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History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empir

Andronicus was hung by the feet


an indecent marriage with Alice,

or Agnes, daughter of Lewis the Seventh, of France, and relict of the unfortunate Alexius; and his society, more suitable to his temper than to his age, was composed of a young wife and a favorite concubine. On the first alarm, he rushed to Constantinople, impatient for the blood of the guilty; but he was astonished by the silence of the palace, the tumult of the city, and the general desertion of mankind. Andronicus proclaimed a free pardon to his subjects; they neither desired, nor would grant, forgiveness; he offered to resign the crown to his son Manuel; but the virtues of the son could not expiate his father's crimes. The sea was still open for his retreat; but the news of the revolution had flown along the coast; when fear had ceased, obedience was no more: the Imperial galley was pursued and taken by an armed brigantine; and the tyrant was dragged to the presence of Isaac Angelus, loaded with fetters, and a long chain round his neck. His eloquence, and the tears of his female companions, pleaded in vain for his life; but, instead of the decencies of a legal execution, the new monarch abandoned the criminal to the numerous sufferers, whom he had deprived of a father, a husband, or a friend. His teeth and hair, an eye and a hand, were torn from him, as a poor compensation for their loss: and a short respite was allowed, that he might feel the bitterness of death. Astride on a camel, without any danger of a rescue, he was carried through the city, and the basest of the populace
rejoiced to trample on the fallen majesty of their prince. After a thousand blows and outrages, Andronicus was hung by the feet, between two pillars, that supported the statues of a wolf and an a sow; and every hand that could reach the public enemy, inflicted on his body some mark of ingenious or brutal cruelty, till two friendly or furious Italians, plunging their swords into his body, released him from all human punishment. In this long and painful agony, "Lord, have mercy upon me!" and "Why will you bruise a broken reed?" were the only words that escaped from his mouth. Our hatred for the tyrant is lost in pity for the man; nor can we blame his pusillanimous resignation, since a Greek Christian was no longer master of his life.

[Footnote 1018: Fallmerayer (Geschichte des Kaiserthums von Trapezunt, p. 29, 33) has highly drawn the character of Andronicus. In his view the extermination of the Byzantine factions and dissolute nobility was part of a deep-laid and splendid plan for the regeneration of the empire. It was necessary for the wise and benevolent schemes of the father of his people to lop off those limbs which were infected with irremediable pestilence-- "and with necessity, The tyrant's plea, excused his devilish deeds!!"--Still the fall of Andronicus was a fatal blow to the Byzantine empire.--M.]

[Footnote 1019: According to Nicetas, (p. 444,) Andronicus despised the imbecile Isaac too much to fear him; he was arrested by the officious zeal of Stephen, the instrument of the Emperor's cruelties.--M.]

I have been tempted to expatiate on the extraordinary character and adventures of Andronicus; but I shall here terminate the series of the Greek emperors since the time of Heraclius. The branches that sprang from the Comnenian trunk had insensibly withered; and the male line was continued only in the posterity of Andronicus himself, who, in the public confusion, usurped the sovereignty of Trebizond, so obscure in history, and so famous in romance. A private citizen of Philadelphia, Constantine Angelus, had emerged to wealth and honors, by his marriage with a daughter of the emperor Alexius. His son Andronicus is conspicuous only by his cowardice. His grandson Isaac punished and succeeded the tyrant; but he was dethroned by his own vices, and the ambition of his brother; and their discord introduced the Latins to the conquest of Constantinople, the first great period in the fall of the Eastern empire.


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