Authentic Ancient Coin of:
Anonymous Class C
Bronze Follis 32mm (13.44 grams)
Struck during the reign of Michael IV 1034-1041 A.D.
Reference: Sear 1825
+ЄMMANOVHΛ - Three-quarter length figure of Christ Antiphonetes standing facing,
wearing nimbus crown, pallium and colobium, and raising right hand in benediction;
in left hand, book of Gospels; in field to left, IC; to right, XC
Jeweled cross cross, with pellet at each extremity; in the angles, IC -XC / NI - KA
("May Jesus Christ Conquer").
For more than a century, the production of Follis denomination Byzantine coins had religious Christian motifs which included included Jesus Christ, and even Virgin Mary. These coins were designed to honor Christ and recognize the subservient role of the Byzantine emperor, with many of the reverse inscriptions translating to "Jesus Christ King of Kings" and "May Jesus Christ Conquer". The Follis denomination coins were the largest bronze denomination coins issued by the Byzantine empire, and their large size, along with the Christian motif make them a popular coin type for collectors. This series ran from the period of Byzantine emperors John I (969-976 A.D.) to Alexius I (1081-1118 A.D.). The accepted classification was originally devised by Miss Margaret Thompson with her study of these types of coins. World famous numismatic author, David R. Sear adopted this classification system for his book entitled, Byzantine Coins and Their Values. The references about this coin site Mr. Sear's book by the number that they appear in that work. The class types of coins included Class A1, Class A2, Class B, Class C, Class D, Class E, Class F, Class G, Class H, Class I, Class J, Class K. Read more and see examples of these coins by reading the JESUS CHRIST Anonymous Class A-N Byzantine Follis Coins Reference.
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Jesus of Nazareth (c. 5 BC/BCE – c. 30 AD/CE), also referred to as Jesus Christ or simply Jesus, is the central figure of Christianity. Most Christian denominations venerate him as God the Son incarnated and believe that he rose from the dead after being crucified.
Half-length portrait of younger man with shoulder-length hair and beard, with right hand raised over what appears to be a red flame. The upper background is gold. Around his head is a golden halo containing an equal-armed cross with three arms visible; the arms are decorated with ovals and squares.The principal sources of information regarding Jesus are the four canonical gospels, and most critical scholars find them, at least the Synoptic Gospels, useful for reconstructing Jesus’ life and teachings. Some scholars believe apocryphal texts such as the Gospel of Thomas and the Gospel according to the Hebrews are also relevant.
Most critical historians agree that Jesus was a Jew who was regarded as a teacher and healer, that he was baptized by John the Baptist, and was crucified in Jerusalem on the orders of the Roman Prefect Judaea, Pontius Pilate, on the charge of sedition against the Roman Empire. Critical Biblical scholars and historians have offered competing descriptions of Jesus as a self-described Messiah, as the leader of an apocalyptic movement, as an itinerant sage, as a charismatic healer, and as the founder of an independent religious movement. Most contemporary scholars of the Historical Jesus consider him to have been an independent, charismatic founder of a Jewish restoration movement, anticipating an imminent apocalypse. Other prominent scholars, however, contend that Jesus' "Kingdom of God" meant radical personal and social transformation instead of a future apocalypse.
Christians traditionally believe that Jesus was born of a virgin:529–32 performed miracles,:358–59 founded the Church, rose from the dead, and ascended into heaven,:616–20 from which he will return.:1091–109 Most Christian scholars today present Jesus as the awaited Messiah promised in the Old Testament and as God, arguing that he fulfilled many Messianic prophecies of the Old Testament. The majority of Christians worship Jesus as the incarnation of God the Son, one of three divine persons of a Trinity reject Trinitarianism, wholly or partly, believing it to be non-scriptural.
Michael IV the Paphlagonian (Greek: Mikhaēl IV Paphlagōn), (1010 – December 10, 1041), was Eastern Roman Emperor from April 11, 1034 to December 10, 1041. He owed his elevation to Empress Zoe, daughter of Emperor Constantine VIII and wife of Romanos III Argyros.
Michael came from a family of Paphlagonian peasants, one of whom, the parakoimomenos John the Eunuch had come to preside over the woman's quarters at the imperial palace. John brought his younger brothers into the court and there the empress Zoe became enamoured of Michael, who became her chamberlain. Zoe and Michael decided to use a slow poison to kill Zoe's husband Romanos III. However, becoming impatient with the poison, they drowned him and Zoe immediately married Michael, on April 11, 1034. Michael IV was also proclaimed emperor and reigned together with Zoe until his death in 1041.
Michael IV was handsome, clever, and generous, but he was uneducated and suffered from epileptic fits. Therefore he left the government in the hands of his brother John, who had already become an influential minister of Constantine VIII and Romanos III. John's reforms of the army and financial system revived for a while the strength of the Empire, which held its own successfully against its foreign enemies. But the increase in taxation caused discontent among both nobles and commoners. John's monopoly of the government led to several failed conspiracies against him in 1034, 1037, 1038, and 1040 one of which was led by the Empress Zoe herself. The last conspiracy involved the patrician Michael Keroularios, who became a monk to save his life and was later elected as patriarch of Constantinople.
On the eastern frontier the important fortress of Edessa was relieved after a prolonged siege. On the western front the Muslims were almost driven out of Sicily by George Maniakes (who campaigned there between 1037 and 1040). Maniakes fell out with his Lombard allies, however, and lost the support of the Lombards and Normans. After the recall of Maniakes most of the Sicilian conquests were lost (1041), and a subsequent expedition against the Italian Normans suffered several defeats.
In the north the Serbs revolted successfully in 1040, as did the Bulgarians in western Bulgaria and Macedonia in the same year. This revolt was partly caused by the heavy taxation in coin imposed on Bulgaria at the time, but it aimed at the restoration of the Bulgarian state under the leadership of Peter Delyan. Although Michael IV was chased out of the vicinity of Thessalonica by the rebels, he returned with an army of 40,000 men in 1041 assisted by Norse mercenaries including the future King Harald III of Norway. The military success of the Romans was aided by internal dissention among the Bulgarians and eventually their leaders were defeated and captured. Michael IV returned to Constantinople in triumph but he was now decrepit with illness and died on December 10, 1041.
A stained glass depiction of Jesus as a Caucasian man with long brown hair, a beard and the characteristic Christian cross inscribed in the halo behind his head. The figure dressed in a white inner robe cover by a shorter, looser scarlet robe. Depicted as a Shepard, he is holding a crux in his left hand and carrying a lamb in his right. Sheep are positioned to the left and right of the figure.
Jesus depicted as the Good Shepherd
(stained glass at St John's Ashfield)
Born 7–2 BC
Judea, Roman Empire
Died 30–36 AD
Judea, Roman Empire
Cause of death Crucifixion
Home town Nazareth, Galilee
Jesus (/ˈdʒiːzəs/; Greek: Ἰησοῦς Iesous; 7–2 BC to 30–36 AD), also referred to as Jesus of Nazareth, is the central figure of Christianity, whom the teachings of most Christian denominations hold to be the Son of God. Christians believe Jesus to be the awaited Messiah of the Old Testament and refer to him as Jesus Christ or simply Christ, a name that is also used by non-Christians.
Virtually all modern scholars of antiquity agree that a historical Jesus existed, although there is little agreement on the reliability of the gospel narratives and their assertions of his divinity. Most scholars agree that Jesus was a Jewishteacher from Galilee, was baptized by John the Baptist, and was crucified in Jerusalem on the orders of the Roman prefect, Pontius Pilate. Scholars have constructed various portraits of the historical Jesus, which often depict him as having one or more of the following roles: the leader of an apocalyptic movement, Messiah, a charismatic healer, a sage and philosopher, or an egalitarian social reformer. Scholars have correlated the New Testament accounts with non-Christian historical records to arrive at an estimated chronology of Jesus' life.
Most Christians believe that Jesus was conceived by the Holy Spirit, born of a virgin, performed miracles, founded the Church, died by crucifixion as a sacrifice to achieve atonement, rose from the dead, and ascended into heaven, from which hewill return. The majority of Christians worship Jesus as the incarnation of God the Son, who is the Second Person of the Holy Trinity. A few Christian groups reject Trinitarianism, wholly or partly, as non-scriptural.
In Islam, Jesus (commonly transliterated as Isa) is considered one of God's important prophets. To Muslims, Jesus is a bringer of scripture and the child of a virgin birth, but neither divine nor the victim of crucifixion. Judaism rejects the belief that Jesus was the awaited Messiah, arguing that he did not fulfill the Messianic prophecies in the Tanakh. Bahá'í scripture almost never refers to Jesus as the Messiah, but calls him a Manifestation of God.
Etymology of names
A typical Jew in Jesus' time had only one name, sometimes supplemented with the father's name or the individual's hometown. Thus, in the Christian Bible, Jesus is referred to as "Jesus of Nazareth" (Matthew 26:71), "Joseph's son" (Luke 4:12), and "Jesus of Nazareth, the son of Joseph" (John 1:45). The name Jesus, which occurs in a number of languages, is derived from the Latin Iesus, a transliteration of the Greek Ἰησοῦς (Iesous). The Greek form is a rendition of the Aramaic ישוע (Yeshua), which is derived from the Hebrew יהושע (Yehoshua). The nameYeshua appears to have been in use in Judea at the time of the birth of Jesus. The first-century works of historian Flavius Josephus refer to at least twenty different people with this name. The etymology of Jesus' name in the context of the New Testament is generally given as "Yahwehsaves", "Yahweh will save", or "Yahweh is salvation".
Since early Christianity, Christians have commonly referred to Jesus as "Jesus Christ". The word Christ is derived from the Greek Χριστός (Christos), which is a translation of the Hebrew מָשִׁיחַ(Masiah), meaning the "anointed" and usually transliterated into English as "Messiah". Christians designate Jesus as Christ because they believe he is the awaited Messiah prophesied in the Hebrew Bible (Old Testament). In postbiblical usage, Christ became viewed as a name—one part of "Jesus Christ"—but originally it was a title. Since the first century, the term "Christian" (meaning "one who owes allegiance to the person of Christ") is used to identify the followers of Jesus.
Judea and Galilee at the time of Jesus
Most scholars agree that Jesus was a Galilean Jew who was born around the beginning of the first century and died between 30 and 36 AD in Judea. Amy-Jill Levine states that the general scholarly consensus is that Jesus was a contemporary of John the Baptist and was crucified by Roman governor Pontius Pilate, who reigned from 26 to 36 AD. Most scholars hold that Jesus lived in Galilee and Judea and did not preach or study elsewhere.
The gospels offer several clues concerning the year of Jesus' birth. Matthew 2:1 associates the birth of Jesus with the reign of Herod the Great, who died around 4 BC, and Luke 1:5 mentions that Herod was on the throne shortly before the birth of Jesus. Luke's gospel also associates the birth with the Census of Quirinius. Luke 3:23 states that Jesus was "about thirty years of age" at the start of his ministry, which according to Acts 10:37–38 was preceded by John's ministry, which according to Luke 3:1–2 began in the 15th year of Tiberius' reign (28 or 29 AD). By collating the gospel accounts with historical data, along with using various other methods, most scholars arrive a date of birth between 6 and 4 BC, but some propose a wider range between 7 and 2 BC.
The years of Jesus' ministry have been estimated using several different approaches. One approach applies the reference in Luke 3:1–2, Acts 10:37–38 and the dates of Tiberius' reign, which are well known. This gives a date of around 28–29 AD for the start of Jesus' ministry. Another approach uses the statement about the temple in John 2:13–20, which states that the temple in Jerusalem was in its 46th year of construction at the start of Jesus' ministry, together withJosephus' statement that the temple's reconstruction was started by Herod in the 18th year of his reign, to estimate a date around 27–29 AD. Another method uses the date of the death of John the Baptist and the marriage of Herod Antipas toHerodias, based on the writings of Josephus, and correlates it with Matthew 14:4 and Mark 6:18. Given that most scholars date the marriage of Herod and Herodias as AD 28–35, this yields a date about 28–29 AD.
A number of approaches have been used to estimate the year of the Crucifixion of Jesus, leading most scholars to agree that he died between 30 and 36 AD. The gospels state that the event occurred during the prefecture of Pilate, who was the Roman governor of Judea from 26 AD until 36 AD. Scholars believe the Crucifixion occurred before the conversion of Paul, which is estimated at around 33–36 AD. Astronomers since Isaac Newton have tried to estimate the precise date of the Crucifixion, the most widely accepted dates being April 7, 30 AD, and April 3, 33 AD (both Julian).
Life and teachings in the New Testament
The four canonical gospels (Matthew, Mark, Luke, and John) are the main sources for the biography of Jesus, but other parts of the New Testament, such as the Pauline epistles, which were probably written decades before the gospels, also include references to key episodes in his life, such as the Last Supper in 1 Corinthians 11:23–26. The Acts of the Apostles (10:37–38 and 19:4) refers to the early ministry of Jesus and its anticipation by John the Baptist. Acts 1:1–11 says more about the Ascension of Jesus (also mentioned in 1 Timothy 3:16) than the canonical gospels do.
Canonical gospel accounts
A 3rd-century Greek papyrus of Luke
Not everything contained in the New Testament gospels is considered to be historically reliable. Elements whose historical authenticity are disputed include the two accounts of the Nativity, as well as the Resurrection and certain details about the Crucifixion. Views on the gospels range from their being inerrant descriptions of the life of Jesus to their providing no historical information about his life.
Three of the four canonical gospels, Matthew, Mark, and Luke, are known as the Synoptic Gospels, from the Greek σύν (syn "together") and ὄψις (opsis "view"). According to the majority viewpoint, the Synoptic Gospels are the primary sources of historical information about Jesus. They are very similar in content, narrative arrangement, language and paragraph structure. Scholars generally agree that it is impossible to find any direct literary relationship between the Synoptic Gospels and the Gospel of John.
In general, the authors of the New Testament showed little interest in an absolute chronology of Jesus or in synchronizing the episodes of his life with the secular history of the age. As stated in John 21:25, the gospels do not claim to provide an exhaustive list of the events in the life of Jesus. The accounts were primarily written as theological documents in the context of early Christianity, with timelines as a secondary consideration. One manifestation of the gospels as theological documents rather than historical chronicles is that they devote about one third of their text to just seven days, namely the last week of the life of Jesus in Jerusalem, referred to as Passion Week. Although the gospels do not provide enough details to satisfy the demands of modern historians regarding exact dates, it is possible to draw from them a general picture of the life story of Jesus.
The gospel accounts sometimes differ in the ordering of the parables, miracles, and other events. While the flow of the some events, such as the Baptism, Transfiguration, and Crucifixion of Jesus, and his interactions with the Apostles, are shared among the Synoptic Gospels, events such as the Transfiguration do not appear in John's Gospel, which also differs on other matters, such as the Cleansing of the Temple. Since the second century, attempts have been made to harmonize the gospel accounts into a single narrative, Tatian's Diatesseron perhaps being the first.
The gospels include a number of discourses by Jesus on specific occasions, such as the Sermon on the Mount and the Farewell Discourse. They also include over 30 parables spread throughout the narrative, often with themes that relate to the sermons. John 14:10 stresses the importance of the words of Jesus and attributes them to the authority of God the Father. The gospel descriptions of Jesus' miracles are often accompanied by records of his teachings.
Genealogy and Nativity
"Adoration of the Shepherds" by Gerard van Honthorst, 1622
Accounts of the genealogy and Nativity of Jesus appear in the New Testament only in the gospels of Luke and Matthew. Outside the New Testament, documents exist that are more or less contemporary with Jesus and the gospels, but few shed any light on biographical details of his life, and these two gospel accounts remain the main sources of information on the genealogy and Nativity.
Matthew begins his gospel with the genealogy of Jesus, before giving an account of Jesus' birth. He traces Jesus' ancestry to Abraham through David. Luke 3:22 discusses the genealogy after describing the Baptism of Jesus, when the voice from Heaven addresses Jesus and identifies him as the Son of God. Luke traces Jesus' ancestry through Adam to God.
The Nativity is a prominent element in the Gospel of Luke, comprising over 10 percent of the text and being three times as long as Matthew's Nativity text. Luke's account emphasizes events before the birth of Jesus and centers on Mary, while Matthew's mostly covers those after the birth and centers on Joseph. Both accounts state that Jesus was born to Joseph and Mary, his betrothed, in Bethlehem, and both support the doctrine of the virgin birth, according to which Jesus was miraculously conceived by the Holy Spirit in Mary's womb when she was still a virgin.
In Luke 1:31–38 Mary learns from the angel Gabriel that she will conceive and bear a child called Jesus through the action of the Holy Spirit. Following his betrothal to Mary, Joseph is troubled (Matthew 1:19–20) because Mary is pregnant, but in the first of Joseph's three dreams an angel assures him not be afraid to take Mary as his wife, because her child was conceived by the Holy Spirit. When Mary is due to give birth, she and Joseph travel from Nazareth to Joseph's ancestral home in Bethlehem to register in the census of Quirinius. There Mary gives birth to Jesus, and as they have found no room in the inn, she places the newborn in a manger (Luke 2:1–7). An angel visits some shepherds and sends them to adore the child (Luke 2:22). After presenting Jesus at the Temple, Joseph and Mary return home to Nazareth. In Matthew 1:1–12, wise men or Magi from the East bring gifts to the young Jesus as the King of the Jews. Herod hears of Jesus' birth and, wanting him killed, orders the murder of young male children in Bethlehem. But an angel warns Joseph in his second dream, and the family flees to Egypt, later to return and settle in Nazareth.
Early life and profession
Jesus' childhood home is identified in the gospels of Luke and Matthew as the town of Nazareth in Galilee. Mary's husband Joseph appears in descriptions of Jesus' childhood, but no mention is made of him thereafter. The New Testament books of Matthew, Mark, and Galatians mention Jesus' brothers and sisters, but the Greek word adelphos in these verses has also been translated as "kinsman", rather than the more usual "brother".
Originally written in Koine Greek, the Gospel of Mark calls Jesus in Mark 6:3 a τέκτων (tekton), usually understood to mean a carpenter, and Matthew 13:55 says he was the son of a tekton. Although traditionally translated as "carpenter", tekton is a rather general word (from the same root that leads to "technical" and "technology") that could cover makers of objects in various materials, even builders. Beyond the New Testament accounts, the association of Jesus with woodworking is a constant in the traditions of the first and second centuries. Justin Martyr (d. ca. 165) wrote that Jesus made yokes and ploughs.
Baptism and temptation
Trevisani's depiction of the typical baptismal scene with the sky opening and the Holy Spirit descending as a dove, 1723
Gospel accounts of the Baptism of Jesus are always preceded by information about John the Baptist and his ministry. They show John preaching penance and repentance for the remission of sins and encouraging the giving of alms to the poor (Luke 3:11) as he baptized people in the area of the River Jordan around Perea at about the time when Jesus began his ministry. The Gospel of John (1:28) initially specifies "Bethany beyond the Jordan", that is Bethabara in Perea, and later John 3:23 refers to further baptisms in Ænon "because there was much water there".
In the gospels, John had been foretelling (Luke 3:16) the arrival of someone "mightier than I", and Paul the Apostle also refers to this (Acts 19:4). In Matthew 3:14, on meeting Jesus, the Baptist says, "I have need to be baptized of thee", but Jesus persuades John to baptize him nonetheless. After he does so and Jesus emerges from the water, the sky opens and a voice from Heaven states, "This is my beloved Son in whom I am well pleased" (Matthew 3:17). The Holy Spirit then descends upon Jesus as a dove. In John 1:29–33, rather than a direct narrative, the Baptist bears witness to the episode. This is one of two events described in the gospels where a voice from Heaven calls Jesus "Son", the other being the Transfiguration.
After the baptism, the Synoptic Gospels describe the Temptation of Christ, in which Jesus resisted temptations from the devil while fasting for forty days and nights in the Judaean Desert. The Gospel of John omits the Temptation and proceeds directly to the first encounter between Jesus and two of his future disciples (John 1:35–37): on the day after the Baptism, the Baptist sees Jesus again and calls him the Lamb of God; two disciples of John the Baptist hear this and follow Jesus.
A 19th-century painting depicting the Sermon on the Mount by Carl Bloch
The gospels present John the Baptist's ministry as the precursor of that of Jesus. Starting with his Baptism, Jesus begins his ministry in the countryside of Judea, near the River Jordan, when he is "about thirty years of age" (Luke 3:23). He then travels, preaches and performs miracles, eventually completing his ministry with the Last Supper with his disciples in Jerusalem.
Scholars divide the ministry of Jesus into several stages. The Galilean ministry begins when Jesus returns to Galilee from the Judaean Desert after rebuffing the temptation of Satan. Jesus preaches around Galilee, and in Matthew 4:18–20, his first disciples, who will eventually form the core of the early Church, encounter him and begin to travel with him. This period includes the Sermon on the Mount, one of Jesus' major discourses. This period also includes the Calming the storm, Feeding the 5000, Walking on water, and a number of other miracles and parables. This period ends with the Confession of Peter and the Transfiguration.
As Jesus travels towards Jerusalem, in the Perean ministry, he returns to the area where he was baptized, about one-third the way down from the Sea of Galilee along the Jordan (John 10:40–42). The final ministry in Jerusalem begins with the Jesus' triumphal entry into Jerusalem on Palm Sunday. In the Synoptic Gospels, during that week Jesus drives the money changers from the Temple and Judas bargains to betray him. However, John's Gospel places the Temple incident during the early part of Jesus' ministry, and scholars differ on whether these are one or two separate incidents. This period culminates in the Last Supper and the Farewell Discourse.
Teachings and preachings
Jesus cleansing a leper – medieval mosaic from theMonreale Cathedral
Commentaries often discuss the teachings of Jesus in terms of his "words and works". The words include a number of sermons, as well as parables that appear throughout the narrative of the Synoptic Gospels (the Gospel of John includes no narrative parables). The works include the miracles and other acts performed during Jesus' ministry. Although the canonical gospels are the major source of the teachings of Jesus, the Pauline epistles provide some of the earliest written accounts.
The New Testament presents the teachings of Jesus not merely as his own preaching, but as divine revelation. John the Baptist, for example, states in John 3:34: "For he whom God hath sent speaketh the words of God: for he giveth not the Spirit by measure." In John 7:16 Jesus says, "My teaching is not mine, but his that sent me." He asserts the same thing in John 14:10: "Believest thou not that I am in the Father, and the Father in me? the words that I say unto you I speak not from myself: but the Father abiding in me doeth his works." In Matthew 11:27 Jesus claims divine knowledge, stating: "no one knoweth the Son, save the Father; neither doth any know the Father, save the Son".
The Kingdom of God (also called the Kingdom of Heaven in Matthew) is one of the key elements of Jesus' teachings in the New Testament. Jesus promises inclusion in the Kingdom for those who accept his message. He calls people to repent their sins and to devote themselves completely to God. Jesus tells his followers to adhere strictly to Jewish law, although he has broken the law himself, especially regarding the Sabbath. When asked what the greatest commandment is, Jesus replies: "Thou shalt love the Lord thy God with all thy heart, and with all thy soul, and with all thy mind ... And a second like [unto it] is this, Thou shalt love thy neighbor as thyself" (Matthew 22:37–39). Other ethical teachings of Jesus include loving one's enemies, refraining from hatred and lust, and turning the other cheek (Matthew 5:21–44).
In the gospels, the approximately thirty parables form about one third of Jesus' recorded teachings. The parables appear within longer sermons and at other places in the narrative. They often contain symbolism, and usually relate the physical world to the spiritual. Common themes in these tales include the kindness and generosity of God and the perils of transgression. Some of his parables, such as the Prodigal Son (Luke 15:11–32), are relatively simple, while others, such as theGrowing Seed (Mark 4:26–29), are more abstruse.
The gospel episodes that include descriptions of the miracles of Jesus also often include teachings, and the miracles themselves involve an element of teaching. Many of the miracles teach the importance of faith. In the cleansing of ten lepers and the raising of Jairus' daughter, for instance, the beneficiaries are told that their healing was due to their faith. When Jesus' opponents accuse him of performing exorcisms by the power of Beelzebul, the prince of demons, Jesus counters that he performs miracles by the "Spirit of God" (Matthew 12:28) or "finger of God" (Luke 11:20).
Proclamation as Christ and Transfiguration
Transfiguration of Jesusdepicting him with Elijah, Mosesand 3 apostles by Carracci, 1594
At about the middle of each of the three Synoptic Gospels, two related episodes mark a turning point in the narrative: the Confession of Peter and the Transfiguration of Jesus. They take place near Caesarea Philippi, just north of the Sea of Galilee, at the beginning of the final journey to Jerusalem that ends in the Passion and Resurrection of Jesus. These events mark the beginnings of the gradual disclosure of the identity of Jesus to his disciples and his prediction of his own suffering and death.
Peter's Confession begins as a dialogue between Jesus and his disciples in Matthew 16:13, Mark 8:27 and Luke 9:18. Jesus asks his disciples, "who say ye that I am?" Simon Peter answers, "Thou art the Christ, the Son of the living God" (Matthew 16:15–16). Jesus replies, "Blessed art thou, Simon Bar-jonah: for flesh and blood hath not revealed it unto thee, but my Father who is in heaven." With this blessing, Jesus affirms that the titles Peter ascribes to him are divinely revealed, thus unequivocally declaring himself to be both Christ and the Son of God.
The account of the Transfiguration appears in Matthew 17:1–9, Mark 9:2–8, and Luke 9:28–36. Jesus takes Peter and two other apostles up an unnamed mountain, where "he was transfigured before them; and his face did shine as the sun, and his garments became white as the light." A bright cloud appears around them, and a voice from the cloud says, "This is my beloved Son, in whom I am well pleased; hear ye him" (Matthew 17:1–9). The Transfiguration reaffirms that Jesus is the Son of God (as in his Baptism), and the command "hear ye him" identifies him as God's messenger and mouthpiece.
Final week: betrayal, arrest, trial, and death
The description of the last week of the life of Jesus (often called Passion Week) occupies about one third of the narrative in the canonical gospels, starting with a description of the Triumphal entry into Jerusalem and ending with his Crucifixion.The last week in Jerusalem is the conclusion of the journey through Perea and Judea that Jesus began in Galilee. Just before the entry into Jerusalem, the Gospel of John includes the Raising of Lazarus, which increases the tension between Jesus and the authorities.
Final entry into Jerusalem
A painting of Jesus' final entry into Jerusalem, by Jean-Léon Gérôme in 1897
In the four canonical gospels, Jesus' final entry into Jerusalem takes place at the beginning of the last week of his life, a few days before the Last Supper, marking the beginning of the Passion narrative. The day of entry into Jerusalem is identified by Mark and John as Sunday and by Matthew as Monday; Luke does not identify the day. After leaving Bethany Jesus rides a young donkey into Jerusalem. People along the way lay cloaks and small branches of trees in front of him and sing part of Psalm 118:25–26. The cheering crowds greeting Jesus as he enters Jerusalem add to the tension between him and the authorities.
In the three Synoptic Gospels, entry into Jerusalem is followed by the Cleansing of the Temple, in which Jesus expels the money changers from the temple, accusing them of turning it into a den of thieves through their commercial activities. This is the only account of Jesus using physical force in any of the gospels. John 2:13–16 includes a similar narrative much earlier, and scholars debate whether the passage refers to the same episode. The Synoptics include a number of well-known parables and sermons, such as the Widow's mite and the Second Coming Prophecy, during the week that follows.
The Synoptics record conflicts that took place between Jesus and the Jewish elders during Passion Week in episodes such as the Authority of Jesus questioned and the Woes of the Pharisees, in which Jesus criticizes their hypocrisy. Judas Iscariot, one of the twelve apostles, approaches the Jewish elders and strikes a bargain with them, in which he undertakes to betray Jesus and hand him over to them for a reward of thirty silver coins.
The Last Supper, depicted in this 16th-century painting by Joan de Joanes.
The Last Supper is the final meal that Jesus shares with his twelve apostles in Jerusalem before his crucifixion. The Last Supper is mentioned in all four canonical gospels, and Paul's First Epistle to the Corinthians (11:23–26) also refers to it. During the meal, Jesus predicts that one of his apostles will betray him. Despite each Apostle's assertion that he would not betray him, Jesus reiterates that the betrayer would be one of those present. Matthew 26:23–25 and John 13:26–27 specifically identify Judas as the traitor.
In the Synoptics, Jesus takes bread, breaks it and gives it to the disciples, saying, "This is my body which is given for you". He then has them all drink from a cup, saying, "This cup is the new covenant in my blood" (Luke 22:19–20). Although the Gospel of John does not include a description of the bread-and-wine ritual during the Last Supper, most scholars agree that John 6:58–59 (the Bread of Life Discourse) has a eucharistic character and resonates with the institution narratives in the Synoptic Gospels and in the Pauline writings on the Last Supper.
In all four gospels, Jesus predicts that Peter will deny knowledge of him three times before the rooster crows the next morning. In Luke and John, the prediction is made during the Supper (Luke 22:34, John 22:34). In Matthew and Mark, the prediction is made after the Supper, and Jesus also predicts that all his disciples will desert him (Matthew 26:31–34, Mark 14:27–30). The Gospel of John provides the only account of Jesus washing his disciples' feet before the meal. John also includes a long sermon by Jesus, preparing his disciples (now without Judas) for his departure. Chapters 14–17 of the Gospel of John are known as the Farewell Discourse and are a significant source of Christological content.
Agony in the Garden, betrayal and arrest
A 17th-century depiction of the kiss of Judas and the arrest of Jesus byCaravaggio
After the Last Supper, Jesus, accompanied by his disciples, takes a walk to pray. Matthew and Mark identify the place as the garden of Gethsemane, while Luke identifies it as the Mount of Olives. Judas appears in the garden, accompanied by a crowd that includes the Jewish priests and elders and people with weapons. He kisses Jesus to identify him to the crowd, which then arrests Jesus. In an attempt to stop them, one of Jesus' disciples uses a sword to cut off the ear a man in the crowd. Luke states that Jesus miraculously heals the wound, and John and Matthew report that Jesus criticizes the violent act, enjoining his disciples not to resist his arrest. In Matthew 26:52 Jesus says, "all they that take the sword shall perish with the sword". After Jesus' arrest, his disciples go into hiding, and Peter, when questioned, thrice denies knowing Jesus. After the third denial, he hears the rooster crow and recalls the prediction as Jesus turns to look at him. Peter then weeps bitterly.
Trials by the Sanhedrin, Herod and Pilate
Jesus in the upper right hand corner, his hands bound behind, is being tried at the high priest's house and turns to look at Peter, in Rembrandt's 1660 depiction ofPeter's denial.
After his arrest, Jesus is taken to the Sanhedrin, a Jewish judicial body. The gospel accounts differ on the details of the trials. In Matthew 26:57, Mark 14:53 and Luke 22:54, Jesus is taken to the high priest's house, where he is mocked and beaten that night. Early next morning, the chief priests and scribes lead Jesus away into their council. John 18:12–14 states that Jesus is first taken to Annas, the father-in-law of Caiaphas, and then to Caiaphas. All four gospels report the Denial of Peter, where Peter denies knowing Jesus three times before the rooster crows, as predicted by Jesus.
During the trials Jesus speaks very little, mounts no defense and gives very infrequent and indirect answers to the questions of the priests, prompting an officer to slap him. In Matthew 26:62 Jesus' unresponsiveness leads the high priest to ask him, "Answerest thou nothing?" In Mark 14:61 the high priest then asks Jesus, "Art thou the Christ, the Son of the Blessed?". Jesus replies "I am" and then predicts the coming of the Son of Man. This provokes the high priest to tear his own robe in anger and to accuse Jesus of blasphemy. In Matthew and Luke, Jesus' answer is less direct. In Matthew 26:64 he responds "Thou hast said", and in Luke 22:70 he says, "Ye say that I am".
Taking Jesus to Pilate's Court, the Jewish elders ask Roman governor Pontius Pilate to judge and condemn Jesus, accusing him of claiming to be the King of the Jews. The use of the word "king" is central to the discussion between Jesus and Pilate. In John 18:36 Jesus states, "My kingdom is not of this world", but he does not directly deny being the King of the Jews. In Luke 23:7–15 Pilate realizes that Jesus is a Galilean, thus coming under the jurisdiction of Herod Antipas. Pilate sends Jesus to Herod to be tried, but Jesus says almost nothing in response to Herod's questions. Herod and his soldiers mock Jesus, put a gorgeous robe on him to make him look like a king, and send him back to Pilate. Pilate then calls together the Jewish elders and says that he has "found no fault in this man".
As a Passover custom, Pilate allows one prisoner chosen by the crowd to be released. He gives the crowd a choice between Jesus and a murderer called Barabbas. Persuaded by the elders (Matthew 27:20), the mob chooses to release Barabbas and crucify Jesus. Pilate writes a sign that reads "Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews" (abbreviated as INRI in depictions) to be affixed to the cross of Jesus (John 19:19). He then scourges Jesus and send him to be cricified. The soldiers mock Jesus as the King of Jews by clothing him in a purple robe (which signifies royal status) and placing a Crown of Thorns on his head. They beat and taunt him before taking him to Calvary, also called Golgotha, for crucifixion.
Crucifixion and burial
Pietro Perugino's depiction of the Crucifixion as Stabat Mater, 1482
Jesus' crucifixion is described in all four canonical gospels. After the trials, Jesus makes his way to Calvary by a route known traditionally as the Via Dolorosa. The three Synoptic Gospels indicate that Simon of Cyrene assists him, having been compelled by the Romans to do so. In Luke 23:27–28 Jesus tells the women in the multitude of people following him not to weep for him but for themselves and their children. At Calvary Jesus is offered wine mixed with gall, a concoction usually offered as a painkiller. Matthew and Mark state that he refuses it.
The soldiers then crucify Jesus and cast lots for his clothes. Above Jesus' head on the cross is Pilate's inscription "Jesus of Nazareth, King of the Jews", and the soldiers and passers-by mock him about it. Jesus is crucified between two convicted thieves, one of whom rebukes Jesus, while the other defends him. The Roman soldiers break the two thieves' legs (a procedure designed to hasten death in a crucifixion), but they do not break those of Jesus, as he is already dead. One soldier, traditionally identified as Saint Longinus, pierces Jesus' side with a lance, and water flows out. In Mark 15:39, impressed by the events, the Roman centurion affirms that Jesus was the Son of God.
On the same day, Joseph of Arimathea, with Pilate's permission and with Nicodemus' help, removes Jesus' body from the cross, wraps him in a clean cloth and buries him in a new rock-hewn tomb. In Matthew 27:62–66, on the following day the Jews ask Pilate for the tomb to be sealed with a stone and placed under guard to ensure the body will remain there.
Resurrection and ascension
New Testament accounts of Jesus' resurrection state that on the first day of the week after the crucifixion (typically interpreted as a Sunday), his tomb is discovered to be empty and his followers encounter him risen from the dead. His followers arrive at the tomb early in the morning and meet either one or two beings (men or angels) dressed in bright robes. Mark 16:9 and John 20:15 indicate that Jesus appears to Mary Magdalene first, and Luke 16:9 states that she is one of themyrrhbearers.
Mary Magdalene's encounter with Jesus after his resurrection, depicted byAlexander Andreyevich Ivanov in 1835
After the discovery of the empty tomb, Jesus makes a series of appearances to the disciples. These include the Doubting Thomas episode and the appearance on the road to Emmaus, where Jesus meets two disciples. The catch of 153 fish is a miracle by the Sea of Galilee, after which Jesus encourages Peter to serve his followers.
Before he ascends into heaven, Jesus commissions his disciples to spread his teachings to all the nations of the world. Luke 24:51 states that Jesus is then "carried up into heaven". The Ascension account is elaborated in Acts 1:1–11 and mentioned 1 Timothy 3:16. In Acts, forty days after the Resurrection, as the disciples look on, "he was taken up; and a cloud received him out of their sight". 1 Peter 3:22 describes Jesus as being on "the right hand of God, having gone into heaven".
The Acts of the Apostles describe several appearances by Jesus after his Ascension. Acts 7:55 describes a vision experienced by Stephen just before his death. On the road to Damascus, the Apostle Paul is converted to Christianity after seeing a blinding light and hearing a voice saying, "I am Jesus whom thou persecutest". In Acts 9:10–18, Ananias of Damascus is instructed to heal Paul. It is the last conversation with Jesus reported in the Bible until the Book of Revelation, in which a man named John receives a revelation from Jesus concerning the end times.
Jesus of Nazareth (c. 5 BC/BCE – c. 30 AD/CE), also referred to as Jesus Christ or simply Jesus, is the central figure of Christianity. Most Christian denominations venerate him as God the Son incarnated and believe that he rose from the dead after being crucified.
Half-length portrait of younger man with shoulder-length hair and beard, with right hand raised over what appears to be a red flame. The upper background is gold. Around his head is a golden halo containing an equal-armed cross with three arms visible; the arms are decorated with ovals and squares.The principal sources of information regarding Jesus are the four canonical gospels, and most critical scholars find them, at least the Synoptic Gospels, useful for reconstructing Jesus’ life and teachings. Some scholars believe apocryphal texts such as the Gospel of Thomas and the Gospel according to the Hebrews are also relevant.
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 and Romania .File:Justinian555AD.png
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 the 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 Macedonian dynasty (10th-11th centuries), the Empire again expanded and experienced a two-century long renaissance, which came to an end with the loss of much of Asia Minor to the Seljuk Turks after the Battle of Manzikert (1071).
The final centuries of the Empire exhibited a general trend of decline. It struggled to recover during the 12th century, but was delivered a mortal blow during 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 several small rival states in the area for the final two centuries of its existence. This volatile period led to its progressive annexation by the Ottomans over the 15th century and the Fall of Constantinople in 1453.
The first use of the term "Byzantine" to label the later years of the Roman Empire was in 1557, when the German historian Hieronymus Wolf published his work Corpus Historiæ Byzantinæ, a collection of historical sources. The term comes from "Byzantium", the name of the city of Constantinople before it became Constantine's capital. This older name of the city would rarely be used from this point onward except in historical or poetic contexts. The publication in 1648 of the Byzantine du Louvre (Corpus Scriptorum Historiae Byzantinae), and in 1680 of Du Cange's Historia Byzantina further popularised the use of "Byzantine" among French authors, such as Montesquieu. However, it was not until the mid-19th century that the term came into general use in the Western world. As regards the English historiography in particular, the first occasion of the "Byzantine Empire" appears in a 1857 work of George Finlay (History of the Byzantine Empire from 716 to 1057).
The Byzantine Empire was known to its inhabitants as the "Roman Empire", the "Empire of the Romans" (Latin: Imperium Romanum, Imperium Romanorum; Greek: Βασιλεία τῶν Ῥωμαίων Basileia tōn Rhōmaiōn, Ἀρχὴ τῶν Ῥωμαίων Archē tōn Rhōmaiōn), "Romania" (Latin: Romania; Greek: Ῥωμανία Rhōmania), the "Roman Republic" (Latin: Res Publica Romana; Greek: Πολιτεία τῶν Ῥωμαίων Politeia tōn Rhōmaiōn), Graikia (Greek: Γραικία), and also as Rhōmais (Greek: Ῥωμαΐς).
Although the Byzantine Empire had a multi-ethnic character during most of its history and preserved Romano-Hellenistic traditions, it became identified by its western and northern contemporaries with its increasingly predominant Greek element. The occasional use of the term "Empire of the Greeks" (Latin: Imperium Graecorum) in the West to refer to the Eastern Roman Empire and of the Byzantine Emperor as Imperator Graecorum (Emperor of the Greeks) were also used to separate it from the prestige of the Roman Empire within the new kingdoms of the West.
The authority of the Byzantine emperor as the legitimate Roman emperor was challenged by the coronation of Charlemagne as Imperator Augustus by Pope Leo III in the year 800. Needing Charlemagne's support in his struggle against his enemies in Rome, Leo used the lack of a male occupant of the throne of the Roman Empire at the time to claim that it was vacant and that he could therefore crown a new Emperor himself. Whenever the Popes or the rulers of the West made use of the name Roman to refer to the Eastern Roman Emperors, they usually preferred the term Imperator Romaniae (meaning Emperor of Romania) instead of Imperator Romanorum (meaning Emperor of the Romans), a title that they applied only to Charlemagne and his successors.
No such distinction existed in the Persian, Islamic, and Slavic worlds, where the Empire was more straightforwardly seen as the continuation of the Roman Empire.
The Baptism of Constantine painted by Raphael's pupils (1520–1524, fresco, Vatican City, Apostolic Palace). Eusebius of Caesarea records that (as was common among converts of early Christianity) Constantine delayed receiving baptism until shortly before his death.
The Roman army succeeded in conquering many territories covering the entire Mediterranean region and coastal regions in southwestern Europe and north Africa. These territories were home to many different cultural groups, ranging from primitive to highly sophisticated. Generally speaking, the eastern Mediterranean provinces were more urbanised than the western, having previously been united under the Macedonian Empire and Hellenised by the influence of Greek culture.
The west also suffered more heavily from the instability of the 3rd century AD. This distinction between the established Hellenised East and the younger Latinised West persisted and became increasingly important in later centuries, leading to a gradual estrangement of the two worlds.
Divisions of the Roman Empire
In order to maintain control and improve administration, various schemes to divide the work of the Roman Emperor by sharing it between individuals were tried between 285 and 324, from 337 to 350, from 364 to 392, and again between 395 and 480. Although the administrative subdivisions varied, they generally involved a division of labour between East and West. Each division was a form of power-sharing (or even job-sharing), for the ultimate imperium was not divisible and therefore the empire remained legally one state—although the co-emperors often saw each other as rivals or enemies rather than partners.
In 293, emperor Diocletian created a new administrative system (the tetrarchy), in order to guarantee security in all endangered regions of his Empire. He associated himself with a co-emperor (Augustus), and each co-emperor then adopted a young colleague given the title of Caesar, to share in their rule and eventually to succeed the senior partner. The tetrarchy collapsed, however, in 313 and a few years later Constantine I reunited the two administrative divisions of the Empire as sole Augustus.
In 330, Constantine moved the seat of the Empire to Constantinople, which he founded as a second Rome on the site of Byzantium, a city well-positioned astride the trade routes between East and West. Constantine introduced important changes into the Empire's military, monetary, civil and religious institutions. As regards his economic policies in particular, he has been accused by certain scholars of "reckless fiscality", but the gold solidus he introduced became a stable currency that transformed the economy and promoted development.
Under Constantine, Christianity did not become the exclusive religion of the state, but enjoyed imperial preference, because the emperor supported it with generous privileges. Constantine established the principle that emperors could not settle questions of doctrine on their own, but should summon instead general ecclesiastical councils for that purpose. His convening of both the Synod of Arles and the First Council of Nicaea indicated his interest in the unity of the Church, and showcased his claim to be its head.
In 395, Theodosius I bequeathed the imperial office jointly to his sons: Arcadius in the East and Honorius in the West, once again dividing Imperial administration. In the 3rd and 4th centuries, the Eastern part of the empire was largely spared the difficulties faced by the West—due in part to a more established urban culture and greater financial resources, which allowed it to placate invaders with tribute and pay foreign mercenaries. This success allowed Theodosius II to focus on the codification of the Roman law and the further fortification of the walls of Constantinople, which left the city impervious to most attacks until 1204.
To fend off the Huns, Theodosius had to pay an enormous annual tribute to Attila. His successor, Marcian, refused to continue to pay the tribute, but Attila had already diverted his attention to the West. After his death in 453, the Hunnic Empire collapsed, and many of the remaining Huns were often hired as mercenaries by Constantinople.
Loss of the western Roman Empire
After the fall of Attila, the Eastern Empire enjoyed a period of peace, while the Western Empire deteriorated in continuing migration and expansion by Germanic nations (its end is usually dated in 476 when the Germanic Roman general Odoacer deposed the titular Western Emperor Romulus Augustulus). In 480 Emperor Zeno abolished the division of the Empire making himself sole Emperor. Odoacer, now ruler of Italy, was nominally Zeno's subordinate but acted with complete autonomy, eventually providing support of a rebellion against the Emperor.
Zeno negotiated with the invading Ostrogoths, who had settled in Moesia, convincing the Gothic king Theodoric to depart for Italy as magister militum per Italiam ("commander in chief for Italy") with the aim to depose Odoacer. By urging Theodoric into conquering Italy, Zeno rid the Eastern Empire of an unruly subordinate (Odoacer) and moved another (Theodoric) further from the heart of the Empire. After Odoacer's defeat in 493, Theodoric ruled Italy on his own, although he was never recognised by the eastern emperors as "king" (rex).
In 491, Anastasius I, an aged civil officer of Roman origin, became Emperor, but it was not until 497 that the forces of the new emperor effectively took the measure of Isaurian resistance. Anastasius revealed himself as an energetic reformer and an able administrator. He perfected Constantine I's coinage system by definitively setting the weight of the copper follis, the coin used in most everyday transactions. He also reformed the tax system and permanently abolished the chrysargyron tax. The State Treasury contained the enormous sum of 320,000 lb (150,000 kg) of gold when Anastasius died in 518.
Reconquest of the western provinces
Justinian I depicted on one of the famous mosaics of the Basilica of San Vitale, Ravenna.
Justinian I, the son of an Illyrian peasant, may already have exerted effective control during the reign of his uncle, Justin I (518–527). He assumed the throne in 527, and oversaw a period of recovery of former territories. In 532, attempting to secure his eastern frontier, he signed a peace treaty with Khosrau I of Persia agreeing to pay a large annual tribute to the Sassanids. In the same year, he survived a revolt in Constantinople (the Nika riots), which solidified his power but ended with the deaths of a reported 30,000 to 35,000 rioters on his orders.
In 529, a ten-man commission chaired by John the Cappadocian revised the Roman law and created a new codification of laws and jurists' extracts. In 534, the Code was updated and, along with the enactements promulgated by Justinian after 534, it formed the system of law used for most of the rest of the Byzantine era.
The western conquests began in 533, as Justinian sent his general Belisarius to reclaim the former province of Africa from the Vandals who had been in control since 429 with their capital at Carthage. Their success came with surprising ease, but it was not until 548 that the major local tribes were subdued. In Ostrogothic Italy, the deaths of Theodoric, his nephew and heir Athalaric, and his daughter Amalasuntha had left her murderer, Theodahad (r. 534–536), on the throne despite his weakened authority.
In 535, a small Byzantine expedition to Sicily met with easy success, but the Goths soon stiffened their resistance, and victory did not come until 540, when Belisarius captured Ravenna, after successful sieges of Naples and Rome. In 535–536, Theodahad sent Pope Agapetus I to Constantinople to request the removal of Byzantine forces from Sicily, Dalmatia, and Italy. Although Agapetus failed in his mission to sign a peace with Justinian, he succeeded in having the Monophysite Patriarch Anthimus I of Constantinople denounced, despite empress Theodora's support and protection.
The Ostrogoths were soon reunited under the command of King Totila and captured Rome in 546. Belisarius, who had been sent back to Italy in 544, was eventually recalled to Constantinople in 549. The arrival of the Armenian eunuch Narses in Italy (late 551) with an army of some 35,000 men marked another shift in Gothic fortunes. Totila was defeated at the Battle of Taginae and his successor, Teia, was defeated at the Battle of Mons Lactarius (October 552). Despite continuing resistance from a few Gothic garrisons and two subsequent invasions by the Franks and Alemanni, the war for the Italian peninsula was at an end. In 551, Athanagild, a noble from Visigothic Hispania, sought Justinian's help in a rebellion against the king, and the emperor dispatched a force under Liberius, a successful military commander. The Empire held on to a small slice of the Iberian Peninsula coast until the reign of Heraclius.
In the east, the Roman–Persian Wars continued until 561 when the envoys of Justinian and Khosrau agreed on a 50-year peace. By the mid-550s, Justinian had won victories in most theatres of operation, with the notable exception of the Balkans, which were subjected to repeated incursions from the Slavs and the Gepids. Tribes of Serbs and Croats were later resettled in the northwestern Balkans, during the reign of Heraclius. Justinian called Belisarius out of retirement and defeated the new Hunnish threat. The strengthening of the Danube fleet caused the Kutrigur Huns to withdraw and they agreed to a treaty that allowed safe passage back across the Danube.
During the 6th century, traditional Greco-Roman culture was still influential in the Eastern empire. Philosophers such as John Philoponus drew on neoplatonic ideas in addition to Christian thought and empiricism. Nevertheless, Hellenistic philosophy began to be supplanted by or amalgamated into newer Christian philosophy. Polytheism was suppressed by the state. The closure of the Platonic Academy was a notable turning point. Hymns written by Romanos the Melodist marked the development of the Divine Liturgy, while architects and builders worked to complete the new Church of the Holy Wisdom, Hagia Sophia, which was designed to replace an older church destroyed during the Nika Revolt. The Hagia Sophia stands today as one of the major monuments of Byzantine architectural history. During the 6th and 7th centuries, the Empire was struck by a series of epidemics, which greatly devastated the population and contributed to a significant economic decline and a weakening of the Empire.
After Justinian died in 565, his successor, Justin II refused to pay the large tribute to the Persians. Meanwhile, the Germanic Lombards invaded Italy; by the end of the century only a third of Italy was in Byzantine hands. Justin's successor, Tiberius II, choosing between his enemies, awarded subsidies to the Avars while taking military action against the Persians. Though Tiberius' general, Maurice, led an effective campaign on the eastern frontier, subsidies failed to restrain the Avars. They captured the Balkan fortress of Sirmium in 582, while the Slavs began to make inroads across the Danube.
Maurice, who meanwhile succeeded Tiberius, intervened in a Persian civil war, placed the legitimate Khosrau II back on the throne and married his daughter to him. Maurice's treaty with his new brother-in-law enlarged the territories of the Empire to the East and allowed the energetic Emperor to focus on the Balkans. By 602, a series of successful Byzantine campaigns had pushed the Avars and Slavs back across the Danube.
After Maurice's murder by Phocas, Khosrau used the pretext to reconquer the Roman province of Mesopotamia. Phocas, an unpopular ruler invariably described in Byzantine sources as a "tyrant", was the target of a number of Senate-led plots. He was eventually deposed in 610 by Heraclius, who sailed to Constantinople from Carthage with an icon affixed to the prow of his ship.
Following the ascension of Heraclius, the Sassanid advance pushed deep into Asia Minor, occupying Damascus and Jerusalem and removing the True Cross to Ctesiphon. The counter-attack launched by Heraclius took on the character of a holy war, and an acheiropoietos image of Christ was carried as a military standard (similarly, when Constantinople was saved from an Avar siege in 626, the victory was attributed to the icons of the Virgin that were led in procession by Patriarch Sergius about the walls of the city).
The main Sassanid force was destroyed at Nineveh in 627, and in 629 Heraclius restored the True Cross to Jerusalem in a majestic ceremony. The war had exhausted both the Byzantines and Sassanids, however, and left them extremely vulnerable to the Muslim forces that emerged in the following years. The Byzantines suffered a crushing defeat by the Arabs at the Battle of Yarmouk in 636, while Ctesiphon fell in 634.
Siege of Constantinople (674–678)
The Arabs, now firmly in control of Syria and the Levant, sent frequent raiding parties deep into Asia Minor, and in 674–678 laid siege to Constantinople itself. The Arab fleet was finally repulsed through the use of Greek fire, and a thirty-years' truce was signed between the Empire and the Umayyad Caliphate. However, the Anatolian raids continued unabated, and accelerated the demise of classical urban culture, with the inhabitants of many cities either refortifying much smaller areas within the old city walls, or relocating entirely to nearby fortresses. Constantinople itself dropped substantially in size, from 500,000 inhabitants to just 40,000–70,000, and, like other urban centres, it was partly ruralised. The city also lost the free grain shipments in 618, after Egypt fell first to the Persians and then to the Arabs, and public wheat distribution ceased.
The void left by the disappearance of the old semi-autonomous civic institutions was filled by the theme system, which entailed dividing Asia Minor into "provinces" occupied by distinct armies that assumed civil authority and answered directly to the imperial administration. This system may have had its roots in certain ad hoc measures taken by Heraclius, but over the course of the 7th century it developed into an entirely new system of imperial governance. The massive cultural and institutional restructuring of the Empire consequent on the loss of territory in the 7th century has been said to have caused a decisive break in east Mediterranean Romanness and that the Byzantine state is subsequently best understood as another successor state rather than a real continuation of the Roman Empire.
The withdrawal of large numbers of troops from the Balkans to combat the Persians and then the Arabs in the east opened the door for the gradual southward expansion of Slavic peoples into the peninsula, and, as in Asia Minor, many cities shrank to small fortified settlements. In the 670s, the Bulgars were pushed south of the Danube by the arrival of the Khazars. In 680, Byzantine forces sent to disperse these new settlements were defeated.
In 681, Constantine IV signed a treaty with the Bulgar khan Asparukh, and the new Bulgarian state assumed sovereignty over a number of Slavic tribes that had previously, at least in name, recognised Byzantine rule. In 687–688, the final Heraclian emperor, Justinian II, led an expedition against the Slavs and Bulgarians, and made significant gains, although the fact that he had to fight his way from Thrace to Macedonia demonstrates the degree to which Byzantine power in the north Balkans had declined.
Justinian II attempted to break the power of the urban aristocracy through severe taxation and the appointment of "outsiders" to administrative posts. He was driven from power in 695, and took shelter first with the Khazars and then with the Bulgarians. In 705, he returned to Constantinople with the armies of the Bulgarian khan Tervel, retook the throne, and instituted a reign of terror against his enemies. With his final overthrow in 711, supported once more by the urban aristocracy, the Heraclian dynasty came to an end.
Isaurian dynasty to the ascension of Basil I
Leo III the Isaurian turned back the Muslim assault in 718 and addressed himself to the task of reorganising and consolidating the themes in Asia Minor. His successor, Constantine V, won noteworthy victories in northern Syria and thoroughly undermined Bulgarian strength.
Taking advantage of the Empire's weakness after the Revolt of Thomas the Slav in the early 820s, the Arabs reemerged and captured Crete. They also successfully attacked Sicily, but in 863 general Petronas gained a huge victory against Umar al-Aqta, the emir of Melitene. Under the leadership of emperor Krum, the Bulgarian threat also reemerged, but in 815–816 Krum's son, Omurtag, signed a peace treaty with Leo V.
Macedonian dynasty and resurgence (867–1025)
The accession of Basil I to the throne in 867 marks the beginning of the Macedonian dynasty, which would rule for the next two and a half centuries. This dynasty included some of the most able emperors in Byzantium's history, and the period is one of revival and resurgence. The Empire moved from defending against external enemies to reconquest of territories formerly lost.
In addition to a reassertion of Byzantine military power and political authority, the period under the Macedonian dynasty is characterised by a cultural revival in spheres such as philosophy and the arts. There was a conscious effort to restore the brilliance of the period before the Slavic and subsequent Arab invasions, and the Macedonian era has been dubbed the "Golden Age" of Byzantium. Though the Empire was significantly smaller than during the reign of Justinian, it had regained significant strength, as the remaining territories were less geographically dispersed and more politically, economically, and culturally integrated.
Wars against the Arabs
In the early years of Basil I's reign, Arab raids on the coasts of Dalmatia were successfully repelled, and the region once again came under secure Byzantine control. This enabled Byzantine missionaries to penetrate to the interior and convert the Serbs and the principalities of modern-day Herzegovina and Montenegro to Orthodox Christianity. An attempt to retake Malta ended disastrously, however, when the local population sided with the Arabs and massacred the Byzantine garrison.
By contrast, the Byzantine position in Southern Italy was gradually consolidated so that by 873 Bari had once again come under Byzantine rule, and most of Southern Italy would remain in the Empire for the next 200 years. On the more important eastern front, the Empire rebuilt its defences and went on the offensive. The Paulicians were defeated and their capital of Tephrike (Divrigi) taken, while the offensive against the Abbasid Caliphate began with the recapture of Samosata.
Under Michael's son and successor, Leo VI the Wise, the gains in the east against the now weak Abbasid Caliphate continued. However, Sicily was lost to the Arabs in 902, and in 904 Thessaloniki, the Empire's second city, was sacked by an Arab fleet. The weakness of the Empire in the naval sphere was quickly rectified, so that a few years later a Byzantine fleet had re-occupied Cyprus, lost in the 7th century, and also stormed Laodicea in Syria. Despite this revenge, the Byzantines were still unable to strike a decisive blow against the Muslims, who inflicted a crushing defeat on the imperial forces when they attempted to regain Crete in 911.
The death of the Bulgarian tsar Simeon I in 927 severely weakened the Bulgarians, allowing the Byzantines to concentrate on the eastern front. Melitene was permanently recaptured in 934, and in 943 the famous general John Kourkouas continued the offensive in Mesopotamia with some noteworthy victories, culminating in the reconquest of Edessa. Kourkouas was especially celebrated for returning to Constantinople the venerated Mandylion, a relic purportedly imprinted with a portrait of Christ.
The soldier-emperors Nikephoros II Phokas (reigned 963–969) and John I Tzimiskes (969–976) expanded the empire well into Syria, defeating the emirs of north-west Iraq. The great city of Aleppo was taken by Nikephoros in 962, and the Arabs were decisively expelled from Crete in 963. The recapture of Crete put an end to Arab raids in the Aegean, allowing mainland Greece to flourish once again. Cyprus was permanently retaken in 965, and the successes of Nikephoros culminated in 969 with the recapture of Antioch, which he incorporated as a province of the Empire. His successor John Tzimiskes recaptured Damascus, Beirut, Acre, Sidon, Caesarea, and Tiberias, putting Byzantine armies within striking distance of Jerusalem, although the Muslim power centers in Iraq and Egypt were left untouched. After much campaigning in the north, the last Arab threat to Byzantium, the rich province of Sicily, was targeted in 1025 by Basil II, who died before the expedition could be completed. Nevertheless, by that time the Empire stretched from the straits of Messina to the Euphrates and from the Danube to Syria.
Wars against the Bulgarian Empire
Emperor Basil II (r. 976–1025).
The traditional struggle with the See of Rome continued through the Macedonian period, spurred by the question of religious supremacy over the newly Christianised state of Bulgaria. Ending eighty years of peace between the two states, the powerful Bulgarian tsar Simeon I invaded in 894 but was pushed back by the Byzantines, who used their fleet to sail up the Black Sea to attack the Bulgarian rear, enlisting the support of the Hungarians. The Byzantines were defeated at the Battle of Boulgarophygon in 896, however, and agreed to pay annual subsidies to the Bulgarians.
Leo the Wise died in 912, and hostilities soon resumed as Simeon marched to Constantinople at the head of a large army. Though the walls of the city were impregnable, the Byzantine administration was in disarray and Simeon was invited into the city, where he was granted the crown of basileus (emperor) of Bulgaria and had the young emperor Constantine VII marry one of his daughters. When a revolt in Constantinople halted his dynastic project, he again invaded Thrace and conquered Adrianople. The Empire now faced the problem of a powerful Christian state within a few days' marching distance from Constantinople, as well as having to fight on two fronts.
A great imperial expedition under Leo Phocas and Romanos I Lekapenos ended with another crushing Byzantine defeat at the Battle of Achelous in 917, and the following year the Bulgarians were free to ravage northern Greece. Adrianople was plundered again in 923, and a Bulgarian army laid siege to Constantinople in 924. Simeon died suddenly in 927, however, and Bulgarian power collapsed with him. Bulgaria and Byzantium entered a long period of peaceful relations, and the Empire was now free to concentrate on the eastern front against the Muslims. In 968, Bulgaria was overrun by the Rus' under Sviatoslav I of Kiev, but three years later, John I Tzimiskes defeated the Rus' and re-incorporated Eastern Bulgaria into the Byzantine Empire.
Bulgarian resistance revived under the rule of the Cometopuli dynasty, but the new emperor Basil II (r. 976–1025) made the submission of the Bulgarians his primary goal. Basil's first expedition against Bulgaria, however, resulted in a humiliating defeat at the Gates of Trajan. For the next few years, the emperor would be preoccupied with internal revolts in Anatolia, while the Bulgarians expanded their realm in the Balkans. The war dragged on for nearly twenty years. The Byzantine victories of Spercheios and Skopje decisively weakened the Bulgarian army, and in annual campaigns, Basil methodically reduced the Bulgarian strongholds. At the Battle of Kleidion in 1014 the Bulgarians were annihilated: their army was captured, and it is said that 99 out of every 100 men were blinded, with the hundredth man left with one eye so he could lead his compatriots home. When Tsar Samuil saw the broken remains of his once gallant army, he died of shock. By 1018, the last Bulgarian strongholds had surrendered, and the country became part of the Empire. This victory restored the Danube frontier, which had not been held since the days of the emperor Heraclius.
Split between Orthodox Christianity and Catholicism (1054)
Mural of Saints Cyril and Methodius, 19th century, Troyan Monastery, Bulgaria.
The Macedonian period also included events of momentous religious significance. The conversion of the Bulgarians, Serbs and Rus' to Orthodox Christianity permanently changed the religious map of Europe and still resonates today. Cyril and Methodius, two Byzantine Greek brothers from Thessaloniki, contributed significantly to the Christianization of the Slavs and in the process devised the Glagolitic alphabet, ancestor to the Cyrillic script.
In 1054, relations between the Eastern and Western traditions within the Christian Church reached a terminal crisis, known as the Great Schism. Although there was a formal declaration of institutional separation, on July 16, when three papal legates entered the Hagia Sophia during Divine Liturgy on a Saturday afternoon and placed a bull of excommunication on the altar, the so-called Great Schism was actually the culmination of centuries of gradual separation.
Crisis and fragmentation
The Empire soon fell into a period of difficulties, caused to a large extent by the undermining of the theme system and the neglect of the military. Nikephoros II Phokas (reigned 963–969), John Tzimiskes and Basil II changed the military divisions (τάγματα, tagmata) from a rapid response, primarily defensive, citizen army into a professional, campaigning army increasingly manned by mercenaries. Mercenaries, however, were expensive and as the threat of invasion receded in the 10th century, so did the need for maintaining large garrisons and expensive fortifications.
Basil II left a burgeoning treasury upon his death, but neglected to plan for his succession. None of his immediate successors had any particular military or political skill and the administration of the Empire increasingly fell into the hands of the civil service. Efforts to revive the Byzantine economy only resulted in inflation and a debased gold coinage. The army was now seen as both an unnecessary expense and a political threat. Therefore, native troops were cashiered and replaced by foreign mercenaries on specific contract.
At the same time, the Empire was faced with new enemies. Provinces in southern Italy faced the Normans, who arrived in Italy at the beginning of the 11th century. During a period of strife between Constantinople and Rome that ended in the East-West Schism of 1054, the Normans began to advance, slowly but steadily, into Byzantine Italy. Reggio, the capital of the tagma of Calabria, was captured in 1060 by Robert Guiscard, followed by Otranto in 1068. Bari, the main Byzantine stronghold in Apulia, was besieged in August 1068 and fell in April 1071. The Byzantines also lost their influence over the Dalmatian coastal cities to Peter Krešimir IV of Croatia (r. 1058–1074/1075) in 1069.
It was in Asia Minor, however, that the greatest disaster would take place. The Seljuq Turks made their first explorations across the Byzantine frontier into Armenia in 1065 and in 1067. The emergency lent weight to the military aristocracy in Anatolia who, in 1068, secured the election of one of their own, Romanos IV Diogenes, as emperor. In the summer of 1071, Romanos undertook a massive eastern campaign to draw the Seljuks into a general engagement with the Byzantine army.
At Manzikert, Romanos not only suffered a surprise defeat at the hands of Sultan Alp Arslan, but was also captured. Alp Arslan treated him with respect, and imposed no harsh terms on the Byzantines. In Constantinople, a coup took place in favour of Michael Doukas, who soon faced the opposition of Nikephoros Bryennios and Nikephoros III Botaneiates. By 1081, the Seljuks expanded their rule over virtually the entire Anatolian plateau from Armenia in the east to Bithynia in the west and founded their capital at Nicaea, just 90 km from Constantinople.
Komnenian dynasty and the crusaders
Alexios I, founder of the Komnenos dynasty.
The period from about 1081 to about 1185 is often known as the Komnenian or Comnenian period, after the Komnenos dynasty. Together, the five Komnenian emperors (Alexios I, John II, Manuel I, Alexios II and Andronikos I) ruled for 104 years, presiding over a sustained, though ultimately incomplete, restoration of the military, territorial, economic and political position of the Byzantine Empire. Though the Seljuk Turks occupied the Empire's heartland in Anatolia, it was against Western powers that most Byzantine military efforts were directed, particularly the Normans.
The Empire under the Komnenoi played a key role in the history of the Crusades in the Holy Land, which Alexios I had helped bring about, while also exerting enormous cultural and political influence in Europe, the Near East, and the lands around the Mediterranean Sea under John and Manuel. Contact between Byzantium and the "Latin" West, including the Crusader states, increased significantly during the Komnenian period. Venetian and other Italian traders became resident in Constantinople and the empire in large numbers (there were an estimated 60,000 Latins in Constantinople alone, out of a population of three to four hundred thousand), and their presence together with the numerous Latin mercenaries who were employed by Manuel helped to spread Byzantine technology, art, literature and culture throughout the Latin West, while also leading to a flow of Western ideas and customs into the Empire.
In terms of prosperity and cultural life, the Komnenian period was one of the peaks in Byzantine history, and Constantinople remained the leading city of the Christian world in terms of size, wealth, and culture. There was a renewed interest in classical Greek philosophy, as well as an increase in literary output in vernacular Greek. Byzantine art and literature held a pre-eminent place in Europe, and the cultural impact of Byzantine art on the west during this period was enormous and of long lasting significance.
Alexios I and the First Crusade
After Manzikert, a partial recovery (referred to as the Komnenian restoration) was made possible by the efforts of the Komnenian dynasty. The first emperor of this dynasty was Isaac I (1057–1059) and the second Alexios I. At the very outset of his reign, Alexios faced a formidable attack by the Normans under Robert Guiscard and his son Bohemund of Taranto, who captured Dyrrhachium and Corfu, and laid siege to Larissa in Thessaly. Robert Guiscard's death in 1085 temporarily eased the Norman problem. The following year, the Seljuq sultan died, and the sultanate was split by internal rivalries. By his own efforts, Alexios defeated the Pechenegs; they were caught by surprise and annihilated at the Battle of Levounion on 28 April 1091.
Having achieved stability in the West, Alexios could turn his attention to the severe economic difficulties and the disintegration of the Empire's traditional defences. However, he still did not have enough manpower to recover the lost territories in Asia Minor and to advance against the Seljuks. At the Council of Piacenza in 1095, Alexios' envoys spoke to Pope Urban II about the suffering of the Christians of the East, and underscored that without help from the West they would continue to suffer under Muslim rule.
Urban saw Alexios' request as a dual opportunity to cement Western Europe and reunite the Eastern Orthodox Churches with the Roman Catholic Church under his rule. On 27 November 1095, Pope Urban II called together the Council of Clermont, and urged all those present to take up arms under the sign of the Cross and launch an armed pilgrimage to recover Jerusalem and the East from the Muslims. The response in Western Europe was overwhelming.
Alexios had anticipated help in the form of mercenary forces from the West, but was totally unprepared for the immense and undisciplined force that soon arrived in Byzantine territory. It was no comfort to Alexios to learn that four of the eight leaders of the main body of the Crusade were Normans, among them Bohemund. Since the crusade had to pass through Constantinople, however, the Emperor had some control over it. He required its leaders to swear to restore to the empire any towns or territories they might conquer from the Turks on their way to the Holy Land. In return, he gave them guides and a military escort.
Alexios was able to recover a number of important cities and islands, and in fact much of western Asia Minor. Nevertheless, the crusaders believed their oaths were invalidated when Alexios did not help them during the siege of Antioch (he had in fact set out on the road to Antioch, but had been persuaded to turn back by Stephen of Blois, who assured him that all was lost and that the expedition had already failed). Bohemund, who had set himself up as Prince of Antioch, briefly went to war with the Byzantines, but agreed to become Alexios' vassal under the Treaty of Devol in 1108, which marked the end of Norman threat during Alexios' reign.
John II, Manuel I and the Second Crusade
Alexios's son John II Komnenos succeeded him in 1118, and ruled until 1143. John was a pious and dedicated Emperor who was determined to undo the damage his empire had suffered at the Battle of Manzikert, half a century earlier. Famed for his piety and his remarkably mild and just reign, John was an exceptional example of a moral ruler, at a time when cruelty was the norm. For this reason, he has been called the Byzantine Marcus Aurelius.
In the course of his twenty-five year reign, John made alliances with the Holy Roman Empire in the West, decisively defeated the Pechenegs at the Battle of Beroia, and personally led numerous campaigns against the Turks in Asia Minor. John's campaigns fundamentally changed the balance of power in the East, forcing the Turks onto the defensive and restoring to the Byzantines many towns, fortresses and cities right across the peninsula. He also thwarted Hungarian, and Serbian threats during the 1120s, and in 1130 allied himself with the German emperor Lothair III against the Norman king Roger II of Sicily.
In the later part of his reign, John focused his activities on the East. He defeated the Danishmend emirate of Melitene, and reconquered all of Cilicia, while forcing Raymond of Poitiers, Prince of Antioch, to recognise Byzantine suzerainty. In an effort to demonstrate the Emperor's role as the leader of the Christian world, John marched into the Holy Land at the head of the combined forces of the Empire and the Crusader states; yet despite the great vigour with which he pressed the campaign, John's hopes were disappointed by the treachery of his Crusader allies.In 1142, John returned to press his claims to Antioch, but he died in the spring of 1143 following a hunting accident. Raymond was emboldened to invade Cilicia, but he was defeated and forced to go to Constantinople to beg mercy from the new Emperor.
John's chosen heir was his fourth son, Manuel I Komnenos, who campaigned aggressively against his neighbours both in the west and in the east. In Palestine, he allied himself with the Crusader Kingdom of Jerusalem and sent a large fleet to participate in a combined invasion of Fatimid Egypt. Manuel reinforced his position as overlord of the Crusader states, with his hegemony over Antioch and Jerusalem secured by agreement with Raynald, Prince of Antioch, and Amalric, King of Jerusalem respectively.
In an effort to restore Byzantine control over the ports of southern Italy, he sent an expedition to Italy in 1155, but disputes within the coalition led to the eventual failure of the campaign. Despite this military setback, Manuel's armies successfully invaded the Kingdom of Hungary in 1167, defeating the Hungarians at the Battle of Sirmium. By 1168, nearly the whole of the eastern Adriatic coast lay in Manuel's hands. Manuel made several alliances with the Pope and Western Christian kingdoms, and successfully handled the passage of the Second Crusade through his empire.
In the east, Manuel suffered a major defeat at the Battle of Myriokephalon, in 1176, against the Turks. Yet the losses were quickly made good, and in the following year Manuel's forces inflicted a defeat upon a force of "picked Turks". The Byzantine commander John Vatatzes, who destroyed the Turkish invaders at the Battle of Hyelion and Leimocheir, not only brought troops from the capital but also was able to gather an army along the way; a sign that the Byzantine army remained strong and that the defensive program of western Asia Minor was still successful.
John and Manuel pursued active military policies, and both deployed considerable resources on sieges and on city defences; aggressive fortification policies were at the heart of their imperial military policies. Despite the defeat at Myriokephalon, the policies of Alexios, John and Manuel resulted in vast territorial gains, increased frontier stability in Asia Minor, and secured the stabilisation of the Empire's European frontiers. From circa 1081 to circa 1180, the Komnenian army assured the Empire's security, enabling Byzantine civilisation to flourish.
This allowed the Western provinces to achieve an economic revival that continued until the close of the century. It has been argued that Byzantium under the Komnenian rule was more prosperous than at any time since the Persian invasions of the 7th century. During the 12th century, population levels rose and extensive tracts of new agricultural land were brought into production. Archaeological evidence from both Europe and Asia Minor shows a considerable increase in the size of urban settlements, together with a notable upsurge in new towns. Trade was also flourishing; the Venetians, the Genoese and others opened up the ports of the Aegean to commerce, shipping goods from the Crusader kingdoms of Outremer and Fatimid Egypt to the west and trading with the Empire via Constantinople.
Decline and disintegration
Dynasty of the Angeloi
Manuel's death on 24 September 1180 left his 11-year-old son Alexios II Komnenos on the throne. Alexios was highly incompetent at the office, but it was his mother, Maria of Antioch, and her Frankish background that made his regency unpopular. Eventually, Andronikos I Komnenos, a grandson of Alexios I, launched a revolt against his younger relative and managed to overthrow him in a violent coup d'état.
Utilizing his good looks and his immense popularity with the army, he marched on to Constantinople in August 1182, and incited a massacre of the Latins. After eliminating his potential rivals, he had himself crowned as co-emperor in September 1183. He eliminated Alexios II, and took his 12-year-old wife Agnes of France for himself.
Andronikos began his reign well; in particular, the measures he took to reform the government of the Empire have been praised by historians. According to George Ostrogorsky, Andronikos was determined to root out corruption: Under his rule, the sale of offices ceased; selection was based on merit, rather than favouritism; officials were paid an adequate salary so as to reduce the temptation of bribery. In the provinces, Andronikos's reforms produced a speedy and marked improvement.
In 1198, Pope Innocent III broached the subject of a new crusade through legates and encyclical letters. The stated intent of the crusade was to conquer Egypt, now the centre of Muslim power in the Levant. The crusader army that arrived at Venice in the summer of 1202 was somewhat smaller than had been anticipated, and there were not sufficient funds to pay the Venetians, whose fleet was hired by the crusaders to take them to Egypt. Venetian policy under the ageing and blind but still ambitious Doge Enrico Dandolo was potentially at variance with that of the Pope and the crusaders, because Venice was closely related commercially with Egypt.
The crusaders accepted the suggestion that in lieu of payment they assist the Venetians in the capture of the (Christian) port of Zara in Dalmatia (vassal city of Venice, which had rebelled and placed itself under Hungary's protection in 1186). The city fell in November 1202 after a brief siege. Innocent, who was informed of the plan but his veto disregarded, was reluctant to jeopardise the Crusade, and gave conditional absolution to the crusaders—not, however, to the Venetians.
Crusader sack of Constantinople (1204)
The crusaders arrived at the city in the summer of 1203 and quickly attacked, started a major fire that damaged large parts of the city, and seized control of it (first of two times). Alexios III fled from the capital, and Alexios Angelos was elevated to the throne as Alexios IV along with his blind father Isaac. However, Alexios IV and Isaac II were unable to keep their promises and were deposed by Alexios V. Eventually, the crusaders took the city a second time on 13 April 1204 and Constantinople was subjected to pillage and massacre by the rank and file for three days.\
Many priceless icons, relics, and other objects later turned up in Western Europe, a large number in Venice. According to Choniates, a prostitute was even set up on the Patriarchal throne. When Innocent III heard of the conduct of his crusaders, he castigated them in no uncertain terms. But the situation was beyond his control, especially after his legate, on his own initiative, had absolved the crusaders from their vow to proceed to the Holy Land.
When order had been restored, the crusaders and the Venetians proceeded to implement their agreement; Baldwin of Flanders was elected Emperor and the Venetian Thomas Morosini chosen as Patriarch. The lands divided up among the leaders included most of the former Byzantine possessions, however resistance would continue through the Byzantine remnants of the Nicaea, Trebizond, and Epirus.
Empire in exile
After the sack of Constantinople in 1204 by Latin crusaders, two Byzantine successor states were established: the Empire of Nicaea, and the Despotate of Epirus. A third one, the Empire of Trebizond was created a few weeks before the sack of Constantinople by Alexios I of Trebizond. Of these three successor states, Epirus and Nicaea stood the best chance of reclaiming Constantinople. The Nicaean Empire struggled, however, to survive the next few decades, and by the mid-13th century it lost much of southern Anatolia.
The weakening of the Sultanate of Rûm following the Mongol Invasion in 1242–43 allowed many beyliks and ghazis to set up their own principalities in Anatolia, weakening the Byzantine hold on Asia Minor. In time, one of the Beys, Osman I, created an empire that would eventually conquer Constantinople. However, the Mongol Invasion also gave Nicaea a temporary respite from Seljuk attacks allowing it to concentrate on the Latin Empire only north of its position.
Reconquest of Constantinople
The Empire of Nicaea, founded by the Laskarid dynasty, managed to reclaim Constantinople from the Latins in 1261 and defeat Epirus. This led to a short-lived revival of Byzantine fortunes under Michael VIII Palaiologos, but the war-ravaged Empire was ill-equipped to deal with the enemies that now surrounded it. To maintain his campaigns against the Latins, Michael pulled troops from Asia Minor, and levied crippling taxes on the peasantry, causing much resentment. Massive construction projects were completed in Constantinople to repair the damages of the Fourth Crusade, but none of these initiatives was of any comfort to the farmers in Asia Minor, suffering raids from Muslim ghazis.
Rather than holding on to his possessions in Asia Minor, Michael chose to expand the Empire, gaining only short-term success. To avoid another sacking of the capital by the Latins, he forced the Church to submit to Rome, again a temporary solution for which the peasantry hated Michael and Constantinople. The efforts of Andronikos II and later his grandson Andronikos III marked Byzantium's last genuine attempts in restoring the glory of the Empire. However, the use of mercenaries by Andronikos II would often backfire, with the Catalan Company ravaging the countryside and increasing resentment towards Constantinople.
Rise of the Ottomans and fall of Constantinople
Things went worse for Byzantium during the civil wars that followed after Andronikos III died. A six-year long civil war devastated the empire, allowing the Serbian ruler Stefan IV Dushan (r. 1331–1346) to overrun most of the Empire's remaining territory and establish a short-lived "Serbian Empire". In 1354, an earthquake at Gallipoli devastated the fort, allowing the Ottomans (who were hired as mercenaries during the civil war by John VI Kantakouzenos) to establish themselves in Europe. By the time the Byzantine civil wars had ended, the Ottomans had defeated the Serbians and subjugated them as vassals. Following the Battle of Kosovo, much of the Balkans became dominated by the Ottomans.
The Byzantine emperors appealed to the West for help, but the Pope would only consider sending aid in return for a reunion of the Eastern Orthodox Church with the See of Rome. Church unity was considered, and occasionally accomplished by imperial decree, but the Orthodox citizenry and clergy intensely resented the authority of Rome and the Latin Rite. Some Western troops arrived to bolster the Christian defence of Constantinople, but most Western rulers, distracted by their own affairs, did nothing as the Ottomans picked apart the remaining Byzantine territories.
Constantinople by this stage was underpopulated and dilapidated. The population of the city had collapsed so severely that it was now little more than a cluster of villages separated by fields. On 2 April 1453, Sultan Mehmed's army of some 80,000 men and large numbers of irregulars laid siege to the city.
Despite a desperate last-ditch defence of the city by the massively outnumbered Christian forces (c. 7,000 men, 2,000 of whom were foreign), Constantinople finally fell to the Ottomans after a two-month siege on 29 May 1453. The last Byzantine Emperor, Constantine XI Palaiologos, was last seen casting off his imperial regalia and throwing himself into hand-to-hand combat after the walls of the city were taken.
As a symbol and expression of the universal prestige of the Patriarchate of Constantinople, Justinian built the Church of the Holy Wisdom of God, Hagia Sophia, which was completed in the short period of four and a half years (532–537).
The survival of the Empire in the East assured an active role of the Emperor in the affairs of the Church. The Byzantine state inherited from pagan times the administrative, and financial routine of administering religious affairs, and this routine was applied to the Christian Church. Following the pattern set by Eusebius of Caesarea, the Byzantines viewed the Emperor as a representative or messenger of Christ, responsible particularly for the propagation of Christianity among pagans, and for the "externals" of the religion, such as administration and finances. As Cyril Mango points out, the Byzantine political thinking can be summarised in the motto "One God, one empire, one religion".
The official state Christian doctrine was determined by the first seven ecumenical councils, and it was then the emperor's duty to impose it to his subjects. An imperial decree of 388, which was later incorporated into the Codex Justinianus, orders the population of the Empire "to assume the name of Catholic Christians", and regards all those who will not abide by the law as "mad and foolish persons"; as followers of "heretical dogmas".
Despite imperial decrees and the stringent stance of the state church itself, which came to be known as the Eastern Orthodox Church or Eastern Christianity, the latter never represented all Christians in Byzantium. Mango believes that, in the early stages of the Empire, the "mad and foolish persons", those labelled "heretics" by the state church, were the majority of the population. Besides the pagans, who existed until the end of the 6th century, and the Jews, there were many followers – sometimes even emperors – of various Christian doctrines, such as Nestorianism, Monophysitism, Arianism, and Paulicianism, whose teachings were in some opposition to the main theological doctrine, as determined by the Ecumenical Councils.
Another division among Christians occurred, when Leo III ordered the destruction of icons throughout the Empire. This led to a significant religious crisis, which ended in mid-9th century with the restoration of icons. During the same period, a new wave of pagans emerged in the Balkans, originating mainly from Slavic people. These were gradually Christianised, and by Byzantium's late stages, Eastern Orthodoxy represented most Christians and, in general, most people in what remained of the Empire.
Jews were a significant minority in the Byzantine state throughout its history, and, according to Roman law, they constituted a legally recognised religious group. In the early Byzantine period they were generally tolerated, but then periods of tensions and persecutions ensued. In any case, after the Arab conquests, the majority of Jews found themselves outside the Empire; those left inside the Byzantine borders apparently lived in relative peace from the 10th century onwards.
King David in robes of a Byzantine emperor. Miniature from the Paris Psalter.
Byzantium has been often identified with absolutism, orthodox spirituality, orientalism and exoticism, while the terms "Byzantine" and "Byzantinism" have been used as bywords for decadence, complex bureaucracy, and repression. In the countries of Central and Southeast Europe that exited the Eastern Bloc in late 80s and early 90s, the assessment of Byzantine civilisation and its legacy was strongly negative due to their connection with an alleged "Eastern authoritarianism and autocracy." Both Eastern and Western European authors have often perceived Byzantium as a body of religious, political, and philosophical ideas contrary to those of the West. Even in 19th-century Greece, the focus was mainly on the classical past, while Byzantine tradition had been associated with negative connotations.
This traditional approach towards Byzantium has been partially or wholly disputed and revised by modern studies, which focus on the positive aspects of Byzantine culture and legacy. Averil Cameron regards as undeniable the Byzantine contribution to the formation of the medieval Europe, and both Cameron and Obolensky recognise the major role of Byzantium in shaping Orthodoxy, which in turn occupies a central position in the history and societies of Greece, Bulgaria, Russia, Serbia and other countries. The Byzantines also preserved and copied classical manuscripts, and they are thus regarded as transmitters of the classical knowledge, as important contributors to the modern European civilisation, and as precursors of both the Renaissance humanism and the Slav Orthodox culture.
As the only stable long-term state in Europe during the Middle Ages, Byzantium isolated Western Europe from newly emerging forces to the East. Constantly under attack, it distanced Western Europe from Persians, Arabs, Seljuk Turks, and for a time, the Ottomans. From a different perspective, since the 7th century, the evolution and constant reshaping of the Byzantine state were directly related to the respective progress of Islam.
Following the conquest of Constantinople by the Ottoman Turks in 1453, Sultan Mehmed II took the title "Kaysar-i-Rûm" (the Turkish equivalent of Caesar of Rome), since he was determined to make the Ottoman Empire the heir of the Eastern Roman Empire. According to Cameron, regarding themselves as "heirs" of Byzantium, the Ottomans preserved important aspects of its tradition, which in turn facilitated an "Orthodox revival" during the post-communist period of the Eastern European states.
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