Ustin I

Ustin I

Byzantine emperor in 518-527.
Country: Greece

Biography of Justin I

Justin I was the Byzantine Emperor from 518 to 527. He was born in Illyria and came from a peasant background. In order to escape poverty, Justin and his two brothers walked to Constantinople during the reign of Emperor Leo and joined the military service. According to Procopius, when they arrived in the city, they had nothing but goat skins and stolen dry bread. However, their good physical appearance caught the attention of the imperial guard, and they were chosen to serve in the palace guard.

During the Isaurian War, Justin fought under Emperor Anastasius. He gradually rose to power and was eventually appointed as the head of the palace guard by Anastasius. Justin unexpectedly obtained imperial power because there were many prominent and wealthy individuals who were related to the late Emperor Anastasius and had more rights to claim such great authority.

One of the influential figures during that time was Amantius, the supervisor of the imperial chambers. Although he couldn't rule himself due to the law, he wanted to crown Theocritus as the autocratic ruler. To achieve this, he called upon Justin, gave him a large sum of money, and ordered him to distribute it to people who were capable of supporting Theocritus. However, Justin used the money to gain popularity among the guards and ultimately seized the imperial power for himself. He then killed Amantius, Theocritus, and several others.

Justin summoned Vitalian, who had previously attempted to overthrow Anastasius, to Constantinople from Thrace. To gain Vitalian's trust, Justin appointed him as the commander of a portion of the army and later as consul. However, when Vitalian arrived at the palace, he was treacherously killed at the palace gate.

In contrast to his predecessors, Zeno and Anastasius, Justin adhered strictly to Orthodox Christianity. He ordered the removal of around fifty Syrian bishops who were Monophysites and persecuted followers of all heretical sects. He even intended to capture and silence Severus, the bishop of Antioch, for his insults against the Council of Chalcedon.

According to Procopius, Justin lacked any form of education and did not even know the alphabet, which was unprecedented among the Romans. He was unable to issue decrees himself or be involved in any decision-making. Proclus, who served as his quaestor, took all actions at his own discretion. To have evidence of the emperor's personal signature, those assigned to this task would carve the contour of four Latin letters, meaning "read," on a small smooth board, dip a pen in colored ink used by emperors, and let Justin trace the outline of these four letters with his hand by placing the board on the document.

Justin lived with a woman named Lupicinia, who was his slave and concubine. In his later years, they both ascended to the imperial power. Lupicinia, now known as Euphemia, had no notable qualities and remained ignorant of state affairs. Justin himself was unable to govern effectively and was considered intellectually weak, resembling a stubborn donkey who could only follow whoever led him by the reins and occasionally shook his ears. In his old age, he became a laughingstock among his subjects, as he was completely oblivious to what was happening around him. His nephew, Justinian, took control of all government affairs at a young age and became the source of many misfortunes for the Romans.