Sunday, March 31, 2013

Who the Heck Was Justinian?

Ask someone to name a Roman emperor and chances are you'll get one of the usual heavyweights: Octavian (can't stand him), Caligula (born on my birthday!), or maybe even Nero (killed his mom, so I'm not a big fan).

Ask someone to name a Byzantine emperor and you'll probably get a blank stare.  

So today I bring you a run-down of the most awesome Byzantine (or eastern Roman) emperor: Justinian. 

(Who also happens to be Theodora's husband. Just saying.)


So what exactly did Justinian do?

1. He reconquered the Italian peninsula and re-incorporated it into the Roman empire. (This is post-Goths, and while he only held the territory for a little bit, that wasn't his fault. See #5.) 

2. He survived the Nika uprising (because Theodora gave a great speech) and went on to rebuild Constantinople on a grand scale. He supposedly built a giant statue of himself that poured wine from his feet on feast days.

3. He built the Hagia Sophia. (A must-see before you die). 

4. His law code, the Corpus juris civilis, revised the sum total of Roman law and become the basis for the modern law system in Europe. (Because it was the awesome). 

5. He survived having bubonic plague. Granted, the Byzantine empire started a free-fall due to all the dead people (you can't tax dead people and that means you can't build cool stuff and conquer faraway lands), but really, anyone who survives plague is downright awesome. 


And just in case you're not already awed by Justinian's awesomeness, check out @The_New_Rome's mini-documentary on Justinian and Theodora. (Trust me, it's worth the extra click and three minutes of your life). 



Enjoy!

Also, Debra is the lucky winner of last week's "Forged by Fate" giveaway! Congrats, Debra!
    

5 comments:

Elaine Smith said...

After surviving invasion and bubonic plague it seems a shame but... if you have to have your name forgotten over-time then having a legacy as formidable as Justinian's will have to do.

vbtremper said...

Thanks for the history lesson! I can't believe he survived plague. I also can't believe TSH is coming out in mere months!

Mark Noce said...

Very intriguing guy, but his wife is the one who fascinates me. Did she rise from rags to riches? I think she was quite a self-made woman and some say the real power behind the throne:)

Stephanie Thornton said...

Elaine--Justinian's legacy is pretty impressive. I have a sneaking suspicion that he'd be much better known if he'd ruled before the Italian empire fell.

Vicki--I love plague, so Justinian is uber-cool for being a survivor of the dreaded disease! And you're right--time is ticking!

Mark--Theodora's father was a bear trainer for the Greens faction in Constantinople, her mother was an actress, and so was her sister. She was definitely a self-made woman!

Debra Giuffrida said...

Wow, Thank you Steph!