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Martina (died after 641) was the second empress of the Byzantine Empire by marriage to Heraclius, and regent in 641 with her son. She was a daughter of Maria, Heraclius' sister, and a certain Martinus.[1] Maria and Heraclius were children of Heraclius the Elder and his wife Epiphania according to the chronicle of Theophanes the Confessor.

Martina
Empress of the Byzantine Empire
Born6th century
Diedafter 641
Rhodes
SpouseHeraclius
Issue
more...
Heraklonas
DynastyHeraclian Dynasty
FatherMartinus
MotherMaria

EmpressEdit

Eudokia, first wife of Heraclius, died on 13 August 612. According to the Chronographikon syntomon of Ecumenical Patriarch Nikephoros I of Constantinople, the cause of death was epilepsy.

According to Theophanes, Martina married her maternal uncle not long after, placing the marriage in 613 at the latest. However Nikephoros places the marriage during the wars with the Eurasian Avars which took place in the 620s.

The marriage was considered to fall within the prohibited degree of kinship, according to the rules of Chalcedonian Christianity concerning incest. This particular case of marriage between an uncle and a niece had been declared illegal since the time of the Codex Theodosianus. Thus the marriage was disapproved by the people of Constantinople and the Church.

Despite his disapproval and attempts to convince Heraclius to repudiate Martina, Patriarch Sergius I of Constantinople performed the ceremony himself and crowned Martina in the Augustaeum after she was proclaimed augusta by Heraclius. Even the members of the imperial family voiced their objections, with Heraclius' brother (and Martina's uncle) Theodore continually criticising Heraclius by pointing out that his sin 'is continually before him' in reference to Martina and their offspring.[2]

The emperor and the empress were, however, clearly a close couple: Martina accompanied her husband in his most difficult campaigns against the Sassanid Empire. She was also at his side at Antioch when the news was received of the serious defeat by the Arabs at the river Yarmuk in August 636. These defeats would haunt Martina through her regency and make her increasingly unpopular.[3] Her unpopularity with the people of Constantinople was evidenced by her removal from coinage in 629.[4]

RegentEdit

On his deathbed in 641, Heraclius left the empire to both his son from the first marriage, Heraclius Constantine (as Constantine III), and Heraklonas (as Heraclius II), his son with Martina, granting them equal rank. Martina was to be honoured as empress and mother of both of them.

Heraclius died on 11 February 641 of an edema which Nikephoros considered a divine punishment for his sinful marriage. Three days later Martina took the initiative in announcing the contents of Heraclius' will in a public ceremony. The authority for such a ceremony typically belonged to the succeeding emperor, not to the empress. Martina was attempting to establish her own authority over the two co-emperors.

The ceremony took place in the Hippodrome of Constantinople. Present were members of the Byzantine Senate, other dignitaries and the crowds of Constantinople. Absent were both Constantine and Heraklonas. Martina read the contents of the will and claimed the senior authority in the Empire for herself. However the crowd instead acclaimed the names of the two emperors and not her own, thus objecting to her assumption of imperial authority. She was forced to return to the palace in defeat.

Relations of Martina and her stepson were always difficult. When Constantine III died suddenly of tuberculosis only four months later, the common belief was that the empress poisoned him to leave Heraklonas as sole ruler. However historians like Herren and Garland have stated that this is most likely not true.[5] Also Martina began immediately to exile the prominent supporters of Constantine and with the help of Patriarch Pyrrhus I of Constantinople, one of her primary advisors, revived the policy of Monothelitism. She recalled Bishop Cyrus of Alexandria and sent him to Egypt after his exile, showing her dedication to the policy of monothelitism.[6]

Downfall and DepositionEdit

Her actions and the rumors of poisoning Constantine III caused the people and the Senate to turn against Martina and her son. The Armenian Valentinus with the troops from Asia Minor, marched to Chalcedon and a frightened Heraklona named Constans II, son of late Constantine III, a co-emperor.

After September 641 there was a huge revolt and the army ransacked the harvest on the Asiatic side of the Bosphoros. That month, Martina lost the support of one of her devout followers, Pyrrhus of Constantinople, who abandoned the city after being repeatedly assaulted and followed. This left her vulnerable to the Senate who despised her.[7]

In November 641, their downfall was completed as the army marched on Constantinople and captured Martina and her 3 sons: Heraklonas, David and Marinos. Martina's tongue was slit, her sons had their noses cut off, and her youngest sons were castrated. Eventually they were sent to Rhodes. The young emperor, Constans II ruled from 650 onwards thanks to the Blue faction in Senate who he thanked for helping with downfall of his family, but also his mother Gregoria. Constans II was controversially also a product of an incestuous marriage, as Gregoria and Constantine III were second cousins.[8]

ControversyEdit

Lynda Garland completed a comprehensive study of Byzantine Empresses, covering Martina extensively. She summarised that Empress Martina was a 'scapegoat' for the failure against the Arabs but also the continuation of her husband's policies of monothelitism.[9] Undeniably though, her ambition for her family did cause implacable resentment amongst the people of Constantinople'.[10] However, she continued the legacy of providing and fighting for her heirs, something that a lot Byzantine Empresses were expected to do. She also left a legacy to other widows and mothers that perhaps it is best to wield political influence from behind the scenes, rather than so overtly.[11]

ChildrenEdit

Martina and Heraclius had at least 10 children, though the names and order of these children are questions for debate:

  • Constantine. Named a Caesar in 615. Died young.
  • Fabius, who had a paralyzed neck. Died young.
  • Theodosios, who was a deaf-mute, married Nike, daughter of Persian general Shahrbaraz.
  • Heracleonas, emperor 638–641.
  • David (Tiberios) (born on 7 November 630), proclaimed caesar in 638. He was briefly proclaimed augustus and co-emperor with Heraklonas and Constans in 641. Deposed, mutilated and exiled to Rhodes.
  • Marinus. A caesar. Possibly the youngest son that died after being emasculated according to John of Nikiu.
  • Augoustina. Proclaimed an augusta in 638.
  • Anastasia and/or Martina. Proclaimed augusta in 638.
  • Febronia.

Of these at least two were handicapped, which was seen as punishment for the illegality of the marriage and may have been a consequence of inbreeding.

ReferencesEdit

  1. ^ Prosopography of the Later Roman Empire, Vol. 3
  2. ^ Garland, L (2002). Byzantine Empresses : Women and Power in Byzantium AD 527-1204. Routledge. p. 63.
  3. ^ Garland, L (2002). Byzantine Empresses : Women and Power in Byzantium AD 527-1204. Routledge.
  4. ^ Garland, L (2002). Byzantine Empresses : Women and Power in Byzantium AD 527-1204. Routledge. p. 63.
  5. ^ Garland, L (2002). Byzantine Empresses : Women and Power in Byzantium AD 527-1204. Routledge. p. 72.
  6. ^ Garland, L (2002). Byzantine Empresses : Women and Power in Byzantium AD 527-1204. Routledge. p. 67.
  7. ^ Garland, L (2002). Byzantine Empresses : Women and Power in Byzantium AD 527-1204. Routledge. p. 68.
  8. ^ Garland, L (2002). Byzantine Empresses : Women and Power in Byzantium AD 527-1204. Routledge. p. 70.
  9. ^ Garland, L (2002). Byzantine Empresses : Women and Power in Byzantium AD 527-1204. Routledge. p. 71.
  10. ^ Garland, L (2002). Byzantine Empresses : Women and Power in Byzantium AD 527-1204. Routledge. p. 71.
  11. ^ Garland, L (2002). Byzantine Empresses : Women and Power in Byzantium AD 527-1204. Routledge. p. 72.

BibliographyEdit

External linksEdit

Royal titles
Preceded by
Eudokia
Byzantine Empress consort
c. 613–641
Succeeded by
Gregoria