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spiritual affinity was opposed to their celebration; and
some evasion and perjury were required to silence the
scruples of the clergy and people. The popularity
of the emperor was lost in the purple: in a reign of
six years he provoked the hatred of strangers and
subjects; and the hypocrisy and avarice of the first
Nicephorus were revived in his successor. Hypocrisy
I shall never justify or palliate; but I will dare to
observe, that the odious vice of avarice is of all others
most hastily arraigned, and most unmercifully con-
demned. In a private citizen, our judgment seldom
expects an accurate scrutiny into his fortune and ex-
pense; and in a steward of the public treasure, fru-
gality is always a virtue, and the increase of taxes
too often an indispensable duty. In the use of his
patrimony, the generous temper of Nicephorus had
been proved; and the revenue was strictly applied
to the service of the state: each spring the emperor
marched in person against the Saracens; and every
Roman might compute the employment of his taxes
in triumphs, conquests, and the security of the eastern
barrier.
Among the warriors who promoted his elevation,
and served under his standard, a noble and valiant
Armenian had deserved and obtained the most emi-
ment rewards. The stature of John Zimisces was
below the ordinary standard; but this diminutive
body was endowed with strength, beauty, and the
soul of a hero. By the jealousy of the emperor's
brother, he was degraded from the office of general
of the East, to that of director of the posts, and his
murmurs were chastised with disgrace and exile. But
Zimisces was ranked among the numerous lovers of
the empress; on her intercession, he was permitted
to reside at Chalcedon, in the neighbourhood of the
capital: her bounty was repaid in his clandestine and
amorous visits to the palace; and Theophano con-

CHAP. XLVIII.

John Zi-
misces,
Basil II.
Constan-
time IX.
A. D. 969,
Dec. 25.

+ CHAP.

XLVIII.

sented, with alacrity, to the death of an ugly and penurious husband. Some bold and trusty conspirators were concealed in her most private chambers: in the darkness of a winter night, Zimisces, with his principal companions, embarked in a small boat, traversed the Bosphorus, landed at the palace stairs, and silently ascended a ladder of ropes, which was cast down by the female attendants. Neither his own suspicions, nor the warnings of his friends, nor the tardy aid of his brother Leo, nor the fortress which he had erected in the palace, could protect Nicephorus from a domestic foe, at whose voice every door was opened to the assassins. As he slept on a bear-skin, on the ground, he was roused by their noisy intrusion, and thirty daggers glittered before his eyes. It is doubtful whether Zimisces imbrued his hands in the blood of his sovereign; but he enjoyed the inhuman spectacle of revenge. The murder was protracted by insult and cruelty; and as soon as the head of Nicephorus was shown from the window, the tumult was hushed, and the Armenian was emperor of the East. On the day of his coronation, he was stopped on the threshold of St. Sophia, by the intrepid patriarch; who charged his conscience with the deed of treason and blood; and required, as a sign of repentance, that he should separate himself from his more criminal associate. This sally of apostolic zeal was not offensive to the prince, since he could neither love nor trust a woman who had re

peatedly violated the most sacred obligations; and

Theophano, instead of sharing his imperial fortune, was dismissed with ignominy from his bed and palace. In their last interview, she displayed a frantic and impotent rage; accused the ingratitude of her lover; assaulted, with words and blows, her son Basil, as he stood silent and submissive in the presence of a superior colleague; and avowed her own prostitution,

in proclaiming the illegitimacy of his birth. The
public indignation was appeased by her exile, and
the punishment of the meaner accomplices: the death
of an unpopular prince was forgiven; and the guilt
of Zimisces was forgotten in the splendour of his vir-
tues. Perhaps his profusion was less useful to the
state than the avarice of Nicephorus; but his gentle
and generous behaviour delighted all who approached
his person; and it was only in the paths of victory
that he trod in the footsteps of his predecessor. The
greatest part of his reign was employed in the camp
and the field: his personal valour and activity were
signalized on the Danube and the Tigris, the ancient
boundaries of the Roman world; and by his double
triumph over the Russians and the Saracens, he de-
served the titles of saviour of the empire, and con-
queror of the East. In his last return from Syria,
he observed that the most fruitful lands of his new
provinces were possessed by the eunuchs. “And is
it for them,” he exclaimed, with honest indignation,
“that we have fought and conquered? Is it for
them that we shed our blood, and exhaust the trea-
sures of our people?” The complaint was re-echoed
to the palace, and the death of Zimisces is strongly
marked with the suspicion of poison.
Under this usurpation, or regency, of twelve years,
the two lawful emperors, Basil and Constantine, had
silently grown to the age of manhood. Their tender
years had been incapable of dominion: the respectful
modesty of their attendance and salutation was due
to the age and merit of their guardians: the child-
less ambition of those guardians had no temptation
to violate their right of succession: their patrimony
was ably and faithfully administered; and the pre-
mature death of Zimisces was a loss, rather than a
benefit, to the sons of Romanus. Their want of ex-
perience detained them twelve years longer the ob-

CHAP. XLVIII.

Basil II. and Constantine IX. A. D. 976, January 10. CHAP. XLVIII.

scure and voluntary pupils of a minister, who extended his reign by persuading them to indulge the pleasures of youth, and to disdain the labours of government. In this silken web, the weakness of Constantine was for ever entangled; but his elder brother felt the impulse of genius and the desire of action; he frowned, and the minister was no more. Basil was the acknowledged sovereign of Constantinople and the provinces of Europe; but Asia was oppressed by two veteran generals, Phocas and Sclerus, who, altermately friends and enemies, subjects and rebels, maintained their independence, and laboured to emulate the example of successful usurpation. Against these domestic enemies the son of Romanus first drew his sword, and they trembled in the presence of a lawful and high-spirited prince. The first, in the front of battle, was thrown from his horse, by the stroke of poison, or an arrow: the second, who had been twice loaded with chains, and twice invested with the purple, was desirous of ending in peace the small remainder of his days. As the aged suppliant approached the throne, with dim eyes and faltering steps, leaning on his two attendants, the emperor exclaimed, in the insolence of youth and power, “And is this the man who has so long been the object of our terror?” After he had confirmed his own authority, and the peace of the empire, the trophies of Nicephorus and Zimisces would not suffer their royal pupil to sleep in the palace. His long and frequent expeditions against the Saracens were rather glorious than useful to the empire; but the final destruction of the kingdom of Bulgaria appears, since the time of Belisarius, the most important triumph of the Roman arms. Yet instead of applauding their victorious prince, his subjects detested the rapacious and rigid avarice of Basil; and in the imperfect narrative of his exploits, we can only discern the courage, patience, and ferociousness, of a soldier. A vicious education, which could not CHAP. subdue his spirit, had clouded his mind; he was “* ignorant of every science; and the remembrance of his learned and feeble grandsire might encourage his real or affected contempt of laws and lawyers, of artists and arts. Of such a character, in such an age, superstition took a firm and lasting possession; after the first licence of his youth, Basil the second devoted his life, in the palace and the camp, to the penance of a hermit, wore the monastic habit under his robes and armour, observed a vow of continence, and imposed on his appetites a perpetual abstinence from wine and flesh. In the sixty-eighth year of his age his martial spirit urged him to embark in person for a holy war against the Saracens of Sicily; he was prevented by death, and Basil, surnamed the Slayer of the Bulgarians, was dismissed from the world, with the blessings of the clergy and the curses of the people. After his decease, his brother Constantine enjoyed, Constanabout three years, the power, or rather the pleasures, Woods of royalty; and his only care was the settlement of P* the succession. He had enjoyed sixty-six years the title of Augustus; and the reign of the two brothers is the longest and most obscure of the Byzantine history. A lineal succession of five emperors, in a period of Romanus one hundred and sixty years, had attached the loyalty on. of the Greeks to the Macedonian dynasty, which had ...” been thrice respected by the usurpers of their power. After the death of Constantine the ninth, the last male of the royal race, a new and broken scene presents itself, and the accumulated years of twelve emperors do not equal the space of his single reign. His elder brother had preferred his private chastity to the public interest, and Constantine himself had only three daughters; Eudocia, who took the veil, and Zoe and Theodora, who were preserved till a

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