Leo III the Isaurian

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Leo III the Isaurian or the Syrian (Greek: Λέων Γ΄, Leōn III), (c. 685 – June 18 741) was Byzantine emperor from 717 until his death in 741. He put an end to a period of instability, successfully defended the empire against the invading Umayyads, and forbade the veneration of icons (see Iconoclasm).[1]



Early life

Leo, whose original name was Konon, was born in Germanikeia (Maraş) in the Syrian province of Commagene. Some, including the Byzantine chronicler Theophanes, have claimed that Konon's family had been resettled in Thrace, where he entered the service of Emperor Justinian II, when the latter was advancing on Constantinople with an army of 15,000 horsemen provided by Tervel of Bulgaria in 705.

After the victory of Justinian II, Leo was dispatched on a diplomatic mission to Alania and Lazica to organize an alliance against the Umayyad Caliphate under Al-Walid I. Leo was appointed commander (stratēgos) of the Anatolic theme by Emperor Anastasius II. On his deposition Leo joined with his colleague Artabasdus, the stratēgos of the Armeniac theme, in conspiring to overthrow the new Emperor Theodosius III. Artabasdus was betrothed to Anna,[2] daughter of Leo as part of the agreement.

Siege of Constantinople

Leo entered Constantinople on March 25 717 and forced the abdication of Theodosios III, becoming emperor as Leo III. The new emperor was immediately forced to attend to the Second Arab siege of Constantinople, which commenced in August of the same year. The Arabs were Umayyad forces sent by Caliph Sulayman ibn Abd al-Malik and serving under his brother Maslamah ibn Abd al-Malik. They had taken advantage of the civil discord in the Roman Empire to bring a force of 80,000 to 120,000 men and a massive fleet to the Bosphorus.[3]

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