Byzantine Empire /
Full Latin name: Flavius Heraclius Augustus
Greek name: Herakleios
(Ca. 575-641) Byzantine emperor 610-641.
Heraclius proved to be an able leader, bringing through important administrative reforms. He is often attributed with creating the theme system. This involved that regions were ruled by military leaders. Each region had to contribute with its own forces, often also defending its own territory. This proved to be highly effective compared to a professional army. The local leaders were often also better to find the most effective tactics at every time. Also for the individuals it was a great success, as land was given in return of military services, it provided more freedom for each peasant, and agriculture thrived.
He also turned the state offices into departments, effectively reducing the high level of corruption at the time. He also changed official language from Latin to Greek, thereby strengthening the process of Hellenization.
When winning territory, Heraclius did not punish the inhabitants of the conquered towns and the treated prisoners of war well. This gave him a good reputation, and aided him in winning territory. This was especially the case in the war with Persia, contrasted by the Persian cruelty.
Still, all these reforms and his good qualities proved insufficient in protecting the borders of the empire. The infrastructure had already fallen too much apart.
His main challenge would emerge from the middle of the 630's, with the advancing Arab Muslims; during his reign, Syria, Palestine, Egypt and Byzantine Mesopotamia would be lost. Having defeated the Persians thoroughly in the late 620's, the Byzantine Empire no longer had the ally it otherwise could have benefited from.
In the Balkans, Slavs invaded while the Avars demanded tribute to be paid.
He too faced the problems with the Monophysites. He tried to reach out with a compromise, known as Monothelitism.
Ca. 575: Born in Cappadocia, Asia Minor.
Around 590: Heraclius' father, also named Heraclius, is appointed Exarch of Carthage.
610: The Exarch denounces his allegiance to Byzantine Emperor Phocas, and sends an army headed by Heraclius to Constantinople. Young Heraclius manages to get both aristocrats in Constantinople and the imperial guard over to his side, and before entering Constantinople; he has himself crowned new emperor first.
October 5: Heraclius takes control of Constantinople, meeting no real resistance. He has Phocas captured, executed and himself crowned emperor a second time.
614: Persians conquer Syria and Palestine, taking Jerusalem and allegedly Christ's Cross, which is transported to Persia.
617 or 619: The Avars try to capture Heraclius, who narrowly escapes. He agrees to a peace agreement, costly, but it would allow him more free troops to fight the Persians.
619: Persians conquer Egypt and Libya.
622: A great counterattack is launched against Persia, in which the Persians are successfully driven out of occupied territories in Asia Minor, Egypt, Palestine and Syria.
622-624: Great campaigns on the eastern front, first taking Armenia, then invading Persia.
625: Returns to Anatolia.
626: Persians send troops to aid the Avars who besieged Constantinople. The Byzantines manage to sink the vessels transporting the troops across the Bosporus.
627 December: Byzantine invasion into Persia, leading to an important battle at Nineveh and a devastating defeat of the Persian army.
628 January: Heraclius conquers Dastagird, the royal residence 70 km north of Ctesiphon, with its rich treasure. According to the stories told, Heraclius only demanded that Christ's Cross was returned, together with Byzantine prisoners of war and that Byzantine territory would be given back to him.
629: Heraclius takes the Greek title "basileus", practically abandoning the Latin "augustus". Basileus would remain the title of the emperors of throughout the history of the empire.
630: Restores Christ's Cross in the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, an event very much created to strengthen his public image. He entered Jerusalem barefoot, when bringing the cross with him.
634: Arab Muslims invade Syria and Palestine.
636: The Byzantines are defeated in The Battle of Yarmuk.
639: Egypt has effectively fallen to the Arabs.
641 February 11: Dies in Constantinople, and is briefly succeeded by his sons , Constantine 3 and Heraclonas, before Constans 2 becomes emperor for a long reign.