Anastasius II, Revolt of (720–721)
PRINCIPAL COMBATANTS: Anastasius II vs. Byzantine
emperor Leo the Isaurian
PRINCIPAL THEATER(S): Constantinople
MAJOR ISSUES AND OBJECTIVES: Deposed as Byzantine
emperor by Theodosius III, Anastasius II sought to regain
the throne from Leo the Isaurian, himself the usurper of
Theodosius; Leo sought to defend his position as emperor.
OUTCOME: Anastasius was captured and executed.
APPROXIMATE MAXIMUM NUMBER OF MEN UNDER ARMS:
Beset by corruption and poor leadership, the Byzantine
Empire lay exposed to invasion. The year before, the frontier
had collapsed, the Bulgars had been at the walls of
Constantinople, and the Arabs had overrun Cilicia, then
invaded Pontus to capture Amasya. Little wonder that in
713, the army, resentful of the weak emperor Philippicus
(711–713), mutinied, overthrew Philippicus, and installed
Anastasius II (d. 721) as emperor. The new sovereign
immediately set about rebuilding Byzantium’s fighting
forces, but his reforms were harsher than the army cared
to tolerate, and it deposed him in 715, replacing him with
Theodosius III (d. after 717). After a brutal six-month
siege of Constantinople, Theodosius entered the city and
had Anastasius banished to a monastery.
When Theodosius failed to take action against a Muslim
invasion in 716, his leading general, Leo the Isaurian
(c. 680–741), supported the reinstallation of Anastasius.
However, with Theodosius vulnerable and Anastasius still
imprisoned in the monastery, Leo chose to seize the
throne for himself; he marched on Constantinople, forcing
Theodosius to abdicate. In 720 Anastasius was finally able
to escape the monastery and incite a revolt in Sicily aimed
at returning him to power. Leo, however, quickly sent
imperial forces and crushed the rebellion. Anastasius was
captured and executed in 721.
See also BYZANTINE-MUSLIM WAR (698–718).
Further reading: Romilly Jenkins, Byzantium: The
Imperial Centuries, A.D. 610–1071 (New York: Random
House, 1967); Cyril A. Mango, ed., The Oxford History of
Byzantium (New York: Oxford University Press, 2003);
John Julius Norwich, Byzantium: The Early Centuries. Vol
17 (New York: Knopf, 2003).