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Epiphania (daughter of Heraclius)

Lynda Garland

University of New England, New South Wales

Epiphania was born to Heraclius and his first wife Fabia (who took the imperial name Eudocia) in the suburban palace of Hieria on 7 July 611, nine months after their marriage. She was baptised in the following month by the patriarch Sergius at the feast of the Assumption of the Theotokos (15 August) at the palace of Blachernae. Her name of Epiphania was clearly given in honour of her paternal grandmother, who had been in Constantinople at the time of her son's coup and had been imprisoned by Phocas in the monastery 'New Repentance' prior to Heraclius' take-over.[[1]]

Epiphania's mother, the empress Eudocia, died in August 612, not long after the birth of her son Heraclius Constantine. Since Heraclius was the first of his line, and Epiphania his eldest child (her brother Heraclius Constantine was only three months of age at this point), there was need of an empress. Accordingly Epiphania was crowned Augusta under the name of Eudocia (presumably in memory of her mother) on 4 October of that year at the tender age of 15 months. The ceremony took place in the Church of St Stephen in the Great Palace and was performed by the patriarch. Afterwards, seated in a chariot and escorted, we are specifically told by the Chronicon Paschale, by Philaretus the cubicularius and by Synetus the majordomo (castrensis), she was taken to St Sophia to receive the acclamations of the people. Her retinue, officials of the imperial bedchamber, and the ceremonial thus followed the usual custom for the coronation of an empress.[[2]]

Like her younger brothers and sisters by her step-mother Martina, Epiphania appears to have accompanied her father and stepmother on campaign. In 624, at least, when Heraclius and Martina departed for the eastern front on his second Persian campaign, Epiphania and her younger brother Heraclius Constantine were with them, though the children only went as far as Nicomedia before returning to the capital.[[3]]

During the exigencies of his Persian campaigns, Heraclius was in desperate need of allies, and in 626 he suggested his daughter Epiphania as a suitable bride for the Chazar commander Ziebel, who was second-in-rank after the Chazar Chagan: his title was Jabgu-chagan. This was not the last example of a Byzantine-Chazar marriage alliance: Justinian II was to marry the khagan's sister, and Constantine V married a Chazar princess, who took the name Irene. According to Theophanes, Ziebel gave Heraclius 40,000 brave soldiers as allies for his advance on Chosroes.[[4]] Nicephorus records a romantic version of events in which Heraclius met the commander outside Tiflis and received his submission. Heraclius then placed his own crown on the chagan's head, called him his son, and presented him with all the utensils from the banquet he had given him, as well as an imperial garment and pearl earrings. To ensure the chagan's loyalty, he then proceeded to offer him his daughter, showing him a portrait of Eudocia, the 'Roman Augusta', whose beauty so struck Ziebel that he immediately fell in love with her. His loyalty being assured, he presented Heraclius with a multitude of fighting men and a commander.[[5]] This policy was in line with Heraclius's betrothal of Theodosios, his second son by Martina, to Nike daughter of the Persian Christian general Shahrvaraz, who changed sides in 626: the marriage took place in 629/30 and Heraclius gave him the Persian crown though his rule only lasted from April to June 630.[[6]]

At the same time as Theodosius's marriage to Nike, and Heraclius Constantine's marriage to his cousin Gregoria (629/30), Eudocia was dispatched to her new home in Chazaria, centred round the region of the lower Volga. However, she was spared this relatively unsophisticated lifestyle and on the report of the death of Ziebel Heraclius ordered her return. Nicephorus also records that c. 636 Cyrus, Patriarch of Alexandria, proposed that tribute should be paid to the Arabs and that either the Augusta Eudocia or another of the emperor's daughters should be offered in marriage to the Arab general 'Amr ibn al 'Asi to halt the Arab advance. This account is rejected by historians of the Arabs, though it is partially confirmed by the independent account of Theophanes.[[7]] Eudocia may have died before the end of the decade: Mango notes that the acclamations recorded in Constantine Porphyrogennitus's de ceremoniis for 4 January 639 name all the imperial family apart from Eudocia, implying that she was no longer alive.[[8]]

There has been considerable discussion as to whether the empress represented alongside Heraclius and his eldest son Heraclius Constantine on the bronze coinage between 615/16 and 629 was Epiphania-Eudocia or Martina her step-mother. The thesis that the empress depicted was Epiphania-Eudocia relies on the supposition that Heraclius and Martina were not married until 623 or 624, and fails to explain why Eudocia's representation did not appear until 615/16. It was unprecedented for the daughter of a ruling emperor to appear on the coinage (the first princesses so represented were the daughters of Theophilus in the ninth century), while it was not unusual for an empress to be depicted, especially after the birth of an heir. For Eudocia and not Martina to be so honoured after the latter's marriage to the emperor would hardly have been tolerated by the impassioned Heraclius, and that users of the coinage at least thought that the empress depicted was the extremely unpopular Martina (and not Epiphania-Eudocia) is shown by one coin in the Dumbarton Oaks Collection, where the image of the empress has been obliterated, apparently by hammering.[[9]]


Chronicon Paschale [Easter Chronicle], tr. M. & M. Whitby, Liverpool: Liverpool University Press, 1989.

Nicephorus, Patriarch of Constantinople: Short History, ed. & tr. C. Mango, Washington DC, 1990.

Theophanes, Chronographia, trans. C. Mango & R. Scott, with G. Greatrex, The Chronicle of Theophanes Confessor: Byzantine and Near Eastern History AD 284-813, Oxford: Clarendon Press, 1997.

W.E. Kaegi, Byzantium and the Early Islamic Conquests, Cambridge, 1992.

________. Byzantine Military Unrest. Amsterdam, 1981.

C. Mango, 'Deux études sur Byzance et la Perse sassanide,' Travaux et Mémoires, 9 (1985), 91-117.

D. Olster, The Politics of Usurpation in the Seventh Century, Amsterdam, 1993

A.N. Stratos, Byzantium in the Seventh Century, vols 1-2, Amsterdam: Hakkert, 1968-72.

M. Whittow, The Making of Orthodox Byzantium 600-1025, Basingstoke, 1996.

C. Zuckerman, 'La petite Augusta et le Turc: Epiphania-Eudocie sur les monnaies d'Heraclius,' Revue Numismatique, 150 (1995), 113-26.


[[1]]Chronicon Paschale, 702; Theophanes, Chronographia, AM 6102 [AD 609/10].

[[2]] Chron. Pasch., 702-3; Theophanes, AM 6103, 6104 [AD 610/11, 611/12].

[[3]] >Chron. Pasch., 714.

[[4]] Theophanes, AM 6117 [AD 624/5]; Nicephorus, Short History, 12.

[[5]] Nicephorus, 12.

[[6]] Nicephorus, 17; Theophanes AM 6118, 6120 [AD 625/6, 627/8]; Mango, Travaux et Mémoires, 9 (1985), 105-117.

[[7]]Nicephorus, 18, 23, 26; Theophanes, AM 6126 [AD 633/4]; cf. A.J. Butler, The Arab Conquest of Egypt, 2nd edition, Oxford, 1978, 207-09, 481-82; cf. P.K. Hitti, History of the Arabs, 10th ed., Basingstoke, 1970, 161-62.

[[8]]Nicephorus, 23, note; Constantine Porphyrogenitus, de ceremoniis, 630.

[[9]]Zuckerman, Revue Numismatique, 150 (1995), 113-26; P. Grierson, Catalogue of the Coins in the Dumbarton Oaks Collection and in the Whittemore Collection, 2.1, Washington DC, 1968, 216-17, 288, 292 (no. 99a.1).

Copyright (C) 2000, Lynda Garland. This file may be copied on the condition that the entire contents, including the header and this copyright notice, remain intact.

Comments to: Lynda Garland.

Updated:15 July 2000

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