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Three Millennia of Greek Literature

Vasilief, A History of the Byzantine Empire

The Iconoclastic epoch (717-867)

Summary of the activities of the Isaurian dynasty


Icon of the Christ and New Testament Reader

Historians place much value upon the services of the first rulers of the Isaurian line, particularly upon the achievements of Leo III, and justly so, for the latter, having ascended the throne after a highly troubled period of anarchy, showed himself to be an eminent general, a gifted administrator, and a wise legislator who understood the problems of his time. The religious policy of the iconoclasts stands quite apart from their other activities. In most of the historical writings Leo III is praised very highly. For instance, the Greeks recognize him as one of the greatest rulers of the Eastern Empire, and one of the benefactors of humanity, the Germans, as one of the greatest men on the imperial throne, who clearly understood the need for radical reform at the head and in the members, a man who was destined to restore the empire by means of iron and blood, a person of great military genius. An English scholar referred to Leo's achievements as the regeneration of the Roman Empire, while a French historian characterized the deeds of the Isaurian emperors as one of the very greatest and most admirable efforts that has ever been made for raising the moral, material, and intellectual level of the people, and compared the importance of their sweeping attempt at organization with the measures undertaken by Charles the Great. In recent times Charles Diehl made the statement that from the government of the Isaurian emperors a new principle of life sprung forth, which was to enrich the world forever. In the somewhat casual estimates of Russian scholars, who, with the exception of the church historians, have not yet made any attempts at a detailed study of the general history of the Isaurian emperors, there is no excessive praise for these rulers. The three volumes of J. A. Kulakovsky deal only with events up to the epoch of the iconoclastic emperors. The first volume of Lectures in Byzantine History, by S. P. Shestakov, which covers this period, does not contain any estimate. A very interesting and fresh appraisal of the antimonasterial and antimonastic movement is found in the Outlines of C. N. Uspensky. Finally, Th. I. Uspensky remarked; Leo the Isaurian is responsible for the rather rude manner with which the delicate problem of faith and worship of God was left by the government to the military and police authorities, who offended the religious feeling of the people and made of the local problem an event of state importance.

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