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Book VII
Chapter 8

This webpage reproduces a chapter of
Italy and Her Invaders

by
Thomas Hodgkin


2nd edition
Oxford University Press
London
1896

The text, and illustrations except as noted,
are in the public domain.

This page has been carefully proofread
and I believe it to be free of errors.
If you find a mistake though,
please let me know!

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Book VII
Note C

Book VII (continued)

Vol. VI
p339
Chapter IX

The Papacy and the Empire, 663‑717

Authorities

Sources: —

The Liber Pontificalis becomes here a first-rate authority. It is curious to compare the copious lives of Sergius and Constantine with the excessively meagre notice of Gregory I a century earlier. Duchesne, in his introduction to the L. P., p. ccxxxiii, while not expressing a decided opinion, seems to consider the lives after 625 as the work of nearly, if not quite, contemporary authors.

Theophanes (758‑818), and Nicephorus (758‑828). The character and literary quality of both historians will be discussed in a future chapter.

Guides: —

B. Malfatti: — 'Imperatori e Papi' (Pisa, 1816).

R. Baxmann: — 'Die Politik der Päpste von Gregor I bis auf Gregor VII' (Elberfeld, 1868).

Visit of Constans to Rome (663), the lowest point of Roman degradation. From the day when Constans entered Rome on his mission of devout spoliation, the fortunes of the Papacy were so closely linked, at least for a couple of generations, with those of the Empire, that we may without inconvenience consider them together. That visit of the Emperor may be considered to have been the lowest point of the humiliation both of the Bishop and the City of Rome. Vigilius and Martin had been  p341 indeed dragged away from their episcopal palace and their loyal flock, and had suffered indignities and hardships in the city by the Bosphorus; but it was surely a lower depth of degradation to stand by, as Vitalian must needs do in trembling submission, with a smile of feigned welcome on his lips, while Constans the heretic, the author of the Type against which the Lateran Synod had indignantly protested, alternated his visits to the basilicas with the spoliation of the monuments of Rome. It may well have been at such a time as this that some Roman noble poured forth his feelings of indignation in a short poem which was found by the industrious Muratori in the library of the Dean and Chapter of Modena, and which may be thus translated:1 —

Poem on the abasement of Rome. 'Rome! thou wast reared by noble hands and brave,

But downward now thou fall'st, of slaves the slave,

No king within thee hath for long borne sway;

Thy name, thy glory are the Grecians' prey.

None of thy nobles in thy courts remains,

Thy free-born offspring till the Argive plains.

Drawn from the world's ends is thy vulgar crowd,

To servants' servants now thy head is bowed.

"The New Rome" — such Byzantium's name to‑day,

While thou, the old Rome, seest thy walls decay.

Well said the seer, pondering his mystic lore,

Rome's love shall fail, she shall be Rome no more.

But for the Great Apostles' guardian might,

Thou long ago hadst sunk in endless night.'

 p342  Tendency towards freedom from the Byzantine yoke. However, from this time forward there was a steady progress on the part of the people of old Rome towards independence of their Byzantine rulers, and in this successful struggle for freedom the Popes were the more or less avowed and conscious protagonists. The day was passing away in which it was possible for the Eastern Caesar to send a policeman to arrest the Pope and drag him off to a Byzantine prison. We shall see one Exarch after another attempt this invidious duty in obedience to his master's mandate, and one after another will fall back disheartened before the manifestations of the popular will, which in the end will take the shape of an armed and organised National Guard.

 p343  This result is the more remarkable, as the Popes who presided over the church during the period in question were for the most part undistinguished men, generally advanced in years — this must have been the cause of their very short average tenure of the see — and with so little that was striking in their characters that even the Papal chronicler can find scarcely anything to say of them except that they 'loved the clergy and people,' or 'gave a large donation2 to the ecclesiastics and to the poor.' In order not to burden the text with a multitude of names which no memory will wisely retain, I refer the reader for the Popes of the seventh century to a list at the end of this chapter,3 and will mention here only those who took a leading part in the development of doctrine and the struggle with the Emperors.

 (p340)  Lombard Kings Emperors Popes

Grimwald, 662‑671.

Perctarit, 672‑688.

Constantine Pogonatus

668‑685

Vitalian

657‑672

Adeodatus

672‑676

Donus

676‑678

Agatho

678‑681

Leo II

682‑683

Benedict II

684‑685

Justinian II

685‑695

John V

685‑686

Cunincpert, 688‑700

Conon

686‑687

Leontius

695‑698

Sergius

687‑701

Aripert II, 700‑712.

Tiberius III

698‑705

John VI

701‑705

Justinian II (restored)

705‑711

John VII

705‑707

Sisinnius

708

Ansprand, 712.

Liutprand, 712‑744.

Philippicus

711‑713

Constantine

708‑715

Anastasius II

713‑715

Theodosius III

715‑717

Gregory II

713‑731

Leo III (the Isaurian)

717‑740

Gregory III

731‑741

Pope Agatho, 678‑681. A Sicilian ecclesiastic named Agatho, who occupied the chair of St. Peter for two years and a half (678‑681), had the glory of winning a great ecclesiastical victory, and of settling the Monotheletic controversy on the terms for which Martin and all the Popes since Honorius had strenuously contended.

Constantine Pogonatus, Emperor, 668‑685. The young Emperor Constantine IV, whom we last met with in Sicily avenging his father's murder,4 and who received the surname Pogonatus (bearded) from the populace of Constantinople, astonished to see their young lord returning to his home with the bushy beard of manhood, was occupied in the early years of his reign by matters too weighty to allow of his spending his time in theological controversy. 673‑677 For five years, as has been already said,5 the great Saracen Armada  p344 hovered round the coasts of the Sea of Marmora, and the turbans of the followers of the Prophet were descried on the Bithynian shore by the defenders of Constantinople. Delivered from that pressing danger, the Emperor had leisure to consider the unhappy condition of the Church, distracted by that verbal disputation concerning the will of the Saviour for which his grandfather had unhappily given the signal. Constantine Pogonatus appears to have taken personally no decided line in this controversy, but to have been honestly anxious that the Church should decide it for herself. Four successive Patriarchs of Constantinople, generally supported by the Patriarchs of Antioch and Alexandria, had upheld Monothelete doctrine, and struggled for the phrase 'one theandric energy.' But the ecclesiastics of Constantinople probably saw that the mind of the Emperor was wavering, and that the whole West was united under the generalship of the Pope in a solid phalanx against them. It was understood that George, the new Patriarch of Constantinople, was willing to recede from the Monothelete position, and the Emperor accordingly issued an invitation to the Pope to send deputies to take part in a Conference for the restoration of peace to the Church. Pope Agatho had already (27th March, 680) presided over a synod of Western bishops in which Monotheletism was unhesitatingly condemned, the voice of the young Church of the Anglo-Saxons being one of the loudest in defence of the two wills of Christ. He now gladly despatched three legates of his own, and three bishops as representatives of that synod, to take part in the proceedings of the Conference, which gradually assumed a more august character, and became, not  p345 a mere Conference, but the Sixth Ecumenical Council, the third of its kind held at Constantinople.6

Sixth General Council (Third of Constantinople), 680‑681. At this Council, which was held in a domed chamber of the Imperial palace, and which was therefore sometimes called In Trullo, 289 bishops are said to have been present, and the sittings of the Council lasted from 7th November, 680, to 16th September, 681. On the left of the Emperor sat the bishops of the West, and on his right the Patriarchs of Constantinople and Antioch and the bishops of the East. It was soon seen which way the decision of the Council would tend. Pope Agatho's legates complained of the novel teaching of the Monothelete Patriarchs of the East. Macarius, Patriarch of Antioch, the Abdiel of Monotheletism, upon whom fell the burden of the defence of the lately dominant doctrines, undertook to prove that the dogma of 'one theandric energy' was in harmony with the decisions of the Fourth and Fifth Council, and with the teaching of Popes Leo and Vigilius. The genuineness of some of his quotations was denied, the aptness of others was disputed. George, Patriarch of Constantinople, formally announced his adhesion to the cause advocated by the Roman Pontiff. An enthusiastic priest named Polychronius, who undertook to prove the truth of Monothelete doctrine by raising a dead man to life, whispered in the ear of the corpse in vain. At length all was ready for the definition of the faith as to the Two Wills of Christ; the ratification of the decrees of Pope Agatho and the Western Synod; the deposition of Macarius, Patriarch of Antioch, from his high office, and the formal anathema on the dead  p346 and buried upholders or condoners of Monotheletic heresy.

Monotheletism condemned. Among these condemned ones were included four Patriarchs of Constantinople,7 one Patriarch of Alexandria,8 Theodore, bishop of Pharan, and — most memorable fact of all — a man too wise and tolerant for his age, Honorius, Pope of Rome.

At this crisis of the Church's deliberations, the Liber Pontificalis tells us that 'so great a mass of black spiders' webs fell into the midst of the people that all men marvelled, because at the same hour the filth of heresy had been expelled from the church.' To the minds of men of the present day the incident would seem not so much an emblem of the extirpation of heresy, as of the nature of the dusty subtleties which seventh-century ecclesiastics, both orthodox and heterodox, were occupied in weaving out of their own narrow intellects and presumptuous souls.

Death of Pope Agatho. Though Pope Agatho probably heard enough concerning the opening deliberations of the Sixth Council to be assured of the final triumph of his cause, he died many months before the actual decision, and the news of the triumph itself must have reached Rome during the long interval9 which elapsed between his death and the consecration of his successor. The relations between Rome and Constantinople continued friendly during the rest of the lifetime of Pogonatus; Pope Benedict II, 684‑685. and Pope Benedict II (684‑685) received, so it is said,10 a letter from the Emperor dispensing for the future with the necessity of that Imperial confirmation for which the elected pontiff had hitherto been forced to wait before  p347 his consecration could be solemnized. If such a letter, however, were actually sent, the concession seems to have been silently revoked in the following reign.

Portrait of Constantine Pogonatus at Ravenna. Of Constantine Pogonatus, who died in 685, we may still behold the contemporary portrait in mosaic on the walls of the solitary church of S. Apollinare in Classe. There he stands, with his two young brethren Heraclius and Tiberius beside him, and hands to Reparatus, the venerable Archbishop of Ravenna, a document marked Privilegium. This document was probably meant to confer on the prelates of Ravenna, not entire independence of the Roman See, but the same kind of independence and patriarchal jurisdiction which was enjoyed by the bishops of Milan and Aquileia.11 It was originally given by Constans near the close of his reign, and was possibly afterward confirmed by Pogonatus and his colleagues.12

Constantine and his brothers. The figures of the two stripling colleagues of the  p348 Emperor, Heraclius and Tiberius, suggest some melancholy thoughts as to their fate, thoughts only too much in keeping with the mournful expression so common in these venerable mosaics. Shortly after the accession of Pogonatus, in the year 669, they were declared Augusti, in obedience to the clamours of the soldiers of the Eastern Theme, who flocked to Scutari shouting, 'We believe in the Trinity. We will have three Emperors.'13 A great noble was sent to appease the mutineers, and to profess compliance with their demands. Through him Constantine invited the leaders in the movement to a friendly conference with the Senate at Constantinople, and when he had these leaders in his power he transported them to Sycae (the modern Pera) and hung them there. The two unfortunate and perhaps unwilling claimants for the Imperial dignity had their noses slit by their jealous brother, and were immured within the palace walls for the remainder of their lives. Such was the manner of man by whose nod deep questions concerning the nature of the Godhead were then decided.

Sons of Constantine. Pogonatus himself had two sons, Justinian and Heraclius; and it was a mark of his friendly feeling towards the Pope that in the last year of his reign he sent some locks of their hair as a present to Rome, and this valuable offering, accompanied by an Imperial letter, was received with all fitting reverence by the Pope, the clergy, and the 'army' of Rome.14

 p349  Of the younger of these two princes, Heraclius,15 we hear nothing: perhaps he, too, like his uncles, passed his life confined within the precincts of that palace which has witnessed so many tragedies. Justinian II, Emperor, 685‑696, and 705‑711. But Justinian II, who succeeded his father in 685 and in whom the dynasty of Heraclius expired, was a man who left a bloody and ineffaceable imprint on the pages of Byzantine history. He was in all things almost the exact opposite of the great legislator whose name he bore. Justinian I was timid, cautious, and calculating. The second of that name was personally brave, but rash, and a blunderer. The first had apparently no temptation to be cruel, and carried his clemency almost to excess. The second was, at any rate in later life, and after opposition had embittered him, as savage and brutal as an Ashantee king or a bullying schoolboy, a tiger such as Nero without Nero's artistic refinement. Lately, Justinian I was exceptionally fortunate or extraordinarily wise in his selection of generals and counsellors. His namesake seems to have suffered, not only for his own sins, but for the grievous faults and errors committed by the ministers to whom he gave his confidence.16

Death of Benedict II. John V, 685‑686. Disputed Papal election, 686. In the year of the young Emperor's accession Pope Benedict II died, and after the short pontificate of John V there was a contest as to the choice of his successor, the clergy desiring to elect the 'Archpresbyter' Peter, and the army favouring the claims  p350 of a certain Theodore, who came next to him on the roll of presbyters.17 This statement, that the army took such a prominent part in the Papal election, strikes us as something new in Roman politics, and taken in conjunction with the events which will shortly be related, perhaps points to the formation of a local force for the defence of the City, something like what in after-ages would be called a body of militia.

Election of Conon. In this case the clergy had to meet outside the gates of the great Lateran church,18 as the army kept guard at the doors and would not suffer them to enter. The military leaders themselves were assembled in the quaint circular church of St. Stephen. Messengers passed backwards and forwards between the parties, but neither would give way to the other, and the election seemed to be in a state of hopeless deadlock. At length the chief of the clergy met, not in the Lateran church, but in the Lateran palace,19 and unanimously elected an old and venerable Sicilian priest named Conon to the vacant office. When the old man with his white hairs and angelic aspect was brought forth to the people, the civil magnates of the City,20 many of whom probably knew the calm and unworldly life which the simple-hearted old man had led, gladly acclaimed him as Pope. So, too, did the leaders of the army, in whose eyes the fact that  p351 Conon was himself a soldier's son21 may possibly have been some recommendation of his merits. It took some time before the rank and file of the army would abandon the cause of their candidate Peter, but at length they too came in, and submissively greeted the new Pope, whose unanimous election was, according to the custom of that time, announced by a special mission from all the three orders22 to the court of the Exarch Theodore.23

Death of Conon, Sept. 21, 687. The election of Conon had been a politic expedient for allaying domestic strife, but he was so old and in such weak health that he could scarcely officiate at the necessary ordination of priests, and after only eleven months' pontificate he died.

Another disputed election. Again there were rival candidates and a contested election, before the long and memorable pontificate of Sergius could be begun. The Archdeacon Paschal had already, during Conon's lifetime, been intriguing with the new Exarch John Platyn in order to obtain by bribery the succession to the Papal Chair. He had a large party favouring his claims, but Theodore, now Arch-presbyter, had also still his zealous supporters among the people. The army does not appear to  p352 have conspicuously favoured one candidate more than another. The Lateran palace itself was divided into two hostile fortresses, the outer portion being garrisoned by the adherents of Paschal,24 the inner by those of Theodore. Neither party would yield to the other: clergy, soldiers, and a great multitude of the people flocked to the Lateran palace, and debated with loud and anxious voices what should be done. At length the expedient of a third candidate was again proposed, and obtained the concurrence of the vast majority. Election of Sergius. The person proposed was Sergius, a man of Syrian descent, whose father Tiberius had apparently emigrated from his native Antioch in consequence of the Saracen conquest, and had settled at Palermo in Sicily. The young Sergius, who came to Rome about the year 672, was a clever and industrious musician, and sang his way up through the lower orders of the Church, till in 683 he was ordained presbyter of the titulus (parish church) of St. Susanna, where he distinguished himself by the diligence with which he celebrated mass at the graves of the various martyrs. He was now presented to the multitude, and greeted with hearty acclamations. His followers being much the stronger party, battered down the gates of the Lateran palace, and the two candidates stood in the presence of their successful rival. The Arch-presbyter Theodore at once submitted, and gave the kiss of peace to the new Pope: but Paschal stood  p353 aloof, in sullen hardness, till at length constrained and confused, he entered the hall of audience, and with his will, or against his will, saluted his new lord.25

Intrigues of the defeated candidate Paschal with the Exarch. Paschal, however, though outwardly submissive, in his heart rebelled against the Syrian Pope, and on continuing his intrigues with Ravenna, sent to the Exarch, promising him 100 lbs. of gold (£4000) if he would seat him in the Papal chair. On this John Platyn came to Rome, accompanied by the officers of his court, but not apparently at the head of an army. He came so suddenly and quietly, that the Roman soldiery could not go forth to meet him with flags and eagles according to the usual custom when the Emperor's representative visited Rome.26 Finding on his arrival that all orders of men concurred in the election of Sergius, he abandoned the cause of his client Paschal, but insisted that the promised 100 lbs. of gold should be paid him by the successful candidate. Sergius naturally answered that he had never promised any such sum, nor could he at the moment pay it: but he brought forth the sacred chalices and crowns which had hung for centuries before the tomb of St. Peter, and offered to deposit them as security for the ultimate payment of the required sum.27 The  p354 beholders were shocked at the duresse thus laid upon the church, but the stern Byzantine persisted in his demand: the 100 lbs. of gold were somehow gathered together, the Imperial sanction to the election was given by the Exarch, and Sergius became Pope.

As for his rival Paschal, he after some time was accused of practising strange rites of divination, was found guilty,28 deposed from his office of archdeacon, and thrust into a monastery, where, after five years of enforced seclusion, he died, still impenitent.

Pontificate of Sergius, 687‑701. The new Pope, who held his office for fourteen years (687‑701), was a younger man, and probably of stronger fibre, than some of his recent predecessors; and well it was for the Roman See that a strong man filled the chair of St. Peter, for another conflict with the self-willed Caesars of Byzantium was now to take place.

Quinisextan Council, 691. In the year 691 Justinian II convened another Council, not this time for the definition of doctrine, but for the reformation of discipline. The reason for so much zeal on the Emperor's part for the purification of the church morals is not very apparent: but it has been suggested29 that it was part of the younger Justinian's audacious attempt to rival the fame of his great namesake. On the part of the Eastern bishops  p355 who formed the overwhelming majority of the Council, there was perhaps a desire to retrieve in some measure the undoubted victory which the West had gained in the condemnation of Monotheletism, by showing that the East, unaided, could do something to reform the discipline of the Church.30 The assembly, which was meant as a sort of supplement to the two preceding Councils, received the grotesque name of the Quinisextan (fifth-sixth) Council, but is more often known as the Council of the Domed Hall (in Trullo), a name which was derived from its place of meeting, but which applied to its immediate predecessor as much as of the itself.

The canons of this Council, 102 in number, touched, as has been said, on no point of doctrine, but were entirely concerned with matters of church discipline, such as the punishment of ecclesiastics who played at dice, took part in the dances of the theatre, kept houses of ill‑fame, lent money on usury, or without sufficient cause were absent from church on three consecutive Sundays. They showed, however (as might perhaps have been expected from the almost exclusively Oriental character of the Council), a disregard of Western usage, and of the claims of the See of Rome, which almost amounted to intentional discourtesy. By inference, if not directly, they pronounced against the Papal decision with reference to the second baptism of those who had been baptized by heretics in the Triune Name. They expressly condemned the strict Roman usage as to married presbyters, and they  p356 denounced the custom of fasting on Saturday in Lent, which had long prevailed in the Roman Church.31 And in a very emphatic manner the thirty-sixth canon renewed the decrees of the Second and Fourth Councils, declaring 'that the patriarchal throne of Constantinople should enjoy the same privileges as that of Old Rome, should in all ecclesiastical matters be entitled to take the same pre‑eminence, and should count as second after it.' The third place was assigned to Alexandria, the fourth to Antioch, and the fifth to Jerusalem. The decrees of this Council received the signature of the Emperor, and of the great Patriarchs of the East, but the blank which was left after the Emperor's name for the signature of the Roman pontiff was never filled up,32 nor has the Council in Trullo ever been unreservedly accepted by the Latin Church. In fact, the leaning shown by it towards toleration of a married clergy is at this day one of the points in which the 'Orthodox' (Greek) differs from the 'Catholic' (Latin) church.

The Pope refuses to sign the decrees of the Council. When the six volumes containing the decrees of the Quinisextan Council reached Rome,33 the Pope not only refused to sign them, but forbade their publication in the churches. Thereupon Justinian in high  p357 wrath sent a messenger34 with orders to punish the Pope's councillors for disobedience to the Imperial edict. The holy man John, bishop of Portus,35 and Boniface, a Consiliarius of the Apostolic See, both of whom had probably made themselves conspicuous by their opposition to the Council, were carried off to Constantinople, where we lose sight of them.

Attempted arrest of Sergius. It remained only to punish the chief offender, and to drag Sergius, as Martin had been dragged away, to buffetings and hardships in prisons by the Bosphorus. With this intent Justinian sent a huge life-guardsman36 named Zacharias to Rome. But as he passed through Ravenna, and there, no doubt, disclosed the purport of his mission, the inhabitants of that city (already perhaps inflamed with wrath against their tyrannical and high-handed sovereign) angrily discussed the meditated outrage on the head of the Roman Church. The 'army of Ravenna' — evidently now a local force, and not a band of Byzantine mercenaries — caught the flame, and determined to march to Rome. The soldiers of the Pentapolis37 and the surrounding districts took part eagerly in the holy war: there was but one purpose in all hearts — 'We will not suffer the Pontiff of the Apostolic See to be carried to Constantinople.' Thus, when the life-guardsman Zacharias, accompanied probably by a slender retinue, reached Rome, it was not to inspire  p358 fear, but to feel it. The throng of soldiers surged round the City walls. He ordered the gates to be closed, and trembling, sought the Pontiff's bedchamber, beseeching him with tears to shield him from harm. The closing of the City gates only increased the fury of the soldiery. They battered down the gate of St. Peter, and rushed tumultuously to the Lateran, demanding to see Pope Sergius, who, it was rumoured, had been carried off like Martin by night, and hurried on board the Byzantine vessel. The upper and lower gates of the Pope's palace were closed,38 and the mob shouted that they should be levelled with the ground unless they were promptly opened. Nearly mad with terror, the unhappy life-guardsman hid his huge bulk under the Pope's bed, but Sergius soothed his fears, declaring that no harm should happen to him. Then the Pope went forth, and taking his seat in a balcony outside the Lateran, he presented himself to the people. They received him with shouts of applause: he addressed them with wise and fitting words, and calmed their tumultuous rage. But though calm, they were still resolute; and they persisted in keeping guard at the Lateran till the hated Zacharias, with every mark of ignominy and insult, had been expelled from the City. So the affair ended. Justinian II, as we shall soon see, was in no position to avenge his outraged authority. The Imperial majesty had received its heaviest blow, and the successor of St. Peter had made his longest stride towards independent sovereignty.

Council of Aquileia. The only other notable event in the long pontificate  p359 of Sergius was a Council which towards its close, and doubtless by his authority, was held at Aquileia Three Chapters controversy closed. to terminate the controversy of the Three Chapters. This Council (of which we have very little further information) was thus the counterpart, in Eastern Italy, of that which has been already described as held at Pavia by order of King Cunincpert.39

Unpopularity of Justinian II. Meanwhile, the Emperor was wearying out the patience of his subjects by his exactions and his cruelties. Possibly (as has been already hinted) in the first part of his reign, the blame of his unpopularity should be assigned, not so much to himself as to his ministers. Of these there were two named Stephen and Theodotus, especially odious to the people. Stephen was a Persian eunuch, who was appointed Imperial Treasurer, and distinguished himself by his zeal in raising money for that extravagant palace building, which was the passion of the two Justinians, as it has been the passion of so many later lords of Constantinople. Either because she thwarted his financial schemes, or for some other reason, the Emperor's own mother, Anastasia, incurred the eunuch's displeasure, and he had the audacity to order her to be publicly chastised like a refractory schoolboy.40 Theodotus was a monk, who had previously led the life of a recluse in Thrace, but was now made a logothete,  p360 apparently chief of the logothetes,41 and gave full scope to his imagination, no longer in devising the self-tortures of a rigid anchorite, but in planning the torture of others. Men were hung up by their wrists to high-stretched ropes, and then straw was kindled under their feet and other punishments, which are not particularly specified, but which we are told were intolerable, were inflicted on some of the most illustrious subjects of the Emperor.

Proclamation of Leontius, 695. At length, after ten years of this misgovernment, the day of vengeance dawned. A certain nobleman from the highlands of Isauria, named Leontius, who had long and successfully commanded the armies of the East, had been for some cause or other detained in prison for three years by the Emperor. Then, changing his mind, the capricious tyrant decided to make him governor of Greece,42 but ordered him to depart for his new province on the morrow of his liberation from prison. That same night he was visited by two monks, Paul and Gregory, who had, it would seem, formerly prophesied to him that he should one day wear the diadem. 'Vain were all your prognostications to me of future greatness,' said the melancholy man, 'for now I go forth from the city, and soon my life will have a bitter end.' 'Not so,' replied the monks; 'even now, if you have courage for the enterprise, you shall win the supreme power.' He listened to their counsels, hastily armed some of his servants, and went to the palace. The plea being put forward of urgent business with the Emperor, the prefect of  p361 the palace opened the door, and at once found himself bound hand and foot. Leontius and his men swarmed through the palace, opening the prison doors to all the numerous victims of Imperial tyranny who were there confined, and some of whom had been in these dark dungeons for six, or even eight years. Having furnished these willing allies with arms, they then scattered themselves through the various quarters of the city, calling on all Christians to repair to the church of St. Sophia. Soon a tumultuous crowd was gathered in the baptistery of the church, and there Callinicus the Patriarch, constrained by two monks and the other partisans of Leontius, preached a sermon to the people on the words, 'This is the day that the Lord hath made: let us rejoice and be glad in it.' The long-repressed hatred of the people to Justinian now burst forth in all its fury: every tongue had a curse for the fallen Emperor, and when day dawned an excited crowd assembled in the Hippodrome, calling with hoarse voices for his death. Leontius, however, mindful of past passages of friendship between himself and the Emperor's father, now spared the son, and after mutilating him in the cruel fashion of Byzantium, by slitting his nose and cutting out his tongue,43 sent him away to banishment at Cherson,44 the scene of Pope Martin's exile. The two chief instruments of his tyranny, Stephen and Theodotus, were seized by the  p362 mob without the new Emperor's orders, dragged by the feet to the Forum of the Bull, and there burned alive.

Reign of Leontius, 695‑698. The reign of Leontius was a short one (695‑698), and he does not seem to have displayed as Emperor any of that ability or courage which he had shown as a general of the Eastern army. Expedition for the recovery of Carthage. The eyes of all loyal citizens of 'the Roman Republic' were at this time turned towards the province of Africa, where the city of Carthage, recovered by the valour of Belisarius from the Vandal, had just been captured by the sons of Islam. A great naval armament was fitted out under the command of the patrician John. It sailed westward, it accomplished the deliverance of the city from the Saracen yoke, and for one winter John ruled in the city of Cyprian as Roman governor. The Saracen commander, however, was not disposed to acquiesce in his defeat. He returned with a larger army, expelled the Imperial garrison, and recovered Carthage for Islam and for desolation. The great armament returned, as that of Basiliscus had done more than two centuries before,45 shamefaced and sore at heart to Constantinople. At Crete, the troops broke out into open mutiny against both their general and the Emperor. John was apparently deposed from the command; a naval officer named Apsimar was proclaimed Emperor: the fleet sailed to Constantinople, which was at that time being wasted by a grievous pestilence: after a short siege, the sentinels on the wall of Blachernae, the northern quarter of the city, were bribed to open the gates to the besiegers: Leontius was dethroned, and Apsimar, who took the name of Tiberius, reigned in his stead.

 p363  Reign of Tiberius III, 698‑705. During the seven years' reign (698‑705) of this ineffective and colourless usurper46 the Papal chair — with whose occupants we are now primarily concerned — again became vacant. Pontificate of John VI, 701‑705. The comparatively long and successful pontificate of Sergius came to an end, and a Greek, who took the title of John VI, was raised to the papacy.

Visit of the Exarch Theophylact to Rome. In his short pontificate the Exarch Theophylact came by way of Sicily to Rome.47 But this time the mere appearance of the Exarch in the City by the Tiber seems to have been felt almost as a declaration of war. The soldiers (again evidently a kind of local militia) from all parts of Italy mustered in Rome with tumultuous clamour, determined, we are told, 'to tribulate the Exarch.'48 The Pope, however, interposed in the interests of peace and good order. He  p364 closed the gates of the City, and sending a deputation of priests to the improvised camp49 in which the mutineers were assembled, with wise and soothing words quelled the sedition. There were, however, certain informers whose denunciations of the citizens of Rome had furnished the Exarch with a pretext for unjust confiscations, and these men apparently had to suffer the vengeance of the people before order could be restored.

Expedition of Gisulf II of Benevento. It was during the pontificate of this Pope that the previously described50 expedition of Gisulf I of Benevento into Campania took place, and it was John VI who, out of the treasures of the Papal See, redeemed the captives of the Samnite duke.

Pontificate of John VII, 705‑707. Another short pontificate of another John followed. The new Pope, John VII, was, like his predecessor, of Greek extraction. His father, bearing the illustrious name of Plato, had held the high office of Cura Palatii, an office which in Constantinople itself was often held by the son-in‑law of the Emperor. Plato had in that capacity presided over the restoration of the old Imperial palace at Rome, which was now the ordinary residence of the Exarch's lieutenant.51 The future Pope was, so late as 687, administrator (rector) of the Papal patrimony along the Appian Way. His portrait in mosaic, which was formerly in the Oratory of the Virgin at St. Peter's, is still visible in the crypts of the Vatican.


[image ALT: A vertical rectangular patch of mosaic, on which is figured a tonsured man in ecclesiastical robes, the most prominent feature of which is a wide pallium. He has a thin triangular face, and wears a goatee. The mosaic gives him a square halo.]
Notice the square halo, indicating that at the time of this portrayal, the Pope was still living.

Photo in the public domain
courtesy of Zeno.org as part of the Yorck Project.

 p365  Restoration of Justinian II, 705. The election of Pope John VII nearly coincided in time with the return of the fierce tyrant Justinian II to his capital and his throne after ten years of exile. Of his wanderings during these ten years we have a short and graphic account in the pages of Nicephorus and Theophanes. Cherson rejected him, fearing to be embroiled for his sake with the reigning Emperor. He roamed from thence into that region in the south of Russia which — it is interesting to observe — was still called the country of the Goths.52 Here he threw himself on the hospitality of the Chagan of the Khazars, a fierce tribe with Hunnish affinities, who had come from beyond the Caucasus, and were settled round the shores of the Sea of Azof. The Chagan gave him his sister in marriage, and she was probably baptized on that occasion, and received the name of Theodora.53 With this barbarian bride the banished Emperor seems to have lived in some degree of happiness at Phanagoria by the straits of Yenikale, just opposite Kertch in the Crimea. But Tiberius, who could not 'let well alone,' sent messengers to the Khazar chief offering him great gifts if he would send him the head of Justinian; still greater if he would surrender him alive. The barbarian listened to the temptation, and under pretence of providing for his brother-in‑law's safety, surrounded him with a guard, who, when they received a signal from their master — that is probably when the promised gifts were safely deposited in the Chagan's palace — were to fall upon  p366 the exile and kill him. A woman's love, however, foiled the treacherous scheme. Theodora learned from one of her brother's servants what was being plotted, and warned her husband, who, summoning the Chagan's lieutenant into his presence, overpowered his resistance, fastened a cord round his neck, and strangled him with his own hands. In the same way he disposed of 'the Prefect of the Cimmerian Bosphorus,' apparently an officer of the Empire through whom the negotiations with the Chagan had been carried on: and then, after sending his faithful wife back to her brother's court, he escaped to the Straits of Yenikale, where he found a fishing smack, in which he sailed round the Crimea. At Cherson he had many enemies, but he had also powerful friends, and in order to summon these he lay to at a safe distance from the city. As soon as they were on board, he again set sail, passed the lighthouse of Cherson, and reached a place called the Gates of the Dead, between the mouths of the rivers Dnieper and Dniester. Here, or soon after they had passed it, a terrible storm arose, and all on board the little craft despaired of their deliverance. Said one of the ex‑Emperor's servants to his master, 'See, my lord, we are all at the point of death: make a bargain with God for your safety. Promise that if he will give you back your Empire you will not take the life of any of your foes.' Thereupon Justinian answered in fury, 'If I consent to spare any one of those men, may God this moment cause the deep to swallow me.' Contrary to all expectation they escaped from the storm unhurt, and before long made the mouth of the Danube. They sailed up the stream, and Justinian despatched one of his followers to the rude court of  p367 Terbel, king of Bulgaria. Rich gifts and the hand of the Emperor's daughter in marriage54 were the promised rewards if Terbel should succeed in replacing him on his throne. The Bulgarian eagerly accepted the offer: oaths were solemnly sworn between the high contracting parties, and after spending a winter in Bulgaria, Justinian with his barbarian ally marched next spring against Constantinople.

Triumph of Justinian, 705. Again the attack was directed against Blachernae, the northern end of the land wall of Constantinople, and evidently the weakest part of the fortifications. For three days the Bulgarian army lay outside the walls, Justinian vainly offering to the citizens conditions of peace, and receiving only words of insult in return. Then, accompanied by only a few of his followers, he entered the city, as Belisarius had entered Naples, by an aqueduct, and almost without fighting made himself master of that part of it in which was situated the palace of Blachernae, where he took up his abode. The complete conquest of the city probably occupied some weeks:55 but it was at last effected. Tiberius III, now once again known by his old name of Apsimar, left the city, and sought to flee along the coast of the Euxine to Apollonia, but was brought back in chains to Constantinople. His brother and generalissimo Heraclius, who had fought bravely in the wars against the Saracens, and all his chief officers and  p368 body-guards, were hung from high gallows erected on the walls. For Apsimar himself yet deeper degradation was in store. His old rival Leontius, whom he had dethroned seven years before, was brought forth from the monastery to which he had consigned him, and the two fallen Emperors, bound in chains, were paraded through the fourteen regions of the city, a mark for all the scoffs and taunts of a populace ever ready to triumph over the fallen. Then it was announced that great chariot races would be exhibited in the Hippodrome. The people flocked thither, and saw the restored Emperor sitting on his lofty throne. His two rivals, still loaded with chains, had been thrown down before his chair, and each one of his purple sandals rested on the neck of a man who had dared to call himself Augustus while he yet lived. The slavish mob, who deserved to be ruled over by even such a tyrant as Justinian II, saw an opening for pious flattery of the successful cause, and shouted out, in the words of the 91st Psalm, 'Thou hast trodden on the Asp and the Basilisk: the Lion and the Dragon hast thou trodden under foot.'56 The Asp was meant to drive home the sense of his humiliation to the heart of Apsimar: the Lion was an insult for the fallen Leontius. After some hours of this humiliation they were taken to the place of public execution, and there beheaded.

Justinian's vengeance on his enemies. The vengeance which filled the soul of Justinian while he was tossing in his skiff off the coast of Scythia had now full play. The patriarch Callinicus, who had  p369 preached the sermon on his downfall, was blinded and sent in banishment to Rome — a wholesome warning to Pope and citizens of the fate which might befall those who resisted the might of the World-Emperor — and in his place a monk named Cyrus, who had predicted the restoration of Justinian, was made Patriarch of Constantinople. Citizens and soldiers past counting perished in the reign of terror57 which followed. Some were sewn up in sacks and thrown into the sea. Others were, with treacherous hospitality, invited to some great repast, and as they rose up to depart were sentenced either to the gallows, or to execution by the sword.58 The Emperor's fury raged most wildly of all against the citizens of Cherson, who had dared to cast him forth from their midst, and had, as he considered, treacherously intrigued against him with Tiberius III. But the story of this revenge belongs to the latest years of the Imperial fiend. Our immediate business is to describe his dealings with the Pope of Rome and the citizens of Ravenna.

Justinian's message to Pope John VII. After the returned exile had been for a little more than a year in the possession of his recovered dignity, mindful still of his coveted glory as an ecclesiastical legislator, he sent two bishops of metropolitan rank, bearing the same Tome which had been before addressed to Pope Sergius, but bearing also a 'sacred' letter (the letters of Emperors were always thus styled), in which Justinian exhorted the Pope to convene a synod,  p370 to which he should communicate the Acts of the Quinisextan Council, confirming all the canons that seemed to him worthy of approbation, and deleting those which he deemed inexpedient.59

Compliance of the Pope. The timid Pope, John VII, probably an elderly man, who had learned habits of obedience as a civil servant before he was an ecclesiastic, and who had no doubt looked upon the sightless eyeballs of the Patriarch of Constantinople, blinded by this terrible autocrat, shrank from the responsibility of convening a synod, shrank from suggesting what canons in the Imperial Tome were deserving of censure, and in fact, though 'weakness of the flesh,' returned the Tome by the hands of the metropolitans to the Emperor, saying that he had no fault to find with any part of it.60 Soon after this unworthy concession, Pope John VII died, Pontificate of Sisinnius, 708. and was succeeded by a Syrian named Sisinnius, who was, we are told, so afflicted by gout — an especially Papal malady — that he was obliged to employ the hands of others to convey food to his mouth. His short pontificate — of only twenty days — is noteworthy only for the fact that he set the lime-kilns at work to make mortar for the repair of the walls of Rome. An evil precedent truly. How many of that silent population of statues which once made beautiful the terraces of Rome have perished in these same papal lime-kilns!

 p371  Pontificate of Constantine, 708‑715. The short pontificate of Sisinnius was followed by the long one of Constantine (708‑715), the last Roman pontiff, apparently, who visited Constantinople. In his pontificate the ecclesiastical feud with the Archbishop of Ravenna, which had slumbered for thirty years, broke out afresh. Quarrel with Archbishop of Ravenna. Archbishop Theodore (677‑691), whose quarrels with his clergy about money matters are quaintly described by Agnellus, had apparently reconciled himself with Rome in order to protect himself against the hatred of Ravenna; and his successor Archbishop Damian (692‑708) had accepted the peace thus made, and had consented to journey to Rome for his consecration. So, too, did his successor, Archbishop Felix (708‑724), but when the consecration was accomplished, the old rupture between the sees was recommenced on the question of the bonds (cautiones) for future obedience which the Pope exacted from the Archbishop. The profession of faith according to the decrees of the six councils, and the promise to abide by the canon law, were perhaps given in the accustomed form by the new Archbishop, but the third document required of him, which was a promise to do nothing contrary to the unity of the Church and the safety of the Empire, he claimed to express in his own language, and not in that prescribed by the Pope, and he was apparently supported in this resistance by the civil rulers of Ravenna. Such as it was, the bond was deposited in St. Peter's tomb and not many days afterwards, says the Papal biographer, it was found all blackened and scorched as if by fire.61  p372 For this resistance to the authority of the Roman See, the Papal biographer considered that the Archbishop and his flock were worthily punished by the calamities which now came upon them through the furious vengeance of Justinian.

Justinian's fury against Ravenna. What was the reason for the frenzied Emperor's wrath against Ravenna does not seem to be anywhere directly stated. We might conjecture that he remembered with anger the opposition which the citizens had offered some ten years before to his arrest of Pope Sergius, but in that case Pope Constantine would surely have shared in the punishment. It seems more likely that there is some truth in the obscure hints given us by Agnellus that certain citizens of Ravenna had taken part in that mutilation of the sacred person of the Emperor which accompanied his deposition.62 Probably also the city had too openly manifested its joy at Justinian's downfall, and had too cordially accepted the new order of things established by Leontius, and afterwards by Apsimar. Whatever the cause, the rage of the restored Emperor turned hotly against the devoted city. 'At night,' says Agnellus (who perhaps exaggerates the importance of his own native place), 'amid the many meditations of his heart his thoughts turned constantly to Ravenna, and he  p373 said to himself perpetually, "Alas! what shall I do, and how shall I begin with my vengeance on Ravenna?" '

The actual execution of his scheme of revenge, however, seems not to have been difficult. He summoned the general-in‑chief,63 a Patrician named Theodore, and ordered him to collect a fleet and sail first to Sicily (possibly in order to repel some assault of the Saracens), and afterwards to Ravenna, there to execute certain orders, as to which he was to preserve impenetrable silence. When his duty in Sicily was done, the general sailed up the Adriatic, and when he beheld Ravenna afar off, burst forth, if we may believe our monkish chronicler, into a pathetic oration, in which, with Virgilian phrase, he lamented the future fate of that proud city: 'the alone unhappy and alone cruel Ravenna, which then lifted her head to the clouds, but should soon be levelled with the ground.' Having arrived at the city, and been greeted with the pomp due to the Emperor's representative, he pitched his tents, adorned with bright curtains, in a line of a furlong's length by the banks of the Po.64 Thither came all the chief men of the city, invited, as they supposed, to a banquet in the open air, for which the seats and couches were spread on the green grass. But as they were introduced, two and two, with solemn courtesy into the general's tent, at the moment of entrance they were gagged, and their hands bound behind their backs, and they were hurried off to  p374 general's ship. When the nobles of the city and the Archbishop Felix had all been thus disposed of, the soldiers entered Ravenna, and amid the loud lamentations, but apparently not the armed resistance, of the citizens, set some of the houses on fire.65

When the captives from Ravenna were landed at Constantinople they were brought into the presence of Justinian, who was seated on a golden throne studded with emeralds, and wore on his head a turban interwoven with gold and pearls by the cunning hands of his Khazar Empress. All the senators of Ravenna were slain, and Justinian had decided to put the archbishop also to death. But in the visions of the night he saw a youth of glorious appearance standing by Felix, and heard him say, 'Let thy sword spare this one man.' He gave the required promise in his dream, and kept it waking by remitting the penalty of death on the archbishop; but according to the cruel Byzantine custom he ordered him to be blinded. A silver dish was brought and heated to incandescence in the furnace. Vinegar was then poured upon it: the archbishop was compelled to gaze at it long and closely, and the sight of both eyes was destroyed.

The reflection of the Papal biographer on these events is as follows: — 'By the judgment of God, and the sentence of Peter, prince of the Apostles, these men who had been disobedient to the apostolic see perished by a bitter death, and the archbishop, deprived of sight, receiving punishment worthy of his deeds, was transmitted to the region of Pontus.'

Tumults at Ravenna. Of the events which followed at Ravenna it is  p375 impossible to extract any rational account from the turgid nonsense of Agnellus. We can just discern that Joannes Rizocopus, apparently the newly-appointed Exarch, after visiting Naples and Rome, reached Ravenna, and there for his wicked deeds, by the just judgment of God, perished by a most shameful death. This is generally supposed, but perhaps on insufficient evidence, to have happened in a popular insurrection. On his death apparently the citizens of Ravenna elected a certain George (son of a learned notary named Johanices, who had been carried captive to Constantinople and slain there) to be captain over them. He harangued them in stirring speeches (full of Virgil), and all the cities round Ravenna, Sarsina, Cervia, Forlimpopoli, Forli placed themselves under his orders, garrisoned the capital, and defied the troops of the Emperor. Doubtless the insurrection was quelled, but how and when, and whether after a long interval of civil war or no, the chronicler, who gives us a multitude of useless details about the equestrian performance and spirited harangues of the rebel captain, quite fails to inform us. We learn, however (and here the better authority of the Papal biographer coincides with that of Agnellus), that after the death of Justinian the poor blinded Archbishop Felix returned from exile, resumed possession of his see, gave all the required assurances to the Pope, and died (725) at peace with the See of Rome.

The Pope visits Constantinople. Meanwhile Pope Constantine was visiting Constantinople, by the Emperor's command, in very different guise from that in which his predecessor Martin had visited it half a century before. He set sail from the harbour of Rome on the 5th of October, 710, accompanied  p376 by two bishops and a long train of ecclesiastics, among whom the future Pope Gregory VII is the most interesting figure.66 When he arrived at Naples, he found the Exarch Joannes Rizocopus, come, if our former conjecture be correct, to take possession of his new government. Their paths crossed: Joannes went northwards to Rome, where he put to death four ministers of the Papal court,67 — a mysterious act of severity which, unexplained, seems to contrast strangely with the diplomatic courtesies then being interchanged between Rome and Constantinople, — and then he proceeded on his way to Ravenna, where, as has been already said, a shameful death awaited him.

As for the Pope, he proceeded on his way to Sicily, where Theodore, patrician and general, the executor of Justinian's vengeance on Ravenna, met him with deep reverence, and was healed by him of a sickness which had detained him in the island. The Papal galleys then coasted round the southern cape of Italy, touching at Reggio, Cotrone, Gallipoli (where Bishop Nicetas died), and at last arrived at Otranto, where they wintered. Here they were met by the regionarius Theophanius, who, we are told, brought a document  p377 under the Imperial seal, ordering all Imperial governors of cities to receive the Pope with as much reverence as they would show to the Emperor's own person. Crossing over at length into Greek waters, and arriving at the island of Ceos, the Pope was there met with the prescribed reverence by Theophilus, patrician and admiral. From thence he proceeded to Constantinople. The Emperor himself was not there, having perhaps purposely withdrawn to Nicaea, but his little son and child-colleague Tiberius, offspring of the Khazar bride,68 came out to the seventh milestone, escorted by Cyrus the Patriarch of Constantinople, to meet the pontiff of Old Rome. All the city made holiday, and shouts of gratulation rent the air when the Pope, clad in full pontificals such as he wore in the great processions at Rome, entered the city mounted on one of the Imperial palfreys, with gilded saddle and gilded reins, which the servants of Justinian had brought to meet him.

 p378  Meeting of Pope and Emperor. The Emperor, on hearing of the Pope's arrival, was, we are told, filled with joy, and sent a 'sacred' letter to express his thanks, and to ask Constantine to meet him at Nicomedia in Bithynia, to which city he himself journeyed from Nicaea. When they met, the Papal biographer assures us that 'the most Christian Augustus, with his crown on his head, prostrated himself and kissed the feet of the pontiff. Then the two rushed into one another's arms, and there was great joy among the people, when all of them beheld the good prince setting such an example of humility.' From all the other information which we possess as to the character of Justinian II, grave doubts arise whether that 'good prince' really humbled himself so far as to kiss the feet of his guest: but we can well believe that he received the Communion at the pontiff's hands, and besought his prayers that he might obtain much needed pardon for his sins. Some sort of discussion took place, for the deacon Gregory, the future Pope, 'when interrogated by the Emperor Justinian concerning certain chapters, gave an excellent answer, and solved every question.'69 We are told also that Justinian 'renewed all the privileges of the Church,' which suggests that something had taken place which might seem to infringe them. On the whole we are compelled to believe that there is here a dishonest suppression of facts on the part of the biographer, that the canons of the Quinisextan Synod were again laid by the Emperor before the Pope, and were (possibly with some modifications, for  p379 which deacon Gregory successfully contended) accepted by him.

The Pope's return. On his departure from Nicomedia, the Pope was enfeebled by frequent attacks of sickness, but he was at length enabled to accomplish his return journey, and landing at Gaeta, arrived on the 24th of October, 711, at Rome, where, after his year's absence, he was received with loud shouts of joy by the people.

Probably even if the Pope did yield in the matter of the Quinisextan Council, that concession was worth making for the sake of the increase of dignity which such a journey and such a reception in the Eastern capital brought to his office. After all deductions have been made for the exaggerations of the Papal biographer, there can be no doubt that the reception was a splendid one, and that the remembrance of the contumely heaped on Pope Martin might well be effaced by the sight of the reverence paid to Pope Constantine.

Final fall of Justinian II. Scarcely had the Pope completed his return voyage, when the Emperor who had received him with such signal honour was slain. The chroniclers give us a very detailed, but also a singularly obscure history of the events which led to his downfall, but one thing is clear through all the confusion, that in his really insane fury of revenge against the inhabitants of Cherson, Justinian overreached himself, and almost compelled his most loyal servants to conspire against his throne.70

 p380  Revenge on Cherson. Three expeditions were successively sent against Cherson, with orders to accomplish the utter destruction of the city. The first was fairly successful: the leading citizens were sent to Justinian for him to wreak his vengeance upon them; some of the nobles were tied to stakes and roasted before a slow fire; others were tied into a large barrel filled with heavy stones, and so sunk in the sea. But Justinian was not satisfied; he accused his generals of slackness in executing his orders, superseded them, and sent out others, who in their turn — partly owing to the energy with which despair had filled the Chersonites, partly owing to the interference of the Chagan of the Khazars, who came to defend the threatened city against a Roman Emperor more barbarous than himself — gave up their  p381 bloody commission in despair, and then for mere self-protection joined the party of revolt.

Revolt of Bardanes. This party of revolt clustered round a certain Bardanes, an Armenian, to whom a Monothelete monk had long before prophesied that he would one day be Emperor of Rome. At each successive revolution, when Leontius and when Apsimar were raised to the throne, Bardanes had sought his monkish friend, who said each they, 'Be patient; the day is not come yet; but when it does come, be sure that you restore Monotheletism, and undo the work of the Sixth Council.' Bardanes talked imprudently of these prophesyings to his comrades, and rumours of them reached the ears of Apsimar, who banished him to the island of Cephalonia. Justinian, to whom Apsimar's enemy probably seemed a friend, permitted Bardanes to return from banishment; and now, for some reason which is not clear to us, permitted him to accompany the first expedition to Cherson. Helias, whom Justinian appointed governor of Cherson, when he found that he had incurred his master's displeasure, proclaimed Bardanes Emperor under the less barbarous name of Philippicus, and the cause of this rival claimant to the throne was eagerly embraced by the despairing citizens of Cherson, and by one after another of the generals whom Justinian sent against them, and who feared to return to their master with his vengeance unsated. When Justinian heard of the elevation of Philippicus, his fury became more terrible than ever. Every one of the children of Helias was massacred in its mother's arms, and she herself was handed over to the dishonouring embraces of an Indian cook of the Emperor, a man of hideous ugliness.

 p382  The upshot of the whole matter was that the remnants of all three expeditions returned to Constantinople bent on dethroning Justinian, and placing the diadem on the head of Bardanes-Philippicus. Justinian again sought the help of Terbel, king of the Bulgarians (with whom he had had many quarrels since he was restored to the throne by his aid), but obtained from him only three thousand men. He fixed his camp at Damatrys,71 and himself proceeded to Sinope, the nearest point to the Crimea on the coast of Asia Minor. Here he perhaps expected the hostile fleet to land, but he saw instead the sails of the mighty armament which he had himself fitted out, bearing off westward to Constantinople to accomplish his doom. He returned, 'roaring like a lion,' on the road to the capital, but his enemy had arrived there before him. Philippicus reigned in Constantinople: every avenue to the city was carefully guarded by his troops. Back fled Justinian to his camp at Damatrys, but there too his enemies were beforehand with him. The man whom he had so cruelly wronged, Helias, the life-guardsman and governor of Cherson, had marched with a strong body of troops to Damatrys, and opened negotiations with the soldiers of Justinian. On receiving solemn assurances of their personal safety, they abandoned their cruel master's cause and consented to shout for Philippicus Augustus. Death of Justinian II, 711. Helias, filled with rage at the remembrance of his wrongs, hunted down the fallen Emperor, made bare his throat, and with one blow from the short sword which hung by his side severed his head from his body. The ghastly trophy was  p383 carried by a guardsman named Romanus to Philippicus, who forwarded it by the same messenger to Rome.

And how was the messenger there received? The Papal buy says, 'After three months72 the melancholy tidings resounded through the City that Justinian, the most Christian and orthodox Emperor, was murdered, and the heretic Philippicus had reached the summit of Imperial power.' Into what strange world of Manichean confusion have we strayed, a world in which good and evil have no meaning in themselves, but stand merely as the watchwords of two parties of equally balanced power; a world in which it is possible for a monster like Justinian Rhinotmetus to be mourned as 'a most Christian Emperor'?

Murder of his infant son. To finish the story of Justinian's downfall, the pathetic end of his little son Tiberius must also be recorded. The little child, still only six years old, had been taken for refuge to the church of the Virgin in the quarter of Blachernae. There he sat, with one hand holding a pillar of the holy table, and with the other clasping some fragments of the true cross, which his great ancestor had recovered from the Persians. Other sacred relics were hung round the child's neck, and Anastasia his grandmother sat near him. Maurus, the leader of the third expedition against Cherson, and now a partisan of Philippicus, strode up to the altar. The aged Empress threw herself at his feet, and implored him not to lay hands on the child, who at any rate was unsoiled by his father's crimes. But while Maurus was thus detained by Anastasia, his comrade and  p384 fellow-patrician, Joannes Struthus,73 forcibly wrenched away the little Tiberius from the altar steps, took the fragments of the cross from his hand and laid them upon the altar, hung the other relics round his own neck, and then, carrying the child out to the porch of another church, stripped him of his clothes, laid him on the threshold, and 'cut his throat,' says the chronicler, 'as if he had been a sheep.' With the death of that innocent child at the church-porch ended the dynasty of the great Heraclius. They had borne rule in the Roman world, with two slight interruptions, for one year more than a century.

Six years of anarchy. The fall of the Heraclian dynasty was followed by a period of unsettlement and revolution which lasted for six years. Philippicus (or Bardanes), who reigned from the autumn of 711 to the spring of 713; Anastasius, the chief secretary, who reigned from that date till the autumn of 715; Theodosius, whose reign ended in March, 717, are little more than shadow-Emperors, with whose troubled careers the historian of Italy need not concern himself. Recrudescence of Monotheletism under Philippicus. Only it is to be noted that under Philippicus there was a temporary recrudescence of that which had seemed safely dead and buried, the Monothelete theory of the nature of Christ. True to the promise which he is represented as having given to the monk who had prophesied his accession to the throne, Philippicus convened a council of Monothelete bishops and abbots, who declared the decision of the Sixth Council to be null and void. The 'sacred' letter which he at the same time addressed to Pope showed too plainly his heretical opinions. The Roman mob, who seem by this time to have acquired considerable  p385 skill in theological controversy, at once took the alarm, and under the Pope's guidance assumed an attitude of something more than passive opposition. An 'image' (perhaps something like a mediaeval reredos), containing a representation of the six Ecumenical Councils, was set up in St. Peter's by way of reply to the defiance hurled at the Sixth of those Councils by Philippicus.74 On the other hand, no picture of the heretical Emperor was allowed to be erected in any of the churches; his name was omitted from the Mass; his decrees were treated as waste paper, and golden solidi bearing his effigy obtained no currency. Civil war in Rome. At length there was actual civil war in the streets of Rome. A certain nobleman named Peter came from Ravenna, armed with a commission to assume the office of Duke of Rome, deposing Christopher, who then held it. As Peter's commission ran in the name of the hated Philippicus, the people rallied to the side of his rival. Blows were struck, and more than thirty men were killed in the Via Sacra, within sight of the official residence on the Palatine; but the Pope sent some priests bearing the gospels and the cross down into the fray, and these succeeded in allaying the tumult, by persuading 'the Christian party' to retire. Things, however, looked gloomy for orthodoxy and the defenders of the Sixth Council, when, about the middle of 713, tidings came by way of Sicily that Philippicus had been deposed. He was seized by conspirators  p386 while taking his siesta in the palace, and like most deposed sovereigns of Constantinople, deprived of sight, and the orthodox Anastasius reigned in his stead.

This was the last flicker of the Monotheletic controversy, which had disquieted the Empire for just three-quarters of a century.


The Author's Notes:

1 This Epigram, as it is called, is given by Muratori (Ant. Med. Aevi, II.147) and by Troya (Cod. Dip. Long. No. L), and is as follows:

'Nobilibus fueras quondam constructa patronis,

Subdita nunc servis. Heu male, Roma, ruis!

Deseruere tui tanto de tempore Reges;

Cessit et ad Graecos nomen honosque tuum.

In te nobilium Rectorum nemo remansit

Ingenuique tui rura Pelasga colunt,

Vulgus ab extremis distractum partibus orbis,

Servorum servi nunc tibi sunt domini.

Constantino­polis florens nova Roma vocatur:

Moenibus et muris, Roma vetusta, cadis.

Hoc cantans prisco praedixit carmine vates,

Roma tibi subito motibus ibit Amor.

Non si te Petri meritum Paulique foveret

Tempore jam longo Roma misella fores?

Mancipibus subjecta jacens jacularis iniquis,

Inclyta quae fueras nobilitate nitens,' &c.

There are some more lines, which Muratori was unable to decipher. The 'Servorum servi' in line 8 is understood by Muratori and Troya to apply to the Greeks, and if so it is only a repetition of l. 2. I am inclined to think with Gregorovius that there is at least an allusion to the title 'Servus Servorum Dei' assumed by the Pope. The twelfth line is what is called 'recurrens,' and is the same whichever end it is read from. This is, of course, untranslateable, but I have just hinted at word-play by placing at the end of the line a word which is an anagram of Rome. The last two lines are a mere repetition of the preceding, and I therefore omit them in the translation.

2 'roga.'

3 See Note C, p387.

4 See p282.

5 See p15.

6 See Duchesne's Notes 3 and 4 on the Vita Agathonis in the Liber Pontificalis (p355).

7 Sergius, Pyrrhus, Peter, Paul.

8 Cyrus.

9 More than nineteen months.

10 Liber Pontificalis.

11 See Duchesne's note, Liber Pontificalis, I.349.

12 From the middle of the seventh century onwards there seems to have been an intermittent strife on this point between the archbishops of Ravenna and the Popes. In his life of Archbishop Maurus (642‑671), Agnellus says, 'This pontiff had many vexations with the Roman pontiff, many contests, many worries, many altercations. Several times he visited Constantinople, that he might free his church from the yoke of the Romans. And so it was done, and the church of Ravenna was withdrawn [from that yoke], so that no future pastor of that church need thenceforward go to Rome to seek consecration, nor should he be thenceforward under the rule of the Roman pontiff; but when elected, should be consecrated here by three of his own bishops, and should receive the pallium from the Emperor at Constantinople.' These provisions, as the editor of Agnellus in the M. G. H. has pointed out, are probably taken from the Privilegium of Constans, dated 'Syracuse, 1 March, 25th year of Constantine the elder' [Constans]: a date equivalent to 666.

13 Theophanes, Anno Mundi 6161.

14 'Hic [Benedictus II] una cum clero et exercitu suscepit mallones capillorum domini Justiniani et Heraclii filiorum clementissimi principis, simul et jussionem per quam significat eosdem capillos direxisse' (Lib. Pont. in vitâ Benedicti II). 'Mallo' — the Greek μάλιον, is a late Latin word for a curl or lock of hair.

15 His name is not mentioned by Theophanes. On the whole it seems most probable that he died before his father.

16 This is Prof. Bury's opinion (II.320). He thinks (II.330) that Justinian II in some things consciously imitated his namesake, but failed all the more conspicuously in consequence of that imitation.

17 'In cujus electione dum ad episcopatum quaereretur, non minima contentio facta est, eo quod clerus in Petrum archiepiscopum intendebat, exercitus autem in sequentem ejus Theodorum presbyterum' (Lib. Pont. in Vitâ Cononis).

18 Basilicae Constantinianae.

19 In episcopio Lateranensi.

20 'E vestigio autem omnes judices unâ cum primatibus exercitus . . . simul acclamaverunt.'

21 The Liber Pontificalis says that Conon was 'oriundus patre Thracesio.' Duchesne truly observes that this does not mean that he was born in Thrace, but son of an officer in the 'Thracesian troop' which is mentioned by Theophanes (Anno Mundi 6203).

22 Clergy, army, people.

23 'Videns autem exercitus unanimitatem cleri populique in decreto ejus subscribentium, post aliquod (sic) dies et ipsi flexi sunt et consenserunt in personâ praedicti sanctissimi viri, atque in ejus decreto devotâ mente subscripserunt et missos pariter unâ cum clericis et ex populo ad excellent­issimum Theodorum exarchum, ut mos est, direxerunt' (Lib. Pont. l.c.).

24 'Paschalis vero exteriorem partem ab oratorio sancti Silvestri et basilicam domus Juliae quae super campum respicit occupavit' (Lib. Pont., Vitâ Sergii). All these interesting vestiges of the early Popedom seem to have been swept away in the ruthless reconstruction of the Lateran by Sixtus V.

25 'Unus e duobus electis, id est Theodorus archipresbyter, ilico quievit ac se humiliavit: et ingressus denominatum sanctissimum electum salutavit ac osculatus est. Paschalis vero ullo modo prae cordis duritiâ sinebat, donec coactus et confusus, volens nolens, suum dominum et electum ingressus salutavit' (Lib. Pont. l.c.)

26 'Qui sic abdité venit ut nec signa nec banda cum militiâ Romani exercitus occurrissent ei juxta consuetudinem in competenti loco nisi a propinquo Romanae civitatis' (Lib. Pont., l.c.). The meaning of the last clause is not quite clear to me.

27 'Et ut ad compunctionem animos videntium commoveret, cantaros et coronas qui (sic) ante sacrum altare et confessionem B. Petri Apostoli ex antiquo pendebant deponi fecit et pignori tradi' (Lib. Pont. in Vitâ Sergii).

28 'Praedictus Paschalis . . . ab officio archidiaconatus pro aliquas (sic) incantationes et luculos quos colebat, vel sortes quas cum aliis respectoribus tractabat . . . privatus est.' Luculus = a bier, and respector apparently = aruspex, but they are both puzzling words, and Duchesne, the editor of the Lib. Pont., gives them up as hopeless.

29 By Prof. Bury, II.330.

30 This idea is suggested by Malfatti (Imperatori e Papi, p238), but I do not know that any contemporary authority can be produced in proof of it.

31 Assemanni (Bibliotheca Juris Orientalis, I.121) says that the Synod in Trullo made many other objectionable additions to Church law. These seem to have been chiefly the prohibition of eating things strangled and blood, and of the representation of Christ under the figure of a lamb.

32 There seems to be some doubt of the correctness of the assertion in the Liber Pontificalis that the Pope's Legates were present at the Council, and signed owing to a mis­understanding of the purport of the decrees.

33 'Missis in lucello quod scevrocarnali vocitatur' (Lib. Pont. in Vitâ Sergii): strange and dark words.

34 'Magisterianum.'

35 'Joannem Deo amabilem Portuensem episcopum.'

36 'Immanem protospatharium.' Possibly 'immanem' means fierce rather than big, but the rest of the story does not represent Zacharias as a very truculent person.

37 Ancona and four neighbouring cities.

38 'Dumque fores Patriarchii tam inferiores quam superiores essent clausae' (Lib. Pont. in Vitâ Sergii).

39 See vol. V p483.

40 Ἄχρι καὶ εἰς τὴν μητέρα Ἰουστινιανοῦ τὴν τόλμαν ἐξήνεγκε, μάστιγας αὐτῇ ἐν σχήματι ὥσπερ τοὺς παῖδας οἱ γραμματισταὶ ἐπιθέμενος (Nicephorus, De Reb. post Maur. Gestis, 42). Theophanes (A. M. 6186) also mentions this punishment of the Empress Dowager, and shows that it was not only apparent, as the words ἐν σχήματι might lead us to suppose, but a genuine whipping with leather thongs — δι’ ἁβηνῶν.

41 τῶν δημοσίων λογιστὴν ὃν τὸ δημῶδες λογοθέτην καλοῦσι καθίστησιν (Niceph. p42).

42 στρατηγὸν τῆς Ἑλλάδος (Niceph. p43).

43 The subsequent stories of conversations in which Justinian took part perhaps show that this operation was not very thoroughly performed. In consequence of the other mutilation, he is known in history by the name of Rhinotmetus, 'the Nose-slitted.'

44 As before remarked, this Cherson, which is a city on the south-west coast of the Crimea, must not be confounded with the modern city of Cherson on the mainland, at the mouth of the Dnieper.

45 See Vol. II p458 (p449, 2nd Ed.).

46 This is the aspect which Tiberius III wears to me, but Prof. Bury, who can 'read between the lines' of the Byzantine chroniclers far better than I can, says, 'The reign of Tiberius II was by no means discreditable as far as foreign politics were concerned, and the silence of historians leads us to conclude that his subjects were not oppressed by heavy burdens' (II.357). He also remarks — and it is an important caution — that 'amid the details which historians record of the elevations and falls of the Emperors of this period, who appear and vanish so rapidly in scenes of treason and violence, we are apt to lose sight of the steadfast and successful resistance which the Empire never failed to offer to the Saracens. . . . Had it not been for the able sovereigns and generals of New Rome, the Saracens might have almost, if I may use the word, Islamised Europe' (Ibid. pp355‑6).

47 'Hujus temporibus venit Theophylactus cubicularius patricius et exarchus Italiae de partes (sic) Siciliae in urbe Roma' (Lib. Pont. in Vitâ Joannis VI).

48 'Cujus adventum cognoscentes militia totius Italiae tumultosé convenit apud hanc Romanam civitatem vellens praefatum Exarchum tribulare' (Ibid.).

49 'Apud fossatum in quo in unum convenerant' (Lib. Pont. in Vitâ Joannis VI).

50 See p336.

51 See the epitaph of Plato, quoted from De Rossi by Duchesne (Lib. Pontificalis, vol. I p386). This epitaph, in the church of St. Anastasius, was still visible in the fifteenth century.

52 εἰς τὸ φρούριον τὸ λεγόμενον Δόρος πρὸς τῇ Γοτθικῇ κείμενον χώρᾳ ἀπέδρασεν (Niceph. p46).

53 Another instance of Justinian the Second's imitation of his great namesake (Bury, II.358).

54 This promise, in connection with the very recent marriage of Justinian to Theodora, is somewhat perplexing. I would suggesting that Justinian, who was by this time thirty-five years of age, had probably married before his expulsion from Constantinople, and that his first wife had died before 703. On this theory he may easily have had a daughter of marriageable age at this time.

55 See Bury, II.360, n. 2, commenting on Theophanes.

56 Psalm xci.13. In our version the words are, 'Thou shalt tread upon the lion and adder, the young lion and the dragon shalt thou trample under thy feet.'

57 I borrow this apt expression from Bury, II.361.

58 Ἀναρίθμητον δὲ πλῆθος ἔκ τε τοῦ πολιτικοῦ καὶ τοῦ στρατιωτικοῦ καταλόγου ἀπώλεσεν. Πολλοὺς δὲ καὶ ἐν σάκκοις ἐμβαλὼν ἐν τῇ θαλάσσῃ πικροθανάτους ἐποίει. Ἄλλους δὲ πρὸς ἀριστόδειπνον κλητορεύων, ἅμα τῷ ἀναστῆναι οὓς μὲν ἐφούρκιζεν, οὓς δὲ ἀπέτεμνεν (Theoph. A. M. 6198).

59 'Et quaeque ei visa essent, stabiliret, quaeque adversa, rennuendo cassaret.' This is the account of the matter given by the Papal biographer. It is possible that the self-willed Emperor was not really so complaisant.

60 With words of unaccustomed censure the Papal biographer says, 'Sed hic, humanâ fragilitate timidus, hos nequaquam emendans per suprafatos metropolitas direxit ad principem. Post quae non diu in hac vitâ duravit.'

61 'Hic ordinavit Felicem archiepiscopum Ravennatem: qui secundum [morem] priorum suorum solitas in scrinio noluit facere cautiones, sed per potentiam judicum exposuit ut maluit. Cujus cautio a pontifice in sanctissimâ confessione beati Petri apostoli posita, post non multos dies tetra et quasi igni combusta reperta est' (Lib. Pont., Vitâ Constantini). See Duchesne's note on this obscure and difficult passage. I have ventured slightly to deviate from his explanation.

62 'Igitur in istius temporibus Constantini [lege Justiniani] imperatoris a suis militibus cum aliquibus civibus Ravennae nares et aures abscissae fuerunt' (Agnelli, Lib. Pont. Eccl. Rav., in Vitâ S. Felicis).

63 'Monstraticum,' in Agnellus' barbarous phraseology, is supposed to represent μονοστρατηγός. We get the name and the patrician rank of Theodore from the Liber Pontificalis.

64 'Eridani ripam sulcavit.' Probably Agnellus means the Ronco, unless the Po has greatly changed its course.

65 I think this must be the meaning of Agnellus, when he says, in his rhetorical way, 'supposuerunt civibus ignem.'

66 It may be worth while to give names and offices of these men, as illustrating the composition of the Papal Court at this time: — 'Secuti sunt eum Nicetas episcopus de Silvâ Candidâ, Georgius episcopus Portuensis, Michaelius, Paulus, Georgius presbyteri, Gregorius diaconus, Georgius secundicerius, Johannes defensorum primus, Cosmas sacellarius, Sisinnius nomenclator, Sergius scriniarius, Dorotheus subdiaconus et Julianus subdiaconus, et de reliquis gradibus ecclesiae clerici pauci' (Lib. Pont. in Vitâ Constantini).

67 'Qui veniens Romam jugulavit Saiulum diaconum et vice-dominum, Petrum archarium, Sergium abbatem presbyterum, et Sergium ordinatorem' (Lib. Pont. in Vitâ Constantini).

68 As to this little prince, who could not be more than six years old at the time of the Papal entry, we are told by Theophanes (A. M. 6198) that Justinian, on his restoration to the throne, sent a whole fleet of ships to fetch his wife from the shores of the Sea of Azof. A storm arose; most of the ships foundered, and their crews perished. Thereupon the Chagan of the Khazars wrote to him, 'Fool! to send so many ships and waste so many lives over the recovery of your wife. Did you mean to go to war with me? If not, two or three ships would have sufficed for your purpose. Behold, a son is born to you here. Send trusty messengers who may lead him to you.' With that the Emperor sent Theophylact the chamberlain (apparently the former Exarch), who brought to Constantinople Theodora and her infant son Tiberius. Both were crowned, and both were associated with Justinian in the Imperial dignity.

69 'A Justiniano principe inquisitus de quibusdam capitulis optimam responsionem [dedit et] unamquamque solvit quaestionem' (Lib. Pont., in Vitâ Gregorii II).

70 This is not the place for examining minutely the perplexed narrative of Justinian's expeditions against Cherson, but it seems to me that by carefully collating the two narratives (evidently drawn from one common source) of Theophanes and Nicephorus, a somewhat clearer view of the whole transaction might be obtained. For instance, the present text of Theophanes informs us that 'Tudun the governor of Cherson, and representative of the Chagan of the Khazars, and Zoilus, who by birth was first citizen of the place, and forty other illustrious inhabitants, were fastened to wooden stakes and roasted before the fire.' After this we learn with some surprise that Justinian having changed his plans, sent Tudun and Zoilus back to the Chagan with his excuses. But the mystery is explained when we turn to Nicephorus, who says, 'Dunus [Tudun] the governor of Cherson, and Zoilus, who was called the first citizen, and forty others of the most illustrious inhabitants, with their wives and children, were sent to Jerusalem, and seven others of the leading men in Cherson were fastened to wooden stakes and roasted before the fire.' Evidently either Theophanes or his transcribers have left out the middle of the sentence, and so made nonsense of the passage. Both Nicephorus and Theophanes have probably got hold of very exaggerated accounts of these expeditions. It is quite clear that the destruction of the citizens in the first expedition cannot have been so complete as is represented; nor do I, for my part, believe that 75,000 of Justinian's sailors perished in the great storm, and that the Emperor, mad as he probably was, rejoiced in their destruction.

71 I cannot find any other mention of this place. Is it meant for Demetrium in Bithynia?

Thayer's Note: several 19c scholars identified (Mount) Damatrys as Mt. Boulgourlou across the Bosphorus from Constantinople, on the Anatolian side, to the east of Üsküdar; more recently, the relatively scant remains of Damatrys Palace, a very large complex built in that area by Tiberius II and Maurice in the late sixth century, at Samandıra, are being slowly excavated: see the fairly detailed page at "Istanbul, Extended on Two Continents".

72 i.e. three months after the 24th of October, 711, the date of the Pope's return.

73 John the Sparrow.

74 'Hujusque rei causâ zelo fidei accensus omnis coetus Romanae urbis imaginem quod (sic) Graeci Botarea vocant, sex continentem sanctos et universales synodos, in ecclesiâ beati Petri erecta est' (Lib. Pont., in Vitâ Constantini). 'Botarea' baffles the interpreters.


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