History of the Ancient and Medieval World - Vol. 9

By Henk Dijkstra | Go to book overview

Interior of a Byzantine
church in Cappadocia that
was hewed from the rocks.
Such churches served
as refuges during invasions
by Arabs and other
enemies.


The Middle Byzantine Empire
Still the Center of the World

The Byzantine basileus (emperor) Leo III, the Isaurean, ruled from 717 to 741 with lasting impact. He issued the historic ban on the veneration of icons that set off public explosion of the long-running theological argument over iconoclasm. It would not be resolved for a century. He also issued a modified legal code, the Ecloga, in 739. It would be used for the next two hundred years. Considered the man who saved the Eastern Empire from certain chaos, he founded the Isaurean dynasty. That lasted until 802, to the regret of those under its final empress.

The Byzantine imperial policy remained iconoclastic after Leo's death, but the climate under his heirs grew increasingly more agreeable for those venerating icons. Leo the Isaurean's grandson. Emperor Leo IV, married a girl from minor Athenian aristocracy in 769. Irene was beautiful and intelligent, as the regulations on imperial

-1255-

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