She spoke of her father and her ancestors (her family had occupied the throne for four generations before she inherited the Empire) and when she recalled her uncle — I am speaking now of the famous Basil, that treasure and glory of the Roman Empire who outshone all other sovereigns who ruled over it — then her eyes suddenly filled with tears and she exclaimed: ‘It was you, my uncle and emperor, you who wrapped me in my swaddling clothes as soon as I was born, you who loved me, and honoured me too, more than my sisters, because, as I have often heard them say who saw you, I was like yourself.

Most marvellous gift to our Empire

It was you who said, as you kissed me and held me in your arms, ‘Good luck, my darling, and may you live many years, to be the glory of our family and the most marvellous gift to our Empire!’ It was you, also, who so carefully brought me up and trained me, you who saw in my hands a great future for this same Empire. But your hopes have been brought to nothing, for I have been dishonoured.

I have disgraced all my family, condemned on most horrible charges and expelled from the palace, driven away to I know not what place of exile, convicted of crime. For all I know, they may throw me a prey to wild beasts, or drown me in the sea. I beg you, watch over me from Heaven and with all your strength protect your niece!’ After reaching the island that was to be her place of exile, however, she recovered somewhat from her mood of despair. She thanked God that she was still alive, and at once offered up prayers and sacrifices to Him who had saved her.

23. She had no intention of meddling in state affairs. Indeed, how could she, spending her life in exile, with one lady-in-waiting? Yet that rascal cherished even more terrible designs against her and trouble was heaped on trouble. In the end, a party was despatched to cut off her hair — perhaps it would be more accurate to say that they were sent to kill her. She was to be offered up, so to speak, as a whole burnt-offering, not to please the Lord, maybe, but certainly to appease the wrath of the emperor who gave this order. However, once the design was satisfactorily carried out, he left her alone. So far as he was concerned, the empress was already dead. But he gave a dramatic account of the whole affair to the Senate.

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