I'm currently reading an abridged history of the Byzantine Empire. The writing is so-so, but the history is fantastic. For over 1100 years a Byzantium Emperor or Empress was on the throne in Constantinople. Too often we glaze over numbers as we read about this war and that plague and that invention. But to put that number into context, 1100 years would bring us back before the Normandy Invasion or is the difference in time between Kind David and Jesus.
Despite Byzantium's great achievements in art (beautiful icons), philosophy (the keepers of the greco-roman tradition), war (inventor of Greek Fire, and the only Empire to hold off the Arab Muslims for 800 years) you would not have wanted to live back then. Even if you knew you wouldn't die from disease, there was a chance some Slavic tribe would overrun your city and kill all the inhabitants or that your empire would destroy your town in taking it back or just the random extreme violence if you found yourself on the wrong side of an internal dispute. Not good. Also, thank the Lord for plumbing.