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Soon afterwards the brave Tiberius fell dangerously ill; and feeling his end approach, assembled the senate, and proposed Maurice as his successor. His touching speech met with no opposition ; Constantinople was in rapture ; and the dying emperor increased the joy of his subjects by giving his eldest daughter Constantina in marriage to Maurice. A few days afterwards Tiberius died (13th of August, 582) ; and the fortunate Maurice now ascended the throne.
His mature age (43) was a guarantee to the nation that the rapid fortune of their new master was not likely to turn his head; and indeed he did not deceive their expectation, although his reign was an uninterrupted series of wars. We shall first speak of the Persian war.
Maurice had scarcely ascended the throne, and given proof of his forbearance, by pardoning instead of punishing various persons who had been guilty of treason, when news came from the Persian frontier that Hormisdas, the son of Chosroes, had broken the peace, and attacked the empire. Before the end of the year (582) John Mystacon, the commander-in-chief in those quarters, engaged in a pitched battle with the Persians near the junction of the Nymphius and the Tigris ; but although the Romans fought with great valour, the day was lost, through the jealousy of one of their generals, Curs, and their army was dispersed. They suffered another defeat at Acbas, and Mystacon was compelled, through misfortune and illness, to spend the whole season of 583 on the defensive. Maurice, dissatisfied with his conduct, recalled him, and sent Philippus or Philippicus in his stead, having previously given him his sister Gordia in marriage. This general would have ventured some decisive blow in 584, but his army was decimated by famine, diseases, and fatigues ; he took the offensive in 585, but performed nothing particular. In 586 Philippicus. at last brought the enemy to a stand at Solacon, not far from Dara, and obtained a decisive victory, which he owed especially to his infantry, which, until the time of Maurice, was made little use of in the later wars in the East. The Persian army was nearly destroyed. A strong body of their veterans, however, reached safely a hill at some distance from the field of battle, where they entrenched themselves, but were routed, with great slaughter, by the Roman, Stephanus. Now Philippicus invaded Arzanene. He was in sight of another Persian army, and ready to fight them, when some trifling circumstance caused such a panic among his troops, that they gave way to the impulse, and fled in the utmost confusion. The Persians followed them without loss of time, took and plundered the baggage, and pursued them as far as Amida. Philippicus fell ill through grief, for the fruit of his great victory at Solacon seemed to be entirely lost ; and being unable to appear in the field, he gave the command to Heraclius, An-dreas, and Theodore of Addea. Heraclius, who afterwards became emperor, retrieved the fortune of the Romans, and gave such splendid proofs of his military skill, that, Philippicus having been recalled in 588, he was entrusted with the temporary com-mand-in-chief till the arrival of Priscus, whom the emperor had despatched to supersede Philippicus. The latter was so extremely jealous of his successor, that he employed treason in order to avenge himself' for the insult, and kindled a rebellion among the troops which threatened to ruin the em-
peror*s affairs in the East. They refused to acknowledge Priscus, forced Germamis to take the supreme command, and deposed all officers with whom they were displeased, choosing others in their stead. In this emergency Aristobulus arrived, whom Maurice had sent into Mesopotamia, immediately upon being informed of the mutiny ; and this able man having gained some ascendancy over the rioters, availed himself of his advantage, and together with Heraclius led the army, who were then encamped under the walls of Marty-ropolis (on the Nymphius, in Sophene) against the main body of the Persians, who approached to besiege that great fortress. The Romans carried the day ; but in the pride of victory the soldiers once more raised the standard of rebellion. At this critical time, Gregory, bishop of Antioch, arrived, as the emperor's plenipotentiary, and he at last succeeded in soothing the turbulent spirit of the legions, and prevailed upon them to obey Philippicus as their commander-in-chief. This was exactly what this ambitious man wished for; but as he was unable to do honour to his important function, when he had obtained it in a fair way, he was found to be still less competent now his mind was inflated by unfair success (589). His first act of incompetency was the loss of Martyropolis, of which the Persians made themselves master by a stratagem ; and the recapture of the fortress became next to impossible, when, through his carelessness, a strong body of Persians was allowed to relieve the garrison. Maurice was extremely vexed at these proceedings, and full of rancour against all those who had promoted the mutiny ; he showed no further indulgence to his brother-in-law, but deprived him of his post, and appointed Comentiolus in his place. This was the very man who commanded those legions which first mutinied in 588. This faithless and incompetent general would have made a sorry figure but for the aid of the gallant Heraclius: at the battle of Sisarbene he was among the first who took to flight; and the Romans seemed to be lost when Heraclius restored order, and gained one of the most glorious victories ever obtained over the Persians: the camp of the enemy was taken, and an immense booty sent to Constantinople, creating the most unlimited satisfaction and joy in the court as well as in the town. Soon afterwards Acbas was re-taken by Heraclius ; and affairs speedily took a turn in favour of the Romans, by a commotion in Persia, which, on account of its important consequences for the empire, deserves a short explanation. While the Roman arms became more and more dangerous, Hormisdas concluded an alliance with the Turks in Bactriana (Turkistan), whose khan consequently came to his apparent relief with a host of some hundred thousand marauders on horseback. They behaved like allies till they had quartered themselves on the frontier of Media, when they altered their conduct, and it became manifest that they had made a secret alliance with Maurice ; and being now in the heart of Persia, were ready to fall upon the rear of the royal armies engaged in Mesopotamia. In this extremity Persia was saved by Baram, a general highly distinguished for his former campaigns against the Romans, who attacked the Turks in the passes of the Hyrcanian mountain, and gave them such a bloody lesson, that they desisted from further hostile attempts. Baram was rewarded with ingratitude, for he was deprived of his command, and