« ՆախորդըContinue »
two. He left the throne to his son Constantine vI.,1 for whom the empress Irene was to act as regent, as the boy was only nine years of age. Leo's early death was a fatal misfortune alike for the Iconoclastic cause and the Isaurian dynasty. The empress Irene, though she had succeeded in concealing the fact during her husband's life, was a fervent worshipper of images, and the moment that the reins of power fell into her hands, set herself to reverse the imperial policy of the last Constantine sixty years. She began by putting an end to the vI. and Irene, repression of the Iconodules, and then gradually displaced the old ministers of state and governors of the themes by creatures of her own. This led to a plot against her; the conspirators proposed to crown Nicephorus, the eldest of her brothers-in-law, but they were discovered and banished, while all the five brothers of the deceased emperor were forcibly made priests, to disqualify them from seizing the throne.
When the patriarch Paul died in 784, Irene replaced him by Tarasius, a fervent image-worshipper, and then ventured to call a general council at Nicaea, to which she invited pope Hadrian at Rome, and the Patriarchs of the East, to send delegates. Under the influence of the empress the council, by a large majority, declared the lawfulness of making representations of Our Lord and the Saints, and the righteousness of paying not worship (Aarpeia), but adoration and reverence (irpoo-Kvvrjcris) to them. The recalcitrant Iconoclastic bishops were excommunicated. The doings of the council caused a Restoration of mutiny of ^Q Imperial guard in Constantinople, image-wor- for the greater part of the army still adhered to ship, 785. ^e views of t^ isaurian emperors. But Irene succeeded in steering through the troubled waters, put down the mutiny, and retained her power.
Meanwhile the reign of a child and a woman proved
disastrous to the empire. The Slavs of the Balkans burst into
revolt, and the Saracens invaded Asia Minor. The want of
an emperor to head the army was grievously felt, and Haroun
1 Or seventh, if Constantinus-Constans is counted.
\ al-Raschid, the son of the caliph Mehdy, ravaged the whole
Anatolic and Obsequian themes as far as the Bosphorus.
Irene felt herself unable to cope with the situation, and
bought a peace by an annual payment of 70,000 solidi (784). 4
Soon after the Bulgarian king declared war, and ravaged Thrace
after slaying the general of the Thracian theme in battle.
Among these disasters Constantine vI. grew up to manhood, ^
but his mother, who had acquired a great taste for power, and feared to see her son reverse her religious policy, long refused to give him any share in the government. She Constantine even made the army swear never to receive her seizes power, son as sole emperor as long as she should live. The young emperor, after chafing for some time in his state of tutelage, took matters into his own hands. In his twenty-first year he repaired to the camp of the Anatolic troops, and there proclaimed himself of age, and sole ruler of the State. He banished his mother's favourites, and confined her for some months to her own apartments in the palace.
When he had firmly seized the helm of power, Constantine was weak enough to take his mother again as his colleague on the throne, and to associate her name with his in all imperial decrees. The ambitious and unnatural Irene repaid his confidence by scheming against him. She had grown so fond of power that she had resolved to win it back at all costs. Constantine was, like his ancestors, a warlike and energetic prince. He won several successes over the Saracens, and then engaged in a Bulgarian war. His popularity was first shaken by a fearful defeat at the hands of the Bulgarian king .
0 ° Irene de
Cardam, by which he lost much of his influence thrones her with the army. Shortly afterwards he entered son'797into a fierce struggle with the Patriarch and the clergy, having divorced, in spite of their anathemas, a wife whom his mother had forced upon him in early youth, and espoused Theodota, on whom his own affections were set. Knowing that the Church was wroth with Constantine for this outbreak of selfwill, and that the army no longer loved him as before, the wicked Irene determined to strike a blow against her son. She suborned some of the young emperor's attendants to seize their master, and, when he fell into her hands, had his eyes put out. He was then immured in a monastery, where he survived for more than twenty years.
It was by a mere palace-conspiracy, not by an open rising, that the unnatural mother had dethroned and blinded her son. It is, therefore, all the more extraordinary to find that she was able to cling to power for more than five years, in spite of the horror which her act had caused. The gratitude fo the image-worshippers to her, for having restored to them the power of practising their superstition, partly explains, but does not at all excuse the impunity which she enjoyed after her cruel deed.
Irene's five years of power (797-802) were disastrous at home and abroad. Her court was swayed by two greedy eunuchs, Aetius and Stauracius, on whom she lavished all the highest offices. Their miserable quarrels with each other are the chief things recorded in the annals of her internal government. Meanwhile the frontiers were overrun by the armies of Harounal-Raschid. The Saracens harried the Anatolic and Thracesian themes, and forced their way as far as Ephesus. Peace was only granted when Irene consented to pay a large annual tribute to the Caliph.
In 802 the cup of Irene's iniquities was full. To put an end to anarchy abroad and within, a number of the chief officers of State, headed by the treasurer Nicephorus, seized her by night, and shut her up in a nunnery. No one struck a blow in her defence, for she was loved by no one, not even Deposition of by the Iconodules, for whom she had done so
Irene, 802. much. Nicephorus was proclaimed as her successor, and ascended the throne without any disturbance.
Thus ended the house of the Isaurians, after eighty-five years of rule. They had effected much for the empire; for the disasters of Irene's short reign had not sufficed to undo the solid work of Leo in. and Constantine v. The boundaries were safer, the population greater, the wealth largely increased, the armies more efficient than at the commencement of the century. Even the Iconoclastic persecutions, though they had failed to crush superstition, had done some good in rooting out the grosser vagaries of image-worship. The Iconoclastic party still subsisted, and was strong in the army and civil service; we shall see it once more in power during the ninth century.
PIPPIN THE SHORT—WARS OF THE FRANKS
Mayoralty of Pippin and Carloman—Their successful wars—Boniface reforms the Frankish church—Abdication of Carloman—Pippin dethrones Childebert in. and assumes the royal title—Quarrel of Aistulf and Pope Stephen—The Pope calls the Franks into Italy—Pippin twice subdues Aistulf—The Exarchate given to the Papacy—Martyrdom of St. Boniface,—Conquest of Narbonne—Long struggle with the dukes of Aquitaine—Death of Pippin.
The events which immediately followed the death of Charles Martel showed clearly enough that the house of St. Arnulf must still depend on the power of the sword to guard its ascendency, and that it could only continue to rule by continuing to produce a series of able chiefs. It was fortunate for the Frankish realm that Pippin and Carloman were both men of sense and vigour, though perhaps they did not attain to the full stature of their father's greatness. Not less fortunate was it that, unlike the kings of the Merovingian house, they dwelt together in amity and brotherly love, and undertook every scheme in common.'
The moment that Charles was dead troubles broke out on every hand. Grifo, the younger brother of the two mayors, declared himself wronged in the partition of the kingdoms, seized Laon, and began to gather an army of Neustrian malcontents. Theudebald, the brother of the duke of Suabia,