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of Christmas was spent in proving his guilt. The inquiry was held in the chamber of the State Secretaries, and the Emperor presided in person. The proofs of guilt were so clear and overwhelming that the prisoner himself was constrained to confess his treason. After such a long space of patience the wrath of the judge was all the more terrible, and he passed the unusual sentence that his old companionin-arms should be fastened to a pole and cast into the furnace which heated the baths of the Palace. That the indignity might be greater, an ape was to be tied to the victim, in recollection perhaps of the old Roman punishment of parricides.
This sentence would have been carried out and the reign of Leo would not have come to an untimely end, if the Empress Theodosia had not intervened. Shocked at the news of the atrocious sentence, she rose from her couch, and, not even taking time to put on her slippers, rushed to the Emperor's presence, in order to prevent its execution. If she had merely exclaimed against the barbarity of the decree, she might not have compassed her wish, but the very day of the event helped her. It was Christmas Eve. How could the Emperor dare, with hands stained by such foul cruelty, to receive the holy Sacrament on the morrow? Must he not be ashamed that such an act should be associated with the feast of the Nativity? These arguments appealed to the pious Christian. But Theodosia had also an argument which might appeal to the prudent sovran : let the punishment be postponed; institute a stricter investigation, and discover the names of all those who have been implicated in the plot. The appeal of the Empress was not in vain. Her counsels and her entreaties affected the mind of her husband. But while he consented to defer his final decision, it would seem that he had misgivings, and that some dim feeling of danger entered into him. He is reported to have said : “Wife, you have released my soul from sin to-day; perhaps it will soon cost me my life too. You and our children will see what shall happen."
In those days men were ready to see fatal omens and
1 Gen. 20 περί τον των ασηκρητίων xwpov. These offices were situated not
far from the Lausiakos (cp. Bieliaev, i. 157).
foreshadowings in every chance event and random word. The Emperor lay awake long on the night following that Christmas Eve, tossing in his mind divers grave omens, which seemed to point to some mortal peril, and to signify Michael as the instrument. There was the unlucky chance that on the day of his coronation Michael had trodden on his cloak. But there were other signs more serious and more recent. From a book of oracles and symbolic picturesLeo had discovered the time of his death. A lion pierced in the throat with a sword was depicted between the letters Chi and Phi. These are the first letters of the Greek expressions 2 which mean Christmas and Epiphany, and therefore the symbol was explained that the Imperial lion was to be slain between those two feasts. As the hours went on to Christmas morning the Lion might feel uneasy in his lair. And a strange dream,
. a which he had dreamt a short time before, expressly signified that Michael would be the cause of his death. The Patriarch Tarasius had appeared to him with threatening words and gestures, and had called sternly upon one Michael to slay the sinner. It seemed to Leo that Michael obeyed the command, and that he himself was left half dead.
Tortured with such fears the Emperor bethought him to make further provisions for the safety of the prisoner whose punishment he had deferred. He summoned the keeper (papias) of the Palace and bade him keep Michael in one of the rooms which were assigned to the Palace-sweepers, and to fasten his feet in fetters. Leo, to make things doubly sure, kept the key of the fetters in the pocket of his under-garment. But still his fears would not let him slumber, and as the night wore on he resolved to convince himself with his own eyes that the prisoner was safe. Along the passages which led to the room which for the time had been turned into a dungeon, there were locked doors to pass. But they were not solid enough to shut out the Emperor, who was a strong man and easily smashed or unhinged them.
He found the prisoner sleeping on the pallet or bench of the keeper, and the keeper himself sleeping on the floor. He saw none save these two, but unluckily there was another present who saw
1 έκ τινος συμβολικής βίβλου (Gen. 21). 2 Χριστού η γέννησις and (τά) φώτα.
him. A little boy in the service of Michael, who had been allowed (doubtless irregularly) to bear his master company, heard the approaching steps and crept under the couch, from which hiding-place he observed the movements of Leo, whom he recognized as the Emperor by his red boots. Leo bent over Michael and laid his hand on his breast, to discover whether the beating of his heart pointed to anxiety or security. When there was no response to his touch, the Emperor marvelled much that his prisoner enjoyed such a sound and careless sleep. But he was vexed at the circumstance that the keeper had resigned his couch to the criminal; such leniency seemed undue and suspicious. Perhaps he was vexed too that the guardian was himself asleep. In any case the lad under the bed observed him, as he was retiring from the cell, to shake his hand threateningly at both the guardian and the prisoner. The unseen spectator of Leo's visit reported the matter to his master, and when the keeper of the Palace saw that he too was in jeopardy they took common counsel to save their lives. The only chance was to effect a communication with the other conspirators, whose names had not yet been revealed. The Emperor had directed that, if Michael were moved to confess his sins and wished for ghostly consolation, the offices of a priest should not be withheld from him, and the matter was entrusted to a certain Theoktistos, who was a servant of Michael, perhaps one of the Excubitors. It certainly seems strange that Leo, who took such anxious precautions in other ways, should have allowed the condemned to hold any converse with one of his own faithful dependants. The concession proved fatal. The keeper led Theoktistos to Michael's presence, and Theoktistos soon left the Palace, under the plea of fetching a minister of religion, but really in order to arrange a plan of rescue with the other conspirators. He assured the accomplices that, if they did not come to deliver the prisoner from death, Michael would not hesitate to reveal their names.
The plan of rescue which the conspirators imagined and carried out was simple enough; but its success depended on the circumstance that the season was winter and the mornings dark. It was the custom that the choristers who chanted the
i The boy was an eunuch (Gen. 23).
matins in the Palace Chapel of St. Stephen should enter by the Ivory Gate at daybreak, and as soon as they sang the morning hymn, the Emperor used to enter the church. The conspirators arrayed themselves in clerical robes, and having concealed daggers in the folds, mingled with the choristers who were waiting for admission at the Ivory Gate. Under the cover of the gloom easily escaping detection, they entered the Palace and hid themselves in a dark corner of the chapel. Leo, who was proud of his singing (according to one writer he sang execrably, but another, by no means well disposed to him, states that he had an unusually melodious voice ?), arrived punctually to take part in the Christmas service, and harbouring no suspicion of the danger which lurked so near. chilly morning, and both the Emperor and the priest who led the service had protected themselves against the cold by wearing peaked felt caps. At a passage in the service which the Emperor used to sing with special unction, the signal was given and the conspirators leaped out from their hiding-place. The likeness in head-dress, and also a certain likeness in face and figure, between Leo and the chief of the officiating clergy, led at first to a blunder. The weapons of the rebels were directed against the priest, but he saved his life by uncovering his head and showing that he was bald. Leo, meanwhile, who saw his danger, had used the momentary respite to rush to the altar and seize some sacred object, whether the cross itself, or the chain of the censer, or a candelabrum, as a weapon of defence. When this was shattered by the swords of the foes who surrounded him and only a useless fragment remained in his hands, he turned to one of them who was distinguished above the others by immense stature and adjured him to spare his life.
It was a
1 Acta Davidis, etc., 229 katà Tòv Bieliaev) thought that the church του πρωτομάρτυρος Στεφάνου ναόν τον (which Gen. and Cont. Th. do not ένδον όντα των βασιλείων έν τόπο το identify) is that of the Lord, which Éttle youévw Aáovn. . But Nicetas (Vit. was also close to Daphne. The Ign. 216) places the murder in the Armenian historian Wardan (see MarChurch of the Virgin of the Pharos, quart, Streifzüge, 404) says that the and this is accepted by Ebersolt (155), keeper of the prison was a friend of who consequently gets into difficulties Michael and bribed the μαγγλαβίται about the Ivory Gate. From Gen. 24 (palace-guards), and that they exeit is clear that this gate was an ex
cuted the murder. He also mentions terior gate of the Palace (this is in the intervention of the Empress. accordance with Constantine, Cer. 600), 2 Gen. p. 19 σοβαρών εμβοών και doubtless communicating with the κακόρυθμος, but Cont. Τh. 39 ήν γάρ Hippodrome, and close to the Daphne φύσει τε εύφωνος και εν ταις μελωδίαις των Palace. Labarte (122 ; followed by κατ' εκείνο καιρού ανθρώπων ήδύτατος.
But the giant, who for his height was nicknamed “ One-and-ahalf,” I swore a great oath that the days of Leo were numbered, and with the word brought down his sword so heavily on the shoulder of his victim that not only was the arm cut from the body, but the implement which the hand still held was cleft and bounded to a distant spot of the building. The Imperial head was then cut off, and the work of murder and rescue was accomplished.2
Thus perished the Armenian Leo more foully than any Roman Emperor since Maurice was slain by Phocas. as even his enemies admitted (apart from his religious policy), an excellent ruler, and a rebellion against him, not caused by ecclesiastical discontent, was inexcusable. Michael afterwards declared, in palliation of the conspiracy, that Leo had shown himself to be unequal to coping with the rebellion of Thomas, and that this incompetence had caused discontent among the leading men of the State. But this plea cannot be admitted ; for although Thomas defeated a small force which Leo, not fully realizing the danger, had sent against him, there is no reason to suppose that, when he was fully informed of the forces and numbers of the rebel, he would have shown himself less able or less energetic in suppressing the insurrection than Michael himself. Certainly his previous conduct of warfare was not likely to suggest to his ministers that he was incapable of dealing with a revolt. But in any case we have no sign, except Michael's own statement, that the rebellion of Thomas was already formidable. We must conclude that the conspiracy was entirely due to Michael's personal ambition, stimulated perhaps by the signs and omens and soothsayings of which the air was full. It does not appear that the religious question entered into the situation ; for Michael was himself favourable to iconoclasm.
The body of the slain Emperor was cast by his murderers into some sewer or outhouse 3 for the moment. It was after
1 Èv kai nulov, see Gen. 25. From which they interpreted to signify Cont. Th. 39 we get another fact about some portentous event. See Gen. 26, the giant: he belonged to the family Cont. Th. 40. Cp. the story told of the of the Krambônites.
death of Wala of Corbie (A.D. 836): 2 There was a story told that at Simson, Ludwig, ii. 157. the very hour at which the deed 3 Gen. 26 εν ευλοειδέσι χώροις τοις was wrought, four o'clock in the προς το δέξιμον (δ. seems to mean a morning, some sailors, sailing on the receptacle for sewerage ; not noticed sea, heard a strange voice in the air, in Ducange's Gloss.).