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Byzantine Empire /
Phocas


(?-610) Byzantine emperor 602-610.
Phocas' reign was very much a victim of conditions beyond his control. In the empire, he was resented for his coup and neighbour peoples invaded the empire at several occasions. In the Balkans, the Slavs and Avars kept pressing on, reaching further in on imperial territory than ever before. Attacks from Persia were an even graver challenge, Shah Khosrau 2 used the coup of Phocas to motivate numerous attacks on the Byzantines.
Relations with the Pope in Rome was, however, good. Phocas leaned on their authority in the many religious questions of his days. He presecuted both the Monophysites of the eastern churches and Jews. A column in his honour still stands in Rome, reflecting the only good alliance he had in his days.
Through his reign, he became increasinlgy unpopular, the only political decision winning him friends, was his lowering of taxes; taxes had been devastatingly hard during the reign of Maurice. In order to keep control, it is reported that thousands were killed.
A reflection of his unpopularity, is that when Heraclius carried through his coup against Phocas, he quickly got both the aristrocracy of Constantinople and the imperial guard of Phocas over to his side, even before he had entered Constantinople.

Biography
Middle 6th century: The year of Phocas' birth cannot be set, but judged from his carreer, it could be anything between the years 540 and 570. He may well have originated from Thrace.
— Serves in the military, becoming a centurion.
599 or 600: Maurice refuses to pay ransom for imprisoned Byzantine soldiers, causing thousands to be killed. Phocas heads a group complaining to the emperor, but Phocas is only met with corporal punishment and humiliation.
602 October: Maurice, in an attempt to save money, forces troops to set up winter quarters near the empire's westernmost borders. A revolt breaks out, and officers march on Constantinople under the leadership of Phocas. About simultaneously, a revolt breaks out in Constantinople, demanding that the emperor's son, Theodosius, or General Germanus become new emperor.
November: Phocas enters Constantinople, and soon he uses the confusion and instability to have himself crowned emperor, while his troops capture Maurice and his family.
November 27: Maurice is murdered together with his 3 sons, while the empress and his 3 daughters were spared.
— Persian king, Khosrau 2, attacks the Byzantine Empire in rage over the killing of his ally, Maurice.
604: Makes peace with the Avars, agreeing to pay more in tribute than previously.
608: Persian troops arrive at Bosporus.
— The Exarch of Carthage, Herclius, renounce his loyalty to Phocas.
609: Nicetas, nephew of the Exarch of Carthage, invades Egypt. Nicetas is defeated by the imperial forces under the leadership og Bonosus.
610: Troops sent by the Exarch of Carthage, under the leadership of his son, also named Heraclius.
— Persia takes control over much Byzantine territory in Asia Minor.
October 5: Heraclius takes control of Constantinople. He has Phocas captured, having him executed and himself crowned emperor.




By Tore Kjeilen