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talent and tact; and when at last he was overthrown, his supplanter was one of the two ablest men who arose in the Eastern Empire during the ninth century.
Basil the Macedonian, who now comes on the stage, is the typical adventurer who rises from the lowliest circumstances to the highest fortune. His career, wonderful in itself, was made still more wonderful by mythopoeic fancy, which converted the able and unscrupulous upstart into a hero guided by Heaven. He was born about A.D. 812, of poor Armenian parents, whose family had settled in the neighbourhood of Hadrianople. His Armenian descent is established beyond doubt, and the legend that he was a Slav has no better a foundation than the fiction which claimed Slavonic parentage for the Emperor Justinian. But his family was obscure; and the illustrious lineage which his descendants claimed, connecting him through his grandfather with the Arsacids and by his grandmother with Constantine the Great and Alexander, was an audacious and ingenious invention of the Patriarch Photius. In his babyhood he was carried into captivity, along with his parents, by the Bulgarian Krum, and he spent his youth in the region beyond the Danube which was known as “ Macedonia.”
1 In the reign of Michael I. (811- that Basil's father would beget a son 813), Cont. Georg. 817. Pankalo was named Beklas, whose description unhis mother's name (Constantine, Cer. mistakably pointed to Basil, and who 648).
would have a long and happy reign. 2 It is now generally admitted : the Photius gave this
document to a conmost decisive evidence is a passage in federate, one of the palace clergy, who the Vita Euthymii, ed. de Boor, p. 2. deposited it in the palace library and The whole question has recently been then seized an opportunity of showing discussed fully by Vasil'ev (Prois- it to the Emperor as an ancient book khozhdenie, etc., see Bibliography). full of secret lore, which no one but
3 The sole foundation of the Slavonic Photius could interpret. Photius was theory is the fact that Arabic writers summoned.
His explanation easily designate him as a Slav. But this is imposed on the Emperor's simplicity explained by the Arabic view that and vanity. How could Basil resist Macedonia was Slavonic; “Slav” is the interpretation of Beklas simply the equivalent of “Mace- mysterious acrostich containing the donian” (cp. Vasil'ev, op. cit. 15). initial letters of the name of himself,
4 Vita Ignatii, 283. This case of his wife, and his four sons (B-asil, a fictitious genealogy is interesting. E-udocia, K-onstantine, L-eo, A-lexPhotius after his deposition cast about ander, S-tephen)? The genealogy was for
ways of ingratiating himself with accepted by Basil's house ; it is reBasil, and conceived the idea of pro- corded in Gen. and Cont. Th. viding this son of nobody with an 5 See below, p. 370. When Simeon illustrious lineage. He invented a speaks of Hadrianople as in Macedonia, line of descendants from Tiridates, it is only to explain Basil's designation king of Armenia, stopping at Basil's as the Macedonian. It is in passages father. He wrote this out in uncial where Basil is in question that the characters (γράμμασιν Αλεξανδρίνοις) on geographical term Macedonia was exold parchment, and added a prophecy tended to include Thrace.
We may conjecture that he derived his designation as Basil the Macedonian from his long sojourn in this district, for “ Macedonian” can hardly refer to his birthplace, which was in Thrace. He was twenty-five years old when the captives succeeded (as is related in another Chapter 1) in escaping from the power of the Bulgarians and returning to their homes. Basil obtained some small post in the service of a stratêgos, but seeing no hope of rising in the provinces he decided to seek his fortune in Constantinople. His arrival in the city has been wrought by the storyteller into the typical form of romance. On a Sunday, near the hour of sunset, he reached the Golden Gate, a poor unknown adventurer, with staff and scrip, and he lay down to sleep in the vestibule of the adjacent church of St. Diomede. During the night, Nicolas, who was in charge of the church, was awakened by a mysterious voice, saying; “Arise and bring the Basileus into the sanctuary.” He got up and looking out saw nothing but a poor man asleep. He lay down again, and the same thing was repeated. The third time, he was poked in the side by a sword and the voice said, “Go out and bring in the man you see lying outside the gate." He obeyed, and on the morrow he took Basil to the bath, gave him a change of garments, and adopted him as a brother.“
So much is probable that Basil found shelter in St. Diomede, and that through Nicolas he was enabled to place his foot on the first rung of the ladder of fortune. The monk had a brother who was a physician in the service of Theophilus Paideuomenos, or, as he was usually called, Theophilitzes, a rich courtier and a relative of the Empress Theodora. The physician, who saw Basil at St. Diomede, and admired his enormous physical strength, recommended him to 1 See p. 371.
with a portion of the name of Diomed 2 Tzantzes, Strat. of the Theme of were employed.” Simeon rightly deMacedonia, Simeon, ib. 819.
signates "Nicolas as caretaker, i poo3 A parochial church situated be- Movápios (=mapa povápios, sexton), and tween the Golden Gate and the sea, carefully explains that the church was at Yedikule. Some remains have then parochial (kabolckń). Genesios been found which are supposed to miscalls him kaonyoúuevos. St. Diomede mark its site. See van Millingen, was converted into a monastery, almost Walls, 265 : “The excavations made certainly by Basil, but as in many in laying out the public garden beside other cases the foundation was attrithe city walls west of the Gas Works at buted to Constantine (cp. Pargoire, Rev. Yedi Koulè, brought to light sub- des questions historiques, lxv. 73 sqq.). structures of an ancient edifice, in the 4 εποίησεν αδελφοποίησιν, Simeon, io. construction of which bricks stamped 820. Simeon tells the whole story with the monogram of Basil I. and more dramatically than Genesios.
his employer, who hired him as a groom. Basil gained the
" favour of Theophilitzes, who was struck by the unusual size of his head ; 2 and when his master was sent on a special mission to the Peloponnesus, Basil accompanied him.” Here he met with a singular stroke of good fortune. At Patrae he attracted the attention of a rich lady, who owned immense estates in the neighbourhood. Her name was Danėlis. When Theophilitzes had completed his business and prepared to return, Basil fell ill and remained behind his patron. On his recovery Danêlis sent for him, and gave him gold, thirty slaves, and a rich supply of dresses and other things, on the condition of his becoming the "spiritual brother” of her son. The motive assigned for her action is the conviction, on the strength of a monk's prophecy, that he would one day ascend the throne; and Basil is said to have promised that, if it ever lay in his power, he would make her mistress of the whole land. But whatever her motive may have been, there is no doubt that she enriched Basil, and she lived to see him Emperor and to visit his Court.
It is said that the munificence of the Greek lady enabled Basil to buy estates in Thrace and to assist his family. But he remained in his master's service, till a chance brought him under the notice of the Emperor. Michael had received as a gift an untamed and spirited horse. His grooms were unable to manage it, and Michael was in despair, when his relative Theophilitzes suggested that his own groom, Basil, might be able to master it. Basil knew how to charm horses, and when he held its bridle with one hand and placed the other on its ear, the animal instantly became amenable. The Emperor, delighted with this achievement and admiring his physical strength, took him into his own service and assigned him a post under the Hetaeriarch or captain of the foreign guards of the Palace. His rise was rapid. He was invested with the dignity of a strator, and soon afterwards he received the important office of Protostrator, whose duties involved frequent attendance upon the Emperor (A.D. 858-8592).
1 Gen. 109 says nothing of the youths, and there was rivalry between physician, and makes Theophilitzes them and the youths in the employvisit the monastery himself.
ment of the Emperor and the Caesar 2 επίσγουρον και μεγάλην κεφαλήν One day Theophilitzes gave an enterčxovta, hence he called him Kephalas tainment for the purpose of a wrestling (Cont. Georg. 820).
match ; Bardas was not present, but 3 The Peloponnesian episode comes was represented by his son Antigonus. from Constantine's Vita Bas., Cont. Th. The champions of the Emperor and 226 sqq. If the author is accurate in the Caesar defeated the others, until saying that Theophilitzes was sent by Basil who had not taken part was Michael and Bardas, we may place it summoned to wrestle with the strongest in A.D. 856, when Basil was about 44. of the adversaries. Constantine the He returned from captivity about Armenian (Drungary of the Watch) A.D. 837, but we have no evidence as intervened to sprinkle the floor with to the date of his arrival at Constanti- chaff, fearing that Basil might slip. nople.
Basil threw his opponent by a grip πνευματικής αδελφότητος σύνδεσμος which was called by the Slavonic term ib. 228.
podreza. Antigonus reported this 5 So Simeon, ib. 816 (followed by achievement to his father, who told Cont. Th. 230). Gen. 110 connects the Michael, and Basil was summoned to entry into the Emperor's service with the Emperor's presence. Constantine another exploit of Basil in the capacity Porph. gives a different version of the of wrestler. Theophilitzes maintained story and places the event before the a company of strong and comely taming of the horse (which Genesios
So far the wily Armenian adventurer, whose mental powers were little suspected, had owed his success to fortune and his physical prowess, but now he was in a position to observe the intrigues of the Court and to turn them to his own advantage. Damianos, the High Chamberlain, who had assisted Bardas in the palace revolution which had overthrown Theodora, became hostile to the Caesar, and attempted to discredit him with the Emperor. The crisis came when, as Bardas, arrayed in the Caesar's purple skaramangion and accompanied by the magnates of the Court, was passing in solemn procession through the Horologion, Damianos refrained from rising from his seat and paying the customary token of respect. Bardas, overwhelmed with wrath and chagrin at this insult, hurried into the Chrysotriklinos and complained to the Emperor, who immediately ordered Damianos to be arrested and tonsured.
does not mention). According to this account, Antigonus, Domestic of the Schools, gave a banquet in the Palace in honour of his father the Caesar. Bardas brought with him senatorial magnates and some Bulgarian envoys who happened to be in the city. Theophilitzes was one of the guests. The Bulgarians bragged about a countryman who was in their suite and was an invincible wrestler. Theophilitzes said to Bardas, “I have a man who will wrestle with that Bulgarian.” The match was made, and (Constantine the Armenian having sprinkled the bran—this detail is taken from Genesios) Basil threw the Bulgarian, squeezing him like a wisp of hay. "From that day the fame of Basil
began to spread through the city.” Though based doubtless on
a true incident (remembered by Constantine the Armenian), the story in either version breaks down chronologically. For Basil was transferred to the Emperor's service not later than 858, and at that time Bardas was still Domestic of the Schools and Antigonus a small boy.
1 Cont. Th. 231.
2 This promotion was connected with the conspiracy against Bardas in which Theodora was concerned. The protostrator, who was involved in it, was executed, and Basil replaced him (Cont. Georg. 823-824). date, see above, pp. 160-1.
Simeon, ib. 827.
But the triumph of Bardas was to turn to his hurt. Basil was appointed to fill the confidential post of High Chamberlain' (with the rank of patrician), though it was usually confined to eunuchs, and Basil the Armenian was to prove a more formidable adversary than Damianos the Slav.?
The confidential intimacy which existed between Michael and his Chamberlain was shown by the curious matrimonial arrangement which the Emperor brought to pass.
Basil was already married, but Michael caused him to divorce his wife, and married him to his own early love, Eudocia Ingerina. But this was only an official arrangement; Eudocia remained the Emperor's mistress. A mistress, however, was also provided for Basil, of distinguished rank though not of
It appears that Theodora and her daughters had been permitted to leave their monastery and return to secular life, and Thecla, who seems to have been ill-qualified for the vows of a nun, consented to become the paramour of her brother's favourite. Thus three ladies, Eudocia Ingerina, Eudocia the Augusta, and Thecla the Augusta, fulfilled between them the four posts of wives and mistresses to the Emperor and his Chamberlain, Before Michael's death, Eudocia Ingerina bore two sons, and though Basil was obliged to acknowledge them, it was suspected or taken for granted that Michael was their father. The second son afterwards succeeded Basil on the Imperial throne, as Leo VI.; and if Eudocia was faithful to Michael, the dynasty known as the Macedonian was really descended from the Amorians. The Macedonian Emperors took pains to conceal this blot or ambiguity in their origin; their 1 Parakoimômenos.
been then about 43 years old. 2 The date is not recorded, but it 5 Simeon (Cont. Georg. 835, and seems probable that it was not very 844) states that Michael was the long before the fall of Bardas.
father, as if it were a well-known fact, 3 Maria; she was sent back to and without reserve.
In the case of “ Macedonia” (i.e. probably Thrace) such an arrangement à trois, it is, of well provided for.
course, impossible for us, knowing so 4 For the evidence, see Hirsch, 66, little as we do, to accept as proven and below, p. 177. Thecla became the such statements about paternity. mistress of John Neatokomêtês after Eudocia may have deceived her lover Basil's accession. When Basil learned with her husband ; and as Basil seems this, he ordered the latter to be beaten to have been fund of Constantine and and tonsured ; Thecla was also beaten, to have had little affection for Leo and her property confiscated. Simeon, (whom ho imprisoned shortly before ib. 842. She died bedridden (klivo- the end of his reign), we might be led TTETńs) in her house at Blachernae, to suspect that the eldest born of Cont. Th. 147. If she became Basil's Eudocia was his own son, and Leo mistress in 865-866, she might have Michael's.