J.A.S. Evans, THE AGE OF JUSTINIAN, Londra, 2000.


“One of the side-effects of Justinian’s concentration on theology was that he had less time to spend on the administrative details of the empire. He grew older, and so did the men about him. Justinian was about 70 years old at the time of the Fifth Ecumenical Council. In the years that followed, he continued to speculate with consuming passion on the nature of the Trinity, but there was no great fire left in his belly when it came to repairing affairs of state.Yet the earlier part of his reign was full of reforming zeal. To quote his own words, he spent night and day reflecting on measures which were pleasing to God and useful to his subjects, and on this point, or at least the first half of it, his contemporaries agreed: he had an endless capacity for work, and he took time neither to eat nor sleep! He had an upstart’s passion for attaching his name to reforms: it was his reason for making them, grumbled his secret critic, Procopius. He taxed heavily and spent prodigiously. Evagrius, who wasted no love on him, thought him avid for money, but a generous builder of churches, orphanages, homes for the aged and hospitals for the sick. Justinian took the imperial philanthropic mission seriously.

He laid his plans as heir apparent, and came to the throne in 527 with a clear idea not only of what he wanted to do, but where to find able men to help him. They served him well, and in return received the emperor’s support. One was the quaestor Tribonian, whom Justinian dismissed in a futile attempt to appease the mob in the Nika revolt of 532. We shall meet him again as chairman of the second law commission which drew up the Justinianic Code. But his career is worth a preliminary glance. A product, probably, of the Beirut law school, he began his career in the office of the praetorian prefect of the East. Procopius considered him a man of natural ability and good education, but avaricious, and willing to sell justice. When Justinian set up the first commission that drew up his first law code, the Codex Vetus, Tribonian was a member, and he must rapidly have proved his worth, for he was named chairman of the committee which produced the Digest. By the autumn of 529, he was quaestor. This was a year of McCarthyist fervour directed against pagans, and Tribonian’s predecessor as quaestor had been caught by it.” (loc. cit., p. 192). 

Leave a Reply

This site uses Akismet to reduce spam. Learn how your comment data is processed.