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in great disorder, leaving the body of the emperor with those of many of his chief officers upon the field. The Bulgarian king cut off the head of Nicephorus, and made his skull into a drinking-cup, as Alboin had done with the skull of king Cunimund three centuries before. The wrecks of the imperial army rallied at Adrianople, whither the wounded Stauracius was borne. He was at once proclaimed Augustus in his father's room; but he never rose from his couch, sor his hurt was mortal. It was evident that his end was near, and that his crown would soon be the prize of some usurper. Seeing this, his brother-in-law, Michael Rhangabe, who had married the only daughter of Nicephorus 1., bribed the guards of his dying master, and had himself saluted as emperor before the breath was out of Stauracius's body (812). Michael Rhangabe owed his rise purely to the chance that had connected him with the family of Nicephorus. He was personally insignificant, superstitious, and cowardly. But his accession had some importance from the religious point of view; he was a European Greek—the first of his race that had yet worn the imperial crown—and, like most of his countrymen, was a strong Iconodule, and wholly opposed to his father-in-law's tolerant ecclesiastical policy. He surrounded himself with fanatical monks, and set to work to reverse the doings of Nicephorus, and to remove all Iconoclasts from high office in state and army. These actions might have been popular if Michael had been a man of strength and energy; but he was a weak and incapable ruler. He refused for some time to enter the field against the Bulgarians, who were ravaging Thrace far and wide, and when he did at last head an army, it was only to suffer a crushing defeat. He took what his subjects considered the degrading step of conciliating the Franks, by formally recognising Charles the Great as a legitimate emperor, and treating with him as an equal. In everything that he did indecision and want of courage was to be traced. The army was fated to be the instrument of Michael's fall. PERIOD I. 2 H
It was deeply leavened with Iconoclastic feeling, and highly
~ volved in the old Iconoclastic controversy, and had no peace
thereafter. Leo was, like most of the inhabitants of the Eastern themes, and most of the higher officers in the army, strongly imbued with the doctrines of his great namesake the Isaurian. For the first two years of his reign he kept his opinions to himself, and endeavoured to maintain a strict neutrality between the image-worshippers and the imagebreakers. But the Iconodule clergy were too vehement, and Leo himself too conscientious for such a truce to endure for very long. In 815 the struggle broke out: Leo had requested the patriarch Nicephorus to order certain images, which were especial stumbling-blocks to the Iconoclasts, owing to the grovelling popular devotion which they attracted, to be raised sofar from the ground that devotees should no longer be able to kiss and embrace them. The patriarch refused, bade all his clergy commence special prayers for deliverance, because the church was in danger, and excommunicated a bishop whom he suspected of having counselled the imperial order. Leo replied by deposing Nicephorus, and substituting for him a successor of decided Iconoclast views. The new patriarch at once held a council which declared image-worship superstitious, and re-affirmed all the decrees against it which had been passed in 754, by the synod held by Constantine Copronymus. But Leo did not plunge into persecution as his Isaurian predecessor had done: beyond removing a few church dignitaries from office, and banishing an abbot who made an open display of images in the streets of the capital, he took no repressive measures against the Iconodules. His moderation profited him little, for the image-worshippers hated a heretic as much as a persecutor, and his mildness only gave them the better opportunity of intriguing and conspiring against him. The last years of his reign, though full of outward prosperity, were a time of discontent and unrest beneath the Leo v. and the surface, and it was felt that he had offended too iconodules. many of his subjects for his life to be safe, or his throne secure. Knowing of this, unquiet spirits among his generals and courtiers began to draw together and plot against him.
The chief of these malcontents was Michael the Amorian, a turbulent soldier who had been the emperor's close friend when both were private persons, and who had been promoted to high office when Leo gained the crown. His conspiracy was detected, and he was thrown into prison, but when his confederates learnt that they were in danger of discovery, they resolved to strike at once before they were arrested. Leo was attending matins on Christmas Day in his private chapel, when the conspirators fell upon him. Snatching the great cross from the altar he fought desperately with it against his assailants, but before help could arrive he was cut down, and fell dead in the sanctuary.
The murderers hastened to the cell of Michael the Amorian, and saluted him as emperor. He was drawn from his dungeon and presented to the people in the imperial robes, before the fetters had been struck from his feet, and ere the day was ended the patriarch had crowned him in St. Sophia (December 25, 820). Michael was very inferior to the man whom he had dethroned: he had nothing to back him save his military talent and a certain measure of unscrupulous ability. He was quite uneducated, and his provincial dialect and ungrammatical expressions were the jest of the court and capital. But he knew how to strike hard, and his harshness cowed his enemies more than Leo the Armenian's mild policy. His accession was the signal for rebellion all over the empire: a certain Thomas raised the heretical sects of Asia Minor and the Iconoclast partisans of the late emperor in rebellion, and for three years made Michael's throne insecure. He even beleaguered Constantinople, and might have taken it, had not his followers alienated public sympathy by their ravages in its neighbourhood. He was ultimately put down and slain, but his rebellion caused a serious loss to the empire. While the whole of the imperial fleet and army was acting against him, a horde of Saracen pirates descended on the great island of Crete, and overran it from end to end (825). After peace had been restored, Michael made two attempts to expel the adventurers, but both failed, and for a hundred and thirty five years the “island of the hundred cities’ remained a Saracen outpost, and a sad hindrance to the commerce of the AEgean. Hardly had the expeditions sent against Crete returned with loss and disgrace, than Michael heard loss of crete that a new province was being assailed by the ***** same enemy. In 827 the Moslems of Africa, summoned by the traitor Euphemius, landed in Sicily, and began the conquest of that island. We have described its slow but steady progress in another chapter." The loss of these two outlying provinces does not seem to have troubled Michael. He was perhaps content that he was preserved from a greater Saracen war with the whole force of the caliphate, owing to the civil strife of the descendants of Haroun-al-Raschid. Nor did the peaceful Lewis the Pious stir up the Franks against him. The conquest of Crete and Sicily was a vexatious incident, not a pressing danger. In dealing with the thorny ecclesiastical questions which had proved so dangerous to his predecessor, Michael the Amorian showed caution rather than zeal. His accession had been supported by the image-worshippers, who cordially detested Leo the Armenian. But when safe on the throne he refused to put himself into their hands, or to commence a persecution of the Iconoclasts. He was probably at heart a contemner of images himself, and his son and colleague Theophilus had a fierce hatred for them. His line of policy was to proclaim complete toleration of both parties, and to recall and replace the prelates whom Leo had banished. But in public worship he maintained the condition of things that he found existing, and refused to restore the images which his predecessor had removed or mutilated. On the other hand he allowed such figures and pictures as had escaped Leo's hand to remain, and permitted the monks to practise as many superstitions as they pleased within the walls of their monasteries. Neither party was satisfied; both accused Michael of