Well before other medieval societies (both Christian and Muslim), Byzantium was flourishing in the 4th century. Greek-speaking (though bilingual with Latin until the 6th century), this self-proclaimed, New Rome, faced unprecedented challenges. It grew into an immense empire, an empire, paradoxically, whose cultural influence spread over the centuries in inverse proportion to its political strength. Topics we will consider include: definitions of empire, definitions of Byzantium over its 1,100-year evolution, issues of ethnicity and race and the inextricable relationship of historiography and fiction.