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With the ruler who now

ascended the throne with

the title of Leo III began

a new dynasty. The Empperor's preceding reputation was wholly military,

Imperial office must be referred to the partiality of the soldiers. Nevertheless his accession

to power was hailed with the general acclaim

of the people. Such were his abilities that

friends and foes alike were compelled to acknowledge the fortuitous wisdom of the army.

Now it was that the Saracens, frenzied with

religious zeal, blown up like a cloud of locusts

from the south, settled before Constantinople.

For two years the city was besieged by Omar

II., and it was falsely noised through the world

that the Eastern Empire had been subjugated

by a caliph; but this premature alarm was

soon quieted by the destruction of the Arab

fleet, which was defeated in two engagements,

and consumed by the Greek fire discharged

from the armament of Leo.

A great dispute now arose among the Christian sects relative to the use of images in the

churches and religious services. The spirit of

paganism had to a certain extent pervaded the

thought of the Christian world. As the old

statues of the gods were borne about by the

processions of their worshipers, so the effigies

of the Christ and his mother, of the saints and

the martyrs, were given a conspicuous place by

the ecclesiastics of the early centuries, and were

received with devout adoration by the worshippers. This questionable tendency had been

criticized and opposed not a little by the more

zealous fathers of the church, and in some

parts of the Empire the use of images had

been interdicted. Christendom became divided into two parties: the image worshippers

and the purists, who would maintain the simplicity of a spiritual faith without the intervention of symbols. In many places the disputes waxed hot and violent.

The anti-image party became known as the

Iconoclasts, or Image-breakers. The Emperor

Leo himself was the head of the latter faction. In 726 he published an edict for the

removal of the images from all the churches

of the Empire. It was the beginning of the

great struggle known as the War of the Iconoclasts, with which Christendom was distracted

for a hundred and twenty years. The great

leaders of the image worshipping party were

Germanus, patriarch of Constantinople, John

of Damascus, and John Chrysorrhoas, in the

East; and Popes Gregory II and III., in the


In the year 732 a great council at Rome

condemned the Iconoclasts. The Emperor

sent an army into Italy to enforce his edict; but

the resistance of the Italian cities was so stub-

born that the expedition resulted in nothing

except the transfer of the exarchate of Ravenna to the kingdom of the Lombards. Even

in the East, where the edict was more favorably received, there were many places where

the opposite doctrine prevailed. The Peloponnesus and the Cyclades refused to honor the

proclamation of Leo; and even in Constantinople a serious rebellion was organized by the

image worshipping party. The professors in

the Imperial schools and the scholastic classes

generally opposed the Iconoclasts, and for this

reason the probably slanderous report was

spread abroad that the burning of the Constantinopolitan library was the work of the

Emperor. It was at this period and, owing to

the unfavorable reception of his edict in Italy,

that Leo now transferred Greece and Illyria

from the spiritual dominion of the popes, and

attached those countries to the ecclesiastical

estates of the patriarchs of Constantinople.

In the latter years of the reign of Leo the

Empire was again greatly disturbed by the

aggressions of the Saracens. A certain adventurer named Tiberius, claiming to be the son

of Justinian II., appeared on the scene and

received the support of the Mohammedans as