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See also: Ecumenical Patriarch Constantine VI of Constantinople.
Constantine VI
Emperor of the Byzantine Empire
Leo iv constantine vi coin.jpg
Constantine VI and his father Leo IV
Reign 776 -797
Born 771
Died 797 (aged 26)
Predecessor Leo IV
Successor Irene
Wives Maria of Amnia
Offspring Euphrosyne
Dynasty Isaurian Dynasty
Father Leo IV
Mother Irene

Constantine VI (Greek: Κωνσταντίνος Ϛ΄, Kōnstantinos VI; 771–797) was Byzantine Emperor from 780 to 797.

Constantine VI was the only child of Emperor Leo IV and Irene. Constantine was crowned co-emperor by his father in 776, and succeeded as sole emperor at the age of nine under the regency of Irene in 780.

In 782 he was betrothed to Rotrude, a daughter of the Frankish King Charlemagne by his third wife Hildegard. Irene herself broke off the engagement in 788. In 787 Constantine had signed the decrees of the Second Council of Nicaea, but he appears to have had iconoclast sympathies. By then Constantine had turned 16 years old, but his mother did not relinquish executive authority to him.

After a conspiracy against Irene was suppressed in the spring of 790 she attempted to get official recognition as empress. This backfired and with military support Constantine finally came to actual power in 790, after the Armenians in the army rebelled against Irene. Nevertheless, she was allowed to keep the title of Empress, which was confirmed in 792.

The weakness of Constantine caused dissatisfaction among his supporters. He showed unheroic behaviour after the defeats at the hands of Kardam of Bulgaria in 791 and 792. A movement developed in favor of his uncle, the Caesar Nikephoros. Constantine had his uncle's eyes put out and the tongues of his father's four other brothers cut off. His former Armenian supporters revolted after he had blinded their general Alexios Mosele. He crushed this revolt with extreme cruelty in 793.

He then divorced his wife Maria of Amnia, who had failed to provide him with a male heir, and married his mistress Theodote, an unpopular and possibly illegal act, although the Patriarch ignored it. By his actions Constantine had lost all support, both of the ruling orthodox and the iconoclast opposition.

In 797 Constantine was captured and blinded by the supporters of his mother, who had organized a conspiracy. According to most contemporary accounts, he died from his wounds a few days later, leaving Irene to be crowned as first Empress regnant of Constantinople. Pretenders to the throne claiming to be Constantine VI later appeared during the reign of Michael II.


By his first wife Maria of Amnia, Constantine VI had two daughters:

By his mistress and then second wife Theodote, Constantine VI had a son:

  • Leo, who died in 797.


Constantine VI
Born: 771 Died: 797
Regnal titles
Preceded by
Leo IV
Byzantine Emperor
Succeeded by

1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

CONSTANTINE VI., grandson of Constantine V., was emperor 780-797. At ten years of age he succeeded his father, Leo IV.,. under the guardianship of his mother Irene, who held the reins of government for ten years. In 782 the Arabs under Harun al-Rashid penetrated as far as the Bosporus, and exacted an annual tribute as the price of an inglorious peace (see Caliphate, § C, 3 adiin.). Even when Constantine came of age,. Irene practically retained the supreme power. At length Constantine had her arrested, but foolishly pardoned her shortly afterwards. Disastrous campaigns against the Bulgarians and Arabs afforded her an opportunity of rousing the contempt and hatred of the people against their ruler. On his return to Constantinople, Constantine managed to escape to the Asiatic coast, but being brought back practically by force he was seized and blinded. According to some, he died on the same day;. according to others, he survived for several years. With Constantine VI. the Syrian (Isaurian) dynasty became extinct.

See Theophanes, and the biographies of the patriarch Tarasius and Theodore of Studium; also F. C. Schlosser, Geschichte der bildersturmenden Kaiser des ostriimischen Reichs (Frankfurt am Main, 1812); other works s.v. Irene.

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