The Orthodox Nationalist: The Emperor Justinian, Part II

Dr Matthew Raphael Johnson continues discussing the Emperor Justinian, this week looking at his law code and the centralisation of power that followed.

Justinian re-established and reformed Roman power. His great claim in this regard was in his internal policy, especially in his codification of older Roman laws adapted to the realities of the Christian era. Ultimately, after many years, the Corpus Juris Civilis was published, serving as the font for all European law afterwards.

The theological foundation for the restoration of Rome was found at Chalcedon in 451, the single most significant event of European history. Though Justinian ruled a century later, the issue still loomed very large. St. Leo the Great and Justinian were two of the more articulate defenders of the Orthodox position that argued that justice is impossible if the divine nature absorbs the human. The free choice of the faith was impossible under this condition. It was Leo’s witness that permitted the Orthodox east to plausibly attempt to reunify both sides of the empire. For Justinian, it was Pope Agapetus that served as the promoter of St. Leo’s ideas. Justinian’s attempt to compromise over the issue helped create distrust between the two Romes.

It is true that his reunification required high taxes, great military expenditure and increased centralization, but these were all in the interests of justice. While Justinian’s attempt to unify both sides of the Roman empire failed, his conception of justice that served as the foundation of the attempt led to our idea of Christian Europe.


Matthew Raphael Johnson

Matthew Raphael Johnson is a scholar of Russian Orthodox history and philosophy. He completed his doctorate at the University of Nebraska at Lincoln in 1999. He is a former professor of both history and political science at the University of Nebraska (as a graduate student), Penn State University and Mount St. Mary’s University. Since 1999, he was the editor (and is presently Senior Researcher) at The Barnes Review, a well-known renegade journal of European history. Dr. Johnson is the author of eight books. Six are from Hromada Books, "Sobornosti: Essays on the Old Faith;" "Heavenly Serbia and the Medieval Idea;" "Orthodoxy, Autocracy, Nationality: Lectures on Medieval Russia;" "The Ancient Orthodox Tradition in Russian Literature: "The Foreign Policy of Mass Society: The Failure of Western Engagement in the Middle East;" and "Officially Approved Dissent: Alasdair MacIntyre’s Strategic Ambiguity in His Critique of Modernity." And two published by The Barnes Review, "The Third Rome: Holy Russia, Tsarism and Orthodoxy;" and "Russian Populist: The Political Thought of Vladimir Putin."