Slike stranica

unable to manage it, and Michael was in despair, when his relative Theophilitzes suggested that his own groom, Basil, might be able to master it. Basil knew how to charm horses, and when he held its bridle with one hand and placed the other on its ear, the animal instantly became amenable. The Emperor, delighted with this achievement and admiring his physical strength, took him into his own service and assigned him a post under the Hetaeriarch or captain of the foreign guards of the Palace. His rise was rapid. He was invested with the dignity of a strator, and soon afterwards he received the important office of Protostrator, whose duties involved frequent attendance upon the Emperor (A.D. 858-859 2).

So far the wily Armenian adventurer, whose mental powers were little suspected, had owed his success to fortune and his physical prowess, but now he was in a position to observe the intrigues of the Court and to turn them to his own advantage. Damianos, the High Chamberlain, who had assisted Bardas in the palace revolution which had overthrown Theodora, becam hostile to the Caesar, and attempted to discredit him with the Emperor. The crisis came when, as Bardas, arrayed in the Caesar's purple skaramangion and accompanied by the magnates of the Court, was passing in solemn procession through the Horologion, Damianos refrained from rising from his seat and paying the customary token of respect.3 Bardas, overwhelmed with wrath and chagrin at this insult, hurried into the Chrysotriklinos and complained to the Emperor, who immediately ordered Damianos to be arrested and tonsured.


does not mention). According to this account, Antigonus, Domestic of the Schools, gave a banquet in the Palace in honour of his father the Caesar. Bardas brought with him senatorial magnates and some Bulgarian envoys who happened to be in the city. Theophilitzes was one of the guests. The Bulgarians bragged about countryman who was in their suite and was an invincible wrestler. Theophilitzes said to Bardas, "I have a man who will wrestle with that Bulgarian. The match was made, and (Constantine the Armenian having sprinkled the bran-this detail is taken from Genesios) Basil threw the Bulgarian, squeezing him like a wisp of hay. "From that day the fame of Basil


began to spread through the city." Though based doubtless on a true incident (remembered by Constantine the Armenian), the story in either version breaks down chronologically. For Basil was transferred to the Emperor's service not later than 858, and at that time Bardas was still Domestic of the Schools and Antigonus a small boy.

1 Cont. Th. 231.

2 This promotion was connected with the conspiracy against Bardas in which Theodora was concerned. The protostrator, who was involved in it, was executed, and Basil replaced him (Cont. Georg. 823-824). Hence my date, see above, pp. 160-1. 3 Simeon, ib. 827.


But the triumph of Bardas was to turn to his hurt. was appointed to fill the confidential post of High Chamberlain1 (with the rank of patrician), though it was usually confined to eunuchs, and Basil the Armenian was to prove a more formidable adversary than Damianos the Slav.2


The confidential intimacy which existed between Michael and his Chamberlain was shown by the curious matrimonial arrangement which the Emperor brought to pass. Basil was already married, but Michael caused him to divorce his wife,3 and married him to his own early love, Eudocia Ingerina. But this was only an official arrangement; Eudocia remained the Emperor's mistress. A mistress, however, was also provided for Basil, of distinguished rank though not of tender years. It appears that Theodora and her daughters had been permitted to leave their monastery and return to secular life, and Thecla, who seems to have been ill-qualified for the vows of a nun, consented to become the paramour of er brother's favourite. Thus three ladies, Eudocia Ingerina, Eudocia the Augusta, and Thecla the Augusta, fulfilled between them the four posts of wives and mistresses to the Emperor and his Chamberlain. Before Michael's death, Eudocia Ingerina bore two sons, and though Basil was obliged to acknowledge them, it was suspected or taken for granted that Michael was their father. The second son afterwards succeeded Basil on the Imperial throne, as Leo VI.; and if Eudocia was faithful to Michael, the dynasty known as the Macedonian was really descended from the Amorians. The Macedonian Emperors took pains to conceal this blot or ambiguity in their origin; their been then about 43 years old.


5 Simeon (Cont. Georg. 835, and 844) states that Michael was the father, as if it were a well-known fact, and without reserve. In the case of such an arrangement à trois, it is, of course, impossible for us, knowing so little as we do, to accept as proven such statements about paternity. Eudocia may have deceived her lover with her husband; and as Basil seems to have been fond of Constantine and to have had little affection for Leo (whom he imprisoned shortly before the end of his reign), we might be led to suspect that the eldest born of Eudocia was his own son, and Leo Michael's.

1 Parakoimômenos.

2 The date is not recorded, but it seems probable that it was not very long before the fall of Bardas.

Maria; she was sent back to "Macedonia" (i.e. probably. Thrace) well provided for.

4 For the evidence, see Hirsch, 66, and below, p. 177. Thecla became the mistress of John Neatokomêtês after Basil's accession. When Basil learned this, he ordered the latter to be beaten and tonsured; Thecla was also beaten, and her property confiscated. Simeon, ib. 842. She died bedridden (KλvoTETS) in her house at Blachernae, Cont. Th. 147. If she became Basil's mistress in 865-866, she might have

[ocr errors]

animosity to the Amorian sovrans whose blood was perhaps in their veins, and their excessive cult of the memory of Basil, were alike due to the suspicion of the sinister accident in their lineage.

Such proofs of affection could not fail to arouse the suspicion and jealousy of Bardas, if he had, till then, never considered Basil as a possible rival. But he probably underestimated the craft of the man who had mounted so high chiefly by his physical qualities. Basil attempted to persuade the Emperor that Bardas was planning to depose him from the throne. But such insinuations had no effect. Michael, notwithstanding his frivolity, was not without common sense. He knew that the Empire must be governed, and believed that no one could govern it so well as his uncle, in whom he reposed entire confidence. Basil was the companion of his pleasures, and he declined to listen to his suggestions touching matters of state. Basil then resorted to a cunning device. He cultivated a close friendship with Symbatios—an Armenian like himself—the Logothete of the Course and son-in-law of Bardas. He excited this ambitious minister's hope of becoming Caesar in place of his father-in-law, and they concocted the story of a plot which Symbatios revealed to Michael. Such a disclosure coming from a minister, himself closely related to Bardas, was very different from the irresponsible gossip of the Chamberlain, and Michael, seriously alarmed, entered into a plan for destroying his uncle.


At this time. it was the spring of A.D. 866- preparations were being made for an expedition against the Saracens of Crete, in which both the Emperor and the Caesar were to take part.2 Bardas was wide-awake. He was warned

[ocr errors]

1 I follow mainly Simeon (ib. 828), which is obviously the most impartial source. Nicetas, Vit. Ign. 255, describes the plot as only a pretext.

2 The official account was that Bardas prepared the expedition, in order to find an opportunity of killing Michael (Simeon, ib. 832). Simeon represents Michael and Basil planning the expedition for the purpose of killing Bardas (as it would have been difficult to dispatch him in the city). Genesios is evidently right in the simple statement (103) that Michael and Bardas organized an expedition.

Originally, it had been arranged without any arrière pensée on either side; then the conspirators decided to avail themselves of the opportunity which it might furnish. Bardas, warned that a design was afoot against him, and that Basil was the arch plotter, drew back, and it was necessary to reassure him. The chroniclers tell stories of various prophecies and signs warning him of his fate. His friend Leo the Philosopher is said to have tried to dissuade him from going. His sister Theodora sent him a dress too short for him, with a partridge worked

by friends or perhaps by a change in the Emperor's manner, and he declined to accompany the expedition. He must have openly expressed his fears to his nephew, and declared his suspicion of Basil's intentions; for they took a solemn oath in order to reassure him. On Lady Day (March 25) the festival of the Annunciation was celebrated by a Court procession to the church of the Virgin in Chalkoprateia; after the ceremonies, the Emperor, the Patriarch, the Caesar, and the High Chamberlain entered the Katechumena of the church; Photius held the blood of Jesus in his hands, and Michael and Basil subscribed with crosses, in this sacred ink, a declaration that the Caesar might accompany them without fear.

The expedition started after Easter,' and troops from the various provinces assembled at a place called the Gardens (Kêpoi) in the Thrakesian Theme, on the banks of the Maeander. Here Basil and Symbatios, who had won others to their plot, determined to strike the blow. A plan was devised for drawing away Antigonus, the Domestic of the Schools, to witness a horse-race at a sufficient distance from the Imperial tent, so that he should not be at hand to come to his father's rescue.3 On the evening before the day which was fixed by the conspirators, John Neatokomêtês visited the Caesar's tent at sunset, and warned Procopius, the Keeper of his Wardrobe, "Your lord, the Caesar, will be cut in pieces tomorrow." Bardas pretended to laugh at the warning. "Tell Neatokomêtês," he said, "that he is raving. He wants to be made a patrician-a rank for which he is much too young; that is why he goes about sowing these tares." But he did not sleep. In the morning twilight he told his friends what he had heard. His friend Philotheos, the General

[blocks in formation]

was the circumstance that Bardas pitched his tent on a higher eminence than that of the Emperor's.

3 Gen. (ib.). He also records (105) that Bardas had ordered Antigonus to lead his troops to Constantinople, and that Antigonus delayed to do so. He ascribes this order to the fear which the gift of Theodora (see above, p. 170) aroused in Bardas, and inconsistently states that the gift reached him at Kêpoi. It is obvious that Antigonus and his troops were a difficulty to the conspirators; cp. Cont. Th. 236.

Logothete, said, "Put on your gold peach-coloured cloak and Bardas appear to your foes, they will flee before you." mounted his horse (April 21) and rode with a brilliant company to the Emperor's pavilion. Basil, in his capacity of High Chamberlain, came out, did obeisance to the Caesar, and led him by the hand to the Emperor's presence. Bardas, sitting down beside the Emperor, suggested that, as the troops were assembled and all was ready, they should immediately embark. Suddenly looking round, he saw Basil making threatening signs with his hand. Basil then lunged at him with his sword, and the other conspirators rushed in and hewed him in pieces. Their violent onrush frightened and endangered the Emperor, who mutely watched, but Constantine the Armenian protected him from injury.1

[ocr errors]

The rôle of Constantine, who still held the post of Drungary of the Watch, is that of a preventer of mischief, when he appears on the stage at critical moments only to pass again into obscurity. He attempted to save Theoktistos from his murderers; and now after the second tragedy, it is through his efforts that the camp is not disordered by a sanguinary struggle between the partisans of Bardas and the homicides.2

The Emperor immediately wrote a letter to the Patriarch Photius informing him that the Caesar had been convicted of high treason and done to death. We possess the Patriarch's reply.3 It is couched in the conventional style of adulation repulsive to our taste but then rigorously required by Court etiquette. Having congratulated the Emperor on his escape from the plots of the ambitious man who dared to raise his hand against his benefactor, Photius deplores that he


1 This incident comes, of course, from Genesios. In the rest I have followed the account of Simeon. Genesios entirely suppresses the part played by Basil (just hinting, 107, that his interests were involved). According to him, when Bardas was sitting with Michael, Symbatios came in and read the reports (which the Logothete regularly presented). As he went out he made the sign of the cross as a signal to the conspirators who were in hiding. Gen. adds that the corpse was barbarously mutilated (τὰ τούτου αἰδοῖα κοντῷ διαρτήσαντες


éopiáμßevov). Constantine Porphyro-
gennetos has yet another version, per-
haps devised by himself. He is more
subtle. Instead of cutting the knot,
like Genesios, he assigns a part in the
murder to his grandfather, but so as
to minimise his responsibility.
cording to this account, Michael is
the organizer of the plot; he gives a
sign to Symbatios to introduce the
assassins; they hesitate, and Michael,
fearing for his own safety, orders Basil
to instigate them (Vita Bas. c. 17).
2 Gen. 107.
3 Ep. 221.

« PrethodnaNastavi »