Callincius was a governor of Cilicia during the reign of Emperor Justinian of Constantinople. Although he did little during his career as a governor to be recorded in the history books, he would eventually become embroiled in a crime that would catch the attention of Constantinople’s most prominent historian of that time—Procopius (c. 490-565). Sadly for Callincius, his story did not have a pleasant ending.
According to Procopius, Governor Callincius was a victim of the raucous politics of Constantinople’s Green and Blue factions. These rival factions were powerful, fanatic and often violent sports fanbases whose activities were known to diverge from athletics into crime and politics. For some reason or other, Callincius evidently ran afoul of the local Blue faction members in the province he was governing. Whatever the unknown discord that erupted between the governor and the Blues might have been, it was enough for members of Cilicia’s Blue faction to instigate a riot or a military mutiny against Callincius. In the ensuing brawl between the sports faction and the governor, the Blues put up a good fight, managing to even kill one of Callincius’ close companions. Nevertheless, the governor ultimately quashed the riot and had two leaders of Cilicia’s Blue faction executed.
Despite overcoming the riot, Callincius’ battle with the Blues was not over. As brute force had not worked, the angry Blues in Cilicia decided to start operating from the shadows. The plan they reportedly hatched was brutal, gruesome, and, unfortunately, successful. According to Procopius, supporters of the Blue faction embarked on an audacious mission for vengeance, “seizing Callincius while he was still in office, and without the slightest pretext impaled him over the murderers’ grave” (The Secret History, chapter 17). Such was the supposed fate of Governor Callincius, impaled over the graves of the Blue faction leaders he had executed.
After news of this assassination spread around the empire of Constantinople, Callincius’ death became the topic of much gossip and rumor. People deliberated about who might have been involved in the assassination, and the list of possible suspects was incredibly lengthy, for supporters of the Blue faction were present in the highest of government offices. Even Emperor Justinian and Empress Theodora were known to be greatly biased in favor of the Blues. As such, it is not surprising that the rumor-mills alleged that the imperial family might have been involved in Governor Callincius’ very public murder.
Written by C. Keith Hansley
Picture Attribution: (Constantine Doukas escaping from Captivity, from the Madrid Skylitzes manuscript, c. 12 or 13th century, [Public Domain] via Creative Commons).
- The Secret History by Procopius, translated by G. A. Williamson and Peter Sarris. New York: Penguin Classics, 1966, 2007.