The Birth of the Middle Ages, 395-814

By H. St. L. B. Moss | Go to book overview

V
JUSTINIAN AND THE WEST

JUSTIN died in 527 and was succeeded by his nephew Justinian, who had been for several years the virtual ruler of the Empire. He was a man of moderate height, spare, middle-aged, rather bald, with curly greyish hair, ruddy and round-faced, affable, accessible, and complacent. Immensely industrious, with an aptitude for detail, he dictated the tactics of a distant campaign, the architecture of an African fortress, the exact programme for the consular games, or aṙguments for compulsory fasting in Lent. He was dignified and self-controlled in general demeanour, but action sometimes found him wanting. In the Nika Riot he displayed a fundamental weakness, and the influence exercised over him by Theodora and John the Cappadocian hints at an indecisive character--in Diehl's words, une âme de valeur plutôt médiocre.

Yet the achievements of this man have earned him the title of Justinian the Great. He stands in history as the builder of St. Sophia, the founder of European Law, the restorer of Roman dominion from the Pillars of Hercules to the Euphrates. Imperium Romanum--it is the secret of his success. The Macedonian peasant, when he assumed the purple, put on also the greatness of those heroic rulers whose superhuman efforts had for five centuries kept the Empire in being.1 In the holder of the Imperium were centred all the powers of Church and State, of the law, the army, the administration. He was responsible for the welfare of his subjects, whether in the Eastern parts or in those Western provinces which had been for a time committed to the charge of his viceroys, the Germanic kings. He was the protector of all Catholics, within or without the Empire, and the merciless enemy of all heretics and pagans. This is the theory which underlies all the actions of Justinian. The codification of Roman Law perpetuates the expression of a civilization handed down from Republican times, and emphasizes the constitutional position of the

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1
Cf. F. W. Bussell, Constitutional History of the Roman Empire, vol. i, p. 217. 'The sovereign himself in succeeding lost much of his own capricious individuality, and became an inheritor and a simple exponent of the undying policy of Rome.'

-95-

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The Birth of the Middle Ages, 395-814
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Preface v
  • Contents ix
  • Description of Illustrations xvi
  • Part I- Romans and Barbarians 1
  • I- The Roman World 1
  • II- The Barbarian World 38
  • III- The Clash of Cultures 57
  • Part II- The Triumph of Justinian 79
  • IV- Constantinople *
  • V- Justinian and the West 95
  • VI- Justinian and the East 108
  • VII- The Aftermath 125
  • Part III- The Onslaught of Islam 143
  • VIII- The Faith 143
  • IX- The Conquest 149
  • X- The Culture 159
  • Part IV- The Age of Charlemagne 175
  • XI- The European Background 175
  • XII- The Franks 193
  • XIII- The Papacy 222
  • Appendix A 266
  • Appendix B 270
  • Chronological Table 275
  • Bibliography 283
  • Index 288
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