ESTONIAN ACADEMY
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akadeemia kirjastus
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SINCE 1997
 
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TRAMES. A Journal of the Humanities and Social Sciences
ISSN 1736-7514 (Electronic)
ISSN 1406-0922 (Print)
Impact Factor (2020): 0.5

A TYRANT ON THE THRONE: PHOCAS THE USURPER, AND THE COLLAPSE OF THE EASTERN FRONTIER; pp. 201–213

Full article in PDF format | https//doi.org/10.3176/tr.2020.2.05

Author
Süha Konuk

Abstract

The ambitious and expansionist western-directed policy of Emperor Justinian left his successors with an empty state treasury, a grim financial picture, and hard-to-defend areas against the barbarians in places such as Italy, Carthage and even southern Spain away from the centre. His successors tried to rule the state under these conditions, while at the same time Persians in the east, Avars and Slavs in the Balkans, and Lombards in Italy made the situation worse for them on the frontier. As a successful general, Maurice, who ascended the throne in 582, was a disciplined soldier who knew the financial situation of the empire very well. He signed an agreement that made significant gains for Byzantium with his risky but wise policy against the Sasanians in 591 and focused his military strategy on the Avar and Slavic invaders on the Danube frontier. However, the emperor’s over-disciplined character, his desire to fight, and his belief that a winter attack on the Slavs would be successful would bring an end to him. Eventually, a mutiny broke out within the tired and frustrated Balkan army during the preparations for the campaign in the winter of 602. Led by a soldier named Phocas, the rebels left the frontier and marched to the capital. With the help of the Greens, one of the city’s hippodrome factions, Phocas easily seized the capital and then captured and murdered Maurice who fled with his family. This study examines how the eastern frontier collapsed during brutal and violent reign of Phocas, who usurped the Byzantine throne between 602–610. A new perspective will be offered from the main sources of the period that connect Phocas’ terrorizing eight-year rule in the capital with the unprecedented westward military advancements of the Sasanians against the Romans.


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