1911 Encyclopædia Britannica/Justinian I.

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21916291911 Encyclopædia Britannica, Volume 15 — Justinian I.James Bryce (1838-1922)

JUSTINIAN I. (483–565). Flavius Anicius Justinianus, surnamed the Great, the most famous of all the emperors of the Eastern Roman Empire, was by birth a barbarian, native of a place called Tauresium in the district of Dardania, a region of Illyricum,[1] and was born, most probably, on the 11th of May 483. His family has been variously conjectured, on the strength of the proper names which its members are stated to have borne, to have been Teutonic or Slavonic. The latter seems the more probable view. His own name was originally Uprauda.[2] Justinianus was a Roman name which he took from his uncle Justin I., who adopted him, and to whom his advancement in life was due. Of his early life we know nothing except that he went to Constantinople while still a young man, and received there an excellent education. Doubtless he knew Latin before Greek; it is alleged that he always spoke Greek with a barbarian accent. When Justin ascended the throne in 518, Justinian became at once a person of the first consequence, guiding, especially in church matters, the policy of his aged, childless and ignorant uncle, receiving high rank and office at his hands, and soon coming to be regarded as his destined successor. On Justin’s death in 527, having been a few months earlier associated with him as co-emperor, Justinian succeeded without opposition to the throne. About 523 he had married the famous Theodora (q.v.), who, as empress regnant, was closely associated in all his actions till her death in 547.

Justinian’s reign was filled with great events, both at home and abroad, both in peace and in war. They may be classed under four heads: (1) his legal reforms; (2) his administration of the empire; (3) his ecclesiastical policy; and (4) his wars and foreign policy generally.

1. It is as a legislator and codifier of the law that Justinian’s name is most familiar to the modern world; and it is therefore this department of his action that requires to be most fully dealt with here. He found the law of the Roman empire in a state of great confusion. It consisted of two masses, which were usually distinguished as old law (jus vetus) and new law (jus novum). The first of these comprised: (i.) all such of the statutes (leges) passed under the republic and early empire as had not become obsolete; (ii.) the decrees of the senate (senatus consulta) passed at the end of the republic and during the first two centuries of the empire; (iii.) the writings of the jurists of the later republic and of the empire, and more particularly of those jurists to whom the right of declaring the law with authority (jus respondendi) had been committed by the emperors. As these jurists had in their commentaries upon the leges, senatus consulta and edicts of the magistrates practically incorporated all that was of importance in those documents, the books of the jurists may substantially be taken as including (i.) and (ii.). These writings were of course very numerous, and formed a vast mass of literature. Many of them had become exceedingly scarce—many had been altogether lost. Some were of doubtful authenticity. They were so costly that no person of moderate means could hope to possess any large number; even the public libraries had nothing approaching to a complete collection. Moreover, as they proceeded from a large number of independent authors, who wrote expressing their own opinions, they contained many discrepancies and contradictions, the dicta of one writer being controverted by another, while yet both writers might enjoy the same formal authority. A remedy had been attempted to be applied to this evil by a law of the emperors Theodosius II. and Valentinian III., which gave special weight to the writings of five eminent jurists (Papinian, Paulus, Ulpian, Modestinus, Gaius); but it was very far from removing it. As regards the jus vetus, therefore, the judges and practitioners of Justinian’s time had two terrible difficulties to contend with—first, the bulk of the law, which made it impossible for any one to be sure that he possessed anything like the whole of the authorities bearing on the point in question, so that he was always liable to find his opponent quoting against him some authority for which he could not be prepared; and, secondly, the uncertainty of the law, there being a great many important points on which differing opinions of equal legal validity might be cited, so that the practising counsel could not advise, nor the judge decide, with any confidence that he was right, or that a superior court would uphold his view.

The new law (jus novum), which consisted of the ordinances of the emperors promulgated during the middle and later empires (edicta, rescripta, mandata, decreta, usually called by the general name of constitutiones), was in a condition not much better. These ordinances or constitutions were extremely numerous. No complete collection of them existed, for although two collections (Codex gregorianus and Codex hermogenianus) had been made by two jurists in the 4th century, and a large supplementary collection published by the emperor Theodosius II. in 438 (Codex theodosianus), these collections did not include all the constitutions; there were others which it was necessary to obtain separately, but many whereof it must have been impossible for a private person to procure. In this branch too of the law there existed some, though a less formidable, uncertainty; for there were constitutions which practically, if not formally, repealed or superseded others without expressly mentioning them, so that a man who relied on one constitution might find that it had been varied or abrogated by another he had never heard of or on whose sense he had not put such a construction. It was therefore clearly necessary with regard to both the older and the newer law to take some steps to collect into one or more bodies or masses so much of the law as was to be regarded as binding, reducing it within a reasonable compass, and purging away the contradictions or inconsistencies which it contained. The evil had been long felt, and reforms apparently often proposed, but nothing (except by the compilation of the Codex theodosianus) had been done till Justinian’s time. Immediately after his accession, in 528, he appointed a commission to deal with the imperial constitutions (jus novum), this being the easier part of the problem. The commissioners, ten in number, were directed to go through all the constitutions of which copies existed, to select such as were of practical value, to cut these down by retrenching all unnecessary matter, and gather them, arranged in order of date, into one volume, getting rid of any contradictions by omitting one or other of the conflicting passages.[3] These statute law commissioners, as one may call them, set to work forthwith, and completed their task in fourteen months, distributing the constitutions which they placed in the new collection into ten books, in general conformity with the order of the Perpetual Edict as settled by Salvius Julianus and enacted by Hadrian. By this means the bulk of the statute law was immensely reduced, its obscurities and internal discrepancies in great measure removed, its provisions adapted, by the abrogation of what was obsolete, to the circumstances of Justinian’s own time. This Codex constitutionum was formally promulgated and enacted as one great consolidating statute in 529, all imperial ordinances not included in it being repealed at one stroke.

The success of this first experiment encouraged the emperor to attempt the more difficult enterprise of simplifying and digesting the older law contained in the treatises of the jurists. Before entering on this, however, he wisely took the preliminary step of settling the more important of the legal questions as to which the older jurists had been divided in opinion, and which had therefore remained sources of difficulty, a difficulty aggravated by the general decline, during the last two centuries, of the level of forensic and judicial learning. This was accomplished by a series of constitutions known as the “Fifty Decisions” (Quinquaginta decisiones), along with which there were published other ordinances amending the law in a variety of points, in which old and now inconvenient rules had been suffered to subsist. Then in December 530 a new commission was appointed, consisting of sixteen eminent lawyers, of whom the president, the famous Tribonian (who had already served on the previous commission), was an exalted official (quaestor), four were professors of law, and the remaining eleven practising advocates. The instructions given to them by the emperor were as follows:—they were to procure and peruse all the writings of all the authorized jurists (those who had enjoyed the jus respondendi); were to extract from these writings whatever was of most permanent and substantial value, with power to change the expressions of the author wherever conciseness or clearness would be thereby promoted, or wherever such a change was needed in order to adapt his language to the condition of the law as it stood in Justinian’s time; were to avoid repetitions and contradictions by giving only one statement of the law upon each point; were to insert nothing at variance with any provision contained in the Codex constitutionum; and were to distribute the results of their labours into fifty books, subdividing each book into titles, and following generally the order of the Perpetual Edict.[4]

These directions were carried out with a speed which is surprising when we remember not only that the work was interrupted by the terrible insurrection which broke out in Constantinople in January 532, and which led to the temporary retirement from office of Tribonian, but also that the mass of literature which had to be read through consisted of no less than two thousand treatises, comprising three millions of sentences. The commissioners, who had for greater despatch divided themselves into several committees, presented their selection of extracts to the emperor in 533, and he published it as an imperial statute on December 16th of that year, with two prefatory constitutions (those known as Omnem reipublicae and Dedit nobis). It is the Latin volume which we now call the Digest (Digesta) or Pandects (Πάνδεκται) and which is by far the most precious monument of the legal genius of the Romans, and indeed, whether one regards the intrinsic merits of its substance or the prodigious influence it has exerted and still exerts, the most remarkable law-book that the world has seen. The extracts comprised in it are 9123 in number, taken from thirty-nine authors, and are of greatly varying length, mostly only a few lines long. About one-third (in quantity) come from Ulpian, a very copious writer; Paulus stands next. To each extract there is prefixed the name of the author, and of the treatise whence it is taken.[5] The worst thing about the Digest is its highly unscientific arrangement. The order of the Perpetual Edict, which appears to have been taken as a sort of model for the general scheme of books and titles, was doubtless convenient to the Roman lawyers from their familiarity with it, but was in itself rather accidental and historical than logical. The disposition of the extracts inside each title was still less rational; it has been shown by a modern jurist to have been the result of the way in which the committees of the commissioners worked through the books they had to peruse.[6] In enacting the Digest as a law book, Justinian repealed all the other law contained in the treatises of the jurists (that jus vetus which has been already mentioned), and directed that those treatises should never be cited in future even by way of illustration; and he of course at the same time abrogated all the older statutes, from the Twelve Tables downwards, which had formed a part of the jus vetus. This was a necessary incident of his scheme of reform. But he went too far, and indeed attempted what was impossible, when he forbade all commentaries upon the Digest. He was obliged to allow a Greek translation to be made of it, but directed this translation to be exactly literal.

These two great enterprises had substantially despatched Justinian’s work; however, he, or rather Tribonian, who seems to have acted both as his adviser and as his chief executive officer in all legal affairs, conceived that a third book was needed, viz. an elementary manual for beginners which should present an outline of the law in a clear and simple form. The little work of Gaius, most of which we now possess under the title of Commentarii institutionum, had served this purpose for nearly four centuries; but much of it had, owing to changes in the law, become inapplicable, so that a new manual seemed to be required. Justinian accordingly directed Tribonian, with two coadjutors, Theophilus, professor of law in the university of Constantinople, and Dorotheus, professor in the great law school at Beyrout, to prepare an elementary textbook on the lines of Gaius. This they did while the Digest was in progress, and produced the useful little treatise which has ever since been the book with which students commonly begin their studies of Roman law, the Institutes of Justinian. It was published as a statute with full legal validity shortly before the Digest. Such merits as it possesses—simplicity of arrangement, clearness and conciseness of expression—belong less to Tribonian than to Gaius, who was closely followed wherever the alterations in the law had not made him obsolete. However, the spirit of that great legal classic seems to have in a measure dwelt with and inspired the inferior men who were recasting his work; the Institutes is better both in Latinity and in substance than we should have expected from the condition of Latin letters at that epoch, better than the other laws which emanate from Justinian.

In the four years and a half which elapsed between the publication of the Codex and that of the Digest, many important changes had been made in the law, notably by the publication of the “Fifty Decisions,” which settled many questions that had exercised the legal mind and given occasion to intricate statutory provisions. It was therefore natural that the idea should present itself of revising the Codex, so as to introduce these changes into it, for by so doing, not only would it be simplified, but the one volume would again be made to contain the whole statute law, whereas now it was necessary to read along with it the ordinances issued since its publication. Accordingly another commission was appointed, consisting of Tribonian with four other coadjutors, full power being given them not only to incorporate the new constitutions with the Codex and make in it the requisite changes, but also to revise the Codex generally, cutting down or filling in wherever they thought it necessary to do so. This work was completed in a few months; and in November 534 the revised Codex (Codex repetitae praelectionis) was promulgated with the force of law, prefaced by a constitution (Cordi nobis) which sets forth its history, and declares it to be alone authoritative, the former Codex being abrogated. It is this revised Codex which has come down to the modern world, all copies of the earlier edition having disappeared.

The constitutions contained in it number 4652, the earliest dating from Hadrian, the latest being of course Justinian’s own. A few thus belong to the period to which the greater part of the Digest belongs, i.e. the so-called classical period of Roman law down to the time of Alexander Severus (244); but the great majority are later, and belong to one or other of the four great eras of imperial legislation, the eras of Diocletian, of Constantine, of Theodosius II., and of Justinian himself. Although this Codex is said to have the same general order as that of the Digest, viz. the order of the Perpetual Edict, there are considerable differences of arrangement between the two. It is divided into twelve books. Its contents, although of course of the utmost practical importance to the lawyers of that time, and of much value still, historical as well as legal, are far less interesting and scientifically admirable than the extracts preserved in the Digest. The difference is even greater than that between the English reports of cases decided since the days of Lord Holt and the English acts of parliament for the same two centuries.

The emperor’s scheme was now complete. All the Roman law had been gathered into two volumes of not excessive size, and a satisfactory manual for beginners added. But Justinian and Tribonian had grown so fond of legislating that they found it hard to leave off. Moreover, the very simplifications that had been so far effected brought into view with more clearness such anomalies or pieces of injustice as still continued to deform the law. Thus no sooner had the work been rounded off than fresh excrescences began to be created by the publication of new laws. Between 534 and 565 Justinian issued a great number of ordinances, dealing with all sorts of subjects and seriously altering the law on many points—the majority appearing before the death of Tribonian, which happened in 545. These ordinances are called, by way of distinction, new constitutions, Novellae constitutiones post codicem (νεαραὶ διατάξεις), Novels. Although the emperor had stated in publishing the Codex that all further statutes (if any) would be officially collected, this promise does not seem to have been redeemed. The three collections of the Novels which we possess are apparently private collections, nor do we even know how many such constitutions were promulgated. One of the three contains 168 (together with 13 Edicts), but some of these are by the emperors Justin II. and Tiberius II. Another, the so-called Epitome of Julian, contains 125 Novels in Latin; and the third, the Liber authenticarum or vulgata versio, has 134, also in Latin. This last was the collection first known and chiefly used in the West during the middle ages; and of its 134 only 97 have been written on by the glossatores or medieval commentators; these therefore alone have been received as binding in those countries which recognize and obey the Roman law,—according to the maxim Quicquid non agnoscit glossa, nec agnoscit curia. And, whereas Justinian’s constitutions contained in the Codex were all issued in Latin, the rest of the book being in that tongue, these Novels were nearly all published in Greek, Latin translations being of course made for the use of the western provinces. They are very bulky, and with the exception of a few, particularly the 116th and 118th, which introduce the most sweeping and laudable reforms into the law of intestate succession, are much more interesting, as supplying materials for the history of the time, social, economical and ecclesiastical, than in respect of any purely legal merits. They may be found printed in any edition of the Corpus juris civilis.

This Corpus juris, which bears and immortalizes Justinian’s name, consists of the four books described above: (1) The authorized collection of imperial ordinances (Codex constitutionum); (2) the authorized collection of extracts from the great jurists (Digesta or Pandectae); (3) the elementary handbook (Institutiones); (4) the unauthorized collection of constitutions subsequent to the Codex (Novellae).

From what has been already stated, the reader will perceive that Justinian did not, according to a strict use of terms, codify the Roman law. By a codification we understand the reduction of the whole pre-existing body of law to a new form, the re-stating it in a series of propositions, scientifically ordered, which may or may not contain some new substance, but are at any rate new in form. If he had, so to speak, thrown into one furnace all the law contained in the treatises of the jurists and in the imperial ordinances, fused them down, the gold of the one and the silver of the other, and run them out into new moulds, this would have been codification. What he did do was something quite different. It was not codification but consolidation, not remoulding but abridging. He made extracts from the existing law, preserving the old words, and merely cutting out repetitions, removing contradictions, retrenching superfluities, so as immensely to reduce the bulk of the whole. And he made not one set of such extracts but two, one for the jurist law, the other for the statute law. He gave to posterity not one code but two digests or collections of extracts, which are new only to this extent that they are arranged in a new order, having been previously altogether unconnected with one another, and that here and there their words have been modified in order to bring one extract into harmony with some other. Except for this, the matter is old in expression as well as in substance.

Thus regarded, even without remarking that the Novels, never having been officially collected, much less incorporated with the Codex, mar the symmetry of the structure, Justinian’s work may appear to entitle him and Tribonian to much less credit than they have usually received for it. But let it be observed, first, that to reduce the huge and confused mass of pre-existing law into the compass of these two collections was an immense practical benefit to the empire; secondly, that, whereas the work which he undertook was accomplished in seven years, the infinitely more difficult task of codification might probably have been left unfinished at Tribonian’s death, or even at Justinian’s own, and been abandoned by his successor; thirdly, that in the extracts preserved in the Digest we have the opinions of the greatest legal luminaries given in their own admirably lucid, philosophical and concise language, while in the extracts of which the Codex is composed we find valuable historical evidence bearing on the administration and social condition of the later Pagan and earlier Christian empire; fourthly, that Justinian’s age, that is to say, the intellect of the men whose services he commanded, was quite unequal to so vast an undertaking as the fusing upon scientific principles into one new organic whole of the entire law of the empire. With sufficient time and labour the work might no doubt have been done; but what we possess of Justinian’s own legislation, and still more what we know of the general condition of literary and legal capacity in his time, makes it certain that it would not have been well done, and that the result would have been not more valuable to the Romans of that age, and much less valuable to the modern world, than are the results, preserved in the Digest and the Codex, of what he and Tribonian actually did.

To the merits of the work as actually performed some reference has already been made. The chief defect of the Digest is in point of scientific arrangement, a matter about which the Roman lawyers, perhaps one may say the ancients generally, cared very little. There are some repetitions and some inconsistencies, but not more than may fairly be allowed for in a compilation of such magnitude executed so rapidly. Tribonian has been blamed for the insertions the compilers made in the sentences of the old jurists (the so-called Emblemata Triboniani); but it was a part of Justinian’s plan that such insertions should be made, so as to adapt those sentences to the law as settled in the emperor’s time. On Justinian’s own laws, contained in the Codex and in his Novels, a somewhat less favourable judgment must be pronounced. They, and especially the latter, are diffuse and often lax in expression, needlessly prolix, and pompously rhetorical. The policy of many, particularly of those which deal with ecclesiastical matters, may also be condemned; yet some gratitude is due to the legislator who put the law of intestate succession on that plain and rational footing whereon it has ever since continued to stand. It is somewhat remarkable that, although Justinian is so much more familiar to us by his legislation than by anything else, this sphere of his imperial labour is hardly referred to by any of the contemporary historians, and then only with censure. Procopius complains that he and Tribonian were always repealing old laws and enacting new ones, and accuses them of venal motives for doing so.

The Corpus Juris of Justinian continued to be, with naturally a few additions in the ordinances of succeeding emperors, the chief law-book of the Roman world till the time of the Macedonian dynasty when, towards the end of the 9th century, a new system was prepared and issued by those sovereigns, which we know as the Basilica. It is of course written in Greek, and consists of parts of the substance of the Codex and the Digest, thrown together and often altered in expression, together with some matter from the Novels and imperial ordinances posterior to Justinian. In the western provinces, which had been wholly severed from the empire before the publication of the Basilica, the law as settled by Justinian held its ground; but copies of the Corpus Juris were extremely rare, nor did the study of it revive until the end of the 11th century.

The best edition of the Digest is that of Mommsen (Berlin 1868–1870), and of the Codex that of Krüger (Berlin 1875–1877).

2. In his financial administration of the empire, Justinian is represented to us as being at once rapacious and extravagant. His unwearied activity and inordinate vanity led him to undertake a great many costly public works, many of them, such as the erection of palaces and churches, unremunerative. The money needed for these, for his wars, and for buying off the barbarians who threatened the frontiers, had to be obtained by increasing the burdens of the people. They suffered, not only from the regular taxes, which were seldom remitted even after bad seasons, but also from monopolies; and Procopius goes so far as to allege that the emperor made a practice of further recruiting his treasury by confiscating on slight or fictitious pretexts the property of persons who had displeased Theodora or himself. Fiscal severities were no doubt one cause of the insurrections which now and then broke out, and in the gravest of which, (532) thirty thousand persons are said to have perished in the capital. It is not always easy to discover, putting together the trustworthy evidence of Justinian’s own laws and the angry complaints of Procopius, what was the nature and justification of the changes made in the civil administration. But the general conclusion seems to be that these changes were always in the direction of further centralization, increasing the power of the chief ministers and their offices, bringing all more directly under the control of the Crown, and in some cases limiting the powers and appropriating the funds of local municipalities. Financial necessities compelled retrenchment, so that a certain number of offices were suppressed altogether, much to the disgust of the office-holding class, which was numerous and wealthy, and had almost come to look on the civil service as its hereditary possession. The most remarkable instance of this policy was the discontinuance of the consulship. This great office had remained a dignity centuries after it had ceased to be a power; but it was a very costly dignity, the holder being expected to spend large sums in public displays. As these sums were provided by the state, Justinian saved something considerable by stopping the payment. He named no consul after Basilius, who was the name-giving consul of 541.

In a bureaucratic despotism the greatest merit of a sovereign is to choose capable and honest ministers. Justinian’s selections were usually capable, but not so often honest; probably it was hard to find thoroughly upright officials; possibly they would not have been most serviceable in carrying out the imperial will, and especially in replenishing the imperial treasury. Even the great Tribonian labours under the reproach of corruption, while the fact that Justinian maintained John of Cappadocia in power long after his greed, his unscrupulousness, and the excesses of his private life had excited the anger of the whole empire, reflects little credit on his own principles of government and sense of duty to his subjects. The department of administration in which he seems to have felt most personal interest was that of public works. He spent immense sums on buildings of all sorts, on quays and harbours, on fortifications, repairing the walls of cities and erecting castles in Thrace to check the inroads of the barbarians, on aqueducts, on monasteries, above all, upon churches. Of these works only two remain perfect, St Sophia in Constantinople, now a mosque, and one of the architectural wonders of the world, and the church of SS Sergius and Bacchus, now commonly called Little St Sophia, which stands about half a mile from the great church, and is in its way a very delicate and beautiful piece of work. The church of S. Vitale at Ravenna, though built in Justinian’s reign, and containing mosaic pictures of him and Theodora, does not appear to have owed anything to his mind or purse.

3. Justinian’s ecclesiastical policy was so complex and varying that it is impossible within the limits of this article to do more than indicate its bare outlines. For many years before the accession of his uncle Justin, the Eastern world had been vexed by the struggles of the Monophysite party, who recognized only one nature in Christ, against the view which then and ever since has maintained itself as orthodox, that the divine and human natures coexisted in Him. The latter doctrine had triumphed at the council of Chalcedon, and was held by the whole Western Church, but Egypt, great part of Syria and Asia Minor, and a considerable minority even in Constantinople clung to Monophysitism. The emperors Zeno and Anastasius had been strongly suspected of it, and the Roman bishops had refused to communicate with the patriarchs of Constantinople since 484, when they had condemned Acacius for accepting the formula of conciliation issued by Zeno. One of Justinian’s first public acts was to put an end to this schism by inducing Justin to make the then patriarch renounce this formula and declare his full adhesion to the creed of Chalcedon. When he himself came to the throne he endeavoured to persuade the Monophysites to come in by summoning some of their leaders to a conference. This failing, he ejected suspected prelates, and occasionally persecuted them, though with far less severity than that applied to the heretics of a deeper dye, such as Montanists or even Arians. Not long afterwards, his attention having been called to the spread of Origenistic opinions in Syria, he issued an edict condemning fourteen propositions drawn from the writings of the great Alexandrian, and caused a synod to be held under the presidency of Mennas (whom he had named patriarch of Constantinople), which renewed the condemnation of the impugned doctrines and anathematized Origen himself. Still later, he was induced by the machinations of some of the prelates who haunted his court, and by the influence of Theodora, herself much interested in theological questions, and more than suspected of Monophysitism, to raise a needless, mischievous, and protracted controversy. The Monophysites sometimes alleged that they could not accept the decrees of the council of Chalcedon because that council had not condemned, but (as they argued) virtually approved, three writers tainted with Nestorian principles, Theodore of Mopsuestia, Theodoret, and Ibas, bishop of Edessa. It was represented to the emperor, who was still pursued by the desire to bring back the schismatics, that a great step would have been taken towards reconciliation if a condemnation of these teachers, or rather of such of their books as were complained of, could be brought about, since then the Chalcedonian party would be purged from any appearance of sympathy with the errors of Nestorius. Not stopping to reflect that in the angry and suspicious state of men’s minds he was sure to lose as much in one direction as he would gain in the other, Justinian entered into the idea, and put forth an edict exposing and denouncing the errors contained in the writings of Theodore generally, in the treatise of Theodoret against Cyril of Alexandria, and in a letter of Bishop Ibas (a letter whose authenticity was doubted, but which passed under his name) to the Persian bishop Maris. This edict was circulated through the Christian world to be subscribed by the bishops. The four Eastern patriarchs, and the great majority of the Eastern prelates generally, subscribed, though reluctantly, for it was felt that a dangerous precedent was being set when dead authors were anathematized, and that this new movement could hardly fail to weaken the authority of the council of Chalcedon. Among the Western bishops, who were less disposed both to Monophysitism and to subservience, and especially by those of Africa, the edict was earnestly resisted. When it was found that Pope Vigilius did not forthwith comply, he was summoned to Constantinople. Even there he resisted, not so much, it would seem, from any scruples of his own, for he was not a high-minded man, as because he knew that he dared not return to Italy if he gave way. Long disputes and negotiations followed, the end of which was that Justinian summoned a general council of the church, that which we reckon the Fifth, which condemned the impugned writings, and anathematized several other heretical authors. Its decrees were received in the East but long contested in the Western Church, where a schism arose that lasted for seventy years. This is the controversy known as that of the Three Chapters (Tria capitula, τρία κεφάλαια), apparently from the three propositions or condemnations contained in Justinian’s original edict, one relating to Theodore’s writings and person, the second to the incriminated treatise of Theodoret (whose person was not attacked), the third to the letter (if genuine) of Ibas (see Hefele, Conciliengeschichte, ii. 777).

At the very end of his long career of theological discussion, Justinian himself lapsed into heresy, by accepting the doctrine that the earthly body of Christ was incorruptible, insensible to the weaknesses of the flesh, a doctrine which had been advanced by Julian, bishop of Halicarnassus, and went by the name of Aphthartodocetism. According to his usual practice, he issued an edict enforcing this view, and requiring all patriarchs, metropolitans, and bishops to subscribe to it. Some, who not unnaturally held that it was rank Monophysitism, refused at once, and were deprived of their sees, among them Eutychius the eminent patriarch of Constantinople. Others submitted or temporized; but before there had been time enough for the matter to be carried through, the emperor died, having tarnished if not utterly forfeited by this last error the reputation won by a life devoted to the service of Orthodoxy.

As no preceding sovereign had been so much interested in church affairs, so none seems to have shown so much activity as a persecutor both of pagans and of heretics. He renewed with additional stringency the laws against both these classes. The former embraced a large part of the rural population in certain secluded districts, such as parts of Asia Minor and Peloponnesus; and we are told that the efforts directed against them resulted in the forcible baptism of 70,000 persons in Asia Minor alone. Paganism, however, survived; we find it in Laconia in the end of the 9th century, and in northern Syria it has lasted till our own times. There were also a good many crypto-pagans among the educated population of the capital. Procopius, for instance, if he was not actually a Pagan, was certainly very little of a Christian. Inquiries made in the third year of Justinian’s reign drove nearly all of these persons into an outward conformity, and their offspring seem to have become ordinary Christians. At Athens, the philosophers who taught in the schools hallowed by memories of Plato still openly professed what passed for Paganism, though it was really a body of moral doctrine, strongly tinged with mysticism, in which there was far more of Christianity and of the speculative metaphysics of the East than of the old Olympian religion. Justinian, partly from religious motives, partly because he discountenanced all rivals to the imperial university of Constantinople, closed these Athenian schools (529). The professors sought refuge at the court of Chosroes, king of Persia, but were soon so much disgusted by the ideas and practices of the fire-worshippers that they returned to the empire, Chosroes having magnanimously obtained from Justinian a promise that they should be suffered to pass the rest of their days unmolested. Heresy proved more obstinate. The severities directed against the Montanists of Phrygia led to a furious war, in which most of the sectaries perished, while the doctrine was not extinguished. Harsh laws provoked the Samaritans to a revolt, from whose effects Palestine had not recovered when conquered by the Arabs in the following century. The Nestorians and the Eutychian Monophysites were not threatened with such severe civil penalties, although their worship was interdicted, and their bishops were sometimes banished; but this vexatious treatment was quite enough to keep them disaffected, and the rapidity of the Mahommedan conquests may be partly traced to that alienation of the bulk of the Egyptian and a large part of the Syrian population which dates from Justinian’s persecutions.

4. Justinian was engaged in three great foreign wars, two of them of his own seeking, the third a legacy which nearly every emperor had come into for three centuries, the secular strife of Rome and Persia. The Sassanid kings of Persia ruled a dominion which extended from the confines of Syria to those of India, and from the straits of Oman to the Caucasus. The martial character of their population made them formidable enemies to the Romans, whose troops were at this epoch mainly barbarians, the settled and civilized subjects of the empire being as a rule averse from war. When Justinian came to the throne, his troops were maintaining an unequal struggle on the Euphrates against the armies of Kavadh I. (q.v.). After some campaigns, in which the skill of Belisarius obtained considerable successes, a peace was concluded in 533 with Chosroes I. (q.v.). This lasted till 539, when Chosroes declared war, alleging that Justinian had been secretly intriguing against him with the Hephthalite Huns, and doubtless moved by alarm and envy at the victories which the Romans had been gaining in Italy. The emperor was too much occupied in the West to be able adequately to defend his eastern frontier. Chosroes advanced into Syria with little resistance, and in 540 captured Antioch, then the greatest city in Asia, carrying off its inhabitants into captivity. The war continued with varying fortunes for four years more in this quarter; while in the meantime an even fiercer struggle had begun in the mountainous region inhabited by the Lazi at the south-eastern corner of the Black Sea (see Colchis). When after two-and-twenty years of fighting no substantial advantage had been gained by either party, Chosroes agreed in 562 to a peace which left Lazica to the Romans, but under the dishonourable condition of their paying 30,000 pieces of gold annually to the Persian king. Thus no result of permanent importance flowed from these Persian wars, except that they greatly weakened the Roman Empire, increased Justinian’s financial embarrassments, and prevented him from prosecuting with sufficient vigour his enterprises in the West. (See further Persia: Ancient History, “The Sassanid Dynasty.”)

These enterprises had begun in 533 with an attack on the Vandals, who were then reigning in Africa. Belisarius, despatched from Constantinople with a large fleet and army, landed without opposition, and destroyed the barbarian power in two engagements. North Africa from beyond the straits of Gibraltar to the Syrtes became again a Roman province, although the Moorish tribes of the interior maintained a species of independence; and part of southern Spain was also recovered for the empire. The ease with which so important a conquest had been effected encouraged Justinian to attack the Ostrogoths of Italy, whose kingdom, though vast in extent, for it included part of south-eastern Gaul, Raetia, Dalmatia and part of Pannonia, as well as Italy, Sicily, Sardinia and Corsica, had been grievously weakened by the death first of the great Theodoric, and some years later of his grandson Athalaric, so that the Gothic nation was practically without a head. Justinian began the war in 535, taking as his pretext the murder of Queen Amalasuntha, daughter of Theodoric, who had placed herself under his protection, and alleging that the Ostrogothic kingdom had always owned a species of allegiance to the emperor at Constantinople. There was some foundation for this claim, although of course it could not have been made effective against Theodoric, who was more powerful than his supposed suzerain. Belisarius, who had been made commander of the Italian expedition, overran Sicily, reduced southern Italy, and in 536 occupied Rome. Here he was attacked in the following year by Vitiges, who had been chosen king by the Goths, with a greatly superior force. After a siege of over a year, the energy, skill, and courage of Belisarius, and the sickness which was preying on the Gothic troops, obliged Vitiges to retire. Belisarius pursued his diminished army northwards, shut him up in Ravenna, and ultimately received the surrender of that impregnable city. Vitiges was sent prisoner to Constantinople, where Justinian treated him, as he had previously treated the captive Vandal king, with clemency. The imperial administration was established through Italy, but its rapacity soon began to excite discontent, and the kernel of the Gothic nation had not submitted. After two short and unfortunate reigns, the crown had been bestowed on Totila or Baduila, a warrior of distinguished abilities, who by degrees drove the imperial generals and governors out of Italy. Belisarius was sent against him, but with forces too small for the gravity of the situation. He moved from place to place during several years, but saw city after city captured by or open its gates to Totila, till only Ravenna, Otranto and Ancona remained. Justinian was occupied by the ecclesiastical controversy of the Three Chapters, and had not the money to fit out a proper army and fleet; indeed, it may be doubted whether he would ever have roused himself to the necessary exertions but for the presence at Constantinople of a knot of Roman exiles, who kept urging him to reconquer Italy, representing that with their help and the sympathy of the people it would not be a difficult enterprise. The emperor at last complied, and in 552 a powerful army was despatched under Narses, an Armenian eunuch now advanced in life, but reputed the most skilful general of the age, as Belisarius was the hottest soldier. He marched along the coast of the Gulf of Venice, and encountered the army of Totila at Taginae not far from Cesena. Totila was slain, and the Gothic cause irretrievably lost. The valiant remains of the nation made another stand under Teias on the Lactarian Hill in Campania; after that they disappear from history. Italy was recovered for the empire, but it was an Italy terribly impoverished and depopulated, whose possession carried little strength with it. Justinian’s policy both in the Vandalic and in the Gothic War stands condemned by the result. The resources of the state, which might better have been spent in defending the northern frontier against Slavs and Huns and the eastern frontier against Persians, were consumed in the conquest of two countries which had suffered too much to be of any substantial value, and which, separated by language as well as by intervening seas, could not be permanently retained. However, Justinian must have been almost preternaturally wise to have foreseen this: his conduct was in the circumstances only what might have been expected from an ambitious prince who perceived an opportunity of recovering territories that had formerly belonged to the empire, and over which its rights were conceived to be only suspended.

Besides these three great foreign wars, Justinian’s reign was troubled by a constant succession of border inroads, especially on the northern frontier, where the various Slavonic and Hunnish tribes who were established along the lower Danube and on the north coast of the Black Sea made frequent marauding expeditions into Thrace and Macedonia, sometimes penetrating as far as the walls of Constantinople in one direction and the Isthmus of Corinth in another. Immense damage was inflicted by these marauders on the subjects of the empire, who seem to have been mostly too peaceable to defend themselves, and whom the emperor could not spare troops enough to protect. Fields were laid waste, villages burnt, large numbers of people carried into captivity; and on one occasion the capital was itself in danger.

5. It only remains to say something regarding Justinian’s personal character and capacities, with regard to which a great diversity of opinion has existed among historians. The civilians, looking on him as a patriarch of their science, have as a rule extolled his wisdom and virtues; while ecclesiastics of the Roman Church, from Cardinal Baronius downwards, have been offended by his arbitrary conduct towards the popes, and by his last lapse into heresy, and have therefore been disposed to accept the stories which ascribe to him perfidy, cruelty, rapacity and extravagance. The difficulty of arriving at a fair conclusion is increased by the fact that Procopius, who is our chief authority for the events of his reign, speaks with a very different voice in his secret memoirs (the Anecdota) from that which he has used in his published history, and that some of the accusations contained in the former work are so rancorous and improbable that a certain measure of discredit attaches to everything which it contains. The truth seems to be that Justinian was not a great ruler in the higher sense of the word, that is to say, a man of large views, deep insight, a capacity for forming just such plans as the circumstances needed, and carrying them out by a skilful adaptation of means to ends. But he was a man of considerable abilities, wonderful activity of mind, and admirable industry. He was interested in many things, and threw himself with ardour into whatever he took up; he contrived schemes quickly, and pushed them on with an energy which usually made them succeed when no long time was needed, for, if a project was delayed, there was a risk of his tiring of it and dropping it. Although vain and full of self-confidence, he was easily led by those who knew how to get at him, and particularly by his wife. She exercised over him that influence which a stronger character always exercises over a weaker, whatever their respective positions; and unfortunately it was seldom a good influence, for Theodora (q.v.) seems to have been a woman who, with all her brilliant gifts of intelligence and manner, had no principles and no pity. Justinian was rather quick than strong or profound; his policy does not strike one as the result of deliberate and well-considered views, but dictated by the hopes and fancies of the moment. His activity was in so far a misfortune as it led him to attempt too many things at once, and engage in undertakings so costly that oppression became necessary to provide the funds for them. Even his devotion to work, which excites our admiration, in the centre of a luxurious court, was to a great extent unprofitable, for it was mainly given to theological controversies which neither he nor any one else could settle. Still, after making all deductions, it is plain that the man who accomplished so much, and kept the whole world so occupied, as Justinian did during the thirty-eight years of his reign, must have possessed no common abilities. He was affable and easy of approach to all his subjects, with a pleasant address; nor does he seem to have been, like his wife, either cruel or revengeful. We hear several times of his sparing those who had conspired against him. But he was not scrupulous in the means he employed, and he was willing to maintain in power detestable ministers if only they served him efficiently and filled his coffers. His chief passion, after that for his own fame and glory, seems to have been for theology and religion; it was in this field that his literary powers exerted themselves (for he wrote controversial treatises and hymns), and his taste also, for among his numerous buildings the churches are those on which he spent most thought and money. Considering that his legal reforms are those by which his name is mainly known to posterity, it is curious that we should have hardly any information as to his legal knowledge, or the share which he took in those reforms. In person he was somewhat above the middle height, well-shaped, with plenty of fresh colour in his cheeks, and an extraordinary power of doing without food and sleep. He spent most of the night in reading or writing, and would sometimes go for a day with no food but a few green herbs. Two mosaic figures of him exist at Ravenna, one in the apse of the church of S. Vitale, the other in the church of S. Apollinare in Urbe; but of course one cannot be sure how far in such a material the portrait fairly represents the original. He had no children by his marriage with Theodora, and did not marry after her decease. On his death, which took place on the 14th of November 565, the crown passed to his nephew Justin II.

Authorities.—For the life of Justinian the chief authorities are Procopius (Historiae, De aedificiis, Anecdota) and (from 552 A.D.) the History of Agathias; the Chronicle of Johannes Malalas is also of value. Occasional reference must be made to the writings of Jordanes and Marcellinus, and even to the late compilations of Cedrenus and Zonaras. The Vita Justiniani of Ludewig or Ludwig (Halle, 1731), a work of patient research, is frequently referred to by E. Gibbon in his important chapters relating to the reign of Justinian, in the Decline and Fall (see Bury’s edition, 1900). There is a Vie de Justinien by Isambert (2 vols., Paris, 1856). See also Hutton’s Church of the Sixth Century (1897); J. B. Bury’s Later Roman Empire (1889); Hodgkin’s Italy and her Invaders (1880).  (J. Br.) 

  1. It is commonly identified with the modern Küstendil, but Usküb (the ancient Skupi) has also been suggested. See Tozer, Highlands of European Turkey, ii. 370.
  2. The name Uprauda is said to be derived from the word prauda, which in Old Slavic means jus, justitia, the prefix being simply a breathing frequently attached to Slavonic names.
  3. See, for an account of the instructions given to the commission, the constitution Haec quae, prefixed to the revised Codex in the Corpus juris civilis.
  4. See the constitution Deo auctore (Cod. i. 17, 1).
  5. In the middle ages people used to cite passages by the initial words; and the Germans do so still, giving, however, the number of the paragraph in the extract (if there are more paragraphs than one), and appending the number of the book and title. We in Britain and America usually cite by the numbers of the book, the title and the paragraph, without referring to the initial words.
  6. See Bluhme, “Die Ordnung der Fragmente in den Pandektentiteln,” in Savigny’s Zeitschr. f. gesch. Rechtswissenschaft, vol. iv.