Skip to comments."Thou art just, O Lord, and thy judgments are righteous"~The execution of the Roman emperor Maurice
Posted on 11/27/2019 6:41:59 AM PST by Antoninus
November 27 marks the anniversary of one of the most cruel and lamentable acts in all of human history -- the execution of the Eastern Roman Emperor Maurice, and five of his six sons, at the hands of the usurper Phocas in AD 602. Having been proclaimed as emperor by the Balkan army who had numerous grievances against Maurice, Phocas entered Constantinople with the assent of the people, and Maurice and the imperial family fled. Their ship was forced ashore by a storm, however, and they sought sanctuary in a church near Chalcedon across the strait from Constantinople.
According to Gibbon, whose account of the events are based largely on the History of Theophylact Simocatta and the Chronographia of Theophanes, Maurice resigned himself to prayer:
"He patiently awaited the event of the revolution, and addressed a fervent and public prayer to the Almighty, that the punishment of his sins might be inflicted in this world rather than in a future life."Far from comfortable on his new throne, Phocas was soon reminded of his insecurity by the factions in the Hippodrome. Gibbon continues:
"On the third day, amidst the acclamations of a thoughtless people, Phocas made his public entry in a chariot drawn by four white horses. The revolt of the troops was rewarded by a lavish donative, and the new sovereign, after visiting the palace, beheld from his throne the games of the hippodrome. In a dispute of precedency between the two factions, his partial judgment inclined in favor of the greens. 'Remember that Maurice is still alive,' resounded from the opposite side, and the indiscreet clamor of the blues admonished and stimulated the cruelty of the tyrant."With this explicit threat offered by the fickle factions echoing in his ears, Phocas wasted no more time:
"The ministers of death were dispatched to Chalcedon. They dragged the emperor from his sanctuary, and the five sons of Maurice were successively murdered before the eyes of their agonizing parent. At each stroke, which he felt in his heart, he found strength to rehearse a pious ejaculation: 'Thou art just, O Lord! and thy judgments are righteous.'...
...The tragic scene was finally closed by the execution of the emperor himself, in the twentieth year of his reign, and the sixty-third of his age.
The bodies of the father and his five sons were cast into the sea. Their heads were exposed at Constantinople to the insults or pity of the multitude, and it was not till some signs of putrefaction had appeared, that Phocas connived at the private burial of these venerable remains. In that grave, the faults and errors of Maurice were kindly interred. His fate alone was remembered, and at the end of twenty years, in the recital of the history of Theophylact, the mournful tale was interrupted by the tears of the audience. [Gibbon: HDFRE, Chapter XLVI].
In total, Maurice had six sons and three daughters. His younger sonsTiberius, Petrus, Paulus, Justin, and Justinianwere all killed in front of him at the waterfront in Chalcedon, immediately prior to his own execution. Most of them were mere children at the time of their deaths.
Maurice's wife, Constantina, and their three daughtersAnastasia, Theoctista, and Cleopatrawere allowed to live, confined to a monastery. Three years later, Constantina would attempt a conspiracy against Phocas. Unfortunately, she was betrayed and as a result, she and her three daughters were slain on the same jetty where her husband and sons were previously executed.
Bronze follis showing Maurice and Constantina, obverse with Theodosius on the reverse.
Maurice's eldest son, Theodosius, was co-Augustus from AD 590. At the time of Phocas's rebellion in 602, Theodosius was sent to Persia to beg the assistance of Chosroes II. History says that Theodosius was apprehended by the minions of Phocas and executed a few days after his father and brothers. However, a legend relates that he survived and went into hiding. Later, someone calling himself "Theodosius" re-emerged at the side of Chosroes II who used this imposter as a pretext to invade the Roman Empire, eventually leading to the downfall of Phocas in AD 610.
some people call me Maurice / ‘Cause I speak of the pompatus of love
Are you a fan of the history of Byzantium by Robin Pierson?
I am not. Can’t say I’ve heard of him, but that’s less on him than me. What are some examples of his work?
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