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Anastasia (Wife of Constantine IV))

Lynda Garland

University of New England, New South Wales

Nothing is known of the antecedents of Anastasia, wife of Constantine IV (668-685). Her eldest son Justinian II was born c. 668, which would place her birth most probably in the early 650s. A presumably apocryphal tradition, recorded by Constantine Porphyrogenitus, states that she gave birth to Justinian on the island of Cyprus.[[1]]

When Constantine died in 685, at the age of only 35 years, he was survived by Anastasia and their sons Justinian, then 17 years of age, and Heraclius.[[2]] Heraclius' existence is only known from the fact that a letter was sent by Constantine to Pope Benedict II (684-85) together with locks of his children's hair.[[3]] That Anastasia was not entirely a cipher during her son's reign is signalled by the report that she was targeted by Justinian's treasurer and supervisor of works, Stephen the eunuch, during Justinian's first period of rule. One of Justinian's cruel and severely efficient ministers, who contributed greatly to the emperor's unpopularity, Stephen, according to Nicephorus, 'inflicted many punishments not only on those under his authority, but went so far in his insolence as to inflict lashes on Justinian's mother as teachers do to children'. Theophanes chronicles this incident under the year 693/4, adding that it took place in the emperor's absence. His account implies that the context was that of the construction work in the palace, where Justinian's building projects in 694 included the construction and mosaic decoration of the Triklinos, or Great Hall.[[4]]

Anastasia was to be buried next to Constantine in a block of Thessalian marble in the mausoleum of Justinian in the church of the Holy Apostles,[[5]] but she long outlived her husband and was still alive in 711 when her son Justinian II was put to death by Elias on Phillipicus' orders, after his second period of rule. On this occasion Anastasia valiantly but unsuccessfully tried to save her grandson Tiberius from a similar fate -- Tiberius had been left behind in the capital while his father attempted to rally troops in Asia Minor. Theophanes describes Tiberius grasping the altar table in the sanctuary of the Virgin Mary in the church of Blachernai, while his grandmother remained outside the bema (as was proper for women), and fell at the feet of the patrician Mauros, one of the assassins, imploring him not to kill her innocent grandson. Even while she held his feet, the other, Strouthos, entered the sanctuary and seized the boy, whose throat was cut at the city walls nearby. Tiberius was buried in the church of Sts Cosmas and Damian.[[6]]


Nicephorus, Patriarch of Constantinople: Short History, ed. & tr. C. Mango, Washington DC, 1990.

Theophanes, Chronographia, trans. C. Mango & R. Scott, with G. Greatrex, The Chronicle of Theophanes Confessor: Byzantine and Near Eastern History AD 284-813, Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1997.

The Book of Pontiffs (Liber Pontificalis), trans. with an introduction by Raymond Davis, Liverpool University Press, 1989.

Stratos, A.N. Byzantium in the Seventh Century, vol. 4, Amsterdam: Hakkert, 1978.

Grierson, Philip 'The Tombs and Obits of the Byzantine Emperors (337-1042),' Dumbarton Oaks Papers 16 (1962) 1-63.

Haldon, J.F. Byzantium in the Seventh Century: the Transformation of a Culture, Cambridge University Press, 1990.

[[1]]De administrando imperio, 47.

[[2]]Stratos, 4:1.171.

[[3]]Liber Pontificalis (Book of Pontiffs) 83: 'Like the clergy and army he [Benedict] received locks of the hair of the lord Justinian and of Heraclius, the clement emperor's sons, and also a mandate in which he intimated he had sent the hair'; Stratos 4.5-6.

[[4]]Nicephorus 39; Theophanes AM 6186 [AD 693/4].

[[5]]Leo Grammaticus, 155-56, cf. Nicephorus 37; Grierson, 50.

[[6]]Theophanes AM 6203 [AD 710/11]; Nicephorus 45; cf. Zonaras 3.242.

Copyright (C), Lynda Garland. This file may be copied on the condition that the entire contents, including the header and this copyright notice, remain intact.

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