Meier, Mischa [Editor]; Radtki, Christine [Editor]; Schulz, Fabian [Editor]; Heidelberger Akademie der Wissenschaften [Editor]
Malalas-Studien: Schriften zur Chronik des Johannes Malalas (Band 1): Die Weltchronik des Johannes Malalas: Autor - Werk - Überlieferung — Stuttgart: Franz Steiner Verlag, 2016

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Malalas and the Representation
of Justinian’s Reign: a Few Remarks
Philippe Blaudeau

Abstract With the help of two texts somewhat longer than their abbreviated Baroccianus’
counterparts, Malalas’ evaluation of Justinian’s reign may acquire a richer significance: at a
moment (ca. 565) in which questions arose about the way this very special emperor was to
be recorded, Malalas (or at least a loyal continuator) did not develop a long justification, but
suggested an image coherent with the previous edition. The tale does not deny that Justinian
was at times an excessively hard persecutor. But it underlines his faculty to rule as a Christian
model when he used fear as a political tool, gave relief, forgave, or showed his moderation
when judging the conjuration of 562. Among these significant features, his capacity to repent is
highlighted: his acceptance of penance accredits his role as the most pious emperor.
The aim of this paper is to see if Justinian’s figure is consistent in the so-called second
edition of book XVIII of Malalas’ Chronographia, Chronicle, or maybe we should better
say bremarium,' and to try to characterize his representation in the context of the end
of his own reign and beginning of his nephew’s, Justin II.
First, let’s have a look at the historiographical situation around 565. As has been
well observed by R. Scott, there is a certain lack of historical narration (with a large
conception of genre, including Corippus’ epics). It seems that during about 15 years
(from 550 to 565, more or less), in a morose atmosphere, no account was published
that was suited to Justinian’s official version of his reign.1 2 I have tried to study this
trend elsewhere on the very precise and specific grounds of ecclesiastical history.3 Lets
summarize our points: while from the beginning of the 540s, the Empire faced major
difficulties simultaneously (wars, epidemics, earthquakes, financial problems ...), the
Emperor tendentially promoted his theological competencies and used his legislative
powers less. With the performative idea of a pentarchical organization, no geo-eccle-
siological claim was acceptable to him anymore. So, as a result of such pretentions,
ecclesiastical histories of the past, those of the fifth century especially, were supposed
not to have been continuated. Also, Justinian welcomed all narratives in which such
passages were duly selected and expertly cut, because they were likely to enrich his of-
1 Burgess/Kulikowski, Mosaics of time, pp. 30-31, 61-62; see also Burgess’ contribution in this volume.
2 Scott, “Malalas, the Secret History and Justinian’s Propaganda”, pp. 104-106; id., “Malalas and his Con-
temporaries”, pp.72-73.
3 Blaudeau, “Du bon usage de I’histoire”, pp. 221-27.
© Heidelberger Akademie der Wissenschaften