When the powerful figure of Justinian disappeared from the stage of history, his entire artificial system of government, which had temporarily kept the empire in proper balance, fell to ruin. At his death, said Bury, the winds were loosed from prison; the disintegrating elements began to operate with full force; the artificial system collapsed; and the metamorphosis in the character of the empire, which had been surely progressing for a long time past, though one is apt to overlook it amid the striking events of Justinians busy reign, now began to work rapidly and perceptibly. The time between the years 565 and 610 belongs to one of the most cheerless periods in Byzantine history, when anarchy, poverty, and plagues raged throughout the Empire. The confusion of this period caused John of Ephesus, the historian of the time of Justin II, to speak of the approaching end of the world. There is perhaps no period of history, said Finlay, in which society was so universally in a state of demoralization. The events of this period, however, show that this deplorable picture is somewhat exaggerated and therefore is to be rectified.
The successors of Justinian were: Justin II the Younger (565-78), Tiberius II (578-82), Maurice (582-602), and Phocas (602-10). The most outstanding of these four rulers was the energetic soldier and able leader, Maurice. Sophia, the strong-willed wife of Justin II who greatly resembled Theodora, exerted much influence on government affairs. The most significant events in the external affairs of the Empire during this period were the Persian War, the struggle with the Slavs and Avars in the Balkan peninsula, and the Lombard conquest of Italy. In the internal life of the Empire the firmly orthodox policy of the emperors and the formation of two exarchates were significant.
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