« PreviousContinue »
Michael Palæologus emperor, A.D. 1260. Jan. 1.
and in case of a rupture, the subjects were bound, by their oath of allegiance, to declare themselves against the aggressor; an ambiguous name, the seed of discord and civil war. Palæologus was content; but on the day of the coronation, and in the cathedral of Nice, his zealous adherents most vehemently urged the just priority of his age and merit. The unseasonable dispute was eluded by postponing to a more convenient opportunity the coronation of John Lascaris ; and he walked with a slight diadem in the train of his guardian, who alone received the Imperial crown from the hands of the patriarch. It was not without extreme reluctance that Arsenius abandoned the cause of his pupil; but the Varangians brandished their battle-axes; a sign of assent was extorted from the trembling youth ; and some voices were heard, that the life of a child should no longer impede the settlement of the nation. A full harvest of honours and employments was distributed among his friends by the grateful Palæologus. In his own family he created a despot and two sebastocrators; Alexius Strategopulus was decorated with the title of Cæsar; and that veteran commander soon repaid the obligation, by restoring Constantinople to the Greek emperor.
It was in the second year of his reign, while he resided Recovery of in the palace and gardens of Nymphæum 18, near Smyrna, nople, that the first messenger arrived at the dead of night; July 25. and the stupendous intelligence was imparted to Michael, after he had been gently waked by the tender precaution of his sister Eulogia. The man was unknown or obscure; he produced no letters from the victorious Cæsar; nor could it easily be credited, after the defeat of Vataces and the recent failure of Palæologus himself, that the capital had been surprised by a detachment of eight hundred soldiers. As an hostage, the doubtful author was confined, with the assurance of death or an ample recompense ; and the court was left some hours in the anxiety of hope and fear, till the messengers of Alexius arrived with the authentic intelligence, and displayed the trophies of the conquest, the sword and sceptre 19, the buskins and bonnet 20, of the usurper Baldwin, which
18 The site of Nymphæum is not clearly defined in ancient or modern geography. But from the last hours of Vataces (Acropolita, c. 52.), it is evident the palace and gardens of his favourite residence were in the neighbourhood of Smyrna. Nymphæum might be loosely placed in Lydia (Gregoras, 1. vi. 6.).
19 This sceptre, the emblem of justice and power, was a long staff, such as was used by the heroes in Homer. By the latter Greeks it was named Dicanice, and the Imperial sceptre was distinguished as usual by the red or purple colour. * Acropolita affirms (c. 87.), that this bonnet was after the French fashion ;
but from the ruby at the point or summit, Ducange (Hist. de C. P. I. v. c. 28, 29.) believes that it was the high-crowned hat of the Greeks. Could Acropolita mistake the dress of his own court?
he had dropt in his precipitate flight. A general assembly of the bishops, senators, and nobles, was immediately convened, and never perhaps was an event received with more heartfelt and universal joy. In a studied oration, the new sovereign of Constantinople congratulated his own and the public fortune.
- There was a time,” said he, “a far distant time, when the Roman empire “ extended to the Adriatic, the Tigris, and the confines of
Æthiopia. After the loss of the provinces, our capital itself, “ in these last and calamitous days, has been wrested from our “hands by the Barbarians of the West. From the lowest ebb, “ the tide of prosperity has again returned in our favour; but our
prosperity was that of fugitives and exiles; and when we were “ asked, which was the country of the Romans, we indicated with
a blush the climate of the globe, and the quarter of the heavens. “ The divine Providence has now restored to our arms the city of “ Constantine, the sacred seat of religion and empire; and it will
depend on our valour and conduct to render this important acquisition the pledge and omen of future victories.” So eager
was the impatience of the prince and people, that Michael made his triumphal entry into Constantinople only
twenty days after the expulsion of the Latins. The golden gate was thrown open at his approach; the devout conqueror dismounted from his horse; and a miraculous image of Mary the Conductress was borne before him, that the divine Virgin in person might appear to conduct him to the temple of her Son, the cathedral of St. Sophia. But after the first transport of devotion and pride, he sighed at the dreary prospect of solitude and ruin. The palace was defiled with smoke and dirt, and the gross intemperance of the Franks; whole streets had been consumed by fire, or were decayed by the injuries of time; the sacred and profane edifices were stripped of their ornaments: and, as if they were conscious of their approaching exile, the industry of the Latins had been confined to the work of pillage and destruction. Trade had expired under the pressure of anarchy and distress, and the numbers of inhabitants had decreased with the opulence of the city.
It was the first care of the Greek monarch to reinstate the nobles in the palaces of their fathers; and the houses or the ground which they occupied were restored to the families that could exhibit a legal right of inheritance. But the far greater part was extinct or lost; the vacant property had devolved to the lord; he repeopled Constantinople by a liberal invitation to the provinces; and the brave volunteers were seated in the capital which had been recovered by their arms. The French barons and the
principal families had retired with their emperor; but the patient and humble crowd of Latins was attached to the country, and indifferent to the change of masters. Instead of banishing the factories of the Pisans, Venetians, and Genoese, the prudent conqueror accepted their oaths of allegiance, encouraged their industry, confirmed their privileges, and allowed them to live under the jurisdiction of their proper magistrates. Of these nations, the Pisans and Venetians preserved their respective quarters in the city ; but the services and power of the Genoese deserved at the same time the gratitude and the jealousy of the Greeks. Their independent colony was first planted at the sea-port town of Heraclea in Thrace. They were speedily recalled, and settled in the exclusive possession of the suburb of Galata, an advantageous post, in which they revived the commerce, and insulted the majesty, of the Byzantine empire.21
The recovery of Constantinople was celebrated as the Palæologus æra of a new empire: the conqueror, alone, and by the banishes the right of the sword, renewed his coronation in the church peror
, of St. Sophia ; and the name and honours of John Las- Dec. 25. caris, his pupil and lawful sovereign, were insensibly abolished. But his claims still lived in the minds of the people; and the royal youth must speedily attain the years of manhood and ambition. By fear or conscience, Palæologus was restrained from dipping his hands in innocent and royal blood; but the anxiety of an usurper and a parent urged him to secure his throne by one of those imperfect crimes so familiar to the modern Greeks. The loss of sight incapacitated the young prince for the active business of the world; instead of the brutal violence of tearing out his eyes, the visual nerve was destroyed by the intense glare of a red-hot basin 22, and John Lascaris was removed to a distant castle, where he spent many years in privacy and oblivion. Such cool and deliberate guilt may seem incompatible with remorse; but if Michael could trust the mercy of Heaven, he was not inaccessible to the reproaches and vengeance of mankind, which he had provoked by cruelty and treason. His cruelty imposed on a servile court the duties of applause or silence; but the clergy had a right to speak in the
a See Pachymer (I. ii. c. 28–33.), Acropolita (c. 88.), Nicephorus Gregoras (1. iv. 7.), and for the treatment of the subject Latins, Ducange (1. v. c. 30, 31.).
22 This milder invention for extinguishing the sight, was tried by the philosopher Democritus on himself, when he sought to withdraw his mind from the visible world : a foolish story! The word abacinare, in Latin and Italian, has furnished Ducange (Gloss. Latin.) with an opportunity to review the various modes of blinding: the more violent were scooping, burning with an iron, or hot vinegar, and binding the head with a strong cord till the eyes burst from their sockets. Ingenious tyrants !
name of their invisible Master; and their holy legions were led by a prelate, whose character was above the temptations of hope or fear. After a short abdication of his dignity, Arsenius 23 had consented to ascend the ecclesiastical throne of Constantinople, and to preside in the restoration of the church. His pious simplicity was long deceived by the arts of Palæologus; and his patience and submission might soothe the usurper, and protect the safety, of the young prince. On the news of his inhuman treatment, the patriarch unsheathed the spiritual sword; and superstitition, on this occasion, was enlisted in the cause of humanity and justice. In a synod of
Is excom. bishops, who were stimulated by the example of his zeal, by the pa: the patriarch pronounced a sentence of excommunication;
though his prudence still repeated the name of Michael
in the public prayers. The Eastern prelates had not adopted the dangerous maxims of ancient Rome; nor did they presume to enforce their censures, by deposing princes, or absolving nations, from their oaths of allegiance. But the Christian, who had been separated from God and the church, became an objeet of horror; and, in a turbulent and fanatic capital, that horror might arm the hand of an assassin, or inflame a sedition of the people. Palæologus felt his danger, confessed his guilt, and deprecated his judge: the act was irretrievable; the prize was obtained; and the most rigorous penance, which he solicited, would have raised the sinner to the reputation of a saint. The unrelenting patriarch refused to announce any means of atonement or any hopes of mercy; and condescended only to pronounce, that, for so great a crime, great indeed must be the satisfaction. “Do you require,” said Michael, “ that I should abdicate the empire?” And at these words, he offered, or seemed to offer, the sword of state. Arsenius eagerly grasped this pledge of sovereignty; but when he perceived that the emperor was unwilling to purchase absolution at so dear a rate, he indignantly escaped to his cell, and left the royal sinner kneeling and weeping before the door.2
The danger and scandal of this excommunication subsisted above three years, till the popular clamour was
assuaged by time and repentance; till the brethren of Arsenius condemned his inflexible spirit, so repugnant to the
Schism of the Arsenites, A.D. 1266 -1312.
13 See the first retreat and restoration of Arsenius, in Pachymer (1. ii. c. 15. 1. iii. c. 1, 2.), and Nicephorus Gregoras (1. iii. c. 1. I. iv. c. 1.). Posterity justly accused the apérera and patúpia of Arsenius, the virtues of an hermit, the vices of a minister (1. xii. c. 2.).
21 The crime and excommunication of Michael are fairly told by Pachymer (1. iii. c. 10. 14. 19., &c.) and Gregoras (1. iv. c. 4.). His confession and penance restored their freedom.
unbounded forgiveness of the Gospel. The emperor had artfully insinuated, that, if he were still rejected at home, he might seek, in the Roman pontiff, a more indulgent judge; but it was far more easy and effectual to find or to place that judge at the head of the Byzantine church. Arsenius was involved in a vague rumour of conspiracy and dissaffection *; some irregular steps in his ordination and government were liable to censure; a synod deposed him from the episcopal office; and he was transported under a guard of soldiers to a small island of the Propontis. Before his exile, he sullenly requested that a strict account might be taken of the treasures of the church; boasted, that his sole riches, three pieces of gold, had been earned by transcribing the psalms; continued to assert the freedom of his mind; and denied, with his last breath, the pardon which was implored by the royal sinner.25
After some delay, Gregory t, bishop of Adrianople, was translated to the Byzantine throne; but his authority was found insufficient to support the absolution of the emperor; and Joseph, a reverend monk, was substituted to that important function. This edifying scene was represented in the presence of the senate and people; at the end of six years, the humble penitent was restored to the communion of the faithful; and humanity will rejoice, that a milder treatment of the captive Lascaris was stipulated as a proof of his remorse. But the spirit of Arsenius still survived in a powerful faction of the monks and clergy, who persevered above forty-eight years in an obstinate schism. Their scruples were treated with tenderness and respect by Michael and his son; and the reconciliation of the Arsenites was the serious labour of the church and state. In the confidence of fanaticism, they had proposed to try their cause by a miracle ; and when the two papers, that contained their own and the adverse cause, were cast into a fiery brasier, they expected that the catholic verity would be respected by the flames. Alas! the two papers were indiscriminately consumed, and this unforeseen accident produced the union of a day, and renewed the quarrel of an age. 26 The final
25 Pachymer relates the exile of Arsenius (1. iv. c. 14-16.): he was one of the commissaries who visited him in the desert island. The last testament of the unforgiving patriarch is still extant (Dupin, Bibliothèque Ecclésiastique, tom. x. p. 95.).
* Pachymer (l. vii. c. 22.) relates this miraculous trial like a philosopher, and treats
Except the omission of a prayer for was pleaded, in favour of Arsenius, among the emperor, the charges against Arsenius other proofs of the sultan's Christianity, were of a different nature: he was accused that he had offered to eat ham. Pachymer, of having allowed the sultan of Iconium I. iv. c. 4. p. 265. It was after his exile to bathe in vessels signed with the cross, that he was involved in a charge of conand to have admitted him to the church, spiracy. -- M. though unbaptized, during the service. It † Pachymer calls him Germanus.-M.