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The Byzantine Empire


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Title: The Byzantine Empire

The Byzantine Empire
  • The New Rome

The Byzantine Empire
  • When the Roman emperor Diocletian required
    Christians to accept him as a god and worship
    him, and they refused, he began the last great
    persecution of Romes Christians.

The Byzantine Empire
  • In 303 CE, Diocletian ordered churches to be
    razed, sacred books to be burned, and Christians
    to be enslaved, imprisoned, or tortured if they
    refused to give up their faith.
  • In 305, he voluntarily abdicated the throne.
  • By 311, there were four men claiming the title of
    emperor. One of them, stationed in the West, was

The Byzantine Empire
  • Constantine was born in Moesia, the Roman
    province which became the home of the Serbs and
    Bulgars, in 272 CE.
  • His father Constantius was a Roman general who
    became one of Diocletians governors in the West
    and later became one of the Western co-emperors.

The Byzantine Empire
  • Constantines mother was Helena (later St.
    Helena) who was a Christian and who reportedly
    found and dug up the true Cross of Christ in
  • As a young man, Constantine was sent to
    Diocletians court at Nicomedia and later served
    in the army in Persia and Egypt.

The Byzantine Empire
  • When Diocletian retired, Constantine joined his
    father in Britain.
  • There, as a young general in the Roman army, he
    became his fathers successor, and was proclaimed
    Augustus by his/his fathers troops on his
    fathers death in 306 CE.

The Byzantine Empire
  • Six years later, Constantines army defeated
    Maxentius (his co-emperor in the West), after a
    brilliant campaign that brought him to the
    outskirts of Rome.
  • Legend has it that Constantine was inspired by a
    heavenly (Christian) vision (dream) during the
    campaign he was told to fight under the Cross

The Byzantine Empire
  • When he did so and won, Constantine declared his
    preference for Christianity.

The Byzantine Empire
  • Over the next 11 years, Constantine defeated the
    two Eastern Roman emperors (Maximum and
    Licinius) and by 323 CE, was sole ruler of the
    disintegrating Roman Empire.
  • Constantine was now faced with trying to slow (or
    stop) the Empires collapse and create one that
    would be durable (since formidable enemies like
    the barbarian Germanic tribes and the Persians
    were close).

The Byzantine Empire
  • He quickly made two major decisions 1).
    He assured Christianity legal status within the
    Empire. Priests were allowed the same tax
    exemption as other religions, and Christian holy
    days were honored as respectfully as pagan
  • Constantine, who had the typical Roman enthusiasm
    for bricks and mortar, built many churches and
    encouraged wealthy citizens to do the same.

The Byzantine Empire
  • He had his own children instructed in the
    Christian faith (but he did not become a
    Christian until just before death).
  • Either he thought it politically expedient for
    the Emperor to remain officially neutral, or he
    thought baptisms remission of sins might as well
    be saved for the last moment, so that he might
    leave the world with a clean slate.

The Byzantine Empire
  • 2). He moved the Empires sole capital from
    Rome...the scene of plot and counterplot,
    treason, and conspiracy.
  • To the north and west, the Empires provincial
    capitals were too remote and uncivilized to serve
    as suitable nerve centers for the vast Roman

The Byzantine Empire
  • But to the east lay an urban civilization older
    and richer than Romesit was there that the main
    trade routes converged and there lay some of the
    most important centers of Christianity.
  • It was also to the east that the Empire
    confronted its most formidable enemies the
    Germanic tribes along the Danube and the Persians
    in Anatolia.

The Byzantine Empire
  • After considering several cities to be his
    capital (like Jerusalem, Naissus (Constantines
    birthplace in todays Serbia), Nicomedia (in
    Anatolia), Sardica (todays Sophia), Thessalonica
    (Salonikaa city visited by St. Paul and vital to
    eastern commerce), he chose ancient Ilium (Troy)
    the site of the epic battle between the Greeks
    and the Trojans immortalized by Homer.

The Byzantine Empire
  • Journeying to that site Constantine declared it a
    proper location for his future capital.
  • According to legend, he had the lines of his
    capital city laid out and construction had begun
    (the gates in the main wall had already been
    hung) when God appeared one night and commanded
    another location. He then chose Byzantium.

The Byzantine Empire
  • Whether by divine intervention or giving further
    thought to his selection process, Constantine
    stopped construction at Troy and chose Byzantium,
    a small trading town on a strategic site jutting
    into the Sea of Marmara.

The Byzantine Empire
  • And on May 11, 330 CE the Emperor Constantine
    inaugurated the New Rome which is
    Constantinople, to share with Rome, as
    co-capital, the administration of his huge

The Byzantine Empire
  • Byzantium was both the last direct heir to the
    Roman Empire and the first Christian nation.
  • This dual nature was dramatized by Constantine
    when he erected a column and enclosed in its base
    a statute of Athena and baskets said to have held
    the bread Christ fed his disciples.

The Byzantine Empire
  • On the citys inauguration day, a statue of
    Apollo had its head replaced with that of
    Constantine and was hoisted to the top of the
    column in the Forum of Constantine.
  • In its right hand was a scepter and in its left
    was a globe (it survived until the 12th century
    when a storm knocked it overit was replaced by a
    golden cross).

The Byzantine Empire
  • The statue of Constantine as Apollo (an artistic

The Byzantine Empire
  • The Constantine shaft (12th Century)

The Byzantine Empire
  • Constantinople stood where the land routes from
    Asia to Eastern Europe found their narrowest sea
  • Goods came to and through Constantinople from
    China, India, Africa, and Ceylonivory and amber,
    porcelain and precious stones, silks and damask,
    aloes and balsam, cinnamon and ginger, etc.
  • West of the city grapes and grains flourished and
    the seas teemed with fish.

The Byzantine Empire
  • The defenses that nature bestowed on the city
    were impressive. To the south stretched the Sea
    of Marmara, and almost at the point where the
    Bosporus flowed into this sea a narrow inlet
    leads along the northern shore of the triangular
    peninsula to form a perfect landlocked harbor.
  • This is the Golden Horn, named for its shape and
    the wealth that commerce of the world deposited
    on its docks.

The Byzantine Empire
The Byzantine Empire
  • When Constantine decided to move his capital
    city, his new city was to be more magnificent
    than the old Rome.
  • Like Rome, Constantinople was a city of seven
    hills divided into 14 districts. Since one of
    Romes 14 districts was across the Tiber River,
    one of Constantinoples 14 districts was placed
    across the Golden Horn in Pera (where Genoese
    merchants later made their homes).
  • From the old Rome, Constantine brought the sacred
    talisman of the Empire, the Palladium.

The Byzantine Empire
  • The Palladium was the wooden statue of Pallas
    Athena believed to have been dropped from the sky
    and to have been carried by Aeneas from Troy to

The Byzantine Empire
  • Constantine had members of noble families follow
    him to form a new senatorial class.
  • The main imperial buildings were built on Roman
    models and all statues and works of art he could
    take from Rome were sent to his new city
    (including the Calydonian boar and the serpentine
    column from Delphi which listed the Greek cities
    that defeated the Persians at Platea in 479 BCE).

The Byzantine Empire
  • The fabled serpentine column from Delphi.
  • The Calydonian boar (relief).

The Byzantine Empire
  • But Constantinople was not an imitation of old
    Romeit was to be a Christian city.
  • Constantine began building the Hagia Sophia (the
    Church of Holy Wisdom later completed by
    Justinian) and the Church of the Holy Apostles.
    Here there were 12 symbolic tombs of the apostles
    and a 13th for himself.

The Byzantine Empire
  • The Hagia Sophia

The Byzantine Empire
  • Interior of the Hagia Sophia

The Byzantine Empire
  • Here in the Church of the Holy Apostles many
    later emperors were buried (demolished 1461).
  • All were regarded as the equal of the apostles.
  • This building would inspire Venices Cathedral of
    St. Mark.

The Byzantine Empire
  • Throughout the new city Constantine introduced
    Christian emblems such as crosses and relics of
    the saints because the Byzantines regarded
    themselves as the chosen people of God.
  • In the Imperial Palace the Four gospels were
    placed on an empty throne as a symbol of the
    living presence of God.

The Byzantine Empire
  • The emperor claimed to rule by divine right and
    to serve as the spokesman of Heavens willto
    dramatize the point emperors occasionally mounted
    the pulpit and preached a sermon to their court.
  • Artists always portrayed the emperor with a halo
    or nimbus around his head.

The Byzantine Empire
The Byzantine Empire
  • The Forum of Constantine featured the adze of
    Noah (with which he supposedly built the Ark) and
    the spikenard (fragrant oil) that Mary Magdalen
    supposedly anointed the feet of Jesus.

The Byzantine Empire
  • The Forum of Constantine was the largest of the
    citys six public forums.
  • Here emperors celebrated their triumphs with
    victory hymns and waving banners, lawyers and
    merchants met to talk business, fortunetellers
    harangued superstitious crowds, and aristocratic
    women arrived in their sedan chairs to gossip.

The Byzantine Empire
  • Many monuments were dedicated to the Virgin Mary,
    who was considered the citys special protectress
    and spiritual guardian against all enemies.
  • Several churches were dedicated to her and
    several of her relics were housed in the city
    (including her robe and belt). During times of
    great peril, these relics were paraded around
    walls and battlements of the city, begging her

The Byzantine Empire
  • Relics were brought to Constantinople from all
    over the Christian world.
  • These included the linen worn by the Infant
    Jesus, the Crown of Thorns, the lance that
    pierced His side, and the stone of the Tomb the
    venerated relics of St. Luke, St. Andrew, and St.
    Timothy, and the head of John the Baptist.

The Byzantine Empire
  • It was believed that by possessing these relics,
    something of heavens influence and radiance
    might be conferred on Constantinople.
  • Members of the imperial court would recite Homer
    and discuss Greek philosophy, and send
    missionaries throughout Eastern Europe and into
    the Middle East.

The Byzantine Empire
  • Constantines appetite for building was
    formidable. Using marble brought from the islands
    in the Sea of Marmara and wood from forests
    bordering the Black Sea, the city became the envy
    of the Mediterranean world.
  • It boasted two theaters, eight public and 153
    private baths, five granaries, eight aqueducts or
    cisterns, 14 churches, 14 palaces, and 4,388
    houses of sufficient size to be recorded.

The Byzantine Empire
  • Constantines Hippodrome could seat 60,000
    spectators it was 1300 feet long and nearly 500
    feet wide.
  • Down the center ran the spinathe backbonea low
    stone barrier with three cones at each end
    marking the turning points for the course.

The Byzantine Empire
  • The Hippodrome was built in the shadow of the
    Hagia Sophia, and it provided the citys
    Christian population with virtually all the
    spectacle and violence of Romes Circus Maximus.
  • Chariot races, mock hunts, acrobatics, even plays
    were performed inside. After the 12th Century
    there were jousts.

The Byzantine Empire
  • Inside the great walls surrounding the city (over
    13 miles and 50 gatesConstantinople was a
    fortress) there were a few major thoroughfares
    but mostly it was a dense tangle of streets (some
    a cart couldnt get through).

The Byzantine Empire
  • The most famous gate was the Golden Gate which
    was reserved for state processions.
  • Newly crowned emperors and victorious generals
    were acclaimed as they passed underneath.
  • Inside the wall they were met by hymn- singing
    citizens thronged beneath olive and cypress

The Byzantine Empire
  • The fabled Golden Gate

The Byzantine Empire
  • The city had no distinct area for the wealthy
    the homes of the very rich were often flanked by
    modest homes of the middle class or even the
    shelters or tenements of the poor.
  • Even though building codes demanded 12 ft wide
    streets, city planning was a luxury not wasted on
    the poor.
  • Refuse-heaped alley ways bordered most tenements.

The Byzantine Empire
  • But few starved or went homelessas many as
    80,000 loaves of bread were given to the poor
    every day and monasteries always provided shelter
    to those who need it.
  • The supply of fresh water, stored in covered
    cisterns and piped to fountains at street corners
    and public squares, was available to everyone
    without charge.

The Byzantine Empire
  • Sewage and waste water were carried away from the
    houses and down to the sea through an intricate
    system of underground drains.
  • The citys many public baths were open to men and
    women at different times.

The Byzantine Empire
  • The main street of the city ran from the westward
    walls almost to the gates of the Imperial Palace
    and was called the Mese (or Middle Street).
  • Bordered by columned porticos and interrupted by
    squares containing the statues of emperors and
    empresses, it was the royal highway.
  • All major imperial processions followed the Mese.

The Byzantine Empire
  • Here too were most of the citys fine shops,
    piled with the products of Byzantiums luxury
    industries silks and brocades, copper and gold
    work, leather and glass, jewels, etc.
  • Where the street ended near the palace the
    perfumers had their shops (so the area near the
    imperial palace always smelled nice).

The Byzantine Empire
  • Open-air bazaars were shaded by large canopies
    and displayed everything from figs to religious
  • Commerce was strictly regulated by city
    officials laws regulating trade encouraged
    specialized skills guilds set standards and
    punished the careless.
  • As a result, the citys craftsmen produced goods
    finer than anywhere else in Europe.

The Byzantine Empire
  • Medical and hospital care was provided by the
    government and the Church to those who could not
    afford to pay.
  • The only criteria for citizenship were simply the
    use of Greek in everyday speech and membership in
    the Orthodox Church.

The Byzantine Empire
  • By the time of Justinian (6th century),
    Constantinople was believed to have over 600,000
    inhabitantsa cosmopolitan mixture of peoples
    from Britain, Spain and Gaul, from Scandinavia
    and Russia, from Persia, Arabia, Africa and Asia.
  • These visitors were merchants, sailors,
    diplomats, and travelers, mingling with the
    simply clad Byzantines with their furs, exotic
    headdresses, brightly colored cloaksand
    unfamiliar languages.

The Byzantine Empire
  • On national holidays and religious celebrations,
    the whole city would turn out to watch the
    magnificent procession of the emperor and his
    court, accompanied by the patriarch and his
  • Many in the throng of spectators would be
    recognized by the type of clothing they wore
    philosophers wore gray, physicians wore blue, and
    ascetics wore robes of scarlet with their hair in

The Byzantine Empire
  • The life of the city was centered around three
    great structures or groups of buildingsthe
    Hippodrome, the Imperial Palace, and the Church
    of Hagia Sophia.
  • They represented the three main constituents of
    the Byzantine world the people, the imperial
    authority and the faith.
  • They were located close to each other.

The Byzantine Empire
  • From its inception, three elements characterized
    the new city 1. Greek
    language and customs 2. Roman law
    and administration and 3. Christian faith
    and organization.

The Byzantine Empire
  • To most, the greatest architectural gem of
    Constantinople was the church of Hagia Sophia
    (Holy Wisdom).
  • Started by Constantine, destroyed by fire, then
    reconstructed by Justinian in 537 (and today a
    museum), it remains one of the greatest artistic
    expressions of the Christian world.

The Byzantine Empire
  • The Hagia Sophia loomed high over
    Constantinoples other churches, and to the
    faithful its immense cascade of domes symbolized
    Christianitys all-embracing heavens.
  • Over 100 ft across and 180 ft high, its vaulted
    interior was the largest of any Christian church
    in the world.
  • Its center dome would be the largest in the world
    until the 16th century.

The Byzantine Empire
  • When finished, Justinian exclaimed Solomon, I
    have outdone thee!
  • He celebrated its dedication with a banquet of
    6,000 sheep, 1,000 each of oxen, pigs, and
    poultry, and 500 deer.
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The Byzantine Empire
  • On the left, Justinian presents a model of the
    Hagia Sophia to Mary and the child, and on the
    right Constantine presents them with a model of
    Constantinople (mosaic inside the Hagia Sophia).


The Byzantine Empire
  • In 335 CE Constantine had the Church of the Holy
    Sepulcher built in Jerusalem. The church was
    believed to be built on top of the spot where
    Christ was crucified at Golgatha (Hill of
  • Since the 4th century, this has been the most
    visited/important pilgrimage site in Jerusalem
    for Christians.

The Byzantine Empire
  • The last of the great Roman emperors (and the
    last to speak Latin instead of Greek) was
    Justinian I (r. 527-565).
  • He became emperor at the age of 45.
  • Under Justinian, the Byzantine world became
    distinct from the Roman world.

The Byzantine Empire
  • As emperor, Justinian thrived on a strict
    regimen he ate little and fasted often he arose
    early and worked late on affairs of state.
  • After a full day he usually studied late into the
    night to enlarge his considerable knowledge of
    law, theology, music, and architecture.

The Byzantine Empire
  • His wife Theodora was an equally remarkable
    person she was an actress and courtesan,
    daughter of a bear-keeper at the Hippodrome, and
    before her marriage, she had so great a
    reputation for debauchery that people avoided her
    in the streets.
  • But she was also known to be very intelligent and
    compassionateshe built hospitals for the poor
    and she converted an old palace into a home for
    destitute women.

The Byzantine Empire
  • Legend has it that Justinian fell madly in love
    with Theodora and she initially became his
    mistress (a man of senatorial rank was barred by
    law to marry an actress).
  • So Justinian had the law rewritten.

The Byzantine Empire
  • Under the leadership of the legendary Byzantine
    general Belasarius and using German (barbarian)
    mercenaries, Justinians armies recaptured many
    of the western regions lost to Ostrogoths (Italy
    and even Rome itself), the Visigoths (southern
    Spain and Sicily), and the Vandals (North
    Africa), but the costs in blood and national
    treasure crippled his empire.

The Byzantine Empire
The Byzantine Empire
  • But Justinians conquests were indefensible and
    were soon lost after his death.
  • So it was Justinians legal, administrative, and
    architectural initiatives that produced more
    lasting results.

The Byzantine Empire
  • Most famously, he had the tangled collection of
    Roman law codified and reduced into a coherent
    system known as the Justinian Code.

The Byzantine Empire
  • Considered one of the greatest Byzantine
    contributions to Western civilization, in 528 CE
    Justinian appointed a commission of 10 men who
    classified the constitutions written by various
    Roman emperors into a single code of 4,652 laws.
  • Another commission produced a 50-volume digest of
    major decisions that had been handed down by
    authoritative jurists in the Second and Third
    Centuries (considered the golden age of Roman

The Byzantine Empire
  • In civil law, the new Code was more efficient and
    progressive than the ancient Roman statutes it
  • It became easier to free slaves or to sell land.
    The inheritance rights of widows was guaranteed
    and it reduced the absolute power of fathers over
    the lives of their children.
  • But in the area of criminal law, the new Code was
    far more Draconian than its predecessor.

The Byzantine Empire
  • The Christian jurists for the first time made
    crimes out of heresy and seduction. One who
    strayed from Orthodox practice was barred from
    holding office and denied their inheritance.
  • A seducer was automatically executed, as was his
    victim if she willingly submitted if the girls
    chaperone encouraged the alliance, molten lead
    was poured in her mouth.
  • Despite such barbaric provisions, the Code was so
    clear and consistent, it became the basis for
    much of modern European law.

The Byzantine Empire
  • After Justinians death, most of the western
    conquests were lost, while the Persians
    (Sassanids) constantly warred with the
  • The constant conflict with the Persians weakened
    both empires and was one factor in the success of
    the Arab armies pouring out of Arabia in the 7th

The Byzantine Empire
  • Persia quickly became part of the Islamic world
    but Byzantium was able to hold out, even though
    it lost considerable territory to the Arabs.

The Byzantine Empire
  • The Byzantines were not by nature militaristic,
    but it was their constant need to defend their
    empire against the many enemies that coveted its
    wealth that prompted Byzantium to mold itself
    along military lines.
  • Its army wasnt very largeat its peak probably
    no more than 120,000 menso they had to develop
    strategies that didnt waste men or equipment.

The Byzantine Empire
  • Since diplomacy is always cheaper than war, the
    Byzantines usually preferred diplomacy to
  • Their methods to avoid war included lavishing
    gifts and having sumptuous ceremonies for their
    enemies to having the daughters of nobles sent to
    foreign courts to marry and civilize distant

The Byzantine Empire
  • When they did take the field of battle, they were
    often considered the finest fighting force in the
  • Officers were schooled in geography and strategy,
    and several emperors wrote manuals on tactics.
  • While enemies usually blundered onto the field of
    battle, the Byzantines went through complex and
    disciplined maneuvers.

The Byzantine Empire
  • One reason Byzantium was able to hold out was its
    military innovation known as Greek fire a
    potent and flammable mixture of oil, sulfur, and
    lime that was launched from bronze tubes and
    could burn on water or stone (essentially ancient
  • It worked like a flamethrower and it terrified
    every army/navy that faced it.
  • Eventually it passed into Arab and Chinese

The Byzantine Empire

The Byzantine Empire
  • When they staged a siege, they used medium-sized
    catapults called mangons to hurl heavy stones at
    or over fortress walls (sometimes if bored, they
    sent live mules or dead soldiers over).

The Byzantine Empire
  • They also hammered gates with battering rams or
    bore holes through stone walls with huge,
    metal-tipped drills.
  • Less obvious, but more effective, was tunneling
    under walls, soaking timbers with oil and setting
    them on fire, causing the tunnel to collapse and
    the wall with it, allowing troops to stream
    through the breach.

The Byzantine Empire
  • Another Byzantine military innovation was known
    as the theme system.
  • Developed after Justinians death by the Emperor
    Heraclius (r. 610-641), organizing the empire
    into a series of military provinces was done for
    logistical and financial reasons.
  • Rather than have an expensive, centrally
    controlled army, the Byzantine Empire organized
    its armies into locally controlled
    themesproviding free land to local
    farmer-soldiers as an incentive.

The Byzantine Empire
  • These men would fight on behalf of the empire and
    wouldnt pay taxes on their land (a further
  • At the head of each theme was a general appointed
    by the emperor (known as the strategos) who had
    almost unlimited power in local affairs.
  • As a check against any abuse of power, the
    emperor also appointed a civilian to serve
    alongside him (though in a subordinate position).

The Byzantine Empire
  • By utilizing the theme system, the empire could
    maintain strong forces in each region, quickly
    creating a defense against Arab or Slav invaders
    without tying up the enormous tax revenues that
    were necessary to equip and maintain a
    professional army.
  • This system worked well when the farmer-soldiers
    defended their homesnot so well when they
    ventured further.

The Byzantine Empire
  • In a classic example of how brutal warfare could
    be, the Byzantine emperor Nicephorus (r. 802-811)
    took his army north to fight the barbarian
    Bulgarians who had been harassing his northern
  • After sacking the Bulgarian capital of Pliska,
    the Byzantines were ambushed while
    retreatingNicephorus was captured and beheaded.

The Byzantine Empire
  • The Bulgarian leader, Khan Krum, then lined his
    skull with silver and used it as a drinking cup.
  • In 1014, the emperor Basil II defeated the
    Bulgarians and had some 15,000 captured Bulgarian
    soldiers blinded. Bulgaria then became part of
    the empire.

The Byzantine Empire
  • Politically, authority was highly centralized in
    Constantinople, where the emperors claimed to
    govern all of creation as Gods worldly
    representatives, proclaiming themselves to be the
    peers of the Apostles and the sole rulers of
    the world.

The Byzantine Empire
  • So unlike their Roman predecessors who believed
    themselves to be gods, Byzantine emperors didnt
    regard themselves as divine, but they did believe
    they were His visible manifestation.
  • Gods visible activity, carried out by the
    emperor, was to bring mankind into ordered
    harmony under the absolute rule of the monarch.
  • In this way, human society was to imitate divine

The Byzantine Empire
  • All the actions of the emperor, as well as his
    office, had a sacred and symbolic character.
  • His life was surrounded by a ritual that was
    meant to copy the invisible ritual performed in
    heaven by God and the divine powers.
  • The imperial court tried to imitate the awesome
    grandeur of what they thought was Gods heavenly
    court (which in fact resembled ancient Persian
    imperial splendor).

The Byzantine Empire
  • Aristocrats, trained in classical Greek rhetoric
    and literature, took jobs in the administration
    in order to participate in court ceremonies that
    maintained their elite status.
  • Parades of these silk-clad administrators added
    splendor to the imperial court, which also
    included mechanical lions that roared and
    mechanical birds that sang.

The Byzantine Empire
  • The emperor sat on an immense throne (modeled
    after the throne of Solomon) that could quickly
    elevate him high above his presumably awestruck
  • Visitors then made at least 3 prostrations before
    the throne.

The Byzantine Empire
  • There was no absolute law binding succession to
    the throne.
  • There was no assurance that an emperor would hold
    office for very long, or that his son (s) would
    succeed him.
  • This meant that all means of becoming an emperor
    were legitimateso long as they were successful
    (similar to the Chinese idea of the Mandate of

The Byzantine Empire
  • This view of ascension explains the atmosphere of
    plot and counterplot that shadowed the lengthy
    history of Byzantine royalty.
  • Of the 88 emperors that ruled from 324 to 1453
    (from Constantine I to Constantine XI), 29 died
    violent deaths and another 13 took refuge/asylum
    in monasteries.

The Byzantine Empire
  • Basilicus (477) starved in prison Zeno (491)
    buried alive Maurice (602) decapitated Phocas
    (610) dismembered Heracleon (641) mutilated
    Constantine III (641) poisoned Constans II (668)
    bludgeoned in his bath Leontius (705) and
    Tiberius III (705) both decapitated Justinian II
    (711) decapitated Philippucus (713) and
    Constantine VI (797) blindedyou get the idea.

The Byzantine Empire
  • The worst happened to Andronicus I in 1185 he
    was chained for days in a pillory (stocks) and
    beaten black and blueHis teeth were broken with
    hammers and one of his hands was cut offhe was
    tied to the back of a sick camel and paraded
    through the streets of Constantinoplethen after
    he had boiling water thrown in his face and had
    an eye plucked out he was strung up in the
    Hippodrome and had a sword run through him.

The Byzantine Empire
  • Economically, the Byzantine Empire was a major
    player in the long-distance trade of Eurasia,
    with commercial links to Western Europe, Russia,
    Central Asia, the Islamic world, India and China.
  • Its gold coin, the bezant, was a widely used
    currency in the Mediterranean basin for over 500
    years, and wearing these coins as pendants was a
    high status-symbol in the less developed kingdoms
    of Western Europe.

The Byzantine Empire
  • The luxurious products of Byzantine
    craftspeoplejewelry, gemstones, silver and gold
    work, linen and woolen textiles, purple dyeswere
    in much demand.
  • Its silk industry, based on Chinese technology,
    supplied most of the Mediterranean basin with
    this precious fabric.

The Byzantine Empire
  • Like the Chinese, the Byzantine merchants did not
    acquire political power (mainly because
    governmental bureaucrats didnt want to share
  • As in China, wealth acquired through trade didnt
    always translate into power.
  • Merchants in Western Europe would gain a much
    greater political voice.

The Byzantine Empire
  • The cultural influence of Byzantium was also
  • Preserving much of ancient Greek learning, the
    Byzantine Empire transmitted this classical
    heritage to the Islamic world and to a much
    smaller extent the Christian West.
  • In both places, it stimulated scientists,
    philosophers, theologians, and intellectuals.

The Byzantine Empire
  • The most characteristic implement of the Western
    table service, the fork, was first introduced to
    the Venetian society (late 10th century) by a
    Byzantine princesschroniclers mention the
    astonishment and anger she caused when she "used
    a golden double prong to bring food to her mouth
    instead of using her hands as was the normGod in
    his wisdom has provided man with natural forks -
    his fingers. Therefore it is an insult to Him to
    substitute artificial metallic forks for them
    when eating."

The Byzantine Empire
  • In the realm of art, Byzantium served as both a
    curator and as an innovator. The Byzantines
    preserved many of the glories of Greek and Roman
    sculpture, such as the Greek horses of gilded
  • St Marks in Venice (they were stolen by

The Byzantine Empire
  • As innovators, they developed a style of
    religious art and architecture that influenced
    every nation they encountered.
  • In Italy, which was part of the Eastern empire
    until the 7th Century,, they built churches in
    Rome, Milan, Ravenna, and Naples and virtually an
    entire Byzantine city in Venice.

The Byzantine Empire
  • The Bulgarians and Serbians carefully copied
    well-known Byzantine churches and palaces and the
    Russians laid out important towns by imitating
  • The Persians respected Byzantine taste so much
    that one of their emperors pulled down his new
    palace when an envoy from the Byzantine emperor
    remarked of the building, The upper part will do
    for birds and the lower for rats.

The Byzantine Empire
  • Byzantine aristocrats often hired private tutors
    for both their sons and daughters.
  • There was a state-organized school system that
    offered a basic education in reading, writing,
    and grammar.
  • Most peasants and urban workers didnt have a
    formal education but basic literacy was
  • Elites could study law, philosophy, and medicine
    in Constantinople.

The Byzantine Empire
  • The situation for women deteriorated from the
    earlier freedom that Roman women had to venture
    outside their homes.
  • The paterfamilias (oldest male authority)
    controlled family and public life, but under the
    Byzantines, women were increasingly confined to
    the home.
  • When they did leave the home, they usually
    concealed their faces with veils.

The Byzantine Empire
  • The only men women were to socialize with were
    members of their family.
  • Yet despite these restrictions, from 1028-1056
    women ruled the Byzantine Empire jointly with
    their husbands.

The Byzantine Empire
  • And between 780-802, the Empress Irene ruled,
    first as regent for her 10 year son (Constantine
    VI) then in her own right.
  • When Constantine reached maturity, he wanted to
    marry the daughter of the Frankish king,
  • The plan was thwarted by Irene, so Constantine,
    with the armys backing, banished his mother from
    the palace.

The Byzantine Empire
  • Not to be outdone, after seven years of tireless
    conspiracy, she succeeded in having Constantine
    imprisoned and then blinded.
  • In 797 she took the throne to rule in her own

The Byzantine Empire
  • The pope in Rome (Leo III) saw Constantines fall
    as an opportunity to elevate papal prestige.
  • Considering the Byzantine throne vacant (since no
    male was emperor), in the year 800 Leo boldly
    crowned Charlemagne emperor.
  • To the Byzantines, this was criminal and a sin
    against a sacred stateit attacked the universal
    authority of the Byzantine emperor.

The Byzantine Empire
  • In the Byzantine world, the Church and the state
    were intimately tied together, a relationship
    known as caesaropapism.
  • Unlike Western Europe, where the Roman Catholic
    Church maintained some degree of independence
    from political authorities, in Byzantium the
    emperor acted as both head of state and pope
    (head of the Church).

The Byzantine Empire
  • The emperor appointed the patriarch, or leader,
    of the Orthodox Church sometimes he made
    decisions about doctrine called church councils
    into session and generally treated the Church as
    a government department.
  • When Syrian and Egyptian Christians declared
    themselves Monophysites, believers that Jesus
    nature was only divine, not human, Justinian
    oppressed them in the name of religious
    conformity and imperial authority.

The Byzantine Empire
  • A dense network of bishops and priests brought
    the message of the Church to every corner of the
    empire, while numerous monasteries accommodated
    holy men, whose piety, self-denial, and good
    works made them highly influential among both the
    elites and common people.

The Byzantine Empire
  • Orthodox Christianity had a major influence on
    every aspect of Byzantine life.
  • It legitimated the supreme and absolute rule of
    the emperor, for he was a God-anointed ruler, a
    reflection of the glory of God on earth.
  • Even more than being Roman, they were orthodox,
    or right-thinking Christians for whom the
    empire and the Church were equally essential to
    achieving eternal salvation.

The Byzantine Empire
  • Before the Fifth Century, the early Christians
    inherited from Judaism a repugnance toward
    idolatry but from the Fifth Century onward,
    icons (or images) of Christ, the Virgin Mary and
    the saints became increasingly prevalent in
    public and private worship.

The Byzantine Empire
  • Churches became filled with iconsreligious
    paintings of Jesus, Mary, and other saintsthat
    many believed conveyed the divine presence to

The Byzantine Empire
  • The blue and gold backgrounds of most iconic
    paintings/mosaics represented the unchanging
    brilliance of heaven.

The Byzantine Empire
The Byzantine Empire
  • Worshipping icons became so fervent that it often
    did border on idolatry.
  • Icon veneration became a major issue between
    726-843, when Byzantine emperors argued that icon
    veneration was tantamount to idol worship
    (influenced by Judaism and Islam), distracting
    worshippers from God himself.

The Byzantine Empire
  • Starting in 726 (under Leo III) all icons were
    removed from churches and destroyed.
  • This destruction, known as iconoclasm, pitted the
    government , army, and peoples of the eastern
    provinces (who supported their destruction)
    against the peoples of the western provinces and
    clergy, who regarded iconoclasm as sacrilege as

The Byzantine Empire
  • For over 100 years, riots erupted as factions
    took this quarrel to the streets and monks (who
    supported icons) were systematically persecuted.
  • When the monk Methodius became the patriarch,
    from the Hagia Sophia he proclaimed an end to
    the last of the great heresies (i.e.
    iconoclasm) had been overcome.

The Byzantine Empire
  • As Eastern Orthodoxy evolved, it came to define
    itself against an emerging Latin Christianity
    centered on papal Rome.
  • Both Catholicism and Orthodoxy had much in
    common the teachings of Jesus the Bible the
    sacraments a church hierarchy of patriarchs,
    bishops, and priests a missionary impulse and
    an intolerance toward other religions.

The Byzantine Empire
  • Despite these similarities, the sense of a single
    widespread Christian community was increasingly
    replaced by an awareness of difference,
    competition, and outright hostility towards each
  • This reflected the growing political separation
    and rivalry between the Byzantine Empire and
    Western Europe.

The Byzantine Empire
  • As Islam grew increasingly powerful in the 7th
    century, Constantinople and Rome remained hubs
    for the Christian Churchbut they were now in
    different states that competed with each other
    for territory and for the right to claim the
    legacy of imperial Rome.

The Byzantine Empire
  • Beyond political differences were those of
    language and culture.
  • Latin remained the language of the Church and of
    the elites in the West, but it was eventually
    abandoned by the Byzantines for Greek.

The Byzantine Empire
  • Even though Constantinople and Rome agreed on
    fundamental doctrines, they disagreed on several
    minor points that snowballed into major issues.
  • Priests in the West shaved, and after 1050, were
    supposed to remain celibate.
  • Orthodox priests grew their beards long and were
    allowed to marry.

The Byzantine Empire
  • Orthodox ritual called for using bread leavened
    with yeast in Mass, but Catholics used unleavened
  • In the 11th Century Roman popes claimed to be the
    sole and final spiritual authority for all
    Christians everywhere and that the Byzantine
    Church should follow Rome.
  • Orthodox leaders rejected these claims and
    believed Rome had no power over them.

The Byzantine Empire
  • Catholic religious art often portrayed Jesus as
    suffering for the sins of mankind.
  • Orthodox religious art showed Jesus as majestic
    and divine.

The Byzantine Empire
  • In the West, Gothic styles dominated church
  • In Byzantium, church architecture was inspired by
    ancient Rome (arches, domes).

The Byzantine Empire
  • Orthodox church services, usually conducted in
    Greek, were sometimes held in the local
    vernacular of the location.
  • Western Catholicism insisted on Latin.
  • The formal schism came in 1054 when the leaders
    of both churches formally excommunicated each
    other, declaring that those in the opposing
    tradition were not true Christians.

The Byzantine Empire
  • The Crusades, launched in 1095 by the Catholic
    pope (Urban II), made things worse.
  • Western Crusaders, passing through Byzantine
    territory, often brutalized the local peoples
    because they were considered blasphemous and

The Byzantine Empire
  • The city of Constantinople before the Crusades.
    At its peak under the Byzantines, it had over
    1,000,000 inhabitants.

The Byzantine Empire
  • During the Second Crusade (1145-1149) one
    observer wrote that the Greeks were judged not
    to be Christians and the Franks (French)
    considered killing them a matter of no
  • During the Fourth Crusade in 1204, western forces
    seized and looted Constantinople and ruled
    Byzantium for the next 50 years.

The Byzantine Empire
  • Their brutality only confirmed the Byzantine view
    that Catholics were nothing more than evil,
    heretical barbarians.
  • After this, Byzantium was severely weakened and
    the rupture in the Christian world would be

The Byzantine Empire
  • By 1453, the Byzantine Empire was a mere shadow
    of its earlier glory.
  • The Turkic Ottomans had already spread their
    influence across most of Northern Africa, the
    eastern Mediterranean, the Balkans, and
    Anatolia...Constantinople was almost all that was
    left of the once great empire.
  • By early April, the Ottomans were camped outside

The Byzantine Empire
  • On a Sunday morning in May (1453), defenders of
    the city woke up to see Ottoman ships in the
    harbor and cannons being moved into place one
    was a 19 ton bombard, believed to be the
    largest cannon in the world (it was 26 ft long
    and fired balls weighing 1,200 lbs).

The Byzantine Empire
  • When the attack began, every bell in the city
    rang the alarm. The Hagia Sophia was full of
    people praying and singing Kyrie Eleison (Lord,
    have mercy).
  • The Byzantine defense was barely 7,000 men
    against over 80,000 Ottoman Janissaries.
  • On May 25, Sultan Mehmet II proposed peace he
    would spare the city if annual tribute was paid
    or he would grant safe passage if the citizens
    gave up the cityboth offers were rejected.

The Byzantine Empire
  • By mistake, a small gate had been left unlocked
    on the outer wall and some Turks found it. By
    dawn the next morning, the Turks were inside the
  • Seeing a Turkish flag being raised on one of the
    watch towers, the last Byzantine emperor,
    Constantine XI, dismounted from his horse and
    flung himself into the advancing Janissaries.
  • He died in the fighting and his head was paraded
    around the city.

The Byzantine Empire
  • That afternoon, Mehmet II made his entry,
    escorted by his bodyguard of Janissaries.
  • When he reached the gates of the Hagia Sophia he
    dismounted, stooped down at the threshold and
    scooped up a handful of earth, which he let fall
    on his turbaned head (as an act of humiliation
    before the God who had brought him victory).

The Byzantine Empire
  • Once the siege was over, the Ottoman army robbed
    and pillaged the city for three days (a medieval
    custom) but the city wasnt destroyedthe
    Ottomans wanted to remake it into their capital.
  • Every church was converted into a mosque and
    Constantinoples name was changed to the Turkish
    version of the Greek eis tin polin (in the

The Byzantine Empire
  • In an honorable Muslim tradition, the Ottomans
    planned a multicultural and tolerant city.
  • The Orthodox patriarch was left in charge of the
    Church and when Jews were expelled from Spain
    (1492), many came to Istanbul where it was
    official policy to welcome them.

The Byzantine Empire
  • The spread of Orthodoxy to Russia
  • Byzantine religious culture spread widely among
    Slavic-speaking peoples in the Balkans and
  • As the lands to the south and east were overtaken
    by Islam, Byzantium looked to the north.

The Byzantine Empire
  • In the 9th century, two Byzantine missionaries,
    Cyril and Methodius, spread the Orthodox faith
    throughout the Balkans and southern/western

The Byzantine Empire
  • Cyril and Methodius were successful because they
    spoke the Slavic language.
  • They also developed an alphabet, based on Greek
    letters, with which Slavic languages could be
  • The Cyrillic alphabet made it possible to
    translate the Bible and other religious
    literature into Slavic which helped to promote
    religious conversions.

The Byzantine Empire
  • The Cyrillic alphabet

The Byzantine Empire
  • The most significant expansion of Orthodox
    Christianity occurred among the Slavic peoples of
    southern/western Russia (todays
  • In this culturally diverse region, which also
    included Finnic and Baltic peoples as well as
    Viking traders, a loosely organized state known
    as Kievan Rus (named after the city of Kiev)
    emerged in the 9th century.

The Byzantine Empire
  • The development of Rus was stimulated by trade
    along the Dnieper River, which linked Scandinavia
    with Byzantium.

The Byzantine Empire
  • Religion reflected the regions cultural
    diversity with small numbers of Christians, Jews,
    and Muslims a part of the mix.
  • The growing interaction of the Rus with the
    larger world prompted Prince Vladimir I of Kiev
    to affiliate with a faith that would unify the
    diverse peoples of his region, while linking the
    Rus to the wider trade networks.

The Byzantine Empire
  • According to ancient chronicles, Vladimir
    considered Judaism, Islam, Catholicism, and Greek
    Orthodoxy before finally deciding on the religion
    of Byzantium.

The Byzantine Empire
  • He rejected Islam, as told by the chronicles,
    because it prohibited alcoholic drink and
    drinking is the joy of the Russes.
  • He supposedly rejected Judaism because he
    couldnt understand how a powerful God would
    allow his peoples temple to be destroyed.
  • It is unclear why he didnt choose Roman

The Byzantine Empire
  • Political and commercial considerations no doubt
    played a major role in Vladimirs decision
    (swayed by the wealth of Byzantium and the beauty
    of Orthodox churches).
  • He acquired a sister of the Byzantine emperor as
    his bride, along with numerous Byzantine priests
    and advisors.
  • All the Rus were then forced to convert to
    Orthodox Christianity.

The Byzantine Empire
  • Vladimirs choice has had long-term implications
    for Russian history, for it brought a fledgling,
    peripheral civilization firmly into the world of
    Orthodox Christianity, separating it from both
    from the realm of Islam and the Roman Catholic
  • The Rus borrowed extensively from its older and
    more sophisticated neighbor.

The Byzantine Empire
  • Among these borrowings were Byzantine
    architectural styles, the Cyrillic alphabet, the
    extensive use of icons, a monastic tradition
    stressing prayer and service, and political
    ideals of imperial control of the Church.

The Byzantine Empire
  • Orthodoxy gave the Rus a more unified identity
    and religious legitimacy for its rulers.
  • Centuries later, after Constantinople had fallen
    to the Turks, Russian political and religious
    leaders proclaimed Russia had become the third
  • The original Rome had betrayed the faith with its
    heresy, and the second Rome had succumbed to the

The Byzantine Empire
  • Moscow was now the third Rome, the final
    protector and defender of the true faith,
    Orthodox Christianity.
  • This reflected the Russification of Eastern
    Orthodoxy and its growing role as an element of
    Russian national identity.
  • It was also a reminder of the enduring legacy of
    a thousand years of Byzantine history, long after
    the empire itself had vanished.