And there were the creative 13th-century judgements such as those of the Archbishops Demetrios Chomatenos of Ohrid and John Apokaukos of Naupaktos. Herrin writes: “Even now we can admire their judgements, for instance in the granting of a divorce on the grounds of intense hatred, which prevented the consummation of the marriage even after the couple had been shut up together for a week; or where a slave convicted of theft was spared the loss of her one surviving hand, as demanded by her owner, on the grounds that to lose both hands would make it impossible for an individual to survive.”

This was also always a multicultural society: people from pretty well all of the known world mingled on its streets, although one of the oddest encounters must have been in 1034, when Harald Hadrada arrived with 500 Vikings, complete with traditional double axes. The success of his decade of service attracted other soldiers of fortune from Iceland and Anglo-Saxon England, after the battle of Hastings. And the Byzantines also travelled: the emperor Manuel II (crowned 1391) slipped through a Muslim blockade in December 1399 for a tour of western capitals seeking military support. He was in Paris in the summer of 1400 and celebrated the following Christmas in London with Henry IV, although he must have thought his hosts poor barbarians (while being well aware of their military capacities.

And as a champion of Byzantium, Herrin finds many things that we should save the civilisation for, no doubt with good cause. Included on Herrin’s list are:

* Joined-up writing, miniscule, a change that might have originated in the imperial chancellery and that occurred as material was transferred from more fragile papyrus to longer-lasting parchment. At the same time chapter headings, marginal notations and punctuation were also introduced.