Short URL for this page:

[image ALT: Much of my site will be useless to you if you've got the images turned off!]
Bill Thayer

[image ALT: Cliccare qui per una pagina di aiuto in Italiano.]

[Link to a series of help pages]
[Link to the next level up]
[Link to my homepage]

[image ALT: link to previous chapter]
Book VI
Chapter 11

This webpage reproduces a chapter of
Italy and Her Invaders

Thomas Hodgkin

2nd edition
Oxford University Press

The text, and illustrations except as noted,
are in the public domain.

This page has been carefully proofread
and I believe it to be free of errors.
If you find a mistake though,
please let me know!


[image ALT: link to next chapter]
Book VII
Chapter 2, init.
(I: Trient)

Book VII (beginning)

Vol. VI
Chapter I

The Seventh Century

The century whose early years witnessed the death of Pope Gregory the Great, and the establishment of something like peaceful relations between the Empire and the Lombards in Italy, was one of a strangely mingled character. As far as Western Europe was concerned — perhaps we might say as far as the Aryan races were concerned — it was, on the whole, monotonous, uneventful, unimportant; but the changes wrought during its course in the regions of the East, the immense spiritual revolution which it witnessed among the Semitic peoples, and which has profoundly modified the condition of a quarter of the human race at the present day, — these characteristics entitle the seventh century to a place in the very foremost rank of the great epochs of the world's history.

Let us briefly survey the events which were happening in the rest of Europe and round the Mediterranean  p2 Sea during the hundred years which now lie before us.

The Seventh Century in England. In England, the great achievement of Gregory — the introduction of Christianity — was carried triumphantly forward. Edwin of Deira, in his youth the hunted outlaw, in his manhood the king of Northumbria, and the mightiest in all the land of Britain, wrought with brain and sword for the supremacy of the faith which he had learned from Paulinus. Benedict Biscop introduced into the barbarous land the architecture and the mosaics of Italy. The statesman-archbishop Wilfrid of York won for Rome that victory over the usages and teaching of Iona which even the memory of the saintly Aidan was unable long to postpone. When the century closed, the body of St. Cuthbert, monk and bishop, had been for thirteen years lying in its first resting-place at Lindisfarne; and the chief herald of his fame, that Baeda who was to be known by the title of Venerable, was still a young deacon of twenty-seven years of age. The great Northumbrian kingdom to which they both belonged, and of which the seventh century had beheld the glory, was already slowly falling into ruins.

In France. In France the chief characteristic of the century was the decay of the Merovingian race, and the ever-increasing importance of the Mayors of the Palace. The Frankish kingdoms were indeed for a few years reunited under Chlotochar II, the son of Fredegundis, and both that king himself and his son Dagobert (628‑638) showed some traces of the old daemonic energy which had made the first Merovingians terrible, if not beloved. But the realm was soon again parted asunder, the 'Germany' and the 'France' of a future  p3 day already beginning to reveal themselves, as Austrasia on the one hand, and Neustria with Burgundy on the other. The kings of this divided realm, a wearisome succession of Chilperics and Childeberts and Theodorics, scarcely exhibit even a vice which can help us to distinguish them from one another. They are already 'rois fainéants,' for the possession of whose persons rival Mayors of the Palace fight and conspire, but who have no self-determining character of their own.

Of these Mayors of the Palace we, of course, watch with most interest the 'Arnulfings,' who will one day be known as the 'Karlings,' the descendants of two Austrasian grandees, Pippin,​1 and Arnulf, bishop of Metz, whose combined desertion (as will be hereafter told) delivered over Brunechildis and her great-grandchildren into the hands of her hereditary enemy. But owing to the premature clutch at the name as well as the reality of the kingly power, made by Grimwald, son of Pippin (656), the fortunes of the Arnulfings were for a time during the latter part of the century under a cloud, and other figures fill the confused picture. Ebroin, Mayor of the Palace for the three kingdoms, governs with a strong and grasping hand, is imprisoned, emerges from confinement, gets hold of one of the royal puppets, and again rules in his name. A bewildering succession of Mayors of the Palace, for Neustria, for Austrasia, even for a mere section of Austrasia, such as Champagne, pass before us, and civil war and assassination supply the staple of the dreary annals of the chronicler.

At length (689) the waters of Chaos begin to subside. The Arnulfings reappear on the scene. Pippin, second  p4 of the name,​2 grandson of Arnulf on the paternal, of the first Pippin on the maternal side, becomes Mayor of the Palace of all the three kingdoms; and, in the strong hands of that able general and administrator, the Frankish realm enjoys some degree of rest from tumult, and peace from external enemies when the seventh century closes.

Already we have to note in these Arnulfing statesmen, sprung as they were from the loins of a man who in later life became a bishop, and even a monk, a strong tendency to link their cause with that of the Church, perhaps to oppose to the ghastly licentiousness of the later Merovingian kings something of the higher standard of morality and religion, for which the barbarised Church of the Franks was dimly and fitfully striving.

In Spain. In Spain the seventh century was a period of dreary and scarce interrupted decline. The Visigothic nation which had, under Recared (589), solemnly renounced the Arian heresy, now rushed into the other extreme of narrowest and most bigoted orthodoxy. The king was an elected ruler, who never succeeded in founding a dynasty that lasted for more than two generations. The nobles, turbulent and rapacious, were perpetually conspiring against their king, or oppressing their poorer neighbours. The bishops were now the most powerful order in the state: their assemblies, the councils of Toledo, of which fourteen were held during the seventh century, were the real Parliaments of the realm. There was a scanty infusion of the lay nobility in these councils, but the predominant voice belonged to the  p5 ecclesiastics, whose influence was seen in the ever sterner and more cruel legislation directed against the unhappy Jews (so long the faithful clients of the Arian Goths), and in the sickening adulation with which usurper after usurper, if only successful and subservient to the Church, was addressed by the Council, and assured of the Divine favour and protection. Every symptom showed that the Visigothic kingdom in Spain was 'rotten before it was ripe.' Eleven years after the seventh century had closed, judgment was pronounced upon the earth-cumbering monarchy. 'The Moors,' that is, the Saracen conquerors of Africa, crossed the straits of Gibraltar: and in one victorious battle brought the whole fabric of the Gothic state to the dust. A slender remnant of the nation fled for shelter to the mountain fastnesses of the Asturias, but the great mass of the Spanish population bowed beneath the Moorish yoke, and repeated the prayer of Islam when the voice of the muezzin was heard from the minaret. The work of the Scipios was undone, and Spain, lost to the Aryan world, had once more a Semite lord. Saracen conquests in Africa. The same fate had previously overtaken Egypt, Cyrene, and Carthage. These fair provinces, once the granary of Rome, were now for ever lost to her Empire, and only in our own century have the civilisation and religion of Europe been able to exert an influence, and that but a superficial influence, on the great Orientalised, Mohammedanised regions of Northern Africa.

Events in Constantinople. The rapid conquests of the Saracens along the Southern shore of the Mediterranean invite us to give a brief glance at the events which had meanwhile been occurring at Constantinople and in the regions of the East. The seventh century, in the story of the Roman  p6 Empire, must be remembered as the period of the dynasty of Heraclius.

Phocas, 602‑610. We left Phocas, the murderer of Maurice, wearing the Imperial diadem, and receiving the shameful congratulations of Pope Gregory. For eight years this coarse and brutal soldier filled the highest place in the civilised world. We are bound to look with some distrust on the record of the crimes of a fallen sovereign when written by the servants of a hostile dynasty; but after making every deduction on this score we cannot doubt that Phocas was a cruel and jealous tyrant, as well as an utterly incapable ruler, and that the Empire passed through one of its deepest gulfs of humiliation while he was presiding over its destinies.

Expedition of the young Heraclius, 610. At length deliverance for Constantinople came from distant Carthage, still a member of the great 'Roman Republic,' though not long to remain in that condition. Heraclius, Exarch of Africa, after two years of preparation, sent two armaments forth for the delivery of the Empire. One, embarked on high, castle-like ships, went by sea; the other, consisting chiefly of infantry, assembled at Alexandria, and went by land. Each was under the command of a young general; the navy under Heraclius, junior, the Exarch's son, — the land force under his nephew Nicetas; and it was understood that the diadem was to be worn by him who first arrived at Constantinople. The winds were favourable to the sailors, and in this race for Empire the young Heraclius won. The servants of the hated Phocas made but a feeble and faint-hearted resistance. Heraclius tarried for a while at Abydos, where a host of exiles driven into banishment by the tyrant gathered round him. The brother of Phocas, to whom the custody of  p7 the long walls had been committed, fled with precipitation, and soon Heraclius, with his castled ships, was anchored in the harbour of St. Sophia. A short battle, perhaps a naval engagement, followed. The African troops won a complete victory, Capture and execution of Phocas. and Phocas, deserted by all his followers, was brought into the presence of his conqueror with his arms tied behind his back. According to the well-known story a short dialogue took place between them. Heraclius said, 'Is it thus, oh! miserable man, that you have governed the Empire?' Phocas answered, 'May you be able to govern it better!'​3 Heraclius, seated on his curule chair, kicked the fallen tyrant, and ordered him to be 'cut up like dogs' meat.' His body, and those of his brother and two of his most hated ministers, were then burned in a place called the Bull.

The young Heraclius, as liberator of the Empire, has something about him which attracts our sympathy and admiration; but when we are reading his story, as told by John of Antioch or the monk chronicler Theophanes, it is impossible not to feel how thoroughly barbarised were all, even the best men of this epoch of the Empire. The same thought strikes us when we look upon the grotesquely barbarous coins of Heraclius. The Greek Republics had had their young and chivalrous tyrannicides, their Aristogeitons and their Timoleons; but great as is the descent from the glorious stater of Rhodes or Cyzicus to the strange aureus of Heraclius, so great is the fall from the tragic beauty of the deeds of the Greek tyrannicides to the coarse brutality of the murderers of Phocas.

 p8  Heraclius Emperor, 601‑641. It was indeed at a perilous and difficult crisis the Heraclius seized the helm of the state. The Avars (who about this time made a terrible raid into Italy, almost obliterating Friuli from the list of Lombard duchies) were now at the height of their power, and were able to roam over Thrace unchecked right up to the long wall of Anastasius. Persian War. On the other hand the Persian king Chosroes, grandson of the great Nushirvan, under pretence of avenging the death of his benefactor Maurice (who had won for him the throne), had not only overrun Syria, but had sent a victorious army through the heart of Asia Minor, to encamp finally at Chalcedon, within sight of Constantinople. Thus the Roman Empire, though still owning in theory the fairest part of three continents, was in danger of seeing itself confined within the narrow limits of the capital. The overthrow of Phocas and consequent change of dynasty at Constantinople did not arrest the Persian career of conquest. The overtures for peace made by Heraclius resulted only in an insulting answer from 'the noblest of the gods, the king and master of the whole earth, Chosroes, to Heraclius, his vile and insensate slave.' Syria was again overrun, Egypt was turned into a Persian province, the army of the Persians was again seen encamped at Chalcedon. None of the Persian triumphs, not even the conquest of Egypt (which involved the loss of the chief cornº supplies of Constantinople), affected either Emperor or people so profoundly as the capture of Jerusalem, and, with it, of that identical Holy Cross which Helena believed herself to have discovered three centuries before, and which had given its name to so many churches in Italy and in every province of the Empire. Nevertheless, for twelve  p9 years Heraclius seemed to be sunk in lethargy, and to endure with patience the insolence of the Persians. It is probable that he was really during this time consolidating his power, disciplining his forces, and persuading the factious nobles of the state to acquiesce in his assuming something like an ancient dictator­ship for the salvation of the Republic.4

At length, in 622, a fateful year for Asia and the world, Heraclius, having completed his preparations, and having coaxed the Chagan of the Avars into temporary good humour, set forth on the first of his great Persian campaigns. Asiatic campaigns of Heraclius, 622‑628. These campaigns were six in number, and presented some of the strangest vicissitudes recorded in history; but through all, the untiring patience, the resourceful general­ship, the unfaltering courage of Heraclius, revealed themselves, and once again, as eleven hundred years before, the disciplined armies of Greece proved themselves mightier than the servile hordes of Persia.

Heraclius, after penitential exercises and in reliance on the virtue of a heavenly picture of the Virgin, set sail from Constantinople on the day after Easter, and voyaged through the Archipelago, and along the southern coast of Asia Minor till her reached the shores of Cilicia and the neighbourhood of Issus, already memorable for one great victory of Hellas over Iran. From thence he plunged into the defiles of Taurus, succeeded by a series of brilliant manoeuvres in utterly  p10 baffling the Persian generals, and at length won a decisive victory in the highlands of Cappadocia. He was thus encamped upon the line of communication between the Persian king and his generals at Chalcedon, hoping doubtless to compel the retreat of the latter. But for some years the Persian standards were still visible at Chalcedon, and once, half way through the war, Constantinople was straitly besieged by the combined forces of Persians and Avars. But not all their endeavours could recall Heraclius from his career of conquest, nor force the Roman mastiff to relinquish his hold of the Persian leopard. At one time he would be wintering in the passes of the Caucasus, forming a network of alliances with the rough tribes of Colchis and Albania. Then he would descend into Media, lay waste the plains of Azerbijan, and avenge the desecration of Jerusalem by burning the birthplace of Zoroaster. Then would follow a campaign by the upper waters of the Euphrates, or among the difficult ranges of Taurus, and in almost all of these campaigns victory followed the Roman eagles, and the Persian generals, serving a suspicious and unreasonable master, grew more and more disheartened and bewildered by the strategy of their foe. At length a decisive victory within sight of Nineveh, followed by the capture and spoliation of the royal palace of Dastagherd, completed the ruin of the Persian king. The long-stifled rage of his subjects broke forth against a tyrant who was safe only while he was presumed to be irresistible. Chosroes fled: his son Siroes, whom he had sought to exclude from the succession to the throne, conspired against him; eighteen of his other sons were slain before his eyes, and he himself perished  p11 miserably in the Tower of Oblivion, to which he had been consigned by his unnatural offspring. Heraclius had little to do but to look on at the death-throes of the Persian kingdom. He was able to dictate his own terms, which were just and moderate: the restoration of the conquered provinces of the Empire, and of the precious Cross, which he brought in triumph to Constantinople, and next year carried back in pilgrim fashion to Jerusalem. In all the long duel between the Republic and the Arsacidae of Parthia, between the Empire and the Sassanidae of Persia, a duel which had been going on since the days of Crassus the Triumvir, no victory had been won, so brilliant, so complete, apparently so final, as these wonderful victories of Heraclius.

Mohammedanism. And yet these seeming brilliant triumphs of western civilisation were only the prelude to its most disastrous and irreparable defeat. The darkly brooding East renounced the worship of Ormuzd, and the belief in Ahriman, she abandoned the attempt to substitute a Monophysite creed for the cautious compromise of Chalcedon; but it was only in order to emerge from the burning deserts of Arabia with blood-dripping scimitar in hand, now this cry upon her fanatic lips, 'There is no God but God: Mohammed is the Prophet of God.'

The career of the Saracen conquerors, though in after years it was to include Sicily, and even parts of Italy within its orbit, did not immediately exercise any direct influence on the Hesperian land. The Arabs are not among the invaders whose deeds this history has undertaken to describe;​5 and therefore it will be  p12 sufficient here to enumerate a few dates which indicate their onward whirlwind course of conquest through the seventh century.

Saracen conquests. In 622, the year when Heraclius set forth for his death-grapple with Persia, Mohammed made that celebrated retreat from Mecca to Medina, which has been, ever since, the great chronological landmark for the world of Islam. In 628, he wrote to the Emperor, as well as to the Kings of Persia and Abyssinia, calling upon all to accept the new divinely given creed. In 629 was the first shock of battle between the Empire and the Children of the Desert, when Khalid, 'the Sword of God,' won a doubtful victory. In 630, Mohammed returned in triumph to Mecca, where he died on the 8th of June, 632.

Under Mohammed's successor, the Caliph Abu Bekr, though he only reigned two years, great part of Syria was overrun by the Arab swarms, the decisive battle of Yermuk was won by Khalid in 634, and in the year after Abu Bekr's death (635), Damascus was taken. Omar, the next Caliph (634‑643), saw the conquest of Syria and Palestine completed, Jerusalem itself taken (637), and Egypt wrested from the Roman Empire. Flight of Heraclius from Syria. Heraclius himself, so lately the brave and resourceful general, seemed struck by mental impotence, and fled in terror to Chalcedon (638), bent apparently only on saving his own imperial person, and the precious wood of the Holy Cross which he carried with him from Jerusalem. In the midst of the ruin of his Empire,  p13 with provinces which had once been kingdoms wrested from the grasp of his nerveless arm by the followers of an Arabian camel-driver, it seems to have been a consoling thought that at least that precious relic would not fall again into the hands of the infidel.

Meanwhile, Persia, enfeebled by her disastrous struggle with Heraclius, and having no energy of religious conviction in her people which could struggle against the faith of the Arabians, hot as the sand of their own deserts, fell, but not quite so speedily as Syria and Egypt. The war of Saracen conquest began in 632. In 636 the great battle of Cadesia was lost by the Persians, and their famous banner, the jewel-loaded leathern apron of a blacksmith, fell into the hands of the invader. But the struggle was still continued by the sons of Iran, and it was not till 641 that the battle of Nehavend destroyed their last hopes of successful resistance.

The conquest of Northern Africa seems to have been one of the hardest tasks that were undertaken by the followers of the prophet.​6 Carthage was not taken till 697: it was retaken by the Imperial general, and not finally captured till 698, two years before the close of the century. But if the conquest was slow, it  p14 was sure, and the path of the conquerors was prepared for that final onrush which, in 711, added the great peninsula of Spain to the dominions of the Caliph.

Great schism in the Mohammedan world, Shiites and Sunnites, 659. In one generation, not the conquering power, but the fervour of faith, the absolute oneness of purpose which at first animated all the followers of Mohammed, had departed. Omar's successor, Othman (644‑655), was more of a worldly king and less of an apostle than any of his predecessors, and he perished in a rebellion caused by his weak favouritism, and fomented by the ambitious and intriguing Ayesha, widow of the Prophet. The murder of Othman was used, most unjustly, to stir up popular feeling against Ali the next Caliph (655‑659), the brave, pious, simple-hearted son-in‑law of the Prophet. Schism and civil war followed, and the student who has followed with any sympathetic interest the story of the early believers in Islam, finds with indignation that the story ends with the assassination of Ali, and the murder of his two sons Hassan and Hosein, grandsons of the Prophet, by order of the descendants of his most persistent enemy​7 (661‑680). In the person of Moawiyah this hostile family ascended the throne (now indeed a throne) of the Caliphs, and fixed their luxurious abode among the gardens of Damascus. The faith of Islam, like the faith of Christ, but with a far more rapid decline, had fallen away from its fervour, and was accepting the kingdoms of this world and the glory of them at the  p15 hands of the Dark Spirit. Like Christianity also, but again with swifter development, it was rent asunder by a mighty schism. The well-known division between the Shiites, who venerate the memory of Hassan and Hosein, and the Sunnites, who at least condone the guilt of their murderers, still cleaves the Moslem world with a chasm quite as deep as that which separates the Latin Church from the Greek, or the Protestant from the Catholic.

Siege of Constantinople by the Saracens, 673‑677. Still, notwithstanding its spiritual decay, the spirit of Islam was a mighty force in that effete world of Hellenic Christianity. Still, as the drilled and unformed Jacobins of France carried far the standards of Napoleon, did the Saracen warriors, with the religious maxims of the Koran on their lips, do the bidding of the sensual and worldly-minded Ommiade Caliph at Damascus. It was in the year 672, fifty years after the Hegira, under the reign of the great-grandson of Heraclius, that the fleets and armies of Moawiyah set sail for Constantinople, eager to earn the great blessing promised by the Prophet, 'The sins of the first army that takes the city of Caesar are forgiven.' But not yet, nor for near eight centuries to come, was the fulfilment of that promise to be claimed. For five years (673‑677) (magnified by tradition to seven) did the Arab wave dash itself in vain against the walls of Constantinople. The fire-ships of the Greeks carried havoc into their great Armada, the land army sustained a disastrous defeat, with the loss of 30,000 men, and at last the baffled armament returned, not without fatal storm and shipwreck, to the Syrian waters. Then was peace made on terms most honourable to the Empire, including  p16 the restoration of captives, and a yearly tribute of £120,000 from Damascus to Constantinople: and for a generation peace in the Eastern waters of the Mediterranean seems to have been maintained, though North Africa was during this very time witnessing the steady progress of the Saracen arms.

Monotheletism. While such tremendous conflicts as these were going forward, conflicts in which the very existence of the Empire, the mere continuance of the Christian Church, would seem to have been at stake, it might have been supposed that theological metaphysics would at least be silent, that all who professed and called themselves Christians would be drawn together by the sense of a common danger, and would agree at least to postpone, if they could not absolutely relinquish, the verbal disputations on which they had wasted so much energy. On the contrary, the seventh century was disastrously distinguished by the fury of one of the bitterest and least intelligible of all these disputes. Monophysitism had filled the world with turmoil for nearly two hundred years. Now Monotheletism took its place as chief disturber of the nations.

It was in that eventful year 622, which witnessed the withdrawal of Mohammed to Medina, and the departure of Heraclius for the Persian war, that the Emperor seems to have first conceived the idea that the Monophysite dissenters might after all be reconciled with the Church, which accepted the decree of Chalcedon, by a confession on the part of the latter that, though the Saviour had two natures, he had only one will, 'only one theandric energy.' Through all the later events of his chequered reign, his successes  p17 against the Fire-worshippers of Persia, his defeats by the Allah-worshippers of Arabia, he seems to have held fast to this scheme of reuniting the Church by the profession of Monothelete doctrine. Sergius, Pyrrhus, and Paul, the successive Patriarchs of Constantinople, zealously and ably abetted his designs. The Patriarchs of Antioch and Alexandria subscribed to the same doctrine: even the Pope (Honorius I), when appealed to, gave judgment in words which might be understood as at least permitting, if not ordaining, the teaching of the Monothelete faith. For a time only Sophronius, the Patriarch of Jerusalem, stood, like another Athanasius, alone against the world. But the current soon began to set in the contrary direction. The very willingness of the Monophysite schismatics to accept the new doctrine aroused suspicion among those who had been for two centuries fighting the battle of Chalcedon: and the Popes of Rome,​8 far from the fascination of the Imperial presence, and under no political compulsion to propitiate the Monophysites of Egypt and Syria, resisted with vehemence the new Eirenicon. The Emperor, however, still persevered in his plan, though he tried to broaden the issue by withdrawing from it one or two terms of technical theology which appeared unnecessary. The Ecthesis of Heraclius, 638. In 638, the year after the loss of Jerusalem, the year before the Saracen invasion of Egypt, there appeared at Constantinople an Ecthesis, or exposition of the Faith, which was affixed by the orders of Heraclius to the great gates of the church of St. Sophia. This document,​9 after repeating in orthodox  p18 terms​10 the doctrines of the Trinity, of the Incarnation, of the two natures in Christ, declared that many were scandalised by the thought of two operations,​11 two warring wills of the Saviour, that not even Nestorius in his madness, though he had divided Christ into two persons, had to say that their wills were contrary one to the other. 'Wherefore,' said the Ecthesis, 'following the holy Fathers in this and in all things, we confess one will of our Lord Jesus Christ, the very God, so that there was never a separate will in His body when animated by the intellect, which worked by a contrary motion natural to itself, but only such a will as operated when and how, and to what extent the God who was the Word willed.'12

Then followed the usual profession of faith in the five great Councils, including Chalcedon, and the usual anathema of all the great heretics, from Novatus and Sabellius to Theodore, Theodoret, and Ibas.

This new declaration of faith, accepted generally in the East, except by the Patriarch of Jerusalem, was energetically repudiated at Rome, where Honorius, the peaceful and the unmetaphysical, no longer filled the Papal chair. First Severinus and then John IV  p19 set themselves to combat the new doctrine, and the latter Pope, while piously shielding the memory of Honorius, visited with absolute anathema the Ecthesis of Heraclius. The tidings of this condemnation, however, can hardly have reached the ears of the Imperial theologian. The anathema was probably pronounced in January, 641, and Death of Heraclius. on the eleventh of February in the same year, Heraclius, who had long been suffering from a painful disease, died; thus ending one of the most glorious and one of the most disastrous reigns in the whole long history of the Eastern Caesars.

Disputed succession. With the death of Heraclius, a dispute, which had probably long been foreseen, broke out concerning the succession to the throne. Heraclius, after the death of his first wife Eudocia, had married his niece, the beautiful but ambitious Martina. Such a union, forbidden by Church law, and repugnant to the general feeling of Christendom, had been denounced even by the friendly Green faction in the Circus, and the Patriarch Sergius, who was ever the loyal henchman of Heraclius, wrote him a long letter, entreating him not thus to sully his fair fame; but passion won the day, and, in spite of all remonstrances, Martina became the Augusta of the Romans. Now, however, when after the death of her husband the middle-aged woman, whose beauty was probably faded, presented herself in the Hippodrome before the citizens of Constantinople, and claimed under her husband's will the right to administer the Empire as the senior partner of two Emperors, her stepson Constantine and her own son Heraclonas, the voices of the multitude clamoured against such a partition of power, crying out (as if Pulcheria and Theodora had been forgotten  p20 names), 'You are honoured as the mother of the Emperors, but they as our Emperors and lords.' For the moment Martina retired into the background, and Constantine, third of that name, was recognised as Emperor, with Heraclonas for his younger colleague. After three months and a half, Constantine, apparently a weak and delicate man, died at Chalcedon, not without suspicion of foul play: and then Martina, as mother of Heraclonas, became again the chief person in the Empire. Neither she nor her children, however, were popular in Constantinople, and a large part of the army supported the claims of the young Heraclius, a boy of ten years old, son of the lately deceased Constantine. For a short time Heraclonas and the young Heraclius, whose name was changed to Constans,​13 reigned together in apparent harmony, but there were mutual suspicions and jealousies, a state of veiled civil war, and a popular insurrection.​14 The upshot of the whole business was that Martina and her son Heraclius were banished, after punishments of that barbarous kind which was become characteristic of the Eastern Empire had been inflicted upon them. The tongue of the widowed Empress was cut out and her son's nose was slit. These punishments were inflicted by order of the Senate, by whose vote the child Constans became sole ruler of the Roman  p21 Empire. We shall meet with him again in a future chapter, and shall see his heavy hand laid on the Pope of Rome and on the people of Italy.

Constantine IV (Constans), 632‑659.
Constantine V, 668‑685.
Justinian II, 685‑711.
Constans reigned from 642 to 668, and was succeeded by his son Constantine IV (or V), who in 685 was followed by his son Justinian II. With this strange, powerful, savage man, who, though named Justinian, resembled much more closely Nero or Commodus than the astute, diplomatic legislator whose name he bore, the dynasty of Heraclius came to an end (711). Something will have to be said in future chapters about all these three Emperors. It will be enough for our present purpose to repeat and emphasise the fact that the seventh century, which in the history of religion will ever be remembered as the century of Mohammed, was, in Imperial history, the century of the dynasty of Heraclius.

The Author's Notes:

1 Called by later writers Pippin of Landen.

2 Commonly, but on insufficient authority, called Pippin of Heristal (see Dahn's Deutsche Geschichte, II.209).

3 Ὁ δὲ εἶπεν, Σὺ κάλλιον ἔχοις διοικῆσαι, Joann. Ant. 218 (ap. Müller, Fragmenta Historicorum Graecorum, vol. V).

4 This is the view taken by Prof. Bury of the real character of these first twelve years of Heraclius as to which history is so strangely silent. He thinks that the apparently wild scheme of transferring the seat of empire from Constantinople to Carthage was really a stroke of successful policy by which the Emperor brought the Byzantine nobles and populace to reason (II.219).

5 The chief dates for the Saracen invasions of Italy and Sicily are as follows: — First firm foothold obtained in Sicily by the Saracens under the Aglabite Khalifs, 827; Rome besieged and St. Peter's taken by the Saracens, 846; Defeat of the Saracens on the Garigliano, 916; Sicily conquered by the Fatimite Khalifs, 964; Norman conquest of Sicily and final subjugation of the Saracens, 1060‑1089.

6 Freeman (History and Conquests of the Saracens, p85) remarks on this fact: 'While Egypt was won almost without a blow, Latin Africa took sixty years to conquer. It was first invaded under Othman in 647, but Carthage was not subdued till 698, nor was the province fully reduced for eleven years longer.' He attributes this delay to the strong Imperial spirit of the citizens of Carthage — 'Roman in every sense: their language Latin, their faith orthodox,' — and to the sturdy barbarism of the Mauritanians, who had fought for their rude liberty against the Caesars, and had no intention of surrendering it to the Caliphs.

7 Abu Sofian, father of Moawiyah. The death of Hassan was caused by poison, and the connection of Caliph Moawiyah with it was only a matter of suspicion. But the death of Hosein after the battle of Cufah was a veritable martyrdom, and the Caliph Yezid, son of Moawiyah, must be held responsible for it.

8 Severinus 640; John IV 640‑642; Theodorus 642‑649.

9 Quoted in full by Baronius, s. a. 639.

10 Not very dissimilar, as it seems to me, to the so‑called Athanasian creed.

11 The Ecthesis forbade the use of the word energy (= operation), whether by those who asserted or those who denied the existence of one energy in Christ.

12 'Unde sanctos Patres in omnibus et in hoc sequentes unam voluntatem Domini nostri Jesu Christi verissimi Dei confitemur ut pote in nullo tempore animati intellectualiter ejus corporis separatam, nec ex proprio impetu contrario motu unito ei Deo verbo in una substantia naturalem ejus producere motionem sed quando et qualem et quantam ipse Deus Verbum voluerat.'

13 More properly Constantine (IV), that being his title on the coins and in contemporary documents; but Constans, the name given him by Theophanes (possibly a popular nickname), is that by which he is generally known in history. Paulus calls him both Constantine and Constans.

14 The events connected with this disputed succession are very obscurely indicated by the meagre authorities for the history of the time.

[image ALT: Valid HTML 4.01.]

Page updated: 17 Jun 20