Heraclius, Emperor of Byzantium died on this day

Heraclius, Emperor of Byzantium died on this day

11 February 641 AC

Heraclius (Latin: Flavius Heraclius Augustus, Greek: Φλάβιος Ἡράκλειος, c. 575 – February 11, 641) was Byzantine Emperor from 610 to 641.

 

He was responsible for introducing Greek as the Eastern Empire's official language. His rise to power began in 608, when he and his father, Heraclius the Elder, the exarch of Africa, successfully led a revolt against the unpopular usurper Phocas.

 

Heraclius's reign was marked by several military campaigns. The year Heraclius came to power, the empire was threatened on multiple frontiers. Heraclius immediately took charge of the ongoing war against the Sassanids. The first battles of the campaign ended in defeat for the Byzantines; the Persian army fought their way to the Bosphorus; however, because Constantinople was protected by impenetrable walls and a strong navy, Heraclius was able to avoid total defeat. Soon after, he initiated reforms to rebuild and strengthen the military. Heraclius drove the Persians out of Asia Minor and pushed deep into their territory, defeating them decisively in 627 at the Battle of Nineveh. The Persian king Khosrau II was assassinated soon after and peace was restored to the two deeply strained empires.

 

However, soon after his victory he faced a new threat, the Muslim invasions. Emerging from the Arabian Peninsula, the Muslims quickly conquered the collapsing Persian empire. In 634 the Muslims invaded Roman Syria, defeating Heraclius' brother Theodore. Within a short period of time the Arabs would also conquer Mesopotamia, Armenia, and Egypt.

 

In religious matters, Heraclius is remembered as the driving force in converting the peoples migrating to the Balkan Peninsula. At his request, Pope John IV (640–642) sent Christian teachers and missionaries to Dalmatia, a newly Croatian-ruled province settled by Porga and his clan, who practiced Slavic paganism. He tried to repair the schism in the Christian church in regard to the Monophysites by promoting a compromise doctrine called Monothelitism. The Church of the East (commonly called Nestorian) was also involved in the process. Eventually, however, this project of unity was rejected by all sides of the dispute. Heraclius was the first Emperor to engage the Muslims; in the Islamic tradition he is portrayed as an ideal ruler who corresponded with Muhammad, possibly was a true believer of Islam, and viewed Muhammad as the true prophet, the messenger of God.