foreign and domestic enemies of the state. The de- CHAP. cline of his health and vigour suspended the operation of active virtue; and the prospect of approaching death determined him to interpose some moments between life and eternity. But instead of leaving the empire as the marriage portion of his daughter, his reason and inclination concurred in the preference of his brother John, a soldier, a patriot, and the father of five sons, the future pillars of an hereditary succession. His first modest reluctance might be the natural dictates of discretion and tenderness, but his obstinate and successful perseverance, how


may dazzle with the show of virtue, must be censured as a criminal desertion of his duty, and a rare offence against his family and country. The purple which he had refused was accepted by Constantine Ducas, a friend of the Comnenian house, and whose noble birth was adorned with the experience and reputation of civil policy. In the monastic habit, Isaac recovered his health, and survived two years his voluntary abdication. At the command of his abbot, he observed the rule of St. Basil, and executed the most servile offices of the convent: but his latent vanity was gratified by the frequent and respectful visits of the reigning monarch, who revered in his person the character of a benefactor and a saint.

If Constantine the eleventh were indeed the sub-Constanject most worthy of empire, we must pity the debase- Ducas, ment of the age and nation in which he was chosen. A.D. 1059, In the labour of puerile declamations he sought, without obtaining, the crown of eloquence, more precious, in his opinion, than that of Rome; and, in the subordinate functions of a judge, he forgot the duties of a sovereign and a warrior. Far from imitating the patriotic indifference of the authors of his greatness, Ducas was anxious only to secure, at the expense of the republic, the power and prosperity of

tine XI.

Dec. 25.


A.D. 1067,

CHAP. his children. His three sons, Michael the seventh,

Andronicus the first, and Constantine the twelfth, were invested, in a tender age, with the equal title

of Augustus; and the succession was speedily opened Eudocia,, by their father's death. His widow, Eudocia, was May. intrusted with the administration; but experience

had taught the jealousy of the dying monarch to protect his sons from the danger of her second nuptials; and her solemn engagement, attested by the principal senators, was deposited in the hands of the patriarch. Before the end of seven months, the wants of Eudocia, or those of the state, called aloud for the male virtues of a soldier; and her heart had already chosen Romanus Diogenes, whom she had raised from the scaffold to the throne. The discovery of a treasonable attempt had exposed him to the severity of the laws : his beauty and valour absolved him in the eyes of the empress; and Romanus, from a mild exile, was recalled on the second day to the command of the oriental armies. Her royal choice was yet unknown to the public; and the promise which would have betrayed her falsehood and levity was stolen by a dexterous emissary from the ambition of the patriarch. Xiphilin at first alleged the sanctity of oaths and the sacred nature of a trust; but a whisper, that his brother was the future emperor, relaxed his scruples, and forced him to confess that the public safety was the supreme law. He resigned the important paper: and

when his hopes were confounded by the nomination Romanus of Romanus, he could no longer regain his security,

retract his declarations, nor oppose the second nupA.D. 1067, tials of the empress. Yet a murmur was heard in August

the palace; and the barbarian guards had raised their battle-axes in the cause of the house of Ducas, till the

young princes were soothed by the tears of their mother and the solemn assurances of the fidelity of their guardian, who filled the imperial station with

III. Diogenes,


VII. Para

dignity and honour. Hereafter I shall relate his CHAP. valiant, but unsuccessful, efforts to resist the progress of the Turks. His defeat and captivity inflicted a deadly wound on the Byzantine monarchy of the East; and after he was released from the chains of the sultan, be vainly sought his wife and his subjects. His wife had been thrust into a monastery, and the subjects of Romanus had embraced the rigid maxim of the civil law, that a prisoner in the hands of the enemy is deprived, as by the stroke of death, of all the public and private rights of a citizen. In the Michael general consternation, the Cæsar John asserted the

pinaces, indefeasible right of his three nephews: Constan- Androni.. tinople listened to his voice; and the Turkish cap- stantine tive was proclaimed in the capital, and received on A. D. 1071, the frontier, as an enemy of the republic. Romanus August was not more fortunate in domestic than in foreign war: the loss of two battles compelled him to yield, on the assurance of fair and honourable treatment; but his enemies were devoid of faith or humanity; and, after the cruel extinction of his sight, his wounds were left to bleed and corrupt, till in a few days he was relieved from a state of misery. Under the triple reign of the house of Ducas, the two younger brothers were reduced to the vain honours of the purple; but the eldest, the pusillanimous Michael, was incapable of sustaining the Roman sceptre; and his surname of Parapinaces denotes the reproach which he shared with an avaricious favourite, who enhanced the price, and diminished the measure, of wheat. In the school of Psellus, and after the example of his mother, the son of Eudocia made some proficiency in philosophy and rhetoric; but his character was degraded, rather than ennobled, by the virtues of a monk and the learning . of a sophist. Strong in the contempt of their sovereign and their own esteem, two generals, at the head of the European and Asiatic legions, assumed the


CHAP. purple at Adrianople and Nice. Their revolt was in

the same month; they bore the same name of Nicephorus; but the two candidates were distinguished by the surnames of Bryennius and Botaniates; the former in the maturity of wisdom and courage, the latter conspicuous only by the memory of his past exploits. While Botaniates advanced with cautious and dilatory steps, his active competitor stood in arms before the gates of Constantinople. The name of Bryennius was illustrious; his cause was popular; but his licentious troops could not be restrained from burning and pillaging a suburb; and the people, who would have hailed the rebel, rejected and repulsed the incendiary of his country. This change of the public opinion was favourable to Botaniates, who at length, with an army of Turks, approached the shores of Chalcedon. A formal invitation, in the name of the patriarch, the synod, and the senate, was circulated through the streets of Constantinople; and the general assembly, in the dome of St. Sophia, debated, with order and calmness, on the choice of their sovereign. The guards of Michael would have dispersed this unarmed multitude; but the feeble emperor, applauding his own moderation and clemency, resigned the ensigns of royalty, and was rewarded with the monastic habit, and the title of archbishop of Ephesus. He left a son, a Constantine, born and educated in the purple; and a daughter of the house of Ducas illustrated the blood, and confirmed the succession, of the

Comnenian dynasty. Nicephorus John Comnenus, the brother of the emperor Isaac,

survived in peace and dignity his generous refusal of March 28, the sceptre. By his wife Anne, a woman of mas

culine spirit and policy, he left eight children: the three daughters multiplied the Comnenian alliances with the noblest of the Greeks: of the five sons, Manuel was stopped by a premature death ; Isaac

III. Botaniates,


[ocr errors]

and Alexius restored the imperial greatness of their CHAP: house, which was enjoyed without toil or danger by the two younger brethren, Adrian and Nicephorus. Alexius, the third and most illustrious of the brothers, was endowed by nature with the choicest gifts both of mind and body: they were cultivated by a liberal education, and exercised in the school of obedience and adversity. The youth was dismissed from the perils of the Turkish war, by the paternal care of the emperor Romanus; but the mother of the Comneni, with her aspiring race, was accused of treason, and banished, by the sons of Ducas, to an island in the Propontis. The two brothers soon emerged into favour and action, fought by each other's side against the rebels and barbarians, and adhered to the emperor Michael, till he was deserted by the world and by himself. In his first interview with Botaniates, “ Prince," said Alexius, with a noble frankness,“ my duty rendered me your enemy; the decrees of God and of the people have made me your subject. Judge of my future loyalty by my past opposition.” The successor of Michael entertained him with esteem and confidence: his valour was employed against three rebels, who disturbed the peace of the empire, or at least of the emperors. Ursel, Bryennius, and Basilacius, were formidable by their numerous forces and military fame: they were successively vanquished in the field, and led in chains to the foot of the throne; and whatever treatment they might receive from a timid and cruel court, they applauded the clemency, as well as the courage, of their conqueror. But the loyalty of the Comneni was soon tainted by fear and suspicion; nor is it easy to settle between a subject and a despot, the debt of gratitude, which the former is tempted to claim by a revolt, and the latter to discharge by an executioner. The refusal of Alexius to march against a fourth rebel, the husband of his sister, destroyed the



« ForrigeFortsett »