The Psamathia Quarter in Byzantium


The Disputed Region of Lazica


The Augustaion in Byzantium


Partial Cast

Book III.b - Part 1 - Serinda in Byzantium


An orphan and seamstress at Saturninus, 12 years old, 8-   or 9- in memories and recollections—she is good with embroideries and the   drawloom



An Italian nun at Saturninus whose father, Priscian, a   wealthy merchant, endowed to Saturninus some drawlooms, a recent entry to the   textile industry of Byzantium, of whose use Vesta is an expert



Hegumenia, the   female head of a monastery or nunnery, who is also something of a   businesswoman


Cyril Fuller

A merchant of moderate wealth in Byzantium and a trader in   textiles



A young monk at Dalmatou, son of Nestorian Christians, his   mother Persian and his father Syrian, he is quadri-lingual, received a   Persian education at Nisibis and is loaned out to the eparch as a mitotes—a   regulator responsible for quality, weights and measures



A boullotes installed under the Eparch by Theodora to whom   Alexander reports – a corrupt miaphysite bureaucrat in the service of Peter   Barsymes



Nun, at Saturninus; key holder and courtier for Cyra



Mentioned—the archimandrite of Dalmatou


Joseph Nios

Oikonomos (something like an accountant) of Dalmatou



Minor character – a fellow monk with Alexander – educated,   sits at the sigmata; he is from Italy



A diakonetai at Dalmatou—an illiterate monk tasked with   manual labor



Cubicularius to Emperor Justinian and praepositus sacri cubiculi, the highest ranking eunuch in the   emperor’s service and a member of the Consistorium



Scholae palitinae and attendant to Callinicus


Peter Patricus

Magister Officiorum in Justinian’s Consistorium—supervisor   of foreign affairs, custodian for ambassadors received in Byzantium from   foreign states, responsible for translators and interpreters, diplomatic   missions and the “Bureau of Barbarians”—role is akin to a modern Secretary of   State or Minister of Foreign Affairs


Peter Barsymes

Comes   sacrarum largitionum, Count of the Sacred Larges, in Justinian’s   Consistorium—in modern terms: the Minister of the Public Treasury


Flavius Arabissos

Armenian notary assigned to support administration in the   war in Lazica


General Bessas

General reassigned from Italy to Lazica


John Guzes

Tagma commander sent to quell a revolt in Apsilia



Traitorous Lazican chieftan of Apsilia



Persian vizier and ambassador at Apsilia



Eunuch presented by Terdetes to John Guzes as a gift to   Justinian to show rapproachment


Natan and Rava

Jewish tanners from Byzantium who maintain a shop outside   Hermonassa



Natan and Rava’s father who stayed behind in Byzantium



A cousin of Arabissos who survived the plague



Armenian general and tagma commander; a former conspirator   in a plot to murder Justinian who, in the aftermath, received Justinian’s   forgiveness



A trumpeter in Arabissos’ tagma



Veteran soldier in the Lazica campaign serving in Arabissos’   tagma, a confidant of Arabissos



An officer in Arabissos’ tagma


Lao Yi

Elder Chinese Taoist monk ambassador



Younger Chinese Taoist monk ambassador



Emperor of Byzantium



Daughter of Comito, Theodora’s older sister, and General   Sittas, her husband



Long-time friend and survivor of Theodora, feared everywhere by almost everyone




Byzantine Terms and Some Chinese Terms


African red slipware, a common fine pottery form in the 1st through 7th centuries that was manufactured for export in modern Tunisia

Amphora, a tall jar with two handles and a narrow neck common in the Greco-Roman world for storing and holding beverages

Autexousion, legal emancipation of a minor son from his parents (especially his father); usually between 16 and 18 years of age although variable if the child married, took monastic vows, owned his own workshop or joined the military

Basilikoi, officials who accompanied foreign embassies and dignitaries, who brought them into audiences and meetings, provided for their needs and arranged for safe passage

Battle of Maurica, known to various historical accounts as the Battle of the Catalaunian Plains, Battle of the Catalaunian Fields, the Battle of the Campus Mauriacus, the Battle of Châlons or the Battle of Maurica; it occurred on June 20, 451 AD, about 100 years before the events in this narrative

Blattia, plural of blattion—originally meaning the color purple, in late antiquity and the earlier Byzantine days of Justinian and Theodora, it had the connotation of the highest quality purple that was reserved for royal or imperial use

Boullotes, an assistant to the eparch who oversee one or another bureau or regulatory body in the eparch’s purview – corporeal punishment was imposed on a merchant who refused entry of a boullotes or his representative (i.e.: a mitotes or a legatarios) to a workshop

Βούττα, Buddha, in Greek: Βούττα, was known to Greco-Roman society and minimally found mention by Augustine and the second and third century Clement of Alexandria, the latter in his Stromata, which Clement designed as a medium of Christian secret teachings via largely symbolic explanation

Chartoularioi, in both Byzantine government and church affairs, chartoularioi, or chartophylax, the latter term more appropriate for the church, acted as tertiary officials and functionaries with a variety of responsibilities for fiscal, archival or other affairs including some military applications; their responsibilities may range from the relatively simple courtier to heads entire bureaus, often called “sekreton” or “secreton”

Chiton, basic tunic worn by both men and women of all socio-economic strata

Comes sacrarum largitionum, the count of the imperial largess – minister in charge of the imperial treasury and a member of the Emperor’s Consistorium

Comitatenses, Roman or Byzantine field army which came to replace the legions in later Roman and early Byzantine times of late antiquity beginning around the time and under reforms of Diocletian who specifically designed the comitatenses as mobile field armies whose mission, training, equipment and structure differed from limitanei, the other primary organizational form for large military units, who were assigned to guard the border or “limit” of empire; driven by the changing military landscape in late antiquity which increasingly came to favor mobile units while incorporating archery, artillery and the horse, the comitatenses were a means and ends to military force re-organization and modernization that continued through Theodosius who merged cavalry and infantry units and up through the time of Justinian, by whose era Rome’s legendary legions were already an artifact of the distant past 

Consistorium, the highest advisory body in the imperial service—closely akin in function to a Presidential Cabinet—technically separate from the Senate, during the time of Justinian the role of the two bodies effectively converged

Daqin, Chinese word for Rome. By the time of the early 7th century we know the Chinese knew the Byzantine Empire by the word “Fulin” (Chinese: 拂菻), however it is not certain that the name 

Fulin had come into adoption before 618 AD, about 70 years after the events in this story. Before that, the Weilüe (Chinese: 魏略, "A Brief History of Wei")which was written by Yu Huan, a historian of Cao Wei during the Three Kingdoms period between 239 and 265, records information about societies west of China including India, Parthia and the Roman Empire, the latter of which Yu Huan describes as “Da Qin”(Chinese: 大秦), “The Great Qin”. The Weilüe includes in particular descriptions of sea-based routes by which one may travel from China to Roman regions. We presume for the start of our story that the term Fulin was still in use.

Daugava, a waterway used in late Roman times and throughout the Middle Ages by the Byzantines to access Russia, the Baltics and Scandinavia. 

Deed of Purchase, deeds recording the details and exchange of property and rights in a legal transaction typified by a deposit or disposal of money and an exchange of money or property; they followed formularies—that is formulas or templates, “model books” for documents which in different times and places were more universal or more local that were produced by chanceries and notaries—6th century law schools are believed to have fomented the spread of uniform deeds in the Byzantine world

Dekarch, a leader of a 10-soldier squad (a decharchy)

Depotatoi, medical corpsmen – units in a Tagma of eight to ten whose role was to recover injured soldiers and unhorsed cavalry from the field of battle

Empress Leizu, Can Nainai, legendary empress—wife of the Yellow Emperor, credited by tradition with the discovery of silk and known in folklore as Can Nainai, “Silkworm Mother”

Eparch, The Eparch of the City, effectively the governor and supreme judge of Byzantium and chief of police responsible for law and order, second only to the emperor

Eukraton, a beverage common in monasteries which substituted for wine usually served as a hot drink made by boiling water with pepper, cumin, or anise - it was usually a staple during fasting periods

Exagion, a unit of weight intended to match the weight of a solidus, a gold coin originally minted by Diocletian where there were 60 solidi to a Roman pound but by the time of Justinian the conversion had been increased to 72 such that one weighed one exagion and 72 exagion weighed 1 pound; by the late Roman and early Byzantine era the solidus had taken on the name nomisma

Excubitor, a small group of elite troops created by Leo I as a special imperial bodyguard under the command of a comes excubitorum which was a position that rapidly took on considerable importance in the regime

First Watch, the first nightly watch ended around 10 PM, so as much as four hours prior to 10 PM, but after sundown—if described as “later” as here, then probably between 8 and 10 PM

Hegumenia (Greek: ἡγουμένη), female form of hegumen (Greek: ἡγούμενος), title for the head of an eastern orthodox monastery

Hekantontarch, a commander of a hundred soldiers (a hekatontarchy)

Hetaireia, a military unit of uncertain provenance but which in some way was attached to the emperor—it is likely that they were responsible for the administration of certain estates held by the imperial government, including properties about the palace

Horologian, a Byzantine time keeping device—usually a water clock or sundial

Hyrcanian Ocean, the Caspian Sea as it was known to the Byzantines—its geography was poorly understood and the Byzantines had no clear sense of where it ended

Iconostasis, a high barrier in churches and similar sanctuary buildings that was used to create a reserved or protected space in religious buildings of late antiquity; it was superseded later in the Middle Ages by the use of open templons and low screens

Jacobite, local (Syrian) term for a follower of what was late (7th century) described as the monophysite or miaphysite movement of Christianity centered in Alexandria but popular in Egypt and Syria; that movement then as to this day at some odds with the larger northern body of eastern orthodox and Catholic Christianity both of which are regarded as Chalcadonian based on agreements they made against the doctrines of the Jacobites (monophysites) at the Council of Chalcadon regarding the nature of the incarnation and the Trinity

Jade Emperor, one of the representations of the first god in Taoist theology; known as Yuanshi Tianzun, he is one of the Three Pure Ones: the three primordial emanations of the Tao 

Jing, in Traditional Chinese Medicine jing is the essential fluid of the physical body that contains the life force; sometimes described as the “essence of Qi (Chi)” it is both the material basis of the body and the fluid container of the life force—it works with the life force Qi and Spirit, Shen and together with these three is recognized as one of the “three treasures”—said to be stored in the kidneys and “prenatal jing” which one is born with cannot be replenished—a loss of jing can cause premature aging and death

Kelliotes, kellia, a monastic cell

Logos, (Greek: λόγος) – when translation is attempted, often translated as “word”, such as in the most common English translation of the Gospel of John, “In the beginning was the (λόγος) Word…”, or when Saint Jerome translated the New Testament into Latin, “In principio erat Verbum…”, and contemporary Spanish translations, “En el principio era el Verbo…”

Arguably—each of these translations are in error and the correct rendering of logos is for translators to retain the word in its Greek form, logos, so as to urge readers and thinkers to ascertain it as a distinct concept, apart from “word”, which for its part is a different word altogether in Greek: λέξις, transliterating as “lexis”; 

Found in Plato’s writings and those of his followers for centuries afterwards, and believed to have predated Plato and possibly originating from out of the Bronze Age, logos may be most simply understood on a human level as the dark, precognitive space—just prior to and beyond the reach of language, that creates meaning by selecting words in party to the action of mind, before words themselves are formed as cohesive, verbal thoughts—or more generally as the source out of which the mind forms meaning, for example the font from which an artist imagines an new image or a musician intuits a composition for a musical score; 

In contrast to words and other symbols and acts of art which themselves are meaning—logos is an elusive, inchoate noun—that thing which creates meaning and a philosopher may speculate that this act of creation is of its own nature ex nihilo

On a metaphysical level, logos is the aspect of Plato’s fecund and infinite, divine “One”, which Plato held to be unknowable to its emanations—emanations such as gods and goddesses, angels and demons, men and women, animals, plants, the four elements and matter—but emanations destined in Plato’s universe to reunite with the One; though the One is unknowable, lying as it does even beyond Plato’s “Realm of the Forms”, the logos is an aspect of the One which renders as intellectable both the One and the process of imminent return to the One, to its emanations; in Plato’s complex ontology emanations, otherwise lost to confusion and chaos, may come to know about the One, because the logos renders the One intellectable to them

Logos found particular refinement as a concept for fusing together Hebrew and Greek thought in the writings of the Jewish thinker Philo of Alexandria in the early first century; in the Christian era, particularly in the Johannine tradition beginning with John’s non-synoptic gospel and echoed from Irenaeus to Justin Martyr to Clement of Alexandria and Origin all the way to Justinian himself, the logos was appropriated out of the Platonic tradition where it was equated with Christ as divine-made-incarnate, just such as we find stated in the Gospel of John; 

Though it has fallen out of popular use in the awareness of contemporary Christians of all sects, the logos lay at the heart of Byzantine Christian spirituality and references to it are frequent in Byzantine writings and art, including those of Justinian himselfl 

Apprehension of the roll of the logos in the ex nihilo act of creation of meaning in a Platonic, fecund, infinite universe is a precondition to understanding the minds of pre-modern, pre-scientific people, but more so it would be difficult for people in modern times to understand the most divisive issue of Justinian and Theodora’s era without first understanding the place of the logos in the minds of people in Late Antiquity—the dispute between European “Nicene Christianity” and African, largely Egyptian miaphysitism

The conflict between Nicene Christianity, also known as “Chalcedonian Christianity” which descends to us today as Roman Catholicism, Eastern Orthodoxy and Protestantism, versus monophysitism or miaphysitism, which is preserved today as the Coptic Orthodox Church, is a division that literally set Justinian and Theodora apart from one another, as a couple, while paradoxically this personal division also accounted for their ability as a couple both to seize and hold power over a divided empire, together, for decades

Of some interest to the particular cultural intersection at the heart of this novel, Serinda, is that when early translators of the Bible first translated the text into Mandarin Chinese, when confronted with the same problem as western translators who faced the Greek logos and elected to replace it with “word”, Chinese language translators opted instead to translate logos to Mandarin as “Tao” so that when rendered in Chinese the first verse of the Gospel of John reads, “In the beginning was the Tao and the Tao was with God, and was God”

Manoualia, large brass candle stands, usually placed on either end before the iconostasis or templon and intended to represent the pillars of fire that guided the Hebrews on their journey in the desert

Melchite, local term for Chalcadonian (Eastern Orthodox or Catholic) Christians in Syria who used the term to distinguish themselves from the majority Jacobites (monophysites) and Nestorians

Mese, literally meaning the "middle" road, this was the central avenue and main street of Byzantium; it began at the Milion which was symbolically the initial milestone of empire which originated in the Augustaion Square in front of the Hagia Sophia and stretched from there towards the city center where around the south west base of Third Hill in an area called the Philadelphion it forked with one branch extending north west to the Gate of Adrianople and the other branch extending south west to the Golden Gate, this second branch subdivided shortly beyond Dalmatou at a juncture called Sigma where one branch continued to the Xylokerkos Gate, also known as the Gate of the Source or the Pege which was planted with trees and had a source of water (pege) that locals held to be miraculous 

Misthios, an apprentice

Mitotes, one class of legatarios, the word was broadly applied for both civil and military officials responsible for overseeing the operations of variousdepartments of the Byzantine bureaucracy who usually answered ultimately to the Eparch and who were considered his assistants in the conduct of regulation; mitotes were legatarios who were inspectors responsible for the quality of silk linens

Neorion, a merchant market relocated to the Harbor of Julian by Justinian with a colorful history of enchantments 

Nestorians, a Christian movement centered around Antioch in Syria that developed in the early fifth century that tended to punctuate the human nature of Christ while denying what other Platonist educated Christians called the hypostatic union of the divine Logos with the human person of Jesus; in addition they rejected the use of the term Theotokos, which means Mother of God" as a reference to Mary and preferred to substitute it with Christotokos which means "Mother of Christ"; they incurred the ire of other Christians who accused them of propounding the existence of two sons of God rather than one Son of God; besides a violence their opponents perceived the Nestorian theology to commit on a seemingly more Platonic understanding of the Christian vision their opponents also objected that Nestorian beliefs implied that Jesus liberated himself to become Christ rather than that being Christ, he lacked the ability to sin; the movement was uniformly rejected by the antecedents groups which would eventually come to be the modern Orthodox, Catholic and Coptic Christian movements at the Council of Ephesus in 431; despite this rejection they retained a strong presence in some parts of Syria, Persia, Northern Arabia, and across Central Asia to India and even into China

Oikonomos, a cleric responsible for managing the property, income and expenses of a religious body or institution such as a church or monastery; in a monastery this role might be known as a steward and was generally second to the hegumenos—the Council of Chalcedon (451) had required this appointment but it was not extended as a requirement to monasteries until the Second Council of Nicaea (787). 

Olovina, while it is difficult to be conclusive because most surviving literature from the Byzantine era is naturally a product of the upper classes and literate ranks and therefore infected with certain slants we nevertheless get a sense that while wine and other liquors were both common and popular in Byzantine times and places, beer was not so popular; though one factor that may serve to support the idea that beer's unpopularity was merely a quality of the bias of surviving literature are reports of a wine like drink made from barley called olovina, which is an old Russian word for beer - it was used disparagingly to refer to a drink popular with "semi-barbarians"

Opsonion, referred to as a provisions allowance, a sum that soldiers received when on campaign in addition to their ordinary salary (roga)—although it technically could be granted in cash

Orphanage, orphanages had an important function in Byzantine society—one should exercise caution not to project modern assumptions onto the past—orphanages occupied a significant structural place in early modern western Europe, but generally have not been a significant fixture of society prior to that—though they were an important institution in Byzantium; called orphanotrophos, they were under the direction of a orphanotropheion and while sometimes independent, were usually administered by a monastery; orphanotrophos served the blind, crippled and elderly; orphans could stay in them until they were old enough to marry and orphans had rights that were recognized in law

Paludamentum, a form of chlamys which by the sixth century had many forms and applications to designate that the wearer bore this or that formal office, where the paludamentum was a chlamys designating a high ranking military officer, as opposed to other versions for huntsmen, riders, civilian officers and a purple chlamys which was exclusively worn by the emperor

Panis Civilis, the Roman custom of bread distribution which was preserved in Byzantium by Emperor Constantine who ordained it there on May 18 332 and which continued until after the reign of Justinian in 618— along with the distribution of bread officials could also distribute wine, meat and various linens including clothing

Pous, a unit of length similar to a “foot”, 31.23 centimeters and derived from the Greek “foot”—used in documents describing the Hagia Sophia; at 400 meters above the Kodori River, the base of Tsibilium fortress was at 1280 pous by Byzantine reckoning, which is about 1312 English feet high, a quarter-mile at the fortress’s base

Prandiopratai, merchants who imported and sold foreign, but especially Syrian silk fabrics

Psamathia, the quarter in the southwestern corner of Byzantium between the Constantinian and the Theodosian walls; originally occupied by aristocratic mansions in the fourth and fifth centuries they came to be replaced by monasteries 

Rasophore (Greek: ρασοϕόρος), title given to an eastern orthodox nun, in the modern era of the lowest rank, but less stringently so in antiquity—the name is derived from a napless woolen cloth garment out of which developed the cassock—the title is used in a similar fashion to “sister” in Latin / western monastic convent traditions

Sagia, plural form of sagion, which could variously refer to a cloak worn by soldiers in the sixth century infantry or to a heavier form used for blankets and tents

Scholae Palatinae, imperial guard; created by Diocletian, by the 5th century they had been reduced to a largely ceremonial role including carrying out Palace business, reporting to the Magister Officicorum, their guard role had been transferred to the excubitors—wealthy families often paid for their youths to hold an office in the Scholae Palatinae

, Chinese for “silk”; written 丝

Skiadon, a term which took on different meanings at different times—as used in late antiquity of Justinian and Theodora it was a parasol or sunshade but in later times it came to mean a conical hat with a broad brim that was popular among imperials and those of high rank.

Strepton, a bronze tube used by Byzantines to contain flammable liquids and chemicals—later, just a hundred years after the era of Justinian and Theodora, this would be combined with a pumping device called a siphon which when combined with a strepton made for a pre-modern flame thrower of legendary effectiveness, reported by their allies, their enemies and the Byzantines themselves to be “Greek Fire”, or literally “liquid flame”—in its more advanced, “flame thrower” manifestation its use is not recorded before 678 AD when it was deployed to repel Arab invaders with astonishing efficiency; but the 6th century Strategikon of Maurice, contemporary to these events, as well as other sources make it clear that incendiary weapons, even “bombs” were known and already in use by the Byzantine military at this earlier date—this was especially so in the prosecution of siege warfare where explosive devices where particularly valuable for tilting the balance of power to the side of the aggressing party

Tagma, refers to a military regiment—the word came into adoption around the 4th century and is common for example in the contemporary Stratikon of Maurice, although it took on a more formalized meaning in the fundamental organizational structure of the Byzantine military around the 8th century; prior to that, however, it was in widespread use to refer to various specialized regiments, the first of which were the scholai and excoubitoi, but later came to include at least two units specifically associated with the city of Byzantium, one for wall regiments and another for regiments that guarded prisons and various city sections; one record holds that there were four cavalry and two infantry tagma in Byzantium, each with 4000 soldiers

Taprobanê, Sri Lanka as it was known to the Romans, Greeks and Byzantines 

Taxis, a Byzantine concept that permeated most aspects of life holding that human society was a mirror of the cosmos and opposite the abhorred concept of ataxis, or disorder; from taxis followed realities of etiquette, precedence, ceremony, rank, class and ways of life

Tetrarchy, by the 3rd century AD the Roman Empire was too large to effectively govern and defend and was beset by one crisis after another which often boiled over on account of delays between the onset of what could have been a minor crisis, and the centralized, executive correction, because news traveled slow and information was incomplete and inaccurate; to stem this problem and others the Emperor Diocletian instituted reforms which divided Rome into four “dioceses”, administrative zones ruled by a tetrarch—this was the first separation of Italy from Byzantine, eastern Rome and set the foundation that provided for the structure of the later east/west split which would result in the relative rise of Byzantium that corresponded to the decline of the Latin, Roman west

Toupha, a helmet adorned with a tuft of fur or the feathers of exotic animals

Trapeza, a refrectory in eastern monastic communities

Typikon, foundation charter for a monastery or nunnery

Vasht, a smaller division in the Sasanian Persian army

Vestioprates, (plural: vestiopratai; Greek: βεστιοπράτης) a supposed occupation for the 6th century inferred based on contemporary John Malalas’ use of the word bestion to designate clothing that was handed out as part of the Panis Civilis and the later (after the 9th century) use of the term for merchants of fine luxury garments primarily composed of silk but inclusive of other fine linens

Xylon, called a semantron after about the 11th century, prior to which it was known as a xylon or a rhabdos sidera (“iron rod”)


l See On the Person of Christ: the Christology of Emperor Justinian, Trans. Kenneth P. Wesche, St. Vladimir’s Seminary Press, 1991 – Justinian wrote copious letters to monastics and clerics staking out positions on the intersection of philosophy and Christian theology – the substance of these letters make clear that he was especially concerned with implications of Christ, as Logos

Time and Chronology

As Justinian and Theodora Knew Them


By the time of Justinian and Theodora several systems of reckoning time were in use, chief among them were the year of the current Olympiad (which was falling out of use as the Olympics had been recently abolished, but which still retained a utility as a reliable benchmark going back 1200 years), the reign and year of the current emperor as well as a number of inconsistent syntheses of cosmic calendars representing attempts to synthesize pre-Christian, pagan reckonings of historical and pre-historical time with the ascendant reckoning attributed to the Hebrews by contemporary Christian popularizers. 

For our treatment of Justinian and Theodora it is our ambition to represent them and their world with the utmost faithfulness without creating an excess of burden on the reader, with hopes to transport the audience into the enchanted world Justinian and Theodora occupied. It is not possible to achieve any of these goals without adequately accounting for a Byzantine reckoning of time so that we may understand their chronology both as they understood it and as they lived it. 

A somewhat fascinating coincidence is that the current, dominant system of calendar: the BC AD era system or Anno Domini system of dating was devised in 525 AD by Dionysius Exiguus of Scythia Minor at about the time Justinian and Theodora married. That system didn’t come into wide adoption however until three centuries later. The systems in use during their time were the aforementioned.

As more than one syncretization of pagan and Hebrew reckonings existed, for simplicity and consistency we selectone and hold to it throughout the series, our method is as follows. 

The Patria (1:55) records that it was in the 5838th year “of the creation of the world” that the city of Byzantium received the name “Constantinople”. We know the year Emperor Constantine consecrated Byzantium as Constantinople was 330 AD and we take 330 AD to correspond to 5838. The Patria in the same passage claims that this was also in the second year of the 265th Olympiad—but finding as the 265th Olympiad was in 281 AD and its second year was 282 AD, we take that to be an error of medieval chronological record-keeping, which is not unusual and we ignore it—instead we find that 330 AD was in the second year of the 277th Olympiad and we retain this as the year corresponding to 5838 in Byzantine chronology. 

Using this as our point of reference we presume for purposes of this series that Justinian was born in 484 AD – sources differ on this and some suggest he was born as early as 481 AD but we will hold 484 AD to be his date. 484 AD under the prior reckoning is the 5992nd year of the creation of the world, and we derive from there that Theodora was born in 6005 (497 AD), they were married in 6033 (525 AD) and for purposes of Serinda, our eastern monks arrive on the scene in 6059 (551 AD). 

In at least one reckoning of Byzantine chronology all of history and pre-history was divided into eras numbering 532 years each and the Byzantines of Justinian and Theodora’s time regarded themselves to occupy the 12th such era which, fittingly, they held to be the “Byzantine Era”. This holds some significance as in modern times we hold that the attribution of “Byzantine Empire” to Justinian, Theodora and those who would follow them is retrospective and that they and their contemporaries understood themselves to be Roman and an organic continuation of what was until 476 AD the Roman Empire in the west and the east, but by the time of Justinian and Theodora remained intact only in the east. 

But time is as fitting a dimension as space for locating identity and acknowledging that both Justinian and Theodora probably understood the chronology of their own lives as particle to the Twelfth Era, the Byzantine Era, it seems quite appropriate to understand them as uniquely Byzantine in a way that earlier Romans, east and west, were not. It so happens that the final year of the Byzantine Era to which Justinian and Theodora reckoned themselves to belong ended in 887 AD. In 2018 AD, as Justinian and Theodora would have understood it, we are today in the 7528th year of the creation of the world and the 66th year of the Fifteenth Era which will come to an end in 2483 AD. Our current era in their time began in 1952.



Byzantine Epochs  

AD/BC of Last Year of Era

Year of Creation: 5497 BCE


First                                1                   532                       4964 BCE


Second                    533                 1065                       4432 BCE


Third                        1066                1598                       3900 BCE


Fourth                     1599               2131                       3368 BCE


Fifth                          2132                2664                       2836 BCE


Sixth                         2665                3197                       2304 BCE


Seventh                    3198              3730                        1772 BCE 

Eight                          3731               4263                        1240 BCE


Ninth                         4264               4796                           708 BCE


Tenth                         4797              5329                            176 BCE


Eleventh                   5330              5862                            355 AD


Twelfth                      5863             6395                             887 AD


Thirteenth                6396             6928                          1419 AD


Fourteenth               6929             7461                          1951 AD


Fifteenth                    7462             7994                         2483 AD

With this understanding of Byzantine chronology we take one thing to be an interesting coincidence. Most modern scholars of the subject find the estimation by Dionysius Exiguus for the year for the birth of Jesus of Nazareth, 1 AD, to be an error and our best accounts instead suggest that he was born at some time between 6 BCE and 4 BCE (recall that there is no year 0 in this system). With this adjustment it is interesting to note that almost exactly 532 years elapse between the actual year of the birth of the historical Jesus of Nazareth, and the ascension of Justinian and Theodora to the throne in 527 AD – the length of one full era as Byzantines computed them.