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Emperor of the Romans
Icones imperatorvm romanorvm, ex priscis numismatibus ad viuum delineatae, and breui narratione historicâ (1645) (14744350954).jpg
A 17th century illustration of Leontius, based on coins bearing his image
Emperor of the Byzantine Empire
PredecessorJustinian II
SuccessorTiberius III
Diedprobably February 706
DynastyHeraclian Dynasty
Twenty Years' Anarchy
Leontios 695–698
Tiberius III 698–705
Justinian II 705–711
with Tiberius as co-emperor, 706–711
Philippikos Bardanes 711–713
Anastasios II 713–715
Theodosios III 715–717
Preceded by
Heraclian dynasty
Followed by
Isaurian dynasty

Leontios or Leontius (Greek: Λεόντιος, Latin: Leontius; c. 660 – August 705/February 706) was Byzantine emperor from 695 to 698. Little is known of his early life, other than that he was born in Isauria. He was given the title of patrikios, and made Strategos of the Anatolic Theme under Emperor Justinian II. He led forces against the Umayyads during the early years of Justinian's reign, securing victory and forcing the Umayyad caliph, Abd al-Malik ibn Marwan, to sue for peace.

In 692, Justinian declared war upon the Umayyads again, and sent Leontios to campaign against them. However, he was defeated decisively after the Battle of Sebastopolis, and imprisoned for his failure by Justinian. He was released in 695, and given the title of Strategos of Hellas. After being released, he led a rebellion against Justinian, and seized power, becoming emperor in the same year.

He ruled until 697, when he was overthrown by Apsimar, a Droungarios who had taken part in a failed expedition that had been launched by Leontios, to recover Carthage. After seizing Constantinople, Apsimar took the royal name Tiberius III, and had Leontios' nose and tongue cut off. He was sent to the Monastery of Dalmatou, where he remained until February 706. By this time Justinian had retaken the throne. Both Leontios and Tiberius were executed.


Before the reign of Justinian II, Leontios' life is somewhat obscure. It is known that he was originally from Isauria. During the reign of Justinian II, Leontios was initially a patrikios, and strategos of the Anatolic Theme.[1] Leontios led forces against the Umayyads, who were distracted by a war with the Zubayrids, at some point during the early reign of Justinian. The Umayyad caliph, Abd al-Malik ibn Marwan, sued for peace in 688, agreeing to increase the tribute payments from the Umayyad Caliphate to the Byzantine Empire, which had started under Emperor Constantine IV, to a weekly tribute of 1,000 pieces of gold, one horse, and one slave.[2][3]

Justinian invaded again around 692, because he felt the Umayyads were in a weak position. The Umayyads repulsed the Byzantine attackers and invaded North Africa and Anatolia. After the decisive defeat of the Byzantines by the Umayyads at the Battle of Sebastopolis, Justinian blamed Leontios, and had him imprisoned in 692.[2][3]

Leontios was released in 695, in order to lead troops against the Umayyads, because Justinian feared losing the city of Carthage in the Exarchate of Africa.[2] Leontios was made Strategos of Hellas upon his release.[4][5] Upon his release, Leontios launched a revolt,[2] taking advantage of Justinian's unpopularity. Justinian was vastly unpopular amongst the population, with the aristocracy opposed to his land policies, and the peasantry to his tax policies.[6]

Leontios led a march on the guards barracks, freeing those who were imprisoned by Justinian for opposing him. His force was joined by a host of Blues supporters, and then marched to the Hagia Sophia. He was met by Patriarch Kallinikos, who declared his support for Leontios' bid for the throne. Leontios then led his forces to the Great Palace of Constantinople, and captured Justinian and his ministers.[7] They were brought to the Hippodrome, where Justinian's nose was cut off, a common practice in Byzantine culture, in order to remove threats to the throne.[6][8] After Justinian's nose was cut off, Leontios exiled him to Cherson,[4][6] and his ministers were dragged by their feet from wagons, and then burned alive.[7]

In 698, the Umayyads, led by Caliph Abd al-Malik ibn Marwan, invaded the Exarchate of Africa, and seized Carthage. Leontios sent a fleet to retake the Exarchate, but the expedition failed.[7][9] The forces initially were able to retake Carthage. Carthage was swiftly retaken by the Umayyads after the Byzantine fleet was decisively defeated just outside the harbor of the city.[10]

One of the commanders of this expedition, Apsimar, a Droungarios of German origins, started a revolt against Leontios, taking the regnal name Tiberius III. Apsimar led his men back to Constantinople, and allied himself with the Greens. Apsimar's force seized Leontios, and cut off his nose and tongue,[7][9][11][12] before sending Leontios to live in the Monastery of Dalmatou.[7][9]

Leontios stayed at the monastery under guard until Justinian II retook the throne with the assistance of the Bulgar king Tervel. The restored Justinian had both Leontios and Tiberius III dragged to the Hippodrome.[13] There they were publicly humiliated, then taken away and beheaded.[14][15] The exact date of this is unknown: it may have occurred from August 705 to February 706,[16] with the latter date favoured by most modern scholars.[15][17]


Primary sources[edit]


  1. ^ Brubaker & Haldon 2011, p. 586.
  2. ^ a b c d Necipoğlu & Leal 2010, p. 15.
  3. ^ a b Rosser 2001, p. 2.
  4. ^ a b Saxby & Angelov 2016, p. 27.
  5. ^ Carr 2015, p. 100.
  6. ^ a b c Ostrogorsky 1956, pp. 116–122.
  7. ^ a b c d e Carr 2015, p. 101.
  8. ^ Saxby & Angelov 2016, p. 45.
  9. ^ a b c Garland 2017, p. 2.
  10. ^ Konstam 2015, p. 8.
  11. ^ Melton 2014, p. 533.
  12. ^ Brubaker & Haldon 2011, p. 730.
  13. ^ Carr 2015, p. 102.
  14. ^ Carr 2015, p. 103.
  15. ^ a b Kazhdan 1991, p. 2084.
  16. ^ PmbZ, Tiberios II. (III.) Apsimar (#8483/corr.).
  17. ^ Treadgold 1997, p. 341.


  • Brubaker, Leslie; Haldon, John (2011). Byzantium in the Iconoclast Era, C. 680-850: A History. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 9780521430937.
  • Carr, John (2015). Fighting Emperors of Byzantium. Pen and Sword. ISBN 9781783831166.
  • Garland, Lynda (2017). Byzantine Women: Varieties of Experience 800-1200. Routledge. ISBN 9781351953719.
  • Kazhdan, Alexander, ed. (1991), Oxford Dictionary of Byzantium, Oxford University Press, ISBN 978-0-19-504652-6
  • Konstam, Angus (2015). Byzantine Warship vs Arab Warship: 7th–11th Centuries. Bloomsbury Publishing. ISBN 9781472807588.
  • Lilie, Ralph-Johannes; Ludwig, Claudia; Pratsch, Thomas; Zielke, Beate (2013). Prosopographie der mittelbyzantinischen Zeit Online. Berlin-Brandenburgische Akademie der Wissenschaften. Nach Vorarbeiten F. Winkelmanns erstellt (in German). Berlin and Boston: De Gruyter.
  • Melton, J. Gordon (2014). Faiths Across Time: 5,000 Years of Religious History. Santa Barbara: ABC-CLIO. ISBN 9781610690263.
  • Necipoğlu, Gülru; Leal, Karen (2010). Muqarnas. Leiden: Brill. ISBN 9789004185111.
  • Ostrogorsky, George (1956). History of the Byzantine State. Rutgers University Press. ISBN 978-0813511986.
  • Rosser, John H. (2001). Historical Dictionary of Byzantium. Lanham: Scarecrow Press. ISBN 9780810866218.
  • Saxby, Michael; Angelov, Dimiter (2016). Power and Subversion in Byzantium: Papers from the 43rd Spring Symposium of Byzantine Studies, Birmingham, March 2010. Routledge. ISBN 9781317076933.
  • Treadgold, Warren T. (1997). A History of the Byzantine State and Society. Stanford, California: Stanford University Press. ISBN 0-8047-2630-2.

See also[edit]

External links[edit]

Born: Unknown Died: February 706
Regnal titles
Preceded by
Justinian II
Byzantine Emperor
Succeeded by
Tiberius III