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CHAP. XLVIII.

Constan-
time VII.
A. D. 945,
Jan. 27.

exclusion; and the grave or the monastery was open to re-
ceive the son of the concubine. But Lecapenus does not
appear to have possessed either the virtues or the vices of a
tyrant. The spirit and activity of his private life dissolved
away in the sunshine of the throne; and in his licentious
pleasures, he forgot the safety both of the republic and of
his family. Of a mild and religious character, he respected
the sanctity of oaths, the innocence of the youth, the memo-
ry of his parents, and the attachment of the people. The
studious temper and retirement of Constantine, disarmed
the jealousy of power: his books and music, his pen and
his pencil, were a constant source of amusement; and if
he could improve a scanty allowance by the sale of his pic-
tures, if their price was not enhanced by the name of the
artist, he was endowed with a personal talent, which few
princes could employ in the hour of adversity. -
The fall of Romanus was occasioned by his own vices
and those of his children. After the decease of Chistopher,
his eldest son, the two surviving brothers quarrelled with
each other, and conspired against their father. At the hour
of noon, when all strangers were regularly excluded from
the palace, they entered his apartment with an armed force,
and conveyed him, in the habit of a monk, to a small island
in the Propontis, which was peopled by a religious commu-
nity. The rumour of this domestic revolution excited a
tumult in the city; but Porphyrogenitus alone, the true and
lawful emperor, was the object of the public care ; and the
sons of Lecaponus were taught, by tardy experience, that
they had achieved a guilty and perilous enterprise for the
benefit of their rival. Their sister Helena, the wife of Con-
stantine, revealed, or supposed, their treacherous design of
assassinating her husband at the royal banquet. His loyal
adherents were alarmed; and the two usurpers were pre-
vented, siezed, degraded from the purple, and embarked
for the same island and monastery where their father had
been so lately confined. Old Romanus met them on the
beach with a sarcastic smile, and, after a just reproach of
their folly and ingratitude, presented his Imperial colleagues
with an equal share of his water and vegetable diet. In the
fortieth year of his reign, Constantine the seventh obtained
the possession of the Eastern world, which he ruled, or

seemed to rule, near fifteen years. But he was devoid of cHAP. that energy of character which could emerge into a life of *** action and glory; and the studies which had amused and dignified his leisure, were incompatible with the serious duties of a sovereign. The emperor neglected the practice, to instruct his son Romanus in the theory, of government; while he indulged the habits of intemperance and sloth, he dropt the reigns of the administration into the hands of Helena his wife; and, in the shifting scene of her favour and caprice, each minister was regretted in the promotion of a more worthless successor. Yet the birth and misfortunes of Constantine had endeared him to the Greeks; they excused his failings; they respected his learning, his innocence, and charity, his love of justice; and the ceremony of his funeral was mourned with the unfeigned tears of his subjects. The body, according to ancient custom, lay in state in the vestibule of the palace; and the civil and military officers, the patricians, the senate, and the clergy, approached in due order to adore and kiss the inanimate corpse of their sovereign. Before the procession moved towards the Imperial sepulchre, an herald proclaimed this awful admonition: “Arise, O king of the world, and obey the sum“mons of the King of kings!” The death of Constantine was imputed to poison; and his Romason Romanus, who derived thatname fromhis maternal grand- .. father, ascended the throne of Constantinople. Aprince who, A. D.'. at the age of twenty, could be suspected of anticipatinghis in- Nov. ... heritance, must have been already lost in the public esteem; yet Romanus was rather weak than wicked; and the largest share of the guilt was transferred to his wife, Theophano, a woman of base origin, masculine spirit, and flagitious manners. The sense of personal glory and public happiness, the true pleasures of royalty, were unknown to the son of Constantine; and while the two brothers, Nicephorus and Leo, triumphed over the Saracens, the hours which the emperor owed to his people were consumed in strenuous idleness. In the morning he visited the circus; at noon he feasted the senators; the greater part of the afternoon he spent in the sphaeristerium, or tennis-court, the only theatre of his victories; from thence he passed over to the Asiatic side of the Bosphorus, hunted and killed four wild boars of the

CHAP. XLVIII.

Nicepho-
rus II.
Phocas,
A. D. 963,
August 6.

largest size, and returned to the palace, proudly content with
the labours of the day. In strength and beauty he was con-
spicuous above his equals: tall and straight as a young cy-
press, his complexion was fair and florid, his eyes sparkling,
his shoulders broad, his nose long and aquiline. Yet even
these perfections were insufficient to fix the love of Theo-
phano; and, after a reign of four years, she mingled for her
husband the same deadly draught which she had composed
for his father.
By his marriage with this impious woman, Romanus the
younger left two sons, Basil the second and Constantine the
ninth, and two daughters, Theophano and Anne. The eld-
est sister was given to Otho the second, emperor of the
West; the younger became the wife of Wolodomir, great
duke and apostle of Russia, and, by the marriage of her
grand-daughter with Henry the first, king of France, the
blood of the Macedonians, and perhaps of the Arsacides,
still flows in the veins of the Bourbon line. After the death
of her husband, the empress aspired to reign in the name of
her sons, the elder of whom was five, and the younger only
two, years of age; but she soon felt the instability of a throne,
which was supported by a female who could not be esteem-
ed, and two infants who could not be feared. Theophano
looked around for a protector, and threw herself into the
arms of the bravest soldier; her heart was capacious; but
the deformity of the new favourite rendered it more than
probable that interest was the motive and excuse of her love.
Nicephorus Phocas united; in the popular opinion, the dou-
ble merit of an hero and a saint. In the former character,
his qualifications were genuine and splendid: the descend.
dant of a race, illustrious by their military exploits, he had
displayed, in every station and in every province, the cour-
age of a soldier and the conduct of a chief; and Nicephorus
was crowned with recent laurels, from the important con-
quest of the isle of Crete. His religion was of a more am-
biguous cast; and his haircloth, his fasts, his pious idiom,
and his wish to retire from the business of the world, were
a convenient mask for his dark and dangerous ambition.
Yet he imposed on an holy patriarch, by whose influence, and
by a decree of the senate, he was intrusted, during the mi-
nority of the young Princes, with the absolute and independ.

ent command of the Oriental armies. As soon as he had se- CHAP. cured the leaders and the troops, he boldly marched to Con- **** stantinople, trampled on his enemies, avowed his corres- v_s^^* pondence with the empress, and, without degrading her sons, assumed with the title of Augustus, the pre-eminence of rank and the plenitude of power. But his marriage with Theophano was refused by the same patriarch who had placed the crown on his head: by his second nuptials he incurred a year of canonical penance; a bar of 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 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, and John Zi. served under his standard, a noble and valiant Armenian o: had deserved and obtained the most eminent rewards. The stantine stature of John Zimisces was below the ordinary standard; §§: but this diminutive body was endowed with strength, beauty, 25. and the soul of an 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

CHAP. XLVIII.

consented, 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 shewn 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 awoman 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 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

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