Tiberius III

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Tiberius III
Emperor of the Romans
Solidus of Tiberius Apsimar.jpg
Solidus displaying the cuirassed bust of Tiberius III, with spear and shield
Emperor of the Byzantine Empire
SuccessorJustinian II
Bornpossibly Pamphylia[1]
DiedFebruary 706
Full name
Twenty Years' Anarchy
Leontios 695–698
Tiberius III 698–705
Justinian II 705–711
with Tiberius as co-emperor, 706–711
Philippikos Bardanes 711–713
Anastasios II 713–715
Theodosios III 715–717
Preceded by
Heraclian dynasty
Followed by
Isaurian dynasty

Tiberius III (Greek: Τιβέριος, Tiberios) was Byzantine emperor from 698 to 21 August 705.[2] Although his rule was considered generally successful, especially in containing the Arab threat to the east, he was overthrown by the former emperor Justinian II and subsequently executed.

Rise to power[edit]

Tiberius was a Germanic naval officer from the region of Pamphylia and originally named Apsimar (Αψίμαρος, Apsímaros),[citation needed] who rose to the position of droungarios of the Cibyrrhaeotic Theme.[3] He participated in the failed campaign to regain Carthage in 698. As admiral John the Patrician retreated from Carthage to Crete, the fleet rebelled, deposed and murdered their commander,[3] and chose Apsimaros as his replacement.[4] Changing his name to Tiberius, Apsimaros sailed on Constantinople which was suffering from a plague and proceeded to besiege it.[5]

His revolution attracted the support of the Green faction,[4] as well as detachments from the field army and the imperial guard, and officers loyal to him opened the gates of the city and proclaimed him emperor, after which his troops then proceeded to pillage the city.[5] When he was firmly established on the throne, he commanded that the nose of deposed Emperor Leontius be cut off, and ordered him to enter the monastery of Psamathion.[4] Leontios had also mutilated his predecessor Justinian II in the same fashion three years earlier.[citation needed]

Reign and deposition[edit]

As emperor, Tiberius III made the tactical decision to ignore Africa, where Carthage was now definitively lost.[3] Instead, he appointed his brother Heraclius as monostrategos of the East, who firstly strengthened the land and sea defences of Anatolia[4] before proceeding to attack the Umayyad Caliphate under Abd al-Malik, winning minor victories while raiding into northern Syria in 700 and 701.[6] He then proceeded to invade and for a period hold territory in Armenia, while Arab reprisals in 703 and 704 were repelled from Cilicia with heavy Arab losses.[4]

Success in the military sphere was accompanied by Tiberius's attempt to strengthen the empire militarily by reorganizing its administration.[3] Tiberius then turned his attention to the island of Cyprus, which had been underpopulated since the reign of Justinian II.[7] He sent a delegation to the Caliph at Damascus, asking for the return of many Cypriot prisoners who had been captured near the Propontis, and subsequently returned them to their place of birth. He strengthened the defence of the island at the same time by increasing the garrison numbers with troops from the Taurus Mountains.[7][8] He also reorganized the Cibyrrhaeotic Theme,[7] and repaired the sea walls of Constantinople.[9]

Domestically, his only known act of note was the banishment of Philippikos Bardanes, the son of a notable patrician, to the island of Cephalonia. Philippikos, a future emperor, had dreamed that his head was overshadowed by an eagle, which Tiberius took to mean that he was planning to rebel against him.[10]

Meanwhile, in 704 Justinian II escaped from exile in Cherson,[3][11] seeking the aid of the Khazars and leading an army with them to Constantinople. For three days, Justinian tried to convince the citizens of Constantinople to open the gates, but to no avail.[12] In the meantime, his troops had discovered a long abandoned water conduit beneath the city walls, through which Justinian and some of his supporters managed to enter the city,[13] on 21 August 705.[8] Tiberius managed to escape the capital to Sozopolis, where he joined the army of his brother. Their soldiers, however, began deserting them, and Tiberius and Heraclius were captured by Justinian's troops.[13] Heraclius and many of his senior officers were then hanged from the city walls,[13][14] while Tiberius and Leontius were paraded in chains through the capital before being presented before Justinian in the Hippodrome of Constantinople. There, before a jeering populace, Tiberius's nose was cut off. Justinian placed his feet on the necks of Tiberius and Leontios in a symbolic gesture of subjugation before they were brought to the Kynegion for their execution by beheading.[15][8][3] The exact date of this is unknown: it may have occurred from August 705 to February 706,[8] with the latter date favoured by most modern scholars.[9][16]


  1. ^ Bury, pg. 356
  2. ^ Dumbarton Oaks, pg. 624
  3. ^ a b c d e f Moore, Tiberius III
  4. ^ a b c d e Norwich, pg. 334
  5. ^ a b Bury 1889, p. 354.
  6. ^ Bury 1889, p. 355.
  7. ^ a b c Bury 1889, p. 356.
  8. ^ a b c d PmbZ, Tiberios II. (III.) Apsimar (#8483/corr.).
  9. ^ a b ODB, "Tiberios II" (P. A. Hollingsworth), p. 2084.
  10. ^ Bury 1889, p. 357.
  11. ^ Moore, Busir Glavan, Norwich, pg. 335
  12. ^ Bury 1889, p. 360.
  13. ^ a b c Treadgold 1997, p. 340.
  14. ^ PmbZ, Herakleios (#2558).
  15. ^ Bury 1889, pp. 360–361.
  16. ^ Treadgold 1997, p. 341.


Primary sources[edit]

Secondary sources[edit]

  • Bellinger, Alfred Raymond; Grierson, Philip (1968). Catalogue of the Byzantine coins in the Dumbarton Oaks Collection and in the Whittemore Collection. Dumbarton Oaks. OCLC 847177622.
  • Bury, J.B. (1889). A History of the Later Roman Empire from Arcadius to Irene, 395 A.D. to 800 A.D. II. MacMillan & Co. OCLC 168739195.
  • Kazhdan, Alexander, ed. (1991). The Oxford Dictionary of Byzantium. Oxford and New York: Oxford University Press. ISBN 0-19-504652-8.
  • Lilie, Ralph-Johannes; Ludwig, Claudia; Pratsch, Thomas; Zielke, Beate (2013). Prosopographie der mittelbyzantinischen Zeit Online. Berlin-Brandenburgische Akademie der Wissenschaften. Nach Vorarbeiten F. Winkelmanns erstellt (in German). Berlin and Boston: De Gruyter.
  • Moore, R. Scott, "Tiberius III(II) (698–705 A.D.)", De Imperatoribus Romanis (1999)
  • Norwich, John Julius (1990), Byzantium: The Early Centuries, Penguin, ISBN 0-14-011447-5
  • Ostrogorsky, George (1956). History of the Byzantine State. Oxford: Basil Blackwell.
  • Treadgold, Warren T. (1997). A History of the Byzantine State and Society. Stanford, California: Stanford University Press. ISBN 0-8047-2630-2.

External links[edit]

Tiberius III
Born: 7th century Died: 15 February 706
Regnal titles
Preceded by
Byzantine Emperor
Succeeded by
Justinian II