The deeds of Justinian were such that all eternity would not be long
enough in which to describe them adequately. So a few examples will have
to suffice to illuminate his whole character to future generations:
what a dissembler he was, how he disregarded God, the priests, the laws,
and the people who showed themselves loyal to him. He had no shame at
all, either when he brought destruction on the State or at any misdeed;
he did not bother to try to excuse his actions, and his only care was
how he might get sole possession of all the wealth of the world. To
As bishop of Alexandria he appointed a man by the name of Paul. At this
time one Rhodon, a Phoenician, was Governor of that city. Him he ordered
to serve Paul with all zeal, and to allow none of his instructions to
be unfulfilled. For thus he thought he could associate all the priests
in Alexandria under the synod of Chalcedon.
Now there was a certain Arsenius a native of Palestine, who had become
one of the most useful intimates of the Empress Theodora, and
consequently after acquiring great power and wealth, had been raised to
senatorial rank, though he was a disgusting fellow. He was a Samaritan,
but so as not to lose his official rank and power, became a nominal
Christian; while his father and brother, encouraged by his authority,
continued in their ancestral faith in Scythopolis, where, with his
consent, they persecuted the Christians intolerably. As a result of
this, the citizens revolted and put them both to a most shameful death.
Many later troubles afflicted the people of Palestine because of this.
At the time, however, neither Justinian nor the Empress did anything to
punish Arsenius, though he was principally responsible for the whole
trouble. They merely forbade him entrance to the palace, to get rid of
the crowds of Christians complaining against him.
This Arsenius, thinking to please the Emperor, soon after went to
Alexandria with Paul, to assist him generally and in special to help him
get the good will of the Alexandrians. For during the time he had been
barred from the palace, he affirmed he had become learned in all the
Christian doctrines. This displeased Theodora, for she pretended to
disagree with the Emperor in religious matters, as I have told before.
As -soon as they arrived in Alexandria, Paul handed over a deacon by the
name of Psoes to Rhoden to be put to death, on the charge that this man
alone stood in the way of the accomplishment of the Emperor's wishes.
And following instructions in letters from the Emperor, which came
frequently and cogently, Rhodon ordered the man to be scourged; after
which, while he was being racked by the torture, he up and died.
When news of this reached the Emperor, at the Empress's instigation he
expressed horror at what had been done by Paul, Rhodon and Arsenius: as
if he had forgotten his own instructions to these men. He now appointed
Liberius, a patrician from Rome, Governor of Alexandria, and sent
certain priests of good reputation to Alexandria, to investigate the
matter; among these were the Archdeacon of Rome, Pelagius, who was
commissioned by Pope Vigilius to act as his legate.
Paul, convicted of the murder, was removed from the bishopric; Rhodon,
who fled to Constantinople, was beheaded by the Emperor and his estates
confiscated, although the man produced thirteen letters which the
Emperor had written him, insisting and commanding him to serve Paul in
everything and never to oppose him, so that he could fulfill his every
wish in religious matters. Liberius, at Theodora's order, crucified
Arsenius, and the Emperor confiscated his property, though he had no
charge to bring against him except that he had been intimate with Paul.
Now whether his actions in this matter were just or otherwise, I cannot
say; but I shall soon show why I have described the affair.
Some time later, Paul came to Constantinople and offered the Emperor
seven gold centenaries if he would reinstate him in the holy office from
which, he claimed, he had been illegally removed. Justinian genially
took the money, treated the man with great respect, and agreed to make
him Bishop of Alexandria again very soon, though another now held the
office; as if he did not know that he himself had put to death Paul's
friends and helpers, and had confiscated their estates.
So the Augustus zealously extended every effort to arrange this matter,
and Paul was generally expected to regain his bishopric one way or
another. But Vigilius, who was in the capital at the time, decided not
to yield to the Emperor's command in such a case; and he said he could
not annul a decision which Pelagius had given as his legate. And the
Emperor, whose only idea was to get the money, dismissed the matter.
Here is another similar case. There was a certain Faustin, born in
Palestine, and of an old Samaritan family, who accepted a nominal
Christianity when the law constrained him. This Faustin became a Senator
and a Governor of his province; and when his term of office expired a
little later, he came to Constantinople, where he was denounced by
certain priests as having favored the Samaritans and impiously
persecuted the Christians in Palestine. Justinian appeared to be very
angry and outraged that during his rule over the Romans, anybody could
have insulted the name of Christ.
So the Senate investigated the affair and by the will of the Emperor,
punished Faustin with exile. But the Emperor, after getting from him the
money he wanted, straightway annulled the decree. And Faustin, restored
to his former rank, and the Emperor's friendship, was made Count of the
imperial domains in Palestine and Phoenicia, where he fearlessly did as
much harm as he wanted. Now in what way Justinian protected the true
interests of the Christians may clearly be seen in these instances, few
of them as I have had time to give.