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Kherson in later Roman times was a small merchant town on the southwest coast of the Crimean peninsula. Nominally a part of the Roman Empire, the town's real ruler was a strongman from the Khazar Khaganate. In the late 600s the town received the deposed, mutilated emperor Justinian in the local monastery, where he dwelt for nine years with his faithful bodyguard Myakes. While in Kherson, Justinian met a merchant from India named Auriabedas who told him that he would reconstruct his nose for five nomismata. His nose being (partially) restored, Justinian eventually found out the merchants of Kherson were planning to sell him to agents of the emperor Tiberius III in Constantinople. Justinian and his followers managed to flee the city before the plot could be carried out. Years later, Justinian, once more on the throne of the empire, plotted to get revenge on the people of Kherson, pledging to "wipe it off the face of the world as a man wipes shit from the cleft of his buttocks." Three expeditions were dispatched to the town to destroy it; the third never managed to finish the job because members of the earlier expeditions had rebelled against Justinian and allied with the Khersonites and the Khazars.

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