Merging of Roman and Teuton
In the sixth century, after long decline, the Empire fell for a time to a capable ruler, Justinian the Great (527-565). We remember him chiefly because he brought about a codification of the Roman law. In the course of centuries, that law had become an intolerable maze. Now a commission of able lawyers put the whole mass into a new form, marvelously compact, clear, and orderly.
Church of St Sophia, Constantinople – built by Justinian upon the site of an earlier church of the same name by Constantine. The whole interior is lined with costly, many-colored marbles. This view shows only a part of the vast dome, with eighteen of the forty windows which run about its circumference of some 340 feet. In 1463 the building became a Mohammedan mosque (p. 121). In 1919 it became again a Christian temple.
Justinian also reconquered Italy for the Empire, and so the code was established in that land. Thence, through the church, and some centuries later through a new class of lawyers, it spread over the West.
Justinian’s conquest of Italy had another result less happy. His generals destroyed a promising kingdom of the East Goths in Italy. Then (568), immediately after the great emperor’s death, a new German people, the savage Lombards, swarmed into the peninsula, and soon conquered much of it. Their chief kingdom was in the Po valley, which we still call Lombardy; but various Lombard “dukedoms” were scattered also in other parts. The Empire kept (1) the “Exarchate of Ravenna” on the Adriatic; (2) Rome, with a little territory about it; and (3) the extreme south.
Thus Italy, the middle land for which Roman and Teuton had struggled for centuries, was at last divided between them, and shattered into fragments in the process. No other country suffered so terribly in the centuries of invasion as this lovely peninsula which had so long been mistress of the world.
Excerpt from The Story of Modern Progress by Willis Mason West – 1920
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