527- 565 CE - Justinian became emperor of the Byzantine Empire in 527 CE because he was nephew and heir to the previous emperor. Justinian married the daughter of a lower class circus trainer named Theodora. Justinian believed he could reestablish the Roman empire throughout the Mediterranean. Justinian's army was lead by Belisarius, who defeated the Vandals in North Africa and occupied Sicily in 535 CE. Justinian's army was unable to conquer Italy for another twenty years, and the war proved to be brutal and destructive causing Italy to suffer greatly. Though some believe that Justinian was over ambitious in his conquests, leading to ultimate financial problems in his empire, it is clear that he was partially successful in his goal to reunite much of territory previously held by Rome.