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Some Musings Up Front
Big Questions:
пЃ® Why study Byzantium?
пЃ® How is it similar to and different from other
civs.?
пЃ® What is its legacy?
Rome Splits: It’s like a bad soap opera
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They meet, flirt, marry and settle in Rome:
– Roman Empire United the entire Mediterranean by the Pax Romana
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Things get tough, so they take a break:
– The Empire grows too unwieldy to govern as a whole. It splits in 286 C.E. into an
eastern and western half. Theoretically, this is supposed to make the Empire easier
to govern.
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They get back together in Constantinople:
– In 313 Christianity is accepted throughout the empire, and in 330 Constantine
reunites the Empire only centers it in Constantinople, not Rome. However, it’s still
the Roman Empire.
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The reconciliation doesn’t last. They grow more and more distant
geographically and politically, but they hang on via the same religion.
– 395 the Empire splits again. The eastern half becomes known as the Byzantine
Empire. The western half starts a long process of decline. 400 years later, during
800, the Holy Roman Empire forms in the West.
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They finally get a divorce. Even religion can’t hold them together as the west
becomes Roman Catholic and the east becomes Christian Orthodox.
– 1054 the Church splits. The Roman Catholics consolidate power under the Pope.
The Christian Orthodox keeps power with the Emperor.
Constantine’s City--Constantinopolis
The Roman Empire Divided in 294
Barbarian Invasions of the Roman Empire
“Bulwark of Civilization”
The city of Constantinople is one of the
best protected cities in the world.
While it has been attacked many times
– its defenses have not be breached.
Located on a peninsula, there is only
one way to attack it on land. That land
route is protected by a series of three
walls, each of increasing strength.
In order to protect the city from the
sea, Constantinople’s navy uses “Greek
Fire”, a burning liquid that it can spray
onto enemy ships.
Views of the City
THE CITY OF
CONSTANTINOPLE
Constantinople: A Greek City
(Istanbul Today)
THREAT OF ISLAM
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The emergence of the Islamic state
– Arab peoples conquered Sassanids, part of Byzantium
 Lost Egypt, North Africa, Fertile Cresent, Crete, Cyprus
– Prolonged sieges of Constantinople by Islamic armies
– Byzantine survived partly because of "Greek fire"
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Imperial organization
– Government run by trained bureaucracy, professional army
– The theme system strengthened Byzantine society
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Under rule of general, who ran army, civil bureaucracy
Responsible for protecting peasants
Themes were provinces organized on a military basis
Local officials recruited troops from within theme
– Aristocrats limited by army, emperor, bureaucracy
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The revival of the empire
– Reconquered Syria, Crete, Cyprus: 10th century
– "Basil the Bulgar Slayer," crushed Bulgars in Balkans
THE THREAT OF ISLAM
Emperor Justinian [r. 527-564]
Sunset on the “Golden Horn”
Age of Justinian
Justinian ruled the Byzantine empire from 527 to
565. During his reign, Justinian
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recovered provinces that had been previously
overrun by invaders.
– The Byzantine empire reached its greatest size
under Justinian.
launched a program to beautify Constantinople.
– The church of Hagia Sophia improved on earlier
Roman buildings.
reformed the law.
– Justinian’s Code was a model for medieval
monarchs, the Roman Catholic Church, and later
legal thinkers.
used the law to unite the empire under his
control
– Justinian ruled as an autocrat, or sole ruler with
complete authority. He also had power over the
Church.
Empress Theodora
Justinian’s Empire at its Peak
Church of Hagia Sophia [Holy Wisdom]
Interior of the Church of Hagia Sophia
URBAN LIFE
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Urban Life
– The capital was the heart of the empire
– Housing in Constantinople
 Enormous palaces owned by aristocrats
 Less splendid dwellings owned by less privileged classes
– Attractions of Constantinople
 City of baths, taverns, restaurants, theaters, Hippodrome
 The most popular game - chariot races
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Greens and Blues
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The two factions of fans for chariot races
Frequent fights in the street between them
Joined together in a popular uprising, 532
The riot left Constantinople in shambles
BYZANTINE ECONOMY
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The Agricultural Economy
– The peasantry
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The backbone of the Byzantine army and economy
Landless peasants worked as share-croppers
Invasions of 6th, 7th century led to theme system
Since 11th century, free peasants declined
– Consequences of the peasantry's decline
 Landowners shifted taxes to peasants
 Landowners raised forces on estates
 Pool of military recruits shrank
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Industry and Trade
– Manufacturing enterprises
 Byzantine craftsmen had high reputation in various industries
 High-quality silk became important industry; imperial monopoly
– Trade
 Constantinople, important for Eurasian, Mediterranean trade
 Solidus was the standard currency of the Mediterranean basin
 Byzantium drew enormous wealth from foreign trade
– Banks and partnerships supported commercial economy
Rome vs. Byzantine
Roman Empire
Byzantine Empire
•Latin Language
•Greek Language
•Columns and Arches
•Domes and Mosaics
•Geographically
Expansive
•Centered in East. Heavily
influenced by Greek and
Persian Cultures
•Overextended
•Less Defensible
•Less Cohesive
•Geographically Contained
•More Defensible
•More Cohesive
BYZANTIUM & WESTERN EUROPE
Tensions between Greeks and Latins
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Ecclesiastical tensions
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Constantinople
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Rome
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Greek was religious language
Caesaropapist emperors
Latin was chief language
Autonomy from imperial authorities
Rivalry for conversion of Slavs
Political grievances
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First Franks then Germans claimed imperial authority
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Charlemagne received imperial crown in 800
Otto of Saxony claimed himself an emperor in 962
Byzantines felt they were only legitimate emperor
Rivalry over Southern Italy and Sicily
East vs. West
Byzantine Empire
Western Europe
•Centralized and unified political
structures
•Fragmented, localized political
structures
•More Localized Religion
•More centralized Religion
•Secular Empire with an official
state religion attached.
•Religious Empire with
subservient political units
•Authority vested in Emperor
•Authority vested in Pope
•Greek and Hellenic culture
dominates (with heavy influences
from Persia, Muslim world, etc.
•Latin still official language.
Called the “Dark Ages” for a
reason.
•Cosmopolitan, commercial,
“mosaic of cultures”, known for
silks and textiles.
•Agrarian, manorial system,
Feudal, economies of war.
MAP OF THE EMPIRE
TWIN LEGACIES
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Byzantine education
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State-organized school system,
Schools trained government bureaucrats
Private education for aristocratic families
Basic literacy was widespread even among lower classes
Citizens constantly engaged in intellectual disputes
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Emphasis on humanities, classics
Arts, architecture important for state, church
Natural science generally ignored
Educated considered heirs of classical Greece
Scholarship
Christianity (Church) was other legacy
BYZANTINE CHURCH
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Church and state
Church's close relationship with the imperial government
Constantine actively participated in religious debate
Under emperors, church was department of state
Iconoclasm
Controversy over use of icons in religious services
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Old Testament prohibition on false images, Islamic influences
Iconoclasts wanted to purge all churches of icons
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Unpopular policy sparked protests, riots throughout the empire
Opposed by Western Christians, Pope
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Much protest, excommunications from pope
Emperors worried
Ban inaugurated by Emperor Leo III in 726 C.E.
The iconoclasts abandoned their effort in 843 C.E.
Greek Philosophy and Byzantine theology
Examine theology from philosophical point of view
Debate about Jesus's nature, a philosophical issue
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Arian Heresy
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Monophysite Controversy
ICONS
•The word of God in art used for
prayer: Iconographers read Bible
passage, paint as a prayer. Icons
follow certain styles using specific
colors, images.
•Trying to find a way to explain
success of the Muslims, a controversy
arises: Are Icons false idolatry?
•Muslims say yes. Iconoclasts say yes
= don’t use Icons.
•However Icons are huge part of
Byzantine art and culture so a massive
controversy arises.)
MONASTICISM AND PIETY
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Asceticism
– Extreme asceticism, self-denial by some Christians
– Many famous, wealthy retreated to monasteries
– "Pillar saints"
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Byzantine monasticism and St. Basil
– Earliest monasteries of dedicated hermits, ascetics
– Monasticism began in Egypt area
– Reforms urged by St. Basil, 4th century C.E.
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Monasteries provided local social services
– Hospitals, orphanages, poor relief
– Heavily endowed by wealthy
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Not centers of learning
THE GREAT SCHISM
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Constantinople and Rome
– Political rivalry in Central Europe, Balkans, Southern Italy
 Popes supported anti-Byzantine Normans, Hungarians
 Papal missionaries active in Greek areas
– Iconoclastic movement in the east criticized by the west
 Emperors vs. Popes
 Who is head of the church – pope or an emperor
– Ritual, doctrinal differences
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Leavened vs. unleavened bread
Marriage of priests
Liturgy in the vernacular
Council rule versus the monarchical style of the pope
Filoque controversy: Holy Spirit – from who does it proceed?
Schism
– Power struggle led to mutual excommunication, 1054
 Rivalry between pope, patriarch
 Papal ambassador excommunicated patriarch; vise versa
– Origins of Eastern Orthodox & Roman Catholic churches
– It was really post-1054 actions were made split permanent
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Christianity in East and West
Byzantine Christianity
Western European Christianity
•Byzantine emperor controlled
Church affairs
•Pope controlled Church affairs
•People rejected pope’s claim to
authority over all Christians
•Clergy kept right to marry
•Greek was language of the
Church
•Easter was main holy day
•People accepted pope’s claim to
authority over all Christians
•Clergy prohibited from marrying
•Latin was language of the
Church
•Christmas was main holy day
•Use of holy images permitted.
•Emperor outlawed the use of
icons, or holy images
1054 – Differences between east and west provoked a schism, or
permanent split, between the Eastern (Greek) Orthodox and the
Roman Catholic Church.
DOMESTIC PROBLEMS AND
FOREIGN CHALLENGES
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Generals, local aristocrats allied, a challenge to imperial power
Free peasants were declining in number and prosperity
Imperial government had fewer recruits, many fiscal problems
Challenges from the east
Muslim Seljuk Turks invaded Anatolia, defeat Byzantines, 1071
Also took control of Abbasid Caliphate, Holy places in Jerusalem
The loss of Anatolia sealed the fate of the Byzantine empire
Challenges from the west
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Social problems
Norman army expelled Byzantine authorities in southern Italy
Normans, western Europeans mounted a series of crusades
The fourth crusade sacked Constantinople
Byzantine forces recaptured the capital in 1261
Byzantines never recovered
Turks gradually push Byzantines out of Asia; into Europe
MAP OF BYZANTINE
PROBLEMS
Decline of the Byzantine Empire
EASTERN EUROPE
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Slavs, Avars, Magyars (Hungarians), Vlachs (Rumanians)
As Germans moved west, Slavs moved into vacuum
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Avars and Magyars were pastoral nomads who invaded area
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Eastern Europe
Byzantine ruled area up to Danube, into Bosnia
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Slavs settled inside imperial boundaries
Maintained close contact with Byzantium from the 6th century
The peoples included Serbs, Croats, Macedonians
Rise Bulgars
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Settled in Pannonia, area of Danube plain outside Byzantine control
Split Northern or Western Slavs from Southern of Jugo-slavs
Vlachs: Latin speaking agriculturalists, herders in Transylvania
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Pushed into Balkans, Greece, Central Europe
Generally agriculturalists, favored trade
Bulgars were Turkish pastoralists
Conquered, settled in Danube area; adopted Slavic traditions
Formed very powerful kingdom, threat to Byzantines
Missions to the Slavs
Byzantium sent missionaries to Central Europe, Balkans
The mission of Saints Cyril and Methodius, mid-9th century
Cyrillic writing stimulated conversion to Orthodox Christianity
Split Allegiance of Eastern Europe
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Pope: Magyars, Czechs, Slovaks, Poles, Croats, Slovenes
Patriarch: Serbs, Bulgars, Macedonians, Russians, Romanians
SLAVIC MIGRATIONS
RUSSIA
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Rise of Russia
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Area inhabited by Slavs
Varangians (Vikings) arrived, used river system
Set up state based on trade, conquest around 9th Century
State founded by Rurik, people called Rus; capital Kiev
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Converted for trade, commercial reasons
Elites baptized by order of prince, often against will
Served as conduit for spread of Byzantine culture, religion
Conversion led to literacy, use of Slavonic; Greek traditions
Byzantine art and architecture dominated Kiev
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Princes established caesaropapist control of church
After 1453 claimed to inherit imperial crown of Byzantium
State divided into provinces ruled by princes/boyars
Landed nobles called boyars, constant strife with princes
Kievan rule was very decentralized
Constant threat, war with steppe nomads
The conversion of Prince Vladimir, 989
The growth of Kiev
MEDIEVAL RUSSIA
The Byzantine Heritage
For 1,000 years, the Byzantines built on the culture of the Hellenistic
world. Byzantine civilization blended Christian beliefs with Greek
science, philosophy, arts, and literature.
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The Byzantines extended Roman achievements in engineering and the law.
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Byzantine artists made unique contributions that influenced western styles
from the Middle Ages to the present.
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Byzantine scholars preserved the classic works of ancient Greece. They
also produced their own great books, especially in the field of history.
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Byzantine culture and religion spread into Eastern Europe and Russia,
heavily influencing the development of Slavic and Russian societies.
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Byzantine Empire was a bulwark against the spread of Islam and
barbarianism.
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