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truth is that more than a year elapsed before the triumph of orthodoxy was secured.1 The first and most pressing care of the regency was not to compose the ecclesiastical schism, but to secure the stability of the Amorian throne; and the question whether iconoclasm should be abandoned depended on the view adopted by the regents as to the effect of a change in religious policy on the fortunes of the dynasty.
For the change was not a simple matter, nor one that could be lightly undertaken. Theodora, notwithstanding her personal convictions, hesitated to take the decisive step. It is a mistake to suppose that she initiated the measures which led to the restoration of pictures.2 She had a profound belief in her husband's political sagacity; she shrank from altering the system which he had successfully maintained; and there was the further consideration that, if iconoclasm were condemned by the Church as a heresy, her husband's name would be anathematized. Her scruples were overcome by the arguments of the regents, who persuaded her that the restoration of images would be the surest means to establish the safety of the throne.1 But when she yielded to these reasons, to the pressure of other members of her own family, and probably to the representations of Methodius, she made it a condition of her consent, that the council which she would
1. The old date was in itself impossible the change could not have been accomplished in the time. The right date is furnished by Sabas, Vit. Joannic. 320, where the event is definitely placed a year after the accession of Michael. This is confirmed by the date of the death of Methodius, who was Patriarch for four years and died June 14, 847 (Vit. Joannic. by Simeon Met. 92; the same date can be inferred from Theophanes, De ex. S. Niceph. 164). All this was shown for the first time by de Boor, Angriff der Rhos, 450-453; the proofs have been restated by Vasil'ev, Viz. i Arab., Pril. iii. ; and the fact is now universally accepted by savants, though many writers still ignorantly repeat the old date.
2 Her hesitation comes out clearly in the tradition and must be accepted as a fact.
* Gen. 80 ὁ ἐμὸς ἀνήρ γε καὶ βασιλεὺς
μακαρίτης σοφίας ἀρκούντως ἐξείχετο καὶ οὐδὲν τῶν δεόντων αὐτῷ ἐλελήθει· καὶ πῶς τῶν ἐκείνου διαταγμάτων ἀμνημονήσαντες εἰς ἑτέραν διαγωγὴν ἐκτραπείημεν ;
4 The chief mover was, I have no doubt, Theoktistos. His name alone is mentioned by the contemporary George Mon. 811 (cp. Vita Theodorae, 14). In Gen. he shares the credit with Manuel (78), and in Cont. Th. (148-150) Manuel appears alone as Theodora's adviser. But the part played by Manuel is mixed up with a hagiographical tradition, redounding to the credit of the monks of Studion, whose prayers were said to have saved him from certain death by sickness, on condition of his promising to restore image-worship when he recovered. (For the connexion of Manuel with the Studites, cp. also Vita Nicolai, 916, where Nicolaus is said to have healed Helena, Manuel's wife.)
have to summon should not brand the memory of Theophilus with the anathema of the Church.1
Our ignorance of the comparative strength of the two parties in the capital and in the army renders it impossible for us to understand the political calculations which determined the Empress and her advisers to act in accordance with her religious convictions. But the sudden assassination of Theophobos by the command of the dying Emperor is a significant indication that a real danger menaced the throne, and that the image-worshippers, led by some ambitious insurgent, would have been ready and perhaps able to overthrow the dynasty.3 The event seems to corroborate the
justice of their fears. For when they re-established the cult of pictures, iconoclasm died peacefully without any convulsions or rebellions. The case of Theoktistos may be adduced to illustrate the fact that many of those who held high office were not fanatical partisans. He had been perfectly contented with the iconoclastic policy, and was probably a professed iconoclast, but placed in a situation where iconoclasm appeared to be a peril to the throne, he was ready to throw it over for the sake of political expediency.
Our brief, vague, and contradictory records supply little certain information as to the manner in which the government conducted the preparations for the defeat of iconoclasm.5 It is evident that astute management was required; and a considerable time was demanded for the negotiations and intrigues needful to facilitate a smooth settlement. We may
1 This is an inevitable inference from the traditions.
2 Cp. Uspenski, ib. 59.
3 The story of Genesios (77-78) that Manuel addressed the assembled people in the Hippodrome, and demanded a declaration of loyalty to the government, and that the people-expecting that he would himself usurp the throne-were surprised and disappointed when he cried, "Long life to Michael and Theodora," seems to be also significant.
4 The interest of the Studites in Manuel (see above, p. 145, n. 4) argues that he was at heart an imageworshipper, as the other relatives of Theodora seem to have been. Gen.
(78) says of him that he wavered (dià μέσου τινὸς παρεμπεσόντος διώκλασεν), but this seems to imply that he at first shared the hesitation of the Empress.
5 We must assume that Theodora, before a final decision was taken, held a silention at which both the Senate and ecclesiastics were present. Such a meeting is recorded in Theophanes, De ex. S. Niceph. 164, and in Skylitzes (Cedrenus), ii. 142. The assembly declared in favour of restoring images, and ordered that passages should be selected from the writings of the Fathers to support the doctrine. The former source also asserts that Theodora addressed a manifesto to the people.
take it for granted that Theodora and her advisers had at once destined Methodius (who had lived for many years in the Palace on intimate terms with the late Emperor, and who, we may guess, had secretly acted as a spiritual adviser to the Imperial ladies) as successor to the Patriarchal chair. To him naturally fell1 the task of presiding at a commission, which met in the official apartments of Theoktistos2 and prepared the material for the coming Council.3
Before the Council met, early in March (A.D. 843), the Patriarch John must have been officially informed by the Empress of her intention to convoke it, and summoned to attend. He was not untrue to the iconoclastic doctrine which he had actively defended for thirty years, and he declined to alter his convictions in order to remain in the Patriarchal chair. He was deposed by the Council, Methodius was elected
1 Cp. Uspenski, op. cit. 33. That Methodius took the leading part in the preparations, and that the success of the Council was chiefly due to his influence and activity is a conclusion which all the circumstances suggest; without the co-operation of such an ecclesiastic, the government could not have carried out their purpose. But
a hagiographical tradition confirms the conclusion. It was said that hermits of Mount Olympus, Joannikios, who had the gift of prophecy, and Arsakios, along with one Esaias of Nicomedia, were inspired to urge Methodius to restore images, and that at their instigation he incited the Empress (Narr. de Theophili absol. 25). This story assumes that Methodius played an important part. According
Vit. Mich. Sync. A 249, the Empress and Senate sent a message to Joannikios, who recommended Methodius. The same writer says (ib.) that Michael the synkellos was designated by popular opinion as John's successor. But the hagiographers are unscrupulous in making statements which exalt their heroes (see below, p. 148, n. 1). He seems to have been made abbot of the Chora convent (ib. 250); he died January 4, 846 (cp. Vailhé, Saint Michel, 314). 2 Gen. 80.
3 The preparation of the reports for the Council of A.D. 815 had occupied nearly a year (see above, p. 60). The Acts of the Seventh Ecumenical
Council supplied the Commission with its material.
4 In the sources there is some variation in the order of events. Theophanes, De ex. S. Niceph., represents the deposition of John (with the measures taken against him) as an act of the Council which restored orthodoxy. George Mon. (also a contemporary) agrees (802), and the account of Genesios is quite consistent, for he relates the measures taken against John after the Council (81). According to Cont. Th. John received an ultimatum from the Empress before the Council met (150-151), but this version cannot be preferred to that of Genesios. After the act of deposition by the Council, Constantine, the Drungary of the Watch, was sent with some of his officers, to remove John from the Patriarcheion. He made excuses and would not stir, and when Bardas went to inquire why he refused, he displayed his stomach pricked all over with sharp instruments, and alleged that the wounds were inflicted by the cruelty of Constantine (an Armenian) and his officers, whom he stigmatized as pagans (this insult excites the wrath of Genesios who was a descendant of Constantine). But Bardas saw through the trick. Genesios does not expressly say that the wounds were self-inflicted, but his vague words suggest this inference to the reader (cp. Hirsch, 153). In Cont. Th. the story is elaborated, and the manner in which John wounded
in his stead, and the decrees of the Seventh Ecumenical Council were confirmed. The list of heretics who had been anathematized at that Council was augmented by the names of the prominent iconoclastic leaders who had since troubled the Church, but the name of the Emperor Theophilus was omitted. We can easily divine that to spare his memory was the most delicate and difficult part of the whole business. Methodius himself was in temper a man of the same cast as the Patriarchs Tarasius and Nicephorus; he understood the necessities of compromise, he appreciated the value of economy," and he was ready to fall in with the wishes of Theodora. We may suspect that it was largely through his management that the members of the Council agreed, apparently without dissent, to exclude the late Emperor from the black list; and it is evident that their promises to acquiesce in this course must have been secured before the Council met. According to a story which has little claim to credit, Theodora addressed the assembly and pleaded for her husband on the ground that he had repented of his errors on his death-bed, and that she herself had held an icon to his lips before he breathed his last.1 But it is not improbable that the suggestion of a death-bed repentance was circulated unofficially for the purpose of influencing the monks who execrated the memory of the
himself is described. See also Acta Davidis, 248 (where the instrument is a knife used for paring nails). In the contemporary De ex. S. Niceph. of Theophanes, another motive is alleged : the revolution threw John into such despondency that he almost laid violent hands on himself. It is impossible to extract the truth from these statements; but Schlosser and Finlay may be right in supposing that John was really wounded by soldiers, and that his enemies invented the fiction of self-inflicted wounds. In any case, so far as I can read through the tradition, there is no good ground for Uspenski's conclusion (op. cit. 39) that "the process against John was prior to the Council." This view (based on Cont. Th.), also held by Hergenröther (i. 294) and Finlay (ii. 163), is opposed to the other older sources (besides those cited above): Vita Meth. (1253) and Vita Ignatii (221); cp. Hirsch, 211.
1 Cont. Th. 152-153. One way of mitigating the guilt of Theophilus
was to shift the responsibility to the evil counsels of the Patriarch John; see e.g. Nicetas, Vit. Ign. 222 and 216. According to the Acta Davidis Theodora had a private interview with Methodius, Simeon the Stylite saint of Lesbos, and his brother George, and intimated that some money (evλoyla, a douceur) had been left to them by the Emperor, if they would receive him as orthodox. Simeon cried, "To perdition with him and his money," but finally yielded (244-246). This work characteristically represents Simeon as playing a prominent rôle in the whole business, as disputing with John in the presence of Theodora and Michael, and as influential in the election of Methodius. It is also stated that he was appointed Synkellos of the Patriarch (νεύματι τῆς Αὐγούστης, 250). On the other hand the biographer of Michael, synkellos of Jerusalem, claims that he was made Synkellos (Vit. Mich. Sync. 250).
last imperial iconoclast. It seems significant that the monks of Studion took no prominent part in the orthodox reform, though they afterwards sought to gain credit for having indirectly promoted it by instigating Manuel the Magister.1 We shall hardly do them wrong if we venture to read between the lines, and assume that, while they refrained from open opposition, they disapproved of the methods by which the welcome change was manoeuvred.
But the flagrant fact that the guilty iconoclast, who had destroyed icons and persecuted their votaries, was excepted from condemnation by the synod which abolished his heresy, stimulated the mythopoeic fancy of monks, who invented divers vain tales to account for this inexplicable leniency.2 The story of Theodora's personal assurances to the synod belongs to this class of invention. It was also related that she dreamed that her husband was led in chains before a great man who sat on a throne in front of an icon of Christ, and that this judge, when she fell weeping and praying at his feet, ordered Theophilus to be unbound by the angels who guarded him, for the sake of her faith.3 According to another myth, the divine pardon of the culprit was confirmed by a miracle. Methodius wrote down the names of all the Imperial heretics, including Theophilus, in a book which he deposited on an altar. Waking up from a dream in which an angel announced to him that pardon had been granted, he took the book from the holy table, and discovered that where the name of Theophilus had stood, there was a blank space.*
Of one thing we may be certain: the Emperor did not repent. The suggestion of a death-bed repentance was a falsification of fact, probably circulated deliberately in order to save his memory, and readily believed because it was edifying. It helped to smooth the way in a difficult situation, by justifying in popular opinion the course of expediency or "economy," which the Church adopted at the dictation of Theodora.
After the Council had completed its work, the triumph of
1 See above, p. 145, n. 4.
5 A death-bed repentance is one of
those suspicious phenomena which, even when there is no strong interest for alleging it, cannot be accepted without exceptionally good evidence at first hand.