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Constantine IV

Constantine IV
Emperor of the Romans
Constantine IV, mosaic in basilica of Sant'Apollinare in Classe, Ravenna.
Byzantine emperor
ReignSeptember 668 – July 685
Coronation13 April 654
PredecessorConstans II
SuccessorJustinian II
Bornc. 650
(now Istanbul, Turkey)
Died10 July 685 (aged ≈35)
Regnal name
Imperator Flavius Constantinus[a]
FatherConstans II
ReligionChalcedonian Christianity

Constantine the New
Holy and Right-Believing Emperor of the Romans
Venerated inEastern Orthodoxy[5]
Major shrineChurch of the Holy Apostles
Feast3 September
AttributesImperial attire

Constantine IV (Latin: Constantinus; Greek: Κωνσταντῖνος, translit. Kōnstantînos; c. 650 – 10 July 685), called the Younger (Latin: iunior; Greek: ὁ νέος, translit. ho néos)[6][7] and often incorrectly the Bearded (Latin: Pogonatus; Greek: Πωγωνᾶτος, translit. Pōgōnãtos) out of confusion with his father,[8][b] was Byzantine emperor from 668 to 685. His reign saw the first serious check to nearly 50 years of uninterrupted Islamic expansion, most notably when he successfully defended Constantinople from the Arabs, and the temporary stabilization of the Byzantine Empire after decades of war, defeats, and civil strife. His calling of the Sixth Ecumenical Council saw the end of the monothelitism controversy in the Byzantine Empire; for this, he is venerated as a saint in the Eastern Orthodox Church, with his feast day on September 3.[5]

Early career

The eldest son of Constans II and Fausta, daughter of patrician Valentinus,[10] Constantine IV had been named a co-emperor with his father in 654, almost certainly in Easter (13 April).[11] His year of birth is unknown,[12] but often given as c. 650.[13][c] He became emperor in September 668, when news arrived at Constantinople that Constans II had been assassinated in Sicily.[14]

Mosaic of Constantine IV with his family and imperial figures. The upper legend reads: constantinus maior imperator - heraclii et tiberii imperator.[d]

The first task before the new Emperor was the suppression of the military revolt in Sicily under Mezezius which had led to his father's death.[15] Within seven months of his accession, Constantine IV had dealt with the insurgency with the support of Pope Vitalian,[16] but this success was overshadowed by troubles in the east.

As early as 668 the Caliph Muawiyah I received an invitation from Saborios, the commander of the troops in Armenia, to help overthrow the Emperor at Constantinople.[17] He sent an army under his son Yazid against the Byzantine Empire. Yazid reached Chalcedon and took the important Byzantine center Amorion.[18] While the city was quickly recovered, the Arabs next attacked Carthage and Sicily in 669.[19] In 670 the Arabs captured Cyzicus and set up a base from which to launch further attacks into the heart of the Empire.[20] Their fleet captured Smyrna and other coastal cities in 672.[21] Finally, in 672, the Arabs sent a large fleet to attack Constantinople by sea.[21] While Constantine was distracted by this, the Slavs laid siege to Thessalonica.[22]

The Siege of Constantinople (674–678)

Commencing in 674, the Arabs launched the long-awaited siege of Constantinople. The great fleet that had been assembled set sail under the command of Abdul-Rahman ibn Abi Bakr[19] before the end of the year; during the winter months some of the ships anchored at Smyrna, the rest off the coast of Cilicia.[19] Additional squadrons reinforced the forces of Abd ar-Rahman before they proceeded to the Hellespont, into which they sailed in about April 674.[19] From April to September 674 the fleet lay moored from the promontory of Hebdomon, on the Propontis, as far as the promontory of Kyklobion, near the Golden Gate, and throughout those months continued to engage with the Byzantine fleet which defended the harbour from morning to evening.[19]

Knowing that it was only a matter of time before Constantinople was under siege, Constantine had ensured that the city was well provisioned.[19] He also constructed a large number of fireships and fast-sailing boats provided with tubes or siphons for squirting fire. This is the first known use of Greek fire in combat,[21] which was one of the key advantages that the Byzantines possessed. In September, the Arabs, having failed in their attempts to take the city, sailed to Cyzicus, which they made their winter quarters.[21] Over the following five years, the Arabs returned each spring to continue the siege of Constantinople, but with the same results.[19] The city survived, and finally in 678 the Arabs were forced to raise the siege. The Arabs withdrew and were almost simultaneously defeated on land in Lycia in Anatolia.[23] This unexpected reverse forced Muawiyah I to seek a truce with Constantine. The terms of the concluded truce required the Arabs to evacuate the islands they had seized in the Aegean, and for the Byzantines to pay an annual tribute to the Caliphate consisting of fifty slaves, fifty horses, and 300,000 nomismata.[21] The raising of the siege allowed Constantine to go to the relief of Thessalonica, still under siege from the Sclaveni.[24]

Later reign

Solidus of Constantine IV, c. 681–685

With the temporary passing of the Arab threat, Constantine turned his attention to the Church, which was torn between Monothelitism and Orthodoxy.[25] In November 680 Constantine convened the Sixth Ecumenical Council (also known as the Third Council of Constantinople).[26] Constantine presided in person during the formal aspects of the proceedings (the first eleven sittings and then the eighteenth), surrounded by his court officials, but he took no active role in the theological discussions.[27] The Council reaffirmed the Orthodox doctrines of the Council of Chalcedon in 451.[citation needed] This solved the controversy over monothelitism; conveniently for the Empire, most monothelites were now under the control of the Umayyad Caliphate.[28] The council closed in September 681.[29]

Constantine IV convenes the 3rd Council of Constantinople, miniature from the 12th century Manasses Chronicle.

Due to the ongoing conflicts with the Arabs during the 670s, Constantine had been forced to conclude treaties in the west with the Lombards, who had captured Brindisi and Taranto.[13] Also in 680, the Bulgars under Khan Asparukh crossed the Danube into nominally Imperial territory and began to subjugate the local communities and Slavic tribes.[30] In 680, Constantine IV led a combined land and sea operation against the invaders and besieged their fortified camp in Dobruja.[31] Suffering from bad health, the Emperor had to leave the army, which panicked and was defeated by the Bulgars.[32] In 681, Constantine was forced to acknowledge the Bulgar state in Moesia and to pay tribute/protection money to avoid further inroads into Byzantine Thrace.[25] Consequently, Constantine created the Theme of Thrace.[13]

Khan Asparukh crosses the Danube and settles in Moesia, by Nikolai Pavlovich (ca. 19th century).

His brothers Heraclius and Tiberius had been crowned with him as augusti during the reign of their father,[12] and this was confirmed by the demand of the populace,[33] but in late 681 Constantine had them mutilated by slitting their noses so they would be considered ineligible to rule.[34] Some argue that he then associated Justinian II to the throne,[13] but all contemporary evidence indicates that he became emperor only after Constantine's death on 10 July 685.[12][e]


By his wife Anastasia, Constantine IV had at least two sons:

In art and popular culture

  • Constantine IV was portrayed by Iossif Surchadzhiev in the 1981 Bulgarian movie Aszparuh, directed by Ludmil Staikov.
  • Constantine IV is the subject of the song "Imperator" ("Emperor"), released by the Bulgarian heavy metal band Epizod in their 2012 album Moyata molitva ("My prayer").

See also


  1. ^ Constantine and his wife used at least two seals on which his name was rendered as Constantinos Constantos.[1][2] The name Constantus may have been a patronym, as some modern day historians translate Constantinus Constantus as "Constantine, son of Constans".[3] At least two documents refer to him as "Autokrator Phlabios Konstantinos" (Αὐτοκράτωρ Φλάβιος Κωνσταντῖνος; Latin: Imperator Flavius Constantinus), following the old imperial formula.[4]
  2. ^ The nickname appears prominently in older scholarship, following the chronicles of Symeon Logothete, Kedrenos and Zonaras. This confusion arises from the convoluted nomenclature of the Heraclians: Heraclius (r. 610–641) named his sons Heraclius ("Heraclonas") and Heraclius Constantine ("Constantine III"), who had in turn a son also named Heraclius Constantine ("Constans II"). The emperor Constantine VII (r. 945–959), despite having access to all official documents, uses the name "Constantine Pogonatus" to both Constans II and Constantine IV in different occasions, apparently confusing them.[9]
  3. ^ Probably on the basis that most co-emperors were crowned as children. Honorius (384) was 9 years old, Theodosius II (401) was 1 year old, Valentinian III (425) was 6 years old, Leo II (473) was 6 years old, Theodosius (590) was 7 years old, and Constantine III (613) was 1 year old. Tiberius and Constans II (641), were both 11 years old.
  4. ^ The mosaic must have been made shortly before Heraclius and Tiberius' deposition in 681. Justinian II (far left) is depicted as being slightly taller than them, but this is impossible given that he was at least a decade younger.
  5. ^ "Constantine's death is usually placed in September 685 on the ground that the sources attribute to him a reign of 17 years... Since such a figure can be taken only as a round number, there is no objection to accepting the date 10 July given the Catalogus."[14]


  1. ^ Laurent 1939, p. 359.
  2. ^ Settipani 2006, p. 119.
  3. ^ Academia Republicii Populare Romîne; Academia Republicii Socialiste România, eds. (1981). Revue roumaine d'histoire: Volume 20. Editions de l'Académie de la République socialiste de Roumanie. p. 626.
  4. ^ Rösch, Gerhard (1978). Onoma Basileias (in German). VÖAW. p. 170. ISBN 978-3-7001-0260-1.
  5. ^ a b September 3/September 16[permanent dead link]. Orthodox Calendar (PRAVOSLAVIE.RU).
  6. ^ Zuckerman (1995)
  7. ^ Grumel (1968)
  8. ^ Brooks, E. W. (1 January 1908). "Who was Constantine Pogonatus?". Byzantinische Zeitschrift (in German). 17 (2): 460–462. doi:10.1515/byzs.1908.17.2.460. ISSN 1864-449X.
  9. ^ Settipani 2006, p. 119-122.
  10. ^ Kazhdan (1991), "Constans II", p. 496
  11. ^ PBW "Konstantinos IV".
  12. ^ a b c Grierson (1968), pp. 512–514
  13. ^ a b c d Kazhdan (1991), "Constantine IV", pp. 500–501
  14. ^ a b Grierson (1962), p. 50
  15. ^ Bury (1889), p. 330
  16. ^ Bury (1889), p. 315
  17. ^ Bury (1889), p. 306
  18. ^ Bury (1889), p. 307
  19. ^ a b c d e f g Bury (1889), p. 310
  20. ^ Moore (1997)
  21. ^ a b c d e Norwich (1990), pp. 323–324
  22. ^ Moore (1997)
  23. ^ Moore (1997)
  24. ^ Moore (1997)
  25. ^ a b Norwich (1990), p. 326
  26. ^ Moore (1997)
  27. ^ Bury (1889), p. 317
  28. ^ Moore (1997)
  29. ^ Bury (1889), p. 316
  30. ^ Moore (1997)
  31. ^ Bury (1889), p. 333–334
  32. ^ Norwich (1990), p. 325
  33. ^ Bury (1889), p. 308
  34. ^ Moore (1997)
  35. ^ Grierson (1968), p. 568
  36. ^ Garland (2000)
  37. ^ Gibbon (1827), p. 99


Primary sources

Secondary sources

Laurent, V. (1939). "Notes de titulature byzantine". Échos d'Orient. 38 (195–196): 355–370.

Constantine IV Heraclian DynastyBorn: 650 Died: 685 Regnal titles Preceded byConstans II Byzantine emperor 668–685with Constans II, 654–668 Heraclius and Tiberius, 659–681 Succeeded byJustinian II Political offices Preceded byConstans II in 642,then lapsed Roman consul 668 Succeeded byLapsed,Justinian II in 686

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Constantine IV
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