Watching the show “The Dark Ages” on DVD I was struck by an observation. Probably this is not a shocking one.
During the reign of Justinian (Flavius Petrus Sabbatius Iustinianus) in the 527-565 AD there was a move to reclaim the Roman Empire from the Eastern Empire (What is now called the Byzantium Empire). This move helped to grab most of Greece, the Levant, Egypt, North Africa and Italy for “Rome”. Taking back what had been conquered some 100 years before.
The spread of this Empire however was not lasting, in part because of the out break of the Bubonic Plague at Constantinople in 542. This plague, claimed to have killed up to 100 million Europeans and half of the Empire. Justinian himself suffered, he survived the plague but according to chroniclers never really recovered.
So it is fascinating to see how this all combined with a war with the Persian Sassanid Empire led to a downward spiral to the last true heir to the Roman Empire. The development of Islam and the rise of its Caliphate in the many years following changed the course of the Byzantine Empire, its advent led eventually to the cry for Western Catholics to come to the aid of their “brothers” in Constantinople and eventually to the complete destruction of the last vestiges of the surviving empire.
I have wondered since watching the show how history might have been different if the relatively rich and aggressive Byzantines been able to continue their own reconquista on the remaining western half. Or would the Franks be able to finally once and for all put an end to the Byzantines who had the wealth to continue to fight on with its trade roots to Asia.
As well because the Byzantines were so weakened they were easy pickings in a way.