The parents of Photios were wealthy and pious Christians. His father was attached to the imperial court with the office of "Guardian of the Emperor and the Palace." They belonged to the party which venerate [[icon]]s and the current Emperor was an [[iconcoclast]] against the use of icons in the [[church]]. They were exiled when Photios was seven, disposed of their wealth and eventually [[martyr]]ed. Photios' brother was the [[Patriarch]]s [[Patriarch Tarasius of Constantinople|Tarasios]] and related to [[Patriarch John VII of Constantinople|John VII Grammatikos]]. He was known as one who was inclined to the quiet, prayerful and [[monasticism|monastic]] life. Byzantine writers report that Emperor [[Leo VI the Wise|Leo VI]] once angrily called Photios "[[Khazar]]-faced", but whether this was a generic insult or a reference to his ethnicity is unclear.
As soon as he had completed his own education, Photios began to teach [[grammar]], [[rhetoric]], [[divinity]] and [[philosophy]]. The way to public life was probably opened for him by (according to one account) the marriage of his brother Sergios to the Irene, a sister of the Empress [[Theodora (9th century)|Theodora]], who upon the death of her husband [[Theophilos, Byzantine Emperor|Theophilos]] in
[[842 ]], had assumed the regency of the empire. Photios became a captain of the guard and subsequently chief imperial secretary (''prōtasēkrētis''). In 855, at thirty-five years of age, Photios was recognized for his political skills and made the ambassador to the Persian caliph in Bagdad with the charge to negotiate an end to the Christian persecution in the Moslem territories.
The dissension between the patriarch [[Patriarch Ignatios of Constantinople|Ignatios]] and the Caesar Bardas, the uncle of the youthful Emperor [[Michael III]], concerning Bardas' illicit relationship with his daughter-in-law and other questionalble moral pracitces, brought promotion to Photios. Ignatios was arrested and exiled to the island or Terebinthos in 858 where he submitted his resignation. Photios, a layperson, was inducted into the [[priest]]hood and made a [[bishop]] within six days, and installed as patriarch. He resisted this appointment as he wished for a life of contemplation. He was the most distinguished scholar at that time and was seen above suspicion, being strongly opposed to the iconoclast party since his parents had died in opposition to that cause.