Leo III, the Isaurian is considered to be one of the most accomplished military and administrative rulers of the Byzantium Empire. He is also credited to save and subsequently restore the fragile truce between Christian constituencies. Born in 685 AD, historians now believe that Leo was not an Isaurian but instead a Syrian (Vasiliev 234-235). The translator of Leo’s historical accounts, Anastasias and contemporary Arabic texts provide evidence that he was in fact born in Germanica, near the modern boundaries of Syria and Turkey.
Early Years His stints in Military started in Asia Minor where he learned important military techniques that would later help him capture large areas of this region. At a tender age of twenty, Leo III was appointed as a high ranking officer in the Army as a reward for helping Justinian II regain his lost throne. During the next reign, Leo commanded the largest province of Asia Minor which he adeptly managed for five years. Rise to Emperor
By 1717, escalations were already brewing all across the Byzantium Empire whereas the present emperor Theodosius III was proving to be a reluctant leader who preferred clergy over exotic lifestyle. Prevailing conditions at that time allowed Leo the Isaurian to take full advantage of the situation by aligning with other powerful Generals including Artavasdus and Patricius to seize control of the capital, Constantinople (Khalaf ). Battle for Constantinople Later in the same year, the rising Umayyad dynasty put a siege to the Capital by amassing a well equipped Army of some 80,000 men and a large naval fleet in Bosphorus straits.
It is estimated that nearly 1,800 Arab sailing vessels took part in the campaign which proved a disaster during the onset when Christian armies used the famous Greek fire to their advantage by destroying a large part of the Arab fleet. Ensuing harsh winter conditions proved catastrophic for dessert bearers who could not have been more demoralized by the news of sudden death of Caliph Suleiman. Consolidating on prevailing conditions, Leo himself accompanied numerous night time raids and inflicted heavy damages to the reinforcements that constituted more than 400 vessels and 50,000 men.
Furthermore, the succeeding Muslim Caliph, Omer II had no plans to continue aiding the failing campaign as he himself was known to be a shrewd leader able to realize the enormity of losses. Greek fire, first used by the Byzantine Navy during the Byzantine-Arab Wars. Image produced under the terms of the GNU free Documentation license The Long lasting Impact The campaign against the Umayyad aggressor proved to have long time consequences on the image of Byzantium Empire as never had a Muslim Army faced such a resounding defeat at the hands of its opponents.
Many historians believe that victory at Constantinople not only halted Muslim advances towards Europe but provided a stimulus that would discourage invaders to confront perilous conditions for centuries to come (Battle of Constantinople). Masterminding a Powerful Empire The military genius of Leo III made sure that Army units were further broken into smaller groups that were self sufficient and able to defend themselves for longer periods of time without outside assistance. The central regions of the empire were further strengthened under his dynamic leadership whereby Byzantium forces were able to retake lost territories in Minor Asia.
Although, he was not the first leader to employ the much dreaded Greek fire but Leo the Isaurian is credited with safeguarding its development that to this day remain one of the most intriguing military secrets (Frassetto 235). The Slavs who were traditionally the enemies of Byzantium were allowed to settle in the depopulated areas of vast empire. This deal was struck on a belief that migrating Slavs would defend the empire’s expanding borders against any type of foreign aggression; a strategy that would prove very effective in controlling the Northern frontiers.
Reveling in the new tactic, he allowed his close ally Artabastus to marry his Sister in order to strengthen the Eastern borders. He also supplemented his reign by making long lasting alliances with Khazars and Georgians. Mercenaries from these parts proved decisive in battles against the Arab armies in 726 and 739. Nevertheless, the reforms in Military halted expansion and improvements of large Naval fleet which eventually faltered against internal uprisings in Southern Italy and parts of the Mediterranean (Leo the Isaurian).
Civil Reform During his rule, civil reforms and administrative rules provided direction to a disintegrating empire. He eradicated the prevailing laws of prepaying tax which favored only the elite class and remodeled family laws and provided surfs the status of free tenants. The overall economic conditions remained under control even after the failures of military campaigns in Mediterranean and several major earthquakes that required large financial investments. A Brilliant Scholar
It is noticeable that Leo III was influential in crafting Maritime, Military, Family and Rural Code that would change the lifestyles and history of people in the region. Many critics have formulated theories that the laws already existed before the Isaurian era and Leo III only compiled them in his famous work, Ecloga. Still, his organizational abilities in developing effective rules, such as the compilation of provincial theme systems, are well accepted even by his opponents one of which wrote, “ A new geographical arrangement into themes …… was recognized by Leo and endured as long as the Byzantine government.
” (Vasiliev 249). Iconoclasm & Controversy In 726 AD, the most striking legislative reforms came into limelight as Iconoclasm which issued a series of edicts sanctioning the worship of images and statues, declaring these as idol worship. Such was the opposition from Roman Catholic Roman Church that the Pope Gregory III excommunicated the emperor. Historians now believe that such an action could have been politically motivated and may have been done to end long standing impediment to any embrace of Christianity from Jew and Islamic populace.
The political motives would have been to increase the conversions and soothe the fuming hostilities between the religions (Bunson and Bunson, 2004). In stark contrast, modern research concludes, “At any rate, it has been customary since the tenth century to lay all responsibility for the rise and spread of heresy at the foot of the Emperors. But new research shows that the dispute over icons first arose in the Church itself and that only later did the state authority interfere in it in a peremptory way. It also reveals that there were sufficient grounds for such a dispute.
” Legacy The Iconoclastic stigma resulted in an armed revolt by Papacy states involving encompassing regions of Rome and Greek capitals. These ports carried out first known successful resistance against the naval fleets sent by Leo III. During his last years as emperor, Leo III made sure that his lineage continues by overseeing matters of the State along with his son Constantine IV. Abiding by the rules set forth by his father, Constantine IV facilitated the revolutionary ideas of Leo III which prevailed many centuries after the icon’s death in 741 AD.
Bibliography Battle of Constantinople. Retrieved March 13, 2009, from Hub pages Web site: http://hubpages. com/hub/Battle-of-Constantinople-717-718-AD Bunson, M, & Bunson, M (2004). OSV’s Encyclopedia of Catholic History. Our Sunday Visitor Publishing. Frassetto, Michael. Encyclopedia of Barbarian Europe: Society in Transformation. Illustrated. ABC-CLIO, 2003. Khalaf, Salim G Leo III, Byzantine Emperor who was one of us, and so was his dynasty of emperors. Retrieved March 13, 2009, from Phonecia Web site: