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Siege of Constantinople (626)

Siege of Constantinople (626)

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The Siege of Constantinople in 626 by the Avars
Eurasian Avars
The Eurasian Avars or Ancient Avars were a highly organized nomadic confederacy of mixed origins. They were ruled by a khagan, who was surrounded by a tight-knit entourage of nomad warriors, an organization characteristic of Turko-Mongol groups...

, aided by large numbers of allied Slavs and the Sassanid Persians, ended in a strategic victory for the Byzantines
Byzantine Empire
The Byzantine Empire was the Eastern Roman Empire during the periods of Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages, centred on the capital of Constantinople. Known simply as the Roman Empire or Romania to its inhabitants and neighbours, the Empire was the direct continuation of the Ancient Roman State...

. The failure of the siege saved the Empire from collapse, and, combined with other victories achieved by Heraclius
Heraclius
Heraclius was Byzantine Emperor from 610 to 641.He was responsible for introducing Greek as the empire's official language. His rise to power began in 608, when he and his father, Heraclius the Elder, the exarch of Africa, successfully led a revolt against the unpopular usurper Phocas.Heraclius'...

 the previous year and in 627, enabled Byzantium to regain her territories and end the destructive Roman-Persian Wars
Roman-Persian Wars
The Roman–Persian Wars were a series of conflicts between states of the Greco-Roman world and two successive Iranic empires: the Parthian and the Sassanid. Contact between the Parthian Empire and the Roman Republic began in 92 BC; wars began under the late Republic, and continued...

 by enforcing a favorable treaty with borders status quo c.590.

Background



In 602, Phocas
Phocas
Phocas was Byzantine Emperor from 602 to 610. He usurped the throne from the Emperor Maurice, and was himself overthrown by Heraclius after losing a civil war.-Origins:...

 overthrew Maurice
Maurice (emperor)
Maurice was Byzantine Emperor from 582 to 602.A prominent general in his youth, Maurice fought with success against the Sassanid Persians...

, the incumbent Byzantine Emperor, and established a reign of terror and incompetence, leading the empire into anarchy. Laws were passed condemning Jews whilst religious and administrative mishandling left the Empire in a sorry state when the Sassanid
Sassanid Empire
The Sassanid Empire , known to its inhabitants as Ērānshahr and Ērān in Middle Persian and resulting in the New Persian terms Iranshahr and Iran , was the last pre-Islamic Persian Empire, ruled by the Sasanian Dynasty from 224 to 651...

 King Khosrau II
Khosrau II
250px|thumb|Khosrau II 250px|thumb|Khosrau II 250px|thumb|Khosrau II (Khosrow II, Chosroes II, or Xosrov II in classical sources, sometimes called Parvez, "the Ever Victorious" – (in Persian: خسرو پرویز), was the twenty-second Sassanid King of Persia, reigning from 590 to 628...

 attacked, using the coup as a pretext for war. Initially the war went well for the Persians, until only Anatolia
Anatolia
Anatolia is a geographic and historical term denoting the westernmost protrusion of Asia, comprising the majority of the Republic of Turkey...

 remained in Roman hands. Later, Phocas was overthrown by the son of the then Exarch
Exarch
In the Byzantine Empire, an exarch was governor with extended authority of a province at some remove from the capital Constantinople. The prevailing situation frequently involved him in military operations....

 of Carthage
Carthage
Carthage , implying it was a 'new Tyre') is a major urban centre that has existed for nearly 3,000 years on the Gulf of Tunis, developing from a Phoenician colony of the 1st millennium BC...

, Heraclius. A General of astounding energy yet limited experience, Heraclius immediately began undoing much of Phocas' damaging work that he had procured whilst Emperor. Yet despite his offensives into Mesopotamia
Mesopotamia
Mesopotamia is a toponym for the area of the Tigris–Euphrates river system, largely corresponding to modern-day Iraq, northeastern Syria, southeastern Turkey and southwestern Iran.Widely considered to be the cradle of civilization, Bronze Age Mesopotamia included Sumer and the...

 (modern-day Iraq
Iraq
Iraq ; officially the Republic of Iraq is a country in Western Asia spanning most of the northwestern end of the Zagros mountain range, the eastern part of the Syrian Desert and the northern part of the Arabian Desert....

) Heraclius was unable to stop his Persian enemies from laying siege to his capital where from Chalcedon
Chalcedon
Chalcedon , sometimes transliterated as Chalkedon) was an ancient maritime town of Bithynia, in Asia Minor, almost directly opposite Byzantium, south of Scutari . It is now a district of the city of Istanbul named Kadıköy...

 they were able to launch their attack. From May 14-15th 626, riots in Constantinople against John Seismos occurred because he wanted to cancel the bread rations of the scholae
Scholae
Scholae is a Latin word, literally meaning "schools" that was used in the late Roman Empire to signify a unit of Imperial Guards. The unit survived in the Byzantine Empire until the 12th century...

 or imperial guards and raise the cost of bread from 3 to 8 folles
Folles
Folles is a commune in the Haute-Vienne department in the Limousin region in west-central France.-References:*...

. He did this conserve government resources, but he was removed. However, there were further disturbances in the city.

Siege


Also assisting in the siege was a host of 80,000 Avars
Eurasian Avars
The Eurasian Avars or Ancient Avars were a highly organized nomadic confederacy of mixed origins. They were ruled by a khagan, who was surrounded by a tight-knit entourage of nomad warriors, an organization characteristic of Turko-Mongol groups...

, bent on removing all Roman/Byzantine Imperial rule over Europe. The Persians had arrived in Chalcedon before Phocas was overthrown. However it was only when the Avars began moving forward heavy siege equipment towards the Theodosian Walls that a siege became clear.

Fortunately for the defenders, the soldiers of the capital numbered some 12,000 and consisted of cavalry - normally a well-trained arm of the Greco-Roman army of the time. Adding no small bonus was the Patriarch of Constantinople
Patriarch of Constantinople
The Ecumenical Patriarch is the Archbishop of Constantinople – New Rome – ranking as primus inter pares in the Eastern Orthodox communion, which is seen by followers as the One, Holy, Catholic, and Apostolic Church....

 – whose cries for religious zeal among the peasantry around Constantinople was made ever more effective by the fact that they were facing heathens. Consequently, every assault became a doomed effort. When the Avar fleet and the Persian fleet were sunk in two different naval engagements, the attackers panicked and fled abandoning the siege - apparently under the belief that Divine intervention had won the day for Byzantium.

Aftermath


The loss came just after news had reached them of yet another Byzantine victory, where Heraclius' brother Theodore
Theodore (brother of Heraclius)
Theodore was the brother of the Byzantine emperor Heraclius , a curopalates and leading general in Heraclius' wars against the Persians and against the Arab invasions.-Life:...

 scored well against the Persian General Shahin. Following this, Heraclius led an invasion into Mesopotamia once again, defeating another Persian army at Nineveh
Nineveh
Nineveh was an ancient Assyrian city on the eastern bank of the Tigris River, and capital of the Neo Assyrian Empire. Its ruins are across the river from the modern-day major city of Mosul, in the Ninawa Governorate of Iraq....

. Afterwards, he marched on to Ctesiphon
Ctesiphon
Ctesiphon, the imperial capital of the Parthian Arsacids and of the Persian Sassanids, was one of the great cities of ancient Mesopotamia.The ruins of the city are located on the east bank of the Tigris, across the river from the Hellenistic city of Seleucia...

 where anarchy reigned – allowing Heraclius to extract ever more favorable terms as one Persian King was overthrown by another. Eventually, the Persians were obliged to withdraw all armed forces and return Egypt
Egypt
Egypt , officially the Arab Republic of Egypt, Arabic: , is a country mainly in North Africa, with the Sinai Peninsula forming a land bridge in Southwest Asia. Egypt is thus a transcontinental country, and a major power in Africa, the Mediterranean Basin, the Middle East and the Muslim world...

, the Levant and whatever Imperial territories of Mesopotamia and Armenia
Armenia
Armenia , officially the Republic of Armenia , is a landlocked mountainous country in the Caucasus region of Eurasia...

 were in Roman hands at the time of an earlier peace treaty in c. 595. The war over, neither the Persians nor the Byzantines would cross swords again until the Arab-Islamic invasion
Byzantine-Arab Wars
The Byzantine–Arab Wars were a series of wars between the Arab Caliphates and the East Roman or Byzantine Empire between the 7th and 12th centuries AD. These started during the initial Muslim conquests under the expansionist Rashidun and Umayyad caliphs and continued in the form of an enduring...

 broke the power of both Empires.

Assessment


This siege failed because the Avars did not have the patience of technology to conquer the city. The walls of Constantinople
Walls of Constantinople
The Walls of Constantinople are a series of defensive stone walls that have surrounded and protected the city of Constantinople since its founding as the capital of the Eastern Roman Empire by Constantine the Great...

 easily defended against the siege towers and engines. Furthermore, the Persians and Slavs did not have a strong enough navy to ignore the sea walls and establish a channel of communication. The lack of supplies for the Avars eventually caused them to abandon the siege.

See also

  • Bonus
    Bonus (patrician)
    Bonus was a Byzantine statesman and general, one of the closest associates of Emperor Heraclius , who played a leading role in the successful defense of the imperial capital, Constantinople, during the Avar–Persian siege of 626.-Life:...

  • Byzantine-Sassanid Wars
  • Byzantine-Arab Wars
    Byzantine-Arab Wars
    The Byzantine–Arab Wars were a series of wars between the Arab Caliphates and the East Roman or Byzantine Empire between the 7th and 12th centuries AD. These started during the initial Muslim conquests under the expansionist Rashidun and Umayyad caliphs and continued in the form of an enduring...

  • Siege of Constantinople (674)
    Siege of Constantinople (674)
    The First Arab Siege of Constantinople in 674 was a major conflict of the Byzantine-Arab Wars, and was one of the numerous times Constantinople's defences were tested. It was fought between the Byzantine Empire and the Arab Umayyad Caliphate...