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The Age of Justinian: The Circumstances of Imperial Power (Roman Imperial Biographies) Hardcover – 18 Apr 1996

4.5 out of 5 stars 2 customer reviews

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Product details

  • Hardcover: 360 pages
  • Publisher: Routledge (18 April 1996)
  • Language: English
  • ISBN-10: 0415022096
  • ISBN-13: 978-0415022095
  • Product Dimensions: 14 x 2.4 x 21.6 cm
  • Average Customer Review: 4.5 out of 5 stars  See all reviews (2 customer reviews)
  • Amazon Bestsellers Rank: 6,712,977 in Books (See Top 100 in Books)
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Product Description


"The work is properly approached as a textbook for students of the period ... [I]t is a solid piece of scholarship."
-"Virginia Quarterly Review

From the Back Cover

The Age of Justinian (527-565) marks the transition between Late Antiquity, when the norms of the classical world still survived, and the Byzantine period, which featured a Christian state that left little or no space for outsiders. While Justinian considered himself the restorer of the Roman Empire, his contemporaries saw him as an innovator who consciously willed change. J.A.S. Evans examines not only the history of this great emperor, but also the environment in which he lived. The Age of Justinian looks at the social structure of the empire, and the neighbours that surrounded it. It also chronicles the theological issues, which split the empire and left even deeper divisions after Justinian's death, in spite of his best efforts to settle them. At the end, Justinian found himself facing forces which were too strong even for a man with his determination. But, for all that, we are left with a sense of admiration for the great emperor and his wife, Theodora. Their aims were high and they presided over a period of brilliance. They belonged to a unique moment of history, and in the problems they encountered and the forces they faced, we can dimly recognize some that are with us to the present day.

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By E. L. Wisty TOP 500 REVIEWERVINE VOICE on 2 Feb. 2015
Format: Paperback
J. A. S. Evans' subtitle "The Circumstance of Imperial Power" may give an impression of this work being an analysis of the nature of imperial government in the mid-sixth century. It's a rather different publication than that in its scope however. More than a third of the book, the largest section, is in fact taken up with developments before Justinian, going back a couple of centuries or more; whilst this might seem out of place in a book ostensibly about "The Age of Justinian", if the book is seen as serving as an introduction to the subject it acts as a very valuable part of the whole text in describing the nature of the empire at the time of Justinian's succession.

Following on from a shortish section on the early years of Justinian, there follows a chronological narrative of the reconquest of Vandalic Africa and Ostrogothic Italy. Only in the penultimate section do we find a more thematic approach with consideration of theological developments, Justinian's codification of the law, economics and commerce, and attitudes towards 'outsiders' (Jews, Samaritans, pagans and heretics).

A final short chapter covers "the final years" and Evans' own conclusions. He sees Justinian's later years as something of a sad decline both personally and in the consequences for the empire, though puts much of the blame for continued decline on his successors Justin II, Tiberius Constantine, Maurice and Phocas.

This book does indeed serve as an excellent introduction to the subject. Evans is careful to not slavishly follow the fashionable opinions and 'received wisdom' of other historians, and while his ideas may not be radical as such, and nor are they different just for the sake of being different, they deserve close consideration.
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Format: Paperback
I was a bit surprised to discover that this book, first published in 1996, has not been reviewed on either or on up to now. The author claimed, at the time, that there was still room for the "definitive history" of the reign of Justinian. One cannot help wondering as to whether there ever is such a thing as a definitive history or any character, event or period in history. If this was meant to mean that the author's purpose was not to come up with the most comprehensive and detailed book as possible on Justinian, then his claim is both correct and refreshingly modest. This book is not a biography of the great Emperor either. Rather, it is a reassessment of his reign and, accordingly, an excellent overview covering the period AD 491 to AD 574, from the beginning of the reign of Anastasius to the death of Justin II, Justinian's nephew. It is also perhaps the most accessible book and therefore the easiest to get to grip with this Emperor's long reign. This is only the first of its many qualities.

The second quality that I found n this book was the trouble and care taken in assessing both the context in which the reign began and its aftermath. At some 270 pages of text, the book is not too long to discourage a general reader. Almost 100 pages are dedicated to setting the scene, that is describing what Evans terms "The Imperial Environment" or, perhaps even more accurately, "the empire which Anastasius left behind". The care with which the "starting point" is described is worthy of praise, especially since the author manages to present an excellent overview while not overburdening the general reader with too much detail. The last section of the book ("The Final Years") describes Justinian's last decade, the reign of his immediate successor and assesses his reign.
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