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Fausta (Wife of Constans II)

Lynda Garland

University of New England, New South Wales

Fausta, wife of Constans II, as the daughter of the general Valentinus Arshakuni, was a descendant of the Armenian Arsacid house, which had ruled in Armenia until the early fifth century. Members of this house subsequently played an important role in the Byzantine army and court.[[1]] Valentinus had designs on the throne, and Fausta's marriage to Constans, grandson of Heraclius, was the result of political manoeuvring by her father following his involvement in the overthrow of the government of Constans' uncle Heraclonas and his mother Martina. Valentinus appears to have aimed at becoming emperor in his own right: in any case his position was strengthened by his status as father-in-law to an underage ruler.

In September 641 Constans was crowned co-emperor by his uncle Heraclonas, and a few months later, in the winter of 641/2, the regime of Heraclonas and his mother Martina came to an end: Constans, at the age of ten or eleven, became sole emperor. Constans' coronation had been in great measure due to pressure from Fausta's father, Valentinus, who had been appointed commander-in-chief in the East by Constans' father, Constantine III, and who supported the rights of his sons against the machinations of Martina after Constantine's death.[[2]] As commander of the troops in Anatolia Valentinus had forced Martina and the patriarch Pyrrhus to arrange for Constans to be publicly crowned co-emperor by Heraclonas, and he was appointed to the prestigious rank of comes excubitorum (count of the excubitors, an elite corps of palace guards) by Heraclonas in the hope of moderating his opposition to the regime.[[3]] Valentinus at this point attempted to have himself proclaimed co-emperor, or possibly Caesar, this attempt being thwarted by the Constantinopolitan populace. While Theophanes states that Valentinus was associated in the popular mind with the rule of Heraclonas and Martina, it is far more likely that Valentinus played a major role in the opposition to their regime and their deposition and mutilation, and that he was actively seeking to put the young Constans in a position of authority, with or without himself as colleague.[[4]]

It was apparently at this point, Constans' accession, that Valentinus arranged for his daughter Fausta to marry the new emperor, our main source for this alliance being the Coptic bishop John of Nikiu. John tells us that Valentinus tried to make himself emperor, and that, after the people of Constantinople forced him to put off the imperial purple, he swore to Constans, 'I have not done this with any evil intent, but in order to contend against the Moslem'. His excuse was apparently accepted and he was then made commander-in-chief of the army and his daughter married to Constans: 'and on that occasion they had her proclaimed through the voice of the herald by the imperial name of Augusta'.[[5]] As the father-in-law of the new emperor, and commander-in-chief of the East, if not of the entire army, Valentinus retained an extremely influential position -- perhaps too much so for the Constantinopolitans, for in 644 or 645 his soldiers' activities in the city, apparently relating to another bid by Valentinus for the throne, sparked off a riot which led to his being lynched by the mob.[[6]]

Fausta and Constans had three sons, Constantine (IV), Heraclius and Tiberius, of whom the eldest, Constantine, was born c. 650 and proclaimed co-emperor in April 654; in 659 his two younger brothers were also crowned. From these dates we should probably assume that Fausta was slightly younger than her husband, and perhaps born in the early 630s.

Constans' plans to subjugate Lombards in Italy and reorganise the defence of Africa against the Arabs led to his leaving Constantinople in 661/2, and eventually he established himself at Syracuse. His rule became increasingly unpopular in Sicily, while the considerable opposition in Constantinople to his plan to transfer government to Sicily on a permanent basis resulted in his wife and three sons being prevented from joining him by the demes and government officials.

At the assassination of her husband in 668, at the age of only 38 years, Fausta would have been left a relatively young widow with three teenage sons. According to Cedrenus, Constans' body was returned to Constantinople and buried in the same tomb as his father.[[7]] Were this the case, however, one would expect that Fausta would later have been buried with him, and Grierson believes that it is probable that Constans was buried at Syracuse.[[8]] The catalogus sepulchrorum in the de ceremoniis of Constantine Porphyogenitus records that Fausta's tomb of green Thessalian marble stood in the mausoleum of Constantine in the capital.[[9]] All three of her sons possessed the rank of emperor and, while the date of her death is not known, it is quite possible that she saw the deposition of her younger sons from their imperial rank and their mutilation by their brother Constantine in 681, possibly as a result of a conspiracy for the throne.[[10]]


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 Chronicle of John, Coptic Bishop of Nikiu, trans. R.H. Charles, London: Williams and Norgate, 1916.

The Armenian History attributed to Sebeos, trans. with notes by R.W. Thompson, historical commentary by James Howard-Johnston and Tim Greenwood, 2 vols., Liverpool University Press, 1999.

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, vols 2-4, Amsterdam: Hakkert, 1972-78.

Bury, J.B. History of the Later Roman Empire, vol. 2, London, 1889.

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.

________., Byzantine Praetorians, An Administrative, Institutional and Social Survey of the Opsikion and Tagmata, c. 580-900, Poikila Byzantina III, Bonn & Berlin, 1984.

Kaegi Jr, W.E. Byzantine Military Unrest 471-843: an Interpretation, Amsterdam, 1981.

The Prosopography of the Later Roman Empire, ed. J.R. Martindale et al., vol. 3, sv "Valentinus" 5.


[[1]] See P. Charanis, 'The Armenians in the Byzantine Empire,' Byzantinoslavica 22 (1961), 196-240.

[[2]] Nicephorus 30-31; John of Nikiu 119.23, 120.41-3; at 120.44 John of Nikiu states that it was Valentinus himself who crowned Constans, but this would be against all precedent: rather Valentinus was the prime mover behind the coronation.

[[3]]Nicephorus 32; John of Nikiu 120.61-2; Stratos 2.189-205, 217-18. For a seal confirming Valentinus' promotion to comes excubitorum, see G. Zacos & A. Veglery, Byzantine Lead Seals, Basel, 1972, vol. 1/1, no. 1087.

[[4]]Theophanes AM 6133 [AD 640/1]; Sebeos 141; John of Nikiu 120.52; Zonaras 3.217.

[[5]]John of Nikiu 120.62, 63.

[[6]]Sebeos 142-43; Theophanes AM 6136 [AD 643/4], who says that Constans had him killed; Haldon, Byzantine Praetorians, 178-80; Kaegi, Byzantine Military Unrest, 157-58; Stratos 3.11-13.

[[7]]Cedrenus 1.763; cf. Theophanes AM 6160 [AD 667/8] for Constantine IV's expedition to Sicily in the autumn of 668; Stratos 4.8-14.

[[8]] Grierson, 49-50.

[[9]]Grierson, 50.

[[10]]Theophanes AM 6161 [AD 668/9], who has misplaced the entry here, 6173 [AD 680/1]; Stratos 4.135-40; see E.W. Brooks, English Historical Review, 30 (1915) 42-51.

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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