I'm really enjoying this thread. Thanks for putting in all the work for it! A few comments now that I've caught up. (I apologise for the length) I'm unsure why Hypatius would keep Justinian alive without blinding or other disfigurement to invalidate him as an imperial candidate. And also without forcing him, and Theodora into the church. It strikes me as a very dangerous move. Especially as Justinian is a rather capable leader and unless killed would always seek to return to the throne ala Nepos' example. Which could be exciting reading... Also I've been thinking over the Arab /Islam issue. I'm in agreement with the majority here that considering TTL changes, Islam is likely not breaking out of the peninsula and maybe not existing. However, it seems likely that Islam or an analogous movement would emerge in TTL. Maybe it is Miaphysite, or Nestorian, but it could actually be Judaism, considering it's prevailance in the peninsula at this time. Basically that is what islam is. A Jewish sect with an Arab prophet focused on Arab cultural touchstones. But Arab culture could have coalesced around ascendant Miaphysite Ghassanids, or Nestorian Lakhmids, both followed Christian sects. Perhaps if stopped from expanding north, but still having momentum, Arabs might instead expand west accross the Red Sea into the horn of Africa, or maybe even into india. Another aspect to consider is that the Lakhmids and Ghassanids are the two competing and largest tribes under the suzerinity of the Persians and Romans respectively. They defended the southern boarder for both empires preventing other Arabs from raiding. However during the last Persian/Roman war the Lakhmids were destroyed by the Persians themselves. The Romans similarly weakened the Ghassanids through removing several consecutive Ghassanid leaders due to religious differences, which included battles iirc. This breakdown in the patronage of allied Arabs is what allowed the Muslim conquest of the region as the two main states no longer existed to act as a center of gravity for, or barrier against other Arabs. That said apparently the Ghassanids were quite integrated into the Roman culture and system. Their leaders were Patricians and ultimately even a dynasty of Emperors (Nikephoros I Phokas) not only claimed decent from, but headship over the Ghassanid tribe. All that leads me to suggest that maintaining the Ghassanid relationship is of paramount importance. It might be even possible to bring the Lakhmids over as Allies by supporting them vs the Persian attempt to annex under Kosroe. And considering how integrated the Ghassanids were even prior to the POD. It might be possible to extend the empire into the peninsula through integrating an Arab Ally. This is kinda the opposite of the path that the western Foederati have taken with the possible exclusion of the Goths. I believe it also represents the best path forward for the empire, by diplomatically and/or forcefully integrating the Romano Barb kingdoms of the Goths and Arabs (and Vandals). And by integration perhaps reinvigorate both halves with new blood. Not dissimilar to the Illirian, Spanish, Armenian and African and Greek integrations which saw ascendancy of those respective areas with rulers from those respective cultures. The big reality pill to swallow for us is that the Romans of this era are not the inclusive and integrating type. But that was due to a number of factors that saw the empire splinter and the scope of romaness shrink. Factors that may have been butterflied away. Finally, I wanted to mention a counter point OTL example of this not happening with Bulgaria. This was a Romano Barb kingdom. That the ERE failed to integrate even when it conquered the area. Even when converting the people to Orthodoxy. This was due to a few specific items. The primary one is that the ERE allowed the creation of a Bulgar church independent from Constantinople. The second is that when they sent priests and advisors to educate the Bulgars they created the Cyrillic script for the Bulgar language instead of using Greek. So instead of creating incentives for the aristocracy and people to be Roman, they were treated always as an "other" lesser people. This perspective persisted even when there was an opportunity to have a Bulgar imperial ascendancy and union through marriage and adoption of the Bulgar line into the ruling dynasty. The ERE aristocracy resisted and so it was unsuccessful. As an aside this was repeated later with the Hungarians. Thanks again for producing this TL!