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Heraclius (son of Constans II)

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Co-emperor of the Byzantine Empire with Constantine IV
Impero romano d'oriente, costantino IV, eraclio e tiberio, emissione aurea, 674-680 ca..JPG
Reverse of a solidus of Constantine IV, displaying Heraclius (left) and his brother Tiberius (right)
Co-emperor of the Byzantine Empire
Reign 659–681 (22 years)
Coronation 659
Predecessor Constans II
Successor Constantine IV
Born Constantinople
Full name
Flavius Heraclius Augustus
Dynasty Heraclian
Father Constans II
Mother Fausta
Religion Christianity
Heraclian dynasty
Heraclius 610–641
with Constantine III as co-emperor, 613–641
Constantine III 641
with Heraklonas as co-emperor
Heraklonas 641
Constans II 641–668
with Constantine IV (654–668), Heraclius and Tiberius (659–668) as co-emperors
Constantine IV 668–685
with Heraclius and Tiberius (668–681), and Justinian II (681–685) as co-emperors
Justinian II 685–695, 705–711
with Tiberius as co-emperor, 706–711
Preceded by
Justinian dynasty and Phocas
Followed by
Twenty Years' Anarchy

Heraclius (Greek: Ἡράκλειος, Herakleios) was Byzantine co-emperor from 659 to 681. He was the son of Emperor Constans II and Fausta, who was elevated in 659, before his father departed for Italy. After the death of Constans Heraclius' brother, Constantine IV, ascended the throne as senior emperor. Constantine attempted to have both Heraclius and Tiberius removed as co-emperors, which sparked a popular revolt in 681. Constantine ended the revolt by promising to accede to the demands of the rebels, sending them home, but bringing their leaders into Constantinople. Once there, Constantine had them executed, then imprisoned Tiberius and Heraclius and had them mutilated, after which point they disappear from history.


Heraclius was one of the sons of Constans II. His mother was Fausta, daughter of the Patrician Valentinus.[1] Although his elder brother Constantine IV had been raised to the rank of co-emperor in 654,[2] in 659, shortly before his departure for Italy, Constans II also elevated Heraclius to the rank of co-emperor, alongside his brother Tiberius.[3] In 663, Constans tried to have his sons join him in Sicily, but this provoked a popular uprising in Constantinople, and the brothers remained in the imperial capital.[3]

With Constans II’s death in 668, Constantine IV became the senior emperor.[4] After ruling alongside Heraclius and Tiberius for thirteen years, Constantine attempted to demote his brothers from their imperial positions, but this provoked a military revolt in the Anatolic Theme (in modern Turkey).[5] The army marched to Chrysopolis, and sent a delegation across the straits of the Hellespont to Constantinople, demanding that the two brothers should remain co-emperors alongside Constantine IV.[5] They based their demand on the belief that, since Heaven was ruled by the Trinity, in the same way the empire should be governed by three emperors.[6] Confronted by this situation, Constantine kept a close eye on his brothers, and sent across a trusted officer, Theodore, the captain of Koloneia. Constantine gave Theodore the delicate task of praising the soldiers for their devotion and agreeing with their reasoning, with the objective of persuading them to return to their barracks in Anatolia.[7] He also invited the leaders of the rebellion to come over to Constantinople and consult with the Senate in order that they may begin the process of confirming the army’s wishes.[7] Happy with this apparently positive outcome, the army departed back to Anatolia, while the instigators of the movement entered the city.[7] With the military threat now gone, Constantine moved against the leaders of the revolt, captured them and had them hanged at Sycae.[6]

Throughout all this, Heraclius was kept under close observation, and it was only the fact that it appeared that he had no knowledge of the plot, nor did he express any desire to rule in tandem with Constantine, that saved his life, and he was allowed to retain his imperial title and status.[8] Yet his being the focus of a plot to curtail Constantine’s power meant that both he and his brother were now suspect in the senior emperor’s eyes. Also, the emperor was keen to raise up his own son, the future Justinian II.[9] Sometime between 16 September and 21 December 681, Constantine ordered the mutilation of his brothers by slitting their noses, and ordered that their images no longer appear on any coinage, and that their names be removed from all official documentation.[10] After this point, neither are mentioned again by history.[11]


  1. ^ Kazhdan 1991, p. 496.
  2. ^ Kazhdan 1991, p. 500.
  3. ^ a b Winkelmann & Lilie 2001, pp. 46–49.
  4. ^ Moore.
  5. ^ a b Bury 1889, p. 308.
  6. ^ a b Norwich 1990, p. 322.
  7. ^ a b c Bury 1889, p. 309.
  8. ^ Canduci 2010, p. 198.
  9. ^ Hoyland 2012, pp. 173–174.
  10. ^ Oaks 1968, p. 513.
  11. ^ Haldon 2016, pp. 43–45.


  • Bury, J.B. (1889), A History of the Later Roman Empire from Arcadius to Irene, Vol. II, MacMillan & Co., OCLC 168739195 
  • Canduci, Alexander (2010), Triumph & Tragedy: The Rise and Fall of Rome's Immortal Emperors, Pier 9, ISBN 978-1-74196-598-8 
  • Haldon, John (2016). The Empire That Would Not Die. Harvard University Press. ISBN 9780674088771. 
  • Hoyland, Robert G. (2012). Theophilus of Edessa's Chronicle and the circulation of historical knowledge in late antiquity and early Islam. Liverpool University Press. ISBN 978-1846316975. 
  • Kazhdan, Alexander, ed. (1991), Oxford Dictionary of Byzantium, Oxford University Press, ISBN 978-0-19-504652-6 
  • Moore, R. Scott (1997). "Constantine IV (668–685 A.D.)". De Imperatoribus Romanis. Archived from the original on 28 February 2018. Retrieved 18 November 2010. 
  • Norwich, John Julius (1990), Byzantium: The Early Centuries, Penguin, ISBN 0-14-011447-5 
  • Oaks, Dumbarton (1968). Catalogue of the Byzantine coins in the Dumbarton Oaks Collection and in the Whittemore Collection. Dumbarton Oaks. OCLC 847177622. 
  • Winkelmann, Friedhelm; Lilie, Ralph-Johannes, eds. (2001), Prosopographie der mittelbyzantinischen Zeit: I. Abteilung (641–867) - 5. Band: Theophylaktos (#8346) – az-Zubair (#8675), Anonymi (#10001–12149) (in German), Walter de Gruyter, ISBN 978-3-11-016675-0 
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