We have already seen that the Chronographia project as a whole was structured to frame the present age as fulfilling the types of the past: in the typological thinking that characterized the First-Created Day thesis, the Incarnation fulfilled the Creation. The second part of the Chronographia, the Chronicle, was an account of the present age as defined by the Roman Empire coming to rule over Judea. The Chronicle’s account of the present era explicitly sought to provide its reader with “some practical benefit.” In this chapter I argue that the Chronicle did this through the same typological reasoning as we have seen in the First-Created Day thesis. The Chronicle invited readers to make sense of the empire and the eras of its emperors by reading the narratives of individual emperors as imperial types. It arranged the reigns of the Roman emperors as set pieces so that earlier emperors could be read as types fulfilled in the reigns of later emperors. In these typologies the present always fulfills or completes the type established by the past, but fulfillment does not necessarily mean improvement: the present supersedes the past whether the type is positive or negative. In this way the Chronicle used typologies to present its readers with a carefully composed Kaiserkritik.
The way the Chronicle set itself up to be read as a typological Kaiserkritik is distinctive, but that it did so should not be surprising. Medieval chronicles and histories were often set up as mirrors for princes with criticism of past rulers and advice for contemporary rulers (whether implied or explicit).1 Furthermore, it is not new to point out that the Chronicle itself was deeply critical of certain rulers. It is impossible to read the text and not notice the vitriol that is levelled at Leo III, Constantine V, and Nikephoros I.2 Careful readers have also pointed out that the Chronicle was critical (if less obviously so) of rulers such as Herakleios, Irene, and even Constantine the Great.3
Nevertheless, though scholars have read the Chronicle as critical of specific rulers, the only scholar to argue that these criticisms add up to a coherent narrative strategy has seen his approach largely dismissed.4 I go beyond the scholars who have seen narrative strategies in the accounts of individual emperors, and even beyond I. Čičurov’s hypothesis of an overall narrative in the Chronicle by not only arguing that individual emperors’ reigns have a narrative, but that the accounts of individual reigns combine to give the work a coherent argument.
The reason that previous scholars have not seen this coherence in the work is that the Chronicle only truly reveals itself as a coherent Kaiserkritik when the form of the text in the manuscript PG 1710 is brought into the foreground. PG 1710 is deserving of such emphasis because it not only represents the earliest surviving copy of the text but preserves the original form of the work, a form that is explicitly arranged as a series of imperial portraits (see chapter 1, sections 4.2 and 5). The imperial portraits in PG 1710 function as a series of types and so invite readers to look for interlocking typologies—both positive and negative. Furthermore, many passages that are distinct, separate entries in later recensions are grouped together in PG 1710 so that many sections that have previously been read as distinct annual entries in fact are part of multi-year narrative blocks.5 Readers of the manuscript PG 1710 would encounter these blocks as subdivisions in the narratives of individual emperors.6 Furthermore, these subdivisions to the reigns of emperors give structural cues as to how to interpret the deeds and policies of each.
In this chapter, I explain how the Chronicle connected its imperial types by pursuing the specifically negative imperial images. I argue that these negative imperial images, or antitypes, lay the groundwork for readers to create meaning out of the past for the present in three ways. First, the Chronicle uses a coherent and consistent set of political virtues to critique these emperors. Second, these evaluations permit the accounts of the emperors to fall into types and antitypes of each other—to illustrate the point, I show how three sets of imperial father-son pairs correspond. Third, the juxtaposed imperial types play into the crescendo of a carefully crafted polemic against Nikephoros I (discussed in chapter 7). The types do not merely communicate to a reader that an individual emperor is “good” or “bad” but establish trans-historical templates for discerning the past, recognizing the present, and working towards the future.
1 The Imperial Antitype: The Greedy Emperor
The Chronicle’s negative images of imperial rule agree on the point that greed (
The connection between greed and heresy is established—perhaps surprisingly—by the account of Constantine the Great and his son Constantius. This pairing establishes a type that is re-typified in Herakleios and Constans, and then fulfilled later in Leo III and Constantine V. In all of these pairs, a father figure starts out seeming to be an ideal emperor whose military prowess initially saves the empire. However, each father figure emperor is then persuaded to delve into heresy by a type (we would say the racist stereotype) of the “scheming Jew.”7 This leads to a negative ending to the fathers’ reigns. The sons who succeed them oversee calamitous reigns from the very start due to following their fathers’ late errors.
The early entries of the Chronicle applied a dichotomy between imperial greed and imperial
[Constantius] was satisfied with a small share of the empire. He was very gentle and kindly in a manner and did not concern himself with the public treasury. Rather he wanted his subjects to have riches. So restrained was he in the acquisition of riches that he provided public banquets and honoured many of his friends at drinking parties and so was much loved by the Gauls who contrasted him with the severe Diocletian and the bloodthirsty Maximianus Herculius from whom they had escaped because of [Constantius].8
Constantius embodied an open-handed approach to power, sharing the empire’s resources generously, whereas Diocletian was a harsh lord. This entry does not simply invite comparison, it makes explicit and unambiguous that the contrast is between a severe and greedy emperor and one who wants to use wealth to make his subjects rich.
Before entering into extended readings of this and other passages, I want to emphasize that though the Chronographia is largely composed of excerpts, it is entirely legitimate and warranted to look for connections even in the choices of words in the narrative. Scholars have too often accepted an indebted citation to mean a verbatim copy, failing to notice the fundamental changes that the Chronicle made to the texts it excerpted.9 For instance, in regards to the above passage both C. Mango and R. Scott as well as I. Rochow have pointed out that the description of Constantius is indebted to the tenth book of Eutropius’ Breviarium.10 The Breviarium of Eutropius is a concise Roman history that was translated into Greek by Paeanios in the fifth century.11 Eutropius’ original does not survive but Paeanios’ translation (which George or Theophanes likely used) does. Though the passage in the Chronicle was derived from this source and the progression of ideas is the same, hardly a word of the original coincides with the narrative of the Chronicle.12 Eutropius (via Paeanius) had emphasized that Constantius’ imperial banquets had borrowed from aristocratic treasuries, literally using their very plates. The Chronographia removes such details to construct a simple dichotomy.
Emperors either lived up to the ideal of fiscal leniency and orthodox unity or else exhibited avarice and then impiety. What is perhaps surprising is the degree to which the Chronographia used these contrasts to highlight the importance of imperial generosity over simple piety. When the emperor Diocletian dies his type is continued seamlessly by the emperor Galerius Maximianus whose severity and reliance on the imperial treasury are also set in contrast to Constantine’s satisfaction with his own wealth and his avoidance of the public treasury. This is underscored in the next entry where it is explained that Galerius persecuted Christians out of greed rather than conviction.13 Under the entry for AM 5797, Constantine is identified as emperor, but in fact Maxentius still reigns in Rome, and Galerius is the senior emperor of the East, a “fornicator” who not only engages with the trickery of demons, but
ordered the total destruction of the Christians not so much because of his own impiety as to plunder their property.14
That is, Galerius persecutes but the issue is not so much his opposition to the Christian faith but his actual pursuit: their belongings. Once Constantine becomes emperor, the contrast is again emphasized:
In this year Constantine the Great, having become sole ruler of all the Roman lands, gave his mind entirely to holy matters by building churches and enriching them lavishly from public funds.15
The victory of Constantine in becoming emperor was a victory for generosity and liberality.
This pattern continues throughout the Chronicle. Good emperors are equally pious and generous to the public. Evil emperors are greedy and thereby they are heretics or apostates, such as the “frugal and avaricious” Julian. Julian attacked the church, but above all his evil was apparent in his frugality and avarice.16 The Chronicle castigated Julian not for his apostasy from Christainity in favor of pagan religious beliefs but for his administrative policies, for overturning the political order by recalling exiled bishops, for expelling trusted ministers, and most of all for expelling members of the imperial household.
Similarly he expelled the cooks, because of his frugal ways, and the barbers, since one was sufficient for many, as he used to say. From the public post he removed the camels and asses, the oxen and mules, and only allowed horses to serve, because of the great avarice to which he was a slave, even to the point of idolatry.17
Thus Julian, even before he apostatized from the faith, had already revealed himself as unfit for rule by his greed, frugality, and avarice. In the Chronicle greed is a sign of evil as much or more so than heresy. With this in mind I turn to how the Chronicle develops this ethic in its typologies, manipulating its content through some basic narrative strategies.
2 The Progenitor-Successor Type: Constantine-Constantius
2.1 The Good but Deceived Progenitor-Type: Constantine I
In the following analyses of the reigns of emperors I begin by describing the unique qualities of the text in PG 1710. In the case of Constantine the Great the manuscript establishes the pattern to come by proclaiming the beginning of his reign with a header in the top margin (figure 5.1).18 As stated in chapter 1, such a “header” is consistent through the manuscript, recognized as such by J. Signes Codoñer and confirmed by F. Ronconi as original.19 The organizing principle of the Chronicle in PG 1710 is each emperor’s reign, which thus constitutes a coherent narrative block in the text.
Constantine’s name establishes his reign as a narrative block, and—unlike in the critical edition and translation—the
The layout of the table follows PG 1710 in emphasizing each “AM” heading as more significant than when an entry is introduced by “In this year.” The latter are narrative transitions but minor ones that do not occasion a line break. The table also provides three different types of notes on the content. Many “years” in de Boor’s edition are only a dating notice with no narrative content at all. I have noted them as such. These dating notices make no appearance whatsoever in PG 1710 since that manuscript has no “empty” entries (i.e., with a date but no content). Thus, the absence of these sorts of entries in the PG 1710 version of the Chronicle should not be taken to mean a meaningful entry was excised. I have also noted the times when the content from multiple annual entries in de Boor’s edition falls under a single entry in PG 1710. For instance, all of the content divided between AM 5803–5809 in de Boor is under “AM 5803” in PG 1710. Finally, I noted where PG 1710 is missing text or has added text to what is in de Boor’s edition.
Even though table 5.1 gives the appearance of significant difference between the text of PG 1710 and de Boor’s edition I emphasize again that these are primarily differences in arrangement and that the differences in the actual textual material are rather small—not so small as to be meaningless, but not large enough to substantiate the idea that PG 1710 is an epitome or a summary. Out of the approximately 700 lines narrating Constantine’s reign in later versions, PG 1710 has approximately 37 lines fewer, meaning that PG 1710 contains 95% of the text in the other recensions. These differences are not random. In PG 1710 Constantine is only described positively up until the end of the very last entry on his reign. On the other hand, in later versions of the text (the versions reproduced by de Boor) problems and errors are introduced earlier in Constantine’s reign. It seems to me that the differences are most easily accounted for as additions made to the text in an attempt to slightly alter the reader’s idea of Constantine’s reign. Nevertheless, whether these differences are actually additions or deletions is a question that is not essential to the argument of this book. For simplicity and clarity, I will refer to them in what follows as “additions,” since the focus of my readings is to explain the coherently constructed version of the Chronicle in the mid-ninth-century manuscript PG 1710.
Before proceeding it is essential to understand how the arrangement of the textual material functions in the PG 1710 version. In my discussion in chapter 1 of the layout of the reign of Diocletian in PG 1710, I suggested that the AM years served to create distinct narrative breaks, that is, subdivisions or sections in the narratives of specific emperors’ reigns.20 Building on that hypothesis, I note the events which are the focus in these subdivisions marked in PG 1710 with an AM heading. A brief description of Constantine’s reign according to the events in these subdivisions is in table 5.2.
These highlights of Constantine’s reign indicate the importance of the “power of the Cross” in the account of his victories. Additionally, there is a shift in tone between the first seven entries and the last two. Whereas the last two entries indicate natural and ecclesiastical problems beginning to beset the empire, the entries up through AM 5818 show Constantine promoting Christians and scoring victories, all associated with the power of the Cross.
I will briefly describe how the entries AM 5803, AM 5815, AM 5817, and AM 5818 all make a direct association of Constantine with the Cross of the Christ. The phrase “through the power of the Cross” attributes agency to the cross. This phrase only occurs in these entries, it is distinctive to Constantine. But even when the specific phrase does not occur, these sections still give the cross a role. The first entry of Constantine’s reign AM 5797 is the entry in which Constantine receives his famous vision of the “victory-bringing cross” before defeating Maxentius at the Milvian Bridge. While the focus for the entry for AM 5816 is the Council of Nicaea and the beginning of the construction of Constantinople, it also highlights Constantine’s acquiescence to his mother Helena’s desire to discover the cross in Jerusalem, a narrative that is continued immediately under the next entry, AM 5817. Finally, the remaining entry in these first seven—AM 5810—emphasizes Constantine’s bringing of unity to the empire and concludes with a discussion of Constantine’s legitimacy that winds around to a reminder that Constantine’s vision of the Cross marked him as divinely favored.21 The cross marks Constantine as the bringer of unity when Constantine defeated
that Maxentius who was usurper at Rome and who was destroyed by Constantine at the Milvian bridge when the sign of the Cross appeared to him in the sky.22
In sum, then, each of the seven entries for this first part of the narrative of the reign of Constantine establish his identity as a bringer of unity and peace, as identified by his constant association with the talismanic sign of the Holy Cross. Constantine’s victories “through the Cross” are characterized by their bringing peace and unity to the empire.
What happens to this portrait in the final two entries? AM 5823 and AM 5827 are puzzling as they change the narrative trajectory just described. AM 5823, as presented in PG 1710, sets up a conflict between the orthodox Athanasios and the heretic Eusebius of Nicomedia at the very end of that entry. In order to make clear how the narrative of PG 1710 version works, I have edited C. Mango and R. Scott’s translation of this entire entry to reflect the layout and contents of the version in PG 1710. The reader should compare this version with the different version (representing the later Greek recension) in K. de Boor’s edition or in C. Mango and R. Scott’s translation.23
In AM 5823, AD 323 [n.b. our AD 330/1]: When the seventh indiction was about to follow,24 a famine occurred in the East which was so extremely severe that villagers gathered together in great throngs in the territory of the Antiochenes and of Kyros and assailed one another and stole [food] in attacks by night, and finally even in daylight they would break into the granaries, looting and stealing everything in the storehouses before they went away. A modius of corn cost 400 pieces of silver. Constantine the Great graciously gave an allowance of corn to the churches in each city to provide continuous sustenance for widows, the poor in hostels, and for clerics. The Church in Antioch received 36,000 modii of corn.
In the same year, during a very severe earthquake in Cyprus, the city of Salamis collapsed and killed a considerable number.
Arius was recalled from exile following a feigned repentance and sent to Alexandria. He was not accepted by Athanasios.
In this [the next] year25 the tricennalia of the most pious and victorious Constantine was celebrated with great munificence.
In Antioch a star appeared in the eastern part of the sky during the day, emitting much smoke as though from a furnace, from the third to the fifth hour.
Arius along with Eusebius of Nicomedia and those of like mind were stirred up and offered sworn statements of their orthodoxy to the emperor. They persuaded him falsely that they were in agreement with the fathers of Nicaea. Convinced by them, the emperor was annoyed with Athanasios for not accepting back Arius and Euzoios who had been deposed by Alexander, Euzoios being then a deacon. Eusebius [of Nicomedia] and his supporters, having found a pretext, campaigned against Athanasios as a champion of the true faith.
This entry accomplishes several things. It begins by continuing the narrative of the good Constantine through his correct response to natural disasters by offering generosity to his people. However, it introduces the beginning of a new narrative that would continue to the end of his reign: in being fooled by heretics, Constantine allowed disunity to creep into the empire. Arius makes a “feigned repentance” and so returns to the empire. Constantine’s own tricennalia celebration becomes a side note in this story of Constantine being fully persuaded by Arius and Eusebius of Nicomedia to become vexed with Athanasios who—in the Chronicle—represents orthodoxy and thus unity of faith and empire.
In PG 1710 Arius’ recall and his subsequent acceptance first in Alexandria and then in Constantinople are a connected series of events. This in turn makes the narrative of Constantine’s deception much more apparent and coherent in PG 1710 than later recensions (as reproduced in de Boor’s edition). The entry under AM 5827 follows and is the last of Constantine’s reign in PG 1710. The first part of the entry begins with a re-iteration of Constantine’s “vexation” (
The conclusion of the AM 5827 entry, the last on Constantine in PG 1710, has the greatest differences between the different versions of the text. To show these differences, I again reproduce C. Mango and R. Scott’s translation, but mark the additional text from other manuscripts (as in de Boor’s edition) indented as a smaller font. The last sentence is the only case of two competing versions of any passage; I reproduce both versions here.
These events took place in the 31st year of Constantine the Great while the divine Alexander was bishop of Constantinople.
and it was not, as Eusebius alone states, while Eusebius of Nicomedia was holding the throne of Constantinople that he plotted against Athanasios at the consecration. That this is false is shown from the total period of time, since Constantine ruled in all for 32 years. After his first decade, in his 13th year he arrived in Byzantium and found Alexander’s predecessor Metrophanes was bishop, after whom Alexander was bishop for 23 years. The period from the beginning of Constantine the Great’s rule to the death of Alexander was consequently 37 years, which Constantine did not attain. Thus from the total period of time it can be shown that Eusebius did not rule the throne of Constantinople in Constantine’s time. This also follows from what has been said above about Arius and Athanasios. For Athanasios’ banishment and Arius’ death occurred after Constantine’s 30th year and after the consecration at Jerusalem. The great Alexander was still alive at that time.
In this [next] year:
there flourished Eustathios, a presbyter in Constantinople, who had devoted himself to an apostolic life and had reached the summit of virtue; as also the builder Zenobios, who erected the Martyrium in Jerusalem at Constantine’s instruction. In the same year many of the Assyrians in Persia were being sold in Mesopotamia by the Saracens, and the Persians declared war on the Romans. The pious
Constantine went out to the city of Nicomedia on his way to fight the Persians, but became ill and died in peace.
Some Arians claim that he was then deemed worthy of holy baptism at the hands of Eusebius of Nicomedia, who had been transferred to Constantinople. This is false, as has been pointed out; for he was baptized by Silvester in Rome, as we have already demonstrated.
He lived in all 65 years and was emperor for 3 years and 10 months. He wrote a will in which he left the Empire to his three sons, Constantine, Constans, and Constantius, having carried out his office with piety and mercy. Becoming by God’s providence the first emperor of the Christians, he gained power over many barbarians from Britain to Persia and over usurpers of his own race, destroying his enemies by the sign of the life-giving Cross. He entrusted his will to a certain Arian presbyter who had been introduced with evil intent by his sister Constantia, enjoining on him to hand it to none other than Constantius, the emperor of the East. He also ordered Athanasios to return from exile. Constantius, after arriving from the East, buried his father in [the church of] the Apostles. The unholy Arian presbyter, after handing over the will to Constantius, enjoyed great influence in the palace and even persuaded the empress herself to become an Arian. His accomplices in this were
the chief Eunuch Eusebius, Eusebius of Nicomedia, and other Arians of their persuasion.
Eusebius of Nicomedia, and those of his persuasion.
The narrative goals for this final entry in the Chronicle in PG 1710 are focused. The text associates Constantine both directly and indirectly with the narrative of the Arian bishop, Eusebius of Nicomedia: for instance, Constantine’s final campaign seems to matter primarily for its point of departure, from Nicomedia. Constantine himself shows no signs of converting to the Arian persuasion, but he puts unfounded trust in the Arians. Constantine allows them into the palace and entrusts them with fulfilling his will, ensuring the empire passes to Constantius. Though the reader is reminded, one last time, that Constantine was victorious “by the sign of the life-giving Cross,” the final victory belongs to Eusebius of Nicomedia.
Over half of the textual differences between the PG 1710 version of the reign of Constantine and that in the other manuscripts are accounted for in the passage just quoted.26 If we consider these differences as additions added to later copies of the Chronicle the original narrative purpose of Constantine’s reign becomes clear. These additions either expand on the theme of Nicomedia itself or elaborate on Eusebius of Nicomedia as the heretical (Arian) enemy of Athanasios of Alexandria. In these additions Nicomedia itself appears (independently or by association with Eusebius of Nicomedia) several additional times: 5823, 5827, 5828. For instance, a fire burning down the city’s cathedral under AM 5827 associates God’s negative judgment with the city as a whole. The later additions also accuse Eusebius first as Constantine’s appointee to the patriarchate of Constantinople (5827), and secondly as the bishop who baptized Constantine on his deathbed (5828). In a narrative on the greatness of Constantine, Eusebius of Nicomedia comes under attack for being the figure who corrupts Constantine’s piety and orthodoxy. Once this is acknowledged, minor additions that otherwise seem random can be explained. For instance, the Caesar Dalmatius was introduced to develop the portrait of Eusebius. Dalmatius features in the addition to AM 5827 to play an important role in rescuing Athanasius from an ambush by Eusebius of Nicomedia and his supporters.27
The final addition falls under the second entry after AM 5810—an undated “In this year” entry labelled AM 5814 by de Boor. This passage relates to two other editorializing sections (both in the above extended quotation) under AM 5827, and in the first entry after AM 5827—another undated “In this year” entry labelled AM 5828 by de Boor. These additions all bring up negative accusations against Constantine in order to dismiss them, all apologizing for Constantine in various ways. The addition after AM 5810 denies implied reproaches against the piety of Constantine’s immediate family and then provides a schematic genealogical table for Constantine’s family. The addition in AM 5827 denies a narrative by Eusebius of Caesarea, that Constantine himself appointed Eusebius of Nicomedia the patriarch of Constantinople. Finally, the additions after AM 5827 give a reason for Constantine’s expedition against the Persians, associate him once more with Jerusalem, and above all bring up the argument that he was baptized by Eusebios of Nicomedia in order to refute it and argue that he was baptized by Silvester of Rome.
These additions from the later Greek recensions do not oppose the narrative in PG 1710 so much as they get in its way. On its own, PG 1710 offers a clean account of Constantine, a positive image of him that ignores his well-known sins and errors. PG 1710 does not argue that Constantine was not baptized by Eusebius of Nicomedia, it simply asserts that Constantine was baptized by Silvester of Rome. PG 1710 does not argue that Constantine did not appoint Eusebius of Nicomedia as patriarch, it simply asserts that Eusebius of Nicomedia became patriarch after Constantine’s death. The later additions provide a more fleshed out picture of a historical Constantine, but they do so at the expense of the coherent portrait which we saw PG 1710 maintain until its very last entry, when Constantine falters. This portrait presented a universally positive image of Constantine, verified by the life-giving cross, until the very end when he erred on who to entrust with the succession of the empire.28 In sum, the point here is not whether, historically speaking, these textual differences are additions or deletions. The point is that without these expanded editorializing passages and argumentative additions, PG 1710 maintains a much tighter narrative focus on Constantine. Their absence makes for a much cleaner, and more direct portrait of the emperor that allows him to be read as an image, a type of the ideal emperor, until just before the end.
2.2 The Errant Successor Paradigm: Constantius
In the final entry for Constantine, AM 5827 (table 5.2), the version in PG 1710 simply calls the emperor “Constantine” whereas the additions make him the “pious Constantine.” In other words, PG 1710 invites the reader to see Constantine as the initial type of the good emperor, but at the same time in its deathbed entry un-divinizes him as less than perfect. Constantine was the Great, the best emperor of the Romans and the “type” of the pious ruler. But at the end of his life Constantine was deceived by Arians and entrusted them with the succession of his kingdom. Their influence led to Constantia (his sister) bringing Arian priests into the palace, to her becoming an Arian, and to Constantius’ twenty-four-year reign in which Arians ruled over empire and ecclesia and brought disunity to the
PG 1710 marks the reign of Constantius as its own narrative section with a header in the top margin (figure 5.2). Through this narrative the consequences of Constantine’s deception by Eusebius of Nicomedia are gradually revealed. Constantius may not have intended the loss of Constantine’s peace, but his policies and his inability to stand up to the heretics opened the door to violence. That is, Constantius does not actively persecute “the Christians” and in the end he “repented of his great folly,”29 but he does allow heretics—by the Chronicle’s definition misanthropic and divisive—to reign, especially over the church, and this led to serious consequences. The Chronographia repeatedly points out that Constantius was deceived in his doctrine rather than that he was evil and perversely attacked what was right.30 This is poignantly emphasized by the transition between the patriarch Makedonios and the patriarch Eudoxios in the year AM 5852.
Still holding the throne of Constantinople like a usurper, Makedonios transferred the body of Constantine the Great to St Akakios from the Holy Apostles, pleading the [imminent] collapse of that church. But when the people opposed him, there was considerable loss of life, with the result that the well and courtyard of the martyrium and the adjacent streets were filled with blood. When Constantius learned of this he became annoyed (
ἠγανάκτησε) with Makedonios, ordered his deposition, and installed Eudoxios in his place, exchanging a great evil for a greater one.31
Though Constantius may have intended to punish Makedonios for his evils against the people of Constantinople, his poor judgment meant he brought even greater evil upon them.
In sum, how should we characterize the portraits of Constantine and Constantius painted by PG 1710? The Constantine type is coherent as a narrative unit but closes in PG 1710 with subtle but undeniable criticism.32 In PG 1710 only Constantius merits a narrative block of his own before we arrive at the reviled emperor Julian (the co-reigns of Constantine II (337–340) and Constans I (337–350) are not a part of the narrative structure in this way). This makes Constantius the single link between Constantine and Julian. We have already seen that the Chronicle uses Julian to define the greedy anti-type for emperors. In other words, Constantine is both the opposite type to Julian, and the beginning of the trajectory that leads to Julian. Constantine establishes the positive imperial type for the Chronicle and at the same time his end-of-life deception by heretics makes him the originator of a negative type that will eventually find its fulfillment in the iconoclast pairing of Leo III and Constantine V.
As Constantine becomes the positive imperial type—only deceived by corrupt priests at the very end of his reign and even then, not substantially—so Constantius remains the closest to a positive paradigm for the “deceived son” type. Though Constantius is a heretic he is one against his own good will.33 It is in this way that the combined portraits of Constantine and Constantius provide positive models as well as set up the negative type that we will follow through the rest of the Chronicle: the pattern of the good emperor who is nonetheless open to deception, and so at last brings about havoc in his empire. This type of emperor suffers deception, and then bequeaths the Roman empire to a son who attains the throne already deceived. Subsequent father-son pairings show similar characteristics to Constantine-Constantius, but they are corruptions of this type. The degree to which they are corruptions give the reader a pattern through which to perceive a downward trajectory to the Roman Empire.
3 The Corruption of the Progenitor-Successor Type: Herakleios-Constans
3.1 The Progenitor Type Is Corrupted: Herakleios
Due to a lacuna in PG 1710, we do not know how that manuscript originally framed the beginning of Herakleios’ reign. However, Herakleios’ reign must have been divided into a coherent set piece with a header like that for Constantine since this is so consistently the pattern through the rest of the manuscript. The narrative structures particular to PG 1710 frame Constans as the successor to Herakleios, and so invite a reading of the two as a father-son type in the mold of Constantine-Constantius. That is, there is no header in PG 1710 for the one-year reign of Herakleios’ son Heraklonas. Instead Constans (who is Herakleios’ grandson) is given a header that marks his as the next imperial narrative (figure 5.3).34
The Chronicle’s account of Herakleios’ reign draws from the panegyric of George of Pisidia. George of Pisidia’s rhetoric was so stridently militaristic and religious that G. Regan could argue that Herakleios’ campaign against the Persian Empire should be regarded as the “First Crusade.”35 From a narratological point of view, J. Ferber has already convincingly demonstrated that Herakleios’ reign is divided into two sections, the turning point being the entry for AM 6121.36 This narrative strategy clearly builds on what we have already seen in the reign of Constantine. In both narratives the first section emphasizes the virtues of the emperor as a successful military leader relying on the power of God to sustain Roman victories, whereas in the second the successor and heir (Constans) would become trapped in his predecessor’s erroneous decision, exhibiting the imperial vice of greed. However, unlike Constantine whose downfall is limited to the very last year of his reign and so is spared from seeing any consequences of his deception, Herakleios was deceived in his prime and so would live to see his own poor decision begin to unravel his empire, a process fulfilled under Constans.
Table 5.3 presents the reign of Herakleios in PG 1710 with the same form of notation that I used for the reign of Constantine. There is a lacuna in the PG 1710 manuscript for the reign of Herakleios (AM 6102–6133) that begins just before Herakleios’ reign in the middle of the entry for AM 6099 (at dB 295.15) and ends in the middle of the entry for AM 6116 (at dB 313.6). As it is impossible to read the early reign of Herakleios out of the manuscript PG 1710, for our analytical goals we will have to rely on the versions preserved in other manuscripts. This primarily means guessing whether the “AM” years preserved in other manuscripts match the same divisions in the missing portion of PG 1710. We can be quite confident in these guesses: as I showed in chapter 1 when PG 1710 notes an AM year it is always also in the other recensions. PG 1710 may have fewer marked AM entries than these other manuscripts, but not more.
Consequently, even though a reading of the entire reign of Herakleios from the manuscript PG 1710 is not possible, we can reconstruct a good approximation of his portrait. And, since the turning point in Herakleios’ reign at AM 6121 is preserved in PG 1710 we can use that manuscript for our reading of this key section.
The following summary (table 5.4) explains the narrative trajectory for Herakleios. In addition to what has already been stated, Herakleios parallels Constantine in that, while Constantine’s mother led him to find the true Cross in Jerusalem, the Mother of God led Herakleios to the throne, to the recovery of Jerusalem, and the recovery of the True Cross. Just as in Constantine’s narrative, after his victories Herakleios succumbs to the trickery of priests and accepts a heresy as true. Unlike Constantine, Herakleios continues to rule and so suffers the consequences of his decision before passing them on to trouble the reign of Constans.37
The narrative theme of the first section, the five entries up to AM 6121 are as follows. Herakleios comes to power through the help of the Mother of God (AM 6102).38 In the first decade of his reign (the combined entries under AM 6103), Herakleios “found the affairs of the Roman state undone,” through invasions by the Avars and especially the Perians who go on to conquer Egypt and Africa as well as seize the Cross when they sack Jerusalem.39 Herakleios tries to reestablish peace with the invading Persians and Avars through tribute and diplomacy.40 A quick series (AM 6111) explains a turning point. Herakleios makes peace with both the Avars and the Persians, only to see the peace broken by the Persians. Then “becoming filled with divine zeal” he decides to embark on an expetition against Persia “with God’s help.”41 In a well-known series of passages reminiscent of a film montage, Herakleios trains up his army from “a state of great sluggishness, cowardice, indiscipline, and disorder”42 into crack regiments through mock battles—“a frightening sight, yet one without the fear of danger, murderous clashes without blood, forms of violence without violence, so that each man might draw a lesson from that safe slaughter and remain more secure.” As Herakleios had sailed into Constantinople under the protection of icons of the Mother of God, so he embarks on this new expedition “taking in his hands the likeness of the Man-God,” the famous mandylion icon.43 He brings his troops to victory in taking the camp of the Persian army where they “raised their arms aloft to give thanks to God and to praise earnestly their emperor who had led them well.”44 Finally, in the fifth entry for his reign (AM 6116) Herakleios is ultimately victorious over Chosroes whose three-pronged attack is met in each case by Herakleios, in the first case “with God’s help by the mediation of the all-praised Theotokos,” in the second case “by God’s might and help and by the intercession of the immaculate Virgin, the Mother of God,” and in the third case “by God’s might and the help of the Theotokos.”45 Finally making a “permanent peace,” Herakleios received back “the precious and life-giving Cross”46 with which he then processes through Constantinople in triumph before personally returning it to Jerusalem.47
It is important to note that the dramatic high point of the narrative is emphasized by the structure of PG 1710. Under the single entry which PG 1710 labelled AM 6116 (which the other recensions divide into AM 6116–6120) Heraklios’ military successes were conjoined with a narrative of restoration. Upon his return to Constantinople from the Persian wars, “the people of the city … went out to meet [Herakleios] … acclaiming him with tears of joy … dancing with joy” in a celebration mirroring the Hebrew king David’s recovery of the Ark of the Covenant from the Philistines.48 The restoration of the True Cross to Jerusalem was also conjoined with Herakleios’ forced conversion of Jews (unfortunately a positive event for the author of the Chronicle), and his restoration of Zacharias as the patriarch of Jerusalem. The Chronicle concluded the section by lifting another idea from George of Pisidia, a comparison of Heraclius’ triumphant return in the seventh year of his campaign to God’s rest on the seventh day of creation.49
Prior to AM 6121, the divinely favored Herakleios met with every success. The explanations for Herakleios’ successes “by the help of the Theotokos” are strikingly similar to the “by the victory of the cross” language that characterized Constantine. Herakleios needed to preserve the True Cross by moving it from Jerusalem, where Constantine’s mother Helena had discovered it. Parallels between the successes of the two reigns invite a comparison between their errors. As Constantine had eroded his victories by acquiescing to deceptive priests, Herakleios was also deceived. Herakleios, unlike Constantine, would see what his deception wrought.
The entry for AM 6121 begins a different narrative sequence. The entries for AM 6121 (on monotheletism) and for AM 6122 (on the prophet Muhammed) convey extended historical narratives in entries labelled as only one year. By placing these wide-ranging entries adjacent to one another, the Chronographia created chronological dissonances which it resolved with causal links between the two narratives.
This two-entry set piece of AM 6121–AM 6122 is introduced by an aside at the conclusion of the entry under AM 6116 in PG 1710:
[The Persian queen Borane] was succeeded by Hormisdas, who was driven out by the Saracens, and so the kingdom of Persia has remained under Arab sway to the present time.50
As we will see, the description of the rise of monotheletism in AM 6121 would connect the heresy to the life of Muhammed and the conquests of his successors in AM 6122 not through a strict chronology of events but through causal connections that could only be demonstrated by breaking the bounds of a strict chronology.
Furthermore, the Chronicle would emphasize these two disunifying ends by making use of a narrative technique known as hysteron proteron, a device used in Greek literature as far back as Homer in which the narration of events is given out of chronological order for the purpose of creating logical coherence.51 The Chronicle’s ambitious use of this classical technique is a rarity in the genre of medieval chronography and thereby a signal of the work’s narrative concerns. In the case of AM 6121, hysteron proteron made it possible to tie an act in the middle of Herakleios’ reign to the end of his successor’s. In the entry for AM 6121, without stating any date incorrectly, the Chronicle telescoped fifty-one years of ecclesiastical and military events across the Mediterranean into one entry.
According to its heading, AM 6121 (AD 628/9) covers only the eighteenth year of Herakleios’ reign (610–641). However, the contents go far beyond even the bounds of the next entry of AM 6122. AM 6121 began by following up on Herakleios’ bringing of the True Cross to Jerusalem. While still in that city, Herakleios was paid a fateful visit:
In this year Athanasius the Patriarch of the Jacobites came to the Emperor Herakleios while he was in Hierapolis. He was a tricky man, and an evildoer because of his innate Syrian knavery …52
This Athanasius, a rival to the imperially sanctioned patriarch of Jerusalem Zacharias, convinced Herakleios of the truth of the new christological hypothesis monotheletism.53 The unwary emperor was convinced, and so appointed Pyrrhos as patriarch of Constantinople to join him in promoting monotheletism.54 The Chronicle signalled the ruin to follow:
These matters having followed such a course, the Council of Chalcedon and the catholic faith fell into great disrespect …
After returning from Jerusalem, Herakleios published his so-called Edict promoting monotheletism, despite being chastised for his theological opinions by Sophronios of Jerusalem and Sergius of Rome.
When Herakleios had heard of this, he felt ashamed; on the one hand, he did not wish to cancel his own actions, while on the other he could not suffer the reproach.55
That is, Herakleios’ behavior followed the definition of heretical (as opposed to simply erroneous) thinking which we saw established earlier in the case of Eusebius of Caesarea: he persisted in his opinion despite being confronted with its error.
Thus, this entry began by emphasizing that at the very moment Herakleios restored order in Jerusalem he was persuaded to adopt the theological proposition of monotheletism. The rest of the entry would focus on the results of this decision by showing the empire descend into a series of crises. The result was to associate Herakleios’ impiety and meddling in ecclesiastical affairs with the rise of a rival empire, with a decisive rupture among the churches over a christological heresy, and ultimately with the persecution of the Roman people and the downfall of his dynasty. By linking these disparate events the Chronicle proposed to its readers that emperors who intervened in Church governance and doctrinal disputes did so at the peril of their dynasty and at the risk of the dissolution of church and empire.
But the entry is far from done at this point. The Chronicle did not leave Herakleios and Pyrrhos’ monotheletism here but sped ahead with a narrative of the entire theological controversy which encompassed the entire reign of Constans. Thus as the entry for AM 6121 continued, Pope John and Maximus the Confessor would meet with Pyrrhos; Pyrrhos would appear to repent but in reality persist in his adherence to monotheletism; John’s successor Theodore would condemn Pyrrhos at a Lateran council by writing out an anathema in the actual eucharistic blood of Christ, dripping the wine of Holy Communion into his ink; and, when Martin succeeded Theodore he, along with Maximus the Confessor, would again condemn the monotheletes at the Lateran synod of 649. By this time Herakleios had passed away but his successor Constans II would decide he had heard enough from the papacy. Constans would capture, imprison, and exile Pope Martin, and maim Maximus the Confessor. The narrative concluded with Pope Agathon restoring order by condemning the entire sequence. This is all contained in the one entry for AM 6121.
3.2 The Successor Type Is Corrupted: Constans II
It was only after describing how these four papal condemnations of monotheletism came about that the Chronicle would turn to the following entry, AM 6122, where the theme would be the military consequences of monotheletism. This conclusion thus introduced the narrative trajectory to be pursued from the midpoint of Herakleios’ reign in AM 6121 through to the entry for AM 6160 at the death of Constans. Before returning to the strictly chronological sequence of events, however, the Chronicle made it clear that it was Herakleios’ persistent adherence to monotheletism which was the cause of not only disunity and division between the eastern and western empires but also the cause of military defeats. This explanation falls at the end of AM 6121 as a transition into AM 6122:
And while the Church at that time was being troubled thus by emperors and impious priests, Amalek rose up in the desert, smiting us, the people of Christ, and there suffered the first terrible downfall of the Roman army … the devastation of all Christian peoples and lands, which did not cease until the persecutor of the Church had been miserably slain in Sicily.56
The allusion to “Amalek” clearly refers to the Arab conquests and in so doing makes the monotheletism of Herakleios their cause.57 The goal was to show how the deception of Herakleios led straight into the beginning of AM 6122 (AD 629/30). Though “in this year died Muhammed, the Saracen’s ruler and false prophet,”58 his followers would immediately achieve military success at the expense of the Romans. Rome had lost the right to the victories which the Cross and the Mother of God had given.
The disunity of the empire, signaled in AM 6121 as ecclesiastical disunity, would come to fruition through the reign of Constans, the emperor who sought to change the seat of empire. This political disunity mirrored the disunity in belief. In AM 6146 (653/4) Constans was so struck with fear while facing the ʿUmayyad navy led by the general (later Caliph) Muʿāwiya that he attempted to transfer the empire’s capital back to Rome in AM 6153 (660/1). When Constans was murdered in AM 6160 (667/8) the Chronicle explained that he was “hated by the people of Byzantium” for his persecution of Pope Martin and St. Maximus the Confessor and he was “greatly hated by all [for], it was out of fright that he intended to transfer the seat of the Empire to Rome.”59
The passage quoted above set up these connections by setting up chronological conjunctions. In the above statement that Constans would continue his father’s monotheletism, the connection to the Arab conquests was made explicit:
While the church at that time was being troubled thus by emperors and impious priests, Amalek rose up in the desert, smiting us, the people of Christ.
The Chronicle also tied all of this back into Constans’ pursuit of a newly split empire, for “the devastation of all Christian peoples and lands … did not cease until the persecutor of the Church [Constans II] had been miserably slain in Sicily.”60 It was in this way that the Chronicle argued monotheletism’s grip on the empire had coincided with the advent and expansion of Islam. The use of hysteron proteron made sense of the Arab expansion that followed Herakleios’ restoration of the True Cross to Jerusalem. The Chronicle argued that the military defeats during and after Herakleios were all linked to his monotheletism, and thereby painted picture of a political ethic: imperial heresy had political and fiscal consequences which shattered the unity of church and of empire.
Though the entry for AM 6121 flagrantly broke the chronological bounds of that year (AD 628), it also constantly indicated the correct chronology to readers throughout.61 This telling of events is thus not evidence of confusion on the part of the chronographer, but of craft. It permits the Chronicle to indicate two different ends or consequences for Herakleios’ interests in monotheletism, both of which brought about disunity. This is much more than simply allowing the progression of history to speak for itself, of simply placing events under dates. The entire single-entry sequence carefully presents a causal connection between events by signaling a close connection between Herakleios’ meddling in ecclesiastical affairs, the resulting rupture in the harmony of the catholic church, the downfall of his family, and the rise of the Arabs. The key point about the reign of Herakleios could not be made by adhering to annalistic chronography but is unmistakable in PG 1710’s narrative structure.
The meaning of all this is made clear by seeing how Herakleios fulfilled the imperial type established by Constantine the Great. Previous discussions of the account of the reign of Constantine in the Chronicle have not missed the fact that Constantine was not uniformly good.62 But because they have followed the portrait made of him in the later Greek recensions, they have missed the point of the version of the Chronicle in PG 1710, to emphasize one specific, particular fault and that fault alone. Other recensions admit of Constantine’s “pagan” marriage practices, make his personal relationship with Eusebius of Nicomedia long-standing, and relate that to the controversy over his baptism. However, Constantine in PG 1710 established a type of imperial rule that permitted of one very specific corruption: he had doubted Athanasios. This had allowed the Arians into his counsels, and so the palace, and because Constantine entrusted them with the enactment of his will, he exposed his successors to empire-dividing corruption.
I have argued that while the Chronicle in PG 1710 very carefully crafted its image of Constantine to be uniformly good with no question of fault or error right up until the very last entry of his reign (AM 5827), at that moment Constantine made a fatal mistake in finally allowing “impious priests” to have positions of authority in his government, and so brought about the heretical reign of his son, which turned out to be a disaster for the empire. Herakleios capitulating to heresy at the end of his reign and his son’s subsequent following in those footsteps is thus exactly in the image of Constantine and Constantius, with the only difference being that Herakleios capitulated even earlier, well before the end of his reign. As we move into the third instance of this type, the father-son pair of Leo III and Constantine V, I will show that, contrary to the current scholarly consensus, the Chronicle did not focus its castigation of these emperors on their iconoclast doctrine but rather structured its narrative and commentary to display them as an even more profound corruption of the father-son imperial type. In this typology emperors who succumbed to heresy and heretics opened the way for the truly evil rulers to follow: their already-corrupted sons. As we will see with Constantine V, these sons are evil, but even they are in fact not the worst to come. They are only “forerunners to the Antichrist.” For just as Constantius led the way to Julian, so Constantine V’s primary evil was not in his iconoclasm but in his preparing the way to Nikephoros I. These forerunners to the Antichrist were evil for making the all-devouring greed of the true anti-Constantine possible.
4 The Antitype of the Progenitor-Successor Type: Leo III to Constantine V
4.1 The Antitype of the Progenitor: Leo III
The pattern or type of the deceived progenitor whose successor persists in his own wrong thinking and policies was established by Constantine-Constantius and worsened in Herakleios-Constans. The corruption of these types came to fulfillment in the reigns of Leo III and Constantine V. The narrative trajectory leading up to the description of Leo III’s reign in PG 1710 proceeds as follows. The reign of Leo III, like Constantine and Herakleios, began with laudatory descriptions of Leo’s military accomplishments, explicitly blessed by God. Like Herakleios, Leo engages in a major campaign in Armenia. Leo’s herculean campaign actually occurs several years before he gains the throne. The story of that campaign is incorporated into a rapid series of events in which Philippikos (noted as heretical under AM 6204) is blinded63 and though Artemios becomes emperor (AM 6206) he is unable to hold the throne due to opposition from the Opsikion theme (AM 6207).64 And so Theodosios III, “an idle and ordinary fellow”65 who “ran away and hid on a mountain, but they found him and acclaimed him emperor by force,” gains the throne.66 Leo remains loyal to Artemios and as his general, is occupied with the city of Amorion’s successful negotiations with Souleiman (Masalmas’ general). Leo just avoids being captured in an elaborate diplomatic ambush.67 At the end of the entry, the patriarch Germanos brokers a promise of immunity for Theodosios III if he hands Leo III the empire.68
After this impressive preface, the first entry of Leo’s own reign is begun in the now-established pattern of a header in the top margin of the relevant folio of PG 1710. Here, he is described as “Leo the Isaurian” (figure 5.4).
The reign of Leo III as presented in manuscript PG 1710 is shown in table 5.5.
As table 5.5 shows, the reign of Leo III is divided into three narrative sections. The first section is focused on Leo’s favorable beginning and ends with his deception. The initial entries under the section headed by AM 6209 describe the emperor as being a “most pious” protector of Constantinople, favored by the intercessions of the Mother of God. In this way he is exactly in the type established by Herakleios. The narrative begins with Leo’s backstory as strategos and the story of how his first year as emperor saw the siege of Constantinople in 717/718. This narrative emphasizes Leo’s distinction from the emperor Justinian II (who received a thoroughly negative portrayal in the Chronographia), and his innocence from a contemporary rumor that he had sought to usurp the crown from Justinian II.69 Leo’s defense of the city is unabashedly praised. Indeed, Leo’s defenses are supported by the divine, for “God brought [the invaders’] counsel to naught through the intercession of the all-pure Theotokos” and through the actions of “the pious emperor.”70 In fact, the protection of the Theotokos is emphasized three times in the entry, associating Leo’s reign with her as strongly as had been allowed Herakleios.71 The Chronographia emphasizes Leo’s initial successes as God’s chosen protector of empire and City.
However, by the last entry of this section Leo has undergone a Janus-like switch to being “the impious emperor.”72 The section makes sense of this switch by closing with the baptism of Leo’s son Constantine, immediately identified as “the yet more impious Constantine, the forerunner to the Antichrist.”73 Rather than being distracted by whether the Chronicle has presented Leo as a coherent character in its quick switch from pious to impious, the text must be read in light of the imperial types already established. First, we saw that in the imperial type established by Constantine the Great, when that emperor had been deceived the Chronicle also withheld the adjective “pious” in his last entry. Second, Constantine’s deception had occurred at the very end of his reign, and Herakleios’ in the middle. With Leo III that deception occurs near the beginning. As the transformation of Constantine from stalwart to deceived was sped up in the reign of Herakleios, the Chronicle here simply continues this acceleration: a “most pious” emperor becomes impious, the implications of which are personified in a heretical heir who will go on to undo the peace, prosperity, and unity of the empire. Third, this establishes the question that the subsequent section will pursue: how did Leo III become so “impious” that his and the empress Maria’s time in power should be described as “their wicked reign”?74
The second narrative section, headlined by the notice for AM 6212, is quite short, taking up only one-and-a-half folios in the manuscript (ff. 337r–338v). This section answers the question just posed in exactly the way a reader who has understood the type of Constantine and Herakleios would expect: through deception by an outside “trickster” figure. Here too there is continuity in the type. Constantine had been deceived by the heretical bishop of Nikomedia, and Herakleios by a “cunning” Syrian bishop. Leo was deceived by a Syrian who had been persuaded of iconoclasm. The Chronicle attributes the ideas of this man, Beser, to his conversion to Islam. The text claims that Beser had been influenced by the Caliph Yazid’s “general constitution against the holy images.”75 This decree was in turn inspired by a “Jewish magus” who had persuaded Yazid against holy images. Furthermore, the community of this Jewish magus had been convinced to accept iconoclast ideas by “a certain Syrian who was a false messiah.”76 In sum: Leo’s deception was set up by a complex series of deceptions originating from a “cunning Syrian” in the trickster type already established.77 In the narrative context, it becomes clear that this series is not so much about articulating the historical origins of iconoclasm as it is in following the typological figure already established by Herakleios and Constantine.
The portrait of Leo III is further molded to the type of Herakleios by noting that Leo undertook a forced conversion of Jews. While Herakleios’ similar action seems to have been presented in a praiseworthy manner, Leo’s attempt at forced conversion is described as a complete disaster and leads to those Jews defiling the sacrament.78 Leo also attempted to force heretical Montanists to convert but they chose self-immolation instead.79 This section explains that Leo passed from piety to gross impiety by repeating the very errors committed by Herakleios.
The third section covers the remaining seventeen years of Leo III’s reign, all grouped under the entry for AM 6216.80 In this entry Leo demonstrates three characteristics of the type of the deceived progenitor. First, Leo not only personally adheres to a heretical set of ideas but, as Herakleios did with his Edict, he makes his own theological pronouncements about those ideas.81 Second, Leo misinterprets how to respond to a natural disaster. Constantine’s version of the progenitor type identified such a disaster, an earthquake, as an opportunity for generosity. Leo III instead uses a natural disaster to double down on his new ideas, reminding readers that the truly impious not only make errors but persist in them.82 Finally, just as Herakleios achieved campaign victories until he adopted the heresy of monotheletism, once Leo adopted iconoclasm, he could not achieve victory and instead suffered invasions from the armies of the Arabs.83
The issues worth highlighting in this third section of AM 6216 are not the historicity of the events therein but how this subsection of the narrative of Leo III’s reign developed the type of the deceived emperor descending into impiety. Leo III’s portrait would set up the terms of the truly impious reigns of Constantine V (his successor) and Nikephoros I by establishing the bad emperor, not primarily as a heretic, but as a greedy, all-devouring, insatiable lord of taxation.
The section begins by praising Pope Gregory not only for standing up to Leo III in terms of doctrine, but for withholding Italian revenue from the imperial coffers in Constantinople. Gregory “severed Rome, Italy, and all the western lands from civil and ecclesiastical subjection to Leo and the latter’s domain.”84 Leo then “imposed a capitation tax on one third of the people of Sicily and Calabria,” responding to Gregory’s secession by ordering that “the so-called Patrimonies of the holy chief apostles who are honoured in Elder Rome (these, amounting to three-and-a-half talents of gold, had been from olden times paid to the churches) … be paid to the Public Treasury.”85
In this entry, the text sets Pope Gregory II alongside Germanos, the patriarch of Constantinople at the time, as champions against Leo’s evils:
This holy and admirable man Germanos was prominent in defending pious doctrine in Byzantium and fought the wild beast Leo (fitly so named) and the latter’s supporters; while in the Elder Rome it was Gregory, that most holy and apostolic man, enthroned next to Peter the chief apostle, who shone forth in word and deed and who severed Rome, Italy, and all the western lands from civil and ecclesiastical subjection to Leo and the latter’s domain.86
Gregory’s piety is primarily manifest in his opposition to Leo’s tax policy rather than through his devotion to icons. The issue of iconoclasm is only obliquely referred to with the phrase “pious doctrine” and later in the entry when Leo responds to Pope Gregory’s independence icons do not feature. Both Leo’s evil and Gregory’s goodness are manifest in the concerns of taxation and administrative jurisdiction.
The last entry on Leo III, labelled his 24th Year, turns his portrait into a full inversion of the type set up by Constantine. Constantine had responded to natural disasters with generosity to his people. Leo instead used disaster to enrich his treasury. When “a violent and fearful earthquake occurred at Constantinople” Leo used the occasion to institute a new tax that would never go away. Leo claims:
‘You do not have the means to build the walls, so we have given orders to the tax collectors to exact according to the register one additional miliaresion for every gold piece. The imperial government will collect that and build the walls.’ So started the custom of paying two extra keratia to the tax gatherers.87
The chronographer introduces a rare instance of his own editorial voice and so makes sure, as he concludes the section on Leo III, that the audience see the conjunction between greedy taxation and heresy:
I have related in the preceding sections (
κεφάλαια) the evils that befell the Christians at the time of the impious ( ἀσεβής) Leo both as regards the orthodox faith and the civil administration—the latter in Sicily, Calabria, and Crete—for dishonest gain and avarice ( φιλαργυρία); and, furthermore, the secession of Italy because of his evil doctrine, the earthquakes, famines, pestilences, and foreign insurrections (not to mention all the details).88
The image of Leo III is both the fulfillment and antitype of the portrait of Constantine I. Leo connects the Constantinian turn towards impiety with an un-Constantinian greediness as the text moves into the reign of Leo’s successor, the “forerunner to the Antichrist.” While foreign invasions and natural disasters are primarily attributed to Leo’s impiety, Leo’s administrative and fiscal policies are an inseparable part of his “evil doctrine.” Prior to the passage just cited (AM 6232) Leo’s fiscal policy came to dominate the narrative of his reign for Sicily, Calabria, and Crete all suffered from a “civil administration” devoted to “dishonest gain and avarice.” The narrative pattern established by Constantine and Herakleios is concluded when the emperor is deceived by heresy, the antitype manifesting imperial disunity through the onset of invasion and the assessment of heavy taxation.89
This final entry on Leo III’s 24th Year serves as a coda and transition in the narrative of the Chronicle as a whole. The entry is one of only two in the entire PG 1710 manuscript that do not begin with either an annus mundi year or an “In this year” heading. The previous entry’s description of an invasion by Souleiman is followed by an account of an earthquake which would reveal the eschatological nature of the age.90 This concluding entry on Leo III ends with the literal collapse of positive imperial images and types:
These three emperors are among the Chronicle’s good emperors. Constantine has already been discussed at length. Theodosius I (“the Great”)—and through him his son Arkadios—represent the dynasty that produces the Chronicle’s model paradigms (to be discussed via the portrait of the reign of Theodosios II in chapter 6).
4.2 The Antitype of the Successor: Constantine V
The account of Constantine V began during his father Leo III’s reign. Constantine’s baptism not only interrupted the account of his father’s reign but was the occasion to declare Leo no longer a “pious emperor” aided by the Theotokos, but an “impious emperor” who turned Rome into his own “wicked empire.”92 At the point where Constantine V is introduced during the reign of his father Leo III, the Chronicle anticipates his literary role as an antitype by crafting his image as the antitype of Christ’s cousin, John “the Baptist” or “Forerunner.” John earned the epithet “forerunner” (
In a well-known story, the Chronicle describes Constantine as the “forerunner of the Antichrist” (
The famous epithet that history would remember Constantine by as a result of this incident is not found in the text proper but in a later marginal note in PG 1710, which functions as a gloss on the story told in the text. Though it has been impossible to obtain a color image of this folio to demonstrate the point, this marginal notation was written in red ink by an individual whom I would describe as the manuscript’s Rubricator (for another example for which I do have a color image see PG 1710 f. 371v reproduced in chapter 6 section 3). It is one of (by my count) thirty-four such notes, all in the same striking color. The script of this note is an early minuscule script but one that uses different ligatures than the primary scribal hand. The note turns the anecdote about Constantine V’s defecation in the font into that emperor’s christened eponym: “dung-name” (
The Chronicle signals the turn it will make in its portrait of Constantine V in the final entry on Leo III. After a dating summary and the short rehearsal of Leo’s evils (quoted in section 4.1 above), the Chronicle provides a preface to the reign of Constantine V:
It is now proper to review in succession the lawless deeds, yea, even more sacrilegious and abhorred by God, of [Leo’s] most impious (
δυσσεβεστάτος) and altogether wretched son—yet to do so objectively (inasmuch as all seeing God is observing us) for the benefit of posterity and of those wretched and wicked men who still follow the abominable heresy of that criminal—namely by recounting his impious actions from the 10th indiction, the first year of his reign, until the 14th indiction, the year of his damnation.96
Constantine V’s portrait was the fulfillment of the “impious successor” type of Constantius and Constans. It also anticipated the antitype of the good emperor, Nikephoros I: Constantine V’s imperial sin of deception by heresy setting up Nikephoros’ greater sin of greed.
Though I have argued scholars have over-emphasized the role of Constantine V’s iconoclasm in the Chronicle’s polemical goals, this is not to argue that the iconoclasm of Constantine is unimportant. Rather, I wish to make clear that the Chronicle does not present iconoclasm as the sum, the worst of all possible evils. Constantine V is the “forerunner” to Nikephoros as his sin of heresy is the set-up to the sin of greed.
The second point I wish to emphasize is that Constantine V’s portrait is both the fulfillment of the “successor” type that we have been tracing, and at the same time serves as the prototype or pattern for the markers of Nikephoros’ evils. This is signalled by the Chronicle’s praise of a rebellion against Constantine V early in his reign.
And when [Constantine V] took over both his father’s dominion and his wickedness, need one explain how great an evil he straight away kindled and fanned into a conspicuous flame that rose up into the air?
When the Christians saw these things they were seized by great despondency, so that everyone immediately hated him for his effrontery and took up the cause of his brother in law (by his sister Anna), Artabasdos, the curopalates and comes of Opsikion, with a view to giving him the Empire inasmuch as he was orthodox.
As we will see, the Chronicle will again frame rebels against imperial antitypes as praiseworthy in its account of the reign of Nikephoros I.
As with all previous emperors, Constantine V’s reign is divided into set pieces with coherent narrative structure. First, though heavily cropped, it is possible to make out that there was originally a header in PG 1710 to mark the start of Constantine’s reign (figure 5.6).
The reign of Constantine V in the Chronographia proceeds as shown in table 5.6.
The first part of Constantine V’s reign, beginning with AM 6233, frames Constantine as a usurper. For the first three years after the death of his father, Constantine had to fight to reclaim the capital. Constantinople had been taken and held by Artabasdos, whom the Chronicle frames as eminently pious and of whom it offers a strongly supportive portrait. When Constantine does finally gain the victory, the Chronicle relates the location of Artabasdos’ burial at the Chora monastery in order to tell how much later Constantine would, in a rage, dig up Artabasdos’ corpse in order to desecrate it. The theme of this narrative section is the disunity to empire that the impious emperor Constantine V brought, at the prompting of Satan himself:
The Devil, instigator of evil, roused in those days such fury and mutual slaughter among Christians that sons would murder their fathers without any mercy and brothers would murder their own brothers and pitilessly burn each other’s houses and homes.
This summation is the conclusion to this first narrative section, and the beginning of Constantine V’s unchallenged reign from the palace at Constantinople. Constantine’s provocation of Christian violence against Christians also continues to establish the negative paradigm or antitype that we will see fulfilled in the reign of Nikephoros I.
The second narrative section, headed by AM 6236, portrays the subsequent twenty years of Constantine’s reign. It covers the establishment of the heretical doctrine of iconoclasm and the consequences of Constantine’s success in promoting iconoclasm. In this section Constantine is given the prime characteristic of a heretic—unrepentance—and in so doing compared implicitly to the Chronicle’s initial heretical opponent Eusebius, and explicitly to the Egyptian Pharaoh who held the Israelites in captivity.97 The Pharaonic type of the ruler opposed to God will be fulfilled in the description of Nikephoros’ Ten Evils.
In this section Constantine convenes his famous Heireia council, which in 754 established and defended the doctrine of iconoclasm.98 The Chronicle notes its adherents as “enemies of the Theotokos,” recalling how in contrast Herakleios’ successes and even Leo III’s survival of the siege of 717/18 had been attributed to the aid of the Theotokos.99 Then, in the last entry of this section, the patriarchs of Antioch, Jerusalem, and Alexandria (at this point all outside of the empire) convened an opposing council which declares in favor of icons being used in worship.100 The description of this event does not merely show one council in favor of icons, another against. Rather, Constantine’s calling of the council of Heireia completes the refashioning—begun by Leo III—of the empire in the image of impiety. Additionally, Constantine is attributed with moving heretical populations into the core regions of the empire, including into Constantinople.101 The lines are stark: bishops who would remain orthodox must do so outside of the empire. The transformation of Rome from a Christian empire into a Christian-persecuting state is the undoing of the work of Constantine I, and an anticipation of later actions by Nikephoros I. The key to the narrative arc of this section is the way that its final entry closes.
In the same year, in the month of March the stars were seen falling from heaven all at once, so that all the observers thought it was the end of the present world (
τὴν τοῦ παρόντος αἰῶνος… συντέλειαν).102
Here the Chronicle connects Constantine’s fulfillment of the type of the impious successor with his preparing the way for the All-Devourer by explicitly stating that his era came to resemble the end of the world.
The passage prior to the above quotation is well known to scholars. It contains a description of a severely cold winter that saw icebergs flowing through the Bosporos past the walls of Constantinople.103 This passage is usually used in isolation to discuss the authorship of the Chronicle (since the chronographer claims to have witnessed and even played on these icebergs as a child), or climate change. However, in its literary context it must be understood as framing this period of Constantine’s reign as an undoing of the days of Creation. The falling of the stars is an undoing of the work of the fourth day—in traditional chronological thinking the day that marked the beginning of time itself. Furthermore, the freezing of the coast of the Black Sea is described as meaning “the sea became indistinguishable from land,” in other words an undoing the work of the third day of creation.104
The Chronicle tells of Constantine’s refashioning of an Empire blessed and fashioned by God to the point that Creation itself unraveled. The effect is to provoke the Romans to profound lamentation and then silence: “All the inhabitants of the City, men, women, and children, ceaselessly watched these things and would return home with lamentation and tears, not knowing what to say.”105 The section concludes by setting the tone for what follows. Constantine V asks what it would mean to deny the Mother of God her title as such. He is counseled against it, but in Constantine’s final years he more and more stridently opposes the very order of heaven, the saints, and especially the Mother of God. In this, Constantine opposes the divine aid that had brought Herakleios to the throne and characterized his father Leo III’s “pious” period.
In the last entries for Constantine V there is a second lacuna in PG 1710. AM 6256 must have been this section’s beginning since other manuscripts note only this annus mundi for the rest of Constantine’s reign. Early on in this section the Chronicle concludes a litany of complaints against Constantine V by inverting the final sentence of the Gospel according to John. Instead of the apostle’s statement that he cannot tell all the life of Christ—“there are also many other things which Jesus did, which if they were written in detail, I suppose that even the world itself would not contain the books that would be written”106—the Chronicle states:
[Constantine V] appointed several strategoi who shared his views and were suitable perpetrators of his wickedness … Who would be able to recount their sacrilegious deeds … For if one were to set down all the deeds they committed to win the emperor’s favour, it is fair to say with the Gospel that the whole world would not contain the books that should be written concerning them.107
Whereas Christ had performed an infinite number of miraculous deeds, Constantine prompted an incalculable amount of sycophancy and corruption. The Chronicle is not subtle in making him an antitype of Christ. As the reign of Constantine progressed, previously subtle or typological intimations of the end of days are made more and more explicit. After Constantine had secured the empire for himself his behavior was compared to arch-antagonists from the history of the Jewish people: he possessed Pharaoh’s stubbornness108 and King Ahab’s mania for the persecution of priests.109
Three things characterize the entries of this final section and solidify the image of Constantine V as the forerunner to the Antichrist. First, the initial entries after AM 6256 emphasize how Constantine increased persecutions against the iconophiles, or actively encouraged those who were persecuting them.110 This narrative then transitions into Constantine’s failures to defeat the Bulgars. It is clear that the Chronicle worked to turn what must have been successful campaigns into cause for derision (modern historians consider Constantine an effective military commander).111 An instance when Constantine clearly defeated the Bulgars in AD 773 is sarcastically summed up as, “[Constantine] called this war a ‘noble war’ inasmuch as he had met with no resistance and there had been no slaughter or shedding of Christian blood.”112 This reframing makes Constantine V into the antitype of Constantine I, whose piety had resulted in military victories.113
We can now see that the Chronicle presents similarities between the reign of Leo III, Herakleios, and Constantine I. Early in the reign of Leo III he is described in a positive light. In this way Leo follows the image of Constantine. As such he is not without good qualities, and it is possible that he too could be saved or redeemed. Just as Constantine and Herakleios had been deceived by the antitypes of good priests, so Leo III was deceived by churchmen with ill intent. These moments of deception followed a pattern. Constantine was deceived by churchmen from Alexandria and Nicomedia, Herakleios was deceived by a schismatic Syrian bishop, and Leo was deceived by a Jewish “magician.”114
On the other hand, Constantine V’s impiety is more detestable. It is continually connected to denial of his spiritual mother, the Virgin Mary.115 The section from AM 6236 had ended with Constantine wondering about the possibility of denying the doctrine that Mary had birthed God. Similarly, the last entry of his reign returns to the question. Where Constantine I had finally caved to heresy in his last days, Constantine V here attempts to return to piety on his deathbed, calling out for prayers to the Mother of God—“whose implacable enemy he had been”—to be offered on his behalf.116 The Chronicle would have none of it, claiming that Constantine V was experiencing his entrance into the afterlife prematurely:
“I have been delivered to the unquenchable fire while still alive!” … Thus he ended his life, polluted as he was with much Christian blood, with the invocation of demons to whom he sacrificed…. in all manner of evil he had reached a pinnacle no less than Diocletian and the ancient tyrants.117
This conclusion to the reign of the forerunner of the Antichrist explicitly evokes the types of Diocletian and Julian noted at the beginning of this chapter. Those imperial types persecuted Christians and were characterized by the sin of greed: never generous, they desired to wring everything they could out of their subjects. Constantine V, in imitation of Diocletian and Julian, showed himself to be a “New Midas.”118
In order to make him fulfill the deceived Progenitor-Successor type, the Chronicle crafts a portrait of Constantine V as the forerunner to the Antichrist. By fulfilling the seeds of corruption sewn by Constantine I, Constantine V also undermines the original type of the good emperor. Perhaps the most rhetorically significant aspect of this progression is the intertextuality between the imperial portraits in the Chronicle, the echoes and cross-references that give these portraits their meaning and convey to readers how to understand the text. This affirms M.-F. Auzépy’s claim that we have allowed the rhetoric of our iconophile sources to overly dominate our accounts of the period.119 The Chronicle is clearly not simply an “iconophile” history but has a complex view on the issue of iconoclasm: it is only one among many heresies, all of which are signs of greater evil to come. Though Constantine V was castigated for his iconoclasm, his ultimate literary role was to establish the prototype of greed to be fulfilled in the final imperial antitype, the “all-Devourer” Nikephoros I.
5 Interpreting the Antitypes in the Reader’s Present
I have argued in this chapter that reading the Chronicle as presented in the manuscript PG 1710 allows us to more easily read the text as it asked to be read. At the beginning of the Chronographia project George the Synkellos stated that his plan was to bring the work up to his present day in AM 6300–6302 (AD 807/8–810/11). It is impossible to imagine that he had no conception for a concluding end, and equally hard to imagine that he would not have structured the work to fulfill this impetus or driving idea—the
I believe that one who reads the actions of the ancients derives no small benefit from so doing.
Whatever benefit may have been intended, it is clear that the Chronographia project was believed to contain a meaning for the present in its arrangement of the past.
This injunction stated in the Preface was not only a literal invitation to add content, but also an invitation to fulfill the end of any text: interpretation. As seen in chapter 3, in the terms provided by the text itself this would entail identifying the “Pharaoh of the Mind” in the reader’s present. I have argued here that this included tracing how types and antitypes were revealed and fulfilled as the work progressed towards the reader’s present. That is, readers were enjoined to participate in the “completion” of the Chronographia project by applying the typological model provided by the First-Created Day thesis.
In this chapter I argued that the audience for the Chronicle was a unique interpretive, or textual community inclined to make sense of the Chronicle’s series of imperial portraits by identifying their typological interconnections and applying those to their own present.120 The injunctions of the Chronicle and especially its Preface by Theophanes invited an entire liturgical community of readers to complete the work by looking for the meaning of the present in these past imperial types. In this way the First-Created Day’s new theological-philosophical synthesis of time made it possible for the Chronicle to inject its narratives with the energy of the eschaton that we find in, for instance, Augustine’s City of God and which would later be achieved for Latin historiography with the works of Otto of Freising.121
The progression of the imperial antitypes we have seen in this chapter marched towards Constantine V. However, worse was still to come with the arrival of “the punishment of our sins” in the final days: the “All-Devourer,” Nikephoros I. The Chronicle portrays Nikephoran fiscal policies as the fulfillment of the portraits of the earliest tyrants in the Chronographia, for Nikephoros is made to be the typological fulfillment of the Egyptian Pharaoh of the Book of Exodus. This would make Nikephoros the obvious candidate for George the Synkellos’ “Pharaoh of the Mind.” The portrait of Nikephoros identifies the year AM 6302 (AD 810) as the conceptual impetus of the Chronographia project, inviting the reader to perceive Nikephoros I as the ultimate Pharaoh by interpretating his deeds in the terms of an eschatological typology. In chapter 7 I will argue for this point. But in order to understand that portrait in full, we turn first to the other side of the coin: the Chronicle’s typology for the good ruler. The Chronicle fashioned these positive paradigms in a redemptive model. The Chronicle’s prototypes were rulers who could be and were corrupted—like the type established by Constantine I—but who would choose to repent rather than to pass their deception on as an inheritance for their successors.
The bibliography on this subject is immense. For some starting points, see a Byzantine example in: Juan Signes Codoñer, “Kaiserkritik in Prokops ‘Kriegsgeschichte,’” Electrum 9 (2003): 215–29, and a Carolingian example in: Wojciech Fałkowski, “The Carolingian ‘Speculum Principis’—the Birth of a Genre,” Acta Poloniae Historica 98 (2008): 5–27. For a comparative approach see: Linda T. Darling, “Mirrors for Princes in Europe and the Middle East: A Case of Historiographical Incommensurability,” in East Meets West in the Middle Ages and Early Modern Times Transcultural Experiences in the Premodern World, ed. Albrecht Classen, FMEMC 14 (Berlin: De Gruyter, 2013), 223–42. Recent approaches are beginning to turn more towards what Mirrors for Princes can tell us about the social groups out of which they were created. See: Björn Weiler, “Thinking about Power Before Magna Carta: The Role of History,” Généalogies Constitutionelles 1 (2019): 33–56. And Edward Roberts, Flodoard of Rheims and the Writing of History in the Tenth Century, CSMLT IV.113 (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2019).
F. Tinnefeld compared the invective approach used by the Chronographia and other Byzantine historical texts under the idea of “metaphysical defamation” (Metaphysische Diffamierung) as identified by divine signs and punishments in Franz Hermann Tinnefeld, Kategorien der Kaiserkritik in der byzantischen Historiographie: von Prokop bis Niketas Choniates (München: W. Fink, 1971), 48, 65–72.
See Tinnefeld, Kategorien der Kaiserkritik, 72–73; Roger D. Scott, “The Image of Constantine the Great in Malalas and Theophanes,” in New Constantines: The Rhythm of Imperial Renewal in Byzantium, 4th–13th Centuries: Papers from the Twenty-Sixth Spring Symposium of Byzantine Studies, St Andrews, March 1992, ed. Paul Magdalino, PSPBS 2 (Aldershot: Variorum, 1994), 57–71; Jenny Ferber, “Theophanes’ Account of the Reign of Heraclius,” in Byzantine Papers: Proceedings of the First Australian Byzantine Studies Conference, ed. Elizabeth M. Jeffreys, Michael J. Jeffreys, and Ann Moffatt, BYZAUS 1 (Canberra: Humanities Research Centre, Australian National University, 1981), 32–42.
Igor S. Čičurov, Vizantijskie istoričeskie sočineniâ: “Hronografiâ” Feofana, “Breviarij” Nikifora: teksty, perevod, kommentarij (Moscow: Nauka, 1980). This work has been accessible to me through the translations of my research assistant Aidar Raev, to whom I am extremely grateful. Even recent discussions do not articulate an overall agenda or argument to the work. See: Anthony Kaldellis, “Byzantine Historical Writing, 500–920,” in Oxford History of Historical Writing, vol. 2, 400–1400, ed. Chase F. Robinson and Sarah Foot (Oxford: Oxford University Press, 2012), 201–17.
F. Tinnefeld’s approach gestures towards this with his comments on the importance of comparison in the Chronographia’s defamation of Leo III, Constantine V, and Nikephoros I. Tinnefeld, Kategorien der Kaiserkritik, 71–72.
When there is a lacuna in that manuscript, for the argument that follows I rely on the evidence of the later ninth-century manuscriptsWake Greek 5 and VG 155.
See the wide-ranging collected studies in Guy G. Stroumsa et al., eds., Jews in Byzantium: Dialects of Minority and Majority Cultures, Jerusalem Studies in Religion and Culture 14 (Leiden: Brill, 2012). And, for an approach that contextualizes textual biases and accusations from the period of the Chronographia within economic migration see: Joshua Holo, Byzantine Jewry in the Mediterranean Economy (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2009), 31–50.
This point was demonstrated by Jakov Ljubarskij, “Quellenforschung and/or Literary Criticism: Narrative Structure in Byzantine Historical Writings,” Symbolae Osloenses 73, no. 1 (1998): 5–22.
Cyril A. Mango and Roger D. Scott. The Chronicle of Theophanes Confessor: Byzantine and Near Eastern History, AD 284–813. (Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1997), 16–17; Ilse Rochow, Byzanz im 8. Jahrhundert in der Sicht des Theophanes: Quellenkritisch-Historischer Kommentar zu den Jahren 715–813, BBA 57 (Berlin: Akademie Verlag, 1991).
Barry Baldwin, ODB s.v. “Eutropius.”
Compare MS 16 / dB 10 with Eutropius’ account in Hans Droysen, ed., Eutropii Breviarium cum versionibus et continuationibus, MGH AA 2, (Berlin: Weidmann, 1879), 170. It is equally possible that the Chronographia’s rendition is that of the sixth century work of Capito Lycius which I have not been able to consult. The rendition in the Chronicle focused on Constantius’ restraint in the acquisition of wealth for the state treasury. George/Theophanes eliminated Eutropius’ discussion of Constantius using neighbors’ silver plate to entertain guests, as well as the statement that it would be “better that the state’s resources be held by private individuals than they should be retained in a single vault” (
MS 20 / dB 13 (AM 5797).
MS 20 / dB 12–13 (AM 5797).
MS 27 / dB 16 (AM 5810).
MS 76–78 / dB 46–48 (AM 5853).
It is important to make a general note about the difference between a history of an emperor’s reign and the use of the years of an emperor’s reign to mark time, which applies not only to the dating of reigns across all versions of the Chronographia, but to the science of medieval chronography generally. The use of Constantine’s reign as a dating marker means that the Chronographia initiates the reign of Constantine from the moment when he is proclaimed “Augustus” by the troops loyal to his father in Trier in AD 306, rather than when one might say the historical, full and undisputed reign of Constantine begins as, for instance, would be noted by modern textbooks (such as: when Constantine defeated Maxentius at Rome (AD 312), or agreed to a treaty with Licinius at Milan (AD 313), or defeated Licinius at Chrysopolis (AD 324)).
Juan Signes Codoñer, “Theophanes at the Time of Leo VI,” in Studies in Theophanes, ed. Marek Jankowiak and Federico Montinaro, Travaux et Mémoires 19 (Paris: Association des amis du Centre d’histoire et civilisation de Byzance, 2015), 169–71 especially n51 and n52.
Note that as explained in chapter 1, these are the Years of the World noted by all early manuscript traditions. The other ninth-century Greek recension also adds “Years of Constantine” in between the AM notices identified here for the reign of Constantine but the noted “years of the world” are the same in both recensions.
After his specific acts of legislation are noted, the Chronographia summarizes that “Under these circumstances a deep and calm peace prevailed throughout the inhabited world and there was rejoicing among the faithful as whole nations came over daily to faith in Christ, accepted baptism, and broke up their ancestral idols.” This entry goes on to identify those who oppose this approach—the heretic Arian and the “mad” rival emperor Licinius. Both of these disrupt the unity of the empire by disrupting the unity of the church (for these are seen as coterminous). MS 27 / dB 16.
MS 31 / dB 18. Emphasis mine.
MS 47–50 / dB 29–30.
This narrative section is noted as AM 5823, nevertheless the indiction cycle is always the way the Chronographia dates events when it wishes to be precise. The seventh indiction of this cycle started in September at the beginning of AM 5826 (i.e., our September AD 333) making the year referred to here the sixth year of the Indiction cycle, AM 5825 (i.e., our September AD 332). The entry as in PG 1710 is thus “correct” in terms of our modern reconstruction of the chronology of events, contra C. Mango and R. Scott’s assertion of its erroneousness (Chronicle of Theophanes Confessor, 48n1).
In the narrative sequencing of the Chronographia “the next year” communicates that this event refers to the seventh year of the Indiction cycle (AM 5826 or our AD 333).
Here is a summary of the contents of the six sections (totaling thirty-seven lines) which are absent from PG 1710 (added or removed, depending on one’s point of view): (1) Added to AM 5813 (~ five lines: dB 17.17b–17.22a): Constantine sends out Hosios of Cordova to root out the Arian heresy in Alexandria and correct “the easterners” who were using the Jewish calendar to celebrate Easter, but he is unsuccessful. (2) Added to AM 5814 (~ four lines: dB 18.17b–20): editorial argument which (a) excuses Constantius and Constantine for having married sisters; and, (b) clarifies the family tree of Constantine the great. (3) Added to AM 5823 (~ one line: dB 29, 11): the basilica of Nicomedia is burned down by fire. (4) Added to AM 5825 (~ five lines: dB 29.28–31): Dalmatius is appointed as Caesar. (5) Added to AM 5827 (~ fifteen lines: dB 32.27b–33.8): editorial argument refuting the idea that by end of his life Constantine had appointed the heretical Eusebius of Nicomedia as Patriarch of Constantinople. (6) Added to AM 5828 (~ seven lines: dB 33.9–17a and dB 34.4b–5): notice of: two saints regarded as orthodox (Eustathios of Constantinople and Zenobios of Jerusalem); sale of Assyrian slaves in Persia by “Saracens”; editorial argument harshly refuting the idea that Eusebius of Nicomedia baptized Constantine at the end of the emperor’s life; minor addition at end associating two Constantinopolitans (unnamed presbyter; chief Eunuch Eusebius) with the evil Eusebius of Nicomedia.
“The Caesar Dalmatius, the emperor’s nephew, and his band of soldiers, were scarcely able to save Athanasios from impending death at [his accusers’] hands.” MS 51 / dB 31.
Even the seemingly random piece of text concerning the efforts of Constantine to support Hosios of Cordova (AM 5813) make sense if we consider that the figure of Constantine is under accusation for a lack of orthodoxy. The additions are also at times written in an explicit editorializing voice with a markedly different narrative tone—strident and argumentative—than the editorializing comments in PG 1710.
MS 76 / dB 46.
MS 56 / dB 35 and MS 58 / dB 35 and MS 66 / dB 40 and MS 69–70 / dB 42 and MS 73 / dB 45 and MS 76 / dB 46.
MS 75 / dB 46.1–8.
Magdalino, New Constantines.
MS 58 / dB 35 (AM 5830).
The notation in the left margin just below the header is found at key moments throughout the manuscript but based on the script and the color of the ink was not made by the original scribe. The abbreviation—which stands for
Geoffrey Regan, First Crusader: Byzantium’s Holy Wars (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2003).
Ferber, “Theophanes’ Account of the Reign of Heraclius.”
Ferber, “Theophanes’ Account of the Reign of Heraclius.”
“Herakleios arrived from Africa bringing fortified ships that had on their masts reliquaries and icons of the Mother of God.” MS 427 / dB 298.
MS 429–33 / dB 300–301.
MS 433–34 / dB 301–2.
MS 435 / dB 302.
MS 436 / dB 303.
MS 435–36 / dB 303–4.
MS 437 / dB 306.
MS 446–49 / dB 315–18.
MS 455 / dB 327.
MS 458–59 / dB 328.
1 Chronicles 13: 1–8.
MS 457 / dB 327–28.
Emphasis mine. MS 459 / dB 329.
See the succinct and clarifying discussion in Herbert C. Nutting, “Hysteron Proteron,” Classical Journal 11, no. 5 (1916): 298–301. The technique involves events placed out of order chronologically for the purpose of increased logical coherence. In Elizabeth Minchin, “How Homeric Is Hysteron Proteron?,” Mnemosyne 54, no. 6 (2001): 635–45, especially 639, the device is described as following the conversational logic of “agreement and contiguity.”
MS 460 / dB 329.
The proposal attempted to solve the problems that arose from the definition of the Council of Chalcedon (451)—which held that Christ had two natures but one person—by asserting that Christ nevertheless had only one will (
In an aside George emphasized how poor the choice was, for Pyrrhos would conspire with the empress to murder Heraclius’s first heir Constantine.
MS 461 / dB 330.
MS 462 / dB 332.
See the recent discussion of another use of this pejorative in Juan Signes Codoñer, The Emperor Theophilos and the East, 829–842: Court and Frontier in Byzantium During the Last Phase of Iconoclasm, BBOS 13 (Farnham: Ashgate, 2014), 83–87.
MS 464 / dB 333.
MS 490 / dB 351.
MS 462 / dB 332.
George the Synkellos noted that the Lateran synod convened by Pope Martin and led by Maximus the Confessor, was “in the 9th year of Constans, grandson of Heraklios, indiction 8.” MS 462 / dB 332. As with the story of Charlemagne’s coronation, when later in the Chronicle George came to the entry for the year in which the council did occur, AM 6141 (AD 649), he provided a second more abbreviated description: “In the same year a council was held in Rome by Pope Martin against the Monotheletes.” MS 479 / dB 344.
Scott, “Image of Constantine.”
PG 1710 still gives Philippikos a header on f. 316v.
PG 1710 still gives Artemios a header on f. 318v.
Alternatively: “a private citizen who was fond of quiet” (
MS 536 / dB 385 (AM 6207). PG 1710 still gives Theodosios a header on f. 319r.
MS 538–40 / dB 386–90 (AM 6208).
MS 540 / dB 390 (AM 6208).
MS 542 / dB 391 (AM 6209).
MS 545 / dB 396 (AM 6209).
MS 546 / dB 397–98 (AM 6209). This association continues into the next entry, see AM 6210 as in MS 550 / dB 399.
MS 551 / dB 399–400 (AM 6210).
“Forerunner to the Antichrist.” No previous uses of this phrase in the Chronographia except Timothy the Cat (Alexandria), AM 5950–5951. He usurps the episcopal throne of Alexandria by sending men to seize patriarch Proterios from the baptistry; in fact the text implies the followers killed Proterios in the font, for “dragging his corpse with ropes, they hauled it from the holy font.” MS 170 / dB 111 (AM 5950).
MS 551 / dB 400.
MS 555 / dB 401–2 (AM 6215).
MS 554 / dB 401 (AM 6213).
Significant given the association of George’s authorial persona with Syria.
MS 458–59 / dB 328–29 (AM 6120).
MS 554 / dB 401 (AM 6214).
The beginning of this entry contains an alteration to the original form of the Chronicle, a form now only preserved in the Latin translation of Anastasius Bibliothecarius. Investigating this change can help us recover the political stakes in the Chronographia at the moment when it was written, an investigation I undertake in part in chapter 8. The alteration concerns where (or when) the Chronographia locates the flight of Pope Stephen to the Franks. The text itself lauds his flight for escaping a rapacious lord in Aistulph, King of the Lombards and praises the virtues of the Carolingian Pippin who received him. However, in the ordering in which it occurs in our manuscript, this flight makes no sense, coming at the head of the narrative of Leo III’s descent into iconoclasm. As preserved in PG 1710, it implies that the Pope’s flight caused the series of events that resulted in iconoclasm.
MS 558 / dB 404 (AM 6217).
MS 559 / dB 404–5 (AM 6218).
MS 560–61 / dB 405–6 (AM 6218) and dB 407 / MS 563 (AM 6220) and dB 409 / MS 567 (AM 6222) and dB 410 / MS 568 (AM 6224) and dB 410 / MS 570 (AM 6228) and dB 411 / MS 570 (AM 6229) and dB 411 / MS 571 (AM 6231). In later Greek recensions it seems that other entries are added in order to make this pattern complete, with additional invasions recorded for AM 6223, AM 6227, and AM 6230.
MS 564–65 /dB 408 (AM 6221). Note that the claim, though historians have identified it to be historically false (Jean-Marie Mayeur et al., eds., Histoire du christianisme des origines à nos jours, vol. 4, Évêques, moines et empereurs (610–1054) [Paris: Desclée, 1993], 652–55), is repeated twice in the same entry (again at: MS 565 /dB 409).
MS 568 / dB 410 (AM 6224). This entry contains a note about Leo bringing back the type of Pharaoh which will be addressed in chapter 7’s analysis of the portrait of Nikephoros I.
MS 572 / dB 412 (AM 6232).
MS 573 / dB 413 (AM 6232). Translation slightly altered and rearranged to reflect the word order in Greek. Emphasis mine.
See: Angeliki E. Laiou, “Law, Justice, and the Byzantine Historians: Ninth to Twelfth Centuries,” in Law and Society in Byzantium, Ninth–Twelfth Centuries, ed. Angeliki E. Laiou and Dieter Simon (Washington, DC: Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection, 1994), 151–86.
“In this year, the twenty-fourth year of the reign of the lawless tyrant” … “a violent and fearful earthquake occurred at Constantinople on 26 October, indiction 9, a Wednesday, in the 8th hour.” MS 572 / dB 412 (AM 6232).
MS 572 / dB 412 (AM 6232).
MS 551 / dB 399–400 (AM 6211).
“… a son was born to the impious emperor Leo, namely the yet more impious Constantine, the precursor of the Antichrist (
See: MS 551–52 / dB 400 (AM 6211).
MS 573 /dB 413 (AM 6232). The text continues: “Now this pernicious, crazed, bloodthirsty, and most savage beast, who seized power by illegal usurpation, from the very start parted company from our God and Saviour Jesus Christ, His pure and all holy Mother and all the saints; led astray as he was by magic, licentiousness, bloody sacrifices, by the dung and urine of horses and delighting in impurity and the invocation of demons. In a word, he was reared from early youth in all soul destroying pursuits.”
MS 585 / dB 423 (AM 6238).
MS 591–92 / dB 427–28 (AM 6245).
MS 591 / dB 428 (AM 6245).
MS 600 / dB 433–34 (AM 6255).
MS 584 / dB 422 (AM 6237) and MS 593 / dB 429 (AM 6247). This should also be seen as of a piece with the persecutions of Christians enacted by “Abdelas” (al-Mansūr, r. 754–775). The orthodox have nowhere to go.
MS 601 / dB 435(AM 6255).
MS 600–601 / dB 434–35 (AM 6255).
MS 600 / dB 434 (AM 6255).
MS 601 / dB 435 (AM 6255).
Gospel according to John 21:25.
MS 585 / dB 423 (AM 6238 [AD 745/6]).
MS 607 / dB 439 (AM 6258 [AD 765/6]).
Most especially the strategos Michael Lachanodrakon: MS 615 / dB 445–46 (AM 6263).
Marie-France Auzépy, “State of Emergency (700–850),” in The Cambridge History of the Byzantine Empire c. 500–1492, ed. Jonathan Shepard (Cambridge: Cambridge University Press, 2008), 251–91.
MS 617 / dB 447 (AM 6265).
See AM 6256 and 6257 for the beginning of Constantine V’s losses. In AM 6256 he is portrayed as overly fearful of Bulgaria, returning from a campaign without doing “any brave deed.” Then immediately in AM 6257 he begins to persecute. Note, that it is not specifically against the icons, but it is explained as generally against Christians: “In this year, on 20 November of the 4th indiction, the impious and unholy emperor, becoming enraged at all God-fearing people, commanded that Stephen, the new Protomartyr … should be dragged in the street.” MS 604 /dB 426–437 (AM 6257). The imperial antitype is fulfilled by making Constantine V into a Constans-like progression from bad to fully evil.
The story of the rise of iconoclasm under Leo III in the Chronographia has given rise to endless debates about the role of Jews and “Saracens.” What has not been mentioned is the influence of the literary trope that was established over the course of the Chronicle. While there are certainly degrees of veracity in the stories it is difficult to adjudicate since the trope demanded this type appear. For the classic account, see: Stephen Gero, Byzantine Iconoclasm during the Reign of Leo III: With Particular Attention to the Oriental Sources, CSCO 346, Subsidia 41 (Louvain: Secrétariat du Corpus SCO, 1973).
MS 607 / dB 439 (AM 6258) and MS 610 / dB 442 (AM 6259) and MS 619 / dB 448 (AM 6267).
MS 619 / dB 448 (AM 6267).
MS 619 / dB 448 (AM 6267).
MS 611 / dB 443 (AM 6259).
Auzépy, “State of Emergency (700–850).”
See Brian Stock, Listening for the Text: On the Uses of the Past, The Middle Ages Series (Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1997). “We can think of a textual community as a group that arises somewhere in the interstices between the imposition of the written word and the articulation of a certain type of social organization. It is an interpretive community. But it is also a social entity” (p. 150). Specifically, the definition of an “Ancient” textual community in B. Stock’s formulation seems to characterize what we find in the Chronographia, one in which “literacy was routine” and so “more attention must be paid to reception and reader reconstruction, to intertextuality, and to oral discourse within well-worn rhetorical channels.” For our text, “an educated community was assumed, the writings were longer, more complicated, and inseparable from their historical contexts.” Thus, “the community preceded the critical text, which might bring about reform, reorganization, or sectarianism” (p. 151).
Sverre Bagge, “Ideas and Narrative in Otto of Freising’s Gesta Frederici,” Journal of Medieval History 22, no. 4 (1996): 345–77; Sverre Bagge, Kings, Politics, and the Right Order of the World in German Historiography c. 950–1150, Studies in the History of Christian Thought 103 (Leiden: Brill, 2002).