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Edward Gibbon, The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, vol. 8 [1776]

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Edward Gibbon, The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, ed. J.B. Bury with an Introduction by W.E.H. Lecky (New York: Fred de Fau and Co., 1906), in 12 vols. Vol. 8.

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About this Title:

The eighth volume of a 12 volume set of Gibbon’s magesterial history of the end of the Roman Empire, one of the greatest works of history written during the Enlightenment.

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The text is in the public domain.

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This material is put online to further the educational goals of Liberty Fund, Inc. Unless otherwise stated in the Copyright Information section above, this material may be used freely for educational and academic purposes. It may not be used in any way for profit.

Table of Contents:

Edition: current; Page: [a]

Edition Lausanne

Limited to one thousand registered sets

No. __________

Edition: current; Page: [b]
vol. viii
Edition: current; Page: [c]
Edition: current; Page: [i]




new york



Edition: current; Page: [ii] Edition: current; Page: [iii]
Edition: current; Page: [iv]

Copyright, 1907,


Norwood Press

Edition: current; Page: [v]


  • List of Illustrations . . . . . . . . . page xiii
  • CHAPTER XLV Reign of the younger Justin — Embassy of the Avars — Their Settlement on the Danube — Conquest of Italy by the Lombards — Adoption and Reign of Tiberius — Of Maurice — State of Italy under the Lombards and the Exarchs of Ravenna — Distress of Rome — Character and Pontificate of Gregory the First
    • ad 565 Death of Justinian . . . . . . . . . 1
    • 565-574 Reign of Justin II. or the Younger . . . . . 2
    • 566 His Consulship . . . . . . . . . . 3
    • Embassy of the Avars . . . . . . . . . 3
    • Alboin, King of the Lombards — his Valour, Love, and Revenge 5
    • [567] The Lombards and Avars destroy the King and Kingdom of the Gepidæ . . . . . . . . . . . 7
    • 567 [568] Alboin undertakes the Conquest of Italy . . . . 9
    • Disaffection and Death of Narses . . . . . . 11
    • 568-570 Conquest of a great Part of Italy by the Lombards . . 13
    • 573 Alboin is murdered by his Wife Rosamond . . . . 15
    • Her Flight and Death . . . . . . . . 17
    • Clepho, King of the Lombards . . . . . . . 18
    • Weakness of the Emperor Justin . . . . . . 18
    • 574 Association of Tiberius . . . . . . . . 19
    • 578 Death of Justin II. . . . . . . . . . 21
    • 578-582 Reign of Tiberius II. . . . . . . . . 21
    • His Virtues . . . . . . . . . . . 23
    • 582-602 The Reign of Maurice . . . . . . . 24
    • Distress of Italy . . . . . . . . . 26
    • 584-590 Autharis, King of the Lombards . . . . . 27
    • The Exarchate of Ravenna . . . . . . . 28
    • The Kingdom of the Lombards . . . . . . 30
    • Language and Manners of the Lombards . . . . . 31
    • Dress and Marriage . . . . . . . . . 34
    • Government . . . . . . . . . . 36
    • 643 Laws . . . . . . . . . . . . 37
    • Misery of Rome . . . . . . . . . . 38
    • The Tombs and Relics of the Apostles . . . . . 41
    • Birth and Profession of Gregory the Roman . . . . 42
    • 590-604 Pontificate of Gregory the Great, or First . . . . 44
    • His Spiritual Office . . . . . . . . . 44
    • And Temporal Government . . . . . . . 46Edition: current; Page: [vi]
    • His Estates . . . . . . . . . . . 46
    • And Alms . . . . . . . . . . . 47
    • The Saviour of Rome . . . . . . . . . 49
  • CHAPTER XLVI Revolutions of Persia after the Death of Chosroes or Nushirvan — His Son Hormouz, a Tyrant, is deposed — Usurpation of Bahram — Flight and Restoration of Chosroes II. — His Gratitude to the Romans — The Chagan of the Avars — Revolt of the Army against Maurice — His Death — Tyranny of Phocas — Elevation of Heraclius — The Persian War — Chosroes subdues Syria, Egypt, and Asia Minor — Siege of Constantinople by the Persians and Avars — Persian Expeditions — Victories and Triumph of Heraclius
    • Contest of Rome and Persia . . . . . . . 50
    • 570 Conquest of Yemen by Nushirvan . . . . . . 51
    • 572 His last War with the Romans . . . . . . . 52
    • 579 His Death . . . . . . . . . . . 54
    • 579-590 Tyranny and Vices of his Son Hormouz . . . . 55
    • 590 Exploits of Bahram . . . . . . . . . 57
    • His Rebellion . . . . . . . . . . 59
    • Hormouz is deposed and imprisoned . . . . . . 60
    • Elevation of his Son Chosroes . . . . . . . 61
    • Death of Hormouz . . . . . . . . . 62
    • Chosroes flies to the Romans . . . . . . . 63
    • His Return and final Victory . . . . . . . 64
    • Death of Bahram . . . . . . . . . 65
    • 591-603 Restoration and Policy of Chosroes . . . . . 65
    • 570-600 Pride, Policy, and Power of the Chagan of the Avars . . 68
    • 591-602 Wars of Maurice against the Avars . . . . . 73
    • State of the Roman Armies . . . . . . . . 75
    • Their Discontent . . . . . . . . . . 77
    • And Rebellion . . . . . . . . . . 78
    • 602 Election of Phocas . . . . . . . . . 78
    • Revolt of Constantinople . . . . . . . . 78
    • Death of Maurice and his Children . . . . . . 80
    • 602-610 Phocas Emperor . . . . . . . . 81
    • His Character . . . . . . . . . . 82
    • And Tyranny . . . . . . . . . . 84
    • 610 His Fall and Death . . . . . . . . . 84
    • 610-642 Reign of Heraclius . . . . . . . . 86
    • 603 Chosroes invades the Roman Empire . . . . . . 87
    • 611 His Conquest of Syria . . . . . . . . . 88
    • 614 Of Palestine . . . . . . . . . . 89
    • 616 Of Egypt . . . . . . . . . . . 90
    • Of Asia Minor . . . . . . . . . . 91
    • His Reign and Magnificence . . . . . . . 91
    • 610-622 Distress of Heraclius . . . . . . . . 94
    • He Solicits Peace . . . . . . . . . 97
    • 621 His Preparations for War . . . . . . . . 97
    • 622 First Expedition of Heraclius against the Persians . . . 100
    • 623, 624, 625 His second Expedition . . . . . . 103Edition: current; Page: [vii]
    • 626 Deliverance of Constantinople from the Persians and Avars . 108
    • Alliances and Conquests of Heraclius . . . . . . 111
    • 627 His third Expedition . . . . . . . . . 113
    • And Victories . . . . . . . . . . 114
    • Flight of Chosroes . . . . . . . . . 116
    • 628 He is deposed . . . . . . . . . . 118
    • And murdered by his Son Siroes . . . . . . 118
    • Treaty of Peace between the two Empires . . . . . 119
  • CHAPTER XLVII Theological History of the Doctrine of the Incarnation — The Human and Divine Nature of Christ — Enmity of the Patriarchs of Alexandria and Constantinople — St. Cyril and Nestorius — Third General Council of Ephesus — Heresy of Eutyches — Fourth General Council of Chalcedon — Civil and Ecclesiastical Discord — Intolerance of Justinian — The Three Chapters — The Monothelite Controversy — State of the Oriental Sects — I. The Nestorians — II. The Jacobites — III. The Maronites — IV. The Armenians — V. The Copts — VI. The Abyssinians
    • The Incarnation of Christ . . . . . . . . 122
    • I. A pure man to the Ebionites . . . . . . . 123
    • His Birth and Elevation . . . . . . . . 125
    • II. A pure God to the Docetes . . . . . . . 127
    • His incorruptible Body . . . . . . . . 128
    • III. Double Nature of Cerinthus . . . . . . 130
    • IV. Divine Incarnation of Apollinaris . . . . . 132
    • V. Orthodox Consent and Verbal Disputes . . . . 134
    • 412-444 Cyril, Patriarch of Alexandria . . . . . . 136
    • 413, 414, 415 His Tyranny . . . . . . . . 137
    • 428 Nestorius, Patriarch of Constantinople . . . . . 140
    • 429-431 His Heresy . . . . . . . . . 142
    • 431 First Council of Ephesus . . . . . . . . 144
    • Condemnation of Nestorius . . . . . . . . 146
    • Opposition of the Orientals . . . . . . . . 147
    • 431-435 Victory of Cyril . . . . . . . . . 149
    • 435 Exile of Nestorius . . . . . . . . . 151
    • 448 Heresy of Eutyches . . . . . . . . . 154
    • 449 Second Council of Ephesus . . . . . . . . 154
    • 451 Council of Chalcedon . . . . . . . . . 156
    • Faith of Chalcedon . . . . . . . . . 159
    • 451-482 Discord of the East . . . . . . . . 161
    • 482 The Henoticon of Zeno . . . . . . . . 163
    • 508-518 The Trisagion, and religious War, till the Death of Anastasius . . . . . . . . . . . 165
    • 514 First religious War . . . . . . . . . 167
    • 519-565 Theological Character and Government of Justinian . . 168
    • His Persecution of Heretics . . . . . . . . 170
    • Of Pagans . . . . . . . . . . . 171
    • Of Jews . . . . . . . . . . . 171
    • Of Samaritans . . . . . . . . . . 172
    • His Orthodoxy . . . . . . . . . . 173
    • 532-698 The Three Chapters . . . . . . . . 174Edition: current; Page: [viii]
    • 553 Vth General Council: IId of Constantinople . . . . 175
    • 564 Heresy of Justinian . . . . . . . . . 176
    • 629 The Monothelite Controversy . . . . . . . 178
    • 639 The Ecthesis of Heraclius . . . . . . . . 179
    • 648 The Type of Constans . . . . . . . . 179
    • 680, 681 VIth General Council: IIId of Constantinople . . . 180
    • Union of the Greek and Latin Churches . . . . . 182
    • Perpetual Separation of the Oriental Sect . . . . . 183
    • I. The Nestorians . . . . . . . . 185
    • 500 Sole Masters of Persia . . . . . . . . 187
    • 500-1200 Their Missions in Tartary, India, China, &c. . . . 188
    • 883 The Christians of St. Thomas in India . . . . . 191
    • II. The Jacobites . . . . . . . . . 194
    • III. The Maronites . . . . . . . . 198
    • IV. The Armenians . . . . . . . . 200
    • V. The Copts or Egyptians . . . . . . . 202
    • 537-568 The Patriarch Theodosius . . . . . . . 203
    • 538 Paul . . . . . . . . . . . . 203
    • 551 Apollinaris . . . . . . . . . . . 203
    • 580 Eulogius . . . . . . . . . . . 204
    • 609 John . . . . . . . . . . . . 204
    • Their Separation and Decay . . . . . . . 205
    • 625-661 Benjamin, the Jacobite Patriarch . . . . . 206
    • VI. The Abyssinians and Nubians . . . . . . 207
    • 530 Church of Abyssinia . . . . . . . . . 209
    • 1525-1550 The Portuguese in Abyssinia . . . . . . 210
    • 1557 Mission of the Jesuits . . . . . . . . 211
    • 1626 Conversion of the Emperor . . . . . . . 212
    • 1632 Final Expulsion of the Jesuits . . . . . . . 213
  • CHAPTER XLVIII Plan of the last two [quarto] Volumes — Succession and Characters of the Greek Emperors of Constantinople, from the Time of Heraclius to the Latin Conquest
    • Defects of the Byzantine History . . . . . . 215
    • Its Connection with the Revolutions of the World . . . 218
    • Plan of the last two [quarto] Volumes . . . . . 218
    • Second Marriage and Death of Heraclius . . . . . 221
    • 641 Constantine III. . . . . . . . . . . 222
    • Heracleonas . . . . . . . . . . 223
    • Punishment of Martina and Heracleonas . . . . . 223
    • Constans II. . . . . . . . . . . 224
    • 668 Constantine IV. Pogonatus . . . . . . . . 226
    • 685 Justinian II. . . . . . . . . . . 227
    • 695-705 His Exile . . . . . . . . . . 229
    • 705-711 His Restoration and Death . . . . . . . 230
    • 711 Philippicus . . . . . . . . . . . 233
    • 713 Anastasius II. . . . . . . . . . . 233
    • 716 Theodosius III. . . . . . . . . . . 233
    • 718 Leo III. the Isaurian . . . . . . . . . 234
    • 741 [740] Constantine V. Copronymus . . . . . . 236Edition: current; Page: [ix]
    • 775 Leo IV. . . . . . . . . . . . 238
    • 780 Constantine VI. and Irene . . . . . . . . 240
    • 792 Irene . . . . . . . . . . . . 242
    • 802 Nicephorus I. . . . . . . . . . . 243
    • 811 Stauracius . . . . . . . . . . . 244
    • Michael I. Rhangabe . . . . . . . . . 245
    • 813 Leo V. the Armenian . . . . . . . . . 245
    • 820 Michael II. the Stammerer . . . . . . . . 248
    • 829 Theophilus . . . . . . . . . . . 249
    • 842 Michael III. . . . . . . . . . . 253
    • 867 Basil I. the Macedonian . . . . . . . . 256
    • 886 Leo VI. the Philosopher . . . . . . . . 261
    • 911 Alexander, Constantine VII. Porphyrogenitus . . . . 264
    • 919 Romanus I. Lecapenus . . . . . . . . 264
    • Christopher, Stephen, Constantine VIII. . . . . . 265
    • 945 Constantine VII. . . . . . . . . . . 266
    • 959 Romanus II. junior . . . . . . . . . 267
    • 963 Nicephorus II. Phocas . . . . . . . . 269
    • 969 John Zimisces, Basil II. Constantine IX. [VIII.] . . . 270
    • 976 Basil II. and Constantine IX. [VIII.] . . . . . . 273
    • 1025 Constantine IX. [VIII.] . . . . . . . . 275
    • 1028 Romanus III. Argyrus . . . . . . . . 276
    • 1034 Michael IV. the Paphlagonian . . . . . . . 276
    • 1041 Michael V. Calaphates . . . . . . . . 277
    • 1042 Zoe and Theodora . . . . . . . . . 278
    • Constantine X. [IX.] Monomachus . . . . . . 278
    • 1054 Theodora . . . . . . . . . . . 279
    • 1056 Michael VI. Stratioticus . . . . . . . . 279
    • 1057 Isaac I. Comnenus . . . . . . . . . 280
    • 1059 Constantine XI. [X.] Ducas . . . . . . . 282
    • 1067 Eudocia . . . . . . . . . . . 282
    • Romanus III. Diogenes . . . . . . . . 283
    • 1071 Michael VII. Parapinaces, Andronicus I. Constantine XII. . 284
    • 1078 Nicephorus III. Botaniates . . . . . . . 285
    • 1081 Alexius I. Comnenus . . . . . . . . . 287
    • 1118 John or Calo-Johannes . . . . . . . . 289
    • 1143 Manuel . . . . . . . . . . . 291
    • 1180 Alexius II. . . . . . . . . . . 294
    • Character and first Adventures of Andronicus . . . . 294
    • 1183 Andronicus I. Comnenus . . . . . . . . 303
    • 1185 Isaac II. Angelus . . . . . . . . . 306
  • CHAPTER XLIX Introduction, Worship, and Persecution of Images — Revolt of Italy and Rome — Temporal Dominion of the Popes — Conquest of Italy by the Franks — Establishment of Images — Character and coronation of Charlemagne — Restoration and Decay of the Roman Empire in the West — Independence of Italy — Constitution of the Germanic Body
    • Introduction of Images into the Christian Church . . . 309
    • Their Worship . . . . . . . . . . 311
    • The Image of Edessa . . . . . . . . . 314Edition: current; Page: [x]
    • Its Copies . . . . . . . . . . . 315
    • Opposition to Image-Worship . . . . . . . 316
    • 726-840 Leo the Iconoclast, and his Successors . . . . 318
    • 754 [753] Their Synod at Constantinople . . . . . . 320
    • Their Creed . . . . . . . . . . 320
    • 720-775 Their Persecution of the Images and Monks . . . 321
    • State of Italy . . . . . . . . . . 324
    • 727 Epistles of Gregory II. to the Emperor . . . . . 326
    • 728 Revolt of Italy . . . . . . . . . . 329
    • Republic of Rome . . . . . . . . . 332
    • 730-752 Rome attacked by the Lombards . . . . . 335
    • 754 Her Deliverance by Pepin . . . . . . . . 337
    • 774 Conquest of Lombardy by Charlemagne . . . . . 339
    • 751, 753, 768 Pepin and Charlemagne, Kings of France . . . 340
    • Patricians of Rome . . . . . . . . . 342
    • Donations of Pepin and Charlemagne to the Popes . . . 344
    • Forgery of the Donation of Constantine . . . . . 347
    • 780 Restoration of Images in the East by the Empress Irene . . 350
    • 787 VIIth General Council, IId of Nice . . . . . . 351
    • 842 Final Establishment of Images by the Empress Theodora . . 352
    • 794 Reluctance of the Franks and of Charlemagne . . . . 354
    • 774-800 Final Separation of the Popes from the Eastern Empire . 354
    • 800 Coronation of Charlemagne as Emperor of Rome and of the West . . . . . . . . . . . 356
    • 768-814 Reign and Character of Charlemagne . . . . 359
    • Extent of his Empire . . . . . . . . . 363
    • France . . . . . . . . . . . . 364
    • Spain . . . . . . . . . . . . 365
    • Italy . . . . . . . . . . . . 365
    • Germany . . . . . . . . . . . 366
    • Hungary . . . . . . . . . . . 367
    • His Neighbours and Enemies . . . . . . . 368
    • His Successors . . . . . . . . . . 370
    • 814-887 In Italy . . . . . . . . . . 370
    • 911 In Germany . . . . . . . . . . 370
    • 987 In France . . . . . . . . . . . 370
    • 814-840 Lewis the Pious . . . . . . . . . 370
    • 840-856 Lothaire I. . . . . . . . . . . 371
    • 856-875 Lewis II. . . . . . . . . . . 371
    • 888 Division of the Empire . . . . . . . . 371
    • 962 Otho, King of Germany, restores and appropriates the Western Empire . . . . . . . . . . . 371
    • Transactions of the Western and Eastern Empires . . . 373
    • 800-1060 Authority of the Emperors in the Elections of the Popes . 375
    • Disorders . . . . . . . . . . . 377
    • 1073 Reformation and Claims of the Church . . . . . 379
    • Authority of the Emperor in Rome . . . . . . 379
    • 932 Revolt of Alberic . . . . . . . . . 380
    • 967 Of Pope John XII. . . . . . . . . . 381
    • 998 Of the Consul Crescentius . . . . . . . . 382
    • 774-1250 The Kingdom of Italy . . . . . . . 383
    • 1152-1190 Frederic I. . . . . . . . . . 385
    • 1198-1250 Frederic II. . . . . . . . . . 386
    • 814-1250 Independence of the Princes of Germany . . . . 386Edition: current; Page: [xi]
    • 1250 The Germanic Constitution . . . . . . . 388
    • 1347-1378 Weakness and Poverty of the German Emperor Charles IV. 390
    • 1356 His Ostentation . . . . . . . . . 391
    • Contrast of the Power and Modesty of Augustus . . . 393
  • Appendix . . . . . . . . . . . . 395
Edition: current; Page: [xii] Edition: current; Page: [xiii]


  • Coronation of Charlemagne, by Pope Leo III. . Frontispiece
    • From a rare engraving.
  • Map of Italy . . . . . . . . . . page 30
  • Pope Gregory’s Monks converting the King of Kent . 44
    • From a painting.
  • Cathedral of St. Sophia, Constantinople . . . 140
    • From a photograph.
  • Old Walls of Rome, showing the “Latin Gate” . . 326
    • From a photograph.
  • Charlemagne . . . . . . . . . . 360
    • From a painting by Albert Dürer.
Edition: current; Page: [xiv] Edition: current; Page: [1]



Reign of the Younger Justin — Embassy of the Avars — Their Settlement on the Danube — Conquest of Italy by the Lombards — Adoption and Reign of Tiberius — of Maurice — State of Italy under the Lombards and the Exarchs of Ravenna — Distress of Rome — Character and Pontificate of Gregory the First

During the last years of Justinian, his infirm mind was devoted to heavenly contemplation, and he neglected the business of the lower world. His subjects were impatient of the long continuance of his life and reign; yet all who were capable of reflection apprehended the moment of his death, which might involve the capital in tumult and the empire in civil war. Seven nephews1 of the childless monarch, the sons or grandsons of his brother and sister, had been educated in the splendour of a princely fortune; they had been shewn in high commands to the provinces and armies; their characters were known, their followers were zealous; and, as the jealousy of age postponed the declaration of a successor, they might expect with equal hopes the inheritance of their uncle. He expired in his palace after a reign of thirty-eight years; and the decisive opportunity was embraced by the Edition: current; Page: [2] friends of Justin, the son of Vigilantia.2 At the hour of midnight his domestics were awakened by an importunate crowd, who thundered at his door, and obtained admittance by revealing themselves to be the principal members of the senate. These welcome deputies announced the recent and momentous secret of the emperor’s decease; reported, or perhaps invented, his dying choice of the best beloved and most deserving of his nephews; and conjured Justin to prevent the disorders of the multitude, if they should perceive, with the return of light, that they were left without a master. After composing his countenance to surprise, sorrow, and decent modesty, Justin, by the advice of his wife Sophia, submitted to the authority of the senate. He was conducted with speed and silence to the palace; the guards saluted their new sovereign; and the martial and religious rites of his coronation were diligently accomplished. By the hands of the proper officers he was invested with the Imperial garments, the red buskins, white tunic, and purple robe. A fortunate soldier, whom he instantly promoted to the rank of tribune, encircled his neck with a military collar; four robust youths exalted him on a shield; he stood firm and erect to receive the adoration of his subjects; and their choice was sanctified by the benediction of the patriarch, who imposed the diadem on the head of an orthodox prince. The hipprodrome was already filled with innumerable multitudes; and no sooner did the emperor appear on his throne than the voices of the blue and the green factions were confounded in the same loyal acclamations. In the speeches which Justin addressed to the senate and people, he promised to correct the abuses which had disgraced the age of his Edition: current; Page: [3] predecessor, displayed the maxims of a just and beneficent government, and declared that, on the approaching calends of January,3 he would revive in his own person the name and liberality of a Roman consul. The immediate discharge of his uncle’s debts exhibited a solid pledge of his faith and generosity: a train of porters laden with bags of gold advanced into the midst of the hipprodrome, and the hopeless creditors of Justinian accepted this equitable payment as a voluntary gift. Before the end of three years his example was imitated and surpassed by the empress Sophia, who delivered many indigent citizens from the weight of debt and usury: an act of benevolence the best entitled to gratitude, since it relieves the most intolerable distress; but in which the bounty of a prince is the most liable to be abused by the claims of prodigality and fraud.4

On the seventh day of his reign, Justin gave audience to the ambassadors of the Avars, and the scene was decorated to impress the Barbarians with astonishment, veneration, and terror. From the palace gate, the spacious courts and long porticos were lined with the lofty crests and gilt bucklers of the guards, who presented their spears and axes with more confidence than they would have shewn in a field of battle. The officers who exercised the power, or attended the person, of the prince were attired in their richest habits and arranged according to the military and civil order of the hierarchy. When the veil of the sanctuary was withdrawn, the ambassadors beheld the emperor of the East on his throne, beneath a canopy or dome, which was supported by four columns and crowned with a winged figure of victory. In the first emotions Edition: current; Page: [4] of surprise, they submitted to the servile adoration of the Byzantine court; but, as soon as they rose from the ground, Targetius,5 the chief of the embassy, expressed the freedom and pride of a Barbarian. He extolled, by the tongue of his interpreter, the greatness of the chagan, by whose clemency the kingdoms of the South were permitted to exist, whose victorious subjects had traversed the frozen rivers of Scythia, and who now covered the banks of the Danube with innumerable tents.6 The late emperor had cultivated, with annual and costly gifts, the friendship of a grateful monarch, and the enemies of Rome had respected the allies of the Avars. The same prudence would instruct the nephew of Justinian to imitate the liberality of his uncle, and to purchase the blessings of peace from an invincible people, who delighted and excelled in the exercise of war. The reply of the emperor was delivered in the same strain of haughty defiance, and he derived his confidence from the God of the Christians, the ancient glory of Rome, and the recent triumphs of Justinian. “The empire,” said he, “abounds with men and horses, and arms sufficient to defend our frontiers and to chastise the Barbarians. You offer aid, you threaten hostilities: we despise your enmity and your aid. The conquerors of the Avars solicit our alliance: shall we dread their fugitives and exiles?7 The bounty of Edition: current; Page: [5] our uncle was granted to your misery, to your humble prayers. From us you shall receive a more important obligation, the knowledge of your own weakness. Retire from our presence; the lives of ambassadors are safe; and, if you return to implore our pardon, perhaps you will taste of our benevolence.”8 On the report of his ambassadors, the chagan was awed by the apparent firmness of a Roman emperor, of whose character and resources he was ignorant. Instead of executing his threats against the Eastern empire, he marched into the poor and savage countries of Germany, which were subject to the dominion of the Franks. After two doubtful battles he consented to retire, and the Austrasian king relieved the distress of his camp with an immediate supply of corn and cattle.9 Such repeated disappointments had chilled the spirit of the Avars, and their power would have dissolved away in the Sarmatian desert, if the alliance of Alboin, king of the Lombards, had not given a new object to their arms, and a lasting settlement to their wearied fortunes.

While Alboin served under his father’s standard, he encountered in battle, and transpierced with his lance, the rival prince of the Gepidæ. The Lombards, who applauded such early prowess, requested his father with unanimous acclamations that the heroic youth, who had shared the dangers of Edition: current; Page: [6] the field, might be admitted to the feast of victory. “You are not unmindful,” replied the inflexible Audoin, “of the wise customs of our ancestors. Whatever may be his merit, a prince is incapable of sitting at table with his father till he has received his arms from a foreign and royal hand.” Alboin bowed with reverence to the institutions of his country, selected forty companions, and boldly visited the court of Turisund king of the Gepidæ, who embraced and entertained, according to the laws of hospitality, the murderer of his son. At the banquet, whilst Alboin occupied the seat of the youth whom he had slain, a tender remembrance arose in the mind of Turisund. “How dear is that place — how hateful is that person!” were the words that escaped, with a sigh, from the indignant father. His grief exasperated the national resentment of the Gepidæ; and Cunimund, his surviving son, was provoked by wine, or fraternal affection, to the desire of vengeance. “The Lombards,” said the rude Barbarian, “resemble, in figure and in smell, the mares of our Sarmatian plains.” And this insult was a coarse allusion to the white bands which enveloped their legs. “Add another resemblance,” replied an audacious Lombard; “you have felt how strongly they kick. Visit the plain of Asfeld, and seek for the bones of thy brother; they are mingled with those of the vilest animals.” The Gepidæ, a nation of warriors, started from their seats, and the fearless Alboin, with his forty companions, laid their hands on their swords. The tumult was appeased by the venerable interposition of Turisund. He saved his own honour, and the life of his guest; and, after the solemn rites of investiture, dismissed the stranger in the bloody arms of his son, the gift of a weeping parent. Alboin returned in triumph; and the Lombards, who celebrated his matchless intrepidity, were compelled to praise the virtues of an enemy.10 In this extraordinary Edition: current; Page: [7] visit he had probably seen the daughter of Cunimund, who soon after ascended the throne of the Gepidæ. Her name was Rosamond, an appellation expressive of female beauty, and which our own history or romance has consecrated to amorous tales. The king of the Lombards (the father of Alboin no longer lived) was contracted to the granddaughter of Clovis; but the restraints of faith and policy soon yielded to the hope of possessing the fair Rosamond, and of insulting her family and nation. The arts of persuasion were tried without success; and the impatient lover, by force and stratagem, obtained the object of his desires. War was the consequence which he foresaw and solicited; but the Lombards could not long withstand the furious assault of the Gepidæ, who were sustained by a Roman army. And, as the offer of marriage was rejected with contempt, Alboin was compelled to relinquish his prey, and to partake of the disgrace which he had inflicted on the house of Cunimund.11

When a public quarrel is envenomed by private injuries, a blow that is not mortal or decisive can be productive only of a short truce, which allows the unsuccessful combatant to sharpen his arms for a new encounter. The strength of Alboin had been found unequal to the gratification of his love, ambition, and revenge; he condescended to implore the formidable aid of the chagan; and the arguments that he employed are expressive of the art and policy of the Barbarians. In the attack of the Gepidæ he had been prompted by the just desire of extirpating a people whom their alliance with the Roman empire had rendered the common enemies of the nations and the personal adversaries of the chagan. If the forces of the Avars and the Lombards should unite in this glorious quarrel, the victory was secure, and the reward inestimable: the Danube, the Hebrus, Italy, and Constantinople would be exposed, without a barrier, to their invincible Edition: current; Page: [8] arms. But, if they hesitated or delayed to prevent the malice of the Romans, the same spirit which had insulted, would pursue the Avars to the extremity of the earth. These specious reasons were heard by the chagan with coldness and disdain; he detained the Lombard ambassadors in his camp, protracted the negotiation, and by turns alleged his want of inclination, or his want of ability, to undertake this important enterprise. At length he signified the ultimate price of his alliance, that the Lombards should immediately present him with the tithe of their cattle; that the spoils and captives should be equally divided; but that the lands of the Gepidæ should become the sole patrimony of the Avars. Such hard conditions were eagerly accepted by the passions of Alboin; and, as the Romans were dissatisfied with the ingratitude and perfidy of the Gepidæ, Justin abandoned that incorrigible people to their fate, and remained the tranquil spectator of this unequal conflict.12 The despair of Cunimund was active and dangerous. He was informed that the Avars had entered his confines; but on the strong assurance that, after the defeat of the Lombards, these foreign invaders would easily be repelled, he rushed forwards to encounter the implacable enemy of his name and family. But the courage of the Gepidæ could secure them no more than an honourable death. The bravest of the nation fell in the field of battle; the king of the Lombards contemplated with delight the head of Cunimund, and his skull was fashioned into a cup to satiate the hatred of the conqueror, or, perhaps, to comply with the savage custom of his country.13 Edition: current; Page: [9] After this victory no farther obstacle could impede the progress of the confederates, and they faithfully executed the terms of their agreement.14 The fair countries of Walachia, Moldavia, Transylvania, and the parts of Hungary beyond the Danube were occupied, without resistance, by a new colony of Scythians; and the Dacian empire of the chagans subsisted with splendour above two hundred and thirty years.15 The nation of the Gepidæ was dissolved; but, in the distribution of the captives, the slaves of the Avars were less fortunate than the companions of the Lombards, whose generosity adopted a valiant foe, and whose freedom was incompatible with cool and deliberate tyranny. One moiety of the spoil introduced into the camp of Alboin more wealth than a Barbarian could readily compute. The fair Rosamond was persuaded or compelled to acknowledge the rights of her victorious lover; and the daughter of Cunimund appeared to forgive those crimes which might be imputed to her own irresistible charms.

The destruction of a mighty kingdom established the fame of Alboin. In the days of Charlemagne, the Bavarians, the Saxons, and the other tribes of the Teutonic language still repeated the songs which described the heroic virtues, the valour, liberality, and fortune of the king of the Lombards.16 But his ambition was yet unsatisfied, and the conqueror of Edition: current; Page: [10] the Gepidæ turned his eyes from the Danube to the richer banks of the Po and the Tiber. Fifteen years had not elapsed since his subjects, the confederates of Narses, had visited the pleasant climate of Italy; the mountains, the rivers, the highways, were familiar to their memory; the report of their success, perhaps the view of their spoils, had kindled in the rising generation the flame of emulation and enterprise. Their hopes were encouraged by the spirit and eloquence of Alboin; and it is affirmed that he spoke to their senses by producing, at the royal feast, the fairest and most exquisite fruits that grew spontaneously in the garden of the world. No sooner had he erected his standard than the native strength of the Lombards was multiplied by the adventurous youth of Germany and Scythia. The robust peasantry of Noricum and Pannonia had resumed the manners of Barbarians; and the names of the Gepidæ, Bulgarians, Sarmatians, and Bavarians may be distinctly traced in the provinces of Italy.17 Of the Saxons, the old allies of the Lombards, twenty thousand warriors, with their wives and children, accepted the invitation of Alboin. Their bravery contributed to his success; but the accession or the absence of their numbers was not sensibly felt in the magnitude of his host. Every mode of religion was freely practised by its respective votaries. The king of the Lombards had been educated in the Arian heresy; but the Catholics, in their public worship, were allowed to pray for his conversion; while the more stubborn Barbarians sacrificed a she-goat, or perhaps a captive, to the gods of their fathers.18 The Lombards and their confederates were united by their common attachment to a chief, who excelled in all the virtues and Edition: current; Page: [11] vices of a savage hero; and the vigilance of Alboin provided an ample magazine of offensive and defensive arms for the use of the expedition. The portable wealth of the Lombards attended the march; their lands they cheerfully relinquished to the Avars, on the solemn promise, which was made and accepted without a smile, that, if they failed in the conquest of Italy, these voluntary exiles should be reinstated in their former possessions.

They might have failed, if Narses had been the antagonist of the Lombards; and the veteran warriors, the associates of his Gothic victory, would have encountered with reluctance an enemy whom they dreaded and esteemed. But the weakness of the Byzantine court was subservient to the Barbarian cause; and it was for the ruin of Italy that the emperor once listened to the complaints of his subjects. The virtues of Narses were stained with avarice; and in his provincial reign of fifteen years he accumulated a treasure of gold and silver which surpassed the modesty of a private fortune. His government was oppressive or unpopular, and the general discontent was expressed with freedom by the deputies of Rome. Before the throne of Justin they boldly declared that their Gothic servitude had been more tolerable than the despotism of a Greek eunuch; and that, unless their tyrant were instantly removed, they would consult their own happiness in the choice of a master. The apprehension of a revolt was urged by the voice of envy and detraction, which had so recently triumphed over the merit of Belisarius. A new exarch,19 Longinus, was appointed to supersede the conqueror of Italy, and the base motives of his recall were revealed in the insulting mandate of the empress Sophia, “that he should leave to men the exercise of arms, and return to his proper station among the maidens of the palace, where Edition: current; Page: [12] a distaff should be again placed in the hand of the eunuch.” “I will spin her such a thread, as she shall not easily unravel!” is said to have been the reply which indignation and conscious virtue extorted from the hero. Instead of attending, a slave and a victim, at the gate of the Byzantine palace, he retired to Naples, from whence (if any credit is due to the belief of the times) Narses invited the Lombards to chastise the ingratitude of the prince and people.20 But the passions of the people are furious and changeable, and the Romans soon recollected the merits, or dreaded the resentment, of their victorious general. By the mediation of the pope, who undertook a special pilgrimage to Naples, their repentance was accepted; and Narses, assuming a milder aspect and a more dutiful language, consented to fix his residence in the Capitol. His death,21 though in the extreme period of old age, was unseasonable and premature, since his genius alone could Edition: current; Page: [13] have repaired the last and fatal error of his life. The reality, or the suspicion, of a conspiracy disarmed and disunited the Italians. The soldiers resented the disgrace, and bewailed the loss, of their general. They were ignorant of their new exarch; and Longinus was himself ignorant of the state of the army and the province. In the preceding years Italy had been desolated by pestilence and famine, and a disaffected people ascribed the calamities of nature to the guilt or folly of their rulers.22

Whatever might be the grounds of his security, Alboin neither expected nor encountered a Roman army in the field. He ascended the Julian Alps, and looked down with contempt and desire on the fruitful plains to which his victory communicated the perpetual appellation of Lombardy. A faithful chieftain and a select band were stationed at Forum Julii, the modern Friuli, to guard the passes of the mountains. The Lombards respected the strength of Pavia, and listened to the prayers of the Trevisans; their slow and heavy multitudes proceeded to occupy the palace and city of Verona; and Milan, now rising from her ashes, was invested by the powers of Alboin five months after his departure from Pannonia. Terror preceded his march; he found everywhere, or he left, a dreary solitude; and the pusillanimous Italians presumed, without a trial, that the stranger was invincible. Escaping to lakes, or rocks, or morasses, the affrighted crowds concealed some fragments of their wealth, and delayed the moment of their servitude. Paulinus, the patriarch of Aquileia, removed his treasures, sacred and profane, to the isle of Grado,23 and his successors were adopted by the infant Edition: current; Page: [14] republic of Venice, which was continually enriched by the public calamities. Honoratus, who filled the chair of St. Ambrose, had credulously accepted the faithless offers of a capitulation; and the archbishop, with the clergy and nobles of Milan, were driven by the perfidy of Alboin to seek a refuge in the less accessible ramparts of Genoa. Along the maritime coast, the courage of the inhabitants was supported by the facility of supply, the hopes of relief, and the power of escape; but, from the Trentine hills to the gates of Ravenna and Rome, the inland regions of Italy became, without a battle or a siege, the lasting patrimony of the Lombards. The submission of the people invited the Barbarian to assume the character of a lawful sovereign, and the helpless exarch was confined to the office of announcing to the emperor Justin the rapid and irretrievable loss of his provinces and cities.24 One city, which had been diligently fortified by the Goths, resisted the arms of a new invader; and, while Italy was subdued by the flying detachments of the Lombards, the royal camp was fixed above three years before the western gate of Ticinum, or Pavia. The same courage which obtains the esteem of a civilised enemy provokes the fury of a savage, and the impatient besieger had bound himself by a tremendous oath that age, and sex, and dignity should be confounded in a general massacre. The aid of famine at length enabled him to execute his bloody vow; but, as Alboin entered the gate, his horse stumbled, fell, and could not be raised from the ground. One of his attendants was prompted by compassion, or piety, to interpret this miraculous sign of the wrath of Heaven; the conqueror paused and relented; he sheathed Edition: current; Page: [15] his sword, and, peacefully reposing himself in the palace of Theodoric, proclaimed to the trembling multitude that they should live and obey. Delighted with the situation of a city which was endeared to his pride by the difficulty of the purchase, the prince of the Lombards disdained the ancient glories of Milan; and Pavia, during some ages, was respected as the capital of the kingdom of Italy.25

The reign of the founder was splendid and transient; and, before he could regulate his new conquests, Alboin fell a sacrifice to domestic treason and female revenge. In a palace near Verona, which had not been erected for the Barbarians, he feasted the companions of his arms; intoxication was the reward of valour, and the king himself was tempted by appetite, or vanity, to exceed the ordinary measure of his intemperance. After draining many capacious bowls of Rhætian or Falernian wine, he called for the skull of Cunimund, the noblest and most precious ornament of his sideboard. The cup of victory was accepted with horrid applause by the circle of the Lombard chiefs. “Fill it again with wine,” exclaimed the inhuman conqueror, “fill it to the brim; carry this goblet to the queen, and request, in my name, that she would rejoice with her father.” In an agony of grief and rage, Rosamond had strength to utter “Let the will of my lord be obeyed!” and, touching it with her lips, pronounced a silent imprecation, that the insult should be washed away in the blood of Alboin. Some indulgence might be due to the resentment of a daughter, if she had not already violated the duties of a wife. Implacable in her enmity, or inconstant in her love, the queen of Italy had stooped from the throne to the arms of a subject, and Helmichis, the king’s armour-bearer, was the secret minister of her pleasure and Edition: current; Page: [16] revenge. Against the proposal of the murder, he could no longer urge the scruples of fidelity or gratitude; but Helmichis trembled, when he revolved the danger as well as the guilt, when he recollected the matchless strength and intrepidity of a warrior whom he had so often attended in the field of battle. He pressed, and obtained, that one of the bravest champions of the Lombards should be associated to the enterprise, but no more than a promise of secrecy could be drawn from the gallant Peredeus; and the mode of seduction employed by Rosamond betrays her shameless insensibility both to honour and love. She supplied the place of one of her female attendants who was beloved by Peredeus, and contrived some excuse for darkness and silence, till she could inform her companion that he had enjoyed the queen of the Lombards, and that his own death, or the death of Alboin, must be the consequence of such treasonable adultery. In this alternative, he chose rather to be the accomplice than the victim of Rosamond,26 whose undaunted spirit was incapable of fear or remorse. She expected and soon found a favourable moment, when the king oppressed with wine had retired from the table to his afternoon slumbers. His faithless spouse was anxious for his health and repose; the gates of the palace were shut, the arms removed, the attendants dismissed; and Rosamond, after lulling him to rest by her tender caresses, unbolted the chamber-door, and urged the reluctant conspirators to the instant execution of the deed. On the first alarm, the warrior started from his couch; his sword, which he attempted to draw, had been fastened to the scabbard by the hand of Rosamond; and a small stool, his only weapon, could not long protect him from the spears of the assassins. The daughter of Cunimund smiled in his fall; Edition: current; Page: [17] his body was buried under the staircase of the palace; and the grateful posterity of the Lombards revered the tomb and the memory of their victorious leader.

The ambitious Rosamond aspired to reign in the name of her lover; the city and palace of Verona were awed by her power; and a faithful band of her native Gepidæ was prepared to applaud the revenge, and to second the wishes, of their sovereign. But the Lombard chiefs, who fled in the first moments of consternation and disorder, had resumed their courage and collected their powers; and the nation, instead of submitting to her reign, demanded, with unanimous cries, that justice should be executed on the guilty spouse and the murderers of their king. She sought a refuge among the enemies of her country, and a criminal who deserved the abhorrence of mankind was protected by the selfish policy of the exarch. With her daughter, the heiress of the Lombard throne, her two lovers, her trusty Gepidæ, and the spoils of the palace of Verona, Rosamond descended the Adige and the Po, and was transported by a Greek vessel to the safe harbour of Ravenna. Longinus beheld with delight the charms and the treasures of the widow of Alboin; her situation and her past conduct might justify the most licentious proposals; and she readily listened to the passion of a minister, who, even in the decline of the empire, was respected as the equal of kings. The death of a jealous lover was an easy and grateful sacrifice, and, as Helmichis issued from the bath, he received the deadly potion from the hand of his mistress. The taste of the liquor, its speedy operation, and his experience of the character of Rosamond convinced him that he was poisoned: he pointed his dagger to her breast, compelled her to drain the remainder of the cup, and expired in a few minutes, with the consolation that she could not survive to enjoy the fruits of her wickedness. The daughter of Alboin and Rosamond, with the richest spoils of the Lombards, was embarked for Constantinople; the surprising Edition: current; Page: [18] strength of Peredeus amused and terrified the Imperial court; his blindness and revenge exhibited an imperfect copy of the adventures of Samson. By the free suffrage of the nation, in the assembly of Pavia, Clepho, one of their noblest chiefs, was elected as the successor of Alboin. Before the end of eighteen months, the throne was polluted by a second murder; Clepho was stabbed by the hand of a domestic; the regal office was suspended above ten years, during the minority of his son Autharis; and Italy was divided and oppressed by a ducal aristocracy of thirty tyrants.27

When the nephew of Justinian ascended the throne, he proclaimed a new era of happiness and glory. The annals of the second Justin28 are marked with disgrace abroad and misery at home. In the West, the Roman empire was afflicted by the loss of Italy, the desolation of Africa, and the conquests of the Persians. Injustice prevailed both in the capital and the provinces: the rich trembled for their property, the poor for their safety, the ordinary magistrates were ignorant or venal, the occasional remedies appear to have been arbitrary and violent, and the complaints of the people could no longer be silenced by the splendid names of a legislator and a conqueror. The opinion which imputes to the prince all the calamities of his times may be countenanced by the historian as a serious truth or a salutary prejudice. Yet a candid suspicion will arise that the sentiments of Justin were pure and benevolent, and that he might have filled his station without reproach, if the faculties of his mind had not been impaired by disease, which deprived the emperor of the use of his feet and confined him to the palace, a stranger to the Edition: current; Page: [19] complaints of the people and the vices of the government. The tardy knowledge of his own impotence determined him to lay down the weight of the diadem; and in the choice of a worthy substitute he shewed some symptoms of a discerning and even magnanimous spirit. The only son of Justin and Sophia died in his infancy; their daughter Arabia was the wife of Baduarius,29 superintendent of the palace, and afterwards commander of the Italian armies, who vainly aspired to confirm the rights of marriage by those of adoption. While the empire appeared an object of desire, Justin was accustomed to behold with jealousy and hatred his brothers and cousins, the rivals of his hopes; nor could he depend on the gratitude of those who would accept the purple as a restitution rather than a gift. Of these competitors, one had been removed by exile, and afterwards by death; and the emperor himself had inflicted such cruel insults on another, that he must either dread his resentment or despise his patience. This domestic animosity was refined into a generous resolution of seeking a successor, not in his family, but in the republic; and the artful Sophia recommended Tiberius,30 his faithful captain of the guards, whose virtues and fortune the emperor might cherish as the fruit of his judicious choice. The ceremony of his elevation to the rank of Cæsar, or Augustus, was performed in the portico of the palace, in the presence Edition: current; Page: [20] of the patriarch and the senate. Justin collected the remaining strength of his mind and body, but the popular belief that his speech was inspired by the Deity betrays a very humble opinion both of the man and of the times.31 “You behold,” said the emperor, “the ensigns of supreme power. You are about to receive them not from my hand, but from the hand of God. Honour them, and from them you will derive honour. Respect the empress your mother; you are now her son; before, you were her servant. Delight not in blood, abstain from revenge, avoid those actions by which I have incurred the public hatred, and consult the experience rather than the example of your predecessor. As a man, I have sinned; as a sinner, even in this life, I have been severely punished; but these servants (and he pointed to his ministers), who have abused my confidence and inflamed my passions, will appear with me before the tribunal of Christ. I have been dazzled by the splendour of the diadem: be thou wise and modest; remember what you have been, remember what you are. You see around us your slaves and your children; with the authority, assume the tenderness, of a parent. Love your people like yourself; cultivate the affections, maintain the discipline, of the army; protect the fortunes of the rich, relieve the necessities of the poor.”32 The assembly, in silence and in tears, applauded the counsels, and sympathised with the repentance, of their prince; the patriarch rehearsed the prayers of the church; Tiberius received Edition: current; Page: [21] the diadem on his knees, and Justin, who in his abdication appeared most worthy to reign, addressed the new monarch in the following words: “If you consent, I live; if you command, I die; may the God of heaven and earth infuse into your heart whatever I have neglected or forgotten.” The four last years of the emperor Justin were passed in tranquil obscurity; his conscience was no longer tormented by the remembrance of those duties which he was incapable of discharging; and his choice was justified by the filial reverence and gratitude of Tiberius.

Among the virtues of Tiberius,33 his beauty (he was one of the tallest and most comely of the Romans) might introduce him to the favour of Sophia; and the widow of Justin was persuaded that she should preserve her station and influence under the reign of a second and more youthful husband. But, if the ambitious candidate had been tempted to flatter and dissemble, it was no longer in his power to fulfil her expectations or his own promise. The factions of the hippodrome demanded, with some impatience, the name of their new empress; both the people and Sophia were astonished by the proclamation of Anastasia, the secret though lawful wife of the emperor Tiberius.34 Whatever could alleviate the disappointment of Sophia, Imperial honours, a stately palace, a numerous household, was liberally bestowed by the piety of her adopted son; on solemn occasions he attended and consulted the widow of his benefactor; but her ambition disdained the vain semblance of royalty, and the Edition: current; Page: [22] respectful appellation of mother served to exasperate, rather than appease, the rage of an injured woman. While she accepted, and repaid with a courtly smile, the fair expressions of regard and confidence, a secret alliance was concluded between the dowager empress and her ancient enemies; and Justinian, the son of Germanus, was employed as the instrument of her revenge. The pride of the reigning house supported, with reluctance, the dominion of a stranger; the youth was deservedly popular; his name, after the death of Justin, had been mentioned by a tumultuous faction; and his own submissive offer of his head, with a treasure of sixty thousand pounds, might be interpreted as an evidence of guilt, or at least of fear. Justinian received a free pardon, and the command of the Eastern army. The Persian monarch fled before his arms; and the acclamations which accompanied his triumph declared him worthy of the purple. His artful patroness had chosen the month of the vintage, while the emperor, in a rural solitude, was permitted to enjoy the pleasures of a subject. On the first intelligence of her designs he returned to Constantinople, and the conspiracy was suppressed by his presence and firmness. From the pomp and honours which she had abused, Sophia was reduced to a modest allowance; Tiberius dismissed her train, intercepted her correspondence, and committed to a faithful guard the custody of her person. But the services of Justinian were not considered by that excellent prince as an aggravation of his offences; after a mild reproof, his treason and ingratitude were forgiven; and it was commonly believed that the emperor entertained some thoughts of contracting a double alliance with the rival of his throne. The voice of an angel (such a fable was propagated) might reveal to the emperor that he should always triumph over his domestic foes; but Tiberius derived a firmer assurance from the innocence and generosity of his own mind.

With the odious name of Tiberius, he assumed the more popular appellation of Constantine and imitated the purer Edition: current; Page: [23] virtues of the Antonines. After recording the vice or folly of so many Roman princes, it is pleasing to repose, for a moment, on a character conspicuous by the qualities of humanity, justice, temperance, and fortitude; to contemplate a sovereign affable in his palace, pious in the church, impartial on the seat of judgment, and victorious, at least by his generals, in the Persian war. The most glorious trophy of his victory consisted in a multitude of captives whom Tiberius entertained, redeemed, and dismissed to their native homes with the charitable spirit of a Christian hero. The merit or misfortunes of his own subjects had a dearer claim to his beneficence, and he measured his bounty not so much by their expectations as by his own dignity. This maxim, however dangerous in a trustee of the public wealth, was balanced by a principle of humanity and justice, which taught him to abhor, as of the basest alloy, the gold that was extracted from the tears of the people. For their relief, as often as they had suffered by natural or hostile calamities, he was impatient to remit the arrears of the past, or the demands of future taxes; he sternly rejected the servile offerings of his ministers, which were compensated by tenfold oppression; and the wise and equitable laws of Tiberius excited the praise and regret of succeeding times. Constantinople believed that the emperor had discovered a treasure; but his genuine treasure consisted in the practice of liberal economy and the contempt of all vain and superfluous expense.35 The Romans of the East would have been happy, if the best gift of heaven, a patriot king, had been confirmed as a proper and permanent blessing. But in less than four years after the death of Justin, his worthy successor sunk into a mortal disease, which left him only sufficient time to restore the diadem, according to the tenure by which he Edition: current; Page: [24] held it, to the most deserving of his fellow-citizens. He selected Maurice from the crowd, a judgment more precious than the purple itself; the patriarch and senate were summoned to the bed of the dying prince; he bestowed his daughter and the empire; and his last advice was solemnly delivered by the voice of the quæstor. Tiberius expressed his hope that the virtues of his son and successor would erect the noblest mausoleum to his memory. His memory was embalmed by the public affliction; but the most sincere grief evaporates in the tumult of a new reign, and the eyes and acclamations of mankind were speedily directed to the rising sun.

The emperor Maurice derived his origin from ancient Rome;36 but his immediate parents were settled at Arabissus in Cappadocia, and their singular felicity preserved them alive to behold and partake the fortune of their august son. The youth of Maurice was spent in the profession of arms; Tiberius promoted him to the command of a new and favourite legion of twelve thousand confederates;37 his valour and conduct were signalised in the Persian war; and he returned to Constantinople to accept, as his just reward, the inheritance of the empire. Maurice ascended the throne at the mature age of forty-three years; and he reigned above twenty years over the East and over himself;38 expelling from his mind the wild democracy of passions, and establishing (according Edition: current; Page: [25] to the quaint expression of Evagrius) a perfect aristocracy of reason and virtue. Some suspicion will degrade the testimony of a subject, though he protests that his secret praise should never reach the ear of his sovereign,39 and some failings seem to place the character of Maurice below the purer merit of his predecessor. His cold and reserved demeanour might be imputed to arrogance; his justice was not always exempt from cruelty, nor his clemency from weakness; and his rigid economy too often exposed him to the reproach of avarice. But the rational wishes of an absolute monarch must tend to the happiness of his people; Maurice was endowed with sense and courage to promote that happiness, and his administration was directed by the principles and example of Tiberius. The pusillanimity of the Greeks had introduced so complete a separation between the offices of king and of general that a private soldier who had deserved and obtained the purple seldom or never appeared at the head of his armies. Yet the emperor Maurice enjoyed the glory of restoring the Persian monarch to his throne; his lieutenants waged a doubtful war against the Avars of the Edition: current; Page: [26] Danube; and he cast an eye of pity, of ineffectual pity, on the abject and distressful state of his Italian provinces.

From Italy the emperors were incessantly tormented by tales of misery and demands of succour, which extorted the humiliating confession of their own weakness. The expiring dignity of Rome was only marked by the freedom and energy of her complaints: “If you are incapable,” she said, “of delivering us from the sword of the Lombards, save us at least from the calamity of famine.” Tiberius forgave the reproach, and relieved the distress: a supply of corn was transported from Egypt to the Tiber; and the Roman people, invoking the name, not of Camillus, but of St. Peter, repulsed the Barbarians from their walls. But the relief was accidental, the danger was perpetual and pressing; and the clergy and senate, collecting the remains of their ancient opulence, a sum of three thousand pounds of gold, despatched the patrician Pamphronius to lay their gifts and their complaints at the foot of the Byzantine throne. The attention of the court, and the forces of the East, were diverted by the Persian war; but the justice of Tiberius applied the subsidy to the defence of the city; and he dismissed the patrician with his best advice, either to bribe the Lombard chiefs or to purchase the aid of the kings of France. Notwithstanding this weak invention, Italy was still afflicted, Rome was again besieged, and the suburb of Classe, only three miles from Ravenna, was pillaged and occupied by the troops of a simple duke of Spoleto. Maurice gave audience to a second deputation of priests and senators; the duties and the menaces of religion were forcibly urged in the letters of the Roman pontiff; and his nuncio, the deacon Gregory, was alike qualified to solicit the powers either of heaven or of the earth. The emperor adopted, with stronger effect, the measures of his predecessor; some formidable chiefs were persuaded to embrace the friendship of the Romans, and one of them, a mild and faithful Barbarian, lived and died in the service of the exarch; the passes of the Alps were Edition: current; Page: [27] delivered to the Franks; and the pope encouraged them to violate, without scruple, their oaths and engagements to the misbelievers. Childebert, the great-grandson of Clovis, was persuaded to invade Italy by the payment of fifty thousand pieces; but, as he had viewed with delight some Byzantine coin of the weight of one pound of gold, the king of Austrasia might stipulate that the gift should be rendered more worthy of his acceptance by a proper mixture of these respectable medals. The dukes of the Lombards had provoked by frequent inroads their powerful neighbours of Gaul. As soon as they were apprehensive of a just retaliation, they renounced their feeble and disorderly independence; the advantages of regal government, union, secrecy, and vigour were unanimously confessed; and Autharis, the son of Clepho, had already attained the strength and reputation of a warrior. Under the standard of their new king, the conquerors of Italy withstood three successive invasions, one of which was led by Childebert himself, the last of the Merovingian race who descended from the Alps. The first expedition was defeated by the jealous animosity of the Franks and Alemanni. In the second they were vanquished in a bloody battle, with more loss and dishonour than they had sustained since the foundation of their monarchy. Impatient for revenge, they returned a third time with accumulated force, and Autharis yielded to the fury of the torrent. The troops and treasures of the Lombards were distributed in the walled towns between the Alps and the Apennine. A nation less sensible of danger than of fatigue and delay soon murmured against the folly of their twenty commanders; and the hot vapours of an Italian sun infected with disease those tramontane bodies which had already suffered the vicissitudes of intemperance and famine. The powers that were inadequate to the conquest, were more than sufficient for the desolation, of the country; nor could the trembling natives distinguish between their enemies and their deliverers. If the junction of the Merovingian and Imperial forces had been effected in the Edition: current; Page: [28] neighbourhood of Milan, perhaps they might have subverted the throne of the Lombards; but the Franks expected six days the signal of a flaming village, and the arms of the Greeks were idly employed in the reduction of Modena and Parma, which were torn from them after the retreat of their Transalpine allies. The victorious Autharis asserted his claim to the dominion of Italy. At the foot of the Rhætian Alps, he subdued the resistance, and rifled the hidden treasures, of a sequestered island in the lake of Comum. At the extreme point of Calabria, he touched with his spear a column on the sea-shore of Rhegium,40 proclaiming that ancient land-mark to stand the immoveable boundary of his kingdom.41

During a period of two hundred years, Italy was unequally divided between the kingdom of the Lombards and the exarchate of Ravenna. The offices and professions, which the jealousy of Constantine had separated, were united by the indulgence of Justinian; and eighteen successive exarchs were invested, in the decline of the empire, with the full remains of civil, of military, and even of ecclesiastical power. Their immediate jurisdiction, which was afterwards consecrated as the patrimony of St. Peter, extended over the modern Romagna, the marshes or valleys of Ferrara and Commachio,42 five maritime cities from Rimini to Ancona, Edition: current; Page: [29] and a second, inland Pentapolis,43 between the Hadriatic coast and the hills of the Apennine. Three subordinate provinces, of Rome, of Venice, and of Naples, which were divided by hostile lands from the palace of Ravenna, acknowledged, both in peace and war, the supremacy of the exarch. The duchy of Rome appears to have included the Tuscan, Sabine, and Latian conquests, of the first four hundred years of the city, and the limits may be distinctly traced along the coast, from Civita Vecchia to Terracina, and with the course of the Tiber from Ameria and Narni to the port of Ostia. The numerous islands from Grado to Chiozza composed the infant dominion of Venice; but the more accessible towns on the continent were overthrown by the Lombards, who beheld with impotent fury a new capital rising from the waves. The power of the dukes of Naples was circumscribed by the bay and the adjacent isles, by the hostile territory of Capua, and by the Roman colony of Amalphi,44 whose industrious citizens, by the invention of the mariner’s compass, have unveiled the face of the globe. The three islands of Sardinia, Corsica, and Sicily still adhered to the empire; and the acquisition of the farther Calabria removed the land-mark of Autharis from the shore of Rhegium to the isthmus of Consentia. In Sardinia, the savage mountaineers preserved the liberty and religion of their ancestors; but the husbandmen of Sicily were chained to their rich and cultivated soil. Rome was oppressed by the iron sceptre of the exarchs, and a Greek, perhaps an eunuch, insulted with impunity the ruins of the Capitol. But Naples soon acquired the privilege of electing her own dukes;45 the independence of Amalphi was Edition: current; Page: [30] the fruit of commerce; and the voluntary attachment of Venice was finally ennobled by an equal alliance with the Eastern empire. On the map of Italy, the measure of the exarchate occupies a very inadequate space, but it included an ample proportion of wealth, industry, and population. The most faithful and valuable subjects escaped from the Barbarian yoke; and the banners of Pavia and Verona, of Milan and Padua, were displayed in their respective quarters by the new inhabitants of Ravenna. The remainder of Italy was possessed by the Lombards; and from Pavia, the royal seat, their kingdom was extended to the east, the north, and the west, as far as the confines of the Avars, the Bavarians, and the Franks of Austrasia and Burgundy. In the language of modern geography, it is now represented by the Terra Firma of the Venetian republic, Tyrol, the Milanese, Piedmont, the coast of Genoa, Mantua, Parma, and Modena, the grand duchy of Tuscany, and a large portion of the ecclesiastical state from Perugia to the Hadriatic. The dukes, and at length the princes, of Beneventum survived the monarchy, and propagated the name of the Lombards. From Capua to Tarentum, they reigned near five hundred years over the greatest part of the present kingdom of Naples.46

In comparing the proportion of the victorious and the vanquished Edition: current; Page: [none] Edition: current; Page: [31] people, the change of language will afford the most probable inference. According to this standard it will appear that the Lombards of Italy, and the Visigoths of Spain, were less numerous than the Franks or Burgundians; and the conquerors of Gaul must yield, in their turn, to the multitude of Saxons and Angles who almost eradicated the idioms of Britain. The modern Italian has been insensibly formed by the mixture of nations; the awkwardness of the Barbarians in the nice management of declensions and conjugations reduced them to the use of articles and auxiliary verbs; and many new ideas have been expressed by Teutonic appellations. Yet the principal stock of technical and familiar words is found to be of Latin derivation;47 and, if we were sufficiently conversant with the obsolete, the rustic, and the municipal dialects of ancient Italy, we should trace the origin of many terms which might, perhaps, be rejected by the classic purity of Rome. A numerous army constitutes but a small nation, and the powers of the Lombards were soon diminished by the retreat of twenty thousand Saxons, who scorned a dependent situation, and returned, after many bold and perilous adventures, to their native country.48 The camp of Alboin was of formidable extent, but the extent of a camp would be easily circumscribed within the limits of a city; and its martial inhabitants must be thinly scattered over the face of a large country. When Alboin descended from the Alps, he invested his nephew, the first duke of Friuli, with the command of the province and the people; but the prudent Gisulf would have declined the dangerous office, unless he had been permitted to choose, among the Edition: current; Page: [32] nobles of the Lombards, a sufficient number of families49 to form a perpetual colony of soldiers and subjects. In the progress of conquest, the same option could not be granted to the dukes of Brescia or Bergamo, of Pavia or Turin, of Spoleto or Beneventum; but each of these, and each of their colleagues, settled in his appointed district with a band of followers who resorted to his standard in war and his tribunal in peace. Their attachment was free and honourable: resigning the gifts and benefits which they had accepted, they might emigrate with their families into the jurisdiction of another duke; but their absence from the kingdom was punished with death, as a crime of military desertion.50 The posterity of the first conquerors struck a deeper root into the soil, which, by every motive of interest and honour, they were bound to defend. A Lombard was born the soldier of his king and his duke; and the civil assemblies of the nation displayed the banners, and assumed the appellation, of a regular army. Of this army, the pay and the rewards were drawn from the conquered provinces; and the distribution, which was not effected till after the death of Alboin, is disgraced by the foul marks of injustice and rapine. Many of the most wealthy Italians were slain and banished; the remainder were divided among the strangers, and a tributary obligation was imposed (under the name of hospitality) of paying to the Lombards a third part of the fruits of the earth. Within less than seventy years, this artificial system was abolished by a more simple and solid tenure.51 Either the Roman landlord was expelled by his strong and insolent guest; or the annual payment, a third of the produce, was Edition: current; Page: [33] exchanged by a more equitable transaction for an adequate proportion of landed property. Under these foreign masters, the business of agriculture, in the cultivation of corn, vines, and olives, was exercised with degenerate skill and industry by the labour of the slaves and natives. But the occupations of a pastoral life were more pleasing to the idleness of the Barbarians. In the rich meadows of Venetia, they restored and improved the breed of horses for which that province had once been illustrious;52 and the Italians beheld with astonishment a foreign race of oxen or buffaloes.53 The depopulation of Lombardy and the increase of forests afforded an ample range for the pleasures of the chase.54 That marvellous art which teaches the birds of the air to acknowledge the voice, and execute the commands, of their master had been unknown to the ingenuity of the Greeks and Romans.55 Scandinavia and Scythia produce the boldest Edition: current; Page: [34] and most tractable falcons;56 they are tamed and educated by the roving inhabitants, always on horseback and in the field. This favourite amusement of our ancestors was introduced by the Barbarians into the Roman provinces; and the laws of Italy esteem the sword and the hawk as of equal dignity and importance in the hands of a noble Lombard.57


So rapid was the influence of climate and example that the Lombards of the fourth generation surveyed with curiosity and affright the portraits of their savage forefathers.58 Their heads were shaven behind, but the shaggy locks hung over their eyes and mouth, and a long beard represented the name and character of the nation. Their dress consisted of loose linen garments, after the fashion of the Anglo-Saxons, which were decorated, in their opinion, with broad stripes of variegated colours. The legs and feet were clothed in long hose and open sandals; and even in the security of peace a trusty sword was constantly girt to their side. Yet this strange apparel and horrid aspect often concealed a gentle Edition: current; Page: [35] and generous disposition; and, as soon as the rage of battle had subsided, the captives and subjects were sometimes surprised by the humanity of the victor. The vices of the Lombards were the effect of passion, of ignorance, of intoxication; their virtues are the more laudable, as they were not affected by the hypocrisy of social manners, nor imposed by the rigid constraint of laws and education. I should not be apprehensive of deviating from my subject if it were in my power to delineate the private life of the conquerors of Italy, and I shall relate with pleasure the adventurous gallantry of Autharis, which breathes the true spirit of chivalry and romance.59 After the loss of his promised bride, a Merovingian princess, he sought in marriage the daughter of the king of Bavaria; and Garibald accepted the alliance of the Italian monarch. Impatient of the slow progress of negotiation, the ardent lover escaped from his palace and visited the court of Bavaria in the train of his own embassy. At the public audience, the unknown stranger advanced to the throne, and informed Garibald that the ambassador was indeed the minister of state, but that he alone was the friend of Autharis, who had trusted him with the delicate commission of making a faithful report of the charms of his spouse. Theudelinda was summoned to undergo this important examination, and, after a pause of silent rapture, he hailed her as the queen of Italy, and humbly requested that, according to the custom of the nation, she would present a cup of wine to the first of her new subjects. By the command of her father, she obeyed; Autharis received the cup in his turn, and, in restoring it to the princess, he secretly touched her hand, and drew his own finger over his face and lips. In the evening, Theudelinda imparted to her nurse the indiscreet familiarity of the stranger, and was comforted by the assurance that such boldness could Edition: current; Page: [36] proceed only from the king her husband, who, by his beauty and courage, appeared worthy of her love. The ambassadors were dismissed; no sooner did they reach the confines of Italy than Autharis, raising himself on his horse, darted his battle-axe against a tree with incomparable strength and dexterity: “Such,” said he to the astonished Bavarians, “such are the strokes of the king of the Lombards.” On the approach of a French army, Garibald and his daughter took refuge in the dominions of their ally; and the marriage was consummated in the palace of Verona. At the end of one year, it was dissolved by the death of Autharis; but the virtues of Theudelinda60 had endeared her to the nation, and she was permitted to bestow, with her hand, the sceptre of the Italian kingdom.

From this fact, as well as from similar events,61 it is certain that the Lombards possessed freedom to elect their sovereign, and sense to decline the frequent use of that dangerous privilege. The public revenue arose from the produce of land and the profits of justice. When the independent dukes agreed that Autharis should ascend the throne of his father, they endowed the regal office with a fair moiety of their respective domains. The proudest nobles aspired to the honours of servitude near the person of their prince; he rewarded the fidelity of his vassals by the precarious gift of pensions and benefices; and atoned for the injuries of war by the rich foundation of monasteries and churches. In peace a judge, a leader in war, he never usurped the powers of a sole and absolute legislator. The king of Italy convened the national assemblies in the palace, or more probably in the fields, of Pavia; his great council was composed of the Edition: current; Page: [37] persons most eminent by their birth and dignities; but the validity, as well as the execution, of their decrees depended on the approbation of the faithful people, the fortunate army of the Lombards. About fourscore years after the conquest of Italy, their traditional customs were transcribed in Teutonic Latin,62 and ratified by the consent of the prince and people; some new regulations were introduced, more suitable to their present condition; the example of Rotharis was imitated by the wisest of his successors; and the laws of the Lombards have been esteemed the least imperfect of the Barbaric codes.63 Secure by their courage in the possession of liberty, these rude and hasty legislators were incapable of balancing the powers of the constitution or of discussing the nice theory of political government. Such crimes as threatened the life of the sovereign or the safety of the state were adjudged worthy of death; but their attention was principally confined to the defence of the person and property of the subject. According to the strange jurisprudence of the times, the guilt of blood might be redeemed by a fine; yet the high price of nine hundred pieces of gold declares a just sense of the value of a simple citizen. Less atrocious injuries, a wound, a fracture, a blow, an opprobrious word, were measured with scrupulous and almost ridiculous diligence; and the prudence of the legislator encouraged the ignoble practice of bartering honour and revenge for a pecuniary compensation. The ignorance of the Lombards, in the state of Paganism or Christianity, gave implicit credit to the malice and mischief of witchcraft; but the judges of the seventeenth century might have been instructed and confounded by the wisdom Edition: current; Page: [38] of Rotharis, who derides the absurd superstition, and protects the wretched victims of popular or judicial cruelty.64 The same spirit of a legislator, superior to his age and country, may be ascribed to Luitprand, who condemns, while he tolerates, the impious and inveterate abuse of duels,65 observing from his own experience that the juster cause had often been oppressed by successful violence. Whatever merit may be discovered in the laws of the Lombards, they are the genuine fruit of the reason of the Barbarians, who never admitted the bishops of Italy to a seat in their legislative councils. But the succession of their kings is marked with virtue and ability; the troubled series of their annals is adorned with fair intervals of peace, order, and domestic happiness; and the Italians enjoyed a milder and more equitable government than any of the other kingdoms which had been founded on the ruins of the Western empire.66

Amidst the arms of the Lombards, and under the despotism of the Greeks, we again inquire into the fate of Rome,67 which had reached, about the close of the sixth century, the lowest period of her depression. By the removal of the seat of empire, and the successive loss of the provinces, the sources of public and private opulence were exhausted; the lofty Edition: current; Page: [39] tree, under whose shade the nations of the earth had reposed, was deprived of its leaves and branches, and the sapless trunk was left to wither on the ground. The ministers of command and the messengers of victory no longer met on the Appian or Flaminian way; and the hostile approach of the Lombards was often felt and continually feared. The inhabitants of a potent and peaceful capital, who visit without an anxious thought the garden of the adjacent country, will faintly picture in their fancy the distress of the Romans: they shut or opened their gates with a trembling hand, beheld from the walls the flames of their houses, and heard the lamentations of their brethren, who were coupled together like dogs and dragged away into distant slavery beyond the sea and the mountains. Such incessant alarms must annihilate the pleasures and interrupt the labours of a rural life; and the Campagna of Rome was speedily reduced to the state of a dreary wilderness, in which the land is barren, the waters are impure, and the air is infectious. Curiosity and ambition no longer attracted the nations to the capital of the world: but, if chance or necessity directed the steps of a wandering stranger, he contemplated with horror the vacancy and solitude of the city, and might be tempted to ask, where is the senate, and where are the people? In a season of excessive rains, the Tiber swelled above its banks, and rushed with irresistible violence into the valleys of the seven hills. A pestilential disease arose from the stagnation of the deluge, and so rapid was the contagion that fourscore persons expired in an hour in the midst of a solemn procession, which implored the mercy of heaven.68 A society in which marriage is encouraged and industry prevails soon repairs the accidental losses of pestilence and war; but, as the Edition: current; Page: [40] far greater part of the Romans was condemned to hopeless indigence and celibacy, the depopulation was constant and visible, and the gloomy enthusiasts might expect the approaching failure of the human race.69 Yet the number of citizens still exceeded the measure of subsistence; their precarious food was supplied from the harvests of Sicily or Egypt; and the frequent repetition of famine betrays the inattention of the emperor to a distant province. The edifices of Rome were exposed to the same ruin and decay; the mouldering fabrics were easily overthrown by inundations, tempests, and earthquakes; and the monks, who had occupied the most advantageous stations, exulted in their base triumph over the ruins of antiquity. It is commonly believed that Pope Gregory the First attacked the temples and mutilated the statues of the city; that, by the command of the Barbarian, the Palatine library was reduced to ashes; and that the history of Livy was the peculiar mark of his absurd and mischievous fanaticism. The writings of Gregory himself reveal his implacable aversion to the monuments of classic genius; and he points his severest censure against the profane learning of a bishop who taught the art of grammar, studied the Latin poets, and pronounced, with the same voice, the praises of Jupiter and those of Christ.70 But the evidence of his destructive rage is doubtful and recent; the Temple of Peace or the Theatre of Marcellus have been demolished by the slow operation of ages; and a formal proscription would have multiplied the copies of Virgil and Edition: current; Page: [41] Livy in the countries which were not subject to the ecclesiastical dictator.71

Like Thebes, or Babylon, or Carthage, the name of Rome might have been erased from the earth, if the city had not been animated by a vital principle, which again restored her to honour and dominion. A vague tradition was embraced, that two Jewish teachers, a tent-maker and a fisherman, had formerly been executed in the circus of Nero; and at the end of five hundred years their genuine or fictitious relics were adored as the palladium of Christian Rome. The pilgrims of the East and West resorted to the holy threshold; but the shrines of the apostles were guarded by miracles and invisible terrors; and it was not without fear that the pious Catholic approached the object of his worship. It was fatal to touch, it was dangerous to behold, the bodies of the saints; and those who from the purest motives presumed to disturb the repose of the sanctuary were affrighted by visions or punished with sudden death. The unreasonable request of an empress, who wished to deprive the Romans of their sacred treasure, the head of St. Paul, was rejected with the deepest abhorrence; and the pope asserted, most probably with truth, that a linen which had been sanctified in the neighbourhood of his body, or the filings of his chain, which it was sometimes easy and sometimes impossible to obtain, possessed an equal degree of miraculous virtue.72 But the Edition: current; Page: [42] power as well as virtue of the apostles resided with living energy in the breast of their successors; and the chair of St. Peter was filled under the reign of Maurice by the first and greatest of the name of Gregory.73 His grandfather Felix had himself been pope, and, as the bishops were already bound by the law of celibacy, his consecration must have been preceded by the death of his wife. The parents of Gregory, Sylvia and Gordian, were the noblest of the senate and the most pious of the church of Rome; his female relations were numbered among the saints and virgins; and his own figure with those of his father and mother were represented near three hundred years in a family portrait,74 which he offered to the monastery of St. Andrew. The design and colouring of this picture afford an honourable testimony that the art of painting was cultivated by the Italians of the sixth century; but the most abject ideas must be entertained of their taste and learning, since the epistles of Gregory, his sermons, and his dialogues are the work of a man who was Edition: current; Page: [43] second in erudition to none of his contemporaries;75 his birth and abilities had raised him to the office of prefect of the city, and he enjoyed the merit of renouncing the pomp and vanities of this world. His ample patrimony was dedicated to the foundation of seven monasteries,76 one in Rome,77 and six in Sicily; and it was the wish of Gregory that he might be unknown in this life and glorious only in the next. Yet his devotion, and it might be sincere, pursued the path which would have been chosen by a crafty and ambitious statesman. The talents of Gregory, and the splendour which accompanied his retreat, rendered him dear and useful to the church; and implicit obedience has been always inculcated as the first duty of a monk. As soon as he had received the character of deacon, Gregory was sent to reside at the Byzantine court, the nuncio or minister of the apostolic see; and he boldly assumed, in the name of St. Peter, a tone of independent dignity, which would have been criminal and dangerous in the most illustrious layman of the empire. He returned to Rome with a just increase of reputation, and, after a short exercise of the monastic virtues, he was dragged from the cloister to the papal throne, by the unanimous voice of the clergy, the senate, and the people. He alone resisted, Edition: current; Page: [44] or seemed to resist, his own elevation; and his humble petition that Maurice would be pleased to reject the choice of the Romans could only serve to exalt his character in the eyes of the emperor and the public. When the fatal mandate was proclaimed, Gregory solicited the aid of some friendly merchants to convey him in a basket beyond the gates of Rome, and modestly concealed himself some days among the woods and mountains, till his retreat was discovered, as it is said, by a celestial light.

The pontificate of Gregory the Great, which lasted thirteen years six months and ten days, is one of the most edifying periods of the history of the church. His virtues, and even his faults, a singular mixture of simplicity and cunning, of pride and humility, of sense and superstition, were happily suited to his station and to the temper of the times. In his rival, the patriarch of Constantinople, he condemned the antichristian title of universal bishop, which the successor of St. Peter was too haughty to concede, and too feeble to assume; and the ecclesiastical jurisdiction of Gregory was confined to the triple character of bishop of Rome, primate of Italy, and apostle of the West. He frequently ascended the pulpit, and kindled, by his rude though pathetic eloquence, the congenial passions of his audience; the language of the Jewish prophets was interpreted and applied; and the minds of the people, depressed by their present calamities, were directed to the hopes and fears of the invisible world. His precepts and example defined the model of the Roman liturgy,78 the distribution of the parishes, the calendar of festivals, the order of processions, the service of the priests and deacons, the variety and change of sacerdotal garments. Edition: current; Page: [none] Edition: current; Page: [45] Till the last days of his life, he officiated in the canon of the mass, which continued above three hours; the Gregorian chant79 has preserved the vocal and instrumental music of the theatre; and the rough voices of the Barbarians attempted to imitate the melody of the Roman school.80 Experience had shewn him the efficacy of these solemn and pompous rites, to soothe the distress, to confirm the faith, to mitigate the fierceness, and to dispel the dark enthusiasm of the vulgar, and he readily forgave their tendency to promote the reign of priesthood and superstition. The bishops of Italy and the adjacent islands acknowledged the Roman pontiff as their special metropolitan. Even the existence, the union, or the translation of episcopal seats was decided by his absolute discretion; and his successful inroads into the provinces of Greece, of Spain, and of Gaul might countenance the more lofty pretensions of succeeding popes. He interposed to prevent the abuses of popular elections; his jealous care maintained the purity of faith and discipline; and the apostolic shepherd assiduously watched over the faith and discipline of the subordinate pastors. Under his reign, the Arians of Italy and Spain were reconciled to the Catholic church, and the conquest of Britain reflects less glory on the name of Cæsar than on that of Gregory the First. Instead of six legions, forty monks were embarked for that distant island, and the Edition: current; Page: [46] pontiff lamented the austere duties which forbade him to partake the perils of their spiritual warfare. In less than two years he could announce to the archbishop of Alexandria that they had baptised the king of Kent with ten thousand of his Anglo-Saxons, and that the Roman missionaries, like those of the primitive church, were armed only with spiritual and supernatural powers. The credulity or the prudence of Gregory was always disposed to confirm the truths of religion by the evidence of ghosts, miracles, and resurrections;81 and posterity has paid to his memory the same tribute which he freely granted to the virtue of his own or the preceding generation. The celestial honours have been liberally bestowed by the authority of the popes, but Gregory is the last of their own order whom they have presumed to inscribe in the calendar of saints.


Their temporal power insensibly arose from the calamities of the times; and the Roman bishops, who have deluged Europe and Asia with blood, were compelled to reign as the ministers of charity and peace. I. The church of Rome, as it has been formerly observed, was endowed with ample possessions in Italy, Sicily, and the more distant provinces; and her agents, who were commonly subdeacons, had acquired a civil, and even criminal, jurisdiction over their tenants and husbandmen. The successor of St. Peter administered his patrimony with the temper of a vigilant and moderate landlord;82 and the epistles of Gregory are Edition: current; Page: [47] filled with salutary instructions to abstain from doubtful or vexatious lawsuits, to preserve the integrity of weights and measures, to grant every reasonable delay, and to reduce the capitation of the slaves of the glebe, who purchased the right of marriage by the payment of an arbitrary fine.83 The rent or the produce of these estates was transported to the mouth of the Tiber, at the risk and expense of the pope; in the use of wealth he acted like a faithful steward of the church and the poor, and liberally applied to their wants the inexhaustible resources of abstinence and order. The voluminous account of his receipts and disbursements was kept above three hundred years in the Lateran, as the model of Christian economy. On the four great festivals,84 he divided their quarterly allowance to the clergy, to his domestics, to the monasteries, the churches, the places of burial, the alms-houses, and the hospitals of Rome, and the rest of the diocese. On the first day of every month, he distributed to the poor, according to the season, their stated portion of corn, wine, cheese, vegetables, oil, fish, fresh provisions, cloths, and money; and his treasurers were continually summoned to satisfy, in his name, the extraordinary demands of indigence and merit. The instant distress of the sick and helpless, of strangers and pilgrims, was relieved by the bounty of each day, and of every hour; nor would the pontiff indulge himself in a frugal repast, till he had sent the dishes from his own table to some objects deserving of his compassion. The misery of the times had reduced the nobles and matrons of Rome to accept, without a blush, the benevolence of the church; three thousand virgins received their food and raiment from the hand of Edition: current; Page: [48] their benefactor; and many bishops of Italy escaped from the Barbarians to the hospitable threshold of the Vatican. Gregory might justly be styled the Father of his country; and such was the extreme sensibility of his conscience that, for the death of a beggar who had perished in the streets, he interdicted himself during several days from the exercise of sacerdotal functions. II. The misfortunes of Rome involved the apostolical pastor in the business of peace and war; and it might be doubtful to himself whether piety or ambition prompted him to supply the place of his absent sovereign. Gregory awakened the emperor from a long slumber, exposed the guilt or incapacity of the exarch and his inferior ministers, complained that the veterans were withdrawn from Rome for the defence of Spoleto, encouraged the Italians to guard their cities and altars, and condescended, in the crisis of danger, to name the tribunes and to direct the operations of the provincial troops. But the martial spirit of the pope was checked by the scruples of humanity and religion; the imposition of tribute, though it was employed in the Italian war, he freely condemned as odious and oppressive; whilst he protected, against the Imperial edicts, the pious cowardice of the soldiers who deserted a military for a monastic life. If we may credit his own declarations, it would have been easy for Gregory to exterminate the Lombards by their domestic factions, without leaving a king, a duke, or a count, to save that unfortunate nation from the vengeance of their foes. As a Christian bishop, he preferred the salutary offices of peace; his mediation appeased the tumult of arms; but he was too conscious of the arts of the Greeks, and the passions of the Lombards, to engage his sacred promise for the observance of the truce. Disappointed in the hope of a general and lasting treaty, he presumed to save his country without the consent of the emperor or the exarch. The sword of the enemy was suspended over Rome: it was averted by the mild eloquence and seasonable gifts of Edition: current; Page: [49] the pontiff, who commanded the respect of heretics and barbarians.

The merits of Gregory were treated by the Byzantine court with reproach and insult; but in the attachment of a grateful people he found the purest reward of a citizen and the best right of a sovereign.85

Edition: current; Page: [50]


Revolutions of Persia after the Death of Chosroes or Nushirvan — His Son Hormouz, a Tyrant, is deposed — Usurpation of Bahram — Flight and Restoration of Chosroes II. — His Gratitude to the Romans — The Chagan of the Avars — Revolt of the Army against Maurice — His Death — Tyranny of Phocas — Elevation of Heraclius — The Persian War — Chosroes subdues Syria, Egypt, and Asia Minor — Siege of Constantinople by the Persians and Avars — Persian Expeditions — Victories and Triumph of Heraclius

The conflict of Rome and Persia was prolonged from the death of Crassus to the reign of Heraclius. An experience of seven hundred years might convince the rival nations of the impossibility of maintaining their conquests beyond the fatal limits of the Tigris and Euphrates. Yet the emulation of Trajan and Julian was awakened by the trophies of Alexander, and the sovereigns of Persia indulged the ambitious hope of restoring the empire of Cyrus.1 Such extraordinary efforts of power and courage will always command the attention of posterity; but the events by which the fate of nations is not materially changed leave a faint impression on the page of history, and the patience of the reader would be exhausted by the repetition of the same hostilities, undertaken without cause, prosecuted without glory, and terminated without effect. The arts of negotiation, unknown to Edition: current; Page: [51] the simple greatness of the senate and the Cæsars, were assiduously cultivated by the Byzantine princes; and the memorials of their perpetual embassies2 repeat, with the same uniform prolixity, the language of falsehood and declamation, the insolence of the Barbarians, and the servile temper of the tributary Greeks. Lamenting the barren superfluity of materials, I have studied to compress the narrative of these uninteresting transactions; but the just Nushirvan is still applauded as the model of Oriental kings, and the ambition of his grandson Chosroes prepared the revolution of the East, which was speedily accomplished by the arms and the religion of the successors of Mahomet.

In the useless altercations that precede and justify the quarrels of princes, the Greeks and the Barbarians accused each other of violating the peace which had been concluded between the two empires about four years before the death of Justinian. The sovereign of Persia and India aspired to reduce under his obedience the province of Yemen or Arabia3 Felix, the distant land of myrrh and frankincense, which had escaped, rather than opposed, the conquerors of the East. After the defeat of Abrahah under the walls of Mecca,4 the discord of his sons and brothers gave an easy entrance to the Persians; they chased the strangers of Abyssinia beyond the Red Sea; and a native prince of the ancient Homerites was restored to the throne as the vassal or viceroy of the great Nushirvan.5 But the nephew of Justinian declared his Edition: current; Page: [52] resolution to avenge the injuries of his Christian ally the prince of Abyssinia, as they suggested a decent pretence to discontinue the annual tribute, which was poorly disguised by the name of pension. The churches of Persarmenia were oppressed by the intolerant spirit of the Magi; they secretly invoked the protector of the Christians; and, after the pious murder of their satraps, the rebels were avowed and supported as the brethren and subjects of the Roman emperor. The complaints of Nushirvan were disregarded by the Byzantine court; Justin yielded to the importunities of the Turks, who offered an alliance against the common enemy; and the Persian monarchy was threatened at the same instant by the united forces of Europe, of Æthiopia, and of Scythia. At the age of fourscore, the sovereign of the East would perhaps have chosen the peaceful enjoyment of his glory and greatness; but, as soon as war became inevitable, he took the field with the alacrity of youth, whilst the aggressor trembled in the palace of Constantinople. Nushirvan, or Chosroes, conducted in person the siege of Dara; and, although that important fortress had been left destitute of troops and magazines, the valour of the inhabitants resisted above five months the archers, the elephants, and the military engines of the Great King. In the meanwhile his general Adarman advanced from Babylon, traversed the desert, passed the Euphrates, insulted the suburbs of Antioch, reduced to ashes the city of Apamea, and laid the spoils of Syria at the feet of his master, whose perseverance in the midst of winter at length subverted the bulwark of the East. But these losses, which astonished the provinces and the court, produced a salutary effect in the repentance and abdication of the emperor Justin; a new spirit arose in the Byzantine councils; and a truce of three years was obtained Edition: current; Page: [53] by the prudence of Tiberius.6 That seasonable interval was employed in the preparations of war; and the voice of rumour proclaimed to the world that from the distant countries of the Alps and the Rhine, from Scythia, Mæsia, Pannonia, Illyricum, and Isauria, the strength of the Imperial cavalry was reinforced with one hundred and fifty thousand soldiers. Yet the king of Persia, without fear or without faith, resolved to prevent the attack of the enemy; again passed the Euphrates; and, dismissing the ambassadors of Tiberius, arrogantly commanded them to await his arrival at Cæsarea, the metropolis of the Cappadocian provinces. The two armies encountered each other in the battle of Melitene: the Barbarians, who darkened the air with a cloud of arrows, prolonged their line, and extended their wings across the plain; while the Romans, in deep and solid bodies, expected to prevail in closer action, by the weight of their swords and lances. A Scythian chief, who commanded their right wing, suddenly turned the flank of the enemy, attacked their rear-guard in the presence of Chosroes, penetrated to the midst of the camp, pillaged the royal tent, profaned the eternal fire, loaded a train of camels with the spoils of Asia, cut his way through the Persian host, and returned with songs of victory to his friends, who had consumed the day in single combats or ineffectual skirmishes. The darkness of the night and the separation of the Romans afforded the Persian monarch an opportunity of revenge; and one of their camps was swept away by a rapid and impetuous assault. But the review of his loss and the consciousness of his danger determined Chosroes to a speedy retreat; he burnt, in his passage, the vacant town of Melitene; and, without consulting the safety of his troops, boldly swam the Euphrates on the back of an elephant.7 After this unsuccessful Edition: current; Page: [54] campaign, the want of magazines, and perhaps some inroad of the Turks, obliged him to disband or divide his forces; the Romans were left masters of the field, and their general Justinian, advancing to the relief of the Persarmenian rebels, erected his standard on the banks of the Araxes. The great Pompey had formerly halted within three days’ march of the Caspian;8 that inland sea was explored, for the first time, by an hostile fleet,9 and seventy thousand captives were transplanted from Hyrcania to the isle of Cyprus. On the return of spring, Justinian descended into the fertile plains of Assyria, the flames of war approached the residence of Nushirvan, the indignant monarch sunk into the grave, and his last edict restrained his successors from exposing their person in a battle against the Romans. Yet the memory of this transient affront was lost in the glories of a long reign; and his formidable enemies, after indulging their dream of conquest, again solicited a short respite from the calamities of war.10

The throne of Chosroes Nushirvan was filled by Hormouz, or Hormisdas, the eldest or the most favoured of his sons. Edition: current; Page: [55] With the kingdoms of Persia and India, he inherited the reputation and example of his father, the service, in every rank, of his wise and valiant officers, and a general system of administration, harmonised by time and political wisdom to promote the happiness of the prince and people. But the royal youth enjoyed a still more valuable blessing, the friendship of a sage who had presided over his education, and who always preferred the honour to the interest of his pupil, his interest to his inclination. In a dispute with the Greek and Indian philosophers, Buzurg11 had once maintained that the most grievous misfortune of life is old age without the remembrance of virtue; and our candour will presume that the same principle compelled him, during three years, to direct the councils of the Persian empire. His zeal was rewarded by the gratitude and docility of Hormouz, who acknowledged himself more indebted to his preceptor than to his parent; but, when age and labour had impaired the strength and perhaps the faculties of this prudent counsellor, he retired from court, and abandoned the youthful monarch to his own passions and those of his favourites. By the fatal vicissitude of human affairs, the same scenes were renewed at Ctesiphon, which had been exhibited in Rome after the death of Marcus Antoninus. The ministers of flattery and corruption, who had been banished by the father, were recalled and cherished by the son; the disgrace and exile of the friends of Nushirvan established their tyranny; and virtue was driven by degrees from the mind of Hormouz, Edition: current; Page: [56] from his palace, and from the government of the state.12 The faithful agents, the eyes and ears of the king, informed him of the progress of disorder, that the provincial governors flew to their prey with the fierceness of lions and eagles, and that their rapine and injustice would teach the most loyal of his subjects to abhor the name and authority of their sovereign. The sincerity of this advice was punished with death, the murmurs of the cities were despised, their tumults were quelled by military execution; the intermediate powers between the throne and the people were abolished; and the childish vanity of Hormouz, who affected the daily use of the tiara, was fond of declaring that he alone would be the judge as well as the master of his kingdom. In every word and in every action, the son of Nushirvan degenerated from the virtues of his father. His avarice defrauded the troops; his jealous caprice degraded the satraps; the palace, the tribunals, the waters of the Tigris, were stained with the blood of the innocent; and the tyrant exulted in the sufferings and execution of thirteen thousand victims. As the excuse of his cruelty, he sometimes condescended to observe that the fears of the Persians would be productive of hatred, and that their hatred must terminate in rebellion; but he forgot that his own guilt and folly had inspired the sentiments which he deplored, and prepared the event which he so justly apprehended. Exasperated by long and hopeless oppression, the provinces of Babylon, Susa, and Carmania erected the standard of revolt; and the princes of Arabia, India, and Scythia refused the customary tribute to the unworthy successor of Nushirvan. Edition: current; Page: [57] The arms of the Romans, in slow sieges and frequent inroads, afflicted the frontiers of Mesopotamia and Assyria; one of their generals professed himself the disciple of Scipio; and the soldiers were animated by a miraculous image of Christ, whose mild aspect should never have been displayed in the front of battle.13 At the same time, the eastern provinces of Persia were invaded by the great khan,14 who passed the Oxus at the head of three or four hundred thousand Turks. The imprudent Hormouz accepted their perfidious and formidable aid; the cities of Khorasan or Bactriana were commanded to open their gates; the march of the barbarians towards the mountains of Hyrcania revealed the correspondence of the Turkish and Roman arms; and their union must have subverted the throne of the house of Sassan.

Persia had been lost by a king; it was saved by a hero. After his revolt, Varanes or Bahram is stigmatised by the son of Hormouz as an ungrateful slave: the proud and ambiguous reproach of despotism, since he was truly descended from the ancient princes of Rei,15 one of the seven families whose splendid as well as substantial prerogatives exalted them above the heads of the Persian nobility.16 At the siege of Edition: current; Page: [58] Dara, the valour of Bahram was signalised under the eyes of Nushirvan, and both the father and son successively promoted him to the command of armies, the government of Media, and the superintendence of the palace. The popular prediction which marked him as the deliverer of Persia might be inspired by his past victories and extraordinary figure; the epithet Giubin is expressive of the quality of dry wood; he had the strength and stature of a giant, and his savage countenance was fancifully compared to that of a wild cat. While the nation trembled, while Hormouz disguised his terror by the name of suspicion, and his servants concealed their disloyalty under the mask of fear, Bahram alone displayed his undaunted courage and apparent fidelity; and, as soon as he found that no more than twelve thousand soldiers would follow him against the enemy, he prudently declared that to this fatal number heaven had reserved the honours of the triumph. The steep and narrow descent of the Pule Rudbar17 or Hyrcanian rock is the only pass through which an army can penetrate into the territory of Rei and the plains of Media. From the commanding heights, a band of resolute men might overwhelm with stones and darts the myriads of the Turkish host: their emperor and his son were transpierced with arrows; and the fugitives were left, without counsel or provisions, to the revenge of an injured people. The patriotism of the Persian general was stimulated by his affection for the city of his forefathers; in the hour of victory Edition: current; Page: [59] every peasant became a soldier, and every soldier an hero; and their ardour was kindled by the gorgeous spectacle of beds and thrones and tables of massy gold, the spoils of Asia, and the luxury of the hostile camp. A prince of a less malignant temper could not easily have forgiven his benefactor, and the secret hatred of Hormouz was envenomed by a malicious report that Bahram had privately retained the most precious fruits of his Turkish victory. But the approach of a Roman army on the side of the Araxes compelled the implacable tyrant to smile and to applaud; and the toils of Bahram were rewarded with the permission of encountering a new enemy, by their skill and discipline more formidable than a Scythian multitude. Elated by his recent success, he despatched an herald with a bold defiance to the camp of the Romans, requesting them to fix a day of battle, and to choose whether they would pass the river themselves or allow a free passage to the arms of the Great King. The lieutenant of the emperor Maurice preferred the safer alternative, and this local circumstance, which would have enhanced the victory of the Persians, rendered their defeat more bloody and their escape more difficult. But the loss of his subjects and the danger of his kingdom were overbalanced in the mind of Hormouz by the disgrace of his personal enemy; and no sooner had Bahram collected and reviewed his forces than he received from a royal messenger the insulting gift of a distaff, a spinning-wheel, and a complete suit of female apparel. Obedient to the will of his sovereign, he shewed himself to the soldiers in this unworthy disguise; they resented his ignominy and their own; a shout of rebellion ran through the ranks; and the general accepted their oath of fidelity and vows of revenge. A second messenger, who had been commanded to bring the rebel in chains, was trampled under the feet of an elephant, and manifestoes were diligently circulated, exhorting the Persians to assert their freedom against an odious and contemptible tyrant. The defection was rapid and universal; his loyal slaves were sacrificed Edition: current; Page: [60] to the public fury; the troops deserted to the standard of Bahram; and the provinces again saluted the deliverer of his country.

As the passes were faithfully guarded, Hormouz could only compute the number of his enemies by the testimony of a guilty conscience, and the daily defection of those who, in the hour of his distress, avenged their wrongs or forgot their obligations. He proudly displayed the ensigns of royalty; but the city and palace of Modain had already escaped from the hand of the tyrant. Among the victims of his cruelty, Bindoes, a Sassanian prince, had been cast into a dungeon; his fetters were broken by the zeal and courage of a brother; and he stood before the king at the head of those trusty guards who had been chosen as the ministers of his confinement and perhaps of his death. Alarmed by the hasty intrusion and bold reproaches of the captive, Hormouz looked round, but in vain, for advice or assistance; discovered that his strength consisted in the obedience of others, and patiently yielded to the single arm of Bindoes, who dragged him from the throne to the same dungeon in which he himself had been so lately confined. At the first tumult, Chosroes, the eldest of the sons of Hormouz, escaped from the city; he was persuaded to return by the pressing and friendly invitation of Bindoes, who promised to seat him on his father’s throne, and who expected to reign under the name of an inexperienced youth. In the just assurance that his accomplices could neither forgive nor hope to be forgiven, and that every Persian might be trusted as the judge and enemy of the tyrant, he instituted a public trial without a precedent and without a copy in the annals of the East. The son of Nushirvan, who had requested to plead in his own defence, was introduced as a criminal into the full assembly of the nobles and satraps.18 He was heard with decent attention as long as he expatiated Edition: current; Page: [61] on the advantages of order and obedience, the danger of innovation, and the inevitable discord of those who had encouraged each other to trample on their lawful and hereditary sovereign. By a pathetic appeal to their humanity, he extorted that pity which is seldom refused to the fallen fortunes of a king; and, while they beheld the abject posture and squalid appearance of the prisoner, his tears, his chains, and the marks of ignominious stripes, it was impossible to forget how recently they had adored the divine splendour of his diadem and purple. But an angry murmur arose in the assembly as soon as he presumed to vindicate his conduct and to applaud the victories of his reign. He defined the duties of a king, and the Persian nobles listened with a smile of contempt; they were fired with indignation when he dared to vilify the character of Chosroes; and by the indiscreet offer of resigning the sceptre to the second of his sons he subscribed his own condemnation and sacrificed the life of his innocent favourite. The mangled bodies of the boy and his mother were exposed to the people; the eyes of Hormouz were pierced with a hot needle; and the punishment of the father was succeeded by the coronation of his eldest son. Chosroes had ascended the throne without guilt, and his piety strove to alleviate the misery of the abdicated monarch; from the dungeon he removed Hormouz to an apartment of the palace, supplied with liberality the consolations of sensual enjoyment, and patiently endured the furious sallies of his resentment and despair. He might despise the resentment of a blind and unpopular tyrant, but the tiara was trembling on his head, till he could subvert the power, or acquire the friendship, of the great Bahram, who sternly denied the justice of a revolution in which himself and his soldiers, the true representatives of Persia, had never been consulted. The offer of a general amnesty and of the second rank in his kingdom was answered19 by an epistle from Bahram, friend Edition: current; Page: [62] of the gods, conqueror of men, and enemy of tyrants, the satrap of satraps, general of the Persian armies, and a prince adorned with the title of eleven virtues.20 He commands Chosroes, the son of Hormouz, to shun the example and fate of his father, to confine the traitors who had been released from their chains, to deposit in some holy place the diadem which he had usurped, and to accept from his gracious benefactor the pardon of his faults and the government of a province. The rebel might not be proud, and the king most assuredly was not humble; but the one was conscious of his strength, the other was sensible of his weakness; and even the modest language of his reply still left room for treaty and reconciliation. Chosroes led into the field the slaves of the palace and the populace of the capital; they beheld with terror the banners of a veteran army; they were encompassed and surprised by the evolutions of the general; and the satraps who had deposed Hormouz received the punishment of their revolt, or expiated their first treason by a second and more criminal act of disloyalty. The life and liberty of Chosroes were saved, but he was reduced to the necessity of imploring aid or refuge in some foreign land; and the implacable Bindoes, anxious to secure an unquestionable title, hastily returned to the palace, and ended, with a bow-string, the wretched existence of the son of Nushirvan.21

While Chosroes despatched the preparations of his retreat, he deliberated with his remaining friends22 whether he Edition: current; Page: [63] should lurk in the valleys of Mount Caucasus, or fly to the tents of the Turks, or solicit the protection of the emperor. The long emulation of the successors of Artaxerxes and Constantine increased his reluctance to appear as a suppliant in a rival court; but he weighed the forces of the Romans, and prudently considered that the neighbourhood of Syria would render his escape more easy and their succours more effectual. Attended only by his concubines and a troop of thirty guards, he secretly departed from the capital, followed the banks of the Euphrates, traversed the desert, and halted at the distance of ten miles from Circesium. About the third watch of the night, the Roman prefect was informed of his approach, and he introduced the royal stranger to the fortress at the dawn of day. From thence the king of Persia was conducted to the more honourable residence of Hierapolis;23 and Maurice dissembled his pride, and displayed his benevolence, at the reception of the letters and ambassadors of the grandson of Nushirvan. They humbly represented the vicissitudes of fortune and the common interest of princes, exaggerated the ingratitude of Bahram, the agent of the evil principle, and urged, with specious argument, that it was for the advantage of the Romans themselves to support the two monarchies which balance the world, the two great luminaries by whose salutary influence it is vivified and adorned. The anxiety of Chosroes was soon relieved by the assurance that the emperor had espoused the cause of justice and royalty; but Maurice prudently declined the expense and delay of his useless visit to Constantinople. In the name of his generous benefactor, a rich diadem was presented to the fugitive prince with an Edition: current; Page: [64] inestimable gift of jewels and gold; a powerful army was assembled on the frontiers of Syria and Armenia, under the command of the valiant and faithful Narses;24 and this general, of his own nation and his own choice, was directed to pass the Tigris, and never to sheathe his sword till he had restored Chosroes to the throne of his ancestors. The enterprise, however splendid, was less arduous than it might appear. Persia had already repented of her fatal rashness, which betrayed the heir of the house of Sassan to the ambition of a rebellious subject; and the bold refusal of the Magi to consecrate his usurpation compelled Bahram to assume the sceptre, regardless of the laws and prejudices of the nation. The palace was soon distracted with conspiracy, the city with tumult, the provinces with insurrection; and the cruel execution of the guilty and the suspected served to irritate rather than subdue the public discontent. No sooner did the grandson of Nushirvan display his own and the Roman banners beyond the Tigris than he was joined, each day, by the increasing multitudes of the nobility and people; and, as he advanced, he received from every side the grateful offerings of the keys of his cities and the heads of his enemies. As soon as Modain was freed from the presence of the usurper, the loyal inhabitants obeyed the first summons of Mebodes at the head of only two thousand horse, and Chosroes accepted the sacred and precious ornaments of the palace as the pledge of their truth and a presage of his approaching success. After the junction of the Imperial troops, which Bahram vainly struggled to prevent, the contest was decided Edition: current; Page: [65] by two battles on the banks of the Zab and the confines of Media. The Romans, with the faithful subjects of Persia, amounted to sixty thousand, while the whole force of the usurper did not exceed forty thousand men; the two generals signalised their valour and ability, but the victory was finally determined by the prevalence of numbers and discipline. With the remnant of a broken army, Bahram fled towards the eastern provinces of the Oxus;24a the enmity of Persia reconciled him to the Turks; but his days were shortened by poison, perhaps the most incurable of poisons: the stings of remorse and despair, and the bitter remembrance of lost glory. Yet the modern Persians still commemorate the exploits of Bahram; and some excellent laws have prolonged the duration of his troubled and transitory reign.

The restoration of Chosroes was celebrated with feasts and executions; and the music of the royal banquet was often disturbed by the groans of dying or mutilated criminals. A general pardon might have diffused comfort and tranquillity through a country which had been shaken by the late revolutions; yet, before the sanguinary temper of Chosroes is blamed, we should learn whether the Persians had not been accustomed either to dread the rigour, or to despise the weakness, of their sovereign. The revolt of Bahram and the conspiracy of the satraps were impartially punished by the revenge or justice of the conqueror; the merits of Bindoes himself could not purify his hand from the guilt of royal blood; and the son of Hormouz was desirous to assert his own innocence and to vindicate the sanctity of kings. During the vigour of the Roman power, several princes were seated on the throne of Persia by the arms and the authority of the first Cæsars. But their new subjects were soon disgusted with the vices or virtues which they had imbibed in a foreign land; Edition: current; Page: [66] the instability of their dominion gave birth to a vulgar observation that the choice of Rome was solicited and rejected with equal ardour by the capricious levity of Oriental slaves.25 But the glory of Maurice was conspicuous in the long and fortunate reign of his son and his ally. A band of a thousand Romans, who continued to guard the person of Chosroes, proclaimed his confidence in the fidelity of the strangers; his growing strength enabled him to dismiss this unpopular aid, but he steadily professed the same gratitude and reverence to his adopted father; and, till the death of Maurice, the peace and alliance of the two empires were faithfully maintained. Yet the mercenary friendship of the Roman prince had been purchased with costly and important gifts: the strong cities of Martyropolis and Dara were restored, and the Persarmenians became the willing subjects of an empire, whose eastern limit was extended, beyond the example of former times, as far as the banks of the Araxes and the neighbourhood of the Caspian. A pious hope was indulged that the church as well as the state might triumph in this revolution; but, if Chosroes had sincerely listened to the Christian bishops, the impression was erased by the zeal and eloquence of the Magi; if he was armed with philosophic indifference, he accommodated his belief, or rather his professions, to the various circumstances of an exile and a sovereign. The imaginary conversion of the king of Persia was reduced to a local and superstitious veneration for Sergius,26 one of the saints of Antioch, who heard his prayers and appeared to him in dreams; he enriched the shrine with offerings of gold and silver, and ascribed to this invisible Edition: current; Page: [67] patron the success of his arms, and the pregnancy of Sira, a devout Christian and the best beloved of his wives.27 The beauty of Sira, or Schirin,28 her wit, her musical talents, are still famous in the history or rather in the romances of the East; her own name is expressive, in the Persian tongue, of sweetness and grace; and the epithet of Parviz29 alludes to the charms of her royal lover. Yet Sira never shared the passion which she inspired, and the bliss of Chosroes was tortured by a jealous doubt that, while he possessed her person, she had bestowed her affections on a meaner favourite.30

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While the majesty of the Roman name was revived in the East, the prospect of Europe is less pleasing and less glorious. By the departure of the Lombards and the ruin of the Gepidæ, the balance of power was destroyed on the Danube; and the Avars spread their permanent dominion from the foot of the Alps to the sea-coast of the Euxine. The reign of Baian is the brightest era of their monarchy; their chagan, who occupied the rustic palace of Attila, appears to have imitated his character and policy;31 but, as the same scenes were repeated in a smaller circle, a minute representation of the copy would be devoid of the greatness and novelty of the original.32 The pride of the second Justin, of Tiberius, and Maurice was humbled by a proud Barbarian, more prompt to inflict, than exposed to suffer, the injuries of war; and, as often as Asia was threatened by the Persian arms, Europe Edition: current; Page: [69] was oppressed by the dangerous inroads, or costly friendship, of the Avars. When the Roman envoys approached the presence of the chagan, they were commanded to wait at the door of his tent, till, at the end perhaps of ten or twelve days, he condescended to admit them. If the substance or the style of their message was offensive to his ear, he insulted, with a real or affected fury, their own dignity and that of their prince; their baggage was plundered, and their lives were only saved by the promise of a richer present and a more respectful address. But his sacred ambassadors enjoyed and abused an unbounded licence in the midst of Constantinople; they urged, with importunate clamours, the increase of tribute, or the restitution of captives and deserters; and the majesty of the empire was almost equally degraded by a base compliance or by the false and fearful excuses with which they eluded such insolent demands. The chagan had never seen an elephant; and his curiosity was excited by the strange, and perhaps fabulous, portrait of that wonderful animal. At his command, one of the largest elephants of the Imperial stables was equipped with stately caparisons, and conducted by a numerous train to the royal village in the plains of Hungary. He surveyed the enormous beast with surprise, with disgust, and possibly with terror; and smiled at the vain industry of the Romans, who, in search of such useless rarities, could explore the limits of the land and sea. He wished, at the expense of the emperor, to repose in a golden bed. The wealth of Constantinople, and the skilful diligence of her artists, were instantly devoted to the gratification of his caprice; but, when the work was finished, he rejected with scorn a present so unworthy the majesty of a great king.33 These were the casual sallies of his pride, but the avarice of the chagan was a more steady and tractable passion: a rich and regular supply of silk apparel, furniture, and plate introduced the rudiments of Edition: current; Page: [70] art and luxury among the tents of the Scythians; their appetite was stimulated by the pepper and cinnamon of India;34 the annual subsidy or tribute was raised from fourscore to one hundred and twenty thousand pieces of gold; and, after each hostile interruption, the payment of the arrears, with exorbitant interest, was always made the first condition of the new treaty. In the language of a Barbarian without guile, the prince of the Avars affected to complain of the insincerity of the Greeks,35 yet he was not inferior to the most civilised nations in the refinements of dissimulation and perfidy. As the successor of the Lombards, the chagan asserted his claim to the important city of Sirmium, the ancient bulwark of the Illyrian provinces.36 The plains of the Lower Hungary were covered with the Avar horse, and a fleet of large boats was built in the Hercynian wood, to descend the Danube, and to transport into the Save the materials of a bridge. But, as the strong garrison of Singidunum, which commanded the conflux of the two rivers, might have stopped their passage and baffled his designs, he dispelled their apprehensions by a solemn oath that his views were not hostile to the empire. He swore by his sword, the symbol of the god of war, that he did not, as the enemy of Rome, construct a bridge upon the Save. “If I violate my oath,” pursued the intrepid Baian, “may I myself, and the last of my nation, perish by the sword! may the heavens, and fire, the deity of Edition: current; Page: [71] the heavens, fall upon our heads! may the forests and mountains bury us in their ruins! and the Save, returning, against the laws of nature, to his source, overwhelm us in his angry waters!” After this Barbarous impercation, he calmly inquired, what oath was most sacred and venerable among the Christians, what guilt of perjury it was most dangerous to incur. The bishop of Singidunum presented the gospel, which the chagan received with devout reverence. “I swear,” said he, “by the God who has spoken in this holy book, that I have neither falsehood on my tongue nor treachery in my heart.” As soon as he rose from his knees, he accelerated the labour of the bridge, and despatched an envoy to proclaim what he no longer wished to conceal. “Inform the emperor,” said the perfidious Baian, “that Sirmium is invested on every side. Advise his prudence to withdraw the citizens and their effects, and to resign a city which it is now impossible to rel eve or defend.” Without the hope of relief, the defence of Sirmium was prolonged above three years; the walls were still untouched; but famine was enclosed within the walls, till a merciful capitulation allowed the escape of the naked and hungry inhabitants. Singidunum, at the distance of fifty miles, experienced a more cruel fate: the buildings were razed, and the vanquished people was condemned to servitude and exile.37 Yet the ruins of Sirmium are no longer visible; the advantageous situation of Singidunum soon attracted a new colony of Sclavonians; and the conflux of the Save and Danube is still guarded by the fortifications of Belgrade, or the White City, so often and so obstinately disputed by the Christian and Turkish arms.38 From Belgrade to the walls of Constantinople a line may be measured of six hundred Edition: current; Page: [72] miles: that line was marked with flames and with blood; the horses of the Avars were alternately bathed in the Euxine and the Adriatic; and the Roman pontiff, alarmed by the approach of a more savage enemy,39 was reduced to cherish the Lombards as the protectors of Italy. The despair of a captive, whom his country refused to ransom, disclosed to the Avars the invention and practice of military engines;40 but in the first attempts they were rudely framed and awkwardly managed; and the resistance of Diocletianopolis and Berœa, of Philippopolis and Hadrianople, soon exhausted the skill and patience of the besiegers. The warfare of Baian was that of a Tartar, yet his mind was susceptible of a humane and generous sentiment; he spared Anchialus, whose salutary waters had restored the health of the best beloved of his wives; and the Romans confess that their starving army was fed and dismissed by the liberality of a foe. His empire extended over Hungary, Poland, and Prussia, from the mouth of the Danube to that of the Oder;41 and his new subjects were divided and transplanted by the jealous policy of the conqueror.42 The eastern regions of Germany, which had been left vacant by the emigration of the Vandals, were replenished with Sclavonian colonists; the same tribes are discovered in the neighbourhood of the Edition: current; Page: [73] Adriatic and of the Baltic; and, with the name of Baian himself, the Illyrian cities of Neyss and Lissa are again found in the heart of Silesia. In the disposition both of his troops and provinces, the chagan exposed the vassals, whose lives he disregarded,43 to the first assault; and the swords of the enemy were blunted before they encountered the native valour of the Avars.

The Persian alliance restored the troops of the East to the defence of Europe; and Maurice, who had supported ten years the insolence of the chagan, declared his resolution to march in person against the Barbarians. In the space of two centuries, none of the successors of Theodosius had appeared in the field, their lives were supinely spent in the palace of Constantinople; and the Greeks could no longer understand that the name of emperor, in its primitive sense, denoted the chief of the armies of the republic. The martial ardour of Maurice was opposed by the grave flattery of the senate, the timid superstition of the patriarch, and the tears of the empress Constantina; and they all conjured him to devolve on some meaner general the fatigues and perils of a Scythian campaign. Deaf to their advice and entreaty, the emperor boldly advanced44 seven miles from the capital; the sacred ensign of the cross was displayed in the front, and Maurice reviewed, with conscious pride, the arms and numbers of the veterans who had fought and conquered beyond the Tigris. Anchialus was the last term of his progress by sea and land; he solicited, without success, a miraculous answer to his nocturnal prayers; his mind was confounded by the death of a favourite horse, the encounter of a wild Edition: current; Page: [74] boar, a storm of wind and rain, and the birth of a monstrous child; and he forgot that the best of omens is to unsheathe our sword in the defence of our country.45 Under the pretence of receiving the ambassadors of Persia, the emperor returned to Constantinople, exchanged the thoughts of war for those of devotion, and disappointed the public hope by his absence and the choice of his lieutenants. The blind partiality of fraternal love might excuse the promotion of his brother Peter, who fled with equal disgrace from the Barbarians, from his own soldiers, and from the inhabitants of a Roman city. That city, if we may credit the resemblance of name and character, was the famous Azimuntium,46 which had alone repelled the tempest of Attila. The example of her warlike youth was propagated to succeeding generations; and they obtained, from the first or the second Justin, an honourable privilege, that their valour should be always reserved for the defence of their native country. The brother of Maurice attempted to violate this privilege, and to mingle a patriot band with the mercenaries of his camp; they retired to the church, he was not awed by the sanctity of the place; the people rose in their cause, the gates were shut, the ramparts were manned; and the cowardice of Peter was found equal to his arrogance and injustice. The military fame of Commentiolus47 is the object of satire or comedy rather than of serious history, since he was even deficient in the vile and vulgar qualification of personal courage. His solemn Edition: current; Page: [75] councils, strange evolutions, and secret orders always supplied an apology for flight or delay. If he marched against the enemy, the pleasant valleys of Mount Hæmus opposed an insuperable barrier; but in his retreat he explored, with fearless curiosity, the most difficult and obsolete paths, which had almost escaped the memory of the oldest native. The only blood which he lost was drawn, in a real or affected malady, by the lancet of a surgeon; and his health, which felt with exquisite sensibility the approach of the Barbarians, was uniformly restored by the repose and safety of the winter season. A prince who could promote and support this unworthy favourite must derive no glory from the accidental merit of his colleague Priscus.48 In five successive battles, which seem to have been conducted with skill and resolution, seventeen thousand two hundred Barbarians were made prisoners; near sixty thousand, with four sons of the chagan, were slain; the Roman general surprised a peaceful district of the Gepidæ, who slept under the protection of the Avars; and his last trophies were erected on the banks of the Danube and the Theiss. Since the death of Trajan, the arms of the empire had not penetrated so deeply into the old Dacia; yet the success of Priscus was transient and barren; and he was soon recalled by the apprehension that Baian, with dauntless spirit and recruited forces, was preparing to avenge his defeat under the walls of Constantinople.49

The theory of war was not more familiar to the camps of Cæsar and Trajan than to those of Justinian and Maurice.50 The iron of Tuscany or Pontus still received the keenest Edition: current; Page: [76] temper from the skill of the Byzantine workmen. The magazines were plentifully stored with every species of offensive and defensive arms. In the construction and use of ships, engines, and fortifications, the Barbarians admired the superior ingenuity of a people whom they so often vanquished in the field. The science of tactics, the order, evolutions, and stratagems of antiquity, was transcribed and studied in the books of the Greeks and Romans. But the solitude or degeneracy of the provinces could no longer supply a race of men to handle those weapons, to guard those walls, to navigate those ships, and to reduce the theory of war into bold and successful practice. The genius of Belisarius and Narses had been formed without a master, and expired without a disciple. Neither honour, nor patriotism, nor generous superstition could animate the lifeless bodies of slaves and strangers, who had succeeded to the honours of the legions; it was in the camp alone that the emperor should have exercised a despotic command; it was only in the camps that his authority was disobeyed and insulted; he appeased and inflamed with gold the licentiousness of the troops; but their vices were inherent, their victories were accidental, and their costly maintenance exhausted the substance of a state which they were unable to defend. After a long and pernicious indulgence, the cure of this inveterate evil was undertaken by Maurice; but the rash attempt, which drew destruction on his own head, tended only to aggravate the disease. A reformer should be exempt from the suspicion of interest, and he must possess the confidence and esteem of those whom he proposes to reclaim. The troops of Maurice might listen to the voice of a victorious leader; they disdained the admonitions of statesmen and sophists; and, when they received an edict which deducted from their pay the price of their arms and clothing, they execrated the avarice of a prince Edition: current; Page: [77] insensible of the dangers and fatigues from which he had escaped. The camps both of Asia and Europe were agitated with frequent and furious seditions;51 the enraged soldiers of Edessa pursued, with reproaches, with threats, with wounds, their trembling generals; they overturned the statues of the emperor, cast stones against the miraculous image of Christ, and either rejected the yoke of all civil and military laws or instituted a dangerous model of voluntary subordination. The monarch, always distant and often deceived, was incapable of yielding or persisting according to the exigence of the moment. But the fear of a general revolt induced him too readily to accept any act of valour or any expression of loyalty as an atonement for the popular offence; the new reform was abolished as hastily as it had been announced; and the troops, instead of punishment and restraint, were agreeably surprised by a gracious proclamation of immunities and rewards. But the soldiers accepted without gratitude the tardy and reluctant gifts of the emperor; their insolence was elated by the discovery of his weakness and their own strength; and their mutual hatred was inflamed beyond the desire of forgivenes or the hope of reconciliation. The historians of the times adopt the vulgar suspicion that Maurice conspired to destroy the troops whom he had laboured to reform; the misconduct and favour of Commentiolus are imputed to this malevolent design; and every age must condemn the inhumanity or avarice52 of a prince who, by the trifling ransom of six thousand pieces of gold, might have prevented the Edition: current; Page: [78] massacre of twelve thousand prisoners in the hands of the chagan. In the just fervour of indignation, an order was signified to the army of the Danube that they should spare the magazines of the province and establish their winter quarters in the hostile country of the Avars. The measure of their grievances was full: they pronounced Maurice unworthy to reign, expelled or slaughtered his faithful adherents, and under the command of Phocas, a simple centurion, returned by hasty marches to the neighbourhood of Constantinople. After a long series of legal succession, the military disorders of the third century were again revived; yet such was the novelty of the enterprise that the insurgents were awed by their own rashness. They hesitated to invest their favourite with the vacant purple,53 and, while they rejected all treaty with Maurice himself, they held a friendly correspondence with his son Theodosius and with Germanus the father-in-law of the royal youth. So obscure had been the former condition of Phocas that the emperor was ignorant of the name and character of his rival; but, as soon as he learned that the centurion, though bold in sedition, was timid in the face of danger, “Alas!” cried the desponding prince, “if he is a coward, he will surely be a murderer.”

Yet, if Constantinople had been firm and faithful the murderer might have spent his fury against the walls; and the rebel army would have been gradually consumed or reconciled by the prudence of the emperor. In the games of the circus, which he repeated with unusual pomp, Maurice disguised with smiles of confidence the anxiety of his heart, condescended to solicit the applause of the factions, and flattered their pride by accepting from their respective tribunes a list of nine hundred blues and fifteen hundred greens, Edition: current; Page: [79] whom he affected to esteem as the solid pillars of his throne. Their treacherous or languid support betrayed his weakness and hastened his fall; the green faction were the secret accomplices of the rebels, and the blues recommended lenity and moderation in a contest with their Roman brethren. The rigid and parsimonious virtues of Maurice had long since alienated the hearts of his subjects: as he walked barefoot in a religious procession, he was rudely assaulted with stones, and his guards were compelled to present their iron maces in the defence of his person. A fanatic monk ran through the streets with a drawn sword, denouncing against him the wrath and the sentence of God, and a vile plebeian, who represented his countenance and apparel, was seated on an ass and pursued by the imprecations of the multitude.54 The emperor suspected the popularity of Germanus with the soldiers and citizens; he feared, he threatened, but he delayed to strike; the patrician fled to the sanctuary of the church; the people rose in his defence, the walls were deserted by the guards, and the lawless city was abandoned to the flames and rapine of a nocturnal tumult. In a small bark, the unfortunate Maurice, with his wife and nine children, escaped to the Asiatic shore, but the violence of the wind compelled him to land at the church of St. Autonomus55 near Chalcedon, from whence he despatched Theodosius, his eldest son, to implore the gratitude and friendship of the Persian monarch. For himself, he refused to fly: his Edition: current; Page: [80] body was tortured with sciatic pains,56 his mind was enfeebled by superstition; he patiently awaited the event of the revolution, and addressed a fervent and public prayer to the Almighty, that the punishment of his sins might be inflicted in this world rather than in a future life. After the abdication of Maurice, the two factions disputed the choice of an emperor; but the favourite of the blues was rejected by the jealousy of their antagonists, and Germanus himself was hurried along by the crowds, who rushed to the palace of Hebdomon,57 seven miles from the city, to adore the majesty of Phocas the centurion. A modest wish of resigning the purple to the rank and merit of Germanus was opposed by his resolution, more obstinate and equally sincere; the senate and clergy obeyed his summons, and, as soon as the patriarch was assured of his orthodox belief, he consecrated the successful usurper in the church of St. John the Baptist. On the third day,58 amidst the acclamations of a thoughtless people, Phocas made his public entry in a chariot drawn by four white horses; the revolt of the troops was rewarded by a lavish donative; and the new sovereign, after visiting the palace, beheld from his throne the games of the hippodrome. In a dispute of precedency between the two factions, his partial judgment inclined in favour of the greens. “Remember that Maurice is still alive!” resounded from the opposite side; and the indiscreet clamour of the blues admonished and stimulated the cruelty of the tyrant. The ministers of death were despatched to Chalcedon; they dragged the emperor from his sanctuary; and the five sons of Maurice were successively murdered before the eyes of Edition: current; Page: [81] their agonising parent. At each stroke which he felt in his heart, he found strength to rehearse a pious ejaculation: “Thou art just, O Lord: and thy judgments are righteous.” And such, in the last moments, was his rigid attachment to truth and justice that he revealed to the soldiers the pious falsehood of a nurse who presented her own child in the place of a royal infant.59 The tragic scene was finally closed by the execution of the emperor himself, in the twentieth year of his reign, and the sixty-third of his age. The bodies of the father and his five sons were cast into the sea, their heads were exposed at Constantinople to the insults or pity of the multitude, and it was not till some signs of putrefaction had appeared, that Phocas connived at the private burial of these venerable remains. In that grave, the faults and errors of Maurice were kindly interred. His fate alone was remembered; and at the end of twenty years, in the recital of the history of Theophylact, the mournful tale was interrupted by the tears of the audience.60

Such tears must have flowed in secret, and such compassion would have been criminal, under the reign of Phocas, who was peaceably acknowledged in the provinces of the East and West. The images of the emperor and his wife Leontia were exposed in the Lateran to the veneration of the clergy and senate of Rome, and afterwards deposited in the palace of the Cæsars, between those of Constantine and Theodosius. As a subject and a Christian, it was the duty of Gregory to acquiesce in the established government, but the joyful applause with which he salutes the fortune of the Edition: current; Page: [82] assassin has sullied with indelible disgrace the character of the saint. The successor of the apostles might have inculcated with decent firmness the guilt of blood, and the necessity of repentance: he is content to celebrate the deliverance of the people and the fall of the oppressor; to rejoice that the piety and benignity of Phocas have been raised by Providence to the Imperial throne; to pray that his hands may be strengthened against all his enemies; and to express a wish, perhaps a prophecy, that, after a long and triumphant reign, he may be transferred from a temporal to an everlasting kingdom.61 I have already traced the steps of a revolution so pleasing, in Gregory’s opinion, both to heaven and earth; and Phocas does not appear less hateful in the exercise than in the acquisition of power. The pencil of an impartial historian has delineated the portrait of a monster:62 his diminutive and deformed person, the closeness of his shaggy eye-brows, his red hair, his beardless chin, and his cheek disfigured and discoloured by a formidable scar. Ignorant of letters, of laws, and even of arms, he indulged in the supreme rank a more ample privilege of lust and drunkenness, and his brutal pleasures were either injurious to his subjects or disgraceful to himself. Without assuming the office of a prince, he renounced the profession of a soldier; and the reign of Phocas afflicted Europe with ignominious peace, and Asia with desolating war. His savage temper was Edition: current; Page: [83] inflamed by passion, hardened by fear, exasperated by resistance or reproach. The flight of Theodosius to the Persian court had been intercepted by a rapid pursuit or a deceitful message: he was beheaded at Nice, and the last hours of the young prince were soothed by the comforts of religion and the consciousness of innocence. Yet his phantom disturbed the repose of the usurper; a whisper was circulated through the East, that the son of Maurice was still alive; the people expected their avenger, and the widow and daughters of the late emperor would have adopted as their son and brother the vilest of mankind. In the massacre of the Imperial family,63 the mercy, or rather the discretion, of Phocas had spared these unhappy females, and they were decently confined to a private house. But the spirit of the empress Constantina, still mindful of her father, her husband, and her sons, aspired to freedom and revenge. At the dead of night, she escaped to the sanctuary of St. Sophia; but her tears, and the gold of her associate Germanus, were insufficient to provoke an insurrection. Her life was forfeited to revenge, and even to justice; but the patriarch obtained and pledged an oath for her safety; a monastery was allotted for her prison, and the widow of Maurice accepted and abused the lenity of his assassin. The discovery or the suspicion of a second conspiracy dissolved the engagements and rekindled the fury of Phocas. A matron who commanded the respect and pity of mankind, the daughter, wife, and mother of emperors, was tortured like the vilest malefactor, to force a confession of her designs and associates; and the empress Constantina, with her three innocent daughters, was beheaded at Chalcedon, on the same ground which had been Edition: current; Page: [84] stained with the blood of her husband and five sons. After such an example, it would be superfluous to enumerate the names and sufferings of meaner victims. Their condemnation was seldom preceded by the forms of trial, and their punishment was embittered by the refinements of cruelty: their eyes were pierced, their tongues were torn from the root, the hands and feet were amputated; some expired under the lash, others in the flames, others again were transfixed with arrows; and a simple speedy death was mercy which they could rarely obtain. The hippodrome, the sacred asylum of the pleasures and the liberty of the Romans, was polluted with heads and limbs and mangled bodies; and the companions of Phocas were the most sensible that neither his favour nor their services could protect them from a tyrant, the worthy rival of the Caligulas and Domitians of the first age of the empire.64

A daughter of Phocas, his only child, was given in marriage to the patrician Crispus,65 and the royal images of the bride and bridegroom were indiscreetly placed in the circus, by the side of the emperor. The father must desire that his posterity should inherit the fruit of his crimes, but the monarch was offended by this premature and popular association; the tribunes of the green faction, who accused the officious error of their sculptors, were condemned to instant death; their lives were granted to the prayers of the people; but Crispus might reasonably doubt whether a jealous usurper could forget and pardon his involuntary competition. The green faction was alienated by the ingratitude of Phocas and the Edition: current; Page: [85] loss of their privileges; every province of the empire was ripe for rebellion; and Heraclius, exarch of Africa, persisted above two years in refusing all tribute and obedience to the centurion who disgraced the throne of Constantinople. By the secret emissaries of Crispus and the senate, the independent exarch was solicited to save and to govern his country; but his ambition was chilled by age, and he resigned the dangerous enterprise to his son Heraclius, and to Nicetas, the son of Gregory his friend and lieutenant. The powers of Africa were armed by the two adventurous youths; they agreed that the one should navigate the fleet from Carthage to Constantinople, that the other should lead an army through Egypt and Asia, and that the Imperial purple should be the reward of diligence and success. A faint rumour of their undertaking was conveyed to the ears of Phocas, and the wife and mother of the younger Heraclius were secured as the hostages of his faith; but the treacherous art of Crispus extenuated the distant peril, the means of defence were neglected or delayed, and the tyrant supinely slept till the African navy cast anchor in the Hellespont. Their standard was joined at Abydus by the fugitives and exiles who thirsted for revenge; the ships of Heraclius, whose lofty masts were adorned with the holy symbols of religion,66 steered their triumphant course through the Propontis; and Phocas beheld from the windows of the palace his approaching and inevitable fate. The green faction was tempted, by gifts and promises, to oppose a feeble and fruitless resistance to the landing of the Africans; but the people, and even the guards, were determined by the well-timed defection of Crispus; and the tyrant was seized by a private enemy, who boldly invaded the solitude of the palace. Stripped of the Edition: current; Page: [86] diadem and purple, clothed in a vile habit, and loaded with chains, he was transported in a small boat to the Imperial galley of Heraclius, who reproached him with the crimes of his abominable reign. “Wilt thou govern better?” were the last words of the despair of Phocas. After suffering each variety of insult and torture, his head was severed from his body, the mangled trunk was cast into the flames, and the same treatment was inflicted on the statues of the vain usurper and the seditious banner of the green faction. The voice of the clergy, the senate, and the people invited Heraclius to ascend the throne which he had purified from guilt and ignominy; after some graceful hesitation, he yielded to their entreaties. His coronation was accompanied by that of his wife Eudoxia; and their posterity, till the fourth generation, continued to reign over the empire of the East. The voyage of Heraclius had been easy and prosperous; the tedious march of Nicetas was not accomplished before the decision of the contest; but he submitted without a murmur to the fortune of his friend, and his laudable intentions were rewarded with an equestrian statue and a daughter of the emperor. It was more difficult to trust the fidelity of Crispus, whose recent services were recompensed by the command of the Cappadocian army. His arrogance soon provoked, and seemed to excuse, the ingratitude of his new sovereign. In the presence of the senate, the son-in-law of Phocas was condemned to embrace the monastic life; and the sentence was justified by the weighty observation of Heraclius that the man who had betrayed his father could never be faithful to his friend.67

Even after his death the republic was afflicted by the crimes of Phocas, which armed with a pious cause the most Edition: current; Page: [87] formidable of her enemies. According to the friendly and equal forms of the Byzantine and Persian courts, he announced his exaltation to the throne; and his ambassador Lilius, who had presented him with the heads of Maurice and his sons, was the best qualified to describe the circumstances of the tragic scene.68 However it might be varnished by fiction or sophistry, Chosroes turned with horror from the assassin, imprisoned the pretended envoy, disclaimed the usurper, and declared himself the avenger of his father and benefactor. The sentiments of grief and resentment which humanity would feel, and honour would dictate, promoted, on this occasion, the interest of the Persian king; and his interest was powerfully magnified by the national and religious prejudices of the Magi and satraps. In a strain of artful adulation, which assumed the language of freedom, they presumed to censure the excess of his gratitude and friendship for the Greeks: a nation with whom it was dangerous to conclude either peace or alliance; whose superstition was devoid of truth and justice; and who must be incapable of any virtue, since they could perpetrate the most atrocious of crimes, the impious murder of their sovereign.69 For the crime of an ambitious centurion, the nation which he oppressed was chastised with the calamities of war; and the same calamities, at the end of twenty years, were retaliated and redoubled on the heads of the Persians.70 The general Edition: current; Page: [88] who had restored Chosroes to the throne still commanded in the East; and the name of Narses was the formidable sound with which the Assyrian mothers were accustomed to terrify their infants. It is not improbable that a native subject of Persia should encourage his master and his friend to deliver and possess the provinces of Asia. It is still more probable that Chosroes should animate his troops by the assurance that the sword which they dreaded the most would remain in its scabbard or be drawn in their favour. The hero could not depend on the faith of a tyrant, and the tyrant was conscious how little he deserved the obedience of an hero. Narses was removed from his military command; he reared an independent standard at Hierapolis in Syria; he was betrayed by fallacious promises, and burnt alive in the market-place of Constantinople. Deprived of the only chief whom they could fear or esteem, the bands which he had led to victory were twice broken by the cavalry, trampled by the elephants, and pierced by the arrows of the Barbarians; and a great number of the captives were beheaded on the field of battle by the sentence of the victor, who might justly condemn these seditious mercenaries as the authors or accomplices of the death of Maurice. Under the reign of Phocas, the fortifications of Merdin, Dara, Amida, and Edessa were successively besieged, reduced, and destroyed by the Persian monarch; he passed the Euphrates, occupied the Syrian cities, Hierapolis, Chalcis, and Berœa or Aleppo, and soon encompassed the walls of Antioch with his irresistible arms. The rapid tide of success discloses the decay of the empire, the incapacity of Phocas, and the disaffection of his subjects; and Chosroes provided a decent apology for their submission or revolt, by an impostor who attended his camp as Edition: current; Page: [89] the son of Maurice71 and the lawful heir of the monarchy.

The first intelligence from the East which Heraclius received72 was that of the loss of Antioch; but the aged metropolis, so often overturned by earthquakes and pillaged by the enemy, could supply but a small and languid stream of treasure and blood. The Persians were equally successful and more fortunate in the sack of Cæsarea, the capital of Cappadocia; and, as they advanced beyond the ramparts of the frontier, the boundary of ancient war, they found a less obstinate resistance and a more plentiful harvest. The pleasant vale of Damascus has been adorned in every age with a royal city; her obscure felicity has hitherto escaped the historian of the Roman empire; but Chosroes reposed his troops in the paradise of Damascus before he ascended the hills of Libanus or invaded the cities of the Phœnician coast. The conquest of Jerusalem,73 which had been meditated by Nushirvan, was achieved by the zeal and avarice of his grandson; the ruin of the proudest monument of Christianity was vehemently urged by the intolerant spirit of the Magi; and he could enlist, for this holy warfare, an army of six-and-twenty thousand Jews, whose furious bigotry might compensate, Edition: current; Page: [90] in some degree, for the want of valour and discipline. After the reduction of Galilee and the region beyond the Jordan, whose resistance appears to have delayed the fate of the capital, Jerusalem itself was taken by assault; the sepulchre of Christ, and the stately churches of Helena and Constantine, were consumed, or at least damaged, by the flames; the devout offerings of three hundred years were rifled in one sacrilegious day; the patriarch Zachariah, and the true cross, were transported into Persia; and the massacre of ninety thousand Christians is imputed to the Jews and Arabs who swelled the disorder of the Persian march. The fugitives of Palestine were entertained at Alexandria by the charity of John the archbishop, who is distinguished among a crowd of saints by the epithet of alms-giver;74 and the revenues of the church, with a treasure of three hundred thousand pounds, were restored to the true proprietors, the poor of every country and every denomination. But Egypt itself, the only province which had been exempt since the time of Diocletian from foreign and domestic war, was again subdued by the successors of Cyrus.75 Pelusium, the key of that impervious country, was surprised by the cavalry of the Persians: they passed with impunity the innumerable channels of the Delta, and explored the long valley of the Nile, from the pyramids of Memphis to the confines of Edition: current; Page: [91] Æthiopia. Alexandria might have been relieved by a naval force, but the archbishop and the prefect embarked for Cyprus; and Chosroes entered the second city of the empire, which still preserved a wealthy remnant of industry and commerce. His western trophy was erected, not on the walls of Carthage,76 but in the neighbourhood of Tripoli; the Greek colonies of Cyrene were finally extirpated; and the conqueror, treading in the footsteps of Alexander, returned in triumph through the sands of the Libyan desert. In the same campaign, another army advanced from the Euphrates to the Thracian Bosphorus; Chalcedon surrendered after a long siege, and a Persian camp was maintained above ten years in the presence of Constantinople. The sea-coast of Pontus, the city of Ancyra, and the isle of Rhodes are enumerated among the last conquests of the Great King; and, if Chosroes had possessed any maritime power, his boundless ambition would have spread slavery and desolation over the provinces of Europe.

From the long-disputed banks of the Tigris and Euphrates, the reign of the grandson of Nushirvan was suddenly extended to the Hellespont and the Nile, the ancient limits of the Persian monarchy. But the provinces, which had been fashioned by the habits of six hundred years to the virtues and vices of the Roman government, supported with reluctance the yoke of the Barbarians. The idea of a republic was kept alive by the institutions, or at least by the writings, of the Greeks and Romans, and the subjects of Heraclius had Edition: current; Page: [92] been educated to pronounce the words of liberty and law. But it has always been the pride and policy of Oriental princes to display the titles and attributes of their omnipotence; to upbraid a nation of slaves with their true name and abject condition; and to enforce, by cruel and insolent threats, the rigour of their absolute commands. The Christians of the East were scandalised by the worship of fire and the impious doctrine of the two principles; the Magi were not less intolerant than the bishops; and the martyrdom of some native Persians, who had deserted the religion of Zoroaster,77 was conceived to be the prelude of a fierce and general persecution. By the oppressive laws of Justinian, the adversaries of the church were made the enemies of the state; the alliance of the Jews, Nestorians, and Jacobites had contributed to the success of Chosroes, and his partial favour to the sectaries provoked the hatred and fears of the Catholic clergy. Conscious of their fear and hatred, the Persian conqueror governed his new subjects with an iron sceptre; and, as if he suspected the stability of his dominion, he exhausted their wealth by exorbitant tributes and licentious rapine, despoiled or demolished the temples of the East, and transported to his hereditary realms the gold, the silver, the precious marbles, the arts, and the artists of the Asiatic cities. In the obscure picture of the calamities of the empire,78 it is not easy to discern the figure of Chosroes himself, to separate his actions from those of his lieutenants, or to ascertain his personal merit in the general blaze of glory and magnificence. He enjoyed with ostentation the fruits of victory, Edition: current; Page: [93] and frequently retired from the hardships of war to the luxury of the palace. But in the space of twenty-four years, he was deterred by superstition or resentment from approaching the gates of Ctesiphon; and his favourite residence of Artemita, or Dastagerd,79 was situate beyond the Tigris, about sixty miles to the north of the capital.80 The adjacent pastures were covered with flocks and herds; the paradise or park was replenished with pheasants, peacocks, ostriches, roebucks, and wild boars; and the noble game of lions and tigers was sometimes turned loose for the boder pleasures of the chase. Nine hundred and sixty elephants were maintained for the use or splendour of the Great King; his tents and baggage were carried into the field by twelve thousand great camels and eight thousand of a smaller size;81 and the royal stables were filled with six thousand mules and horses, among whom the names of Shebdiz and Barid are renowned for their speed or beauty. Six thousand guards successively mounted before the palace gate; the service of the interior apartments was performed by twelve thousand slaves; and in the number of three thousand virgins, the fairest of Asia, some happy concubine might console her master for the age or the indifference of Sira. The various treasures of gold, silver, gems, silk, and aromatics were deposited in an hundred subterraneous vaults; and the chamber Badaverd denoted the accidental gift of the winds which had wafted the spoils of Heraclius into one of the Syrian harbours of his rival. The voice of flattery, and perhaps of fiction, is not ashamed to compute the thirty thousand rich hangings Edition: current; Page: [94] that adorned the walls, the forty thousand columns of silver, or more probably of marble and plated wood, that supported the roof; and the thousand globes of gold suspended in the dome, to imitate the motions of the planets and the constellations of the zodiac.82 While the Persian monarch contemplated the wonders of his art and power, he received an epistle from an obscure citizen of Mecca, inviting him to acknowledge Mahomet as the apostle of God. He rejected the invitation, and tore the epistle. “It is thus,” exclaimed the Arabian prophet, “that God will tear the kingdom, and reject the supplications, of Chosroes.”83 Placed on the verge of the two great empires of the East, Mahomet observed with secret joy the progress of their mutual destruction; and, in the midst of the Persian triumphs, he ventured to foretell that, before many years should elapse, victory would again return to the banners of the Romans.84

At the time when this prediction is said to have been delivered, no prophecy could be more distant from its accomplishment, since the first twelve years of Heraclius announced the approaching dissolution of the empire. If the motives of Chosroes had been pure and honourable, he Edition: current; Page: [95] must have ended the quarrel with the death of Phocas, and he would have embraced, as his best ally, the fortunate African who had so generously avenged the injuries of his benefactor Maurice. The prosecution of the war revealed the true character of the Barbarian; and the suppliant embassies of Heraclius to beseech his clemency, that he would spare the innocent, accept a tribute, and give peace to the world, were rejected with contemptuous silence or insolent menace. Syria, Egypt, and the provinces of Asia were subdued by the Persian arms, while Europe, from the confines of Istria to the long wall of Thrace, was oppressed by the Avars, unsatiated with the blood and rapine of the Italian war. They had coolly massacred their male captives in the sacred field of Pannonia; the women and children were reduced to servitude; and the noblest virgins were abandoned to the promiscuous lust of the Barbarians. The amorous matron who opened the gates of Friuli passed a short night in the arms of her royal lover; the next evening, Romilda was condemned to the embraces of twelve Avars; and the third day the Lombard princess was impaled in the sight of the camp, while the chagan observed, with a cruel smile, that such a husband was the fit recompense of her lewdness and perfidy.85 By these implacable enemies Heraclius, on either side, was insulted and besieged; and the Roman empire was reduced to the walls of Constantinople, with the remnant of Greece, Italy, and Africa, and some maritime cities, from Tyre to Trebizond, of the Asiatic coast. After the loss of Egypt, the capital was afflicted by famine and pestilence; and the emperor, incapable of resistance and hopeless of relief, had resolved to transfer his person and government to the more secure residence of Carthage.86 His ships were already laden with the treasures of the palace; but his flight Edition: current; Page: [96] was arrested by the patriarch, who armed the powers of religion in the defence of his country, led Heraclius to the altar of St. Sophia, and extorted a solemn oath that he would live and die with the people whom God had entrusted to his care. The chagan was encamped in the plains of Thrace, but he dissembled his perfidious designs, and solicited an interview with the emperor near the town of Heraclea. Their reconciliation was celebrated with equestrian games, the senate and people in their gayest apparel resorted to the festival of peace, and the Avars beheld, with envy and desire, the spectacle of Roman luxury. On a sudden, the hippodrome was encompassed by the Scythian cavalry, who had pressed their secret and nocturnal march; the tremendous sound of the chagan’s whip gave the signal of the assault; and Heraclius, wrapping his diadem round his arm, was saved, with extreme hazard, by the fleetness of his horse. So rapid was the pursuit that the Avars almost entered the golden gate of Constantinople with the flying crowds;87 but the plunder of the suburbs rewarded their treason, and they transported beyond the Danube two hundred and seventy thousand captives. On the shore of Chalcedon, the emperor held a safer conference with a more honourable foe, who, before Heraclius descended from his galley, saluted with reverence and pity the majesty of the purple. The friendly Edition: current; Page: [97] offer of Sain the Persian general, to conduct an embassy to the presence of the Great King, was accepted with the warmest gratitude, and the prayer for pardon and peace was humbly presented by the prætorian prefect, the prefect of the city, and one of the first ecclesiastics of the patriarchal church.88 But the lieutenant of Chosroes had fatally mistaken the intentions of his master. “It was not an embassy,” said the tyrant of Asia, “it was the person of Heraclius, bound in chains, that he should have brought to the foot of my throne. I will never give peace to the emperor of Rome till he has abjured his crucified God and embraced the worship of the sun.” Sain was flayed alive, according to the inhuman practice of his country; and the separate and rigorous confinement of the ambassadors violated the law of nations and the faith of an express stipulation. Yet the experience of six years at length persuaded the Persian monarch to renounce the conquest of Constantinople and to specify the annual tribute or ransom of the Roman empire: a thousand talents of gold, a thousand talents of silver, a thousand silk robes, a thousand horses, and a thousand virgins. Heraclius subscribed these ignominious terms, but the time and space which he obtained to collect such treasures from the poverty of the East was industriously employed in the preparations of a bold and desperate attack.

Of the characters conspicuous in history, that of Heraclius is one of the most extraordinary and inconsistent. In the first and last years of a long reign, the emperor appears to be the slave of sloth, of pleasure, or of superstition, the careless and impotent spectator of the public calamities. But the languid mists of the morning and evening are separated by the brightness of the meridian sun: the Arcadius of the palace arose the Cæsar of the camp; and the honour of Rome Edition: current; Page: [98] and Heraclius was gloriously retrieved by the exploits and trophies of six adventurous campaigns. It was the duty of the Byzantine historians to have revealed the causes of his slumber and vigilance. At this distance we can only conjecture that he was endowed with more personal courage than political resolution; that he was detained by the charms, and perhaps the arts, of his niece Martina, with whom, after the death of Eudocia, he contracted an incestuous marriage;89 and that he yielded to the base advice of the counsellors, who urged, as a fundamental law, that the life of the emperor should never be exposed in the field.90 Perhaps he was awakened by the last insolent demand of the Persian conqueror; but, at the moment when Heraclius assumed the spirit of a hero, the only hopes of the Romans were drawn from the vicissitudes of fortune, which might threaten the proud prosperity of Chosroes and must be favourable to those who had attained the lowest period of depression.91 To provide for the expenses of war was the first care of the emperor; and, for the purpose of collecting the tribute, he was allowed to solicit the benevolence of the Eastern provinces. But the revenue no longer flowed in the usual channels; Edition: current; Page: [99] the credit of an arbitrary prince is annihilated by his power; and the courage of Heraclius was first displayed in daring to borrow the consecrated wealth of churches under the solemn vow of restoring, with usury, whatever he had been compelled to employ in the service of religion and of the empire. The clergy themselves appear to have sympathised with the public distress, and the discreet patriarch of Alexandria, without admitting the precedent of sacrilege, assisted his sovereign by the miraculous or seasonable revelation of a secret treasure.92 Of the soldiers who had conspired with Phocas, only two were found to have survived the stroke of time and of the Barbarians;93 the loss, even of these seditious veterans, was imperfectly supplied by the new levies of Heraclius, and the gold of the sanctuary united, in the same camp, the names, and arms, and languages of the East and West. He would have been content with the neutrality of the Avars; and his friendly entreaty that the chagan would act not as the enemy but as the guardian of the empire was accompanied with a more persuasive donative of two hundred thousand pieces of gold. Two days after the festival of Easter,94 the emperor, exchanging his purple for the simple garb of a penitent and warrior,95 gave the signal of his departure. To the faith of the people Heraclius Edition: current; Page: [100] recommended his children; the civil and military powers were vested in the most deserving hands; and the discretion of the patriarch and senate was authorised to save or surrender the city, if they should be oppressed in his absence by the superior forces of the enemy.

The neighbouring heights of Chalcedon were covered with tents and arms; but, if the new levies of Heraclius had been rashly led to the attack, the victory of the Persians in the sight of Constantinople might have been the last day of the Roman empire. As imprudent would it have been to advance into the provinces of Asia, leaving their innumerable cavalry to intercept his convoys, and continually to hang on the lassitude and disorder of his rear.96 But the Greeks were still masters of the sea; a fleet of galleys, transports and storeships, was assembled in the harbour; the Barbarians consented to embark; a steady wind carried them through the Hellespont; the western and southern coast of Asia Minor lay on their left hand; the spirit of their chief was first displayed in a storm; and even the eunuchs of his train were excited to suffer and to work by the example of their master. He landed his troops on the confines of Syria and Cilicia, in the gulf of Scanderoon, where the coast suddenly turns to the south; and his discernment was expressed in the choice of this important post.97 From all sides, the scattered garrisons Edition: current; Page: [101] of the maritime cities and the mountains might repair with speed and safety to his Imperial standard. The natural fortifications of Cilicia protected, and even concealed, the camp of Heraclius,98 which was pitched near Issus, on the same ground where Alexander had vanquished the host of Darius. The angle which the emperor occupied was deeply indented into a vast semicircle of the Asiatic, Armenian, and Syrian provinces; and, to whatsoever point of the circumference he should direct his attack, it was easy for him to dissemble his own motions and to prevent those of the enemy. In the camp of Issus the Roman general reformed the sloth and disorder of the veterans, and educated the new recruits in the knowledge and practice of military virtue. Unfolding the miraculous image of Christ, he urged them to revenge the holy altars which had been profaned by the worshippers of fire; addressing them by the endearing appellations of sons and brethren, he deplored the public and private wrongs of the republic. The subjects of a monarch were persuaded that they fought in the cause of freedom; Edition: current; Page: [102] and a similar enthusiasm was communicated to the foreign mercenaries, who must have viewed with equal indifference the interest of Rome and of Persia. Heraclius himself, with the skill and patience of a centurion, inculcated the lessons of the school of tactics, and the soldiers were assiduously trained in the use of their weapons and the exercises and evolutions of the field. The cavalry and infantry in light or heavy armour were divided into two parties; the trumpets were fixed in the centre, and their signals directed the march, the charge, the retreat, or pursuit; the direct or oblique order, the deep or extended phalanx; to represent in fictitious combat the operations of genuine war. Whatever hardship the emperor imposed on the troops, he inflicted with equal severity on himself; their labour, their diet, their sleep, were measured by the inflexible rules of discipline; and, without despising the enemy, they were taught to repose an implicit confidence in their own valour and the wisdom of their leader. Cilicia was soon encompassed with the Persian arms; but their cavalry hesitated to enter the defiles of Mount Taurus, till they were circumvented by the evolutions of Heraclius, who insensibly gained their rear, whilst he appeared to present his front in order of battle. By a false motion, which seemed to threaten Armenia, he drew them against their wishes to a general action. They were tempted by the artful disorder of his camp; but, when they advanced to combat, the ground, the sun, and the expectation of both armies were unpropitious to the Barbarians; the Romans successfully repeated their tactics in a field of battle;99 and the event of the day declared to the world that the Persians were not invincible and that an hero was invested with the purple. Strong in victory and fame, Heraclius boldly ascended the heights of Mount Taurus, directed his march Edition: current; Page: [103] through the plains of Cappadocia, and established his troops for the winter season in safe and plentiful quarters on the banks of the river Halys.100 His soul was superior to the vanity of entertaining Constantinople with an imperfect triumph; but the presence of the emperor was indispensably required to soothe the restless and rapacious spirit of the Avars.

Since the days of Scipio and Hannibal, no bolder enterprise has been attempted than that which Heraclius achieved for the deliverance of the empire.101 He permitted the Persians to oppress for a while the provinces, and to insult with impunity the capital, of the East; while the Roman emperor explored his perilous way through the Black Sea102 and the Edition: current; Page: [104] mountains of Armenia, penetrated into the heart of Persia,103 and recalled the armies of the Great King to the defence of their bleeding country. With a select band of five thousand soldiers, Heraclius sailed from Constantinople to Trebizond; assembled his forces which had wintered in the Pontic regions; and, from the mouth of the Phasis to the Caspian sea, encouraged his subjects and allies to march with the successor of Constantine under the faithful and victorious banner of the cross. When the legions of Lucullus and Pompey first passed the Euphrates, they blushed at their easy victory over the natives of Armenia. But the long experience of war had hardened the minds and bodies of that effeminate people; their zeal and bravery were approved in the service of a declining empire; they abhorred and feared the usurpation of the house of Sassan, and the memory of persecution envenomed their pious hatred of the enemies of Christ. The limits of Armenia, as it had been ceded to the emperor Maurice, extended as far as the Araxes; the river submitted to the indignity of a bridge;104 and Heraclius, in Edition: current; Page: [105] the footsteps of Mark Antony, advanced towards the city of Tauris or Gandzaca,105 the ancient and modern capital of one of the provinces of Media. At the head of forty thousand men, Chosroes himself had returned from some distant expedition to oppose the progress of the Roman arms; but he retreated on the approach of Heraclius, declining the generous alternative of peace or of battle. Instead of half a million of inhabitants, which have been ascribed to Tauris under the reign of the Sophys, the city contained no more than three thousand houses; but the value of the royal treasures was enhanced by a tradition that they were the spoils of Crœsus, which had been transported by Cyrus from the citadel of Sardes. The rapid conquests of Heraclius were suspended only by the winter season; a motive of prudence, or superstition,106 determined his retreat into the province of Albania, along the shores of the Caspian; and his tents were most probably pitched in the plains of Mogan,107 the favourite encampment of Oriental princes. In the course of this successful Edition: current; Page: [106] inroad, he signalised the zeal and revenge of a Christian emperor: at his command, the soldiers extinguished the fire, and destroyed the temples, of the Magi; the statues of Chosroes, who aspired to divine honours, were abandoned to the flames; and the ruins of Thebarma or Ormia,108 which had given birth to Zoroaster himself, made some atonement for the injuries of the holy sepulchre. A purer spirit of religion was shewn in the relief and deliverance of fifty thousand captives. Heraclius was rewarded by their tears and grateful acclamations; but this wise measure, which spread the fame of his benevolence, diffused the murmurs of the Persians against the pride and obstinacy of their own sovereign.

Amidst the glories of the succeeding campaign, Heraclius is almost lost to our eyes and to those of the Byzantine historians.109 From the spacious and fruitful plains of Albania, Edition: current; Page: [107] the emperor appears to follow the chain of Hyrcanian mountains, to descend into the province of Media or Irak, and to carry his victorious arms as far as the royal cities of Casbin and Ispahan, which had never been approached by a Roman conqueror. Alarmed by the danger of his kingdom, the powers of Chosroes were already recalled from the Nile and the Bosphorus, and three formidable armies110 surrounded, in a distant and hostile land, the camp of the emperor. The Colchian allies prepared to desert his standard; and the fears of the bravest veterans were expressed, rather than concealed, by their desponding silence. “Be not terrified,” said the intrepid Heraclius, “by the multitude of your foes. With the aid of Heaven, one Roman may triumph over a thousand Barbarians. But, if we devote our lives for the salvation of our brethren, we shall obtain the crown of martyrdom, and our immortal reward will be liberally paid by God and posterity.” These magnanimous sentiments were supported by the vigour of his actions. He repelled the threefold attack of the Persians, improved the divisions of their chiefs, and, by a well-concerted train of marches, retreats, and successful actions, finally chased them from the field into the fortified cities of Media and Assyria. In the severity of the winter season, Sarbaraza deemed himself secure in the walls of Salban; he was surprised by the activity of Heraclius, who divided his troops and performed a laborious march in the silence of the night. The flat roofs of the houses were defended with useless valour against the darts and torches of the Romans; the satraps and nobles of Persia, with their wives and children, and the flower of their martial youth, were either slain or made prisoners. The general escaped by a precipitate flight, but his golden armour was the prize of the conqueror; and the soldiers of Heraclius enjoyed the wealth and repose which they had so nobly deserved. On the return of spring, the emperor traversed in seven days the Edition: current; Page: [108] mountains of Curdistan, and passed without resistance the rapid stream of the Tigris. Oppressed by the weight of their spoils and captives, the Roman army halted under the walls of Amida; and Heraclius informed the senate of Constantinople of his safety and success, which they had already felt by the retreat of the besiegers. The bridges of the Euphrates were destroyed by the Persians; but, as soon as the emperor had discovered a ford, they hastily retired to defend the banks of the Sarus,111 in Cilicia. That river, an impetuous torrent, was about three hundred feet broad; the bridge was fortified with strong turrets; and the banks were lined with Barbarian archers. After a bloody conflict, which continued till the evening, the Romans prevailed in the assault, and a Persian of gigantic size was slain and thrown into the Sarus by the hand of the emperor himself. The enemies were dispersed and dismayed; Heraclius pursued his march to Sebaste in Cappadocia; and, at the expiration of three years, the same coast of the Euxine applauded his return from a long and victorious expedition.112

Instead of skirmishing on the frontier, the two monarchs who disputed the empire of the East aimed their desperate strokes at the heart of their rival. The military force of Persia was wasted by the marches and combats of twenty years, and many of the veterans, who had survived the perils of the sword and the climate, were still detained in the fortresses of Egypt and Syria. But the revenge and ambition of Chosroes exhausted his kingdom; and the new levies of subjects, strangers, and slaves were divided into three formidable bodies.113 The first army of fifty thousand men, illustrious Edition: current; Page: [109] by the ornament and title of the golden spears, was destined to march against Heraclius; the second was stationed to prevent his junction with the troops of his brother Theodorus; and the third was commanded to besiege Constantinople, and to second the operations of the chagan, with whom the Persian king had ratified a treaty of alliance and partition. Sarbar, the general of the third army, penetrated through the provinces of Asia to the well-known camp of Chalcedon, and amused himself with the destruction of the sacred and profane buildings of the Asiatic suburbs, while he impatiently waited the arrival of his Scythian friends on the opposite side of the Bosphorus. On the twenty-ninth of June, thirty thousand Barbarians, the vanguard of the Avars, forced the long wall, and drove into the capital a promiscuous crowd of peasants, citizens, and soldiers. Fourscore thousand114 of his native subjects, and of the vassal tribes of Gepidæ, Russians, Bulgarians, and Sclavonians, advanced under the standard of the chagan; a month was spent in marches and negotiations; but the whole city was invested on the thirty-first of July, from the suburbs of Pera and Galata to the Blachernæ and seven towers; and the inhabitants descried with terror the flaming signals of the European and Asiatic shores. In the meanwhile the magistrates of Constantinople repeatedly strove to purchase the retreat of the chagan; but their deputies were rejected and insulted; and he suffered the patricians to stand before his throne, while the Persian envoys, in silk robes, were seated by his side. “You see,” said the haughty Barbarian, “the proofs of my perfect union with the Great King; and his lieutenant is ready to send into my camp a select band of three thousand warriors. Presume no longer to tempt your master with a Edition: current; Page: [110] partial and inadequate ransom; your wealth and your city are the only presents worthy of my acceptance. For yourselves, I shall permit you to depart, each with an undergarment and a shirt; and, at my entreaty, my friend Sarbar will not refuse a passage through his lines. Your absent prince, even now a captive or a fugitive, has left Constantinople to its fate; nor can you escape the arms of the Avars and Persians, unless you could soar into air like birds, unless like fishes you could dive into the waves.”115 During ten successive days the capital was assaulted by the Avars, who had made some progress in the science of attack; they advanced to sap or batter the wall, under the cover of the impenetrable tortoise; their engines discharged a perpetual volley of stones and darts; and twelve lofty towers of wood exalted the combatants to the height of the neighbouring ramparts. But the senate and people were animated by the spirit of Heraclius, who had detached to their relief a body of twelve thousand cuirassiers; the powers of fire and mechanics were used with superior art and success in the defence of Constantinople; and the galleys, with two and three ranks of oars, commanded the Bosphorus, and rendered the Persians the idle spectators of the defeat of their allies. The Avars were repulsed; a fleet of Sclavonian canoes was destroyed in the harbour; the vassals of the chagan threatened to desert, his provisions were exhausted, and, after burning his engines, he gave the signal of a slow and formidable retreat. The devotion of the Romans ascribed this signal deliverance to the virgin Mary; but the mother of Christ would surely have condemned their inhuman murder of the Persian envoys, who were entitled to the rights of Edition: current; Page: [111] humanity, if they were not protected by the laws of nations.116

After the division of his army, Heraclius prudently retired to the banks of the Phasis, from whence he maintained a defensive war against the fifty thousand gold spears of Persia. His anxiety was relieved by the deliverance of Constantinople; his hopes were confirmed by a victory of his brother Theodorus;117 and to the hostile league of Chosroes with the Avars the Roman emperor opposed the useful and honourable alliance of the Turks. At his liberal invitation, the horde of Chozars118 transported their tents from the plains of the Volga to the mountains of Georgia; Heraclius received them in the neighbourhood of Teflis,119 and the khan with his nobles dismounted from their horses, if we may credit the Greeks, and fell prostrate on the ground, to adore the purple of the Cæsar. Such voluntary homage and important aid were entitled to the warmest acknowledgments; and the emperor, taking off his own diadem, placed it on the head of the Turkish prince, whom he saluted with a tender embrace Edition: current; Page: [112] and the appellation of son. After a sumptuous banquet, he presented Ziebel with the plate and ornaments, the gold, the gems, and the silk, which had been used at the Imperial table, and, with his own hand, distributed rich jewels and earrings to his new allies. In a secret interview, he produced the portrait of his daughter Eudocia,120 condescended to flatter the Barbarian with the promise of a fair and august bride, obtained an immediate succour of forty thousand horse, and negotiated a strong diversion of the Turkish arms on the side of the Oxus.121 The Persians, in their turn, retreated with precipitation; in the camp of Edessa, Heraclius reviewed an army of seventy thousand Romans and strangers; and some months were successfully employed in the recovery of the cities of Syria, Mesopotamia, and Armenia, whose fortifications had been imperfectly restored. Sarbar still maintained the important station of Chalcedon; but the jealousy of Chosroes, or the artifice of Heraclius, soon alienated the mind of that powerful satrap from the service of his king and country. A messenger was intercepted with a real or fictitious mandate to the cadarigan, or second in command, directing him to send, without delay, to the throne the head of a guilty or unfortunate general. The despatches were transmitted to Sarbar himself; and, as soon as he read the sentence of his own death, he deterousxly inserted the names of four hundred officers, assembled a military council, and asked the cadarigan, whether he was prepared to execute the Edition: current; Page: [113] commands of their tyrant? The Persians unanimously declared that Chosroes had forfeited the sceptre; a separate treaty was concluded with the government of Constantinople; and, if some considerations of honour or policy restrained Sarbar from joining the standard of Heraclius, the emperor was assured that he might prosecute, without interruption, his designs of victory and peace.

Deprived of his firmest support, and doubtful of the fidelity of his subjects, the greatness of Chosroes was still conspicuous in its ruins. The number of five hundred thousand may be interpreted as an Oriental metaphor, to describe the men and arms, the horses and elephants, that covered Media and Assyria against the invasion of Heraclius. Yet the Romans boldly advanced from the Araxes to the Tigris, and the timid prudence of Rhazates was content to follow them by forced marches through a desolate country, till he received a peremptory mandate to risk the fate of Persia in a decisive battle. Eastward of the Tigris, at the end of the bridge of Mosul, the great Nineveh had formerly been erected;122 the city, and even the ruins of the city, had long since disappeared;123 the vacant space afforded a spacious field for the operations of the two armies. But these operations are neglected by the Byzantine historians, and, like the authors of epic poetry and romance, they ascribe the victory not to the military conduct, but to the personal valour, of their favourite hero. On this memorable day, Heraclius, Edition: current; Page: [114] on his horse Phallas,124 surpassed the bravest of his warriors: his lip was pierced with a spear, the steed was wounded in the thigh, but he carried his master safe and victorious through the triple phalanx of the Barbarians. In the heat of the action, three valiant chiefs were successively slain by the sword and lance of the emperor; among these was Rhazates himself; he fell like a soldier, but the sight of his head scattered grief and despair through the fainting ranks of the Persians. His armour of pure and massy gold, the shield of one hundred and twenty plates, the sword and belt, the saddle and cuirass, adorned the triumph of Heraclius, and, if he had not been faithful to Christ and his mother, the champion of Rome might have offered the fourth opime spoils to the Jupiter of the Capitol.125 In the battle of Nineveh, which was fiercely fought from daybreak to the eleventh hour, twenty-eight standards, beside those which might be broken or torn, were taken from the Persians; the greatest part of their army was cut in pieces, and the victors, concealing their own loss, passed the night on the field. They acknowledged that on this occasion it was less difficult to kill than to discomfit the soldiers of Chosroes; amidst the bodies of their friends, no more than two bow-shot from the enemy, the remnant of the Persian cavalry stood firm till the seventh hour of the night; about the eighth hour they retired to their unrifled camp, collected their baggage, and dispersed on all sides, from the want of orders rather than of resolution. The diligence of Heraclius was not less admirable in the use Edition: current; Page: [115] of victory; by a march of forty-eight miles in four-and-twenty hours, his vanguard occupied the bridges of the great and the lesser Zab; and the cities and palaces of Assyria were open for the first time to the Romans. By a just gradation of magnificent scenes, they penetrated to the royal seat of Dastagerd, and, though much of the treasure had been removed, and much had been expended, the remaining wealth appears to have exceeded their hopes, and even to have satiated their avarice. Whatever could not be easily transported they consumed with fire, that Chosroes might feel the anguish of those wounds which he had so often inflicted on the provinces of the empire; and justice might allow the excuse, if the desolation had been confined to the works of regal luxury, if national hatred, military licence, and religious zeal had not wasted with equal rage the habitations and the temples of the guiltless subject. The recovery of three hundred Roman standards, and the deliverance of the numerous captives of Edessa and Alexandria, reflect a purer glory on the arms of Heraclius. From the palace of Dastagerd,126 he pursued his march within a few miles of Modain or Ctesiphon, till he was stopped, on the banks of the Arba, by the difficulty of the passage, the rigour of the season, and perhaps the fame of an impregnable capital.126a The return of the emperor is marked by the modern name of the city of Sherhzour; he fortunately passed Mount Zara before the snow, which fell incessantly thirty-four days; and the citizens of Gandzaca, or Tauris, were compelled to entertain his soldiers and their horses with an hospitable reception.127

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When the ambition of Chosroes was reduced to the defence of his hereditary kingdom, the love of glory, or even the sense of shame, should have urged him to meet his rival in the field. In the battle of Nineveh, his courage might have taught the Persians to vanquish, or he might have fallen with honour by the lance of a Roman emperor. The successor of Cyrus chose rather, at a secure distance, to expect the event, to assemble the relics of the defeat, and to retire by measured steps before the march of Heraclius, till he beheld with a sigh the once loved mansions of Dastagerd. Both his friends and enemies were persuaded that it was the intention of Chosroes to bury himself under the ruins of the city and palace; and, as both might have been equally adverse to his flight, the monarch of Asia, with Sira and three concubines, escaped through an hole in the wall nine days before the arrival of the Romans. The slow and stately procession in which he shewed himself to the prostrate crowd was changed to a rapid and secret journey; and the first evening he lodged in the cottage of a peasant, whose humble door would scarcely give admittance to the Great King.128 His superstition was subdued by fear; on the third day, he entered with joy the fortifications of Ctesiphon; yet he still doubted of his safety till he had opposed the river Tigris to the pursuit of the Romans. The discovery of his flight agitated with terror and tumult the palace, the city, and the camp of Dastagerd; the satraps hesitated whether they had most to fear from their sovereign or the enemy; and the females of the harem were astonished and pleased by the sight of mankind, till the jealous husbands of three thousand wives again confined them to a more distant castle. At his command the army of Dastagerd retreated to a new camp: the front was covered Edition: current; Page: [117] by the Arba, and a line of two hundred elephants; the troops of the more distant provinces successively arrived; and the vilest domestics of the king nad satraps were enrolled for the last defence of the throne. It was still in the power of Chosroes to obtain a reasonable peace; and he was repeatedly pressed by the messengers of Heraclius to spare the blood of his subjects, and to relieve an humane conqueror from the painful duty of carrying fire and sword through the fairest countries of Asia. But the pride of the Persian had not yet sunk to the level of his fortune; he derived a momentary confidence from the retreat of the emperor; he wept with impotent rage over the ruins of his Assyrian palaces; and disregarded too long the rising murmurs of the nation, who complained that their lives and fortunes were sacrificed to the obstinacy of an old man. That unhappy old man was himself tortured with the sharpest pains both of mind and body; and, in the consciousness of his approaching end, he resolved to fix a tiara on the head of Merdaza, the most favoured of his sons. But the will of Chosroes was no longer revered, and Siroes, who gloried in the rank and merit of his mother Sira, had conspired with the malecontents to assert and anticipate the rights of primogeniture.129 Twenty-two satraps, they styled themselves patriots, were tempted by the wealth and honours of a new reign: to the soldiers, the heir of Chosroes promised an increase of pay; to the Christians the free exercise of their religion; to the captives liberty and rewards; and to the nation instant peace and the reduction of taxes. It was determined by the conspirators that Siroes, with the ensigns of royalty, should appear in the camp; and, if the enterprise should fail, his escape was contrived to the Imperial court. But the new monarch was saluted with unanimous acclamations; the flight of Chosroes (yet where Edition: current; Page: [118] could he have fled?) was rudely arrested, eighteen sons were massacred before his face, and he was thrown into a dungeon, where he expired on the fifth day. The Greeks and modern Persians minutely describe how Chosroes was insulted, and famished, and tortured, by the command of an inhuman son, who so far surpassed the example of his father; but at the time of his death, what tongue could relate the story of the parricide? what eye could penetrate into the tower of darkness? According to the faith and mercy of his Christian enemies, he sunk without hope into a still deeper abyss;130 and it will not be denied that tyrants of every age and sect are the best entitled to such infernal abodes. The glory of the house of Sassan ended with the life of Chosroes; his unnatural son enjoyed only eight months the fruit of his crimes; and in the space of four years the regal title was assumed by nine candidates, who disputed, with the sword or dagger, the fragments of an exhausted monarchy. Every province and each city of Persia was the scene of independence, of discord, and of blood, and the state of anarchy prevailed about eight years longer, till the factions were silenced and united under the common yoke of the Arabian caliphs.131

As soon as the mountains became passable, the emperor received the welcome news of the success of the conspiracy, the death of Chosroes, and the elevation of his eldest son to the throne of Persia. The authors of the revolution, Edition: current; Page: [119] eager to display their merits in the court or camp of Tauris, preceded the ambassadors of Siroes, who delivered the letters of their master to his brother the emperor of the Romans.132 In the language of the usurpers of every age, he imputes his own crimes to the Deity, and, without degrading his equal majesty, he offers to reconcile the long discord of the two nations, by a treaty of peace and alliance more durable than brass or iron. The conditions of the treaty were easily defined and faithfully executed. In the recovery of the standards and prisoners which had fallen into the hands of the Persians, the emperor imitated the example of Augustus: their care of the national dignity was celebrated by the poets of the times; but the decay of genius may be measured by the distance between Horace and George of Pisidia: the subjects and brethren of Heraclius were redeemed from persecution, slavery, and exile; but, instead of the Roman eagles, the true wood of the holy cross was restored to the importunate demands of the successor of Constantine. The victor was not ambitious of enlarging the weakness of the empire; the son of Chosroes abandoned without regret the conquests of his father; the Persians who evacuated the cities of Syria and Egypt were honourably conducted to the frontier; and a war which had wounded the vitals of the two monarchies produced no change in their external and relative situation. The return of Heraclius from Tauris to Constantinople was a perpetual triumph; and, after the exploits of six glorious campaigns, he peaceably enjoyed the sabbath of his toils. After a long impatience, the senate, the clergy, and the people went forth to meet their hero, with tears and acclamations, with olive branches and innumerable lamps; he entered the capital in a chariot drawn by four elephants; and, as soon as the emperor could disengage Edition: current; Page: [120] himself from the tumult of public joy, he tasted more genuine satisfaction in the embraces of his mother and his son.133

The succeeding year was illustrated by a triumph of a very different kind, the restitution of the true cross to the holy sepulchre. Heraclius performed in person the pilgrimage of Jerusalem, the identity of the relic was verified by the discreet patriarch,134 and this august ceremony has been commemorated by the annual festival of the exaltation of the cross. Before the emperor presumed to tread the consecrated ground, he was instructed to strip himself of the diadem and purple, the pomp and vanity of the world; but in the judgment of his clergy the persecution of the Jews was more easily reconciled with the precepts of the gospel. He again ascended his throne to receive the congratulations of the ambassadors of France and India; and the fame of Moses, Alexander, and Hercules135 was eclipsed, in the popular estimation, by the superior merit and glory of the great Heraclius. Yet the deliverer of the East was indigent and feeble. Of the Persian spoils the most valuable portion had been expended in the war, distributed to the soldiers, or buried, by an unlucky tempest, in the waves of the Euxine. The conscience of the emperor was oppressed by the obligation of restoring the wealth of the clergy, which he had borrowed Edition: current; Page: [121] for their own defence; a perpetual fund was required to satisfy these inexorable creditors; the provinces, already wasted by the arms and avarice of the Persians, were compelled to a second payment of the same taxes; and the arrears of a simple citizen, the treasurer of Damascus, were commuted to a fine of one hundred thousand pieces of gold. The loss of two hundred thousand soldiers136 who had fallen by the sword was of less fatal importance than the decay of arts, agriculture, and population, in this long and destructive war; and, although a victorious army had been formed under the standard of Heraclius, the unnatural effort appears to have exhausted rather than exercised their strength. While the emperor triumphed at Constantinople or Jerusalem, an obscure town on the confines of Syria was pillaged by the Saracens, and they cut in pieces some troops who advanced to its relief: an ordinary and trifling occurrence, had it not been the prelude of a mighty revolution. These robbers were the apostles of Mahomet; their fanatic valour had emerged from the desert; and in the last eight years of his reign Heraclius lost to the Arabs the same provinces which he had rescued from the Persians.

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Theological History of the Doctrine of the Incarnation — The Human and Divine Nature of Christ — Enmity of the Patriarchs of Alexandria and Constantinople — St. Cyril and Nestorius — Third General Council of Ephesus — Heresy of Eutyches — Fourth General Council of Chalcedon — Civil and Ecclesiastical Discord — Intolerance of Justinian — The Three Chapters — The Monothelite Controversy — State of the Oriental Sects — I. The Nestorians — II. The Jacobites — III. The Maronites — IV. The Armenians — V. The Copts and Abyssinians

After the extinction of paganism, the Christians in peace and piety might have enjoyed their solitary triumph. But the principle of discord was alive in their bosom, and they were more solicitous to explore the nature, than to practise the laws, of their founder. I have already observed that the disputes of the Trinity were succeeded by those of the Incarnation: alike scandalous to the church, alike pernicious to the state, still more minute in their origin, still more durable in their effects. It is my design to comprise in the present chapter a religious war of two hundred and fifty years, to represent the ecclesiastical and political schism of the Oriental sects, and to introduce their clamorous or sanguinary contests by a modest inquiry into the doctrines of the primitive church.1

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I. A laudable regard for the honour of the first proselytes has countenanced the belief, the hope, the wish, that the Ebionites, or at least the Nazarenes, were distinguished only by their obstinate perseverance in the practice of the Mosaic rites. Their churches have disappeared, their books are obliterated; their obscure freedom might allow a latitude of faith, and the softness of their infant creed would be variously moulded by the zeal or prudence of three hundred years. Yet the most charitable criticism must refuse these sectaries any knowledge of the pure and proper divinity of Christ. Educated Edition: current; Page: [124] in the school of Jewish prophecy and prejudice, they had never been taught to elevate their hopes above an human and temporal Messiah.2 If they had courage to hail their king when he appeared in a plebeian garb, their grosser apprehensions were incapable of discerning their God, who had studiously disguised his celestial character under the name and person of a mortal.3 The familiar companions of Jesus of Nazareth conversed with their friend and countryman, who, in all the actions of rational and animal life, appeared of the same species with themselves. His progress from infancy to youth and manhood was marked by a regular increase in stature and wisdom; and, after a painful agony of mind and body, he expired on the cross. He lived and died for the service of mankind; but the life and death of Socrates had likewise been devoted to the cause of religion and justice; and, although the stoic or the hero may disdain the humble virtues of Jesus, the tears which he shed over his friend and country may be esteemed the purest evidence of his humanity. The miracles of the gospel could not astonish a people who held, with intrepid faith, the more splendid prodigies of the Mosaic law. The prophets of ancient days had cured diseases, raised the dead, divided the sea, stopped the sun, and ascended to heaven in a fiery chariot. And the metaphorical style of the Hebrews might ascribe to a saint and martyr the adoptive title of Son of God.

Yet, in the insufficient creed of the Nazarenes and the Ebionites, a distinction is faintly noticed between the heretics, who confounded the generation of Christ in the common Edition: current; Page: [125] order of nature, and the less guilty schismatics, who revered the virginity of his mother and excluded the aid of an earthly father. The incredulity of the former was countenanced by the visible circumstances of his birth, the legal marriage of his reputed parents, Joseph and Mary, and his lineal claim to the kingdom of David and the inheritance of Judah. But the secret and authentic history has been recorded in several copies of the gospel according to St. Matthew,4 which these sectaries long preserved in the original Hebrew,5 as the sole evidence of their faith. The natural suspicions of the husband, conscious of his own chastity, were dispelled by the assurance (in a dream) that his wife was pregnant of the Holy Ghost; and, as this distant and domestic prodigy could not fall under the personal observation of the historian, he must have listened to the same voice which dictated to Isaiah the future conception of a virgin. The son of a virgin, generated by the ineffable operation of the Holy Spirit, was a creature without example or resemblance, superior in every attribute of mind and body to the children of Adam. Since the introduction of the Greek or Chaldean philosophy,6 the Edition: current; Page: [126] Jews7 were persuaded of the pre-existence, transmigration, and immortality of souls; and Providence was justified by a supposition that they were confined in their earthly prisons to expiate the stains which they had contracted in a former state.8 But the degrees of purity and corruption are almost immeasurable. It may be fairly presumed that the most sublime and virtuous of human spirits was infused into the offspring of Mary and the Holy Ghost;9 that his abasement was the result of his voluntary choice; and that the object of his mission was to purify, not his own, but the sins of the world. On his return to his native skies, he received the immense reward of his obedience: the everlasting kingdom of the Messiah, which had been darkly foretold by the prophets, under the carnal images of peace, of conquest, and of dominion. Omnipotence could enlarge the human faculties of Christ to the extent of his celestial office. In the language of antiquity, the title of God has not been severely confined to the first parent, and his incomparable minister, his only begotten Son, might claim, without presumption, the religious, though secondary, worship of a subject world.

II. The seeds of the faith, which had slowly arisen in the Edition: current; Page: [127] rocky and ungrateful soil of Judea, were transplanted, in full maturity, to the happier climes of the Gentiles; and the strangers of Rome or Asia, who never beheld the manhood, were the more readily disposed to embrace the divinity, of Christ. The polytheist and the philosopher, the Greek and the Barbarian, were alike accustomed to conceive a long succession, an infinite chain of angels, or dæmons, or deities, or æons, or emanations, issuing from the throne of light. Nor could it seem strange or incredible that the first of these æons, the Logos, or Word of God, of the same substance with the Father, should descend upon earth to deliver the human race from vice and error and to conduct them in the paths of life and immortality. But the prevailing doctrine of the eternity and inherent pravity of matter infected the primitive churches of the East. Many among the Gentile proselytes refused to believe that a celestial spirit, an undivided portion of the first essence, had been personally united with a mass of impure and contaminated flesh; and, in their zeal for the divinity, they piously abjured the humanity, of Christ. While his blood was still recent on Mount Calvary,10 the Docetes, a numerous and learned sect of Asiatics, invented the phantastic system, which was afterwards propagated by the Marcionites, the Manichæans, and the various names of the Gnostic heresy.11 They denied the Edition: current; Page: [128] truth and authenticity of the gospels, as far as they relate the conception of Mary, the birth of Christ, and the thirty years that preceded the exercise of his ministry. He first appeared on the banks of the Jordan in the form of perfect manhood; but it was a form only, and not a substance: an human figure created by the hand of Omnipotence to imitate the faculties and actions of a man and to impose a perpetual illusion on the senses of his friends and enemies. Articulate sounds vibrated on the ears of the disciples; but the image which was impressed on their optic nerve eluded the more stubborn evidence of the touch, and they enjoyed the spiritual, not the corporeal, presence of the Son of God. The rage of the Jews was idly wasted against an impassive phantom; and the mystic scenes of the passion and death, the resurrection and ascension of Christ, were represented on the theatre of Jerusalem for the benefit of mankind. If it were urged that such ideal mimicry, such incessant deception, was unworthy of the God of truth, the Docetes agreed with too many of their orthodox brethren in the justification of pious falsehood. In the system of the Gnostics, the Jehovah of Israel, the creator of this lower world, was a rebellious, or at least an ignorant, spirit. The Son of God descended upon earth to abolish his temple and his law; and, for the accomplishment of this salutary end, he dexterously transferred to his own person the hope and prediction of a temporal Messiah.

One of the most subtle disputants of the Manichæan school has pressed the danger and indecency of supposing that the God of the Christians, in the state of an human fœtus, emerged at the end of nine months from a female womb. The pious horror of his antagonists provoked them to disclaim all sensual circumstances of conception and delivery; to maintain that the divinity passed through Mary like a Edition: current; Page: [129] sun-beam through a plate of glass; and to assert that the seal of her virginity remained unbroken even at the moment when she became the mother of Christ. But the rashness of these concessions has encouraged a milder sentiment of those of the Docetes, who taught, not that Christ was a phantom, but that he was clothed with an impassible and incorruptible body. Such, indeed, in the more orthodox system, he has acquired since his resurrection, and such he must have always possessed, if it were capable of pervading, without resistance or injury, the density of intermediate matter. Devoid of its most essential properties, it might be exempt from the attributes and infirmities of the flesh. A fœtus that could increase from an invisible point to its full maturity, a child that could attain the stature of perfect manhood, without deriving any nourishment from the ordinary sources, might continue to exist without repairing a daily waste by a daily supply of external matter. Jesus might share the repasts of his disciples without being subject to the calls of thirst or hunger; and his virgin purity was never sullied by the involuntary stains of sensual concupiscence. Of a body thus singularly constituted, a question would arise, by what means, and of what materials, it was originally framed; and our sounder theology is startled by an answer which was not peculiar to the Gnostics, that both the form and the substance proceeded from the divine essence. The idea of pure and absolute spirit is a refinement of modern philosophy; the incorporeal essence, ascribed by the ancients to human souls, celestial beings, and even the Deity himself, does not exclude the notion of extended space; and their imagination was satisfied with a subtle nature of air, or fire, or æther, incomparably more perfect than the grossness of the material world. If we define the place, we must describe the figure, of the Deity. Our experience, perhaps our vanity, represents the powers of reason and virtue under an human form. The Anthropomorphites, who swarmed among the monks of Edition: current; Page: [130] Egypt and the Catholics of Africa, could produce the express declaration of Scripture that man was made after the image of his Creator.12 The venerable Serapion, one of the saints of the Nitrian desert, relinquished, with many a tear, his darling prejudice; and bewailed, like an infant, his unlucky conversion, which had stolen away his God and left his mind without any visible object of faith or devotion.13

III. Such were the fleeting shadows of the Docetes. A more substantial, though less simple, hypothesis was contrived by Cerinthus of Asia,14 who dared to oppose the last of the apostles. Placed on the confines of the Jewish and Gentile world, he laboured to reconcile the Gnostic with the Ebionite, by confessing in the same Messiah the supernatural union of a man and a God; and this mystic doctrine was adopted with many fanciful improvements by Carpocrates, Basilides, and Edition: current; Page: [131] Valentine,15 the heretics of the Egyptian school. In their eyes, Jesus of Nazareth was a mere mortal, the legitimate son of Joseph and Mary; but he was the best and wisest of the human race, selected as the worthy instrument to restore upon earth the worship of the true and supreme Deity. When he was baptised in the Jordan, the Christ, the first of the æons, the Son of God himself, descended on Jesus in the form of a dove, to inhabit his mind and direct his actions during the allotted period of his ministry. When the Messiah was delivered into the hands of the Jews, the Christ, an immortal and impassible being, forsook his earthly tabernacle, flew back to the pleroma or world of spirits, and left the solitary Jesus to suffer, to complain, and to expire. But the justice and generosity of such a desertion are strongly questionable; and the fate of an innocent martyr, at first impelled, and at length abandoned, by his divine companion, might provoke the pity and indignation of the profane. Their murmurs were variously silenced by the sectaries who espoused and modified the double system of Cerinthus. It was alleged that, when Jesus was nailed to the cross, he was endowed with a miraculous apathy of mind and body, which rendered him insensible of his apparent sufferings. It was affirmed that these momentary though real pangs would be abundantly repaid by the temporal reign of a thousand years reserved for the Messiah in his kingdom of the new Jerusalem. It was insinuated that, if he suffered, he deserved to suffer; that human nature is never absolutely perfect; and that the cross and passion might serve to expiate the venial Edition: current; Page: [132] transgressions of the son of Joseph, before his mysterious union with the Son of God.16

IV. All those who believe the immateriality of the soul, a specious and noble tenet, must confess, from their present experience, the incomprehensible union of mind and matter. A similar union is not inconsistent with a much higher, or even with the highest degree, of mental faculties; and the incarnation of an æon or archangel, the most perfect of created spirits, does not involve any positive contradiction or absurdity. In the age of religious freedom, which was determined by the council of Nice, the dignity of Christ was measured by private judgment according to the indefinite rule of scripture, or reason, or tradition. But, when his pure and proper divinity had been established on the ruins of Arianism, the faith of the Catholics trembled on the edge of a precipice where it was impossible to recede, dangerous to stand, dreadful to fall; and the manifold inconveniences of their creed were aggravated by the sublime character of their theology. They hesitated to pronounce that God himself, the second person of an equal and consubstantial trinity, was manifested in the flesh;17 that a being who pervades the universe had been confined in the womb of Mary; that his eternal duration had Edition: current; Page: [133] been marked by the days and months and years of human existence; that the Almighty had been scourged and crucified; that his impassible essence had felt pain and anguish; that his omniscience was not exempt from ignorance; and that the source of life and immortality expired on Mount Calvary. These alarming consequences were affirmed with unblushing simplicity by Apollinaris,18 bishop of Laodicea, and one of the luminaries of the church. The son of a learned grammarian, he was skilled in all the sciences of Greece; eloquence, erudition, and philosophy, conspicuous in the volumes of Apollinaris, were humbly devoted to the service of religion. The worthy friend of Athanasius, the worthy antagonist of Julian, he bravely wrestled with the Arians and Polytheists, and, though he affected the rigour of geometrical demonstration, his commentaries revealed the literal and allegorical sense of the scriptures. A mystery which had long floated in the looseness of popular belief was defined by his perverse diligence in a technical form; and he first proclaimed the memorable words, “One incarnate nature of Christ,” which are still re-echoed with hostile clamours in the churches of Asia, Egypt, and Æthiopia. He taught that the Godhead was united or mingled with the body of a man; and that the Logos, the eternal wisdom, supplied in the flesh the place and office of an human soul. Yet, as the profound doctor had been terrified at his own rashness, Apollinaris was heard to mutter some faint accents of excuse and explanation. He acquiesced in the old distinction of the Greek philosophers between the rational and sensitive soul of man; that he might reserve the Logos for intellectual functions, and employ the subordinate human principle in the meaner actions Edition: current; Page: [134] of animal life. With the moderate Docetes, he revered Mary as the spiritual, rather than as the carnal, mother of Christ, whose body either came from heaven, impassible and incorruptible, or was absorbed, and as it were transformed, into the essence of the Deity. The system of Apollinaris was strenuously encountered by the Asiatic and Syrian divines, whose schools are honoured by the names of Basil, Gregory, and Chrysostom, and tainted by those of Diodorus, Theodore, and Nestorius. But the person of the aged bishop of Laodicea, his character and dignity, remained inviolate; and his rivals, since we may not suspect them of the weakness of toleration, were astonished, perhaps, by the novelty of the argument, and diffident of the final sentence of the Catholic church. Her judgment at length inclined in their favour; the heresy of Apollinaris was condemned, and the separate congregations of his disciples were proscribed by the Imperial laws. But his principles were secretly entertained in the monasteries of Egypt, and his enemies felt the hatred of Theophilus and Cyril, the successive patriarchs of Alexandria.

V. The grovelling Ebionite and the fantastic Docetes were rejected and forgotten; the recent zeal against the errors of Apollinaris reduced the Catholics to a seeming agreement with the double nature of Cerinthus. But, instead of a temporary and occasional alliance, they established, and we still embrace, the substantial, indissoluble, and everlasting union of a perfect God with a perfect man, of the second person of the trinity with a reasonable soul and human flesh. In the beginning of the fifth century, the unity of the two natures was the prevailing doctrine of the church. On all sides it was confessed that the mode of their co-existence could neither be represented by our ideas nor expressed by our language. Yet a secret and incurable discord was cherished between those who were most apprehensive of confounding, and those who were most fearful of separating, the divinity and the humanity of Christ. Impelled by religious frenzy, they fled with adverse haste from the error Edition: current; Page: [135] which they mutually deemed most destructive of truth and salvation. On either hand they were anxious to guard, they were jealous to defend, the union and the distinction of the two natures, and to invent such forms of speech, such symbols of doctrine, as were least susceptible of doubt or ambiguity. The poverty of ideas and language tempted them to ransack art and nature for every possible comparison, and each comparison misled their fancy in the explanation of an incomparable mystery. In the polemic microscope an atom is enlarged to a monster, and each party was skilful to exaggerate the absurd or impious conclusions that might be extorted from the principles of their adversaries. To escape from each other, they wandered through many a dark and devious thicket, till they were astonished by the horrid phantoms of Cerinthus and Apollinaris, who guarded the opposite issues of the theological labyrinth. As soon as they beheld the twilight of sense and heresy, they started, measured back their steps, and were again involved in the gloom of impenetrable orthodoxy. To purge themselves from the guilt or reproach of damnable error, they disavowed their consequences, explained their principles, excused their indiscretions, and unanimously pronounced the sounds of concord and faith. Yet a latent and almost invisible spark still lurked among the embers of controversy: by the breath of prejudice and passion, it was quickly kindled to a mighty flame, and the verbal disputes19 of the Oriental sects have shaken the pillars of the church and state.

The name of Cyril of Alexandria is famous in controversial story, and the title of saint is a mark that his opinions and his Edition: current; Page: [136] party have finally prevailed. In the house of his uncle, the archbishop Theophilus, he imbibed the orthodox lessons of zeal and dominion, and five years of his youth were profitably spent in the adjacent monasteries of Nitria. Under the tuition of the abbot Serapion, he applied himself to ecclesiastical studies with such indefatigable ardour, that in the course of one sleepless night he has perused the four gospels, the catholic epistles, and the epistle to the Romans. Origen he detested; but the writings of Clemens and Dionysius, of Athanasius and Basil, were continually in his hands; by the theory and practice of dispute, his faith was confirmed and his wit was sharpened; he extended round his cell the cobwebs of scholastic theology, and meditated the works of allegory and metaphysics, whose remains, in seven verbose folios, now peaceably slumber by the side of their rivals.20 Cyril prayed and fasted in the desert, but his thoughts (it is the reproach of a friend21) were still fixed on the world; and the call of Theophilus, who summoned him to the tumult of cities and synods, was too readily obeyed by the aspiring hermit. With the approbation of his uncle, he assumed the office, and acquired the fame, of a popular preacher. His comely person adorned the pulpit, the harmony of his voice resounded in the cathedral, his friends were stationed to lead or second the applause of the congregation,22 and the hasty notes of the scribes preserved his discourses, which in their effect, though not in their composition, might be compared with Edition: current; Page: [137] those of the Athenian orators. The death of Theophilus expanded and realised the hopes of his nephew. The clergy of Alexandria was divided; the soldiers and their general supported the claims of the archdeacon; but a resistless multitude, with voices and with hands, asserted the cause of their favourite; and, after a period of thirty-nine years, Cyril was seated on the throne of Athanasius.23

The prize was not unworthy of his ambition. At a distance from the court, and at the head of an immense capital, the patriarch, as he was now styled, of Alexandria had gradually usurped the state and authority of a civil magistrate. The public and private charities of the city were managed by his discretion; his voice inflamed or appeased the passions of the multitude; his commands were blindly obeyed by his numerous and fanatic parabolani,24 familiarised in their daily office with scenes of death; and the prefects of Egypt were awed or provoked by the temporal power of these Christian pontiffs. Ardent in the prosecution of heresy, Cyril auspiciously opened his reign by oppressing the Novatians, the most innocent and harmless of the sectaries. The interdiction of their religious worship appeared in his eyes a just and meritorious act; and he confiscated their holy vessels, without apprehending the guilt of sacrilege. The toleration and even the privileges of the Jews, who had multiplied to the number of forty thousand, were secured by the laws of the Cæsars and Ptolemies Edition: current; Page: [138] and a long prescription of seven hundred years since the foundation of Alexandria. Without any legal sentence, without any royal mandate, the patriarch, at the dawn of day, led a seditious multitude to the attack of the synagogues. Unarmed and unprepared, the Jews were incapable of resistance; their houses of prayer were levelled with the ground; and the episcopal warrior, after rewarding his troops with the plunder of their goods, expelled from the city the remnant of the unbelieving nation. Perhaps he might plead the insolence of their prosperity, and their deadly hatred of the Christians, whose blood they had recently shed in a malicious or accidental tumult. Such crimes would have deserved the animadversion of the magistrate; but in this promiscuous outrage, the innocent were confounded with the guilty, and Alexandria was impoverished by the loss of a wealthy and industrious colony. The zeal of Cyril exposed him to the penalties of the Julian law; but in a feeble government and a superstitious age he was secure of impunity, and even of praise. Orestes complained; but his just complaints were too quickly forgotten by the ministers of Theodosius, and too deeply remembered by a priest who affected to pardon, and continued to hate, the prefect of Egypt. As he passed through the streets, his chariot was assaulted by a band of five hundred of the Nitrian monks; his guards fled from the wild beasts of the desert; his protestations that he was a Christian and a Catholic were answered by a volley of stones, and the face of Orestes was covered with blood. The loyal citizens of Alexandria hastened to his rescue; he instantly satisfied his justice and revenge against the monk by whose hand he had been wounded, and Ammonius expired under the rod of the lictor. At the command of Cyril, his body was raised from the ground and transported in solemn procession to the cathedral; the name of Ammonius was changed to that of Thaumasius the wonderful; his tomb was decorated with the trophies of martyrdom; and the patriarch ascended the puplit to celebrate the magnanimity of an assassin and a rebel. Such Edition: current; Page: [139] honours might incite the faithful to combat and die under the banners of the saint; and he soon prompted, or accepted, the sacrifice of a virgin, who professed the religion of the Greeks, and cultivated the friendship of Orestes. Hypatia, the daughter of Theon the mathematician,25 was initiated in her father’s studies; her learned comments have elucidated the geometry of Apollonius and Diophantus, and she publicly taught, both at Athens and Alexandria, the philosophy of Plato and Aristotle. In the bloom of beauty and in the maturity of wisdom, the modest maid refused her lovers and instructed her disciples; the persons most illustrious for their rank or merit were impatient to visit the female philosopher; and Cyril beheld, with a jealous eye, the gorgeous train of horses and slaves who crowded the door of her academy. A rumour was spread among the Christians that the daughter of Theon was the only obstacle to the reconciliation of the prefect and the archbishop; and that obstacle was speedily removed. On a fatal day, in the holy season of Lent, Hypatia was torn from her chariot, stripped naked, dragged to the church, and inhumanly butchered by the hands of Peter the reader and a troop of savage and merciless fanatics; her flesh was scraped from her bones with sharp oyster shells,26 and her quivering limbs were delivered to the flames. The just progress of inquiry and punishment was stopped by seasonable gifts; but Edition: current; Page: [140] the murder of Hypatia has imprinted an indelible stain on the character and religion of Cyril of Alexandria.27

Superstition, perhaps, would more gently expiate the blood of a virgin than the banishment of a saint; and Cyril had accompanied his uncle to the iniquitous synod of the Oak. When the memory of Chrysostom was restored and consecrated, the nephew of Theophilus, at the head of a dying faction, still maintained the justice of his sentence; nor was it till after a tedious delay and an obstinate resistance that he yielded to the consent of the Catholic world.28 His enmity to the Byzantine pontiffs29 was a sense of interest, not a sally of passion; he envied their fortunate station in the sunshine of the Imperial court; and he dreaded their upstart ambition, which oppressed the metropolitans of Europe and Asia, invaded the provinces of Antioch and Alexandria, and measured their diocese by the limits of the empire. The long moderation of Atticus, the mild usurper of the throne of Chrysostom, suspended the animosities of the Eastern patriarchs; but Cyril was at length awakened by the exaltation of a rival more worthy of his esteem and hatred. After the short and troubled reign of Sisinnius bishop of Constantinople, the factions of the clergy and people were appeased by the choice of the emperor, who, on this occasion, consulted the voice of fame, and invited the merit of a stranger. Nestorius,30 a native of Edition: current; Page: [none] Edition: current; Page: [141] Germanicia and a monk of Antioch, was recommended by the austerity of his life and the eloquence of his sermons; but the first homily which he preached before the devout Theodosius betrayed the acrimony and impatience of his zeal. “Give me, O Cæsar!” he exclaimed, “give me the earth purged of heretics, and I will give you in exchange the kingdom of heaven. Exterminate with me, the heretics; and with you, I will exterminate the Persians.” On the fifth day, as if the treaty had been already signed, the patriarch of Constantinople discovered, surprised, and attacked a secret conventicle of the Arians; they preferred death to submission; the flames that were kindled by their despair soon spread to the neighbouring houses, and the triumph of Nestorius was clouded by the name of incendiary. On either side of the Hellespont, his episcopal vigour imposed a rigid formulary of faith and discipline; a chronological error concerning the festival of Easter was punished as an offence against the church and state. Lydia and Caria, Sardes and Miletus, were purified with the blood of the obstinate Quartodecimans; and the edict of the emperor, or rather of the patriarch, enumerates three and twenty degrees and denominations in the guilt and punishment of heresy.31 But the sword of persecution, which Nestorius so furiously wielded, was soon turned against his own breast. Religion was the pretence; but, in the judgment of a contemporary saint, ambition was the genuine motive of episcopal warfare.32


In the Syrian school, Nestorius had been taught to abhor Edition: current; Page: [142] the confusion of the two natures, and nicely to discriminate the humanity of his master Christ from the divinity of the Lord Jesus.33 The Blessed Virgin he revered as the mother of Christ, but his ears were offended with the rash and recent title of mother of God,34 which had been insensibly adopted since the origin of the Arian controversy. From the pulpit of Constantinople, a friend of the patriarch, and afterwards the patriarch himself, repeatedly preached against the use, or the abuse, of a word35 unknown to the apostles, unauthorised by the church, and which could only tend to alarm the timorous, to mislead the simple, to amuse the profane, and to justify, by a seeming resemblance, the old genealogy of Olympus.36 In his calmer moments Nestorius confessed that it might be tolerated or excused by the union of the two natures and the communication of their idioms;37 but he was exasperated, by Edition: current; Page: [143] contradiction, to disclaim the worship of a new-born, an infant Deity, to draw his inadequate similes from the conjugal or civil partnerships of life, and to describe the manhood of Christ as the robe, the instrument, the tabernacle of his Godhead. At these blasphemous sounds, the pillars of the sanctuary were shaken. The unsuccessful competitors of Nestorius indulged their pious or personal resentments; the Byzantine clergy was secretly displeased with the intrusion of a stranger; whatever is superstitious or absurd, might claim the protection of the monks; and the people were interested in the glory of their virgin patroness.38 The sermons of the archbishop and the service of the altar were disturbed by seditious clamour; his authority and doctrine were renounced by separate congregations; every wind scattered round the empire the leaves of controversy; and the voice of the combatants on a sonorous theatre re-echoed in the cells of Palestine and Egypt. It was the duty of Cyril to enlighten the zeal and ignorance of his innumerable monks: in the school of Alexandria, he had imbibed and professed the incarnation of one nature; and the successor of Athanasius consulted his pride and ambition when he rose in arms against another Arius, more formidable and more guilty, on the second throne of the hierarchy. After a short correspondence, in which the rival prelates disguised their hatred in the hollow language of respect and charity, the patriarch of Alexandria denounced to the prince and people, to the East and to the West, the damnable errors of the Byzantine pontiff. From the East, more especially from Antioch, he obtained the ambiguous counsels of toleration and silence, which were addressed to both parties while they favoured the cause of Nestorius. But the Vatican received with open arms the messengers of Egypt. The vanity of Celestine was flattered by the appeal; and the Edition: current; Page: [144] partial version of a monk decided the faith of the pope, who, with his Latin clergy, was ignorant of the language, the arts, and the theology of the Greeks. At the head of an Italian synod, Celestine weighed the merits of the cause, approved the creed of Cyril, condemned the sentiments and person of Nestorius, degraded the heretic from his episcopal dignity, allowed a respite of ten days for recantation and penance, and delegated to his enemy the execution of this rash and illegal sentence. But the patriarch of Alexandria, whilst he darted the thunders of a god, exposed the errors and passions of a mortal; and his twelve anathemas39 still torture the orthodox slaves who adore the memory of a saint, without forfeiting their allegiance to the synod of Chalcedon. These bold assertions are indelibly tinged with the colours of the Apollinarian heresy; but the serious, and perhaps the sincere, professions of Nestorius have satisfied the wiser and less partial theologians of the present times.40

Yet neither the emperor nor the primate of the East were disposed to obey the mandate of an Italian priest; and a synod of the Catholic, or rather of the Greek, church was unanimously demanded as the sole remedy that could appease or decide this ecclesiastical quarrel.41 Ephesus, on all sides Edition: current; Page: [145] accessible by sea and land, was chosen for the place, the festival of Pentecost for the day, of the meeting; a writ of summons was despatched to each metropolitan, and a guard was stationed to protect and confine the fathers till they should settle the mysteries of heaven and the faith of the earth. Nestorius appeared, not as a criminal, but as a judge; he depended on the weight rather than the number of his prelates; and his sturdy slaves from the baths of Zeuxippus were armed for every service of injury or defence. But his adversary Cyril was more powerful in the weapons both of the flesh and of the spirit. Disobedient to the letter, or at least to the meaning, of the royal summons, he was attended by fifty Egyptian bishops, who expected from their patriarch’s nod the inspiration of the Holy Ghost. He had contracted an intimate alliance with Memnon bishop of Ephesus. The despotic primate of Asia disposed of the ready succours of thirty or forty episcopal votes; a crowd of peasants, the slaves of the church, was poured into the city to support with blows and clamours a metaphysical argument; and the people zealously asserted the honour of the virgin, whose body reposed within the walls of Ephesus.42 The fleet which had transported Cyril from Alexandria was laden with the riches of Egypt; and he disembarked a numerous body of mariners, slaves, and fanatics, enlisted with blind obedience under the banner of St. Mark and the mother of God. The fathers, and even the guards, of the council were awed by this martial array; the adversaries of Cyril and Mary were insulted in the Edition: current; Page: [146] streets or threatened in their houses; his eloquence and liberality made a daily increase in the number of his adherents; and the Eygptian soon computed that he might command the attendance and the voices of two hundred bishops.43 But the author of the twelve anathemas foresaw and dreaded the opposition of John of Antioch, who with a small, though respectable, train of metropolitans and divines was advancing by slow journeys from the distant capital of the East. Impatient of a delay which he stigmatised as voluntary and culpable,44 Cyril announced the opening of the synod sixteen days after the festival of Pentecost. Nestorius, who depended on the near approach of his Eastern friends, persisted, like his predecessor Chrysostom, to disclaim the jurisdiction and to disobey the summons of his enemies; they hastened his trial, and his accuser presided in the seat of judgment. Sixty-eight bishops, twenty-two of metropolitan rank, defended his cause by a modest and temperate protest; they were excluded from the counsels of their brethren. Candidian, in the emperor’s name, requested a delay of four days; the profane magistrate was driven with outrage and insult from the assembly of the saints. The whole of this momentous transaction was crowded into the compass of a summer’s day; the bishops delivered their separate opinions; but the uniformity of style reveals the influence or the hand of a master, who had been accused of corrupting the public evidence of their acts and subscriptions.45 Without a dissenting voice, they recognised Edition: current; Page: [147] in the epistles of Cyril the Nicene creed and the doctrine of the fathers: but the partial extracts from the letters and homilies of Nestorius were interrupted by curses and anathemas; and the heretic was degraded from his episcopal and ecclesiastical dignity. The sentence, maliciously inscribed to the new Judas, was affixed and proclaimed in the streets of Ephesus; the weary prelates, as they issued from the church of the mother of God, were saluted as her champions; and her victory was celebrated by the illuminations, the songs, and the tumult of the night.

On the fifth day, the triumph was clouded by the arrival and indignation of the Eastern bishops. In a chamber of the inn, before he had wiped the dust from his shoes, John of Antioch gave audience to Candidian the Imperial minister; who related his ineffectual efforts to prevent or to annul the hasty violence of the Egyptian. With equal haste and violence, the Oriental synod of fifty bishops degraded Cyril and Memnon from their episcopal honours, condemned, in the twelve anathemas, the purest venom of the Apollinarian heresy, and described the Alexandrian primate as a monster, born and educated for the destruction of the church.46 His throne was distant and inaccessible; but they instantly resolved to bestow on the flock of Ephesus the blessing of a faithful shepherd. By the vigilance of Memnon, the churches were shut against them, and a strong garrison was thrown into the cathedral. The troops, under the command of Candidian, advanced to the assault; the outguards were routed and put to the sword; but the place was impregnable: the besiegers retired; their retreat was pursued by a vigorous sally; they lost their horses, and many Edition: current; Page: [148] of the soldiers were dangerously wounded with clubs and stones. Ephesus, the city of the Virgin, was defiled with rage and clamour, with sedition and blood; the rival synods darted anathemas and excommunications from their spiritual engines; and the court of Theodosius was perplexed by the adverse and contradictory narratives of the Syrian and Egyptian factions. During a busy period of three months, the emperor tried every method, except the most effectual means of indifference and contempt, to reconcile this theological quarrel. He attempted to remove or intimidate the leaders by a common sentence of acquittal or condemnation; he invested his representatives at Ephesus with ample power and military force; he summoned from either party eight chosen deputies to a free and candid conference in the neighbourhood of the capital, far from the contagion of popular frenzy. But the Orientals refused to yield, and the Catholics, proud of their numbers and of their Latin allies, rejected all terms of union or toleration. The patience of the meek Theodosius was provoked, and he dissolved, in anger, this episcopal tumult, which at the distance of thirteen centuries assumes the venerable aspect of the third œcumenical council.47 “God is my witness,” said the pious prince, “that I am not the author of this confusion. His providence will discern and punish the guilty. Return to your provinces, and may your private virtues repair the mischief and scandal of your meeting.” They returned to their provinces; but the same passions which had distracted the synod of Ephesus were diffused over the Eastern world. After three obstinate and equal campaigns, John of Antioch and Cyril of Alexandria condescended to explain and embrace; but their seeming Edition: current; Page: [149] re-union must be imputed rather to prudence than to reason, to the mutual lassitude rather than to the Christian charity of the patriarchs.

The Byzantine pontiff had instilled into the royal ear a baleful prejudice against the character and conduct of his Egyptian rival. An epistle of menace and invective,48 which accompanied the summons, accused him as a busy, insolent, and envious priest, who perplexed the simplicity of the faith, violated the peace of the church and state, and, by his artful and separate addresses to the wife and sister of Theodosius, presumed to suppose, or to scatter, the seeds of discord in the Imperial family. At the stern command of his sovereign, Cyril had repaired to Ephesus, where he was resisted, threatened, and confined by the magistrates in the interest of Nestorius and the Orientals; who assembled the troops of Lydia and Ionia to suppress the fanatic and disorderly train of the patriarch. Without expecting the royal licence, he escaped from his guards, precipitately embarked, deserted the imperfect synod, and retired to his episcopal fortress of safety and independence. But his artful emissaries, both in the court and city, successfully laboured to appease the resentment, and to conciliate the favour, of the emperor. The feeble son of Arcadius was alternately swayed by his wife and sister, by the eunuchs and women of the palace; superstition and avarice were their ruling passions; and the orthodox chiefs were assiduous in their endeavours to alarm the former and to gratify the latter. Constantinople and the suburbs were sanctified with frequent monasteries, and the holy abbots, Dalmatius and Eutyches,49 had devoted their zeal Edition: current; Page: [150] and fidelity to the cause of Cyril, the worship of Mary, and the unity of Christ. From the first moment of their monastic life, they had never mingled with the world, or trod the profane ground of the city. But in this awful moment of the danger of the church, their vow was superseded by a more sublime and indispensable duty. At the head of a long order of monks and hermits, who carried burning tapers in their hands and chaunted litanies to the mother of God, they proceeded from their monasteries to the palace. The people was edified and inflamed by this extraordinary spectacle, and the trembling monarch listened to the prayers and adjurations of the saints, who boldly pronounced that none could hope for salvation unless they embraced the person and the creed of the orthodox successor of Athanasius. At the same time every avenue of the throne was assaulted with gold. Under the decent names of eulogies and benedictions, the courtiers of both sexes were bribed according to the measure of their power and rapaciousness. But their incessant demands despoiled the sanctuaries of Constantinople and Alexandria; and the authority of the patriarch was unable to silence the just murmur of his clergy, that a debt of sixty thousand pounds had already been contracted to support the expense of this scandalous corruption.50 Pulcheria, who relieved her brother from the weight of an empire, was the firmest pillar of orthodoxy; and so intimate was the alliance between the thunders Edition: current; Page: [151] of the synod and the whispers of the court that Cyril was assured of success if he could displace one eunuch and substitute another in the favour of Theodosius. Yet the Egyptian could not boast of a glorious or decisive victory. The Emperor, with unaccustomed firmness, adhered to his promise of protecting the innocence of the Oriental bishops; and Cyril softened his anathemas, and confessed, with ambiguity and reluctance, a twofold nature of Christ, before he was permitted to satiate his revenge against the unfortunate Nestorius.51

The rash and obstinate Nestorius, before the end of the synod, was oppressed by Cyril, betrayed by the court, and faintly supported by his Eastern friends. A sentiment of fear or indignation prompted him, while it was yet time, to affect the glory of a voluntary abdication;52 his wish, or at least his request, was readily granted; he was conducted with honour from Ephesus to his old monastery of Antioch; and, after a short pause, his successors, Maximian and Proclus, were acknowledged as the lawful bishops of Constantinople. But in the silence of his cell the degraded patriarch could no longer resume the innocence and security of a private monk. The past he regretted, he was discontented with the present, and the future he had reason to dread; the Oriental bishops successively disengaged their cause from his unpopular name; and each day decreased the number of the schismatics who revered Nestorius as the confessor of the faith. After a residence at Antioch of four years, the hand of Theodosius Edition: current; Page: [152] subscribed an edict,53 which ranked him with Simon the magician, proscribed his opinions and followers, condemned his writings to the flames, and banished his person first to Petra in Arabia, and at length to Oasis, one of the islands of the Libyan desert.54 Secluded from the church and from the world, the exile was still pursued by the rage of bigotry and war. A wandering tribe of the Blemmyes, or Nubians, invaded his solitary prison; in their retreat they dismissed a crowd of useless captives; but no sooner had Nestorius reached the banks of the Nile than he would gladly have escaped from a Roman and orthodox city to the milder servitude of the savages. His flight was punished as a new crime; the soul of the patriarch inspired the civil and ecclesiastical powers of Egypt; the magistrates, the soldiers, the monks, devoutly tortured the enemy of Christ and St. Cyril; and, as far as the confines of Æthiopia, the heretic was alternately dragged and recalled, till his aged body was broken by the hardships and accidents of these reiterated journeys. Yet his mind was still independent and erect; the president of Thebais was awed by his pastoral letters; he survived the Catholic tyrant of Alexandria, and, after sixteen years’ banishment, the synod of Chalcedon would perhaps have restored him to the honours, or at least to the communion, of Edition: current; Page: [153] the church. The death of Nestorius prevented his obedience to their welcome summons;55 and his disease might afford some colour to the scandalous report that his tongue, the organ of blasphemy, had been eaten by the worms. He was buried in a city of Upper Egypt, known by the names of Chemnis, or Panopolis, or Akmim;56 but the immortal malice of the Jacobites has persevered for ages to cast stones against his sepulchre, and to propagate the foolish tradition that it was never watered by the rain of heaven, which equally descends on the righteous and the ungodly.57 Humanity may drop a tear on the fate of Nestorius; yet justice must observe that he suffered the persecution which he had approved and inflicted.58

The death of the Alexandrian primate, after a reign of thirty-two years, abandoned the Catholics to the intemperance of zeal and the abuse of victory.59 The monophysite doctrine Edition: current; Page: [154] (one incarnate nature) was rigorously preached in the churches of Egypt and the monasteries of the East; the primitive creed of Apollinaris was protected by the sanctity of Cyril; and the name of Eutyches, his venerable friend, has been applied to the sect most adverse to the Syrian heresy of Nestorius. His rival, Eutyches, was the abbot, or archimandrite, or superior of three hundred monks, but the opinions of a simple and illiterate recluse might have expired in the cell, where he had slept above seventy years, if the resentment or indiscretion of Flavian, the Byzantine pontiff, had not exposed the scandal to the eyes of the Christian world. His domestic synod was instantly convened, their proceedings were sullied with clamour and artifice, and the aged heretic was surprised into a seeming confession that Christ had not derived his body from the substance of the Virgin Mary. From their partial decree, Eutyches appealed to a general council; and his cause was vigorously asserted by his godson Chrysaphius, the reigning eunuch of the palace, and his accomplice Dioscorus, who had succeeded to the throne, the creed, the talents, and the vices of the nephew of Theophilus. By the special summons of Theodosius, the second synod of Ephesus was judiciously composed of ten metropolitans and ten bishops from each of the six dioceses of the Eastern empire; some exceptions of favour or merit enlarged the number to one hundred and thirty-five; and the Syrian Barsumas, as the chief and representative of the monks, was invited to sit and vote with the successors of the apostles. But the despotism of the Alexandrian patriarch again oppressed the freedom of debate; the same spiritual and carnal weapons were again drawn from the arsenals of Egypt; the Asiatic veterans, a band of archers, served under the orders of Dioscorus; and the more formidable monks, whose minds were inaccessible to reason or mercy, besieged the doors of the cathedral. The general Edition: current; Page: [155] and, as it should seem, the unconstrained voice of the fathers accepted the faith and even the anathemas of Cyril; and the heresy of the two natures was formally condemned in the persons and writings of the most learned Orientals. “May those who divide Christ be divided with the sword, may they be hewn in pieces, may they be burnt alive!” were the charitable wishes of a Christian synod.60 The innocence and sanctity of Eutyches were acknowledged without hesitation; but the prelates, more especially those of Thrace and Asia, were unwilling to depose their patriarch for the use or even the abuse of his lawful jurisdiction. They embraced the knees of Dioscorus, as he stood with a threatening aspect on the footstool of his throne, and conjured him to forgive the offences, and to respect the dignity, of his brother. “Do you mean to raise a sedition?” exclaimed the relentless tyrant. “Where are the officers?” At these words a furious multitude of monks and soldiers, with staves, and swords, and chains, burst into the church; the trembling bishops hid themselves behind the altar, or under the benches; and, as they were not inspired with the zeal of martyrdom, they successively subscribed a blank paper, which was afterwards filled with the condemnation of the Byzantine pontiff. Flavian was instantly delivered to the wild beasts of this spiritual amphitheatre; the monks were stimulated by the voice and example of Barsumas to avenge the injuries of Christ; it is said that the patriarch of Alexandria reviled, and buffeted, and kicked, and trampled his brother of Constantinople:61 it is certain that the victim, Edition: current; Page: [156] before he could reach the place of his exile, expired on the third day, of the wounds and bruises which he had received at Ephesus. This second synod has been justly branded as a gang of robbers and assassins;62 yet the accusers of Dioscorus would magnify his violence, to alleviate the cowardice and inconstancy of their own behaviour.

The faith of Egypt had prevailed; but the vanquished party was supported by the same pope who encountered without fear the hostile rage of Attila and Genseric. The theology of Leo, his famous tome or epistle on the mystery of the incarnation, had been disregarded by the synod of Ephesus; his authority, and that of the Latin church, was insulted in his legates, who escaped from slavery and death to relate the melancholy tale of the tyranny of Dioscorus and the martyrdom of Flavian. His provincial synod annulled the irregular proceedings of Ephesus; but, as this step was itself irregular, he solicited the convocation of a general council in the free and orthodox provinces of Italy. From his independent throne the Roman bishop spoke and acted without danger, as the head of the Christians, and his dictates were obsequiously transcribed by Placidia and her son Valentinian, who addressed their Eastern colleague to restore the peace and unity of the church. But the pageant of Oriental royalty was moved with equal dexterity by the hand of the eunuch; and Theodosius could pronounce, without hesitation, that the church was already peaceful and triumphant, and that the recent flame had been extinguished by the just punishment of the Nestorians. Perhaps the Greeks would be still Edition: current; Page: [157] involved in the heresy of the Monophysites, if the emperor’s horse had not fortunately stumbled; Theodosius expired; his orthodox sister, Pulcheria, with a nominal husband, succeeded to the throne; Chrysaphius was burnt, Dioscorus was disgraced, the exiles were recalled, and the tome of Leo was subscribed by the Oriental bishops. Yet the pope was disappointed in his favourite project of a Latin council; he disdained to preside in the Greek synod which was speedily assembled at Nice in Bithynia; his legates required in a peremptory tone the presence of the emperor; and the weary fathers were transported to Chalcedon under the immediate eye of Marcian and the senate of Constantinople. A quarter of a mile from the Thracian Bosphorus, the church of St. Euphemia was built on the summit of a gentle though lofty ascent; the triple structure was celebrated as a prodigy of art, and the boundless prospect of the land and sea might have raised the mind of a sectary to the contemplation of the God of the universe. Six hundred and thirty bishops were ranged in order in the nave of the church; but the patriarchs of the East were preceded by the legates, of whom the third was a simple priest; and the place of honour was reserved for twenty laymen of consular or senatorian rank. The gospel was ostentatiously displayed in the centre, but the rule of faith was defined by the papal and Imperial ministers, who moderated the thirteen sessions of the council of Chalcedon.63 Their partial interposition silenced the intemperate shouts and execrations which degraded the episcopal gravity; but, on the formal accusation of the legates, Dioscorus was Edition: current; Page: [158] compelled to descend from his throne to the rank of a criminal, already condemned in the opinion of his judges. The Orientals, less adverse to Nestorius than to Cyril, accepted the Romans as their deliverers: Thrace, and Pontus, and Asia were exasperated against the murderer of Flavian, and the new patriarchs of Constantinople and Antioch secured their places by the sacrifice of their benefactor. The bishops of Palestine, Macedonia, and Greece were attached to the faith of Cyril; but in the face of the synod, in the heat of the battle, the leaders, with their obsequious train, passed from the right to the left wing, and decided the victory by this seasonable desertion. Of the seventeen suffragans who sailed from Alexandria, four were tempted from their allegiance, and the thirteen, falling prostrate on the ground, implored the mercy of the council, with sighs and tears and a pathetic declaration that, if they yielded, they should be massacred, on their return to Egypt, by the indignant people. A tardy repentance was allowed to expiate the guilt or error of the accomplices of Dioscorus; but their sins were accumulated on his head; he neither asked nor hoped for pardon, and the moderation of those who pleaded for a general amnesty was drowned in the prevailing cry of victory and revenge. To save the reputation of his late adherents, some personal offences were skilfully detected: his rash and illegal excommunication of the pope, and his contumacious refusal (while he was detained a prisoner) to attend the summons of the synod. Witnesses were introduced to prove the special facts of his pride, avarice, and cruelty; and the fathers heard with abhorrence that the alms of the church were lavished on the female dancers, that his palace, and even his bath, was open to the prostitutes of Alexandria, and that the infamous Pansophia, or Irene, was publicly entertained as the concubine of the patriarch.64

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For these scandalous offences Dioscorus was deposed by the synod and banished by the emperor; but the purity of his faith was declared in the presence, and with the tacit approbation, of the fathers. Their prudence supposed rather than pronounced the heresy of Eutyches, who was never summoned before their tribunal; and they sat silent and abashed, when a bold Monophysite, casting at their feet a volume of Cyril, challenged them to anathematise in his person the doctrine of a saint. If we fairly peruse the acts of Chalcedon as they are recorded by the orthodox party,65 we shall find that a great majority of the bishops embraced the simple unity of Christ; and the ambiguous concession, that he was formed of or from two natures, might imply either their previous existence, or their subsequent confusion, or some dangerous interval between the conception of the man and the assumption of the God. The Roman theology, more positive and precise, adopted the term most offensive to the ears of the Egyptians, that Christ existed in two natures; and this momentous particle66 (which the memory, rather than the understanding, Edition: current; Page: [160] must retain) had almost produced a schism among the Catholic bishops. The tome of Leo had been respectfully, perhaps sincerely, subscribed; but they protested, in two successive debates, that it was neither expedient nor lawful to transgress the sacred landmarks which had been fixed at Nice, Constantinople, and Ephesus, according to the rule of scripture and tradition. At length they yielded to the importunities of their masters, but their infallible decree, after it had been ratified with deliberate votes and vehement acclamations, was overturned in the next session by the opposition of the legates and their Oriental friends. It was in vain that a multitude of episcopal voices repeated in chorus, “The definition of the fathers is orthodox and immutable! The heretics are now discovered! Anathema to the Nestorians! Let them depart from the synod! Let them repair to Rome!”67 The legates threatened, the emperor was absolute, and a committee of eighteen bishops prepared a new decree, which was imposed on the reluctant assembly. In the name of the fourth general council, the Christ in one person, but in two natures, was announced to the Catholic world; an invisible line was drawn between the heresy of Apollinaris and the faith of St. Cyril; and the road to paradise, a bridge as sharp as a razor, was suspended over the abyss by the master-hand of the theological artist. During ten centuries of blindness and servitude, Europe received her religious opinions from the oracle of the Vatican; and the same doctrine, already varnished with the rust of antiquity, was admitted without dispute into the creed of the reformers, who disclaimed the supremacy of the Roman pontiff. The synod Edition: current; Page: [161] of Chalcedon still triumphs in the Protestant churches; but the ferment of controversy has subsided, and the most pious Christians of the present day are ignorant or careless of their own belief concerning the mystery of the incarnation.

Far different was the temper of the Greeks and Egyptians under the orthodox reigns of Leo and Marcian. Those pious emperors enforced with arms and edicts the symbol of their faith;68 and it was declared by the conscience or honour of five hundred bishops that the decrees of the synod of Chalcedon might be lawfully supported, even with blood. The Catholics observed with satisfaction that the same synod was odious both to the Nestorians and the Monophysites;69 but the Nestorians were less angry, or less powerful, and the East was distracted by the obstinate and sanguinary zeal of the Monophysites. Jerusalem was occupied by an army of monks; in the name of the one incarnate nature, they pillaged, they burnt, they murdered; the sepulchre of Christ was defiled with blood; and the gates of the city were guarded in tumultuous rebellion against the troops of the emperor. After the disgrace and exile of Dioscorus, the Egyptians still regretted their spiritual father, and detested the usurpation of his successor, who was introduced by the fathers of Chalcedon. The throne of Proterius was supported by a guard of two thousand soldiers; he Edition: current; Page: [162] waged a five years’ war against the people of Alexandria; and, on the first intelligence of the death of Marcian, he became the victim of their zeal. On the third day before the festival of Easter, the patriarch was besieged in the cathedral and murdered in the baptistery. The remains of his mangled corpse were delivered to the flames, and his ashes to the wind; and the deed was inspired by the vision of a pretended angel: an ambitious monk, who, under the name of Timothy the Cat,70 succeeded to the place and opinions of Dioscorus. This deadly superstition was inflamed, on either side, by the principle and the practice of retaliation: in the pursuit of a metaphysical quarrel, many thousands71 were slain, and the Christians of every degree were deprived of the substantial enjoyments of social life and of the invisible gifts of baptism and the holy communion. Perhaps an extravagant fable of the times may conceal an allegorical picture of these fanatics, who tortured each other and themselves. “Under the consulship of Venantius and Celer,” says a grave bishop, “the people of Alexandria, and all Egypt, were seized with a strange and diabolical frenzy: great and small, slaves and freedmen, monks and clergy, the natives of the land, who opposed the synod of Chalcedon, lost their speech and reason, barked like dogs, and tore, with their own teeth, the flesh from their hands and arms.”72

The disorders of thirty years at length produced the famous Henoticon73 of the emperor Zeno, which in his reign, and in Edition: current; Page: [163] that of Anastasius, was signed by all the bishops of the East, under the penalty of degradation and exile, if they rejected or infringed this salutary and fundamental law. The clergy may smile or groan at the presumption of a layman who defines the articles of faith;74 yet, if he stoops to the humiliating task, his mind is less infected by prejudice or interest, and the authority of the magistrate can only be maintained by the concord of the people. It is in ecclesiastical story that Zeno appears least contemptible; and I am not able to discern any Manichæan or Eutychian guilt in the generous saying of Anastasius, That it was unworthy of an emperor to persecute the worshippers of Christ and the citizens of Rome. The Henoticon was most pleasing to the Egyptians; yet the smallest blemish has not been described by the jealous and even jaundiced eyes of our orthodox schoolmen, and it accurately represents the Catholic faith of the incarnation, without adopting or disclaiming the peculiar terms or tenets of the hostile sects. A solemn anathema is pronounced against Nestorius and Eutyches; against all heretics by whom Christ is divided, or confounded, or reduced to a phantom. Without defining the number or the article of the word nature, the pure system of St. Cyril, the faith of Edition: current; Page: [164] Nice, Constantinople, and Ephesus, is respectfully confirmed; but, instead of bowing at the name of the fourth council, the subject is dismissed by the censure of all contrary doctrines, if any such have been taught either elsewhere or at Chalcedon. Under this ambiguous expression the friends and the enemies of the last synod might unite in a silent embrace. The most reasonable Christians acquiesced in this mode of toleration; but their reason was feeble and inconstant, and their obedience was despised as timid and servile by the vehement spirit of their brethren. On a subject which engrossed the thoughts and discourses of men, it was difficult to preserve an exact neutrality; a book, a sermon, a prayer, rekindled the flame of controversy; and the bonds of communion were alternately broken and renewed by the private animosity of the bishops. The space between Nestorius and Eutyches was filled by a thousand shades of language and opinion; the acephali75 of Egypt and the Roman pontiffs, of equal valour though of unequal strength, may be found at the two extremities of the theological scale. The acephali, without a king or a bishop, were separated above three hundred years from the patriarchs of Alexandria, who had accepted the communion of Constantinople, without exacting a formal condemnation of the synod of Chalcedon. For accepting the communion of Alexandria, without a formal approbation of the same synod, the patriarchs of Constantinople were anathematised by the popes. Their inflexible despotism involved the most orthodox of the Greek churches in this spiritual contagion, denied or doubted the validity of their sacraments,76 and fomented, thirty-five years, the schism of the Edition: current; Page: [165] East and West, till they finally abolished the memory of four Byzantine pontiffs, who had dared to oppose the supremacy of St. Peter.77 Before that period, the precarious truce of Constantinople and Egypt had been violated by the zeal of the rival prelates. Macedonius, who was suspected of the Nestorian heresy, asserted, in disgrace and exile, the synod of Chalcedon, while the successor of Cyril would have purchased its overthrow with a bribe of two thousand pounds of gold.

In the fever of the times, the sense, or rather the sound, of a syllable was sufficient to disturb the peace of an empire. The Trisagion78 (thrice holy), “Holy, holy, holy, Lord God of Hosts!” is supposed by the Greeks to be the identical hymn which the angels and cherubim eternally repeat before the throne of God, and which, about the middle of the fifth century, was miraculously revealed to the church of Constantinople. The devotion of Antioch soon added “who was crucified for us!” and this grateful address, either to Christ alone or to the whole Trinity, may be justified by the rules of theology, and has been gradually adopted by the Catholics of the East and West. But it had been imagined by a Monophysite Edition: current; Page: [166] bishop;79 the gift of an enemy was at first rejected as a dire and dangerous blasphemy, and the rash innovation had nearly cost the emperor Anastasius his throne and his life.80 The people of Constantinople was devoid of any rational principles of freedom; but they held, as a lawful cause of rebellion, the colour of a livery in the races, or the colour of a mystery in the schools. This Trisagion, with and without this obnoxious addition, was chanted in the cathedral by two adverse choirs, and, when their lungs were exhausted, they had recourse to the more solid arguments of sticks and stones; the aggressors were punished by the emperor, and defended by the patriarch; and the crown and mitre were staked on the event of this momentous quarrel. The streets were instantly crowded with innumerable swarms of men, women, and children; the legions of monks, in regular array, marched and shouted, and fought at their head. “Christians! this is the day of martyrdom; let us not desert our spiritual father; anathema to the Manichæan tyrant! he is unworthy to reign.” Such was the Catholic cry; and the galleys of Anastasius lay upon their oars before the palace, till the patriarch had pardoned his penitent and hushed the waves of the troubled multitude. The triumph of Macedonius was checked by a speedy exile; but the zeal of his flock was again exasperated by the same question, “Whether one of the Trinity had been crucified?” On this momentous occasion the blue and green factions of Constantinople suspended their discord, and the civil and military powers were annihilated Edition: current; Page: [167] in their presence. The keys of the city and the standards of the guards were deposited in the forum of Constantine, the principal station and camp of the faithful. Day and night they were incessantly busied either in singing hymns to the honour of their God or in pillaging and murdering the servants of their prince. The head of his favourite monk, the friend, as they styled him, of the enemy of the Holy Trinity, was borne aloft on a spear; and the firebrands, which had been darted against heretical structures, diffused the undistinguishing flames over the most orthodox buildings. The statues of the emperor were broken, and his person was concealed in a suburb, till, at the end of three days, he dared to implore the mercy of his subjects. Without his diadem and in the posture of a suppliant, Anastasius appeared on the throne of the circus. The Catholics, before his face, rehearsed their genuine Trisagion; they exulted in the offer which he proclaimed by the voice of a herald of abdicating the purple; they listened to the admonition that, since all could not reign, they should previously agree in the choice of a sovereign; and they accepted the blood of two unpopular ministers, whom their master, without hesitation, condemned to the lions. These furious but transient seditions were encouraged by the success of Vitalian, who, with an army of Huns and Bulgarians, for the most part idolaters, declared himself the champion of the Catholic faith. In this pious rebellion he depopulated Thrace, besieged Constantinople, exterminated sixty-five thousand of his fellow-Christians, till he obtained the recall of the bishops, the satisfaction of the pope, and the establishment of the council of Chalcedon, an orthodox treaty, reluctantly signed by the dying Anastasius, and more faithfully performed by the uncle of Justinian. And such was the event of the first of the religious wars which have been waged in the name, and by the disciples, of the God of peace.81

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Justinian has been already seen in the various lights of a prince, a conqueror, and a lawgiver: the theologian82 still remains, and it affords an unfavourable prejudice that his theology should form a very prominent feature of his portrait. The sovereign sympathised with his subjects in their superstitious reverence for living and departed saints; his Code, and more especially his Novels, confirm and enlarge the privileges of the clergy; and, in every dispute between a monk and a layman, the partial judge was inclined to pronounce that truth and innocence and justice were always on the side of the church. In his public and private devotions the emperor was assiduous and exemplary; his prayers, vigils, and fasts displayed the austere penance of a monk; his fancy was amused by the hope or belief of personal inspiration; he had secured the patronage of the Virgin and St. Michael the archangel; and his recovery from a dangerous disease was ascribed to the miraculous succour of the holy martyrs Cosmas and Damian. The capital and the provinces of the East were decorated with the monuments of his religion;83 and, though the far greater part of these costly structures may be attributed to his taste or ostentation, the zeal of the royal architect was probably quickened by a genuine sense of love and gratitude towards his invisible benefactors. Among the titles of Imperial greatness, Edition: current; Page: [169] the name of Pious was most pleasing to his ear; to promote the temporal and spiritual interest of the church was the serious business of his life; and the duty of father of his country was often sacrificed to that of defender of the faith. The controversies of the times were congenial to his temper and understanding; and the theological professors must inwardly deride the diligence of a stranger, who cultivated their art and neglected his own. “What can ye fear,” said a bold conspirator to his associates, “from your bigoted tyrant? Sleepless and unarmed he sits whole nights in his closet, debating with reverend grey-beards, and turning over the pages of ecclesiastical volumes.”84 The fruits of these lucubrations were displayed in many a conference, where Justinian might shine as the loudest and most subtle of the disputants; in many a sermon, which, under the name of edicts and epistles, proclaimed to the empire the theology of their master. While the Barbarians invaded the provinces, while the victorious legions marched under the banners of Belisarius and Narses, the successor of Trajan, unknown to the camp, was content to vanquish at the head of a synod. Had he invited to these synods a disinterested and rational spectator, Justinian might have learned “that religious controversy is the offspring of arrogance and folly; that true piety is most laudably expressed by silence and submission; that man, ignorant of his own nature, should not presume to scrutinise the nature of his God; and that it is sufficient for us to know that power and benevolence are the perfect attributes of the Deity.”85

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Toleration was not the virtue of the times, and indulgence to rebels has seldom been the virtue of princes. But, when the prince descends to the narrow and peevish character of a disputant, he is easily provoked to supply the defect of argument by the plenitude of power, and to chastise without mercy the perverse blindness of those who wilfully shut their eyes against the light of demonstration. The reign of Justinian was an uniform yet various scene of persecution; and he appears to have surpassed his indolent predecessors both in the contrivance of his laws and the rigour of their execution. The insufficient term of three months was assigned for the conversion or exile of all heretics;86 and, if he still connived at their precarious stay, they were deprived, under his iron yoke, not only of the benefits of society, but of the common birth-right of men and Christians. At the end of four hundred years, the Montanists of Phrygia87 still breathed the wild enthusiasm of perfection and prophecy which they had imbibed from their male and female apostles, the special organs of the Paraclete. On the approach of the Catholic priests and soldiers, they grasped with alacrity the crown of martyrdom; the conventicle and the congregation perished in the flames, but these primitive fanatics were not extinguished three hundred years after the death of their tyrant. Under the protection of the Gothic confederates, the church of the Arians at Constantinople had braved the severity of the laws; their clergy equalled the wealth and magnificence of the senate; and the gold and Edition: current; Page: [171] silver which were seized by the rapacious hand of Justinian might perhaps be claimed as the spoils of the provinces and the trophies of the Barbarians. A secret remnant of pagans, who still lurked in the most refined and most rustic conditions of mankind, excited the indignation of the Christians, who were, perhaps, unwilling that any strangers should be the witnesses of their intestine quarrels. A bishop was named as the inquisitor of the faith, and his diligence soon discovered, in the court and city, the magistrates, lawyers, physicians, and sophists, who still cherished the superstition of the Greeks. They were sternly informed that they must choose without delay between the displeasure of Jupiter or Justinian, and that their aversion to the gospel could no longer be disguised under the scandalous mask of indifference or impiety. The patrician Photius perhaps alone was resolved to live and to die like his ancestors; he enfranchised himself with the stroke of a dagger, and left his tyrant the poor consolation of exposing with ignominy the lifeless corpse of the fugitive. His weaker brethren submitted to their earthly monarch, underwent the ceremony of baptism, and laboured, by their extraordinary zeal, to erase the suspicion, or to expiate the guilt, of idolatry. The native country of Homer, and the theatre of the Trojan war, still retained the last sparks of his mythology: by the care of the same bishop, seventy thousand Pagans were detected and converted in Asia, Phrygia, Lydia, and Caria; ninety-six churches were built for the new proselytes; and linen vestments, bibles and liturgies, and vases of gold and silver were supplied by the pious munificence of Justinan.88 The Jews, who had been gradually stripped of their immunities, were oppressed by a vexatious law, which compelled them to observe the festival of Easter the same day on which Edition: current; Page: [172] it was celebrated by the Christians.89 And they might complain with the more reason, since the Catholics themselves did not agree with the astronomical calculations of their sovereign; the people of Constantinople delayed the beginning of their Lent a whole week after it had been ordained by authority; and they had the pleasure of fasting seven days, while meat was exposed for sale by the command of the emperor. The Samaritans of Palestine90 were a motley race, an ambiguous sect, rejected as Jews by the pagans, by the Jews as schismatics, and by the Christians as idolaters. The abomination of the cross had already been planted on their holy mount of Garizim,91 but the persecution of Justinian offered only the alternative of baptism or rebellion. They chose the latter; under the standard of a desperate leader, they rose in arms, and retaliated their wrongs on the lives, the property, and the temples of a defenceless people. The Samaritans were finally subdued by the regular forces of the East: twenty thousand were slain, twenty thousand were sold by the Arabs to the infidels of Persia and India, and the remains of that unhappy nation atoned for the crime of treason by the sin of hypocrisy. It has been computed that one hundred thousand Roman subjects were extirpated in the Samaritan war,92 which converted the once fruitful province Edition: current; Page: [173] into a desolate and smoking wilderness. But in the creed of Justinian the guilt of murder could not be applied to the slaughter of unbelievers; and he piously laboured to establish with fire and sword the unity of the Christian faith.93

With these sentiments, it was incumbent on him, at least, to be always in the right. In the first years of his administration, he signalised his zeal as the disciple and patron of orthodoxy; the reconciliation of the Greeks and Latins established the tome of St. Leo as the creed of the emperor and the empire; the Nestorians and Eutychians were exposed, on either side, to the double edge of persecution; and the four synods of Nice, Constantinople, Ephesus, and Chalcedon were ratified by the code of a Catholic lawgiver.94 But, while Justinian strove to maintain the uniformity of faith and worship, his wife Theodora, whose vices were not incompatible with devotion, had listened to the Monophysite teachers; and the Edition: current; Page: [174] open or clandestine enemies of the church revived and multiplied at the smile of their gracious patroness. The capital, the palace, the nuptial bed, were torn by spiritual discord; yet so doubtful was the sincerity of the royal consorts that their seeming disagreement was imputed by many to a secret and mischievous confederacy against the religion and happiness of their people.95 The famous dispute of the three chapters,96 which has filled more volumes than it deserves lines, is deeply marked with this subtle and disingenuous spirit. It was now three hundred years since the body of Origen97 had been eaten by the worms: his soul, of which he held the pre-existence, was in the hands of its Creator, but his writings were eagerly perused by the monks of Palestine. In these writings the piercing eye of Justinian descried more than ten metaphysical errors; and the primitive doctor, in the company of Pythagoras and Plato, was devoted by the clergy to the eternity of hell-fire, which he had presumed to deny. Under the cover of this precedent, a treacherous blow was aimed at the council of Chalcedon. The fathers had listened without impatience to the praise of Theodore of Edition: current; Page: [175] Mopsuestia;98 and their justice or indulgence had restored both Theodoret of Cyrrhus and Ibas of Edessa to the communion of the church. But the characters of these Oriental bishops were tainted with the reproach of heresy; the first had been the master, the two others were the friends, of Nestorius; their most suspicious passages were accused under the title of the three chapters; and the condemnation of their memory must involve the honour of a synod whose name was pronounced with sincere or affected reverence by the Catholic world. If these bishops, whether innocent or guilty, were annihilated in the sleep of death, they would not probably be awakened by the clamour which, after an hundred years, was raised over their grave. If they were already in the fangs of the demon, their torments could neither be aggravated nor assuaged by human industry. If in the company of saints and angels they enjoyed the rewards of piety, they must have smiled at the idle fury of the theological insects who still crawled on the surface of the earth. The foremost of these insects, the emperor of the Romans, darted his sting, and distilled his venom, perhaps without discerning the true motives of Theodora and her ecclesiastical faction. The victims were no longer subject to his power, and the vehement style of his edicts could only proclaim their damnation and invite the clergy of the East to join in a full chorus of curses and anathemas. The East, with some hesitation, consented to the voice of her sovereign: the fifth general council, of three patriarchs and one hundred and sixty-five bishops, was held at Constantinople; and the authors, as well as the defenders, of the three chapters were separated from the communion of the saints and solemnly delivered to the prince of darkness. Edition: current; Page: [176] But the Latin churches were more jealous of the honour of Leo and the synod of Chalcedon; and, if they had fought as they usually did under the standard of Rome, they might have prevailed in the cause of reason and humanity. But their chief was a prisoner in the hands of the enemy; the throne of St. Peter, which had been disgraced by the simony, was betrayed by the cowardice, of Vigilius, who yielded, after a long and inconsistent struggle, to the despotism of Justinian and the sophistry of the Greeks. His apostacy provoked the indignation of the Latins, and no more than two bishops could be found who would impose their hands on his deacon and successor Pelagius. Yet the perseverance of the popes insensibly transferred to their adversaries the appellation of schismatics: the Illyrian, African, and Italian churches were oppressed by the civil and ecclesiastical powers, not without some effort of military force;99 the distant Barbarians transcribed the creed of the Vatican; and, in the period of a century, the schism of the three chapters expired in an obscure angle of the Venetian province.100 But the religious discontent of the Italians had already promoted the conquests of the Lombards, and the Romans themselves were accustomed to suspect the faith, and to detest the government, of their Byzantine tyrant.

Justinian was neither steady nor consistent in the nice process of fixing his volatile opinions and those of his subjects. In his youth, he was offended by the slightest deviation Edition: current; Page: [177] from the orthodox line; in his old age, he transgressed the measure of temperate heresy, and the Jacobites, not less than the Catholics, were scandalised by his declaration that the body of Christ was incorruptible, and that his manhood was never subject to any wants and infirmities, the inheritance of our mortal flesh. This phantastic opinion was announced in the last edicts of Justinian; and at the moment of his seasonable departure the clergy had refused to subscribe, the prince was prepared to persecute, and the people were resolved to suffer or resist. A bishop of Treves, secure beyond the limits of his power, addressed the monarch of the East in the language of authority and affection. “Most gracious Justinian, remember your baptism and your creed! Let not your grey hairs be defiled with heresy. Recall your fathers from exile, and your followers from perdition. You cannot be ignorant that Italy and Gaul, Spain and Africa, already deplore your fall, and anathematise your name. Unless, without delay, you destroy what you have taught; unless you exclaim with a loud voice, I have erred, I have sinned, anathema to Nestorius, anathema to Eutyches, you deliver your soul to the same flames in which they will eternally burn.” He died and made no sign.101 His death restored in some Edition: current; Page: [178] degree the peace of the church, and the reigns of his four successors, Justin, Tiberius, Maurice, and Phocas, are distinguished by a rare, though fortunate, vacancy in the ecclesiastical history of the East.102

The faculties of sense and reason are least capable of acting on themselves; the eye is most inaccessible to the sight, the soul to the thought; yet we think, and even feel, that one will, a sole principle of action, is essential to a rational and conscious being. When Heraclius returned from the Persian war, the orthodox hero consulted his bishops, whether the Christ whom he adored, of one person but of two natures, was actuated by a single or a double will. They replied in the singular, and the emperor was encouraged to hope that the Jacobites of Egypt and Syria might be reconciled by the profession of a doctrine, most certainly harmless, and most probably true, since it was taught even by the Nestorians themselves.103 The experiment was tried without effect, and the timid or vehement Catholics condemned even the semblance of a retreat in the presence of a subtle and audacious enemy. The orthodox (the prevailing) party devised new modes of speech, and argument, and interpretation; to either nature of Christ they speciously applied a proper and distinct energy; but the difference was no longer visible when they allowed that the human and the divine will were invariably the same.104 Edition: current; Page: [179] The disease was attended with the customary symptoms; but the Greek clergy, as if satiate with the endless controversy of the incarnation, instilled a healing counsel into the ear of the prince and people. They declared themselves monothelites (asserters of the unity of will); but they treated the words as new, the questions as superfluous, and recommended a religious silence as the most agreeable to the prudence and charity of the gospel. This law of silence was successively imposed by the ecthesis or exposition of Heraclius, the type or model of his grandson Constans;105 and the Imperial edicts were subscribed with alacrity or reluctance by the four patriarchs of Rome, Constantinople, Alexandria, and Antioch. But the bishop and monks of Jerusalem sounded the alarm; in the language, or even in the silence, of the Greeks, the Latin churches detected a latent heresy; and the obedience of Pope Honorius to the commands of his sovereign was retracted and censured by the bolder ignorance of his successors. They condemned the execrable and abominable heresy of the Monothelites, who revived the errors of Manes, Apollinaris, Eutyches, &c.; they signed the sentence of excommunication on the tomb of St. Peter; the ink was mingled with the sacramental wine, the blood of Christ; and no ceremony was omitted that could fill the superstitious minds with horror and affright. As the representative of the Western church, Pope Martin and his Lateran synod anathematised the perfidious and guilty silence of the Greeks. One hundred and five bishops of Italy, for the most part the subjects of Constans, presumed to reprobate his wicked type and the impious Edition: current; Page: [180] ecthesis of his grandfather, and to confound the authors and their adherents with the twenty-one notorious heretics, the apostates from the church, and the organs of the devil. Such an insult under the tamest reign could not pass with impunity. Pope Martin ended his days on the inhospitable shore of the Tauric Chersonesus, and his oracle, the abbot Maximus, was inhumanly chastised by the amputation of his tongue and his right hand.106 But the same invincible spirit survived in their successors, and the triumph of the Latins avenged their recent defeat and obliterated the disgrace of the three chapters. The synods of Rome were confirmed by the sixth general council of Constantinople, in the palace and the presence of a new Constantine, a descendant of Heraclius. The royal convert converted the Byzantine pontiff and a majority of the bishops;107 the dissenters, with their chief, Macarius of Antioch, were condemned to the spiritual and temporal pains of heresy;108 the East condescended to accept the lessons of the West; and the creed was finally settled which teaches the Catholics of every age that two wills or energies are harmonised in the person of Christ. The majesty of the pope and the Roman synod was represented by two priests, one deacon, and three bishops; but these obscure Latins had neither arms to compel, nor treasures to bribe, nor language to persuade; and I am ignorant by what arts they could determine the Edition: current; Page: [181] lofty emperor of the Greeks to abjure the catechism of his infancy and to persecute the religion of his fathers. Perhaps the monks and people of Constantinople109 were favourable to the Lateran creed, which is indeed the least favourable of the two; and the suspicion is countenanced by the unnatural moderation of the Greek clergy, who appear in this quarrel to be conscious of their weakness. While the synod debated, a fanatic proposed a more summary decision, by raising a dead man to life; the prelates assisted at the trial; but the acknowledged failure may serve to indicate that the passions and prejudices of the multitude were not enlisted on the side of the Monothelites. In the next generation, when the son of Constantine was deposed and slain by the disciple of Macarius, they tasted the feast of revenge and dominion; the image or monument of the sixth council was defaced, and the original acts were committed to the flames. But in the second year their patron was cast headlong from the throne, the bishops of the East were released from their occasional conformity, the Roman faith was more firmly replanted by the orthodox successors of Bardanes, and the fine problems of the incarnation were forgotten in the more popular and visible quarrel of the worship of images.110

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Before the end of the seventh century, the creed of the incarnation, which had been defined at Rome and Constantinople, was uniformly preached in the remote islands of Britain and Ireland;111 the same ideas were entertained, or rather the same words were repeated, by all the Christians whose liturgy was performed in the Greek or the Latin tongue. Their numbers and visible splendour bestowed an imperfect claim to the appellation of Catholics; but in the East they were marked with the less honourable name of Melchites or Royalists;112 of men whose faith, instead of resting on the basis of scripture, reason, or tradition, had been established, and was still maintained, by the arbitrary power Edition: current; Page: [183] of a temporal monarch. Their adversaries might allege the words of the fathers of Constantinople, who profess themselves the slaves of the king; and they might relate, with malicious joy, how the decrees of Chalcedon had been inspired and reformed by the emperor Marcian and his virgin bride. The prevailing faction will naturally inculcate the duty of submission, nor is it less natural that dissenters should feel and assert the principles of freedom. Under the rod of persecution, the Nestorians and Monophysites degenerated into rebels and fugitives; and the most ancient and useful allies of Rome were taught to consider the emperor not as the chief, but as the enemy, of the Christians. Language, the leading principle which unites or separates the tribes of mankind, soon discriminated the sectaries of the East by a peculiar and perpetual badge, which abolished the means of intercourse and the hope of reconciliation. The long dominion of the Greeks, their colonies, and, above all, their eloquence had propagated a language doubtless the most perfect that has been contrived by the art of man. Yet the body of the people, both in Syria and Egypt, still persevered in the use of their national idioms; with this difference, however, that the Coptic was confined to the rude and illiterate peasants of the Nile, while the Syriac,113 from the mountains of Assyria to the Red Sea, was adapted to the higher topics of poetry and argument. Armenia and Abyssinia were infected by the speech and learning of the Greeks; and their barbaric tongues, which have been revived in the studies of modern Europe, were unintelligible to the inhabitants of the Edition: current; Page: [184] Roman empire. The Syriac and the Coptic, the Armenian and the Æthiopic, are consecrated in the service of their respective churches; and their theology is enriched by domestic versions114 both of the scriptures and of the most popular fathers. After a period of thirteen hundred and sixty years, the spark of controversy, first kindled by a sermon of Nestorius, still burns in the bosom of the East, and the hostile communions still maintain the faith and discipline of their founders. In the most abject state of ignorance, poverty, and servitude, the Nestorians and Monophysites reject the spiritual supremacy of Rome, and cherish the toleration of their Turkish masters, which allows them to anathematise, on one hand, St. Cyril and the synod of Ephesus, on the other, Pope Leo and the council of Chalcedon. The weight which they cast into the downfall of the Eastern empire demands our notice, and the reader may be amused with the various prospects of I. The Nestorians; II. The Jacobites;115 III. The Maronites; IV. The Armenians; V. The Copts; and VI. The Abyssinians. To the three former, the Syriac is common; but of the latter, each is discriminated by the use of a national idiom. Yet the modern natives of Armenia and Abyssinia would be incapable of conversing with their ancestors; and the Christians of Edition: current; Page: [185] Egypt and Syria, who reject the religion, have adopted the language, of the Arabians. The lapse of time has seconded the sacerdotal arts; and in the East, as well as in the West, the Deity is addressed in an obsolete tongue, unknown to the majority of the congregation.

I. Both in his native and his episcopal province, the heresy of the unfortunate Nestorius was speedily obliterated. The Oriental bishops, who at Ephesus had resisted to his face the arrogance of Cyril, were mollified by his tardy concessions. The same prelates, or their successors, subscribed, not without a murmur, the decrees of Chalcedon; the power of the Monophysites reconciled them with the Catholics in the conformity of passion, of interest, and insensibly of belief; and their last reluctant sigh was breathed in the defence of the three chapters. Their dissenting brethren, less moderate, or more sincere, were crushed by the penal laws; and as early as the reign of Justinian it became difficult to find a church of Nestorians within the limits of the Roman empire. Beyond those limits they had discovered a new world, in which they might hope for liberty and aspire to conquest. In Persia, notwithstanding the resistance of the Magi, Christianity had struck a deep root, and the nations of the East reposed under its salutary shade. The catholic, or primate, resided in the capital; in his synods, and in their dioceses, his metropolitans, bishops, and clergy represented the pomp and honour of a regular hierarchy; they rejoiced in the increase of proselytes, who were converted from the Zendavesta to the Gospel, from the secular to the monastic life; and their zeal was stimulated by the presence of an artful and formidable enemy. The Persian church had been founded by the missionaries of Syria; and their language, discipline, and doctrine were closely interwoven with its original frame. The catholics were elected and ordained by their own suffragans; but their filial dependence on the patriarchs of Antioch is attested by the canons of the Oriental Edition: current; Page: [186] church.116 In the Persian school of Edessa,117 the rising generations of the faithful imbibed their theological idiom; they studied in the Syriac version the ten thousand volumes of Theodore of Mopsuestia; and they revered the apostolic faith and holy martyrdom of his disciple Nestorius, whose person and language were equally unknown to the nations beyond the Tigris. The first indelible lesson of Ibas, bishop of Edessa, taught them to execrate the Egyptians, who, in the synod of Ephesus, had impiously confounded the two natures of Christ. The flight of the masters and scholars, who were twice expelled from the Athens of Syria, dispersed a crowd of missionaries, inflamed by the double zeal of religion and revenge. And the rigid unity of the Monophysites, who, under the reigns of Zeno and Anastasius, had invaded the thrones of the East, provoked their antagonists, in a land of freedom, to avow a moral, rather than a physical, union of the two persons of Christ. Since the first preaching of the gospel, the Sassanian kings beheld with an eye of suspicion a race of aliens and apostates, who had embraced the religion, and who might favour the cause, of the hereditary foes of their country. The royal edicts had often prohibited their Edition: current; Page: [187] dangerous correspondence with the Syrian clergy; the progress of the schism was grateful to the jealous pride of Perozes, and he listened to the eloquence of an artful prelate, who painted Nestorius as the friend of Persia, and urged him to secure the fidelity of his Christian subjects by granting a just preference to the victims and enemies of the Roman tyrant. The Nestorians composed a large majority of the clergy and people; they were encouraged by the smile, and armed with the sword, of despotism; yet many of their weaker brethren were startled at the thought of breaking loose from the communion of the Christian world, and the blood of seven thousand seven hundred Monophysites, or Catholics, confirmed the uniformity of faith and discipline in the churches of Persia.118 Their ecclesiastical institutions are distinguished by a liberal principle of reason, or at least of policy; the austerity of the cloister was relaxed and gradually forgotten; houses of charity were endowed for the education of orphans and foundlings; the law of celibacy, so forcibly recommended to the Greeks and Latins, was disregarded by the Persian clergy; and the number of the elect was multiplied by the public and reiterated nuptials of the priests, the bishops, and even the patriarch himself. To this standard of natural and religious freedom myriads of fugitives resorted from all the provinces of the Eastern empire; the narrow bigotry of Justinian was punished by the emigration of his most industrious subjects; they transported into Persia the arts both of peace and war; and those who deserved the favour, were promoted in the service, of a discerning monarch. The arms of Nushirvan, and his fiercer grandson, were assisted with advice, and money, and troops, by the desperate sectaries who still lurked in their Edition: current; Page: [188] native cities of the East; their zeal was rewarded with the gift of the Catholic churches; but, when those cities and churches were recovered by Heraclius, their open profession of treason and heresy compelled them to seek a refuge in the realm of their foreign ally. But the seeming tranquillity of the Nestorians was often endangered, and sometimes overthrown. They were involved in the common evils of Oriental despotism; their enmity to Rome could not always atone for their attachment to the gospel; and a colony of three hundred thousand Jacobites, the captives of Apamea and Antioch, was permitted to erect an hostile altar in the face of the catholic and in the sunshine of the court. In his last treaty, Justinian introduced some conditions which tended to enlarge and fortify the toleration of Christianity in Persia. The emperor, ignorant of the rights of conscience, was incapable of pity or esteem for the heretics who denied the authority of the holy synods; but he flattered himself that they would gradually perceive the temporal benefits of union with the empire and the church of Rome; and, if he failed in exciting their gratitude, he might hope to provoke the jealousy of their sovereign. In a later age, the Lutherans have been burnt at Paris, and protected in Germany, by the superstition and policy of the most Christian king.

The desire of gaining souls for God, and subjects for the church, has excited in every age the diligence of the Christian priests. From the conquest of Persia they carried their spiritual arms to the north, the east, and the south; and the simplicity of the gospel was fashioned and painted with the colours of the Syriac theology. In the sixth century, according to the report of a Nestorian traveller,119 Edition: current; Page: [189] Christianity was successfully preached to the Bactrians, the Huns, the Persians, the Indians, the Persarmenians, the Medes, and the Elamites; the Barbaric churches, from the gulf of Persia to the Caspian sea, were almost infinite; and their recent faith was conspicuous in the number and sanctity of their monks and martyrs. The pepper coast of Malabar, and the isles of the ocean, Socotora and Ceylon, were peopled with an increasing multitude of Christians; and the bishops and clergy of those sequestered regions derived their ordination from the catholic of Babylon. In a subsequent age, the zeal of the Nestorians overleaped the limits which had confined the ambition and curiosity both of the Greeks and Persians. The missionaries of Balch and Samarcand pursued without fear the footsteps of the roving Tartar, and insinuated themselves into the camps of the valleys of Imaus and the banks of the Selinga. They exposed a metaphysical creed to those illiterate shepherds; to those sanguinary warriors they recommended humanity and repose. Yet a khan, whose power they vainly magnified, is said to have received at their hands the rites of baptism, and even of ordination; and the fame of Prester or Presbyter John120 has Edition: current; Page: [190] long amused the credulity of Europe. The royal convert was indulged in the use of a portable altar; but he despatched an embassy to the patriarch, to inquire how, in the season of Lent, he should abstain from animal food, and how he might celebrate the Eucharist in a desert that produced neither corn nor wine. In their progress by sea and land, the Nestorians entered China by the port of Canton and the northern residence of Sigan. Unlike the senators of Rome, who assumed with a smile the characters of priests and augurs, the mandarins, who affect in public the reason of philosophers, are devoted in private to every mode of popular superstition. They cherished and they confounded the gods of Palestine and of India; but the propagation of Christianity awakened the jealousy of the state, and, after a short vicissitude of favour and persecution, the foreign sect expired in ignorance and oblivion.121 Under the reign of the caliphs, the Nestorian church was diffused from China to Jerusalem and Cyprus; and their numbers, with those of the Jacobites, were computed to surpass the Greek and Latin communions.122 Twenty-five metropolitans or archbishops composed their hierarchy, but several of these were dispensed, by the distance and danger of the way, from the duty of personal attendance, on the easy condition that every six years they should testify their faith and obedience to the Edition: current; Page: [191] catholic or patriarch of Babylon: a vague appellation, which has been successively applied to the royal seats of Seleucia, Ctesiphon, and Bagdad. These remote branches are long since withered, and the old patriarchal trunk123 is now divided by the Elijahs of Mosul, the representatives, almost in lineal descent, of the genuine and primitive succession, the Josephs of Amida, who are reconciled to the church of Rome,124 and the Simeons of Van or Ormia, whose revolt, at the head of forty thousand families, was promoted in the sixteenth century by the Sophis of Persia. The number of three hundred thousand is allowed for the whole body of the Nestorians, who, under the name of Chaldæans or Assyrians, are confounded with the most learned or the most powerful nation of Eastern antiquity.

According to the legend of antiquity, the gospel was preached in India by St. Thomas.125 At the end of the ninth century, his shrine, perhaps in the neighbourhood of Madras, was devoutly visited by the ambassadors of Alfred, and their return with a cargo of pearls and spices rewarded the zeal of the English monarch, who entertained the largest projects Edition: current; Page: [192] of trade and discovery.126 When the Portuguese first opened the navigation of India, the Christians of St. Thomas had been seated for ages on the coast of Malabar, and the difference of their character and colour attested the mixture of a foreign race. In arms, in arts, and possibly in virtue, they excelled the natives of Hindostan; the husbandmen cultivated the palm-tree, the merchants were enriched by the pepper-trade, the soldiers preceded the nairs or nobles of Malabar, and their hereditary privileges were respected by the gratitude or the fear of the king of Cochin and the Zamorin himself. They acknowledged a Gentoo sovereign, but they were governed, even in temporal concerns, by the bishop of Angamala. He still asserted his ancient title of metropolitan of India, but his real jurisdiction was exercised in fourteen hundred churches, and he was entrusted with the care of two hundred thousand souls. Their religion would have rendered them the firmest and most cordial allies of the Portuguese, but the inquisitors soon discerned in the Christians of St. Thomas the unpardonable guilt of heresy and schism. Instead of owning themselves the subjects of the Roman pontiff, the spiritual and temporal monarch of the globe, they adhered, like their ancestors, to the communion of the Nestorian patriarch; and the bishops whom he ordained at Mosul traversed the dangers of the sea and land to reach their diocese on the coast of Malabar. In their Syriac liturgy, the names of Theodore and Nestorius were piously commemorated; they united their adoration of the two persons of Christ; the title of Mother of God was offensive to their ear, Edition: current; Page: [193] and they measured with scrupulous avarice the honours of the Virgin Mary, whom the superstition of the Latins had almost exalted to the rank of a goddess. When her image was first presented to the disciples of St. Thomas, they indignantly exclaimed, “We are Christians, not idolaters!” and their simple devotion was content with the veneration of the cross. Their separation from the Western world had left them in ignorance of the improvements, or corruptions, of a thousand years; and their conformity with the faith and practice of the fifth century would equally disappoint the prejudices of a Papist or a Protestant. It was the first care of the ministers of Rome to intercept all correspondence with the Nestorian patriarch, and several of his bishops expired in the prisons of the holy office. The flock, without a shepherd, was assaulted by the power of the Portuguese, the arts of the Jesuits, and the zeal of Alexis de Menezes, archbishop of Goa, in his personal visitation of the coast of Malabar. The synod of Diamper, at which he presided, consummated the pious work of the reunion, and rigorously imposed the doctrine and discipline of the Roman church, without forgetting auricular confession, the strongest engine of ecclesiastical torture. The memory of Theodore and Nestorius was condemned, and Malabar was reduced under the dominion of the pope, of the primate, and of the Jesuits who invaded the see of Angamala or Cranganor. Sixty years of servitude and hypocrisy were patiently endured; but, as soon as the Portuguese empire was shaken by the courage and industry of the Dutch, the Nestorians asserted, with vigour and effect, the religion of their fathers. The Jesuits were incapable of defending the power which they had abused; the arms of forty thousand Christians were pointed against their falling tyrants; and the Indian archdeacon assumed the character of bishop, till a fresh supply of episcopal gifts and Syriac missionaries could be obtained from the patriarch of Babylon. Since the expulsion of the Portuguese, the Nestorian creed is Edition: current; Page: [194] freely professed on the coast of Malabar. The trading companies of Holland and England are the friends of toleration; but, if oppression be less mortifying than contempt, the Christians of St. Thomas have reason to complain of the cold and silent indifference of their brethren of Europe.127

II. The history of the Monophysites is less copious and interesting than that of the Nestorians. Under the reigns of Zeno and Anastasius, their artful leaders surprised the ear of the prince, usurped the thrones of the East, and crushed on its native soil the school of the Syrians. The rule of the Monophysite faith was defined with exquisite discretion by Severus, patriarch of Antioch: he condemned, in the style of the Henoticon, the adverse heresies of Nestorius and Eutyches, maintained against the latter the reality of the body of Christ, and constrained the Greeks to allow that he was a liar who spoke truth.128 But the approximation of ideas could not abate the vehemence of passion; each party was the more astonished that their blind antagonist could dispute on so trifling a difference; the tyrant of Syria enforced the belief of his creed, and his reign was polluted with the blood of three hundred and fifty monks, who were slain, not perhaps Edition: current; Page: [195] without provocation or resistance, under the walls of Apamea.129 The successor of Anastasius replanted the orthodox standard in the East; Severus fled into Egypt; and his friend, the eloquent Xenaias,130 who had escaped from the Nestorians of Persia, was suffocated in his exile by the Melchites of Paphlagonia. Fifty-four bishops were swept from their thrones, eight hundred ecclesiastics were cast into prison,131 and, notwithstanding the ambiguous favour of Theodora, the Oriental flocks, deprived of their shepherds, must insensibly have been either famished or poisoned. In this spiritual distress, the expiring faction was revived, and united, and perpetuated by the labours of a monk; and the name of James Baradæus132 has been preserved in the appellation of Jacobites, a familiar sound which may startle the ear of an English reader. From the holy confessors in their prison of Constantinople he received the powers of bishop of Edessa and apostle of the East, and the ordination of fourscore Edition: current; Page: [196] thousand bishops, priests, and deacons is derived from the same inexhaustible source. The speed of the zealous missionary was promoted by the fleetest dromedaries of a devout chief of the Arabs; the doctrine and discipline of the Jacobites were secretly established in the dominions of Justinian; and each Jacobite was compelled to violate the laws and to hate the Roman legislator. The successors of Severus, while they lurked in convents or villages, while they sheltered their proscribed heads in the caverns of hermits or the tents of the Saracens, still asserted, as they now assert, their indefeasible right to the title, the rank, and the prerogatives of patriarch of Antioch; under the milder yoke of the infidels they reside about a league from Merdin, in the pleasant monastery of Zapharan, which they have embellished with cells, aqueducts, and plantations. The secondary, though honourable, place is filled by the maphrian, who, in his station at Mosul itself, defies the Nestorian catholic, with whom he contests the supremacy of the East. Under the patriarch and the maphrian, one hundred and fifty archbishops and bishops have been counted in the different ages of the Jacobite church; but the order of the hierarchy is relaxed or dissolved, and the greater part of their dioceses is confined to the neighbourhood of the Euphrates and the Tigris. The cities of Aleppo and Amida, which are often visited by the patriarch, contain some wealthy merchants and industrious mechanics, but the multitude derive their scanty sustenance from their daily labour; and poverty, as well as superstition, may impose their excessive fasts: five annual lents, during which both the clergy and laity abstain not only from flesh or eggs, but even from the taste of wine, of oil, and of fish. Their present numbers are esteemed from fifty to fourscore thousand souls, the remnant of a populous church, which has gradually decreased under the oppression of twelve centuries. Yet in that long period some strangers of merit have been converted to the Monophysite faith, and a Jew was the father of Abulpharagius,133 Edition: current; Page: [197] primate of the East, so truly eminent both in his life and death. In his life, he was an elegant writer of the Syriac and Arabic tongues, a poet, physician, and historian, a subtle philosopher, and a moderate divine. In his death, his funeral was attended by his rival the Nestorian patriarch, with a train of Greeks and Armenians, who forgot their disputes and mingled their tears over the grave of an enemy. The sect which was honoured by the virtues of Abulpharagius appears, however, to sink below the level of their Nestorian brethren. The superstition of the Jacobites is more abject, their fasts more rigid,134 their intestine divisions are more numerous, and their doctors (as far as I can measure the degrees of nonsense) are more remote from the precincts of reason. Something may possibly be allowed for the rigour of the Monophysite theology; much more for the superior influence of the monastic order. In Syria, in Egypt, in Æthiopia, the Jacobite monks have ever been distinguished by the austerity of their penance and the absurdity of their legends. Alive or dead, they are worshipped as the favourites of the Deity; the crosier of bishop and patriarch is reserved for their venerable hands; and they assume the government of men, while they are yet reeking with the habits and prejudices of the cloister.135

III. In the style of the Oriental Christians, the Monothelites of every age are described under the appellation of Edition: current; Page: [198] Maronites,136 a name which has been insensibly transferred from an hermit to a monastery, from a monastery to a nation. Maron, a saint or savage of the fifth century, displayed his religious madness in Syria; the rival cities of Apamea and Emesa disputed his relics, a stately church was erected on his tomb, and six hundred of his disciples united their solitary cells on the banks of the Orontes. In the controversies of the incarnation, they nicely threaded the orthodox line between the sects of Nestorius and Eutyches; but the unfortunate question of one will or operation in the two natures of Christ was generated by their curious leisure. Their proselyte, the emperor Heraclius, was rejected as a Maronite from the walls of Emesa; he found a refuge in the monastery of his brethren; and their theological lessons were repaid with the gift of a spacious and wealthy domain. The name and doctrine of this venerable school were propagated among the Greeks and Syrians, and their zeal is expressed by Macarius, patriarch of Antioch, who declared before the synod of Constantinople that, sooner than subscribe the two wills of Christ, he would submit to be hewn piece-meal and cast into the sea.137 A similar or a less cruel mode of persecution soon converted the unresisting subjects of the plain, while the glorious title of Mardaites,138 or rebels, was bravely maintained Edition: current; Page: [199] by the hardy natives of Mount Libanus. John Maron, one of the most learned and popular of the monks, assumed the character of patriarch of Antioch; his nephew Abraham, at the head of the Maronites, defended their civil and religious freedom against the tyrants of the East. The son of the orthodox Constantine pursued, with pious hatred, a people of soldiers, who might have stood the bulwark of his empire against the common foes of Christ and of Rome. An army of Greeks invaded Syria; the monastery of St. Maron was destroyed with fire; the bravest chieftains were betrayed and murdered; and twelve thousand of their followers were transplanted to the distant frontiers of Armenia and Thrace. Yet the humble nation of the Maronites has survived the empire of Constantinople, and they still enjoy, under their Turkish masters, a free religion and a mitigated servitude. Their domestic governors are chosen among the ancient nobility; the patriarch, in his monastery of Canobin, still fancies himself on the throne of Antioch; nine bishops compose his synod, and one hundred and fifty priests, who retain the liberty of marriage, are entrusted with the care of one hundred thousand souls. Their country extends from the ridge of Mount Libanus to the shores of Tripoli; and the gradual descent affords, in a narrow space, each variety of soil and climate, from the Holy Cedars, erect under the weight of snow,139 to the vine, the mulberry, and the olive trees of the fruitful valley. In the twelfth century, the Maronites, abjuring the Monothelite error, were reconciled to the Latin churches of Antioch and Rome,140 and the same alliance has been frequently Edition: current; Page: [200] renewed by the ambition of the popes and the distress of the Syrians. But it may reasonably be questioned whether their union has ever been perfect or sincere; and the learned Maronites of the college of Rome have vainly laboured to absolve their ancestors from the guilt of heresy and schism.141

IV. Since the age of Constantine, the Armenians142 had signalised their attachment to the religion and empire of the Christians. The disorders of their country, and their ignorance of the Greek tongue, prevented their clergy from assisting at the synod of Chalcedon, and they floated eighty-four years143 in a state of indifference or suspense, till their vacant faith was finally occupied by the missionaries of Julian of Halicarnassus,144 who in Egypt, their common exile, had been vanquished by the arguments or the influence of his rival Severus, the Monophysite patriarch of Antioch. The Armenians Edition: current; Page: [201] alone are the pure disciples of Eutyches, an unfortunate parent, who has been renounced by the greater part of his spiritual progeny. They alone persevere in the opinion that the manhood of Christ was created, or existed without creation, of a divine and incorruptible substance. Their adversaries reproach them with the adoration of a phantom; and they retort the accusation, by deriding or execrating the blasphemy of the Jacobites, who impute to the Godhead the vile infirmities of the flesh, even the natural effects of nutrition and digestion. The religion of Armenia could not derive much glory from the learning or the power of its inhabitants. The royalty expired with the origin of their schism, and their Christian kings, who arose and fell in the thirteenth century on the confines of Cilicia, were the clients of the Latins, and the vassals of the Turkish sultan of Iconium. The helpless nation has seldom been permitted to enjoy the tranquillity of servitude. From the earliest period to the present hour, Armenia has been the theatre of perpetual war; the lands between Tauris and Erivan were dispeopled by the cruel policy of the Sophis; and myriads of Christian families were transplanted, to perish or to propagate in the distant provinces of Persia. Under the rod of oppression, the zeal of the Armenians is fervid and intrepid; they have often preferred the crown of martyrdom to the white turban of Mahomet; they devoutly hate the error and idolatry of the Greeks; and their transient union with the Latins is not less devoid of truth than the thousand bishops whom their patriarch offered at the feet of the Roman pontiff.145 The catholic, or patriarch of the Armenians, resides in the monastery of Ekmiasin, three leagues from Erivan. Forty-seven archbishops, each of whom may claim the obedience of four or five suffragans, are consecrated by his hand; but the far Edition: current; Page: [202] greater part are only titular prelates, who dignify with their presence and service the simplicity of his court. As soon as they have performed the liturgy, they cultivate the garden; and our bishops will hear with surprise that the austerity of their life increases in just proportion to the elevation of their rank. In the fourscore thousand towns or villages of his spiritual empire, the patriarch receives a small and voluntary tax from each person above the age of fifteen; but the annual amount of six hundred thousand crowns is insufficient to supply the incessant demands of charity and tribute. Since the beginning of the last century, the Armenians have obtained a large and lucrative share of the commerce of the East; in their return from Europe, the caravan usually halts in the neighbourhood of Erivan, the altars are enriched with the fruits of their patient industry; and the faith of Eutyches is preached in their recent congregations of Barbary and Poland.146

V. In the rest of the Roman empire, the despotism of the prince might eradicate or silence the sectaries of an obnoxious creed. But the stubborn temper of the Egyptians maintained their opposition to the synod of Chalcedon, and the policy of Justinian condescended to expect and to seize the opportunity of discord. The Monophysite church of Alexandria147 was torn by the disputes of the corruptibles and incorruptibles, and, on the death of the patriarch, the two factions upheld their respective candidates.148 Gaian was the disciple of Edition: current; Page: [203] Julian, Theodosius had been the pupil of Severus. The claims of the former were supported by the consent of the monks and senators, the city and the province; the latter depended on the priority of his ordination, the favour of the empress Theodora, and the arms of the eunuch Narses, which might have been used in more honourable warfare. The exile of the popular candidate to Carthage and Sardinia inflamed the ferment of Alexandria; and, after a schism of one hundred and seventy years, the Gaianites still revered the memory and doctrine of their founder. The strength of numbers and of discipline was tried in a desperate and bloody conflict; the streets were filled with the dead bodies of citizens and soldiers; the pious women, ascending the roofs of their houses, showered down every sharp or ponderous utensil on the heads of the enemy; and the final victory of Narses was owing to the flames with which he wasted the third capital of the Roman world. But the lieutenant of Justinian had not conquered in the cause of an heretic; Theodosius himself was speedily, though gently, removed; and Paul of Tanis, an orthodox monk, was raised to the throne of Athanasius. The powers of government were strained in his support; he might appoint or displace the dukes and tribunes of Egypt; the allowance of bread which Diocletian had granted was suppressed, the churches were shut, and a nation of schismatics was deprived at once of their spiritual and carnal food. In his turn, the tyrant was excommunicated by the zeal and revenge of the people; and none except his servile Melchites would salute him as a man, a Christian, or a bishop. Yet such is the blindness of ambition that, when Paul was expelled on a charge of murder, he solicited, with a bribe of seven hundred pounds of gold, his restoration to the same station of hatred and ignominy. His successor Apollinaris entered the hostile city in military array, alike qualified for prayer or for battle. His troops, under arms, were distributed through the streets; the gates of the cathedral were guarded; and a chosen band was Edition: current; Page: [204] stationed in the choir, to defend the person of their chief. He stood erect on his throne, and, throwing aside the upper garment of a warrior, suddenly appeared before the eyes of the multitude in the robes of patriarch of Alexandria. Astonishment held them mute; but no sooner had Apollinaris begun to read the tome of St. Leo than a volley of curses, and invectives, and stones assaulted the odious minister of the emperor and the synod. A charge was instantly sounded by the successor of the apostles; the soldiers waded to their knees in blood; and two hundred thousand Christians are said to have fallen by the sword: an incredible account, even if it be extended from the slaughter of a day to the eighteen years of the reign of Apollinaris. Two succeeding patriarchs, Eulogius149 and John,150 laboured in the conversion of heretics, with arms and arguments more worthy of their evangelical profession. The theological knowledge of Eulogius was displayed in many a volume, which magnified the errors of Eutyches and Severus, and attempted to reconcile the ambiguous language of St. Cyril with the orthodox creed of Pope Leo and the fathers of Chalcedon. The bounteous alms of John the Eleemosynary were dictated by superstition, or benevolence, or policy. Seven thousand five hundred poor were maintained at his expense; on his accession, he Edition: current; Page: [205] found eight thousand pounds of gold in the treasury of the church; he collected ten thousand from the liberality of the faithful; yet the primate could boast in his testament that he left behind him no more than the third part of the smallest of the silver coins. The churches of Alexandria were delivered to the Catholics, the religion of the Monophysites was proscribed in Egypt, and a law was revived which excluded the natives from the honours and emoluments of the state.

A more important conquest still remained, of the patriarch, the oracle and leader of the Egyptian church. Theodosius had resisted the threats and promises of Justinian with the spirit of an apostle or an enthusiast. “Such,” replied the patriarch, “were the offers of the tempter, when he shewed the kingdoms of the earth. But my soul is far dearer to me than life or dominion. The churches are in the hands of a prince who can kill the body; but my conscience is my own; and in exile, poverty, or chains, I will stedfastly adhere to the faith of my holy predecessors, Athanasius, Cyril, and Dioscorus. Anathema to the tome of Leo and the synod of Chalcedon! Anathema to all who embrace their creed! Anathema to them now and for evermore! Naked came I out of my mother’s womb; naked shall I descend into the grave. Let those who love God follow me, and seek their salvation.” After comforting his brethren, he embarked for Constantinople, and sustained in six successive interviews the almost irresistible weight of the royal presence. His opinions were favourably entertained in the palace and the city; the influence of Theodora assured him a safe-conduct and honourable dismission; and he ended his days, though not on the throne, yet in the bosom, of his native country. On the news of his death, Apollinaris indecently feasted the nobles and the clergy; but his joy was checked by the intelligence of a new election; and, while he enjoyed the wealth of Alexandria, his rivals reigned in the monasteries of Thebais, and were maintained by the voluntary oblations of the people. A perpetual succession of patriarchs arose from the ashes of Edition: current; Page: [206] Theodosius; and the Monophysite churches of Syria and Egypt were united by the name of Jacobites and the communion of the faith. But the same faith, which has been confined to a narrow sect of the Syrians, was diffused over the mass of the Egyptian or Coptic nation, who, almost unanimously, rejected the decrees of the synod of Chalcedon. A thousand years were now elapsed since Egypt had ceased to be a kingdom, since the conquerors of Asia and Europe had trampled on the ready necks of a people whose ancient wisdom and power ascends beyond the records of history. The conflict of zeal and persecution rekindled some sparks of their national spirit. They abjured, with a foreign heresy, the manners and language of the Greeks: every Melchite, in their eyes, was a stranger, every Jacobite a citizen; the alliance of marriage, the offices of humanity, were condemned as a deadly sin; the natives renounced all allegiance to the emperor; and his orders, at a distance from Alexandria, were obeyed only under the pressure of military force. A generous effort might have redeemed the religion and liberty of Egypt, and her six hundred monasteries might have poured forth their myriads of holy warriors, for whom death should have no terrors, since life had no comfort or delight. But experience has proved the distinction of active and passive courage; the fanatic who endures without a groan the torture of the rack or the stake would tremble and fly before the face of an armed enemy. The pusillanimous temper of the Egyptians could only hope for a change of masters; the arms of Chosroes depopulated the land, yet under his reign the Jacobites enjoyed a short and precarious respite. The victory of Heraclius renewed and aggravated the persecution, and the patriarch again escaped from Alexandria to the desert. In his flight, Benjamin was encouraged by a voice which bade him expect, at the end of ten years, the aid of a foreign nation, marked like the Egyptians themselves with the ancient right of circumcision. The character of these deliverers and the nature of the deliverance will be hereafter explained; and I Edition: current; Page: [207] shall step over the interval of eleven centuries, to observe the present misery of the Jacobites of Egypt. The populous city of Cairo affords a residence, or rather a shelter, for their indigent patriarch and a remnant of ten bishops; forty monasteries have survived the inroads of the Arabs; and the progress of servitude and apostacy has reduced the Coptic nation to the despicable number of twenty-five or thirty thousand families:151 a race of illiterate beggars, whose only consolation is derived from the superior wretchedness of the Greek patriarch and his diminutive congregation.152

VI. The Coptic patriarch, a rebel to the Cæsars, or a slave to the caliphs, still gloried in the filial obedience of the kings of Nubia and Æthiopia. He repaid their homage by magnifying their greatness; and it was boldly asserted that they could bring into the field an hundred thousand horse, with an equal number of camels;153 that their hand could pour or restrain the waters of the Nile;154 and the peace and plenty of Egypt Edition: current; Page: [208] was obtained, even in this world, by the intercession of the patriarch. In exile at Constantinople, Theodosius recommended to his patroness the conversion of the black nations of Nubia,155 from the tropic of Cancer to the confines of Abyssinia. Her design was suspected, and emulated, by the more orthodox emperor. The rival missionaries, a Melchite and a Jacobite, embarked at the same time; but the empress, from a motive of love or fear, was more effectually obeyed; and the Catholic priest was detained by the president of Thebais while the king of Nubia and his court were hastily baptised in the faith of Dioscorus. The tardy envoy of Justinian was received and dismissed with honour; but, when he accused the heresy and treason of the Egyptians, the negro convert was instructed to reply that he would never abandon his brethren, the true believers, to the persecuting ministers of the synod of Chalcedon.156 During several ages the bishops of Edition: current; Page: [209] Nubia were named and consecrated by the Jacobite patriarch of Alexandria; as late as the twelfth century, Christianity prevailed; and some rites, some ruins, are still visible in the savage towns of Sennaar and Dongola.157 But the Nubians at length executed their threats of returning to the worship of idols; the climate required the indulgence of polygamy; and they have finally preferred the triumph of the Koran to the abasement of the Cross. A metaphysical religion may appear too refined for the capacity of the negro race; yet a black or a parrot might be taught to repeat the words of the Chalcedonian or Monophysite creed.

Christianity was more deeply rooted in the Abyssinian empire; and, although the correspondence has been sometime interrupted above seventy or an hundred years, the mother-church of Alexandria retains her colony in a state of perpetual pupilage. Seven bishops once composed the Æthiopic synod: had their number amounted to ten, they might have elected an independent primate; and one of their kings was ambitious of promoting his brother to the ecclesiastical throne. But the event was foreseen, the increase was denied; the episcopal office has been gradually confined to the abuna,158 the head and author of the Abyssinian priesthood; the patriarch Edition: current; Page: [210] supplies each vacancy with an Egyptian monk; and the character of a stranger appears more venerable in the eyes of the people, less dangerous in those of the monarch. In the sixth century, when the schism of Egypt was confirmed, the rival chiefs, with their patrons Justinian and Theodora, strove to outstrip each other in the conquest of a remote and independent province. The industry of the empress was again victorious, and the pious Theodora has established in that sequestered church the faith and discipline of the Jacobites.159 Encompassed on all sides by the enemies of their religion, the Æthiopians slept near a thousand years, forgetful of the world, by whom they were forgotten. They were awakened by the Portuguese, who, turning the southern promontory of Africa, appeared in India and the Red Sea, as if they had descended through the air from a distant planet. In the first moments of their interview, the subjects of Rome and Alexandria observed the resemblance, rather than the difference, of their faith; and each nation expected the most important benefits from an alliance with their Christian brethren. In their lonely situation, the Æthiopians had almost relapsed into the savage life. Their vessels, which had traded to Ceylon, scarcely presumed to navigate the rivers of Africa; the ruins of Axume were deserted, the nation was scattered in villages, and the emperor (a pompous name) was content, both in peace and war, with the immoveable residence of a camp. Conscious of their own indigence, the Abyssinians had formed the rational project of importing the arts and ingenuity of Europe;160 and their ambassadors at Rome and Lisbon were instructed to solicit a colony of smiths, Edition: current; Page: [211] carpenters, tilers, masons, printers, surgeons, and physicians, for the use of their country. But the public danger soon called for the instant and effectual aid of arms and soldiers to defend an unwarlike people from the Barbarians who ravaged the inland country, and the Turks and Arabs who advanced from the sea-coast in more formidable array. Æthiopia was saved by four hundred and fifty Portuguese, who displayed in the field the native valour of Europeans and the artificial powers of the musket and cannon. In a moment of terror, the emperor had promised to reconcile himself and his subjects to the Catholic faith; a Latin patriarch represented the supremacy of the pope;161 the empire, enlarged in a tenfold proportion, was supposed to contain more gold than the mines of America; and the wildest hopes of avarice and zeal were built on the willing submission of the Christians of Africa.

But the vows which pain had extorted were forsworn on the return of health. The Abyssinians still adhered with unshaken constancy to the Monophysite faith; their languid belief was inflamed by the exercise of dispute; they branded the Latins with the names of Arians and Nestorians, and imputed the adoration of four gods to those who separated the two natures of Christ. Fremona, a place of worship, or rather of exile, was assigned to the Jesuit missionaries. Their skill in the liberal and mechanic arts, their theological learning, and the decency of their manners inspired a barren esteem; but they were not endowed with the gift of miracles,162 Edition: current; Page: [212] and they vainly solicited a reinforcement of European troops. The patience and dexterity of forty years at length obtained a more favourable audience, and two emperors of Abyssinia were persuaded that Rome could ensure the temporal and everlasting happiness of her votaries. The first of these royal converts lost his crown and his life; and the rebel army was sanctified by the abuna, who hurled an anathema at the apostate, and absolved his subjects from their oath of fidelity. The fate of Zadenghel was revenged by the courage and fortune of Susneus, who ascended the throne under the name of Segued, and more vigorously prosecuted the pious enterprise of his kinsman. After the amusement of some unequal combats between the Jesuits and his illiterate priests, the emperor declared himself a proselyte to the synod of Chalcedon, presuming that his clergy and people would embrace without delay the religion of their prince. The liberty of choice was succeeded by a law which imposed, under pain of death, the belief of the two natures of Christ: the Abyssinians were enjoined to work and to play on the Sabbath; and Segued, in the face of Europe and Africa, renounced his connection with the Alexandrian church. A Jesuit, Alphonso Mendez, the Catholic patriarch of Æthiopia, accepted in the name of Urban VIII. the homage and abjuration of his penitent. “I confess,” said the emperor on his knees, “I confess that the pope is the vicar of Christ, the successor of St. Peter, and the sovereign of the world. To him I swear true obedience, and at his feet I offer my person and kingdom.” A similar oath was repeated by his son, his brother, the clergy, the nobles, and even the ladies of the court; the Latin patriarch was invested with honours and wealth; and his missionaries erected their churches or citadels in the most convenient stations of Edition: current; Page: [213] the empire. The Jesuits themselves deplore the fatal indiscretion of their chief, who forgot the mildness of the gospel and the policy of his order, to introduce with hasty violence the liturgy of Rome and the inquisition of Portugal. He condemned the ancient practice of circumcision, which health rather than superstition had first invented in the climate of Æthiopia.163 A new baptism, a new ordination, was inflicted on the natives; and they trembled with horror when the most holy of the dead were torn from their graves, when the most illustrious of the living were excommunicated by a foreign priest. In the defence of their religion and liberty, the Abyssinians rose in arms, with desperate but unsuccessful zeal. Five rebellions were extinguished in the blood of the insurgents; two abunas were slain in battle, whole legions were slaughtered in the field, or suffocated in their caverns: and neither merit nor rank nor sex could save from an ignominious death the enemies of Rome. But the victorious monarch was finally subdued by the constancy of the nation, of his mother, of his son, and of his most faithful friends. Segued listened to the voice of pity, of reason, perhaps of fear; and his edict of liberty of conscience instantly revealed the tyranny and weakness of the Jesuits. On the death of his father, Basilides expelled the Latin patriarch, and restored to the wishes of the nation the faith and the discipline of Egypt. The Monophysite churches resounded with a song of triumph, “that the sheep of Æthiopia were now delivered from the hyenas of the West;” and the gates of that solitary realm were for ever Edition: current; Page: [214] shut against the arts, the science, and the fanaticism of Europe.164

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Plan of the last two [quarto] Volumes — Succession and Characters of the Greek Emperors of Constantinople, from the Time of Heraclius to the Latin Conquest

I have now deduced from Trajan to Constantine, from Constantine to Heraclius, the regular series of the Roman emperors; and faithfully exposed the prosperous and adverse fortunes of their reigns. Five centuries of the decline and fall of the empire have already elapsed; but a period of more than eight hundred years still separates me from the term of my labours, the taking of Constantinople by the Turks. Should I persevere in the same course, should I observe the same measure, a prolix and slender thread would be spun through many a volume, nor would the patient reader find an adequate reward of instruction or amusement. At every step, as we sink deeper in the decline and fall of the Eastern empire, the annals of each succeeding reign would impose a more ungrateful and melancholy task. These annals must continue to repeat a tedious and uniform tale of weakness and misery; the natural connection of causes and events would be broken by frequent and hasty transitions, and a minute accumulation of circumstances must destroy the light and effect of those general pictures which compose the use and ornament of a remote history. From the time of Heraclius, the Byzantine theatre is contracted and darkened; the line of empire, which had been defined by the laws of Justinian and the arms of Belisarius, recedes on all sides from our view; the Roman name, the proper subject of our inquiries, is reduced to a narrow corner of Europe, to the lonely suburbs of Constantinople; and the fate of the Greek empire has been compared Edition: current; Page: [216] to that of the Rhine, which loses itself in the sands before its waters can mingle with the ocean. The scale of dominion is diminished to our view by the distance of time and place; nor is the loss of external splendour compensated by the nobler gifts of virtue and genius. In the last moments of her decay, Constantinople was doubtless more opulent and populous than Athens at her most flourishing era, when a scanty sum of six thousand talents, or twelve hundred thousand pounds sterling, was possessed by twenty-one thousand male citizens of an adult age. But each of these citizens was a freeman, who dared to assert the liberty of his thoughts, words, and actions; whose person and property were guarded by equal law; and who exercised his independent vote in the government of the republic. Their numbers seem to be multiplied by the strong and various discriminations of character: under the shield of freedom, on the wings of emulation and vanity, each Athenian aspired to the level of the national dignity; from this commanding eminence some chosen spirits soared beyond the reach of a vulgar eye; and the chances of superior merit in a great and populous kingdom, as they are proved by experience, would excuse the computation of imaginary millions. The territories of Athens, Sparta, and their allies do not exceed a moderate province of France or England; but, after the trophies of Salamis and Platæa, they expand in our fancy to the gigantic size of Asia, which had been trampled under the feet of the victorious Greeks. But the subjects of the Byzantine empire, who assume and dishonour the names both of Greeks and Romans, present a dead uniformity of abject vices, which are neither softened by the weakness of humanity nor animated by the vigour of memorable crimes. The freemen of antiquity might repeat, with generous enthusiasm, the sentence of Homer, “that, on the first day of his servitude, the captive is deprived of one half of his manly virtue.” But the poet had only seen the effects of civil or domestic slavery, nor could he foretell that the second moiety of manhood must be annihilated by the spiritual despotism Edition: current; Page: [217] which shackles not only the actions but even the thoughts of the prostrate votary. By this double yoke, the Greeks were oppressed under the successors of Heraclius; the tyrant, a law of eternal justice, was degraded by the vices of his subjects; and on the throne, in the camp, in the schools, we search, perhaps with fruitless diligence, the names and characters that may deserve to be rescued from oblivion. Nor are the defects of the subject compensated by the skill and variety of the painters. Of a space of eight hundred years, the four first centuries are overspread with a cloud, interrupted by some faint and broken rays of historic light; in the lives of the emperors, from Maurice to Alexius, Basil the Macedonian has alone been the theme of a separate work; and the absence, or loss, or imperfection of contemporary evidence must be poorly supplied by the doubtful authority of more recent compilers. The four last centuries are exempt from the reproach of penury; and with the Comnenian family the historic muse of Constantinople again revives, but her apparel is gaudy, her motions are without elegance or grace. A succession of priests, or courtiers, treads in each other’s footsteps in the same path of servitude and superstition: their views are narrow, their judgment is feeble or corrupt; and we close the volume of copious barrenness, still ignorant of the causes of events, the characters of the actors, and the manners of the times, which they celebrate or deplore. The observation which has been applied to a man may be extended to a whole people, that the energy of the sword is communicated to the pen; and it will be found, by experience, that the tone of history will rise or fall with the spirit of the age.

From these considerations, I should have abandoned, without regret, the Greek slaves and their servile historians, had I not reflected that the fate of the Byzantine monarchy is passively connected with the most splendid and important revolutions which have changed the state of the world. The space of the lost provinces was immediately replenished with new colonies and rising kingdoms; the active virtues of peace Edition: current; Page: [218] and war deserted from the vanquished to the victorious nations; and it is in their origin and conquests, in their religion and government, that we must explore the causes and effects of the decline and fall of the Eastern empire. Nor will this scope of narrative, the riches and variety of these materials, be incompatible with the unity of design and composition. As, in his daily prayers, the Musulman of Fez or Delhi still turns his face towards the temple of Mecca, the historian’s eye shall be always fixed on the city of Constantinople. The excursive line may embrace the wilds of Arabia and Tartary, but the circle will be ultimately reduced to the decreasing limit of the Roman monarchy.

On this principle, I shall now establish the plan of the last two volumes of the present work. The first chapter will contain, in a regular series, the emperors who reigned at Constantinople during a period of six hundred years, from the days of Heraclius to the Latin conquest: a rapid abstract, which may be supported by a general appeal to the order and text of the original historians. In this introduction, I shall confine myself to the revolutions of the throne, the successions of families, the personal characters of the Greek princes, the mode of their life and death, the maxims and influence of their domestic government, and the tendency of their reign to accelerate or suspend the downfall of the Eastern empire. Such a chronological review will serve to illustrate the various argument of the subsequent chapters; and each circumstance of the eventful story of the Barbarians will adapt itself in a proper place to the Byzantine annals. The internal state of the empire, and the dangerous heresy of the Paulicians, which shook the East and enlightened the West, will be the subject of two separate chapters; but these inquiries must be postponed till our further progress shall have opened the view of the world in the ninth and tenth centuries of the Christian era. After this foundation of Byzantine history, the following nations will pass before our eyes, and each will occupy the space to which it may be entitled by greatness or Edition: current; Page: [219] merit, or the degree of connection with the Roman world and the present age. I. The Franks: a general appellation which includes all the Barbarians of France, Italy, and Germany, who were united by the sword and sceptre of Charlemagne. The persecution of images and their votaries separated Rome and Italy from the Byzantine throne, and prepared the restoration of the Roman empire in the West. II. The Arabs or Saracens. Three ample chapters will be devoted to this curious and interesting object. In the first, after a picture of the country and its inhabitants, I shall investigate the character of Mahomet; the character, religion, and success of the prophet. In the second, I shall lead the Arabs to the conquest of Syria, Egypt, and Africa, the provinces of the Roman empire; nor can I check their victorious career till they have overthrown the monarchies of Persia and Spain. In the third, I shall inquire how Constantinople and Europe were saved by the luxury and arts, the division and decay, of the empire of the caliphs. A single chapter will include, III. The Bulgarians, IV. Hungarians, and V. Russians, who assaulted by sea or by land the provinces and the capital; but the last of these, so important in their present greatness, will excite some curiosity in their origin and infancy. VI. The Normans; or rather the private adventurers of that warlike people, who founded a powerful kingdom in Apulia and Sicily, shook the throne of Constantinople, displayed the trophies of chivalry, and almost realised the wonders of romance. VII. The Latins; the subjects of the pope, the nations of the West, who enlisted under the banner of the Cross, for the recovery or relief of the holy sepulchre. The Greek emperors were terrified and preserved by the myriads of pilgrims who marched to Jerusalem with Godfrey of Bouillon and the peers of Christendom. The second and third crusades trod in the footsteps of the first: Asia and Europe were mingled in a sacred war of two hundred years; and the Christian powers were bravely resisted, and finally expelled, by Saladin and the Mamalukes Edition: current; Page: [220] of Egypt. In these memorable crusades, a fleet and army of French and Venetians were diverted from Syria to the Thracian Bosphorus; they assaulted the capital, they subverted the Greek monarchy; and a dynasty of Latin princes was seated near threescore years on the throne of Constantine. VIII. The Greeks themselves, during this period of captivity and exile, must be considered as a foreign nation, the enemies, and again the sovereigns, of Constantinople. Misfortune had rekindled a spark of national virtue; and the Imperial series may be continued, with some dignity, from their restoration to the Turkish conquest. IX. The Moguls and Tartars. By the arms of Zingis and his descendants the globe was shaken from China to Poland and Greece; the Sultans were overthrown; the caliphs fell; and the Cæsars trembled on their throne. The victories of Timour suspended, above fifty years, the final ruin of the Byzantine empire. X. I have already noticed the first appearance of the Turks; and the names of the fathers, of Seljuk and Othman, discriminate the two successive dynasties of the nation which emerged in the eleventh century from the Scythian wilderness. The former established a potent and splendid kingdom from the banks of the Oxus to Antioch and Nice; and the first crusade was provoked by the violation of Jerusalem and the danger of Constantinople. From an humble origin, the Ottomans arose, the scourge and terror of Christendom. Constantinople was besieged and taken by Mahomet II., and his triumph annihilates the remnant, the image, the title, of the Roman empire in the East. The schism of the Greeks will be connected with their last calamities, and the restoration of learning in the Western world. I shall return from the captivity of the new, to the ruins of ancient, Rome; and the venerable name, the interesting theme, will shed a ray of glory on the conclusion of my labours.1

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The emperor Heraclius had punished a tyrant and ascended his throne; and the memory of his reign is perpetuated by the transient conquest, and irreparable loss, of the Eastern provinces. After the death of Eudocia, his first wife, he disobeyed the patriarch, and violated the laws, by his second marriage with his niece Martina; and the superstition of the Greeks beheld the judgment of heaven in the diseases of the father and the deformity of his offspring.1 But the opinion of an illegitimate birth is sufficient to distract the choice, and loosen the obedience, of the people; the ambition of Martina was quickened by maternal love, and perhaps by the envy of a step-mother; and the aged husband was too feeble to withstand the arts of conjugal allurements. Constantine, his eldest son, enjoyed in a mature age the title of Augustus; but the weakness of his constitution required a colleague and a guardian, and he yielded with secret reluctance to the partition of the empire. The senate was summoned to the palace to ratify or attest the association of Heracleonas, the son of Martina;2 the imposition of the diadem was consecrated by the prayer and blessing of the patriarch; the senators and patricians adored the majesty of the great emperor and the partners of his reign; and, as soon as the doors were thrown open, they were hailed by the tumultuary but important voice of the soldiers. After an interval of five months, the pompous ceremonies which formed the essence of the Byzantine state were celebrated in the cathedral and hippodrome; the concord of the royal brothers was affectedly displayed by the younger leaning on the arm of the elder; and the name of Martina was mingled in the reluctant or venal acclamations of the people. Heraclius Edition: current; Page: [222] survived this association about two years; his last testimony declared his two sons the equal heirs of the Eastern empire, and commanded them to honour his widow Martina as their mother and their sovereign.

When Martina first appeared on the throne with the name and attributes of royalty, she was checked by a firm, though respectful, opposition; and the dying embers of freedom were kindled by the breath of superstitious prejudice. “We reverence,” exclaimed the voice of a citizen, “we reverence the mother of our princes; but to those princes alone our obedience is due; and Constantine, the elder emperor, is of an age to sustain, in his own hands, the weight of the sceptre. Your sex is excluded by nature from the toils of government. How could you combat, how could you answer, the Barbarians, who, with hostile or friendly intentions, may approach the royal city? May heaven avert from the Roman republic this national disgrace, which would provoke the patience of the slaves of Persia!” Martina descended from the throne with indignation, and sought a refuge in the female apartment of the palace. The reign of Constantine the Third lasted only one hundred and three days; he expired in the thirtieth year of his age, and, although his life had been a long malady, a belief was entertained that poison had been the means, and his cruel step-mother the author, of his untimely fate. Martina reaped, indeed, the harvest of his death, and assumed the government in the name of the surviving emperor; but the incestuous widow of Heraclius was universally abhorred; the jealousy of the people was awakened; and the two orphans, whom Constantine had left, became the objects of the public care. It was in vain that the son of Martina, who was no more than fifteen years of age, was taught to declare himself the guardian of his nephews, one of whom he had presented at the baptismal font; it was in vain that he swore on the wood of the true cross to defend them against all their enemies. On his death-bed, the late emperor despatched a trusty servant to arm the troops and provinces of the East in Edition: current; Page: [223] the defence of his helpless children; the eloquence and liberality of Valentin had been successful, and from his camp of Chalcedon he boldly demanded the punishment of the assassins and the restoration of the lawful heir. The licence of the soldiers, who devoured the grapes and drank the wine of their Asiatic vineyards, provoked the citizens of Constantinople against the domestic authors of their calamities, and the dome of St. Sophia re-echoed, not with prayers and hymns, but with the clamours and imprecations of an enraged multitude. At their imperious command, Heracleonas appeared in the pulpit with the eldest of the royal orphans; Constans alone was saluted as emperor of the Romans; and a crown of gold, which had been taken from the tomb of Heraclius, was placed on his head, with the solemn benediction of the patriarch. But in the tumult of joy and indignation the church was pillaged, the sanctuary was polluted by a promiscuous crowd of Jews and Barbarians; and the Monothelite Pyrrhus, a creature of the empress, after dropping a protestation on the altar, escaped by a prudent flight from the zeal of the Catholics. A more serious and bloody task was reserved for the senate, who derived a temporary strength from the consent of the soldiers and people. The spirit of Roman freedom revived the ancient and awful examples of the judgment of tyrants, and the Imperial culprits were deposed and condemned as the authors of the death of Constantine. But the severity of the conscript fathers was stained by the indiscriminate punishment of the innocent and the guilty: Martina and Heracleonas were sentenced to the amputation, the former of her tongue, the latter of his nose; and after this cruel execution they consumed the remainder of their days in exile and oblivion. The Greeks who were capable of reflection might find some consolation for their servitude, by observing the abuse of power when it was lodged for a moment in the hands of an aristocracy.

We shall imagine ourselves transported five hundred years Edition: current; Page: [224] backwards to the age of the Antonines, if we listen to the oration which Constans II.3 pronounced in the twelfth year of his age before the Byzantine senate. After returning his thanks for the just punishment of the assassins who had intercepted the fairest hopes of his father’s reign, “By the divine providence,” said the young emperor, “and by your righteous decree, Martina and her incestuous progeny have been cast headlong from the throne. Your majesty and wisdom have prevented the Roman state from degenerating into lawless tyranny. I therefore exhort and beseech you to stand forth as the counsellors and judges of the common safety.” The senators were gratified by the respectful address and liberal donative of their sovereign; but these servile Greeks were unworthy and regardless of freedom; and, in his mind, the lesson of an hour was quickly erased by the prejudices of the age and the habits of despotism. He retained only a jealous fear lest the senate or people should one day invade the right of primogeniture and seat his brother Theodosius on an equal throne. By the imposition of holy orders, the grandson of Heraclius was disqualified for the purple; but this ceremony, which seemed to profane the sacraments of the church, was insufficient to appease the suspicions of the tyrant, and the death of the deacon Theodosius could alone expiate the crime of his royal birth. His murder was avenged by the imprecations of the people, and the assassin, in the fulness of power, was driven from his capital into voluntary and perpetual exile. Constans embarked for Greece; and, as if he meant to retort the abhorrence which he deserved, he is said, from the Imperial galley, to have spit against the walls of his native city. After passing the winter at Athens, he sailed to Tarentum in Italy, visited Rome, and concluded a long pilgrimage of disgrace Edition: current; Page: [225] and sacrilegious rapine, by fixing his residence at Syracuse.4 But, if Constans could fly from his people, he could not fly from himself. The remorse of his conscience created a phantom who pursued him by land and sea, by day and by night; and the visionary Theodosius, presenting to his lips a cup of blood, said, or seemed to say, “Drink, brother, drink:” a sure emblem of the aggravation of his guilt, since he had received from the hands of the deacon the mystic cup of the blood of Christ.5 Odious to himself and to mankind, Constans perished by domestic, perhaps by episcopal, treason in the capital of Sicily. A servant who waited in the bath, after pouring warm water on his head, struck him violently with the vase. He fell, stunned by the blow and suffocated by the water; and his attendants, who wondered at the tedious delay, beheld with indifference the corpse of their lifeless emperor. The troops of Sicily invested with the purple an obscure youth, whose inimitable beauty eluded, and it might easily elude, the declining art of the painters and sculptors of the age.

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Constans had left in the Byzantine palace three sons, the eldest of whom had been clothed in his infancy with the purple. When the father summoned them to attend his person in Sicily, these precious hostages were detained by the Greeks, and a firm refusal informed him that they were the children of the state. The news of his murder was conveyed with almost supernatural speed from Syracuse to Constantinople; and Constantine, the eldest of his sons, inherited his throne without being the heir of the public hatred.6 His subjects contributed with zeal and alacrity, to chastise the guilt and presumption of a province which had usurped the rights of the senate and people; the young emperor sailed from the Hellespont with a powerful fleet; and the legions of Rome and Carthage were assembled under his standard in the harbour of Syracuse. The defeat of the Sicilian tyrant was easy, his punishment just, and his beauteous head was exposed in the hippodrome; but I cannot applaud the clemency of a prince who, among a crowd of victors, condemned the son of a patrician for deploring with some bitterness the execution of a virtuous father. The youth was castrated; he survived the operation; and the memory of this indecent cruelty is preserved by the elevation of Germanus to the rank of a patriarch and saint. After pouring this bloody libation on his father’s tomb, Constantine returned to his capital, and the growth of his young beard during the Sicilian voyage was announced, by the familiar surname of Pogonatus, to the Grecian world. But his reign, like that of his predecessor, was stained with fraternal discord. On his two brothers, Heraclius and Tiberius, he had bestowed the title of Augustus: an empty title, for they continued to languish, without trust or power, in the solitude of the palace. At their secret instigation, the troops of the Anatolian theme7 Edition: current; Page: [227] or province approached the city on the Asiatic side, demanded for the royal brothers the partition or exercise of sovereignty, and supported their seditious claim by a theological argument. They were Christians (they cried) and orthodox Catholics; the sincere votaries of the holy and undivided Trinity. Since there are three equal persons in heaven, it is reasonable there should be three equal persons upon earth. The emperor invited these learned divines to a friendly conference, in which they might propose their arguments to the senate; they obeyed the summons; but the prospect of their bodies hanging on the gibbet in the suburb of Galata reconciled their companions to the unity of the reign of Constantine. He pardoned his brothers, and their names were still pronounced in the public acclamations; but, on the repetition or suspicion of a similar offence, the obnoxious princes were deprived of their titles and noses, in the presence of the Catholic bishops who were assembled at Constantinople in the sixth general synod. In the close of his life, Pogonatus was anxious only to establish the right of primogeniture; the hair of his two sons, Justinian and Heraclius, was offered on the shrine of St. Peter, as a symbol of their spiritual adoption by the pope; but the elder was alone exalted to the rank of Augustus and the assurance of the empire.

After the decease of his father, the inheritance of the Roman world devolved to Justinian II.; and the name of a triumphant lawgiver was dishonoured by the vices of a boy, who imitated his namesake only in the expensive luxury of building. His passions were strong; his understanding was feeble; and he was intoxicated with a foolish pride that his birth had given him the command of millions, of whom the smallest community would not have chosen him for their local magistrate. His favourite ministers were two beings the least susceptible of human sympathy, an eunuch and a monk; to the one he abandoned the palace, to the other the finances; the former corrected the emperor’s mother with a scourge, the latter suspended Edition: current; Page: [228] the insolvent tributaries, with their heads downwards, over a slow and smoky fire. Since the days of Commodus and Caracalla, the cruelty of the Roman princes had most commonly been the effect of their fear; but Justinian, who possessed some vigour of character, enjoyed the sufferings, and braved the revenge, of his subjects about ten years, till the measure was full, of his crimes and of their patience. In a dark dungeon, Leontius, a general of reputation, had groaned above three years with some of the noblest and most deserving of the patricians; he was suddenly drawn forth to assume the government of Greece; and this promotion of an injured man was a mark of the contempt rather than of the confidence of his prince. As he was followed to the port by the kind offices of his friends, Leontius observed, with a sigh, that he was a victim adorned for sacrifice and that inevitable death would pursue his footsteps. They ventured to reply that glory and empire might be the recompense of a generous resolution; that every order of men abhorred the reign of a monster; and that the hands of two hundred thousand patriots expected only the voice of a leader. The night was chosen for their deliverance; and, in the first effort of the conspirators, the prefect was slain and the prisons were forced open; the emissaries of Leontius proclaimed in every street, “Christians, to St. Sophia!”; and the seasonable text of the patriarch, “this is the day of the Lord!” was the prelude of an inflammatory sermon. From the church the people adjourned to the hippodrome; Justinian, in whose cause not a sword had been drawn, was dragged before these tumultuary judges, and their clamours demanded the instant death of the tyrant. But Leontius, who was already clothed with the purple, cast an eye of pity on the prostrate son of his own benefactor, and of so many emperors. The life of Justinian was spared; the amputation of his nose, perhaps of his tongue, was imperfectly performed; the happy flexibility of the Greek language could impose the name of Rhinotmetus; and the mutilated tyrant was banished to Edition: current; Page: [229] Chersonæ in Crim-Tartary, a lonely settlement, where corn, wine, and oil were imported as foreign luxuries.

On the edge of the Scythian wilderness, Justinian still cherished the pride of his birth and the hope of his restoration. After three years’ exile, he received the pleasing intelligence that his injury was avenged by a second revolution, and that Leontius8 in his turn had been dethroned and mutilated by the rebel Apsimar, who assumed the more respectable name of Tiberius. But the claim of lineal succession was still formidable to a plebeian usurper; and his jealousy was stimulated by the complaints and charges of the Chersonites, who beheld the vices of the tyrant in the spirit of the exile. With a band of followers, attached to his person by common hope or common despair, Justinian fled from the inhospitable shore to the horde of the Chozars, who pitched their tents between the Tanais and Borysthenes. The khan entertained with pity and respect the royal suppliant; Phanagoria, once an opulent city, on the Asiatic side of the lake Mæotis, was assigned for his residence; and every Roman prejudice was stifled in his marriage with the sister of the Barbarian, who seems, however, from the name of Theodora, to have received the sacrament of baptism.9 But the faithless Chozar was soon tempted by the gold of Constantinople; and, had not the design been revealed by the conjugal love of Theodora, her husband must have been assassinated or betrayed into the power of his enemies. After strangling, with his own hands, the two emissaries of the khan, Justinian sent back his wife to her brother, and embarked on the Euxine in search of new and more faithful allies. His vessel was assaulted by a violent tempest; and one of his pious companions advised him to deserve the mercy of God by a vow of general forgiveness, if he should be restored to the Edition: current; Page: [230] throne. “Of forgiveness?” replied the intrepid tyrant; “may I perish this instant — may the Almighty whelm me in the waves — if I consent to spare a single head of my enemies!” He survived this impious menace, sailed into the mouth of the Danube, trusted his person in the royal village of the Bulgarians, and purchased the aid of Terbelis, a Pagan conqueror, by the promise of his daughter and a fair partition of the treasures of the empire. The Bulgarian kingdom10 extended to the confines of Thrace; and the two princes besieged Constantinople at the head of fifteen thousand horse. Apsimar was dismayed by the sudden and hostile apparition of his rival, whose head had been promised by the Chozar, and of whose evasion he was yet ignorant. After an absence of ten years, the crimes of Justinian were faintly remembered, and the birth and misfortunes of their hereditary sovereign excited the pity of the multitude, ever discontented with the ruling powers; and by the active diligence of his adherents he was introduced into the city and palace of Constantine.

In rewarding his allies and recalling his wife, Justinian displayed some sense of honour and gratitude; and Terbelis retired, after sweeping away an heap of gold coin, which he measured with his Scythian whip. But never was vow more religiously performed than the sacred oath of revenge which he had sworn amidst the storms of the Euxine. The two usurpers, for I must reserve the name of tyrant for the conqueror, were dragged into the hippodrome, the one from his prison, the other from his palace. Before their execution, Leontius and Apsimar were cast prostrate in chains beneath the throne of the emperor; and Justinian, planting a foot on each of their necks, contemplated above an hour the chariotrace, while the inconstant people shouted, in the words of the Psalmist, “Thou shalt trample on the asp and basilisk, Edition: current; Page: [231] and on the lion and dragon shalt thou set thy foot!”11 The universal defection which he had once experienced might provoke him to repeat the wish of Caligula, that the Roman people had but one head. Yet I shall presume to observe that such a wish is unworthy of an ingenious tyrant, since his revenge and cruelty would have been extinguished by a single blow, instead of the slow variety of tortures which Justinian inflicted on the victims of his anger. His pleasures were inexhaustible; neither private virtue nor public service could expiate the guilt of active or even passive obedience to an established government; and, during the six years of his new reign, he considered the axe, the cord, and the rack as the only instruments of royalty.12 But his most implacable hatred was pointed against the Chersonites, who had insulted his exile and violated the laws of hospitality. Their remote situation afforded some means of defence, or at least of escape; and a grievous tax was imposed on Constantinople, to supply the preparations of a fleet and army. “All are guilty, and all must perish,” was the mandate of Justinian; and the bloody execution was entrusted to his favourite Stephen, who was recommended by the epithet of the Savage. Yet even the savage Stephen imperfectly accomplished the intentions of his sovereign. The slowness of his attack allowed the greater part of the inhabitants to withdraw into the country; and the minister of vengeance contented himself with reducing the youth of both sexes to a state of servitude, with roasting alive seven of the principal citizens, with drowning twenty in the sea, and with reserving forty-two in chains to receive their doom from the mouth of the emperor. Edition: current; Page: [232] In their return, the fleet was driven on the rocky shores of Anatolia, and Justinian applauded the obedience of the Euxine, which had involved so many thousands of his subjects and enemies in a common shipwreck; but the tyrant was still insatiate of blood, and a second expedition was commanded to extirpate the remains of the proscribed colony. In the short interval, the Chersonites had returned to their city, and were prepared to die in arms; the khan of the Chozars had renounced the cause of his odious brother; the exiles of every province were assembled in Tauris; and Bardanes, under the name of Philippicus, was invested with the purple. The Imperial troops, unwilling and unable to perpetrate the revenge of Justinian, escaped his displeasure by abjuring his allegiance; the fleet, under their new sovereign, steered back a more auspicious course to the harbours of Sinope and Constantinople; and every tongue was prompt to pronounce, every hand to execute, the death of the tyrant.13 Destitute of friends, he was deserted by his Barbarian guards; and the stroke of the assassin was praised as an act of patriotism and Roman virtue. His son Tiberius had taken refuge in a church; his aged grandmother guarded the door; and the innocent youth, suspending round his neck the most formidable relics, embraced with one hand the altar, with the other the wood of the true cross. But the popular fury that dares to trample on superstition is deaf to the cries of humanity; and the race of Heraclius was extinguished after a reign of one hundred years.

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Between the fall of the Heraclian and the rise of the Isaurian dynasty, a short interval of six years is divided into three reigns. Bardanes,14 or Philippicus, was hailed at Constantinople as an hero who had delivered his country from a tyrant; and he might taste some moments of happiness in the first transports of sincere and universal joy. Justinian had left behind him an ample treasure, the fruit of cruelty and rapine; but this useful fund was soon and idly dissipated by his successor. On the festival of his birthday, Philippicus entertained the multitude with the games of the hippodrome; from thence he paraded through the streets with a thousand banners and a thousand trumpets; refreshed himself in the baths of Zeuxippus; and, returning to the palace, entertained his nobles with a sumptuous banquet. At the meridian hour he withdrew to his chamber, intoxicated with flattery and wine, and forgetful that his example had made every subject ambitious and that every ambitious subject was his secret enemy. Some bold conspirators introduced themselves in the disorder of the feast; and the slumbering monarch was surprised, bound, blinded, and deposed, before he was sensible of his danger. Yet the traitors were deprived of their reward; and the free voice of the senate and people promoted Artemius from the office of secretary to that of emperor: he assumed the title of Anastasius the Second, and displayed in a short and troubled reign the virtues both of peace and war. But, after the extinction of the Imperial line, the rule of obedience was violated, and every change diffused the seeds of new revolutions. In a mutiny of the fleet, an obscure and reluctant officer of the revenue was forcibly invested with the purple; after some months of a naval war, Anastasius resigned the sceptre;15 and the conqueror, Theodosius the Third, submitted Edition: current; Page: [234] in his turn to the superior ascendant of Leo, the general and emperor of the Oriental troops. His two predecessors were permitted to embrace the ecclesiastical profession; the restless impatience of Anastasius tempted him to risk and to lose his life in a treasonable enterprise; but the last days of Theodosius were honourable and secure. The single sublime word, “health,” which he inscribed on his tomb, expresses the confidence of philosophy or religion; and the fame of his miracles was long preserved among the people of Ephesus. This convenient shelter of the church might sometimes impose a lesson of clemency; but it may be questioned whether it is for the public interest to diminish the perils of unsuccessful ambition.

I have dwelt on the fall of a tyrant; I shall briefly represent the founder of a new dynasty, who is known to posterity by the invectives of his enemies, and whose public and private life is involved in the ecclesiastical story of the Iconoclasts. Yet in spite of the clamours of superstition, a favourable prejudice for the character of Leo the Isaurian may be reasonably drawn from the obscurity of his birth and the duration of his reign.16 — I. In an age of manly spirit, the prospect of an Imperial reward would have kindled every energy of the mind, and produced a crowd of competitors as deserving as they were desirous to reign. Even in the corruption and debility of the modern Greeks, the elevation of a plebeian from the last to the first rank of society supposes some qualifications above the level of the multitude. He would probably be ignorant and disdainful of speculative science; and in the pursuit of fortune he might absolve himself from the obligations of benevolence and justice; but to his character we may ascribe the useful virtues of prudence and fortitude, Edition: current; Page: [235] the knowledge of mankind, and the important art of gaining their confidence and directing their passions. It is agreed that Leo was a native of Isauria,17 and that Conon was his primitive name. The writers, whose awkward satire is praise, describe him as an itinerant pedlar, who drove an ass with some paltry merchandise to the country fairs; and foolishly relate that he met on the road some Jewish fortunetellers, who promised him the Roman empire on condition that he should abolish the worship of idols. A more probable account relates the migration of his father from Asia Minor to Thrace, where he exercised the lucrative trade of a grazier; and he must have acquired considerable wealth, since the first introduction of his son was procured by a supply of five hundred sheep to the Imperial camp. His first service was in the guards of Justinian, where he soon attracted the notice, and by degrees the jealousy, of the tyrant. His valour and dexterity were conspicuous in the Colchian war;18 from Anastasius he received the command of the Anatolian legions; and by the suffrage of the soldiers he was raised to the empire, with the general applause of the Roman world. — II. In this dangerous elevation, Leo the Third supported himself against the envy of his equals, the discontent of a Edition: current; Page: [236] powerful faction, and the assaults of his foreign and domestic enemies. The Catholics, who accuse his religious innovations, are obliged to confess that they were undertaken with temper and conducted with firmness. Their silence respects the wisdom of his administration and the purity of his manners. After a reign of twenty-four years, he peaceably expired in the palace of Constantinople; and the purple which he had acquired was transmitted, by the right of inheritance, to the third generation.

In a long reign of thirty-four years, the son and successor of Leo, Constantine the Fifth, surnamed Copronymus,19 attacked, with less temperate zeal, the images or idols of the church. Their votaries have exhausted the bitterness of religious gall in their portrait of this spotted panther, this antichrist, this flying dragon of the serpent’s seed, who surpassed the vices of Elagabalus and Nero. His reign was a long butchery of whatever was most noble, or holy, or innocent in his empire. In person, the emperor assisted at the execution of his victims, surveyed their agonies, listened to their groans, and indulged, without satiating, his appetite for blood; a plate of noses was accepted as a grateful offering, and his domestics were often scourged or mutilated by the royal hand. His surname was derived from his pollution of his baptismal font.19a The infant might be excused; but the manly pleasures of Copronymus degraded him below the level of a brute; his lust confounded the eternal distinctions of sex and species; and he seemed to extract some unnatural Edition: current; Page: [237] delight from the objects most offensive to human sense. In his religion, the Iconoclast was an Heretic, a Jew, a Mahometan, a Pagan, and an Atheist; and his belief of an invisible power could be discovered only in his magic rites, human victims, and nocturnal sacrifices to Venus and the demons of antiquity. His life was stained with the most opposite vices, and the ulcers which covered his body anticipated before his death the sentiment of hell-tortures. Of these accusations, which I have so patiently copied, a part is refuted by its own absurdity; and, in the private anecdotes of the life of princes, the lie is more easy as the detection is more difficult. Without adopting the pernicious maxim that, where much is alleged, something must be true, I can however discern that Constantine the Fifth was dissolute and cruel. Calumny is more prone to exaggerate than to invent; and her licentious tongue is checked in some measure by the experience of the age and country to which she appeals. Of the bishops and monks, the generals and magistrates, who are said to have suffered under his reign, the numbers are recorded, the names were conspicuous, the execution was public, the mutilation visible and permanent. The Catholics hated the person and government of Copronymus; but even their hatred is a proof of their oppression. They dissemble the provocations which might excuse or justify his rigour, but even these provocations must gradually inflame his resentment and harden his temper in the use or the abuse of despotism. Yet the character of the fifth Constantine was not devoid of merit, nor did his government always deserve the curses or the contempt of the Greeks.20 From the confession Edition: current; Page: [238] of his enemies, I am informed of the restoration of an ancient aqueduct, of the redemption of two thousand five hundred captives, of the uncommon plenty of the times, and of the new colonies with which he repeopled Constantinople and the Thracian cities. They reluctantly praise his activity and courage; he was on horseback in the field at the head of his legions; and, although the fortune of his arms was various, he triumphed by sea and land, on the Euphrates and the Danube, in civil and barbarian war. Heretical praise must be cast into the scale, to counterbalance the weight of orthodox invective. The Iconoclasts revered the virtues of the prince: forty years after his death, they still prayed before the tomb of the saint. A miraculous vision was propagated by fanaticism or fraud; and the Christian hero appeared on a milk-white steed, brandishing his lance against the Pagans of Bulgaria: “An absurd fable,” says the Catholic historian, “since Copronymus is chained with the demons in the abyss of hell.”

Leo the Fourth, the son of the fifth, and the father of the sixth, Constantine, was of a feeble constitution both of mind and body, and the principal care of his reign was the settlement of the succession. The association of the young Constantine was urged by the officious zeal of his subjects; and the emperor, conscious of his decay, complied, after a prudent hesitation, with their unanimous wishes. The royal infant, at the age of five years, was crowned with his mother Irene; and the national consent was ratified by every circumstance of pomp and solemnity that could dazzle the eyes, or bind the conscience, of the Greeks. An oath of fidelity was administered in the palace, the church, and the hippodrome, to the several orders of the state, who adjured the holy names Edition: current; Page: [239] of the son, and mother, of God. “Be witness, O Christ! that we will watch over the safety of Constantine the son of Leo, expose our lives in his service, and bear true allegiance to his person and posterity.” They pledged their faith on the wood of the true cross, and the act of their engagement was deposited on the altar of St. Sophia. The first to swear, and the first to violate their oath, were the five sons of Copronymus by a second marriage; and the story of these princes is singular and tragic. The right of primogeniture excluded them from the throne; the injustice of their elder brother defrauded them of a legacy of about two millions sterling; some vain titles were not deemed a sufficient compensation for wealth and power; and they repeatedly conspired against their nephew, before and after the death of his father. Their first attempt was pardoned; for the second offence they were condemned to the ecclesiastical state; and for the third treason Nicephorus, the eldest and most guilty, was deprived of his eyes, and his four brothers, Christopher, Nicetas, Anthimus, and Eudoxus, were punished, as a milder sentence, by the amputation of their tongues. After five years’ confinement, they escaped to the church of St. Sophia, and displayed a pathetic spectacle to the people. “Countrymen and Christians,” cried Nicephorus for himself and his mute brethren, “behold the sons of your emperor, if you can still recognise our features in this miserable state. A life, an imperfect life, is all that the malice of our enemies has spared. It is now threatened, and we now throw ourselves on your compassion.” The rising murmur might have produced a revolution, had it not been checked by the presence of a minister, who soothed the unhappy princes with flattery and hope, and gently drew them from the sanctuary to the palace. They were speedily embarked for Greece, and Athens was allotted for the place of their exile. In this calm retreat, and in their helpless condition, Nicephorus and his brothers were tormented by the thirst of power, and tempted by a Sclavonian chief, who offered to break their prison and to Edition: current; Page: [240] lead them in arms, and in the purple, to the gates of Constantinople. But the Athenian people, ever zealous in the cause of Irene, prevented their justice or cruelty; and the five sons of Copronymus were plunged in eternal darkness and oblivion.

For himself, that emperor had chosen a Barbarian wife, the daughter of the khan of the Chozars; but in the marriage of his heir he preferred an Athenian virgin, an orphan, seventeen years old, whose sole fortune must have consisted in her personal accomplishments. The nuptials of Leo and Irene were celebrated with royal pomp; she soon acquired the love and confidence of a feeble husband; and in his testament he declared the empress guardian of the Roman world, and of their son Constantine the Sixth, who was no more than ten years of age. During his childhood, Irene most ably and assiduously discharged, in her public administration, the duties of a faithful mother; and her zeal in the restoration of images21 has deserved the name and honours of a saint, which she still occupies in the Greek calendar. But the emperor attained the maturity of youth; the maternal yoke became more grievous; and he listened to the favourites of his own age, who shared his pleasures, and were ambitious of sharing his power. Their reasons convinced him of his right, their praises of his ability, to reign; and he consented to reward the services of Irene by a perpetual banishment to the isle of Sicily. But her vigilance and penetration easily disconcerted their rash projects; a similar or more severe punishment was retaliated on themselves and their advisers; and Irene inflicted on the ungrateful prince the chastisement of a boy. After this contest, the mother and the son were at the head of two domestic factions; and, instead of mild influence and voluntary obedience, she held in chains a captive and an enemy. The empress was overthrown by the abuse of victory; the oath of fidelity, which she exacted to Edition: current; Page: [241] herself alone, was pronounced with reluctant murmurs; and the bold refusal of the Armenian guards encouraged a free and general declaration that Constantine the Sixth was the lawful emperor of the Romans. In this character he ascended his hereditary throne, and dismissed Irene to a life of solitude and repose. But her haughty spirit condescended to the arts of dissimulation: she flattered the bishops and eunuchs, revived the filial tenderness of the prince, regained his confidence, and betrayed his credulity. The character of Constantine was not destitute of sense or spirit; but his education had been studiously neglected; and his ambitious mother exposed to the public censure the vices which she had nourished and the actions which she had secretly advised. His divorce and second marriage offended the prejudices of the clergy,22 and, by his imprudent rigour, he forfeited the attachment of the Armenian guards. A powerful conspiracy was formed for the restoration of Irene; and the secret, though widely diffused, was faithfully kept above eight months, till the emperor, suspicious of his danger, escaped from Constantinople, with the design of appealing to the provinces and armies. By this hasty flight, the empress was left on the brink of the precipice; yet, before she implored the mercy of her son, Irene addressed a private epistle to the friends whom she had placed about his person, with a menace that, unless Edition: current; Page: [242] they accomplished, she would reveal, their treason. Their fear rendered them intrepid; they seized the emperor on the Asiatic shore, and he was transported to the porphyry apartment of the palace, where he had first seen the light. In the mind of Irene, ambition had stifled every sentiment of humanity and nature; and it was decreed in her bloody council that Constantine should be rendered incapable of the throne. Her emissaries assaulted the sleeping prince, and stabbed their daggers with such violence and precipitation into his eyes, as if they meant to execute a mortal sentence. An ambiguous passage of Theophanes persuaded the annalist of the church that death was the immediate consequence of this barbarous execution.23 The Catholics have been deceived or subdued by the authority of Baronius; and Protestant zeal has reechoed the words of a cardinal, desirous, as it should seem, to favour the patroness of images. Yet the blind son of Irene survived many years, oppressed by the court, and forgotten by the world; the Isaurian dynasty was silently extinguished; and the memory of Constantine was recalled only by the nuptials of his daughter Euphrosyne with the emperor Michael the Second.

The most bigoted orthodoxy has justly execrated the unnatural mother, who may not easily be paralleled in the history of crimes. To her bloody deed superstition has attributed a subsequent darkness of seventeen days; during which many vessels in mid-day were driven from their course, as if the sun, a globe of fire so vast and so remote, could sympathise with the atoms of a revolving planet. On earth, the crime of Irene was left five years unpunished; her reign was Edition: current; Page: [243] crowned with external splendour; and, if she could silence the voice of conscience, she neither heard nor regarded the reproaches of mankind. The Roman world bowed to the government of a female; and, as she moved through the streets of Constantinople, the reins of four milk-white steeds were held by as many patricians, who marched on foot before the golden chariot of their queen. But these patricians were for the most part eunuchs; and their black ingratitude justified, on this occasion, the popular hatred and contempt. Raised, enriched, entrusted with the first dignities of the empire, they basely conspired against their benefactress; the great treasurer Nicephorus was secretly invested with the purple; her successor was introduced into the palace, and crowned at St. Sophia by the venal patriarch. In their first interview, she recapitulated, with dignity, the revolutions of her life, gently accused the perfidy of Nicephorus, insinuated that he owed his life to her unsuspicious clemency, and, for the throne and treasures which she resigned, solicited a decent and honourable retreat. His avarice refused this modest compensation; and, in her exile of the isle of Lesbos, the empress earned a scanty subsistence by the labours of her distaff.

Many tyrants have reigned undoubtedly more criminal than Nicephorus, but none perhaps have more deeply incurred the universal abhorrence of their people. His character was stained with the three odious vices of hypocrisy, ingratitude, and avarice;24 his want of virtue was not redeemed Edition: current; Page: [244] by any superior talents, nor his want of talents by any pleasing qualifications. Unskilful and unfortunate in war, Nicephorus was vanquished by the Saracens, and slain by the Bulgarians; and the advantages of his death overbalanced, in the public opinion, the destruction of a Roman army. His son and heir Stauracius escaped from the field with a mortal wound; yet six months of an expiring life were sufficient to refute his indecent, though popular, declaration that he would in all things avoid the example of his father. On the near prospect of his decease, Michael, the great master of the palace and the husband of his sister Procopia, was named by every person of the palace and city, except by his envious brother. Tenacious of a sceptre now falling from his hand, he conspired against the life of his successor, and cherished the idea of changing to a democracy the Roman empire. But these rash projects served only to inflame the zeal of the people, and to remove the scruples of the candidate; Michael the First accepted the purple, and, before Edition: current; Page: [245] he sunk into the grave, the son of Nicephorus implored the clemency of his new sovereign. Had Michael in an age of peace ascended an hereditary throne, he might have reigned and died the father of his people; but his mild virtues were adapted to the shade of private life, nor was he capable of controlling the ambition of his equals or of resisting the arms of the victorious Bulgarians. While his want of ability and success exposed him to the contempt of the soldiers, the masculine spirit of his wife Procopia awakened their indignation. Even the Greeks of the ninth century were provoked by the insolence of a female, who, in the front of their standards, presumed to direct their discipline and animate their valour; and their licentious clamours advised the new Semiramis to reverence the majesty of a Roman camp. After an unsuccessful campaign, the emperor left, in their winter quarters of Thrace, a disaffected army under the command of his enemies; and their artful eloquence persuaded the soldiers to break the dominion of the eunuchs, to degrade the husband of Procopia, and to assert the right of a military election. They marched towards the capital; yet the clergy, the senate, and the people of Constantinople adhered to the cause of Michael; and the troops and treasures of Asia might have protracted the mischiefs of civil war. But his humanity (by the ambitious, it will be termed his weakness) protested that not a drop of Christian blood should be shed in his quarrel, and his messengers presented the conquerors with the keys of the city and the palace. They were disarmed by his innocence and submission; his life and his eyes were spared; and the Imperial monk enjoyed the comforts of solitude and religion above thirty-two years after he had been stripped of the purple and separated from his wife.

A rebel, in the time of Nicephorus, the famous and unfortunate Bardanes, had once the curiosity to consult an Asiatic prophet, who, after prognosticating his fall, announced the fortunes of his three principal officers, Leo the Armenian, Edition: current; Page: [246] Michael the Phrygian,25 and Thomas the Cappadocian,26 the successive reigns of the two former, the fruitless and fatal enterprise of the third. This prediction was verified, or rather was produced, by the event. Ten years afterwards, when the Thracian camp rejected the husband of Procopia, the crown was presented to the same Leo, the first in military rank and the secret author of the mutiny. As he affected to hesitate, “With this sword,” said his companion Michael, “I will open the gates of Constantinople to your Imperial sway; or instantly plunge it into your bosom, if you obstinately resist the just desires of your fellow-soldiers.” The compliance of the Armenian was rewarded with the empire, and he reigned seven years and an half under the name of Leo the Fifth.27 Educated in a camp, and ignorant both of laws and letters, he introduced into his civil government the rigour and even cruelty of military discipline; but, if his severity was sometimes dangerous to the innocent, it was always formidable to the guilty. His religious inconstancy was taxed by the epithet of Chameleon, but the Catholics have acknowledged, by the voice of a saint and confessors, that the life of the Iconoclast was useful to the republic. The zeal of his companion Michael was repaid with riches, honours, and military command; and his subordinate talents were beneficially employed in the public service. Yet the Phrygian was dissatisfied at receiving as a favour a scanty portion of the Imperial prize which he had bestowed on his equal; and his discontent, which sometimes evaporated in a hasty discourse, at length assumed a more threatening and hostile aspect Edition: current; Page: [247] against a prince whom he represented as a cruel tyrant. That tyrant, however, repeatedly detected, warned, and dismissed the old companion of his arms, till fear and resentment prevailed over gratitude; and Michael, after a scrutiny into his actions and designs, was convicted of treason and sentenced to be burnt alive in the furnace of the private baths. The devout humanity of the empress Theophano was fatal to her husband and family. A solemn day, the twenty-fifth of December, had been fixed for the execution; she urged that the anniversary of the Saviour’s birth would be profaned by this inhuman spectacle, and Leo consented with reluctance to a decent respite. But on the vigil of the feast his sleepless anxiety prompted him to visit, at the dead of night, the chamber in which his enemy was confined; he beheld him released from his chain, and stretched on his gaoler’s bed in a profound slumber. Leo was alarmed at these signs of security and intelligence; but, though he retired with silent steps, his entrance and departure were noticed by a slave who lay concealed in a corner of the prison. Under the pretence of requesting the spiritual aid of a confessor, Michael informed the conspirators that their lives depended on his discretion, and that a few hours were left to assure their own safety by the deliverance of their friend and country. On the great festivals, a chosen band of priests and chanters was admitted into the palace, by a private gate, to sing matins in the chapel; and Leo, who regulated with the same strictness the discipline of the choir and of the camp, was seldom absent from those early devotions. In the ecclesiastical habit, but with swords under their robes, the conspirators mingled with the procession, lurked in the angles of the chapel, and expected, as the signal of murder, the intonation of the first psalm by the emperor himself. The imperfect light, and the uniformity of dress, might have favoured his escape, while their assault was pointed against an harmless priest; but they soon discovered their mistake, and encompassed on all sides the royal victim. Without a weapon, and Edition: current; Page: [248] without a friend, he grasped a weighty cross, and stood at bay against the hunters of his life; but, as he asked for mercy, “This is the hour, not of mercy, but of vengeance,” was the inexorable reply. The stroke of a well-aimed sword separated from his body the right arm and the cross, and Leo the Armenian was slain at the foot of the altar.

A memorable reverse of fortune was displayed in Michael the Second, who, from a defect in his speech, was surnamed the Stammerer. He was snatched from the fiery furnace to the sovereignty of an empire; and, as in the tumult a smith could not readily be found, the fetters remained on his legs several hours after he was seated on the throne of the Cæsars. The royal blood which had been the price of his elevation was unprofitably spent; in the purple he retained the ignoble vices of his origin; and Michael lost his provinces with as supine indifference as if they had been the inheritance of his fathers.28 His title was disputed by Thomas, the last of the military triumvirate, who transported into Europe fourscore thousand Barbarians from the banks of the Tigris and the shores of the Caspian.29 He formed the siege of Constantinople; but the capital was defended with spiritual and carnal weapons; a Bulgarian king assaulted the camp of the Edition: current; Page: [249] Orientals, and Thomas had the misfortune, or the weakness, to fall alive into the power of the conqueror. The hands and feet of the rebel were amputated; he was placed on an ass, and, amidst the insults of the people, was led through the streets, which he sprinkled with his blood. The depravation of manners, as savage as they were corrupt, is marked by the presence of the emperor himself. Deaf to the lamentations of a fellow-soldier, he incessantly pressed the discovery of more accomplices, till his curiosity was checked by the question of an honest or guilty minister: “Would you give credit to an enemy against the most faithful of your friends?” After the death of his first wife, the emperor, at the request of the senate, drew from her monastery Euphrosyne, the daughter of Constantine the Sixth. Her august birth might justify a stipulation in the marriage-contract, that her children should equally share the empire with their elder brother. But the nuptials of Michael and Euphrosyne were barren; and she was content with the title of Mother of Theophilus, his son and successor.

The character of Theophilus is a rare example in which religious zeal has allowed, and perhaps magnified, the virtues of an heretic and a persecutor.30 His valour was often felt by the enemies, and his justice by the subjects, of the monarchy; but the valour of Theophilus was rash and fruitless, and his justice arbitrary and cruel. He displayed the banner of the cross against the Saracens; but his five expeditions Edition: current; Page: [250] were concluded by a signal overthrow; Amorium, the native city of his ancestors, was levelled with the ground, and from his military toils he derived only the surname of the Unfortunate. The wisdom of a sovereign is comprised in the institution of laws and the choice of magistrates, and, while he seems without action, his civil government revolves round his centre with the silence and order of the planetary system. But the justice of Theophilus was fashioned on the model of the Oriental despots, who, in personal and irregular acts of authority, consult the reason or passion of the moment, without measuring the sentence by the law or the penalty by the offence. A poor woman threw herself at the emperor’s feet, to complain of a powerful neighbour, the brother of the empress, who had raised his palace-wall to such an inconvenient height that her humble dwelling was excluded from light and air! On the proof of the fact, instead of granting, like an ordinary judge, sufficient or ample damages to the plaintiff, the sovereign adjudged to her use and benefit the palace and the ground. Nor was Theophilus content with this extravagant satisfaction: his zeal converted a civil trespass into a criminal act; and the unfortunate patrician was stripped and scourged in the public place of Constantinople. For some venial offences, some defect of equity or vigilance, the principal ministers, a prefect, a quæstor, a captain of the guards, were banished or mutilated, or scalded with boiling pitch, or burnt alive in the hippodrome; and, as these dreadful examples might be the effects of error or caprice, they must have alienated from his service the best and wisest of the citizens. But the pride of the monarch was flattered in the exercise of power, or, as he thought, of virtue; and the people, safe in their obscurity, applauded the danger and debasement of their superiors. This extraordinary rigour was justified, in some measure, by its salutary consequences; since, after a scrutiny of seventeen days, not a complaint or abuse could be found in the court or city; and it might be alleged that the Greeks could be ruled only with a rod of Edition: current; Page: [251] iron, and that the public interest is the motive and law of the supreme judge. Yet in the crime, or the suspicion, of treason, that judge is of all others the most credulous and partial. Theophilus might inflict a tardy vengeance on the assassins of Leo and the saviours of his father; but he enjoyed the fruits of their crime; and his jealous tyranny sacrificed a brother and a prince to the future safety of his life. A Persian of the race of the Sassanides died in poverty and exile at Constantinople, leaving an only son, the issue of a plebeian marriage. At the age of twelve years, the royal birth of Theophobus was revealed, and his merit was not unworthy of his birth. He was educated in the Byzantine palace, a Christian and a soldier; advanced with rapid steps in the career of fortune and glory; received the hand of the emperor’s sister; and was promoted to the command of thirty thousand Persians, who, like his father, had fled from the Mahometan conquerors. These troops, doubly infected with mercenary and fanatic vices, were desirous of revolting against their benefactor and erecting the standard of their native king; but the loyal Theophobus rejected their offers, disconcerted their schemes, and escaped from their hands to the camp or palace of his royal brother. A generous confidence might have secured a faithful and able guardian for his wife and his infant son, to whom Theophilus, in the flower of his age, was compelled to leave the inheritance of the empire. But his jealousy was exasperated by envy and disease; he feared the dangerous virtues which might either support or oppress their infancy and weakness; and the dying emperor demanded the head of the Persian prince. With savage delight, he recognised the familiar features of his brother: “Thou art no longer Theophobus,” he said; and sinking on his couch he added, with a faltering voice, “Soon, too soon, I shall be no more Theophilus!”

The Russians, who have borrowed from the Greeks the greatest part of their civil and ecclesiastical policy, preserved, till the last century, a singular institution in the marriage of Edition: current; Page: [252] the Czar. They collected, not the virgins of every rank and of every province, a vain and romantic idea, but the daughters of the principal nobles, who awaited in the palace the choice of their sovereign. It is affirmed that a similar method was adopted in the nuptials of Theophilus.31 With a golden apple in his hand, he slowly walked between two lines of contending beauties; his eye was detained by the charms of Icasia,32 and, in the awkwardness of a first declaration, the prince could only observe that, in this world, women had been the cause of much evil: “And surely, Sir,” she pertly replied, “they have likewise been the occasion of much good.” This affectation of unseasonable wit displeased the Imperial lover; he turned aside in disgust; Icasia concealed her mortification in a convent; and the modest silence of Theodora was rewarded with the golden apple. She deserved the love, but did not escape the severity, of her lord. From the palace garden he beheld a vessel deeply laden, and steering Edition: current; Page: [253] into the port; on the discovery that the precious cargo of Syrian luxury was the property of his wife, he condemned the ship to the flames, with a sharp reproach that her avarice had degraded the character of an empress into that of a merchant. Yet his last choice entrusted her with the guardianship of the empire and her son Michael, who was left an orphan in the fifth year of his age. The restoration of images, and the final extirpation of the Iconoclasts, has endeared her name to the devotion of the Greeks; but in the fervour of religious zeal Theodora entertained a grateful regard for the memory and salvation of her husband. After thirteen years33 of a prudent and frugal administration, she perceived the decline of her influence; but the second Irene imitated only the virtues of her predecessor. Instead of conspiring against the life or government of her son, she retired, without a struggle, though not without a murmur, to the solitude of private life, deploring the ingratitude, the vices, and the inevitable ruin of the worthless youth.

Among the successors of Nero and Elagabalus, we have not hitherto found the imitation of their vices, the character of a Roman prince who considered pleasure as the object of life and virtue as the enemy of pleasure. Whatever might have been the maternal care of Theodora in the education of Michael the Third, her unfortunate son was a king before he was a man. If the ambitious mother laboured to check the progress of reason, she could not cool the ebullition of passion; and her selfish policy was justly repaid by the contempt and ingratitude of the headstrong youth. At the age of eighteen, he rejected her authority, without feeling his own incapacity to govern the empire and himself. With Theodora, all gravity and wisdom retired from the court; their place was supplied by the alternate dominion of vice and Edition: current; Page: [254] folly; and it was impossible, without forfeiting the public esteem, to acquire or preserve the favour of the emperor. The millions of gold and silver which had been accumulated for the service of the state were lavished on the vilest of men, who flattered his passions and shared his pleasures; and, in a reign of thirteen years, the richest of sovereigns was compelled to strip the palace and the churches of their precious furniture. Like Nero, he delighted in the amusements of the theatre, and sighed to be surpassed in the accomplishments in which he should have blushed to excel. Yet the studies of Nero in music and poetry betrayed some symptoms of a liberal taste; the more ignoble arts of the son of Theophilus were confined to the chariot-race of the hippodrome. The four factions which had agitated the peace, still amused the idleness, of the capital; for himself, the emperor assumed the blue livery; the three rival colours were distributed to his favourites, and, in the vile though eager contention, he forgot the dignity of his person and the safety of his dominions. He silenced the messenger of an invasion, who presumed to divert his attention in the most critical moment of the race; and by his command the importunate beacons were extinguished, that too frequently spread the alarm from Tarsus to Constantinople.34 The most skilful charioteers obtained the first place in his confidence and esteem; their merit was profusely rewarded; the emperor feasted in their houses, and presented their children at the baptismal font; and, Edition: current; Page: [255] while he applauded his own popularity, he affected to blame the cold and stately reserve of his predecessors. The unnatural lusts which had degraded even the manhood of Nero were banished from the world; yet the strength of Michael was consumed by the indulgence of love and intemperance. In his midnight revels, when his passions were inflamed by wine, he was provoked to issue the most sanguinary commands; and, if any feelings of humanity were left, he was reduced, with the return of sense, to approve the salutary disobedience of his servants. But the most extraordinary feature in the character of Michael is the profane mockery of the religion of his country. The superstition of the Greeks might, indeed, excite the smile of a philosopher; but his smile would have been rational and temperate, and he must have condemned the ignorant folly of a youth who insulted the objects of public veneration. A buffoon of the court was invested in the robes of the patriarch; his twelve metropolitans, among whom the emperor was ranked, assumed their ecclesiastical garments; they used or abused the sacred vessels of the altar; and in their bacchanalian feasts the holy communion was administered in a nauseous compound of vinegar and mustard. Nor were these impious spectacles concealed from the eyes of the city. On the day of a solemn festival, the emperor, with his bishops or buffoons, rode on asses through the streets, encountered the true patriarch at the head of his clergy, and by their licentious shouts and obscene gestures disordered the gravity of the Christian procession. The devotion of Michael appeared only in some offence to reason or piety; he received his theatrical crowns from the statue of the Virgin; and an Imperial tomb was violated for the sake of burning the bones of Constantine the Iconoclast. By this extravagant conduct, the son of Theophilus became as contemptible as he was odious; every citizen was impatient for the deliverance of his country; and even the favourites of the moment were apprehensive that a caprice might snatch away what a caprice had bestowed. In the thirtieth year of Edition: current; Page: [256] his age, and in the hour of intoxication and sleep, Michael the Third was murdered in his chamber by the founder of a new dynasty, whom the emperor had raised to an equality of rank and power.

The genealogy of Basil the Macedonian (if it be not the spurious offspring of pride and flattery) exhibits a genuine picture of the revolution of the most illustrious families. The Arsacides, the rivals of Rome, possessed the sceptre of the East near four hundred years: a younger branch of these Parthian kings continued to reign in Armenia; and their royal descendants survived the partition and servitude of that ancient monarchy.35 Two of these, Artabanus and Chlienes, escaped or retired to the court of Leo the First; his bounty seated them in a safe and hospitable exile, in the province of Macedonia: Hadrianople was their final settlement. During several generations they maintained the dignity of their birth; and their Roman patriotism rejected the tempting offers of the Persian and Arabian powers, who recalled them to their native country. But their splendour was insensibly clouded by time and poverty; and the father of Basil was reduced to a small farm, which he cultivated with his own hands. Yet he scorned to disgrace the blood of the Arsacides by a plebeian alliance: his wife, a widow of Hadrianople, was pleased to count among her ancestors the great Constantine; and their royal infant was connected by some dark affinity of lineage or country with the Macedonian Alexander. No sooner was he born than the cradle of Basil, his family, and his city were swept away by an inundation of the Bulgarians; he was educated a slave in a foreign land; Edition: current; Page: [257] and in this severe discipline he acquired the hardiness of body and flexibility of mind which promoted his future elevation. In the age of youth or manhood he shared the deliverance of the Roman captives, who generously broke their fetters, marched through Bulgaria to the shores of the Euxine, defeated two armies of Barbarians, embarked in the ships which had been stationed for their reception, and returned to Constantinople, from whence they were distributed to their respective homes. But the freedom of Basil was naked and destitute; his farm was ruined by the calamities of war; after his father’s death, his manual labour or service could no longer support a family of orphans; and he resolved to seek a more conspicuous theatre, in which every virtue and every vice may lead to the paths of greatness. The first night of his arrival at Constantinople, without friends or money, the weary pilgrim slept on the steps of the church of St. Diomede; he was fed by the casual hospitality of a monk; and was introduced to the service of a cousin and namesake of the emperor Theophilus; who, though himself of a diminutive person, was always followed by a train of tall and handsome domestics. Basil attended his patron to the government of Peloponnesus; eclipsed, by his personal merit, the birth and dignity of Theophilus, and formed an useful connection with a wealthy and charitable matron of Patras. Her spiritual or carnal love embraced the young adventurer, whom she adopted as her son. Danielis presented him with thirty slaves; and the produce of her bounty was expended in the support of his brothers and the purchase of some large estates in Macedonia. His gratitude or ambition still attached him to the service of Theophilus; and a lucky accident recommended him to the notice of the court. A famous wrestler, in the train of the Bulgarian ambassadors, had defied, at the royal banquet, the boldest and most robust of the Greeks. The strength of Basil was praised; he accepted the challenge; and the Barbarian champion was overthrown Edition: current; Page: [258] at the first onset. A beautiful but vicious horse was condemned to be hamstrung; it was subdued by the dexterity and courage of the servant of Theophilus; and his conqueror was promoted to an honourable rank in the Imperial stables. But it was impossible to obtain the confidence of Michael, without complying with his vices; and his new favourite, the great chamberlain of the palace, was raised and supported by a disgraceful marriage with a royal concubine, and the dishonour of his sister, who succeeded to her place.36 The public administration had been abandoned to the Cæsar Bardas,37 the brother and enemy of Theodora; but the arts of female influence persuaded Michael to hate and to fear his uncle; he was drawn from Constantinople, under the pretext of a Cretan expedition, and stabbed in the tent of audience, by the sword of the chamberlain, and in the presence of the emperor. About a month after this execution, Basil was invested with the title of Augustus and the government of the empire. He supported this unequal association till his influence was fortified by popular esteem. His life was endangered by the caprice of the emperor; and his dignity was profaned by a second colleague, who had rowed in the galleys. Yet the murder of his benefactor must be condemned as an act of ingratitude and treason; and the churches which he dedicated to the name of St. Michael were a poor and puerile expiation of his guilt.

The different ages of Basil the First may be compared with those of Augustus. The situation of the Greek did not allow him in his earliest youth to lead an army against his country or to proscribe the noblest of her sons; but his aspiring genius stooped to the arts of a slave; he dissembled his ambition and Edition: current; Page: [259] even his virtues, and grasped with the bloody hand of an assassin the empire which he ruled with the wisdom and tenderness of a parent. A private citizen may feel his interest repugnant to his duty; but it must be from a deficiency of sense or courage that an absolute monarch can separate his happiness from his glory or his glory from the public welfare. The life or panegyric of Basil has, indeed, been composed and published under the long reign of his descendants; but even their stability on the throne may be justly ascribed to the superior merit of their ancestor. In his character, his grandson Constantine has attempted to delineate a perfect image of royalty; but that feeble prince, unless he had copied a real model, could not easily have soared so high above the level of his own conduct or conceptions. But the most solid praise of Basil is drawn from the comparison of a ruined and a flourishing monarchy, that which he wrested from the dissolute Michael, and that which he bequeathed to the Macedonian dynasty. The evils which had been sanctified by time and example were corrected by his master-hand; and he revived, if not the national spirit, at least the order and majesty of the Roman empire. His application was indefatigable, his temper cool, his understanding vigorous and decisive; and in his practice he observed that rare and salutary moderation, which pursues each virtue at an equal distance between the opposite vices. His military service had been confined to the palace; nor was the emperor endowed with the spirit or the talents of a warrior. Yet under his reign the Roman arms were again formidable to the Barbarians. As soon as he had formed a new army by discipline and exercise, he appeared in person on the banks of the Euphrates, curbed the pride of the Saracens, and suppressed the dangerous though just revolt of the Manichæans.38 His indignation against a rebel who had long eluded his pursuit Edition: current; Page: [260] provoked him to wish and to pray that, by the grace of God, he might drive three arrows into the head of Chrysochir. That odious head, which had been obtained by treason rather than by valour, was suspended from a tree, and thrice exposed to the dexterity of the Imperial archer: a base revenge against the dead, more worthy of the times than of the character of Basil. But his principal merit was in the civil administration of the finances and of the laws. To replenish an exhausted treasury, it was proposed to resume the lavish and ill-placed gifts of his predecessor: his prudence abated one moiety of the restitution; and a sum of twelve hundred thousand pounds was instantly procured to answer the most pressing demands and to allow some space for the mature operations of economy. Among the various schemes for the improvement of the revenue, a new mode was suggested of capitation, or tribute, which would have too much depended on the arbitrary discretion of the assessors. A sufficient list of honest and able agents was instantly produced by the minister; but, on the more careful scrutiny of Basil himself, only two could be found who might be safely entrusted with such dangerous powers; and they justified his esteem by declining his confidence. But the serious and successful diligence of the emperor established by degrees an equitable balance of property and payment, of receipt and expenditure; a peculiar fund was appropriated to each service; and a public method secured the interest of the prince and the property of the people. After reforming the luxury, he assigned two patrimonial estates to supply the decent plenty, of the Imperial table; the contributions of the subject were reserved for his defence; and the residue was employed in the embellishment of the capital and provinces. A taste for building, however costly, may deserve some praise and much excuse; from thence industry is fed, art is encouraged, and some object is attained of public emolument or pleasure; the use of a road, an aqueduct, or an hospital is obvious and solid; and the hundred churches that arose by the command Edition: current; Page: [261] of Basil were consecrated to the devotion of the age. In the character of a judge, he was assiduous and impartial, desirous to save, but not afraid to strike; the oppressors of the people were severely chastised; but his personal foes, whom it might be unsafe to pardon, were condemned, after the loss of their eyes, to a life of solitude and repentance. The change of language and manners demanded a revision of the obsolete jurisprudence of Justinian; the voluminous body of his Institutes, Pandects, Code, and Novels was digested under forty titles, in the Greek idiom; and the Basilics, which were improved and completed by his son and grandson, must be referred to the original genius of the founder of their race.39 This glorious reign was terminated by an accident in the chase. A furious stag entangled his horns in the belt of Basil, and raised him from his horse; he was rescued by an attendant, who cut the belt and slew the animal; but the fall, or the fever, exhausted the strength of the aged monarch, and he expired in the palace, amidst the tears of his family and people.40 If he struck off the head of the faithful servant, for presuming to draw his sword against his sovereign, the pride of despotism, which had lain dormant in his life, revived in the last moments of despair, when he no longer wanted or valued the opinion of mankind.

Of the four sons of the emperor, Constantine died before his father, whose grief and credulity were amused by a flattering impostor and a vain apparition. Stephen, the youngest, was content with the honours of a patriarch and a saint; both Leo and Alexander were alike invested with the purple, but the powers of government were solely exercised by the elder brother. The name of Leo VI.41 has been dignified Edition: current; Page: [262] with the title of philosopher; and the union of the prince and the sage, of the active and speculative virtues, would indeed constitute the perfection of human nature. But the claims of Leo are far short of this ideal excellence. Did he reduce his passions and appetites under the dominion of reason? His life was spent in the pomp of the palace, in the society of his wives and concubines; and even the clemency which he shewed, and the peace which he strove to preserve, must be imputed to the softness and indolence of his character. Did he subdue his prejudices, and those of his subjects? His mind was tinged with the most puerile superstition; the influence of the clergy and the errors of the people were consecrated by his laws; and the oracles of Leo, which reveal, in prophetic style, the fates of the empire, are founded on the arts of astrology and divination. If we still inquire the reason of his sage appellation, it can only be replied that the son of Basil was less ignorant than the greater part of his contemporaries in church and state; that his education had been directed by the learned Photius;42 and that several books of profane and ecclesiastical science were composed by the pen, or in the name, of the Imperial philosopher. But the reputation of his philosophy and religion was overthrown by a domestic vice, the repetition of his nuptials. The primitive ideas of the merit and holiness of celibacy were preached by the monks Edition: current; Page: [263] and entertained by the Greeks. Marriage was allowed as a necessary means for the propagation of mankind; after the death of either party, the survivor might satisfy, by a second union, the weakness or the strength of the flesh; but a third marriage was censured as a state of legal fornication; and a fourth was a sin or scandal as yet unknown to the Christians of the East. In the beginning of his reign, Leo himself had abolished the state of concubines, and condemned, without annulling, third marriages; but his patriotism and love soon compelled him to violate his own laws, and to incur the penance which, in a similar case, he had imposed on his subjects. In his three first alliances, his nuptial bed was unfruitful;43 the emperor required a female companion, and the empire a legitimate heir. The beautiful Zoe was introduced into the palace as a concubine; and, after a trial of her fecundity and the birth of Constantine, her lover declared his intention of legitimating the mother and the child by the celebration of his fourth nuptials. But the patriarch Nicholas refused his blessing; the Imperial baptism of the young prince was obtained by a promise of separation; and the contumacious husband of Zoe was excluded from the communion of the faithful. Neither the fear of exile, nor the desertion of his brethren, nor the authority of the Latin church, nor the danger of failure or doubt in the succession to the empire could bend the spirit of the inflexible monk. After the death of Leo, he was recalled from exile to the civil and ecclesiastical administration; and the edict of union which was promulgated in the name of Constantine condemned the future Edition: current; Page: [264] scandal of fourth marriages and left a tacit imputation on his own birth.

In the Greek language purple and porphyry are the same word; and, as the colours of nature are invariable, we may learn that a dark deep red was the Tyrian dye which stained the purple of the ancients. An apartment of the Byzantine palace was lined with porphyry; it was reserved for the use of the pregnant empresses; and the royal birth of their children was expressed by the appellation of porphyrogenite, or born in the purple. Several of the Roman princes had been blessed with an heir; but this peculiar surname was first applied to Constantine the Seventh. His life and titular reign were of equal duration; but of fifty-four years six had elapsed before his father’s death; and the son of Leo was ever the voluntary or reluctant subject of those who oppressed his weakness or abused his confidence. His uncle Alexander, who had long been invested with the title of Augustus, was the first colleague and governor of the young prince; but, in a rapid career of vice and folly, the brother of Leo already emulated the reputation of Michael; and, when he was extinguished by a timely death, he entertained the project of castrating his nephew and leaving the empire to a worthless favourite. The succeeding years of the minority of Constantine were occupied by his mother Zoe, and a succession or council of seven regents,44 who pursued their interests, gratified their passions, abandoned the republic, supplanted each other, and finally vanished in the presence of a soldier. From an obscure origin, Romanus Lecapenus had raised himself to the command of the naval armies; and in the anarchy of the times had deserved, or at least had obtained, the national esteem. With a victorious and affectionate fleet, he sailed from the mouth of the Danube into the harbour of Constantinople, and was hailed as the deliverer of the people and the guardian of the prince. His supreme office was at first Edition: current; Page: [265] defined by the new appellation of father of the emperor,45 but Romanus soon disdained the subordinate powers of a minister, and assumed, with the titles of Cæsar and Augustus, the full independence of royalty, which he held near five and twenty years. His three sons, Christopher, Stephen, and Constantine, were successively adorned with the same honours, and the lawful emperor was degraded from the first to the fifth rank in this college of princes. Yet, in the preservation of his life and crown, he might still applaud his own fortune and the clemency of the usurper. The examples of ancient and modern history would have excused the ambition of Romanus; the powers and the laws of the empire were in his hand; the spurious birth of Constantine would have justified his exclusion; and the grave or the monastery was open to receive the son of the concubine. But Lecapenus does not appear to have possessed either the virtues or the vices of a tyrant.46 The spirit and activity of his private life dissolved away in the sunshine of the throne; and in his licentious pleasures he forgot the safety both of the republic and of his family. Of a mild and religious character, he respected the sanctity of oaths, the innocence of the youth, the memory of his parents, and the attachment of the people. The studious temper and retirement of Constantine disarmed the jealousy of power; his books and music, his pen and his pencil, were a constant source of amusement; and, if he could improve a scanty allowance by the sale of his pictures, if their price was not enhanced by the name of the artist, he was endowed with a personal talent which few princes could employ in the hour of adversity.

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The fall of Romanus was occasioned by his own vices and those of his children. After the decease of Christopher, his eldest son, the two surviving brothers quarrelled with each other, and conspired against their father. At the hour of noon, when all strangers were regularly excluded from the palace, they entered his apartment with an armed force, and conveyed him, in the habit of a monk, to a small island in the Propontis, which was peopled by a religious community. The rumour of this domestic revolution excited a tumult in the city; but Porphyrogenitus alone, the true and lawful emperor, was the object of the public care; and the sons of Lecapenus were taught, by tardy experience, that they had achieved a guilty and perilous enterprise for the benefit of their rival. Their sister Helena, the wife of Constantine, revealed, or supposed, their treacherous design of assassinating her husband at the royal banquet. His loyal adherents were alarmed; and the two usurpers were prevented, seized, degraded from the purple, and embarked for the same island and monastery where their father had been so lately confined. Old Romanus met them on the beach with a sarcastic smile, and, after a just reproach of their folly and ingratitude, presented his Imperial colleagues with an equal share of his water and vegetable diet. In the fortieth year of his reign, Constantine the Seventh obtained the possession of the Eastern world, which he ruled, Edition: current; Page: [267] or seemed to rule, near fifteen years. But he was devoid of that energy of character which could emerge into a life of action and glory; and the studies which had amused and dignified his leisure were incompatible with the serious duties of a sovereign.47 The emperor neglected the practice, to instruct his son Romanus in the theory, of government; while he indulged the habits of intemperance and sloth, he dropt the reins of administration into the hands of Helena his wife;48 and, in the shifting scene of her favour and caprice, each minister was regretted in the promotion of a more worthless successor. Yet the birth and misfortunes of Constantine had endeared him to the Greeks; they excused his failings; they respected his learning, his innocence and charity, his love of justice; and the ceremony of his funeral was mourned with the unfeigned tears of his subjects. The body, according to ancient custom, lay in state in the vestibule of the palace; and the civil and military officers, the patricians, the senate, and the clergy, approached in due order to adore and kiss the inanimate corpse of their sovereign. Before the procession moved towards the Imperial sepulchre, an herald proclaimed this awful admonition: “Arise, O king of the world, and obey the summons of the King of kings!”

The death of Constantine was imputed to poison; and his son Romanus, who derived that name from his maternal grandfather, ascended the throne of Constantinople. A prince who, at the age of twenty, could be suspected of anticipating his inheritance must have been already lost in the public esteem; yet Romanus was rather weak than wicked; and the largest share of the guilt was transferred to his wife, Theophano, a woman of base origin, masculine spirit, and flagitious manners. The sense of personal glory and public happiness, the true pleasures of royalty, were unknown to the Edition: current; Page: [268] son of Constantine; and, while the two brothers, Nicephorus and Leo, triumphed over the Saracens, the hours which the emperor owed to his people were consumed in strenuous idleness. In the morning he visited the circus; at noon he feasted the senators; the greater part of the afternoon he spent in the sphæristerium, or tennis-court, the only theatre of his victories; from thence he passed over to the Asiatic side of the Bosphorus, hunted and killed four wild boars of the largest size, and returned to the palace, proudly content with the labours of the day. In strength and beauty he was conspicuous above his equals; tall and straight as a young cypress, his complexion was fair and florid, his eyes sparkling, his shoulders broad, his nose long and aquiline. Yet even these perfections were insufficient to fix the love of Theophano; and, after a reign of four years, she mingled for her husband the same deadly draught which she had composed for his father.

By his marriage with this impious woman, Romanus the younger left two sons, Basil the Second, and Constantine the Ninth, and two daughters, Theophano and Anne. The eldest sister was given to Otho the Second,49 emperor of the West; the younger became the wife of Wolodomir, great duke and apostle of Russia; and, by the marriage of her grand-daughter with Henry the First, king of France, the blood of the Macedonians, and perhaps of the Arsacides, still flows in the veins of the Bourbon line. After the death of her husband, the empress aspired to reign in the name of her sons, the elder of whom was five, and the younger only two, years of age; but Edition: current; Page: [269] she soon felt the instability of a throne, which was supported by a female who could not be esteemed, and two infants who could not be feared. Theophano looked around for a protector, and threw herself into the arms of the bravest soldier; her heart was capricious; but the deformity of the new favourite rendered it more than probable that interest was the motive and excuse of her love. Nicephorus Phocas50 united, in the popular opinion, the double merit of an hero and a saint. In the former character, his qualifications were genuine and splendid: the descendant of a race, illustrious by their military exploits, he had displayed, in every station and in every province, the courage of a soldier and the conduct of a chief; and Nicephorus was crowned with recent laurels from the important conquest of the isle of Crete.51 His religion was of a more ambiguous cast; and his hair-cloth, his fasts, his pious idiom, and his wish to retire from the business of the world were a convenient mask for his dark and dangerous ambition.52 Yet he imposed on an holy patriarch, by whose influence, and by a decree of the senate, he was entrusted, during the minority of the young princes, with the absolute and independent command of the Oriental armies. As soon as he had secured the leaders and the troops, he boldly marched Edition: current; Page: [270] to Constantinople, trampled on his enemies, avowed his correspondence with the empress, and, without degrading her sons, assumed, with the title of Augustus, the pre-eminence of rank and the plenitude of power. But his marriage with Theophano was refused by the same patriarch who had placed the crown on his head; by his second nuptials he incurred a year of canonical penance; a bar of spiritual affinity was opposed to their celebration; and some evasion and perjury were required to silence the scruples of the clergy and people. The popularity of the emperor was lost in the purple; in a reign of six years he provoked the hatred of strangers and subjects; and the hypocrisy and avarice of the first Nicephorus were revived in his successor. Hypocrisy I shall never justify or palliate; but I will dare to observe that the odious vice of avarice is of all others most hastily arraigned and most unmercifully condemned. In a private citizen, our judgment seldom expects an accurate scrutiny into his fortune and expense; and, in a steward of the public treasure, frugality is always a virtue, and the increase of taxes too often an indispensable duty. In the use of his patrimony, the generous temper of Nicephorus had been proved; and the revenue was strictly applied to the service of the state: each spring the emperor marched in person against the Saracens; and every Roman might compute the employment of his taxes in triumphs, conquests, and the security of the Eastern barrier.

Among the warriors who promoted his elevation and served under his standard, a noble and valiant Armenian had deserved and obtained the most eminent rewards. The stature of John Zimisces was below the ordinary standard; but this diminutive body was endowed with strength, beauty, and the soul of an hero. By the jealousy of the emperor’s brother, he was degraded from the office of general of the East to that of director of the posts, and his murmurs were chastised with disgrace and exile. But Zimisces was ranked among the numerous lovers of the empress; on her intercession, he was permitted to reside at Chalcedon, in the neighbourhood of the Edition: current; Page: [271] capital; her bounty was repaid in his clandestine and amorous visits to the palace; and Theophano consented with alacrity to the death of an ugly and penurious husband. Some bold and trusty conspirators were concealed in her most private chambers; in the darkness of a winter night, Zimisces, with his principal companions, embarked in a small boat, traversed the Bosphorus, landed at the palace stairs, and silently ascended a ladder of ropes, which was cast down by the female attendants. Neither his own suspicions, nor the warnings of his friends, nor the tardy aid of his brother Leo, nor the fortress which he had erected in the palace could protect Nicephorus from a domestic foe, at whose voice every door was opened to the assassins. As he slept on a bear-skin on the ground, he was roused by their noisy intrusion, and thirty daggers glittered before his eyes. It is doubtful whether Zimisces imbrued his hands in the blood of his sovereign; but he enjoyed the inhuman spectacle of revenge. The murder was protracted by insult and cruelty; and, as soon as the head of Nicephorus was shewn from the window, the tumult was hushed and the Armenian was emperor of the East. On the day of his coronation, he was stopped on the threshold of St. Sophia, by the intrepid patriarch; who charged his conscience with the deed of treason and blood, and required, as a sign of repentance, that he should separate himself from his more criminal associate. This sally of apostolic zeal was not offensive to the prince, since he could neither love nor trust a woman who had repeatedly violated the most sacred obligations; and Theophano, instead of sharing his Imperial fortune, was dismissed with ignominy from his bed and palace.53 In their last interview, she displayed Edition: current; Page: [272] a frantic and impotent rage; accused the ingratitude of her lover; assaulted with words and blows her son Basil, as he stood silent and submissive in the presence of a superior colleague; and avowed her own prostitution, in proclaiming the illegitimacy of his birth. The public indignation was appeased by her exile and the punishment of the meaner accomplices; the death of an unpopular prince was forgiven; and the guilt of Zimisces was forgotten in the splendour of his virtues.54 Perhaps his profusion was less useful to the state than the avarice of Nicephorus; but his gentle and generous behaviour delighted all who approached his person; and it was only in the paths of victory that he trod in the footsteps of his predecessor. The greatest part of his reign was employed in the camp and the field; his personal valour and activity was signalised on the Danube and the Tigris, the ancient boundaries of the Roman world; and by his double triumph over the Russians and the Saracens he deserved the titles of saviour of the empire and conqueror of the East.55 In his last return from Syria, he observed that the most fruitful lands of his new provinces were possessed by the eunuchs.56 Edition: current; Page: [273] “And is it for them,” he exclaimed, with honest indignation, “that we have fought and conquered? Is it for them that we shed our blood and exhaust the treasures of our people?”57 The complaint was re-echoed to the palace, and the death of Zimisces is strongly marked with the suspicion of poison.

Under this usurpation, or regency, of twelve years, the two lawful emperors, Basil and Constantine, had silently grown to the age of manhood. Their tender years had been incapable of dominion; the respectful modesty of their attendance and salutation was due to the age and merit of their guardians; the childless ambition of those guardians had no temptation to violate their right of succession; their patrimony was ably and faithfully administered; and the premature death of Zimisces was a loss, rather than a benefit, to the sons of Romanus. Their want of experience detained them twelve years longer the obscure and voluntary pupils of a minister, who extended his reign by persuading them to indulge the pleasures of youth and to disdain the labours of government. In this silken web, the weakness of Constantine was for ever entangled; but his elder brother felt the impulse of genius and the desire of action; he frowned, and the minister was no more. Basil was the acknowledged sovereign of Constantinople and the provinces of Europe; but Asia was oppressed by two veteran generals, Phocas and Edition: current; Page: [274] Sclerus, who, alternately friends and enemies, subjects and rebels, maintained their independence, and laboured to emulate the example of successful usurpation.58 Against these domestic enemies, the son of Romanus first drew his sword, and they trembled in the presence of a lawful and high-spirited prince. The first, in the front of battle, was thrown from his horse, by the stroke of poison or an arrow; the second, who had been twice loaded with chains, and twice invested with the purple, was desirous of ending in peace the small remainder of his days. As the aged suppliant approached the throne, with dim eyes and faltering steps, leaning on his two attendants, the emperor exclaimed, in the insolence of youth and power, “And is this the man who has so long been the object of our terror?” After he had confirmed Edition: current; Page: [275] his own authority59 and the peace of the empire, the trophies of Nicephorus and Zimisces would not suffer their royal pupil to sleep in the palace. His long and frequent expeditions against the Saracens were rather glorious than useful to the empire; but the final destruction of the kingdom of Bulgaria appears, since the time of Belisarius, the most important triumph of the Roman arms.60 Yet, instead of applauding their victorious prince, his subjects detested the rapacious and rigid avarice of Basil; and in the imperfect narrative of his exploits, we can only discern the courage, patience, and ferociousness of a soldier. A vicious education, which could not subdue his spirit, had clouded his mind; he was ignorant of every science; and the remembrance of his learned and feeble grandsire might encourage a real or affected contempt of laws and lawyers, of artists and arts. Of such a character, in such an age, superstition took a firm and lasting possession; after the first licence of his youth, Basil the Second devoted his life, in the palace and the camp, to the penance of an hermit, wore the monastic habit under his robes and armour, observed a vow of continence, and imposed on his appetites a perpetual abstinence from wine and flesh. In the sixty-eighth year of his age, his martial spirit urged him to embark in person for a holy war against the Saracens of Sicily; he was prevented by death; and Basil, surnamed the Slayer of the Bulgarians, was dismissed from the world with the blessings of the clergy and the curses of the people. After his decease, his brother Constantine enjoyed, about three years, the power, or rather the pleasures, of royalty; and his only care was the settlement of the succession. He had enjoyed, sixty-six years, the title of Augustus; and the reign of the two brothers is the longest and most obscure of the Byzantine history.

A lineal succession of five emperors, in a period of one hundred Edition: current; Page: [276] and sixty years, had attached the loyalty of the Greeks to the Macedonian dynasty, which had been thrice respected by the usurpers of their power. After the death of Constantine IX., the last male of the royal race, a new and broken scene presents itself, and the accumulated years of twelve emperors do not equal the space of his single reign. His elder brother had preferred his private chastity to the public interest, and Constantine himself had only three daughters: Eudocia, who took the veil, and Zoe and Theodora, who were preserved till a mature age in a state of ignorance and virginity. When their marriage was discussed in the council of their dying father, the cold or pious Theodora refused to give an heir to the empire, but her sister Zoe presented herself a willing victim at the altar. Romanus Argyrus, a patrician of a graceful person and fair reputation, was chosen for her husband, and, on his declining that honour, was informed that blindness or death was the second alternative. The motive of his reluctance was conjugal affection, but his faithful wife sacrificed her own happiness to his safety and greatness; and her entrance into a monastery removed the only bar to the Imperial nuptials. After the decease of Constantine, the sceptre devolved to Romanus the Third; but his labours at home and abroad were equally feeble and fruitless; and the mature age, the forty-eight years of Zoe, were less favourable to the hopes of pregnancy than to the indulgence of pleasure. Her favourite chamberlain was an handsome Paphlagonian of the name of Michael, whose first trade had been that of a money-changer; and Romanus, either from gratitude or equity, connived at their criminal intercourse, or accepted a slight assurance of their innocence. But Zoe soon justified the Roman maxim that every adulteress is capable of poisoning her husband; and the death of Romanus was instantly followed by the scandalous marriage and elevation of Michael the Fourth. The expectations of Zoe were however disappointed: instead of a vigorous and grateful lover, she had placed in her Edition: current; Page: [277] bed a miserable wretch, whose health and reason were impaired by epileptic fits, and whose conscience was tormented by despair and remorse. The most skilful physicians of the mind and body were summoned to his aid; and his hopes were amused by frequent pilgrimages to the baths, and to the tombs of the most popular saints; the monks applauded his penance, and, except restitution (but to whom should he have restored?), Michael sought every method of expiating his guilt. While he groaned and prayed in sackcloth and ashes, his brother, the eunuch John, smiled at his remorse, and enjoyed the harvest of a crime of which himself was the secret and most guilty author. His administration was only the art of satiating his avarice,61 and Zoe became a captive in the palace of her fathers and in the hands of her slaves. When he perceived the irretrievable decline of his brother’s health, he introduced his nephew, another Michael, who derived his surname of Calaphates from his father’s occupation in the careening of vessels; at the command of the eunuch, Zoe adopted for her son the son of a mechanic; and this fictitious heir was invested with the title and purple of the Cæsars, in the presence of the senate and clergy. So feeble was the character of Zoe that she was oppressed by the liberty and power which she recovered by the death of the Paphlagonian; and, at the end of four days, she placed the crown on the head of Michael the Fifth, who had protested, with tears and oaths, that he should ever reign the first and most obedient of her subjects. The only act of his short reign was his base ingratitude to his benefactors, the eunuch Edition: current; Page: [278] and the empress. The disgrace of the former was pleasing to the public; but the murmurs, and at length the clamours, of Constantinople deplored the exile of Zoe, the daughter of so many emperors; her vices were forgotten, and Michael was taught that there is a period in which the patience of the tamest slaves rises into fury and revenge. The citizens of every degree assembled in a formidable tumult, which lasted three days; they besieged the palace, forced the gates, recalled their mothers, Zoe from her prison, Theodora from her monastery, and condemned the son of Calaphates to the loss of his eyes or of his life. For the first time, the Greeks beheld with surprise the two royal sisters seated on the same throne, presiding in the senate, and giving audience to the ambassadors of the nations. But this singular union subsisted no more than two months; the two sovereigns, their tempers, interests, and adherents, were secretly hostile to each other; and, as Theodora was still adverse to marriage, the indefatigable Zoe, at the age of sixty, consented, for the public good, to sustain the embraces of a third husband, and the censures of the Greek church.62 His name and number were Constantine the Tenth, and the epithet of Monomachus, the single combatant, must have been expressive of his valour and victory in some public or private quarrel.63 But his health was broken by the tortures of the gout, and his dissolute reign was spent in the alternative of sickness and Edition: current; Page: [279] pleasure. A fair and noble widow had accompanied Constantine in his exile to the isle of Lesbos, and Sclerena gloried in the appellation of his mistress. After his marriage and elevation, she was invested with the title and pomp of Augusta, and occupied a contiguous apartment in the palace. The lawful consort (such was the delicacy or corruption of Zoe) consented to this strange and scandalous partition; and the emperor appeared in public between his wife and his concubine. He survived them both; but the last measures of Constantine to change the order of succession were prevented by the more vigilant friends of Theodora; and, after his decease, she resumed, with the general consent, the possession of her inheritance. In her name, and by the influence of four eunuchs, the Eastern world was peaceably governed about nineteen months; and, as they wished to prolong their dominion, they persuaded the aged princess to nominate for her successor Michael the Sixth. The surname of Stratioticus declares his military profession; but the crazy and decrepit veteran could only see with the eyes, and execute with the hands, of his ministers. Whilst he ascended the throne, Theodora sunk into the grave, the last of the Macedonian or Basilian dynasty. I have hastily reviewed, and gladly dismiss, this shameful and destructive period of twenty-eight years, in which the Greeks, degraded below the common level of servitude, were transferred like a herd of cattle by the choice or caprice of two impotent females.

From this night of slavery, a ray of freedom, or at least of spirit, begins to emerge: the Greeks either preserved or revived the use of surnames, which perpetuate the fame of hereditary virtue; and we now discern the rise, succession, and alliances of the last dynasties of Constantinople and Trebizond. The Comneni, who upheld for a while the fate of the sinking empire, assumed the honour of a Roman origin; but the family had been long since transported from Italy to Asia. Their patrimonial estate was situate in the district of Castamona in the neighbourhood of the Euxine; Edition: current; Page: [280] and one of their chiefs, who had already entered the paths of ambition, revisited with affection, perhaps with regret, the modest though honourable dwelling of his fathers. The first of their line was the illustrious Manuel, who, in the reign of the second Basil, contributed by war and treaty to appease the troubles of the East; he left in a tender age two sons, Isaac and John, whom, with the consciousness of desert, he bequeathed to the gratitude and favour of his sovereign. The noble youths were carefully trained in the learning of the monastery, the arts of the palace, and the exercises of the camp; and from the domestic service of the guards they were rapidly promoted to the command of provinces and armies. Their fraternal union doubled the force and reputation of the Comneni, and their ancient nobility was illustrated by the marriage of the two brothers, with a captive princess of Bulgaria, and the daughter of a patrician, who had obtained the name of Charon from the number of enemies whom he had sent to the infernal shades. The soldiers had served with reluctant loyalty a series of effeminate masters; the elevation of Michael the Sixth was a personal insult to the more deserving generals; and their discontent was inflamed by the parsimony of the emperor and the insolence of the eunuchs. They secretly assembled in the sanctuary of St. Sophia, and the votes of the military synod would have been unanimous in favour of the old and valiant Catacalon, if the patriotism or modesty of the veteran had not suggested the importance of birth as well as merit in the choice of a sovereign. Isaac Comnenus was approved by general consent, and the associates separated without delay to meet in the plains of Phrygia, at the head of their respective squadrons and detachments. The cause of Michael was defended in a single battle by the mercenaries of the Imperial guard, who were aliens to the public interest, and animated only by a principle of honour and gratitude. After their defeat, the fears of the emperor solicited a treaty, which was almost accepted by the moderation of the Comnenian. But Edition: current; Page: [281] the former was betrayed by his ambassadors, and the latter was prevented by his friends. The solitary Michael submitted to the voice of the people; the patriarch annulled their oath of allegiance; and, as he shaved the head of the royal monk, congratulated his beneficial exchange of temporal royalty for the kingdom of heaven: an exchange, however, which the priest, on his own account, would probably have declined. By the hands of the same patriarch,64 Isaac Comnenus was solemnly crowned; the sword which he inscribed on his coins might be an offensive symbol, if it implied his title by conquest; but this sword would have been drawn against the foreign and domestic enemies of the state. The decline of his health and vigour suspended the operation of active virtue; and the prospect of approaching death determined him to interpose some moments between life and eternity. But, instead of leaving the empire as the marriage portion of his daughter, his reason and inclination concurred in the preference of his brother John, a soldier, a patriot, and the father of five sons, the future pillars of an hereditary succession. His first modest reluctance might be the natural dictates of discretion and tenderness, but his obstinate and successful perseverance, however it may dazzle with the show of virtue, must be censured as a criminal desertion of his duty and a rare offence against his family and country.65 The purple which he had refused was accepted by Constantine Ducas, a friend of the Comnenian house, and whose noble Edition: current; Page: [282] birth was adorned with the experience and reputation of civil policy.66 In the monastic habit, Isaac recovered his health, and survived two years his voluntary abdication. At the command of his abbot, he observed the rule of St. Basil, and executed the most servile offices of the convent; but his latent vanity was gratified by the frequent and respectful visits of the reigning monarch, who revered in his person the character of a benefactor and a saint.

If Constantine the Eleventh were indeed the subject most worthy of empire, we must pity the debasement of the age and nation in which he was chosen. In the labour of puerile declamations he sought, without obtaining, the crown of eloquence, more precious in his opinion than that of Rome; and in the subordinate functions of a judge he forgot the duties of a sovereign and a warrior.67 Far from imitating the patriotic indifference of the authors of his greatness, Ducas was anxious only to secure, at the expense of the republic, the power and prosperity of his children. His three sons, Michael the Seventh, Andronicus the First, and Constantine the Twelfth, were invested in a tender age with the equal title of Augustus; and the succession was speedily opened by their father’s death. His widow, Eudocia,68 was entrusted with the administration; but experience had taught the jealousy of the dying monarch to protect his sons from the danger of her second nuptials; and her solemn engagement, attested by the principal senators, was deposited in the hands of the patriarch. Before the end of seven months, the wants of Eudocia, or those of the state, called aloud for the male virtues of a soldier; and her heart had already chosen Romanus Diogenes, whom she raised from the scaffold to the throne. The discovery of a treasonable attempt Edition: current; Page: [283] had exposed him to the severity of the laws: his beauty and valour absolved him in the eyes of the empress; and Romanus,69 from a mild exile, was recalled on the second day to the command of the Oriental armies. Her royal choice was yet unknown to the public, and the promise which would have betrayed her falsehood and levity was stolen by a dexterous emissary from the ambition of the patriarch. Xiphilin at first alleged the sanctity of oaths and the sacred nature of a trust; but a whisper that his brother was the future emperor relaxed his scruples, and forced him to confess that the public safety was the supreme law. He resigned the important paper; and, when his hopes were confounded by the nomination of Romanus, he could no longer regain his security, retract his declarations, nor oppose the second nuptials of the empress. Yet a murmur was heard in the palace; and the Barbarian guards had raised their battleaxes in the cause of the house of Ducas, till the young princes were soothed by the tears of their mother and the solemn assurances of the fidelity of their guardian, who filled the Imperial station with dignity and honour. Hereafter I shall relate his valiant but unsuccessful efforts to resist the progress of the Turks. His defeat and captivity inflicted a deadly wound on the Byzantine monarchy of the East; and, after he was released from the chains of the sultan, he vainly sought his wife and his subjects. His wife had been thrust into a monastery, and the subjects of Romanus had embraced the rigid maxim of the civil law that a prisoner in the hands of the enemy is deprived, as by the stroke of death, of all the public and private rights of a citizen. In the general consternation the Cæsar John asserted the indefeasible right of his three nephews: Constantinople listened to his voice; and the Turkish captive was proclaimed in the capital, and received on the frontier, as an enemy of the republic. Romanus was not more fortunate in domestic than in foreign Edition: current; Page: [284] war: the loss of two battles compelled him to yield, on the assurance of fair and honourable treatment; but his enemies were devoid of faith or humanity; and, after the cruel extinction of his sight, his wounds were left to bleed and corrupt, till in a few days he was relieved from a state of misery. Under the triple reign of the house of Ducas, the two younger brothers were reduced to the vain honours of the purple; but the eldest, the pusillanimous Michael, was incapable of sustaining the Roman sceptre; and his surname of Parapinaces denotes the reproach which he shared with an avaricious favourite who enhanced the price, and diminished the measure, of wheat. In the school of Psellus, and after the example of his mother, the son of Eudocia made some proficiency in philosophy and rhetoric; but his character was degraded, rather than ennobled, by the virtues of a monk and the learning of a sophist. Strong in the contempt of their sovereign and their own esteem, two generals at the head of the European and Asiatic legions assumed the purple at Hadrianople and Nice. Their revolt was in the same month; they bore the same name of Nicephorus; but the two candidates were distinguished by the surnames of Bryennius and Botaniates: the former in the maturity of wisdom and courage, the latter conspicuous only by the memory of his past exploits. While Botaniates advanced with cautious and dilatory steps, his active competitor stood in arms before the gates of Constantinople. The name of Bryennius was illustrious; his cause was popular; but his licentious troops could not be restrained from burning and pillaging a suburb; and the people, who would have hailed the rebel, rejected and repulsed the incendiary of his country. This change of the public opinion was favourable to Botaniates, who at length, with an army of Turks, approached the shores of Chalcedon. A formal invitation, in the name of the patriarch, the synod, and the senate, was circulated through the streets of Constantinople; and the general assembly, in the dome of St. Sophia, debated, with order and calmness, Edition: current; Page: [285] on the choice of their sovereign. The guards of Michael would have dispersed this unarmed multitude; but the feeble emperor, applauding his own moderation and clemency, resigned the ensigns of royalty, and was rewarded with the monastic habit and the title of archbishop of Ephesus. He left a son, a Constantine, born and educated in the purple; and a daughter of the house of Ducas illustrated the blood, and confirmed the succession, of the Comnenian dynasty.

John Comnenus, the brother of the emperor Isaac, survived in peace and dignity his generous refusal of the sceptre.70 By his wife Anne, a woman of masculine spirit and policy, he left eight children: the three daughters multiplied the Comnenian alliances with the noblest of the Greeks; of the five sons, Manuel was stopped by a premature death; Isaac and Alexius restored the Imperial greatness of their house, which was enjoyed without toil or danger by the two younger brethren, Hadrian and Nicephorus. Alexius, the third and most illustrious of the brothers, was endowed by nature with the choicest gifts both of mind and body: they were cultivated by a liberal education, and exercised in the school of obedience and adversity. The youth was dismissed from the perils of the Turkish war by the paternal care of the emperor Romanus; but the mother of the Comneni, with her aspiring race, was accused of treason, and banished, by the sons of Ducas, to an island in the Propontis. The two brothers soon emerged into favour and action, fought by each other’s side against the rebels and Barbarians, and adhered to the emperor Michael, till he was deserted by the world and by himself. In his first interview with Botaniates, “Prince,” said Alexius, with a noble frankness, “my duty rendered me your enemy; the decrees of God and of the people have made me your subject. Judge of my future loyalty by my past opposition.” The successor of Michael entertained him with esteem and confidence; his valour was employed Edition: current; Page: [286] against three rebels, who disturbed the peace of the empire, or at least of the emperors. Ursel, Bryennius, and Basilacius were formidable by their numerous forces and military fame; they were successively vanquished in the field, and led in chains to the foot of the throne; and, whatever treatment they might receive from a timid and cruel court, they applauded the clemency, as well as the courage, of their conqueror. But the loyalty of the Comneni was soon tainted by fear and suspicion; nor is it easy to settle between a subject and a despot the debt of gratitude, which the former is tempted to claim by a revolt and the latter to discharge by an executioner. The refusal of Alexius to march against a fourth rebel, the husband of his sister, destroyed the merit or memory of his past services; the favourites of Botaniates provoked the ambition which they apprehended and accused; and the retreat of the two brothers might be justified by the defence of their life or liberty. The women of the family were deposited in a sanctuary, respected by tyrants: the men, mounted on horseback, sallied from the city and erected the standard of civil war. The soldiers, who had been gradually assembled in the capital and the neighbourhood, were devoted to the cause of a victorious and injured leader; the ties of common interest and domestic alliance secured the attachment of the house of Ducas; and the generous dispute of the Comneni was terminated by the decisive resolution of Isaac, who was the first to invest his younger brother with the name and ensigns of royalty. They returned to Constantinople, to threaten rather than besiege that impregnable fortress; but the fidelity of the guards was corrupted; a gate was surprised, and the fleet was occupied by the active courage of George Palæologus, who fought against his father, without foreseeing that he laboured for his posterity. Alexius ascended the throne; and his aged competitor disappeared in a monastery. An army of various nations was gratified with the pillage of the city; but the public disorders were expiated by the tears and fasts of the Comneni, Edition: current; Page: [287] who submitted to every penance compatible with the possession of the empire.

The life of the emperor Alexius has been delineated by a favourite daughter, who was inspired by a tender regard for his person and a laudable zeal to perpetuate his virtues. Conscious of the just suspicion of her readers, the princess Anna Comnena repeatedly protests that, besides her personal knowledge, she had searched the discourse and writings of the most respectable veterans; that, after an interval of thirty years, forgotten by, and forgetful of, the world, her mournful solitude was inaccessible to hope and fear; and that truth, the naked perfect truth, was more dear and sacred than the memory of her parent. Yet, instead of the simplicity of style and narrative which wins our belief, an elaborate affectation of rhetoric and science betrays, in every page, the vanity of a female author. The genuine character of Alexius is lost in a vague constellation of virtues; and the perpetual strain of panegyric and apology awakens our jealousy, to question the veracity of the historian and the merit of the hero. We cannot, however, refuse her judicious and important remark that the disorders of the times were the misfortune and the glory of Alexius; and that every calamity which can afflict a declining empire was accumulated on his reign, by the justice of heaven and the vices of his predecessors. In the East, the victorious Turks had spread, from Persia to the Hellespont, the reign of the Koran and the Crescent; the West was invaded by the adventurous valour of the Normans; and, in the moments of peace, the Danube poured forth new swarms, who had gained, in the science of war, what they had lost in the ferociousness of manners. The sea was not less hostile than the land; and, while the frontiers were assaulted by an open enemy, the palace was distracted with secret treason and conspiracy. On a sudden, the banner of the Cross was displayed by the Latins: Europe was precipitated on Asia; and Constantinople had almost been swept away by this impetuous deluge. In the tempest Alexius steered the Edition: current; Page: [288] Imperial vessel with dexterity and courage. At the head of his armies he was bold in action, skilful in stratagem, patient of fatigue, ready to improve his advantages, and rising from his defeats with inexhaustible vigour. The discipline of the camp was revived, and a new generation of men and soldiers was created by the example and the precepts of their leader. In his intercourse with the Latins, Alexius was patient and artful; his discerning eye pervaded the new system of an unknown world; and I shall hereafter describe the superior policy with which he balanced the interests and passions of the champions of the first crusade.71 In a long reign of thirty-seven years, he subdued and pardoned the envy of his equals; the laws of public and private order were restored; the arts of wealth and science were cultivated; the limits of the empire were enlarged in Europe and Asia; and the Comnenian sceptre was transmitted to his children of the third and fourth generation. Yet the difficulties of the times betrayed some defects in his character; and have exposed his memory to some just or ungenerous reproach. The reader may possibly smile at the lavish praise which his daughter so often bestows on a flying hero; the weakness or prudence of his situation might be mistaken for a want of personal courage; and his political arts are branded by the Latins with the names of deceit and dissimulation. The increase of the male and female branches of his family adorned the throne and secured the succession; but their princely luxury and pride offended the patricians, exhausted the revenue, and insulted the misery of the people. Anna is a faithful witness that his happiness was destroyed, and his health was broken, by the cares of a public life; the patience of Constantinople was fatigued by the length and severity of his reign; and, before Alexius expired, he had lost the love and reverence Edition: current; Page: [289] of his subjects. The clergy could not forgive his application of the sacred riches to the defence of the state; but they applauded his theological learning and ardent zeal for the orthodox faith, which he defended with his tongue, his pen, and his sword. His character was degraded by the superstition of the Greeks; and the same inconsistent principle of human nature enjoined the emperor to found an hospital for the poor and infirm, and to direct the execution of an heretic, who was burnt alive in the square of St. Sophia. Even the sincerity of his moral and religious virtues was suspected by the persons who had passed their lives in his familiar confidence. In his last hours, when he was pressed by his wife Irene to alter the succession, he raised his head, and breathed a pious ejaculation on the vanity of this world. The indignant reply of the empress may be inscribed as an epitaph on his tomb, “You die, as you have lived — an hypocrite!”

It was the wish of Irene to supplant the eldest of her surviving sons in favour of her daughter the princess Anna, whose philosophy would not have refused the weight of a diadem. But the order of male succession was asserted by the friends of their country; the lawful heir drew the royal signet from the finger of his insensible or conscious father; and the empire obeyed the master of the palace. Anna Comnena was stimulated by ambition and revenge to conspire against the life of her brother, and, when the design was prevented by the fears or scruples of her husband, she passionately exclaimed that nature had mistaken the two sexes and had endowed Bryennius with the soul of a woman. The two sons of Alexius, John and Isaac, maintained the fraternal concord, the hereditary virtue of their race; and the younger brother was content with the title of Sebastocrator, which approached the dignity, without sharing the power, of the emperor. In the same person, the claims of primogeniture and merit were fortunately united; his swarthy complexion, harsh features, and Edition: current; Page: [290] diminutive stature had suggested the ironical surname of Calo-Johannes, or John the Handsome, which his grateful subjects more seriously applied to the beauties of his mind. After the discovery of her treason, the life and fortune of Anna were justly forfeited to the laws. Her life was spared by the clemency of the emperor, but he visited the pomp and treasures of her palace, and bestowed the rich confiscation on the most deserving of his friends. That respectable friend, Axuch, a slave of Turkish extraction, presumed to decline the gift and to intercede for the criminal; his generous master applauded and imitated the virtue of his favourite; and the reproach or complaint of an injured brother was the only chastisement of the guilty princess. After this example of clemency, the remainder of his reign was never disturbed by conspiracy or rebellion: feared by his nobles, beloved by his people, John was never reduced to the painful necessity of punishing, or even of pardoning, his personal enemies. During his government of twenty-five years, the penalty of death was abolished in the Roman empire, a law of mercy most delightful to the humane theorist, but of which the practice, in a large and vicious community, is seldom consistent with the public safety. Severe to himself, indulgent to others, chaste, frugal, abstemious, the philosophic Marcus would not have disdained the artless virtues of his successor, derived from his heart, and not borrowed from the schools. He despised and moderated the stately magnificence of the Byzantine court, so oppressive to the people, so contemptible to the eye of reason. Under such a prince, innocence had nothing to fear, and merit had everything to hope; and, without assuming the tyrannic office of a censor, he introduced a gradual, though visible, reformation in the public and private manners of Constantinople. The only defect of this accomplished character was the frailty of noble minds, the love of arms and military glory. Yet the frequent expeditions of John the Handsome may be justified, at least in their principle, by the necessity of repelling the Turks from the Hellespont Edition: current; Page: [291] and the Bosphorus. The sultan of Iconium was confined to his capital, the Barbarians were driven to the mountains, and the maritime provinces of Asia enjoyed the transient blessings of their deliverance. From Constantinople to Antioch and Aleppo, he repeatedly marched at the head of a victorious army, and, in the sieges and battles of this holy war, his Latin allies were astonished by the superior spirit and prowess of a Greek. As he began to indulge the ambitious hope of restoring the ancient limits of the empire, as he revolved in his mind the Euphrates and Tigris, the dominion of Syria, and the conquest of Jerusalem, the thread of his life and of the public felicity was broken by a singular accident. He hunted the wild boar in the valley of Anazarbus, and had fixed his javelin in the body of the furious animal; but, in the struggle, a poisoned arrow dropped from his quiver, and a slight wound in his hand, which produced a mortification, was fatal to the best and greatest of the Comnenian princes.

A premature death had swept away the two eldest sons of John the Handsome; of the two survivors, Isaac and Manuel, his judgment or affection preferred the younger; and the choice of their dying prince was ratified by the soldiers who had applauded the valour of his favourite in the Turkish war. The faithful Axuch hastened to the capital, secured the person of Isaac in honourable confinement, and purchased, with a gift of two hundred pounds of silver, the leading ecclesiastics of St. Sophia, who possessed a decisive voice in the consecration of an emperor. With his veteran and affectionate troops, Manuel soon visited Constantinople; his brother acquiesced in the title of Sebastocrator; his subjects admired the lofty stature and martial graces of their new sovereign, and listened with credulity to the flattering promise that he blended the wisdom of age with the activity and vigour of youth. By the experience of his government, they were taught that he emulated the spirit, and shared the talents, of his father, whose social virtues were buried in the grave. Edition: current; Page: [292] A reign of thirty-seven years is filled by a perpetual though various warfare against the Turks, the Christians, and the hordes in the wilderness beyond the Danube. The arms of Manuel were exercised on Mount Taurus, in the plains of Hungary, on the coast of Italy and Egypt, and on the seas of Sicily and Greece; the influence of his negotiations extended from Jerusalem to Rome and Russia; and the Byzantine monarchy, for a while, became an object of respect or terror to the powers of Asia and Europe. Educated in the silk and purple of the East, Manuel possessed the iron temper of a soldier, which cannot easily be paralleled, except in the lives of Richard the First of England, and of Charles the Twelfth of Sweden. Such was his strength and exercise in arms that Raymond, surnamed the Hercules of Antioch, was incapable of wielding the lance and buckler of the Greek emperor. In a famous tournament, he entered the lists on a fiery courser, and overturned in his first career two of the stoutest of the Italian knights. The first in the charge, the last in the retreat, his friends and his enemies alike trembled, the former for his safety and the latter for their own. After posting an ambuscade in a wood, he rode forwards in search of some perilous adventure, accompanied only by his brother and the faithful Axuch, who refused to desert their sovereign. Eighteen horsemen, after a short combat, fled before them; but the numbers of the enemy increased; the march of the reinforcement was tardy and fearful, and Manuel, without receiving a wound, cut his way through a squadron of five hundred Turks. In a battle against the Hungarians, impatient of the slowness of his troops, he snatched a standard from the head of the column, and was the first, almost alone, who passed a bridge that separated him from the enemy. In the same country, after transporting his army beyond the Save, he sent back the boats with an order, under pain of death, to their commander, that he should leave him to conquer or die on that hostile land. In the siege of Corfu, towing after him a captive galley, the emperor stood aloft on the poop, opposing Edition: current; Page: [293] against the volleys of darts and stones a large buckler and a flowing sail; nor could he have escaped inevitable death, had not the Sicilian admiral enjoined his archers to respect the person of an hero. In one day, he is said to have slain above forty of the Barbarians with his own hand; he returned to the camp, dragging along four Turkish prisoners, whom he had tied to the rings of his saddle; he was ever the foremost to provoke or to accept a single combat; and the gigantic champions, who encountered his arm, were transpierced by the lance, or cut asunder by the sword, of the invincible Manuel. The story of his exploits, which appear as a model or a copy of the romances of chivalry, may induce a reasonable suspicion of the veracity of the Greeks; I will not, to vindicate their credit, endanger my own; yet I may observe that, in the long series of their annals, Manuel is the only prince who has been the subject of similar exaggeration. With the valour of a soldier, he did not unite the skill or prudence of a general; his victories were not productive of any permanent or useful conquest; and his Turkish laurels were blasted in his last unfortunate campaign, in which he lost his army in the mountains of Pisidia, and owed his deliverance to the generosity of the sultan. But the most singular feature in the character of Manuel is the contrast and vicissitude of labour and sloth, of hardiness and effeminacy. In war he seemed ignorant of peace, in peace he appeared incapable of war. In the field he slept in the sun or in the snow, tired in the longest marches the strength of his men and horses, and shared with a smile the abstinence or diet of the camp. No sooner did he return to Constantinople than he resigned himself to the arts and pleasures of a life of luxury; the expense of his dress, his table, and his palace surpassed the measure of his predecessors, and whole summer days were idly wasted in the delicious isles of the Propontis, in the incestuous love of his niece Theodora. The double cost of a warlike and dissolute prince exhausted the revenue and multiplied the taxes; and Manuel, in the distress of his last Turkish camp, endured a bitter reproach Edition: current; Page: [294] from the mouth of a desperate soldier. As he quenched his thirst, he complained that the water of a fountain was mingled with Christian blood. “It is not the first time,” exclaimed a voice from the crowd, “that you have drank, O emperor! the blood of your Christian subjects.” Manuel Comnenus was twice married, to the virtuous Bertha or Irene of Germany, and to the beauteous Maria, a French or Latin princess of Antioch. The only daughter of his first wife was destined for Bela, an Hungarian prince, who was educated at Constantinople, under the name of Alexius; and the consummation of their nuptials might have transferred the Roman sceptre to a race of free and warlike Barbarians. But, as soon as Maria of Antioch had given a son and heir to the empire, the presumptive rights of Bela were abolished, and he was deprived of his promised bride; but the Hungarian prince resumed his name and the kingdom of his fathers, and displayed such virtues as might excite the regret and envy of the Greeks. The son of Maria was named Alexius; and at the age of ten years he ascended the Byzantine throne, after his father’s decease had closed the glories of the Comnenian line.

The fraternal concord of the two sons of the great Alexius had been sometimes clouded by an opposition of interest and passion. By ambition, Isaac the Sebastocrator was excited to flight and rebellion, from whence he was reclaimed by the firmness and clemency of John the Handsome. The errors of Isaac, the father of the emperors of Trebizond, were short and venial; but John, the elder of his sons, renounced for ever his religion. Provoked by a real or imaginary insult of his uncle, he escaped from the Roman to the Turkish camp; his apostacy was rewarded with the sultan’s daughter, the title of Chelebi, or noble, and the inheritance of a princely estate; and in the fifteenth century Mahomet the Second boasted of his Imperial descent from the Comnenian family. Andronicus, younger brother of John, son of Isaac, and grandson of Alexius Comnenus, is one of the most conspicuous characters of the age; and his genuine adventures might form the subject Edition: current; Page: [295] of a very singular romance. To justify the choice of three ladies of royal birth, it is incumbent on me to observe that their fortunate lover was cast in the best proportions of strength and beauty; and that the want of the softer graces was supplied by a manly countenance, a lofty stature, athletic muscles, and the air and deportment of a soldier. The preservation, in his old age, of health and vigour was the reward of temperance and exercise. A piece of bread and a draught of water were often his sole and evening repast; and, if he tasted of a wild boar, or a stag, which he had roasted with his own hands, it was the well-earned fruit of a laborious chase. Dexterous in arms, he was ignorant of fear; his persuasive eloquence could bend to every situation and character of life; his style, though not his practice, was fashioned by the example of St. Paul; and, in every deed of mischief, he had a heart to resolve, a head to contrive, and a hand to execute. In his youth, after the death of the emperor John, he followed the retreat of the Roman army; but, in the march through Asia Minor, design or accident tempted him to wander in the mountains; the hunter was encompassed by the Turkish huntsmen, and he remained some time a reluctant or willing captive in the power of the sultan. His virtues and vices recommended him to the favour of his cousin; he shared the perils and the pleasures of Manuel; and, while the emperor lived in public incest with his niece Theodora, the affections of her sister Eudocia were seduced and enjoyed by Andronicus. Above the decencies of her sex and rank, she gloried in the name of his concubine; and both the palace and the camp could witness that she slept, or watched, in the arms of her lover. She accompanied him to his military command of Cilicia, the first scene of his valour and imprudence. He pressed, with active ardour, the siege of Mopsuestia; the day was employed in the boldest attacks; but the night was wasted in song and dance; and a band of Greek comedians formed the choicest part of his retinue. Andronicus was surprised by the sally of a vigilant foe; but, while his troops Edition: current; Page: [296] fled in disorder, his invincible lance transpierced the thickest ranks of the Armenians. On his return to the Imperial camp in Macedonia, he was received by Manuel with public smiles and a private reproof; but the duchies of Naissus, Braniseba, and Castoria were the reward or consolation of the unsuccessful general. Eudocia still attended his motions; at midnight their tent was suddenly attacked by her angry brothers, impatient to expiate her infamy in his blood; his daring spirit refused her advice, and the disguise of a female habit; and, boldly starting from his couch, he drew his sword and cut his way through the numerous assassins. It was here that he first betrayed his ingratitude and treachery: he engaged in a treasonable correspondence with the king of Hungary and the German emperor; approached the royal tent at a suspicious hour with a drawn sword, and under the mask of a Latin soldier avowed an intention of revenge against a mortal foe; and imprudently praised the fleetness of his horse as an instrument of flight and safety. The monarch dissembled his suspicions; but, after the close of the campaign, Andronicus was arrested and strictly confined in a tower of the palace of Constantinople.

In this prison he was left above twelve years: a most painful restraint, from which the thirst of action and pleasure perpetually urged him to escape. Alone and pensive, he perceived some broken bricks in a corner of the chamber, and gradually widened the passage till he had explored a dark and forgotten recess. Into this hole he conveyed himself and the remains of his provisions, replacing the bricks in their former position, and erasing with care the footsteps of his retreat. At the hour of the customary visit, his guards were amazed by the silence and solitude of the prison, and reported, with shame and fear, his incomprehensible flight. The gates of the palace and city were instantly shut; the strictest orders were despatched into the provinces for the recovery of the fugitive; and his wife, on the suspicion of a pious act, was basely imprisoned in the same tower. At the dead of night, Edition: current; Page: [297] she beheld a spectre: she recognised her husband; they shared their provisions; and a son was the fruit of these stolen interviews, which alleviated the tediousness of their confinement. In the custody of a woman, the vigilance of the keepers was insensibly relaxed; and the captive had accomplished his real escape, when he was discovered, brought back to Constantinople, and loaded with a double chain. At length he found the moment and the means of his deliverance. A boy, his domestic servant, intoxicated the guards, and obtained in wax the impression of the keys. By the diligence of his friends, a similar key, with a bundle of ropes, was introduced into the prison, in the bottom of a hogshead. Andronicus employed, with industry and courage, the instruments of his safety, unlocked the doors, descended from the tower, concealed himself all day among the bushes, and scaled in the night the garden-wall of the palace. A boat was stationed for his reception; he visited his own house, embraced his children, cast away his chain, mounted a fleet horse, and directed his rapid course towards the banks of the Danube. At Anchialus in Thrace, an intrepid friend supplied him with horses and money; he passed the river, traversed with speed the desert of Moldavia and the Carpathian hills, and had almost reached the town of Halicz, in the Polish Russia, when he was intercepted by a party of Walachians, who resolved to convey their important captive to Constantinople. His presence of mind again extricated him from this danger. Under the pretence of sickness, he dismounted in the night, and was allowed to step aside from the troop; he planted in the ground his long staff; clothed it with his cap and upper garment; and, stealing into the wood, left a phantom to amuse for some time the eyes of the Walachians. From Halicz he was honourably conducted to Kiow, the residence of the great duke; the subtle Greek soon obtained the esteem and confidence of Ieroslaus; his character could assume the manners of every climate; and the Babarians applauded his strength and courage in the chase of the elks and bears of the forest. Edition: current; Page: [298] In this northern region he deserved the forgiveness of Manuel, who solicited the Russian prince to join his arms in the invasion of Hungary. The influence of Andronicus achieved this important service; his private treaty was signed with a promise of fidelity on one side and of oblivion on the other; and he marched, at the head of the Russian cavalry, from the Borysthenes to the Danube. In his resentment Manuel had ever sympathised with the martial and dissolute character of his cousin; and his free pardon was sealed in the assault of Zemlin, in which he was second, and second only, to the valour of the emperor.

No sooner was the exile restored to freedom and his country, than his ambition revived, at first to his own, and at length to the public, misfortune. A daughter of Manuel was a feeble bar to the succession of the more deserving males of the Comnenian blood; her future marriage with the prince of Hungary was repugnant to the hopes or prejudices of the princes and nobles. But, when an oath of allegiance was required to the presumptive heir, Andronicus alone asserted the honour of the Roman name, declined the unlawful engagement, and boldly protested against the adoption of a stranger. His patriotism was offensive to the emperor, but he spoke the sentiments of the people, and was removed from the royal presence by an honourable banishment, a second command of the Cilician frontier, with the absolute disposal of the revenues of Cyprus. In this station, the Armenians again exercised his courage and exposed his negligence; and the same rebel, who baffled all his operations, was unhorsed and almost slain by the vigour of his lance. But Andronicus soon discovered a more easy and pleasing conquest, the beautiful Philippa, sister of the empress Maria, and daughter of Raymond of Poitou, the Latin prince of Antioch. For her sake he deserted his station, and wasted the summer in balls and tournaments; to his love she sacrificed her innocence, her reputation, and the offer of an advantageous marriage. But the resentment of Manuel for this domestic Edition: current; Page: [299] affront interrupted his pleasures; Andronicus left the indiscreet princess to weep and to repent; and, with a band of desperate adventurers, undertook the pilgrimage of Jerusalem. His birth, his martial renown, and professions of zeal announced him as the champion of the Cross; he soon captivated both the clergy and the king; and the Greek prince was invested with the lordship of Berytus, on the coast of Phœnicia. In his neighbourhood resided a young and handsome queen, of his own nation and family, great-granddaughter of the emperor Alexius, and widow of Baldwin the Third, king of Jerusalem. She visited and loved her kinsman. Theodora was the third victim of his amorous seduction; and her shame was more public and scandalous than that of her predecessors. The emperor still thirsted for revenge; and his subjects and allies of the Syrian frontier were repeatedly pressed to seize the person, and put out the eyes, of the fugitive. In Palestine he was no longer safe; but the tender Theodora revealed his danger and accompanied his flight. The queen of Jerusalem was exposed to the East, his obsequious concubine; and two illegitimate children were the living monuments of her weakness. Damascus was his first refuge; and in the character of the great Noureddin and his servant Saladin, the superstitious Greek might learn to revere the virtues of the Musulmans. As the friend of Noureddin he visited, most probably, Bagdad and the courts of Persia; and, after a long circuit round the Caspian sea and the mountains of Georgia, he finally settled among the Turks of Asia Minor, the hereditary enemies of his country.

The sultan of Colonia afforded an hospitable retreat to Andronicus, his mistress, and his band of outlaws; the debt of gratitude was paid by frequent inroads in the Roman province of Trebizond; and he seldom returned without an ample harvest of spoil and of Christian captives. In the story of his adventures, he was fond of comparing himself to David, who escaped, by a long exile, the snares of the wicked. But the royal prophet (he presumed to add) was Edition: current; Page: [300] content to lurk on the borders of Judæa, to slay an Amalekite, and to threaten, in his miserable state, the life of the avaricious Nabal. The excursions of the Comnenian prince had a wider range; and he had spread over the Eastern world the glory of his name and religion. By a sentence of the Greek church, the licentious rover had been separated from the faithful; but even this excommunication may prove that he never abjured the profession of Christianity.

His vigilance had eluded or repelled the open and secret persecution of the emperor; but he was at length ensnared by the captivity of his female companion. The governor of Trebizond succeeded in his attempt to surprise the person of Theodora; the queen of Jerusalem and her two children were sent to Constantinople, and their loss embittered the tedious solitude of banishment. The fugitive implored and obtained a final pardon, with leave to throw himself at the feet of his sovereign, who was satisfied with the submission of this haughty spirit. Prostrate on the ground, he deplored with tears and groans the guilt of his past rebellion; nor would he presume to arise, unless some faithful subject would drag him to the foot of the throne by an iron chain with which he had secretly encircled his neck. This extraordinary penance excited the wonder and pity of the assembly; his sins were forgiven by the church and state; but the just suspicion of Manuel fixed his residence at a distance from the court, at Œnoe, a town of Pontus, surrounded with rich vineyards, and situate on the coast of the Euxine. The death of Manuel and the disorders of the minority soon opened the fairest field to his ambition. The emperor was a boy of twelve or fourteen years of age, without vigour, or wisdom, or experience; his mother, the empress Mary, abandoned her person and government to a favourite of the Comnenian name; and his sister, another Mary, whose husband, an Italian, was decorated with the title of Cæsar, excited a conspiracy, and at length an insurrection, against her odious stepmother. The provinces were forgotten, the capital was in flames, and a Edition: current; Page: [301] century of peace and order was overthrown in the vice and weakness of a few months. A civil war was kindled in Constantinople; the two factions fought a bloody battle in the square of the palace; and the rebels sustained a regular siege in the cathedral of St. Sophia. The patriarch laboured with honest zeal to heal the wounds of the republic, the most respectable patriots called aloud for a guardian and avenger, and every tongue repeated the praise of the talents and even the virtues of Andronicus. In his retirement he affected to revolve the solemn duties of his oath: “If the safety or honour of the Imperial family be threatened, I will reveal and oppose the mischief to the utmost of my power.” His correspondence with the patriarch and patricians was seasoned with apt quotations from the Psalms of David and the Epistles of St. Paul; and he patiently waited till he was called to her deliverance by the voice of his country. In his march from Œnoe to Constantinople, his slender train insensibly swelled to a crowd and an army; his professions of religion and loyalty were mistaken for the language of his heart; and the simplicity of a foreign dress, which shewed to advantage his majestic stature, displayed a lively image of his poverty and exile. All opposition sunk before him; he reached the straits of the Thracian Bosphorus; the Byzantine navy sailed from the harbour to receive and transport the saviour of the empire; the torrent was loud and irresistible, and the insects who had basked in the sunshine of royal favour disappeared at the blast of the storm. It was the first care of Andronicus to occupy the palace, to salute the emperor, to confine his mother, to punish her minister, and to restore the public order and tranquillity. He then visited the sepulchre of Manuel: the spectators were ordered to stand aloof; but, as he bowed in the attitude of prayer, they heard, or thought they heard, a murmur of triumph and revenge: “I no longer fear thee, my old enemy, who hast driven me a vagabond to every climate of the earth. Thou art safely deposited under a sevenfold dome, from whence Edition: current; Page: [302] thou canst never arise till the signal of the last trumpet. It is now my turn, and speedily will I trample on thy ashes and thy posterity.” From his subsequent tyranny, we may impute such feelings to the man and the moment; but it is not extremely probable that he gave an articulate sound to his secret thoughts. In the first months of his administration, his designs were veiled by a fair semblance of hypocrisy, which could delude only the eyes of the multitude; the coronation of Alexius was performed with due solemnity, and his perfidious guardian, holding in his hands the body and blood of Christ, most fervently declared that he lived, and was ready to die, for the service of his beloved pupil. But his numerous adherents were instructed to maintain that the sinking empire must perish in the hands of a child, that the Romans could only be saved by a veteran prince, bold in arms, skilful in policy, and taught to reign by the long experience of fortune and mankind; and that it was the duty of every citizen to force the reluctant modesty of Andronicus to undertake the burthen of the public care. The young emperor was himself constrained to join his voice to the general acclamation and to solicit the association of a colleague, who instantly degraded him from the supreme rank, secluded his person, and verified the rash declaration of the patriarch that Alexius might be considered as dead, so soon as he was committed to the custody of his guardian. But his death was preceded by the imprisonment and execution of his mother. After blackening her reputation and inflaming against her the passions of the multitude, the tyrant accused and tried the empress for a treasonable correspondence with the king of Hungary. His own son, a youth of honour and humanity, avowed his abhorrence of this flagitious act, and three of the judges had the merit of preferring their conscience to their safety; but the obsequious tribunal, without requiring any proof or hearing any defence, condemned the widow of Manuel; and her unfortunate son subscribed the sentence of her death. Maria was strangled, her corpse was buried in Edition: current; Page: [303] the sea, and her memory was wounded by the insult most offensive to female vanity, a false and ugly representation of her beauteous form. The fate of her son was not long deferred; he was strangled with a bowstring, and the tyrant, insensible to pity or remorse, after surveying the body of the innocent youth, struck it rudely with his foot: “Thy father,” he cried, “was a knave, thy mother a whore, and thyself a fool!

The Roman sceptre, the reward of his crimes, was held by Andronicus about three years and a half, as the guardian or sovereign of the empire. His government exhibited a singular contrast of vice and virtue. When he listened to his passions, he was the scourge, when he consulted his reason, the father, of his people.72 In the exercise of private justice, he was equitable and rigorous; a shameful and pernicious venality was abolished, and the offices were filled with the most deserving candidates, by a prince who had sense to choose and severity to punish. He prohibited the inhuman practice of pillaging the goods and persons of shipwrecked mariners; the provinces, so long the objects of oppression or neglect, revived in prosperity and plenty; and millions applauded the distant blessings of his reign, while he was cursed by the witnesses of his daily cruelties. The ancient proverb, that bloodthirsty is the man who returns from banishment to power, had been applied with too much truth to Marius and Tiberius; and was now verified for the third time in the life of Andronicus. His memory was stored with a black list of the enemies and rivals, who had traduced his merit, opposed his greatness, or insulted his misfortunes; Edition: current; Page: [304] and the only comfort of his exile was the sacred hope and promise of revenge. The necessary extinction of the young emperor and his mother imposed the fatal obligation of extirpating the friends who hated and might punish the assassin; and the repetition of murder rendered him less willing, and less able, to forgive. An horrid narrative of the victims whom he sacrificed by poison or the sword, by the sea or the flames, would be less expressive of his cruelty than the appellation of the Halcyon-days, which was applied to a rare and bloodless week of repose. The tyrant strove to transfer, on the laws and the judges, some portion of his guilt; but the mask was fallen, and his subjects could no longer mistake the true author of their calamities. The noblest of the Greeks, more especially those who, by descent or alliance, might dispute the Comnenian inheritance, escaped from the monster’s den; Nice or Prusa, Sicily or Cyprus, were their places of refuge; and, as their flight was already criminal, they aggravated their offence by an open revolt and the Imperial title. Yet Andronicus resisted the daggers and swords of his most formidable enemies; Nice and Prusa were reduced and chastised; the Sicilians were content with the sack of Thessalonica; and the distance of Cyprus was not more propitious to the rebel than to the tyrant. His throne was subverted by a rival without merit and a people without arms. Isaac Angelus, a descendant in the female line from the great Alexius, was marked as a victim by the prudence or superstition of the emperor. In a moment of despair, Angelus defended his life and liberty, slew the executioner, and fled to the church of St. Sophia. The sanctuary was insensibly filled with a curious and mournful crowd, who, in his fate, prognosticated their own. But their lamentations were soon turned to curses, and their curses to threats; they dared to ask, “Why do we fear? why do we obey? We are many, and he is one; our patience is the only bond of our slavery.” With the dawn of day the city burst into a general sedition, the prisons were thrown open, the coldest and most servile were Edition: current; Page: [305] roused to the defence of their country, and Isaac, the second of the name, was raised from the sanctuary to the throne. Unconscious of his danger, the tyrant was absent, withdrawn from the toils of state, in the delicious islands of the Propontis. He had contracted an indecent marriage with Alice, or Agnes, daughter of Lewis the Seventh of France, and relict of the unfortunate Alexius; and his society, more suitable to his temper than to his age, was composed of a young wife and a favourite concubine. On the first alarm he rushed to Constantinople, impatient for the blood of the guilty; but he was astonished by the silence of the palace, the tumult of the city, and the general desertion of mankind. Andronicus proclaimed a free pardon to his subjects; they neither desired nor would grant forgiveness: he offered to resign the crown to his son Manuel; but the virtues of the son could not expiate his father’s crimes. The sea was still open for his retreat; but the news of the revolution had flown along the coast; when fear had ceased, obedience was no more; the Imperial galley was pursued and taken by an armed brigantine; and the tyrant was dragged to the presence of Isaac Angelus, loaded with fetters, and a long chain round his neck. His eloquence and the tears of his female companions pleaded in vain for his life; but, instead of the decencies of a legal execution, the new monarch abandoned the criminal to the numerous sufferers whom he had deprived of a father, an husband, or a friend. His teeth and hair, an eye and a hand, were torn from him, as a poor compensation for their loss; and a short respite was allowed, that he might feel the bitterness of death. Astride on a camel, without any danger of a rescue, he was carried through the city, and the basest of the populace rejoiced to trample on the fallen majesty of their prince. After a thousand blows and outrages, Andronicus was hung by the feet between two pillars that supported the statues of a wolf and sow; and every hand that could reach the public enemy inflicted on his body some mark of ingenious or Edition: current; Page: [306] brutal cruelty, till two friendly or furious Italians, plunging their swords into his body, released him from all human punishment. In this long and painful agony, “Lord have mercy upon me!” and “Why will you bruise a broken reed?” were the only words that escaped from his mouth. Our hatred for the tyrant is lost in pity for the man; nor can we blame his pusillanimous resignation, since a Greek Christian was no longer master of his life.

I have been tempted to expatiate on the extraordinary character and adventures of Andronicus; but I shall here terminate the series of the Greek emperors since the time of Heraclius. The branches that sprang from the Comnenian trunk had insensibly withered; and the male line was continued only in the posterity of Andronicus himself, who, in the public confusion, usurped the sovereignty of Trebizond, so obscure in history and so famous in romance. A private citizen of Philadelphia, Constantine Angelus, had emerged to wealth and honours by his marriage with a daughter of the emperor Alexius. His son Andronicus is conspicuous only by his cowardice. His grandson Isaac punished and succeeded the tyrant; but he was dethroned by his own vices and the ambition of his brother; and their discord introduced the Latins to the conquest of Constantinople, the first great period in the fall of the Eastern empire.

If we compute the number and duration of the reigns, it will be found that a period of six hundred years is filled by sixty emperors; including, in the Augustan list, some female sovereigns, and deducting some usurpers who were never acknowledged in the capital, and some princes who did not live to possess their inheritance. The average proportion will allow ten years for each emperor, far below the chronological rule of Sir Isaac Newton, who, from the experience of more recent and regular monarchies, has defined about eighteen or twenty years as the term of an ordinary reign. The Byzantine empire was most tranquil and prosperous, when it could acquiesce in hereditary succession; five dynasties, Edition: current; Page: [307] the Heraclian, Isaurian, Amorian, Basilian, and Comnenian families, enjoyed and transmitted the royal patrimony during their respective series of five, four, three, six, and four generations; several princes number the years of their reign with those of their infancy; and Constantine the Seventh and his two grandsons occupy the space of an entire century. But in the intervals of the Byzantine dynasties, the succession is rapid and broken, and the name of a successful candidate is speedily erased by a more fortunate competitor. Many were the paths that led to the summit of royalty; the fabric of rebellion was overthrown by the stroke of conspiracy or undermined by the silent arts of intrigue; the favourites of the soldiers or people, of the senate or clergy, of the women and eunuchs, were alternately clothed with the purple; the means of their elevation were base, and their end was often contemptible or tragic. A being of the nature of man, endowed with the same faculties, but with a longer measure of existence, would cast down a smile of pity and contempt on the crimes and follies of human ambition, so eager, in a narrow span, to grasp at a precarious and short-lived enjoyment. It is thus that the experience of history exalts and enlarges the horizon of our intellectual view. In a composition of some days, in a perusal of some hours, six hundred years have rolled away, and the duration of a life or reign is contracted to a fleeting moment; the grave is ever beside the throne; the success of a criminal is almost instantly followed by the loss of his prize; and our immortal reason survives and disdains the sixty phantoms of kings, who have passed before our eyes and faintly dwell on our remembrance. The observation that, in every age and climate, ambition has prevailed with the same commanding energy may abate the surprise of a philosopher; but, while he condemns the vanity, he may search the motive, of this universal desire to obtain and hold the sceptre of dominion. To the greater part of the Byzantine series we cannot reasonably ascribe the love of fame and of mankind. The virtue alone Edition: current; Page: [308] of John Comnenus was beneficent and pure; the most illustrious of the princes who precede or follow that respectable name have trod with some dexterity and vigour the crooked and bloody paths of a selfish policy; in scrutinising the imperfect characters of Leo the Isaurian, Basil the First, and Alexius Comnenus, of Theophilus, the second Basil, and Manuel Comnenus, our esteem and censure are almost equally balanced; and the remainder of the Imperial crowd could only desire and expect to be forgotten by posterity. Was personal happiness the aim and object of their ambition? I shall not descant on the vulgar topics of the misery of kings; but I may surely observe that their condition, of all others, is the most pregnant with fear and the least susceptible of hope. For these opposite passions, a larger scope was allowed in the revolutions of antiquity than in the smooth and solid temper of the modern world, which cannot easily repeat either the triumph of Alexander or the fall of Darius. But the peculiar infelicity of the Byzantine princes exposed them to domestic perils, without affording any lively promise of foreign conquest. From the pinnacle of greatness, Andronicus was precipitated by a death more cruel and shameful than that of the vilest malefactor; but the most glorious of his predecessors had much more to dread from their subjects than to hope from their enemies. The army was licentious without spirit, the nation turbulent without freedom; the Barbarians of the East and West pressed on the monarchy, and the loss of the provinces was terminated by the final servitude of the capital.

The entire series of Roman emperors, from the first of the Cæsars to the last of the Constantines, extends above fifteen hundred years; and the term of dominion unbroken by foreign conquest surpasses the measure of the ancient monarchies: the Assyrians or Medes, the successors of Cyrus, or those of Alexander.

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Introduction, Worship, and Persecution of Images — Revolt of Italy and Rome — Temporal Dominion of the Popes — Conquest of Italy by the Franks — Establishment of Images — Character and Coronation of Charlemagne — Restoration and Decay of the Roman Empire in the West — Independence of Italy — Constitution of the Germanic Body

In the connection of the church and state I have considered the former as subservient only and relative to the latter: a salutary maxim, if in fact, as well as in narrative, it had ever been held sacred. The oriental philosophy of the Gnostics, the dark abyss of predestination and grace, and the strange transformations of the Eucharist from the sign to the substance of Christ’s body,1 I have purposely abandoned to the curiosity of speculative divines. But I have reviewed, with diligence and pleasure, the objects of ecclesiastical history, by which the decline and fall of the Roman empire were materially affected, the propagation of Christianity, the constitution of the Catholic church, the ruin of Paganism, and the sects that arose from the mysterious controversies concerning the Trinity and incarnation. At the head of this class, we may justly rank the worship of images, so fiercely disputed in the eighth and ninth centuries; since a question of popular superstition produced the revolt of Italy, the temporal power of the popes, and the restoration of the Roman empire in the West.

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The primitive Christians were possessed with an unconquerable repugnance to the use and abuse of images, and this aversion may be ascribed to their descent from the Jews and their enmity to the Greeks. The Mosaic law had severely proscribed all representations of the Deity; and that precept was firmly established in the principles and practice of the chosen people. The wit of the Christian apologists was pointed against the foolish idolaters, who bowed before the workmanship of their own hands: the images of brass and marble, which, had they been endowed with sense and motion, should have started rather from the pedestal to adore the creative powers of the artist.2 Perhaps some recent and imperfect converts of the Gnostic tribe might crown the statues of Christ and St. Paul with the profane honours which they paid to those of Aristotle and Pythagoras;3 but the public religion of the Catholics was uniformly simple and spiritual; and the first notice of the use of pictures is in the censure of the council of Illiberis, three hundred years after the Christian era.3a Under the successors of Constantine, in the peace and luxury of the triumphant church, the more prudent bishops condescended to indulge a visible superstition for the benefit of the multitude; and, after the ruin of Paganism, they were no longer restrained by the apprehension of an odious parallel. The first introduction of a symbolic worship was in the veneration of the cross and of relics. The saints and martyrs, whose intercession was implored, were seated on the right hand of God; but the gracious and often supernatural favours, which, Edition: current; Page: [311] in the popular belief, were showered round their tomb, conveyed an unquestionable sanction of the devout pilgrims, who visited, and touched, and kissed these lifeless remains, the memorials of their merits and sufferings.4 But a memorial, more interesting than the skull or the sandals of a departed worthy, is a faithful copy of his person and features, delineated by the arts of painting or sculpture. In every age, such copies, so congenial to human feelings, have been cherished by the zeal of private friendship or public esteem; the images of the Roman emperors were adored with civil and almost religious honours; a reverence less ostentatious, but more sincere, was applied to the statues of sages and patriots; and these profane virtues, these splendid sins, disappeared in the presence of the holy men who had died for their celestial and everlasting country. At first, the experiment was made with caution and scruple; and the venerable pictures were discreetly allowed to instruct the ignorant, to awaken the cold, and to gratify the prejudices of the heathen proselytes. By a slow though inevitable progression, the honours of the original were transferred to the copy; the devout Christian prayed before the image of a saint; and the Pagan rites of genuflexion, luminaries, and incense again stole into the Catholic church. The scruples of reason, or piety, were silenced by the strong evidence of visions and miracles; and the pictures which speak, and move, and bleed, must be endowed with a divine energy, and may be considered as the proper objects of religious adoration. The most audacious pencil might tremble in the rash attempt of defining, by forms and colours, the infinite Spirit, the eternal Father, who pervades and sustains the universe.5 But the Edition: current; Page: [312] superstitious mind was more easily reconciled to paint and to worship the angels, and, above all, the Son of God, under the human shape which, on earth, they have condescended to assume. The second person of the Trinity had been clothed with a real and mortal body; but that body had ascended into heaven, and, had not some similitude been presented to the eyes of his disciples, the spiritual worship of Christ might have been obliterated by the visible relics and representations of the saints. A similar indulgence was requisite, and propitious, for the Virgin Mary; the place of her burial was unknown; and the assumption of her soul and body into heaven was adopted by the credulity of the Greeks and Latins. The use, and even the worship, of images was firmly established before the end of the sixth century; they were fondly cherished by the warm imagination of the Greeks and Asiatics; the Pantheon and Vatican were adorned with the emblems of a new superstition; but this semblance of idolatry was more coldly entertained by the rude Barbarians and the Arian clergy of the West. The bolder forms of sculpture, in brass or marble, which peopled the temples of antiquity, were offensive to the fancy or conscience of the Christian Greeks; and a smooth surface of colours has ever been esteemed a more decent and harmless mode of imitation.6

The merit and effect of a copy depends on its resemblance with the original; but the primitive Christians were ignorant of the genuine features of the Son of God, his mother, and his apostles: the statue of Christ at Paneas in Palestine7 Edition: current; Page: [313] was more probably that of some temporal saviour; the Gnostics and their profane monuments were reprobated; and the fancy of the Christian artists could only be guided by the clandestine imitation of some heathen model. In this distress, a bold and dexterous invention assured at once the likeness of the image and the innocence of the worship. A new superstructure of fable was raised on the popular basis of a Syrian legend, on the correspondence of Christ and Abgarus, so famous in the days of Eusebius, so reluctantly deserted by our modern advocates. The bishop of Cæsarea8 records the epistle,9 but he most strangely forgets the picture Edition: current; Page: [314] of Christ,10 — the perfect impression of his face on a linen, with which he gratified the faith of the royal stranger, who had invoked his healing power and offered the strong city of Edessa to protect him against the malice of the Jews. The ignorance of the primitive church is explained by the long imprisonment of the image, in a niche of the wall, from whence, after an oblivion of five hundred years, it was released by some prudent bishop, and seasonably presented to the devotion of the times. Its first and most glorious exploit was the deliverance of the city from the arms of Chosroes Nushirvan; and it was soon revered as a pledge of the divine promise that Edessa should never be taken by a foreign enemy. It is true, indeed, that the text of Procopius ascribes the double deliverance of Edessa to the wealth and valour of her citizens, who purchased the absence and repelled the assaults of the Persian monarch. He was ignorant, the profane historian, of the testimony which he is compelled to deliver in the ecclesiastical page of Evagrius, that the Palladium was exposed on the rampart, and that the water which had been sprinkled on the holy face, instead of quenching, added new fuel to, the flames of the besieged. After this important service, the image of Edessa was preserved with respect and gratitude; and, if the Armenians rejected the legend, the more credulous Greeks adored the similitude, which was not the work of any mortal pencil, but the immediate creation of the divine original. The style and sentiments of a Byzantine hymn will declare how far their worship was removed from the grossest idolatry. “How can we with Edition: current; Page: [315] mortal eyes contemplate this image, whose celestial splendour the host of heaven presumes not to behold? He who dwells in heaven condescends this day to visit us by his venerable image; He who is seated on the cherubim visits us this day by a picture, which the Father has delineated with his immaculate hand, which he has formed in an ineffable manner, and which we sanctify by adoring it with fear and love.” Before the end of the sixth century, these images, made without hands (in Greek it is a single word11), were propagated in the camps and cities of the Eastern empire;12 they were the objects of worship, and the instruments of miracles; and in the hour of danger or tumult their venerable presence could revive the hope, rekindle the courage, or repress the fury of the Roman legions. Of these pictures, the far greater part, the transcripts of a human pencil, could only pretend to a secondary likeness and improper title; but there were some of higher descent, who derived their resemblance from an immediate contact with the original, endowed, for that purpose, with a miraculous and prolific virtue. The most ambitious aspired from a filial to a fraternal relation with the image of Edessa; and such is the veronica of Rome, or Spain, or Jerusalem, which Christ in his agony and bloody sweat applied to his face and delivered to an holy matron. The fruitful precedent was speedily transferred to the Virgin Mary and the saints and martyrs. In the church of Diospolis Edition: current; Page: [316] in Palestine, the features of the mother of God13 were deeply inscribed in a marble column; the East and West have been decorated by the pencil of St. Luke; and the evangelist, who was perhaps a physician, has been forced to exercise the occupation of a painter, so profane and odious in the eyes of the primitive Christians. The Olympian Jove, created by the muse of Homer and the chisel of Phidias, might inspire a philosophic mind with momentary devotion; but these Catholic images were faintly and flatly delineated by monkish artists in the last degeneracy of taste and genius.14

The worship of images had stolen into the church by insensible degrees, and each petty step was pleasing to the superstitious mind, as productive of comfort and innocent of sin. But in the beginning of the eighth century, in the full magnitude of the abuse, the more timorous Greeks were awakened by an apprehension that, under the mask of Christianity, they had restored the religion of their fathers; they heard, with grief and impatience, the name of idolaters: the incessant charge of the Jews and Mahometans,15 who derived from the Law and the Koran an immortal hatred to graven images and all relative worship. The servitude of the Jews might curb their zeal and depreciate their authority; but the Edition: current; Page: [317] triumphant Musulmans, who reigned at Damascus and threatened Constantinople, cast into the scale of reproach the accumulated weight of truth and victory. The cities of Syria, Palestine, and Egypt had been fortified with the images of Christ, his mother, and his saints; and each city presumed on the hope or promise of miraculous defence. In a rapid conquest of ten years, the Arabs subdued those cities and these images; and, in their opinion, the Lord of Hosts pronounced a decisive judgment between the adoration and contempt of these mute and inanimate idols. For a while Edessa had braved the Persian assaults; but the chosen city, the spouse of Christ, was involved in the common ruin; and his divine resemblance became the slave and trophy of the infidels. After a servitude of three hundred years, the Palladium was yielded to the devotion of Constantinople, for a ransom of twelve thousand pounds of silver, the redemption of two hundred Musulmans, and a perpetual truce for the territory of Edessa.16 In this season of distress and dismay, the eloquence of the monks was exercised in the defence of images; and they attempted to prove that the sin and schism of the greatest part of the Orientals had forfeited the favour, and annihilated the virtue, of these precious symbols. But they were now opposed by the murmurs of many simple or rational Christians, who appealed to the evidence of texts, of facts, and of the primitive times, and secretly desired the reformation of the church. As the worship of images had never been established by any general or positive law, its progress in the Eastern empire had been retarded, or accelerated, by the differences of men and manners, the local degrees of refinement, and the personal characters of the bishops. The splendid devotion was fondly cherished by the Edition: current; Page: [318] levity of the capital and the inventive genius of the Byzantine clergy, while the rude and remote districts of Asia were strangers to this innovation of sacred luxury. Many large congregations of Gnostics and Arians maintained, after their conversion, the simple worship which had preceded their separation; and the Armenians, the most warlike subjects of Rome, were not reconciled, in the twelfth century, to the sight of images.17 These various denominations of men afforded a feud of prejudice and aversion, of small account in the villages of Anatolia or Thrace, but which, in the fortune of a soldier, a prelate, or an eunuch, might be often connected with the powers of the church and state.

Of such adventurers, the most fortunate was the emperor Leo the Third,18 who, from the mountains of Isauria, ascended the throne of the East. He was ignorant of sacred and profane letters; but his education, his reason, perhaps his intercourse with the Jews and Arabs, had inspired the martial peasant with an hatred of images; and it was held to be the duty of a prince to impose on his subjects the dictates of his own conscience. But in the outset of an unsettled reign, during ten years of toil and danger, Leo submitted to the meanness of hypocrisy, bowed before the idols which he despised, and satisfied the Roman pontiff with the annual Edition: current; Page: [319] professions of his orthodoxy and zeal. In the reformation of religion, his first steps were moderate and cautious: he assembled a great council of senators and bishops, and enacted, with their consent, that all the images should be removed from the sanctuary and altar to a proper height in the churches, where they might be visible to the eyes, and inaccessible to the superstition, of the people. But it was impossible, on either side, to check the rapid though adverse impulse of veneration and abhorrence; in their lofty position, the sacred images still edified their votaries and reproached the tyrant.18a He was himself provoked by resistance and invective; and his own party accused him of an imperfect discharge of his duty, and urged for his imitation the example of the Jewish king, who had broken, without scruple, the brazen serpent of the temple. By a second edict, he proscribed the existence as well as the use of religious pictures; the churches of Constantinople and the provinces were cleansed from idolatry; the images of Christ, the Virgin, and the Saints were demolished, or a smooth surface of plaster was spread over the walls of the edifice. The sect of the Iconoclasts was supported by the zeal and despotism of six emperors, and the East and West were involved in a noisy conflict of one hundred and twenty years. It was the design of Leo the Isaurian to pronounce the condemnation of images, as an article of faith, and by the authority of a general council; but the convocation of such an assembly was reserved for his son Constantine;19 and, though it is stigmatised by triumphant bigotry as a meeting of fools and atheists, their own partial and mutilated acts betray many symptoms of Edition: current; Page: [320] reason and piety. The debates and decrees of many provincial synods introduced the summons of the general council, which met in the suburbs of Constantinople, and was composed of the respectable number of three hundred and thirty-eight bishops of Europe and Anatolia; for the patriarchs of Antioch and Alexandria were the slaves of the caliph, and the Roman pontiff had withdrawn the churches of Italy and the West from the communion of the Greeks. This Byzantine synod assumed the rank and powers of the seventh general council; yet even this title was a recognition of the six preceding assemblies which had laboriously built the structure of the Catholic faith. After a serious deliberation of six months, the three hundred and thirty-eight bishops pronounced and subscribed an unanimous decree, that all visible symbols of Christ, except in the Eucharist, were either blasphemous or heretical; that image-worship was a corruption of Christianity, and a renewal of Paganism; that all such monuments of idolatry should be broken or erased; and that those who should refuse to deliver the objects of their private superstition were guilty of disobedience to the authority of the church and of the emperor. In their loud and loyal acclamations, they celebrated the merits of their temporal redeemer; and to his zeal and justice they entrusted the execution of their spiritual censures. At Constantinople, as in the former councils, the will of the prince was the rule of episcopal faith; but, on this occasion, I am inclined to suspect that a large majority of the prelates sacrificed their secret conscience to the temptations of hope and fear. In the long night of superstition, the Christians had wandered far away from the simplicity of the gospel; nor was it easy for them to discern the clue, and tread back the mazes, of the labyrinth. The worship of images was inseparably blended, at least to a pious fancy, with the Cross, the Virgin, the saints, and their relics; the holy ground was involved in a cloud of miracles and visions; and the nerves of the mind, curiosity and scepticism, were benumbed by the habits of Edition: current; Page: [321] obedience and belief. Constantine himself is accused of indulging a royal licence to doubt, or deny, or deride the mysteries of the Catholics,20 but they were deeply inscribed in the public and private creed of his bishops; and the boldest Iconoclast might assault with a secret horror the monuments of popular devotion, which were consecrated to the honour of his celestial patrons. In the reformation of the sixteenth century, freedom and knowledge had expanded all the faculties of man, the thirst of innovation superseded the reverence of antiquity, and the vigour of Europe could disdain those phantoms which terrified the sickly and servile weakness of the Greeks.

The scandal of an abstract heresy can be only proclaimed to the people by the blast of the ecclesiastical trumpet; but the most ignorant can perceive, the most torpid must feel, the profanation and downfall of their visible deities. The first hostilities of Leo were directed against a lofty Christ on the vestibule, and above the gate, of the palace.20a A ladder had been planted for the assault, but it was furiously shaken by a crowd of zealots and women; they beheld, with pious transport, the ministers of sacrilege tumbling from on high and dashed against the pavement; and the honours of the ancient martyrs were prostituted to these criminals, who justly suffered for murder and rebellion.21 The execution of the Imperial edicts was resisted by frequent tumults in Constantinople and the provinces; the person of Leo was endangered, his officers were massacred, and the popular enthusiasm Edition: current; Page: [322] was quelled by the strongest efforts of the civil and military power. Of the Archipelago, or Holy Sea, the numerous islands were filled with images and monks; their votaries abjured, without scruple, the enemy of Christ, his mother, and the saints; they armed a fleet of boats and galleys, displayed their consecrated banners, and boldly steered for the harbour of Constantinople, to place on the throne a new favourite of God and the people. They depended on the succour of a miracle; but their miracles were inefficient against the Greek fire; and, after the defeat and conflagration of their fleet, the naked islands were abandoned to the clemency or justice of the conqueror. The son of Leo, in the first year of his reign, had undertaken an expedition against the Saracens; during his absence, the capital, the palace, and the purple were occupied by his kinsman Artavasdes, the ambitious champion of the orthodox faith. The worship of images was triumphantly restored; the patriarch renounced his dissimulation, or dissembled his sentiments; and the righteous claim of the usurper was acknowledged both in the new, and in ancient, Rome. Constantine flew for refuge to his paternal mountains; but he descended at the head of the bold and affectionate Isaurians; and his final victory confounded the arms and predictions of the fanatics. His long reign was distracted with clamour, sedition, conspiracy, and mutual hatred, and sanguinary revenge; the persecution of images was the motive, or pretence, of his adversaries; and, if they missed a temporal diadem, they were rewarded by the Greeks with the crown of martyrdom. In every act of open and clandestine treason, the emperor felt the unforgiving enmity of the monks, the faithful slaves of the superstition to which they owed their riches and influence. They prayed, they preached, they absolved, they inflamed, they conspired; the solitude of Palestine poured forth a torrent of invective; and the pen of St. John Damascenus,22 Edition: current; Page: [323] the last of the Greek fathers, devoted the tyrant’s head, both in this world and the next.23 I am not at leisure to examine how far the monks provoked, nor how much they have exaggerated, their real and pretended sufferings, nor how many lost their lives or limbs, their eyes or their beards, by the cruelty of the emperor. From the chastisement of individuals, he proceeded to the abolition of the order; and, as it was wealthy and useless, his resentment might be stimulated by avarice and justified by patriotism. The formidable name and mission of the Dragon,24 his visitor-general, excited the terror and abhorrence of the black nation; the religious communities were dissolved, the buildings were converted into magazines, or barracks; the lands, moveables, and cattle were confiscated; and our modern precedents will support the charge that much wanton or malicious havoc was exercised against the relics, and even the books, of the monasteries. With the habit and profession of monks, the public and private worship of images was rigorously proscribed; and it Edition: current; Page: [324] should seem that a solemn abjuration of idolatry was exacted from the subjects, or at least from the clergy, of the Eastern empire.25

The patient East abjured, with reluctance, her sacred images; they were fondly cherished, and vigorously defended, by the independent zeal of the Italians. In ecclesiastical rank and jurisdiction, the patriarch of Constantinople and the pope of Rome were nearly equal. But the Greek prelate was a domestic slave under the eye of his master, at whose nod he alternately passed from the convent to the throne, and from the throne to the convent. A distant and dangerous station, amidst the barbarians of the West, excited the spirit and freedom of the Latin bishops. Their popular election endeared them to the Romans; the public and private indigence was relieved by their ample revenue; and the weakness or neglect of the emperors compelled them to consult, both in peace and war, the temporal safety of the city. In the school of adversity the priest insensibly imbibed the virtues and the ambition of a prince; the same character was assumed, the same policy was adopted, by the Italian, the Greek, or the Syrian, who ascended the chair of St. Peter; and, after the loss of her legions and provinces, the genius and fortune of the popes again restored the supremacy of Rome. It is agreed that in the eighth century their dominion was founded on rebellion, and that the rebellion was produced, and justified, by the heresy of the Iconoclasts; but the conduct of the second and third Gregory, in this memorable contest, is variously interpreted by the wishes of their friends and enemies. The Byzantine writers unanimously declare that, after a fruitless admonition, they pronounced the separation of the East and West, and deprived Edition: current; Page: [325] the sacrilegious tyrant of the revenue and sovereignty of Italy. Their excommunication is still more clearly expressed by the Greeks, who beheld the accomplishment of the papal triumphs; and, as they are more strongly attached to their religion than to their country, they praise, instead of blaming, the zeal and orthodoxy of these apostolical men.26 The modern champions of Rome are eager to accept the praise and the precedent: this great and glorious example of the deposition of royal heretics is celebrated by the cardinals Baronius and Bellarmine;27 and, if they are asked why the same thunders were not hurled against the Neros and Julians of antiquity, they reply that the weakness of the primitive church was the sole cause of her patient loyalty.28 On this occasion, the effects of love and hatred are the same; and the zealous Protestants, who seek to kindle the indignation, and to alarm the fears, of princes and magistrates, expatiate on the insolence and treason of the two Gregories against their lawful sovereign.29 They are defended only by the moderate Catholics, for the most part, of the Gallican Edition: current; Page: [326] church,30 who respect the saint without approving the sin. These common advocates of the crown and the mitre circumscribe the truth of facts by the rule of equity, scripture, and tradition; and appeal to the evidence of the Latins,31 and the lives32 and epistles of the popes themselves.

Two original epistles, from Gregory the Second to the emperor Leo, are still extant;33 and, if they cannot be praised as the most perfect models of eloquence and logic, they exhibit the portrait, or at least the mask, of the founder of the papal monarchy. “During ten pure and fortunate years,” says Gregory to the emperor, “we have tasted the annual comfort of your royal letters, subscribed in purple Edition: current; Page: [none] Edition: current; Page: [327] ink with your own hand, the sacred pledges of your attachment to the orthodox creed of our fathers. How deplorable is the change! how tremendous the scandal! You now accuse the Catholics of idolatry; and, by the accusation, you betray your own impiety and ignorance. To this ignorance we are compelled to adapt the grossness of our style and arguments; the first elements of holy letters are sufficient for your confusion; and, were you to enter a grammar-school and avow yourself the enemy of our worship, the simple and pious children would be provoked to cast their hornbooks at your head.” After this decent salutation, the pope attempts the usual distinction between the idols of antiquity and the Christian images. The former were the fanciful representations of phantoms or demons, at a time when the true God had not manifested his person in any visible likeness. The latter are the genuine forms of Christ, his mother, and his saints, who had approved, by a crowd of miracles, the innocence and merit of this relative worship. He must indeed have trusted to the ignorance of Leo, since he could assert the perpetual use of images from the apostolic age, and their venerable presence in the six synods of the Catholic church. A more specious argument is drawn from present possession and recent practice; the harmony of the Christian world supersedes the demand of a general council; and Gregory frankly confesses that such assemblies can only be useful under the reign of an orthodox prince. To the impudent and inhuman Leo, more guilty than an heretic, he recommends peace, silence, and implicit obedience to his spiritual guides of Constantinople and Rome. The limits of civil and ecclesiastical powers are defined by the pontiff. To the former he appropriates the body; to the latter, the soul: the sword of justice is in the hands of the magistrate; the more formidable weapon of excommunication is entrusted to the clergy; and in the exercise of their divine commission a zealous son will not spare his offending father; the successor of St. Peter may lawfully chastise the kings of the earth. Edition: current; Page: [328] “You assault us, O tyrant! with a carnal and military hand; unarmed and naked, we can only implore the Christ, the prince of the heavenly host, that he will send unto you a devil, for the destruction of your body and the salvation of your soul. You declare, with foolish arrogance, I will despatch my orders to Rome; I will break in pieces the image of St. Peter; and Gregory, like his predecessor Martin, shall be transported in chains, and in exile, to the foot of the Imperial throne. Would to God that I might be permitted to tread in the footsteps of the holy Martin; but may the fate of Constans serve as a warning to the persecutors of the church! After his just condemnation by the bishops of Sicily, the tyrant was cut off, in the fulness of his sins, by a domestic servant; the saint is still adored by the nations of Scythia, among whom he ended his banishment and his life. But it is our duty to live for the edification and support of the faithful people; nor are we reduced to risk our safety on the event of a combat. Incapable as you are of defending your Roman subjects, the maritime situation of the city may perhaps expose it to your depredation; but we can remove to the distance of four-and-twenty stadia,34 to the first fortress of the Lombards, and then — you may pursue the winds. Are you ignorant that the popes are the bond of union, the mediators of peace, between the East and West? The eyes of the nations are fixed on our humility; and they revere, as a God upon earth, the apostle St. Peter, whose image you threaten to destroy.35 The remote and interior kingdoms of the West present their homage to Edition: current; Page: [329] Christ and his vicegerent; and we now prepare to visit one of their most powerful monarchs, who desires to receive from our hands the sacrament of baptism.36 The Barbarians have submitted to the yoke of the gospel, while you alone are deaf to the voice of the shepherd. These pious Barbarians are kindled into rage; they thirst to avenge the persecution of the East. Abandon your rash and fatal enterprise; reflect, tremble, and repent. If you persist, we are innocent of the blood that will be spilt in the contest; may it fall on your own head.”


The first assault of Leo against the images of Constantinople had been witnessed by a crowd of strangers from Italy and the West, who related, with grief and indignation, the sacrilege of the emperor. But on the reception of his proscriptive edict they trembled for their domestic deities; the images of Christ and the virgin, of the angels, martyrs, and saints, were abolished in all the churches of Italy; and a strong alternative was proposed to the Roman pontiff, the royal favour as the price of his compliance, degradation and exile as the penalty of his disobedience. Neither zeal nor policy allowed him to hesitate; and the haughty strain in which Gregory addressed the emperor displays his confidence in the truth of his doctrine or the powers of resistance. Without depending on prayers or miracles, he boldly armed against the public enemy, and his pastoral letters admonished the Italians of their danger and their duty.37 At this signal, Edition: current; Page: [330] Ravenna, Venice, and the cities of the Exarchate and Pentapolis adhered to the cause of religion; their military force by sea and land consisted, for the most part, of the natives; and the spirit of patriotism and zeal was transfused into the mercenary strangers. The Italians swore to live and die in the defence of the pope and the holy images; the Roman people was devoted to their father, and even the Lombards were ambitious to share the merit and advantage of this holy war. The most treasonable act, but the most obvious revenge, was the destruction of the statues of Leo himself; the most effectual and pleasing measure of rebellion was the withholding the tribute of Italy, and depriving him of a power which he had recently abused by the imposition of a new capitation.38 A form of administration was preserved by the election of magistrates and governors; and so high was the public indignation that the Italians were prepared to create an orthodox emperor, and to conduct him with a fleet and army to the palace of Constantinople. In that palace, the Roman bishops, the second and third Gregory, were condemned as the authors of the revolt, and every attempt was made, either by fraud or force, to seize their persons and to strike at their lives. The city was repeatedly visited or assaulted by captains of the guards, and dukes and exarchs of high dignity or secret trust; they landed with foreign troops, they obtained some domestic aid, and the superstition of Naples may blush that her fathers were attached to the Edition: current; Page: [331] cause of heresy. But these clandestine or open attacks were repelled by the courage and vigilance of the Romans; the Greeks were overthrown and massacred, their leaders suffered an ignominious death, and the popes, however inclined to mercy, refused to intercede for these guilty victims. At Ravenna,39 the several quarters of the city had long exercised a bloody and hereditary feud; in religious controversy they found a new aliment of faction; but the votaries of images were superior in numbers or spirit, and the exarch, who attempted to stem the torrent, lost his life in a popular sedition. To punish this flagitious deed and restore his dominion in Italy, the emperor sent a fleet and army into the Adriatic gulf. After suffering from the winds and waves much loss and delay, the Greeks made their descent in the neighbourhood of Ravenna; they threatened to depopulate the guilty capital and to imitate, perhaps to surpass, the example of Justinian the Second, who had chastised a former rebellion by the choice and execution of fifty of the principal inhabitants. The women and clergy, in sackcloth and ashes, lay prostrate in prayer; the men were in arms for the defence of their country; the common danger had united the factions, and the event of a battle was preferred to the slow miseries of a siege. In a hard-fought day, as the two armies alternately yielded and advanced, a phantom was seen, a voice was heard, and Ravenna was victorious by the assurance of victory. The strangers retreated to their ships, but the populous seacoast poured forth a multitude of boats; the waters of the Po were so deeply infected with blood that during six years the public prejudice abstained from the fish of the river; and Edition: current; Page: [332] the institution of an annual feast perpetuated the worship of images and the abhorrence of the Greek tyrant. Amidst the triumph of the Catholic arms, the Roman pontiff convened a synod of ninety-three bishops against the heresy of the Iconoclasts. With their consent he pronounced a general excommunication against all who by word or deed should attack the tradition of the fathers and the images of the saints; in this sentence the emperor was tacitly involved;40 but the vote of a last and hopeless remonstrance may seem to imply that the anathema was yet suspended over his guilty head. No sooner had they confirmed their own safety, the worship of images, and the freedom of Rome and Italy, than the popes appear to have relaxed of their severity and to have spared the relics of the Byzantine dominion. Their moderate counsels delayed and prevented the election of a new emperor, and they exhorted the Italians not to separate from the body of the Roman monarchy. The exarch was permitted to reside within the walls of Ravenna, a captive rather than a master; and, till the Imperial coronation of Charlemagne, the government of Rome and Italy was exercised in the name of the successors of Constantine.41

The liberty of Rome, which had been oppressed by the arms and arts of Augustus, was rescued, after seven hundred and fifty years of servitude, from the persecution of Leo the Edition: current; Page: [333] Isaurian. By the Cæsars, the triumphs of the consuls had been annihilated: in the decline and fall of the empire, the god Terminus, the sacred boundary, had insensibly receded from the ocean, the Rhine, the Danube, and the Euphrates; and Rome was reduced to her ancient territory from Viterbo to Terracina, and from Narni to the mouth of the Tiber.42 When the kings were banished, the republic reposed on the firm basis which had been founded by their wisdom and virtue. Their perpetual jurisdiction was divided between two annual magistrates; the senate continued to exercise the powers of administration and counsel; and the legislative authority was distributed in the assemblies of the people by a well-proportioned scale of property and service. Ignorant of the arts of luxury, the primitive Romans had improved the science of government and war; the will of the community was absolute; the rights of individuals were sacred; one hundred and thirty thousand citizens were armed for defence or conquest; and a band of robbers and outlaws was moulded into a nation, deserving of freedom and ambitious of glory.43 When the sovereignty of the Greek emperors was extinguished, the ruins of Rome presented the sad image of depopulation and decay; her slavery was an habit, her liberty an accident: the effect of superstition, and the object of her own amazement and terror. The last vestige of the substance, or even the forms, of the constitution was obliterated from the practice and memory of the Romans; and they were devoid of knowledge, or virtue, again to build the fabric of a commonwealth. Their scanty remnant, the offspring of slaves and Edition: current; Page: [334] strangers, was despicable in the eyes of the victorious Barbarians. As often as the Franks or Lombards expressed their most bitter contempt of a foe, they called him a Roman; “and in this name,” says the bishop Liutprand, “we include whatever is base, whatever is cowardly, whatever is perfidious, the extremes of avarice and luxury, and every vice that can prostitute the dignity of human nature.”44 By the necessity of their situation, the inhabitants of Rome were cast into the rough model of a republican government; they were compelled to elect some judges in peace, and some leaders in war; the nobles assembled to deliberate, and their resolves could not be executed without the union and consent of the multitude. The style of the Roman senate and people was revived,45 but the spirit was fled; and their new independence was disgraced by the tumultuous conflict of licentiousness and oppression. The want of laws could only be supplied by the influence of religion, and their foreign and domestic counsels were moderated by the authority of the bishop. His alms, his sermons, his correspondence with the kings and prelates of the West, his recent services, their gratitude and oath, accustomed the Romans to consider him as the first magistrate or prince of the city. The Christian humility of the popes was not offended by the name of Dominus, or Lord; and their face and inscription are still apparent on Edition: current; Page: [335] the most ancient coins.46 Their temporal dominion is now confirmed by the reverence of a thousand years; and their noblest title is the free choice of a people whom they had redeemed from slavery.

In the quarrels of ancient Greece, the holy people of Elis enjoyed a perpetual peace, under the protection of Jupiter, and in the exercise of the Olympic games.47 Happy would it have been for the Romans, if a similar privilege had guarded the patrimony of St. Peter from the calamities of war; if the Christians who visited the holy threshold would have sheathed their swords in the presence of the apostle and his successor. But this mystic circle could have been traced only by the wand of a legislator and a sage; this pacific system was incompatible with the zeal and ambition of the popes; the Romans were not addicted, like the inhabitants of Elis, to the innocent and placid labours of agriculture; and the Barbarians of Italy, though softened by the climate, were far below the Grecian states in the institutions of public and private life. A memorable example of repentance and piety was exhibited by Liutprand, king of the Lombards. In arms, at the gate of the Vatican, the conqueror listened to the voice of Gregory the Second,48 withdrew his troops, resigned his conquests, respectfully visited the church of St. Peter, and after performing his devotions, offered his sword and dagger, his cuirass and mantle, his silver cross and his crown of gold, on the tomb of Edition: current; Page: [336] the apostle. But this religious fervour was the illusion, perhaps the artifice, of the moment; the sense of interest is strong and lasting; the love of arms and rapine was congenial to the Lombards; and both the prince and people were irresistibly tempted by the disorders of Italy, the nakedness of Rome, and the unwarlike profession of her new chief. On the first edicts of the emperor, they declared themselves the champions of the holy images; Liutprand invaded the province of Romagna, which had already assumed that distinctive appellation; the Catholics of the Exarchate yielded without reluctance to his civil and military power; and a foreign enemy was introduced for the first time into the impregnable fortress of Ravenna. That city and fortress were speedily recovered by the active diligence and maritime forces of the Venetians; and those faithful subjects obeyed the exhortation of Gregory himself, in separating the personal guilt of Leo from the general cause of the Roman empire.49 The Greeks were less mindful of the service than the Lombards of the injury; the two nations, hostile in their faith, were reconciled in a dangerous and unnatural alliance; the king and the exarch marched to the conquest of Spoleto and Rome; the storm evaporated without effect; but the policy of Liutprand alarmed Italy with a vexatious alternative of hostility and truce. His successor Astolphus declared himself the equal enemy of the emperor and the pope; Ravenna was subdued by force or treachery,50 and this final conquest extinguished the Edition: current; Page: [337] series of the exarchs, who had reigned with a subordinate power since the time of Justinian and the ruin of the Gothic kingdom. Rome was summoned to acknowledge the victorious Lombard as her lawful sovereign; the annual tribute of a piece of gold was fixed as the ransom of each citizen; and the sword of destruction was unsheathed to exact the penalty of her disobedience. The Romans hesitated; they entreated; they complained; and the threatening Barbarians were checked by arms and negotiations, till the popes had engaged the friendship of an ally and avenger beyond the Alps.51

In his distress, the first51a Gregory had implored the aid of the hero of the age, of Charles Martel, who governed the French monarchy with the humble title of mayor or duke; and who, by his signal victory over the Saracens, had saved his country, and perhaps Europe, from the Mahometan yoke. The ambassadors of the pope were received by Charles with decent reverence; but the greatness of his occupations and the shortness of his life prevented his interference in the affairs of Italy, except by a friendly and ineffectual mediation. His son Pepin, the heir of his power and virtues, assumed the office of champion of the Roman church; and the zeal of the French prince appears to have been prompted by the love of glory and religion. But the danger was on the banks of the Tiber, the succour on those of the Seine; and our sympathy is cold to the relation of distant misery. Amidst the tears of the city, Stephen the Third embraced the generous resolution of visiting in person the courts of Lombardy and France, to Edition: current; Page: [338] deprecate the injustice of his enemy, or to excite the pity and indignation of his friend. After soothing the public despair by litanies and orations, he undertook this laborious journey with the ambassadors of the French monarch and the Greek emperor. The king of the Lombards was inexorable; but his threats could not silence the complaints, nor retard the speed, of the Roman pontiff, who traversed the Pennine Alps, reposed in the abbey of St. Maurice, and hastened to grasp the right hand of his protector, a hand which was never lifted in vain, either in war or friendship. Stephen was entertained as the visible successor of the apostle; at the next assembly, the field of March or of May, his injuries were exposed to a devout and warlike nation, and he repassed the Alps, not as a suppliant, but as a conqueror, at the head of a French army, which was led by the king in person. The Lombards, after a weak resistance, obtained an ignominious peace, and swore to restore the possessions, and to respect the sanctity, of the Roman church. But no sooner was Astolphus delivered from the presence of the French arms, than he forgot his promise and resented his disgrace. Rome was again encompassed by his arms; and Stephen, apprehensive of fatiguing the zeal of his Transalpine allies, enforced his complaint and request by an eloquent letter in the name and person of St. Peter himself.52 The apostle assures his adoptive sons, the king, the clergy, and the nobles of France, that, dead in the flesh, he is still alive in the spirit; that they now hear, and must obey, the voice of the founder and guardian of the Roman church; that the Virgin, the angels, the saints, and the martyrs, and all the host of heaven, unanimously urge the request, and will confess the obligation; that riches, victory, and paradise Edition: current; Page: [339] will crown their pious enterprise; and that eternal damnation will be the penalty of their neglect, if they suffer his tomb, his temple, and his people to fall into the hands of the perfidious Lombards. The second expedition of Pepin was not less rapid and fortunate than the first: St. Peter was satisfied, Rome was again saved, and Astolphus was taught the lessons of justice and sincerity by the scourge of a foreign master. After this double chastisement, the Lombards languished about twenty years in a state of languor and decay. But their minds were not yet humbled to their condition; and, instead of affecting the pacific virtues of the feeble, they peevishly harassed the Romans with a repetition of claims, evasions, and inroads, which they undertook without reflection and terminated without glory. On either side, their expiring monarchy was pressed by the zeal and prudence of Pope Hadrian the First, by the genius, the fortune, and greatness of Charlemagne the son of Pepin; these heroes of the church and state were united in public and domestic friendship; and, while they trampled on the prostrate, they varnished their proceedings with the fairest colours of equity and moderation.53 The passes of the Alps, and the walls of Pavia, were the only defence of the Lombards; the former were surprised, the latter were invested, by the son of Pepin; and after a blockade of two years, Desiderius, the last of their native princes, surrendered his sceptre and his capital. Under the dominion of a foreign king, but in the possession of their national laws, the Lombards became the brethren, rather than the subjects, of the Franks; who derived their blood, Edition: current; Page: [340] and manners, and language from the same Germanic origin.54

The mutual obligations of the popes and the Carlovingian family form the important link of ancient and modern, of civil and ecclesiastical, history. In the conquest of Italy, the champions of the Roman church obtained a favourable occasion, a specious title, the wishes of the people, the prayers and intrigues of the clergy. But the most essential gifts of the popes to the Carlovingian race were the dignities of king of France55 and of patrician of Rome. I. Under the sacerdotal monarchy of St. Peter, the nations began to resume the practice of seeking, on the banks of the Tiber, their kings, their laws, and the oracles of their fate. The Franks were perplexed between the name and substance of their government. All the powers of royalty were exercised by Pepin, mayor of the palace; and nothing, except the regal title, was wanting to his ambition. His enemies were crushed by his valour; his friends were multiplied by his liberality; his father had been the saviour of Christendom; and the claims of personal merit were repeated and ennobled in a descent of four generations. The name and image of royalty was still preserved in the last descendant of Clovis, the feeble Childeric; but his obsolete right could only be used as an instrument of sedition; the nation was desirous of restoring the simplicity of the constitution; and Pepin, a subject and a prince, was ambitious to ascertain his own rank and the fortune of his family. The mayor and the nobles were bound, by an oath of fidelity, to Edition: current; Page: [341] the royal phantom; the blood of Clovis was pure and sacred in their eyes; and their common ambassadors addressed the Roman pontiff, to dispel their scruples or to absolve their promise. The interest of Pope Zachary, the successor of the two Gregories, prompted him to decide, and to decide in their favour; he pronounced that the nation might lawfully unite, in the same person, the title and authority of king; and that the unfortunate Childeric, a victim of the public safety, should be degraded, shaved, and confined in a monastery for the remainder of his days. An answer so agreeable to their wishes was accepted by the Franks, as the opinion of a casuist, the sentence of a judge, or the oracle of a prophet; the Merovingian race disappeared from the earth; and Pepin was exalted on a buckler by the suffrage of a free people, accustomed to obey his laws and to march under his standard. His coronation was twice performed, with the sanction of the popes, by their most faithful servant St. Boniface, the apostle of Germany, and by the grateful hands of Stephen the Third, who, in the monastery of St. Denys, placed the diadem on the head of his benefactor. The royal unction of the kings of Israel was dexterously applied;56 the successor of St. Peter assumed the character of a divine ambassador; a German chieftain was transformed into the Lord’s anointed; and this Jewish rite has been diffused and maintained by the superstition and vanity of modern Europe. The Franks were absolved from their ancient oath; but a dire anathema was thundered against them and their posterity, if they should dare to renew the same freedom of choice, or to elect a king, Edition: current; Page: [342] except in the holy and meritorious race of the Carlovingian princes. Without apprehending the future danger, these princes gloried in their present security; the secretary of Charlemagne affirms that the French sceptre was transferred by the authority of the popes;57 and in their boldest enterprises they insist, with confidence, on this signal and successful act of temporal jurisdiction.

II. In the change of manners and language, the patricians of Rome58 were far removed from the senate of Romulus or the palace of Constantine, from the free nobles of the republic or the fictitious parents of the emperor. After the recovery of Italy and Africa by the arms of Justinian, the importance and danger of those remote provinces required the presence of a supreme magistrate; he was indifferently styled the exarch or the patrician; and these governors of Ravenna, who fill their place in the chronology of princes, extended their jurisdiction over the Roman city. Since the revolt of Italy and the loss of the Exarchate, the distress of the Romans had exacted some sacrifice of their independence. Yet, even in this act, they exercised the right of disposing of themselves; and the decrees of the senate and people successively invested Charles Martel and his posterity with the honours of patrician of Rome. The leaders of a powerful nation would have disdained a servile title and subordinate office; but the reign Edition: current; Page: [343] of the Greek emperors was suspended; and, in the vacancy of the empire, they derived a more glorious commission from the pope and the republic. The Roman ambassadors presented these patricians with the keys of the shrine of St. Peter, as a pledge and symbol of sovereignty; with a holy banner, which it was their right and duty to unfurl in the defence of the church and city.59 In the time of Charles Martel and of Pepin, the interposition of the Lombard kingdom covered the freedom, while it threatened the safety, of Rome; and the patriciate represented only the title, the service, the alliance, of these distant protectors. The power and policy of Charlemagne annihilated an enemy, and imposed a master. In his first visit to the capital, he was received with all the honours which had formerly been paid to the exarch, the representative of the emperor; and these honours obtained some new decorations from the joy and gratitude of Pope Hadrian the First.60 No sooner was he informed of the sudden approach of the monarch, than he despatched the magistrates and nobles of Rome to meet him, with the banner, about thirty miles from the city. At the distance of one mile, the Flaminian way was lined with the schools, or national communities, of Greeks, Lombards, Saxons, &c.; the Roman youth was under arms; and the children of a more tender age, with palms and olive branches in their hands, chaunted the praises of their great deliverer. At the aspect of the holy crosses and ensigns of the saints, he Edition: current; Page: [344] dismounted from his horse, led the procession of his nobles to the Vatican, and, as he ascended the stairs, devoutly kissed each step of the threshold of the apostles. In the portico, Hadrian expected him at the head of his clergy; they embraced, as friends and equals; but, in their march to the altar, the king or patrician assumed the right hand of the pope. Nor was the Frank content with these vain and empty demonstrations of respect. In the twenty-six years that elapsed between the conquest of Lombardy and his Imperial coronation, Rome, which had been delivered by the sword, was subject as his own to the sceptre, of Charlemagne. The people swore allegiance to his person and family; in his name money was coined and justice was administered; and the election of the popes was examined and confirmed by his authority. Except an original and self-inherent claim of sovereignty, there was not any prerogative remaining which the title of emperor could add to the patrician of Rome.61

The gratitude of the Carlovingians was adequate to these obligations, and their names are consecrated as the saviours and benefactors of the Roman church. Her ancient patrimony of farms and houses was transformed by their bounty into the temporal dominion of cities and provinces; and the donation of the Exarchate was the first-fruits of the conquests of Pepin.62 Astolphus with a sigh relinquished his prey; the keys and the hostages of the principal cities were delivered Edition: current; Page: [345] to the French ambassador; and, in his master’s name, he presented them before the tomb of St. Peter. The ample measure of the Exarchate63 might comprise all the provinces of Italy which had obeyed the emperor and his vicegerent; but its strict and proper limits were included in the territories of Ravenna, Bologna, and Ferrara; its inseparable dependency was the Pentapolis, which stretched along the Adriatic from Rimini, to Ancona, and advanced into the midland country as far as the ridges of the Apennine. In this transaction, the ambition and avarice of the popes has been severely condemned. Perhaps the humility of a Christian priest should have rejected an earthly kingdom, which it was not easy for him to govern without renouncing the virtues of his profession. Perhaps a faithful subject, or even a generous enemy, would have been less impatient to divide the spoils of the Barbarian; and, if the emperor had entrusted Stephen to solicit in his name the restitution of the Exarchate, I will not absolve the pope from the reproach of treachery and falsehood. But in the rigid interpretation of the laws every one may accept, without injury, whatever his benefactor can bestow without injustice. The Greek emperor had abdicated or forfeited his right to the Exarchate; and the sword of Astolphus was broken by the stronger sword of the Carlovingian. It was not in the cause of the Iconoclast that Pepin had exposed his person and army in a double expedition beyond the Alps; he possessed, and might lawfully alienate, his conquests; and to the importunities of the Greeks he piously replied that no human consideration should tempt him to resume the gift which he had conferred on the Roman pontiff for the remission of his sins and the salvation of his soul. The splendid donation was granted in supreme and absolute dominion, and the world beheld, for the first time, a Christian bishop invested Edition: current; Page: [346] with the prerogatives of a temporal prince: the choice of magistrates, the exercise of justice, the imposition of taxes, and the wealth of the palace of Ravenna. In the dissolution of the Lombard kingdom, the inhabitants of the duchy of Spoleto64 sought a refuge from the storm, shaved their heads after the Roman fashion, declared themselves the servants and subjects of St. Peter, and completed, by this voluntary surrender, the present circle of the ecclesiastical state. That mysterious circle was enlarged to an indefinite extent by the verbal or written donation of Charlemagne,65 who, in the first transports of his victory, despoiled himself and the Greek emperor of the cities and islands which had formerly been annexed to the Exarchate. But, in the cooler moments of absence and reflection, he viewed, with an eye of jealousy and envy, the recent greatness of his ecclesiastical ally. The execution of his own and his father’s promises was respectfully eluded; the king of the Franks and Lombards asserted the inalienable rights of the empire; and, in his life and death, Ravenna,66 as well as Rome, was numbered in the list of his metropolitan cities. The sovereignty of the Exarchate melted away in the hands Edition: current; Page: [347] of the popes; they found in the archbishops of Ravenna a dangerous and domestic rival;67 the nobles and priests disdained the yoke of a priest; and, in the disorders of the times, they could only retain the memory of an ancient claim, which, in a more prosperous age, they have revived and realised.

Fraud is the resource of weakness and cunning; and the strong, though ignorant, Barbarian was often entangled in the net of sacerdotal policy. The Vatican and Lateran were an arsenal and manufacture, which, according to the occasion, have produced or concealed a various collection of false or genuine, of corrupt or suspicious acts, as they tended to promote the interest of the Roman church. Before the end of the eighth century, some apostolical scribe, perhaps the notorious Isidore, composed the decretals, and the donation of Constantine, the two magic pillars of the spiritual and temporal monarchy of the popes. This memorable donation was introduced to the world by an epistle of Hadrian the First, who exhorts Charlemagne to imitate the liberality, and revive the name, of the great Constantine.68 According to the legend, the first of the Christian emperors was healed of the leprosy, and purified in the waters of baptism, by St. Silvester, the Roman bishop; and never was physician more gloriously recompensed. His royal proselyte withdrew from the seat and patrimony of St. Peter; declared his resolution of founding a new capital in the East; and resigned to the popes the Edition: current; Page: [348] free and perpetual sovereignty of Rome, Italy, and the provinces of the West.69 This fiction was productive of the most beneficial effects. The Greek princes were convicted of the guilt of usurpation; and the revolt of Gregory was the claim of his lawful inheritance. The popes were delivered from their debt of gratitude; and the nominal gifts of the Carlovingians were no more than the just and irrevocable restitution of a scanty portion of the ecclesiastical state. The sovereignty of Rome no longer depended on the choice of a fickle people; and the successors of St. Peter and Constantine were invested with the purple and prerogatives of the Cæsars. So deep was the ignorance and credulity of the times that the most absurd of fables was received, with equal reverence, in Greece and in France, and is still enrolled among the decrees of the canon law.70 The emperors and the Romans were incapable of discerning a forgery that subverted their rights and freedom; and the only opposition proceeded from a Sabine monastery, which, in the beginning of the twelfth century, disputed the truth and validity of the donation of Constantine.71 In the Edition: current; Page: [349] revival of letters and liberty this fictitious deed was transpierced by the pen of Laurentius Valla, the pen of an eloquent critic and a Roman patriot.72 His contemporaries of the fifteenth century were astonished at his sacrilegious boldness; yet such is the silent and irresistible progress of reason that before the end of the next age the fable was rejected by the contempt of historians73 and poets,74 and the tacit or modest censure of the advocates of the Roman church.75 The popes themselves have indulged a smile at the credulity of the vulgar;76 but a false and obsolete title still sanctifies their reign; and, by the same fortune which has attended the decretals and the Sibylline oracles, the edifice has subsisted after the foundations have been undermined.

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While the popes established in Italy their freedom and dominion, the images, the first cause of their revolt, were restored in the Eastern empire.77 Under the reign of Constantine the Fifth, the union of civil and ecclesiastical power had overthrown the tree, without extirpating the root, of superstition. The idols, for such they were now held, were secretly cherished by the order and the sex most prone to devotion; and the fond alliance of the monks and females obtained a final victory over the reason and authority of man. Leo the Fourth maintained with less rigour the religion of his father and grandfather; but his wife, the fair and ambitious Irene, had imbibed the zeal of the Athenians, the heirs of the idolatry, rather than the philosophy, of their ancestors. During the life of her husband, these sentiments were inflamed by danger and dissimulation, and she could only labour to protect and promote some favourite monks, whom she drew from their caverns and seated on the metropolitan thrones of the East. But, as soon as she reigned in her own name and that of her son, Irene more seriously undertook the ruin of the Iconoclasts; and the first step of her future persecution was a general edict for liberty of conscience. In the restoration of the monks, a thousand images were exposed to the public veneration; a thousand legends were invented of their sufferings and miracles. By the opportunities of death or removal the episcopal seats were judiciously filled; the most eager competitors for earthly or celestial favour anticipated and flattered the judgment of their sovereign; and the promotion Edition: current; Page: [351] of her secretary Tarasius gave Irene the patriarch of Constantinople and the command of the Oriental church. But the decrees of a general council could only be repealed by a similar assembly;78 the Iconoclasts whom she convened were bold in possession and averse to debate; and the feeble voice of the bishops was re-echoed by the more formidable clamour of the soldiers and people of Constantinople. The delay and intrigues of a year, the separation of the disaffected troops, and the choice of Nice for a second orthodox synod removed these obstacles; and the episcopal conscience was again, after the Greek fashion, in the hands of the prince. No more than eighteen days were allowed for the consummation of this important work; the Iconoclasts appeared, not as judges, but as criminals or penitents; the scene was decorated by the legates of Pope Hadrian and the Eastern patriarchs;79 the decrees were framed by the president Tarasius, and ratified by the acclamations and subscriptions of three hundred and fifty bishops. They unanimously pronounced that the worship of images is agreeable to scripture and reason, to the fathers and councils of the church: but they hesitate whether that worship be relative or direct; whether the Godhead and the figure of Christ be entitled to the same mode of adoration. Of this second Nicene council, the acts are still extant: a curious monument of superstition and ignorance, of falsehood and folly. I shall only notice the judgment of the bishops on the comparative merit of imageworship and morality. A monk had concluded a truce with Edition: current; Page: [352] the demon of fornication, on condition of interrupting his daily prayers to a picture that hung in his cell. His scruples prompted him to consult the abbot. “Rather than abstain from adoring Christ and his Mother in their holy images, it would be better for you,” replied the casuist, “to enter every brothel, and visit every prostitute, in the city.”80

For the honour of orthodoxy, at least the orthodoxy of the Roman church, it is somewhat unfortunate that the two princes who convened the two councils of Nice are both stained with the blood of their sons. The second of these assemblies was approved and rigorously executed by the despotism of Irene, and she refused her adversaries the toleration which at first she had granted to her friends. During the five succeeding reigns, a period of thirty-eight years, the contest was maintained, with unabated rage and various success, between the worshippers, and the breakers, of the images; but I am not inclined to pursue with minute diligence the repetition of the same events. Nicephorus allowed a general liberty of speech and practice; and the only virtue of his reign is accused by the monks as the cause of his temporal and eternal perdition. Superstition and weakness formed the character of Michael the First, but the saints and images were incapable of supporting their votary on the throne. In the purple, Leo the Fifth asserted the name and religion of an Armenian; and the idols, with their seditious adherents, were condemned to a second exile. Their applause would have sanctified the murder of an impious tyrant, but his assassin and successor, the second Michael, was tainted from his birth with the Phrygian heresies: he attempted to mediate between the contending parties; and the intractable spirit of the Catholics insensibly cast him into Edition: current; Page: [353] the opposite scale.81 His moderation was guarded by timidity; but his son Theophilus, alike ignorant of fear and pity, was the last and most cruel of the Iconoclasts.82 The enthusiasm of the times ran strongly against them; and the emperors, who stemmed the torrent, were exasperated and punished by the public hatred. After the death of Theophilus, the final victory of the images was achieved by a second female, his widow Theodora, whom he left the guardian of the empire. Her measures were bold and decisive. The fiction of a tardy repentance absolved the fame and the soul of her deceased husband;83 the sentence of the Iconoclast patriarch was commuted from the loss of his eyes to a whipping of two hundred lashes; the bishops trembled, the monks shouted, and the festival of orthodoxy preserves the annual memory of the triumph of the images.84 A single question yet remained, whether they are endowed with any proper and inherent sanctity; it was agitated by the Greeks of the eleventh century;85 and, as this opinion has the strongest recommendation of absurdity, I am surprised that it was not more explicitly decided in the affirmative. In the West, Pope Hadrian the First accepted and announced the decrees of the Nicene assembly, which is now revered by the Catholics as the seventh in rank of the general councils. Rome and Italy were docile to the voice of their father; but the greatest part of the Latin Christians were far behind in the race of superstition. Edition: current; Page: [354] The churches of France, Germany, England, and Spain steered a middle course between the adoration and the destruction of images, which they admitted into their temples, not as objects of worship, but as lively and useful memorials of faith and history. An angry book of controversy was composed and published in the name of Charlemagne;86 under his authority a synod of three hundred bishops was assembled at Frankfort;87 they blamed the fury of the Iconoclasts, but they pronounced a more severe censure against the superstition of the Greeks and the decrees of their pretended council, which was long despised by the Barbarians of the West.88 Among them the worship of images advanced with a silent and insensible progress; but a large atonement is made for their hesitation and delay by the gross idolatry of the ages which precede the reformation, and of the countries, both in Europe and America, which are still immersed in the gloom of superstition.

It was after the Nicene synod, and under the reign of the pious Irene, that the popes consummated the separation of Rome and Italy, by the translation of the empire to the less orthodox Charlemagne. They were compelled to choose between the rival nations; religion was not the sole motive of Edition: current; Page: [355] their choice; and, while they dissembled the failings of their friends, they beheld, with reluctance and suspicion, the Catholic virtues of their foes. The difference of language and manners had perpetuated the enmity of the two capitals; and they were alienated from each other by the hostile opposition of seventy years. In that schism the Romans had tasted of freedom, and the popes of sovereignty: their submission would have exposed them to the revenge of a jealous tyrant; and the revolution of Italy had betrayed the impotence, as well as the tyranny, of the Byzantine court. The Greek emperors had restored the images, but they had not restored the Calabrian estates89 and the Illyrian diocese,90 which the Iconoclasts had torn away from the successors of St. Peter; and Pope Hadrian threatens them with a sentence of excommunication unless they speedily abjure this practical heresy.91 The Greeks were now orthodox, but their religion might be tainted by the breath of the reigning monarch; the Franks were now contumacious, but a discerning eye might discern their approaching conversion from the use, to the adoration, Edition: current; Page: [356] of images. The name of Charlemagne was stained by the polemic acrimony of his scribes; but the conqueror himself conformed, with the temper of a statesman, to the various practice of France and Italy. In his four pilgrimages or visits to the Vatican, he embraced the popes in the communion of friendship and piety; knelt before the tomb, and consequently before the image, of the apostle; and joined, without scruple, in all the prayers and processions of the Roman liturgy. Would prudence or gratitude allow the pontiffs to renounce their benefactor? Had they a right to alienate his gift of the Exarchate? Had they power to abolish his government of Rome? The title of patrician was below the merit and greatness of Charlemagne; and it was only by reviving the Western empire that they could pay their obligations or secure their establishment. By this decisive measure they would finally eradicate the claims of the Greeks; from the debasement of a provincial town, the majesty of Rome would be restored; the Latin Christians would be united under a supreme head, in their ancient metropolis; and the conquerors of the West would receive their crown from the successors of St. Peter. The Roman church would acquire a zealous and respectable advocate; and, under the shadow of the Carlovingian power, the bishop might exercise, with honour and safety, the government of the city.92

Before the ruin of paganism in Rome, the competition for a wealthy bishopric had often been productive of tumult and bloodshed. The people was less numerous, but the times were more savage, the prize more important, and the chair of St. Peter was fiercely disputed by the leading ecclesiastics who aspired to the rank of sovereign. The reign of Hadrian the Edition: current; Page: [357] First93 surpasses the measure of past or succeeding ages;94 the walls of Rome, the sacred patrimony, the ruin of the Lombards and the friendship of Charlemagne, were the trophies of his fame; he secretly edified the throne of his successors, and displayed in a narrow space the virtues of a great prince. His memory was revered; but in the next election, a priest of the Lateran (Leo the Third) was preferred to the nephew and the favourite of Hadrian, whom he had promoted to the first dignities of the church. Their acquiescence or repentance disguised, above four years, the blackest intention of revenge, till the day of a procession, when a furious band of conspirators dispersed the unarmed multitude and assaulted with blows and wounds the sacred person of the pope. But their enterprise on his life or liberty was disappointed, perhaps by their own confusion and remorse. Leo was left for dead on the ground; on his revival from the swoon, the effect of his loss of blood, he recovered his speech and sight; and this natural event was improved to the miraculous restoration of his eyes and tongue, of which he had been deprived, twice deprived, by the knife of the assassins.95 From his prison, he escaped to the Edition: current; Page: [358] Vatican; the duke of Spoleto hastened to his rescue, Charlemagne sympathised in his injury, and in his camp of Paderborn in Westphalia accepted or solicited a visit from the Roman pontiff. Leo repassed the Alps with a commission of counts and bishops, the guards of his safety and the judges of his innocence; and it was not without reluctance that the conqueror of the Saxons delayed till the ensuing year the personal discharge of this pious office. In his fourth and last pilgrimage, he was received at Rome with the due honours of king and patrician; Leo was permitted to purge himself by oath of the crimes imputed to his charge; his enemies were silenced, and the sacrilegious attempt against his life was punished by the mild and insufficient penalty of exile. On the festival of Christmas, the last year of the eighth century, Charlemagne appeared in the church of St. Peter; and, to gratify the vanity of Rome, he had exchanged the simple dress of his country for the habit of a patrician.96 After the celebration of the holy mysteries, Leo suddenly placed a precious crown on his head,97 and the dome resounded with the acclamations of the people, “Long life and victory to Charles, the most pious Augustus, crowned by God, the great and pacific emperor of the Romans!” The head and body of Charlemagne were consecrated by the royal unction; after the example of the Cæsars he was saluted or adored by the pontiff; his coronation oath represents a promise to maintain the faith and privileges of the church; and the firstfruits were paid in his rich offerings to the shrine of the Edition: current; Page: [359] apostle. In his familiar conversation, the emperor protested his ignorance of the intentions of Leo, which he would have disappointed by his absence on that memorable day. But the preparations of the ceremony must have disclosed the secret; and the journey of Charlemagne reveals his knowledge and expectation: he had acknowledged that the Imperial title was the object of his ambition, and a Roman senate had pronounced that it was the only adequate reward of his merit and services.98

The appellation of great has been often bestowed and sometimes deserved, but Charlemagne is the only prince in whose favour the title has been indissolubly blended with the name.99 That name, with the addition of saint, is inserted in the Roman calendar; and the saint, by a rare felicity, is crowned with the praises of the historians and philosophers of an enlightened age.100 His real merit is doubtless enhanced Edition: current; Page: [360] by the barbarism of the nation and the times from which he emerged; but the apparent magnitude of an object is likewise enlarged by an unequal comparison; and the ruins of Palmyra derive a casual splendour from the nakedness of the surrounding desert. Without injustice to his fame, I may discern some blemishes in the sanctity and greatness of the restorer of the Western empire. Of his moral virtues, chastity is not the most conspicuous;101 but the public happiness could not be materially injured by his nine wives or concubines, the various indulgence of meaner or more transient amours, the multitude of his bastards whom he bestowed on the church, and the long celibacy and licentious manners of his daughters,102 whom the father was suspected of loving with too fond a passion. I shall be scarcely permitted to accuse the ambition of a conqueror; but, in a day of equal retribution, the sons of his brother Carloman, the Merovingian princes of Aquitain, and the four thousand five hundred Saxons who were beheaded on the same spot, would have something to allege against the justice and humanity of Charlemagne. His treatment of the vanquished Saxons103 was an abuse of Edition: current; Page: [none] Edition: current; Page: [361] the right of conquest; his laws were not less sanguinary than his arms; and, in the discussion of his motives, whatever is subtracted from bigotry must be imputed to temper. The sedentary reader is amazed by his incessant activity of mind and body; and his subjects and enemies were not less astonished at his sudden presence, at the moment when they believed him at the most distant extremity of the empire; neither peace nor war, nor summer nor winter, were a season of repose: and our fancy cannot easily reconcile the annals of his reign with the geography of his expeditions. But this activity was a national rather than a personal virtue; the vagrant life of a Frank was spent in the chase, in pilgrimage, in military adventures; and the journeys of Charlemagne were distinguished only by a more numerous train and a more important purpose. His military renown must be tried by the scrutiny of his troops, his enemies, and his actions. Alexander conquered with the arms of Philip, but the two heroes who preceded Charlemagne bequeathed him their name, their examples, and the companions of their victories. At the head of his veteran and superior armies, he oppressed the savage or degenerate nations who were incapable of confederating for their common safety; nor did he ever encounter an equal antagonist in numbers, in discipline, or in arms. The science of war has been lost and revived with the arts of peace; but his campaigns are not illustrated by any siege or battle of singular difficulty and success; and he might behold, with envy, the Saracen trophies of his grandfather. After his Spanish expedition, his rear-guard was defeated in the Pyrenæan mountains; and the soldiers, whose situation was irretrievable and whose valour was useless, might accuse, with their last breath, the want of skill or caution of their general.104 I touch with reverence the laws of Charlemagne, Edition: current; Page: [362] so highly applauded by a respectable judge. They compose not a system, but a series, of occasional and minute edicts, for the correction of abuses, the reformation, of manners, the economy of his farms, the care of his poultry, and even the sale of his eggs. He wished to improve the laws and the character of the Franks; and his attempts, however feeble and imperfect, are deserving of praise. The inveterate evils of the times were suspended or mollified by his government;105 but in his institutions I can seldom discover the general views and the immortal spirit of a legislator, who survives himself for the benefit of posterity. The union and stability of his empire depended on the life of a single man; he imitated the dangerous practice of dividing his kingdoms among his sons; and, after his numerous diets, the whole constitution was left to fluctuate between the disorders of anarchy and despotism. His esteem for the piety and knowledge of the clergy tempted him to entrust that aspiring order with temporal dominion and civil jurisdiction; and his son Lewis, when he was stripped and degraded by the bishops, might accuse, in some measure, the imprudence of his father. His laws enforced the imposition of tithes, because the demons had proclaimed in the air that the default of payment had been the cause of the last scarcity.106 The literary merits of Charlemagne are attested by the foundation of Edition: current; Page: [363] schools, the introduction of arts, the works which were published in his name, and his familiar connection with the subjects and strangers whom he invited to his court to educate both the prince and people. His own studies were tardy, laborious, and imperfect; if he spoke Latin and understood Greek, he derived the rudiments of knowledge from conversation rather than from books; and, in his mature age, the emperor strove to acquire the practice of writing, which every peasant now learns in his infancy.107 The grammar and logic, the music and astronomy, of the times were only cultivated as the handmaids of superstition; but the curiosity of the human mind must ultimately tend to its improvement, and the encouragement of learning reflects the purest and most pleasing lustre on the character of Charlemagne.108 The dignity of his person,109 the length of his reign, the prosperity of his arms, the vigour of his government, and the reverence of distant nations distinguish him from the royal crowd; and Europe dates a new era from his restoration of the Western empire.


That empire was not unworthy of its title;110 and some of Edition: current; Page: [364] the fairest kingdoms of Europe were the patrimony or conquest of a prince who reigned at the same time in France, Spain, Italy, Germany, and Hungary.111 I. The Roman province of Gaul had been transformed into the name and monarchy of France; but, in the decay of the Merovingian line, its limits were contracted by the independence of the Britons and the revolt of Aquitain. Charlemagne pursued, and confined, the Britons on the shores of the ocean; and that ferocious tribe, whose origin and language are so different from the French, was chastised by the imposition of tribute, hostages, and peace. After a long and evasive contest, the rebellion of the dukes of Aquitain was punished by the forfeiture of their province, their liberty, and their lives. Harsh and rigorous would have been such treatment of ambitious governors, who had too faithfully copied the mayors of the palace. But a recent discovery112 has proved that these unhappy princes were the last and lawful heirs of the blood and sceptre of Clovis, a younger branch, from the brother of Dagobert, of the Merovingian house. Their ancient kingdom was reduced to the duchy of Gascogne, to the counties of Fesenzac and Armagnac, at the foot of the Pyrenees; their race was propagated till the beginning of the sixteenth century; and, after surviving their Carlovingian tyrants, they were reserved to feel the injustice, or the favours, of a third dynasty. By the re-union of Aquitain, France was enlarged to its present boundaries, with the additions of the Netherlands Edition: current; Page: [365] and Spain, as far as the Rhine. II. The Saracens had been expelled from France by the grandfather and father of Charlemagne; but they still possessed the greatest part of Spain, from the rock of Gibraltar to the Pyrenees. Amidst their civil divisions, an Arabian emir of Saragossa implored his protection in the diet of Paderborn. Charlemagne undertook the expedition, restored the emir, and, without distinction of faith, impartially crushed the resistance of the Christians, and rewarded the obedience and service of the Mahometans. In his absence he instituted the Spanish march,113 which extended from the Pyrenees to the river Ebro; Barcelona was the residence of the French governor; he possessed the counties of Rousillon and Catalonia; and the infant kingdoms of Navarre and Arragon were subject to his jurisdiction. III. As king of the Lombards, and patrician of Rome, he reigned over the greatest part of Italy,114 a tract of a thousand miles from the Alps to the borders of Calabria. The duchy of Beneventum, a Lombard fief, had spread, at the expense of the Greeks, over the modern kingdom of Naples. But Arrechis, the reigning duke, refused to be included in the slavery of his country; assumed the independent title of prince; and opposed his sword to the Carlovingian monarchy. His defence was firm, his submission was not inglorious, and the emperor was content with an easy tribute, the demolition of his fortresses, and the acknowledgment, on his coins, of a supreme lord. The artful flattery of his son Grimoald added the appellation of father, but he asserted his dignity with prudence, and Beneventum insensibly escaped from the Edition: current; Page: [366] French yoke.115 IV. Charlemagne was the first who united Germany under the same sceptre. The name of Oriental France is preserved in the circle of Franconia; and the people of Hesse and Thuringia were recently incorporated with the victors by the conformity of religion and government. The Alemanni, so formidable to the Romans, were the faithful vassals and confederates of the Franks; and their country was inscribed within the modern limits of Alsace, Swabia, and Switzerland. The Bavarians, with a similar indulgence of their laws and manners, were less patient of a master; the repeated treasons of Tasillo justified the abolition of her hereditary dukes; and their power was shared among the counts, who judged and guarded that important frontier. But the north of Germany, from the Rhine and beyond the Elbe, was still hostile and Pagan; nor was it till after a war of thirty-three years that the Saxons bowed under the yoke of Christ and of Charlemagne. The idols and their votaries were extirpated; the foundation of eight bishoprics, of Munster, Osnaburgh, Paderborn, and Minden, of Bremen, Verden, Hildesheim, and Halberstadt, define, on either side of the Weser, the bounds of ancient Saxony; these episcopal seats were the first schools and cities of that savage land; and the religion and humanity of the children atoned, in some degree, for the massacre of the parents. Beyond the Elbe, the Slavi, or Sclavonians, of similar manners and various denominations,116 overspread the modern dominions of Prussia, Poland, and Bohemia, and some transient marks of obedience have tempted the French historian to extend the empire to the Baltic and the Vistula. The conquest or conversion of those countries is of a more recent age; but the first union of Bohemia with the Germanic body may be justly Edition: current; Page: [367] ascribed to the arms of Charlemagne. V. He retaliated on the Avars, or Huns of Pannonia, the same calamities which they had inflicted on the nations. Their rings, the wooden fortifications which encircled their districts and villages, were broken down by the triple effort of a French army, that was poured into their country by land and water, through the Carpathian mountains and along the plain of the Danube. After a bloody conflict of eight years, the loss of some French generals was avenged by the slaughter of the most noble Huns; the relics of the nation submitted; the royal residence of the chagan was left desolate and unknown; and the treasures, the rapine of two hundred and fifty years, enriched the victorious troops or decorated the churches of Italy and Gaul.117 After the reduction of Pannonia, the empire of Charlemagne was bounded only by the conflux of the Danube with the Theiss and the Save; the provinces of Istria, Liburnia, and Dalmatia were an easy, though unprofitable, accession; and it was an effect of his moderation that he left the maritime cities under the real or nominal sovereignty of the Greeks. But these distant possessions added more to the reputation than to the power of the Latin emperor; nor did he risk any ecclesiastical foundations to reclaim the Barbarians from their vagrant life and idolatrous worship. Some canals of communication between the rivers, the Saône and the Meuse, the Rhine and the Danube, were faintly attempted.118 Their execution would have vivified the empire; Edition: current; Page: [368] and more cost and labour were often wasted in the structure of a cathedral.

If we retrace the outlines of this geographical picture, it will be seen that the empire of the Franks extended, between east and west, from the Ebro to the Elbe or Vistula; between the north and south, from the duchy of Beneventum to the river Eyder, the perpetual boundary of Germany and Denmark. The personal and political importance of Charlemagne was magnified by the distress and division of the rest of Europe. The islands of Great Britain and Ireland were disputed by a crowd of princes of Saxon or Scottish origin; and, after the loss of Spain, the Christian and Gothic kingdom of Alphonso the Chaste was confined to the narrow range of the Asturian mountains. These petty sovereigns revered the power or virtue of the Carlovingian monarch, implored the honour and support of his alliance, and styled him their common parent, the sole and supreme emperor of the West.119 He maintained a more equal intercourse with the caliph Harun al Rashid,120 whose dominion stretched from Africa to India, and accepted from his ambassadors a tent, a water-clock, an elephant, and the keys of the Holy Sepulchre. It is not easy to conceive the private friendship of a Frank and an Arab, who were strangers to each other’s person, and language, and religion; but their public correspondence was founded on vanity, and their remote situation Edition: current; Page: [369] left no room for a competition of interest.121 Two thirds of the Western empire of Rome were subject to Charlemagne, and the deficiency was amply supplied by his command of the inaccessible or invincible nations of Germany. But in the choice of his enemies we may be reasonably surprised that he so often preferred the poverty of the North to the riches of the South. The three-and-thirty campaigns laboriously consumed in the woods and morasses of Germany would have sufficed to assert the amplitude of his title by the expulsion of the Greeks from Italy and the Saracens from Spain. The weakness of the Greeks would have ensured an easy victory; and the holy crusade against the Saracens would have been prompted by glory and revenge, and loudly justified by religion and policy. Perhaps, in his expeditions beyond the Rhine and the Elbe, he aspired to save his monarchy from the fate of the Roman empire, to disarm the enemies of civilised society, and to eradicate the seed of future emigrations. But it has been wisely observed that, in a light of precaution, all conquest must be ineffectual, unless it could be universal; since the increasing circle must be involved in a larger sphere of hostility.122 The subjugation of Germany withdrew the veil which had so long concealed the continent or islands of Scandinavia from the knowledge of Europe, and awakened the torpid courage of their barbarous natives. The fiercest of the Saxon idolaters escaped from the Christian tyrant to their brethren of the North; the ocean and Mediterranean were covered with their piratical fleets; and Charlemagne beheld with a sigh the destructive Edition: current; Page: [370] progress of the Normans, who, in less than seventy years, precipitated the fall of his race and monarchy.

Had the pope and the Romans revived the primitive constitution, the titles of emperor and Augustus were conferred on Charlemagne for the term of his life; and his successors, on each vacancy, must have ascended the throne by a formal or tacit election. But the association of his son Lewis the Pious asserts the independent right of monarchy and conquest, and the emperor seems on this occasion to have foreseen and prevented the latent claims of the clergy. The royal youth was commanded to take the crown from the altar, and with his own hands to place it on his head, as a gift which he held from God, his father, and the nation.123 The same ceremony was repeated, though with less energy, in the subsequent associations of Lothaire and Lewis the Second; the Carlovingian sceptre was transmitted from father to son in a lineal descent of four generations; and the ambition of the popes was reduced to the empty honour of crowning and anointing these hereditary princes who were already invested with their power and dominion. The pious Lewis survived his brothers, and embraced the whole empire of Charlemagne; but the nations and the nobles, his bishops and his children, quickly discerned that this mighty mass was no longer inspired by the same soul; and the foundations were undermined to the centre, while the external surface was yet fair and entire. After a war, or battle, which consumed one hundred thousand Franks, the empire was divided by treaty between his three sons, who had violated every filial and fraternal duty. The kingdoms of Germany and France were for ever separated; the provinces of Gaul, between Edition: current; Page: [371] the Rhone and the Alps, the Meuse and the Rhine, were assigned, with Italy, to the Imperial dignity of Lothaire. In the partition of his share, Lorraine and Arles, two recent and transitory kingdoms, were bestowed on the younger children; and Lewis the Second, his eldest son, was content with the realm of Italy, the proper and sufficient patrimony of a Roman emperor. On his death without any male issue, the vacant throne was disputed by his uncles and cousins, and the popes most dexterously seized the occasion of judging the claims and merits of the candidates, and of bestowing on the most obsequious or most liberal the Imperial office of advocate of the Roman church. The dregs of the Carlovingian race no longer exhibited any symptoms of virtue or power, and the ridiculous epithets of the bald, the stammerer, the fat, and the simple distinguished the tame and uniform features of a crowd of kings alike deserving of oblivion. By the failure of the collateral branches, the whole inheritance devolved to Charles the Fat, the last emperor of his family; his insanity authorised the desertion of Germany, Italy, and France; he was deposed in a diet, and solicited his daily bread from the rebels, by whose contempt his life and liberty had been spared. According to the measure of their force, the governors, the bishops, and the lords usurped the fragments of the falling empire; and some preference was shewn to the female or illegitimate blood of Charlemagne. Of the greater part the title and possession were alike doubtful, and the merit was adequate to the contracted scale of their dominions. Those who could appear with an army at the gates of Rome were crowned emperors in the Vatican; but their modesty was more frequently satisfied with the appellation of kings of Italy; and the whole term of seventy-four years may be deemed a vacancy, from the abdication of Charles the Fat to the establishment of Otho the First.

Otho124 was of the noble race of the dukes of Saxony; and, Edition: current; Page: [372] if he truly descended from Witikind, the adversary and proselyte of Charlemagne, the posterity of a vanquished people was exalted to reign over their conquerors. His father Henry the Fowler was elected, by the suffrage of the nation, to save and institute the kingdom of Germany. Its limits125 were enlarged on every side by his son, the first and greatest of the Othos. A portion of Gaul to the west of the Rhine, along the banks of the Meuse and the Moselle, was assigned to the Germans, by whose blood and language it has been tinged since the time of Cæsar and Tacitus. Between the Rhine, the Rhone, and the Alps, the successors of Otho acquired a vain supremacy over the broken kingdoms of Burgundy and Arles.126 In the North, Christianity was propagated by the sword of Otho, the conqueror and apostle of the Slavic nations of the Elbe and Oder; the marches of Brandenburg and Sleswick were fortified with German colonies; and the king of Denmark, the dukes of Poland and Bohemia, confessed themselves his tributary vassals. At the head of a victorious army, he passed the Alps, subdued the kingdom of Italy, delivered the pope, and for ever fixed the Imperial crown in the name and nation of Germany. From that memorable era, two maxims of public jurisprudence were introduced by Edition: current; Page: [373] force, and ratified by time: I. That the prince who was elected in the German diet acquired from that instant the subject kingdoms of Italy and Rome; II. But that he might not legally assume the titles of emperor and Augustus, till he had received the crown from the hands of the Roman pontiff.127

The Imperial dignity of Charlemagne was announced to the East by the alteration of his style; and, instead of saluting his fathers, the Greek emperors, he presumed to adopt the more equal and familiar appellation of brother.128 Perhaps in his connection with Irene he aspired to the name of husband: his embassy to Constantinople spoke the language of peace and friendship, and might conceal a treaty of marriage with that ambitious princess, who had renounced the most sacred duties of a mother. The nature, the duration, the probable consequences of such an union between two distant and dissonant empires, it is impossible to conjecture; but the unanimous silence of the Latins may teach us to suspect that the report was invented by the enemies of Irene, to charge her with the guilt of betraying the church and state to the strangers of the West.129 The French ambassadors were the spectators, and had nearly been the victims, of the conspiracy of Nicephorus, and the national hatred. Constantinople was exasperated by the treason and sacrilege of ancient Rome. A proverb, “That the Franks were good friends and bad neighbours,” was in every one’s mouth; but Edition: current; Page: [374] it was dangerous to provoke a neighbour who might be tempted to reiterate, in the church of St. Sophia, the ceremony of his Imperial coronation. After a tedious journey of circuit and delay, the ambassadors of Nicephorus found him in his camp, on the banks of the river Sala; and Charlemagne affected to confound their vanity by displaying in a Franconian village the pomp, or at least the pride, of the Byzantine palace.130 The Greeks were successively led through four halls of audience; in the first, they were ready to fall prostrate before a splendid personage in a chair of state, till he informed them that he was only a servant, the constable, or master of the horse, of the emperor. The same mistake and the same answer were repeated in the apartments of the count palatine, the steward, and the chamberlain; and their impatience was gradually heightened, till the doors of the presence-chamber were thrown open, and they beheld the genuine monarch, on his throne, enriched with the foreign luxury which he despised, and encircled with the love and reverence of his victorious chiefs. A treaty of peace and alliance was concluded between the two empires, and the limits of the East and West were defined by the right of present possession. But the Greeks131 soon forgot this humiliating equality, or remembered it only to hate the Barbarians by whom it was extorted. During the short union of virtue and power, they respectfully saluted the august Charlemagne with the acclamations of basileus and emperor of the Romans. As soon as these qualities were separated in the person of his pious son, the Byzantine letters were inscribed, Edition: current; Page: [375] “To the king, or, as he styles himself, the emperor, of the Franks and Lombards.” When both power and virtue were extinct, they despoiled Lewis the Second of his hereditary title, and, with the Barbarous appellation of rex or rega, degraded him among the crowd of Latin princes. His reply132 is expressive of his weakness; he proves, with some learning, that both in sacred and profane history the name of king is synonymous with the Greek word basileus; if, at Constantinople, it were assumed in a more exclusive and Imperial sense, he claims from his ancestors, and from the pope, a just participation of the honours of the Roman purple. The same controversy was revived in the reign of the Othos; and their ambassador describes, in lively colours, the insolence of the Byzantine court.133 The Greeks affected to despise the poverty and ignorance of the Franks and Saxons; and, in their last decline, refused to prostitute to the kings of Germany the title of Roman emperors.

These emperors, in the election of the popes, continued to exercise the powers which had been assumed by the Gothic and Grecian princes; and the importance of this prerogative increased with the temporal estate and spiritual jurisdiction of the Roman church. In the Christian aristocracy, the principal members of the clergy still formed a senate to assist the administration, and to supply the vacancy, of the bishop. Rome was divided into twenty-eight parishes, and each parish was governed by a cardinal-priest, or presbyter, a title which, however common and modest in its origin, has aspired Edition: current; Page: [376] to emulate the purple of kings. Their number was enlarged by the association of the seven deacons of the most considerable hospitals, the seven palatine judges of the Lateran, and some dignitaries of the church. This ecclesiastical senate was directed by the seven cardinal-bishops of the Roman province, who were less occupied in the suburb dioceses of Ostia, Porto, Velitræ, Tusculum, Præneste, Tibur, and the Sabines, than by their weekly service in the Lateran, and their superior share in the honours and authority of the apostolic see. On the death of the pope, these bishops recommended a successor to the suffrage of the college of cardinals,134 and their choice was ratified or rejected by the applause or clamour of the Roman people. But the election was imperfect; nor could the pontiff be legally consecrated till the emperor, the advocate of the church, had graciously signified his approbation and consent. The royal commissioner examined, on the spot, the form and freedom of the proceedings; nor was it till after a previous scrutiny into the qualifications of the candidates that he accepted an oath of fidelity and confirmed the donations which had successively enriched the patrimony of St. Peter. In the frequent schisms, the rival claims were submitted to the sentence of the emperor; and in a synod of bishops he presumed to judge, to condemn, and to punish the crimes of a guilty pontiff. Otho the First imposed a treaty on the senate and people, who engaged to prefer the candidate most acceptable to his majesty;135 his successors anticipated or prevented their Edition: current; Page: [377] choice; they bestowed the Roman benefice, like the bishopries of Cologne or Bamberg, on their chancellors or preceptors; and, whatever might be the merit of a Frank or Saxon, his name sufficiently attests the interposition of foreign power. These acts of prerogative were most speciously excused by the vices of a popular election. The competitor who had been excluded by the cardinals appealed to the passions or avarice of the multitude; the Vatican and the Lateran were stained with blood; and the most powerful senators, the marquises of Tuscany and the counts of Tusculum, held the apostolic see in a long and disgraceful servitude. The Roman pontiffs of the ninth and tenth centuries were insulted, imprisoned, and murdered by their tyrants; and such was their indigence after the loss and usurpation of the ecclesiastical patrimonies, that they could neither support the state of a prince nor exercise the charity of a priest.136 The influence of two sister prostitutes, Marozia and Theodora, was founded on their wealth and beauty, their political and amorous intrigues: the most strenuous of their lovers were rewarded with the Roman mitre, and their reign137 may have suggested to the darker ages138 Edition: current; Page: [378] the fable139 of a female pope.140 The bastard son, the grandson, and the great-grandson140a of Marozia, a rare genealogy, were seated in the chair of St. Peter, and it was at the age of nineteen years that the second of these became the head of the Latin church. His youth and manhood were of a suitable complexion; and the nations of pilgrims could bear testimony to the charges that were urged against him in a Roman synod, and in the presence of Otho the Great. As John XII. had renounced the dress and decencies of his profession, the soldier may not perhaps be dishonoured by the wine which he drank, the blood that he spilt, the flames that he kindled, or the licentious pursuits of gaming and hunting. His open simony might be the consequence of distress; and his blasphemous invocation of Jupiter and Venus, if it be true, could not possibly be serious. But we read with some surprise that the worthy grandson of Edition: current; Page: [379] Marozia lived in public adultery with the matrons of Rome; that the Lateran palace was turned into a school for prostitution; and that his rapes of virgins and widows had deterred the female pilgrims from visiting the tomb of St. Peter, lest, in the devout act, they should be violated by his successor.141 The Protestants have dwelt with malicious pleasure on these characters of antichrist; but to a philosophic eye the vices of the clergy are far less dangerous than their virtues. After a long series of scandal, the apostolic see was reformed and exalted by the austerity and zeal of Gregory VII. That ambitious monk devoted his life to the execution of two projects. I. To fix in the college of cardinals the freedom and independence of election, and for ever to abolish the right or usurpation of the emperors and the Roman people. II. To bestow and resume the Western empire as a fief or benefice142 of the church, and to extend his temporal dominion over the kings and kingdoms of the earth. After a contest of fifty years, the first of these designs was accomplished by the firm support of the ecclesiastical order, whose liberty was connected with that of their chief. But the second attempt, though it was crowned with some partial and apparent success, has been vigorously resisted by the secular power, and finally extinguished by the improvement of human reason.

In the revival of the empire of Rome, neither the bishop nor the people could bestow on Charlemagne or Otho the provinces which were lost, as they had been won, by the Edition: current; Page: [380] chance of arms. But the Romans were free to choose a master for themselves; and the powers which had been delegated to the patrician were irrevocably granted to the French and Saxon emperors of the West. The broken records of the times143 preserve some remembrance of their palace, their mint, their tribunal, their edicts, and the sword of justice, which, as late as the thirteenth century, was derived from Cæsar to the prefect of the city.144 Between the arts of the popes and the violence of the people, this supremacy was crushed and annihilated. Content with the titles of emperor and Augustus, the successors of Charlemagne neglected to assert this local jurisdiction. In the hour of prosperity, their ambition was diverted by more alluring objects; and in the decay and division of the empire they were oppressed by the defence of their hereditary provinces. Amidst the ruins of Italy, the famous Marozia invited one of the usurpers to assume the character of her third husband; and Hugh, king of Burgundy, was introduced by her faction into the mole of Hadrian or castle of St. Angelo, which commands the principal bridge and entrance of Rome. Her son by the first marriage, Alberic, was compelled to attend at the nuptial banquet; but his reluctant and ungrateful service was chastised with a blow by his new father. The blow was productive of a revolution. “Romans,” exclaimed the youth, “once you were the masters of the world, and these Burgundians the most abject of your slaves. They now reign, these voracious and brutal savages, and my injury is the commencement of your servitude.”145 The alarum-bell Edition: current; Page: [381] rung to arms in every quarter of the city; the Burgundians retreated with haste and shame; Marozia was imprisoned by her victorious son; and his brother, Pope John XI., was reduced to the exercise of his spiritual functions. With the title of prince, Alberic possessed above twenty years the government of Rome, and he is said to have gratified the popular prejudice by restoring the office, or at least the title, of consuls and tribunes. His son and heir Octavian assumed, with the pontificate, the name of John XII.; like his predecessor, he was provoked by the Lombard princes to seek a deliverer for the church and republic; and the services of Otho were rewarded with the Imperial dignity. But the Saxon was imperious, the Romans were impatient, the festival of the coronation was disturbed by the secret conflict of prerogative and freedom, and Otho commanded his sword-bearer not to stir from his person, lest he should be assaulted and murdered at the foot of the altar.146 Before he repassed the Alps, the emperor chastised the revolt of the people and the ingratitude of John XII. The pope was degraded in a synod; the prefect was mounted on an ass, whipped through the city, and cast into a dungeon; thirteen of the most guilty were hanged, others were mutilated or banished; and this severe process was justified by the ancient laws of Theodosius and Justinian. The voice of fame has accused the second Otho of a perfidious and bloody act, the massacre of the senators, whom he had invited to his table under the fair semblance of hospitality and friendship.147 In the minority Edition: current; Page: [382] of his son Otho the Third, Rome made a bold attempt to shake off the Saxon yoke, and the consul Crescentius was the Brutus of the republic. From the condition of a subject and an exile, he twice rose to the command of the city, oppressed, expelled, and created the popes, and formed a conspiracy for restoring the authority of the Greek emperors. In the fortress of St. Angelo he maintained an obstinate siege, till the unfortunate consul was betrayed by a promise of safety; his body was suspended on a gibbet, and his head was exposed on the battlements of the castle. By a reverse of fortune, Otho, after separating his troops, was besieged three days, without food, in his palace; and a disgraceful escape saved him from the justice or fury of the Romans. The senator Ptolemy was the leader of the people, and the widow of Crescentius enjoyed the pleasure or the fame of revenging her husband, by a poison which she administered to her Imperial lover. It was the design of Otho the Third to abandon the ruder countries of the North, to erect his throne in Italy, and to revive the institutions of the Roman monarchy. But his successors only once in their lives appeared on the banks of the Tiber, to receive their crown in the Vatican.148 Their absence was contemptible, their presence odious and formidable. They descended from the Alps, at the head of their Barbarians, who were strangers and enemies to the country; and their transient visit was a scene of tumult and bloodshed.149 A faint remembrance of their ancestors still tormented the Romans; and they beheld with pious Edition: current; Page: [383] indignation the succession of Saxons, Franks, Swabians, and Bohemians, who usurped the purple and prerogatives of the Cæsars.

There is nothing perhaps more adverse to nature and reason than to hold in obedience remote countries and foreign nations, in opposition to their inclination and interest. A torrent of Barbarians may pass over the earth, but an extensive empire must be supported by a refined system of policy and oppression: in the centre, an absolute power, prompt in action and rich in resources; a swift and easy communication with the extreme parts; fortifications to check the first effort of rebellion; a regular administration to protect and punish; and a well-disciplined army to inspire fear, without provoking discontent and despair. Far different was the situation of the German Cæsars, who were ambitious to enslave the kingdom of Italy. Their patrimonial estates were stretched along the Rhine, or scattered in the provinces; but this ample domain was alienated by the imprudence or distress of successive princes; and their revenue, from minute and vexatious prerogative, was scarcely sufficient for the maintenance of their household. Their troops were formed by the legal or voluntary service of their feudal vassals, who passed the Alps with reluctance, assumed the licence of rapine and disorder, and capriciously deserted before the end of the campaign. Whole armies were swept away by the pestilential influence of the climate; the survivors brought back the bones of their princes and nobles,150 and the effects of their own intemperance were often imputed to the treachery and malice of the Italians, who rejoiced at least in the calamities of the Barbarians. This irregular tyranny might contend on equal terms with the petty tyrants of Edition: current; Page: [384] Italy; nor can the people, or the reader, be much interested in the event of the quarrel. But in the eleventh and twelfth centuries, the Lombards rekindled the flame of industry and freedom; and the generous example was at length imitated by the republics of Tuscany. In the Italian cities a municipal government had never been totally abolished; and their first privileges were granted by the favour and policy of the emperors, who were desirous of erecting a plebeian barrier against the independence of the nobles. But their rapid progress, the daily extension of their power and pretensions, were founded on the numbers and spirit of these rising communities.151 Each city filled the measure of her diocese or district; the jurisdiction of the counts and bishops, of the marquises and counts, was banished from the land; and the proudest nobles were persuaded or compelled to desert their solitary castles, and to embrace the more honourable character of freemen and magistrates. The legislative authority was inherent in the general assembly; but the executive powers were entrusted to three consuls, annually chosen from the three orders of captains, valvassors,152 and commons, into which the republic was divided. Under the protection of equal law, the labours of agriculture and commerce were gradually revived; but the martial spirit of the Lombards was nourished by the presence of danger; and, as often as the bell was rung or the standard153 erected, the gates of the city poured forth a numerous and intrepid band, whose Edition: current; Page: [385] zeal in their own cause was soon guided by the use and discipline of arms. At the foot of these popular ramparts, the pride of the Cæsars was overthrown; and the invisible genius of liberty prevailed over the two Frederics, the greatest princes of the middle age: the first, superior perhaps in military prowess; the second, who undoubtedly excelled in the softer accomplishments of peace and learning.

Ambitious of restoring the splendour of the purple, Frederic the First invaded the republics of Lombardy, with the arts of a statesman, the valour of a soldier, and the cruelty of a tyrant. The recent discovery of the Pandects had renewed a science most favourable to despotism; and his venal advocates proclaimed the emperor the absolute master of the lives and properties of his subjects. His royal prerogatives, in a less odious sense, were acknowledged in the diet of Roncaglia; and the revenue of Italy was fixed at thirty thousand pounds of silver,154 which were multiplied to an indefinite demand by the rapine of the fiscal officers. The obstinate cities were reduced by the terror or the force of his arms; his captives were delivered to the executioner, or shot from his military engines; and, after the siege and surrender of Milan, the buildings of that stately capital were razed to the ground, three hundred hostages were sent into Germany, and the inhabitants were dispersed in four villages, under the yoke of the inflexible conqueror.155 But Milan soon rose from her ashes; and the league of Lombardy was cemented by distress; their cause was espoused by Venice, Pope Alexander the Third, and the Greek emperor; the fabric of oppression was overturned in a day; and in the treaty of Constance, Frederic subscribed, with some reservations, the Edition: current; Page: [386] freedom of four-and-twenty cities. His grandson contended with their vigour and maturity; but Frederic the Second156 was endowed with some personal and peculiar advantages. His birth and education recommended him to the Italians; and, in the implacable discord of the two factions, the Ghibelins were attached to the emperor, while the Guelfs displayed the banner of liberty and the church. The court of Rome had slumbered, when his father Henry the Sixth was permitted to unite with the empire the kingdoms of Naples and Sicily; and from these hereditary realms the son derived an ample and ready supply of troops and treasure. Yet Frederic the Second was finally oppressed by the arms of the Lombards and the thunders of the Vatican; his kingdom was given to a stranger, and the last of his family was beheaded at Naples on a public scaffold. During sixty years no emperor appeared in Italy, and the name was remembered only by the ignominious sale of the last relics of sovereignty.

The Barbarian conquerors of the West were pleased to decorate their chief with the title of emperor; but it was not their design to invest him with the despotism of Constantine and Justinian. The persons of the Germans were free, their conquests were their own, and their national character was animated by a spirit which scorned the servile jurisprudence of the new or the ancient Rome. It would have been a vain and dangerous attempt to impose a monarch on the armed freemen, who were impatient of a magistrate; on the bold, who refused to obey; on the powerful, who aspired to command. The empire of Charlemagne and Otho was distributed among the dukes of the nations or provinces, the counts of the smaller districts, and the margraves of the marches or frontiers, who all united the civil and military authority as it had been delegated to the lieutenants of the first Cæsars. The Roman governors, who, for the most part, Edition: current; Page: [387] were soldiers of fortune, seduced their mercenary legions, assumed the Imperial purple, and either failed or succeeded in their revolt, without wounding the power and unity of government. If the dukes, margraves, and counts of Germany were less audacious in their claims, the consequences of their success were more lasting and pernicious to the state. Instead of aiming at the supreme rank, they silently laboured to establish and appropriate their provincial independence. Their ambition was seconded by the weight of their estates and vassals, their mutual example and support, the common interest of the subordinate nobility, the change of princes and families, the minorities of Otho the Third and Henry the Fourth, the ambition of the popes, and the vain pursuits of the fugitive crowns of Italy and Rome. All the attributes of regal and territorial jurisdiction were gradually usurped by the commanders of the provinces; the right of peace and war, of life and death, of coinage and taxation, of foreign alliance and domestic economy. Whatever had been seized by violence was ratified by favour or distress, was granted as the price of a doubtful vote or a voluntary service; whatever had been granted to one could not, without injury, be denied to his successor or equal; and every act of local or temporary possession was insensibly moulded into the constitution of the Germanic kingdom. In every province, the visible presence of the duke or count was interposed between the throne and the nobles; the subjects of the law became the vassals of a private chief; and the standard, which he received from his sovereign, was often raised against him in the field. The temporal power of the clergy was cherished and exalted by the superstition or policy of the Carlovingian and Saxon dynasties, who blindly depended on their moderation and fidelity; and the bishoprics of Germany were made equal in extent and privilege, superior in wealth and population, to the most ample states of the military order. As long as the emperors retained the prerogative of bestowing on every vacancy these ecclesiastic and secular Edition: current; Page: [388] benefices, their cause was maintained by the gratitude or ambition of their friends and favourites. But in the quarrel of the investitures they were deprived of their influence over the episcopal chapters; the freedom of election was restored, and the sovereign was reduced, by a solemn mockery, to his first prayers, the recommendation, once in his reign, to a single prebend in each church. The secular governors, instead of being recalled at the will of a superior, could be degraded only by the sentence of their peers. In the first age of the monarchy, the appointment of the son to the duchy or county of his father was solicited as a favour; it was gradually obtained as a custom and extorted as a right; the lineal succession was often extended to the collateral or female branches; the states of the empire (their popular, and at length their legal, appellation) were divided and alienated by testament and sale; and all idea of a public trust was lost in that of a private and perpetual inheritance. The emperor could not even be enriched by the casualties of forfeiture and extinction; within the term of a year he was obliged to dispose of the vacant fief; and in the choice of the candidate it was his duty to consult either the general or the provincial diet.

After the death of Frederic the Second, Germany was left a monster with an hundred heads. A crowd of princes and prelates disputed the ruins of the empire; the lords of innumerable castles were less prone to obey than to imitate their superiors; and, according to the measure of their strength, their incessant hostilities received the names of conquest or robbery. Such anarchy was the inevitable consequence of the laws and manners of Europe; and the kingdoms of France and Italy were shivered into fragments by the violence of the same tempest. But the Italian cities and French vassals were divided and destroyed, while the union of the Germans has produced, under the name of an empire, a great system of a federative republic. In the frequent and at last Edition: current; Page: [389] the perpetual institution of diets, a national spirit was kept alive, and the powers of a common legislature are still exercised by the three branches or colleges of the electors, the princes, and the free and Imperial cities of Germany. I. Seven of the most powerful feudatories were permitted to assume, with a distinguished name and rank, the exclusive privilege of choosing the Roman emperor; and these electors were the king of Bohemia, the duke of Saxony, the margrave of Brandenburg, the count palatine of the Rhine, and the three archbishops of Mentz, of Treves, and of Cologne.157 II. The college of princes and prelates purged themselves of a promiscuous multitude: they reduced to four representative votes the long series of independent counts, and excluded the nobles or equestrian order, sixty thousand of whom, as in the Polish diets, had appeared on horseback in the field of election. III. The pride of birth and dominion, of the sword and the mitre, wisely adopted the commons as the third branch of the legislature, and, in the progress of society, they were introduced about the same era into the national assemblies of France, England, and Germany. The Hanseatic league commanded the trade and navigation of the North; the confederates of the Rhine secured the peace and intercourse of the inland country; the influence of the cities has been adequate to their wealth and policy, and their negative Edition: current; Page: [390] still invalidates the acts of the two superior colleges of electors and princes.158

It is in the fourteenth century that we may view, in the strongest light, the state and contrast of the Roman empire of Germany, which no longer held, except on the borders of the Rhine and Danube, a single province of Trajan or Constantine. Their unworthy successors were the counts of Hapsburg, of Nassau, of Luxemburg, and of Schwartzenburg; the emperor Henry the Seventh procured for his son the crown of Bohemia, and his grandson Charles the Fourth was born among a people strange and barbarous in the estimation of the Germans themselves.159 After the excommunication of Lewis of Bavaria, he received the gift or promise of the vacant empire from the Roman pontiffs, who, in the exile and captivity of Avignon, affected the dominion of the earth. The death of his competitors united the electoral college, and Charles was unanimously saluted king of the Romans, and future emperor; Edition: current; Page: [391] a title which, in the same age, was prostituted to the Cæsars of Germany and Greece. The German emperor was no more than the elective and impotent magistrate of an aristocracy of princes, who had not left him a village that he might call his own. His best prerogative was the right of presiding and proposing in the national senate, which was convened at his summons; and his native kingdom of Bohemia, less opulent than the adjacent city of Nuremberg, was the firmest seat of his power and the richest source of his revenue. The army with which he passed the Alps consisted of three hundred horse. In the cathedral of St. Ambrose, Charles was crowned with the iron crown, which tradition ascribed to the Lombard monarchy; but he was admitted only with a peaceful train; the gates of the city were shut upon him; and the king of Italy was held a captive by the arms of the Visconti, whom he confirmed in the sovereignty of Milan. In the Vatican he was again crowned with the golden crown of the empire; but, in obedience to a secret treaty, the Roman emperor immediately withdrew, without reposing a single night within the walls of Rome. The eloquent Petrarch,160 whose fancy revived the visionary glories of the Capitol, deplores and upbraids the ignominious flight of the Bohemian; and even his contemporaries could observe that the sole exercise of his authority was in the lucrative sale of privileges and titles. The gold of Italy secured the election of his son; but such was the shameful poverty of the Roman emperor that his person was arrested by a butcher in the streets of Worms, and was detained in the public inn, as a pledge or hostage for the payment of his expenses.

From this humiliating scene let us turn to the apparent majesty of the same Charles in the diets of the empire. The golden bull, which fixes the Germanic constitution, is promulgated Edition: current; Page: [392] in the style of a sovereign and legislator.161 An hundred princes bowed before his throne, and exalted their own dignity by the voluntary honours which they yielded to their chief or minister. At the royal banquet, the hereditary great officers, the seven electors, who in rank and title were equal to kings, performed their solemn and domestic service of the palace. The seals of the triple kingdom were borne in state by the archbishops of Mentz, Cologne, and Treves, the perpetual arch-chancellors of Germany, Italy, and Arles. The great marshal, on horseback, exercised his function with a silver measure of oats, which he emptied on the ground, and immediately dismounted to regulate the order of the guests. The great steward, the count palatine of the Rhine, placed the dishes on the table. The great chamberlain, the margrave of Brandenburg, presented, after the repast, the golden ewer and bason, to wash. The king of Bohemia, as great cup-bearer, was represented by the emperor’s brother, the duke of Luxemburg and Brabant; and the procession was closed by the great huntsmen, who introduced a boar and a stag, with a loud chorus of horns and hounds.162 Nor was the supremacy of the emperor confined to Germany alone; the hereditary monarchs of Europe confessed the pre-eminence of his rank and dignity; he was the first of the Christian princes, the temporal head of the great republic of the West;163 to Edition: current; Page: [393] his person the title of majesty was long appropriated; and he disputed with the pope the sublime prerogative of creating kings and assembling councils. The oracle of the civil law, the learned Bartolus, was a pensioner of Charles the Fourth; and his school resounded with the doctrine that the Roman emperor was the rightful sovereign of the earth, from the rising to the setting sun. The contrary opinion was condemned, not as an error, but as an heresy, since even the gospel had pronounced, “And there went forth a decree from Cæsar Augustus, that all the world should be taxed.”164

If we annihilate the interval of time and space between Augustus and Charles, strong and striking will be the contrast between the two Cæsars: the Bohemian, who concealed his weakness under the mask of ostentation, and the Roman, who disguised his strength under the semblance of modesty. At the head of his victorious legions, in his reign over the sea and land, from the Nile and Euphrates to the Atlantic Ocean, Augustus professed himself the servant of the state and the equal of his fellow-citizens. The conqueror of Rome and her provinces assumed the popular and legal form of a censor, a consul, and a tribune. His will was the law of mankind, but, in the declaration of his laws, he borrowed the voice of the senate and people; and, from their decrees, their master accepted and renewed his temporary commission to administer the republic. In his dress, his domestics,165 his titles, in all the offices of social life, Augustus maintained the character of a private Roman; and his most artful flatterers respected the secret of his absolute and perpetual monarchy.

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1.: AUTHORITIES — (Ch. XLV. sqq. and Vol. IX. Ch. L. sqq.)

Greek (and Other) Sources

For the later part of his history Menander (for whom see above, vol. vi. Appendix 2, p. 354) had access to the direct knowledge of contemporaries who were concerned in the political events. For the earlier years he possibly used Theophanes of Byzantium, who related in ten Books the events from ad 566 to 581.1 Some extracts from Theophanes have been preserved by Photius (Müller, F.H.G. iv. 270; Dindorf, Hist. Græc. Min. vol. i.).

Johannes of Epiphania (see Evagrius, 5, 24) also wrote a history which overlapped with those of Theophanes and Menander. Beginning with ad 572 it came down to ad 598, and was chiefly concerned with Persian affairs, on which Johannes was well informed, being acquainted with Chosroes II. and other influential Persians, and knowing the geography of the countries in which the wars were waged. One long fragment of Bk. 1 has come down (Müller, F.H.G. iv. 272 sqq.; Dindorf, Hist. Græc. Min. vol. i.), but it is probable that we have much material derived from him in Theophylactus Simocatta, Bks. 4 and 5; and his work was also used by Evagrius (B. 6).

John of Ephesus (or of Asia, as he is also styled) was born about ad 505 at Amida, and brought up by Maron the Stylite in the Monophysitic faith. He came to Constantinople in ad 535, and in the following year was appointed bishop of the Monophysites (Bishop “of Ephesus,” or “of Asia”). He enjoyed the favour of the Emperor and Empress; and Justinian assigned him the mission of converting to Christianity the pagans who were still numerous in Asia, Phrygia, Lydia, and Caria; and afterwards (ad 546) he was appointed to suppress idolatry in Constantinople itself.2 It is remarkable that the orthodox Emperor should have committed this work to a Monophysite; the circumstance illustrates the policy of the Emperor and the influence of Theodora. John founded a Syrian monastery near Sycae and the Golden Horn; but he was deposed from his dignity of Abbot by the Patriarch John of Sirmium in the reign of Justin II., and imprisoned (ad 571). He Edition: current; Page: [396] survived the year 585. His Ecclesiastical History, written in Syriac, began with the age of Julius Cæsar and came down to the reign of Maurice. It was divided into three parts (each of six Books), of which the first is lost. Of the second, large fragments are preserved in the chronicle of Dionysius of Tellmahrē (who was Monophysite Patriarch of Antioch from 818 to 845 ad),3 and have been translated into Latin by Van Douwen and Land (Johannis episc. Ephesi comment. de beatis orientalibus, 1889). Part 3 is extant and is one of our most valuable contemporary sources for the reigns of Justin II. and Tiberius. It has been translated into English by R. Payne Smith, 1860, and into German by J. Schönfelder, 1862. It begins with the year ad 571 — the year of the persecution of the Monophysites by Justin II. John tells us that this part of his history was mostly written during the persecution under great difficulties; the pages of his MS. had to be concealed in various hiding-places. This explains the confused order in part of his narrative. [W. Wright, Syriac Literature (1894; a reprint, with a few additions, of the article under the same title in the Encyclopædia Britannica, vol. xxii.), p. 102 sqq.]

Evagrius (c. 536-600 ad; born at Epiphania), an advocate of Antioch, is the continuer of the continuers (Socrates, &c.) of Eusebius. His Ecclesiastical History, in six Books, begins with the council of Ephesus in ad 431 and comes down to ad 593. Apart from its importance as one of the main authorities for the ecclesiastical history of the long period of which it treats, this work has also some brief but valuable notices concerning secular history. Evagrius had the use of older works which are now lost, such as Eustathius (whose chronicle he used in Bks. 2 and 3; see above, vol. vi. p. 347) and Johannes of Epiphania (whose still unpublished work he was permitted to consult in composing Bk. 6).4 Evagrius also made use of John Malalas (the first edition; see above, vol. vi. Appendix 2) and Procopius. An attempt5 has been made to show that he used the work of Menander (directly or indirectly), but the demonstration is not convincing. The accuracy of Evagrius in using those sources which are extant enables us to feel confidence in him when his sources are lost. For the end of Justinian’s reign, for Justin, Tiberius, and Maurice, he has the full value of a contemporary authority. [Ed. H. Valesius, 1673; in Migne, Patr. Gr. vol. 86. A new, much-needed critical edition by MM. Parmentier and Bidez is in the press.]

Theophylactus Simocattes, born in Egypt, lived in the reigns of Maurice and Heraclius, and seems to have held the post of an Imperial secretary. He wrote, in euphemistic style, works on natural history, essays in epistolary form, and a history of the reign of Maurice. Theophylactus — the chief authority for the twenty years which his history deals with — may be said to close a series of historians, which beginning with Eunapius includes the names of Priscus, Procopius, Agathias, and Menander. After Theophylactus we have for more than three hundred years nothing but chronicles. Theophylactus had a narrow view of history and no discernment for the relative importance of facts (cp. Gibbon, c. xlvi., note 49); the affectation of his florid, periphrastic style renders his work disagreeable to read; but he is trustworthy Edition: current; Page: [397] and honest, according to his lights. Although a Christian, he affects to speak of Christian things with a certain unfamiliarity — as a pagan, like Ammianus or Eunapius, would speak of them. He made use of the works of Menander and John of Epiphania. [Best edition by C. de Boor, 1887.]

Contemporary with Theophylactus was the unknown author of the Chronicon Paschale (or Alexandrinum, as it is also called): a chronicle which had great influence on subsequent chronography. Beginning with Adam it came down to the year ad 629; but, as all our MSS. are derived from one (extant) Vatican MS., which was mutilated at the beginning and at the end, our text ends with ad 627. As far as ad 602 the work is a compilation from sources which are for the most part known (cp. above, vol. ii. Appendix 10, p. 365-6); but from this point forward its character changes, the author writes from personal knowledge, and the chronicle assumes, for the reigns of Phocas and Heraclius, the dignity of an important contemporary source, even containing some original documents (see above, p. 115, n. 127; 117, n. 129; 119, n. 132). From the prominence of the Patriarch Sergius, it has been conjectured that the author belonged, like George of Pisidia (see below), to the Patriarch’s circle. The chronology is based on the era which assigned the creation of the world to March 21, 5507, and is the first case we have of the use of this so-called Roman or Byzantine era. [Best edition by Dindorf in the Bonn series. For an analysis of the chronology, see H. Gelzer, Sextus Julius Africanus, ii. 1, 138 sqq.]

The poems of George Pisides (a native of Pisidia) are another valuable contemporary source for the Persian wars of Heraclius, to whom he was a sort of poet laureate. It is indeed sometimes difficult to extract the historical fact from his poetical circumlocutions. The three works which concern a historian are written in smooth and correct Iambic trimeters, which, though they ignore the canon of the Cretic ending rediscovered by Porson, are subject to a new law, that the last word of the verse shall be barytone. They thus represent a transition to the later “political” verses, which are governed only by laws of accent. (1) On the (first) expedition of Heraclius against the Persians, in three cantos (Akroaseis). (2) On the attack of the Avars on Constantinople and its miraculous deliverance (ad 626). (3) The Heracliad, in two cantos, on the final victory of Heraclius, composed on the news of the death of Chosroes (ad 628). These works were utilised by Theophanes. George is the author of many other poems, epigrams, &c. [See Migne, Patr. Gr. xcii., after Querci’s older edition; L. Sternbach, in Wiener Studien, 13 (1891), 1 sqq. and 14 (1892), 51 sqq. The three historical poems are printed in the Bonn series by Bekker, 1836.]

For the account of the siege of Constantinople in ad 626 (probably by Theodore, private secretary of the Patriarch6) see above, p. 111, n. 116. It is entitled περὶ τω̂ν ἀθέων Ἀβάρων τε καὶ Περσω̂ν κατὰ τη̂ς θεοϕυλάκτου πόλεως μανιώδους κινήσεως καὶ τῃ̑ ϕιλανθρωπίᾳ τον̂ θεον̂ διὰ τη̂ς θεοτόκου μετ’ αὶσχύνης ἀποχωρήσεως. The events of each day of the siege, from Tuesday, July 29, to Thursday, August 7, are related with considerable detail, wrapped up in rhetorical verbiage and contrasting with the straightforward Edition: current; Page: [398] narrative of the Chronicon Paschale, with which it is in general agreement. The account, however, of the catastrophe of the Slavs and their boats in the Golden Horn differs from that of the Chronicon Paschale.7

In connection with this siege, it should be added that the famous ἀκάθιστος ὕμνος — which might be rendered “Standing Hymn”; the singers were to stand while they sang it — is supposed by tradition to have been composed by the Patriarch Sergius in commemoration of the miraculous deliverance of the city. It would be remarkable if Sergius, who fell into disrepute through his Monothelete doctrines, really composed a hymn which won, and has enjoyed to the present day, unparalleled popularity among the orthodox. A recent Greek writer (J. Butyras) has pointed out that expressions in the hymn coincide remarkably with the decisions of the Synod of ad 680 against Monotheletism, and concludes that the hymn celebrates the Saracen siege of Constantinople under Constantine IV. — a siege with which some traditions connect it. (Compare K. Krumbacher, Gesch. der byz. Litt., p. 672.) The hymn was, without due grounds, ascribed to George of Pisidia by Querci. The text will be found in Migne, Patrol. Gr. 92, p. 1335 sqq.; in the Anthol. Graeca of Christ and Paranikas, p. 140 sqq., and elsewhere.

The Life and martyrdom of Anastasius, an apostate to Christianity from the Magian religion, who suffered on Jan. 22, 628, was drawn up at Jerusalem towards the end of the same year, and deserves some attention in connection with the Persian wars of Heraclius. It is published in its original form, distinct from later accretions, by H. Usener, Acta Martyris Anastasii Persae, 1894.

The History of Heraclius by Sebaeos, an Armenian bishop of the seventh century, written in the Armenian tongue, was first brought to light through the discovery of a MS. in the library of Etzmiadzin some years before Brosset visited that library in 1848. The text was edited in 1851, and Patkanian’s Russian translation appeared in 1862. Two passages in the work show that Sebaeos was a contemporary of Heraclius and Constans (c. 30 ad fin., p. 122; and c. 34 ad init., p. 148, tr. Patk.); and this agrees with some brief notices of later writers, who state that Sebaeos was present at the Council of Dovin in ad 645 (of which he gives a full account in c. 33). It is also stated that he was Bishop of Bagratun. The work is not strictly confined to the reign of Heraclius. It begins in the reign of the Persian king Perozes in the fifth century, and briefly touches the reigns of Kobad and of Chosroes I., of whom Sebaeos relates the legend that he was converted to Christianity. The events connected with the revolt of Bahram and the accession of Chosroes II. are told at more length (c. 2-3), and especial prominence is given to the part played by the Armenian prince Musheg, who supported Chosroes. The next seventeen chapters are concerned chiefly with the history of Chosroes and his intrigues in Armenia during the reign of Maurice. It is not till the twenty-first chapter that we meet Heraclius, and not till the twenty-fourth that his history really begins.

In c. 32 we again take leave of him, and the rest of the work (c. 32-38), about a third of the whole, deals with the following twelve years (641-652). The great importance of Sebaeos (apart from his value for domestic and ecclesiastical affairs in Armenia) lies in his account of the Persian campaigns of Heraclius. [Besides the Russian translation, Patkanian published an Edition: current; Page: [399] account of the contents of the work of Sebaeos in the Journal Asiatique, vii. p. 101 sqq., 1866.]

For the ecclesiastical history of the seventh and eighth centuries we are better furnished than for the political, as we have writings on the great controversies of the times by persons who took part in the struggles. Unluckily the synods which finally closed the Monotheletic and the Iconoclastic questions in favour of the “orthodox” views enjoined the destruction of the controversial works of the defeated parties, so that of Monotheletic and Iconoclastic literature we have only the fragments which are quoted in the Acts of Councils or in the writings of the Dyothelete and Iconodule controversialists.

For the Monotheletic dispute we have (besides the Acts of the Council of Rome in ad 649, and of the Sixth General Council of ad 680) the works of the great defender of the orthodox view, the Abbot Maximus (ad 580-662). He had been a secretary of the Emperor Heraclius, and afterwards became abbot of a monastery at Chrysopolis (Scutari), where we find him ad 630. His opposition to Monotheletism presently drove him to the west, and in Africa he met the Monothelete Patriarch Pyrrhus and converted him from his heretical error (ad 645). But the conversion was not permanent; Pyrrhus returned to his heresy. Maximus then proceeded to Rome, and in ad 653 was carried to Constantinople along with Pope Martin, and banished to Bizya in Thrace. A disputation which he held then with the Bishop of Caesarea led to a second and more distant exile to Lazica, where he died. A considerable number of polemical writings on the question for which he suffered are extant, including an account of his disputation with Pyrrhus. [His works are collected in Migne, Patr. Gr. xc. xci. (after the edition of Combefis, 1675).] Maximus had a dialectical training and a tendency to mysticism. “Pseudo-Dionysius was introduced into the Greek Church by Maximus; he harmonised the Areopagite with the traditional ecclesiastical doctrine, and thereby influenced Greek theology more powerfully than John of Damascus” (Ehrhard, ap. Krumbacher, Gesch. der byz. Litt. p. 63).

Another younger opponent of Monotheletism was Anastasius of the monastery of Mount Sinai. He travelled about in Syria and Egypt, fighting with heresies (second half of seventh century). Three essays of his are extant (περὶ τον̂ κατ’ εἰκόνα) on Monotheletism; the third gives a history of the controversy. [Works in Migne, Patr. Gr. vol. lxxxix.]

John of Damascus was the most important opponent of Iconoclasm in the reigns of Leo III. and Constantine V. The son of a Syrian who was known by the Arabic name of Mansur, and held a financial post under the Saracen government at Damascus, he was born towards the end of the seventh century. He was educated by a Sicilian monk named Cosmas. He withdrew to the monastery of St. Sabas before ad 7368 and died before ad 753. What we know of his life is derived from a Biography of the tenth century by John of Jerusalem, who derived his facts from an earlier Arabic biography. (The life is printed in Migne, Patr. Gr. xciv. p. 429 sqq.) The great theological work of John is the Πηγὴ γνώσεως, “Fountain of Knowledge,” a systematical theology founded on the concepts of Aristotelian metaphysics (here John owed much to Leontius of Byzantium). But the works which concern us are the essays against the Iconoclasts, three in number, composed between ad 726 and 736. The first Diatribe was written and published Edition: current; Page: [400] between the edict of Leo and the deposition of the Patriarch Germanus three years later. The second seems to have been written immediately after the news of this deposition reached Palestine; for John, referring to this, makes no reference to the installation of Anastasius which took place a fortnight later (see c. 12; Migne, Patr. Gr. xciv. p. 1297). The object of this dissertation was to elucidate the propositions of the first, which had excited much discussion and criticism. The third contains much that is in the first and second, and develops a doctrine as to the use of images.9 The great edition (1712) of Lequien, with valuable prolegomena, is reprinted in Migne’s Patr. Gr. xciv.-xcvi. [Monographs: J. Langen, Johannes von D., 1879; J. H. Lupton, St. John of D., 1884.]

The defence of image-worship addressed “to all Christians and to the Emperor Constantine Kaballinos and to all heretics,” included in John’s works (Migne, vol. xcv. p. 309 sqq.), is not genuine. It contains much abuse of Leo and Constantine. The story of Barlaam and Joasaph — a romance founded on the story of Buddha — assumed its Greek form in the 7th century, in Palestine, and the author of the Greek romance was a monk named John, who perhaps belonged to the monastery of St. Sabbas. This John was taken to be John of Damascus, and hence the story of Barlaam and Joasaph was ascribed to the famous writer of the 8th century and included in his collected works. The most important Christian source of the composition was the Apology of Aristides, which is practically written out in the sermon of Nachor, so that Mr. J. Armitage Robinson was able to restore the original Greek text with help of a Syriac translation (The Apology of Aristides, in Texts and Studies, i. 1, 1891).

When the Paschal Chronicle deserts us in ad 627, we have no contemporary historians or chroniclers for the general course of the Imperial history until we reach the end of the eighth century. There is a gap of more than a century and a half in our series of Byzantine history. The two writers on whom we depend for the reigns of the Heracliad dynasty and of the early Iconoclast sovereigns lived at the end of the eighth and the beginning of the ninth century: the Patriarch Nicephorus and the monk Theophanes. They both used a common source, of which we have no record.

Nicephorus, Patriarch of Constantinople ad 806-815, has his place in history as well as in literature. At the time of the second council of Nicaea, ad 787, he was an Imperial secretary. In ad 806 he succeeded Tarasius in the Patriarchate (see above, p. 243) and stood forth as the opponent of the monastic party. Deposed by Leo V. he was, under this and the following Emperor, the most prominent champion of image-worship. He died in exile ad 829. He was greater as a theological than as an historical writer. His important works on the iconoclastic question were written during exile: (1) the Apologeticus minor, a short treatise defending image-worship; (2) in ad 817, the Apologeticus major, which is specially important as containing a number of quotations from an iconoclastic work by the Emperor Constantine V. These treatises are printed by Mai, Nova Patrum Bibl., i. 1 sqq., ii. 1 sqq., iii. 1 sqq. [For other works see Pitra, Spicilegium Solesmense, i. p. 302 sqq., iv. p. 233 sqq. Cp. Ehrhard, apud Krumbacher, Gesch. der byz. Litt. p. 72.] The historical works are two: (1) the Χρονογραϕικὸν σύντομον — “Concise list of dates,” — a collection of tables of kings, emperors, patriarchs, &c., from Adam to the year of the author’s death; (2) the Ἱστορία Edition: current; Page: [401] σύντομος — “concise History,” — beginning with the death of Maurice and ending with ad 769.10 It is a very poor composition; the author selects what is likely to interest an illiterate public and disregards the relative importance of events. The value of the work is entirely due to the paucity of other materials for the period which it covers. Yet Nicephorus seems to have bestowed some pains on the composition of the work. A MS. in the British Museum contains a text which seems to represent the author’s first compilation of his material before he threw it into the form in which it was “published.” See A. Burckhardt, Byz. Zeitsch. v. p. 465 sqq., 1896. [Excellent edition of the historical works by C. de Boor, 1880. This edition includes the life of Nicephorus by the deacon Ignatius written soon after his death.]

George, the syncellus or private secretary of the Patriarch Tarasius, had written a chronicle from the creation of the world, which he intended to bring down to his own time. But when death approached (ad 810-11) he had only reached the accession of Diocletian, and he begged his friend Theophanes to complete the work. Theophanes belonged to a good and wealthy family.11 He was of ascetic disposition and founded a monastery (ἡ μονὴ τον̂ μεγάλου Ἀγρον̂) called “Great Farm” near Sigriane not far from Cyzicus.12 Theophanes undertook the charge of his dying friend and wrote his Chronography between ad 811 and 815. When Leo V. came to the throne, he took a strong position against the Emperor’s inconoclastic policy and was imprisoned in the island of Samothrace, where he died (817). The Chronography (from ad 284 to 813) is arranged strictly in the form of annals. The events are arranged under the successive Years of the World, which are equated with the Years of the Incarnation; and the regnal years of the Roman Emperors and of the Persian Kings (in later part, the Saracen caliphs), and the years of the bishops of the five great Sees, are also added in tabular form. Moreover many single events are dated by Indictions, although the indictions do not appear in the table at the head of each year. The awkwardness of dating events on three systems is clear.

Theophanes adopted the Alexandrian era of Anianus (March 25, bc 5493; see above, vol. iii. Appendix 14), and thus his Annus Mundi runs from March 25 to March 24. As the Indiction runs from Sept. 1 to Aug. 31, the only part of the year which is common to the a.m. and the Indiction is March 25 to Aug. 31. It is obvious that, without very careful precautions, the practice of referring to an Indiction under an a.m. which only partly corresponds to it is certain to lead to confusion. And, as it turns out, Theophanes loses a year in the reign of Phocas, whose overthrow he placed in the right Indiction (14th = ad 610-11), but in the wrong a.m. (6102 = ad 609-10). The mistake has set his dates (a.m.) throughout the seventh century a year wrong; we have always to add a year to the a.m. to get the right date (cp. the discrepancies with the Indiction under a.m. 6150 and 617113). The true chronology is recovered at the year 6193, and the indiction is found once more in correspondence under a.m. 6207. A new discrepancy arises some years later, for which see below, p. 429. In the earlier part of the work Theophanes used (besides Socrates, &c.) a compilation of excerpts from Edition: current; Page: [402] Theodorus Lector (see above, vol. vi. Appendix 2, p. 347). For the sixth century he draws upon John Malalas, Procopius, Agathias, John of Epiphania, and Theophylactus; for the seventh George Pisides. It is possible that all these authors were known to him only indirectly through an intermediate source. He had, in any case, before him an unknown source for the seventh and most of the eighth century (if not more than one), and this was also a source of Nicephorus (see above, p. 400). For the reign of Constantine VI. and Irene, Nicephorus and Michael I., Theophanes has the value of a partial and prejudiced contemporary. [Previous editions have been superseded by De Boor’s magnificent edition (1883), vol. i. text; vol. ii. the Latin version of Anastasius, three lives of Theophanes, dissertations by the editor on the material for the text, and splendid Indices. Another Life of Theophanes has been edited by K. Krumbacher, 1897.]

The writings of Theodore of Studion provide us with considerable material for ecclesiastical history as well as for the state of Monasticism at the end of the eighth and beginning of the ninth century. For his prominence in questions of church discipline, which assumed political importance (in connection with the marriage of Constantine VI. and the policy of Nicephorus I.), see above, p. 241 n. and 243 n.; and he was a stout opponent of Leo V. in the matter of image-worship. He was born ad 759 (his father was a tax-collector); under the influence of his uncle Plato, he and his whole family entered the monastery of Saccudion, where in ad 797 he succeeded his uncle as abbot. In the following year, he and his monks took up their abode in the monastery of Studion; and from this time forward Studion was one of the most important cloisters in the Empire. Three times was Theodore banished: (1) ad 795-7, owing to his opposition to the marriage of Constantine; (2) ad 809-11, for his refusal to communicate with Joseph who had performed the marriage ceremony; (3) ad 814-20, for his opposition to Leo V. Under Michael II. he was not formally banished, but did not care to abide at Constantinople. He died ad 826.

The following works of Theodore have historical interest: (1) The three λόγοι ἀντιρρητικοί, and other works in defence of image-worship; (2) the Life of abbot Plato, which gives us a picture of monastic life; (3) the Life of his mother Theoctista, with a most interesting account of his early education, and glimpses of family life; (4) a large collection of letters, of the first importance for the ecclesiastical history of the period; they show the abbot at work, not only in his pastoral duties, but in his ecclesiastical struggles for a quarter of a century. [Collected works in Migne, Patr. Gr. xcix.; but 277 letters, not included, are edited by J. Cozza-Luzi, Nova patrum Bibliotheca, viii. 1, 1 sqq., 1871.]14

There are many Lives of Martyrs who suffered at the hands of the iconoclastic Emperors. The most important is that of St. Stephen of Mount Auxentius (distinguished from the protomartyr as “the younger”) who suffered in ad 767; the biography was written in ad 808 by Stephen, deacon of St. Sophia, and furnishes some important material for the history of the iconoclastic policy of Constantine V. For the persecution of Theophilus, we have a life of Theodore Graptus15 and his brother Theophanes Edition: current; Page: [403] (ed. Combefis, Orig. rerumque Constantinop. manipulus, p. 191 sqq.), containing a letter of Theodore himself to John of Cyzicus, of which Schlosser has made good use (Gesch. der bilderst. Kaiser, p. 524 sqq.). Other Lives of importance for the history of the iconoclastic movement are those of Germanus the Patriarch (ed. Papadopulos-Kerameus in the Mavrogordateios Bibliothêkê, Appendix, p. 3 sqq.), Theophanes, Confessor (see above); Nicetas, abbot of Medikion in Bithynia (died ad 824; Acta SS. April 1, Appendix, xxxiv.-xli.); Theodore of Studion (see above); Nicephorus, Patriarch (see above, p. 400); Tarasius, by the deacon Ignatius (ed. Heikel, 1889; Latin version in Acta SS. Febr. 25, 576 sqq.); the Patriarch Methodius (Migne, Patr. Gr., vol. c. p. 1244 sqq.). For the ecclesiastical history of the reign of Michael III., the life of Ignatius by Nicetas David Paphlagon is of great importance (Migne, Gr. Patr., cv. 487 sqq.). These and other less important16 biographies, in most instances composed by younger contemporaries, have great value in three ways: (1) they give us facts passed over by the chroniclers; (2) many of them were used by the chroniclers, and therefore are to be preferred as furnishing information at first hand; (3) they give us material for a social picture of the period (especially valuable in this respect is the Life of Plato by Theodore Studites; see above, p. 402).

The Life of the Empress Theodora, combined with relations of the deathbed repentance of Theophilus and of his good deeds, is highly important. It was the main source of the chronicler George Monachus for the events concerned. Ed. W. Regel, in Analecta Byzantino-Russica, p. 1 sqq.17

For Leo the Armenian we have a mysterious fragment of what was clearly a valuable chronicle written by a contemporary, whose name is unknown. The piece which has survived (printed in the vol. of the Bonn series which contains Leo Grammaticus, under the title Scriptor Incertus de Leone Armenio) is of great value for the Bulgarian siege of Constantinople in ad 815.

Apart from this fragment, and the contemporary biographies of saints, the meagre chronicle of George the Monk (sometimes styled George Hamartolus, “the sinner”) is the oldest authority for the thirty years after the point when the chronicle of Theophanes ended (ad 813-842). George wrote in the reign of Michael III., and completed his chronicle, which began with the creation, towards the close of that Emperor’s reign. It is divided into four Books; the fourth, beginning with Constantine the Great and ending with the death of Theophilus, is based mainly on the chronicle of Theophanes. For the last thirty years, the author depends on his own knowledge as a contemporary and on oral information; but also makes use of the Vita Theodorae (see above) and the Vita Nicephori by Ignatius (see above, p. 401). Throughout the ecclesiastical interest predominates.

The chronicle of George became so popular and was re-edited so often with additions and interpolations, that it has become one of the most puzzling problems in literary research to penetrate through the accretions to the original form. Until recently the shape and extent of the chronicle and its author’s identity were obscured by the circumstance that a continuation, reaching down to ad 948 (in some MSS. this continuation is continued to still later epochs), was annexed to the original work of George. The original Edition: current; Page: [404] continuation to 94818 was composed by “the Logothete,” who has been supposed to be identical with Symeon “Magister and Logothete” (for whose chronicle see below). [The only edition of the whole chronicle (with its continuation) is that of Muralt (1859), which is very unsatisfactory. Combefis edited the latter part from 813 to 948, and this has been reprinted in the Bonn series (along with Theophanes Continuatus), 1838. The material for a new critical edition has been collected by Professor C. de Boor. Much has been written on the problems connected with these chronicles; but I need only refer to F. Hirsch, Byzantinische Studien, 1876, which cleared the way to further investigation; and to the most recent study of De Boor on the subject, Die Chronik des Logotheten, in Byz. Zeitsch., vi. 233 sqq.]

The chronicle of Symeon Magister, who is probably the same person as the hagiographer Symeon Metaphrastes, has not yet been published; but for practical purposes it is accessible to the historian in the form of two redactions which go under the name of Leo Grammaticus and Theodosius of Melitene.19 Beginning with the creation it came down to ad 948. Leo Grammaticus (according to a note in Cod. Par. 1711) “completed” the Chronography (i.e., the original Chronicle of Symeon) in the year 1013; but otherwise he is only a name like Theodosius of Melitene. [Leo is included in the Bonn series, 1842; Theodosius was published by Tafel, 1859.] This chronicle is different in tone from that of George Monachus; the work of a logothete, not of a monk, it exhibits interest in the court as well as in the church.

Another chronicle, which may be conveniently called the Pseudo-Symeon, comes down to the year 963. The last part of the work, ad 813-963, was published by Combefis (1685) and reprinted by Bekker (Bonn, 1838) under the name of Symeon Magister. The mistake was due to a misleading title on the cover of the Paris MS. which contains the chronicle. (On the sources of the unknown author, see F. Hirsch, Byzantinische Studien.)

In respect to these extremely confusing chronicles with their numerous redactions, Krumbacher makes a good remark: “In Byzantium works of this kind were never regarded as completed monuments of literary importance, but as practical handbooks which every possessor and copyist excerpted, augmented, and revised just as he chose” (p. 362).

Joseph Genesius (son of Constantine who held the office of logothete under Michael III.) wrote (between ad 945 and 959) at the suggestion of the Emperor Constantine VII. an Imperial History in four Books, embracing the reigns of Leo V., Michael II., Theophilus, and Michael III.: thus a continuation of Theophanes, who left off at the accession of Leo V. In Bk. iv. Genesius, clearly departing from the original plan, added a brief account of the reign of Basil I., so that his work reaches from ad 813 to 886. Besides oral information and tradition, from which, as he says himself, he derived material, he used the work of George Monachus, and the Life of Ignatius by Nicetas (see above, p. 403). His history is marked by (1) superstition, (2) bigotry (especially against the iconoclasts), (3) partiality to his patron’s grandfather Basil. [Ed. Lachmann in Bonn series, 1834. For the sources, &c., see Edition: current; Page: [405] Hirsch, Byzantinische Studien; cp. also Wäschke in Philologus, 37, p. 255 sqq., 1878.]

A Sicilian Chronicle, relating briefly the Saracen conquest of the island, from ad 827 to 965 is preserved in Greek and in an Arabic translation. It must have been composed soon after 965. There are three editions: P. Batiffol, 1890 (in Comptes rendus de l’Académie des Inscriptions et Belles-Lettres); Cozza-Luzi and Lagumina, with the Arabic text, 1890, in Documenti p. s. alla storia di Sicilia, 4ta serie, ii.; A. Wirth, Chronographische Späne, 1894.

It is unfortunate that the historical monograph which the grammarian Theognostos, a contemporary of Leo V. and Michael II., dedicated to the revolt of Euphemius and the first successes of the Saracens in Sicily (ad 827), is lost. The work is used by the compilers of Theophanes Continuatus (see p. 82, ed. Bonn).

We have a disappointing account of the siege and capture of Syracuse by the Saracens in 880, from the pen of Theodosius, a monk, who endured the siege and was carried prisoner to Palermo, whence he wrote a letter describing his experiences to a friend. (Published in the Paris ed. of Leo Diaconus, p. 177 sqq.)

Besides stimulating Joseph Genesius to write his work, the Emperor Constantine VII. organised another continuation of Theophanes, written by several compilers who are known as the Scriptores post Theophanem, the Emperor himself being one of the collaborateurs. It seems probable that the original intention was not to go beyond the death of Basil or perhaps of Leo VI., but the work was extended after the death of Constantine, and comes down to ad 961. It falls into six Books: Bk. 1, Leo V.; Bk. 2, Michael II.; Bk. 3, Theophilus; Bk. 4, Michael III.; Bk. 5, Basil I. (this Book was the composition of the Emperor Constantine). So far the work conforms to a uniform plan; but Bk. 6, instead of containing only Leo VI., contains also Alexander, Constantine VII., Romanus I., Romanus II. It has been conjectured that the author of part of this supplement was Theodore Daphnopates, a literary man of the tenth century, known (among other things) by some official letters which he composed for Romanus I. The Continuation of Theophanes shows, up to the death of Basil, its semi-official origin by the marked tendency to glorify the Basilian dynasty by obscuring its Amorian predecessors. The main source of Bks. 1 to 5 is Genesius. Bk. 6 falls into two parts which are markedly distinct: A, Leo VI., Alexander, Constantine, Romanus I., Constantine, caps. 1-7; B, Constantine, 8-end, Romanus II. A is based upon the work of the Logothete (probably Symeon Magister) which has come down to us as a continuation of George Monachus (see above). Now the Logothete was an admirer of Romanus I. and not devoted to the family of Constantine VII.; and the sympathies of the Logothete are preserved by the compiler of A, notwithstanding their inconsistency with the tendencies of Bks. 1-5. The Logothete’s work appeared in the reign of Nicephorus Phocas, and must have been utilised almost immediately after its appearance by the compiler of A. It is probable that B was composed early in the same reign by a different author; it seems not to depend on another work, but to have been written from a contemporary’s knowledge. [Scriptores post Theophanem, ed. Combefis, 1685; Theophanes Continuatus, ed. Bekker, 1838 (Bonn). Analysis of sources, &c., in Hirsch, Byzantinische Studien.]

The circumstances of the capture of Thessalonica by the Cretan pirates in ad 904 are vividly portrayed for us in the well-written narrative of John Edition: current; Page: [406] Cameniates, a narrow-minded priest, ignorant of the world, but one who had lived through the exciting and terrifying scenes which he records and had the faculty of observation and the power of expressing his impressions. The work is printed in the Paris (1685) and in the Bonn (1838) series along with the Scriptores post Theophanem.

For the ecclesiastical history of the reign of Leo VI. we have a work of great importance in the anonymous Vita Euthymii published by C. de Boor (1888); cp. above, p. 263, note 43. The work was composed soon after the ex-Patriarch’s death (ad 917). Professor E. Kurtz of Riga has since published two Greek texts on the life of Theophano, wife of Leo VI., which he published in the Mémoires of the St. Petersburg Academy, 1898, Classe Hist.-Phil. (Zwei griechische Texte über die Hl. Theophano). One of these documents is by a contemporary (Βίος καὶ πολιτεία τη̂ς . . . Θεοϕανώ). The other is a discourse on the pious lady’s life and merits by Nicephorus Gregoras.

With the history of Leo Diaconus (Leo Asiaticus) we enter upon a new period of historiography. After an interval of more than three hundred years, he seems to re-open the series which closed with Theophylactus Simocatta. His history in ten Books embracing the reigns of Romanus II., Nicephorus Phocas, and John Tzimisces (959-975) is — although written after 992 — a contemporary work in a good sense; depending on personal knowledge and information derived from living peoples, not on previous writers. As Leo was born in 950 he is not a contemporary in quite the same sense for the earlier as for the later part of his work. He afterwards took part in the Bulgarian War of Basil II. [Included in the Paris and the Bonn series.]

[For the poem of Theodosius on the reconquest of Crete by Nicephorus, see below, vol. ix. p. 308, n. 135.]

The work of Leo Diaconus was continued by the most prominent and influential literary figure of the eleventh century, Constantine Psellus (born ad 1018, probably at Nicomedia). He adopted the legal profession; was a judge in Philadelphia under Michael IV.; an Imperial secretary under Michael V. He enjoyed the favour of Constantine IX., who founded a university at Constantinople and appointed Psellus Professor of Philosophy. But his services were required in political life; he became chief secretary (proto-asecretis) of the Emperor and one of his most influential ministers. Presently he left the world to become a monk and assumed the name of Michael, by which he is generally known. But monastic life hardly suited him, and after some years he returned to the world. He played a prominent part under Isaac Comnenus and Constantine Ducas; and was “prime minister” during the regency of Eudocia and the reign of Michael Parapinaces (a pupil who did him small credit). He died probably in 1078. As professor, Psellus had revived an interest in Plato, whose philosophy he set above Aristotle — a novelty which was regarded as a heresy. In this, he was stoutly opposed by his friend John Xiphilin, who was a pronounced Aristotelian. As young men, Psellus had taught Xiphilin philosophy, and Xiphilin had taught Psellus law. It was through the influence or example of Xiphilin (who withdrew to the monastery of Bithynian Olympus) that Psellus had assumed the tonsure. Xiphilin, who had written on law in his youth, wrote homilies in his later years, and became Patriarch of Constantinople in 1064; his old friend Psellus pronounced his funeral oration in 1075.

For success in the courts of the sovereigns whom Psellus served, candour and self-respect would have been fatal qualities. Psellus had neither; his Edition: current; Page: [407] writings (as well as his career) show that he adapted himself to the rules of the game, and was servile and unscrupulous. His Chronography reflects the tone of the time-serving courtier. Beginning at ad 976, it treats very briefly the long reign of Basil, and becomes fuller as it goes on. It deals chiefly with domestic wars and court intrigues; passing over briefly, and often omitting altogether, the wars with foreign peoples. The last part of the work was written for the eye of Michael Parapinaces, and consequently in what concerns him and his father Constantine X. is very far from being impartial.

The funeral orations which Psellus composed on Xiphilin, on the Patriarch Michael Cerularius (see above, p. 281), and on Lichudes, a prominent statesman of the time, have much historical importance, as well as many of his letters. [The Chronography and these Epitaphioi are published in vol. iv., the letters (along with other works) in vol. v., of the Bibliotheca Graeca medii aevi of C. Sathas.] These works are but a small portion of the encyclopaedic literary output of Psellus, which covered the whole field of knowledge. It has been well said that Psellus is the Photius of the eleventh century. He was an accomplished stylist and exerted a great influence on the writers of the generation which succeeded him. [For his life and writings see (besides Leo Allatius, De Psellis et eorum scriptis, 1634; cp. Fabricius, 10, p. 41 sqq.) Sathas, Introductions in op. cit. vols. iv. and v.; A. Rambaud, Revue Historique, 3, p. 241 sqq.; K. Neumann, Die Weltstellung des byz. Reiches vor den Kreuzzugen, 1894; B. Rhodius, Beitr. zur Lebensgeschichte und zu den Briefen des Psellos, 1892.]

Important for the history, especially the military history, of the eleventh century is a treatise entitled Strategicon by Cecaumenos. Of the author himself we know little; he was witness of the revolution which overthrew Michael V., and he wrote this treatise for his son’s benefit after the death of Romanus Diogenes. The title suggests that it should exclusively concern military affairs, but the greater part of the work consists of precepts of a general kind. Much is told of the author’s grandfather Cecaumenos, who took part in the Bulgarian wars of Basil II. Joined on to the Strategicon is a distinct treatise of different authorship (by a member of the same family; his name was probably Niculitzas): a book of advice to the Emperor “of the day” — perhaps to Alexius Comnenus on the eve of his accession. It contains some interesting historical references. [First published by B. Vasilievski in 1881 (in the Zhurnal Ministerstva narodnago prosviestcheniya; May, June, July), with notes; text re-edited by Vasilievski and Jernstedt (Cecaumeni Strategicon et incerti scriptoris de officiis regiis libellus), 1896.]

The latter part of the period covered in the history of Psellus has had another contemporary, but less partial, historian in Michael Attaleiates, a rich advocate, who founded a monastery and a hostelry for the poor (ptochotropheion).20 His abilities were recognised by Constantine Ducas and Nicephorus Botaneiates, from whom he received honorary titles (Patrician, Magister, Proedros), and held posts of no political importance. He accompanied Romanus Diogenes on his campaigns as a “military judge.” The history embraces the period 1034-1079, and was completed c. 1080; it is dedicated to Nicephorus III. [First published in the Bonn series, 1873.]

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Just as Attaleiates overlaps Psellus and funishes important material for correcting and completing his narrative, so the work of the prince Nicephorus Bryennius, son-in-law of Alexius Comnenus, overlaps and supplements the work of Attaleiates. Nicephorus had good opportunities for obtaining authentic information on the history of the times. His father had aspired to the throne and overthrown Michael VII. (see above, p. 284), but had been immediately overthrown by Alexius Comnenus and blinded. But, when Alexius came himself to the throne, Bryennius found favour at court; and his brilliant son was chosen by the Emperor as the husband of Anna and created Caesar. He played a prominent part on several occasions during the reign of Alexius, conducting, for instance, the defence of the capital against Godfrey of Bouillon in 1097. After his father-in-law’s death he refused (cp. above, p. 289) to take part in a conspiracy21 which his wife organised against her brother John, under whose rule he continued to serve the state until his death in 1037. In his last years, at the suggestion of his mother-in-law Irene, he undertook the composition of a history of Alexius Comnenus, but death hindered him from completing it, and the work covers only nine years, ad 1070-9. He describes it himself as “historical material”; it is, as Seger observes, “less a history of the time than a family chronicle, which, owing to the political position of the families, assumes the value of ‘a historical source.’ ” It has the common defects of the memoirs of an exalted personage, whose interests have been connected intimately with the events he describes and with the people he portrays. Bryennius makes considerable use of the Chronography of Psellus, and also draws on Attaleiates and Scylitzes. [Included in the Bonn series, 1836. Monograph: J. Seger, Nikephoros Bryennios, 1888.]22

The incomplete work of Bryennius was supplemented and continued by his wife, the literary princess Anna Comnena, whose Alexiad, beginning with the year 1069, was successfully carried down to 1118, the year of her father’s death. Anna ((born 1083) retired after the unsuccessful conspiracy against her brother (see above, p. 289) to the monastery of Kecharitomene, which had been founded by her mother Irene, who now accompanied her into retreat. The work which has gained her immortal fame was completed in 1148. Anna received the best literary education that the age could afford; she was familiar with the great Greek classics from Homer to Polybius, and she had studied philosophy. She was impregnated with the spirit of the renaissance which had been initiated by Psellus; she affects, though she does not achieve, Attic purism in her artificial and pedantic style. She had fallen far more completely under the spell of the literary ideals of Psellus than her husband, though he too had felt the influence. The book is a glorification of her father; and naturally her account of the crusades is highly unfavourable to the crusaders. But she was conscientious in seeking for information, oral and documentary.23 [Ed. Bonn, vol. i., ed. Schopen, 1839; vol. ii., ed. Reifferscheid, 1878; complete ed. by Reifferscheid (Teubner), 1884. E. Oster, Anna Comnena (Programmes, 1, 1868; 2, 1870; 3, 1871); C. Neumann, Griech. Geschichtschreiber u. Geschichtsquellen im 12 Jahrh., 1888.]

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The thread of Imperial history is taken up by John Cinnamus where Anna let it drop. He too, though in a less exalted position, had an opportunity of observing nearly the course of political events. Born in 1143 be became the private secretary of the Emperor Manuel, whom he attended on his military campaigns. His history embraces the reign of John and that of Manuel (all but the last four years24), ad 1118-1180; but the reign of John is treated briefly, and the work is intended to be mainly a history of Manuel. It has been recently proved by Neumann that the text which we possess (in a unique MS.) does not represent the original work, but only a large extract or portion of it.25 As a historian Cinnamus has some of the same faults as Anna Comnena. He is a panegyrist of Manuel, as she of Alexius; his narrow attitude of hostility and suspicion to Western Europe is the same as hers, and he treats the Second Crusade with that Byzantine one-sidedness which we notice in her treatment of the First; he affects the same purism of style. But he is free from her vice of long-windedness; there is (as Krumbacher has put it) a certain soldier-like brevity both in his way of apprehending and in his way of relating. As a military historian he is excellent; and he rises with enthusiasm to the ideas of his master. [In the Bonn series, 1836. Study of the work in C. Neumann, Gr. Geschichtschreiber und Geschichtsquellen im 12 Jahrhundert, 1888.]

Nicetas Acominatos (of Chonæ). Nicetas filled most important ministerial posts under the Angeli, finally attaining to that of Great Logothete. He was witness of the Latin conquest of Constantinople, and afterwards joined the court of Theodore Lascaris at Nicæa. He was the younger brother of Michael Acominatos, archbishop of Athens, who was also a man of letters. The historical work of Nicetas (in twenty-one Books) begins where Anna Comnena ended, and thus covers the same ground as Cinnamus, but carries the story on to 1206. But he was not acquainted with the work of Cinnamus; and for John and Manuel he is quite independent of other extant sources. He differs remarkably from Anna and Cinnamus in his tone towards the Crusaders, to whom he is surprisingly fair. Nicetas also wrote a well-known little book on the statues destroyed at Constantinople by the Latins in 1204. See further below, vol. x. cap. lx. ad fin. [Ed. Bonn, 1835, including the essay De Signis. Panegyrics addressed to Alexius Comnenus II., Isaac Angelus, Theodore Lascaris, and published in Sathas, Bibl. Gr. med. aevi. vol. i. Monograph by Th. Uspensky (1874). Cp. C. Neumann, op. cit.]

Another continuator of Theophanes arose in the eleventh century in the person of John Scylitzes (a curopalates and drungarios of the guard), a contemporary of Psellus. Beginning with ad 811 (two years before Theophanes ends) he brought his chronicle down to 1079. His chief sources are the Scriptores post Theophanem, Leo Diaconus, and Attaleiates; but he used other sources which are unknown to us, and for his own time oral information. His preface contains an extremely interesting criticism on the historiographers who had dealt with his period. Since Theophanes, he says, there has been no satisfactory epitome of history. The works of “the Siceliot teacher” (a mysterious person whose identity has not been established)26 and “our Edition: current; Page: [410] contemporary Psellus” are not serious, and are merely bare records of the succession of the Emperors — who came after whom — and leave out all the important events. This notice is very important; the criticism cannot apply to the Chronography of Psellus which we possess, and therefore suggests that Psellus wrote a brief epitome of history which began at ad 813, and is now lost. Other historians have treated only short periods or episodes, like Genesius, Theodore Daphnopates, Leo Diaconus, and others; and all these have written with a purpose or tendency — one to praise an Emperor, another to blame a Patriarch. The whole text of Scylitzes has not yet been published, but is accessible for historical purposes in the Latin translation of B. Gabius (Venice, 1570), combined with the chronicle of Cedrenus, which (see below) contains practically a second ed. of Scylitzes up to ad 1057. The Greek text of the latter part of the work, ad 1057-1079, is printed in the Paris Byzantine series, and reprinted in the Bonn collection, along with Cedrenus. A complete critical edition is being prepared by J. Seger. [On sources, &c. consult Hirsch, Byzantinische Studien.]

The Historical Synopsis of George Cedrenus (c. 1100 ad), from the creation to ad 1057, is a compilation, in its earlier part, up to ad 811, from Theophanes, George Monachus, Symeon Magister, and above all, the Psuedo-Symeon (see above). From ad 811 to the end Cedrenus merely wrote out Scylitzes word for word. [Bonn edition in two vols., 1838-9. Cp. Hirsch, op. cit.]

John Zonaras, who flourished in the first half of the twelfth century, held important posts in the Imperial service (Great Drungarios of the Guard, and chief of the secretarial staff), and then retired to St. Glyceria (one of the Princes’ Islands), where as a monk he reluctantly yielded to the pressure of his friends to compose a profane history. The work begins with the creation and ends in the year ad 1118. In form it differs completely from such works as the Chronicles of Theophanes or Scylitzes. Zonaras never copies his sources word for word; he always puts their statements in his own way. But this mode of operation is purely formal and not critical; it is merely a question of style; he does not sift his material or bring intelligence to bear on his narrative. Yet he took more pains to collect material than many of his craftsmen; he did not content himself with one or two universal histories such as George Monachus; and he complains of his difficulty in getting books. His work has great importance from the fact that it has preserved the first twenty-one Books of Dion Cassius, otherwise lost. For the second half of the fifth and the first half of the sixth century Zonaras has some important notices derived from a lost source; though for the most part he follows Theophanes. For the last three centuries of his work Zonaras used George Monachus and the Logothete’s Continuation, the Continuation of Theophanes, Scylitzes, Psellus, &c. [The Bonn ed. contained only Bks. 1-12 (1841-4) till 1896, when the third and concluding volume was added by T. Buttner-Wobst. There is also a complete edition by L. Dindorf in six volumes (1868-75). On the sources of Zonaras from ad 450-811 the chief work is P. Sauerbrei, De fontibus Zon. quaestiones selectae (in Comment. phil. Jen. i. 1 sqq.), 1881; on the period ad 813-965, Hirsch, op. cit. For earlier Roman history there is a considerable literature on Zonaras. Cp. Krumbacher, op. cit. p. 375.]

Among the compilations which supplied Zonaras with material is a (nonextant) Chronicle, which is defined as a common source of Zonaras and a work known as the Synopsis Sathas, because M. C. Sathas first edited it Edition: current; Page: [411] from a Venetian MS. (1894; Bibl. Gr. med. aevi, vol. vii.). This “Chronological Synopsis” reaches from the creation to ad 1261. It is closely related to the (not yet published) chronicle of Theodore of Cyzicus which covers the same ground. On the common source, and the sources of that common source, see E. Patzig, Ueber einige Quellen des Zonaras, in Byz. Zeitsch. 5, p. 24 sqq. The author of the Synopsis lived in the latter part of the thirteenth century. The range of the chronicle will be understood when it is said that more than two thirds of it are devoted to the last two hundred years.

The chronicle which served as common source to both Zonaras and the Synopsis was also used by a contemporary of Zonaras, Constantine Manasses, who treated the history of the world from its creation to the death of Nicephorus III. (1081) in “political” verses. (Other sources: Dionysius of Halicarnassus, John Lydus, John of Antioch, Pseudo-Symeon.) This versified chronicle was very popular, it was translated into Slavonic, and was one of the chief sources of a chronicle written in colloquial Greek (see K. Prächter, Byz. Zeitsch. 4, p. 272 sqq., 1895). Published in the Bonn series along with the worthless chronicle of Joel (thirteenth century; sources: George the Monk, the Logothete’s Continuation, Scylitzes). See Hirsch, op. cit.

Another chronographer contemporary with Zonaras was Michael Glykas. Of his life little is known except that he was a “secretary,” and that for some reason he was imprisoned and “blinded,” though not with fatal consequences to his eyesight. His chronicle (from the creation), of which Part iv. reaches from Constantine the Great to the death of Alexius I. (1118), differs considerably in general conception from other chronicles, and is marked, as Krumbacher has well pointed out, by three original features: digressions on (1) natural history and (2) theology, whereby the thread of the chronicle is often lost, and (3) the didactic form of the work, which is addressed to his son. The sources of the latter part are Zonaras, Scylitzes, Psellus, Manasses, Vita Ignatii. (Cp. Hirsch. op. cit.) On his life, chronicle, and other works, see Krumbacher’s monograph, Michael Glykas, 1895. [Edition, Bonn, 1836.]

Latin Sources

The paucity of other sources renders the Liber Pontificalis of considerable importance for the Imperial history of the seventh and eighth centuries in Italy. M. Duchesne, in the Introduction to his great edition of the work, has shown with admirable acuteness and learning how it grew into its present form. The primitive Liber Pontificalis was compiled at Rome under the pontificates of Hormisdas, John I., Felix IV., and Boniface II., after ad 514, and came down to the death of Felix IV. in ad 530. “For the period between 496 and 530 the author may be regarded as a personal witness of the things he narrates.” The work was continued a few years later by a writer who witnessed the siege of Rome in ad 537-8, and who was hostile to Silverius. He recorded the Lives of Boniface II., John II., and Agapetus, and wrote the first part of the Life of Silverius (ad 536-7). The latter part of this Life is written in quite a different spirit by one who sympathised with Silverius; and it was perhaps this second continuator who brought out a second edition of the whole work (Duchesne, p. ccxxxi.). The Lives of Vigilius and his three successors were probably added in the time of Pelagius II. (ad 579-90). As for the next seven Popes, M. Duchesne thinks that, Edition: current; Page: [412] if their biographies were not added one by one, they were composed in two groups: (1) Pelagius II. and Gregory I.; (2) the five successors of Gregory. From Honorius (ad 625-38) forward the Lives have been added one by one, and sometimes more than one are by the same hand. Very rarely are historical documents laid under contribution; the speech of Pope Martin before the Lateran Council in ad 649 forms an exception, being used in the Lives of Theodore and Martin. In the eighth century the important Lives of Gregory II., Gregory III., Zacharias, &c., were written successively during their lives. The biographer of Gregory II. seems to have consulted a lost (Constantinopolitan) chronicle which was also used by Theophanes and Nicephorus. (Cp. Duchesne, Lib. Pont. i. p. 411.) The Biography of Hadrian falls into two parts; the first, written in 774, contains the history of his first two years; the second, covering the remaining twenty-two years of his pontificate, is of a totally different nature, being made up of entries derived from vestry-registers, &c. M. Duchesne has shown that most of these biographers to whose successive co-operation the Liber Pontificalis is due belonged to the Vestiarium of the Lateran; and when they were too lazy or too discreet to relate historical events they used to fall back on the entries in the registers of their office. [L. Duchesne, Liber Pontificalis; Texte, Introduction et Commentaire, t. 1 (1886).]

The Letters of Pope Gregory the Great (for whose life and work see above, p. 42 sqq.) are the chief contemporary source for the state of Italy at the end of the sixth century. The Benedictines of St. Maur published in 1705 a complete collection of the Pope’s correspondence, which extends from ad 591 to 604. This edition, used and quoted by Gibbon, is reprinted in Migne’s Patr. Graeca, lxxvii. The arrangement of the letters in this collection was adopted without full intelligence as to the nature of the materials which were used. It depended mainly on a Vatican MS. containing a collection of the letters, put together in the fifteenth century by the order of an archbishop of Milan (John IV.). This collection was compiled from three distinct earlier collections, which had never been put together before to form a single collection. Of these (1) the most important is a selection of 681 letters, made under Pope Hadrian I. towards the end of the eighth century. The letters of Gregory range over fourteen indictions, and the “Hadrianic Register,” as it is called, falls into fourteen Books, according to the indictions. This is our basis of chronology. There is (2) a second collection of 200 letters without dates (except in one case), of which more than a quarter are common to the Hadrianic Register. It has been proved that all these letters belong to a single year (ad 598-9); but in the text of the Benedictines they are scattered over all the years. (3) The third collection (Collectio Pauli) is smaller; it contained 53 letters, of which 21 are peculiar to itself. Here too, though the Benedictine edition distributes these letters over six years, it has been proved that they all belong to three particular years. These results were reached by very long and laborious research by Paul Ewald, whose article in the Neues Archiv of 1878 (iii. 433 sqq.) has revolutionised the study of Gregory’s correspondence and established the order of the letters. A new critical edition, based on Ewald’s researches, has appeared in the Monumenta Germ. Historica, in two vols. Only Bks. 1-4 are the work of Ewald; but on his premature death the work was continued by L. M. Hartmann. Ewald also threw new light on the biographies of Gregory, proving that the oldest was one preserved in a St. Gall MS. (and known to, but not used by, Canisius). See his article: Die älteste Biographie Gregors I. (in “Historische Aufsatze dem Andenken an G. Waitz gewidmet”), 1886. For the Life by Paulus Diac. Edition: current; Page: [413] cp. above, p. 42, note 73; for the Life by John Diac. cp. p. 42, note 74. [Monographs: G. T. Lau, Gregor I. der Grosse nach seinem Leben und seiner Lehre geschildert (1845); W. Wisbaum, Die wichtigsten Richtungen und Ziele der Thätigkeit des Papstes Gregor des Gr. (1884); C. Wolfsgruber, die Vorpäpstliche Lebensperiode Gregors des Gr., nach seinen Briefen dargestellt (1886) and Gregor der Grosse (1890); Th. Wollschack, Die erhältnisse Italiens, insbesondere des Langobardenreichs nach dem Briefwechsel Gregors I. (1888); F. W. Kellett, Pope Gregory the Great and his relations with Gaul (1889). There is a full account of Gregory’s life and work in Hodgkin’s Italy and her Invaders, vol. v. chap. 7; and a clear summary of Ewald’s arguments as to the correspondence.]

The earliest historian of the Lombards was a bishop of Trient named Secundus, who died in ad 612. He wrote a slight work (historiola) on the Gesta of the Lombards, coming down to his own time; unluckily it is lost. But it was used by our chief authority on the history of the Lombard kingdom, Paul the Deacon, son of Warnefrid; who did for the Lombards what Gregory of Tours did for the Merovingians, Bede for the Anglo-Saxons, Jordanes for the Goths. Paul was born about ad 725 in the duchy of Friuli. In the reign of King Ratchis (ad 744-9) he was at Pavia, and in the palace-hall he saw in the king’s hand the bowl made of Cunimund’s skull. He followed King Ratchis into monastic retirement at Monte Cassino, and we find him there an intimate friend and adviser of Arichis, Duke of Beneventum, and his wife. He guided the historical studies of this lady, Adelperga, and it was her interest in history that stimulated him to edit the history of Eutropius and add to it a continuation of his own in six Books (the compilation known as the Historia Miscella, see above, vol. iv. p. 353-4). Paul’s family was involved in the ruin of the Lombard kingdom (ad 774); his brother was carried into captivity, and Paul undertook a journey to the court of Charles the Great, in order to win the grace of the conqueror. He was certainly successful in his enterprise, and his literary accomplishments were valued by Charles, at whose court he remained several years. When he returned to Italy he resumed his abode at Monte Cassino. His last years were devoted to the Historia Langobardorum. Beginning with the remote period at which his nation lived by the wild shores of the Baltic, Paul should have ended with the year in which the Lombards ceased to be an independent nation; but the work breaks off in the year ad 744; and the interruption can have been due only to the author’s death. Paul’s Life of Gregory the Great has been mentioned above; another extant work is his Lives of the Bishops of Metz.

For the legendary “prehistoric” part of his work, Paul’s chief source (apart from oral traditions) was the Origo gentis Langobardorum. This little work has been preserved in a MS. of the Laws of King Rotharis, to which it is prefixed as an Introduction.27 It was probably composed c. 670. (There is also a Prologus to the Laws of Rotharis, containing a list of kings; it is important on account of its relative antiquity.) For the early history Paul drew upon Secundus (see above) and Gregory of Tours. When Secundus deserts him (Bk. iv. c. 41) he is lost, and for the greater part of the seventh century his history is very meagre. His chief sources for the period ad 612 to 744 are the Lives of the Popes in the Liber Pontificalis (from John III. to Edition: current; Page: [414] Gregory II.) and the Ecclesiastical History of Bede. The sources of Paul have been thoroughly investigated by R. Jacobi, Die Quellen der Langobardengeschichte des Paulus Diaconus (1877).28 [Best edition by Waitz in the M.G.H. (Scr. rer. Lang.), 1878; and small convenient edition by the same editor in the Scr. rer. Germ., 1878. German translation by O. Abel (in the Geschichtschreiber der deutschen Vorzeit), 1849 (second edition, 1878). Three important studies on Paul by L. Bethmann appeared in Pertz’s Archiv, vol. vii. p. 274 sqq.; vol. x. p. 247 sqq. and p. 335 sqq. The most recent edition of the Historia Romana (last six Books of the Hist. Miscella) is that of H. Droysen, 1879.]

The chronicle which goes under the name of Fredegarius, on which we have to fall back for Merovingian History when Gregory of Tours deserts us, has also notices which supplement the Lombard History of Paul the Deacon. The chronicle consists of four Books. Bk. 1 is the Liber Generationis of Hippolytus; Bk. 2 consists of excerpts from the chronicles of Jerome and Idatius; Bk. 3 is taken from the Historia Francorum of Gregory of Tours; Bk. 4, which is alone of importance, continues the history of Gregory (from Bk. vi.; ad 583) up to ad 642. Two compilers can be distinguished; to one is due Bk. 1, Bk. 2, Bk. 4, chaps. 1-39; to the other (= Fredegarius) Bk. 3 and Bk. 4, chaps. 40 to end (ad 613-642). For the last thirty years the work is contemporary. The lack of other sources makes Fredegarius, such as it is, precious. But for this work we should never have known of the existence, during the reign of Heraclius, of the large Slavonic realm of Samo, which united for a decade or two Bohemia and the surrounding Slavonic countries. [Ed. B. Krusch, in the M.G.H. (Scr. Hist. Merov., ii.), 1888, along with the subsequent continuations of the work to ad 568. Articles by Krusch in Neues Archiv, vii., p. 249 sqq. and p. 423 sqq., 1882.]

Oriental Sources

[An excellent list of Arabic historians and their works will be found in Wüstenfeld’s Die Geschichtschreiber der Araber, 1882.]

I.: For the Life of Mohammad

(1) For the life of Mohammad the only contemporary sources, the only sources which we can accept without any reservation, are: (a) the Koran29 (for the early traditions of the text, see below, vol. ix. p. 41-3). The order of the Sūras has been thoroughly investigated by Nöldeke, Geschichte des Qorâns, 1860, and by Weil; and (from the character and style of the revelations, combined with occasional references to events) they can be arranged in periods, and in some cases assigned to definite years. (Periods: (1) written at Mecca, (α) early, (β) late: (2) Medina, (α) early, (β) middle, (γ) late.)30

(b) A collection of treaties: see below.

(2) The other source for the life of Mohammad is tradition (Hadīth). The Ashāb or companions of Mohammad were unimpeachably good authorities as to the events of his life; and they told much of what they knew in Edition: current; Page: [415] reply to the eager questions of the Tābiūn or Successors, — the younger generation who knew not the Prophet. But it was not till the end of the first century of the Hijra or the beginning of the second that any attempt was made to commit to writing the knowledge of Mohammad’s life, which passed from lip to lip and was ultimately derived from the companions, few of whom can have survived the sixtieth year of the Hijra. The first work on Mohammad that we know of was composed at the court of the later Omayyads by al-Zuhri, who died in the year ad 742. It is deeply to be regretted that the work has not survived, not only on account of its relatively early date, but because a writer under Omayyad patronage had no interest in perverting the facts of history. Zuhri’s book, however, was used by his successors, who wrote under the Abbāsids and had a political cause to serve.

The two sources which formed the chief basis of all that is authentic in later Arabic Lives of the Prophet (such as that of Abū-l-Fidā) are fortunately extant; and, this having been established, we are dispensed from troubling ourselves with those later compilations. (a) The life by Mohammad ibn Ishāk (ob 768, a contemporary of Zuhri) has not indeed been preserved in an independent form; but it survives in Ibn Hishām’s (ob. 823) History of the Prophet, which seems to have been practically a very freely revised edition of Ibn Ishāk, but can be controlled to some extent by the copious quotations from Ibn Ishāk in the work of Tabarī. Ibn Ishāk wrote his book for Mansūr the second Abbāsid caliph (ad 754-775); and it must always be remembered that the tendency of historical works composed under Abbāsid influence was to pervert tradition in the Abbāsid interest by exalting the members of the Prophet’s family, and misrepresenting the forefathers of the Omayyads. This feature appears in the work of Ibn Ishāk, although in the world of Islam he has the reputation of being an eminently and exceptionally trustworthy writer. But it is not difficult to make allowance for this colouring; and otherwise there is no reason to doubt that he reproduced truthfully the fairly trustworthy tradition which had been crystallised under the Omayyads, and which, in its general framework, and so far as the outer life of the Prophet himself was concerned, was preserved both by the supporters of the descendants of Alī and by those who defended the claims of the family of Abbās. [The work of Ibn Hishām has been translated into German by Weil, 1864.]

(b) A contemporary of Ibn Hishām, named (Mohammad ibn Omar al) Wākidī (ob. 823), also wrote a Life of Mohammad, independent of the work of Ibn Ishāk. He was a learned man and a copious writer. His work met with the same fortune as that of Ibn Ishāk. It is not extant in its original form, but its matter was incorporated in a Life of Mohammad by his able secretary Ibn Sad (Kātib al-Wākidī, ob. 845) — a very careful composition, arranged in the form of separate traditions, each traced up to its source. But another work of Wākidī, the History of the Wars of the Prophet (Kitāb al-Maghāzi), is extant (accessible in an abbreviated German version by Wellhausen, 1882), and has considerable interest as containing a large number of doubtless genuine treaties. The author states that he transcribed them from the original documents.31 Like Ibn Hishām, Wākidī wrote under the caliphate of Mamūn (ad 813-833) at Bagdad, and necessarily lent himself to the perversion of tradition in Abbāsid interests.

Al-Tabarī (see below) included the history of Mohammad in the great work which earned for him the compliment of being called by Gibbon “the Edition: current; Page: [416] Livy of the Arabians.” The original Arabic of this part of the Annals was recovered by Sprenger at Lucknow. It consists mainly of extracts from Ibn Ishāk and Wākidī, and herein lies its importance for us: both as (1) enabling us to control the compilations of Ibn Hishām and Ibn Sad and (2) proving that Ibn Ishāk and Wākidī contained all the authentic material of value for the Life of the Prophet, that was at the disposal of Tabari. The part of the work (about a third) which is occupied by other material consists of miscellaneous traditions, which throw little new light on the biography.

[For a full discussion of the sources see Muir, Life of Mahomet; essay at the end of edition 2 — introduction at the beginning of edition 3. For the life of the prophet: Weil, Mohammed der Prophet, 1840; Sprenger, Das Leben und die Lehre Mohammads, 1851; Wellhausen’s sketch in the Encyclopædia Britannica (sub nomine). For his spirit and teaching: Stanley Lane-Poole, The Speeches and Table-talk of the Prophet Mohammad, 1882. Observe that Mr. E. W. Brooks has collected and translated the notices in Arabic writers bearing on Saracen invasions of Asia Minor between ad 641 and 750 (including some notices on Syria and Armenia): The Arabs from Asia Minor, from Arabic Sources, in the Journal of Hellenic Studies, xviii. p. 182 sqq., 1898; and in the same Journal, xix. p. 19 sqq., 1899, he has given under the title: The Campaign of 716-718 from Arabic Sources, translations of two accounts of the siege of Constantinople (see Gibbon, vol. ix. p. 242 sqq.) (1) that in the Khitab al-Uyun (an 11th century source); and (2) that of Al-Tabari.]

II.: For the Saracen Conquests

The most important authority for the history of the Saracen conquests is Abū-Jafar Mohammad ibn Jarīr, born in ad 839 at Āmul in Tabaristān and hence called al-Tabarī. He died at Bagdad in ad 923. It is only the immense scale of his chronicle that warrants the comparison with Livy. Tabarī had no historical faculty, no idea of criticising or sifting his sources; he merely puts side by side the statements of earlier writers without reconciling their discrepancies or attempting to educe the truth. Though this mode of procedure lowers our opinion of the chronicler, it has obvious advantages for a modern investigator, as it enables him to see the nature of the now lost materials which were used by Tabarī. Later writers like al-Makīn, Abū-l-Fidā, Ibn al-Athīr, found it very convenient to draw from the compilation of Tabarī, instead of dealing directly with the numerous sources from which Tabarī drew; just as later Greek chronographers used to work on such a compilation as that of George Monachus. Our gratitude to Tabarī for preserving lost material is seriously modified by the consideration that it was largely to his work that the loss of that material in its original form is due. His work was so convenient and popular that the public ceased to want the older books and consequently they ceased to be multiplied.

The Annals of Tabarī were carried down to his own time, into the tenth century, but his notices for the last seventy years are very brief. The whole work has not yet been translated. We have already made the acquaintance of the part of it bearing on Persian history in the translation of Nöldeke (1879). A portion of the history of the Saracen conquests has been edited and translated by Kosegarten (1831). For the history of the caliphate from 670 to 775, Weil had the original work of Tabarī before him (in MS.), in writing his Geschichte der Chalifen. A complete Arabic edition of Tabarī is being published by Prof. de Goeje (1879-97) and is nearly completed.

In the year 963 Mohammad Bilamī “translated” Tabarī into Persian, by Edition: current; Page: [417] the order of Mansūr I., the Sāmānid sovereign of Transoxiana and Khurāsān. This “translation” (which was subsequently translated into Turkish) has been rendered into French by Zotenberg (1867-74). But the reader will be disappointed if he looks to finding a traduction in our sense of the word. Bilamī’s work is far from being even a free rendering, in the freest sense of the term. It might be rather described as a history founded exclusively on Tabarī’s compilation; — Tabarī worked up into a more artistic form. References to authorities are omitted; the distinction of varying accounts often disappears; and a connected narrative is produced. Such were the ideas of translators at Bagdad and Bukhārā; and Weil properly observes that Ibn al-Athīr, for instance, who does not pretend to be bound to the text of Tabarī, will often reproduce him more truly than the professed translator.

For Persian history, the chief ultimate source of Tabarī was the Khudhāi-nāma or Book of Lords (original title of what was afterwards known as the Shāh-nāma or Book of Kings), officially compiled under Chosroes I. (see above, vol. vii. p. 201), and afterwards carried down to ad 628, in the reign of Yezdegerd III. This work was rhetorical and very far from being impartial; it was written from the standpoint of the nobility and the priests. It was “translated” into Arabic by Ibn Mukaffa in the eighth century; and his version, perhaps less remote from our idea of a translation than most Arabic works of the kind, was used by the Patriarch Eutychius of Alexandria (see below). Tabarī did not consult either the Pehlevi original or the version of Ibn Mukaffa, but a third work which was compiled from Ibn Mukaffa and another version. See the Introduction to Nöldeke’s invaluable work.

For Tabarī’s sources for the history of Mohammad, see above.

For the successors of Mohammad, Tabarī had Ibn Ishāk’s book on the Moslem conquests and Wākidī (see above); and a history of the Omayyads and early Abbāsids by (Alī ibn Mohammad al) Madāinī (ad 753-840).

An independent and somewhat earlier source for the military history of the Saracen conquests is the Book of the Conquests by Abū-l-Hasan Ahmad ibn Yahyā al Bilādhurī, who flourished in the ninth century (ob. ad 892) at the court of Bagdad. Among the sources which he cites are Wākidī, Ibn Hishām, and Madāinī. His work has been printed but not translated; and has been used by Weil and Muir for their histories of the caliphate. Weil has given an abridgment — very convenient for reference in studying the chronology — “Die wichtigsten Kriege und Eroberungen der Araber nach Beladori,” as an Appendix in vol. iii. of his Gesch. der Chalifen.

Another extant historical work is the Book of Sciences by (Abd-Allah ibn Muslim) Ibn Kutaiba (ob. c. 889), a contemporary of Bilādhurī. It is a brief chronicle, but contains some valuable notices.

Contemporary with these was Ibn Abd-al-Hakam, who died in Egypt, ad 871. He wrote a Book of the Conquests in Egypt and Africa. See below, vol. ix. p. 191, note 158.

A much greater man than any of these was the traveller Masūdī (Abū-l-Hasan Alī ibn al-Husain), born c. ad 900, died 956. He travelled in India, visited Madagascar, the shores of the Caspian, Syria, and Palestine, and died in Egypt. He wrote an encyclopaedic work on the history of the past, which he reduced into a shorter form; but even this was immense; and he wrote a compendium of it under the title of The Golden Meadows, which has come down to us (publ. in Arabic with French translation, 1861-77.) It contains valuable information respecting the early history of Islam, and the geography Edition: current; Page: [418] of Asia. He differs from contemporary Arabic historians in the multiplicity of his interests, and his wide view of history, which for him embraces not merely political events, but literature, religion, and civilisation in general.

The chronicle of Eutychius, patriarch of Alexandria, in the tenth century, is extant in the Arabic version edited and translated by Pocock, frequently cited by Gibbon.32 It comes down to ad 937. We have seen that Eutychius used Ibn Mukaffa’s version of the Khudhāi-nāma; but a thorough investigation of his sources is still a desideratum. His chronicle was used in the thirteenth century by Makin (Elmacin, ob. 1275), a native of Egypt, whose history (coming down to 1260) was also much used by Gibbon (ed. Erpenius, 1625).

John of Nikiu, Jacobite bishop of Nikiu, in the latter part of the seventh century, composed (in Greek or Coptic?) a chronicle from the creation to his own time. It is extremely important for the history of Egypt in the seventh century, and in fact is the sole contemporary source for the Saracen conquest. It has come down, but not in its original form. It was translated into Arabic, from Arabic into Ethiopian (ad 1601); and it is the Ethiopian version which has been preserved. The work has been rendered generally accessible by the French translation which accompanies Zotenberg’s edition (1883).

Michael of Melitene, patriarch of Antioch in the twelfth century (1166-99), wrote a chronicle in Syriac, from the creation to his own time. The original work is preserved but not yet edited. An Armenian version, however, made (by Ishōk) in the following century (1248) has been translated into French by V. Langlois (1868); and the part of it which deals with the period 573-717 had been already published in French by Dulaurier in the Journal Asiatique, t. 12, Oct., 1848, p. 281 sqq. and t. 13, April to May, 1849, p. 315 sqq. In the preface to his work Michael gives a remarkable list of his sources, some of which are mysterious. He mentions Enanus of Alexandria (Anianos), Eusebīus, John of Alexandria, Jibeghu (?) Theodore Lector, Zacharias of Melitene [from Theodosius to Justinian], John of Asia (John of Ephesus) [up to Maurice], Goria, the learned (Cyrus, a Nestorian of sixth to seventh century) [from Justinian to Heraclius], St. James of Urfa [Edessa] (end of seventh century) [an abridgment of preceding histories], Dionysius the Deacon (of Tellmahrē) [from Maurice to Theophilus and Hārūn],33 Ignatius of Melitene, Slivea of Melitene, John of Kesun (first half of twelfth century; cp. Assemani, 2, 364). See Dulaurier, J. As. t. 12, p. 288. [Wright, Syriac Literature (1894), p. 250 sqq. H. Gelzer, Sextus Julius Africanus, ii. i. 402 sqq.]

(In connection with Michael of Melitene it may be mentioned that since this notice was written Mr. E. W. Brooks published the text, and an English translation, of A Syriac Chronicle of the Year 846, whose author used partly the same sources as Michael. Zeitschrift der deutschen morgenländischen Gesellschaft, li. p. 569 sqq.)

Mar Gregor of Melitene, known as Bar-Hebraeus or Abulpharagius (Abū-l-Faraj), lived in the thirteenth century. He belonged to the Jacobite Edition: current; Page: [419] church, of which he was the maphriān (from 1264 to 1286), the dignitary second in rank to the patriarch. (1) He wrote in Syriac a chronicle of universal history, political and ecclesiastical, in three parts: Part 1, a political history of the world down to his own time. This was edited, with a Latin translation, by Bruns and Kirsch, 1789, Wright says that text and translation are equally bad (Syriac Literature, p. 278). Part 2, a history of the Church, which in the post-Apostolic period becomes a history of the Church of Antioch, and after the age of Severus deals exclusively with the monophysitic branch of the Antiochene church. Part 3 is devoted to the eastern division of the Syrian Church, from St. Thomas: “from the time of Mārūtha (629) it becomes the history of the monophysite maphriāns of Taghrīth” (Wright, op. cit. p. 279), up to 1286. These two ecclesiastical parts are edited, with translation, by Abbeloos and Lamy, 1872-7. (2) He also issued a recension of his political history, with references to Mohammadan writers, in Arabic, under the title of a Compendious History of the Dynasties, which, edited and translated by Pocock, 1663, was largely used by Gibbon. Bar-Hebraeus made considerable use of the chronicle of Michael of Melitene. [Best account: Wright, op. cit. p. 265 sqq.]

Modern Works. Finlay, History of Greece, vols. i., ii., iii.; K. Hopf, Geschichte Greiechenlands (in Ersch und Gruber’s Enzyklopädie, B. 85); G. F. Hertzberg, Geschichte Griechenlands, Pt. 1; F. C. Schlosser, Geschichte der bilderstürmenden Kaiser des oström. Reiches (1812); Bury, Later Roman Empire, vol. ii.; Gfrörer, Byzantinische Geschichten, vol. iii. (1877); A. Rambaud, L’empire grec au dixième siècle, 1870; Hodgkin, Italy and her Invaders, vols. v. and vi.; Ranke, Weltgeschichte, vols. iv., v. (H. Gelzer has written an able and original outline of Byzantine history for the second edition of Krumbacher’s Hist. of Byz. Literature. A bright brief sketch of the Byzantine Empire by C. W. C. Oman appeared in the series of the Story of the Nations.) For Chronology: Clinton, Fasti Romani, vol. ii. p. 149 sqq. (579 to ad 641); Muralt, Essai de Chronographie byzantine, two vols. (1855-1871). For Mohammad, see above, p. 416; for the Saracen conquests: Weil’s Geschichte der Chalifen, vol. i., Muir’s Annals of the Early Caliphate, and other works referred to in vol. ix. chapters l. and li. (especially p. 192 and 210). For Italy, besides Hodgkin’s work (see above): Gregorovius, Geschichte der Stadt Rom im Mittelalter (translated into English by Mrs. Hamilton), Diehl, Etudes sur l’administration byzantine dans l’exarchat de Ravenna (1888); M. Hartmann, Untersuchungen zur Geschichte der byzant. Verwaltung in Italien (1889); J. Weise, Italien und die Langobarden-herrscher von 568 bis 628 (1887); C. Hegel, Geschichte der Städteverfassung von Italien (1847).

Special monographs have been mentioned in appropriate places in the notes and in the foregoing appendix.


The Avars having subdued the Uturgurs, Sabiri, and other Hunnic peoples between the Dnieper and Volga (Menander, fr. 5, p. 203, ed. Müller), and having either received the submission of1 or entered into friendly alliance with,2 Edition: current; Page: [420] the Kotrigurs, moved westward, and we find them attacking Austrasia, and fighting on the Elbe, in ad 562 (see above, p. 5). The subjugation of the Antae3 (ad 560?) was evidently a stage on this march westward. It is clear that their incursions into Frank territory were not made from such a distant basis as south-eastern Russia, the banks of the Dnieper or Don; and it is also certain that they had not reached their ultimate home in Hungary before ad 562 or even before ad 566, for Hungary was at this time occupied by Lombards and Gepids. The question arises: Where were the Avars settled in the intermediate years between their triumphs on the Don and the Dnieper (ad 559-60), and their occupation of Hungary (ad 567)? Whence did they go forth twice against the Austrasian kingdom (ad 562, and 566)? whence did they send the embassy which was rudely received by Justin (ad 565)? whence did they go forth to destroy the Gepids? The statement of the Avar ambassador in Corippus (3,300): —

  • nunc ripas Scythici victor rex contigit Istri
  • densaque per latos figens tentoria campos, &c.,

might seem to prove that the Avars had advanced along the shores of the Pontus and stationed themselves in Wallachia. In that case they would have entered Dacia by the passes of Rothenthurm and Buza, and attacked the Gepids on that side. But Schafarik4 has made it highly probable that they entered Upper Hungary from Galicia, through the passes of Dukla. His arguments are: (1) the Slavs of Dacia and the Lower Danube were independent until ad 581-4, when they were reduced to submission by the Avars; (2) the assumption of an advance through Galicia will explain the reduction of the Dudleby, in Volhynia. The record of this event is preserved only in the Russian Chronicle of Nestor (so called) but there seems no reason not to accept it as a genuine tradition. The passage is as follows (c. 8, ed. Miklosich, p. 6): —

“These Obrs made war on the Slavs, and conquered the Duljebs, who are Slavs, and did violence to the Duljeb women. When an Obr wished to go anywhere, he did not harness a horse or an ox, but ordered three or four women to be harnessed to his carriage, to draw the Obr; and so they vexed the Duljebs.”

The chronicler places this episode in the reign of Heraclius. But Schafarik plausibly argues that it belongs to a much earlier period, before the invasion of Hungary.

To these arguments I may add another. (3) The invasions of Austrasia almost demand more northerly headquarters for the Avars, than Wallachia. Nor does the passage of Corippus contradict the assumption that the Avar nation was settled in Galicia, or thereabouts, in ad 565. For the passage need imply only that an armed contingent had accompanied the embassy, through Moldavia, to the banks of the Danube, and pitched their tents there to await the return of the envoys.

On the whole therefore it seems probable that the Avars in their westward advance followed an inland route from the Dnieper to the Upper Bug (through the Government of Kiev, and Podolia), not coming into hostile contact with the Bulgarians who were between the Dnieper and the Danube (in the Government of Cherson, in Bessarabia and Wallachia).

In regard to the extent of the Avar Empire, after the conquest of Hungary, we must of course distinguish between the settlements of the Avars themselves, Edition: current; Page: [421] and the territories which acknowledged the lordship of the Chagan. The Avar settlements were entirely in the old Jazygia, between the Theiss and the Danube, where they dispossessed the Gepids, and in Pannonia, where they succeeded to the inheritance of the Lombards.5 These regions, which correspond to Hungary, were Avaria in the strict sense. But the Chagan extended his power over the Slavonic tribes to the north and east. It is generally agreed that his sway reached into Central Europe and was acknowledged in Bohemia, Moravia, Galicia; but it seems an improbable exaggeration to say that it was bounded on the north by the Baltic.6 Baian also subjugated, at least temporarily, the Slavs of Wallachia and Moldavia, but I doubt much whether his dominion extended in any sense over the Bulgarians of Southern Russia. We find Bulgarians apparently in his service; but, as Bulgarian settlements were probably scattered from the Danube to the Dnieper, we can draw from this fact no conclusion as to the extent of the Avar empire.


The following table will explain the divisions of Italy between the Empire and the Lombards about ad 600.

Italy in ad 600
IMPERIAL. — (1) North: — Maritime Liguria; Cremona, Placentia, Vulturina, Mantua, Mons Silicis, Patavium, Brixellum; Venetian Coast; Concordia, Opitergium, Altinum (Mutina, Parma, Rhegium?); Ravenna and the Aemilia; Pentapolis ( = Ariminum, Pisaurum, Fanum, Senegallia, Ancona); the inland Pentapolis (Aesis, Forum Semproni, Urbinum, Callis, Eugubium); Auximum.
(2) Central: — Picenum (coastland south of Ancona, including Firmum, Castrum Truentinum, Castrum Novum); Ortona (farther south on Adriatic coast), Perusia; Rome and the ducatus Romae, from Urbs Vetus (Orvieto) in north to Gaieta and Formiae in south.
(3) South: — Part of Campania (including Naples, Salernum, Amalphi, Surrentum, Castrum Cumanum, Puteoli), farther south, Acropolis and Paestum; Bruttii, Calabria; Barium; Sipontum.
(4) Islands: — Sicily with neighbouring islets; Elba. Corsica and Sardinia belonged to the Exarchate of Africa.
FRANK.Augusta Praetoria (Aosta) and its valley: Segusia or Seusia (Susa) and its valley. These small regions belonged to Burgundia (kingdom of Guntram) c. ad 588 (cp. Hodgkin, Italy and her Invaders, v. 223) and probably remained Frankish for some time.
LOMBARD. —The rest.
Edition: current; Page: [422]

The following table exhibits chronologically the progress of Lombard Conquest (so far as it can be discovered from our meagre data) from the first invasion to the reign of Rothari.

Lombard Conquests
ad 568 Forum Julii, Vincentia, Verona; all Venetia (except the coast, Patavium, Mons Silicis, Mantua).
ad 569 Liguria, including Mediolanum (except the Maritime Coast, and Ticinum = Pavia). Also Cisalpine Gaul, except Cremona and some smaller places.
ad 570-572 Central and Southern Italy partially conquered, including Tuscany and the duchies of Spoletium and Beneventum.
ad 572 Ticinum (after a three years’ siege); possibly Mantua and Placentia.
ad 579 Classis (but lost ad 588; recovered and surrendered, c. 720; taken by Liutprand, c. 725).
ad 588 Insula Comacina (in L. Como).
ad 590 (Lost Mantua, Placentia, Mutina, Parma, Rhegium, Altinum).
ad 592 Suana (in Tuscany).
ad 601 Patavium.
ad 602 Mons Silicis.
ad 603 Cremona, Mantua (and perhaps about this time most of the other places which the Empire recovered, c. 590), Vulturina (near Brixellum).
ad 605 Urbs Vetus, Balneus Regis (= Bagnorea).
Before ad 640 Concordia.
Before ad 642 (?) Sipontum.
ad 640 Maritime Liguria, Altinum, Opitergium.

These tables depend mainly on the notices in Paul’s History of the Lombards and on the notitia of George the Cypriote (ed. Gelzer).


Up to the time of Justinian there were two provinces entitled Armenia, forming part of the Pontic Diocese.

Justinian in ad 536 redistributed these districts, creating four provinces of Armenia, which were formed partly out of the two old provinces, partly out of Pontus Polemoniacus, and partly of new territory which had hitherto lain outside the provincial system.1

(1) First Armenia = part of old First Armenia (Theodosiopolis, Colonea, Satala, Nicopolis) + part of Pontus Polemoniacus (Trapezus and Cerasus).

(2) Second Armenia = rest of old First Armenia + part of Pontus Polemoniacus (Comana, Zela and Brisa).

(3) Third Armenia = old Second Armenia.

(4) Fourth Armenia = Sophanene, district beyond Euphrates, east of Third Armenia (capital, Martyropolis).2

Edition: current; Page: [423]

The rest of Pontus Polemoniacus was united with the old Helenopontus to form a new Helenopontus under a governor with the title of moderator. Similarly Honorias and the old Paphlagonia were united into a new Paphlagonia under a praetor.

The Armenian provinces were reorganised and the nomenclature changed by Maurice, in consequence of the cessions made by Chosroes II. on his accession.

(1) Maurice’s First Armenia = Justinian’s Third Armenia.

(2) Maurice’s Second Armenia = Justinian’s Second Armenia.

(3) Maurice’s Great Armenia = Justinian’s First Armenia.3

(4) Maurice’s Fourth includes the districts of Sophene, Digisene, Anzitene, Orzianine, Muzuron.

(5) Maurice’s Mesopotamia includes Justinian’s Fourth Armenia + Arzanene.

See the Descriptio of George the Cypriote (c. 600 ad), ed. Gelzer, p. 46-49, and Gelzer’s preface, p. l. and p. lix.-lxi., where the notices of Armenian writers are reviewed. The territories handed over to Maurice by Chosroes were (1) Arzanene and the northern part of Mesopotamia (including Daras) as far as Nisibis, and (2) part of Armenia, as far as Dovin. The former districts were added to Justinian’s Fourth Armenia, and the whole province named Mesopotamia; the latter were formed into a new Fourth Armenia. Thus the cities of Nisibis in the south, and Dovin in the north, were just outside the Roman frontiers.


The story of the friendly race for empire between Heraclius and Nicetas did not awaken the scepticism of Gibbon. It rests on the authority of Nicephorus (p. 3, ed. de Boor) and Theophanes (sub ann. 6101, p. 297, ed. de Boor), who doubtless derived it from the same source. On political grounds, the story seems improbable, but the geographical implications compel us to reject it as a legend. The story requires us to believe that Nicetas, starting from Carthage at the same time as Heraclius and marching overland, had the smallest chance of reaching Constantinople before his competitor’s fleet.

There can be no doubt, I think, that the elevation of Nicetas was not contemplated by the two fathers — if it were not as an “understudy” to Heraclius in case anything befell him. The part assigned to Nicetas in the enterprise was not to race Heraclius, but to occupy Egypt, and then to support Heraclius so far as was necessary; and doubtless Nicetas started to perform his work before Heraclius put forth to sea. The possession of Egypt, the granary of the Empire, was of the utmost importance for a pretender to the throne; and its occupation was probably the first care of the African generals.

In this connection it seems to me that a notice of Sebaeos deserves attention. This historian states that “the general Heraclius revolted against Phocas, with his army, in the regions of Alexandria, and wresting Egypt from him reigned therein” (c. 21, p. 79-80 in Patkanian’s Russ. tr.); and the order of his narrative seems to place this event considerably before the overthrow of Phocas. The statement of course is not strictly correct; Sebaeos himself probably did not distinguish the elder from the younger Heraclius; but the fact that Egypt Edition: current; Page: [424] was occupied (by Nicetas) at the instance of the elder Heraclius, seems to be preserved in this notice, uncontaminated by the legend of the race for the diadem.


(See Nöldeke, Tabari, p. 433-5)
Chosroes I. Anōsharvān succeeds ad 531, Sept. 13.
Hormizd IV. succeeds ad 579, Febr.
Chosroes II. Parvēz succeeds ad 590, summer.
Chosroes II. Parvēz dies ad 628, Febr.
[Bahrām VI. succeeds ad 590, autumn.]
Kobad (Kavādh) II. (Shērōe) succeeds ad 628, Febr. 25.
Ardashīr III. succeeds ad 628, Sept.
Shahrbarāz succeeds ad 630, April 27.
Bōrān (queen) succeeds ad 630, summer.
Pērōz II. succeeds ad 631.
Azarmidocht succeeds ad 631 (?).
Hormizd V. succeeds ad 631.
Yezdegerd III. succeeds ad 632-3.
Yezdegerd III. dies ad 651-2.


Gibbon showed his critical perspicacity when he accepted as genuine the famous Nestorian inscription of Si-ngan-fu, which was rejected by the scepticism of Voltaire and has been more recently denounced as a forgery by Stanislas Julien, Renan, and others. All competent specialists, both European and Chinese, now recognise it as a genuine document of the eighth century; and indeed it is impossible to believe that Alvarez Semedo, the Jesuit missionary who first announced the discovery of the stone, or any one else in the seventeenth century, could have composed this remarkable text. The stone was found at Si-ngan-fu, the old capital of the Tang dynasty, in ad 1623 or 1625. The Chinese inscription is surmounted by a cross (of the Maltese shape). Besides the Chinese text, there are some lines of Syriac at the side and at the foot; and the seventy signatures are given in both idioms. The first attempts at translation were those of Athanasius Kircher in his works entitled: “Prodromus Coptus” (1636) and “China illustrata” (1667); and of Father Semedo.1 There have been several improved translations in the present century. For the following summary, the versions of Huc (Le Christianisme en Chine, en Tartarie et au Thibet, two vols., 1857; in vol. i. chap. 2, p. 52 sqq.); A. Wylie (in the Journal of the American Oriental Society, vol. v. p. 277 sqq., 1856); J. Legge (in Christianity in China, 1888); and, above all, of MM. Lamy and Gueluy (Le monument chrétien de Si-ngan-fou, 1897) have been used. See also Pauthier, L’inscription Syro-Chinoise, and the summaries in Colonel Yule’s Cathay, vol. i. p. xcii. sqq. and in Mr. Raymond Beazley’s Dawn of Modern Geography, p. 169 sqq.

The title at the head of the inscription is: —

“Stone-tablet touching the propagation of the luminous religion of Ta-tsin Edition: current; Page: [425] in the Middle Empire, with a preface; composed by King-tsing, a monk of the temple of Ta-tsin.”

The Chinese text may be divided into two parts: an exposition of the doctrines of Christianity, and an historical account of the introduction of the religion into China and its propagation there.

1. The nature of the divine Being — the admirable person of the Trinity, the absolute lord, Oloho [i.e. Eloha, Syriac for God] — is set forth; then the work of Sa-tan in propagating heresies, whereof the tale is three hundred and sixty-five; and then the coming of the Mi-chi-lo [Messiah], who is the “other himself of the Trinity,”2 born of a virgin in Ta-tsin [Syria] through the influence of the Holy Spirit.

2. In the days of the Emperor Tai-tsung, there came from Ta-tsin the Most virtuous Alopen (or Olopan),3 who was clothed with the qualities of the blue clouds,4 and possessed the true sacred books. In ad 635 he arrived at Chang-ngan [i.e. Si-ngan-fu]. The Emperor sent his chief minister, Fang-Huen-Ling, who conducted the western guest into the palace. The sacred books which the missionary brought were translated in the Imperial library; and the sovereign gave orders for the diffusion of the doctrine, by which he was deeply impressed. In ad 638 he issued a proclamation to the following effect: —

“Religion has no invariable name, religious observances have no invariable rites; doctrines are established in accordance with the country. Alopen, of the kingdom of Ta-tsin, has brought his sacred books and images from that distant part, and has presented them at our court. Having examined the principles of this religion, we find its object to be the admirable Empyrean and its mysterious action; investigating its original source, we find it expresses the sum of the perfect life.” The Emperor then applies to the new doctrine a quotation from a Chinese classic; and concludes with the command that a Syrian Church should be built in the capital, at E-Ning-fang, and be governed by twenty-one priests.

Then follows a description of Ta-tsin or the Roman Empire, thus given by Hirth:5

“According to the Hsi-yü-t‘u-chi and the historical records of the Hun and Wei dynasties, the country of Ta-ts‘in begins in the south at the Coral Sea [Red Sea], and extends in the north to the Chung-pan-shan [hills of precious stones]; it looks in the west to the ‘region of the immortals’ and ‘the flowery groves’;6 in the east it bounds on ‘the long winds’ and ‘the weak water.’7 This country produces fire-proof cloth, the life-restoring incense; the ming-yüeh-chu [moonshine pearl]; and the yeh-kuang-pi [jewel that shines at night].8 Robberies are unknown there, and the people enjoy peace and happiness. Only the king [‘luminous’ = Christian] religion is practised; Edition: current; Page: [426] only virtuous rulers occupy the throne. This country is vast in extent; its literature is flourishing.”9

There is a panegyric of the Roman Empire!

The Emperor Kao-tsung (650-683) succeeded and was still more beneficent towards Christianity. Every city was full of churches. Then “in ad 699 the Buddhists [the children of Che] gaining power raised their voices in the eastern metropolis”; and in ad 713 there was an agitation of Confucianists against Christianity in the western capital. The religion revived under Hiwan-tsung (714-755); the “image of perfection of the five” (which M. Gueluy explains as the quintessence of absolute power) was placed in the church (ad 742). This Emperor established a convent called the Palace of Progress, in which the monks of Ta-tsin were confounded with other ascetics. The patronage of Christianity by the succeeding emperors, Su-tsung (756-762), Tai-tsung (763-777), and Kien-chung (780-783) is then described, and the minister Izdbuzid, governor of a district in Kan-su, who was gracious to the Church although a Buddhist.

After this, follows a metrical summary of the purport of the inscription, and then the date of the inscription: “This stone was erected in the second year of Kien-chung of the great Tang dynasty, in the Tso-yo of the cycle of years, in the month Tai-tsu, on the seventh day [i.e. Sunday], the day of the great Hosannas.” The Sunday of the Great Hosannas meant, in the language of eastern Christians, Palm Sunday; and thus the date is precisely fixed to ad 781, April 8.10 The name of Ning-chu, i.e. Hanan Jesus the Catholic patriarch of the Nestorians, is added, and the name of the scribe who drew up the document.

On the left of the monument are two lines of Syriac, which run: —

“In the days of the father of fathers, Mar Hanan Jesus [John Joshua], Catholic patriarch;

Adam, priest and chorepiscopos and papashi of Tzinistan [China].”

There is another Syriac inscription at the foot: —

“In the year 1092 of the Greeks, Mar Izdbuzid,11 Priest and chorepiscopos of Kumdan [that is, Si-ngan-fu], the royal city, son of Milis [Meletius] of blessed memory, priest of Balkh, city of Tokharistan, erected this tablet of stone, where is inscribed the life of our Saviour and the preaching of our fathers to the king of the Chinese.”

There follow the names of signatories in Syriac and Chinese.

Hanan Jesus was the Catholic Patriarch of the Nestorian Church from 775 to 780, as Lamy has proved from the Syrian historian, Elias of Nisibis. His successor Timotheus was appointed on April 11, 780, so that he was dead a year before the erection of the Chinese inscription. Thus a year had elapsed, and the news of his death had not yet reached Si-ngan-fu from Seleucia: a fact which shows at what rate news travelled then in central Asia. Catholic Patriarch was the title of the chief of the Nestorians since the end of the 6th century; in the 5th century the title had been simply Catholic.12

The stone of Si-ngan-fu is supposed to have been buried about ad 845, when Wu-tsung issued an edict, aimed at Buddhist and other monks, enjoining the destruction of monasteries, and commanding foreigners who had come from Muhupa13 or from Ta-tsin to cease corrupting China and return to secular life. In the following century Christianity was almost extinct in China.

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The extant letter of Nicetius, Bishop of Trèves, to Justinian, of which Gibbon translates a passage, has been generally explained as referring to the Aphthartodocetic heresy which the emperor adopted shortly before the close of his reign. The meaning of the letter I must leave to theologians; but, without venturing to intrude on subtleties which, to adopt Gibbon’s phrase, must be retained in the memory rather than in the understanding, I may express my opinion that there is much force in the view of Rev. W. H. Hutton, who argues in his Lectures on the Church in the Sixth Century (1897), that the letter does not seem to touch upon the incorruptibility of Christ’s body, but to be concerned with some other heresy.

Mr. Hutton maintains a theory (which had been promulgated by Crackanthorpe at the beginning of the seventeenth century, and controverted by Hody towards the end of the same century), that Justinian never fell into the Aphthartodocetic heresy. He is compelled to reject the distinct evidence of contemporary writers (cp. above, p. 177, n. 101); and he rests his case, which he has defended with great ability, on the high character for orthodoxy borne by Justinian and his theological learning, and on the fact that his memory was not condemned by the Church. But the direct evidence is too strong, whatever opinion be held either of the sincerity of Justinian in theological matters, or as to the psychological probability of a theologian of seventy or eighty years of age lapsing into a christological heresy. As the edict was never issued, the Church was not called on to condemn him.

9.: PERIODS OF THE LATER EMPIRE, ad 610 TO ad 1204 — (Ch. XLVIII.)

Many readers of the xlviiith chapter, having travelled over the long series of the later Emperors through a period of six hundred years, may come away with a bewildered feeling of having seen much and distinguished little, and with a conviction that it would require an arduous effort of the memory to retain the succession of the princes and the association of each with his own acts. The memory, however, will find the task considerably alleviated, when the whole period is divided into certain lesser periods into which it naturally falls; and it might have been well if Gibbon had added to his lucid exposition of the plan of his own work (in the introduction to this chapter) a brief survey of the six hundred years, according to its divisions. These divisions roughly correspond to dynasties.

(1) Heraclian Dynasty. Seventh century. ad 610-717.

In this period the Empire declines in power, and the boundaries retreat, through the encroachments of the Saracen and Slavonic invaders. It ends with twenty years of anarchy (ad 695-717): Justinian II. being overthrown; followed by two tyrants; restored again to power; killed; and followed by three tyrants.

(2) Iconoclastic Period. Eighth and ninth centuries. ad 717-867.

This is the period of revival The territorial extent of the Empire is still further reduced, but, within its diminished borders, between the Haemus and the Taurus, it is consolidated and renovated. This is mainly the work of the two great Emperors Leo III. and his son Constantine V. (717-775). On the principle of dynastic division, this period falls into three parts: —

(a) Syrian (commonly called Isaurian) Dynasty. ad 717-802.

(b) Three Emperors who did not found dynasties. ad 802-820.

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(c) Amorian Dynasty. ad 820-867.

But it may be more usefully divided into two parts, representing the two triumphs and defeats of iconoclasm.

(a) ad 717-813. Doctrine of iconoclasm established under the first three Emperors (717-780); reaction against it, and restoration of images, under Irene and Constantine (780-802).

The following Emperor (Nicephorus) is indifferent, and his successor (Michael I.) is an image-worshipper.

(b) ad 813-867. Iconoclasm re-established by three Emperors (813-842); reaction against it, and restoration of images, under Theodora and Michael III. (842-867). Thus the history of iconoclasm in the ninth century is a replica of its history in the eighth; and observe that in both cases the reaction was carried out under a female sovereign.

(3) Basilian, or Armenian (“Macedonian”), Dynasty. ad 867-1057.

This period is marked by a reaction against the policy of the Iconoclasts (cp. Appendix 10), and by a remarkable territorial expansion, rendered possible by the consolidation which had been the work of the great Iconoclasts. We may conveniently distinguish three sub-periods: (a) ad 867-959, marked by great legislative activity, and some attempts to recover lost provinces — successful only in Italy; (b) ad 959-1025, marked by large acquisitions of long-lost territory, both in Asia and Europe; (c) ad 1025-1057, stationary.

The succession of these three periods of decline, renovation, and expansion, is illustrated by an exact parallel in the succession of three corresponding but shorter periods, in the fifth and sixth centuries. There we see the decline and territorial diminution of the Empire, in the reigns of Arcadius and Theodosius II., under the stress of the Gothic and Hunnic invasions; the renovation, with financial retrenchment, under Zeno and Anastasius; the brilliant territorial expansion, under Justinian, rendered possible by the careful policy of his predecessors. It is also remarkable that the third period in both cycles is marked by great legislative activity. Further, the last part of the Basilian period (ad 1025-1057) corresponds to the reigns of Justin II., Tiberius II., and Maurice.

(4) Comnenian Dynasty. ad 1057-1204.

At the very beginning of this period, the Empire, undermined by centuries of a pernicious economic system and strained to the utmost by the ambitious policy of the Basilian period, yields to the invasion of the Seljuk Turks and loses territory which it had never lost before. A series of able, nay, brilliant, princes preserve the fabric for another century and a quarter; but, when it passes into the hands of the incapable Angeli, it collapses at the first touch (ad 1204).

This period of decline, following on the period of expansion, corresponds to the earlier period of decline in the 7th century, following on the expansion of the 6th. The Persian invasion under Phocas and Heraclius corresponds to the Seljuk invasion under Romanus Diogenes; while Heraclius, Constans II., and Constantine IV. correspond to Alexius, John, and Manuel: we have even a parallel to the wayward Justinian II. in the wayward Andronicus.

The two cycles might be presented thus: —

Revival: Second half of 5th century. 8th century.
Expansion: 6th century. 9th-11th century.
Decline: 7th century. 11th-12th century.
Result: Anarchy, c. ad 700. Fall, c. ad 1200.
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From the year ad 726 to the year ad 774 there is a consistent inconsistency in the dates of the chronicle of Theophanes. The Anni Mundi and the Indictions do not correspond. Thus a.m. 6220 is equated with Ind. 12; but while a.m. 6220 answers to ad 727-8, Ind. 12 should answer to ad 728-9. It has been generally assumed that the Indications are right and the Anni Mundi wrong; and the received chronology (of Baronius, Pagi, Gibbon, Lebeau, Muralt, Finlay, Hopf, &c. &c.) is based on this assumption. But it was pointed out (Bury, Later Roman Empire, ii. 425-7) that the anomaly was not due to an error of Theophanes (of the same kind as that which he perpetrated in his annals of the preceding century, see above, Appendix 1), since a contemporary document (the Ecloga of Leo and Constantine) presents the same inconsistency; and that we must infer that the Anni Mundi are right and the Indictions wrong. For, while the Anni Mundi represented a chronological system based on historical data, with which the government could not conceivably have tampered, the Indictions were part of a financial system which might be manipulated by the Emperor. The conclusion was drawn (Bury, ib.) that Leo III. had packed two indictions into one year of twelve months, for the purpose of raising a double capitation tax; and that, nearly fifty years later, Constantine V. spread one indiction over two years of twelve months (ad 772-4), so restoring the correspondence between Anni Mundi and Indictions according to the previous method of computation. This reasoning was confirmed especially by one fact (Bury, op. cit. p. 426) — the eclipse of the sun noticed by Theophanes under a.m. 6252, on Friday, Aug. 15, clearly the annular eclipse of ad 760 on that day of the month and week. The received chronology would imply that the eclipse took place in ad 761, Aug. 15; but astronomy assures us that there was no eclipse on that day, nor was that day Friday.

It follows that the dates of forty-seven years in the 8th century (from 726-7 to 773-4) are a year wrong. Thus Leo III. died, not in 741, but in 740; the Iconoclastic Synod was held, not in 754, but in 753.

These conclusions have been recently confirmed and developed by M. H. Hubert (Chronologie de Théophane, in Byz. Zeitschrift, vi. p. 491 sqq., 1897), who has gone through the Papal acts and letters of the period. He points out two important consequences of the revised dating. While the Iconoclastic Council of Constantinople was sitting, there were deputies of the Pope in that city, — though not necessarily as his representatives at the Council. More important still is the circumstance that the Council preceded the journey of Pope Stephen II. (in 754) to the court of Pippin and the famous compact which he concluded with the Frank king at Quiersy. The Council would thus appear to be the event which definitely decided the secession of Rome from the Empire.

(The chronological question dealt with in this Appendix has been since discussed by Mr. E. W. Brooks [in Byzantinische Zeitschrift, viii. p. 82 sqq., 1899; The Chronology of Theophanes, 607-775], who arrives at the conclusion that Theophanes has used two different schemes of chronology, and in the period under discussion dates sometimes by the one, sometimes by the other.)

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11.: GRÆCO-ROMAN LAW — (P. 261)

The general history of Byzantine law, from Justinian to the fall of the Empire, may be grouped under two epochs easily remembered: the attempt of the first Iconoclastic Emperors to legislate on new Christian principles, and the return to the Roman principles of the Justinianean law by the first “Macedonian” sovereigns.

A word must first be said of the substitution of the Greek for the Latin language in the domain of law. The great legal works of the Illyrian Justinian were composed in Latin, his native tongue. But the fact that to the greater part of the Empire ruled by him, and a still greater part of the Empire ruled by his successors, Latin was unintelligible, rendered a change of vehicle simply inevitable. The work of transformation began in his own reign. He issued most of his later laws (the Novels) in Greek, and in Novel 7 (15, ed. Zach.) expressly recognises the necessity of using “the common Greek tongue”; Theophilus prepared a Greek paraphrase of the Institutes; and Dorotheus translated the Digest. The Code was also, immediately after its publication in Latin, issued (perhaps incompletely) in a Greek form.1 After Justinian’s time the study of legal texts in Latin seems, at Constantinople and in the Greek part of the Empire, to have soon ceased altogether.

In the troubles of the 7th century the study of law, like many other things, declined; and in the practical administration of justice the prescriptions of the Code and Digest were often ignored, or modified by the alien precepts of Christianity. The religion of the Empire had exerted but very slight influence — no fundamental influence, we may say — on the Justinianean law. Leo III., the founder of the Syrian (vulgarly called Isaurian) dynasty, when he restored the Empire after a generation of anarchy, saw the necessity of legislation to meet the changed circumstances of the time. The settlements of foreigners — Slavs and Mardaites — in the provinces of the Empire created an agrarian question, which he dealt with in his Agrarian Code. The increase of Slavonic and Saracenic piracy demanded increased securities for maritime trade, and this was dealt with in a Navigation Code. But it was not only for special relations that Leo made laws; he legislated also, and in an entirely new way, for the general relations of life. He issued a law book (in ad 740 in the name of himself and his son Constantine), which changed and modified the Roman law, as it had been fixed by Justinian. This Ecloga, as it is called, may be described as a Christian law book. It is a deliberate attempt to change the legal system of the Empire by an application of Christian principles. Examples, to illustrate its tendency, will be given below.

The horror, in which the Iconoclasts were held on account of their heresy by the image-worshippers, cast discredit upon all their works. This feeling had something to do with the great reaction, which was inaugurated by Basil I., against their legal reforms. The Christian Code of Leo prevailed in the empire for less than a century and a half; and then, under the auspices of Basil, the Roman law of Justininan was (partially) restored. In legal activity the Basilian epoch faintly reflected the epoch of Justinian itself. A handbook of extracts from the Institutes, Digest, Code, and Novels was published in ad 879, entitled the Prochiron (or ὀ πρόχειρος νόμος), to diffuse a knowledge of the forgotten system. But the great achievement of the Basilian epoch is the Basilica — begun under Basil, completed under Leo VI. — a huge collection of all the laws of the Empire, not only those still valid, but Edition: current; Page: [431] those which had become obsolete. It seems that two commissions of experts were appointed to prepare the material for this work. One of these commissions compiled the Prochiron by the way, and planned out the Basilica in sixty Books. The other commission also prepared a handbook, called the Epanagoge, which was never actually published (though a sketch of the work is extant), and planned out the Basilica in forty Books. The Basilica, as actually published, are arranged in sixty Books, compiled from the materials prepared by both commissions.

The Basilian revival of Justinianean law was permanent; and it is oustide our purpose to follow the history further, except to note the importance of the foundation of a school of law at Constantinople in the 11th century by the Emperor Constantine IX. The law enacting the institution of this school, under the direction of a salaried Nomophylax, is extant.2 John Xiphilin (see above) was the first director. This foundation may have possibly had some influence on the institution of the school at Bologna half a century later.

To illustrate the spirit of the legislation of Leo III., an attempt to reconcile the discrepancies between civil and canonical law, we may glance at his enactments as to marriage, the patria potestas, and the guardianship of minors.

In the law of Justinian marriage had by no means the sacrosanct character which the Church assigned to it. Like all contracts, it could easily be dissolved at the pleasure of the contractors, and concubinage was legally recognised. The Ecloga enacted that a concubinate should be regarded as a marriage, thus legally abolishing the relation; and in this matter the Macedonian Emperors maintained the principle of the Iconoclasts; Leo VI. expressly asserting (Nov. 89) that there is no half-way state between the married and the unmarried.

Roman law had defined a number of hindrances to the contraction of marriage. The tendency of the Church, which regarded marriage as not an admirable thing in itself but only a concession to weakness, was to multiply hindrances. Justinian had forbidden marriages between Christians and Jews; the Ecloga recognises only marriages of Christians (and orthodox Christians are meant).3 But the chief obstacles lay in degrees of relationship. Justinian’s Code forbade marriage between blood relatives in the direct line of ascent and descent, between brothers and sisters, and between uncle and niece, nephew and aunt. The Trullan synod of 692 extended the prohibition to first cousins; the Ecloga went further and forbade the marriage of second cousins (δισεξάδελϕοι). These prohibitions were preserved by the Macedonian Emperors, and it was generally recognised that marriages within the 6th degree were illegal. It was even regarded as a question whether marriages in the 7th degree were permissible. They were forbidden by the Church in the 11th century, and this decision was confirmed by the Emperor Manuel. A similar progress in strictness can be traced in the case of relationships by adoption, by marriage, and by baptismal sponsorship.

In Justinian’s law “consent” was enough for the legal contraction of a marriage, and further forms were necessary only so far as the dowry was concerned. But under the ecclesiastical influence need was felt of giving greater solemnity and publicity to the marriage contract, and the Iconoclasts prescribed a written form of contract to be filled up and signed by three witnesses, but permitted this to be dispensed with by very poor people, for whom it would be enough to obtain the blessing of the Church (εὐλογία) or join Edition: current; Page: [432] hands in the presence of friends. The legislation of the Macedonian Emperors maintained the spirit (though not the words) of the Ecloga, in so far as it prescribed public marriages with penalties.

And, if the Church made the contraction of marriage more solemn, it made divorce more difficult. It was here that there was the most striking opposition between the law of the Church and of the State, and here the tendency of the Iconoclastic legislation is most strikingly shown. The Church regards marriage as an indissoluble bond, and for a divorced person to marry again is adultery. On the other hand, Roman law, as accepted and interpreted by Justinian, laid down that no bond between human beings was indissoluble, and that separation of husband and wife was a private act, requiring no judicial permission. And persons who had thus separated could marry again. The only concession that Justinian made in the direction of the ecclesiastical view was his ordinance that persons who separated without a valid reason should be shut up in monasterics, — a measure which effectually hindered them from contracting a new marriage. The spirit of the Ecloga is apparent in its full acceptance of the ecclesiastical doctrine in this point — the indissolubility of marriage. Divorce is permitted only in four cases, and this as a concession to the weakness and wickedness of human nature. The Basilian legislation returned to the Justinianean doctrine, and the antinomy between the canon and the civil law survives to the present day in Greece.

Another question arises when the dissolution of marriage is due to the hand of death; is it lawful for the survivor to enter again into the state of matrimony? More than once this question assumed political significance in the course of Imperial history. The Church always looked upon the marriage of widowers or widows as reprehensible, founding her doctrine on the well-known prescriptions of St. Paul, in 1 Corinthians, chap. vii. A second marriage might be tolerated, but a third was distinctly unlawful, and a fourth — swinishness (so Gregory Nazianzen; see Zachariä, Gr.-rom. Recht, p. 82, note 200). The civil law recognised no such restrictions, and only interfered so far as to protect the interests of the children of the first marriage. But here the ecclesiastical view gained ground. The Ecloga affects not to consider a third marriage conceivable; the Empress Irene distinctly forbade a third marriage. Basil contented himself with recognising the ecclesiastical penalties imposed on persons guilty of a third marriage, but declared a fourth illegal. His son Leo committed this illegality (see above, p. 263); but after Leo’s death the “act of unity” (τόμος τη̂ς ἐνώσεως) of the synod of ad 920 confirmed the ordinance of Basil, with the additional restriction that a third marriage of a person who had children and was over forty years of age was illegal.

The influence of the ecclesiastical view of marriage as a consortium vitae can be seen too in the treatment of the property of the married partners. In the Justinianean law, the principle of the elaborate prescriptions for the property of the wife and the husband, for the dos and the propter nuptias donatio, is the independence and distinction of the property of each. The leading idea of the system developed in the Ecloga is the community of property in marriage, — the equal right of each partner to the common stock, however great the disproportion may have been before the contributions of each. Basil returned to the Justinianean system, but the doctrine of the Ecloga seems to have so firmly established itself in custom that Leo VI. found it necessary to make a compromise, and introduced a new system, which was a mixture of the Iconoclastic and the Justinianean doctrines.

The patria potestas still holds an important place in the Justinianean law, although the rights which it gave the father over the children were small indeed Edition: current; Page: [433] compared with the absolute control which he had enjoyed in ancient times. The tendency was to diminish these rights and to modify the stern conception of patria potestas by substituting the conception of a natural guardianship; a change corresponding to the change (promoted by Christianity) in the conception of the family, as held together by the duties of affection rather than by legal obligations. The two most important points in the later transformation of the patria potestas were (1) its conversion into a parental potestas, the mother being recognised as having the same rights and duties as the father (thus her consent as well as the father’s is necessary for the contraction of a marriage); and (2) the increased facilities for emancipation when the child came to years of discretion; emancipation seems to have been effected by the act of setting up a separate establishment. These principles were established by the Iconoclasts; but Basil revived the Justinianean legislation. Here, however, as in many other cases, the letter of Basil’s law books was not fully adopted in practice, and was modified by a Novel of Leo VI. which restored partly the law of the Ecloga.

In respect to the guardianship of minors the tendency in the later civil law had been to supersede the tutela by the cura — the tutor who was appointed in the interests of the family by the curator appointed in the interests of the public. The office of guardian came to be regarded as a public office for the good of the ward. Yet the old distinction of cura and tutela still subsisted in the Justinianean law books, though in use it was practically obsolete. The Ecloga logically developed this tendency; here tutela does not appear at all, only cura (κουρατωρεία). And, as on the death of one parent the children were under the care of the surviving parent, there was no question of guardianship except in the case of orphans. The Ecloga provides — and here we see the ecclesiastical influence — that, when the parents have not designated a guardian, the guardianship of orphans is to devolve on ecclesiastical institutions (e.g. the ὀρϕανοτροϕεɩ̂ον at Constantinople), and to last until the wards marry or reach the age of twenty. Here again the Basilica returned to the Justinianean law.

These examples will give some idea of the general character of the development of Byzantine civil law. Two interesting points may be added in connection with the law of inheritance. Constantine VII. enacted4 that if any one died intestate and childless, only two thirds of his property went to relatives (or the fisc), the remaining third going to the Church for his soul’s benefit. The other point is the institution of testamentary executors, for so we may best translate the word ἐπίτροποι in its Byzantine use.5 The institution was but incompletely developed, and ultimately fell into disuse, but Zachariä remarks that Byzantine law was “on the highway to an institution similar to the English trustees, executors, and administrators.6

In criminal, as in civil law, the Iconoclastic legislators made striking innovations in the Justinianean system — sometimes entirely departing from it, sometimes developing tendencies which were already distinctly perceptible in the civil code of the 6th century. But, whereas in the case of the civil law the Basilian legislation was characterised as a return to the Justinianean system — a return sometimes complete, sometimes partial, but always tending to subvert, so far as possible, the Iconoclastic legislation, — it is quite Edition: current; Page: [434] otherwise in the case of the criminal law. Here, the system established by the Ecloga is retained in most cases, and sometimes developed further.

The criminal law of the Ecloga is very remarkable. It was intended to be, and professed to be, more humane than the old Roman law; but a modern reader is at first disposed to denounce it as horribly barbaric. Its distinguishing feature is the use of mutilation as a mode of punishment — a penalty unknown in Roman law. The principle of mutilation was founded on Holy Scripture (see St. Matthew, v. 29, 30: If thine eye offend thee, &c.). Since mutilation was generally ordained in cases where the penalty had formerly been death, the law-givers could certainly claim that their code was more lenient. The penalty of confiscation of property almost entirely disappears. The following table of penalties will exhibit the spirit of the Christian legislation: —

Perjury: amputation of the tongue (γλωσσοκοπεɩ̂σθαι).

High treason: death.

Theft: for the first offence: if solvent, payment of double the value of the thing stolen; if insolvent, flogging and banishment.

Theft: for the second offence: amputation of the hand.

Paederasty: death.

Bestiality: amputation of the offending member (καυλοκοπεɩ̂σθαι).

Fornication: —

  • (1) with persons within the forbidden degrees: amputation of the hand (for both);
  • (2) when the act involves a further wrong, e.g.:
    • (a) with a nun (a wrong being done thereby to the Church): amputation of the nose (for both);
    • (b) with a maiden: the man, if he refuses to marry her, pays a fine if he has property, but if he is penniless, is whipped, tonsured, and banished;
    • (c) if the maiden was betrothed to another: amputation of the nose;
    • (d) rape: amputation of the nose (and, if the victim was under thirteen years of age, the ravisher had to pay her half his property, besides losing his nose);
    • (e) of a man with a married woman: amputation of the nose (for both);
  • (3)
    • (a) of a married man with an unmarried woman: whipping;
    • (b) of an unmarried man with an unmarried woman: lighter whipping; but in these cases the women were not punished, according to the law of the Ecloga.

For murder the penalty was death. But, while the Justinianean law excluded murderers, ravishers, and adulterers from the asylum privileges secured to those who took refuge in churches, the Ecloga does not make this exception; and, though the enactments of the Basilica follow Justinian, practice seems in the meantime to have secured for murderers the right of asylum, which was definitely recognised by Constantine VII. A novel of this Emperor enacts that a murderer who takes refuge in a church shall do penance according to the canon law, shall then be banished for life from the place where the crime was perpetrated, shall become incapable of holding office; and, if the murder was committed with full premeditation, shall be tonsured and thrust into a monastery. His property shall be divided; one part going to the heirs of the murdered man, another to his own relatives, and in case he becomes a monk of his own free will, a portion shall be reserved for the monastic community which receives him.

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This enactment must have enabled most murderers to escape the capital penalty.

In general we can see that the tendency of the Ecloga was to avoid capital punishment so far as possible, and this tendency increased as time went on. Gibbon mentions the fact that under John Comnenus capital punishment was never inflicted (the authority is Nicetas); but this must not be interpreted in the sense that the death penalty was formally abolished, but rather taken as a striking illustration of the tendency of the Byzantine spirit in that direction. We may question whether this tendency was due so much to the growth of feelings of humanity as to ecclesiastical motives, namely the active maintenance of the asylum privileges of Christian sanctuaries, and the doctrine of repentance. The mutilation punishments at least are discordant with our notions of humane legislation. Zachariä von Lingenthal expresses his opinion that the cruelties practised in modern times in the Balkan peninsula are traceable to the effect produced by the practice of the criminal code of the Ecloga throughout the Middle Ages.

Finally it is worth while to observe in the Ecloga a democratic feature, which marks a real advance, in the interests of justice, on the Justinianean code. The Ecloga metes out the same penalties to poor and rich; whereas the older law had constantly ordained different punishments for the same offence, according to the rank and fortune of the offender.

[Zachariä von Lingenthal, op. cit., on which (ed. 3, 1892) the foregoing account has been mainly based. The same jurist’s Jus Græco-Romanum, pars 3, contains the extant laws of the Emperors after Justinian (1857). Mortreuil, Hist. du droit byzantin, 3 vols. 1843-7. W. E. Heimbach, Griechisch-römisches Recht, in Ersch and Gruber’s Enzyklopädie, part 86. The Ecloga was edited by Zachariä von Lingenthal in 1852; there is a more recent edition by Monferratus (1889). — His edition of the Basilica in 6 vols. (1833-70) is the opus magnum of W. E. Heimbach.]

12.: THE LAND QUESTION — (P. 265)

In order to comprehend the land question, which comes prominently before us in the 10th century, it is necessary to understand the various ways in which land was held and the legal status of those who cultivated it. The subject has been elucidated by Zachariä von Lingenthal; but the scantiness of our sources leaves much still to be explained.

We have, in the first place, the simple distinction of the peasant proprietors who cultivated their own land, and the peasants who worked on lands which did not belong to them.

(1) The peasant proprietors (χωρɩ̂ται) lived in village communities. The community, as a whole, was taxed, each member paying his proportion, but the community, and not the individual, being responsible to the state. To use technical expressions, the lands of such communities are ὀμόκηνσα, and the proprietors are consortes. If one peasant failed to pay his quota, the deficiency was made up by an ἐπιβολή or additional imposition upon each of the other proprietors. This system, invented for the convenience of the fisc, was never done away with; but its injurious effects in overburdening the land were observed, and it probably was not always strictly enforced. When a piece of land went out of cultivation owing to the incompetence or ill-luck of its proprietor, it bore very hard on his neighbours that their more successful economy should be burdened with an extra charge. We consequently find the Emperor Nicephorus censured for insisting upon this principle Edition: current; Page: [436] of “solidarity” — the ἀλληλέγγυον as it was called. It seems, although we have not very clear evidence on this point, that the principle was now extended so as to impose the additional tax on neighbouring farms, which did not belong to the ὁμόκηνσα. Basil II. certainly imposed the extra charge on the domains of large neighbouring proprietors, whose lands were quite independent of the village community; but this unpopular measure — part of that Emperor’s warfare against large estates — was repealed by Romanus III.

Under this system of solidarity, each member of the community was directly interested in the honesty and capacity of his neighbours, and could fairly claim some right to interfere for the purpose of hindering any farm from passing into the hands of a person incapable of making it yield enough to pay his quota of taxation. This claim was recognised by Constantine the Great, and afterwards distinctly affirmed in laws of the 5th century which forbade the sale or alienation of a farm to any one except a farmer of the same village (vicanus). When in later times the fiscal responsibility was laid not upon the vicus, but upon the neighbours of the defaulting farm, the neighbours obtained a right of pre-emption; and in the 10th century the rights of pre-emption were strictly defined by a Novel1 of Romanus I.

(2) Opposed to these groups of small farms and the peasant proprietors who cultivated them, were the large estates (ἰδιόστατα) of rich owners and the dependent coloni who tilled them. Many of these estates belonged to churches and abbeys; others were crown estates (part of the res privata, or the patrimonium, or the divina domus); others were owned by private persons. The peasants who worked on these estates were of two kinds: —

(a) Free tenants (μισθωτοί, liberi coloni), who cultivated their holdings at their own expense, paying a rent (whether in gold or kind) to the proprietor. At the end of thirty years of such tenure, the tenant (and his posterity) became bound to the land in perpetuity; he could not give up his farm, and on the other hand the proprietor could not eject him. But except for this restriction he had no disabilities, and could enter into ordinary legal relations with the proprietor, who had no claims upon his private property.

(b) The labourers (ἐναπόγραϕοι, adscriptitii) were freemen like the tenants, and (like the tenants of over thirty years) were “fixed to the clod.” But their indigence distinguished them from the tenants; they were taken in by a proprietor to labour on his estate, and became his serfs, receiving from him a dwelling and board for their services. Their freedom gave these labourers one or two not very valuable privileges which seemed to raise them above the rural slaves; but we sympathise with Justinian when he found it hard to see the difference between servi and adscriptitii.2 For good or bad, they were in their master’s power, and the only hold they had on him was the right of not being turned off from his estate. The difference between the rural slave and the serf, which secmed to Justinian microscopic, was gradually obliterated by the elevation of the former class to the dignity of the latter.

As to the origin of the adscriptitii, it seems to have been due to the financial policy of the Constantinian period, which aimed at allowing no man to abandon the state of life to which he or his father before him had been called.

Such were the agricultural classes in the 4th, 5th, and 6th centuries — peasant proprietors on one hand, and on the other the cultivators of great Edition: current; Page: [437] estates, whether tenants bound to the soil or serf-labourers. And these classes continued to exist till the latest age of the Empire. If the Iconoclastic reformers had had their way, perhaps the history of the agricultural classes would have been widely different. The abolition of the principle which the first Christian Emperor had adopted, of nailing men to the clod, was part of the programme which was carried out by the Iconoclast Emperors and reversed by their successors.

The storms of the 7th century, the invasions of Slavs and Saracens, had made considerable changes in the condition of the provincial lands. The Illyric peninsula had been in many parts occupied by Slavonic settlers; in many cases the dispossessed provincials had fled to other parts of the Empire; and Emperors had transferred whole populations from one place to another, to replenish deserted districts. These changes rendered a revision of the land laws imperative; and, when an able sovereign at length came to the throne, he set himself the task of regulating the conditions of agriculture. The Agricultural Code (νόμος γεωργικός) was issued either by Leo III. or by his son, who worked in the same spirit as the father; it consists chiefly of police provisions in regard to rural crimes and misdemeanours, but it presumes a state of things completely different from that which existed in the 6th century and existed again in the 10th. In this Code no man is nailed to the clod, and we hear nothing of serf-labourers (adscriptitii) or of services owed by freemen to landlords. We cannot ascribe this radical change, the abolition of what we may call serfdom, to any other sovereign than the reformer Leo III.

The Agricultural Code shows us peasant proprietors in their village communities as before; but it shows us, too, — and here we get a glimpse of the new settlements of the barbarians — communities which own the land in common, no member possessing a particular portion as his own.

As for tenants — now fully free, no longer bound to the soil, — of these there are two classes, according to the agreement made with the landlord. There are the tithe-rent tenants, μορτɩ̂ται, and the métayer tenants, ἡμισειασταί. The μορτίτης paid a tenth of the produce to the landlord, as rent for the land. The ἡμισειαστής worked his farm at the landlord’s expense, and the produce was divided equally between landlord and tenant. (Thus the ground rent = 1/10 of the yearly yield; the interest on capital = 4/10; and the labour = 5/10.) The μορτίτης, then, corresponds to the μισθωτός or “free colon” of the Justinianean code, and the ἡμισειαστής corresponds to the ἐναπόγραϕος, in respect of the condition of tenancy; with the important difference that neither μορτίτης nor ἡμισειαστής is bound to the soil.

The abolition of serfdom and service of the Iconoclastic reformers was by no means agreeable to the great landlords, secular or ecclesiastical. Rich lords and abbots made common cause against the new system; and when the reaction came in the second half of the 9th century Basil’s legislation restored the old order of things. The tenants3 were once more nailed to the soil. Among other things the landlords were not satisfied with the ground rent of 1/10, fixed in the Agricultural Code; it was insufficient, they said, to make the estate pay, when the taxation was allowed for.

The failure of the land reforms of Leo and Constantine, and the reversion to the old system, close the history of the tenants; but there still remains an important chapter in the history of the peasant proprietors. In the 10th century we find the large estates growing still larger at the expense of the small proprietors whose lands they absorb, and these small proprietors passing Edition: current; Page: [438] by degrees into the condition of tenants. This evil has been briefly touched upon in connection with Romanus I. and Tzimisces; see above, p. 265, n. 46, and p. 273, n. 57. The decline of the class of small farmers was due to two causes: the influence of the ascetic ideal and the defective economical conditions of the time.

The attraction of monastic life induced many proprietors to enter cloisters, and bestow their property on the communities which admitted them, or, if they were rich enough, to found new monastical or ecclesiastical institutions. The cultivation of the lands which thus passed to the church was thereby transferred from peasant proprietors to tenants.

The want of a sound credit system, due to the ignorance of political economy, and the consequent depression of trade, rendered land the only safe investment for capital; and the consequence of this was that landowners who possessed capital were always seeking to get more land into their hands. Hence they took every occasion that presented itself to induce their poor neighbours, who lived from hand to mouth and had no savings, to pledge or sell their land in a moment of need. The farmer who thus sold out would often become the tenant of the holding which had been his own property.

The increase of large estates was regarded by the government with suspicion and disapprobation.4 The campaign against the great landlords was begun by Romanus I. in ad 922, when, in the law (already mentioned) which fixed the order of pre-emption, he forbade the magnates (οὶ δυνατοί) to buy or receive any land from smaller folk, except in the case of relationship. It was also enacted that only after a possession of ten years could a property acquired in this way become permanently the property of the magnate. But a few years later the magnates had an unusually favourable opportunity and could not resist the temptation of using it. There was a long succession of bad harvests and cold winters (ad 927-932), which produced great distress throughout the country. The small farmers, brought to penury, standing on the brink of starvation, had no resource but to purchase bread for themselves and their families by making over their little farms to rich neighbours. For this was the only condition on which the magnates would give them credit. The distress of these years in the reign of Romanus formed an epoch in the history of peasant proprietorship. It was clear that the farmers who had pledged their land would have no chance of recovering themselves before the ten years, after which their land would be irreclaimable, had expired. The prospect was that the small farmer would wholly disappear, and Romanus attempted to forestall the catastrophe by direct legislation. His Novel of ad 934 (see above, p. 265) ordained that the unfair dealings with the peasants in the past years should be righted, and that for the future no such dealings should take place.

The succeeding Emperors followed up the policy of Romanus. They endeavoured to prevent the extinction of small farmers by prohibiting the rich from acquiring villages and farms from the poor, and even by prohibiting ecclesiastical institutions from receiving gifts of landed property. A series of seven laws5 on this subject shows what stubborn resistance was offered to the Imperial policy by the rich landlords whose interests were endangered. Though this legislation was never repealed, except so far as the Church was Edition: current; Page: [439] interested,6 and though it continued to be the law of the Empire, that the rich landlords should not acquire the lands of peasants, there is little doubt that the law was evaded, and that in the last ages of the Empire peasant farms were rare indeed. In the 11th century Asia Minor consisted chiefly of large domains.

It must be remembered that, though the formation of these large estates gave their proprietors wealth and power which rendered them dangerous subjects, they were formed not with the motive of acquiring political influence, but from the natural tendency of capital to seek the best mode of investment.

In studying the Imperial land legislation and the relations of landlord and tenant in South-eastern Europe and Asia Minor, it is of essential importance for a modern student to bear in mind two facts which powerfully affected that development in a manner which is almost inconceivable to those who are familiar with the land questions in modern states. These facts — both of which were due to the economical inexperience of ancient and mediaeval Europe — are: (1) the legislation was entirely based on fiscal considerations; the laws were directly aimed at filling the treasury with as little inconvenience and trouble as possible on the part of the state: the short-sighted policy of making the treasury full instead of making the Empire rich; (2) the lamentably defective credit-system of the Roman law, discouraging the investment of capital and rendering land almost the only safe speculation, reacted, as we have seen, in a peculiar way on the land question. Something more is said of this economical weakness in the later Empire in the following note.


1. The interest on a loan of money was fixed by the two parties to the transaction, but could not, according to a law of Justinian, exceed (a) in ordinary cases, 6 per cent. per annum, (b) when the lender was a person of illustrious rank, 4 per cent., (c) when the lender was a professional money-changer or merchant, 8 per cent., (d) when the money was to be employed in a transmarine speculation, 12 per cent. (nauticum fænus).

This system of interest was calculated on the basis of a division of the capital into 100 parts, and each part into 12 unciæ. The new coinage, introduced by Constantine, led to a change in the rate of interest, to the disadvantage of the borrower. Seventy-two nomismata were coined to a pound of gold, and 24 keratia went to each nomisma. The practice was introduced of calculating the annual interest by so many keratia to a nomisma, instead of the monthly interest by the fraction of the capital. Thus the old trientes (= ⅓ of 1/100 of the capital per month) = 4 per cent. per annum was replaced by 1 keration per 1 nomisma per annum = 4⅙ per cent. per annum. Similarly 6 per cent. became 6¼, 8 per cent. 8⅓.

In the 10th century the adjustment of the old unit of 100 to the new unit of 72 went farther, to the disadvantage of the borrower. Six per cent. was converted into 6 nomismata per pound, i.e. per 72 nomismata; or in other words, where 6 per cent. had been paid before, 8.33 was paid now. (So 11.11 replaced 8, and 5.55 replaced 4 per cent.) There was thus a considerable elevation of the legal maxima of interest.

2. The free circulation of capital was seriously impeded by the difficulty Edition: current; Page: [440] in obtaining good securities. The laws respecting mortgage were not calculated to secure the interests of the creditor; and it is significant that in the Ecloga no notice is taken of either mortgage or personal security. Another hindrance to credit was the defectiveness of the mode of proceedings1 open to a creditor for recovering his money from a defaulting debtor.

The defects of the credit-system of the Empire could not fail to react unfavourably on commerce; and the consequence ultimately was that the trade, which ought to have been carried on by the Greeks of Constantinople and the towns of the Aegean, fell into the hands of Italians. The settlements of Venetian and Genoese merchants in the East were due largely to the defects of the Imperial legislation.

On the condition of Greek commerce in the 8th century we have some slight information from the “Rhodian Nautical Code,” published by the Iconoclast Emperors.2 From this we learn that at this period it was not usual for a merchant to hire a ship and load it with his own freight, but a merchant and a shipowner used to form a joint-stock company and divide the profit and loss. All accidental injuries befalling ship or cargo were to be borne in common by skipper, merchant, and passengers. It has been remarked that these regulations point to the depression of maritime commerce, easily explained by the fact that from the 7th century forward the Aegean and Mediterranean were infested by Slavonic and Saracen pirates. In such risky conditions men did not care to embark on sea ventures, except in partnership. Although the nautical legislation of the Iconoclasts was not accepted in the Basilica, it seems that it continued to prevail in practice.

It is interesting to observe that a man with a small capital (c. £300 to £1000) could purchase, if he chose, a life-annuity, with a title into the bargain. Certainly titular dignities (even the high title of protospathar) were for sale, and an extra payment entitled the dignitary to a yearly salary (called ῤόγα), which brought him in 10 per cent. on his outlay.

There were also a number of minor posts at the Imperial court, with salaries attached, and these could be purchased outright, the purchasers being able to sell them again or leave them to their heirs. These investments produced about 2½ per cent. It is presumable, however, that there was some limit to the number of these posts, and that, although practically sinecures, they could be assigned only to residents at Constantinople.

These two institutions present the only analogy to a national debt in the Eastern Empire.

Cp. Zachariä von Lingenthal, op. cit. p. 300.


It is incorrect to say that “the two epistles of Gregory II. have been preserved in the Acts of the Nicene Council.” In modern collections of the Acts of Ecclesiastical Councils, they have been printed at the end of the Acts of the Second Nicene Council. But they first came to light at the end of the 16th century and were printed for the first time in the Annales Ecclesiastici of Baronius, who had obtained them from Fronton le Duc. This scholar had Edition: current; Page: [441] copied the text from a Greek MS. at Rheims. Since then other MSS. have been found, the earliest belonging to the 11th, if not the 10th, century.

In another case we should say that the external evidence for the genuineness of the epistles was good. We know on the authority of Theophanes that Gregory wrote one or more letters to Leo (ἐπιστολὴν δογματικήν, sub a.m. 6172, δἰ ἐπιστολω̂ν, sub a.m. 6221); and we should have no external reasons to suspect copies dating from about 300 years later. But the omission of these letters in the Acts of the Nicene Council, though they are stated to have been read at the Council, introduces a shadow of suspicion. If they were preserved, how comes it that they were not preserved in the Acts of the Council, like the letter of Gregory to the Patriarch Germanus? There is no trace anywhere of the Latin originals.

Turning to the contents, we find enough to convert suspicion into a practical certainty that the documents are forgeries. This is the opinion of M. l’Abbé Duchesne (the editor of the Liber Pontificalis), M. L. Guérard (Mélanges d’Archéologie et d’Histoire, p. 44 sqq., 1890), Mr. Hodgkin (Italy and her Invaders, vol. vi. p. 501 sqq.). A false date (the beginning of Leo’s reign is placed in the 14th instead of the 15th indiction), and the false implication that the Imperial territory of the Ducatus Romæ terminated at twenty-four stadia, or three miles, from Rome, point to an author who was neither a contemporary of Leo nor a resident in Rome. But the insolent tone of the letters is enough to condemn them. Gregory II. would never have addressed to his sovereign the crude abuse with which these documents teem. Another objection (which I have never seen noticed) is that in the 1st Letter the famous image of Christ which was pulled down by Leo is stated to have been in the Chalkoprateia (bronzesmiths’ quarter), whereas, according to the trustworthy sources, it was above the Chalkê gate of the Palace.

Rejecting the letters on these grounds — which are supported by a number of smaller points — we get rid of the difficulty about a Lombard siege of Ravenna before ad 727: a siege which is not mentioned elsewhere and was doubtless created by the confused knowledge of the fabricator.


Leo issued his first edict against the worship of images in ad 725,1 and began actively to carry it into effect in the following year (ad 726).2

Gibbon (who is followed by Finlay) states that the first edict did not enjoin the removal of images, but only the elevation of them to such a height that they could not be kissed or touched by the faithful. He does not give the authority for this statement, but he derived it from Cardinal Baronius (Ann. Eccl. ix., ad. ann., 726, 5), who founded his assertion on a Latin translation of a Vita Stephani Junioris. This document is published in the edition of the Works of John of Damascus, by J. Billius (1603), and differs considerably from the Greek text (and Lat. transl.) published by Montfaucon in his Analecta Graeca towards the end of the same century.3 The passage in question (p. 483 B) states that Leo, when he saw the strong opposition against his policy, withdrew from his position, changing about like a chameleon, and said that he only wished to have the pictures placed higher, so that no one Edition: current; Page: [442] should touch them with his mouth. It has been recognised that this notice cannot be accepted (Hefele, Conciliengeschichte, iii. 347; Bury, Later Roman Empire, ii. 432; Hodgkin, Italy and her Invaders, vi. 432; Schwarzlose, der Bilderstreit, p. 524). It is obviously inconsistent with the incident of the destruction of the image over the palace-gate, which happened immediately after the first edict (Theophanes, a.m. 6218).5

In ad 727 there was a revolt in Greece, but this revolt was probably caused not entirely by the iconoclastic edict, but also by heavy taxation (see Bury, op. cit. ii. p. 437). In the same or the following year we must place the First Oration of John of Damascus on behalf of image-worship.6 In the first month of ad 730 a silentium was held, the Patriarch Germanus who resisted L