Phocas’ reign was practically doomed from the start. Aged fifty-five, a simple soldier from the Balkans as several of his predecessors had been, he had enough cunning to make up for his inexperience with the workings of government, but not to compensate for his lack of a legal claim to the throne. Any members of the old government whom he left alive were liable to plot against him; but the more of them he killed, the more he frightened the rest and their supporters into hostility. At first, apart from Maurice and his closest male relatives, Phocas executed only two officials. The year after his accession, when Maurice’s widow Constantina plotted to proclaim her son’s father-in-law Germanus, Phocas merely forced them both to enter the Church. But two years later, when Constantina and Germanus conspired again, Phocas executed them.
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