« PrethodnaNastavi »
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
I follow mainly Simeon (ib. 828), which is obviously the most impartial source. Nicetas, Fil. Ign. 255, describes the plot as only a pretext.
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. 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 to-morrow." 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
in gold on it. He was told, when he asked the meaning of this, that the shortness signified the curtailment of his life, and the guileful bird expressed the vengeful feelings which the sender entertained on account of the murder of Theoktistos (Gen. 104).
1 Easter fell on April 7.
2 Simeon (ib. 830) gives the names of five, of whom one John Chaldos Tziphinarites is also mentioned by Genesios (106). This writer thought that the plan was first conceived at Kêpoi, and that its immediate occasion
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
The role 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. 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
¿0 piáμßevor). Constantine Porphyro-
was sent without time for repentance to the tribunal in another world. The Patriarch owed his position to Bardas, and if he knew his weaknesses, must have appreciated his merits. We can detect in the phraseology of his epistle, and especially in one ambiguous sentence, the mixture of his feelings. "The virtue and clemency of your Majesty forbid me to suspect that the letter was fabricated or that the circumstances of the fall of Bardas were otherwise than it alleges-circumstances by which he (Bardas) is crowned and others will suffer." These words intimate suspicion as clearly as it could decently be intimated in such a case. It was impossible not to accept the sovran's assurance of the Caesar's guilt, if it were indeed his own assurance, yet Photius allows it to be seen that he suspects that the Imperial letter was dictated by Basil and that there was foul play. But perhaps the most interesting passage in this composition of Photius-in which we can feel his deep agitation under the rhetorical figures of his style-is his brief characterization of the Caesar as one who was to many a terror, to many a warning, to many a cause of pity, but to more a riddle." 2
Photius concluded his letter with an urgent prayer that the Emperor should instantly return to the capital, professing that this was the unanimous desire of the Senate and the citizens; and shortly afterwards he dispatched another brief but importunate request to the same effect. It is absurd to suppose that this solicitude was unreal, or dictated by motives of vulgar flattery. We cannot doubt the genuine concern of the Patriarch; but in our ignorance of the details of the situation we can only conjecture that he and his friends entertained the fear that Michael might share the fate of his uncle. The intrigues of Basil were, of course, known well to all who were initiated in Court affairs; and modern partisan writers of the Roman Church, who detest Photius and all his works, do not pause to consider, when they scornfully animadvert upon these "time-serving" letters, that to have
1 δι' ὧν ἐκεῖνος μὲν στέφεται ἄλλοι δὲ κόψονται. The paraphrase of the Abbe Jager (Hist. de Photius, 116) entirely omits this.
2 Mistranslated by Jager, ib. 117. 3 Ep. 222.
1 Jager, ib. 115. Hergenrother, i. 589. Valettas, in his apology for Photius (note to Ep. 221, p. 536), says that Ph. calls Basil év Töλel λyotÝy, etc., in Ep. 190; but Basil, Prefect of the City, to whom this letter is addressed, is a different person.
addressed to Michael holy words of condemnation or reproof would have been to fling away every chance of rescuing him from the influence of his High Chamberlain. We know not whether the Emperor was influenced by the pressing messages of the Patriarch, but at all events the Cretan expedition was abandoned, and he returned with Basil to Constantinople.
§ 3. The Elevation of Basil and the Murder of Michael
The High Chamberlain promptly reaped the due reward of his craft and audacity. He was adopted as a son by the childless Emperor, and invested with the order of Magister.1 A few weeks later, Michael suddenly decided to elevate him to the throne. We can easily understand that this step seemed the easiest way out of his perplexities to the Emperor, who felt himself utterly lost when Bardas was removed from the helm. Basil, firm and self-confident, was a tower of strength, and at this moment he could exert unlimited influence over the weak mind of his master. The Court and the city were kept in the dark till the last moment. On the eve of Pentecost, the Chief of the Private Wardrobe waited on the Patriarch and informed him that on the morrow he would be required to take part in the inauguration of Basil as Basileus and Augustus.
On Whitsunday (May 26), it was observed with surprise that two Imperial seats were placed side by side in St. Sophia. In the procession from the Palace, Basil walked behind the Emperor, in the usual guise of the High Chamberlain; but Michael on entering the church did not remove the crown from his head as was usual. He ascended the ambo 2 wearing the diadem, Basil stood on a lower step, and below him Leo Kastor, a secretary, with a document in his hand, while the Praepositus, the demarchs, and the demes stood around. Leo then read out an Imperial declaration: "The Caesar Bardas plotted against me to slay me, and for this reason induced me to leave the city. If I had not been informed of the plot by Symbatios and Basil, I should not have been alive The Caesar died through his own guilt. It is my will
1 Cont. Th. 238.
2 There were two flights of steps up
to the ambo, described by Paul Silent.,
Descr. Ambonis, 60 sqq. (ed. Bonn, p. 51).