Map of the Byzantine Empire 565 AD

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This map depicts the Empire at the death of Justinian I, who had reigned from 527 to 565 as sole Emperor, sometimes in concert, and sometimes in conflict, with his powerful wife Theodora.

Through a series of hard-fought and destructive wars against Goth and Vandal successor states in the former territory of the western Roman Empire, Justinian had re-extended the Empire's boundaries to southern Spain, the Italian peninsula and North Africa. The territorial gains, though impressive, masked an overall weakening the Empire's position; a dreadful outbreak of bubonic plague had swept the mediterranean basin in the 540s and severe climatic conditions had a negative impact upon the Empire's agricultural base.

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