Moglie di Giustino II

Sofia è stata un'imperatrice romana d'Oriente vissuta nel VI secolo. Era nipote dell'Imperatrice Teodora, consorte di Giustiniano I. Sposò il nipote di Giustiniano, Giustino II, che divenne imperatore nel 565 alla morte dello zio. Fu Imperatrice dal 565 al 578. Nel 573-574 Giustino II impazzì e Sofia venne nominata reggente. Sofia suggerì al marito di associare al trono il comes excubitorum Tiberio Costantino, che venne nominato Cesare nel 574. Nel periodo che va dal 574 al 578 furono Sofia e Tiberio a reggere le sorti dell'Impero facendo le veci del folle Giustino II.

Tiberio si provò un uomo molto misericordioso, arrivando al punto di sperperare i soldi dello stato per distribuirli ai poveri. Pare che l'Augusta Sofia lo rimproverasse per aver ridotto l'Impero in povertà, dicendogli: « Quello che io ho raccolto in tanti anni, tu lo disperdi, con la tua prodigalità, nel giro di poco tempo. »

Tiberio II rispose in questo modo: « Confido nel signore, che al nostro fisco non mancherà il denaro per fare l'elemosina ai poveri, e per riscattare i prigionieri. Questo significa, infatti, mettere da parte un grande tesoro, poiché Dio dice: «mettetevi da parte tesori in cielo, dove né la ruggine, né la tignola li consumano, e dove non li scavano e non li rubano i ladri». Perciò facciamoci i tesori in cielo con le cose che ci da il Signore, e il Signore si degnerà di farci prosperare in questa vita. »

Alla morte di Giustino (578), Tiberio II divenne Imperatore. Sofia voleva sposarsi una seconda volta con Tiberio, che però era già sposato e rifiutò per questo motivo la proposta. Sofia organizzò allora una congiura contro Tiberio. Mentre l'Imperatore stava passando l'estate nella sua residenza estiva, Sofia convocò Giustiniano (un pretendente al trono) e organizzò una congiura per accoppare Tiberio e mettere sul trono Giustiniano; ma Tiberio II, scoperta la congiura, ritornò in fretta a Costantinopoli e ordinò di arrestare Sofia, che venne privata di tutti i suoi beni e dei suoi privilegi.


Sophia, wife of Justin II (565-578), was the niece of Theodora, presumably being the daughter of one of Theodora's sisters. Since we hear nothing of the career of Theodora's younger sister Anastasia, Sophia may well have been the daughter of Comito, the elder sister, who in 528 made a prestigious marriage with Justinian’s general Sittas.

True to her policy of promoting the interests of her family whenever possible, Theodora ensured that her niece Sophia was married to Justinian’s nephew Justin, the son of Justinian’s sister Vigilantia, and it was perhaps not coincidental that it was Justin and Sophia who succeeded Justinian at his death on November 14, 565, for during her lifetime Theodora clearly favoured as Justinian’s successor Justin over his cousin, the son of Germanus and also named Justin.

Sophia was a worthy successor to her aunt. From the time of her accession, she emerges as a powerful and influential empress, who believed that she had inherited the right to power. According to the monophysite bishop, John of Ephesus, Sophia attributed her husband's madness to his failure to appreciate her status sufficiently: "The kingdom came through me, and it has come back to me: and as for him, he is chastised, and has fallen into this trial on my account, because he did not value me sufficiently, and vexed me." Such was the force of her personality that, even as empress-consort, her role in government was publicly recognised, unlike that of her aunt Theodora, while the fact that her husband was to suffer from dementia resulted in Sophia's having unparalleled influence over both government and the succession.

Sources: sources for the reign of Justin II and Sophia are in general unfavourable, not least because the imperial couple instituted a persecution of monophysites throughout the empire (monophysites were considered heretics, in as much as they believed that Christ had only one nature, and that divine). John of Ephesus, one of our main sources, was himself imprisoned as part of their campaign to impose orthodoxy, and his portrait of Sophia shows an empress who was both arrogant and domineering. His unflattering picture of the imperial pair is supplemented by that of Evagrius, who stresses avarice as a characteristic feature of the reign. In contrast the lengthy laudatory poem of Corippus, In laudem Iustini Minoris (In Praise of Justin the Younger) written shortly after their accession, was specifically intended to flatter the couple, and pays marked reverence to Sophia. Indeed, it appears from Corippus that Sophia herself was his source for events which took place behind the scenes.

Lynda Garland - University of New England, New South Wales

Aelia Sophia

Aelia Sophia (died c. 601) was the Empress consort of Justin II of the Byzantine Empire from 565 to 578. According to The Ecclesiastic history of John of Ephesus, Sophia was a niece of Theodora, the Empress consort of Justinian I. John of Ephesus did not specify the identities of her parents. According to the Secret History of Procopius, Theodora had only two siblings: her older sister Comito and younger sister Anastasia; either one could be the mother of Sophia. Procopius identifies Comito as a leading hetaera of her age. John Malalas records that Comito married Sittas in 528. Sittas may thus be the father of Sophia. Whether Anastasia ever married is unknown.

The origin of her possible father is obscure. Byzantinists have suggested his name was Gothic or Thracian but his theoretical descent from either the Goths of the Thracians is not mentioned in primary sources. He enters history in the reign of Justin I as a spearman in the guard of Justinian, then magister militum per Orientem.

In 527, Sittas and Belisarius were given command of an invasion of Persarmenia. They were successful in looting the area and capturing a significant number of Armenian prisoners. They attempted to invade the rest of the Marzpanate of Armenia later in the year but were defeated by Aratius and Narses. The latter should not be confused with Narses, another general under Justinian.

In 528, Sittas was appointed in the new office of magister militum per Armeniae. According to both Malalas and Theophanes the Confessor, Sittas recruited his scriniarii (administrative officials) among the local Armenian populace, as he considered them more familiar with the territory. Procopius records Sittas' victory over the Tzani, a tribe of the Caucasus which led occasional raids in neighbouring areas. Sittas successfully converted them from Paganism to Christianity and recruited the former brigands to the Byzantine army.

In 530, Sittas also received the office of magister militum praesentalis (Master of soldiers in the Presence [of the Emperor]). That same year Sittas and Dorotheus defended Theodosiopolis against an invading force from the Sassanid Empire, part of the ongoing Iberian War between Justinian and Kavadh I. Procopius notes that the Roman forces managed to pillage the enemy camp. Sittas also defended Satala against the invasion force by attacking the larger army at its rear and forcing them to retreat. The invasion was called off the Sassanids retreated back to Persia following the two defeats.

Following the defeat of Belisarius in the Battle of Callinicum (19 April 531), Sittas replaced him in the leadership of the Persian campaign. Kavadh however died within the year, and his son and successor Khosrau I was interested in stabilizing his internal position for the time being and started negotiations for a peace. The Eternal Peace agreement (which eventually lasted ten years) was signed on September 532 on the terms of all Byzantine land lost under Justinian's rule to be returned, and the Byzantines to pay heavy tribute in exchange for peace. The country of Iberia remained in Sassanid hands.

Sittas received the honorific title of patrician in 535. The same year, Sittas is credited with a victory against the Bulgars in Moesia, by the Iatrus (Yantra). He was named an honorary Consul in 536. In 538/539, Sittas was sent back to Armenia to face a revolt in protest against heavy taxation. Failing to negotiate peace, Sittas started active fighting. In the battle of Oenochalacon, the nature of the terrain forced both armies to fight in scattered groups rather than unified forces. Procopius records that Sittas was killed by either Artabanes, a leader of the revolt, or Solomon, an otherwise obscure rebel.

During the reign of Justinian I (527-565), Sophia married his nephew Justin II. According to the Chronicon of Victor of Tunnuna, Justin was a son of Dulcidius and Vigilantia. Her father-in-law is also known as Dulcissimus in genealogical resources. Vigilantia and her brother, Justinian I, were children of Petrus Sabbatius and a senior Vigilantia, who was a sister of Justin I.

Sophia and Justin had at least two children:

Justus. A son, died before 565. Buried in the Church of Michael the Archangel.

Arabia, a daughter. Married prior to the succession of her father to the kouropalates Baduarius. Her husband died c. 576 while defending Byzantine Italy from the Lombards. They had a daughter, Firmina, whose fate is unknown.

Justinian I had several nephews but seems to have never appointed an heir. On the night of 13 November/14 November 565, Justinian I lay on his deathbed. Justin was his kouropalates and thus the only viable heir within the Great Palace of Constantinople. He managed to gain the support of the Byzantine Senate and was proclaimed emperor within the palace walls before the other members of the Justinian Dynasty were notified. The events were recorded by the court poet Flavius Cresconius Corippus.

Corippus often translated her Greek name "Sophia" to its Latin equivalent "Sapientia". The meaning of both is "Wisdom", and the poet uses it as both a divine name and title for her. The accession speech of Justin makes specific mention of Sophia co-ruling with her husband, the presumption being that she already exercised political influence over him. Corippus records Sophia being in charge of the arrangements for the funeral of Justinian and claims she weaved his shroud with scenes depicting the triumphs of his reign.

The main challenge to the new reign was another Justin, cousin to the new Emperor. This namesake cousin was a son of Germanus Justinus and his first wife Passara. He had distinguished himself as a military commander and was thus seen as a better choice from a military point of view. According to Evagrius Scholasticus, the Emperor and Sophia initially welcomed their kinsman to Constantinople but before long had him exiled to Alexandria. In 568, the other Justin was murdered in his bed. John of Biclaro attributed the murder on supporters of Sophia. Evagrius claims that the head of the deceased was sent to the imperial couple who spitefully kicked it around. Evagrius is mostly negative in his account of Justin and Sophia, so should not be taken as an impartial source.

In 568, Narses was removed from his position as prefect of Italia. According to Paul the Deacon, Sophia sent a message to the senior general that she had a more suitable position for a eunuch like him, as an overseer of the weaving girls of the gynaikonitis (women's quarters). Paul attributes to this message the choice of Narses to retire in Naples, instead of returning to Constantinople as Justin had ordered him to do. The interpretation being that Narses was afraid of Sophia.

Sophia also influenced the financial policies of Justin. Having inherited an exhausted treasury, they set about repaying the various debts and loans of Justinian to bankers and money-lenders. According to Theophanes, Sophia was in charge of the examination of the financial records and the payment; thus restoring the credibility of the royal treasury. The imperial couple was trying to cut down on expenses and increase the treasury reserves. Evagrius, John of Ephesus, Gregory of Tours and Paul the Deacon all mention it while accusing both Justin and Sophia of greed.

Sophia took the name Aelia following the practices of the empresses of the Theodosian dynasty and the House of Leo. The name had not been used by the two preceding empresses of her own dynasty. She was the first Empress consort depicted in Byzantine coinage with equally royal insignia to her husband. They were also depicted together in images and statues while the name of Sophia alone was given to two palaces, a harbor and a public bath built in her honor.

In 569, Justin and Sophia together reportedly sent a relic of the True Cross to Radegund. The event was commemorated in Vexilla Regis by Venantius Fortunatus. They also sent relics to Pope John III in an attempt to improve relations. However the religious policy of the couple was controversial. According to John of Ephesus and Michael the Syrian, husband and wife were both initially monophysites who converted to Chalcedonean Christianity to gain favor with their uncle Justinian. During their reign, they attempted a failed reconciliation of Chalcedonian and Monophysitic Christianity which ended in renewed persecution of the latter. Meanwhile their own beliefs were still in question.

Justin reportedly suffered from temporary fits of insanity and was unable to perform his duties as early as the fall of Dara to Khosrau I of the Sassanid Empire in November, 573. According to Gregory of Tours, sole power of the Empire at this point was assumed by Sophia. Evagrius Scholasticus reports that Sophia managed to conclude a three-year truce with Khosrau on her own. But as a Regent she would require supporters and she picked Tiberius II Constantine as her colleague in power. He was Comes Excubitorum (Commander of the Excubitors).

According to the chronicle of Theophanes the Confessor, Tiberius was officially appointed Caesar by Justin on 7 December 574. He was also adopted by Justin and thus became his appointed heir. John of Ephesus records that Sophia and Tiberius found themselves arguing over their financial policies as effective co-regents. With Sophia pursuing the decreasing of royal expenses while Tiberius argued for the necessity of their increase. Particularly for military expenses.

The Ecclesiastic history of John of Ephesus and the chronicle of Theophanes the Confessor both consider Sophia planning to marry Tiberius herself at this point. His current marriage to Ino Anastasia seen as an offense to her. Ino and her daughters Constantina and Charito were not allowed to enter the Great Palace of Constantinople. They were instead settled in the palace of Hormisdas, residence of Justinian I prior to his elevation to the throne. According to John of Ephesus, Tiberius joined them every evening and returned to the Great Palace every morning. Sophia also refused to let the ladies at court visit Ino and her daughters as a token of respect to them.

Ino eventually left Constantinople in favor of Daphnudium, her previous residence. According to John of Ephesus, Tiberius left Constantinople to visit Ino when she fell sick. Her daughters are assumed to have joined her in her departure from the capital. In September 578, Justin II appointed Tiberius as his co-emperor. On 5 October 578, Justin was dead and Tiberius became the sole Emperor. According to John of Ephesus, Sophia sent Patriarch Eutychius of Constantinople to Tiberius to convince him to divorce Ino, and offering both herself and her adult daughter Arabia as prospective brides for the new Emperor. Tiberius refused. Sophia was no longer the Empress consort, though still an Augusta.

Sophia retained her rank as Augusta and continued to hold a section of the palace for herself. Meanwhile her rival Ino Anastasia was also proclaimed an Augusta. The situation was not to her liking and John of Ephesus records further arguments over financial policy. Gregory of Tours records that Sophia took part in a conspiracy to depose Tiberius and replace him with another Justinian, younger brother of the Justin murdered in Alexandria.

Tiberius reacted by taking hold of much of her property, dismissing her loyal servants and appointing replacements loyal to him. However her rank and presence in the palace remained. Theophanes records that in 579, Sophia retired to the Sophiai, a palace built in her honor. He describes her as holding her own minor court and honored as mother of Tiberius.

On 14 August 582, Tiberius died. He was succeeded by Maurice, a general betrothed to Constantina. Maurice had been a choice of Sophia. Gregory of Tours reporting that she had planned to marry him and regain the throne. The marriage of Constantina and Maurice took place in Autumn 582. The ceremony was performed by Patriarch John IV of Constantinople and is described in detail by Theophylact Simocatta. Constantina was proclaimed an Augusta while both Sophia and Anastasia also kept the same title. John of Ephesus mentions all three Augustas residing in the Great Palace,[1] which would mean either that her retirement was temporary or that Theophanes misreported her status.

Anastasia was the first of the three ladies to die. Theophanes places her death in 593. Constantina seems to have enjoyed better relations with Sophia than her mother did. Theophanes records them to have jointly offered a precious crown as an Easter present to Maurice in 601. He accepted their gift but then ordered it hang over the altar of Hagia Sophia as his own tribute to the church. Which according to Theophanes was taken an insult by both Augustas and caused a rift in the marriage. The Easter of 601 was also the last time Sophia was mentioned in our sources. Whether she survived to see the deposition of Maurice in 602 is unclear.