The Empire of Russia eBook

This eBook from the Gutenberg Project consists of approximately 601 pages of information about The Empire of Russia.

The proud princess, faithful to Yaropolk, returned the stinging reply, that she would never marry the son of a slave.  We have before mentioned that the mother of Vlademer was not the wife of his father.  She was one of the maids of honor of Olga.  This insult roused the indignation of Vlademer to the highest pitch.  Burning with rage he marched suddenly upon Polotsk, took the city by storm, killed Rovgolod and his two sons and compelled Rogneda, his captive, to marry him, paying but little attention to the marriage ceremony.  Having thus satiated his vengeance, he marched upon Kief, with a numerous army, composed of chosen warriors from various tribes.  Yaropolk, alarmed at the strength with which his brother was approaching, did not dare to give him battle, but accumulated all his force behind the ramparts of Kief.  The city soon fell into the hands of Vlademer, and Yaropolk, basely betrayed by one of his generals, was assassinated by two officers of Vlademer, acting under his authority.

Vlademer was now in possession of the sovereign power, and he displayed as much energy in the administration of affairs as he had shown in the acquisition of the crown.  He immediately imposed a heavy tax upon the Russians, to raise money to pay his troops.  Having consolidated his power he became a very zealous supporter of the old pagan worship, rearing several new idols upon the sacred hill, and placing in his palace a silver statue of Peroune.  His soul seems to have been harrowed by the consciousness of crime, and he sought, by the cruel rites of a debasing superstition, to appease the wrath of the Gods.

Still remorse did not prevent him from plunging into the most revolting excesses of debauchery.  The chronicles of those times state that he had three hundred concubines in one of his palaces, three hundred in another at Kief, and two hundred at one of his country seats.  It is by no means certain that these are exaggerations, for every beautiful maiden in the empire was sought out, to be transferred to his harems.  Paganism had no word of remonstrance to utter against such excesses.  But Vlademer, devoted as he was to sensual indulgence, was equally fond of war.  His armies were ever on the move, and the cry of battle was never intermitted.  On the south-east he extended his conquests to the Carpathian mountains, where they skirt the plains of Hungary.  In the north-west he extended his sway, by all the energies of fire and blood, even to the shores of the Baltic, and to the Gulf of Finland.

Elated beyond measure by his victories, he attributed his success to the favor of his idol gods, and resolved to express his homage by offerings of human blood.  He collected a number of handsome boys and beautiful girls, and drew lots to see which of them should be offered in sacrifice.  The lot fell upon a fine boy from one of the Christian families.  The frantic father interposed to save his child.  But the agents of Vlademer fell fiercely upon them, and they both were slain and offered in sacrifice.  Their names, Ivan and Theodore, are still preserved in the Russian church as the first Christian martyrs of Kief.

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The Empire of Russia from Project Gutenberg. Public domain.
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