By Samantha Hughes-Johnson

On this day, 15 September 668 A.D., the Eastern Roman Emperor, Constans II Pogonatus, was assassinated whilst at his bath in Syracuse, Sicily.

Born in Constantinople (now Istanbul) on 7 November, 630 A.D., the son of Emperor Constantine III and his wife, Gregoria, Constans II succeeded to the throne in his eleventh year. Accordingly, the young ruler began his reign as a regent, his advisors being the Senate of Constantinople. By 655 A.D. however, Constans had already experienced the Muslim Arab invasion of Armenia, their seizure of Egypt and fought his first naval battle. This real-life naumachia was far from a resounding success: the Byzantine fleet were defeated and the young emperor only narrowly escaped with his life. Four years later, Constans was successful in securing a treaty with the Arab governor of Syria: one that, whilst not guaranteeing peace, ruled out aggression. 

The arguments and uncertainty that dogged Constans’ political life were also reflected in his spiritual relationships. For example, Constans and Pope Martin I did not see eye-to-eye. While Constans (who had not supported the election of Pope Martin) issued an edict to prevent the discussion of Christ as both divine and human, Pope Martin condemned the emperor’s monothelitism. Accordingly, in 653 A.D., Constans ordered the arrest of Pope Martin. Subsequently, the pontiff was taken to Constantinople in order to suffer corporal and banishment. 

Constans’ familial relationships fared no better than his spiritual ones as he went on to elevate his son to co-emperor, which worked to exclude his brother, Theodosius from the succession. By 660 A.D. however, Theodosius was no longer a problem to Constans as the emperor had him murdered during the aforementioned year. 

In 663 A.D., Constans II traveled through the Italian peninsula and eventually moved to Syracuse, perhaps due to his unpopularity in Constantinople and his habitual state of enmity with the papacy. And it was in Sicily that he ended his days – assassinated whilst at his bath. 

Images: A Solidus of Constans II, c.651 – 654, Wikimedia Commons.

A Solidus of Constans II, Wikimedia Commons.

Hexagram Coin of Constans II and his son Constantine, CNG coins (

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