From my webpage at web Emperor Justinian was the bold architect of a revitalized Byzantine Empire that would leave a lasting legacy for Western Civilization. As much of Europe entered the Dark Ages, Justinian’s vision of a restored Roman Empire would reverse the decline of the Byzantine Empire and lay a firm foundation that would allow the Byzantine Empire to survive for centuries to come. Justinian, whose full name was Flavius Anicius Julian us Justinian us, was born around 483 AD at Tauresium in Illyricum in the Balkans of present-day central Europe. He was the nephew of Byzantine Emperor Justin, the son of Justin’s sister Vigilant ia (Fortescue).
Justinian’s uncle, Justin, was the Byzantine Emperor from 518 until his death in 527. As a young man, Justin had left his home province of Dacia, going to the Byzantine capital of Constantinople to seek his fortune.
He eventually rose to the position of commander of the ”, the handpicked 300-soldier guard of the Byzantine Emperor. When he was selected to succeed Emperor Anastasius, he was an old man, weak in body and mind. He took the office reluctantly, writing to Pope Hormisdas in Rome, announcing his elevation to the Emperor’s throne and complaining he had been chosen against his will (Evans).
Justin handed over much of the duties of governing the Empire to his wife, Lupicina, and his nephew, Justinian. This power sharing arrangement would help to prepare Justinian to succeed him. Justinian worked hard and rose in position in his uncle’s government.
... he had an empire, but he was not an emperor. But he became one and for a strange reason. The Byzantine emperor, Constantine VI ... , was murdered by his own mother and she took over the empire after his death.[Charles ... their act together, they would have to content with the Byzantine emperor and the threat of Islamic kingdoms. Fortunately, around 751 ...
He was proclaimed consul in 521, and rose to the post of general-in-chief of the Byzantine military in April, 527. In August of the same year Justin died, and Justinian became Emperor (Fortescue).
AN EMPIRE IN CRISIS In the early 300’s, Roman Emperor Constantine, the first Christian Roman Emperor, recognized the growing wealth and cultural strength of the eastern provinces of the Roman Empire and decided to relocate the capital of his Empire to the East (Norwich 3).
Rome would become the capital of the Empire’s western territories, while the city of Byzantium (present-day Istanbul in modern-day Turkey) was renamed Constantinople and made the new capital of the Roman Empire (Bury 69).
From its peak under the Roman Emperors Constantine and Diocletian in the 300’s, Rome importance in the Empire began to shrink. The commercial and cultural growth of the provinces in Greece and the Near East had eclipsed the once-robust culture of Rome, where growing trade with the Far East was creating new wealth. The Christian emperors felt more at home in the East, where Christianity, the new official religion of the Roman Empire, was stronger and closer to its roots in Palestine, rather than in the more-pagan West (Norwich 11).
Forced from their homelands in Central and Eastern Europe by the savagery of the invading Huns, Germanic barbarian tribes invaded the western territories of the Empire. Under constant attack, the western Empire began to shrink, losing centuries worth of territorial gains in Britain, Gaul, Spain, and North Africa to the barbarian tribes, while the eastern territories remained strong, vital and secure. In 378, they dealt the Roman Empire a major blow at the Battle of Adrianople (now Edirne in modern-day European Turkey), near Constantinople.
In this battle, considered to be Rome’s largest battlefield defeat, Valens, the Roman Emperor, was killed fighting the Ostrogoths and Visigoths (Koeller).
The Roman Emperor Theodosius completed the growing split between the shrinking western territories and the vital, prosperous and more secure territories in the East. His will divided the Roman Empire upon his death in 395, giving the East to his elder son, Arcadius, and the West to his younger son, Honorius (Norwich 4).
... decline of the Western Roman Empire was that the move of the capital city to Constantinople in 330 C. E. Emperor Constantine moved the ... as expanding it by conquering new territories. The Byzantine Empire expanded to almost the size of the Roman Empire due to its relentless army ...
The Western Empire came to an end in 476, when the Germanic King, Odoacer, deposed Romulus Augustus, the last Western Emperor (Norwich 53).
After the fall of Rome, the Western Empire was fully under the control of the invading Germanic tribes and the Eastern Roman Empire now stood alone. REBUILDING THE ROMAN EMPIRE Justinian had dreamed of restoring the Roman Empire in Europe (Norwich 68).
In order to accomplish his goal, Justinian was faced with the difficult task of retaking the Western provinces once controlled by Rome. Much of the Western Roman Empire had fallen into the hands of four groups of Germanic barbarian tribes: the Vandals, who had conquered the North African Roman territories; the Ostrogoths, who had taken control of the Italian peninsula, including Rome itself; the Franks, who controlled most of modern-day France; and the Visigoths, who held the Spanish peninsula (Fortescue).
Justinian’s first obstacle to conquest in the West lay in ending centuries of warfare with the Persian Empire. The two empires were longtime rival ‘superpowers’ in the Middle East and had battled regularly over territory until 363, when the Emperor Julian died of wounds inflicted in battle with the Persians.
After the death of Julius, Jovian, the commander of the Imperial Guard, succeeded Julius, withdrew the Roman armies and reached a peace agreement with the Persian Empire. Jovian’s surrender of territory and fortresses to the Persian Empire, while costly to the Roman Empire, bought over a century of peace with the Persians (Norwich 27).
During the 400’s, both the Romans and Persians struggled to cope with invasions of their Empires from new, outside groups, and avoided conflict with each other until 502, when the old rivalry with the Persians re-ignited. The Byzantines and Persians would fight each other from 502 to 505, and again, from 527 to 532. This round of renewed warfare between the rival empires would end when the Byzantines fought the Persians to a standstill and forced them to accept a peace agreement (Whittow 41).
Taking advantage of peace in the East, Justinian appointed General Belisarius, who had exemplified himself in battle against the Persian Empire, to lead an army and fleet to the West to retake the western Roman provinces (Fortescue).
In 533, Belisarius’ army’s first stop was North Africa. The Byzantines quickly smashed the Vandals, conquering the North African provinces they had taken from Rome and sending their king, Gelimer, along with his family, back to Constantinople as a prisoner (Norwich 68).
... Out of all of the ancient Roman laws, the Julian Marriage laws, the laws of the kings, and the Justinian Codes, are some of them ... the sumptuary law.Laws like the sumptuary law were on a basis of adultery. There were many consequences of adultery in the Roman Empire. These ... consequences were mainly involved with killings. One of the laws stated that a husband ...
Two years later, in 535, Belisarius captured Sicily without a fight, and then sailed for Italy (Norwich 69).
The Ostrogoths had taken control of the Italian peninsula with Odoacer’s ouster of Romulus Augustus. Theodoric had ousted Odoacer with the backing of Byzantine Emperor Zeno (Norwich 54).
After taking power of the Ostrogoth kingdom, Theodoric had merged many aspects of Roman government into his own rule. However, his Ostrogoths were Arian Christians, a ‘cult’ in the eyes of Roman Church doctrine (Loffler).
His death in August 525 left his daughter as his only descendant, which left no clear successor to his throne. This uncertain line of succession, coupled with a strained relationship with the Church in Rome, opened the door to a Byzantine invasion of the Italian peninsula (Norwich 68).
It would take almost two years, but at long last, in December 536, Belisarius’ army entered the gates of Rome (Norwich 69).
The Ostrogoths would soon return to Rome in overwhelming numbers, forcing Belisarius and his army to remain under siege in the city until reinforcements arrived in 538. It would take much longer to defeat the Ostrogoth nation, and Rome, as well as much of the Italian peninsula, would change hands several times (Fortescue).
The war with the Ostrogoths would continue until 552, when the Byzantine Army would deal the Ostrogoths a crushing defeat at the Battle of Mon Lactarius (Bury 273).
As the war for Italy was winding down, civil war amongst the Visigoths in Spain opened the door in 550 to Byzantine conquest. Athanagild, a Visigoth leader battling King Ag ilia for the Visigoth throne, invited Justinian to send a fleet and army to southern Spain in 550 to aid his rebellion.
Under the command of Liberi us, the Byzantine army marched into Spain and took control of southern Roman provinces that had fallen to the Visigoth invaders almost two centuries earlier. The civil war would continue until 554, when Athanagild would prevail, and take the Visigothic throne. With the war over, the Byzantines were asked to leave, but refused and remained in control in these provinces (Bury 287).
In the latter years of Justinian’s reign, the long struggles in both East and West to regain lost Roman territories were bearing fruit. In the East, peace with the Persians ended when a Persian army sacked of the Byzantine provincial capital of Antioch in 540 (Norwich 74).
... carrying on the traditions of the empire that came before them, especially the Byzantine Emperor Justinian. Justinian used many Roman legal codes in his administration ... the land that was lost after the fall of the Roman Empire, meaning Justinian even wanted to continue occupying the same land as ...
A peace treaty in 562 would end the war and stabilize Byzantine frontiers in the Middle East and Asia Minor (Whittow 41).
In the same year, peace was being reached in the West, when Byzantine General Nurses sent the keys of the Italian cities of Verona and Brix ia to Justinian, symbolizing the fall of the last strongholds of the Ostrogoths (Bury 281).
With this, the Ostrogoths ceased to exist as a people (Loffler).
With these conquests, the Byzantine Empire had reclaimed much of the territory that had been under the control of the Roman Empire.
In the West, the Mediterranean Sea was once more the Roman ‘lake’ as it had been for centuries before the fall of Rome. In the East, the Persian Empire was held back from the Black Sea, thus blocked from gaining open-water access to the heart of the Byzantine Empire (Bury 313).
With these gains, the Byzantine Empire now reached from the Mesopotamia to Gibraltar, and had reclaimed the role once held by the Roman Empire as the largest and most powerful entity in both Europe and the Middle East (Whittow 38).
legal reform One of the longest-lasting accomplishments of Justinian was his reform of the laws of the Byzantine Empire. When Justinian became Emperor, the laws of the Byzantine Empire were based upon the Theodosian Code. Developed under the Roman Emperor Theodosian in 438, the haphazard addition of new laws and rulings turned the Theodosian Code into a confusing patchwork of laws.
Justinian strongly believed the strength of the Byzantine state lay in the rule of law and was determined to bring about these needed reforms (Fortescue).
To tackle the job of reforming the Empire’s legal code, Justinian appointed a commission of ten lawyers to review. organize and rewrite Byzantine laws into a single, unified set of laws. The Institutes, a section of the Justinian Code, begins with the following statement of the objectives and principles of the law in the Justinian Code: ‘The precepts of the law are these: to live honestly, to injure no one, and to give every man his due. The study of law consists of two branches, law public and law private. The former relates to the welfare of the Roman State; the latter to the advantage of the individual citizen.
... Byzantine emperor Justinian I from 482–565 C.E. was of both glory and destruction. Justinian reconquered much of the former Roman Empire ... he depended on his wife Theodora during tough situations but he did make changes to laws that benefited himself and his ... He spent time trying to promote Christianity, organizing the kingdom, church and nobility around himself, trying to create a central government ...
Of private law then we may say that it is of threefold origin, being collected from the precepts of nature, from those of the law of nations, or from those of the civil law of Rome’ (Halsall).
The results of the lengthy legal reform process, the ‘Corpus Juris Civilis’, which has become known as the ‘Justinian Code’, was finally completed in 534, consisting of four parts: a) The Digest, also known as Pandect’s, published in 530. This section is an index of rulings and precedents by Roman and Byzantine authorities issues. b) The Institutes, published in 530. This section was intended to serve as a guide to understanding the Justinian Code for law students. c) The Codex, published in 529.
A reorganized and updated listing of Byzantine laws, this was first section produced by the reform commission. d) Authentic, also known as Novels, published in 534. The final section published contained rulings made by courts under Justinian (Fortescue).
Several significant social reforms were introduced in the Justinian Code. The long-standing division of citizens of the Byzantine Empire into three classes, which had complicated Justinian’s marriage to Theodora, was ended and all Byzantine citizens were consolidated into one single legal class. Long-standing prohibitions against holding public office by people from the lower classes and intermarriage between people of different classes were abolished.
Restrictions against how many slaves could be freed by their owners were lifted. Fathers were no longer allowed to sell their children into slavery. The legal tradition of allowing one’s family to inherit their estate if they died without a will, with first claim going to one’s children, was established in the Justinian Code (Bury 485).
Justinian’s Code was the first comprehensive codification of a nation’s laws and court rulings and would endure as the Law of the Byzantine Empire. In time, it would be discovered and adopted by European nations as they began to develop their own legal systems (Shaw).
... Byzantine empire fell. Justinian and Theodora, with substantial expenses, induced in fabricating public buildings and churches. One of these famous churches was the H agia Sophia, Church ... that time were not thought of as Byzantines but as Romans who lived a Roman lifestyle. Byzantine had been started and ruled by an ...
A GROWING SPLIT WITH THE ROMAN CHURCH Justinian viewed a split in Christian Church as dangerous to the Byzantine Empire. Religious disturbances were common in the Byzantine Empire, as the Church, State and Byzantine society were deeply intertwined. Two years of religious riots in 511 and 512 raged in the Empire until Anastasius threatened to step down rather than deal with the continued violence (Norwich 59).
As Consul under Justin, Anastasius’s successor, Justinian had negotiated an end to a 35-year schism between the Eastern churches and Rome (Norwich 60).
The legal reforms of the Justinian Code embraced the teachings of the four general ecumenical councils of the Catholic Church, including the Chalcedonian council, which had sparked great unrest in the Byzantine Empire (Fortescue): ‘Therefore We order that the sacred, ecclesiastical rules which were adopted and confirmed by the four Holy Councils, that is to say, that of the three hundred and eighteen bishops held at Nice a, that of the one hundred and fifty bishops held at Constantinople, the first one of Ephesus, where Nestorius was condemned, and the one assembled at Chalcedon, where Eutyches and Nestorius were anathematized, shall be considered as laws. We accept the dogmas of these four Councils as sacred writings, and observe their rules as legally effective’ (Scheifler).
Justinian’s legal reforms also included the introduction of laws against paganism, Judaism and others who did not embrace Christianity. Pagans were barred from public service, synagogues of the Samaritans were ordered destroyed, and Christians who converted to Paganism were to be put to death. When the Samaritans revolted against these new laws, Julian, their leader was beheaded and 20, 000 Samaritans were sold into slavery when their revolt was crushed (Neelin).
In spite of these efforts to uphold Church doctrine, Justinian’s relationship with the Christian Church in Rome was rocky at best. Following the Fourth Ecumenical Council in Chalcedon, a theological conference called by Roman Catholic Pope Leo I in AD 451, many Christians in the Middle Eastern Byzantine territories broke away from the Roman Church. Led by Cyril, the Orthodox Patriarch of Alexandria, the churches in Egypt and the Middle East rejected the Roman Church’s official statement regarding ‘Chalcedoniansm’ and broke away from the Roman Churches.
Those who opposed the findings of the Chalcedonian council would become known as Monophysites (Kishkovsky and Stockoe 59).
Justinian made considerable efforts to reconcile the differences between the Church in Rome and the Monophysites. However, the Roman Church considered the matter closed and refused to deal with anyone who held views contrary to official Church doctrine on the matter. These matters worsened when Justinian appointed Anth imus, a Monophysite, as Bishop in Constantinople in 536 (Fortescue).
During the back-and-forth warfare for control of Rome between Byzantine and Ostrogoth armies, Pope Vigilius had been forced to leave Rome and take refuge in Constantinople. In 551, in an ongoing theological dispute with the Patriarch of Constantinople, Vigilius excommunicated the Patriarch.
Upset by this turn of events, Justinian sent his imperial guard to retrieve Vigilius, who had taken shelter at the Church of St. Paul and St. Peter. Their attempt to bring the Pope to Justinian was aborted due to the angry crowds gathering around the church. To make peace, Justinian sent none other than his highest General, Belisarius, to call upon Vigilius the next day and apologize for the attack. In spite of this, Vigilius would remain in a state of virtual house arrest for much of the time that he would remain in Constantinople (Norwich 81).
The ongoing disputes between the Church in Rome and the Monophysites hit close to Justinian’s heart. Theodora, Justinian’s wife, had converted to Monophystic Christianity when younger and kept her faith secret from most in the Empire (Fortescue).
She often worked to thwart her husband’s efforts to uphold official Roman church doctrines in the Empire. John of Ephesus, a Monophysite bishop viewed Theodora as the protector of the Monophysites. At one point, she intervened directly to provide shelter to Monophysite monks and nuns exiled by Justinian. On her deathbed, she made Justinian swear to protect her community of Monophysite clerical refugees (Evans).
This was not the first time an Emperor and the Church came into conflict. Emperor Constantine had defended the heretical Arians and made a strong effort to reconcile the Church with Arius, the founder of Arian Christianity. Constantine, whose mother and family embraced Arius’ teachings, had attempted to recall the exiled Arius to Constantinople on more than one occasion, only to see riots erupt in the streets of his capital (Norwich 10).
In 477, Zeno deposed the Emperor Basiliscus after a short reign in which Basiliscus had attempted to impose Monophystism upon the Empire. Just seven years later, in 484, Zeno faced his own problems when Pope Felix III excommunicated A caius, the Patriarch of Constantinople, who in turn excommunicated Felix (Norwich 57).
These mutual excommunications would begin the 35-year schism between east and west that would be healed by Justinian (Norwich 60).
Justinian would convert to Monophystism in his later years (Evans).
While hoping to promote greater Christian unity and support the Roman Church, Justinian’s actions did little to bring the Christian church closer together and the gulf between the Church in Rome and Christians in the Eastern lands of the Byzantine Empire would continue to widen until the final split in between the Western and Eastern Churches in 1054 (Norwich 230).
EMPRESS THEODORA With most historical figures, the spouses traditionally take a secondary role to their spouses. However, Theodora, the wife of Justinian, played a central role in the events of Justinian’s reign.
Theodora was a strong-willed ally whose title of Empress was not merely an honorary title for an Emperor’s wife, but symbolized a strong partnership in governing the world’s largest and strongest Empire of its time (Norwich 62).
Theodora came up in an uncommon manner for an Empress of a major nation. Her birthplace is believed to have been in either Crete or Syria. Theodora was the daughter of a circus bear trainer who worked at the Hippodrome in Constantinople. She worked there as a mime, then became a full-time actress at the Hippodrome, a career which was not held in high esteem for women of the time (Koeller).
Theodora spent much of her teen-age years as a prostitute and traveling companion of an official in Byzantine northern Africa, before returning to Constantinople and embracing Monophystic Christianity.
Upon her conversion, she gave up her liberal lifestyle and settled down to work as a wool spinner near the palace of the Emperor Justin, where she met Justinian. Appealing an old Roman law that kept him from marrying her to his uncle, Justinian wed Theodora in 525, two years before Justinian became Emperor. When Justinian became Emperor, he insisted that she rule over the Empire jointly with him (Koeller).
On 13 January 532, crowds resentful of taxation and corruption rioted at the games at the Hippodrome, in what became known as the Circus, or Nika, revolt. The crowds summoned Hypatius, an elderly nephew of Justin, the previous Emperor, to the Hippodrome, and crowned him their new Emperor.
Seeing the situation spinning out of control, Justinian considered fleeing Constantinople. Instead of taking flight, Theodora urged her husband to remain in the city to fight back and crush the revolt: ‘Every man, who is born into the light of day must sooner or later die; and how could an Emperor ever allow himself to be a fugitive? May I myself never willingly shed my imperial robes… If you, my Lord, wish to save your skin, you will have no difficulty in doing so. As for me, I stand by the ancient saying: the purple is the noblest winding-sheet’ (Norwich 64).
Justinian heeded her advice and the revolt was crushed, with some thirty thousand rebels slaughtered by his soldiers that day (Norwich 64).
After the revolt, Justinian planned to show mercy for Hypatius and not execute him for his role in the revolt.
Theodora objected, warning that Hypatius could be used as a rallying point for future revolts and insisted he be put to death. In the end, Theodora prevailed and Hypatius and his brother were executed the following day (Evans).
Theodora led the way for social reforms that uplifted the role of women in Byzantine society. A former prostitute herself, Theodora ordered houses of prostitution closed in Constantinople (Evans).
As part of the legal reforms of the Justinian Code, new laws were enacted to prohibit forced prostitution and establish shelters for prostitutes, grant more rights to women in divorce cases, instituted the death penalty for rape, and allow women to own and inherit property (Koeller).
Theodora died early in Justinian’s reign, in 548, and was buried at the Church of the Holy Wisdom, one of several churches she and her husband would build in Constantinople. Justinian would not remarry, ruling his empire alone until his own death in 565 (Koeller).
JUSTINIAN’S LEGACY Justinian died in November 565, naming his nephew, Justin II, as his successor on his deathbed (Norwich 63).
While Justinian had inherited the remnants of an empire in decline, he would leave his nephew a grand inheritance of an empire revitalized and at the height of its size, power and prestige in the post-Roman world. Justinian’s vision of an empire restored to its former glory helped secure a future for the Byzantine Empire in the chaotic times that followed the collapse of the old Roman Empire.
The accomplishments of Justinian’s reign helped ensure his Empire’s survival for nearly a full millennium after the fall of Rome and would leave a strong and lasting Byzantine legacy to guide the future of Western Civilization. HELPFUL WEB LINKS Battle of Adrianople: web ‘ Bid for Rome: web text. htm Byzantine Empire Chronology: web and Islamic Worlds: web Studies: web Studies on the Internet: web Theodora: web Justinian Code and the Catholic Faith: web I, Roman Emperor: web web Empire dot Net: web of the Roman World: web Ancient Rome: web timeline one. html Western Orthodox History: web CITED Bury, J. B.
History of the Later Roman Empire, Volume 2. Dover Publications. New York, 1958. Evans, James Allan De Imperator bus Romania: An Online Encyclopedia of Roman Emperors. . Fortescue, Adrian, Transcribed by Joseph E.
O’Connor. Justinian I, Roman Emperor. . 1999. Koeller, David W. The Battle of Adrianople.
Koeller, David W. The Empress Theodora. Halsall, Paul. Medieval Sourcebook: Corpus I uris Civilis, 6 th Century. . Jan 1996.
Loffler, Klemm ons, translated by Michael Waggoner. Ostrogoths. 1999. Neelin, David G. Timeline: Ancient Rome .
2000. Norwich, John Julius. A Short History of Byzantium. Alfred A. Knopf, Publisher. New York, 1998.
Scheifler, Michael. The Justinian Code and the Catholic Faith. Stockoe, Mark and Kishkovsky, Leonid. Orthodox Christians in North America, 1794-1994. Orthodox Christian Publications Center. Wayne, New Jersey, 1995.
Shaw, David J. A World’s Eye View of the Law. UNESCO Courier, Nov 1999. p 26 Whittow, Mark. The Making of Byzantium, 600-1025. University of California Press.
Berkeley, California, 1996.