Emperor Justinian

His affect on the Byzantine Empire


Justinian served in as an army general. He was educated in law, music, architecture, and theology (the study of religion).
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Type of Ruler

Justinian was known as one of the greatest emperors of the Byzantine Empire. His servants were chosen for their talents, rather than their wealth and status. He controlled the military, made laws, rebuilt the church of Hagia Sophia, lead the government, and was supreme judge. Justinian used his law to control the empire. He ruled as an autocrat, or sole ruler with complete authority. He combined both political power and spiritual authority in his rule.
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Theodora, Justinian's wife, was an actress before meeting him. The Byzantine society did not accept actresses and forbidded them to marry high government officials, but Justinian abollished the law and married Theodora. She started at the bottom, only showing her face in palace ceremonies. Later on, she started helping Justinian in ruling the empire. When the empire's people planned a revolt on Justinian because of taxes, he wanted to run, but Theodora advised him to stay. Because of her advice, the revolt was controlled and stopped, and Justinian became a stronger ruler.

Hagia Sophia

In 532, a series of riots occured and a fire destroyed Constantinople. Justinian planned a program to restore the city. One of Justinian's greatest achievments was rebuilding the church of Hagia Sophia, which means "Holy Wisdom." It was built with a gold altar, mosaics, and figures of Justinian and Theodora. The rectangular base was topped with a huge dome.
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Justinian's Code

Justinian thought that the old legal system was too complicated and disorganized. The Emperor set up a commission to revise and organize all the laws of ancient Rome, which formed Justinian's Code. Ten men, leaded by a legal scholar, Tribonian, fixed and simplified the laws. This legal system influenced almost all western countries.
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Rights for Women

Theodora influenced Justinian to allow more rights for women. A Byzantine wife was allowed to own land equal in value to her dowry, or the wealth she brought with her in marriage. A widow was able to raise and support her children without government interference.

Economic and Military Strength

Both the economy and military were very strong in the Byzantine Empire. Peasants worked the land, payed taxes, and provided soldiers for the military. Trade and industry increased and a healthy money economy was formed. The bezant, or the Byzantine coin stamped with the emperor's face, circulated all around the eastern countries. Around the same time, the Byzantines had one of the strongest military in the world. The army and navy protected the empire. A secret weapon known as Greek Fire was thrown towards the enemy, unable to be put out with water. This advantage made the Byzantine military feared by others,
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Differences between the East and West

In the Byzantine Empire, the emperor was not a priest, but he controlled the Church affairs. He also appointed the patriarch, or the the highest church official. Unlike priests in Western Europe, the Byzantine clergy kept their right to marry. Greek was the language of the church. The chief Byzantine holy day was Easter, celebrated as the day Jesus rose from the dead. Byzantine Christians put less emphasis on Christmas, compared to the Christians in the West.