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the south coast, and repressed several minor tumults raised by discontented Gothic nobles. In every crisis he found the Catholic bishops his best support, and must have constantly congratulated himself on having turned his most dangerous enemies into the strongest bulwark of his throne. But by placing himself in their hands he had begun to expose Gothic royalty to a new danger, that of too great dependence on the Church. The National Council—the Witan as it would have been called in England—was completely swamped by the churchmen. There were more than sixty bishops in Spain, while the number of dukes and counts who were usually summoned to the Assembly was considerably less. The bishops —men more clever, more wise, and better organised than their lay colleagues—soon came to exercise a dominating influence in the council. The spiritual pressure which they could bring to bear on the king was too great to be disregarded. Hence it came to pass that ere the end of his reign Reccared, though peaceful and tolerant himself, was urged into acts of persecution, not only against his old co-religionists, the Arians, but against the Jews—a race who had hitherto prospered in Spain, and who had gathered in a very considerable portion of its wealth and commerce. Formerly the Visigothic kings, like the great Theodoric in Italy, had been very tolerant, and had not seldom employed Jews as collectors of revenue and in minor official posts. All this came to an end with the conversion of Reccared, though in his day the discouragement alike of Arian and Jew went no further than making them incapable of holding any office, and prohibiting the public exercise of their worship.
After a reign of fifteen years, king Reccared died in 601, leaving the throne to his son, Leova n., the only instance in Gothic Spain of a succession of three generations of the same house on the throne. The new monarch was just twenty. He was a devoted admirer and follower of the Catholic bishops, and, by all accounts, showed more piety than capacity. The accession of a weak and inexperienced youth was the opportunity for which the unruly Visigothic nobles, crushed for thirty years under the strong hands of Leovigild and Reccared, had been long waiting. In the second year of his reign Leova was surprised and murdered by conspirators under the guidance of a certain count Witterich, who had headed an Arian rising in 588, but had been spared on conforming to Catholicism. He now repaid Reccared's clemency by murdering his son (603).
After thirty-three years of strong government, Spain once more fell back into the state of civil strife from which it had been rescued by Leovigild. But the character of the struggle was now changed; for the future it was a contest between the Catholic hierarchy and the Visigothic nobles, as to which should appoint and control the king.
THE SUCCESSORS OF JUSTINIAN
Justin iI. and his unhappy financial policy—His troubles with the Persians and Avars—Reign of Tiberius Constantinus—Accession of Maurice— His victory over Persia—His failure against the Slavs and Avars—Disasters in the Balkan Peninsula—Fall of Maurice—Tyranny of Phocas—His unfortunate war with Persia—He is dethroned and slain by Heraclius, 610.
The forty years which followed the death of Justinian were a period of rapid decline and decay for the East-Roman world. The empire was paying, by exhaustion within and the loss of provinces without, for the spasmodic outburst of energy into which it had been galvanised by the great emperor. He left to his heirs broad and dangerous frontiers in his newly-acquired provinces, with an army which had got somewhat out of hand, and a civil population shorn to the skin by the excessive taxation of the last twenty years.
Justinian's heirs were, unhappily for the empire, princes who tried to maintain their great predecessor's ambitious policy, at a moment when the less brilliant, but more cautious and economical, rule of a second Anastasius would have been the best thing for the East-Roman world. The Emperor's nephew, Justinus, son of his sister Vigilantia, mounted the throne on his decease without meeting with any opposition. He had served his uncle as Curopalata, or Master of the Palace, for the last ten years, and had been able to make things ready for his own peaceful succession, though Justinian had never
PERIOD I. K
consented to allow him to be crowned as his colleague as long Justin iI., as ne lived. Justin was married to Sophia, the 565-78. niece of the empress Theodora, a lady who resembled her aunt in her masterful spirit, but was far from rivalling her abilities. Justin and his wife had led a somewhat repressed and constrained existence during the old emperor's life, and were set upon asserting their individuality the moment that Justinian was buried. Justin had high ideas of the dignity of the imperial name and the majesty of the empire, and had determined to inaugurate a spirited foreign policy when he seized the helm of affairs. His first measure was to refuse to continue any of the comparatively trifling subsidies to barbarian princes on the frontier, which Justinian had been content to pay in order to keep them from petty raids—much as the Indian Government to-day subsidises the chiefs of the Khyber Pass. This involved him in a long and ultimately dangerous war with the Chagan of the Avars, a Tartar tribe newly established on the north bank of the lower Danube, whom Justinian had paid to keep off the Huns and other troublesome neighbours. The Avars, originally a race of no great importance, obtained at this moment a great extension of power and territory by allying themselves with the Lombards, in order to destroy the Gepidae, the Gothic tribe who dwelt north of Sirmium on the middle Danube. After exterminating their Teutonic neighbours, the Lombards passed on to invade Italy,1 and left the Avars in possession of the whole line of the Danube, from Vienna to its mouth. Thenceforth the Avars were a scourge to the already half-desolate provinces of Moesia and Illyricum. They ranged over the whole territory up to the Balkans, in spite of the innumerable fortresses which Justinian had built and garrisoned to defend the Danube bank. This trouble was continually growing worse all through the reign of Justin n., and became an actual source of danger, as well as of mere annoyance, in the time of his successors.
1 See p. 181.
Another refusal of Justin to make a payment of money, which he considered degrading to his majesty, was destined to bring on a struggle even more ruinous than that with the Avars. It will be remembered that the peace between Justinian and Chosroes of Persia, concluded in 562, had stipulated for some payments from the East-Romans to the king. In 571 Justin refused to fulfil his obligations, and plunged the empire into a wholly unnecessary war with his great Oriental neighbour. Several causes conspired to induce Justin to undertake this struggle. He was implored by the Christian population of Persian Armenia to deliver them from the fire-worshipping Sassanians, and the Turks of the Oxus had sent an embassy to promise him help from the East if he would assault Chosroes. Dizabul, their great Khan, engaged to distract the forces of the enemy by crossing the Oxus and invading northern Persia, while Justin's generals were to cross the Tigris and attack Media.
This war, which the emperor undertook with such a light heart, was destined to last no less than nineteen years (572591), and to drag on into the reigns of two of his successors. It was quite as inconclusive, and quite as costly in men and money, as had been the previous struggle in the Persian war reign of Justinian. On the whole, the Romans ofjustin. lost no territory during its course. Their farthest frontier stronghold of Daras was the only place of importance that fell into Persian hands in the earlier years of the war, and the secondary fortress of Martyropolis, in the Armenian Highlands, the only loss of its later years. Both were destined to be recovered, and the second Roman line of defence, based on Edessa and Amida, held good. If the armies of Chosroes once succeeded in penetrating into Syria, it is only fair to add that the imperial troops made several incursions into the Persian border-lands of Arzanene and Corduene. It was not so much by the loss of fortresses or the ravaging of territory that the war was harmful to the empire, as by the long, fruitless drain of taxation that it brought about. Where the tax-gatherer