Justinian II (born 669 until his death 11 December 711) was the last Byzantine Emperor to rule from the Heraclian dynasty. He reigned from 685 to 695 and again reigned from 705 to 711. Justinian II was an ambitious and passionate ruler and tried to restore the Empire to its former glories but responded poorly to opposing forces and lacked finesse like his father had, Constantine IV. Justinian II generated enormous opposition during his reign which resulted in deposition in 695 with a large uprising and he later returned to the throne in 705 with the help of a Bulgar and Slav army. The second reign Justinian II ruled upon was more despotic than the first, he was eventually overthrown in 711 and abandoned by his army who decided to turn on him and kill him after.
Justinian’s reign saw the continued slow and ongoing process of transformation of the Byzantine Empire, as the traditions inherited from the ancient Latin Roman state were gradually being eroded. This is most clearly seen in the coinage of Justinian’s reign, which saw the reintroduction of the Loros, the traditional consular costume that had not been seen on Imperial coinage for a century, while the office itself had not been celebrated for nearly half a century. This was linked to Justinian’s decision to unify the office of consul with that of emperor thus making the Emperor the head of state not only de facto but also de jure. Although the office of the consulate would continue to exist until Emperor Leo VI the Wise formally abolished it with Novel 94, it was Justinian who effectively brought the consulate as a separate political entity to an end. He was formally appointed as Consul in 686, and from that point, Justinian II adopted the title of consul for all the Julian years of his reign, consecutively numbered.
Though at times undermined by his own despotic tendencies, Justinian was a talented and perceptive ruler who succeeded in improving the standing of the Byzantine Empire. A pious ruler, Justinian was the first emperor to include the image of Christ on coinage issued in his name and attempted to outlaw various pagan festivals and practices that persisted in the Empire. He may have self-consciously modelled himself on his namesake, Justinian I, as seen in his enthusiasm for large-scale construction projects and the renaming of his Khazar wife with the name of Theodora. Among the building projects he undertook was the creation of the triklinos, an extension to the imperial palace, a decorative cascade fountain located at the Augusteum, and a new Church of the Virgin at Petrion.
By his first wife Eudokia, Justinian II had at least one daughter:
- Anastasia, who was betrothed to Tervel of Bulgaria.
By his second wife, Theodora of Khazaria, Justinian II had a son:
- Tiberios, co-emperor from 706 to 711.