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Three Millennia of Greek Literature

Vasilief, A History of the Byzantine Empire

Justinian the Great and his successors (518-610)

The ecclesiastical policy of Justinian 


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This policy of temporal authority in religious and ecclesiastical affairs, penetrating even the deepest regions of inner religious convictions of individuals, is known in history as Caesaro-papism, and Justinian may be considered one of the most characteristic representatives of the Caesaropapistic tendency. In his conception the ruler of the state was to be both Caesar and pope; he was to combine in his person all temporal and spiritual power. The historians who emphasize the political side of Justinian's activities claim that the chief motive in his Caesaropapism was a desire to make secure his political power, to strengthen the government, and to find religious support for the throne which he had procured by chance.

Justinian had received a good religious education. He knew the Scriptures very well, was fond of participating in religious discussions, and wrote a number of church hymns. Religious conflicts seemed dangerous to him, even from a political point of view, for they menaced the unity of the Empire. Although two predecessors of Justin and Justinian, Zeno and Anastasius, had followed the path of peaceful relations with the eastern Monophysitic church, thereby breaking away from the Roman church, Justin and Justinian definitely favored the Roman church and renewed friendly relations with it. This state of affairs was bound to alienate the eastern provinces, a fact that did not harmonize with the projects of Justinian, who was exceedingly anxious to establish a uniform faith throughout his vast Empire. The achievement of a church unity between the East and the West, between Alexandria, Antioch, and Rome, was impossible. Justinian's government, said one historian, was in its church policy a double-faced Janus with one face turned to the west, asking for direction from Rome, while the other, looking east, sought the truth from the Syrian and Egyptian monks.

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