Theophilus the Iconoclast

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Theophilus the Iconclast (Greek: Θεόφιλος), was the Byzantine emperor from 829 to 842. He was the second emperor of the Amorian dynasty. He was a fervent iconoclast, married to Theodora, a devote iconodule.


Theophilus was born in 1813, the son of Michael, later emperor Michael II, and his wife Thekla. His Godfather was emperor Leo V the Armenian. Theophilus received an extensive education including the arts. In 822, he was crowned co-emperor by his father, Michael II. He succeeded his father as sole emperor on October 2, 829.

By his marriage to Theodora, Theophilus had seven children: two sons, Constantine who was co-emperor from 833 to 835 and Michael who succeeded Theophilus as emperor Michael III, and five daughters, Maria who married Caesar Alexios Mouseles, Thekla who was a mistress of Emperor Basil I the Macedonian, Anna, Anastasia, and Pulcheria.

From the time of his accession to the throne, Theophilus was confronted with war both in the east and west of the empire. In 830, against Abbasid Arabs his forces were defeated in Anatolia, but, in 831, he won a victory in Ciclicia, while in the west Arab forces landed on Sicily in 831 and slowly moved across the island. In 831 and 833, the Byzantine forces were again defeated and Theophilus was forced to sue for peace. Returning to the offensive in 837, Theophilus was initially successful against the Caliph al-Mu’tasim in Mesopotamia, but was defeated when al-Mu’tasim returned in 838 to defeat the Theophilus led Byzantines in Anatolia.

While large sums were spent on the wars against the Arabs in the east, commerce, industry, and finances flourished, due largely to the highly efficient administration of the government. His government, however, retained the restored iconoclastic policies that had been initiated by Leo V in 1813. These policies were not ended until 843, after his death in 842, when his wife Theodora became regent for her son Michael III. With the backing of a church council the proclamation of 843 restored veneration of icons and initiated the feast of the Triumph of Orthodox.

Theophilus never recovered from the defeats of the late 830s. His health slowly faded, and he died on January 20, 842.

External link

w:Theophilos (emperor)

Succession box:
Theophilus the Iconoclast
Preceded by:
Michael II
Byzantine Emperor
Succeeded by:
Michael III
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