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Book IV
Chapter 13

This webpage reproduces a chapter of
Italy and Her Invaders

by
Thomas Hodgkin


2nd edition
Oxford University Press
London
1896

The text, and illustrations except as noted,
are in the public domain.

This page has been carefully proofread
and I believe it to be free of errors.
If you find a mistake though,
please let me know!

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Book IV
Chapter 15

Book 4 (continued)

Vol. III
p536
Chapter XIV

Justinian

Authorities

Sources: —

Procopius: Joannes Lydus, a civil-service clerk of Constantinople from 511 to 552, whose treatise De Magistratibus gives us valuable information as to the internal affairs of the Empire: the Chronicon Paschale (or Alexandrinum), the last entry in which belongs to the year 628, in the reign of Heraclius: Joannes Malalas, a writer possibly earlier than the last mentioned, but whose date, not yet accurately determined, may be placed anywhere between 600 and 800: Theophanes (758‑816).

It will be seen from this list that, though we begin with contemporaries, we come down to historians separated by a considerable interval from the accession of Justinian. Any one, however, who examines minutely the account given by all the above authorities of such an event as the Nika-riot at Constantinople will see that their stories, though full of animation and variety, are in no important respect discordant; and will feel that probably the very latest of them had access to some valuable contemporary memoirs which have since perished.

In quoting Procopius I refer not only to his standard work, De Bellis, but also to the Anecdota or Historia Arcana. The fact that this is really the work of Procopius is, I think, now carried to a high degree of probability, especially by Dahn in his 'Prokopius von Cäsarea.' But the book is pervaded by passionate, almost insane hatred of Justinian, Theodora, and their favourites; and we ought perhaps hardly to consider any fact as proved which depends on the Anecdota alone. The proper course seems to be to consult it, as we might consult the Letters of Junius for information as to the reign of George III,  p537 but to accept its statements with all possible caution and to abandon them at once whenever they are found to clash with any dispassionate historical authority.

There is one frequently quoted authority which I have thought it best not to cite. This is the so‑called 'Life of Justinian by Theophilus,' of which Alemannus has made considerable use in his notes to the Anecdota of Procopius. On this authority rest the usual statements as to the barbarian names of Justinian and his parents (Uprauda, Istok, Biglenitza), the story of his hostage-ship at the Court of Theodoric, and some other particulars of his life. The brilliant discovery of this 'Life by Theophilus,' which was made by Mr. Bryce in the library of the Barberini Palace at Rome, clears up what has long been a mystery as to the source from whence Alemannus drew his information. It does not, however, enhance the value of the document itself, which seems to be a somewhat late mediaeval romance compiled from Slavonic sources. While awaiting Mr. Bryce's publication of the document and critical estimate of its value, I prefer in the mean time to draw my information from sources of more undoubted authority.a

Guides: —

I cannot touch even the outskirts of the forest of literature that has grown up around the name of Justinian. My guides have been Gibbon, never more worthy of his fame than in the five chapters which he devotes to the reign of the great legislator; the two articles by Mr. Bryce in the Encyclopaedia Britannica and the Dictionary of Christian Biography. Roby's 'Introduction to the study of Justinian's Digest' and Moyle's Edition of the Institutes are strongly recommended to the student.

Omen as to the successor of Anastasius. Some time after his accession to the Empire, the elderly Anastasius was troubled with a restless curiosity to know who should be his successor. He had three nephews, Hypatius son of one of his sisters, and the brothers Probus and Pompeius, who were possibly children of his brother. Inviting them one day to dine with him at the palace, he caused three couches  p538 to be spread upon which his nephews might take their siesta. Under the pillow of one of the couches he had secretly slipped a paper with the word regnvm written upon it. 'Whichsoever of you nephews,' thought he, 'chooses that couch, he shall reign after me.' Unfortunately when the time for the noontide slumber came, Hypatius chose one couch, the two brothers in their love for one another chose to occupy the second together, and the pillow that had 'regnum beneath it was left undimpled. Then Anastasius knew that none of his nephews should wear the diadem after him.1

Early life of Justin. It was not one of the three delicately nurtured princes, but a man who had begun life in very different fashion, who was to be clothed with the out‑worn purple of Anastasius. In the reign of Leo, three young peasants from the central highlands of Macedonia, tired of the constant struggle for existence in their poverty-stricken homes, strode down the valley of the Axius (Vardar) to Thessalonica, determined to better their lot by taking service in the army. They had each a sheep-skin wallet over his shoulder, in which was stored a sufficient supply of home-baked biscuit to last them till they reached the capital: no other possessions had they in the world. Being tall and handsome young men, Zimarchus, Ditybistus, and Justin — so the peasant-lads were named — had no difficulty in entering the army: nay, they soon found places in the ranks of the guards of the palace, an almost certain avenue to yet higher promotion. Once indeed Justin had a narrow escape from death. For some offence — probably against military discipline —  p539 which he had committed, he was ordered into arrest and condemned to death by his captain John the Hunchback,2 under whose orders he had been sent upon the Isaurian campaign. But a figure of majestic size appeared to the Hunchback in his dreams and threatened him with sore punishment if he did not release the prisoner, who was fated to do good service to the Church in days to come. After this vision had been seen for three successive nights, the general thought it must be from above and dismissed Justin unharmed.3

Destined successor of Anastasius. Now, in the aged Emperor's perplexity, when with fasting and prayer he had besought from Heaven an indication as to who should be his successor, it was revealed to him that the destined one was he who should be first announced to him in the sacred bedchamber on the morrow morning. The first person to arrive was Justin, who had now attained the high rank of Count of the Guardsmen;4 come to report the execution of some orders given to him on the previous night. The aged Emperor bowed his head and recognised his destined successor. So firmly was this belief implanted in his mind that when, at some great ceremonial in the palace, Justin, eager to set right some mistake in the procession in front of the Emperor, brushed too hastily past him and trod upon the skirts of the purple mantle, the Emperor uttered no hasty word, but mildly said, 'Why such haste?' which men understood to mean, 'Canst thou not wait till thy turn comes to wear it? It will come before long.'

 p540  Justin's want of education. These are the legendary half-poetical adornments of the prosaic story which was told in a previous chapter, concerning the elevation of the orthodox Justin, by means of the misappropriated gold of Amantius, on the death of the Monophysite Anastasius. Whatever the precise chain of causes and effects which brought it to pass, the result was that an elderly Macedonian peasant,5 unable to read or write, but strictly orthodox as regards the subtle controversy between Leo and Eutyches, was seated on the throne of the Eastern Caesars. The difficulty arising from the presence of an unlettered emperor on the throne was evaded by making a wood tablet containing the needful perforations through which the imperial scribe drawing his pen dipped in purple ink might trace the first four letters of his name.6 Proclus, the Quaestor, composed his speeches and acted as his prompter on all state-occasions. Upon the whole, the elderly Emperor, good-tempered, clownish, and of tall stature, seems to have played this last scene in his strangely varied life without discredit, if also without any brilliant success.

 p541  His nephew, Justinian, the real ruler. It was seen, however, in the negotiations with the Roman See as to the close of the schism, and it became more and more visible to all men as time went on, that the real wielder of power in the new administration was the Emperor's sister's son Justinian. More than thirty years of age7 at his uncle's accession, and having, probably through that uncle's influence, already filled some post in the civil service of the Empire; a man always eager for work and a lover of the details of administration; such a nephew was an invaluable assistant to the rustic soldier who had to preside over the highly cultured and polished staff of officials through whom he must seem to govern the Empire.

Death of Vitalian, 520. The influence of Proclus the Quaestor gradually paled before that of the all‑powerful nephew, whose servant he willingly became. A more formidable rival was the stout soldier Vitalian, who had upheld the standard of orthodoxy in the evil days of Anastasius, and whose restoration to office was an indispensable part of the reconciliation with the See of Rome. He probably looked for the reversion of the imperial dignity after the death of its aged possessor, and when he found himself raised to the rank of Magister Militum and created Consul (for the year 520), he might almost seem set forth to the people as Emperor Elect. To prevent any such mistake for the future, Justinian, or some one of his friends, caused him, in the seventh month of his consulship, to be attacked in the palace by a band of assassins. He fell, pierced  p542 by sixteen wounds; his henchmen, Paulus and Celerianus, fell with him, and the triumph of the party of Justinian was secure.8

In the correspondence with Rome, Justinian had called Vitalian 'his most glorious brother,'9 and the fact that the two men had solemnly partaken together of the Holy Communion10 should, according to the feelings of the age, have secured for the Master of the Soldiery an especial immunity from all murderous thoughts in the heart of his younger rival. The dark deed was not in accordance with the general character of Justinian, who showed himself in the course of his reign averse to taking the lives even of declared enemies; but there seems little reason to doubt that in this case he at least sanctioned, if he did not directly instigate, the murder of a dangerous competitor.

Justinian Consul, 521. In the following year Justinian celebrated his own consulship with a splendour to which, under the reign of the frugal Anastasius, the Byzantine populace had long been strangers. A sum of 280,000 solidi (£168,000) was spent on the machinery for the shows or distributed as largesse to the people. Twenty lions, thirty panthers, and a multitude of other beasts, appeared at the same time in the Amphitheatre. Horses in great numbers, and equipped in magnificent  p543 trappings, were driven by the most highly skilled charioteers of the Empire round the Circus. Already, however, even in the midst of the general rejoicing a note of discord was struck between the future Emperor and his subjects. So great was the excitement of the people, raised no doubt by the victory of one or other of the rival factions in the Circus, that the Consul found it necessary to strike out of the programme the last race which should have been exhibited.11

Associated in the Empire. A successor thus announced to the people beforehand was almost certain of the diadem. Justinian Emperor, 1 April, 527. In fact Justinian was associated in the Empire four months before the death of his uncle, and appears to have succeeded to sole and supreme power without difficulty.

Death of Justin, 1 Aug. 527. Delivered by the death of Justin from one associate in the Empire, Justinian lost no time in providing himself with another, of a kind such as Augustus would indeed have marvelled to behold using his name and wielding his decorously veiled supremacy.

Early history of Theodora. During the reign of Anastasius a certain Acacius, who had charge of the wild beasts of the Amphitheatre for the Green party, died,12 and, as he had saved nothing out of his small salary, his widow and three daughters were left nearly destitute. The widow became the wife or the paramour of another menagerie- p544 keeper, for whom she tried to retain her late husband's situation. But though the three little girls, Comito, Theodora, and Anastasia, appeared like sacrificial victims with fillets on their heads, and stretched out their little hands beseechingly to the spectators, the Greens, who were entirely guided by their manager Asterius, took away the place from their stepfather and gave it to another man. The Blues, the rival faction, were more accommodating, and having lately lost their keeper by death, gave his post to the husband of the widow of Acacius. In one of these little fillet-crowned heads was born on that day an undying resentment against the Green party, and an undying attachment to the Blue.

Her character. The child Theodora grew up into a lovely woman, rather too short of stature, but with a delicate red-and‑white complexion, and with brilliant quickly-glancing eyes, which told of the keen, restless, nimble intellect within. She evidently had something of the charm which belongs to a clever and beautiful Frenchwoman. Unfortunately, however, she was utterly destitute of womanly virtue or womanly shame. The least moral performer of the opera bouffe in Paris or Vienna is a chaste matron by comparison with the life of unutterable degradation which Theodora is said to have led in girlhood and early womanhood, as a prostitute and a dancer on the stage at Cyrene, at Alexandria, and throughout the cities of the East.

Justinian falls in love with her. Returned to Constantinople, this bright and fascinating though abandoned woman kindled an irrepressible passion in the breast of the decorous and middle-aged student Justinian. His aunt Lupicina, who had taken the more stately name of Euphemia,  p545 and who had been first the slave and then the wedded wife of Justin, firmly and, for the time, successfully opposed his scheme of marrying Theodora. Though lowly born herself, she would not consent that her husband's heir should be the instrument by which the unspeakable degradation of hailing such a woman as Augusta should be inflicted on the Roman Empire. Their marriage. Before long, however, the Empress Euphemia died, and then Justinian, whose passion had but grown stronger by delay, at once married the daughter of the menagerie-keeper. Laws which had come down from the old days of the Republic, forbidding the union of a Senator with a woman of notoriously bad character, were abrogated by the feeble old Emperor on the imperious request of his nephew. Theodora was raised to the dignity of a Patrician, and when at length Justinian wore the imperial diadem he insisted on sharing it with her, not as Empress-Consort, to borrow the terms of a later day, Theodora Augustus.º but as Empress-Regnant must Theodora sit upon the throne of the Roman world. All ranks in Church and State crouched low before the omnipotent prostitute. The people, who had once acclaimed her indecent dances on the stage, now greeted her name with shouts of loyal veneration, and with outspread hands implored her protection as if she were divine. The clergy grovelled before her, calling her Mistress and Sovereign Lady, and not one Christian priest with honest indignation protested against this degrading adulation.

Her insatiable pride. Raised to the throne of the world, Theodora assumed a demeanour in some degree corresponding to her elevation. Though not absolutely faithful to her husband, she disgraced his choice by no such acts of  p546 open licentiousness as those by which Messalina had insulted the Emperor Claudius. It would seem as if her own nature underwent a change, and as if Pride now took possession of the character which hitherto had been swayed only by Lust. Heartless she had always been in the midst of her wild riot of debauchery; and heartless she remained in the stupendous egotism which made Justinian and all the rank of the well-ordered hierarchy of the Empire the ministers of her insatiable pride.

Contrast between her character and Justinian's. In all things it seems to have been her fancy to play a part unlike that of her husband. He was strictly orthodox and Chalcedonian, she was a vehement Monophysite. He was simple and frugal in his personal habits, however extravagant as a ruler; she carried the luxury of the bath and the banquet to the highest point to which an opulent Roman could attain. He seldom slept more than four hours out of the twenty-four; she prolonged her siesta till sunset and her night's sleep till long after sunrise. He was merciful by temperament; she delighted in the power of being cruel. He showed himself easy of access to all his subjects, and would often hold long and confidential conversations with persons of undistinguished rank; she surrounded herself with an atmosphere of unapproachable magnificence, and while rigorously insisting that her subjects should present themselves in her audience-chamber, made the ceremony of audience as short, as contemptuous, and as galling to every feeling of self-respect as it was possible to make it. Theodora's audiences. A pitiable sight it was to see the consuls, the senators, the captains and high functionaries of that which still called itself the Roman Republic waiting, a servile  p547 crowd, in this harlot's ante-chamber. The room was small and stifling, but they dared not be absent. Her long slumbers ended, and the ceremonies of the bath and the toilette accomplished, an eunuch would open the door of the hall of audience. The wretched nobles pressed forward, or, if behind, stood on tip‑toe to attract the menial's notice. He singled out one and another with contemptuous patronage. The favoured one crept in behind the eunuch into the presence-chamber, his heart in his mouth for fear. He prostrated himself before the haughty Augusta; he kissed reverently the feet which he had once seen briskly moving in lascivious dance on the public stage; he looked up with awe, not daring to speak till spoken to by the supreme disposer of all men's lives and fortunes. Such is the miserable picture presented to us by Procopius of the degradation of the great Roman commonwealth under its Byzantine rulers. Alas, for the day when the Senate, that assembly of kings, received with majestic gravity the over-awed ambassador of King Pyrrhus! Alas, for the selfish corruption of the optimates, and yet more for the misguided patriotism of a Caius Gracchus or a Livius Drusus, which had turned the old and noble Republic into an Empire, foul itself and breeding foulness!

Justinian's conscientious labour for the State. Let it be said for Justinian, who had brought this shame upon the State, that he gave his days and nights freely to what he deemed to be its service. If he was insatiable in drawing all power into his own hand, he at least shrank not from the labour, even the drudgery, which the position of a conscientious autocrat involves. Law reform. Especially, at the very beginning of his reign, did he devote himself to that which his  p548 experience as a high officer of state under his uncle had shown him to be necessary, the reform of the laws of the Empire. Speaking without technical precision, one may say that the jurisprudence of Rome at this period consisted, like our own, of two great divisions, Statute Law and Case Law. The Statutes as contained in the Theodosian Code were insufficient and the Cases contained in the Responsa Prudentium, the Institutions and the Sentences of great jurists such as Gaius, Paullus, and Ulpian, were redundant, bewildering, and often contradictory. 13 Feb., 528 Before Justinian had been a year on the throne he had appointed a commission, consisting of nine officials of high rank, to inquire into and codify the Statute Law. Codes. The leading spirit in this Commission and the chief mover in all the legal reforms of Justinian was the far‑famed Tribonian, who was raised successively to the dignities of Quaestor and Master of the Offices; a man whose love of money and far from spotless integrity could not avail to dim the splendour of a reputation acquired by his vast learning, and made bearable by his gentle courtesy to all with whom he came in contact.

Code published 7 April, 529, repealed and republished 16 Nov. 534. After little more than a year of labour the Commissioners had completed the first part of their duties, and the Code of Justinian in twelve books was issued by the sovereign authority, expanding and superseding the Code of Theodosius and all previous collections of imperial rescripts.

Digest or Pandects. The next piece of work was a harder one. Tribonian and his fellow Commissioners were directed to arrange in one systematic treatise, called the Digest,13 all that Roman lawyers of eminence had said concerning the  p549 principles of the law, as the varying circumstances of civil society had brought point after point under their attention. In fact their duty was similar to that which would be laid upon an English lawyer if he was called upon to codify the 'judge‑made law' of England, incorporating with it all that is of importance and authority in the text-books, and where there is a conflict of opinion deciding which opinion is to prevail. Commission for the Digest, 15 Dec. 530.
Publication of the Digest, 16 Dec. 533.
This immense work, which 'condensed the wisdom of nearly two thousand treatises into fifty books, and recast three million "verses" from the older writers into one hundred and fifty thousand,'14 was accomplished in three years by Tribonian and his colleagues. Work done in such fierce haste could hardly be all accurate, but probably no injustice which it could cause was so great as that which it removed by letting daylight into the thick jungle of those three millions of legal sentences.

The Digest, which was divided into fifty books, is not arranged in any scientific order, but follows apparently more or less closely the order of that which had for centuries been the great programme of Roman jurisprudence, the so‑called Perpetual Edict of the Praetors.

The Institutes. The Code and the Digest being finished, Tribonian and his two most eminent colleagues were directed to prepare a short scientific treatise on the amended law of Rome, for the benefit of students. Publication of the Institutes, 21 Dec. 553. Thus came into being the Four Books of the Institutes,15 that book by which the fame of Justinian has been most widely  p550 spread over the civilised world in the two hemispheres. The far‑reaching relations in time of such a book as this are vividly apprehended when we remember that as it rests on the treatise of Gaius — which Niebuhr discovered in palimpsest in the Cathedral Library of Verona — it is itself rested upon by our own eighteenth century Blackstone, who of course had the name and the arrangement of this book in his mind when he composed his Institutes of English Law. Justinian's name and titles head the majestic manual. Of course Tribonian and the two professors, his colleagues, are really responsible for the literary execution of the work. Still, the historical student is never so well disposed to take a lenient view of the faults of the great Emperor as when he finds Caesar Flavius Justinianus, Alamannicus, Gothicus, Vandalicus, and so forth, crowned with names of victory over many barbarous races, but cheering the young student to the commencement of his task, and promising not to encumber his mind at first with details, lest he should disgust him at the outset, and cause him to abandon his studies in despair.

The Novels. Notwithstanding his attempt to put the stamp of finality on his two great works, the Code and the Digest, neither Justinian himself nor his indefatigable Quaestor could keep their hands from all further law‑making. The Novellae Constitutiones, generally spoken of under a title which has since acquired such a strangely different meaning, 535‑564 that of Novels, were promulgated at intervals for nearly thirty years, and in some respects seriously altered the unalterable Code.

Justinian's merits as a legislator. Except for some over-activity in issuing fresh laws after the publication of his Code, the fame of Justinian  p551 as a legislator is unassailable. The hour had come for clearing broad and traversable highways through the stately but sky‑hiding forest of Roman jurisprudence. With Tribonian for his engineer-in‑chief, Justinian undertook this necessary work, and did it nobly. Rightly and justly therefore is the name of the peasant's son from the valley of the Vardar mentioned with reverence, wherever, from the Mississippi to the Ganges, teachers of the law expound the greatest of Rome's legacies to the nations, the Corpus Juris Civilis.

He was not so great as an administrator. But it is a trite axiom in politics and in every day life, that good legislation does not necessarily imply good administration. Many a man whose journal records the most excellent maxims for the conduct of his life, has been a torment to his family and friends. Many a public company, with admirably-framed Articles of Association, has chosen the pleasant road to an early bankruptcy. Many an Oriental state has proclaimed, and is proclaiming at the present day, the most excellent principles of government, not one of which it ever dreams of reducing into practice.

As an administrator Justinian does not occupy nearly so high a position as that to which his legislative triumphs entitle him. He certainly had one of the most necessary qualifications for a ruler, the power of selecting fitting instruments for his work. The man who chose Tribonian for his legal adviser, Belisarius and Narses for his generals, the designers of Saint Sophia for his architects, can assuredly have been no mean judge of human character. He had also the power of forming truly grand conceptions, and is  p552 superior herein to two monarchs, with each of whom some points in his character tempt us to compare him — Louis XIV of France and Philip II of Spain. These merits, however, were more than counterbalanced by two great faults — intense egotism and financial extravagance. His egotistic innovations. Coming as he did from the lower ranks of society to the administration of an old and highly-organised state, he was determined to leave his mark on every city of the Empire, on every department of the State. Some changes, like those involved in the codification of the Roman law, required to be made, and here the imperial egotist's passion for change worked well for the State. But besides this, many old and useful institutions were swept away, simply in order that the name of Justinian might be magnified. Local self-government received from him some of its severest blows. The postal service,16 one of the best legacies from the great days of the Empire, he allowed to be ruined by greedy and shortsighted ministers, who sold the post-horses and divided the proceeds between their master and themselves. The venerable institution of the consulship, which still linked the fortunes of New Rome with the dim remembrance of the republican virtues of Brutus and Publicola, must be swept away. The schools of philosophy at Athens, touched certainly with the feebleness of age, but still showing an unbroken descent from Socrates, and deserving to be spared, if only for the sake of their late illustrious pupil Boethius, were closed by imperial decree, and the seven last Platonists were driven forth into exile, obtaining at length by the intercession of the King of Persia permission to exist, but no longer to teach, in  p553 that which had once been the mother city of all philosophy.

His extravagance. The mania of the empurpled Nihilist for destroying every institution which could not show cause for its existence by ministering to the imperial vanity, would have been less disastrous if it had not been coupled with an utter indifference to expense. Whatever dispute there may be as to other parts of the character of Justinian, there can be none as to his having been one of the worst of the many bad financiers who wore the diadem of the Caesars.

In reading the two histories in which Procopius records the vast operations of this monarch, both in peace and war,17 we are inclined to ask, 'Did the question once in his whole reign occur to the mind of Justinian, whether he was justified in spending the money of his subjects on this campaign which he meditated, or on that palace or basilica for which the architect had furnished him with plans?' Certainly the results of his financial administration speak for themselves: — the carefully and wisely hoarded treasure of Anastasius all spent, the very wars themselves starved, and in some cases protracted to three or four times their necessary length by the emptiness of the exchequer, and the people of his realms left at Justinian's death in a state of exhaustion and misery greater, if that be possible, than the subjects of Louis XIV of France after that monarch's seventy years' quest of 'glory.'

518‑527 The treasure of Anastasius had perhaps been melting away during the nine years of the reign of Justin. War with Persia, 524‑531. During this time the war with Persia was begun,  p554 a war about which something will be said in the following chapter. Early indications of financial pressure. Before Justinian had been five years on the throne the financial oppression of his subjects, particularly in the country districts, was becoming intolerable. Owing to changes in the mode of collecting the land-revenue and the abolition of the cursus publicus, the inhabitants were impoverished by the oppressive rights of pre‑emption,18 claimed by the government, Forced labour. and worn out with forced labour19 in moving produce from the interior of the country to the sea. Women with babes at their breasts were forced to take part in this cruel toil, and often did they, their husbands, and brothers fall dead by the road-side, where they were left, unpitied and unburied.20 There was no time for funeral rites; the Emperor's cornº must be delivered in so many days at the seaport, where, without fail, some venal officer or some slave of one of the palace slaves stood ready to take his tithe of the tithes collected at the cost of so much agony.

New taxes. The very names of the new taxes imposed on various pretexts, about twenty in number, were terrible to the bewildered people.21 And this was what they had earned by those delirious shouts of joy which hailed  p555 the accession of Justin and the death of Anastasius, the tender-hearted Anastasius, who with such infinite trouble had rooted out one obnoxious tax, the Chrysargyron, in the room of which Justinian had planted a score.

The peasants flock into the cities. Despairing of earning a subsistence in the country, the dispirited peasantry flocked into the towns, above all into the capital city. In Constantinople there was at least food to be had, for the corn-rations were still distributed to the people; and in Constantinople there was the delicate excitement for an absolutely idle populace, of the races in the Hippodrome. We have already made some little acquaintance with the contending colours of these circus-factions. Factions of the circus. They were four in number, but owing to the obscurity of the Red and the White, they were practically reduced to two, the Blue and the Green.22 And such was the excitement produced among the favourers of these two colours, by the victory or defeat of their respective champions, that the contemporary Byzantine history can call it nothing less than a madness, a curse, and a disease of the soul. They would pour out their money; they would expose themselves to blows and the most contemptuous insults, yea, even to death itself; they would rush into the thickest of a fray, well knowing that in a few minutes the city guards would be upon them, and would drag them off to the dungeon and to death. All this they heeded not if only the Blues might take their revenge on the bodies of  p556 their antagonists for the victory of a Green charioteer, if only the Greens might pay off a long score of insults by breaking the heads of a mob of presumptuous Blues. Murder was of course the frequent consequence of these faction-fights; and it was perhaps not always murder in hot blood, but sometimes secret and premeditated. Even women, though not allowed to visit the theatre, were bitten with the madness of the strife; and brothers, friends, the companions of a lifetime were turned into irreconcilable enemies by these absolutely senseless quarrels. Certainly of all the strange exhibitions of his character which Man has given since he first appeared upon our planet, few have been more unutterably absurd than the fights of Blues and Greens in the Hippodrome of Constantinople.

Justinian favours the Blues. It was evident, soon after his accession, that the husband of Theodora meant to favour the Blue party, and in a few years, a long list of grievances was recorded in the hearts of the opposite faction against him. Such was the state of feeling in the multitude — the Blues jubilant with imperial favour, the Greens sore at heart and indignant against their oppressor, a multitude of the country-folk, having not as yet taken sides definitely with either colour, but remembering and cursing the tyrannical acts which had driven them from their immemorial homes — Scene in the Hippodrome, 13 Jan. 532. when on the morning of the Ides of January, 532,23 the august Emperor took his seat in the podium and commanded the races to begin. Race after race, till two races had been run, was disturbed by the clamours of the angry Green faction. Their fury was chiefly directed against the Grand Chamberlain and Captain  p557 of the Guard, Calopodius,24 to whom they attributed their ill‑treatment. At length Justinian, worried out of his usual self-control, began to argue with the interrupters; and so the following extraordinary debate took place, in shrill shouts to and from the Imperial podium.25

Dialogue between the Emperor and the Green party. The Green party. 'Many years mayest thou live, Justinianus Augustus. Tu vincas.26 O only good one, I27 am oppressed. God knows it, but I dare not mention the oppressor's name lest I suffer for it.'

The Emperor's answer to the people came back from the lips of a stalwart Mandator who stood beside his throne, while a busy short-hand writer (Exceptor) at once began to take down all the words of this strange dialogue, that they might be enrolled in the official Acta of the Empire.

Mandator. 'Whom you mean, I know not.'

The Greens. 'O thrice August one, he who oppresses me will be found at the shoemakers' shops.'28

 p558  Mandator. 'I know not whom you are speaking of.'

The Greens. 'Calopodius the Guardsman oppresses me, O Lord of all.'

Mandator. 'Calopodius has no public charge.'

The Greens. 'Whatever he may be, he will suffer the fate of Judas. God will reward him according to his works.'

Mandator. 'Did you come hitherto to see the games or only to rail at your rulers?'

The Greens. 'If any one oppresses me, I hope he will die like Judas.'

Mandator. 'Hold your peace, ye Jews,29 ye Manicheans, ye Samaritans.'

The Greens. 'Do you call us Jews and Samaritans? We all invoke the Virgin, the Mother of God.'

Some sentences of scarcely intelligible religious abuse between the two parties to the dialogue follow. Then says the Mandator — 'In truth, if you are not quiet I will cut off your heads.'

The Greens. 'Be not enraged at the cry of the afflicted. God himself bears all patiently. [How can I appeal to you in your palace?] I cannot venture thither, scarcely even into the city except by one street when I am riding on my mule.'30

Mandator. 'Every one can move freely about in this city, without danger.'

The Greens. 'You talk of freedom, but I do not  p559 find that I can get it. Let a man be ever so free, he is suspected of being a Green, he its taken and beaten in public.'

Mandator. 'Gallows-bird! have you no care for your own lives, that you thus speak?'

The Greens. 'Take off that colour [the emblem of the Blues] and do not let justice seem to take sides.31 . . . I wish Sabbatius [the father of Justinian] had never been born. Then would he never have begotten a murderous son. This is the sixth murder32 apparently that has happened at the Yoking-place.33 In the morning he was looking on at the games, and in the evening twilight, O Lord of all, he had his throat cut.'

The Blues here interposed with angry denial. 'All the murders on the race-course have been committed by you alone.'

The Greens. 'When you murder you run away.'34

The Blues. 'You murder and throw everything into confusion. All the murders on the race-course are your work alone.'

The Greens. 'Lord Justinian! They stir us up to strife, but no one kills them. Remember, even if you  p560 do not wish to do so, who slew the wood-seller at the Yoking-place, O Emperor!'

Mandator. 'You slew him.'

The Greens. 'Who slew the son of Epagathus, O Emperor?'

Mandator. 'Him too you slew, and then tried to throw the blame on the Blues.'

The Greens. 'Again! and again! Lord have mercy on us! Truth is trodden under foot by a tyrant. I should like to throw these things in the teeth of those who say that God governs the world. Whence then this villainy?'

Mandator. 'God cannot be tempted with evil.'

The Greens. ' "God cannot be tempted with evil." Then who is it that allows me to be oppressed ? Let any one, whether Philosopher or Hermit, read me this riddle.'

Mandator. 'Blasphemers and accursed ones! when will ye be quiet?'

The Greens. 'If your Majesty will fawn upon that party,35 I hold my peace, though unwillingly. O Thrice August one, I know all, all: but I am silent. Farewell, Justice: you have no more business here. I shall depart hence, and then I will turn Jew. It is better to become a Heathen than a Blue, God knows!'36

The Blues. 'We hate the very sight of you. Your petty spite exasperates us.'

The Greens. 'Dig up the bones of the [murdered] spectators.'

With that the whole faction of the Greens streamed  p561 out of the Hippodrome, leaving the Emperor and the Blue party sole occupants of the long rows of stone subsellia.37

Commencement of insurrection. The day was drawing towards a close when this multitude of enraged Orientals poured forth into the streets of Constantinople. Soon it was evident that the tumults which had embittered the later days of Anastasius were to be renewed, on a larger scale, and with more appalling circumstances, by reason of the crowds of hungry, idle, and exasperated rustics who had flocked into the town. Fire-raising. Fire began to be applied to the buildings round the Hippodrome, and to the porticoes of the Palace in which the household troops were lodged. All through the earlier stages of the sedition Justinian kept quiet in his palace, with the nobles who had assembled there according to custom on the Ides of January, to offer their congratulations and to receive from his hands the tokens of their various promotions for the new year.38 Probably his  p562 expectation was, that the insurrection, if unopposed, would wear itself out; or that, at the worst, the fury of the attacked Blues would check the fury of the attacking Greens.

The Blues and Greens fraternise. Soon, however, an ominous symptom appeared. The Blues began to sympathise with the Greens, and to join in the wild orgie in which their rivals were engaged. In a recent attempt to deal out even-handed justice between the two factions, the Prefect of the City had arrested seven notorious murderers, chosen indifferently from both parties. Four had been sentenced to death by beheading, three by hanging. The sword had done its work surely, but the gallows had broken under the weight of their victims, and two of the culprits, one a Blue, the other a Green, had thus escaped for a time the sentence of the law. The good monks of the neighbouring monastery of St. Conon had found them not quite dead, had put them on board ship, and had carried them to the church of St. Lawrence. The Prefect of the City insisted that the law should have its due, but popular sympathy was aroused on behalf of the wretches who had so narrowly escaped death. A common interest in the fate of their friends seems to have brought the two factions, hating one another with such deadly hatred, into momentary accord. As the old watchwords of party were suddenly become obsolete, they invented new ones. Not the loyal cry, 'August Justinian, may you conquer!' but 'Long live the friendly Greens and Blues!'39 was to be the battle-shout of the united factions, and 'Nika' (Victory) their secret pass-word.

 p563  The insurrection becomes political. With this reconciliation of the Circus-factions the sedition assumed a more important and a political character. The name of the chamberlain Calopodius drops out of the story, Cries against Tribonian and John of Cappadocia. and those of the Quaestor Tribonian, of the Praetorian Prefect, John of Cappadocia, begin to be heard. Tribonian, with all his matchless knowledge of the law, was suspected, perhaps justly suspected, of sometimes framing the new laws so as to suit the convenience of those litigants who approached him with the heaviest purse in their hands. John of Cappadocia was undoubtedly a man absolutely devoid of principle, coarse, unlettered, vicious, but one whose demonic force of will and whose relentless heart were all put at the disposal of his master for the purpose of wringing the maximum of taxes out of a fainting and exhausted people.

When the cry for the removal of these ministers came, Justinian at once yielded to it, and replaced them by men who stood higher in favour with the people. But still the riot went on. General conflagration. The futile endeavours of the soldiers to cope with it only increased its fury; and, sure mark that all the lowest and most lawless elements of society had broken loose, Fire was the favourite weapon in the combat. The Senate-house, the Palace of the Praetorian Prefect, the Baths of Zeuxippus, the Baths of Alexander, were all burnt.40 At last, either because the mob had grown wild and desperate with destruction, or because the wind which had sprung up respected not the distinctions which  p564 they would have made, the sacred buildings themselves were given to the devouring flame. The great church of Saint Sophia, and its neighbour the church of Saint Irene, fell in blackened ruin. Between these two edifices, the dwellings of Divine Wisdom and Peace, the charity of a devout man of earlier time,41 Sampson by name, had reared a hospital42 for the reception of the sick and aged poor. This noble illustration of the spirit of Christianity shared the fate of its statelier neighbours, and, alas for the madness of the populace, all the sick folk who were lying in the wards of the hospital perished in the flames.

Thus for five days raged the demon Fire through the streets of Constantinople.43 Through the short January day thick clouds of smoke rolled round basilica and portico. At night two red and flaring lines mirrored themselves in the Golden Horn and the Bosporus. The ineffectual efforts of the soldiers to suppress the riot did but increase the mischief. The Octagonon44 was set fire to by them in their endeavours  p565 to exploit the rebels, and the flames thus kindled consumed the church of St. Theodore and the vestry adjoining it.

The rebels are without a leader. Still for some time the insurrection lacked an aim and a leader. Justinian was despised, but no name was suggested instead of his. On the first or second day, it is true, the rioters marched to the house of Probus (no doubt the nephew of Anastasius and brother of Pompeius), searched the house for arms, and shouted as they searched, 'Probus for Emperor of Romania!' Probus will not accept the diadem. but not succeeding in their quest, nor prevailing on Probus to accept the official diadem, they cast fire into his house and added it to the general destruction.

18 Jan. 532 Justinian appeals in vain to the compassion of the mob. On Sunday, the fifth day of the insurrection,45 Justinian sought to propitiate the mob by following the example of Anastasius and making an appeal to their compassion. Taking his place in the seat of honour in the Cure, he held on high the rule of law of the Holy Gospels. The populace streamed once more into the Hippodrome, to hear what their sovereign would say to them. Laying his hand on the sacred books, he swore a solemn oath: 'By this power I swear that I forgive you all your offences, and will order the arrest of none of you, if only you will now return to your obedience. The blame is none of yours, but all mine. For the punishment of my sins I did not grant your requests when first you addressed me in this place.' The humiliation was as great as that of Anastasius, but not so efficacious in disarming the  p566 fury of the move. Some shouted 'Justiniane Auguste, tu vincas!' but many were silent, and there was even heard the insulting cry, 'O ass, thou art swearing falsely!'46

He returns to the palace, With his dignity ruffled and his easy temper disturbed Justinian returned to the palace. There, apparently, all the nobles who had assembled on the Ides of January were still mustered, not having dared to return to their homes through the raging populace. and orders the nephews of Anastasius to leave it. The Emperor's eye fell on Hypatius and Pompeius, the nephews of Anastasius, and in an angry voice he ordered them to leave the palace. Procopius doubts whether to refer this strange order to suspicion of a conspiracy on their part, or to the influence of a mysterious destiny. The humbler theory, that it was due to mere ill‑temper and annoyance, may perhaps be deserving of consideration. The two cousins naturally suggested that it was unfair to throw them at such a critical moment in the very path of conspirators and rebels; but Justinian insisted, and forth they went, slinking under cover of the twilight to their homes.

19 Jan. 532 The populace proclaim Hypatius Emperor. Next day, when the news of their departure from the palace was noised abroad, the whole multitude flocked to the house of Hypatius, intent on proclaiming him Emperor. In the campaign eighteen years before,47 Hypatius had held the highest command, and the course of events seem to have pointed him out as, upon the whole, the most eminent of the nephews of Anastasius. When the multitude  p567 announced their intention of proclaiming Hypatius in the Forum, his wife Mary, a woman of great ability and noble character, with tears and cries besought them not to lead her husband to certain death. Hypatius also earnestly pleaded that he had no desire for the dangerous honour. But the people were inexorable. Mary's entwining arms were thrust aside, and Hypatius was borne by the shouting multitude to the Forum of Constantine, where he appears to have been soon after joined by his cousin Pompeius. As no diadem was at hand, a collar of gold was placed on the head of Hypatius. He was raised high up on the steps of the statue of Constantine, clothed in the white chlamys to mark his military rank, and all the vast multitude shouted with one accord, 'Hypatie Auguste, tu vincas!'

There was a dissension among the adherents of the new Emperor whether they should at once march to the palace of Justinian and grapple with their foe. Had they done so, Justinian would probably have been faintly remembered in history as a sovereign who made some attempt to reform the Roman laws and perished in a tumult after a reign of five years. And in truth this was the view which he himself was prepared to take of the chances for and against him. Council in the palace of Justinian. In a council held in the palace his voice apparently was for flight by the sea‑gate, outside of which his ships were moored.48 Theodora's voice is for resistance. But then was heard the manly voice of Theodora, insisting on resisting to the death. 'When  p568 man has once come into the world, death sooner or later is his inevitable doom. But as for living, a royal fugitive, that is an intolerable thought. Never may I exist without this purple robe; never may the day dawn on me in which the voices of all who meet me shall not salute me as Sovereign Lady.49 If then, O Emperor, you wish to escape, there is no difficulty in the matter. Here is the sea: there are the ships. But just consider whether, when you have escaped, you will not every day wish that you were dead. For my part, I favour the ancient saying, "There is no grander sepulchre for any man than the Kingship." '

Operations of Belisarius and Narses. The stirring words of Theodora prevailed. Belisarius, a young officer who had acquired great renown in the Persian war, was commissioned to attack with his small but disciplined body of troops the vast mob of Constantinople; and at the same time a middle-aged Armenian named Narses, an eunuch who had attained the rank of Grand Chamberlain in the imperial household, stole out of the palace with a heavy purse of money in his hand, to persuade and bribe the leaders of the Blue faction back to their old allegiance.

Deliberations of the friends of Hypatius. While this council was resolving on resistance to the uttermost, that of Hypatius resolved on procrastination. The advice of a Senator named Origen had determined them to leave the palace of Justinian unattacked, trusting that its occupant would soon be a fugitive, and to make for the old palace, which still bore the name of Flaccilla, the wife of Theodosius. On their way to this building the whole multitude  p569 halted for a time in the Hippodrome. Message of Hypatius to Justinian. Hypatius, who was still a most unwilling claimant of the purple, at this juncture sent one of the noble guard50 named Ephraemius to Justinian with this message: 'Thy enemies are all assembled in the Circus; thou canst do with them what thou wilt.' Unfortunately Ephraemius met the Emperor's physician and confidant Thomas who had heard of the rumoured flight, but had not heard of the later resolution to defend the palace. 'Whither are you going?' said Thomas to the glittering Candidatus: 'there is no one in the palace; Justinian has fled.' This message, brought to Hypatius, seemed to show that there was nothing for him but to reign; and he accordingly accepted the situation, mounted the podium, and probably harangued the Roman people assembled in the Circus as their lawful Imperator.

Belisarius attacks the multitude in the Hippodrome. Better had it been for Hypatius to be crouching, as he crouched eighteen years before, by the Scythian shore, up to his neck in the water and only his head showing, 'like a sea‑bird's,' above the waves. He was in less danger then from the savage Huns than now from the insulted Emperor whom he had failed to dethrone. Belisarius heard that the rebels were all in the Hippodrome. With the instinct of a born general he saw in a moment his one chance of victory. With his band of disciplined soldiers, most of them barbarians,51 he mounted the narrow cochlea (spiral staircase) which led from the palace to the Emperor's box in the Hippodrome. A barred door prevented his entrance. He shouted to the soldiers, some of his  p570 own veterans, who were in attendance on Hypatius, 'Open the door, that I may get to the usurper!' The soldiers, who wished to commit themselves to neither side, feigned not to hear. Then did Belisarius well-nigh despair of success, and, returning to the palace, he told the Emperor that his cause was ruined. But there remained another gate called the Brazen Gate, on the side to which the populace had set fire, and to it, amid falling timbers and over smoking ruins, Belisarius and his soldiers forced their way. This entrance adjoined the portico of the Blues, and perhaps was for this reason better adapted to the purposes of Belisarius . . . for at the same time the leaders of the Blue party who had received the bribes of Narses were beginning to shout, 'Justiniane Auguste, tu vincas!' Then was heard the war‑cry of Belisarius; the flashing swords were seen; suspicions of treachery, which soon grew into panic ear, fell upon the multitude. The one desire of every citizen was to escape from the Hippodrome, a desire impossible of fulfilment; for, lo! at the same moment Mundus, another of Justinian's generals, hearing the uproar and rightly divining the manoeuvre of Belisarius, pressed in to the Circus by another gate, called, as if in prophecy, the Dead Gate. The two generals did their bloody work relentlessly, so that no civilian, either citizen of Constantinople or stranger, either partisan of the Blues or the Greens,52 who chanced that day to be in the Hippodrome, left it alive.

The massacre in the Hippodrome. It was estimated that 35,00053 persons fell in this tumult. Justinian announced his victory as if it had  p571 been won over some foreign foe, in exulting letters to all the great cities of his Empire. The triumph was won by ruthless disregard of human life, by an utter refusal to attempt to distinguish between the innocent and the guilty: but it was not a wholly barren one for the State. After this terrible lesson, it was long before the populace of Constantinople attempted to renew the disturbances which had disgraced the later years of Anastasius.

Fate of Hypatius and Pompeius. Hypatius and his cousin Pompeius were dragged out of the imperial box in the Circus and brought into the presence of Justinian. They fell prostrate before him, and began to sue for pardon on the plea that it was by their persuasion that the enemies of Justinian had been collected in the Hippodrome. 'That was well done,' said the Emperor (who had not yet heard of the message sent by Hypatius), 'but it the multitude were so willing to obey your orders, could you not have done it before half the city was burnt down?' He ordered them away to close confinement, upon which Pompeius, a man with whom all things till then had gone smoothly, began with tears and groans to bewail his hard fate. The more rugged Hypatius sharply rebuked him: 'Courage, my cousin: do not thus demean thyself. We perish as innocent men: for we could not resist the pressure of the people, and it was out of no ill‑will to the Emperor that we went into the Hippodrome.'

On the following day they were slain by the soldiers, their goods were confiscated, and their bodies were cast into the sea. After a few days, however, Justinian relented towards them, having heard the true story of the message of Hypatius. Thomas, the doctor who  p572 had so ill served the interests of his august patient, was ordered to be beheaded. The property of the two unfortunate Patricians was restored to their relatives, and commands were issued for the burial of their bodies. Only that of Hypatius, however, could be recovered from the keeping of the Bosporus, and over this when buried, Justinian, with all his clemency, could not deny himself the pleasure of carving an insulting epitaph.54

The blackened heaps representing the stately buildings of Constantinople reminded a spectator who saw them of the masses of lava and cinders surrounding the cones of Vesuvius and Lipari. Soon however, by the command of the Emperor, troops of workmen were busily engaged in clearing away the rubbish and laying the foundations of new churches, baths, and porticoes. Thus was employment found for the ruined provincials who still swarmed in the city: and before long a new and fairer Constantinople rose from the ruins of the old.55

So ended the celebrated sedition of the Nika. Its chief interest for us is that it brings us face to face with two men who gathered great fame in Italy, Belisarius and Narses.


The Author's Notes:

1 This curious story is told us by the Anonymus Valesii.

2 Consul in 499.

3 Procopius, Anecdota, 6.

4 Comes Excubitorum.

5 Justin was born in 452, and was therefore two years older than Theodoric.

6 This is Procopius' account of the matter: 'In order that the documents which required the imperial signature might exhibit it, the following contrivance was adopted. In a little piece of wood was carved the shape of four letters of the Latin alphabet [IVST]. This tablet was placed on the document: a pen dipped in the [purple] ink which the Emperors are wont to use was put in his hand, and then the assistants taking the Emperor's hand and guiding it so as to make the pen travel round through all the perforations of the tablet, thus at length produced an imperial signature at the foot of the document.' I suspect, as has been before stated, that this is the origin of the similar story as to Theodoric's signature.

Thayer's Note: The passage is Anecdota, VI.14‑16; this link is to Dewing's translation, which is significantly different, as is Atwater's (q.v.). Hodgkin assumes the four letters were the first four of Justinian's name, IVST; Atwater seems to think they are FIAT ("make it so"); why these interpretations is not clear to me, since the Greek text specifically tells us, and Dewing so translates, that the four letters were LEGI ("I have read"): ξύλῳ εἰργασμένῳ βραχεῖ ἐγκολάψαντες μορφήν τινα γραμμάτων τεττάρων, ἅπερ ἀναγνῶναι (or ἀνέγνων) τῇ Λατίνων φωνῇ δύναται.

7 Mr. Bryce considers 483 the most probable date for the birth of Justinian. He would thus be thirty-five at Justin's accession (Dict. of Christian Biography: Justinian).

8 Marcellinus Comes mentions the murder but does not ascribe it to Justinian; Victor Tunnunensis says that it was attributed to the faction of Justinian the Patrician. Procopius, who is mistaken as to the time of its occurrence, ascribes it to Justinian after he had become Emperor.

9 'Frater noster gloriosissimus Vitalianus' (Epist. ad Hormisdam, ap. Migne, LXIII.476).

10 Procopius, Anecdota, 6.

11 Marcellinus Comes gives us these particulars: 'Numerosos praeterea phaleratosque in Circo caballos, jam donatis quoque impertivis aurigis, una duntaxat ultimaque mappa insanienti populo denegata.' The mappa is the cloth that was dropped as a signal for starting the racers. I do not understand the 'donatis quoque impertivis aurigis.'

12 We learn from this and similar statements that the factions of the Circus had a common purse and a common organization of their own.

13 Otherwise the Pandects.

14 Justinian's Constitution 'Tanta' (Cod. I.17.2).

15 More properly, Institutions. The text of the Prooemium calls them Institutiones.

16 Cursus publicus.

17 The 'De Aedificiis' and 'De Bellis.'

18 Συνωνή.

19 Angaria, nearly equivalent to the French corvées.

20 Joannes Lydus, de Magistratibus, p264 (ed. Bonn), from whom most of the details here given are drawn.

21 Here are those preserved by Lydus, but evidently much mutilated by uncomprehending copyists: — censualia, holographica, bouleutica, homodula, homocensa, aphantica, encataleimmena, politica, tamiaca, deputata, recolata, refusa, cerastismi, ropae, paralla(x)a, topi, endomatica, metatorica . . . . ellephoros apaitesis.

22 Cassiodorus (Var. III.51) seems to speak of all four colours as still used: 'Colores autem in vicem temporum quadrifaria divisione funduntur,' and Constantine Porphyrogenitus in the tenth century speaks of all four factions.

23 Marcellinus Comes and Malalas.

24Calopodius had been, under Anastasius, a favourer of the Monophysites, and therefore probably of the Green party. He was accused of having stolen from under the altar of the Great Church the written covenant by which Anastasius bound himself to Macedonius to keep inviolate the decrees of Chalcedon (Theophanes, s. a. 512; p133, ed. Paris). But no doubt with the change of sovereigns he had changed his colour and his creed.

25 It will be seen that I have availed myself of several suggestions made by Prof. Bury (II.56‑59) in his translation of this curious but difficult dialogue.

26 'Mayest thou conquer.' This conventional acclamation to the sovereign was still uttered in Latin, though written down in Greek characters, τοῦ βίγκας.

27 The dialogue shifts from the singular number to the plural with strange abruptness, but I have thought it better not to remove these blemishes.

28 Τὰ τζαγγαρία, rendered by the Latin translator 'ad sutorias officinas;' probably a pun on the name of Calopodius, as Καλοπόδιον = a shoemaker's last.

29 A play on the words. The Greens hope that Justinian may die like Judas. He thereupon calls them Judaei.

30 The translation is very doubtful here. Μίαν εἰς τὴν πόλιν προέρχομαι, ὅτ’ ἂν εἰς βορδόνην (?) καθέζομαι.

31 Prof. Bury renders (probably with more correctness) 'Let this [green] colour be once uplifted: then justice disappears.'

32 Εἰκότως ἐκτὸς, the new reading, gives, as Prof. Bury points out, a much better sense than the old one, εἰκοστὸν ἔτος.

33 Zeugma. According to Ducange this was a suburb of Constantinople, where the mules were unyoked that brought the body of St. Stephen to the capital. But Prof. Paspati, our highest authority on points of Byzantine archaeology, throws some doubt on this explanation. He says, 'The two gulfs near Constantinople now called the Small and Great Tjekmedjé, were formerly called ζεύγματα.'

34 Πότε ('vulgar for ὅτε,' Bury) σφάζεις καὶ ἀποδημεῖς.

35 'If it is the pleasure of your Majesty' (Bury), Ἂν θεραπεύηται τὸ κράτος σοῦ.

36 Μᾶλλον δὲ Ἐλληνίσαι συμφέρει καὶ μὴ Βενετίσαι, ὁ Θεὸς οἶδεν.

37 The dialogue between Justinian and the Greens, which Gibbon truly calls one of the most singular that ever passed between a prince and his subjects, is reported in full only by Theophanes. As he is a late authority (ninth century) and often inaccurate, the authenticity of the dialogue has been questioned. But he appears to be quoting from the official Acta, the first few lines of which are given in nearly the same words by the Paschal Chronicle (circa 63). The very obscurity of some of the sentences seems to show that Theophanes was transcribing some document which he only imperfectly understood: and it is equally difficult to imagine what motive he could have had for inventing a dialogue so full of insults against the honoured name of Justinian, and from what spurious source, if so desirous, he could have obtained so many touches characteristic of the times.

38 I combine the statement of Malalas (p474, ed. Bonn) with that of Procopius (I.24 vol. I p121 same edition), and with the fact that Hypatius and Pompeius were at the Palace.

39 Φιλανθρώπων Πρασίνων καὶ Βενέτων πολλὰ τὰ ἔτη (Malalas).

40 The Senate-house and the Baths of Zeuxippus were in the near neighbourhood of the Hippodrome on the east. The Praetorian Palace was on the west of it. The situation of the Baths of Alexander is unknown (Ex rel. Prof. Paspati).

41 Procopius de Aedificiis, I.2.

42 Ξενών, ἀνθρώποις ἀνειμένος ἀπορούμενος τε καὶ νοσοῦσι τὰ ἔσχατα εἰ πρὸς τῇ οὐσίᾳ καὶ τὸ σῶμα νοσοῖεν (Procopius, ubi supra). This (says Paspati) was the earliest known hospital, and a very sumptuous one of its kind.

43 Prof. Paspati considers that Procopius is our best authority as to the Fire of Constantinople, and that we must take his topographical details rather than those of Theophanes and the Paschal Chronicle. The buildings in the Augusteum (east of the Hippodrome) were all consumed. The fire did not penetrate to the Palace itself, which rose on the south east of the Augusteum, but the Octagonon very near the southern wall of the Palace was consumed. The churches of St. Irene and St. Sophia which perished in this conflagration were wooden buildings.

44 This was probably a public library: see Ducange, Constantino­polis Christiana, II.152.

Thayer's Note: The book is not directly or searchably found online, so here's the entry:

 (p151)  Octagonum conflagrasse eo incendio quod accidit in seditione Victoriatorum, Justiniano imperante tradit Cedrenus pag. 369. Τότε δὴ ἐνεπρήσθη καὶ τὸ Ὀκτάγωνον, καὶ τὸ Λόετρον τοῦ Σεβήρου τὸ λεγόμενον Ζεύξιππος· Tunc conflagravit & Octagonum, & Balneum Severi, quod Zeuxippus dicitur. Chronicon Alexandrinum pag. 778. ubi de eadem seditionem statuit Octagonum inter Basilicam Gunariorum, & Porticum Regiam: Καὶ ἑωρακότες ἑαυτοῖς βαλλομένοις οἱ ὄχλοι, ἦλθον αὐτοὶ εἰς τὸ Ὀκτάγωνον τὸ ὄντα εἰς μέσον τῆς βασιλικῆς τῶν Γουναρίων, καὶ τοῦ δημοσίου Ἐμβόλου τῆς Ῥηγίας· καὶ ἑωρακότες οἱ στρατιῶται, ὅτι οὐκ ἠδύναντο εἰσελθεῖν, ἐπάνω αὐτῶν ἔβαλεν πῦρ, καὶ ὑφῆψαν τίω Ὀκτάγωνον, καὶ ἐξ αὐτοῦ τοῦ πυρὸς ἐκαύθη τὰ πέριξ τοῦ ἁγίου Θεοδώρου τοῦδε Σφωρακίου, δίχα τοῦ σκευοφυλακείου τοῦ φρουρίου τοῦ ἁγίου οἴκου· Vt viderunt plebei se jaculis ac ensibus appeti, venerunt ad Octagonum aedem sic dictam, quae erat in medio Basilicae Gunariorum, & publicae Porticus quam Regiam vocant. Milites verò cum viderent introire se non posse, supra illos ignem jecerunt, & incendiarunt Octagonum, & eodem igne conflagrarunt aedes adjacentes templo S. Theodori, quod Sporacii nuncupatur, praeterquam Secevophylacium sacrae aedis. Ex quibus satis convincitur Octagonum stetisse haud procul à Zeuxippo, Porticu Regia, Basilica Gunariorum, & aede sancti Theodori, ac proinde à Magna Ecclesia quae eodem incendio conflagravit. Quod firmant Theodorus Lector lib. 1 pag. 183. Theophanes anno 1. Zenonis pag. 104 & ex eo Cedrenus pag. 352 ubi de Aeluro: Ἐκ τοῦ παλατίου λιτανεύων ἦλθεν εἰς τὴν ἐκκλησίαν ὀχούμενος τῷ ὄνῳ· ἐλθὼν δὲ εἰς τὸν λεγόμενον Ὀκτάγωνον, καταλαβὼν πτωθεὶς συνετρίβη τὸν πόδα· Ex Palatio processione instituta venit ad Ecclesiam asino vectus: cum autem ad aedem quam Octagonum vocant, pervenisset, lapsus pedem laesit. Cum verò Palatium & Sophianum templum vicina fuerint, sequitur Octagonum pariter intercessisse inter utrumque. At quae aedes fuerit, non planè constat, nisi fides adhibeatur  p152  Codino scribenti pag. 42 Τετραδίσιον Ὀκτάγωνον extitisse juxta Chalcen, fuisseque locum illum in quo Bibliotheca Constantino­politana stetit, cui praefuit Oecumenicus cum duodecim viris aliis literatis, sicque appellatum, quod Octo constaret Porticibus concameratis; quod sanè haud procul à vero abest, cum haec vox feminino genere fermè semper à scriptoribus efferatur, ita ut ad βασιλικήν fortean referri debeat, fueritque basilica octagona. Tradit Theophanes pag. 22 & ex eo Nicephorus Call. lib. VII cap. XLIX. Constantinum M. aedificasse Antiochiae Ecclesiam, quam Ὀκτάγωνον κυριακὸν appellant quia ἐν ὀκταέδρου σχήματι confecta erat, ait Eusebius de Vita Constantini lib. III cap. XIIX al. 1. Ejus etiam meminit Gregorius Abul-Faragius in Historia Dynastarum pag. 85. Inscriptio Christiana apud Gruter. pag. 1166.

Octachorum sanctos templum surrexit in usus,

Octagonus fons est munere dignus eo.

45 Combining Procopius and the Paschal Chronicle, I reckon that the insurrection actually commenced on the 14th of January (Wednesday), and that the proclamation of Hypatius and Pompeius occurred on the morning of the 19th.

46 Ἐπιορκεῖς, σγαύδαρι. Ducange (in his note on the Paschal Chronicle) suggests γάδαρε, and translates as above.

47 See p416.

48 The ships (says Prof. Paspati) were in the little harbour of Bucoleon, below the church of St. Irene. They could not be moored outside, on account of the strength of the current of the Bosporus.

49 Μὴ γὰρ ἂν γενοίμην τῆς ἁλουργίδος ταύτης χωρίς, μήδ’ ἂν τὴν ἡμέραν ἐκείνην βιῴην, ἐν ᾖ με δέσποιναν οἱ ἐντυχόντες οὐ προσεροῦσιν.

50 Candidati.

51 The Paschal Chronicle calls them Goths (p876, ed. Migne).

52 So says Theophanes (p158).

53 Joannes Lydus says 50,000.

54 'Here lies the Emperor of Luppa.' The insult is too subtle to reach the ears of posterity.

55 The astronomer will be interested in reading the account of a meteoric shower which occurred in the year of the Nika sedition (532). Theophanes says: 'The same year there was a great running of the stars (ἀστέρων γέγονε δρόμος πολύς) from evening till dawn, so that all were struck with amazement and said, "The stars are falling:" nor do we know of such a thing having ever happened at any other time.'


Thayer's Note:

a Hodgkin's intuitive caution, or maybe his inside information, proved right. The so‑called Life of Justinian by Theophilus was conclusively debunked by Bryce, in his 1887 paper "Life of Justinian by Theophilus" (onsite), where he also transcribes the document in full: the article details some interesting detective work. This 2d edition of Hodgkin's Italy and Her Invaders, appearing in 1896, should have been updated to reflect the fact that Bryce's paper had been published in the interval since the first edition.


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