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already been explained. After its surrender, Theophilus addressed a letter to the Caliph, which according to an Arabic historian, was couched in the following phrases:
Of a truth, it is more reasonable for two antagonists, striving each for his own welfare, to agree than to cause injury to each other. Assuredly, you will not consent to renounce your own welfare for the sake of another's. You are sufficiently intelligent to understand this without a lesson from me. I wrote to you to propose the conclusion of peace, as I earnestly desire complete peace, and relief from the burden of war. We will be comrades and allies; our revenues will increase steadily, our trade will be facilitated, our captives liberated, our roads and uninhabited districts will be safe. If you refuse, then-for I will not dissimulate or flatter you with words-I will go forth against you, I will take your border lands from you, I will destroy your horsemen and your footmen. And if I do this, it will be after have raised a flag of parleys between
To this epistle the Caliph disdainfully replied in terms like these:
I have received your letter in which you ask for peace, and in mingled tones of softness and severity try to bend me by referring to commercial advantages, steady augmentation of revenues, liberation of captives, and the termination of war. Were I not cautious and deliberate before deciding to act, I would have answered your letter by a squadron of valiant and seasoned horsemen, who would attempt to tear you from your household, and in the cause of God would count as nought the pain which your valour might cause them, And then I would have given them reinforcements and supplies of arms. And they would rush to drink the draughts of death with more zest than you would flee to find a refuge from their insults. For they are promised one of two supreme blessings victory here or the glorious future of paradise. But I have deemed it right to invite you and yours to acknowledge the One God and to adopt monotheism and Islam. If you refuse, then there shall be a truce for the exchange of captives; but if you also decline this proposition, you will have such personal acquaintance with our qualities as shall render further eloquence on my part needless. He is safe who follows the right path.
If these letters represent the tenor of the communications which actually passed 2 it is clear that Mamun, encouraged by
1 This is the embassy briefly recorded by Michael Syr. 75 (A.D. 832), who says that Mamun uttered fierce threats when Manuel left his service and that these threats frightened Theophilus.
2 They are given by Tabari, 25, 26, and accepted as genuine by Vasil'ev.
(Date, A.D. 832.) They are not quite consistent, however, with the account of Michael, who says (ib.) that Mamun replied, "Acknowledge my sovranty over you, pay me a tribute, however small, and I will agree to your request" (cp. Bar-Hebr. 154).
the successes of the three past years, had no wish to bring the war to a close. He looked forward, perhaps, to the entire subjugation of the Empire.1 But his days were numbered. In the following summer he crossed the frontier, took some fortresses, and returned to Podandos, where he was stricken down by a fatal fever. He died on August 7, A.D. 833, and was buried at Tarsus.
5. The Embassy of John the Grammarian and the Flight of Manuel
It was probably in the first months of his reign that the Emperor sent to the Caliph an embassy which made such an impression on popular imagination that it has assumed a more or less legendary character. The fact seems to be, so far as can be made out from the perplexing evidence, that John the Synkellos, commonly known as the Grammarian, a savant who, it may well be, was acquainted with Arabic, was sent to Baghdad, to announce the accession of Theophilus.3 He carried costly presents for the Caliph, and large sums of money for the purpose of impressing the Saracens by ostentatious liberality. The imagination of the Greeks dwelt complacently on the picture of an Imperial ambassador astonishing the Eastern world by his luxury and magnificence, and all kinds of anecdotes concerning John's doings at Baghdad were invented. It was said that he scattered gold like the sand of the sea, and bestowed rich gifts on anyone who on any pretext visited him in his hostel.
An additional interest was attached to the embassy of John the grammarian by the link, whether actual or fictitious, which connected it with the adventures of a famous general of the time, and this connection led Greek tradition to misdate the embassy to a later period in the reign. Manuel, who under Leo V. had been stratêgos of the Armeniac Theme, was distinguished for his personal prowess, and under Michael II.
1 So Yakubi, 9, who says he purposed to besiege Amorion, and settle the Arabs of the desert in the towns of the empire.
2 While he was at Podandos, before he crossed the frontier, an envoy of Theophilus is said to have arrived
with new proposals of peace.
* Over £17,000, Cont. Th. 96.
he had apparently again acted as stratêgos, perhaps of the same Theme. He was of Armenian descent, and the Empress Theodora was his brother's daughter. In the Saracen war his boldness and determination saved the Emperor's life. It was related that Theophilus, in a battle which he fought and lost (A.D. 830) against the forces of Mamun, was hard pressed and sought safety among the Persian troops who formed the intention of handing over his person to the enemy and making terms for themselves. Manuel, who knew their language, became aware of the contemplated treachery, rushed through their ranks, and seizing the bridle of Theophilus dragged him, angry and reluctant, from the danger which he did not suspect. The Emperor rewarded his saviour with such lavish marks of favour that the jealousy of Petronas, the brother of the Empress, was aroused. Theophilus was informed that Manuel was aspiring to the throne, and he believed the accusation, based perhaps on some unguarded words. Made aware of his danger, Manuel crossed over to Pylae, and making use of the Imperial post reached the Cilician frontier. He was joyfully welcomed by the Saracens, and the Caliph, who was wintering in Syria, gladly accepted the services of his enemy's ablest general. The countrymen of Manuel, who were vainer of his reputation for warlike prowess than they were indignant at his desertion to the Unbelievers, relate with complacency that he performed great services for the Caliph against the sectaries of Babek and the rebellious population of Khurasan.1
1 For his career see Cont. Th. 110 (his Armenian descent is also noted in Gen. 52). For his relationship to Theodora, ib. 148, θεῖος ἀπὸ πατρός. Vasil'ev (Index, 171), and others distinguish two Manuels, but there can in my opinion be no question that Manuel, the magister, who played an important part after the death of Theophilus, is the same as the Manuel whom Theophilus created a magister. See Appendix VIII.
2 I have followed the briefer and more intelligible version of Simeon (Add. Georg. 802-710 ed. Mur.): so Vasil'ev, 86. In Gen. 61 (followed in Cont. Th. 116), the incident is improved with details, and the danger is heightened; the Emperor is rescued not from the Persians, but from the Saracens themselves.
3 Simeon's account of the circumstance (Add. Georg. 796) is superior to Gen. and Cont. Th. The person who brought the charge against Manuel was Myron, Logothete of the Course, otherwise of no note in history; but he was the father-in-law of Petronas, and it might therefore be conjectured that Petronas was behind the attempt to ruin his uncle. The fact that Petronas was Manuel's nephew does not militate against this supposition.
4 See Cont. Th. 118. I infer that this piece was based on a good source, from the mention of the Hurramites (Kopuáтo). This was not a familiar name to the Greeks, and points to special information. Cp. also Gen.
But in the meantime it had been proved to the Emperor that the charges against his general were untrue,1 and he was desirous to procure the return of one whose military talent he could ill afford to lose. It is said that John the Grammarian undertook to obtain a secret interview with Manuel and convey to him the Emperor's assurance of pardon, safety, and honour, if he would return to Constantinople.2 The ambassador executed this delicate mission successfully; he carried an Imperial letter with the golden seal, and the cross which Theophilus wore on his breast; and Manuel, reassured by these pledges, promised, at the first opportunity, to return to his own country. He accompanied the Caliph's son to invade the Empire, and succeeded in escaping somewhere near the frontier. Theophilus immediately conferred on him the post of Domestic of the Schools, and raised him from the rank of a Patrician to that of a Magister.5
The whole story has a basis in fact. There is no doubt that Manuel fled to the Saracens, and afterwards returned. And it is not improbable that John the Grammarian was instrumental in communicating to him the assurances which led to his return. But if we accept the story, as it is told by the Greek writers, we have to suppose that Manuel deserted from the Caliph in A.D. 830, and returned in A.D. 832, and therefore to date the embassy of John to the winter of A.D. 831-2. Such a conclusion involves us in several difficulties; and the most probable solution of the problem appears to be that Manuel fled from the Court not of Theophilus, but of his father, and returned to Constantinople
1 Their falsehood was exposed by the eunuch Leo, protovestiarios (Simeon, Add. Georg. 796).
2 Simeon (Add. Georg. 796-7), represents this mission as the primary purpose of John's journey to Syria.
3 τὸν ἐνυπόγραφον λόγον καὶ τὸ φυλακτὸν τοῦ βασιλέως, Simeon ib. (=τὸ χρυσοβούλλιον and τὸ τοῦ β. ἐγκόλπιον in Cont. Th. 119 [cp. Gen. 63], where an anecdote is told of John's visiting Manuel in the guise of a ragged pilgrim).
4 The versions vary both as to the place and the circumstances. Simeon (Add. Georg. 798), says vaguely that it was near the Anatolic Theme;
Manuel managed to separate himself
in A.D. 830.1 Both John's embassy and Manuel's adventures interested popular imagination, and in the versions which have come down to us the details have been variously embroidered by mythopoeic fancy. Even the incident of the rescue of Theophilus by Manuel may be said to be open to some suspicion, inasmuch as a similar anecdote is recorded of a battle thirty years later, in which Michael III. plays the part of his father.2
§ 6. The Campaigns of A.D. 837 and 838
During the first years of Mamun's brother and successor, Mutasim, there was a suspension of hostilities,3 for the forces of the new Caliph were needed to protect his throne against internal rebellions, and he was bent on finally quelling the still unconquered Babek. The desire of Theophilus for peace was manifest throughout the war with Mamun; it was probably due to the need of liberating all the strength of his resources for the task of driving the Saracens from Sicily. But at the end of four years he was induced to renew the war, and Babek again was the cause. Pressed hard, and seeing that his only chance of safety lay in diverting the Caliph's forces, the rebel leader opened communications with Theophilus and promised to become a Christian.* The movement of Babek was so useful to the Empire, as a constant
1 See Appendix VIII.
2 Gen. 93 (cp. Vasil'ev, 194). The chief difference is that the Persian auxiliaries_play no part on the later occasion. The presence of the Persians explains the situation in the earlier battle; and perhaps it is more probable that Manuel saved the life of Theophilus, and that the same story was applied to Michael, than that both anecdotes are fictitious. There is also the story of the rescue of the Emperor by Theophobos (Cont. Th. 122 sq.), which Vasil'ev rejects (Pril. ii. 136).
3 Interrupted only by a raid of Omar, the Emir of Melitene, recorded by Michael Syr. 85, in A.D. 835. Theophilus at first defeated him, but was afterwards routed. We shall meet Omar again, twenty-five years later.
4 Tabari, 29. We must evidently connect this notice of Tabari with the
statement of Michael Syr. 88, that (apparently in 835-836) "most of the companions of Babek, with the general Nasr, reduced to extremities by the war, went to find Theophilus and became Christians." Nasr, a supporter of Mamun's brother Emin and a violent anti-Persian, had been in rebellion against Mamun from A.D. 810 to 824-825, when he submitted. See Michael Syr. 22, 53, 55, who relates (36-37) that he wrote (apparently c. 821) to Manuel the Patrician proposing an alliance with the Empire. Michael II. sent envoys to him at Kasin, his headquarters; but Nasr's followers were indignant, and to pacify them he killed the envoys. There is a chronological inconsistency, for the chronicler says that this happened when Nasr heard that Mamun was coming to Baghdad; but Mamun came to Baghdad (ib. 45) in A.D. 818-819.