1015 ROME-AGE OF THE COMNENI.
CHAPTER LXX- AGE OF THE COMNENI.
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