Byzantine Emperor Justinian II Was Called The Slit Nosed

Grace Higgins | September 26th, 2020

Justinian II or as many called him The Slit Nosed, was the last Byzantine Emperor of the Heraclian dynasty. This was a dynasty that took place from 685 to 695, and then again from 705 to 711. Justinian II had extremely ambitious plans and was passionate about growing the empire. His aim was to restore the Roman Empire to all of its former glory. The problem was he lacked the real negotiating finesse that is needed to placate other royal families and nobles.

As a result, the peace the empire had enjoyed under the rule of his father Constantine IV quickly came under pressure. Justinian II made many enemies, and whenever they opposed or questioned his decision, he would strike them down brutally. In 695, the opposition grew so strong that they started a successful uprising that overthrew him.

The main problem was given his ambitious war efforts to retake lands in the West from the Slavs. Along with battling the Arabs in the East, Justinian II needed a big army. As a result, he put in place many laws that protected the lands of peasant freeholders. Because the farm working peasants were his biggest recruiting pool for growing his army. This didn’t go down too well with the aristocracy who felt he was stealing their land. But in the end, it was taxes that led to his first downfall. People grew so angry over the large taxes, they sent him to exile. Not before they cut off his nose, hence, the name The Slit Nosed. Because byzantine law at the time stated no emperor could hold the throne while being disfigured.

Justinian II was not going to give up so easily. Gathering an army of supporters, he was able to retake the throne in 705. He executed the rebellious lords and many of their partisans. As he entered the city of Constantinople, he wore a golden nasal prosthesis to hide his disfigurement.

Unfortunately, his second reign turned out worse than the first. Perhaps he had become twisted during his exile, but he was crueler to his people than before. Eventually, even his army turned on him, overthrowing and killing him in 711.

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