Michael V 1041-1042

Theodora 1049

1. His nephew, whom I have mentioned several times in the last book, succeeded him as emperor. In fact, when John and his brothers perceived that Michael was at death’s door, and when they really understood that he was past all hopes of recovery, they issued an order, professedly from the emperor, authorizing their nephew to enter the palace.

They did this because they were afraid they might lose their own hold on the government and lest the Empire should pass into the hands of some other family. They even anticipated the old emperor’s death, and as one sovereign went out of the palace to die (as I have shown), another came in to take his place.

2. The late emperor had three brothers. Of these the Orphanotrophus* [* The Guardian of the Orphans.] John was at that time solely responsible for the governments. He had more affection for his brother than the rest, and when Michael died, he did not leave him at once, but stayed by the corpse for three days, as though he were still alive.

The other two surviving brothers meanwhile escorted the Caesar, their nephew, to the palace. The object of this was partly to defend and take care of him, partly to win greater commendation for themselves. John’s intellectual capacity was wider and deeper than their own, and without his help it was beyond their powers to formulate any policy on the grand scale, either with regard to the succession or to affairs of state.

Their activities were therefore limited to a display of fellowship and kindred feeling. As for John, having had his fill of lamentation, or rather, when he grew alarmed at the prospect of any further delay in declaring Michael emperor, which might well wreck all their hopes completely, he returned to the palace.

3. I myself witnessed his return, and having seen with my own eyes what really happened, I am now committing the story to writing. I will describe the scene exactly. When the brothers heard that John had crossed the threshold of the outer palace entrance, they approached him as if they were about to meet God Himself.

The ceremonial was prepared beforehand: they gathered about him and smothered him with kisses, all kissing different parts of his body at once. Even his nephew stretched out his right hand for him to lean on, as if there was some virtue to be gained from his very touch. The demands of flattery having been satisfied, John without more ado took the first step in his master plan. He urged them to do nothing without the empress, to build on her the foundations of their own greatness and of their future, to do all things that they saw were likely to win her over.

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