On This Day in History – February 11th – Heraclius Augustus Dies

Heraclius. The Exarch’s son. Roman Emperor. Had he not lived and triumphed over the Persian Empire in the last great war of antiquity, had he capitulated in the face of insurmountable odds and the most implacable of foes, the world we live in would be unrecognizable, and yet his name has been nearly lost to history. Handsome, brilliant, blessed with position at birth, cursed by the loss of his true love, Fabia, and several children, confronted by Black Plague, barbarian invasions, and a Persian King of Kings hellbent on Rome’s annihilation, Heraclius fought back. In 622CE he led the last Roman army out of beleaguered Constantinople’s gates to confront four maurading Persian generals that had torn Rome asunder. If he had lost a single battle that would have been the end. The histories would have said that the Western Roman Empire fell in 476CE, and the Eastern Roman Empire fell in 622CE. Instead the East would last until 1453CE, a breath before Columbus sailed the ‘ocean blue’. And when Rome finally fell, its last, rare breath would give life to the Renaissance, returning civilization to the West. Had Heraclius lost in 622, none of this would have happened. How could it be that we were not taught anything about Heraclius in school? Why hasn’t he starred in a dozen Hollywood blockbusters? When the downtrodden of the world look to history for inspiration, why do they not look to him? I have some thoughts on how such a vitally relevant, inspiring, and eminently human hero has been written out of our histories, but more on that another day. For now, I simply wish to recognize that Heraclius died on this day (February 11th – I trust he would forgive me for publishing this a week late) in the year 641CE.