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Philippicus Bardanes (or Vardanes) (A.D.711-713)

Bronwen Neil

Australian Catholic University

Coin portrait of Bardanes (c)2000 Chris Connell(c) 2000 Chris Connell

Following the chronology carefully reconstructed by G. Sumner from often conflicting sources (namely the chronicles of Theophanes and Nicephorus, Chronicon Altinate et Gradense published in part by Grierson as the Necrologium imperatorum, and the later Syriac chronicle of Michael the Syrian), we can attempt to sketch the events of Philippicus' brief but eventful reign between 711 and June 713. Son of a patricius, and exiled by Tiberius III (r. 692-705) to Kephalonia for reporting a dream in which he became emperor, Vardanes was acclaimed emperor at Cherson on the north coast of the Black Sea some months before his supporters defeated and murdered his predecessor Justinian II, on 4 or 24 November, 711. In 712 he came out as a monothelite i.e. a supporter of the doctrine that Christ had only one will, and that a divine one. The doctrine, originally promulgated under Emperors Heraclius and Constans II, and opposed by Maximus Confessor until his death in exile, had been renounced by Constantine IV at the Sixth Ecumenical Council of 680/681 in Constantinople. Consequently Philippicus anathematised the council and removed the image of that gathering from the imperial palace, replacing it with his own image (according to Agatho the Deacon, and Liber Pontificalis: Life of Gregory II). Pope Constantine (708-715) refused to recognise the "heretic emperor". He enjoyed a reputation in both the Syriac sources and Theophanes for secular learning and eloquence.

In the same year he was involved in a successful war against Armenians in Byzantine territory, and repelled a Bulgarian raid against Thracian Bosporus which reached the outskirts of Constantinople. Arab raids into Pontus and Pisidia culminated in the capture of Pisidian Antioch in 713. On 11 May 713, Philippicus celebrated the birthday of Constantinople. Shortly afterwards, on the eve of Pentecost i.e. June 3, he was blinded, deposed and sent into exile by supporters of Anastasius II, after a rule of one year and six months (dating from the time of Justinian II's death). Grierson puts the date of his blinding to the following year, on 26 May 714. Philippicus died on January 20 in c. 714, and was buried in the Dalmatoi Monastery, which was at this period "regarded as a suitable place of detention for politicians who had fallen into disgrace" (Grierson, infra, 52, n. 123).


P. Grierson, 'The Tombs and Obits of the Byzantine Emperors (337-1042)', Dumbarton Oaks Papers 16 (1962). Appendix: Analysis of Sections II and III of the Necrologium, 51-52.

Oxford Dictionary of Byzantium, s.v. "Philippikos, emperor" (Paul Hollingsworth and Anthony Cutler)

G. Sumner, 'Philippicus, Anastasius II and Theodosius III', Greek, Roman and Byzantine Studies17 (1976), 287-294; here 287-289.

Copyright (C), Bronwen Neil. 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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