Naturally, the Byzantines, despite being beset by their own neighboring enemies most of the time, hoped to eventually retake what had been the Western Roman Empire and add it to their own dominions, basically restoring the Roman Empire as it had been back in the glory days of the Caesars. The one man who came closest to actually accomplishing this dream was the East Roman Emperor Justinian, also known as Justinian the Great. During his reign the Byzantines conquered most of north Africa, all of Italy and even established a foothold as far west as southern Spain. It was under Emperor Justinian that Monaco became a Byzantine naval base, an important link in the chain stretching from Constantinople across the Mediterranean Sea. However, Emperor Justinian, with his far-flung wars and ambitious building programs, almost exhausted Constantinople in the flurry of activity that characterized his astounding reign. It was glorious but unsustainable.
This was only a part of a number of counter-offensives launched by Emperor John I who, during his reign, subdued Bulgaria, most of Syria, Lebanon and northern Iraq; a period of resurgence for the Byzantine Empire. Today there are not many reminders in the Principality of Monaco of that long ago period when Eastern Rome came to the West. However, there were other subsequent periods when Monegasque and Byzantine history collided. During the Fourth Crusade when the Latin Knights attacked Constantinople they were supported by the Republic of Venice. That in itself was reason enough for the Republic of Genoa to ally with the Byzantine Emperor. Gentile Grimaldi was a sailor and a diplomat who helped mediate disputes in Bulgaria and others in the family had dealings with the Byzantines, usually on behalf of Genoa, during the Crusades and in the later competitions with Venice. Today this legacy lives on in a way on a more personal level. In 2010 HSH Prince Albert II of Monaco was pleased to present the first prize of the Cardinal Paul Poupard Foundation to His All Holiness the Ecumenical Patriarch Bartholomeos I and the Sovereign Prince has established friendly relations with many countries of the historic “east”, particularly Russia.