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Justinian II, known as Rhinotmetus (the Split-nosed) (669-711) was a Byzantine emperor of the Heraclian dynasty, reigned from 685 to 695 and again from 704 to 711. He succeeded his father, Constantine IV, at the age of sixteen.

First reign

Due of the Constantine IV's victories, when Justinian became emperor the situation in the Eastern provinces of the Empire was stable. He managed to augment the sum paid by the Caliphs as an annual tribute, and to regain control of part of Cyprus. Also the incomes of the provinces of Armenia and Iberia were divided among the two empires.

Justinian took advantage of the peace in the East to regain possess of the Balkans, then almost totally under the heel of Slavic tribes. In 687 Justinian transferred cavalry troops from Anatolia to Thrace. with a great military campaign, in 688-689 defeated the Bulgars and could finally enter in Thessalonica, the second Greek city for importance. The subdued Slavs were moved to Anatolia, where they were to provide a military force of 30,000 men.

Justinian also removed from their native Lebanon 12,000 Christian Maronites, a people who had started to fight under the Arabs. This move gave rise to a war against the caliph, who conquered Armenia in 692.

Meanwhile the bitter dissensions caused in the Church by the emperor's bloody persecution of the Manichaeans, and the rapacity with which (through his creatures Stephanus and Theodatus) he extorted the means of gratifying his sumptuous tastes and his mania for erecting costly buildings, drove his subjects into rebellion.

In 695 they rose under Leontius and, after cutting off the emperor's nose (whence his surname), banished him to Cherson in the Crimea. Leontius, after a reign of three years, was in turn dethroned and imprisoned by Tiberius Absimarus, who next assumed the purple.


Justinian escaped from Cherson after almost nine years and married Theodora, sister of Ibousiros Gliabanos (Busir Glavan), khagan of the Khazars. They were given a home in the town of Phanagoria. Busir was offered a bribe by Tiberius to kill his brother in law, and dispatched two Khazar officials, Papatzys and Balgitzin, to do the deed. Warned by his wife, Justinian fled the town, but not before murdering Papatzys and Balgatzin.

Justinian next fled to Terbelis (Terval), khan of the Danube Bulgars (see Bulgaria). Terval offered his support in exchange for financial considerations and the award of a caesar's crown. With an army of 15,000 Bulgar horsemen Justinian pounced upon Constantinople. Unable to take the city by force, he and some companions entered through an unused aqueduct, roused their supporters, and seized control of the city in a midnight coup d'etat. Justinian then had his rivals Leontius and Tiberius along with thousands of their partisans executed, and once more ascended the throne in 704.

Second Reign

Justinian, on the reverse of this coin struck during his second reign, is holding a patriarchal globus with PAX, peace. On the Obverse, Jesus. http://www.cngcoins.com

His second reign was marked by an unsuccessful war against the Bulgars under Terval, Arab victories in Asia Minor, devastating expeditions sent against his own cities of Ravenna and Cherson where he inflicted horrible punishment upon the disaffected nobles and refugees, and the same cruel rapacity toward his subjects. Justinian met Pope Constantine and the two negotiated a settlement. This would be the last time a Pope visited the city until the visit of Paul VI to Istanbul in 1967.

Justinian's tyrannical rule provoked another rising against him. Cherson revolted; under the leadership of Bardanes, the city held out against a counter-attack and soon the forces sent to suppress the rebellion joined it. The rebels then seized the capital and proclaimed Bardanes as emperor; Justinian had been on his way to Armenia, and was unable to return to Constantinople in time to defend it. He was arrested and executed outside the city in December 711, his head being sent to Bardanes as a trophy.

On hearing the news of his death, Justinian's mother took his six-year-old son and co-Emperor, Tiberius, to sanctuary at St. Mary's Church in Blachernae, but was pursued by Bardanes' henchmen, who dragged the child from the altar and, once outside the church, murdered him, thus finally eradicating the line of Heraclius.

A fictional account of Justinian's life is given in the 1998 novel Justinian by H.N. Turteltaub.

Preceded by:
Constantine IV
Byzantine Emperor
First reign
Succeeded by:
Preceded by:
Tiberius III
Byzantine Emperor
Second reign
Succeeded by:


This article incorporates text from the 1911 Encyclopædia Britannica, which is in the public domain.

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