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

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Phocas (r.602-610)


For the first time since Constantinople had become the seat of empire the throne had been won by armed rebellion and the murder of the legitimate ruler.Phocas was a mere brutal soldier cruel, ignorant, suspicious, and reckless, and in his incapable hands the empire began to fall to pieces with alarming rapidity. He opened his reign with a series of cruel executions of his predecessor's friends, and from that moment his deeds of bloodshed never ceased he burnt alive the able general Narses,^ who had won many laurels in the last Persian war.


Plot after plot was formed in the capital against Phocas, but he succeeded in putting them all down, and slew the conspirators with fearful tortures.Africa was the only portion of the Roman Empire which in the reign of Phocas was suffering neither from civil strife nor foreign invasion. It was well governed by the aged exarch Heraclius, who was so well liked in the province that the emperor had not dared to depose him. Urged by desperate entreaties from all parties in Constantinople to strike a blow against the tyrant, and deliver the empire from the yoke of a monster, Heraclius at last consented. He quietly got ready a fleet, which he placed under the orders of his son, who bore the same name as himself.


This he dispatched against Constantinople, while at the same time his nephew Nicetas led a large body of horse along the African shore to invade Egypt.When Heraclius the younger arrived with his fleet at the Dardanelles, all the prominent citizens of Constantinople fled secretly to take refuge with him. As he neared the capital the troops of Phocas burst into mutiny : the tyrant's fleet was scattered after a slight engagement^ and the city threw open its gates. Phocas was seized in the palace by an official whom he had cruelly wronged, and brought aboard the galley of the conqueror. " Is it thus," said Heraclius, "that you have governed the empire . " "Will you govern it any better ? " sneered the desperate usurper. Heraclius spurned him away with his foot, and the sailors hewed him to pieces on the deck.



Justinian Dynasty (518 - 602)


Heraclian Dynasty ( 610 - 711 )