Medieval Constantinople and the Byzantine Empire


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Novels set in Medieval Constantinople and Byzantium

Mysteries set in Medieval Constantinople and Byzantium

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Constantinople When Constantine the Great became the sole Emperor of Rome in 325, he rebuilt the old city of Byzantium and named it Nova Roma, making it into a second center of government. After his death it was renamed Constantinople in his honor.

In 395 the Roman Empire was divided into a Western and an Eastern Empire, and Constantinople became the seat of government of the Eastern Empire. With Rome's fall in the fifth century, the city became the center of the Byzantine Empire and arguably the most important city in the world.

Notable Byzantine rulers include Justinian, who made an ambitious attempt during the sixth century to recover the lost territories of the Western Empire. His consort, the remarkable Theodora, was the daughter of a bear trainer and an actress. She followed her mother onto the stage and also worked as a courtesan before she became Justinian's mistress and later his wife.

Fantasy novelist Guy Gavriel Kay, some of whose novels are based on Byzantine history, has compiled an excellent bibliography of nonfiction about the Byzantine Empire. It appears on his website at Bright Weavings: The Sarantine Mosaic.

This page lists novels set in the Medieval period, beginning in the late fifth century after the fall of the Western Roman Empire in 476. Novels about Attila the Hun, Constantine the Great and other novels set in Byzantium before the fall of the Western Empire are listed on the Ancient History page, as are novels set in the territories of the Western Empire during or immediately following its fall.


Novels set in Medieval Constantinople and Byzantium

Poul Anderson, Rogue Sword (1960), about a mercenary soldier in the Grand Catalan Company and his role in the wars between Constantinople and the Turks. Review.

Poul Anderson, There Will Be Time (1972), a science fiction novel about a time-traveler who visits medieval Byzantium.

Paolo Belzoni, Belisarius: The First Shall Be Last (2000), about the Roman general Belisarius, who defended Constantinople from its enemies after the fall of the Western Roman Empire; Christian message.

Richard Blake, The Blood of Alexandria (2010), about a young senator from Britain sent to Alexandria, Egypt, in 612 A.D. to transport the harvest to Constantinople amid the threat of a Persian invasion.

Gillian Bradshaw, The Bearkeeper's Daughter (1987), a novel which explores the possibility that the low-born Byzantine Empress Theodora may have had a bastard son.

Gillian Bradshaw, Imperial Purple (1988) (also titled The Colour of Power), about an expert silk weaver who discovers she is being used as a pawn in a plot to overthrow the emperor.

Gillian Bradshaw, Alchemy of Fire (2004), about a former concubine in seventh-century Constantinople guarding a dangerous secret about her daughter's identity.

David Capel, East and West: Catharsis (2012), about the Emperor of Constantinople John Lascaris in 1070 as the Turks begin raiding the borders of the Empire; self-published.

Felix Dahn, A Struggle for Rome (1876), about the struggle of Theodoric the Great's successors to retain an independent Ostrogothic Kingdom as the Byzantine Emperor Justinian tries to retake their territory and restore the original extent of the Roman Empire.

William Stearns Davis, The Beauty of the Purple: A Romance of Imperial Constantinople Twelve Centuries Ago (1924), set in eighth century Constantinople.

L. Sprague DeCamp, Lest Darkness Fall (1941), an influential alternative history novel about a twentieth century American archaeologist who travels in time to sixth-century Rome just after it fell to the Ostrogoths.

Pierson Dixon, The Glittering Horn: Secret Memoirs of the Court of Justinian (1958), about the sixth century rule of the Byzantine Emperor Justinian.

Stella Duffy, Theodora (2010), about the sixth-century actress and prostitute who rose to become a Byzantine Empress as the wife of Justinian.

Alfred Duggan, The Lady for Ransom (1953), about an eleventh century Norman mercenary who serves in the Byzantine army.

Samuel Edwards, Theodora (1969), about the Byzantine empress and wife of Emperor Justinian during their marriage from 525 until her death in 548; Samuel Edwards is a pen name of Noel B. Gerson.

Robert Graves, Count Belisarius (1938), about the great Byzantine general who served under Justinian and attempted to reconquer the lost territory of the Western Roman Empire.

Tom Harper, The Mosaic of Shadows (2004), a professional bodyguard is hired to find out who tried to assassinate the Byzantine emperor, just as the eleventh century First Crusade begins; #1 in the First Crusade trilogy (the first two are mysteries; the third is not).

Tom Harper, Knights of the Cross (2005), the emperor's agent is charged with finding out who endangered the shaky truce between the Crusaders and Constantinople by murdering a Norman knight; #2 in the First Crusade trilogy (the first two are mysteries; the third is not).

Tom Harper, Siege of Heaven (2006), the emperor's agent treks across the desert on a diplomatic mission to Egypt; #3 in the First Crusade trilogy (the first two are mysteries; the third is not).

Frederic Harrison, Theophano, the Crusade of the Tenth Century (1904), a romantic story about a Byzantine Emperor's courtesan Theophano by an early twentieth century scholar who took pains over historical accuracy.

James Heneage, The Walls of Byzantium (2013), about a Varangian guard's son who sets out on a dangerous quest for a relic during the decline of the Byzantine Empire.

Cecelia Holland, The Belt of Gold (1984), about the Empress Irene, who ruled Byzantium at the end of the eighth century. Review

Guy Gavriel Kay, Sailing to Sarantium (1998), a fantasy novel set in an imaginary city (Sarantium) inspired by sixth century Byzantium; #1 in the Sarantine Mosaic two-novel series.

Guy Gavriel Kay, Lord of Emperors (2000), a fantasy novel set in an imaginary city (Sarantium) inspired by sixth century Byzantium; #2 in the Sarantine Mosaic two-novel series.

Ross Laidlaw, Justinian: The Sleepless One (2010), about the sixth-century Byzantine emperor Justinian I.

Joseph Lessard, The Hero of Byzantium (2005), about Belisarius, the general who led the Emperor Justinian's armies; self-published.

James Lovett, East of the Fall of Rome: A Byzantine Bedside Companion (1975), three short stories set in medieval Byzantium

John Masefield, Basilissa: A Tale of the Empress Theodora (1940), about the mistress of the Byzantine Emperor Justinian, who rose to become his influential empress.

Achilleas Mavrellis, Queen of Lies (2012), about the ninth-century Byzantine emperors Michael III and Basil I; self-published.

Ken McClellan, The Last Byzantine: Confessions of a Would-Be Messiah (2009), about a boy who witnesses the fall of Constantinople in 1453, then travels through the Renaissance world before falling into the hands of the Inquisition; self-published.

Naomi Mitchison, Anna Comnena (1928), about the daughter of the eleventh century Byzantine Emperor Alexios I, who attempted to usurp her brother's throne and was exiled to a convent where she wrote an account of her father's reign, becoming one of the earliest woman historians.

Andrew Novo, Queen of Cities (2010), about the fall of Constantinople in 1453.

Alan Savage, Ottoman (1990), about five generations of the Hawkwood family beginning with English master gunner John Hawkwood's 1448 arrival in Constantinople.

Vivian Schurfranz, Roman Hostage (1975), about a young Visigoth kept as a hostage in fourth-century Constantinople.

H.N. Turteltaub, Justinian (1998), about the Byzantine Emperor Justinian II, who reigned from 685-695 and 705-711 A.D.

Harry Turtledove, Agent of Byzantium (1987), alternative history that imagines what the thirteenth century might have been like if Justinian had rebuilt and expanded the Roman empire and Mohammed had adopted Christianity.

Mika Waltari, Dark Angel (Finnish edition 1952, English translation 1953), about the Fall of Constantinople to the Ottoman Turks in 1453. Review

Evelyn Waugh, Helena (1950), about the mother of Constantine the Great.

Paul I. Wellman, The Female (1953), about Justinian's wife, the sixth century Byzantine Empress Theodora.

Chelsea Quinn Yarbro, A Flame in Byzantium (1987), historical fantasy about a 500-year-old woman vampire in sixth century Constantinople; #1 in the Atta Olivia Clemens trilogy.

Chelsea Quinn Yarbro, Crusader's Torch (1988), historical fantasy about a 1000-year-old woman vampire in 1189, during the Third Crusade; #2 in the Atta Olivia Clemens trilogy.

Chelsea Quinn Yarbro, A Candle for D'Artagnan (1989), historical fantasy about a 1500-year-old woman vampire in France during the seventeenth century reigns of Louis XIII and XIV; #3 in the Atta Olivia Clemens trilogy.


Mysteries set in Medieval Constantinople and Byzantium

Mark Guscin, All the Diamonds in the World (2011), a thriller about a modern historian's investigation involving a murdered monk at Mount Athos, with flashbacks to the Byzantine Empire and the Fourth Crusade.

Anne Perry, The Sheen on the Silk (2010), about a woman who disguises herself as a eunuch in 1273 Constantinople in order to prove her brother innocent of conspiring to murder a nobleman.


Mary Reed and Eric Mayer, One for Sorrow (1999), about the Lord Chamberlain of the sixth century Byzantine Emperor Justinian, who investigates the murder of a friend and colleague; #1 in the John the Eunuch mystery series.

Mary Reed and Eric Mayer, Two for Joy (2000), about the Lord Chamberlain of the sixth century Byzantine Emperor Justinian, who investigates why Christian stylites (hermits who live atop pillars) have been bursting into flame; #2 in the John the Eunuch mystery series

Mary Reed and Eric Mayer, Three for a Letter (2001), about the Lord Chamberlain of the sixth century Byzantine Emperor Justinian, who investigates the death of a royal hostage; #3 in the John the Eunuch mystery series

Mary Reed and Eric Mayer, Four for a Boy (2003), about the Lord Chamberlain of the sixth century Byzantine Emperor Justinian, who investigates the murder of an art donor; #4 in the John the Eunuch mystery series

Mary Reed and Eric Mayer, Five for Silver (2004), about the Lord Chamberlain of the sixth century Byzantine Emperor Justinian, whose investigation of a murder is complicated by a plague epidemic; #5 in the John the Eunuch mystery series.

Mary Reed and Eric Mayer, Six for Gold (2005), about the Lord Chamberlain of the sixth century Byzantine Emperor Justinian, assigned to find out who has been killing sheep in Egypt while he himself is under suspicion of murder; #6 in the John the Eunuch mystery series.

Mary Reed and Eric Mayer, Seven for a Secret (2008), about the Lord Chamberlain of the sixth century Byzantine Emperor Justinian, who investigates the murder of the girl who had modeled for his favorite mosaic; #7 in the John the Eunuch mystery series.

Mary Reed and Eric Mayer, Eight for Eternity (2010), about the Lord Chamberlain of the sixth century Byzantine Emperor Justinian, who must unravel a plot threatening the Empire amid the Nika Riots; #8 in the John the Eunuch mystery series.

Mary Reed and Eric Mayer, Nine for the Devil (2012), about the Lord Chamberlain of the sixth century Byzantine Emperor Justinian, who is ordered to investigate the death of the Empress Theodora; #9 in the John the Eunuch mystery series.


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