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Animated map showing the territorial evolution of the Byzantine Empire (in green).
The Byzantine Empire, also referred to as the Eastern Roman Empire and Byzantium, was the continuation of the Roman Empire in its eastern provinces during Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages, when its capital city was Constantinople (modern-day Istanbul, which had been founded as Byzantium). It survived the fragmentation and fall of the Western Roman Empire in the 5th century AD and continued to exist 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 created after the end of the realm; its citizens continued to refer to their empire simply as the Roman Empire (Greek: Βασιλεία Ῥωμαίων, tr. Basileia Rhōmaiōn; Latin: Imperium Romanum), or Romania (Ῥωμανία), and to themselves as "Romans".
Several signal events from the 4th to 6th centuries mark the period of transition during which the Roman Empire's Greek East and Latin West divided. Constantine I (r. 324–337) reorganised the empire, made Constantinople the new capital, and legalised Christianity. Under Theodosius I (r. 379–395), Christianity became the Empire's official state religion and other religious practices were proscribed. 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. Thus, although the Roman state continued and its traditions were maintained, modern historians distinguish Byzantium from ancient Rome insofar as it was centred on Constantinople, oriented towards Greek rather than Latin culture, and characterised by Orthodox Christianity.
The Fall of Constantinople refers to the capture of the capital of the Byzantine Empire which occurred after a siege laid by the Ottoman Empire, under the command of Sultan Mehmed II. The siege lasted from Thursday, 5 April 1453 until Tuesday, 29 May 1453 (according to the Julian Calendar), when the city fell to the Ottomans. Constantinople was defended by the army of Emperor Constantine XI. The event marked the end of the political independence of the millennium-old Byzantine Empire, which was by then already fragmented into several Greek monarchies.
Zoe Karbonopsina, i.e., "with the Coal-Black Eyes" (Greek: Ζωή Καρβωνοψίνα, translit. Zōē Karbōnopsina), was the fourth wife of the Byzantine Emperor Leo VI the Wise and the mother of Constantine VII.
Zoe Karbonopsina was a relative of the chronicler Theophanes the Confessor and a niece of the admiral Himerios. Desperate to sire a son, Leo VI married his mistress Zoe on 9 January 906, only after she had given birth to the future Constantine VII at the end of 905. However, this constituted his fourth marriage, and was therefore uncanonical in the eyes of the Church, which had already been reluctant to accept his third marriage to Eudokia Baïana, who died in childbirth in 901.
Although the Patriarch Nicholas Mystikos reluctantly baptised Constantine, he forbade the emperor from marrying for the fourth time. Leo VI married Zoe with the assistance of a cooperative priest, Thomas, but Nicholas' continued opposition to the marriage led to his removal from office and replacement by Euthymios in 907. The new patriarch attempted a compromise by defrocking the offending priest but recognizing the marriage.
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?
External links and resources
Societies of Byzantine studies
Journals of Byzantine studies
Byzantine studies and research institutes
- AHRB Centre for Byzantine Cultural History (in English)
- Византолошки институт САНУ - Institute for Byzantine Studies of the Serbian Academy of Sciences and Arts (in Serbian) (in English)
- Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection, Washington, DC (in English)
- Ινστιτούτο Βυζαντινών Ερευνών (ΙΒΕ) - Institute of Byzantine Research, National Hellenic Research Foundation, Athens (in Greek) (in English)
- Institut für Byzantinische Archäologie und Kunstgeschichte, University of Heidelberg (in German)
- Institut für Byzantinistik und Neogräzistik, Münster (in German)
- Institut für Byzantinistik und Neogräzistik, University of Vienna (in German)
- Institut für Byzanzforschung (IBF), Austrian Academy of Sciences, Vienna (in German)
- Κέντρο Βυζαντινών Ερευνών (ΚΒΕ) - Byzantine Research Centre, University of Thessaloniki (in Greek) (in English)
- The Oxford Centre for Byzantine Research (in English)
- Εταιρείας Βυζαντινών Σπουδών - Society for Byzantine Studies of Athens (in Greek)
Bibliography and primary sources
On-line manuscript collections
Art, museums and exhibitions
- Byzantine Coins (in English)
- Byzantine Coinage, Chronological Index of Byzantine Rulers (in English)
- Byzantium 1200 (in English)
- The Byzantine churches of Istanbul, Institute of Fine Arts, New York University (in English)
- Byzantine Monuments of Attica, Institute of Byzantine Research, National Hellenic Research Foundation (in English) (in Greek)
- Byzantine Seals Online Catalogue, Dumbarton Oaks Research Institute (in English)
- Coins of the Byzantine Empire (in English)
- Digitales Forschungsarchiv Byzanz, University of Vienna (in German) (in English)
- Ίδρυμα Μείζονος Ελληνισμού - Foundation of the Hellenic World (in English) (in Greek)
- Interactive Map of Constantinople, University of Toronto (in English)
- Digital Atlas of Roman and Medieval Civilization, Harvard University (in English)
- ORBIS: The Stanford Geospatial Network Model of the Roman World (in English)
- PLEIADES: A community-built gazetteer and graph of ancient places (in English)
- Η Καστροπολιτεία του Μυστρά, Hellenic Ministry of Culture (in Greek)
- LEVANTIA - Social history of the Levant (in English)
- Roman and Byzantine Law (in English)
- Suda On Line: Byzantine Lexicography (in English)
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