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Ῥωμανία
Rhōmanía
Romania
Imperium Romanum
Roman Empire

330–1453
Flag of the late Empire (ca. 1350) Imperial Emblem during the Palaiologos dynasty
Territorial development of the Empire
Capital Constantinople1
Language(s) Latin (until the seventh century), Greek
Religion Roman paganism until 391, Orthodox Catholicism (Eastern Orthodoxy) thereafter
Government Autocracy
Emperor
 - 306–337 Constantine the Great
 - 1449–1453 Constantine XI
Legislature Byzantine Senate
Historical era Late Antiquity-Late Middle Ages
 - Diocletian splits imperial administration between east and west 285
 - Foundation of Constantinople2 May 11, 330
 - The deposition of Romulus Augustulus, nominal emperor in the west, brings formal division of the Roman Empire to an end 476
 - Pope Leo III, hostile to the rule of the Empress Irene, attempts to confer imperial authority on the Frankish king Charlemagne 800
 - East-West Schism 1054
 - Fall of Constantinople to the Fourth Crusade 1204
 - Fall of Constantinople3 May 29, 1453
 - Fall of Trebizond 1461
Population
 - 4th cent4 est. 34,000,000 
 - 8th cent (780 AD) est. 7,000,000 
 - 11th cent4 (1025 AD) est. 12,000,000 
 - 12th cent4 (1143 AD) est. 10,000,000 
 - 13th cent (1281 AD) est. 5,000,000 
Currency Solidus, Hyperpyron
1 Constantinople (330–1204 and 1261–1453). The capital of the Empire of Nicaea, the empire after the Fourth Crusade, was at Nicaea, present day İznik, Turkey.
2 Establishment date traditionally considered to be the re-founding of Constantinople as the capital of the Roman Empire (324/330) although other dates are often used.[1]
3Date of end universally regarded as 1453, despite the temporary survival of remnants in Morea and Trebizond.[1]
4 See Population of the Byzantine Empire for more detailed figures taken provided by McEvedy and Jones, "Atlas of world population history", 1978, as well as Angeliki E. Laiou, "The Economic History of Byzantium", 2002.

The Byzantine Empire or Eastern Roman Empire, was the Roman Empire during the Middle Ages, centered on the capital of Constantinople, and ruled by Byzantine emperors. It was called the Roman Empire, and also as Romania (Greek: Ῥωμανία, Rhōmanía), by its inhabitants and its neighbours. As the distinction between "Roman Empire" and "Byzantine Empire" is purely a modern convention, it is not possible to assign a date of separation, but an important point is the Emperor Constantine I's transfer in 324 of the capital from Nicomedia (in Anatolia) to Byzantium on the Bosphorus, which became Constantinople (alternatively "New Rome").[n 1]

The Empire remained one of the most powerful economic, cultural, and military forces in Europe, despite setbacks and territorial losses, especially during the Roman–Persian and Byzantine–Arab Wars. The Empire recovered during the Macedonian dynasty, rising again to become the pre-eminent power in the Eastern Mediterranean by the late tenth century. After 1071, however, much of Asia Minor, the Empire's heartland, was lost to the Seljuk Turks. The Komnenian restoration regained some ground and briefly re-established dominance in the twelfth century, but declined again under their successors. The Empire received a mortal blow in 1204 by the Fourth Crusade, when it was dissolved and divided into competing Byzantine Greek and Latin realms. Despite the eventual recovery of Constantinople and re-establishment of the Empire in 1261, under the Palaiologan emperors, successive civil wars in the fourteenth century further sapped the Empire's strength. Most of its remaining territory was lost in the Byzantine–Ottoman Wars, culminating in the Fall of Constantinople and its remaining territories to the Muslim Ottoman Turks in the fifteenth century.

Contents

Nomenclature

The designation of the Empire as "Byzantine" began in Western Europe in 1557, when German historian Hieronymus Wolf published his work Corpus Historiæ Byzantinæ, a collection of Byzantine sources. "Byzantine" itself comes from "Byzantium", the name of the city of Constantinople before it became the capital of Constantine. This older name of the city would rarely be used from this point onward except in historical or poetic contexts. The publication in 1648 of the Byzantine du Louvre (Corpus Scriptorum Historiæ Byzantinæ), and in 1680 of Du Cange's Historia Byzantina further popularized the use of Byzantine among French authors, such as Montesquieu.[3] It was not until the nineteenth century, however, with the birth of modern Greece, that the term "Byzantine" came into general use in the Western world. Before this time Greek had been used for the Empire and its descendants within the Ottoman Empire.

The Empire was known to its inhabitants as the Roman Empire, the Empire of the Romans (Latin: Imperium Romanum, Imperium Romanorum, Greek: Βασιλεία τῶν Ῥωμαίων, Basileía tôn Rhōmaíōn), Romania[n 2] (Ῥωμανία, Rhōmanía), Roman Republic (Latin: Res Publica Romana, Greek: πολιτεία Ῥωμαίων, politeίa Rhōmaíōn),[5] and also as Rhōmaís (Ῥωμαΐς).[6]

Although Byzantium had a multi-ethnic character during most of its history,[7] it preserved Romano-Hellenistic traditions[8] and was usually known to most of its western and northern contemporaries as the Empire of the Greeks[n 3] due to the increasing predominance of the Greek element.[9] The use of the term Empire of the Greeks (Latin: Imperium Graecorum) in the West to refer to the Eastern Roman Empire also implied a rejection of the empire's claim to be the Roman Empire.[10] The claims of the Eastern Roman Empire to Roman inheritance had been actively contested in the West at the time of the Roman Empress Irene of Athens, due to the coronation of Charlemagne as Holy Roman Emperor year 800, by Pope Leo III, who needing help against enemies in Rome, saw the throne of the Roman Empire as vacant (lacking a male occupant). Whenever the Popes or the rulers of the West made use of the name Roman to refer to the eastern Roman Emperors, they preferred the term Imperator Romaniæ instead of Imperator Romanorum, a title that Westerners maintained applied only to Charlemagne and his successors.[11]

By contrast, in the Persian, Islamic, and Slavic worlds, the Empire's Roman identity was generally accepted. In the Islamic world it was known primarily as روم (Rûm "Rome").[12][13]

In modern historical atlases, the Empire is usually called the Eastern Roman Empire in maps depicting the empire during the period AD 395 to AD 610, after the new emperor Heraclius changed the official language from Latin to Greek (already the language known by the great majority of the population); in maps depicting the Empire after AD 610, the term Byzantine Empire usually appears.

History

History of the Byzantine Empire
Imperial Emblem of the Byzantine Empire
This article is part of a series
Early Byzantine period
Byzantium under the Constantinian and Valentinian dynasties
Byzantium under the Theodosian Dynasty
Byzantium under the Leonid Dynasty
Byzantium under the Justinian Dynasty
Middle Byzantine period
Byzantium under the Heraclians
Byzantium under the Isaurians
Byzantium from the fall of Irene to the ascension of Basil I
Byzantium under the Macedonians
Late Byzantine period
Byzantium under the Komnenoi
Byzantium under the Angeloi
Byzantium under the Palaiologoi
Topics
Art
Government
Economy
Army
Navy

Byzantine Empire Portal
 v • d • e 

Early History of the Roman Empire

The Roman army succeeded in conquering a vast collection of territories covering the entire Mediterranean region and much of Western Europe. These territories consisted of many different cultural groups, ranging from primitive to highly sophisticated. Generally speaking, the eastern Mediterranean provinces were more urbanized and socially developed, having previously been united under the Macedonian Empire and Hellenized by the influence of Greek culture. In contrast, the western regions had mostly remained independent from any single cultural or political authority, and were still largely rural and less developed. This distinction between the long-established, Hellenized East and the younger, Latinized West would persist and become increasingly important in later centuries.

Division of the Roman Empire

Diocletian created a new administrative system (the tetrarchy).[14] He associated himself with a co-emperor, or Augustus. Each Augustus was then to adopt a young colleague, or Caesar, to share in the rule and eventually to succeed the senior partner. After the abdication of Diocletian and Maximian, however, the tetrachy collapsed, and Constantine I replaced it with the dynastic principle of hereditary succession.[15]

The Baptism of Constantine painted by Raphael's pupils (1520–1524, fresco, Vatican City, Apostolic Palace). Eusebius of Caesaria records that, as was customary among Christian converts at the time, Constantine delayed receiving baptism until shortly before his death.[16]

Constantine moved the seat of the Empire, and introduced important changes into its civil and religious constitution.[17] In 330, he founded Constantinople as a second Rome on the site of Byzantium, which was well-positioned astride the trade routes between East and West.

Constantine built upon the administrative reforms introduced by Diocletian.[14][18] He stabilized the coinage (the gold solidus that he introduced became a highly prized and stable currency),[18] and made changes to the structure of the army. Under Constantine, the Empire had recovered much of its military strength and enjoyed a period of stability and prosperity.

Under Constantine, Christianity did not become the exclusive religion of the state, but enjoyed imperial preference, since the Emperor supported it with generous privileges. Constantine established the principle that emperors should not settle questions of doctrine, but should summon general ecclesiastical councils for that purpose. The Synod of Arles was convened by Constantine, and the First Council of Nicaea showcased his claim to be head of the Church.[19]

The state of the Empire in 395 may be described in terms of the outcome of Constantine's work. The dynastic principle was established so firmly that the emperor who died in that year, Theodosius I, could bequeath the imperial office jointly to his sons: Arcadius in the East and Honorius in the West. Theodosius was the last emperor to rule over the full extent of the empire in both its halves.[20]

The Eastern Empire was largely spared the difficulties faced by the West in the third and fourth centuries, due in part to a more established urban culture and greater financial resources, which allowed it to placate invaders with tribute and pay foreign mercenaries. Theodosius II further fortified the walls of Constantinople, leaving the city impervious to most attacks; the walls were not breached until 1204. To fend off the Huns of Attila, Theodosius gave them subsidies (purportedly 300 kg (700 lb) of gold).[21] Moreover, he favored merchants living in Constantinople who traded with the Huns and other foreign groups.

His successor, Marcian, refused to continue to pay this exorbitant sum. However, Attila had already diverted his attention to the Western Roman Empire.[22] After he died in 453, his empire collapsed and Constantinople initiated a profitable relationship with the remaining Huns, who would eventually fight as mercenaries in Byzantine armies.[23]

After the fall of Attila, the Eastern Empire enjoyed a period of peace, while the Western Empire collapsed (its end is usually dated in 476 when the Germanic Roman general Odoacer deposed the titular Western Emperor Romulus Augustulus, but declined to replace him with another puppet).

Eastern Roman Empire, c. AD 480.

To recover Italy, the emperor Zeno could only negotiate with the Ostrogoths of Theodoric, who had settled in Moesia. He sent the gothic king to Italy as magister militum per Italiam ("commander in chief for Italy"). After the fall of Odoacer in 493, Theodoric, who had lived in Constantinople during his youth, ruled Italy on his own. Thus, by suggesting that Theodoric conquer Italy as his Ostrogothic kingdom, Zeno maintained at least a nominal supremacy in that western land while ridding the Eastern Empire of an unruly subordinate.[20]

In 491, Anastasius I, an aged civil officer of Roman origin, became emperor, but it was not until 498 that the forces of the new emperor effectively took the measure of Isaurian resistance.[20] Anastasius revealed himself to be an energetic reformer and an able administrator. He perfected Constantine I's coinage system by definitively setting the weight of the copper follis, the coin used in most everyday transactions.[24] He also reformed the tax system, and permanently abolished the hated chrysargyron tax. The State Treasury contained the enormous sum of 145,150 kg (320,000 lbs) of gold when he died.

Reconquest of the Western provinces

Justinian I depicted on one of the famous mosaics of the Basilica of San Vitale, Ravenna.

Justinian I, who assumed the throne in 527, oversaw a period of recovery of former territories. Justinian, the son of an Illyrian peasant, may already have exerted effective control during the reign of his uncle, Justin I (518–527).[25] In 532, attempting to secure his eastern frontier, Justinian signed a peace treaty with Khosrau I of Persia agreeing to pay a large annual tribute to the Sassanids. In the same year, Justinian survived a revolt in Constantinople (the Nika riots) which ended with the death of (allegedly) thirty thousand rioters. This victory solidified Justinian's power.[26] Pope Agapetus I was sent to Constantinople by the Ostrogoths king Theodahad, but failed in his mission to sign a peace with Justinian. However, he succeeded in having the Monophysite Patriarch Anthimus I of Constantinople denounced, despite Empress Theodora's support.

The western conquests began in 533, as Justinian sent his general Belisarius to reclaim the former province of North Africa from the Vandals with an army of about 15,000 men. Success came with surprising ease, but it was not until 548 that the major local independent tribes were subdued.[26] In Ostrogothic Italy, the deaths of Theodoric the Great, his nephew and heir Athalaric, and his daughter Amalasuntha had left her murderer Theodahad on the throne despite his weakened authority. In 535, a small Byzantine expedition sent to Sicily met with easy success, but the Goths soon stiffened their resistance, and victory did not come until 540, when Belisarius captured Ravenna, after successful sieges of Naples and Rome.[27]

Byzantine expansion during Justinian's reign.

Nevertheless, the Ostrogoths were soon reunited under the command of Totila and captured Rome on 17 December 546; Belisarius was eventually recalled by Justinian in early 549.[28] The arrival of the Armenian eunuch Narses in Italy (late 551) with an army of some 35,000 men marked another shift in Gothic fortunes. Totila was defeated and died at the Battle of Busta Gallorum. His successor, Teias, was likewise defeated at the Battle of Mons Lactarius (October 552). Despite continuing resistance from a few Goth garrisons and two subsequent invasions by the Franks and Alamanni, the war for the Italian peninsula was at an end.[29] In 551, a noble of Visigothic Hispania, Athanagild, sought Justinian's help in a rebellion against the king, and the emperor dispatched a force under Liberius, who, although elderly, proved himself a successful military commander. The Byzantine empire held on to a small slice of the Spania coast until the reign of Heraclius.[30]

In the east, Roman-Persian Wars continued until 561 when Justinian's and Khosrau's envoys agreed on a 50-year peace. By the mid-550s, Justinian had won victories in most theaters of operation, with the notable exception of the Balkans, which were subjected to repeated incursions from the Slavs. In 559, the Empire faced a great invasion of Kutrigurs and Sclaveni. Justinian called Belisarius out of retirement, but once the immediate danger was over, the emperor took charge himself. The news that Justinian was reinforcing his Danube fleet made the Kutrigurs anxious, and they agreed to a treaty which gave them a subsidy and safe passage back across the river.[26]

Justinian became universally famous because of his legislative work, remarkable for its sweeping character.[31] In 529, a ten-man commission chaired by John the Cappadocian revised the ancient Roman legal code, creating the new Corpus Juris Civilis, a collection of laws that came to be referred to as "Justinian's Code".

During the sixth century, the traditional Greco-Roman culture was still influential in the Eastern empire with prominent representatives such as the natural philosopher John Philoponus. Nevertheless, the Christian philosophy and culture were in the ascendant and began to dominate the older culture. Hymns written by Romanos the Melode marked the development of the Divine Liturgy, while architects and builders worked to complete the new Church of the Holy Wisdom, Hagia Sophia, designed to replace an older church destroyed in the course of the Nika revolt. Hagia Sophia stands today as one of the major monuments of architectural history.[20] During the sixth and seventh centuries, the Empire was struck by a series of epidemics, which would greatly devastate the population, contributing to a significant economic decline and weakening of the Empire.[32] Thus, some historians trace to the period between Justinian's death and the accession of Heraclius the transformation of Classical civilization into Eastern Orthodox civilization.

After Justinian died in 565, his successor, Justin II refused to pay the large tribute to the Persians. Meanwhile, the Germanic Lombards invaded Italy; by the end of the century only a third of Italy was in Byzantine hands. Justin's successor, Tiberius II, choosing between his enemies, awarded subsidies to the Avars while taking military action against the Persians. Though Tiberius' general, Maurice, led an effective campaign on the eastern frontier, subsidies failed to restrain the Avars. They captured the Balkan fortress of Sirmium in 582, while the Slavs began to make inroads across the Danube. Maurice, who meanwhile succeeded Tiberius, intervened in a Persian civil war, placed the legitimate Khosrau II back on the throne and married his daughter to him. Maurice's treaty with his new brother-in-law brought a new status-quo to the east territorially, enlarged to an extent never before achieved by the empire in its six century history, and much cheaper to defend during this new perpetual peace – millions of solidi were saved by the remission of tribute to the Persians alone. After his victory on the eastern frontier, Maurice was free to focus on the Balkans, and by 602 after a series of successful campaigns he had pushed the Avars and Slavs back across the Danube.[20]

The shrinking borders

Heraclian dynasty

After Maurice's murder by Phocas, Khosrau used the pretext to reconquer the Roman province of Mesopotamia.[33] Phocas, an unpopular ruler who was invariably described in Byzantine sources as a "tyrant", was the target of a number of senate-led plots. He was eventually deposed in 610 by Heraclius, who sailed to Constantinople from Carthage with an icon affixed to the prow of his ship.[34] Following the ascension of Heraclius, the Sassanid advance pushed deep into Asia Minor, also occupying Damascus and Jerusalem and removing the True Cross to Ctesiphon.[35] The counter-offensive of Heraclius took on the character of a holy war, and an acheiropoietos image of Christ was carried as a military standard.[36] Similarly, when Constantinople was saved from an Avar siege in 626, the victory was attributed to the icons of the Virgin which were led in procession by Patriarch Sergius about the walls of the city.[37] The main Sassanid force was destroyed at Nineveh in 627, and in 629 Heraclius restored the True Cross to Jerusalem in a majestic ceremony.[38] The war had exhausted both the Byzantine and Sassanid Empire, and left them extremely vulnerable to the Arab forces which emerged in the following years.[39] The Romans suffered a crushing defeat at the Battle of Yarmuk in 636, and Ctesiphon fell in 634.[40]

Byzantine Empire by 650; by this year it lost all of its southern provinces except the Exarchate of Carthage.

The Arabs, now firmly in control of Syria and the Levant, sent frequent raiding parties deep into Anatolia, and between 674 and 678 laid siege to Constantinople itself. The Arab fleet was finally repulsed through the use of Greek fire, and a thirty-years' truce was signed between the empire and caliphate.[41] The Anatolian raids continued unabated, and accelerated the demise of classical urban culture, with the inhabitants of many cities either refortifying much smaller areas within the old city walls, or relocating entirely to nearby fortresses.[42] The void left by the disappearance of the old semi-autonomous civic institutions was filled by the theme system, which entailed the division of Anatolia into "provinces" occupied by distinct armies which assumed civil authority and answered directly to the imperial administration. This system may have had its roots in certain ad hoc measures taken by Heraclius, but over the course of the seventh century it developed into an entirely new system of imperial governance.[43]

The Greek fire was first used by the Byzantine Navy during the Byzantine-Arab Wars (from the Madrid Skylitzes, Biblioteca Nacional de España, Madrid).

The withdrawal of massive numbers of troops from the Balkans to combat the Persians and then the Arabs in the east opened the door for the gradual southward expansion of Slavic peoples into the peninsula, and, as in Anatolia, many cities shrank to small fortified settlements.[44] In the 670s, the Bulgars were pushed south of the Danube by the arrival of the Khazars, and in 680 Byzantine forces which had been sent to disperse these new settlements were defeated. In the next year Constantine IV signed a treaty with the Bulgar khan Asparukh, and the new Bulgarian state assumed sovereignty over a number of Slavic tribes which had previously, at least in name, recognized Byzantine rule.[45] In 687–688, the emperor Justinian II led an expedition against the Slavs and Bulgars which made significant gains, although the fact that he had to fight his way from Thrace to Macedonia demonstrates the degree to which Byzantine power in the north Balkans had declined.[46]

The final Heraclian emperor, Justinian II, attempted to break the power of the urban aristocracy through severe taxation and the appointment of "outsiders" to administrative posts. He was driven from power in 695, and took shelter first with the Khazars and then with the Bulgars. In 705 he returned to Constantinople with the armies of the Bulgar khan Tervel, retook the throne, and instituted a reign of terror against his enemies. With his final overthrow in 711, supported once more by the urban aristocracy, the Heraclian dynasty came to an end.[47]

Isaurian dynasty to the ascension of Basil I

The Byzantine Empire at the accession of Leo III, c. 717. Striped land shows land raided by the Arabs. Click on the image for names of provinces.

Leo III the Isaurian, turned back the Muslim assault in 718, and achieved victory with the major help of the Bulgarian khan Tervel,who killed 32,000 Arabs with his army, at the expense of the Arabs in 740. He also addressed himself to the task of reorganizing and consolidating the themes in Asia Minor. His successor, Constantine V, won noteworthy victories in northern Syria, and thoroughly undermined Bulgar strength.

In 826, the Arabs captured Crete, and successfully attacked Sicily, but on 3 September 863, general Petronas attained a huge victory against Umar al-Aqta, the emir of Melitene. Under the leadership of Krum the Bulgar threat also reemerged, but in 814 Krum's son, Omortag, arranged a peace with the Byzantine Empire.[48]

The eighth and ninth centuries were also dominated by controversy and religious division over Iconoclasm. Icons were banned by Leo and Constantine, leading to revolts by iconodules (supporters of icons) throughout the empire. After the efforts of Empress Irene, the Second Council of Nicaea met in 787, and affirmed that icons could be venerated but not worshipped. Irene is said to have endeavored to negotiate a marriage between herself and Charlemagne, but, according to Theophanes the Confessor, the scheme was frustrated by Aetios, one of her favourites.[49] In 813, Leo V the Armenian restored the policy of iconoclasm, but in 843 Empress Theodora restored the veneration of the icons with the help of Patriarch Methodios.[50] Iconoclasm played its part in the further alienation of East from West, which worsened during the so-called Photian Schism, when Pope Nicholas I challenged Photios' elevation to the patriarchate.

Macedonian dynasty and resurgence

Wars against the Muslims

The Byzantine Empire, c. 867 AD.

By 867, the empire had re-stabilised its position in both the east and the west, and the efficiency of its defensive military structure enabled its emperors to begin planning wars of reconquest in the east.

The process of reconquest began with variable fortunes. The temporary reconquest of Crete (843) was followed by a crushing Byzantine defeat on the Bosporus, while the emperors were unable to prevent the ongoing Muslim conquest of Sicily (827–902). Using present day Tunisia as their launching pad, the Muslims conquered Palermo in 831, Messina in 842, Enna in 859, Syracuse in 878, Catania in 900 and the final Byzantine stronghold, the fortress of Taormina, in 902.

These drawbacks were later counterbalanced by a victorious expedition against Damietta in Egypt (856), the defeat of the Emir of Melitene (863), the confirmation of the imperial authority over Dalmatia (867), and Basil I's offensives towards the Euphrates (870s). Unlike the deteriorating situation in Sicily, Basil I handled the situation in southern Italy well enough and the province would remain in Byzantine hands for the next 200 years.

The military successes of the tenth century were coupled with a major cultural revival, the so-called Macedonian Renaissance. Miniature from the Paris Psalter, an example of Hellenistic-influenced art.

In 904, disaster struck the empire when its second city, Thessaloniki, was sacked by an Arab fleet led by the Byzantine renegade Leo of Tripoli. The Byzantine military responded by destroying an Arab fleet in 908, and sacking the city of Laodicea in Syria two years later. Despite this revenge, the Byzantines were still unable to strike a decisive blow against the Muslims, who inflicted a crushing defeat on the imperial forces when they attempted to regain Crete in 911.

The situation on the border with the Arab territories remained fluid, with the Byzantines alternatively on the offensive or defensive. The Varangians, who attacked Constantinople for the first time in 860, constituted another new challenge. In 941 they appeared on the Asian shore of the Bosporus, but this time they were crushed, showing the improvements in the Byzantine military position after 907, when only diplomacy had been able to push back the invaders. The vanquisher of the Varangians was the famous general John Kourkouas, who continued the offensive with other noteworthy victories in Mesopotamia (943): these culminated in the reconquest of Edessa (944), which was especially celebrated for the return to Constantinople of the venerated Mandylion.

The soldier-emperors Nikephoros II Phokas (reigned 963–969) and John I Tzimiskes (969–976) expanded the empire well into Syria, defeating the emirs of north-west Iraq and reconquering Crete and Cyprus. At one point under John, the empire's armies even threatened Jerusalem, far to the south. The emirate of Aleppo and its neighbours became vassals of the empire in the east, where the greatest threat to the empire was the Fatimid caliphate.[51] After much campaigning, the last Arab threat to Byzantium was defeated when Basil II rapidly drew 40,000 mounted soldiers to relieve Roman Syria. With a surplus of resources and victories thanks to the Bulgar and Syrian campaigns, Basil II planned an expedition against Sicily to re-take it from the Arabs there. After his death in 1025, the expedition set off in the 1040s and was met with initial, but stunted success.

Wars against the Bulgarian Empire

Emperor Basil II the Bulgar Slayer (976–1025).

The traditional struggle with the See of Rome continued, spurred by the question of religious supremacy over the newly Christianized Bulgaria. This prompted an invasion by the powerful Tsar Simeon I in 894, but this was pushed back by the Byzantine diplomacy, which called on the help of the Hungarians. The Byzantines were in turn defeated, however, at the Battle of Bulgarophygon (896), and obliged to pay annual subsides to the Bulgarians. Later (912), Simeon even had the Byzantines grant him the crown of basileus (emperor) of Bulgaria and had the young emperor Constantine VII marry one of his daughters. When a revolt in Constantinople halted his dynastic project, he again invaded Thrace and conquered Adrianople.[51]

A great imperial expedition under Leo Phocas and Romanos Lekapenos ended again with a crushing Byzantine defeat at the Battle of Acheloos (917), and the following year the Bulgarians were free to ravage northern Greece as far as Corinth. Adrianople was captured again in 923 and in 924 a Bulgarian army laid siege to Constantinople. The situation in the Balkans improved only after Simeon's death in 927. In 968, Bulgaria was overrun by the Rus' under Sviatoslav I of Kiev, but three years later, the emperor John I Tzimiskes defeated the Rus' and re-incorporated eastern Bulgaria into the Empire.

The Empire under Basil II.

Bulgarian resistance revived under the rule of the Cometopuli dynasty, but the new emperor Basil II (reigned 976–1025) made the submission of the Bulgarians his primary goal. Basil's first expedition against Bulgaria however resulted in a humiliating defeat at the Gates of Trajan. For the next few years, the emperor would be preoccupied with internal revolts in Anatolia, while the Bulgarians expanded their realm in the Balkans. The war was to drag on for nearly twenty years. The Byzantine victories of Spercheios and Skopje decisively weakened the Bulgarian army, and in annual campaigns, Basil methodically reduced the Bulgarian strongholds. Eventually, at the Battle of Kleidion in 1014 the Bulgarians were completely defeated.[52] The Bulgarian army was captured, and it is said that 99 out of every 100 men were blinded, with the remaining hundredth man left with one eye so as to lead his compatriots home. When Tsar Samuil saw the broken remains of his once gallant army, he died of shock. By 1018, the last Bulgarian strongholds had surrendered, and the country became part of the Byzantine empire. This victory restored the Danube frontier, which had not been held since the days of the emperor Heraclius.[51]

Relations with the Kievan Rus'

Kievan Rus' under the walls of Constantinople (860).

Between 850 and 1100, the Empire developed a mixed relationship with a new state that emerged to the north across the Black Sea, that of the Kievan Rus'. This relationship would have long-lasting repercussions in the history of East Slavs. Byzantium quickly became the main trading and cultural partner for Kiev, but relations were not always friendly. The most serious conflict between the two powers was the war of 968–971 in Bulgaria, but several Rus' raiding expeditions against the Byzantine cities of the Black Sea coast and Constantinople itself are also recorded. Although most were repulsed, they were concluded by trade treaties that were generally favourable to the Rus'.

Rus'-Byzantine relations became closer following the marriage of the porphyrogenita Anna to Vladimir the Great, and the subsequent Christianization of the Rus': Byzantine priests, architects and artists were invited to work on numerous cathedrals and churches around Rus', expanding Byzantine cultural influence even further. Numerous Rus' served in the Byzantine army as mercenaries, most notably as the famous Varangian Guard.

The apex

The Byzantine Empire then stretched from Armenia in the east to Calabria in Southern Italy in the west.[51] Many successes had been achieved, ranging from the conquest of Bulgaria, to the annexation of parts of Georgia and Armenia, to the total annihilation of an invading force of Egyptians outside Antioch. Yet even these victories were not enough; Basil considered the continued Arab occupation of Sicily to be an outrage. Accordingly, he planned to reconquer the island, which had belonged to the Roman world since the First Punic War. However, his death in 1025 put an end to the project.[51]

The eleventh century was also momentous for its religious events. In 1054, relations between the Eastern and Western traditions within the Christian Church reached a terminal crisis. Although there was a formal declaration of institutional separation, on 16 July, when three papal legates entered the Hagia Sophia during Divine Liturgy on a Saturday afternoon and placed a bull of excommunication on the altar, the so-called Great Schism was actually the culmination of centuries of gradual separation.

Crisis and fragmentation

Byzantium soon fell into a period of difficulties, caused to a large extent by the undermining of the theme system and the neglect of the military. Nikephoros II (963–969), John Tzimiskes and Basil II changed the military divisions (τάγματα, tagmata) from a rapid response, primarily defensive, citizen army into a professional, campaigning army increasingly manned by mercenaries. Mercenaries, however, were expensive and as the threat of invasion receded in the tenth century, so did the need for maintaining large garrisons and expensive fortifications.[53] Basil II left a burgeoning treasury upon his death, but neglected to plan for his succession. None of his immediate successors had any particular military or political talent and the administration of the Empire increasingly fell into the hands of the civil service. Efforts to revive the Byzantine economy only resulted in inflation and a debased gold coinage. The army was now seen as both an unnecessary expense and a political threat. Therefore, native troops were cashiered and replaced by foreign mercenaries on specific contract.[54]

At the same time, the Empire was faced with new, ambitious enemies. Byzantine provinces in southern Italy faced the Normans, who arrived in Italy at the beginning of the eleventh century. During a period of strife between Constantinople and Rome which ended in the East-West Schism of 1054, the Normans began to advance, slowly but steadily, into Byzantine Italy.[55]

It was in Asia Minor, however, that the greatest disaster would take place. The Seljuq Turks made their first explorations across the Byzantine frontier into Armenia in 1065 and in 1067. The emergency lent weight to the military aristocracy in Anatolia who, in 1068, secured the election of one of their own, Romanos Diogenes, as emperor. In the summer of 1071, Romanos undertook a massive eastern campaign to draw the Seljuks into a general engagement with the Byzantine army. At Manzikert, Romanos not only suffered a surprise defeat at the hands of Sultan Alp Arslan, but was also captured. Alp Arslan treated him with respect, and imposed no harsh terms on the Byzantines.[54] In Constantinople, however, a coup took place in favor of Michael Doukas, who soon faced the opposition of Nikephoros Bryennios and Nikephoros Botaneiates. By 1081, the Seljuks expanded their rule over virtually the entire Anatolian plateau from Armenia in the east to Bithynia in the west and founded their capital at Nicaea, just 55 miles (88 km) from Constantinople.[56]

Komnenian dynasty and the crusaders

Alexios I and the First Crusade

The Byzantine Empire and the Sultanate of Rûm before the Crusades.

After Manzikert, a partial recovery (referred to as the Komnenian restoration) was made possible by the efforts of the Komnenian dynasty.[57] The first emperor of this dynasty was Isaac I (1057–1059) and the second Alexios I. At the very outset of his reign, Alexios faced a formidable attack by the Normans under Robert Guiscard and his son Bohemund of Taranto, who captured Dyrrhachium and Corfu, and laid siege to Larissa in Thessaly. Robert Guiscard's death in 1085 temporarily eased the Norman problem. The following year the Seljuq sultan died, and the sultanate was split by internal rivalries. By his own efforts, Alexios defeated the Pechenegs; they were caught by surprise and annihilated at the Battle of Levounion on 28 April 1091.[20]

Having achieved stability in the West, Alexios could turn his attention to the severe economic difficulties and the disintegration of the empire's traditional defences.[58] However, he still did not have enough manpower to recover the lost territories in Asia Minor and to advance against the Seljuks. At the Council of Piacenza in 1095, Alexios' envoys spoke to Pope Urban II about the suffering of the Christians of the East, and underscored that without help from the West they would continue to suffer under Muslim rule. Urban saw Alexios' request as a dual opportunity to cement Western Europe and enhance papal power.[59] On 27 November 1095, Pope Urban II called together the Council of Clermont, and urged all those present to take up arms under the sign of the Cross and launch an armed pilgrimage to recover Jerusalem and the East from the Muslims. The response in Western Europe was overwhelming.[20]

The very brief first coinage of the Thessaloniki mint, which Alexios opened as he passed through in September 1081 on his way to confront the invading Normans under Robert Guiscard.

Alexios had anticipated help in the form of mercenary forces from the West, but was totally unprepared for the immense and undisciplined force which soon arrived in Byzantine territory. It was no comfort to Alexios to learn that four of the eight leaders of the main body of the Crusade were Normans, among them Bohemund. Since the crusade had to pass through Constantinople, however, the Emperor had some control over it. He required its leaders to swear to restore to the empire any towns or territories they might conquer from the Turks on their way to the Holy Land. In return, he gave them guides and a military escort.[60] Alexios was able to recover a number of important cities and islands, and in fact much of western Asia Minor. Nevertheless, the crusaders believed their oaths were invalidated when Alexios did not help them during the siege of Antioch (he had in fact set out on the road to Antioch, but had been persuaded to turn back by Stephen of Blois, who assured him that all was lost and that the expedition had already failed).[61] Bohemund, who had set himself up as Prince of Antioch, briefly went to war with the Byzantines, but agreed to become Alexios' vassal under the Treaty of Devol in 1108, which marked the end of Norman threat during Alexios' reign.[62]

John II, Manuel I and the Second Crusade

Medieval manuscript depicting the Capture of Jerusalem during the First Crusade.

Alexios' son John II Komnenos succeeded him in 1118, and was to rule until 1143. John was a pious and dedicated emperor who was determined to undo the damage his empire had suffered at the Battle of Manzikert, half a century earlier.[63] Famed for his piety and his remarkably mild and just reign, John was an exceptional example of a moral ruler, at a time when cruelty was the norm.[64] For this reason, he has been called the Byzantine Marcus Aurelius. In the course of his twenty-five year reign, John made alliances with the Holy Roman Empire in the West, decisively defeated the Pechenegs at the Battle of Beroia,[65] and personally led numerous campaigns against the Turks in Asia Minor. John's campaigns fundamentally changed the balance of power in the east, forcing the Turks onto the defensive and restoring to the Byzantines many towns, fortresses and cities right across the peninsula.[66] He also thwarted Hungarian, and Serbian threats during the 1120s, and in 1130 allied himself with the German emperor Lothair III against the Norman King Roger II of Sicily.[67] In the later part of his reign, John focused his activities on the East. He defeated the Danishmend emirate of Melitene, and reconquered all of Cilicia, while forcing Raymond of Poitiers, Prince of Antioch, to recognize Byzantine suzerainty. In an effort to demonstrate the Byzantine emperor's role as the leader of the Christian world, John marched into the Holy Land at the head of the combined forces of Byzantium and the Crusader states; yet despite the great vigour with which he pressed the campaign, John's hopes were disappointed by the treachery of his Crusader allies.[68] In 1142 John returned to press his claims to Antioch, but he died in the spring of 1143 following a hunting accident. Raymond was emboldened to invade Cilicia, but he was defeated and forced to go to Constantinople to beg mercy from the new emperor.[69]

Byzantine Empire in purple, c.1180, at the end of the Komnenian period.

John's chosen heir was his fourth son, Manuel I Komnenos, who campaigned aggressively against his neighbours both in the west and in the east. In Palestine, he allied himself with the Crusader Kingdom of Jerusalem and sent a large fleet to participate in a combined invasion of Fatimid Egypt. Manuel reinforced his position as overlord of the Crusader states, with his hegemony over Antioch and Jerusalem secured by agreement with Raynald, Prince of Antioch, and Amalric, King of Jerusalem respectively.[70] In an effort to restore Byzantine control over the ports of southern Italy, he sent an expedition to Italy in 1155, but disputes within the coalition led to the eventual failure of the campaign. Despite this military setback, Manuel's armies successfully invaded the Kingdom of Hungary in 1167, defeating the Hungarians at the Battle of Sirmium. By 1168, nearly the whole of the eastern Adriatic coast lay in Manuel's hands.[71] Manuel made several alliances with the Pope and Western Christian kingdoms, and successfully handled the passage of the Second Crusade through his empire.[72]

In the east, however, Manuel suffered a major defeat at the Battle of Myriokephalon, in 1176, against the Turks. Yet the losses were quickly made good, and in the following year Manuel's forces inflicted a defeat upon a force of "picked Turks".[73] The Byzantine commander John Vatatzes, who destroyed the Turkish invaders at the Battle of Hyelion and Leimocheir, not only brought troops from the capital but also was able to gather an army along the way; a sign that the Byzantine army remained strong and that the defensive program of western Asia Minor was still successful.[74]

Twelfth century Renaissance

John and Manuel pursued active military policies, and both deployed considerable resources on sieges and on city defenses; aggressive fortification policies were at the heart of their imperial military policies.[75] Despite the defeat at Myriokephalon, the policies of Alexios, John and Manuel resulted in vast territorial gains, increased frontier stability in Asia Minor, and secured the stabilization of the empire's European frontiers. From c.1081 to c.1180, the Komnenian army assured the empire's security, enabling Byzantine civilization to flourish.[76]

This allowed the Western provinces to achieve an economic revival which continued until the close of the century. It has been argued that Byzantium under the Komnenian rule was more prosperous than at any time since the Persian invasions of the seventh century. During the twelfth century, population levels rose and extensive tracts of new agricultural land were brought into production. Archaeological evidence from both Europe and Asia Minor shows a considerable increase in the size of urban settlements, together with a notable upsurge in new towns. Trade was also flourishing; the Venetians, the Genoese and others opened up the ports of the Aegean to commerce, shipping goods from the Crusader kingdoms of Outremer and Fatimid Egypt to the west and trading with the Byzantine Empire via Constantinople.[77]

In artistic terms, there was a revival in mosaic, and regional schools of architecture began producing many distinctive styles that drew on a range of cultural influences.[78] During the twelfth century the Byzantines provided their model of early humanism as a renaissance of interest in classical authors. In Eustathius of Thessalonica Byzantine humanism found its most characteristic expression.[79]

Decline and disintegration

Dynasty of the Angeloi

Manuel's death on 24 September 1180 left his 11-year-old son Alexios II Komnenos on the throne. Alexios was highly incompetent at the office, but it was his mother, Maria of Antioch, and her Frankish background that made his regency unpopular.[80] Eventually, Andronikos I Komnenos, a grandson of Alexios I, launched a revolt against his younger relative and managed to overthrow him in a violent coup d'état. Utilizing his good looks and his immense popularity with the army, he marched on to Constantinople in August 1182, and incited a massacre of the Latins.[81] After eliminating his potential rivals, he had himself crowned as co-emperor in September 1183; he eliminated Alexios II and even took his 12-year-old wife Agnes of France for himself.[81]

Andronikos began his reign well; in particular, the measures he took to reform the government of the empire have been praised by historians. According to George Ostrogorsky, Andronikos was determined to root out corruption: Under his rule the sale of offices ceased; selection was based on merit, rather than favoritism; officials were paid an adequate salary so as to reduce the temptation of bribery. In the provinces Andronikos' reforms produced a speedy and marked improvement.[82] The aristocrats were infuriated against him, and to make matters worse, Andronikos seems to have become increasingly unbalanced; executions and violence became increasingly common, and his reign turned into a reign of terror.[83] Andronikos seemed almost to seek the extermination of the aristocracy as a whole. The struggle against the aristocracy turned into wholesale slaughter, while the emperor resorted to ever more ruthless measures to shore up his regime.[82]

Despite his military background, Andronikos failed to deal with Isaac Komnenos, Béla III who reincorporated Croatian territories into Hungary, and Stephen Nemanja of Serbia who declared his independence from Byzantium. Yet none of these troubles would compare to William II of Sicily's invasion force of 300 ships and 80,000 men, arriving in 1185.[84] Andronikos mobilized a small fleet of 100 ships to defend the capital but other than that he was indifferent to the populace. He was finally overthrown when Isaac Angelos, surviving an imperial assassination attempt, seized power with the aid of the people and had Andronikos killed.[85]

Iconium was won by the Third Crusade.

The reign of Isaac II, and, still more, that of his brother Alexios III, saw the collapse of what remained of the centralized machinery of Byzantine government and defense. Although, the Normans were driven out of Greece, in 1186 the Vlachs and Bulgars began a rebellion that was to lead to the formation of the Second Bulgarian Empire. The internal policy of the Angeloi was characterized by the squandering of the public treasure, and the fiscal maladministration. Byzantine authority was severely weakened, and the growing power vacuum at the center of the empire encouraged fragmentation. There is evidence that some Komnenian heirs had set up a semi-independent state in Trebizond before 1204.[86] According to Alexander Vasiliev, "the dynasty of the Angeloi, Greek in its origin, [...] accelerated the ruin of the Empire, already weakened without and disunited within."[87]

Fourth Crusade

The Entry of the Crusaders into Constantinople, by Eugène Delacroix (1840).

In 1198, Pope Innocent III broached the subject of a new crusade through legates and encyclical letters.[88] The stated intent of the crusade was to conquer Egypt, now the centre of Muslim power in the Levant. The crusader army that arrived at Venice in the summer of 1202 was somewhat smaller than had been anticipated, and there were not sufficient funds to pay the Venetians, whose fleet was hired by the crusaders to take them to Egypt. Venetian policy under the aging and blind but still ambitious Doge Enrico Dandolo was potentially at variance with that of the Pope and the crusaders, because Venice was closely related commercially with Egypt.[89] The crusaders accepted the suggestion that in lieu of payment they assist the Venetians in the capture of the (Christian) port of Zara in Dalmatia (vassal city of Venice, which had rebelled and placed itself under Hungary's protection in 1186).[90] The city fell in November 1202 after a brief siege.[91] Innocent, who was informed of the plan but his veto disregarded, was reluctant to jeopardize the Crusade, and gave conditional absolution to the crusaders—not, however, to the Venetians.[89]

After the death of Theobald III, Count of Champagne, the leadership of the Crusade passed to Boniface of Montferrat, a friend of the Hohenstaufen Philip of Swabia. Both Boniface and Philip had married into the Byzantine imperial family. In fact, Philip's brother-in-law, Alexios Angelos, son of the deposed and blinded emperor Isaac II Angelos, had appeared in Europe seeking aid and had made contacts with the crusaders. Alexios offered to reunite the Byzantine church with Rome, pay the crusaders 200,000 silver marks, and join the crusade with 200,000 silver marks and all the supplies they needed to get to Egypt.[92] Innocent was aware of a plan to divert the Crusade to Constantinople and forbade any attack on the city, but the papal letter arrived after the fleets had left Zara.

Map to show the partition of the empire following the Fourth Crusade, c. 1204.

The crusaders arrived at the city in the summer of 1203, Alexios III fled from the capital, and Alexios Angelos was elevated to the throne as Alexios IV along with his blind father Isaac. However, Alexios IV and Isaac II were unable to keep their promises and were deposed by Alexios V. Eventually, the crusaders took the city on 13 April 1204. Constantinople was subjected by the rank and file to pillage and massacre for three days. Many priceless icons, relics, and other objects later turned up in Western Europe, a large number in Venice. According to Choniates, a prostitute was even set up on the Patriarchal throne.[93] When Innocent III heard of the conduct of his crusaders, he castigated them in no uncertain terms. But the situation was beyond his control, especially after his legate, on his own initiative, had absolved the crusaders from their vow to proceed to the Holy Land.[51][89] When order had been restored, the crusaders and the Venetians proceeded to implement their agreement; Baldwin of Flanders was elected emperor and the Venetian Thomas Morosini chosen patriarch. The lands parcelled out among the leaders did not include all the former Byzantine possessions. The Byzantine rule continued in Nicaea, Trebizond, and Epirus.[89]

Fall

Empire in exile

After the sack of Constantinople in 1204 by Latin Crusaders, two Byzantine successor states were established: the Empire of Nicaea, and the Despotate of Epirus. A third one, the Empire of Trebizond was created a few weeks before the sack of Constantinople by Alexios I of Trebizond. Of these three successor states, Epirus and Nicaea stood the best chance of reclaiming Constantinople. The Nicaean Empire struggled, however, to survive the next few decades, and by the mid-thirteenth century it lost much of southern Anatolia.[94] The weakening of the Sultanate of Rûm following the Mongol Invasion in 1242–43 allowed many Beyliks and ghazis to set up their own principalities in Anatolia, weakening the Byzantine hold on Asia Minor.[95] In time, one of the Beys, Osman I, created an empire that would conquer Byzantium. However, the Mongol Invasion also gave Nicaea a temporary respite from Seljuk attacks allowing it to concentrate on the Latin Empire only north of its position.

Reconquest of Constantinople

The Byzantine Empire c. 1263

The Empire of Nicaea, founded by the Laskarid dynasty, managed to reclaim Constantinople from the Latins in 1261 and defeat Epirus. This led to a short-lived revival of Byzantine fortunes under Michael VIII Palaiologos, but the war-ravaged empire was ill-equipped to deal with the enemies that now surrounded it. In order to maintain his campaigns against the Latins, Michael pulled troops from Asia Minor, and levied crippling taxes on the peasantry, causing much resentment.[96] Massive construction projects were completed in Constantinople to repair the damages of the Fourth Crusade, but none of these initiatives was of any comfort to the farmers in Asia Minor, suffering raids from fanatical ghazis.

Rather than holding on to his possessions in Asia Minor, Michael chose to expand the Empire, gaining only short- term success. To avoid another sacking of the capital by the Latins, he forced the Church to submit to Rome, again a temporary solution for which the peasantry hated Michael and Constantinople.[97] The efforts of Andronikos II and later his grandson Andronikos III marked Byzantium's last genuine attempts in restoring the glory of the empire. However, the use of mercenaries by Andronikos II would often backfire, with the Catalan Company ravaging the countryside and increasing resentment towards Constantinople.[98]

Rise of the Ottomans and fall of Constantinople

The siege of Constantinople in 1453 according to a fifteenth century French miniature.

Things went worse for Byzantium during the civil wars that followed after Andronikos III died. A six-year long civil war devastated the empire, and an earthquake at Gallipoli in 1354 devastated the fort, allowing the Ottomans (who were hired as mercenaries during the civil war by John VI Kantakouzenos) to establish themselves in Europe.[99] By the time the Byzantine civil wars had ended, the Ottomans had defeated the Serbians and subjugated them as vassals. Following the Battle of Kosovo, much of the Balkans became dominated by the Ottomans.[100]

Eastern Mediterranean just before the fall of Constantinople.

The Emperors appealed to the west for help, but the Pope would only consider sending aid in return for a reunion of the Eastern Orthodox Church with the See of Rome. Church unity was considered, and occasionally accomplished by imperial decree, but the Orthodox citizenry and clergy intensely resented the authority of Rome and the Latin Rite.[101] Some western troops arrived to bolster the Christian defence of Constantinople, but most Western rulers, distracted by their own affairs, did nothing as the Ottomans picked apart the remaining Byzantine territories.[102]

Constantinople by this stage was underpopulated and dilapidated. The population of the city had collapsed so severely that it was now little more than a cluster of villages separated by fields. On 2 April 1453, Sultan Mehmed's army of some 80,000 men and large numbers of irregulars laid siege to the city.[103] Despite a desperate last-ditch defense of the city by the massively outnumbered Christian forces (c. 7,000 men, 2,000 of whom were foreign[102]), Constantinople finally fell to the Ottomans after a two-month siege on 29 May 1453. The last Byzantine emperor, Constantine XI Palaiologos, was last seen casting off his imperial regalia and throwing himself into hand-to-hand combat after the walls of the city were taken.[104]

Aftermath

Mehmed II went on to conquer the Greek statelets of Mistra in 1460 and Trebizond in 1461. The nephew of the last Emperor, Constantine XI, Andreas Palaeologos had inherited the defunct title of Byzantine Emperor and used it from 1465 until his death in 1503.[11] By the end of the fifteenth century, the Ottoman Empire had established its firm rule over Asia Minor and parts of the Balkan peninsula. Mehmed II and his successors continued to consider themselves proper heirs to the Byzantine Empire until the demise of the Ottoman Empire in the early twentieth century. Meanwhile, the Danubian Principalities harboured Orthodox refugees, including some Byzantine nobles.

At his death, the role of the emperor as a patron of Eastern Orthodoxy was claimed by Ivan III, Grand Duke of Muscovy. He had married Andreas' sister, Sophia Paleologue, whose grandson, Ivan IV, would become the first Tsar of Russia (tsar, or czar, meaning caesar, is a term traditionally applied by Slavs to the Byzantine Emperors). Their successors supported the idea that Moscow was the proper heir to Rome and Constantinople. The idea of the Russian Empire as the new, Third Rome was kept alive until its demise with the Russian Revolution of 1917.[105]

Culture

Economy

Window St Nicholas.jpg
Byzantine Culture
ArtArchitectureGardens
LiteratureMusic
Aristocracy &
Bureaucracy
Diplomacy
EconomyLaw
ArmyNavy
CalendarCoinageCuisine
DanceDress
MedicineScience

The Byzantine economy was among the most advanced in Europe and the Mediterranean for many centuries. Europe, in particular, was unable to match Byzantine economic strength until late in the Middle Ages. Constantinople was a prime hub in a trading network that at various times extended across nearly all of Eurasia and North Africa, in particular being the primary western terminus of the famous silk road. Some scholars argue that, up until the arrival of the Arabs in the seventh century, the Empire had the most powerful economy in the world. The Arab conquests, however, would represent a substantial reversal of fortunes contributing to a period of decline and stagnation. Constantine V's reforms (c. 765) marked the beginning of a revival that continued until 1204. From the tenth century until the end of the twelfth, the Byzantine Empire projected an image of luxury, and the travelers were impressed by the wealth accumulated in the capital. All this changed with the arrival of the Fourth Crusade, which was an economic catastrophe.[106] The Palaiologoi tried to revive the economy, but the late Byzantine state would not gain full control of either the foreign or domestic economic forces. Gradually, it also lost its influence on the modalities of trade and the price mechanisms, and its control over the outflow of precious metals and, according to some scholars, even over the minting of coins.[107]

One of the economic foundations of the empire was trade. Textiles must have been by far the most important item of export; silks were certainly imported into Egypt, and appeared also in Bulgaria, and the West.[108] The state strictly controlled both the internal and the international trade, and retained the monopoly of issuing coinage. The government exercised formal control over interest rates, and set the parameters for the activity of the guilds and corporations, in which it had a special interest. The emperor and his officials intervened at times of crisis to ensure the provisioning of the capital, and to keep down the price of cereals. Finally, the government often collected part of the surplus through taxation, and put it back into circulation, through redistribution in the form of salaries to state officials, or in the form of investment in public works.[109]

Science, medicine, law

The frontispiece of the Vienna Dioscurides, which shows a set of seven famous physicians.

The writings of Classical antiquity never ceased to be cultivated in Byzantium. Therefore, Byzantine science was in every period closely connected with ancient philosophy, and metaphysics.[110] Although at various times the Byzantines made magnificent achievements in the application of the sciences (notably in the construction of the Hagia Sophia), after the sixth century Byzantine scholars made few novel contributions to science in terms of developing new theories or extending the ideas of classical authors.[111] Scholarship particularly lagged during the dark years of plague and the Arab conquests, but then during the so-called Byzantine Renaissance at the end of the first millennium Byzantine scholars re-asserted themselves becoming experts in the scientific developments of the Arabs and Persians, particularly in astronomy and mathematics.[112]

In the final century of the Empire, Byzantine grammarians were those principally responsible for carrying, in person and in writing, ancient Greek grammatical and literary studies to early Renaissance Italy.[113] During this period, astronomy and other mathematical sciences were taught in Trebizond; medicine attracted the interest of almost all scholars.[114]

In the field of law, Justinian I's reforms had a clear effect on the evolution of jurisprudence, and Leo III's Ecloga influenced the formation of legal institutions in the Slav world.[115]

Religion

As a symbol and expression of the universal prestige of the Patriarchate of Constantinople, Justinian built the Church of the Holy Wisdom of God, Hagia Sophia, which was completed in the short period of four and a half years (532–537).

According to Joseph Raya, "Byzantine culture and Orthodoxy are one and the same."[116] The survival of the Empire in the East assured an active role of the Emperor in the affairs of the Church. The Byzantine state inherited from pagan times the administrative, and financial routine of administering religious affairs, and this routine was applied to the Christian Church. Following the pattern set by Eusebius of Caesarea, the Byzantines viewed the Emperor as a representative or messenger of Christ, responsible particularly for the propagation of Christianity among pagans, and for the "externals" of the religion, such as administration and finances. The imperial role, however, in the affairs of the Church never developed into a fixed, legally defined system.[117]

It is a popular misconception that Christianity was ever fully united or that even Christians in the Byzantine Empire were united throughout the Empire's history. The imperial Roman Church, what came to be known as the Eastern Orthodox Church, never represented all Christians in the Empire. Nestorianism, a view promoted the Nestorius, a fifth century Patriarch of Constantinople, split from the imperial Church leading to what is today the Assyrian Church of the East. In a greater schism during the sixth century the Oriental Orthodox churches split from the imperial Church over the declarations of the Council of Chalcedon. Aside from these communions, Arianism and other Christian sects existed in the early Empire, although by the time of Rome's fall in the fifth century Arianism was mostly confined to the Germanic peoples of Western Europe. By the Empire's late stages, though, Eastern Orthodoxy represented most Christians in what remained of the Empire. Jews were a significant minority in the Empire throughout its history. Despite periods of persecution, they were generally tolerated, if not always embraced, during most periods.

With the decline of Rome, and internal dissension in the other Eastern patriarchates, the church of Constantinople became, between the sixth and eleventh centuries, the richest and most influential center of Christendom.[118] Even when the Empire was reduced to only a shadow of its former self, the Church, as an institution, had never exercised so much influence both inside and outside of the imperial frontiers. As George Ostrogorsky points out:

The Patriarchate of Constantinople remained the center of the Orthodox world, with subordinate metropolitan sees and archbishoprics in the territory of Asia Minor and the Balkans, now lost to Byzantium, as well as in Caucasus, Russia and Lithuania. The Church remained the most stable element in the Byzantine Empire.[119]

Art and literature

Miniatures of the sixth century Rabula Gospel display the more abstract and symbolic nature of Byzantine art.

Byzantine art is almost entirely concerned with religious expression and, more specifically, with the impersonal translation of carefully controlled church theology into artistic terms. Byzantine forms were spread by trade and conquest to Italy and Sicily, where they persisted in modified form through the twelfth century, and became formative influences on Italian Renaissance art. By means of the expansion of the Eastern Orthodox church, Byzantine forms spread to eastern European centers, particularly Russia.[120] Influences from Byzantine architecture, particularly in religious buildings, can be found in diverse regions from Egypt and Arabia to Russia and Romania.

In Byzantine literature, therefore, four different cultural elements are to be reckoned with: the Greek, the Christian, the Roman, and the Oriental. Byzantine literature is often classified in five groups: historians and annalists, encyclopedists (Patriarch Photios, Michael Psellos, and Michael Choniates are regarded as the greatest encyclopedists of Byzantium) and essayists, and writers of secular poetry (The only genuine heroic epic of the Byzantines is the Digenis Acritas). The remaining two groups include the new literary species: ecclesiastical and theological literature, and popular poetry. Of the approximately two to three thousand volumes of Byzantine literature that survive, only three hundred and thirty consist of secular poetry, history, science and pseudo-science.[121] While the most flourishing period of the secular literature of Byzantium runs from the ninth to the twelfth century, its religious literature (sermons, liturgical books and poetry, theology, devotional treatises etc.) developed much earlier with Romanos the Melodist being its most prominent representative.[122]

Government and bureaucracy

The themes c. 650.
The themes c. 950.

In the Byzantine state, the emperor was the sole and absolute ruler, and his power was regarded as having divine origin.[11] By the end of the eighth century, a civil administration focused on the court was formed as part of a large-scale consolidation of power in the capital (the rise to pre-eminence of the position of sakellarios is related to this change).[123] The most important reform of this period is the creation of themes, where civil and military administration is exercised by one person, the strategos.[11]

Despite the occasionally derogatory use of the word "Byzantine", the Byzantine bureaucracy had a distinct ability for reinventing itself in accordance with the Empire's situation. The Byzantine system of titulature and precedence makes the imperial administration look like an ordered bureaucracy to modern observers. Officials were arranged in strict order around the emperor, and depended upon the imperial will for their ranks. There were also actual administrative jobs, but authority could be vested in individuals rather than offices.[124] In the eighth and ninth centuries, civil service constituted the clearest path to aristocratic status, but, starting in the ninth century, the civil aristocracy was rivaled by an aristocracy of nobility. According to some studies of Byzantine government, eleventh century politics were dominated by competition between the civil and the military aristocracy. During this period, Alexios I undertook important administrative reforms, including the creation of new courtly dignities and offices.[125]

Diplomacy

After the fall of Rome, the key challenge to the Empire was to maintain a set of relations between itself and its neighbors. When these nations set about forging formal political institutions, they often modeled themselves on Constantinople. Byzantine diplomacy soon managed to draw its neighbors into a network of international and inter-state relations.[126] This network revolved around treaty making, and included the welcoming of the new ruler into the family of kings, and the assimilation of Byzantine social attitudes, values and institutions.[127] Whereas classical writers are fond of making ethical and legal distinctions between peace and war, Byzantines regarded diplomacy as a form of war by other means.[128] For example, a Bulgar threat could be countered by providing money to the Kievian Rus.[128] The Bureau of Barbarians was the first foreign intelligence agency, gathering information on the empire's rivals from every imaginable source.[128]

Byzantines availed themselves of a number of diplomatic practices. For example, embassies to the capital would often stay on for years. A member of other royal houses would routinely be requested to stay on in Constantinople, not only as a potential hostage, but also as a useful pawn in case political conditions where he came from changed. Another key practice was to overwhelm visitors by sumptuous displays.[126] According to Dimitri Obolensky, the preservation of civilization in Eastern Europe was due to the skill and resourcefulness of Byzantine diplomacy, which remains one of Byzantium's lasting contributions to the history of Europe.[129]

Language

The Mudil Psalter, the oldest complete psalter in the Coptic language (Coptic Museum, Egypt, Coptic Cairo).

The original language of the government of the Empire, which owed its origins to Rome, had been Latin and this continued to be its official language until the seventh century AD when it was effectively changed to Greek by Heraclius. Scholarly Latin would rapidly fall into disuse among the educated classes although the language would continue to be at least a ceremonial part of the Empire's culture for some time.[130] Additionally, Vulgar Latin continued to be a minority language in the Empire, and among the Thraco-Roman populations it gave birth to the (Proto-)Romanian language.[131] Likewise, on the coast of the Adriatic Sea, another neo-Latin vernacular developed, which would later give rise to the Dalmatian language. In the Western Mediterranean provinces temporarily acquired under the reign of Justinian I, Latin continued to be used both as a spoken language and the language of scholarship.

Apart from the Imperial court, administration and military, the primary language used in the eastern Roman provinces even before the decline of the Western Empire had always been Greek, having been spoken in the region for centuries before Latin.[132] Indeed early on in the life of the Roman Empire, Greek had become the common language in the Christian Church, the language of scholarship and the arts, and, to a large degree, the lingua franca for trade between provinces and with other nations.[133] The language itself for a time gained a dual nature with the primary spoken language, Koine, existing alongside an older literary language with Koine eventually evolving into the standard dialect.[134]

Many other languages existed in the multi-ethnic Empire as well, and some of these were given limited official status in their provinces at various times. Notably, by the beginning of the Middle Ages, Syriac and Aramaic had become more widely used by the educated classes in the far eastern provinces.[135] Similarly Coptic, Armenian, and Georgian became significant among the educated in their provinces,[136] and later foreign contacts made the Slavonic, Vlach, and Arabic languages important in the Empire and its sphere of influence.[137]

Aside from these, since Constantinople was a prime trading center in the Mediterranean region and beyond, virtually every known language of the Middle Ages was spoken in the Empire at some time, even Chinese.[138] As the Empire entered its final decline the Empire's citizens became more culturally homogeneous and the Greek language became integral to their identity and their religion.[139]

Legacy

King David in robes of a Byzantine Emperor. Miniature from the Paris Psalter.

As the only stable long-term state in Europe during the Middle Ages, Byzantium isolated Western Europe from newly emerging forces to the East. Constantly under attack, it distanced Western Europe from Persians, Arabs, Seljuk Turks, and for a time, the Ottomans. The Byzantine-Arab Wars, for example, are recognized by some historians as being a key factor behind the rise of Charlemagne,[140] and a huge stimulus to feudalism and economic self-sufficiency.

For centuries, western historians used the terms Byzantine and Byzantinism as bywords for decadence, duplicitous politics and complex bureaucracy, and there was a strongly negative assessment of Byzantine civilization and its legacy in Southeastern Europe.[141] Byzantinism in general was defined as a body of religious, political, and philosophical ideas which ran contrary to those of the West.[142] The twentieth and twenty-first centuries, however, have seen attempts by historians in the West to understand the Empire in a more balanced and accurate fashion including its influences on the West, and as a result the complex character of Byzantine culture has received more attention and a more objective treatment than previously.[142]

See also

Lists:

Annotations

  1. ^ The first instance of the designation "New Rome" in an official document is found in the canons of the First Council of Constantinople (381), where it is used to justify the claim that the patriarchal seat of Constantinople is second only to that of Rome.[2]
  2. ^ Romania (or Rhōmanía) was a popular name of the empire[4] used unofficially, meaning "land of the Romans". It does not refer to modern Romania.
  3. ^ "Imperium Graecorum", "Graecia", "Yunastan", etc, other western names used were "the empire of Constantinople" (imperium Constantinopolitanum) and "the empire of Romania" (imperium Romaniae)

Notes

  1. ^ a b Kazhdan 1991, p. 344.
  2. ^ Benz 1963, p. 176.
  3. ^ Fox, What, If Anything, Is a Byzantine?.
  4. ^ Fossier & Sondheimer 1997, p. 104.
  5. ^ Nation and Liberty: the Byzantine Example
  6. ^ Cinnamus 1976, p. 240.
  7. ^ Ahrweiler & Laiou 1998, p. 3; Mango 2002, p. 13.
  8. ^ Gabriel 2002, p. 277.
  9. ^ Ahrweiler & Laiou 1998, p. vii; Davies 1996, p. 245; Moravcsik 1970, pp. 11–12; Lapidge, Blair & Keynes 1998, p. 79; Winnifrith & Murray 1983, p. 113; Gross 1999, p. 45; Hidryma Meletōn Chersonēsou tou Haimou 1973, p. 331.
  10. ^ Franks, Romans, Feudalism and Doctrine.
  11. ^ a b c d "Hellas, Byzantium". Encyclopaedia The Helios. .
  12. ^ Tarasov 2004, p. 121.
  13. ^ El-Cheikh 2004, p. 22.
  14. ^ a b Bury 1923, p. 1.
  15. ^ Gibbon (1906), Part II Chapter 14: 200.
  16. ^ Eusebius, IV, lxii.
  17. ^ Gibbon 1906, III, 168 PDF (2.35 MB).
  18. ^ a b Esler 2004, p. 1081.
  19. ^ Bury 1923, p. 63.
  20. ^ a b c d e f g "Byzantine Empire". Encyclopædia Britannica. .
  21. ^ Nathan, Theodosius II (408–450 AD)
  22. ^ Treadgold 1995, p. 193.
  23. ^ Alemany 2000, p. 207; Treadgold 1997, p. 184.
  24. ^ Grierson 1999, p. 17.
  25. ^ "Byzantine Empire". Encyclopædia Britannica. ; Evans, Justinian (AD 527–565).
  26. ^ a b c Evans, Justinian (AD 527–565)
  27. ^ Bury 1923, 180–216.
  28. ^ Bury 1923, 236–258
  29. ^ Bury 1923, 259–281
  30. ^ Bury 1923, 286–288
  31. ^ Vasiliev, The Legislative Work of Justinian and Tribonian.
  32. ^ Bray 2004, pp. 19–47; Haldon 1990, pp. 110–111; Treadgold 1997, pp. 196–197.
  33. ^ Foss 1975, p. 722.
  34. ^ Haldon 1990, p. 41; Speck 1984, p. 178.
  35. ^ Haldon 1990, pp. 42–43.
  36. ^ Grabar 1984, p. 37; Cameron 1979, p. 23.
  37. ^ Cameron 1979, pp. 5–6, 20–22.
  38. ^ Haldon 1990, p. 46; Baynes 1912, passim; Speck 1984, p. 178.
  39. ^ Foss 1975, pp. 746–47.
  40. ^ Haldon 1990, p. 50.
  41. ^ Haldon 1990, pp. 61–62.
  42. ^ Haldon 1990, pp. 102–114.
  43. ^ Haldon 1990, pp. 208–215; Kaegi 2003, pp. 236, 283.
  44. ^ Haldon 1990, pp. 43–45, 66, 114–115.
  45. ^ Haldon 1990, pp. 66–67.
  46. ^ Haldon 1990, p. 71.
  47. ^ Haldon 1990, pp. 70–78, 169–171; Haldon 2004, pp. 216–217; Kountoura-Galake 1996, pp. 62–75.
  48. ^ "Byzantine Empire". Encyclopædia Britannica. ; "Hellas, Byzantium". Encyclopaedia The Helios. 
  49. ^ Garland 1999, p. 89.
  50. ^ Parry 1996, pp. 11–15.
  51. ^ a b c d e f Norwich 1998.
  52. ^ Angold 1997.
  53. ^ Treadgold 1997, pp. 548–549.
  54. ^ a b Markham, The Battle of Manzikert.
  55. ^ Vasiliev, Relations with Italy and Western Europe.
  56. ^ "Byzantine Empire". Encyclopædia Britannica. 2002. ; Markham, The Battle of Manzikert.
  57. ^ Magdalino 2002, p. 124.
  58. ^ Birkenmeier 2002.
  59. ^ Harris 2003; Read 2000, p. 124; Watson 1993, p. 12.
  60. ^ Komnene 1928, X, 261.
  61. ^ Anna Komnene, XI, 291
  62. ^ Anna Komnene, XIII, 348–358; Birkenmeier 2002, p. 46.
  63. ^ Norwich 1998, p. 267.
  64. ^ Ostrogorsky 1969, p. 377.
  65. ^ Birkenmeier 2002, p. 90.
  66. ^ Stone, John II Komnenos
  67. ^ "John II Komnenos". Encyclopædia Britannica. 
  68. ^ Harris 2003, p. 84.
  69. ^ Brooke 2008, p. 326.
  70. ^ Magdalino 2002, p. 74; Stone, Manuel I Comnenus.
  71. ^ Sedlar 1994, p. 372.
  72. ^ Magdalino 2002, p. 67.
  73. ^ Birkenmeier 2002, p. 128.
  74. ^ Birkenmeier 2002, p. 196.
  75. ^ Birkenmeier 2002, pp. 185–186.
  76. ^ Birkenmeier 2002, p. 1.
  77. ^ Day 1977, pp. 289–290; Harvey 2003.
  78. ^ Diehl, Byzantine Art
  79. ^ Tatakes & Moutafakis 2003, p. 110.
  80. ^ Norwich 1998, p. 291.
  81. ^ a b Norwich 1998, p. 292.
  82. ^ a b Ostrogorsky 1969, p. 397.
  83. ^ Harris 2003, p. 118.
  84. ^ Norwich 1998, p. 293.
  85. ^ Norwich 1998, pp. 294–295.
  86. ^ Angold 1997; Paparrigopoulos & Karolidis 1925, p. 216.
  87. ^ Vasiliev, Foreign Policy of the Angeloi.
  88. ^ Norwich 1998, p. 299.
  89. ^ a b c d "The Fourth Crusade and the Latin Empire of Constantinople". Encyclopædia Britannica. 
  90. ^ Britannica Concise, 9383275/Siege-of-Zara Siege of Zara.
  91. ^ Geoffrey of Villehardouin 1963, p. 46.
  92. ^ Norwich 1998, p. 301.
  93. ^ Choniates, The Sack of Constantinople.
  94. ^ Kean 2006; Madden 2005, p. 162; Lowe-Baker, The Seljuks of Rum.
  95. ^ Lowe-Baker, The Seljuks of Rum.
  96. ^ Madden 2005, p. 179; Reinert 2002, p. 260.
  97. ^ Reinert 2002, p. 257.
  98. ^ Reinert 2002, p. 261.
  99. ^ Reinert 2002, p. 268.
  100. ^ Reinert 2002, p. 270.
  101. ^ Runciman 1990, pp. 71–72.
  102. ^ a b Runciman 1990, pp. 84–85.
  103. ^ Runciman 1990, pp. 84–86.
  104. ^ Hindley 2004, p. 300.
  105. ^ Seton-Watson 1967, p. 31.
  106. ^ Magdalino 2002, p. 532, [1].
  107. ^ Matschke 2002, pp. 805–806, [2].
  108. ^ Laiou 2002, p. 723, [3].
  109. ^ Laiou 2002, pp. 3–4, [4].
  110. ^ Anastos 1962, p. 409.
  111. ^ Cohen 1994, p. 395; Dickson, Mathematics Through the Middle Ages.
  112. ^ King 1991, pp. 116–118.
  113. ^ Robins 1993, p. 8.
  114. ^ Tatakes & Moutafakis 2003, p. 189.
  115. ^ Troianos & Velissaropoulou-Karakosta 1997, p. 340.
  116. ^ Raya, The Byzantine Church and Culture.
  117. ^ Meyendorff 1982, p. 13.
  118. ^ Meyendorff 1982, p. 19.
  119. ^ Meyendorff 1982, p. 130.
  120. ^ "Byzantine Art". Encyclopædia Britannica. 
  121. ^ Mango 2005, pp. 233–234.
  122. ^ "Byzantine Literature". Catholic Encyclopedia. http://www.newadvent.org/cathen/03113a.htm. 
  123. ^ Louth 2005, p. 291; Neville 2004, p. 7.
  124. ^ Neville 2004, p. 34.
  125. ^ Neville 2004, p. 13.
  126. ^ a b Neumann 2006, pp. 869–871.
  127. ^ Chrysos 1992, p. 35.
  128. ^ a b c Antonucci 1993, pp. 11–13.
  129. ^ Obolensky 1994, p. 3.
  130. ^ Apostolides 1992, pp. 25–26; Wroth 1908, Introduction, section 6
  131. ^ Sedlar 1994, pp. 403–440.
  132. ^ Millar 2006, p. 279
  133. ^ Bryce 1901, p. 59; McDonnell 2006, p. 77; Millar 2006, pp. 97–98.
  134. ^ Greek Language, Encyclopædia Britannica
  135. ^ Beaton 1996, p. 10; Jones 1986, p. 991; Versteegh 1977, Chapter 1.
  136. ^ Campbell 2000, p. 40; Hacikyan et al. 2002, Part 1.
  137. ^ Baynes 1907, p. 289; Gutas 1998, Chapter 7, Section 4; Shopen 1987, p. 129.
  138. ^ Beckwith 1986, p. 171; Halsall 2006.
  139. ^ Kaldellis 2008, Chapter 6; Nicol 1993, Chapter 5.
  140. ^ Pirenne, Henri
    • Mediaeval Cities: Their Origins and the Rivival of Trade (Princeton, New Jersey, 1925). ISBN 0691007608
    • See also Mohammed and Charlemagne (London 1939) Dover Publications (2001). ISBN 0-486-42011-6.
  141. ^ Angelov 2001, p. 1.
  142. ^ a b Angelov 2001, pp. 7–8.

References

Primary sources

Secondary sources

Further reading

  • Ahrweiler, Helene (2000). Les Europeens. Paris: Herman. 
  • Haldon, John (2001). The Byzantine Wars: Battles and Campaigns of the Byzantine Era. Stroud: Tempus Publishing. ISBN 0752417959. 
  • Hussey, J. M. (1966). The Cambridge Medieval History, Volume IV — The Byzantine Empire Part I, Byzantium and its Neighbors. Cambridge University Press. 
  • Runciman, Steven (1966). Byzantine Civilisation. Edward Arnold (Publishers). ISBN 1566195748. 
  • Runciman, Steven (1990). The Emperor Romanus Lecapenus and his Reign. University Press (Cambridge). 
  • Toynbee, Arnold J. (1972). Constantine Porphyrogenitus and His World. Oxford University Press. ISBN 019215253X. 

External links

Byzantine studies, resources and bibliography

Miscellaneous


Wiktionary

Up to date as of January 15, 2010

Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary

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Proper noun

Byzantine Empire

  1. An ancient Greek-speaking empire of Eastern Europe, capital Constantinople, ended in 1453.

Translations

Map of the changes in borders of the Byzantine Empire

Bible wiki

Up to date as of January 23, 2010

From BibleWiki

The ancient Roman Empire having been divided into two parts, an Eastern and a Western, the Eastern remained subject to successors of Constantine, whose capital was at Byzantium or Constantinople. The term Byzantine is therefore employed to designate this Eastern survival of the ancient Roman Empire. The subject will be here treated under the following divisions:

I. Byzantine Civilization; II. Dynastic History.

The latter division of the article will be subdivided into six heads in chronological order.

I. BYZANTINE CIVILIZATION

At the distance of many centuries and thousands of miles, the civilization of the Byzantine Empire presents an appearance of unity. Examined at closer range, however, firstly the geographical content of the empire resolves itself into various local and national divisions, and secondly the growth of the people in civilization reveals several clearly distinguishable periods. Taking root on Eastern soil, flanked on all sides by the most widely dissimilar peoples — Orientals, Finnic-Ugrians and Slavs — some of them dangerous neighbours just beyond the border, others settled on Byzantine territory, the empire was loosely connected on the west with the other half of the old Roman Empire. And so the development of Byzantine civilization resulted from three influences: the first Alexandrian-Hellenic, a native product, the second Roman, the third Oriental.

  • The first period of the empire, which embraces the dynasties of Theodosius, Leo I, Justinian, and Tiberius, is politically still under Roman influence.
  • In the second period the dynasty of Heraclius in conflict with Islam, succeeds in creating a distinctively Byzantine State.
  • The third period, that of the Syrian (Isaurian) emperors and of Iconoclasm, is marked by the attempt to avoid the struggle with Islam by completely orientalizing the land.
  • The fourth period exhibits a happy equilibrium. The Armenian dynasty, which was Macedonian by origin, was able to extend its sway east and west, and there were indications that the zenith of Byzantine power was close at hand.
  • In the fifth period the centrifugal forces, which had long been at work, produced their inevitable effect, the aristocracy of birth, which had been forming in all parts of the empire, and gaining political influence, at last achieved its firm establishment on the throne with the dynasties of the Comneni and Angeli.
  • The sixth period is that of decline; the capture of Constantinople by the Crusaders had disrupted the empire into several new political units; even after the restoration, the empire of the Palaeologi is only one member of this group of states. The expansion of the power of the Osmanli Turks prepares the annihilation of the Byzantine Empire.

Geographically and ethnographically, the Roman Empire was never a unit. In the western section comprising Italy and the adjacent islands, Spain, and Africa, the Latin language and Latin culture were predominant. Of these territories, only Africa, Sicily, and certain parts of Italy were ever under Byzantine control for any length of time. To the southeast, the Coptic and Syriac and, if the name is permitted, the Palestinian nation assumed growing importance and finally, under the leadership of the Arabs, broke the bonds that held it to the empire. In the East proper (Asia Minor and Armenia) lay the heart of the empire. In the southeast of Asia Minor and on the southern spurs of the Armenian mountains the population was Syrian. The Armenian settlements extended from their native mountains far into Asia Minor, and even into Europe. Armenian colonies are found on Mount Ida in Asia Minor, in Thrace, and Macedonia. The coast lands of Asia Minor are thoroughly Greek. The European part of the empire was the scene of an ethnographic evolution. From ancient times the mountains of Epirus and Illyria had been inhabited by Albanians, from the beginning of the fifteenth century they spread over what is now Greece, down towards southern Italy and Sicily. Since the days of the Roman power, the Rumanians (or Wallachians) had established themselves on both sides as well of the Balkan as of the Pindus mountains. This people was divided into two parts by the invasion of the Finnic-Ugrian Bulgars, and the expansion of the Slavs. They lived as wandering shepherds, in summer on the mountains, in winter on the plains. In the fifth century the Slavs began to spread over the Balkan Peninsula. At the beginning of the eighth century Cynuria in the eastern part of the Peloponnesus, was called a "Slavic land". A reaction, however, which set in towards the end of the eighth century, resulted in the total extermination of the Slavs in southern Thessaly and central Greece, and left but few in the Peloponnesus. On the other hand, the northern part of the Balkan Peninsula remained open to Slavic inroads. Here the Bulgars gradually became incorporated with the Slavs, and spread from Haemus far to the west, and into southern Macedonia. The valleys of the Vardar and the Morava offered the Serbs tempting means of access to the Byzantine Empire. After the Greeks and Armenians, the Slavs have exercised most influence on the inner configuration of the empire. The Greeks of the islands best preserved their national characteristics. Moreover, they settled in compact groups in the capital of the empire, and on all the coast lands even to those of the Black Sea. They gained ground by hellenizing the Slavs, and by emigrating to Sicily and lower Italy.

In point of civilization, the Greeks were the predominant race in the empire. From the second half of the sixth century, Latin had ceased to be the language of the Government. The legislation eventually became thoroughly Greek, both in language and spirit. Beside the Greeks, only the Armenians had developed a civilization of their own. The Slavs, it is true, had acquired a significant influence over the internal and external affairs of the empire, but had not established a Slavic civilization on Byzantine soil, and the dream of a Roman Empire under Slavic rule remained a mere fantasy.

In the breaking of the empire on ethnographic lines of cleavage, it was an important feat that at least the Greeks were more solidly united than in former centuries. The dialects of ancient Greece had for the most part disappeared, and the Koiné of the Hellenic period formed a point of departure for new dialects, as well as the basis of a literary language which was preserved with incredible tenacity and gained the ascendancy in literature as well as in official usage. Another movement, in the sixth century, was directed towards a general and literary revival of the language, and, this having gradually spent itself without any lasting results, the dialects unfortunately, became the occasion of a further split in the nation. As the later literary language, with its classic tendencies, was stiff and unwieldy, as well as unsuited to meet all the exigencies of a colloquial language, it perforce helped to widen the breach between the literary and the humbler classes the latter having already begun to use the new dialects. The social schism which had rent the nation, since the establishment of a distinctively Byzantine landed interest and the rise of a provincial nobility, was aggravated by the prevalence of the literary language among the governing classes, civil and ecclesiastical. Even the western invasion could not close this breach; on the contrary, while it confirmed the influence of the popular tongue as such, it left the social structure of the nation untouched. The linguistic division of the Greek nation thus begun has persisted down to the present time.

The Middle Ages never created a great centralized economic system. The lack of a highly organized apparatus of transportation for goods in large quantities made each district a separate economic unit. This difficulty was not overcome even by a coastline naturally favourable for navigation, since the earring capacity of medieval vessels was too small to make them important factors in the problem of freight-transportation as we now apprehend it. Even less effectual were the means of conveyance employed on the roads of the empire. These roads, it is true, were a splendid legacy from the old Roman Empire, and were not yet in the dilapidated state to which they were later reduced under the Turkish domination. Even today, for example, there are remains of the Via Egnatia, connecting Constantinople with the Adriatic Sea through Thessalonica, and of the great military roads through Asia Minor, from Chalcedon past Nicomedia, Ancyra and Caesarea, to Armenia, as well as of that from Nicaea through Dorylaeum and Iconium to Tarsus and Antioch. These roads were of supreme importance for the transportation of troops and the conveyance of dispatches; but for the interchange of goods of any bulk, they were out of the question. The inland commerce of Byzantium, like most medieval commerce was confined generally to such commodities, of not excessive weight, as could be packed into a small space, and would represent great values, both intrinsically and on account of their importation from a distance — such as gems, jewelry, rich textiles and furs, aromatic spices, and drugs. But food stuffs, such as cereals, fresh vegetables, wine oil, dried meat, as well as dried fish and fruits, could be conveyed any distance only by water. Indeed, a grave problem presented itself in the provisioning of the capital, the population of which approached probably, that of a great modern city. It is now known that Alexandria at first supplied Constantinople with grain, under State supervision. After the loss of Egypt, Thrace and the lands of Pontus were drawn upon for supplies. Of the establishment of an economic centre however for all parts of the empire, of a centralized system of trade routes radiating from Constantinople, there was no conception. Moreover, Byzantine commerce strange to say, shows a marked tendency to develop in a sense opposite to this ideal. At first there was great commercial activity; the Byzantines offered to India Persia, and Central and Eastern Asia a channel of communication with the West. Various districts of the empire strove to promote the export of industrial articles, Syria and Egypt, in particular, upholding their ancient positions as industrial sections of importance, their activity expressing itself chiefly in weaving and dyeing and the manufacture of metals and glass. The Slavonic invasion, moreover, had not entirely extinguished the industrial talents of the Greeks. In the tenth and eleventh centuries weaving, embroidery, and the fabrication of carpets were of considerable importance at Thebes and Patrae. In the capital itself, with government aid in the form of a monopoly, a new industrial enterprise was organized which confined itself chiefly to shipbuilding and the manufacture of arms in the imperial arsenals but also took up the preparation of silk fabrics. The Byzantines themselves, in the earlier periods, carried these wares to the West. There they enjoyed a commercial supremacy for which their only rivals were the Arabs and which is most clearly evidenced by the universal currency of the Byzantine gold solidus. Gradually, however, a change came about: the empire lost its maritime character and at last became almost exclusively territorial, as appears in the decline of the imperial navy. At the time of the Arabian conflicts it was the navy that did the best work, at a later period, however, it was counted inferior to the land forces. Similarly there was a transformation in the mental attitude and the occupations of the people. The Greek merchant allowed himself to be crowded out in his own country by his Italian rival. The population even of an island so well adapted for maritime pursuits as Crete seemed, in the twelfth and thirteenth centuries, veritably afraid of the water. What wrought this change is still an unsolved problem. Here too, possibly, the provincial aristocracy showed its effects, through the extension of its power over the inhabitants of the country districts and its increasing influence on the imperial Government.

The decline of the Byzantine Empire is strikingly exhibited in the depreciation of currency during the reigns of the Comneni. At that period the gold solidus lost its high currency value and its commercial pre-eminence It is noteworthy that at the same time we perceive the beginnings of large finance (Geldwirtschaft). For at an earlier period the Byzantine Empire, like the states of Western Europe, appears to have followed the system of barter, or exchange of commodities in kind. Nevertheless, as ground-rents were already paid in money during the Comneni period, some uncertainty remains as to whether the beginnings of finance and of capital as a distinct power in the civilized world, should be sought in Byzantium or rather in the highly developed fiscal system of the Roman Curia and the mercantile activity of Italian seaports.

It will be seen from all this that the development of the Byzantine Empire was by no means uniform in point either of time or of place. Why is it then that the word Byzantine conveys a definite and self consistent idea? Was there not something which through all those centuries remained characteristic of Byzantines in contrast with the neighbouring peoples? To this it must be replied that such was certainly the ease, and that the difference lay, first of all, in the more advanced civilization of Byzantium. Many small but significant details are recorded — as early as the sixth century Constantinople had a system of street-lighting; sports, equestrian games or polo-playing, and above all races in the circus attained a high national and political importance; Byzantine princesses married to Venetians introduced the use of table forks in the West. More striking are the facts that as early as the eighth and ninth centuries, the Byzantines, in their wars with the Arabs, used gunpowder — the so-called Greek fire — and that a German emperor like Otto III preferred to be a Roman of Byzantium rather than a German. This Byzantine civilization, it is true suffered from a serious and incurable disease, a worm gnawing at its core — the utter absence of originality. But here again, we should beware of unwarranted generalization. A change in this respect is to be noted from age to age, in the first centuries, before the complete severing of the political and ecclesiastical ties uniting them with the Eastern nations the Greek mind still retained its gift of receptivity, and ancient Greek art traditions, in combination with Persian, Syrian, and other Oriental motives, produced the original plan of the true Byzantine church — a type which left its impression on architecture, sculpture painting, and the minor arts. And yet so complete was the isolation of the empire, separated from other nations by the character of its government, the strictness of its court etiquette, the refinement of its material civilization, and, not least, by the peculiar development of the national Church, that a kind of numbness crept over both the language and the intellectual life of the people. The nations of the West were indeed barbarians in comparison with the cultured Byzantines, but the West had something for the lack of which no learning, no technical skill could compensate — the creative force of an imagination in harmony with the laws of nature.

As to the share which Byzantine ecclesiastical development had in this isolation, it must be conceded that the constitution of the Eastern Church was rather imperial than universal. Its administration was seriously influenced by the polities of the empire the boundaries of the empire bounded the Church's aspirations and activities. In the West, the obliteration of those boundaries by the Germanic peoples and the outburst of vigorous missionary activity on all sides furthered very notably the idea of a universal Church, embracing all nations, and unfettered by political or territorial limits. In the East the development was quite different. Here, indeed, missionary work met with considerable success. From the Syrian and Egyptian Church sprang the Ethiopian, the Indian, the Mesopotamian, and the Armenian Churches. Constantinople sent apostles to the Slavonic and Finnic-Ugrian races. Still, these Oriental Churches show, from the very beginning, a peculiar national structure. Whether this was a legacy from the ancient Eastern religions, or whether it was the reaction against Greek civilization which had been imposed upon the people of the Orient from the time of Alexander the Great, the adoption of Christianity went hand in hand with nationalism. Opposed to this nationalism in many important respects was the Greek imperial Church. Precisely because it was only an imperial Church, it had not yet grasped the concept of a universal Church. As the imperial Church, constituting a department of the state-administration, its opposition to the national Churches among the Oriental peoples was always very emphatic. Thus it is that the dogmatic disputes of these Churches are above all, expressions of politico-national struggles. In the course of these contests Egypt, and Syria, and finally Armenia also were lost to the Greek Church. The Byzantine imperial Church at last found itself almost exclusively confined to the Greek nation and its subjects. In the end it became, in its own turn, a national Church, and definitively severed all bonds of rite and dogma linking it with the West. The schism between the Eastern and Western Churches thus reveals a fundamental opposition of viewpoints: the mutually antagonistic ideas of the universal Church and of independent national churches — an antagonism which both caused the schism and constitutes the insurmountable impediment to reunion.

DYNASTIC HISTORY

1A. Roman Period: Dynasties of Theodocius and Leo I (A.D. 395-518)

A glance at the above genealogies shows that the law governing the succession in the Roman Empire persisted in the Byzantine. On one hand, a certain law of descent is observed: the fact of belonging to the reigning house, whether by birth or marriage, gives a strong claim to the throne. On the other hand, the people is not entirely excluded as a political factor. The popular co-operation in the government was not regulated by set forms. The high civil and military officials took part in the enthronement of a new monarch, often by means of a palace or military revolution. Legally, the people participated in the government only through the Church. From the time of Marcianus, the Byzantine emperors were crowned by the Patriarchs of Constantinople.

Of the emperors of this period, Arcadius (395-408) and Theodosius II (408-50) received the throne by right of inheritance. The old senator Marcanius (450-57) came to the throne through his marriage with the sister of Theodosius II, Pulcheria who for years previously had been an inmate of a convent. The Thracian Leo I the Great (457-74), owed his power to Aspar the Alan, Magister Militum per Orientem, who, as an Arian, was debarred from the imperial dignity, and who therefore installed the orthodox Leo. Leo, it is true, soon became refractory, and in 471 Aspar was executed by imperial command. On Leo's death the throne was transmitted through his daughter Ariadne, who had been united in marriage to the leader of the Isaurian bodyguard, and had a son by him, Leo II. The sudden death of Leo, however, after he had raised his father to the rank of coregent placed the reins of power in the hands of Zeno (474-91), who was obliged to defend his authority against repeated insurrections. All these movements were instigated by his mother-in-law, Verina, who first proclaimed her brother Basiliscus emperor, and later Leontius, the leader of the Thraecian army. Victory, however, rested with Zeno, at whose death Ariadne once more decided the succession by bestowing her hand on Anastasius Silentiarius (491-518) who had risen through the grades of the civil service.

This brief résumé shows the important part played by women in the imperial history of Byzantium. Nor was female influence restricted to the imperial family. The development of Roman law exhibits a growing realization of woman's importance in the family and society. Theodora, whose greatness is not eclipsed by that of her celebrated consort, Justinian, is a typical example of the solicitude of a woman of high station for the interests of the lowliest and the most unworthy of her sisters — from whose ranks perhaps she herself had risen. Byzantine civilization produced a succession of typical women of middle class who are a proof, first, of the high esteem in which women were held in social life and, secondly, of the sacredness of family life, which even now distinguishes the Greek people. To this same tendency is probably to be ascribed the suppression by Anastasius of the bloody exhibitions of the circus called venationes. We must not forget, however, that under the successor of Anastasius, Justin, the so-called circus factions kept bears for spectacles in the circus, and the Empress Theodora was the daughter of a bear-baiter. Still the fact remains that cultured circles at that time began to deplore this gruesome amusement, and that the venationes, and with them the political significance of the circus, disappeared in the course of Byzantine history.

One may be amazed at the assertion that the Byzantine was humane, and refined in feeling, even to the point of sensitiveness. Too many bloody crimes stain the pages of Byzantine history — not as extraordinary occurrences but as regularly established institutions. Blinding, mutilation, and death by torture had their place in the Byzantine penal system. In the Middle Ages such horrors were not, it is true, unknown in Western Europe, and yet the fierce crusaders thought the Byzantines exquisitely cruel. In reading the history of this people, one has to accustom oneself to a Janus-like national character — genuine Christian self-sacrifice, unworldliness, and spirituality, side by side with avarice, cunning, and the refinement of cruelty. It is, indeed, easy to detect this idiosyncrasy in both the ancient and the modern Greeks. Greek cruelty, however, may have been aggravated by the circumstances that savage races not only remained as foes on the frontier, but often became incorporated in the body politic, only veiling their barbaric origin under a thin cloak of Hellenism. The whole of Byzantine history is the record of struggles between a civilized state and wild, or half-civilized, neighbouring tribes. Again and again was the Byzantine Empire de facto reduced to the limits of the capital city, which Anastasius had transformed into an unrivaled fortress; and often, too, was the victory over its foes gained by troops before whose ferocity its own citizens trembled.

Twice in the period just considered, Byzantium was on the point of falling into the hands of the Goths:

  • first, when, under the Emperor Arcadius, shortly after Alaric the Visigoth had pillaged Greece, the German Gainas, being in control of Constantinople simultaneously stirred up the East Goths and the Gruthungi, who had settled in Phrygia,
  • a second time, when the East Goths, before their withdrawal to Italy, threatened Constantinople. These deliverances may not have been entirely fortunate. There are differences in natural endowments among races; the history of the Goths in Spain, Southern France and Italy shows that they should not be classed with the savage Huns and Isaurians, and a strong admixture of Germanic blood would perhaps have so benefited the Greek nation as to have averted its moral and political paralysis. But this was not to be expected of the Hunnic and Isaurian races, the latter including, probably, tribes of Kurds in the Taurus ranges in the southeast of Asia Minor. It can only be considered fortunate that success so long crowned the efforts to ward off the Huns, who, from 412 to 451, when their power was broken at Châlons, had been a serious menace to the imperial frontiers. More dangerous still were the Isaurians, inhabitants of imperial territory, and the principal source from which the guards of the capital were recruited. The Emperor Zeno was an Isaurian, as was likewise his adversary, Illus, Magister Officiorum who, in league with Verina mother of the empress, plotted his downfall; and while these intrigues were in progress the citizens of Constantinople were already taking sides against the Isaurian bodyguard, having recourse even to a general massacre to free themselves from their hated oppressors. But it was the Emperor Anastasius who first succeeded in removing these praetorians from the capital, and in subjugating the inhabitants of the Isaurian mountains (493) after a six years' war.

The same period is marked by the beginning of the Slavic and Bulgar migrations. The fact has already been mentioned that these races gradually possessed themselves of the whole Balkan Peninsula the Slavs meanwhile absorbing the Finnic-Ugrian Bulgars. The admixture of Greek blood, which was denied the Germanic races, was reserved for the Slavs. To how great a degree this mingling of races took place, will never be exactly ascertained. On the other hand, the extent of Slavic influence on the interior developments of the Byzantine Empire, especially on that of the landed interests, is one of the great unsolved questions of Byzantine history. In all these struggles, the Byzantine polity shows itself the genuine heir of the ancient Roman Empire. The same is true of the contest over the eastern boundary, the centuries of strife with the Persians. In this contest the Byzantine Greeks now found allies. The Persians had never given up their native fire-worship, Mazdeism. Whenever a border nation was converted to Christianity, it joined the Byzantine alliance. The Persians, realizing this, sought to neutralize the Greek influence by favouring the various sects in turn. To this motive is to be attributed the favour they showed to the Nestorians who at last became the recognized representatives of Christianity in the Persian Empire. To meet this policy of their adversaries, the Greeks for a long time favoured the Syrian Monophysites, bitter enemies of the Nestorians. Upon this motive, the Emperor Zeno closed the Nestorian school at Edessa, in 489 and it was a part of the same policy that induced the successors of Constantine the Great to support the leaders of the Christian clerical party, the Mamikonians, in opposition to the Mazdeistic nobility. Theodosius II resumed this policy after his grandfather, Theodosius the Great, had, by a treaty with Persia (387), sacrificed the greater part of Armenia. Only Karin in the valley of the Western Euphrates, thence forth called Theodosiopolis, then remained a Roman possession. Theodosius II initiated a different policy. He encouraged, as far as lay in his power, the diffusion of Christianity in Armenia, invited Mesrob and Sahak, the founders of Armenian Christian literature into Roman territory, and gave them pecuniary assistance for the prosecution of the work they had undertaken, of translating Holy Scripture into Armenian. Anastasius followed the same shrewd policy. On the one hand, he carried on a relentless war with the Persians (502-06) and, on the other hand, lost no opportunity of encouraging the Monophysite sect which was then predominant in Egypt, Syria and Armenia. It is true that he met with great difficulties from the irreconcilable factions, as had those of his predecessors who had followed the policy of religious indifference in dealing with the sects. The Eastern Churches in these centuries were torn by theological controversies so fierce as to have been with good reason compared with the sixteenth century disputes of Western Christendom. All the warring elements of the period — national, local, economic, social, even personal — group themselves around the prevalent theological questions, so that it is practically impossible to say, in any given case, whether the dominant motives of the parties to the quarrel were spiritual or temporal. In all this hurlyburly of beliefs and parties three historical points have to be kept clearly before the mind, in order to understand the further development of the empire:

  • first, the decline of Alexandrian power,
  • secondly, the determination of the mutual relations of Rome and Constantinople;
  • thirdly, the triumph of the civil over the ecclesiastical authority. Theodosius I was called the Great because he was the first emperor to act against heathenism, and also because he contributed to the victory of the followers of Athanasius over the Arians. This victory redounded to the advantage of the Patriarch of Alexandria. Strange as it seems at the present day, everything pointed to the supremacy of the orthodox Patriarch of Egypt, whose proud title (Papa et patriarcha Alexandriae, etc.) is now the only reminder that its bearer was once in a fair way to become the spiritual rival of Constantinople. Such, however, was the case, and the common object of preventing this formed a bond between Rome and Constantinople. It was some time, it is true, before the two powers recognized this community of interests. St. John Chrysostom, as Patriarch of Constantinople had already felt the superior power of his Alexandrian colleague. At the Synod of the Oak held on the Asiatic shore opposite the capital, Chrysostom was deposed — through the collusion of the palace with the intrigues of Theophilus, Patriarch of Alexandria although the people soon compelled his recall to the patriarchal see, and it was only as the result of fresh complications that he was permanently removed (404). Nestorius, one of his successors, fared even worse. At that time Alexandria was ruled by Cyril, nephew of Theophilus, and the equal of his uncle and predecessor both in intellectual and in political talents. Nestorius had declared himself against the new and, as he asserted, idolatrous expression "Mother of God" (Theotokos), thereby opposing the sentiments and wishes of the humbler people. Cyril determined to use this opportunity to promote the further exaltation of Alexandria at the expense of Constantinople. At the Third Ecumenical Council of Ephesus (431), Cyril received the hearty support of Pope Celestine's representatives. Moreover, the Syrians, who were opponents of Alexandria, did not champion Nestorius energetically. The Patriarch of Constantinople proved the weaker and ended his life in exile. It now seemed as though Alexandria had gained her object. At the Second Council of Ephesus (the "Robber Council" of 449) Dioscorus, Patriarch of Alexandria, had already been hailed by a bishop of Asia Minor as "Ecumenical Archbishop", when the energetic policy of Pope Leo I, the Great, and the death of the Emperor Theodosius II brought about a change in the trend of affairs. Marcian, the new emperor, came to an understanding with Leo; a reconciliation had already been effected with Rome through the drawing up of a confession of faith, which was presented to the Synod of Chalcedon, the so-called Fourth Ecumenical Council (451). Viewed from the standpoint of Old Rome the result was most successful Dioscorus of Alexandria was deposed and exiled, and the danger of an all-powerful Alexandrian patriarch was averted. The Patriarch of New Rome — Constantinople — could also be satisfied. The solution of the question was less advantageous to the Byzantine Empire. When the Greeks entered into communion with the Western Church, the reaction of the Egyptians, Syrians, and other Oriental peoples was all the more pronounced. "Anti-Chalcedonians" was the term appropriated by everyone in Asia who took sides against the Greek imperial Church, and the outcome of the whole affair demonstrated once more the impossibility of a compromise between the ideal of a universal, and that of a national Church.

The second point, the rivalry between Constantinople and Rome, can be discussed more briefly. Naturally, Rome had the advantage in every respect. But for the division of the empire the whole question would never have arisen. But Theodosius I, as early as the Second Ecumenical Council of Constantinople (381), had the decision made that New Rome should take precedence immediately after old Rome. This was the first expression of the theory that Constantinople should be supreme among the Churches of the East. The first to attempt to translate this thought into action was John. As he undertook the campaign against Alexandria, so he was also able to bring the still independent Church of Asia Minor under the authority of Constantinople. On a missionary journey he made the See of Ephesus, founded by St. John the Apostle, a suffragan of his patriarchate. We can now understand why the war against the Alexandrians was prosecuted with such bitterness. The defeat of Alexandria at the Council of Chalcedon established the supremacy of Constantinople. To be sure, this supremacy was only theoretical, as it is a matter of history that from this time forward the Oriental Churches assumed a hostile attitude towards the Byzantine imperial Church. As for Rome, protests had already been made at Chalcedon against the twenty-first canon of the Eighth General Council which set forth the spiritual precedence of Constantinople. This protest was maintained until the capture of Constantinople by the crusaders put an end to the pretensions of the Greek Church. Pope Innocent III (1215) confirmed the grant to the Patriarch of Constantinople of the place of honour after Rome.

We now come to the third point: the contest between ecclesiastical and civil authority. In this particular, also, the defeat of Alexandria was signal. Since the decrees of the Council of Chalcedon it had been decided that in the East (it was otherwise in the West) the old Roman custom, by which the emperor had the final decision in ecclesiastical matters, should continue. That was the end of the matter at Byzantium, and we need not be surprised to find that before long dogmatic disputes were decided by arbitrary imperial decrees, that laymen princes, and men who had held high state offices were promoted to ecclesiastical offices, and that spiritual affairs were treated as a department of the Government. But it must not be supposed that the Byzantine Church was therefore silenced. The popular will found a means of asserting itself most emphatically, concurrently with the official administration of ecclesiastical affairs. The monks in particular showed the greatest fearlessness in opposing their ecclesiastical superiors as well as the civil authority.

1B. Dynasties of Justinian and Tiberius (518-610)

This period saw the reigns of two renowned and influential Byzantine empresses. As the world once held its breath at the quarrel between Eudoxia, the wanton wife of the Emperor Arcadius, and the great patriarch, John Chrysostom, and at the rivalry of the sisters-in-law, Pulcheria and Athenais-Eudocia, the latter the daughter of an Athenian philosopher, so Theodora, the dancer of the Byzantine circus, and her niece Sophia succeeded in obtaining extraordinary influence by reason of their genius, wit, and political cleverness. Theodora died of cancer (548), seventeen years before her husband. No serious discord ever marred this singular union, from which, however, there was no issue. The death of this remarkable woman proved an irreparable loss to her consort, who grieved profoundly for her during the remainder of his life. Her niece, Sophia, who approached her in ambition and political cunning, though not in intellect, had a less fortunate ending. Her life was darkened by a bitter disappointment. With the help of Tiberius commander of the palace guard, a Thracian famed for his personal attractions, she placed on the throne her husband, Justin II (565-78), who suffered from temporary attacks of insanity. Soon Sophia and Tiberius became the real rulers of the empire. In 574 the empress succeeded in inducing her husband to adopt Tiberius as Caesar and coregent. The death of Justin (578), however, did not bring about the hoped-for consummation of her relations with Tiberius. Tiberius II (578-82) had a wife in his native village, and now for the first time presented her in the capital. After his accession to the throne, he revered the Empress Sophia as a mother, and even when the disappointed woman began to place obstacles in his path, he was forbearing, and treated her with respect while keeping her a prisoner.

The dynasty of Justin originated in Illyria. At the death of the Emperor Anastasius, Justin I (518-27), like his successor Tiberius, commander of the palace guard, by shrewdly availing himself of his opportunities succeeded in seizing the reins of power. Even during the reign of Justin, Justinian, his nephew, and heir-presumptive to the throne, played an important role in affairs. He was by nature peculiar and slow. Unlike his uncle, he had received an excellent education. He might justly be called a scholar; at the same time he was a man of boundless activity. As absolute monarch, like Philip II of Spain, he developed an almost incredible capacity for work. He endeavoured to master all the departments of civil life, to gather in his hands all the reins of government. The number of rescripts drawn up by Justinian is enormous. They deal with all subjects, though towards the end by preference with dogmatic questions, as the emperor fancied that he could put an end to religious quarrels by means of bureaucratic regulations. He certainly took his vocation seriously. On sleepless nights he was frequently seen pacing his apartments absorbed in thought. His whole concept of life was serious to the point of being pedantic. We might therefore wonder that such a man should choose as his consort a woman of the demi monde. No doubt Procopius, "a chamberlain removed from the atmosphere of the court, unheeded and venomous in his sullen old age", is not veracious in all his statements concerning the previous life of Theodora. It is certain, however, that a daughter was born to her before she became acquainted with the crown prince, and it is equally certain that before she married the pedantic monarch, she had led a dissolute life. However she filled her new role admirably. Her subsequent faultless, her influence great, but not obtrusive. Her extravagance and vindictiveness — for she had enemies, among them John the Cappadocian the great financial minister so indispensable to Justinian — may well have cost the emperor many an uneasy hour, but there was never any lasting breach.

Theodora, after captivating the Crown-Prince Justinian by her genius and witty conversation, proved herself worthy of her position at the critical moment. It was in the year 532, five years after Justinian's accession. Once more the people of Constantinople, through its circus factions, sought to oppose the despotic rule then beginning. It resulted in the frightful uprising which had taken its name from the well-known watchword of the circus parties: Nika "Conquer". In the palace everything was given up for lost, and himself, the heroic chief of the mercenaries, advised flight. At this crisis Theodora saved the empire for her husband by her words: "The purple is a good winding-sheet". The Government was firm; the opposing party weakened, the circus factions were shorn of their political influence and the despotic government of Justinian remained assured for the future.

It is well known what the reign of Justinian (527-65) meant for the external and internal development of the empire. The boundaries of the empire were extended, Africa was reconquered for a century and a half, all Italy for some decades. The Byzantine power was established, for a time, even in some cities of the Spanish coast. Less successful were his Eastern wars. Under Justin and the aged Kavadh, war with Persia had again broken out. On the accession of the great Chosroes I, Nushirvan (531-79), in spite of the peace of 532, which Justinian hoped would secure for him liberty of action in the West, Chosroes allowed him no respite. Syria suffered terribly from pillaging incursions, Lazistan (the ancient Colchis) was taken by the Persians and a road thereby opened to the Black Sea. Only after the Greeks resumed the war more vigorously (549) did they succeed in recapturing Lazistan, and in 562 peace was concluded.

Nevertheless the Persian War was transmitted as an unwelcome legacy to the successors of Justinian. In 571 strife broke out anew in Christian Armenia owing to the activity of the Mazdeistic Persians. While the Romans gained many brilliant victories their opponents also obtained a few important successes. Suddenly affairs took an unexpected turn. Hormizdas, the son and successor of Chosroes I (579-90), lost both life and crown in an uprising. His son, Chosroes II, Parvez (590-628), took refuge with the Romans. Mauritius, who was then emperor (582-602) received the fugitive and by the campaign of 591 reestablished him on the throne of his fathers. Thus the relations of the empire with the Persians seemed at last peaceful. Soon, however Mauritius himself was deposed and murdered on the occasion of a military sedition. The centurion Phocas (602-10) seized the helm of the Byzantine state. Chosroes, ostensibly to avenge his friend, the murdered emperor, forthwith resumed the offensive. The administration of Phocas proved thoroughly inefficient. The empire seemed to swerve out of its old grooves, the energetic action of some patriots, however, under the leadership of nobles high in the Government, and the call of Heraclius, saved the situation, and after a fearful conflict with the powers of the East, lasting over a hundred years, Byzantium rose again to renewed splendour.

It is a noteworthy feet that Lombard and Syrian chroniclers call the Emperor Mauritius the first "Greek" emperor. The transformation of the Roman State, with Latin as the official language, into a Greek State had become manifest. During the reign of Mauritius the rest of Justinian's conquests in Italy and Africa were placed under the civil administration of military governors or exarchs. This is symptomatic. The separation of civil and military power, which had been inaugurated in the happier and more peaceful days at the end of the third century, had outlived its usefulness. During the period of the Arabian conflicts under the Heraclean dynasty, the old Roman system of combining civil and military power was established in a new form. The commander of a thema (regiment) was charged with the supervision of the civil authorities in his military district. The old diocesan and provincial divisions disappeared, and military departments became administrative districts.

It is manifest that Justinian's policy of restoration ended in a miserable failure. The time for a Roman Empire in the old sense of the term, with the old administrative system, was past. It is unfortunate that the rivers of blood which brought destruction upon two Germanic states, the robber Vandals and the noble East Goths, and the enormous financial sacrifice of the eastern half of the empire had no better outcome. If despite all this, the name of Justinian is inscribed in brilliant letters in the annals of the world's history, it is owing to other achievements: his codification of the laws and his enterprise as a builder. It was the fortune of this emperor to be contemporary with the artistic movement which, rising in Persia, gained the ascendancy in Syria and spread over Asia Minor and thence to Constantinople and the West. It was the merit of Justinian that he furnished the pecuniary means, often enormous for the realization of these artistic aspirations. His fame will endure so long as Saint Sophia at Constantinople endures, and so long as hundreds of pilgrims annually visit the churches of Ravenna. This is not the place to enumerate the architectural achievements of Justinian, ecclesiastical and secular, bridges, forts, and palaces. Nor shall we dwell upon his measures against the last vestiges of heathenism, or his suppression of the University of Athens (529). On the other hand, there is one phase of his activity as a ruler to which reference must be made here, and which was the necessary counterpart of his policy of conquest in the West and issued in as great a failure. The Emperors Zeno and Anastasius had sought remedies for the difficulties raised by the Council of Chalcedon. It was Zeno who commissioned Acacius the great Patriarch of Constantinople — the first, perhaps, who took the title of Ecumenical Patriarch — to draft the formula of union known as the "Henoticon" (482). This formula cleverly evaded the Chalcedon decisions, and made it possible for the Monophysites to return to the imperial Church. But the gain on one side proved a loss on the other. Under existing conditions, it did not matter much that Rome protested, and again and again demanded the erasure of the name of Acacius from the diptychs. It was much more important that the capital and Europe as well as the chief Greek cities, showed hostility to the Henoticon. The Greeks, moreover, were attached to their national Church, and they regarded the decrees of Chalcedon as an expression of their national creed. The Emperor Anastasius was a Monophysite by conviction and his religious policy irritated the West. At last, when he installed in the patriarchal See of Constantinople Timotheus, an uncompromising Monophysite, and at the Synod of Tyre had the decrees of Chalcedon condemned, and the Henoticon solemnly confirmed, a tumult arose at the capital, and later in the Danubian provinces, headed by Vitalian, a Moesian Anastasius died (518), and, under Justin I, Vitalian, who had received from Anastasius the appointment as magister militum per Thraciam, remained all-powerful. He acted throughout as the enemy of the Monophysites and the champion of Chalcedonian orthodoxy. He urged the union with Rome, which must render the breach with the Eastern Churches final. This union was consummated in 519; the conditions were the removal of the name of Acacius from the diptychs, and the banishment of over fifty bishops of Asia Minor and Syria who were opposed to the Chalcedonian decrees. A year later the government of Justin rid itself of the too powerful Vitalian by having him assassinated. The union with Rome, however, was not disturbed. When, in the year 525, Pope John I appeared in Constantinople on a mission from the Ostrogoth King Theodoric, he celebrated High Mass in Latin and took precedence before the ecumenical patriarch. We know that at the time Justinian was the actual ruler; it may be conjectured what motive inspired him to allow this. His plan for the conquest of the West made it desirable for him to win the papacy over to his side, and consummate the ecclesiastical union with the Latins. These views he held throughout his reign. Theodora, however, thought otherwise. She became the protectress of the Monophysites. Egypt owed to her its years of respite; under her protection Syria ventured to reestablish its Anti-Chalcedonian Church she encouraged the Monophysite missions in Arabia Nubia, and Abyssinia. The empress did not even hesitate to receive the heads of the Monophysite opposition party in her palace, and when, in 536 Anthimus, Patriarch of Constantinople, was, at the instance of Pope Agapetus, deposed for his Asiatic propensities, she received the fugitive into the women's apartments, where he was discovered at the death of the empress (548). He had spent twelve years within the walls of the imperial palace under the protection of the Augusta. There are reasons to suspect that Justinian did not altogether disapprove of his consort's policy. It was but a half-way attempt to win over the Monophysites. Could they indeed, ever be won over?

The spectacle of this emperor wearing out his life in the vain effort to restore the unity of the empire, in faith, law, and custom is like the development of a tragedy; his endeavours only tended to widen the breach between those nations which most needed each other's support — those of the Balkan Peninsula and of Asia Minor, Syria, and Egypt. With all his dogmatic experiments the emperor did not succeed in reconciling the parties or devising a feasible method of bringing the parts of the empire to co-operate with one another. His successors had no better success Even the conciliatory measures of John the Faster, Patriarch of the capital (582-95), were of no avail. The conquest of the East by the Arabs, in the seventh century brought a cessation of this movement towards the differentiation of the East into separate nations — a cessation which, to be sure, involved for most of the Syrian and Egyptian Christians the loss of their faith.

2. Founding of the Real Byzantine State (610-717)

Salvation from the Arab peril came through the energetic dynasty of Heraclius, which flourished for five generations. Three of the rulers were characterized by extraordinary will power and striking intellectual ability: Heraclius (610-41), Constans (642-68), and Constantine, called Pogonatus, or the Bearded (668-85). The year 685 marks the beginning of the dynastic decline. Justinian II (685-95, and 705-11) had inherited the excellent qualities of his ancestors but grotesquely distorted; he had the instincts of a sultan, with a touch of Caesarian madness. Whence it came about that in 695 he was deposed. His nose was cut off — whence the name Rhinotmetus — and he was banished to Cherson. There he formed an alliance with the Khan of the Khazars, whose son-in-law he became, and fled in a fishing boat over the Black Sea to the mouths of the Danube. The Bulgarians had dwelt in this region since about 679. In 705, aided by an army of Slavs and Bulgarians, Rhinotmetus returned to Constantinople, and the Bulgarian prince received the name of Caesar as a reward for the help he had rendered. For the next six years the emperor's vengeance was wreaked on all who had been his adversaries. At last, while hastening to Cherson, where Philippicus Bardanes, an Armenian officer, had been proclaimed emperor, Rhinotmetus was slain near Damatrys in Asia Minor.

The first dethronement of Justinian, in 695, had been accomplished by an officer named Leontius who reigned from then until 698, and it was in this period that the Arabs succeeded in gaining possession of almost all Roman Africa, including Carthage. The Byzantine fleet which had been sent to oppose this invasion revolted, while off the coast of Crete, and raised the admiral, Apsimarus, to the purple under the title of Tiberius III (698-705). The reign of Tiberius was not unsuccessful but in 705 Justinian returned, and both Tiberius and Leontius (who had meantime been living in a monastery) were beheaded. Philippicus the Armenian, following upon the second reign of Rhinotmetus, favoured the religious principles of his Armenian countrymen, and the people of Byzantium raised to the throne in his stead Anastasius II (713-15), an able civilian official who restored the orthodox faith. But when he attempted to check the insubordination of the army, which had made three emperors since 695, the troops of the Opsikion thema (from the territory of the Troad as far as Nicaea) proclaimed as emperor the unwilling Theodosius (715-17), an obscure official of one of the provinces. At the same time the Caliph Suleiman was equipping a vast armament to ravage the frontier provinces. Thus the empire which the army, under the great military emperors, Heraclius Constans, and Constantine, had saved from the threatened invasion of the Arabs, seemed fated to be brought to destruction by the selfsame army. But the army was better than the events of the preceding twenty-two years might seem to indicate. Leo and Artavasdus, commanders, respectively, of the two most important themata, the Anatolic and the Armenian, combined forces. Theodosius voluntarily abdicated and again the throne of Constantine was occupied by a great Byzantine ruler, fitted by nature for his position, Leo of Germanicia (now Marash) in Northern Syria.

This brief review of the various rulers suffices to show that the diseased mentality of Justinian II brought to an end the prosperous period of the Heraclean dynasty. The attempt has been made to prove that this prince inherited an unsound mind, and to discover corresponding symptoms of insanity in his ancestors. This much is certain: that a strength of will carried at times to the point of foolhardiness and incorrigible obstinacy and a propensity to the despotic exercise of power distinguish the whole dynasty. Even Heraclius, by a personal inclination to which he clung in defiance of reason and against the remonstrances of his well-wishers, placed the peace of the State and the perpetuation of his dynasty in serious peril. This was his passion for his niece Martina, whom he married after the death of his first wife in defiance of all the warnings of the great Patriarch Sergius. Martina is the only woman of any political importance during these warlike times. Her character distinguished by a consuming ambition, and her influence may have increased when, after the loss of Syria to the Arabs, Heraclius, becoming afflicted with an internal disease, fell into a state of lethargy. On the death of her husband (641) she sought to obtain the supreme power for her own son Heracleonas to the prejudice of her step-son Constantine. The army recognized both princes as sovereign, a state of things which contained the germ of further complications. Fortunately Constantine who had long been ailing, died a few weeks after his father, and the army, ignoring Martina and Heracleonas, placed Constans, the son of Constantine, on the throne. Thus it was that the almost uninterrupted succession of the three emperors, Heraclius, Constans, and Constantine IV, Pogonatus came about.

As has been repeatedly observed, the activity of these rulers was concentrated on the Herculean task of defending the empire against the foreign foes that were bearing down on it from all sides. Fortunately the Avars, who from the time of Justinian had been bought off with an annual tribute, but who as lately as 623 and 626 had besieged Constantinople, were gradually hemmed in by the onrushing Slavs and Bulgarians upon the Hungarian lowlands, and thereby removed from immediate contact with the Byzantine Empire. All the more persistent, however, were the attacks of the Slavic races. During the time of Heraclius the Croats and Serbs established themselves in their present homes. The Roman cities of Dalmatia had difficulty in defending themselves. Presently the Slavs took to the sea, and by 623 they had pushed their way as far as Crete. Still their visits were only occasional they made no permanent settlements on the islands, and on the mainland the larger cities escaped subjection to Slavic influence was attacked again and again most seriously in 675, but was saved each time by the heroism of her citizens. The Slavs, fortunately, were still split into different tribes, so that they could be held in check by timely expeditions, such as that which Constans had made near Thessalonica. It was otherwise with the Bulgarians. In 635 Heraclius concluded an alliance with their prince, Kuvrat, so as to use them in opposing the Avars and Slavs. However, there soon arose in the territory between the Danube and the Balkan Peninsula, under the leadership of the Bulgarians a state composed of Slavonic and Finnic-Ugrian elements. Their organization differed widely from that of the Serbs and Croats, who were held together by no political bond. In 679 the Emperor Constantine Pogonatus suffered a serious defeat at the hands of the Bulgarians; by 695 things had come to such a pass that Justinian II reconquered Constantinople through Bulgarian assistance. In later centuries the Bulgarian State became Byzantium's most dangerous European foe.

But at this period its most formidable enemies were its neighbours, the Persians. It will be recalled how Anastasius and Justinian I had fought with this nation, and how, in the peace of 562, Lazistan at least had been held as a guarantee of Byzantine supremacy over the trade routes to Central Asia. The twenty years' war (571-91) brought many vicissitudes. At last the Emperor Mauritius obtained possession of Dara and Martyropolis, in Syria, as well as the greater part of Armenia. Nisibis, however, remained Persian. So far, an important advantage had been gained for Byzantium. But the assassination of Mauritius effected a marked change. Chosroes II, Parvez, commenced war against the usurper Phocas which he continued against his successor, Heraclius. In 606 Dara fell, and in 608 the Persians appeared for the first time before Chalcedon. In 611 they captured Antioch and the eastern part of Asia Minor in 613 Damascus, and in 614 Jerusalem. The True Cross fell into their hands and was carried off to Persia. In 615 a Persian army stood before Chalcedon for the second time. In 619 they conquered Ancyra in Asia Minor, and even Egypt. Heraclius saved himself splendidly from this terrible situation. In three daring campaigns (622-28) he freed Armenia from her oppressors By the peace of 628 Armenia and Syria were recovered. On 14 September, 629, the True Cross, restored by the Persians, was again set up in Jerusalem, and in 629 Egypt likewise was wrested from the Persians. Then came the fearful reverses consequent on the Arab rising; in 635 Damascus fell; in 637 Jerusalem was surrendered by the Patriarch Sophronius, after a siege of two years. At first (634) Heraclius himself came to Antioch to organize the campaign, then followed the lethargy due to his sickness, and he supinely allowed the Arabs to advance. At his death (641) Egypt was virtually lost; on 29 September, 643, Amru entered Alexandria, in 647 the province of Africa, and in 697 its capital, Carthage, fell into the hands of the Arabs. Meanwhile the Arabs had built a navy, and soon the war raged on all sides. They had taken Cyprus in 648; in 655 they first thought of attacking Constantinople. Fortunately their fleet was vanquished off the Lycian coast. Later they established themselves in Cyzicus, and from 673 to 677 menaced the capital. At the same time they conquered Armenia (654) and ravaged Asia Minor. In 668 they pushed on to Chalcedon. During all these losses, the Greeks could show only one step gained — or rather one successful to safeguard their power. Many Christian families emigrated from Asia Minor and Syria to Sicily Lower Italy, and Rome, thus strengthening the Byzantine power in the West, and the Emperor Constans could use Sicily as a base for the reconquest of Africa (662). He is thought to have intended making Rome once more the capital of the empire. In 668, however, he was murdered in Syracuse during a military uprising, and with him these vast plans came to an end. His son, Constantine IV was very young at the time of his accession; still he was not only able to assert his authority in the face of an unruly army, but soon like his father and great grandfather, proved himself a brave warrior and displayed consummate generalship against the Arabs, the Slavs, and the Bulgarians.

The splendid prowess of Byzantium is still brilliantly apparent, in spite of these losses. This was due, in the first place, to its excellent military equipment. The period of the Arab peril, a peril which at a later date in the West, during the time of Charles Martel, saw the introduction of cavalry wearing defensive armour in place of the Roman and Germanic infantry, marked a like innovation in the East, at an earlier period. The Byzantine cuirassiers, or cataphracti probably originated at this time. Moreover, the State was now thoroughly organized on military lines. The system of themata, after the model of the exarchate of Ravenna and Africa, found acceptance in Asia Minor, and gradually spread through the whole empire. The thema of the Cibyrrhaeots, in southern Asia Minor, belonged to the districts which during the Roman Republic had produced the most notorious pirates. In the Saracen wars the fleet played a very important part; the Byzantine victory, therefore, showed that the Byzantine fleet was not only equal to that of the Arabs in point of men and solidity of construction but had an important technical advantage. During the great leaguer of Constantinople, from April to September, 673, Callinicus a Syrian, is said to have taught the Greeks the use of gunpowder, or "Greek fire".

It remains to discuss the ecclesiastical disputes of the seventh century. At first everything seemed to point towards a compromise. The Persian invasions, which had swept over the Christian peoples of the Orient since 606, probably strengthened a feeling of kinship among Christian nations. Even during his Armenian campaign, Heraclius began to prepare the way for the union with the Oriental Churches. He was supported in his efforts by Sergius, Patriarch of Constantinople, and Pope Honorius I. As a basis of dogmatic unity, Heraclius proclaimed as a formula of faith the "union of the two Natures of the God-Man through the Divine-human energy". Everything seemed propitious, the only opponent of the movement being Sophronius, Patriarch of Jerusalem, who was afterwards forced to surrender the city to the Arabs. His antagonism lent the opposition movement stability and permanence in his effort to conciliate the Monophysites, in his "Ecthesis" of 638 emphasized still more emphatically the union of the two natures by one will (Monothelitism). Immediately the West — and particularly Africa, the scene of St. Maximus's labours — set up the standard of opposition. It was of no avail that Emperor Constans II in his "Typus" (648) forbade all contention over the number of wills and energies, and that he caused Pope Martin I, as well as St. Maximus, to be apprehended and banished to Cherson. The West was temporarily defeated, though destined finally to conquer. After Syria, Egypt, and Africa had been lost to the Arabs, there was no further object in trying to establish Monothelitism. At the Sixth Ecumenical Council (680-81) orthodoxy was reestablished by the Emperor Constantine IV. That this move was in harmony with the desire of the Greek people, was evident during the reign of Philippicus, the Armenian. His attempt to restore Monothelitism in the Rome of the East resulted in his dethronement. Once more the Greeks had cut themselves loose from the Armenians, whether to the advantage of the empire is a question which receives various answers.

3. Iconoclasm (717-867)

During this period two dynasties occupied the throne, each lasting for several generations. Both were of Eastern origin, the one from Northern Syria, the other from Phrygia. Leo V (813-20) also was of Oriental extraction. On the other hand, Nicephorus I (802-11) and his son-in-law Michael I, Rhangabe (811-13), were Greeks. In other words, the government of the empire became orientalized. This racial antagonism must be borne in mind in order to grasp the bitterness of the religious contentions of the period. The same period shows a second dynastic anomaly: for the first and last time there is an empress on the throne not as regent, but with the full title Basileus. This is Irene, perhaps the most disagreeable character of all the great Byzantine women. Like Athenais, she was an Athenian, but in the charm of the Muses she was totally lacking. Two passions possessed her soul: ambition and religious fanaticism, but her piety was of a strange kind. She persisted in her devotion to her party with the unswerving conviction that her opinion was right, and she did not hesitate to commit the most atrocious crimes of which a woman could be guilty in order to ruin her son morally and physically. Not without reason has Irene been compared to Catherine de' Medici. On the death of her husband, Leo IV (775-80), in her desire for power she strove to keep her son as a minor as long as possible, and finally to set him aside altogether. Of her own authority she canceled the betrothal of Constantine VI (780-97) to Rotrud, the daughter of Charlemagne, and forced him to marry Maria, an Armenian, a woman wholly distasteful to him. When the seventeen-year-old emperor showed a disposition to escape her power, she had him scourged with rods. She finally lent her sanction to his marriage with a woman of the court, Theodota, a union regarded by the Church as bigamous. In this way she thought to make his accession to power impossible. The worst, however, was still to come. Irene took advantage of an uprising to rid herself of her son permanently. Constantine VI, blinded at the command of his mother, ended his life in an obscure apartment of the imperial palace, where Theodota bore him a son. His mother now ruled alone (797-802) until the elevation of the grand treasurer, Nicephorus put an end to her power, and she spent her remaining years on the island of Lesbos in sickness and poverty.

Irene is honoured as a saint in the Greek Church because at the Seventh General Synod of Nicaea (787), she obtained important concessions in the matter of the veneration of images. Though the adoration of images, as well as other abusive practices of veneration, which had already been condemned as idolatrous, were again wholly forbidden, prostrate veneration, incense, and candles were permitted. Theodora achieved a similar prominence. After the fall of Irene, the Iconoclasts again gained the upper hand, and the brief reign of Michael I, who supplanted his brother-in-law Stauracius (811), was powerless to change this. The Emperor Theophilus (829-42) in the vigour of his religious persecution approached the energetic Constantine V (741-75), known to the opposite party, and later to historians, by the insulting epithet of Copronymus. When Theodora became regent, through the early death of her husband, she introduced milder measures. A compromise was effected between the parties. At the synod of 843 permission was given for the veneration of images, and at the same time the anathema was removed from the name of the Emperor Theophilus. In order to remove it, Theodora, it is said, was guilty of a pious fraud and the false declaration that the emperor, before his death, had been converted to the veneration of images. Of more importance, however, is the feet that the members of the ecclesiastical party by removing the anathema against the emperor yielded to state authority, and while victorious in the dogmatic controversy acknowledged that they were vanquished in the ecclesiastico-political.

The questions of this time seem to have concerned matters of far-reaching importance, problems which, despite their strange dress, appear fundamentally quite modern and familiar. The dogmatical side of these contests was not connected with the old controversy about the two natures of Christ, but with the heretical views of different Oriental sects, influenced by Judaism and Mohammedanism. The eastern frontier of the empire in Asia Minor was the home of these multifarious sects, which guaranteed the separate existence of the tribes which belonged to them and regarded themselves as the "faithful" in opposition to the state Church. Leo III, the Syrian (717-41), who saved Byzantium from the Arabian peril, repulsed the last serious attack of the Arabs on the capital (September, 717, to August, 718), by his reforms made the empire superior to its foes, and brought the views of these sectaries into the policy of the Byzantine empire. In the celebrated edict of 726 he condemned the veneration of images, a decree which he considered part of his reforming activity. Probably he hoped by this means to bring the people of the empire closer to Islam, to lessen the differences between the two religions. This may be regarded as another attempt to orientalize the empire, such as the dynasty of Heraclius and others before had previously made. The Greek nation answered by promptly repudiating the attempt, all the more emphatically because here again dogmatic and national antagonisms were connected with the struggle between Church and State.

It is unjust to attribute unworthy motives to the party who called themselves image-worshipers and rallied around such men as Plato, abbot of the monastery of Saccudion, and his nephew Theodore, afterwards Abbot of Studium. The fact is that the whole movement was based on a deeply religious spirit which led to detachment from the world and indeed to complete insensibility towards all earthly ties, even the most legitimate. The ideal of these men is not the Christian ideal of today; their rigorous stand might not always meet with our approval. But it was a party that exerted a powerful influence on the people, which could only be intensified by persecution. In this movement it seems possible to discern the forerunner of the great reform movement of the West during the tenth and eleventh centuries — a movement which tended to intensify religious life and which stood for the liberation of the Church from the control of the State.

The Iconoclasts, on the other hand, represented a principle which we know to have been forced into the Greek-Byzantine world as something foreign. It encountered sentiments and views, however, with which it could combine. In spite of the Christianization of Byzantium, there remained there a residue of ancient pagan Roman ideas. The Byzantines of this school often appear so modern to us precisely because they were permeated with rationalistic anti-ecclesiastical sentiments. Such men were found most frequently among the cultured classes, the high dignitaries of Church and State. This is why Iconoclasm which was sympathetic to this rationalistic tendency, could develop into a general movement and why it reminds us in so many ways of the rationalistic movement of the eighteenth century; it also explains why the Iconoclastic emperors always found supporters in the higher ranks of the clergy. Thus it was that Leo III conducted his attack against the protesting popes through the Patriarch Anastasius. When Pope Gregory II refused to recognize the edict of 726, the emperor withdrew from his jurisdiction Sicily, Lower Italy, and Illyria, and placed them under the Patriarch of Constantinople. Constantine Copronymus had similar support. Upheld by prelates in favour of a national Church, he once more, through the council of 754, prohibited the veneration of images. We know of the numerous martyrdoms caused by the execution of the decree, and how the Empress Irene, herself a friend of the "image-worshipers", finally yielded. There soon followed the reaction of the Icon under Leo V the Armenian, and the Phrygian dynasty, and at last the legal restoration of image-worship by Theodora. We have already seen that this victory of the orthodox party, viewed from an ecclesiastico-political standpoint, was not complete. The reason of this partial defeat lay not in the existence of a party among the higher clergy favouring a national Church, but in the fact that the orthodox party gradually lost their hold on the people. We know how the antagonism of the Greeks to the Latins had gradually grown more intense. It was regarded as unpatriotic when Theodore of Studium and his friends so openly declared for Rome. The strength of this National Church movement came into most perfect evidence with the advent of the great Photius. His rise and the fall of the Patriarch Ignatius were connected with a shabby court intrigue, the Patriarch Ignatius having ventured to oppose the all-powerful Bardas during the reign of Michael III (842-67). At first the proceedings of Photius differed in no respect from those of a common office-seeker. But by opposing the claims of Old Rome to Bulgarian obedience he suddenly gained immense popularity, and thus paved the way for the ultimate separation of the Greek and Latin Churches.

It was Boris (852-88), the Bulgarian Tsar, who stirred up the entire question. With the help of St. Clement, a disciple of Methodius, the Apostle of the Slavs, he had introduced Christianity among his people, on the occasion of his own baptism, the Emperor Michael III was sponsor. Soon afterwards Boris tried to withdraw from the influence of East Rome, and enter into closer relations with Old Rome. At the same time the Holy See renewed its claims to the Illyrian obedience. Photius's answer was the egkuklios epistole (circular letter) of 867, by which he sought to establish the separation from Old Rome both in ritual and in dogma. In spite of the many vacillations of Byzantine polities between the partisans of Ignatius and those of Photius during the next decades, this was the first decisive step towards the schism of 1054.

During this whole period the Bulgarians had given great trouble to the Byzantine Empire. The Emperor Nicephorus I fell in battle against them, and his successors warded them off only with the greatest difficulty. Equally violent were the wars against the Saracens and the Slavs. There was no second investment of the capital by the Syrian Arabs, it is true, though on the other hand, in 860 the city was hard pressed by the Varangian Ros, but all the more danger was to be apprehended from the Arabs who had been expelled from Spain and had settled in Egypt in 815. In 826 they conquered Crete, and about the same time the Arabs of Northern Africa began to settle in Sicily, a migratory movement which finally resulted in the complete loss of the island to the Byzantines. As once they had come from Syria and Asia Minor so now many Greek families migrated to Lower Italy and the Peloponnesus. The Christianization and hellenization of the Slavs was now begun, and soon produced rich fruits. It is difficult, as we have already said, to determine how great an admixture of Slavic blood flows in the veins of the Greeks of today, on the other hand, it is certain that the Slavs have left many traces of their laws and customs. The agrarian law dating, possibly, from the time of the Emperor Leo III, shows the strength of the Slavic influence on the development of the Byzantine agrarian system.

It remains to touch on the relations between the Byzantine Empire and the West during this period. In the West, the Frankish nation had gradually taken the lead of all other Germanic peoples. As we know, the relations of Byzantium with these nations were always somewhat unstable. One thing only had remained unchanged: the Byzantine rulers, as legitimate successors of the Roman emperors, had always maintained their claim to sovereignty over the Germanic peoples. For the most part this had been unconditionally admitted, as is evident from the coinage. At the time of the Empress Irene, however, a great change set in. The restoration of the Roman Empire of the West by Charlemagne (800) was the signal for a complete break with all previous traditions. The West stood now on the same footing as the East. As we know, this important step had been taken in full accord with the papacy. Historically, it is thus a part of the controversies which began with the withdrawal of Illyrian obedience, and culminated in the egkuklios epistole of Photius. The idea of a national imperial Church seemed to prevail in both East and West; to be sure this was only seemingly so, for the popes did not give up their universal supremacy, but soon began again to utilize politically their advantageous location midway between East and West.

4. Period of Political Balance (867-1057)

The period of the highest development of Byzantine power was not dynastically the most fortunate. Seldom has there been such an accumulation of moral filth as in the family of Basil the Macedonian (867-86). The founder of the house, a handsome hostler of Armenian extraction, from the vicinity of Adrianople, attracted the notice of a high official by his powerful build and his athletic strength and later gained the favour of the dissolute emperor Michael III, the last of the Phrygian emperors. Basil was also a favourite with women. His relations with the elderly Danielis of Patras, whom he had met whilst in the retinue of his master, were most scandalous. The gifts of this extremely wealthy woman laid the foundations of Basil's fortune. The depth of his baseness, however, is best seen in his marriage to the emperor's mistress, Eutocia Ingerina. Michael III stipulated that Eutocia should remain his mistress, so that it is impossible to say who was the father of Leo VI, the Wise (886-912). His physical frailty and taste for learned pursuits during his reign the Code of the Basilica was prepared in sixty books — as also the mutual aversion between Basil and Leo are no evidence for the paternity of the Macedonian. If this view be correct Basil's line was soon extinct; as his real son, Alexander, reigned only one year (912-13). Constantine VII, Porphyrogenitus (913-59), the long wished-for heir, by the fourth marriage of Leo the Wise, inherited the learned tastes of his father, but was not completely deficient in energy. It is true he left the government at first to his father-in-law, Romanus I, Lacapenus (919-44), and later to his wife Helena, still, when Romanus had become too overbearing, Constantine VII showed himself possessed of enough initiative to enlist the aid of Stephen and Constantine, sons of Romanus, in overthrowing the power of their father, and, later, to set aside his brothers-in-law (945). In Romanus II (959-63) the dissolute nature of his great-grandfather Michael III reappeared. His reign, fortunately, lasted only a few years, and then Theophano, his widow, the daughter of an innkeeper, took into her hands the reins of government, for her minor sons. Circumstances compelled her marriage with Knifers II, Phocas (963-69), an old and fanatically religious warrior. He is the first of that series of great military leaders who occupied the Byzantine throne, and who soon raised the empire to undreamed of heights of power. As in the dynasty of Heraclius three of these reigned in succession Nicephorus II, John Zimisces, and Basil II. John I, Zimisces (969-76), was the nephew of Nicephorus, but very unlike him. The younger man was as joyous and life-loving in disposition as the older was grim and unlovable. Theophano, therefore, did not hesitate to introduce into the palace the murderer of her morose husband. But like Sophia, niece of the great Theodora, she saw her hopes dashed to the ground. The new emperor confined her in a convent and, to legitimize his power married Theodora, sister of Basil and Constantine, the two young emperors. Like his uncle, John Zimisces was only coregent but he showed great force in his administration of affairs. At his death the elder of the young emperors was competent to take charge of the State. Luckily, Basil II (976-1025) proved as capable a military leader as his two predecessors. It was under his brother, Constantine VIII (1026-28), that the reaction set in. In opposition to the great imperial generals who had brought the empire to an unhoped for pinnacle of power, a civilian party had grown up which had for its aim the curtailment of military power. This party was successful during the reigns of Constantine and his successors Constantine VIII left two daughters, Zoe and Theodora. Zoe (1028-50) was forty-eight years of age at the death of her father, but even after that married three times, and by her amours and her jealousy brought many trials upon her younger sister. Zoe's three husbands Romanus III, Argyrus (1028-34), Michael IV (1034-41), and Constantine IX, Monomachus (1042-54) all came from the higher bureaucratic circles Thus the civil party had gained its end. This explains why neither Zoe nor the nephew of her second husband, whom she had adopted, and who proved so ungrateful, Michael V (1041-42 — termed the Caulker because his father was a naval engineer) could uphold the glory attained by the State during the times of the great military emperors. Even generals as great as Georgius Maniaces and Harold Hardrada — the latter, chief of the North-German (Varangian) bodyguard which was coming more and more into prominence — were powerless to stem the tide of the decline. The general discontent was most manifest when Theodora, on the death of her sister and her last surviving brother-in-law, assumed the reins of power, and not unsuccessfully (1054-56). On her deathbed she transferred the purple to the aged senator Michael VI, Stratioticus (1056-57. This was the signal for the military power to protest. The holders of great landed estates in Asia Minor gave the power instead to one of their own faction. Isaac I, Comnenus, inaugurates a new era.

During the period of its greatest power, i.e. under the military emperors, the Byzantine State was able to expand equally in all directions. It had its share of reverses, it is true. The most important was the final loss of Sicily to the Saracens in 878 Syracuse fell, and in 902 Tauromenium (Taormina), the last Byzantine stronghold on the island, was taken by the Arabs. Two years later Thessalonica was subjected to an appalling pillage. As compensation for the loss of Sicily, however, the Byzantines had Lower Italy, where, since the conquest of Bari (875) the Lombard thema had been established. This led to the renewal of relations with the Western powers, especially with the recently founded Saxon line. The Byzantines were still able to hold their own with these, as formerly with the Carlovingians. Conspicuous the success of the campaigns against the Arabs in the East: the fall of the Caliphate of Bagdad rendered it possible to push forward the frontier towards Syria, Melitene (928), Nisibis (942-43) Tarsus and Cyprus (965), and Antioch (968-69) were captured in turn. About the same time (961) Crete was wrested back from the Arabs. These were the battlefields on which the great generals of the empire, chiefly Armenian, Paphlagonian, and Cappadocian by race, won distinction. Under Romanus I it was the great Armenian Kurkuas, and later the Cappadocian Nicephorus Phocas who achieved these victories. Nicephorus, as husband of Theophano ascended the throne, and as emperor he achieved his victorious campaign against the Arabs. His assassination brought to the throne his nephew John Zimisces, an Armenian, and fortunately a warrior as great as his uncle.

John made preparations for the subjugation of the Bulgarians. It will be recalled how Tsar Boris introduced Christianity into Bulgaria and, even at that period, thought, by ingratiating himself with Rome, to escape from Byzantine influence Tsar Symeon (893-927) devised another way of attaining independence. He raised his archbishop to the rank of patriarch, thereby proclaiming the ecclesiastical autonomy of Bulgaria. His ultimate aim became evident when he assumed the title of Tsar of the Bulgarians and Autocrat of the Romans. This dream, however, was not to be realized. Though Symeon had extended the boundaries of his dominions as far as the Adriatic Sea, though he held Adrianople for a time, and in 917 inflicted a crushing defeat on the Greeks, still, under his successor Peter (927-69), Macedonia and Illyria shook off the Bulgarian yoke and established a West Bulgarian State under the usurper Shishman and his successors. Even under these trying circumstances the policy of Byzantium was skillful: it recognized the Bulgarian patriarchate — thus widening the breach with Rome — but on the other hand lost no time in inciting the neighbouring peoples, the Magyars, Petchenegs, Cumani, and Croatians, against the Bulgarians. The Russians, also, who in 941 threatened Constantinople for the second and last time, were stirred up against the Bulgarians. But soon it was recognized that the devil had been expelled with the help of Beelzebub. The grand Duke Svjatoslav of Kiev settled south of the Danube, and in 969 seized the old Bulgarian capital of Preslav for his residence. The Emperor John Zimisces now interfered. In 971 he captured Preslav and Silistria, but did not reestablish the Bulgarian State. Tsar Boris II was taken to Constantinople and received as compensation the title of Magister; the Bulgarian patriarchate was suppressed. There now remained only the West Bulgarian State under Shishman.

The work begun by John Zimisces was completed by Basil II, "Slayer of Bulgarians". In three great campaigns the Bulgarians were subjugated with monstrous cruelty. The work, however, was accomplished. When, in 1014, the emperor celebrated his victory with imposing ceremonies in the church of Panagia at Athens (the old Parthenon), the Greek Empire stood on a height it was never again to reach. Basil II was succeeded by his brother Constantine VIII, who never distinguished himself, and by the daughters of the latter, Zoe and Theodora. The government passed from the hands of the military party into those of high civilian officials, and soon defeat followed on defeat. Under heroes like Georgius Maniaces, and Harold Hardrada, it is true, headway was made against the most various foes. But after 1021 Armenia, which had reached a high state of prosperity under the rule of the Bagratides, and had been annexed to Byzantine territory by Basil II and Constantine IX, gradually passed under the sway of the Seljuk Turks, and after 1041 Lower Italy was conquered by the Normans. This is the first appearance of the two foes who were slowly but surely to bring about the destruction of the empire, and the worst feature of their case was that the Greeks themselves prepared the way for their future destroyers. As formerly Blessed Theodora and her successors had persecuted the heterodox Paulicians, who were the brave protectors of the frontier of Asia Minor, and whom John Zimisces later established near Philippopolis, so now the Greek clergy were treating the Bulgarians and Armenians most harshly. The Western Church also at times wounded national feelings and sometimes provoked the hostility of individual nations by financial exactions. It would be difficult, however, to point out in the history of Rome such complete disregard of the obligations of the universal Church as was shown by the Patriarchs of Constantinople. It is not a matter for surprise, then, that the oppressed nations became more and more alienated from Byzantium and finally welcomed hostile invasions as a sort of relief, though of course ultimately they found out their error. This turned out to be the ease not only in Bulgaria, but also in North Syria, Armenia, and the eastern part of Asia Minor which contained a large Armenian population.

There was another circumstance that caused the Seljuk Turks to appear as liberators. In the course of the preceding centuries, a body of provincial nobility had been in process of formation in all parts of the empire. In Asia Minor — for conditions were not the same in all parts of the empire — this nobility acquired its predominance from its large landed possessions. And this, indeed, is reason for believing that no monetary system of economies existed in the older Byzantine Empire, and that the power of capitalism did not originate on its soil. Rich families invested their wealth in landed possessions, and the poorer population had to make way for them. This decline of the peasantry was a grave menace to the empire, the military strength of which declined with the decline of popular independence. Moreover, this monopolization of the land tended to undermine a miltary institution — that of feudal tenures. It is not known when this institution originated, possibly it was an inheritance from the Roman Empire, developed afresh, during the struggles with the Arabs in the form of cavalry fiefs on the frontiers of Asia Minor and Syria, and as naval fiefs in the Cibyrrhaeot thema. But in any case, the danger to this institution was recognized at court, and attempts were made to meet it. Romanus I, Lacapenus, descended from an Armenian family of archons, seems to have been the first to devise legislation against the further extension of the landed interests Other measures date from Constantine VII, Porphyrogenitus, Romanus II, and Nicephorus II, Phocas. Nicephorus II, also, was descended from a Cappadocian family of great landed proprietors, but this did not prevent him from vigorously continuing the policy of Romanus I. His stern piety — for the old warrior, after the death of his wife and his only son always wore a hair shirt, never ate meat, and slept on the bare floor — did not prevent his opposing the further extension of ecclesiastical property. For ecclesiastical, particularly monastic, holdings had gradually begun to absorb the estates of smaller land-holders. These measures against the Church were one of the causes of the fall of old Nicephorus and of the elevation of light-hearted young John Zimisces to the throne. Still, even under John Zimisces and Basil II, the struggle of the great landed interests continued. It was only the reaction after the death of Basil that gave the aristocratic party the final victory. It gained strength under the regime of the civilian emperors. Ultimately this party was strong enough to decide the succession to the imperial crown.

5. Period of Centrifugal Tendencies (1057-1203)

The powerful body of landed proprietors were of advantage to the empire in one particular. Since the decline of the old military organization they upheld the military prestige of the empire. This was all the more significant because, unfortunately, since the revival of learning an antagonism had arisen between the civil officials, who had studied in the schools of the rhetoricians, and the officers of the imperial army. We have already noted that during the last years of the so-called Macedonian dynasty, under the empresses Zoe and Theodora, the influence of the civil-service party was all-powerful. For that very reason a council of the landed proprietors of Asia Minor raised Isaac Comnenus (1057-59), much against his will, to the throne. Isaac regarded the crown as a burden. Weary of strife with the senatorial aristocracy, he soon gave up the sceptre and retired to the monastery of Studium. He considered himself defeated and accordingly designated as his successor not his capable brother John, and his sons, but an official high in the civil service, Constantine X, Ducas (1059-67), a man who during Isaac's brief reign had greatly assisted the emperor, who was wholly unversed in affairs of administration. This meant a fresh victory for the civil bureaucracy, who signalized their accession to power by setting aside army interests, and even the most pressing requirements for the defense of the empire. This naturally led to a severe retribution, and as a consequence popular sympathy reverted to the military party. At the death of Constantine, the widowed Empress Eutocia took a step decisive for the fate of the empire by recognizing the need and choosing as her husband Romanus IV, Diogenes (1067-71), an able officer and one of the heroic figures of Byzantine history. Romanus was pursued by misfortune, and after four years the government again fell into the hands of the civil party. Michael VII, Parapinaces (1071-78), the pupil of Psellus, was raised to the throne. Soon the crisis became so serious that another military emperor was placed on the throne Nicephorus III, Botaniates (1078-81). The old man however, was unable to bring order out of the universal chaos. The Comneni were recalled. Alexius I, Comnenus (1081-1118), who had been excluded from the succession by his uncle, took the reins of government and founded the last of the great dynasties, which was to give the empire three more brilliant rulers, Alexius I, John II, and Manuel.

The splendour of the Comneni was the splendour of the setting sun. It was a period of restoration. Men hoped again to raise literature to the standard of the classic authors and to revive the ancient language and thus they hoped to restore the glory of the Roman Empire. Only too often it was merely a jugglery with high sounding words. Never were the titles of state officials more imposing than during the period of the Comenni; and never, on the other hand, was the empire in a more precarious position, despite all its outward splendour. The old Byzantine army was demoralized, foreign mercenaries had replaced the native troops. Saddest of all was the decay of the fleet. Things had come to such a pass that no shame was felt at being dependent on the allied Italian seaports. Still, not a little was achieved. Clever diplomacy replaced actual power, and Succeeded in preserving for some time the semblance of Byzantine Supremacy. Moreover, the Greeks seem to have learned the art of husbanding their resources better than they had, and this was due largely to the co-operation of the Western nations. We know for a certainty that during the time of the Comneni ground-rents were levied in coin. This income was increased by the heavy receipts from custom duties. In a word, the economic administration of both Public and private business was admirable during this period. It was most unfortunate that this splendour should be darkened by the deep shadows of official corruption the depreciation of currency and a total disregard of the Byzantine national, or rather civic, conscience.

Abroad, the Byzantine State was menaced, as of old, on three sides: on the East by the Seljuk Turks, who had supplanted the Arabs; on the West by the Normans, who had sodded the Arabs in that quarter; on the North by the Slavs, Bulgarians, and Finnic-Ugrian (Magyars, Petchenegs, and Cumani). All three perils were bravely met, though at the cost of heavy losses. In 1064 the Seljuk Turk Alp-Arslan destroyed Ani, the centre of Armenian civilization whereupon many Armenians emigrated to Little Armenia in the Cilician Taurus. In 1071 the brave Romanus IV was made a prisoner by the Seljuks near Mantzikert. Having been released by the chivalrous Alp-Arslan, he was put to death in the most barbarous manner in his own country, during the frightful revolution which placed Michael VII on the throne. In the same year (1071) Bari was lost to the Normans, and in 1085 Antioch was captured by the Turks. This period also marked the beginning of the Norman raids on the Balkan Peninsula. Between 1081 and 1085 Albania and Thessaly were threatened by Robert Guiscard and his son Bohemund, who were twice defeated in naval encounters by the Byzantines in league with the Venetians. On land, however, they proved their superiority in several places, until the death of the elder Guiscard put an end to their projects and gave the Byzantine State half-a-century of peace in that direction. After that period, however, the raids were renewed. In 1147 Thebes and Corinth were taken by King Roger, on which occasion many silk-weavers were deported to Sicily. In 1185, at the command of King William II of Sicily Thessalonica was reduced to ashes. To the north, the outlook was no brighter. The Byzantine State was successful it is true, in keeping the Serbs in nominal subjection, and in entering into diplomatic and family relations with the royal family of Hungary, but the Bulgarians finally broke loose from Byzantine control. In 1186 they established their new kingdom at Tirnovo, with an autocephalous archbishopric. Soon after this they began once more to push farther to the west and thus laid the foundation of their present ethnographic homes in Thrace and Macedonia.

These heavy reverses, however, were counterbalanced by successes at the same time it was of great moment that this period marked the beginning of that great movement of the West towards the East the Crusades. The Byzantine Empire derived great advantage from this, and in some respects fully realized the fact. Even the First Crusade brought about two important results: the victory of the crusaders at Dorylaeum (1097) brought the western part of Asia Minor directly under Byzantine control, and Antioch indirectly, through the oath of fealty exacted of Bohemund (1108); the Second Crusade, during which the Emperor Manuel allied himself with the Emperor Conrad III (1149), neutralized the power of the Italian Normans. Manuel now conceived far-reaching plans. He avenged King Roger's incursion into central Greece (1147) by the recapture of Corfu (1149) and the occupation of Ancona (1151), in this way becoming a factor in Italo-German complications. He actually dreamed, as Justinian and Constans II had, of reestablishing the Roman Empire of the West. These ambitious demands found no favour with the popes, with whom since the quarrel about the Norman possessions in South Italy, under the Patriarch Michael Cerularius (1054), a final rupture had taken place. Thus the undertaking resulted in failure. Great offence had been given to the emperor Frederick Barbarossa, which became manifest when he allied himself with the Seljuk Turks and the Sultan of Egypt.

Byzantium also reaped great advantage from the establishment of the principalities of the crusaders in Syria. The invasion of the East by the crusaders also brought new dangers, which grew constantly more menacing. Even before this the constant and manifold intercourse between the empire and the Italian maritime states as well as the settlement of the Amalfians, Pisans, Genoese and Venetians in Byzantine cities, had involved many inconveniences. It is true that the victory over the Normans in the campaign of 1081-85 was gained with the aid of the Venetians, but by 1126 war was in progress with Venice. The commercial republics of Italy grew constantly more arrogant, demanding trading privileges as payment for aid rendered by them, and retaliating for any slights by hostile invasions. It was only the rivalries of the Italian cities that enabled the Byzantines to maintain their supremacy in their own country. As a matter of fact, the Italians had long regarded the empire merely as their prey, and so it was inevitable that the hatred of the Greek nation should be slowly gathering strength. Even the spirit of the administration had long since become Western — the Emperor Manuel lived like a Western knight and twice married European princesses — when it became evident that the pent-up hatred must soon break forth. The crisis came after the death of Manuel, during the regency of his second wife Maria of Antioch, and with frightful results. At the head of the movement was a man wholly devoid of principle, but of great personal charm and magnetism. This was Adronicus the Liberator (1183-85), at that time about sixty-seven years of age. The movement began (1182) with the appalling slaughter of the Latins; Andronicus was placed on the throne (1183), and in 1184 the young Emperor Alexius was assassinated. The Latins, however, took a terrible vengeance. In 1185 Dyrrachium and soon afterwards Thessalonica were captured amid frightful cruelties. These disasters reacted on the capital. The Byzantines were no longer able to uphold their independence, and a counter-revolution was inaugurated. The aged Andronicus was beheaded, and the first of the Angeli, Isaac II (1185-95, and again 1203-04), ascended the throne. We know how the difficulties between Isaac and his elder brother Alexius III (1195-1203) resulted in an appeal by the dethroned emperor to his brother-in-law, Philip of Swabia, and how, owing to various circumstances the Fourth Crusade was turned against Constantinople. The Fourth Crusade ended this period of Byzantine history; the empire was in ruins, out of which, however, deft hands contrived to build up a new Byzantine State, and a feeble reproduction of the former magnificence.

6. The Decline (1203-1453)

The fact that there had been no regular order of succession made the Byzantine throne the focus of numerous dissensions. It is undeniable, however, that this often redounded to the advantage of the State, inasmuch as military and palace revolutions frequently brought the most capable men to the head of affairs at a decisive moment. The sentiment in favour of dynastic succession however, had been gaining ground under the so-called Macedonian dynasty. The views of Constantine Porphyrogenitus furnish clear evidence of this, a proof even stronger is the touching devotion exhibited by the people towards Zoe and Theodora, the last representatives of that dynasty. Still the last period of Byzantine history thrice witnessed the accession of men outside the regular line of succession. John III, Vatatzes (1222-54), set aside his brother-in-law, Constantine, thus becoming the immediate successor of Theodore Lascaris. A military revolution placed Michael VIII, Palaeologus (1259-82), at the head of the State, in place of the child John IV, Lascaris (1258-59). John VI, Cantacuzene (1341-55), contrived to obtain possession of the sovereign power under similar circumstances. It may be said of John Vatatzes and Michael Palaeologus that events alone justified the interruption of the order of succession. But the elevation of John Cantacuzene must be counted, like the family dissensions of the Palaeologi, as among the most unfortunate occurrences of the empire. It is a sorry spectacle to see Andronicus II (1282-1328) dethroned by his grandson Andronicus III (1328-41) and immured in a monastery, and John V (1341-76 and 1379-91) superseded first by Cantacuzene then by his own son Andronicus IV (1376-79), and finally by his grandson John VII (1390). It is true that the neighbouring states, the Turkish Empire in particular, were rent with similar dissensions. The house of the Palaeologi, moreover, produced some capable rulers, such as Michael VIII, Manuel II (1391-1425), Constantine XI (1448-53). Still, the contests for the throne, at a period when the imperial glory was manifestly on the wane, could not but be ruinous to the best interests of the empire, and contribute mightily to its dissolution.

At first it seemed as though such capable rulers as Theodore I, Lascaris (1204-22), John III, Vatatzes (1222-54), and Theodore II, Lascaris (1254-58), must bring back prosperous times to the empire. It was no small achievement, to be sure, that the Greeks were able not only to make a brave stand against the Franks, but to expel them again from Constantinople, a task which was all the more difficult because at that time the Greek nation had undergone a dismemberment from which it never recovered. The Empire of Trebizond, under the Comneni, survived the fall of the capital on the Bosphorus (1453) for some years. The task of reabsorbing into the body of the empire the state, or rather the states, of the Angeli in Thessalonica, Thessaly, and Epirus was accomplished slowly and with difficulty. It was impossible to drive the Franks from Byzantine soil. Split up into various minor principalities after the fall of Thessalonica (1222) and Constantinople (1261), they settled in the central part of Greece and in the Peloponnesus, in Crete, Euboea, Rhodes, and the smaller islands. Moreover, during the course of the fourteenth century, the Serbs rose to unexpected heights of power. During the reigns of Stephen Urosh II, Milutin (1281-1320), and Stephen Dushan (1321-55), it seemed as though the Serbs were about to realize the old dream of the Bulgars, of a Byzantine Empire under Slavonian rule. This dream, however, was shattered by the Turkish victory on the Field of Blackbirds (1389). It was not easy for the Greeks to maintain themselves against so many enemies for two and a half centuries, and it often appeared as though the end had come. The Frankish Emperor of Constantinople, Henry (1206-16), had come very near to destroying Greek independence, and would probably have succeeded had he not been snatched away by an early death. A second crisis came during the minority of the Latin Emperor Baldwin II (1228-61), when the Frankish princes were considering the appointment of the Bulgarian Tsar John II, Asén, as guardian of the young emperor, and regent of the empire. The plan failed of execution only because of the stubborn opposition of the Latin clergy, and the final choice fell on the old King of Jerusalem, John of Brienne (1229-37). Thus the danger was temporarily averted, and the Emperor John Vatatzes was wise enough to gain the favour of the Bulgarian powers by prudent deference to their wishes, as, for instance, by recognizing the Archbishop of Tirnovo as autocephalous patriarch.

The Latin Empire became dangerous for the third and last time when the Franks began, in the year 1236, to renew their heroic attempts to regain their conquests. John Vatatzes, however, succeeded in parrying the blow by forming an alliance with the Emperor Frederick II, whose daughter Anne he espoused. Even after the fall of the capital (1261), the fugitive Frankish emperor became a source of danger, inasmuch as he ceded to the Angevins his right as Lord Paramount of Achaia. As early as the year 1259 there had been serious complications with the principality of Achaia. At that time Michael VIII, by the conquest of Pelagonia had succeeded in withstanding a coalition formed by William of Villehardouin, Prince of Achaia, Michael II, Despot of Epirus, and Manfred of Sicily. When Charles of Anjou replaced Manfred the situation became more serious. In 1267 Charles captured Corfu and in 1272 Dyrrachium, soon afterwards he received at Foggia John IV, Lascaris, who had been overthrown and blinded by Michael VIII, Palaeologus. In this crisis Palaeologus knew of no other resource than to call upon the pope for assistance. At the Council of Lyons, his representative Georgius Acropolites, accepted the confession of faith containing the "Filioque", and recognized the primacy of the pope, thus securing the political support of the papacy against Anjou. Only the Sicilian Vespers gave him permanent immunity from danger from this source (1282). After this the Byzantine Empire was no longer menaced directly by the Norman peril which had reappeared in the Angevins. The Byzantines were gradually entering into a new relationship with the West They assumed the role of coreligionists seeking protection. But of course the reunion of the churches was a condition of this aid, which, as at an earlier period, was vehemently opposed by the people. The national party had already taken a vigorous stand against the negotiations of the Council of Lyons, which had found an excellent advocate in the patriarch, John Beccus. This opposition was made manifest whenever there was any question of union with Rome from political motives, and it explains the attitude of the different factions in the last religious controversy of importance that convulsed the Byzantine world: the Hesychast movement. This movement had its inception at Athos and involved a form of Christian mysticism which reminds us strongly of certain Oriental prototypes. By motionless meditation, the eyes fixed firmly on the navel (whence their name, Omphalopsychites), the devotees pretended to attain to a contemplation of the Divinity, and thereby absolute quietude of soul (hesychia, whence Hesychasts). The key to this movement is found in the needs of the time, and it was not confined to the Greek world. Many Eastern princes of this period assumed the "angel's garb", and sought peace behind monastery walls. The sect, however, did not fail to encounter opposition In the ensuing controversy, Barlaam, a monk of Calabria, constituted himself in a special manner the adversary of Hesychasm. It is significant that Barlaam's coming from Southern Italy, which was in union with Rome, and his having been under the influence of the Scholasticism of the West did not commend him to the good graces of the people, but rather contributed to the victory of his adversaries.

Thus the great mass of the people remained as before, thoroughly averse to all attempts to bring about the union. The Byzantine rulers, however, in their dire need, were obliged as a last resource to clutch at this hope of salvation, and accordingly had to face the deepest humiliations. When the unfortunate Emperor John V, after hastening to the papal court at Avignon to obtain assistance for Constantinople, was on his homeward journey, he was detained at Venice by creditors who had furnished the money for the journey. His son, Andronicus IV who acted as regent at Constantinople, refused to advance the requisite amount. At last the younger son Manuel II, then regent of Thessalonica, collected sufficient money to redeem his father (1370). Considering the wretched state of Byzantine affairs and the unfriendly spirit of the people, it was certainly generous that the West twice sent a considerable body of reinforcements to the Byzantines. Both expeditions, unfortunately, proved unsuccessful. In 1396 the Western Christians were defeated near Nicopolis by the Sultan Bayazid, and it was only the vigorous action of Marechal Boucicaut, who had been sent by the French, that saved Constantinople from Conquest by the Turks. The final catastrophe was temporarily averted by an almost fortuitous event, the victory of Timur-Leng over the Turks near Angora (1402). This storm quickly passed over; but soon Constantinople was again on the verge of capture (1422). The Emperor John VIII (1423-48) once more attempted to effect a union. At Florence (1439) it was consummated, so far, at least, as the Florentine formula of union later served as a basis for the union with the Orthodox Ruthenians, Rumanians, and others.

Close upon the union followed another attempt to succor Constantinople. After some preliminary victories, however, defeat ensued near Varna, 1444. The quarrels of various pretenders to the throne and the lack of unity among those in power within the city precipitated the final catastrophe. On 29 May, 1453, the Turks captured Constantinople, and seven years later (1460) the last remnant of the empire, the principalities on the Peloponnesus. Constantine XI, the last emperor, by his heroic death shed lustre on the last hours of the empire. Even the Western Christian may reflect with sadness on the downfall of this Christian empire, once so mighty. He will also trust in the ultimate victory of the Cross over the Crescent. But where is the strong hand capable of bringing so many nations and religions into ecclesiastical and political unity, which is the first requisite for cultural and industrial prosperity?

This article needs to be merged with BYZANTINE EXPIRE (Jewish Encyclopedia).
Portions of this entry are taken from The Catholic Encyclopedia, 1907.

Genealogy

Up to date as of February 01, 2010

From Familypedia

Βασιλεία Ῥωμαίων
Roman Empire
330 – 1453
Flag Coat of arms
Flag of the late Empire² Imperial Emblem (under the Palaiologoi)
Location of Byzantine Empire
Byzantine Empire at its greatest extent c. 550.
Territories in purple reconquered during reign of Justinian the Great
Capital Constantinople
(330–1204 and 1261–1453)
The capital of the Empire of Nicaea, the empire after the Fourth Crusade, was at Nicaea, Turkey, present day Izmit.
Language(s) Latin until 7th century, Greek thereafter
Religion Christianity: </br>Eastern Orthodox Church
Government Monarchy
Emperor
 - 306–337 Constantine the Great
 - 1449–1453 Constantine XI
Historical era Middle Ages
 - Foundation of Constantinople May 11, 330
 - East-West Schism 1054
 - Fall of Constantinople to the Fourth Crusade 1204
 - Reconquest of Constantinople 1261
 - Fall of Constantinople May 29, 1453
Area
 - peak 4,500,000 km² (1,737,460 sq mi)
Population
 - 4th century est. 34,000,000³ 
Currency Solidus, Hyperpyron
¹ Establishment date traditionally considered to be the re-founding of Constantinople as a capital of the Roman Empire although other dates are often used
² O. Neubecker, Heraldry - Sources, Symbols and Meaning, 106
³ See this table of population figures provided by the History Department of Tulane University. The numbers are based on estimates made by J.C. Russell in "Late Ancient and Medieval Population," published in the Transactions of the American Philosophical Society (1958), ASIN B000IU7OZQ.


The Byzantine Empire or Byzantium is the term conventionally used since the 19th century to describe the Greek-speaking Roman Empire of the Middle Ages, centered on its capital of Constantinople. The Empire is also known as the Eastern Roman Empire, although this name is more commonly used when referring to the time before the fall of the Western Roman Empire. During much of its history it was known to many of its Western contemporaries as the Empire of the Greeks because of the dominance of Greek language, culture and population.[1] To its inhabitants, the Empire was simply the Roman Empire (Greek: Βασιλεία Ῥωμαίων) and its emperors continued the unbroken succession of Roman emperors. In the Islamic world it was known primarily as روم‎ (Rûm, land of the "Romans").

There is no consensus on exactly when the Byzantine period of Roman history began. Many consider Emperor Constantine I (reigned AD 306–337) to be the first "Byzantine Emperor". It was he who moved the imperial capital in 330 from Rome to Byzantium, refounded as Constantinople, or Nova Roma ("New Rome").

Some date the beginnings of the Empire to the reign of Theodosius I (379–395) and Christianity's official supplanting of the pagan Roman religion, or following his death in 395, when the political division between East and West became permanent. Others place it yet later in 476, when Romulus Augustulus, traditionally considered the last western Emperor, was deposed, thus leaving sole imperial authority with the emperor in the Greek East. Others point to the reorganization of the empire in the time of Heraclius (ca. 620) when Latin titles and usages were officially replaced with Greek versions.

In any case, the changeover was gradual and by 330, when Constantine inaugurated his new capital, the process of hellenization and increasing Christianization was already under way. The Empire is generally considered to have ended after the fall of Constantinople to the Ottoman Turks in 1453, although Greek rule continued over areas of the Empire's territory for several more years, until the fall of Mystras in 1460, Trebizond in 1461, and Monemvasia in 1471.

Contents

History of the name "Byzantine"

For more details on this topic, see Names of the Greeks.
Byzantine Empire Timeline
667 BC The ancient city of Byzantium (the future Constantinople and future Istanbul) is founded.
ca. 509 BC - ca. A.d. 2nd Century The rise of the Roman Empire.
ca. 235 - 284 The "crisis of the 3rd century".
292 The reforms of Diocletian ("The Tetrarchy")
330 Constantine makes Byzantium into his capital(Nova Roma), which is renamed "Constantinople" (The City of Constantine), sometime after Constantine's death in 337. It would remain the capital of the Byzantine Empire, with a half-century exception, for over a thousand years.
395 The Empire is permanently split into eastern and western halves, following on the death of Theodosius I.
527 Justinian I is crowned "emperor".
April 7, 529 The Codex Justinianus is promulgated.
532537
The Emperor, Justinian, builds the church of Hagia Sophia
533554 Justinian's generals reconquer North Africa and Italy from the Vandals and the Ostrogoths.
568 The Lombard invasion results in the loss of most of Italy.
634641 The Arab armies conquer the Levant and Egypt. In the following decades, they take most of North Africa (and later conquer Sicily as well).
730787 and 813843 The Iconoclasm controversies result in the loss of most of the Empire's remaining Italian territories, aside from some of the territories of the Mezzogiorno.
8431025 The Macedonian dynasty is established and the Empire experiences a military and territorial revival. Byzantine scholars record and preserve many of the remaining ancient Greek and Roman texts.
10021018 The Emperor, Basil II, campaigns annually against the Bulgarians, with the object of annihilating the Bulgar state.
1014 The Bulgarian army is completely defeated at the Battle of Kleidon (Basil II becomes known as The Bulgar Slayer).
1018 Bulgaria surrenders and is annexed to the empire. The whole of the Balkans is incorporated into the Byzantine Empire, with the Danube as the new Imperial frontier to the north.
1025 With the death of Basil II, the zenith of the Empire's power is passed and the long decline of the Byzantine Empire begins.
1054 The Schism (split between Church in Rome and the Church in Constantinople).
1071 The Emperor, Romanos IV, is defeated by the Seljuk Turks at the Battle of Manzikert, losing his position in most of Asia Minor. In the same year, the last Byzantine outposts in Italy are conquered by the Normans.
1081 The Komnenos dynasty is established by Alexios I and Byzantium becomes involved in the Crusades. Economic prosperity generates new wealth; literature and the arts reach new heights. In Anatolia, the Turks become established.
1091 The Imperial armies defeat the Pechenegs at the Battle of Levounion.
1097 The recapture of Nicaea from the Turks by the Byzantine armies and the First Crusaders.
1097-1176 The Byzantine armies recapture the coasts of Asia Minor from the Turks, and push east towards central Anatolia. The Crusader Principality of Antioch becomes a Byzantine protectorate.
1122 The Byzantines defeat the Pechenegs at the Battle of Beroia.
1167 The Byzantine armies win a decisive victory over the Hungarians at the Battle of Sirmium and Hungary subsequently becomes a Byzantine client state.
1176 The Battle of Myriokephalon and the Emperor, Manuel I Komnenos, attempts to capture Konya, the capital of the Seljuk Turks. He is forced to withdraw after the destruction of his siege equipment. This is the effective end of the Imperial attempts to recover Anatolian plateau.
1180 With the death of the Emperor, Manuel I Komnenos, the decline of the Empire recommences.
1185 A successful rebellion is organized in Bulgaria and other lands are lost in the Balkans.
1204 Constantinople is conquered by Crusaders, attempting to establish a Latin Empire.
1261 Constantinople is reconquered by the Patriarch of Constantinople sponsored Emperor of Nicaea, Michael VIII Palaiologos, re-establishing Greek rule of a terminally diminished empire.
1453 The Ottoman Turks conquer Constantinople, and with the death of Constantine XI Palaiologos, the last de facto emperor of the Byzantine Empire, the Byzantine Empire comes to an end.


The term ''Byzantine Empire'' is an invention of historians and was never used during the Empire's lifetime. The Empire's name in Greek was Basileia tōn Rōmaiōn or just Rōmania (Greek: Βασιλεία Ρωμαίων —a translation of the Latin name of the Roman Empire), Imperium Romanorum (Latin: Imperium Romanum ). The description of the Empire as "Byzantine" began in Western Europe in 1557, when German historian Hieronymus Wolf published his work Corpus Historiæ By­zantinæ, a collection of Byzantine sources. The publication in 1648 of the Byzantine du Louvre (Corpus Scriptorum Historiæ Byzantinæ), and in 1680 of Du Cange's Historia Byzantina further popularized the use of Byzantine among French authors, such as Montesquieu.[2] Before this, the Empire was described by Western Europeans as Imperium Graecorum (Empire of the Greeks)—Byzantine claims to Roman inheritance had been actively contested from at least the time of the coronation of Charlemagne as Imperator Augustus by Pope Leo III in 800. Whenever the Popes or the rulers of the West wanted to make use of the name Roman to refer to the Byzantine emperors, they preferred the term Imperator Romæorum instead of Imperator Romanorum, a title reserved only for Charlemagne and his successors.[3]

Origin

Partition of the Roman Empire

Map of the Roman Empire ca. 395, showing the dioceses and praetorian prefectures of Gaul, Italy, Illyricum and Oriens (east), roughly analogous to the four Tetrarchs' zones of influence after Diocletian's reforms.

During the 3rd century, three crises threatened the Roman Empire: external invasions, internal civil wars and an economy riddled with weaknesses and problems.[4] The city of Rome gradually became less important as an administrative centre. The crisis of the 3rd century displayed the defects of the heterogeneous system of government that Augustus had established to administer his immense dominion. His successors had introduced some modifications, but events made it clearer that a new, more centralised and more uniform system was required.[5]

Diocletian was responsible for creating a new administrative system (the tetrarchy).[5] He associated himself with a co-emperor, or Augustus. Each Augustus then adopted a young colleague, or Caesar, to share in the rule and eventually to succeed the senior partner. After the abdication of Diocletian and Maximian the tetrachy collapsed, and Constantine I replaced it with the dynastic principle of hereditary succession.[6]

Constantine I and his successors

File:Constantine's baptism.jpg
The Baptism of Constantine painted by Raphael's pupils (1520–1524, fresco, Vatican City, Apostolic Palace). Eusebius of Caesaria records that, as was customary among Christian converts at the time, Constantine delayed receiving baptism until shortly before his death.[7]

Constantine moved the seat of the Empire, and introduced important changes into its civil and religious constitution.[8] And indeed Constantine's city flourished mightily throughout the Middle Ages. J. B. Bury asserts that "the foundation of Constantinople [...] inaugurated a permanent division between the Eastern and Western, the Greek and the Latin, halves of the Empire—a division to which events had already pointed—and affected decisively the whole subsequent history of Europe."[5]

Constantine built upon the administrative reforms introduced by Diocletian.[9] He stabilized the coinage (the gold solidus that he introduced became a highly prized and stable currency[10]), and made changes to the structure of the army. To divide administrative responsibilities, Constantine replaced the single praetorian prefect, who had traditionally exercised both military and civil functions, with regional prefects enjoying civil authority alone. In the course of the 4th century, four great sections emerged from these Constantinian beginnings, and the practice of separating civil from military authority persisted until the 7th century.[11]

Under Constantine, Christianity did not become the exclusive religion of the state, but enjoyed imperial preference, since the Emperor supported it with generous privileges: clerics were exempted from personal services and taxation, Christians were preferred for administrative posts, and bishops were entrusted with judicial responsibilities.[12] Constantine established the principle that emperors should not settle questions of doctrine, but should summon general ecclesiastical councils for that purpose. The Synod of Arles was convened by Constantine, and the First Council of Nicaea showcased his claim to be head of the Church.[13]

The state of the empire in 395 may be described in terms of the outcome of Constantine's work. The dynastic principle was established so firmly that the emperor who died in that year, Theodosius I, could bequeath the imperial office jointly to his sons: Arcadius in the East and Honorius in the West. Theodosius was the last emperor to rule over the full extent of the empire in both its halves.[14]

Early history

Leo I of the Byzantine Empire (401–474, reigned 457–474).

The Eastern Empire was largely spared the difficulties faced by the West in the third and fourth centuries, due in part to a more firmly established urban culture and greater financial resources, which allowed it to placate invaders with tribute and pay barbarian mercenaries. Throughout the fifth century, various invading armies overran the Western Empire but spared the east. Theodosius II further fortified the walls of Constantinople, leaving the city impenetrable to attacks; they were not breached until 1204. To fend off the Huns of Attila, Theodosius gave them subsidies (purportedly 300 kg (700 lb) of gold).[15] Moreover, he favored merchants living in Constantinople who traded with the barbarians.

His successor, Marcian, refused to continue to pay this exorbitant sum. However, Attila had already diverted his attention to the Western Roman Empire. After he died in 453, his empire collapsed and Constantinople initiated a profitable relationship with the remaining Huns, who would eventually fight as mercenaries in Byzantine armies.

After the fall of Attila, the true chief in Constantinople was the Alan general Aspar. Leo I managed to free himself from the influence of the barbarian chief by supporting the rise of the Isaurians, a semi-barbarian tribe living in southern Anatolia. Aspar and his son Ardabur were murdered in a riot in 471, and henceforth, Constantinople was freed from the influence of barbarian leaders for centuries.

Leo was also the first emperor to receive the crown not from a military leader, as was the Roman tradition, but from the Patriarch of Constantinople, representing the ecclesiastical hierarchy. This change became permanent, and in the Middle Ages the religious characteristic of the coronation completely supplanted the old military form. In 468, Leo unsuccessfully attempted to reconquer North Africa from the Vandals. By that time, the Western Roman Empire was restricted to Italy and the lands south of the Danube as far as the Balkans (Britain had been abandoned and was slowly being conquered by the Angles and Saxons, Spain had been overrun by the Visigoths and Suebi, the Vandals had taken Africa, and Gaul was contested by the Franks, Burgundians, Bretons, Visigoths and some Roman remnants).

In 466, as a condition of his Isaurian alliance, Leo married his daughter Ariadne to the Isaurian Tarasicodissa, who took the name Zeno. When Leo died in 474, Zeno and Ariadne's younger son succeeded to the throne as Leo II, with Zeno acting as regent. When Leo II died later that year, Zeno became emperor. The end of the Western Empire is sometimes dated to 476, early in Zeno's reign, when the barbarian general Odoacer deposed the titular Western Emperor Romulus Augustus, but declined to replace him with another puppet.

Eastern Roman Empire, c. AD 480 .

To recover Italy, Zeno could only negotiate with the Ostrogoths of Theodoric, who had settled in Moesia. He sent the barbarian king to Italy as magister militum per Italiam ("commander in chief for Italy"). After the fall of Odoacer in 493, Theodoric, who had lived in Constantinople during his youth, ruled Italy on his own, maintaining a merely formal obedience to Zeno. He was the most powerful Germanic king of that age, but his successors were greatly inferior and their Italian kingdom started to decline in the 530s.

In 475, Zeno was deposed by Basiliscus, the general who led Leo I's 468 invasion of North Africa, but he recovered the throne twenty months later. However, he faced a new threat from another Isaurian, Leontius, who was also elected rival emperor. Isaurian prominence ended when an aged civil officer of Roman origin, Anastasius I, became emperor in 491 and after a long war defeated them in 498. Anastasius revealed himself to be an energetic reformer and an able administrator. He perfected Constantine I's coinage system by definitively setting the weight of the copper follis, the coin used in most everyday transactions. He also reformed the tax system, and permanently abolished the hated chrysargyron tax. The State Treasury contained the enormous sum of 320,000 pounds of gold when he died.

Justinian I and his successors

Justinian depicted on one of the famous mosaics of the Basilica of San Vitale, Ravenna.
See also: Justinian I

Justinian I, who assumed the throne in 527, oversaw a period of Byzantine expansion into former Roman territories. Justinian, the son of an Illyrian peasant, may already have exerted effective control during the reign of his uncle, Justin I (518–527).[16] His reign opened with external warfare. From Lazica to the Arabian Desert, the Persian frontier blazed with action in a series of campaigns. In 532, attempting to secure his eastern frontier, Justinian signed a peace treaty with Khosrau I of Persia agreeing to pay a large annual tribute to the Sassinids. In the same year, Justinian survived a revolt in Constantinople (the Nika riots) which ended with the death of (allegedly) thirty thousand rioters. This victory solidified Justinian's power.[17] Pope Agapetus I was sent to Constantinople by the Ostrogothic king Theodahad, but failed in his mission to sign a peace with Justinian. However, he succeeded in having the Monophysite Patriarch Anthimus I of Constantinople denounced, despite Empress Theodora's support. The western conquests began in 533, as Justinian sent his general Belisarius to reclaim the former province of North Africa from the Vandals with a small army of about 15,000 men. Success came with surprising ease, but it was not until 548 that the major local independent tribes were subdued.[17] In Ostrogothic Italy, the deaths of Theodoric the Great, his nephew and heir Athalaric, and his daughter Amalasuntha had left her murderer Theodahad on the throne despite his weakened authority. In 535, a small Byzantine expedition sent to Sicily met with easy success, but the Goths soon stiffened their resistance, and victory did not come until 540, when Belisarius captured Ravenna, after successful sieges of Naples and Rome.[18]

Near East in 565AD, showing the Eastern Roman (Byzantine) Empire at its largest extent.

Nevertheless, the Ostrogoths were soon reunited under the command of Totila and captured Rome on December 17, 546; Belisarius was eventually recalled by Justinian in early 549.[19] The arrival of the Armenian eunuch Narses in Italy (late 551) with an army of some 35,000 men marked another shift in Gothic fortunes. Totila was defeated and died at the Battle of Busta Gallorum. His successor, Teias, was likewise defeated at the Battle of Mons Lactarius (October 552). Despite continuing resistance from a few Goth garrisons and two subsequent invasions by the Franks and Alamanni, the war for the Italian peninsula was at an end.[20] In 551, a noble of Visigothic Hispania, Athanagild, sought Justinian's help in a rebellion against the king, and the emperor dispatched a force under Liberius, who, although elderly, proved himself a successful military commander. The Byzantine empire held on to a small slice of the Spanish coast until the reign of Heraclius.[21]

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In the east, Roman-Persian Wars continued until 561 when Justinian's and Khusro's envoys agreed on a 50-year peace. By the mid-550s, Justinian had won victories in most theatres of operation, with the notable exception of the Balkans, which were subjected to repeated incursions from the Slavs. In 559, the Empire faced a great invasion of Kutrigurs and Sclaveni. Justinian called Belisarius out of retirement, but once the immediate danger was over, the emperor took charge himself. The news that Justinian was reinforcing his Danube fleet made the Kutrigurs anxious, and they agreed to a treaty which gave them a subsidy and safe passage back across the river.[17]

Theodora (here with her retinue, mosaic from Basilica of San Vitale, Ravenna), Justinian's influential wife, was a former mime actress, whose earlier life is vividly described by Procopius in Secret History.[22]

Justinian became universally famous because of his legislative work, remarkable for its sweeping character.[23] In 529 a ten-man commission chaired by John the Cappadocian revised the ancient Roman legal code, creating the new Corpus Juris Civilis. In the Pandects, completed under Tribonian's direction in 533, order and system were found in the contradictory rulings of the great Roman jurists, and a textbook, the Institutiones, was issued to facilitate instruction in the law schools. The fourth book, the Novellae, consisted of collections of imperial edicts promulgated between 534 and 565. Because of his ecclesiastical policies, Justinian came into collision with the Jews, the pagans, and various Christian sects. The latter included the Manichaeans, the Nestorians, the Monophysites, and the Arians. In order to completely eradicate paganism, Justinian closed the famous philosophic school in Athens in 529.[24]

During the 6th century, the traditional Greco-Roman culture was still influential in the Eastern empire with prominent representatives such as the natural philosopher John Philoponus. During the same century, however, the Christian philosophy and culture were in the ascendant and began to dominate the older culture. Hymns written by Romanos the Melode marked the development of the Divine Liturgy, while architects and builders worked to complete the new Church of the Holy Wisdom, Hagia Sophia, designed to replace an older church destroyed in the course of the Nika revolt. Hagia Sophia stands today as one of the major monuments of architectural history.[14]

Justinian's successor, Justin II, refused to pay the large tribute to the Persians. Meanwhile, the Germanic Lombards invaded Italy; by the end of the century only a third of Italy was in Byzantine hands. Justin's successor, Tiberius II, choosing between his enemies, awarded subsidies to the Avars while taking military action against the Persians. Although Tiberius' general, Maurice, led an effective campaign on the eastern frontier, subsidies failed to restrain the Avars. They captured the Balkan fortress of Sirmium in 582, while the Turks began to make inroads across the Danube. Maurice, who in the meantime had become emperor, made peace with the Sassanian Emperor Khosrau II, achieving access to Armenia, and forced the Avars back across the Danube by 602.[14]

Heraclian dynasty and shrinking borders

Main article: Byzantium under the Heraclians
See also: Heraclius, Roman-Persian Wars, and Byzantine-Arab Wars
Byzantine Empire by 626 A.D., at the end of the war with the Sassanids, striped section is territories still threatened by the Sassanids

After Maurice's murder by Phocas, Khosrau used the pretext to reconquer the Roman province of Mesopotamia.[25] Phocas, an unpopular ruler who is invariably described in Byzantine sources as a "tyrant", was the target of a number of senate-led plots. He was eventually deposed in 610 by Heraclius, who sailed to Constantinople from Carthage with an icon affixed to the prow of his ship.[26] Following the accession of Heraclius the Persian advance pushed deep into Asia Minor, also occupying Damascus and Jerusalem and removing the True Cross to Ctesiphon.[27] The counter-offensive of Heraclius took on the character of a holy war, and an acheiropoietos image of Christ was carried as a military standard.[28] Similarly, when Constantinople was saved from an Avar siege in 626, the victory was attributed to the icons of the Virgin which were led in procession by Patriarch Sergius about the walls of the city.[29] The main Persian force was destroyed at Nineveh in 627, and in 629 Heraclius restored the True Cross to Jerusalem in a majestic ceremony.[30] The war had exhausted both the Byzantine and Persian states, and left them extremely vulnerable to the Arab forces which emerged in the following years.[31] The Byzantines suffered a crushing defeat at the Battle of Yarmuk in 636, and Ctesiphon fell in 634.[32]


Heraclius was the first emperor to replace the traditional Latin title for his office (Augustus) with the Greek Basileus (Βασιλεύς).[33] This shift from Latin to Greek finds a parallel in the contemporary abandonment of Latin in official documents.[34] In an attempt to heal the doctrinal divide between Chalcedonian and monophysite Christians, Heraclius proposed monotheletism as a compromise. In 638 the new doctrine was posted in the narthex of Hagia Sophia as part of a text called the Ekthesis, which also forbade further discussion of the issue. By this time, however, Syria and Palestine, both hotbeds of monophysite belief, had fallen to the Arabs, and another monophysite center, Egypt, fell by 642. Ambivalence toward Byzantine rule on the part of monophysites may have lessened local resistance to the Arab expansion.[35]

Heraclius did succeed in establishing a dynasty, and his descendents held onto the throne, with some interruption, until 711. Their reigns were marked both by major external threats, from the west and the east, which reduced the territory of the empire to a fraction of its 6th-century extent, and by significant internal turmoil and cultural transformation.

Byzantine Empire by 650 A.D., by this year it lost all of its Southern Provinces except the Exarchate of Carthage
The Arabs, now firmly in control of Syria and the Levant, sent frequent raiding parties deep into Anatolia, and between 674 and 678 laid siege to Constantinople itself. The Arab fleet was finally repulsed through the use of Greek fire, and a thirty-years' truce was signed between empire and caliphate.[36] The Anatolian raids continued unabated, and accelerated the demise of classical urban culture, with the inhabitants of many cities either refortifying much smaller areas within the old city walls, or relocating entirely to nearby fortresses.[37] The void left by the disappearance of the old semi-autonomous civic institutions was filled by the theme system, which entailed the division of Anatolia into "provinces" occupied by distinct armies which assumed civil authority and answered directly to the imperial administration. This system may have had its roots in certain ad hoc measures taken by Heraclius, but over the course of the seventh century it developed into an entirely new system of imperial governance.[38]
Greek fire, first used by the Byzantine Navy during the Byzantine-Arab Wars (from the Madrid Skylitzes, Biblioteca Nacional de España, Madrid).

The withdrawal of massive amounts of troops from the Balkans to combat the Persians and then the Arabs in the east opened the door for the gradual southward expansion of Slavic peoples into the peninsula, and, as in Anatolia, many cities shrank to small fortified settlements.[39] In the 670s the Bulgars were pushed south of the Danube by the arrival of the Khazars, and in 680 Byzantine forces which had been sent to disperse these new settlements were defeated. In the next year Constantine IV signed a treaty with the Bulgar khan Asparukh, and the new Bulgarian state assumed sovereignty over a number of Slavic tribes which had previously, at least in name, recognized Byzantine rule.[40] In 687/8, emperor Justinian II led an expedition against the Slavs and Bulgars which made significant gains, although the fact that he had to fight his way from Thrace to Macedonia demonstrates the degree to which Byzantine power in the north Balkans had declined.[41]

The one Byzantine city that remained relatively unaffected, despite a significant drop in population and at least two outbreaks of the plague, was Constantinople.[42] However, the imperial capital was marked by its own variety of conflict, both political and religious. Constans II continued the monothelete policy of his grandfather, Heraclius, meeting with significant opposition from laity and clergy alike. The most vocal opponents, Maximus the Confessor and Pope Martin I were arrested, brought to Constantinople, tried, tortured, and exiled.[43] Constans seems to have become immensely unpopular in the capital, and moved his residence to Syracuse, where he was ultimately murdered by a member of his court.[44] The Senate experienced a revival in importance in the seventh century and clashed with the emperors on numerous occasions.[45] The final Heraclian emperor, Justinian II, attempted to break the power of the urban aristocracy through severe taxation and the appointment of "outsiders" to administrative posts. He was driven from power in 695, and took shelter first with the Khazars and then with the Bulgars. In 705 he returned to Constantinople with the armies of the Bulgar khan Tervel, retook the throne, and instituted a reign of terror against his enemies. With his final overthrow in 711, supported once more by the urban aristocracy, the Heraclian dynasty came to an end.[46]

The 7th century was a period of radical transformation. The empire which had once stretched from Spain to Jerusalem was now reduced to Anatolia, Chersonesos, and some fragments of Italy and the Balkans. The territorial losses were accompanied by a cultural shift; urban civilization was massively disrupted, classical literary genres were abandoned in favor of theological treatises,[47] and a new "radically abstract" style emerged in the visual arts.[48] That the empire survived this period at all is somewhat surprising, especially given the total collapse of the Sassanid Empire in the face of the Arab expansion, but a remarkably coherent military reorganization helped to withstand the exterior pressures and laid the groundwork for the gains of the following dynasty.[49]

Isaurian dynasty and Iconoclasm

The Byzantine Empire at the accession of Leo III, c. 717. Striped land shows land raided by the Arabs. Click on the image for names of provinces
See also: Iconoclasm (Byzantine)

Leo III the Isaurian turned back the Muslim assault in 718, and achieved a major victory at the expense of the Arabs in 740. He also addressed himself to the task of reorganizing and consolidating the themes in Asia Minor. His successor, Constantine V, won noteworthy victories in northern Syria, and thoroughly undermined Bulgar strength. In the beginning of the 9th century the Arabs captured Crete, and successfully attacked Sicily, but on September 3, 863, general Petronas attained a huge victory against the emir of Melitene. Under the leadership of Krum the Bulgar threat also reemerged, but in 814 Krum's son, Omortag, arranged a peace with the Byzantine Empire.[50]

The 8th and 9th centuries were also dominated by controversy and religious division over Iconoclasm. Icons were banned by Leo and Constantine, leading to revolts by iconodules (supporters of icons) throughout the empire. After the efforts of Empress Irene, the Second Council of Nicaea met in 787, and affirmed that icons could be venerated but not worshipped. Irene is said to have endeavored to negotiate a marriage between herself and Charlemagne, but, according to Theophanes the Confessor, the scheme was frustrated by Aetios, one of her favourites.[51] In 813 Leo V the Armenian restored the policy of iconoclasm, but in 843 Empress Theodora restored the veneration of the icons with the help of Patriarch Methodios.[52] Iconoclasm played its part in the further alienation of East from West, which worsened during the so-called Photian Schism, when Pope Nicholas I challenged Photios' elevation to the patriarchate.

Macedonian dynasty and resurgence

The Byzantine Empire reached its height under the Macedonian emperors of the late 9th, 10th, and early 11th centuries, when it gained control over the Adriatic Sea, southern Italy, and all of the territory of the tsar Samuel. The cities of the empire expanded, and affluence spread across the provinces because of the new-found security. The population rose, and production increased, stimulating new demand while also helping to encourage trade. Culturally, there was considerable growth in education and learning. Ancient texts were preserved and patiently re-copied. Byzantine art flourished, and brilliant mosaics graced the interiors of the many new churches.[53] Though the empire was significantly smaller than during the reign of Justinian, it was also stronger, as the remaining territories were less geographically dispersed and more politically and culturally integrated.

Internal developments

Although traditionally attributed to Basil I (867–886), initiator of the Macedonian dynasty, the "Byzantine renaissance" has been more recently ascribed to the reforms of his predecessor, Michael III (842–867) and his wife's counsellor, the erudite Theoktistos. The latter in particular favoured culture at the court, and, with a careful financial policy, steadily increased the gold reserves of the Empire. The rise of the Macedonian dynasty coincided with internal developments which strengthened the religious unity of the empire.[54] The iconoclast movement was experiencing a steep decline: this favoured its soft suppression by the emperors and the reconciliation of the religious strife that had drained the imperial resources in the previous centuries. Despite occasional tactical defeats, the administrative, legislative, cultural and economic situation continued to improve under Basil's successors, especially with Romanos I Lekapenos (920–944). The theme system reached its definitive form in this period. The church establishment began to loyally support the imperial cause, and the power of the landowning class was limited in favour of agricultural small holders, who made up an important part of the military force of the Empire. These favourable conditions contributed to the increasing ability of the emperors to wage war against the Arabs.

Wars against the Muslims

See also: Muslim conquests

By 867, the empire had stabilised its position in both the east and the west, while the success of its defensive military structure had enabled the emperors to begin planning wars of reconquest in the east.

Byzantine Empire, c. 867 AD

The process of reconquest began with variable fortunes. The temporary reconquest of Crete (843) was followed by a crushing Byzantine defeat on the Bosporus, while the emperors were unable to prevent the ongoing Muslim conquest of Sicily (827–902). Using present day Tunisia as their launching pad, the Muslims conquered Palermo in 831, Messina in 842, Enna in 859, Syracuse in 878, Catania in 900 and the final Greek stronghold, the fortress of Taormina, in 902.

These drawbacks were later counterbalanced by a victorious expedition against Damietta in Egypt (856), the defeat of the Emir of Melitene (863), the confirmation of the imperial authority over Dalmatia (867) and Basil I's offensives towards the Euphrates (870s).

The threat from the Muslims was meanwhile reduced by inner struggles and by the rise of the Turks in the east. Muslims received assistance however from the Paulician sect, which had found a large following in the eastern provinces of the Empire and, facing persecution under the Byzantines, often fought under the Arab flag. It took several campaigns to subdue the Paulicians, who were eventually defeated by Basil I.[53]

In 904, disaster struck the empire when its second city, Thessaloniki, was sacked by an Arab fleet led by a Byzantine renegade. The Byzantines responded by destroying an Arab fleet in 908, and sacking the city of Laodicea in Syria two years later. Despite this revenge, the Byzantines were still unable to strike a decisive blow against the Muslims, who inflicted a crushing defeat on the imperial forces when they attempted to regain Crete in 911.

The situation on the border with the Arab territories remained fluid, with the Byzantines alternatively on the offensive or defensive. The Rus, who appeared near Constantinople for the first time in 860, constituted another new challenge. In 941 they appeared on the Asian shore of the Bosporus, but this time they were crushed, showing the improvements in the Byzantine military position after 907, when only diplomacy had been able to push back the invaders. The vanquisher of the Rus was the famous general John Kourkouas, who continued the offensive with other noteworthy victories in Mesopotamia (943): these culminated in the reconquest of Edessa (944), which was especially celebrated for the return to Constantinople of the venerated Mandylion.

The soldier emperors Nikephoros II Phokas (reigned 963–969) and John I Tzimiskes (969–976) expanded the empire well into Syria, defeating the emirs of north-west Iraq and reconquering Crete and Cyprus. At one point under John, the empire's armies even threatened Jerusalem, far to the south. The emirate of Aleppo and its neighbours became vassals of the empire in the east, where the greatest threat to the empire was the Egyptian Fatimid kingdom.[53]

Wars against the Bulgarians

For more details on this topic, see Byzantine-Bulgarian Wars.
Emperor Basil II the Bulgar Slayer (976–1025).

The traditional struggle with the See of Rome continued, spurred by the question of religious supremacy over the newly Christianized Bulgaria. This prompted an invasion by the powerful tsar Simeon I in 894, but this was pushed back by the Byzantine diplomacy, which called on the help of the Hungarians. The Byzantines were in turn defeated, however, at the Battle of Bulgarophygon (896), and obliged to pay annual subsides to the Bulgars. Later (912) Simeon even had the Byzantines grant him the crown of basileus of Bulgaria and had the young emperor Constantine VII marry one of his daughters. When a revolt in Constantinople halted his dynastic project, he again invaded Thrace and conquered Adrianople.[53]

A great imperial expedition under Leo Phokas and Romanos Lekapenos ended again with a crushing Byzantine defeat at the Battle of Anchialus (917), and the following year the Bulgars were free to ravage northern Greece up to Corinth. Adrianople was captured again in 923 and in 924 a Bulgar army laid siege to Constantinople. The situation in the Balkans improved only after Simeon's death in 927.

Under the emperor Basil II (reigned 976–1025), the Bulgars, who had conquered much of the Balkans from the Byzantines since their arrival three hundred years previously, became the target of annual campaigns by the Byzantine army. The war was to drag on for nearly twenty years, but eventually at the Battle of Kleidon the Bulgars were completely defeated.[55] The Bulgarian army was captured, and it is said that 99 out of every 100 men were blinded, with the remaining hundredth man left with one eye so as to lead his compatriots home. When tsar Samuel saw the broken remains of his once gallant army, he died of shock. In 1018 Bulgaria surrendered and became part of the empire. This stunning victory restored the Danube frontier, which had not been held since the days of the emperor Heraclius.[53]

The empire also gained a new ally at this time in the new Varangian state in Kiev, from which the empire received an important mercenary force, the famous Varangian Guard, in exchange for the marriage of Basil's sister Anna to Vladimir I of Kiev.[53] Basil II also had relatives marry leaders of the Holy Roman Empire.

Triumph

The Byzantine Empire under Basil II, c. 1025.

The Byzantine Empire now stretched to Armenia in the east, to Calabria in Southern Italy in the west.[53] Many successes had been achieved, ranging from the conquest of Bulgaria, to the annexation of parts of Georgia and Armenia, to the total annihilation of an invading force of Egyptians outside Antioch. Yet even these victories were not enough; Basil considered the continued Arab occupation of Sicily to be an outrage. Accordingly, he planned to reconquer the island, which had belonged to the empire for over 300 years (c. 550 – c. 900). However, his death in 1025 put an end to the project.[53]

The 11th century was also momentous for its religious events. In 1054, relations between Greek-speaking Eastern and Latin-speaking Western traditions within the Christian Church reached a terminal crisis. Although there was a formal declaration of institutional separation, on July 16, when three papal legates entered the Hagia Sophia during Divine Liturgy on a Saturday afternoon and placed a bull of excommunication on the altar, the so-called Great Schism was actually the culmination of centuries of gradual separation. Although the schism was brought about by doctrinal disputes (in particular, Eastern refusal to accept the Western Church doctrine of the filioque, or double procession of the Holy Spirit), disputes over administration and political issues had simmered for centuries. The formal separation of the Byzantine Orthodox Church and the Western Catholic Church would have wide ranging consequences for the future of Byzantium.

Crisis and fragmentation

Diptych of Romanos and Eudocia Macrembolitissa crowned by Christ (Bibliothèque nationale de France, Paris).

Byzantium soon fell into a period of difficulties, caused to a large extent by the undermining of the theme system and the neglect of the military. Nikephoros II, John Tzimiskes and Basil II changed the military divisions (τάγματα, tagmata) from a rapid response, primarily defensive, citizen army into a professional, campaigning army increasingly manned by mercenaries. Mercenaries, however, were expensive and as the threat of invasion receded in the 10th century, so did the need for maintaining large garrisons and expensive fortifications.[56] Basil II left a burgeoning treasury upon his death, but neglected to plan for his succession. None of his immediate successors had any particular military or political talent and the administration of the Empire increasingly fell into the hands of the civil service. Efforts to revive the Byzantine economy only resulted in inflation and a debased gold coinage. The army was now seen as both an unnecessary expense and a political threat. Therefore, native troops were cashiered and replaced by foreign mercenaries on specific contract.[57]

Map of Italy on the eve of the arrival of the Normans.

At the same time, the Empire was faced with new, ambitious enemies. Byzantine provinces in southern Italy faced the Normans, who arrived in Italy at the beginning of the 11th century. The allied forces of Melus of Bari and the Normans were defeated at the Battle of Cannae in 1018, and two decades later Michael IV the Paphlagonian equipped an expedition for the reconquest of Sicily from the Arabs. Although the campaign was initially successful, the reconquest of Sicily was not accomplished, mainly because George Maniaces, the commander of the Byzantine forces, was recalled when he was suspected of having ambitious schemes. During a period of strife between Byzantium and Rome which ended in the East-West Schism of 1054, the Normans began to advance, slowly but steadily, into Byzantine Italy.[58]

It was in Asia Minor, however, that the greatest disaster would take place. The Seljuq Turks made their first explorations across the Byzantine frontier into Armenia in 1065 and in 1067. The emergency lent weight to the military aristocracy in Anatolia who, in 1068, secured the election of one of their own, Romanos Diogenes, as emperor. In the summer of 1071, Romanos undertook a massive eastern campaign to draw the Seljuks into a general engagement with the Byzantine army. At Manzikert Romanos not only suffered a surprise defeat at the hands of Sultan Alp Arslan, but was also captured. Alp Arslan treated him with respect, and imposed no harsh terms on the Byzantines.[57] In Constantinople, however, a coup took place in favor of Michael Doukas, who soon faced the opposition of Nikephoros Bryennios and Nikephoros Botaneiates. By 1081 the Seljuks expanded their rule over virtually the entire Anatolian plateau from Armenia in the east to Bithynia in the west and founded their capital in Nicea.[59]

Komnenian dynasty and the crusaders

For more details on this topic, see Byzantium under the Komnenoi.

Alexios I and the First Crusade

For more details on this topic, see Alexios I Komnenos.
See also: First Crusade
The Byzantine Empire and the Sultanate of Rum before the Crusades

After Manzikert, a partial recovery (referred to as the Komnenian restoration) was made possible by the efforts of the Komnenian dynasty.[60] The first emperor of this royal line was Isaac I (1057–1059) and the second Alexios I. At the very outset of his reign, Alexios faced a formidable attack by the Normans under Robert Guiscard and his son Bohemund of Taranto, who captured Dyrrhachium and Corfu, and laid siege to Larissa in Thessaly. Robert Guiscard's death in 1085 temporarily eased the Norman problem. The following year the Seljuq sultan died, and the sultanate was split by internal rivalries. By his own efforts, Alexios defeated the Pechenegs; they were caught by surprise and annihilated at the Battle of Levounion on 28 April 1091.[14]

Having achieved stability in the West, Alexios could turn his attention to the severe economic difficulties and the disintegration of the empire's traditional defences.[61] However, he still did not have enough manpower to recover the lost territories in Asia Minor, and to advance against the Seljuks. At the Council of Piacenza in 1095, Alexios' envoys spoke to Pope Urban II about the suffering of the Christians of the East, and underscored that without help from the West they would continue to suffer under Muslim rule. Urban saw Alexius' request as a dual opportunity to cement Western Europe and enhance papal power.[62] On 27 November, 1095, Pope Urban II called together the Council of Clermont, and urged all those present to take up arms under the sign of the Cross and launch an armed pilgrimage to recover Jerusalem and the East from the Muslims. The response in Western Europe was overwhelming.[14]

The very brief first coinage of the Thessaloniki mint, which Alexios opened as he passed through in September 1081 on his way to confront the invading Normans under Robert Guiscard.

Alexios had anticipated help in the form of mercenary forces from the West, but was totally unprepared for the immense and undisciplined force which soon arrived in Byzantine territory. It was no comfort to Alexius to learn that four of the eight leaders of the main body of the Crusade were Normans, among them Bohemund. Since the crusade had to pass through Constantinople, however, the Emperor had some control over it. He required its leaders to swear to restore to the empire any towns or territories they might conquer from the Turks on their way to the Holy Land. In return, he gave them guides and a military escort.[63] Alexios was able to recover a number of important cities and islands, and in fact much of western Asia Minor. Nevertheless, the crusaders believed their oaths were invalidated when Alexios did not help them during the siege of Antioch (he had in fact set out on the road to Antioch, but had been persuaded to turn back by Stephen of Blois, who assured him that all was lost and that the expedition had already failed).[64] Bohemund, who had set himself up as Prince of Antioch, briefly went to war with the Byzantines, but agreed to become Alexios' vassal under the Treaty of Devol in 1108, which marked the end of Norman threat during Alexios' reign.[65]

Medieval manuscript depicting the Capture of Jerusalem during the First Crusade.

Alexios reconstituted the army and navy, but only by means of stabilizing the gold coinage at one-third of its original value and by imposing supplementary taxes. The supply of native soldiers had virtually ceased with the disappearance or absorption of their military holdings. Alexios promoted an alternative source of native manpower by extending the system of granting estates in pronoia (by favour of the emperor) and tying the grant to a military obligation. Similarly, Alexios tried to promote more profitable development of the estates of the church by granting them to the management of laymen.[14] The final years of Alexios's reign were marked by persecution of the followers of the Paulician and Bogomil heresies, and by anxieties as to the succession, which his wife Irene Doukaina wished to alter in favor of her daughter Anna's husband, Nikephorus Bryennios.[66]

John II, Manuel I and the Second Crusade

Main articles: John II Komnenos and Manuel I Komnenos
John II Komnenos left the imperial treasury full, and did not call for the execution or maiming of a single subject during his reign. Nicknamed 'John the Good', he is regarded by the Byzantine historian Niketas Choniates as the best emperor of the Komnenian dynasty.[67]

Alexios' son John II Komnenos succeeded him in 1118, and was to rule until 1143. John was a pious and dedicated emperor who was determined to undo the damage his empire had suffered at the battle of Manzikert, half a century earlier.[68] Famed for his piety and his remarkably mild and just reign, John was an exceptional example of a moral ruler, at a time when cruelty was the norm.[69] For this reason, he has been called the Byzantine Marcus Aurelius. In the course of his twenty-five year reign, John made alliances with the Holy Roman Empire in the west, decisively defeated the Pechenegs at the Battle of Beroia,[70] and personally led numerous campaigns against the Turks in Asia Minor. John's campaigns fundamentally changed the balance of power in the east, forcing the Turks onto the defensive and restoring to the Byzantines many towns, fortresses and cities right across the peninsula.[67] He also thwarted Hungarian, and Serbian threats during the 1120s, and in 1130 allied himself with the German emperor Lothair III against the Norman King Roger II of Sicily.[71] In the later part of his reign John focussed his activities on the East. He defeated the Danishmend emirate of Melitene, and reconquered all of Cilicia, while forceing Raymond of Poitiers, Prince of Antioch, to recognize Byzantine suzerainty. In an effort to demonstrate the Byzantine emperor's role as the leader of the Christian world, John marched into the Holy Land at the head of the combined forces of Byzantium and the Crusader states; yet despite the great vigour with which he pressed the campaign, John's hopes were disappointed by the treachery of his Crusader allies.[72] In 1142 John returned to press his claims to Antioch, but he died in the spring of 1143 following a hunting accident. Raymond was emboldened to invade Cilicia, but he was defeated and forced to go to Constantinople to beg mercy from the new emperor.[73]

File:Byzantium1173.JPG
Byzantine Empire in red, c.1180, at the end of the Komnenian period.

John's chosen heir was his fourth son, Manuel I Komnenos, who campaigned aggressively against his neighbours both in the west and in the east. In Palestine, he allied himself with the Crusader Kingdom of Jerusalem and sent a large fleet to participate in a combined invasion of Fatimid Egypt. Manuel reinforced his position as overlord of the Crusader states, with his hegemony over Antioch and Jerusalem secured by agreement with Raynald, Prince of Antioch, and Amalric, King of Jerusalem respectively.[74] In an effort to restore Byzantine control over the ports of southern Italy, he sent an expedition to Italy in 1155, but disputes within the coalition led to the eventual failure of the campaign. Despite this military setback, Manuel's armies successfully invaded the Kingdom of Hungary in 1167, defeating the Hungarians at the Battle of Sirmium. By 1168 nearly the whole of the eastern Adriatic coast lay in Manuel's hands.[75] Manuel made several alliances with the Pope and Western Christian kingdoms, and successfully handled the passage of the Second Crusade through his empire.[76] Although hopes for a lasting Papal-Byzantine alliance came up against insuperable problems, Pope Innocent III clearly had a positive view of Manuel when he told Alexios III that he should imitate "your predecessor Manuel of famous memory" who "always replied favourably to ourselves and our predecessors".[77]

In the east, however, Manuel suffered a major defeat at the Battle of Myriokephalon, in 1176, against the Turks. Yet the losses were quickly made good, and in the following year Manuel's forces inflicted a defeat upon a force of "picked Turks".[78] John Vatatzes, who was sent by the Emperor to repel the Turkish invasion, not only brought troops from the capital but also was able to gather an army along the way; a sign that the Byzantine army remained strong and that the defensive program of western Asia Minor was still successful.[79]

12th century Renaissance

For more details on this topic, see Byzantine civilisation in the twelfth century.
See also: Komnenian army

John and Manuel pursued active military policies, and both deployed considerable resources on sieges and on city defenses; aggressive fortification policies were at the heart of their imperial military policies.[80] Despite the defeat at Myriokephalon, the policies of Alexios, John and Manuel resulted in vast territorial gains, increased frontier stability in Asia Minor, and secured the stabilization of the empire's European frontiers. From c.1081 to c.1180, the Komnenian army assured the empire's security, enabling Byzantine civilization to flourish.[81]

The most famous of the surviving Byzantine mosaics of the Hagia Sophia - Christ Pantocrator flanked by the Virgin Mary and John the Baptist. The mosaics were made in the 12th century.

This allowed the Western provinces to achieve an economic revival which continued until the close of the century. It has been argued that Byzantium under the Komnenian rule was more prosperous than at any time since the Persian invasions of the 7th century. During the 12th century population levels rose and extensive tracts of new agricultural land were brought into production. Archaeological evidence from both Europe and Asia Minor shows a considerable increase in the size of urban settlements, together with a notable upsurge in new towns. Trade was also flourishing; the Venetians, the Genoese and others opened up the ports of the Aegean to commerce, shipping goods from the Crusader kingdoms of Outremer and Fatimid Egypt to the west and trading with Byzantium via Constantinople.[82]

In artistic terms, there was a revival in mosaic, and regional schools of architecture began producing many distinctive styles that drew on a range of cultural influences.[83] During the 12th century the Byzantines provided their model of early humanism as a renaissance of interest in classical authors. In Eustathius of Thessalonica Byzantine humanism found its most characteristic expression.[84]

Decline and disintegration

Main article: Byzantium under the Angeloi

Dynasty of the Angeli and Third Crusade

"Whatever paper might be presented to the Emperor (Alexios III) for his signature, he signed it immediately; it did not matter that in this paper there was a senseless agglomeration of words, or that the supplicant demanded that one might sail by land or till the sea, or that mountains should be transferred into the middle of the seas or, as a tale says, that Athos should be put upon Olympus."
Nicetas Choniates[85]

Manuel's death on 24 September 1180 left his 11-year-old son Alexios II Komnenos on the throne. Though he was highly incompetent at the office, it was his mother, Maria of Antioch, and her Frankish background that made his regency highly unpopular.[86] Eventually Andronikos I Komnenos, a grandson of Alexios I, launched a revolt against his younger relative and managed to overthrow him in a violent coup d'état. Utilizing his good looks and his immense popularity with the army, he marched on to Constantinople in August 1182, and incited a massacre of the Latins.[87] After eliminating his potential rivals, he had himself crowned as co-emperor in September 1183; he eliminated Alexios II and even took his 12-year-old wife Agnes of France for himself.[87]

This troubled succession weakened the dynastic continuity and solidarity on which the strength of the Byzantine state had come to rely.[88] The new emperor was a man of astounding contrasts.[88] Handsome and eloquent, Andronikos was at the same time known for his licentious exploits.[89] Energetic, able and determined, Andronikos had been called a "true Komnenos".[90] However, he was also capable of terrifying brutality, violence and cruelty.[88]

Andronikos began his reign well; in particular, the measures he took to reform the government of the empire have been praised by historians. In the provinces Andronikos' reforms produced a speedy and marked improvement.[88] Andronikos's fierce determination to root out corruption and many other abuses was admirable; under Andronikos, the sale of offices ceased; selection was based on merit, rather than favouritism; officials were paid an adequate salary so as to reduce the temptation of bribery. Every form of corruption was eliminated with ferocious zeal.[88]

The people, who felt the severity of his laws, at the same time acknowledged their justice, and found themselves protected from the rapacity of their superiors.[88] Andronikos's energetic efforts to rein in the oppressive tax collectors and officials of the empire did much to alleviate the lot of the peasantry. However, his efforts to check the power of the nobility were considerably more problematic. The aristocrats were infuriated against him, and to make matters worse, Andronikos seems to have become increasingly unbalanced; executions and violence became increasingly common, and his reign turned into a reign of terror.[91] Andronikos seemed almost to seek the extermination of the aristocracy as a whole. The struggle against the aristocracy turned into wholesale slaughter, while the emperor resorted to ever more ruthless measures to shore up his regime.[88]

Despite his military background, Andronikos failed to deal with Isaac Komnenos, Béla III who reincorporated Croation territories into Hungary, and Stephen Nemanja of Serbia who declared his independence from Byzantium. Yet none of these troubles would compare to the William's of Sicily invasion force of 300 ships and 80,000 men, arriving in 1185.[92] Andronikos mobilized a small fleet of 100 ships to defend the capital but other than that he was indifferent to the populace. He was finally overthrown when Isaac Angelos, surviving an Imperial assassination attempt, marched on to the Hagia Sophia and with the aid of the people seized power and had Andronikos killed.[93]

Iconium is won by the Third Crusade.

The reign of Isaac II , and, still more, that of his brother Alexios III, saw the collapse of what remained of the centralized machinery of Byzantine government and defense. Although, the Normans were driven out of Greece, in 1186 the Bulgars began a rebellion that was to lead to the formation of the Second Bulgarian Empire. The mismanagement of the Third Crusade clearly demonstrated Byzantium's weaknesses under the Angeli. When Richard I of England appropriated Cyprus from its ruler, Isaac Komnenos, he refused to hand it back to the Empire,[94] And when Frederick Barbarossa conquered Iconium, Isaac failed to seize the initiative.[95]The internal policy of the Angeloi was characterized by the squandering of the public treasure, and the fiscal maladministration. Byzantine authority was severely weakened, and the growing power vacuum at the centre of the empire encouraged fragmentation. There is evidence that some Komnenian heirs had set up a semi-independent state in Trebizond before 1204.[96] According to Alexander Vasiliev, "the dynasty of the Angeloi, Greek in its origin, [...] accelerated the ruin of the Empire, already weakened without and disunited within."[85]

Fourth Crusade

For more details on this topic, see Fourth Crusade.
The Entry of the Crusaders into Constantinople, by Eugène Delacroix (1840, oil on canvas, 410 x 498 cm, Louvre, Paris).

In 1198, Pope Innocent III broached the subject of a new crusade through legates and encyclical letters.[97] The stated intent of the crusade was to conquer Egypt, now the centre of Muslim power in the Levant. The crusader army that arrived at Venice in the summer of 1202 was somewhat smaller than had been anticipated, and there were not sufficient funds to pay the Venetians, whose fleet was hired by the crusaders to take them to Egypt. Venetian policy under the aging and blind but still ambitious Doge Enrico Dandolo was potentially at variance with that of the Pope and the crusaders, because Venice was closely related commercially with Egypt.[98] The crusaders accepted the suggestion that in lieu of payment they assist the Venetians in the capture of the (Christian) port of Zara in Dalmatia (vassal city of Venice, which had rebelled and placed itself under Hungary's protection in 1186).[99] The city fell in November 1202 after a brief siege.[100] Innocent, who was informed of the plan, but his veto was disregarded, was reluctant to jeopardize the Crusade, and gave conditional absolution to the crusaders—not, however, to the Venetians.[98]

After the death of Theobald III, the leadership of the Crusade passed to Boniface of Montferrat, a friend of the Hohenstaufen Philip of Swabia. Both Boniface and Philip had married into the Byzantine imperial family. In fact, Philip's brother-in-law, Alexios Angelos, son of the deposed and blinded emperor Isaac II Angelos, had appeared in Europe seeking aid and had made contacts with the crusaders. Alexios offered to reunite the Byzantine church with Rome, pay the crusaders 200,000 silver marks, and join the crusade with 200,000 silver marks and all the supplies they needed to get to Egypt.[101] Innocent was aware of a plan to divert the Crusade to Constantinople, and forbade any attack on the city; but the papal letter arrived after the fleets had left Zara.

Alexios III made no preparations for the defense of the city; thus, when the Venetian fleet entered the waters of Constantinople on June 24, 1203, they encountered little resistance.[101] In the summer of 1203 Alexios III fled, and Alexios Angelos was elevated to the throne as Alexios IV along with his blind father Isaac. Innocent reprimanded the leaders of the crusaders, and ordered them to proceed forthwith to the Holy Land.[102]

"None of you should therefore dare to assume that it is permissible for you to seize or to plunder the land of the Greeks, even though the latter may be disobedient to the Apostolic See, or on the grounds that the Emperor of Constantinople has deposed and even blinded his brother and usurped the imperial throne. For though this same emperor and the men entrusted to his rule may have sinned, both in these and in other matters, it is not for you to judge their faults, nor have you assumed the sign of the cross to punish this injury; rather you specifically pledged your self to the duty of avenging the insult to the cross."
Innocent III to Boniface I of Montferrat, Baldwin IX, Count of Flanders, and Louis I (Ferentino, summer 1203, c. June 20).[103]

When in late November 1203 Alexios IV announced that his promises were hard to keep as the empire was short on funds (he had managed to pay roughly half of the promised amount of 200,000 silver marks, and could not fulfil his promise that he would cover the Venetians' rent of the fleet for the crusaders.[104]), the crusaders declared war on him. Meanwhile, internal opposition to Alexios IV grew, and, on January 25, 1204, one of his courtiers, Alexios Doukas killed him, and took the throne himself as Alexios V; Isaac died soon afterwards, probably naturally.[105] The crusaders and Venetians, incensed at the murder of their supposed patron, prepared to assault the Byzantine capital. They decided that 12 electors (six Venetians and six crusaders) should choose a Latin emperor.[98]

Map to show the partition of the empire following the Fourth Crusade, c.1204.

Eventually, the crusaders took the city on April 13, 1204. Constantinople was subjected by the rank and file to pillage and massacre for three days. Many priceless icons, relics, and other objects later turned up in Western Europe, a large number in Venice. According to Choniates, a prostitute was even set up on the Patriarchal throne.[106] When Innocent III heard of the conduct of his crusaders, he castigated them in no uncertain terms. But the situation was beyond his control, especially after his legate, on his own initiative, had absolved the crusaders from their vow to proceed to the Holy Land.[107] When order had been restored, the crusaders and the Venetians proceeded to implement their agreement; Baldwin of Flanders was elected emperor and the Venetian Thomas Morosini chosen patriarch. The lands parcelled out among the leaders did not include all the former Byzantine possessions. The Byzantine rule continued in Nicaea, Trebizond, and Epirus.[98]

Fall

See also: Decline of the Byzantine Empire and Byzantine-Ottoman wars
For more details on this topic, see Byzantium under the Palaiologoi.
Middle East c. 1263

Empire in exile

After the sack of Constantinople in 1204 by Latin Crusaders, three Byzantine successor states were established: the Empire of Nicaea, the Empire of Trebizond and the Despotate of Epirus. Of these three successor states, Epirus and Nicaea stood the best chance of reclaiming Constantinople. The Nicaean Empire struggled, however, to survive the next few decades, and by the mid 13th century it lost much of southern Anatolia.[108] The weakening of the Sultanate of Rum following the Mongol Invasion in 1242-43 allowed many Beyliks and fanatical ghazis to set up their own principalities in Anatolia, weakening the Byzantine hold on Asia Minor.[109] In time, one of the Beys, Osman I, created an empire that would conquer Byzantium. However, the Mongol Invasion also gave Nicaea a temporary respite from Seljuk attacks allowing it to concentrate on the Latin Empire only north of its position.

Reconquest of Constantinople

The Empire of Nicaea, founded by the Laskaris, managed to reclaim Constantinople from the Latins in 1261 and defeat Epirus. This led to a short lived revival of Byzantine fortunes under Michael VIII, but the war-ravaged empire was ill-equipped to deal with the encircling enemies that now surrounded it. In order to maintain his campaigns against the Latins, Michael pulled troops from Asia Minor, and levied crippling taxes on the peasantry, causing much resentment.[110] Massive construction projects were completed in Constantinople to repair the damages of the Fourth Crusade, but none of these initiatives was of any comfort to the farmers in Asia Minor, suffering raids from fanatical ghazis.

Rather than holding on to his possessions in Asia Minor, Michael chose to expand the Empire, gaining only short-term success. To avoid another sacking of the capital by the Latins, he forced the Orthodox Church to submit to Rome, again a temporary solution for which the peasantry hated Michael and Constantinople.[111] The efforts of Andronikos II and later his grandson Andronikos III marked Byzantium's last genuine attempts in restoring the glory of the empire. However, the use of mercenaries by Andronikos II would often backfire, with the Catalan Company ravaging the countryside and increasing resentment towards Constantinople[112] By 1390, Philadelphia, the last Byzantine stronghold in inner Asia Minor, fell to the Turks.

Map of the Middle East c.1350. Byzantium has lost its cities in Asia Minor and Epirus has been reduced significantly by Serbia. Ottoman lands are in purple, and Red Byzantium.

Civil war wracked the empire during the 14th century, since Andronikos III's successor was far too young to rule and the resulting regency's rivalry tore the Empire. The Asian provinces were lost to the Turks, while the Serbians and Bulgarians conquered the Empire's remaining territory in Europe. For a while, the empire survived simply because the Turks of Anatolia were too divided to attack. Nevertheless, the unifying influence of Osman I (1258–1326) allowed the newly founded Ottoman Empire to deprive the Byzantines of all but a handful of port cities.[66]

Things went worse for Byzantium, when, during the civil war, an earthquake at Gallipoli in 1354 devastated the fort, allowing the Turks the very next day to cross into Europe.[113] By the time the Byzantine civil war had ended, the Ottomans had defeated the Serbians and subjugated them as vassals. Following the Battle of Kosovo, much of the Balkans became dominated by the Ottomans.[114]

The Emperors appealed to the west for help, but the Pope would only consider sending aid in return for a reunion of the Eastern Orthodox Church with the See of Rome. Church unity was considered, and occasionally accomplished by imperial decree, but the Orthodox citizenry and clergy intensely resented Roman authority and the Latin Rite.[115] Some western mercenaries arrived to bolster the Christian defense of Constantinople, but most Western rulers, distracted by their own affairs, did nothing as the Ottomans picked apart the remaining Byzantine territories.[116]

The Byzantine Empire by 1430.

Constantinople by this stage was underpopulated and dilapidated. The population of the city had collapsed so severely that it was now little more than a cluster of villages separated by fields. On April 2, 1453, the Sultan's army of some 80,000 men and his hordes of irregulars laid siege to the city.[117] Despite a desperate last-ditch defense of the city by the massively outnumbered Christian forces (c. 7,000 men, 2,000 of whom were foreign mercenaries[116]), Constantinople finally fell to the Ottomans after a two-month siege on May 29, 1453. The last Byzantine emperor, Constantine XI Palaiologos, was last seen casting off his imperial regalia and throwing himself into hand-to-hand combat after the walls of the city were taken.

Aftermath

The siege of Constantinople in 1453 according to a 15th century French miniature.

Mehmed II went on to conquer the Greek statelets of Mistra in 1460 and Trebizond in 1461. The nephew of the last Emperor, Constantine XI, Andreas Palaeologos had inherited the defunct title of Byzantine Emperor and used it from 1465 until his death in 1503.[3] By the end of the 15th century, the Ottoman Empire had established its firm rule over Asia Minor and parts of the Balkan peninsula. Mehmed II and his successors continued to consider themselves proper heirs to the Byzantine Empire until the demise of the Ottoman Empire in the early 20th century. Meanwhile, the Danubian Principalities harbored Orthodox refugees, including some Byzantine nobles.

At his death, the role of the emperor as a patron of Eastern Orthodoxy was claimed by Ivan III, Grand Duke of Muscovy. He had married Andreas's sister, Sophia Paleologue, whose grandson, Ivan IV, would become the first Tsar of Russia (tsar, also spelled czar, is a term traditionally applied by Slavs to the Byzantine Emperors). Their successors supported the idea that Moscow was the proper heir to Rome and Constantinople. The idea of the Russian Empire as the new, Third Rome was kept alive until its demise with the Russian Revolution of 1917.[118]

Culture

Byzantine Culture
Art
Aristocracy &
Bureaucracy
Army
Architecture
Coinage
Cuisine
Dance
Diplomacy
Dress
Economy
Gardens
Law
Literature
Music
Medicine
Navy
Science

Economy

Solidus of Justinian II, second reign, after 705
For more details on this topic, see Byzantine economy.

The Byzantine economy was the most advanced in Europe for many centuries. Constantine V's reforms (c. 765) marked the beginning of a revival that continued until 1204. From the 10th century until the end of the 12th, the Byzantine Empire projected an image of luxury, and the travelers were impressed by the wealth accumulated in the capital. All this changed with the arrival of the Fourth Crusade, which was an economic catastrophe.[119]

One of the economic foundations of the empire was trade. Textiles must have been by far the most important item of export; silks were certainly imported into Egypt, and appeared also in Bulgaria, and the West.[120]

Science

The frontispiece of the Vienna Dioscurides, which shows a set of seven famous physicians.
For more details on this topic, see Byzantine science.
See also: Byzantine medicine

The writings of Classical antiquity never ceased to be cultivated in Byzantium. Therefore, Byzantine science was in every period closely connected with ancient philosophy, and metaphysics.[121] In the final century of the Empire, Byzantine grammarians were those principally responsible for carrying in person, and in writing ancient Greek grammatical, and literary studies to early Renaissance Italy.[122] During this period astronomy and other mathematical sciences were taught in Trebizond; medicine attracted the interest of almost all scholars.[123]

Law

For more details on this topic, see Byzantine law.

Justinian I's reforms had a clear effect on the evolution of jurisprudence around the world. Indeed, to this day the basis of the legal systems in most European nations as well as most of their former colonies around the world continues to be Justinian's Corpus Juris Civilis.[124]

In addition Leo III's Ecloga influenced the formation of legal institutions in the Slavic world.[125]

Religion

As a symbol and expression of the universal prestige of the Patriarchate of Constantinople, Justinian built the temple of the Holy Wisdom, Hagia Sophia, which was completed in the short period of four and a half years (532–537).

According to Joseph Raya, "Byzantine culture and Orthodoxy are one and the same."[126] The survival of the Empire in the East assured an active role of the Emperor in the affairs of the Church. The Byzantine state inherited from pagan times the administrative, and financial routine of administering religious affairs, and this routine was applied to the Christian Church. Following the pattern set by Eusebeus of Caesarea, the Byzantines thought of the Emperor as a Christ's representative or messenger, responsible particularly for the propagation of Christianity among pagans, and for the "externals" of the religion, such as administration and finances. The imperial role, however, in the affairs of the Church never developed into a fixed, legally defined system.[127]

With the decline of Rome, and internal dissension in the other Eastern patriarchates, the church of Constantinople became, between the 6th and 11th centuries, the richest and most influential center of Christendom.[128] Even when the Empire was reduced to only a shadow of itself, the Church, as an institution, had never exercised so much influence both inside and outside of the imperial frontiers. As George Ostrogorsky points out:

The Patriarchate of Constantinople remained the center of the Orthodox world, with subordinate metropolitan sees and archbishoprics in the territory of Asia Minor and the Balkans, now lost to Byzantium, as well as in Caucasus, Russia and Lithuania. The Church remained the most stable element in the Byzantine Empire.[129]

Art and literature

Main articles: Byzantine art and Byzantine literature
See also: Byzantine music
Miniatures of the 6th-century Rabula Gospel display the more abstract and symbolic nature of Byzantine art.

Architecture, painting, and other visual arts produced in the Byzantine Empire and in various areas that came under its influence. Byzantine art is almost entirely concerned with religious expression and, more specifically, with the impersonal translation of carefully controlled church theology into artistic terms. Byzantine forms were spread by trade and conquest to Italy and Sicily, where they persisted in modified form through the 12th century, and became formative influences on Italian Renaissance art. By means of the expansion of the Eastern Orthodox church, Byzantine forms spread to eastern European centers, particularly Russia.[130]

In Byzantine literature, therefore, four different cultural elements are to be reckoned with: the Greek, the Christian, the Roman, and the Oriental. Byzantine literature is often classified in five groups: historians and annalists, encyclopedists (Patriarch Photios, Michael Psellos, and Michael Choniates are regarded as the greatest encyclopedists of Byzantium) and essayists, and writers of secular poetry (The only genuine heroic epic of the Byzantines is the Digenis Acritas). The remaining two groups include the new literary species: ecclesiastical and theological literature, and popular poetry. Of the approximately two to three thousand volumes of Byzantine literature that survive, only three hundred and thirty consist of secular poetry, history, science and pseudo-science.[131] While the most flourishing period of the secular literature of Byzantium runs from the ninth to the twelfth century, its religious literature (sermons, liturgical books and poetry, theology, devotional treatises etc.) developed much earlier with Romanos the Melodist being its most prominent representative.[132]

Government and bureaucracy

The themes c. 650
The themes c. 950
See also: Byzantine aristocracy and bureaucracy

In the Byzantine state, the emperor was the sole and absolute ruler, and his power was regarded as having divine origin.[3] By the end of the 8th century, a civil administration focused on the court was formed as part of a large-scale consolidation of power in the capital (the rise to pre-eminence of the position of sakellarios is related to this change).[133] The most important reform of this period is the creation of themes, where civil and military administration is exercised by one person, the strategos.[3]

Despite the occasionally derogatory use of the word "Byzantine", the Byzantine bureaucracy had a distinct ability for reinventing itself in accordance with the Empire's situation. The Byzantine system of titulature and precedence makes the imperial administration look like an ordered bureaucracy to modern observers. Officials were arranged in strict order around the emperor, and depended upon the imperial will for their ranks. There were also actual administrative jobs, but authority could be vested in individuals rather than offices.[134] In the 8th and 9th centuries civil service constituted the clearest path to aristocratic status, but, starting in the 9th century, the civil aristocracy was rivaled by an aristocracy of nobility. According to some studies of Byzantine government, 11th-century politics were dominated by competition between the civil and the military aristocracy. During this period, Alexios I undertook important administrative reforms, including the creation of new courtly dignities and offices.[135]

Diplomacy

For more details on this topic, see Byzantine diplomacy.
Olga, ruler of Kievan Rus', along with her escort in Constantinople (Madrid Skylitzes, Biblioteca Nacional de España, Madrid)

After the fall of Rome, the key challenge to the Empire was to maintain a set of relations between itself and its sundry neighbors. When these nations set about forging formal political institutions, they were dependent on Constantinople. Byzantine diplomacy soon managed to draw its neighbors into a network of international and inter-state relations.[136] This network revolved around treaty making, and included the welcoming of the new ruler into the family of kings, and the assimilation of Byzantine social attitudes, values and institutions.[137] Byzantines regarded diplomacy as a form of war by other means: the Bureau of Barbarians was the first foreign intelligence agency, gathering information on the empire's rivals from every imaginable source.[138]

Byzantines availed themselves of a number of diplomatic practices. For example, embassies to the capital would often stay on for years. A member of other royal houses would routinely be requested to stay on in Constantinople, not only as a potential hostage, but also as a useful pawn in case political conditions where he came from changed. Another key practice was to overwhelm visitors by sumptuous displays.[136] According to Dimitri Obolensky, the preservation of civilization in Eastern Europe was due to the skill and resourcefulness of Byzantine diplomacy, which remains one of Byzantium's lasting contributions to the history of Europe.[139]

Language

Owing its origins to Rome the original language of the Empire was Latin and this continued to be the official language of the empire until the 7th century AD when Emperor Heraclius changed the official language to Greek (some historians mark this point as the proper "beginning" of the Byzantine Empire). One of the last emperors in Constantinople who used Latin as his primary language was Justinian I in the 6th century CE (who commissioned the Corpus Juris Civilis among many works in Latin). However, Latin still continued to be the language of the imperial court for the emperors that followed until the ascension of Heraclius.

Official status aside, the primary language used in the eastern provinces even before fall of Rome had always been Greek.[140] In fact, Greek had been the most widely spoken language in the Roman Empire even before Rome's fall, mainly owing to the larger urban centers and Greek legacy in the East.[141] Indeed, long before the fall of Rome, Greek had become the common language in the Church, the language of scholarship and the arts, and, to a large degree, the lingua franca for trade between provinces and with other nations. The language itself for a time gained a dual nature with the primary spoken language, Koine Greek, existing alongside the literary language, a variant of the ancient Attic Greek dialect.[142] Koine gradually evolve into what became known as Medieval or Byzantine Greek, the Empire's standard dialect.

Even by the end of the reign of Justinian I it had become clear that, with Western provinces in ruins, Latin's importance in the Empire was rapidly declining. Nevertheless for many centuries Latin continued to be used for some official purposes largely for historical/sentimental reasons even as it lost any practical usage. Indeed the last coins with Latin inscriptions were minted in the 11th century and the Byzantine army is known to have used Latin commands and terminology late in the Middle Ages as well.

Many other languages existed in the multi-ethnic Empire as well, and some of these were given limited official status in their provinces at various times. Notably, by the beginning of the Middle Ages, Syriac and Aramaic had become more widely used by the educated classes in the far eastern provinces.[143] Similarly Coptic, Armenian, and Georgian became significant among the educated in Egypt, Armenia, and Georgia respectively. Later the incursions by the Slavs into the Balkans starting in the 6th century CE and the eventual incorporation of the Slavs into Orthodox Christianity made the Slavonic languages important in the Empire and its sphere of influence. Similarly Arabic would become important in the Empire as succeeding Arab Caliphates overtook Byzantine lands from the 7th century CE onward.

Aside from these, since Constantinople and other cities in the Empire were prime trading and manufacturing centers for Europe, Asia, and North Africa, virtually every known language of the Middle Ages was spoken in the Empire at some time. During the late stages of the empire, having lost most of its territory and facing diminishing outside trade, the Empire's citizens became more culturally homogeneous and the Greek language became synonymous with their identity and their Christian religion.

Legacy

As the only stable long-term state in Europe during the Middle Ages, Byzantium protected Western Europe from many destructive forces farther to the East. Constantly under attack, it shielded Western Europe from Persians, Arabs, Seljuk Turks, and for a time, the Ottomans. The Byzantine-Arab Wars, for example, are recognized by some historians as being a key factor behind the rise of Charlemagne,[144] and a huge stimulus to feudalism and economic self-sufficiency.

For centuries, Western historians have used the terms Byzantine and Byzantinism as bywords for decadence and incomprehensibility, and there was a negative assessment of Byzantine civilization and its legacy in Southeastern Europe.[145] Byzantinism in general was defined as a body of religious, political, and philosophical ideas which ran contrary to those of the West.[146] The 20th and 21st centuries, however, have seen attempts by historians in the West to understand the Empire in a more balanced and accurate fashion, and as a result the complex character of Byzantine culture has received more attention and a more objective treatment than previously.[146]

See also

Footnotes

  1. ^ Moravcsik (1970), 11-12
  2. ^ Fox, What, If Anything, Is a Byzantine?
  3. ^ a b c d "Hellas, Byzantium". Encyclopaedia The Helios. 
  4. ^ Bury (1923), 1
    * Fenner, Economic Factors
  5. ^ a b c Bury (1923), 1
  6. ^ "Byzantine Empire". Encyclopaedia Britannica. 
    * Gibbon (1906), II, {{PDFlink|200|2.61 MiB
  7. ^ Eusebius, IV, lxii
  8. ^ Gibbon (1906), III, {{PDFlink|168|2.35 MiB
  9. ^ Bury (1923), 1
    * Esler (2000), 1081
  10. ^ Esler (2000), 1081
  11. ^ Bury (1923), 25–26
  12. ^ Esler (2000), 1081
    * Mousourakis (2003), 327–328
  13. ^ Bury (1923), 163
  14. ^ a b c d e f "Byzantine Empire". Encyclopaedia Britannica. 
  15. ^ Nathan, Theodosius II (408-450 A.D.)
  16. ^ "Byzantine Empire". Encyclopaedia Britannica. 
    * Evans, Justinian (AD 527–565)
  17. ^ a b c Evans, Justinian (AD 527–565)
  18. ^ Bury (1923), 180–216
  19. ^ Bury (1923), 236–258
  20. ^ Bury (1923), 259–281
  21. ^ Bury (1923), 286–288
  22. ^ Procopius, IX
  23. ^ Vasiliev, The Legislative Work of Justinian and Tribonian
  24. ^ Vasiliev, The Ecclesiastical Policy of Justinian
  25. ^ Foss (1975), 722
  26. ^ Haldon (1997), 41
    * Speck (1984), 178.
  27. ^ Haldon (1997), 42-43
  28. ^ Grabar (1984), 37
    * Cameron (1979), 23.
  29. ^ Cameron (1979), 5-6, 20-22
  30. ^ Haldon (1997), 46
    * Baynes (1912), passim
    * Speck (1984), 178
  31. ^ Foss (1975), 746-47.
  32. ^ Haldon (1997), 50
  33. ^ Shahid (1972), 295-96, 305.
  34. ^ Haldon (1997), 404
  35. ^ Haldon (1997), 49-50
  36. ^ Haldon (1997), 61-62
  37. ^ Haldon (1997), 102-14.
  38. ^ Haldon (1997), 208-15
    * Kaegi (2003), 236, 283.
  39. ^ Haldon (1997), 43-45, 66, 114-15.
  40. ^ Haldon (1997), 66-67.
  41. ^ Haldon (1997), 71.
  42. ^ Haldon (1997), 115-16.
  43. ^ Haldon (1997), 56-59.
  44. ^ Haldon (1997), 59-61.
  45. ^ Haldon (1997), 53, 61, 68-69, 74.
  46. ^ Haldon (1997), 70-78, 169-71
    * Haldon (2004), 216-217
    * Kountoura-Galake (1996), 62-75
  47. ^ Cameron (1992)
  48. ^ Kitzinger (1976), 195
  49. ^ Haldon (1997), 251.
  50. ^ "Byzantine Empire". Encyclopaedia Britannica. 
    * "Hellas, Byzantium". Encyclopaedia The Helios. 
  51. ^ Garland (1996), 89
  52. ^ Parry (1996), 11–15
  53. ^ a b c d e f g h Norwich (1998)
  54. ^ Treadgold (1991)
  55. ^ Angold (1997)
  56. ^ Treadgold (1997), 548–549
  57. ^ a b Markham, The Battle of Manzikert
  58. ^ Vasiliev, Relations with Italy and Western Europe
  59. ^ "Byzantine Empire". Encyclopaedia Britannica. (2002). 
    * Markham, The Battle of Manzikert
  60. ^ Magdalino (2002), 124
  61. ^ Birkenmeier (2002)
  62. ^ Harris (2003)
    * Read (2003), 124
    * Watson (1993), 12
  63. ^ Anna Komnene, X, 261
  64. ^ Anna Komnene, XI, 291
  65. ^ Anna Komnene, XIII, 348–358
    * Birkenmeier (2002), 46
  66. ^ a b Garland (2006), 126
    * Runciman (1982), 72
  67. ^ a b Stone, John II Komnenos
  68. ^ Norwich (1998), 267
  69. ^ Ostrogorsky (1990), 377
  70. ^ Birkenmeier (2002), 90
  71. ^ "John II Komnenos". Encyclopaedia Britannica. 
  72. ^ Harris (2003), 84
  73. ^ Brooke (2004), 326
  74. ^ Magdalino (2002), 74
    * Stone, Manuel I Comnenus
  75. ^ Sedlar (1994), 372
  76. ^ Magdalino (2002), 67
  77. ^ Innocent III, Letter to the Illustrious Emperor of Constantinople (no 121)
  78. ^ J.W. Birkenmeier (2002), 128
  79. ^ Birkenmeier (2002), 196
  80. ^ Birkenmeier (2002), 185–186
  81. ^ Birkenmeier (2002), 1
  82. ^ G.W. Day (1977), 289–290
    * Harvey (1998)
  83. ^ Diehl, Byzantine Art
  84. ^ Tatakes-Moutafakis (2003), 110
  85. ^ a b Vasiliev, Foreign policy of the Angeloi
  86. ^ Norwich (1998), 291
  87. ^ a b Norwich (1998), 292
  88. ^ a b c d e f g P. Magdalino (2002), 194
  89. ^ J.Harris, Byzantium and the Crusades, 117
  90. ^ J.J. Norwich, A short history of Byzantium, 291
  91. ^ J.Harris, Byzantium and the Crusades, 118
  92. ^ Norwich (1998), 293
  93. ^ Norwich (1998), 294-295
  94. ^ Norwich (1998), 296
  95. ^ T. Madden, Crusades, 85
    * Norwich (1998), 297
  96. ^ Angold (1997)
    * Paparrigopoulos (1925), Db, 216
  97. ^ Norwich (1998), 299
  98. ^ a b c d "The Fourth Crusade and the Latin Empire of Constantinople". Encyclopaedia Britannica. 
  99. ^ Britannica Concise, Siege of Zara
  100. ^ Geoffrey of Villehardouin, 46
  101. ^ a b Norwich (1998), 301
  102. ^ Harris (2003)
    * "The Fourth Crusade and the Latin Empire of Constantinople". Encyclopaedia Britannica. 
  103. ^ Innocent III, Innocent III to the Marquis of Montferrat and the Counts of Flanders, Blois and St. Pol. (no 101)
  104. ^ Madden (2005), 110
  105. ^ Paparrigopoulos (1925), Db, 230
  106. ^ Choniates, The Sack of Constantinople
  107. ^ Norwich (1998)
    * "The Fourth Crusade and the Latin Empire of Constantinople". Encyclopaedia Britannica. 
  108. ^ Kean (2005)
    * Madden (2005), 162
    * Lowe-Baker, The Seljuks of Rum
  109. ^ Lowe-Baker, The Seljuks of Rum
  110. ^ Madden (2005), 179
    * Reinert (2002), 260
  111. ^ Reinert (2002), 257
  112. ^ Reinert (2002), 261
  113. ^ Reinert (2002), 268
  114. ^ Reinert (2002), 270
  115. ^ Runciman (1990), 71-72
  116. ^ a b Runciman (1990), 84-85
  117. ^ Runciman (1990), 84-86
  118. ^ Seton-Watson (1967), 31
  119. ^ Magdalino in Laiou (2002), {{PDFlink|532|519 KiB
  120. ^ Laiou (2002), {{PDFlink|723|463 KiB
  121. ^ Anastos (1962), 409
  122. ^ Robins (1993), 8
  123. ^ Tatakes-Moutafakis (2003), 189
  124. ^ "Medieval Sourcebook: Corpus Iuris Civilis: The Digest and Codex: Marriage Laws", Fordham University, retrieved 8 Nov., 2007[1]
  125. ^ Troianos-Velissaropoulou (1997), 340
  126. ^ Raya, The Byzantine Church and Culture
  127. ^ Meyendorff (1982), 13
  128. ^ Meyendorff (1982), 19
  129. ^ Meyendorff (1982), 130
  130. ^ "Byzantine Art". Encyclopaedia Britannica. 
  131. ^ Mango (1980), 233–4
  132. ^ "Byzantine Literature". Catholic Encyclopedia. 
  133. ^ Louth (2005), 291
    * Neville (2004), 7
  134. ^ Neville (2004), 34
  135. ^ Neville (2004), 13
  136. ^ a b Neumann (2006), 869–871
  137. ^ Chrysos (1992), 35
  138. ^ Antonucci (1993), 11–13
  139. ^ Obolensky (1994), 3
  140. ^ Fergus Millar, A Greek Roman Empire: Power and Belief under Theodosius II (408-450). Sather Classical Lectures, Vol. 64. Berkeley: University of California Press, 2006. Pp. 279. ISBN 0-520-24703-5
  141. ^ McDonnell/MacDonnell, Roman Manliness: Virtus and the Roman Republic
  142. ^ Greek Language, Encyclopedia Britannica[2]
  143. ^ Versteegh, Cornelis H. M., Greek Elements in Arabic Linguistic Thinking, E. J. Brill, 1977, Chapter 1.
  144. ^ Pirenne, Henri
    • Mediaeval Cities: Their Origins and the Rivival of Trade (Princeton, NJ, 1925). ISBN 0691007608
    • See also Mohammed and Charlemagne (London 1939) Dover Publications (2001). ISBN 0-486-42011-6.
  145. ^ Angelov (2001), 1
  146. ^ a b Angelov (2001), 7-8

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  • "The Fourth Crusade and the Latin Empire of Constantinople". Encyclopaedia Britannica. (2002). 
  • Treadgold, Warren (1997). A History of the Byzantine State and Society. Stanford University Press. ISBN 0-804-72630-2. 
  • Treadgold, Warren (1991). The Byzantine Revival, 780-842. Stanford University Press. ISBN 0-804-71896-2. 
  • Troianos, Spyros; Velissaropoulou-Karakosta, Julia (1997). "Byzantine Law", History of Law. Ant.N. Sakkoulas Publishers. ISBN 9-602-32594-1. 
  • Vasiliev, Alexander Alexandrovich (1928–1935). "Byzantium and the Crusades", History of the Byzantine Empire. 
  • Watson, Bruce Allen (1993). "Jerusalem 1099", Sieges: A Comparative Study. Praeger/Greenwood. ISBN 0-275-94034-9. 

Further reading

  • Ahrweiler, Helene "Studies on the Internal Diaspora of the Byzantine Empire", Harvard University Press, 1998.
  • Ahrweiler, Helene Les Europeens, Herman (Paris), 2000.
  • Haldon, John (2001). The Byzantine Wars: Battles and Campaigns of the Byzantine Era. ISBN 0-7524-1795-9. 
  • J.M. Hussey, The Cambridge Medieval History, Volume IV — The Byzantine Empire Part I, Byzantium and its Neighbors, Cambridge University Press 1966.
  • Runciman, Steven (1966). Byzantine Civilisation. Edward Arnold (Publishers) Ltd.. ISBN 1-56619-574-8. 
  • Runciman, Steven (1990). The Emperor Romanus Lecapenus and his Reign. 
  • Toynbee, Arnold J. (1972). Constantine Porphyrogenitus and His World. Oxford University Press. ISBN 019215253X. 
  • Treadgold, Warren (1991). The Byzantine Revival 780–842. Stanford University Press. ISBN 0804718962. 

External links