Constans II

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Constans II (Greek: Κώνστας Β', Kōnstas II), also called "Constantine the Bearded" (Kōnstantinos Pogonatos), was the Roman (Byzantine) emperor from 641 to 668. He attempted to force unity within the Church through an edict, the Typos, that forbade argument about the heresy of Monothelitism and the controversial question of the divine and human natures of Christ.


Constans II was born on November 7, 630, the son of Constantine III (also Heraclius Constantine) and Gregoria and the grandson of Heraclius I. He was baptized Flavius Heraclius and ruled as Constantine, but Byzantine writers called him Constans. He married Fausta, by whom he had three sons: Constantine IV, Heraclius, and Tiberius. The Heraclian dynasty were supporters of Monothelitism.

After the death of his father, Constans' uncle Heraklonas became emperor and, in response to public and political pressure surrounding the death of his father, crowned Constans co-emperor in September 641. In late 641 or early 642, Heraklonas was deposed, leaving Constans as the sole emperor, at the age of eleven. Constans was then under the regency of senators including Patriarch Paul II. At the time he came to the throne, the Arab Caliphate came to power in the eastern part of the empire and began overrunning major parts of it.

The Byzantines withdrew from Egypt in 642, although the Byzantine fleet re-occupied Alexandria in 645 for a short time. By 647, the Arab forces had entered Armenia and Cappadocia. In 648, the Arabs entered Phrygia and began maritime attacks on Crete. By 651, Constans entered into negotiations with the Caliphate that resulted in a short term of peace, until 655. The Arabs then renewed their attacks and were preparing to attack Constantinople. The planned attack, however, did not take place as the newly formed Sunni and Shi'a factions within Islam broke into civil war. By 659, Constans was able to reassert Byzantine rule over the Slavs in the Balkans and and conclude peace with the Arabs.

While having leanings to Monothelitism, Constans attempted to keep to a middle ground in the dispute between Orthodoxy and Monothelitism. The Monothelite controversy arose during the reign of Heraclius I and continued to cause strife in the empire. Monothelitism was backed in Syria and Palestine, but was rejected in Africa and the West.

St. Maximus the Confessor, an advocate of the Orthodox position, strongly criticized the imperial policies as heresy. His criticism led to the convening of a number of local councils in the exarchate of Carthage. In a decree, the Typos, issued in 648 through the Patriarch Paul, he refused to persecute either side and prohibited discussion of the natures of Christ. The Typos, as well as Heraclius' Ecthesis, were condemned at a Lateran Council attended by St. Maximus, Pope St. Martin, and other bishops. Affronted by the action of the council, Constans ordered Olympius, exarch of Ravenna, to arrest Pope Martin and force the bishops at the council to accept and sign the Typos. Instead, Olympius, expecting the support of Martin and the other bishops declared himself emperor. However, the revolt fell apart when Olympius died in 652.

A new exarch arrived in Ravenna in June 653 and arrested St. Martin who was tried before the Senate in Constantinople. He was found guilty and condemned to death. Constans commuted the sentence to exile in Cherson. St. Maximus the Confessor was also arrested and tried. After being found guilty, he was mutilated and exiled to Schemarion in the Caucasus where he died in 662.

To assure a dynastic succession by his sons, Constans made his son Constantine IV co-emperor in 654, and then in 659 did the same for his younger sons, Heraclius and Tiberius. In 660, after forcing a tonsure on his younger brother, Theodosius, he had him murdered. The great public outcry in Constantinople over the fratricide of his brother and his handling of his religious problems led Constans to leave Constantinople for Sicily in 661, where he established his headquarters in Syracuse. While his plan to use Sicily as a base to defend Italy and Africa from the Arab attacks, the financial demands became a heavy burden for the populace as he mounted forays through out southern and central Italy collecting valuables.

In 663, he visited Rome, the first emperor to do so in two centuries. Although then on friendly terms with Pope Vitilian, Constans announced that the Archbishop of Ravenna was not in the jurisdiction of the Pope of Rome, since that city was the seat of the exarch who was his immediate representative. Constans' actions in Italy enraged the Italian populace. On September 15, 668, his chamberlain assassinated Constans in his bath. He was 37 years old. After a brief usurpation by Mezezius, Constans' oldest son succeeded him as Constantine IV.

Constans' body was returned to Constantinople by Constantine IV and buried in the Church of the Holy Apostles.

Succession box:
Constans II
Preceded by:
Byzantine Emperor
Succeeded by:
Constantine IV
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