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Justinian ascends to the Imperial throne – The “Sedition of Nika” – Novo Scriptorium


Bellissimo articolo che ripercorre la parabola di Giustiniano I, imperatore di Costantinopoli e ultimo reale imperatore romano; all’interno della trattazione – in inglese – le caratteristiche della sua persona e del suo regno, che tratteggiano un personaggio magnifico anche nei suoi difetti.

Justinian was a hard and suspicious master, and not over grateful to subjects who served him well; he was intolerant in religious, and unscrupulous in political matters. When his heart was set on a project he was utterly unmindful of the slaughter and ruin which it might bring upon his people. In the extent of his conquests and the magnificence of his public works, he was incomparably the greatest of the emperors who reigned at Constantinople. But the greatness was purely personal: he left the empire weaker in resources, if broader in provinces, than he found it.

Justinian did a great legal work — the compilation of the Pandects and Institutes. His private life was strict even to austerity. All night long, we read, he sat alone over his State papers in his cabinet, or paced the dark halls in deep thought. His sleepless vigilance so struck his subjects that the strangest legends became current even in his life-time.

The empire when Justinian took it over from the hands of his uncle was in a more prosperous condition than it had known since the death of Constantine. Since the Ostrogoths had moved out of the Balkan Peninsula in 487 A.D., it had not suffered from any very long or destructive invasion from without. The Slavonic tribes, now heard of for the first time, and the Bulgarians had made raids across the Danube, but they had not yet shown any signs of settling down—as the Goths had done—within the limits of the empire. Their incursions, though vexatious, were not dangerous. Still the European provinces of the empire were in worse condition than the Asiatic, and were far from having recovered the effects of the ravages of Fritigern and Alaric, Attila, and Theodoric. But the more fortunate Asiatic lands had hardly seen a foreign enemy for centuries.  Except in the immediate neighbourhood of the Persian frontier there was no danger, and Persian wars had been infrequent of late. Southern Asia Minor had once or twice suffered from internal risings, but civil war left no such permanent mark on the land as did barbarian invasions. On the whole, the resources of the provinces beyond the Bosphorus were intact.

There were more than 300,000 lbs. of gold in store when Justinian came to the throne. The army was in good order, and composed in a larger proportion of born subjects of the empire than it had been at any time since the battle of Adrianople. There would appear to have been from 150,000 to 200,000 men under arms, but the extent of the frontiers of the empire were so great that Justinian never sent out a single army of more than 30,000 strong, and forces of only a third of that number are often found entrusted with such mighty enterprises as the invasion of Africa or the defence of the Armenian border. The flower of the Roman army was no longer its infantry, but its mailed horsemen (Cataphracti), armed with lance and bow, as the Parthian cavalry had once been of old. The infantry comprised more archers and javelin-men than heavy troops: the Isaurians and other provincials of the mountainous parts of Asia Minor were reckoned the best of them. Among both horse and foot large bodies of foreign auxiliaries were still found: the Huns and Arabs supplied light cavalry, the German Herules and Gepidae from beyond the Danube heavier troops.

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