Constantine III, or perhaps more accurately, Heraclius Novus Constantinus Augustus (May 612 –May 641), was Byzantine Emperor for just four months in 641. He began his brief ascendancy, however, on 22 January 613, when, at eight months old, he was named co-emperor by his father, the scheming Heraclius. In the chaotic middle period of the Eastern Empire, the name “Constantine” had become an established Byzantine term for whoever was emperor. There had already of course been an emperor Constantine III in 407, and the emperor fils, Constans III, direct descendants of the “original” Constantine’s reign, from 337.

During the co-emperorships of Heraclius and Constantine III, Greek became the official Byzantine language. Constantinople was often under siege or threatened with invasion, though peaceful relations between Persia and the empire took hold from 620. The schism between Rome and the nascent Eastern Orthodox church intensified, though contact and trade continued between Western Europe and the Byzantine regions. While some churches and chapels continued to be built, mosaics, jewelry, and ornate weaponry were the prevailing material objects in the 7thCentury.

Reference: Patricia Southern, The Roman Empire from Severus to Constantine. London: Taylor & Francis, 2015.

Byzantine Intaglio Brooch, setting, second half of 10th century; intaglio, 337-350. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, The Cloisters. Nr. 9906.

Gian Lorenzo Bernini, Equestrian Statue of Constantine, Basilica di San Pietro at the Vatican, 1670.

Constantine Among the Saints, late 10th Century, Hagia Sophia, Istanbul, Turkey. Photo: Erich Lessing Culture and Fine Arts Archives/Art Resource.

Arch of Constantine, detail of the left hand portion of the south façade, Rome, 312 – 315. Photo: The Scala Archives.

Santa Costanza (Mausoleum of Constantia), interior nave and ambulatory with spoliated columns, Rome, c. 350. Built for Constantia, daughter of Constantine, d. 354. Photo: The Scala archives.

The Fieschi Morgan Staurotheke; Reliquary of the True Cross, back of lid; ca. 800. The Metropolitan Museum of Art, Nr. 17.190.715a, b.

Further Reading: Judith Herrin. Byzantium: The Surprising Life of a Medieval Empire. Princeton, N.J.: Princeton University Press, 2009.

Martina Bagnoli, ed. A Feast for the Senses: Art and Experience in Medieval Europe. Baltimore: The Walters Art Museum, 2017. 

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