By the early 6th century the western half of the Roman Empire had fallen to waves of barbarian invaders and the Dark Ages had set in. Yet the eastern half endured as a flickering beacon of civilisation with its capital at Constantinople, which had once been called Byzantium.
The Emperors swore the fall of the west was something they would reverse one day and restore the Empire to all it had been. But they were besieged by enemies on all sides and blighted with rebellious generals and internal dissensions among the various Christian factions.
Life was cruel for men and harder still for women.
More than half the population were slaves with as much rights as farm animals.
War, persecution, disease, injury and childbirth took many to their graves before their natural span.
Yet, as Sophia was to find, individuals could endure and survive against all odds by whatever means it required, especially her aunt Theodora.