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Asiatic provinces. The system of immense estates owned by rich proprietors and cultivated by peasants in a condition of serfdom, which had prevailed in the age of Justinian, had been largely superseded by the opposite system of small holdings, which the policy of the Isaurian Emperors seems to have encouraged. But by the tenth century, vast properties and peasant serfs have reappeared, and the process by which this second transformation was accomplished must be attributed to the ninth. The civil war could not fail to ruin numberless small farmers who in prosperous times could barely pay their way, and the fiscal burdens rendered it impossible for them to recuperate their fortunes, unless they were aided by the State. But it was easier and more conducive to the immediate profit of the treasury to allow these insolvent lands to pass into the possession of rich neighbours, who in some cases might be monastic communities. It is probable that many farms and homesteads were abandoned by their masters. A modern historian, who had a quick eye for economic changes, judged that the rebellion of Thomas "was no inconsiderable cause of the accumulation of property in immense estates, which began to depopulate the country and prepare it for the reception of a new race of inhabitants." 1 If the government of Michael II. had been wise, it would have intervened, at all costs, to save the small proprietors. Future Emperors might thus have been spared a baffling economic problem and a grave political danger.
§ 3. The Ecclesiastical Policy of Michael
It was probably during or just after the war with Thomas that Thecla, the mother of Theophilus, died. At all events we find Michael soon after the end of the war making preparations for a second marriage, notwithstanding the deep grief which he had displayed at the death of his first wife. A second marriage of any kind was deprecated by the strictly orthodox, and some thought that at this juncture, when the Empire was involved in so many misfortunes, the Emperor showed little concern to appease an offended Deity. But the Senators were urgent with him that he should marry.
1 Finlay, ii. 133.
not possible," they said, " that an Emperor should live without a wife, and that our wives should lack a Lady and Empress. The writer who records this wishes to make his readers believe that the pressure of the Senate was exerted at the express desire of Michael himself.1 However this may be, it is interesting to observe the opinion that an Augusta was needed in the interests of Court society.
But those who carped at the idea of a second marriage were still more indignant when they heard who she was that the Emperor had selected to be Empress over them. It was not unfitting that the conqueror of the false Constantine should choose the daughter of the true Constantine for his wife. But Euphrosyne, daughter of Constantine VI., and grand-daughter of Irene, had long been a nun in a monastery on the island of Prinkipo, where she lived with her mother Maria. Here, indeed, was a scandal; here was an occasion for righteous indignation.2 Later historians at least made much of the crime of wedding a nun, but at the time perhaps it was more a pretext for spiteful gossip than a cause of genuine dissatisfaction.3 The Patriarch did not hesitate to dissolve Euphrosyne from her vows, that she might fill the high station for which her birth had fitted her. The new Amorian house might claim by this marriage to be linked with the old Isaurian dynasty.
The ecclesiastical leanings of Michael II. were not different from those of his predecessor, but he adopted a different
1 Cont. Th. 78. Our Greek authorities do not tell us directly that Thecla was alive when Michael acceded to the throne. But Michael Syr. 72 states that she died "when he had reigned four years"; and the language of Cont. Th. 78, in noticing his second marriage, seems decidedly to imply that she had died very recently. Michael Syr. adds a dark and incredible scandal that Euphrosyne bore a male child, and reflecting that it was of Jewish race and would "corrupt the Imperial stock" caused it to be
2 Theodore of Studion denounced the Emperor for this unlawful (¿kvóμws) act in a catêchêsis, Parva Cat. 74, p. 258, and he wrote a letter to Maria,
exhorting her not to go and live with her daughter in the Palace (Epp. ii. 181; cp. Ep. 148 Cozza L.).
3 Compare Finlay ii. 142. He gives no reason for this view, but I find one in the silence of the contemporary George, who does not mention Euphrosyne. In the chronicle of Simeon (Add. Georg. 783,789), she is mentioned, but the author does not know who she was and takes her for the mother of Theophilus.
4 It is a mistake to suppose (as Schwarzlose does, p. 73) that Michael was neutral. Grossu (Prep. Theodor. 151) properly calls him "a convinced iconoclast, though not a fanatic." Finlay (ii. 129) speaks of his "indifference to the ecclesiastical disputes
policy. He decided to maintain the iconoclastic reform of Leo, which harmonized with his own personal convictions; but at the same time to desist from any further persecution of the image- worshippers. We can easily understand that the circumstances of his accession dictated a policy which should, so far as possible, disarm the opposition of a large and influential section of his subjects. Accordingly, he delivered from prison and allowed to return from exile, all those who had been punished by Leo for their defiance of his authority.1 The most eminent of the sufferers, Theodore of Studion, left his prison cell in Smyrna, hoping that the change of government would mean the restoration of icons and the reinstallation
of Nicephorus as Patriarch. He wrote a grateful and congratulatory letter to the Emperor, exhorting him to bestow peace and unity on the Church by reconciliation with the see of Rome.2 At the same time, he attempted to bring Court influence to bear on Michael, and we possess his letters to several prominent ministers, whom he exhorts to work in the cause of image-worship, while he malignantly exults over the fate of Leo the Armenian.3 Theodore had been joined by many members of his party on his journey to the neighbourhood of Constantinople, and when he reached Chalcedon, he hastened to visit the ex-Patriarch who was living in his own monastery of St. Theodore, on the Asiatic shore of the Bosphorus. Here and in the monastery of Crescentius, where
which agitated a church to many of whose doctrines he was at heart adverse"; but this " 'indifference was relative; it would be misleading to describe him as an "indifferentist." His own iconoclastic convictions are expressed clearly in his Letter to Lewis (420 sq.). On his actual policy, all writers agree; it is briefly summed up in the Acta Davidis 230: KATÉXW' ἕκαστος δὲ τὸ δοκοῦν αὐτῷ ποιείτω.
1 In the Epist. syn. ad Theoph. 377 Michael is described as τὸν πραότατον καὶ γαληνότατον βασιλέα, who χριστομιμήτως said to those who were in chains, "Come forth.”
2 Theodore, Epp. ii. 74.
3 Ib. ii. 75, 76, 80, 81, 82. These and the letter to the Emperor were probably written at Pteleae, where Theodore stayed for some time, before
proceeding to Prusa and Chalcedon (Michael, Vit. Theod. c. 58). On leaving Smyrna, Theodore proceeded to Pteleae, by way of Xerolopha and Aάккоν μтáтα, unknown places (ib. c. 48). The position of Pteleae, on the river Onopniktes (ib. c. 51), is unknown, but it is probably the same as Pteleae on the Hellespont (for which see Ramsay, Asia Minor, 163). In that case, Theodore must have followed the coast road from Smyrna.
4 Grossu (145) is wrong in saying that Theodore crossed the Bosphorus and visited Nicephorus in the monastery of Agathos. This monastery may have been on the European side of the Bosphorus, but Nicephorus was in the monastery of St. Theodore (Ignatius, Vit. Niceph. 201), which was on the Asiatic side (Pargoire, Boradion, 476-477).
Theodore took up his abode somewhere on the Asiatic shore of the Propontis,1 the image-worshippers deliberated how they should proceed.
Their first step seems to have been the composition of a letter2 which Nicephorus addressed to the Emperor, admonishing him of his religious duties, and holding up as a warning the fate of his impious predecessor. In this document the arguments in favour of images were once more rehearsed. But Michael was deaf to these appeals. His policy was to allow people to believe what they liked in private, but not to permit image-worship in public. When he received the letter of Nicephorus he is reputed to have expressed admiration of its ability and to have said to its bearers words to this effect: "Those who have gone before us will have to answer for their doctrines to God; but we intend to keep the Church in the same way in which we found her walking. Therefore we rule and confirm that no one shall venture to open his mouth either for or against images. But let the Synod of Tarasius be put out of mind and memory, and likewise that of Constantine the elder (the Fifth), and that which was lately held in Leo's reign; and let complete silence in regard to images be the order of the day. But as for him who is so zealous to speak and write on these matters, if he wishes to govern the Church on this basis, preserving silence concerning the existence and worship of images, bid him come here.”
But this attempt to close the controversy was vain; the injunction of silence would not be obeyed, and its enforcement could only lead to a new persecution. The Emperor
1 Michael, Vit. Theod. c. 59, names the monastery, and seems to imply it was on the Gulf of Nicomedia. But in Vit. Nicol. Stud. 900, the place of Theodore's abode at this time is described as a παρακόλπιος τόπος τῆς Προύσης, which would naturally mean on the bay of Mudania.
2 Ignatius, Vit. Niceph. 209, where Michael's reply πρὸς τοὺς τὸ γράμμα diaкoμσaμévous is given. George Mon., without mentioning Nicephorus or his letter, cites Michael's reply (from Ignatius), referring to it as a public harangue, ἐπὶ λαοῦ δημηγορήσας (792). The texts of Simeon have ἐπὶ σελεντίου instead of éri λaoû (Leo Gr. 211; Vers. Slav. 92, na selendii). There
has, I think, been a confusion here between Michael's reply to the Patriarch and his subsequent reply to the audience of ecclesiastics whom he received, doubtless at a silention in the presence of the Senate. We do not know whether Nicephorus wrote his letter before or after the appearance of Theodore on the scene. Grossu (144 sqq.) is right, I think, in his general reconstruction of the order of events, but it cannot be considered absolutely certain.
3 From these words, I think we may infer that the Patriarchate was already vacant through the death of Theodotos.
presently deemed it expedient to essay a reconciliation, by means of a conference between leading representatives of both parties, and he requested the ex-Patriarch and his friends to meet together and consider this proposal.1 The imageworshippers decided to decline to meet heretics for the purpose of discussion, and Theodore, who was empowered to reply to the Emperor on behalf of the bishops and abbots, wrote that, while in all other matters they were entirely at their sovran's disposition, they could not comply with this command, and suggested that the only solution of the difficulty was to appeal to Rome, the head of all the Churches.
It was apparently after this refusal3 that, through the intervention of one of his ministers, Michael received in audience Theodore and his friends. Having permitted them to expound their views on image-worship, he replied briefly and decisively: "Your words are good and excellent. But, as I have never yet till this hour worshipped an image in my life, I have determined to leave the Church as I found it. To you, however, I allow the liberty of adhering with impunity to what you allege to be the orthodox faith; live where you choose, only it must be outside the city, and you need not apprehend that any danger will befall you from my government.
It is probable that these negotiations were carried on while the Patriarchal chair was vacant. Theodotos died early in the year, and while the image-worshippers endeavoured to procure the restoration of Nicephorus on their own terms, the Emperor hoped that the ex-Patriarch might be induced to yield. The audience convinced him that further attempts to come to an understanding would be useless, and he caused the
1 Theodore, Epp. ii. 86.
2 They based their refusal on an apostolic command, sc. of Paul in Titus iii. 9-10.
3 So Schneider, 89; Grossu, 147. C. Thomas places the audience almost immediately after Theodore's return from exile, and before the letter of Nicephorus (136). The difficulty as to the order arises from the fact that the three negotiations-(1) the letter of Nicephorus, (2) the proposal for a conference, (3) the audience-are recorded in three sources, each of which
mentions only the one transaction. We can, therefore, only apply considerations of probability.
4 Michael, ib. c. 60 (cp. Vita Nicol. Stud. 892). The Patriarch was not present (ib.; and Theodore, Epp. ii. 129, p. 1417; from which passage it appears that at this audience the Emperor again proposed a conference between representatives of the two doctrines, and offered to leave the decision to certain persons who professed to be image-worshippers-TOÛTOV κἀκεῖνον τῶν δῆθεν ὁμοφρόνων ἡμῖν).