As soon as Justinian came into power he turned everything upside down.
Whatever had been before by law, he now introduced into the government,
while he revoked all established customs: as if he had been given the
robes of an Emperor on the condition he would turn everything
topsy-turvy. Existing offices he abolished, and invented new ones for
the management of public affairs. He did the same thing to the laws and
to the regulations of the army; and his reason was not any improvement
of justice or any advantage, but simply that everything might be new and
named after himself. And whatever was beyond his power to abolish, he
renamed after himself anyway.
Of the plundering of property or the murder of men, no weariness ever
overtook him. As soon as he had looted all the houses of the wealthy, he
looked around for others; meanwhile throwing away the spoils of his
previous robberies in subsidies to barbarians or senseless building
extravagances. And when he had ruined perhaps myriads in this mad
looting, he immediately sat down to plan how he could do likewise to
others in even greater number.
As the Romans were now at peace with all the world and he had no other
means of satisfying his lust for slaughter, he set the barbarians all to
fighting each other. And for no reason at all he sent for the Hun
chieftains, and with idiotic magnanimity gave them large sums of money,
alleging he did this to secure their friendship. This, as I have said,
he had also done in Justin's time. These Huns, as soon as they had got
this money, sent it together with their soldiers to others of their
chieftains, with the word to make inroads into the land of the Emperor:
so that they might collect further tribute from him, to buy them off in a
second peace. Thus the Huns enslaved the Roman Empire, and were paid by
the Emperor to keep on doing it.
This encouraged still others of them to rob the poor Romans; and after
their pillaging, they too were further rewarded by the gracious Emperor.
In this way all the Huns, for when it was not one tribe of them it was
another, continuously overran and laid waste the Empire. For the
barbarians were led by many different chieftains, and the war, thanks to
Justinian's senseless generosity, was thus endlessly protracted.
Consequently no place, mountain or cave, or any other spot in Roman
territory, during this time remained uninjured; and many regions were
pillaged more than five times.
These misfortunes, and those that were caused by the Medes, Saracens,
Slavs, Antes, and the rest of the barbarians, I described in my previous
works. But, as I said in the preface to this narrative, the real cause
of these calamities remained to be told here.
To Chosroes also -he paid many centenaries in behalf of peace, and then
with unreasonable arbitrariness caused the breaking of the truce by
making every effort to secure the friendship of Alamandur and his Huns,
who had been in alliance with the Persians: but this I freely discussed
in my chapters on the subject.
Moreover, while he was encouraging civil strife and frontier warfare to
confound the Romans, with only one thought in his mind, that the earth
should run red with human blood and he might acquire more and more
booty, he invented a new means of murdering his subjects. Now among the
Christians in the entire Roman Empire, there are many with dissenting
doctrines, which are called heresies by the established church: such as
those of the Montanists and Sabbatians, and whatever others cause the
minds of men to wander from the true path. All of these beliefs he
ordered to be abolished, and their place taken by the orthodox dogma:
threatening, among the punishments for disobedience, loss of the
heretic's right to will property to his children or other relatives.
Now the churches of these so-called heretics especially those belonging
to the Arian dissenters, were almost incredibly wealthy. Neither all the
Senate put together nor the greatest other unit of the Roman Empire,
had anything in property comparable to that of these churches. For their
gold and silver treasures, and stores of precious stones, were beyond
telling or numbering: they owned mansions and whole villages, land all
over the world, and everything else that is counted as wealth among men.
As none of the previous Emperors had molested these churches, many men,
even those of the orthodox faith, got their livelihood by working on
their estates. But the Emperor Justinian, in confiscating these
properties, at the same time took away what for many people had been
their only means of earning a living.
Agents were sent everywhere to force whomever they chanced upon to
renounce the faith of their fathers. This, which seemed impious to
rustic people, caused them to rebel against those who gave them such an
order. Thus many perished at the hands of the persecuting faction, and
others did away with themselves, foolishly thinking this the holier
course of two evils; but most of them by far quitted the land of their
fathers, and fled the country. The Montanists, who dwelt in Phrygia,
shut themselves up in their churches, set them on fire, and ascended to
glory in the flames. And thenceforth the whole Roman Empire was a scene
of massacre and flight.
A similar law w as then passed against the Samaritans, which threw Palestine into an indescribable turmoil.
Those, indeed, who lived in my own Caesarea and in the other cities,
deciding it silly to suffer harsh treatment over a ridiculous trifle of
dogma, took the name of Christians in exchange for the one they had
borne before, by which precaution they were able to avoid the perils of
the new law. The most reputable and better class of these citizens, once
they had adopted this religion, decided to remain faithful to it; the
majority, however, as if in spite for having not voluntarily, but by the
compulsion of law, abandoned the belief of their fathers, soon slipped
away into the Manichean sect and what is known as polytheism.
The country people, however, banded together and determined to take arms
against the Emperor: choosing as their candidate for the throne a
bandit named Julian, son of Sabarus. And for a time they held their own
against the imperial troops; but finally, defeated in battle, were cut
down, together with their leader. Ten myriads of men are said to have
perished in this engagement, and the most fertile country on earth thus
became destitute of farmers. To the Christian owners of these lands, the
affair brought great hardship: for while their profits from these
properties were annihilated, they had to pay heavy annual taxes on them
to the Emperor for the rest of their lives, and secured no remission of
Next he turned his attention to those called Gentiles, torturing their
persons and plundering their lands. of this group, those who decided to
become nominal Christians saved themselves for the time being; but it
was not long before these, too, were caught performing libations and
sacrifices and other unholy rites. And how he treated the Christians
shall be told hereafter.
After this he passed a law prohibiting pederasty: a law pointed not at
offenses committed after this decree, but at those who could be
convicted of having practised the vice in the past. The conduct of the
prosecution was utterly illegal. Sentence was passed when there was no
accuser: the word of one man or boy, and that perhaps a slave, compelled
against his will to bear witness against his owner, was defined as
sufficient evidence. Those who were convicted were castrated and then
exhibited in a public parade. At the start, this persecution was
directed only at those who were of the Green party, were reputed to be
especially wealthy, or had otherwise aroused jealousy.
The Emperor's malice was also directed against the astrologer.
Accordingly, magistrates appointed to punish thieves also abused the
astrologers, for no other reason than that they belonged to this
profession; whipping them on the back and parading them on camels
throughout the city, though they were old men, and in every way
respectable, with no reproach against them except that they studied the
science of the stars while living in such a city.
Consequently there was a constant stream of emigration not only to the
land of the barbarians but to places farthest remote from the Romans;
and in every country and city one could see crowds of foreigners. For in
order to escape persecution, each would lightly exchange his native
land for another, as if his own country had been taken by an enemy.