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in A.D. 787 had settled the question of image-worship for
Soon after these preliminary parleys, soldiers of the Tagmata or residential regiments showed their sympathies by attacking the Image of Christ over the Brazen Gate of the Palace. It was said that this riot was suggested and encouraged by Leo; and the inscription over the image, telling how Irene erected a new icon in the place of that which Leo III. destroyed, might stimulate the fury of those who revered the memory of the Isaurian Emperors. Mud and stones were hurled by the soldiers at the sacred figure, and then the Emperor innocently said, "Let us take it down, to save it from these insults." This was the first overt act in the new campaign, and the Patriarch thought it high time to summon a meeting of bishops and abbots to discuss the danger which was threatening the Church. The convocation was held in the Patriarch's palace. All those who were present swore to stand fast by the doctrine laid down at the Seventh Council, and they read over the passages which their opponents cited against them.1 When Christmas came, Nicephorus begged the Emperor to remove him from the pontifical chair if he (Nicephorus) were unpleasing in his eyes, but to make no innovations in the Church. To this Leo replied by disclaiming either intention.2
These preliminary skirmishes occurred before Christmas (A.D. 814). On Christmas day it was noticed by curious and watchful eyes that Leo adored in public a cloth on which the birth of Christ was represented. But on the next great feast of the Church, the day of Epiphany, it was likewise observed that he did not adore, according to custom. Meanwhile, the iconoclastic party was being reinforced by proselytes, and the Emperor looked forward to a speedy settlement of the question in his own favour at a general synod. He issued a summons to the bishops of the various dioceses in the Empire to 133-135; Ebersolt, Sainte-Sophie de Constantinople, 26-27 (1910).
1 The riot of the soldiers and the meeting of the, bishops occurred in December before Christmas: so expressly Scr. Incert. 355 raûra ÈπPÁXON πрò тWν Éоρтŵv. C. Thomas (ib. 107, n. 5) seems to have overlooked this. The Patriarch's palace was on the south side of St. Sophia, probably towards the east; see Bieliaev, ii.
2 He evidently had an audience of the Emperor, perhaps on Christmas day, φθασάντων (sic) τῶν ἑορτῶν (Ser. Incert. ib.).
3 βουλόμενος διαβάσαι τὴν ἑορτήν (ib.).
assemble in the capital, and perhaps stirred the prelates of Hellas to undertake the journey by a reminiscence flattering to their pride. He reminded them that men from Mycenae in Argolis, men from Carystos in Euboea, men from Corinth, and many other Greeks, joined the Megarians in founding that colony of the Bosphorus which had now grown to such great estate.1 According as they arrived, they were conducted straightway to the Emperor's presence, and were prohibited from first paying a visit to the Patriarch, as was the usual practice. The Emperor wished to act on their hopes or fears before they had been warned or confirmed in the faith by the words of their spiritual superior; and this policy was regarded as one of his worst acts of tyranny. Many of the bishops submitted to the arguments or to the veiled threats of their sovran, and those who dared to resist his influence were kept in confinement.2 The Patriarch in the meantime encouraged his own party to stand fast. He was supported by the powerful interest of the monks, and especially by Theodore, abbot of Studion, who had been his adversary a few years ago. A large assembly of the faithful was convoked in the Church of St. Sophia, and a service lasting the whole night was celebrated.3 Nicephorus prayed for the conversion of the Emperor, and confirmed his followers in their faith.
The Emperor was not well pleased when the news reached the Palace of the doings in the Church. About the time of cockcrow he sent a message of remonstrance to the Patriarch and summoned him to appear in the Palace at break of day, to explain his conduct. There ensued a second and more famous interview between the Emperor and the Patriarch, when they discussed at large the arguments for and against image-worship. Nicephorus doubtless related to his friends the substance of what was said, and the admirers of that saint afterwards wrote elaborate accounts of the dialogue, which they found a grateful subject for exhibiting learning,
1 Gen. 27 ἐντεῦθεν καὶ γράψας παντὶ ἐπισκόπῳ καταίρειν ἐν Βυζαντίῳ τῷ ὑπὸ Μεγαρέων κτισθέντι καὶ Βύζαντος, κατ ̓ Εὐρώπην συνελθόντων ἐν τῇ τούτου πολίσει Καρυστίων Μυκηναίων καὶ Κορινθίων ἄλλων τε πολλῶν, φιλοσόφοις ἅμα καὶ ῥήτορσι. The mythological flourish may be due to Genesios.
2 Ignatius, Vit. Nic. Patr. 166. An
assembly of the bishops was held in the Palace (τοῦ δευτέρου Καϊάφα συνίστη τὸ βουλευτήριον, ib.) before the Patriarch's counter - demonstration; but of course it was not a "synod."
3 Ignatius, Vit. Nic. Patr. 167 τǹv πάννυχον ἐπιτελέσοντας σύναξιν.
subtlety, and style. Ultimately Nicephorus proposed that the bishops and others who had accompanied him to the gate should be admitted to the Imperial presence, that his Majesty \ might become fully convinced of their unanimity on the question at issue. The audience was held in the Chrysotriklinos,1 and guards with conspicuous swords were present, to awe the churchmen into respect and obedience.
The Emperor bent his brows and spake thus: 2
Ye, like all others, are well aware that God has appointed us to watch over the interests of this illustrious and reasonable flock; 3 and that we are eager and solicitous to smoothe away and remove every thorn that grows in the Church. As some members of the fold are in doubt as to the adoration of images, and cite passages of Scripture which seem unfavourable to such practices, the necessity of resolving the question once for all is vital; more especially in order to compass our great end, which, as you know, is the unity of the whole Church. The questioners supply the premisses; we are constrained to draw the conclusion. We have already communicated our wishes to the High Pontiff, and now we charge you to resolve the problem speedily. If you are too slow you may end in saying nothing, and disobedience to our commands will not conduce to your profit.
The bishops and abbots, encouraged by the firmness of the Patriarch, did not flinch before the stern aspect of the Emperor, and several spoke out their thoughts, the others murmuring approval. Later writers edified their readers by composing orations which might have been delivered on such an occasion. In Theodore, the abbot of Studion, the Emperor recognised his most formidable opponent, and some words are ascribed to Theodore, which are doubtless genuine. He is reported to have denied the right of the Emperor to interfere in ecclesiastical affairs:
Leave the Church to its pastors and masters; attend to your own province, the State and the army. If you refuse to do this, and are bent on destroying our faith, know that though an angel came from heaven to pervert us we would not obey him, much less you.5
1 πρὸς τὰ χρυσόροφα ἀνάκτορα (Ignatius, Vit. Nic. 168).
2 I translate freely from Ignatius. The general tenor of the speech is doubtless correct.
μεγαλώνυμον καὶ λογικὴν
3 τὴν ποίμνην.
• Theosteriktos, Vit. Nicet. 29,
enumerates those who took a prominent part: the bishops Euthymios of Sardis, Aemilian of Cyzicus, Michael of Synnada, Theophylactus of Nicomedia, and Peter of Nicaea.
5 Theosteriktos, Vit. Nicet. 30; George Mon. 777; Michael, Vit. Theod. 280 sqq. (where, however, the strong figure of an angel's descent is omitted).
The protest against Caesaropapism is characteristic of Theodore. The Emperor angrily dismissed the ecclesiastics, having assured Theodore that he had no intention of making a martyr of him or punishing him in any way, until the whole question had been further investigated.1
Immediately after this conclave an edict was issued forbidding members of the Patriarch's party to hold meetings or assemble together in private houses. The iconodules were thus placed in the position of suspected conspirators, under the strict supervision of the Prefect of the City; and Nicephorus himself was practically a captive in his palace, under the custody of one Thomas, a patrician.
The Patriarch did not yet wholly despair of converting the Emperor, and he wrote letters to some persons who might exert an influence over him. He wrote to the Empress Theodosia, exhorting her to deter her lord from his "terrible enterprise." He also wrote to the General Logothete to the same effect, and in more threatening language to Eutychian, the First Secretary. Eutychian certainly gave no heedful ear to the admonitions of the pontiff. If the Empress saw good to intervene, or if the General Logothete ventured to remonstrate, these representations were vain. The Emperor forbade Nicephorus to exercise any longer the functions of his office.3 Just at this time the Patriarch fell sick, and if the
1 Michael, Vit. Theod. 281-284.
2 She was the daughter of Arsaber, patrician and quaestor (Gen. 21). Dark hints were let fall that there was something queer about her marriage with Leo. Perhaps she was a relative within the forbidden limits. Cp. ib. 19.
3 Ignatius, Vit. Nic. 190. A curious story is told by Michael Syr. 71, that the crown of a statue of "Augustus Caesar," which stood on a high column, fell off. It was difficult, but important, to replace it, for it was believed that the crown had the power of averting pestilence from the city. When a man was found capable of the task, the Patriarch secretly gave him some coins and instructed him to say that he had found them at the foot of the statue. He wished to prove that the representation of sacred images was ancient. When the man descended
and showed the old coins, the Emperor asked him whether he found them exposed to the air or in a receptacle. He said "exposed to the air." The Emperor had them washed with water and the images disappeared. The man con. fessed the imposture, and the Patriarch was discredited. The motif of this fiction is doubtless an incident which occurred in the reign of Theophilus, when the gold circle (Toûpa) of the equestrian statue of Justinian in the Augusteum fell, and an agile workman reached the top of the column by the device, incredible as it is described by Simeon (Leo Gr. 227), of climbing with a rope to the roof of St. Sophia, attaching the rope to a dart, and hurling the dart which entered so firmly into the statue (iπÓтην, the Lat. transl. has equum) that he was able to swing himself along the suspended rope to the summit of the column.
4 Probably in February.
malady had proved fatal, Leo's path would have been smoothed. A successor of iconoclastic views could then have been appointed, without the odium of deposing such an illustrious prelate as Nicephorus. If Leo did not desire the death of his adversary, he decided at this time who was to be the next Patriarch. Hopes had been held out to John the Grammarian that he might aspire to the dignity, but on maturer reflexion it was agreed that he was too young and obscure.1 Theodotos Kassiteras, who seems to have been the most distinguished supporter of Leo throughout this ecclesiastical conflict, declared himself ready to be ordained and fill the Patriarchal chair.2
But Nicephorus did not succumb to the disease. He recovered at the beginning of Lent when the Synod was about to meet. Theophanes, a brother of the Empress, was sent to invite Nicephorus to attend, but was not admitted to his presence. A clerical deputation, however, waited at the Patriarcheion, and the unwilling Patriarch was persuaded by Thomas the patrician, his custodian, to receive them. Nicephorus was in a prostrate condition, but his visitors could not persuade him to make any concessions. Their visit had somehow become known in the city and a riotous mob, chiefly consisting of soldiers, had gathered in front of the Patriarcheion. A rush into the building seemed so imminent that Thomas was obliged to close the gates, while the crowd of enthusiastic iconoclasts loaded with curses the obnoxious names of Tarasius and Nicephorus."
After this the Synod met and deposed Nicephorus. The enemies of Leo encouraged the belief that the idea of putting Nicephorus to death was seriously entertained, and it is stated that Nicephorus himself addressed a letter to the Emperor, begging him to depose him and do nothing more violent, for
1 Scr. Incert. 359. The disappointment of John was doubtless due to the interest of Theodotos.
2 He belonged to the important family of the Melissenoi. His father Michael, patrician and general of the Anatolic Theme, had been a leading iconoclast under Constantine V. (cp. Theoph. 440, 445). For the family see Ducange, Fam. Byz. 145a.
3 Scr. Incert. 358. In the meantime, some of the duties of the Patriarch had been entrusted to a patrician,
whose views were at variance with those of the Patriarch (see Ignatius, Vit. Nic. Patr. 190). From the Scr. Incert. we know that this patrician was Thomas.
4 Ib. 191 τὸν τῆς βασιλίσσης ὁμαίμονα. 5 Ib. 193. The deputation brought a pamphlet with them · τῷ ἀτόμῳ ἐκείνῳ τόμῳ—which they tried to persuade him to endorse, threatening him with deposition.
6 Ib. 196. Scr. Incert. 358.