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Tiberius II (I) Constantine (578-582 A.D.)

R. Scott Moore
University of Dayton


Tiberius was born in a Latin speaking region of Thrace sometime during the middle of the 6th century AD.  As a close friend to Justin II, he was appointed as Count of the Excubitors and his support was instrumental in allowing Justin II to seize the throne upon Justinian's death.  When Justin II suffered a mental breakdown in 573 after learning of the Persian army's invasion of Syria and subsequent capture of

Dara, Justin II's wife Sophia and Tiberius assumed control of the government [[1]].  Their first step was to obtain a one year truce with the Persians (excluding Armenia) in exchange for 45,000 solidi [[2]]. In December of 574, Sophia was able to influence Justin II to appoint Tiberius as Caesar and he was renamed Tiberius Constantine[[3]].

Tiberius' co-reign with Justin II

Tiberius felt that Justin II had been too conservative financially and immediately began spending money, mainly on the military and his followers, earning him popularity and support [[4]].  He financed several important building projects, such as the Great Palace at Constantinople.  He abolished Justin's taxes on bread and wine, gave expensive gifts to his supporters and even ended the persecutions of the monophysites.  He also paid the Avars 80,000 solidi a year to guard the Danube frontier which in turn allowed him to transfer these troops to the East and focus exclusively on future Byzantine military actions against the Persians [[5]].  His generosity, however, soon decimated the treasury accumulated by his predecessors.

In 575 he also began an extensive recruiting campaign to further augment the eastern Byzantine forces in preparation for a possible upcoming campaign against the Persians.  When the one year peace treaty expired, the Persians offered to renew it for 5 more years, but Tiberius would only agree to a 3 year extension at a reduced rate of 30,000 solidi per year (once again excluding Armenia) [[6]].  This extension of the peace treaty allowed Tiberius to focus on other areas of the empire.  In Italy, the murder of successive Lombard kings, Alboin in 573 and Cleph in 574, had resulted in a temporary division of the Lombard forces under various duces [[7]].  Tiberius, hoping to take advantage of the situation sent troops with Baduarius, Justin II's son-in-law, to Italy to see if the Lombard's unsettled situation could be parlayed into Byzantine expansion.  This hope ended in 576 when Baduarius lost both his life and an important battle against the Lombards allowing them to acquire even more land in Italy.  Before Tiberius could send more troops to Italy, the Persians invaded Armenia.  Unable to commit more troops to the fight against the Lombards, Tiberius was forced to resort to political intrigue and spent more than 200,000 solidi buying the allegiance of numerous Lombard duces who then prevented the election of a new Lombard king [[8]].

In Armenia, the Persian king had initial success against the Byzantines capturing the cities of Sebastea and Melitene.  The Byzantine commander of the eastern armies, Justinian, was eventually able to force the Persian army to retreat.  This only proved to be a temporary respite, since in the following summer of 577 the Persians invaded again and defeated Justinian, who died soon after his defeat.  Tiberius then appointed the current Count of the Excubitors, Maurice, as Justinian's replacement in the East and committed more troops to the war against the Persians [[9]].  In 578, shortly before the current 3 year peace treaty was to end, the Persians invaded Byzantine held territory in Mesopotamia.  In retaliation, Maurice invaded Persian territory and captured the cities of Aphumon and Singara[[10]].

Reign as sole emperor

Late in the year of 578, Justin II died leaving Tiberius as sole ruler.  To celebrate the event, Tiberius remitted 25% of the taxes for the next 4 years [[11]]Justin II's widow, Sophia, soon began to pressure Tiberius to divorce his wife Ino (Anastasia) and marry her.  Tiberius was able to avoid becoming entangled in Sophia's intrigues and her influence waned as Tiberius' popularity grew.  Maurice's successes in the East allowed Tiberius to once again send troops to Italy, as well as become involved in Spain and North Africa.  Unfortunately, the situation in the eastern half of the empire soon demanded Tiberius' attention again.  In 580 the Avars, noticing the lack of troops in the Balkan regions, demanded that Tiberius relinquish control of the city of Sirmium to them.  When Tiberius refused, they attacked the city.  While the Avars laid siege to the city, the Slavs also began to invade the Balkans in ever increasing numbers.  The new Persian king, Hormizd II, was quick to take advantage of the Byzantine problems in the Balkans and refused to agree to a peace treaty.  Maurice immediately conducted a series of successful raids over the next few years into Persian controlled Armenia.  Forced to focus his military efforts on the Persians, Tiberius gave into the Avars' demands and relinquished control of Sirmium in 582.  In order to be allowed to evacuate the city's citizens safely, Tiberius was forced to agree to pay the Avars the unpaid subsidies that they were owed for the last 3 years, a sum of 240,000 solidi [[12]].  Late in 582 Tiberius became gravely ill.  He appointed Maurice and Germanus as his heirs and each was engaged to one of Tiberius' daughters and elevated to the rank of Caesar.  Some historians feel that Tiberius initially intended to divide the empire into two, with Germanus controlling the West while Maurice controlled the East.  On the 13th of August, however, Tiberius crowned only Maurice as Augustus.  The next day Tiberius died and Maurice became sole emperor [[13]].


(1) John of Ephesus, Ecclesiastical History, 3.2-5, 5.13; Evagrius, Ecclesiastical History, 5.11-13; Theophylact Simocatta 3.2.

(2) Menander 37-38; Theophylact Simocatta 3.2

(3) Theophanes 6067 (574/5).

(4) Evagrius, Ecclesiastical History, 5.13; John of Ephesus, Ecclesiastical History, 3.2, 3.14, and 5.20.

(5) Menander 63, 25.2.

(6) Menander 39-40,41-42,46; John of Ephesus, Ecclesiastical History, 6.8-13; Theophylact Simocatta 3.12.

(7) Paul the Deacon, History of the Lombards, 2.28-31.

(8) Paul the Deacon, History of the Lombards, 2.32, 3.13,33, Menander 49,62

(9)  Menander 38.

(10) Evagrius, Ecclesiastical History, 5-19; John of Ephesus, Ecclesiastical History, 6.14, 27-28; Theophylact Simocatta 3.15-18.

(11) John of Ephesus,Ecclesiastical History, 5.20; Oxyrhynchus Papyri 1907.

(12) Menander 63-66; John of Ephesus, Ecclesiastical History 6.30-33.

(13) John of Ephesus,Ecclesiastical History, 5.13.

Primary Source Bibliography

Evagrius.  Ecclesiastical History.

John of Ephesus. Ecclesiastical History.

Menander Protector.

Nicephorus. Chronigraphikon syntomon.

The Oxyrhynchus Papyri.

Paul the Deacon.  History of the Lombards.

Theophanes. Chronographia.

Theophylact Simocatta.  History.


Bury,  J.B. The Later Roman Empire from Arcadius to Irene (395-800). London, 1889.

Cameron, Avril.  "The empress Sophia," Byzantion 45 (1975), 5-21

Goffart, W.  "Byzantine Policy in the West under Tiberius II and Maurice," Traditio 13 (1957), 73-105.

Jones, A.H.M.  The Later Roman Empire.  London, 1964.

Kaegi, Jr. Walter Emil. Byzantine Military Unrest, 471-843: an interpretation. Amsterdam, 1981.

Kazhdan, Alexander P. Oxford Dictionary of Byzantium. New York, 1991. S.v. "Tiberios I" by Walter E. Kaegi, Jr.

Kulakovskij, J. Istorija Vizantii, 3 vols.. (Kiev 1912-1915).

Ostrogorsky, George. Geschichte des byzantischen Staates. Munich, 1963.

Treadgold, Warren. A History of Byzantine State and Society. Stanford, 1997.

Vasiliev, A.A. History of the Byzantine Empire. Madison, Wisconsin, 1952.

Copyright (C) 2002, R. Scott Moore. This file may be copied on the condition that the entire contents, including the header and this copyright notice, remain intact.

Comments to: R. Scott Moore

Updated: 7 February 2002

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