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07-01-2018 - - 0 comments
Angels through the ages -  Justinian I

Justinian is remembered as an able administrator and conqueror, but perhaps his most significant act while in power was his acquisition of the knowledge of how to produce Silk. The Emperor inherited a fortune of 28,800,000 nomismata when he assumed power, and spent the majority of this on grand buildings such as the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul, and in reconquering territories in the Western Mediterranean lost by Rome in the 5th Century. However, a small portion was spent on funding two Nestorian Christian monks on an expedition to China in 552.

The monks used their time in the region to observe the production of silk, which was at this time a Chinese Monopoly. With the money the Emperor had given them they were able to pay bribes and steal silkworm larvae, along with the mulberry bushes they were fed on. Having brought these back to Constantinople, Justinian provided more money to sponsor the creation of a domestic silk industry. This revolutionised East/West trade along the so called ‘Silk Road’ (running from China to the Mediterranean) by breaking the Chinese Monopoly. Furthermore this new industry in the Roman Empire would underpin the economy for centuries to come.

Justinian’s building projects across the Empire also supported employment on a grand scale, and ranged from grand churches to triumphal monuments, vast fortifications and even huge aqueducts, benefitting the Roman State for centuries to come.

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