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Leo III Isaurian – The founder of the Isaurian Dynasty

18 Jun 2021  Fri

Leo III the Isaurian or Leo III the Syrian was the Byzantine Emperor (Eastern Roman Emperor) from 717 to 741. He founded the Isaurian dynasty which ruled until 802 CE. Leo’s reign saw several conflicts with the Arab world beginning with the successful defense of Constantinople and ending in the re-conquest of Asia Minor.

Born to a peasant family in northern Syria, Leo III rose to become commander of the Anatolikon Theme in Asia Minor. He also successfully defended the Empire against the invading Umayyad and engendered a century of conflict within the empire by banning the use of religious images (icons).The gold Solidus issued under his reign depicts the crowned facing bust of Leo, wearing chlamys pinned at the right shoulder, holding globus cruciger in the right hand and akakia in left. On the other hand, the reverse of a coin has cross potent set on three steps.

During the reign, he issued first silver coins called Miliaresia to celebrate the coronation of his son, Constantine V, as co-emperor. Leo undertook a set of civil reforms including the abolition of the system of prepaying taxes which had weighed heavily upon the wealthier proprietors, the elevation of the serfs into a class of free tenants and the remodelling of Family law, maritime law and criminal law, notably substituting mutilation for the death penalty in many cases. The new measures, which were embodied in a new code called the Ecloga (Selection), published in 726, met with some opposition on the part of the nobles and higher clergy. The Emperor also undertook some reorganization of the theme structure by creating new themata in the Aegean region.

Image Source: Heritage Auctions

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