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Athanasius, eked out the remainder of his life in the rocky islet of Plate,1 making atonement for his sins, and the new Emperor provided him with a yearly allowance for his sustenance. By one of those strange coincidences, which in those days might to men something more than chance, the death of Michael occurred 2 on an anniversary of the death of the rival whom he had deposed. The 11th day of January, which had relieved Stauracius from his sufferings, relieved Michael from the regrets of fallen greatness. He was buried on the right
side of the altar in the church of the island where he died. Opposite, on the left, was placed, five years later, the body of the monk Eustratios, who had once been the Augustus Theophylactus. This, however, was not destined to be the final resting-place of Michael Rangabé. Many years after, the Patriarch Ignatius remembered the grave of his Imperial father, and having exhumed the remains, transferred them to a new monastery which he had himself erected and dedicated to the archangel Michael at Satyros, on the Bithynian mainland, opposite to the Prince's islands. This monastery
of Satyros was also called by the name of Anatellon or the Riser, an epithet of the archangel. The story was that the Emperor Nicephorus was hunting in the neighbourhood, where there was good cover for game, and a large stag was pulled down by the hounds. On this spot was found an old table, supported by a pillar, with an inscription on this wise: "This is the altar of the Arch-Captain (apɣiστρaτýyov) Michael, the Rising Star, which the apostle Andrew set up.'
1 Oxeia and Plate are the two most westerly islands of the Prince's group. Cont. Th. states (20) that Michael went to Plate, Nicetas (Vit. Ign. 211) says vaguely πρὸς τὰς πριγκιπείους νήσους (and that Procopia went with him). Some modern historians follow Skylitzes (Cedrenus, ii. 48; Zonaras, iii. 319) in stating that he was banished to the large island of Prote, the most northerly of the group (Finlay, ii. 112; Schlumberger, Les Îles des Princes, 36; Marin, 33). For a description of Plate see Schlumberger, ib. 296 sqq.
2 Cont. Th. 20, A.M. 6332=A.D. 839-840 (reckoning by the Alexandrine era); cp. Muralt, sub 840. Theo
steriktos, writing in the latter years of Michael II., speaks of Michael I. as alive (Vit. Nicet. xxix. ò vûV ỄTI ÉV μοναδικῷ διαπρέπων ἀξιώματι).
3 The anecdote is told in Cont. Th. 21. Hirsch (178) referred the anecdote to Nicephorus II., and drew conclusions as to the revision of Cont. Th. But Nicephorus I. is unquestionably meant. Cp. Brooks, B. Z. x. 416417. Pargoire has shown that Ignatius did not found this monastery till his second Patriarchate in the reign of Basil I. (Les Mon. de Saint Ign. 71 sqq.), and has proved the approximate position of the monastery. For the topography of the coast, see below, p. 133.
§ 5. Ecclesiastical Policies of Nicephorus I. and Michael I.
The principle that the authority of the autocrat was supreme in ecclesiastical as well as secular administration had been fundamental in the Empire since the days of Constantine the Great, who took it for granted; and, in spite of sporadic attempts to assert the independence of the Church, it always prevailed at Byzantium. The affairs of the Church were virtually treated as a special department of the affairs of the State, and the Patriarch of Constantinople was the minister of religion and public worship. This theory of the State Church was expressed in the fact that it was the function of the Emperor both to convoke and to preside at Church Councils, which, in the order of proceedings, were modelled on the Roman Senate.1 It was expressed in the fact that the canons ordained by ecclesiastical assemblies were issued as laws by the Imperial legislator, and that he independently issued edicts relating to Church affairs. It is illustrated by those mixed synods which were often called to decide ecclesiastical questions and consisted of the dignitaries of the Court as well as the dignitaries of the Church.
The Seventh Ecumenical Council (A.D. 787) marks an epoch in the history of the relations between Church and State. On that occasion the right of presiding was transferred from the sovran to the Patriarch, but this concession to the Church was undoubtedly due to the fact that the Patriarch Tarasius had been a layman and Imperial minister, who had been elevated to the Patriarchal throne in defiance of the custom which had hitherto prevailed of preferring only monks to such high ecclesiastical posts. The significance of the epoch of the Seventh Council is that a new principle was signalized the assertion of ecclesiastical independence in questions of dogma, and the assertion of the autocrat's will in all matters pertaining to ecclesiastical law and administration. This was the view which guided the policy of Tarasius, who represented what has been called "the third party," 2 standing between the extreme theories of thorough-going absolutism,
1 Gelzer, Staat und Kirche, 198. See this able article for the whole history of the Imperial authority over the Church.
2 Gelzer, ib. 228 sqq. He compares it to the parti politique in France in the reigns of Henry III. and Henry IV.
which had been exercised by such monarchs as Justinian, Leo III. and Constantine V., and of complete ecclesiastical independence, of which the leading advocate at this time was Theodore, the abbot of Studion. The doctrine of the third party was ultimately, but not without opposition and protest, victorious; and the ecclesiastical interest of the reign of Nicephorus centres in this question.
Tarasius, who had submitted by turns to the opposite policies of Constantine VI. and Irene, was an ideal Patriarch in the eyes of Nicephorus. He died on February 25, A.D. 806, and the Emperor looked for a man of mild and complacent disposition to succeed him. The selection of a layman was suggested by the example of Tarasius; a layman would be more pliable than a priest or a monk, and more readily understand and fall in with the Emperor's views of ecclesiastical policy. His choice was judicious. He selected a learned man, who had recently retired from the post of First Secretary to a monastery which he had built on the Bosphorus, but had not yet taken monastic vows. He was a man of gentle disposition, and conformed to the Imperial idea of a model Patriarch.
The celebrated Theodore, abbot of the monastery of Studion, now appears again upon the scene. No man contributed more than he to reorganize monastic life and render monastic opinion a force in the Empire. Nicephorus, the Emperor, knew that he would have to reckon with the influence of Theodore and the Studite monks, and accordingly he sought to disarm their opposition by writing to him and his uncle Plato before the selection of a successor to Tarasius, and asking their advice on the matter. The letter in which Theodore replied to the Imperial communication is extant,* and is highly instructive. It permits us to divine that the abbot would have been prepared to fill the Patriarchal chair himself. He begins by flattering Nicephorus, ascribing his
1 Theoph. A.M. 6298, p. 48115. All the MSS. have ke' (i.e. the 25th). De Boor reads in', on the ground that the version of Anastasius, which has duodecimo Kalendas Martias (i.e. the 18th), represents an older and better text. This is not confirmed by Ignatius, Vit. Tar. 27 Devpovapiw
μηνὶ συντελουμένῳ πέμπτην φέροντι σὺν πενταπλῇ τετράδι.
2 See Ignatius, Vit. Nic. Patr. 149 sqq. His learning is also shown by his extant writings. 3 Protoasecrêtês. For his monasteries see below, p. 68.
Epp. i. 16, p. 960.
elevation to God's care for the Church. He goes on to say that he knows of no man really worthy of the Patriarchate, and he names three conditions which a suitable candidate should fulfil he should be able, with perfect heart, to seek out the judgments of God; he should have been raised by gradual steps from the lowest to higher ecclesiastical ranks; he should be experienced in the various phases of spiritual life and so able to help others. This was manifestly aimed at excluding the possible election of a layman. But Theodore goes further and actually suggests the election of an abbot or an anchoret,' without mentioning a bishop. We cannot mistake the tendency of this epistle. It is probable that Plato proposed his nephew for the vacant dignity.2 But Theodore's bigotry and extreme views of ecclesiastical independence rendered his appointment by an Emperor like Nicephorus absolutely out of the question.
Respect for Church tradition, with perhaps a touch of jealousy, made Theodore and his party indignant at the designation of Nicephorus, a layman, as Patriarch. They agitated against him, and their opposition seemed to the Emperor an intolerable insubordination to his own authority. Nor did their attitude meet with much sympathy outside their own immediate circle. A contemporary monk, who was no friend of the Emperor, dryly says that they tried to create a schism.1 The Emperor was fain to banish the abbot and his uncle, and break up the monastery; but it was represented to him that the elevation of the new Patriarch would be considered inauspicious if it were attended by the dissolution of such a famous cloister in which there were about seven hundred brethren.5 He was content to keep the two leaders in prison for twenty-four days, probably till after Nicephorus had been enthroned. The ceremony was solemnised on Easter
1 Α ἡγούμενος οι στυλίτης οι ἔγκλειστος. The mention of a σTuλírηs is remarkable, and I conjecture that Theodore had in his mind Simeon (A.D. 764843) who lived on a pillar in Mytilene; see Acta S. Davidis, etc.
2 Theodore, Epitaph. Plat. 837. Cp. Schneider, Der hl. Theodor, 27.
3 Plato went at night to a monk who was a kinsman of the Emperor, seeking to make him use his influence
against the appointment of Nicephorus (Theodore, ib.). This monk was doubtless one Simeon, to whom we have several letters of Theodore.
4 Theoph. A.M. 6298.
5 Ib. Michael, Vit. Theod. Stud. 260 says the number nearly approached 1000.
6 Theodore, Epitaph. Plat., ib. Other members of the community were imprisoned too.
day (April 12) in the presence of the two Augusti,1 and the Studites did not persist in their protest.2
The Emperor Nicephorus now resolved to make an assertion of Imperial absolutism, in the sense that the Emperor was superior to canonical laws in the same way that he was superior to secular laws. His assertion of this principle was the more impressive, as it concerned a question which did not involve his own interests or actions.
It will be remembered that Tarasius had given his sanction to the divorce of Constantine VI. from his first wife and to his marriage with Theodote (Sept. A.D. 795). After the fall of Constantine, Tarasius had been persuaded by Irene to declare that both the divorce and the second marriage were illegal, and Joseph, who had performed the marriage ceremony, was degraded from the priesthood and placed under the ban of excommunication. This ban had not been removed, and the circumstance furnished Nicephorus with a pretext for reopening a question which involved an important constitutional principle. It would have been inconvenient to ask Tarasius to broach again a matter on which his own conduct had been conspicuously inconsistent and opportunist; but soon after the succession of the new Patriarch, Nicephorus proceeded to procure a definite affirmation of the superiority of the Emperor to canonical laws. At his wish a synod was summoned to decide whether Joseph should be received again into communion and reinstated in the sacerdotal office. The assembly voted for his rehabilitation, and declared the marriage of Constantine and Theodote valid.1
In this assembly of bishops and monks one dissentient voice was raised, that of Theodore the abbot of Studion. He and his uncle Plato had suffered under Constantine VI. the penalty of banishment from their monastery of Sakkudion, on account of their refusal to communicate with Joseph, who had transgressed the laws of the Church by uniting Constantine
1 Theoph. ib. It is interesting to observe the tendency of the writer here. He approved of the election of Nicephorus, but could not bear to attribute a good act to the Emperor, and therefore adds casually πpòs dè καὶ τῶν βασιλέων, as though the presence of Nicephorus and Stauracius were something unimportant or hardly
to be expected.
Cp. Theodore, Epp. i. 25, p. 989; 30, p. 1008.
3 Bury, Later Roman Empire, ii. 487.
4 Mansi, xiv. 14. Hefele (iii. 397) speaks inadvertently of the affair of the "Abt Johannes." Cp. Theodore, Epp. i. 33, p. 101.