Byzatine Chapter 1-4

Chapter I The Byzantine Empire: periods and chronological termini (A.D.284/324-1453/1461) By the terms “Byzantium”, “Byzantine state” and “Byzantine Empire”, modern historians usually refer to the Empire of medieval Hellenism or the medieval “Roman” Empire of the East. The most widely accepted dates for the commencement of this Empire are A.D. (Anno Domini= after Christ) 324 (foundation of Constantinople, the Empire’s capital) or 330 (official inauguration of Constantinople), while the almost un
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  Chapter IThe Byzantine Empire: periods and chronological termini  (A.D.284/324-1453/1461 )By the terms “Byzantium” , “Byzantine state” and “Byzantine Empire”, modernhistorians usually refer to the Empire of medieval Hellenism or the medieval “Roman”Empire of the East. The most widely accepted dates for the commencement of this Empire areA.D. (Anno Domini= after Christ) 324 (foundation of Constantinople, the Empire’s capital) or 330 (official inauguration of Constantinople), while the almost unanimous closing date is thatA.D. 1453, the year Constantinople’s final fall to the Ottoman Turks.There are, however, other alternatives, not only for the two termini of the Empire, butalso for the division of its period and sub-periods, as we shall see below. In the year 1928 theAustrian scholar Ernst Stein in the first German edition of his cardinal manual on the historyof the Later Roman Empire, dated the beginnings of the “Eastern Roman Empire” (i.e.= “idest=that is to say” of Byzantium) to A.D. 284, i.e. the date of Diocletian’s ascension on thethrone of Rome. Stain emphasized the importance of Diocletian’s reforms as well as the roleand contribution to genesis of Byzantium, through their influence on the “first Byzantineemperor”, Constantine I the Great, in the first decades of the 4 th century. Dome decades later than Stein, the British historian Arnold Jones also employed A.D.284 as the starting point of Byzantine history, while 1997, in the most recent attempt of a Byzantine history manual in theEnglish language, the American Byzantinist Warren Treadgold also adopted A.D. 284 as thestarting and A.D. 1461 as the closing point of Byzantium. The two termini  :  A.D. 284 to 1461/ ---Perhaps the telling words by a great 10 th century Byzantinescholar-emperor, Constantine VII Porphyrogennetos (913/945-959), should bear a specialweight on the issue of the beginnings of the Byzantine Empire: in his  De administrandoimperio (=“On the administration of the Empire”) , Constanine VII himself dates the beginning of the Empire to reign of his illustrious older predecessor, Diocletian, providingthus a most telling example of how the Byzantines considered themselves as continuators of the Roman Empire of late antiquity.On the other hand, the option of A.D. 1461 as a closing date of Byzantine historyseems quite correct, since until that date two important late Byzantine outposts, two vestigesof medieval Hellenism, that is, the Despotate of the Morea (in the Peloponnesus) and theEmpire of the Grand Komnenoi of Trebizond in the northeastern Asia Minor had outlivedConstantinople by more than eight years [May 1453-August 1461].  This date (A.D.1461) as the closing date of medieval Greek history was proposed in1961 by a Greek scholar from Thessalonica University, Professor Apostolos Vakalopoulos, involume I of his extensive “History of modern Hellenism” (in Greek) and this volume wastranslated into English, thus making Vakalopoulos’ view widely known. Vakalopoulos’theory, however, was to somehow perplex Byzantinists and medievalists as to A.D.1204 being “the starting point of modern Hellenism”.To their minds it would be embarrassing to regard the period A.D. 1204-1461 both asthe early period of modern Hellenism and, at the same time, as the later section of the lateByzantine Empire.Such an apprehension, however, could be lifted if we consider the fact that it was precisely after the period from A.D.1204 onwards that the medieval Greeks resorted to usingthe terms “Hellas”, “Hellenes” and their derivatives not in a derogatory manner (as in previous centuries).  How the Byzantines dated events.- Before briefly discussing the termini of the main periods of Byzantine history, a short note is in place here regarding the way Byzantinesthemselves dated events and epoch, since it is established that they rarely employed (and notuntil the late centuries) the  Anno Domini system. They were faithful to their eschatologicalconcepts concerning the advent of Saviour, thus dating the beginning of history since the“Creation of the World” (  Annum Mundi ), which was estimated to B.C.5508, and thereforeexpecting the “Second Coming” or “Doomsday” seven thousand years after the Creation, A.D.1492. However, their own Empire’s “Doomsday” had occurred three decades earlier,in A.D.1453, and was affected by the then strongest Muslim ruler of the earth, that is theOttoman sultan. Creation of the World:B.C.5508 (AnnumMundi) 5792 A.M = 284 A.D.6712 A.M = 1204 A.D.5832 A.M = 324 A.D.6961 A.M = 1453 A.D.6225 A.M = 717 A.D.6969 A.M = 1461 A.D. The Empire’s chronological divisions and subdivisions There is no unanimous consensus regarding the beginning, the end, as well as the termini of the various periods and sub-periods of Byzantine history. The background to those  who support the dates A. D. 284, 324 and 330 as the starting point has been discussed above.A fourth date partly adopted (by J. Bury) was A. D. 395, since in that year emperor Theodosius I the Great divided his Empire into East and West between his two sons(therefore, the “Eastern Roman Empire” should commence from that date). For the closing of the early Byzantine period the following dates are mostly adopted: A. D. 565 (death of Justinian I the Great), 610 (ascension of Herakleios I), 641-642 (fall of Byzantine Middle Eastto the Muslims) and 717 (ascension of Leo III the Isaurian). The latter date (first adopted byGeorge Finlay in the 19 th century), may be regarded as the most appropriate, for, as J. Buryaptly in his famous introduction to Cambridge Medieval History (vol. IV, 1923; repr. 1936, p.ix.), “in the age of the Isaurians we feel much further away from the age of Justinian than wefeel in the age of Justinian from the age of Theodosius the Great”.Likewise, the beginning of the middle Byzantine period is usually dated to A. D. 565,610, 642 or – more aptly – 717. Regarding the end of the middle Byzantine period we alsohave diverse views, dating it to A. D. 1025 (death of the warrior – emperor Basil II the“Bulgarslayer”), 1056 – 1057 (end of the Macedonian dynasty), 1071 (defeat of Byzantium bythe Seljuk Turks at Mantzikert, in eastern Anatolia) and 1081 (ascension of Alexios IKomnenos). Of theses dates, the one bearing more lasting marks on the Empire’s destiny wasundoubtedly the first (1025), for from that date onwards a rapid and seldom irreversibledecline commenced.Finally, the late Byzantine period is the diversely dated from A. D. 1025 (preponderatedate), 1056 – 1057, 1071, 1081 (or even 1204) to either 1453 or 1461, as seen above in thischapter. Indeed, not only the Byzantines, but also the Latin conquerors of the Greek (Helladic) lands were in turn swallowed by the Ottoman conqueror in the course of the 15 th century; thus the semi-independent state of Thessaly with its local Byzantine lords(“archons”) was gradually annexed between 1386/1387 and 1454/1470, the autonomous state(“Despotate”) of Epirus was annexed between 1449 and 1479, i.e. in the same period with thefalls of the Morea Despotate (1460-1461) and the Trebizondine Empire (1461); moreover, theOttomans succeeded in gradually annexing the Latin Duchy of Athens and Thebes (in 1456-1458), the Venetian possessions of Euboea/Negroponte (1470) as well as on other parts of mainland Greece, and later the Hospitaller Knights’ possessions in Rhodes and theDodecanese (1522-1523), the Duchy of Archipelago (the Cyclades islands in the Aegean Sea)(by 1566) and Venetian Crete in 1669.To recapitulate the three main periods of Byzantine history employed in this courseare as follows:  Early Byzantine   Midddle Byzantine   Late Byzantine From A.D.284 to 717 A.D.717 to 1025 A.D. 1205 to 1461  An overview of the Empire’s chronological divisionsand subdivisions Period of the Late Roman Empire (4 th –mid-7 th C), dubbed “Protobyzantine” byLemerle. The application of the term “Byzantine” to this period is debatable, since the empireof this time preserved the main features of ancient urban society and remained aMediterranean state par excellence. The issue is further confused by the fact that somescholars refer to papyri of the 6 th and 7 th C. as “late Byzantine”, and that likewise the final period of Byz. rule in Syria and Palestine (6 th -7 th ) may be termed “late Byzantine” Periods of the Dark Ages (mid 7 th ca.800/850) is characterized by the crisis of ancient city life aggravated by serious territorial losses and the cultural decline. Sometimes itis called the “period of Iconoclasm”, even though the two phenomena do not fully coincidechronologically; moreover, the concept of Iconoclasm does not cover all changes thatByzantine society underwent during this time. No more fortunate is the attempt to describethis period as one of Slavic penetration into the empire, which allegedly caused an essentialrestructuring of the Byz. economy and administration. In the first half of the 9 th C. occurredthe first stages of the process of recovery and consolidation that to characterize the next period. Age of Recovery and Consolidation (ca.800/850-1000), s ometimes called the periodof the “Macedonian renaissance” or of Encyclopedism. The latter term is more appropriate,although it refers only to cultural developments. During this period the “classic” form of Byzantine centralized and “totalitarian” state was established, and ideological and culturaluniformity was superimposed upon society. At the end of this period Byzantine launched aseries of offensive wars and managed to recover some of its territory in the east and theBalkans. Period of “Westernization” and the Empire of Nicaea (ca.1000-1261) , divided intounequal parts by the fall of Constantinople to the Fourth Crusade in 1204. Characteristic traitsof this period are the rise of provincial towns and of a semifeudal nobility, developments that
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