The navigation of the river, which poured its flood through a channel nearly a thousand miles in length from Kief to the Euxine, was difficult and perilous. It required the blind, unthinking courage of semi-barbarians to undertake such an enterprise. There were many cataracts, down which the flotilla would be swept over foaming billows and amidst jagged rocks. In many places the stream was quite impassable by boats, and it was necessary to take all the barges, with their contents, on shore, and drag them for miles through the forest, again to launch them upon smoother water; and all this time they were exposed to attacks from numerous and ferocious foes. Having arrived at the mouth of the Dnieper, they had still six or eight hundred miles of navigation over the waves of that storm-swept sea. And then, at the close, they had to encounter, in deadly fight, all the power of the Roman empire. But unintimidated by these perils, Oleg, leaving Igor with his bride at Kief, launched his boats upon the current, and commenced his desperate enterprise.
GROWTH AND CONSOLIDATION OF RUSSIA
From 910 to 973.
Expedition to Constantinople.—Treaty with
the Emperor.—Last Days of
Oleg.—His Death.—Igor Assumes the Scepter.—His Expedition to the
Don.—Descent upon Constantinople.—His Defeat.—Second
Expedition.—Pusillanimity of the Greeks.—Death of Igor.—Regency of
Olga.—Her Character.—Succession of Sviatoslaf.—His Impiety and
Ambition.—Conquest of Bulgaria.—Division of the Empire.—Defeat,
Ruin and Death of Sviatoslaf.—Civil War.—Death of Oleg.—Flight of
Vlademer.—Supremacy of Yaropolk.
The fleet of Oleg successfully accomplished the navigation of the Dnieper, followed by the horse along the shores. Each barge carried forty warriors. Entering the Black Sea, they spread their sails and ran along the western coast to the mouth of the Bosporus. The enormous armament approaching the imperial city of Constantine by sea and by land, completely invested it. The superstitious Leon, surnamed the Philosopher, sat then upon the throne. He was a feeble man engrossed with the follies of astrology, and without making preparations for any vigorous defense, he contented himself with stretching a chain across the Golden Horn to prevent the hostile fleet from entering the harbor. The cavalry of Oleg, encountering no serious opposition, burnt and plundered all the neighboring regions. The beautiful villas of the wealthy Greeks, their churches and villages all alike fell a prey to the flames. Every species of cruelty and barbarity was practiced by the ruthless invaders.