Page 1014

1014 UNIVERSAL HISTORY-THE ANCIENT WORLD.

Theophano was accordingly driven into exile,

and the public demand for vengeance was

appeased.

It was well that Zimisces was possessed of

military experience and ability as a commander. The enemies of the Empire were

busy on all the borders. The barbarians were

active on the Danubian frontier, and the ever

hostile Saracens renewed their aggressions from

the south-east. The Emperor took the field in

person and in two great campaigns overcame

the Russians and the Mohammedans. While

on his expedition into Syria, the Emperor observed that the better part of the lands in

those provinces was occupied by favorite eunuchs, who, from time to time, had been rewarded by the court. Deeply was he offended

to see the worthless and indolent creatures

thus promoted above the brave captains of the

army. He openly expressed his contempt for

the possessors of the Syrian estates. "Is it for these," said he, "that we have fought and

conquered? Is it for these that we shed our

blood and exhaust the treasures of our people?"

On returning to Constantinople the Emperor

continued to question the righteousness of

heaping honors on the most worthless parasites of the court. But the agitation cost him

his life. He died under the suspicion of

poison.

In the mean time the two lawful Emperors,

Basil II. and Constantine IX., sons of Romanus II. and Theophano, had grown to manhood. For some time, however, they were

held from the rightful assumption of authority

by the minister to whose hands their education

had been entrusted. He would fain persuade

them that the proper life for youth was the

life of pleasure, arid that the burdens of state

rested properly in the rugged hands of the

middle-aged and the veteran. The elder prince,

however, was less susceptible to these blandishments, and resolved to assert his authority.

The officious minister was disposed of and

Basil II. proclaimed. The new sovereign at

once entered upon an ambitious career. In

several expeditions against the Saracens-

though he had little experience in the science or practice of war-he gained repeated victories and maintained the boundaries of the Empire. Still more decided were his successes

on the north-eastern frontier. There the Bulgarians, once again in arms, were decisively

overthrown and their kingdom subverted-an

event which Gibbon reckons the most important triumph of the Roman arms since the days

of Belisarius.

The conquests of Basil, however, were, according to the judgment of his countrymen,

robbed of their glory by the rapacity and avarice of the victor. The faults of his early

education appeared in his conduct, and his

reputation was clouded by the imputation of

meanness. It had been the folly of his teachers to leave him uninstructed in those great

arts and sciences which humanize mankind.

He was ignorant of the laws and usages of

the Empire to the extent that lawmakers and lawbreakers were about equally respected.

Like Nicephorus Phocas, Basil made up in

religious zeal what he lacked in culture. The

chief aim of the minister who had had him in

training in boyhood was to give his pupil an

abnormal charge of piety at the expense of

intelligence. So when Basil grew to maturity

and became Emperor, he put the monastic

habit of hair-cloth under his robes and armor,

and did penance like a hermit. He imposed

on himself the vow of continence, and for the

sake of his irritable conscience denied himself

of meat and wine. In his old age his religious fervor led him to undertake a crusade

against the Saracens of Sicily, but present decrepitude and imminent death prevented the

execution of the purpose. He died in the

year 1025, and left the imperial diadem to his

brother, Constantine IX. The latter had

already held the title of Augustus for sixty-six years, and now the dignity of Emperor

was added for three years longer. The two

brothers together occupied the throne for three-score and six years, but the epoch is obscure,

and the records of their reign present fewer

points of interest than do those of any other

equally extensive period in the history of the

Empire.