Justinian II

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Justinian II (Greek: Ιουστινιανός Β΄, Ioustinianos II ), known as Rinotmetos or Rhinotmetus (Ρινότμητος, Rinotmētos, "the Slit-nosed"), (669–December 711), was the last Byzantine emperor of the Heraclian Dynasty. reigning from 685 to 695 and again from 705 to 711.

First reign

Justinian was the first-born son of Emperor Constantine IV, who associated him on the throne in 681. In 685 Justinian II succeeded his father as sole emperor at the age of sixteen.

Due to Constantine IV's victories, when Justinian became emperor the situation in the Eastern provinces of the Empire was stable. After a preliminary strike against the Arabs in Armenia, Justinian managed to augment the sum paid by the Umayyad Caliphs as an annual tribute, and to regain control of part of Cyprus. The incomes of the provinces of Armenia and Iberia were divided among the two empires. In 687, as part of his agreements with the Caliphate, Justinian removed from their native Lebanon 12,000 Christian Maronites, who continually resisted the Arabs.

Justinian took advantage of the peace in the East to regain possession of the Balkans, then almost totally under the heel of Slavic tribes. In 687 Justinian transferred cavalry troops from Anatolia to Thrace. With a great military campaign, in 688689 defeated the Bulgars of Macedonia and could finally enter in Thessalonica, the second most important Byzantine city in Europe.

The subdued Slavs were resettled to Anatolia, where they were to provide a military force of 30,000 men. Emboldened by the increase of his forces in Anatolia, Justinian now renewed the war against the Arabs. With the help of his new troops, Justinian won a battle against the enemy in Armenia in 693, but they were soon bribed to revolt by the Arabs. The emperor defeated the rebel Slavs, but the war against the Arabs was lost, and the Arabs conquered Armenia in 694695.

Meanwhile the emperor's bloody persecution of the Manichaeans and suppression of popular traditions of non-Orthodox origin caused dissention within the Church. In 692, Justinian convened the so-called Quinisext Council at Constantinople to put his policy into effect, with which he compromised relations with the Roman Church. The emperor ordered Pope Sergius I arrested, but his army rebelled at Ravenna and took the Pope's side.

Through his creatures Stephen and Theodatos the emperor extorted the means of gratifying his sumptuous tastes and his mania for erecting costly buildings. This, and the religious discontent, drove his subjects into rebellion. In 695 they rose under Leontios and, after cutting off the emperor's nose (whence his surname), banished him to Cherson in the Crimea. Leontios, after a reign of three years, was in turn dethroned and imprisoned by Tiberios Apsimaros, who next assumed the throne.


Justinian became a liability to Cherson and the authorities decided to return him to Constantinople in 702 or 703. He escaped from Cherson and received help from Ibousiros Gliabanos (Busir Glavan), the khagan of the Khazars, who received him enthusiastically and gave him his sister as a bride. Justinian renamed her Theodora. They were given a home in the town of Phanagoria, at the entrance to the sea of Azov. Busir was offered a bribe by Tiberios to kill his brother-in-law, and dispatched two Khazar officials, Papatzys and Balgitzin, to do the deed. Warned by his wife, Justinian strangled Papatzys and Balgatzin with his own hands. He sailed in a fishing-boat to Cherson, summoned his supporters, and they all sailed westwards across the Black Sea.

Justinian sailed to Tervel of Bulgaria. Tervel agreed to provided all the military assistance necessary for Justinian to regain his throne in exchange for financial considerations, the award of a Caesar's crown, and the hand of Justinian's daughter, Eudokia, in marriage. In spring 705, with an army of 15,000 Bulgar horsemen Justinian appeared before the walls of Constantinople. Unable to take the city by force, he and some companions entered through an unused water conduit under the walls of the city, roused their supporters, and seized control of the city in a midnight coup d'etat. Justinian once more ascended the throne, and then had his rivals Leontios and Tiberios executed along with many of their partisans, and deposed and blinded Patriarch Kallinikos I of Constantinople.

Second Reign

His second reign was marked by an unsuccessful warfare against Bulgaria and the Caliphate, and by cruel suppression of opposition at home. In 708, Justinian turned on his Caesar Tervel and invaded Bulgaria, apparently seeking to recover the territories ceded to Tervel as a reward for his support in 705. The emperor was defeated, blockaded in Anchialus, and forced to retreat. Peace between Bulgaria and Byzantium was quickly restored. This defeat was followed by Arab victories in Asia Minor, where the cities of Cilicia fell into the hands of the enemy, who penetrated into Cappadocia in 709711.

Justinian was more interested in punishing his subjects at Ravenna and Cherson. He ordered Pope John VII to recognize the decisions of the Quinisext Council and simultaneously fitted out a punitive expedition against Ravenna in 709. The repression succeeded, and the new Pope Constantine visited Constantinople in 710, giving into some of the emperor's demands and restoring relations between the emperor and the Papacy. This would be the last time a Pope visited the city until the visit of Pope Paul VI to Istanbul in 1967.

There is evidence that Justinian contributed to the development of the thematic organization and sought to protect the rights of peasant freeholders, who served as the main recruitment pool for the armed forces of the Empire.

Justinian's tyrannical rule provoked another rising against him. Cherson revolted and, under the leadership of the exiled general Bardanes, the city held out against a counter-attack and soon the forces sent to suppress the rebellion joined it. The rebels then seized the capital and proclaimed Bardanes as Emperor Philippikos; Justinian had been on his way to Armenia, and was unable to return to Constantinople in time to defend it. He was arrested and executed outside the city in December 711, his head being sent to Bardanes as a trophy.

On hearing the news of his death, Justinian's mother took his six-year-old son and co-emperor, Tiberios, to sanctuary at St. Mary's Church in Blachernae, but was pursued by Philippikos' henchmen, who dragged the child from the altar and, once outside the church, murdered him, thus eradicating the line of Herakleios.

A fictional account of Justinian's life is given in the 1998 novel Justinian by H.N. Turteltaub.


By his first wife Eudoxia, Justinian II had at least one daughter:

  • Anastasia, who was betrothed to Tervel of Bulgaria.

By his second wife, Theodora of Khazaria, Justinian II had a son:

  • Tiberios, co-emperor from 706 to 711.

External links

Preceded by:
Constantine IV
Byzantine Emperor
Succeeded by:
Preceded by:
Tiberios III
Byzantine Emperor
Succeeded by:


  • The Oxford Dictionary of Byzantium, Oxford University Press, 1991.
  • Byzantium: the early centuries by John Julius Norwich
  • This article incorporates text from the Encyclopædia Britannica Eleventh Edition, a publication now in the public domain.

A portion of content for this article is credited to Wikipedia. Content under GNU Free Documentation License(GFDL)