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The troops on whom it devolved to attack the long western walls of Theodosius, from the Palace of Blachernae to the Golden Gate, were assigned to the subordinate tyrant Anastasius, to whose dignity a high command was due, but others were at hand to keep the inexperienced monk from blundering. The main attack was to be directed against the quarter of Blachernae. Here were gathered all the resources of the engineer's art, rams and tortoises, catapults and citytakers; and over these operations Thomas presided himself.
In the city meanwhile the aid of Heaven and the inventions of men were summoned to defend the walls. On the lofty roof of the church of the Mother of God in Blachernae, the Emperor solemnly fixed the Roman standard, in the sight of the enemy, and prayed for succour against them. Presently the besiegers beheld the young Emperor Theophilus walking at the head of a priestly procession round the walls of the city, and bearing with him the life-giving fragments of the holy Cross, and raiment of the mother of Christ.2
But, if he employed superstitious spells, Michael did not neglect human precautions. He too, like bis opponent, called to his service all the resources of the art of the engineer, and the machines of the besieged proved in the end more effectual than those of the besieger. Simultaneous attacks by land and sea were frustrated, and on land at least the repulse of the assailants was wholly due to the superior machines of the assailed. The missiles which were shot from the city carried farther than those of Thomas, and great courage was required to venture near enough to scale or batter the walls. Ladders and battering-rams were easily foiled by the skilful handling of engines mounted on the battlements, and at last the attacking host retired from the volleys of well-aimed missiles within the shelter of their camp. At sea, too, the assailants were discomfited, but the discomfiture was perhaps chiefly caused by the rising of an adverse wind. The ships of Thomas were of the Wall of Heraclius, running while the lower portion was pierced parallel to it for some 260 feet, after by numerous loopholes." which it turns to join the walls along
1 This is recorded in Cont. Th., not the Golden Horn. Its parapet walk by Genesios. was supported upon arches which 2 The clothes of the Virgin were served at the same time to buttress "discovered "in a coffin at Blachernae the wall itself, a comparatively slight in A.D. 619 (see my note in Gibbon, structure about 8 feet thick. ... It v. 81). We shall meet this precious was flanked by four small towers, relic again in A.D. 860 (below, p. 420). 1 τετρασκελείς έλεπόλεις.
provided both with “liquid fire ” and with four-legged citytakers, from whose lofty storeys flaming missiles might be hurled upon and over the sea-walls of the city. But the violent wind rendered it impossible to make an effective use of these contrivances, and it was soon clear that the attack on the seaside had failed.
Foiled at every point, Thomas was convinced that he had no chance of succeeding until the severity of winter had passed, and he retired from his position to await the coming of spring, whether in the cities of Thrace or on the opposite coasts of Asia.?
2. Spring, 822 A.D.-At the coming of spring Thomas reassembled his land forces and his ships at Constantinople and prepared for another simultaneous attack on both elements. Michael meanwhile had made use of the respite from hostilities to reinforce his garrison considerably, and during this second siege he was able to do more than defend the walls : he could venture to sally out against the enemy. It was also probably during the lull in the war that some repairs were made in the Wall of Leo, recorded by inscriptions which are still preserved.
We are told that when the day dawned on which a grand assault was to be made on the walls of Blachern, the Emperor ascended the wall himself and addressed the enemy, who were within hearing. He urged them to desert the rebel and seek
2 The words of our source (Cont. Τh. 61 άλλως δε και η ώρα δριμύτερον εδείκνυ τον καιρόν άτε χειμώνος επιγενομένου και της Θράκης των άλλων ούσης δυσχειμέρου επί παραχειμασίαν ετράπη και την του στρατού ανακομιδής) may merely mean that winter in Thrace was too severe for military operations, not that Thomas wintered elsewhere.
3 Those inscriptions are near the south end of Leo's Wall ; both are defective. One records the names of Michael and Theophilus ; the other gives the date A.M. 6330, which corresponds to A.D. 822.
See van Millingen, Walls, 168.
An inscription on one of the towers of the Heraclian Wall is in honour of an Emperor Michael ; if this was Michael II. (as van Millingen thinks, 166), the name of Theophilus must also have
occurred. Fragmentary inscriptions of M. and T. have been found near the Charisian Gate in the Theodosian Wall (ib. 101).
4 Cont. Τh. 61 τείχος των Βλαχερνών was to be the object of attack, i.e. chiefly the Wall of Leo; then Michael is said to have spoken εκ του των τειχών μετεώρου, but it does not follow that this also was the Wall of Leo. We may suspect that Michael stood on the battlements of the Palace of Blachernae, nearly opposite the point where the wall which Manuel Comnenus, in the twelfth century, built outside the Palace, was pierced by the gate of Gyrolimne. This conjecture (which I owe to Mr. van Millingen) is suggested by (1) the fact that at Gyrolimne the younger Andronicus, during his rebellion, more than once held parley with his father's ministers;
pardon and safety in the city. His words were not received with favour, nor did he imagine that they would move those whom he addressed. But he achieved the effect which he desired, though not the effect at which his speech seemed to aim. The foe concluded that the besieged must needs be in great straits, when the Emperor held such parley from the walls. With confident spirits and in careless array they advanced to the assault, supposing that they would encounter but a weak resistance. Suddenly, to their amazement and consternation, many gates opened, and soldiers, rushing forth from the city, were upon them before they had time to apprehend what had happened. The men of Michael won a brilliant victory, and Thomas was forced to abandon the assault on Blachernae. A battle by sea seems to have been fought on the same day, and it also resulted in disaster for the besiegers. The details are not recorded, but the marines of Thomas, seized by some unaccountable panic, retreated to the shore and absolutely refused to fight.
Time wore on, and the taking of the city seemed no nearer. One of the generals in the leaguer concluded that there was little chance of success, and weary of the delay he determined to change sides. This was Gregory, the exile of Skyros, and nephew of Leo the Armenian. His resolve was doubtless quickened by the fact that his wife and children were in the power of Michael ;l he reckoned that their safety would be assured if he deserted Thomas. Accordingly, at the head of his regiment, he left the camp and entrusted a Studite monk with the task of bearing the news to the Emperor.” But the approaches to the city were so strictly guarded by the blockaders that the messenger was unable to deliver his message, and Michael remained in ignorance of the new accession to his cause. As it turned out, however, the act of Gregory proved of little profit to any one except, perhaps, to him, whom it was intended to injure. Thomas saw that the
(2) the hill opposite this gate must inevitably have been occupied by troops of Thomas, and in 1203 the Crusaders on this hill were nearly within speaking distance of the garrison on the wall. Cp. Millingen, ib. 126-127.
Cont. Th. 63 gives us this fact.
From the same source we learn that Gregory was given to deep potations (62); he seems to have been a man who acted generally from impulse more than from reflexion.
2 This, too, we learn from Cont. Th., not from Genesios.
traitor must be crushed immediately, for it would be a serious disadvantage to have an enemy in his rear. Accordingly, he marched against him with a band of chosen soldiers ; his army being so large that he could easily divert a portion without raising the blockade. The followers of Gregory were defeated, we know not where nor how; and Gregory himself, a fugitive from the field, was pursued and slain. There is a certain propriety in the part which this soldier plays in the last act of the drama, in which Leo, Michael, and Thomas were the chief performers. Leo had passed away before that last act; but his nephew, as it were, takes his place, and oscillates between his rivals, is banished by Michael and slain by Thomas.
3. Summer and Autumn A.D. 822.—The false Constantine, if he still sustained that pretence, made the most of his easy victory over the renegade. He proclaimed that he had conquered by land and sea, and sent letters to Greece and the islands of the Aegean, bearing this false news. was to reinforce his navy, which hitherto had accomplished nothing worthy of its size, by fresh ships from these regions. Nor was he disappointed. It was clearly thought in Greece, where the population was devoted to image-worship, that the pretender was carrying all before him, that the capture or surrender of the city was merely a matter of days, or at most months, and that Michael's days were numbered. A large fleet was sent, with all good-will, to hasten the success of one who professed to be an image-worshipper. No less than three hundred and fifty ships (it is alleged) arrived in the Propontis. Under given topographical conditions, when the same object is in view, history is apt to repeat itself, and we find Thomas mooring these reinforcements in the harbour of Hebdomon and on the adjacent beach, exactly as the Saracens 1 γράμμασι πεπλασμένοις, Gen. 41. harbour of Hebdomon was east of the
palace (and just to the east of the harHopf (126) sees here “the old
bour was the Kyklobion). It is clear, opposition of the oppressed provinces
therefore, that B. Neuñv=the harbour against the despotic centralisation in
of Hebdomon; but it could not have the capital.”
held all the ships, and so some of them 3 τη των καλουμένων Βυρίδων ακτή, were moored to the east along the ibid. τω των Β. λιμένι, Cont. Τh. 64. shore. Hopf (119) curiously says that From a passage in John of Antioch it Thomas took “Berida” by storm. is clear that Byrides was a place on On the aivat of the Hell. Syllogos the coast between Hebdomon (Makri. (see Bibliography) Byrides is marked keui) and the Golden Gate, The near Selymbria.
had disposed their fleet on the two occasions on which they had attempted to capture the city.
He had formed the project of a twofold attack by sea.? On the northern side the city was to be assailed by his original fleet, which lay in the Golden Horn; while the new forces were to operate against the southern walls and harbours, on the side of the Propontis. But Michael foiled this plan by prompt action. Sending his fire-propelling vessels against the squadron at Hebdomon, he destroyed it, before it had effected anything Some of the ships were entirely burnt, others scattered, but most were captured, and towed into the city harbours, which the Imperial navy held.? Such was the fate of the navy which the Themes of Hellas and Peloponnesus had sent so gladly to the discomfiture of the Phrygian Emperor.
On the seaside the danger was diminished; but by land the siege was protracted with varying success until the end of the year. Frequent excursions were made from the city, and sometimes prospered, whether under the leadership of the elder Emperor or of his son Theophilus, with the General Olbianos or the Count Katakylas. But on the whole the besieged were no match in the field for their foes, who far outnumbered them. Both parties must have been weary enough as the blockade wore on through the winter. It was at length broken by the intervention of a foreign power.
1 Theoph. 353 (664 A.D.) årò rñs rogennetes seems to have been too προς δύσιν ακρότητος του Εβδόμου much for Finlay here, but the story is μέχρι πάλιν του προς ανατολήν ακρωτηρίου told simply enough by Genesios. του λεγομένου Κυκλοβίου (a description 4 Here, again, Cont. Th. 64 has indeed which does not naturally information not vouchsafed by Genesuggest a harbour), and 395 (717 A.D.) sios : νυν μεν του Μιχαήλ, νύν δε του an equivalent description.
υιού αυτού θεοφίλου αυτούς επεξιόντος 2 Gen. ib.
μετά 'Ολβιανού και Κατακύλα. This 3 Ι6. τάς πλείους δε αυτών.
suggests that Olbianos and Katakylas Baollei ipoo kyovoiv. George Mon. (795) were in the city during the siege. mentions the destruction of the fleet Finlay knows that the troops of the
a critical event in the siege. Armeniac and Opsikian Themes interFinlay, whose account of this rebellion rupted the communications of Thomas is not very satisfactory, makes a with the centre of Asia Minor : “ These strange mistake here (ii. 131): “The troops maintained a constant compartisans of Michael collected a fleet munication with the garrison of of 350 ships in the islands of the Constantinople from the coast of Archipelago and Greece, and this fleet, Bithynia” (loc. cit.). There is no having gained a complete victory over authority for this, though it is what the fleet of Thomas, cut off the com- we should expect. We only know munications of the besiegers with that before the blockade began in Asia. He has thus reversed the spring Michael imported many troops facts. The Greek of the historical into the city, doubtless regiments of Commission of Constantine Porphy. these Themes.