Tiberius III

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Tiberios III
Emperor of the Romans
Icones imperatorvm romanorvm, ex priscis numismatibus ad viuum delineatae, and breui narratione historicâ (1645) (14560029110).jpg
An illustration of Tiberius III, based upon coins bearing his image
Emperor of the Byzantine Empire
Reign15 February 698–21 August 705
SuccessorJustinian II
DynastyTwenty Years' Anarchy
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

Tiberius III (Greek: Τιβέριος Γʹ, Tiberios III; Latin: Tiberius Augustus) was Byzantine emperor from 15 February 698 to 21 August 705. Little is known of Tiberius' early life, other than that he was droungarios of Cibyrrhaeot, and that his birth name was Apsimar. In 696, Tiberius was part of an army led by John the Patrician sent by Byzantine Emperor Leontios to retake the city of Carthage in the Exarchate of Africa, which had been captured by the Arab Umayyads. After seizing the city, This army was pushed back by Umayyad reinforcements and retreated to the island of Crete; some of the officers, fearing the wrath of Leontios, killed John and declared Tiberius emperor. Tiberius swiftly gathered a fleet, sailed for Constantinople, and deposed Leontios. Tiberius did not attempt to retake Byzantine Africa from the Umayyads, but campaigned against the Umayyads along the eastern border with some success. In 705 former Emperor Justinian II, who had been deposed by Leontios, led an army of Slavs and Bulgars to Constantinople, and after entering the city secretly, deposed Tiberius. Tiberius fled to Bithynia, but was captured several months later and beheaded between August 705 and February 706. His body was initially thrown into the sea, but was later recovered and buried in a church on the island of Prote.


Very little is known of Tiberius before the reign of Byzantine Emperor Leontios, except that he was Germanic, a droungarios, a commander of about a thousand men, of Cibyrrhaeot, a region in southern Anatolia, and that his birth name was Apsimar.[1][2][3]

Starting in 680 AD the Islamic Umayyad Caliphate, the primary rival of the Byzantine Empire, erupted into a civil war known as the Second Fitna. Husayn ibn Ali the Alid declared himself caliph in early 680, revolting against the Umayyad Caliph Yazid I, but was defeated in October 680 and executed.[4] Abd Allah ibn al-Zubayr declared himself caliph in November 683, and was recognized as the legitimate caliph by many of the Umayyad governors, including those of Egypt and Iraq.[5] Yazid died in November 683, and was succeeded by Muawiyah II, who was only able to exercise authority in some parts of Syria.[6] The situation worsened when Muawiyah died a few months later with no suitable Sufyanid (Descendants of Abu Sufyan) heir, causing many of the Syrian tribes to support Ibn al-Zubayr, rather than Muawiyah's heir, Marwan I.[7] Marwan turned the civil war in the favor of the Umayyads, regaining full control of Syria and then focusing on reconquering lost territories. Marwan died in 685, and was succeeded by his son Abd al-Malik,[8] who would not manage to defeat the Zubayrids until 692.[9]

The civil war in the Umayyad Caliphate provided an opportunity for the Byzantine Empire to attack their weakened rival, and in 686, Emperor Justinian II sent Leontios to invade Umayyad territory in Armenia and Iberia, where he campaigned successfully before leading troops in Azerbaijan and Caucasian Albania.[10][1] The successful campaigns led by Leontios compelled Umayyad Caliph Abd al-Malik ibn Marwan to sue for peace in 688, agreeing to give part of the taxes 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.[1][11][12]

Justinian renewed his invasion of the Umayyads in 692, feeling that they were still in a weak position, however this invasion was repulsed at the Battle of Sebastopolis, where a large number of Slavs defected to the Umayyads, ensuring that the Byzantines were defeated. After defeating the Byzantines, the Umayyads renewed their invasion of North Africa, aimed at seizing the city of Carthage in the Exarchate of Africa. Justinian blamed Leontios for these defeats, and had him imprisoned.[1][11][12] However, after further setbacks in the war Justinian had Leontios released in 695, hoping that he could turn the tide of the war and prevent Carthage from being taken;[1][11][13] however, once freed Leontios seized the Byzantine throne and exiled Justinian to Cherson, a Byzantine exclave in the Crimea, after having his nose cut off.[1][13][14]

In 696, the Umayyads under Caliph Abd al-Malik renewed their attack upon the Byzantine Exarchate of Africa, focused upon seizing the city of Carthage, and managed to capture it in 697. Leontios sent John the Patrician with an army to retake the city, which John accomplished after launching a surprise attack on its harbor. Despite this initial success, the city was swiftly retaken by Umayyad reinforcements, which forced John to retreat to Crete to regroup. A group of officers who feared Emperor Leontios' wrath for failing to recapture Carthage killed John, and declared Apsimar, who took the regnal name Tiberius III, the emperor.[1] Tiberius gathered a fleet and allied himself with the Green faction (one of the Hippodrome factions), before sailing for Constantinople, which was enduring the bubonic plague.[1][2][15] After several months of siege, on 15 February 698, the gates to Constantinople were opened for Tiberius' forces by members of the Green faction, allowing Tiberius to seize the city and depose Leontios. Tiberius had Leontios' nose slit, and sent him to live in the Monastery of Psamathion in Constantinople.[1][2][16]


Tiberius was crowned by Patriarch Callinicus shortly after seizing control of Constantinople and deposing Leontios.[3] Once in power, Tiberius did not attempt to retake Byzantine Africa from the Umayyads, but rather focused his attention upon the eastern border of his empire. Tiberius appointed his brother, Heraclius, as monostrategos of the Anatolian themes, and in 700 he instructed him to campaign against the Umayyads in Anatolia and Syria.[16][17] From 700–701, Heraclius led raids into northern Syria, securing minor victories.[18] Heraclius then went on to seize part of Armenia, and from 703–704 repelled Umayyad incursions into Cilicia, inflicting heavy casualties.[19] While these campaigns were initially successful, the Byzantines were later repulsed and lost control of Armenia.[16][17]

Tiberius attempted to strengthen the Byzantine military by reorganizing its structure, as well as reorganizing the Cibyrrhaeotic Theme,[16][20] and repairing the sea walls of Constantinople.[21] Tiberius also focused his attention on the island of Cyprus, which had been underpopulated since much of the populace was moved to the region of Cyzicus under Justinian:[16][20] Tiberius successfully negotiated with Abd al-Malik in 698/699 to allow the Cypriots and Syrians who had been captured near the Propontis to return to their homelands,[3][20][16] as well as strengthened the garrison of the island with troops from the Taurus Mountains.[20] Tiberius also banished the future emperor Philippikos Bardanes, the son of a patrician, to the island of Cephalonia.[22]

In 693 Justinian escaped from Cherson and gained the support of the Khazar Khagan Busir, who gave Justinian his sister Theodora as a bride, and welcomed him to his court in Phanagoria. In 703 reports that Justinian was attempting to gain support to retake the throne reached Tiberius, who swiftly sent envoys to the Khazars demanding that Justinian be handed over to the Byzantines, dead or alive. Justinian eluded capture, and sought the support of the Bulgar king Tervel.[1][17][21] In 705 Justinian led an army of Slavs and Bulgars to Constantinople, and laid siege to it for three days, before scouts discovered an old and disused conduit which ran under the walls of the city. On 21 August 705, Justinian and a small detachment of soldiers used this route to gain access to the city, exiting at the northern edge of the wall near the Palace of Blachernae, and quickly seizing the building. Tiberius fled to the city of Sozopolis in Bithynia, and remained elusive for several months before being captured.[1][16][17] On some date between August 705 and February 706, Justinian had both Leontios and Tiberius dragged to the Hippodrome and publicly humiliated, before being taken away and beheaded.[1][21][3] Their bodies were initially thrown into the sea, but later recovered and buried in a church on the island of Prote.[3]



  1. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k l MooreA.
  2. ^ a b c Garland 2017, p. 2.
  3. ^ a b c d e PmbZ, Tiberius III (#8483/corr.).
  4. ^ Donner 2010, p. 178.
  5. ^ Donner 2010, pp. 181–182.
  6. ^ Wellhausen 1927, pp. 168–169.
  7. ^ Wellhausen 1927, p. 182.
  8. ^ Kennedy 2016, p. 80.
  9. ^ Gibb, H. A. R. 1960, p. 77.
  10. ^ Brubaker & Haldon 2011, p. 586.
  11. ^ a b c Bacharach 2010, p. 15.
  12. ^ a b Rosser 2001, p. 2.
  13. ^ a b Saxby & Angelov 2016, p. 27.
  14. ^ Ostrogorsky 1956, pp. 116–122.
  15. ^ Brubaker & Haldon 2011, p. 730.
  16. ^ a b c d e f g MooreB.
  17. ^ a b c d Norwich 1997, p. 105.
  18. ^ Bury 1889, p. 355.
  19. ^ Norwich 1990, p. 334.
  20. ^ a b c d Bury 1889, p. 356.
  21. ^ a b c Kazhdan 1991, p. 2084.
  22. ^ Bury 1889, p. 357.


Tiberius III
Born: 7th century Died: 15 February 706
Regnal titles
Preceded by
Byzantine Emperor
Succeeded by
Justinian II