Well, I have my own candidate for that role, though hardly a novel one, the late Eastern Roman Emperor, or Byzantine, if one prefers, the Illyrian peasant of the Balkans, Flavius Petrus Sabbatius better know to most by his adoptive name of Justinian I. Often he is the only Byzantine emperor the average person can recall. Why would I consider Justinian I to have been the "Last of the Romans"? That he was most likely the last emperor in Constantinople who spoke Latin as his primary language might help explain it, but by itself that linguistic skill is not enough. It is in his reign that I think one can see that he exemplified the talents and skills, the aspirations and determinations that we associate with the best virtues of being a Roman. Let's see if I can convince you of my choice. First of all, we need to establish that Justinian I, and all citizens of the capital of the Eastern Roman Empire called themselves, Romans. The term Byzantine, for the eastern portion of the Roman empire, is an artificial construct of recent times. Everyone there believed that their time and place was the same empire as that of Augustus, Claudius, Trajan, Aurelius and Constantine. Yes, it was now a Christian Empire, no longer Pagan, but by the time of Justinian it had been Christian for close to two hundred years and if most of the inhabitants spoke Greek rather than Latin, there was nothing odd about Romans speaking the Greek language. And while there were no longer gladiatorial games in the arenas one could see exciting chariot races in the hippodromes. Justinian was like most the Eastern Romans in the capital sharing in these external aspects of Roman culture. But he was more than that. He was Roman in his heart, to his core and one can see this in how he governed the Empire when he became emperor, in his own name, in 527 AD. That he became a Roman ruler at all is a story in itself, a very Roman achievement worthy of a Marius, Vespasian, Septimius or Aurelian. Born to a pair of peasant farmer parents in Illyria (or possibly Macedonia) our Justinian was not likely to go far in this life had it not been for his uncle Justin who, like many an illiterate Roman peasant, traded his pigsty for an army camp. When once established as an officer in the battalion of the Excubitors (the emperor's guards unit) Justin sent for his nephew who took his new name after his adoption by his uncle and Justinian entered the army and was assigned to the garrison of Constantinople. His Uncle, Justin, was in the right time and place when the emperor Anastasius died in 518 and he was proclaimed Emperor and Justinian soon associated himself with his uncle's rule and upon Justin's death he succeeded to the throne where he quickly established a firm control over events. He married and made his empress a most fascinating woman, Theodora (a former actress) and their lives together is a repeat of Augustus and Livia with the two working hand in glove to govern together. And good thing he did. Like any Roman emperor Justinian had to be prepared for assaults on his throne at any time, by disgruntled nobles or a furious mob of the sweepings of the streets and it was Theodora who saved him from the worst of the assaults on his throne. In 532, with the people controlling the streets and threatening the imperial palace, Justinian and his companions had loaded ships with treasure and were about to abandon the throne and the capital, Constantinople, when Theodora shamed them all into staying and fighting back. Saying that she would not flee but preferred a purple, imperial, burial shroud to ignoble flight, they stayed, found an army unit (mostly of barbarian mercenaries) willing to fight the citizens of the city and retained his throne. Secure on that throne, Justinian embarked on a campaign to bring the Latin speaking West, mostly now under control of Germanic kings, back into the Empire. He had considerable success doing that, bringing back under imperial control a portion of Spain from the Visigoths, North Africa from the Vandals and Italy from the Ostrogoths. He managed to negotiate a long term settlement with the Sassanid Persians on his eastern border. At the same time he embarked on a building campaign, one of whose achievements was the domed basilica of Hagia Sophia, still overlooking the Bosporus and until recent times the largest constructed dome anywhere. And while this was going on he had his legal experts compile and codify centuries of Roman law into several concise books. This codification of Roman Law was to become the basis of legal system used widely throughout most of Europe today, and by colonial expansion to much of the world. Now, many will argue that he attempted too much. His reconquests were expensive in lives and money (the city of Rome having undergone several sieges and sacks during this fighting was wrecked and almost depopulated) and much of the territory he gained was quickly abandoned. He also involved himself in interminable religious polemics attempting to explain the inexplicable theological intricacies of the nature of the Divinity and managed to alienate a good portion of the population doing it. But all that he did, he did not for himself but for a better Rome. He suffered no delusions of grandeur for himself but was convinced that for the dignity of the Roman Empire his position required that he do all in his power to advance and defend Romanitas, and for the most part he possessed the self discipline to pull it off. That he could not control events after his demise was hardly a flaw in his character. Although he was not popular with the populace of Constantinople at the time of his death in 565, later generations of Eastern Romans, Byzantines, would look back on his reign as one of greatness. It is interesting that his name attained a popularity for centuries to come and it is ironic that a Genoese Condottiere commanded the Byzantine troops who futilely defended Constantinople at the end of the empire when the Turks took the city in 1453. His name was Giovanni Giustiniani. Now perhaps you think that Justinian deserves that title as the "last of the Romans" or maybe you have another in mind as that person and would like to tell us who you think might deserve that sobriquet as well. If you have coins associated with Justinian or your own pick, please post them here. Below I have a follis (40 nummia) of Justin I, top left, with an unusually, for a Byzantine coin, an accurate facial expression. It was he who gave Justinian his start in life. Next is a gold tremissis of Justinian I, then another, big, 40 nummia follis of Justinian I. On the bottom is a gold solidus of Justinian I and lastly a 40 nummia follis of Justin II who succeeded Justinian I and had to pick up the bill and the pieces when Justinian's conquests turned out to be more of a liability than an asset.