Page images
PDF
EPUB

sink me here and now.' The storm abated, the boat came safe to land, and Justinian fell into the hands of Terbel, the king of the Bulgarians. Terbel lent him an army with which to try his fortune, and with its aid he advanced to the gates of Constantinople. The city was betrayed to him justinian reby partisans within the walls, and he succeeded st0red> 705-"in getting possession of the palace, and of the person of Tiberius n. Justinian then dragged out of his cloister the deposed usurper Leontius, bound him and Tiberius hand and foot, and laid them before his throne in the Hippodrome. There he sat in triumph with his feet on the necks of the vanquished Caesars, while his partisans chanted ' Thou shalt trample on the Lion and the Asp,' an allusion to the names of the two fallen rulers (Leontius and Apsimarus). The two prisoners were then beheaded (705).

During his first reign Justinian had chastised his subjects with whips, it was with scorpions that he now afflicted them. He had returned from exile in a mood of reckless cruelty: the vow he had made was kept with rigid accuracy. Every one who had been concerned in his deposition ten years before was sought out, tortured, and put to death. Some of his doings rose to a monstrous pitch of inhumanity: the chief men of Cherson, who had offended him during his exile, were bound on spits and roasted: many patricians were sewed up into sacks and cast into the Bosphorus.

It is astonishing to find that the second reign of Justinian lasted for more than five years. His tyranny was such that an instant explosion of popular wrath might have been expected. But if reckless, he was also active, suspicious, and stronghanded, and crushed many plots before they could come to a head. At last he fell before a military revolt: the army, headed by a general named Philippicus, disavowed its allegiance, seized the tyrant, and beheaded him. His little six-year-old son, Tiberius, whom the Chagan's sisterhad borne justinian him, was torn from sanctuary, and murdered, slain, 711. Thus perished the house of Heraclius, after it had given five rulers to the empire during a century of rule (610-711). It had done much to save the state from the Saracens: all its members, even Justinian, had been men of ability, and Heraclius himself, Constantinus-Constans, and Constantine v. had each borne his part in the long struggle with credit, if not with complete success.

There now followed six years of complete anarchy (711-17), during which the imperial annals are filled by the obscure namesof Philippicus(7ii-i3), Artemius Anastasius (713-715) and Theodosius in. (715-17). Each was the creature of a conspiracy, and each fell by the same means by which he had been uplifted. They were all feeble and incompetent sovereigns, far below the rank of the two earlier usurpers, Leontius and Tiberius Apsimarus. The importance of their reigns lies not in their struggle with each other, but in the general collapse of the system of defence of the empire against the Saracen, the natural result of the employment of the whole

Anarchy, army in civil war. The generals of the caliphs 711-17. Welid and Soliman, the sons of Abd-al-Melik (705-17) burst through the boundaries of the empire on every point. In 711 Sardinia, the westernmost province of the empire since the loss of Africa, was subdued by the Arabs. In the same year they crossed the Taurus, and sacked Tyana in Cappadocia. In 712 they overran Pontus and captured Amasia, in 713 Antioch in Pisidia fell, and with it much of southern Asia Minor. It appeared as if with the downfall of the house of Heraclius the power of self-defence had been taken away from the East Romans. Nor was the lowest depth yet reached.

Emboldened by the easy successes of his armies over those of the ephemeral sovereigns who followed Justinian 11., the caliph Soliman at last resolved to fit out an expedition on the largest scale against Constantinople. A hundred thousand men advanced by land from Tarsus, while a fleet of more than 1000 sail gathered in the ports of Syria, and sailed round Asia Minor into the ^Egean. The Caliph's brother Moslemah was to head the whole expedition. Cappadocia was already in Saracen hands, and the Caliph's vanguard was Saracen inoccupied with the siege of Amorium, the chief vasion, 716. stronghold of Phrygia. That town, indeed, was saved from destruction by Leo the Isaurian, the governor of the Anatolic theme. But soon after, while the Arabs were still advancing, this same Leo, after concluding a private truce with the invaders, proclaimed himself emperor, and advanced against Constantinople, instead of reserving his strength to resist the armies of Soliman (716).

Once more fortune favoured the newest rising against the emperor of the day. The troops of Leo beat those of Theodosius in., and then the latter voluntarily abdicated and sent to offer his crown to the victor. He was a mild and virtuous man, who had been raised to the purple against his will by his military partisans, and longed to return to his ob- Lcd the scurity, feeling himself destitute of the power isaurian, 717. needed to cope with the insurgents, and still more unable to face the impending Saracen invasion.

Accordingly the senate and the patriarch formally elected the rebel Leo as emperor, and set him on the throne which had already changed masters seven times in the last twentytwo years. At length the empire had found a master who could defend what he had won, and was fully able to transmit his power to his heirs. The armament of Moslemah might be awaited without dismay, for the state was once more in the hands of one who could be trusted to use its resources aright. Leo was to dissipate once and for all the Saracen storm-cloud, and to free Constantinople from all danger from the East for more than three hundred years. But his achievements demand a chapter to themselves.

CHAPTER XV

THE HISTORY OF THE GREAT MAYORS
OF THE PALACE

656-720

The Mayor Grimoald unsuccessfully endeavours to make his son king of Austrasia—Decadence of the house of the Merovings—Ebroin and his tyrannical rule in Neustria—Long civil wars—Rise of Pippin the younger and his victory at Testry—The ascendency of Pippin: his successes in consolidating the kingdom—Missionary enterprises in Germany—Civil wars at the death of Pippin—Final triumph of his son Charles Martel.

In 656 died King Sigibert in., the first Meroving king of Austrasia who had been but a puppet in the hands of his Mayor of the Palace. At his death was made, a full century too soon, the' first attempt of that great family which had of late held all real power to add the shadow to the substance by assuming the royal name. King Sigibert had only reached the age of twenty-seven when he died: his son and heir, named Dagobert after his grandfather, was but eight. Taking advantage of the boy's youth, the Mayor Grimoald had him stolen away from his country by the hands of a bishop, and lodged him in an Irish monastery, where his head was shorn, and he was consecrated as a monk. Having got rid of the rightful heir, Grimoald induced his partisans to raise his own Usurpation of son Childebert on the shield, and salute him as Grimoald, 656. king of Austrasia. But the times were not yet ripe: Grimoald had many bitter enemies, and the majority of the people were not yet accustomed to the idea of dethroning the ancient house of the Merovings. Within a few days after the usurpation, Grimoald was seized by a band of Austrasian nobles, cast into fetters, and hurried off to Paris, where his captors laid him before the feet of king Chlodovech n. of Neustria, the brother of the deceased Sigibert.

Chlodovech, a cruel and debauched young man, slew Grimoald with horrid tortures. It appeared as if the greatness of the house of Pippin and Arnulf was destined to be extinguished with the life of its chief: but the Fates willed otherwise. Within a few months of the execution of the great Mayor, king Chlodovech died, leaving the diadem to his little son Chlothar in. All the Frankish realms were once more under the nominal rule of a child, and the last chance of the survival of the kingly power was gone, in Neustria now as well as in the Eastern realm. The house of the Austrasian mayors was within a few years to raise its head once more.

Meanwhile the minority of Chlothar in. was destined to be a time of storm and trouble. Before he had been four years on the throne his Austrasian subjects determined that they would once more have a king of their own, and not obey orders from Soissons or Paris. Accordingly they took Childerich, the younger brother of Chlothar, and crowned him as king of the Eastern realm. The joint reign of the boys Chlothar in. and Childerich I. lasted for ten years: at first the kingdoms were kept in a certain measure of-peace" by the queen-mother, Bathildis, an Anglo-Saxon lady of great virtue and ability. But after four years, worn out by the troublous task of reconciling the opposing factions of the nobility, she retired into a nunnery, and when her gentle influence was removed, trouble at once broke out.

The man mainly responsible for the evil time of civil strife that followed was Ebroin, Mayor of the Palace in Mayor Ebroin. Neustria. He was a cruel, ambitious, vindictive 660-81. noble, who aspired'to much the same position that Pippin the Old and Grimoald had once occupied in Austrasia. Strong by the power of using the royal name, by his numerous comitatus, and by his unscrupulous readiness to strike down all who opposed him, he exercised for several years what the contemporary chroniclers called a 'tyranny.' He was, we are told, so greedy of money, that to him the man with the longer

Period I. . R

« ՆախորդըContinue »