Posted by: ken98 | September 14, 2011

The BIGGEST DAY in history, Bookended Emperors, and It’s Not Easy Being Beautiful

Day 733 – Ken here (W)(9-14-2011)
(DEF II, v.4, Ch.46, pp.920-930)(pages read: 1980)

SPQR - Senatus PopulusQue Romanus

SPQR - Senatus PopulusQue Romanus - the Senate and People of Rome - this is their day - probably a standard from the Republic 600+ years earlier, still the Romans of Constantinople in the late 620's had a lot to be proud of - Good Times for a few years

Another gold-boxed day. A ROMAN day.

This is Heraclius’s BIG DAY – and he deserves it.

Probably the most Holy Roman day we will see, except for the triumph of Basil II in 1014 at the battle of Kleidon over the Bulgarian Empire (these two – Heraclius and Basil II were considered – for the next 800 and 400 years respectively – by the Romans – to be their great national heroes).

So…the Great Day of Heraclius. And a Great Day for us, as we end Chapter 46, and effectively end our history for Volume 4 and Book 2. Gibbon does have a final chapter (70+ pages) in Vol.4, Bk.2 – on Christianity (so technically we’re NOT THROUGH) – which I am NOT looking forward to – but which will shed MUCH light I’m sure on monks, monothelitism, Gibbon’s unreasonable antipathy towards ancient Eastern Sects/”Heresies (like Jacobites, Nestorians, Armenians, Copts, Manicheans, etc). But don’t get me started yet on all that – we 7 days for rants of those persuasions ahead of us.

(I seem to be doing a lot more ranting lately – a somewhat disturbing developement)

Today – the great (apparently I’ll be using that adjective a lot) dual attack on Constantinople in 616 – Persians from Asia Minor, Avars from the Balkans – How could the Romans possibly survive? – well, the Byzantine Navy and Byzantine diplomacy (alliance of Khazars) pulls the empire’s irons out of the fire and puts Rome on top again – this is the formula for Rome’s future – the Navy and Diplomacy – and it starts partially here.

It’s not Heraclius’s fault – and certainly not a coincidence (both Persia and Rome were EXHAUSTED at this point) – that the entirely unexpected Muslim invasions started almost immediately and wiped out all of Heraclius’s carefully planned and executed successes from the past thirty years – leaving the empire short on taxes and long on enemies – the familiar story of the Byzantines for the rest of their history.

Rome was doomed to battling it out in the Balkans, Asia Minor and Italy for the next 400 years, surviving by sleight-of-hand tricks of diplomacy, maintaining a medieval island of money-economy, city-based living and commerce, and being consumed again and again by superhuman defensive/offensive war efforts with an ever-changing array of political competitors eager to rob the big candy store that was Constantinople and carry off 1000 years of accumulated wealth.

It’s not easy being beautiful. It’s NOT.

The Story
Great Battle of Constantinople – Avars, Persians LOSE to the Romans (616)
  • NOTE: the ROMAN NAVY pushes the balace in favor of Const – beginning of the Roman Navy at sea helping to make Const. impregnable (with its biggest-city-walls-in-the-world land walls protecting the city )
  • Persians have treaty of alliance with Avars, Baian
  • Persians divide up army into 3 Massive Pieces – 1st army – Golden Spears go against Heraclius in Asia Minor, 2nd Army, Placed between Her. bro. Theodorus troops and Her. tropps, 3rd army Persian Genl Sabar TAKES Chalcedon (Asian shore opp city of Const.)
  • Avars Attack Constantinople – Siege Engines, Mine Walls, Take the Long Walls (walls out about 20 miles from city, crossing the peninsula of land), Besiege Const.iItself – Heraclius not present (out defending territory), the Patriarch heads up the enthusiastic defense w/12,000 troops from Const.
  • Romans try to bribe Avars to no effect, Roman fleet commands Bosporus, cuts off Avar supplies – the Avars eventually give up
  • Constantinople is saved – 1 army down – 3 Persian armies to go

    Emperor Heraclius and his Khazar (Russian) Alliance
  • Heraclius engages the Chozars (Khazars – I HATE Gibbon’s spelling – its almost never the same as the modern versions – in ANY LANGUAGE) – banquets Ziebel, offers him riches, even his daughter, together with Turks they approach Edessa and the 1st Army
  • 3rd army Genl Sarbas stays in Chalcedon – but Khusrau II apparently attempts to replace him, Sarbas rebels, and that 3rd army is neutralized – beg. of Persian chaos
  • Heraclius takes then, without hindrance major cities in Asia Minor back to Roman dependence

    3rd Campaign-Battle of Nineveh (627)
  • Turning Point of War – In Assyria at site of old Nineveh – armies converge (Dec 627)
  • Romans victorious – AND FOR ONCE the ROMANS perform a LIGHTNING STRIKE into PERSIA with Incredible Success – unlike Julian/Jovian etc who retreat after 1st having victories
  • Take all of Assyria (upper Tigris/Euphrates) and Khusrau II’s new capital Dastagerd
  • Gets next to walls of Ctesiphon, but does not attempt it – Heraclius falls back on Northern-Eastern Iran – Media )

    Flight and Death of Khusrau II (628)
  • Long description of denigration and fall of mighty Khusrau II – he escapes to Ctesiphon
  • At Ctesiphon he tries to pass the crown to his son Merdaz, but another son Siroes, (son of Sira – THIS IS HIGHLY SUSPECT, at least to me – the supp. devout Christian harem-wife of Khusrau II) – Siroes raises a revolt
  • Khusrau II deposed, killed (2-28-628), 18 sons killed, Siroes reigns 8 months – Khusrau II dies in prison, starved, insulted, tortured – Theophanes goes into great detail – PLUNGES Persia into Civil War
  • Gibbon throws in questioning comment about how Theophanes KNOWS all these intimate details – again 200 years after the fact

    Persian Chaos next 12 Years – Until Muslim Conquests End Sassanid Kingdom (begin 633)
  • After 8 months of Siroes, 9 Shahs in next 4 years
  • Then 8 years of civil war with no Shahs
  • THIS IS THE POINT WHERE THE ARABS ATTACK – is it any wonder that the Muslims succeeded? Persia was helpless

    Wild Joy At Heraclius’s Victories, Replace True Cross At Jerusalem (629)
  • Heraclius returns home to wild enthusiasm
  • True Cross brought back to Jerusalem – with great pomp

    Heraclius Again Loses All – Last 8 Years of Reign to Muslims – Forever
  • Exhausted, the empire struggles to pay back loans borrowed from the church (plate melted to pay for Heraclius’s Reconquest Armies
  • Persians resident in Roman lands – eg. Alexandria, Syria, Tripoli, Asia Minor, allowed to return to Persia
  • First significant attack/losses in empire to Muslim armies (start 634, Syria lost 637)
  • Heraclius has just 4 years of peace, then continuous defeat
  • NO WONDER he’s the subject of such Romance and Myth


    Map of Khazar Khaganate  - from WIki.

    These are the people who helped Heraclius turn the tide of Persian conquest and eventually destroy their empire entirely - Map of Khazar Khaganate - from WIki

    Last Word…


    The Very Interesting Khazars – a Jewish Multi-Ethnic State (600-920)
    BOOKENDED by Roman Emperors



    Heraclius is one of two Emperors considered by later Romans/Byzantines to be the two great heroes of (Medieval) Rome – the other being Basil II, the Bulgar-killer in the early 1000’s.

    Bookends – the Beginning and End of the Khazar State

    Basil II the Bulgarian-Killer - also the Khazar-Conqueror

    Ironically, the 2nd Great Byzantine Emp. Basil II ENDED the Khazar Khaganate - the 1st being our hero Heraclius who WON partially through alliance with the RISING Khazar Khaganate - Roman Emperor Basil II (976-1025) - from an 11th cent. Illuminated Manuscript (Wiki)

    The Khazar state (see map below) was the area between the Black Sea and the Caspian Sea, wrapping around and on top of both seas into the Central Asian steppes, where Russia would be one day.

    It’s ironic (well, to me at least) that the alliance and help of the Khazars (in their pre-Judaic state/Khaganate) were a deciding factor in Heraclius’s eventual defeat of the Persians/Avars after they’d overrun pretty much the whole empire except North Africa, Italy, and parts of the Black Sea coast. In that first G%C3%B6tterd%C3%A4mmerung, the Khazars stood with the Romans, and Constantinople survived.

    Then, 400 years later, Basil II, after conquering the Bulgarians and their empire (in 1018 – a thorn in the side of Rome for centuries, the conquest of the Bulgarians being probably the high point of Byzantine Roman history), Basil participated with the Rus (Russians) in erasing the last remnants of the Khazar state in the Crimean peninsula. Rome got part of the Crimea, the Rus took the rest of the leftover parts of the Khazars state.

    A strange set of historical bookends for Rome.

    And this from Wiki on the Khazar Campaign of Basil II:

    Khazar campaign

    The Pontic steppes, c.1015. The areas in blue are those possibly still under Khazar control.
    Although the power of the Khazar Khaganate had been broken by the Kievan Rus’ in the 960s, the Byzantines had not been able to fully exploit the power vacuum and restore their dominion over the Crimea and other areas around the Black Sea.
    In 1016, Byzantine armies, in conjunction with Mstislav of Chernigov, attacked the Crimea, much of which had fallen under the sway of the Khazar successor kingdom of George Tzoul, based at Kerch. Kedrenos reports that George Tzoul was captured and the Khazar successor-state was destroyed. Subsequently the Byzantines occupied the southern Crimea.

    Wiki on Khazar Campaign

    Fall of the Remnant Khazar Successor State - helped by Basil II

    Map of Khazar State-lets, early 1000's. Ironically, Roman Emp. Heraclius was saved from the Persians in the 620's by an alliance with the Khazars, The Roman Emp. Basil II (the other Great Byzantine Emperor, in the early 1000's) helped the Rus (Russians) dismantle what was left of the Khazars. Map from Wiki of the Fall of the Remnant Khazar Successor State(s) - the Khazar-dominated regions are the ones the various small patches that are dark blue

    For a very enthusiastic report on the Khazar Khaganate – see the Wiki Article below –

    Khazars and Judaism

    Here below is the short section on public Judaism – the multi-ethnic Khaganate was formally a Jewish state – its conversion occuring in the late 700’s or early 800’s. At the time the Khazars allied with Heraclius, however their religion was still (presumably) Tengrism – focus on the sky deity Tengris and shamanism, animism, and ancestor worship.

    This from Wiki:

    Conversion of the royalty and aristocracy to Judaism

    Jewish communities had existed in the Greek cities of the Black Sea coast since late classical times. Chersonesos, Sudak, Kerch and other Crimean cities sustained Jewish communities, as did Gorgippia, and Samkarsh / Tmutarakan was said to have had a Jewish majority as early as the 670s. Jews fled from Byzantium to Khazaria as a consequence of persecution under Heraclius, Justinian II, Leo III, and Romanos I.

    These were joined by other Jews fleeing from Sassanid Persia (particularly during the Mazdak revolts), and, later, the Islamic world. Jewish merchants such as the Radhanites regularly traded in Khazar territory, and may have wielded significant economic and political influence. Though their origins and history are somewhat unclear, the Mountain Jews also lived in or near Khazar territory and may have been allied with the Khazars, or subject to them; it is conceivable that they, too, played a role in Khazar conversion.

    At some point in the last decades of the 8th century or the early 9th century, the Khazar royalty and nobility converted to Judaism, and part of the general population may have followed. The extent of the conversion is debated. The 10th century Persian historian Ibn al-Faqih reported that “all the Khazars are Jews.” Notwithstanding this statement, some scholars believe that only the upper classes converted to Judaism; there is some support for this in contemporary Muslim texts.

    (The Khazar’s here)

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