Greatest monarchs of the 6th century AD

#21
Justinian was kind of terrible for Europe. Europe was improving fairly quickly in the early 5th century, but following Justinian's invasion, it would be centuries until growth would reoccur in certain areas. Particularly in Italy. Also, the destruction of the Ostrogothic Kingdom may have stunted the growth of the rest of Europe.

At the same time, the destruction of the globalist economy may have been better in the long run. That's aside my point! My point is Justinian = Badman.
Justinian's war in Italy was certainly a destructive affair, and that war and the war with the Persians strained the empire's economy. But I respect him as one of Rome's more pro-active rulers (like Augustus, Diocletian and Constantine), as opposed to the norm whereby Roman emperors simply reacted to issues. That pro-activity is evidenced in his judicial, administrative, economic, religious and military policies, although, yes, his military policies, while ideologically satisfying, were problematic.
 
Mar 2016
1,182
Australia
#22
Justinian's war in Italy was certainly a destructive affair, and that war and the war with the Persians strained the empire's economy. But I respect him as one of Rome's more pro-active rulers (like Augustus, Diocletian and Constantine), as opposed to the norm whereby Roman emperors simply reacted to issues. That pro-activity is evidenced in his judicial, administrative, economic, religious and military policies, although, yes, his military policies, while ideologically satisfying, were problematic.
Being pro-active is not necessarily a good thing by default. It depends on the realm of affairs. Being pro-active with the economy, law, etc. is usually a good thing, but being pro-active by repeatedly invading non-hostile neighbours is not a good thing, no matter how much it can be romanticised as taking back land that "rightfully" belongs to you. The invasion of North Africa was arguably more or less justified and acceptable considering the overwhelmingly positive reception the Roman troops got from the locals, but the invasion of Italy was a terrible mistake and should never have been done.
 

Kirialax

Ad Honorem
Dec 2009
4,813
Blachernai
#23
I nominate Bayan I, khagan of the Avars. He subjugated the Slavs, consolidated Avar lands and really gave Byzantium a run for its money in the Balkans, winning important victories, most notable one being the capture of Syrmium. He captured other cities like Singidunum, reached as far as modern-day Corlu uand forced the Empire to pay him tribute. Bayan I really made the Avars a formidable force that would give Byzantium trouble even after his death, famously attacking Constantinople with the Persians in 626.
Baian really deserves more attention than he gets. Under his reign the Avars fundamentally disrupted centuries of Roman client relationships in the Balkans and forced Constantinople into a serious two-front war that they actually had to fight themselves and couldn't use proxy forces for.

Gregory the Great, hands down.
He was no more a monarch than the bishops of Alexandria or Antioch.
 

Kirialax

Ad Honorem
Dec 2009
4,813
Blachernai
#24
Being pro-active is not necessarily a good thing by default. It depends on the realm of affairs. Being pro-active with the economy, law, etc. is usually a good thing, but being pro-active by repeatedly invading non-hostile neighbours is not a good thing, no matter how much it can be romanticised as taking back land that "rightfully" belongs to you. The invasion of North Africa was arguably more or less justified and acceptable considering the overwhelmingly positive reception the Roman troops got from the locals, but the invasion of Italy was a terrible mistake and should never have been done.
I'll defend Justinian on this. The main problem is that we look at the war in Italy and see... Italy. That's not what the situation looked like from Constantinople. We have this view partially because we know how it ended, but also because our main account of the campaign comes from the secretary of Belisarios. Procopius makes it look like Belisarios was out there, one magister militum against the entire Gothic kingdom, but that's not it at all. Belisarios' invasion was a rearguard action designed to throw the Goths off-balance. The main invasion force, and the heaviest fighting in the early stages of the war, took place in the Balkans, where the Goths had control of Illyricum. This was unacceptable to Constantinople - the Goths had a state and it encroached on Roman territory. This gave them the staying power to manipulate groups beyond the Danube and engage in diplomacy with the empire's enemies. This made them doubly dangerous - they had access both to the Mediterranean and to the reservoir of eastern Europe and the steppe. A big war was going to happen at some point, and Justinian picked a very advantagous time to start it. And he won. We can't blame Justinian for the diplomatic mess that ended with Byzantine forces mishandling the migration of the Lombards and the resulting creation of three Lombard polities in Italy. In any case, it's also worth remembering that the eastern Roman Empire only lost its last bit of Sicily in 902 and its last bit of Apulia in 1071. Byzantium held on to parts of Italy for a length of time as long as Gaul was part of the Western Roman Empire.
 
#25
I'll defend Justinian on this. The main problem is that we look at the war in Italy and see... Italy. That's not what the situation looked like from Constantinople. We have this view partially because we know how it ended, but also because our main account of the campaign comes from the secretary of Belisarios. Procopius makes it look like Belisarios was out there, one magister militum against the entire Gothic kingdom, but that's not it at all. Belisarios' invasion was a rearguard action designed to throw the Goths off-balance. The main invasion force, and the heaviest fighting in the early stages of the war, took place in the Balkans, where the Goths had control of Illyricum. This was unacceptable to Constantinople - the Goths had a state and it encroached on Roman territory. This gave them the staying power to manipulate groups beyond the Danube and engage in diplomacy with the empire's enemies. This made them doubly dangerous - they had access both to the Mediterranean and to the reservoir of eastern Europe and the steppe. A big war was going to happen at some point, and Justinian picked a very advantagous time to start it. And he won. We can't blame Justinian for the diplomatic mess that ended with Byzantine forces mishandling the migration of the Lombards and the resulting creation of three Lombard polities in Italy. In any case, it's also worth remembering that the eastern Roman Empire only lost its last bit of Sicily in 902 and its last bit of Apulia in 1071. Byzantium held on to parts of Italy for a length of time as long as Gaul was part of the Western Roman Empire.
The sixth century is a bit late for me, but was there also a desire to bring Rome back into the empire that she had founded? I would imagine that was the case, but was that a major concern?
 
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Willempie

Ad Honorem
Jul 2015
5,206
Netherlands
#27
He was no more a monarch than the bishops of Alexandria or Antioch.
Hmm, we could set up an endless discussion on this subject. He was the de facto ruler of what would later become the papal states and made the papacy the religious leader in the west, while being a force to reckon with in the eastern church.
This was in a time when the Byzantines and Lombards had ravaged the country and the papacy was probably held at its lowest esteem in history.
Though I do see your point as well.
 

Kirialax

Ad Honorem
Dec 2009
4,813
Blachernai
#29
Hmm, we could set up an endless discussion on this subject. He was the de facto ruler of what would later become the papal states and made the papacy the religious leader in the west, while being a force to reckon with in the eastern church.
This was in a time when the Byzantines and Lombards had ravaged the country and the papacy was probably held at its lowest esteem in history.
Though I do see your point as well.
He was ruler of what would become the papal states, but the process in which the papacy truly came to administer their holdings in Italy as part of an independent realm is a long-term process that really only gets going in the seventh century. Gregory's letters reveal a deference to imperial authority, which matches the administration of Italy. His immediate political overlord was the doux of Rome, and then the exarch in Ravenna. Gregory didn't see eastern and western churches. To him there was only the imperial church and he seems to have had a hard time imagining anything like "Latin Christendom". He saw himself as an active part of that church, and keeping the church in order was part of keeping the state safe. His conflict with the position in the ecclesiastical hierarchy of the patriarch of Constantinople should be seen in that light: emperors can be chastised, and being part of the empire means providing correction when he believes it necessary. See Dal Santo, Matthew. “Gregory the Great, the Empire and the Emperor.” In A Companion to Gregory the Great, edited by Bronwen Neil and Matthew Dal Santo, 57–81. Leiden: Brill, 2013.
 

Kirialax

Ad Honorem
Dec 2009
4,813
Blachernai
#30
The sixth century is a bit late for me, but was there also a desire to bring Rome back into the empire that she had founded? I would imagine that was the case, but was that a major concern?
I really don't have an answer to that. A lot of the fighting in Italy centred around Rome, but I'd also suggest that a major aspect of that is controlling the Tiber, which gives access to central Italy. I suspect it's not a coincidence that when the dust settles ca. 590 the eastern Roman government is left in control of the mouths of nearly every significant navigable river in Italy, but I'm not sure how far I want to take this argument. (The dissertation chapter on Italy is mostly logistics, not ideology.)
 

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