Byzantium: The Lost EmpireFor more than 1,000 years, the Byzantine Empire was the eye of the entire world – the origin of great literature, fine art and modern government. Heir to Greece and Rome, the Byzantine Empire was also the first Christian empire.

After a year of filming on three continents, TLC unlocks this ancient civilization, spanning 11 centuries and three continents. Pass through the gates of Constantinople, explore the magnificent mosque of Hagia Sophia and see the looted treasures of the empire now located in St. Marks, Venice.

Byzantium, brings to life an empire that, while seemingly distant, is very closely linked to the evolution of Western Civilization. Traces the growth of the first Christian empire, one that lasted for over a thousand years and the maturity and decline of Byzantium through its conquest by the Ottoman Turks in 1453.

John Romer, the author and on-screen guide for the series, breathes life into the city and the powerful ideas that made the Byzantium a thriving cultural and commercial center while western Europe was slogging through the Dark Ages and the Middle Ages.

At its height, Byzantium housed the most precious Christian relics, including a piece of Christ's cross. Located on the border of Europe and Asia, it ruled an empire that extended across Asia Minor and the Balkans. Then, after the rise of Islam, the empire shrank until little was left outside the city walls.

Byzantium turned to Europe for help in fighting the infidels, only to have its own city sacked by the Crusaders whose help it sought. Venice, its erstwhile trading partner, carried off many of its artistic masterpieces. The Hagia Sophia, originally built as a Christian church, became Istanbul's most famous mosque.

And the scholars who had kept alive the study of Greek for more than a millennium fled to Europe where they helped lay the groundwork for the Renaissance. Byzantium, the video, takes us on a visually sumptuous journey to key locations throughout the empire, while putting a human face on the key actors in the history of this unique and vital empire. I never suspected I would find this story as compelling as it turned out to be.

Watch the full documentary now (playlist - 3 hours, 30 minutes)