The 6th century was dominated by the extraordinary genius of Justinian (527 - 65), who developed Constantinople into a thriving city and almost succeeded in reconquering the lost provinces of the Western Empire from the barbarians.
At the time of his death the empire had expanded to its greatest size, and covered Syria, Palestine, Asia Minor, Greece, the Balkans, Italy, southern Spain and many territories in northern Africa, including Egypt.
Justinian's formidable wife, the ex courtesan Theodora, had a great deal of influence over him. In 532 she persuaded the emperor to use mercenaries to put down an angry mob in the most notorious event of his reign, the Nika Revolt.
In the carnage that followed 30,000 were killed inside the Hippodrome. Justinian was also responsible for much of the city's great architecture, including Haghia Sophia, Haghia Eirene and parts of the Great Palace.