Portal:Byzantine Empire

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The Byzantine Empire Portal

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The Byzantine Empire was the predominantly Greek-speaking continuation of the Roman Empire during Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages. Its capital city was Constantinople (modern-day Istanbul), originally known as Byzantium. Initially the eastern half of the Roman Empire (often called the Eastern Roman Empire in this context), it survived the 5th century fragmentation and collapse of the Western Roman Empire and continued to thrive, existing for an additional thousand years until it fell to the Ottoman Turks in 1453. During most of its existence, the empire was the most powerful economic, cultural, and military force in Europe. Both "Byzantine Empire" and "Eastern Roman Empire" are historiographical terms applied in later centuries; its citizens continued to refer to their empire as the Roman Empire (Ancient Greek: Βασιλεία Ῥωμαίων, tr. Basileia Rhōmaiōn; Latin: Imperium Romanum), and Romania (Ῥωμανία).

Several events from the 4th to 6th centuries mark the transitional period during which the Roman Empire's east and west divided. In 285, the emperor Diocletian (r. 284–305) partitioned the Roman Empire's administration into eastern and western halves. Between 324 and 330, Constantine I (r. 306–337) transferred the main capital from Rome to Byzantium, later known as Constantinople ("City of Constantine") and Nova Roma ("New Rome"). Under Theodosius I (r. 379–395), Christianity became the Empire's official state religion and others such as Roman polytheism were proscribed. And finally, under the reign of Heraclius (r. 610–641), the Empire's military and administration were restructured and adopted Greek for official use instead of Latin. In summation, Byzantium is distinguished from ancient Rome proper insofar as it was oriented towards Greek rather than Latin culture, and characterised by Orthodox Christianity rather than Roman polytheism.

The borders of the Empire evolved a great deal over its existence, as it went through several cycles of decline and recovery. During the reign of Justinian I (r. 527–565), the Empire reached its greatest extent after reconquering much of the historically Roman western Mediterranean coast, including north Africa, Italy, and Rome itself, which it held for two more centuries. During the reign of Maurice (r. 582–602), the Empire's eastern frontier was expanded and north stabilised. However, his assassination caused a two-decade-long war with Sassanid Persia which exhausted the Empire's resources and contributed to major territorial losses during the Muslim conquests of the 7th century. During the 10th-century Macedonian dynasty, the Empire experienced a golden age, which culminated in the reign of Emperor Basil II "the Bulgar-Slayer" (r. 976–1025). However, shortly after Basil's death, a neglect of the vast military built up during the Late Macedonian dynasty caused the Empire to begin to lose territory in Asia Minor to the Seljuk Turks. Emperor Romanos IV Diogenes (r. 1068–1071) and several of his predecessors had attempted to rid Eastern Anatolia of the Turkish menace, but this endeavor proved ultimately untenable - especially after the disastrous Battle of Manzikert in 1071.

Despite a prominent period of revival (1081-1180) under the steady leadership of the Komnenos family, who played an instrumental role in the First and Second Crusades, the final centuries of the Empire exhibit a general trend of decline. In 1204, after a period of strife following the downfall of the Komnenos dynasty, the Empire was delivered a mortal blow by the forces of the Fourth Crusade, when Constantinople was sacked and the Empire dissolved and divided into competing Byzantine Greek and Latin realms. Despite the eventual recovery of Constantinople and re-establishment of the Empire in 1261, Byzantium remained only one of a number of small rival states in the area for the final two centuries of its existence. This volatile period lead to its progressive annexation by the Ottomans over the 15th century and the Fall of Constantinople in 1453.

Selected article

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Hagia Sophia (Greek: Ἁγία Σοφία; "Holy Wisdom", Turkish: Ayasofya) is a former patriarchal basilica, later a mosque, now a museum, in Istanbul, Turkey. Famous in particular for its massive dome, it is considered the epitome of Byzantine architecture. It was the largest cathedral in the world for nearly a thousand years, until the completion of the Medieval Seville Cathedral in 1520.

The current building was originally constructed as a church between 532 and 537 AD on the orders of the Byzantine Emperor Justinian, and was in fact the third Church of the Holy Wisdom to occupy the site (the previous two had both been destroyed by riots). It was designed by two architects, Isidore of Miletus and Anthemius of Tralles. The Church contained a large collection of holy relics and featured, among other things, a 50 foot (15 m) silver iconostasis. It was the cathedral church of the Patriarch of Constantinople and the religious focal point of the Eastern Orthodox Church for nearly 1000 years.

Selected biography

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Manuel I Komnenos or Comnenus (Greek: Μανουήλ Α' Κομνηνός, Manouēl I Komnēnos, 28 November 1118 – 24 September 1180) was a Byzantine Emperor of the 12th century who reigned over a crucial turning point in the history of Byzantium and the Mediterranean. Eager to restore his empire to its past glories as the superpower of the Mediterranean world, Manuel pursued an energetic and ambitious foreign policy. In the process he made alliances with the Pope and the resurgent west, invaded Italy, successfully handled the passage of the dangerous Second Crusade through his empire, and established a Byzantine protectorate over the Crusader kingdoms of Outremer. Facing Muslim advances in the Holy Land, he made common cause with the Kingdom of Jerusalem and participated in a combined invasion of Fatimid Egypt. Manuel reshaped the political maps of the Balkans and the east Mediterranean, placing the kingdoms of Hungary and Outremer under Byzantine hegemony and campaigning aggressively against his neighbours both in the west and in the east. However, towards the end of his reign Manuel's achievements in the east were compromised by a serious defeat at Myriokephalon, which in large part resulted from his arrogance in attacking a well-defended Seljuk position.

Did you know...

  • ... that there are many types of porphyry, some more common than others, but what made Imperial Porphyry so special and rare is that it is found in only one place on earth, atop a 1600-meter mountain in the eastern deserts of Egypt?
  • ... that Constantine the Great celebrated the founding of his new capital, Constantinopolis (Constantinople), in the year 330 AD by erecting there a 30-meter (100') column, built of seven porphyry drums, or cylinders, that is still standing today?

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August 2014

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Anastasios OrlandosAshtat YeztayarBahram GushnaspBleschamesChandrenosCistern of AetiusConstantine MargaritesFariburzIoannina CastleKontoskalionLongibardopoulosNeorion HarbourNicholas le MaureQuaesitor

July 2014

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AnagastAndrew the ScythianAntiochos (strategos of Sicily)Antiochus (praepositus sacri cubiculi)Battle of Constantinople (1147)Chronicle of IoanninaConstantine PodopagourosDoula MourikiJohn Angelus of SyrmiaStrategios PodopagourosSymeon Stylites of LesbosTedisio ZaccariaTheoktistos (magistros)Theoktistos Bryennios

June 2014

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Alexios AspietesAlexios LaskarisArmenian HexapolisBasiliskianosBerthold II, Count of KatzenelnbogenConstantine AspietesDorotheus I of AthensIsaac LaskarisMichael AspietesPaul, Latin Patriarch of ConstantinopleTzangion

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Boniface of VeronaNiketas ChalkoutzesStephen HagiochristophoritesStrateia

May 2014

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George TagarisManuel TagarisMargaret of VillehardouinMichael MonomachosPaul Palaiologos TagarisRogoiStephen ZaccariaTatas tes aulesTheodore Pileles Doranites

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Maurice SpataYaqub Spata

April 2014

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AspietesAspietes (general under Alexios I)AspronConstantine DoranitesEuthymius of SardisFirst Cyprus TreasureGregory of DekapolisIgnatios the DeaconLampsacus TreasureLeo of SynadaLimnia (Pontus)Metropolis of NicaeaPanagia EpiskopiPatriarch Euthymius II of ConstantinopleRendakisSoterioupolis

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Patriarch Euthymius I of Constantinople

March 2014

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Alexios GidosAndrea GhisiAndreas StratosAnna Komnene DoukainaArab–Byzantine prisoner exchangesBoleronChurch of St. George, KurbinovoConstantine KeroulariosEpi ton kriseonEustathios RhomaiosGeorge GalesiotesHugh IV of Saint PolJohn LazaropoulosMagical Treatise of SolomonTheodore of Dobruja

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Battle of PankaleiaByzantine–Venetian War (1296–1302)KarytainaLeo II MungSiege of Trebizond (1222–23)


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Selected picture

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Photo credit:Neuceu

The cistern of Philoxenos in Constantinople

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Featured articles:

Basiliscus • Battle of Dyrrhachium (1081) • Byzantine civil war of 1341–1347 • Byzantine Empire • Byzantine navy • Chariot racing • Greece runestones • Gregory of Nazianzus • Istanbul • Ivan Alexander of Bulgaria • Manuel I Komnenos • Maximus the Confessor • Roman–Persian Wars • Sack of Amorium • Siege of Constantinople (717–718) • Simeon I of Bulgaria • Thomas the Slav • Treaty of Devol • Jovan Vladimir

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Abbasid invasion of Asia Minor (782) • Abbasid invasion of Asia Minor (806) • Al-Mundhir III ibn al-Harith • Bardanes Tourkos • Battle of Kalavrye • Battle of Lalakaon • Battle of Solachon • Bessas (general) • Byzantine–Sassanid War of 602–628 • John Kourkouas • John Troglita • Priscus (general) • Siege of Constantinople (674–678) • Sviatoslav's invasion of Bulgaria • Vitalian (general)

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Abdallah al-Battal • Abu Taghlib • Alexios Apokaukos • Alexios Philanthropenos • Alexios Strategopoulos • Artabanes (general) • Bardas • Baths of Zeuxippus • Battle of Akroinon • Battle of Anzen • Battle of Arcadiopolis (970) • Battle of Bathys Ryax • Battle of Kleidion • Battle of Kopidnadon • Battle of Krasos • Battle of Manzikert • Battle of Mauropotamos • Battle of the Gates of Trajan • Battle of the Olive Grove of Koundouros • Battle of Yarmouk • Byzantine–Arab Wars • Byzantine Empire under the Komnenos dynasty • Byzantine Greeks • Byzantine–Ottoman Wars • Chalke • Chlemoutsi • Church of St. Polyeuctus • Constantine the Great • Constantine Doukas (usurper) • Constantine Lekapenos • David III of Tao • Domestic of the Schools • Emirate of Crete • Gabras • Geoffrey of Briel • George Mouzalon • Germanus (cousin of Justinian I) • Glarentza • Gubazes II of Lazica • Heraclius • John Doukas (megas doux) • John Komnenos Asen • John Komnenos the Fat • John Palaiologos (brother of Michael VIII) • Justin (consul 540) • Justinian I • Law School of Beirut • Licario • Manuel the Armenian • Martino Zaccaria • Maslama ibn Abd al-Malik • Michael Bourtzes • Michael Lachanodrakon • Momchil • Nikephoros (Caesar) • Nikephoros Melissenos • Paul Palaiologos Tagaris • Peter the Patrician • Rus'–Byzantine War (860) • Sa'd al-Dawla • Sayf al-Dawla • Siege of Berat (1280–1281) • Siege of Damascus (634) • Siege of Jerusalem (637) • Siege of Kamacha (766) • Siege of Nicaea (727) • Siege of Patras (805 or 807) • Siege of Tyana • Solomon (Byzantine general) • Staurakios (eunuch) • Stephen Lekapenos • Stylianos Zaoutzes • Syrgiannes Palaiologos • Theodosius (son of Maurice) • Turahan Bey • Umar al-Aqta • Vandalic War • Walls of Constantinople

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