Monday, December 5, 2016

New Translation: Stories of Holy Men of Mount Athos



Often simply called the Holy Mountain, Mount Athos was the most famous center of Byzantine monasticism and remains the spiritual heart of the Orthodox Church today. This volume presents the Lives of Euthymios the Younger, Athanasios of Athos, Maximos the Hutburner, Niphon of Athos, and Philotheos. These five holy men lived on Mount Athos at different times from its early years as a monastic locale in the ninth century to the last decades of the Byzantine period in the early fifteenth century. All five were celebrated for asceticism, clairvoyance, and, in most cases, the ability to perform miracles; Euthymios and Athanasios were also famed as founders of monasteries.

Holy Men of Mount Athos illuminates both the history and the varieties of monastic practice on Athos, individually by hermits as well as communally in large monasteries.

The Lives also demonstrate the diversity of hagiographic composition and provide important glimpses of Byzantine social and political history.All the Lives in this volume are presented for the first time in English translation, together with authoritative editions of their Greek texts.

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Sunday, October 30, 2016

Rare 1st-century mosaic unearthed in southeastern Turkey


New Syriac inscriptions have been discovered

Archaeologists have discovered five base mosaics from Abgar V (BC 4 – AD 7), the fifth king of the kingdom of Osroene (132 BC to AD 244), depicting fine engravings and Syriac inscriptions, as part of a project titled "The Castle Skirts". The mosaics will be displayed in museums after their restoration is completed
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Monday, October 17, 2016

5 Great Byzantine Army Leaders


Justinian I (482-565)
One of the most spectacular features of Justinian's reign was the recovery of large stretches of land around the Western Mediterranean basin that had slipped out of Imperial control in the 5th century. As a Christian Roman emperor, Justinian considered it his divine duty to restore the Roman Empire to its ancient boundaries. Although he never personally took part in military campaigns, he boasted of his successes in the prefaces to his laws and had them commemorated in art. The re-conquests were in large part carried out by his general Belisarius.


Bardas Phokas (died 989)
In 978 Bardas was delivered from his prison cell by the eunuch Basil Lekapenos, Basil II's uncle and de facto regent. He was dispatched in disguise to his native Cappadocia to stir up the local aristocracy against Skleros, who had revolted against imperial authorities and advanced to the Hellespont. Despite several initial setbacks, and with the assistance of a Georgian army led by Tornikios, Phokas eventually suppressed the revolt, gaining victory in single combat with Skleros. For his vital services to the crown, he was rewarded with a coveted office of Domestic of the Scholae and at once led the Byzantine armies to reconquer Aleppo from the Saracens. Later, to quote Psellos, "he was given the privilege of a triumph and took his place among the personal friends of his sovereign."


Basil II (958-1025)
In 987/8, a seven-year truce was signed with the Fatimids, stipulating an exchange of prisoners, the recognition of the Byzantine emperor as protector of the Christians under Fatimid rule and of the Fatimid Caliph as protector of the Muslims under Byzantine control, and the replacement of the name of the Abbasid Caliph by that of the Fatimid Caliph in the Friday prayer in the mosque of Constantinople.[12][13] Nevertheless, in 991 the Fatimids launched a campaign against the Hamdanid Emirate of Aleppo, a Byzantine protectorate, perhaps in the belief that Byzantium would not interfere. Under the governor of Damascus, Manjutakin, the Fatimids scored a series of successes against the Hamdanids and their Byzantine allies, including a major victory at the Battle of the Orontes against the doux of Antioch, Michael Bourtzes, in September 994. Bourtzes' defeat forced Basil to intervene personally in the East: in a lightning campaign he rode with his army through Asia Minor in sixteen days and reached Aleppo in April 995, forcing the Fatimid army to retreat without giving battle. The Byzantines besieged Tripolis unsuccessfully and occupied Tartus, which they refortified and garrisoned with Armenian troops. The Fatimid caliph al-Aziz now prepared to take the field in person against the Byzantines and initiated large-scale preparations, but they were cut short upon his death.
Alexios I Komnenos (1048-1118)
Alexios was Byzantine emperor from 1081 to 1118. Although he was not the founder of the Komnenian dynasty, it was during his reign that the Komnenos family came to full power. Inheriting a collapsing empire and faced with constant warfare during his reign against both the Seljuq Turks in Asia Minor and the Normans in the western Balkans, Alexios was able to curb the Byzantine decline and begin the military, financial, and territorial recovery known as the Komnenian restoration. The basis for this recovery were various reforms initiated by Alexios. His appeals to Western Europe for help against the Turks were also the catalyst that likely contributed to the convoking of the Crusades.

Michael VIII Palaiologos (1259-1282)
Michael VIII was the founder of the Palaiologan dynasty that would rule the Byzantine Empire until the Fall of Constantinople in 1453. He recovered Constantinople from the Latin Empire in 1261 and transformed the Empire of Nicaea into a restored Byzantine Empire.

Sunday, October 16, 2016

5 Beautifully Crafted Imperial Byzantine Coins


Hyperpyron of Emperor Manuel I Komnenos (1118-1180)


Hyperpyron of Alexios I Komnenos (1081-1118)


John III Doukas (1221-1254)

Scyphate Electrum Hyperpyron, Andronicus II & Michael IX, (1295-1320) 
Constantine VIII (960 – 11 November 1028)

Saturday, October 15, 2016

Masterpieces of Byzantine and Early Christian Art from Syria


An article from the Greek newspaper Kathimerini:
 The Syrian Mosaic Pavement Documentation project, which was signed in 2005, foresaw the full documentation of the country’s floor mosaics and annual education programs for Syrian postgraduate students to help them keep abreast of technological developments.
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Sunday, September 18, 2016

Greek Manuscripts Project from the British Library


The British Library platform for the study of Greek Manuscripts has been launched.

Explore some of the highlights of the British Library's collection items, read articles by leading experts on Greek manuscripts, discover themes running through the collections, and watch videos on key topics.
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Sunday, July 24, 2016

A History of Basil II's Reign (958-1025)


A detailed account of Basil's reign by Catherine Holmes:

For Byzantine and modern historians alike the reign of Basil II marks the apogee of the Middle Byzantine Empire. Between 976 and 1025 Byzantine territorial and cultural frontiers expanded considerably. Bulgaria was annexed in 1018. In the east Basil also absorbed the Georgian princedom of Tao and the Armenian state of Vaspurakan. Towards the end of his reign Byzantine forces became more active in southern Italy, consolidating and expanding Byzantine authority in the face of a variety of powers including the Ottonian emperors of Germany. At the time of his death the emperor was planning to invade Muslim Sicily. It was also during Basil's reign that Vladimir, prince of Kiev, converted to Christianity.[[1]] In later centuries Basil the 'Bulgarslayer' came to be compared with the most prestigious and successful emperors of Late Antiquity. Michael Choniates writing in the early thirteenth century bracketed Basil with Heraclius (610-641). Basil's reputation was a powerful propaganda tool for successive imperial dynasties. The Comnenian emperors in the twelfth century consistently sought to associate their images with Basil. Michael VIII Palaeologus translated Basil's relics from their original burial place at the Hebdomon (see below) to his own family monastery near Selymbria.[[2]] Yet, despite this glorious posthumous reputation, Basil experienced many setbacks during his own lifetime. Civil war was endemic in the first thirteen years of his adult reign. His long campaign against the Bulgarians included several heavy defeats. Even after his annexation of Bulgaria, dissent persisted within Byzantium itself. Moreover, within half a century of Basil's death, the empire had disintegrated, torn apart by internal discord and external adversaries. Some historians argue that Byzantium's collapse in the eleventh century should be attributed to Basil's own overweening ambition, arguing that the emperor's campaigns overstretched the capacities of the empire.[[3]] In what follows I will argue rather a different case. Despite his fearsome military image, Basil's approach to government was flexible enough to accommodate his territorial conquests. The decline that occurred after his death was caused by factors outside the emperor's own control.

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Friday, May 13, 2016

1500-Year-Old Underground Byzantine Church Is Found in Turkey


Last February, archaeologists unearthed a unique rock-carved underground church in Nevsehir, in the central Turkish region of Cappadocia. The church was decorated with never before seen frescoes depicting Jesus’ Ascension, the Final Judgement, Jesus feeding the multitudes, and portraits of saints and prophets.The discovery, made during excavations and cleaning operations in an underground city recently uncovered as part of an urban project in Nevsehir, is located within a castle that might date back to the fifth century. Authorities expect it will make Cappadocia an even more important pilgrimage center for Orthodox Christians.


Semih İstanbulluoğlu, the archaeologist who heads the works for both the underground city and the church, explained that the walls of the church collapsed because of snow and rain, but that they will be fixed as part of the restoration project. Frescoed sections will have to be collected one by one and pieced together.



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