Emperor Mauricius



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*539ca- 22.11.602


¥ Constantina 560-605


Maurice (Flavius Mauricius Tiberius Augustus;  (Φλάβιος Μαυρίκιος Τιβέριος Αὔγουστος) 539 – 27 November 602) was Byzantine Emperor from 582 to 602. A prominent general, Maurice fought with success against the Sassanid Persians. After he became Emperor, he brought the war with Sasanian Persia to a victorious conclusion. Under him 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 Roman Emperor to do so in over two centuries. 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 Italy 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 power of Constantinople in 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 a disaster for the Empire, sparking a twenty-six year war with Sassanid Persia which would leave both empires devastated prior to the Muslim conquests. His reign is a relatively well documented era of late antiquity, in particular by the historian Theophylact Simocatta. The Strategikon, a manual of war which influenced European and Middle Eastern military traditions for well over a millennium, is traditionally attributed to Maurice.[1]




Of Emperor Maurice and his wife Constatina several portraits have been preserved. In the first place in the San Vitale in Ravenna where the couple is portrayed before their wedding. As an emperor and his consort they are portrayed in the Basilica Sant’ Eufrasia in Porec (Istria). Other portrais are in the Santa Maria Antiqua in Rome.

Mosaic on the southern wall of the S. Vitale in Ravenna.

from left to right: Mauricius, Anastasia, Constantina [2]


Portraits of Mauricius and Constantina in S. Maria Antiqua in Rome.


Portrait of Emperor Mauricius

on the mosaic in the apse of the Basilica Sant’Eufrasia in Poreč (Istria)


Maurice is represented here in the same way as Emperor Justin II in the apse of the San Vitale in Ravenna, seated on the celestial globe. The inscription reads: I am the light of truth



Tremissis – Byzantine gold coin,
Mauricius (582 to 602),
from the hoard found near Aldrans, Tyrol (Institut für Numismatik, University of Vienna)



No.: 1018 Æ 22 mm

Solidus, 583-601.

Obv.: O N MAVRC - TIb P P AVC. Bust with helmet, diadem set wih pearls, paludamentum, armoury and orb with cross.

Rev.: VICTORI - A AVCC I / CONOB. Victoria with crozier and orb with cross Sear 478. DOC 5 j. MIB 6. 4,49g. Leichte Stempelrostspuren, Stempelglanz.




Constantina (c. 560 – c. 605) was the Empress consort of Maurice of the Byzantine Empire. She was a daughter of Tiberius II Constantine and Ino Anastasia. Her parentage was recorded in the chronicles of Theophylact Simocatta, Paul the Deacon and John of Biclaro

They had 9 children: Theodosius (583-602), Tiberius (†602), Petrus, Paulus, Justin, Justinian, Anastasia, Theoctiste and Cleopatra.

Probably the first is portrayed on the lap of his mother

Image of Constantina between her father Tiberius II Constantine and her mother empress Anastasia.

6th cent. Paint on wood. H.: 68 cm. Sinaï, monastery of  St. Catharina.

Virgin and Child.

Encaustic on wood, VI th cent.

Kiev City Museum of Eastern and Western Art. No. 112 жк. H. 36.5 W. 20.5 cm. [3]


The eldest son of Maurice, Theodosius, was crowned emperor at the age of 4½. We can safely accept that he is depicted here in the arms of his mother. (See also  Gibbon, II. p. 904 n. 50.)


Madonna and child alias Constantina with Theodosius

between four angels

Mosaic in the Sant’Apollinare Nuovo, Ravenna


Here Theodosius is a co-emperor and of the age of 5-6


Madonna and child alias Constantina with Theodosius

on the mosaic in the apse of the Basilica Sant’Eufrasia in Porec (Istria)


The boy on her lap may be Theodosius and of the age of 6-7. He has the codicil now in his left hand. On her right and her left are six officials three of whom are prefects with crownd and two are bishops with their books. A fourth official named Eufrasius Episcopus is dressed in purple and carries the model of the cathedral. Also, on her right is a boy (Tiberius?) dressed in yellow or gold with another codicil.

Cover of a silver reliquiary, 6th-7th cent

Sitting empress (probably (Augusta) Constantina 560-605), in her right a cross-staff and behind her head a halo with a IX-monogram. On her lap her son Theodosius (*583, ruled 590-602)

Treasure of Grado cathedral [4]


Theodosius here with a book and of an undefined age. The IX (Ιησοσ Χριστοσ) monogram was the badge of office  of an archbishop


 Empress consort Constantina (~560- ~605)

so-called palimpsest (painted over) in the S. Maria Antiqua in Rome.


The empress crowned with a crown of plates set with pearls, her loros also set with pearls. On her dress a roundel with a bird (very damaged, pheasant, goose? [5]). Behind her head a nimbus and in her left hand an akakia.  She is sitting on a throne of two bended arm-rests of the shape of the Cilindrical Box of Grado.


Issue: Theodosius; Tiberius; Petrus; Paulus; Justin; Justinian; Anastasia; Theoctiste and Cleopatra


Portraits of two children, probably of Mauricius and Constantina

 in the S. Maria Antiqua in Rome.


Euphrasian Basilica (Poreč/Parenzo)

Mosaics of the side apses showing Jesus  between two couples of saints: (above) Sts. Cosmas and Damian; (below) St. Apollinaris (?) and St. Severus of Ravenna


Commentary: The two side naves ended with small apses where fragments of mosaics were discovered after Sir Thomas Graham Jackson (1835-1924) visited Parenzo  in 1885. These fragments have not been modified by modern poor restorations.

It is interesting to compare the depiction of purple clothes at Parenzo versus the Mausoleum of Galla Placidia in Ravenna which was built a century earlier. In the latter purple was used (and to a limited extent) only in The Good Shepherd mosaic. Purple clothes and porphyry acquired such a relevance as symbols of imperial power that in the Xth century deliveries of Byzantine Empresses took place in a special room entirely decorated with porphiry. As a matter of fact it was Emperor Diocletian, the fiercest persecutor of the Christians.


There is no reason why the men represented should be Jesus but on the contrary they may be the eldest sons of Maurice, Theodosius and Tiberius (?) as the cathedral was lavishly decorated in the time of Mauricius.


Theodosius; (co-emperor 590,

 † at the age of 19)


Tiberius  (proposed co-emperor 597,

† at the age of ~18 (?)





Phocas came to power by a palace-revolution. He made Mauricius and his five sons be executed in public. Constantina and her daughters were saved. She however underwent the same fate because of her participation to a revolt against Phocas some time later. Phocas himself was also deposed, tortured and decapitated



Phocas had one single daughter whom he had married to a patrician by name of Crispus. Their portraits as a king and queen were exposed in the circus beside the portrait of the emperor  himself. Disturbed by this premature recognition of theitr royal dignity the emperor made the ones responsible, the tribunes of the Green Party, immediately executed. This was the beginning of the revolt which would cause the fall of Phocas in the end.

Icon from the Pantheon /Basilica di Santa Maria degli Angeli e dei Martirii, 609. [6]


When this lady on an icon from the Pantheon represents a queen, she can very well be the daughter of Phocas Leontia (†610) and her daughter Domentzia (602-610). A reason why is the date of 609 of the icon and the circumstance that Crispus came to belong to the government of Heraclius (610-641) and only later fell into disgrace. Therefore the icon may be from the heritage of Crispus. [7]



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 © Hubert de Vries 2018-09-26




[1]  Mauricii: Strategicon. Ediţie critică, traducere şi introducere de H. Mihăescu. Ed. Ac. R.S.R. Bucureşti, 1970.

[2]  See also:

[3]  Published in Bank, A.: Byzantine Art in the Collections of the USSR. Moscow, 1966. No. 110

[4]  Marocco, Ezio: Il tesoro del Duomo di Grado.Trieste,  2001. Pp 11-12: Capsella Cilindrica

[5] Quadrupeds and birds on roundels on dress are of Sassanid origin and probably are badges of rank

[6]  Andaloro, Maria & Serena Romano: Römisches Mittelalter. Milano, 2002,  23, p. 42.

[7]  Gibbon, II, p. 902