Based in the great city of Constantinople (modern-day Istanbul), the Byzantine empire was one of the most successful states of the Middle Ages. The continuation of the Roman empire, it ruled over a vast terrain straddling Europe and western Asia from the fourth to fifteenth centuries. Yet its history remains largely unfamiliar.
This chronicle by Byzantine expert Kevin Lygo brings this majestic and turbulent period to life through the lives of its emperors: a role that encompassed being head of state, supreme military commander, and God’s representative on earth. These rulers, who include well-known figures like Constantine the Great and Justinian I, and a number of extraordinary women such as Irene of Athens and Zoe Porphyrogennete, combined both ruthless usurpers as well as soaring intellectuals. But they all left their mark upon the modern world with the establishment of the Eastern Orthodox Christian faith, the creation of a visual template for Christian art, and magnificent monuments that include the cathedral of Hagia Sophia, the mosaics of Ravenna and the architectural wonder that is Mount Athos.
Throughout, Lygo paints vivid portraits of the entire Byzantine cast, with tales of political survival, religious devotion, sexual intrigue and artistic brilliance. This is a humanizing portrayal of more than ninety individuals whose rule profoundly impacted the lives of millions.
'I love this book. The strangeness, the darkness, the madness, the gruesomeness, the politics, the families, the feuding, the deaths! It makes Game of Thrones look like a scrap in the playground'
Russell T. Davies
'This revelatory and brilliantly researched book opens the door to one of the best-kept secrets in art – the magnificent empire of Byzantium'
'Kevin Lygo is a connoisseur, collector and specialist in the Byzantine era, which when combined with his flair for storytelling, make this a publication to savour'
'A highly readable, beautifully illustrated survey of the rulers of a great medieval empire that spanned more than a thousand years, from Constantine the Great to the fall of the Eastern Empire. Lygo has succeeded brilliantly in bringing this fascinating but strangely neglected subject to life'
Paul Lay, Editor, History Today, and author of Providence Lost: the Rise and Fall of Cromwell’s Protectorate