I like a good secret history. I learned about this book from various book lists and of course from Donna Tartt swiping the title. But I got my first real sense of it from the work of Susan Wise Bauer, specifically “The History of the Medieval World” which borrows heavily from this historian (both from his official accounts and this more unofficial account). More than anything this is a book about the story of the book, meaning that the way and context of its writing is just as if not more interesting than its revelations. This certainly wouldn’t have been true at its time of writing, but maybe it is now that they’ve absorbed the additional texts and added it to our sense of what was happening when and where.
Procopius was a well-known and well-known historian at the time of the reigns of Justin and Justinian (c518-565 CE). He wrote apparently eight public volumes of history in his time. In the meantime, he also wrote this secret history, which is mostly a burn book about Justinian, the women of the court, and the general Count Belisarius, who was one of the leading military figures and advisers to Justin. (Also, it never fails to make me laugh that there was ever an Emperor Justin. Take whatever person you know named Justin and think about him in charge).
Justin was seen mostly as a weak emperor who was neither effective nor vindictive, and this allowed Justinian and others to more or less run the empire in his name. Justinian was both effective and vindictive and was also known as a very martial-fixated leader.