Constantine III and Heraklonas

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The Empire was in four good hands.

“♪♪ The Kids Are Alright ♪♪”

~ Keith Moon on youthful governance

Constantine III and Heraklonas were Byzantine Emperors in 641 A.D., as the Empire engaged in a "rebuilding" or "youth movement." Before Mexico had the Niños Héroes (Baby Heroes), Byzantium had the Baby Emperors. Constantine III (28 years of age) was the eldest son of Heraclius by his late first wife, Okee-Dokia, while Heraklonas (15) was his eldest by his second wife, Martina Hingis. By the terms of Heraclius's will, both were to rule concurrently, with equal status and rights, and Martina was to be empress, to boot.

The older emperor's given name was Heraclius Constantine, while the younger's was Constantine Heraclius. This was going to baffle everyone, and consequently, picking nicknames was the first order of business.

Co-emperor[edit]

Co-emperors Heraclius, in full beard; and Constantine III, not old enough to be.

Constantine had served as co-emperor to his father Heraclius since 613. Though a mere two years of age, Constantine kept the throne warm, and occasionally wet, as Heraclius led the battle in Persia. Constantine's first imperial decision was to get hitched to Gregoria, the daughter of Nicetas. They were technically second cousins, but heck, Dad got away with marrying his niece. The marriage was consummated around 630 and they started producing a litter of little purple princelings.

Accession[edit]

De facto co-emperors Martina and Heraklonas; tarnished and battered.

“That trick never works, Bullwinkle!”

~ Rocket J. Squirrel on putting a pair of kid brothers in charge of an Empire

Heraclius died on 11 February 641. The terms of his will were read; they not only provided for three separate firsts-in-charge but directed Constantine III to regard Martina as his mother. Clearly, Heraclius sought more to inspire than lay down a legacy that would actually work. At any rate, it did not.

Martina presented the will to the Byzantine Senate; it accepted the plan for two young Emperors but drew the line at letting Martina join the party. However, a plucky woman doesn't let a mere vote that she does not have any power keep her from exercising it. Connie-Three had a more powerful following, but Martina opposed everything he did (think Trump/Pelosi); while Herk was a Mama's boy and did everything Martina told him to do. Unlike Trump/Pelosi, though, Byzantium was not humming along, able to tolerate a little palace intrigue; the Arabs had taken over Egypt and the huge payments Heraclius had paid Persia not to attack were debilitating the economy of Constantinople, even after the last Church chandelier had been melted down for coinage.

The thing that tipped the balance for good was that Mom did all the cooking for the household. And, there was no food taster. On 24 or 26 May, or maybe 20 April, Constantine III died of acute food poisoning. Or maybe it was tuberculosis, the symptoms are so similar. Either way, he set a record for brevity in office. Heraklonas (still 15) became sole ruler, while Martina began to suggest that former supporters of Constantine III might find good real-estate deals on the far side of the city walls.

A new orthodoxy, same as the old[edit]

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A patriarch named Pyrrhos began to get more influential in Constantinople, after death had rendered Heraclius much less so. Pyrrhos was able to bring back Monothelitism (Monotheism Lite) and install Kyros into the See of Alexandria. However, one can See that this was a Pyrrhic victory. Kyros's only duty was to make nice with the Arabs in Egypt, given there was no way for the Empire to get them to piss off.

Martina in the old days, showing off her proudest asset.

The people of Constantinople, and eventually the Senate, began to chafe at "this Monothelitism crap," and question the coroner's finding of tuberculosis. And, as usual, when the people and Senate opposed you, a usurpation party was not far behind. In this case, it was Arsakuni, a former supporter of Constantine III now commanding troops in Asia Minor. They marched to Chalcedon, under a banner that no longer read S•P•Q•R but G•T•F•O. Heraklonas took the threat to heart and authored one of the world's notorious compromises certain not to solve the underlying problem: He accepted an even younger co-emperor, Constantine III's eldest, eleven-year-old Constans II.

Downfall[edit]

Heraklonas about to say goodbye to his hooter for good.

For Heraklonas to share the throne was easy — as both their boyish arses could occupy it simultaneously — but ultimately not enough for the Senate, which, by the end of the month, deposed Heraklonas entirely. The Senate considered tattooing a "scarlet letter" on Heraklonas's forehead to mark him unsuitable for future governance. But illiteracy was still a problem in the Empire, so they did it the Oriental way, by cutting off his nose so he could no longer wear cool shades. While the knife was out, Martina was prevented from whispering treachery into young ears by the removal of her tongue. And, for good measure, both were exiled to Rhode Island to live out their remaining years with the chickens.

Thus Constans II became sole Emperor of Byzantium, despite being unable to sit on the throne without the use of a very thick telephone book.

Footnotes[edit]

Preceded by:
Heraclius
Byzantine Emperors
641
Succeeded by:
Constans II