It’s 695 A.D., and Emperor Justinian II is facing a rebellion. For ten years, he has sought to expand the reach of the Byzantine Empire, but his unpopular policies have made enemies of aristocrats and commoners alike. Eventually, he’s deposed and left mutilated – although that’s far from the end of his eventful career.
At the height of its power, the Roman Empire stretched across around two million square miles from what is now Portugal and North Africa in the west all the way to Armenia and Mesopotamia in the east. However, its reign did not last, and in the 5th century A.D. large swathes of its territory fell to enemy powers.
But even after the Western Roman Empire fell, its eastern counterpart continued to flourish. In fact, the Byzantine Empire as it was known survived in various forms for another thousand years. And for much of this time, it was recognized as Europe’s greatest political and cultural power.