JUSTINIAN I (Flavius Petrus Sabgatius Justinianus)
Justinian I extended Byzantine rule in the West, beautified Constantinople, and completed the codification of Roman law. The nephew of Emperor Justin I, Justinian was born in Illyria and educated in Constantinople (now Istanbul, Turkey). In 518 he became the administrator for Justin, who named Justinian as his successor. He married Theodora, a former actress, in 523. On the death of his uncle in 527, Justinian was elected emperor.
Almost immediately upon his accession Justinian inaugurated a policy of restoration of the Roman Empire, the western part of which had been lost in the barbarian invasions of the 5th century. The eastern front of the empire was secured by an "eternal peace" signed with Khushru I of Persia in 532. Internal unrest was crushed by the great general Belisarius. In 533 an imperial army set out against the Vandal kingdom in North Africa, which was reincorporated into the empire in 534. The following year another imperial army attacked the Ostrogoths in Italy; the Ostrogoths, however, resisted annihilation for another 20 years. A third campaign, undertaken against the Visigoths, reconquered southeastern Spain. By the emperor's death most of the former Roman territory around the Mediterranean Sea, except for Gaul and northern Spain, was again part of the empire, despite a resumption of the Persian war in 540 and gradual Slavic infiltration in the Balkans.
In 532-3, he faced Nika riots in Constantinople, where he was howled down by the mob at the Hippodrome. Egged on by the Empress Theodora, he called in the army and 30,000 rioters were killed.
The centralized empire envisaged by Justinian required a uniform legal system. Therefore an imperial commission headed by the renowned jurist Trebonianus worked for ten years to collect and systematize existing Roman law. Their work was incorporated into the enormous Corpus Juris Civilis (Body of Civil Law), also called the Justinian Code, promulgated in 534 and kept up to date by the addition of new decrees, or Novellae. This formidable legislative codification still remains the basis for the law of most European countries. Simultaneously with this legal reform, attempts were made to rectify administrative abuses.