<br><h3> Chapter One </h3> <b>Byzantium: a Very, Very Short Introduction</b> <p> <i>Liz James</i> <p> <p> "The history of the empire is a monotonous story of the intrigues of priests, eunuchs and women." (Lecky 1869: 13-14). Of course, this is untrue. For a start, the intrigues of women, eunuchs, and priests are perpetually interesting, as any reader of historical fiction will agree; for another thing, there is a great deal more to Byzantium than political history. But Lecky's comment tells us a great deal about what happened when Victorian morality and love of the Greek and Roman worlds came up against the "otherness" of post-Classical, Christian Byzantium, a world empire lasting over a thousand years and covering more than 1,000,000 square kilometers at its greatest extent, from Italy and North Africa to the Black Sea and the Levant (<i>ODB</i> vol. 1: 345). Byzantium has struggled in Western Europe beneath the burden of Edward Gibbon and the Enlightenment, condemning it for superstition and rampant (Orthodox) Christianity, and the nineteenth-century, pruriently appalled by what it liked to see as Byzantium's oriental corruption and luxury (Mango 1965). "Byzantine" in English immediately suggests the complicated, inflexible and underhand. The dubious, devious Byzantines themselves are condemned out of hand for their tedious history (all emperors with the same name), lack of literature (where is the Byzantine <i>Iliad</i> or <i>Odyssey</i>? Tragedy, comedy or poetry?), unrealistic art all looking the same (seen one icon, seen them all), overmastering clericalism (what chance does a theocracy have in any "Age of Reason?"), and general lack of fun. W. B. Yeats has a lot to answer for (<i>Sailing to Byzantium</i> 1927; <i>Byzantium</i> 1930). Byzantium is both too big and too complicated. Despite its Christian nature and its inheritance of the classical world, it seems too strange, bizarre, and alien in its use of both. <p> One of the problems for Western Europeans, educated to believe that the Classics and the Renaissance are the two high points of civilization, is that Byzantium is neither. There has been an eagerness to judge in our terms, measuring Byzantium against what "we" believe to have quality, and an unwillingness to understand Byzantium in its own terms, to consider how it used and developed its Greco-Roman heritage into something different but nevertheless worth our attention. This volume is pro-Byzantium; implicitly and explicitly, contributors engage with the myths and distortions surrounding the study of the empire, arguing for historical diversity, for literature, for art, for God, even for fun. We have sought to engage with Byzantium on its terms; another theme running through the book is that of the culturally determined nature of the evidence we have left to us and how we can try to interpret that in Byzantine terms, considering their definitions and attempting to see what mattered to them (while accepting that this will also form a commentary on our own twenty-first century preconceptions and concerns). <p> In a bid to manage the complexities of "Byzantium," the time frame employed by this book is the conventional one of 330 to 1453. 330 was the year in which the Roman emperor Constantine I, Constantine the Great, inaugurated the city of Byzantium, which he had previously renamed after himself the "city of Constantine," Constantinople, as the New Rome, the new capital of the Roman Empire. Constantinople remained as capital of the empire until May 29, 1453, when the city fell to the Ottoman Turks and the Byzantine Empire, as a political entity, ceased to exist. <p> "Byzantine" is the term that we have given to this empire, from the original city, Byzantium. Its inhabitants called themselves "Romans," "Romaioi" in Greek, throughout their history, and they regarded their empire as the seamless continuation of the Roman Empire (Kaldellis 2007). Certainly the structures of administration and government of the Byzantine Empire came from those of the Roman, from the emperor at the top of the bureaucracy, through the different levels of military, judicial, fiscal and ecclesiastical administration (Kaegi 1987). Latin was the original language of the administration, but Constantinople was a Greek city and Greek was the literary language of the empire. Over time, it became the language of government. Further, from the start, the Byzantine Empire was a Christian empire. Constantine had converted to Christianity, perhaps in 312, and he founded his new city with a mixture of Christian and pagan rites (Pohlsander 1996). So, right from its inception, Byzantium was a state that perceived itself as Roman, while being Christian and increasingly employing Greek as its <i>lingua franca</i>. These three elements almost encapsulate the empire. <p> To make the history of Byzantium more manageable, Byzantinists tend to break it down into three stages. The time from the third century down to the sixth or seventh or even eighth centuries is known variously, depending on the perspective of the particular scholar, as the Late Antique or Late Roman (these terms suggest continuity from the Roman period), or Early Christian or Early Byzantine (implying something different from the Roman period). The Middle Byzantine period begins wherever one believes the Early one ends: variously, therefore, from 565 (the death of the emperor Justinian); 610 (the accession of the emperor Heraklios); 717 (the start of the Isaurian dynasty); or 848 (the end of Iconoclasm). It ends in either 1071 (the Battle of Mantzikert, when the Byzantine army was defeated by the Seljuqs and the emperor captured. Ostrogorsky 1968: 344-6) or 1204 (the Sack of Constantinople by the Fourth Crusade). Late Byzantium covers 1204 (or 1261: the recovery of Constantinople from the Latins) to the end of the empire in 1453. After this, one is drawn into the post-Byzantine world and the survival of Byzantine beliefs and culture, particularly visible in the survival and spread of Orthodox Christianity. <p> Within these very broad partitions, smaller divisions are made, generally based on the ruling imperial dynasty. Hence the early period moves from the family of Constantine to the Theodosian emperors, through the house of Leo I, concluding with the reign of the sixth-century emperor Justinian (A. M. Cameron 1993; Treadgold 1997; Mitchell 2006). This last has often been seen as a "Golden Age," a high point both of imperial political expansion and of culture and civilization (Maas 2005). In contrast, the seventh century has been seen as a "Dark Age," in which the empire was militarily and financially exhausted, ecclesiastical affairs created disaffection, Roman civic life came to an end, art and literature were in abeyance, and the rise of Islam changed the world. The picture is more nuanced than this would suggest, but certainly the seventh century seems to have been a period of conflict and change (Haldon 1997; Whitby 2000). The eighth century is regarded as the period of Iconoclasm ("image-breaking"), in which the debate over the role of religious images in church worship, led by the Isaurian emperors, dictated life in the empire (Bryer and Herrin 1977; for an alternative view, Haldon 2008 in Jeffreys, Haldon, Cormack (eds) 2008: 258-61; Brubaker in this volume). The Middle Byzantine period is dominated by the dynasties of the Amorians (820-67), the Macedonians (867-1056), the Komnenians (1057-1185, though a break in the early eleventh century) and the Angeloi (1185-1204). Byzantium shared with Rome a less-than-stable strategy of succession. Though sons and daughters often did inherit, usurpation, murder, and intrigue played a major part, especially in the change from one dynasty to another (neatly summarized by Holmes in Jeffreys, Haldon, Cormack (eds) 2008: 264-790; also Angold 1997; Magdalino 1993b; Treadgold 1997). This middle period often appears as "high" Byzantium, that part of the empire most typically "Byzantine," especially in cultural terms, and with the most influence on Western Europe. The Sack of Constantinople in 1204 changed the shape of the Western medieval world as the Christian forces of the Fourth Crusade effectively destroyed the Christian empire of Byzantium as a major power (Angold 2003). The Latin Empire of Constantinople lasted until 1261. Three "empires in exile," in Epiros, Trebizond and Nicaea, were established by the Byzantines in opposition to the Latins; it was the emperor in Nicaea who regained Constantinople and re-established a much shrunken and relatively ineffectual Byzantine empire, ruled for much of the period by the Palaeologan family until 1453 (Laiou in Jeffreys, Haldon, Cormack (eds) 2008: 280-94; Angold 1975; Barker 1969). <p> That then is the "monotonous story," neatly packaged by convenient dates in order to be manageable. The drawback of this "periodization" is the artificial markers it establishes, implying that things change with a bang-that Middle Byzantium in 848 was significantly different from Early Byzantium in 847. In any case, the Byzantines themselves calculated all dates from the Creation of the world, not from Christ's birth, and chroniclers such as Theophanes tended to date their works by "world years," <i>Anno Mundi</i> (AM) from the Creation. The Creation was generally reckoned to have taken place 5,508 years before the Incarnation; and the Second Coming of Christ, signifying the end of time, was known to be inevitable, and sometimes dated to 7,000 or 8,000 years from Creation. History therefore had its limits (Grumel 1958). <p> Although defining a time frame for the empire is a challenge, mapping Byzantium is even more problematic. The definition of boundaries is tricky to begin with: how and when was an area part, or not, of the empire? Was it "Byzantine" if it paid taxes to the emperor? If it had a Byzantine administration (however that might be defined)? If it was occupied by a Byzantine army? If it employed Byzantine art, culture, and customs? How did the Byzantines themselves define the extent of their empire? Maps depicting the area of the Byzantine empire are almost as varied as the books of Byzantine history that contain them. In this volume, two maps are included (Maps 1.1 and 1.2). The first shows the Roman empire in the fourth century. A line almost down the center marks the division between Western and Eastern empires on the death of Theodosios I in 395. After this, West and East went different ways: the East continued Roman until the fifteenth century; the West gradually crumbled and fragmented into separate realms under the pressure of a series of incursions from "barbarian" tribes to the north and south. The map also marks the major provinces (or dioceses) of the Roman empire at this point and major cities. Map 1.2 shows the empire in 1050 with the provinces (themes, as they were called by this time) marked, as well as areas under nominal Byzantine control. It gives a very clear idea of the porosity of boundaries and a sense of the issues inherent when we try to impose limits on states clearly fluid at their outer edges; the idea of nation-states was not one in common use in the medieval world (Anderson 1983. For issues with maps and the illusions they create, see Eastmond in this volume). Key cities and towns are again marked, and offer an interesting contrast with the important settlements of the earlier period. <p> One thing that the maps suggest is change both within and outside the empire, in terms of its geography and in terms of the other peoples pushing up against it. In the early period, it was Persians in the east, nomadic tribes from Asia in the north and from Africa to the south who offered the most threat to the empire; in later periods, it was the rise of Islam to the south and the Western European Crusaders who pressed on Byzantium. Byzantium's interaction with its neighbours was constantly fluid, one of influence, integration and conflict in both directions (Howard-Johnston, Mango in Jeffeys, Haldon and Cormack (eds) 2008: 939-56, 957-61). <p> The question of continuity and change, continuity versus change, is one that occupied the Byzantines and has long concerned scholars (Kazhdan and Wharton 1985). How much did the empire change and how much did the Byzantines recognize change? To Romans living in the Roman empire, that empire was unchanging, or so they claimed. New Rome was Old Rome reborn; the Roman empire held perpetual primacy among the nations. One of the implicit themes within this volume is of changing yet continuous institutions, beliefs, value-systems, culture. But from the start, there were two major differences between the Roman and Byzantine empires: Byzantium was, for much of its life, a Greek-speaking empire, orientated towards Greek, not Latin culture; and it was a Christian empire. <p> Greek within the empire was not one language, but one functioning at different levels of society. The version spoken by all classes in informal situations and by the uneducated at all times was one form, a <i>koine</i>, or "common," language, used for "subliterary" writings ranging from the New Testament to popular saints' lives and chronicles such as that of Theophanes. At the other end of the scale was a version of Attic Greek, archaic and imitative of Greek from the Classical world, or, rather, the Byzantines' understanding of such Greek. This was the language of official, public and literary texts; mastery of it was a sign of intellectualism, education, and social standing (Browning 1983). <p> Christianity was the all-pervasive ideology of the Byzantine empire, its rituals, doctrines, and structures dominating every aspect of life. The empire itself was believed to be God's chosen empire, ruled by God's chosen emperor: one empire, one emperor under one God. This empire, in Byzantine belief, was the fourth, and last, of the four kingdoms revealed in the <i>Book of Daniel</i>, divinely preordained as the last empire; its fall would mean the end of the world. In being Byzantine, one was first and foremost Christian, though that Christianity might come in various forms and might lead to one's exclusion from the Byzantine <i>oikoumene</i>. This important term, meaning the inhabited world, was one with various resonances in Byzantium: it could be used to designate the world as a whole; to describe the inhabited or civilized world; and increasingly it carried a Christian significance as the world as the scene of Christ's activities and the correct celebration of the sacraments across the world. <p> This volume opens with a discussion of how Byzantine history has been seen and studied. It is then divided into four sections. <i>Being Byzantine</i> explores aspects of Byzantine life from economics to entertainment. Its unifying thread, though, is discussion around the topic of how we define "the Byzantines" and how they defined themselves: in relation to other people; in relation to different parts of the empire; in terms of age and appearance; emotionally; and in memory. The second section looks at God. As a Christian empire, self-defined as the chosen people of God, ruled by one emperor on the model of the heavenly hierarchy, the Byzantines saw God as permeating everything. This section explores something of the theology that underpinned Byzantine life and how that shaped people's lives inside and on the edge of the empire, as Orthodox and heretical Christians. The final two sections discuss and problematize the two sources we have for information about the Byzantine world: written texts and material remains. In <i>Reading Byzantine</i> Texts, questions about Byzantine writing strategies are foregrounded: how do we understand Byzantine literature? What did the Byzantines mean when they wrote in particular ways? What is the difference between a Byzantine history and a piece of rhetoric, and how can we read and understand them? And what can books themselves tell us? <i>Material Culture</i> looks at issues concerning some of the ways in which objects from Byzantium have been used to construct particular histories of the Byzantine world, from Iconoclasm to the Macedonian Renaissance. <p> <i>(Continues...)</i> <p> <!-- copyright notice --> <br></pre> <blockquote><hr noshade size='1'><font size='-2'> Excerpted from <b>A Companion to Byzantium</b> by <b>Liz James</b> Copyright © 2009 by John Wiley & Sons, Ltd. Excerpted by permission.<br> All rights reserved. No part of this excerpt may be reproduced or reprinted without permission in writing from the publisher.<br>Excerpts are provided by Dial-A-Book Inc. solely for the personal use of visitors to this web site.