Byzantine Empire, Heraclius, 610-641, AV Solidus
Obv.Busts of the emperor and his son Heraclius Constantinus facing
Rev.Cross potent on three steps
Herakleios (* around 575; † 11 February 641)
He was Eastern Roman or Byzantine emperor from 5 October 610 until his death. He was one of the most important Byzantine rulers and can at the same time be considered the last ruler of Late Antiquity and the first emperor of the Middle Byzantine Empire.
The dynasty he founded ruled until 711.
Herakleios' entire reign was marked by a military defensive struggle against external aggressors, first against the Persians and the Avars, and later against the Arabs. Internally, the transformation to a now completely Graecianised empire took place, whereby state and society were subjected to profound changes.
Domestically, Herakleios had to struggle hard with the unsolved problem of Miaphysitism ("Monophysitism"), trying in vain to unify the Church in the Empire: In order to get around the problem of the central question of whether Jesus had only one (divine, as the Miaphysites thought) or two unmixed natures (human and divine, as advocated by the Orthodox since the Council of Chalcedon), the formula of ekthesis (see also monotheletism) was devised, according to which Jesus in any case had only one will.
Nevertheless, this compromise solution also failed, since the majority on both sides remained intransigent and rejected this draft. In a way, the problem of religious unity was then solved from the outside when the Arabs conquered those provinces that did not adhere to orthodoxy.
Herakleios consequently implemented far-reaching reforms within the empire, which were to be formative for the Byzantine Empire until its downfall and marked the end of the late antique phase of the empire. Under him, the Eastern Roman or early Byzantine Empire also largely lost its late Roman character through the Greekisation of the state.
Herakleios was obviously a competent military man. He was able to save the empire from the Sassanids, but not from the onslaught of the Arabs. With the loss of the most important provinces and the restriction to Asia Minor, southern Italy and the Balkans, the late Roman Empire ended and the Byzantine Empire of the Middle Ages began.