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Michael Iv. or Michael Pa'phlago

Μιχαὴλ ο Παφλαγῶν), emperor of Constantinople from A. D. 1034 to 1041, was one of the younger brothers of John the Eunuch, first minister under Romanus III. and his predecessor, Constantine IX. Among the four brothers of John, who had once been a monk, Michael and Nicetas were originally moneychangers, Constantine and George eunuchs and mountebanks by profession; Stephanus, their brother-in-law, whose name will appear hereafter, was a ship's calker. When John rose to eminence he promoted Michael to the office of chamberlain to Romanus III., a post for which he was well fit, for he was stupid and handsome. Having further the advantage of being young, he pleased the empress Zoe so much, that she admitted him to her bed. The fact was reported to Romanus, who would not believe it, because he knew that Michael was subject to epileptic fits; but Zoe and her lover were afraid that he would believe it one day or other, and consequently contrived the assassination of Romanus. The day after his murder Zoe announced to the senate that she had chosen Michael for her husband, and wished him to be acknowledged as emperor. John the Eunuch being the secret promoter of these transactions, the wishes of the empress were complied with, and Michael and Zoe were proclaimed on the 11th of April, 1034. No sooner was this done than John removed Zoe from the administration of the state, by keeping her a prisoner in her palace; and as Michael was unfit to reign, he seized the supreme power without aspiring to the name. The beginning of Michael's reign was signalised by a general famine and a terrible earthquake at Jerusalem, which lasted forty days with scarcely any interruption. Upon this the barbarians invaded the territory of the empire on all sides, while the fleets of the Arabs in Sicily and Africa covered the Archipelago, and plundered the islands. John, however. succeeded in making peace with them on tolerable conditions. He also brought the Servians to submission, made peace with the Arabs in Egypt, and had the satisfaction of seeing the Arabs of Baghdad defeated under the walls of Edessa, which thee had invested in 1037. About this time a civil war among the Arabs in Sicily afforded a good opportunity of bringing back that island to the imperial sway; and Leon Opus, the governor of the Greek dominions in Southern Italy, was consequently sent over into Sicily. He defeated time Arabs several times, and returned with many captives, besides 15,000 Christian prisoners of war, which he had taken from the Mohammedans. In 1039 John equipped a powerful fleet and an appropriate army, the fleet being commanded by Stephanus, the brother-in-law of John and the emperor ; and the whole expedition by Maniaces, who was the best general in the Greek army. The Greeks were joined by a small, but gallant body of Norman auxiliaries, commanded by three sons of the chivalrous Tancred. Messina and Syracuse were taken by the Greeks, and the Arabs sustained such losses that their brethren in Africa were in great alarm. They consequently came to their relief with 50,000 men; but few of these ever returned to their native country, and thirteen towns and cities surrendered to the victorious Greeks. In 1040 a fresh army arrived from Africa, which was still more numerous than the preceding; but in a pitched battle with the Greeks and Normans, they were utterly defeated, leaving 50,000 either dead on the field, or prisoners in the hands of the victor. Sicily once more obeyed the Greek sceptre, when a base intrigue caused the loss of what had been so fairly won. Owing to the negligence of Stephanus, the Arab commander-in-chief found means to escape, with a few followers, to Africa; and Maniaces was so vexed at his flight, that in reproaching Stephanus for it, he probably forgot the degree of deference which he owed to the brother-in-law of the powerful eunuch. In order to avenge himself for the insult, Stephanus calumniated his chief at the court, and caused a warrant to be sent to Sicily for his arrest. After Maniaces had left the island, the negligence of his successors in the command, Stephanus, Doceanus, and Basilius Pediatites, caused one loss after another; and in dividing the booty of their former victories with the Normans, they behaved so unfairly, that their gallant allies not only withdrew, but attacked the Greek dominions on the continent of Italy. The Arabs suffered one more defeat at Messina; but after that met with continual success, and before the end of 1040 Sicily had again ceased to be a Byzantine province, and in Italy the Greek power was expiring under the sword of the Normans. About the same time the Bulgarians endeavoured to throw off the Greek yoke, and overran Thrace and Macedonia. Michael, forced to fly suddenly from Thessalonica, where he then held his court, left his treasury under the care of one Ibazas, a Bulgarian in the Greek service, who availed himself of the opportunity, and with his trust joined his countrymen.

Constantinople was in the greatest danger of falling into the hands of the barbarians, when, to the surprise and wonder of the whole empire, the apathetic emperor, who was besides suffering from an incurable dropsy, declared his intention of putting himself at the head of his army. In vain his friends and the empress endeavoured to persuade him to abandon his purpose: "If I have made no conquests," said he, "I will at least do my utmost to prevent losses." He was so weak that he was obliged to be raised on his horse, and every morning the troops expected that he would not see the evening; but he held bravely out, and the moral effect of his appearance upon his soldiers as well as his enemies was so great, that the former fought with the utmost bravery, while the Bulgarians were confounded before they had been defeated. After driving out the barbarians from Thrace and Macedonia, Michael penetrated into Bulgaria; and in the course of one campaign brought back that extensive country to its allegiance to the Greek emperors. The war being thus finished with glory, Michael celebrated a triumphal entry into Constantinople, and soon afterwards died, on the 10th of December, 1041. This enterprise does great credit to Michael, whose conduct gives proof of a great moral truth, that there is no man so bad but there is still something good left in him, which, under proper circumstances, will shine forth, and cause the man to do actions which, though they cannot obliterate his former conduct, will yet entitle him to our forbearance and compassion. Shortly before his end Michael chose his nephew, Michael, his future successor, who consequently succeeded him on the throne. (Cedren. p. 734, &c.; Zonar. vol. ii. p. 235, &c.; Manass. p. 124; Joel, p. 183; Glyc. p. 314, &c.)


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