Leo V, Byzantine Emperor

views updated


Emperor from 813 to 820; iconoclast; d. Constantinople, 820. Leo was of Armenian descent. He served as a general in Anatolia under Michael I and caused that emperor's defeat and deposition by withholding the support of his troops in a battle against the Bulgarians at Versinikia, near Adrianople on June 22, 813. When proclaimed emperor, he assured the patriarch of Constantinople nicephorus i (806815) of his orthodoxy before entering the capital. After his coronation on July 11, 813, however, he refused to give the patriarch a written assurance of his orthodox faith.

Upon the death of the Bulgarian King Krum on April 13, 814, the siege of Constantinople was raised, and Leo arranged a 30-year peace treaty with the new Bulgarian Khan Omortag (winter of 815816). He had already initiated the second period of iconoclasm, which lasted from 814 to 843. He set up a commission of six to justify the iconoclastic theology in a document that repudiated the making, existence, and veneration of images (Pentecost, 814); exiled Patriarch Nicephorus for his opposition (March 13, 815); installed Theodotus as the new patriarch; and convoked a synod in the Hagia Sophia (April of 815) to confirm the decisions of Constantine V's council of 754 and condemn the justification of the use of images defined by the Council of nicaea ii (787).

He persecuted bishops Joseph of Thessalonika, Peter of Nicaea, Michael of Synnada, Euthymius of Sardis, and Anthony of Dyrrachium for their opposition to his iconoclastic policy. theodore the studite appealed to Pope paschal i and asked the intervention of the Carolingian King Louis the Pious; and the Studite monk Thaddeus and theophanes the confessor died in exile in 818.

Leo's iconoclastic policies, however, were not as stringent as those of his predecessors, and he made a number of converts among the monks who had previously been the strongest upholders of the orthodox position. On the Vigil of Christmas, supporters of Michael II the Amorian (820829) assassinated Leo in the palace chapel. His reign, despite his iconoclasm, is regarded as one of the more efficient in Byzantine history.

Bibliography: f. dÖlger, Corpus der grieschischen Urkunden des Mittelalters und der neueren Zeit, series A, Regesten (Munich 192432) 1:4749. p. j. alexander, The Patriarch Nicephorus of Constantinople (New York 1958) 7780, 111147,222. g. ostrogorsky, Studien zur Geschichte des byzantinischen Bilderstreites (Breslau 1929) 4660. v. grumel, Les Regestes des actes du patriarcat de Constantinople, (Kadikoi-Bucharest 1932) 1.2:2941. s. runciman, A History of the First Bulgarian Empire (London 1930) 6174.

[h. chirat]