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JUSTINIAN rAYOUES THE BLUES. [CH. XL.
"who were persecuted by their enemies, and deserted by the magistrate, assumed the privilege of defence, perhaps of retaliation: but those who survived the combat were dragged to execution, and the unhappy fugitives escaping to woods and caverns, preyed without mercy on the society from whence they were expelled. Those ministers of justice who had courage to punish the crimes, and to brave the resentment, of the blues, became the victims of their indiscreet zeal: a prefect of Constantinople fled for refuge to the holy sepulchre; a count of the East was ignominiously whipped, and a governor of Cilicia was hanged, by the order of Theodora, on the tomb of two assassins whom he had condemned for the murder of his groom, and a daring attack upon his own life.* An aspiring candidate may be tempted to build his greatness on the public confusion, but it is the interest as well as duty of a sovereign to maintain the authority of the laws. The first edict of Justinian, which was often repeated, and sometimes executed, announced his firm resolution to support the innocent, and to chastise the guilty, of every denomination and colour. Yet the balance 'of justice was still inclined in favour of the bine faction, by I the secret affection, the habits, and the fears of the emperor; his equity, after an apparent struggle, submitted, without reluctance, to the implacable passions of Theodora, and the empress never forgot, or forgave, the injuries of the comedian. At the accession of the younger Justin, the proclamation of equal and rigorous justice indirectly condemned the partiality of the former reigns. "Ye blues, Justinian is no more! ye greens, he is still alive!"f
A sedition, which almost laid Constantinople in ashes, was excited by the mutual hatred and momentary reconciliation of the two factious. In the fifth year of his reign, Justinian celebrated the festival of the ides of January: the
a blue coat, threw herself into the Bosphorus. The bishops of the second Syria (Aleman. p. 26,1 deplore a similar suicide, the guilt or glory of female chastity, and name the heroine. * The
doubtful credit of Procopius (Anecdot. c. 17,) is supported by the less partial Evagrius, who confirms the fact, and specifies the names. The tragic fate of the prefect of Constantinople is related by John Malalas. (tom. ii, p. 139.) + See John Malalas (tom. ii, p. 147); yet
he owns that Justinian was attached to the blues. The seeming discord of the emperor and Theodora, is perhaps viewed with too much jealousy and refinement by Procopius. (Anecdot. c. 10.) See Aleman.
games were incessantly disturbed by the clamorous discontent of the greens; till the twenty-second race, the emperor maintained his silent gravity; at length yielding to his impatience, he condescended to hold, in abrupt sentences, and by the voice of a crier, the most singular dialogue * that ever passed between a prince and his subjects. The first complaints were respectful and modest; they accused the subordinate ministers of oppression, and proclaimed their wishes for the long life and victory of the emperor. "Be patient and attentive, ye insolent railers," exclaimed Justinian!" be mute, ye Jews, Samaritans, and \ Manichseans!" The greens still attempted to awaken his V compassion. "We are poor, we are innocent, we are injured, I we dare not pass through the streets: a general persecution is exercised against our name and colour. Let us die, O emperor! but let us die by your command, and for your service!" But the repetition of partial and passionate invectives degraded, in their eyes, the majesty of the purple; they renounced allegiance to the prince who refused justice to his people; lamented that the father of Justinian had been born; and branded his son with the opprobrious names of homicide, an ass, and a perjured tyrant. "Do you despise your lives?" cried the indignant monarch: the blues rose with fury from their seats; their hostile clamours thundered in the hippodrome; and their adversaries, deserting the unequal contest, spread terror and despair through the streets of Constantinople. At this dangerous moment seven notorious assassins of both factions, who had been condemned by the prefect, were carried round the city, and afterwards transported to the place of execution in the suburb of Pera. Four were immediately beheaded; a fifth was hanged: but when the same punishment was inflicted on the remaining two, the rope broke, they fell alive to the ground, the populace applauded their escape, and the monks of St. Conon, issuing from the neighbouring convent, conveyed them in a boat to the sanctuary of the church.f As*
Praefat. p. 6. * This dialogue, which Theophanes has pre
served, exhibits the popular language, as well as the manners, of Constantinople in the sixth century. Their Greek is mingled with many strange and barbarous words, for which Ducange cannot always find a meaning or etymology. + See this church and
monastery in Ducange, C. P. Christiana, 1 . 4, p. 182.
VOL. IT- *
one of these criminals was of the blue, and the other of the green livery, the two factions were equally provoked by the cruelty of their oppressor, or the ingratitude of their patron; and a short truce was concluded till they had delivered their prisoners and satisfied their revenge. The palace of the prefect, who withstood the seditious torrent, was instantly burnt, his officers and guards were massacred, the prisons were forced open, and freedom was restored to those who could only use it for the public destruction. A military force, which had been dispatched to the aid of the civil magistrate, was fiercely encountered by an armed multitude, whose numbers and boldness continually increased; and the Heruli, the wildest barbarians in the service ot the empire, overturned the priests and their relics, which, from a pious motive, had been rashly interposed to separate the bloody conflict. The tumult was exasperated by this sacrilege, the people fought with enthusiasm in the cause of God; the women from the roofs and windows showered stones on the heads of the soldiers, who darted firebrands against the houses; and the various flames, which had been kindled by the hands of citizens and strangers, spread without control over the face of the city. The conflagration involved the cathedral of St. Sophia, the baths of Zeuxippus, a part of the palace from the first entrance to the altar of Mars, and the long portico from the palace to the forum of Constantine; a large hospital, with the sick patients, was consumed; many churches and stately edifices were destroyed, and an immense treasure of gold and silver was either melted or lost. From such scenes of horror and distress, the wise and wealthy citizens escaped over the Bosphorus to the Asiatic side; and, during five clays, Constantinople was abandoned to the factions, whose watchword, Nika, vanquish! has given a name to this memorable sedition.*
As long as the factions were divided, the triumphant blues, and desponding greens, appeared to behold with the same indifference the disorders of the state. They agreed to censure the corrupt management of justice and the
* The history of the Nika sedition is extracted from Mareellinus (in Chron.), Procopius (Persic. 1 . 1, o. 26), John Malalas (tom. ii, p. 213 —218), Chron. Paschal. (336—340), Theophanes (Chronograph. p. 154 —158), and Zonaras (l . 14, p. 61—63).
finance; and the two responsible ministers, the artful Tribonian, and the rapacious John of Cappadocia, were loudly arraigned as the authors of the public misery. The peaceful murmurs of the people would have been disregarded; they were heard with respect when the city was in flames; the queestor, and the prefect, were instantly removed, and their offices were filled by two senators of blameless integrity. After this popular concession, Justinian proceeded to the hippodrome to confess his own errors, and to accept the repentance of his grateful subjects; but they distrusted his assurances, though solemnly pronounced in the presence of the holy gospels; and the emperor alarmed by their distrust, retreated with precipitation to the strong fortress of the palace. The obstinacy of the tumult was now imputed to a secret and ambitious conspiracy, and a suspicion was entertained, that the insurgents, more especially the green faction, had been supplied with arms and money by Hypatius and Pompey, two patricians, who could neither forget with honour, nor remember with safety, that they were the nephews of the emperor Anastasiua. Capriciously trusted, disgraced, and pardoned, by the jealous levity of the monarch, they had appeared as loyal servants before the throne; and during five days of the tumult, they were detained as important hostages; till at length, the fears of Justinian prevailing over his prudence, he viewed the two brothers in the light of spies, perhaps of assassins, and sternly commanded them to depart from the palace. After a fruitless representation, that obedience might lead to involuntary treason, they retired to their houses, and in the morning of the sixth day, Hypatius was surrounded and seized by the people, who, regardless of his virtuous resistance, and the tears of his wife, transported their favourite to the forum of Constantine, and, instead of a diadem, placed a rich collar on his head. If the usurper, who afterwards pleaded the merit of his delay, had complied with the advice of his senate, and urged the fury of the multitude, their first irresistible effort might have oppressed or expelled his trembling competitor. The Byzantine palace enjoyed a free communication with the sea; vessels lay ready at the garden stairs; and a secret resolution was already formed, to convey the emperor with his family and treasures to a safe retreat, at some distance from the capital.
Justinian was lost, if the prostitute whom he raised from the theatre had not renounced the timidity, as well as the virtues, of her sex. In the midst of a council, where Belisarius was present, Theodora alone displayed the spirit of a hero; and she alone, without apprehending his luture hatred, could save the emperor from the imminent danger, and his unworthy fears. "If flight," said the consort of Justinian, "were the only means of safety, yet I should disdain to fly. Death is the condition of our birth; but they who have reigned should never survive the loss of dignity and dominion. I implore Heaven that I may never be seen, not a day, without my diadem and purple; that I may no longer behold the light, when I cease to be saluted with the name of queen. If you resolve, O Caesar! to fly, you have treasures; behold the sea, you have ships; but tremble lest the desire of life should expose you to wretched exile and ignominious death. For my own part, I adhere to the maxim of antiquity, that the throne is a glorious sepulchre." The firmness of a woman restored the courage to deliberate and act, and courage soon discovers the resources of the most desperate situation. It was an easy and a decisive measure to revive the animosity of the factions: the blues were astonished at their own guilt and folly, that a trifling injury should provoke them to conspire with their implacable enemies against a gracious and liberal benefactor; they again proclaimed the majesty of Justinian, and the greens, with their upstart emperor, were left alone in the hippodrome. The fidelity of the guards was doubtful: but the military force of Justinian consisted in three thousand veterans, who had been trained to valour and discipline in the Persian and Ulyrian wars. Under the command of Belisarius and Mundus,* they silently marched in two divisions from the palace, forced their obscure way through narrow passages, expiring flames, and falling edifices, and burst open at the same moment the two opposite gates of the hippodrome. In this narrow space, the disorderly and affrighted crowd was incapable of resisting on either side
* [According to Marcellinus, Mundus was a Goth ; according to Jornandes he was a descendant of one of Attila's followers. He attached himself to Theodorie, king of Italy, after whose death he entered into the service of Justinian. In 529 he was general of IUyricum, and successfully guarded Thrace against the Bulgarians. Clinton, F. B, i, 722.