Front Page Titles (by Subject) 15.: THE ICONOCLASTIC EDICTS OF LEO III. — ( P. 319 , 320 ) - The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, vol. 8
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15.: THE ICONOCLASTIC EDICTS OF LEO III. — ( P. 319 , 320 ) - Edward Gibbon, The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, vol. 8 
The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, ed. J.B. Bury with an Introduction by W.E.H. Lecky (New York: Fred de Fau and Co., 1906), in 12 vols. Vol. 8.
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THE ICONOCLASTIC EDICTS OF LEO III. — (P. 319, 320)
Gibbon (who is followed by Finlay) states that the first edict did not enjoin the removal of images, but only the elevation of them to such a height that they could not be kissed or touched by the faithful. He does not give the authority for this statement, but he derived it from Cardinal Baronius (Ann. Eccl. ix., ad. ann., 726, 5), who founded his assertion on a Latin translation of a Vita Stephani Junioris. This document is published in the edition of the Works of John of Damascus, by J. Billius (1603), and differs considerably from the Greek text (and Lat. transl.) published by Montfaucon in his Analecta Graeca towards the end of the same century.3 The passage in question (p. 483 B) states that Leo, when he saw the strong opposition against his policy, withdrew from his position, changing about like a chameleon, and said that he only wished to have the pictures placed higher, so that no one should touch them with his mouth. It has been recognised that this notice cannot be accepted (Hefele, Conciliengeschichte, iii. 347; Bury, Later Roman Empire, ii. 432; Hodgkin, Italy and her Invaders, vi. 432; Schwarzlose, der Bilderstreit, p. 524 ). It is obviously inconsistent with the incident of the destruction of the image over the palace-gate, which happened immediately after the first edict (Theophanes, a.m. 6218).5
In 727 there was a revolt in Greece, but this revolt was probably caused not entirely by the iconoclastic edict, but also by heavy taxation (see Bury, op. cit. ii. p. 437). In the same or the following year we must place the First Oration of John of Damascus on behalf of image-worship.6 In the first month of 730 a silentium was held, the Patriarch Germanus who resisted Leo’s policy was deposed, and a new patriarch, Anastasius, elected in his stead.7 In the same year the Second Oration of John of Damascus was published. The second edict was issued after the election of Anastasius, and probably differed from the first chiefly in the fact that the Imperial policy was now promulgated under the sanction of the head of the church in Constantinople.8
Gibbon does not mention the fact that the chief ecclesiastical counsellor of Leo in the inauguration of the iconoclastic policy was Constantine, Bishop of Nacolia in Phrygia. For this prelate see the two letters of the Patriarch Germanus, preserved in the Acts of the Second Council of Nicaea (Mansi, Conc. 13, 99 sqq.).
[1 ]Theoph., a.m. 6127. I do not see that we are justified in rejecting this date of Theophanes, as most critics are disposed to do. The First Epistle of Gregory to Leo says “in the tenth year” of Leo’s reign, but it is not genuine.
[2 ]Theoph., a.m. 6128.
[3 ]The relation of these documents deserves to be investigated.
[4 ]But Schwarzlose does not distinguish the older Latin translation from Montfaucon’s text and translation of the Vita Stephani. In his valuable article, Kaiser Leons III. Walten im Innern (Byz. Ztsch., v. p. 291), K. Schenk defends the view that Leo’s first edict ordered the pictures to be hung higher. He cites the life of Stephanus without giving any reference except “Baronius ad annum, 726,” and does not distinguish between Montfaucon’s edition and the older Latin version. Until the source of that old Latin version has been cleared up and its authority examined, it seems dangerous to accept a statement which depends on it alone. Schenk meets the argument that the mild character of the edict is inconsistent with the destruction of the picture by rejecting the latter fact. But his objections concern the account of the destruction of the picture in the 1st Letter of Gregory to Leo and do not touch the account in Theophanes; so that their only effect is to reinforce the arguments against the genuineness of the Pope’s letter.
[5 ]The Vita Stephani places it after the deposition of Germanus (in 730), and therefore Pagi placed it in 730 ( 726-9 and 730, 3, 5). Hefele refutes Pagi by the 1st Letter of Pope Gregory to Leo, which he (Hefele) regards as genuine. Cp. above, p. 441.
[6 ]Bury, op. cit. p. 436.
[7 ]Theoph., a.m. 6221 ( = 728-9). Theophanes gives the date of the silentium as “January 7th, Tuesday,” and the date of the appointment of Anastasius as “Jan. 22.” (1) According to the vulgar chronology, which refers these dates to 730, the day of the week is inconsistent with the day of the month. January 7 fell on Saturday. (2) According to the revised chronology there is equally an inconsistency, for January 7 fell on Friday. (3) Neither date could be reconciled with the length of the pontificate of Germanus as given by Theophanes (14 years 5 months 7 days, loc. cit.; Germanus was appointed on August 11, 715). Now if Germanus was deposed on January 17, 730, everything can be explained. That day was Tuesday; and January 22, on which Anastasius was installed, was the Sunday following. (Sunday was a favourite day for such installations.) The years, days, and months of the pontificate work out accurately. The emendation in the text of Theophanes is very slight — ιζ′ for ζ′. This highly plausible solution is due to Hefele. The difficulty lies in the year; for Theophanes assigns the events to the thirteenth indiction; whereas if 730 was the year he should have assigned it to the fourteenth indiction, according to his own reckoning (see above, p. 429). But notwithstanding this, I believe that Hefele’s correction is right, and that Germanus was deposed in 730.
[8 ]So Schwarzlose, p. 54, rightly.