The Journal of Hellenic Studies


The Nika riot: a reappraisal

Geoffrey Greatrexa1

a1 University of Wales, Cardiff


The uprising which took place in Constantinople in January 532 has long attracted the attention of scholars, the first significant contribution being J.B. Bury's magisterial article of 1897. My present aim is to re-examine the Nika riot, and to set it in its wider context: it will be argued that the significant place assigned to it in accounts of the reign of Justinian distorts the reality of late fifth-sixth century Constantinople. The riot was by no means an isolated outbreak of popular discontent, but just one in a whole series of bloody confrontations in the capital. It has engaged the interest of historians more than other disturbances for the same reason that Justinian's reign attracts such frequent biographies, while Anastasius' remains neglected: the wealth of sources available for the riot of 532 is much greater than for any other such event.