« ՆախորդըՇարունակել »
Constantine was no sooner seated on the throne than he showed that he was determined to continue his father's policy. He was at once assailed by the rebellion of the Iconodulic faction : they induced his brother-in-law Artavasdus, general of the Obsequian theme, to seize the capital, and proclaim himself emperor, while Constantine was absent on an expedition against the Saracens. All the European themes, where the image-breakers were hated, did homage to Artavasdus. But the Anatolic and Thracesian themes, the heart of Asia Minor, remained true to the son of Leo. He showed his energy and ability by beating the sons of Artavasdus in two battles, and besieging the rebel in Constantinople. When the city was well-nigh reduced by famine, Artavasdus fled, but he was caught and brought before Constantine. The emperor ordered him and his sons to be blinded, and confined them in a monastery. Their chief adherents were beheaded (742).
This sanguinary lesson to the Iconodulic party seems to have cowed them to such an extent that they did not raise another open rebellion in the long reign of Constantine (740775). But they adhered as fully as ever to their faith: nothing is so difficult to eradicate as a well-rooted superstition, and Constantine's strong hand was better fitted to cow than to persuade. As the years of his reign passed by, and he found image-worship practised in secret by thousands of conscientious votaries, the emperor grew more and more determined to uproot it. After a time he resolved to call in the spiritual sanction to aid the secular arm : in 753 he summoned a general council to meet at Constantinople, but it was Oecumenical only in name. The Pope replied by anathemas of contumely to the summons to appear; the patriarchs of Antioch, Jerusalem, and Alexandria, safe under the protection of the caliph, denied their presence. But there assembled an imposing body of three hundred and thirty-eight bishops, presided over by the Constantinopolitan patriarch, Constantine of Sylaeum, and by Theodosius, metropolitan of Ephesus, son of the emperor Tiberius II. This council committed itself fully to Iconoclastic doctrine ;
it prescribed all representations of Our Lord as blasphemous council of snares, for endeavouring to express both His constanti- human and His divine nature in the mere likeness *P*7% of a man, and thereby obscuring His divinity in His humanity. At the same time it condemned the worship of images of saints, because all adoration except that paid to the Godhead savoured of heathenism and anthropolatry. The emperor had other scruples of his own, on which he did not press the council to deliver a decision : he denied the intercessory powers of the Virgin, and scrupled to prefix the epithet äytos, ‘holy,” to the names of even the greatest saints. He spoke, for example, of ‘Peter the Apostle,” not of ‘the holy Peter.” On these awful depths of free thought the Iconodules of his own and the succeeding generation wasted expressions of horror, worthy to be employed on a Herod or a Judas. Armed with the decree of the council of Constantinople, the emperor proceeded, during the remainder of his reign, to indulge in what was a true religious persecution, for he pursued the image-worshippers as heretics, not as rebels or rioters. He inflicted the death-penalty in a few cases, but the majority of his victims were flogged, mutilated, pilloried, or banished. The most obstinate supporters of Iconoduly were found among the monks, who not only resisted themselves, but never ceased to use their vast influence over the mob in order to turn it against the emperor. After a time Constantine resolved to make an end of the monastic system, as being the strongest bulwark of superstition. To uproot a habit of life founded on Persecution the practice of centuries, and highly revered by the of monks, multitude was of course an impossibility. Monasteries can only be suppressed, as they were at the Reformation, if the nation sides with the sovereign. Nevertheless, Constantine drove out and harried a vast number of monks. He held that they were over-numerous, that they were men who shirked the ordinary duties of the citizen, and that their profession was a cloak for selfishness and sloth. He aimed not only at breaking up the cloisters, but at secularising their
inmates. On one occasion he had all the monks and nuns of the Thracesian theme assembled, and offered them their choice between marriage or banishment to Cyprus. The majority chose the latter alternative, and became in the eyes of their contemporaries confessors of the true faith. On another occasion he exhibited in the Hippodrome a procession of unfrocked monks, each holding by the hand an unfrocked nun whom he was to marry—the Iconodule writers, as might be expected, call the backsliding nuns ‘harlots.” The deserted monasteries were either pulled down for building materials or turned into barracks. But it must not be supposed that Constantine's activity was entirely engrossed in persecuting the worshippers of images. The thirty-five years of his reign were a period of considerable military glory, and the emperor, who always headed his own armies, took the field for more than a dozen campaigns. In Asia the fall of the Ommeyad Caliphs, accompanied by savage civil wars among the Saracens (750), offered an unrivalled opportunity for extending the bounds of the empire. Constantine pushed beyond the Anti-Taurus as far as the Euphrates; in 745 he occupied the district of Commagene, and transported all its Christian inhabitants to Thrace : in 751 he took Melitene on the Euphrates, and the great wars of conArmenian fortress of Theodosiopolis. Part of stantine. these conquests were afterwards recovered by the first Abbaside Caliph, Abdallah Al-Saffah, but the rest remained to the empire as a trophy of Constantine's wars. Several Saracen attempts to invade Cappadocia and Cyprus were driven back with great slaughter, and in general it may be stated that Constantine effectually protected Asia Minor from the Mohammedan sword, and that the country began to grow again both in wealth and in population. Nor was his work less useful in Europe. He completely reduced to order the Slavonic tribes south of the Balkan, both in Thrace and Macedonia: they had got out of hand during the troubles of the years 695-718, and required to be subdued
anew. Constantine carefully fortified the defiles of the
He furnished Constantinople with a new water-supply by restoring the aqueduct of Valens, broken more than a hundred and fifty years before. When the capital had been devastated by a great plague in 746-7, he more than replaced the lost thousands of its population by new settlers from Hellas and the islands, for whom employment was found by the increasing commerce which followed the growth of internal prosperity. When he died in 775, aged fifty-seven, he left a full treasury, a loyal and devoted army, and a well-organised realm. Constantine was succeeded by his eldest son Leo IV., often called Leo the Chazar, because his mother Irene had been a Chazar princess. Leo had acted as his father's colleague for many years, and carried on Constantine's policy, though with a less harsh hand. In the beginning of his reign he showed toleration to the Iconodules, but when they commenced to raise their heads again he resumed his father's per- Reign of Leo secuting manner, flogging and banishing many pro- IV., 775-80. minent image-worshippers. He did not, however, object to monks, as Constantine had done, but allowed them to rebuild their convents, and even promoted some of them to bishoprics. It is probable that his resumption of persecution in 777 was connected with the discovery of a conspiracy against him in which his own brothers Nicephorus and Christophorus had leagued themselves with the discontented party. The treacherous Caesars were pardoned by their brother, and their associates suffered banishment and not death. Leo continued his father's war with the Saracens. In 778 his armies invaded Commagene, defeated a great Saracen host in the open field, and brought back under their protection a great body of Syrian Christians, who were settled as colonists in Thrace. The caliph Mehdy replied in the next year by an invasion of the Anatolic theme: his army forced its way as far as Dorylaeum, but retired in disorder, and much harassed by the Romans, after failing to take that place. Leo was of a sickly habit of body, and died after a short reign of five years, in 780, before he had attained the age of thirty