Five pictures of Constantine V: How has Constantine V's iconoclasm influenced successive generations of historians' view of the man and his reign as a whole?
AuthorSchmidt, Kristian Hansen
The object of the investigation is to answer the question: ‘How has Constantine V’s iconoclasm influenced successive generations of historians’ view of the man and his reign taken as a whole?’ Special focus on religious biases is promised. 5 ‘pictures’, consisting of historians general account of his reign and its place in Byzantine and European history, are discussed: First Nikephoros, patriarch of Constantinople’s Short History compared to The Chronicle of Theophanes Confessor identifying a direct bias against Constantine on account of Iconoclasm. Second is Edward Gibbon’s The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire (In Bury’s 1909-14 edition). Here it is concluded that Gibbon (somewhat surprisingly) is not choosing side for or against veneration of icons, but trust the iconophile sources' reports of Constantine as personally cruel. Apart from that Gibbons grand narrative (or plot)makes it difficult for Gibbon to focus properly on Constantine. Third is John Bagnell Bury’s History of the Later Roman Empire from Arcadius to Irene, where it is shown that Bury positively admire Constantine for his iconoclasm, as this is seen as a rationally inspired parallel to the reformation, and though iconodule slander is still not questioned, the goal excuses the means. Fourth is George Ostrogorsky’s History of the Byzantine State. A giant in Byzantine historiography, his ‘plots’ are the social developments in a Marxist interpretation and (Orthodox) Christianity’s mission in civilizing the Slav nations. Constantine’s hostility to the latter, again as reported by the iconophiles, makes him odious, and he is written off as a clever militarist relying on armed force internally and externally, as all achievements in the forming of the middle Byzantine Empire (erreneously) are credited to the Heraclian dynasty. Fifth is the recent Byzantium in the Iconoclast Era (ca 680-850), a declaredly revisionist attempt at showing how iconoduke sources have distorted all later historiography’s treatment of the period. Though they are apparently successful in this, they seem somewhat embarrassed about his earnest held beliefs which seem to square badly with his proved ability. A general discussion establishes that most modern historians have led themselves to be fooled by iconophile sources, as their interpretation didn’t need a detailed questioning of these sources. Finally the author gives his own short biography on Constantine V.
Appendix 2-6 are removed from the online version of the thesis.
PublisherUiT Norges arktiske universitet
UiT The Arctic University of Norway
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