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Justinian I

This article is about the Byzantine Emperor. For other splendour. The Empire entered a period of territorial deuses, see Justinian (disambiguation).
cline not to be reversed until the 9th century.
Procopius provides the primary source for the history
of Justinians reign. The Syriac chronicle of John of
Ephesus, which does not survive, was used as a source
for later chronicles, contributing many additional details
of value. Both historians became very bitter towards
Justinian and his empress, Theodora.[10] Other sources
include the histories of Agathias, Menander Protector,
John Malalas, the Paschal Chronicle, the chronicles of
Marcellinus Comes and Victor of Tunnuna. Justinian is
considered a saint among Eastern Orthodox Christians,
and is also remembered by some in the Lutheran Church
on 14 November.[11]

Justinian I or Iustinian I (/dstnin/; Latin: Flavius

Petrus Sabbatius Iustinianus Augustus, Greek: Flvios Ptros
Sabbtios Ioustinians) (c. 482 14 November 565), traditionally known as Justinian the Great and also Saint
Justinian the Great in the Eastern Orthodox Church,
was a Byzantine (East Roman) emperor from 527 to 565.
During his reign, Justinian sought to revive the empires
greatness and reconquer the lost western half of the historical Roman Empire. One of the most important gures of late antiquity and possibly the last Roman emperor to speak Latin as a rst language,[3] Justinians rule
constitutes a distinct epoch in the history of the Later
Roman empire. The impact of his administration extended far beyond the boundaries of his time and domain. Justinians reign is marked by the ambitious but
only partly realized renovatio imperii, or restoration of
the Empire.[4]

1 Life
1.1 Summary

Because of his restoration activities, Justinian has

sometimes been called the "last Roman" in modern
historiography.[5] This ambition was expressed by the
partial recovery of the territories of the defunct western
Roman empire.[6] His general, Belisarius, swiftly conquered the Vandal kingdom in North Africa, re-extending
Roman control to the Atlantic Ocean. 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 prefect Liberius reclaimed
most of southern Iberia, establishing the province of
Spania. These campaigns re-established Roman control
over the western Mediterranean, increasing the Empires
annual revenue by over a million solidi.[7] During his reign The ancient town of Tauresium, the birthplace of Justinian I, loJustinian also subdued the Tzani, a people on the east cated in todays Republic of Macedonia.
coast of the Black Sea that had never been under Roman
Justinian was born in Tauresium[12] around 482. His
rule before.[8]
Latin-speaking peasant family[13] is believed to have
A still more resonant aspect of his legacy was the uniform been of Illyro-Roman[14][15][16] or Thraco-Roman
rewriting of Roman law, the Corpus Juris Civilis, which is origins.[17][18][19] The cognomen Iustinianus, which he
still the basis of civil law in many modern states.[9] This took later, is indicative of adoption by his uncle Justin.[20]
work was carried out primarily by his quaestor Tribonian. During his reign, he founded Justiniana Prima not far
His reign also marked a blossoming of Byzantine culture, from his birthplace, today in South East Serbia.[21][22][23]
and his building program yielded such masterpieces as His mother was Vigilantia, the sister of Justin. Justin,
the church of Hagia Sophia, which was to be the cen- who was in the imperial guard (the Excubitors) before he
ter of Eastern Orthodox Christianity for many centuries. became emperor,[24] adopted Justinian, brought him to
A devastating outbreak of bubonic plague (see Plague of Constantinople, and ensured the boys education.[24] As
Justinian) in the early 540s marked the end of an age of a result, Justinian was well educated in jurisprudence,

theology and Roman history.[24] Justinian served for
some time with the Excubitors but the details of his early
career are unknown.[24] Chronicler John Malalas, who
lived during the reign of Justinian, tells of his appearance
that he was short, fair skinned, curly haired, round
faced and handsome. Another contemporary chronicler,
Procopius, compares Justinians appearance to that of
tyrannical Emperor Domitian, although this is probably


the son of his sister Vigilantia and married to Sophia,

the niece of Empress Theodora. Justinians body was entombed in a specially built mausoleum in the Church of
the Holy Apostles until it was desecrated and robbed during the pillage of the city in 1204 by the Latin States of
the Fourth Crusade.[34]

1.2 Legislative activities

When Emperor Anastasius died in 518, Justin was proMain article: Corpus Juris Civilis
claimed the new emperor, with signicant help from
Justinian achieved lasting fame through his judicial re[24]
During Justins reign (518527), Justinian
was the emperors close condant. Justinian showed
much ambition, and it has been thought that he was functioning as virtual regent long before Justin made him associate Emperor on 1 April 527, although there is no
conclusive evidence for this.[26] As Justin became senile near the end of his reign, Justinian became the de
facto ruler.[24] Justinian was appointed consul in 521 and
later commander of the army of the east.[24][27] Upon
Justins death on 1 August 527, Justinian became the sole
As a ruler, Justinian showed great energy. He was known
as the emperor who never sleeps on account of his work
habits. Nevertheless, he seems to have been amiable and
easy to approach.[28] Around 525, he married his mistress, Theodora, in Constantinople. She was by profession a courtesan and some twenty years his junior. In earlier times, Justinian could not have married her because
of her class, but his uncle, Emperor Justin I, had passed a
law allowing intermarriage between social classes.[29][30]
Theodora would become very inuential in the politics of
the Empire, and later emperors would follow Justinians
precedent in marrying outside the aristocratic class. The
marriage caused a scandal, but Theodora would prove to
be shrewd judge of character and Justinians greatest supporter. Other talented individuals included Tribonian, his
legal adviser; Peter the Patrician, the diplomat and longtime head of the palace bureaucracy; Justinians nance
ministers John the Cappadocian and Peter Barsymes, who
managed to collect taxes more eciently than any before,
thereby funding Justinians wars; and nally, his prodigiously talented generals, Belisarius and Narses.
Justinians rule was not universally popular; early in his
reign he nearly lost his throne during the Nika riots, and a
conspiracy against the emperors life by dissatised businessmen was discovered as late as 562.[31] Justinian was
struck by the plague in the early 540s but recovered.
Theodora died in 548[32] at a relatively young age, possibly of cancer; Justinian outlived her by nearly twenty
years. Justinian, who had always had a keen interest in
theological matters and actively participated in debates
on Christian doctrine,[33] became even more devoted to
religion during the later years of his life. When he died
on 14 November 565, he left no children, though his wife
Theodora had given birth to a stillborn son several years
into his reign. He was succeeded by Justin II, who was

The Barberini Ivory, which is thought to portray either Justinian

or Anastasius I

forms, particularly through the complete revision of all

Roman law,[35] something that had not previously been
attempted. The total of Justinians legislature is known
today as the Corpus juris civilis. It consists of the Codex
Iustinianus, the Digesta or Pandectae, the Institutiones,
and the Novellae.
Early in his reign, Justinian appointed the quaestor
Tribonian to oversee this task. The rst draft of the Codex
Iustinianus, a codication of imperial constitutions from
the 2nd century onward, was issued on 7 April 529. (The
nal version appeared in 534.) It was followed by the Digesta (or Pandectae), a compilation of older legal texts,
in 533, and by the Institutiones, a textbook explaining the
principles of law. The Novellae, a collection of new laws
issued during Justinians reign, supplements the Corpus.
As opposed to the rest of the corpus, the Novellae appeared in Greek, the common language of the Eastern
The Corpus forms the basis of Latin jurisprudence (in-


Military activities

cluding ecclesiastical Canon Law) and, for historians,

provides a valuable insight into the concerns and activities of the later Roman Empire. As a collection it gathers together the many sources in which the leges (laws)
and the other rules were expressed or published: proper
laws, senatorial consults (senatusconsulta), imperial decrees, case law, and jurists opinions and interpretations
(responsa prudentum). Tribonians code ensured the survival of Roman law. It formed the basis of later Byzantine
law, as expressed in the Basilika of Basil I and Leo VI the
Wise. The only western province where the Justinianic
code was introduced was Italy (after the conquest, by the
so-called Pragmatic Sanction of 554),[36] from where it
was to pass to Western Europe in the 12th century and
become the basis of much European law code. It eventually passed to Eastern Europe where it appeared in Slavic
editions, and it also passed on to Russia.[37] It remains
inuential to this day.
He passed laws to protect prostitutes from exploitation
and women from being forced into prostitution. Rapists
were treated severely. Further, by his policies: women
charged with major crimes should be guarded by other
women to prevent sexual abuse; if a woman was widowed,
her dowry should be returned; and a husband could not
take on a major debt without his wife giving her consent


Nika riots

Main article: Nika riots

Justinians habit of choosing ecient, but unpopular advisers nearly cost him his throne early in his reign. In January 532, partisans of the chariot racing factions in Constantinople, normally divided among themselves, united
against Justinian in a revolt that has become known as
the Nika riots. They forced him to dismiss Tribonian and
two of his other ministers, and then attempted to overthrow Justinian himself and replace him with the senator Hypatius, who was a nephew of the late emperor
Anastasius. While the crowd was rioting in the streets,
Justinian considered eeing the capital, but eventually decided to stay, apparently on the prompting of Theodora,
who refused to leave. In the next two days, he ordered the
brutal suppression of the riots by his generals Belisarius
and Mundus. Procopius relates that 30,000[39] unarmed
civilians were killed in the Hippodrome. On Theodoras
insistence, and apparently against his own judgment,[40]
Justinian had Anastasius nephews executed.[41]
The destruction that had taken place during the revolt provided Justinian with an opportunity to tie his name to a
series of splendid new buildings, most notably the architectural innovation of the domed Hagia Sophia.

1.4 Military activities

One of the most spectacular features of Justinians reign
was the recovery of large stretches of land around the
Western Mediterranean basin that had slipped out of Imperial control in the 5th century.[42] As a Christian Roman emperor, Justinian considered it his divine duty to
restore the Roman Empire to its ancient boundaries. Although he never personally took part in military campaigns, he boasted of his successes in the prefaces to
his laws and had them commemorated in art.[43] The reconquests were in large part carried out by his general
1.4.1 War with the Sassanid Empire, 527532
Main article: Iberian War
From his uncle, Justinian inherited ongoing hostilities
with the Sassanid Empire.[45] In 530 a Persian army was
defeated at Dara, but the next year saw the defeat of Roman forces under Belisarius near Callinicum. When king
Kavadh I of Persia died (September 531), Justinian concluded an "Eternal Peace" (which cost him 11,000 pounds
of gold)[46] with his successor Khosrau I (532). Having
thus secured his eastern frontier, Justinian turned his attention to the West, where Germanic kingdoms had been
established in the territories of the former Western Roman Empire.
1.4.2 Conquest of North Africa, 533534
Main article: Vandalic War
The rst of the western kingdoms Justinian attacked
was that of the Vandals in North Africa. King Hilderic,
who had maintained good relations with Justinian and the
North African Catholic clergy, had been overthrown by
his cousin Gelimer in 530. Imprisoned, the deposed king
appealed to Justinian.
In 533, Belisarius with a eet of 92 dromons escorting 500 transports, landed at Caput Vada (modern Ras
Kaboudia) in modern Tunisia with an army of about
15,000 men, as well as a number of barbarian troops.
They defeated the Vandals, who were caught completely
o guard, at Ad Decimum on 14 September 533 and
Tricamarum in December; Belisarius took Carthage.
King Gelimer ed to Mount Pappua in Numidia, but surrendered the next spring. He was taken to Constantinople, where he was paraded in a triumph. Sardinia and
Corsica, the Balearic Islands, and the stronghold Septem
near Gibraltar were recovered in the same campaign.[47]
An African prefecture, centered in Carthage, was established in April 534,[48] but it would teeter on the brink of
collapse during the next 15 years, amidst warfare with
the Moors and military mutinies. The area was not
completely pacied until 548,[49] but remained peaceful


turned in favour of the Romans, and in 540 Belisarius

reached the Ostrogothic capital Ravenna. There he was
oered the title of Western Roman Emperor by the Ostrogoths at the same time that envoys of Justinian were
arriving to negotiate a peace that would leave the region
north of the Po River in Gothic hands. Belisarius feigned
to accept the oer, entered the city in May 540, and reclaimed it for the Empire.[52] Then, having been recalled
by Justinian, Belisarius returned to Constantinople, taking the captured Vitigis and his wife Matasuntha with

1.4.4 War with the Sassanid Empire, 540562

An older Justinian; mosaic in Basilica of Sant'Apollinare Nuovo,

Ravenna (possibly a modied portrait of Theodoric).

Modern or early modern drawing of a medallion celebrating the

reconquest of Africa, c. 535

Belisarius had been recalled in the face of renewed hosthereafter and enjoyed a measure of prosperity. The retilities by the Persians. Following a revolt against the Emcovery of Africa cost the empire about 100,000 pounds
pire in Armenia in the late 530s and possibly motivated
of gold.[50]
by the pleas of Ostrogothic ambassadors, King Khosrau
I broke the Eternal Peace and invaded Roman territory in the spring of 540.[53] He rst sacked Beroea and
1.4.3 War in Italy, rst phase, 535540
then Antioch (allowing the garrison of 6,000 men to leave
the city),[54] besieged Daras, and then went on to attack
Main article: Gothic War (535554)
the small but strategically signicant satellite kingdom
of Lazica near the Black Sea, exacting tribute from the
As in Africa, dynastic struggles in Ostrogothic Italy towns he passed along his way. He forced Justinian I to
provided an opportunity for intervention. The young pay him 5,000 pounds of gold, plus 500 pounds of gold
king Athalaric had died on 2 October 534, and a usurper, more each year.[54]
Theodahad, had imprisoned queen Amalasuntha, Belisarius arrived in the East in 541, but, after some sucTheodoric's daughter and mother of Athalaric, on the cess, was again recalled to Constantinople in 542. The
island of Martana in Lake Bolsena, where he had her reasons for his withdrawal are not known, but it may
assassinated in 535. Thereupon Belisarius with 7,500 have been instigated by rumours of disloyalty on behalf
men[51] invaded Sicily (535) and advanced into Italy, of the general reaching the court.[55] The outbreak of the
sacking Naples and capturing Rome on 9 December plague caused a lull in the ghting during the year 543.
536. By that time Theodahad had been deposed by the The following year Khosrau defeated a Byzantine army
Ostrogothic army, who had elected Vitigis as their new of 30,000 men,[56] but unsuccessfully besieged the major
king. He gathered a large army and besieged Rome from city of Edessa. Both parties made little headway, and in
February 537 to March 538 without being able to retake 545 a truce was agreed upon for the southern part of the
the city.
Roman-Persian frontier. After that the Lazic War in the
Justinian sent another general, Narses, to Italy, but
tensions between Narses and Belisarius hampered the
progress of the campaign. Milan was taken, but was soon
recaptured and razed by the Ostrogoths. Justinian recalled Narses in 539. By then the military situation had

North continued for several years, until a second truce

in 557, followed by a Fifty Years Peace in 562. Under
its terms, the Persians agreed to abandon Lazica in exchange for an annual tribute of 400 or 500 pounds of gold
(30,000 solidi) to be paid by the Romans.[57]



War in Italy, second phase, 541554

While military eorts were directed to the East, the situation in Italy took a turn for the worse. Under their respective kings Ildibad and Eraric (both murdered in 541)
and especially Totila, the Ostrogoths made quick gains.
After a victory at Faenza in 542, they reconquered the
major cities of Southern Italy and soon held almost the
entire peninsula. Belisarius was sent back to Italy late in
544, but lacked sucient troops. Making no headway,
he was relieved of his command in 548. Belisarius succeeded in defeating a Gothic eet with 200 ships. During
this period the city of Rome changed hands three more
times, rst taken and depopulated by the Ostrogoths in
December 546, then reconquered by the Byzantines in
547, and then again by the Goths in January 550. Totila
also plundered Sicily and attacked the Greek coastlines.
Finally, Justinian dispatched a force of approximately
35,000 men (2,000 men were detached and sent to invade southern Visigothic Hispania) under the command
of Narses.[58] The army reached Ravenna in June 552,
and defeated the Ostrogoths decisively within a month at
the battle of Busta Gallorum in the Apennines, where
Totila was slain. After a second battle at Mons Lactarius in October that year, the resistance of the Ostrogoths was nally broken. In 554, a large-scale Frankish
invasion was defeated at Casilinum, and Italy was secured for the Empire, though it would take Narses several years to reduce the remaining Gothic strongholds.
At the end of the war, Italy was garrisoned with an army
of 16,000 men.[59] The recovery of Italy cost the empire
about 300,000 pounds of gold.[50]


Other campaigns

In addition to the other conquests, the Empire established

a presence in Visigothic Hispania, when the usurper
Athanagild requested assistance in his rebellion against
King Agila I. In 552, Justinian dispatched a force of 2,000
men; according to the historian Jordanes, this army was
led by the octogenarian Liberius.[60] The Byzantines took
Cartagena and other cities on the southeastern coast and
founded the new province of Spania before being checked
by their former ally Athanagild, who had by now become
king. This campaign marked the apogee of Byzantine expansion.
During Justinians reign, the Balkans suered from several incursions by the Turkic and Slavic peoples who lived
north of the Danube. Here, Justinian resorted mainly
to a combination of diplomacy and a system of defensive works. In 559 a particularly dangerous invasion
of Sklavinoi and Kutrigurs under their khan Zabergan
threatened Constantinople, but they were repulsed by the
aged general Belisarius.

Spanish Visigothic gold tremisses in the name of emperor Justinian I, 7th century. The Christian cross on the breast denes
the Visigothic attribution. British Museum.

1.5 Results

Emperor Justinian reconquered many former territories of the

Western Roman Empire, including Italy, Dalmatia, Africa, and
southern Hispania.

Justinians ambition to restore the Roman Empire to its

former glory was only partly realized. In the West, the
brilliant early military successes of the 530s were followed by years of stagnation. The dragging war with
the Goths was a disaster for Italy, even though its longlasting eects may have been less severe than is sometimes thought.[61] The heavy taxes that the administration imposed upon its population were deeply resented.
While the nal victory in Italy and the conquest of the
coast of southern Hispania signicantly enlarged the area
over which the Empire could project its power and inuence, and while they must have contributed to the Empires prestige, most of the conquests proved ephemeral.
The greater part of Italy would be lost to the invading
Lombards three years after Justinians death (568), the
newly founded province of Spania was completely recovered by the Hispanian Visigoths in 624 under the leadership of Suintila, and within a century and a half Africa


would be forever lost for the empire to the Rashidun and ship with the bishops of Rome. Justin reversed this trend
Umayyad Caliphates during the Muslim conquests.
and conrmed the Chalcedonian doctrine, openly conEvents of the later years of the reign showed that Con- demning the Monophysites. Justinian, who continued this
stantinople itself was not safe from barbarian incursions policy, tried to impose religious unity on his subjects by
from the north, and even the relatively benevolent his- forcing them to accept doctrinal compromises that might
torian Menander Protector felt the need to attribute the appeal to all parties, a policy that proved unsuccessful as
Emperors failure to protect the capital to the weakness he satised none of them.
of his body in his old age.[62] In his eorts to renew the
Roman Empire, Justinian dangerously stretched its resources while failing to take into account the changed
realities of 6th-century Europe.[63] Paradoxically, the
grand scale of Justinians military successes probably
contributed in part to the Empires subsequent decline.[64]

Natural disasters

Main articles: 551 Beirut earthquake, Extreme weather

events of 535536 and Plague of Justinian

Near the end of his life, Justinian became ever more inclined towards the Monophysite doctrine, especially in
the form of Aphthartodocetism, but he died before being
able to issue any legislation that would have elevated its
teachings to the status of dogma. The empress Theodora
sympathized with the Monophysites and is said to have
been a constant source of pro-Monophysite intrigues at
the court in Constantinople in the earlier years. In the
course of his reign, Justinian, who had a genuine interest in matters of theology, authored a small number of
theological treatises.[65]

3.1 Religious policy

During the decade of the 530s, it seemed to many that
God had abandoned the Christian Roman Empire. There
were noxious fumes in the air; and the Sun, while still
providing day, refused to give much heat. This caused
famine unlike anything those of the time had seen before,
weakening the people of Europe and the Middle East.
The cause of these disasters aren't precisely known, but
the Rabaul caldera, Lake Ilopango and Krakatoa volcanoes or a collision with a swarm of meteors are all suspected. Scientists have spent decades on the mystery.
Seven years later, in 542, a devastating outbreak of
Bubonic Plague, second only to that of the 14th century,
laid siege to the world, killing tens of millions. As ruler
of the Empire, Justinian, and members of his court, were
physically unaected by famine. However, the Imperial
Court did prove susceptible to plague, with Justinian himself contracting, but surviving, the pestilence.
In July 551, the eastern Mediterranean was rocked by
the 551 Beirut earthquake, which triggered a tsunami.
The combined fatalities of both events probably exceeded
30,000, with tremors being felt from Antioch to Alexandria.

Religious activities

Justinian saw the orthodoxy of his empire threatened by

diverging religious currents, especially Monophysitism,
which had many adherents in the eastern provinces of
Syria and Egypt. Monophysite doctrine, which maintains that Jesus Christ had one divine nature or a synthesis of a divine and human nature, had been condemned
as a heresy by the Council of Chalcedon in 451, and
the tolerant policies towards Monophysitism of Zeno and
Anastasius I had been a source of tension in the relation-

Justinian I, depicted on an AE Follis coin

As in his secular administration, despotism appeared also

in the Emperors ecclesiastical policy. He regulated everything, both in religion and in law.
At the very beginning of his reign, he deemed it proper to
promulgate by law the Churchs belief in the Trinity and
the Incarnation; and to threaten all heretics with the appropriate penalties;[66] whereas he subsequently declared
that he intended to deprive all disturbers of orthodoxy of
the opportunity for such oense by due process of law.[67]
He made the Nicaeno-Constantinopolitan creed the sole
symbol of the Church,[68] and accorded legal force to the
canons of the four ecumenical councils.[69] The bishops
in attendance at the Second Council of Constantinople in
553 recognized that nothing could be done in the Church
contrary to the emperors will and command;[70] while,
on his side, the emperor, in the case of the Patriarch An-


Suppression of other religions and philosophies

thimus, reinforced the ban of the Church with temporal proscription.[71] Justinian protected the purity of the
church by suppressing heretics. He neglected no opportunity for securing the rights of the Church and clergy, for
protecting and extending monasticism. He granted the
monks the right to inherit property from private citizens
and the right to receive solemnia or annual gifts from the
Imperial treasury or from the taxes of certain provinces
and he prohibited lay conscation of monastic estates.
Although the despotic character of his measures is contrary to modern sensibilities, he was indeed a nursing
father of the Church. Both the Codex and the Novellae contain many enactments regarding donations, foundations, and the administration of ecclesiastical property; election and rights of bishops, priests and abbots; Consular diptych displaying Justinians full name (Constantinomonastic life, residential obligations of the clergy, con- ple 521)
duct of divine service, episcopal jurisdiction, et cetera.
Justinian also rebuilt the Church of Hagia Sophia (which
cost 20,000 pounds of gold),[72] the original site having
been destroyed during the Nika riots. The new Hagia
Sophia, with its numerous chapels and shrines, gilded octagonal dome, and mosaics, became the centre and most
visible monument of Eastern Orthodoxy in Constantinople.
promise could ever be accepted by the dogmatic wing
of the church, his sincere eorts at reconciliation gained
him the approval of the major body of the church. A
3.2 Religious relations with Rome
signal proof was his attitude in the Theopaschite controFrom the middle of the 5th century onward, increasingly versy. At the outset he was of the opinion that the quesarduous tasks confronted the emperors of the East in ec- tion turned on a quibble of words. By degrees, however,
clesiastical matters. For one thing, the radicals on all sides Justinian came to understand that the formula at issue not
felt themselves constantly repelled by the creed adopted only appeared orthodox, but might also serve as a concilby the Council of Chalcedon to defend the biblical doc- iatory measure toward the Monophysites, and he made a
trine of the nature of Christ and bridge the gap between vain attempt to do this in the religious conference with
the dogmatic parties. The letter of Pope Leo I to Flavian the followers of Severus of Antioch in 533.
of Constantinople was widely considered in the East as
Again, Justinian moved toward compromise in the relithe work of Satan; so that nobody cared to hear of the gious edict of 15 March 533,[74] and congratulated himChurch of Rome. The Emperors, however, had a pol- self that Pope John II admitted the orthodoxy of the impeicy of preserving the unity between Constantinople and rial confession.[75] The serious blunder that he had made
Rome; and this remained possible only if they did not at the beginning by abetting a severe persecution of the
swerve from the line dened at Chalcedon. In addition, Monophysite bishops and monks and thereby embittering
the factions in the East that had become stirred up and the population of vast regions and provinces, he remedisaected because of Chalcedon needed restraining and died eventually. His constant aim now remained to win
pacifying. This problem proved the more dicult be- over the Monophysites, yet not to surrender the Chalcause, in the East, the dissenting groups exceeded sup- cedonian faith. For many at court, he did not go far
porters of Chalcedon both in numerical strength and in enough: Theodora especially would have rejoiced to see
intellectual ability. Tension from the incompatibility of the Monophysites favoured unreservedly. Justinian, howthe two aims grew: whoever chose Rome and the West ever, felt restrained by the complications that would have
must renounce the East, and vice versa.
ensued with the West. But in the condemnation of the
Justinian entered the arena of ecclesiastical statecraft
shortly after his uncles accession in 518, and put an end
to the Monophysite schism that had prevailed between
Rome and Constantinople since 483. The recognition of
the Roman see as the highest ecclesiastical authority[73]
remained the cornerstone of his Western policy. Oensive as it was to many in the East, nonetheless Justinian
felt himself entirely free to take a Despotic stance toward
the popes such as Silverius and Vigilius. While no com-

Three Chapters Justinian tried to satisfy both the East and

the West, but succeeded in satisfying neither. Although
the pope assented to the condemnation, the West believed that the Emperor had acted contrary to the decrees
of Chalcedon. Though many delegates emerged in the
East subservient to Justinian, many, especially the Monophysites, remained unsatised; all the more bitter for him
because during his last years he took an even greater interest in theological matters.


punishment.[91] At Constantinople, on one occasion, not
a few Manicheans, after strict inquisition, were executed
in the emperors very presence: some by burning, others
by drowning.[92]

Justinian was one of the rst Roman Emperors to be depicted

wielding the cross on the obverse of a coin.


Suppression of other religions and


4 Architecture, learning, art and

Justinian was a prolic builder; the historian Procopius
bears witness to his activities in this area.[93] Under
Justinians patronage the San Vitale in Ravenna, which
features two famous mosaics representing Justinian and
Theodora, was completed.[24] Most notably, he had the
Hagia Sophia, originally a basilica-style church that had
been burnt down during the Nika riots, splendidly rebuilt
according to a completely dierent ground plan, under
the architectural supervision of Isidore of Miletus and
Anthemius of Tralles. According to Procopius, Justinian
stated at the completion of this edice, Solomon I have
outdone thee (in reference to the 1st Jewish temple).
This new cathedral, with its magnicent dome lled with
mosaics, remained the centre of eastern Christianity for

Justinians religious policy reected the Imperial conviction that the unity of the Empire unconditionally presupposed unity of faith, and it appeared to him obvious that this faith could only be the orthodox (Nicaean).
Those of a dierent belief were subjected to persecution,
which imperial legislation had eected from the time of
Constantius II and which would now vigorously continue.
The Codex contained two statutes[76] that decreed the total destruction of paganism, even in private life; these provisions were zealously enforced. Contemporary sources
(John Malalas, Theophanes, John of Ephesus) tell of se- Another prominent church in the capital, the Church of
the Holy Apostles, which had been in a very poor state
vere persecutions, even of men in high position.
near the end of the 5th century, was likewise rebuilt.[94]
Perhaps the most noteworthy event occurred in 529 when Works of embellishment were not conned to churches
the Neoplatonic Academy of Athens was placed under alone: excavations at the site of the Great Palace of Constate control as paganism by order of Justinian, eectively stantinople have yielded several high-quality mosaics datstrangling this training school for Hellenistic philosophy ing from Justinians reign, and a column topped by a
and science. Paganism was actively suppressed. In Asia bronze statue of Justinian on horseback and dressed in
Minor alone, John of Ephesus claimed to have converted a military costume was erected in the Augustaeum in
70,000 pagans.[77] Other peoples also accepted Christian- Constantinople in 543.[95] Rivalry with other, more esity: the Heruli,[78] the Huns dwelling near the Don,[79] the tablished patrons from the Constantinopolitan and exiled
Abasgi,[80] and the Tzanni in Caucasia.[81]
Roman aristocracy (like Anicia Juliana) might have enThe worship of Amun at Augila in the Libyan desert was forced Justinians building activities in the capital as a
abolished;[82] and so were the remnants of the worship means of strengthening his dynastys prestige.[96]
of Isis on the island of Philae, at the rst cataract of the Justinian also strengthened the borders of the Empire
Nile.[83] The Presbyter Julian[84] and the Bishop Longifrom Africa to the East through the construction of fornus[85] conducted a mission among the Nabataeans, and tications, and ensured Constantinople of its water supJustinian attempted to strengthen Christianity in Yemen
ply through construction of underground cisterns (see
by despatching a bishop from Egypt.[86]
Basilica Cistern). To prevent oods from damaging the
The civil rights of Jews were restricted[87] and their religious privileges threatened.[88] Justinian also interfered in
the internal aairs of the synagogue,[89] and he encouraged the Jews to use the Greek Septuagint in their synagogues in Constantinople.[90]

strategically important border town Dara, an advanced

arch dam was built. During his reign the large Sangarius
Bridge was built in Bithynia, securing a major military
supply route to the east. Furthermore, Justinian restored
cities damaged by earthquake or war and built a new city
The Emperor faced signicant opposition from the near his place of birth called Justiniana Prima, which was
Samaritans, who resisted conversion to Christianity and intended to replace Thessalonica as the political and reliwere repeatedly in insurrection. He persecuted them with gious centre of Illyricum.
rigorous edicts, but yet could not prevent reprisals to- In Justinians reign, and partly under his patronage,
wards Christians from taking place in Samaria toward Byzantine culture produced noteworthy historians, inthe close of his reign. The consistency of Justinians pol- cluding Procopius and Agathias, and poets such as Paul
icy meant that the Manicheans too suered severe per- the Silentiary and Romanus the Melodist ourished.
secution, experiencing both exile and threat of capital On the other hand, centres of learning as the Platonic

Academy in Athens and the famous Law School of Gold and silver were mined in the Balkans, Anatolia, ArBeirut[97] lost their importance during his reign. Despite menia, Cyprus, Egypt and Nubia.[104]
Justinians passion for the glorious Roman past, the practice of choosing Roman consul was allowed to lapse after

Economy and administration

Further information: Byzantine silk

As was the case under Justinians predecessors, the

Scene from daily life on a mosaic from the Great Palace of Constantinople, early 6th century

Gold coin of Justinian I (527565 CE) excavated in India probably in the south, an example of Indo-Roman trade during the

Empires economic health rested primarily on agriculture. In addition, long-distance trade ourished, reaching as far north as Cornwall where tin was exchanged
for Roman wheat.[99] Within the Empire, convoys sailing from Alexandria provided Constantinople with wheat
and grains. Justinian made the trac more ecient by
building a large granary on the island of Tenedos for storage and further transport to Constantinople.[100] Justinian
also tried to nd new routes for the eastern trade, which
was suering badly from the wars with the Persians.
One important luxury product was silk, which was imported and then processed in the Empire. In order to protect the manufacture of silk products, Justinian granted
a monopoly to the imperial factories in 541.[101] In order to bypass the Persian landroute, Justinian established
friendly relations with the Abyssinians, whom he wanted
to act as trade mediators by transporting Indian silk to the
Empire; the Abyssinians, however, were unable to compete with the Persian merchants in India.[102] Then, in the
early 550s, two monks succeeded in smuggling eggs of
silk worms from Central Asia back to Constantinople,[103]
and silk became an indigenous product.

At the start of Justinian Is reign he had inherited a surplus 28,800,000 solidi (400,000 pounds of gold) in the
imperial treasury from Anastasius I and Justin I.[50] Under Justinians rule, measures were taken to counter corruption in the provinces and to make tax collection more
ecient. Greater administrative power was given to
both the leaders of the prefectures and of the provinces,
while power was taken away from the vicariates of the
dioceses, of which a number were abolished. The overall trend was towards a simplication of administrative
infrastructure.[105] According to Brown (1971), the increased professionalization of tax collection did much to
destroy the traditional structures of provincial life, as it
weakened the autonomy of the town councils in the Greek
towns.[106] It has been estimated that before Justinian Is
reconquests the state had an annual revenue of 5,000,000
solidi in AD 530, but after his reconquests, the annual
revenue was increased to 6,000,000 solidi in AD 550.[50]
Throughout Justinians reign, the cities and villages of
the East prospered, although Antioch was struck by two
earthquakes (526, 528) and sacked and evacuated by the
Persians (540). Justinian had the city rebuilt, but on a
slightly smaller scale.[107]
Despite all these measures, the Empire suered several
major setbacks in the course of the 6th century. The rst
one was the plague, which lasted from 541 to 543 and,
by decimating the Empires population, probably created
a scarcity of labor and a rising of wages.[108] The lack of
manpower also led to a signicant increase in the number of barbarians in the Byzantine armies after the early
540s.[109] The protracted war in Italy and the wars with
the Persians themselves laid a heavy burden on the Empires resources, and Justinian was criticized for curtailing
the government-run post service, which he limited to only
one eastern route of military importance.[110]



Cultural depictions

In the Paradiso section of the Divine Comedy by Dante

Alighieri, Justinian I is prominently featured as a spirit
residing on the sphere of Mercury, which holds the ambitious souls of Heaven. His legacy is elaborated on, and
he is portrayed as a defender of the Christian faith and
the restorer of Rome to the Empire. However, Justinian
confesses that he was partially motivated by fame rather
than duty to God, which tainted the justice of his rule
in spite of his proud accomplishments. In his introduction, Cesare fui e son Iustinano (Caesar I was, and am
Justinian[111] ), his mortal title is contrasted with his immortal soul, to emphasize that glory in life is ephemeral,
while contributing to Gods glory is eternal, according to
Dorothy L. Sayers.[112] Dante also uses Justinian to criticize the factious politics of his 14th Century Italy, in contrast to the unied Italy of the Roman Empire.

Primary sources
Procopii Caesariensis opera omnia. Edited by J.
Haury; revised by G. Wirth. 3 vols. Leipzig:
Teubner, 196264. Greek text.
Procopius. Edited by H. B. Dewing. 7 vols. Loeb
Classical Library. Cambridge, Mass.: Harvard University Press and London, Hutchinson, 191440.
Greek text and English translation.
Procopius, The Secret History, translated by G.A.
Williamson. Harmondsworth: Penguin Books,
1966. A readable and accessible English translation
of the Anecdota.

[2] History of the Later Roman Empire from Arcadius to

Irene, Volume 2, J. B. Bury, Cosimo, Inc., 2008, ISBN
1605204056, p. 7.
[3] The Inheritance of Rome, Chris Wickham, Penguin Books
Ltd. 2009, ISBN 978-0-670-02098-0 (page 90)
[4] J. F. Haldon, Byzantium in the seventh century (Cambridge, 2003), 1719.
[5] For instance by G. P. Baker (Justinian, New York 1938),
or in the Outline of Great Books series (Justinian the
[6] On the western Roman empire, see now H. Brm, Westrom (Stuttgart 2013).
[7] History 303: Finances under Justinian. Retrieved 2012-11-14.
[8] Evans, J. A. S., The Age of Justinian: the circumstances of
imperial power. pp. 9394
[9] John Henry Merryman and Rogelio Prez-Perdomo, The
Civil Law Tradition: An Introduction to the Legal Systems
of Europe and Latin America, 3rd ed. (Stanford: Stanford
University Press, 2007), pp. 911.
[10] While he gloried Justinians achievements in his panegyric and his Wars, Procopius also wrote a hostile account,
Anekdota (the so-called Secret History), in which Justinian
is depicted as a cruel, venal, and incompetent ruler.
[11] In the Eastern Orthodox Church, including the Orthodox
Church in America, Justinian and his empress Theodora
are commemorated on the anniversary of his death, 14
November. Some denominations translate the Julian calendar date to 27 November on the Gregorian calendar.
The Calendar of Saints of the Lutheran ChurchMissouri
Synod and the Lutheran ChurchCanada also remember
Justinian on November 14.

Elizabeth Jereys, Michael Jereys, Roger Scott et [12] The precise location of this site is disputed; the possial. 1986, The Chronicle of John Malalas: A Transble locations include Justiniana Prima near the modern
lation, Byzantina Australiensia 4 (Melbourne: Austown of Lebane in southern Serbia and Taor near Skopje,
tralian Association for Byzantine Studies) ISBN 09593626-2-2
Edward Walford, translator (1846) The Ecclesiastical History of Evagrius: A History of the Church
from AD 431 to AD 594, Reprinted 2008. Evolution Publishing, ISBN 978-1-889758-88-6.[113]

See also
Flavia (gens)


[1] Britannica Concise Encyclopedia, Encyclopdia Britannica, Inc., 2008, ISBN 1593394926, p. 1007.

[13] Justinian referred to Latin as being his native tongue in

several of his laws. See Moorhead (1994), p. 18.

[14] Michael Maas (2005-04-18). The Cambridge Companion

to the Age of Justinian. Cambridge University Press.
[15] Treadgold, Warren T. (1997). A history of the Byzantine state and society. Stanford University Press. p. 246.
ISBN 978-0-8047-2630-6. Retrieved 12 October 2010.
[16] Barker, John W. (1966). Justinian and the later Roman
Empire. University of Wisconsin Press. p. 75. ISBN
978-0-299-03944-8. Retrieved 28 November 2011.
[17] Robert Browning (2003). Justinian and Theodora. Gorgias Press.
[18] Shifting Genres in Late Antiquity, Hugh Elton, Geoffrey Greatrex, Ashgate Publishing, Ltd., 2015, ISBN
1472443500, p. 259.


[19] Pannonia and Upper Moesia: A History of the Middle

Danube Provinces of the Roman Empire, Andrs Mcsy,
Routledge, 2014, ISBN 1317754255, p. 350.
[20] The sole source for Justinians full name, Flavius Petrus
Sabbatius Iustinianus (sometimes called Flavius Anicius
Iustinianus), are consular diptychs of the year 521 bearing his name.
[21] Sima M. Cirkovic (7 June 2004). The Serbs. Wiley.
[22] Justiniana Prima Site of an early Byzantine city located 30
km south-west of Leskovci in Kosovo. Groves Dictionaries. 2006.
[23] Byzantine Constantinople: Monuments, Topography and
Everyday Life. BRILL. 2001.
[24] Robert Browning. Justinian I in Dictionary of the Middle Ages, volume VII (1986).
[25] Cambridge Ancient History p. 65
[26] Moorhead (1994), pp. 2122, with a reference to Procopius, Secret History 8.3.
[27] This post seems to have been titular; there is no evidence
that Justinian had any military experience. See A.D.
Lee, The Empire at War, in Michael Maas (ed.), The
Cambridge Companion to the Age of Justinian (Cambridge
2005), pp. 113133 (pp. 113114).
[28] See Procopius, Secret history, ch. 13.
[29] M. Meier, Justinian, p. 57.
[30] P. N. Ure, Justinian and his age, p. 200.
[31] DIR Justinian. Roman Emperors. 1998-07-25. Retrieved 2012-11-14.
[32] Robert Browning, Justinian and Theodora (1987), 129;
James Allan Evans, The Empress Theodora: Partner of
Justinian (2002), 104
[33] Theological treatises authored by Justinian can be found
in Mignes Patrologia Graeca, Vol. 86.
[34] Crowley, Roger (2011). City of Fortune, How Venice Won
and Lost a Naval Empire. London: Faber & Faber Ltd. p.
109. ISBN 978-0-571-24595-6.
[35] S. P. Scott: The Civil Law. 2002-0619. Retrieved 2012-11-14.

[41] Vasiliev (1958), p. 157.

[42] For an account of Justinians wars, see Moorhead (1994),
pp. 2224, 6398, and 1019.
[43] See A. D. Lee, The Empire at War, in Michael Maas
(ed.), The Cambridge Companion to the Age of Justinian
(Cambridge 2005), pp. 11333 (pp. 11314). For
Justinians own views, see the texts of Codex Iustinianus
1.27.1 and Novellae 8.10.2 and 30.11.2.
[44] Justinian himself took the eld only once, during a campaign against the Huns in 559, when he was already an old
man. This enterprise was largely symbolic and although
no battle was fought, the emperor held a triumphal entry
in the capital afterwards. (See Browning, R. Justinian and
Theodora. London 1971, 193.)
[45] See Georey Greatrex, Byzantium and the East in the
Sixth Century in Michael Maas (ed.). Age of Justinian
(2005), pp. 477509.
[46] J. Norwich, Byzantium: The Early Centuries, p. 195.
[47] Moorhead (1994), p. 68.
[48] Moorhead (1994), p. 70.
[49] Procopius. II.XXVIII. De Bello Vandalico.
[50] Early Medieval and Byzantine Civilization: Constantine
to Crusades. Tulane.
[51] J. Norwich, Byzantium: The Early Centuries, 215
[52] Moorhead (1994), pp. 8486.
[53] See for this section Moorhead (1994), p. 89 ., Greatrex
(2005), p. 488 ., and especially H. Brm, Der
Perserknig im Imperium Romanum, in Chiron 36,
2006, p. 299 .
[54] J. Norwich, Byzantium: The Early Centuries, 229
[55] Procopius mentions this event both in the Wars and in the
Secret History, but gives two entirely dierent explanations for it. The evidence is briey discussed in Moorhead
(1994), pp. 9798.
[56] J. Norwich, Byzantium: The Early Centuries, 235
[57] Moorhead ((1994), p. 164) gives the lower, Greatrex
((2005), p. 489) the higher gure.
[58] J. Norwich, Byzantium: The Early Centuries, 251

[36] Kunkel, W. (translated by J. M. Kelly) An introduction to

Roman legal and constitutional history. Oxford, Clarendon Press, 1966; 168

[59] J. Norwich, Byzantium: The Early Centuries, 233

[37] Darrell P. Hammer. Russia and the Roman Law. JSTOR. Retrieved 2012-11-14.

[61] See Lee (2005), p. 125 .

[38] Garland (1999), pp. 1617

[62] W. Pohl, Justinian and the Barbarian Kingdoms, in

Maas (2005), pp. 448476; 472

[39] J. Norwich, Byzantium: The Early Centuries, 200

[63] See Haldon (2003), pp. 1719.

[40] Diehl, Charles. Theodora, Empress of Byzantium ((c)

1972 by Frederick Ungar Publishing, Inc., transl. by S.R.
Rosenbaum from the original French Theodora, Imperatice de Byzance), 89.

[64] See Pohl, ibidem.

[60] Getica, 303

[65] Treatises written by Justinian can be found in Mignes Patrologia Graeca, Vol. 86.



[66] Cod., I., i. 5.

[98] Vasiliev (1952), p. I 192.

[67] MPG, lxxxvi. 1, p. 993.

[99] John F. Haldon, Economy and Administration, in

Michael Maas (ed.), The Cambridge Companion to the Age
of Justinian (Cambridge 2005), pp. 2859 (p. 35)

[68] Cod., I., i. 7.

[69] Novellae, cxxxi.
[70] Mansi, Concilia, viii. 970B.
[71] Novellae, xlii.

[100] John Moorhead, Justinian (London/New York 1994), p.

[101] Peter Brown, The World of Late Antiquity (London 1971),
pp. 157158

[72] P. Heather, The Fall of the Roman Empire: A New History

[102] Vasiliev (1952), p. 167
of Rome and the Barbarians, 283
[73] cf. Novellae, cxxxi.

[103] See Moorhead (1994), p. 167; Procopius, Wars, 8.17.18

[75] Cod., I., i. 8.

[104] Justinians Gold Mines - Mining Technology | TechnoMine. 2008-12-03. Retrieved 2012-11-14.

[76] Cod., I., xi. 9 and 10.

[105] Haldon (2005), p. 50

[74] Cod., L, i. 6.

[77] Franois Nau, in Revue de l'orient chretien, ii., 1897, 482. [106] Brown (1971), p. 157
[78] Procopius, Bellum Gothicum, ii. 14; Evagrius, Hist. eccl., [107] Kenneth G. Holum, The Classical City in the Sixth Century, in Michael Maas (ed.), Age of Justinian (2005), pp.
iv. 20
[79] Procopius, iv. 4; Evagrius, iv. 23.
[108] Moorhead (1994), pp. 100101
[80] Procopius, iv. 3; Evagrius, iv. 22.
[109] John L. Teall, The Barbarians in Justinians Armies, in
Speculum, vol. 40, No. 2, 1965, 294322. The total
[81] Procopius, Bellum Persicum, i. 15.
strength of the Byzantine army under Justinian is esti[82] Procopius, De Aediciis, vi. 2.
mated at 150,000 men (J. Norwich, Byzantium: The Early
Centuries, 259).
[83] Procopius, Bellum Persicum, i. 19.
[84] DCB, iii. 482
[85] John of Ephesus, Hist. eccl., iv. 5 sqq.

[110] Brown (1971), p. 158; Moorhead (1994), p. 101

[111] Paradiso, Canto VI verse 10

[112] Dorothy L. Sayers, Paradiso, notes on Canto VI.

[86] Procopius, Bellum Persicum, i. 20; Malalas, ed. Niebuhr,
Bonn, 1831, pp. 433 sqq.
[113] The Christian Roman Empire series. Retrieved 2012-11-14.
[87] Cod., I., v. 12
[88] Procopius, Historia Arcana, 28;
[89] Nov., cxlvi., 8 February 553
[90] Michael Maas (2005), The Cambridge companion to the
Age of Justinian, Cambridge University Press, pp. 16,
ISBN 978-0-521-81746-2, retrieved 18 August 2010
[91] Cod., I., v. 12.
[92] F. Nau, in Revue de l'orient, ii., 1897, p. 481.
[93] See Procopius, Buildings.
[94] Vasiliev (1952), p. 189
[95] Brian Croke, Justinians Constantinople, in Michael
Maas (ed.), The Cambridge Companion to the Age of Justinian (Cambridge 2005), pp. 6086 (p. 66)

10 References
This article incorporates text from the Scha
Herzog Encyclopedia of Religious Knowledge.

11 Bibliography
Bury, J. B. (1958). History of the later Roman Empire 2. New York (reprint).
Cameron, Averil et al.(eds.) (2000). Justinian
Era. The Cambridge Ancient History (Second ed.)
(Cambridge) 14.

[96] See Croke (2005), p. 364 ., and Moorhead (1994).

Cumberland Jacobsen, Torsten (2009). The Gothic

War. Westholme.

[97] Following a terrible earthquake in 551, the school at

Beirut was transferred to Sidon and had no further signicance after that date. (Vasiliev (1952), p. 147)

Dixon, Pierson (1958). The Glittering Horn: Secret

Memoirs of the Court of Justinian.

Evans, James Allan (2005). The Emperor Justinian
and the Byzantine Empire. Westport, CT: Greenwood Press. ISBN 0-313-32582-0.
Garland, Lynda (1999).
Byzantine empresses:
women and power in Byzantium, AD 5271204.
London: Routledge.

Reconstruction of column of Justinian in Constantinople

Opera Omnia by Migne Patrologia Graeca with analytical indexes
Preface to the Digest of Emperor Justinian

Maas, Michael (ed.) (2005). The Cambridge Companion to the Age of Justinian. Cambridge.

Annotated Justinian Code (University of Wyoming


Meier, Mischa (2003). Das andere Zeitalter Justinians. Kontingenz Erfahrung und Kontingenzbewltigung im 6. Jahrhundert n. Chr. (in German). Gottingen.

Mosaic of Justinian in Hagia Sophia)

Meier, Mischa (2004). Justinian. Herrschaft, Reich,

und Religion (in German). Munich.
Moorhead, John (1994). Justinian. London.
Rosen, William (2007). Justinians Flea: Plague,
Empire, and the Birth of Europe. Viking Adult.
ISBN 978-0-670-03855-8.
Rubin, Berthold (1960). Das Zeitalter Iustinians.
Berlin. German standard work; partially obsolete,
but still useful.
Sarris, Peter (2006). Economy and society in the age
of Justinian. Cambridge.
Ure, PN (1951). Justinian and his Age. Penguin,
Vasiliev, A. A. (1952). History of the Byzantine Empire (Second ed.). Madison.
Sidney Dean, Duncan B. Campbell, Ian Hughes,
Ross Cowan, Raaele D'Amato, and Christopher
Lillington-Martin, eds. (JunJul 2010). Justinians reman: Belisarius and the Byzantine empire. Ancient Warfare magazine IV (3).


External links

St Justinian the Emperor Orthodox Icon and

Synaxarion (14 November)
The Anekdota (Secret history) of Procopius in English translation.
The Buildings of Procopius in English translation.
The Roman Law Library by Professor Yves Lassard
and Alexandr Koptev
Lecture series covering 12 Byzantine Rulers, including Justinian by Lars Brownworth
De Imperatoribus Romanis. An Online Encyclopedia of Roman Emperors





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