He proceeded to effect a reconciliation between the emperor and his kinsmen. He persuaded him to grant certain privileges to them, with the promise of others later on. He was especially insistent that they should be provided for in the event of those troubles which men commonly meet with in life.

So far the emperor granted his requests and his promises were confirmed in writing, in order that Johns might have an assured guarantee for the future. However, no sooner were these promises put into writing than John added a secret clause of his own, to the effect that if any of his nephews should be convicted of plotting rebellion against the emperor, he should be neither punished nor condemned, but that the special privilege of exemption from trial was to be granted by his uncle.

11. Having added this clause, he waited for a favourable opportunity and when he saw Michael not particularly interested in certain papers, he handed him this manuscript for signature. The emperor read it through in a cursory way and confirmed it in his own handwriting. Naturally John was filled with exultation. It was a great triumph and the realization of his secret ambitions was brought appreciably nearer.

Continual subjection to John

And no doubt he was ready to put his plans to the test. In reality, though, this was the start of his tribulations, as a detailed examination of these events will show, for before the Orphanotrophus could take the initiative, the emperor suspected what was afoot, partly because of his own forebodings, partly from the remarks of his courtiers, who told him what they thought about the proceeding. They made it clear that his continual subjection to John was intolerable. There were now two alternatives and they would move heaven and earth to bring about one or the other: either they must preserve the emperor’s authority intact or they would perish with the state.

12. This ultimatum had an immediate effect. Michael not only ceased to pay John the honour that was due to him, but he even differed with him on questions of policy. They rarely met in conference, at long intervals, and when they did meet it was clearly against their will. Once, when they were dining together, Constantine directed the conversation to a certain affair, and having heard both men express an opinion on the subject, he praised the emperor’s estimate of the matter, acclaiming it as ‘an excellent judgment, one really worthy of an emperor’, but rejected his brother’s opinion as ‘a crafty bit of intrigue’.

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