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Comentiolus

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Comentiolus

Not to be confused with Comentiolus, brother of Emperor Phocas.
Comentiolus
Allegiance East Roman Empire
Rank magister militum praesentalis
Battles/wars Maurice's Balkan campaigns, Byzantine–Sassanid War of 572–591

Comentiolus (Greek: Κομεντίολος, Komentiolos; died 602) was a prominent Eastern Roman (Byzantine) general at the close of the 6th century during the reign of Emperor Maurice (r. 582–602). He played a major role in Maurice's Balkan campaigns, and fought also in the East against the Sassanid Persians. Comentiolus was ultimately executed in 602 after the Byzantine army rebelled against Maurice and Emperor Phocas (r. 602–610) usurped the throne.

Biography

Nothing is known of Comentiolus's early life, except that he hailed from Thrace. He first appears in 583, as an officer (scribon) in the Excubitores, the imperial bodyguard, when he accompanied a Byzantine embassy to Bayan I (r. 562–602), the khagan of the Avars. According to the historian Theophylact Simocatta, he enraged the khagan with an outspoken statement, and was briefly imprisoned.[1]


It is likely that the close trust he shared with Maurice dates from the latter's time as commander of the Excubitores, before his ascension to the throne. Throughout his career, Comentiolus would be loyal to Maurice, and the Emperor would watch over his protégé's career.[2] The next year, after a truce with the Avars had been arranged, he was appointed in charge of a brigade (taxiarchia) operating against the Slavic tribes that raided Thrace and had penetrated as far as the Long Walls of Anastasius, Constantinople's outer defensive system. Comentiolus defeated them at the river Erginia, near the Long Walls. As a reward for this success, he was appointed magister militum praesentalis in 585.[3]

On this occasion, or perhaps a bit later (possibly in 589), Comentiolus was raised to the supreme title of patricius.[4] In the summer of 585, he defeated again a large force of Slavs, and in 586 he was placed in charge of the war against the Avars, after they broke the treaty. In 587, Comentiolus assembled a 10,000 strong army at Anchialus. He prepared an ambush for the Avar khagan in the Haemus mountains, but it failed.[4]


In 589, Comentiolus appears to have been appointed as magister militum Armenia, to the Romans.

This favourable peace meant that Byzantium's forces could now be concentrated against the Avar and Slav incursions in Illyricum. In 598, Comentiolus was sent back into action against the Avars, probably with the position of magister militum per Thracias.[7] After a heavy defeat caused by his neglect to properly array his forces for battle, his army was scattered and he himself fled to Constantinople, where he faced charges of treason. These were dropped at the Emperor's request, and Comentiolus was reconfirmed as general for Thrace.[8] His subsequent record is not very distinguished, but this may be more due to the negative bias of Simocattes, our main primary source, towards him and his co-general Peter, rather than because of inability or inaction on his part.[9] At any rate, when the army rebelled against Maurice in 602, Comentiolus was entrusted with the defence of the Walls of Constantinople. When Phocas eventually took the city, he was one of the first adherents of the old regime to be executed.[8]

References

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