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See C. Diehl, Justinien et la civilisation byzantine au VIe siècle (1901, repr. 1969); J. W. Barker, Justinian and the Later Roman Empire (1966); R. Browning, Justinian and Theodora (1971); A. Gerostergios, Justinian the Great (1982).
Born 482 or 483 in Tauresium, upper Macedonia; died Nov. 14, 565, in Constantinople. Byzantine emperor from 527.
The son of a peasant, Justinian was educated under the patronage of his uncle Justin I, who was emperor from 518 to 527. Brought by Justin to the imperial court, Justinian exercised great influence on affairs of state. After ascending to the throne he strove to restore the Roman Empire to its former boundaries and former greatness. Supported by the middle strata of landowners and slaveholders, he also sought the support of the orthodox church; he attempted to limit the senatorial aristocracy’s claims to power. His wife, Theodora, played an important role in state politics.
During Justinian’s reign Roman law was codified (seeCODIFICATION OF JUSTINIAN). The emperor’s legislative activities were on the whole directed toward the establishment of unlimited imperial power, the strengthening of slavery, and the defense of property rights. He contributed to the centralization of the state by his reforms of 535 and 536, which increased the size of administrative districts, concentrated civil and military power in the hands of the districts’ governors, and regulated and strengthened the army and the administration of the state. He placed handicrafts and trade under the control of the state. Oppressive taxation increased under Justinian, and heretics were brutally persecuted.
Justinian was responsible for a vast program of construction. He erected fortifications for defense against barbarian invasions, built up cities, and constructed palaces and churches, including Hagia Sophia in Constantinople.
Justinian’s foreign policy was one of conquest. He regained areas of the Western Roman Empire that had been seized by the barbarians: northern Africa, Sardinia, and Corsica were recovered from the Vandals in 533 and 534, the Italian Peninsula and Sicily from the Ostrogoths between 535 and 555, and the southeastern part of the Iberian Peninsula from the Visigoths in 554. Slaveholding relations were restored in these areas. In the east, the Byzantines waged war against Iran from 527 to 532 and from 540 to 561; in the north they repulsed an attack by the Slavs.
In various regions of the empire, especially in the lands annexed under Justinian, popular uprisings broke out in protest against the emperor’s authority. Notable expressions of unrest were an uprising of Samaritans in Palestine in 529 and 530, the Nika revolt in Constantinople in 532, the revolutionary movement in North Africa from 536 to 548 headed by Stotzas, and the people’s liberation movement in Italy led by Totila.
REFERENCEIstoriia Vizantii, vol. 1. Moscow, 1967. Chapters 10–14.
Z. V. UDALTSOVA