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AT the time when Justinian was only heir-presumptive of the Empire, probably in the year 520, he met the lady who was to become the Empress Theodora. Daughter of one of the bear-keepers of the hippodrome, brought up by an indulgent mother amongst the society which frequented the purlieus of the circus, this young girl, beautiful, intelligent and witty—if we may believe the gossip of the Secret History—soon succeeded in charming and scandalizing the capital. At the theatre where she appeared in tableaux vivants and pantomimes she ventured on the most audacious representations: in town she became famous for the follies of her entertainments, the boldness of her manners and the multitude of her lovers. Next she disappeared, and after a somewhat unlovely adventure she travelled through the East in a wretched manner for some time—according to contemporary gossip. She was seen at Alexandria, where she became known to several of the leaders of the Monophysite party, and returned—perhaps under their influence—to a more Christian and purer mode of life. She was again seen at Antioch, and then returned to Constantinople, matured and wiser. Then it was that she made a conquest of Justinian. She soon wielded the strongest influence over her lover: desperately in love, the prince could refuse nothing that his mistress requested. He heaped riches upon her, obtained for her the title of patrician, and became the humble minister of her hatred or her affection. Finally he wished to marry her legally, and was able to do so in 523, thanks to the complaisance of Justin. When, in April 527, Justinian was associated in the Empire, Theodora shared the elevation and the triumph of her husband. She ascended the throne with him in August 527, and for twenty years the adventuress-Empress exercised a sovereign influence on the course of politics.

Theodora’s name may still be read with that of the Emperor on the walls of churches and over the doors of castles of that date. Her picture makes a fellow to that of her imperial husband in the church of San Vitale in Ravenna, and also in the mosaics which decorated the rooms of the Sacred Palace, for it was Justinian’s wish to associate her with the military triumphs and the splendors of the reign. The grateful people raised statues to her as to Justinian, the officials also swore fidelity to her, for she was the Emperor's equal throughout her life, while ambassadors and foreign kings hastened to her to pay their respects and to gain her goodwill as well as that of the basileus. In deliberating on the most important occasions Justinian always took council of “the most honored wife which God had given him”, whom he loved to call “his sweetest charm”, and contemporaries agree in declaring that she did not scruple to use the boundless influence which she possessed, and that her authority was equal to, if not greater than, that of her husband. Certainly this ambitious lady possessed many eminent qualities to justify the supreme authority which she wielded. She was a woman of unshaken courage, as she proved in the troublous time of the Nika rising, proud energy, masculine resolution, a determined and a clear mind, and a strong will by which she frequently overruled the vacillating Justinian. She undoubtedly combined defects and even vices with these qualities. She was domineering and harsh, she loved money and power. To keep the throne to which she had risen she would stoop to deceit, violence, and cruelty; she was implacable in her dislikes, and inflexible towards those whom she hated. By means of a disgraceful intrigue she pitilessly destroyed the fortunes of John of Cappadocia, the all-powerful praetorian praefect, who dared for one moment to dispute her supremacy (541). She made Belisarius bitterly expiate his rare lapses into independence, and by the ascendancy which she gained over Antonina, the patrician's wife, she made him her humble and obedient servant. As passionate in her loves as in her hates, she advanced her favorites without scruple. Peter Barsymes was made praetorian praefect, Narses a general, Vigilius a pope, while she turned the imperial palace into a hotbed of incessant intrigues. Her influence was not always good—though the loungers of Constantinople have strangely lengthened the list of her cruelties and increased the number of her victims—but it was always powerful. Even when she was forced temporarily to give way before circumstances, her audacious and supple wit was always able to devise some startling retaliation. Wily and ambitious, she always aspired to have the last word—and she got it.

In the twenty years during which Theodora reigned she had a hand in everything; in politics, and in the Church; in the administration, she advised the reforms, and filled it with her protégés; in diplomacy, concerning which the Emperor never decided anything without her advice. She made and unmade popes and patriarchs, ministers and generals, at her pleasure, not even fearing, when she considered it necessary, openly to thwart Justinian’s wishes. She was the active help­mate to her husband in all important matters. In the legislative reform her feminism inspired the measures which dealt with divorce, adultery, the sanctity of the marriage-tie, and those meant to assist actresses and fallen women. In the government of the East her lucid and keen intelligence discovered and advised a policy more suited to the true interests of the State than that actually pursued, and if it had been carried out, it might have changed the course of history itself by making the Byzantine Empire stronger and more durable.

While Justinian, carried away by the grandeur of Roman traditions, rose to conceptions in turn magnificent and impossible, and dreamed of restoring the Empire of the Caesars and of inaugurating the reign of orthodoxy by reunion with Rome, Theodora, by birth an Oriental, and in other respects more far-seeing and acute than her husband, immediately turned her attention to the East. She had always sympathized with the Monophysites; even before she had become Empress she had willingly received them at the palace, and allowed them to draw on her credit. She admired their teachers, and loved the unpolished candor of their monks. She was not actuated by piety alone, for she had too much political instinct not to realize the importance of religious questions in a Christian State, and the peril attending indifference to them. But while Justinian, with the mind of a theologian, occupied himself with religious questions primarily for the empty pleasure of being able to dogmatize, Theodora, like all the great Byzantine Emperors, recognized the main features of political problems under the fleeting form of theological disagreements. She realized that the rich and flourishing provinces of Asia, Syria, and Egypt really formed the mainstay of the Empire; and she felt that the religious differences by which the Oriental nations manifested their separatist tendencies threatened danger to the monarchy. Furthermore she saw the necessity for pacifying the growing discontent by means of opportune concessions and a wide toleration, and she forced the imperial policy to shape itself to this end; and carried with her the ever worried and vacillating Justinian, even so far as to brave the Papacy and protect the heretics. It is only fair to say that she foresaw the future more clearly and grasped the situation more accurately than did her imperial associate.

Before the advent of Justin’s dynasty Anastasius’ dreams of an ideal monarchy may have taken this form or something approaching it. He may have imagined an essentially Oriental Empire, having well-defended frontiers, a wise administration, sound finances, and blessed with religious unity. To realize this last he would not have hesitated at a breach with Rome if it had become necessary. In spite of his efforts and good intentions Anastasius had not succeeded in realizing his ideal. But it was right in principle and, thanks to Theodora, it inspired the policy of Justinian in the East. In this way the Empress made a great impression on her husband's government, and as soon as she died a decay set in which brought the glorious reign to a sad close.

Second Persian War. 531-544

The imperial policy in the West had been essentially offensive. In the East, on the other hand, it was generally restricted to a defensive attitude. Justinian submitted to war or accepted it when offered rather than sought it, because he was anxious to preserve all his forces for Africa and Italy. Thus he maintained the safety of the monarchy in the East less by a series of great victories than by military arrangements combined with clever diplomatic action.

In Asia, Persia had been the perpetual enemy of the Romans for centuries. There was a ceaseless temptation to strife and a pretext for warfare in the coincidence of the two frontiers, and the rival influence which the two States exercised in Armenia in the Caucasus, and among the Arab tribes of the Syrian desert. The hundred years’ peace concluded in 422 had certainly restored tranquility for the rest of the fifth century, but hostilities had broken out afresh in the reign of Anastasius (502); and it was evident that the peace of 505 would only prove to be a truce, although Persia was torn by domestic discord, and had lost her prestige and strength, and her old king Kawad did not seek adventures. In proportion as Justinian profited by the relative weakness of his foes he attempted to bring more peoples into the relation of clients to Rome. Such were the populations of Lazica (the ancient Colchis), the tribes of Iberia and Georgia, and even the Sabirian Huns who occupied the celebrated defiles of the Caspian Gates at the foot of the Caucasus range on the boundary of the two Empires. With great skill Byzantine diplomacy, by spreading Christianity in those regions, had inclined the peoples to wish for the protection of the orthodox Emperor, and so had obtained possession of important strategic and commercial posts for Greek use. This policy of encroachment was bound to lead to a rupture, which came in 527, during the last months of Justin’s reign.

The war, however, was neither very long nor disastrous. Neither of the two adversaries wanted to fight to the death. Kawad, who had taken up arms, was distracted by domestic difficulties and the task of assuring the succession of his son. Justinian wanted to disengage himself as soon as possible in order to have his hands free to deal with affairs in the West. Under these conditions the imperial army, which was of a good size, and well commanded by Belisarius, was able to snatch a signal victory at Dara in 530, the first victory won against Persia for many years. Another general was able to make considerable progress in Persian Armenia at the same time, but Justinian did not set himself seriously to profit by his successes. The next year a Persian invasion of Syria forced Belisarius to engage in and to lose the disastrous battle of Callinicum (531). Then, in spite of the fact that the Persians were besieging Martyropolis (531) and that a career of pillage had brought the Huns under the very walls of Antioch (December 531), the Great King troubled as little to push his advantages as the Emperor did to avenge his defeat. Negotiations were as important in this war as military operations. When therefore in September 531 the death of Kawad gave the throne to his son Chosroes I Anoushirvan, the new sovereign was preoccupied by the endeavor to consolidate his power at home, and willingly joined in the negotiations which ended in the conclusion of an “everlasting peace”, in September 532. Justinian was delighted to end the war, and gave way on almost every point. He agreed to pay once more the annual subsidy which the Romans had handed over to the Persians to keep up the fortresses which defended the passes of the Caucasus against the Northern barbarians. This was a large sum of 110,000 pounds of gold, a thinly veiled form of tribute, He promised to move the residence of the Duke of Mesopotamia from Dara, the great fortress built by Anastasius in 507, to Constantina, which was further from the frontier; and he abandoned the protectorate over Iberia. In return the country of the Lazi remained within the sphere of Byzantine influence, and the Persians evacuated the fortresses in it.

But Chosroes was not the man to rest contented with these first successes. He was a young prince, ambitious, active, and anxious for conquests. It was not without suspicion that he viewed the progress and success of the imperial ambition, for he knew that the longing for universal dominion might well form a menace to the Sassanid monarchy, as well as to the West. He therefore made use of the years which followed the peace of 532 to reconstruct his army, and when he saw what seemed to him a favorable opportunity, he resolutely began the war again (540). This happened when he discovered that the Roman frontier was stripped of troops, Armenia and the country of the Lazi discontented under Byzantine rule, and the Goths at bay after the Vandals were conquered. At the beginning of hostilities he threw himself on Syria, which he cruelly ravaged, and seized Antioch, which he completely ruined under the eyes of the helpless Roman generals. In vain Justinian sent the best generals against him, first Germanus and then Belisarius, hastily recalled from Italy at the beginning of 541. Their troops were not sufficient to defend the country effectively. In 541, Chosroes attacked Lazica, reduced Iberia, and swept away the strong fortress of Petra, which Justinian had lately built to the south of Phasis. In 542 he ravaged Commagene; in 543 he made a demonstration on the Armenian frontier; and in 544 he again appeared in Mesopotamia which he ravaged cruelly, in spite of the heroic resistance of Edessa. Meanwhile the imperial troops did nothing: and the generals spent their time in intrigues instead of in fighting. The military prestige of Belisarius had made Chosroes give way for a brief space, but the general was absorbed in his domestic troubles, and let slip the time when he should have taken the offensive with vigour; and by so doing more or less justified the disgrace which soon overtook him through Theodora's (542). The only military enterprise undertaken in 543 by Justinian's army was the invasion of Persian Armenia, with more than 30,000 men, and it led to a great disaster. The Emperor was seriously concerned with events in Italy — Totila had just reconquered nearly the whole peninsula — and he was very lucky to be able to buy with gold a truce for five years, instead of a final peace (545). Thanks to the renewal of this convention in 551 and 552 the Asiatic provinces enjoyed tranquility once more, though the war continued in Lazica for many years afterwards.

It was an easy matter for the diplomacy of the two Empires to win allies from amongst the belligerent tribes of the Caucasus, since their good faith was always an uncertain quantity. While the Lazi, who were discontented under the Persian tyranny, returned to Justinian in 549, other peoples who had formerly been within the Byzantine sphere of influence now attached themselves to Chosroes. Furthermore the war seemed unending in a country rendered almost impassable by mountains and forests. A struggle was maintained for several years over Petra. Taken by the Persians in 541, it was attacked in vain by the Byzantines in 549, and was only finally regained in 551. Other places were attacked and defended with equal tenacity. Justinian realized the importance of possessing a region which would enable him to deprive the Persians of an outlet on the Black Sea, and therefore he made unheard-of efforts to keep it. He concentrated as many as 50,000 men there in 552. Finally Chosroes saw the uselessness of the interminable strife; and the armistice of 555 was turned into a definite treaty in 561. Peace was declared for fifty years, and the Persians agreed to evacuate Lazica, where they knew that their power could hardly be maintained, since the people were enthusiastically Christian. But the Emperor's success was dearly bought. He bound himself to pay an annual tribute of 30,000 aurei, handing over the sum-total for the first seven years in advance. He promised for the future to discontinue any religious propaganda in the dominions of the Great King, in return for the extension of toleration to Christians in Persia. These concessions dealt a blow at Justinian's pride as an Emperor and a Christian. However, Lazica remained to him, and it was a considerable gain in the direction of securing the safety of the Empire. Still the treaty was intentionally so vague in some points that it contained the beginnings of many future difficulties.

The Huns. 527-5621

While Roman Asia was cruelly suffering from these endless wars, the European provinces were not escaping. Although the shock of the great barbarian invasions had shaken the East much less than the West, a succession of barbarian peoples were settled north of the Danube. The Lombards, Heruls, and Gepidae were on the west; Slavs and Bulgars, Antae and Huns on the lower reaches of the river, while behind them lay the strong nation of Avars, still roving to the north of the Palus Maeotis but gradually spreading themselves westward. The Empire proved as attractive to these barbarians as to those who had invaded the West. They had all one wish and one aim—some day to become members of the rich and civilized commonwealth, whose towns were fair, whose fields were fertile, and in which men received great treasures and honor from the hand of the Emperor. Without doubt these sentiments were largely inspired by greed of the splendid plunder that the Roman territory offered to the enterprise of the barbarians, and if their peaceful offers were declined they did not hesitate to keep their vows by the use of force. Thus, at the end of the fifth century the tribes had formed the habit of crossing the Danube periodically, either in unnoticed driblets, or by sudden invasions, and certain groups were legally settled on the south side of the river by the beginning of the sixth century. The movement continued during the whole of Justinian’s reign.

From the beginning of his reign the Huns had appeared in Thrace and the Antae in Illyricum; but they were repulsed with such energy that, according to Malalas, “a great terror overcame the barbarian nations”. Soon, however, the resistance gave way. As had been the case in Asia, the frontier was denuded of troops in consequence of the expeditions to the West, and the boldness of the invaders increased. In 534 the Slavs and Bulgars crossed the Danube, and the magister militum of Thrace perished in the attempt to drive them back. In 538 the Huns invaded Scythia and Moesia, in 540 they went further and ravaged Thrace, Illyricum, and Greece as far as the Isthmus of Corinth. One of their bands even penetrated to the environs of Constantinople, and spread a terrible panic in the capital. In 546 there was another Hunnish invasion, in 547 an attack from the Slavs who devastated Illyricum as far as Dyrrachium, while the imperial generals did not even dare to face them. In 551 a band of three thousand Slavs pillaged Thrace and Illyricum and advanced as far as the Aegean Sea. In 552 the Slavs and Avars menaced Thessalonica and settled themselves on Byzantine land as though they had conquered it. In 558 the Kotrigur Huns pushed into Thrace, one of their bands reaching Thermopylae, while another appeared under the walls of Constantinople, which was only just saved by the courage of the old Belisarius. In 562 the Huns reappeared. Then the insolent and menacing Avars became prominent, on the very eve of Justinian's death. It is quite certain that none of these incursions would have led to the permanent establishment of a barbarian people within the limits of the Empire, as had happened in the West, for the imperial generals were always finally successful in hurling the swarms of invaders back over the Danube. At the same time the incessant scourge could not fail to produce lamentable consequences in the provinces which suffered from it. Procopius estimates that more than 200,000 people were either slain or led captive during its course. He also compares the annually ravaged lands to the "Scythian deserts," and tells how the folk were forced to flee to the forests and mountains to avoid the outrages and atrocities which the barbarians would have inflicted upon them.

However, in Asia as in Europe, Justinian had taken wise and vigorous measures to secure the defense of his provinces, to give them, as he said, “peace and tranquility”, and to remove the “temptation to invade and ravage the countries where the Emperor's subjects dwelt” from the barbarians. With this object of efficiency in view he reorganized the great military commands which were created to guard the frontier. In Asia one general, the magister militum of the East, had commanded the enormous district reaching from the Black Sea to Egypt. This command was too large, and Justinian divided it, instituting magistri militum for Armenia and Mesopotamia. In Europe he added a magister militum of Moesia to those of Illyricum and Thrace. But above all, for the immediate defence of the frontier he organized all along the limes military districts commanded by duces and occupied by special troops, the limitanei. We have already seen how the duties and divisions of this formation were determined in Africa. The same system was extended to the whole Empire, and a large strip of military lands round its whole circumference assured the safety of the interior. Although several of these limites were in existence before the time of Justinian, he had the merit of organizing and completing the whole system. Three limites were formed in Egypt, several commands were halved in Syria and on the Euphrates, and duces were established in Armenia, while others kept watch on the Danube, in Scythia, in the two Moesias, and in Dacia. Thus the barbarians were again confronted with the opposing wall that used to be called “the monarchy’s wrapper”.

Justinian’s Fortresses

Justinian also busied himself in building a continuous chain of fortresses along all the frontiers, as he had done in Africa. Rome had formerly been forced to undertake the immediate defense of the frontiers of the Empire in order to protect her territories. Justinian did more. Behind the first line of castella, and attached to them by a succession of stations, he built a series of large fortresses placed further apart, and more important. These served to strengthen the frontier castles, made a second barrier against invasion, and were a place of refuge for the inhabitants of the country. Thus the whole district was covered with strong castles. They were of unequal importance and strength, but they kept a watch on the enemy's territory, occupied points of strategic importance, barred the defiles, commanded the important routes, protected the safety of the towns, and sheltered the rural population. They covered all the provinces with a close-meshed net of fortresses, a network through which it seemed impossible for the enemy to slip. It had taken only a few years for Justinian’s resolution to raise or repair hundreds of fortresses, from the Danube to the Armenian mountains, and to the banks of the Euphrates. If ancient Roman posts were merely repaired at some points, while at others it was only necessary to complete buildings begun by Anastasius, yet the dazed admiration which contemporaries seem to have felt for this colossal work was justified, for Justinian gave unity to the whole system and displayed the greatest energy in carrying it out. According to Procopius, by it he truly “saved the monarchy”.

In his De Aedificiis Procopius gives the detailed list of the countless buildings repaired or built by the Emperor’s orders. Here it must suffice to notice the chief features of the work. On the Danube more than eighty castles were built or restored between the place where the Save enters that river and the Black Sea. Among them may be mentioned Singidunum (Belgrade), Octavum, Viminacium, Novae, further to the east Ratiaria, Augusta, Securisca, Durostorum (Silistria), Troesmis, and, on the left bank, the strongly fortified bridge of Lederata. These were for the most part ancient Roman citadels newly repaired. Justinian's original work consisted chiefly in the measures which he took to strengthen the rear. Hundreds of castella sprang up in Dacia, Dardania, and Moesia, further south in Epirus, Macedonia, and Thrace. Thus there was a second and even a third line of defence. In Dardania alone, Justinian's native country, Procopius enumerates more than one hundred and fifty castella besides such great posts as Justiniana Prima, Sardica, and Naissus. Fortifications were even constructed on the shore of the Sea of Marmora and the Archipelago. To protect Constantinople Anastasius had built the Long Wall in 512. It ran from the Sea of Marmora to Selymbria on the Black Sea. Similar long walls covered the Thracian Chersonesus, barred the passes of Thermopylae, and cut across the Isthmus of Corinth. Fortresses were also raised in Thessaly and northern Greece. Thus the whole of the Balkan Peninsula formed a vast entrenched camp. On the side of the Euxine long walls protected the approaches to Cherson, and the strong castle of Petra Justiniana defended Lazica. Then several lines of fortresses were drawn up from Trebizond to the Euphrates. In Armenia there was Theodosiopolis (now Erzeroum), Kitharizon, and Martyropolis; in Mesopotamia Amida, Constantina, Dara, called “the rampart of the Roman Empire”, and another Theodosiopolis; Circesium was on the Euphrates and Zenobia and Palmyra on the borders of the desert. Added to these there were the intermediate castella which connected the big fortresses. A little to the rear, in the second line, were Satala, Coloneia, Nicopolis, Sebaste, Melitene, “the bulwark of Armenia”, Edessa, Carrhae, Callinicum in Osrhoene, Sura, Hierapolis, Zeugma in the Euphrates district, and Antioch after the catastrophe of 540. These made a formidable field for warfare. It is certain that all these buildings do not date from Justinian’s reign, but he must have the credit of combining them all into a sure and splendid defensive system.

Justinian’s Diplomacy

Military methods alone were not employed for the defense of the Empire in the East. The imperial diplomacy was putting forth all its powers to that end, and displayed wonderful skill and ingenuity in the task. The Empire always possessed a great influence over the barbarians settled on the Roman frontiers. They were proud when their services and good faith won for them the approval of the basileus. They gladly placed their forces at his disposal when they received the annual subsidy (annona), and became the auxiliaries and vassals of the Empire, bearing the name of foederati. Their chiefs felt themselves honored when they received the splendid insignia of their commands from the hands of the basileus. They gladly adorned themselves with titles culled from the hierarchy of the palace, and hastened to declare themselves to be “Slaves of the imperial Majesty”. Constantinople and the Court dazzled their simple minds, they flocked there gladly, and it was easy for the Emperor by the mere splendor of their reception to impress them with a great idea of the strength of the monarchy. During the whole of Justinian’s reign the Sacred Palace was filled with a never-ending succession of strange and barbaric sovereigns. Heruls, Huns, Gepidae, Avars, Saracens, Axumitae, Lazi, Iberians, men of every race and of every land, with their wives and children and their retinue in picturesque garments, filled the capital with a babel of all the tongues in the universe. They were loaded with honors, presents, and magnificent demonstrations of affection, and returned to their native wilds dazzled by the spectacle of the imperial majesty. Naturally they felt themselves only too happy to be allowed to serve this basileus who gave so warm a welcome to his faithful servitors, and recompensed them so generously.

Thus by the clever distribution of favors and money the Emperor was able to maintain a fringe of barbarian clients on all his frontiers. At the same time the authorities at Byzantium never forgot that the fickle and perfidious allies might prove to be dangerous servants because of their indiscipline, faithlessness, and greed. The imperial diplomacy watched them with an eagle eye, skillfully treating them with a mixture of sternness and leniency; and endeavoring to render them harmless by the policy of setting them against each other, and fostering rivalry and hatred amongst them. Justinian maintained a possible rival to every barbarian king; he had always a hostile people waiting his word to descend on every other people. The Lombards menaced the Gepidae, the Utigurs the Kotrigurs, the Avars the Huns. Thus, as Agathias wrote, “so long as the barbarians destroyed each other, the Emperor was always victor without drawing his sword, no matter what was the end of the struggle”. Formerly Rome had found the same methods necessary to govern the barbarians. Byzantium was able to add to the Roman traditions the influence which she wielded because of her propagation of Christianity. Her missionaries worked for the consolidation of the imperial power as effectively as her diplomatists. They opened a road for politicians, and prepared new territories for Byzantine influence and civilization. Thanks to them conversions increased everywhere, from the plains of southern Russia to the Abyssinian plateau, and from the Caucasus Mountains to the oases of the Sahara.

By means of Christianity Byzantine influence spread beyond the boundaries of the Empire in Justinian's reign, and many were the peoples affected by it; Huns from the Cimmerian Bosphorus, Suanians, Abasgi, Apsilians from the Caucasus district, Alans, and Sabirian Huns, Tzani from the upper Euphrates, Arabs from Syria, Himyarites from Yemen, Nobadae and Blemmyes from the upper Nile, Berbers from the oases of the Sahara, and Heruls from Moesia.

By these means Justinian was able to checkmate his enemies. In the East he sought amongst the Sabirian Huns for allies against the Sassanid monarchy, because they could rush upon the Persian realm from the north. He also went to the Arabs of the Syrian desert because they might make useful diversions from the south, and he formed them into a unique State, under the phylarchus Harith the Ghassanid (531). Not content with this, he went yet further and made friends among the Arabs on the Yemen and in the Ethiopian kingdom of Axum. In the West he skillfully managed to sow discord amongst the tribes who crowded on the Danube frontier, checking the Bulgars by the Huns, the Huns by the Antae, and the Antae and Utigurs by the Avars. He scattered money and lands liberally amongst them all, loading their ambassadors with silken robes and golden chains, in return for which he only asked them to supply Byzantium with soldiers. In this way he settled the Lombards in Pannonia, the Heruls in Dacia, and the Kotrigur Huns in Thrace. He offered the Avars lands suitable for settlement on the Save, and similarly managed to procure a number of vassals on all the frontiers of the Empire. On the Danube there were the Heruls, Gepidae, Lombards, Huns and Antae; on the borders of Armenia the Lazi and Tzani; on the Syrian frontier the crowd of Arab tribes; in Africa the Berber inhabitants of Byzacena, Numidia and Mauretania.

Defects of Justinian’s Diplomacy

Thus with wonderful skill Justinian exercised the difficult art of ruling barbarians, and he did it from the depth of his palace and capital. Contemporaries waxed eloquent in praise of the prudence, the fairness and delicacy displayed by the Emperor in carrying out this policy, and in celebrating that efvulia by which, according to Menander, “he would have destroyed the barbarians without fighting if he had lived long enough”. However this policy was not without its dangers. By displaying the riches of the Empire to the barbarians, and by lavishly distributing money and lands amongst them, their demands were naturally increased enormously, and their invasions provoked. Procopius very wisely observed that “once they had tasted Byzantine wealth it was impossible to keep them from it, or to make them forget the road to it”. The obvious antidote for the dangers of this course of diplomacy was a strong military organization. Procopius again wrote “there is no other way of compelling the barbarians to keep faith with Rome except by the fear of the imperial armies”. Justinian understood this quite well. Unfortunately, in proportion as the West again absorbed the resources and attention of the Empire, lack of money led to the disorganization of those military institutions which had been formed to protect the East. Corps of limitanei were disbanded, the fighting force of the troops of the line in Syria was diminished, strong positions were left undefended, often bereft of garrisons altogether, and Justinian's excellent network of fortresses no longer sufficed to keep out the barbarians. The Emperor seemed to prefer diplomatic action by itself to the practical military precautions that he had applied so actively at the beginning of his reign. He thought it more clever to buy off the invaders than to beat them by force of arms, he considered it cheaper to subsidize the barbarians than to maintain a large army on a war footing; he found it more agreeable to direct a subtle diplomacy than great military operations, and he never realized that the first result of his policy was to encourage the barbarians to return.

This was the fundamental defect of Justinian's foreign policy in the East. It rested on a skilful combination of military force and diplomacy. As long as the balance was maintained between these two elements equilibrium was secured, the end aimed at was attained, and the Empire was well defended and comparatively safe. But when this balance was upset, everything went wrong at once. The Slavs appeared at Hadrianople, the Huns under the walls of Constantinople, while the Avars assumed a threatening attitude and regions of the Balkans were terribly ravaged. Procopius was justified when he reproached Justinian with having “wasted the riches of the Empire in extravagant gifts to the barbarians”, and in his assertion that the Emperor’s rash generosity only incited them to return perpetually “to sell the peace for which they were always well paid”. The historian goes on to explain that “after them came others, who made a double profit, from the rapine in which they indulged and from the money with which the liberality of the prince always furnished them. Thus the evil continued with no abatement, and there was no escape from the vicious circle”.

This mistaken policy cost the Empire dear. Nevertheless, it was founded on a right principle, and some of the results which it produced were not to be despised, in connection with the defense of territory, the development of commerce, or the spread of civilization. Justinian's mistake—specially during the last years of his reign—lay in the fact that he carried the system to excess. When he allowed the army to become disorganized and fortresses to fall into ruin he bereft his diplomacy of the force that was necessary to support his plans. When he ceased to awe the barbarians he found himself at their mercy.

Justinian’s Legislation. 533-536

The domestic government of the East took up as much of Justinian's attention as the defense of the territory. The urgent need for administrative reform in the midst of a serious religious crisis provided ample food for his anxiety.

In Byzantium the sale of public offices was an ancient custom, and this venality led to deplorable results. The governors expected to recoup themselves from the province for the expenses which they incurred in obtaining their posts, and to enrich themselves to as great an extent as possible while they held them. The other agents in so corrupt an administration only followed the governor’s example, when they pillaged and crushed the district to their heart's content. The financial system was oppressive and exacting; justice was sold or partially administered, and deep misery and general insecurity was the natural result. The people left the country, the towns were emptied, the fields deserted, and agriculture abandoned. While those who were strong or rich enough to defend themselves managed to escape the exactions of the tax-collector, the great proprietors maintained troops of armed men in their pay, and ravaged the country, attacked people and seized land, sure of immunity from the magistrates. Everywhere murder, brigandage, agitation and risings abounded, and last and most serious result of all the disorders, the returns of the taxes from the exhausted provinces were but scanty. Justinian calculated that only one-third of the taxes imposed really reached the treasury, and the misery of the subjects destroyed the source of the public wealth. It will be easy to understand why the Emperor felt so much concern at affairs in the East, if we add that the laws abounded in contradictions, obscurities and useless prolixity, which gave rise to very long law-suits, and furnished an opportunity for the judges to give arbitrary decisions, or to decide matters to suit their own convenience.

Justinian, as we know, had the qualities that go to make a good administrator. He loved order, he had a sincere wish to do good work, and a real care for the well-being of his subjects. With an authoritative disposition and absolutist tendencies, he combined a taste for administrative centralization. But above all, his vast projects left him incessantly in need of large sums of money. He saw that the best way to ensure the regularity of the returns was to protect those who paid from the functionaries who ruined them; and thus in furthering the well-being and quiet of his subjects the Emperor was also serving the best interests of the fisc. Moreover, it satisfied Justinian's pride to maintain the tradition of the great Roman Emperors by being a reformer and legislator. For these various reasons from the time of his accession he undertook a double work. In order to give the Empire certain and unquestionable laws he had legislative monuments drawn up under Tribonian’s direction, which are known as Justinian’s Code (529), the Digest (533), the Institutes (533), and completed by the series of Novellae (534-565).

The details of Justinian’s legislative work will be found in another chapter. All that is done here is to indicate their place in the reign as a whole and in the general policy of the Emperor. After the great crisis of the Nika riot had clearly shown him the public discontent and the faults of the government, he promulgated the two great ordinances of April 535. By these two documents Justinian laid down the principles of his administrative reform and showed his functionaries the new duties which he expected of them. The sale of offices was abolished. To take all pretext for exploiting the population from the governors, their salaries were raised, while their prestige was increased in order to remove from them the temptation to yield to the demands of powerful private persons. But before all things, the Emperor wished his agents to be scrupulously honest, and was always urging them to keep their “hands clean”. He gave minute instructions to his magistrates, and bade them render the same justice to all, keep a watchful eye on the conduct of their subordinates, protect the subjects from all vexations, hinder the encroachments of the great, ensure the maintenance of order by frequent progresses, and govern, in fact, “paternally”. But above all he bade them neglect nothing that might defend the interests of the fisc, and increase its resources. To pay in the taxes regularly was the first duty of a good officer, as the first duty of a taxpayer was to acquit himself regularly and completely of the whole sum due. Furthermore, to ensure the carrying out of his plans, Justinian requested the bishops to inspect the conduct of the magistrates; and he invited anyone who wished to make complaints to come to Constantinople, and lay his grievances at the feet of the sovereign.

The Administration

During the years 535 and 536 a series of special measures was added to the general enactments. Their object was to strengthen the local government and to ensure obedience to the central power. In the fourth century the traditional method of conducting the administration was to multiply provincial districts, to complicate an endless hierarchy of officials, and to separate civil and military authority. Justinian made a determined break in these pedantic traditions. He desired to simplify the administration, to have fewer provinces but to have them better organized. He also wished to diminish the number of officials, to give those that remained better salaries, and to make them stronger, and more dependent on the central government. To further this end he reduced the number of circumscriptions, by uniting couples of them or by grouping them more reasonably. He suppressed the useless vicarii, who had been intermediaries between the provincial governors and the praetorian praefect, and he reunited the civil and military authority in the hands of the same officials in a great number of provinces. He created praetors in Pisidia, Lycaonia, Pamphylia, and Thrace; counts in Isauria, Phrygia, Pacatiana, Galatia, Syria, and Armenia; an administrative moderator in the Hellespont; a proconsul to govern Cappadocia. The Emperor adorned all these officials with the high-sounding title of Justiniani, and they united authority over the troops stationed in their circumscription to their competence in civil matters. This was a great innovation and was fraught with serious consequences in the administrative history of the Byzantine Empire.

The reorganization of the judicial administration completed these useful measures. Justinian desired that justice should be administered with more speed and security in these provinces. In order to avoid the obstruction of business in the courts of the capital he made a series of courts of appeal midway between the court of the provincial governor and that of the praetorian praefect and the quaestor. Thus appeals were made easier and less burdensome to the subjects, and at the same time Constantinople was freed from the crowd of litigants who had flocked there, and who, since they were discontented and idle, were only too ready to join the ranks of thieves or agitators.

One of the great difficulties confronting the government was the police of the capital. Praetors of the people were instituted there in 535, to judge cases of theft, adultery, murder, and to repress disturbances. In 539 another magistrate, the quaestor, was established, to rid the city of the crowd of provincials who obstructed it with no valid excuse. At the same time, probably owing to Theodora's initiative, the guardians of public morals were reorganized, and rigorous mandates were issued to check excessive gambling, impious blasphemy, and the scandal caused by infamous persons who did not wait for night to hide their deeds. To those who had been driven to vice by need rather than choice protection was also given against the lenones who took advantage of them. The Empress’ charity was exercised to provide a refuge for these unfortunate girls, in the convent of Repentance established by her wish in an old imperial palace on the Asiatic side of the Bosphorus. But above all the various factions were closely watched, the games in the circus were suppressed for several years, and the tranquility of the capital was undisturbed for at least fifteen years.

The City of Constantinople. 532-554

This administrative work was completed by the great impetus which was given to the public works. In the instructions to his officials Justinian had commended to their attention the maintenance of roads, bridges, walls, and aqueducts, and had promised large supplies for such purposes. In consequence new roads were everywhere made to facilitate communication, wells and reservoirs were established along them so that caravans might be supplied with water; bridges spanned the rivers, and the course of the streams was controlled. Schemes were carried out in order to supply drinking-water to the great towns in the Empire, and many public baths were built. After the disaster of 540 Antioch was rebuilt with unheard-of luxury. It was plentifully supplied with aqueducts, sewers, baths, public squares, theatres, and in fact with “everything which testifies to the prosperity of a town”. After the earthquakes of 551 and 554 the Syrian towns rose from their ruins more splendid than ever, thanks to Justinian’s munificence. The Empire was covered with new cities built at the prince’s wish, and bearing, to please him, the surname of “Justiniana”. Tauresium, the modest village in which the Emperor was born, became a great city in this way with the name of Justiniana Prima. It was populous and prosperous, “truly worthy of a basileus”. Constantinople, which had been partly destroyed by the fire of 532, was rebuilt with incomparable magnificence. The church of St Sophia was begun in 532 under the direction of Isidore of Miletus and Anthemius of Tralles, and finished in 537; the Sacred Palace with the Chalce vestibule was built in 538 and completely lined with mosaics and marbles, while the great throne-room or Consistorium was dazzling with the shimmer of precious metals. There were also the great square of the Augusteum, in the centre of which stood an equestrian statue of Justinian and which was surrounded on every side by splendid monuments; the long porticoes which stretched from the imperial residence to the forum of Constantine; the church of the Holy Apostles, begun by Theodora in 536 and completed in 550; and the numerous hostels and hospitals founded by Justinian and Theodora, together with palaces and basilicae; all these attested the luxurious taste and magnificent pride of the Emperor. To this day the splendid reservoirs of Jerebatan-Serai and Bin-bir-Direk (the thousand and one columns) show the trouble that was taken to supply the capital with drinking-water; and the churches of St Irene, and SS. Sergius and Bacchus, above all St Sophia, that miracle of stability and boldness, of purity of line and brightness of color, remain as incomparable witnesses to Justinian’s grandeur. 


Trade. 530-554


A solid economic prosperity justified so many expensive splendors. In order to develop industry and commerce in his Empire Justinian gave great attention to economic questions. He set himself to free the Byzantine merchants from the tyranny of middlemen who had oppressed them and to open fresh fields for their enterprise. As a matter of fact, in the sixth century Byzantium did not obtain exotic commodities and precious materials for her luxury straight from the countries which produced them. The land routes by which the products of the Far East were brought to the Mediterranean from China through the oases of Sogdiana, and the sea routes by which precious stones, spices, and silk were brought from Ceylon to the ports on the Persian Gulf, were in the hands of Persia. Persia not only guarded these routes jealously, but also regulated with special severity the exportation of silk, which was indispensable to the Byzantines. Justinian determined to remedy this state of things. In the Black Sea, the ports of the Crimea, Bosphorus, and Cherson made, with the south of Russia, a splendid district for barter; besides this Byzantium, situated at the mouth of the Black Sea, carried on a brisk trade with Lazica. But, from the Sea of Azof, as well as from Colchis, the Caspian could be reached, and then if a northerly direction were taken the oases of Sogdiana could be reached without crossing Persian territory. Another route offered itself more to the south. The Syrian and Egyptian merchants set out from Aila on the Gulf of Akabah to work the shores of the Red Sea, and then extended their operations as far as the ports of Himyar on the east, and the great Ethiopian port of Adoulis on the west. But Adoulis kept up wide-spread relations with the whole of the Asiatic East, and her ships, like those of the Arabs of Yemen, went as far as Ceylon, the great emporium for India. Thanks to these routes, Justinian thought that he could divert the trade of which the Persians had the monopoly from the usual routes. During 530 or 531 strange negotiations took place with the Himyarites and the Court of Axum, with the object of persuading those peoples to agree with the Emperor's plans, and to bring the products of the Far East straight to the Red Sea. The "King of Kings" of Axum readily agreed to do so; but the Persians had the upper hand in the Indian ports, and they would not allow themselves to be deprived of their profits. The peace therefore of 532 restored the transactions between the Empire and the Sassanid monarchy to their ordinary footing.

However, thanks to the importation of raw silk, which became once more regular, the Syrian manufactures were flourishing. The rupture with Persia in 540 brought about a grave crisis for them, and Justinian only made matters worse by the unwise measures which he took. In his excessive love of regulations he attempted to fix the price of raw silk, by a law which enforced a maximum price. He hoped thus to substitute a monopoly of the manufactures of the State for the ruined private industry. The Syrian industry was seriously injured by these measures. Luckily the cultivation of silk-worms did much to repair the disasters. The eggs of the worms were brought into the Empire from the country of Serinda by two missionaries, between 552 and 554. The silk industry soon recovered when raw material could be obtained more cheaply, although Byzantium was not successful in freeing herself completely from Persia. On the whole, however, Byzantine commerce was flourishing. Alexandria was a splendid port, and grew rich by exporting corn, while her merchants travelled as far as the Indies. Syria found a market for her manufactures as far away as China. But above all, Constantinople, with her incomparable situation between Europe and Asia, was a wonderful mart, towards which, according to a contemporary, the ships of the world's commerce sailed, freighted with expectation. Her numerous industrial societies, and the active commerce in silver carried on there with wealthy bankers, increased her riches still further; and seeing the prosperity of his capital, Justinian was able, with his usual optimism, to congratulate himself on “having given another flower to the State by his splendid conceptions”.

Justinian’s Exactions. 535-565

But in spite of the Emperor’s good intentions, his administrative reform miscarried. From 535 until the end of the reign Justinian was constantly obliged to renew his ordinances, think out new measures, and blame the zeal of his officials. In the great ordinance of 556 he was forced to repeat everything which he had laid down twenty years earlier. From the statements of the public documents themselves we learn that the peace continued to be disturbed, the officials continued to steal openly “in their shameful love of gain”; the soldiers continued to pillage, the financial administration was more oppressive than ever; while justice was slow, venal, and corrupt, as it had been before the reform.

More and more Justinian needed money. He needed it for his wars of conquest, for his buildings, for the maintenance of his imperial luxury, and for the expenses of his policy with regard to the barbarians. Thus after having ordered that the subjects of the Empire should be treated leniently, and having declared that he would be content with the existing taxes, he was himself forced to create new dues, and to exact the returns with a merciless severity. Worse still, thanks to the financial distress against which he struggled, he was obliged to tolerate all the exactions of his officials. As long as money came to the treasury, no one troubled to enquire how it was obtained : and as it had been necessary to yield to the venality of the public offices, so the only course was to appear as blind to the dealings of the administration as to the sufferings of the subjects. Besides, a corrupt example was set in high quarters. John of Cappadocia, brutal and covetous as he was, speculating on everything, stealing from everyone, still maintained the Emperor's credit in a wonderful way until 541 “by his constant labors to increase the public revenue”. Peter Barsymes who succeeded him in 543 was the prince's chief favorite until 559, in spite of his shameless traffic in the magistracies, and his scandalous speculation in corn, simply because he was able, in some degree, to supply money for all Justinian’s needs. The provincial officials followed the lead of their chiefs, and even rivaled them in exactions and corruption, while the Emperor looked the other way. The financial tyranny had reached such a pitch by this time that a contemporary tells us that “a foreign invasion seemed less formidable to the taxpayers than the arrival of the officials of the fisc”. The misery suffered was terrible enough to justify the sinister fact recorded by John Lydus, “The tax-gatherers could find no more money to take to the Emperor, because there were no people left to pay the taxes”. Justinian's administrative system had woefully miscarried.

The Church. 527-565

In common with all the Emperors who had occupied the throne of the Caesars since the time of Constantine, Justinian gave much attention to the Church, as much for political reasons as because of his zeal for orthodoxy. His autocratic disposition was unable to realize that anything could be exempt from the prince's inspection in a well-regulated monarchy. He claimed therefore to exercise his authority, not only with regard to ecclesiastics—the greatest included—but further, when questions of discipline or dogma arose his word was never lacking. He wrote somewhere that “good order in the Church is the prop of the Empire”. He spared nothing which might lead to this good order. Both Justinian's Code and the Novellae abound in laws dealing with the organization of the clergy, the regulation of their moral life, the foundation and administration of religious houses, the government of ecclesiastical property, and the control of the jurisdiction to which clerics were liable. During his whole reign Justinian claimed the right to appoint and dispossess bishops, to convoke and direct councils, to sanction their decisions, and to amend or abolish their canons. Since he enjoyed theological controversies, and had a real talent for conducting them, he was not deterred by pope, patriarchs, and bishops, from setting himself up as a doctor of the Church, and as an interpreter of the Scriptures. In this capacity he drew up confessions of faith and hurled forth anathemas.

In exchange for the mastery which he assumed over it, he extended his special protection to the Church. A crowd of religious buildings, churches, convents, and hospitals sprang up in every part of the Empire, thanks to the Emperor's generosity. Throughout the monarchy the bishops were encouraged to make use of the government's authority and resources to spread their faith as well as to suppress heresy. Justinian believed that the first duty of a sovereign was “to keep the pure Christian faith inviolate, and to defend the Catholic and Apostolic Church from any harm”. He therefore employed the most severe measures against anyone who wished to injure or introduce changes into the unity of the Church. Religious intolerance was transformed into a public virtue.


From the beginning of his reign Justinian promulgated the severest laws against heretics in 527 and 528. They were excluded from holding any public office, and from the liberal professions. Their meetings were forbidden and their churches shut. They were even deprived of some of their civil rights, for the Emperor declared that it was only right that orthodox persons should have more privileges in society than heretics, for whom "to exist is sufficient." The pagans, Hellenes as they were called, were persecuted by the enforcement of these general rules; Justinian endeavored, above all things, to deprive them of education, and he had the University of Athens closed in 529; at the same time ordering wholesale conversions.

Missions were frequently sent to the Monophysites of Asia by John, bishop of Ephesus, who called himself “the destroyer of idols and the hammer of the heathen” (542). Those sanctuaries which were not yet closed, that of Isis at Philae and that of Ammon in the oasis of Augila, were shut by force, and nothing remained of paganism but an amusement for a few men of leisure, or a form of political opposition in the shape of secret societies. The Jews fared no better, and the Samaritan revolt in 529 made their position still worse. Other sects which refused to conform, Manichaeans, Montanists, Arians, and Donatists, were persecuted in the same way. Religious intolerance accompanied the imperial restoration in the West. In Africa, as in Italy, Arians were spoiled for the benefit of Catholics, their churches were destroyed or ruined, and their lands confiscated. The Monophysites alone profited by comparative toleration, because they engrossed more of Justinian's attention, since they were stronger and more numerous than the others.

Justinian had been thrown into the arms of Rome at the beginning of his reign, partly by the orthodox restoration effected by Justin, and partly by his own desire to maintain friendly relations with the Papacy; a desire due to political interests as well as to religious zeal. Resounding confessions of faith testified to the purity of his belief and his profound respect for Rome, while his measures against heretics proved the sincerity of his zeal. Justinian spared nothing in his efforts to conciliate the Roman Church, and we find inserted with evident satisfaction in Justinian's Code pontifical letters, which praise his efforts to maintain “the peace of the Church and the unity of religion”, and assert that “nothing is finer than faith in the bosom of a prince”.

However, if concord with Rome was a necessary condition of the establishment and maintenance of the imperial domination in the West, the Monophysites had to be reckoned with in the East. In spite of the persecutions of Justin's reign, they were still strong and numerous within the Empire. They were masters of Egypt, where the monks formed a fanatical and devoted army at the disposal of their patriarch. In Palestine, Syria, Mesopotamia, Osrhoene, and Armenia they held important posts, and found protectors even in the capital itself; and their furious opposition to the Council of Chalcedon and the Roman doctrines was the more dangerous since under the guise of religion they displayed those separatist tendencies, which had long been hostile towards Constantinople in both Egypt and Syria. Justinian had to choose between the horns of a dilemma, between the restoration of political and moral unity in the East by the sacrifice of peace with Rome—the course followed by Zeno and Anastasius, and advised by Theodora—and the maintenance of friendly relations with the West at the price of meeting the Eastern Monophysite opposition with force. Justin had pursued this policy and Justinian had carried it on. But now, placed as he was between the Pope and the Empress, he found a change of policy necessary. A middle course seemed fraught with least difficulty, so he tried to find a neutral position which would allow him to recede from the Council of Chalcedon sufficiently to satisfy the dissidents, and so, without sacrificing his orthodoxy, to extinguish an opposition which troubled the Emperor as much as the theologian. This was the fundamental idea underlying his religious policy, in spite of variation, hesitations, and contradictions. Theodora suggested it to him, and it would have proved a fruitful conception if time had been allowed the Empress to finish her work; in any case it was an idea worthy of an Emperor.

Dealings with the Monophysites. 529-537

From the time of his accession Justinian had busied himself in the attempt to find some common ground with the Monophysites. In 529 or 530, on Theodora’s advice he recalled the fugitive or proscribed monks from exile, as a pledge of his good intentions. He invited to Constantinople Severus, the ex-patriarch of Antioch, for whom the Empress professed a passionate admiration, to seek with him for a way which might lead to an agreement. In 533 he arranged a conference in the capital “to restore unity”, at which the heretics were to be treated with complete kindness and unalterable patience. Soon afterwards, in order to satisfy the Monophysites, he imposed on the orthodox clergy, after the theopaschite quarrel, a declaration of faith that has rightly been called “a new Henotikon”. Further, he allowed the Monophysites complete liberty to spread their teaching, and not only in the capital but in the Sacred Palace itself heresy increased, thanks to the open protection of Theodora. When, in 535, the patriarchal throne became vacant, Epiphanius’ successor was Anthemius, bishop of Trebizond, a prelate secretly attached to the Monophysite cause. Under the influence of Severus, who was in the capital, and a guest at the palace, the new patriarch pursued the policy approved by the religious leaders of the East, that is the same that Zeno and Anastasius had followed; while Theodora actively helped, and the Emperor gave a tacit consent.

But the orthodox position was restored by several events. In March 536 the energetic pope Agapetus came to Constantinople and boldly deposed Anthemius; the Council of Constantinople anathematized the heretics with no uncertain pronouncement soon after (May 536), while the apostolic legate Pelagius acquired in the following years considerable influence over Justinian. Towards the end of 537 persecution of the Monophysites broke out again: bonfires were lighted in Syria, Mesopotamia, and Armenia, and it was boasted that heresy had been rooted out by severity and tortures. Even Egypt, the Monophysite stronghold, was not spared. The patriarch Theodosius, one of Theodora's protégés, was torn from his see, driven into exile (538) and replaced by a prelate fitted to inspire respect for orthodoxy by means of terror. Egypt bent under his iron hand. Even the monks accepted the Council of Chalcedon; and Justinian and Pelagius flattered themselves that they had beaten down heresy (540).

Although the Emperor returned to the Roman side in the dispute, he had no intention of giving up for that reason the supreme authority which he considered his due, even over the Papacy. Silverius, successor of Agapetus, had made the great mistake of allowing himself to be elected by Gothic influence just when Theodora wanted her favorite, the deacon Vigilius, to be elevated to the pontifical throne. Belisarius accepted the uncongenial task of paying off imperial grudges towards the new pope. In March 537 Silverius was arrested, deposed, and sent into exile on an imaginary charge of treason. Vigilius was unanimously elected in his place under pressure from Byzantium (29 March 537).

Jacob Baradaeus. 527-550

The Empress counted on her protégé to carry out her revenge for the repulse of 536. But once installed, Vigilius made delays, and in spite of Belisarius' summons to carry out his promises, finally refused to accomplish any of the plans expected of him. At the same time, Monophysitism was spreading in the East in spite of the severity of the edicts of 541 and 544. Justinian had taken what he thought to be the wise measure of assembling the heretical leaders in Constantinople, where they would be in his power, and under the eye of the police. But Theodora soon procured a return to court favor for the exiles. The Emperor willingly made use of their enthusiastic zeal, and sent them to convert the pagans of Nubia (540), to struggle with those of Asia Minor (542), and to establish Christianity amongst the Arabs of Syria (543). Theodora did still more. Thanks to her efforts Jacob Baradaeus, who had been secretly consecrated bishop of Edessa (543), was able to continue the work of reorganizing the Monophysite Church throughout the East. Active and indefatigable, in spite of the harshness of the enraged police who dogged his track, he was able to reconstruct the scattered communities in Asia, Syria, and Egypt, to give them bishops and even a leader in the patriarch whom he ordained at Antioch in 550. It was owing to him that a new Monophysite Church was founded in a few years, which took the name of its great founder, and henceforth called itself Jacobite.

This unexpected revival changed Justinian's plans once more. Again his old dream of unity seemed to him to be more than ever necessary for the safety of the State as well as for the good of the Church. Thus, when Theodore Askidas, bishop of Caesarea, drew his attention, among the writings approved by the Council of Chalcedon, to those of the three men Theodore of Mopsuestia, Theodoret of Cyrrhus, and Ibas of Edessa, as notoriously tainted with Nestorianism, he was easily persuaded that to condemn the Three Chapters would be to create an easy and orthodox way to dissipate the Monophysite distrust of the Council "renewed and purified." And since Pelagius was no longer there to counterbalance Theodora's influence, and as the heretics joyfully welcomed any scheme which injured the authority of Chalcedon, the Emperor pronounced the anathema against the Three Chapters by an edict of 543.

Pope Vigilius. 543-551

It was still necessary to obtain the adhesion of the Papacy; but this did not trouble the Emperor. It was essential to remove the pope from his Roman surroundings, which were hostile to the designs of the Greek theologians, and to put him in the Emperor's power. Therefore Vigilius was carried off from Rome in the midst of a display of the troops (November 545) and transported under escort to Sicily, whence he travelled slowly towards Constantinople. He arrived at the beginning of 547, and soon yielded to the importunities of the basileus, the energetic summons of Theodora, and the subtle entreaties of the court theologians. He promised “to set their minds at rest” by condemning the Three Chapters, and he published his Judicatum on Easter Eve 548. This, while formally maintaining the authority of the Canons of Chalcedon, condemned no less clearly the persons and writings of the three guilty doctors. This was Theodora's last triumph. When she died soon after (June 548) she could think that her highest hopes were realized, in the humiliation of the Apostolic See and the constant progress of the Monophysite Church.

When the news of these events at Constantinople spread to the West, there was a general protest against Vigilius’ conduct in Africa, Dalmatia, and Illyricum. Justinian was unmoved. By an imperial edict bearing the date of 551 he solemnly condemned the Three Chapters a second time, and set himself to overcome all opposition by the use of force. The most recalcitrant bishops in Africa were deposed, and the rest appeased by means of intrigues; and since Vigilius, alarmed at what he had done, insistently clamored for an ecumenical council to settle the dispute, strong measures were taken against him. In the month of August 551 the church of St Peter in Hormisda, where he had taken refuge, was entered by a band of soldiers, who dragged the clerics composing the pontifical train from the sanctuary. Vigilius was clinging to the altar pillars; he was seized by the feet and the beard, and the ensuing struggle was so desperate that the altar was pulled over and fell, crushing the pope beneath it. At the sight of this dreadful occurrence the assembled crowd cried out in horror, and even the soldiers hesitated. The Praetor decided to beat a retreat; the plan had miscarried. But the pope was nothing more than the Emperor’s prisoner. Surrounded by spies, fearing for his liberty, even for his life, Vigilius decided to flee. On a dark night (23 Dec. 551) he escaped from the Placidian Palace with a few faithful followers, and sought refuge in the church of St Euphemia at Chalcedon, the same place where the Council had been held for which Vigilius was suffering martyrdom.

Justinian was afraid that he had gone too far: and he resumed negotiations. Not without difficulty nor without another attempt to use force, he persuaded the pontiff to return to Constantinople, and brought forward the idea of a Council once more. After various hindrances this great assembly, known as the Fifth Ecumenical Council, opened (5 May 553) in the church of St Sophia. A few African prelates, chosen with great care, were the only representatives of the West; the pope refused to take part in the debates, in spite of all entreaties: and while the Council accomplished its task, obedient to the Emperor's commands, he tried to make a pronouncement on the question in dispute on his own authority by the Constitutum of 14 May 553. While he completely abandoned the doctrines of Theodore of Mopsuestia, he refused to anathematize him, and showed himself even more indulgent towards Ibas and Theodoret, saying that all Catholics should be contented with anything approved by the Council of Chalcedon. Unfortunately for Vigilius he had bound himself by frequent vows and by written and formal agreements to condemn the Three Chapters at Justinian's wish. At the Emperor's instigation the Council ignored the pontiff’s recantation. To please the prince it even erased the name of Vigilius from the ecclesiastical diptychs; and then, the Three Chapters having been condemned in a long decree, the fathers separated, 2 June 553.

Violence was again used to enforce the decisions of the Council. Particular severity was used towards those clerics who had supported Vigilius in his resistance. They were exiled or imprisoned, so that the pontiff, deserted and worn out, and fearing that a successor to him would be appointed in newly-conquered Rome, gave way to the Emperor’s wish and solemnly confirmed the condemnation of the Three Chapters by the Constitutum of February 554. The West, however, still persisted in its opposition. The authorities flattered themselves of having reduced the recalcitrants by floggings, imprisonment, exile, and depositions. They were successful in Africa and Dalmatia, but in Italy there was a party amongst the bishops, led by the metropolitans of Milan and Aquileia, who flatly refused to remain in fellowship with a pope who “betrayed his trust” and “deserted the orthodox cause”, and in spite of the efforts of the civil authorities to reduce the opposition, the schism lasted for more than a century.

The Papacy emerged from this long struggle cruelly humiliated. After Silverius, Vigilius had experienced in full measure the severity of the imperial absolutism. His successors, Pelagius (555) and John III (560), elected under pressure from Justinian's officials, were nothing more than humble servants of the basileus, in spite of all their struggles. Their authority was discredited in the entire West by the affair of the Three Chapters, shaken in Italy by the schism, and still further lessened by the privileges that the imperial benevolence granted to the church of Ravenna, since that town was the capital of reconquered Italy. By paying this price, by cruelly wounding the Catholic West, and recalling the Monophysites, Justinian hoped until his dying day that he had obtained the results which were the aim of his religious policy, and had restored peace to the East. “Anxious”, wrote John of Ephesus, “to carry out the wishes of his dead wife in every detail”, he increased the number of conferences and discussions after 548, in order to reconcile the Monophysites: while he had such a great wish to find some common ground with them that to satisfy them he slipped into heresy on the eve of his death. In an edict of 565 he declared his adherence to the doctrine of the Incorruptiblae, the most extreme of all the heretics, and as usual he used force against the prelates who made any resistance. Thus until the end of his life Justinian had consistently endeavored to impose his will upon the Church, and to break down all opposition. Until the end of his life also he had sought to realize the ideal of unity which inspired and dominated the whole of his religious policy. But nothing came of his efforts; the Monophysites were never satisfied with the concessions made to them, and upon the whole this great theological undertaking, this display of rigor and arbitrariness, produced no results at all or results of a deplorable nature.

Justinian’s last years. 548-565

It remains to be seen what were the consequences of Justinian’s government in the East, and what price he paid, especially during the last years of his reign, for this policy of great aims and mediocre or unskillful measures.

A secret defect existed in all Justinian’s undertakings, which destroyed the sovereign's most magnificent projects, and ruined his best intentions. This was the disproportion between the end in view and the financial resources available to realize it. Enormous, in fact inexhaustible supplies were needed, for the drain on them was immense; to satisfy the needs of a truly imperial policy, to meet the cost of wars of conquest, to pay the troops, and for the construction of fortresses; to maintain the luxury of the Court and the expense of buildings, to support a complicated administration and to dispense large subsidies to the barbarians. When he ascended the throne Justinian had found in the treasury the sum of 320,000 pounds of gold, more than S14,400,000 sterling, which had been accumulated by the prudent economy of Anastasius. This reserve fund was exhausted in a few years, and henceforth for the rest of his long reign, the Emperor suffered from the worst of miseries, the lack of money. Without money the wars which had been entered upon with insufficient means dragged on interminably. Without money the unpaid army became disorganized and weak. Without money to maintain an effective force and provision the posts, the badly defended frontier gave way under the assault of the barbarians, and, to get rid of them, recourse was had to a ruinous diplomacy, which did not even protect the Empire against invasions. Without money the attempted administrative reform had to be abandoned, and the vices of an openly corrupt administration to be condoned. Without money the government was driven to strange expedients, often most unsuitable to its economic as to its financial policy. To meet expenses the burden of taxation was increased until it became almost intolerable; and as time passed, and the disproportion between the colossal aims of the imperial ambition and the condition of the financial resources of the monarchy became greater, the difficulty of overcoming the deficit led to even harsher measures. “The State”, wrote Justinian in 552, “greatly enlarged by the divine mercy and led by this increase to make war on her barbaric neighbors, has never been in greater need of money than today”. Justinian exercised all his ingenuity to find this money at any sacrifice, but in spite of real economies—amongst others the suppression of the consulship (541)—by which he tried to restore some proportion to the Empire's budget, the Emperor could never decide to curtail his luxury, or his building operations, while the money which had been collected with such difficulty was too often squandered to please favorites or upon whims. Therefore a terrible financial tyranny was established in the provinces, which effected the ruin of the West already overwhelmed by war, of the Balkan peninsula ravaged by barbarians, and of Asia fleeced by Chosroes. The time came when it was impossible to drag anything from these exhausted countries, and seeing the general misery, the growing discontent and the suspicions which increased every day, contemporaries asked, with a terrified stupor, “whither the wealth of Rome had vanished”. Thus the end of the reign was strangely sad.

The death of Theodora (June 548), while it deprived the Emperor of a vigorous and faithful counselor, dealt Justinian a blow from which he never recovered. Henceforth, as his age increased—he was 65 then—the defects of his character only became more prominent. His irresolution was more noticeable, while his theological mania was inflamed. He disregarded military matters, finding the direction of the wars which he had so dearly loved tiresome and useless; he cared more for the exercise of a diplomacy, often pitifully inadequate, than for the prestige of arms. Above all, he carried on everything with an ever-increasing carelessness. Leaving the trouble of finding money at any cost to his ministers, to Peter Barsymes the successor of John of Cappadocia, and to the quaestor Constantine, the successor of Tribonian, he gave himself up to religious quarrels, passing his nights in disputations with his bishops. As Corippus, a man not noted for severity towards princes: wrote “The old man no longer cared for anything; his spirit was in heaven”.

Death of Justinian. 551-565

Under these circumstances, everything was lost. The effective force of the army, which ought to have numbered 645,000 men, was reduced to 150,000 at the most in 555. No garrisons defended the ramparts of the dilapidated fortresses. “Even the barking of a watch-dog was not to be heard” wrote Agathias, somewhat brutally. Even the capital, inadequately protected by the wall of Anastasius, which was breached in a thousand places, only had a few regiments of the palatine guard—soldiers of no military worth—to defend it, and was at the mercy of a sudden attack. Added to this, successive invasions took place in Illyricum and Thrace; the Huns only just failed to take Constantinople in 558, while in 562 the Avars insolently demanded land and money from the Emperor.

Then there was the misery of earthquakes, in 551 in Palestine, Phoenicia and Mesopotamia, in 554 and 557 at Constantinople. It was in 556 that the scourge of famine came, and in 558 the plague, which desolated the capital during six months. Above all there was the increasing misery caused by the financial tyranny. During the last years of the reign the only supplies came from such expedients as the debasement of the coinage, forced loans and confiscations. The Blues and Greens again filled Byzantium with disturbances: in 553, 556, 559, 560, 561, 562 and 564 there were tumults in the streets, and incendiarism in the town. In the palace the indecision as to a successor led to continual intrigues: already the nephews of the basileus quarreled over their heritage. There was even a conspiracy against the Emperor's life, and on this occasion Justinian's distrust caused the disgrace of Belisarius once more for a few weeks (562).

Thus when the Emperor died (November 565) at the age of 83 years, relief was felt throughout the Empire. In ending this account of Justinian’s reign the grave Evagrius wrote: “Thus died this prince, after having filled the whole world with noise and troubles: and having since the end of his life received the wages of his misdeeds, he has gone to seek the justice which was his due before the judgment-seat of hell”. He certainly left a formidable heritage to his successors, perils menacing all the frontiers, an exhausted Empire, in which the public authority was weakened in the provinces by the development of the great feudal estates, in the capital by the growth of a turbulent proletariat, susceptible to every panic and ready for every sedition. The monarchy had no strength with which to meet all these dangers. In a novel of Justin II promulgated the day after Justinian's death we read the following, word for word: “We found the treasury crushed by debts and reduced to the last degree of poverty, and the army so completely deprived of all necessaries that the State was exposed to the incessant invasions and insults of the barbarians”.

It would, however, be unjust to judge the whole of Justinian’s reign by the years of his decadence. Indeed, though every part of the work of the Byzantine Caesar is not equally worthy of praise it must not be forgotten that his intentions were generally good, and worthy of an Emperor. There is an undeniable grandeur in his wish to restore the Roman traditions in every branch of the government, to reconquer the lost provinces, and to recover the imperial suzerainty over the whole barbarian world. In his wish to efface the last trace of religious quarrels he showed a pure feeling for the most vital interests of the monarchy. In the care which Justinian took to cover the frontiers with a continuous network of fortresses, there was a real wish to assure the security of his subjects; and this solicitude for the public good was shown still more clearly in the efforts which he made to reform the administration of the State. Furthermore, it was not through vanity alone, or because of a puerile wish to attach his name to a work great enough to dazzle posterity, that Justinian undertook the legal reformation, or covered the capital and Empire with sumptuous buildings. In his attempt to simplify the law, and to make justice more rapid and certain, he undoubtedly had the intention of improving the condition of his subjects: and even in the impetus given to public works we can recognize a love of greatness, regrettable in its effects perhaps, but commendable all the same because of the thought which inspired it.

Certainly the execution of these projects often compared unfavorably with the grandiose conceptions which illuminated the dawn of Justinian's reign. But however hard upon the West the imperial restoration may have been, however useless the conquest of Africa and Italy may have been to the East, Justinian none the less gave the monarchy an unequalled prestige for the time being, and filled his contemporaries with admiration or terror. Whatever may have been the faults of his diplomacy, none the less by that adroit and supple combination of political negotiations and religious propaganda he laid down for his successors a line of conduct which gave force and duration to Byzantium during several centuries. And if his successes were dearly bought by the sufferings of the East and the widespread ruin caused by a despotic and cruel government, his reign has left an indelible mark in the history of civilization. The Code and St Sophia assure eternity to the memory of Justinian.