), FLA'VIUS TIBE'RIUS, one of the greatest emperors of Constantinople (A. D. 582--(620), was descended from an ancient Roman family which settled in Asia Minor, perhaps some centuries previous to his birth, which took place about A. D. 539, in the town of Arabissus. in Cappadocia. We give the genealogy of his family so far as it is known:--
Maurice spent his youth at the court of the emperor Justin II.; and although he undoubtedly served also in the army, his name does not become conspicuous in history previous to 578.
At that period he was comes cubiculorum; and Tiberius had no sooner succeeded Justin (578
) than he appointed Maurice magister militum, and gave him the command in Mesopotamia against the Persians, in place of the general Justinian, with whose military conduct the emperor was not satisfied. As Tiberius was considered to be the greatest captain of his time, he would not have entrusted so important a command to an inexperienced courtier, and consequently one cannot but infer that he was perfectly acquainted with the great capabilities of Maurice.
The event fully justified the emperor's choice.
A truce of three years had been made between Persia and the empire, extending to the whole of the frontier except Armenia, where war was carried on as before. But Chosroes violated the truce, and invaded Mesopotamia before the Romans were at all aware of his hostile intentions.
At this critical moment Maurice arrived in Mesopotamia, and forthwith began by restoring the relaxed discipline of the troops: one of his first measures was the re-establishment of the ancient custom of the legions never going to rest at night before fortifying their camp.
This custom had long since been neglected; and the favourite manoeuvre of the Persians of surprising the Romans in the night was thus rendered abortive.
At the opening of the campaign, however, the Persian general, Tamchosroes, made himself master of the important fortress of Thomane, and pushed as far as Amida. Maurice soon drove him back, and in his turn invaded the province of Arzanene, sending some detachments beyond the Tigris.
The first campaign ended without any decisive battle.
In the second campaign, 579, Maurice and his excellent lieutenant Narses-who must not be confounded with Narses, the general of Justinianmade a successful invasion of Media, and took up their winter-quarters in Mesopotamia. In 580 he crossed the Euphrates at Circesium (Circessus or Cercusium), a town situated in the angle made by the Chaboras joining the Euphrates, with a view of marching across the desert upon Ctesiphon. His plan was frustrated through the treachery of some Arab allies, and he found himself unexpectedly compelled to make head against the main army of the Persians.
The contest was sharp, and ended with a total overthrow of the Persians, who evacuated whatever places they held in Mesopotamia, and fled in confusion beyond the Euphrates. Now Chosroes offered peace, but Maurice peremptorily demanded the restoration of the great fortress of Dara, the bulwark of the empire, declining to accept any indemnity in money, and the war was renewed with more fury than before (581).
A pitched battle, in which the Persian army was almost annihilated, and their commander, Tamchosroes, died the death of a hero, concluded the war, to the advantage of the Romans, and Maurice hastened to Constantinople to surprise the emperor and the nation with the welcome news that the most dangerous enemy of Greece was humbled, and peace restored to the East.
This was more than what even Tiberius expected; and Maurice having gained universal popularity by his brilliant victories, the emperor invited him to enter Constantinople in triumph (582).
Soon afterwards the brave Tiberius fell dangerously ill; and feeling his end approach, assembled the senate, and proposed Maurice as his successor. His touching speech met with no opposition; Constantinople was in rapture; and the dying emperor increased the joy of his subjects by giving his eldest daughter Constantina in marriage to Maurice.
A few days afterwards Tiberius died (13th of August, 582); and the fortunate Maurice now ascended the throne.
His mature age (43) was a guarantee to the nation that the rapid fortune of their new master was not likely to turn his head; and indeed he did not deceive their expectation, although his reign was an uninterrupted series of wars. We shall first speak of the Persian war.
Maurice had scarcely ascended the throne, and given proof of his forbearance, by pardoning instead of punishing various persons who had been guilty of treason, when news came from the Persian frontier that Hormisdas, the son of Chosroes, had broken the peace, and attacked the empire.
Before the end of the year (582) John Mystacon, the commander-in-chief in those quarters, engaged in a pitched battle with the Persians near the of the Nymphius and the Tigris; but although the Romans fought with great valour, the day was lost, through the jealousy of one of their generals, Curs, and their army was dispersed. They suffered another defeat at Acbas, and Mystacon was compelled, through misfortune and illness, to spend the whole season of 583 on the defensive. Maurice, dissatisfied with his conduct, recalled him, and sent Philippus or Philippicus in his stead, having previously given him his sister Gordia in marriage.
This general would have ventured some decisive blow in 584, but his army was decimated famine, diseases, and fatigues; he took the offensive in 585, but performed nothing particular. In 586 Philippicus at last brought the enemy to a stand at Solacon, not far from Dara, and obtained a decisive victory, which he owed especially to his infantry, which, until the time of Maurice, was made little use of in the later wars in the East. The Persian army was nearly destroyed.
A strong body of their veterans, however, reached safely a hill at some distance from the field of battle, where they entrenched themselves, but were routed, with great slaughter, by the Roman, Stephanus. Now Philippicus invaded Arzanene.
He was in sight of another Persian army, and ready to fight them, when some trifling circumstance caused such a panic among his troops, that they gave way to the impulse, and fled in the utmost confusion. The Persians followed them without loss of time, took and plundered the baggage, and pursued them as far as Amida. Philippicus fell ill through grief, for the fruit of his great victory at Solacon seemed to be entirely lost; and being unable to appear in the field, he gave the command to Heraclius, Andreas and Theodore of Addea. Heraclius, who afterwards became emperor, retrieved the fortune of the Romans, and gave such splendid proofs of his military skill, that, Philippicus having been recalled in 588, he was entrusted with the temporary command-in-chief till the arrival of Priscus, whom the emperor had despatched to supersede Philippicus.
The latter was so extremely jealous of his successor, that lie employed treason in order to avenge himself for the insult, and kindled a rebellion among the troops which threatened to ruin the emperor's affairs in the East. They refused to acknowledge Priscus, forced Germanus to take the supreme command, and deposed all officers with whom they were displeased, choosing others in their stead.
In this emergency Aristobulus arrived, whom Maurice had sent into Mesopotamia, immediately upon being informed of the mutiny; and this able man having gained some ascendancy over the rioters, availed himself of his advantage, and together with Heraclius led the army, who were then encamped under the walls of Martyropolis (on the Nymphius, in Sophene) against the main body of the Persians, who approached to besiege that great fortress. The Romans carried the day; but in the pride of victory the soldiers once more raised the standard of rebellion.
At his critical time, Gregory, bishop of Antioch, arrived, as the emperor's plenipotentiary, and he at last succeeded in soothing the turbulent spirit of the legions, and prevailed upon them to obey Philippicus as their commander-in-chief.
This was ex actly what this ambitious man wished for; but as he was unable to do honour to his important funetion, when he had obtained it in a fair way, he junction was found to be still less competent now his mind was inflated by unfair success (589). His first act of incompetency was the loss of Martyropolis, of which the Persians made themselves master by a stratagem and the recapture of the fortress became next to impossible, when, through his carelessness, a strong body of Persians was allowed to relieve the garrison. Maurice was extremely vexed at these proceedings, and full of rancour against all those who had promoted the mutiny; he showed no further indulgence to his brother-in-law, but deprived him of his post, and appointed Comentiolus in his place. by This was the very man who commanded those legions which first mutinied in 588.
This faithless and incompetent general would have made a sorry figure but for the aid of the gallant Heraclius: at the battle of Sisarbene he was among the first who took to flight; and the Romans seemed to be lost when Heraclius restored order, and gained one of the most glorious victories ever obtained over the Persians: the camp of the enemy was taken, and an immense booty sent to Constantinople, creating the most unlimited satisfaction and joy in the court as well as in the town. Soon afterwards Acbas was re-taken by Heraclius; and affairs speedily took a turn in favour of the Romans, by a commotion in Persia, which, on account of its important consequences for the empire, deserves a short explanation. While the Roman arms became more and more dangerous, Hormisdas concluded an alliance with the Turks in Bactriana (Turkistan), whose khan consequently came to his apparent relief with a host of some hundred thousand marauders on horseback. They behaved like allies till they had quartered themselves on the frontier of Media, when they altered their conduct, and it became manifest that they had made a secret alliance with Maurice; and being now in the heart of Persia, were ready to fall upon the rear of the royal armies engaged in Mesopotamia.
In this extremity Persia was saved by Baram, a general highly distinguished for his former campaigns against the Romans, who attacked the Turks in the passes of the Hyrcanian mountain, and gave them such a bloody lesson, that they desisted from further hostile attempts. Baram was rewarded with ingratitude for he was deprived of his command, and insulted in a most poignant manner. Compelled to rebel or to lose his head, he took up arms against the king, and a general defection ensued, during which Hormisdas was seized and blinded by Bindoes, a prince of royal blood, who had been ill-treated by his master. Chosroes, the son of Hormisdas, now ascended the throne, with the consent of Bindoes, and prepared for marching against Baram.
The royal troops were defeated, Chosroes fled into the Roman territory, and during the ensuing troubles in Persia the blinded king, Hormisdas, was murdered by Bindoes, or, as Theophylact states, beaten to death by order of his own son, Chosroes. Gibbon rejects the latter account. When Chosroes, with a few attendants, suddenly arrived at the gates of Circesium, the Roman commander would scarcely trust his own eyes, and immediately requested him to remove to the more stately city of Hierapolis, whence the king sent a touching letter to Maurice, imploring his generous aid for the recovery of his throne. When our pride is flattered, our honour satisfied, and our heart moved at one and the same time, human nature seldom withstands the dictates of its better feelings ; Maurice shed tears when he read the letter, and granted his protection to the royal fugitive.
A powerful army, under the command of Narses, was assembled on the frontier; loyal Persians flocked to the Roman camp to serve their legitimate sovereign ; Narses and Chosroes entered Persia; and in a decisive battle at Balarath they routed the rebel Baram, whose troops were dispersed, while he himself fled into Turkistan, where he met with an untimely death, either by poison or grief. Chosroes now re-ascended the throne of his ancestors (591), and peace and friendship reigned henceforth between Persia and the empire as long as Maurice sat on the throne. Dara and Martyropolis, the bulwarks of Mesopotamia, and the objects of so many a bloody contest, were given to Maurice as a reward or on condition of his assistance.
We now turn to the war with the Avars, of which our account must be brief.
The first war against the chagan or khan of these barbarians, who ruled over an extent of country nearly equal to that which once obeyed Attila, broke out in 587. Comentiolus, who commanded against them, being unfortunate, Mystacon was sent to supersede him, although he could not boast of much success in Persia.
But his lieutenant Droctulf, a German, who had long served in the imperial armies, watched over the blunders of his chief, and in a pitched battle so utterly discomfited the Avars, that the khan refrained from any incursion during the following five years.
The next war broke out some time after the peace with Persia, and Maurice had leisure to withdraw a great portion of from Asia, and employ them against the Avars.
He intended to put himself at their head, but it was already customary at the court of Constantinople that the emperor should not command in the field, and he consequently gave way to the remonstrances of the senate, and sent Priscus in his stead, who, however, was soon superseded by the emperor's brother Peter.
The choice was a bad one, and as early as 598 Priscus resumed the supreme command.
He was less successful than was expected, though he was an excellent general, and in 600 the army received a new commander in the person of Comentiolus, that faithless and cowardly intriguer, whose conduct had been so very suspicious in Asia.
In appointing him, Maurice committed either a great blunder or secretly wished to ruin him. Comentiolus had no sooner taken the field, when he suffered a severe defeat from the chagan: 12,000 Romans remained prisoners of war with the Avars. We shall speak hereafter of their fate, an evert intimately connected with that of the emperor.
The honour of the Roman arms was restored in five successful battles by the gallant Priscus, but Comentiolus thwarted his plans by intrigues and treacherous manoeuvres, and at last Priscus was again put at the head of the army.
In the autumn of 602 he intended to winter along the southern bank of the Danube, when Maurice ordered him to take up his quarters on the northern side, where they would have been exposed to the attacks of the Avars. Some pretend that Maurice gave this order for the purpose of paring the magazines within the empire; but it would seem as if he rather intended to punish those troops for previous acts of disobedience and mutiny, by assigning them winter-quarters in an inhospitable country. However this may be, the measure was imprudent, and proved the ruin of the emperor.
Gibbon observes with great justness, that, while in the camp alone the emperors ought to have exercised a despotic command, it was only in the camps that his authority was disobeyed and insuited.
The spirit of mutiny and arrogance in the army, that hereditary cancer of Roman administration, reigned unabated when Maurice took the reins of government, and he who met with blind obedience when a mere magister militum, had to encounter that dangerous mutiny of his Persian army immediately upon exchanging the baton for the sceptre. Nor was this the only outbreak, though the others were of less magnitude.
It has been told above that 12,000 Romans were made prisoners of war by the Avars.
The trifling sum of 6000 pieces of gold was demanded for their ransom. Maurice, moved by avarice, as some say, refused to pay it, and now 12,000 veterans were put to death by their captors.
The army and the nation were deeply indignant at this atrocious deed, and cursed Maurice for his abominable conduct. However, in acting as he did, the emperor had a powerful though secret motive: those 12,000 were the soldiers of Comentiolus, it was they who had chiefly caused the great mutiny during the Persian war; and in abandoning them to the fury of barbarians, he at once assuaged his resentment and got rid of a band of dangerous mercenaries.
But his conscience continually reproached him with this barbarous act.
He wrote to the most eminent divines of his realm, to receive consolation from their censure or their indulgence; he tried to forget his forces his pangs by redoubled activity in the cabinet.
It was all in vain: he neither recovered the peace of his soul nor the love of his subjects; and the army bore such hatred against him, that they only seemed to wait for a suitable pretext to break out in open rebellion. His own imprudence furnished them with an opportunity, by ordering them, in the autumn of 602, to take up their winter-quarters on the Avarian side of the Danube. They complained that the emperor desired to sacrifice them, like their 12,000 brethren. They held tumultuous meetings, which the emperor's brother Peter tried in vain to counteract; and Phocas having been chosen by them for the command-in-chief, Peter had no alternative left but escaping secretly, and carrying the news of the revolt to the emperor in Constantinople.
There the green faction assumed a threatening attitude, and information having reached them that Phocas was marching upon Constantinople, such a commotion arose in the capital, that Maurice thought it best to fly into the provinces, and there to prepare for resistance.
He effected his escape by sea, together with his wife and children.
A storm compelled him to land near the church of St. Autonomus, not far from Chalcedon. Thence he despatched his eldest son Theodosius to the court of Chosroes, to implore him to confer the same favour upon the emperor which the emperor had once conferred upon the king. Maurice with his family took sanctuary in the church of St. Autonomus: he was tortured by sufferings of body and despair of mind. During this time Phocas arrived in Constantinople, and was proclaimed emperor on the 23d of November, 602.
He immediately sent executioners in search of Maurice, who was dragged with his family from the sanctuary to the scaffold. Five of his sons, Tiberius, Petrus, Paulus, Justin, and Justinian, had their heads cut off while their father stood by praying, but not trembling, awaiting the fatal stroke in his turn.
He was murdered on the 27th of November, 602; his eldest son Theodosius, who had not proceeded far on his way to Persia, was arrested, and shared his fate soon afterwards.
The empress and three of her daughters were thrown into prison, but in 605, or perhaps 607, they were likewise put to death, and their bodies thrown into the sea.
The heads of Maurice and his sons were carried on pikes to Phocas, who, after having enjoyed the sight for some time, gave orders for the execution of Petrus, the brother of Maurice, Comentiolus, Constantine Lardys, and a great number of other persons of distinction. [PHOCAS.]
Among the papers of the murdered emperor was found his will, which he had made in the fifteenth year of his reign (597), and by which he left Constantinople and the East to Theodosius; Rome, Italy and the Islands, to his second son Tiberius. Maurice was indeed preparing for wresting Italy from the Lombards, and might have carried his plan into execution, but for the great wars against the Persians and the Avars. Although greater as a general than as a king, Maurice was yet one of the best emperors of the East. Constantly active, he knew no other pleasure than that which arises from doing one's duty; he was firm without being obstinate, bold yet prudent, and both severe or forbearing according to circumstances.
He was completely master of his passions and appetites, sober to the extreme, a loving and virtuous husband and father, and full of filial piety. No sooner was he informed of the intentions of the emperor Tiberius towards him, than he entreated his father Paulus and his mother Joanna to come to Constantinople, and they were both present at his marriage with the princess Constantina. They continued to live at his court, and his father became one of his most influential ministers: the fame of Paulus as a wise and well-disposed man spread abroad, and the views of Maurice upon Italy being likely to lead to either an alliance or a war with the Franks in Gaul, their king Childebert wrote a letter to Paulus on that subject, which is given in Hist. Francor.
vol. i. p. 869, A natural and timely death in 593 saved Paulus from being involved in the wholesale murder of the imperial family. Maurice is said to have loved money too much; but he was so far from oppressing his subjects from taxes, that, on the contrary, he lowered them considerably; on one occasion he took off one-third of the land-tax. Arts and sciences were protected by this great emperor, who possessed considerable learning.
Maurice wrote twelve books on the military art, which have fortunately come down to posterity and are entitled Στρατηγικά
were published with a Latin version, together with Arrian's " Tactica," by John Scheffer, Upsala, 1664, 8vo.
The text contains 382 half pages, and the version as much; the editor added 157 pages of notes, and a few pages with very curious representations of the different battle arrays spoken of in the work.
Theophylact. Simocatta, Vita Mauricii
; Evagr. lib. v. vi.; Theoph. p. 213, &c.; Cedren. p. 394, &c.; Zonar. vol. ii. p. 70, &c. ; Menander, p. 124, &c.; Niceph. Call. 18.5, &c.