These were the reasons that thrust aside this woman’s innate shyness, and gave her the bold eyes of a man (or encouraged her to meet the eyes of men); yet even in these circumstances she did not lose her usual modesty, but by her quiet looks and silence and by her self-respect remained little known to the majority. The only thing that shewed the Empress was following the army was a litter borne by two mules and covered with the imperial curtains, for the rest her divine body was concealed from view. One thing alone all acknowledged, namely, that some most excellent foresight conducted everything to do with the Emperor’s malady, and that she was his tireless guardian, an ever-wakeful eye which never slumbered over its duties.
And such of us as were well-disposed to the Emperor aided and abetted the mistress, my mother, in her care to the utmost of our respective ability, nor did we ever relax. I have written this especially for those who are fond of scoffing and reviling. For they bring a charge even against the innocent (the Homeric Muse, too, knew this human trait) and they disparage noble deeds and find fault with the faultless. And thus on the expedition which took place at that time (the Emperor was marching to meet Bohemund) she accompanied him, partly against, and partly of, her own will. For it was not necessary for the Empress to take part in the attack on the barbarian army.
For how could she? that would have been all very well for Tomyris and the Massagetan Sparethra, but not for my Irene. Her courage was used in another direction and though she was fully armed it was not with Athena’s spear or the helmet of Hades, but her shield and buckler and sword were for standing up bravely against the chances and vicissitudes of life to which she knew rulers were always exposed; her activity in business, her stem resistance to passion and her genuine loyalty were such as Solomon lauds.
Thus my mother was prepared for wars of that kind, but in other respects she was as peaceful as her name.
But since the moment for the struggle with the barbarian was impending the Emperor was busy preparing everything for this struggle, and saw to the forts being made secure and where necessary, further strengthened; in a word, he did his best to get everything in good trim against Bohemund’s arrival.
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