Difference between revisions of "Byzantine Empire"

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[[File:Justinian555AD.png|thumb|The Byzantine Empire was at its largest territorial extent in 555, during the reign of [[Justinian|Justinian I]]. Vassals are shaded pink.]]The '''Byzantine Empire''' was a Greek-speaking, Christian state that existed from about 500 to 1453.<ref>Shepard, Jonathan, ''[https://books.google.com/books?id=tmw8jgEACAAJ&dq=&redir_esc=y The Cambridge History of the Byzantine Empire c.500-1492]'' (2019), p. 26. The replacement of the Western Empire by barbarian states posed, "new problems yet also diplomatic and strategic openings for the rulers of Constantinople...and this goes some way towards justifying the starting-point of this book around AD 500."</ref> Its capital was Constantinople, now [[Istanbul]], and it ruled the lands that surround the eastern Mediterranean Sea. The Hagia Sophia cathedral, [[Greek fire]] (a flame throwing weapon), and the [[Cyrillic alphabet]] were outstanding Byzantine achievements. Its monks copied and preserved ancient learning through the Dark Ages, including Aristotle, Roman law in the form of the Code of Justinian, and the Greek New Testament.  
 
[[File:Justinian555AD.png|thumb|The Byzantine Empire was at its largest territorial extent in 555, during the reign of [[Justinian|Justinian I]]. Vassals are shaded pink.]]The '''Byzantine Empire''' was a Greek-speaking, Christian state that existed from about 500 to 1453.<ref>Shepard, Jonathan, ''[https://books.google.com/books?id=tmw8jgEACAAJ&dq=&redir_esc=y The Cambridge History of the Byzantine Empire c.500-1492]'' (2019), p. 26. The replacement of the Western Empire by barbarian states posed, "new problems yet also diplomatic and strategic openings for the rulers of Constantinople...and this goes some way towards justifying the starting-point of this book around AD 500."</ref> Its capital was Constantinople, now [[Istanbul]], and it ruled the lands that surround the eastern Mediterranean Sea. The Hagia Sophia cathedral, [[Greek fire]] (a flame throwing weapon), and the [[Cyrillic alphabet]] were outstanding Byzantine achievements. Its monks copied and preserved ancient learning through the Dark Ages, including Aristotle, Roman law in the form of the Code of Justinian, and the Greek New Testament.  
  
The Byzantine Empire was a continuation of the Eastern Roman Empire, although the empire was reorganized under [[Heraclius]] (r. 610-641). Heraclius changed the official language from Latin to Greek, established the "theme" system of defense, and made other reforms. Under the Macedonian dynasty (867-1025), Byzantium experienced a golden age even as western Europe battled the Vikings for survival. The empire lost Anatolia, the imperial heartland, as a result of the Seljuk victory at Manzikert in 1071. In 1204, Constantinople was sacked by Crusaders. It finally fell to the Ottoman Turks in 1453.  
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The Byzantine Empire was a continuation of the Eastern Roman Empire, although the empire was reorganized under [[Heraclius]] (r. 610-641). Heraclius changed the official language from Latin to Greek, established the "theme" system of defense, and made other reforms. Under the Macedonian dynasty (867-1025), Byzantium experienced a golden age even as western Europe battled the Vikings for survival. The empire lost Anatolia, the imperial heartland, as a result of the Seljuk victory at Manzikert in 1071. In 1204, Constantinople was sacked by Crusaders. It finally fell to the Ottoman Turks in 1453.
  
The inhabitants of the empire referred to themselves as "Romans" and called their religion "Roman Orthodox." Constantinople was built on the site of the Greek colony of [[Byzantium]]. The use of the term "Byzantine" to refer to the empire can be traced to historians of the 16th century.
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Constantinople was built on the site of the Greek colony of [[Byzantium]]. The use of the term "Byzantine" can be traced to historians of the 16th century.
  
 
==Names==
 
==Names==
In the Renaissance, historians developed the idea of dividing history into three parts: ancient (before 500), medieval (500-1500), and modern (since 1500).<ref>"[https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/Middle%20Ages Middle Ages]," Merriam-Webster</ref> The term "Byzantine" was applied to the medieval Greek state in ''Corpus Historiæ Byzantinæ'' (1557) by German historian Hieronymus Wolf.<ref>Webb, Eugene, ''In Search of the Triune God: The Christian Paths of East and West'', p. 354.</ref> This word is derived from "Byzantium," an alternative name for Constantinople. It emphasizes the change in culture that occurred as the Latin-speaking classical Eastern Roman Empire evolved into a Greek-speaking medieval Orthodox Christian state.
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The inhabitants of the Byzantine empire referred to themselves as "Romans" and called their religion "Roman Orthodox." In the Latin West, they were called "Greeks" and their leader was the "emperor of Constantinople." To medieval historian William of Tyre, the emperors in Constantinople were Roman until 800 and Greek after that. That is to say, Constantinople had lost imperial legitimacy, which passed to Charlemagne and to his successors.<ref>Spoljarić, Luka, "[http://www.etd.ceu.hu/2008/spoljaric_luka.pdf William of Tyre and the Byzantine Empire: The Construction and Deconstruction of an Image]," Central European University, Budapest, May 2008.</ref>
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Renaissance historians were less interested in which emperor was legitimate. They developed the idea of dividing history into three parts: ancient (before 500), medieval (500-1500), and modern (since 1500).<ref>"[https://www.merriam-webster.com/dictionary/Middle%20Ages Middle Ages]," Merriam-Webster</ref> The term "Byzantine" was applied to the medieval Greek state in ''Corpus Historiæ Byzantinæ'' (1557) by German historian Hieronymus Wolf.<ref>Webb, Eugene, ''In Search of the Triune God: The Christian Paths of East and West'', p. 354.</ref> This word is derived from "Byzantium," an alternative name for Constantinople. It emphasizes the change in culture that occurred as the Latin-speaking classical Eastern Roman Empire evolved into a Greek-speaking medieval Orthodox Christian state.
  
 
==Art==
 
==Art==
 
In the fifth and sixth centuries, Constantinople developed a distinctive architecture. Large domes such as Hagia Sophia were built on pendentives over a square. Marble veneering was applied as well as colored mosaics and gold backgrounds. The 550 to 843 period was a dark age. Very little art from this period survived. The numerous icons produced were later destroyed by the Iconoclasts.<ref name="Jones">Jones, L.A., "[https://www.encyclopedia.com/religion/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/byzantine-art Byzantine art]", ''New Catholic Encyclopedia''.</ref>
 
In the fifth and sixth centuries, Constantinople developed a distinctive architecture. Large domes such as Hagia Sophia were built on pendentives over a square. Marble veneering was applied as well as colored mosaics and gold backgrounds. The 550 to 843 period was a dark age. Very little art from this period survived. The numerous icons produced were later destroyed by the Iconoclasts.<ref name="Jones">Jones, L.A., "[https://www.encyclopedia.com/religion/encyclopedias-almanacs-transcripts-and-maps/byzantine-art Byzantine art]", ''New Catholic Encyclopedia''.</ref>
[[File:Byzantine art.jpg|thumb|right|Mosaic of Christ at Chora Church in Istanbul, Turkey.]]The Middle Byzantine period, or Macedonian Renaissance, began in 843 and continued until 1204. The defeat of the Iconoclasts allowed for the flowering of Orthodox art. Notable artwork of this period includes the richly illustrated Paris Psalter and the Limburg staurotheke (relic container). Many artists were employed illustrating church walls, although little of this type of art survived the Muslim conquest. The best known example is the illustrations of various imperial families in the South Gallery of Hagia Sophia. These portraits have given Byzantine art a reputation for stern remoteness. But the Byzantines could also evoke strong emotion, for example with a painting of the Lamentation in the Church of St. Panteleimon in Nerezi, Macedonia (1164).<ref name="Jones"/>
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[[File:Byzantine art.jpg|thumb|right|Mosaic of Christ at Chora Church in Istanbul, Turkey.]]The Middle Byzantine period, or Macedonian Renaissance, began in 843 and continued until 1204. The defeat of the Iconoclasts allowed for the flowering of Orthodox art. Notable artwork of this period includes the richly illustrated Paris Psalter and the Limburg staurotheke (relic container). Many artists were employed illustrating church walls, although little of this type of art survived the Muslim conquest. The best known example is the illustrations of various imperial families in the South Gallery of Hagia Sophia. These portraits have given Byzantine art a reputation for stern remoteness. But Byzantine artists could also evoke strong emotion, for example with a painting of the lamentation in the Church of St. Panteleimon in Nerezi, Macedonia (1164).<ref name="Jones"/>
  
 
The Late Byzantine period dates from 1261 to 1453. This period focused on reconstruction, including the redecoration of Chora Church (1321).<ref name="Jones"/>
 
The Late Byzantine period dates from 1261 to 1453. This period focused on reconstruction, including the redecoration of Chora Church (1321).<ref name="Jones"/>
  
 
==History==
 
==History==
The Crisis of the Third Century suggested that the Roman Empire had grown too large for any one person to administer. In 285, [[Diocletian]] divided his realm into four administrative units. A series of unifications and redivisions followed. Two Roman states, a western empire with its capital at Rome (later Ravenna), and an eastern empire with its capital at Constantinople, became the norm. The final division between West and East was made upon the death of Theodosius I in 395. The West fell to barbarian invasion in 476, but the eastern empire continued until 1453.
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Events during the Crisis of the Third Century suggested that the legions on the Danube and those on the Rhine required separate emperors to prevent the outbreak of revolts. In 285, [[Diocletian]] divided his realm into four administrative units. A series of unifications and redivisions followed. An eastern empire with its capital at Constantinople and a western empire with its capital at Rome (later Ravenna) emerged as the norm. This division became final upon the death of Theodosius I in 395. The West fell to barbarian invasion in 476, but the eastern empire continued until 1453.
  
 
===The coming of the Dark Ages===
 
===The coming of the Dark Ages===

Revision as of 06:28, 14 February 2020

The Byzantine Empire was at its largest territorial extent in 555, during the reign of Justinian I. Vassals are shaded pink.
The Byzantine Empire was a Greek-speaking, Christian state that existed from about 500 to 1453.[1] Its capital was Constantinople, now Istanbul, and it ruled the lands that surround the eastern Mediterranean Sea. The Hagia Sophia cathedral, Greek fire (a flame throwing weapon), and the Cyrillic alphabet were outstanding Byzantine achievements. Its monks copied and preserved ancient learning through the Dark Ages, including Aristotle, Roman law in the form of the Code of Justinian, and the Greek New Testament.

The Byzantine Empire was a continuation of the Eastern Roman Empire, although the empire was reorganized under Heraclius (r. 610-641). Heraclius changed the official language from Latin to Greek, established the "theme" system of defense, and made other reforms. Under the Macedonian dynasty (867-1025), Byzantium experienced a golden age even as western Europe battled the Vikings for survival. The empire lost Anatolia, the imperial heartland, as a result of the Seljuk victory at Manzikert in 1071. In 1204, Constantinople was sacked by Crusaders. It finally fell to the Ottoman Turks in 1453.

Constantinople was built on the site of the Greek colony of Byzantium. The use of the term "Byzantine" can be traced to historians of the 16th century.

Names

The inhabitants of the Byzantine empire referred to themselves as "Romans" and called their religion "Roman Orthodox." In the Latin West, they were called "Greeks" and their leader was the "emperor of Constantinople." To medieval historian William of Tyre, the emperors in Constantinople were Roman until 800 and Greek after that. That is to say, Constantinople had lost imperial legitimacy, which passed to Charlemagne and to his successors.[2]

Renaissance historians were less interested in which emperor was legitimate. They developed the idea of dividing history into three parts: ancient (before 500), medieval (500-1500), and modern (since 1500).[3] The term "Byzantine" was applied to the medieval Greek state in Corpus Historiæ Byzantinæ (1557) by German historian Hieronymus Wolf.[4] This word is derived from "Byzantium," an alternative name for Constantinople. It emphasizes the change in culture that occurred as the Latin-speaking classical Eastern Roman Empire evolved into a Greek-speaking medieval Orthodox Christian state.

Art

In the fifth and sixth centuries, Constantinople developed a distinctive architecture. Large domes such as Hagia Sophia were built on pendentives over a square. Marble veneering was applied as well as colored mosaics and gold backgrounds. The 550 to 843 period was a dark age. Very little art from this period survived. The numerous icons produced were later destroyed by the Iconoclasts.[5]

Mosaic of Christ at Chora Church in Istanbul, Turkey.
The Middle Byzantine period, or Macedonian Renaissance, began in 843 and continued until 1204. The defeat of the Iconoclasts allowed for the flowering of Orthodox art. Notable artwork of this period includes the richly illustrated Paris Psalter and the Limburg staurotheke (relic container). Many artists were employed illustrating church walls, although little of this type of art survived the Muslim conquest. The best known example is the illustrations of various imperial families in the South Gallery of Hagia Sophia. These portraits have given Byzantine art a reputation for stern remoteness. But Byzantine artists could also evoke strong emotion, for example with a painting of the lamentation in the Church of St. Panteleimon in Nerezi, Macedonia (1164).[5]

The Late Byzantine period dates from 1261 to 1453. This period focused on reconstruction, including the redecoration of Chora Church (1321).[5]

History

Events during the Crisis of the Third Century suggested that the legions on the Danube and those on the Rhine required separate emperors to prevent the outbreak of revolts. In 285, Diocletian divided his realm into four administrative units. A series of unifications and redivisions followed. An eastern empire with its capital at Constantinople and a western empire with its capital at Rome (later Ravenna) emerged as the norm. This division became final upon the death of Theodosius I in 395. The West fell to barbarian invasion in 476, but the eastern empire continued until 1453.

The coming of the Dark Ages

Even as Justinian expanded the boundaries of the empire, plague, war, and natural disasters combined to bring about the collapse of classical civilization.
The East survived the fall of the Western Empire largely because of its greater financial resources. Despite a shortage of manpower, Byzantium could generally pay off the armies that threatened its security. In 500, the empire retained a city-based classical civilization. By the end of the sixth century, the public urban spaces central to classical culture were in decay. Public culture survived only in the churches, and icons became a focus of great reverence.[6]

Justinian (r. 527-565)

The reign of Justinian was a time of outstanding achievements, including the compilation of the Code of Justinian, the rebuilding of Constantinople, and the reconquest of Italy. But the empire's resources, depleted by grandiose schemes, were unequal to the onslaught of the Persians, natural disasters, and, worst of all, the plague. The earthquakes of 526 and 530, the drought of 530, and the Nika riot of 532 were described by a chronicler as three blows by God against sinful humanity.[7]

Justinian deployed the army against the Nika rioters in Constantinople. Some 30,000 were killed and the palace area was burned down.[8] With his capital in ruins, Justinian energetically rebuilt, erecting the magnificent Hagia Sofia. Cataclysmic eruptions in 536, 540, and 547 led to a sharp cooling of the global climate. The 536 eruption created a ‘dust-veil event.’ Procopius described this event: "During this year a most dread portent took place. For the sun gave forth its light without brightness ... and it seemed exceedingly like the sun in eclipse, for the beams it shed were not clear."

The most devastating event of this period was the Plague of Justinian, which arrived in Constantinople in 542. It killed 250,000 in this city alone, over half the population. Victims were typically dead within two or three days. The plague returned in 553–554, 568–569, and 583–584.

Slavs and Arabs

The seventh century saw the disintegration of the empire almost everywhere aside from Constantinople itself. The Slavs moved into the Balkans in the late sixth and seventh centuries. The Arabs defeated the Byzantines in a decisive battle at Yarmouk in 636. Antioch and Jerusalem fell the following year, Egypt in 641. The low point for the empire came in 718 with the second Arab siege of Constantinople. The Arabs were beaten back with Greek fire, the medieval version of napalm. After the failure this siege, the situation began to stabilize.

Iconoclasm (726-843)

The empire had difficulties with the "Iconoclast" controversy - a dispute lasting nearly 100 years and centering around arguments over whether or not to allow "holow images" or icons to be displayed in the churches. The position of the Emperors was often at odds with many of the subjects but since the Emperors considered that they were appointed by God, this didn't matter since their opponents were automatically heretics.

Macedonian dynasty (867-1025)

The Macedonian dynasty, founded by Basil I in 867, was Byzantium's golden age. Basil replaced the Code of Justinian with a Greek legal code called the Basilica. The military revival of this period did not prevent Sicily from falling to the Arabs in 902 or the sack of Thessalonica in 904. After 150 years of Arab terror on the seas, the Byzantines regained naval supremacy after a victory in 961. There was also was a revival of literature, including the Suda, an early encyclopedia, as well as the Lexicon and Bibliotheca of Photius. After the devastation of the Dark Ages, Byzantine scholars devoted themselves to the project of carefully classifying, copying, preserving, and summarizing the learning that survived. This revival occurred while the West was suffering the ravages of the Viking age.

Wars

The empire was often at war with at least one foreign power, but their strong defensive strategy was usually able to weather attacks. While taking on offensive position to "reunite" with the west under Justinian in the 500s, for the most part the position of the empire was defensive in nature, having little desire to increase its borders. For centuries, the Byzantine Empire was Europe's protector, repelling Islamic armies that would stretch to control lands from Morocco to India via Hungary.

The secure and lasting nature of the empire was changed forever when treachery led their defeat to Islamic armies at the Battle of Manzikert in 1071. It lost all of Anatolia to the invaders. Even when the Greeks retook the land, much of the population had perished with many of the survivors having fled. Areas that once allowed armies of 120,000 men to be raised for the defense of the empire had now become barren. The empire was forced to rely on mercenaries for the bulk of their army from that point forward.[9]

Fourth Crusade

See also: Crusades
The empire was dealt another blow in 1204 when forces from Western Europe in the Fourth Crusade sacked Constantinople in 1204, the first time that had ever happened, instead of going to the Holy Land. They set up their own "Latin" Empire, so called because of their attempts to restore Latin as the official language of the empire rather than Greek. The Crusader kingdom lasted until the Byzantine reinstatement in 1261. On their arrival in Constantinople, the Latins, mostly Franks and Venetians, were astonished at the power and positions held by eunuchs - men who, as children, had been castrated so that they would have no children and hence be no threat to the ruling imperial dynasty.
Byz-1450.jpg

Collapse

The Byzantine Empire never truly recovered from the blow dealt to it by the Crusaders. Following the fall of the city to the Latins in 1204, the empire was reduced to a mere shell of its former self. On May 29, 1453, Constantinople, the capital of the Byzantine Empire, fell to the Ottoman Turks after a long cannon bombardment. The relatives of the last Byzantine Emperor continued to rule Morea for a few years before being absorbed by the Ottoman Empire in 1460, ending the Palaiologos dynasty. The Ottoman conquerors, whose original capital had been located in Sofa, now in Bulgaria, renamed the city Istanbul and turned Hagia Sophia, the great church of that city into a mosque and later into a museum.

Orthodox Church

In 451, the Council of Chalcedon designated the bishops of Rome, Constantinople, Alexandria, Antioch, and Jerusalem as patriarchs. The council also ruled that Christ had a dual human-divine nature. There was a bitter struggle between the orthodox, who accepted this conclusion, and the monophysites, who rejected it. This struggle inspired Justinian to take full control of the eastern church. He decreed that the five patriarchs were a decision making body for the church, called the pentarchy. Justinian's policy of imperial control was resisted by Rome, but continued by subsequent emperors.

In 638–640, the Arabs overran Jerusalem, Antioch, and Alexandria, leaving only the sees of Constantinople and Rome in Christian hands. Greek speakers looked to Constantinople for leadership while Latin speakers looked to Rome. The Quinisext Council of 692 allowed for married clergy and established the foundation for a separate Orthodox cannon law. Although Greek-speaking clerics dominated the "Byzantine papacy" of 537 to 752, the emperor could not get the pope to agree to the cannons of this council. The split into Orthodox and Catholic churches is usually dated to 1054.

The empire was multi-ethnic and officially Orthodox Christian; after c 750 AD, predominantly Greek-speaking. The empire's heritage consisted of the Orthodox Church, ancient Greek culture, Byzantine art and architecture and Roman law. Of the 55,000 ancient Greek texts in existence today, some 40,000 were transmitted by Byzantine scribes. And it was the Byzantine Empire that shielded Western Europe from invasion until it was ready to take its own place at the center of the world stage.

See also

Further reading

  • Browning, Robert. The Byzantine Empire (1992) excerpt and text search
  • Brownworth, Lars. Lost to the West: The Forgotten Byzantine Empire That Rescued Western Civilization (2009) 352 pp. excerpt and text search
  • Hussey, J. M. The Orthodox Church in the Byzantine Empire (1990) excerpt and text search
  • Luttwak, Edward N. The Grand Strategy of the Byzantine Empire (2009), military and diplomacy
  • Shepard, Jonathan, ed. The Cambridge History of the Byzantine Empire c.500-1492 (2009), advanced scholarship excerpt and text search
  • Theophanes. The Chronicle of Theophanes. Anni Mundi 6095-6305 (A.D.602-813) Ed. and trans. Turtledove H.(1982) University of Pennsylvania Press.excerpt and text search

References

  1. Shepard, Jonathan, The Cambridge History of the Byzantine Empire c.500-1492 (2019), p. 26. The replacement of the Western Empire by barbarian states posed, "new problems yet also diplomatic and strategic openings for the rulers of Constantinople...and this goes some way towards justifying the starting-point of this book around AD 500."
  2. Spoljarić, Luka, "William of Tyre and the Byzantine Empire: The Construction and Deconstruction of an Image," Central European University, Budapest, May 2008.
  3. "Middle Ages," Merriam-Webster
  4. Webb, Eugene, In Search of the Triune God: The Christian Paths of East and West, p. 354.
  5. 5.0 5.1 5.2 Jones, L.A., "Byzantine art", New Catholic Encyclopedia.
  6. Shepard, pp. 128-129.
  7. Shepard, p. 121.
  8. Shepard, p. 120.
  9. Encyclopedia of Military History, Dupuy & Dupuy, 1979.

External links

  • Livius (April 28, 2011). Byzantine Empire. Ancient History Encyclopedia. Retrieved September 9, 2016.