Roman History After the Fall of Rome
Therefore, most pious princeps, it befits your power and office that we should seek your concord, which we have done up until now out of friendship. For you are the most beautiful glory of all kingdoms, the helpful bulwark of the whole world, you whom other rulers look up to by law because they perceive that there is something exceptional in you. We, who with divine aid learned in your respublica how we are able to rule Romans equitably, do this most of all. Our kingdom is an imitation of yours, the image of your good intention, modeled on the one and only empire. Insofar as we follow you, we surpass all other peoples.
—King Theoderic to Emperor Anastasius in Cassiodorus, Variae 1.1.2-3
At some point near the middle of the reign of Anastasius (r. 491-518), likely during a tense period for east-west relations (505-8), Theoderic, king of the Goths and Italians, sent a letter to the emperor in Constantinople which had been drafted by his prefect, the Roman senator Cassiodorus. In this letter, part of which is quoted above, Theoderic claims to be a subordinate partner in the project of Roman government and describes his rule in Italy as an imitation of the one true respublica Romana
, the Roman empire of the east. Theoderic occupied an unusual position in the Roman world of the sixth century. He had been educated, as his letter mentions, in Constantinople, where he grew up as a diplomatic hostage. After being released, Theoderic established himself as the leader of a confederation of Goths whom he eventually led into Italy, with the support of the emperor Zeno (r. 474-91), to depose Odoacer, the barbarian general who had himself deposed Romulus Augustulus in 476, an event that has been taken by many modern historians to mark the fall of the western Roman empire. Once in Italy, Theoderic established a Gothic kingdom in the heartland of the former Roman empire, one that was theoretically and rhetorically subject to the emperor in Constantinople, yet functionally independent. Theoderic's rhetoric in his letter to Anastasius may have been only diplomatically polite, but it underscores a fundamental dynamic of the sixth century: the former western Roman empire, including Rome herself, now sought to legitimize its Romanness and standing in the world by reference to the emperors of Constantinople. The Roman heartland had shifted from Italy to Thrace, its political center from Rome to New Rome.
The inversion of the Roman world, in which Rome's former provincial territories came to usurp that city's traditional prerogatives as the mother of empire, can be observed independently of the fraught modern debate over whether the empire experienced a "decline and fall" or a more neutrally described "transformation." Whether or not we accept that the western Roman empire fell in 476 (or, for that matter, at any other point in the fifth or sixth century), the circumstances of its two halves and their relationship to one another had radically shifted by the year 491, when Anastasius, a self-proclaimed descendant of Pompey the Great, was acclaimed as both emperor and "true Roman" in Constantinople. These momentous changes called for explanation even at the time. Only a generation later, Marcellinus comes first proposed the idea that the western Roman empire "fell" in 476, and the first explicit historian of Roman decline, Zosimos, penned his work around 500. Scholars of the "transformation school" of later Roman history have seen in the "invention" of 476 evidence for the artificiality of the narrative of decline and fall, but we can flip this observation on its head and ask why these narratives of decline and fall began to appear at this historical moment and in the place that they did, namely Constantinople. The creation of a Roman turning point in 476 may or may not tell us much about what really happened in 476, but it does tell us a great deal about the historical thinking of the generation that followed. Likewise, discussions of Theoderic as an ideal Roman monarch in Italy, which can be found in the works of Prokopios and Jordanes, may or may not imply a fundamental continuity between the Roman and post-Roman west, but they do tell us how eastern Romans in the 550s understood the relationship between their empire and the Ostrogothic kingdom in Italy.
This monograph will examine the process by which the emperors, historians, jurists, antiquarians, and poets of the eastern empire employed history and mythistory in order to come to terms with the political realities of the late fifth and sixth centuries. In particular, it will focus on the creation of new historical narratives, the manner of their deployment, and the debates they inspired in order to understand how eastern Romans came to reimagine themselves not merely as eastern Romans but as the only Romans worthy of the name, a process with profound implications for our understanding of the intellectual and political climate at the end of antiquity and the beginning of Byzantium and the Middle Ages. Thus, this study will focus on a series of central questions concerning Roman identity and politics that were current at the time: What did it mean to be Roman after 476? How could an empire be Roman without the city of Rome? More pointedly, how could an empire be Roman when it was at war with Rome? How did these issues motivate and shape historical constructions of Constantinople as New Rome? How did the idea that a Roman empire could fall influence political rhetoric in Constantinople?
Whereas a great deal of scholarship has attempted to understand the post-Roman west, the process by which the Romans of Constantinople came to terms with their new place in the world and the Roman historical imagination has not been explored. This study, therefore, investigates how the shifting historical and mythistorical narratives of the sixth century reflect the attempts of eastern Romans to reconfigure their understanding of Roman history in order to account for the political realities of the sixth century, a process that began during the reign of Anastasius and continued through the publication of the major works covering the reign of Justinian in the 550s. Justinian himself will emerge as a major figure in these discussions, as eastern Romans sought to support or challenge his view of Roman history.
By deploying intellectual and cultural resources in fascinating ways, the eastern Roman empire reconstituted itself as a solitary Greek Roman empire, laying the groundwork for the later creation of Byzantine identity, itself a species of Roman identity, and the broader transition from Rome to Byzantium. In undertaking this topic, this monograph picks up the study of identity in the eastern Roman empire where Fergus Millar's seminal A Greek Roman Empire leaves off. Millar discusses the identity and independence of the eastern Roman empire during the reign of Theodosius II (r. 408-50) and makes a compelling case that, for all of their supposed political coordination, the identities and politics of east and west had already begun to diverge. However, the strategies of distinction employed by the eastern Roman empire at the time of Theodosius II were predicated on the existence of a western Roman empire. Millar himself makes clear that east and west during this period should be understood as "twin empires" and draws a distinction between phases in the development of the Greek Roman empire based on the presence or absence of a western empire. Where Millar's work focused on the period before 476, this book will take up the later period, which is distinguished by the loss of the western empire and the resulting need to reconfigure eastern Roman identity to account for its newfound solitude.
This book shares another distinctive feature with Millar's work: a focus on legal sources. For Millar, the defining document of the Theodosian empire was the Theodosian Code, a compilation of Roman laws from the year 313 onward. The current study will likewise devote a great deal of attention to Justinian's legal pronouncements, both in his Corpus Iuris Civilis and especially in his Novels, or "new laws," which come to us with their prefaces and rhetoric preserved. The fundamental distinction between crafting an identity as a Roman empire and the Roman empire is, interestingly, reflected in the divergent interests of these documents. The temporal boundaries of the Theodosian Code indicate an interest in recent history, especially following the introduction of Christianity into the state apparatus during the reign of Constantine (r. 306-37). By contrast, the remit of Justinian's Corpus is broader, including the entirety of Roman legal and political history. Every office, from the consulship on down, is discussed in the Digest, evincing a profound interest in and commitment to the continuity of Roman institutions of all periods, whether regal, Republican, or imperial. The implicit thesis of the Corpus is that the eastern Roman empire was the Roman empire because it possessed a comprehensive and authentic Roman government, a claim that fits neatly into the rhetoric of Justinian's regime in the 530s and is discussed in Chapter 3.
Although we will take 476 as a putative starting point, the material discussed will primarily come from the period after 491, when the emperor Anastasius (r. 491-518) was acclaimed in Constantinople. There are many reasons for this, but all can be traced in one way or another to the phenomenon that Arnaldo Momigliano succinctly encapsulated when he described the events of 476 as "the fall that barely made a whisper" (la caduta senza rumore). Our understanding of the fifth-century east is critically hampered by a lack of sources. Although the period produced significant works by authors such as Eunapios, Olympiodoros, and Priskos, none of these survives intact. Moreover, the events of 476 took on their modern, epochal significance only two generations later and, even then, incompletely and as the result of a concerted push by authors close to Justinian's court to invent a definitive ending point for the western Roman empire in advance of that emperor's program of renovation, which preceded his program of reconquest. This process is discussed in Chapter 5. The reasons for the long silence will be addressed more fully in Chapter 1, but for now it suffices to say that it took time for the finality of the western empire's collapse to become clear and accepted among the writers and officials of the eastern empire.
Current scholarship on the sixth century remains dominated by two interrelated narratives, which have directed scholarly attention to a specific set of questions and largely exclude those discussed here. The first of these narratives is that of Christianization, which assumes that the sixth century was for all intents and purposes a post-pagan century in the eastern Roman empire. To quote the introduction to the Oxford Handbook of Late Antiquity, "in the late antique world, religious values became the central values, even the supreme values, for conceiving of the world and for justifying discourse and action." The resulting focus on the role of Christianity in late antiquity has illuminated much about the period, but, like any interpretive paradigm, has also made other features of the period, such as secular notions of Roman continuity, more difficult to see. It is also closely linked to the second narrative, that of the transformation of the eastern Roman empire into Byzantium, a subset of the larger transformation of the Roman empire into its three daughter civilizations, the other two being Carolingian Europe and the Islamic world. The idea of transformation was first popularized by Peter Brown in 1971 and has since become the dominant historical paradigm for late antiquity. As a consequence, the sixth century, and the reign of Justinian in particular, is often identified as a moment of transition between classical antiquity and the Middle Ages. But this too obscures the continued relevance of Roman history and identity in the eastern Roman world following the fall of the western empire. Roman identity evolved, as always, but it hardly became irrelevant.
The current study will argue that there were a number of concerns, in particular questions of Roman history, which were conceptualized according to the traditions of pagan historiography and discussed without reference to Christianity. For want of a better term, I will refer to these historical modes as "secular," by which I do not mean that they were atheistic or stripped of religious aspects, but only that they were independent of and separable from Christian narratives and the project of Christianizing Roman history, itself a major but different feature of the period. These concerns were discussed with considerable intensity among a fairly wide but interrelated elite social group in the eastern empire. The question of these authors' religion is largely irrelevant; whether they were pagans or Christians or indifferent, whether they supported or rejected the Council of Chalcedon (451), there were other things to think about under Justinian.
The picture that will emerge from this study is that of a coherent eastern Roman intellectual movement centered on Constantinople and concerned with the development of historical narratives that supported the Roman identity of the eastern Romans, the status of Constantinople as the New (and now only true) Rome, the organization of the imperial administration along traditional lines, and the maintenance of Roman traditions. Central to the creation of a new identity was the development of usable Roman pasts that incorporated and hybridized elements from both the Greek and Roman traditions. Myth (in particular Homer and Vergil), law, and history were all integral to this process, as were the specific historical circumstances that accompanied the project itself, especially Justinian's wars.
While the primary goal of this study is to understand the role of historical memory in the sixth century, it is hoped that the conclusions it reaches will have a broader effect on the scholarship of the period. Specifically, this book will provide much needed context for the study of politics and the imperial administration in the sixth century by providing a non-theological intellectual history of sixth-century Constantinople. It will inevitably be incomplete, but by improving our understanding of what issues were on the minds of the leading authors of the sixth century, it will be possible to situate them in their larger context with thicker links to classical antiquity.
History and Memory
This monograph is, then, a literary and intellectual history of a political transformation that approaches its subject through a study of historical memory—that is, the memory and perception of putatively historical events, as constructed in texts, especially imperial pronouncements, laws, histories, and other forms of literature. This touches on both social memory, which is the study of the role of memory in the construction of specific social groups, and cultural memory, which is the broader study of the role of collective memory in society at large. There are no firm lines between these different categories of memory.
The study of historical memory is not primarily concerned with distinguishing fact from fiction in the historical accounts of the period, but rather with attempting to understand why the authors of the fifth and sixth centuries chose to write about important historical themes in the way they did. Rather than assess the factuality of their accounts, we will investigate the rhetorical implications of their authorial decisions with an eye to understanding the concerns and agendas that motivated their works. To be clear, this approach does not reflect the attitude, expressed by some scholars, that facts do not matter or that "the insoluble contradiction of 'truth against fiction' is devoid of meaning." Indeed, facts are essential to the current project, as they allow scholars to recognize moments of innovation and invention in historical writing, and it is precisely at these moments that we may gain our clearest insight into the rhetorical aims of an author.
The production of history as a means to create usable pasts to guide present and future debates will therefore be at the forefront of this study. In this respect, it follows the approach of Alain Gowing's monograph Empire and Memory. However, where Gowing restricts his subject to discussions of a specific time period (the Roman Republic) in texts published over the course of more than a century following the end of that period, this monograph will engage with eastern discussions of the full range of Roman history—from the mythistorical narratives of the founding of the Latin people by Aeneas through contemporary sixth-century events such as the sieges of Rome that punctuated Justinian's campaigns against the Goths in Italy—that were written over the course of roughly sixty years, from the accession of Anastasius in 491 through the early 550s. The goal will be to understand the methods and motivations behind the creation of historical memory as a tracer of political discussions taking place in the fifth and sixth centuries.
The close readings that lie at the heart of this book relate to and are informed by the lived realities of their authors. As Rosamond McKitterick has argued in her study of Carolingian memory, "recalled past experiences and shared images of the past are the kinds of memories that have particular importance for the constitution of social groups." This is true of the sixth century: the authors studied in this work were mostly bureaucrats with close ties to the imperial government living and writing in the city of Constantinople. The contacts among these authors prove the existence of a coherent literary and intellectual movement in Constantinople, whose members generally belonged to a recognizable social and intellectual class. The coherence of these authors' views of history and their widespread opposition to the historical models offered by the emperor Justinian in his Novels makes clear that this was a battle over historical authority. Mary Carruthers, in her classic study of medieval memory, highlights the difference between "authoring" and "authorizing," arguing that "in the context of memory, the first belongs to the domain of an individual's memory, the second to what we might conveniently think of as public memory." In other words, anyone may produce a historical narrative, but that narrative only becomes a public or social memory if it is accepted and reproduced in society more broadly.
Historical narratives thus became a forum for an intense debate within a small but influential literary and political class in Constantinople. Because the emperors of the period used Roman history as a political tool, these debates also serve as a road map of the major political debates taking place in sixth-century Constantinople. This road map will be constructed using the toolset of classical philology and literary analysis in order to detect, delineate, and connect the political arguments that were current in the period. By applying close readings, intertextuality, and a knowledge of the techniques of classical historiography to the histories (broadly understood) written in the sixth century it is possible to identify points of interaction and response. In doing so, this book seeks to unearth the habits of mind and reading techniques that contemporary authors with a traditional classical education would have brought to these texts. Whether or not Justinian intended for the historical content of his Novels to be read and analyzed as a coherent corpus based on the standards of classical historiography, this is how many (if not all) of the authors discussed in this study would have been trained to read historical claims. Methodologically, this monograph will afford the authors of the sixth century the benefit of the doubt, crediting the literary merit of their works by default and assuming the intentionality of their intertexts. The study of late antiquity has long suffered from an unwillingness to credit the intelligence or originality of its authors—one thinks of the tendency to bash Zosimos as a writer of low intelligence, or to assume that Prokopios was a mouthpiece of Justinian—a trend that has recently begun to be reversed, but which still leaves a large gap in fundamental studies even for major authors.
In order to fully explore the matrix of historical memory and politics operating in the sixth century, this monograph will not be limited by genre or language. This enables us, for example, to discuss Christodoros' poetic Ekphrasis alongside Prokopios. This is also the period of antiquity in which writers in both Greek and Latin are most densely and intently engaged with each other across that linguistic difference. Modern scholarship continues to sequester them along linguistic lines, thus for example separating Prokopios from Jordanes, even though these were both authors with the same professional background who wrote in the same city at the same time about the same subjects. It should also be remembered that the central figure of this period, and in many ways the most important figure in this book, the emperor Justinian, himself published prolifically in both Greek and Latin and in genres ranging from Roman law to theology.
Justinian's Novels attempted to promote the emperor's version of Roman history by relying on his imperial position and the pretense of exhaustive imperial research. The response of contemporary authors, especially those writing in the 550s who vehemently and systematically refuted and undermined Justinian's historical claims, represents an attempt to deauthorize Justinian's official account of Roman history. This is an important conclusion as it not only confirms a broad opposition to Justinian's policies in the halls of his own government, but also indicates that the emperor's histories were viewed as serious enough to merit a response by many of the major authors of the period. That this response can be narrowly located among a fairly specific social class, at a specific historical moment, in a single city (though with consequences abroad) demonstrates the existence of a struggle by a particular social group against the emperor's attempt to control the development of public memory. The writings of Jordanes, Lydos, and Prokopios therefore articulate an idiom of resistance to Justinian's attempts to (re)create the Roman past. Given the warm reception these historical narratives receive in subsequent authors, in particular Agathias and Euagrios, we must determine that the authors of the 550s were largely successful in deauthorizing Justinian's history and authorizing their own.
No other emperor in all of Roman history did as much to shape the narrative of his own reign as did Justinian. He sits at the nexus of all our sixth-century writers, a common point of contact between otherwise disparate traditions in both Greek and Latin to which all of our authors are to some extent responding. By taking such an active role in formulating the historical narrative of his own reign, Justinian became the common target of all subsequent and competing historical narratives. Justinian stands at the heart of this project because he catalyzed the coherent discussion we can observe in our sources by providing the authors of the sixth century with a common focal point for contemporary political debates.
Despite the social implications of this investigation, the identification of particular social groups is a secondary concern. Our focus is on politics. Writing history is an inescapably political act: modern scholars too remain unable to divorce their work from its political context and ancient authors never made the effort. In fact, history in the ancient world was a more explicitly and nakedly political act than its contemporary counterpart. Discussions of the personalities and policies behind Roman successes and failures were meant to offer examples to contemporary Romans, a conceit which holds true for historians as diverse as Prokopios and the emperor Justinian.
The Politics of Roman Memory
The sixth century was in many ways an unexpected century. It interrupts and interferes with attempts to posit either a smooth transition or a violent discontinuity between the classical Greco-Roman world and the Middle Ages. The empire of Justinian asserted itself forcefully in the historical record after its long fifth-century hiatus. Yet in many ways, the study of the sixth century has fallen victim to the richness of its own historical record, which is unparalleled at any other point in Roman history. The sixth century offers us the single most comprehensive work of Roman law ever created (Justinian's Corpus Iuris Civilis and Novels) alongside Latin poets working in the tradition of Vergil (Corippus' Iohannis); our first complete classicizing histories since the third century (Prokopios' Wars and Agathias' Histories); specialized studies of Roman institutions (Ioannes Lydos' On the Magistracies of the Roman State and On the Months); a dedicated history of a foreign people (Jordanes' Getica); a wealth of chronicles in a range of languages including Latin, Greek, and Syriac, which formulated history according to a variety of schemata (Jordanes' Romana, the Chronicon of Marcellinus comes, the Chronicon Paschale, the Chronographia of Ioannes Malalas, and the Chronicle of pseudo-Zacharias and its Syriac continuator to name a few); philosophical dialogues in the tradition of Plato and Cicero (the anonymous Dialogue on Political Science); hagiography (the Lives of the Eastern Saints by Yuhannan of Amida, also known as John of Ephesos); church history (the Ecclesiastical History of Yuhannan of Amida and that of Euagrios); philosophical commentaries (the extensive writings of Ioannes Philoponos and Simplikios); theological geographies (the Christian Topography of Kosmas Indikopleustes); ekphrastic works in poetry and prose (Christodoros' Ekphrasis on the Statues of the Zeuxippos Baths and Paul the Silentary's Description of Hagia Sophia); a rich epigram tradition, including many erotic epigrams forming the kernel of the later Greek Anthology; letters to the emperor in the tradition of Seneca (Agapetos' Advice to the Emperor); the Acta of Church Councils (including the Second Ecumenical Council of Constantinople); and letters to and from bishops (including those of Severus of Antioch and the emperor Justinian, as well as many letters to and from the bishops of Rome). This list does not include material from numismatics, epigraphy, papyrology, prosopography, art history, and archaeology, which are also rich in evidence in this period. It will come as no surprise then that, by the standards of ancient history, studying the sixth century is like drinking from a firehose.
In the face of such overwhelming ancient evidence, the historians of the period have a tendency to fragment, clustering around specific authors or themes. This tendency is exacerbated by the long-standing neglect of the period, which has only recently begun to be taken up in earnest in scholarship (traditionally much more attention has been paid to the topics of Christianization in the fourth century and the western barbarian settlements in the fifth). Where authors such as Thucydides and Vergil have been the subject of countless studies in modern scholarship, Prokopios, the most prominent author of the sixth century, has been the subject of only four monographs in the last fifty years, only two of which offer strongly competing interpretations. The result of abundant documentation and relative scholarly neglect has been the simultaneous development of several different sixth centuries, the shapes of which generally correspond to the sources used. There is the sixth century of Justinian, of Prokopios, of the Monophysite Syriac authors, and so on.
As this book hopes to appeal to and draw connections between diverse fields, especially those of classical philology, late antique history and historiography, later Roman law, and the late antique papacy, it cannot be assumed that even the major authors of the period will be familiar to all readers. The survey below is therefore both an outline of the book's argument, for the benefit of all readers, and an aid for readers not familiar with some or all of the major sources used in this study.
Chapter 1 introduces the crisis of Romanness that confronted the eastern empire following the fall of the west. The problem is framed through the concerns forcefully asserted by the populace of Constantinople during the acclamation of Anastasius (r. 491-518). The chapter focuses on two authors, Zosimos and Hesychios of Miletos, and their competing conceptions of the Romanness of Constantinople, conceptions they articulated through the historically constructed relationship between Old and New Rome. Relatively little is known of Zosimos and his sole work, the New History, survives in a single manuscript. Based on later testimonia, we know that he was a retired financial official, an exadvocatus fisci, in the imperial administration in Constantinople. His work is generally assigned to the late fifth or early sixth century, though his dating is far from secure, and his work comes down to us in an incomplete form and with major lacunae. Although his history is generally disregarded as the poorly written work of the last adamantly pagan author of late antiquity, Zosimos' New History is much closer to the mainstream of sixth-century historiography and political thought than has generally been appreciated. Hesychios of Miletos was the author of a Roman and General History (in Greek), which appears to have begun with Belos, the king of Assyria, and continued originally through the death of Anastasius, though it was later extended, presumably by the same author, to cover the reign of Justin (r. 518-27), Justinian's uncle. His history is no longer extant, but a fragment survives in a Byzantine collection of Patria (local histories) of the city of Constantinople. Hesychios held the rank of illustrius, indicating a relatively high social status, and can be linked to a number of buildings, in particular a bathing complex, in his native Miletos. If we accept that the Hesychios of the inscriptions is our author, then we can also assign him to the imperial bureaucracy: he was an orator in the office of the prefect of Constantinople.
Chapter 2 turns to the intersection of mythistory and urban space in Anastasian Constantinople, analyzing the reconfiguration of Trojano-Roman mythistory into a Greco-Roman mythistory more suited to the contemporary circumstances of the Roman empire. This chapter offers a close reading of the Ekphrasis on the Statues of the Zeuxippos Baths by Christodoros of Koptos (in Egypt). Christodoros was a Greek poet and a member of the school of Egyptian "wandering poets" first identified by Alan Cameron. He was a prolific author of Patria (local antiquarian histories, often in verse) for cities around the eastern Roman empire, including Constantinople, and also authored an epic poem, the Isaurika, on the emperor Anastasius' campaigns against the Isaurians in central Asia Minor. He may also be the author of an epigram inscribed on the Chalke Gate (a gate to the imperial palace in Constantinople) by Anastasius, which likewise commemorated the emperor's Isaurian triumph. Aside from this inscription, Christodoros' only extant work is a description of the statues in the Zeuxippos bathing complex, which was adjacent to the palace at the heart of imperial Constantinople. This poem was preserved by its inclusion in the first edition of the Greek Anthology, a collection of Greek poetry first compiled during the reign of Justin II (r. 565-78) by Agathias, whose other works include a continuation of Prokopios' history of Justinian's wars in the second half of the sixth century. As is evident from his corpus, Christodoros had close ties to the imperial court of Anastasius.
Chapters 3 through 5 are thematically organized and dedicated to the reign of Justinian, each exploring an aspect of Justinian's formulation of Roman history, primarily in Novels published in the 530s and 540s, and contemporary responses to them, which largely appeared in the 550s. The themes on which the discussion focuses are the administrative history of Rome, including the reasons for its successful expansion during the Republic (Chapter 3), the history of the consulship and the office's (ir)relevance in the sixth century (Chapter 4), and the relationship between Old and New Rome with particular emphasis on valences of Roman identity and conceptions of a Roman fall in 476 (Chapter 5).
Because of their contemporaneity, these chapters are generally limited to a handful of major authors from the age of Justinian. First among these is Tribonian, who served as quaestor, Justinian's chief legal official, from 530 to 532 and again from 535 to 541/42. Prior to this, he served on the commission that created the first edition of the Codex and was the primary figure behind the creation of the Digest, Institutes, and the second edition of the Codex, which make up the Corpus Iuris Civilis as we have it today. Tribonian functioned as Justinian's ghostwriter for the Novels that appeared during his tenure as quaestor, making most of the Novels that will be examined in this study the work of his pen. Although written by Tribonian, these laws spoke with the voice and authority of the emperor Justinian. Therefore, while the authors of the age of Justinian were likely under no illusions about who was drafting imperial rhetoric, their responses to Tribonian's formulations were ultimately aimed at the emperor himself.
Pride of place among the authors responding to Justinian must be given to Prokopios of Kaisareia in Palestine, who served as assessor, a legal advisor and personal secretary, to the general Belisarios during his early campaign against Persia, as well as during the reconquest of Africa and Italy. Prokopios appears to have parted ways with Belisarios during the early 540s, at which point he is thought to have settled in Constantinople to produce his three works: the Wars of the Emperor Justinian, the Secret History, and the Buildings. The Wars is an eight-book history of Justinian's campaigns against Persia, Vandal North Africa, and Gothic Italy. The first edition of the Wars was published in 551/52 and was organized by theater of operations, with the first two books covering the Persian front, books 3 and 4 covering the African theater, and books 5 through 7 covering events in Italy. The eighth book of the Wars was published separately in 553 and covered events on all fronts, bringing them up to the winter of 552/53. The Wars remains the most complete extant military and political account of the reign of Justinian and is unusual for being a contemporary and sometimes critical account of a still-reigning emperor. Alongside the Wars, Prokopios wrote and may have circulated among his intimates the Secret History. The Secret History is ostensibly meant to complete the narrative of the Wars by including details that were unsafe to publish during the lifetime of Justinian (who apparently outlived Prokopios), but this does not account for all of its material, which can be broadly divided into two parts: the first is an extended character assassination of Belisarios, his wife Antonina, the empress Theodora, and the emperor Justinian, while the second section focuses on administrative malfeasance by Justinian and his officials. The Secret History was completed at roughly the same moment as the first seven books of the Wars in 551/52. Prokopios' final work, which will not be discussed in this book, is the Buildings, a panegyrical survey of the construction projects undertaken by Justinian.
Alongside Prokopios the other major authors of the reign of Justinian were Marcellinus comes, Jordanes, and Ioannes Lydos. Marcellinus was from Illyria, a Latin-speaking province in the Balkans under the authority of the eastern Roman empire. Justinian and his uncle Justin were both from the same region, and this shared heritage was likely the reason Marcellinus was chosen by Justinian to serve as cancellarius on his personal staff prior to his accession as emperor in 527. Marcellinus does not appear to have served in any further official capacity for Justinian after 527, but he was rewarded with the title of comes and the social rank of vir clarissimus. Marcellinus wrote several works, but the only one extant is his Chronicon, a chronicle in Latin that continues Jerome's chronicle, which ended in 378, down to the death of Anastasius in 518, and was later extended by Marcellinus to 534.
Jordanes was a self-proclaimed Goth (on his father's side) and Roman who like Prokopios served on the staff of one of Justinian's generals, in this case the magister militum assigned to the Balkan theater, Gunthigis Baza. Jordanes is the author of two extant works in Latin, the Getica and the Romana, both published around 551. The Getica is a history of the Gothic people, while the Romana is a survey of Roman history from creation through the reign of Justinian. Both works are framed as responses to requests from friends, either for a summary of Cassiodorus' lost twelve-book history of the Goths (Getica) or as a brief survey of all of Roman history (Romana). The two works are unusual in that they reference one another, and the Getica is described as an offshoot of the project of the Romana. Neither work has traditionally been afforded much respect in the scholarship, the Getica being viewed as derivative and valued primarily as a means of accessing Cassiodorus' lost history, while the Romana is seen as a cursory and inelegant summary of the fragmentary works of the fifth-century historian Eunapios. Recently, however, the Getica has come to be viewed as a literary work in its own right, and both it and the Romana will be treated as such in this study.
The final major author of the reign of Justinian is Ioannes Lydos, an imperial bureaucrat serving in the office of the praetorian prefect, the chief administrative official of the eastern Roman empire, during the reign of Justinian. He wrote four works in Greek of which we are aware. One of these, a history of Justinian's Persian wars up to 532, is no longer extant. Of the remaining three, two survive only in fragments, namely On the Months and On Portents. His major surviving work, On the Magistracies of the Roman State, is a history of the evolution of Roman offices that focuses on the corruption of the office of the praetorian prefect. It survives in an incomplete form, ending suddenly in the middle of the third book. Nevertheless, the portions we have offer crucial insight into the functioning of the imperial bureaucracy under Justinian. While the publication dates for these works are not especially secure, On the Magistracies had likely appeared by 554. Thus Lydos' On the Magistracies, Jordanes' Getica and Romana, and Prokopios' Wars and Secret History were all completed and circulated at roughly the same moment, between 550 and 554.
Chapter 6, the final chapter, expands the book's focus to include Old Rome. The chapter traces the development of the historical narratives deployed by the bishops of Rome and emperors of Constantinople to support their positions on the ecclesiastical status of the see of Constantinople. This chapter is an outlier in several respects: it covers a longer period, from 451 through 553; it deals with international, rather than domestic, debates over historical memory and does so largely from the perspective of Old Rome and the post-Roman west; and it deals directly with Christianity, specifically the role of Christian history and mythistory in the politics and rhetoric of the see of Rome. Despite these differences, Chapter 6 serves as a valuable comparandum for the rest of the book. The chapter demonstrates the broad importance of Roman historical memory in the construction of political authority and identity during the period, even for ecclesiastical sees; it exposes the crisis of Romanness in the post-Roman west; and it documents the ongoing separability of Christian and Roman history even in explicitly Christian debates. Moreover, the density and consistency of documentation allows us to trace the role that historical narratives played in the development of ideological systems, an opportunity not afforded by the works of our Constantinopolitan authors. The chapter therefore sheds new light on discussions explored in the preceding chapters and illustrates how debates taking place in Constantinople interfaced with those in Rome—that is, how imperial New Rome argued with Gothic Old Rome during a period of rapid political change. The authors discussed in this chapter are all either emperors or bishops. They are too many to discuss here, so they will be introduced in the chapter itself.
A final note: this book uses the toolset of classical philology to interpret the intellectual world of late antiquity and hopes to be of interest to classical scholars. With this in mind, the original Greek and Latin for all quotes has been placed in the notes. Unless otherwise indicated all translations are my own.