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The Runciman Award (Anglo Hellenic Society), 2024

Paperback / ISBN-13: 9781529365405

Price: £12.99

ON SALE: 12th September 2024

Genre: Humanities / Religion & Beliefs / Christianity

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‘A majestic, sparkling account of one of the most important rulers in history . . . modern history writing at its finest’ Peter Frankopan

‘Superb and gripping. Epic historical biography that brings the emperor to life . . . filled with new ideas and revelations’ Simon Sebag Montefiore

‘Effortlessly erudite, lucidly written, with a sharp eye for the telling detail, Sarris has written the great biography of the greatest of the Byzantine emperors’ Rory Stewart

The definitive life story of the Roman Emperor who shaped modern times.

In this groundbreaking new biography of Justinian, Peter Sarris gives us an intimate insight into both the Emperor and his times. We meet a man who from the humblest beginnings, rose to become ruler of much of the known world achieving an almost god-like status.

An emperor who infused even the most mundane tasks with spiritual and religious significance. A gifted administrator obsessed with detail. A middle aged lover who fell for a dancing girl and changed the law so he could marry her, ruling with Empress Theodora by his side for over twenty years. A brilliant military strategist who was never on the frontline.

The challenges he faced – climate change, battles over culture and identity, the first recorded global pandemic -and many of the solutions he found to address them still resonate with us today. And his legacy remains all around us, in the massive building programme of which the most beautiful manifestation is surely Hagia Sophia; in our legal systems through the codification of the Corpus juris civilis; and in our culture and history by making a fundamental contribution to both the formation of Christendom and the emergence of Islam.

In this tour de force Peter Sarris shows us that in all his complexity and contradictions Justinian was, in many ways, a very modern Emperor.


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
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, Sarris brings one of history's most momentous dramas back to life
Walter Scheidel, author of THE GREAT LEVELER
Effortlessly erudite, lucidly written, with a sharp eye for the telling detail, Sarris has written the great biography of the greatest of the Byzantine emperors
Rory Stewart
Spectacularly good: a wonderfully colourful biography of the man who remade the Roman Empire. Peter 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, author of WHO DARES WINS
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, author of THE SILK ROADS
Justinian looms so large in the landscape of the ancient Mediterranean that it is almost impossible to take his measure. Yet Peter 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, Professor of History at Royal Holloway and author of QUEENS OF A FALLEN WORLD
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, author of THE WORLD: A FAMILY HISTORY OF HUMANITY
The author's passion for the subject and his respect for Justinian is clear throughout, keeping the reader engaged until the very end
British Archaeology
A thoroughly absorbing book, notable not only for its mastery of the sources, but its generosity to other scholars working in this flourishing field. It offers a vivid insight into Justinian's world and the mind of this impatient and notorious man
The Times
I've been looking forward to Peter Sarris's Justinian for a while, and I was not disapoointed. Justinian is perhaps the greatest of the emperors of Rome and New Rome . . . Sarris does his subject proud in a book that wears the author's learning lightly
BBC History Magazine, Books of the Year
A marvel of scholarship, told with great flair, Peter Sarris's magnificent biography brings alive their dazzling, doomed world, an age of plagues, riots, cults and climate change
Sunday Times, History Books of the Year
An expert, readable and thought-provoking biography . . . This book is essential reading for anyone curious about later antiquity and will give profit and pleasure to those with broader interests
The Critic
An engrossing account of an extraordinary man . . . the story of a remarkable period, which is still too little known
Evening Standard, Books of the Year