Page 1008


the rival of Leo III. The pretender put on

the purple and made a magnificent entry into

the city of Jerusalem; but Leo seems not to

have been greatly disturbed by the apparition

of this shadowy Emperor on the eastern horizon. More serious by far was the invasion by

the Arab general, Solyman, who, in 739, led an

army of ninety thousand men into the territories of the Empire. Having penetrated into

Asia Minor he was met by the army of Leo

and defeated in a great battle in Phrygia.

Solyman then retreated into his own dominions. In the next year after this event the

Empire was afflicted with another earthquake,

which cast down many cities and shattered

the walls of Constantinople. After a successful, though troubled reign of twenty-four years, Leo died calmly in his palace in the

year 741.

The next to wear the Imperial purple was

Constantine V., son of Leo, and surnamed

Copronynus. He began his reign by renewing the war on the images; nor were his proceedings marked by that kind of zeal which is

tempered with knowledge. Such was the violence of his policy in the destruction of the

effigies and his bitterness towards that half-Oriental and half-artistic taste which had combined to fill the churches of Christendom with

the images of saints and virgins that the historians of the opposing party have blackened

his name with all the unspeakable vocabulary

of contumely and hatred. Nor does it appear

that the charges which are heaped upon him

of cruelty and dissoluteness were wholly unjust. He was, however, a sovereign of considerable abilities, whose success both in peace

and in war was such as to merit for him a

better fame. He was a patron of public

works, and among other enterprises added to

the prosperity of the city by the restoration of

an aqueduct. He appears, too, to have had

some care for the unfortunate. To him two

thousand five hundred captives owed their return to liberty. Several cities in Thrace were

repopulated by colonization. In the field he commanded in person, and though his success as a

conqueror was but moderate, yet in the East

he maintained the frontier of the Empire

against the Persians, and on the Danube vindicated the Roman arms in conflicts with the


In the year 775 Constantine died and left

an undisputed succession to his son Leo IV.

The latter took to himself the surname of

Khazar, a title assumed in honor of his mother,

who was the daughter of the Khan of the

Khazars. While thus offering respect to his

barbarian mother he chose for himself an Athenian wife named Irene, who, by her beauty

and accomplishments, added greatly to the

reputation of her husband's court. The reign,

however, was brief and inglorious, but not

uneventful. In her marriage vows Irene was

obliged to abjure the worship of images, but

she still at heart retained her zeal for the

religious party with which she had been affiliated. In 780 Leo IV. died, having provided

in his testament that his wife should hold the

regency during the minority of his son Constantine VI., whom he named as his successor.

As soon as Irene was freed from the Imperial restraint of her husband she undertook

the restoration of the images. In 786 she

called a council of the church to consider the

question of restoring the effigies of Christendom. This assembly, however, was interrupted

in its sessions, but was reconvened at the same

place in the following year. This time a decision was reached declaring that the veneration of images was conformable alike to the

doctrines of Scripture and the teachings of the


The Iconoclasts, deeply humiliated at this

defeat, undertook the recovery of their influence by making the prince Constantine, then

sixteen years of age, the champion of their

cause. He was induced to renounce the regency of his mother, and to enter into a plot

for her banishment. But the Empress was

vigilant, and the scheme was defeated. In a

short time a mutiny occurred among the Armenian guards, and Irene was driven into the

solitude of the palace. Constantine VI. was

then proclaimed Emperor; but the dethroned

mother, unwilling that the fires of personal

ambition should be put out, plotted against

the life of her sovereign son. In 797 a band

of assassins rose upon him in the hippodrome,

but he escaped alive, and fled into Phrygia.