Slike stranica

as he was not sure that he would obtain simultaneous recognition in the camp and in the capital, and Michael the Lisper, threatening to slay him if he did not consent, undertook to make the necessary arrangements.1 When Leo entered the

city he was met and welcomed by the whole Senate near the Church of St. John the Forerunner, which still stands, not far from the Golden Gate, and marks the site of the monastery of Studion. Accompanied by an acclaiming crowd, and closely attended by Michael his confidant, the new Augustus rode to the Palace. He halted in front of the Brazen Gate (Chalkê) to worship before the great image of Christ which surmounted the portal. The Fifth Leo, who was afterwards to be such an ardent emulator of the third Emperor of his name, now dismounted, and paid devotion to the figure restored by Irene in place of that which Leo the Isaurian had demolished. Perhaps the Armenian had not yet decided on pursuing an iconoclastic policy; in any case he recognized that it would be a false step to suggest by any omission the idea that he was not strictly orthodox. Halting and dismounting he consigned to the care of Michael the loose red military garment which he wore. This cloak, technically called an eagle,2 and more popularly a kolobion, was worn without a belt. Michael is said to have put on the "eagle" which the Emperor had put off. It is not clear whether this was strictly according to etiquette or not, but the incident was supposed to be an omen that Michael would succeed Leo. Another still more ominous incident is said to have followed. The Emperor did not enter by the Brazen Gate, but, having performed his act of devotion, proceeded past the Baths of Zeuxippos, and passing through the Hippodrome reached the Palace at the entrance known as the Skyla. The Emperor walked rapidly through the gate, and Michael, hurrying to keep up with him, awkwardly trampled on the edge of his dress which touched the ground behind.


It was said that Leo himself recognized the omen, but it certainly did not influence him in his conduct; nor is there

1 Gen. 5, repeated in Cont. Th.

2 άerós, also áλaσoa, Cont. Th. 19. Genesios says it was called a Koλóßiov (a garment with very short sleeves, whence its name; cp. Ducange, Gloss. s.v.). The incident is the subject of

an illustration in the Madrid MS. of Skylitzes (reproduced in Beylié, L'Habitation byzantine, 122).

3 Compare the route of Theophilus on the occasion of his triumph. See below, p. 128.

anything to suggest that at this time Michael was jealous of Leo, or Leo suspicious of Michael. The Emperor made him the Domestic or commander of the Excubitors, with rank of patrician, and treated him as a confidential adviser. Nor did he forget his other comrade, who had served with him under Bardanes, but cleaved more faithfully to his patron than had either the Amorian or the Armenian. Thomas the Slavonian returned from Saracen territory, where he had lived in exile, and was now made Turmarch of the Federates. Thus the three squires of Bardanes are brought into association again. Another appointment which Leo made redounds to his credit, as his opponents grudgingly admitted. He promoted Manuel the Protostrator, who had strongly opposed the resignation of Michael and his own elevation, to the rank of patrician and made him General of the Armeniacs. Manuel could hardly have looked for such favour; he probably expected that his fee would be exile. He was a bold, outspoken man, and when Leo said to him, "You ought not to have advised the late Emperor and Procopia against my interests," he replied, “Nor ought you to have raised a hand against your benefactor and fellow-father," referring to the circumstance that Leo had stood as sponsor for a child of Michael.1

The revolution which established a new Emperor on the throne had been accomplished speedily and safely at a moment of great national peril. The defences of the city had to be hastily set in order, and Krum, the Bulgarian victor, appeared before the walls within a week. Although the barbarians of the north had little chance of succeeding where the Saracen forces had more than once failed, and finally retired, the destruction which they wrought in the suburbs was a gloomy beginning for a new reign. The active hostilities of the Bulgarian prince claimed the solicitude of Leo for more than a year, when his death, as he was preparing to attack the capital again, led to the conclusion of a peace.

On the eastern frontier the internal troubles of the Caliphate relieved the Empire from anxiety during this

1 Or perhaps Michael for a child of Leo (Cont. Th. 24). Leo was the godfather of a son of Michael the Amorian (Theophilus-unless Michael had another son who died early), ib.

23. There is perhaps no need to suspect a confusion of the two Michaels. The advancements of Michael and Thomas are told in Gen. 12, that of Manuel only in Cont. Th.

reign, and, after the Bulgarian crisis had passed, Leo was able to devote his attention to domestic administration. But of his acts almost nothing has been recorded except of those connected with his revival of iconoclasm. His warfare against image-worship was the conspicuous feature of his rule, and, occupied with execrating his ecclesiastical policy, the chroniclers have told us little of his other works. Yet his most bitter adversaries were compelled unwillingly to confess1 that his activity in providing for the military defences of the Empire and for securing the administration of justice was deserving of all commendation. This was the judgment of the Patriarch Nicephorus, who cannot be accused of partiality. He said after the death of Leo: "The Roman Empire has lost an impious but great guardian." He neglected no measure which seemed likely to prove advantageous to the State; and this is high praise from the mouths of adversaries. He was severe to criminals, and he endeavoured, in appointing judges and governors, to secure men who were superior to bribes. No one could say that love of money was one of the Emperor's weak points. In illustration of his justice the following anecdote is told. One day as he was issuing from the Palace, a man accosted him and complained of a bitter wrong which had been done him by a certain senator. The lawless noble had carried off the poor man's attractive wife and had kept her in his own possession for a long time. The husband had complained to the Prefect of the City, but complained in vain. The guilty senator had influence, and the Prefect was a respecter of persons. The Emperor immediately commanded one of his attendants to bring the accused noble and the Prefect to his presence. The ravisher did not attempt to deny the charge, and the minister admitted that the matter had come before him. Leo enforced the penalties of the law, and stripped the unworthy Prefect of his office.3

Our authorities tell us little enough about the administration of this sovran, and their praise is bestowed reluctantly. But it is easy to see that he was a strenuous ruler, of the

1 Gen. 17-18.

2 Gen. 17. The account in Cont. Th. 30 is taken from Genesios, but the writer, on his own authority, makes out Leo to have been a hypocrite, and to have feigned a love of justice

for show. Gieseler regarded him as "einer der besten Regenten" (Lehrbuch der Kirchengeschichte, ii. 1, p. 4, ed. 4, 1846).

3 Gen. 18.

usual Byzantine type, devoted to the duties of his post, and concerned to secure efficiency both in his military and civil officers. He transacted most of his State business in the long hall in the Palace which was called the Lausiakos. There his secretaries, who were noted for efficiency, worked under his directions.1 In undertakings of public utility his industry was unsparing. After the peace with Bulgaria he rebuilt and restored the cities of Thrace and Macedonia, and himself with a military retinue made a progress in those provinces, to forward and superintend the work.2 He personally supervised the drill and discipline of the army.3

§ 2. Conspiracy of Michael and Murder of Leo

The reign of Leo closes with another act in the historical drama which opened with the revolt of Bardanes Turcus. We have seen how the Emperor Leo bestowed offices on his two companions, Michael and Thomas. But Michael was not to prove himself more loyal to his Armenian comrade who had outstripped him than he had formerly shown himself to his Armenian master who had trusted him. Thomas indeed had faithfully clung to the desperate cause of the rebel; but he was not to bear himself with equal faith to a more legitimate lord.


The treason of Thomas is not by any means as clear as the treason of Michael. But this at least seems to be certain, that towards the end of the year 820 he organized a revolt in the East; that the Emperor, forming a false conception of the danger, sent an inadequate force, perhaps under an incompetent commander, to quell the rising, and that this force was defeated by the rebel.

But with Thomas we have no further concern now; our instant concern is with the commander of the Excubitors, who was more directly under the Imperial eye. It appears that Michael had fallen under the serious suspicion of the Emperor.

1 Gen. 18.

2 Ib. 28. For his new wall at Blachernae see below, p. 94.

3 Cont. Th. 30.

4 The date is not given, but may be inferred with tolerable certainty. If the rebellion had broken out sooner

than a month or two before Leo's death, Leo would have been constrained to deal seriously with it, and we should have heard about the operations. For the statement of Michael in his letter to Lewis the Pious see Appendix V.

The evidence against him was so weighty that he had hardly succeeded in freeing himself from the charge of treason. He was a rough man, without education or breeding; and while he could not speak polite Greek, his tongue lisped insolently against the Emperor. Perhaps he imagined that Leo was afraid of him; for, coarse and untrained as he may have been, Michael proved himself afterwards to be a man of ability, and does not strike us as one who was likely to have been a reckless babbler. He spoke doubtless these treasonable things in the presence of select friends, but he must have known well how perilous words he uttered. The matter came to the ears of the Emperor, who, unwilling to resort to any extreme measure on hearsay, not only set eavesdroppers to watch the words and deeds of his disaffected officer, but took care that he should be privately admonished to control his tongue. These offices he specially entrusted to the Logothete of the Course, John Hexabulios, a discreet and experienced man, whom we met before on the occasion of the return of Michael Rangabé to the city after the defeat at Hadrianople.1 We may feel surprise that he who then reproved Michael I. for his folly in leaving the army in Leo's hands, should now be the trusted minister of Leo himself. But we shall find him still holding office and enjoying influence in the reign of Leo's successor. The same man who has the confidence of the First Michael, and warns him against Leo, wins the confidence of Leo, and warns him against another Michael, then wins the confidence of the Second Michael, and advises him on his dealing with an unsuccessful rebel.2 Had the rebellion of Thomas prospered, Hexabulios would doubtless have been a trusted minister of Thomas too.

Michael was deaf to the warnings and rebukes of the Logothete of the Course; he was indifferent to the dangers in which his unruly talk seemed certain to involve him. The matter came to a crisis on Christmas Eve, A.D. 820. Hexabulios had gained information which pointed to a conspiracy organized by Michael and had laid it before the Emperor. The peril which threatened the throne could no longer be overlooked, and the wrath of Leo himself was furious. Michael was arrested, and the day before the feast

1 Above, p. 27.

2 Below, p. 106.


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