Emperor Justin was the uncle of the famous Justinian and a capable leader in his own right. He rose from humble beginnings to patrician status before he succeeded to the throne; as emperor, he was a champion of Orthodoxy.
Born to peasants in Illyricum, Justin was a swineherd as a young man, but by the age of 20 he had traveled to Constantinople and entered the palace guard (the excubitors). He rose to the status of patrician on his own merits, and he became commander of the guard under Emperor Anastasius I, acquiring the title of count.
Legend has it that Justin owed his throne to the superstition of Anastasius, but in actual fact he was selected by high officials of the court after his predecessor's death. Upon his elevation to emperor, he sent a message to Pope Hormisdas to inform him of his new status. In his letter Justin claimed to have been chosen against his will, but he may have maneuvered himself into the ranks of imperial candidates.
Unlike his predecessor, who at the end of his reign leaned toward Monophysitism, Justin was a staunch supporter of Orthodox Christianity. He was instrumental in bringing about an end to the Acacian schism and persecuted the Monophysites. He also issued an edict against Arianism in 523.
Due to this edict, Justin offended Theodoric, the Arian king of the Ostrogoths. He also had to deal with ongoing conflict with Persia, and he failed to keep the Slavs from encroaching into Balkan territory.
Justin is believed to have been illiterate, and at the time he became Emperor he was at least sixty years old. Although throughout his time as emperor he had input from Justinian, and although toward the end of his life he relied considerably on his nephew, the bulk of his reign was of his own making, and not merely a preamble to that of his gifted successor.
A few months before his death, Justin made Justinian his co-emperor.
On the Web
Concise, informative and well-hyperlinked biography at Wikipedia.
Justin I (518-527 A.D.).
Extensive, well-referenced examination of Justin's reign by James Allan Evans of the University of British Columbia, at the De Imperatoribus Romanis site.
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A History of the Byzantine State
by George Ostrogorsky
A Short History of Byzantium
by John Julius Norwich
A multilevel index of useful and interesting sites related to general Byzantine studies, Art and Architecture, Music, and more about the Eastern Roman Empire.
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