Byzantine Empire: Justinian and Theodora - From Swineherd to Emperor - Extra History - Part 1

Extra History
20 Jun 201508:09
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TLDRThe script narrates the dramatic era of the Byzantine Empire under Emperor Justinian, who sought to restore Rome's grandeur despite external threats and internal challenges. It highlights his ambitious projects like the Hagia Sophia and the Corpus Juris Civilis, and his complex legacy. The story also delves into Justinian's rise from a peasant background, his relationship with his uncle Justin, and his marriage to Theodora, illustrating the political and social dynamics of the time.

  • 🏰 The Western Roman Empire had fallen, leaving the Eastern Roman Empire (Byzantine Empire) as the remaining legacy of Rome.
  • πŸ‘‘ Justinian is considered one of the greatest Byzantine emperors, known for his ambitious dreams of restoring Rome and unifying the Christian Church.
  • πŸ—οΈ Justinian's reign saw the construction of monumental buildings like the Hagia Sophia, which housed the world's largest cathedral for a millennium and still stands today.
  • πŸ“š The legal framework of the Eastern Roman Empire, outlined in the Corpus Juris Civilis, influences courtroom decisions worldwide even now, 1500 years later.
  • 🎨 The basilica of San Vitale contains a mosaic of the renowned emperor Justinian, showcasing the lasting impact of his rule.
  • 🌐 Justinian's legacy is mixed; he brought the empire to a state of magnificence but also possibly overspent its resources in pursuit of his grand visions.
  • πŸ‘¨β€πŸŒΎ Justinian was originally Flavius Petrus Sabbatius, a peasant who rose to power due to the support and education provided by his uncle Justin.
  • πŸ”„ Justin, Justinian's uncle, seized the throne during a succession crisis, with Justinian's help in securing support from influential senators.
  • πŸ›‘οΈ Justinian played a crucial role in stabilizing Justin's reign by reconciling the church, promoting talented individuals, and handling military threats like the rebellion of Vitallium.
  • πŸ’” Justinian's relationship with Theodora, a former actress and supporter of the Blue faction of the demes, was initially hindered by a law against officials marrying actresses, which was later repealed.
  • πŸ† The demes, particularly the chariot racing teams of Blues and Greens, were pivotal in Byzantine society, merging sports, politics, and community, and even influencing Justinian's personal life.
Q & A
  • What significant event marked the fall of the Western Roman Empire?

    -The Western Roman Empire fell with the abandonment of Britannia centuries ago, followed by the overrun of Gaul by the Franks, Hispania becoming a Visigothic province, and North Africa falling to the Vandals.

  • How did the Eastern Roman Empire, also known as Byzantine Empire, fare during the same period?

    -The Eastern Roman Empire, or Byzantine Empire, managed to stand despite pressures from Huns and Bulgars in the north and the Sassanid Empire in the south. It was marked by the enduring legacy of Eastern Rome, such as the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul.

  • What is the contribution of Emperor Justinian to the legal framework that is still influential today?

    -Emperor Justinian is credited with the creation of the Corpus Juris Civilis, a legal framework that has influenced legal systems around the world and is still referenced in courtrooms today.

  • Who was the most renowned emperor of the East mentioned in the script?

    -The most renowned emperor of the East mentioned in the script is Justinian, who is often considered the greatest of the Byzantine emperors.

  • What was Justinian's background before he became an emperor?

    -Before becoming an emperor, Justinian was a peasant named Flavius Petrus Sabbatius. He changed his name to honor his uncle and benefactor, Justin, who helped him rise in the empire's ranks.

  • How did Justinian's uncle, Justin, rise to power?

    -Justin rose to power after the death of Emperor Anastasius, which led to a succession crisis. As the head of the Excubitors, or the imperial guard, Justin used a bribe he received to secure the support of influential senators, ultimately being raised to the imperial purple.

  • What was the role of the demes in Byzantine society?

    -The demes were chariot racing teams in Constantinople that served as sports clubs, political organizations, community groups, and a source of public agitation. They played a significant role in the life of the average citizen and were a means for the upper echelons of society to promote their political agendas.

  • How did Justinian meet his future wife, Theodora?

    -Justinian met Theodora through the demes, as he was a fanatical supporter of the Blues, and Theodora was an ardent supporter as well. They fell in love at first sight.

  • What significant change did Justinian make regarding the law that prevented him from marrying Theodora?

    -Justinian worked to repeal the law that prohibited government officials from marrying actresses, which was a barrier to his marriage with Theodora. After the law was wiped from the books, they became husband and wife.

  • What event nearly brought the reign of Justinian to an end?

    -The power of the demes nearly brought Justinian's reign to an end when 100,000 howling citizens, influenced by the demes, almost caused a major upheaval during his rule.

  • What was the impact of Justinian's reign on the Roman Empire?

    -Justinian's reign brought the Roman Empire to its last significant height of power and cultural influence. He also came closer than any other ruler to restoring a unified Rome and a unified Christian Church.

  • What are some of the lasting legacies of Justinian's reign?

    -Justinian's reign left lasting legacies such as the Hagia Sophia, the Corpus Juris Civilis, and the mosaics in the basilica of San Vitale, all of which continue to be celebrated and studied today.

🏰 The Fall of the Western Roman Empire and the Rise of Justinian

This paragraph discusses the decline of the Western Roman Empire, with key regions such as Britannia, Gaul, Hispania, and North Africa falling to various invaders. It highlights the Eastern Roman Empire's continued existence, with Constantinople (Istanbul) and its Hagia Sophia as enduring symbols. The paragraph emphasizes the lasting impact of Eastern Rome, particularly through the legal framework of the Corpus Juris Civilis and the influence of Emperor Justinian. It introduces Justinian as a significant figure, detailing his ambitions to restore Rome and unify the Christian Church. The narrative also touches on Justinian's complex legacy, his intelligence, and his bold dreams, while acknowledging his human failings and the challenges he faced.

πŸ’– The Meeting of Justinian and Theodora Amidst Byzantine Politics

This paragraph delves into the personal life of Justinian, focusing on his relationship with Theodora. It describes Theodora's background as an actress and her association with the demes, particularly the Blue faction, which played a crucial role in the social and political life of Constantinople. The paragraph explains how the demes served as a conduit for encounters between different societal strata, leading to Justinian and Theodora's meeting and subsequent love story. It also outlines the political maneuvering that allowed Justinian to repeal the law preventing their marriage and the challenges they faced within the empire, including the influence of Justin's wife and the eventual ascension of Justinian to sole rule after Justin's death.

πŸ’‘Eastern Rome
Eastern Rome, also known as the Byzantine Empire, was the continuation of the Roman Empire in its eastern provinces after the fall of the Western Roman Empire. The video script highlights the legacy of Eastern Rome, emphasizing its cultural and architectural contributions, such as the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul, which stood as the largest cathedral in the world for a thousand years.
Justinian I was a Byzantine Emperor who is often considered one of the greatest rulers of the Byzantine Empire. He is noted for his ambitious projects, including the construction of the Hagia Sophia, the compilation of the Corpus Juris Civilis, and his military campaigns to reconquer lost territories of the Western Roman Empire.
Theodora was the wife of Emperor Justinian I and played a significant role in the Byzantine Empire. She was known for her intelligence, wit, and charm, and she began her career as an actress, which was not uncommon for women of her status at the time. Theodora's background and her influence on Justinian's reign are central to the narrative of the video.
πŸ’‘Huns and Bulgars
The Huns and Bulgars were two distinct groups that posed significant threats to the Byzantine Empire during Justinian's reign. The Huns were a nomadic people who had a reputation for their military prowess, while the Bulgars were a Turkic tribe that later established their own state. Both groups are mentioned in the context of the external pressures faced by the Byzantine Empire.
πŸ’‘Sassanid Empire
The Sassanid Empire, also known as the Sassanian Empire, was the last Persian Empire before the rise of Islam. It was a powerful entity that controlled a significant portion of the Middle East and was a major rival to the Byzantine Empire. The Sassanid Empire is mentioned in the context of the southern wars that the Byzantine Empire was engaged in during Justinian's time.
πŸ’‘Corpus Juris Civilis
The Corpus Juris Civilis is a collection of laws and legal interpretations developed under the direction of Emperor Justinian I. It is considered one of the most significant legal achievements of the Byzantine Empire and has had a lasting impact on the legal systems of many countries, including those in Europe.
πŸ’‘Hagia Sophia
The Hagia Sophia is a famous historical building in Istanbul, Turkey. Originally constructed as a church by the Byzantine Emperor Justinian I, it later served as a mosque and is now a museum. It was the largest cathedral in the world for a thousand years and is renowned for its architectural and engineering achievements.
Demes were organized chariot racing factions in the Byzantine Empire, with the most famous being the Blues and the Greens. They played a significant role in the social, political, and sporting life of Constantinople, often serving as a platform for political expression and agitation.
Justin, also known as Emperor Justin I, was the uncle of Justinian and the emperor who preceded him. He rose from humble beginnings to become the head of the imperial guard and eventually the emperor. His reign set the stage for Justinian's ascent to power and his subsequent achievements.
Vitellius was a popular general in the Byzantine Empire who rebelled against the religious policies of Justin's predecessor. His rebellion and subsequent assassination under Justinian's orders illustrate the ruthless side of Justinian's rule and his willingness to eliminate threats to his power.
Anastasius was the emperor of the Byzantine Empire before Justin and Justinian. His death without an heir led to a succession crisis that ultimately allowed Justin to rise to power through political and military maneuvering.

The West has fallen, with key regions such as Britannia, Gaul, Hispania, and North Africa succumbing to various invasions.

Only the East, specifically the Eastern Roman Empire, remains standing amidst the collapse of the Western Roman Empire.

The Hagia Sophia in Istanbul, once the largest cathedral in the world, stands as a testament to the legacy of Eastern Rome.

The legal framework of the Eastern Roman Empire, the Corpus Juris Civilis, continues to influence modern courtrooms worldwide.

The basilica of San Vitale houses a renowned mosaic of the most celebrated eastern emperor, further showcasing the Empire's cultural legacy.

Justinian is considered one of the greatest Byzantine emperors, known for his grand dreams of a restored and unified Rome.

Justinian's reign, while magnificent, was not without its share of challenges, including wars with the Huns, Bulgars, and Sassanid Empire.

The emperor's legacy is mixed, as his ambitious projects may have strained the empire's resources and strength.

Justinian's intelligence, wisdom, and diligence are highlighted as key factors in his ability to realize his dreams.

The story of Justinian's rise from peasant to emperor is intertwined with the life of his uncle, Justin, who also started as a humble farmer.

Justin's rise to power involved a strategic use of bribes and the support of the senate, which eventually led to him becoming emperor.

Justinian played a crucial role in securing Justin's reign by bridging religious and political divides, and by handling military threats.

Theodora, a former actress and supporter of the Blue faction, met and fell in love with Justinian, eventually becoming his empress.

The demes, particularly the Blue and Green factions, were instrumental in Justinian's rise to power and played a significant role in Byzantine society.

Justinian's early life as Flavius Petrus Sabbatius was marked by a dedication to education and a strong bond with his uncle, Justin.

The assassination of Vitallium, a popular general, demonstrates the ruthless measures Justinian was willing to take to secure his power.

The law prohibiting marriage between government officials and actresses was repealed, allowing Justinian and Theodora to marry.

Justinian's sole reign began after the death of his uncle Justin, setting the stage for his ambitious projects and reforms.

The demes' influence on politics and society, exemplified by their ability to incite mass movements and riots, is crucial to understanding Byzantine history.

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