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Rouen, and were sent on to Rome, where Eugenius had succeeded Paschal in St Peter's chair.1 It is not recorded how they fared at Rome, but Lewis lost no time in making an attempt to bring about a European settlement of the iconoclastic controversy. The Frankish Church did not agree with the extreme views of the Greek iconoclasts, nor yet with the doctrine of image-worship which had been formulated by the Council of Nicaea and approved by the Popes; and it appeared to Lewis a good opportunity to press for that intermediate solution of the question which had been approved at the Council of Frankfurt (A.D. 794). The sense of this solution was to forbid the veneration of images, but to allow them to be set up in churches as ornaments and memorials. The first step was to persuade the Pope, and for this purpose Lewis, who, like his father, was accustomed to summon councils on his own authority, respectfully asked Eugenius to permit him to convoke the Frankish bishops to collect the opinions of the Fathers on the question at issue. Eugenius could not refuse, and the synod met in Paris in November 825. The report of the bishops agreed with the decision of Frankfurt; they condemned the worship of images, tracing its history back to the Greek philosopher Epicurus; they censured Pope Hadrian for approving the doctrine of the Nicene Council; but, on the other hand, they condemned the iconoclasts for insisting on the banishment of images from churches. Lewis despatched two learned bishops to Rome, bearing extracts from the report of the synod, but the story of the negotiations comes here to a sudden end. We hear of no further direct communications between Rome and Constantinople, but we may reasonably suspect that a Papal embassy to Lewis (A.D. 826), and two embassies which passed between the Eastern and Western Emperors in the following years,' were concerned with the question of religious pictures.
Till his death, from disease of the kidneys, in October A.D. 829, Michael adhered to his resolution not to pursue or imprison the leaders of the ecclesiastical opposition. The only case of harsh dealing recorded is the treatment of Methodius, and he, as we have seen, was punished not as a recalcitrant but as an intriguer.
3 Sickel, Acta Lud. 235, 236, pp.
1 Paschal seems to hav
died some time in spring 824 ; cp. Simson, Ludwig, i. 212, n. 1.
2 For all this, see Simson, ib. 248 sqq., where the sources are given.
4 Ann. r. F., sub 826, 827, 828. See below, p. 330.
1. The Administration of Theophilus For eight years Theophilus had been an exemplary co-regent. Though he was a man of energetic character and active brain, he appears never to have put himself forward, and if he exerted influence upon his father's policy, such influence was carefully hidden behind the throne. Perhaps Michael compelled him to remain in the background. In any case, his position, for a man of his stamp, was an education in politics; it afforded him facilities for observing weak points in an administration for which he was not responsible, and for studying the conditions of the Empire which he would one day have to govern.
He had a strong sense of the obligations of the Imperial office, and he possessed the capacities which his subjects considered desirable in their monarch. He had the military training which enabled him to lead an army into the field; he had a passion for justice; he was well educated, and, like the typical Byzantine sovran, interested in theology. His private life was so exemplary that even the malevolence of the chroniclers, who detested him as a heretic, could only rake up one story against his morals.? He kept a brilliant Court, and took care that his palace, to which he added new
1 He emerges only on two occasions behaved with a pretty maid of his in our meagre chronicles—(1) as help- wife. When Theodora discovered his ing in the defence of the city against conduct and showed her chagrin, he Thomas, and (2) as responsible for swore a tremendous oath that he had the death of Euthymios of Sardis never done such a thing before and (but for this see below, p. 139).
would never repeat the offence (Cont. 2 The scandal was that he mis
and splendid buildings, should not be outshone by the marvels of Baghdad.
We might expect to find the reign of Theophilus remembered in Byzantine chronicle as a dazzling passage in the history of the Empire, like the caliphate of Harun al-Rashid in the annals of Islam. But the writers who have recorded his acts convey the impression that he was an unlucky and ineffective monarch. In his eastern warfare against the Saracens his fortune was chequered, and he sustained one crushing humiliation; in the West, he was unable to check the Mohammadan advance. His ecclesiastical policy, which he inherited from his predecessors, and pursued with vigour and conviction, was undone after his death. But though he fought for a losing cause in religion, and wrought no great military exploits, and did not possess the highest gifts of statesmanship, it is certain that his reputation among his contemporaries was far higher than a superficial examination of the chronicles would lead the reader to suspect. He has fared like Leo V. He was execrated in later times as an unrelenting iconoclast, and a conspiracy of silence and depreciation has depressed his fame. But it was perhaps not so much his heresy as his offence in belonging to the Amorian dynasty that was fatal to his memory.
Our records were compiled under the Basilian dynasty, which had established itself on the throne by murder; and misrepresentation of the Amorians is a distinctive propensity in these partial chronicles. Yet, if we read between the lines, we can easily detect that there was another tradition, and that Theophilus had impressed the popular imagination as a just ? and brilliant sovran, somewhat as Harun impressed the East. This tradition is reflected in anecdotes, of which it would be futile to appraise the proportions of truth and myth,—anecdotes which the Basilian
historiographers found too interesting to omit, but told in a somewhat grudging way because they were supposed to be to the credit of the Emperor.
The motive of these stories is the Emperor's desire to administer justice rigorously without respect of persons. He used to ride once a week through the city to perform his devotions in the church of the Virgin at Blachernae, and on the way he was ready to listen to the petitions of any of his subjects who wished to claim his protection. One day he was accosted by a widow who complained that she was wronged by the brother of the Empress, Petronas, who held the post of Drungary of the Watch. It was illegal to build at Constantinople any structure which intercepted the view or the light of a neighbour's house; but Petronas was enlarging his own residence at Blachernae, with insolent disregard for the law, in such a way as to darken the house of the widow. Theophilus promptly sent Eustathios the quaestor, and other officers, to test the accuracy of her statement, and on their report that it was true, the Emperor caused his brother-in-law to be stripped and flogged in the public street. The obnoxious buildings were levelled to the ground, and the ruins, apparently, bestowed upon the complainant. Another time, on his weekly ride, he was surprised by a man who accosted him and said, “The horse on which your Majesty is riding belongs to me.” Calling the Count of the Stable, who was in attendance, the Emperor inquired, “Whose is this horse ?" “It was sent to your Majesty by the Count of Opsikion," was the reply. The Count of the Opsikian Theme, who happened to be in the city at the time, was summoned and confronted next day with the claimant, a soldier of his own army, who charged him with having appropriated the animal without giving any consideration either in money or military promotion. The lame excuses of the Count did not serve; he was chastised with stripes, and the horse offered to its rightful owner. This man, however, preferred to receive 2 pounds of gold (£86, 8s.) and military promotion; he proved a coward and was slain in battle with his back to the enemy.?
Another anecdote is told of the Emperor's indignation on
Simeon, Add. Georg. 793.