Thesis Director: Dr. Shannon Byrne; HAB Course Director: Dr. Thomas Strunk
The reign of the Byzantine emperor Justinian, from 527 to 565, despite its many high points and achievements, was a struggle for him and his people. One of his most famous, or infamous, challenges was during the Nika riots. During this time Justinian sees the people of Constantinople attempt to crown a usurper as emperor instead of him. As Justinian convened with his advisors, hiding from the mob in his palace, one question must have rung true in his mind: how did this happen? This presentation answers this question while also giving an overview to the time and the people involved. First, by looking at the tradition and history of Roman and Byzantine chariot racing and circus factions, a picture of who these rioters were starts to take shape. Next, the presentation investigates the social and political background of the riots. Of the 13 riots that occurred during Justinian’s reign, this one posed the greatest threat to his power and rule over the empire. In the chaos, the rioters list their demands for Justinian. Previous research has taken these demands at face value, but the real sparks that started this conflict are much deeper. Instead, the unique political and economic situation in which the people of Constantinople find themselves helped to fan this flame. At last, the actual riot is looked at, particularly through the lens of these outside influences. To show how these situations helped to fuel the riots, the Nika riot will be compared to other riots and mob activity from around the same time, particularly the Antioch riot. Since both of these riots had a similar unfolding of events and consequences, the question of how did the demands and background to each riot effect these similar structure.
Richer, Ty, "Reevaluating the Nika Riot & Placing it in Conversation with the Antioch Riot of 387" (2019). Honors Bachelor of Arts. 39.
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