Page 1005

1005 ROME-AGE OF JUSTINIAN.

the destruction of his capital; but the stubborn king was little disposed to accept the

overtures of peace made by his victorious antagonist. Already falling into the sere and

yellow leaf, the aged monarch would confer

the crown upon his son Merdaza. But a malcontent element now gained the ascendant in

the government, and in 628 Chosroes was

seized and thrown into a dungeon. His

eighteen sons were put to death before his

eyes, and he himself left to perish in prison.

Hereupon a certain Siroes, son of a favorite

wife of the late king, was raised to the throne,

and with him a treaty of peace was presently

concluded. The new monarch survived the

murder of his father only eight months, and

with his death the Sassanian dynasty, which

had ruled Persia since the year 226, became

extinct.

As the reign of Heraclius drew to a close

he designated his two sons, Constantine and

Heracleonas, as his successors; but they were

directed to await the death of the Empress

Martina. When Heraclius expired in 641

Martina attempted to assume the government

alone, but she was soon obliged to descend

from the throne and hide herself in the palace.

Constantine III. was then proclaimed Emperor, but after a reign of only a hundred

and three days was dismissed by poison. Martina reappeared to claim the throne, taking

care, however, to exercise authority in the

name of the surviving Augustus. The jealousy of the Senate, as well as the suspicions of

the people, was now directed against the ambitious regent, and she was condemned to have

her tongue cut out and to go into exile.

The young Constans II., eldest son of

Constantine III., was now recognized as Emperor. Jealous of his younger brother, Theodosius, he had him raised to the office of

deacon in the church, thereby disqualifying

him for the succession. Not satisfied, however,

against the possibilities of ambition, he afterwards had his brother assassinated. The crime

was so monstrous, so unprovoked, that in 662

the criminal was driven from the throne. He

wandered into foreign lands, visiting Tarentum and Rome in Italy, and finally fixing his

residence in Syracuse. Like Charles IX., he was haunted with specters that menaced him

with vengeance. His murdered brother's ghost

stood before him holding in a shadowy hand a

cup of blood, saying, "Drink, brother, drink!"

At last Constans was killed in a civil tumult

in Syracuse, in 668, after a nominal reign of

seventeen years.

As soon as the news of this event reached

Constantinople, Constantine IV., eldest son

of the late sovereign, was proclaimed as his successor. The young monarch received the name

of Pogonatus or the "Bearded." Going to

Syracuse he overthrew a pretender who had

arisen there after the death of his father. Notwithstanding the fact that the new sovereign

was received with favor and was enthusiastically contrasted with his father, he soon

became embroiled in difficulties, which continued during his whole reign of ten years. His

two brothers, Heraclius and Tiberius, organized a dangerous conspiracy, but they were

finally suppressed and captured. In the presence of the Catholic bishops then assembled

in the sixth general council at Constantinople,

the culprits were at once disgraced and punished by the cutting off of their noses.

In 685 Constantine IV. died and was succeeded by his son Justinian II. The young

man, however, had few qualities requisite in a

sovereign. His understanding was no more

than commonplace. His intelligence rose to

the level of being proud of his patrimony.

He was of a cruel and passionate disposition,

vindictive and revengeful, inflicting punishment rather from the love of it than from the

ignominious motive of fear. For nearly ten

years, despite the criminality of his reign and

the consequent hostility of the people, he continued to disgrace the throne and persecute

his subjects. At last, however, in 695, forbearance ceased to be a virtue, and Leontius,

the popular general of the guards, headed an

insurrection for the overthrow of the tyrant.

Justinian was seized and dragged into the hippodrome, where the people clamored for his

life, but Leontius interfered in his behalf and

the sentence was modified. The miserable

Emperor was condemned to be cut off as to

his nose and tongue, and to be banished to

Tartary.