chapter  1
16 Pages


St Maximus the Confessor was born in AD 580 in the Byzantine Empire, or the Roman Empire, as he and its inhabitants would have called it. Fifteen years earlier the great Emperor Justinian had died, at the end of a long reign (527-65) in which he had sought to restore the Roman Empire to its former glory. To a considerable degree he had succeeded. When his uncle, Justin I, died, the sway of the Emperor in Constantinople had shrunk to the Eastern end of the Mediterranean-the Balkan peninsula (including Greece), Asia Minor (and on the other side of the Black Sea Cherson-in the Crimea), Syria, Palestine and Egypt. The Western part of the Mediterranean world was ruled by the leaders of various barbarian tribes, even if several of these claimed to rule on behalf of the Emperor in Constantinople. By 565 the Roman Empire was more like the Empire the first Emperor, Augustus, had created: a union of the lands surrounding the Mediterranean-mare nostrum, our lake, as the Romans called it. North Africa had been reconquered in 533; Italy was restored to direct Byzantine control after a long drawn-out war that lasted from 535 to 554; and the Byzantines established themselves in the south-east corner of Spain, with their capital in Cordova, in 554. Much of Constantinople had been rebuilt during Justinian’s reign, including the ‘Great Church’, the church dedicated to the Holy Wisdom —Hagia Sophia.