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Emperor Justinian the Great: The Life and Rule of a Visionary Roman

Emperor Justinian the Great: The Life and Rule of a Visionary Roman


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From the numerous emperors in the long and exciting history of Rome and Byzantium, one manages to stand apart – Justinian the Great. His rule marked a turning point, an opening of a new era filled with revolutionary changes on the grand stage of Europe. It brought a renewed spark, a surge of hope for the once great Roman Empire – hope that would never be as strong in the following centuries.

Shrewd and tactful, daring and wise, Justinian managed to rise from nothing, all the way to the loftiest heights of history. Driven by the desire to rebuild the ravaged Roman Empire, his accomplishments rightfully earned him the nickname ‘Great’. Today we’ll recount his story, reminding ourselves of the golden age of the Byzantine Empire and the man who helped create it.

A mosaic of an older Justinian. Source: Jbribeiro1 / CC BY-SA 4.0 .

From Rags to Riches – Emperor Justinian’s Rise to Power

Flavius Petrus Sabbatius Iustinianus Augustus – or Justinian for short, was born sometime after 450 AD, as a member of a lower caste peasant family in the village of Tauresium, in the Roman province of Dardania. Thanks to his uncle Justin – who would be the future emperor – Justinian wasn’t destined for a common villager’s life. Instead, his uncle took him to Constantinople, where he would be educated in theology, law, and history, rising in influence alongside his uncle, and even serving in the ranks of the Excubitors – the imperial guard, at whose head was his uncle Justin.

The ancient town of Tauresium, the birthplace of Justinian I, located in today's Republic of Macedonia. (Dvacet)

When the Emperor Anastasius died, it was Justin who managed to rise through the ranks of the imperial guard and become the emperor of the Eastern Roman Empire. He rose from a family of swine herders. Being in his sixties, and lacking a son of his own, Justin was forced to consider his nephews as his future successor.
And the chief among his nephews was none other than Flavius Petrus – the son of his sister. Justin took to educating him and eventually adopted him. In turn, Flavius Petrus added ‘Justinianus’ to his name, showcasing the gratitude to his benefactor.

In the following years, Justinian became an ambitious advisor to the now old Emperor Justin. When the latter became ill and increasingly senile, he decided to make his nephew Justinian the co-emperor. This happened in 527.

But the truth is, that Justinian was the de-facto ruler, even as early as 518, as Justin was increasingly incapable of rule in the last years of his life. Either way, just four months after proclaiming his nephew the co-emperor, Justin died on 1 st of August 527, leaving the throne to Justinian – the new emperor of the Byzantine Empire.

A Turbulent Start: Justinian’s Early Rule

Justinian’s first official years as a ruler were a proper test of his skills, as they were full of new developments that required stern decisions. One of his earliest undertakings, and the one that brought him widespread fame later in history, is the so-called Corpus Juris Civilis – a collection of judicial reforms that were aimed as a complete revision of all Roman laws.

Two manuscript fragments of the Corpus Iuris Civilis, issued by order of Emperor Justinian I. (Fæ)

He also dealt with legislation, aiming it at paganism and its worshippers – they were effectively banned from all practice and forced into exile and even death. Around 532, early in Justinian’s reign, his rule would come into the greatest danger – growing from a triviality into a crucial problem.

Violence was an issue in Constantinople at that time, most of it stemmed from rival factions of chariot racing supporters. The two factions, the Blues and the Greens, grew restless and were often causing minor riots throughout the city. Their complaints were usually directed at the unpopular officials that Justinian placed into important positions.

The riots incited more ruthlessness from the government and more unpopular officials to be put into service – the problem became a vicious circle. And it was this problem that would give birth to the biggest threat of Justinian’s rule – the Nika riots.

In January of 532, this growing unrest would escalate, with the rivaling factions uniting and adopting their battle cry – Nika! (Greek for ‘ Conquer!’) and inciting a rebellion that was based around the imprisonment of two members of their factions. This rebellion escalated quickly and became the most violent riot in the history of Constantinople.

Raging mobs pillaged and burned through the town, aiming to depose Justinian and place a new emperor on the throne. In response, Justinian tasked his two most able generals – Mundus and Belisarius – with quelling the riots, which they were unable to do.

Faced with an almost deadly situation, Justinian managed to bribe the Blues faction at the last moment, and subsequently massacred the gathered Greens and other rebels in the hippodrome. The riots lasted for a week and left half of the town burned down, with over 30,000 people killed.

But managing to quell this uprising, Justinian successfully solidified his rule and used the opportunity to rebuild Constantinople and raised several splendid buildings, the chief of which is the world renowned Hagia Sophia cathedral.

An angel shows Justinian a model of Hagia Sophia in a vision. (GifTagger / )

The Reign of a Conqueror: The Restoration of an Empire

The Nika riots were the first major obstacle in Justinian’s rule, but it didn’t manage to sway him from his biggest intention – the restoration of the Roman Empire, or renovatio imperii , as it was called. This re-conquest of the lost Roman provinces would become the crowning jewel of Justinian’s entire reign, and one of the last significant expansions of the Byzantine Empire.
Even before the Nika riots, Justinian had been at war with the Sassanid Empire in the east, just as his uncle Justin was. From 527 the war was the primary focus. Under the command of the skilled general Belisarius, the Byzantines won two battles in 530, only to suffer a defeat in 531.

But that same year the Persian king died, and a deal was struck with his young heir – the so-called ‘Eternal Peace’, which cost Justinian an astonishing 11,000 pounds of gold. But even so, he managed to secure his eastern borders and shift his focus to the west and the lost Roman provinces.

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Gold coin of Justinian I, 527–565, excavated in India probably in the south, an example of Indo-Roman trade during the period. (Uploadalt / CC BY-SA 3.0 )

Only a year after, in 533, Justinian launched a campaign against the Vandals of North Africa. Vandals were a Germanic tribe that managed to establish a kingdom in what is today’s Tunisia, and successfully raided through the Mediterranean, even sacking Rome.

The skilled general Belisarius proved his competence in this lighting fast campaign, managing to conquer the Vandals in just a year, after defeating them in two key battles – at Ad Decimum and Tricamarum. The victory resulted in the establishment of the ‘Praetorian Prefect of Africa’ and was the first step towards the restoration of Rome’s lost provinces.

In the very next year, Justinian launched his next conquest, this time aimed at the Ostrogoths, another Germanic tribe, and their kingdom in the Italian peninsula. Known as the Gothic War , this conflict lasted considerably longer than the previous – almost 20 years.

Even though the Byzantines conquered the Ostrogothic capital and effectively the whole Italian peninsula in the first five years of the conflict, it still evolved into a long struggle against King Totila – a struggle that would last for the next 15 years. In the end, Justinian re-conquered Italy, but would subsequently lose large parts of it to the invading Lombards, roughly a decade later. As a result of these wars, the entire peninsula was ravaged, depopulated, and desolate.
Perhaps the last major conflict of Justinian’s rule was the renewed war with the Sassanid Empire. Bolstered by an unexpected revolt in Armenia, as well as urging from Ostrogothic ambassadors, the Persian king Khosrau broke the established ‘Eternal Peace’ and plundered Byzantine territories.

The war dragged on for a few years, without any major accomplishments on either side. In the end, a new deal was struck. Again, Justinian had to pay – this time an annual fee of 30,000 solidi.

The Rise of the Slavs
Even when Justinian managed to reclaim North Africa, Southern Iberia, and Italy, the Eastern Roman Empire still suffered from threats which couldn’t be successfully dealt with. One of the major such incursions was centered in the Balkan peninsula. Ever since the mid 520’s, the Slavs had begun migrating deeper and deeper, eventually crossing the Danube and coming into conflict with the Romans.

By 540, they reached Thessalonica in Greece, as well as Dalmatia, and Adrianople. Slavonic peoples would prove to be one of the biggest opponents of Roman rule.

Emperor Justinian reconquered many former territories of the Western Roman Empire, including Italy, Dalmatia, Africa, and southern Hispania. (Tataryn / CC BY-SA 3.0 )

In summary, Justinian only partially managed to achieve his goal of restoring the Roman Empire. After the initial success against the Vandals, the Gothic war dragged on for far too long. These campaigns proved costly for the empire’s coffers, as well as manpower, and this required raised taxes and levies throughout the empire, earning Justinian some enmity with the populace.

Overall, we can see Justinian’s ambitious and confident rule. He was a risk taker, managing to win most of his campaigns even when dangerously over-stretching the resources of his empire.

Justinian’s Final Years and Lasting Impact

Death found Justinian in his 83 rd year. He died childless. A single witness was at his side then and claimed that Justinian’s last act was to name his nephew Justin as his heir. Whether or not this was true, we will never know, but a pre-arranged deal is the most likely option.

During his life, Justinian’s rule had its positive and negative aspects. At the start shaky, it was a target of much animosity, and he had to struggle with the Nika revolt. On the other hand, he issued his judicial reforms, which were highly influential at the time and quickly adopted by many developed kingdoms. He also placed great emphasis on art, literature, and culture, and was an active builder of churches, monasteries, fortifications, and numerous such buildings.

Justinian was also highly interested in theology, and a devout Christian, particularly in his later years. He fought viciously to extinguish paganism once and for all, delivering a series of legislations and laws that prosecuted them, deprived them of property, and all freedom. Today, Justinian the Great is revered as a saint by the Eastern Orthodox Church.

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Hagia Sophia mosaic depicting the Virgin Mary holding the Christ child on her lap. On her right side stands Justinian, offering a model of the Hagia Sophia. (Myrabella / )

Justinian was buried with the highest honors, with a procession leading him to his resting place in his personal mausoleum in the Church of the Holy Apostles. During the sack of Constantinople in 1204, the Crusaders pillaged and robbed the mausoleum and desecrated his remains.

Conclusion - The Legacy of Justinian the Great

During his reign it is clear that Justinian walked a thin line between love and hate. His bold and revolutionary decisions were a clear sign of his visionary nature, but those around him didn’t always appreciate it.

Nevertheless, Justinian brought a somewhat prosperous era to the Eastern Roman Empire , expanding its territories through re-conquest and securing all naval routes. His judicial work and the reforms of all Roman laws were a historic milestone and they are still relevant even today.

But sadly, all that he managed to bring under the canopy of the eastern empire would be gradually lost in the generations after his rule. The golden age in architecture, literature, and art that began in Justinian’s time, would not be experienced for a few centuries afterwards.

All of these things combined, both the loved and the hated, serve to portray Justinian as the ruler that he really was – an ambitious visionary, a skilled man who rose from a family of swine herders to become the emperor of an empire. His rule gave important lessons to those who came after him and his conquest of the Germanic tribes was a catalyst that ushered Europe into a new age, giving birth to new nations and kingdoms. And rightly so, this emperor earned his epithet – Justinian the Great.


Justinian I

Justinian I ( / dʒ ʌ ˈ s t ɪ n i ə n / Latin: Flavius Petrus Sabbatius Iustinianus Greek: Ἰουστινιανός , translit. Ioustinianós 482 – 14 November 565), also known as Justinian the Great, was the Byzantine emperor from 527 to 565.

His reign is marked by the ambitious but only partly realized renovatio imperii, or "restoration of the Empire". [2] This ambition was expressed by the partial recovery of the territories of the defunct Western Roman Empire. [3] His general, Belisarius, swiftly conquered the Vandal Kingdom in North Africa. Subsequently, Belisarius, Narses, and other generals conquered the Ostrogothic kingdom, restoring Dalmatia, Sicily, Italy, and Rome to the empire after more than half a century of rule by the Ostrogoths. The praetorian prefect Liberius reclaimed the south of the Iberian peninsula, establishing the province of Spania. These campaigns re-established Roman control over the western Mediterranean, increasing the Empire's annual revenue by over a million solidi. [4] During his reign, Justinian also subdued the Tzani, a people on the east coast of the Black Sea that had never been under Roman rule before. [5] He engaged the Sasanian Empire in the east during Kavad I's reign, and later again during Khosrow I's this second conflict was partially initiated due to his ambitions in the west.

A still more resonant aspect of his legacy was the uniform rewriting of Roman law, the Corpus Juris Civilis, which is still the basis of civil law in many modern states. [6] His reign also marked a blossoming of Byzantine culture, and his building program yielded works such as the Hagia Sophia. He is called "Saint Justinian the Emperor" in the Eastern Orthodox Church. [7] Because of his restoration activities, Justinian has sometimes been known as the "Last Roman" in mid-20th century historiography. [8]


Emperor Justinian the Great: The Life and Rule of a Visionary Roman - History

The Byzantine Empire

The Byzantine Empire was another name for the surviving eastern half of the Roman Empire. As you read in a previous chapter, the weaker western half of the Roman Empire, including the city of Rome, fell to barbarian invaders. What was left of the Roman Empire was ruled by the emperor in Constantinople. The Byzantine Empire survived for another 1,000 years, finally falling to the Ottoman Turks in 1453.

Although the people of the Byzantine Empire considered themselves Roman, the East was influenced by Greek culture, rather than the Latin of the West. People spoke Greek and wore Greek-styled clothing. The emperors and empresses wore beautiful silk and purple-dyed clothing, with expensive slippers. The Byzantine Empire was influenced by the Hellenistic culture created by the conquests of Alexander the Great. Learning and trade thrived in the Byzantine Empire. As you read in a previous chapter, Emperor Constantine ended the persecution of Christians, and Emperor Theodosius made Christianity the official state religion of the Roman Empire. Christianity had a major influence on the Byzantine Empire. Byzantine art featured beautiful mosaics of Christian themes.

Emperor Justinian

One famous Byzantine Emperor was Justinian I. Justinian ruled from AD 527 to 565. Justinian created a set of laws called the Justinian Code. This code said that the emperor made all of the laws and interpreted the laws as well. The Justinian Code was law throughout the empire. Many of our modern laws can be traced back to the Justinian Code.

Justinian had a goal of re-uniting the Roman Empire. He sent out armies to battle the barbarians who had taken control in the West. Justinian's Roman armies were very successful, taking back parts of Africa and most of Italy.

The war effort to take back the western part of the empire forced Justinian to raise taxes on the people of the Byzantine Empire. The Roman citizens were angry with Justinian about the high taxes for the war effort, and he was becoming unpopular. Even more unpopular was Empress Theodora, Justinian's wife, because she was originally a circus performer and came from the lower class of Romans. "Who was this woman, who had such control over the decisions of her husband?" They thought to themselves. Not one to take a back seat to her husband, Theodora proposed laws that protected the rights of women in the empire.

The Byzantines, like the old Romans in the West, enjoyed chariot races at the hippodrome, a large oval stadium designed for races. Like our modern sports, the Byzantines had teams they supported. The Byzantine chariot teams were named after colors: The Blues, Reds, Greens, and Whites. After a race, riots would, at times, break out in the stands and overflow into streets, as the fans got into arguments. During Justinian's reign, the Blues and Greens were the dominant teams.

After a particular riot, a fan of the Blues and a fan of the Greens were arrested. Justinian, noticing how unhappy people were with him, decided to free these two people and hold a chariot race on January 13, 532. During the race, fans got out of control, and started to shout insults at the emperor. Rather than cheering for their teams, fans of both the Greens and Blues shouted Nika, meaning win or conquer. Next, the fans stormed Justinian's luxury box, which was connected to his palace grounds. Justinian fled to the palace as the Nika Riot spilled out into the streets. The palace was under siege as most of the city, including the church called the Hagia Sophia (Church of Holy Wisdom), was destroyed.

A prisoner in his own palace, Justinian decided to board a ship and sail away from Constantinople, stepping down as emperor, but saving his life. As he started to leave, he looked behind him to find his wife, Theodora, stubbornly refusing. "I would rather die an empress, than live on the run, and besides, purple makes a wonderful burial veil," she said. Seeing his wife's courage, Justinian decided to stay. The riot was controlled, and Justinian continued to rule the Byzantine Empire.

Justinian set out to rebuild the city after the the Nika Riots. Justinian rebuilt the Hagia Sophia, which, after the rebuilding, had the largest dome in the world. The building is still standing today, although it is now a mosque, since the conquering Ottoman Turks were Muslim.


(Here is the melody of the song "Norwegian Wood," the lyrics describe the life of Empress Theodora. Amy Burvall, and Herb Mahelona, are two teachers from Hawaii who create short videos to help their students remember highlights of history topics.)

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The type of Christianity practiced in Byzantium was called Eastern Orthodox. Eastern Orthodox Christianity is still practiced today. The head of the Eastern Orthodox Church is called the Patriarch of Constantinople. There were also men called bishops in the major cities of the Empire. In the Byzantine Empire, emperors had power over the church, because they selected the patriarch. Even though Eastern Orthodox and Roman Catholic are both Christian, they had arguments and even battles against each other. The pope, the spiritual leader in Rome and the Catholics in the West, and the patriarch of Constantinople did not always agree.

The Byzantine emperor was never totally safe. Unlike the barbarian kingdoms of the west, where the throne was passed from father to son, there was never a clear line of succession in the East. This was called the "Malady of the Purple," because any one with power could seize the throne in the Byzantine Empire. There were always plots to overthrow the emperor and much political intrigue in Constantinople, even among family and relatives.

In 672 the Byzantines rolled out a new weapon called Greek Fire. This fire was thrown at the enemy and could not be extinguished, not even by water. The person who is given credit for the invention of Greek Fire is Kallinikos, a Syrian living in the Byzantine Empire. Greek Fire was used against the attacking Muslim fleets. The formula for Greek Fire was a secret, and perhaps even the emperors did not know its ingredients. Greek fire was thrown in glass containers and propelled by a pump. Greek Fire has been lost to history, and no one is absolutely sure how to make it today. Greek Fire helped to save the Byzantine Empire and Christianity for several hundred years. Constantinople finally fell to the cannons of the Turks in 1453. The walls of Constantinople fell down, but the culture and ideas of the Byzantine Empire moved to the Christian West, creating a new interest in classic Greek and Roman ideas, called the Renaissance.

In the next chapter we will read about Islam and its founder Muhammad, a religion and empire that came in conflict with the Byzantines in the East and the barbarian kingdoms in the West.


Saint Justinian the Emperor

Saint Justinian, a major figure in the history of the Byzantine state, was also a great champion of Orthodoxy, a builder of churches and a Church writer. He was born in the Roman province of Illyricum. During his reign (527-565), Byzantium won glory with military victories in Persia, Africa, and Italy, as a result of which paganism was decisively routed among the Germanic Vandals and Visigoth tribes. By command of the emperor Justinian the pagan schools in Athens were closed. Justinian sent John, the Bishop of Ephesus, throughout the regions of Asia Minor with the aim of spreading Christianity. John baptized more than 70,000 pagans.

The emperor gave orders to build ninety churches for the newly-converted, and he generously supported church construction within the Empire. His finest structures of the time are considered to be St. Catherine's Monastery at Sinai, and the church of Hagia Sophia at Constantinople. Under Saint Justinian many churches were built dedicated to our Most Holy Lady Theotokos. Since he had received a broad education, Saint Justinian assiduously concerned himself with the education of clergy and monks, ordering them to be instructed in rhetoric, philosophy and theology.

The right-believing sovereign devoted much attention and effort to the struggle with the Origenists of his time, who then were reviving the Nestorian heresy. To counter their heretical speculations, the Church hymn &ldquoOnly-Begotten Son and Immortal Word of God, Who for our salvation. &rdquo was composed, and Justinian commanded that it be sung in the churches. From that time to the present day, this hymn is sung at the Divine Liturgy before the Small Entrance after the second Antiphon.

At the command of the sovereign, the Fifth Ecumenical Council was convened in the year 553, censuring the teachings of Origen and affirming the definitions of the Fourth Ecumenical Council at Chalcedon. He also attempted to secure religious unity within the Empire through his (unsuccessful) dialogues with the non-Chalcedonians.

The holy Emperor Justinian wished to have orderly rule and law within the realm. Under his guidance and supervision a complete compendium of Roman law was compiled. It has come down to us as a law codex known as &ldquothe Justinian Codex.&rdquo The &ldquoChurch laws&rdquo of Justinian are included in all the variants of the Russian collections of Canon Law.

In his personal life, Saint Justinian was strictly pious, and he fasted often. During Great Lent he would not eat bread nor drink wine. He is also remembered for promoting the idea of &ldquosymphony&rdquo between church and state. The holy Emperor Justinian died in the year 565.


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Early Life of Justinian The Great

In 482 AD, Justinian was born the country now called Bulgaria.

His father was a Shepherd.

About sixteen years of age, left his mountain home in that country to go to the far away city of Constantinople.

The boy had no money to pay the expenses of the journey. However he was determined to go to Constantinople.

Some years before, this boy’s uncle, called Justin, had gone to Constantinople. Later he joined the Roman army.

Brave Justinian soon came to be commander of the imperial guard which attended the emperor.

The poor Justinian had heard of the success of his uncle, and wanted to join him.

He undertook a difficult and dangerous journey. However in midsummer he walked through the main gate of Constantinople.

He had no trouble in finding his Uncle Justin. Everybody in Constantinople knew the commander of the emperor’s guards.

Soon Justinian appeared at the great his uncle’s house. His uncle received him with much kindness.

Rise to Power

He took him into his own family, and gave him the best education that could be had in the city.

As the boy, talented Justinian soon became an excellent scholar.

He grew up a tall, good-looking man, with black eyes and curly hair.

Justinian was always richly dressed.

People in the emperor’s court respected him on account of his learning.

One day a great change came for both uncle and nephew.

The emperor died and the people chose Justin to succeed him.

Co-Emporer of Eastern Roman Empire

He took the title of Justinus I, and so the young scholar, who had once been a poor shepherd boy, now became the nephew of an emperor.

After some years, noble of Justinus advised him to by his nobles to take the young man, who had adopted the name of Justinian, to help him in ruling the empire.

Old and enfeeble, Justinus agreed to this proposal as he lacked strength to attend to the important affairs of government.

He therefore called the great lords of his court together and in their presence he placed a crown on the head of his nephew, who thus became joint emperor with his uncle.

In 527, his uncle died, and then Justinian became emperor.

Emperor Justinian reign

Justinian reigned for nearly forty years. He did so many important things that people called him Justinian the Great.

Justinian the GreatHe had many wars during his reign, but he himself did not take part in them.

Lacking experienced as a soldier, Justinian spent most of his time in study.

Fortunately, Justinian has two great generals to lead his armies.

One of them was named Belisarius and the other Narses.

Belisarius was one of the greatest soldiers that ever lived.

He gained wonderful victories for Justinian, and conquered some of the old Roman provinces that had been lost for many years.

The victories of these two generals largely helped to make the reign of Justinian remarkable in history.

Invasion of North Africa

Many years before he ascended the throne the Vandals, conquered the northern part of Africa.

They established a kingdom there with Carthage as its capital.

The Vandal king Gelimer, lived in Carthage.

Justinian resolved to make war on this king in order to recover Northern Africa and make it again a part of the Empire.

So, Justinian sent Belisarius to Africa with an army of thirty-five thousand men and five thousand horses on a fleet of six hundred ships.

It took this fleet three months to make the voyage from Constantinople to Africa.

War with Vandals

The people received him in a friendly way, for they had grown tired of the rule of the Vandals.

They preferred to be under the government of the Romans.

About ten miles from Carthage he met a large Vandal army under brother of Gelimer.

A battle immediately took place, and the Roman utterly defeated Vandals.

Justinian killed Gelimer’s brother which caused the Vandal king to fled from the field.

Belisarius then proceeded to Carthage and took possession of the city.

Soon afterwards Gelimer collected another army and fought the Romans in another battle, twenty miles from Carthage.

Belisarius again defeated him and the Vandal king again fled.

This was the end of the Vandal king in Africa.

In a short time Gelimer gave himself up to Belisarius, who took him to Constantinople.

Justinian set apart an estate for him to live upon, and the conquered king passed the rest of his life in peaceful retirement.

Invasion of Italy

After conquering the Vandals Justinian resolved to conquer Ostrogoths ruled Italy.

Justinian put a large army together and ordered Belisarius and Narses immediately set out for Italy.

When they arrived there they marched straight to Rome, and after some fighting took possession of the city.

But in a few months, Vitiges, king of the Goths, appeared with an army before the gates.

He challenged Belisarius and Narses to come out and fight.

The Roman generals, however, were not then ready to fight,and so the Ostrogoth king laid siege to the city, thinking that he would compel the Romans to surrender.

But instead of having any thought of surrender, Belisarius prepared his men for fight. When they were ready he attacked Vitiges and defeated him.

Vitiges retired to Ravenna, and Belisarius quickly followed. He compelled him to surrender through an assault on the city.

He captured the Ostrogoth army, and took Vitiges to Constantinople a prisoner.

Belisarius and Narses then went to Northern Italy, and, after a long war,conquered all the tribes there.

Emperor Justinian Construction Projects

Thus Justinian established his power throughout the whole country. The city of Rome was again under the dominion of a Roman emperor.

While his brave generals were winning these victories for the Empire, Justinian made improvements of various kinds at the capital.

He erected great public buildings, which were not only useful but ornamental to the city.

The most remarkable of them was the very magnificent cathedral of St. Sophia, for a longtime the grandest church structure in the world.

The great temple still exists in all its beauty andgrandeur, but is now used as a Mohammedan mosque.

Emperor Justinian the Law Giver

But the most important thing that Justinian did was the improving and collecting of the laws.

He made many excellent new laws and reformed many of the old laws.

People called him as one of the greatest of the world’s legislators.

For a long time people found the Roman laws difficult to understand.

There was a vast number of them. The different writers differed widely as what they meant.

Justinian employed a great lawyer, named Tribonian, to collect and simplify the principal laws.

Historian later called his collection the Code of Justinian.

It still exists, and is the model according to which most of the countries of Europe have made their laws.

Justinian also established a number of manufactures in Constantinople.

He brought silk-worms into Europe to establish its production facilities.

Last Days of Justinian

To the last year of his life Justinian was strong and active and a hard worker.

He often worked or studied all day and all night without eating or sleeping.


Architectural activity

Justinian also acquired immortal fame by the impetus he gave to the arts. If any style can ever be ascribed to one man, what we call Byzantine architecture, at least in its perfect form, owes its origin to Justinian and the architects he employed. His activity in building was prodigious. He covered his empire from Ravenna to Damascus with superb monuments. All later building in East and West was derived from his models two most famous schools, our medieval (Gothic) and the Moslem styles, are the lineal descendants of Justinian's architecture. Of his many buildings may be mentioned the two most famous, the church of Our Lady (now the El-Aqsa mosque) at Jerusalem and, by far the most splendid of all, the great church of the Holy Wisdom (Hagia Sophia) at Constantinople. This church especially, built by Anthemius of Tralles and Isidore of Miletus, and consecrated on 27 December, 537, remains always one of the chief monuments of architecture in the world.

Naturally these great enterprises demanded great expense. Justinian's subjects frequently complained of the heavy taxes many people in the lands he conquered back thought that the glory of being once more Roman citizens was bought too dearly when they realized how much they had to pay to the Roman exchequer. On the other hand, Justinian spent magnificently. In times of calamity, earthquake and famine, the imperial purse was opened to the sufferers with unlimited generosity.

The emperor's private life is somewhat clouded by the scandals told of his wife, Theodora. She had been a dancing-girl there is no doubt that she had led an immoral life before her marriage in 523. She was also a Monophysite. But most scholars now reject the scandalous account of her married life given by Procopius in his "Secret History". And in January, 532, at the time of the Circus revolution that nearly wrecked the state, it was Theodora's courage and presence of mind that saved the situation. For the rest she had a hand in all her husband's policy administration, diplomacy, church affairs, etc., felt her influence for twenty-one years. If she did not dishonor Justinian by infidelity she certainly led him into semi-Monophysitism (see Diehl, Theodora, imperatrice de Byzance," Paris, 1904).


Emperor Justinian the Great: The Life and Rule of a Visionary Roman - History

Unlike most of the great rulers during the Middle Ages, Justinian was not born into a royal family. He was born to a peasant woman named Vigilantia in the Macedonian town of Tauresium.

Fortunately for Justinian, his uncle Justin was a rising star in the emperor's imperial guard. Justin adopted Justinian and had him move to Constantinople, the capital of the Byzantine Empire. There Justinian received a good education learning how to read and write as well as law and history.

Justinian's uncle was an ambitious man. He became very close to the emperor and gathered many strong allies. When the emperor died without an heir in 518, Justin seized the position of emperor. Justinian soon became one of his Uncle Justin's chief advisors and generals.

In 525, Justinian married Theodora. Although Theodora was considered below his class, Justinian didn't care. He loved Theodora and wanted to marry her. Theodora was very intelligent and turned out to be one of Justinian's closest advisors and supporters.

When Justin died in 527, Justinian became the new emperor. He was a hard working emperor who was known for surrounding himself with talented people.

The Byzantium Empire was also known as the Eastern Roman Empire. It was Justinian's dream to restore the Roman Empire to its former glory. He sent out his armies commanded by his two powerful generals, Belizarius and Narses. They successfully regained much of the land lost by the collapse of the Western Roman Empire including Italy and the city of Rome.

Justinian also wanted to preserve the laws of Rome. He had all of the laws written down in one place. Then he added new laws to make sure that everyone was protected by the laws. This set of laws was called the Justinian Code. It was so well written that it became the basis of laws for many countries throughout the world.

Building, Religion, and the Arts

Justinian had a passion for the arts and for religion. Under his reign arts such as poetry and literature flourished. He had a strong belief in Christianity and wrote laws to protect the church and to suppress paganism. He also was a prolific builder. He had churches, dams, bridges, and fortifications built throughout the empire.

These three elements of Justinian's passion came together when he rebuilt the Hagia Sophia. This magnificent cathedral is still one of the most famous and beautiful buildings in the world today.

Despite all his accomplishments, many people in Constantinople were not happy with Justinian's rule. He had placed high taxes on his people in order to pay for his armies and building projects. In 532, this all came to a head at a chariot race.

At the chariot race the two rival teams, the Green and Blue, united together in their dislike for Justinian. They began to riot. Soon they were attacking the emperor's palace and burning much of the city of Constantinople. Justinian considered fleeing, but at the urging of this wife Theodora, he fought back. Around 30,000 rioters were put to death to end the riot.

Justinian died in 565 after ruling for nearly 40 years. He left no children so his nephew Justin II became emperor.


Today in History: Justinian I becomes sole emperor of the Byzantine Empire.

The remarkable rise of a peasant boy named Petrus Sabbatius (Justinian I The Great), to the lofty heights of the imperial palace in Constantinople could not have happened if it wasn’t for his uncle Flavius Justinus (Justin). Escaping a life of poverty in Illyricum, Justin travelled on foot, all the way to Roman Empire’s political heart Constantinople, to join the army. His career started of slow and nothing exciting happened until around 490 when he was made a commander of a regiment in the palace guard. From this promising position he sent for many of his younger relatives to give them important appointments and obviously a life away from poverty. Amongst these relatives was a young Petrus Sabbatius, who rose through the ceremonial ranks of the palace guards.

His uncle Justin became emperor, upon the death of Anastasius in 518, something that often happened with political manoeuvring. What followed was an orchestrated affair where Justin was hailed emperor upon the shields by his imperial guard and likely led by his nephew Petrus. It was here, also at some point during Justin’s early reign, that he adopted his nephew Petrus, and thereafter became known as Justinian.

In the years that followed Justinian worked hard behind the scenes, as his uncle’s most trusted advisor. He took advantage of his power and lavished the capital with extraordinary games to improve his popularity. By 525, his uncle first gave Justinian the title Caesar, preparing the way for Justinian to be his successor. Then, on August 1 st 527, his gravely ill uncle passed away, leaving Justinian to rule the empire on his own.

His rule would oversee a pivotal period in Byzantine history. In short, he was instrumental in reorganizing the administration of the empire, his sponsorship of a codification of laws (Codex Justinianus) and the flourishing of the first golden age of art and culture.

Finally, it has to be said that his extreme confidence in his abilities, led him to become the first emperor, in almost two hundred years, to reclaim parts of the western provinces of the old Roman Empire. His vision made Rome, once more a part of the empire, until the empires influence eventually again retreated eastward.


The Hypocracy of Emperor Justinian

The writing of Procopius, "The Secret History," is a historic record of Emperor Justinian's (527-565) reign. His graphic detail is very harsh and depicts Justinian as a vile human being and ruler. There was a lot of war and crusades during Justinian's rule of Constantinople. Justinian's goal was to conquer the West and rid it of Germanic speaking people. These wars transformed Rome and the majority of Italy leaving it without resources. The people that weren't killed migrated to the eastern and northern parts of the land. Justinian and his wife Theodora's magnitude was put on display in mosaics at the Church of San Vitale in Ravenna, Italy. Procopius's writings and Justinian and his wife presents in the mosaic are in extreme contrast of each other. .
Procopius begins describing Justinian's physical attributes then goes into detail of his personality and the way he ruled. His disdain for Justinian is evident when he describes him as "deceitful, devious, false, hypocritical, two-faced and cruel" (Atwater) these words alone paint the picture of an awful human being far be it an Emperor. The mosaics show Justinian to be a gracious person who is show with a nimbus around his head a crown depicting sacred power (HR. 305). His face looks kind and angelic and the people depicted around him are positions as so to show their support for him and his power. Procopius continues to explain him as a barbarian than a logical ruler, not caring about anyone around him that did not agree with his beliefs. In contract Justinian's stance in the mosaic shows him holding a piece of bread which the Orthodox believed could be transformed in to the Body of Christ at Mass (HR. 305), and he is dressed in purple and gold which are considered regal colors. The symbols, offering and the dress portray Justinian as a man of royal standing, power and respect. .
Procopius continues to illuminate his view on Justinian by describing how "he turned everything upside down" (Atwater).

Essays Related to The Hypocracy of Emperor Justinian

1. Art Review - Justinian as Conqueror

Emperor Justinian I, sometimes known as "Justinian the Great" or by his Latin name Flavius Petrus Sabbatius Iustiniaus Augustus, was a Byzantine (East Roman) emperor from 525-565. . Emperor Justinian was a brilliant ruler and it seems this detailed Ivory sculpture is meant to commemorate his achievements and victories as emperor. . They are shown, "below the victorious Emperor (Justinian?) . He also places them at the bottom panel to show the dominance that Emperor Justinian I would have had over them. . Justinian as Conqueror is an amazing piece of work that at the t.

  • Word Count: 989
  • Approx Pages: 4
  • Has Bibliography
  • Grade Level: Undergraduate

2. Procopius' Secret History

Written sometime during the sixth century but not actually published until 1653, The Secret History is one of the most valuable resources that provide information about the reign of Emperor Justinian. . In Procopius' opinion, a Roman emperor should be characterized by traits that completely differ from those of Justinian and Theodora. . Despite all the criticism he receives in The Secret History, Justinian is universally thought of as a Roman emperor who had a positive effect on his empire. . These amazing feats along with many others contribute to the general welfare of the empire .

  • Word Count: 955
  • Approx Pages: 4
  • Has Bibliography
  • Grade Level: Undergraduate

3. comparative law

Examine the effect of Justinian's Digest and Institutes upon the development of the Civil Law system of Western Europe prior to the period of the Humanists For the duration of the assignment I'll be mainly dealing with Emperor Justinian and his effects upon the civil law. . Stepping back into time going to the 6th century, which was the period that Emperor Justinian ruled (527 - 565A.D), the Roman Empire was in decline from its former glory. . Justinian being the emperor he was had two main goals to reach, firstly to expand the empire and also to recapture but secondly to.

4. Rome and the Justinian Era

Since the permanent dividing of the Roman Empire in 395 ad, eastern rulers viewed themselves as the emperors of Rome. This all changed in 527, when a nobleman named Justinian took over. . The life of the people of Rome changed tremendously due to Justinian. . As Justinian's death was nearby, disaster started to strike. . Well in 730 Emperor Leo 3rd banned the use of religious images used by eastern Christians. .

5. Hagia Sophia - A Religious Landmark

One of them, named Justinian, made some of the Byzantine empire's greatest contributions. . With high recognition, the Great Church was paired with the new imperial palace of Constantinople's emperor. . As mentioned before, Constantinople was in terrible condition before Justinian took rule in 527. . Emperor Justinian has imported materials from across the empire to the construction site, including black stone, marble, and Hellenistic columns. . In the spirit of reviving the Roman tradition in the empire, Emperor Justinian had designated the newly-built Hagia Sophia as a Ro.

6. Byzantine Empire

Justinian I became emperor in 527, and ruled until 565. . It was completed by Justinian in 537. . Justinian contributed more then just a wonderful city. . In 700, a Byzantine emperor prohibited the worship of icons. . As a result the pope excommunicate the emperor. .

7. Justinian's Flea and the Roman Empire

Justinian's Flea by William Rosen describes the fall of the Roman Empire from the division of the Empire by Diocletian to the start of the rise of the Islamic powers. . The rule of the Emperor Justinian is the central time frame in which the book is placed this is when the Byzantine Empire was at its height. . Rosen gives a very strong argument for this to be the case, it is well documented that the Empire would suffer under the plague however he offers very little to the lack of leadership after Justinian, another key aspect to the fall of the Byzantine Empire. .

8. Survival of the Byzantine Empire

Justinian the Great was Byzantine Emperor from 527 AD to 565 AD. . The Corpus Juris Civilis, otherwise known as the Body of Civil Law is the modern name for a collection of works in jurisprudence, issued from 529 to 535, by order of Justinian I, Eastern Roman Emperor. It is also referred to as the Code of Justinian although his name belongs more appropriately to the part titled Codex. . During this early period, Heraclius became Byzantine Emperor from 610 AD to 641 AD. . The so-called Twenty Years' Anarchy was a time of great instability and a period of time that saw the rapid succ.

9. Empress Theodora of the Byzantine Empire

Justinian then fell in love with the beautiful Theodora. . Emperor Justins wife refused to have a prostitute as her niece. Theodora and Justinian then waited for the emperor's wife to die until they got married. After their marriage, Justinian had his royal coronation. . Justinian along with his officials were planning on leaving the palace. .


Justinian's New Set of Laws

Justinian not only commissioned a new codified set of laws, he formulated new ones. Under his rule, Justinian accomplished the following, lesser known things:

  • Justinian I attempted to reduce governmental corruption
  • Justinian I prohibited pagans from public teaching
  • Justinian I made pederasty punishable by castration.
  • Justinian also built Hagia Sophia, a concrete example of the Empire&rsquos legacy. Hagia sophia is a magnificent Christian church that, to this day, draws thousands of tourists to Istanbul, thus completing the Byzantine link between ancient and modern civilizations.

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Watch the video: Ιστορία - Ο Μέγας Αλέξανδρος - Δ Δημοτικού Επ. 2 (July 2022).


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