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Images Of Authority? Imperial Patronage Of Icons From Justinian II To Leo III

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Chapter Summary

This chapter explores if the Byzantine conflict over images expressive of dissent from the saints' cult? It argues that the controversy was never solely, or indeed predominantly, about saints, or indeed intercession, relics or monks. The seventh century was an unmitigated disaster for Byzantium. From being the dominant power in western Eurasia during the reign of Justinian I, by Justinian II's accession in 685, Byzantium had been reduced essentially to an impoverished Anatolian rump, its richest provinces lost. Under Leo III state action regarding icons was moderate, indeed 'iconoclasm' is a misnomer given the limited evidence of physical destruction. Although Byzantium would survive, the Arabs left behind a markedly different culture. The chapter presents one case of actual iconoclasm reported by the chroniclers. Actual cases of physical image breaking that occurred were rare and extreme actions, which iconophiles wove into a literary trope of wide-scale destruction orchestrated by the state.

Keywords: actual iconoclasm; Byzantine; Justinian II; Leo III; saints' cult



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