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sceptre; and the conqueror, Theodosius the third, submit- CHAP.

XLVIII. ted in his turn to the superior ascendant of Leo, the general and emperor of the Oriental troops. His two predeces- Theodosors were permitted to embrace the ecclesiastical profession: sius III.

A. D. 716, the restless impatience of Anastasius tempted him to risk

January and to lose his life in a treasonable enterprise ; but the last days of Theodosius were honourable and secure. The single sublime word “HEALTH, which he inscribed on his tomb, expresses the confidence of philosophy or religion ; and the fame of his miracles was long preserved among the people of Ephesus. This convenient shelter of the church might sometimes impose a lesson of clemency; but it may be questioned whether it is for the public interest to diminish the perils of unsuccessful ambition.

I have dwelt on the fall of a tyrant; I shall briefly repre- Leo III. sent the founder of a new dynasty, who is known to poste

the Isau

rian, rity by the invectives of his enemies, and whose public and A. D. 718, private life is involved in the ecclesiastical story of the Ico- March 25. noclasts. Yet in spite of the clamours of superstition, a favourable prejudice for the character of Leo the Isaurian, may be reasonably drawn from the obscurity of his birth, and the duration of his reign....I. In an age of manly spirit, the prospect of an Imperial reward would have kindled every energy of the mind, and produced a crowd of competitors as deserving as they were desirous to reign. Even in the corruption and debility of the modern Greeks, the elevation of a plebeian from the last to the first rank of society, supposes some qualifications above the level of the multitude. He would probably be ignorant and disdainful of spe. culative science; and in the pursuit of fortune, he might absolve himself from the obligations of benevolence and justice: but to his character we may ascribe the useful virtues of prudence and fortitude, the knowledge of mankind, and the important art of gaining their confidence and directing their passions. It is agreed that Leo was a native of Isauria, and that Conon was his primitive name. The writers, whose awkward satire is praise, describe him as an itinerant pedlar who drove an ass with some paltry merchandise to the country fairs; and foolishly relate that he met on the road some Jewish fortune-tellers, who promised him the Roman empire, on condition that he should abolish the

CHAP. worship of idols. A more probable account relates the miXLVIII.

gration of his father from Asia Minor to Thrace, where he exercised the lucrative trade of a grazier; and he must have acquired considerable wealth, since the first introduction of his son was procured by a supply of five hundred sheep to the Imperial camp. His first service was in the guards of Justinian, where he soon attracted the notice, and by degrees, the jealousy of the tyrant. His valour and dexterity were conspicuous in the Colchian war: from Anastasius he received the command of the Anatolian legions, and by the suffrage of the soldiers he was raised to the empire with the general applause of the Roman world....II. In this dangerous elevation, Leo the third supported himself against the envy of his equals, the discontent of a powerful faction, and the assaults of his foreign and domestic enemies. The Catholics, who accuse his religious innovations, are obliged to confess that they were undertaken with temper and conducted with firmness. Their silence respects the wisdom of his administration and the purity of his manners. After a reign of twenty-four years, he peaceably expired in the palace of Constantinople; and the purple which he had acquired, was transmitted by the right of inheritance to the third generation.

In a long reign of thirty-four years, the son and successor tine V. Co. of Leo, Constantine the fifth, surnamed Copronymus, atpronymus, A. D. 741, tacked with less temperate zeal the images or idols of the June 18.

church. Their votaries have exhausted the bitterness of religious gall, in their portrait of this spotted panther, this antichrist, this flying dragon of the serpent's seed, who surpassed the vices of Elagabalus and Nero. His reign was a long butchery of whatever was most noble, or holy, or innocent, in his empire. In person, the emperor assisted at the execution of his victims, surveyed their agonies, listened to their groans, and indulged, without satiating, his appetite for blood: a plate of noses was accepted as a grateful offering, and his domestics were often scourged or mutilated by the royal hand. His surname was derived from his pollution of his baptismal font. The infant might be excused; but the manly pleasures of Copronymus degraded him below the level of a brute; his lust confounded the eternal distinctions of sex and species ; and he seemed to extract some unna




tural delight from the objects most offensive to human sense. CHAP. In his religion, the Iconoclast was an Heretic, a Jew, a

XLVIII. Mahometan, a Pagan, and an Atheist; and his belief of an invisible power could be discovered only in his magic rites, human victims, and nocturnal sacrifices to Venus and the dæmons of antiquity. His life was stained with the most opposite vices, and the ulcers which covered his body, anticipated before his death the sentiment of hell-tortures. Of these accusations, which I have so patiently copied, a part is refuted by its own absurdity; and in the private anecdotes of the life of princes, the lie is more easy as the detection is more difficult. Without adopting the pernicious maxim, that where much is alleged, something must be true, I can however discern, that Constantine the fifth was dissolute and cruel. Calumny is more prone to exaggerate than to invent; and her licentious tongue is checked in some measure by the experience of the age and country to which she appeals. Of the bishops and monks, the generals and magistrates, who are said to have suffered under his reign, the numbers are recorded, the names were conspicuous, the execution was public, the mutilation visible and permanent. The Catholics hated the person and government of Copronymus; but even their hatred is a proof of their oppression. They dissemble the provocations which might excuse or justify his rigour, but even these provocations must gradually inflame his resentment, and harden his temper in the use or the abuse of despotism. Yet the character of the

. fifth Constantine was not devoid of merit, nor did his government always deserve the curses or the contempt of the Greeks. From the confession of his enemies, I am informed of the restoration of an ancient aqueduct, of the redemption of two thousand five hundred captives, of the uncommon plenty of the times, and of the new colonies with which he repeopled Constantinople and the Thracian cities. They reluctantly praise his activity and courage; he was on horseback in the field at the head of his legions; and, although the fortune of his arms was various, he triumphed by sea and land, on the Euphrates and the Danube, in civil and Barbarian war. Heretical praise must be cast into the scale, to counterbalance the weight of orthodox invective. The Iconoclasts revered the virtues of the prince: forty years after

CHAP. his death, they still prayed before the tomb of the saint. A XLVIII.

miraculous vision was propagated by fanaticism or fraud : and the Christian hero appeared on a milk-white steed, brandishing, his lance against the pagans of Bulgaria: “ An “absurd fable," says the Catholic historian, "since Copro

“ nymus is chained with the dæmons in the abyss of hell.” Leo IV. Leo the fourth, the son of the fifth and the father of the A. D. 775, Sept. 14. sixth Constantine, was of a feeble constitution both of mind

and body, and the principle care of his reign was the settlement of the succession. The association of the young Constantine was urged by the officious zeal of his subjects; and the emperor, conscious of his decay, complied, after a prudent hesitation, with their unanimous wishes. The royal infant, at the age of five years, was crowned with his mother Irene; and the national consent was ratified by every circumstance of pomp and solemnity, that could dazzle the eyes, or bind the conscience, of the Greeks. An oath of fidelity was administered in the palace, the church, and the hippodrome, to the several orders of the state, who adjured the holy names of the son, and mother, of God. “ Be witness, O Christ! “ that we will watch over the safety of Constantine the son “ of Leo, expose our lives in his service, and bear true al“legiance to his person and posterity.” They pledged their faith on the wood of the true cross, and the act of their engagement was deposited on the altar of St. Sophia. The first to swear, and the first to violate their oath, were the five sons of Copronymus by a second marriage; and the story of these princes is singular and tragic. The right of primogeniture excluded them from the throne; the injustice of their elder brother defrauded them of a legacy of about two millions sterling; some vain titles were not deemed a sufficient compensation for wealth and power; and they repeatedly conspired against their nephew, before and after the death of his father. Their first attempt was pardoned; for the second offence they were condemned to the ecclesiasti. cal state: and for the third treason, Nicephorus, the eldest and most guilty, was deprived of his eyes, and his four brothers, Christopher, Nicetas, Anthemeus, and Eudoxas, were punished, as a milder sentence, by the amputation of their tongues. After five years confinement, they escaped to the church of St. Sophia, and displayed a pathetic spectacle to

tine VI.

the people. “ Countrymen and Christians," cried Nicepho- CHAP. rus for himself and his mute brethren, “behold the sons of

XLVIII. your emperor, if you can still recognize our features in “ this miserable state. A life, an imperfect life, is all that “ the malice of our enemies has spared. It is now threat“ ened, and we now throw ourselves on your compassion.” The rising murmur might have produced a revolution, had it not been checked by the presence of a minister, who soothed the unhappy princes with flattery and hope, and gently drew them from the sanctuary to the palace. They were speedily embarked for Greece, and Athens was allotted for the place of their exile. In this calm retreat, and in their helpless condition, Nicephorus and his brothers were tormented by the thirst of power, and tempted by a Sclavonian chief, who offered to break their prison, and to lead them in arms, and in the purple, to the gates of Constantinople. But the Athenian people, ever zealous in the cause of Irene, prevented her justice or cruelty; and the five sons of Copronymus were plunged in eternal darkness and oblivion.

For himself, that emperor had chosen a Barbarian wife, Constanthe daughter of the khan of the Chozars: but in the mar- and Irene, riage of his heir, he preferred an Athenian virgin, an or- A. D. 780,

Sept. 8. phan, seventeen years old, whose sole fortune must have consisted in her personal accomplishments. The nuptials of Leo and Irene were celebrated with royal pomp; she soon acquired the love and confidence of a feeble husband, and in his testament he declared the empress, guardian of the Roman world, and of their son Constantine the sixth, who was no more than ten years of age. During his childhood, Irene most ably and assiduously discharged, in her public administration, the duties of a faithful mother; and her zeal in the restoration of images has deserved the name and honours of a saint, which she still occupies in the Greek calendar. But the emperor attained the maturity of youth; the maternal yoke became more grievous; and he listened to the favourites of his own age, who shared his pleasures, and were ambitious of sharing his power. Their Teasons convinced him of his right, their praises of his abi. lity, to reign; and he consented to reward the services of Irene by a perpetual banishment to the isle of Sicily. But her vigilance and penetration easily disconcerted their rash

Vol. VI.

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