Not everyone can sit down to read through a fact-filled historical textbook. And that’s okay. Some authors of historical fiction have taken pains to make their stories as historically accurate as they possibly can. They also tend to point out when they took liberties to change certain historical events to better the plot. So which novels are best if you would like to learn more about the history of the Byzantine Empire?
Ben Kane. If you would like to start from the beginning — before the fall of the Western Roman Empire — then Ben Kane’s The Forgotten Legion series is a great place to begin. It tells the fictitious story of an actual legion that vanished after battle, but you learn a lot about the world during the first few centuries A.D. Kane has also written a number of interesting novels retelling the story of Hannibal’s attack on Rome.
Cecilia Holland. She has written quite a lot of historical fiction novels, but readers of Byzantine history might find The Angel and the Sword of particular interest. A young Spanish princess runs away only to fend off the Vikings during a siege on Paris. There are several references to the Byzantine Empire throughout Holland’s novels, and she visits the region several times.
Stephen R. Lawhead. His novel, Byzantium, follows a scribe living in an Irish Monastery who eventually travels to Byzantium with a number of monks. Learn about the city itself and the Golden Court.
Robert Graves. Those familiar with his work will recognize his love of mythology and history. Count Belisarius is one of his greatest achievements. It takes place beginning in the sixth century while the rest of the world is still struggling to rebuild after Rome fell. Belisarius was a general of Emperor Justinian, and Graves provides a wonderful picture of this long-forgotten time period.
Gordon Doherty. Strategos: Born in the Borderlands takes place beginning in 1046 A.D. during a period of time when the Byzantine Empire is on the brink of war. This story is set in Eastern Anatolia, where the Seljuk Sultanate routinely mounts incursions into the Empire. It’s a great option for those who want a grittier view of the era.
Tom Vetter. Call to Crusade (Siege Master #1) is set in 1070 during the First Holy Crusade and is told from the perspective of a knight who fights in the war for Jerusalem, among others — yet another war that the Byzantine Empire could not hope to avoid.