The Byzantine empire, then calling itself ʺNew Romeʺ, had along with its Iranian counterpart, kept a tight hand over the civilized world for several hundred years. Its emperors ruled in direct succession to the Roman
Emperors over vast and populous lands in Europe, Asia and Africa. The empire was enormously rich while its phenomenally good armies and navies had compiled a successful military record. Coming from a Greek family, Heraclius was born in Cappadocia but was brought up in Carthage where his father was the Exarch of Africa. In his early years he never made any illusion to his fire of genius, avarice for power or qualities of leadership.
When Phocus killed the tyrant Emperor Maurice, in 602 A.D., and usurped the throne, the Chosroes of Persia declared himself the avenger of his former benefactor.
The Byzantine Empire absorbed heavy losses as the Iranians reduced Antioch, Damascus, and Jerusalem and took away the True Cross in triumph. Soon afterwards they entered Alexandria, and Egypt too was gone. It seemed to be the end of the great Roman Empire in the East. It was then that the secret emissaries of the Senate prevailed upon the Exarch of Africa to send his son from Carthage to Constantinople. Heraclius was crowned in 610 A.D., when the Empire, afflicted by famine and pestilence, was incapable of resistance and hopeless of relief against the enemy laying a siege to the capital.
Heraclius spent the first few years of his reign beseeching the clemency of Persians and suing out peace, but in 621 A.D. he was suddenly awakened from his sloth.
This was the year in which the prediction of Roman Victory, something most ʺdistant of its accomplishmentʺ,
was made by the Qurʹan. In a sudden, displaying the courage of a hero, Heraclius exchanged his purple for the simple garb of a penitent and warrior and decided to become the deliverer of Christendom and restorer of the greatness of the Eastern Empire. He began a great counter offensive and defeating the Persians of their own territory, brought his victorious arms to the capital of Iranian Empire.
Amidst the triumph of his succeeding campaigns, Heraclius avenged the honor of Byzantium, crushed the arms as well as the glory of Iranian Empire until it seemed to be nearing its end.
Heraclius returned to Constantinople in 625 A.D. and then, in 629, marched in triumph to Jerusalem for restoring the True Cross to the holy sepulcher. The people went forth to meet the victor, with tears and thunderous applauses, spreading carpets and spraying aromatic herbs
on his path.
The glorious event was celebrated with the tumult of public joy. While the emperor triumphed at Jerusalem, he was conveyed the letter of the Messenger of Allah peace be and blessings upon him inviting him to embrace Islam. By that time, Heraclius seemed to have exhausted himself. He became the ʺslave of sloth, of pleasure, or of superstition, the careless and impotent spectator of the public calamities,ʺ
as he had been in the beginning, until the new movement of Islam exploded out of Arabia and took away the very provinces Heraclius had recaptured from the Persians.
The boundaries of the Byzantine Empire again shrunk to the Asia Minor and the coastal regions of the Mediterranean Sea in Europe.
The work of Heraclius was undone, but he was decidedly one of the most extraordinary and inconsistent Emperors who assumed the charge of the Byzantine Empire.
Great were his exploits and adventurous campaigns and he ruled the greatest empire of the day.
In the magnitude of his dominions, wealth and military prowess, he could be compared only with Chosroes II, the Emperor of Persia. Heraclius died at Constantinople in 641
A.D. and was buried there.