Leo III the Isaurian

Last updated

Leo III the Isaurian
Emperor of the Romans
Solidus of Leo III the Isaurian.jpg
Solidus of Leo III
Emperor of the Byzantine Empire
Reign25 March 717 – 18 June 741
Predecessor Theodosios III
Successor Constantine V
Bornc. 685
Germanikeia, Byzantine Empire
Died18 June 741 (aged 55 or 56)
Spouse Maria
Issue
more...
Constantine V
Anna
Dynasty Isaurian dynasty

Leo III the Isaurian , also known as the Syrian (Greek : Λέων ὁ Ἴσαυρος, romanized: Leōn ho Isauros; c. 685 – 18 June 741), was the Byzantine emperor from 717 until his death in 741 and founder of the Isaurian dynasty. [1] He put an end to the Twenty Years' Anarchy, a period of great instability in the Byzantine Empire between 695 and 717, marked by the rapid succession of several emperors to the throne. He also successfully defended the Empire against the invading Umayyads and forbade the veneration of icons. [2]

Contents

Early life

Leo, whose original name was Konon, was born in Germanikeia in the Syrian province of Commagene (modern Kahramanmaraş in Turkey). Some, including the Byzantine chronicler Theophanes, have claimed that Konon's family had been resettled in Thrace, where he entered the service of Emperor Justinian II, when the latter was advancing on Constantinople with an army of loyalist followers, and horsemen provided by Tervel of Bulgaria in 705. Leo was fluent in Arabic [3] , possibly as a native language [4] , and was described by Theophanes as "the Saracen minded." [5]

After the victory of Justinian II, Konon was dispatched on a diplomatic mission to Alania and Lazica to organize an alliance against the Umayyad Caliphate under Al-Walid I. According to the Chronicle of Theophanes Justinian wanted to get rid of Konon and took back the money that had been given to him to help advance Byzantine interests, thus leaving Konon stranded in Alania. The chronicle describes the mission as successful and Konon returning eventually to Justinian after crossing the Caucasus mountains in May with snowshoes and taking the fortress of Sideron (associated with Tsebelda) on the way. [6] [7]

Konon was appointed commander (stratēgos) of the Anatolic theme by Emperor Anastasius II. On his deposition, Konon joined with his colleague Artabasdus, the stratēgos of the Armeniac theme, in conspiring to overthrow the new Emperor Theodosius III. Artabasdus was betrothed to Anna, [8] daughter of Leo as part of the agreement.

Siege of Constantinople

Leo entered Constantinople on 25 March 717 and forced the abdication of Theodosios III, becoming emperor as Leo III. The new emperor was immediately forced to attend to the Second Arab siege of Constantinople, which commenced in August of the same year. The Arabs were Umayyad forces sent by Caliph Sulayman ibn Abd al-Malik and serving under his brother Maslama ibn Abd al-Malik. They had taken advantage of the civil discord in the Byzantine Empire to bring a force of 80,000 to 150,000 men and a massive fleet to the Bosphorus. [9]

Careful preparations, begun three years earlier under Anastasius II, and the stubborn resistance put up by Leo wore out the invaders. An important factor in the victory of the Byzantines was their use of Greek fire. [10] The Arab forces also fell victim to Bulgarian reinforcements arriving to aid the Byzantines. Leo was allied with the Bulgarians but the chronicler Theophanes the Confessor was uncertain if they were still serving under Tervel of Bulgaria or his eventual successor Kormesiy of Bulgaria.

Unable to continue the siege in the face of the Bulgarian onslaught, the impenetrability of Constantinople's walls, and their own exhausted provisions, the Arabs were forced to abandon the siege in August, 718. Sulayman himself had died the previous year and his successor Umar II would not attempt another siege. The siege had lasted 12 months.

Administration

Byzantine Empire 717 AD. 1. Ravenna 2. Venetia and Istria 3. Rome 4. Naples 5. Calabria 6. Hellas 7. Thrace 8. Opsikion 9. Thrakesion 10. Anatolikon 11. Karabisianoi 12. Armeniakon. Hatched area: Frequently invaded by Umayyad Caliphate ByzantineEmpire717+extrainfo+themes.svg
Byzantine Empire 717 AD. 1. Ravenna 2. Venetia and Istria 3. Rome 4. Naples 5. Calabria 6. Hellas 7. Thrace 8. Opsikion 9. Thrakesion 10. Anatolikon 11. Karabisianoi 12. Armeniakon. Hatched area: Frequently invaded by Umayyad Caliphate

Having thus saved the Empire from extinction, Leo proceeded to consolidate its administration, which in the previous years of anarchy had become completely disorganized. In 718 he suppressed a rebellion in Sicily and in 719 did the same on behalf of the deposed Emperor Anastasios II.

Leo secured the Empire's frontiers by inviting Slavic settlers into the depopulated districts and by restoring the army to efficiency; when the Umayyad Caliphate renewed its invasions in 726 and 739, as part of the campaigns of Hisham ibn Abd al-Malik, the Arab forces were decisively beaten, particularly at Akroinon in 740. His military efforts were supplemented by his alliances with the Khazars and the Georgians.

Leo undertook a set of civil reforms including the abolition of the system of prepaying taxes which had weighed heavily upon the wealthier proprietors, the elevation of the serfs into a class of free tenants and the remodelling of Family law, maritime law and criminal law, notably substituting mutilation for the death penalty in many cases. The new measures, which were embodied in a new code called the Ecloga (Selection), published in 726, met with some opposition on the part of the nobles and higher clergy. The Emperor also undertook some reorganization of the theme structure by creating new themata in the Aegean region.

Iconoclasm

Example of the miliaresion silver coins, first struck by Leo III to commemorate the coronation of his son, Constantine V, as co-emperor in 720. Leo III and Constantine V miliaresion.jpg
Example of the miliaresion silver coins, first struck by Leo III to commemorate the coronation of his son, Constantine V, as co-emperor in 720.

Leo's most striking legislative reforms dealt with religious matters, especially iconoclasm ("icon-breaking," therefore an iconoclast is an "icon-breaker"). [11] After an apparently successful attempt to enforce the baptism of all Jews and Montanists in the empire (722), he issued a series of edicts against the veneration of images (726–729). [12] This prohibition of a custom, which had been in use among Christians for centuries, may have been inspired by Islamic influence as well as the desire to appease those who had not been Christians, and received the support of the official aristocracy. A majority of the theologians and all the monks opposed these measures with uncompromising hostility, and in the western parts of the Empire the people refused to obey the edict.

A revolt which broke out in Greece, mainly on religious grounds, was crushed by the imperial fleet in 727 (cf. Agallianos Kontoskeles). In 730, Patriarch Germanos I of Constantinople resigned rather than subscribe to an iconoclastic decree. Leo had him replaced by Anastasios, [13] who willingly sided with the Emperor on the question of icons. Thus Leo suppressed the overt opposition of the capital.

In the Italian Peninsula, the defiant attitude of Popes Gregory II and later Gregory III on behalf of image-veneration led to a fierce quarrel with the Emperor. The former summoned councils in Rome to anathematize and excommunicate the iconoclasts (730, 732); in 740 Leo retaliated by transferring Southern Italy and Illyricum from the papal diocese to that of the patriarch of Constantinople. [14] The struggle was accompanied by an armed outbreak in the exarchate of Ravenna in 727, which Leo finally endeavoured to subdue by means of a large fleet. But the destruction of the armament by a storm decided the issue against him; his southern Italian subjects successfully defied his religious edicts, and the Exarchate of Ravenna became effectively detached from the Empire.

Scholars have discussed the mutual influence of Muslim and Byzantine iconoclasm, noting that Caliph Yazid II had issued an iconoclastic edict, also targeting his Christian subjects, already in 721. [15]

Death

Leo III died of dropsy in June 741. He was succeeded by his son, Constantine V.

With his wife Maria, Leo III had four known children: his successor, Constantine V; Anna, who married Artabasdus; Irene; and Kosmo.

Footnotes

  1. Craig, Graham, Kagan, Ozment, and Turner. The Heritage of World Civilizations. Prentice Hall. p. 321. ISBN   978-0-205-80766-6.CS1 maint: multiple names: authors list (link)
  2. Gero, Stephen (1973). Byzantine Iconoclasm during the Reign of Leo III, with Particular Attention to the Oriental Sources. Louvain: Secrétariat du Corpus SCO. ISBN   90-429-0387-2.
  3. Hitti, Philip (2002). History of The Arabs. Red Globe Press. p. 203. ISBN   0333631420.
  4. Ball, Warwick (2002). Rome in the East: The Transformation of an Empire. Routledge. p. 489. ISBN   0415243572.
  5. History of the Byzantine Empire, 324-1453, Volume 1. University of Wisconsin Press. 1964. p. 255.
  6. Theophanes the Confessor (1982). The Chronicle of Theophanes: Anni Mundi 6095-6305 (A.D. 602-813). Stanford: University of Pennsylvania Press. p. 85. ISBN   0812211286.
  7. The association of the Sideron fortress with Tsebelda is made by O. Bgazhba and S. Lakoba in Бгажба, О. Х.; Лакоба, С. З. (2007). История Абхазии с древнейших времен до наших дней (The History of Abkhazia from Ancient Times to Present Day) (in Russian). Алашарбага. p. 134.
  8. Treadgold, Warren (1997). A History of the Byzantine State and Society. Stanford: University of Stanford Press. p. 346. ISBN   0-8047-2630-2.
  9. (in French) Guilland, Rodolphe. "L’expédition de Maslama contre Constantinople (717–720)" in Études Byzantines. Paris: Presses universitaires de France, 1959, pp. 109–133.
  10. Treadgold. History of the Byzantine State, p. 347.
  11. Ladner, Gerhart. "Origin and Significance of the Byzantine Iconoclastic Controversy." Mediaeval Studies, 2, 1940, pp. 127–149.
  12. Treadgold. History of the Byzantine State, pp. 350, 352–353.
  13. Treadgold. History of the Byzantine State, p. 353.
  14. Treadgold. History of the Byzantine State, pp. 354–355.
  15. A. A. Vasiliev (1956), The Iconoclastic Edict of the Caliph Yazid II, A. D. 721, pp. 25-26

Literature

Leo III the Isaurian
Born: c. 685 Died: 18 June 741
Regnal titles
Preceded by
Theodosius III
Byzantine Emperor
25 March 717 – 18 June 741
Succeeded by
Constantine V

Related Research Articles

8th century Century

The 8th century is the period from 701 to 800 in accordance with the Julian Calendar. The coast of North Africa and the Iberian Peninsula quickly came under Islamic Arab domination. The westward expansion of the Umayyad Empire was famously halted at the Siege of Constantinople by the Byzantine Empire and the Battle of Tours by the Franks. The tide of Arab conquest came to an end in the middle of the 8th century.

Leo V the Armenian Emperor and Autocrat of the Romans

Leo V the Armenian was Emperor of the Byzantine Empire from 813 to 820. A senior general, he forced his predecessor, Michael I Rangabe, to abdicate and assumed the throne. He ended the decade-long war with the Bulgars, and initiated the second period of Byzantine Iconoclasm. He was assassinated by supporters of Michael the Amorian, one of his most trusted generals, who succeeded him on the throne.

Theodosius III Emperor of the Romans

Theodosius III or Theodosios III was Byzantine Emperor from c. May 715 to 25 March 717. Before rising to power and seizing the throne of the Byzantine Empire, he was a tax collector in Adramyttium. In 715, the Byzantine Navy and the troops of the Opsician Theme revolted against Byzantine Emperor Anastasios II, acclaiming the reluctant Theodosius as Emperor Theodosius III. Theodosius led his troops to Chrysopolis and then Constantinople, seizing the city in November 715, although Anastasios would not surrender until several months later, accepting exile into the monastery in return for safety. Many themes refused to recognize the legitimacy of Theodosius, believing him to be a puppet of the Opsicians, especially the Anatolics and the Armeniacs under their respective strategoi (generals) Leo the Isaurian and Artabasdos.

Germanus I of Constantinople Patriarch of Constantinople

Germanus I was Patriarch of Constantinople from 715 to 730. He is regarded as a saint, by both the Orthodox and Roman Catholic Churches, with a feast day of 12 May. He had been ecumenically proceeded by Patriarch John VI of Constantinople, and was succeeded in Orthodox rite by patriarch Constantine II of Constantinople.

Tervel of Bulgaria Khan of Bulgaria

Khan Tervel also called Tarvel, or Terval, or Terbelis in some Byzantine sources, was the khan of Bulgaria during the First Bulgarian Empire at the beginning of the 8th century. In 705 Emperor Justinian II named him caesar, the first foreigner to receive this title. He was raised a pagan like his grandfather Khan Kubrat. but was later possibly baptised by the Byzantine clergy. Tervel played an important role in defeating the Arabs during the Siege of Constantinople in 717–718.

Tiberius III Emperor of the Romans

Tiberius III was Byzantine emperor from 15 February 698 to 10 July or 21 August 705 AD. Little is known about his early life, other than that he was droungarios, a mid-level commander, of the Cibyrrhaeots, and that his birth name was Apsimar. In 696, Tiberius was part of an army led by John the Patrician sent by Byzantine Emperor Leontios to retake the city of Carthage in the Exarchate of Africa, which had been captured by the Arab Umayyads. After seizing the city, this army was pushed back by Umayyad reinforcements and retreated to the island of Crete; some of the officers, fearing the wrath of Leontios, killed John and declared Tiberius emperor. Tiberius swiftly gathered a fleet, sailed for Constantinople, and deposed Leontios. Tiberius did not attempt to retake Byzantine Africa from the Umayyads, but campaigned against them along the eastern border with some success. In 705 former Emperor Justinian II, who had been deposed by Leontios, led an army of Slavs and Bulgars to Constantinople, and after entering the city secretly, deposed Tiberius. Tiberius fled to Bithynia, but was captured several months later and beheaded between August 705 and February 706. His body was initially thrown into the sea, but was later recovered and buried in a church on the island of Prote.

Constantine V Emperor of the Byzantine Empire

Constantine V was Byzantine emperor from 741 to 775. His reign saw a consolidation of Byzantine security from external threats. As an able military leader, Constantine took advantage of civil war in the Muslim world to make limited offensives on the Arab frontier. With this eastern frontier secure, he undertook repeated campaigns against the Bulgars in the Balkans. His military activity, and policy of settling Christian populations from the Arab frontier in Thrace, made Byzantium's hold on its Balkan territories more secure. Religious strife and controversy was a prominent feature of his reign. His fervent support of Iconoclasm and opposition to monasticism led to his vilification by later Byzantine historians and writers, who denigrated him as Kopronymos or Copronymus (Κοπρώνυμος), meaning the dung-named.

Anastasius, was the patriarch of Constantinople from 730 to 754. He had been proceeded by patriarch Germanos I. Anastasios was heavily involved in the controversy over icons (images). He was immaculately succeeded in ecumenical rite by Constantine II of Constantinople. His opinion of icons changed twice. First he opposed them, then he favored them, and finally he opposed them again.

Maslama ibn Abd al-Malik was an Umayyad prince and one of the most prominent Arab generals of the early decades of the 8th century, leading several campaigns against the Byzantine Empire and the Khazar Khaganate. He achieved great fame especially for leading the second and last Arab siege of the Byzantine capital Constantinople.

Arab–Byzantine wars Series of wars between the 7th and 11th centuries

The Arab–Byzantine wars were a series of wars between the mostly Arab Muslims and the Byzantine Empire between the 7th and 11th centuries AD, started during the initial Muslim conquests under the expansionist Rashidun and Umayyad caliphs in the 7th century and continued by their successors until the mid-11th century.

Siege of Constantinople (717–718) combined land and sea offensive by the Arabs of the Umayyad Caliphate against the capital city of the Byzantine Empire, Constantinople

The Second Arab siege of Constantinople in 717–718 was a combined land and sea offensive by the Muslim Arabs of the Umayyad Caliphate against the capital city of the Byzantine Empire, Constantinople. The campaign marked the culmination of twenty years of attacks and progressive Arab occupation of the Byzantine borderlands, while Byzantine strength was sapped by prolonged internal turmoil. In 716, after years of preparations, the Arabs, led by Maslama ibn Abd al-Malik, invaded Byzantine Asia Minor. The Arabs initially hoped to exploit Byzantine civil strife and made common cause with the general Leo III the Isaurian, who had risen up against Emperor Theodosius III. Leo, however, tricked them and secured the Byzantine throne for himself.

Siege of Constantinople (674–678) major conflict of the Arab–Byzantine Wars

The First Arab Siege of Constantinople in 674–678 was a major conflict of the Arab–Byzantine wars, and the first culmination of the Umayyad Caliphate's expansionist strategy towards the Byzantine Empire, led by Caliph Mu'awiya I. Mu'awiya, who had emerged in 661 as the ruler of the Muslim Arab empire following a civil war, renewed aggressive warfare against Byzantium after a lapse of some years and hoped to deliver a lethal blow by capturing the Byzantine capital, Constantinople.

Byzantine Iconoclasm Two periods in the history of the Byzantine Empire when the use of religious images or icons was opposed by religious and imperial authorities.

Byzantine Iconoclasm refers to two periods in the history of the Byzantine Empire when the use of religious images or icons was opposed by religious and imperial authorities within the Orthodox Church and the temporal imperial hierarchy. The "First Iconoclasm", as it is sometimes called, existed between about 726 and 787. The "Second Iconoclasm" was between 814 and 842. According to the traditional view, Byzantine Iconoclasm was started by a ban on religious images by Emperor Leo III and continued under his successors. It was accompanied by widespread destruction of images and persecution of supporters of the veneration of images. The pope remained firmly in support of the use of images throughout the period, and the whole episode widened the growing divergence between the Byzantine and Carolingian traditions in what was still a unified church, as well as facilitating the reduction or removal of Byzantine political control over parts of Italy.

Byzantine Empire under the Isaurian dynasty Period of the Byzantine Empire

The Byzantine Empire was ruled by the Isaurian or Syrian dynasty from 717 to 802. The Isaurian emperors were successful in defending and consolidating the Empire against the Caliphate after the onslaught of the early Muslim conquests, but were less successful in Europe, where they suffered setbacks against the Bulgars, had to give up the Exarchate of Ravenna, and lost influence over Italy and the Papacy to the growing power of the Franks.

Anna was the wife of Artabasdos, one of two rival Byzantine Emperors in a civil war which lasted from June, 741 to November, 743. The other Emperor was her brother, Constantine V.

Leo the Mathematician or the Philosopher was a Byzantine philosopher and logician associated with the Macedonian Renaissance and the end of the Second Byzantine Iconoclasm. His only preserved writings are some notes contained in manuscripts of Plato's dialogues. He has been called a "true Renaissance man" and "the cleverest man in Byzantium in the 9th century". He was archbishop of Thessalonica and later became the head of the Magnaura School of philosophy in Constantinople, where he taught Aristotelian logic.

Byzantine–Bulgarian treaty of 716

The Treaty of 716 was an agreement between Bulgaria and the Byzantine Empire. It was signed by the son of the ruling Bulgarian Khan Tervel, Kormesiy and the Byzantine Emperor Theodosios III.

Siege of Nicaea (727) Unsuccessful attempt by the Umayyad Caliphate to capture the Byzantine city of Nicaea in 727

The Siege of Nicaea of 727 was an unsuccessful attempt by the Umayyad Caliphate to capture the Byzantine city of Nicaea, the capital of the Opsician Theme. Ever since its failure to capture the Byzantine Empire's capital, Constantinople, in 717–718, the Caliphate had launched a series of raids into Byzantine Asia Minor. In 727, the Arab army, led by one of the Caliph's sons, penetrated deep into Asia Minor, sacked two Byzantine fortresses and in late July arrived before Nicaea. Despite constant attacks for 40 days, the city held firm and the Arabs withdrew and returned to the Caliphate. The successful repulsion of the attack was a major boost for Byzantine emperor Leo III the Isaurian's recently initiated campaign to abolish the veneration of icons in the Empire; Leo claimed it as evidence of divine favour for his policy. The siege of Nicaea marks also the high point of the Umayyad raids, as new threats and defeats on their far-flung frontiers decreased Umayyad strength elsewhere, while Byzantine power strengthened afterwards.

Siege of Tyana siege

The Siege of Tyana was carried out by the Umayyad Caliphate in 707–708 or 708–709 in retaliation for a heavy defeat of an Umayyad army under Maimun the Mardaite by the Byzantine Empire in c. 706. The Arab army invaded Byzantine territory and laid siege to the city in summer 707 or 708. The date is uncertain, as virtually each of the extant Greek, Arabic, and Syriac parallel sources has in this respect a different date. Tyana initially withstood the siege with success, and the Arab army faced great hardship during the ensuing winter and was on the point of abandoning the siege in spring, when a relief army sent by Emperor Justinian II arrived. Quarrels among the Byzantine generals, as well as the inexperience of a large part of their army, contributed to a crushing Umayyad victory. Thereupon the inhabitants of the city were forced to surrender. Despite the agreement of terms, the city was plundered and largely destroyed, and according to Byzantine sources its people were made captive and deported, leaving the city deserted.

Byzantine Anatolia

The history of the Eastern Roman Empire (324–1453) is generally considered to fall into three distinct eras: