A look at some of the history and holidays on November 27
Feast of Vergilius of Salzburg, an 8th century Irish missionary and astronomer. In 745, he left Ireland for the Holy Land, but made it no further than France where he became a favorite of King Pippin III. At some point, Vergilius’s observation of the sky led him to conclude that the earth was a sphere. A contemporary, (later St.) Boniface, accused Vergilius of teaching against Church Doctrine. Records have been lost of how the matter was handled, though we can assume Vergilius defended himself adequately before the Pope, for he was later promoted to Bishop of Salzburg.
602 – Emperor Maurice is forced to watch his five sons be executed before being beheaded himself.
It always seemed strange to me that the Muslim armies of 7th century Arabia, a backwater at most, were able to expand so rapidly to the north and east against two of the greatest powers in the world at the time, Byzantium and Persia. The story of Byzantine Emperor Maurice is the starting point to understand what happened.
Maurice had become emperor of Byzantine in 582, A general, he spent most of reign waging successful wars. He earned a notable victory in the Balkans against the Avars – pushing them back across the Danube by 599. His biggest victory, though, was his defeat of Sasanian Persians. For the first time in nearly two centuries, the Romans were no longer obliged to pay the Persians thousands of pounds of gold annually for peace.
In 602, a disgruntled general, Phocas, led a coup against Maurice. Capturing the Emperor and his family, Phocas forced Maurice to watch as Phocas executed Maurice’s five sons, and then finally beheaded Maurice as well. The Persians, humiliated and cowed by Maurice but not by Phocas, renewed their war with Byzantium. What followed was the brutal Byzantine–Sasanian War of 602–628. a war that proved devastating to both empires. When it ended, both empires were too weak to withstand the onslaught of the Arab Muslims. Byzantium lost territory and, though it survived for another five centuries against the Arabs (only to fall in the 15th century to the Muslim Turks), it became a weak shadow of its former self. Persia disappeared entirely. The great Persian culture and traditions of an empire that had vied with Ancient Greece and Ancient Rome, fell to Arab Muslims in 651 A.D.