Basil II part 9

One would imagine he had never ascended the throne, but shared authority on equal terms with another man, or held inferior rank in the government. He gave the subject considerable thought, and it was only after much vacillation that he finally made up his mind. Once the decision was taken, however, he dismissed the parakoimomenus and deposed him at one blow. What made it worse was the fact that this change in the latter’s fortunes was not softened by any sign of respect: in fact, the emperor’s action was incredibly cruel, for he shipped him off into exile.

20. Nor did this disgrace prove to be the end of Basil’s troubles. Rather was it the prelude to further misfortunes, for the emperor next proceeded to review the events of his reign ever since he acceded to the throne and the parakoimomenus began to govern the Empire.

He examined the various measures that had been taken during all that period. Whatever happened to contribute to his own (the em

Basil II part 8

After he had galloped forward some distance from his own men, Phocas suddenly slipped from his saddle and was thrown to the ground. At this point the accounts of different authors become contradictory. Some contend that he was hit by the javelin-throwers and fell mortally wounded. Others aver that he was overcome by a sudden faintness, the effect of a stomach disorder, and so fell down from the saddle. Whatever the true explanation may have been, Constantine arrogated to himself the proud distinction of having slain the rebel.

The usual story, however, and the one considered to be most probable, is that the whole affair was the result of an intrigue. Poison was mixed, Phocas drank it, and when he moved about, the potion became suddenly effective, deprived him of his powers of reason, and caused the giddiness that led to his downfall. The original idea was Basil’s, the ministering hand that of Phocas’s cupbearer. For my own part, I prefer to express no opinion o

Basil II part 7

14. Basil personally took part in these operations with the Roman army. He had just begun to grow a beard and was learning the art of war from experience in actual combat. Even his brother Constantine took his place in the battle-line, armed with breastplate and long spear.

15. So the two faced one another: on the one side, by the sea, the emperor’s forces; on the higher parts, the rebels, with a great space between. When Phocas discovered that Basil and Constantine were in the enemy’s ranks, he no longer put off the battle.**13 That day, he decided, was to be the turning-point of the war, the day which was to determine the future of the Empire. So he committed his cause to fortune. It was contrary to the advice of the astrologers in his retinue, for they would have dissuaded him from fighting.

Their sacrifices clearly showed the folly of it, but he gave rein to his horse and obstinately refused to listen. It is said that signs of ill-omen appeared to

Basil II part 6

The reason for this was that they feared Chosroes. They expected little consideration from him and they believed that he would throw them back into prison. So they made off, with all the speed they could muster, and they covered a great distance before the Assyrians noticed they had gone. (These operations took place in Assyria.) Chosroes, whose army had now reassembled, immediately issued an order that all soldiers of the Assyrian army who met these Romans were to join in pursuing them.

A great multitude did in fact fall upon them from the rear, but they soon discovered how inferior they were to the Roman soldier, for the runaways suddenly wheeled about and defeated their pursuers. Indeed, the enemy suffered such losses that they retreated fewer in number than the Romans, although they had vastly outnumbered them when the engagement started.

Opportunity to revive his struggle for power

12. Here, Sclerus decided, was the opportunity to revive his stru

Basil II part 5

The Revolt of Bardas Phocas

10. Meanwhile Bardas Phocas returned to the emperor. He was given the privilege of a triumph and took his place among the personal friends of his sovereign. So ended the first revolt. Apparently Basil was now freed from all his troubles, but this seeming collapse of the opposition proved to be only a prelude to the host of evils that were to follow. Phocas, after receiving high honours when he first returned to Byzantium, later found himself neglected. His ambitions appeared to be once more slipping from his grasp. This kind of treatment, in his opinion, was undeserved. He had not betrayed the trust reposed in him: he had entered into an agreement, on specific terms, and he had faithfully kept it.

So, disgruntled, he broke away in revolt–a revolt more serious and more difficult to counter than the previous attempt of Sclerus–with the greater part of the army ranged beside him in opposition to Basil.**9 Having won over the

Basil II part 4

7. According to the historians, this man Bardas reminded people of his uncle, the emperor Nicephorus, for he was always wrapped in gloom, and watchful, capable of foreseeing all eventualities, of comprehending everything at a glance. Far from being ignorant of warlike manoeuvres, there was no aspect of siege warfare, no trick of ambush nor tactic of pitched battle, in which he was not thoroughly versed.

In the matter of physical prowess, moreover, Bardas was more energetic and virile than Sclerus. In fact, anyone who received a blow at his hand was a dead man straightway, and whole armies trembled even when he shouted from afar. He now divided up his forces, arranging them in battalions, and more than once–indeed, on several occasions–put his opponents to flight, despite their numbers. In truth, Bardas seemed to surpass his enemies, in skill and strategy and vigour, in inverse proportion to his own inferiority in numbers.

8. Each side was confident in

Basil II part 3

The complete change in his mode of living dates from the attempted revolutions of the notorious Sclerus**4 and of Phocas.**5 Sclerus twice raised the standard of revolt and there were other aspirants to the throne, with two parties in opposition to the emperor. From that time onward, Basil’s carefree existence was forgotten and he wholeheartedly applied himself to serious objects. Once the first blow had been struck against those members of his family who had seized power, he set himself resolutely to compass their utter destruction.**6

The Rebellion of Sclerus

5. A policy so drastic, not unnaturally, stirred the nephews of Nicephorus Phocas to bitter revolt. The trouble began with Sclerus, a man who was not only a competent planner, but extremely clever in carrying out his schemes, possessed of vast wealth (no mean asset in one who aimed at a throne), with the prestige of royal blood and of success in great wars, with all the military caste at his side t

Basil II part 2

Although he was born of the same father as the father of Basil and Constantine, on his mother’s side he came of different stock. In early infancy he had suffered castration–a natural precaution against a concubine’s son, for under those circumstances he could never hope to usurp the throne from a legitimate heir. Actually he was resigned to his fate and was genuinely attached to the imperial house–after all, it was his own family. He was particularly devoted to his nephew Basil, embracing the young man in the most affectionate manner and watching over his progress like some kindly fosterparent. It is not surprising, then, that Basil placed on this man’s shoulders the burden of Empire. The older man’s serious nature, too, had its influence on the emperor’s character.

Following in the other’s footsteps

The parakoimomenus, in fact, was like an athlete competing at the gamest while Basil the emperor watched him as a s

Basil II part 1

Basil II 976 – 1025

1. The circumstances in which the emperor John Tzimisces met his death have already been described (in the history of Leo Diaconus).**1 Basil and Constantine, the sons of Romanus,**2 were now the legitimate heirs to an Empire which through the efforts of their predecessor had won many triumphs and greatly increased its power.

2. Both princes had seen the last of their boyhood days, but their interests lay far apart, for whereas Basil, the elder of the two, always gave an impression of alertness, intelligence, and thoughtfulness, his brother was to all appearances apathetic, passing a lazy existence, and devoted to a life of luxury. It was natural, therefore, that they should abandon the idea of a diarchy. By mutual consent all real power was vested in Basil, and Constantine was associated with him as emperor in name only.

It was a wise decision, for if the Empire was to be well governed it was essential that the older and more ex

The Vampire part 4

Finally after several hours, when the distance was becoming over-spread with a darker violet, so magically beautiful in the south, the mother reminded us it was time to depart. We arose and walked down towards the hotel with the easy, elastic steps that characterize carefree children. We sat down in the hotel under the handsome veranda.

Hardly had we been seated when we heard below the sounds of quarreling and oaths. Our Greek was wrangling with the hotel- keeper, and for the entertainment of it we listened.

The amusement did not last long. “If I didn`t have other guests,” growled the hotel-keeper and ascended the steps towards us.

“I beg you to tell me, sir,” asked the young Pole of the approaching hotel-keeper, “who is that gentleman? What`s his name?”

“Eh—who knows what the fellow`s name is?” grumbled the hotel- keeper, and he gazed venomously downwards. “We call him the Vam-pire.”

“An artist?”