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Year and place of birth unknown; died October 610 in Constantinople. Byzantine emperor from 602.
While a Byzantine centurion stationed on the Danube, Phocas assumed command of the soldiers that rose against Emperor Maurice in 602. He came to Constantinople and obtained the support of the city’s inhabitants. Maurice and his sons were executed, and the opposition of the provincial elite and of the upper levels of the capital’s bureaucracy was quelled by terrorism. Having received support from the papacy, Phocas in 607 recognized the pope as the head of the entire Christian church. Phocas’ accession to the throne was exploited by King Khosrau II of Persia, who declared war on Byzantium under the pretext of avenging Maurice and by 608 had conquered a substantial amount of territory in the eastern and southern parts of the empire.
In 608 the exarch of Carthage instigated an uprising against Phocas, and in October 610 the exarch’s son Heraclius sailed with a fleet for Constantinople, where he was supported by the rebellious population of the city. Phocas was deposed and executed, and Heraclius became emperor.
G. G. LITAVRIN