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Constantine V
Emperor of the Byzantine Empire
Solidus-Leo III and Constantine V-sb1504.jpg
Constantine V and his father Leo III the Isaurian
Reign 741 - 775
Born 718
Birthplace Constantinople
Died 14 September 775
Predecessor Leo III the Isaurian
Successor Leo IV the Khazar
Wives Tzitzak ("Irene of Khazaria")
Offspring Leo IV
Christopher, Caesar
Nikephoros, Caesar
Niketas, Nobelissimos
Eudokimos, Nobelissimos
Anthimos, Nobelissimos
Dynasty Isaurian Dynasty
Father Leo III the Isaurian
Mother Maria

Constantine V (718–September 14, 775) was Byzantine emperor from 741 to 775; Greek: Κωνσταντίνος Ε΄, Kōnstantinos V); (he was denigrated by his enemies as Kopronymos or Copronymus).



Early life

Constantine was born in Constantinople, the son and successor of Emperor Leo III and Maria. In August 720 he was associated on the throne by his father, who had him marry Tzitzak, daughter of the Khazar khagan Bihar. His new bride was baptized as Irene (Eirēnē, "peace") in 732. Constantine V succeeded his father as sole emperor on April 19, 741.

Civil war against Artabasdos and first battles against veneration of images

Constantine was crossing Asia Minor to campaign against the Umayyad Caliphate under Hisham ibn Abd al-Malik on the eastern frontier in June 741 or 742. But during this course Constantine was attacked by the forces of his brother-in-law Artabasdos, the stratēgos of the Armeniac theme. Artabasdos was the husband of Anna, an older sister of Constantine.

Defeated, Constantine sought refuge in Amorion, while the victor advanced on Constantinople and was accepted as emperor. While Constantine now received the support of the Anatolic and Thracesian themes, Artabasdos secured that of the themes of Thrace and Opsikion, in addition to his own Armeniac soldiers.

After the rival emperors had bided their time in military preparations, Artabasdos marched against Constantine, but was defeated in May 743. Three months later Constantine defeated Artabasdos' son Niketas and headed for Constantinople. In early November Constantine was admitted into the capital and immediately turned on his opponents, having them blinded or executed. Perhaps because Artabasdos' usurpation was interconnected with the restoration of veneration of images, Constantine now became perhaps an even more fervent iconoclast than his father.

Constantine's derogatory epithet Kopronymos ("Dung-named", from kopros ("feces" or "animal dung") and onoma, "name"), was applied to him by his avowed enemies over this extremely emotional issue, the iconodules. Using the obscene name they spread the rumour that, as an infant, he had defecated in his baptismal font, or the imperial purple cloth with which he was swaddled.


Constantine's position about iconoclasm was clear:

"....He cannot be depicted. For what is depicted in one person, and he who circumscribes that person has plainly circumscribed the divine nature which is incapable of being circumscribed." [1]

In February 754 Constantine convened a synod at Hieria, which was attended entirely by Iconoclast bishops. The council approved of Constantine's religious policy and secured the election of a new Iconoclast patriarch, but refused to follow in all of Constantine's views. The council confirmed the status of Mary as Theotokos, or Mother of God, reinforced the use of the terms "saint" and "holy" as meet, and condemned the desecration, burning, or looting of churches in the quest to quench Iconophiles. It was followed by a campaign to remove images from the walls of churches and to purge the court and bureaucracy of Iconodules. Since monasteries tended to be strongholds of Iconophile sentiment, Constantine specifically targeted the monks, pairing them off and forcing them to marry nuns in the Hippodrome and expropriating monastic property for the benefit of the state or the army. The repressions against the monks (culminating in 766) were largely led by the emperor's general Michael Lachanodrakon, who threatened resistant monks with blinding and exile.

An iconodule abbot, Stephen Neos, was brutally lynched by a mob at the behest of the authorities. As a result many monks fled to Southern Italy and Sicily. By the end of Constantine's reign, Iconoclasm had gone as far as to brand relics and prayers to the saints as heretical.

Ultimately, iconophiles considered his death a divine punishment. (In the 9th century he was disinterred and his remains were thrown into the sea.)

Campaigns against the Arabs and Bulgaria

Constantine was also an able general and administrator. He reorganized the themes, the military districts of the empire, and created new field army divisions called tagmata. This organization was intended to minimize the threat of conspiracies and to enhance the defensive capabilities of the Empire. With this reorganized army he embarked on campaigns on the three major frontiers.

In 746, profiting by the unstable conditions in the Umayyad Caliphate which was falling apart under Marwan II, Constantine invaded Syria and captured Germanikeia (modern Maraş, his father's birthplace). He organized the resettlement of a part the local Christian population into imperial territory in Thrace. In 747 his fleet destroyed the Arab fleet off Cyprus. In 752 Constantine led an invasion into the new Abbasid Caliphate under As-Saffah. Constantine captured Theodosioupolis and Melitene (Malatya), and again resettled some of the population in the Balkans. These campaigns failed to secure any concrete gains (apart from additional population employed to strengthen another frontier), but it is important to note that under Constantine V the Empire had gone on the offensive.

These successes made it possible to pursue an aggressive policy in the Balkans. With the resettlement of Christian populations from the East into Thrace, Constantine V aimed to enhance the prosperity and defense of this area which caused concern to the Empire's northern neighbor, Bulgaria, and the two states clashed in 755. Kormisosh of Bulgaria raided as far as the Anastasian Wall, but was defeated in battle by Constantine V, who inaugurated a long series of nine successful campaigns against the Bulgarians in the next year, scoring a victory over Kormisosh's successor Vinekh at Marcelae. However, three year later he was defeated in the battle of the Rishki Pass but the Bulgarians did not exploit their success. In 763, he sailed to Anchialus with 800 ships carrying 9,600 cavalry and some infantry. Constantine's victories, including that at Anchialus in 763 caused considerable instability in Bulgaria, where six monarchs lost their crowns on account of their failures.

In 775, Constantine was persuaded to reveal to the Bulgarian ruler Telerig the identities of his agents in Bulgaria. These were promptly eliminated; thus, Constantine began preparations for a new campaign against the Bulgarians - during which he died on September 14, 775.

Constantine's campaigns were costly; during his reign the Byzantine Empire's annual revenues were reduced to about 1,800,000 nomismata due to his various wars and the Arab conquests.


By his first wife, Tzitzak ("Irene of Khazaria"), Constantine V had one son:

  • Leo IV, who succeeded as emperor.

By his second wife, Maria, Constantine V is not known to have had children.

By his third wife, Eudokia, Constantine V had five sons and a daughter, including:

  • Christopher, Caesar
  • Nikephoros, Caesar
  • Niketas, Nobelissimos
  • Eudokimos, Nobelissimos
  • Anthimos, Nobelissimos
  • Anthousa


  1. ^ Nikephoros, Antiherreticus I, PG 100, 301C; trans. Bryer & Herrin

External links

Constantine V
Born: 718 Died: 14 September 775
Regnal titles
Preceded by
Byzantine Emperor
Succeeded by
Leo IV

1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

CONSTANTINE V. Copronymus (Gr. K01rpos), SOH of Leo III. the iconoclast, was emperor 740-775. Immediately after his accession, while he was engaged in a campaign against the Arabs, his brother-in-law, an Armenian named Artavasdus, a supporter of the image-worshippers, had been proclaimed emperor, and it was not till the end of 743 that Constantine re-entered Constantinople. When he felt his position secure, he determined to settle the religious controversy once for all. In 754 he assembled at the palace of Hiereion 338 bishops, by whom the worship of images was forbidden as opposed to all Christian doctrine and a curse pronounced upon all those who upheld it. But in spite of the severity with which the resolution was enforced, the resistance to iconoclasm continued, chiefly owing to the attitude of the monks, who exercised great influence over the common people. A vigorous campaign against monasticism took place; the monasteries were closed, and many of them pulled down or converted into barracks; monks and nuns were compelled to marry, and exiled in large numbers to Cyprus; the literary and artistic treasures were sold for the benefit of the imperial treasury. One of the most important results of the struggle was the defection of the pope, who sought and obtained protection from Pippin, king of the Franks. All attempts to induce Pippin to throw over his new protege failed, and from this time onward the nominal dependence of Rome and the papacy on emperors at Constantinople ceased. Constantine has been described by the orthodox historians of his time as a. monster of iniquity; but, in spite of the harshness and occasional cruelty with which he treated his religious opponents, for which an excuse may be found in the obstinate fanaticism of the monks,. it is now generally admitted that he was one of the most capable rulers who ever occupied the Byzantine throne. He restored the aqueduct built by Valens and destroyed by the barbarians. in the reign of Heraclius, re-peopled Constantinople (after it. had been devastated by a great plague) and some of the cities. of Thrace, revived commercial prosperity, and carried on a. number of wars, in which, on the whole, he was successful,. against the Arabs, Sla y s and Bulgarians. In the year of his death he set out on an expedition against the last-named, but. a violent attack of fever obliged him to discontinue his journey.. He died on board his fleet on his way home.

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