Gold solidus of Justinian I

Minted at Constantinople (modern Istanbul, Turkey), AD 527-65

The reconquest of the West

Although the Western Roman Empire is generally seen as ending following the dismissal from office of the last Western Roman Emperor in AD 476, there was a brief revival of imperial authority in the west during the reign of the Byzantine emperor Justinian I (AD 527-65). His general Belisarius recaptured the city of Carthage in North Africa from the Vandals in 533, and took Rome and Ravenna from the Ostrogoths in the year 541. However, the campaigns necessary to achieve this were hugely expensive, and it was impossible in the long term for Byzantium to maintain control in the west.

The authority of Justinian left many legacies. One of his greatest achievements was the reform of Roman law, and Justinian's law codes had a strong influence on the development of laws all over Europe throughout the Middle Ages. One of the reasons why English and Scottish laws are different today is that medieval Scottish law was more closely modelled on the Codes of Justinian.

The reconquest of Rome also meant that coins of Justinian were issued in Italy, as well as from Eastern mints such as Constantinople. In addition to official coins, the coinage of Justinian was widely imitated by barbarian rulers, and a variety of different kingdoms issued coins with versions of his name.

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More information


P. Grierson, Byzantine coins (London, Methuen, 1982)

P. Grierson, Coins of Medieval Europe (London, Seaby, 1991)


Diameter: 19.000 mm
Weight: 4.497 g

Museum number

CM BMC Justinian 5



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