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Constantine VI (Greek: Κωνσταντίνος ΣΤ΄, Kōnstantinos VI ), (771–797 or 805), Byzantine emperor from 780 to 797.


Constantine VI was the only child of Emperor Leo IV and Irene. Constantine was crowned co-emperor by his father in 776, and succeeded as sole emperor at the age of nine under the regency of Irene in 780.

In 782 he was betrothed to Rotrude, a daughter of the Frankish King Charlemagne by his third wife Hildegard. Irene herself broke off the engagement in 788. In 787 Constantine had signed the decrees of the Second Council of Nicaea, but he appears to have had Iconoclast sympathies. By then Constantine had turned 16 years old, but his mother did not relinquish executive authority to him.

After a conspiracy against Irene was suppressed in the spring of 790 she attempted to get official recognition as empress. This backfired and with military support Constantine finally came to actual power in 790, after the Armenians in the army rebelled against Irene. Nevertheless, she was allowed to keep the title of Empress, which was confirmed in 792.

The weakness of Constantine caused dissatisfaction among his supporters. He showed unheroic behaviour after the defeats at the hands of Kardam of Bulgaria in 791 and 792. A movement developed in favor of his uncle, the Caesar Nikephoros. Constantine had his uncle's eyes put out and the tongues of his father's four other brothers cut off. His former Armenian supporters revolted after he had blinded their general Alexios Mosele. He crushed this revolt with extreme cruelty in 793.

He then divorced his wife Maria, who had failed to provide him with a male heir, and married his mistress Theodote, an unpopular and possibly illegal act, although the Patriarch ignored it. By his actions Constantine had lost all support, both of the ruling orthodox and the iconclast opposition.

In 797 Constantine was captured and blinded by the supporters of his mother, who had organized a conspiracy. According to some historians, he died from his wounds, leaving Irene in sole control of the empire. Others, including Judith Herrin, assert that he survived the blinding and outlived his mother, dying in or shortly before 805. Pretenders to the throne claiming to be Constantine VI later appeared during the reign of Michael II.


By his first wife Maria of Amnia, Constantine VI had two daughters:

  • Euphrosyne, who married Emperor Michael II
  • Irene

By his mistress and then second wife Theodore, Constantine VI had a son:

  • Leo, who died in 797.


  • The Oxford Dictionary of Byzantium, Oxford University Press, 1991.
  • Ostrogorsky, G., History of the Byzantine State
  • Dominique Barbe, Irène de Byzance: La femme empereur, Paris, 1990.
  • This article incorporates text from the Encyclopædia Britannica Eleventh Edition, a publication now in the public domain.
  • Herrin, Judith (2001). Women in Purple:Rulers of Medieval Byzantium. London: Phoenix Press. ISBN 1-84212-529-X.

Succeeded by: Irene

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