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WHILST it is evident that the distinctive character of Justinian impelled him to be incessantly active in every branch of the monarchical profession, the devastation wrought at Constantinople by the Nika rebellion might have awakened a passion for building in the breast of the most phlegmatic Emperor. A mass of sightless ruins had taken the place of those architectural adornments which are the essential feature of a capital and the foundations of the dignity of a throne.

The restoration of the precincts of the Palace was the most pressing necessity, and Justinian applied himself to the task without a moment's delay. At the same time he determined that the new buildings should surpass in beauty those which had been destroyed, and he devoted himself to the restoration of the great metropolitan church with especial zeal. More fortunate than Constantine, he had not to complain that architects of reputation were undiscoverable; and in Anthemius of Tralles and Isidorus of Miletus, he found men who were capable of conceiving and executing great designs.

Neither history nor modern research enables us to explain with fullness the origin and evolution of that variety of ecclesiastical building which is recognized as typically Byzantine, and of which the church of St. Sophia, erected by Justinian, remains to the present day as the only decided prototype. The accounts which have come down to us of the construction of this edifice indicate clearly that the architects engaged in the work were attempting to do something which had not been done before; or, at least, that their design, if not original, had never to their knowledge been put into practice on so large a scale. Failure, therefore, was a contingency with which they had to reckon, and, until their scheme was completed, they had to be prepared to modify or even to abandon their plan.

The Emperor had resolved that the proportions of the new church should be much greater than those of the old one, and therefore the extension of the site was the first requirement of his undertaking. On the south side the ground was clear, but the open space of the Augusteum barred any encroachment in that direction. On the other three sides, however, the area was hemmed in by various buildings, and several of these were private property. Some of the difficulties encountered at the outset, therefore, arose from the obstinacy of adjacent owners, who refused to sell their lots at a reasonable price or to part with them on any terms whatever. Obstacles of this class were the origin of a crop of stories which obtained currency among the populace, who were amused by hearing of the ruses adopted to defeat the wilfulness of certain occupants. Their truth cannot now be tested, and in general they may be disbelieved; but there seems to be some foundation for the anecdote related of a widow named Anna, who stubbornly declined to negotiate for the sale of her house. Nobles waited on her without result, and at length the Emperor came in person and begged of her to name her terms. Upon this she fell on her knees and declared that she would accept no money for her freehold, but entreated him to take it as a gift to St. Sophia on condition that she should be buried in the corner of the church whereon her dwelling had stood. Her proposal was agreed to, and in after ages the area in question continued to be pointed out as the "widow Anna's lot". That trouble of this kind might be real enough may be inferred from the absence of any legislation providing for the compulsory sale of property required for public purposes in accordance with the decision of a board of expert arbitrators.

As soon as the architects had matured their design for the construction of the great edifice, the collection of the materials required to bring their conceptions into substantial existence was in itself an arduous task. The church was to be built of brick, but its richness was to be derived from the liberal use of pillars and slabs of polished marble in every available situation. An Imperial rescript was despatched to the Rectors throughout the provinces, desiring them to search their districts, and transmit to the capital any relics of ruined and deserted temples which might be suitable for the Emperor's purpose. In response to this appeal it is particularized that eight porphyry columns, the remains of a temple of the Sun, were sent from Rome, and eight of green marble from Ephesus; and we may assume that a large quantity of such mementoes of polytheism were amassed at Constantinople about this time, which, if not used for St. Sophia, were employed in the restoration of other parts of the disfigured city. Much new marble was, however, quarried in various localities widely distant in order to obtain the variety of tints and variegated patterns needed to make a brilliant display when placed in position throughout the building.

From Carystus came a light green, and from the Phrygian mountains a rose-coloured marble diversified with streaks of deep red and silver. Sparta supplied an emerald green, and the Iassian hills a blood-red species veined with a livid white. Much porphyry was floated down the Nile; in Lydia was found a bright-tinted marble seamed with lines of red, and in Numidia a crocus-stained variety which shone like gold. Atrax yielded a green and blue marble resembling grass sprinkled with corn­flowers; and lastly there was an abundant supply of the coarse white kind in the adjacent Isle of Proconnesus.

Having cleared and surveyed the site, the architects drew out the plans of the church and fixed the interior measure­ments at 270 x 230 feet. The central portion of this area was to be covered by a dome having a diameter of 107 feet, which should overhang the pavement at a height of 160 feet. No roof of any magnitude, elevated in this manner, was known to them, of which the dome was not upheld by frequent supports, so that free movement from end to end of the building was obstructed by their presence. Anthemius and Isidorus, however, determined that the nave of their church should lie open for its full width in a clear sweep from the main entry to the apse, in which stood the Patriarch’s throne.

In the central area, therefore, at the corners of a quadrangular space, they raised four piers of massive proportions to uphold an equal number of arches, each of which was to have a span of 100 feet. Blocks of stone were used for the construction of these piers, and, instead of mortar, melted lead was poured into the interstices to knit them more firmly together. At each corner, the triangular intervals left above the junctions of the arches were filled up with brickwork, and thus were formed four pendentives to sustain the base of the dome. To resist the thrust of the great arches, four lesser ones, two on each side, crossed the aisles of the church to the external walls, which in that position were provided with heavy masses of masonry to receive them.

Forty windows ranged in a great circle perforated the base of the dome, which was divided by an equal number of ribs converging from the circumference to its vertex.

From the base of the dome the roof was led down by a pair of semi-domes to the east and west walls, and completed on each side by vaulted archings which joined the lateral walls. The nave was separated from the aisles by rows of lofty columns with sculptured capitals, on which rested a series of arches to support the women's galleries. From them lesser pillars, more numerous, reached to the roof; and each corner of the nave proceeded by a semicircular sweep to meet the Royal Door and the apse. On the west a narthex extended all across the church, and above it the galleries became continuous in an area posterior to the nave. The building was flooded with light from windows which in great number passed through the external walls in every direction.

As soon as the containing structure was completed, the decoration and furniture of the interior was pursued with equal zeal. All vacant surfaces in the lower part of the edifice, including the floor, were invested with slabs of marble, showing the greatest diversity of hue and pattern; and the roof was coated with gold mosaic relieved in prominent positions with coloured figures of a sacred type. A cross appeared at the highest point of the dome, and colossal cherubim occupied the four pendentives. Angels at full length were depleted in suitable spaces and the whole was bordered by intricate designs in variously-tinted mosaic.

For the consecrated furniture of the church, the precious metals and gems were requisitioned at great cost. The iconostasis, fifty feet wide, which crossed the apse to shut off the Bema, was completely encased in silver. It stood by means of twelve pillars arranged in pairs, back to back, the intervening portions of the screen being encrusted with images of angels and apostles with the Virgin in the centre. The holy table was a mass of gold and precious stones, and was covered by a ciborium resting on four pillars, the whole being of silver. Silken curtains, richly embroidered with appropriate designs, hung between the pillars. Beneath the dome was placed an elaborate ambo of unusual dimensions, approached on the east and west by flights of steps. It was built of marble, elevated on pillars, and enclosed by a circle of short columns rising from the pavement. Countless lamps suspended by rods and chains from the roof illuminated the church at night.

Alter five and a half years of labour St. Sophia was opened at Christmas (537), and made the occasion of a great popular festival with a liberal scattering of largess. The Patriarch Menas rode in the royal chariot to the entrance, while the Emperor walked alongside of him among the people. Filled with enthusiasm, Justinian advanced to the ambo, and, looking around, with his arms extended, exclaimed, "Glory be to God for thinking me worthy to finish such a work; Solomon, I have excelled you!"

While her consort was absorbed in the erection of St. Sophia, Theodora interested herself especially in the restoration of the Church of the Holy Apostles, which had become dilapidated through age. A different design was here followed, the form of a cross being given to this edifice, which was surmounted by five domes, one in each of the branches, and a central one at their intersection. Church building now became one of Justinian's habitual pursuits, and for many years he continued to embellish the Empire with these samples of his religious devotion. In the city and its immediate suburbs, on the Golden Horn and the Bosphorus, new or renovated places of worship continually rose into sight. At Jerusalem a church to the Virgin was constructed with exceptional magnificence, and the numerous religious bodies congregated in that city were handsomely housed by the Imperial exchequer.

The Emperor’s contributions to secular architecture were not less noteworthy than his pious foundations. The vestibule of Chalke was restored in a very costly manner as a quadrangular hall, with an imposing roof made up of arches and vaults supported on four square columns. This chamber was constituted as a memorial of the wars of Justinian, and the walls were covered with scenes of battle and triumph executed in mosaic. In a prominent position the Imperial couple were depicted as standing among the members of their Court, while the captives and trophies of victory were displayed before them by Belisarius.

The Emperor also commemorated his reign by raising public monuments in the capital to himself and his partner on the throne. In the Augusteum, a pyramidal pedestal, rising by steps from a broad base, supported a pillar on which stood an equestrian statue of Justinian in martial costume, holding in one hand the globe and cross, whilst the other was extended with a warning gesture towards the land of the Persians. On the eastern margin of the city, where the Bosphorus meets the Propontis, Justinian laid out an esplanade, marble-paved and colonnaded, which he adorned with a variety of sculptures wrought by artists of the period. A splendid pedestal of porphyry, fit to support an empress, occupied the centre, upholding a handsome statue which portrayed the "ineffable beauty of Theodora, as nearly as a mortal chisel could express it". This figure was a gift from the citizens, in grateful recognition of the construction of this pleasure-resort.

To increase the water storage of the capital, two underground cisterns were excavated on a larger scale than had been attempted by any previous Emperor. The first of these, on the west side of the Hippodrome, was formed beneath the deserted palace of Illus, the notorious rebel in the reign of Zeno, with a roof upborne by 224 crudely-fashioned pillars. The second, of much grander conception, was situated at a short distance to the north, contiguous to the Royal Court of Justice. With 420 columns, whose capitals were sculptured in conformity with the rules of Greek art, this cistern conveyed the impression of a submerged palace rather than of an interior designed to exist in perpetual obscurity.

Justinian was also indefatigable in beautifying provincial towns and in executing such works of public utility as might relieve the inhabitants from any disadvantages of topographical position. In fact, the multiplicity, variety, and magnificence of the buildings which emanated from the constructive zeal of this Emperor induced the chief historian of the period to devote a separate treatise to the enumeration and description of them, an honour which does not seem to have fallen to the lot of any other sovereign.

One of his earliest cares was the aggrandisement of his birthplace, and the hamlet of Tauresium was transformed into the fortified outpost of a flourishing city created by the fiat of its illustrious son. Under the significant title of Justiniana Prima Scupi was elevated to the rank of capital of Illyricum, and endowed by the Emperor's munificence with everything requisite to render it worthy of its new importance. A praetorium, churches, squares, porticoes, baths, and an aqueduct, built with lavish expenditure, illustrated the site; and, to complete its dignity, the archbishopric of the Diocese was transferred to, or re­constructed in its name. In the same district he founded a town to perpetuate the memory of his uncle, and called it Justinopolis. He was, however, liberal to excess in the bestowal of his own name or that of his wife on all places indebted to him for restorations or improvements; and about a score of towns had their identity concealed under the appellation of Justinian, whilst almost half as many found themselves represented as specially Theodorian.

Among the most important works of Justinian in Asia Minor was the protection of towns from river floods, to which the conformation of that country rendered many districts peculiarly liable. To obviate disasters of this kind in genius feats of engineering were carried out in several instances. Cara, Circesium, Edessa, Zenobia, Helenopolis, Juliopolis, and Tarsus, were the worst sufferers in respect of their fluviatile vicinage. By means of walls, embankments, dams, cutting away of obstacles, and the provision of emergency channels these towns were secured for the future from damage by inundation. As a specimen of the magnitude of some of these operations the case of Edessa best deserves to be cited.

The course of the river Scirtus, as it approached that city, was restrained on one side by a rocky and precipitous bank, whilst a tract of low ground extended for a considerable distance on the other. Hence, in flood time, a vast volume of water rolled over the flat and, entering the town, swept everything away before it. The abolition of this source of destruction was effected by reversing the natural relations of the river banks. Along the shallow margin a wall was built of sufficient strength to resist the overflow, and the rocky boundary opposite was broken away until the ground was made level with the surface of the water. From this side a canal was then cut, which skirted the city and rejoined the Scirtus after its issue from the walls. Bridge building was also undertaken successfully, the most notable examples being that over the Sangaris near Nicomedia, and one of stone which replaced the old wooden bridge across the Golden Horn.

Fortification engrossed much of Justinian's attention, and his constructions in that category exceeded, perhaps, in bulk all the rest of his architectural work. The repair and rebuilding of walls, the substitution of effective for inadequate mural defences, and the strategical modification of sites, went on continually throughout the Empire. Constantina, the new post of the Duke of Mesopotamia, was raised to the rank of a first-class fortress, but the most elaborate works for the purpose of martial defence were executed at Dara, which still existed as the main bulwark against Persian invasion. The fortifications of Anastasius had been hastily built, and consisted of an uncoursed stone wall, laid without mortar, about fifty feet high. The town was exposed to attack over one stretch of ground only, as in its greatest extent it lay along the edge of a rocky declivity unassailable by an enemy. Justinian consolidated the original wall, closed its battlements so that they became mere loop­holes, and raised it thirty feet higher. The towers were similarly treated and elevated until they overtopped the wall to an equal extent. A covered gallery ran through its whole-length, from which the soldiers could assail the enemy with their arrows from the numerous loopholes. For still greater security, however, a second wall of smaller dimensions than the first, also with towers, but solid, was erected at a short distance in front of the first, and from the top of this rampart the main body of the military were active in repelling an assault. Lastly, a moat was excavated and led along so as to make a crescentic sweep from one end of the assailable-wall to the other.

In addition to fortifying cities the Emperor built very numerous forts along the frontiers, and more than six hundred of these are named as being in the vicinity of the Danube. Where the configuration of a region favoured it, whole provinces were shut off by defensive walls against hostile inroads. This was especially the case at the pass of Thermopylae, the isthmus of Corinth, and the entrance to the Thracian Chersonesus, where existing barriers were now restored to efficiency. The Long Wall of Anastasius has already been mentioned, but this bulwark proved less obstructive to the barbarians than had been anticipated, owing to its having been made permeable continuously from end to end. Justinian, therefore, divided it into sections, each of which he separately garrisoned, so that an enemy could not by the capture of one portion obtain the command of the whole, and thus win a free passage into the suburbs of the capital.