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that a Saracen invasion of Europe was as dangerous to him as to the empire. Moslemah detached a portion of his army to hold back the Bulgarians, but near Hadrianople it was completely cut to pieces by the barbarians. The Arab historians confess that 22, ooo men fell in the rout. This decided Moslemah to raise the siege. His fleet took the remains of the land army on board, and put it siege of con. ashore near Cyzicus. From thence he forced his stantinople way back to Tarsus, but of more than 100,000 men “” comprised in his original army and its reinforcements, Moslemah brought back only 30, ooo. The fleet fared yet worse; it was caught in a storm off the Lycian coast, and almost entirely destroyed. The Romans captured many of the surviving ships, and it is said that only five vessels out of a thousand got back to Syria. Thus perished the last Saracen armament which ever seriously threatened the existence of the East-Roman Empire. It was perhaps the most formidable expedition that the Caliphs ever sent forth, far larger and better equipped than the predatory bands which had overrun Africa and Spain with such ease a few years before, or the army which Charles Martel faced at Poictiers a few years later. It was no mean achievement of Leo the Isaurian, that, ere yet firmly seated on his throne, and with all his Asiatic provinces already overrun by the enemy, he should beat off with ease such a mighty armament. His success must be ascribed primarily to his own courage, energy, and skill, next to the impregnable strength of the walls of Constantinople, and lastly, to the inexperience of the Arabs on the sea, which compelled them to use unwilling Christian seamen for their galleys, and prevented them from making any adequate use of their momentary naval predominance. The fleet of Moslemah seems to have been as useless and unwieldy as the fleet of Xerxes. But, however much he may have been helped by the faults of his enemy, Leo the Isaurian deserves the thanks of all future ages for staying the progress of the Saracen invader at a
moment when there was no other power in eastern Europe
accelerated under his successors, and had threatened the actual destruction of the empire during the reign of Heraclius. That the State struggled through all its troubles, and emerged bleeding at every pore, shorn of many of its members, but still alive, was due to the personal abilities of Heraclius and his descendants Constantinus-Constans and Con- Decadence of stantine v. But though the life still lingered in the empire. the body of the State, it was yet in the most deplorable condition. Its purely Oriental provinces—Egypt, Syria, and Africa—were gone for ever. Asia Minor was dreadfully wasted by the repeated invasions of the Saracens. The Balkan peninsula was, as regards more than half its extent, in the hands of the Bulgarians and Slavs. In the seventh century Slavonic tribes had made their way even into Hellas and Peloponnesus, there to occupy all the more remote and mountainous corners of the land. The disasters of the seventh century were accompanied by wholesale displacements of population. In Europe the old Latin-speaking population of Illyricum, Moesia, and Thrace had almost disappeared. Only a few scattered fragments, the ancestors of the modern Roumanians and Dalmatians, still survived, scattered among the Slavs of the Balkans. In Asia the old provincial population had been grievously thinned by Saracen wars, but, on the other hand, it had been recruited by great bands of refugees from all the lands that the Saracen had overrun. Many thousands of Armenians and Persians had chosen to become subjects of the Emperor rather than the Caliph, and in particular the Mardaïtes or Christians of the Syrian mountains had emigrated wholesale into changes in Asia Minor, after maintaining for many years a population. struggle in the Lebanon against the power of the Saracens. The European themes were now Greco-Slav, not GrecoRoman, in their population: the Asiatic ones were far more Oriental and far less Greek than in the sixth century. By the time of Leo this change was complete: the empire was now Roman in nothing but name and administrative organisation PERIOD I. U
On the other hand, it had not yet become Greek, as it was to do in a later age. Its most important element in this and the next two centuries was the Asiatic. Isauria and Armenia and the other mountain lands of Asia Minor supplied most of the rulers of the empire. They were not Orientals of the more effeminate and feeble type—like the Syrians or Egyptians, whose only show of energy for many years had been in the hatching of new heresies and the practice of irrational asceticism —but were a bold vigorous race, hardened by many generations of Persian and Saracen wars, the men who, ever since the fifth century, had been supplying the core of the East-Roman armies. The change in the population of the empire had been accompanied by equally great changes in its social condition. Of these the most important was the disappearance of the old Roman system of predial serfdom, of great estates tilled by coloni or peasants bound to the soil and unable to leave their farms. This tenure, which lasted on in the West till it became the basis of the feudal system, had in the East entirely disappeared between Justinian and Leo the Isaurian. In the time of Leo we find the soil cultivated either by free tenants, who worked the estates of great land-owners at a fixed rent, or by villages of Decrease of free peasants occupying their own communal lands. serfdom. The very healthy outcome of this change was a great growth in the proportion of freemen to slaves all over the empire: of this the most important and beneficial result was that the government could reckon on a much larger and better recruiting ground for the army than in those earlier times, when the peasant was fixed to the soil and absolutely prohibited from serving as a soldier. The cause of the vanishing of the old tenure was, without doubt, the fact that the ravages of Slav, Persian, and Saracen between 6oo and 7oo had broken up the old landmarks, and either swept away or displaced the former servile population. When many provinces had been, for many years at a time, in the hands of foreign enemies, as happened to the whole of Asia Minor during the first years of Heraclius and to great part of it in the anarchy
between 7 Io and 718, it was not wonderful that old social arrangements which bore hardly on the bulk of the population tended to vanish.
The disappearance of predial serfdom was a change for the better within the empire. But in most other things the changes had been for the worse. The civilisation of the whole realm had sunk to a very low level compared with that which prevailed in the fifth century. Arts and letters had reached the lowest depth which they ever knew in Decay of the East. All literature save the compiling of arts and polemical religious tracts had disappeared: be- *** tween 62o and 720 we have not a single contemporary historian: the story of the times has to be learned entirely from later sources. Poetical, scientific, and philosophical composition had also died off; except the Heracliad—the wars of Heraclius told as an epic—of George of Pisidia, the seventh century produced no single poem. The study of Latin had so far died out that the great legal works of Justinian had become useless to the inhabitants of the empire. They were a sealed book to all save the exceptionally learned, so that systematic law had almost disappeared. In the various themes we find justice being administered according to local customs and usages, instead of by old Roman precept. Leo had to abridge and translate Justinian's Code, in order to render it either useful or intelligible. When doing this he omitted great sections of it, in order to bring the book into accordance with the needs and customs of the day, for both manners and social conditions had been transformed since the reign of Justinian. The decay of art had been as rapid as that of letters: very few remains of the unhappy seventh century have come down to us, but in those which are most numerous, the coins of the emperors, we find the most barbarous incapacity to express the simplest forms. The faces of Heraclius or Constantine v. are barely human: the legends surrounding them are so ill spelt as to be almost unintelligible: the letters are ill formed and ill cut.