Leo III the Isaurian

Leo III the Isaurian

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Leo III the Isauria
Isauria
Isauria , in ancient geography, is a rugged isolated district in the interior of South Asia Minor, of very different extent at different periods, but generally covering what is now the district of Bozkır and its surroundings in the Konya province of Turkey, or the core of the Taurus Mountains. In...

n
or the Syria
Syria
Syria , officially the Syrian Arab Republic , is a country in Western Asia, bordering Lebanon and the Mediterranean Sea to the West, Turkey to the north, Iraq to the east, Jordan to the south, and Israel to the southwest....

n
(Greek
Greek language
Greek is an independent branch of the Indo-European family of languages. Native to the southern Balkans, it has the longest documented history of any Indo-European language, spanning 34 centuries of written records. Its writing system has been the Greek alphabet for the majority of its history;...

: Λέων Γ΄, Leōn III), (c. 685 – June 18 741) was Byzantine emperor from 717 until his death in 741. He put an end to a period of instability, successfully defended the empire against the invading Umayyad
Umayyad
The Umayyad Caliphate was the second of the four major Arab caliphates established after the death of Muhammad. It was ruled by the Umayyad dynasty, whose name derives from Umayya ibn Abd Shams, the great-grandfather of the first Umayyad caliph. Although the Umayyad family originally came from the...

s, and forbade the veneration of icons (see Iconoclasm
Iconoclasm (Byzantine)
The Byzantine Iconoclasm encompasses two periods in the history of the Byzantine Empire when Emperors, backed by imperially-appointed leaders and councils of the Orthodox Church imposed a ban on religious images or icons. The "First Iconoclasm", as it is sometimes called, lasted between about 730...

).

Early life


Leo, whose original name was Konon, was born in Germanikeia (Maraş
Maras
In ancient Latvia, Māras or Māras diena was a festival, celebrated on August 15, held in honor of Māra, the Latvian goddess. It marked the midpoint between Jāņi and Miķeļi...

/Turkey) in the Syrian province of Commagene. Some, including the Byzantine
Byzantine Empire
The Byzantine Empire was the Eastern Roman Empire during the periods of Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages, centred on the capital of Constantinople. Known simply as the Roman Empire or Romania to its inhabitants and neighbours, the Empire was the direct continuation of the Ancient Roman State...

 chronicler Theophanes
Theophanes the Confessor
Saint Theophanes Confessor was a member of the Byzantine aristocracy, who became a monk and chronicler. He is venerated on March 12 in the Roman Catholic and the Eastern Orthodox Church .-Biography:Theophanes was born in Constantinople of wealthy and noble iconodule parents: Isaac,...

, have claimed that Konon's family had been resettled in Thrace
Thrace
Thrace is a historical and geographic area in southeast Europe. As a geographical concept, Thrace designates a region bounded by the Balkan Mountains on the north, Rhodope Mountains and the Aegean Sea on the south, and by the Black Sea and the Sea of Marmara on the east...

, where he entered the service of Emperor Justinian II
Justinian II
Justinian II , surnamed the Rhinotmetos or Rhinotmetus , was the last Byzantine Emperor of the Heraclian Dynasty, reigning from 685 to 695 and again from 705 to 711...

, when the latter was advancing on Constantinople
Constantinople
Constantinople was the capital of the Roman, Eastern Roman, Byzantine, Latin, and Ottoman Empires. Throughout most of the Middle Ages, Constantinople was Europe's largest and wealthiest city.-Names:...

 with an army of 15,000 horsemen provided by Tervel of Bulgaria
Tervel of Bulgaria
Khan Tervel also called Tarvel, or Terval, or Terbelis in some Byzantine sources, was the Emperor of the Bulgarians at the beginning of the 8th century. In 705 he received the title Caesar which was a precedent in history. He was probably a Christian like his grandfather Khan Kubrat...

 in 705.

After the victory of Justinian II, Leo was dispatched on a diplomatic mission to Alania
Alania
Alania may refer to:*Alania, the medieval state of the Alans or Alani people in the North Caucasus*The short name of the modern North Ossetia-Alania, one of the Caucasian republics in the Russian Federation...

 and Lazica to organize an alliance against the Umayyad
Umayyad
The Umayyad Caliphate was the second of the four major Arab caliphates established after the death of Muhammad. It was ruled by the Umayyad dynasty, whose name derives from Umayya ibn Abd Shams, the great-grandfather of the first Umayyad caliph. Although the Umayyad family originally came from the...

 Caliph
Caliph
The Caliph is the head of state in a Caliphate, and the title for the ruler of the Islamic Ummah, an Islamic community ruled by the Shari'ah. It is a transcribed version of the Arabic word   which means "successor" or "representative"...

ate under Al-Walid I. Leo was appointed commander (stratēgos
Strategos
Strategos, plural strategoi, is used in Greek to mean "general". In the Hellenistic and Byzantine Empires the term was also used to describe a military governor...

) of the Anatolic
Anatolic Theme
The Anatolic Theme , more properly known as the Theme of the Anatolics was a Byzantine theme in central Asia Minor...

 theme by Emperor Anastasius II
Anastasios II (emperor)
Artemius Anastasius , known in English as Anastasios II or Anastasius II, , was Byzantine emperor from 713 to 715....

. On his deposition Leo joined with his colleague Artabasdus
Artabasdos
Artavasdos, Latinized as Artabasdos or Artabasdus , was Byzantine Emperor of Armenian descent from June 741 or 742 until November 743...

, the stratēgos of the Armeniac
Armeniac Theme
The Armeniac Theme , more properly the Theme of the Armeniacs was a Byzantine theme located in northeastern Asia Minor .-History:...

 theme, in conspiring to overthrow the new Emperor Theodosius III. Artabasdus was betrothed to Anna
Anna, wife of Artabasdos
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.-Family:...

,
daughter of Leo as part of the agreement.

Siege of Constantinople



Leo entered Constantinople on March 25 717 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
Siege of Constantinople (718)
The Second Arab Siege of Constantinople was a combined land and sea effort by the Arabs to take the capital city of the Byzantine Empire, Constantinople. The Arab ground forces, led by Maslamah ibn Abd al-Malik, were held off by the massive city walls, decimated by an outbreak of plague and...

, which commenced in August of the same year. The Arabs were Umayyad forces sent by Caliph Sulayman ibn Abd al-Malik
Sulayman ibn Abd al-Malik
Sulayman bin Abd al-Malik was an Umayyad caliph who ruled from 715 until 717. His father was Abd al-Malik ibn Marwan, and he was a younger brother of the previous caliph, al-Walid I.-Early years:...

 and serving under his brother Maslamah ibn Abd al-Malik
Maslamah ibn Abd al-Malik
Maslamah 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...

. They had taken advantage of the civil discord in the Roman Empire to bring a force of 80,000 to 120,000 men and a massive fleet to the Bosphorus.

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 Romans was their use of Greek fire
Greek fire
Greek fire was an incendiary weapon used by the Byzantine Empire. The Byzantines typically used it in naval battles to great effect as it could continue burning while floating on water....

. The Arab forces also fell victim to Bulgarian reinforcements arriving to aid the Romans. Leo was allied with the Bulgarians but the chronicler Theophanes the Confessor
Theophanes the Confessor
Saint Theophanes Confessor was a member of the Byzantine aristocracy, who became a monk and chronicler. He is venerated on March 12 in the Roman Catholic and the Eastern Orthodox Church .-Biography:Theophanes was born in Constantinople of wealthy and noble iconodule parents: Isaac,...

 was uncertain if they were still serving under Tervel or his eventual successor Kormesiy of Bulgaria
Kormesiy of Bulgaria
Kormesiy was a ruler of Danubian Bulgaria in the first half of the 8th century. Western chronicles name Kormesiy "the third ruler over the Bulgarians", and he is sometimes considered the direct successor of Tervel....

. 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
Umar II
Umar ibn Abd al-Aziz was an Umayyad caliph who ruled from 717 to 720. He was also a cousin of the former caliph, being the son of Abd al-Malik's younger brother, Abd al-Aziz. He was also a great-grandson of the companion of the Prophet Muhammad, Umar bin Al-Khattab.-Lineage:Umar was born around...

 would not attempt another siege. The siege had lasted 12 months.

Administration



Having thus preserved 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
Sicily
Sicily is a region of Italy, and is the largest island in the Mediterranean Sea. Along with the surrounding minor islands, it constitutes an autonomous region of Italy, the Regione Autonoma Siciliana Sicily has a rich and unique culture, especially with regard to the arts, music, literature,...

 and in 719 did the same on behalf of the deposed Emperor Anastasios II
Anastasios II (emperor)
Artemius Anastasius , known in English as Anastasios II or Anastasius II, , was Byzantine emperor from 713 to 715....

. Leo secured the Empire's frontiers by inviting Slavic settlers into the depopulated districts and by restoring the army to efficiency; when the Ummayad Caliphate renewed their invasions in 726 and 739, as part of the campaigns of Hisham ibn Abd al-Malik
Hisham ibn Abd al-Malik
Hisham ibn Abd al-Malik 10th Umayyad caliph who ruled from 723 until his death in 743. When he was born in 691 his mother named him after her father....

, the Arab forces were decisively beaten, particularly at Akroinon
Battle of Akroinon
The Battle of Akroinon was fought at Akroinon or Akroinos in Phrygia, on the western edge of the Anatolian plateau, in 740 between an Umayyad Arab army and the Byzantine forces. The Arabs had been conducting regular raids into Anatolia for the past century, and the 740 expedition was the largest...

 in 740. His military efforts were supplemented by his alliances with the Khazars
Khazars
The Khazars were semi-nomadic Turkic people who established one of the largest polities of medieval Eurasia, with the capital of Atil and territory comprising much of modern-day European Russia, western Kazakhstan, eastern Ukraine, Azerbaijan, large portions of the northern Caucasus , parts of...

 and the Georgians
Georgians
The Georgians are an ethnic group that have originated in Georgia, where they constitute a majority of the population. Large Georgian communities are also present throughout Russia, European Union, United States, and South America....

.

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 serf
SERF
A spin exchange relaxation-free magnetometer is a type of magnetometer developed at Princeton University in the early 2000s. SERF magnetometers measure magnetic fields by using lasers to detect the interaction between alkali metal atoms in a vapor and the magnetic field.The name for the technique...

s into a class
Social class
Social classes are economic or cultural arrangements of groups in society. Class is an essential object of analysis for sociologists, political scientists, economists, anthropologists and social historians. In the social sciences, social class is often discussed in terms of 'social stratification'...

 of free tenant
Tenant farmer
A tenant farmer is one who resides on and farms land owned by a landlord. Tenant farming is an agricultural production system in which landowners contribute their land and often a measure of operating capital and management; while tenant farmers contribute their labor along with at times varying...

s and the remodelling of family
Family law
Family law is an area of the law that deals with family-related issues and domestic relations including:*the nature of marriage, civil unions, and domestic partnerships;...

, maritime law and criminal law
Criminal law
Criminal law, is the body of law that relates to crime. It might be defined as the body of rules that defines conduct that is not allowed because it is held to threaten, harm or endanger the safety and welfare of people, and that sets out the punishment to be imposed on people who do not obey...

, notably substituting mutilation
Mutilation
Mutilation or maiming is an act of physical injury that degrades the appearance or function of any living body, usually without causing death.- Usage :...

 for the death penalty in many cases. The new measures, which were embodied in a new code
Legal code
A legal code is a body of law written by a governmental body, such as a U.S. state, a Canadian Province or German Bundesland or a municipality...

 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
Aegean Sea
The Aegean Sea[p] is an elongated embayment of the Mediterranean Sea located between the southern Balkan and Anatolian peninsulas, i.e., between the mainlands of Greece and Turkey. In the north, it is connected to the Marmara Sea and Black Sea by the Dardanelles and Bosporus...

 region.

Iconoclasm


Leo's most striking legislative reforms dealt with religious matters, especially iconoclasm
Iconoclasm
Iconoclasm is the deliberate destruction of religious icons and other symbols or monuments, usually with religious or political motives. It is a frequent component of major political or religious changes...

 ("Icon-breaking," therefore an iconoclast
Iconoclast
An iconoclast is someone who engages in iconoclasm—destruction of religious symbols or, by extension, established dogma or conventions.Iconoclast may also refer to:...

 is an "Icon-breaker"). After an apparently successful attempt to enforce the baptism
Baptism
In Christianity, baptism is for the majority the rite of admission , almost invariably with the use of water, into the Christian Church generally and also membership of a particular church tradition...

 of all Jews and Montanists
Montanism
Montanism was an early Christian movement of the late 2nd century, later referred to by the name of its founder, Montanus, but originally known by its adherents as the New Prophecy...

 in the empire (722), he issued a series of edicts against the worship of images (726–729). This prohibition of a custom which had been in use for centuries, seems to have been inspired by a genuine desire to improve public morality, and received the support of the official aristocracy and a section of the clergy. 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. In 730, Patriarch Germanos I of Constantinople
Patriarch Germanos I of Constantinople
Saint Germanus I was Patriarch of Constantinople from 715 to 730. He is regarded as a saint, with a feast day of May 12.-Life:According to Theophanes the Confessor, Germanus was a son of patrician Justinian who was executed in 668. Justinian was reportedly involved in the murder of Constans II and...

 resigned rather than subscribe to an iconoclastic decree. Leo had him replaced by Anastasios
Patriarch Anastasius of Constantinople
Anastasios was the patriarch of Constantinople from 730 to 754. The patriarchate of Constantinople is a high position in the eastern branch of Christianity. He succeeded Germanos I . Anastasios was heavily involved in the controversy over icons . His opinion of icons changed twice...

, who willingly sided with the emperor on the question of icons. Thus Leo suppressed the overt opposition of the capital.

In the Italian Peninsula
Italian Peninsula
The Italian Peninsula or Apennine Peninsula is one of the three large peninsulas of Southern Europe , spanning from the Po Valley in the north to the central Mediterranean Sea in the south. The peninsula's shape gives it the nickname Lo Stivale...

, the defiant attitude of Popes Gregory II
Pope Gregory II
Pope Saint Gregory II was pope from May 19, 715 to his death on February 11, 731, succeeding Pope Constantine. Having, it is said, bought off the Lombards for thirty pounds of gold, Charles Martel having refused his call for aid, he used the tranquillity thus obtained for vigorous missionary...

 and Gregory III
Pope Gregory III
Pope Saint Gregory III was pope from 731 to 741. A Syrian by birth, he succeeded Gregory II in March 731. His pontificate, like that of his predecessor, was disturbed by the iconoclastic controversy in the Byzantine Empire, in which he vainly invoked the intervention of Charles Martel.Elected by...

 on behalf of image-veneration led to a fierce quarrel with the emperor. The former summoned councils in Rome
Rome
Rome is the capital of Italy and the country's largest and most populated city and comune, with over 2.7 million residents in . The city is located in the central-western portion of the Italian Peninsula, on the Tiber River within the Lazio region of Italy.Rome's history spans two and a half...

 to anathematize and excommunicate the iconoclasts (730, 732); In AD740 Leo retaliated by transferring Southern Italy and Illyricum
Illyria
In classical antiquity, Illyria was a region in the western part of the Balkan Peninsula inhabited by the Illyrians....

 from the papal diocese to that of the Patriarch of Constantinople
Patriarch of Constantinople
The Ecumenical Patriarch is the Archbishop of Constantinople – New Rome – ranking as primus inter pares in the Eastern Orthodox communion, which is seen by followers as the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church....

. The struggle was accompanied by an armed outbreak in the exarchate of Ravenna
Exarchate of Ravenna
The Exarchate of Ravenna or of Italy was a centre of Byzantine power in Italy, from the end of the 6th century to 751, when the last exarch was put to death by the Lombards.-Introduction:...

 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 South Italian subjects successfully defied his religious edicts, and the Exarchate of Ravenna
Exarchate of Ravenna
The Exarchate of Ravenna or of Italy was a centre of Byzantine power in Italy, from the end of the 6th century to 751, when the last exarch was put to death by the Lombards.-Introduction:...

 became effectively detached from the empire.

The emperor died of dropsy in June 741.

Family


His wife Maria
Maria, wife of Leo III
-Empress:The throne of the Byzantine Empire was unstable in the early 710s. Justinian II had been deposed and executed in 711. His deposition was followed by the brief reigns of Philippikos , Anastasios II and Theodosios III...

, Leo III had four known children:
  • Anna
    Anna, wife of Artabasdos
    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.-Family:...

    , who married Artabasdus
    Artabasdos
    Artavasdos, Latinized as Artabasdos or Artabasdus , was Byzantine Emperor of Armenian descent from June 741 or 742 until November 743...

    .
  • Constantine V
    Constantine V
    Constantine V was Byzantine emperor from 741 to 775; ); .-Early life:...

    , who succeeded as emperor.
  • Irene
  • Kosmo

Further reading

  • Entry of "Leo III" in The Oxford Dictionary of Byzantium
    Oxford Dictionary of Byzantium
    The Oxford Dictionary of Byzantium is a three volume historical dictionary published by the English Oxford University Press. It contains comprehensive information in English on topics relating to the Byzantine Empire. It was edited by the late Dr. Alexander Kazhdan, and was first published in 1991...

    , ed. Alexander Kazhdan
    Alexander Kazhdan
    - Soviet :Born in Moscow, Kazhdan was educated at the Pedagogical Institute of Ufa and the University of Moscow, where he studied with the historian of medieval England, Evgenii Kosminskii...

    . New York: Oxford University Press, 1991.

External links