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matins in the Palace Chapel of St. Stephen1 should enter by the Ivory Gate at daybreak, and as soon as they sang the morning hymn, the Emperor used to enter the church. The conspirators arrayed themselves in clerical robes, and having concealed daggers in the folds, mingled with the choristers who were waiting for admission at the Ivory Gate. Under the cover of the gloom easily escaping detection, they entered the Palace and hid themselves in a dark corner of the chapel. Leo, who was proud of his singing (according to one writer he sang execrably, but another, by no means well disposed to him, states that he had an unusually melodious voice 2), arrived punctually to take part in the Christmas service, and harbouring no suspicion of the danger which lurked so near. It was a chilly morning, and both the Emperor and the priest who led the service had protected themselves against the cold by wearing peaked felt caps. At a passage in the service which the Emperor used to sing with special unction, the signal was given and the conspirators leaped out from their hiding-place, The likeness in head-dress, and also a certain likeness in face and figure, between Leo and the chief of the officiating clergy, led at first to a blunder. The weapons of the rebels were directed against the priest, but he saved his life by uncovering his head and showing that he was bald. Leo, meanwhile, who saw his danger, had used the momentary respite to rush to the altar and seize some sacred object, whether the cross itself, or the chain of the censer, or a candelabrum, as a weapon of defence. When this was shattered by the swords of the foes who surrounded him and only a useless fragment remained in his hands, he turned to one of them who was distinguished above the others by immense stature and adjured him to spare his life.
1 Acta Davidis, etc., 229 KATȧ TÒV τοῦ πρωτομάρτυρος Στεφάνου ναὸν τὸν ἔνδον ὄντα τῶν βασιλείων ἐν τόπῳ τῷ ἐπιλεγομένῳ Δάφνῃ. But Nicetas (Vit. Ign. 216) places the murder in the Church of the Virgin of the Pharos, and this is accepted by Ebersolt (155), who consequently gets into difficulties about the Ivory Gate. From Gen. 24 it is clear that this gate was an exterior gate of the Palace (this is in accordance with Constantine, Cer. 600), doubtless communicating with the Hippodrome, and close to the Daphne Palace. Labarte (122; followed by
Bieliaev) thought that the church (which Gen. and Cont. Th. do not identify) is that of the Lord, which was also close to Daphne. The Armenian historian Wardan (see Marquart, Streifzüge, 404) says that the keeper of the prison was a friend of Michael and bribed the μαγγλαβῖται (palace-guards), and that they executed the murder. He also mentions the intervention of the Empress.
2 Gen. p. 19 σοβαρὸν ἐμβοῶν καὶ κακόρυθμος, but Cont. Th. 39 ἦν γὰρ φύσει τε εὔφωνος καὶ ἐν ταῖς μελῳδίαις τῶν κατ ̓ ἐκεῖνο καιροῦ ἀνθρώπων ἡδύτατος.
But the giant, who for his height was nicknamed "One-and-ahalf," 1 swore a great oath that the days of Leo were numbered, and with the word brought down his sword so heavily on the shoulder of his victim that not only was the arm cut from the body, but the implement which the hand still held was cleft and bounded to a distant spot of the building. Imperial head was then cut off, and the work of murder and rescue was accomplished.2
Thus perished the Armenian Leo more foully than any Roman Emperor since Maurice was slain by Phocas. He was, as even his enemies admitted (apart from his religious policy), an excellent ruler, and a rebellion against him, not caused by ecclesiastical discontent, was inexcusable. Michael afterwards declared, in palliation of the conspiracy, that Leo had shown himself to be unequal to coping with the rebellion of Thomas, and that this incompetence had caused discontent among the leading men of the State. But this plea cannot be admitted; for although Thomas defeated a small force which Leo, not fully realizing the danger, had sent against him, there is no reason to suppose that, when he was fully informed of the forces and numbers of the rebel, he would have shown himself less able or less energetic in suppressing the insurrection than Michael himself. Certainly his previous conduct of warfare was not likely to suggest to his ministers that he was incapable of dealing with a revolt. But in any case we have no sign, except Michael's own statement, that the rebellion of Thomas was already formidable. We must conclude that the conspiracy was entirely due to Michael's personal ambition, stimulated perhaps by the signs and omens and soothsayings of which the air was full. It does not appear that the religious question entered into the situation; for Michael was himself favourable to iconoclasm.
The body of the slain Emperor was cast by his murderers into some sewer or outhouse for the moment. It was afterwhich they interpreted to signify some portentous event. See Gen. 26, Cont. Th. 40. Cp. the story told of the death of Wala of Corbie (A.D. 836): Simson, Ludwig, ii. 157.
3 Gen. 26 ἐν εὐλοειδέσι χώροις τοῖς πρὸς τὸ δέξιμον (δ. seems to mean a receptacle for sewerage; not noticed in Ducange's Gloss.).
1 ἓν καὶ ἥμισυ, see Gen. 25. From Cont. Th. 39 we get another fact about the giant he belonged to the family of the Krambônites.
2 There was a story told that at the very hour at which the deed was wrought, four o'clock in the morning, some sailors, sailing on the sea, heard a strange voice in the air,
wards dragged naked from the Palace by the “Gate of Spoils" to the Hippodrome,1 to be exposed to the spurns of the populace, which had so lately trembled in the presence of the form which they now insulted. From the Hippodrome the corpse was borne on the back of a horse or mule to a harbour and embarked in the same boat which was to convey the widow and the children of the Emperor to a lonely and lowly exile in the island of Prôtê. Here a new sorrow was in store for Theodosia the body of the son who was called by her own name was to be laid by that of his father. The decree had gone forth that the four sons were to be made eunuchs, in order that they might never aspire to recover the throne from which their father had fallen. The same measure which Leo had meted to his predecessor's children was dealt out to his own offspring. Theodosius, who was probably the youngest of the brothers, did not survive the mutilation, and he was buried with Leo. There is a tale that one of the other brothers, but it is not quite clear whether it was Constantine or Basil, lost his power of speech from the same cause, but that by devout and continuous prayer to God and to St. Gregory, whose image had been set up in the island, his voice was restored to him. The third son, Gregory, lived to become in later years bishop of Syracuse. Both Basil and Gregory repented of their iconoclastic errors, and iconodule historians spoke of them in after days as "great in virtue.” 3
But although Michael, with a view to his own security, dealt thus cruelly with the boys, he did not leave the family destitute. He gave them a portion of Leo's property for their support, but he assigned them habitations in different places. The sons were confined in Prôtê, while the wife and the mother of Leo were allowed to dwell" safely and at their own will" in a more verdant and charming island of the same group, Chalkitês, which is now known as Halki.4
1 There is a picture of the scene in the Madrid MS. of Skylitzes (Beylié, L'Habitation byzantine, 106). Partisans of Michael appear above the roof of the Palace to illustrate the chronicler's words (Cedrenus, ii. 67) dià TÒ Tηv βασίλειον αὐλὴν ὅπλοις οἰκείοις πάντοθεν περιφραχθῆναι.
2 Cont. Th. 47 Κωνσταντῖνος ὁ μετονομασθεὶς Βασίλειος. This, of
course, is a mistake. Constantine was not Basil. The renaming was of Symbatios, who became Constantine (ib. 41; below, p. 58). It seems probable that Basil was meant, as we find the story told of him in PseudoSimeon, 619.
3 Gen. 99.
4 Cont. Th. 46, where their retreat is designated as the monastery Tŵv
§ 3. The Revival of Iconoclasm
The revival of image-worship by the Empress Irene and the authority of the Council of Nicaea had not extinguished the iconoclastic doctrine, which was still obstinately maintained by powerful parties both in the Court circles of Byzantium and in the army. It is not surprising that the struggle should have been, however unwisely, renewed. The first period of iconoclasm and persecution, which was initiated by Leo the Isaurian, lasted for more than fifty, the second, which was initiated by Leo the Armenian, for less than thirty years. The two periods are distinguished by the greater prominence of the dogmatic issues of the question in the later epoch, and by the circumstance that the persecution was less violent and more restricted in its range.
We have already seen that Leo, before he entered Constantinople to celebrate his coronation, wrote to assure the Patriarch of his orthodoxy.1 No hint is given that this letter was a reply to a previous communication from the Patriarch. We may suppose that Leo remembered how Nicephorus had exacted a written declaration of orthodoxy from Michael, and wished to anticipate such a demand. We know not in what terms the letter of Leo was couched, but it is possible that he gave Nicephorus reason to believe that he would be ready to sign. a more formal document to the same effect after his coronation. The crowned Emperor, however, evaded the formality, which the uncrowned Emperor had perhaps promised or suggested; and thus when he afterwards repudiated the Acts of the Seventh Ecumenical Council he could not legally be said to
Δεσποτῶν. I know no other reference to this cloister, but infer that it was in Halki from the letter of Theodore of Studion to Theodosia and her son Basil (ii. 204 ἐπειδὴ δὲ ἀπεδόθη ὑμῖν παρὰ τοῦ μεγάλου βασιλέως ἡ νῆσος τῆς Χαλκίτου εἰς κατοικητήριον). Theodore complains that the abbot and monks had been turned out of their house to make room for Theodosia, and have no home. The letter might suggest that Basil was with Theodosia (in contradiction to the statement of Cont. Th.), but the inference is not necessary and the superscription may be inaccurate. For a description of Halki and its
monasteries, see Schlumberger, op. cit. 102 sqq.
1 Theoph. 502 γράφει μὲν Νικηφόρῳ τῷ πατριάρχῃ τὰ περὶ τῆς ἑαυτοῦ ὀρθοδοξίας διαβεβαιούμενος, αἰτῶν μετὰ τῆς εὐχῆς καὶ ἐπινεύσεως αὐτοῦ τοῦ κράτους èπiλaßéolai. This statement of Theophanes is most important and seems to be the key to the difficulty. Theophanes does not say a word in prejudice of Leo. He wrote probably very soon after Leo's accession and before the iconoclastic policy had been announced. If Leo had signed, like Michael, a formal document, Theophanes would almost certainly have mentioned it.
have broken solemn engagements. But his adversaries were eager to represent him as having broken faith. According to one account,' he actually signed a solemn undertaking to preserve inviolate the received doctrines of the Church; and this he flagrantly violated by his war against images. According to the other account,2 he definitely promised to sign such a document after his coronation, but, when it came to the point, refused. The first story seizes the fact of his reassuring letter to Nicephorus and represents it as a binding document; the second story seizes the fact that Leo after his coronation declined to bind himself, and represents this refusal as a breach of a definite promise.
The iconoclastic doctrine was still widely prevalent in the army, and was held by many among the higher classes in the capital. If it had not possessed a strong body of adherents, the Emperor could never have thought of reviving it. That he committed a mistake in policy can hardly be disputed in view of subsequent events. Nicephorus I., in preserving the settlement of the Council of Nicaea, while he allowed iconoclasts perfect freedom to propagate their opinions, had proved himself a competent statesman. For, considered in the interest of ecclesiastical tranquillity, the great superiority of imageworship to iconoclasm lay in the fact that it need not lead to persecution or oppression. The iconoclasts could not be compelled to worship pictures, they had only to endure the offence of seeing them and abstain from insulting them; whereas the adoption of an iconoclastic policy rendered persecution inevitable. The course pursued by Nicephorus seems to have been
1 Scr. Incert. 340 πротероv Tonσas idióxεipov; cp. 349. Simeon (Leo Gr. 207) βεβαιώσας αὐτὸν ἐγγράφως περὶ τῆς čavтοû ỏplodoğías (cp. Vers. Slav. 90; Add. Georg. ed. Mur. 679 has Tò ἔγγραφον—ἀθετήσας). Hirsch is the only modern authority since Lebeau (xii. 297) who accepts this account (22). According to Vit. Theod. Grapt. 665, Leo gave an undertaking at the time of the coronation.
2 Ignatius, Vit. Niceph. Patr. 163, 164: Nicephorus sent an elaborate form (rbuos), containing the orthodox creed, to Leo before his coronation; Leo assented to its contents, but postponed signing until the diadem was
placed on his head; then deutépą tîs βασιλείας ἡμέρας καὶ αὖθις ὁ θεοφόρος τῷ τῆς ὀρθοδοξίας τόμῳ τὸν ἀρτιφανῆ βασιλέα κατήπειγεν ἐνσημήνασθαι ὁ δὲ κραταιῶς ἀπηρνεῖτο. This story may be near the truth though it is told by a partisan. It is repeated by Genesios, etc., and accepted by Finlay, ii. 113 (who here confounds the Patriarch with the deacon Ignatius), Hergenröther, i. 234, and most writers. Hefele leaves the question open (iv. 1). Ignatius relates that the Patriarch, when placing the crown on Leo's head, felt as if he were pricked by thorns (164).