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Justinianus I, Emperor
Wace's Dictionary of Early Christian Biography
Justinianus (6) I., Roman emperor (275â€“565). I. Life and Character. â€”Justinian was born most probably in 483 at Tauresium, on the borders of Illyricum and Macedonia, a spot probably a little S. of Uskiub, the ancient Scupi (see Procop. Aedif. iv. 1, and Tozer, Highlands of European Turkey , ii. p. 370). After his accession he built at his birthplace a city which he named Justiniana Prima and made the capital of the province and seat of an archbishop. [The tale regarding his Slavonic origin started by Alemanni in his notes to the Anecdota of Procopius seems to be baseless; see art. in Eng. Hist. Rev. Oct. 1887, by the present writer.] Early in life he came to Constantinople, and attached himself to his uncle Justin, who, serving in the imperial guards under the emperors Zeno and Anastasius, had risen to high place. At Constantinople Justinian diligently studied law, theology, and general literature, and the influence of his uncle doubtless procured him employment in the civil service of the state. When Justinian was 35, the emperor Anastasius was succeeded by Justin, an illiterate soldier, weakened by age, to whom the help of his more active nephew was almost indispensable. Ecclesiastical affairs and the general administration of the state fell under the control of Justinian. He became co-emperor in 527, and on Justin's death, a month later, assumed without question the sole sovereignty of the Roman world, retaining it till his death in 565, at the age of 82, when he was peaceably succeeded by his nephew Justin II.
In 526 he married Theodora, a woman of singular beauty, and still more remarkable charms of manner and intellect, said to have been a native of Cyprus and a comedian. The gossip of the time, starting from this undoubted fact, has accumulated in the Anecdota , or unpublished memoirs, ascribed to, and no doubt written by (although there has been a controversy on the point), Procopius, a variety of scandalous tales regarding her earlier career. [See THEODORA.] She soon acquired an almost unbounded dominion over Justinian's mind, and was commonly regarded as the source of many of his schemes and enterprises. She died in 548, and he did not marry again.
Most of what we know directly about Justinian comes from PROCOPIUS, which does not diminish the difficulty of forming a comprehensive and consistent view of his abilities and character. For Procopius wrote of him with servility in his lifetime, and reviled him in the Anecdota , a singular book which did not come to light till long afterwards. Setting aside exaggerations in both directions, it may be concluded that Justinian was a man of considerable, if not first-rate, abilities. He was well educated, according to the ideas and customs of the time, and more or less conversant with many branches of knowledge. Procopius accuses him of being a barbarian both in mind and speech, which probably means only that he spoke Greek like an Illyrian provincial (Anecd. c. 14). His artistic taste is shewn by the many beautiful buildings which he erected, two among whichâ€”those of St. Sophia at Constantinople and St. Vitalis at Ravenna (though it does not appear that he had any share in designing this latter)â€”have had the unique distinction of becoming architectural models for subsequent ages, the one for the East, and the other for the West. Several hymns still used in the orthodox Eastern church are ascribed to his pen, and he is the author of a treatise against the Monophysites, which Cardinal Mai has published. The records of his government and administration shew that he possessed great ingenuity and enterprise; but the enterprise was often prompted more by vanity and lust of power than by regard to the welfare of his people, and his ingenuity was not guided by prudence or by a solid knowledge of the economical conditions of prosperity. There was much more cleverness than wisdom about him; we see in his policy few indications of deep and statesmanlike foresight. The chief feature of his character is his extraordinary industry. He seemed to live for work, and toiled harder than any of his own clerks. He was naturally abstemious and regular in life, observing the church fasts very strictly, able to go long without food, taking little sleep, and spending most of his time, when not actually giving audiences, in pacing up and down the rooms of the palace listening to readers or dictating to an amanuensis. He cared little for vulgar pleasures (though he shewed an excessive partiality for the blue faction, he does not appear to have been personally addicted to the games of the circus), and yielded to no influences except those of his wife Theodora. We are told that he was easy of accessâ€”a rare merit in the despotic centre of a highly formal courtâ€”pleasant and reassuring in manner, but also deceitful and capable of treachery and ingratitude. How far this ingratitude was in the most notable case, that of Belisarius, excused by apprehensions of danger, is a problem not wholly solved or soluble. Wantonly cruel he does not seem to have been, and on several occasions shewed an unexpected clemency, but he shrank from no severities that his intellect judged useful.
In person he was well formed, rather above the middle height, with a ruddy and smiling countenance. Besides his effigy on coins, we have two probably contemporary portraits among the mosaics of Ravennaâ€”one in the apse of the church of San Vitale, built in his reign, in which he appears among a number of other figures; the other now preserved in the noble church of Santâ€™ Apollinare in Urbe.
II. The political events of his reign may be read in Procopius, Agathias, Theophanes (all three in the Bonn ed. of the Byzantine historians), in the ecclesiastical history of Evagrius, in Gibbon (see cc. xl.â€“xliii. for a full and brilliant picture of Justinian's times), and in Le Beau (Histoire du bas empire , vols. viii. and ix., with St. Martin's notes). Finlay (Greece under the Romans , vol. i. of new ed.) has some valuable remarks, as also Hertzberg, Griechenland unter der RÃ¶mer , vol. iii.; see also Dahn, Prokopios von Caesarea . At Justinian's accession the empire was generally at peace. An expedition was dispatched in 533, under Belisarius, which landed in Africa without opposition and reduced the whole Vandal kingdom to submission in little more than three months. The Vandals who survived seem to have been rapidly absorbed into the African population; anyhow, we hear no more of them. The fleet of Belisarius received in rapid succession the submission of Sardinia, Corsica, and the Balearic Isles. Orthodoxy was re-established there and in Africa. Justinian directed the laws against heretics to be put in force against the Arians and Donatists in Africa, and their meetings to be altogether forbidden (Baron. ad ann. 535). The orthodox bishops met in a council, at which 207 prelates were present (Baron. ad ann. 535). The orthodox churches of Africa were restored to the full enjoyment of their rights, property, and privileges. But the African church and province never regained its former prosperity. The misgovernment of the imperial lieutenants completed the ruin which the Vandals had begun, and the wild Moorish tribes encroached in all directions on the Roman population. Great part of the country, once the most productive part of the Roman dominions, relapsed into solitude and neglect; the Christians there were still divided by the mutual jealousies of Donatists, Arians, and orthodox.
The success of his enterprise against the Vandals encouraged Justinian to attempt the recovery of Italy from the Ostrogoths, who had held it and Sicily since the invasion under Theodoric in 493â€“494. The emperors at Constantinople considered themselves, ever since the extinction of the Western branch of the empire in 476, de jure sovereigns of Italy and the whole West, regarding the Gothic kings partly as their lieutenants, partly as mere usurpers. Justinian dispatched Belisarius from Constantinople with a fleet and over 7,000 men in the autumn of 535. He reduced Sicily easily in a few weeks. Then he attacked Italy, occupying Rome in Dec. 536. The Ostrogoths had shortly before risen against their king Theodahad, and chosen Witigis, whom Belisarius took at Ravenna and carried to Constantinople, leaving the imperial power supreme in Italy. Totila, whom the Goths chose in the room of Witigis, recovered fortress after fortress from the incompetent generals who succeeded Belisarius, till he was master of most part of Italy; and at length restored the Gothic kingdom to a better position than it had held since the death of Theodoric. But in 552 his army was defeated, and himself slain by Narses, and with him died the last hopes of the Gothic kingdom of Italy. After Narses had destroyed Butelin and his host in a great battle near Casilinum in Campania, 544, the small remains of the Gothic nation either passed into Spain and Gaul to mingle with other barbarians or were lost among the Roman population of Italy, which now was finally in Justinian's hands. It was, however, a desolated and depopulated Italy. Nor was it long left to his successors.
The third great struggle of Justinian's reign was against the Persian empire, then under Kobad and Chosroes Anushirvan in the zenith of its power. After several campaigns Chosroes concluded in 533, on obtaining from the emperor 11,000 pounds of gold, a peace which gave rest to the eastern provinces. In 539 war broke out again, and also a revolt against Justinian in Armenia, a part of whose people appealed to the Persians for help. Chosroes commanded a vast force, which the Roman generals were quite unable to resist in the open field. In 540 Antioch, far the greatest town of the eastern part of the empire, was sacked, and many thousand inhabitants carried to a new city, built for them near Ctesiphon, his own capital. Towards the end of Justinian's reign the fighting slackened; a peace for 50 years was concluded in 562 on terms humiliating to Justinian, who undertook to pay yearly 30,000 gold pieces. This peace lasted only 10 years; but the war which began in 572 lies outside Justinian's reign.
Less famous, but perhaps even more ruinous, were the contests which Justinian had to maintain against the barbarians of Scythia and the Danube. From the Alps to the Black Sea, the N. border of the empire was the scene of seldom intermitted warfare. The various tribes whom the Roman historian calls Huns, and who included the race subsequently distinguished as Bulgarians, poured from the S. of what is now Russia down upon Thrace, ravaged it and Macedonia, penetrated on one occasion to the isthmus of Corinth, and six years before Justinian's death, in 559, appeared in great force under the walls of Constantinople, from which they were repulsed by the skill and vigour of Belisarius. In the N.W. provinces villages were destroyed, cultivated land laid waste, and immense numbers of the inhabitants carried into slavery. The only serious efforts the emperor made against these enemies (besides the building of fortresses) were by diplomacy. His policy was to foment hostilities between neighbouring tribes, taking sometimes one, sometimes another, into alliance with the empire, and offering large presents, often so regular as to amount to a kind of blackmail, to buy them off for the moment or induce them to turn their arms against some other barbarian power. His activity as a negotiator was unwearied. Embassies from all parts of the barbarian world arrived at Constantinople, excited the wonder of the people by their strange garb and manners, and returned home laden with gifts and promises. Even the tribes of the Baltic and the Turks of Central Asia seem to have thus come into relations with him. His policy was much blamed in his own time (see esp. Procop. Anecd. ), and may appear shortsighted as supplying fresh inducements to the barbarians to renew their attacks and letting them know the wealth of the capital; but perhaps no other policy was possible, and the incidental advantages of Roman influence and culture upon the border tribes may have been considerable.
III. We possess no systematic account of the internal state of the empire in Justinian's time, and depend only upon occasional notices by historians like Procopius and Agathias, and a study of Justinian's legislative measures. The civil service was, and had long been, in a high state of efficiency. Such alterations as Justinian made tended to perfect this organization and to render all its members more completely subservient to the crown. He spent enormous sums not only on his wars but in the erection of churches, fortresses, and public buildings of every kind (a list will be found in the de Aedificiis of Procopius), and was therefore always in want of money. Oppressive as taxation had been before, he seems to have made it even more stringent; and when the land-tax and other ordinary sources of revenue failed, he was driven to such expedients as the sale of public offices, and even to the prostitution of justice and the confiscation of the property of private persons. Though the instances of this rest chiefly on the untrustworthy authority of the Anecdota of Procopius (who ascribes the worst to the immediate action of the empress), stories in other historians give some support to the accusation. On one occasion he attempted to debase the coin, but was checked by a threatened insurrection in the capital. The same charges of venality and extortion are brought against Tribonian, John of Cappadocia, and others of Justinian's ministers. The administration of justice must have been greatly improved by the promulgation of the whole binding law in the Codex, Pandects , and Institutes; and great importance was evidently attached to the maintenance of the law schools of Berytus and Constantinople; corruption may, however, have largely prevailed among the judges. Brilliant as Justinian's reign may appear to us, the sufferings endured by the people from war, taxation, the persecution of heretics, the blows struck at the privileges of various classes and professions, as well as from the great plague and from destructive earthquakes, made his rule unpopular, as shewn by the rebellions in Africa and the disaffection of the reconquered Italians. In Constantinople, not to speak of minor seditions, there occurred a tremendous insurrection in Jan. 532, arising out of a tumult in the hippodrome, and apparently due, partly to resentment at the maladministration of John of Cappadocia, partly to the presence in the city of a large number of starving immigrants. The revolters held the city for some days, set fire to some of the finest buildings, drove Justinian into his palace fortress, and proclaimed Hypatius, nephew of the deceased emperor Anastasius, emperor. Having no concerted plan of action, part of them were induced to abandon the rest, who were then surprised and slaughtered by the imperial guards under the command of Belisarius. It is said that 30,000 people perished in this rising, which is known as the Nika sedition, from the watchword used by the rebels. (See an interesting account by W. A. Schmidt, Der Aufstand in Constantinopel unter Kaiser Justinian .)
He made efforts to open up new channels for the traffic in silk, and ultimately succeeded, through the boldness of two Persian monks, who conveyed the eggs of the worm in a hollow cane from China to the empire. The manufacture of silk was thus no longer at the mercy of the Persians, who had stopped the supply in time of war, and the culture of the silk-worm became an important branch of industry in the Roman East.
As a whole, the faults of Justinian's domestic government appear greatly to outweigh its merits. His subjects had grown tired of him long before his death; but later ages looked back to his reign as a period of conquest abroad and magnificence at home, and accepted the surname of the Great.
IV. Ecclesiastical policy occupied no small share of Justinian's thoughts and care.
During the lifetime of Justin I., he sought to re-establish the communion of the churches of Constantinople and Rome, which had been interrupted owing to the Monophysite controversies. On his accession in 527 he professed himself a zealous supporter of the Two Natures and the decrees of Chalcedon, and the firmness of his throne was no doubt partly due to this coincidence of his theological views with those of the bulk of his subjects in Constantinople, Thrace, and Asia Minor. He had great confidence in his own powers as a theologian, and took an active part in all the current controversies. A diligent student and having some literary pretensions, he read and wrote much on theological topics. His ecclesiastical policy apparently had two main objects, not, however, consistently pursuedâ€”the maintenance of the orthodox doctrine of the Four Councils, and especially of Chalcedon; and the reconciliation of the Monophysites, or at least the inducing by apparent concessions the more moderate Monophysites to accept the decrees of Chalcedon. There was in his court an active, though probably concealed, Monophysite party, headed by, and sheltering itself under, the empress Theodora. One of the emperor's first acts was to summon a conference of leading theologians on both sides, so as to bring about a reconciliation. After several sittings, however, in one of which Justinian delivered a long allocution, vital points were reached on which neither side could yield, and the conference was dissolved. Among the Monophysite leaders were Severus, deposed from the patriarchate of Antioch in the time of Justin, and Anthimus, bp. of Trebizond. They seem to have acquired much influence in Theodora's coterie, and, probably owing to her, Anthimus was raised in 535 to the patriarchate of Constantinople, in spite of the doctrinal suspicions attaching to him. Pope Agapetus, having heard of these suspicions, and disapproving, as Rome was wont to do, of translations from one bishopric to another, refused to communicate with the patriarch till he should have purged himself from the charge of heresy, and insisted that, when purged, Anthimus should return to Trebizond. Justinian (perhaps owing to the support which Theodora seems to have given Anthimus) was at first displeased and resisted, but Agapetus prevailed. Anthimus was deposed, and Mennas, head of the hospitium of Samson in Constantinople, appointed in his place and consecrated by Agapetus, who soon afterwards died. By the directions of Justinian, Mennas called a local synod, which met during May and June 536 (Mansi, viii.; cf. Hefele, Conciliengeschichte , ii. pp. 742â€“753), and deposed Anthimus from his see of Trebizond. The synod anathematized Severus, Peter of Apamea, and Zoaras as suspected of Monophysitism. In Aug. 536 Justinian issued an edict addressed to Mennas confirming all that the synod had done.
After this there appears to have been a comparative calm in the ecclesiastical world of Constantinople, till the emperor's attention was called to the growth of Origenistic opinions in the East, and especially in Syria.
About the beginning of the 6th cent. there had been in the monasteries of Palestine, and particularly in that great one called the New Laura, a considerable diffusion of Origen's opinions, which excited the alarm of St. Sabas and of the patriarch Peter of Jerusalem. The latter in 543 induced Pelagius, apocrisiarius of the Roman bishop, to make representations to the emperor on the subject, and sent with him four monks to accuse the followers of Origen. The four monks were supported by Mennas the patriarch. Two Origenist bishops, Theodore Ascidas, archbp. of Caesarea in Cappadocia, and Domitian, bp. of Ancyra, resided usually at Constantinople and had much influence with the emperor. Nevertheless they seem to have feared the charge of heresy too much to resist the monks from Palestine, and perhaps did not own their attachment to Origen's writings. Anyhow, the emperor promptly condemned the accused opinions, issuing a long edict addressed to the patriarch Mennas, in which he classes Origen among the heretics, and singles out for anathema ten particular doctrines contained in his writings. A local council, convoked by Mennas, dutifully echoed the emperor's edict, publishing its anathemas against 14 propositions drawn from Origen, and condemning his person.
Theodore and Domitian had submitted, but their mortification drove them to take action in another way, and thus to awaken a long, needless, and most mischievous controversy. Justinian was at work upon a treatise on the Incarnation, whereby he trusted to convince and conciliate the stubborn Acephali (or extremer Monophysites) of Egypt. Theodore, according to our authorities, suggested to him that a simpler way of winning back those who disliked the council of Chalcedon would be to get certain writings condemned which that council had approved, but which the Monophysites disliked as being of a distinctly Nestorian tendency. (See Liberatus ap. Galland. Bibl. Patr. xii. 160, as to Theodore, and Facundus, bk. i. c. 2, as to Domitian of Ancyra; cf. Evagr. H. E. iv. 38; Vita S. Sabae .) They singled out 3 treatises for condemnation, which soon became famous as the τρία κεφάλαια ( tria capitula ), which we usually translate Three Chapters, but would be better called the Three Articles, viz. the writings of Theodore of Mopsuestia, the treatise of Theodoret against Cyril and his twelve articles, and the letter of (or attributed to) Ibas, bp. of Edessa, to the Persian bp. Maris. Later, the term τρία κεφάλαια came to mean both the persons and writings impugned. This latter is the usual sense in the authors of the time ( e.g. Facundus of Hermiane, whose treatise is entitled Defensio pro Tribus Capitulis ) and in the protocols of the fifth general council. The Nestorians still appealed to Theodore as their highest authority, and triumphantly pointed to the fact that he had never been condemned. Against Theodoret and Ibas the case was weaker. Both had joined in anathematizing Nestorius at Chalcedon, and been restored to their sees. But both had attacked Cyril, who, though claimed by the Monophysites, was also a bulwark of orthodoxy, and the ep. to Maris was a violent assault on the council of Ephesus. It might therefore be with some show of plausibility alleged that the authority of that council was not established while these assailants seemed to be protected by the aegis of Chalcedon.
Seconded by Theodora (says Liberatus, u.s. ), Theodore Ascidas and Domitian persuaded Justinian to compose and issue a treatise or edict against the Three Articles. Desisting from his book against the Acephali, he forthwith composed the suggested edict, which was issued between 543 and 545, probably in 545. It has perished, only three or four short extracts being preserved by Facundus. It was circulated through the church for the signatures of the bishops. The four Eastern patriarchs were naturally afraid of reopening any question as to the authority of Chalcedon. Mennas, after some hesitation, signed, but subject to a promise given him on oath, that he might withdraw his signature if the bp. of Rome refused to agree. The other three, Ephraim of Antioch, Peter of Jerusalem, Zoilus of Alexandria, under real or imagined threats of deposition, obeyed and signed, and after more or less intimidation and the offer of various rewards, the great majority of bishops through Syria, Asia Minor, Greece, and Macedonia signed also. In the West, the bishops having less to lose and being accustomed to face Arian potentates, Justinian found a less ready compliance. The bishops of Africa led the opposition, and were largely supported by those of Italy, Gaul, Illyricum, and Dalmatia. In Rome much alarm was produced by the arrival of the edict, and by the emperor's command to Vigilius, lately chosen pope, to repair to Constantinople. Theodora enforced by terrible threats his appearance. Vigilius, not venturing openly to oppose the emperor, and fearing the anger of Theodora, had also to reckon with the all but universal loyalty to the council of Chalcedon of the Roman church and of the Western churches generally, and so temporized. He arrived in Constantinople in 547, having delayed nearly a year in Sicily. In 548 he issued a document called the Judicatum , condemning the Three Articles, saving, however, the authority of Chalcedon. In 548 Theodora died, but Justinian was now thoroughly committed against the Three Articles. He continued to coerce the recalcitrant bishops of Africa, depriving some of their sees, and, after various negotiations with Vigilius, issued in 551 a second edict against the Three Articles addressed to the whole Christian world, which has been preserved under the name of the Confession of Faith, ὁμολογία πίστεως Ἰουστινιανοῦ αὐτοκράτορος (Mansi, ix. 537). This edict is really a theological treatise, taking the writings of the three impugned doctors and discovering heresies in them by minute scrutiny and inference. Vigilius was required to subscribe it, but refused, and took refuge in the basilica of St. Peter at Constantinople, and afterwards in the church of St. Euphemia at Chalcedon. Here he remained, until the emperor, anxious for his concurrence in summoning a general council as the only solution for the dissensions, induced him to withdraw his censure of the edict. He then returned to Constantinople to await the opening of the council. The first sitting was on May 5, 553. Eutychius, who, upon the death of Mennas in Aug. 552, had become patriarch of Constantinople, presided. By him sat Apollinaris of Alexandria and Domninus of Antioch. Eustochius of Jerusalem was represented by 3 bishops. Altogether 151 bishops were present at the opening, while 164 signed at the end, the very large majority belonging to the East. Six from Africa attended, but more than 20 were kept away by Vigilius, who himself refused to attend, but sent his views in writing in a document called the Constitutum (Mansi, ix. 61), presented, not to the council, but to Justinian himself, who refused to receive it. Justinian addressed a letter to the fathers, reproaching Vigilius, and requiring his name to be struck out of the diptychs, as having by his defence of Theodoret and Ibas excluded himself from the right to church fellowship. He also produced evidence that the pope had solemnly promised, both to himself and Theodora, to procure the condemnation of the Three Articles. Thereupon the council, troubling no further about the pope, proceeded to examine the writings impugned. (Hefele, u.s. 267â€“274. For the Acta see Mansi, vol. ix. and under CONSTANTINOPLE, D. C. A. ) Theodore of Mopsuestia was anathematized absolutely, and anathema was pronounced against Theodoret's treatise in opposition to Cyril's Twelve Articles and against the letter to Maris, which passed under the name of Ibas. A series of 14 articles, or anathemas, was prepared, most of them corresponding closely with the articles of Justinian's ὁμολογία πίστεως , in which the orthodox faith as to the Trinity and Incarnation was restated. The first four general councils and their decrees were formally accepted, and art. 11 anathematizes Arius, Eunomius, Macedonius, Apollinarius, Origen, Nestorius, Eutyches, and their adherents. It has been often supposed that the opinions of Origen and his followers were formally condemned at this council. (See Evagr. iv. 38; Theoph. Chronogr. p. 354 of Bonn ed. vol. i.) But this has arisen from confounding the former local council under Mennas in 543 with this general council. Origen is only referred to in its general anathema, and thus no particular doctrines of his have ever been condemned by the whole church. The 14 articles were subscribed at the last sitting, on June 2, 553, by all the 164 bishops, headed by Eutychius of Constantinople. Eight African bishops signed. Justinian sent the decrees all over the empire for signature by the bishops. Little opposition was experienced in the East. The monks of the New Laura, who attacked the decrees, were chased out by the imperial general Anastasius. The council had threatened with deposition any bishops or other clerics who should teach or speak against it. We hear, however, of only one bishop, Alexander of Abydus, who was deposed. Vigilius and the Western ecclesiastics who had signed the Constitutum appear to have held out for some time, but in Dec. 553 Vigilius issued a letter (Mansi, ix. 414), addressed to the patriarch Eutychius, in which he owns that he was in the wrong and is now glad to confess it. He then anathematizes Theodore, Theodoret, and the letter of lbas, without prejudice to the authority of the council of Chalcedon, which of course never meant to approve these heresies. Being then released by Justinian, Vigilantius set off for Rome, but died in Syracuse upon his way. A serious schism followed in the West. The bishops of Dalmatia and Illyricum were hottest in their opposition to the anathemas of the fifth council, and their archbp. Frontinus was taken to Constantinople and thence banished to Upper Egypt. A manifesto by Justinian, addressed to some Western bishops ( ib. 589), has been supposed to be an answer to remonstrances from these Illyrians. The resistance in Africa was broken by similar violent means, a good many bishops being deposed and imprisoned in convents, under the auspices of the metropolitan Primasius of Carthage, and by the secular arm of the governor. In Gaul and Spain there was great discontent, though not a complete breach with Rome; while in N. Italy the bishops of Tuscany, the province of Milan, and Istria and Venetia, broke off communion with the pope. The patriarchate of Aquileia, afterwards removed to Grado, and finally divided into the two small patriarchates of Grado and Aquileia, arose out of this schism, which did not end till the beginning of the 8th cent. Ultimately the whole Western church was brought by the efforts of the popes to recognize the fifth general council. The effect, however, which Justinian had been encouraged to expect was not attained. Not a single Monophysite seems to have returned to the orthodox church. The Egyptian Acephali in particular were as stubborn as ever.
Justinian in his last days himself lapsed into heresy. The doctrine that the body of Christ was insensible to fleshly passions and weaknesses, was in fact incorruptible, and so not ordinary flesh at all, had been broached early in the century by bp. JULIAN of Halicarnassus, a leading Monophysite, in opposition to the view of Severus, patriarch of Antioch, that Christ's body was corruptible up to the resurrection, and only afterwards ceased to be so. Justinian published an edict declaring the doctrine of Julian orthodox and requiring the assent of all patriarchs and bishops to this new article. Eutychius of Constantinople was deposed for rejecting the edict. Before more could be done, Justinian died (A.D. 565) and the controversy at once collapsed, for his successor took comparatively slight interest in theological questions.
The general character of Justinian's ecclesiastical policy has been sufficiently indicated. In spite of his protestations of respect for the clergy, the important place they held at his court, and the privileges which his legislation gave them, he never hesitated to resort to despotism and banishment to bend them to his will. No previous Roman emperor had been so much interested in theological disputes, nor arrogated to himself so great a right of interference even with the popes. His control of the fifth council was much more direct and considerable than his predecessors exercised at Ephesus and Chalcedon.
Justinian was through his life a resolute, though not always consistent, persecutor. Nestorians and Eutychians were punished with deposition from ecclesiastical office, excommunication, and occasionally with banishment. Manicheans, Gnostics, and Montanists were more severely dealt with, deprived of all civil rights and forbidden to meet for worship. These penalties were often enforced with much cruelty and sometimes produced sanguinary contests. The Montanists of Phrygia, being required to undergo baptism, shut themselves up in their churches, killed their wives and children, and set fire to the buildings. Similar rigours were inflicted on Jews and Samaritans, though the Jews, as a serviceable element in the population, seem to have in practice fared somewhat better than the others. It is not very easy to determine precisely how far the laws directed against heathenism were carried out. They punish apostasy with death, require all persons to undergo baptism, deprive pagans of all civil rights and privileges, and forbid any public pagan worship. In spite of this, a great number of pagans continued to exist even among the cultivated and wealthy classes of the capital. An inquisition at Constantinople in the 3rd year of Justinian's reign (Theoph. Chron. p. 153) shewed a large number of pagans in the higher official classes. An ordinance was then issued, forbidding all civil employment to persons not orthodox Christians and three months were allowed for conversion. Not long before, Justinian had taken away all the churches of the heretics, except one of the Arians, and given them to the orthodox ( ib. 150). Energetic inquiries through W. Asia Minor are said to have led to the enforced baptism of 70,000 persons. Among the mountain tribes of Taygetus paganism survived till the days of Basil I. (867â€“886). Only at Athens, however, did persons of intellectual and social eminence continue to openly avow themselves heathens. The professors of its university, or at least the most distinguished among them, were not Christians. Although speculative moralists and mystics, making philosophy their rule of life, rather than worshippers of the old deities of Olympus, their influence was decidedly anti-Christian. In 528, on the discovery of crypto-paganism in his capital, Justinian issued several stringent constitutions, one of which, forbidding "persons persisting in the madness of Hellenism to teach any branch of knowledge," struck directly at the Athenian professors. In 529 he sent a copy of the Codex Constitutionum , containing this ordinance, to Athens, with a prohibition to teach law there, and shortly after the teaching of philosophy was similarly forbidden, and the remaining property of the Platonic Academy was seized for public purposes. This finally extinguished the university. Its head, Damascius, a neo-Platonist of Syrian birth, and by conviction a resolute heathen, and six of his colleagues proceeded (in 532) to the court of Chosroes, king of Persia, at Ctesiphon, but soon returned to the Roman empire, in which Chosroes secured for them, by a treaty he negotiated with Justinian, the freedom to live unbaptized and unmolested. They did not, however, settle again in Athens, which rapidly became a Christian city even in externals, its temples being turned into churches. So one may ascribe to Justinian the extinction in the Roman world of open and cultivated paganism as well as of the Platonic philosophy.
V. Justinian's legislation falls under two principal headsâ€”his work as a codifier and consolidator of pre-existing law; and his own new laws, some of which were incorporated in the Codex Constitutionum , while others, published subsequently, remain as detached statutes, and go by the name of the Novels (Novellae Constitutiones .) The vast changes involved in the establishment of Christianity had rendered much of the old law, though still formally unrepealed, practically obsolete. There was therefore overwhelming necessity for sweeping reforms both in the substance and in the outward form and expression of the law. Such reforms had been attempted in the time of THEODOSIUS II., when the Theodosian Codex, containing a collection of the later constitutions, had been prepared and published A.D. 438. This, however, dealt only with the imperial constitutions, not with the writings of the jurists; and now, nearly a century later, the old evils were found as serious as ever, while the further changes in society had made the necessity for abolishing antiquated enactments even greater.
Justinian set to work so promptly after his accession that he had probably meditated already upon the measures which were called for and fixed his eyes on the men to be used as instruments. He began with the easier part of the task, the codification of jus novum , the imperial constitutions of more recent date. A commission was appointed in Feb. 528 to go through the whole mass of constitutions and select for preservation those still in force and of practical importance. In Apr. 529 the Codex Constitutionum was formally promulgated, and copies sent into every province of the empire, with directions that it should supersede all other constitutions previously in force. (See Const. Summa Reipublicae prefixed to the Codex .)
The next step was to deal with the jus vetus , the law contained in the writings of the authorized jurists, which practically included so much of the old leges, senatus consulta , and edicta as retained any practical importance. But there were many differences of opinion among the jurists whose writings had legal authority. Justinian accordingly issued a series of 50 constitutions, known as the Quinquaginta Decisiones , settling the disputed points (see Const. Cordi Nobis prefixed to the Codex ). At the same time a large number of other ordinances were promulgated, amending the laws and abolishing obsolete provisions. The ground being thus cleared, he appointed a commission of 16 lawyers, under the presidency of Tribonian. Their instructions were chiefly: to collect into one body all best worth preserving in the writings of the authorized jurists, making extracts so as to avoid both repetition and contradiction, and give one statement of the law upon each of the many points where discrepant views had, formerly prevailed. Redundancies were to be cut off, errors in manuscripts or in expression set right, alterations introduced where necessary, no antinomia (contradiction) allowed to remain, nothing repealed which had been already enacted in the Codex . Obsolete rules of law were to be passed over. The work was to be distributed into 50 books. The constitution containing these directions is dated Dec. 530. The commissioners promptly set to work, reading no less than 2,000 treatises for the purpose of making extracts. The work, to which the names of Digesta or Pandectae ( Πανδέκται â€”all receivers) are indifferently given by Justinian, was completed in the autumn of 533 and published with two prefatory constitutions on Dec. 16. Each book is divided into titles, each title into extracts. The total number of titles is 432, and of extracts from 39 jurists 9,123. The whole book is published as an imperial constitution, deriving its force from the imperial sanction, which abrogated all pre-existing law, except that contained in the Codex and subsequently published constitutions. No judge nor advocate might travel out of the four corners of these two new statutes, the Codex and the Digesta .
While the Digest was in progress, Justinian directed three of the chief commissionersâ€”Tribonian, Theophilus professor of law in the university of Constantinople, and Dorotheus professor of law at Berytus (Beyrut in Syria, the other great law-school of the empire)â€”to prepare an elementary manual for educational purposes, based on the existing treatises, and especially on the deservedly popular Institutes of Gaius, but brought up to the state of the law as changed by recent emperors and by Justinian himself. This treatise, dealing in four books with the law of Persons, of Things, and of Actions, was published shortly before the Digest, not only as a text-book for teaching, but also as a law, a constitution with full imperial authority. It is the treatise now known as Justinian's Institutiones .
On Nov. 16, 534, a revised Codex , including constitutions published since 529, and omitting laws that had been in the interval repealed or become unnecessary, was issued with an introductory constitution (now prefixed to it) called Cordi nobis , abrogating the former edition altogether. The Codex we now have is this new one. It is divided into 12 books and 765 titles, containing 4,652 constitutions, the earliest dating from Hadrian, while far the larger part of the constitutions in the Codex were more recent, and perhaps half of them the work of the Christian emperors.
Between 534 and the end of Justinian's reign a large number of new laws appeared, the majority during the lifetime of Tribonian (d. 545). These are called Novellae Constitutiones post Codicem ( νεαραὶ διατάξεις ), or shortly Novellae ( νεαραί ), Novels. They mostly have the form of edicts or general laws rather than of the earlier rescripta . They do not appear to have ever been gathered into one officially sanctioned volume (although this had originally been promised, see Const. Cordi nobis ), but several private collections were made from which our present text is derived. (See as to the Novels Biener, Gesch. der Novellen Justinians , and generally as to the history and edd. of the Corpus Juris , Rudorff, RÃ¶mische Rechtsgeschichte , Leipz. 1857.)
The Corpus Juris Civilis, consisting of the four parts already mentionedâ€”the Codex , the Digesta , the Institutiones , and the Novellae â€”became under Justinian the sole law of the Roman empire, was accepted in the early Middle Ages as the law of Germany, S. France, and Italy, and has exerted a great influence on the jurisprudence even of countries which, like England, repudiate (except in special departments) its authority. As we now understand by codification the reduction of the whole law into one scientific system of rules, new in form and expression though mostly old in substance, the work of Justinian would be better described as a Consolidation than a Codification. On the whole, it may be said that he exercised a wise discretion in attempting no more, and many as are the faults in the arrangement of his Codex and Digest and in the occasional disproportion of treatment, the work was done decidedly better than other literary and scientific productions of Justinian's age would have led us to expect.
The Corpus Juris held its ground as the supreme law book of the empire for little more than three centuries. Much of the earlier law had then become obsolete, and something shorter, less elaborate, more adapted to the needs and lower capacities of the time was required. Accordingly the emperors, Basil the Macedonian, Constantine, and Leo the philosopher, directed the preparation of a new law book, which, revised and finally issued under Leo c. 890, received the name of the Basilica, or Imperial Code. It contains, in 60 books, a complete system of law for the Eastern empire, retaining a great deal of the substance of the Corpus Juris, but in a wholly altered form; the extracts from the Codex of constitutions, and those from the Pandects and Novels being all thrown into one new Codex , and intermingled with later matter. It is in Greek; is much less bulky than the Corpus Juris, and has come down to us imperfect. The best ed. is Haimbach's (Leipz. 1833â€“1851), with supplement by Zacharia (Leipz. 1846). The Codex is cited in Herzog. vol. ix. (1901), according to the ed. of P. KrÃ¼ger (Berlin, 1877); the Novellae according to the ed. of C. E. Zacharias a Lingenthal (2 vols. Leipz. 1881).
The new legislation of Justinian is contained partly in the Codex and partly in the Novels. The legal changes made by the constitutions of the first seven years of his reign, which have been incorporated in the Codex , are often merely solutions of problems, or settlements of disputes which had perplexed or divided the earlier jurists. These were promulgated in the Quinquaginta Decisiones already mentioned. A considerable number more relate to administrative subjects; while the rest are miscellaneous, running over the whole field of law. For his ecclesiastical constitutions see articles in D. C. A. , to which this subject more properly belongs. A few remarks may, however, be profitably made here on the emperor's ecclesiastical laws as contained firstly in the Codex Constitutionum , where they are abbreviated; and, secondly, in the Novels, where they appear at full and often wearisome length. The earlier ones are in the Codex , the Novels extend from 534 to 565.
In Justinian's Codex the first 13 titles of bk. i. are occupied by laws relating to Christian theology and doctrine. Title I., styled "De Summa Trinitate et Fide Catholica et ut nemo de ea publice contendere audeat," contains (besides extracts from laws of earlier emperors) four laws by Justinian, beginning with the fifth, some of which have been taken into the Codex from the Collectio Constitutionum Ecclesiasticarum , laying down the true orthodox faith as defined by the first four general councils, and anathematizing "Nestorius the man-worshipper, Eutyches the insane, Apollinaris the soul destroyer," and all who agree with these heretics. One of these constitutions is an edict addressed by Justinian to pope John (as well as to Epiphanius, patriarch of Constantinople), with the reply of the pope confirming the edict as a declaration of the faith. Title II., "De Sacrosanctis Ecclesiis et de rebus et privilegiis earum," contains eight laws by Justinian dealing chiefly with legacies to churches or other charitable uses, and with the management of church property. Title III. is, "De Episcopis et clericis et orphanotrophiis et xenodochiis et brephotrophiis et ptochotrophiis et asceteriis et monachis et privilegiis eorum et castrensi peculio et de redimendis captivis et de nuptiis clericorum vetitis seu permissis." Sixteen laws in it (less than one-third in number, but more than half in bulk) are by Justinian, and treat of a great many topics, including the election and qualifications of bishops and priests, the choice of heads (ἡγούμενοι, αι ) of monasteries and nunneries, the observance of a pure and strict life in monasteries, the management of church property by the bishop and steward, with various provisions relating to charitable foundations, to the residence of the clergy at their churches, the regular maintenance of divine service there, and to wills of property for church purposes. Title IV., "De Episcopali Audientia et de diversis capitulis quae ad jus curamque et reverentiam pontificalem pertinent," is almost equally miscellaneous in its contents. Fourteen constitutions in it are by Justinian. The fifth, "De Haereticis et Manichaeis et Samaritis," contains a selection of persecuting or disabling laws from the time of Constantine down to and including Justinian's own. The penalties threatened, and the general severity of tone, steadily increase as time goes on, and the number of different kinds of heretics included in the denunciations is enlarged. In one case (c. 21) a distinction is drawn by the emperor between various degrees of heresy and infidelity. "Manichaeis Borboritis et paganis, necnon Samaritis et Montanistis et Ascodrogitis et Ophitis omne testimonium sicut et alias legitimas conversationes sancimus esse interdictum. Aliis vero haereticis tantum modo judicialia testimonia contra orthodoxos, secundum quod constitutum est, volumus esse inhibita." Title VI., "Ne sanctum baptisma iteretur"; VII., "De Apostatis"; VIII., "Nemini licere signum Salvatoris, Christi humi vel in silice vel in marmore aut insculpere aut pingere"; IX., "De Judaeis et coelicolis"; and X., "Ne Christianum mancipium haereticus vel paganus vel Judaeus habeat vel possideat vel circumcidat," are comparatively short and contain only laws of earlier emperors. In XI., "De Paganis Sacrificiis et Templis," is an interesting collection of various enactments against paganism from the famous edict of Constantius (A.D. 353) onwards, concluding with a general command to all heathens to be baptized forthwith, on pain of losing all their property and all civic rights; while death is the penalty for any one who, having been baptized, relapses into heathenism. All sacrifices, or other acts of pagan worship, are strictly forbidden and severely punishable; all gifts of property to any heathen temple or purpose are confiscated, the temples being all destroyed or appropriated to other uses, and the teaching of paganism, and indeed any teaching by any pagan, is absolutely prohibited. Titles XII. and XIII., "De his qui ad ecclesias confugiunt vel ibi exclamant," and "De his qui in ecclesiis manumittuntur," are less important. They illustrate the growth of the right of sanctuary in churches, and the practice of manumission there. With title XIV., "De Legibus et Constitutionibus Principum et edictis," ordinary civil legislation begins. A good many references to ecclesiastical matters, and especially to the jurisdiction of the bishops, are scattered through other parts of the Codex . It is clear from this summary that neither Justinian nor his predecessors intended to frame a complete body of laws or rules for the government of the church, its hierarchical constitution and administration, much less for its internal discipline or its ritual. These things had been left to be settled by custom, by the authority of patriarchs, metropolitans, and bishops, by the canons of councils as occasion arose. Not that the civil monarch supposed such to lie beyond his scope, for in Constantinople the emperors, and Justinian most of all, regarded themselves as clothed with a supreme executive authority over the religious no less than the secular society. The distinction afterwards asserted in the West between the temporal and spiritual powers had not then been imagined. No Eastern ecclesiastic denied the emperor's right to summon general councils, direct them, and confirm their decrees. But the emperors had been content to leave to churchmen the settling of what were regarded as more or less technical and professional matters, which they were fittest to settle. The narrow and bigoted spirit, which runs through the persecuting laws included in the Codex , is fully as conspicuous in Justinian's own as in those of any of his predecessors. Moreover, by re-enacting them he made himself responsible for all that they contained. In that age of the world it was believed possible to stamp out heresy by a sufficiently vigorous exercise of the arm of flesh. Paganism was in fact thus stamped out, though in one or two mountainous districts of Greece and perhaps of Asia Minor it lingered secretly for 2 or 3 centuries more.
The topics of the Novels, or constitutions issued by Justinian from 535 till his death in 565, are very various. Of the 153 to which the 168 appearing in the largest collection may be reduced, 33, forming the largest group, relate to ecclesiastical and religious matters. Next in number come those dealing with civil and military administration. Marriage and the legal relations arising therefrom are dealt with in various Novels. Justinian was fond of tinkering at this subject, and not always successfully. The most remarkable provisions are in Novels 117 (Â§Â§ 10 and 12) and 134 (Â§ 11), in which he greatly limits the freedom of divorce previously allowed, almost indeed abolishing it. But this severity was found unmaintainable: such complaints arose that in 566, ten years after the 134th Novel appeared, Justin II., nephew and successor of Justinian, repealed (Nov. cxl.) the penalties provided by it and by the 117th, leaving the law as it had stood under earlier sovereigns. The Novels have a great many provisions regarding dowries, simplifying a rather complicated branch of the law and securing the interests of the wife. Several constitutions, prompted by a desire for moral reformation, deal with criminal law, several relate to guardianship, the position of freedmen, and other parts of the law of persons, and nine deal with the law of obligations; none of them of any great importance. Among the ecclesiastical Novels, several groups may be distinguished. One group contains those which deal with the temporal rights and relations of the church and her ministers as holders of property. Eight constitutions may be referred to it, most of which are occupied with the length of time needed for a good title to lands originally belonging to the church to be acquired by adverse enjoyment; and with the conditions under which ecclesiastical lands might be alienated for a term or in perpetuity. Both topics gave Justinian much trouble and he was sometimes obliged to modify his enactments. A second group comprises constitutions merely local in application, referring to a particular province (e.g. Nov. 37 to Africa), church ( e.g. Nov. 3 to the Great Church of Constantinople, Nov. 40 to the Church of the Resurrection at Jerusalem), or see ( e.g. Nov. 11 to the privileges of the archiepiscopal chair of Justiniana Prima in Illyricum). To a third and more important group may be referred the 13 constitutions dealing with ecclesiastical organization and discipline, the mode of choosing bishops and other clerics, their qualifications, the jurisdiction of bishops, the restrictions on the jurisdiction of civil courts in causes where clerics are concerned (a matter of great interest in view of the questions which were to occupy medieval Europe), the rights, immunities, and position generally of the clergy ( e.g. the exemption of a bishop from patria potestas , Nov. 81, the devolution of the property of a cleric dying intestate without legal heirs, Nov. 131, Â§ 13), the regulations under which a church or oratory might be built, endowed, and consecrated, the internal discipline of monasteries and regulation of monastic life. A fourth and last group includes four ordinances levelled at heretics (a good many provisions affecting whom incidentally occur in other Novels, especially in those of the third group). One of these four, called Edictum de Fide, is a short appeal to heretics to return to te safe teaching and anathematizings of the Catholic church (Nov. 132); another is directed against Jews and Samaritans, refusing them immunities from public burdens such as their exclusion from public offices and honours might otherwise have appeared to imply (Nov. 45); a third deprives heretic women of the privileges granted by Justinian's laws to women in respect of their dowry; and the fourth is a sentence of deposition and anathema against Anthimus patriarch of Constantinople, Severus patriarch of Antioch, Peter of Apamea, Zoaras, and others charged with Monophysitism, issued in confirmation of the sentence passed by the synod at Constantinople under the patriarch Mennas in 536. The most generally remarkable characteristics of these ecclesiastical statutes, apart from their spirit of bitter intolerance, are the strong disposition to favour the church, the clerical order, and the monastic life; and the assumption throughout of a complete right of control by the imperial legislator over all sorts of ecclesiastical affairs and questions. Although there are some matters, such as ritual, penance, etc., touched not at all or very slightly, still the impression conveyed here, as in the Codex , is that the civil power claimed a universal and paramount right of legislating for the church; nor is there any distinction laid down or recognized between matters reserved for the legislative action of the church in her synods and those which the emperor may deal with. He always speaks with the utmost respect of the sacred canons, sometimes quotes them, professes to confirm them, and (Nov. 131 Â§ 1) expressly declares that all the canons of the four great general councils are to have the force and rank of laws (τάξιν νόμων ἐπέχειν ). But there is no admission of the exclusive right of the church or of any ecclesiastical dignitary or body to legislate on any particular topics; this is indeed implicitly excluded by the laws, especially those in bk. i. of the Codex , which deal with the most specially spiritual of spiritual questions, the cardinal doctrines of the Christian faith. It is therefore not surprising that the African bishops who wrote against him in the matter of the Three Articles complain of his conduct as arrogating to the magistrate what belonged of right to the duly constituted officers of the church. Subsequent history shows that the Eastern emperor always maintained his authority over the church; while different political conditions enabled the Western patriarch and the Western church generally to throw off the control of the civil power and even extend its own jurisdiction over civil causes.
These ecclesiastical Novels throw much light on the state of the 6th-cent. Eastern church, and the evils which it was thought necessary to remedy. We hear once or twice of the ignorance of the clergy, persons being sometimes ordained who could not read the prayers used in the sacramental services of the Supper and Baptism (Novs. 6, 137). Irregularities in monastic life were frequent, as appears from the penalties threatened (Novs. 5, 133). Bishops too often resided away from their sees, so that a prohibition to the administrator to send money to them while absent was needed (Nov. 6, Â§ 3; Nova 123, Â§ 9). That a bishop must be unmarried, and a priest either unmarried or married only once and to a virgin, was insisted on. The habit of building churches without funds sufficient for their due maintenance and service is checked (Novs. 57, 67), as also that of having private chapels, or celebrating the sacred mysteries in houses (Novs. 58, 131). The often neglected canonical direction to hold provincial synods twice, or at least once, a year is renewed (Nov. 138). The substance of the enactments contained in these Novels and in the Codex , upon such matters as the election of bishops, celibacy of clergy, permanency of monastic vows, etc., will be found under the appropriate heads in D. C. A. The regulations regarding a monastic life have a special interest as very shortly anterior to the creation of the rule of St. BENEDICT of Nursia, who was a contemporary of Justinian.
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Wace, Henry. Entry for 'Justinianus I, Emperor'. A Dictionary of Early Christian Biography. https://www.studylight.org/​dictionaries/​eng/​hwd/​j/justinianus-i-emperor.html. 1911.