It had been fifteen hundred and thirty three years from the founding of the city of Rome, and seven hundred and eighty years from the birth of Jesus of Nazareth. It was now four hundred and fifty years since Constantine the Great had founded a New Rome at Byzantium where Europe meets Asia on the Bosphorus.

With the melting of the last snowfall, infantry from that New Rome, more commonly called Constantinople, were retreating from a small fort on the Dacian frontier, pursued by Bulgar warriors.

It wasn’t much of a fort; just a stockaded trading post fifty miles beyond the frontier proper and not very different from a forward post on the U.S. or Canadian frontier in the nineteenth century. It was just a place to trade with the locals or seek refuge if the natives turned enemy.

At first the Byzantines held formation but not for long. The peasants who lived outside the palisade just ran — those able to.

In the past Bulgar raiders would have been content just to kill a few troopers, fire the buildings, grab what loot they could carry, and return east to where a relief army would not follow.

This time they hunted down and butchered both the soldiers and the refugees.

But in the new Rome a beautiful empress reigned in the name of her young son while in Western Europe Charles the Great – Charlemagne – was entangled with warring German tribesmen, A Bulgar incursion hardly stirred the court life of either state. Charles was stretching the boundaries of Christianity and his kingdom, while the courtiers in Constantinople were more concerned with trade, fashion, and forms of worship, than with a minor raid outside the frontier proper.