The Queen of Cities: A Byzantine AAR
There was once a Greek of Megara named Byzas. Some called him the son of King Nisos, others termed him the mortal son of Poseidon himself. His life was to be as shrouded in myths as his birth for the only thing all could agree was that ninety-six years after Romulus slew his brother on the green slopes of the Palatine Byzas founded a city of his own. Byzantion rose on the shore of the Golden Horn were the deep blue waters of the Bosphorus shimmer at sunset giving the inlet its name.
For long centuries the city of Byzas prospered in a quiet, a half forgotten backwater as the city of Romulus grew to overshadow the world. It was not until a Roman of the Romans (born in Serbia) who had become an emperor and would end up a saint turned his eyes East that the city on the Golden Horn grew into a great city. Constantine re-founded Byzantion as a great and rich capital he called New Rome – and his successors would call Constantinople.
Constantinople now became the centre of the world, the heart of the mighty Roman Empire and one of the holiest cities in Christendom. Long after ‘old’ Rome fell to barbarians and destitution and despair Constantinople remained powerful. Two centuries after Constantine the first and greatest the Emperor Justinian reconquered the fallen West and the already ancient city truly became the Queen of Cities. From the Euphrates to the Atlantic Ocean there was nowhere else to compare.
The golden age did not last for even Justinian's empire did not posses endless resources and the Romans seemed to attract any and all misfortunes. Wars with the barbarians drained Roman wealth and strength from year to year. The Persians were never at bay for long and in the time of the Emperor Heraclius they nearly swept the whole Empire away. They were defeated after a long and terrible struggle but the weakened Romans could only watch helplessly as a new foe, the Muslim Arabs rose and conquered lands that had been Roman for six hundred years. Nor were the Arabs alone. In Italy the Lombards waged wars of conquest, in the Balkans the Bulgars and other pagan barbarians advanced deep into the heartland of the Empire. Even within their were enemies as religious tension erupted in revolt again and again, while ambitious men and women struggled for power. So began a long and terrible retreat, two centuries of retreat as the Romans were squeezed on all sides and weak, corrupt or simply helpless emperors held the throne.
In the year 866 AD the Emperor Michael III, better equipped by nature to be a tavern keeper than a monarch was overthrown and killed by his friend, a peasant turned courtier with the grandiose name of Basileios. The young usurper - for he was just thirty - became master of the Queen of Cities and an empire stretching back centuries, both of which had seen their best years pass.
Or so it seemed.
The Roman Empire at the accession of Basileios I, 866 AD.