Michael IV part 4

9. Clearly it was not a noble beginning for a man promoted to supreme power, as I have shown. Nevertheless, for a short period after he became master of the Empire, he treated the governing of it as a kind of joke. He would put off decisions until some crisis arose or some unexpected turn of events, while he passed the time in amusing his wife and in organizing pleasures and pastimes for her.

Once he saw the magnitude of the Empire, however, and recognized the diverse quality of forethought required for its managing and the multitudinous difficulties involved in the cares of state–difficulties with which a man who is truly an emperor must be faced — then his character was suddenly and radically changed. It was as if he had grown up to manhood, no longer a boy, and from that moment he governed his Empire in a fashion at once more manly and more noble.

10. There is one more trait in the emperor which I cannot refrain from admiring. It is this, that although his origin was humble, in the hour of his great good fortune he did not lose his sense of balance, nor was he overwhelmed by his power. None of his usual habits was changed. You would think he had been carefully trained for the task long before, and he seemed to approach it naturally. On the day of his accession he behaved like a man who had been acclaimed emperor years before, and men regarded him as such.

Lesser and humbler duties

He made no innovations in established customs, rescinded no laws, introduced none that were contrary to the spirit of his predecessor, removed no member of the Senate–changes which normally occur when a new reign commences. As to those who had befriended him before his promotion, or men to whom he was under obligation, when he became emperor he did not cheat them of their hopes, except inasmuch as their promotion to the highest offices was not immediate. He employed them first, by way of trial, so to speak, in the lesser and humbler duties and so gradually prepared them for positions of greater importance.

I must admit, that if his brothers had not been born under some evil star — and it was for this reason that he could neither wipe out the family root and branch, nor make honest men of them, because of their wicked nature — had it not been for this, not one of the famous monarchs would have been his equal.

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