambition so far as to make an attempt 
to place himself at the head of the church as well as the state, 
Having gained over a party among the bishops to object to the 
appointment of the Patriarch Alexios as uncanonical, on the 
ground that he had been intruded on the church by the 
nomination of Basil II., John proposed to depose Alexios. 
The Patriarch, however, encountered the attack with courage. 
He openly discussed the question, and asked what measures 
were to be taken if all the ordinations which he had made, 
during the twelve years he had governed the church, were now 
unexpectedly declared void; and he boldly reminded John, 
that even the coronation and marriage of the reigning emperor 
would thus be pronounced null. This boldness alarmed the 
emperor : and John was compelled to lay aside the hope of 
becoming Patriarch during the life of Alexios. 

Avarice was always a pervading fault of Byzantine society ; 
and the rapacity of the clergy at this period often rivalled the 
extortions of the fiscal agents of the imperial administration. 
Two anecdotes, that contrast the moral feelings of a Greek 
bishop with those of a troop of Varangian soldiers, deserve 
notice. 

Theophanes, the metropolitan of Thessalonica, carried his 
avarice so far that he held back the payment of the salaries 
due to the clergy of his chapter; and even during a year of 
famine refused to pay them their arrears. The Emperor 
Michael happened to visit Thessalonica, and the starving 
priests complained to him of the conduct of their bishop ; 
but even the reproof of the emperor failed to obtain justice 
to the claims of the clergy. Michael then determined to 
punish the bishop; but, in order to expose his avarice and 
meanness in a public manner, he sent one of his household 
to borrow a hundred pounds' weight of gold, promising to 
repay the money immediately on his arrival at Constantinople. 
The bishop excused himself on the score of poverty, declar- 
ing, with the most solemn oaths, that he had only thirty 
pounds' weight of gold in his palace. The emperor im- 
mediately sent a commission to search the palace, and the 
sum of three thousand three hundred pounds' weight of gold 



Period of Conservatism 379 

was found. Theophanes was banished to a country farm, and 
Prometheos named Ms successor. 1 

The Varangian guard was dispersed in winter-quarters in 
the Thrakesian theme, where one of the soldiers, attempting 
to use violence on the person of a country-woman, she drew 
his sword and stabbed him. The man died on the spot ; but 
as soon as the foreign troops heard the true history of the 
affair, instead of insisting on revenge, they applauded the 
woman's conduct, put her in possession of all the property 
her assailant had left in his quarters, and exposed his body 
without burial, as if he had committed suicide. 2 

The only noble whose great wealth and high character 
excited the fears of Michael IV., and the jealousy of the 
orphanotrophos, was Constantine Dalassenos, the man who 
had been first selected as the husband of Zoe. Dalassenos 
was residing on his immense estates in the Armeniac theme 
when he heard of the election and marriage of Michael The 
contemptuous words he was said to have uttered sank deep in 
the mind of the new emperor ; and Dalassenos soon received 
an invitation from the orphanotrophos to visit Constantinople. 
He, however, declined trusting his person in the capital until 
he received a solemn assurance of his safety from the emperor. 
The guarantees he ventured to demand, and which Michael 
Consented to give, afford a curious picture of the proud posi- 
tion of the great nobles, and a sad evidence of the prevalence 
of falsehood and treachery in the highest ranks of society. 
A member of the emperor's household, in high office, was sent 
to Dalassenos with a piece of the holy cross, with the napkin 
on which the figure of Christ was miraculously imprinted, with 
the autograph letter of Christ, and with the portrait of the 
Virgin Mary, painted by the hand of St. Luke ; and on these 
sacred relics this officer swore that he had witnessed the Em- 
peror Michael IV. take an oath that Constantine Dalassenos 
should suffer no injury if he visited the capital. On this as- 
surance Dalassenos repaired to Constantinople, where he was 
well received by the emperor, and received the title of Pro- 
consul. But shortly after, Niketas, the emperor's brother, who 
was duke of Antioch, accused him of being privy to the insur- 
rection in which the imperial tax-gatherers had been slain; 
and on this improbable charge Dalassenos was confined in the 
island of Plate. His son-in-law Dukas was thrown into prison, 
and three nobles of great wealth had their estates confiscated, 

1 A.D. 1038. Cedrexms, 740. * J1>id. t 735. 



380 Basillan Dynasty 

for complaining that this proceeding was a violation of the 
emperor's oath. 

During the Bulgarian rebellion in 1040, a conspiracy was 
formed to dethrone Michael. Many of the chief men in Con- 
stantinople were accused of being privy to the plot; and though 
they escaped with their lives, the fortunes of the wealthy were 
confiscated. Among the conspirators was Michael Keroularios, 
whose guilt compelled him to protect his person by becoming 
a monk. He afterwards attained the dignity of Patriarch, and 
displayed the same unquiet intriguing spirit at the head of the 
church as he had done in a private station. 

Some seditious proceedings in the Asiatic army were sup- 
pressed by the emperor's brother, Constantine, who put out 
the eyes of several officers ; and not venturing to punish their 
chief, Gregory the Taronite, who was a patrician, by a local 
tribunal, sent that dignitary to Constantinople, sewed up in 
the hide of a newly-slain ox, with only holes cut in it for his 
eyes, and for breathing. 1 

The military power of the empire was not tarnished by the 
conduct of Michael TV., though he was sneered at by the 
aristocracy as a Paphlagonian money-changer. The Saracens 
vainly endeavoured to recover the possessions which had been 
conquered by the Christians in Syria and Mesopotamia. The 
emperor's brother, Constantine, while governor of Antioch, 
displayed some military talents. He relieved Edessa when 
attacked by a Saracen army. The possession of Edessa by 
the Byzantine emperors was a source of continual annoyance 
to the Mohammedans, and their endeavours to regain it were 
incessant. In the year 1038, two years after it had been re- 
lieved by Constantine, they made use of a stratagem which 
has obtained immortality as an Eastern tale, though, as a fact, 
it remains buried in the dulness of Byzantine history. Varas- 
vatzes, a Georgian, commanded in Edessa when twelve Arabians 
of rank presented themselves before the gates, attended by an 
escort of five hundred horse, and followed by a train of five 
hundred camels, declaring that they were going on an embassy 
to the emperor with rich presents from the caliph. 2 The wary 
Georgian, however, distrusted their numerous escort ; and 
though he gave the chiefs a hospitable reception, and pre- 
pared for them a sumptuous entertainment in his palace, he 

1 Cedrenus, 747. 

a This Varasvatzes, being an Iberian or Georgian, may have been a relation as weU 
as A namesake of the founder of the monastery on Mount Athoa, 



Period of Conservatism 381 

ordered the escort and the train of camels to be encamped 
without the wails, and sharply watched. While the banquet 
was proceeding in the city, a poor Armenian, well versed in 
the Arabic language, offered his services to the travellers, and 
was permitted to wander about the encampment. While stand- 
ing near the wicker baskets with which the camels had been 
laden, he overheard a man conversing with another, and per- 
ceived that a band of armed men, for the purpose of surprising 
Edessa, was the only present for the emperor which the camels 
carried. Hastening to the palace of the governor, he suc- 
ceeded in revealing the secret to the watchful Georgian, who 
found an excuse for quitting his guests. A body of the gar- 
rison was sent to overpower the cavalry, while Varasvatzes, 
proceeding in person to the encampment, ordered the wicker 
baskets with the presents for the emperor to be opened, and 
slew the concealed soldiers as they were found. He then 
returned to his palace, where he ordered his guests to be 
seized, and informed them of the issue of their treachery. 
Eleven were put to death, and the chief, mutilated by the loss 
of his hands, ears, and nose, was sent to announce the result 
of the adventure to the court of Bagdat 1 

T