This lesson will highlight the emperors after Constantine. It will specifically explore the reign of Justinian and the famous Justinian code of law. It will also discuss the Apostate and the battle of Adrianople.
Effects of Constantine
When discussing Roman history, most of the emperors after Constantine don't get a lot of mention. In fact, other than perhaps Justinian, most people probably couldn't even name one. Today we're going to remedy this by exploring a few of the emperors after Constantine. Although we're going to focus mainly on Justinian, we'll still give a few others their day in the sun.
For starters, when Constantine converted to Christianity in the year 312 CE and then moved the capitol of the Roman Empire from Rome to Constantinople in the year 330, the Roman Empire drastically changed. The West, or Rome and its surrounding areas, faced continual invasion from the Germanic tribes of the North, while the Eastern regions of the Empire flourished. Now onto our emperors.
Julian & the Apostate
After Constantine, the first event and emperor really given much history-book playing time is Emperor Julian and his reign spanning 360-363. His claim to fame is his attempt to restore paganism to the Empire. Paganism refers to any religion other than Judaism or Christianity. History has termed this, the Apostate.
In short, Julian tried to undo Constantine's Christian reforms, calling for the Empire to return to the worship of their old gods. Unfortunately for Julian, he underestimated the sticking power of Christianity. His attempts at restoring paganism were overturned by his successor, Jovian.
Valens and Adrianople
The next noteworthy event we'll discuss is the entrance of the Huns into Europe and the Battle of Adrianople, occurring under Emperor Valens. The Huns were a warring and rather ruthless people from Asia. To put it very mildly, they were intent on claiming whatever land they came to.
When they entered Europe from the East, they pushed the Goths, or members of Germanic tribes, into the Roman Empire. Rather than declaring all-out war on these refugee-like Goths, the Empire folded them into its lands. This setup worked for a while, but soon the Germanic Goths rebelled and defeated the Roman army in the 378 Battle of Adrianople. Emperor Valens himself was killed in this famous battle.
The last event and emperor we'll discuss before getting to Justinian is Emperor Theodosius. He is known to history as the last emperor to rule both the Western and Eastern halves of the Empire. History tells us Theodosius' reign, which spanned 379-395, was one of violence and military vengeance. Any who dared cross him, or his imperial forces, was severely punished.
Despite his propensity toward violence, he is often referred to as Theodosius the Great. After all, he did manage to hold the Empire together during a very turbulent time.
Now, we come to Justinian. By the time Justinian came to the throne in the year 527, the Eastern Roman Empire was also known as the Byzantine Empire. It was Justinian's goal to bring the Empire back to its glory days. Not one to waste any time, he sent his military to reclaim much of the Western Empire that had been lost after the Battle of Adrianople and the fall of Rome. This even included Italy and the beloved city of Rome.
Not content with merely reclaiming lands, Justinian also respected the laws of ancient Rome. In order to cement them into his time and his Empire, he called for all of Rome's ancient laws to be recorded. In doing this, Rome's ancient laws, also known as the Twelve Tables, were broken down into categories. Outdated laws were done away with, and complex laws were simplified.
Desiring the Empire to thrive, Justinian also added new laws dealing with the fair treatment of those within the Empire. For instance, one of his laws held that a person is innocent until proven guilty. This one should be very familiar to anyone who has sat in a history class or watched a TV cop show.
Justinian's new laws, together with the laws of ancient Rome, are known today as the Corpus of Civil Law or Justinian's Code of Laws. Completed around the year 529, these laws have formed the basis for the judicial systems of the Western world.
Yes, Justinian may not be as well-known as Caesar or Nero, but his influence just might be one of the strongest and longest-lasting of all the Roman Emperors.
After Constantine moved the capitol of the Roman Empire to Constantinople, the Empire drastically changed. Although history books don't give lots of time to the emperors after Constantine, some noteworthy events did occur.
During Emperor Julian's reign, spanning 360-363, the Apostate occurred. This was an attempt to restore paganism to the Empire.
Emperor Valens reign saw Rome sacked and defeated by Germanic tribes during the 378 battle of Adrianople.
Theodosius' reign, which ended in 395, was the last time the Eastern and Western halves of the Empire were ruled by one man.
And perhaps most important, the sixth century rule of Justinian saw the compilation of ancient Roman Law and new fairer laws brought together to form Justinian's Code of Law. Today, this code still stands as the basis for Western law.
When the lesson is over, you should be able to:
- Identify the rulers of the Roman Empire after the death of Constantine
- Describe some of the major events that occurred under their rule
- Recognize the importance of Emperor Justinian and his Code of Law