Jump to content
UNRV Ancient Roman Empire Forums
  • Time Travel Rome

Sign in to follow this  
Tobias

Justinian's Reign - Success Or Failure?

Recommended Posts

G'day All :)

With the advent of Justinian's zealous campaign to regain the western mediterranean mainly for religious and political purposes, an interesting period developed for the Byzantine Empire. With the constant divisions of the catholic and orthodox and various other sects, as well as the ever present problems of the Vandals, Justinian decided that it was time to bring the west back under a universal power, himself believing in the "Roman See" policy. However, many western peoples did not want a return of Roman taxation, Roman justice, and imperial meddling in their affairs. Thus, even Romans of some areas joined their Ostrogothic overlords in attempting to halt the eastern armies from restoring a situation that many people simply did not want to see restored. Many in the east did not want anything to do with Justinian's dreams of a united mediterannean spanning empire either, as they saw it as a waste of money and they were impoverished by these continuous campaigns to regain the west.

As well, although committed to the ideal of a Roman empire, Justinian recognized that the most important parts of Byzantine territories were Greek, and that government and administration would be more effective if this was realised. Once the government stopped enforcing the use of the Latin language and Roman institutions upon its people, the oriental outlook and style of the empire became more widespread.

As well as striving to regain the west, Justinian worked hard to satisfy the various religious sects, such as the Monophysites (of whom his wife Theodora was a great supporter), the followers of the Chalcedonians and the Roman Catholic Church. His quest to satisy all these sects was a dream, and much of his time was

squandered attempting to do so. In fact, he may have helped to drive an insurmountable wedge between the west and east.

However, not everything was dismal; he embarked on great building schemes and "The Corpus Iuris Civilis" was a strong basis for modern law.

But, only several years after his reconquest of Italy, the Lombards invaded Italy, in 575 the Visigoths repudiated Roman suzerainty, and began the process of reducing the Imperial province in Spain, which was all but complete by 623. The Balkans were repeatedly raided by Avars, and Slav settlers immigrated in their wake. Finally, taking advantage of a palace coup in Constantinople, the Sassanid King Chosroes II of Persia invaded in 603, and had conquered Mesopotamia by 610. This instability stemmed from confusion in the imperial capital, a drastically emptied treasury and the divisons raised by Justinian. So, i leave it to you, my esteemed colleagues :), was Justinian's reign a success, or a cause of failure?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Justinian's dream was a false hope anyway because the Pope recognized that the Church finally had its own political power so he actually pretended that Justinian was the ruler Romae for a while. So the Pope planned to crown a novum imperatorem to counter Eastern emperors ruling the Church. So who happened to be in the spot for the job, it was Clovis, leader of the Franks. Clovis, who had a Christian wife, was outnumbered before a battle and his wife told him to appeal to God and so Clovis won the battle and decided to convert the Franks to Christianity. From there on, the Pope had politcal leadership and ties with the Merovingians(Frankish Dynasty)And so Charlemagne happened to come from Clovis family or the Merovingians. The Pope made a deal with Charlemagne to conquer the Lombards and Charlemagne would be the new emperor of the west to counter the eastern emperors.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
Justinian's dream was a false hope anyway because the Pope recognized that the Church finally had its own political power so he actually pretended that Justinian was the ruler Romae for a while. So the Pope planned to crown a novum imperatorem to counter Eastern emperors ruling the Church. So who happened to be in the spot for the job, it was Clovis, leader of the Franks. Clovis, who had a Christian wife, was outnumbered before a battle and his wife told him to appeal to God and so Clovis won the battle and decided to convert the Franks to Christianity. From there on, the Pope had politcal leadership and ties with the Merovingians(Frankish Dynasty)And so Charlemagne happened to come from Clovis family or the Merovingians. The Pope made a deal with Charlemagne to conquer the Lombards and Charlemagne would be the new emperor of the west to counter the eastern emperors.

 

 

Justinian would have reunited much of the Roman Empire and reenergized the kingdom. He first defeated the Persian Empire and signed the "everlasting peace" and then conquered Africa and most of Italy quickly adding 45% more population to the kingdom and defeating a weak gothic kingdom. This was done in the first 10 yrs of his reign. If the plague had not struck which reduced the population including the tax base and army by between 50 % - 70 % Italy would have been stabilized in 5 yrs vs. the 20 yrs it took. Because of the drop in population he was forced to reduce his army in Italy by 50% thereby allowing a resurgent Gothic state to reclaim much of Italy. He in turn reconquored Italy but between the plague in Italy and the destructive war it was decimated.

 

To give you an idea of the damage caused by the plague - the conquest of a populous Africa and Italy should have added 50% more population to the empire, however the net result of the plague left the empire with a total reduction in the entire empire - but now with significant more border area to protect with less tax base and a reduced army. Even with these reductions and tax loss - army depletion he went on to easily conquer 20% of Spain.

 

Net result if the plague never hit - Italy reconquored - Spain reconquored - Africa reconquored - peace in the east - and a good relationship with the Franks - a reduced but stable and powerful empire.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Sure he conquered them, but history is history, you can't change it. The Bubonic Plague struck, and if Justinian was educated as he was, he would have diverted a lot of time to find solutions to stopping the plague which I don't see much reference to. Anyways, no matter what, the Franks and other Barbarian tribes will alway be that arrogant and rebel and if defeated only to rebel again with another Barbaric tribe leading.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

An interesting point is that the Ostrogoths offered their allegiance to Belisarius to become their leader. Imagine what could have happened if:

I: Belisarius had decided to abandon Justinian and become an Ostrogothic leader?

--or--

II: Belisarius had become the leader of the ostrogoths and persuaded them to become loyal Byzantine subjects?

 

But, Belisarius remained loyal to Justinian in every aspect (no matter what Theodora said) and declined, thus causing the unfortunate war to drag on.

I don't know that the Byzantines would have had the strength to reconquer the Visigoths in Spain. They were on good terms with them, and had an alliance with them as well as suzerainty over southern spain; why lose all that for the sake of a little more land at (probably) an enormous cost?

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

IF Belisarius had become an Ostrogothic leader, I believe he would actually rather become the Western emperor if he made dealings with the Pope, then history as we would know it would make such a loser out of Justinian. Belisarius I project would have become a lasting Christian figurehead for the Western Empire and for all we know, would be so recognized like Julius Caesar is today in our culture. I just believe Belisasrius could have done so much if he had not been backstabbed by that despicable........(so much to find fault with her) witch Theodora.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

I agree. With the support of the Ostrogoths and the Pope, Belisarius could easily have declared himself the ruler of a reborn Western Empire. With control of the Ostrogoths, he could have conquered many of the surrounding nations (except perhaps the Byzantines), and as was said above, could have been lauded as a great(er) influence on history. I think it's a testament to the sort of judgement Justinian must have had, because through thick and thin, through the manipulations of Theodora and through tempting offers from powerful nations, he stayed loyal to Justinian. If Justinian had given Belisarius his full confidence, instead of Narses, i believe Justinian could have achieved more. It is indicative of the kind of snakepit Constantinople must have been i.e. an Emperor being paranoid to one of his most loyal followers.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Politically, Justinian's reconquests were a success, albeit not a great one. A look at the map for 550 shows the Empire's fortunes apparantly restored, its boundaries including much of what was lost with the exceptions of Gaul , Britain and half of Spain.

 

Culturally it was a disaster. Many of the classical cities of Italy and coastal Spain were devastated by the wars, never to recover. Had Justinian not interfered with the West, the Gothic rulers of Italy, by now Latin speaking and fast coming round to the idea of being Romans themselves, would have been far better placed to resist the subsequent Lombard invasion, and with it the final destruction of a Roman way of life in Italy.

 

I am charmed by the idea that had Belisarius sided with the Goths, the Western Empire would have been ressurected. This might even have happened anyway, but for Justinian's interfering.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites
I agree. With the support of the Ostrogoths and the Pope, Belisarius could easily have declared himself the ruler of a reborn Western Empire. With control of the Ostrogoths, he could have conquered many of the surrounding nations (except perhaps the Byzantines), and as was said above, could have been lauded as a great(er) influence on history. I think it's a testament to the sort of judgement Justinian must have had, because through thick and thin, through the manipulations of Theodora and through tempting offers from powerful nations, he stayed loyal to Justinian. If Justinian had given Belisarius his full confidence, instead of Narses, i believe Justinian could have achieved more. It is indicative of the kind of snakepit Constantinople must have been i.e. an Emperor being paranoid to one of his most loyal followers.

 

Some very good points here, but they miss one vital element. If Belisarius had accepted the job as King of the Goths, most likely Justinian would have moved heaven and earth to dispose of the man who had betrayed his trust so badly. Even with Belisarius as their leader, the Goths did not have the military capacity to face the full might of the Roman Empire and its reserves of manpower. Belisarius would have been defeated and killed and he knew it. Apart from his loyalty, Belisarius was also a realist and so there was never any doubt that he would turn down the offer.

Share this post


Link to post
Share on other sites

Create an account or sign in to comment

You need to be a member in order to leave a comment

Create an account

Sign up for a new account in our community. It's easy!

Register a new account

Sign in

Already have an account? Sign in here.

Sign In Now
Sign in to follow this  

  • Map of the Roman Empire

×