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XLVIII.

March 1.

body of his Institutes, Pandects, Code, and Novels, was CHAP. digested under forty titles, in the Greek idiom; and the Basilics, which were improved and completed by his son and grandson, must be referred to the original genius of the founder of their race. This glorious reign was terminated by an accident in the chase. A furious stag entangled his horns in the belt of Basil, and raised him from his horse; he was rescued by an attendant, who cut the belt and slew the animal; but the fall, or the fever, exhausted the strength of the aged monarch, and he expired in the palace, amidst the tears of his family and people. If he struck off the head of the faithful servant, for presuming to draw his sword against his sovereign; the pride of despotism, which had lain dormant in his life, revived in the last moments of despair when he no longer wanted or valued the opinion of mankind.

Of the four sons of the emperor, Constantine died before Leo VI. his father, whose grief and credulity were amused by a flat-the Philo

sopher, tering impostor and a vain apparation. Stephen, the young- A. D. 886, est, was content with the honours of a patriarch and a saint; both Leo and Alexander were alike invested with the pure ple, but the powers of government were solely exercised by the elder brother. The name of Leo the sixth has been dignified with the title of philosopher; and the union of the prince and the sage, of the active and speculative virtues, would indeed constitute the perfection of human nature. But the claims of Leo are far short of this ideal excellence. Did he reduce his passions and appetites under the dominion of reason? His life was spent in the pomp of the palace, in the society of his wives and concubines; and even the clemency which he shewed, and the peace which he strove to preserve, must be imputed to the softness and indolence of his character. Did he subdue his prejudices, and those of his . subjects? His mind was tinged with the most puerile superstition; the influence of the clergy, and the errors of the people, were consecrated by his laws; and the oracles of Leo, which reveal, in prophetic style, the fates of the empire, are founded on the arts of astrology and divination. If we still inquire the reason of his sage appellation, it can only be replied, that the son of Basil was less ignorant than the greater part of his contemporaries in church and state ; that his education had been directed by the learned Photius; VOL. VI.

Q

112

CHAP. exposed to the dexterity of the Imperial archer: a base re-
XLVIII.

venge against the dead, more worthy of the times, than of
the character of Basil. But his principal merit was in the
civil aclministration of the finances and of the laws. To re-
plenish an exhausted treasury, it was proposed to resume
the lavish and ill-placed gifts of his predecessor: his pru-
dence abated one moiety of the restitution ; and a sum of
twelve hundred thousand pounds was instantly procured to
answer the most pressing demands, and to allow some space
for the mature operations of economy. Among the various
schemes for the improvement of the revenue, a new mode
was suggested of capitation, or tribute, which would have
too much depended on the arbitrary discretion of the as-
sessors. A sufficient list of honest and able agents was in-
stantly produced by the minister; but on the more careful
scrutiny of Basil himself, only two could be found, who
might be safely entrusted with such dangerous powers; and
they justified his esteem by declining his confidence. But
the serious and successful diligence of the emperor esta-
blished by degrees an equitable balance of property and pay-
ment, of receipt and expenditure: a peculiar fund was ap-
propriated to each service; and a public method secured
the interest of the prince and the property of the people.
After reforming the luxury, he assigned two patrimonial
estates to supply the decent plenty, of the Imperial table:
the contributions of the subject were reserved for his de-
fence; and the residue was employed in the embellishment
of the capital and provinces. A taste for building, however
costly, may deserve some praise and much excuse: from
thence industry is fed, art is encouraged, and some object
is attained of public emolument or pleasure: the use of a
road, an aqueduct, or an hospital, is obvious and solid; and
the hundred churches that arose by the command of Basil,
were consecrated to the devotion of the age. In the cha-
racter of a judge, he was assiduous and impartial; desirous
to save, but not afraid to strike: the oppressors of the peo-
ple were severely chastised; but his personal foes, whom it
might be unsafe to pardon, were condemned, after the loss
of their eyes, to a life of solitude and repentance. The
change of language and manners demanded a revision of
the obsolete jurisprudence of Justinian: the voluminous

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body of his Institutes, Pandects, Code, and Novels, was CHAP.

XLVIII. digested under forty titles, in the Greek idiom; and the Basilics, which were improved and completed by his son and grandson, must be referred to the original genius of the founder of their race. This glorious reign was termis nated by an accident in the chase. A furious stag entangled his horns in the belt of Basil, and raised him from his horse; he was rescued by an attendant, who cut the belt and slew the animal; but the fall, or the fever, exhausted the strength of the aged monarch, and he expired in the palace, amidst the tears of his family and people. If he struck off the head of the faithful servant, for presuming to draw his sword against his sovereign; the pride of despotism, which had lain dor. mant in his life, revived in the last moments of despair when he no longer wanted or valued the opinion of mankind.

Of the four sons of the emperor, Constantine died before Leo VI. his father, whose grief and credulity were amused by a flat- the Philo

. tering impostor and a vain apparation. Stephen, the young- A D. 886, est, was content with the honours of a patriarch and a saint; March 1. both Leo and Alexander were alike invested with the purple, but the powers of government were solely exercised by the elder brother. The name of Leo the sixth has been dignified with the title of philosopher; and the union of the prince and the sage, of the active and speculative virtues, would indeed constitute the perfection of human nature. But the claims of Leo are far short of this ideal excellence. Did he reduce his passions and appetites under the dominion of reason? His life was spent in the pomp of the palace, in the society of his wives and concubines; and even the clemency which he shewed, and the peace which he strove to preserve, must be imputed to the softness and indolence of his character. Did he subdue his prejudices, and those of his . subjects? His mind was tinged with the most puerile superstition ; the influence of the clergy, and the errors of the people, were consecrated by his laws; and the oracles of Leo, which reveal, in prophetic style, the fates of the empire, are founded on the arts of astrology and divination. If we still inquire the reason of his sage appellation, it can only be replied, that the son of Basil was less ignorant than the greater part of his contemporaries in church and state ; that his education had been directed by the learned Photius; VOL. VI.

Q

CHAP. and that several books of profane and ecclesiastical science
XLVIII.

were composed by the pen, or in the name, of the Imperial
philosopher. But the reputation of his philosophy and reli-
gion was overthrown by a domestic vice, the repetition of his
nuptials. The primitive ideas of the merit and holiness of
celibacy, were preached by the monks and entertained by
the Greeks. Marriage was allowed as a necessary means
for the propagation of mankind; after the death of either
party, the survivor might satisfy, by a second union, the
weakness or the strength of the flesh: but a third marriage
was censured as a state of legal fornication; and a fourth was
a sin or scandal as yet unknown to the Christians of the East.
In the beginning of his reign, Leo himself had abolished the
state of concubines, and condemned, without annulling, third-
marriages; but his patriotism and love soon compelled him
to violate his own laws, and to incur the penance, which in
a similar case he had imposed on his subjects. In his three
first alliances, his nuptial bed was unfruitful; the emperor
required a female companion, and the empire a ligitimate
heir. The beautiful Zoe was introduced into the palace as
a concubine; and after a trial of her fecundity, and the birth,
of Constantine, her lover declared his intention of legitimat-
ing the mother and the child, by the celebration of his fourth
nuptials. But the patriarch Nicholas refused his blessing:
the Imperial baptism of the young prince was obtained by
a promise of separation ; and the contumacious husband of
Zoe was excluded from the communion of the faithful.
Neither the fear of exile, nor the desertion of his brethren,
nor the authority of the Latin church, nor the danger of
failure or doubt in the succession to the empire, could bend,
the spirit of the inflexible monk. After the death of Leo,
he was recalled from exile to the civil and ecclesiastical ad-
ministration; and the edict of union which was promulgat-
ed in the name of Constantine, condemned the future scan-
dal of fourth marriages, and left a tacit imputation on his

own birth. Alexander, In the Greek language purple and porphyry are the same

word: and as the colours of nature are invariable, we may VII. Por- learn, that a dark deep red was the Tyrian dye which stainphyroge. ed the purple of the ancients. An apartment of the Byzan

tine palace was lined with porphyry: it was reserved for

a

Constantine

ntus,

the use of the pregnant empresses; and the royal birth of char. their children was expressed by the appellation of porphy

XLVIII. rogenite, or born in the purple. Several of the Roman prin- A. D. 911, ces had been blessed with an heir; but this peculiar sur- May 11, name was first applied to Constantine the seventh. His life and titular reign were of equal duration ; but of fifty-four years, six had elapsed before his father's death; and the son of Leo was ever the voluntary or reluctant subject of those who oppressed his weakness or abused his confidence. His uncle Alexander, who had long been invested with the title of Augustus, was the first colleague and governor of the young prince: but in a rapid career of vice and folly, the brother of Leo already emulated the reputation of Michael; and when he was extinguished by a timely death, he entertained a project of castrating his nephew, and leaving the empire to a worthless favourite. The succeeding years of the minority of Constantine were occupied by his mother Zoe, and a succession of council of seven regents, who pursued their interest, gratified their passions, abandoned the republic, supplanted each other, and finally vanished in the presence of a soldier. From an obscure origin, Romanus Lecapenus had raised himself to the command of the naval armies; and in the anarchy of the times, had deserved, or at least had obtained, the national esteem. With a victo- . rious and affectionate fleet, he sailed from the mouth of the Danube into the harbour of Constantinople, and was hailed

as the deliverer of the people, and the guardian of the prince. · His supreme office was at first defined by the new appella

tion of father of the emperor; but Romanus soon disdain- Romanus ed the subordinate powers of a minister, and assumed, with 1. Lecapethe titles of Cæsar and Augustus, the full independence of A. D: 919, royalty, which he held near five and twenty years. His three sons, Christopher, Stephen, and Constantine, were pher, Stesuccessively adorned with the same honours, and the lawful phen, Conemperor was degraded from the first to the fifth rank in this VIII. college of princes. Yet, in the preservation of his life and crown, he might still applaud his own fortune and the cle. mency of the usurper. The examples of ancient and modern history would have excused the ambition of Romanus: the powers and the laws of the empire were in his hand; the spurious birth of Constantine would have justihed his

nus,

Dec. 24. Christo

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