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Tremissis of Maurikios.

Maurikios ( Latin Flavius ​​Mauricius Tiberius , Middle Greek Μαυρίκιος ; * 539 in Arabissos ; † November 27, 602 in Chalcedon ) was emperor of the Eastern Roman Empire from August 13, 582 to November 27, 602 and one of the most important late antique and early Byzantine rulers. His reign was mainly characterized by defensive battles on the borders.

The Eastern Roman Empire from approx. 526–600


Persian war and accession to the throne

Flavius ​​Mauricius Tiberius came from Arabissos in Cappadocia and was a successful general before taking the throne in 582. The most important source of his reign is the Greek historian Theophylaktos Simokates , whose histories are considered the last ancient historical work.

In the war with the Persian Sassanid Empire (→ Roman-Persian Wars ) that broke out again under Justin II. 572 , Maurikios was initially a participant in armistice delegations. At the end of 577 he was appointed magister militum per Orientem as the successor to General Justinian and in 581 inflicted a serious defeat on the Persians. A year later, he married Constantina , the daughter of the Emperor Tiberius Constantinus , who was now the commander ( comes ) of the imperial bodyguard ( excubitores ), was appointed Caesar by him and succeeded him on August 13, 582 as sole Augustus on the throne. Germanus , who had recently been raised to Caesar together with Maurikios , seems to have renounced the empire. Maurikios took over an apparently almost bankrupt state that had to pay tribute to the Avars , whose Balkan provinces were annually devastated by the Slavs and which had been at war with Persia for years.

The Roman-Persian border in late antiquity.

Maurikios initially had to continue the war with the Persians as emperor. In 586 his troops won another victory over the Persians at Solachon near Dara , but this was without consequence. Despite a serious mutiny in 588, the imperial army withstood the Persians for another two years before Chosrau II in 590 overthrew and killed his father, the Sassanid great king Hormizd IV , and shortly afterwards himself before the rebellious general Bahram Chobin at the court of the Kaisers fled. Although the Senate advised against it and Chosrau's opponent - now as Bahram (VI.) - was ready to make very far-reaching concessions, Maurikios finally supported Chosrau II in returning to the throne. For this purpose he sent Chosrau and his loyal followers together with his own army under the experienced magister militum Narses - not to be confused with Justinian's general of the same name - to Persia. Maurikios was finally able to bring the war to a successful end for the Romans with the repatriation of Chosraus and the victory over the usurper Bahram Chobin in 591. As previously agreed, stepped Khosrow, who was believed to have been adopted by Maurikios, in gratitude for the Roman assistance northern Mesopotamia , including the previously much contested city Nisibis , Nor Shirakan up to a boundary immediately west of the capital Dvin in the north and to the Lake Van in South as well as Iberia (Eastern Georgia) to the capital Tbilisi on east current. As a result, Maurikios forced the Armenians to form a church union with Constantinople .

War in the Balkans

After the success on the eastern border, Maurikios turned to the Balkans and for this purpose also transferred contingents of the Armenian nobility to south-eastern Europe. The Slavs, who had plundered the Roman Balkan provinces over and over again for decades, may have moved to permanent settlement since the early 580s . In 582 the strategically important Sirmium was lost to the Avars, who from there conquered several poorly defended fortresses on the Danube from 583 onwards. In 584 the Slavs threatened the capital, 586 Avar attackers Thessaloniki and in the same year Slavic groups even advanced as far as the Peloponnese . However, the Eastern Roman general Comentiolus was able to inflict a defeat on the Slavs in Thrace .

The mostly successful Balkan campaigns of Maurikios against the Avars and Slavs from 591 onwards suggested a turning point and put an end to the raids for the next two decades. In 592 Maurikios - as the first emperor since Theodosius I or Majorian - personally took command of the Roman troops, but returned to Constantinople after a few weeks. Shortly afterwards, his troops retook Singidunum from the Avars. His general Priscus then inflicted several defeats on the Slavs, Avars and Gepids in Thrace and Moesia in 593 , before he pursued them across the Danube to what is now Wallachia , in order to continue his series of victories there. In 594 Maurikios replaced Priscus and replaced him with his inexperienced brother Petros , who also won a victory in Wallachia.

In 595 Priscus, who was deployed as commander in chief of another army, achieved several defensive successes against the Avars, which only attacked again in 597 and this time achieved a surprise success. In 598 a treaty was signed with the Avarenkhagan, which was broken by the Romans in retaliation. During this counter-attack, Roman troops advanced into the Avar heartland in 599, and even as far as the Tisza in 601. In 602 a large group of Slavs in what is now Wallachia was decisively defeated. The East Romans were now largely able to hold the Danube line again, and the northern Balkans seemed to be firmly under imperial control for the first time in two centuries. During this period, Maurikios' plans to settle more Armenians as defensive farmers in the Balkans in order to repopulate the areas depopulated by the Avars and Slavs.

Other theaters of war and foreign policy

In the west Maurikios had the Exarchate of Carthage and the Exarchate of Ravenna set up. For the first time exarchs 590 and 584 are mentioned. The local exarchs were assigned extensive military and civil powers, which is remarkable in that in late antiquity these areas of competence were usually strictly separated ( Justinian I , however, had deviated from this principle in isolated cases for practical reasons). The newly appointed exarchs of Ravenna and Carthage took Maurikios' concerns about the situation in the areas conquered by Justinian from as far as possible, as they mostly acted independently. The later first exarch of Carthage, Gennadios, defeated the Moors as early as 578/79 and brought peace to the province of Africa for decades. The exarch of Ravenna, Romanus , led energetic campaigns in the Po Valley and extended the imperial sphere of influence in the Apennines.

Maurikios appointed the general Komentiolos as magister militum Spaniae . Stone inscription (ILS 835) from 589 from Cartagena.

Maurikios also tried to preserve the imperial authority in the west and to increase his influence there. In 582 he intervened in Gaul and supported the pretender to the throne Gundowald , which failed, however. The relationship between Maurikios and the Merovingian Franks led (in return for imperial subsidies ) in 584 and 585 to Frankish incursions into the Longobard Empire . Because of the lack of support from Maurikios, who initially needed every soldier in the East and later in the Balkans, and because of the decentralized organization of the Longobard Empire (which in this respect showed certain parallels to the exarchates), no major successes were achieved.

For the most part, Maurikios only watched the Visigoths advance into southern Spain, probably mainly due to the insignificance and remoteness of the province of Spain . However, an inscription (ILS 835) from Carthago Nova ( Cartagena ) dated to the year 589 reports that patricius Comentiolus was sent by the emperor as magister militum Spaniae to fight against the “barbaric enemies”. No further details are known about this campaign.

In the reign of Maurikios there were again contacts with the Kök Turks , which had previously existed for several years (see Sizabulos and Turxanthos ). The Turkish ruler Tardu , who was in political distress, probably wanted to strengthen his position through an alliance with Ostrom, but it did not materialize.

Domestic measures

The fact that Maurikios apparently wanted to continue to adhere to the Roman rights of rule over the entire old Roman Empire is also evident in the regulation of his succession laid down by him around 597: The empire should - including the western Roman areas largely under Germanic rule, that of the emperor so that he continued to claim for himself - to be ruled jointly by his sons: The eldest son Theodosius was intended as Augustus of the East, the second son Tiberius as that of the West (with Rome instead of Ravenna as his residence). Since the unity of the empire was to be preserved, the concept is reminiscent of the division of the empire in 395 . Eventually the other two sons of Maurikios should also act as co-emperors; if this is the case, it would have been, as it were, a recourse to the Diocletian tetrarchy . The violent death of the emperor and his sons put an end to these ambitious plans.

Half-siliqua of the co-emperor Theodosius

In terms of religious policy, Maurikios was quite tolerant of the " Monophysites ", although he was a follower of the Chalcedonese .

All in all, the emperor's measures to consolidate the empire seem to have slowly achieved success, also thanks to the calm in the Orient. The Avar and Slavic storms on the Balkan Peninsula came to a standstill, the exarchates asserted themselves independently. Roman fortresses were able to hold on to the southern Spanish coast. His initial popularity is said to have continued to decline over the course of his reign, mainly due to his housekeeping. As early as 588, his decree to cut all military assignments by a quarter had led to dangerous revolts on the Persian front; There was also a threatening uprising in Egypt (see Abaskiron ), which resulted in considerable tax losses. In 599, for reasons of economy, he is said to have refused to buy twelve thousand prisoners free, who were then killed by the Avars.

The end

The uncompromising course of the emperor made him increasingly unpopular; The attempt to gain popularity among the city's population by taking over the consulate again at the beginning of 602 also failed: When Maurikios led a move through Constantinople a little later, he was pelted with rubbish and stones, so that he allegedly had to take refuge in a private house . When he wanted the army to winter in the war zone on the other side of the Danube in the autumn of 602, the troops mutinied: probably misunderstanding the situation, the emperor had repeatedly ordered the exhausted soldiers to open a new offensive and take advantage of the favorable military situation instead of retiring to winter quarters. When the troops got the impression after some back and forth that Maurikios was no longer doing justice to his role as their patron, they revolted and lifted the officer Phokas on the shield (initially without proclaiming him as the opposing emperor). In November 602, the insurgents, supported by the green circus party , were able to take Constantinople. Maurikios fled to the other side of the Bosphorus, where he was captured. He and his sons were cruelly killed on November 27th that year. It is reported that he was forced to watch three of his sons were beheaded before his turn. Phocas (602–610), who had given the order to assassinate the emperor, then ascended the throne himself. Chosrau II used the overthrow of his patron Maurikios as a pretext to reopen the war against the East.


Maurikios came from a relatively simple background. His father's name was Paul, and the family is believed to have originally come from Rome. Maurikios had at least one brother (the above-mentioned Petros) and two sisters: Gordia (who later married the later very successful General Philippikos, who especially proved himself in the fight against the Persians) and the widowed Theoctista. He and his wife had nine children: Theodosius, born on August 4, 583, as well as Tiberius, Petrus, Paulus, Justin, Justinian, Anastasia, Theoktista and Cleopatra. His wife and three daughters were only banished to the Nea Metanoia monastery after his fall and executed in 604/605. Although the presumptive heir to the throne Theodosius was probably killed together with his brothers in 602, Chosrau II later presented a young man for some time, whom he wanted to help as the alleged Theodosius to the Eastern Roman crown.

Modern assessment

Maurikios, at whose court (as well as in the army and administration) Latin was still spoken, was considered overall a capable emperor and general, even if his description in Theophylact is perhaps a bit too positive. He still thought entirely in the categories and patterns of the Imperium Romanum , as evidenced in particular by the plan of division of the empire of 597, even if he was unable to pay much attention to the former western Roman territories due to the military crises of his time. His military and foreign policy skills are evidenced by the campaigns against the Persians and Avars / Slavs as well as by the peace he negotiated with Chosrau II. His very pragmatic administrative reforms also testify to foresight, especially since they long outlived his death and provided a basis for the later management of the issues were. In part, the church union that was imposed on the Armenians is still having an impact today; the population of Georgia was also affected and, in contrast to the Armenians, did not renounce the church union, which is why they belong to the Orthodox faith.

Maurikios also made a contribution to the sciences and the arts, wrote Menander Protektor during his reign. Maurikios may also be the author of the famous late antique military manual Strategikon ( tactics ), divided into twelve books, but this is controversial. His greatest weakness was probably his lack of a sense of the enforceability of political decisions, which ultimately cost him his throne and his life and undermined most of his achievements. This is particularly true of his efforts to make the army more efficient at the expense of caring for the soldiers. This excessive demand on the troops ultimately led to his fall.

Despite his undeniable achievements, Maurikios is now only known to experts. His fall is a turning point in the history of the Eastern Roman Empire, as the war with Persia, which flared up again after his death, so weakened both empires that the Slavs were finally able to settle on the Balkan Peninsula and the Arabs ultimately had an easy time of expansion.

The important English ancient historian A. HM Jones did not let the (late) antiquity come to an end with the death of Maurikios , because during the crises that were to shake Eastern Europe in the following 40 years, the character of state and society changed fundamentally: The middle ages began.


For older literature see the DIR entry from Baum (under web links).

  • Andrew Louth: The Eastern Empire in the sixth century. In: David Abulafia u. a. (Ed.): The New Cambridge Medieval History . Paul Fouracre (Ed.): Volume 1: C. 500 - c. 700. Cambridge University Press, Cambridge et al. a. 2005, ISBN 0-521-36291-1 , pp. 93-117.
  • John Robert Martindale: Maurikios. In: The Prosopography of the Later Roman Empire (PLRE). Volume 3B, Cambridge University Press, Cambridge 1992, ISBN 0-521-20160-8 , pp. 855-860.
  • Franziska E. Shlosser: The Reign of the Emperor Maurikios (582-602). A reassessment. = Ē βασιλεíα τυ αυτοκρáτορα Μαυριkíυ (= Historical Monographs 14). Historical Publications Basilopoulus, Athens 1994, ISBN 960-7100-78-6 (also: Montreal, McGill Univ., Diss.).
  • Michael Whitby : The Emperor Maurice and his Historian. Theophylact Simocatta on Persian and Balkan Warfare. Clarendon Press, Oxford et al. a. 1988, ISBN 0-19-822945-3 .

Web links

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


  1. With full title, Imperator Caesar Flavius ​​Mauricius novus Tiberius fidelis in Christo mansuetus maximus beneficus pacificus Alamannicus Gothicus (Francicus Germanicus) Anticus Alanicus Vandalicus Erulicus Gepidicus Afric (an) us pius felix inclitus victor ac trusf ; see. Gerhard Rösch : Onoma Basileias. Studies on the official use of imperial titles in late antique and early Byzantine times. Vienna 1978, p. 169.
  2. Euagrios Scholastikos , Church History 5:19.
  3. See Shlosser, Maurikios , p. 55; Whitby, Maurice , p. 18 (who names eight children, but then lists the nine children mentioned in the sources ( Chronicon Paschale ) by name).
predecessor Office successor
Tiberios I. Eastern Roman Emperor