Page 1012

1012 UNIVERSAL HISTORY-THE ANCIENT WORLD.

the crown was conferred in jointure upon his

two sons, Leo VI. and Alexander. The

former, who was the eldest of four brothers,

was practically the sovereign. He was honored with the title of the Philosopher, though

neither his talents nor his learning were such

as to have entitled other than a king to a

name so honorable. The name of Polygynacus

might have been better deserved; for in despite of the doctrines of the church which interdicted a third marriage and anathematized

a fourth, Basil celebrated successive marriages,

to the scandal of his times. The first three

unions were fruitless of children, but the concubine Zoe presented her lord with a son.

With more decency than orthodoxy the Emperor then desired to legitimatize his offspring

by a marriage ex post facto. This, however,

was strenuously forbidden by the patriarch

Nicholas; and when the Emperor, over anxious for a lawful heir, persisted in his purpose,

he was excommunicated. The authorization

of the marriage, however, was obtained from

the church of Rome, and Nicholas was driven

into exile. But such was the influence of the

latter that after the death of the Emperor he

was recalled from banishment, proudly reasserting the doctrine of the church against successive marriages. The very son, in whose

interest Basil had so stoutly contended, was

obliged, after his accession to power, to yield

an implied acknowledgment of his own illegitimacy by agreeing to an edict condemnatory

of fourth marriages.

In the year 911 the son of Basil and Zoe

was acknowledged as Emperor, under the title

of Constantine VII. He received the name

of Porphyrogenitus, or "Born-in-the-Purple," the name being given from the porphyry room

in the Byzantine palace in which the children

of the Emperors were born. At the death of

his father the boy was but six years of age,

and it was deemed necessary that the royal

scion should be supported by one stronger than

himself. His uncle Alexander was accordingly given the title of Augustus and associated with the young prince in the government. The mother also was made regent

during the minority of her son, and even this

seeming not to be a sufficient stay for the Imperial sprig, a council of seven, likewise bearing the name of regents, was appointed for the

ostensible purpose of watching over the interests of the state, but in reality to use and

abuse the prince according to their interest or

ambition.

The condition of the government under this

system of management soon became so deplorable as to call for a heroic remedy. A deliverer was found in Romanus Lecapenus,

then commander of the army and fleet on the

Danubian frontier. Learning of the condition

of affairs at the capital, this brave and popular

officer sailed into the harbor of Constantinople, and was hailed as the liberator of the

people. By an edict of the Senate he was

honored with the title of Father of the Emperor, and was authorized to restore order in

the state. He was also raised to the rank of

Caesar and Augustus; and in the year 919, having grown weary of playing sovereign in the

name of another, he assumed the purple under

the title of Romanus the First. For twenty-five years

he continued in the exercise of sovereign authority, and succeeded in raising his family to

the dignity of a dynasty. His three sons, Christopher, Stephen, and Constantine VIII., were

promoted to the same honor with their father.

Porphyrogenitus was, at the same time, degraded to the fifth rank among the princes of

the Empire. He lived in studious retirement

and amused himself as a scholar and artist.

During the continuance of this multiplex

sovereignty Christopher, the eldest son of Romanus, died; and his two brothers presently

made a conspiracy against their father. Taking advantage of the noonday hour, when all

strangers were excluded from the palace, they

entered the apartments of Romanus with a

hired band, seized the Emperor, put on him

the garments of a monk, carried him away to

an island in the Propontis, and left him in the

hands of a community of religious zealots.

The conspirators, however, gained little by

their exploit. The public mind turned suddenly to Porphyrogenitus. The two disloyal

princes were seized and borne away to the

same island where they had deposited their

father. The old Caesar met them at the beach,

and with a sarcasm not to be mistaken offered