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

At the Battle of Taginae (also known as the Battle of Busta Gallorum) in June/July 552, the forces of the Byzantine Empire under Narses broke the power of the Ostrogoths in Italy, and paved the way for the complete Byzantine conquest of the Italian Peninsula.

From as early as 549 the Emperor Justinian I had planned to dispatch a major army to Italy to conclude the protracted war with the Ostrogoths initiated in 535. During 550-51 a large expeditionary force totaling 20-25,000 men was gradually assembled at Salona on the Adriatic, comprising regular Byzantine units and a large contingent of foreign allies, notably Lombards, Heruls and Bulgars. The imperial chamberlain (cubicularius) Narses was appointed to command in mid 551. The following spring Narses led this grand army around the coast of the Adriatic as far as Ancona, and then turned inland aiming to march down the Via Flaminia to Rome.

Selected biography

Basil II and Constantine VIII, holding cross. Nomisma histamenon.

Basil II, later surnamed the Bulgar-slayer (Greek: Βασίλειος Β΄ Βουλγαροκτόνος, Basileios II Boulgaroktonos, 958 – December 15, 1025), known in his time as Basil the Porphyrogenitus and Basil the Young to distinguish him from his ancestor Basil I the Macedonian, was a Byzantine emperor from the Macedonian dynasty who reigned from 10 January 976 to 15 December 1025.

The first part of his long reign was dominated by civil war against powerful generals from the Anatolian aristocracy. Following their submission, Basil oversaw the stabilization and expansion of the Byzantine Empire's eastern frontier, and above all, the final and complete subjugation of Bulgaria, the Empire's foremost European foe, after a prolonged struggle. At his death, the Empire stretched from Southern Italy to the Caucasus and from the Danube to the borders of Palestine, its greatest territorial extent since the Muslim conquests, four centuries earlier.

Despite near-constant warfare, Basil also showed himself a capable administrator, reducing the power of the great land-owning families who dominated the Empire's administration and military, and filling the Empire's treasury. Of far-reaching importance was Basil's decision to offer the hand of his sister Anna to Vladimir I of Kiev in exchange for military support, which led to the Christianization of the Kievan Rus', and the incorporation of Russia within the Byzantine cultural sphere.

Did you know...

  • ...that although Anna Komnene was carefully trained in the study of history, mathematics, science, and Greek philosophy, her parents banned her from studying ancient poetry because of its depictions of lustful gods and unchaste women and that despite her parents' attempts to restrict her, Anna furtively studied the forbidden poetry with one of the imperial court’s eunuchs?

New articles

October 2014

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BaiounitaiJohn Komnenos (Domestic of the Schools)Joseph I of ConstantinopleMetropolis of RhodesProsphorion Harbour

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Menologion of Basil II

September 2014

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AsekretisCistern of AsparCistern of the HebdomonCistern of MociusGeoffrey II of BrielGeorge PhakrasesOrphanotrophosTheoktiste

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Theoktiste of LesbosTheoleptos of Philadelphia

August 2014

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Anastasios OrlandosAshtat YeztayarBahram GushnaspBleschamesChandrenosCistern of AetiusConstantine Diogenes (son of Romanos IV)Constantine MargaritesFariburzIoannina CastleKızıl KiliseKontoskalionLongibardopoulosNeorion HarbourNicholas le MaureQuaesitorZenevisi family

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

New creations

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


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Selected picture

Aya sofya.jpg

Photo credit: Robert Raderschatt

The Church of the Holy Wisdom of God, Hagia Sophia, built by Emperor Justinian I in the short period of four and a half years (532–537).

Recognised content

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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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