Justinian II was leader of an empire that outlasted the fall of Rome. But despite his power, he ultimately met a grisly fate.
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, then, he is 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, the Romans’ reign did not last, and in the fifth century A.D. large swathes of their territory fell to enemy powers.
Even after the Western Roman Empire collapsed, though, 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, the region was recognized as being among Europe’s greatest political and cultural powers.