From The Art and Popular Culture Encyclopedia
Flavius Petrus Sabbatius Iustinianus (Template:Lang-el, Phlābios Petros Sabbatios Ioustiniānos); AD 483 – 13 or 14 November 565, known in English as Justinian I or Justinian the Great, was the second member of the Justinian Dynasty (after his uncle, Justin I) and Eastern Roman Emperor from 527 until his death. He is considered a saint amongst Eastern Orthodox Christians, and is also commemorated by some Lutheran Churches; at the other end of the scale, his contemporary, Procopius, viewed Justinian as a cruel, venal, and incompetent ruler.
One of the most important figures of Late Antiquity, Justinian's rule constitutes a distinct epoch in the history of the Eastern Roman Empire. The impact of his administration extended far beyond the boundaries of his time and empire. Justinian's reign is marked by the ambitious but ultimately failed renovatio imperii, or "restoration of the empire". This ambition was expressed in the partial recovery of the territories of the Western Roman Empire, including the city of Rome itself. A still more resonant aspect of his legacy was the uniform rewriting of Roman law, the Corpus Juris Civilis, which is still the basis of civil law in many modern states. His reign also marked a blossoming of Byzantine culture, and his building program yielded such masterpieces as the church of Hagia Sophia, which was to be the center of Eastern Orthodox Christianity for many centuries.
A devastating outbreak of bubonic plague (see Plague of Justinian) in the early 540s marked the end of an age of splendor. The empire entered a period of territorial decline not to be reversed until the ninth century.
Procopius provides our primary source for the history of Justinian's reign. The Syriac chronicle of John of Ephesus, which does not survive, was used as a source for later chronicles, contributing many additional details of value. Both historians became very bitter towards Justinian and his empress, Theodora. Procopius also wrote the Anekdota (the so-called Secret History), which reports on various scandals at Justinian's court. Other sources include the histories of Agathias, Menander Protector, John Malalas, the Paschal Chronicle, the chronicles of Marcellinus Comes and Victor of Tunnuna.