Delenda Est Carthago

Why not delve into a twisted mind? Thoughts on the world, history, politics, entertainment, comics, and why all shall call me master!

Location: Mesa, Arizona, United States

I plan on being the supreme dictator of the country, if not the world. Therefore, you might want to stay on my good side. Just a hint: ABBA rules!


17 January 532

Theodora saves the Byzantine Empire for her husband Justinian.

On this day 1500 years ago the Nika Rebellion reached its apex. Justinian, the emperor of the Eastern Roman Empire, which we know as the Byzantine, had pissed off two factions of chariot racers, the Blues and the Greens, who were traditional rivals. They united and rioted. After a week of violence in the capital of Constantinople, Justinian was ready to flee the city, which surely would have ended his reign, if not his life. His wife, Theodora, called him out: "If flight were the only means of safety, yet I should disdain to fly ... may I never be seen, not for a day, without my diadem and purple ... I believe in the maxim of antiquity, that kingship is a glorious shroud." Justinian, shamed by a woman, ordered his greatest general Belisarius to retake the city. After 30,000 rebels had been slaughtered, the rebellion ended. Justinian ruled for another 33 years and gave us, among other things, a law code on which much of Western European law is based, plus the Hagia Sophia, which replaced an old church destroyed during the rebellion.

I have mentioned Theodora before - go here for some thoughts about her and her portrayal by a male historian with an axe to grind. She's a fascinating woman, no matter what you believe about her. With this one incident, she probably did more for the advancement of law in the West than most people give her credit for. Go, Theodora!


Anonymous Anonymous said...

Man, I disagree again. What is it with this "portrayal by a male historian with an axe to grind" nonsense? That's like taking anyone's criticisms of the Bush adminstration and chalking it up to "man-hating." It's ridiculous.

Also: Gratuitous slaughter can in no way be described as a victory for the advancement of law.

The Justinian Code was not written from scratch. It is an edited version of Roman law which incorporates all Roman laws up until that point, including Ulpian, Gaius, the Twelve Tables and the Theodosian Code, amongst many other nameless contributors via the long established court system. Giving credit to either Justinian or Theodora is a gross misappropriation.

18/1/06 9:26 AM  
Anonymous Anonymous said...

I hate to quibble, it seems like I'm picking on you and I don't want to. But I do disagree on this topic. I apologize for taking exception to this opinion.

18/1/06 9:29 AM  
Blogger Greg said...

That's okay, Anonymous - I know you're not picking on me, so there's no need to apologize. I still think Procopius had an axe to grind. Maybe not against Theodora specifically, but against the whole elite class (as his view of Justinian, Belisarius, and Antonina shows).

And I didn't say that the slaughter of the rebels was an advancement of law. The slaughter of the rebels allowed Justinian to remain on the throne, which, down the road, allowed him to codify the Lex Justinianus. And I know it was based on Roman law - the Byzantine Empire was Roman, after all. However, Justinian brought all the laws together in one place and made it a general law of a large empire, and when the West developed their law codes, they turned to Justinian more than they turned to ancient Rome. So yes, the West based its law on old Roman laws, but filtered through Justinian.

Always fun to debate Byzantine politics!

18/1/06 10:04 AM  

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