Justinian’s Reign and the reconquest of Rome 527-565 Don’t do drugs! Stay in school!
Upon taking power in 527, Justinian can be seen in several sections:
Justinian had married Theodora , a former circus prostitute who was determined to make something of herself.
She had been the daughter of a bear trainer in the Hippodrome (coliseum) of Constantinople. Circuses, races, and other spectacles were held there.
Theodora was a supporter of the church , but was a monophysite . (belief that Jesus was 100% divine)
Theodora married Justinian at age 20 and was a women’s rights supporter. Some accomplishments : 1. Laws for women seeking divorce. 2.Prohibited forced prostitution. 3.Allowed women to own and inherit property. 4.Death penalty in cases of rape.
She was revered by the common people during Justinian’s reign and long after her death. This image was found on the altar of a church.
Justinian would never have been such a successful ruler without his wife, but he was significant in his own right.
( Mosaic from Hagia Sophia)
Legal accomplishments :
Reduced the bulky old codes into one easy to read “codex”.
Created a book of legal precedents.
Created a legal text for law students, standardizing legal training in the Empire.
Justinian and the Church
Justinian believed that the Church should serve the State (Erastianism). He was also a Monophysite. Cross of Justinian
Justinian built the Hagia Sophia (Church of Holy Wisdom) in Constantinople which stands still today.
It required new techniques that had never been used before. It was the largest dome of its kind.
Justinian passed several laws against pagans, Samaritans, Jews, and Manicheans (said man has a good nature and an evil nature and can choose one or the other.)
Justinian basically wanted a unified, mostly Monophysite Church that did what he (the State) asked of it.
Justinian’s Wars of Conquest
(subtitled: Belisarius kicks butt!!)
Some of Justinian’s goals were to recapture and reunite Rome with Constantinople and to defeat the Persians in the East.
Around 533, Justinian sent his most trusted and able General, Belisarius , to reconquer Northern Africa.
Much of Belisarius’ success came from his tactics and strategy . He was a very sneaky leader who would use any methods to win. Even this...
The Byzantine Empire was still using the kontos in warfare. It was an overhand thrusting spear that was used before the stirrup was invented.
Belisarius sailed to North Africa with 500 ships. He feigned an attack near Egypt and sailed on to land farther along the coast.
The Vandal king Gelimer surrendered without a fight after Belisarius placed his army between the city and the Vandal army.
The Byzantine (Roman) Empire once again included North Africa, Sardinia, and Corsica.
Belisarius was then given only 5000 men with which to take Rome. Why so few?
Justinian was jealous of Belisarius and wanted him to succeed cheaply or die trying.
With so few men, he had to avoid a frontal assault or a pitched battle.
As Belisarius approached Rome, there were several cities that had to fall first. He could leave few enemies behind his army.
Naples fell when Belisarius’ soldiers found a path through a destroyed aquaduct that led his troops into the city through the sewers to open the front gate.
Almost all of the citizens of Naples were killed!! Why!?
All other cities quickly opened their doors to Belisarius, thus avoiding further bloodshed.
As the Byzantine force approached Ravenna , the Ostrogoth King, Theodatus , tried to flee, but was killed by his own people. The new Ostrogoth king, Vittigis , pulled out of Italy to get more troops.
As Belisarius approached Rome, only one Ostrogoth soldier stayed to defend the city: Leuderis . For such bravery, Belisarius sent Leuderis back to Constantinople with the keys to its gates.
Rome had fallen into disrepair since the barbarians took over. Many walls were down and it would be hard to defend for the Byzantines.
Let’s get the numbers straight. Out of 5000 men, Belisarius had to leave 2000 on garrison duty to protect his supply lines and line of retreat. That leaves…?
But Vittigis was coming with 50,000 men !!
How much could they do?
Since he couldn’t defend the whole city, he chose to defend just one building: Hadrian’s Tomb !
It was apparent to Vittigis that Belisarius meant to withstand a siege , even though Roman support was fading.
Belisarius wrote to Justinian that Rome was his, but would only remain that way if reinforcements arrived soon!
I’m from the gov’t, I’m here to help.
The Goths set up camp across the Tiber River while Belisarius established some of his foreign mercenaries at the only bridge crossing the river.
The small mercenary force panicked at the sight of 50,000 barbarians and joined them! Belisarius, meanwhile, took 1000 men on a recon mission, unaware that he no longer held the bridge!
The traitors identified Belisarius and urged the Goths to attack and end the siege now! In the following battle, Belisarius’ little force killed 1000 Goths who then fled to the countryside.
He kicked my butt!
Upon his return to Rome, Belisarius was locked out by Romans fearing that he was already dead.
Who is it? Belisarius! Belisarius who…?
He had no choice, he ordered a charge (again) and broke the Goths (again). The next time he returned, he had his men “open the door.”
“ Knock and it shall be opened.”
It took the Goths another 18 days to prepare the assault on Hadrian’s tomb . They built 4 siege towers .
As the Goths moved the towers into place, the Byzantines began to panic. Belisarius personally killed two officers with a bow. His men said, “But we’re not good enough to hit men at this distance.”
He then advised his men to shoot the oxen pulling the large towers. (The attack ended soon thereafter.)
In the next attack, the Byzantines shot all of their arrows then dropped pieces of tomb statuary on the Goths.
Belisarius had some men “ sallie ” from a different gate and attack the Goths from the rear, driving them off. The Goths admitted to losing 30,000 men.
The siege dragged on so long that Pope Silverus tried to sell the city to the Goths. Belisarius had him sent into exile while he “elected” a new Pope.
After 1 year and 9 days , the Goths burned their camps and marched away from Rome. Are we advancing? Shut up, Krognor!
The Problem : Vittigis offered to serve the Byzantine empire and its emperor Belisarius! Word of this got back to Constantinople…
Belisarius sucks! Justinian
Of course, Justinian’s paranoia was now justified (?). He thought that Belisarius would jump at the chance. He had a eunuch General named Narses take over in Rome and had Belisarius brought home in 541 AD.
Narses lost Rome to the Goths in 543. What a surprise... Don’t let the door hit you on the way out! Yeah!
So Justinian sent Belisarius to recapture Rome in 544, but only let him take 4000 men this time. Kontos
Belisarius recaptured Rome, withstood another siege in 546, and was then recalled to Constantinople by a jealous Justinian in 549. (What a goober!)