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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The Corpus Juris Civilis ("Body of Civil Law") is the modern name for a collection of fundamental works in jurisprudence, issued from 529 to 534 by order of the Byzantine Emperor Justinian I (r. 527–565).

This code compiled all of the existing imperial constitutiones (imperial pronouncements having the force of law), back to the time of Hadrian (r. 117–138). It used both the Codex Theodosianus and the fourth-century collections embodied in the Codex Gregorianus and Codex Hermogenianus, which provided the model for division into books that were divided into titles. These codices had developed authoritative standing.

Justinian gave orders to collect legal materials of various kinds into several new codes which became the basis of the revival of Roman law in the Middle Ages. This revived Roman law, in turn, became the foundation of law in all civil law jurisdictions. The provisions of the Corpus Juris Civilis also influenced the Canon Law of the church since it was said that ecclesia vivit lege romana — the church lives under Roman law.

The work was directed by Tribonian, an official in Justinian's court, and distributed in three parts: Digesta (or Pandectae), Institutiones, and the Codex Constitutionum. A fourth part, the Novels (or Novellae Constitutiones), was added later.

Selected biography

Theoktistos (Greek: Θεόκτιστος, died November 20, 855), was an influential senior Byzantine official during the reigns of Michael II and his son Theophilos, and regent for the underage Michael III. He is noted for his administrative and political competence, for ending the Iconoclasm (the "Triumph of Orthodoxy"), and for promoting a major renaissance in education within the Empire with the foundation of the University of Magnaura.

Theoktistos was also the uncle of Cyril and Methodius. Following the death of their father, in 843 he invited them to Constantinople to help them in their studies. During the regency, the empress' brother, Bardas, was Theoktistos' primary antagonist. In 855, Michael III came of age at 16, and turned the control of the government over to his uncle Bardas, raising him to the highest rank - that of caesar. It was then that Bardas and Michael decided to eliminate Theoktistos, who was arrested and killed.

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Selected picture


Photo credit:Nina-no

A simple cross, an example of iconoclast art from the Hagia Irene.

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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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A-class articles:

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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Good articles:

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 • Cutzinas • 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 Doukas (sebastokrator) • John Komnenos (Domestic of the Schools) • 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 • Orphanotrophos • 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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