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forty miles west of Constantinople, the point to which he had advanced his army. Heraclius consented to the meeting, and rode out in royal state, with all his court. But the faithless Avar was meditating treachery. He concealed troops of his horsemen in the hills, with the object of waylaying Heraclius on his way to Heraclea, and of holding him to ransom. The emperor was warned just in time to escape from the ambush. Throwing off his long purple robe, and tucking his diadem under his arm, he rode hard for Constantinople, with the Avars close at his heels. Many of his court, and thousands of the Thracian peasantry, who had turned out to witness the meeting, fell into the hands of the enemy. Heraclius had just time to order the gates to be closed before the pursuers swept through the suburbs, and up to the walls.
In spite of this piece of abominable treachery, the emperor was still fain to conclude a peace with the Avars, as an absolutely necessary preliminary before attacking the Persian. In 620 a peace of some sort was patched up, in return for a payment of money, but even then Heraclius was not able to start on his projected campaign. Some desultory Persian attacks on Constantinople, and notably an attempt to build a fleet at Chalcedon, and cross the strait, had first to be frustrated.
It was not till 622 that the emperor was finally enabled to take the offensive. But all preparations being complete, after solemnly keeping the Lenten Fast, and receiving the benediction of the Church for himself and his army, he set sail for Asia on Easter Day. He left his young son, Heraclius Constantinus, regent in his stead, under the charge of the patriarch Sergius and the patrician Bonus, the commander of the garrison of Constantinople.
In the six campaigns which followed, Heraclius displayed an energy and an ability which no one, judging from his quiescence during the last ten years, would have expected him to possess. Historians only doubt whether to praise the more his strategical talents or his personal bravery. From the very first he showed his ascendency over the enemy, taking the offensive, and turning the course of the war wherever he chose to direct it. At his first departure from Constantinople he did not attack the Persian in the front, but boldly sailed round the southern capes of Asia Minor, and landed his army in Cilicia, on the gulf of Issus, a position from which he threatened both Asia Minor and northern Syria. Marching up into Cappadocia, he cut the communications between the Persian army in Asia Minor and the Euphrates valley. This movement had the result that he expected. Hastily evacuating Bithynia and Galatia, the Persian general Shahrbarz drew back eastward, in order to regain touch with his country. Ere a blow was struck Heraclius had cleared western Asia Minor of the enemy; but he finished the campaign by inflicting a crushing defeat on Shahrbarz in Cappadocia, and thus recovered eastern Asia Minor also (622).
After in vain offering terms of peace to Chosroes, Heraclius took effective means in the next year to bring the Persian to reason. Syria, Egypt, and Mesopotamia were still in the hands of the enemy: he resolved to deliver them in the same manner that he had saved Asia Minor, by striking so hard at the enemy's base of operations that he should be compelled to call in all his outlying troops in order to de- victorious fend Persia proper. In 623 Heraclius, abandon- H^mci^st 0f ing his communication with the sea, plunged 622-27. boldly inland, and fell on Media. For two whole years he is lost to sight in the regions of the extreme East, subduing lands where no Roman army had ever been seen before, where, indeed, no European conqueror had ever penetrated since Alexander the Great. We hear of his winning three pitched battles, and of his storming two great Median towns, Gandzaca and Thebarmes, the latter the reputed birthplace of Zoroaster, the prophet of the Persians. It was some satisfacfaction to the army to destroy their magnificent temples in revenge for the sack of Jerusalem. To defend Media, Chosroes had to draw back his outlying armies from the West, and so far the purpose of Heraclius was served; but
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the emperor was still too weak to attack Persia proper, or besiege Chosroes' capital of Ctesiphon.
After wintering at Van, in the Armenian highlands, Heraclius dropped southward, in 625, and came into regions more within the ken of Western historians. He recovered the longlost fortresses of Amida and Martyropolis, the ancient bulwarks of the empire on the upper Tigris, which had been for nearly twenty years in Persian hands, and once more picked up his communication with Constantinople, which had almost lost sight of him during the two last campaigns. The year ended with a fourth crushing defeat of Shahrbarz, who had endeavoured to throw himself between the emperor and his homeward path by defending the passage of the Sarus, near Germanicia.
But 626 was destined to be the decisive year of the war. Before acknowledging himself beaten, the obstinate Chosroes was determined to make one final effort. Drawing every man that he could together, for the Persian empire was now growing exhausted, the old king made two armies of them. While the larger was left in Mesopotamia and Armenia, to endeavour to keep Heraclius employed, a great body under Shahrbarz slipped southward, round the emperor's flank, and marched for the Bosphorus. Chosroes had concerted measures with the treacherous Chagan of the Avars for a combined attack on Constantinople, from both the European and the Asiatic side of the strait. When Shahrbarz appeared at Chalcedon, he found the Avars already masters of Thrace, and preparing to beleaguer Byzantium. The two armies could see each other across the water, but they were wholly unable to communicate Great Siege w^th each other; for the Roman fleet kept such of Constan- excellent guard in the straits that no boat could
tinople, 626. cross The patrician Bonus made a most gal.
lant defence, the garrison was adequate, and the population kept a good heart, for they knew that the Persian was striking his last desperate blow. Heraclius himself was so well satisfied with the impregnability of his capital that he only sent a few veteran troops by sea to co-operate in the defence, and kept the greater part of his army in hand for an attack on the heart of the dominions of Chosroes. Meanwhile, the host of Shahrbarz had to look on in helpless impotence, while the Avars, on the other side of the Bosphorus, made their attempt on Constantinople. On the night of the 3d of August 626 the Chagan gave the signal for the assault. A body of Slavs, in small boats, attempted to storm the sea-wall from the side of the Golden Horn, while the main body of the Avars moved against the land-wall. But the galleys of Bonus rammed and sunk the light vessels of the Slavs, and the assault of the Avars miscarried entirely. Thereupon the Chagan hastily broke up his camp, and retired beyond the Balkans. The siege was practically raised, though the army of Shahrbarz still remained encamped at Chalcedon. Thus ended the first of the four great sieges of Constantinople of which we have to tell.
Meanwhile, Heraclius had been retaliating on Persia in the most effective way. In return for the invasion of Thrace by the Avars, he called in from beyond the Caucasus the wild Hunnish tribe of the Khazars, and turned them loose on Media and Assyria. Forty thousand of their horsemen laid waste the whole land, as far as the gates of Ctesiphon, and the emperor took possession of the upper valley of the Tigris, and prepared to strike at his rival's capital in the coming year.
The campaign of 627 ended the triumphs of Heraclius. -The last army of Persia, under a general named Rhazates, faced him near Nineveh. Charging at the head of the mailed horsemen of his guard, Heraclius slew the Battle of Persian chief with his own hand, and scattered Nineveh, 627. his forces to the winds. The victorious army pressed on, and captured Dastagerd, the magnificent country-palace of Chosroes, near Ctesiphon, where they gained such plunder as no Roman army had won for many ages. They burnt Dastagerd, and four palaces more, while Chosroes fled eastward to conceal himself in the mountains of Susiana.
The long-suffering Persians were at last growing tired of
their arrogant lord. His army rebelled against him, and proclaimed his son Siroes as king. Chosroes himself was thrown into a dungeon, where he perished of cold and starvation. The new king at once sent to ask for terms of peace from Heraclius. The emperor, knowing the exhaustion of his own realm, and its need for instant repose, made no hard conditions. Siroes restored all the Roman territory still Peace with i n his hands, released all Roman captives, paid a Persia, (as. war indemnity, and—greatest of all triumphs in the eyes of the subjects of Heraclius—gave back the 'True Cross,' and other spoils of Jerusalem.
In May 628 the emperor was able to return to Constantinople, bringing peace and plenty with him. He had restored the boundary of the empire, and inflicted on Persia a blow from which she never recovered. His arms had penetrated far beyond the limits of the conquests of Trajan and Severus, and his six years of unbroken victory were a record which no Roman, save Julius Caesar, could rival. Not unjustly did the inhabitants of Constantinople receive him with chants and sacred processions, and hail him by the name of 'the new Scipio.' The crowning moment of his triumph came when the True Cross was uplifted in St. Sophia, and publicly exposed for the adoration of the faithful. Well might the emperor have sung his ''Nunc dimittis' on that day of solemn rejoicing, and prayed that the hour of his triumph might be the last of his life. But already there was another tempest gathering, which was destined to sweep over the Roman empire, with even greater violence than the Persian storm which had just been weathered. While in the midst of his last campaign, Heraclius had received a letter from an obscure Arabian prophet, bidding him accept a new revelation from Heaven, which its framer called 'Islam,' or 'Submission to God.' A similar missive was delivered at the same moment to Chosroes, then on the eve of his fall. Chosroes tore up the letter, and swore he would, at his leisure, lay the insolent prophet in a dungeon. Heraclius sent a polite letter of acknowledgment and a