« ForrigeFortsett »
Procopius has not condescended to explain the system of taxation, which fell like a hail-storm upon the land, like a devouring pestilence on its inhabitants: but we should become the accomplices of his malignity, if we imputed to Justinian alone the ancient though rigorous principle, that a whole district should be condemned to sustain the partial loss of the persons or property of individuals. The Annona, or supply of corn for the use of the army and capital, was a grievous and arbitrary exaction, which exceeded, perhaps in a tenfold proportion, the ability of the farmer; and his dis; tress was aggravated by the partial injustice of weights and measures, and the expense and labor of distant carriage. In a time of scarcity, an extraordinary requisition was made to the adjacent provinces of Thrace, Bithynia, and Phrygia; but the proprietors, after a wearisome journey and a perilous navigation, received so inadequate a compensation, that they would have chosen the alternative of delivering both the corn and price at the doors of their granaries. These precautions might indicate a tender solicitude for the welfare of the capital; yet Constantinople did not escape the rapacious despotism of Justinian. Till his reign, the Straits of the Bosphorus and Hellespont were open to the freedom of trade, and nothing was prohibited except the exportation of arms for the service of the Barbarians. At each of these gates of the city, a praetor was stationed, the minister of Imperial avarice; heavy customs were imposed on the vessels and their merchandise; the oppression was retaliated on the helpless consumer; the poor were afflicted by the artificial scarcity, and exorbitant price of the market; and a people, accustomed to depend on the liberality of their prince, might sometimes complain of the deficiency of water and bread.” The aerial tribute, without a name, a law, or a definite object, was an annual gift of one hundred and twenty thousand pounds, which the emperor accepted from his Praetorian praefect; and the means of payment were abandoned to the discretion of that powerful magistrate. IV. Even such a tax was less intolerable than the privilege of monopolies,” which checked the fair competition of industry, and, for the sake of a small and dishonest gain, imposed an arbitrary burden on the wants and luxury of the subject. “As soon " (I transcribe the Anecdotes) “as the exclusive sale of silk was usurped by the Imperial treasurer, a whole people, the manufacturers of Tyre and Berytus, was reduced to extreme misery, and either perished with hunger, or fled to the hostile dominions of Persia.” A province might suffer by the decay of its manufactures, but in this example of silk, Procopius has partially overlooked the inestimable and lasting benefit which the empire received from the curiosity of Justinian. His addition of one-seventh to the ordinary price of copper money may be interpreted with the same candor; and the alteration, which might be wise, appears to have been innocent; since he neither alloyed the purity, nor enhanced the value, of the gold coin,” the legal measure of public and private payments. V. The ample jurisdiction required by the farmers of the revenue to accomplish their engagements might be placed in an odious light, as if they had purchased from the emperor the lives and fortunes of their fellow-citizens. And a more direct sale of honors and offices was transacted in the palace, with the permission, or at least with the connivance, of Justinian and Theodora. The claims of merit, even those of favor, were disregarded, and it was almost reasonable to expect, that the bold adventurer, who had undertaken the trade of a magistrate, should find a rich compensation for infamy, labor, danger, the debts which he had contracted, and the heavy interest which he paid. A sense of the disgrace and mischief of this venal practice, at length awakened the slumbering virtue of Justinian; and he attempted, by the sanction of oaths” and penalties, to guard the integrity of his government: but at the end of a year of perjury, his rigorous edict was suspended, and corruption licentiously abused her triumph over the impotence of the laws. VI. The testament of Eulalius, count of the domestics, declared the emperor his sole heir, on condition, however, that he should discharge his debts and legacies, allow * For an aureus, one-sixth of an ounce of gold, instead of 210, he gave no more than 180 folles, or ounces of copper. A disproportion of the mint, below the market price, must have soon produced a scarcity of small money. In England twelve pence in copper would sell for no more than seven pence (Smith's Inquiry into the Wealth of Nations, vol. i. p. 49). For Justinian's gold coin, see Evagrius (l. iv. c. 30). * The oath is conceived in the most formidable words (Novell. viii. tit. 3). The defaulters imprecate on themselves, quicquid habent telorum armamentaria coeli ;
86 John Malala (tom. ii. p. 232) mentions the vast of bread, and Zonaras (1.
xiv. p. 63) the leaden pipes, which Justinian, or us servants, stole from the aqueducts.
* Hullman (Geschichte des Byzantinischen Handels, p. 15) shows that the despotism of the government was aggravated by the unchecked rapacity of the officers. This state ongols, even of corn, wine, and oil, was in force at the time of the first crusade.—M.
the part of Judas, the leprosy of Giezi, the tremor of Cain, &c., besides all temporal pains. * A similar or more generous act of friendship is related by Lucian of Eudamidas of Corinth (in Toxare, c. 22, 23, tom. ii. p. 530), and the story has produced an ingenious, though feeble, comedy of Fontenelle.
to his three daughters a decent maintenance, and bestow each of them in marriage, with a portion of ten pounds of gold. But the splendid fortune of Eulalius had been consumed by fire, and the inventory of his goods did not exceed the trifling sum of five hundred and sixty-four pieces of gold. A similar instance, in Grecian history, admonished the emperor of the honorable part prescribed for his imita. tion. He checked the selfish murmurs of the treasury, applauded the confidence of his friend, discharged the legacies and debts, educated the three virgins under the eye of the empress Theodora, and doubled the marriage portion which had satisfied the tenderness of their father.” The humanity of a prince (for princes cannot be generous) is entitled to some praise; yet even in this act of virtue we may discover the inveterate custom of supplanting the legal or natural heirs, which Procopius imputes to the reign of Justinian. His charge is supported by (minent names and scandalous examples; neither widows nor orphans were spared; and the art of soliciting, or extorting, or supposing testaments, was beneficially practised by the agents of the palace. This base and mischievous tyranny invades the security of private life; and the monarch who has indulged an appetite for gain, will soon be tempted to anticipate the moment of succession, to interpret wealth as an evidence of guilt, and to proceed, from the claim of inheritance, to the power of confiscation. VII. Among the forms of rapine, a philosopher may be permitted to name the conversion of Pagan or heretical riches to the use of the faithful ; but in the time of Justinian this holy plunder was condemned by the sectaries alone, who became the victims of his orthcolox avarice.99 Dishonor might be ultimately reflected on the character of Justinian; but much of the guilt, and still more of the profit, was intercepted by the ministers, who were seldom promoted for their virtues, and not always selected for their talents.” The merits of Tribonian the quaestor will hereafter be weighed in the reformation of the Roman law; but the economy of the East was subordinate to the Praetorian prefect, and Procopius has justified his anecdotes by the portrait which he exposes in his public history, of the notorious vices of John of Cappadocia.” His knowledge was not borrowed from the schools,” and his style was scarcely legible; but he excelled in the powers of native genius, to suggest the wisest counsels, and to find expedients in the most desperate situations. The corruption of his heart was equal to the vigor of his understanding. Although he was suspected of magic and Pagan superstition, he appeared insensible to the fear of God or the reproaches of man; and his aspiring fortune was raised on the death of thousands, the poverty of millions, the ruins of cities, and the desolation of provinces. From the dawn of light to the moment of dinner, he assiduously labored to enrich his master and himself at the expense of the Roman world; the remainder of the day was spent in sensual and obscene pleasures,f and the silent hours of the night were interrupted by the perpetual dread of the justice of an assassin. His abilities, perhaps his vices, recommended him to the kasting friendship of Justinian: the emperor yielded with reluctance to the fury of the people; his victory was displayed by the immediate restoration of their enemy; and they felt above ten years, under his oppressive administration, that he was stimulated by revenge, rather than instructed by misfortune. Their murmurs served only to fortify the resolution of Justinian; but the praefect, in the insolence of favor, provoked the resentment of Theodora, disdained a power before which every knee was bent, and attempted to sow the seeds of discord between the emperor and his beloved consort. Even Theodora herself was constrained to dissemble, to wait a favorable moment, and, by an artful conspiracy, to render John of Cappadocia the accomplice of his own destruction.* At a time when Belisarius, unless he had been a hero, must have shown himself a rebel, his wife Antonina, who enjoyed the secret confidence of the empress, communicated his feigned discontent to Euphemia, the daughter of the praefect; the credulous virgin imparted to her father the dangerous project, and John, who might have known the value of oaths and promises, was tempted to accept a nocturnal, and almost treasonable interview with the wife of Belisarius. An ambuscade of guards and eunuchs had been posted by the command of Theodora; they rushed with drawn swords to seize or to punish the guilty minister: he was sayed by the fidelity of his attendants; but instead of appealing to a gracious sovereign, who had privately warned him of his danger, he pusillanimously fled to the sanctuary of the church. The favorite of Justinian was sacrificed to conjugal tenderness or domestic tranquillity; the conversion of a praefect into a priest extinguished his ambitious hopes; but the friendship of the emperor alleviated his disgrace, and he retained in the mild exile of Cyzicus an ample portion of his riches. Such imperfect revenge could not satisfy the unrelenting hatred of Theodora; the murder of his old enemy, the bishop of Cyzicus, afforded a decent pretence; and John of Cappadocia, whose actions had deserved a thousand deaths, was at last condemned for a crime of which he was innocent. A great minister, who had been invested with the honors of consul and patrician, was ignominiously scourged like the vilest of . malefactors; a tattered cloak was the sole remnant of his fortunes; he was transported in a bark to the place of his banishment at Antinopolis in Upper Egypt, and the praefect of the East begged his bread through the cities which had trembled at his name. . During an exile of seven years, his life was protracted and threatened by the ingenious cruelty of Theodora; and when her death permitted the emperor to recall a servant whom he had abandoned with regret, the ambition of John of Cappadocia was reduced to the humble duties of the sacerdotal profession. His successors convinced the subjects of Justinian, that the arts of oppression might still be improved by experience and industry; the frauds of a Syrian banker were introduced into the admin
90 John Malala, tom. ii. pp. 101, 102, 103.
* One of these, Anatolius, perished in an earthquake—doubtless a judgment The complaints and clamors of the people in A oathias (l. v. pp. 1.16, 147) are almost an echo of the anecdote. The aliena pecunia reddenda of Corippus (l. ii. &1, &c.) is not very honorable to Justinian's memory.
*See the history and character of John of Cappadocia in Procopius (Persic, 1. i. e. 24, 25, l. ii. e. 30. Vandal. l. i. c. 13. Anecdot, c. 2, 17, 22). The agreement of the history and anecdotes is a mortal wound to the reputation of the praefect.
* Ow Yàp &AAo ovlev is yeapuario row bottov inadev, or, An Ypéupata kai rajra Kaká kakos Ypayat-a forcible expression.
* This yiew, particularly of the cruelty of John of Cappadocia, is confirmed by the testimony of Joannes Lydus, who was in the office of the praefect, and eyewitness of the tortures inflicted by his command on the misèrable debtors, or supposed debtors, of the state. He mentions one horrible instance of a respectable old man, with whom he was personally acquainted, who, being suspected of ho money; was hung up by the hands until he was dead. Lydus de Magist.
ib. iii. c. 57, p.254.—M.
t Joannes Lydus is diffuse on this subject, lib. iii, c. 65, p. 268., . But the indignot virtue of Lydus seems greatly stimulated by the loss of his official fees, which he ascribes to the innovations of the minister.-M.
*According to Lydus, Theodora disclosed the crimes and unpopularity of the minister to Justinian, but the emperor had not the courage to remove, and was . unable to replace, a servant, under whom his finances seemed to prosper. e attributes the sedition and conflagration called the vika (see p. 62) to the popular *entiment against the tyranny of John, lib. iii. c.70, p. 278. Unfortunately, there is a large gap in his work just at this period.—M