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about ten years (A.D. 803-813). We saw how he received a military command from his old fellow-officer, Leo the Armenian, and he rose in arms shortly before that Emperor's death.1
If he was tempted to rise against Leo, much more was he tempted to dispute the crown with Michael, with whom he seems to have had a rivalry of old standing.2 Thomas was much the elder of the two; at the time of his rising he was an old man. One of his legs was maimed; but his age and lameness did not impair his activity. The lame man was personally more popular than the lisper; for, while Michael's manners were coarse and brusque, Thomas was courteous and urbane.3 His Slavonic origin hardly counted against him; * men were by this time becoming familiar with Romaeized Slavs.
But Thomas did not come forward as himself; and this is a strange feature of the rebellion which it is difficult to understand. He did not offer himself to the inhabitants of Asia Minor as Thomas of Gaziura, but he pretended that he was really one who was generally supposed to be dead, a crowned Augustus, no other than Constantine the Sixth, son of Irene. That unfortunate Emperor, blinded by the orders of his mother, had died, if not before her dethronement, at all events in the first years of Nicephorus. The operation of blinding had not been performed in public, and a pretender might construct a tale that another had been substituted, and that the true Constantine had escaped. But it is hard to see how the fraud could have been successful even for a time in the case of Thomas. He might easily enough have palmed himself off among barbarian neighbours as the deposed Emperor. Or if he had produced an obscure stranger and given out that this was Constantine who for more than twenty years had lurked in some safe hiding-place, we could understand that the fiction might have imposed on the Themes of Asia. But we cannot easily conceive how one who had been recently before the eye of the world as Thomas, Commander
1 See above, p. 46 and p. 48.
2 Gen. 32 ἀνέκαθεν γὰρ ἀλλήλοις ἀντιπεπονθότως διίσταντο.
3 Cont. Th. 53.
4 But observe the εἰ καὶ σκυθίζων τῷ yével of Genesios, 32. A Slav had
filled the Patriarchal chair seventy years back-Nicetas, in the reign of Constantine V.
5 Before the year A.D. 806, as is proved by Theodore Stud. Epp. i. 31 (and cp. Gen. 35); see Brooks, B.Z. ix. 654 sqq.
of the Federates, and whose earlier career must have been more or less known by his contemporaries, could suddenly persuade people that all this time he was not himself. One almost suspects that some link in the chain of events is lost which might have explained the feasibility of the deceit. If Thomas had withdrawn for some years to Syria, he might have returned in the new character of an Augustus who was supposed to be dead. And indeed in one account of the rebellion it is implied that he started from Syria, perhaps with some Saracen support at his back.1
The pretender was not content with being Constantine, son of Irene; he resolved, like Constantine the Great, to have a son named Constantius. Accordingly he adopted a man of mongrel race, whose true name is unknown, and called him Constantius. Our record describes this adopted son in terms of the utmost contempt, as a base and ugly mannikin.2 But he must have had some ability, for his father' trusted him with the command of armies.
It is impossible to distinguish with certainty the early stages of the insurrection of Thomas, or to determine how far it had spread at the time of Michael's accession. He established his power by winning the district of Chaldia, in eastern Pontus. He also secured some strong places in the Armeniac Theme, in which Gaziura, his native town, was situated, but the soldiers of this Theme did not espouse his cause. It was to the eastern provinces that he chiefly looked for support at first, but his power presently extended to the west. The false Constantine and his son could soon reckon the greater part of Asia Minor, from the borders of Armenia to the shores of the Aegean, as their dominion. The Paulician heretics, who were persecuted by Leo, flocked to their standard. They intercepted the taxes which should have been conveyed to Constantinople and used the money for winning adherents to their cause.
1 Gen. 36; Cont. Th. 51; Acta Dav. 232. There is a confusion in this tradition between the beginning of the rebellion and the alliance of Thomas with the Saracens in A.D. 821. According to Michael Syr. 37, Thomas, whose father's name was Môsmâr, was with the Saracens before the death of Harun, and pretended to be the son of Constantine VI. He tried to persuade
Harun, who treated him with honour as an Emperor's son, to give him an army to overthrow the Emperor (Nicephorus). Mamun, however, gave him an army "soit pour s'emparer de l'empire des Romains et le lui livrer (ensuite), soit pour les troubler par la guerre." Cp. Bar-Hebraeus,
The cities which would not voluntarily have acknowledged them were constrained by fear. Soon they could boast that only two armies in Asia had not joined them, the Opsikian and the Armeniac. The patrician Katakylas, Count of Opsikion, was a nephew of Michael, and remained true to his uncle. Olbianos, stratêgos of the Armeniacs, espoused the same cause. But the meagre and disorderly accounts of the war which have reached us do not inform us what Olbianos and Katakylas did, or whether they did anything, to stem the torrent of rebellion. No dates are given, and even the order
of events is obscure.
But if Michael and his supporters made no signal effort to oppose the progress of the danger, the attention of Thomas was diverted to another enemy. The civil war in the Empire was an opportunity for the Caliph, and the Saracens began to make excursions in the Roman lands which were left insufficiently protected, as the regular defenders had abandoned their posts to swell the army of Thomas. Perhaps the murmurs of his soldiers1 convinced Thomas that he must relinquish for a time his war against his countrymen to repel the common foe. But if he was yielding to the wishes of his followers, in taking measures to protect their homes, he made a skilful use of the danger and turned it completely to his own advantage. His long sojourns among the Moslems stood him in good stead now. His first movement was to invade Syria and display his immense forces to the astonished eyes of the Saracens. Perhaps such a large Roman army had seldom passed the Taurus since Syria had become a Saracen possession. But the object of this invasion was not to harry or harm the invaded lands, but rather to frighten the enemy into making a treaty with such a powerful commander. The design was crowned with success. The Caliph Mamun empowered persons in authority to meet the pretender, and a compact of alliance was arranged. Thomas or Constantine was recognised as Emperor of the Romans by the Commander of the Faithful, who undertook to help him to dethrone his rival. In return for this service, Thomas is said to have
1 Cont. Th. 54. This point is not in Genesios.
εἰς τὴν αὐτῶν εἰσβάλλων.
Genesios does not mention this movement. The Syrian episode evidently belongs to the summer of A.D. 821.
agreed not only to surrender certain border territories which are not specified, but to become a tributary of the Caliph.1
After the conclusion of this treaty, which turned a foe into a friend, we expect to find the Emperor Constantine hastening back to recover the throne of the Isaurians. But before he left Syria he took a strange step. With the consent or at the instance of his new allies he proceeded to Antioch, in order to be crowned by the Patriarch Job as Basileus of the Romans. The coronation of a Roman Emperor in Antioch in the ninth century was a singular event. We cannot imagine that Thomas was accompanied thither by his army; but doubtless the Greek Christians of the place flocked to see the unaccustomed sight, and when the Patriarch Job placed the crown on the head of the Basileus they may have joined his attendants in acclaiming him. We have to go back to the fifth century for a like scene. It was in Syrian Antioch that Leontius, the tyrant who rose against Zeno, was crowned and proclaimed Augustus. The scale and gravity of the rebellion of the Isaurian Leontius render it not unfit to be compared with the rebellion of the later pretender, who also professed to be of Isaurian stock.
But when we consider the circumstances more closely the coronation assumes a puzzling aspect. If Thomas had been simply Thomas, we can understand that he might have grasped at a chance, which was rare for a rebel in his day, to be crowned by a Patriarch out of Constantinople, even though that Patriarch was not a Roman subject. But Thomas, according to the story, gave out that he was an Emperor already. He had borrowed the name and identity of the Emperor Constantine VI.; he had therefore, according to his own claim, been crowned Augustus by the Patriarch of Constantinople forty years before. What then is the meaning of his coronation at Antioch? One would think that such a ceremony would weaken rather than strengthen his position. It might be interpreted as a tacit confession that there was some flaw in the title of the re-arisen Con
1 Cont. Th. 54 ὑπισχνούμενος τὰ Ρωμαίων τε προδοῦναι ὅρια καὶ τὴν αὐτῶν αὐτοῖς ὑπὸ χεῖρας ποιῆσαι ἀρχήν. The last clause must be interpreted to mean that Thomas undertook to pay a tribute to the Caliph. Genesios does
not mention this, but it may explain (see below) the coronation at Antioch. The author of the Acta Davidis says (232) that Thomas promised to sub. ject the Empire to the Saracens. This doubtless was generally believed.
stantine. It would have been requisite for an Emperor who had been first crowned at Antioch to repeat the ceremony when he had established himself on the Bosphorus; but it is strange that one who had declared that he had been formally consecrated at Constantinople by the chief Patriarch should come to Antioch to receive an irregular consecration from a lesser prelate. It does not appear that the tyrant had abandoned his claim to be another than himself, and, having won his first followers by an imposture, now threw off the cloak and came forward as Thomas of Gaziura. It may be suggested that the coronation was not contrived by the wish of the pretender, but by the policy of Mamun. The reception of the emblem of sovranty at the hands of a Patriarch, who was the subject of the Caliph, may have been intended as a symbolical acknowledgment of the Caliph's overlordship and a pledge of his future submission as a tributary.1
The prospect of the tyrants looked brighter than ever when they returned to the lands of the Empire. Men of all sorts and races and regions had flocked to their standardsSlavs, Persians, Armenians, Iberians, and many from the regions of the Caucasus and the eastern shores of the Euxine.2 The total number of the forces is estimated at eighty thousand. Reports meanwhile reached Constantinople of the gathering of this large host. But Michael took it for granted that rumour outran the truth, and deemed it enough to send into the field a small army, totally insufficient to cope with the foe. The
1 The difficulty about the coronation at Antioch has not been noticed, so far as I know, by any historian. If Thomas had pretended to be a son of Constantine (as Michael Syr. alleges, see above, p. 86, n. 1), all would be clear. It is curious that Michael Syr. (75) states that in A.D. 831-832 a Roman, pretending to be of Imperial lineage, came to Mamun in Cilicia and asked him to help him to the throne; Mamun caused him to be crowned by the Patriarch Job; the impostor afterwards became a Mohammadan. When the news reached Constantinople, the bishops met and excommunicated Job. The Greek sources give no support to this story.
2 Michael, Ep. ad Lud. 417-418, men
tions Saracens, Persians, Iberians, Armenians, Abasgians (Avassis), and speaks as if all these had been in the rebel army at the very beginning of the revolt against Leo V. Besides these, Genesios (33) mentions Alans, Zichs, Colchians, Indians (that is, negroes), Kabeiroi, Slavs, Huns, Vandals, and Getae. The Kabeiroi are probably the Turkish Kabars of the Khazar Empire (see below, p. 426). For the Alans (Ossetians), see below, p. 408 sq. The Getae may be the Goths of the Crimea, the Huns may be Magyars or Inner Bulgarians, or something else. It is difficult to discover ninthcentury Vandals (Wends do not come into range).