Throughout the ages, men and women have plotted to take power by force, and the person on the throne suffers because of the misdeeds of others. On occasion, the monarch was a tyrant and arguably deserved their fate. On the other hand, some kings and queens lost their crown and their lives due to the greed of others. In this article, I will look at 10 Byzantine Emperors who died prematurely and none too peacefully.
1 – Maurice (602)
By all accounts, Maurice was an excellent emperor and was handpicked as Tiberius II’s successor. His reign began in 582, and he led his armies against Persia. Ultimately, Maurice helped the Persian Khosrau II gain the throne and signed a peace agreement that both sides deemed satisfactory. However, Maurice’s subjects did not appreciate the benefits of peace with Persia and the Christians within the Byzantine population did not like the fact that their Emperor was an atheist.
The Byzantine treasury was low on funds which forced Maurice to be frugal. Alas, his subjects were unhappy; in particular his troops. In 602, Maurice refused to allow his soldiers to return home for the winter and ordered them to remain beyond the Danube River. Moreover, he told them to live off the land instead of having rations sent from Constantinople. The angry troops mutinied and were led by an officer called Phocas.
They stormed the Byzantine capital and seized the city. The regular citizens of Constantinople joined the rebellion and were not just angry at their emperor; they were violent towards any wealthy person they saw. Soon, the poorer elements of the city looted the homes of wealthy Christians and murdered them. The rebels asked Maurice’s son, Theodosius, if he would become the new ruler but he refused.
Eventually, the army chose Phocas as the new emperor, and one of his first actions was to eliminate Maurice and his family. The emperor’s sons were butchered in front of him before he was executed and beheaded. All six heads were put on display while the bodies were tossed into the sea. Empress Constantina and her three daughters were also tortured and executed. Meanwhile, Pope Gregory was delighted at the news and hoped Christians would get behind Phocas. The usurper had power, but his demise was little better than his enemy.