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There is a growing appreciation of the importance of the Byzantines in the history and development of Europe and the Middle East.
The Christian Byzantine Empire comprised the Eastern half of the Roman Empire and its inhabitants regarded themselves as Romans. One of the greatest figures in the history of the Byzantine Empire is the Emperor Justinian (483-565). He is regularly known as Justinian the Great and is even a saint in the Greek Orthodox Church. Justinian was a man of remarkable ability and vision and he sought to restore the Roman Empire, to its former glory and extent. In a series of wars’, his armies manged to recapture many of the former Roman territories, that had been lost to barbarian invaders in the 5th century. These wars of reconquest had a dramatic impact on the Byzantine lands and their legacy was mixed for the Empire. The demands of war transformed the Byzantine state and society and weakened its army and economy. However, the conquests of Justinian in Italy and Africa later helped to save the Christian realm during the Arab and Persian wars. The Emperor’s wars of reconquest also led to the final destruction of the World of Late Antiquity and the beginnings of the Middle Ages.
[[File: Justinian I.png|200px|thumb|left|Justinian I from a mosaic in Ravenna]]
The Roman Empire had been divided by the Emperor Theodosius I into an Eastern and Western states. The two parts of the Roman Word were very different with the east, mainly Greek speaking, wealthier and urban, while the west, which was mainly Latin speaking and increasingly impoverished. The Western Empire was much weaker than the East and after the collapse of the Rhine frontier in 410 AD it was slowly occupied by various Germanic tribes who created states in the former Imperial provinces. By 500 AD, Italy was ruled by the Ostrogoths, North Africa was ruled by the Vandals and Spain was in the possession of the Visigoths. The Eastern Empire had been able to avoid the fate of the West because of its inherent strengths and some strong leaders such as the Emperor Zeno. By the start of the 6th century AD the eastern part of the Roman Empire was a unified state that was actually growing stronger and its borders were secure <ref> Baker, George Philip. Justinian: The Last Roman Emperor (London, Rowman & Littlefield, 2002), p 119</ref>.