Page 1015



With the death of Constantine IX., in the year

1028, the Macedonian

dynasty ended. Neither

of the last two rulers left

a son. Of the three

daughters of Constantine

the eldest, named Eudocia, took the veil.

Theodora, the youngest, refused the joys of

marriage; and Zoe, the second, became, at the

age of forty-eight, the wife of Romanus III.,

surnamed Argyrus, who ascended the throne in

1028, and reigned for six years. Like the

mother of Hamlet, Zoe had not become discreet with age. She became infatuated of a

certain Paphlagonian named Michael, with

whom she presently plotted to destroy her

husband. Romanus was poisoned to make

room for a scandalous marriage between his

murderers. Nevertheless the people submitted

to the outrage, and the husband took the

throne under the title of Michael IV.

The new sovereign was haunted by the

recollection of his crime. He was a victim of

epilepsy, and his conscience and his disease

soon combined to destroy his mind. Not so,

however, with his brother John. This insensate criminal had been a participant in the

assassination of Romanus III., and after that

event had become the power behind the

throne, in which relation he enjoyed with

secret satisfaction the fruits of his deeds.

When his brother's intelligence expired, he himself came in to direct the affairs of state. He

induced the Empress Zoe to adopt his son, and

the latter was presently, through the same

influence, raised to the rank of Emperor, with

the title of Michael V. The Empress was

driven into exile-a thing, at the first, not ungrateful to the people; but very soon a reaction

set in against the usurper of the throne, and not

only Zoe but also Theodora-the latter from

her monastery-was recalled. Michael was dethroned, and the two aged sisters were given

the seat and dignity of Imperial dominion.

After two months, however, Theodora again

retired from the world and Zoe, now at the

age of sixty, was married to Constantine X.,

surnamed Monomachus, a dissolute personage

afflicted with the gout. However, he tottered

on in the Imperial masquerade until the Empress died and left him to settle the succession.

The friends of the old Macedonian family

again put forward the claims of Theodora, and

after the death of Monomachus that venerable

maiden princess was a second time promoted

to the throne. After a peaceable reign of

nineteen months she was persuaded by her

ministers to name as her successor a certain

decrepit general, who in 1056 succeeded her,

with the title of Michael VI. and the surname

of Stratioticus. He reigned but a single year

and ended without an achievement. In the

course of the preceding twenty-eight years no

fewer than twelve sovereigns had occupied the

Imperial seat, and the disgraces of the Empire

had far outnumbered its rulers.

The choice of the half-crazy old man,

Michael VI., to the Imperial office was bitterly resented by the army. To see an ancient

saintly spinster, assisted by a company of imbecile eunuchs, bestowing the Imperial crown

on an epileptic grasshopper in whom desire

had failed, was more than actual soldiers could

be expected to bear. They mutinied. They

gathered secretly in the Church of St. Sophia

and chose Isaac Comnenus as their chief.

They then retired to the army in Phrygia to

maintain his cause in honorable battle. By a

single defeat the forces of Michael were annihilated and himself reconverted into a monk.

In the year 1057 Comnenus was raised to the

throne with universal applause and the title

of Isaac the First.

The accession of this Emperor marks an

epoch of revival in the Eastern Empire. The

new sovereign, however, was a man of feeble

health, and after attempting for two years to

bear the burden of the government he resigned

the crown to his brother John, but the refusal