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Solidus of Herakleios and Constantine III.

Herakleios ( Latin Flavius ​​Heraclius ; Middle Greek Φλάβιος Ἡράκλειος Flavios Heraklios ; * around 575 in Cappadocia ; † February 11, 641 in Constantinople ) was an Eastern Roman or Byzantine emperor from October 5, 610 until his death . He was one of the most important Byzantine rulers and can also be regarded as the last ruler of late antiquity and the first emperor of the Middle Byzantine Empire . The dynasty he founded ruled until 711.

Herakleios' entire reign was marked by a military defensive struggle against external aggressors, first against the Persians and the Avars , then later against the Arabs . Internally, the change to the now completely Greek empire took place, with the state and society undergoing profound changes.


Origin and accession to the throne

Solidus of the emperor Phocas

Flavius ​​Heraclius was probably of Armenian descent, although the sources give different information about the origins of his family. His mother was called Epiphany, and his father, Herakleios the Elder , had been general under Emperor Maurikios before he was appointed Exarch of Carthage (in principle a governor with extensive military and civil powers, see Exarchate of Carthage ). The younger Herakleios may also have spoken Latin , but his mother tongue must have been Greek . A descent from the Arsacids , who ruled Persia up to 226 and Armenia up to 428, is also possible (but rather unlikely) .

Solidus of Herakleios from the year 608, showing him and his father as consuls

Some time after Phocas came to power , in the course of which Emperor Maurikios and his family were murdered, the dissatisfaction with his government apparently led to contact between senatorial dissidents in Constantinople and Herakleios' father. In 608 Herakleios rose up against Phocas , interestingly not yet as a counter-emperor, but as a “ consul ”. Then an army under the leadership of Niketas, a cousin of Herakleios, marched into Egypt , the breadbasket of the empire; the occupation of the land may have been supported by the rich and influential Apion family . This made Constantinople, depending on the grain from the Nile country, open to blackmail. Meanwhile, Herakleios himself, who was going instead of his elderly father, sailed 610 with the fleet to Constantinople. Phocas was ousted there in early October of the same year and cruelly killed.

Since the sources only report from the perspective of the victor, it is conceivable that the revolt against Phocas may ultimately only have been a coup, although this must remain speculation. At first Herakleios was undoubtedly a usurper , just like his predecessor. For, at least initially, the policy of the new emperor hardly differed from that of his predecessor; only towards the aristocrats does Herakleios seem to have shown greater concession. The resistance against the attacking Persians, who had been attacking eastern Roman territory since 603 (see below), even seems to have waned for the time being, which is partly explained by the fact that Herakleios initially had difficulties consolidating his rule: on the fall of Phocas a civil war followed that tied the forces of the empire. It should also be noted that the government of Phocas must have encountered resistance, at least in parts of the population, since otherwise Herakleios would not have been able to reach for power so successfully. The rule of Phocas led to a time of political, military and financial crisis, which Herakleios ultimately overcame.

The Persian War of Herakleios

The first years of the war: the loss of Syria and Egypt

The Persian Sassanids , the ancient archenemies of Eastern Era, had kept peace since the time of Maurikios . However, in 603 the Persian Great King Chosrau II used his deposition and assassination as a pretext to invade eastern Roman territory and recapture lost territories; Apparently, Chosrau was soon trying to restore the “old borders” of the Persian Empire . First, however, he presented a man who claimed to be Theodosius , a son of Maurikios, who allegedly had survived the bloodbath caused by Phocas, but after a while there was no more talk of him. In the first years of Herakleios, Ostrom suffered the greatest losses in its history to date (Armenia had already fallen under Phocas, as did the important fortress Dara ). Still, it would be wrong to claim that Herakleios did nothing to stop or at least slow down the Persian invasion. In addition, it must be taken into account that Herakleios was initially still occupied with the consolidation of his rule internally: Among other things, there were still fights with troops loyal to Phocas, whose leader Komentiolus was a brother of Phocas. In 611 the resistance of the Phocas troops had collapsed and Eastern Roman troops resisted the Persians at Emesa , but were defeated. Persian troops subsequently penetrated into Asia Minor and plundered Cappadocia . In 612 the Eastern Roman general Priskos recaptured Kaisareia. In 613 the Eastern Roman general Philippikos undertook an invasion of Persarmenia , penetrating deep into enemy territory; the Persians were forced to withdraw troops to cope with this development. Meanwhile, Herakleios was able to unite with his brother Theodoros and his cousin Nicetas in Syria . There, however, the Roman troops were defeated in a great battle near Antioch on the Orontes ; they had to hurry to retreat to Asia Minor. In the same year Damascus was lost to the Persians.

Silver coin of Herakleios with the legend Deus adiuta Romanis

Then the Persians turned south and conquered Jerusalem in 614 with the Holy Cross , which was supposedly given to the Christian wife Chosraus, Shirin . The Persian general Shahrbaraz had apparently urged the Jews to fight against the Christians; There were probably some serious atrocities that were later not forgotten on the Christian side, although the Persians stopped supporting the Jews in 617/18 and now apparently favored the Miaphysite Christians , who had been in dispute with the Orthodox emperors for a long time. The Persians finally invaded Egypt in 616, where Nicetas was only able to offer hesitant resistance. The country was conquered by 619 and then administratively integrated into the Sassanid Empire, which meant that the granary of the Eastern Roman Empire was in Persian hands - a catastrophe that the emperor had to watch helplessly at first. Even a silver coin (hexagram) minted in large numbers soon after the fall of Jerusalem with the unique inscription Deus adiuta Romanis (“God, help the Romans!”) May illustrate the desperate situation of the empire.

The situation was serious on the other fronts too. While Herakleios 'predecessor Phocas in the Balkans was still able to benefit from the aftermath of Maurikios' Balkan campaigns and may even have continued these campaigns for a while, the consequences of his later inactivity under Herakleios were fully felt. The responsible magister militum per Thracias had no powerful troops; from 615 onwards the Avars and Slavs invaded the Balkans unhindered (see here the Slavs' conquest of the Balkans ). Meanwhile the Visigoths , with whose king Sisebut Herakleios had come to an understanding again before 617, conquered the last stretch of land held by the Eastern Romans in southern Spain until 625 . There were also difficulties in financial terms, since a large part of the tax revenue was lost; this problem has been at least partially resolved by a financial reform. Numerous donations and privileges were canceled, which also affected the church: a significant part of the church's treasures was melted down in order to be able to finance the war. In 619, after almost three centuries, the inhabitants of Constantinople lost the privilege of free grain donations, which in the medium term led to a considerable decline in population. At the same time there were repeated outbreaks of epidemics, which made the organized resistance of the Roman troops even more difficult.

Herakleios' counter-offensive

The Eastern Roman Empire (above approx. 526, below approx. 533–600)

The people of Constantinople were seething in the face of the setbacks; an overthrow threatened. The emperor's situation was ultimately so desperate that, according to the chronicler Nikephoros , he is said to have planned to give up the capital and retreat to the safe city of Carthage. Only at the urging of Patriarch Sergios is he said to have stayed in the east against his will and a little later came up with a bold plan: he wanted to go on the offensive and defeat the enemy in his own country. This step, which is very courageous in itself, ultimately only shows the extremely difficult situation in which the emperor was at that time. Herakleios, who had already accompanied an army to Syria in 613, bought a brief peace from the Avarenkhagan , gathered the remaining troops and left the capital on April 5, 622. He went with the army to Asia Minor by sea. Presumably the fleet sailed to Pylai (Latin Pylae) in Bithynia (not to Cilicia , as some older research suspected), where he first drilled the soldiers. Finally the emperor marched inland; the exact route of the army, as well as the exact strength, is not known, but it is said to have been considerable.

The emperor's measures obviously had an effect: Herakleios was probably able to defeat the Persian general Shahrbaraz in Cappadocia at the end of 622 (according to other sources at the beginning of 623) , although not decisively. Then the army wintered in Asia Minor, with Herakleios returning to Constantinople to take care of the threat from the Avars, who could initially be pacified by further tribute payments; the emperor allegedly almost fell into the hands of the Avars. In this context, it is noteworthy that Herakleios was the first emperor since Theodosius I , who personally went into the field at the head of an army and thus broke with a tradition spanning more than two hundred years: since 395, the Eastern Roman emperors had hardly Constantinople and its immediate surroundings leave. Perhaps Herakleios found himself under domestic political pressure due to the previous failure. In any case, the sources claim that Herakleios, now that he went on the offensive, turned out to be an excellent strategist. It was very unusual for Roman generals that the emperor seemed to have repeatedly entered the fray himself in the manner of a Hellenistic king .

Herakleios probably led a total of three campaigns against the Sassanids, in the meantime he returned to Constantinople (like 623) or paused for a long time. Finally he went to the Caucasus , where he received reinforcements from the local Christian residents. The 622 campaign in northern Asia Minor was more defensive in nature; Herakleios' two actual counter offensives then took place in 624/25 and 627/28. The special and novel thing about the campaign against the Sassanids was that Herakleios personally took part in the fighting and apparently systematically propagated the war as a kind of " crusade " against the " fire worshipers ": Images of Christ were placed in the army camp, and out of revenge for the devastation of Jerusalem and the taking of the Holy Cross, several fire temples were destroyed; if you follow the portrayal of George of Pisidia , an almost "mystical" mood arose among the Eastern Roman troops. Yet the situation remained difficult; a single defeat of the emperor would have meant the end of the empire, and often enough he narrowly escaped the enemy.

In the years 624 and 625 the fighting was mainly in the Caucasus region. Herakleios, who left Constantinople in March 624, where he had stayed for some time, now marched into Armenia via Theodosiopolis . The imperial troops conquered a number of cities, and the Armenian city of Dvin was even destroyed. This was followed by a train to Azerbaijan , a center of Zoroastrianism, where the emperor stormed and devastated the city of Ganzaka , in which Chosrau had stayed a short time before; the famous fire temple there was also destroyed. Herakleios did not pursue Chosrau, however, because at that time there were two larger Persian armies behind him and were now hunting him: Chosrau II, who was now obviously seriously worried, had put all available troops on the march. Herakleios initially had to withdraw, but was able to defeat several small Persian associations in the following period. However, he never encountered the main Sassanid armed forces, and the sources are likely to exaggerate his successes. Schahrbaraz was defeated again at the end of 624 ( Battle of Sarus ), but his army remained intact this time too, so that Herakleios initially had to flee, especially since the emperor probably abandoned his Caucasian auxiliary troops in part. In 625, however, the emperor repeatedly succeeded in outmaneuvering and defeating Persian troops.

In the summer of 626 there was the worst crisis of the war: Constantinople was besieged by Avars and Persians together ; nevertheless, the city was able to hold itself thanks to the navy, especially since neither the Persians nor the Avars and Slavs managed to cross over to the other bank. The Eastern Romans of course attributed the lifting of the siege not least to the support of the Blessed Mother, which gave this victory a religious dimension. When considering the Persian strategy - which apparently copied Herakleios' strategy of hitting the enemy in his heartland - it is noticeable that the Persians invaded Asia Minor and plundered, but never gained control of the entire territory.

Herakleios had meanwhile divided his troops: he sent some of them to reinforce the one of his eldest son and co-emperor Constantine III. held capital (where they arrived before Shahrbaraz, who commanded the Persian troops during the siege), another part invaded Mesopotamia under his brother Theodoros , where they could defeat the Persian general Shahin , the third part remained with the emperor in Armenia.

The Ctesiphon Campaign and the Battle of Nineveh

Depiction of the siege of Constantinople in 626 by the Persians and Avars.

The failed siege of Constantinople marked the turning point of the war: The Avar Empire in the Balkans fell apart as a result of internal unrest, while the Romans continued on the offensive. Herakleios continued to gather troops in Lazika on the Black Sea and started negotiations with the Gök Turks , the ancient enemies of the Persians on their northern border. The Gök Turks also provided the emperor with troops and also invaded the highlands of eastern Iran in early 627. The extent to which this Turkish intervention was perceived as having serious consequences is documented by Chinese sources, which only speak of the Persians being defeated by the Turks and not mentioning Herakleios at all. In the summer of 627, more Roman troops from Asia Minor also met the emperor. With Turkish support, a Persian unit under Sharaplakan was destroyed, and the Persian general was killed in battle. Shahrbaraz, in spite of many defeats the best general of Chosraus, had withdrawn to Egypt and was to do nothing further against Herakleios in the period that followed; evidently Chosrau had fallen out with his general. Herakleios, who now controlled the southern Caucasus, marched south from Tbilisi in September 627 , but his Turkish auxiliaries later left him.

In December 627 Herakleios defeated a smaller army under the command of Rhazates decisively in the battle of Nineveh , but wisely renounced the siege of Ctesiphon and instead occupied Chosrau's favorite residence , Dastagird ; the city was looted and destroyed a little later. Whether the victory at Nineveh really played a decisive role in the war is disputed in research. What is certain is that the battle restored the self-confidence of the Eastern Romans. Herakleios celebrated Christmas in Kirkuk , where the possessions of the Yazdins family were, an influential Nestorian Christian who had acted as a kind of "finance minister" at the court of Chosraus II, but was executed by the great king.

Chosrau II, who had previously condescendingly dubbed Herakleios as “wretched servants and slaves”, had refused to break off the war with Herakleios, but instead had blamed his noble generals for the defeats and thus in fact encouraged rebellion . His behavior after the battle of Nineveh was interpreted as cowardice; his relationship with the aristocracy was tense anyway. He fled to Ctesiphon, where a short time later, in February 628, his son Siroe was deposed and killed. Confronted with an unpredictable imperial army in Mesopotamia and a large-scale Turkish offensive on the northeast border, the aristocratic group around Siroe apparently saw no way to victoriously end the war with Ostrom in the foreseeable future, and so Herakleio was offered peace.

The return of the cross relic to Jerusalem

Return of the cross of Christ by the Persians to Emperor Herakleios 629/30 (detail from the ceiling fresco of the crossing dome of the Wiblingen monastery church by Januarius Zick 1778).

The Persians, who were shocked by the invasion of Herakleios, although most of their troops were still undefeated, now wanted peace and had to return all areas occupied since 603 and the cross of Christ in 629/30 (the return of the cross is up to today a major holiday of the Orthodox Church). On the other hand, they did not have to make reparations or cede territories: Herakleios was able to restore the Roman borders of 602, but no longer; peace was made between equal partners and simply restored the status quo ante . Nevertheless he let himself be celebrated. The emperor first brought the cross to Constantinople in triumph, on March 21, 630 (according to the latest investigations) he moved with a brilliant entourage to Jerusalem, in order to bring the highly venerated relic back to the Church of the Holy Sepulcher behind the Golgotha ​​hill . According to a legend that may have arisen shortly after the event, the city gate through which the emperor wanted to enter on horseback and in splendid regalia was miraculously closed. Only when Herakleios dismounted his horse at the admonition of an angel (according to later versions of the Patriarch of Jerusalem) and took off his splendid robes to humbly carry the cross following the example of Christ, could he continue his march.

Herakleios (Eraclius) defeats Chosrau II (Cosdroe), French illustration of the 12th century .

The emperor's success - though perhaps exaggerated by propaganda - made him famous throughout the Christian West; Thus, in the High Middle Ages, works such as Master Ottes Eraclius were created , which - picking up on older forerunners - portrayed the life of "Saint Heraclius", which was transformed into legend. The emperor sent part of the cross to the powerful Merovingian Frankish king Dagobert I (629 to 639) (the relic was destroyed in 1789), which should have increased his fame in the West. Herakleios, who had waged the war not as a war of annihilation, but rather as a war of revenge, was externally at the height of his power, especially since the Avar Empire was incapable of acting for the foreseeable future, even if the majority of the Balkan regions were still lost to Eastern Europe for a very long time was. Herakleios was already being celebrated as a new Alexander, and the Sassanid Empire was in turmoil. But this was a deceptive victory: Ostrom had been bled to death by the long war.

The invasion of the Arabs and the loss of the Roman eastern provinces

So it is understandable that the Arabs who converted to Islam (there were also Christian Arab tribes, such as the Ghassanids , who played an important role in defending the border) had an easy game with the two weakened great powers. In September 629 the Roman associations still managed to beat a Muslim army at Muta together with allied Christian Arabs.

After the death of Muhammad in 632 and the victory of Abū Bakr in the Ridda Wars , the real Islamic expansion began. The attackers successfully broke into Syria and in September 634 destroyed a Christian-Arab army of the emperor near Marj Rahit; shortly afterwards the local Eastern Roman troops were also defeated in two skirmishes. In 635 Damascus fell to the attackers; an often assumed siege is questionable, but in this connection there was a contractual handover regulation. In the late summer or autumn of 636 the decisive battle on Jarmuk took place : Herakleios, who at first had not taken the attacks very seriously, as border battles were not unusual, and now sent a numerically stronger regular army. But the Roman generals worked poorly together out of jealousy, the army was inhomogeneous, and the emperor's Arab auxiliaries may have partially gone over to the enemy. The battle ended in a catastrophic defeat for the Eastern Romans; a second lost battle near Damascus, in which the general Vahan fell, sealed the loss of Syria a little later. Herakleios was well aware of the implications, because he supposedly left Antioch on the Orontes with the words “Farewell, Syria” . After the Roman Orient had been Sassanid for nearly two decades, it would have taken a while for imperial rule to re-establish itself there, but that never happened. Instead, the Arabs continued to advance, and some Eastern Romans saw the end of the world approaching. A contemporary text summarizes the mood of the time impressively:

“From the ocean, from Britain, Hispania, Francia and Italy to Hellas, Thrace, Egypt and Africa, Roman landmarks and the statues of the emperors could be seen up to our days, because at God's command all these peoples were subject to them. But now we see the Roman Empire shrunk and humiliated. "

The triumph of the Muslim troops was facilitated by the fact that the loyalty of many inhabitants of the eastern provinces, who had been under Persian rule for up to twenty years, was hardly any longer to the distant emperor. In addition, the Eastern Roman administration had made itself very unpopular immediately after the areas were regained; The unpopular religious policy played less of a role here than the demand of the emperor that the taxes that had been incurred during the Sassanid occupation now be paid in one fell swoop. Damascus alone was asked for the enormous sum of 100,000 solidi. So it is hardly surprising that after the defeat of the Eastern Roman troops, the Syrian population quickly came to an arrangement with the Arabs, who at first appeared tolerant and also demanded much lower taxes than the emperor had done.

It will hardly have been a consolation for Herakleios that the Persians, his former archenemies, fared even worse: The Sassanid Empire had developed under the last great king Yazdegerd III. can only recover briefly and after the battle of Nehawend succumbed completely to the attacks of the Muslims who now controlled the Middle East. By 642, Ostrom lost not only Syria and Palestine , but also Egypt .

The empire had now shrunk to the city itself, Asia Minor, the Aegean Sea , Carthage (which only fell in 698) and some coastal areas in Greece (since the Bulgarians and Slavs had overrun large areas there, see also slave lines ). This was the beginning of a centuries-long battle of strength that Byzantium would have to carry out until its conquest by the Turks in 1453. Only in the late 8th and 9th centuries was the empire to consolidate itself again in terms of foreign policy, but it never regained most of the territories lost after 636.

Solidus of Herakleios, flanked by his sons and co-emperors Constantine III. (right) and Heraklonas (minted approx. 638–641)

Domestic politics

Domestically, Herakleios had to struggle with the unsolved problem of miaphysitism ("monophysitism"), and tried in vain to unite the church in the kingdom: To solve the problem of the central question whether Jesus was only one (divine, as the Miaphysites meant) or two unmixed natures (human and divine, as represented by the Orthodox since the Council of Chalcedon ), the formula of ecthesis (see also monotheletism ) was drafted, according to which Jesus at least had only one will . Nevertheless, this compromise solution also failed, as the majority on both sides remained adamant and rejected this draft. In a way, the problem of religious unity was then resolved from the outside when the Arabs conquered the non- Orthodoxy provinces .

Herakleios had probably already married his niece Martina , the daughter of his sister Maria, as early as 613 (according to other sources, only 622 or 623) after the death of his first wife Eudokia (who was originally called Fabia or Aelia Flavia ) and during a stay in Constantinople . This marriage was to have serious consequences, as the emperor had exposed himself to suspicion of incest and was thereby discredited for parts of the church. The couple had at least nine children: the sons Konstantin (?), Fabius, Theodosius, Heraklonas , David Tiberios and Martinos , as well as the daughters Augustina, Anastasia (and / or Martina) and Febronia. Fabius and Theodosius were born disabled, which was seen as God's punishment for incestuous marriage.

Herakleios also ordered the compulsory baptism of Jews (something similar happened, for example, in the Merovingian Franconian Empire ). The emperor will also have distrusted them, which resulted from their behavior during the Persian invasion (see above). The Jews, whose legal situation had previously steadily deteriorated, had evidently hoped for political and religious autonomy from the Persians, who were considered to be relatively tolerant.

Whether Herakleios is already responsible for the establishment of the so-called thematic constitution is very controversial in modern research. While this was still considered certain for the well-known historian Georg Ostrogorsky (the author of the earlier standard work History of the Byzantine State. 3rd Edition. Munich 1963), this thesis is refrained from in most modern representations for good reason.

Internally, Herakleios promoted the Graecization of the state: He renounced the Latin title Imperator (or its Greek form Autocrator ) and instead adopted the Greek title Basileus , which appeared in the official context for the first time in March 629. As the official language, Greek finally replaced Latin, because for a long time Latin had only been the language of the military and administration, but not of the people. In Asia Minor, Syria and Egypt this had slowly, if mostly only superficially, been Hellenized since the time of Alexander and was thus more influenced by Greek. With Justinian I , the last Roman emperor died in 565, whose mother tongue was Latin.

Economically, the devastation of the provinces of Asia Minor by the Sassanids proved to be a serious problem. In many of the previously flourishing cities, the population declined dramatically; something similar happened in the Balkans, where the Avars and Slavs had raged. In place of the old polis with its urban self-government, the kastron came into being , which better accommodated the military requirements of the time. The oriental provinces, the economic backbone of the empire, were alienated from the headquarters after a Sassanid occupation that had lasted for twenty years or more; an imperial administration would have had to be reinstalled here in order to be able to use the resources, but that never happened. Due to the tight financial situation, the costly armed forces were disarmed soon after 629, which, however, proved fatal as a result of the Arab invasion. However, Herakleios managed to achieve a fairly successful financial reform in the beginning (although there are signs of a decline in the money economy).

Literature and art experienced a certain re-bloom around 630, before the culture of late antiquity was less and less cultivated under his successors in the East too. This is how the last important ancient Neo-Platonist, Stephen of Alexandria , worked in the capital. Stephanos wrote several treatises, including on Aristotle and mathematical subjects, and was summoned by Herakleios to Constantinople shortly after Herakleios ascended the throne, where he worked at the city's university until his death, while the philosophical " School of Alexandria " went under . After the death of Stephanos, the relevant tradition was also to be broken off and only revived in Constantinople in the 9th century. The historian Theophylaktos Simokates also wrote his histories during the reign of Herakleios , which are considered the last work of the ancient historiographical tradition. Further evidence of the literary productivity of this period are the poems written by George of Pisidia , which already point to the Middle Byzantine period.

At the end of his life problems arose again with the question of succession, as Martina wanted to secure the throne for her son Heraklonas. As early as 637, the illegitimate son Athalaric and Theodoros , a nephew of the emperor, were arrested on charges of high treason and cruelly mutilated - both noses, ears and feet were cut off. Finally, the two sons Constantine III and Heraklonas succeeded them together when Herakleios breathed out his life on February 11, 641 in Constantinople. But Constantine died very soon, and after a brief reign of Martina, who ruled in the name of the underage Heraklonas, his son ascended the throne as Constantine II . Under him the change from the Eastern Roman to the Byzantine Empire was completed.


Herakleios was traditionally judged favorably by historians, which is primarily related to his successes around 628, while he was largely absolved of responsibility for the disasters before 620 and after 636. Recently, however, researchers such as Chris Wickham or Ralph-Johannes Lilie have formulated significantly more negative assessments, while historians such as James Howard-Johnston at the same time relativize the actual share of the emperor in the victory over the Sassanids, even though they basically take the emperor's military capabilities into account emphasize his counter-offensives 622 to 627. The outcome of the debate is open.

Herakleios implemented far-reaching reforms within the empire, which were to be formative for the Byzantine Empire until its fall and marked the end of the late antique phase of the empire. Under him, the Eastern Roman or early Byzantine Empire largely lost its late Roman character through the Graecization of the state.

Herakleios was evidently a competent military man. He could save the empire from the Sassanids, but no longer from the onslaught of the Arabs. With the loss of the most important provinces and the restriction to Asia Minor, southern Italy and the Balkans, the late ancient Eastern Roman Empire ended and the Byzantine Empire of the Middle Ages began.


Important sources for his reign are the Easter Chronicle, an anonymous Syrian chronicle ( Anonymus Guidi ) , the historical works of Pseudo- Sebeos , Theophanes and Nikephorus as well as the poems of George of Pisidia . The source situation is very problematic, especially as regards attempts at characterization concerns of the emperor.

  • Geoffrey B. Greatrex and Samuel NC Lieu: The Roman Eastern Frontier and the Persian Wars. Part II AD 363-630. A narrative sourcebook . London / New York 2002, especially p. 182 ff. (Translated and briefly commented source excerpts).
  • Andrew Palmer, Sebastian P. Brock, Robert G. Hoyland : The Seventh Century in the West Syrian Chronicles . Translated Texts for Historians . Liverpool University Press, Liverpool 1993.

In Islamic tradition, Herakleios is remembered primarily as the addressee of a letter from the Prophet Mohammed , in which the Prophet asked the ruler of Byzantium to accept Islam. The letter is said to have been brought to him by the merchant Dihya ibn Chalīfa al-Kalbī on a legation trip, but is to be regarded as an invention.


  • Philip Booth: Crisis of Empire. Doctrine and Dissent and the End of Late Antiquity (= Transformation of the Classical Heritage . Volume 52). University of California Press, Berkeley 2014, ISBN 978-0-520-28042-7 (current account of the religious conflicts under Herakleios).
  • Wolfram Brandes: Herakleios and the End of Antiquity in the East. Triumphs and defeats. In: Mischa Meier (Ed.): They created Europe. Historical portraits from Constantine to Charlemagne . Beck, Munich 2007, ISBN 978-3-406-55500-8 , pp. 248-258.
  • Hugh Elton: The Roman Empire in Late Antiquity. A Political and Military History. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge 2018, ISBN 978-1-108-45631-9 .
  • John Haldon: Byzantium in the Seventh Century. The Transformation of a Culture. 2nd Edition. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge 1997, ISBN 0-521-31917-X (important review).
  • James Howard-Johnston : Witnesses to a World Crisis. Historians and Histories of the Middle East in the Seventh Century. Oxford University Press, Oxford et al. 2010, ISBN 978-0-19-920859-3 .
  • James Howard-Johnston: Heraclius' Persian Campaigns and the Revival of the East Roman Empire 622-630. In: Was in History . Volume 6, 1999, pp. 1-44.
  • Walter E. Kaegi: Heraclius - Emperor of Byzantium . Cambridge University Press, Cambridge 2003, ISBN 0-521-03698-4 (fundamental, but sometimes methodologically problematic work on Herakleios; review in The Medieval Review by Geoffrey Greatrex , review by Mischa Meier in sehepunkte ).
  • Christian Lange : Mia Energeia. Studies on the unification policy of the Emperor Heraclius and the Patriarch Sergius of Constantinople (= studies and texts on antiquity and Christianity. Volume 66). Mohr Siebeck, Tübingen 2012, ISBN 978-3-16-150967-4 .
  • Ralph-Johannes Lilie : Byzantium. The second Rome . Siedler, Berlin 2003, ISBN 3-88680-693-6 , pp. 80ff. (concise but informative summary).
  • Gerrit Jan Reinink, Bernard H. Stolte (eds.): The Reign of Heraclius (610-641). Crisis and Confrontation (= Groningen Studies in Cultural Change. Volume 2). Peeters Publishers, Leuven 2002 (collection of essays on central topics; review by Mischa Meier in sehepunkte ).
  • Paul Speck: The shared dossier. Observations on the news about the reign of the emperor Herakleios and that of his sons with Theophanes and Nikephoros (= Poikila Byzantina . Volume 9). Habelt, Bonn 1988, ISBN 3-7749-2362-0 .
  • Andreas N. Stratos: Byzantium in the Seventh Century. Volume 1: 602-634 . Hakkert, Amsterdam 1968, ISBN 90-256-5788-5 .
  • Mary Whitby: A New Image for a New Age. George of Pisidia on the Emperor Heraclius . In: Edward Dabrowa (Ed.): The Roman and Byzantine Army in the East. Proceedings of a colloqium held at the Jagiellonian University, Kraków in September 1992 . Drukarnia Uniwersytetu Jagiellońskiego, Krakow 1994, ISBN 83-233-0750-4 , pp. 197-225.

Web links

Commons : Herakleios  - album with pictures, videos and audio files


  1. With full title Imperator Caesar Flavius ​​Heraclius fidelis in Christo mansuetus maximus beneficus pacificus Alamannicus Gothicus Francicus Germanicus Anticus Alanicus Vandalicus Africanus Erulicus Gepidicus pius felix inclitus victor ac triumphator semper Augustus ; see Gerhard Rösch : Onoma Basileias. Studies on the official use of imperial titles in late antique and early Byzantine times. Vienna 1978, p. 170.
  2. General Haldon, Byzantium in the Seventh Century .
  3. ^ Walter E. Kaegi: Heraclius - Emperor of Byzantium. Cambridge 2003, p. 21.
  4. ^ Cf. Walter E. Kaegi: Heraclius - Emperor of Byzantium Cambridge 2003, p. 21, note 4, with further references.
  5. ^ Walter E. Kaegi: Heraclius - Emperor of Byzantium Cambridge 2003, p. 38.
  6. See Süha Konuk: A Tyrant on the Throne: Phocas the Usurper, and the Collapse of the Eastern Frontier. In: Trames 24, 2020, pp. 201–213.
  7. Barbara Baert, Heraclius and Chosroes or The Desire for the True Cross ( Memento from November 10, 2011 in the Internet Archive )
  8. Elliot Horowitz, "The Vengeance of the Jews Was Stronger Than Their Avarice": Modern Historians and the Persian Conquest of Jerusalem in 614 ( Memento of January 17, 2008 in the Internet Archive ) In: Jewish Social Studies 4, 2.
  9. Cf. Ruth Altheim-Stiehl , The Sasanians in Egypt. In: Bulletin de la Société d'Archéologie Copte 31, 1992, pp. 87-96.
  10. See Walter E. Kaegi: Heraclius - Emperor of Byzantium Cambridge 2003, pp. 90 f. This is the last new coin legend in Latin that appears on Eastern Roman coins. Later coins either showed Greek inscriptions or reissued old Latin legends.
  11. ^ Howard-Johnston, Heraclius' Persian Campaigns. P. 3f.
  12. See Geoffrey B. Greatrex, Samuel NC Lieu: The Roman Eastern Frontier and the Persian Wars. Part II AD 363-630. London / New York 2002, p. 199.
  13. Walter Pohl , Die Awaren, provides a detailed and reliable account of Roman-Avar relations . 2nd Edition. Munich 2002. For the period in question see ibid., P. 237 ff.
  14. In the research this question is controversial, because the sources regarding the campaign are not very productive and partly contradicting; see Theophanes and George of Pisidia .
  15. ^ On the following, see Walter E. Kaegi: Heraclius - Emperor of Byzantium Cambridge 2003, p. 122ff. (with map on p. 123).
  16. See Walter E. Kaegi: Heraclius - Emperor of Byzantium Cambridge 2003, p. 128ff.
  17. On the problem of Khazars / Göktürken see Walter E. Kaegi: Heraclius - Emperor of Byzantium Cambridge 2003, pp. 142f. The sometimes appearing designation as Khazars is likely to be an anachronism .
  18. ^ Robert G. Hoyland: In God's Path. Oxford 2015, p. 94.
  19. ^ Walter E. Kaegi: Heraclius - Emperor of Byzantium Cambridge 2003, p. 158ff.
  20. ^ Walter E. Kaegi: Heraclius - Emperor of Byzantium Cambridge 2003, p. 166 ff.
  21. ^ Walter E. Kaegi: Heraclius - Emperor of Byzantium Cambridge 2003, p. 170 f.
  22. The wording of the letter from Kavadh II Siroe to Herakleios, in which the new great king asks for peace, is passed down to us through the so-called Easter Chronicle ( Chronicon Paschale ) .
  23. On the negotiations that dragged on for a long time after the end of the war, see Walter E. Kaegi: Heraclius - Emperor of Byzantium Cambridge 2003, p. 178ff.
  24. Stephan Borgehammar: Heraclius Learns Humility. Two Early Latin Account Composed for the Celebration of Exaltatio Crucis. In: Millennium . Volume 6, 2009, pp. 145-201.
  25. Cf. E. Feistner: Ottes "Eraclius" against the background of the French sources (= Göppingen works on German studies . Volume 470). Kümmerle Verlag, Göppingen 1987.
  26. Jacobus Iudaeus, Gottlieb Nathanael Bonwetsch: Doctrina Iacobi nuper baptizati (= treatises of the Royal Society of Sciences in Göttingen. Philological-historical class. New series, Volume 12, No. 3). Weidmannsche Buchhandlung, Berlin 1910, p. 62, lines 4–12.
  27. See Hugh Kennedy, Syrian Elites from Byzantium to Islam. In: John Haldon (Ed.): Money, Power and Politics in Early Islamic Syria. Farnham 2010, p. 181 ff.
  28. ↑ Attempts to explain, for example by Karl-Heinz Ohlig et al., Who see a Christian heresy in Islam that only later developed into a religion of its own, are not without problems; see Karl-Heinz Ohlig (Ed.): Der Früh Islam , Berlin 2007. In this context, there are even ideas circulating that interpret Islamic expansion as the takeover of the Orient by Christian, anti-Trinitarian Arabs - hypotheses that, in the opinion of many researchers, are not really can convince. In general on Islamic expansion see Walter E. Kaegi: Byzantium and the Early Islamic Conquests. Cambridge 1992, and now Hugh Kennedy: The Great Arab Conquests. Philadelphia 2007.
  29. Cf. Christian Lange: Mia Energeia: Investigations into the unification policy of the Emperor Heraclius and the Patriarch Sergius of Constantinople . Tübingen 2012, p. 531 ff.
  30. ^ The Prosopography of the Later Roman Empire . Volume 3. Cambridge 1992, p. 457.
  31. See only Wolfram Brandes, Heraclius between Restoration and Reform. In: Reinink / Stolte (ed.): The Reign of Heraclius. P. 17 ff., Here p. 31 f.
  32. In research, however, the associated assessment is controversial, see Irfan Shahid, The Iranian Factor in Byzantium during the Reign of Heraclius. In: Dumbarton Oaks Papers 26, 1972, pp. 293-320 and Irfan Shahid, On the Titulature of the Emperor Heraclius. In: Byzantion 51, 1981, pp. 288-296, CONTRA Evangelos K. Chrysos, The Title Basileus in Early Byzantine International Relations. In: Dumbarton Oaks Papers 32, 1978, pp. 29-75; Constantin Zuckerman, On the title and the office of the Byzantine basileus. In: Travaux et Mémoires du Center de recherche d'Histoire et Civilization de Byzance 16, 2010, pp. 865–890 ( online ; PDF; 1.4 MB ).
  33. ^ Joseph DC Frendo: History and Panegyric in the Age of Heraclius: The Literary Background to the Composition of the "Histories" of Theophylact Simocatta. In: Dumbarton Oaks Papers. 42, 1988, pp. 143-156.
  34. See for example James Howard-Johnston: Heraclius' Persian Campaigns and the Revival of the East Roman Empire 622–630. In: Was in History. 6, 1999, pp. 1–44, here p. 42 f. The Byzantinist Timothy Gregory described him not without good reason as “one of the real heroes of Byzantine history and a fascinating character in his own right” (Timothy E. Gregory, A History of Byzantium , Malden and Oxford 2005, p. 156).
  35. For details see Walter E. Kaegi: Heraclius. ... Cambridge 2003 and James Howard-Johnston: Witnesses to a World Crisis. Oxford 2010.
  36. Stefan Leder: Heraclios recognizes the prophet. An example of the form and emergence of narrative historical constructions. In: Journal of the German Oriental Society. 151, 2001, pp. 1–42, especially pp. 5–7 (digitized version)
predecessor Office successor
Phocas Emperor of Byzantium
Constantine III
This version was added to the list of articles worth reading on November 6, 2005 .