Sunday, July 24, 2016
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.[] 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.[] 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.[] 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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Thursday, May 19, 2016
Monday, May 16, 2016
Friday, May 13, 2016
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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Saturday, March 26, 2016
An exhibition on late antique textile is opened in Manhattan:
The Spring exhibition, Designing Identity: The Power of Textiles in Late Antiquity, offers intimate glimpses into the lives of those who commissioned and used textiles and more sweeping views across Late Antique society (roughly third to seventh century CE). The exhibition brings together over fifty textiles of diverse materials, techniques, and motifs to explore how clothing and cloth furnishings expressed ideals of self, society, and culture. By their valuable materials and virtuoso execution, the textiles displayed their owners’ wealth and discernment. To modern viewers, the materials and techniques also attest to developments around the Mediterranean world and farther east along the routes of the silk trade. The Late Antique owners, in choosing from a vast repertory of motifs, represented (hopefully more than actually) the prosperity and well-being of their households. The owners represented themselves through the distinctively gendered imagery of manly and womanly virtues in mythological and Christian subjects so that in these textiles, we see distinctly personal manifestations of the religious transformation of the Roman Empire into a Christian Empire.
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Sunday, March 20, 2016
John Haldon revisits the Byzantine crisis of the 7th c. in a groundbreaking new book:
The eastern Roman Empire was the largest state in western Eurasia in the sixth century. Only a century later, it was a fraction of its former size. Surrounded by enemies, ravaged by warfare and disease, the empire seemed destined to collapse. Yet it did not die. In this holistic analysis, John Haldon elucidates the factors that allowed the eastern Roman Empire to survive against all odds into the eighth century.By 700 CE the empire had lost three-quarters of its territory to the Islamic caliphate. But the rugged geography of its remaining territories in Anatolia and the Aegean was strategically advantageous, preventing enemies from permanently occupying imperial towns and cities while leaving them vulnerable to Roman counterattacks.
The more the empire shrank, the more it became centered around the capital of Constantinople, whose ability to withstand siege after siege proved decisive. Changes in climate also played a role, permitting shifts in agricultural production that benefitted the imperial economy.At the same time, the crisis confronting the empire forced the imperial court, the provincial ruling classes, and the church closer together. State and church together embodied a sacralized empire that held the emperor, not the patriarch, as Christendom’s symbolic head.
Despite its territorial losses, the empire suffered no serious political rupture. What remained became the heartland of a medieval Christian Roman state, with a powerful political theology that predicted the emperor would eventually prevail against God’s enemies and establish Orthodox Christianity’s world dominion.
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Sunday, March 13, 2016
Symeon Metaphrastes’ revision of the hagiographic corpus, undertaken with the encouragement of the emperor, was a remarkable enterprise which required substantial resources and organisational skills. Michael Psellus in his encomium of Symeon gives a famous description of Symeon and his team at workSee more here
Monday, March 7, 2016
Translations by: Greenfield, Richard P. H.Talbot, Alice-MaryMcGrath, StamatinaAlexakis, Alexander.
From the publisher:
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.Sign up for the Byzantine Newsletter
Monday, February 22, 2016
A new mosaic inscribed with quotes from the Bible has been discovered in the southern city of Adana during excavations jointly undertaken by the Culture and Tourism Ministry's Cultural Heritage Department and the Provincial Directorate of Museums. The 120-square-meter mosaic was found on private property located in the Karlık neighborhood of Adana's Sarıçam district. According to archaeologists, the Eastern Roman-era mosaic dates back to between the fifth and sixth centuries A.D.It features 16 different animal figures, including a snake, lion, sheep, leopard, wolf, goat and bull. Wild and domestic animals are portrayed as sleeping and being fed together or eating each other's food.
A related ancient Greek text describing how wild and domestic animals lived together and shared the same pasture was translated by a group of researchers commissioned by the museum directorate. The translated text quotes the Biblical chapter of Isaiah (65:25), including: "The wolf and the lamb will feed together, the lion will eat straw like the ox and dust will be the serpent's food. They will neither harm nor destroy on my holy mountain, says the Lord."
Scientific research continues on the mosaic, and it has been brought to the laboratory of a new museum complex under construction at the historical National Textile Factory in Adana. Sabri Tari, the head of the Provincial Culture and Tourism Directorate, said they are conducting important projects to improve the city's tourism potential with the support of Culture and Tourism Minister Ömer Çelik.
Tuesday, January 26, 2016
Another historical church has been unearthed in the Cappadocia region of Central Anatolia and experts are excited about its frescoes, which depict scenes hitherto unseen.
Archeologist: "It is reported that some of the frescoes here are unique. There are exciting depictions like fish falling from the hand of Jesus Christ, him rising up into the sky, and the bad souls being killed. When the church is completely revealed, Cappadocia could become an even bigger pilgrimage center of Orthodoxy"
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