June 7

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This Day in the Life of the Church

June 7, 2024

An Emperor Who Toppled Down Monothelitism


Solidus (Roman coin of solid gold) with Heraclius (long-bearded) and Heraclius Constantine. 610-641. 

Emperor Constantine III Heraclius passed away on this day in 641.

Constantine III Heraclius was born on May 3, 612 into the imperial family of Heraclius and Eudokia. His mother was seriously ill with epilepsy and shortly after the birth of Constantine, on August 13, 612, Eudokia died. On January 22, 613, the infant Constantine III was betrothed to his relative Gregoria, who was the daughter of the dux Niketas, a cousin of Heraclius himself.

However, Constantine III's engagement was not as scandalous as his father's second marriage. Heraclius remarried his niece Martina, thereby violating state and church laws, and arousing the hatred of his subjects through what was considered an incestuous marriage. However, Monothelite Patriarch Sergius I, despite the incest, married them in Augustaion ceremonial square. Even Heraclius’s brother and Martina’s uncle, commander Theodore, condemned the marriage.

In the marriage of Heraclius and Martina, 10 children were born - Constantine (died at an early age), Fabius (paralyzed and died at an early age), Theodosius (deaf-mute, married the daughter of the Persian general Farruhan Shahrvaraz), Heraklion (future co-ruler of Constantine III), David Tiberius, Martin, Augstina, Anastasia Martina and Fevronia. Of all the half-brothers of Constantine III, only Heraklion became his co-ruler.

The marriage between Constantine III and Gregoria took place in 629 or 630. In 630 their son Constant II was born. Also, Constant II was the eldest heir, contrary to tradition, he was not elevated to the status of co-emperor.

Constantine, at the insistence of his father, had to agree in 638 to share power with his half-brother Heraklion. Three days after the death of Heraclius, on February 11, 641, Martina tried to personally announce the will of the deceased emperor at the Hippodrome as the emperor’s successors would usually do. The ceremony was attended by the senate and the people, but the brothers Constantine III and Heraklion were absent. Martina announced that the supreme power was awarded to her, but she was booed by the crowd, shouting the names of the sons of Heraclius. At the end of May in 641, the brothers Constantine and 15-year-old Heraklion became co-emperors.

Constantine died on May 25, 641. Although he is believed to have died of tuberculosis, his death was attributed to his stepmother Martina. A coup took place in the empire, and power was transferred to Constant II, the minor son of Constantine III.

In his religious policy, the emperor turned away from Monothelitism, the teaching that Christ had only one will, in conflict with the Chalcedonian definition of Christ having two wills (divine and human), and he restored Orthodoxy. Therefore, he was canonized by the Orthodox Church in the ranks of the noble rulers. However, it has not been included in the calendar of the Russian Orthodox Church.


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Copyright 2023 Andrei Psarev.

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