Emperor Justinian

By: Brittney Murrell

Justinian Before He Became Emperor

Before becoming emperor of Byzantine, Justinian served in the army and was a good general. He was also well trained in law, music ,architecture, and theology (the study of religion).

Type of Ruler

Emperor Justinian was an autocrat, which means that he was the sole ruler with complete authority. He also had power over the church. As emperor, Justinian controlled the army and navy, made laws, headed the government ,and was supreme judge. Justinian could also declare wars or make peace.


Theodora was Emperor Justinian's wife, and was a great help to him. Theodora was the daughter of a bear-keeper and worked as an actress before meeting and marrying Justinian. At the beginning of her marriage to Emperor Justinian Theodora only entertained guests and attended ceremonies, but as she began taking interest in politics, she helped Justinian fill government and church offices. She also convinced Emperor Justinian to allow more rights for women. But, in 532 Theodora made her most important contribution, by urging Justinian and his advisers to stay in Constantinople and fight the citizens who were revolting because of taxes. They stayed and followed her advice, which lead to the revolt being crushed by Justinian's army.

Hagia Sophia

The Hagia Sophia (also known as "Holy Wisdom") was one of Justinian's greatest accomplishments. Nearly 100,000 workers and 200 supervisors labored in shifts to make the Hagia Sophia. The Hagia Sophia contained a gold alter, and walls of polished marble.

Justinian's Code

Because Justinian was very interested in law, he decided that the old legal system was complicated and disorganized, and decided to create a better and simpler system. Tribonian was the head of the group of 10 mean who would be fixing the system. The men studied the existing laws, and did away with the unnecessary laws. They also reorganized and rewrote the remaining laws. In six year, they developed a legal code that became law of the land. The code came to be known as Justinian's Code.

Rights for Woman

After Theodora became interested in politics, he convinced Justinian to allow woman more rights. For the first time a Byzantine woman could own land equal to the amount of money that she brought into the family when she got married. A widow could raise and support her children without government interference.

Economic and Military Strength

The Byzantine empire had a strong central government, which exercised strict control over a prosperous economy. Peasants formed the backbone of the empire, by working the field, paying taxes and providing soldiers for the military. trade and industry flourished in the cities .Even thought the economy in the Western Europe was struggling and the use of money declined, the Byzantine empire preserved a healthy money economy.The Byzantine's built one of the strongest military forces in the world . Soldiers, ships and sailors protected the empire. The Byzantines relied on a secret weapon called Greek fire to defeat their enemies.

Differences between East and West

Although the Byzantine emperor was not a priest, he controlled Church affairs and appointed the patriarch in Constantinople. The Byzantine Christians rejected the pope's claim to authority over all Christians. The Byzantine clergy kept their right to marry, unlike the priests in Western Europe.

Great Schism

The dispute over the use of icons contributed to the split between the two branches of Christianity. After a Byzantine emperor outlawed the use of icons, saying that it violated God's commandment against worshiping "graven images", the pope joined in the dispute by condemning the Byzantine emperor. In 1054, other controversies provoked a split between eastern and western Christianity, known as the Great Schism. The Byzantine church became known as the Greek Orthodox Church, while the western branch became known as the Roman Catholic Church.


Byzantine artists made unique contributions, that influenced Western styles from the Middle Ages to the present. Icons were designed to evoke the presence of God, while mosaics brought scenes from the Bible to life. The Byzantine's architecture blended Greek, Roman, Persian, and other Middle Eastern styles.


The Byzantine scholars produced many of their own great books, especially in the field of history. Byzantine historians were mainly concerned with writing about their own history, but they still preserved the classic works of ancient Greece and Rome.As the Byzantine Empire totted in the 1400s, many Greek scholars left Constantinople to teach at Italian universities. The scholars work contributed to the European cultural flowering that became known as the Renaissance.