Justinian II (685–695, 705–711)

Justinian II (685–695, 705–711)

One of only two Byzantine emperors to rule twice, Justinian's is a cautionary tale in energetic imperial overreach. In contrast to his father's diplomatic approach Justinian sought to expand his empire through military action. He campaigned in Sklavinia (the Balkans) as well as in Armenia. Although he was able to force the caliph Abd al-Malik to seek terms after encouraging the Mardaites to raid Lebanon, his gains in Armenia were undermined by the defection of his Slavic allies. Justinian pursued a policy of settling conquered peoples within the empire and was responsible for population transfers between the Balkans and the East and between Cyprus and Anatolia. In the realm of Orthodoxy, Justinian confirmed the rejection of Monotheletism at a synod in 686/7, persecuted Paulicians, and tried to arrest the pope.

Taxation was heavy, and in 695 the general Leontios deposed the emperor, slit his nose and tongue, and exiled him to Cherson in the Crimea. While in exile Justinian sought the aid of the Khazar khaghan, and eventually married his daughter. In 705, Justinian and the Bulgar khan Tervel marched against Tiberios III (who had overthrown Leontios) and regained the throne. Justinian spent much of his second reign persecuting those who had been involved in his overthrow or who had served in the governments of his successors. To promote dynastic continuity Justinian crowned his Khazar wife, the first foreign augusta, and his son. He continued the aggressive foreign policy of his first reign, beginning conflicts in the Balkans, Italy, and the East. In 711, Bardanes, who had been sent to Cherson at the head of an expeditionary force, instead seized the capital, beheaded Justinian, and ordered his young son Tiberios killed.

The coins of Justinian II are remarkable for the first appearance of Christ. Additionally, this was the point at which the emperor’s portrait moved to the reverse side where it would remain, with few exceptions, until the end of the empire. Of course, this move had taken place a century before on seals. On the seals of his first reign Justinian reverted to the obverse image of the Mother of God holding Christ before her that was altered by his father, except one type on which she holds Christ in her left arm. In the first reign, there are two reverse types: first, a bust of the emperor holding a globus cruciger, and second, a full-length representation holding a cross potent on three steps. Seals from the second reign include Tiberios on the reverse (see Zacos-Veglery, no. 29).

 
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