Byzantium Timeline
7th Century

Byzantium Timeline (601-700 A.D.)




Herakleios I becomes Emperor

Herakleios is crowned after a period of disastrous misrule by Phocas, a brutal ex-soldier.

Herakleios re-organises previously ineffective Byzantine resistance against a major Persian invasion. Wars between the two superpowers, Byzantium and Persia, had previously been limited in scope and punctuated by periods of uneasy peace. This latest war develops instead into a death-struggle. For the first time Byzantium’s continued existence as a political entity is seriously threatened.


Constantinople besieged by the Avars

A massive barbarian army, working in co-operation with the Persians, lays siege to Constantinople whilst Herakleios is away campaigning in the east. Inspired by the charismatic Patriarch Sergios, the Byzantines successfully resist the attack upon their capital city.


Sassanid Persia defeated by the Byzantines

The successful defence of Constantinople represents a turning point in the war against the Persians. Herakleios is later able to defeat all armies sent against him and forces a favourable peace upon the gravely weakened Persians.


Battle of the River Yarmuk

Inspired by their new religious faith (the Prophet Mohammed had only died in 632) Arab armies advance upon both the Persian Empire, which is soon absorbed, and the Byzantine Empire.

At first slow to react, the Byzantines finally mobilise a large army against the Arabs. Badly handled and out-fought, the Byzantine Army is destroyed by the Arabs at the Battle of Yarmuk, in Syria.

Already ravaged by the Persian war, Byzantine provinces in the Middle East and North Africa fall quickly to the Arabs. The Byzantines fall back, holding the mountain passes of eastern Asia Minor against further Arab encroachment.

The Arabs establish a powerful state, the Omayyad Caliphate, based around the capital city of Damascus.


First Arab attack upon Constantinople

The "Saracens" (Arabs) have built up a powerful war-fleet. They lay a determined sea-born siege upon Constantinople which lasts for five years. For the first time the Byzantines are able to inflict a severe defeat upon the Arabs, who finally withdraw with heavy losses in 678.

An important factor in Byzantine success is the use of a secret weapon - Greek Fire. An explosive and incendiary substance, with sulphur, pitch and petroleum as chief ingredients, Greek Fire is squirted from bellows-operated flamethrowers mounted on Byzantine warships.