0539 – 0602
Who was Maurice?
A prominent general in his youth, Maurice fought with success against the Sassanid Persians. Once he became Emperor, he brought the war with Persia to a victorious conclusion: the Empire's eastern border in the Caucasus was vastly expanded and for the first time in nearly two centuries the Romans were no longer obliged to pay the Persians thousands of pounds of gold annually for peace.
Maurice campaigned extensively in the Balkans against the Avars – pushing them back across the Danube by 599. He also conducted campaigns across the Danube, the first Emperor to do so in over two hundred years. In the West, he established two large semi-autonomous provinces called exarchates, ruled by exarchs, or viceroys, of the emperor.
In Italy, Maurice established the Exarchate of Ravenna in 584, the first real effort by the Empire to halt the advance of the Lombards. With the creation of the Exarchate of Africa in 590, he further solidified the empire's hold on the western Mediterranean.
His reign was troubled by financial difficulties and almost constant warfare. In 602, a dissatisfied general named Phocas usurped the throne, having Maurice and his six sons executed. This event would prove cataclysmic for the Empire, sparking a devastating war with Persia that would leave both empires weakened prior to the Muslim invasions.
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