The Very Balkan Romans
It would probably straighten up a few things in popular culture if the Balkan contribution to ruling the Roman Empire were more well known.
Obviously the Romans were in the Balkans and they ruled the Balkans; they left tons of evidence.
But for more than two hundred years the Balkans also ruled the Romans, and that is the part that doesn’t get nearly enough press.
The most famous of the Romans after Augustus were from what is now Croatia (Diocletian), Serbia (Constantine the Great), and Macedonia (Justinian). In fact, the Roman Empire was only able to continue as long as it did due to the rule of Balkan Emperors who rescued Rome from the Crisis of the Third Century.
Unfortunately, the Balkan Emperors of Rome perfected the persecution of Christians. On the other hand, they also converted the entire Roman Empire to Christianity.
In short – Balkan rule of the Romans was a 250-year crazy ride with a side of whiplash.
Also – the template for injudicious-marriage-that-is-strangely-successful thanks to Justinian and his lovely bride Theodora, the former prostitute. And really, if it was good enough for the Roman Emperor whose laws are still the basis of most Western legal systems, it should be good enough for anyone in the public eye today.
Roman History in the Balkans: