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

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

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

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


Little of Leontios' early life is known, other than that he was from Isauria, possibly of Armenian descent.[1][2][3] He was appointed as strategos of the Anatolic Theme and patrikios by Emperor Constantine IV, possibly around c.682 AD.[1][2][3] In 686, Emperor Justinian II sent Leontios to invade the Umayyads, who were distracted by a war with the Zubayrids, in Armenia and Georgia, where he campaigned successfully before leading troops in Azerbaijan and Caucasian Albania; during these campaigns he both gathered loot and garnered a reputation for cruelty.[1][2] The successful campaigns led by Leontios compelled Umayyad Caliph Abd al-Malik ibn Marwan to sue for peace in 688, agreeing to share the income from Umayyad territory in Armenia, Iberia, and Cyprus, and to renew a tribute treaty which had been signed originally under Constantine IV, to pay a weekly tribute of 1,000 pieces of gold, one horse, and one slave.[2][4][5]

Justinian invaded the Umayyads again in 692, feeling that the Umayyads were in a weak position, however this invasion was repulsed at the Battle of Sebastopolis, where a large number of Slavs defected to the Umayyads and ensured the Byzantines were defeated. After defeating the Byzantines, the Umayyads proceeded to invade North Africa and Anatolia. Justinian blamed Leontios for this defeat, and had him imprisoned;[2][4][5] Other sources say that Justinian imprisoned Leontios because he believed that Leontios was seeking to take the throne.[3] After further setbacks in the war, Justinian released Leontios and appointed him strategos of Hellas, because Justinian feared losing the city of Carthage in the Exarchate of Africa.[2][4][6] however Leontios, once free, quickly raised a rebellion against Justinian.[2][4] Leontios had wide support from the aristocracy, who opposed Justinian's land policies, and the peasantry who opposed Justinian's tax policies,[2][7] as well as the Blue faction, and the patriarch Callinicus.[2] Leontios and his supporters seized Justinian and brought him to the Hippodrome, where Justinian's nose was cut off, a common practice in Byzantine culture, in order to remove threats to the throne.[2][7][8] After Justinian's nose was cut off, Leontios exiled him to Cherson.[2][6][7]

Upon his coronation, Leontios took the name Leo, and adopted a moderate political stance. He restricted the movement of the Byzantine army, allowing small raids against the border of the Byzantine empire to go unpunished, and instead focused upon consolidation. The Umayyads, emboldened by Leontios perceived weakness, invaded Byzantine Africa in 696, capturing Carthage in 697. Leontios sent John the Patrician to retake Byzantine Africa, who was able to seize Carthage after a surprise attack on its harbor. However, Umayyad reinforcements soon retook the city, forcing John to retreat to Crete and regroup. A group of officers, fearing the emperor's punishment for their failure, revolted and proclaimed Apsimar, the droungarios of Cibyrrhaeot, who was of German origins, as emperor.[2][9] Apsimar took the regnal name Tiberius III, gathered a fleet and allied himself with the Green faction, before sailing for Constantinople, which was being ravaged by the bubonic plague.[2][9][10] After several months of siege, Constantinople surrendered to Tiberius. Tiberius captured Leontios, and had his nose slit before imprisoning him in the Monastery of Psamathion.[2][9] Leontios stayed in the monastery under guard until Justinian retook the throne with the assistance of the Bulgar king Tervel in 705. Justinian then had both Leontios and Tiberius dragged to the Hippodrome, and publicly humiliated, before being taken away and beheaded.[2][11] The exact date of the executions are unknown: it may have occurred from August 705 to February 706,[12] with the latter date favoured by most modern scholars.[11][13] It is said the body of Leontios was thrown into the sea alongside Tiberius, but later recovered and buried in a church on the island of Prote.[3]


Primary sources[edit]



  • Brubaker, Leslie; Haldon, John (2011). Byzantium in the Iconoclast Era, C. 680-850: A History. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 9780521430937.
  • Garland, Lynda (2017). Byzantine Women: Varieties of Experience 800-1200. Routledge. ISBN 9781351953719.
  • Kazhdan, Alexander, ed. (1991), Oxford Dictionary of Byzantium, Oxford University Press, ISBN 978-0-19-504652-6
  • Lilie, Ralph-Johannes; Ludwig, Claudia; Pratsch, Thomas; Zielke, Beate (2013). Prosopographie der mittelbyzantinischen Zeit Online. Berlin-Brandenburgische Akademie der Wissenschaften. Nach Vorarbeiten F. Winkelmanns erstellt (in German). Berlin and Boston: De Gruyter.
  • Moore, R. Scott (1999). "Leontius (695-98 A.D.)". De Imperatoribus Romanis. Archived from the original on 7 July 2019. Retrieved 7 July 2019.
  • Necipoğlu, Gülru; Leal, Karen (2010). Muqarnas. Leiden: Brill. ISBN 9789004185111.
  • Ostrogorsky, George (1956). History of the Byzantine State. Rutgers University Press. ISBN 978-0813511986.
  • Rosser, John H. (2001). Historical Dictionary of Byzantium. Lanham: Scarecrow Press. ISBN 9780810866218.
  • Saxby, Michael; Angelov, Dimiter (2016). Power and Subversion in Byzantium: Papers from the 43rd Spring Symposium of Byzantine Studies, Birmingham, March 2010. Routledge. ISBN 9781317076933.
  • Treadgold, Warren T. (1997). A History of the Byzantine State and Society. Stanford, California: Stanford University Press. ISBN 0-8047-2630-2.

See also[edit]

External links[edit]

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