First English edition of the Nuremberg chronicle: being the Liber chronicarum of Dr. Hartmann Schedel…

Justinian (Justinianus), son of the sister of Justin, and greatest of the Roman emperors, attained to the sovereignty; and soon after he received the imperial supremacy, he set his mind upon the return of the common good. He ruled the Roman empire with good fortune. He not only conducted military affairs with success, but was also wonderfully fortunate in civic and business affairs; for through Belisarius, the great man, he defeated the Persians in war, destroyed the Vandals and their king Gelimer (Gelismero), and brought back into the empire Africa, which for 96 years had been alienated from it. Moreover, with the strength of the aforesaid Belisarius, he defeated the Goths in Italy; and captured their king; while with wonderful power and strength he also defeated the Mauri and their king Attila. Likewise, he also overcame other peoples in war. This emperor also built to the Lord, who is the wisdom of God the Father, a church in the city of Constantinople, and he called it Agia Sophia, that is, Holy Wisdom. This structure so excels all others that its equal is not to be found in all the countries of the world. This emperor was a man of true faith, proficient in his works, and upright in his judgments; for these reasons he was fortunate in all his undertakings. As a man of intelligence, with the advice and labors of a number of highly learned men, he reduced to a small number of books the great uncharted sea of law books, of which there were over two thousand scattered about in disorder; and he brought many doubtful laws into harmony. After he had reigned 38 years he died at Constantinople, a man of great and godly intelligence.[Justinian (Justinianus), surnamed The Great, emperor of Constantinople, 527-565, was born near Tauresium in Illyria in 483. He was adopted by his uncle in 527, and married the beautiful actress Theodora, who exercised great influence over him. He died in 565, leaving the crown to his nephew, Justin II. During his reign Justinian was a firm supporter of orthodoxy, and thus has received from ecclesiastical writers the title of Great; but towards the end of his life he became a heretic, being one of the adherents of Nestorianism. His foreign wars were glorious, but extremely costly. The empire of the Vandals in Africa was overthrown by Belisarius, and their king Gelimer led a prisoner to Constantinople. The kingdom of the Ostrogoths in Italy was likewise destroyed by the successive victories of Belisarius and Narses. Justinian adorned Constantinople with many public buildings of great magnificence, but at the same time taxes were constantly increased. The great work of Justinian is his legislation. He made two influential collections of laws, one of the imperial constitutions, the other of all that was valuable in the works of jurists. The last was entrusted to a commission of ten, who completed their labors in 529; and their collection was declared to be law under the title . This was the first collection. In 530 Tribonian, who had been one of the commissioners on the Code, was authorized to select fellow-workers to assist him in the other divisions of the undertaking, and this commission proceeded at once to lay under contribution the works of those jurists who had received authority from other emperors to interpret the law. They divided their material into 50 Books, and subdivided each book into Titles. Nothing that was considered valuable was omitted; nothing obsolete included. Repetition was not allowed. The work was completed in three years and became law December 30, 533. It comprehended about 9,000 extracts made from nearly 2,000 books. The Code and the Digest contained a complete body of law; but as they were not adapted to elementary instruction, a treatise was produced under the title based on elementary works of a similar character, but chiefly on the of Gaius.]

The Fifth Council begun at Constantinople at the command of the pope Agapetus and the emperor Justinian, was concluded during the time of Pope Vigilius, in the year 538. It was called against Theodorus and all heretics who held that the Most Blessed Virgin Mary bore men alone, and not God and men. In this same Council it was ordained that the Blessed Virgin Mary should be called the Mother of God, because through her bearing, she bore us God. And there fourteen anathemas were written against the blasphemy of Theodorus and his associates.

Fifth Ecumenical Council (Constantinople) held in 553 grew out of the controversy of the “Three Chapters,” which were condemned, and their authors, long dead, anathematized, and the orthodox faith was set forth in fourteen anathemas with special reference to Nestorians.

Justinian’s ecclesiastical policy was complex and varying. For many years before the accession of his uncle Justin, the Eastern world had been vexed by the struggles of the Monophysite party, who recognized only the one nature in Christ, against the view which then and ever since has maintained itself as orthodox, that the divine and human natures coexisted in him. The latter doctrine had triumphed at the council of Chalcedon, but Egypt, a great part of Syria and Asia Minor, and a considerable minority even in Constantinople, clung to Monophysitism. When Justinian came to the throne he endeavored to persuade the Monophysites to come in by summoning some of their leaders to a conference. This having failed, he ejected suspected prelates, and occasionally persecuted them. The Monophysites sometimes alleged that they could not accept the decrees of the council of Chalcedon because that council had not condemned, but virtually approved, three writers tainted with Nestorian principles, namely, Theodore of Mopsuestia, Theodoret, and Ibas, bishop of Edessa. It was suggested to the emperor that reconciliation might result if a condemnation of these teachers, or rather of such of their books as were objectionable, could be effected, since in that event the Chalcedonian party would be purged of any appearance of sympathy with the errors of Nestorius. Accordingly Justinian put forth an edict exposing and denouncing the errors in the writings of Theodore generally, in the treatise of Theodoret against Cyril of Alexandria, and in a letter of Bishop Ibas to the Persian bishop Maris. This edict was circulated through the Christian world to be subscribed by the bishops. Long disputes and negotiations followed, the end of which was that Justinian summoned this general council of the church, reckoned the Fifth, which condemned the impugned writings, and anathematized several other heretical authors. Its decrees were received in the East but long contested in the Western Church where a schism arose that lasted for seventy years. This is the controversy known as that of the “Three Chapters,” apparently from the three propositions or condemnations contained in Justinian’s original edict, one relating to Theodore’s writings and person, the second to the incriminating treatise of Theodoret (whose person was not attacked), the third to the letter of Ibas.

Belisarius, an esteemed councilor, sturdy in arms, a leader sent forth by Justinian at the head of a large army, first attacked the Persians, who had seriously ravaged Roman territory, and defeated them in a great battle. With the consent of the emperor he entered Constantinople in triumph. This Belisarius was sent with an army by Justinian, the emperor, to Africa, which the Vandals had occupied for many years. With speed he engaged the Vandals in battle, defeated many of their people, took their king Gelimer (Gelismerum) prisoner, and sent him to Constantinople; and he brought Carthage back into the empire. Afterwards, this Belisarius, renowned for many battles, was sent by Justinian against King Theodahad (Theodatus) to release Italy from its servitude to the Goths. While Belisarius lingered in Sicily, the Gothic king, Theodahad, died. Vitiges succeeded Theodahad, and against him Belisarius continued the war which he had begun. He marched from Sicily into Campania and to Naples, which he took by force, slaying many people, sparing neither women nor children. From there he hastened to Rome; and the Goths, who were there, fled by night, leaving the gates open, and hurried on to Ravenna. But as Belisarius surmised that Vitiges would return to Rome with a great force, he, in the meantime speedily secured the city with fortifications, arms and moats. Now Vitiges came on with about one hundred thousand men. After defending the city for a year and a day, Belisarius decided to give Vitiges battle and to defeat his forces. But Vitiges would not accept the challenge, and fled to Ravenna. Belisarius hastened after him, and captured him in that city; and he brought him to Constantinople in the fifth year of his arrival in Italy.[Belisarius, one of the most famous generals of the later Roman Empire, was born about 505 in “Germania,” a district on the borders of Thrace and Macedonia. As a youth he served in the bodyguard of Justinian, who appointed him commander of the Eastern army. He won a victory over the Persians in 530, but was defeated in the following year. Recalled to Constantinople, he married Antonina, a favorite of the empress Theodora. During the Nika sedition (532) he did Justinian good service, crushing the rebels who had proclaimed Hypatius emperor. In 533 he was put in command of the expedition against the Vandal kingdom in Africa. With 15,000 mercenaries he took Carthage, defeated Gelimer, the Vandal king, and brought him back as a captive to Constantinople. At this time Justinian decided to attack Italy, where the Ostrogothic kingdom was shaken by internal dissensions. Accordingly, Belisarius invaded Sicily (535), and after storming Naples and defending Rome for a year against almost the entire strength of the Goths in Italy, he captured Ravenna, and with it the Gothic king Vitiges. The Ostrogoths offered to acknowledge him Emperor of the West, but he rejected the proposal and returned to Constantinople in 540. The following year he was sent to check the Persians, but achieved no decisive result. In 544 the Goths, having meanwhile reconquered Italy, Belisarius was sent with inadequate forces to oppose them. During five campaigns he held the enemy at bay until he was removed from the command. He remained in retirement at Constantinople until 559, when at the head of a mixed multitude of peasants and soldiers, he repelled the Bulgarian attackers who had invaded the city. But this, like his former victories, aroused Justinian’s envy. The savior of his country was coldly received and left unrewarded by his suspicious sovereign. Shortly afterward he was accused of complicity in a conspiracy against the emperor. His wealth was confiscated, and he was imprisoned in his palace. He was set free and restored to favor in 563. He died in 565.]


Justinian, Roman emperor; full-length woodcut; he wears a mitered crown, carries scepter and orb, and is clad in richly embroidered robes. The head is large, the body small.