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During the long reign of Basil II (963-1025), the Byzantine empire reached its greatest heights since the time of Justinian. Basil was crowned at the age of five, sharing the throne with army commanders; in 976 he became sole emperor. To increase his power, he confiscated the estates of great landowners and gave top jobs to loyal but less wealthy men. In 990 he started a campaign to stem the growing power of the Bulgarians under Tsar Samuel. In 1014 Basil decisively defeated Samuel at the Battle of Balathista. After this battle, Basil ordered thousands of Bulgarian prisoners to be blinded before sending them home to Samuel. The shock killed the tsar.

Basil then turned his attention to the west, defeating an army of Italians and Normans in 1018. At the time of his death, Byzantium stretched from Italy to the Euphrates river in Iraq.

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