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Michael the second, who, from a defect in his speech, CHAP: was surnamed the Stammerer. He was snatched from * the fiery furnace to the sovereignty of an empire; and ..."

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the fetters remained on his legs several hours after p.3." he was seated on the throne of the Caesars. The royal blood which had been the price of his elevation was unprofitably spent: in the purple he retained the ignoble vices of his origin; and Michael lost his provinces with as supine indifference as if they had been the inheritance of his fathers. His title was disputed by Thomas, the last of the military triumvirate, who transported into Europe fourscore thousand barbarians from the banks of the Tigris and the shores of the Caspian. He formed the siege of Constantinople; but the capital was defended with spiritual and carnal weapons; a Bulgarian king assaulted the camp of the Orientals, and Thomas had the misfortune, or the weakness, to fall alive into the power of the conqueror. The hands and feet of the rebel were amputated; he was placed on an ass, and, amidst the insults of the people, was led through the streets, which he sprinkled with his blood. The depravation of manners, as savage as they were corrupt, is marked by the presence of the emperor himself. Deaf to the lamentations of a fellow-soldier, he incessantly pressed the discovery of more accomplices, till his curiosity was checked by the question of an honest or guilty minister: “Would you give credit to an enemy, against the most faithful of your friends?” After the death of his first wife, the emperor, at the request of the senate, drew from her monastery Euphrosyne, the daughter of Constantine the sixth. Her august birth might justify a stipulation in the marriage-contract, that her children should equally share the empire with their elder brother. But the nuptials of Michael and Euphrosyne were barren;

CHAP. and she was content with the title of mother of XLVIII. Theophilus, his son and successor. Theophilos, The character of Theophilus is a rare example in ociober 3, which religious zeal has allowed, and perhaps magnified, the virtues of a heretic and a persecutor. His valour was often felt by the enemies, and his justice by the subjects, of the monarchy; but the valour of Theophilus was rash and fruitless, and his justice arbitrary and cruel. He displayed the banner of the cross against the Saracens; but his five expeditions were concluded by a signal overthrow; Amorium, the native city of his ancestors, was levelled with the ground; and from his military toils he derived only the surname of the Unfortunate. The wisdom of a sovereign is comprised in the institution of laws and the choice of magistrates, and while he seems without action, his civil government revolves round his centre with the silence and order of the planetary system. But the justice of Theophilus was fashioned on the model of the oriental despots, who, in personal and irregular acts of authority, consult the reason or passion of the moment, without measuring the sentence by the law, or the penalty by the offence. A poor woman threw herself at the emperor's feet to complain of a powerful neighbour, the brother of the empress, who had raised his palace-wall to such an inconvenient height, that her humble dwelling was excluded from light and air! On the proof of the fact, instead of granting, like an ordinary judge, sufficient or ample damages to the plaintiff, the sovereign adjudged to her use and benefit the palace and the ground. Nor was Theophilus content with this extravagant satisfaction: his zeal converted a civil trespass into a criminal act; and the unfortunate patrician was stripped and scourged in the public place of Constantinople. For some venial offences, some defect of equity or vigilance, the principal ministers a praefect, a quastor, a captain of the guards, were CHAP.

banished, or mutilated, or scalded with boiling pitc
or burnt alive in the hippodrome; and as these dread-
ful examples might be the effects of error or caprice,
they must have alienated from his service the best
and wisest of the citizens. But the pride of the
monarch was flattered in the exercise of power, or,
as he thought, of virtue; and the people, safe in their
obscurity, applauded the danger and debasement of
their superiors. This extraordinary rigour was jus-
tified, in some measure, by its salutary consequences;
since, after a scrutiny of seventeen days, not a com-
plaint or abuse could be found in the court or city:
and it might be alleged that the Greeks could be
ruled only with a rod of iron, and that the public
interest is the motive and law of the supreme judge.
Yet in the crime, or the suspicion, of treason, that
judge is of all others the most credulous and partial.
Theophilus might inflict a tardy vengeance on the
assassins of Leo and the saviours of his father; but
he enjoyed the fruits of their crime; and his jealous
tyranny sacrificed a brother and a prince to the future
safety of his life. A Persian of the race of the Sas-
sanides died in poverty and exile at Constantinople,
leaving an only son, the issue of a plebeian marriage.
At the age of twelve years, the royal birth of Theo-
phobus was revealed, and his merit was not unworthy
of his birth. He was educated in the Byzantine palace,
a Christian and a soldier; advanced with rapid steps
in the career of fortune and glory; received the hand
of the emperor's sister; and was promoted to the
command of thirty thousand Persians, who, like his
father, had fled from the Mahometan conquerors.
These troops, doubly infected with mercenary and
fanatic vices, were desirous of revolting against their
benefactor, and erecting the standard of their native
king: but the loyal Theophobus rejected their offers,
VOL. VI. K

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chap. disconcerted their schemes, and escaped from their *** hands to the camp or palace of his royal brother. A

generous confidence might have secured a faithful
and able guardian for his wife and his infant son, to
whom Theophilus, in the flower of his age, was com-
pelled to leave the inheritance of the empire. But
his jealousy was exasperated by envy and disease: he
feared the dangerous virtues which might either sup-
port or oppress their infancy and weakness; and the
dying emperor demanded the head of the Persian
prince. With savage delight, he recognized the fa-
miliar features of his brother: “Thou art no longer
Theophobus,” he said: and, sinking on his couch, he
added, with a faltering voice, “Soon, too soon, I
shall be no more Theophilus!”
The Russians, who have borrowed from the Greeks
the greatest part of their civil and ecclesiastical policy,
preserved, till the last century, a singular institution
in the marriage of the Czar. They collected, not
the virgins of every rank and of every province, a
vain and romantic idea, but the daughters of the
principal nobles, who awaited in the palace the choice
of their sovereign. It is affirmed, that a similar
method was adopted in the nuptials of Theophilus.
With a golden apple in his hand, he slowly walked
between two lines of contending beauties; his eye
was detained by the charms of Icasia, and, in the
awkwardness of a first declaration, the prince could
only observe, that, in this world, women had been
the cause of much evil: “And surely, sir,” she pertly
replied, “they have likewise been the occasion of
much good.” This affectation of unseasonable wit
displeased the imperial lover: he turned aside in dis-
gust; Icasia concealed her mortification in a convent;
and the modest silence of Theodora was rewarded
with the golden apple. She deserved the love, but
did not escape the severity, of her lord. From the
palace garden he beheld a vessel deeply laden, and
steering into the port: on the discovery that the pre-
cious cargo of Syrian luxury was the property of his
wife, he condemned the ship to the flames, with a
sharp reproach, that her avarice had degraded the
character of an empress into that of a merchant. Yet
his last choice intrusted her with the guardianship
of the empire and her son Michael, who was left an
orphan in the fifth year of his age. The restoration
of images, and the final extirpation of the Iconoclasts,
has endeared her name to the devotion of the Greeks;
but in the fervour of religious zeal, Theodora enter-
tained a grateful regard for the memory and salvation
of her husband. After thirteen years of a prudent
and frugal administration, she perceived the decline
of her influence; but the second Irene imitated only
the virtues of her predecessor. Instead of conspiring
against the life or government of her son, she retired,
without a struggle, though not without a murmur,
to the solitude of private life, deploring the ingrati-
tude, the vices, and the inevitable ruin, of the worth-
less youth.
Among the successors of Nero and Elagabalus, we
have not hitherto found the imitation of their vices,
the character of a Roman prince who considered plea-
sure as the object of life, and virtue as the enemy of
pleasure. Whatever might have been the maternal
care of Theodora in the education of Michael the
third, her unfortunate son was a king before he was
a man. If the ambitious mother laboured to check
the progress of reason, she could not cool the ebul-
lition of passion, and her selfish policy was justly re-
paid by the contempt and ingratitude of the head-
strong youth. At the age of eighteen, he rejected
her authority, without feeling his own incapacity to
govern the empire and himself. With Theodora,
all gravity and wisdom retired from the court; their

CHAP. XLVIII.

Michael
III.
A. D. 842,
January 20.

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