Justinian I

  • Justinian the Great
  • Saint Justinian
  • Justinian I
  • Μέγας Ἰουστινιανός
Meister von San Vitale in Ravenna.jpg
Detail of a contemporary portrait mosaic in the Basilica of San Vitale, Ravenna
Emperor of the Byzantine Empire
Reign1 August 527 – 14 November 565
Co-emperor: 1 April 527–1 August 527
Coronation1 August 527
PredecessorJustin I
SuccessorJustin II
Bornc. 482
Tauresium, Dardania, Byzantine Empire[1]
(now Taor, Republic of Macedonia)
Died14 November 565 (aged 83)
Constantinople, Byzantine Empire
  • unknown daughter
  • John (adopted)
  • Theodora (adopted)
Full name
Petrus Sabbatius
Regnal name
Imperator Caesar Flavius Petrus Sabbatius Iustinianus Augustus
Justinian dynasty
Tremissis-Justin I-sb0058.jpg
Tremissis of Justin I, Justinian's uncle
Justin I518–527
Justinian I527–565
Justin II565–578
with Sophia and Tiberius as regents, 574–578
Tiberius II578–582
with Theodosius as co-emperor, 590–602
Preceded by
Leonid dynasty
Followed by
Phocas and the Heraclian dynasty

Justinian I (n/; Latin: Flavius Petrus Sabbatius Iustinianus Augustus; Greek: Φλάβιος Πέτρος Σαββάτιος Ἰουστινιανός, translit. Flávios Pétros Sabbátios Ioustinianós; c. 482 – 14 November 565), traditionally known as Justinian the Great and also Saint Justinian the Great in the Eastern Orthodox Church,[2][3] was the Eastern Roman emperor from 527 to 565. During his reign, Justinian sought to revive the empire's greatness and reconquer the lost western half of the historical Roman Empire. Justinian's rule constitutes a distinct epoch in the history of the Later Roman empire, and his reign is marked by the ambitious but only partly realized renovatio imperii, or "restoration of the Empire".[4]

Because of his restoration activities, Justinian has sometimes been known as the "last Roman" in mid 20th century historiography.[5] This ambition was expressed by the partial recovery of the territories of the defunct Western Roman Empire.[6] His general, Belisarius, swiftly conquered the Vandal Kingdom in North Africa. Subsequently, Belisarius, Narses, and other generals conquered the Ostrogothic kingdom, restoring Dalmatia, Sicily, Italy, and Rome to the empire after more than half a century of rule by the Ostrogoths. The prefect Liberius reclaimed the south of the Iberian peninsula, establishing the province of Spania. These campaigns re-established Roman control over the western Mediterranean, increasing the Empire's annual revenue by over a million solidi.[7] During his reign, Justinian also subdued the Tzani, a people on the east coast of the Black Sea that had never been under Roman rule before.[8] He engaged the Sasanian Empire in the east during Kavadh I's reign, and later again during Khosrow I's; this second conflict was partially initiated due to his ambitions in the west.

A still more resonant aspect of his legacy was the uniform rewriting of Roman law, the Corpus Juris Civilis, which is still the basis of civil law in many modern states.[9] His reign also marked a blossoming of Byzantine culture, and his building program yielded such masterpieces as the church of Hagia Sophia.


The ancient town of Tauresium, the birthplace of Justinian I, located in today's Republic of Macedonia
Mosaic of Theodora

Justinian was born in Tauresium,[10] Dardania,[11] around 482. A native speaker of Latin (possibly the last Roman emperor to be one[12]), he came from a peasant family believed to have been of Illyro-Roman[13][14][15] or Thraco-Roman origins.[16][17][18] The cognomen Iustinianus, which he took later, is indicative of adoption by his uncle Justin.[19] During his reign, he founded Justiniana Prima not far from his birthplace, which today is in South East Serbia.[20][21][22] His mother was Vigilantia, the sister of Justin. Justin, who was in the imperial guard (the Excubitors) before he became emperor,[23] adopted Justinian, brought him to Constantinople, and ensured the boy's education.[23] As a result, Justinian was well educated in jurisprudence, theology and Roman history.[23] Justinian served for some time with the Excubitors but the details of his early career are unknown.[23] Chronicler John Malalas, who lived during the reign of Justinian, tells of his appearance that he was short, fair skinned, curly haired, round faced and handsome. Another contemporary chronicler, Procopius, compares Justinian's appearance to that of tyrannical Emperor Domitian, although this is probably slander.[24]

When Emperor Anastasius died in 518, Justin was proclaimed the new emperor, with significant help from Justinian.[23] During Justin's reign (518–527), Justinian was the emperor's close confidant. Justinian showed much ambition, and it has been thought that he was functioning as virtual regent long before Justin made him associate emperor on 1 April 527, although there is no conclusive evidence of this.[25] As Justin became senile near the end of his reign, Justinian became the de facto ruler.[23] Justinian was appointed consul in 521 and later commander of the army of the east.[23][26] Upon Justin's death on 1 August 527, Justinian became the sole sovereign.[23]

The Byzantine Empire in 555 AD, under Justinian I

As a ruler, Justinian showed great energy. He was known as "the emperor who never sleeps" on account of his work habits. Nevertheless, he seems to have been amiable and easy to approach.[27] Around 525, he married his mistress, Theodora, in Constantinople. She was by profession a courtesan and some twenty years his junior. In earlier times, Justinian could not have married her owing to her class, but his uncle, Emperor Justin I, had passed a law allowing intermarriage between social classes.[28][29] Theodora would become very influential in the politics of the Empire, and later emperors would follow Justinian's precedent in marrying outside the aristocratic class. The marriage caused a scandal, but Theodora would prove to be a shrewd judge of character and Justinian's greatest supporter. Other talented individuals included Tribonian, his legal adviser; Peter the Patrician, the diplomat and longtime head of the palace bureaucracy; Justinian's finance ministers John the Cappadocian and Peter Barsymes, who managed to collect taxes more efficiently than any before, thereby funding Justinian's wars; and finally, his prodigiously talented generals, Belisarius and Narses.

Justinian's rule was not universally popular; early in his reign he nearly lost his throne during the Nika riots, and a conspiracy against the emperor's life by dissatisfied businessmen was discovered as late as 562.[30] Justinian was struck by the plague in the early 540s but recovered. Theodora died in 548[31] at a relatively young age, possibly of cancer; Justinian outlived her by nearly twenty years. Justinian, who had always had a keen interest in theological matters and actively participated in debates on Christian doctrine,[32] became even more devoted to religion during the later years of his life. When he died on 14 November 565, he left no children, though his wife Theodora had given birth to a stillborn son several years into his reign. He was succeeded by Justin II, who was the son of his sister Vigilantia and married to Sophia, the niece of Empress Theodora. Justinian's body was entombed in a specially built mausoleum in the Church of the Holy Apostles until it was desecrated and robbed during the pillage of the city in 1204 by the Latin States of the Fourth Crusade.[33]

Other Languages
Alemannisch: Justinian I.
aragonés: Chustinián I
asturianu: Xustinianu I
azərbaycanca: I Yustinian
беларуская: Юстыніян I
беларуская (тарашкевіца)‎: Юстыніян I
български: Юстиниан I
bosanski: Justinijan I
brezhoneg: Justinian Iañ
català: Justinià I
čeština: Justinián I.
Cymraeg: Justinianus I
Deutsch: Justinian I.
español: Justiniano I
français: Justinien
Gaeilge: Justinian I
galego: Xustiniano I
Bahasa Indonesia: Yustinianus I
íslenska: Justinianus 1.
italiano: Giustiniano I
Basa Jawa: Justinianus I
Kabɩyɛ: Justinien
ქართული: იუსტინიანე I
қазақша: І Юстиниан
Kiswahili: Justiniani I
Ladino: Justinianus
latviešu: Justiniāns I
lietuvių: Justinianas I
македонски: Јустинијан I
Malagasy: Justinian I
Bahasa Melayu: Justinian I
မြန်မာဘာသာ: ဂျပ်စတီနီယံ၊ (ပထမ)
Nederlands: Justinianus I
Napulitano: Giustiniano I
occitan: Justinian Ier
português: Justiniano
русский: Юстиниан I
sicilianu: Giustinianu I
Simple English: Justinian I
slovenčina: Justinián I.
slovenščina: Justinijan I.
српски / srpski: Јустинијан I
srpskohrvatski / српскохрватски: Justinijan I. Veliki
svenska: Justinianus I
Tagalog: Justiniano I
Türkçe: I. Justinianus
українська: Юстиніан I
Tiếng Việt: Justinianus I
Winaray: Justinian I