Photius' parents were wealthy and pious Christians. His father was attached to the imperial court with the office of "Guardian of the Emperor and the Palace." They belonged to the party which venerated [[icon]]s, but the current emperor was an [[iconoclast]] and thus was against the use of icons in the [[Church]]. They were exiled when Photius was seven, their wealth disposed of, and were eventually [[martyr]]ed. Photius' brother later became [[Patriarch]] [[Patriarch Tarasius of Constantinople|Tarasius]], and he was also related to [[Patriarch John VII of Constantinople|John VII Grammatikos]]. He was known as one who was inclined to the quiet, prayerful, and [[monasticism|monastic]] life. Byzantine writers report that Emperor [[Leo VI the Wise|Leo VI]] once angrily called Photius "
[[Khazar ]]-faced," but whether this was a generic insult or a reference to his ethnicity is unclear.
As soon as he had completed his own education, Photius began to teach grammar, rhetoric, [[theology]], and [[philosophy]]. The way to public life was probably opened for him by (according to one account) the marriage of his brother Sergius to Irene, a sister of the Empress [[Theodora (9th century)|Theodora]], who upon the death of her husband [[Theophilos, Byzantine Emperor|Theophilos]] in 842, had assumed the regency of the empire. Photius became a captain of the guard and subsequently chief imperial secretary (''prōtasēkrētis''). In 855, at thirty-five years of age, Photius was recognized for his political skills and made the ambassador to the Persian caliph in Baghdad with the charge to negotiate an end to Christian persecution in the Muslim territories.