Tuesday, April 04, 2017

The coronation of Justinian as Co-Emperor in AD 527

Justinian from the mosaic at San Vitale
in Ravenna.
With his uncle Justin I sick to the point of death in early April, AD 527, Petrus Sabbatius Justinianus, long the heir-apparent to the throne of the eastern Roman empire, was crowned co-emperor. This happened on either April 1 or April 4. We have an idea of what went on that day, thanks to some fragmentary writings of Peter the Patrician, who held the high position of Master of Offices (magister officiorum) under Justinian for over twenty years. These fragments were preserved for posterity in Constantine Porphyrogenitus's work, De Ceremoniis. Peter wrote:
When Justin I was lying seriously ill, upon the advice of the senate, he proclaimed Justinian co-Emperor in the Great Triclinium of the palace. On April 4th, 525 [all other sources say April 1, 527], Justin ordered an audience to be held in the building of the palace called the Delphax, where the scholarians and all the corps of soldiers were assembled. The Bishop was present, offered prayer, and crowned Justinian. [From: Boak: Imperial Coronation Ceremonies of the Fifth and 6th centuries]. 
Peter then reports that everything else took place along the lines of the previously described coronation of Leo II, which wrapped up as follows:
The Bishop departed and the senior Emperor took his seat. The new Emperor saluted the people who hailed him as Augustus. After the Urban Prefect and the senate had made him the usual present of a crown of gold he addressed the soldiers, promising them the customary donative. [As above].
At the news of the donative, which was usually a gift of gold and silver, the soldiers would have rejoiced and offered acclamations like the following, which are based on the shouts recorded in De Ceremoniis at the elevation of the emperor Anastasius I in AD 491:
"Abundance for the world! God will preserve a Christian emperor! These are common prayers! These are the prayers of the world! Lord, help the pious! Holy Lord, uplift the world! The fortune of the Romans conquers! Justin Augustus, you conquer! Justinian Augustus, you conquer! God has given thee, God will keep thee! God be with you!" [Taken from: Brightman: "Byzantine Imperial Coronations" in The Journal of Theological Studies, 1901]
It should be noted that this sort of ceremonial—where an ailing senior emperor crowns a co-emperor—seemed to be more somber affairs. They tended to be shorter and more bare-bones than the full coronation ceremony when a new emperor was crowned in his own right. The full ceremony included additional opportunities for prayer, procession, proclamation and acclamation.
Late Roman soldiers, possibly scholarians, from the Brescia Casket, late 4th century AD.

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