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A.D. 843, sculpture was entirely discarded, and icons came to mean pictures and pictures only. This was a silent surrender, never explicitly avowed by the orthodox Church, to the damnable teaching of the iconoclasts; so that these heretics can claim to have so far influenced public opinion as to induce their victorious adversaries to abandon the cult of graven images. After all, the victory was a compromise.
1. The Regency
MICHAEL III. reigned for a quarter of a century, but he never governed. During the greater part of his life he was too young; when he reached a riper age he had neither the capacity nor the desire. His reign falls into two portions. In his minority, the Empress Theodora held the reins, guided by the advice of Theoktistos, the Logothete of the Course, who proved as devoted to her as he had been to her husband. During the later years, when Michael nominally exercised the sovranty himself, the real power and the task of conducting the administration devolved upon her brother Bardas. In the first period, the government seems to have been competent, though we have not sufficient information to estimate it with much confidence; in the second period it was eminently efficient.
The Empress Theodora1 occupied the same constitutional position which the Empress Irene had occupied in the years following her husband's death. She was not officially the Autocrat, any more than her daughter Thecla, who was associated with her brother and mother in the Imperial dignity; she only acted provisionally as such on behalf of
1 At the beginning of the reign coins were issued with the head of Theodora (despoina) on one side, on the other the child-Emperor and his eldest sister Thecla robed as Augusta. A few years later Michael and Theodora appear together on the obverse; on the reverse is the head of the Saviour,
cp. above, p. 150, n. 2.
2 Acta 42 Mart. Am. 52 (A.D. 845) βασιλεύοντος τῆς Ῥωμαίων ἀρχῆς Μιχαὴλ καὶ Θεοδώρας καὶ Θέκλης. Cp. Wroth, 431 (Pl. xlix. 19) Μιχαήλ Θεοδώρα καὶ Θέκλα ἐκ θ(εοῦ) βασιλεῖς Ῥωμαίων on reverse of silver coins.
her son. The administration was conducted in their joint names; but she possessed no sovran authority in her own right or independently of him. Her actual authority was formally limited (unlike Irene's) by the two guardians or co-regents whom Theophilus had appointed. To find two men who would work in harmony and could be trusted not to seek power for themselves to the detriment of his son was difficult, and Theophilus seems to have made a judicious choice. But it was almost inevitable that one of the two should win the effective control of affairs and the chief place in the Empress's confidence. It may well be that superior talent and greater political experience rendered Theoktistos a more capable adviser than Manuel, her uncle, who had probably more knowledge of warfare than of administration. Theoktistos presently became the virtual prime minister,1 and Manuel found it convenient to withdraw from his rooms in the Palace and live in his house near the Cistern of Aspar, though he did not formally retire from his duties and regularly attended in the Palace for the transaction of business.2
Her uncle's practical abdication of his right to a voice in the management of the Empire corresponds to the policy which Theodora pursued, under the influence of the Logothete, towards the other members of her own family. Her brother Petronas, who was a competent general and had done useful work for her husband, seems to have been entrusted with no important post and allowed no opportunity of winning distinction under her government; he proved his military capacity after her fall from power. Her more famous and brilliant brother Bardas was forced to be contented with an inactive life in his suburban house. Theodora had also three sisters, of whom one, Sophia, had married Constantine Babutzikos. Another, Calomaria, was the wife of Arsaber,
1 παραδυναστεύων, Georg.), 815.
2 Gen. 86, where it is explained that Theoktistos schemed to get rid of Manuel by a charge of treason, but Manuel anticipated the trouble by a voluntary semi-retirement. Simeon, ib. 816, mentions that Theoktistos built himself a house with baths and
Simeon (Cont. garden, within the Palace. Manuel converted his house into a monastery, the church of which is now the Kefelé mosque, a little to the west of the Chukur Bostan or Cistern of Aspar. See Paspates, Bus. μeλ. 304; Millingen, Walls, 23; Strzygovski, Die byz. Wasserbehälter von Kpel (1893),
a patrician, who was elevated to the higher rank of magister.1 On his death Calomaria lived in the Palace with her sister, and is said to have worn mean raiment and performed the charitable duty of paying monthly visits to the prisons and distributing blessings and alms to the prisoners.
Michael was in his seventeenth year when his mother decided to marry him. The customary bride-show was announced throughout the provinces by a proclamation inviting beautiful candidates for the throne to assemble on a certain day in the Imperial Palace. The choice of the Empress fell on Eudocia, the daughter of Dekapolites (A.D. 855). We know nothing of this lady or her family; she seems to have been a cipher, and her nullity may have recommended her to Theodora. But in any case the haste of the Empress and Theoktistos to provide Michael with a consort at such an early age was prompted by their desire to prevent his union with another lady. For Michael already had a love affair with Eudocia Ingerina, whom Theodora and her minister regarded as an unsuitable spouse. A chronicler tells us that
they disliked her intensely " on account of her impudence”; which means that she was a woman of some spirit, and they. feared her as a rival influence. The young sovran was obliged to yield and marry the wife who was not of his own choice, but if he was separated from the woman he loved, it was only for a short time. Eudocia Ingerina did not disdain to be his mistress, and his attachment to her seems to have lasted till his death.
1 Simeon (Cont. Georg.), 816, the source for Michael's marriage. The probable date, A.D. 855, is inferred from the fact that the marriage preceded the death of Theoktistos, combined with Michael's age. The bridal ceremony of an Emperor was performed in the church of St. Stephen in the Palace of Daphne. The chronicler (ib.) notes that the bridal chamber (Tò TаσTÓV) was in the palace of Magnaura, and the marriage feast, at which the senators were present, was held in the hall of the Nineteen Couches. This was the regular habit, as we learn
But the power of Theodora and her favourite minister was doomed, and the blow was struck by a member of her own family (A.D. 856, January to March).2 Michael had reached an age when he began to chafe under the authority of his mother, whose discipline had probably been strict; and his uncle Bardas, who was ambitious and conscious of his own talents for government, divined that it would now be possible to undermine her position and win his nephew's confidence. The most difficult part of his enterprise was to remove Theoktistos, but he had friends among the ministers who were in close attendance on the Emperor. The Parakoemômenos or chief chamberlain, Damianos (a man of Slavonic race), persuaded Michael to summon his uncle to the Palace, and their wily tongues convinced the boy that his mother intended to depose him, with the assistance of Theoktistos, or at all events-and this was no more than the truth—that he would have no power so long as Theodora and Theoktistos co-operated. Michael was brought to acquiesce in the view that it was necessary to suppress the too powerful minister, and violence was the only method. Theophanes, the chief of the private wardrobe, joined the conspiracy, and Bardas also won over his sister Calomaria.1 Some generals, who had from the official description in Constantine, Cer. 213.
2 For date see Appendix VII.
3 So Simeon (Cont. Georg.), 821. According to Gen. 87, Bardas suggested to Michael that Theodora intended to marry herself, or to find a husband for one of her daughters, and depose Michael, with the aid of Theoktistos.
The part played by Calomaria is recorded by Genesios, whose information was doubtless derived from his ancestor Constantine the Armenian, who was an eye-witness of the murder. For Theophanes of Farghana see p. 238.