List of Byzantine emperors

For further information, see History of the Byzantine Empire.
Emperor of the Romans
Byzantine Eagle.svg
Constantine XI Palaiologos miniature.jpg
Constantine XI
First monarch Constantine I
Last monarch Constantine XI
Formation 11 May 330
Abolition 29 May 1453
Residence Great Palace, Blachernae Palace
Appointer Non-specified, de facto hereditary [1]
Pretender(s) None

This is a list of the Byzantine emperors from the foundation of Constantinople in 330 AD, which marks the conventional start of the Byzantine Empire, to its fall to the Ottoman Empire in 1453 AD. Only the emperors who were recognized as legitimate rulers and exercised sovereign authority are included, to the exclusion of junior co-emperors (symbasileis) who never attained the status of sole or senior ruler, as well as of the various usurpers or rebels who claimed the imperial title.

Traditionally, the line of Byzantine emperors is held to begin with the Roman Emperor Constantine the Great, the first Christian emperor, who rebuilt the city of Byzantium as an imperial capital, Constantinople, and who was regarded by the later Byzantine emperors as the model ruler. It was under Constantine that the major characteristics of what is considered the Byzantine state emerged: a Roman polity centered at Constantinople and culturally dominated by the Greek East, with Christianity as the state religion.

The Byzantine Empire was nothing more than the continuation of the eastern half of the Roman Empire following the division of the Roman Empire in 395. All Byzantine emperors considered themselves the rightful "Roman Emperors"; [2] the term "Byzantine" was coined by Western historiography only in the 16th century. The use of the title "Roman Emperor" was not contested until after the Papal coronation of the Frankish Charlemagne as " Holy Roman Emperor" (25 December 800 AD), done partly in response to the Byzantine coronation of Empress Irene, whose claim, as a woman, was not recognized by Pope Leo III.

The title of all Emperors preceding Heraclius was officially " Augustus," although other titles such as Dominus were also used. Their names were preceded by Imperator Caesar and followed by Augustus. Following Heraclius, the title commonly became the Greek Basileus (Gr. Βασιλεύς), which had formerly meant sovereign but was then used in place of Augustus. Following the establishment of the rival Holy Roman Empire in Western Europe, the title " Autokrator" (Gr. Αὐτοκράτωρ) was increasingly used. In later centuries, the Emperor could be referred to by Western Christians as the "Emperor of the Greeks." Towards the end of the Empire, the standard imperial formula of the Byzantine ruler was "[Emperor's name] in Christ, Emperor and Autocrat of the Romans" (cf. Ῥωμαῖοι and Rûm).

In the medieval period, dynasties were common, but the principle of hereditary succession was never formalized in the Empire, [3] and hereditary succession was a custom rather than an inviolable principle. [1]

Constantinian dynasty (306–363)

Name Reign Comments
MMA bust 02.jpg Constantine I "the Great"
(Greek: Κωνσταντῖνος Α' ὁ Μέγας, Latin: Gaius Flavius Valerius Aurelius Constantinus)
19 September 324 –
22 May 337
Born at Naissus ca. 273/4 as the son of the Augustus Constantius Chlorus and Helena. Proclaimed Augustus of the western empire upon the death of his father on 25 July 306, he became sole ruler of the western empire after the Battle of the Milvian Bridge in 312. In 324, he defeated the eastern Augustus Licinius and re-united the empire under his rule, reigning as sole emperor until his death. Constantine completed the administrative and military reforms begun under Diocletian, who had begun ushering in the Dominate period. Actively interested in Christianity, he played a crucial role in its development and the Christianization of the Roman world, through his convocation of the First Ecumenical Council at Nicaea. He is said to have received baptism on his deathbed. He also reformed coinage through the introduction of the gold solidus, and initiated a large-scale building program, crowned by the re-foundation the city of Byzantium as "New Rome", popularly known as Constantinople. He was regarded as the model of all subsequent Byzantine emperors. [4]
Bust of Constantius II (Mary Harrsch).jpg Constantius II
(Κωνστάντιος [Β'], Flavius Iulius Constantius)
22 May 337 –
5 October 361
Born on 7 August 317, as the second son of Constantine I. He inherited the eastern third of Roman Empire upon his father's death, sole Roman Emperor from 353, after the overthrow of the western usurper Magnentius. Constantius' reign saw military activity on all frontiers, and dissension between Arianism, favoured by the emperor, and the "Orthodox" supporters of the Nicene Creed. In his reign, Constantinople was accorded equal status to Rome, and the original Hagia Sophia was built. Constantius appointed Constantius Gallus and Julian as Caesares, and died on his way to confront Julian, who had risen up against him. [5]
Emperor Constans Louvre Ma1021.jpg Constans I
(Κῶνστας Α', Flavius Iulius Constans)
22 May 337 –
January 350
Born c. 323, the third son of Constantine I. Caesar since 333, he inherited the central third of Roman Empire upon his father's death, and became sole emperor in the west following the death of Constantine II in 348. An ardent supporter of Athanasius of Alexandria, he opposed Arianism. Constans was assassinated during the coup of Magnentius. [6]
JulianusII-antioch(360-363)-CNG.jpg Julian "the Apostate"
(Ἰουλιανὸς "ὁ Παραβάτης", Flavius Claudius Iulianus)
5 October 361 –
28 June 363
Born in May 332, grandson of Constantius Chlorus and cousin of Constantius II. Proclaimed by his army in Gaul, became legitimate Emperor upon the death of Constantius. Killed on campaign against Sassanid Persia