1/ Bettany Hughes - Byzantium Unearthed
Historian Bettany Hughes begins a series that uses the latest archaeological evidence to learn more about the empire of Byzantium and the people who ruled it.
Bettany learns how treasures found in the empire's capital, modern-day Istanbul, reveal much about the life and importance of a civilisation that, whilst being devoutly Christian and the inheritors of the Romans, was also exotic and eastern.
Bettany examines the public and private life of the Byzantines. Women had unprecedented power in the Empire, as did the mysterious 'third sex' of eunuchs. But, in this part Roman, part fundamentalist Christian state, dangerous political factions would keep the blood of political dynasties flowing.
Bettany ventures to the eastern edge of the empire, where the new religion of Islam first gained a foothold.
For nearly a thousand years the empire made war and peace with the Muslim countries to its south and east. However, the fatal blow to Byzantium came not, as is widely thought at the hands of the Ottoman Turks in 1453, but by from the Christian west 250 years earlier.
2/ I, Caesar - Six Part Series (1997)
Justinian: the last Caesar
Justinian was born a Serbian peasant and was in some ways the last Roman Emperor. He was the last to conquer (or in his case, reconquer) territory, and the last to see the Empire produce great literary, artistic and architectural achievements. Perhaps he is most famous for the Justinian Code, a compilation and standardization of the Roman legal tradition that influences Western legal traditions to this day. A fine legacy, but by the time he died, the Roman Empire was already fading.