empire heraclius emperor armies
IIERACLIUS (c. 575-611), emperor of the East, was born in Cappadocia about 575. He was brought into notice by his heading a successful revolt against the emperor Phocas in 610, when he usurped the usurper's throne. At that period the eastern provinces of the empire were being ravaged by the triumphant armies of Chosroes (Khosrn) which in the first twelve years of Heraclius's reign continued their unresisted progress to the Bosphorus and the Nile, pillaging Asia Minor and Syria, and reducing Constantinople to the utmost distress by cutting off its Egyptian corn supplies. In 618 the public distributions of grain, which had been carried on since Constantine had instituted them as a bribe to attract citizens to his new city in 330, were suspended ; and the bankrupt emperor was hardly dissuaded by the almost imperative prayers of his people from quitting his capital in shame and fear for Carthage. Taking courage, Heraclius appears to have set himself to the task of reorganizing both state and army, a labour which bad probably occupied him since his accession. Ile was menaced on the west by the fierce tribe of the Avars, who were casting longing eyes on the riches of the imperial city ; but in 620 he succeeded in making a treaty with them, and interposed a human barrier against their further encroachments by inviting the Serbs and Croats to settle in the intervening regions, which they have never since left. In 621 Heraclius led an army into camp in Asia Minor, and devoted himself with ardour to the drilling of his inexperienced troops. Every military manmuvre, every useful exercise and even hardship, was ordered and shared by the emperor. He kindled the enthusiasm of his soldiers by his stirring words, and excited their admiration and affection by his deeds. Next year he led his forces against Persia, and within five years, in a series of brilliant campaigns that place him side by side_ with the greatest generals of the world, he overthrew the pride of that empire, drove its monarch a fugitive from his throne, and enriched his exulting troops with untold wealth. Siroes, the son of Chosroes, revolting against his unhappy father, put Lim to death in 628, and speedily made a peace with Heraclius, according to which the Persian empire retired to its former limits, prisoners were mutually given up, and the true cross, carried from Jerusalem by the Persians, was restored to Christian hands. Heraclius returned in triumph to Constantinople, which had in his absence two years before successfully repulsed a combined assault by the Avars and Persians • and in 629 he proceeded to Jerusalem to restore solemnly the holy relic to its ancient place. But he was not long to enjoy the peaceful fruits of victory. A mighty power had been steadily growing up in the hot sands of Arabia, and was now coming to measure its strength with that of the Roman empire. In 632 the Mahometans invaded Syria ; and, over_ throwing the armies sent to oppose them, in six years they made themselves masters of the country. Egypt next fell before Islam, and in 640 that fair province of the empire was Mahometan. The people of Asia Minor alone successfully resisted the advancing Saracens. Heraclius seems meanwhile to have sunk into a sort of lethargy, as though his efforts in-Persia had completely exhausted Lim. While his generals and armies were being put to pieces be was engaged. at Constantinople, whither lie had retreated in 634-, with speculative theological questions. In 638 his .Eethesis appeared, which, tinctured with the heresy of Monothelism, was probably drawn up by the patriarch Sergius. The energy of his earlier life never returned, and in 641 he sank under a long-continued disease, He had been twice married; the second time to his niece Martina, an illicit union which he compelled the reluctant Scrgius to celebrate. His eldest son, Heraclius, succeeded Lim, taking the title of Constantine III.
The character of Heraclius is a curious riddle, which it is not easy to solve. Personally brave, and possessed of tried ability as a diplomatist and a general, in his latter years 11(3 passively allowed his empire to fall to pieces before his eyes, - presenting in the periods of his life a contrast that would almost seem to argue the possession of not merely contrary but contradictory qualities. But we must not forget that our information regarding the inner details of his latter reign is very imperfect, and that possibly there may be some reason, though hardly an excuse, for his conduct. It would have been better for his fame if be had died immediately after his Persian campaigns.
See Gibbon's Decline and Fall of the 12oman, Empire ; Le Bean's Histoire du Bets-Empire ; and the works of George of Pisidia, (cf. vol. x. p. 429).