Justin I

Justin I
Emperor of the Byzantine Empire

Tremissis of Emperor Justin I
Reign 518 – 1 August 527
Predecessor Anastasius I
Successor Justinian I
Born 2 February 450
Bederiana, near Scupi (Skopje, Republic of Macedonia)
Died 1 August 527 (aged 77)
Spouse Euphemia
Full name
Istok (in early life)
Flavius Iustinus
Dynasty Justinian Dynasty

Justin I (Latin: Flavius Iustinus Augustus, Ancient Greek: Ἰουστίνος; 2 February 450 – 1 August 527) was Eastern Roman Emperor from 518 to 527. He rose through the ranks of the army and ultimately became Emperor, in spite of the fact he was illiterate[1] and almost 70 years old at the time of accession. His reign is significant for the founding of the Justinian Dynasty that included his eminent nephew Justinian I and for the enactment of laws that de-emphasized the influence of the old Roman nobility. His consort was Empress Euphemia.

Early career

Justin was a peasant and a swineherd by occupation[2] from the region of Dardania, which is part of the Prefecture of Illyricum.[3] He was born in a hamlet Bederiana near Scupi (modern Skopje, Macedonia).[2][4] He was of Thraco-Roman[5][6][7] or Illyro-Roman stock,[8][9][10][11][12][13][14][15] spoke rudimentary Greek, and bore, like his companions and members of his family (Zimarchus, Dityvistus, Boraides, Bigleniza, Sabbatius, etc.), a Thracian name, Istok.[8][16] His sister Vigilantia (b. ca 455) married Sabbatius and had two children: Petrus Sabbatius Justinianus (b. 483) and Vigilantia (b. ca 490), married to Dulcissimus and had Praejecta (b. ca 520), married to the senator Areobindus and Justin II (b. ca 520).

As a teenager, he and two companions fled from a barbaric invasion, taking refuge in Constantinople possessing nothing more than the ragged clothes on their backs and a sack of bread between them. Justin soon joined the army and, because of his ability, rose through the ranks to become a general under the Emperor Anastasius I; by the time of Anastasius' death in 518, he held the influential position of comes excubitorum, commander of the palace guard.[17]


Thanks to his position commanding the only troops in the city and making gifts of money, Justin was able to secure election as emperor in 518.

A career soldier with little knowledge of statecraft, Justin wisely surrounded himself with trusted advisors. The most prominent of these, of course, was his nephew Flavius Petrus Sabbatius, whom he adopted as his son and invested with the name Iustinianus (Justinian).

Justin's reign is noteworthy for the resolution of the Acacian Schism between the eastern and western branches of the Christian church. Justin endorsed Rome's view on the question of the dual nature of Christ and the more general principle of Roman supremacy. This temporary eastern deferral to the western church did not endure.

Relying upon the accounts of the historian Procopius, it often has been said that Justinian ruled the Empire in his uncle's name during the reign of Justin; however, there is much evidence to the contrary. The information from the Secret History of Procopius was published posthumously. Critics of Procopius (whose work reveals a man seriously disillusioned with his rulers) have dismissed his work as a severely biased source, being vitriolic and pornographic, but without other sources, critics have been unable to discredit some of the assertions in the publication. However, contrary to the Secret History, Justinian was not named as successor until less than a year before Justin's death and he spent 3,700 pounds of gold during a celebration in 520.[18]

In 525, Justin repealed a law that effectively prohibited a member of the senatorial class from marrying women from a lower class of society, including the theatre, which was considered scandalous at the time. This edict paved the way for Justinian to marry Theodora, a former mime actress, and eventually resulted in a major change to the old class distinctions at the Imperial court. She became an equal to Justinian, participating in the governance with significant influence.

Later years

The latter years of the reign of Justin were marked by strife among the Empire, the Ostrogoths, and the Persians. In 526, Justin's health began to decline and he formally named Justinian as co-emperor and, on 1 April 527 as his successor. On 1 August of that year, Justin died and was succeeded by Justinian.


The town of Anazarbus was renamed Justinopolis in 525, in honour of Justin I.

See also


  1. Chapman, H. John (1971). Studies on the Early Papacy. Kennikat Press, University of Michigan. p. 210. ISBN 0-8046-1139-4.
  2. 1 2 Cameron, Averil, "Chapter III: Justin I and Justinian", The Cambridge Ancient History, XIV: Late Antiquity: Empire and Successors, Cambridge University Press, p. 63, ISBN 978-0-521-32591-2
  3. Binns, John (1996). Ascetics and Ambassadors of Christ: The Monasteries of Palestine, 314–631. Clarendon Press. ISBN 9780198269342.
  4. The Encyclopedia Americana, Volume 16, Grolier Incorporated, 1989, p. 244
  5. A History of Greece, George Finlay, Cambridge University Press, 2014, ISBN 1108078338, p. 183.
  6. Browning, Robert (2003). Justinian and Theodora. Gorgias Press LLC. p. 23. ISBN 1-59333-053-7.
  7. Pannonia and Upper Moesia: A History of the Middle Danube Provinces of the Roman Empire, András Mócsy, Routledge, 2014, ISBN 1317754255, p. 350.
  8. 1 2 Russu, Ion I. (1976). Elementele traco-getice în Imperiul Roman și în Byzantium (in Romanian). veacurile III-VII. Editura Academiei R. S. România. p. 95.
  9. Iv Velkov, Velizar (1977). Cities in Thrace and Dacia in Late Antiquity: (studies and Materials). University of Michigan. p. 47.
  10. Johnson, Scott Fitzgerald (2006). Greek Literature in Late Antiquity. Ashgate Publishing. p. 166. ISBN 0-7546-5683-7.
  11. The Secret History of Procopius tr. by Richard Atwater, 1927 p. 73.
  12. Count Marcellinus and His Chronicle by Brian Croke, p.75
  13. Justin the First: an introduction to the epoch of Justinian the Great by Aleksandr Aleksandrovich Vasilʹev , p.43
  14. Empires of Faith: The Fall of Rome to the Rise of Islam, 500-700 , by Peter Sarris, p. 135
  15. The Oxford Handbook of Late Antiquity by Scott Johnson, p.423
  16. Evans, James Allan Stewart (1996). The Age of Justinian: The Circumstances of Imperial Power. Routledge. p. 96. ISBN 0-415-23726-2.
  17. Jones, A.H.M. (1986). The Later Roman Empire, 284–602: A Social, Economic, and Administrative Survey. Baltimore: JHU Press. p. 658. ISBN 0-8018-3353-1.
  18. Norwich, John Julius (1988). Byzantium: The Early Centuries. Viking. p. 189.


External links

Media related to Justin I at Wikimedia Commons

Wikisource has the text of the 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica article Justin I..
Justin I
Born: c. 450 Died: 1 August 527
Regnal titles
Preceded by
Anastasius I
Byzantine Emperor
with Justinian I (527)
Succeeded by
Justinian I
Political offices
Preceded by
Flavius Anastasius Paulus Probus Moschianus Probus Magnus,
Post consulatum Agapiti (West)
Consul of the Roman Empire
with Flavius Eutharicus Cillica
Succeeded by
Flavius Rusticius,
Flavius Vitalianus
Preceded by
Anicius Maximus (alone)
Consul of the Roman Empire
with Venantius Opilio
Succeeded by
Anicius Probus Iunior
Flavius Theodorus Philoxenus Soterichus Philoxenus

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