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Chapter 27

CHAPTER XXVII: JUSTINIAN (AD 527-565)

It would be wearisome to follow very particularly the history of the
Church in the East for the next century and a half after the Council
of Chalcedon (AD 451).

The most important reign during this time was that of the Emperor
Justinian, which lasted eight-and-thirty years, from 527 to 565.
Under him the Vandals were conquered in Africa, and the Goths in
Italy. Both these countries became once more parts of the empire,
and Arianism was put down in both.

Justinian also, in the year 529, put an end to the old heathen
philosophy, by ordering that the schools of Athens, in which St.
Basil, St. Gregory of Nazianzum, and the emperor Julian had studied
together two hundred years before (p 68), should be shut up. The
philosophers, who had continued to teach their heathen notions there
(although they had been obliged to treat the religion of the empire
with outward respect), were in great distress at finding their trade
taken away from them. They thought it unsafe to remain in
Justinian's dominions, and made their way into Persia, where the
king was a heathen, and was said to be a friend of learned men. The
king received them kindly; but the Persian heathenism was very
different from their own, and the ways of the country were
altogether strange to them; so that they felt themselves very
uncomfortable in Persia, and became so home-sick as to be willing to
risk even their lives for the sake of getting back to their own
country. Happily for them, the Persian king was able to intercede
for them in making a peace with Justinian, and it was agreed that
they might live within the empire as they liked, without being
troubled by the laws, if they would only remain quiet, and not try
to draw Christian youths away from the faith. The philosophers were
too glad to return on such terms. I wish I could tell that they
became Christians themselves: but all that is said of them is, that
when they died, there were no more of the kind, and that heathen
philosophy no longer stood in the way of the Gospel.

Justinian spent vast sums of money on buildings, especially on
churches; but it is said that much of what he spent in this way had
been got by oppressive taxes and by other bad means, so that we
cannot think much the better of him for it. The grandest of all his
buildings was the cathedral of Constantinople. The church had been
founded by Constantine the Great, but was once burnt down after the
banishment of St. Chrysostom, and a second time in this reign.
Justinian rebuilt it at a vast expense, and, as he cast his eyes
around it on the day of the consecration, after expressing his
thankfulness to God for having been allowed to accomplish so great a
work, he gave vent to the pride of his heart in the words: "I have
beaten thee, O Solomon!" The cathedral was afterwards partly
destroyed by an earthquake, but Justinian again restored it, and
caused it to be once more consecrated, about two years before his
death. We learn from one of his laws that this church had sixty
priests, a hundred deacons, forty deaconesses, ninety subdeacons, a
hundred and ten readers, five-and-twenty singers, and a hundred
doorkeepers. And (which we should perhaps not have expected to hear)
the law was made for the purpose of preventing the number of clergy
connected with the cathedral from increasing beyond this, lest it
should not have wealth enough to maintain a greater number! This
great building is still standing (although it is now in the hands of
the Mahometan Turks); and it is regarded as one of the wonders of
the world. It was dedicated to the Eternal Wisdom, and is now
commonly known by the name of St. Sophia ("sophia" being the Greek
word for "wisdom").