Wednesday, October 10, 2012

The Emperor Justinian

 
     Once upon a time an Empress said to the Emperor, "Those who have worn the crown should never survive its loss. "  Then she added,  "Never will I see the day when I am not saluted as Empress."  Her husband, The Emperor Justinian, was ready to make the big getaway.  He knew what was happening in the Hippodrome.  The Blue Team was watching the Green Team prepare to give his crown to a former General of good family, who had also won a few battles against Persian forces, and there was considerable dispute as to how victorious he had been because the Persians had not disappeared from the face of the earth.  Justinian, himself, was pacing the balcony, staring at the sea, he knew where the getaway boat was, he had his covey of strong men with swords, and there must have been a sailor or two, who knew the world beyond the Emperor's palace, and who understood that Emperors whatever their circumstance generally had access to a great deal of gold.   The Empress said something like,  "Purple's the only color I'll be buried in."   And there are some who might argue that this sort of display of intransigence so well exemplified by the Empress Theodora is the cause of a sickness in our world that might be more trouble than it's worth.   Others, recognize the Empress's words, as containing a responsibility.   Me I was on Justinian's side, I saw the bleak future, it's pointlessness and endless quarrelling,  and I have always liked boats, because they have a calmness to them, until you start putting guns on them, or engines in them, or landing aero planes on them.  It's when they have sails a person can wander, catching this breeze then that, so much better than beer or whiskey and shouts of alarm, and memories that fail to record that yesterday was the fiftieth anniversary of Uganda Independence Day, flags in the streets, chants of  UPC and of  Kabaka Yeka.

     But just as important!  "What of the Green team?"  Justinian had expelled all but a few of his closest comrades from the palace, a former General of good family included amongst the expelled.  This former general, let's call him George, hurried home and tried to hide, but much burlier representatives from the Green Team dragged George to the Hippodrome, and seeing his chance George agreed that crowns were rather fun to wear even if sometimes a little nerve-wracking to be in charge of.  Then a Eunuch, carry a bag of gold entered the Hippodrome, he was alone and he was unarmed in the face of a crowd that already had tasted blood as the solution to each and every disagreement.  The Eunuch walked up to the Blue team and spoke to their leaders.  For a moment the Green team was silent, until the business of crowning a new Emperor reawakened their cheering, and probably they'd had plenty of beer to drink, happy bastards.  But the Eunuch had more than gold in his bag.  He had a secret message from the Emperor Justinian for the leaders of the Blue team.  "Get out quick."  And as the crown was placed upon George's head, the Blue Team walked out of the Hippodrome, which left just the Green team, a more manageable twenty thousand of them, for the Palace Guard to slaughter.  Justinian would have spared  George's life, but the Empress insisted George be executed.  In the end, one of the most interesting things about Justinian, - (other than the revisions to Roman Law made during his rule that provided the foundation for what we now think of as the Western Legal Tradition, and aside from the strong support his time in office provided to Women in their enduring battle for status and respect, and if we try to forget that he was the last Roman Emperor to speak Latin as a native tongue) -  is that Justinian was born to a peasant family in the northern part of what recently became The Republic of Macedonia.  There is newly commissioned Statue of Justinian in the renovated city of Skopje, which is also the home of an airport which after some wrangling with the Greeks had it's name changed to Alexander the Great Airport.


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