Constanti'nus V. or Constanti'nus Copro'nymus
surnamed COPRO'NYMUS (ὁ Κοπρώνυμος
), because he polluted the baptismal font at the time of his baptism, emperor of the East, A. D. 741-775, was the only son of the emperor Leo III. Isaurus.
He was born in 719, and succeeded his father in 741.
The unfortunate commencement of his reign is related in the life of the emperor ARTAVASDES, p. 370b.
The downfall of this usurper in 743 and the complete success of Constantine caused much grief to pope Zacharias, who had recognized Artavasdes because he protected the worship of images, while Constantine was an iconoclast, at whose instigation a council held at Constantinople in 754 condemned the worship of images throughout the whole Eastern empire. Constantine was most cruel in his proceedings against the orthodox : he anathematized Joannes Damascenus and put to death Constantine, the patriarch of Constantinople, St. Stephanus, and many other fathers who had declared for the images. In 751 Eutychius, exarch of Ravenna, was driven out by Astolf (Astaulphus), king of the Longobards, who united that province with his dominions after the dignity of exarch had been in existence during a period of 185 years.
A war having broken out between Astolf and Pipin the Short, king of the Franks, the latter conquered the exarchate and gave it to pope Stephen (755), the first pope who ever had temporal dominions, the duchy of Rome being still a dependency of the Eastern empire. Constantine sent ambassadors to Pipin, Astolf, and the pope, to claim the restitution of the exarchate; but the negotiations proved abor tive, since the emperor could not give them sufficient weight by the display of a formidable army in Italy; for his troops were engaged in disastrous wars with the Arabs, who ravaged Pamphylia, Cilicia, and Isauria; with the Slavonians, who conquered Greece; and with the Bulgarians, who penetrated several times as far as the environs of Constantinople. The Bulgarian king, Paganus, however, suffered a severe defeat from Constantine in 765, in which he was treacherously killed, and Constantine entered his capital in triumph; but in the following year he sustained a severe defeat from the Bulgarians, and was compelled to fly ingloriously, after losing his fleet and army. Constantine still flattered himself with regaining Ravenna, either by force or arms; but after Charlemagne became king of the Franks he relinquished this hope, and united his dominions on the continent of southern Italy with the island of Sicily, putting all those provinces under the authority of the Patricius or governor-general of Sicily.
The continental part of the new province or Thema
of Sicily was sometimes called Sicilia secunda,
whence arose the name of both the Sicilies, which is still the regular designation of the kingdom of Naples. In 774, the empire was once more invaded by the Bulgarians under their king Telericus; but Constantine checked his progress, and in the following year fitted out a powerful expedition to chastise the barbarian. Having resolved to take the command of it in person, he set out for the Haemus ; but some ulcers on his legs, the consequence of his debaucheries, having suddenly burst, he stopped at Arcadiopolis, and finally went on board his fleet off Selembria, where he died from an inflammatory fever on the 14th of September, 775.
Constantine V. was a cruel, profligate, and most fanatical man; but he was, nevertheless, well adapted for the business of government.
He was addicted to unnatural vices; his passion for horses procured him the nickname of Caballinus.
He was thrice married : viz. to Irene, daughter of the khagan or khan of the Khazars; a lady called Maria; and Eudoxia Melissena. His successor was his eldest son, Leo IV., whom he had by Irene. During the reign of Constantine V. the beautiful aqueduct of Constantinople, built by the emperor Valens, which had been ruined by the barbarians in the time of the emperor Heraclius, was restored by order of Constantine. (Theophan. p. 346, &c., ed. Paris; Cedren. p. 549, &c., ed. Paris; Nicephor. Gregoras, p. 38, &c., ed. Paris ; Glycas, p. 283, ed. Paris; Zonar. vol. ii. p. 105, ed. Paris.)