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Theoktistos the Confessor
Venerated inEastern Orthodoxy
Feast20 November
Michael III with Theodora and Theoktistos (with the white cap), from the Madrid Skylitzes

Theoktistos or Theoctistus (

, and on 20 November 855, Theoktistos was assassinated by Bardas and his followers.

Early life

Nothing is known of Theoktistos' early life. He is called a

Theodora, and the magistros Manuel the Armenian.[2][3]


Following Theophilos' death, the regency council took over the conduct of affairs of state. Theodora's brothers Bardas and Petronas and her relative Sergios Niketiates also played an important role in the early days of the regency.[4]

The regency moved quickly to end

Zonaras—as a driving force behind the restoration of the icons, and particularly behind the deposition of John the Grammarian.[2][3] He is commemorated as a saint by the Orthodox Church on 20 November.[6]

Map of Byzantine Asia Minor and the Arab–Byzantine borderlands in the mid-9th century

A week after that, Theoktistos and Sergios Niketiates were sent on a campaign to recover

Asia Minor by Umar al-Aqta, emir of Melitene. Theoktistos was sent at the head of an army to confront him, but the resulting Battle of Mauropotamos ended in a Byzantine defeat. At the same time, the expeditionary corps left in Crete was defeated and almost annihilated by the Andalusians, who killed Niketiates.[7][6]

Despite his personal involvement in these military disasters, Theoktistos was able to use them to sideline his competitors: Bardas was blamed for the desertions that plagued the Byzantines at Mauropotamos and exiled from Constantinople, while the magistros Manuel was slandered and forced to retire. With Niketiates dead, Theoktistos was now the undisputed head of the regency, a position described by the Byzantine chroniclers, like

Theoktistos continued the persecution of the

Ali al-Armani, launched summer raids for three successive years, albeit with little apparent impact.[10][11] The Byzantines responded with a naval expedition in 853 that sacked the port of Damietta in Egypt, while in the next year a Byzantine army invaded Arab lands in Cilicia and sacked Anazarbus. Around 20,000 prisoners were taken, some of whom were executed on Theoktistos' orders after they refused to convert to Christianity, probably as a gesture of retaliation for the Caliphate's execution of the prisoners of Amorium in 845.[2][11]

To the north, the

Leontini in 846 and then Ragusa in 848 fell to the Muslims, while an attempt by the Byzantine fleet to land troops near Palermo in winter 847/848 failed.[14] Over the next few years, the Muslims raided the Byzantine territories on the eastern half of the island unopposed, capturing several minor fortresses and securing ransom and prisoners from others.[15]

Only fragmentary evidence survives concerning Theoktistos' domestic policies.

Chalke Gate, as well as sponsoring unspecified buildings in the Thracian cities close to Constantinople, notably Selymbria.[6]

Downfall and death

In 855, Michael III turned fifteen and thus came nominally of age. His mother and Theoktistos both underestimated the young emperor's desire to free himself from their custodianship, and antagonized him further when they arranged a

bride show and selected Eudokia Dekapolitissa as his bride, disregarding Michael's attachment to his mistress, Eudokia Ingerina.[6][16] Theodora's brother Bardas was able to use Michael's resentment for the high-handed manner in which he was treated and began to turn him against the regency. With Michael's backing, Bardas was allowed to return to the capital, and on 20 November 855, Theoktistos was murdered. Theodora was compelled to retire to a monastery a few months later, bringing the regency officially to an end.[6][16]


  1. ^ Lilie et al. 2001, p. 579 (note 1).
  2. ^ a b c d e f Hollingsworth 1991, p. 2056.
  3. ^ a b c d Lilie et al. 2001, p. 578.
  4. ^ Treadgold 1997, p. 446.
  5. ^ Treadgold 1997, pp. 446–447.
  6. ^ a b c d e f g h Lilie et al. 2001, p. 579.
  7. ^ a b c Treadgold 1997, p. 447.
  8. ^ Lilie et al. 2001, pp. 578–579.
  9. ^ a b c Treadgold 1997, p. 448.
  10. ^ a b c Stern 1960, p. 219.
  11. ^ a b c Treadgold 1997, p. 449.
  12. ^ Treadgold 1997, pp. 448–450.
  13. ^ Vasiliev 1935, pp. 205–206.
  14. ^ Vasiliev 1935, pp. 206–207.
  15. ^ Vasiliev 1935, pp. 208, 219.
  16. ^ a b Treadgold 1997, p. 450.


  • Hollingsworth, Paul A. (1991). "Theoktistos". In .
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