The Emperor Justinian

Justinian the Great was emperor of Byzantium from 527 – 565 A.D. His lowborn wife was the beautiful and brave Empress Theodora, who persuaded the emperor to stay when danger threatened them. Among the institutions that Justinian brought forth were his textbooks for students. However, Justinian’s far-fetched dream was to make Byzantium another Rome. So, he raised taxes and gathered over 320,000 pounds of gold to accomplish his goal.

The main event during the reign of Justinian is the Nika Revolt in 532. The cause of this event came about due to unrest in chariot racing, causing two upper class citizens to be arrested. The two patrician teams, the greens and the blues, demanded their acquittal. When it was refused they stormed the palace. One of their violent petitions was the removal from office of the disliked tax collector and prefect, John of Cappadocia. The enraged citizens also tried to elect a new emperor, but this was prevented by Justinian and some of his loyal companions. More than 30,000 people were killed during this week long revolt.

Justinian I

Justinian I

These events portray Justinian as aspiring, undoubting and in control. But a writer from the Emperors own court, Procopius, wrote the following:

This Emperor, then, was deceitful, devious, false, hypocritical, two-faced, cruel, skilled in dissembling his thought, never moved to tears by either joy or pain, though he could summon them artfully at will when the occasion demanded, a liar always… A faithless friend, he was a treacherous enemy, insane for murder and plunder, quarrelsome and revolutionary, easily led to anything, but never willing to listen to good counsel…”

“He had no scruples about appropriating other people’s property, and did not even think any excuse necessary, legal or illegal, for confiscating what did not belong to him…  Driving all wealth from the country of the Romans in this manner, he became the cause of universal poverty.”

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