Emperor, Soldier, Saint


By Peter Sarris

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$45.00 CAD

A definitive new biography of the Byzantine emperor Justinian  
Justinian is a radical reassessment of an emperor and his times. In the sixth century CE, the emperor Justinian presided over nearly four decades of remarkable change, in an era of geopolitical threats, climate change, and plague. From the eastern Roman—or Byzantine—capital of Constantinople, Justinian’s armies reconquered lost territory in Africa, Italy, and Spain. But these military exploits, historian Peter Sarris shows, were just one part of a larger program of imperial renewal. From his dramatic overhaul of Roman law, to his lavish building projects, to his fierce persecution of dissenters from Orthodox Christianity, Justinian’s vigorous statecraft—and his energetic efforts at self-glorification—not only set the course of Byzantium but also laid the foundations for the world of the Middle Ages.  
Even as Justinian sought to recapture Rome’s past greatness, he paved the way for what would follow.  

  • “A wonderfully vivid and fluent study.”
    Wall Street Journal
  • “A majestic, sparkling account of one of the most important rulers in history. Meticulously researched, beautifully written, filled with insights, this is modern history writing at its finest.”
    Peter Frankopan, New York Times-bestselling author of The Silk Roads
  • “Superb and gripping. Epic historical biography that brings the emperor to life with analysis and empathy and a work of scholarship filled with new ideas and revelations.”
    Simon Sebag Montefiore, New York Times-bestselling author of The World
  • “An expert, readable and thought-provoking biography of Justinian…This book is essential reading for anyone curious about later antiquity, and it will give profit and pleasure to those with broader interests.”
    London Review of Books
  • "Teases out…tensions and more in his new biography of Justinian, illuminating a central figure in a signal period in the history of the West.”
    New Criterion
  • “In this comprehensive account…Sarris brings his subject’s world to vivid life. The result is a clear-eyed view of a complex historical figure and his times.”
    Publishers Weekly
  • “Effortlessly erudite, lucidly written, with a sharp eye for the telling detail, Peter Sarris has written the great biography of the greatest of the Byzantine emperors.”
    Rory Stewart, New York Times–bestselling author of The Places in Between
  • “Justinian’s long life mirrored that of ancient Rome itself: Both rose from lowly origins to supreme power, survived revolt and conquered rivals, crafted laws, and erected mighty monuments, only to be worn down by insurgents, invaders, and plagues. In a stunning tour de force, Peter Sarris brings one of history’s most momentous dramas back to life.”
    Walter Scheidel, author of The Great Leveler
  • “Justinian looms so large in the landscape of the ancient Mediterranean that it is almost impossible to take his measure. Yet Sarris has done so convincingly, offering a lucid and persuasive account of a ruler as invested in the mechanics of government as in waging wars of conquest. A remarkable achievement.”
    Kate Cooper, author of Queens of a Fallen World
  • “Sarris’s Justinian is magnificent. A vivid and authoritative biography of one of Rome’s most fascinating rulers, Justinian is also a vibrant portrait of an entire world—a resurgent Roman Empire suddenly devastated by tragedy.”
    Kyle Harper, author of The Fate of Rome
  • “Spectacularly good: a wonderfully colorful biography of the man who remade the Roman Empire. Sarris plunges us deep into a world of imperial conflict, religious paranoia, pandemics, and climate change while never losing sight of the extraordinary character at its heart. Based on decades of scholarship, this is the definitive history of the emperor and his times and a thrilling testament to the glories of Byzantium.”
    Dominic Sandbrook, cohost of The Rest is History
  • “An important milestone in the study of Justinian and his time.”
    Bryn Mawr Classical Review

On Sale
Oct 24, 2023
Page Count
544 pages
Basic Books

Peter Sarris

About the Author

Peter Sarris is professor of late antique, medieval, and Byzantine studies at the University of Cambridge. He is author or editor of eight books on the history of late antiquity, the early Middle Ages, and Byzantium, including Byzantium: A Very Short Introduction. He lives in Shepreth, UK.  

Learn more about this author