Theophilos (emperor)

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Theophilos (or Theophilus) (Greek: Θεόφιλος) (813 – 20 January 842) was Byzantine emperor from 829 to 842. He was the second emperor of the Phrygian dynasty, and the last emperor supporting iconoclasm.



Theophilos was the son of the Byzantine Emperor Michael II and his wife Thekla, and the godson of Emperor Leo V the Armenian. Michael II crowned Theophilos co-emperor in 822, shortly after his own accession. Unlike his father, Theophilos received an extensive education, and showed interest in the arts. On October 2, 829, Theophilos succeeded his father as sole emperor.

Theophilos continued in his predecessors' iconoclasm, though without his father's more conciliatory tone, issuing an edict in 832 forbidding the veneration of icons. He also saw himself as the champion of justice, which he served most ostentatiously by executing his father's co-conspirators against Leo V immediately after his accession. His reputation as a judge endured, and in the literary composition Timarion Theophilos is featured as one of the judges in the Netherworld.

At the time of his accession, Theophilos was obliged to wage wars against the Arabs on two fronts. Sicily was once again invaded by the Arabs, who took Palermo after a year-long siege in 831, established the Emirate of Sicily and gradually continued to expand across the island. The invasion of Anatolia by the Abbasid Caliph Al-Ma'mun in 830 was faced by the emperor himself, but the Byzantines were defeated and lost several fortresses. In 831 Theophilos retaliated by leading a large army into Cilicia and capturing Tarsus. The emperor returned to Constantinople in triumph, but in the Autumn was defeated by the enemy in Cappadocia. Another defeat in the same province in 833 forced Theophilos to sue for peace (Theophilos offered 100,000 gold dinars and the return of 7,000 prisoners)[1], which he obtained the next year, after the death of Al-Ma'mun.

During the respite from the war against the Abbasids, Theophilos arranged for the abduction of the Byzantine captives settled north of the Danube by Krum of Bulgaria. The rescue operation was carried out with success in c. 836, and the peace between Bulgaria and the Byzantine Empire was quickly restored. However, it proved impossible to maintain peace in the East. Theophilos had given asylum to a number of refugees from the east in 834, including Nasr (who was Persian [2]), baptized Theophobos, who married the emperor's aunt Irene, and became one of his generals. With relations with the Abbasids deteriorating, Theophilos prepared for a new war.

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