Justinian

, the first Roman emperor of his name, and more celebrated for his code of laws, was nephew of Justin I. and succeeded his uncle in the Imperial throne Aug. 1, 527. He began his reign with the character of a most religious prince, publishing very severe laws against heretics, and repairing ruined churches; in this spirit,- he actually declared himself protector of the church. While he was thus re-establishing Christianity at home, he carried his arms against the enemies of the empire abroad, with so much success, that he reinstated it in its ancient glory. He was very happy in having the best general of the age, Belisarius, who conquered the Persians for him | in 528, 542, and 543; and in 533 exterminated the Vandals, and took their king Gillimer prisoner. He also recovered Africa to the empire by a new conquest vanquished the Goths in Italy and, lastly, defeated the Moors and the Samaritans. But, in the midst of these glorious successes the emperor was endangered by a potent faction at home. Hypalius, Pompeius, and Probus, three nephews of the emperor Anastasius, the immediate predecessor of Justin, combining together, raised a powerful insurrection, in order to dethrone Justinian. The conspirators formed two parties, one called the Varti, and the other Veneti, and at length became so strong, that the emperor, in despair of being able to resist them, began to think of quitting the palace; and had certainly submitted to that disgrace had not the empress Theodosia, his consort, vexed at his betraying so much tameness, reproached him with his pusillanimity, and induced him to fortify himself against the rebels, while Belisarius and Mundus defended him so well, that the conspiracy was broken, and the ringleaders capitally punished.

The empire being now in the full enjoyment of profound peace and tranquillity, Justinian made the best use of it, by collecting the immense variety and number of the Roman laws into one body. To this end, he selected ten of the most able lawyers in the empire; who, revising the Gregorian, Theodosian, and Hermogenian codes, compiled out of them one body, called “The Code,” to which the emperorgave his own name. This may be called the statute law, as consisting of the rescripts of the emperors: but the compilation of the other part was a much more difficult task. It was made up of the decisions of the judges and other magistrates, together with the authoritative opinions of the most eminent lawyers; all which lay scattered, without any order, in above 2000 volumes. These, however, after the labour of ten years, chiefly by Tribonian, an eminent lawyer, were reduced to the number of 50; and the whole design was completed in the year 533, and the name of “Digests,” or “Pandects,” given to it. Besides these, for the use chiefly of young students in the law, Justinian ordered four books of “Institutes” to be drawn up, by Tribonian, Dorotheus, and Theophilus, containing an abstract or abridgement of the text of all the laws: and, lastly, the laws of modern date, posterior to that of the former, were thrown into one volume in the year 541, called the “Noveilx,” or “New Code.| This most important transaction in the state has rendered Justinian’s name immortal. His conduct in ecclesiastical affairs was rash and inconsiderate. On one occasion, when Theodotus, king of Italy, had obliged pope Agapetus to go to Constantinople, in order to submit and make peace with the emperor, Justinian received him very graciously, but enjoined him to communicate with Anthenius, patriarch of Constantinople. That patriarch being deemed a heretic at Rome, the pontiff refused to obey the command; and, when the emperor threatened to punish his disobedience with banishment, he answered, without any emotion, “I thought I was come before a Christian prince, but I find a Diocletian.” The result was, that the hardiness and resolution of the pope brought the emperor to a submission. Accordingly Anthenius was deprived, and an orthodox prelate put into his place.

After this, Justinian, resolving to take cognizance of the difference between the three chapters, published a rescript for that purpose, in form of a constitution, which created great disturbances in the empire. He also exerted his authority against the attempts of the popes Sylverius and Vigilius, both before and after the celebration of the fifth general council held in the year 553. Towards the latter end of his life, he fell into an erroneous opinion concerning Christ’s body j which he maintained had never been corruptible, nor subject to the natural infirmities of a human body. He carried it so far as to prepare an edict against those who maintained the contrary opinion, and intended to publish it; but was prevented by his death, which happened suddenly, in 565, at the age of 83, and after a reign of 39 years. It was this emperor who abolished the consulate. He built a great number of churches, and particularly the famous Sancta Sophia, at Constantinople, esteemed a master-piece of architecture. But the increasing jealousies, and the heavy burdens which Justinian imposed upon his subjects, had, some time before his death, destroyed all attachment to his person; and he who, in many respects, deserved the title of the last Roman emperor, left the stage unlamented and tinhonoured. The editions of his “Code,” “Institutions,” &c. are too many to be enumerated, but the best of them occur in almost every catalogue. 1

1

Universal History.—Gibbon’s History.—Cave.—Mosheim’s, but particularly Milner’s, Church History, where his character, as a Christian emperor, is well delineated.

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