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Contrast between the fates of the Eastern and Western Empires—The East recovers its strength—Leo I. and the Isaurians—The Emperor Zeno and the rebellion against him—Wars of Zeno with the two Theodorics, 478483—The ‘Henoticon'—Character of the Emperor Anastasius—Rebellion of the Isaurians—War with Persia, 503-5—The ‘Blue and Green' Factions—Rebellion of Vitalian—Accession of Justin I.
At Rome the emperors of the third quarter of the fifth century—all the ephemeral Caesars whose blood-stained annals fill the space between the death of Valentinian III. and
or semi-barbarian, “patricians’ and “masters 5,” to whom they owed alike their elevations inds. The history of those troubled years would be cally arranged under the names of the Caesar-make undobad, Orestes, than under those of the unhaps om they manipulated.
- ward to Constantinople, *ferent was the aspect spire was opidly falling to pieces, opping out of the power of the rt of the realm of some Gothic, ce, who paid the most shadowy oall, to the ephemeral Caesar at C
and their t
we are surprise of affairs. The
“dioceses’ of the Eastern Empire must have enjoyed in the Prosperity of fifth century a far greater measure of peace and the East prosperity than they had known, or were to know, in the previous and the succeeding ages. It was their wealth, duly garnered into the imperial treasury, that made the emperors strong to defend their European possessions. We shall soon see that their military resources also were to count in a most effective way in the reorganisation of the EastRoman army. But the strength of Constantinople and the wealth of Asia might have proved of no avail had they fallen into the hands of a series of emperors like Honorius or Valentinian III. We must in common fairness grant that the personal characters of the Emperors Leo I., Zeno, and Anastasius I. had also the most important influence on, the empire. These three cautious, persistent, and careful princes, who neither endangered the empire by over-great enterprise and ambition, nor let it fall to pieces by want of energy, were exactly the men most fitted to tide over a time of transition. Leo, the first of these three emperors, was already dead when Romulus Augustulus was deposed in the West. He had left his mark on Constantinopolitan history by his summary execution of Aspar, the last of the great barbarian “masters of the soldiers,' who rose to a dangerous height of power in the East; and still more by his very important scheme for reorganising the army, by enrolling a large proportion of native-born subjects of the empire in its ranks. Recognising the peril of trusting entirely to Teutonic mercenaries, the fatal error that had ruined the Western Empire, Leo had enlisted, in as great numbers as he could obtain, the hardy Leo and the mountaineers of Asia Minor, more especially the Isaurians. Isaurians. His predecessors had distrusted their unruly and predatory habits, but Leo saw that they supplied good and trustworthy fighting material, and dealt with them as the elder Pitt dealt with the Highlanders after the rebellion of 1745, teaching them to use in the service of the government the wild courage that had so often been turned against it. Leo had indeed done all that he could for the Isaurians, and had at last married his elder daughter Ariadne to Zeno, an Isaurian by birth, and one of the chief officers of his court. It was this Zeno who was seated on the throne of the Eastern realm at the moment that Odoacer made himself ruler of Italy, and to him was addressed the celebrated petition of the Roman Senate which besought him to allow East and West alike to repose under the shadow of his name, but to confide the practical governance of Italy to the patrician Odoacer. Zeno was neither so able nor so respectable a sovereign as his father-in-law: two faults, a caution which verged on actual cowardice and a taste for low debauchery, have blasted his reputation. His enemies were never tired of taunting him with his Isaurian birth, and recalling the Emperor to memory that his real name was Tarakodissa, Zeno. 475-49*. the son of Rusumbladeotus, for he had only taken the Greek appellation of Zeno when he came to court. But though he was by birth an obscure provincial, and by nature something of a coward and a free liver, Zeno had his merits. He was a mild and not an extortionate administrator, had a liberal hand, a good eye for picking out able servants, was sanguine and persevering in all that he undertook, and pursued in Church matters a policy of moderation and conciliation, which may bring him credit now, though in his own time it provoked many strictures from the orthodox. The worst charges that can be laid to his account were acts that were prompted by his timidity rather than by any other motive, two or three arbitrary executions of officers whom he rightly or wrongly suspected of plotting against his life. After three rebellions which came within an ace of success, it is not unnatural that he grew somewhat nervous about his own safety. Zeno's reign was more troubled in this way than those of his predecessor and successor. His well-known lack of daring tempted men to conspire against him, but they reckoned without his cunning and his perseverance, and in every case came to an evil end. Zeno could count on the active support of his countrymen the Isaurians, who now formed the most trustworthy part of the army, and on the passive obedience, or at worst the neutrality, of the mercantile classes and the bureaucracy, who disliked all change and disorder. Hence it came to pass that court conspiracies, or local revolts of divisions of the army, were not enough to shake his throne. The first half of Zeno's reign may be divided into three parts by these three conspiracies. The emperor had hardly ascended the throne when the first of them broke out: it was a palace intrigue hatched by the Empress-Dowager Verina, who detested her son-in-law. The conspirators took Zeno quite by surprise, they failed to catch him, for he fled from Constantinople at the first alarm, but they got possession of the capital, and proclaimed Basiliscus, the brother of Verina, as Augustus. The mob of the city, with whom Zeno was very unpopular, joined the rising, and massacred the Isaurian troops who were within the walls; their leader's absence seems to Revolt of Basi- have paralysed the resistance of the soldiery. **475-477. Zeno meanwhile escaped to his native country, and raised an Isaurian army: Syria and the greater part of Asia Minor remained faithful to him, and he prepared to make a fight for his throne. Luckily for him, Basiliscus was a despicable creature, it was he who had wrecked the great expedition against the Vandals which Leo I. had sent out seven years before. He soon became far more hated by the Constantinopolitans than Zeno had ever been ; it is doubtful whether his arrogance, his financial extortions, or his addiction to the Monophysite heresy made him most detested. The army which he sent out against Zeno was intrusted—very unwisely—to a general of Isaurian birth, the magister militum Illus, who allowed himself to be moved by the prayers and bribes of the legitimate emperor, and finally went over to him. Having recovered all Asia Minor, Zeno then stirred up in Europe Theodoric the Amal against his rival, and induced the Goth to beset Constantinople from the West, while he himself blockaded it on the Eastern side. The town threw open its gates, and Basiliscus, after a reign of twenty months, was dragged from sanctuary and brought before his nephew's tribunal. Zeno promised him that his blood should not be shed, but sent him and his sons to a desolate castle in Cappadocia among the mountain-snows, where they were given such scanty food and raiment in their solitary confinement, that ere long they died of privation (477). It was just after his triumph over Basiliscus that Zeno received the ambassadors of Odoacer, and was saluted as Emperor of West and East alike, in spite of his advice to the Romans to take back as their Caesar their old ruler, Julius Nepos, who was still in possession of part of Dalmatia, though he had lost Italy three years before. Perhaps Zeno might have been tempted to interfere with something more than advice in the affairs of the West, if his second batch of troubles had not fallen upon him, in the form of his long Gothic
THE EASTERN EMPERORS, 457-518,
witH THEIR FAMILIES.
[Names of Emperors in Capitals.]
Rusumbladeotus Emperor of the Isaurian. Flavius of Dyrrhachium. the West,
| | | | o, Arcadia=ZENO, FAriadne–ANASTASIUSI., Caesaria-Secun-Leontia=Marciin
475-491. 491-518. dinus. anus, 492. - rebel - - in 479. Zeno, LEO, - | d. 480, d. 474. Hypatius, . Pompeius,
rebels in 532