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THE function of a government is to administer the affairs of mankind in accordance with the spirit of the age. Not from the political arena, but from the laboratory emanates that expansion of knowledge which surely, though fitfully, changes the aspect and methods of civilization both in peace and war. An impulse which controls the passions of millions may originate with some obscure investigator who reveals a more immediate means to individual or national advantage; and the executive of government is called on to create legislative facilities for the utilization of the new discovery. During the modern period such influences have been continuous and paramount. In the course of a single century a transformation of the world has been achieved by fruitful research, greater than in all previously recorded time. The Georgian era contrasts less strongly with the times of Aristotle and Cicero than with the present day; and the rapid progress of the nineteenth century almost throws the age of Johnson and Gibbon into the shadow of medievalism.

Far back in the prehistoric past a bridge was thrown across the chasm which separates savage from civilized life by the discovery of a process for the smelting of metallic ore; and the birth of all the arts may be dated from the time when some primitive race passed from the age of stone into that of bronze or iron. To the ancient world that first step in science must have appeared also to be the last; and ages rolled away during which man learned no more than to employ effectively the materials thus acquired. If the expectation that diligent research may be rewarded by some signal increase of knowledge be excluded from the sphere of human activity, individual aspirations must be restricted to whatever is social and national; and those desirous of distinction have no choice but to devote themselves to art or politics. Within these channels were confined the energies of the people of antiquity; in some states the leading characteristic was civic adornment; in others the cultivation of martial efficiency; to rise to despotic power was the usual ambition of a democratic statesman; to attain to an imperial position that of a flourishing state. Wars of aggression were constantly undertaken, and defensive wars uniformly became so whenever superiority was manifested. Such conflicts in the past have had no permanent influence on the advancement of mankind; and from time to time have been equally conducive to the spread of civilization or barbarism. During the classical period the arts and learning of Athens were attendant on the success of the Grecian or the Roman arms; in the Middle Ages the Goth, the Hun, the Saracen, and the Tartar closed in on the Roman Empire and nullified the work of those enlightened nations. At the present day the advance of civilization, though independent of conquest, is often hastened by aggression; and there seems no likelihood that it will ever again recede from a territory where it has once been established. At all times scarcity of the necessaries of life, real or conventional, tends to initiate a contest; nor is it possible to foresee an age when, in the absence of a struggle for existence, the world will subside into a condition of perpetual peace.

In the sixth century, among the Byzantines, the public mind was still oppressed with a sense of the supreme importance of religion. That orthodox Christianity must prevail remained the passion of the day; and in the view of each dissentient sect their creed alone was orthodox. Hence government became an instrument of hierarchy, politics synonymous with sectarianism, and the chief business of the state was to eradicate heresy. Medievalism was created by this spirit; in the East the Emperor became a pope; in the West the Pope was to become a sovereign. The conception of being ruled from the steps of an altar was foreign to the genius of classical antiquity, and Christianity almost effected a reversal of the political spirit of the ancient world.

In the midsummer of 518 occurred the death of Anastasius, one of the few capable and moderate Emperors whom the Byzantines produced. Although imbued with a heresy by his mother, and zealous for its acceptance, he refrained from persecution, and declared that he would not shed a drop of blood to effect the removal of his ecclesiastical opponents. All his efforts were conciliatory, and he would have obliterated disunion in the Church if his influence could have induced fanaticism to accord in the Henoticon of Zeno. He dealt impartially with the Demes, but inclined slightly to one faction, the Green, in formal compliance with traditional usage in the Circus. He relieved oppressive taxation, restrained extravagance, and, though practising thrift, responded liberally to every genuine application. His administration was much admired by those who were free from sectarian prejudice; and even the bigoted adherents of the Chalcedonian synod cannot avoid being eulogistic when recounting some of his measures.

Within the Byzantine province of Dardania, to the south of modern Servia, was situated the municipal town of Scupi, in a plain almost contained by a mountainous amphitheatre, consisting of the Scardus chain, and its connections with the greater ranges of Pindus and Haemus. Among its dependent villages, lying along the banks of the Axius or Vardar, the river of the plain, were the hamlets of Bederiana and Tauresium. Under Roman rule the language and manners of Latium became indigenous to this region; and, although the barbarians in their periodical inroads poured through the passes of Scardus on the north-west to spread themselves over Thrace and Macedonia, the Latinized stock still maintained its ground in the fifth century. Throughout the Empire it was a usual practice for sons of the free peasantry to abandon agricultural penury, and, without a change of clothing, provided only with a wallet containing a few days provisions, to betake themselves on foot to the capital, in the hope of chancing on better fortune' About the year 470, when Leo the Thracian occupied the throne, a young herdsman of Bederiana, bearing the classical name of Justin, resolved on this enterprise, and arrived at Constantinople with two companions whose lot had been similar to his own. There they presented themselves for enlistment in the army, and, as the three youths were distinguished by a fine physique, they were gladly accepted, and enrolled among the palace guards. Two of them are lost to our view for ever afterwards in the obscurity of a private soldier's life, but Justin, though wholly illiterate, entered on a successful military career. At the end of a score of years he reappears under Anastasius, with the rank of a general, and intrusted with a subordinate command in the Isaurian war. A decade later he is again heard of among those who prosecuted the siege of Amida, which led to its recovery from the Persians; and before the death of the Emperor he becomes conspicuous at headquarters, with the dignities of a Patrician, a Senator, and of Commander of the household troops. While holding this office he was also deputed to a command at sea, and took an active part in repelling the naval attack of Vitalian.

During the vicissitudes of his life in the camp, Justin remained unmarried and childless, but he became the purchaser of a barbarian captive, named Lupicina, whom he retained as a concubine, and never afterwards repudiated. While, however, he was rising to a position of importance and affluence, he was not unmindful of those relatives from whom he had separated at his native place. At Tauresium dwelt a sister, the wife of one Sabbatius, and the mother of two children, a son and a daughter. As soon as young Sabbatius, for the nephew of Justin bore his father's name, had arrived at a suitable age, he was invited to the capital by his uncle, who became his guardian, and had him educated in a manner befitting a youth of high rank. On the completion of his studies, it was natural that Sabbatius should be claimed for military service, wherein his guardian's influence was centred, and he was drafted forthwith into the ranks of the Candidati or bodyguards of the Emperor. Finally Justin legally adopted Sabbatius and in token of the fact the latter assumed the derivative name of Justinian.

On the death of Anastasius, as at his accession, the Grand Chamberlain appeared to be master of the situation. But the chief eunuch of the day, Amantius, was less influential than his predecessor, Urbicius, who, with the Empress Ariadne as an ally, had invested the popular silentiary with the purple; and the means he devised to ensure the acceptance of his candidate were the actual cause of his rejection. He decided to bribe the palace guards to proclaim his favourite, Count Theocritus, and placed a large sum of money in the hands of Justin for that purpose, but the procedure only served to render those soldiers conscious of their power to elect an emperor, and they immediately acclaimed their own commandant as the fittest occupant of the throne. The venerable Justin, for he was now long past three score, did not decline; the Senate bowed to the nomination of the guards, and the former herdsman took his place in line with the successors of Augustus.

The Emperor Justin was a rude soldier, devoid of administrative capacity except in relation to military affairs, and so illiterate that he could only append his sign-manual to a document by passing his pen through the openings in a plate perforated so as to indicate the first four letters of his name. After his coronation he married Lupicina; and the populace, while accepting her as his consort, renamed her Euphemia. On his accession Justin promoted his nephew to the rank of Patrician and Nobilissimus; and Justinian became so closely associated with his uncle that he was generally regarded as the predominant partner in ruling the state. But the Emperor was jealous of his authority, and when the Senate petitioned that the younger man should be formally recognized as his colleague, he grasped his robe and answered, "Be on your guard against any young man having the right to wear this garment". Owing to the suddenness of their elevation both princes were ignorant of the routine of government, a circumstance which rendered the position of Proclus, the Quaestor or private adviser of the crown, peculiarly influential during this reign.

The first act of Justin, who adhered to the orthodox creed, was to reverse the temporizing religious policy of Anastasius; and he at once prepared an edict to render the Council of Chalcedon compulsory in all the churches. Amantius, Theocritus, and their party saw in this measure an opportunity of disputing the unforeseen succession, the overthrow of which they were eager to accomplish. A conspiracy was hastily organized, and the malcontents assembled in one of the principal churches, where they entered on a public denunciation of the new dynasty. The movement, however, was ill supported, and Justin with military promptness seized the chiefs of the opposition, executed several, including the eunuch and his satellite, and banished the others to some distant part. The edict was then issued and a ruthless persecution instituted against all recalcitrants throughout the Asiatic provinces, where ecclesiastics of every grade professing the monophysite heresy were put to death in great numbers. At the same time the Emperor recalled those extremists whom Anastasius had been unable to mollify and restored them to their former or to similar appointments. One danger still remained which might at any moment subvert the newly erected throne; the powerful Vitalian was at large, apparently, if not in reality, master of the forces in Thrace and Illyria. Emissaries were therefore dispatched to him with an invitation to reside at Constantinople as the chief military supporter of the government. He accepted the proposals, stipulating that an assurance of good faith should previously be given with religious formalities. The parties met in the church of St. Euphemia, at Chalcedon, and there Justin, Justinian, and Vitalian pledged themselves to each other with solemn oaths while they partook of the Christian sacraments. The rebel general was, however, too weighty a personage to subside into the position of a tame subordinate, and his masterful presence threatened to nullify the authority of the Emperor and his nephew. His ascendancy was endured for more than a twelve month, and the consulship of 520 was conceded to him. But while he celebrated the games in the Hippodrome popular enthusiasm in his favour rose to a dangerous height. The Court became alarmed, and a hasty resolution was arrived at to do away with him. In the interval of the display he repaired to the palace with two of his lieutenants to be entertained at a collation, and on entering the banqueting hall they were attacked by a company of Justinian's satellites, and Vitalian fell pierced with a multitude of wounds. Shortly afterwards Justinian succeeded to his place and was created a Master of Soldiers, with the virtual rank of commander-in-chief of the Imperial forces. The next year he was raised to the consulship and, in order to consolidate his popularity, he determined to signalize the occasion by those lavish festivities which were recorded from time to time among the wonders of the age. But times had changed since the Roman public might be edified or disgraced by those spectacles in which human and animal combatants fought to the death, in mimic land and sea warfare or hunting encounters, to the number of many thousands; and the chronicler, in referring to a half-hundred of lions and leopards, evolutions of mail-clad horses, and an increased largess of scattered coin, in addition to the usual races, bear-baiting, and theatrical shows, thinks he indicates sufficiently how far the Consul of the day surpassed the ordinary expectations of the Byzantine populace. Having finally won over the capital by these gratifications, Justinian in his military capacity departed on a tour for the inspection of garrisons and fortresses throughout the East. During this period he made the palace of Hormisdas his official residence.

The reign of Justin was uneventful politically, the age of the Autocrator and his incapacity for state affairs precluding the initiation of any reforms of importance; whilst, although the foreign relations of the Empire were often in a state of tension, no considerable hostilities were undertaken. At home official activity was chiefly engrossed with the planning of police precautions for the repression of sedition. During three or four years all the chief cities were agitated by the turbulence of the Blue faction, which sought to suppress their rivals of the Green by stoning, assassination, and wrecking of their dwellings. At length, in 523, the rioters were subdued by the appointment of special Praefects, whose severity of character did not shrink from making the culprits pay the extreme penalty of the law. With its neighbours of the East and West the Empire might have existed at this period on terms of perfect amity but for the disturbing influence of religion. Incensed at Justin's oppressive treatment of the Arians, Theodoric, the Gothic king, declared that he would exterminate the Catholics in Italy if freedom of belief were not granted to his co-religionists; and he compelled Pope John I to lead an embassy to Constantinople with the object of pleading the cause of those heretics at the Byzantine court. John, the first of his line to visit New Rome, was received with enthusiasm by the orthodox Emperor; but, if the head of the Western Church urged his appeal with sincerity, Justin at least proved obdurate, and no concession to the Arians could be extorted from his bigotry. The Pope returned to Ravenna, the regal seat of the barbarian king, to expiate his abortive mission by being incarcerated for the last few months of his life; and the death of Theodoric shortly afterwards, before he had time to execute his threats, saved Italy from becoming the scene of brutal reprisals.

The interspace between the Caspian Sea and the Euxine, the modern Transcaucasia, was inhabited by semi-savage races, over whom Rome and Persia preferred almost equal claims to suzerainty. A perpetual source of friction between the two powers in this region arose from the necessity of guarding the Caspian Gates, now the Pass of Darial, a practicable gorge through the Caucasus, often traversed by the Scythian hordes when carrying their devastations to the south. Alexander is said to have blocked the entry with an iron barrier, and subsequently the pass was kept by the Romans until the Sassanian dynasty became predominant in those parts. The utility to both nations, however, of maintaining the defence, caused the Persians, after the collapse of Julian’s expedition, to demand that the Romans should share the expense. Theodosius I bought off the claims, but by the time of Anastasius a Hunnish king, in friendly league with that emperor, had obtained possession of the forts. On his death they passed to the Persians, with the consent of Anastasius, who engaged vaguely to contribute annually. Justin tried to evade this payment, but the Persian monarch declined to be put off, and, as often as the Emperor fell into arrears, proceeded to recover the amount by distraint. His chosen bailiff, whenever he put in an execution, was a ferocious sheik of the Saracens, named Alamundar, who raided Syria up to the walls of Antioch, massacring the population indiscriminately, and holding captives of substance against their being replevied by the Romans. On one occasion he burst into the city of Emesa, and finding there four hundred virgins congregated in a church, he sacrificed them all on the same day to Al Uzza, the Arabian Venus.

In two states of the Caucasian region, both under kingly rule, Christianity had gained a footing about the time of Constantine. Lazica, previously Colchis, the subject of heroic legends, and now Mingrelia, occupied the coast of the Black Sea north and south of the river Phasis. On its eastern border, watered by the Cyrus, lay Iberia, at present known as Georgia. In 522 the young king of the Lazi, alarmed lest the Persian religion should be forced on him, fled to Constantinople, and prayed for Christian baptism under the immediate countenance of the Emperor. Justin assented, and not only sustained him at the sacred font, but afterwards united him to a Roman wife, the daughter of one of the patricians of his court. Before his departure Tzathus was formally invested with ornaments and robes of state, expressly designed to denote the closeness of his relationship to Justin and to Rome. A letter of remonstrance against surreptitiously tampering with the allegiance of Persian subjects soon resulted from these proceedings; but Justin denied their political significance, and dwelt with fanatical insistence on the exigences of the faith, and the urgency of resisting heathen error.

The throne of Persia was still occupied by Cavades, and that monarch now began to think seriously of going to war with Rome. On reviewing his resources he decided to enlist the Hunnish tribes, who dwelt beyond the Caucasus, as allies against the Empire. One of the most powerful chiefs agreed to his proposals, and met him by prearrangement with a large following of his nation, but during the conference messengers arrived who protested that a short time previously the Hun had been induced by a large subsidy to pledge his support to the Byzantines, "We are at peace", said Justin, "and should not allow ourselves to be duped by these dogs". In reply to an amicable inquiry the barbarian boasted shamelessly of the circumstance, whereupon Cavades, convinced of his treachery, at once ordered him to be cut down by his guards. Forthwith a night attack was secretly planned against his forces, who, without becoming aware of the author of the calamity, were dispersed and slain to the number of many thousands.

More friendly counsels now began to prevail with the Persian, as it occurred to him that he might compose his differences with the Emperor to his own advantage. He was extremely anxious to secure the succession to his favourite son Chosroes, to the exclusion of his two elder brothers. There was reason to fear, however, that on his decease, by the intervention of the Court or the populace, one of the senior princes might be raised to the throne. Cavades, therefore, proposed to Justin that he should adopt Chosroes, considering that no party would have the temerity to dispute the tiara with a ward of the Empire. Justin and Justinian were elated at the prospect of exercising a controlling influence in Persian affairs, but the Quaestor Proclus quickly intervened, and by specious arguments, led them to see the matter in a totally different light. The adoption of the Sassanian prince, he urged with heat, would convey to him a title to inherit the crown of the Empire, Justinian might be ousted from the succession, and Justin would live in dread of being the last of the Roman emperors. An evasive course was resolved on, and a commission was dispatched to meet the Persian delegates in the vicinity of Nisibis. Chosroes himself advanced to the Tigris in the expectation of being escorted to Constantinople by the Roman envoys. The representatives of the two nations met without cordiality, and the Persians, contrary to their instructions, began by taunting the Byzantines with having usurped their rights in Lazica. The Romans then announced that the Emperor could not adopt a foreigner with legal formalities, but only by an act of arms, such as was customary among barbarians. The suggestion was taken as a deliberate insult by the Persians; the colloquy came to an end abruptly, and Chosroes returned to his father, vowing vengeance against the Romans.

It was now evident that war at no distant date could scarcely be averted, but a further embroilment with respect to religion provoked overt hostilities, which rendered a positive conflict inevitable. Having experienced that defection to Rome was a natural sequence of Christianity being promulgated in his dependencies, Cavades determined to enforce Magism among the Iberians. But, at the first intimation, the king of that people made an earnest appeal to Justin, and prepared to take up arms in defence of his faith. The Emperor responded by sending two of his generals, provided with a large sum of money, to levy auxiliaries for the Iberians, among the Huns who inhabited the northern shores of the Euxine. Such was the practical overture to a war with Persia, which was to last for several years, without any appreciable gain to either side. During the reign of Justin, however, hostilities were carried on in a desultory manner, and no battle of any magnitude was fought. Military detachments were told off to ravage Persian territory to the north, in the vicinity of the frontier. They were opposed by similar bands of the enemy, and from time to time indecisive skirmishes took place. As to Iberia, that country was abandoned for the time being, the forces raised being insufficient to withstand the Persian host, and the king with all the native magnates retreated into Lazica by a narrow pass, called the Iberian Gates, which was then fortified by a Byzantine garrison. During these operations the first mention occurs of some names which became associated later on with the most notable events in the annals of the age. An advance into Persarmenia was conducted by two young officers, specially deputed by Justinian, named Sittas and Belisarius. After the lapse of a few months (in 527) the latter was transferred to a more important command at Daras. There, among the civil members of his staff, he received the future historian Procopius as his legal adviser or assessor. About the same time occurred the death of Justin, whose reign lasted for nine years and a few weeks.

If the sea of politics remained comparatively unruffled in Justin's time, nature made amends for the lack of excitement by showing herself physically in her most active mode. His reign opened with the appearance of a remarkable comet, the most dreaded portent of impending disaster. Nor were the forebodings belied, as the provinces on both continents were afflicted progressively with violent earthquakes, intensified by volcanic phenomena. In Europe, Dyrrachium, the birthplace of Anastasius, recently adorned by him at great cost, was overthrown; and Corinth shortly after experienced a similar fate. In Asia, Anazarbus, the capital of Cilicia, suffered; the central half of Pompeiopolis sunk into the earth; and Edessa was ruined by a flood of the river Scirtus. The withdrawal of large sums from the Imperial treasury was entailed by the restoration of these cities. This series of calamities culminated in the almost total destruction of Antioch, where the seismological disturbances persisted for more than a year, the eighth of Justin's reign, and upwards of a quarter of a million of the inhabitants perished. The ground was rifted in all directions with great gaps which ejected flames; the houses caught fire or collapsed with their occupants into the yawning chasms; and a hill of considerable size, overhanging the city, was shattered with such violence that the streets and buildings in that quarter lay buried beneath a uniform surface formed by the debris. The preliminary shocks were generally disregarded, and the climax, which occurred during the dinner hour, was so sudden and widespread, that the bulk of the population was overwhelmed before they had a chance to escape. Then only the residue of the citizens made a rush for the open country, carrying with them whatever valuables they could seize on in their hasty flight. As soon, however, as they had arrived at a safe distance, they found themselves beset by bands of rustics, who had gathered together from every side in order to plunder the fugitives. Conspicuous among the despoilers was a certain Thomas, a man with the rank of a silentiary, and wealthy enough to keep a private guard. Posting himself daily in a convenient position, he directed his retainers in the operation of stripping systematically all who came in their way. It is satisfactory to learn from the contemporary historian that all these wretches were soon overtaken by a miserable death, as the penalty of their inhumanity; but as we are assured that, without legal intervention, their retribution emanated from an indignant providence, which had impelled, or, at least, lain dormant during the catastrophe, we must conclude that the Nemesis was desiderated rather than real. The assertion, however, need not be questioned that the said Thomas died suddenly, to the great joy of the survivors, on the fourth day of his nefarious enterprise. Great consolation was also derived from the preternatural appearance of a cross in the clouds; and all burst into tears and supplications at this signal proof of the compassion felt for them by a beneficent Deity. In two or three weeks after the crisis, nature assumed her wonted quiescence, and the deserted city began to be re-peopled by the returning inhabitants. The work of restoration at once commenced; and it is recorded that many persons were then rescued by being dug out of the ruins, under which they had been buried; among them numbers of women, who in the meantime had passed safely through the pangs of childbirth. As soon as the news of the downfall of Antioch was carried to Constantinople, the capital was thrown into a state of consternation, and all public festivities for the season of Whitsuntide, which was at hand, were renounced. The Emperor, discarding all regal pomp, debased himself in sackcloth and ashes, and led a suppliant procession of the Senate, wearing mourning garments, to the church of St. John at the Hebdomon. Commissioners were immediately dispatched with ample funds for reparation, and the ruined city again became visible on the face of the earth with a rapidity which, in the words of a writer of the period, gave the impression that it had reappeared suddenly out of the infernal regions. But the earthquakes continued and ultimately, as a safeguard against further visitations of the kind, Antioch was demised to the special care of the Deity by being renamed Theopolis, or the City of God.

Nearly all these particulars are due to John Malala, who, from the amount of detail he supplies about his native city, may be called the historian of Antioch. From him we learn that the Olympic games continued to be celebrated at Antioch, but were finally suppressed in 521 by Justin.

The desultory war with Persia was maintained all the time under the chief command of Licelarius, a Thracian. But that general, while pushing hostilities over the border into the vicinity of Nisibis, managed so unskilfully that his whole forces were seized with a panic and fled back to Roman territory without ever having sighted an enemy. As an immediate result Licelarius was disgraced and Belisarius promoted to fill his place. The youth, as he must be called, fulfilled the expectations he inspired and thenceforward entered on that career of achievement which was to render him the military hero of his age.

On the 1st of April, 527, Justin formally associated his nephew to the throne, with the rank of Augustus. He lived exactly four months afterwards, and on the 1st of August in the same year the sole reign of Justinian began.