Maurice, Byzantine Emperor

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Reigned: Aug. 13, 582 to Nov. 22/23, 602; b. Arabissus, Cappadocia, 539; d. 602. His origins are obscure (Armenian by legend); he came to Constantinople as a notary and made a career as a military commander during the reign of Tiberius I, who appointed him Caesar and heir to the throne on Aug. 5, 582. After Tiberius' death, Maurice married Tiberius' daughter, Constantina.

At the time of his accession the empire was in trouble financially, and in order to deal with threats posed by foreign powers, Maurice took a number of unpopular measures to save money, for example, cutting the pay of the army in the East and Balkans. However, as he still pursued a lavish building policy and favored his own family with generous patronage, he became increasingly unpopular.

Concerned about imperial control of the provinces, he created the exarchates of Ravenna and Carthage (Africa). The exarchs were mainly military leaders and as they also had authority over most civil officials, their powers were almost unlimited. As Maurice struggled to control the Lombards who were encroaching on Italy, he needed a reorganisation of defense. His aggressive attitude to the Lombards brought him into conflict with Pope Gregory I, who preferred a policy of negotiation.

There was further disagreement between pope and emperor over theological matters, especially the use by the patriarch of Constantinople of the title "oecumenical." In the East, Maurice continued Tiberius' tolerance of the Monophysites until 598, when his kinsman, Bishop Dometianus, unleashed a persecution in north Syria. The emperor dissolved the anti-Chalcedonian Ghassanid Arab client kingdom, while orthodox Christianity made great progress among the Arabs, particularly the Lakhmids, hitherto Persian allies. Roman Armenia was induced to elect a catholicos of its own and break with Persarmenia, from which Georgia also separated to join Constantinople. Maurice himself was very religious; he associated himself with popular cults, especially that of the Virgin, and he fixed the feast of the Dormition (Assumption) on August 15.

Maurice came to the throne during a war with Persia, but in 589 Persian King Hormizd IV was killed in an internal rebellion, and his heir, Chosroes II, sought protection and aid from Maurice, who restored him to his throne. In 591 a treaty was signed which gave Byzantium a larger share of Armenia, a valuable source of manpower, and cancelled Byzantium's contribution for the joint defense of the Caucasian pass. The Persian treaty allowed Maurice to deal with the Slavs and Avars who threatened the Danube frontier. After initial victories, however, there was dissatisfaction among the troops and when they were ordered to winter across the Danube, they proclaimed Phocas (a centurion) emperor and marched to the capital which the Blues handed over. Maurice and his sons were executed.

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m. j. higgins]

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Maurice, Byzantine Emperor

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