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European Kingdoms

Eastern Mediterranean

 

Eastern Roman (Byzantine) Empire
Dynasty of Heraclius (AD 610-695)

In AD 395, the Roman empire finally split permanently, creating formal Eastern Roman and Western Roman empires, acknowledging what had existed in practise for many years.

Eastern Roman Emperor Basil II in iconography

(Information by Peter Kessler, and from External Link: History of the Byzantine Empire (Live Science).)

610 - 641

Heraclius / Herakleios

Replaced Usurper. Son of Exarch Heraclius Crispus of Africa.

613 - 630

As part of the Byzantine-Sassanid War of 602-628, the Battle of Antioch of 613 sees Emperor Heraclius defeated. The forces of Khusro II consolidate their recent gains and make further advances, entering Palestine. Caesarea Maritima is taken in 614, with Jerusalem falling soon after. But then a Christian revolt sees the city briefly changing hands before the Sassanids re-establish control.

Sassanid policy has changed by 617, from switching from Jewish support to Christian support. Internal pressure from Christian communities may be responsible. Between 622-627 the military situation changes. Heraclius gains the upper hand, driving the Sassanids back into Mesopotamia. An internal revolt in 628 replaces Khusro II and ends the war, allowing Heraclius to enter Jerusalem in 630.

619 - 620

Following growing discontent with the emperor, the exarch of Ravenna, Eleutherius, notes the emperor's focus is on fighting the Sassanids and takes the opportunity to declare himself emperor. In 620 he marches on Rome, intent on making it his capital, but he is murdered by his own troops.

623 - 628

Now allied with the Western Göktürks, Heraclius attacks the Sassanids as part of the Third Perso-Turkic War (627-630) to regain territory including Syria and Palestine which has been lost for a decade. His campaigns also return Armenia to Eastern Roman control. The Sassanid ruler, Khusro, is overthrown by his own nobles following the defeats.

c.626 - c.641

Slavs which include the Croats are invited by Emperor Heraclius to help him fight the Avars. The dominance of the Avars is broken by their defeat at Constantinople, which also allows the Slav Kingdom between Carinthia and Moravia to flourish. In the same period a similar tribal confederation also forms on the northern Black sea coast, that of Great Bulgaria, with both confederations possibly being part of a Roman-inspired chain of defences against the Avars.

Map of Eastern Europe AD 632-665
In AD 632, Qaghan Koubrat came to power as the head of an Onogur-Bulgar confederation on the Pontic-Caspian steppe, and three years later he was able to throw off Avar domination and found Great Bulgaria (click or tap on map to view full sized)

The Croats receive their present-day lands to settle as a reward, but the Slav presence in Dalmatia and Istria leads to the destruction of churches, and Pope John IV, a Dalmatian, is forced to pay large sums of money to free prisoners. The relics of some of the more important Dalmatian saints are interred in Rome.

634 - 638

The Islamic invasion of the Eastern Roman region of Syria begins in 634, with Arab troops emerging into the Levant from the southern deserts, surprising the Roman forces which are stationed along the regular line of defence facing the Persians. Between then and 638, several battles are fought across the region until the Romans have been forced northwards. The scale of the defeat is such that the Romans are unable to mount any kind of retaliatory offensive. Syria quickly becomes the centre of the growing Islamic empire.

640 - 641

The invasion of Egypt begins in the later months of 640. An Islamic victory at the Battle of Heliopolis ends Roman control of much of the country, but the Babylon Fortress (in the region of modern-day Coptic Cairo) has to be besieged for several months before it surrenders. The former Roman capital at Alexandria, capital of Egypt for a thousand years, surrenders a few months later and a peace treaty is signed in late 641 in the ruins of a palace in Memphis.

641

Constantine III

641

Heracleon

641 - 668

Constans II Pogonatus

Last emperor to visit Rome. Last consul of the empire (642).

641

Following the loss of Egypt and Libya in 639-640 to the Islamic empire, the exarchate of Africa is declared an independent state by its prefect, Gregory the Patrician.

Emperor Constans II
This light solidus was minted during the eventful reign of Eastern Roman Emperor Constans II, with his face on the obverse

645

Egypt is briefly re-conquered by Roman forces, but their victory is short-lived. They are defeated at the Battle of Nikiou and Egypt is secured by the Islamic empire for good.

646

With the end of the Persian Marzban of eastern Armenia, the eastern state is fully reunited under Eastern Roman control.

647 - 667

The troops of Gregory the Patrician in the exarchate of Africa are severely defeated by the invading troops of the Islamic empire, and Gregory himself is killed in 648. The province appears to be occupied for perhaps a year or so before being abandoned in 649, allowing Constans II to regain some level of control there.

The incident prompts changes elsewhere in the Eastern Roman hierarchy. Direct control of Sardinia is exchanged for a more localised form of government in which legates are appointed to control the regions, rather than leaving power concentrated in the hands of a lone individual.

653

The Islamic empire begins to threaten Armenia. Aided by the Eastern Romans, Armenia defends itself, but the Arab campaign continues northwards into the Caucasus under General Salman. He concentrates on the towns and settlements of the western coast of the Caspian Sea and on defeating the Khazars.

A description of this campaign is based on a manuscript by Ahmed-bin-Azami, and it mentions that '...Salman reached the Khazar town of Burgur... He continued and finally reached Bilkhar, which was not a Khazar possession, and camped with his army near that town, on rich meadows intersected by a large river'. This town is usually connected by historians to the proto-Bulgars.

661

Emperor Constans II is highly interested in affairs in southern Italy, which causes him to move his capital to Syracuse on Sicily. He appoints a native of Naples, one Basil, as the new dux, the military commander of the city.

This is not the first dux to be appointed, but it seems to be the first about whom anything concrete is known, the previous incumbents being foreigners who had been forced to answer directly to the strategos of Sicily. Now Naples is its own master.

668 - 685

Constantine IV

c.668 - 680

With Great Bulgaria disintegrating following a massive Khazar attack, one large group of between 30,000 to 50,000 people head westwards from the Ergeni Hills (the Hippian Mountains on the north-western coast of the Caspian Sea), towards the northern coast of the Black Sea. In time they reach an area to the north of the Danubian delta known as the Ongal (precise location unspecified), from where they launch annual raids into Eastern Roman territory.

674 - 677

The Islamic empire also besieges Constantinople.

680

The Bulgars along the Danube and their many Slav allied forces meet Emperor Constantine IV at the Battle of Ongal. The location, whilst unknown, is near the Black Sea coast (where naval support lies), approximately midway between Varna (in modern Bulgaria) and Odessa (in modern Ukraine). The resultant Bulgar victory allows them to carve out the beginnings of a kingdom of Bulgaria which straddles the Danube in a broad oval between the Black Sea and Vidin.

680 - 681

The Sixth Council (Constantinople III) is held. The Monotheletism which is supported by Constantinople is condemned and suppressed, despite the Pope's failure to win the emperor over to Orthodoxy.

682

North African Morocco is lost to the Islamic empire.

685 - 695

Justinian II Rinotmetus

Banished.

695

Justinian II is succeeded by the first of a series of Non-Dynastic rulers of Constantinople.

 
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