Leo III the Isaurian (Greek: Λέων ὁ Ἴσαυρος, romanizedLeōn ho Isauros; Latin: Leo Isaurus; c. 685 – 18 June 741), also known as the Syrian, was 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]

Leo III the Isaurian
Emperor of the Romans
Solidus of Leo III marked leon pa mul.
Byzantine emperor
Reign25 March 717 – 18 June 741
PredecessorTheodosius III
SuccessorConstantine V
c. 685
Germanikeia, Umayyad Caliphate
(now Marash, Turkey)
Died18 June 741 (aged 55 or 56)
IssueConstantine V
Regnal name
DynastyIsaurian dynasty
ReligionByzantine Iconoclasm

Early life edit

Leo III was born in Germanikeia, Commagene, which is in modern Kahramanmaraş in Turkey. His original name was Konon (Greek: Κόνων; Latin: Conon or Cononus).[3] Leo III was fluent in Arabic,[4] possibly as a native language,[5] and was described by Theophanes the Confessor as "the Saracen minded."[6]

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 written by Theophanes the Confessor, 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 the Tsebelda fortress, on the way.[7]

Konon was appointed commander (stratēgos) of the Anatolic Theme by Emperor Anastasius II. On his deposition, Konon joined with his colleague Artabasdos, the stratēgos of the Armeniac Theme, in conspiring to overthrow the new Emperor Theodosius III. Artabasdos was betrothed to Konon's daughter Anna.[8]

Siege of Constantinople edit

Leo entered Constantinople on 25 March 717 and forced the abdication of Theodosius 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.

Faced with 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 had died the previous year, and his successor Umar II never made a second attempt to capture the city. The siege had lasted 12 months.

Reign edit

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; the following year saw the deposed Emperor Anastasius II raise an army and attempt to retake the throne, but he was captured and executed by Leo's government.

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.

Iconoclastic policies edit

Example of the miliaresion silver coins, first struck by Leo III to commemorate the coronation of his son, Constantine V 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]

A revolt broke out in Greece under the leadership of Agallianos Kontoskeles, mainly on religious grounds, with a certain Kosmas being declared rival emperor. The imperial fleet quashed the uprising in 727 by way of Greek fire. In 730, Patriarch Germanus I of Constantinople opted to resign rather than subscribe to iconoclasm; Leo appointed Anastasius,[13] who willingly sided with the Emperor on the question of icons, to replace him.

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 endeavoured to subdue by means of a large fleet. But the destruction of the armament by a storm forced Leo to backpedal; 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]

Legislation edit

The legislative reforms of Leo III and his successor Constantine V transformed the Byzantine orphanotrophos into a magistrate. Prior to these legislative reforms, Byzantine law required that all orphans are passed into the Byzantine orphanage or to a monastery.[16]

Coinage edit

Tthe coins minted during Leo's reign exclusively depicted male imperial dynasts, promoting the dynastic order of succession. The gold coins of Leo IV the Khazar show posthumous portraits of Leo III.[17]

Death and family edit

Solidus of Leo III with Constantine V

Leo III died of dropsy on 18 June 741 and was buried in the Church of the Holy Apostles.[18]

With his wife Maria, Leo III had four known children:

  • Constantine V, born in 718. He was crowned co-emperor in 720 and became senior emperor in 741.
  • Anna, born before 705. She married the future emperor Artabasdos.[19]
  • Kosmo and Irene. They were both buried in a sarcophagus of Proconnesian marble in the Church of the Apostles.[20]

Legacy edit

In 1573 a translation of John of Damascus' attack on Leo III was published, under the title Apologie divisee en troits livres contre Leon Isaure, triggering religious controversy.[21]

See also edit

References edit

  1. ^ Craig, Graham, Kagan, Ozment, and Turner (2011). The Heritage of World Civilizations. Prentice Hall. p. 321. ISBN 978-0-205-80766-6.{{cite book}}: 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. ^ Giovanni Sienda (1761). Lexicon polemicum: In Quo Potiorum Haereticorum Vita Perstringitur, Omnes Contra Fidem Errores Colliguntur.... G - Q. 2. Rieger. p. 128. ISBN 9781175927651.
  4. ^ Hitti, Philip (2002). History of The Arabs. Red Globe Press. p. 203. ISBN 0333631420.
  5. ^ Ball, Warwick (2002). Rome in the East: The Transformation of an Empire. Routledge. p. 489. ISBN 0415243572.
  6. ^ A. A. Vasiliev (1964). History of the Byzantine Empire, 324-1453, Volume 1. University of Wisconsin Press. p. 255.
  7. ^ Theophanes the Confessor (1982). The Chronicle of Theophanes: Anni Mundi 6095–6305 (A.D. 602–813). University of Pennsylvania Press. p. 85. ISBN 0812211286.
  8. ^ Warren Treadgold (1997). A History of the Byzantine State and Society. University of Stanford Press. p. 346. ISBN 0804726302.
  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
  16. ^ Timothy S. Miller (2003). The Orphans of Byzantium: Child Welfare in the Christian Empire. Catholic University of America Press. p. 203. ISBN 9780813213132.
  17. ^ Leslie Brubaker; Shaun Tougher, eds. (2016). Approaches to the Byzantine Family. Taylor & Francis. ISBN 9781317180005.
  18. ^ Martindale, J. R. (2001), "Leo 3". Prosopography of the Byzantine Empire
  19. ^ Lilie, Ralph-Johannes et al. (2013). "Anna (#443)". PmbZ
  20. ^ Lilie, Ralph-Johannes et al. (2013). "Kosmo (#4148)". PmbZ
  21. ^ Daniel Bellingradt; Jeroen Salman; Paul Nelles, eds. (2017). Books in Motion in Early Modern Europe: Beyond Production, Circulation and Consumption. Springer International Publishing. p. 27. ISBN 9783319533667.

External links edit

Leo III the Isaurian
Born: c. 685 Died: 18 June 741
Regnal titles
Preceded by Byzantine emperor
25 March 717 – 18 June 741
Succeeded by
Political offices
Preceded by
Anastasius II in 714,
then lapsed
Roman consul
Succeeded by
Constantine V in 742