Justinian was one of the most influential rulers of Byzantium. When he came into power in 527 AD, he inherited a civilization in disarray. Justinian had a positive impact on the Byzantine Empire. Most notably, he introduced an improved set of laws and conquered many surrounding nations, nearly restoring the former glory of the Roman Empire. In addition to these contributions, Justinian also made advances with the Christian Church and Byzantine architecture.
Justinian was born on May 11, 483 AD in northern Illyricum (Hillard 1). His parents, who were farmers, gave him the name Flavius Peterus Sabbatus, but he changed his name when he was older to be more similar to his uncle, Justin, who adopted Justinian as his own son (Trafton 1). Justin took on the responsibility of Justinian’s education and took him to study in Constantinople as a teenager. Justinian began to work with his uncle, who was the Count of the Excubitors and a well-known man in politics (Treadgold 58). The Excubitors were the emperor’s guards and Justin’s job as the count included leading those soldiers. After Anastasius, the emperor at the time, died without announcing a successor, Justin was chosen by Anastasius’ courtiers to be the next ruler. Justin was close to 70 years old and uneducated, so he enlisted his nephew, who was then 36 years old, to assist him in his reign (Treadgold 58). When his uncle became emperor in 518 AD, Justinian became one of Justin’s advisors. As Justin grew older, he began to give Justinian’s opinions more weight in his own decisions.
In 522 AD, Justinian met a former actress. Her name was Theodora, and she had given up her original career after becoming a Christian, beginning to make a living spinning wool instead. At the time, there was a Byzantine law that prevented the marriage of a senator to an actress, even if she was no longer performing (Evans 37-38). However, Justinian had fallen in love with Theodora and asked Justin, the emperor, to change the law. Justin complied, and Justinian and Theodora were married a year later. Theodora was a supportive wife who helped her husband make some important decisions, including during the Nika Revolt.
Years after Justinian and Theodora were wed, Justin promoted Justinian to his co-emperor, giving Justinian more power and influence (Hussey 1). A short time later, Justin passed away and his nephew inherited the empire.
When Justinian came to the throne in 527 AD, the empire was in a state of instability. There was unrest throughout Byzantium, putting pressure on Justinian to strengthen the civilization. Justinian’s strategy was to focus on reforming the law and improving the government.
When Justinian claimed the throne, he already had an idea of what he wanted to accomplish during his reign. To sum up his plans, he created a motto for himself: “One empire, one church, one law” (Howe and Howe 180). This slogan showed his determination to strengthen the Byzantine Empire, unite the...