When the emperor Constans looted Rome of all its statues in 663

Cyril Mango’s article on the fate of ancient statues in the middle ages continues:

It is, however, recorded that Constans II, during his infamous residence in Rome (663), despoiled that city of its ancient bronze ornaments, including even the copper roof tiles of the Pantheon, with a view to having them transferred to Constantinople. The loot was conveyed to Syracuse, but never reached its destination: it fell instead into the hands of the Arabs.

He adds in the note that “We are not told specifically what the ancient ornaments of bronze were, but it is reasonable to assume that they included statues.”

The reference for these events is to Paul the Deacon’s History of the Lombards, book 5, chapters 11-13 (PL95, cols 602 and 604):

XI.  But the emperor Constans, when he found that he could accomplish nothing against the Langobards, directed all the threats of his cruelty against his own followers, that is, the Romans. He left Naples and proceeded to Rome.  At the sixth mile-stone from the city, pope Vitalian came to meet him with his priests and the Roman people. And when the emperor had come to the threshold of St. Peter he offered there a pallium woven with gold; and remaining at Rome twelve days he pulled down everything that in ancient times had been made of metal for the ornament of the city, to such an extent that he even stripped off the roof of the church of the blessed Mary which at one time was called the Pantheon, and had been founded in honor of all the gods and was now by the consent of the former rulers the place of all the martyrs; and he took away from there the bronze tiles and sent them with all the other ornaments to Constantinople. Then the emperor returned to Naples, and proceeded by the land route to the city of Regium (Reggio) ; and having entered Sicily during the seventh indiction he dwelt in Syracuse and put such afflictions upon the people—the inhabitants and land owners of Calabria, Sicily, Africa, and Sardinia – as were never heard of before, so that even wives were separated from their husbands and children from their parents. The people of these regions also endured many other and unheard of things so that the hope of life did not remain to any one. For even the sacred vessels and the treasures of the holy churches of God were carried away by the imperial command and by the avarice of the Greeks. And the emperor remained in Sicily from the seventh to the twelfth indiction, but at last he suffered the punishment of such great iniquities and while he was in the bath he was put to death by his own servants.

XII.  When the emperor Constantine was killed at Syracuse, Mecetius (Mezezius) seized the sovereignty in Sicily, but without the consent of the army of the East.  The soldiers of Italy, others throughout Istria, others through the territories of Campania and others from the regions of Africa and Sardinia came to Syracuse against him and deprived him of life. And many of his judges were brought to Constantinople beheaded and with them in like manner the head of the false emperor was also carried off.

XIII. The nation of the Saracens that had already spread through Alexandria and Egypt, hearing these things, came suddenly with many ships, invaded Sicily, entered Syracuse and made a great slaughter of the people – a few only escaping with difficulty who had fled to the strongest fortresses and the mountain ranges – and they carried off also great booty and all that art work in brass and different materials which the emperor Constantine had taken away from Rome; and thus they returned to Alexandria.

I had always understand that the loot had been lost in a shipwreck, so it is interesting to learn different.  No doubt they were all melted down by the barbarous Arabs for their metal value.

The translator adds a note about the mention that wives were separated by the tax-gatherers from their families; to the effect that they were sold into slavery by the former, in order to pay the taxes demanded.

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