Justin, Dying – Constantinople, 527 AD

During our break from the narrative I will try and keep in touch whenever something interesting comes up. Today Listener Steve Knepper (an English professor at Virginia Military Institute) has written a dramatic monologue about Justin I. I thought you might enjoy being transported back to the 6th century once more.

Justin, Dying

Constantinople, 527 AD

Justinian’s been crowned, with me too ill

To leave this couch and see my prayers fulfilled.

My thoughts drift to my first time through the gates,

A peasant boy still smelling of the pigs,

Dumbfounded by the spires, mosaics, and domes,

Glass-windowed shops, perfumes, incense, and spice,

The forum buzzing with the tongues of every

Land like Babel healed by Pentecost.

Even the fishmongers dealt in opulence.

Unfathomable that I should rule this place,

That he, my sister’s son, should rule in turn.

I heard the chanting from the Hippodrome

But was so weak I couldn’t even stand,

God teaching me humility again.

The last shall not be first without His Grace.

No skill or cleverness of ours alone

Has made these outland swineherds into Caesars.

Yet think of Christ’s temptation in the sands

When Satan offered him the diadem

Of worldly power, perhaps a crown like ours.

At times this plagues my mind.

Is He working in his cleverness?

When Anastasius lay dead it was

My nephew who first urged me to pursue

The throne. Chief of the royal guard and no

Monophysite, I’d set aright the wrong

My wise old emperor invited by

Imprudence in the Faith,

Repair us with the Patriarch of Rome.

Justinian convinced me to take bribes

Amantius intended for his cause

And use them to finance my own support.

It seemed, I still believe it was, God’s Will.

But what if he did slay Vitalian?

What of his rabble-rousing gangs of Blues?

Some cut their hair like Huns,

Shaved close on top and flowing in the back,

Barbarians in looks and action both.

How many riots, murders did he urge?

No doubt at least he looked the other way.

And what of Theodora,

Crowned empress in the Hippodrome where she

Once swayed her hips, unveiled her breasts,

A famous Leda on the stage,

Allowing geese to peck grain from her loins?

Some call her Theodora-of-the-brothel

Still, my spies within the senate say.

My wife had been a slave.

That does not give me pause.

I worry more she is monophysite,

An adept of the Bishop Timothy.

What will this pair now prove?

Is he the David that this city needs?

Or will he be the upstart thug they claim?

Is she a new Bathsheba…Athalia?

I need to banish evil thoughts like these.

I love Justinian.  His faith is true.

He tends the needy, widows, sick, and orphans,

Cares for the Christians scattered in far lands.

There’s mercy in his heart

And as his indiscretions fade with age

He may become a saintly emperor.

And she may be the woman at the well.

Her brilliance matches all her other charms.

Intelligence and wit may grow to wisdom.

The unity of faith may start with them,

Monophysite now wed to Orthodox,

Co-regents ruling all Byzantium,

Their eros may grow into agape.

This is why Christ’s two natures must be taught,

To show our weakness turned to strength, our strength

Perfected into love,

To show our flesh become a phoenix.

Nor is it bad that that they are strong and shrewd,

Well-versed in what the raucous demes may do,

With enemies within

And enemies without,

The Persians mighty in the east, the Huns

Still raiding in the Balkan dioceses,

With allies often more like enemies,

Goth Arians now seizing lands and life

Of senators in Italy for speaking

Too directly of old Rome made new.

He’ll need the prayers of that great peasant king

Who once was still a boy with flocks to guard,

Who heard the snarls and saw the glinting eyes,

Who stepped out from the fire’s ring

Remembering that he too was a sheep

In need of the Great Shepherd of us all.

A swineherd’s not so different from a shepherd.

It’s well that he wore rags before the purple.

I need such hope tonight

As I prepare for one procession more,

This time into the vale.

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Intelligent Speech Conference – images and links

Search the Dumbarton Oaks Catalogue of Byzantine Lead seals here

Search through the Prosopography of the Byzantine Empire (641-867 AD) here

Search through the Prosopography of the Byzantine Empire (1025-1180 AD) here

Anthony Kaldellis’ podcast is called ‘Byzantium and Friends.’ Episode 14 deals with homosexuality in Byzantium.

The article about Basil II’s sexuality is called ‘Revisiting the Bachelorhood of Basil II’ by Mark Masterson. It was printed in ‘The Emperor in the Byzantine World’ Papers from the Forty-Seventh Spring Symposium of Byzantine Studies-Routledge (2019) edited by Shaun Tougher

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The History of Byzantium is now on Patreon


Hello everyone,

The History of Byzantium is now on Patreon. As you know I already sell bonus episodes of the show here at

But many listeners have requested that I join Patreon for various reasons. The main request being to offer an advert-free feed.

So over at you can now get an ad-free version of the show. And if you join the highest tier you can get an ad-free feed with bonus episodes as well.

BUT the Patreon feeds only begin at episode 200. I have enquired about migrating the entire back catalogue over but haven’t received a response yet.

So for the time being you would be getting only new episodes of the show. If you’re happy with how you currently listen to the History of Byzantium then there’s nothing to worry about. The system over at will continue as it is. But if you want to get an ad-free feed or just prefer Patreon then please do visit

Email me thehistoryofbyzantium at to discuss any ideas or issues you have.


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Corona Virus update

Hello everyone,

Two things have happened in the last 48 hours. I have been told to self isolate for 14 days and the British Library has closed its doors.

I am fine right now it’s just a precaution. I am not taking any time off. I am working on the podcast as usual. I am very lucky that about 80% of the material I need is now available online. So I can continue to research and prepare episodes throughout this difficult time.

Unfortunately some articles and books are only available at the British Library and if I judge that I need to see them before completing an episode then the podcast schedule will suffer.

So the good news is that the work is being done and episodes are being pummelled into shape. But the bad news is I may not be able to release them all until the world outside regains some normality. I know this is not what you wanted to hear when many of us are starved of new content.

I recently asked listeners on social media about their ‘History of Byzantium’ likes and dislikes. The depth of research was mentioned many times as a plus and the schedule of release as a negative. It’s a constant dilemma when putting the show together. The more I read the better the show gets but the longer it takes to produce. Now with Coronavirus this conflict may become even more acute.

Thank you in advance for your patience and understanding,



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On stage with Mike Duncan!

I am attending the Sound Education Conference next month and sharing the stage with Mike Duncan! It will be a huge honour for me to meet and chat to the man who inspired ‘The History of Byzantium.’ And you can be there too. I’ve recorded a short explanation for the show but all the details can be found here.

Download: On Stage with Mike Duncan

RSS Feed: The History of Byzantium

If you want to send in feedback to the podcast:

– Either comment on this post.

– Or on the facebook page.

– Leave a review on Itunes.

– Follow me on Twitter

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Robin interviewed on the Roads to Liberty Podcast

Here is the video of my interview with the Roads to Liberty Podcast.

Download: Interviewed with Roads to Liberty

RSS Feed: The History of Byzantium

If you want to send in feedback to the podcast:

– Either comment on this post.

– Or on the facebook page.

– Leave a review on Itunes.

– Follow me on Twitter

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Culinary Gourmet Tour of Turkey with Serif Yenen

Although the History of Byzantium tours are sold out for 2019, our tour guide Serif Yenen has many attractive trips taking place throughout the year. If you’re a foodie you may be interested in his Culinary Gourmet tour taking place in late May. Click here for more information.

Food-Culinary-Gourmet Tour of Turkey with Serif Yenen

Tour Date: 18-28 May, 2019

How familiar are you with the Turkish Cuisine? Would you believe if we told you it is one of the best cuisines in the world? You have to visit Turkey and decide about it by yourself. A delicious food and culinary experience in Turkey awaits you.

Anatolia, today’s Turkey, has always been a cradle of civilizations, going as early as Göbekli Tepe in 10.000 B.C. More than 30 advanced cultures of ancient history have chosen Anatolia as their home land, each leaving a very rich culture behind. There is so much history and food culture in these lands.

Furthermore, the lands of Anatolia were the earliest to cultivate vineyards and produce wines, dating back to the Neolithic Age (Çayönü-Nevali Çori, 7000 B.C.).

The Bronze Age people, the Hittites were the first to make laws and regulations about viticulture and wine making.

Serif Yenen is a travel specialist, tour guide and guidebook author. As a member of the Chaîne des Rôtisseurs Turkey and food lover himself, he has been leading very special tours and traveling through the lands of Anatolia for more than 30 years. With his special interest in food, over the years, he has found so many hidden places for food experiences.

Now he is ready to share these experiences with you.


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Brilliant new artwork by Amy Reilly

Kind listener Amy Reilly designed this new banner for the website. What a star!

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Ad-free feed

Hello everyone,

Most of you will now be used to hearing adverts before each episode of the podcast. The money from these ads is now a vital part of keeping me podcasting full time. However a few listeners have asked me if they could pay to not hear adverts before each episode. So I’ve put a survey below for anyone interested. If enough people would like an ad-free feed I will try and set one up.

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The History of Byzantium Tour!! (SOLD OUT)

We have sold out for both tours!

Thanks so much to all of you who responded so quickly. I’ll leave the information up for now but bookings are closed. If you are keen to come in 2020 do make a note now to get in touch with me. If all goes well we’d be looking at Spring and Autumn 2020. I’m happy to do multiple weeks if demand is there. I’m also happy to aim for particular dates to fit in with your schedule. I know it’s a long way off but have a think…


Hello everyone,

I’m incredibly excited to announce that the History of Byzantium Tour will be heading to Istanbul on 6th-10th May 2019. Our first week in April has already sold out so we added this second tour.

This will be five full days of Byzantine sites with me and our Turkish tour guide Serif Yenen. Serif is a hugely experienced and accomplished guide (he’s given tours of Istanbul to Oprah Winfrey and Pope Benedict XVI!) who will be leading us around the city.

The cost of the tour is $1125.00 USD per person (for accommodation in double room) or $1435.00 USD per person (for a single room). There are discounts available and an extra day you can add (see below).

What is included in this price:

The beautiful mosaics of Chora

The beautiful mosaics of Chora

  • Private airport transfers from and to Istanbul Atatürk Airport
  • Accommodation in deluxe rooms at the Recital Hotel for 5 nights
  • Five breakfasts at the hotel
  • Five lunches at local casual restaurants with good traditional food
  • Five days of tours with Serif Yenen as an official guide. And Robin Pierson adding insights from the podcast (and generally grinning with excitement)
  • Two days of transportation in a private van/bus. Three days on foot (including two walks along parts of the Theodosian land walls).
  • All museum entrance fees and costs as mentioned in the itinerary
  • Complimentary copies of Serif Yenen’s maps and books
  • Headsets will be provided to hear your guide at each site

What is NOT included in this price:

Walk the Land Walls!

Walk the Land Walls!

  • Dinners
  • Personal expenses
  • Gratuities

Our itinerary will take in all the best Byzantine sites in the city 

  • The Hagia Sophia
  • The Hippodrome and accompanying exhibition inside a nearby cistern
  • The former Church of Saints Sergius and Bacchus (built by Justinian, beautifully designed)
  • The Bukoleon Palace (long time residence of the Emperors and the spot where John Tzimisces scaled the walls to kill Nicephorus Phokas)
  • The Aqueduct of Valens
  • Chora Church (the best preserved mosaics and frescoes in the city, amazing!)
  • Two walks along parts of the Theodosian Land Walls

    The Basilica Cistern

    The Basilica Cistern

  • Zeyrek Mosque, the former Church of the Pantokrator (the Komnenos family church and former home of the Patriarchate)
  • The Patriarchal Church of St George
  • St Mary of the Mongols (the only church to be continuously in Christian use since the fall of Byzantium)
  • An underground tour will take us to many ruins from the Great Palace which lie beneath hotels and restaurants
  • The Basilica Cistern (the most famous and picturesque of the city’s many cisterns)
  • The Column of Constantine and the Forum of Theodosius (giving you a sense of Constantinople’s giant public squares)
  • Kalenderhane Mosque, the former Church of the Theotokos Kyriotissa (a beautiful building with a fascinating history)
  • Bodrum Mosque, the former Church of the Myrelaion (built by Romanus Lekapenos to be his burial place, we may be able to visit the very spot!)

    The amazing gardens of the Archeaological Musuem

    The amazing gardens of the Archeaological Musuem

  • The Archaeological Musuems of Istanbul (an astonishing collection of Roman and Byzantine artefacts)
  • Hagia Eirene (built by Justinian and preserving Iconoclast decoration)
  • The Palace Mosaic Museum (a beautiful stretch of Justinian-era floor mosaic showing amazing scenes of nature)
  • And more!


For those who want to stay another day and see non-Byzantine Istanbul this bonus day with Serif (without Robin) is available:

May 11th, Saturday (Optional Walking Tour with accommodation)

  • Topkapi Palace
  • Blue Mosque
  • Lunch
  • Suleymaniye Mosque
  • Bosphorus tour

The price will be $200.00 USD per person (accommodation in double room) and $255.00 USD per person (for a single room)

What is included in this price:

  • Accommodation in deluxe rooms at the Recital Hotel for one night
  • One breakfasts at the hotel
  • One lunch at local casual restaurants with good traditional food
  • One-day tour with Serif Yenen as an official guide
  • All museum entrance fees and costs as mentioned in the itinerary
  • Complimentary copies of Serif Yenen’s maps and books
  • Headsets will be provided to hear your guide at each site

What is NOT included in this price:

  • Dinner
  • Personal expenses
  • Gratuities


I want to go! What do I need to do?

Click here for 6th-10th May 2019

BUT before you do just check this is all clear:

There are three payment options available:

1) Pay the full amount now on credit card.

2) Pay a deposit now ($350 per person in a single room, $280 per person in a double) and the rest on card the week before the tour.

3) Pay a deposit now and pay the rest in person in cash. This cuts out credit card and other fees meaning you’d only pay an overall total of:

  • $990.00 USD per person (accommodation in double room)
  • $1265.00 USD per person (accommodation in single room)

Also the extra day with Serif will be paid separately. Just let us know if you’d like to take up that option.

Remember the tour days are Monday 6th – Friday 10th April. But you need to arrive on Sunday 5th and will stay that night in the hotel. Robin will be in the hotel on the evening of the 5th to greet you. Then we’ll all head out Monday morning to begin the tour. Unless you are booking the extra day with Serif you will then check out of the hotel on Friday 10th. We can leave our bags in the hotel for that day’s tour and then pick them up at the end of the day. If you’d like to stay in the hotel that night please make your own arrangements.

Please don’t book your flights until we reach the minimum number we need for the tour to go ahead (12 people). We will let you know the second that happens so you can get your travel sorted.  


Why does it cost more if I want a single room to myself?
I’m afraid this is an industry standard charge

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