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stances. The principles and the framework remained the same; there was no revolution; but there was constant adaptation here and there. It will be found, for instance, that the administrative arrangements in the twelfth century differ in endless details from those of the ninth. To this elasticity, which historians have failed to emphasize, the Empire owed its longevity. Byzantium was conservative; but Byzantine uniformity is a legend.
The history of the period described in this volume exhibits the vitality of the Empire. It experienced losses and reverses, but there are no such symptoms of decline as may be detected in the constitution of its rival, the Caliphate, and no tendencies to disintegration, like those which in the same period were at work in the Carolingian realm. The Amorian age, however, is apt to be regarded as an inglorious interval between the rule of the Isaurians who renovated the strength of the Empire and the brilliant expansion under Basil I. and his successors. The losses of Crete and Sicily have been taken as a proof of decline; the character and the régime of Theophilus have been viewed with antipathy or contempt; and the worthlessness of Michael III. has prejudiced posterity against the generation which tolerated such a sovran. This unfavourable opinion is not confined to the learned slaves of the Papacy, who are unable to regard with impartial eyes the age of Theophilus the enemy of icons, and of Photius the enemy of the Pope. The deepest cause of the prevalent view has been the deliberate and malignant detraction with which the sovrans and servile chroniclers of the Basilian period pursued the memory and blackened the repute of the Amorian administration; for modern historians have not emancipated themselves completely from the bias of those prejudiced
In the foregoing pages we have seen that while even detraction has not ventured to accuse the Amorian rulers of exceptional rigour in taxing their subjects, the Empire was wealthy and prosperous. We have seen that it maintained itself, with alternations of defeat and victory, but without losing ground, against the Caliphate, that peace was preserved on the Bulgarian frontier, and that the reduction of the Slavs in Greece was completed. Oversea dominions were
lost, but against this we have to set the fact that the Amorian monarchs, by taking in hand the reconstruction of the naval establishment, which the Isaurians had neglected, prepared the way for the successes of Basil I. in Italy. We have still to see what services they rendered to art, education, and learning. In these spheres we shall find a new pulse of movement, endeavour, revival, distinguishing the ninth century from the two hundred years which preceded it. We may indeed say that our period established the most fully developed and most pardonably self-complacent phase of Byzantinism.
It is a striking fact, and may possibly be relevant in this connexion, that the Armenian element, which had long been an ethnical constituent of the Empire, comes conspicuously forward in the ninth century. Before now, Hellenized Armenians had often occupied high posts, once even the throne; but now they begin to rise in numbers into social and political prominence. The pretender Bardanes, Leo V., Basil would not be significant if they stood alone. But the gifted family of the Empress Theodora was of Armenian stock; it included Manuel, Bardas, and Petronas. Through his mother, Photius the Patriarch; John the Grammarian and his brother (who held a high dignity), were also of Armenian descent; and Alexius Musele and Constantine Babutzikos are two other eminent examples of the Armenians who rose to high rank and office in the Imperial service.1 All these men were thorough Byzantines, saturated with the traditions of their environment; but their energy and ability, proved by their success, suggest the conjecture that they represented a renovating force which did much to maintain the vitality of the State.
§ 1. Art
It is commonly supposed that the iconoclastic movement was a calamity for art, and the dearth of artistic works dating from the period in which religious pictures were discouraged,
1 Constantine, Drungary of the Watch under Michael III., is another instance. Several of the fellowconspirators of Basil in the murder of
Michael III. were Armenians. On this subject see Rambaud, L'Empire grec, 536, and cp. Bussell, Const. History, ii. 166, 344-345.
proscribed, or destroyed, seems, at first sight, to bear out this opinion. If, however, we examine the facts more closely, we shall find that the iconoclastic age was far from being inartistic, and that it witnessed the insurrection of new ideas and tendencies which exercised a potent and valuable influence upon the religious art of the succeeding period.1 One immediate effect, indeed, which may be considered a loss and a calamity, the doctrine of the image-breakers produced. It exterminated a whole branch of art, it abolished sculpture. The polemic against images had carried weight with orthodox opinion so far that sculptured representations of holy persons or sacred scenes were discontinued by common consent. It was a partial victory for the iconoclasts, an illogical concession of the image-worshippers. No formal prohibition was enacted by Church or State; the rejection of plastic images was a tacit but authoritative decree of public opinion.
The iconoclastic sovrans were not unfriends of pictorial art as such. Two of the most illustrious and uncompromising, Constantine V. and Theophilus, who desired to abolish entirely religious pictures of a monumental kind, sought a substitute in secular painting for the decoration of both sacred and profane buildings. The antique traditions of profane art had never disappeared in the Byzantine world, but they had become inconspicuous and uninfluential through the domination of religious art, with its fixed iconographic types, which had ascended to its highest plane of excellence in the sixth century. Under the auspices of the iconoclasts, profane art revived. Constantine V. caused the church of Blachernae to be decorated with landscapes, trees, and birds and animals; Theophilus followed his example. This was not really a novelty; it was a return to the primitive decoration of early Christian churches, which had been gradually abandoned. Scènes de genre, pictures of the chase, scenes in the hippodrome, were demanded from the artists who adorned the halls of the Imperial Palace. Of such frescoes and mosaics we know only what chroniclers tell us, but some ivory coffers which were
1 This has been shown in some brilliant pages of Diehl's L'Art byzantin, 339 sqq., 372 sqq. To this masterly work the following pages are indebted. For the influence of Hellenistic on Byzantine painting and design, see
D. V. Ainalov, Ellinisticheskiia osnovy vizantiiskago iskusstva, 1900.
2 Cont. Th. 99. See above, p. 130 sqq., for the decoration of his new buildings in the Palace.
carved in the ninth century illustrate the revival of profane art under the iconoclasts. One of them may be seen in London, exhibiting scenes of pagan mythology, such as the rape of Europa and the sacrifice of Iphigeneia.1
The taste for rich ornament also characterized this period, and did not expire with the defeat of iconoclasm. It is apparent in the description of the sumptuously decorated buildings of Theophilus; and Basil I., in the new palaces which he erected, did not fall behind the splendour of the impious Amorian. This taste displayed itself also in the illumination of books, of which brilliant specimens are preserved dating from the tenth and eleventh centuries.
Even under the iconoclastic dispensation, artists who desired to represent religious subjects had an outlet for the expression of their ideas in the illustration of manuscripts. A psalter is preserved at Moscow 2 which is supposed to have been written in the early part of the ninth century in the monastery of Studion. It is simply and elegantly illustrated by coloured vignettes in the margins, animated and realistic, free from the solemnity which we associate with Byzantine art.3 The proud who "set their mouth against the heavens and their tongue walketh through the earth" are portrayed by two bearded men with long tongues touching the ground, and upper lips, like beaks, which touch a bowl, surmounted by a cross, representing the sky.
The iconoclastic controversy itself supplied the monastic artists with motives to point the moral and adorn the text of sacred writ. In another psalter which must have been written in the generation succeeding the triumph of orthodoxy, the congregation of the wicked is exemplified by a picture of the Synod of A.D. 815. We see Leo the Amorian on a throne, the Patriarch Theodotos seated by his side, and two men defacing with long spears the icon of Christ. The assembling of the righteous is depicted as the Council of A.D. 843, where Jannes is trampled under foot by the orthodox Patriarch who holds the image of Christ in his hand, while above we see the and is known as the Khludov Psalter. See Diehl, op. cit. 353-354.
3 Diehl, ib.
4 Ps. 73. 9. This picture is reproduced in Diehl, ib.
1 The coffer of Veroli in the Victoria and Albert Museum.
2 In the monastery of St. Nicolas. It has been studied by Kondakov, Miniatures d'un manuscrit grec du psautier de la collection Chloudof (1878),
Biblical sorcerer Simon hurled down by St. Peter.1 In another book of the same period, designed for popular instruction, the Physiologus, some of the illustrations are allusive to the recent controversy and inspired by monastic spite; but this manuscript exhibits at the same time the influence of the profane art which the iconoclasts had revived, in the realism of its pictures and in the pagan subjects, such as sirens, nymphs, and centaurs.2
The employment of art in the service of controversy, or as an outlet for controversial spite, seems to be characteristic of the age. The archbishop Gregory Asbestas, the friend and supporter of Photius, had some skill in painting, and he illustrated a copy of the Acts of the synod which condemned Ignatius with realistic and somewhat scurrilous caricatures. At the beginning of the first Act he depicted the flogging of the Patriarch, above whose head was inscribed "the Devil." The second picture showed the bystanders spitting upon him as he was haled to prison; the third represented him, “the son of perdition," suffering dethronement; the fourth, bound in chains and going into exile. In the fifth his neck was in a collar; and in the sixth he was condemned to death. Each vignette had an insulting legend; and in the seventh, and last, the head of "Antichrist was severed from his body. This manuscript, in a rich cover of purple silk, was found among the books of Photius, and was burned, with others, at the Eighth Ecumenical Council.3
Enough has been said to indicate the significance of the iconoclastic movement for the history of art. A ban was placed on certain forms of pictorial work; but whatever temporary disadvantages this may be thought to have entailed, they were far outweighed by the revival of other styles which were in danger of complete extinction. If there had been no iconoclastic movement, the dead religious art of the seventhcentury decadence might have continued, without reanimation, to the end. Under the Isaurian and Amorian dynasties profane art revived; there was a renaissance of the old picturesque decorative style which, originating in Alexandria, had spread 3 Vita Ign. 260. A second copy had been prepared, destined for the Emperor Lewis. A companion MS., containing the Acts of the Council which condemned Pope Nicolas, seems not to have been illustrated.
1 The Barberini Psalter (in the Vatican). Tikkanen, Die Psalterillustration im Mittelalter, 1895. Diehl, 355-356.
2 Strzygowski, Der Bilderkreis des griechischen Physiologus, 1899.