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WTTA BIOGRAPHIES - Justinian the Great

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  • WTTA BIOGRAPHIES - Justinian the Great

    Justinian the Great
    Famous Men of The Middle Ages by John H. Haaren, LL.D. and A. B. Poland, Ph.D.

    Emperor from 527-565 A.D.

    I

    In the time of Clovis the country now called Bulgaria was inhabited by Goths. One day a poor shepherd boy, about sixteen years of age, left his mountain home in that country to go to the city of Constantinople, which was many miles away. The boy had no money to pay the expenses of the journey, but he was determined to go, even though he should have to walk every step of the road and live on fruits that he could gather by the way. He was a bright, clever boy who had spent his life hitherto in a village, but was now eager to go out into the world to seek his fortune.

    Some years before, this boy's uncle, who was named Justin, had gone to Constantinople and joined the Roman army. He was so brave and so good a soldier that he soon came to be commander of the imperial guard which attended the emperor.

    The poor shepherd boy had heard of the success of his uncle, and this was the reason why he resolved to set off for the big city. So he started down the mountain and trudged along the valley in high hope, feeling certain that he would reach the end of his journey in safety. It was a difficult and dangerous journey, and it took him several weeks, for he had to go through dark forests and to cross rivers and high hills; but at last one afternoon in midsummer he walked through the main gate of Constantinople, proud and happy that he had accomplished his purpose.

    He had no trouble in finding his Uncle Justin; for everybody in Constantinople knew the commander of the emperor's guards. And when the boy appeared at the great man's house and told who he was, his uncle received him with much kindness. He took him into his own family, and gave him the best education that could be had in the city.

    As the boy was very talented and eager for knowledge he soon became an excellent scholar. He grew up a tall, good-looking man, with black eyes and curly hair, and he was always richly dressed. He was
    well liked at the emperor's court, and was respected by everybody on account of his learning.

    II

    One day a great change came for both uncle and nephew. The emperor died; and the people chose Justin to succeed him. He took the title of Justinus I (Jus-ti'-nus), and so the young scholar, who had once been a poor shepherd boy, was now nephew of an emperor.

    After some years Justinus was advised by his nobles to take the young man, who had adopted the name of Justinian, to help him in ruling the empire. Justinus agreed to this proposal, for he was now old and in feeble health, and not able himself to attend to the important affairs of government. He therefore called the great lords of his court together and in their presence he placed a crown on the head of his nephew, who thus became joint emperor with his uncle. The uncle died only a few months after, and then Justinian was declared emperor. This was in the year 527. Justinian reigned for nearly forty years and did so many important things that he was afterwards called Justinian the Great.

    He had many wars during his reign, but he himself did not take part in them. He was not experienced as a soldier, for he had spent most of his time in study. He was fortunate enough, however, to have two great generals to lead his armies. One of them was named Belisarius and the other Narses.

    Belisarius was one of the greatest soldiers that ever lived. He gained wonderful victories for Justinian, and conquered some of the old Roman provinces that had been lost for many years.

    The victories of these two generals largely helped to make the reign of Justinian remarkable in history. Many years before he ascended the throne the Vandals, as you have read, conquered the northern part of Africa and established a kingdom there with Carthage as its capital. The Vandal king in the time of Justinian was named Gelimer (Gel'-i-mer), and he lived in Carthage.

    Justinian resolved to make war on this king in order to recover Northern Africa and make it again a part of the Empire. So Belisarius was sent to Africa with an army of thirty-five thousand men and five thousand horses, that were carried on a fleet of six hundred ships. It took this fleet three months to make the voyage from Constantinople to Africa. The same voyage may now be made in a very few days. But in the time of Belisarius there were no steamships, and nothing was known of the power of steam for moving machinery. The ships or galleys were sailing vessels; and when there was no wind they could make no progress except by rowing.

    When Belisarius reached Africa he left five men as a guard in each vessel, and with the body of his army he marched for some days along the coast. The people received him in a friendly way, for
    they had grown tired of the rule of the Vandals, and preferred to be under the government of the Romans.

    About ten miles from Carthage he met a large army led by the brother of Gelimer. A battle immediately took place, and the Vandals were utterly defeated. Gelimer's brother was killed, and the king himself, who had followed with another army and joined the fight, was also defeated and fled from the field. Belisarius then proceeded to Carthage and took possession of the city.

    Soon afterwards Gelimer collected another army and fought the Romans in another battle, twenty miles from Carthage; but Belisarius again defeated him and the Vandal king again fled. This was the end of the Vandal king in Africa. In a short time Gelimer gave himself up to Belisarius, who took him to Constantinople. Justinian set apart an estate for him to live upon, and the conquered king passed the rest of his life in peaceful retirement.

    After conquering the Vandals Justinian resolved to conquer Italy, which was then held by the Ostrogoths. A large army was got together and put under the command of Belisarius and Narses, who immediately set out for Italy. When they arrived there they marched straight to Rome, and after some fighting took possession of the city. But in a few months, Vitiges (vit'-i-ges), king of the Goths,
    appeared with an army before the gates and challenged Belisarius and Narses to come out and fight.

    The Roman generals, however, were not then ready to fight, and so the Ostrogoth king laid siege to the city, thinking that he would compel the Romans to surrender.

    But instead of having any thought of surrender, Belisarius was preparing his men for fight, and when they were ready he attacked Vitiges and defeated him. Vitiges retired to Ravenna, and Belisarius quickly followed, and made such an assault on the city that it was compelled to surrender. The Ostrogoth army was captured, and Vitiges was taken to Constantinople a prisoner.

    Belisarius and Narses then went to Northern Italy, and, after a long war, conquered all the tribes there. Thus the power of Justinian was established throughout the whole country, and the city of Rome was again under the dominion of a Roman emperor.

    While his brave generals were winning these victories for the Empire, Justinian himself was busy in making improvements of various kinds at the capital. He erected great public buildings, which were not only useful but ornamental to the city. The most remarkable of them was the very magnificent cathedral of St. Sophia (So-phi'-a), for a long time the grandest church structure in the world. The great temple still exists in all its beauty and grandeur, but is now used as a Mohammedan mosque.

    But the most important thing that Justinian did--the work for which he is most celebrated--was the improving and collecting of the laws. He made many excellent new laws and reformed many of the old laws, so that he became famous as one of the greatest of the world's legislators. For a long time the Roman laws had been difficult to understand. There was a vast number of them, and different writers differed widely as to what the laws really were and what they meant. Justinian employed a great lawyer, named Tribonian (trib-o'-ni-an), to collect and simplify the principal laws. The collection which he made was called the CODE OF JUSTINIAN. It still exists, and is the model according to which most of the countries of Europe have made their laws.

    Justinian also did a great deal of good by establishing a number of manufactures in Constantinople. It was he who first brought silk-worms into Europe.

    To the last year of his life Justinian was strong and active and a hard worker. He often worked or studied all day and all night without eating or sleeping. He died in 565 at the age of eighty-three years.
    Barcsi János ispán vezérőrnagy
    Time Magazine's Person of the Year for 2003 & 2006


    "Never pet a burning dog."

    RECOMMENDED WEBSITES:
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  • #2
    Great read Janos. I was wandering, did the Byzantium empire speak Latin until it fell in 1453? Were the uniforms like that of the Roman Legions? Did they fight with the same tactics?
    http://canadiangenealogyandresearch.ca

    Soviet and Canadian medal collector!

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    • #3
      Originally posted by dannybou
      Great read Janos. I was wandering, did the Byzantium empire speak Latin until it fell in 1453? Were the uniforms like that of the Roman Legions? Did they fight with the same tactics?
      No
      No
      No
      Details to follow.
      JS
      Barcsi János ispán vezérőrnagy
      Time Magazine's Person of the Year for 2003 & 2006


      "Never pet a burning dog."

      RECOMMENDED WEBSITES:
      http://www.mormon.org
      http://www.sca.org
      http://www.scv.org/
      http://www.scouting.org/

      Comment


      • #4
        Language of the Byzantines

        It is my understanding that the Byzantines (they never viewed themselves as such, but as Romans) spoke Greek. I'm not smart enough to tell you that Latin was not used -- it may have been in some circumstances.

        JS
        Barcsi János ispán vezérőrnagy
        Time Magazine's Person of the Year for 2003 & 2006


        "Never pet a burning dog."

        RECOMMENDED WEBSITES:
        http://www.mormon.org
        http://www.sca.org
        http://www.scv.org/
        http://www.scouting.org/

        Comment


        • #5
          Byzantine Tactics and Organization

          Byzantine Armed Resistance
          Throughout its existence the Byzantine Empire faced constant military pressure on all sides, from such diverse and dangerous adversaries as the Sassanid Persians, the Arab Ummayad and Abbasid Caliphates, the Seljuk and Ottoman Turks, the Bulgars, Normans, Franks, Russians and Serbians, as well as nomadic peoples such as the Avars and Pechenegs.

          Byzantium did engage in expansionist wars of conquest of its own from from time to time: Justinian's reconquest of Italy and North Africa or the much later wars of Nikephoros Phokas and John Tzimiskes on the eastern frontier for example, but in general Byzantine military doctrine was defensive in nature. It is testimony to the effectiveness of these tactics that Byzantium was able to ultimately prevail against the power of the Arab Caliphate: A state which far exceeded Byzantium in terms of wealth, population and land area.

          It is difficult to make generalisations about Byzantium's military over the whole period of the Empire's existence. This short essay will concentrate upon distinctive features of the Byzantine army from the late seventh century through to the end of the eleventh century although it will also deal briefly with the later developments.

          The Thematic System
          The seventh century Arab conquest of Egypt, North Africa, Palestine and Syria/Mesopotamia was a severe shock to the Byzantine-late Roman military system. The Arabs were inspired by their new-found faith (The Prophet Mohammed had only died recently, in 632) and were determined to pursue their fight for Islam across the entire Middle East and beyond. By way of contrast, after a gruelling though ultimately successful fight for survival against the Sassanid Persians, the Byzantine military was severely disrupted and not in a particularly good state for dealing with the Arabs. In 636 a large Byzantine army was destroyed by the Arabs at the River Yarmuk, in Syria, and by the early 640s the Byzantines had been pushed back into Asia Minor, beyond the Taurus and Anti-Taurus mountains.

          Things were not looking good for the Empire. Byzantium had lost over half of its territory in less than thirty years, to an adversary which had also invaded and completely taken over the Sassanid Persian Empire.

          Clearly radical defensive measures were called for - in particular the much reduced Empire could no longer afford the large late Roman army of paid professionals and mercenaries. At some stage in the 650s or 660s a system of regional defence in depth was established, organised around territorial army units known as Thema

          It is not clear whether the Thematic system was an organised development by central government or an ad-hoc response to events on the ground. In any case the Thematic armies proved to be extremely resilient, providing the backbone of Byzantine resistance to Arab attack over the next three hundred years.

          The professional status of Thematic soldiers is still controversial amongst Byzantinists. The traditional view is that Thematic soldiers were part-timers: although it appears that a supplemental salary was paid, a Thematic soldier may have derived most of his financial support from his own land holding. Members of his local community were also expected to contribute to the expense of his weapons and equipment. A small farmer and land holder in time of peace, the thematic soldier was expected to turn out armed and equipped for training and combat duty when required by his Strategos - a Thema's overall commander.

          As time wore on, the military rank of Strategos was developed into a dual purpose office, incorporating civil as well military authority within each Thema. In this way the provincial government of Byzantium was "militarised": a sharp contrast to the civilian central government in Constantinople. Tension between civil and military elements within Byzantium's ruling class is a distinctive feature of Byzantine history, particularly in the turbulent eleventh century.

          The regional basis of the Thematic system held certain advantages: resistance to attack could be organised quickly on a local level and soldiers were motivated by the fact they were often fighting for their own towns, farms and families. On the down side there were efficiency problems, soldier-farmers often became more farmer than soldier, and local loyalties sometimes took precedence over duty to the central government - several large scale rebellions were sustained by the efforts of thematic troops based in Asia Minor, often led by their Strategos.

          The Tagmata
          Although reliant upon thematic troops for regional defence, the Byzantine Emperor also managed to retain a central collection of professional army regiments, known collectively as the Tagmata.

          The Tagmata had developed from Palace bodyguard units, maintained more for show than actual fighting and staffed largely by social climbers. The Emperor Justinian, for example, is reputed to have amused himself by including one of these regiments, the Scholai, in mock active deployment lists, thus causing a panic amongst their upper class gentlemen-soldiers, who had no desire to leave the safety of Constantinople for the discomfort and danger of an actual military campaign.

          By the eighth century however, these 'toy soldier' units had evolved into an elite army corps. With substantial salaries paid in full by the Imperial government, the Tagma included crack cavalry and infantry regiments with a combined strength, by one estimate, of more than 20,000 men.

          The Tagmata campaigned with the Emperor and formed the spearhead of Byzantine counter offensive action against invading armies worn down by the hit and run tactics of defending thematic soldiers.

          The Empire's strategic and economic position gradually improved through the ninth and tenth centuries. Throughout this period the Tagmata were developed into a fully fledged professional army, which employed sophisticated infantry tactics combined with the shock effect of heavily armoured cavalry. A series of soldier-emperors such as Nikephoros Phokas, John Tzimiskes and Basil Bulgaroctonos were able to undertake significant offensive campaigns and to turn the tables in particular against the Bulgars in the west and the Arab "raiding emirates" in the east. The pursuit of military glory consequently became an important component of Byzantine imperial propaganda.

          The decline and destruction of the Byzantine Army
          In many respects the Byzantine military system was a victim of its own success. By pushing back the border regions and reducing danger from constant hostile raiding parties, the successful campaigns of the ninth to early eleventh centuries reduced the need for local defence of the type supplied by Thematic troops. The Thematic armies grew steadily less efficient and came to be regarded as surplus to needs by the Byzantine government. In the meantime, the professional army was also run down - it apparently having no dangerous adversaries left to fight.

          Unfortunately a new set of formidable enemies appeared towards the end of the eleventh century. In 1071 the Empire suffered a double blow: the Byzantine city of Bari, in south eastern Italy, fell to the Normans and the Emperor Romanos Diogenes suffered a catastrophic defeat at the hands of the Seljuk Turks. The Byzantine army was still large, on paper at least, but inefficient and disaffected: within ten years most of Asia Minor had been over-run by the Turks and the Normans had established a beachhead in the Greece and the Balkans. The Emperors Alexios, John, and Manuel Komnenos, all able and determined men, were able to deal with both the Seljuk Turks and Normans through a mixture of diplomacy and military force. But the army they employed, increasingly made up of mercenaries and "barbarian" (ie non-Byzantine) soldiers, bore little relation to the old military establishment which had served the empire so well.

          http://byzantium.seashell.net.nz/art...artsortorder=4
          Barcsi János ispán vezérőrnagy
          Time Magazine's Person of the Year for 2003 & 2006


          "Never pet a burning dog."

          RECOMMENDED WEBSITES:
          http://www.mormon.org
          http://www.sca.org
          http://www.scv.org/
          http://www.scouting.org/

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          • #6
            Byzantine Military Dress

            The Byzantines were after most of the Romans, particularly if you're thinking of the "classic" Roman soldiers.

            Here are a few shots that I found. Not pictured are the Varangians, probably the best known Byzantine mercenaries. Orginally all from Scandinavia, they later came to include a lot of Englishmen, including some well-known historical figures.

            JS
            Attached Files
            Barcsi János ispán vezérőrnagy
            Time Magazine's Person of the Year for 2003 & 2006


            "Never pet a burning dog."

            RECOMMENDED WEBSITES:
            http://www.mormon.org
            http://www.sca.org
            http://www.scv.org/
            http://www.scouting.org/

            Comment


            • #7
              More.
              Attached Files
              Barcsi János ispán vezérőrnagy
              Time Magazine's Person of the Year for 2003 & 2006


              "Never pet a burning dog."

              RECOMMENDED WEBSITES:
              http://www.mormon.org
              http://www.sca.org
              http://www.scv.org/
              http://www.scouting.org/

              Comment

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