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who grovelled at the Imperial feet, he overwhelmed him with reproaches for the murderous deed. The Emperor merely said, "I know the greatness of your sorrow and the ocean of your distress," but two days later he banished this fearless kinsman of his predecessor to the island of Skyros. Gregory was not unwilling to attach himself to the rival of him who had banished himself and dethroned his uncle, and he was speedily entrusted with the command of ten thousand men and sent on to open the assault on the Imperial city.
It was already winter, and the first year of Michael's reign was drawing to a close, when Gregory took up his station on the north-west of the city, in the suburbs outside Blachernae, while the fleet, under another unnamed commander, reached the same quarter by sailing up the inlet of the Golden Horn, having evidently unfastened the Iron Chain where it was attached to the Castle of Galata. On the banks of the Barbyses, a stream which flows into the Horn, the leaders of the sea forces and the land forces could concert their plans together. No action, however, was taken until Constantius and Anastasius arrived with their mighty host. The leaders seem to have imagined that when this vast array spread out before the walls of the city, and their ships filled the Golden Horn and threatened the harbours on the Propontis, the inhabitants would be so utterly dismayed by the sight of the overwhelming numbers that they would throw open their gates in despair. But it soon became clear that the city and its masters were resolved to withstand even such a vast force; they trusted in their impregnable walls. It was the first business of Thomas, when he saw that a siege was inevitable, to reduce the suburbs and villages. which lay north
1 The details about this Gregory (his kinship with Leo, the cause of his exile, and his name Pterôtos) are rocorded in Cont. Th. 57, but not by Genesios.
2 This is an inference, but I think evident. Thomas controlled the northern shore of the Horn. In ex
actly the same way the Venetians, having captured the Galata Tower, removed the chain in A.D. 1203 (Nicetas, ed. Bonn. 718-719).
Gen. 38. The Barbyses (or Barbyssos) is now called the Kiat-hanch Su, one of the streams known as the
Sweet Waters of Europe. It flows
of the city along the shores of the Bosphorus. These places could not resist. The inhabitants were doubtless glad to submit as speedily as possible to any one engaged in besieging. the city, remembering too well how but a few years ago they had been harried by another and more terrible enemy, the Bulgarian Krum.”
The siege began in the month of December. The course of events from this point to the end of the war may be conveniently divided into five stages.*
1. December 821 to February or March 822.-Thomas spent some days in disposing his forces and preparing his engines. He pitched his own tent in the suburbs beyond Blachernae, not far from the noble building which rose towards heaven like a palace, the church of St. Cosmas and St. Damian, the physicians who take no fee for their services to men. Until the reign of Heraclius the northwestern corner of the city between the Palace of Blachernae and the Golden Horn must have been defended by a fortification of which no traces survive." Heraclius, whether before or after the siege of the Avars (A.D. 626), had connected the Palace with the seaward fortifications by a wall which is flanked by three admirably built hexagonal towers. But the assaults of the Bulgarians in A.D. 813 seem to have proved that this "Single Wall of Blachernae," as it was called, was an insufficient defence, and Leo V., in expectation of a second Bulgarian siege," constructed a second outer wall, parallel to that of Heraclius, and forming with it a sort of citadel which was known as the Brachionion.10
1 Gen. 39.
Above, p. 46.
3 The date comes from Michael, Ep. ad Lud. 418, where we also learn that the blockade lasted for the space of a year.
There has been no full and critical relation of the siege by modern historians. See Lebeau, xiii. 50 sqq.; Schlosser, 440 sqq.; Finlay, ii. 131 (very brief). Much the best is that of Vasilev, Viz. i. Ar. 33 sqq.
The suburb between Cosmidion and Blachernae was known as r Havivov (and is so designated here in Cont. Th. 59), from Paulinus (famous for his love-affair with Athenais, the wife of Theodosius 11.), who founded
the Cosmidion. Cp. Ducange, Const.
Extending, I conjecture, from the
north-east corner of the Palace to the sea-wall. Cp. van Millingen, Walls, 120. The outer walls of the Palace itself formed the fortification as far as the northern extremity of the Theodosian Walls.
7 Pernice (L'Imperatore Eraclio, 141) has given some reasons for thinking that the wall was built after the Avar attack in A.D. 619. Cp. my note in Gibbon, v. 92.
Van Millingen, Walls, 164 sqq.
10 Van Millingen, Walls, 168: "The Wall of Leo stands 77 feet to the west
The troops on whom it devolved to attack the long western walls of Theodosius, from the Palace of Blachernae to the Golden Gate, were assigned to the subordinate tyrant Anastasius,' to whose dignity a high command was due, but others were at hand to keep the inexperienced monk from blundering. The main attack was to be directed against the quarter of Blachernae. Here were gathered all the resources of the engineer's art, rams and tortoises, catapults and citytakers; and over these operations Thomas presided himself.
In the city meanwhile the aid of Heaven and the inventions of men were summoned to defend the walls. On the lofty roof of the church of the Mother of God in Blachernae, the Emperor solemnly fixed the Roman standard, in the sight of the enemy, and prayed for succour against them. Presently the besiegers beheld the young Emperor Theophilus walking at the head of a priestly procession round the walls of the city, and bearing with him the life-giving fragments of the holy Cross, and raiment of the mother of Christ."
But, if he employed superstitious spells, Michael did not neglect human precautions. He too, like his opponent, called to his service all the resources of the art of the engineer, and the machines of the besieged proved in the end more effectual than those of the besieger. Simultaneous attacks by land and sea were frustrated, and on land at least the repulse of the assailants was wholly due to the superior machines of the assailed. The missiles which were shot from the city carried farther than those of Thomas, and great courage was required to venture near enough to scale or batter the walls. Ladders and battering-rams were easily foiled by the skilful handling of engines mounted on the battlements, and at last the attacking host retired from the volleys of well-aimed missiles within the shelter of their camp. At sea, too, the assailants were discomfited, but the discomfiture was perhaps chiefly caused by the rising of an adverse wind.
of the Wall of Heraclius, running parallel to it for some 260 feet, after which it turns to join the walls along the Golden Horn. Its parapet walk was supported upon arches which served at the same time to buttress the wall itself, a comparatively slight structure about 8 feet thick. . . . It was flanked by four small towers,
The ships of Thomas were
while the lower portion was pierced by numerous loopholes."
This is recorded in Cont. Th., not by Genesios.
The clothes of the Virgin were "discovered" in a coffin at Blachernae in A.D. 619 (see my note in Gibbon, v. 81). We shall meet this precious relic again in A.D. 860 (below, p. 420).
provided both with "liquid fire" and with four-legged citytakers, from whose lofty storeys flaming missiles might be hurled upon and over the sea-walls of the city. But the violent wind rendered it impossible to make an effective use of these contrivances, and it was soon clear that the attack on the seaside had failed.
Foiled at every point, Thomas was convinced that he had no chance of succeeding until the severity of winter had passed, and he retired from his position to await the coming of spring, whether in the cities of Thrace or on the opposite coasts of Asia.2
2. Spring, 822 A.D-At the coming of spring Thomas reassembled his land forces and his ships at Constantinople and prepared for another simultaneous attack on both elements. Michael meanwhile had made use of the respite from hostilities. to reinforce his garrison considerably, and during this second siege he was able to do more than defend the walls: he could venture to sally out against the enemy. It was also probably during the lull in the war that some repairs were made in the Wall of Leo, recorded by inscriptions which are still preserved.
We are told that when the day dawned on which a grand assault was to be made on the walls of Blachern, the Emperor ascended the wall himself and addressed the enemy, who were within hearing. He urged them to desert the rebel and seek
1 τετρασκελεῖς ἐλεπόλεις.
The words of our source (Cont. Τ. 61 ἄλλως δὲ καὶ ἡ ὥρα δριμύτερον ἐδείκνυ τὸν καιρὸν ἅτε χειμῶνος ἐπιγενομένου καὶ τῆς Θράκης τῶν ἄλλων οὔσης δυσχειμέρου ἐπὶ παραχειμασίαν ἐτράπη καὶ τὴν τοῦ στρατοῦ ἀνακομιδήν) may merely mean that winter in Thrace was too severe for military operations, not that Thomas wintered elsewhere.
Those inscriptions are near the south end of Leo's Wall; both are defective. One records the names of Michael and Theophilus; the other gives the date A.M. 6330, which corresponds to A.D. 822. See van Millingen, Walls, 168.. An inscription on one of the towers of the Heraclian Wall is in honour of an Emperor Michael; if this was Michael II. (as van Millingen thinks, 166), the name of Theophilus must also have
occurred. Fragmentary inscriptions of M. and T. have been found near the Charisian Gate in the Theodosian Wall (ib. 101).
4 Cont. Th. 61 τεῖχος τῶν Βλαχερνῶν was to be the object of attack, i.e. chiefly the Wall of Leo; then Michael is said to have spoken ἐκ τοῦ τῶν Texŵv μerewpov, but it does not follow that this also was the Wall of Leo. We may suspect that Michael stood on the battlements of the Palace of Blachernae, nearly opposite the point where the wall which Manuel Commenus, in the twelfth century, built outside the Palace, was pierced by the gate of Gyrolimne. This conjecture (which I owe to Mr. van Millingen) is suggested by (1) the fact that at Gyrolimme the younger Andronicus, during his rebellion, more than once held parley with his father's ministers;
pardon and safety in the city. His words were not received with favour, nor did he imagine that they would move those whom he addressed. But he achieved the effect which he desired, though not the effect at which his speech seemed to aim. The foe concluded that the besieged must needs be in great straits, when the Emperor held such parley from the walls. With confident spirits and in careless array they advanced to the assault, supposing that they would encounter but a weak resistance. Suddenly, to their amazement and consternation, many gates opened, and soldiers, rushing forth from the city, were upon them before they had time to apprehend what had happened. The men of Michael won a brilliant victory, and Thomas was forced to abandon the assault on Blachernae. A battle by sea seems to have been fought on the same day, and it also resulted in disaster for the besiegers. The details are not recorded, but the marines of Thomas, seized by some unaccountable panic, retreated to the shore and absolutely refused to fight.
Time wore on, and the taking of the city seemed no nearer. One of the generals in the leaguer concluded that there was little chance of success, and weary of the delay he determined to change sides. This was Gregory, the exile of Skyros, and nephew of Leo the Armenian. His resolve was doubtless quickened by the fact that his wife and children were in the power of Michael; he reckoned that their safety would be assured if he deserted Thomas. Accordingly, at the head of his regiment, he left the camp and entrusted a Studite monk with the task of bearing the news to the Emperor. But the approaches to the city were so strictly guarded by the blockaders that the messenger was unable to deliver his message, and Michael remained in ignorance of the new accession to his cause. As it turned out, however, the act of Gregory proved of little profit to any one except, perhaps, to him, whom it was intended to injure. Thomas saw that the
(2) the hill opposite this gate must inevitably have been occupied by troops of Thomas, and in 1203 the Crusaders on this hill were nearly within speaking distance of the garrison on the wall. Cp. van Millingen, ib. 126-127.
1 Cont. Th. 63 gives us this fact.
From the same source we learn that Gregory was given to deep potations. (62); he seems to have been a man who acted generally from impulse more than from reflexion.
This, too, we learn from Cont. Th., not from Genesios.