Σάββατο, 12 Μαρτίου 2016

Byzantine history : From emperor Justinian I (527) to the emperor Constantine IV Poghonatus(678)

The Justinian dynasty was founded by Justin I, who though illiterate, rose through the ranks of the military to become Emperor in 518. He was succeeded by his nephew Justinian I in 527, who may already have exerted effective control during Justin's reign. One of the most important figures of late antiquity and possibly the last Roman emperor to speak Latin as a first language, Justinian's rule constitutes a distinct epoch, marked by the ambitious but only partly realizedrenovatio imperii, or "restoration of the Empire". His wife Theodora was particularly influential. In 529, Justinian appointed a ten-man commission chaired by John the Cappadocian to revise Roman law and create a new codification of laws and jurists' extracts, known as the "Corpus Juris Civilis". In 534, the Corpus was updated and, along with the enactments promulgated by Justinian after 534, formed the system of law used for most of the rest of the Byzantine era. The Corpus forms the basis of civil law of many modern states. In 532, attempting to secure his eastern frontier, Justinian signed a peace treaty with Khosrau I of Persia agreeing to pay a large annual tribute to the Sassanids. In the same year, he survived a revolt in Constantinople (the Nika riots), which solidified his power but ended with the deaths of a reported 30,000 to 35,000 rioters on his orders. The western conquests began in 533, as Justinian sent his general Belisarius to reclaim the former province of Africa from the Vandals who had been in control since 429 with their capital at Carthage. Their success came with surprising ease, but it was not until 548 that the major local tribes were subdued.In Ostrogothic Italy, the deaths of Theodoric, his nephew and heir Athalaric, and his daughter Amalasuntha had left her murderer, Theodahad (r. 534–536), on the throne despite his weakened authority. In 535, a small Byzantine expedition to Sicily met with easy success, but the Goths soon stiffened their resistance, and victory did not come until 540, when Belisarius captured Ravenna, after successful sieges of Naples and Rome. In 535–536, Theodahad sent Pope Agapetus I to Constantinople to request the removal of Byzantine forces from Sicily, Dalmatia, and Italy. Although Agapetus failed in his mission to sign a peace with Justinian, he succeeded in having the Monophysite Patriarch Anthimus I of Constantinople denounced, despite empress Theodora's support and protection. The Ostrogoths were soon reunited under the command of King Totila and captured Rome in 546. Belisarius, who had been sent back to Italy in 544, was eventually recalled to Constantinople in 549. The arrival of the Armenian eunuch Narses in Italy (late 551) with an army of 35,000 men marked another shift in Gothic fortunes. Totila was defeated at the Battle of Taginae and his successor, Teia, was defeated at the Battle of Mons Lactarius (October 552). Despite continuing resistance from a few Gothic garrisons and two subsequent invasions by the Franks and Alemanni, the war for the Italian peninsula was at an end. In 551, Athanagild, a noble from Visigothic Hispania, sought Justinian's help in a rebellion against the king, and the emperor dispatched a force under Liberius, a successful military commander. The empire held on to a small slice of the Iberian Peninsula coast until the reign of Heraclius. In the east, the Roman–Persian Wars continued until 561 when the envoys of Justinian and Khosrau agreed on a 50-year peace. By the mid-550s, Justinian had won victories in most theatres of operation, with the notable exception of the Balkans, which were subjected to repeated incursions from the Slavs and the Gepids. Tribes of Serbs and Croats were later resettled in the northwestern Balkans, during the reign of Heraclius. Justinian called Belisarius out of retirement and defeated the new Hunnish threat. The strengthening of the Danube fleet caused the Kutrigur Huns to withdraw and they agreed to a treaty that allowed safe passage back across the Danube. Although polytheism had been suppressed by the state since at least the time of Constantine in the 4th century, traditional Greco-Roman culture was still influential in the Eastern empire in the 6th century. Philosophers such as John Philoponus drew on neoplatonic ideas in addition to Christian thought and empiricism. Nevertheless, Hellenistic philosophy began to be gradually supplanted by or amalgamated into newer Christian philosophy. The closure of the Platonic Academy in 529 was a notable turning point.  Hymns written by Romanos the Melodist marked the development of the Divine Liturgy, while the architects Isidore of Miletus and Anthemius of Tralles worked to complete the new Church of the Holy Wisdom, Hagia Sophia, which was designed to replace an older church destroyed during the Nika Revolt. Completed in 537, the Hagia Sophia stands today as one of the major monuments of Byzantine architectural history. During the 6th and 7th centuries, the Empire was struck by a series of epidemics, which greatly devastated the population and contributed to a significant economic decline and a weakening of the Empire.After Justinian died in 565, his successor, Justin II refused to pay the large tribute to the Persians. Meanwhile, the Germanic Lombards invaded Italy; by the end of the century only a third of Italy was in Byzantine hands. Justin's successor, Tiberius II, choosing between his enemies, awarded subsidies to the Avars while taking military action against the Persians. Though Tiberius' general, Maurice, led an effective campaign on the eastern frontier, subsidies failed to restrain the Avars. They captured the Balkan fortress of Sirmium in 582, while the Slavs began to make inroads across the Danube. Maurice, who meanwhile succeeded Tiberius, intervened in a Persian civil war, placed the legitimate Khosrau II back on the throne and married his daughter to him. Maurice's treaty with his new brother-in-law enlarged the territories of the Empire to the East and allowed the energetic Emperor to focus on the Balkans. By 602, a series of successful Byzantine campaigns had pushed the Avars and Slavs back across the Danube. However, Maurice's refusal to ransom several thousand captives taken by the Avars, and his order to the troops to winter in the Danube caused his popularity to plummet. A revolt broke out under an officer named Phocas, who marched the troops back to Constantinople; Maurice and his family were murdered while trying to escape.After Maurice's murder by Phocas, Khosrau used the pretext to reconquer the Roman province of Mesopotamia. Phocas, an unpopular ruler invariably described in Byzantine sources as a "tyrant", was the target of a number of Senate-led plots. He was eventually deposed in 610 by Heraclius, who sailed to Constantinople from Carthage with an icon affixed to the prow of his ship. Following the accession of Heraclius, the Sassanid advance pushed deep into the Levant, occupying Damascus and Jerusalem and removing the True Cross to Ctesiphon. The counter-attack launched by Heraclius took on the character of a holy war, and an acheiropoietos image of Christ was carried as a military standard (similarly, when Constantinople was saved from a combined Avar - Sassanid - Slavic siege in 626, the victory was attributed to the icons of the Virgin that were led in procession by Patriarch Sergius about the walls of the city). In this very siege of Constantinople of the year 626, amidst the climactic Byzantine-Sasanian War of 602–628, the combined Avar, Sassanid, and Slavic forces unsuccessfully besieged the Byzantine capital between June and July. After this, the Sassanid army was forced to withdraw to Anatolia. The loss came just after news had reached them of yet another Byzantine victory, where Heraclius's brother Theodore scored well against the Persian general Shahin. Following this, Heraclius led an invasion into Sassanid Mesopotami once again. The main Sassanid force was destroyed at Nineveh in 627, and in 629 Heraclius restored the True Cross to Jerusalem in a majestic ceremony, as he marched into the Sassanid capital of Ctesiphon, where anarchy and civil war reigned as a result of the enduring war. Eventually, the Persians were obliged to withdraw all armed forces and return Sassanid-ruled Egypt, the Levant and whatever imperial territories of Mesopotamia and Armenia were in Roman hands at the time of an earlier peace treaty in c. 595. The war had exhausted both the Byzantines and Sassanids, however, and left them extremely vulnerable to the Muslim forces that emerged in the following years. The Byzantines suffered a crushing defeat by the Arabs at the Battle of Yarmouk in 636, while Ctesiphon fell in 637. The Arabs, now firmly in control of Syria and the Levant, sent frequent raiding parties deep into Asia Minor, and in 674–678 laid siege to Constantinople itself. The Arab fleet was finally repulsed through the use of Greek fire, and a thirty-years' truce was signed between the Empire and the Umayyad Caliphate. However, the Anatolian raids continued unabated, and accelerated the demise of classical urban culture, with the inhabitants of many cities either refortifying much smaller areas within the old city walls, or relocating entirely to nearby fortresses. Constantinople itself dropped substantially in size, from 500,000 inhabitants to just 40,000–70,000, and, like other urban centres, it was partly ruralised. The city also lost the free grain shipments in 618, after Egypt fell first to the Persians and then to the Arabs, and public wheat distribution ceased. The void left by the disappearance of the old semi-autonomous civic institutions was filled by the theme system, which entailed dividing Asia Minor into "provinces" occupied by distinct armies that assumed civil authority and answered directly to the imperial administration. This system may have had its roots in certain ad hocmeasures taken by Heraclius, but over the course of the 7th century it developed into an entirely new system of imperial governance. The massive cultural and institutional restructuring of the Empire consequent on the loss of territory in the 7th century has been said to have caused a decisive break in east MediterraneanRomanness and that the Byzantine state is subsequently best understood as another successor state rather than a real continuation of the Roman Empire.

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