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Justinian (527-565 A.D.).

James Allan Evans

University of British Columbia

mosaic of Justinian


The reign of Justinian was a turning-point in Late Antiquity. It is the period when paganism finally lost its long struggle to survive, and when the schism in Christianity between the Monophysite east and the Chalcedonian west became insurmountable. From a military viewpoint, it marked the last time that the Roman Empire could go on the offensive with hope of success. Africa and Italy were recovered, and a foothold was established in Spain. When Justinian died, the frontiers were still intact although the Balkans had been devastated by a series of raids and the Italian economy was in ruins. His extensive building program has left us the most celebrated example of Byzantine ecclesiastical architecture that still survives: Hagia Sophia in modern Istanbul. His reign was a period when classical culture was in sharp decline and yet it had a last flowering, with historians such as Procopius and Agathias working within the tradition inherited from Herodotus and Thucydides, and poets such as Paul the Silentiary who wrote some of the most sensuous poems that the classical tradition has ever produced. The Codex Justinianus, the Institutes and the Digest of Roman jurisprudence, all commissioned by Justinian, are monuments to the past achievements of Roman legal heritage. Justinian's reign sums up the past. It also provides a matrix for the future. In particular, there was the bubonic plague, which appeared in Constantinople in 542, for the first time in Europe, and then travelled round the empire in search of victims, returning to the capital for a new crop in 558. The plague ended a period of economic growth and initiated one of overstrained resources.[[1]]

The Background.

The name "Justinianus" has almost completely blotted out the name which this emperor bore at his birth: Petrus Sabbatius. The sole source for his full name, "Flavius Petrus Sabbatius Justinianus," is the consular diptychs made for his consulship in 521. The cognomen "Justinianus" indicates that he was the adoptive son of the emperor Justin (518-527), his uncle, and the adoption must have taken place before his consulship year, possibly before Justin became emperor. Thus it was Justin who launched his nephew, his sister's son, and Justinian's influence over Justin was such that later contemporaries regarded Justin's reign as an extension of Justinian's. However, in 518, Justinian was only a candidatus under the command of the Master of Offices and although a tradition attributed to Peter the Patrician had it that the Excubitors tried to put him forward as emperor to succeed Anastasius, but he declined, the story is not credible. The story told by John Malalas[[2]] has the ring of truth: the imperial chamberlain Amantius was ambitious for power, but since, as a eunuch, he could not himself become emperor, he gave Justin, the commander of the Excubitors, the effective palace guard (unlike the candidati and the scholares, who were ornamental) money to buy support for his domestic, the count Theocritus. Justin used the money to buy support for himself, and he began his reign by putting Amantius to death.

Justin's family came from an area of the empire where Latin rather than Greek was spoken: Justin himself was a native of the town of Bederiana near Nish and his sister's son, Justinian, was born at the village of Tauresium, near Scupi, ca. 482.[[3]] He was to rebuild his native village eight years after his own assumption of the purple and rename it Justiniana Prima, modern Caricin Grad. Justin had risen through the ranks of the army until he was commander of the Excubitors when the emperor Anastasius died on 9 July, 518 and moved from there unexpectedly to become emperor. He moved quickly to consolidate his position. The patrician Apion, a member of a famous family that held extensive lands in Egypt, who had been exiled and ordained a priest in 510, was recalled and appointed prefect. Anastasius' old enemy, Vitalian, who had rebelled against his Monophysite policies, was made magister militum praesentalis, which placed him in charge of the military forces in the capital and put him in a better position than Justinian to succeed old Justin. Vitalian became consul in 520, but, in the same year, he was brutally murdered. Justinian, who succeeded Vitalian as magister militum praesentalis, was suspected, rightly or wrongly. In any case, the murder removed a dangerous rival. In 521, Justinian himself became consul, and his inauguration was a blatantly lavish affair, designed to make his mark. In that year, too, we find Justinian writing to the pope in Rome and speaking of the empire as "our state", implying thereby that he was Justin's mouthpiece.

It must have been not long after that he married Theodora, whose earlier life is described vividly by Procopius in his Secret History, where he provided additions to his History of the Wars of Justinian which were too lurid to publish. Theodora had been one of three daughters of the bearkeeper employed by the Green faction in the Hippodrome, and her mother was a professional dancer and actress. When Theodora's father died, her mother remarried and hoped that the Greens would appoint her new husband bearkeeper, for in the bearkeepers' guild positions usually passed from father to son, but the decision belonged to the lead pantomime dancer to make and he was bribed to appoint someone else. Destitute, the mother and her daughters presented their petition in the Hippodrome, where the Greens rejected them, but the Blues, who had lost their bearkeeper, gave Theodora's stepfather the job. Theodora herself became a mime actress as soon as she was old enough. Theodora and Justinian were to remain Blue aficionados; indeed, up until the "Nika" revolt of 532, Justinian showed open favoritism towards the Blues.[[4]]

According to Procopius, Justin's wife Euphemia objected to the marriage of Justinian and Theodora even though she was fond of her nephew, for actresses and prostitutes were virtually synonymous; even the church denied them the sacraments. Theodora already had a bastard daughter and Procopius reports that she also had a son, saved from infanticide by his father, but Procopius' story sounds like malicious gossip. But after Euphemia's death, Justin was willing to clear the way. He passed a constitution which said that a contrite actress who abandoned her profession should recover her pristine condition, and marry whomsoever she chose, even a senator. Her children would be legitimate. Justinian and Theodora hoped for children; indeed years later Theodora was to ask for the prayers of Mar Saba that she might conceive, but the saint refused to beseech God on behalf of a Monophysite.

For Theodora left no doubt about where her religious sympathies lay. It may be that she was converted in the Monophysite stronghold, Alexandria, by the patriarch Timothy III (517-535), who ventured to shelter the patriarch of Antioch, Severus, the chief Monophysite spokesman during his lifetime, when he was driven from his see on Justin I's accession. Procopius[[5]] relates that before she met Justinian, she had accompanied the governor of Libya, Hecebolus, to his province and when he abandoned her, she made her way to Alexandria and thence to the capital, and a late seventh-century Egyptian text reports that in Alexandria she met Timothy. Procopius charged that the theological differences of the imperial couple were intended simply to stir up trouble, but both were devoted to their doctrinal tenets and both were able to defend them in debate. Justinian respected his wife's beliefs; he promised her when she was on her deathbed in 548 that he would continue to protect the Monophysite heretics whom she sheltered in the palace of Hormisdas in Constantinople. He kept his promise. At the same time, neither Justinian nor Theodora could have been unaware of the civil advantages of their private theological "quarrel": as long as the Monophysites felt that they had a champion at court, their allegiance to the emperor and the empire would remain secure.

There was, however, one consequence of the lowly origins of the emperor and empress. Both placed great emphasis on court ceremonial. The old ruling classes in Constantinople, who were proud and snobbish even though their pedigrees were often rather short, had looked down at these new dynasts sprung from peasants and actors. Justinian and Theodora paraded their power. Theodora in particular took pleasure in her new status. Even Justinian's most conspicuous achievement in architecture, Hagia Sophia, made a statement. Before its construction, the largest church in Constantinople was the church of St. Polyeuktos, built at the end of Justin's reign by Anicia Juliana, the wealthy scion of one of Constantinople's "old" families which boasted imperial blood.[[6]]

Justinian succeeded his uncle on 1 August, 527. He had already been made co-emperor four months earlier, and coins were minted showing the two emperors seated beside each other. Old Justin may have been less willing to yield power to his nephew than later contemporaries believed, for when pope John visited Constantinople in 526, he favored Justin with a coronation ceremony, but did not include Justinian. But Justin was failing. On August 1, he died of complications arising from an old war wound in a foot, and Justinian's succession was smooth.

The Early Years.

Justinian's first years as emperor were full of action. There was a spate of legislation, directed against Manichaeans, pagans and Samaritans. Pagans were barred from the civil service, baptized Christians who lapsed into paganism were to be put to death, as were any persons caught making secret sacrifice to the gods; pagan teachers were denied stipends from the imperial treasury and if they would not accept baptism, they were to lose their property and be banished into exile. It was probably this last law which put an end to the Neoplatonic Academy in Athens, which was still a pagan stronghold. The head of the Academy, Damaskios, and six other philosophers emigrated to Persia, looking for a place with the new king of Persia, Khusro I, but they returned, disappointed, within less than a year. Some of them may have settled at Harran (Carrhae) and founded a school there which lasted into the Islamic period. However Khusro saw to it that one clause in the so-called "Endless Peace" of 532 between Persia and Justinian promised these philosophers the right to practice their religion unmolested within the empire, and the promise seems to have been kept.[[7]]

The Samaritans, who claim descent from the tribes of Ephraim and Manassah, are now reduced to a corporal's guard, but in the early sixth century they seem to have made up a large number of the farmers in First and Second Palestine. Their center was Neapolis, Biblical Shechem, and their sacred mountain was nearby Mt. Gerizim. They were disliked both by Christians and Jews. A law of Justinian's dating before 529 ordered their synagogues destroyed and took away their right to bequeath property to the non-orthodox: a favorite method of persecuting persons outside correct Christian belief. (The right was restored in 551, with the proviso that if a Samaritan had both Samaritan and Christian heirs, the latter should have sole title to the legacy). The Samaritans revolted in the summer of 529, coordinating their uprising with a raid into Syria by al-Mundhir, the sheikh of the Arab Lakhmid tribe which was a formidable ally of Persia. After some initial success the Samaritans were defeated; their leader Julian was beheaded and the head sent to the emperor, and some 20,000 Samaritans were sold into slavery. The agricultural economy of First and Second Palestine was devastated. Procopius,[[8]] writing two decades later in his Secret History complains about deserted farms. In midsummer, 556, the Samaritans rose again, this time in Caesarea, and with some Jewish allies. The revolt was crushed without mercy. After Justinian's death, his successor Justin II in 572 renewed Justinian's restrictions on Samaritan legacies and banned them again from public office. The result was a last revolt and a last suppression which effectively extinguished the Samaritan problem.

Judaism was still a religio licita under Roman law and the emperor's hand was relatively light. The rabbinical school at Tiberias was headed by a chief rabbi, called the archipherecite by the Greeks, who in Justinian's reign was Mar Zutra, the son of the head of the Jewish community in Babylon, and he exercised many of the powers once enjoyed by the Jewish patriarch, the Nasi, whose office had come to an end with the extinction of the House of Hillel in 425. Archaeology shows that in Galilee and the Golan Heights there was a building boom in synagogues in the fourth and fifth centuries, which continued into Justinian's reign. Jews had more to fear from fanatical monks than from the law. Nonetheless in mid-535 we find Justinian issuing a constitution targeting heretics, pagans and Jews in the newly-conquered prefecture of Africa: their places of worship were to be turned into Catholic churches. What was new in this law was that Jews were lumped together with heretics and pagans. The law seems not to have been enforced as far as Jews were concerned. Nonetheless, we sense a growing feeling of insecurity among Jews which grew into antagonism: when the Persians captured Jerusalem in 614, the Jews were to assist actively in the massacre of the Christians.[[9]]

On the eastern front, at Justinian's accession the magister militum was a nephew of the emperor Anastasius, Hypatius, an experienced officer of no great ability. The commander of Armenia was Sittas, and the duke of Mesopotamia was Belisarius, both former members of Justinian's bodyguard where they had come to his notice. In 529, Justinian replaced Hypatius with Belisarius, whose staff included the historian Procopius, who served as Belisarius' legal advisor (adsessor). Procopius' account of the war with Persia at this point in time is biased in favor of his commander, although later his disillusion was to be bitter. Belisarius had married a crony of the empress, Antonina, and he rapidly acquired a military reputation: in June, 530, he won a major victory over a Persian invasion force at Daras, the fortress which Anastasius had built on the Persian frontier in violation of treaty obligations. The following year, however, he suffered a defeat at Callinicum on the Euphrates River and was recalled to Constantinople. Procopius does his best to shift blame for the defeat from Belisarius onto the Ghassanid (Arab) allies of the empire, but the account of John Malalas[[10]] serves as a corrective: Belisarius' leadership had been barely competent, and al-Harith, the Ghassanid phylarch, and his tribesmen had given a good account of themselves. But in September, the shah of Persia, Kavadh, died and his successor Khusro I wanted peace until he could consolidate his position, for he was not his father's eldest son. In 532, the empire and Persia agreed upon the "Endless Peace". Justinian paid handsomely for this peace: 11,000 gold pounds, but if it had been really "endless" or at least of considerable duration, it would have been worth the price. As it was, Persia attacked again in 540.

The following year, in 533, Justinian launched an expedition led by Belisarius against the Vandal kingdom in Africa and Procopius suggests that he already had this expedition in mind when he recalled Belisarius from the eastern front.[[11]] However, there is an ad hoc quality about Justinian's campaigns in the west. Justinian felt the appeal of renovatio, and as the native son of a Latin-speaking area of the empire, he probably felt an emotional involvement in Italy. But he never forgot the importance of the eastern provinces and the revenues they brought to the treasury. Yet with the "Endless Peace", he imagined that the Persian frontier was safe and that his hands were free to grab whatever opportunities there were for recovering the lost provinces in the west. As for Belisarius, the "Nika Revolt" was to restore his standing at court as a loyal, valuable retainer.

The 'Nika' Revolt[[12]]

The 'Nika' Revolt which broke out in January, 532, in Constantinople, was an outburst of street violence which went far beyond the norms even in a society where a great deal of street violence was accepted. Every city worth notice had its chariot-racing factions which took their names from their racing colors: Reds, Whites, Blues and Greens. These were professional organizations initially responsible for fielding chariot-racing teams in the hippodromes, though by Justinian's time they were in charge of other shows as well. The Blues and the Greens were dominant, but the Reds and Whites attracted some supporters: the emperor Anastasius was a fan of the Reds. The aficionados of the factions were assigned their own blocs of seats in the Hippodrome in Constantinople, opposite the imperial loge, and the Blue and Green "demes" provided an outlet for the energies of the city's young males. G. M. Manojlovic[[13]] in an influential article originally published in Serbo-Croat in 1904, argued that the "demes" were organized divisions of a city militia, and thus played an important role in the imperial defense structure. His thesis is now generally disregarded and the dominant view is that of Alan Cameron,[[14]] that demos, whether used in the singular or plural, means simply "people" and the rioting of the "demes", the "fury of the Hippodrome", as Edward Gibbon called it, was hooliganism, which was also Gibbon's view. Efforts to make the Greens into supporters of Monophysitism and the Blues of Orthodoxy founder on lack of evidence. However, in support of Manojlovic's thesis, it must be said that, although we cannot show that the Blue and Green "demes" were an organized city militia, we hear of "Young Greens" both in Constantinople and Alexandria who bore arms, and in 540, when Antioch fell to the Persians, Blue and Green street-fighters continued to defend the city after the regular troops had fled.

Justinian and Theodora were known Blue supporters, and when street violence escalated under Justin I, Procopius[[15]] claims that they encouraged it. But since Justinian became emperor he had taken a firmer, more even-handed stand. On Saturday, January 10, 532, the city prefect Eudaemon who had arrested some hooligans and found seven guilty of murder, had them hanged outside the city at Sycae, across the Golden Horn, but the scaffold broke and saved two of them from death, a Blue and a Green. Some monks from St. Conon's monastery nearby took the two men to sanctuary at the church of St Lawrence where the prefect set troops to watch. The following Tuesday while the two malefactors were still trapped in the church, the Blues and Greens begged Justinian to show mercy. He ignored the plea and made no reply. The Blues and Green continued their appeals until the twenty-second race (out of twenty-four) when they suddenly united and raised the watchword 'Nika'. Riots started and the court took refuge in the palace. That evening the mob burned the city prefect's praetorium.

Justinian tried to continue the games next day but only provoked more riot and arson. The rioting and destruction continued throughout the week; even the arrival of loyal troops from Thrace failed to restore order. On Sunday before sunrise, Justinian appeared in the Hippodrome where he repented publicly and promised an amnesty. The mob turned hostile, and Justinian retreated. The evening before Justinian had dismissed two nephews of the old emperor Anastasius, Hypatius and Pompey, against their will, from the palace and sent them home, and now the mob found Hypatius and proclaimed him emperor in the Hippodrome. Justinian was now ready to flee, and perhaps would have done so except for Theodora, who did not frighten easily. Instead Justinian decided to strike ruthlessly. Belisarius and Mundo made their separate ways into the Hippodrome where they fell on Hypatius' supporters who were crowded there, and the 'Nika' riot ended with a bloodbath.

A recent study of the riot by Geoffrey Greatrex has made the point that what was unique about it was not the actions of the mob so much as Justinian's attempts to deal with it. His first reaction was to placate: when the mob demanded that three of his ministers must go, the praetorian prefect of the East, John the Cappadocian, the Quaestor of the Sacred Palace Tribonian and the urban prefect Eudaemon, Justinian replaced them immediately. He hesitated when he should have been firm and aggravated the situation. It may well have been Theodora who emboldened him for the final act of repression. Procopius imagines Theodora on the last day engaging in formal debate about what should be done, and misquoting a famous maxim that was once offered the tyrant of Syracuse, Dionysius the Elder "Tyranny is a good shroud." Theodora emends it to "Kingship is a good shroud" and readers of Procopius may have thought wryly that the emendation was unnecessary.[[16]] The formal debate, and Theodora's great scene, was probably a creation of Procopius' imagination, but a splendid one.

The 'Nika' revolt left Justinian firmly in charge. The mob was cowed and the senatorial opposition that surfaced during the revolt was forced underground. The damage to Constantinople was great, but it cleared the way for Justinian's own building program. Work in his new church of Hagia Sophia to replace the old Hagia Sophia that was destroyed in the rioting, started only forty-five days after the revolt was crushed.[[17]] The two leaders of the Hippodrome massacre, Mundo and Belisarius, went on to new appointments: Mundo back to Illyricum as magister militum and Belisarius to make his reputation as the conqueror of the Vandals in Africa. The 530s were a decade of confidence and the 'Nika' riot was only a momentary crisis.

The Conquest of Africa.[[18]]

The motive for attacking the Vandal Kingdom in Africa, which was a century old, was sound. King Hilderic (523-30) had fostered good relations with the Catholics; exiled bishops were recalled and Catholic churches reopened. But in 530 he was deposed by his cousin Gelimer and, from his prison, Hilderic appealed to Justinian. Even so, Constantinople was nervous: an earlier expedition dispatched in 468 had ended in a disaster which was still remembered. John the Cappadocian, dismissed as praetorian prefect during the 'Nika' riot but soon reinstated, advised against it. But Justinian decided upon the expedition nonetheless. There was an influential lobby of African merchants, churchmen and dispossessed landowners who urged him on, and the final argument may have been religious: to rescue Africa from their Arian Vandal rulers whose persecution of Catholics was notorious.

The expedition set sail about the summer solstice in 533 under the command of Belisarius. The field army numbered about 18,000 men: 10,000 of them infantry and 5,000 cavalry, plus some barbarian federates. In Sicily, Belisarius got the welcome news that Gelimer was unaware of the offensive and had sent 5,000 men and 120 ships under his brother Tata to put down a rebellion in Sardinia. The expedition landed at Caput Vada, modern Ras Kaboudia in Tunisia, and the army marched along the coast towards Carthage while the fleet accompanied it offshore.

Gelimer reacted by putting Hilderic to death and marched out to resist. But his tactics misfired and at the Tenth Milestone (Ad Decimum) outside Carthage he was routed. The next day, Belisarius entered Carthage. Gelimer fled westwards and joined his troops who had been recalled from Sardinia, but in mid-December he suffered another defeat at Tricamarum, probably not far from Carthage though the actual site is unknown. Gelimer fled and took refuge with the Berbers. After an uncomfortable winter besieged on "Mt. Papua", he surrendered. As for Belisarius, rumors circulated that he might make himself an independent king in Africa and, to quench them, he chose to return to Constantinople with the Vandal captives and the booty, although Justinian allowed him the option of remaining in Africa. To celebrate the victory, a version of a Roman triumph was held in the capital, where the procession ended in the Hippodrome, with Belisarius and Gelimer both prostrating themselves before the emperor and empress in the imperial loge. Gelimer was granted an estate in Galatia and some 2,000 Vandals were conscripted into the imperial army.

The Byzantines had yet to face the Berbers, or "Moors" who in the last years of the Vandal kingdom had encroached on Vandal territory in the south. Belisarius' successor was his domesticus Solomon, a native of the eastern frontier near Daras and a eunuch, though his castration was the result of an accident rather than by design. Appointed both praetorian prefect of the new African prefecture (created April, 534) and military commander, initiated a campaign against the Berbers and in order to contain their razzias, he built a string of forts, some of which have survived. But in 536 a revolt broke out in the army, and Solomon had to flee to Sicily to get help from Belisarius who had begun his Ostrogothic campaign. Belisarius made a lightning trip to Africa and saved Carthage from the rebels but he could not stay, and to meet the growing crisis, Justinian appointed his cousin Germanus whose military abilities should have guaranteed him a great career had not he suffered from Theodora's prejudice. Germanus crushed the revolt and for two years Africa was calm. In 539, Solomon was reappointed, and came with fresh troops.

Solomon first weeded out subversives in the army and then began a campaign against the Berbers which took him into the Aurès mountain range. Mauretania Prima was annexed and Solomon built defensive works to protect imperial territory. When rebellion broke out again in 543, the cause was the blundering of Solomon's nephew Sergius, a favorite of Theodora, who was appointed first duke of Tripolitania and then Solomon's successor after his death in 544. Sergius was disliked both by his soldiers and by civilians, and the Berbers despised him. In 545, Justinian appointed another officer, Areobindus, but he proved incompetent and was assassinated in 546. But later that year, Justinian appointed John Troglita, an experienced commander who was able to win a major victory in 548, after which Africa was at peace, and it seems to have been reasonably prosperous thereafter until the Arab conquest. John Troglita's achievement is memorialized by the Johannid, an epic written swiftly by an African schoolmaster, Corippus, who presumably got to Constantinople as a reward, for he was there to write a panegyric on the accession of Justin II when Justinian died.

The Campaign against the Ostrogoths.

The Ostrogothic campaign did not end until 552, and it left Italy in ruinous condition. Yet it seems to have begun on a wave of optimism sparked by the successes in Africa. The force which Belisarius led to Sicily in 535 was less than half the size of the one he had taken against the Vandals. It must have seemed to Justinian that the Gothic regime was tottering and offering a ready opportunity for an easy victory. The great Theodoric had died one year before Justinian's accession. His grandson Athalaric was a minor and the regent, his mother Amalasuintha, was considered too Romanized for the taste of many of the Gothic nobles who were showing a degree of independence now that Theodoric's firm hand was gone. At one point, Amalasuintha felt so threatened that she contemplated flight and got the promise of refuge in Constantinople, but decided to remain where she was after she succeeded in disposing of three of her enemies.

When Athalaric died (2 Oct., 534) Amalasuintha tried to strengthen her position by associating her cousin, Theodoric's nephew, Theodahad, on the throne, but it was an unfortunate move. Theodahad had her murdered. Justinian now had ample justification for war, and high hopes for success.

The attack launched in 535 was two-pronged. One spearhead led by Mundo, the magister militum of Illyricum, led a force to Dalmatia where he was to lose his life in a skirmish with the Goths the next year, and the other, commanded by Belisarius landed in Sicily. Only at Palermo did Belisarius meet any resistance, and on December 31, he entered Syracuse, where he laid down the consulship which he had held for that year. Theodahad attempted negotiation: he sent pope Agapetus I to Constantinople, where he masterminded the deposition of the patriarch Anthimus, who was too friendly to Monophysitism, and consecrated a new patriarch, but he achieved nothing for the Goths. The following spring, Belisarius crossed to the mainland and had an easy advance until he reached Naples, which had a Gothic garrison. Naples was entered by an unguarded aqueduct after a twenty-day siege and sacked. Theodahad's failure to relieve Naples was the last straw as far as the Gothic rank and file were concerned and they chose a new king, Witigis, not of the Amal royal house, raising him on a shield according to German custom. Theodahad fled for Ravenna, but he was overtaken and killed.

The Goths, in council with their new king, decided that the more pressing danger came from the Franks in the north whom Justinian had incited to invade Italy. Witigis made for Ravenna where he married Amalasuintha's daughter Matasuintha, who made an unwilling bride, and bought off the Franks. Belisarius advanced on Rome where Pope Silverius urged the Romans to invite him into the city. Silverius had been only recently elected with Theodahad's support, Agapetus having died in Constantinople, and Witigis had extracted a loyalty oath from him and the Romans, but Italian sympathies were with the imperial forces. Belisarius entered Rome on 9 December, and prepared for the Gothic counterattack.

On hearing of the fall of Rome, Witigis raised an army which Procopius numbers at 150,000, mostly mailed cavalry, and made directly for Rome. The Gothic siege of Rome was to last one year and nine days, until mid-March, 537. Both the besiegers and the besieged began to suffer from hunger and disease and when Byzantine reinforcements and supplies started to arrive, the Goths sought a truce in order to send envoys to Constantinople to negotiate terms of peace. But Belisarius sent orders to John, the nephew of Vitalian who was wintering in Picenum, that if the Goths broke the truce, he was to plunder Gothic estates in the area, and when the Goths did, in fact, break the truce, John launched a campaign which brought him to Rimini, a day's march from Ravenna where Witigis' unhappy wife Matasuintha contacted him to offer marriage and betrayal. Alarmed at the threat to Ravenna, Witigis lifted the siege of Rome and retreated.

As the Goths retreated northwards, they laid siege to Rimini, shutting in John, the nephew of Vitalian who had remained there in defiance of Belisarius' orders. Belisarius made no great haste to relieve him, until in mid-538 a new army arrived in Italy led by the eunuch Narses, praepositus sacri cubiculi and a friend of John. He argued that John, insubordinate though he might have been, could not be abandoned to the Goths, and a message arrived from John himself saying that Rimini could not last any longer than another week. Belisarius moved swiftly to relieve it, and John emerged, bitter and ready to ally himself with Narses against Belisarius. The rift between Belisarius and Narses grew to the extent that they operated independently and one result was the destruction of Milan in 539, which might have been saved if the Byzantine general staff had cooperated against the Goths. Learning of the fall of Milan, Justinian did not assign blame, but he did recall Narses.

Early in 539, the Goths made a move which portended danger. They made contact with the king of Persia, Khusro, and urged him to set aside the "Endless Peace" and attack the empire. Khusro was receptive, but the Gothic position in Italy deteriorated too rapidly: Belisarius took Osimo, south of Ancona, and moved to invest Ravenna itself. Witigis had two options: one was to accept an offer from the Merovingian Franks to help in return for sharing the rule of Italy, and the other was to negotiate with the Romans. Justinian's envoys arrived with an offer to leave Italy north of the Po River, and half the Gothic treasure to the Goths, while the rest would go to the Romans. In the light of future events, this was a prudent settlement: it would have established an Ostrogothic kingdom as a buffer in the north of Italy, and freed Roman troops to deal with the Persian threat. But Belisarius, hoping for another triumph to match what he had won in the Vandal War, aborted this arrangement. The rumors that arose after his victory in Africa surfaced again: that he wanted to make himself king, independent of Constantinople, and the Goths believed them enough to make him an offer: they would proclaim him emperor in the west, reviving an office which had lapsed in 476 with the deposition of Romulus Augustulus. Belisarius accepted. Procopius indicates that it was a pretended acceptance, and that once Ravenna had surrendered, he would reveal himself as a loyal subject of the emperor. Thus in May, 540, the Romans entered Ravenna, but Justinian, hearing of the plot, ordered Belisarius to return. The emperor's motive may have been the danger on the eastern front as much as distrust of Belisarius, but in any case, Belisarius, with important Goths including Witigis and Matasuintha, and the Gothic treasure, made their way to the capital, where the emperor's greeting was cool and mistrustful. Belisarius was not allowed a second triumph. The Goths had already chosen a new leader, Ildibad, nephew of the king of the Visigoths in Spain, and when he was assassinated in 541, his nephew in turn, Totila (as Procopius names him) or Baduila (as the name appears on his coins) was chosen in his place. Totila was to prove a worthy adversary of the empire.

The Gloomy 540s

The decade began with a renewed Persian offensive and the sack of Antioch. In 545 Justinian purchased peace on the eastern front but in the Caucasus kingdom of Lazica, the struggle continued. In 542, bubonic plague struck Europe for the first time that has been securely recorded. In Italy, the Ostrogoths recovered much of the ground they had lost, and the empire lacked the resources and the will to make an effective counterattack. In the all-important theological sector, the so-called "Three Chapters" dispute, which Justinian orchestrated along with Theodora until her death, was to prove a turning-point between the Orthodox and the Monophysites. Theodora died of cancer in 548 and her death left the regime less sensitive to the psyche of the dissidents and perhaps more high-handed in its search for solution to the endless contention between Chalcedonian and Monophysite.

On the eastern frontier, Armenia, where Justinian was determined to apply Roman law in matters of marriage and inheritance, provided a casus belli. When trouble broke out, Justinian dispatched a general with experience in Armenia, Sittas, the husband of Theodora's sister Komito, and when he lost his life, his replacement was an officer whom the Armenians had reason to mistrust. A deputation of Armenians, led by members of the old Armenian royal house, the Arsacids, went to Persia and urged Khusro to make war on Justinian, who, they argued, had already broken the 'Endless Peace'.

In early spring, 540, Khusro crossed into imperial territory and headed for Antioch, exacting money from various towns along the way. Justinian had dispatched his cousin Germanus with 300 men to Antioch but he could do little and he and the patriarch had already evacuated the city when Khusro took it. The sack of Antioch was a devastating blow to imperial prestige. In 541, Belisarius was sent to the Persian frontier with a force that included some Goths brought from Italy, but Khusro had turned his attention to Lazica where the Lazi, like the Armenians had sought an alliance. Khusro captured the Laz town of Petra on the Black Sea but when he learned that Belisarius was across the Persian frontier he cut short his campaign. The next year, Khusro advanced once again into Roman territory but Belisarius checkmated him. Then Belisarius was recalled under somewhat mysterious circumstances. The truth or something like it is probably to be found in Procopius' Secret History: word reached the front that Justinian was ill with the plague and some generals including Belisarius were guilty of loose talk about Justinian's successor, saying they would not put up with another emperor like him. Theodora heard of it, and recalled the officers. One of them was consigned to a dungeon for two years. The influence of Antonina, Belisarius' wife, saved him, but a year elapsed before he was appointed to another command, which took him back to Italy.

The Plague

Procopius[[19]] gives us a good account of the plague, modelled on Thucydides. This was clearly bubonic rather than the more deadly pulmonary plague, for Procopius indicates that people who cared for the ill did not necessarily contract the plague themselves, and pulmonary plague is directly communicable to another person whereas the bubonic variety is carried by fleas which live on rodents, particularly the black rat. Nonetheless bubonic plague is deadly enough: without modern treatment it can result in death in 40 to 70 per cent of its victims.

The plague moved from city to city in the empire. In 558 it returned to Constantinople for a new crop of victims. In fact, the number of natural disasters which befell the empire in Justinian's reign is remarkable: earthquakes, floods and plague. In the midst of the plague of 542, Constantinople was shaken by an earthquake. The plague brought a period of economic growth to an end. One estimate suggests that the population of the empire in 600 was only 60 per cent of what it was in 500. The loss of so many taxpayers hurt the treasury, though Justinian does not seem to have greatly curtailed his building program to take declining revenues into consideration. Recruits for the army became harder to find and Justinian had to rely more on barbarian troops. The army in Italy, where Belisarius was in command from 544 to 549 seems in particular to have suffered from lack of new resources to carry on the war against Totila and the Goths.

War on the Eastern Front.

Nonetheless, plague or not, in 543, the Romans fielded an enormous force of 30,000 troops commanded by the magister militum of the East, Martin, for an invasion of Persian-controlled Armenia. Anyone who cares to argue that Justinian directed his resources to the conquest of the western Mediterranean and neglected his eastern provinces should reflect on this campaign; the army, which Martin had at his disposal, equalled the force which Narses was to take to Italy in 551 to wind up the Ostrogothic war - and by that time, the empire had recovered somewhat from the immediate impact of the plague. But the great army which Martin led was routed by a small Persian force and the campaign came to nothing. Next year Khusro attacked Edessa, which fought back hard and saved itself; and Khusro had to be satisfied with the relatively small indemnity of 500 gold pounds. The following year, 545, Justinian paid Khusro 5000 gold pounds for a 5-year peace. It was an uneasy peace but it held.

However, in Lazica at the eastern end of the Black Sea, war between the Romans and the Persians continued with various vicissitudes but in general, the Romans had the upper hand and in 557 Khusro dispatched his envoy Izedh Gushnap to Constantinople to negotiate a truce. Khusro now had other enemies to deal with: the Ephthalites, or "White Huns", old enemies of Persia, who were now assailed by a new wave of Turkish nomads who offered Khusro an alliance against the Ephthalites. In 561, Justinian's envoy, Peter the Patrician, and Izedh Gushnap put together a 50-year peace. The Persians agreed to evacuate Lazica, and received an annual subsidy of 420 gold pounds, which was less than the 500 gold pounds a year which the emperor Anastasius had agreed to pay Khusro's father. Taken altogether, the Romans could claim a modest success.

The Conclusion of the Ostrogothic War

Belisarius in Italy was left starved for troops. In December, 545, Totila laid siege to Rome, which held out for about a year. Belisarius could not relieve it, and it fell in December 546. Totila considered destroying the city, but Belisarius wrote him to protest, pointing out how it would damage his reputation if he destroyed a city of such beauty, and Totila gave up his plan and instead evacuated Rome, taking with him the senators and sending the rest of the populace into Campania. Rome was left empty. Then Belisarius took over the city, repaired its walls and re-populated it, and Totila to his chagrin found that he could not recapture it.

In 548, Belisarius' wife Antonina went to Constantinople to attempt to use her influence with Theodora to secure reinforcements for Italy, but when she arrived, she found Theodora already dead, and believing that Belisarius could do no more in Italy, she sought his recall. After Belisarius' departure, Totila took Rome once again and plundered Sicily. But now Italy had some eloquent advocates in Constantinople. Pope Vigilius was there, embroiled in the "Three Chapters" dispute but very aware of the agonies of Rome, and with him were various Roman nobles who had fled the city. In 550 Justinian took action. He put his cousin Germanus in charge of a large expedition to Italy. Theodora had always regarded Germanus and his family as rivals and Germanus' career no doubt suffered as a result, but now Theodora was dead. In preparation for the campaign, Germanus married Matasuintha, the granddaughter of Theodoric, but while he was organizing his army, he took sick and died in the autumn of 550. We can only speculate whether or not his marriage portended a change of policy towards the Ostrogoths, which would seek to win the support of the Romanized elements among them for the reintegration of Italy into the empire. Matasuintha gave birth to a posthumous son named Germanus after his father, but whatever plans for the settlement of the Gothic War Germanus had in mind, they died with him.

To replace Germanus, Justinian turned to the Armenian eunuch Narses who took with him an army of some 30,000 men, quite beyond the power of the Ostrogoths to resist. Narses was also clearly a leader of great ability who, in contrast with Belisarius, seems to have had no great problem with insubordination among his troops. In June or July, 552, a decisive battle was fought at Busta Gallorum in the Apennines. The Goths were defeated and Totila died of wounds received in the battle. At the end of October, another battle was fought at Mons Lactarius, not far from Naples. After that it was only a matter of mopping up.

Nothing illustrates Justinian's opportunism in the west quite as much as the fact that at this same time, he had an army campaigning in Visigothic Spain.[[20]] In 551, a Visigothic noble, Athanagild, sought Justinian's help in a rebellion against the king, and next year, Justinian dispatched a force under the octogenarian Liberius, a native of Italy who had served in succession Odoacer, Theodoric, Athalaric, Amalasuintha, Theodohad, and Justinian and now at a great age proved himself a successful military commander. In 555 Athanagild became king and asked the Romans to withdraw, which they declined to do. Thus the Byzantine empire held on to a small slice of the Spanish coast until the reign of Heraclius. There was a strategic reason for the Spanish campaign: in 546 the Visigoths had crossed the Strait of Gibraltar to take Septem and, though the Romans routed them with a surprise attack on a Sunday while they were at a church service, they still posed a potential danger. But the overriding reason was that Justinian could not resist what must have seemed a golden opportunity.

Theological Contention[[21]]

The theological battlefield, where no one won a victory, left results that were to last longer than the military campaigns of Justinian's reign. At the start of the reign both the Orthodox and the Monophysites resisted the idea of a split in Christendom but by its end, there was a Monophysite hierarchy in place and though there was still no permanent schism de iure, one did exist de facto. When Justin I became emperor in 518, the 'Acacian Schism' still existed and Vitalian, who had raised rebellion twice against the Monophysite emperor Anastasius, driven by a combination of orthodox zeal and ambition, was still lurking in his native province of Scythia Minor with the remains of his military force. Justin immediately sent a letter to Pope Hormisdas inviting him to send legates to Constantinople to discuss healing the breach, and Justinian sent a letter as well, summoning Hormisdas in person. (Hormisdas did not come.) The breach was healed; on Holy Thursday, 519, the patriarch of Constantinople accepted Rome's conditions. Severus, patriarch of Antioch, the theological luminary of the Monophysites, escaped to Egypt where the patriarch of Alexandria gave him refuge. Vitalian returned to Constantinople where he became Master of the Soldiers in the capital, consul in 520, and then was murdered, probably at Justinian's instigation. But the settlement was illusive, as Justinian soon realized, and within months he was advocating a compromise put forward by a group of monks from Scythia Minor which got the support of Vitalian, who came from there himself. Hormisdas himself did not reject this so-called "Theopaschite Doctrine" out of hand, though in the end, he did. But it was vigorously denounced by ardent watchdogs of orthodoxy in Constantinople, the 'Sleepless Monks', so called because they kept up an endless doxology with teamwork day and night in their monastery on the eastern side of the Bosporus.

In Syria, the concordat between the Pope andJustin unleashed a wave of persecution against the Monophysite monasteries. The monks in the northern Syro-Arab areas had the choice of accepting Chalcedon or expulsion; most chose the latter. Egypt remained a fortress of Monophysitism but outside it there was no refuge. The persecution was aimed at the Monophysite monks and the clergy who supported Monophysite doctrine, not at the laity and it had the unintended result of spreading Monophysite teaching, for it forced many of the monks to mingle with the general populace.

The persecution continued into the early 530s when Theodora used her influence to promote dialogue. In 531 a Monophysite delegation came to Constantinople where the imperial couple gave them quarters in the Palace of Hormisdas. There Theodora visited them every two or three days, sometimes bringing Justinian with her, and in the spring, 532, he sponsored a three-day conference between five Chalcedonian bishops and five followers of Severus. Severus himself came from Egypt in the winter of 534/5 along with Theodosius, who became patriarch of Alexandria in early 535, and these two came to an agreement with Anthimus, the new patriarch of Constantinople. This was an opportunity to rally the moderates on both sides of the schism and, unfortunately, it came to nothing. In 536 Pope Agapetus arrived from Rome on a mission of the Gothic king Theodahad and won Justinian back to Chalcedonian doctrine. In Dante's Divine Comedy Justinian pays tribute to Agapetus for his intervention, but in the light of history, papal intransigence has a great deal to answer for. Having abandoned compromise to satisfy the pope, Justinian returned to force as the chosen weapon of Chalcedonian belief. Anthimus, who was replaced by a patriarch consecrated by Agapetus, disappeared into the Palace of Hormisdas where he remained, outliving his protector Theodora.

All this happened on the eve of Belisarius' invasion of Italy and Justinian may have had strategic reasons for wanting to keep the pope on his side. But when Agapetus died shortly after consecrating a successor to Anthimus, Theodora, apparently with Justinian's support, plotted to have elected as the next pope Vigilius, a deacon who had come to Constantinople with Agapetus and promised flexibility. But before Vigilius could return to Rome, a new pope, Silverius, the son of Pope Hormisdas, had been chosen with Theodahad's backing. However, during the one year and nine day siege of Rome by the Goths, Silverius was deposed by Belisarius and Antonina at Theodora's behest and replaced by Vigilius. Thus it was Vigilius who represented Rome and Catholicism during the 'Three Chapters' dispute.

This dispute arose from an edict issued by Justinian in 544 condemning the teachings of Theodoret of Cyrrhus, Ibas of Edessa and Theodore of Mopsuestia. The last of these was one of the theologians whose teachings fathered Nestorianism and Theodoret and Ibas had been friends and supporters of Nestorius. By condemning these three theologians of the previous century, Justinian hoped to make it clear that the orthodox position differed sharply from Nestorianism and to give the lie to those Monophysites who argued that the theology of the Nestorians and that of the Chalcedonians on the nature of the Trinity was essentially the same. However the Council of Chalcedon had brought Theodoret and Ibas back into communion with the Church and Theodore, who had died before the council took place, was held in respect by the Chalcedonians. It was Justinian's theological adviser of the moment, Theodore Askidas, who suggested that a condemnation of the Three 'Chapters' would make for harmony between the Catholics and the Monophysites. Additionally, he was probably motivated in part by animosity towards the papal nuncio in Constantinople, Pelagius, later to become pope himself. In fact, the condemnation was irrelevant as far as the Monophysites were concerned and it aroused hostility in the west, particularly in Africa. Sentiment among Catholics in the west was such that Vigilius had little choice but to refuse to accept the condemnation.

Justinian had his way in the end, but Vigilius did not give up the fight until February 554 when at last he anathematized the 'Three Chapters'. By then he was a sick man and he died on his way back to Rome, where his body was refused interment in St. Peter's basilica. As his successor Justinian chose the papal nuncio Pelagius who had vigorously defended the 'Three Chapters' while the dispute was raging, but, now that he was offered the papal throne on condition that he accept the condemnation, he accepted. The Roman populace was hostile, but Narses and his troops maintained firm control and Pelagius was ordained by two bishops and a presbyter, for the usual compliment of three bishops could not be mustered. Little by little Pelagius won acceptance in Italy south of the Po River, though Italy north of the Po remained hostile until the Lombard invasion made unity seem more essential.

Meanwhile the Monophysites had been establishing their own hierarchy. In 541, al-Harith, the sheikh of the Ghassanid tribe of Arabs on the borders of southern Syria, whose loyalty it was important to maintain, was in Constantinople, and took the opportunity to ask Theodora for Monophysite bishops for his tribe. He got two, consecrated by Theodosius, the exiled Monophysite patriarch of Alexandria who was living under Theodora's protection in the palace of Hormisdas in Constantinople. The two were Theodore, metropolitan of Bostra, and Jacob Baradaeus, metropolitan of Edessa. Neither lived in his metropolis. Both were roving bishops. By Baradaeus' death in 578, he had consecrated 27 metropolitan bishops and some 100,000 clergy. Justinian tried at first to have him arrested, but he was never caught and in the end, Justinian let him be, tolerated in fact if not in law.[[22]] By Justinian's death there was an organized Monophysite church.

The Law[[23]]

Roman law in Late Antiquity was in a state of confusion. Emperors issued new constitutions and rescripts which had the force of law, but they were not systematically published and even the imperial archives did not always keep copies of new laws. The situation was muddied further by the great number of legal opinions offered by legal experts (iurisconsulti) of the second and third centuries. The emperor Theodosius II had set up commissions in 427 and again in 434 to prepare a collection of laws issued since 312, and this resulted in the Theodosian Code issued in 438. Justinian had not been on the throne a year before he set up a ten-man commission chaired by John the Cappadocian to produce a new code of imperial law. The commission produced the Codex Justinianus (Codex vetus) on 7 April, 529.

Next Justinian turned to the enormous task of ordering and codifying the legal opinions of the Roman iurisconsulti. On 15 December 530 he set a commission to work at it: sixteen lawyers from the legal fraternities of Constantinople and Beirut, men headed by Tribonian,[[24]] who had already been a member of the commission that produced the Codex Justinianus. The result of their labor was published on 16 December, 533. It is the Digest, or to give it its Greek name, the Pandects. At the same time, a committee also headed by Tribonian was working on a textbook for law students. Entitled the Institutes, it was published less than a month before the Digest, on 16 November. One byproduct of all this labor was to make the Codex vetus obsolete, and hence a new edition was published on 16 November, 534 and the first edition has failed to survive. This body of legal achievement has been known since the sixteenth century as the Corpus Iuris Civilis and it was intended as a unified body of law. Justinian forbade commentaries on the Digest and probably the rule applied to the whole Corpus.

Justinian's final legislative achievement was the Novels, new laws which he issued after the Corpus was published and unlike the laws in the Corpus, most of these were issued in Greek. The Novels were not collected until after the emperor's death, for though he intended a collection, his plan was never carried out. The Novels, taken together with Justinian's earlier laws which were included in the Codex, reveal an emperor full of reforming zeal. Not surprisingly, over half the Novels were issued in the 530's; in the latter part of his reign, Justinian's energies were increasingly directed toward theology. The impression that emerges from the Justinian's laws is ambivalent. On matters of religion he strikes us as bigoted and at the same time remarkably self-confident. On other matters such as provincial administration, the status of women and slavery he is zealous for improvement. The disabilities of women in matters of guardianship and the right to conduct business in their own right were finally removed completely. Yet we may doubt how effective Justinian's efforts were, taken as a whole. Justinian's laws reveal his intentions but we should not suppose that they mirror reality.

Last Years.

Misfortune crowded into the final years of Justinian's reign. There was another Samaritan revolt in midsummer, 556. Next year, in December, a great earthquake shook Constantinople and in May of the following year, the dome of Justinian's new Hagia Sophia collapsed, and had to be rebuilt with a new design. About the same time, the plague returned to the capital. Then in early 559 a horde of Kutrigur 'Huns' (proto-Bulgars) crossed the frozen Danube and advanced into the Balkans. It split into three columns: one pushed into Greece but got no further than Thermopylae, another advanced into the Gallipoli peninsula but got no further than the Long Wall, which was defended by a young officer from Justinian's native city, while the third, most dangerous spearhead led by the 'Hun' khan, Zabergan himself, made for Constantinople. Faced with this attack and without any forces for defense, Justinian called Belisarius out of retirement, and Belisarius, using a scratch force, the core of which was 300 of his veterans, ambushed the Kutrigur horde and routed it.[[25]] Once the immediate danger was over, however, Justinian recalled Belisarius and took charge himself. The news that Justinian was reinforcing his Danube fleet made the Kutrigurs anxious and they agreed to a treaty which gave them a subsidy and safe passage back across the river. But as soon as they were north of the Danube, they were attacked by their rivals the Utigurs who were incited by Justinian to relieve them of their booty. The Kutrigurs raided Thrace again in 562, but they and the Utigurs were soon to fall prey to the Avars who swept out of the Asian steppes in the early 560s.

There was discontent in the capital. Street violence was on the increase again. There were bread shortages and water shortages. In late 562, there was a conspiracy which almost succeeded in killing the emperor. The chief conspirator was Marcellus, an argyroprates, a goldsmith and banker, and the conspiracy probably reflected the dissatisfaction of the business community. But Justinian was too old to learn to be frugal. He resorted to forced loans and requisitions and his successor found the treasury deeply in debt.

What remained of the great emperor's achievement? His successor Justin II, out of a combination of necessity and foolhardiness, denied the 'barbarians' the subsidies which had played a major role in Justinian's defense of the frontiers, and, to be fair, which had also been provided by emperors before him. Subsidies had been part of Anastasius' policy as well, but that was before the plague, while the imperial economy was still expanding. The result of Justin II's change of policy was renewed hostility with Persia and a shift of power in the Balkans. In 567 the Avars and Lombards joined forces against the Gepids and destroyed them. But the Lombards distrusted their allies and next year they migrated into Italy where Narses had just been removed from command and recalled, though he disobeyed orders and stayed in Rome until his death. By the end of the century only a third of Italy was in Byzantine hands. On the eastern frontier, Justin alienated the Ghassanid allies and lost the fortress of Daras, a reverse which overwhelmed his frangible sanity. For this Justinian can hardly be blamed. No one can deny his greatness; a recent study by Asterios Gerostergios (see Bibliography) even lionizes him. But if we look at his reign with the unforgiving eye of hindsight, it appears to be a brilliant effort to stem the tide of history, and in the end, it was more a failure than a moderate success.


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Barker, John E., Justinian and the Later Roman Empire. Madison, Wisc., 1966.

Browning, Robert, Justinian and Theodora. 2nd ed., London, 1987.

Bury, J. B., "The Nika riot," JHS 17 (1897): 92-119.

Cameron, Alan, "Heresies and Factions," Byzantion 44 (1974): 92-120.

________. Circus Factions. Blues and Greens at Rome and Byzantium. Oxford, 1976.

Cameron, Averil, Agathias. Oxford, 1970.

________. Procopius and the Sixth Century. Berkeley, 1985.

________. The Mediterranean World in Late Antiquity. London and New York, 1993.

Diehl, Charles, Justinien et la civilisation byzantine au VIe siècle. I-II. Paris, 1901.

________. Theodora, impératrice de Byzance. Paris, 1904.

Downey, Glanville, "Justinian as Builder," Art Bulletin 32 (1950): 262-66.

________. Constantinople in the Age of Justinian. Norman, Okla., 1960.

Evans, J. A. S., "Procopius and the Emperor Justinian," Historical Papers, The Canadian Historical Association, 1968, pp. 126-39.

________. "The 'Nika' Rebellion and the Empress Theodora," Byzantion 54 (1984): 380-82.

________. "The dates of Procopius' works: a Recapitulation of the Evidence,"GRBS 37 (1996): 301-13.

________. Procopius. New York, 1972.

________.The Age of Justinian. The Circumstances of Imperial Power. London and New York, 1996.

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Fowden, Garth, Empire to Commonwealth: Consequences of Monotheism in Late Antiquity. Princeton, 1993.

Frend, W. H. C., The Rise of the Monophysite Movement: Chapters on the History of the Church in the Fifth and Sixth Centuries. Cambridge, 1972.

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Gordon, C. D., "Procopius and Justinian's Financial Policies," Phoenix 13 (1959): 23-30.

Grabar, André, The Golden Age of Justinian, from the Death of Theodosius to the Rise of Islam. New York, 1967.

Greatrex, Geoffrey, "The Nika Riot: A Reappraisal," JHS 117 (1997): 60-86.

________. Rome and Persia at War, 502-532. Leeds, 1998.

Harrison, R. M., A Temple for Byzantium. London, 1989.

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________. Asceticism and Society in Crisis: John of Ephesus and 'The Lives of the Eastern Saints'. Berkeley, 1990.

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________. "Byzance: le palais et la ville," Byzantion 61 (1991)::213-230.

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Honoré, Tony, Tribonian. London, 1978.

Moorhead, John, Justinian. London and New York, 1994.

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Ure, P. N., Justinian and his Reign. Harmondsworth, 1951.

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[[1]]For a succinct overview of developments in Justinian's reign, see Michael Moss, John Lydus and the Roman Past (London, 1992), 1-27.

[[2]]Mal. Bk 17.2 (p. 410); cf. Constantine Porphyrogenitus, De insidiis, 43.

[[3]]On Justin, see Procopius, Anekdota, 6. On Justiniana Prima, see Procopius, De aedificiis, 4.15-28. Justinian's native language was Latin, which he calls his ancestral tongue in Nov. 13 (535 AD) and probably he was of Romanized Illyrian stock. For the hypothesis, now discarded, that he was of Slavic origin, see Carmelo Capizzi, Giustiniano I tra politica e reliogione (Messina, 1994), 25-26.

[[4]]Procopius Anekdota 9.1-28 is our source for Theodora's lurid past, though John of Ephesus provides some corroboration (Patrologia Orientalis VII I, 188-189) which is all the more important because John was a friend of the empress, which Procopius was not. See in general, J.A.S. Evans, The Age of Justinian: The Circumstances of Imperial Power (London, 1996), 96-105.

[[5]]Anekdota 10.15.

[[6]].On the excavations of St. Polyeuktos, see R. M. Harrison, A Temple for Byzantium (London, 1989).

[[7]]Evans, op. cit., 65-71; Polymnia Athanassiadi, "Persecution and Response in Late Paganism, " JHS 113 (1993), 1-29; Michael Maas, op. cit. 67-82; Pierre Chuvin, trans. B.A. Archer, A Chronicle of the Last Pagans (Cambridge, 1990), passim.

[[8]]Anekdota 9.29-30. On the Samaritans, see A. D. Crown, "The Samaritans in the Byzantine Orbit," Bulletin of the John Rylands Library 69 (1986), 96-138; S. Winkler, "Die Samariter in den Jahren 529/30" Klio 43/45 (1965), 453- 457.

[[9]]See Evans op. cit., 240-47; Garth Fowden, Empire to Commonwealth: Consequences of Monotheism in Late Antiquity (Princeton, 1993), 65- 72.

[[10]]18.59 9461-465);cf. Procopius, History of the Wars of Justinian 1.18.30-50; see also J. A. S. Evans, Procopius (New York, 1972), 56- 58.

[[11]]Evans, Procopius, writes, "If this was not the whole truth, it was at least most of it." I would be more inclined now to call it charitable hindsight.

[[12]]The latest treatment is by Geoffrey Greatrex, "The Nika Riot: A Reappraisal," JHS 117(1997), 60-86. Still worth reading is J.B. Bury, History of the Later Roman Empire II (repr. New York, 1958), 39-48. Bury: 71-74, includes a translation of the Akta dia Kalopodion from Theophanes Confessor, which is partly preserved in the "Easter Chronicle." Both authors connect the Akta, which is a transcript of a dialogue initially between the Greens and Justinian in the Hippodrome (the Blues eventually enter the dialogue as well), with the preliminaries of the revolt. Whether that is right or wrong, the Akta do reveal the hostility of the Greens for the emperor.

[[13]]"Le Peuple de Constantinople." trans. H. Grégoire, Byzantion 11 (1936), 617-716.

[[14]]"Demes and Factions," BZ 76(1974), 74-91; also Circus Factions at Rome and Byzantium (Oxford, 1976).

[[15]]Anekdota 7.1-42.

[[16]]Cf. J. A. S. Evans, "The 'Nika' Rebellion and the Empress Theodora," Byzantion 54 (1984), 380-82.

[[17]]Justinian's building program is described in an encomium by Procopius, the Peri Ktismaton, or in Latin, the De Aedificiis. In Procopius, 77, I said that this panegyric provides a "full and remarkably accurate account" of Justinian's building program, but on both counts it is uneven. Procopius' sources were probably official records, which, however, does not guarantee accuracy.

[[18]]The chief sources for the wars in Africa and Italy is Procopius, History of the Wars of Justinian, Bks. 3-7 which reached their present form in 551. Book 8, written later (probably as late as 557, see J. A. S. Evans, "The Dates of Procopius' Works: A Recapitulation of the Evidence," GRBS 37 (1996), 301-13) brings the narrative up to 552. For modern accounts, see Evans, The Age of Justinian; John Moorhead, Justinian (London and New York, 1994); Bury, Later Roman Empire; A. H. M. Jones, The Later Roman Empire, 284-602 (Oxford and Norman, Okla., 1964), 1.270-78, 287-98. For the Italian campaign, Thomas Hodgkins's multi-volume Italy and her Invaders, first published 1880-89, repr. New York, 1967, is still useful. The best book on Procopius is Averil Cameron, Procopius and the Sixth Century (Berkeley, 1985).

[[19]]History of the Wars 2.22.1-23.16. Cf. Pauline Allen, "The 'Justinianic' Plague," Byzantion 49 (1979), 5-20. It is interesting to compare this outbreak of the pestilence with the accounts of the Black Death of 14th- century Europe, and even a perusal of Albert Camus' The Plague, which describes the outbreak of bubonic plague in Oran during the occupation of France in World War II, provides interesting insights. Camus gives a vivid description of how the onset of the plague was heralded by great numbers of rats which came out of their nests and hiding-places to die in agony on the streets, doorsteps, and even inside dwellings.

[[20]]Bury, History of the Later Roman Empire, 2.286-88. The Spanish campaign is described by no Byzantine writer.

[[21]]The literature is immense. See J. Myendorff, "Justinian, the Empire, and the Church," DOP 22 (1968), 43-60; W. S. Thurman, "How Justinian I Sought to Handle the Problem of Religious Dissidents," GOTR 13 (1968), 15-40; Capizzi, Giustiniano I tra politica e reliogione; W. H. C. Frend, The Rise of the Monophysite Movement: Chapters in the History of the Church in the Fifth and Sixth Centuries (Cambridge, 1972).

[[22]]See D. D, Bundy, "Jacob Baradaeus: The State of Research," Muséon 91 (1978), 45-86.

[[23]]Jones, Later Roman Empire, 278-283; Bury, History of the Later Roman Empire, 2.395-416; A.A. Vasiliev, History of the Byzantine Empire (Madison, 1928, repr. 1964), 142-147.

[[24]]On Tribonian, see A.M. Honoré, Tribonian (London and Ithaca, 1978).

[[25]]The chief source is Agathias, the continuator of Procopius, at 5.19.1-12.

Copyright (C) 1998, James Allan Evans. This file may be copied on the condition that the entire contents, including the header and this copyright notice, remain intact.

Comments to: James Allan Evans.

Updated:25 July 1998

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