Justin II (520 - 578 AD)
Emperor: 565 - 574 AD (abdicated)
Flavius Iustinus Iunior Augustus was born in 520 AD, his parents were Vigilantia sister of Justinian and Dulcissimus. At the age of 32 Justin was given the office of cura palatii by Justinian which meant master of the palace. He was noticed as an heir after his marriage to Sophia one of Theodora's nieces and after his appointment to master of the palace. The validity of Justin's appointment as Justinian's successor is sketchy, only the sacred bed chamberlain was present at Justinian's last breath and proclaimed that Justin the son of Vigilantia was to proceed to the throne of Byzantium. The Patriarch crowned him Emperor the same night that Justinian had died. By morning Byzantium had a new Emperor. A day after his coronation he crowned his wife Sophia as Augusta and then quickly paid the debts his uncle had created during the campaigns in the west and taxes were reduced. His popularity was already growing.
Early in his reign Justin cut off the subsidies that his uncle had paid to the Avars, and then became embroiled in barbarian politics. Justin would later regret his Avar policy after an army lead by Tiberius Count of the Excubitors was defeated and the city of Sirmium was captured. Matters in Italy were becoming worse after the Lombards in 568 AD with many other barbarian tribes decided to settle in Venetia and later in Liguria. By the end of the Justins reign the Lombards were rulers of nearly the entire peninsula. The situation in the east was faring no better, Justin's overtures to the Turks led to a war with the Persians. After two disastrous campaigns Justin was resolved to pay an annual tribute this was after the Persians had overran the majority of Syria.
The Empire was now in crisis with the loss of the eastern frontier to the Persians, a break out of the bubonic plague in Constantinople and Emperor Justin's increasing insanity. The Empress stepped forward in this time of despair and turned to the Count of the Excubitors Tiberius. He was appointed Caesar (though he jointly ruled) through Sophia's good graces. Sophia hoped to exert her influence of Tiberius by marrying him but Tiberius refused her advances and eventually Sophia would have to accept defeat. Theological issues, as usual in Byzantium, were always present. The Chalcedonians and the Monophysites were growing hostile as the Monophysites now had priests and Bishops of their own. Sophia and Justin where Monophysites but both had become orthodox for the sake of the Empire and in turn persecuted the Monophysites.
Justin died at the age of 58 reigning for 13 years. Although the Empire was reduced from its former reaches under Justinian, he did leave the empire more financially secure allowing Tiberius who would later succeed him to rebuild the army which had been defeated at Daras. Stories are told that Justin's favourite amusement in his final days was to be dragged around on a portable throne and how he used to bite his attendants. It is also said that he had eaten two of them.
Did you know...
Justin's last words were "As a man, I have sinned; as a sinner, even in this life, I have been severely punished; but these servants (and he pointed to his ministers) who have abused my confidence and inflamed my passions, will appear with me before the tribunal of Christ."