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usual Byzantine type, devoted to the duties of his post, and concerned to secure efficiency both in his military and civil officers. He transacted most of his State business in the long hall in the Palace which was called the Lausiakos. There his secretaries, who were noted for efficiency, worked under his directions.1 In undertakings of public utility his industry was unsparing. After the peace with Bulgaria he rebuilt and restored the cities of Thrace and Macedonia, and himself with a military retinue made a progress in those provinces, to forward and superintend the work. He personally supervised the drill and discipline of the army.3
2. Conspiracy of Michael and Murder of Leo
The reign of Leo closes with another act in the historical drama which opened with the revolt of Bardanes Turcus. We have seen how the Emperor Leo bestowed offices on his two companions, Michael and Thomas. But Michael was not to prove himself more loyal to his Armenian comrade who had outstripped him than he had formerly shown himself to his Armenian master who had trusted him. Thomas indeed had faithfully clung to the desperate cause of the rebel; but he was not to bear himself with equal faith to a more legitimate lord.
The treason of Thomas is not by any means as clear as the treason of Michael. But this at least seems to be certain, that towards the end of the year 820 he organized a revolt in the East; that the Emperor, forming a false conception of the danger, sent an inadequate force, perhaps under an incompetent commander, to quell the rising, and that this force was defeated by the rebel.
But with Thomas we have no further concern now; our instant concern is with the commander of the Excubitors, who was more directly under the Imperial eye. It appears that Michael had fallen under the serious suspicion of the Emperor.
1 Gen. 18.
2 Ib. 28. For his new wall at Blachernae see below, p. 94.
3 Cont. Th. 30.
4 The date is not given, but may be inferred with tolerable certainty. If the rebellion had broken out sooner
than a month or two before Leo's death, Leo would have been constrained to deal seriously with it, and we should have heard about the operations. For the statement of Michael in his letter to Lewis the Pious see Appendix V.
The evidence against him was so weighty that he had hardly succeeded in freeing himself from the charge of treason. He was a rough man, without education or breeding; and while he could not speak polite Greek, his tongue lisped insolently against the Emperor. Perhaps he imagined that Leo was afraid of him; for, coarse and untrained as he may have been, Michael proved himself afterwards to be a man of ability, and does not strike us as one who was likely to have been a reckless babbler. He spoke doubtless these treasonable things in the presence of select friends, but he must have known well how perilous words he uttered. The matter came to the ears of the Emperor, who, unwilling to resort to any extreme measure on hearsay, not only set eavesdroppers to watch the words and deeds of his disaffected officer, but took care that he should be privately admonished to control his tongue. These offices he specially entrusted to the Logothete of the Course, John Hexabulios, a discreet and experienced man, whom we met before on the occasion of the return of Michael Rangabé to the city after the defeat at Hadrianople.1 We may feel surprise that he who then reproved Michael I. for his folly in leaving the army in Leo's hands, should now be the trusted minister of Leo himself. But we shall find him still holding office and enjoying influence in the reign of Leo's successor. The same man who has the confidence of the First Michael, and warns him against Leo, wins the confidence of Leo, and warns him against another Michael, then wins the confidence of the Second Michael, and advises him on his dealing with an unsuccessful rebel.2 Had the rebellion of Thomas prospered, Hexabulios would doubtless have been a trusted minister of Thomas too.
Michael was deaf to the warnings and rebukes of the Logothete of the Course; he was indifferent to the dangers in which his unruly talk seemed certain to involve him. The matter came to a crisis on Christmas Eve, A.D. 820. Hexabulios had gained information which pointed to a conspiracy organized by Michael and had laid it before the Emperor. The peril which threatened the throne could no longer be overlooked, and the wrath of Leo himself was furious. Michael was arrested, and the day before the feast
1 Above, p. 27.
2 Below, p. 106.
of Christmas was spent in proving his guilt. The inquiry was held in the chamber of the State Secretaries,1 and the Emperor presided in person. The proofs of guilt were so clear and overwhelming that the prisoner himself was constrained to confess his treason. After such a long space of patience the wrath of the judge was all the more terrible, and he passed the unusual sentence that his old companionin-arms should be fastened to a pole and cast into the furnace which heated the baths of the Palace. That the indignity might be greater, an ape was to be tied to the victim, in recollection perhaps of the old Roman punishment of parricides.
This sentence would have been carried out and the reign of Leo would not have come to an untimely end, if the Empress Theodosia had not intervened. Shocked at the news of the atrocious sentence, she rose from her couch, and, not even taking time to put on her slippers, rushed to the Emperor's presence, in order to prevent its execution. If she had merely exclaimed against the barbarity of the decree, she might not have compassed her wish, but the very day of the event helped her. It was Christmas Eve. How could the foul cruelty, to Must he not be
Emperor dare, with hands stained by such receive the holy Sacrament on the morrow? ashamed that such an act should be associated with the feast
of the Nativity ? These arguments appealed to the pious Christian. But Theodosia had also an argument which might appeal to the prudent sovran : let the punishment be postponed; institute a stricter investigation, and discover the names of all those who have been implicated in the plot. The appeal of the Empress was not in vain. Her counsels and her entreaties affected the mind of her husband. But while he consented to defer his final decision, it would seem that he had misgivings, and that some dim feeling of danger entered into him. He is reported to have said: "Wife, you have released my soul from sin to-day; perhaps it will soon cost me my life too. You and our children will see what shall happen."
In those days men were ready to see fatal omens and
1 Gen. 20 περὶ τὸν τῶν ἀσηκρητίων Xŵpov. These offices were situated not
far from the Lausiakos (cp. Bieliaev, i. 157).
foreshadowings in every chance event and random word. The Emperor lay awake long on the night following that Christmas Eve, tossing in his mind divers grave omens, which seemed to point to some mortal peril, and to signify Michael as the instrument. There was the unlucky chance that on the day of his coronation Michael had trodden on his cloak. But there were other signs more serious and more recent. From a book of oracles and symbolic pictures1 Leo had discovered the time of his death. A lion pierced in the throat with a sword was depicted between the letters Chi and Phi. These are the first letters of the Greek expressions which mean Christmas and Epiphany, and therefore the symbol was explained that the Imperial lion was to be slain between those two feasts. As the hours went on to Christmas morning the Lion might feel uneasy in his lair. And a strange dream, which he had dreamt a short time before, expressly signified that Michael would be the cause of his death. The Patriarch Tarasius had appeared to him with threatening words and gestures, and had called sternly upon one Michael to slay the sinner. It seemed to Leo that Michael obeyed the command, and that he himself was left half dead.
Tortured with such fears the Emperor bethought him to make further provisions for the safety of the prisoner whose punishment he had deferred. He summoned the keeper (papias) of the Palace and bade him keep Michael in one of the rooms which were assigned to the Palace-sweepers, and to fasten his feet in fetters. Leo, to make things doubly sure, kept the key of the fetters in the pocket of his under-garment. But still his fears would not let him slumber, and as the night wore on he resolved to convince himself with his own eyes that the prisoner was safe. Along the passages which led
to the room which for the time had been turned into a dungeon, there were locked doors to pass. But they were not solid enough to shut out the Emperor, who was a strong man and easily smashed or unhinged them. He found the prisoner sleeping on the pallet or bench of the keeper, and the keeper himself sleeping on the floor. He saw none save these two, but unluckily there was another present who saw
1 ἔκ τινος συμβολικῆς βίβλου (Gen. 21).
him. A little boy in the service of Michael, who had been allowed (doubtless irregularly) to bear his master company, heard the approaching steps and crept under the couch, from which hiding-place he observed the movements of Leo, whom he recognized as the Emperor by his red boots. Leo bent over Michael and laid his hand on his breast, to discover whether the beating of his heart pointed to anxiety or security. When there was no response to his touch, the Emperor marvelled much that his prisoner enjoyed such a sound and careless sleep. But he was vexed at the circumstance that the keeper had resigned his couch to the criminal; such leniency seemed undue and suspicious. Perhaps he was vexed too that the guardian was himself asleep. In any case the lad under the bed observed him, as he was retiring from the cell, to shake his hand threateningly at both the guardian and the prisoner. The unseen spectator of Leo's visit reported the matter to his master, and when the keeper of the Palace saw that he too was in jeopardy they took common counsel to save their lives. The only chance was to effect a communication with the other conspirators, whose names had not yet been revealed. The Emperor had directed that, if Michael were moved to confess his sins and wished for ghostly consolation, the offices of a priest should not be withheld from him, and the matter was entrusted to a certain Theoktistos, who was a servant of Michael, perhaps one of the Excubitors. It certainly seems strange that Leo, who took such anxious precautions in other ways, should have allowed the condemned to hold any converse with one of his own faithful dependants. The concession proved fatal. The keeper led Theoktistos to Michael's presence, and Theoktistos soon left the Palace, under the plea of fetching a minister of religion, but really in order to arrange a plan of rescue with the other conspirators. He assured the accomplices that, if they did not come to deliver the prisoner from death, Michael would not hesitate to reveal their names.
The plan of rescue which the conspirators imagined and carried out was simple enough; but its success depended on the circumstance that the season was winter and the mornings dark. It was the custom that the choristers who chanted the
1 The boy was an eunuch (Gen. 23).