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and Con.

greatest part of his reign was employed in the camp and the CHAP.
field: his personal valour and activity were signalized on the XLVIII.
Danube and the Tigris, the ancient boundaries of the Ro-
man world; and by his double triumph over the Russians
and the Saracens, he deserved the titles of saviour of the
empire and conqueror of the East. In his last return from
Syria, he observed that the most fruitful lands of his new
provinces were poscsessed by the eunuchs. “And is it for
“ them,” he exclaimed, with honest indignation, “ that we
“ have fought and conquered? Is it for them that we shed
“ our blood, and exhaust the treasures of our people?” The
complaint was re-echoed to the palace, and the death of Zi-
misces is strongly marked with the suspicion of poison.

Under this usurpation, or regency, of twelve years, the Basil II. two lawful emperors, Basil and Constantine, had silently szantine Ix grown to the age of manhood. Their tender years had been A. D. 976,

January 10. incapable of dominion: the respectful modesty of their attendance and salutation, was due to the age and merit of their guardians: the childless ambition of those guardians had no temptation to violate their right of succession: their patrimony was ably and faithfully administered; and the premature death of Zimisces was a loss, rather than a benefit, to the sons of Romanus. Their want of experience detained them twelve years longer the obscure and voluntary pupils of a minister, who extended his reign by persuading them to indulge the pleasures of youth, and to disdain the labours of government. In this silken web, the weakness of Constantine was for ever entangled; but his elder brother felt the impulse of genius and the desire of action; he frowned, and the minister was no more. Basil was the acknowledged sovereign of Constantinople and the provinces of Europe; but Asia was oppressed by two veteran generals, Phocas and Sclerus,who, alternately friends and enemies, subjects and rebels, maintained their independence, and laboured to emulate the example of successful usurpation. Against these domestic enemies, the son of Romanus first drew his sword, and they trembled in the presence of a lawful and high-spirited prince. The first in the front of battle was thrown from his horse, by the stroke of poison, or an arrow: the second, who had been twice loaded with chains, and twice invested with the purple, was desirous of VOL. VI.

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CHAP. ending in peace the small remainder of his days. As the

. XLVIII.

aged suppliant approached the throne, with dim eyes and faultering steps, leaning on his two attendants, the emperor exclaimed, in the insolence of youth and power, “And is “ this the man who has so long been the object of our ter“ ror?” After he had confirmed his own authority, and the peace of the empire, the trophies of Nicephorus and Zimisces would not suffer their royal pupil to sleep in the palace. His long and frequent expeditions against the Saracens were rather glorious, than useful to the empire ; but the final destruction of the kingdom of Bulgaria appears, since the time of Belisarius, the most important triumph of the Roman arms. Yet instead of applauding their victori

. ous prince, his subjects detested the rapacious and rigid avarice of Basil; and in the imperfect narrative of his exploits, we can only discern the courage, patience, and ferociousness of a soldier. A vicious education, which could not subdue his spirit, had clouded his mind: he was ignorant of every science; and the remembrance of his learned and feeble grandsire might encourage a real or affected contempt of laws and lawyers, of artists and arts. Of such a character, in such an age, superstition took a firm and lasting possession; after the first licence of his youth, Basil the second, devoted his life, in the palace and the camp, to the penance of an hermit, wore the monastic habit under his robes and armour, observed a vow of continence, and imposed on his appetites a perpetual abstinence from wine and flesh. In the sixty-eighth year of his age, his martial spirit urged him to embark in person for a holy war against the Saracens of Sicily; he was prevented by death, and Basil, surnamed the Slayer of the Bulgarians, was dismissed from the world, with the blessings of the clergy and the curses of the people. After his decease, his brother Con

stantine enjoyed, about three years, the power, or rather the 1025, De. pleasures, of royalty; and his only care was the settlement cember.

of the succession. He had enjoyed, sixty-six years, the title of Augustus; and the reign of the two brothers is the long

est, and most obscure, of the Byzantine history. Romanus A lineal succession of five emperors, in a period of one III . Argy- hundred and sixty years, had attached the loyalty of the

Greeks to the Macedonian dynasty, which had been thrice

Constan. tine IX.

A. D.

rus,

A. D.

12.

respected by the usurpers of their power. After the death CHAP. of Constantine the ninth, the last male of the royal race, a

XLVIII. new and broken scene presents itself, and the accumulated years of twelve emperors do not equal the space of his single 1028, Nov. reign. His elder brother had preferred his private chastity to the public interest, and Constantine himself had only three daughters ; Eudocia, who took the veil, and Zoe and Theodora, who were preserved till a mature age in a state of ignorance and virginity. When their marriage was discussed in the council of their dying father, the cold or pious Theodora refused to give an heir to the empire, but her sister Zoe presented herself a willing victim at the altar. Romanus Argyrus, a patrician of a graceful person and fair reputation, was chosen for her husband, and, on his declining that honour, was informed, that blindness or death was the second alternative. The motive of his reluctance was conjugal affection, but his faithful wife sacrificed her own happiness to his safety and greatness ; and her entrance into a monastery removed the only bar to the Imperial nuptials. After the decease of Constantine, the sceptre devolved to Romanus the third ; but his labours at home and abroad were equally feeble and fruitless; and the mature age, the forty-eight years of Zoe, were less favourable to the hopes of pregnancy than to the indulgence of pleasure. Her favourite chamberlain was an handsome Paphlagonian of the name of Michael, whose first trade had been that of a money-changer; and Romanus, either from gratitude or equity, connived at their criminal intercourse, or accepted a slight assurance of their innocence. But Zoe soon justified the Roman maxim, that every adultress is capable of poisoning her husband; and the death of Romanus was instantly followed by the scandalous marriage and elevation of Mi. chael the fourth. The expectations of Zoe were however Michael disappointed: instead of a vigorous and grateful lover, she ww. the

Papihlahad placed in her bed, a miserable wretch, whose health and zonian, reason were impaired by epileptic fits, and whose conscience

10.), was tormented by despair and remorse. The most skilful April 11. phrsicians of the inind and body were summor.ed to his aid; and his hopes were amused by frequent pilgrimages to the ba.hs, and to the tombs of the most popular saints ; the monks applauded his penance, and, except restitution, (but

A. D.

XLVIII.

CHAP. to whom should he have restored?) Michael sought every

method of expiating his guilt. While he groaned and prayed in sackcloih and ashes, his brother, the eunuch John, smiled at his remorse, and enjoyed the harvest of a crime of which himself was the secret and most guilty author. His administration was only the art of satiating his avarice, and Zoe became a captive in the palace of her fathers and in the hands of her slaves. When he perceived the irretrievable decline of his brother's health, he introduced his ne. phew, another Michael, who derived his surname of Calaphates from his father's occupation in the careening of vessels: at the command of the eunuch, Zoe adopted for her son, the son of a mechanic; and this fictitious heir was invested with the title and purple of the Cæsars, in the presence of the senate and clergy. So feeble was the character of Zoe, that she was oppressed by the liberty and power which she recovered

by the death of the Paphlagonian; and at the end of four days, Michael V. she placed the crown on the head of Michael the fifth, who Calapha: had protested, with tears and oaths, that he should ever reign

D. 1041, the first and most obedient of her subjects. The only act Dec. 14.

of his short reign, was his base ingratitude to his benefactors, the eunuch and the empress. The disgrace of the former was pleasing to the public; but the murmurs, and at length the chamours, of Constantinople deplored the exile of Zoe, the daughter of so many emperors; her vices were forgotten, and Michael was taught, that there is a period in which the patience of the tamest slaves rises into fury and revenge. The citizens of every degree assembled in a for

midable tumult which lasted three days; they besieged the Zne and palace, forced the gates, recalled their mothers, Zoe from Theodora,

her prison, Theodora from her monastery, and condemned 1042, the son of Curaphates to the loss of his eyes or of his life. April 21.

For the first time, the Greeks beheld with surprise the two royal sisters seated on the same throne, presiding in the senate, and giving audience to the ambassadors of the nations. But this singular union subsisted no more than two months; the two sovereigns, their tempers, interests, and adherents, were secretly hostile to each other; and as Theodora was still averse to marriage, the indefatigable Zoe, at the age of sixty, consented, for the public good, to sustain the embraces of a third husband, and the censures of the Greek church.

A. D.

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Monomachus, A. D.

His name and number were Constantine the tenth, and the CHAP. epithet of Monomachus, the single combatant, must have XLVIII. been expressive of his valour and victory in some public or Constanprivate quarrel. But his health was broken by the tortures tine X. of the gout, and his dissolute reign was spent in the alternative of sickness and pleasure. A fair and noble widow had 1042,

June 11. accompanied Constantine in his exile to the isle of Lesbos, and Sclerena gloried in the appellation of his mistress. After his marriage and elevation, she was invested with the title and pomp of Augusta, and occupied a contiguous apartment in the palace. The lawful consort (such was the delicacy or corruption of Zoe) consented to this strange and scandalous partition; and the emperor appeared in public between his wife and his concubine. He survived them both; but the last measures of Constantine to change the order of succession were prevented by the more vigilant friends of Theodora ; and after his decease, she resumed, Theodora,

A. D. with the general consent, the possession of her inheritance. 1054,

, In her name, and by the influence of four eunuchs, the Nov. 30. Eastern world was peaceably governed about nineteen months; and as they wished to prolong their dominion, they persuaded the aged princess to nominate for her successor Michael the sixth. The surname of Stratioticus de. Michael

VI. Straclares his military profession; but the crazy and decrepit tioticus, veteran could only see with the eyes, and execute with the A. D.

1056, hands, of his ministers. Whilst he ascended the throne, August 22. Theodora sunk into the grave; the last of the Macedonian or Basilian dynasty. I have hastily reviewed, and gladly dismiss, this shameful and destructive period of twentyeight years, in which the Greeks, degraded below the common level of servitude, were transferred like a herd of cattle by the choice or caprice of two impotent females.

From this night of slavery, a ray of freedom, or at least Isaac I. of spirit, begins to emerge: the Greeks either preserved or mus, A. D. revived the use of surnames, which perpetuate the fame of 1037, hereditary virtue ; and we now discern the rise, succession,

August 31. and alliances of the last dynasties of Constantinople and Trebizond. The Comneni, who upheld for a while the fate of the sinking empire, assumed the honour of a Roman origin: but the family had been long since transported from Italy to Asia. Their patrimonial estate was situate in the

Comne

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