Mi'chael Ii. or Michael Balbus
（Μιχαὴλ ὁ Τραυλός
), or the "STAMMERER," emperor of Constantinople, A. D. 820-829.
This prince was of low origin; he was born at Amorium, and spent his earlier youth as a groom, in different stables of his native town.
He afterwards entered the army, and although he was ignorant and illiterate, he met with success in his new profession, owing to his bold character and uncommon impudence. One of his superior officers esteemed him so much that he gave him his daughter Thecla in marriage. Having made the acquaintance of the celebrated Bardanes, he found numerous opportunities of distinguishing himself under the eyes of that eminent general, who accordingly promoted him, and in spite of a defect of his speech, whence his surname ὁ Τραυλος
, he became conspicuous as one of the best Greek generals.
The emperor Leo V. owed the fortunate issue of his conspiracy against Michael I. in a great measure to the assistance of Michael the Stammerer, and accordingly raised the latter to the highest dignities in the empire. But Michael wanted prudence, and having often severely censured the conduct of Leo, incurred the displeasure of his master.
In order to get rid of him, Leo sent him into Asia as dux Orientis, but soon recalled him for fear he should kindle a rebellion. Nothing the wiser for so many apparent proofs of Leo's displeasure, Michael continued to abuse both the emperor and the empress. Vexed at being perpetually thwarted, censured, and libelled by this troublesome officer, Leo once more ordered him to proceed to Asia and inspect the troops.
This time Michael refused to comply with the order, and openly joined a number of disaffected persons, who made secret preparations for depriving Leo of his crown.
The plot was discovered through the zealous honesty of Hexabulus, and Michael was arraigned of high treason. Sentenced to be burnt alive in a furnace, Michael escaped death, and was raised to the throne in an almost miraculous way, as is related in the life of LEO V. (Christmas, 820). Immediately after the assassination of Leo, Michael was released from his prison, and such was the haste of his friends to proclaim him emperor and show him to the public, that they did not even wait until his fetters were taken off, but hurried him, loaded with irons, to the hippodrome, where a trembling crowd saluted him with shouts of satisfaction.
The first act of the new emperor was to castrate the four sons of Leo, but no sooner was this infamous crime committed, than the perpetrator had to defend himself against a formidable avenger of the death of Leo and the disgrace of his sons.
This was Thomas, commander-in-chief of the troops in Asia, whose revolt was one of the most dangerous that ever threatened the rulers of Constantinople.
A few months after raising the standard of rebellion, Thomas was master of the whole of the Byzantine possessions in Asia.
He concluded an alliance with the Arabs, and was then proclaimed emperor at Antioch (821).
He pretanded to be the emperor Constantine VI., who was said to have survived his excaecation, and he styled himself so, though he was not blind; but he was originally a run-away slave who had risen to eminence in the army. Having no children, he adopted an unknown youth, who was created Augustus, and then marched at the head of an army of 80,000 men, against Constantinople. His adopted son was slain in the neighbourhood of the Hellespont, and Thomas adopted another, a former monk, to whom he gave the name of Anastasius. Upon this Thomas crossed the Hellespont, and laid siege to Constantinople. Michael awaited the danger with undaunted courage. Unable to take the field against superior forces, he adopted measures to render the capital impregnable, and a bloody defeat, which Thomas suffered in 822 while leading his men to a general assault, proved that Michael had not lost all chances of success. Thomas retired into Thrace, but renewed the siege in 823, by sea and land. His fleet obtained a victory over the imperial nayy. Gregorius Pterotes, an old friend of Leo V., and a general of great experience and influence, whom Michael had banished to Samos, now left his exile, and joined the rebel ; but the emperor having meanwhile obtained several advantages, and the motley army of Thomas, which was composed of specimens of all the different nations of Hither Asia, betraying symptoms of disaffection Pterotes resolved to desert to the emperor. Afraid to appear there alone, he seduced many of the rebels to join him, and with them secretly left the camp of Thomas. But Thomas had watched him, and the two-fold traitor was stopped on his flight, defeated, and put to death. Proud of his success, Thomas endeavoured to force the Golden Horn with a fleet of 350 vessels, but Michael fell upon him with such vigour as not only to repel him, but to destroy the greater portion of his fleet. Thomas was no more successful in his assaults by land, the capital being gallantly defended by Michael, his son Theophilus, Olbienus, Catacylus, and other generals of renown; yet in spite of their valour, they could not dislodge Thomas from his lines around Constantinople, and there was just fear lest hunger should achieve what the sword was unable to accomplish.
In this extremity Michael received an offer from Mortagon, king of the Bulgarians, to join him against the rebel. Michael declined the proposition, and this act shows that he was no ordinary man: he would rather stand his own chance than make common cause with an ally who would have turned against him in case of defeat, and asked for an exorbitant reward in case of success. Mortagon, however, came on his own account, and fell upon the besieging army, not so much because he wanted to help Michael as because he was desirous of plundering some one. Being defeated by the Bulgarians, Thomas raised the siege and retreated into Thrace. Michael now sallied forth, followed his enemy closely, and at last brought him to a stand. Thomas was entirely defeated; one-half of the army went over to the victor's side; and he shut himself up in Adrianople. Michael soon followed him thither, and made preparations for forcing the city to surrender through famine, which so frightened the inhabitants that they seized the rebel and dragged him to the emperor. Thomas had his hands and feet cut off, and in this state was put on an ass and paraded through the streets. Michael joined the procession, according to the barbarous custom of the time. "If you are really emperor," cried the fainting man, "have mercy on a wretch, and take my life at once !" Michael urged him to confess whether he had any accomplices at the court, and to name them. Had Thomas done so, many an innocent man might have suffered death together with as many guilty, but John Hexabulus, whose name was always prominent among the straightforward and the honest, stopped the emperor, crying out, "Will you give credit to an enemy against your own friends?" Michael felt the reproach, and desisted from further inquiries of Thomas, who was subsequently thrown on a dungheap, where he expired several days after (October, 823) The chief partizans of Thomas met with severe punishment. Thus ended a revolt, during which Michael proved he was worthy of his throne.
In 824 Michael renewed the friendly intercourse which had subsisted between his predecessors and the Western or Frankish emperors: he sent an embassy to Louis the Pious, and also wrote a letter to him, which his ambassadors presented to Louis at Rouen.
It is known that the Byzantine emperors would never recognise the imperial title of the Frankish kings, and afterwards those of Germany.
In the above-mentioned letter Michael consequently called Louis only "Ludovicus qui vocatus est Francorum et Longobardorum Imperator," and this the Byzantine historians consider as a great condescension.
The letter is contained in Thegan's Vie de Louis le Débonnaire,
and in the works of other historians.
In the same year, 824, a band of Spanish Arabs, commanded by one Abuhafiz, made adescentupon Crete and conquered the island, which was henceforth called Candia, from Candax, its new capital, which was founded by the Arabs: Michael was unable to dislodge them, and the island was lost for ever.
A colony of Arabs, the descendants of the followers of Abuhafiz, still inhabits a portion of Candia. Michael lost likewise the province of Dalmatia, which was taken from him by the Servians, but the greatest loss he had to suffer was that of Sicily. Euphemius governed the island for the emperor, and having met with some disappointment at the court, invited Ziadet-Allah, the third khalif of the Aglabites in Africa, to take possession of the country. Ziadet-Allah accordingly went to Sicily in 827, with a powerful fleet, and the island soon became a prey to the Arabs, and remained in their possession for upwards of two hundred years. Michael died a natural death on the first of October, 829. and was succeeded by his son Theophilus. (Cedren. p. 491, &c.; Leo Gram. p. 447, &c.; Zonar. vol. ii. p. 132, &c; Genes. p. 13, &c.; Theophan. Contin. p. 214, &c.; Symeon Metaphrastes, p. 405, &c.; Glyc. p. 287, &c.; Const. Porphyr. De Admin. Imp.
100.22 ; Const. Manass. p. 95; Joel, p. 178.)