Justin II

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Justin II, full name: Flavius Iustinus lunior Augustus, was the Eastern Roman emperor from 565 to 578. He was the nephew of Justinian I, and husband of Sophia, the niece of the late empress Theodora. After inheriting an expanded empire from his uncle, Justinian I, Justin II's refusal to payoff his potential enemies as his uncle did resulted in increased warfare along the extended borders of the empire. While a firm Orthodox Christian, he attempted to bridge the growing gap between the Chalcedonians and non-Chalcedonians. His last four years were beset by a growing insanity and the passing of power to his wife Sophia and Tiberius, his successor.

Life

Justin was born about the year 520, the son of Vigilantia, the sister of Justinian I. A contemporary, and a rival for Justinian's throne in his last days, was another Justin, the son of Justinian's cousin Germanus. In 552, Justinian had named Justin, son of Vigilantia, to the office of cura palatti in which he was in charge of daily affairs of the palace, whereas Justin, the son of Germanus, was the Master of the Soldiers on duty in Illyricum on the Danube frontier. This set the stage for the transfer of power upon Justinian's death.

Having the support of the Patriarch, John Scholasticus and the Count of the Excubitors, Tiberius, Justin, son of Vigilantia, was well positioned to succeed Justinian upon his death, which occurred on November 14, 565. When Justinian breathed his last, the only person present was Callinicus, the praepositus of the Sacred Bedchamber, who reported that as Justinian was dying he named Justin son of Vigilantia as his successor. Quickly, on November 15, 565, the court officials escorted Justin to the Great Palace where he was crowned by the patriarch, thus placing Justin on the imperial throne, as Justin II. The next day Justin crowned his wife Sophia as Augusta. While initially appearing friendly with his rival Justin, Justin II had him transferred to a position in Alexandria where he was found murdered in his bed.

Justin II inherited an expanded empire from his uncle in which Justinian kept his principal adversaries at bay by the less expensive expedient of paying tribute, although this resulted in a depleted treasury. Justin II discontinued this practice which in the end resulted in constant warfare on the frontiers.

As the disastrous campaigns unfolded in the East in the early 570s, Justin began to display mental disabilities. Recognizing these fits of insanity, Justin looked to naming a colleague as Caesar. Under the influence of his wife Sophia, Justin passed over his relatives and named the Count of the Excubitors, Tiberius, to the position on December 7, 574. During the next four years until his death Justin lived in "retirement" while the affairs of state were in the hands of his wife Sophia and his successor Tiberius. After four years, in which the state of his mind continued to deteriorate, death came to Justin II on October 8, 578.

In religious affairs, Justin is often presented as correcting Justinian's alleged lapse into aphthartodocetism. Justinian's supposed decree imposing aphthartodocetism was not preserved. The only source concerning such a decree contemporary to the time is the testimony of the historian Evagrius. Fr. Asterios Gerostergios notes in his book Justinian the Great: The Emperor and Saint that other parties involved at the time the decree was alleged to have been issued make no mention of the act.

Justin continued the efforts of Justinian to reconcile the differences between the Chalcedonians and non-Chalcedonians, but without success. Justin, following in the steps of his uncle, was a builder of churches. As well as improving many churches that Justinian built, such as the great Hagia Sophia and the Holy Apostles, he built a church dedicated to the apostles, Ss Peter and Paul, and another in the Triconch dedicated the the Holy Apostles. He also expanded the Church of the Virgin of Blachernae into cruciform building.

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