This week in class, I learned about Justinian (r. 527 – 565), a Byzantine Emperor who was later named the Roman Emperor. During his reign, there was a scholar named Procopius, who wrote several works about Justinian and his rule as well as his personal character. In one of his works known as Secret History you can see how highly Procopius thought of the emperor.
Procopius described Justinian as vile and wicked. He considered the emperor to be untrustworthy and two-faced. Not only were his morals less than ideal, he was not a good fit for emperor. Procopius described the man as a criminal who knew how to get into power. Justinian was described as rash, bloodthirsty, and senseless. It was obvious from the writing that the scholar thought of Justinian as another power-hungry politician with a large ego.
He wrote about how Justinian would bribe hostile tribes when they started to attack Byzantine instead of fighting back. This made all nearby tribes come to Byzantine and attack with the hope of leaving with their pockets full of gold.
As you can see, through Procopius’ descriptions, he was obviously not fond of Justinian and did not want him to be in power. Whether or not these descriptions were true, it is hard to tell. For all we know, Procopius had a grudge against the man and over exaggerated his crimes to make people hate him as well.
Thanks for reading!