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of Justinian's time had shorn the population close, the taxgatherer of Justin's was obliged to flay them, in order to wring out the necessary solidi. Having begun the war at his own pleasure, Justin found that he could not conclude it in a similar way. The Persians hoped to win by exhausting the empire's resources, and were set on protracting the weary game.
In the ninth year after his succession to the throne, Justin was seized with suicidal mania, and had to be placed in close restraint for all the rest of his life. On his first lucid interval he nominated as his colleague, and crowned as Caesar, a respectable military officer, named Tiberius Constantinus, who, in conjunction with the empress Sophia, acted as regent for the demented emperor till 578. Sophia, a proud and restless woman, kept most of the power in her own hands, for Tiberius was not of a pushing or ambitious disposition. His accession to power made little or no difference in the policy of the court, which was still guided by the empress.
While Justin saw the Balkan peninsula ravaged by the Avars, and the Mesopotamian frontier beset by the Persians, he was destined to suffer a still more grievous loss in another region of his empire. The Lombards, emigrating from the middle Danube, followed the track that the Ostrogoths had taken eighty years before, and threw themselves on the newlyrecovered province of Italy, only fifteen years after it had been finally secured to the empire by the victories of Narses at Taginae and Casilinum. Their fortunes will be described in another chapter. Here it must suffice to say that ere the end of the reign of Justin n. they had torn two-thirds of the peninsula from the grasp of the East-Roman governors.
In 578, four years after he had fallen into a state of lunacy, Justin n. died, and his colleague, Tiberius Constantinus, became sole ruler of the empire. Tiberius n. was a thoroughly upright and well-intentioned man, who had been chosen as heir by his predecessor solely on the ground of his merits, and in spite of the fact that Justin had a son-in-law and several cousins to whom he might have left the legacy of power. Like Titus in an earlier age, Tiberius H. was the darling and hope of the whole population of the Tibcrius empire, and, like Titus, he was cut off in the flower Constantinus. of his years after a very short reign. He had time, 578'583> however, to give some earnest of his good intentions by cutting down the grinding taxation of Justin n. by a fourth, and remitting all arrears owed to the state. But he was unable to do away with the cause which made taxation so heavy, the wretched lingering Persian war, and, till the empire could obtain peace within and without, the remission of taxation only meant the inadequate performance of the duties of the state, and the rapid accumulation of public debt. Tiberius succeeded, however, in making a truce with the Avars, though to obtain it he had to give up the great border-fortress of Sirmium, the central point for the defence of the line of the Danube and Save, and also to promise to make one of those payments of money which his predecessor had regarded as degrading the majesty of the empire. Being free from war in the Balkans, Tiberius concentrated no less than 200,000 men on the Persian frontier, and his troops, under the general Maurice, won many successes, and invaded Media. But the obstinate king Hormisdas, who had now succeeded Chosroes on the throne, refused to listen to any proposals for peace, and the war dragged on.
In the fourth year of his reign Tiberius was suddenly stricken down by disease, and died while only on the threshold of middle age. Like his predecessor, he chose as his heir not any relative, but the best man that he knew. Eight days before his death he invested with the royal diadem his general Maurice, who had lately distinguished himself by a great victory in Mesopotamia, and was universally respected for his sterling merit and modesty. Maurice immediately married his benefactor's daughter, Constantina, and ascended the vacant throne in peace.
Like Tiberius Constantinus, Maurice was an eminently well-meaning ruler, and a man not destitute of ability, but the times were too hard for him, and his very virtues often Maurice, conspired to lead him into unfortunate actions. 582-602. Hjs reign of twenty years (582-602), though not
wanting in successes, was still a continuation of the unhappy period of decline and decay which had set in since the year of the great plague of 542. The worst of the troubles of Maurice was the complete exhaustion of the imperial finances. The liberality of Tiberius n. had drained out the last solidus from the already depleted treasury, and the new emperor started with a deficit, which remained as a perpetual nightmare to him all through his reign. Maurice was of a prudent and economical disposition; the adverse balance cut him to the heart, and he adopted all sorts of schemes—wise and unwise —to make receipts and expenditure balance. The war expenses were, of course, the main disturbing element, and Maurice went so far in his zeal for retrenchment that while hostilities were still in progress he endeavoured, on more than one occasion, to cut down the soldiers' pay, and economise the expenditure of provisions and military stores. This policy had the most disastrous results. Several times it led to mutiny, and at last it cost Maurice his throne and life.
The Persian war continued through the first nine years of Maurice's reign, as long as the reckless and obstinate king Hormisdas remained in power. On the whole it was fortunately conducted. Two able officers, named Heraclius and Philippicus, obtained the mastery over the Persians, and won several battles. They would have done even more if Maurice's policy of 'economy at any price' had not led to mutinies among the soldiery, who struck work, and retired behind the border when they heard that their pay was to be reduced. It is hard to conceive how Maurice could be so unwise; for he had considerable military experience, and wrote an excellent book on tactics, The Strategicon, which served for three hundred years as the manual of all Byzantine officers. Apparently the economist prevailed over the soldier in his composition.
Luckily the mutiny of 588 did not ruin the empire; the troops returned to duty when their grievance was removed, and won more victories over the Persians. Hormisdas grew unpopular with his subjects, and was deposed and slain by a usurper named Varahnes. His young son, Chosroes, fled to the Roman camp, and threw himself on the mercy of his hereditary foe. This led to the end of the war; Maurice lent the young prince supplies and auxiliaries to start a rebellion against Varahnes. The rising succeeded, and the grateful Chosroes made peace with the empire the moment Persian War that he was restored to his father's throne (591). ended, 591The terms, like those of the peaces of 532 and 562, amounted to little more than the restoration of the state of things which had preceded hostilities. Maurice recovered the lost fortresses of Daras and Martyropolis, and gained the Christian districts of Persarmenia, a new acquisition to the empire, but not one of much importance.
But the troubles of Maurice, military and financial alike, did not cease with the end of the Persian war. The faithless Avars, disregarding the terms of peace which they had sworn to Tiberius n. in 581, were once more ravaging the Balkan peninsula. In the second year of Maurice's reign they burst over the Danube, and seized the fortresses of Singidunum and Viminacium, whose garrisons had been reduced by the needs of the Persian war. Unable to raise a new army, Maurice sent them a subsidy which kept them quiet for two years, but in 585 the Tartar horde took arms once more, and threw themselves upon Thrace. Nor was it only with the wild Avars that Maurice had to deal. We now hear of the Slavs as becoming for the first time a serious danger to the empire. Their tribes had for some time dwelt in obscurity along the lower Danube and in the South-Russian plains, having flooded in to occupy the void space left by the migration of the Goths in the fourth century. At the accession of Maurice some of them were subject to the Avars, others were still independent, but all showed a tendency to move southward over the Danube. The Slavs were individually not very dangerous enemies to the empire; they were in the very lowest stage of civilisation, hardly yet accustomed to till the soil, and living the precarious life of fishers and hunters. They did not fight in the open field, but lurked in forests and morasses, issuing forth to plunder by night, and only attacking their foes when they could take them by surprise. It is said that they practised the curious stratagem of lying hid in shallow pools, showing nothing above the surface of the water save the point of a hollow reed, through which they breathed. The story sounds improbable, but Byzantine authors quote several occasions on which it was actually used.
Many Slav tribes, seeking refuge from the domination of the Avars, crossed the Danube in their light canoes, and established themselves in the wooded slopes of the Balkans, or the marshes of the Dobrudscha, where they found the cover that they loved. The Moesian provincials had been so thinned by two hundred years of raiding suffered at the hands of Goth, Hun, and Avar, that the Slavs found the land almost wholly uninhabited. Outside the great Danube fortresses, and the large towns like Naissus or Sardica, the population had almost entirely disappeared. Avoiding battles with the garrisons of the towns, the Slavs slipped between them, and spread over The Slavs tne ^ace of tne deserted land, pitching their rude cross the huts in the most secluded spots that they could Danube. £n(^ They were not only intruders, but enemies, for they were keenly set on plunder, waylaid every party of travellers that strove to pass from town to town, and laid ambuscades for every body of soldiers that was not too numerous for them to cope with.
From 585 to the very end of his reign Maurice was engaged in a desperate struggle against Slav and Avar, which raged over the whole of the Balkan peninsula. The invaders gradually pressed southwards, though they suffered many defeats, and though whole tribes of Slavs were sometimes exterminated. The enemy, though individually contemptible,