Justinian - Byzantine Empire - The Emperor Justinian
Welcome to Quatr.us Study Guides!

Justinian

mosaic of man standing in robes
Justinian

April 2016 - The Roman Emperor Justinian succeeded his uncle, Justin, in 527 AD. Before becoming emperor, Justinian married Theodora, which upset a lot of people because she was an actress, and many people thought all actresses were bad women. But in fact she made a good empress, and Justinian seems to have loved her very much, even though they never were able to have any children.

Soon after Justinian became emperor, there was a huge riot in the city: the Nika Riot, and the rioters burned down Constantinople's main church. Justinian replaced it with the great church of Hagia Sophia.

mosaic of woman standing in robes
Theodora and her court attendants

Justinian made peace with King Khusrho of the Sassanids in 532 AD, which made it possible for him to send Roman troops to reconquer Africa from the Vandals, Italy from the Ostrogoths, and Spain from the Visigoths. We call this the Byzantine Reconquest. These troops mainly succeeded, though after Justinian's death the land was slowly lost again to new invaders.

Justinian also issued a new law code, the Corpus Juris Civilis, in 534 AD: this list of laws in Latin replaced the older Theodosian Code. Justinian's code made it clear that being a Roman and being a Christian were now essentially the same thing. The code placed new restrictions on Jewish Romans.

On the other hand, Turkic and Slavic armies made many raids into the Roman empire during Justinian's reign, especially in the Balkans. And, beginning in 542 AD, there was a terrible plague throughout the Empire, which may be the first appearance of the bubonic plague.

Learn by doing: making a mosaic
Next Byzantine Emperor: Justin II
More about the Middle Ages

Bibliography and further reading about Justinian and Theodora:

Next Byzantine Emperor: Justin II
The Ostrogoths
The Vandals
Sassanians
Quatr.us home


LIMITED TIME OFFER FOR TEACHERS: Using this article with your class? Show us your class page where you're using this article, and we'll send you a free subscription so all your students can use Quatr.us Study Guides with no distractions! (Not a teacher? Paid subscriptions are also available for just $16/year!)
Please help other teachers and students find us: link to this page from your class page.
Karen Carr is Associate Professor Emerita, Department of History, Portland State University. She holds a doctorate in Classical Art and Archaeology from the University of Michigan. Follow her on Instagram or Twitter, or buy her book, Vandals to Visigoths.
Cite this page
  • Author: K.E. Carr
  • Title:
  • Site Name: Quatr.us Study Guides
  • Publisher: Quatr.us
  • Date Published:
Did you find what you needed? Ask your teacher to link to this page so other people can use it too! Send it in and win a Quatr.us "Great Page!" award!
Sign up for more free articles and special offers in Quatr.us' weekly newsletter:
We will never share your e-mail address unless you allow us to do so. View our privacy policy. Easy unsubscribe links are provided in every email.
Comment on This Article

Does your class page honor diversity, celebrate feminism, and support people of color, LBGTQ people, and people with disabilities? Let us know, and we'll send you a Diversity Banner you can proudly display!
Looking for more?
Quatr.us is loading comments...
(Comments will appear after moderation, if they are kind and helpful. Feel free to ask questions, and we'll try to answer them.)
Cite this page
  • Carr, K.E. . Quatr.us Study Guides, . Web. 29 March, 2017
ADVERTISEMENT