Sunday, October 30, 2011

Michael Attaleiates History: The Reign of Michael VII Doukas

This next post continues my translation of Michael Attaleiates' History on the reign of Romanos Diogenes ( with the reign of Michael VII Doukas (1071-1078). All paragraph numbers that follow are my own addition to the text in the interests of making it more accessible and easier to reference.

Of all the sections of Attaleiates' history, this section is the most remarkable. It provides interesting and intriguing remarks on a wonderful series of topics from the potential equivalence of all religions (v. 15-18 and for a discussion of it, Kaldellis, Anthony. ‘A Byzantine Argument for the Equivalence of All Religions: Michael Attaleiates on Ancient and Modern Romans,’ International Journal of the Classical Tradition 14 (2007) 1-22) to the ways in which a prosperous economy should function and the effects of oligopolistic policies on it (v. 24-7 and for discussion of the text, G.I. Bratianu. "Une expérience d'économie dirigée: le monopole du blé à Byzance au Xe siècle.' Byzantion 9 (1934): pp. 643-6). These sections particularly reveal Attaleiates' intelligence and insight into politics and economics as a career politician.

1. As administrator of public affairs, he took a man far above many others in sense and practical ability having a gracious sentiment and fine virtues bringing mirth to everyone, the archbishop of Side who held first place amongst protoproedri, John by name, eunuch by constitution, who outshone eunuchs in goodness, statecraft, gentleness, strength, and approachableness. Consequently, the addition of his own virtues to the simplicity and plainness of the emperor made the emperor pleasing and well-liked to his subjects as he came during those times.[1]

2. However, then with the prosperity of the plant there came a weed as with the coming of night, day must depart. For there was a eunuch named Nikephoros hailing from the Boukellaroi, a crafty man, one to contrive and plot to bring chaos to order, who served Michael’s father Constantine Doukas in the role of secretary where he showed himself to be treacherous, slanderous, and practiced in foul deeds even murmuring a charge of adultery against the Augusta to the emperor out of envy of his fellow servant and co-worker Michael of Nicomedia so that he was sent away from the imperial presence being made dux of Antioch in Coele Syria. However, he did not stop there in those parts in his meddlesome and mutinous conduct stringing together pretexts for war by building fortresses and holding aloof from the Saracens to keep the heights from attack. As he was not able to make war on them or fight against them, he instead aroused himself to wage war on the Romans instead and to set in opposition the cities bordering on the Roman border. Even then, he did not leave the local people of Antioch undisturbed and unvexed, here taking their property from them, there crushing them down with demands beyond calculation and horrid demands for additional payment. When he was removed from this office, for such were the sudden and ungovernable whims of the emperor then, he was again sent to a second governorship to which he brought hardship no less than the previous one.

3. When the emperor died and the empress assumed the office of emperor, a turn of fate proved obdurate and unjust for him. For an imperial ordinance reached him in Antioch ordering him to be shut up in the prison of Haima and was kept under guard there for a time in the place where he had previously been recognized for his high reputation having gone from good fortune to bad. He was freed on the proclamation of Diogenes and was exiled to an island, but later with promises of money sent off as judge of the Peloponnese and Greece where he was in charge of the province's monies. For the worse of the Roman Empire, Michael summoned him when he came to the throne and put him in charge of the public affairs appointing him logothetes tou dromos[2] having fallen prey to his charms and his devices as he was devoid of a firm personality and did not lack in the playthings of boys. Having worn a mask a friendship, Nikephoros pushed the most moderate and learned metropolitan of Side out of the administration by treacherously having his agents bring charges against him elbowing aside as well the emperor's uncle the Caesar by painting him as contemptuous of the emperor, subject to suspicion. He falsely slandered all of those closest to him as belligerent towards him and robbed the emperor of those closest to him so putting the stripling lord completely under his authority. What was imperial command and undertaking, the villainous Nikephoros was more often than not behind. Henceforth, accusations and demands were made of the innocent, demands for payment of the debtless, and judgments were more in favor of the treasury than justice on account of which there were entire and partial confiscations, endless accusations, many demands for the payment of interest, and no small of grief of and misery for the sufferers of these acts.

4. However, while all these things were happening and so turning for the worse, divine wrath visited itself upon the east. The Turks, come from Persia, attacked the Roman themes devastating and plundering them dreadfully with their never ending raids. On this account, the emperor planned to send a considerable army against them and raised an expeditionary force appointing over them a young commander. He banded together with him a Latin named Russell handing over to him a body of Franks numbering no less than four hundred. When the army got to Ikonion, a quarrel broke out and Russell openly mutinied taking a different road with the Franks at his command and doing as he pleased. On coming to Melitene he met with some Turks with whom he fought nobly fall upon them with a charge. Meanwhile, the remainder of the Roman army came to Caesarea and set up camp there. The commander of the army (Isaac Komnenos that is) thought to take the Turks against him by surprise, so he advanced in the night with a contingent of his army to attack them, but failed his design and suffered his own intent as his opponents were prepared when he fell upon them unprepared and fought an involuntary battle in which he was defeated being overcome by the multitude of his opponents. He himself was taken captive because he had boldly fought with his own hands and had not given way to flight, while the camp itself was lost along with all the baggage with many Romans falling in battle and being taken captive though the greater part of them took flight looking to their own salvation.

5. When report of this came upon the emperor, he seemed to be angry about it, though he did not stay himself from the injustices of the city having been won over by the vile counsels of Nikephoros, since he apparently was not able to resist the will of his counselors. The Turks consequently overran his lands fearlessly thereafter. Consequently, he bought Komnenos's freedom for a large sum of money and began raising and fitting out another army to be sent against his opponents. As commander-in-chief, he appointed the Caesar John, the uncle of the emperor Michael. He then crossed the strait and came until Dorylaion with his entire army and set up camp there before setting forth from there to march onward until the bridge called Zombos, which is situated on the Sangarios River and also separates the theme of the Anatolics and from that of the Cappadocians. Before he was about to cross it, he learned that Russell was encamped on the opposite side having set out from the Armeniacs with a large and restless gathering of cavalry and infantry men under his command. The Caesar naturally sent men to open discussions about coming to some sort of agreement and peace. The Caesar did not deign to treat Russell on equal footing in sending the deputation, nor did he try to entice him with generous promises and gifts, but in a belittling and almost advising manner warned him against being seized cruelly and hostilely. Russell, however, putting trust in his own prowess and endowed with a war-like personality and nobility, did not accept the deputation’s message because it dishonored his might and was threatening him not greeting him with promises.

6. Consequently, both sides were out for war. The Caesar tried to cross the bridge, though his fellow commander (that is the kouropalates[3] Nikephoros Botaneiates, a reputable man of ancestral soldierly nobility surpassing all others in strength of hand and mind from an illustrious family preeminent over all the East) advised him not to cross the river, but hold off and wait for the rest of the army when he could either soften the barbarian with his superior position with promises, or cross the river by the bridge unprepared, or after the arrival of the rest of the army attack him with a greater force.

7. However, the Caesar did not listen to this fine counsel and crossed the bridge with difficulty because of how easy it was to slip from the bridge. Then in a bewildered state, he stumbled upon battle ordering his battle lines to resist their opponents, subdue them, and rout them, falling unexpectedly into a fierce fight, since Russell attacked him with his elite troops and defeated him by force taking him captive with his very own hands. The rest of the army took flight ignobly scattering about. Thus Russell won the fights, while the said fellow commander by his fearlessness and inability to be taken by surprise returned with his train to his own abode.

8. What then? Russell having become great and infamous by the extent of his victory then advanced forthwith on Byzantium with the Caesar in irons inspiring much distress. When report of this misfortune was brought to the emperor and the people, it filled them all with anxiety with the emperor himself suspecting that the Frank might try to enter within the city by treachery. On this account, seated on the imperial throne, he spoke thus to the men present with great dejection: "Citizens and men of the Senate, I have just learned of melancholy news such as no other person can countenance that makes me nearly want to die. I am Jonas. So take me and throw me into the sea because it is through my deeds that these melancholy and terrible things have happened." His message was filled with his repentance for his wrong-doings, but there was no deed to back it and so no solution came about as he had enslaved himself ungovernably to bad counsels.

9. While Russell was advancing, letters were sent to him by the emperor promising him of the honor of kouropalates and lavish gifts if he would renounce his rebellion and make peace with the emperor. However, he did not listen to any of these messages and so headed for the capital with greater speed. He had with him as his captive Basil Maleses the svestes[4], who he had taken captive along with the Caesar during the flight and who had returned from captivity in Persia not long before having been taken into the Caesar's service because of his clear sense and knowledge. Even though Russell had taken him captive he showed him the greatest honor as a experienced and skilled man who had gotten his experience from previous campaigns and made him one of his counselors even as one of his primary ones making use of his tongue and hand in civil matters. Maleses advised Russell to agree to the peace terms even though he hated Michael's tyranny having been persecuted by him as now a prisoner instead of receiving the emperor's mercy, he had gotten the gift of confiscation and the inhuman deprivation of his own children, since such was were the most unlawful punishments of the emperor then that shirk peace in order to punish the guilty, personally I do not know, though many people say it is so, but he as my good friend swore that it was for this reason. If he desired to become a tyrant-slayer, then this is truly a sign of his nobleness.

10. In the meantime, Russell accomplished his passage to Byzantium and set up his tents in Chrysopolis opposite the capital, the emperor was seized with fear and the city of Byzantium was rocking here and there in the waves, since with all of the Franks that had gathered there and come with him, he had all together a considerable army numbering nearly three thousand Franks. After he had been staying some days in Chrysopolis with the Caesar in fetters, fire broke out in the homes in Chrysopolis. As the flames spread, tons of noise and shrieking broke out as the wind spread the flames and the flames consumed the wooden buildings in the city leaving only an astonished clamor in the city. Wanting to lessen the audacity of the barbarian, the emperor set his own wife to him along with his children. Yet he also summoned the Turks secretly, who were already approaching the Roman dominion, and convinced them to fight Russell with ample promises.

11. Russell then set out from Chrysopolis and retreated back to Nicomedia in haste. It was his purpose to add Roman soldiers to his army and enlarge his army to great size. For this reason, he released the Caesar of his bonds and forgave him contrary to all expectation his previous wrongs with compassionate words raising him up as Roman emperor and acclaiming him and investing him with the imperial insignia. After his proclamation, word reached them of the Turks, so the entire army passed over the mountain named Sophon and made their camp near the fortress of Metabole. When some scouts reported that some of the enemy, no more than five or six thousand, had appeared before them, Russell straightaway ordered the war trumpet to be sounded and his troops made ready for war. The Franks with him numbered two thousand seven hundred in all, since no Roman had yet deserted to them because word of the proclamation of the Caesar had not yet spread and come to the ears of the Romans, so Caesar along with some of the more important men present justly perceiving the number of their opponents said in an attempt to restrain his impulsiveness because Russell's numbers did not suffice to permit him to join battle with six thousand Turks. As a result of this, he swiftly put his troops in order and attacked them. The Franks took their opponents by surprise fighting with force and a cry and the Turks bore down their assault intending to resist, but they were unable to bear the ferocity and the vehemence of their attack with some of them falling in battle being put to the sword such that no Frank did not have a hand in the slaughter, while the rest took flight. As the Franks pursued them hard on their heels, still more men were put to the sword. As the pursuit went on for a great distance, the Turks advanced prolonging their flight, while Russell let the Franks pursue unchecked and so came to a place no small distance away. As he was went up and down the heights of many places, he lost the greater part of his troops in the pursuit. Accompanied by only a few men including the Caesar with his horses spent after the long pursuit, he came upon the main body of the Turks and looked down upon their boundless numbers that imitated the waves of the vast sea as there was more than one hundred thousand barbarians there. Since he had been seen, he realized that he could not take flight in the opposite direction without peril as his horses were spent and his opponents could grow bold by his retreat and decided to join battle with them.

12. As his enemies had learned of the cutting down of their own, they fell into fear and tumult nearly would have taken flight themselves had not some of the Franks descended from their horses and gave them spirit tumbling here and there with bow legs. Seeing them exhausted by their efforts, they made their stand. Although Russell and his men assaulted them with terrible ferocity, the Turks did not give way though tons of them fell in battle. They surrounded the few men with Russell, for such was the degree of their numbers, and rained down constant streams of arrows on them ever using long range bowmen. Having all too evidently slaughtered their horses with these and having them surrounded with men and bowmen in an unbreakable and almighty circle, they added the men on foot to the slaughter of the horses. And thus many Franks fell in battle taking with them a greater number of Turks, while the Caesar and Russell were captured. As for the remaining Franks, they fled back to fortress of Metabole, where the wife of Russell was, and strengthened its garrison and its protection. Meanwhile, the Turks threw Russell in unbreakable fetters and kept him under sure guard; while they treated the Caesar with honor leaving him unbound and paid him the honor of keeping his own clothes. Nevertheless, they announced they would free both for considerable sums of gold.

13. When his rout and capture was announced to the emperor, he convened all of the Senate in the palace and revealed to them what had occurred. With the price sought by the Turks for the ransom of the captured men, the emperor was eager to get his hands on them by ransoming them. For the protosvestes Basil Maleses, of first rank with the Caesar for his education and great experience, had reached him having been freed by the Turks with great honor some before having been taken along with his commander the Caesar in the battle, he now counseled the emperor to ransom them swiftly so that they should not do as they had been advised and make the Caesar Roman emperor and be able to therein attain great aid from Roman cities, villages, and powerful men without a fight, since he had learned they were plotting this. Although he gave him good advice, he did not take such good advice and instead condemned him to exile and the confiscation of his property, for such were the actions of that terrible and awful belligerent man.

14. And so the emperor gathered together a large and extensive quantity of gold and sent men along with it to purchase them from the Turks. As Russell's wife was in the city of Metabole and had a small fortune, she ransomed her husband first and saved him from both enemies so that the emissaries sent by the emperor failed and were able only to ransom the Caesar and bring him back to the capital, When they got to the Propontis, the Caesar was perhaps overcome by piety lest he be condemned as a traitor or be subject to suspicion and inquiry on this account or even cast away and so decided not to meet his nephew the emperor in a worldly habit, but was tonsured and became a monk adopting a paltry habit when he entered into the palace. At this time, prudent men were come upon by astonishment and surprise, since there was no reckoning about those senseless men with out discrimination.

15. These people were astonished to see how Roman commanders could go off against their own compatriots with such show and magnificence, and then return so dishonorably and lamentably with such squalidness and despondency; instead of the previously magnificent and victorious triumph held by previous Romans, they presented a laughable and base sight celebrating the triumph not only of the defeat of their comrades-in-arms, but also their own suffering and misery. What could be a more obvious example of divine offence? I am compelled to be amazed herein by how the Roman emperors having the testimonies of so many histories, the observances of so many deeds, and the fortunes both good and bad of all too evident reasons where in some Divine Wrath visits itself severely on sinners, while in others cowardly, ignoble, and inharmonious intents are the cause, since they put no store in them or deem to learn the reasons for which misfortunes befell the Roman Empire. Instead, with no regard for piety, the service of the Divine, and the laws of their fathers, they brought Roman forces into great wars and perils ill-advisedly and rashly before having appeased God, and so they suffered terribly and were brutally defeated setting no store in the wrath of the Divine.

16. The ancient Romans did not act in such a way; they won their awesome battles and campaigns even though they had not yet received the laws of the Word of God laid out during his unutterable and marvelous incarnation and his time on earth to revere the sacred, strive after virtue, and to keep zealously the laws of good-doing, piety, they nevertheless with great inborn character attended their devotions sensibly. If ever some inauspicious defeat befell Rome or some ill omen appeared, it was a matter of great concern for them to discover and seek the cause, whether something necessary and fitting had been left out, a virgin guarding the undying fire[5] had surrendered her virginity, or some outrageous illegal act had been committed, lest Divine Wrath come upon the Romans. Oftentimes after thorough investigation, they would discover the causes of the outrages and put them right in order to dispose the Divine well towards them, and then with such preparation and confidence march forth to war only to win them and celebrate their conquests after their victories. For generals, it was their concern and disquiet first to purify their army of all wrong and stain, and then after purifying it to fight for their homeland.

17. With present Romans, this is not the case, but instead our commanders and emperors under the pretext of helping the State commit the worst of outrages and God-abominated unlawful acts with the commander of the army not so much interested in war or filial acts for his fatherland, but only the glory to be gained from victory and the gains to be gotten for himself as well as the wealth to be gained, esteeming nothing the success and glory of his own nation. The masses follow their leaders’ example, irrestrainable injustices...pursuing their own compatriots vilely and inhumanly with shameless attacks seizing and violating their own, committing the acts of an enemy in their own dwelling place and land, while of course not permitting their said enemies vile acts and the seizing of plunder. Moreover, they deserve the most vicious curses from their compatriots as their defeat permits such deeds to be committed against all Roman villages, lands, and cities.

18. Again I am amazed by how when the chiefs of the Romans put confidence in a person to make the wars of which God is the impartial judge, they turn against him. They may think they are avoiding the ceaseless eye and seizing victory covertly like a master of the house not brooding over only a piece of his own property, but in doing so, they disappoint not only their expectations of battle, but also doom themselves to infamy and throw away public funds collect by both unjust and just means. I myself having taken part in many campaigns and practically lived in the palace have not yet seen a will pleasing to God or a persuasion or sensitivity in martial and civil matters blending itself with piety that does not appear unlawful to the Council[6] and repulsive to God. Instead, everything is done is to the greater advantage of themselves whether it means the sacred places being profaned or the people injured so long as those gathered in the palace can wickedly use it as a pretext for unjust and God-abominated gain. Consequently, I attribute the turn for the worse of Roman affairs to Divine Vengeance and the response of impartial favor as those foreign nations honor the right and keep their ancestral customs untampered with, which bring them prosperity from their Creator and which all men share in common and are asked for by every religion. As ours is the true and blameless Christian faith, when we fall from virtuous conduct, our condemnation and sentencing follows according to the law of God when it says, “The servant who knows the will of his master and does not act on it will suffer many lashes of the whip.”[7]

19. Let no one censure me for such an inroad on our affairs. I have not written this deceitfully simply to revile them or dishonor them, but to lay the blame for foul doings so that perhaps respect and fear of the Divine may beset the rulers, generals, and subjects and they put them aside returning to the previous good will and succor of Him setting right their wretched fortunes. For we were at the throes of death with both East and West seized by Goths[8] and other blood-stained nations profiting from our simplicity or neglect, or rather more truthfully the offence and wrath of God because we were struggling against ourselves, fighting our compatriots without check, and looking with contempt on death, while in wars with other races we appear cowardly and feeble giving way to flight before even the battle. Yet let this be enough for men able to deduce many things from a few and look after our interests.

20. And so the Caesar entered into the capital and submitted to the emperor so that peace came over the palace as the emperor seemed to have been utterly victorious, except that he had failed to get Russell in his clutches and punish him. For he merited only secondly the assault of the Turks on the Romans and their slaughter of the Christian race plundering their villages and lands such that the east was utterly in chaos with an uncountable number of men slaughtered here and taken captive there. Russell, even though the Turks had reached all of the Roman themes, he set out from the fortress of Metabole with his remaining Frankish soldiers, wife, children, and property and marched through the middle of the country without fear coming to the Armeniac theme where he again recovered the castles that had previously been in his power and thus caused the people of the theme to make attacks against the Turks and hazard the evils of war.

21. Yet the emperor having been stirred into a fury against him by the admonition of the said eunuch Nikephoros, choose to rather let the Turks take Roman lands than permit this Latin one place and let him make his raids on them. Consequently, he contrived many devices, made many agreements, and made many promises to the Turks were they to capture him, and so sent off the protoproedrus Alexios Komnenos, one of those in high honors as well as a soldiers being youthful and second to none in intelligence and second to none vigorousness, who came to Amaseia where he began to make plans for the things to come. As Russell had made an alliance and come to terms with the commander of the Turks, he frequently went about with them without any soldiers about him. One day, he was with them at a feast when he was betrayed by treachery as the Turks betray all friendship for money, seizing him and making him their prisoner having a legitimate mandate to betray the Romans, slaughter them, betray them, not give their word with them, as it is with them. With him as their prisoner, the proedros Alexios won them over from them possession of him with gifts in midst of which the emperor was look to make peace, since he reckoned the merciless taking over of the Turks as nothing through his senselessness and hate for the Romans, it seems.

22. At the same time, the Lord meted out many a time, as it happens, punishments out of proportion with the wrong and unbefitting an emperor unpraisably condemning men at the instigation of advocates of the worst, while reports kept coming saying that the Turks were moving against Chalcedon and Chrysopolis and had already reached the surrounding countryside, yet this caused him no dismay or bewilderment, but as though it was a foreign country suffering he remained unmoved. With him so disposed, Nikephorus, the logothete of the dromos, whom he held in the highest regard, believing himself to enjoy the emperor’s favor in every respect, did as he wanted prying away the emperor's affection for his mother, his brothers, and relatives convincing him that they wanted to rule and did not have his interests in mind, while he, and only he, had his interests in mind.

23. On this account, the emperor let him do what he wanted with the empire with Nikephoros entrusting the emperor with carrying out what he wanted done and bestowing honors and grants[9] on whoever he wanted for no small amount of profits. For he was besides his other vices demonically greedy for money and avariciously acquired immovable property. As his center and treasury of his insatiable greed, he made use of the Hebdomos Monastery. Having received it as a gift, he contrived to make the emperor confirm on him many properties daily and make over to him unending revenues as though he was struggling in this respect to surpass the emperor in his rich lifestyle thinking viciously to makes his own and gain even further profits and add wealth beyond measure to the name of the monastery so that in the future its fame would be unspeakable. In all of this, he took no fill though he had been given as gifts by all of those in office, the soldiers, the tax collectors, and practors and taken into his possession both many and great special properties and houses not even abstaining from gaining by sycophancy nor contriving against prosperity making the distress and destitution of the world his own mandate for avarice.

24. Once on learning that whole wagon loads of grain were being brought into the city of Rhaedestos where they were would be bought and distributed to the guest houses of the monasteries there and to the stores of both the main church itself and many local ones and that they were freely being sold to purchasers and cellarers alike so bringing prosperity to everyone, this vile knave, jealous of their prosperity, built a fundax (a granary) outside the city thinking to gather together the wagon loads effecting this by imperial mandate. The plan was to make the granary the only seller of grain, that necessary of life, allowing no one else if he was not associated with the granary to sell it so giving the granary a treacherous and demonic repute. Hence, that man grew prosperous, the cities’ prosperity diminished, and the wrath of the Divine came down upon the lands held by the Romans.

25. It was not as before where a potential buyer of grain would buy it from the seller and if he did not like it he would go to another seller and another after that and so buy from the wagons. Instead, the incoming grain was stored in the granary’s enclosure having grain sellers nearby the granary and many grain peddlers who would pick up the grain, sell it, and deposit the money of which they would struggle to get three coins more than a coin. No one was to buy from the wagons: not a sailor heading for the capital, a city person, a farmer, nor anyone else. Instead, they had to buy from the granary at the pleasure of them and their destructive chief of the granary who stopped the people bringing down grain and foully took the grain from them imposing grave demands on them for public places forcing them to buy grain contriving in many ways to make it more destitute. With the granary so set up, the previous prosperity fell due to the unspeakable injustice and the price of grain went from eight or ten modia of grain a nomisma to a single modius.[10] For not only then were grain-bearing wagons, alas the avariceness of it, charged a tax, but also all other goods for sale which were near it. Eventually, the inhabitants of countryside and Rhaedestus started to sell their own agricultural products in their own homes.

26. And so, the loads of grain were taken and the granary alone was master of the grain. Nothing of this sort had ever happened and never had such an injustice been committed. For if one was caught selling grain at home that he/she had grown, like a common murderer, bandit, or some who had committed some unspeakable deed, his property was seized and confiscated by the agent in charge of the granary. For the chief of the granary had with him nearly a hundred knaves at his command with whom he subjected the wretched sellers and farmers to much abuse as there was no one capable of resisting them who had the sheer force of numbers and the might of the logothetes behind them filling them with irrestrainable audacity. Being paid a sum of 60 pounds from the granary, he was more than content with its means of procurement, while a want not only of grain, but also other commodities gripped everyone else.

27. With the price of grain having risen, the price of everything else rose, and because now it cost more for purchases, workingmen demanded higher wages because of the lack of food.[11] Prominent persons and those near the granary recognized what problems it was causing and hence this terrible destitution unpleasantly gripped the world as this unjust profit like a drug mixed with honey sated the terrible lasciviousness of those in power until with his profit they lost all their property and salvation.

28. Meanwhile, imperial affairs took a turn for the worse as Nikephoros' terrible counsels especially were carried out and the grain started to diminish and prosperity give way to hardship, so the murmur of the people increased such that of the previous this was judged the most outrageous and set far above those previous evils. The mix of barbarians living by the Ister also joined in this murmur. For there are a great many cities by its banks having a body of people gathered together from every part and one raised in war. Besides them, there are the Scythians who having crossed the river continue to live the Scythian life. The cities being plundered by them furthermore had the annual grants sent from the imperial treasury cut down at the instigation of Nikephoros.

29. Because of this, some of these cities began to rebel and turned to the Pecheneg nation. As the emperor’s officials wanted to appoint a governor from amongst those close to him, they decided to appoint as catepan of Dristra, Nestor, who had been honored with honor of vestarch and been born in Illyricum with his father having served the emperor's father. The present emperor having bestowed that office upon him sent him with some men from Dristra who had promised the emperor they would turn the city over to him. On reaching there, however, and spending some time there, he found that the locals were little or not at all inclined to submit to the authority of the Roman emperor having entrusted full authority over their height to their chief (Tatrys was his name[12]). Either because Nestor was seized by fear of him, or (Nikephoros was hostile towards him and had done this not preferring the public's best interests to envy and wickedness and punished wrongly the unjudged while there matters were in such utter confusion before even giving a thought to the government), he so joined with them by agreement and oath in their intentions and even made treaties with the Pecheneg race that he would join them making war without peace on the Romans. This done, he began his preparations for war and the raiding of Roman lands.

30. Meanwhile, when Russell was taken captive by the Turks, the proedros Alexios staying in Amaseia did all that he could to get his hands on him. Even though the Turks thought Russell was worth of the price of many pounds of gold, he managed to get them to lower what they were asking for him and so got his hands on him putting him in chains and keeping a sleepless watch over him. Then he sent a letter to the emperor and returned to him traveling by way of the Black Sea leading Russell into the capital with his feet bound. The emperor did not even deign to let him come into his sight or think him worthy of imperial forbearance and magnanimity, instead putting on a trial against him in which after his case was decided he condemned him to be put to death resisting any just inclination of moderation and philanthropy and so preserving an experienced solder and general for the Roman Empire capable of curing the east of the many evils plaguing it as he would attribute his deliverance to the emperor’s favor and be boundlessly grateful (it would have been necessary for a man such as him to do so being vested with logic and not without his fair share of solid prudence) taking command of the war to deliver the east from the pressing advance of the enemy when one remembers his previous successes and bold deeds, but the emperor did not act in such a way and letting his anger get the better of him so deprived the Roman Empire of its greatest possibility for might and success as things turned out after this. He so handed him over to the torturers who tied his feet to an impossibly heavy ball and chain like a run-away slave and shut him up in a tower, where he kept him bound with iron chains in darkness inhumanely forgotten.

31. It soon happened that Nestor went through with his plans and invaded the land of Macedonia with the Pechenegs treating it cruelly and malevolently as the soldiers assembled at Adrianople would not even dare to attack him in battle. Thus the lands of Thrace...[13] and set up camp near the city of Byzantium with a considerable army. As for the remaining body of his army, he left it to pillage and plunder the remaining cities and lands. When summer came with produce lost, the capital and the remaining cities of the west were gripped by shortages of the necessaries for life as nourishment failed the flocks and everywhere scarcity caused everyone gloom, since there was not an army considerable enough in the capital capable of repelling the enemy and since there was no means to bolster the citizens moral enough to deliver themselves of the foreign people surrounding them. Not even did the emperor who was so distinguished for his learning, intelligence, and great experience manage to find some way by his own cleverness to bring an end to this misfortune. There seemed to be only one means of delivering themselves of these evils to everyone: the surrender of the logothete Nikephoros to the enemy.

32. Public opinion held him responsible for all of the misfortunes, so there was a great call seeking to punish him and take hold of him, and then with the capital free restore things back to normal for the Romans. However, the emperor proved averse to what they sought ready instead to let things be and suffer. In consequence, this caused a great debate and struggle for the greater part of people as to whether instead of handing him over to the enemy they should remove him from his office of logothetes, make him a private citizen, and send him home as futile and removed by all in order to make the enemy think this was enough for his punishment and break up their camp. As the emperor would not give his consent to this being unwilling to sacrifice one useless man for the salvation of the entire Roman race, divine aid from on high came to help them through the unbending intercession of Our Immaculate Lady, the Mother of God.

33. The ambassadors sent by the Pechenegs as they were returning back to them for some unclear reason fell suspect to Nestor who thought they were going to put their hands on him their chief advisor and co-commander, and so fearing the danger of some device, he in all haste left the army and went back the way he came. As he was passing through the land of Macedonia, he fought some Pechenegs who were pillaging and plundering the countryside, and so came to the villages and defenses by the Ister River leading behind him a large train of men, herds, and baggage. With his precipitous retreat, there was a respite as both agricultural goods and other supplies flowed back into the city with the greater part of people celebrating wonderfully giving thanks to God and to his much-revered mother.

34. In addition, a contingent of western soldiers set out from Adrianople to see the emperor hastening to hear from him his response to their requests as they had charged him with depriving them of their pay as soldiers and with their sufferings due to the lack of foresight and insatiability of people in power. Those about the emperor tried to unjustly overcome by setting a body of soldiers in ambush for them, and when he saw them getting down from their horses to make the accusation let the ambushers go against them. And so they surrounded their countrymen and vehemently and as though in war attacked them with some hitting them with iron fasces, others killing some with ceremonial swords, and still others seizing their tents and their horses along with them. As a result of this happening, the Byzantines felt great pity for the soldiers who had blamelessly suffered and condemned the emperor and those about him for their utter mindlessness as though he repented and restored to them some of what was seized, he did not do anything to comfort them or give the soldiers any promotions or pay raises. Instead, they returned home filled with no small amount of grief not wanting to remain there, but intending to revenge themselves on their enemies.

35. In that year, some portents appeared in Byzantium. A three-footed bird was born and a baby goat legged too having one eye only on its forehead; furthermore during the public procession of the Virgin it was held out and let out a gasp resembling that of a child. Two of the Immortal soldiers were also struck by thunder near the western wall of the city in a public place. In addition, comets appeared in the sky.

36. As the east was being ravaged, plundered, and subdued by the barbarians, a multitude of people fled daily to the capital such that famine ensued gripping everyone and putting them in need of the necessaries of life. When winter came, since the emperor was uncaring and clung to parsimony providing nothing from the imperial treasury or any other providence to either the men in power or any comfort to the people, each person was forced to worry about him/herself since they were not rich enough to suffice for their needs and provide the necessaries of life and a great and unspeakable number of people not only of foreigners, but also of people of the city died daily such that their corpses were piled in heaps in the so-called rostra[14] and the fields with five or six corpses being carried piled up in a single bier unceremoniously and suffering spread all about such that the capital was filled with melancholy dejection. The emperor took no reproof from these daily and wretched happenings, but carried on committing God-hated tyrannical acts as though there was no foreign war disquieting the Romans, divine wrath, or need, or the vehemence of life assaulting persons. Any imperial device was only to wrong his own, outwit them, and seek after their very lives.

37. What happened then? Everyone was taken with gall, angry, and angry with God entreating him to pay full attention to his succession [on earth] and appoint them a man capable of conquering those tyrants as well as hearten the fortunes of the Romans again with his sense, nobleness, and generous and philanthropic soul. Yet they did not stray far from the mark. For the Lord immeasurable in his pity answered their request and raised up a man better than their expectations as such in virtue, magnanimity, nobleness, and soldierly glory when the previous emperor had been in evil, cheapness, and ignoble state. It was him, who was chosen and selected for rule by the heavenly king, the kouropalates Nikephoros Botaneiates, who we have mentioned many times in our work as being thrice noble and esteemed. He was amongst the noble men of the east and was the top man in the province of the Anatolics for wealth, birth, and reputation in deeds both old and new, so having command of that theme then he was filled with grief seeing all of this take place, since he could not bear it having a pious and God-loving nature to live to see such impious acts committed and all of the east in chaos at the hands of the enemy as well as the city of Constantinople injured without check by the misdeeds of the emperor and the western lands laid waste to by foreign nations and injurious devices.

38. As he was well aware by the preeminence of his family exactly how Roman lands had enjoyed many and great noble deeds during many times and periods by his ancestors, he reckoned it unworthy of himself and second to them should he not help the Orthodox in need for whom Christ our God shed his own blood, so he became a fiery avenger and set forth his soul to the flock of Christ and his holy nation. Although the Turks were still advancing and waging terrible war on all sides, he boldly and nobly resisted them fighting them mightily not with arms and a multitude of soldiers (They were all devastated and dejected by the constant raids, slaughters, and defeats such that they were afraid and would not join with him), but buoyed with hope by divine might and armed with just zeal, he spoke the truth against all the forces standing against him and the emperor himself saying that he did not rule like an emperor, but like a tyrant and a lawless and improvident man brining ruinous evil on the Ausonians[15] [the Romans]. As he had written to him telling him what must be done and advising the emperor to change for the better and as such march against his opponents with the arms of justice, the devices of soldiers, and the prominence of weapons, but the emperor had not been amenable and agreeable to it, hostile and hateful to him because of this well-conceived counsel, Botaneiates himself came forward and took up those fights and struggles against the foreign peoples and care of the Christians advancing his fair choice to God and man as well as his pious aim for his compatriots and so taking command of the Romans zealously putting far off the terrible folly of the emperor. Even then the men with him refused to serve him if he did not adopt the insignia of imperial rule, make great use of his great mindedness and universal obedience, and adopt the linen purple dyed cloak and receive the proclamation of everyone, and so on July 2 of the first indiction it was done so, when the eastern sun goes in its equal daily cycle purely and radiantly over the world gracing men with favor of day and benefiting them filling the entire world with its unutterable grace.

[1] Scylitzes Continuatus was more cynical of this arrangement. He writes, “Hence, the emperor being naturally feminine and stilted with government, power passed to him.”

[2] That is the minister entrusted with the financial affairs of the empire.

[3] a senatorial rank of prestige and honor often awarded to military commanders

[5] i.e. the Vestal Virgins

[6] The Greek boule is a curious word choice here because it echoes how decisions of the Athenian government would be formulated (edoxe tei boulei…). Potentially, boule is meant to refer to the general masses of Byzantium as Attaleiates has referenced multiple times in this passage, but the word with its democratic connotations is a strange choice here.

[7] Luke 12:47

[8] i.e. the Turks

[9] The word used is pronoia, a grant which allowed the holder to farm the taxes of the locations specified in the grant.

[10] A single modius corresponded to about 2 gallons or a peck. For a single nomisma (that is a Byzantine gold coin) people used to be able to obtain a bushel of wheat, but with Nikephros’ new changes they got only a peck. Talk about inflation in a short space of time!

[11] At this point, I find it is appropriate to cite what the Byzantine historian John Zonaras writing half a century later says of the reign of Michael VII, “This universal misfortune caused the emperor to gain the nickname by which even now men still refer to him because nobody recognize him unless to the person says Parapinakios [Minus-a-Quarter]

[12] Scylitzes has instead the name Tatous

[13] Here the lacuna stands for that which is in the text, which would have told what happened to Thrace and how Nestor divided the army before he attacked Constantinople.

[14] public platform for speaking

[15]i.e. the Romans