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engrossed in the final conquest of eastern Persia than in assaulting the Roman empire. It was not till Yezdigerd, the last of the Sassanian kings, had been defeated and stripped of the farthest corners of his dominion that the Arabs turned once more to the West." The only point of the Roman frontier which was seriously attacked was Africa. The sandy waste between Egypt and Barca had less terrors for the Arab than for any other invader. Encouraged by the fact that Gregory the exarch of Africa had war in rebelled and proclaimed himself emperor, so that Africa. he could hope for no aid from Constantinople, the Saracen general, Abdallah Abu-Sahr crossed the Libyan desert and attacked Barca. Gregory came out against him, but was defeated and slain : Barca and Tripoli fell to the invaders, but Carthage and the rest of Africa relapsed into allegiance to Constantinus, when the usurper was slain. The Saracen frontier stood still at the Syrtes (646-7), and it took half a century more of fighting before the Romans were evicted from the western half of their African possessions. Meanwhile the caliph Omar had died, and his weaker successor, Othman, proved less dangerous to the Eastern empire. His generals, however, invaded Cyprus, and overran the island: unable to permanently hold it, because of the preponderance of the Byzantine fleet, they contented themselves with exacting a tribute, and retired (642). But encouraged by the result of this, their first expedition by sea, the Saracens commenced to build a great war fleet, and in a few years they were in a condition to dispute the command of the eastern Mediterranean with the Roman galleys, who since the destruction of the Vandals in 533 had known no rivals on the Sea. Meanwhile Constantinus had grown up to manhood, and, luckily for the empire, proved to be the kind of sovereign * The final subjection of Persia was not complete till 652, though the battle of Nehavend, the last which Yezdigerd risked in the open field, was in 641.
required in those days of adversity. He was a stern warlike prince, possessed of no small share of the military ability of his grandfather Heraclius. He was always in the field, headed his own forces by sea no less than by land, and deserved success by his courage and perseverance if he did not always obtain it. Occasionally he was harsh and cruel, but such faults are more easily pardoned in an emperor who had to face such a time of peril than are cowardice and indolence. In 652 Constantinus sent a second expedition against Alexandria : it was met at sea off the Canopic mouth of the Nile by a great Saracen fleet, gathered from the ports of Syria and Egypt, and defeated with great loss. Three years later the enemy took the offensive, Muavia, the governor of Syria, gathered a great armada to attack the southern coast of Asia Minor, while he himself marched by land to force saracen vic. the passes of the Taurus and invade Cappadocia. tories, 95°. Constantinus put to sea with every ship he could launch, and met the Saracens at Phoenix, off the Lycian shore. Here the greatest naval battle which the Mediterranean had seen since the day of Actium was fought : the two fleets grappled, and the crews struggled desperately hand to hand for many hours. Constantinus was in the thickest of the fighting, his imperial galley was boarded, and he only escaped by throwing off his purple mantle, and springing into another ship when his own was captured. At last the Saracens won a decisive victory, and it seemed as if they were about to become the masters of the AEgean (655). Even before the battle Rhodes had fallen into their hands, and the long-prostrate Colossus had been sold for old brass to a Jewish dealer, and exported to Syria to be melted down. The empire, however, was to be saved from the humiliation of seeing a hostile fleet approach the Dardanelles for yet twenty years. In 656 the caliph Othman was murdered, and his death was immediately followed by a savage civil war among the Saracens. The two claimants for the vacant dignity of ‘Successor of the Prophet,’ were Muavia, who held Syria,
and Ali, Mohammed's son-in-law, who held Mesopotamia and the new Arab capital of Kufa. Engrossed in his struggle with Ali, Muavia was fain to leave the Roman empire unmolested. In 659 he bought peace from Constantinus on the curious terms that he should pay for every day that the peace lasted a horse and a slave. This treaty proved the salvation of the empire: for the first time for twenty-seven years it was free from Saracen war, and Constantinus could pause and take thought for the reorganisation of his much-harassed dominions. In the five years of peace which were now granted to him, he contrived to make a considerable improvement in their condition. When he took stock of his realm, Constantinus found that in the East five great districts were irretrievably lost: the nearer half of the exarchate of Africa, from Tripoli to the state of the Libyan desert, Egypt, Syria, and the greater part Empire, 659 of Roman Armenia had fallen into the power of Saracens. Moreover, in Europe, the troubled years between 61o and 659 had brought about the complete loss of the inland parts of the Balkan peninsula. The Slavs, whose incursions had already grown so dangerous in the reign of Maurice, had now obtained complete possession of the whole of Moesia, and of the inland parts of Thrace and Macedon. Their settlements extended to within a few miles of the gates of Adrianople and Thessalonica, both of which cities they from time to time besieged without success. They had even encroached south of Mount Olympus, and thrust forward their colonies into some parts of Greece. The imperial dominions were restricted to a coast-slip running all round the peninsula, from Spalato in Dalmatia to Odessus on the Black Sea. In the West we have seen, while detailing the history of the Lombards, that the East-Romans now preserved only the exarchate of Ravenna, the duchies of Rome and Naples, the southern point of Italy, and the islands of Sicily and Sardinia. Recognising that he must look to reorganisation rather than to reconquest for restoring the strength of the empire, Constantinus devoted himself to securing his borders. The moment that the civil war of the Arabs broke out, and left him free to move elsewhere, he marched against the Slavs of the Balkans, defeated them, and reduced them to pay tribute. It was hopeless to dream of driving them back across the Danube, and the emperor was contented to accept the existing state of things, and to secure the coast-land of Thrace and Macedonia from further molestation, by imposing a line of demarcation between the Slavonic tribes and the muchreduced provinces (657-8). The emperor's attention was now drawn to Africa and Italy. His presence was needed there no less than in the Balkan peninsula, if the Lombard and the Saracen were to be finally checked from advancing. In 662 he sailed for the West, and was busy there sor the next six years, right down to the moment of his death. Constantinus hated the capital : he was sufficiently autocratic in his notions to dislike the control that the senate had been wont to exercise over him in earlier years, and he cordially detested the mob of Constantinople. He had fallen out with them on the same grounds that had once proved fatal to the popularity of Zeno. The city was torn with the religious feuds between the Orthodox and the Monothelites, and the emperor, to calm the storm, had issued an edict of comprehension called ‘the Type,” in the . Type, which he forbade all mention of either the single of Constans. or the double will as residing in the person of Our Lord. Without satisfying the heretics, the Type succeeded in irritating the Orthodox to great fury: they persistently accused Constantinus of being a Monothelite himself, and made his life miserable by their clamour. There was yet a third reason for his quitting Byzantium. In 660 he had conceived suspicions, whether true or false we know not, that his brother Theodosius was plotting against him. He promptly condemned the young prince to death, but after the execution his mind had no rest: we are told that his dreams were always haunted by the spectre of his brother, and that the palace where the PERIOD I. Q
deed was done grew insupportably hateful to him. If these tales be true, he left Constantinople to seek ease of spirit, no less than to restore the failing powers of the empire in the West. It was probably in the period 657-662, before his departure from the capital, that Constantinus recast the provincial administration of the empire in accordance with the needs of the times. It seems that the institution of the ‘Themes,” or new provinces, must date from this, the only space of rest and rearrangement to be found in a long age of wars. The old provinces, as arranged by Diocletian, and somewhat modified by Justinian, had been small, and in each of them civil and military powers were kept separate, the local garrison not being under the control of the local administrator. The needs of the long Persian and Saracen wars had led to the practical supersession of the civil governors by the military commanders, for it was absolutely necessary that the men trusted with the preservation of the empire should be able to control its local administration and finance. The new provinces were few and creation of large, and ruled by governors, who had civil as the Themes well as military authority. They were called ‘themes,' after the name of the military divisions which occupied them, a ‘theme' being originally a force of some 4ooo regular cavalry detailed for the protection of a district. The names of the original Asiatic themes easily explain themselves, “Anatolikon' and ‘Armeniakon’ the two largest, were the regions garrisoned by the ‘army of the East’ and the ‘army of Armenia.’ ‘Thrakesion,’ farther west, shows that the original ‘army of Thrace' had been brought over into Asia to give aid against the Saracen. “Bucellarion’ was named after the Bucellarii," a corps originally formed of Teutonic auxiliaries. The theme called Obsequium (Opsikion) was held by the Imperial Guard. Only the Cibyrhaeote theme, along the southern coast of Asia Minor, was named from a town, and not from the troops who garrisoned it. In the West, there seem to have been originally three themes in the Balkan
* See page 131 for a Visigothic use of the word Bucellarii.