Anastasius I Dicorus

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Anastasius I
Semissis-Anastasius I-sb0007.jpg
Semissis of Emperor Anastasius
Emperor of the Byzantine Empire
Reign 11 April 491 – 9 July 518
Predecessor Zeno
Successor Justin I
Born c. 431
Dyrrhachium, modern Durrës in Albania[1]
Died 9 July 518 (aged 87)[2]
Consort Ariadne
Full name
Flavius Anastasius
Dynasty Leonid dynasty

Anastasius I (Latin: Flavius Anastasius Augustus; Greek: Ἀναστάσιος; c. 431 – 9 July 518) was an Eastern Roman Emperor from 491 to 518. His reign was characterised by substantive accomplishments, which were representative of emerging patterns of government, economy, and bureaucracy in the Eastern Roman empire.[3] In addition, Anastasius I is known for leaving the imperial government with a sizeable budget surplus due to minimisation of government corruption, reforms to the tax code, and the introduction of a new form of currency.[4]

Background and personal characteristics

Anastasius was born at Dyrrachium, the date is unknown, but he is thought to have been born no later than 431. He was born into an Illyrian family,[5] the son of Pompeius (born c. 410), a nobleman of Dyrrachium, and Anastasia Constantina (born c. 410). His mother was an Arian, and the sister of Clearchus, also an Arian, and a paternal granddaughter of Gallus (born c. 370), son of Anastasia (born c. 352) and husband, in turn daughter of Flavius Claudius Constantius Gallus and wife and cousin Constantina.[6] Anastasius had one eye black and one eye blue (heterochromia), and for that reason he was nicknamed Dicorus (Greek: Δίκορος, "two-pupiled").[7] Before becoming emperor, Anastasius was a particularly successful administrator in the department of finance.[8]


Following the death of Zeno (491), there is strong evidence that many Roman citizens wanted both a Roman and an Orthodox Christian emperor. In the weeks following Zeno's death, crowds gathered in Constantinople exclaiming "Give the Empire an Orthodox Emperor! Give the Empire a Roman Emperor!" [8] Under such pressure, Ariadne, Zeno's widow, turned to Anastasius I. Anastasius was in his sixties at the time of his ascension to the throne. Religiously, his sympathies were with the Monophysites.[4] Consequently, as a condition of his rule, the Patriarch of Constantinople required that he pledge not to repudiate the Council of Chalcedon.[9] It is noteworthy that Ariadne chose Anastasius over Zeno's brother Longinus,[4] who was arguably the more logical choice, which upset the Isaurians. It was also not appreciated by the circus factions, the Blues and the Greens. These groups combined aspects of street gangs and political parties and had been patronised by Longinus. The Blues and Greens subsequently frequently rioted, causing serious loss of life and damage.[4]

Ariadne married Anastasius shortly after his accession on 20 May 491. His reign commenced auspiciously. He gained popular favour by a judicious remission of taxation, in particular by abolishing the hated tax on receipts which was mostly paid by the poor. He displayed great vigour and energy in administering the affairs of the Empire.[10][11]

Foreign policy and wars

Under Anastasius the Byzantine Empire engaged in the Isaurian War against the usurper Longinus and the Anastasian War against Sassanid Persia.

The Isaurian War (492–497) was stirred up by the Isaurian supporters of Longinus (consul 486), (the brother of Zeno) who was passed over for the throne in favour of Anastasius. The battle of Cotyaeum in 492 "broke the back" of the revolt, but guerrilla warfare continued in the Isaurian mountains for several years.[10] The resistance in the mountains seems to have hinged upon the Isaurians retaintion of Papirius Castle.[3] Importantly, though this war lasted five years, Anastasius passed legislation related to the economy in the mid-490s, suggesting that the Isaurian War did not absorb all of the energy and resources of the government.[3]

During the Anastasian War (502–505), Theodosiopolis and Amida were captured by the Sassanids, although the Byzantines recovered Amida. The Persian provinces also suffered severely and both adversaries were exhausted when peace was made in 506 on the basis of the status quo ante. Anastasius afterward built the strong fortress of Daras, which was named Anastasiopolis, to hold the Persians at Nisibis in check.[12] The Balkan provinces were left denuded of troops, however, and were devastated by invasions of Slavs and Bulgars; to protect Constantinople and its vicinity against them, the emperor built the Anastasian Wall, extending from the Propontis to the Black Sea. His home city, Dyrrachium, was turned into one of the most fortified cities on the Adriatic with the construction of Durrës Castle.[10][1]

Domestic and ecclesiastical policies

The Barberini ivory, a 6th-century ivory diptych representing either Anastasius or Justinian I.

The Emperor was a convinced Miaphysite, following the teachings of Cyril of Alexandria and Severus of Antioch who taught "One Incarnate Nature of Christ" in an undivided union of the Divine and human natures. However, his ecclesiastical policy was moderate. He endeavoured to maintain the principle of the Henotikon of Zeno and the peace of the church.[10] Yet, in 512, perhaps emboldened after his military success against the Persians, Anastasius I deposed the Patriarch of Chalcedon and replaced him with a Monophysite; violating his agreement with the Patriarch of Constantinople and precipitating riots in Chalcedon.[4] The following year Vitalian started a rebellion, quickly defeating an imperial army and marching on Constantinople.[4] With the army closing in Anastasius I gave Vitalian the title of Commander of the Army of Thrace and began communicating with the Pope regarding a potential end to the Acacian schism.[4] Two years later, General Marinus attacked Vitalian and forced him and his troops to the northern part of Thrace. Following the conclusion of this conflict Anastasius had undisputed control of the Empire until his death in 518.[13]


The Anonymous Valesianus gives an account about his choosing of a successor: Anastasius could not decide which of his three nephews should succeed him, so he put a message under one of three couches and had his nephews take seats in the room. He believed that the nephew who sat on the special couch would be his heir. However, two of his nephews sat on the same couch, and the one with the concealed message remained empty.[14]

After putting the matter to God in prayer, he determined that the first person to enter his room the next morning should be the next Emperor, and that person was Justin, the chief of his guards. Anastasius had never thought of Justin as a successor, but the issue was decided for him after his death. Anastasius died childless in Constantinople on 9 July 518 and was buried at the Church of the Holy Apostles.[2] He left the Imperial treasury with 23,000,000 solidi, which is 320,000 pounds of gold.[15][16]


Anastasius is known to have had a brother named Flavius Paulus, who served as consul in 496.[17] A sister-in-law, known as Magna, was mother to Irene and mother-in-law to Olybrius. This Olybrius was son of Anicia Juliana and Areobindus Dagalaiphus Areobindus.[18] The daughter of Olybrius and Irene was named Proba. She married Probus and was mother to a younger Juliana. This younger Juliana married another Anastasius and was mother of Areobindus, Placidia, and a younger Proba.[19] Another nephew of Anastasius was Flavius Probus, Roman consul in 502.[20] Caesaria, sister of Anastasius, married Secundinus, and were parents to Hypatius and Pompeius.[20] Flavius Anastasius Paulus Probus Moschianus Probus Magnus, Roman Consul in 518 also was a great-nephew of Anastasius. His daughter Juliana later married Marcellus, a brother of Justin II.[19] The extensive family may well have included viable candidates for the throne.[21]

Administrative reform and introduction of new coinage

Anastasius is famous for showing an uncommon interest in administrative efficiency and issues concerning the economy.[13] Whenever it was possible in governmental transactions he altered the method of payment from goods to hard currency. This practice decreased the potential for embezzlement and the need for transportation and storage of supplies. It also allowed for easier accounting.[4] The emperor also applied this practice to taxes; he mandated that taxes be paid with cash rather than with goods.[4] He eliminated the practice of providing soldiers with their arms and uniforms; instead he allotted each soldier a generous amount of money that was more than enough for them to purchase their own.[4] These changes to imperial policy seem to have worked well; taxpayers often faced a lesser amount of taxes than they had before, while government revenue increased.[4] The increase in revenue allowed the emperor to pay soldiers a higher wage, which attracted native Byzantine soldiers to the military, as opposed to the barbarian and Isaurian mercenaries which some previous emperors were forced to rely on.[22] Anastasius is often cited for his "prudent management" of the empire's finances.[23]

Amidst these reforms, Anastasius continued the practice of selling official positions.[3] He sold so many that he has been accused of having facilitated the creation of a civilian aristocracy. This claim is strengthened by the growth in influence of families that often held high level positions in the government, such as the Appiones from Egypt. This can be considered noteworthy given that the emperor seems to have minimised government corruption/inefficiency in other areas.[3] Anastasius I also gave official positions to his close friend General Celer, his brother-in-law, his brother, his nephews, and his grand-nephews.[3]

The complex monetary system of the early Byzantine Empire, which suffered a partial collapse in the 5th century, was revived by Anastasius in 498. The new system involved three denominations of gold, the solidus and its half and third; and five of copper, the follis, worth 40 nummi, and its fractions down to a nummus. It would seem that the new currency quickly became an important part of trade with other regions. A follis coin has been found as far as the Charjou desert, north of the River Oxus .[24] Four solidi from his reign have been recovered as far from the Byzantine Empire as China. China might seem an unlikely trading partner, but the Byzantines and the Chinese were probably able to do business via Central Asian merchants travelling along the Silk Roads. Some Byzantine trading partners attempted to replicate the coins of Anastasius. Thus, the currency created by Anastasius proved to circulate widely and retain influence well after his reign.[24]

A 40 nummi coin of Anastasius is depicted on the obverse of the Macedonian 50 denars banknote, issued in 1996.[25]

See also


  1. ^ a b Norwich 1988, p. 186.
  2. ^ a b Norwich 1988, p. 189.
  3. ^ a b c d e f Croke, Brian (2009-01-01). Haarer, F. K., ed. "Anastasius I". The Classical Review. 59 (1): 210. doi:10.1017/s0009840x08002540. JSTOR 20482729. 
  4. ^ a b c d e f g h i j k Treadgold, Warren (2001). A Concise History of Byzantium. Houndmills, Hampshire: Palgrave. p. 57. 
  5. ^ Croke, Brian (2001). Count Marcellinus and his chronicle. Oxford University Press. p. 89. ISBN 978-0-19-815001-5. Retrieved 12 October 2010. 
  6. ^ Settipani, Christian, Continuite Gentilice et Continuite Familiale Dans Les Familles Senatoriales Romaines, A L'Epoque Imperiale, Mythe et Realite. Linacre, UK: Prosopographica et Genealogica, 2000. ILL. NYPL ASY (Rome) 03-983.
  7. ^ Anastasius (AD 491–518) Hugh Elton – Florida International University – An Online Encyclopedia of Roman Emperors
  8. ^ a b Ostrogorski, Georgije (1969). History of the Byzantine State. New Brunswick, NJ.: Rutgers University Press. p. 59. 
  9. ^ Myres, J. N. L. (1940-01-01). Charanis, Peter, ed. "The Religious Policy of Anastasius I". The Classical Review. 54 (4): 208–209. doi:10.1017/s0009840x00087229. JSTOR 705334. 
  10. ^ a b c d  One or more of the preceding sentences incorporates text from a publication now in the public domainChisholm, Hugh, ed. (1911). "Anastasius I". Encyclopædia Britannica. 1 (11th ed.). Cambridge University Press. p. 919. 
  11. ^ Norwich 1988, p. 184.
  12. ^ Zacharias of Mytilene, Syriac Chronicle, Book VII, Chapter VI
  13. ^ a b Treadgold, Warren (2001). A Concise History of Byzantium. Houndmills, Hampshire: Palgrave. p. 56. 
  14. ^ Norwich 1988, p. 188.
  15. ^ P. Brown, The world of late antiquity, W.W. Norton and Co. 1971 (p 147)
  16. ^ Durant, Will (1950). The Age of Faith. The Story of Civilization. 4. New York: Simon and Schuster. p. 104. 
  17. ^ "The Consular List"
  18. ^ Late Antiquity: A Guide to the Postclassical World (by G.W. Bowersock, Oleg Grabar). Harvard University Press, 1999. Pages 300–301.
  19. ^ a b Prosopography of the Later Roman Empire, vol. 3
  20. ^ a b Prosopography of the Later Roman Empire, vol. 2
  21. ^ James Allan Evans, "Justin I (518–527 A.D.)"
  22. ^ Treadgold, Warren (2001). A Concise History of Byzantium. Handmills, Hampshire: Palgrave. p. 57. 
  23. ^ Laiou, Angeliki (2002). The Economic History of Byzantium. Washington DC: Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collections. p. 940. 
  24. ^ a b Pyatnitsky, Yuri (2006-01-01). "New Evidence for Byzantine Activity in the Caucasus During the Reign of the Emperor Anastasius I". American Journal of Numismatics (1989–). 18: 113–122. JSTOR 43580526. 
  25. ^ National Bank of the Republic of Macedonia. Macedonian currency. Banknotes in circulation: 50 Denars Archived 2012-10-24 at the Wayback Machine.. – Retrieved on 30 March 2009.


  • J. M. Hussey, ed. (1985). "The Cambridge Medieval History". CUP Archive. ISBN 9780521045353. 
  • Meyendorff, John (1989). Imperial unity and Christian divisions: The Church 450–680 A.D. The Church in history. 2. Crestwood, NY: St. Vladimir's Seminary Press. ISBN 978-0-88-141056-3. 
  • Greatrex, Geoffrey; Lieu, Samuel N. C. (29 Jun 2005). The Roman Eastern Frontier and the Persian Wars AD 363-628. London: Routledge. ISBN 9780415146876. 
  • Arce, Ignacio; Feissel, Denis (2014). The Edict of Emperor Anastasius I (491–518 AD): An Interim Report. Amman: DAAD. OCLC 889751713. 
  • Charanis, Peter (1935). The religious policy of Anastasius I: emperor of the later Roman Empire 491–518. Madison Wis.: University of Wisconsin—Madison. OCLC 827230820. 
  • Norwich, John (1988). Byzantium: the Early Centuries. London: Penguin. ISBN 0-670-80251-4. 
  • Settipani, Christian (1989). Les ancêtres de Charlemagne (in French). 
  • Settipani, Christian (2000). Continuité gentilice et continuité sénatoriale dans les familles sénatoriales romaines à l'époque impériale (in French). 
  • Settipani, Christian (2006). Continuité des élites à Byzance durant les siècles obscurs. Les princes caucasiens et l'Empire du VIe au IXe siècle Continuité des élites à Byzance durant les siècles obscurs (in French). 
  • Zacharias of Mytilene, Syriac Chronicle, Book VII, Chapter VI

External links

  • Media related to Anastasius I at Wikimedia Commons
  • Works related to Anastasius I at Wikisource
Anastasius I Dicorus
Born: c. 430 Died: 9 July 518
Regnal titles
Preceded by
Byzantine Emperor
Succeeded by
Justin I
Political offices
Preceded by
Anicius Olybrius,
sine collega
Consul of the Roman Empire
with Flavius Rufus
Succeeded by
Flavius Albinus Iunior,
and Flavius Eusebius II
Preceded by
Post consulatum Viatoris (West)
Consul of the Roman Empire
with out colleague
Succeeded by
and John the Scythian
Preceded by
Flavius Ennodius Messala,
and Areobindus Dagalaiphus Areobindus
Consul of the Roman Empire
with Venantius iunior,
followed by Clovis I
Succeeded by
Basilius Venantius,
and Celer
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