The Humble Life And Fragrant Death Of The Constantinople Nobleman, Gregory

A man named Gregory was the son of a brother of Emperor Heraclius of Constantinople (r. 610-641). Gregory’s father, Theodore, had played a prominent role in Emperor Heraclius’ reign, leading troops into battle, carrying out important diplomatic missions, and otherwise acting as a trusted agent of the emperor. Theodore’s son, Gregory, contrastingly, decided to stay out of the limelight. Gregory evidently did, however, follow his father’s example in regard to loyalty and support for the ruling line of the family, making no personal bids for power or influence, and he also pointedly kept out of the way and off the toes of Emperor Heraclius’ successors, Emperors Constantine III (r. 641), Heraklonas (r. 641) and Constans II (r. 641-668). Rather than throw himself into the peril of medieval politics and family power struggles, Gregory instead kept to himself in cities away from the imperial court of Constantinople. He eventually found himself living at Heliopolis, where he ultimately died around 652 or 653. At the time of his death, Gregory had successfully maintained his impeccable reputation, and the respect that he had cultivated during his life was reciprocated in the way Gregory’s remains were treated, and how the funeral procession was carried out by the officials of Constantinople and Emperor Constans II. As was recounted by the chronicler, Theophanes (c. 750s-818), “In this year [Annus Mundi 6144 or 652-653 CE] Herakleios’ nephew Gregory died at Heliopolis. His body was embalmed in myrrh and brought to Constantinople” (Theophanes, Chronographia, entry for Annus Mundi 6144). Such was the reward of Gregory’s loyal and untroublesome way of living—he lived a full life, was preserved with expensive myrrh, and his body received a hero’s welcome in Constantinople.

Written by C. Keith Hansley

Picture Attribution: (Fragment of a Floor Mosaic with a Personification of Ktisis, c. 500–550, with modern restoration, [Public Domain] via Creative Commons and the MET).



  • Theophanes, The Chronicle of Theophanes, translated by Harry Turtledove. Philadelphia: University of Pennsylvania Press, 1982.

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