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The German Empire and the Papacy (843-1122); The Moors and Christians in Spain; the Byzantine Empire; the Rize of the Italian Re page 3

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We go back for a short time, as regards the Eastern (Greek) Empire, to the previous period. Leo the Isaurian, who had dealt so victoriously with the Saracens in 718, was afterwards engaged for some years with a very different foe - the gross superstition which was carrying the worship of images to a monstrous height. The great central truths of Christianity had become mixed up with and overgrown by childish legends, observances, and rites, and the worship of images and relics resembled African fetichism. Every picture and statue of a saint had its special miraculous powers for the votaries of this degraded form of religion. Leo headed a reaction of the more intelligent laity, and in 725 issued an edict ordering the removal of all the images in Constantinople. Serious rioting broke out, and the mob killed in their fury the officials who were taking down the great crucifix above the palace-gate. The executions which followed this act inaugurated Leo's use of armed force against the image-worshippers in every part of the empire. The famous Iconoclastic struggle included revolts in Greece and Italy against the emperor, only suppressed after hard fighting, and the Popes encouraged the rebels in a contest which tended to heighten their own spiritual and temporal authority. Leo's influence with the army alone saved his throne. His civil work was distinguished by sound legislation, the reforming of finance, and a reorganisation of the state which gave it a new lease of life and vigour for three centuries. His son Constantine V., who followed him in 740, persecuted the image-worshippers even more fiercely than Leo, and extended his hostility to the monasteries. The dynasty ended in 797 with the monstrous crime of the arrogant, clever, and popular empress Irene. When she was acting as regent for her young son Constantine VI., she seized and blinded him, and made him a prisoner in a monastery. She was deposed from power in 802 by Nicephorus, one of her chief officials, a man of Oriental origin, and an opponent of the image-worship. After much trouble with the caliph Haroun-al-Raschid, to whom he had to pay a large war-indemnity, this emperor died in 811, in battle with Bulgarians who were ravaging Thrace. Leo the Armenian earned the nickname of "the Chameleon" by a middle policy between image-breaking and image-worship, but by a severe defeat of the Bulgarians he rid the empire of their presence for over half a century Murdered by conspirators at early communion on Christmas-day, 820, he was succeeded by a military officer, of peasant birth, named Michael. During his brief reign the Saracens conquered Crete, and after his death Moors from Africa won the whole of Sicily.

In 886 began a fairly peaceful and monotonous period, lasting until 963, occupied by two reigns, those of another Leo and another Constantine. They were both men of merely literary ambition, who left behind them some interesting works - Leo on military affairs, and Constantine on the administration of the empire. A literary revival, before this period, had produced the learned and cultured Photius, Patriarch of Constantinople, who took a great part in the severance of the Eastern and Western Churches. Art was also improved at this time, in the execution of illuminated manuscripts, and Constantinople, amid a general decay of maritime trade due to the ravages of Saracen pirates, became, from the middle of the 9th to the end of the 11th century, the one great commercial city of Europe, transmitting the products of the East to Italy and France under guard of the imperial navy. A time of military prowess arrived with the brave and able commander Nicephorus Phocas, head of a great family of landowners in Asia Minor. In 961 he regained Crete for the empire, and took many forts in Cilicia and northern Syria from the Saracens, completing the conquest of those territories, as co-emperor with two minors, between 964 and 968. This rugged, stern soldier was murdered in 969 by his wife Theophano and her lover John Zimisces, a distinguished young officer of cavalry, who succeeded as emperor. He won fame by his defeat of a great host of Russians who had invaded the Balkan peninsula. It was a desperate battle of sturdy and obstinate Slavonic infantry, having viking blood in their veins, clad in mail shirts and helmets, and wielding battle-axe and spear, against the mailed Asiatic horsemen, and bowmen and slingers, of the Byzantine force. It was the archers that thinned the ranks of the great square columns, and made an entrance for Zimisces' horsemen. Five years after the great victory at Silistria, Zimisces died, in 976, and was succeeded by the young Basil II. This warlike, ascetic sovereign, who always had the monk's dress under his armour and his imperial robes, reigned for nearly 50 years, and acquired, in his continuous struggles, the surname of "Slayer of the Bulgarians." These people were forced back, in a contest of over 30 years' duration, from south of the Balkans to the Danube, so that the empire became conterminous with the territory of the Magyars in Hungary. Basil, in the latter part of his reign, had much success on his eastern frontier against the Moslem, and on his death in 1025 he had won more territory for the empire than any man since the time of Belisarius and Narses. Under weak successors much was lost, and in 1055 the last Byzantine possession west of the Adriatic became the Norman duchy of Apulia. A terrible foe had already appeared on the Armenian border - the Seljuk Turks, to be much seen hereafter.

Anarchy caused by foreign invasion and civil war came in the latter half of the 11th century, and the empire received blows and injuries that could not be repaired. The emperors are not worthy of mention. The Turks, on the east, pressed forward in a career of ruthless cruelty under their sultan Alp Arslan, warring as light horse-archers, able to elude the heavy cavalry of their foe. The final disaster belongs to the year 1071. The emperor-regent Romanus, an Asiatic noble, who had shown fine courage against the Turks, met their whole army at Manzikert, on the Armenian frontier. Prudence counselled delay to a commander having with him only a portion of his forces, and that composed of men wearied by long marches, but the Byzantine ruler rushed at once upon the Mussulmans, trusting to the weight of his cuirassiers. For a long summer's day the Turkish light horsemen were constantly broken and forced back, but the contest was ever renewed, and in the dusk confusion arose among the imperial forces from mistake of orders combined with either cowardice or treachery in the leader of the reserves, who quitted the field with all his men. The rest of the army was almost destroyed, and Ronianus came into Alp Arslan's tent as a prisoner, and, according to Turkish custom, had his conqueror's foot placed on his bowed neck. He was soon afterwards released on ransom, only to be seized at home by a rival, and blinded with a savage roughness that caused his death. The decisive day of Manzikert was a turning-point in the long and chequered history of the Greek Empire. Asia Minor seemed for ever lost, and civil wars between pretenders to the throne were raging while the Turks were drawing nearer and nearer to Constantinople. We leave the subject at present with the accession to power, in 1081, of the brave and able Alexius Comnenus, a strange compound of virtue and vice, unequalled in his time for mendacity, meanly treacherous, foully perjured, but unstained by cruelty, and the deliverer of the empire, for a season, from an abyss of ruin.

We shall now pass to Italy and see something of the rise of the republics in that beautiful country, of most complex, varied, and troublous history in mediaeval days. The renowned Florence had its origin in the ancient Etruscan town Fiesole (Faesulae), built on the crest of an irregular height overlooking the fertile plain traversed by the Arno. A new town began at the foot of the hill, for the convenience of the traders resorting to the river, and this was the nucleus of Florence, a name of unknown source, The place is mentioned by Tacitus and Pliny, and before the imperial time of Rome it was a very fine municipal town. The city, restored by Augustus, becomes historically obscure under the Visigoths and Langobards or Lombards, emerging to view in the time of Karl the Great (Charlemagne), and governed by a duke, aided by officials chosen by him and the citizens. It is clear that the tendency of the people was towards self-government, and in the 11th century, when Florence and a large part of Tuscany were included in the Papal territory, she became a flourishing free city, with inhabitants of republican spirit, patriotic and enterprising. The situation was favourable to trade, and at this early period Florentines had a share in European commerce, with store-houses in French and English seaports, and credit for skill in goldwork and jewellery. The coin called " florin " derived its name from the place where, at this time, it was first struck in gold. The enthusiasm and vitality of the citizens found a vent in warfare against one of their bishops who was accused of simony in purchasing appointment to his see, and the contest, after an appeal to the Pope, ended in their favour in 1068. The trade-guilds became of great importance, and the basis of a strong republic was formed.

Genoa, the ancient capital of Liguria, and an important place in Roman times, finely situated for commerce, fell by turns into the hands of the Lombards, the Franks, and the Germans, always preserving, however, a high degree of prosperity. In the time of the Saracen conquests, the citizens showed courage and enterprise against the common foe, and began a great career of commercial development in the conquest of Corsica, for a time, from the Moors. Genoa soon became a strong independent little republican state, the history of which runs parallel, for a time, with that of its permanent rival Pisa, in alliance with which the subjugation of Sardinia and Corsica was effected. At the close of the 11th century the Genoese formed a strong maritime and naval state, having also a considerable army. Pisa, lying on the Arno about 50 miles west of Florence, was a seaport until accumulation of matter at the river-mouth caused it to stand four miles from the sea, the source of, its power in mediaeval times. Early in the 11th century the city, which had received a diploma, conceding the exercise of her ancient customs, from Henry IV. of Germany, had become a powerful little republic, possessed of a good naval force and much territory along the sea-coast. Her noblest buildings arose at this period of her greatest prosperity, when she helped Otto II. against the Greek cities of southern Italy, fought the Saracens (Moors) with her galleys, carried on a great trade with the East, and put forth a code of maritime law which was the basis of such legislation for most of the Mediterranean commerce. The Moorish territory in Africa was twice invaded, and the Moslem were thoroughly defeated, in 1062, off Palermo. Early in the 12th century the Pisans deprived the Moors of the Balearic Isles. The wealth, independence, and luxurious life of the chief Pisan merchants were almost princely, and the state was a formidable rival to Genoa and Florence.

The renowned state which arose at an early date among the lagunes at the head of the Adriatic now demands our attention. Venice is, to the historian, the artist, and the lover of the picturesque, a word of magical power, carrying with it a singular, and, in some respects, an unrivalled interest. The light of romance still gleams over her waters even in days when the smoke of the steam-vessel profanes, as some conceive, the city of the many islands, the scene of the rule of Doges and of the terrible Council of Ten, the bride of the sea. Art, commerce, wealth, luxury, splendour, and an existence, as a free state, extending over 1,100 years, combined with the strangeness of her geographical position, and her political importance in great periods of European history, are the chief elements in the glory of mediaeval and modern Venice. Early in the 4th century of the Christian era, the islands of the lagunes had been partly occupied by people who fled from the mainland of Italy to escape from Alaric the Visigoth and other invaders. The incursion of Attila and his Huns in the middle of the century made the region a permanent abode, and we may place the origin of Venice in this period. The islands of the stream called Rivus Altus (Rialto) were those chiefly selected as places of refuge in the strange region of shallow waters, penetrating towards the plains of the mainland, dotted with islands and intersected by canals. A long curved narrow tongue of land called littorali or lidi, "shores" or "banks," separates the lagune from the open sea, with the concave side facing thereto, and having several openings which admit the tide to the inner waters, affording purity to the air and passage for ships to the safe inner basin In course of time walls were built to protect the various natural ports of the water-city which was to become famous for its solid and beautiful houses, palaces, and churches. The people, who in the 6th century were already noted for a lucrative trade in salt, had a confederation of the isles, under which a maritime tribune governed the independent population of each island. The increase of power and prosperity aroused the jealousy of the neighbours of Venice on the mainland, especially of Padua, whose inhabitants had in earlier days largely contributed to her foundation. The irruption of the Langobards (Lombards) under Alboin, in the 6th century, drove more refugees to the lagunes, and Venice continued to grow in resources. Towards the end of that century she received from the emperor at Constantinople a document ensuring the protection of the imperial forces, with full liberty for trade, and thus began the long, brilliant, and interesting connection of Venice with the East. The nobles of the city were also traders and merchants, storing their goods in the basements and cellars of their palaces, to which they were brought in the large broad boats very early called gondolas, differing both in size and purpose from the vessels of later days.

About the beginning of the 7th century the first Doge (or Duke) was elected, being an official whose original power, almost absolute, was gradually frittered down to a mere shadow of authority, until he became the figure-head of the state, whose person was invested with ever growing pomp and ceremony. His revenues were derived from tithes on pasture, tilled lands, and forests on the mainland, salt-rents, and tribute paid in kind. In the earlier history the government was largely democratic, as the whole adult male community of the three orders - Upper, Middle, Lesser or Lower - and even the mass of the lowest class, united in electing the Doge; but in course of time, and before the 15th century, this popular power wholly disappeared.

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