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spiritual affinity was opposed to their celebration; and chap. 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 condemned. In a private citizen, our judgment seldom expects an accurate scrutiny into his fortune and expense; and in a steward of the public treasure, frugality 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, John Ziand served under his standard, a noble and valiant misces, Armenian had deserved and obtained the most emi. Constannent rewards. The stature of John Zimisces was A. D. 969, below the ordinary standard; but this diminutive Dec. 25. 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. 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
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 repeatedly 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 chap. 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 virtues. 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 deserved the titles of saviour of the empire, and conqueror 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.
166 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 treasures 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, Basil II. the two lawful emperors, Basil and Constantine, had stantine ix. silently grown to the age of manhood. Their tender A. D. 976,
January 10. 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 childless ambition of those guardians had no temptation to violate their right of succession: their patrimony was ably and faithfully administered; and the premature death of Zimisces was a loss, rather than a benefit, to the sons of Romanus. Their want of experience detained them twelve years longer the ob
CHAP scure and voluntary pupils of a minister, who extended
his reign by persuading them to indulge the pleasures
Basil was the ac-
of a soldier. A vicious education, which could not CHAP.
XLVIII. 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, A.D. 1025 of royalty; and his only care was the settlement of December. 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 Argyrus, of the Greeks to the Macedonian dynasty, which had A.D. 1028, 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