Ask someone to name a Roman emperor and chances are you’ll get one of the usual heavyweights: Octavian (can’t stand him), Caligula (born on my birthday!), or maybe even Nero (killed his mom, so I’m not a big fan).
Ask someone to name a Byzantine emperor and you’ll probably get a blank stare.
So today I bring you a run-down of the most awesome Byzantine (or eastern Roman) emperor: Justinian.
(Who also happens to be Theodora’s husband. Just saying.)
So what exactly did Justinian do?
1. He reconquered the Italian peninsula and re-incorporated it into the Roman empire. (This is post-Goths, and while he only held the territory for a little bit, that wasn’t his fault. See #5.)
2. He survived the Nika uprising (because Theodora gave a great speech) and went on to rebuild Constantinople on a grand scale. He supposedly built a giant statue of himself that poured wine from his feet on feast days.
3. He built the Hagia Sophia. (A must-see before you die).
4. His law code, the Corpus juris civilis, revised the sum total of Roman law and become the basis for the modern law system in Europe. (Because it was the awesome).
5. He survived having bubonic plague. Granted, the Byzantine empire started a free-fall due to all the dead people (you can’t tax dead people and that means you can’t build cool stuff and conquer faraway lands), but really, anyone who survives plague is downright awesome.
And just in case you’re not already awed by Justinian’s awesomeness, check out @The_New_Rome’s mini-documentary on Justinian and Theodora. (Trust me, it’s worth the extra click and three minutes of your life).
Also, Debra is the lucky winner of last week’s “Forged by Fate” giveaway! Congrats, Debra!