JUSTIN II (d. 578)
Byzantine emperor who lost territory in war and shifted from toleration of MONOPHYSITISM to persecution. Justin was a nephew of the emperor JUSTINIAN and was married to Sophia, the niece of Justinian’s wife, THEODORA I. He held the post of curophlates (palace administrator). When Justinian died in 565 the succession was a matter of speculation, for he had left no son and no clear instructions. As the choice of the Senate and John III Scholasticus, patriarch of Constantinople, he secured the succession over the claims of Justin son of Germanus without difficulty though not without ill feeling (Evagrius, 1898).
A heavy investment in propaganda is evident from the Latin panegyric of the court poet Corippus, written shortly after Justin’s accession (Corippus, 1976). Corippus claimed that Justinian had named Justin on his deathbed (perhaps an addition in 566, in view of opposition to Justin) and laid great stress on his relation to Justinian. There were also claims of support for Justin by the patriarch Eutychius and the stylite Symeon the Younger.
Justin’s reign began well enough with attempts at reconciliation with the Monophysites. He restored those exiled by Justinian and attempted to win agreement with the Monophysites by issuing an edict aimed at their concerns and calling a meeting at Callinicum. His efforts were rejected, however, and he turned to persecution in the early 570s. Many bishops were again exiled. After the loss of Dara in Mesopotamia to the Persians in 573, he went mad. In 574 he made Count Tiberius caesar in an affecting speech in which he asked forgiveness from God and the people for his errors. John of Ephesus was certain that his madness was a punishment for the persecution of the Monophysites.
Justin’s reign was remarkable for the prominence of the empress Sophia. According to JOHN OF EPHESUS, she tried hard to gain control when Justin became ill and largely succeeded for a time. She was featured with the emperor on coins and was named coruler in legal documents. Evidently conscious of the prestige of being Theodora’s niece, she seems to have had strong religious inclinations herself. She is represented by Corippus as expressing public devotion to the Virgin Mary and as linking with Justin in sending a fragment of the True Cross to Poitiers. Nevertheless, she was finally ousted from power by Tiberius, who was made augustus before Justin’s death in 578.
- Bury, J. B. History of the Later Roman Empire from Arcadius to Irene II. London, 1899.
- Cameron, A. Continuity and Change in Sixth-Century Byzantium. London, 1981.
- Frend, W. H. C. The Rise of the Monophysite Movement. Cambridge, England, 1972.