Page images
PDF
EPUB

A.D. 1321,
April 20–
A.D. 1328
May 24.

and revolt, and foreign succour, that the malecontents could hope to vindicate their cause and subvert his throne.

The soul of the enterprise was the great domestic John Cantacuzene: the sally from Constantinople is the first date of his actions and memorials; and if his own pen be most descriptive of his patriotism, an unfriendly historian has not refused to celebrate the zeal and ability which he displayed in the service of the young emperor. * That prince escaped from the capital under the pretence of hunting ; erected his standard at Adrianople ; and, in a few days, assembled fifty thousand horse and foot, whom neither honour nor duty could have armed against the Barbarians. Such a force might have saved or commanded the empire; but their counsels were discordant, their motions were slow and doubtful, and their progress was checked by intrigue and negotiation. The quarrel of the two Andronici was protracted, and suspended, and renewed, during a ruinous period of seven years. In the first treaty, the relics of the Greek empire were divided : Constantinople, Thessalonica, and the islands, were left to the elder, while the younger acquired the sovereignty of the greatest part of Thrace, from Philippi to the Byzantine limit. By the second Coronation treaty, he stipulated the payment of his troops, his imme

diate coronation, and an adequate share of the power and revenue of the state. The third civil war was terminated

by the surprise of Constantinople, the final retreat of the old emperor, and the sole reign of his victorious grandson. The reasons of this delay may be found in the characters of the men and of the times. When the heir of the monarchy first pleaded his wrongs and his apprehensions, he was heard with pity and applause : and his adherents repeated on all sides the inconsistent promise, that he would increase the pay of the soldiers and alleviate the burdens of the people. The grievances of forty years were mingled in his revolt; and the rising generation was fatigued by the endless prospect of a reign, whose favourites and maxims were of other times. The youth of Andronicus had been without spirit, his age was without reverence: his taxes produced an annual revenue of five hundred thousand pounds; yet the richest of the sovereigns of Christendom was incapable of maintaining three thousand horse and twenty galleys, to resist the destructive pro

of the younger Androni. cus, A. D. 1325. Feb. 2.

He was

* The conduct of Cantacuzene, by his he says, entered into liis views, and wrote own showing, was inexplicable.

to warn the emperor of his danger when unwilling to dethrone the old emperor, the march was determined. Cantacuand dissuaded the immediate march on zenus, in Nov. Byz. Hist, Collect. vol. i Constantinople. The young Andronicus, p. 104., &c. - M.

Androni. cus abdi

ment,
A. D. 1328,

gress of the Turks. 9

“How different,” said the younger Andronicus, “is my situation from that of the son of Philip! Alexander

might complain, that his father would leave him nothing to

conquer : alas ! my grandsire will leave me nothing to lose.” But the Greeks were soon admonished, that the public disorders could not be healed by a civil war; and that their young favourite was not destined to be the saviour of a falling empire. On the first repulse, his party was broken by his own levity, their intestine discord, and the intrigues of the ancient court, which tempted each malecontent to desert or betray the cause of rebellion. Andronicus the younger was touched with remorse, or fatigued with business, or deceived by negotiation : pleasure rather than power was his aim; and the licence of maintaining a thousand hounds, a thousand hawks, and a thousand huntsmen, was sufficient to sully his fame and disarm his ambition.

Let us now survey the catastrophe of this busy plot, The elder and the final situation of the principal actors. The age of Andronicus was consumed in civil discord ; and, amidst cates the the events of war and treaty, his power and reputation continually decayed, till the fatal night in which the gates May 21. of the city and palace were opened without resistance to his grand

His principal commander scorned the repeated warnings of danger; and retiring to rest in the vain security of ignorance, abandoned the feeble monarch, with some priests and pages, to the terrors of a sleepless night. These terrors were quickly realised by the hostile shouts, which proclaimed the titles and victory of Andronicus the younger; and the aged emperor, falling prostrate before an image of the Virgin, despatched a suppliant message to resign the sceptre, and to obtain his life at the hands of the conqueror. The answer of his grandson was decent and pious; at the prayer of his friends, the younger Andronicus assumed the sole administration ; but the elder still enjoyed the name and preeminence of the first emperor, the use of the great palace, and a pension of twenty-four thousand pieces of gold, one half of which was assigned on the royal treasury, and the other on the fishery of Constantinople. But his impotence was soon exposed to contempt and oblivion; the vast silence of the palace was disturbed only by

son.

9 See Nicephorus Gregoras, 1. viii. c. 6. The younger Andronicus complained, that in four years and four months a sum of 350,000 byzants of gold was due to him for the expenses of his household (Cantacuzen. 1. i. c. 48.). Yet he would have remitted the debt, if he might have been allowed to squeeze the farmers of the revenue.

10 I follow the chronology of Nicephorus Gregoras, who is remarkably exact. It is proved that Cantacuzene has mistaken the dates of his own actions, or rather that his text has been corrupted by ignorant transcribers.

the cattle and poultry of the neighbourhood", which roved with impunity through the solitary courts; and a reduced allowance of ten thousand pieces of gold ' was all that he could ask, and more than he could hope. His calamities were embittered by the gradual extinction of sight; his confinement was rendered each day more rigorous ; and during the absence and sickness of his grandson, his inhuman keepers, by the threats of instant death, compelled him to exchange the purple for the monastic habit and profession. The monk Antony had renounced the pomp of the world: yet he had occasion for a coarse fur in the winter season, and as wine was forbidden by his confessor, and water by his physician, the sherbet of Egypt was his common drink. It was not without difficulty that the late emperor could procure three or four pieces to satisfy these simple wants; and if he bestowed the gold to relieve the more painful distress of a friend, the sacrifice is of some weight in the scale of humanity and religion. Four years after his abdication, His death, Andronicus or Antony expired in a cell, in the seventyfourth

year of his age: and the last strain of adulation could only promise a more splendid crown of glory in heaven than he had enjoyed upon earth.12 +

Nor was the reign of the younger, more glorious or

fortunate than that of the elder, Andronicus. 13 He XOD. 2s, gathered the fruits of ambition ; but the taste was tran

sient and bitter: in the supreme station he lost the remains

of his early popularity; and the defects of his character became still more conspicuous to the world. The public reproach urged him to march in person against the Turks; nor did his courage fail in the hour of trial ; but a defeat and a wound were the only trophies of his expedition in Asia, which confirmed the establishment of the Ottoman monarchy. The abuses of the civil government attained their full maturity and perfection: his neglect of

A. D. 1332.
Feb. 13.

Reign of Androni. cus the

May 24
A. D. 1341,
June 15.

11 I have endeavoured to reconcile the 24,000 pieces of Cantacuzene (1. ii. c. 1.) with the 10,000 of Nicephorus Gregoras (l. ix. c. 2.); the one of whom wished to soften, the other to magnify, the hardships of the old emperor.

12 See Nicephorus Gregoras (1. ix. 6, 7, 8. 10. 14. 1. x. c. 1.). The historian had tasted of the prosperity, and shared the retreat, of his benefactor ; and that friendship which “waits or to the scaffold or the cell,” should not lightly be accused as "a bireling, a prostitute to praise.” |

13 The sole reign of Andronicus the younger is described by Cantacuzene (1. ii. c. I -40. p. 191—339.), and Nicephorus Gregoras (1. ix. c. 7.-1. xi. c. 11. p. 262—361.).

* And the washerwomen, according to | But it may be accused of unparalleled Nic. Gregoras, p. 491.- M.

absurdity. He compares the extinction † Prodigies (according to Nic. Gre- of the feeble old man to that of the sun : goras, p. 460.) announced the departure his coffin is to be floated, like Noah's ark, of the old and imbecile Imperial Monk by a deluge of tears. — M. from his earthly prison. — M.

He

forms, and the confusion of national dresses, are deplored by the Greeks as the fatal symptoms of the decay of the empire. Andronicus was old before his time; the intemperance of youth had accelerated the infirmities of age; and after being rescued from a dangerous malady by nature, or physic, or the Virgin, he was snatched away before he had accomplished his forty-fifth year. was twice married; and as the progress of the Latins in arms and arts had softened the prejudices of the Byzantine court, his two wives were chosen in the princely houses of Germany and Italy. The first, Agnes at home, Irene in Greece, was daughter of the duke of Brunswick. Her father was a petty lord in the poor and savage regions of the north of Germany 16: yet he derived some revenue from his silver mines 17; and his family is celebrated by the Greeks as the most ancient and noble of the Teutonic name. 18 After the death of this childish princess, Andronicus sought in marriage Jane, the sister of the count of Savoy 19; and his suit was

His two

1 Agnes, or Irene, was the daughter of duke Henry the Wonderful, the chief of the bouse of Brunswick, and the fourth in descent from the famous Henry the Lion, duke of Saxony and Bavaria, and conqueror of the Sclavi on the Baltic coast. Her brother Henry was surnamed the Greek, from his two journeys into the East : but these journeys were subsequent to his sister's marriage; and I am ignorant how Agnes was discovered in the heart of Germany, and recommended to the Byzantine court. (Rimius, Memoirs of the House of Brunswick, p. 126-137.)

is Henry the Wonderful was the founder of the branch of Grubenhagen, extinct in the year 1596. (Rimius, p. 287.) He resided in the castle of Wolfenbuttel, and possessed no more than a sixth part of the allodial estates of Brunswick and Luneburgh, which the Guelph family had saved from the confiscation of their great fiefs. The frequent partitions among brothers had almost ruined the princely houses of Germany, till that just, but pernicious, law was slowly superseded by the right of primogeniture. The principality of Grubenhagen, one of the last remains of the Hercynian forest, is a Foody, mountainous, and barren tract. (Busching's Geography, vol. vi. p. 270—286. English translation.)

is The royal author of the Memoirs of Brandenburgh will teach us, how justly, in a much later period, the north of Germany deserved the epithets of poor and barbarous. (Essai sur les Maurs, &c.). In the year 1306, in the woods of Luneburgh, soine wild people of the Vened race were allowed to bury alive their infirm and useless parents. (Rimius, p. 156.).

i The assertion of Tacitus, that Germany was destitute of the precious metals, must be taken, even in his own time, with some limitation. (Germania, c. 5. Annal. xi. 20.). According to Spener (Hist. Germaniæ Pragmatica, tom. i. p. 351.), Argenti fodina in Hercyniis montibus, imperante Othone magno (A. D. 968.) primum apertæ, largam etiam opes augendi dederunt copiam : but Rimius (p. 258, 259.) defers till the year 1016 the discovery of the silver mines of Grubenhagen, or the Upper Hartz, which were productive in the beginning of the xivth century, and which still yield a considerable revenue to the house of Brunswick.

is Cantacuzene has given a most honourable testimony, iv sér repuavæv aütn θυγάτηρ δουκός ντι Μπρουζουήκ (the modern Greeks employ the ντ for the δ, and the μπ for the B, and the whole will read in the Italian idiom di Brunzuic), Toù rap' avtois επιφανεστάτου, και λαμπρότητι πάντας τους ομοφύλους υπερβάλλοντος του γένους. The praise is just in itself, and pleasing to an English ear.

19 Anne, or Jane, was one of the four daughters of Amed'e the Great, hy a second marriage, and half-sister of his successor Edward count of Savoy. (Anderson's Tables, P. 650.). See Cantacuzene (1. i. c. 40–42.).

Reign of
John Pa-

A.D. 1341,
June 5-
A.D. 1391.

John Cantacuzenus.

preferred to that of the French king.20 The count respected in his sister the superior majesty of a Roman empress: her retinue was composed of knights and ladies ; she was regenerated and crowned in St. Sophia, under the more orthodox appellation of Anne; and, at the nuptial feast, the Greeks and Italians vied with each other in the martial exercises of tilts and tournaments.

The empress Anne of Savoy survived her husband : læologus, their son, John Palæologus, was left an orphan and an

emperor in the ninth year of his age; and his weakness Fortune of was protected by the first and most deserving of the

Greeks. The long and cordial friendship of his father for John Cantacuzene is alike honourable to the prince and the subject. It had been formed amidst the pleasures of their youth: their families were almost equally noble 21; and the recent lustre of the purple was amply compensated by the energy of a private education. We have seen that the young emperor was saved by Cantacuzene from the power of his grandfather; and, after six years of civil war, the same favourite brought him back in triumph to the palace of Constantinople. Under the reign of Andronicus the younger, the great domestic ruled the emperor and the empire; and it was by his valour and conduct that the isle of Lesbos and the principality of Ætolia were restored to their ancient allegiance. His enemies confess, that, among the public robbers, Cantacuzene alone was moderate and abstemious; and the free and voluntary account which he produces of his own wealth ?? may sustain the presumption that it was devolved by inheritance, and not accumulated by rapine. He does not indeed specify the value of his money, plate, and jewels; yet, after a voluntary gift of two hundred vases of silver, after much had been secreted by his friends and plundered by his foes, his forfeit treasures were sufficient for the equipment of a fleet of seventy galleys. He does not measure the size and number of his estates; but his granaries were heaped with an incredible store of wheat and barley; and the labour of a thousand yoke of oxen might cultivate, according to the practice of antiquity, about sixty-two thousand five hundred acres of arable land. 23 His pastures were

20 That king, if the fact be true, must have been Charles the Fair, who in five years (1321—1326) was married to three wives (Anderson, p. 628.). Anne of Savoy arrived at Constantinople in February 1326.

21 The noble race of the Cantacuzeni (illustrious from the with century in the Byzantine annals) was drawn from the Paladins of France, the heroes of those romances which, in the xiiith century, were translated and read by the Greeks. (Ducange, Fam. Byzant. p. 258.) 22 See Cantacuzene (1. iii. c. 241. 30. 36.). 33 Saserna, in Gaul, and Coluinella in Italy or Spain, allow two yoke of oxen, two

« PreviousContinue »