Justinian II, Byzantine Emperor

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With his father's death in 685, Justinian II became Byzantine emperor at the age of 17. The first years of his reign were successful ones for the Byzantine Empire. The Caliph Abd al-Malik, faced with internal problems and the possibility of new Byzantine attacks, renewed his peace treaty with more favorable terms for the Byzantines. The caliph not only increased the amount of yearly tribute paid to the Byzantines, but also agreed to share the income from Armenia, Iberia, and Cyprus. Justinian, in return, resettled the Mardaites, who had been raiding the countryside in Syria and Lebanon, in western Asia Minor and the Peloponnese. In 688, Justinian led a successful military expedition against the Slavs who were settled in the eastern regions of the empire. In 692 Justinian renewed attacks on the Arabs but suffered a setback when a large number of Slavs who had been recently drafted into his army deserted, leading to a Byzantine defeat.

Justinian continued the religious policy of his father, Constantine IV, and attempted to bring about a reconciliation between Rome and Constantinople. He was the first emperor to place the image of Christ on his coinage, along with the motto servus Christi. Justinian, however, was soon at odds with the papacy since he was not willing to agree to the supremacy of the Roman see over the see of Constantinople. In an effort to resolve the conflict, he convened the Trullo council in 692, which was also known as the Quinisext council since it dealt with matters discussed at the fifth and sixth ecumenical councils. While the council addressed a wide range of subjects, such as church organization and clerical marriage, its most significant judgment was when it emphasized the equality of the Constantinopolitan and Roman sees. Pope Sergius I, however, upheld the position that the Roman see was superior to all others and rejected all the council's canons. Justinian attempted to militarily enforce the council's decision and ordered the arrest of the pope, but the Roman populace and local troops prevented this.

While he enjoyed early success, the latter part of Justinian's reign was not popular with the people. Heavy taxation and his disregard for the senate led to a successful coup in 695 that elevated Leontius to the throne. Leontius then had Justinian's nose and tongue slit and exiled him to Cherson. Justinian's mutilation led to his nickname rhinotmetos, "cut" or "slit nose", and he supposedly wore a gold nose over the disfigurement to hide it. During his exile, the city authorities became concerned that Justinian was plotting to regain the throne and decided to send him to Constantinople. Receiving word of this, Justinian fled to the Khazars and was received by their khan with great hospitality and eventually married the khan's sister, who took the name Theodora. Learning of his actions, the Byzantines sent envoys to the Khazars to demand that they give up Justinian. The khan eventually relented and agreed to hand over Justinian to the envoys. Justinian, learning of the betrayal, fled to the Bulgars who agreed to support him in his effort to regain the throne. In 705, Justinian arrived outside Constantinople with a large army of Bulgars and Slavs. Since the defenses of Constantinople proved to be too formidable for a frontal assault, Justinian entered the city through the aqueducts and was able to seize control and regain his throne. He then had his wife Theodora, who became the first foreign Byzantine empress, and their son Tiberius join him in Constantinople.

In 711, in an effort to stop the Khazars' encroachment on Byzantine territory, Justinian sent a successful military expedition against the city of Cherson. This expedition also gave him the opportunity to punish the city for his poor treatment during his exile. After the punitive expedition departed from Cherson, the city immediately revolted. When the Byzantine force returned in an effort to retake the city, it was unable to do so. Soon the besieging fleet and army switched sides and joined the revolt against Justinian and proclaimed Philippicos as emperor. Justinian was forced to flee and traveled to Asia Minor in an effort to raise military support. He was unable to gain any backing and was soon killed and his head was removed and sent to Rome and Ravenna for display.

Bibliography: f. gÖrres, "Justinian II und das römische Papsttum," Byzantinische Zeitschrift 17 (1908) 43254. j. f. haldon, Byzantium in the Seventh Century: The Transformation of a Culture (Cambridge 1990). w. e. kaegi, jr. Byzantine Military Unrest, 471843: An Interpretation (Amsterdam 1981). g. ostrogorsky, Geschichte des byzantischen Staates (Munich 1963). a. n. stratos, Byzantium in the Seventh Century (Amsterdam 1968). w. treadgold, A History of Byzantine State and Society (Stanford 1997).

[r. s. moore]