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satisfied at receiving as a favour a scanty portion CHAP:
of the imperial prize which he had bestowed on ..........
his equal; and his discontent, which sometimes
evaporated in a hasty discourse, at length as-
sumed a more threatening and hostile aspect
against a prince whom he represented as a cruel
tyrant. That tyrant, however, repeatedly de-
tected, warned, and dismissed the old com-
panion of his arms, till fear and resentment
prevailed over gratitude; and Michael, after
a scrutiny into his actions and designs, was
convicted of treason, and sentenced to be burnt
alive in the furnace of the private baths. The
devout humanity of the empress Theophano
was fatal to her, husband and family. A so-
leinn day, the twenty-fifth of December, had
been fixed for the execution: she urged that the
anniversary of the Saviour's birth would be

profaned by this inhuman spectacle, and Leo consented with reluctance to a decent respite. But on the vigil of the feast, his sleepless anxiety prompted him to visit at the dead of night the chamber in which his enemy was confined: he beheld him released from his chain, and stretched on his gaoler's bed in a profound slumber; Leo was alarmed at these signs of security and intelligence: but though he retired with silent steps, his entrance and departure were noticed by a slave who lay concealed in a corner of the prison. Under the pretence of requesting the spiritual aid of a confessor, Michael informed the conspirators, that their lives depended on his discretion, and that a few hours were left to assure their own safety, by the deliverance of

XLVIII. worrocoon

CHAP. their friend and country. On the great festivals,

a chosen band of priests and chanters was admitted into the palace by a private gate to sing matins in the chapel; and Leo, who regulated with the same strictness the discipline of the choir and of the camp, was seldoin absent from those early devotions. In the ecclesiastical habit, but with swords under their robes, the conspirators mingled with the procession, lurked in the angles of the chapel, and expected as the signal of murder, the intonation of the first psalm by the emperor himself. The imperfect light, and the uniformity of dress, might have favoured his escape, while their assault was pointed against an harmless priest: but they soon discovered their mistake, and encompassed on all sides the royal victim. Without a weapon and without a friend, he grasped a weighty cross, and stood at bay against the hunters of his life; but as he asked for mercy,

“ This is the hour, “ not of mercy, but of vengeance,” was the inexorable reply. The stroke of a well-aimed sword separated from his body the right arm and the cross, and Leo the Armenian was slain at the foot of the altar.

A memorable reverse of fortune was display

ed in Michael II, who, from a defect in his A. D. 820, Dec. 25. speech, was surnamed the Stammerer. He was

snatched from the fiery furnace to the sovereignty of an empire; and as in the tumult a smith could not readily be found, the fetters remained on his legs several hours after he was seated on the throne of the Cæsars. The royal blood which had been the price of his elevation,

Michae II the Stammerer,

the

was unprofitably spent: in the purple he retain- Char. ed the ignoble vices of his origin;

and Michael XLVIII. 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 Eu rope four-score 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

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 wasplaced on an ass, and amidst the insults of the people, was led through the streets, which he sprinkled with his blood. The deprivation 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 monastry Euphrosyne, the daughter of Constantine VI. 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; and

ber 3,

CHAP. she was content with the title of mother of TheoXLVIII.

philus, his son and successor. Theopbi. The character of Theophilus is a rare exam829, Octo- ple in which religious zeal has allowed, and per

haps magnified, the virtues of an 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 expedition: were concluded by a signal overthrow; Amo. rium, the native city of his ancestors, was le velled 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 planeta, ry 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

XLVIII.

benefit the palace and the ground. Nor was CHAP. 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 prefect, a questor, a captain of the guards, were banished or mutilated, or scalded with boiling pitch, or burnt alive in the hippodrome; and as these dreadful 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 justified, in some measure, by its salutary consequences; since, after a scrutiny of seventeen days, not a complaint or abuse could be found in the court or city: and it might be alledged 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 Sassanides died in poverty and exile at Constantinople, leaving an

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