Heraclius Augustus also known as Flavius Heraclius Augustus ruled the Byzantine Empire in the early 7th century. He was instrumental in making Greek the official language of the Byzantine Empire.
During the early years of his reign Heraclius Augustus was credited with saving the Eastern Roman Empire from collapsing. Throughout his time as emperor he was entangled with numerous wars against the Persians and Arab Caliphate.
Heraclius Augustus was born in 575 C.E. in present-day Turkey to Heraclius the Elder. His father played an important role in the army of Emperor Maurice.
Heraclius the Elder was appointed the Exarch of Africa by Emperor Maurice after the defeat of the Sassanid army in 590 C.E. His mother was Epiphania. Both of his parents were of Armenian descent. Heraclius Augustus received training in the military arts at a young age.
While Heraclius Augustus was in his middle 20s, Phocas over threw Emperor Maurice to become the Emperor of the Byzantine Empire. Heraclius Augustus and his father pledged allegiance to the new Emperor Phocas.
In 608 C.E. both individuals decided not to endorse Emperor Phocas. Along with a cousin named Nicetas they formed a military campaign against Emperor Phocas.
At this time the Byzantine Empire was on the verge of collapse. The military campaign included Nicetas attacking Egypt over land in 609 C.E. while Heraclius sailed to fight Emperor Phocas army in Sicily and Cyprus.
When Heraclius reached Constantinople he contacted leading citizens to help dispose of the aristocrats that supported Emperor Phocas.
Heraclius Augustus would then be aided by Emperor Phocas’s son-in-law who was in control of the Excubitors, an elite Imperial guard unit charged with protecting Emperor Phocas and Constantinople. After entering the city without much resistance Heraclius Augustus executed Phocas.
Heraclius Augustus was crowned Emperor of the Byzantine Empire in 610 C.E. at the Chapel of St. Stephen. He also married his first wife named Eudokia.
She would die two years later and Heraclius Augustus would then marry his niece Martina in 613 C.E. Together they would have nine children throughout their marriage.
During his Reign as Emperor
Heraclius Augustus had many problems from the beginning of his reign. The biggest problem was the ongoing Byzantine-Sassanid War which started in 602 C.E.
The Persian Empire had already invaded Syria, Palestine, Mesopotamia, and Egypt. In 617 C.E. the Persians had forged their way to the lands outside of Constantinople.
Heraclius Augustus paid a large tribute to the Persians for peace. By 622 C.E. Heraclius Augustus had rearmed his men and marched against the Persians. He first took over Armenia and then areas of the Caucus. But during this time Heraclius lost the city of Cartagena to the Visigoths.
Heraclius Augustus’s most famous victory against the Persians came in 627 C.E. at the Battle of Nineveh. He was instrumental in returning The True Cross to Jerusalem in 629 C.E. His armies had crushed the Persians but the victories also made the Eastern Roman Empire very weak.
During 629 C.E. many of the nomadic Arab tribes began to unify under Islamic Prophet Muhammed. By 630 C.E. the Islamic army had forged their way into numerous Byzantine areas.
The Islamic army conquered large areas of land in the eastern portion of the empire and in 636 C.E. defeated the Byzantines at the Battle of Yarmouk. By 641 C.E. the Islamic army had gained territories in Syria, Armenia, Egypt, and Palestine.
Heraclius Augustus died in 641 C.E. of a prostate problem. He was succeeded by two of his sons, Constantine III and Heraklonas.
During the reign of Heraclius Augustus, he was able to reform the government. He was also able to reform the military. Heraclius Augustus formed what is called thema which gave land to individuals for hereditary military service.
Each individual was placed under the command of a military governor. This allowed the Byzantine Empire’s army existence for hundreds of years in the future.
He also tried to bring religious harmony but failed many times. His greatest religious achievement was to return The True Cross back to Jerusalem.
Important facts about Heraclius Augustus
- Heraclius Augustus was born in 575 C.E. to Armenia parents. His father was named Heraclius the Elder and was the Exarch of Africa.
- He was trained in military tactics at a young age.
- Heraclius Augustus began his military career under Emperor Maurice with his father.
- He revolted against Emperor Phocas who had disposed of Maurice.
- Heraclius Augustus killed Emperor Phocas and was crowned Emperor of the Eastern Roman Empire in 610 C.E.
- He was instrumental in defeating the Persians and Islamic armies while enlarging the Byzantine Empire.
- Heraclius Augustus formed themas which gave land to individuals for hereditary military service.
- He returned The True Cross to Jerusalem in 629 C.E.
- What position in the Roman Empire did his father Heraclius the Elder hold?
Exarch of Africa
- What important Christian relic did Heraclius Augustus return to Jerusalem?
The True Cross
- What did Heraclius Augustus create to help keep a strong army of hereditary soldiers?
- What former Emperor did Heraclius Augustus execute to assume the throne?
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