Page 1004

1004 UNIVERSAL HISTORY-THE ANCIENT WORLD.

the family of his predecessor, the act was

capricious rather than merciful. But Constantia, the loyal widow of Maurice, could not

forget the virtues of her lord. With a purpose worthy of success she conspired against

Phocas, but was taken and executed with her

three daughters on the same spot where her

husband and sons had perished.

These events brought about a reaction,

which ended in a rebellion. The African legions, led by Heraclius, exarch of that province, marched on Constantinople. The patrician Crispus, son-in-law of the Emperor, was

in the conspiracy. Between him and Heraclius messages were passed back and forth,

Phocas was presently seized in his palace,

stripped of his robes, clad like a peasant,

thrust in a galley, and carried to Heraclius,

by whom he was beheaded. The African exarch was then, in the year 610, invited by the

Senate and people to assume the duties of

government. With him the throne was shared

by his wife Eudoxia, and a new dynasty was

thus established over the Eastern Empire.

Meanwhile the Persian monarch Chosroes,

offended by the murder of his patron, the

Emperor Maurice, took up arms to avenge his

death. The Persian banners were carried victoriously from city to city. After the accession

of Heraclius the conquest was continued to Antioch, Caesarea, Damascus, and Jerusalem. The

latter city was stormed by the Persians. The

tomb of Christ and the churches of Helena

and Constantine fell into their hands, and were

pillaged and destroyed. Ninety thousand Christians were killed in the course of the campaign.

A second Persian army advanced against Chalcedon, and lay for more than ten years almost

in sight of Constantinople. For the time being, the boundaries of the Persian Empire in

the West were extended well-nigh to the limits

reached by Cyrus and Cambyses. Suppliant

embassies, sent by Heraclius to the Persian

court, were dismissed with disdain. The

Avars of the Danube, still unsubdued, now

renewed the war; and, so far as the administration of legitimate authority was concerned

the limits of the Empire were suddenly almost

contracted to the walls of Constantinople.

In the midst of the great emergencies by

which he was pressed, Heraclius suddenly developed the qualities of a soldier. In six successive campaigns he retrieved the honor of

the Roman name. North, east, and west the

enemies of the Empire Were thrust back to

the borders. In order to meet the expenses

of the expeditions, the already accumulated

wealth of the church was borrowed with a

promise of restoration at some future day.

New levies were made, and the army enlarged

proportionally to the dangers of the Empire.

In the year 622 a great expedition was led

against the Persians. Heraclius entered Cilicia, and succeeded in drawing the enemy into

a general engagement. A fierce battle ensued,

in which the old-time valor of the Romans

shone forth in its pristine glory. The Persians

were disastrously routed, and the Emperor

made his camp on the Halys. In the following year he penetrated the heart of the Persian Empire, where city after city was taken

and province after province subdued. For

nearly a year he disappeared from sight; but

early in 624 his safety and continued successes

were announced to the Senate. Soon afterwards a bloody battle was fought on the banks

of the Sarus, in Cilicia, in which the Imperial

army was again victorious. The Emperor then

continued his triumphant course through Cappadocia to the Euxine, whence he returned,

after three years' absence to Constantinople.

In 627 the Persians, not yet satisfied with

the results of the contest, again entered the

field with an army computed at five hundred

thousand men. Heraclius immediately advanced to the frontier, crossed the Araxes and

the Tigris, and met the enemy on the plains

of Nineveh. Here was fought one of the

greatest battles which had occurred since the

days of Julius Caesar. From the morning

dawn to the eleventh hour the contest raged

fiercely; but at the last victory rested on the

standards of the Empire. Heraclius followed

up his triumph by the capture of Dastagerd,

then the royal seat of Persia, filled with the

treasures of the kingdom. The coffers of the

Oriental monarch were emptied into the bags

of Heraclius, and the latter then made his

way to Ctesiphon. Great was the humiliation of Chosroes at