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YLVIII.

was a

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CHAP. with a bowstring, and the tyrant, insensible to pity or re

morse, after surveying the body of the innocent youth, struck
it rudely with his foot: “ Thy father,” he cried, “
knave, thy mother a whore, and thyself a fool!

Th Roman sceptre, the reward of his crimes, was held
nicus I.
Comnenus, by Andronicus about three years and an half as the guardian
A.D. 1183,

or sovereign of the empire. His government exhibited a October.

singular contrast of vice and virtue. When he listened to his passions, he was the scourge ; when he consulted his reason, the father, of his people. In the exercise of private justice, he was equitable and rigorous : a shameful and pernicious venality was abolished, and the offices were filled with the most deserving candidates by a prince who had sense to chuse, and severity to punish. He prohibited the inhuman practice of pillaging the goods and persons of shipwrecked mariners ; the provinces, so long the objects of oppression or neglect, revived in prosperity and plenty ; and millions applauded the distant blessings of his reign, while he was cursed by the witnesses of his daily cruelties. The ancient proverb, That blood-thirsty is the man who returns from banishment to power, had been applied with too much truth to Marius and Tiberius; and was now verified for the third time in the life of Andronicus. His memory was stored with a black list of the enemies and rivals, who had traduced his merit, opposed his greatness, or insulted his misfortunes; and the only comfort of his exile was the sacred hope and promise of revenge. The necessary extinction of the young emperor and his mother, imposed the fatal obligation of extirpating the friends, who hated, and might punish, the assassin; and the repetition of murder rendered him less willing, and less able, to forgive. An horrid narrative of the victims whom he sacrificed by poison or the sword, by the sea or the flames, would be less expressive of his cruelty than the appellation of the Halcyondays, which was applied to a rare and bloodless week of repose: the tyrant strove to transfer, on the laws and the judges, some portion of his guilt ; but the mask was fallen, and his subjects could no longer mistake the true author of their calamities. The noblest of the Greeks, more especially those who, by descent or alliance, might dispute the Comnenian inheritance, escaped from the monster's den: Nice or Prusa, Sicily or Cyprus, were their places of refuge ; and CHAP.

XLVIII. as their flight was already criminal, they aggravated their offence by an open revolt, and the Imperial title. Yet Andronicus resisted the daggers and swords of his most formidable enemies : Nice and Prusa were reduced and chastised: the Sicilians were content with the sack of Thessalonica; and the distance of Cyprus was not more propitious to the rebel than to the tyrant. His throne was subverted by a rival without merit, and a people without arms. Isaac Angelus, a descendant in the female line from the great Alexius, was marked as a victim, by the prudence or superstition of the emperor. In a moment of despair, Angelus defended his life and liberty, slew the executioner, and fled to the church of St. Sophia. The sanctuary was insensibly filled with a curious and mournful crowd, who, in his fate, prognosticated their own. But their lamentations were soon turned to curses, and their curses to threats : they dared to ask, “Why do we fear? Why do we obey? We are many, " and he is one ; our patience is the only bond of our sla“ very.” With the dawn of day the city burst into a general sedition, the prisons were thrown open, the coldest and most servile were roused to the defence of their country, and Isaac, the second of the name, was raised from the sanctuary to the throne. Unconscious of his danger, the tyrant was absent; withdrawn from the toils of state, in the delicious islands of the Propontis. He had contracted an indecent marriage with Alice, or Agnes, daughter of Lewis the seventh, of France, and relict of the unfortunate Alexius ; and his society, more suitable to his temper than to his age, was composed of a young wife and a favourite concubine. On the first alarm he rushed to Constantinople, impatient for the blood of the guilty; but he was astonished by the silence of the palace, the tumult of the city, and the general desertion of mankind. Andronicus proclaimed a free pardon to his subjects: they neither desired, nor would grant, forgiveness: he offered to resign the crown to his son Manuel; but the virtues of the son could not expiate his father's crimes. The sea was still open for his retreat; but the news of the revolution had flown along the coast; when fear had ceased, obedience was no more; the Imperial galley was pursued and taken by an armed brigantine; and the tyrant

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CHAP was dragged to the presence of Isaac Angelus, loaded with XLVIII felters, and a long chain round his neck. His eloquence, and

the tears of liis fi male companions, pleaded in vain for his life; but, instead of the decencies of a legal execution, the new monarch abandoned the criminal to the numerous sufferers, whom he had deprived of a father, an husband, or a friend. His teeth and hair, an eye and a hand, were torn from him, as a poor compensation for their loss; and a short respite was allowed, that he might feel the bitterness of death. Astride on a camel, without any danger of a rescue, he was carried through the city, and the basest of the populace rejoiced to trample on the fallen majesty of their prince. Af. ter a thousand blows and outrages, Andronicus was hung by the feet, between two pillars that supported the statues of a wolf and a sow; and every hand that could reach the public enemy, inflicted on his body some mark of ingenious or brutal cruelty, till two friendly or furious Italians, plunging their swords into his body, released him from all human punishment. In this long and painful agony, “Lord have

mercy upon me! and why will you bruise a broken reed?” were the only words that escaped from his mouth. Our hatred for the tyrant is lost in pity for the man; nor can we blame his pusillanimous resignation, since a Greek Christian was no longer master of his life.

I have been tempted to expatiate on the extraordinary Angelus, A.D. 1185,

character and adventures of Andronicus; but I shall here Sept. 12. terminate the series of the Greek emperors since the time

of Heraclius. The branches that sprang from the Comnenian trunk had insensibly withered; and the male line was continued only in the posterity of Andronicus himself, who, in the public con usion, usurped the sovereignty of Trebi. zond, so obscure in history, and so famous in romance. A private citizen of Philadelphia, Constantine Angelus, had emerged to wealth and honours, by his marriage with a daughter of the emperor Alexius. His son Andronicus is conspicuous only by his cowardice. His grandson Isaac punished and succeeded the tyrant; but he was dethroned by his own vices, and the ambition of his brother; and their discord introduced the Latins to the conquest of Constantinople, the first great period in the fall of the Eastern empire.

Isaac II.

If we compute the number and duration of the reigns, it CHAP.

XLVIII. will be found that a period of six hundred years is filled by sixty emperors, including in the Augustan list some female A.D. 1204, sovereigns ; and deducting some usurpers who were never April 12. acknowledged in the capital, and some princes who did not live to possess their inheritance. The average proportion will allow ten years for each emperor, far below the chronological rule of Sir Isaac Newton, who, from the experience of more recent and regular monarchies, has defined about eighteen or twenty years as the term of an ordinary reign. The Byzantine empire was most tranquil and prosperous when it could acquiesce in hereditary succession; five dynasties, the Heraclian, Isaurian, Amorian, Basilian, and Comnenian families, enjoyed and transmitted the royal patrimony during their respective series, of five, four, three, six, and four generations ; several princes number the years of their reign with those of their infancy; and Constantine the seventh and his two grandsons occupy the space of an entire century. But in the intervals of the Byzantine dynasties, the succession is rapid and broken, and the name of a successful candidate is speedily erazed by a more fortunate competitor. Many were the paths that led to the summit of royalty; the fabric of rebellion was overthrown by the stroke of conspiracy, or undermined by the silent arts of intrigue ; the favourites of the soldiers or people, of the senate or clergy, of the women and eunuchs, were alternately clothed with the purple: the means of their elevation were base, and their end was often contemptible or tragic. A being of the nature of man, endowed with the same faculties, but with a longer measure of existence, would cast down a smile of pity and contempt on the crimes and follies of human ambition, so eager, in a narrow span, to grasp at a precarious and short-lived enjoyment. It is thus that the experience of history exalts and enlarges the horizon of our intellectual view. In a composition of some days, in a perusal of some hours, six hundred years have rolled away, and the duration of a life or reign is contracted to a fleeting moment: the grave is ever beside the throne; the success of a criminal is al. most instantly followed by the loss of his prize; and our immortal reason survives and disdains the sixty phantoms of kings who have passed before our eyes, and faintly dwell

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CHAP. on our remembrance. The observation, that, in every age XLVIII. and climate, ambition has prevailed with the same com

manding energy, may abate the surprise of a philosopher; but while he condemns the vanity, he may search the motive, of this universal desire to obtain and hold the

sceptre of dominion. To the greater part of the Byzantine series, we cannot reasonably ascribe the love of fame and of mankind. The virtue alone of John Comnenus was beneficent and pure: the most illustrious of the princes, who precede or follow that respectable name, have trod with some dexterity and vigour the crooked and bloody paths of a selfish policy: in scrutinizing the imperfect characters of Leo the Isaurian, Basil the first, and Alexius Comnenus, of Theophilus, the second Basil, and Manuel Comnenus, our esteem and censure are almost equally balanced ; and the remainder of the Imperial crowd could only desire and expect to be forgotten by posterity. Was personal happiness the aim and object of their ambition? I shall not descant on the vulgar topics of the misery of kings; but I may surely observe, that their condition, of all others, is the most pregnant with fear, and the least susceptible of hope. For these opposite passions, a larger scope was allowed in the revolutions of antiquity, than in the smooth and solid temper of the modern world, which cannot easily repeat either the triumph of Alexander or the fall of Darius. But the peculiar infelicity of the Byzantine princes exposed them to domestic perils, without affording any lively promise of foreign conquest. From the pinnacle of greatness, Andronicus was precipitated by a death more cruel and shaineful than that of the vilest malefactor; but the most glorious of his predecessors had much more to dread from their subjects than to hope from their enemies. The army was licentious without spirit, the nation turbulent without freedom: the Barbarians of the East and West pressed on the monarchy, and the loss of the provinces was terminated by the final servitude of the capital.

The entire series of Roman emperors, from the first of the Cæsars to the last of the Constantines, extends above fifteen hundred years: and the term of dominion unbroken by foreign conquest, surpasses the measure of the ancient monarchies; the Assyrians or Medes, the successors of Cyrus, or those of Alexander.

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