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which lasted, with some intermissions, down to the death of the emperor and the caliph, both of whom expired in 842.
When not employed in the field against the Saracens, Theophilus had been busy at home against the image-worshippers. In 832 he issued an edict against all kinds of representations of our Lord and the Saints, whether in the form of statues, pictures, or mosaics, and had them sought out and destroyed not only in public places, but in monasteries and private dwellings. His especial wrath was reserved for the painters whom he found working in secret to reproduce the prohibited figures; he mutilated their disobedient hands with hot irons, and branded their foreheads with words of contumely. The patriarch John the Grammarian aided the emperor by excommunicating all the clergy who refused to abide by the decrees of the synod of 754. Theophilus then laid hands on the recalcitrant monks and bishops, and imprisoned or banished them. His wrath, however, did not lead him into the extremes that the Isaurian emperors had countenanced; he did not inflict the penalty of death for disobedience, nor did he endeavour to suppress the monastic system, like Constantine Copronymus. Those
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persecutes who bent before the storm met no harsh treatimage- ment: it was only open disobedience that moved Theophilus to anger. His very palace was full of secret image-worshippers, chief among whom was his own wife, the empress Theodora.
Like his western contemporary Lewis the Pious, the emperor yielded to the unhappy inspiration of choosing a second wife by public competition. .When his childless empress died in 830, he summoned all the fairest daughters of his nobles to his Court, and passed them in review. His eye was caught by the young Theodora, the child of the high-admiral Marinus, and he espoused her without taking the trouble to discover that she was a fervent and bigoted imageworshipper. During her husband's life she concealed her views, and contented herself with protecting all the Iconodules whom she could shelter. But after Theophilus's death she was destined to undo all his religious schemes, and to bring up his children to loathe their father's creed.
In spite of the Saracen war and the ecclesiastical quarrels which rendered his life unquiet, the reign of Theophilus—like that of his father—was not an unprosperous time for the empire. His strict and exact justice benefited far more of his subjects than his bigotry harmed. The revenue was in such good condition that even in war-time he was able to execute many great public works—such as the strengthening and embellishing of the walls of the capital, and the building of many palaces and hospitals. His care for the fostering of trade was shown by the conclusion of commercial treaties, not only with Lewis the Pious, but even with the distant' caliph of Cordova; and Constantinople became in his day more than ever the centre of the whole trade of Europe, because the Italian ports, which were her only rivals, were now suffering greatly from the occupation of the central Mediterranean by the Moors of Sicily.
To the great loss of the empire, Theophilus died in 842, while still in the prime of his life, leaving a son and heir of only four years of age. We have already spoken, more than once, of the dangers of a long minority in that time, and the youth of Michael in. was not to be an exception to the rule. For fourteen years a council of regency governed in his behalf to the small profit of the empire. The chief place in it was taken by the empress-dowager, whose interests were mainly religious. Almost before the breath was out of her husband's body Theodora set to work to undo his policy. Calling to her aid the whole image-loving party in the palace, she deposed the patriarch, drove into exile the chief Iconoclastic bishops, and summoned a council at Constantinople, which anathematised the enemies of images, and re- Theodora affirmed all the doctrines which had been con- restores demned in 830 by order of Theophilus. Only Iconoduly. thirty days after the new reign had begun Iconoduly had once more become orthodox, and Iconoclasm was proscribed. Active persecution against heretics followed; the Paulicians and other dissidents of Asia Minor were so maltreated that they migrated en masse to the dominions of the caliph, and from thence revenged themselves by making incursions into the empire.
The two men who shared the chief power with Theodora were her worthless brother Bardas, and the count Theoctistus: they were bitterly jealous of each other, and Bardas ultimately procured his rival's death. Each of these personages believed himself to be a great general, and their ambitious but ill-managed expeditions against the Saracens ended in uniform disaster. It was fortunate for the empire that the caliphate had now passed into the hands of two incapable bigots and debauchees, Wathek and Motawakkil, who were quite unable to profit by their neighbour's weakness (842-861). Indeed the Byzantine arms won some success when neither Bardas nor Theoctistus were present, and one daring expedition even seized and held Alexandria for a year. The long, weary war dragged on, but neither empire nor caliphate got any advantage from it.
In 856 the young Michael attained his eighteenth year, and took the government into his own hands. He at once sent away his mother, whose long domination he had secretly resented, and confiscated most of her treasure and estates. Michael was an ill-disposed youth, but owed much of his evil character to his uncle Bardas, who had brought him up in the worst of fashions, and taught him to plunge, while yet a mere boy, into drinking, gambling, and debauchery. Michael and his uncle were sworn companions in all kinds of ribaldry and evil-living, and their court was a scene of perpetual scandals. Bardas was made Caesar in 862, and for the next four years had as much to do with the government of the empire as his nephew. But he was unwise enough to take too much upon him, to treat Michael as a drunken boy, and to assume a superiority over him which the young emperor could not brook. After they had reigned together four years Michael caused his uncle to be slain, and took another associate in the empire (866).
His new colleague was Basil the Macedonian, a young man of Slavonic descent, who had long been one of his booncompanions. When Michael was still a boy he had been impressed by the courage and strength of Basil, who had entered his service as a groom. The young emperor promoted him from one office to another, till he became Protostrator, or Count of the Stables—Marshal as he would have been called in a western monarchy. The new favourite was bold, ready-witted, and hard-headed; he could drink down the emperor himself at their feasts—a power which inspired Michael with the greatest respect. So trusting to the faith of the friend of his youth, Michael preferred him to the place of the murdered Bardas.
When not under the influence of the wine-cup, Michael the Drunkard—as his subjects named him—was a warlike and energetic sovereign. He often took the field against the Saracens and the Bulgarians, and sometimes met with success when courage could take the place of strategy. After a successful campaign beyond the Balkans he forced the Bulgarian king not only to do him homage, but to become a Christian, a change which did much in later years to make relations easier between the empire and its northern neighbours.
Michael sometimes busied himself about things ecclesiastical: his mother had brought him up as a fervent imageworshipper, and he distinguished himself when he came to years of discretion by the disgraceful outrage of exhuming and burning the bodies of Constantine Copronymus and the patriarch John, the chief representatives—lay and spiritual— of Iconoclasm. Another of his doings had a graver consequence: it was he who, offended by the austere morals of the patriarch Ignatius, deposed him and nominated Photius in his stead. The preferment of Photius was, as we have already stated when dealing with the Papacy, the original cause of that breach between East and West which has never yet been healed.1
Michael had attained the age of thirty-one, and seemed destined to rule for many more years, when he was suddenly cut off. His friend and boon-companion, Basil, whom he had raised from a groom to be a Caesar, was the murderer. At the end of one of their debauches the Macedonian rose and bade some of his friends slay his benefactor, murders Michael was stabbed as he lay in a drunken Michael in., sleep, and the crown passed away from the "''" Amorian house (867). Basil had already, as col
league in the empire, got the reins of power in his hands, and the murder of Michael passed unrevenged. No one raised his voice in behalf of the dead man's infant sons, and the new dynasty was inaugurated without a struggle or a civil war.
The Macedonian, though he had shown himself an ungrateful traitor, was a man of great ability. He held firmly to his ill-gotten crown, and founded the longest dynasty that ever sat upon the Byzantine throne. It was not till 1056 that his house was extinguished. As emperor he did all that he could to make his subjects forget that he had once been the deep-drinking favourite of Michael in. He proved himself a hard-working sovereign, economical, prudent, and judicious, and the empire flourished under his rule. Some of his work was destined to be permanent; his code, a new revision of the laws of Justinian, superseding Leo the Isaurian's Edoga, remained the text-book of the eastern empire down to its last days. His financial arrangements, which seem to have been excellent, were also destined to endure for nearly two" centuries. In matters ecclesiastical he did his best to patch up the breach with the Roman church; he reinstated the deposed patriarch Ignatius, and sent Photius into private life; but though the cause of offence was removed the quarrel remained, and the exorbitant claims of the Popes prevented any reunion of the East and West. Finding this to be the case, Basil restored 1 See pages 453-4.