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Justin I

Byzantine Emperor A. D. 518 - 527

According to the sixth century historian Procopius, the emperor Justin was one of three brothers and the son of an Illyrian farmer. He and his brothers left the poverty of their farm and went off to join the army, Justin managed to get into trouble on some petty charge and was arrested by his commanding officer, who intended to execute him the next day. The officer had a dream in which an enormous, powerful being told him to let Justin go or he would face disaster. Justin was released after the third day and later went on to Constantinople, where he was chosen for the emperor's palace guard.

Justin eventually became commander of the palace guard under Emperor Anastasius, and when Anastasius died, Justin was in line for the throne. He was elevated to the purple in 518 after he was well along in years. He had never learned to read and write, and Procopius tells us that he wasn’t even able to sign his own name and a template made of polished wood had to be made so that Justin could trace out his name when signing public documents. Procopius goes on to say that Justin was able to do neither good nor harm to his subjects and that he was extremely uncouth. His wife, a former slave he had purchased from an army buddy, made many of the government decisions. Later, Justin's nephew Justinian assumed a lot of the governing power, making decisions and issuing decrees in his uncle's name.

Justin died in A. D. 527, leaving the Eastern Roman Empire, which by now had evolved into the Byzantine Empire, in the hands of the capable Justinian.


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