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Three Millennia of Greek Literature

Vasilief, A History of the Byzantine Empire

The Heraclian epoch (610-717)



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Heraclius and his immediate successors on the Byzantine throne form a dynasty which was probably of Armenian descent. At least this may be inferred from the Armenian historian of the seventh century, Sebeos, the invaluable source on the time of Heraclius, who writes that the family of Heraclius was related to the famous Armenian house of the Arsacids. Somewhat contradictory to this assertion are references in several sources to the light golden hair of Heraclius. He reigned from 610 to 641. By his first wife Eudocia, he had a son Constantine, who reigned after the death of his father for a few months only and also died in the year 641. He is known in history as Constantine III (one of the sons of Constantine the Great being considered as Constantine II). After the death of Constantine III the throne was occupied for several months by Heraclonas (Heracleon), a son of Heraclius by his second wife, Martina. He was deposed in the autumn of 641, and the son of Constantine III, Constans II, was proclaimed emperor and ruled from 641 to 668. The Greek form of his name, Constas (Latin, Constans), is probably a diminutive of Constantine, his official name; on Byzantine coins, in the western official documents of the period, and even in some Byzantine sources he is called Constantine. The people apparently called him Constans. He was succeeded by his energetic son Constantine IV (668-85). Constantine IV is usually surnamed Pogonatus, meaning the bearded, but modern scholarship attributes this surname to the father rather than to the son. With the death of Constantine IV in the year 685 ended the best period of the Heraclian dynasty, although his son, the last ruler of this dynasty, Justinian II, surnamed Rhinotmetus (with a cut-off nose), ruled twice, from 685 to 695 and from 705 to 711. The period of Justinian II, distinguished by many atrocities, has not yet been sufficiently studied. It seems reasonable to suppose that the Emperor's cruel treatment of the representatives of the nobility was due not only to mere arbitrariness, but also to the concealed dissatisfaction of those members of the aristocracy who were not willing to become reconciled to his strong will and extreme autocratic policy and who strove to dethrone him. Some sources reveal clearly a traditional hostile tendency toward Justinian II. He was dethroned in 695. His nose and tongue were cut off and he was exiled to the Crimean city of Cherson; he fled to the Khagan (Khan) of the Khazars, whose sister he later married. Still later, with the aid of the Bulgarians, he succeeded in regaining the Byzantine throne, and upon his return to the capital took cruel revenge on all those who had participated in his downfall. This tyranny called forth a revolution in the year 711, during which Justinian and his family were massacred. The year 711 marks the end of the Heraclian dynasty. During the period between the two reigns of Justinian II there were two accidental emperors; the military leader from Isauria, Leontius (695-98), and Apsimar, who assumed the name of Tiberius upon his accession to the throne (Tiberius III, 698-705). Some scholars are inclined to consider Apsimar-Tiberius of Gotho-Greek origin. After the cruel deposition of Justinian II in the year 711, for a period of six years (711-17) the Byzantine throne was occupied by three accidental rulers: the Armenian Vardan or Philippicus (711-13); Artemius, renamed Anastasius during the coronation ceremony (Anastasius II, 713-15); and Theodosius III (715-17). The state of anarchy which prevailed in the Byzantine Empire from the year 695 ended in 717 with the accession of the famous ruler Leo III, who initiated a new epoch in the history of the Byzantine Empire 

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