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Photius when Ignatius died, and allowed things to take their inevitable course.
Except in Sicily the wars of Basil were generally successful. The empire of the caliphs was rapidly breaking up; the dynasty of the Saffarides had "lopped off the eastern provinces of their realm, and Egypt had fallen into the hands of Ahmedibn-Tulun. Four caliphs had been murdered in nine years (861-9), and the incessant civil war which raged at Bagdad stripped the Saracen frontier of most of its defenders. The Christian arms, therefore, did not fare badly during the reign of Basil and his son Leo, and for the first time the East Roman boundary began to move eastward, and new themes were carved out of the captured territory. The Byzantine armies ravaged northern Syria and Mesopotamia as far as Amida and Aleppo. Cyprus was recovered, though only for a time, and the rebellion of the Paulician heretics on the Armenian frontier was suppressed. At the same time Basil's fleets won victories in the y£gean and the Ionian sea over the corsairs of Crete and Africa. We have already mentioned, in another place, how the admiral Oriphas aided Lewis n. to reconquer Bari, and how Nicephorus Phocas drove out the Saracens from Lucania and Bruttium, and added the southern -wars of peninsula of Italy to his master's realm. In Sicily Basil xalone was disaster met; the fall of Syracuse in 878 marks the practical extinction of the East Roman power in that island. But success elsewhere atoned for this single loss.
If Basil had been succeeded by a strong and energetic ruler, the East Roman empire might have had an opportunity of extending its sway over almost all the provinces that had obeyed Justinian three centuries before. The caliphate grew more and more decrepit: Italy was, as we have already seen, a prey to anarchy for more than half a century, and the Slavs of Eastern Europe were being crushed by the newly arrived horde of the Magyars. None of them could have opposed any strong defence against a capable commander heading the well-armed and well-disciplined host that the Eastern empire could send out. But the son and grandson of Basil, whose long reigns occupied the next eighty years, were a couple of narrow-minded and pedantic men of letters, equally destitute of taste and of ability for engaging in schemes of conquest. Leo vI., whom after generations called Leo the Wise, not for his practical cleverness, but because he had a taste for the occult sciences and wrote obscure prophecies, was the immediate successor of Basil. By some strange freak of nature the hard-drinking, unscrupulous, energetic Macedonian usurper was the father of a laborious compiler of books, the mildest and least stirring of men. Leo's prophetic oracles and his ecclesiastical writings are of small profit to the reader, Reign of Leo t>ut posterity must acknowledge that it owes him the wise, a considerable debt for publishing his Tactica, a l)86-912- military manual giving an excellent account of the organisation, strategy, and tactics of the Byzantine armies, with useful notes as to the habits and manners of the enemies whom the army was called upon to face. It was probably fortunate for the empire that he never tried to put his bookknowledge of things military to practical use in the field.
In spite of Leo's feeble personality, and of the fact that his negligence occasionally allowed the foes of the empire to snatch unexpected advantages, this reign was a time of growth for the imperial borders. The new themes of ' Lycandus' and 'Mesopotamia' were won from the enfeebled caliphate; Apulia was conquered from the dukes of Benevento and the Italian Saracens, and formed into the theme of ' Langobardia.' Benevento itself was for some years in Leo's hands,1 and if he had shown a little more energy he might have pushed his army up to the gates of Rome, while the counts of central Italy were engaged in their endless bickerings with king Berengar. But the emperor neglected to support his generals, and with a tranquil mind let them fail for want of resources.
Leo died in 912, leaving the throne to his only son Constantine vn., better known as Constantine Porphyrogenitus, 1 See page 460.
a weak literary man of the same type as himself. The new emperor was a boy of only five, and his whole reign was one long minority, for after he reached manhood he allowed others to govern for him, and remained buried in his books.
But in spite of the feebleness of Leo and Constantine, the empire was faring well. Its neighbours were too weak to trouble it with serious wars, though now and then a disaster occurred, such as the surprise of Thessalonica by the African pirates in 904. Such misfortunes were due to the misdirection of the empire's resources, not to their inadequacy for defence. The realm was never richer nor stronger since the days of Justinian; Constantinople had become the sole centre of the commerce of the Christian world, the one place where East and West could freely exchange their commodities. The revenue was abundant and easily raised, the army well paid and efficient, and only needed adequate generals to enable it to set out on a wide career of conquest. But the empire was not to obtain a capable ruler for many years; the days of John Zimisces and Basil Bulgaroktonos were still far off, and meanwhile the East Romans, under the feeble leadership of Leo and Constantine, remained in a condition of stationary prosperity, due to the well-organised administration of the empire. The Byzantine civil-service was well able to carry on the business of government, unless it was handicapped by the presence on the throne of a strong-handed tyrant, and whatever were their faults the sovereigns of the Macedonian house never deserved that name. There are worse things for any realm than a series of mediocrities on the throne.
THE END OF THE NINTH CENTURY
Reign of Odo in France—His Danish wars—His civil war with Charles the Simple—Charles succeeds to the throne—He grants Normandy to Hrolf —Lotharingia annexed to France—Robert and Rudolf rebel against Charles the Simple—Murder of Charles at Peronne—Spain and the Moors—Growth of the kingdom of the Asturias under Pelagius and the three Alfonsos—Its continued progress—Summary of the period— Feudalism, its military and political meaning—Conclusion.
We left the much-vexed Neustrian realm handed over to a king whose title to the crown lay in his strong hand and his good sword, and not in any hereditary right. Odo count of Paris was not sprung either on the father's or the mother's side from the house of the Karlings. His father was Robert the Strong, a count of Angers and Blois under Charles the Bald, one of the few Frankish chiefs who won a reputation in the struggle with the Vikings. When Robert fell by a Danish arrow, his son appears a few years later in power by the middle Seine and Loire, and especially in charge of Paris, where he won his great name and his crown by the gallant defence of the city in 886-7.
Odo was without doubt the best candidate that could have been chosen for the West Frankish throne. The sole legitimate heir of the Karlings—Charles the Simple, the posthumous son of Lewis the Stammerer—was only eight years of age, and to hand the kingdom over to a minor would have been a piece of madness. Nevertheless the choice of Odo was a bad alternative at the best: he was but one among a dozen personages of equal position, each of whom believed himself to be his new master's equal. Between 850 and 887 all the greater counties of Neustria and Aquitaine were becoming hereditary. Charles the Bald and his short-lived successors had everywhere bought a temporary freedom from trouble by appointing the son to fill the father's place, and in the next generation ,. , r ,
'& Growth of the
the rulers of the counties and duchies looked upon Great Fiefs in their title to succeed to their ancestor's governor- Franceship as fixed and absolute. In every one of these districts, which were afterwards to be known as the ' Great Fiefs,' the first commencement of hereditary rule dates from the fatal days between the battle of Fontenay and the deposition of Charles the Fat. The first sovereign in the county of Toulouse who passed on his dominions to his son dates from 852 : in Flanders the date is 862: in Poitou 867: in Anjou 870: in Gascony 872: in Burgundy 877: in Auvergne 886. To all these rulers Odo was but a fortunate equal, whom they had consented to elevate to the throne because of the imminent danger which the kingdom was suffering from the Viking raids. In spite of the oaths that they had sworn him they could not in their own minds look upon him as a king of the same sort as the Karlings had been. In a time when hereditary right was beginning to count so highly, it was a fatal weakness in a king to owe his power to the old Teutonic right of election alone. In reading the chronicles of this period of French history we are reminded in a striking manner of the troubles of the kings of the Spanish Visigoths. We find once more the utter confusion that ensues from the elective system when the nobility is too strong, and the royal name has been lowered by a series of weak or incapable rulers.
In Odo's first year he was comparatively free from troubles within; the Vikings were spread all over the face of the land, and even the turbulent counts of Neustria refrained from rebellion in face of the danger, while Wido of Spoleto, the rival of the new king, had to quit the realm for want of followers.
PERIOD I. 2 I