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Three Millennia of Greek Literature

Vasilief, A History of the Byzantine Empire

Justinian the Great and his successors (518-610)

Formation of the exarchates and the revolution of 610 


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Naturally, it was only extreme necessity that could force the Emperor to create such an unlimited office as that of the exarch, who, granting the desire and the presence of certain conditions, could become a very dangerous rival of the Emperor himself. And in reality the African exarch was to raise the banner of sedition against Phocas, and the son of the exarch was to become emperor in the year 610. In Africa the exarchs were chosen very wisely by Maurice and demonstrated much skill and energy in governing the land, defending it successfully against the attacks of the natives. On the other hand, the exarchs of Ravenna were unable to overcome the Lombard menace.

According to the French scholar, Diehl, the two exarchates must be viewed as the beginning of the theme (province or district) organization, that provincial reform in the Byzantine Empire which started in the seventh century and spread gradually through the entire territory of the Empire. Its distinguishing feature was the gradual dominance of the military authority over the civil. While the attacks of the Lombards and Moors produced significant changes in the West and the South at the end of the sixth century, the attacks of the Persians and Arabs caused later the introduction of similar measures in the East, and the onslaught of the Slavs and Bulgars resulted in the same reforms in the Balkan peninsula.

The unsuccessful external policy of Phocas in regard to the Avars and the Persians, as well as the bloody terror which was his only means of maintaining his position, finally resulted in the revolt of the African exarch, Heraclius. Egypt soon joined in this revolt, and the African fleet under the direction of the exarch's son, also named Heraclius, sailed forth to the capital, which deserted Phocas and came over to the side of Heraclius. Phocas was captured and executed. Heraclius, the son, ascended the Byzantine throne and thus started a new dynasty

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