Maurice Tiberios (582–602)

Maurice Tiberios (582–602)

Tiberios Constantine’s successor in the post of Count of the Excubitors, then as caesar and emperor, Maurice attempted to adapt Justinian’s empire to changing financial and strategic realities. Earlier in his career Maurice had achieved notable successes in the East against the Persians, one of the few Byzantine commanders to do so for some time. Despite continued trouble in the Balkans, Berber raids in North Africa, the loss of most of Spain, and a resurgent Lombard kingdom in Italy, Maurice was able to score a major success in the East. In 591 during a dispute over the Persian succession Maurice helped the legitimate claimant recover his throne and was rewarded with a peace treaty as well as possession of most of Armenia and a very favorable boundary in Mesopotamia. Peace in the east allowed troops to be transferred to the Balkans where the Avars and their Slavic allies were pushed back beyond the Danube.

In domestic matters Maurice's reign suffered from widespread urban rioting, fostered by the circus factions (chariot team supporters clubs). To help protect Italy and Africa, Maurice reversed the process of centralization that had previously been imperial policy and created the exarchates of Ravenna and Carthage, provinces where the governor (exarch) possessed both civil and military power. Maurice inherited an empty treasury from Tiberios II and spent much of his reign running the empire in a frugal manner. His parsimony directly brought about his downfall. By 593 Maurice's campaign against the Avars was going so well that imperial troops were campaigning on the far side of the Danube in the Avar homeland. Byzantine success was seriously undermining Avar strength and their confederation looked to be close to collapse. Then in 602, to save money, Maurice ordered his troops to winter north of the Danube, in enemy territory. The troops rebelled and marched on Constantinople, where, with the help of the circus factions, they overthrew and killed Maurice after murdering his sons.

The imperial portrait of Maurice is essentially the same as that of his sixth-century predecessors, and he continued the use of the Mother of God on the obverse, as introduced by Tiberios Constatine. There is a peculiar fluidity in the order of his names on the seals and coins; the majority read “Mauricius Tiberius,” but a few reverse it to “Tiberius Mauricius.”

 
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