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Leo to be Count of the Federates, and each of them received the gift of a house in Constantinople.1 When Bardanes found it impracticable to establish on the Asiatic shore 2 a basis of operations against the capital, of which the inhabitants showed no inclination to welcome him, he concluded that his wisest course would be to sue for grace while there was yet time, and he retired to Malagina. The Emperor readily sent him a written assurance of his personal safety, which was signed by the Patriarch Tarasius and all the patricians; and the promise was confirmed by the pledge of a little gold cross which the Emperor was in the habit of wearing. The tyranny had lasted about seven weeks, when Bardanes secretly left the camp at midnight (September 8) and travelling doubtless by the road which passes Nicaea and skirts the southern shores of Lake Ascanias, escaped to the monastery of Heraclius at Kios, the modern town of Geumlek.5 There he was tonsured and arrayed in the lowly garment of a monk. The Emperor's bark, which was in waiting at the shore, carried him to the island of Prôtê, where he had built a private monastery, which he was now permitted to select as his retreat. Under the name of Sabbas, he devoted himself to ascetic exercises. But Nicephorus, it would seem, did not yet feel assured that the ex-tyrant was innocuous; for we can hardly doubt the assertion of our sources that it was with the Emperor's knowledge that a band of Lycaonians landed on the island by night and deprived the exiled monk of his eyesight. Nicephorus, however, professed to be sorely distressed at the occurrence; he shed the tears which were
pare the story of Theophilus and Manuel, below, p. 258, and the assurance given to Ignatius, below, p. 198. 5 Theoph. ib.
6 Cont. Th. 10.
7 Theoph. 480 Λυκάονάς τινας # λυκανθρώπους, ὁμογνώμονας καὶ ὁμόφρονας ἀποστείλας κτλ. I would not, with some historians, quote this expression of Theophanes as a proof of the character of the Lycaonians. Theophanes is a partisan of Bardanes, and neither he nor any of his contemporaries could resist the temptation of playing on proper names. Besides Lycaonia was infected with the Paulician heresy.
always at his disposal, and did not leave the Imperial bedchamber for seven days. He even threatened to put to death some Lycaonian nobles; and the Senate and the Patriarch could hardly venture to doubt the sincerity of his indignation. As for the rebellious army, it was punished by receiving no pay; several officers and landed owners were banished; the property of the chief insurgent was confiscated. Such was the fate of Bardanes Turcus and his revolt.
In February 808 a plot was formed to dethrone Nicephorus by a large number of discontented senators and ecclesiastical dignitaries. It is significant that the man who was designated by the conspirators to be the new Emperor was on this occasion also an Armenian. The patrician Arsaber held the office of Quaestor; and the chronicler, who regarded with favour any antagonist of Nicephorus, describes him as pious. The plot was detected; Arsaber was punished by stripes, made a monk and banished to Bithynia; the accomplices, not excepting the bishops, were beaten and exiled.1
Nicephorus had two children, a daughter and a son. Procopia had married Michael Rangabé, who was created Curopalates; and one of their sons, Nicetas (destined hereafter to occupy the Patriarchal throne), was appointed, as a child, to be the Domestic or commander of the Hikanatoi, a new corps of guards which his grandfather had instituted. Stauracius was doubtless younger than Procopia, and was crowned Augustus in December 803, a year after his father's succession.3 Theophanes, perhaps malevolently, describes him as "physically and intellectually unfit for the position."
1 Among the conspirators were the Synkellos, and the sakellarios and chartophylax of St. Sophia (Theoph. 483). Finlay justly remarks that the conspiracies formed against Nicephorus are no evidence of his unpopularity, "for the best Byzantine monarchs were as often disturbed by secret plots as the worst" (ii. p. 99).
2 From Nicetas, Vita Ignatii (Mansi, xvi. 210 sqq.), we learn that Michael and Procopia had five children-(1) Gorgo, (2) Theophylactus, (3) Stauracius, (4) Nicetas, (5) Theophano. Nicetas (whose monastic name was Ignatius) was 14 years old in 813, and therefore was born in 799. From this we may infer that Procopia's marriage cannot
have taken place much later than 794. Assuming her to have been married early, she might have been born in 778; and assuming that her father married early, he might have been born in 758. Thus Nicephorus must have been 45 at least when he ascended the throne, and was probably older. Stauracius was childless.
3 During his sole reign the coinage of Nicephorus reverted to the old fashion of exhibiting a cross on the ⚫ reverse. After the association of his son he adopted the device (introduced by Constantine V.) of representing the head of his colleague. See Wroth, Imp. Byz. Coins, I. xl.
His father took pains to choose a suitable wife for him. On December 20, 807, a company of young girls from all parts of the Empire was assembled in the Palace, to select a consort for Stauracius.1 For a third time in the history of New Rome an Athenian lady was chosen to be the bride of a Roman Augustus. The choice of Nicephorus now fell on Theophano, even as Constantine V. had selected Irene for his son Leo, and nearly four centuries before Pulcheria had discovered Athenais for her brother Theodosius. Theophano had two advantages: she was a kinswoman of the late Empress Irene; and she had already (report said) enjoyed the embraces of a man to whom she was betrothed.2 The second circumstance gave Nicephorus an opportunity of asserting the principle that the Emperor was not bound by the canonical laws which interdicted such a union.
If a statement of Theophanes is true, which we have no means of disproving and no reason to doubt, the beauty of the maidens who had presented themselves as possible brides for the son, tempted the desires of the father; and two, who were more lovely than the successful Athenian, were consoled for their disappointment by the gallantries of Nicephorus himself on the night of his son's marriage. The monk who records this scandal of the Imperial Palace makes no other comment than "the rascal was ridiculed by all.”
The frontiers of the Empire were maintained intact in the reign of Nicephorus, but his campaigns were not crowned by military glory. The death of the Caliph Harun (809 A.D.) delivered him from a persevering foe against whom he had been generally unsuccessful, and to whom he had been forced to make some humiliating concessions; but the Bulgarian war brought deeper disgrace upon Roman arms and was fatal to Nicephorus himself. In an expedition which, accompanied by his son and his son-in-law, he led across the Haemus, he suffered himself to be entrapped, and his life paid the penalty for his want of caution (July 26, A.D. 811).4
1 For these bride shows see below,
μεμνηστευμένην ἀνδρὶ καὶ πολλάκις. αὐτῷ συγκοιτασθεῖσαν, χωρίσας αὐτὴν ἀπ ̓ αὐτοῦ τῷ ἀθλίῳ Σταυρακίῳ συνέζευξεν
3Cp. below, p. 34.
4 The Saracen and Bulgarian wars of Nicephorus are described below in Chaps. VIII. and XI.
§ 3. Stauracius
The young Emperor Stauracius had been severely wounded in the battle, but he succeeded in escaping to the shelter of Hadrianople. His sister's husband, Michael Rangabé, had come off unhurt; and two other high dignitaries, the magister Theoktistos,1 and Stephanos the Domestic of the Schools, reached the city of refuge along with the surviving Augustus. But although Stauracius was still living, it was a question whether he could live long. His spine had been seriously injured, and the nobles who stood at his bedside despaired of his life. They could hardly avoid considering the question whether it would be wise at such a crisis to leave the sole Imperial power in the hands of one who had never shown any marked ability and who was now incapacitated by a wound, seemingly at the door of death. On the other hand, it might be said that the unanimity and prompt action which the emergency demanded would be better secured by acknowledging the legitimate Emperor, however feeble he might be. So at least it seemed to the Domestic of the Schools, who lost no time in proclaiming Stauracius autokrator.2 Stauracius himself, notwithstanding his weak condition, appeared in the presence of the troops who had collected at Hadrianople after the disaster, and spoke to them. The soldiers had been disgusted by the unskilfulness of the late Emperor in the art of war, and it is said that the new Emperor sought to please them by indulging in criticisms on his father.
But the magister Theoktistos, although he was present on this occasion, would have preferred another in the place of
1 Theoktistos is undoubtedly the same person as the quaestor who supported Nicephorus in his conspiracy against Irene; he was rewarded by the high order of magister.
2 The reign of Stauracius, reckoned from the date of his father's death, July 26, to the day of his resignation, Oct. 2, lasted 2 months and 8 days (Cont. Th. 11). Theophanes gives 2 months and 6 days (495), but he reckons perhaps from the date of his proclamation at Hadrianople, which might have been made on July 28.
It is worth noticing that Muralt and
3 The divergent views of Stephanos
Stauracius. And there was one who had a certain eventual claim to the crown, and might be supposed not unequal to its burdens, Michael Rangabé, the Curopalates and husband of the princess Procopia. It would not have been a violent measure if, in view of the precarious condition of her brother, Procopia's husband had been immediately invested with the insignia of empire. Such a course could have been abundantly justified by the necessity of having an Emperor capable of meeting the dangers to be apprehended from the triumphant Bulgarian foe. Theoktistos and others pressed Michael to assume the diadem, and if he had been willing Stauracius would not have reigned a week. But Michael declined at this juncture, and the orthodox historian, who admires and lauds him, attributes his refusal to a regard for his oath of allegiance "to Nicephorus and Stauracius." 1
The wounded Emperor was removed in a litter from Hadrianople to Byzantium. The description of the consequence of his hurt 2 shows that he must have suffered much physical agony, and the chances of his recovery were diminished by his mental anxieties. He had no children, and the question was, who was to succeed him. On the one hand, his sister Procopia held that the Imperial power rightly devolved upon her husband and her children. On the other hand, there was another lady, perhaps even more ambitious than Procopia, and dearer to Stauracius. The Athenian Theophano might hope to play the part of her kinswoman Irene, and reign as sole mistress of the Roman Empire.3
Concerning the intrigues which were spun round the bedside of the young Emperor in the autumn months (August and September) of 811, our contemporary chronicle gives only a slight indication. The influence of Theophano caused her husband to show marked displeasure to the ministers Stephanos and Theoktistos, and to his brother-in-law Michael, and also to regard with aversion his sister Procopia, whom he suspected of conspiring against his life. As his condition
2 The wound is characterized as mortal (καιρίως) κατὰ τοῦ σπονδύλου τὸ değiòv μépos. The consequence was, d' οὔρων αἱμορραγήσας ἀμέτρως κατεξηράνθη μηροὺς καὶ σκέλη.
3 Ib. αὐτίκα γὰρ ἡ τάλαινα κατὰ
μίμησιν τῆς μακαρίας Εἰρήνης κρατήσειν ἤλπιζε τῆς βασιλείας ἄπαις οὖσα.
4 The words of Theophanes are here ambiguous, and the sense depends on the punctuation. De Boor punctuates thus: ἀποστρεφόμενος πάντη καὶ Προκοπίαν τὴν ἰδίαν ἀδελφήν, ὡς ἐπιβουλεύC