Greatest monarchs of the 6th century AD

johnincornwall

Ad Honorem
Nov 2010
7,849
Cornwall
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.)
Not really my bag, but wasn't Ravenna the centre of things by those days?
 
Oct 2018
1,832
Sydney
Not really my bag, but wasn't Ravenna the centre of things by those days?
As early as the late third century Rome was being eclipsed by other cities in terms of administrative importance (Trier, Milan, Sirmium, Thessalonica, Nicomedia, Antioch), but it's notable that, at least at that time, it was still regarded as the ideological heart of the empire. But in terms of administration Ravenna had been of great importance since the early fifth century.
 
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Kirialax

Ad Honorem
Dec 2009
4,903
Blachernai
Not really my bag, but wasn't Ravenna the centre of things by those days?
Sort of. It's mixed. The exarch was based in Ravenna, and at first he's is mostly just a general++, and there are still doukes or magistri militum based in Rome, Naples, Sicily, and Perugia. By the late seventh century secular power and priorities had largely shifted to Sicily, with the establishment of the thema. We can see Constantinople's priorities based on their bullion distribution - the Ravenna mints are making some pretty horrible coinage by this time but the Sicilian stuff is still okay. The other administrative issue is that it's not quite clear where the praetorian prefect of Italy was based. The office was re-established in Rome, and it still seems to be there at times, but it's not at all certain. Ravenna was also past its prime as a capital - silting had made it an inland city, thus negating the benefit of having easy supply by sea. My suspicion is that the eastern government held on to Ravenna for two reasons. First, it was too prestigious to abandon to the Lombards, having been both Roman and Ostrogothic capitals. Second, it gave the Romans an outlet on the Po. They were never able to take advantage of it, but at good times the Po is navigable up to Torino, so in theory it could support any Roman army that decided to march into northern Italy and knock the Lombards out of Pavia. There is institutional continuity, and I suspect that the archives survived from late Roman times - we have an anonymous Ravennese author ca. 700 referring to works by Ostrogothic intellectuals that he had read. I'm not sure what the state of the question is in regards to the functioning of the Ostrogothic state, but its resilience suggests that it kept its Roman institutions largely intact, which suggests to be a functioning bureaucracy that the east Romans took over after the conquest.

Ravenna also seems to be more of a communications hub to the east than Syracuse is, probably because of the secular administration based there and at least nominal and partial access to the Via Egnatia. At the same time, there's still institutional momentum in Rome, as the bishop manages a range of estates in the Lazio, Campania, and Sicily, and thus indirectly, is managing the empire through them. It's probably not for nothing that the seventh-century Armenian geographer Anania of Shirak noted that Italy was unusual for having two capitals, Rome and Ravenna.
 

Theodoric

Ad Honorem
Mar 2012
2,979
Yötebory Sveriya
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.
As has been said, proactivity isn’t necessarily a positive. While Constantine, Augustus, and Diocletian all improved Europe, in the case of Justinian, he ended up being one of the most destructive invaders of Europe.
 
Oct 2018
1,832
Sydney
As has been said, proactivity isn’t necessarily a positive. While Constantine, Augustus, and Diocletian all improved Europe, in the case of Justinian, he ended up being one of the most destructive invaders of Europe.
Kirialax does a good job of defending the war against the Ostrogoths in post 24, but I would add that Justinian's proactivity led to the commissioning of the Corpus Juris Civilis (the Code, Digest, Institutes and Novellae Constitutiones), the rationalization of administration, measures against corruption, patronage of the arts, various building projects with various benefits, measures designed to strengthen the imperial treasury, and measures designed to reduce tension between the bishop of Rome and the eastern bishops (which in this case admittedly appear to have failed).
 
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Feb 2018
247
US
Why is Justinian is getting blamed for the plague that he could not have foreseen? That completely changed the resulting history of how the Italian wars are viewed.

In Central Asia, Mughan Khagan stands out as perhaps the most exceptional pre-mongol leader. As the leader of an established but unstable and newly formed Gokturk confederacy, he greatly expanded their territory in the east, west, and north in just over a decade in addition to his promotion of writing. Unfortunately his successors would not be able to keep the empire together.
 
Mar 2016
1,222
Australia
Kirialax does a good job of defending the war against the Ostrogoths in post 24, but I would add that Justinian's proactivity led to the commissioning of the Corpus Juris Civilis (the Code, Digest, Institutes and Novellae Constitutiones), the rationalization of administration, measures against corruption, patronage of the arts, various building projects with various benefits, measures designed to strengthen the imperial treasury, and measures designed to reduce tension between the bishop of Rome and the eastern bishops (which in this case admittedly appear to have failed).
Again, nobody is faulting Justinian for being pro-active in all of his non-military projects. Many of them are unarguably positive things. But being "pro-active" in war generally means being the aggressor, and with only a few exceptions that is not a wholly good thing. It was arguably good in North Africa, but terrible with Italy.
 
Mar 2016
1,222
Australia
Why is Justinian is getting blamed for the plague that he could not have foreseen? That completely changed the resulting history of how the Italian wars are viewed.
The plague was not directly responsible for the massive amounts of death and destruction in Italy in the years prior to its outbreak.
 

Willempie

Ad Honorem
Jul 2015
5,563
Netherlands
Kirialax does a good job of defending the war against the Ostrogoths in post 24, but I would add that Justinian's proactivity led to the commissioning of the Corpus Juris Civilis (the Code, Digest, Institutes and Novellae Constitutiones), the rationalization of administration, measures against corruption, patronage of the arts, various building projects with various benefits, measures designed to strengthen the imperial treasury, and measures designed to reduce tension between the bishop of Rome and the eastern bishops (which in this case admittedly appear to have failed).
The bolded part wasn't really working, though.
 

johnincornwall

Ad Honorem
Nov 2010
7,849
Cornwall
Kirialax does a good job of defending the war against the Ostrogoths in post 24, but I would add that Justinian's proactivity led to the commissioning of the Corpus Juris Civilis (the Code, Digest, Institutes and Novellae Constitutiones), the rationalization of administration, measures against corruption, patronage of the arts, various building projects with various benefits, measures designed to strengthen the imperial treasury, and measures designed to reduce tension between the bishop of Rome and the eastern bishops (which in this case admittedly appear to have failed).
One can only speculate now - but the development of the Visigothic state eventually led to a terminal decline and an unsustainable government/economy/oppression (according to the most likely theory) which was of course roundly taken advantage of by the arabs. Strong and effective rulers of the Goths seemed to come along every few decades at best, and the political/clan shenanigans surpass almost anything else we know about.

It's only since that we call them Visi and Ostro - they were all Goths. So after the death of Theodoric the Great, it was all going to end in tears one way or another, unless they were very, very lucky!

Another of my opinions is that after centuries of basically wandering about, occupying and running/inheriting a fixed state from the Empire didn't really work!! Whilst also practising a unique combination of obsessive Christianity with brutality and cruelty