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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. 812,1 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.3 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." 5
1 In the reign of Michael I. (811813), Cont. Georg. 817. Pankalo was his mother's name (Constantine, Cer. 648).
2 It is now generally admitted: the most decisive evidence is a passage in the Vita Euthymii, ed. de Boor, p. 2. The whole question has recently been discussed fully by Vasil'ev (Proiskhozhdenie, etc., see Bibliography).
3 The sole foundation of the Slavonic theory is the fact that Arabic writers designate him as a Slav. But this is explained by the Arabic view that Macedonia was Slavonic; "Slav" is simply the equivalent of "Macedonian" (cp. Vasil'ev, op. cit. 15).
4 Vita Ignatii, 283. This case of a fictitious genealogy is interesting. Photius after his deposition cast about for ways of ingratiating himself with Basil, and conceived the idea of providing this son of nobody with an illustrious lineage. He invented a line of descendants from Tiridates, king of Armenia, stopping at Basil's father. He wrote this out in uncial characters (γράμμασιν 'Αλεξανδρίνοις) on old parchment, and added a prophecy
that Basil's father would beget a son named Beklas, whose description unmistakably pointed to Basil, and who would have a long and happy reign. Photius gave this document to a confederate, one of the palace clergy, who deposited it in the palace library and then seized an opportunity of showing it to the Emperor as an ancient book full of secret lore, which no one but Photius could interpret. Photius was summoned. His explanation easily imposed on the Emperor's simplicity and vanity. How could Basil resist the interpretation of Beklas as a mysterious acrostich containing the initial letters of the name of himself, his wife, and his four sons (B-asil, E-udocia, K-onstantine, L-eo, A-lexander, S-tephen)? The genealogy was accepted by Basil's house; it is recorded in Gen. and Cont. Th.
5 See below, p. 370. When Simeon speaks of Hadrianople as in Macedonia, it is only to explain Basil's designation as the Macedonian. It is in passages where Basil is in question that the geographical term Macedonia was extended 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,2 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. 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.
2 Tzantzes, Strat. of the Theme of Macedonia, Simeon, ib. 819.
3 A parochial church situated between the Golden Gate and the sea, at Yedikulè. Some remains have been found which are supposed to mark its site. See van Millingen, Walls, 265: "The excavations made in laying out the public garden beside the city walls west of the Gas Works at Yedi Koulè, brought to light substructures of an ancient edifice, in the construction of which bricks stamped with the monogram of Basil I. and
with a portion of the name of Diomed were employed.' Simeon rightly designates Nicolas as caretaker, πроσμονάριος (= παραμονάριος, sexton), and carefully explains that the church was then parochial (Kaloλký). Genesios miscalls him kаlnyоúμevos. St. Diomede was converted into a monastery, almost certainly by Basil, but as in many other cases the foundation was attributed to Constantine (cp. Pargoire, Rev. des questions historiques, lxv. 73 sqq.).
4 ἐποίησεν ἀδελφοποίησιν, Simeon, ib. 820. Simeon tells the whole story more dramatically than Genesios.
his employer, who hired him as a groom.1 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.3 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 Danêlis. 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. 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
1 Gen. 109 says nothing of the physician, and makes Theophilitzes visit the monastery himself.
· ἐπίσγουρον καὶ μεγάλην κεφαλὴν exovтa, hence he called him Kephalas (Cont. Georg. 820).
3 The Peloponnesian episode comes from Constantine's Vita Bas., Cont. Th. 226 sqq. If the author is accurate in saying that Theophilitzes was sent by Michael and Bardas, we may place it in A.D. 856, when Basil was about 44. He returned from captivity about A.D. 837, but we have no evidence as to the date of his arrival at Constantinople.
πνευματικῆς ἀδελφότητος σύνδεσμον
5 So Simeon, ib. 816 (followed by Cont. Th. 230). Gen. 110 connects the entry into the Emperor's service with another exploit of Basil in the capacity of wrestler. Theophilitzes maintained a company of strong and comely
youths, and there was rivalry between them and the youths in the employment of the Emperor and the Caesar One day Theophilitzes gave an entertainment for the purpose of a wrestling match; Bardas was not present, but was represented by his son Antigonus. The champions of the Emperor and the Caesar defeated the others, until Basil who had not taken part was summoned to wrestle with the strongest of the adversaries. Constantine the Armenian (Drungary of the Watch) intervened to sprinkle the floor with chaff, fearing that Basil might slip. Basil threw his opponent by a grip which was called by the Slavonic term podreza. Antigonus reported this achievement to his father, who told Michael, and Basil was summoned to the Emperor's presence. Constantine Porph. gives a different version of the story and places the event before the taming of the horse (which Genesios
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,1 and soon afterwards he received the important office of Protostrator, whose duties involved frequent attendance upon the Emperor (A.D. 858-8592).
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.3 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 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.
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). Hence my date, see above, pp. 160-1. Simeon, ib. 827.
3 From that day the fame of Basil
But the triumph of Bardas was to turn to his hurt. was appointed to fill the confidential post of High Chamberlain1 (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.2
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 tender years. 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.5 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 been then about 43 years old.
2 The date is not recorded, but it seems probable that it was not very long before the fall of Bardas.
3 Maria; she was sent back to "Macedonia" (i.e. probably Thrace) well provided for.
4 For the evidence, see Hirsch, 66, and below, p. 177. Thecla became the mistress of John Neatokomêtês after Basil's accession. When Basil learned this, he ordered the latter to be beaten and tonsured; Thecla was also beaten, and her property confiscated. Simeon, ib. 842. She died bedridden (KλvoTETS) in her house at Blachernae, Cont. Th. 147. If she became Basil's mistress in 865-866, she might have
5 Simeon (Cont. Georg. 835, and 844) states that Michael was the father, as if it were a well-known fact, and without reserve. In the case of such an arrangement à trois, it is, of course, impossible for us, knowing so little as we do, to accept as proven such statements about paternity. Eudocia may have deceived her lover with her husband; and as Basil seems to have been fond of Constantine and to have had little affection for Leo (whom he imprisoned shortly before the end of his reign), we might be led to suspect that the eldest born of Eudocia was his own son, and Leo Michael's.