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Maurice Tiberius

By Timothy M. Ryan

Mauricius Tiberius was born at Arabissus in Cappadocia around 539 A.D. He was a successful commander in chief under Tiberius II while serving in the Roman Persian War which took place from 572 to 591, and even gained a glorious victory over the Persians in 581. Tiberius II would eventually adopt Maurice as his rightful heir in response to the prestige and leadership capabilities he displayed during this campaign. After the adoption Tiberius II promptly arranged a marriage between Maurice and his daughter, Constantina.

On August 13th in 581 Maurice succeeded his father in law and found his Byzantine empire under a financial strain primarily from the Persian War and high annual tributes paid to the Avars. Maurice would continue leading his soldiers in the Persian War and managed to accomplish a victory at Dara in 586. The Persian Prince Khosrau II and Persian commander in chief Bahram Chobin eventually overthrew King Hormizd IV in 590. In his lust for power Chobin dismissed Khosrau II and claimed the Persian throne for himself. In response to the betrayal Khosrau II traveled to Constantinople and pleaded with Maurice to help support him in regaining the throne. The senate gave a resounding denial to support Khosrau II in his endeavor, which led to a pivotal moment in the history of Maurice 's reign. Despite no support from the senate and the risk involved, Maurice supported Khosrau II and supplied 35,000 troops to his cause. This overwhelming support along with the leadership of the Persian general Narses and Roman general John Mystacon enabled Khosrau II to trounce Chobin and regain his throne. This gamble by Maurice led to a successful conclusion of the Roman Persian war.

Maurice would then take the necessary steps to further solidify his empire and gain control of previously lost land. He would obtain victories in the Balkans over the Slavs and restored order to that region. The constant warfare and strain on the treasury caused Maurice to make a fatal mistake. In his efforts to conserve the treasury and limit the funds expended on the war, he refused to allow the troops to quarter for the winter and instead ordered additional offensive movements. This appears to be the turning point and ultimate downfall of Maurice. The rash use of troops led to a loss of confidence in the army and caused a rebellion. The army in turn supported Phocas who took control and eventually forced Maurice to abandon Constantinople. Maurice was ultimately captured along with his family and murdered by the supporters of Phocas on November 27, 602.

Maurice Tiberius had great insight on the needs of the empire during his reign, and took the necessary actions to solidify and stabilize the empire. He put his life on the line during his bold move to support Khosrau II despite no support from the senate. This allowed him to resolve the Persian conflict and thus turn his attention to the Balkans, where more progress was made. In the end, however, it seems that his ego cost him his life. His failure to meet the needs of the army led to his bloody demise. By the end of his reign new conflicts would surface which would methodically pick apart the Byzantine Empire over time and lead to its downfall.


"Maurice". Catholic Encyclopedia. New York: Robert Appleton Company. 1913.

Bagnell Bury, John (1889). History of the Later Roman Empire. New York.

Ostrogorski, G; History of the Byzantine State, Rutgers University Press (July 1986)



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