Khosrow I vs Justinian I

Who was a greater emperor?

  • Khosrow I

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    2
Feb 2019
624
Thrace
Their reigns seem almost like a Ronaldo vs Messi rivalry of the 6th century. All things considered, which one was the more competent emperor?
 
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Mar 2016
1,222
Australia
From a political and military perspective, Khosrow, because he didn't almost bankrupt his empire by dramatically overextending it and waging pointless wars just for his own personal glory in far-flung regions that were impossible to defend. But from a civil and legal perspective I would give the edge to Justinian, solely for the Code Justinian, the greatest law-code in the world that wouldn't be surpassed for another 1,300 years.
 
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Futurist

Ad Honoris
May 2014
22,750
SoCal
From a political and military perspective, Khosrow, because he didn't almost bankrupt his empire by dramatically overextending it and waging pointless wars just for his own personal glory in far-flung regions that were impossible to defend. But from a civil and legal perspective I would give the edge to Justinian, solely for the Code Justinian, the greatest law-code in the world that wouldn't be surpassed for another 1,300 years.
One would wonder if Justinian would have been better served expanding into the Arabian peninsula than into the west. After all, that way, there might have been a chance of nipping Islam in the bud before it ever took off--and that could have large positive consequences for the Byzantine Empire.
 
Mar 2016
1,222
Australia
One would wonder if Justinian would have been better served expanding into the Arabian peninsula than into the west. After all, that way, there might have been a chance of nipping Islam in the bud before it ever took off--and that could have large positive consequences for the Byzantine Empire.
That would have been a massive drain on the treasury as well, and highly impractical, having to garrison an enormous desert with almost no large urban settlements to exert zones of control and which would bring almost no benefits, except maybe access to trade in the Red Sea and from India. But that would spread his forces thin and leave his eastern borders vulnerable to the Persians. Nobody could have predicted that Arabia would ever be relevant to the degree it was in the 7th century. It was a complete backwater that nobody gave any thought to except in how the local tribes could be used to fight either the Romans or Sassanids in proxy-war fashion.
 
Oct 2018
1,859
Sydney
That would have been a massive drain on the treasury as well, and highly impractical, having to garrison an enormous desert with almost no large urban settlements to exert zones of control and which would bring almost no benefits, except maybe access to trade in the Red Sea and from India. But that would spread his forces thin and leave his eastern borders vulnerable to the Persians. Nobody could have predicted that Arabia would ever be relevant to the degree it was in the 7th century. It was a complete backwater that nobody gave any thought to except in how the local tribes could be used to fight either the Romans or Sassanids in proxy-war fashion.
The Romans already had solid access to the Red Sea trade via the ports on the Egyptian coast. So it wouldn't even be all that justifiable from that angle.
 

Kirialax

Ad Honorem
Dec 2009
4,903
Blachernai
That would have been a massive drain on the treasury as well, and highly impractical, having to garrison an enormous desert with almost no large urban settlements to exert zones of control and which would bring almost no benefits, except maybe access to trade in the Red Sea and from India. But that would spread his forces thin and leave his eastern borders vulnerable to the Persians. Nobody could have predicted that Arabia would ever be relevant to the degree it was in the 7th century. It was a complete backwater that nobody gave any thought to except in how the local tribes could be used to fight either the Romans or Sassanids in proxy-war fashion.
Indeed, the Romans had effectively handled Arabia through client management for centuries. While there's definitely a late-6th c. trend towards larger, more organized polities in the Red Sea (Aksum, Himyar) and amongst the Arabs (Jafnids, Kinda) none of these are anything like a proto-Islamic state.

As for Justinian's efforts in the west, I think we tend to overestimate their cost and underestimate their lasting value. Africa remained in the empire for nearly a century and a half. Sicily was an important breadbasket after the loss of Egypt and remained in the empire for centuries. The last hold-outs in Italy only fell in 1071. Beyond that, though, these were not large campaigns and Africa and Sicily were wrapped up quickly and cleanly at a low cost. The war against the Ostrogoths was a different beast, mostly because the harshest fighting and largest armies saw action in the Balkans. We tend to focus on Italy because Prokopios was there and provides a great narrative of the campaign, but Belisarios's landing in Naples was a rearguard action. The goal was to get the Ostrogths out of the Balkans where they threatened east Roman interests, as Alexander Sarantis argued in Justinian's Balkan Wars: Campaigning, Diplomacy, and Development in Illyricum, Thrace, and the Northern World A.D. 527-65 (Francis Cairns, 2016).
 

botully

Ad Honorem
Feb 2011
3,547
Amelia, Virginia, USA
The effects of the Plague are underestimated when judging Justinian's wars.