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[[File: Justinian I.png|200px|
thumb|left|Justinian I from a mosaic in Ravenna]]
There is a growing appreciation of the importance of the Byzantines in the history and development of Europe and the Middle East. It comprised the Eastern half of the Roman Empire and its inhabitants regarded themselves as Romans. One of the greatest figures in the history of this Empire is the Emperor Justinian (483-565). He is regularly known as Justinian the Great and is even a saint in the Greek Orthodox Church. Justinian was a man of remarkable ability and vision and he sought to restore the Roman Empire, to its former glory and extent. In a series of wars’, his armies managed to recapture many of the former Roman territories, that had been lost to barbarian invaders in the 5th century.
[[File: Justinian 2.jpg|200px|
thumb|left|Belisarius from a mosaic]]
The Roman Empire had been divided by the Emperor Theodosius I into an Eastern and Western state. The two parts of the Roman Word were very different from the east, mainly Greek-speaking, wealthier and urban, while the west, was mainly Latin speaking and increasingly impoverished. The Western Empire was much weaker than the East and after the collapse of the Rhine frontier in 410 AD it was slowly occupied by various Germanic tribes who created states in the former Imperial provinces.
====The reign of Justinian and his wars of conquests====
[[File: Justinian 3.jpg|200px|
thumb|left|A gold coin of Justinian I]]
Justinian was born in Illyria and his uncle Justin had become commander of the Imperial bodyguard and had been crowned Emperor in 518 AD. Justinian became a trusted advisor to his childless uncle whom he succeeded in 527 AD. He married a former courtesan Theodora, and this was very controversial and made the Emperor unpopular in some circles.<ref><i>Procopius, The Secret History</i>, translated by Anthony Kaldellis (Indianapolis: Hackett Publishing, 2010), p 15. </ref> He was a capable administrator, and he ordered the codification of the law code which was very progressive for the time. Justinian was also a great builder, and his greatest achievement was the magnificent Hagia Sophia. The Emperor was a committed Christian, and he closed the ‘pagan’ academy founded by Plato during his reign.