Foundation and Early Eastern Roman Empire   Justinian Dynasty (518 - 602)   Phocas (r.602-610)

Heraclian Dynasty ( 610 - 711 )   Isaurian Dynasty ( 717 - 866 )

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The Heraclian Dynasty (610-711)


Victories over the Sassanid Persians-, the Rise of Islam

Constantine III, Constans I, Theme System created, Constantine IV, Arab Invasion

Justinian II

Usurpation of Leontius, Anarchy, Carthage Falls, 

Tiberius II

Restoration of Justinian II, Reign of Terror, Justinian II beheaded, more Anarchy


 Heraclius (r.610-641)


map of the Byzantine Empire in 600 AD


Under Justinian's successors a prolonged war was waged with the Persians and the Balkans were repeatedly ravaged by hordes of Avars and Slavs. It was not until Heraclius assumed the throne in 610 that the Byzantines were able to turn the tide. In the beginning of his reign the Avars penetrated to the walls of Constantinople and the Persians conquered most of Syria,Asia Minor and invaded Egypt.



How Emperor Heraclius Saved the World



One of the most remarkable rulers in Byzantine history was Emperor Heraclius. He overthrew his predecessor and inherited a ruined empire. Nevertheless he was able to reorganize and reform Byzantium and beat the Sassanid Persians decisively. It was his personal tragedy that his success was overshadowed by the rise and spread of Islam. With Heraclius reign Late Antiquity finally ended and Byzantium's early Middle Age began.


 video of message of Muhammad for Heraclius


By 619 the situation was so desperate that Heraclius bought off the Avars and devoted his resources to going to war with the Persians. For the first twelve years of his reign he remained at Constantinople, endeavouring to reorganize the empire, and to defend at any rate the frontiers of Thrace and Asia Minor. The more distant provinces he hardly seems to have hoped to save, and the chronicle of his early years is filled with the catalogue of the losses of the empire. Mesopotamia and North Syria had already been lost by Phocas, but in 613, while the imperial armies were endeavouring to defend Cappadocia, the Persian general Shahrbarz turned southwards and attacked Central Syria. The great town of Damascus fell into his hands In a great offensive from 622-28 Heraclius was able to defeat the Persians .



Byzantine Rulers Part 10 Heraclius


However, these gains were short lived as the Byzantines and Persians so weakened each other that Arab infused with the new religion of Islam  were able to sweep in. Within a decade all of Heraclius conquests were lost to the new Arab power. The Persian Empire was overrun and the Arab armies reached the gates of Constantinople. They were later driven from Asia Minor but retained Syria,Egypt and Africa. The last attack on Constantinople was repulsed in 718 by Leo III. At this point the empire only held the Balkans,Asia Minor,Sicily and coastal areas of Italy. Leo III and his Isurian dynasty brought a revival of strength which stopped the advances of the Bulgarians and Moslems. Leo began a campaign against the use of images and pictures in Christian worship, producing religious strife within the empire and driving a wedge between the eastern and western churches. The struggle came to an end in 843 with an imperial edict that restored images .During this period most of Italy and Sicily were lost, the feudal, landed aristocracy grew in power and the bureaucracy grew over-complex.


The Walls of Constantinople were some of the most elaborate defensive systems built in antiquity. The walls were started by Constantine with a new set of walls built Theodosius II, and thwarted many a siege by its enemies. Some argue the walls deflected the Germanic invasions to the west, saving the Easter Roman empire. The Turks were able to demolish the walls with the advent of gunpowder and large cannons . The modern name for Constantinople,

Istanbul  , comes from a corruption of the Greek ' Eis tein polein' 'to the city.' The walls are being rebuilt .


 The Arab Invasion

The details of the Arab conquest of Syria have  not been preserved by the East- Roman historians,  who seem to have hated the idea of recording the  disasters of Christendom. The Moslems, on the other  hand, had not yet commenced to write, and ere  historians arose among them, the tale of the invasion  had been intertwined with a whole cycle of romantic  legends, fitter for the " Arabian Nights " than the  sober pages of a chronicle.

But the main lines of the war can be reconstructed  with accuracy. The Saracen horde under Abu Obeida  emerged from the desert in the spring of 634 and  captured Bostra, the frontier city of Syria to the east,  by the aid of treachery from within. The Romans  collected an army to drive them off, but in July it  was defeated at Aijnadin [Gabatha] in Ituraea.  Thoroughly roused by this disaster Heraclius set all  the legions of the East marching, and sixty thousand  men crossed the Jordan and advanced to recover  Bostra. The Arabs met them at the fords of the  Hieromax, an Eastern tributary of the Jordan, and a  fierce battle raged all day. The Romans drove the  enemy back to the very gates of their camp, but a  last charge, headed by the fierce warrior Khaled, broke  their firm array when a victory seemed almost assured.  All the mailed horsemen of Heraclius, his Armenian  and Isaurian archers, his solid phalanx of infantry,  were insufficient to resist the wild rush of the Arabs.  Urged on by the cry of their general, " Paradise is  before you, the devil and hell-fire behind!"


Orientals threw themselves on regiment after regiment  and drove it off the field.   All Syria east of Jordan was lost in this fatal battle.  Damascus, its great stronghold, resisted desperately  but fell early in 635. Most of its population were  massacred. This disaster drew Heraclius into the  field, though he was now over sixty, and was beginning  to fail in health. He could do nothing ; Emesa and  Heliopolis were sacked before his eyes, and after an  inglorious campaign he hurried to Jerusalem, took the  " True Cross " from its sanctuary, where he had  replaced it in triumph five years before, and retired to  Constantinople. Hardly had he reached it when the  news arrived that his discontented and demoralized  troops had proclaimed a rebel emperor, though the  enemy was before them. The rebel his name was  Baanes was put down, but meanwhile Antioch,  Chalcis, and all Northern Syria fell into the hands of  the Arabs.

Worse yet was to follow. In the next year, 637,  Jerusalem fell, after a desperate resistance, protracted  for more than twelve months. The inhabitants  refused to surrender except to the Caliph in person,  and the aged Omar came over the desert, proud to take  possession of the city which Mahomet had reckoned  the holiest site on earth save Mecca alone. The  Patriarch Sophronius was commanded to guide the  conqueror around the city, and when he saw the rude  Arab standing by the altar of the Church of the Holy  Sepulchre, cried aloud, "Now is the Abomination of  Desolation, which was spoken of by Daniel the  prophet, truly in the Holy Place." The Caliph did  not confiscate any of the great Christian sanctuaries,  but he took the site of Solomon's Temple, and erected  on it a magnificent Mosque, known ever since as the  Mosque of Omar.

The tale of the last years of Heraclius is most  melancholy. The Emperor lay at Constantinople  slowly dying of dropsy, and his eldest son Constantine  had to take the field in his stead. But the young  prince received a crushing defeat in 638, when he  attempted to recover North Syria, and next year the  Arabs, under Amrou, pressed westward across the  Isthmus of Suez, and threw themselves upon Egypt.  Two years more of fighting sufficed to conquer the  granary of the Roman Empire ; and in February,  641, when Heraclius died, the single port of Alexandria was the sole remaining possession of the  Romans in Egypt.

 End of the Sassasn Kingdom


The ten years' war which had torn Syria and Egypt  from the hands of the unfortunate Heraclius had  been even more fatal to his Eastern neighbour. The  Arabs had attacked the Persian kingdom at the same  moment that they fell on Syria : two great battles at  Kadesia [636] and Yalulah [637] sufficed to place all  Western Persia in the hands of the Moslems. King  Isdigerd, the last of the Sassanian line, raised his last  army in 641, and saw it cut to pieces at the decisive  field of Nehauend. He fled away to dwell as an  exile among the Turks, and all his kingdom as far as the borders of India became the prey of the conquerors.


Heraclius had married twice ; by his first wife,  Eudocia, he left a single son, Constantine, who should  have been his sole heir. But he had taken a second  ivife, and this wife was his own niece Martina. The  incestuous choice had provoked much scandal, and  was the one grave offence which could be brought  against Heraclius, whose life was in other respects  blameless. Martina, an ambitious and intriguing  woman, prevailed on her aged husband to make her  eldest son, Heracleonas, joint-heir with his half-brother  Constantine.

This arrangement, as might have been expected,  worked very badly. The court and army was at once  split up between the adherents of the two young  Emperors, and while the defence of the empire against  the Saracens should have been the sole care of the  East- Romans, they found themselves distracted by  fierce Court intrigues. Armed strife between the  Emperors seemed destined to break out, but after  reigning only a few months Constantine III. died.  It was rumoured far and wide that his step-mother  had poisoned him, to make the way clear for her own  son Heracleonas, who immediately proclaimed himself  sole emperor. The senate and the Byzantine popu-  lace were both highly indignant at this usurpation,  for the deceased Constantine left a young son named  Constans, who was thus excluded from the throne  to which he was the natural heir. Heracleonas had  reigned alone no more than a few weeks when the  army of the East and the mob of Constantinople  were heard demanding in angry tones that Constans  should be crowned as his uncle's colleague. Hera-  cleonas was frightened into compliance, but his  submission only saved him for a year. In the summer  of 642 the senate decreed his deposition, and he was  seized by the adherents of Constans and sent into  exile, along with his mother Martina. The victorious  faction very cruelly ordered the tongue of the mother  and the nose of the son to be slit the first instance  of that hateful Oriental practice being applied to  members of the royal house, but not the last.

Constans II

Constans II was sole emperor from 642 to 66S,  and his son and successor, Constantine IV., reigned  from 668 to 685. They were both strong, hard-  headed warrior princes, fit descendants of the gallant  Heraclius. Their main credit lies in the fact that  they fought unceasingly against the Saracen, and  preserved as a permanent possession of the empire  nearly every province that they had still remained  Roman at the death of Heraclius. During the  minority indeed of Constans IL, Alexandria ^ and  Aradus, the two last ports preserved by the Romans  in Egypt and Syria were lost. But the Saracens  advanced no further by land ; the sands of the  African desert and the passes of Taurus were destined  to hold them back for many years. The times, how-  ever, were still dangerous till the murder of the  Caliph Othman in 656, after which the outbreak of  the first civil war among the Moslems the contest  of AH and Moawiah for the Caliphate gave the  empire a respite. Moawiah, who held the lands on  the Roman frontier his rival's power lying further to  the east secured a free hand against Ali, by making  peace with Constans. He even consented to pay  him a small annual subsidy so long as the truce  should last. This agreement was invaluable to the  empire. After twenty-seven years of incessant war  the mangled realm at last obtained an interval of  repose. It was something, too, that the Saracens  were induced to pause, and saw that the extension of  their conquests was not destined to spread at once  over the whole world. When they realized that their  victories were not to go on for ever, they lost the first  keenness of the fanatical courage which had made  them so terrible.

Themes Created

Freed from the Saracen war, which had threatened  not merely to curtail, but to extinguish the empire,  Constans was at liberty to turn his attention to other  matters. It seems probable that it was at this  moment that the reorganization of the provinces of  the empire took place, which we find in existence in  the second half of the seventh century. The old  Roman names and boundaries, which had endured  since Diocletian's time, now disappear, and the  empire is found divided into new provinces with  strange denominations. They were military in theme^  origin, and each consisted of the district covered by  a large unit of soldiery what we should call an army  corps. " Theme " meant both the corps and the  district which it defended, and the corps-commander  was also the provincial governor. There were six  corps in Asia, called the Armeniac, Anatolic, Thrace-  sian, Bucellarian, Cibyrrhaeot, and Obsequian themes.  Of these the first two explain themselves, they were  the *' army of Armenia " and the " army of the East "

The Obsequian theme, quartered along the Propontis,  was so called because it was a kind of personal guard  for the Emperor and the home districts. The Thrace-  sians were the " Army of Thrace," who in the stress  of the war had been drafted across to Asia to rein-  force the Eastern troops. The Bucellarii seem to have  been corps composed of natives and barbarian auxi-  liaries mixed ; they are heard of long before Con-  stans, and he probably did no more than unite them  and localize them in a single district. The Cibyr-  rhaeot theme alone gets its name from a town, the  port of Cibyra in Pamphylia, which must have been  the original headquarters of the South-Western Army  Corps. Its commander had a fleet always in his  charge, and his troops were often employed as  marines.

The western half of the empire seems to have  had six " Themes " also ; they bear however old  and familiar names Thrace, Hellas, Thessalonica,  Ravenna, Sicily, and Africa, and their names explain  their boundaries. In both halves of the empire there  were, beside the great themes, smaller districts under  the command of military governors, who had charge  of outlying posts, such as the passes of Taurus, or the  islands of Cyprus and Sardinia. Some of these after-  wards grew into independent themes.

 Thus came to an end the old imperial system of  dividing military authority and civil jurisdiction,  which Augustus had invented and Diocletian perpetuated.  Under stress of the fearful Saracenic  invasion the civil governors disappear, and for the  future a commander chosen for his military capacity  has also to discharge civil functions.

Constans next endeavour to drive the Lombards out of Italy.  Falling on the Duchy of Benevento, he took many  towns, and even laid siege to the capital. But he  failed to take it, and passed on to Rome, which had  not seen the face of an emperor for two hundred  years. When an emperor did appear he brought no  luck, for Constans signalized his visit by taking down  the bronze tiles of the Pantheon and sending them  off to Constantinople

Constans II Assassinated

The Emperor lingered no less than five years in  the West, busied with the affairs of Italy and Africa,  till the Constantinopolitans began to fear that he  would make Rome or Syracuse his capital. But in 665  he was assassinated in a most strange manner. " As  he bathed in the baths called Daphne, Andreas his  bathing attendant smote him on the head with his soap-  box, and fled away." The blow was fatal, Constans  died, and Constantine his son reigned in his stead.

Constantine IV The Arab Invasion Greek Fire

Constantine IV, known as Pogonatus, '* the  Bearded," reigned for seventeen years, of which more  than half were spent in one long struggle with the  Saracens. Moawiah, the first of the Ommeyades, had  now made himself sole Caliph ; the civil wars of the  Arabs were now over, and once more they fell on the  empire. Constantine's reign opened disastrously, with  simultaneous attacks by the armies and fleets of  Moawiah on Africa, Sicily, and Asia Minor. But  this was only the prelude the Caliph made  ready an expedition, the like of which had n-ever yet  been undertaken by the Saracens. A great fleet and  land army started from Syria to undertake the siege  of Constantinople itself, an enterprise which the  Moslems had not yet attempted. It was headed by  the general Abderrahman, and accompanied by Yezid,  the Caliph's son and heir. The fleet beat the im-  perial navy off the sea, forced the passage of tha  Dardanelles, and took Cyzicus. Using that city as  its base, it proceeded to blockade the Bosphorus.

The great glory of Constantine IV. is that he with-  stood, defeated, and drove away the mighty armament of Moawiah. For four years the investment of.  Constantinople lingered on, and the stubborn, resis-  tance of the garrison seemed unable to do more than  slave off the evil day. But the happy invention of  fire-tubes for squirting inflammable liquids (probably  the famous " Greek-fire " of which we first hear at  this time), gave the Emperor's fleet the superiority in  a decisive naval battle. At the same time a great  victory was won on land and thirty thousand Arabs  slain. Abderrahman had fallen during the siege,  and his successors had to lead back the mere wrecks  of a fleet and army to the disheartened Caliph

It is a thousand pities that the details of this, the  second great siege of Constantinople, are not better  known. But there is no good contemporary historian  to give us the desired information. If he had but  met with his " sacred bard," Constantine IV. might  have gone down to posterity in company with Hera-  clius and Leo the Isaurian, as the third great hero of  the East-Roman Empire.

The year after the raising of the great siege, Moa-  wiah sued for peace, restored all his conquests, and  offered a huge war indemnity, promising to pay  3000 lbs. of gold per annum for thirty years. The  report of the triumph of Constantine went all over  the world, and ambassadors came even from the  distant Franks and Khazars to congratulate him on  the victory which had saved Eastern Christendom  from the Arab.

While Constantine was defending his capital from  the Eastern enemy, the wild tribes of his northern  border took the opportunity of swooping down on  the European provinces, whose troops had been drawn  off to resist the Arabs, The Slavs came down from  the inland, and laid siege for two years to Thessa-  lonica, which was only relieved from their attacks  when Constantine had finished his war with Moawiah:  But a far more dangerous attack was made by  another enemy in the eastern part of the Balkan  Peninsula. The Bulgarians, a nomad tribe of Finnish  blood, w^ho dwelt in the region of the Pruth and  Dniester, came over the Danube, subdued the Slavs  of Moesia, and settled between the Danube and the  Eastern Balkans, where they have left their name till  this day. They united the scattered Slavonic tribes  of the region into a single strong state, and the new  Bulgarian kingdom was long destined to be a trouble-  some neighbour to the empire. The date 679 counts  as the first year of the reign of Isperich first king of  Bulgaria. Constantine IV. was too exhausted by his  long war with Moawiah to make any serious attempt  to drive the Bulgarians back over the Danube, and  acquiesced in the new settlement.

The last six years of Constantine's reign were spent  in peace. The only notable event that took place in  them was the meeting at Constantinople of the Sixth  Oecumenical Council in 680-1. At this Synod, the  doctrine of the Monothelites, who attributed but one  will to Our Lord, was solemnly condemned by the  united Churches of the East and West. The holders  of Monothelite doctrines, dead and alive, were  solemnly anathematised, among them Pope Honorius  of Rome, who in a previous generation had consented  to the heresy.   Constantine IV. died in 685, before he had reached  his thirty sixth year, leaving his throne to his eldest  son Justinian, a lad of sixteen.

Justinian II 

Justinian II, the last of the house of Heraclius,  was a sovereign of a different type from any emperor  that we have yet encountered in the annals of the  Eastern Empire. He was a bold, reckless, callous,  and selfish young man, with a firm determination to  assert his own individuality and have his own way,  he was, in short, of the stuff of which tyrants are  made. Justinian was but seventeen when he came to  the throne, but he soon showed that he intended to  rule the empire after his own good pleasure long  before he had begun to learn the lessons of statecraft

Ere he had reached his twenty-first year Justinian  had plunged into war with the Bulgarians. He  attacked them suddenly, inflicted several defeats on  their king, and took no less than thirty thousand  prisoners, whom he sent over to Asia, and forced to  enlist in the army of Armenia. He next picked a  quarrel with the Saracen Caliph on the most frivolous  grounds. The annual tribute due by the treaty of 679  had hitherto been paid in Roman solidly but in 692  Abdalmalik tendered it in new gold coins of his own  mintage, bearing verses of the Koran. Justinian refused to receive them, and declared war

His second venture in the field was disastrous: his  unwilling recruits from Bulgaria deserted to the  enemy, when he met the Saracens at Sebastopolis in  Cilicia, and the Roman army was routed with great  slaughter. The two subsequent campaigns were  equally unsuccessful, and the troops of the Caliph  harried Cappadocia far and wide.

Justinian's wars depleted his treasury ; yet he per-  sisted in plunging into expensive schemes of building  at the same time, and was driven to collect money  by the most reckless extortion. He employed two  unscrupulous ministers, The^otus, the accountant  general an ex-abbot who had deserted his monastery   and the eunuch Stephanus, the keeper of the privy  purse. These men were to Justinian what Ralph  Flambard was to William Rufus, or Empson and  Dudley to Henry VH : they raised him funds by  flagrant extortion and illegal stretching of the law.  Both were violent and cruel : Theodotus is said to  have hung recalcitrant tax-payers up by ropes above  smoky fires till they were nearly stifled. Stephanus  thrashed and stoned every one who fell into his hands ;  he is reported to have actually administered a  whipping to the empress-dowager during the absence  of her son, and Justinian did not punish him when he  returned.   While the emperor's financial expedients were  making him hated by the moneyed classes, he was  rendering himself no less unpopular in the army.


After his ill-success in the Saracen war, he began to  execute or imprison his officers, and to decimate his  beaten troops : to be employed by him in high com-  mand was almost as dangerous as it was to be  appointed a general-in- chief during the dictatorship  of Robespierre.

In 695 the cup of Justinian's iniquities was full.  An officer named Leontius being appointed, to his  great dismay, general of the " theme " of Hellas, was  about to set out to assume his command. As he  parted from his friends he exclaimed that his days  were numbered, and that he should be expecting the  order for his execution to arrive at any moment.  Then a certain monk named Paul stood forth, and  bade him save himself by a bold stroke ; if he would  aim a blow at Justinian he would find the people  and the army ready to follow him.

Leontius took the monk's counsel, and rushing to  the state prison, at the head of a few friends, broke it  open and liberated some hundreds of political  prisoners. A mob joined him, he seized the  Cathedral of St Sophia, and then marched on the  palace. No one would fight for Justinian, who was  caught and brought before the rebel leader in com-  pany with his two odious ministers. Leontius bade  his nose be slit, and banished him to Cherson. Theo-  dotus and Stephanus he handed over to the mob, who  dragged them round the city and burnt them alive.


Twenty years of anarchy followed the usurpation of  Leontius. The new emperor was not a man of  capacity, and had been driven into rebellion by his  fears rather than his ambition. He held the throne  barely three years, amid constant revolts at home and  defeats abroad. The Asiatic frontier was ravaged by  the armies of Abdalmalik, and at the same time a  great disaster befel the western half of the empire.  A Saracen army from Egypt forced its way into Africa,  where the Romans had still maintained themselves by  hard fighting while the emperors of the house of  Heraclius reigned. They reduced all its fortresses  one after the other, and finally took Carthage in 697   a hundred and sixty-five years after it had been  restored to the empire by Belisarius.


The larger part of the army of Africa escaped by  sea from Carthage when the city fell. The officers  in command sailed for Constantinople, and during  their voyage plotted to dethrone Leontius. They  enlisted in their scheme Tiberius Apsimarus, who  commanded the imperial fleet in the Aegean, and pro-  claimed him emperor when he joined them with his  galleys. The troops of Leontius betrayed the gates  of the capital to the followers of the rebel admiral,  and Apsimarus seized Constantinople. He pro-  claimed himself emperor by the title of Tiberius, third  of that name, and condemned his captive rival to the  same fate that he himself had inflicted on Justinian  II. Accordingly the nose of Leontius was slit, and  he was placed in confinement in a monastery.

Tiberius III

Tiberius III. was more fortunate in his reign than  his predecessor : his troops gained several victories  over the Saracens, recovered the frontier districts  which Justinian II. and Leontius had lost, and even  invaded Northern Syria. But these successes did not  save Tiberius from suffering the same doom which  had fallen on Justinian and Leontius. The people  and army were out of hand, the ephemeral emperor  could count on no loyalty, and any shock was sufficient  to upset his precarious throne.   We must now turn to the banished Justinian, who  had been sent into exile with his nose mutilated. He  had been transported to Cherson, the Greek town in  the Crimea, close to the modern Sebastopol, which  formed the northernmost outpost of civilization, and  enjoyed municipal liberty under the suzerainty of the  empire. Justinian displayed in his day of adversity  a degree of capacity which astonished his con-  temporaries. He fled from Cherson and took refuge  with the Khan of the Khazars, the Tartar tribe who  dwelt east of the Sea of Azof. With this prince the  exile so ingratiated himself that he received in  marriage his sister, who was baptized and christened  Theodora.

But Tiberius III. sent great sums of  money to the Khazar to induce him to surrender  Justinian, and the treacherous barbarian determined  to accept the bribe, and sent secret orders to two of  his officers to seize his brother-in-law. The emperor  learnt of the plot through his wife, and saved himself  by the bold expedient of going at once to one of the  two Khazar chiefs and asking for a secret interview.  When they were alone he fell on him and strangled  him, and then calling on the second Khazar served  him in the same fashion, before the Khan's orders  had been divulged to any one.

This gave him time to escape, and he fled in a  fishing boat out into the Euxine with a few friends  and servants who had followed him into exile. While  they were out at sea a storm arose, and the boat  began to fill. One of his companions cried to  Justinian to make his peace with God, and pardon  his enemies ere he died. But the Emperor's stern  soul was not bent by the tempest. " May God drown  me here," he answered, " if 1 spare a single one of my  enemies if ever I get to land ! " The boat weathered  the storm, and Justinian survived to carry out his  cruel oath. He came ashore in the land of the  Bulgarians, and soon won favour with their king  Terbel, who wanted a good excuse for invading the


empire, and found it in the pretence of supporting  the exiled monarch. With a Bulgarian army at his  back Justinian appeared before Constantinople, and  obtained an entrance af night near the gate of  Blachernae. There was no fighting, for the adherents  of Tiberius were as unready to strike a blow for their  master as the followers of Leontius had been [705  A.D.]

So Justinian recovered his throne without fighting,  for the people had by this time half forgotten his  tyranny, and regretted the rule of the house of  Heraclius. But they were soon to find out that they  had erred in submitting to the exile, and should have  resisted him at all hazards. Justinian came back in  a relentless mood, bent on nothing but revenging his  mutilated nose and his ten years of exile. His first  act was to send for the two usurpers who had sat  on his throne : Leontius was brought out from his  monastery, and Tiberius caught as he tried to flee  into Asia. Justinian had them led round the city in  chains, and then bound them side by side before his  throne in the Cathisma, the imperial box at "the  Hippodrome. There he sat in state, using their pros-  trate bodies as a footstool, while his adherents chanted  the verse from the ninety-first Psalm, " Thou shalt  tread on the lion and asp : the young lion and dragon  shalt thou trample under thy feet." The allusion was  to the names of the usurpers, the Lion and Asp being  Leontius and Apsimarus !

After this strange exhibition the two ex-emperors  were beheaded. Their execution began a reign of  terror, for Justinian had his oath to keep, and was set  on wreaking vengeance on every one who had been  concerned in his deposition. He hanged all the chief  officers and courtiers of Leontius, and put out the  eyes of the patriarch who had crowned him. Then  he set to work to hunt out meaner victims : many  prominent citizens of Constantinople were sown up in  sacks and drowned in the Bosphorus. Soldiers were  picked out by the dozen and beheaded. A special  expedition was sent by sea to sack Cherson, the city  of the Emperor's exile, because he had a grudge  against its citizens. The chief men were caught and  sent to the capital, where Justinian had them bound  to spits and roasted.

These atrocities were mere samples of the general  conduct of Justinian. In a few years he had made  himself so much detested that it might be said that  he had been comparatively popular in the days of his  first reign.   The end came into 711, when a general named  Philippicus took arms, and seized Constantinople  while Justinian was absent at Sinope. The army of  the tyrant laid down their arms when Philippicus  approached, and he was led forth and beheaded  without further delay an end too good for such a  monster. The conqueror also sought out and slew  his little son Tiberius, whom the sister of the Khan  of the Khazars had borne to him during his exile.  So ended the house of Heraclius, after it had sat for  five generations and one hundred and one years on  the throne of Constantinople.

The six years which followed were purely anarchical.  Everything in the army and the state  was completely disorganized and out of gear. It  required a hero to restore the machinery of govern-  ment and evolve order out of chaos. But the hero  was not at once forthcoming, and the confusion went  on increasing.

To replace Justinian by Philippiciis was only to  substitute King Log for King Stork. The new  emperor was a mere man of pleasure, and spent his  time in personal enjoyment, letting affairs of state  slide on as best they might. In less than two years  he was upset by a conspiracy which placed on the  throne Artemius Anastasius, his own chief secretary.  Philippicus was blinded, and compelled to exchange  the pleasures of the palace for the rigours of a  monastery. But the Court intrigue which dethroned  Philippicus did not please the army, and within two  years Anastasius was overthrown by the soldiers of  the Obsequian theme, who gave the imperial crown  to Theodosius of Adrammytium, a respectable but  obscure commissioner of taxes. More merciful than  any of his ephemeral predecessors, Theodosiojs III. dis-  missed Anastasius unharmed, after compelling him to  take holy orders,

Meanwhile the organization of the empire was  visibly breaking up. " The affairs both of the realm  and the city were neglected and decaying, civil  education was disappearing, and military discipline  dissolved." The Bulgarian and Saracen commenced  once more to ravage the frontier provinces, and every  year their ravages penetrated further inland. The

The Caliph Invades

Caliph Welid was so impressed with the opportunity  offered to him, that he commenced to equip a great  armament in the ports of Syria with the express pur-  pose of laying siege to Constantinople. No one  hindered him, for the army raised to serve against  him turned aside to engage in the civil war between  Anastasius and Theodosius. The landmarks of the  Saracens' conquests by land are found in the falls of  the great cities of Tyana [710], Amasia [712], and  Antioch-in-Pisidia [713]. They had penetrated into  Phrygia by 716, and were besieging the fortress of  Amorium with every expectation of success, when at  last there appeared the man who was destined to  save the East- Roman Empire from a premature dis-  memberment.

This was Leo the Isaurian, one of the few military  officers who had made a great reputation amid the  fearful disasters of the last ten years.


Phocas (r.602-610)


 Isaurian Dynasty ( 717 - 866 )