The Ancient Library

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insulted in a most poignant manner. Compelled to rebel or to lose his head, he took up arms against the king, and a general defection ensued, during which Hormisdas was seized and blinded by Bindoes, a prince of royal blood, who had been ill-treated by his master* Chosrges, the son of Hormisdas, now ascended the throne, with the con­sent of Bindoes, and prepared for marching against Baram. The royal troops were defeated, Chosroes fled into the Roman territory, and during the en­suing troubles in Persia the blinded king, Hormis­das, was murdered by Bindoes, or, as Theophy-lact states, beaten to death by order of his own son, Chosroes. Gibbon rejects the latter account. When Chosroes, with a few attendants, suddenly arrived at the gates of Circesium, the Roman com­mander would scarcely trust his own eyes, and immediately requested him to remove to the more stately city of Hierapolis, whence the king sent a touching letter to Maurice, imploring his generous aid for the recovery of his throne. When our pride is flattered, our honour satisfied, and our heart moved at one and the same time, human nature seldom withstands the dictates of its better feel­ings ; Maurice shed tears when he read the letter, and granted his protection to the royal fugitive. A powerful army, under the command of Narses, was assembled on the frontier ; loyal Persians flocked to the Roman camp to serve their legitimate sove­reign ; Narses and Chosroes entered Persia ; and in a decisive battle at Balarath they routed the rebel Baram, whose troops were dispersed, while he himself fled into Turkistan, where he met with an untimely death, either by poison or grief. Chos­roes now re-ascended the throne of his ancestors (591), and peace and friendship reigned henceforth between Persia and the empire as long as Maurice sat on the throne. Dara and Martyropolis, the bulwarks of Mesopotamia, and the objects of so many a bloody contest, were given to Maurice as a reward or on condition of his assistance.

We now turn to the war with the Avars, of which our account must be brief. The first war against the chagan or khan of these barbarians, who ruled over an extent of country nearly equal to that which once obeyed Attila, broke out in 587. Comentiolus, who commanded against them, being unfortunate, Mystacon was sent to supersede him, although he could not boast of much success in Persia. But his lieutenant Droctulf, a German, who had long served in the imperial armies, watched over the blunders of his chief, and in a pitched battle so utterly discomfited the Avars, that the khan refrained from any incursion during the following five years. The ifext war broke out some time after the peace with Persia, and Maurice had leisure to withdraw a great portion of his forces from Asia, and employ them against the Avars. He intended to put himself at their head, but it was already customary at the court of Constantinople that the emperor should not command in the field, and he consequently gave way to the remonstrances of the senate, and sent Priscus in his stead, who, however, was soon superseded by the emperor's brother Peter. The choice was a bad one, and as early as 598 Priscus resumed the supreme command. He was less successful than was expected, though he was an excellent general, and in 600 the army received a new commander in the person of Co­mentiolus, that faithless and cowardly intriguer, whose conduct had been so very suspicious in Asia.



In appointing him, Maurice committed either a great blunder or secretly wished to ruin him. Co­mentiolus had no sooner taken the field, when he suffered a severe defeat from the chagan: 12,000 Romans remained prisoners of war with the Avars. We shall speak hereafter of their fate, an event intimately connected with that of the emperor. The honour of the Roman arms was restored in five successful battles by the gallant Priscus, but Comentiolus thwarted his plans by intrigues and treacherous manoeuvres, and at last Priscus was again put at the head of the army. In the autumn of 602 he intended to winter along the southern bank of the Danube, when Maurice ordered him to take up his quarters on the northern side, where they would have been exposed to the attacks of the Avars. Some pretend that Maurice gave this order for the 'purpose of sparing the magazines within the empire ; but it would seem as if he rather in­tended to punish those troops for previous acts of disobedience and mutiny, by assigning them win­ter-quarters in an inhospitable country. However this may be, the measure was imprudent, and proved the ruin of the emperor.

Gibbon observes with great justness, that, while in the camp alone the emperors ought to have ex­ercised a despotic command, it was only in the camps that his authority was disobeyed and in­sulted. The spirit of mutiny and arrogance in the army, that hereditary cancer of Roman administra­tion, reigned unabated when Maurice took the reins of government, and he who met with blind obedience when a mere magister militum, had to encounter that dangerous mutiny of his Persian army immediately upon exchanging the baton for the sceptre. Nor was this the only outbreak, though the others were of less magnitude. It has been told above that 12,000 Romans were Jaade prisoners of war by the Avars. The trifling suin of 6000 pieces of gold was demanded for their ransom. Maurice, moved by avarice, as some say, refused to pay it, and now 12,000 veterans were put to death by their captors. The army and the nation were deeply indignant at this atrocious deed, and cursed Maurice for his abominable con­duct. However, in acting as he did, the emperor had a powerful though secret motive: those 12,000 were the soldiers of Comentiolus, it was they who had chiefly caused the great mutiny during the Persian war; and in abandoning them to the fury of barbarians, he at once assuaged his resentment and got rid of a band of dangerous mercenaries. But his conscience continually reproached him with this barbarous act. He wrote to the most eminent divines, of his realm, to receive consolation from their censure or their indulgence ; he forget his pangs by redoubled activity in the cabinet. It was all in vain: he neither recovered the peace of his soul nor the love of his subjects ; and the army bore such hatred against him, that they only seemed to wait for a suitable pretext to break out in open rebellion. His own imprudence furnished them with an opportunity, by ordering them, in the autumn of 602, to take up their winter-quarters on the Avarian side of the Danube. They com­plained that the emperor desired to sacrifice them, like their 12,000 brethren. They held tumultuous meetings, which the emperor's brother Peter tried in vain to counteract; and Phocas having been chosen by them for the command-in-chief, Peter had no alternative left but escaping secretly, and

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