Byzantium (/bɪˈzæntiəm, -ʃəm/ or Byzantion; Ancient Greek: Βυζάντιον, Byzántion) was an ancient Greek colony in early antiquity that later became Constantinople, and then Istanbul. Byzantium was colonized by the Greeks from Megara in 657 BC.
The etymology of Byzantion is unknown. It has been suggested that the name is of Thraco-Illyrian origin. It may be derived from the Thracian or Illyrian personal name Byzas. Ancient Greek legend refers to King Byzas, the leader of the Megarian colonists and founder of the city. The form Byzantium is a latinisation of the original name.
Much later, the name Byzantium became common in the West to refer to the Eastern Roman Empire. Its capital Constantinople stood on the site of ancient Byzantium. The name "Byzantine Empire" was introduced by the historian Hieronymus Wolf only in 1555, a century after the empire had ceased to exist. While the empire existed, the term Byzantium referred to only the city, rather than the empire.
|O: Head of Alexander the Great with Amun's horns.||R: Seated Athena holding Nike with wreath, ΒΑΣΙΛΕΩΣ / ΛΥΣΙΜΑΧΟΥ; monogram (ΠΩΛΥΒ) to left; ΒΥ below throne; trident in exergue|
|Silver tetradrachm struck in Byzantion c. 150–100 BC. Byzantion struck coins in the name of Lysimachus nearly 200 years after his death.|
The origins of Byzantium are shrouded in legend. Traditional legend says Byzas from Megara (a city-state near Athens) founded Byzantium in 667 BC when he sailed northeast across the Aegean Sea. The tradition tells that Byzas, son of King Nisos (Νίσος), planned to found a colony of the Dorian Greek city of Megara. Byzas consulted the oracle of Apollo at Delphi, which instructed Byzas to settle opposite the "Land of the Blind". Leading a group of Megarian colonists, Byzas found a location where the Golden Horn, a great natural harbor, meets the Bosporus and flows into the Sea of Marmara, opposite Chalcedon (modern day Kadıköy). He adjudged the Chalcedonians blind not to have recognized the advantages the land on the European side of the Bosporus had over the Asiatic side. In 667 BC he founded Byzantium at their location, thus fulfilling the oracle's requirement.
It was mainly a trading city due to its location at the Black Sea's only entrance. Byzantium later conquered Chalcedon, across the Bosporus on the Asiatic side.
The city was taken by the Persian Empire at the time of the Scythian campaign (513 BC) of King Darius I (r. 522–486 BC), and was added to the administrative province of Skudra. Though Achaemenid control of the city was never as stable as compared to other cities in Thrace, it was considered, alongside Sestos, to be one of the foremost Achaemenid ports on the European coast of the Bosporus and the Hellespont.
Byzantium was besieged by Greek forces during the Peloponnesian War. As part of Sparta's strategy for cutting off grain supplies to Athens, Sparta took the city in 411 BC. The Athenian military later took the city in 408 BC.
After siding with Pescennius Niger against the victorious Septimius Severus, the city was besieged by Roman forces and suffered extensive damage in 196 AD. Byzantium was rebuilt by Septimius Severus, now emperor, and quickly regained its previous prosperity. It was bound to Perinthos during the period of Septimius Severus. The location of Byzantium attracted Roman Emperor Constantine I who, in 330 AD, refounded it as an imperial residence inspired by Rome itself. (See Nova Roma.) After his death the city was called Constantinople (Greek Κωνσταντινούπολις, Konstantinoupolis, "city of Constantine").
This combination of imperialism and location would affect Constantinople's role as the nexus between the continents of Europe and Asia. It was a commercial, cultural, and diplomatic centre. With its strategic position, Constantinople controlled the major trade routes between Asia and Europe, as well as the passage from the Mediterranean Sea to the Black Sea. On May 29, 1453, the city fell to the Ottoman Turks, and again became the capital of a powerful state, the Ottoman Empire. The Turks called the city "Istanbul" (although it was not officially renamed until 1930); the name derives from "eis-ten-polin" (Greek: "to-the-city"). To this day it remains the largest and most populous city in Turkey, although Ankara is now the national capital.
By the late Hellenistic or early Roman period (1st century BC), the star and crescent motif was associated to some degree with Byzantium; even though it became more widely used as the royal emblem of Mithradates VI Eupator (who for a time incorporated the city into his empire).
Some Byzantine coins of the 1st century BC and later show the head of Artemis with bow and quiver, and feature a crescent with what appears to be an eight-rayed star on the reverse. According to accounts which vary in some of the details, in 340 BC the Byzantines and their allies the Athenians were under siege by the troops of Philip of Macedon. On a particularly dark and wet night Philip attempted a surprise attack but was thwarted by the appearance of a bright light in the sky. This light is occasionally described by subsequent interpreters as a meteor, sometimes as the moon, and some accounts also mention the barking of dogs. However, the original accounts mention only a bright light in the sky, without specifying the moon. To commemorate the event the Byzantines erected a statue of Hecate lampadephoros (light-bearer or bringer). This story survived in the works of Hesychius of Miletus, who in all probability lived in the time of Justinian I. His works survive only in fragments preserved in Photius and the tenth century lexicographer Suidas. The tale is also related by Stephanus of Byzantium, and Eustathius.
Devotion to Hecate was especially favored by the Byzantines for her aid in having protected them from the incursions of Philip of Macedon. Her symbols were the crescent and star, and the walls of her city were her provenance.
It is unclear precisely how the symbol Hecate/Artemis, one of many goddesses would have been transferred to the city itself, but it seems likely to have been an effect of being credited with the intervention against Philip and the subsequent honors. This was a common process in ancient Greece, as in Athens where the city was named after Athena in honor of such an intervention in time of war.
Later, while under the Romans, cities in the Roman Empire often continued to issue their own coinage. "Of the many themes that were used on local coinage, celestial and astral symbols often appeared, mostly stars or crescent moons." The wide variety of these issues, and the varying explanations for the significance of the star and crescent on Roman coinage precludes their discussion here. It is, however, apparent that by the time of the Romans, coins featuring a star or crescent in some combination were not at all rare.
Alypius or Olympius (Greek: Ἀλύπιος or Ὀλύμπιος; died 169) was the bishop of Byzantium during the second half of the 2nd century AD. The date when he became the bishop of Byzantium is not known for certain, but is most likely somewhere between 166 and 167. Additionally, the length of his term is not known, but it is believed to be three years (166–169).
He succeeded Bishop Laurence and his successor was Pertinax.Athenodorus of Byzantium
Athenodorus (Greek: Ἀθηνόδωρος), also known as Athenogenes (Greek: Ἀθηνογένης), (? – 148) was Bishop of Byzantium from 144 until 148. During his years of office, which was at the time when the city was administrated by Zeuxippus, there was a significant increase in the Christian population. Athenodorus commissioned the construction of a second cathedral in Elaea, which was later renovated by Emperor Constantine I, who wanted to be buried there. Eventually, he was not buried there, as it was deemed improper for Emperors to be buried outside Byzantium. The cathedral was devoted to the martyrdoms of Eleazar and of the seven children in 2 Maccabees.Byzantine Empire
The Byzantine Empire, also referred to as the Eastern Roman Empire or Byzantium, was the continuation of the Roman Empire in its eastern provinces during Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages, when its capital city was Constantinople (modern-day Istanbul, and formerly Byzantium). It survived the fragmentation and fall of the Western Roman Empire in the 5th century AD and continued to exist 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 the terms "Byzantine Empire" and "Eastern Roman Empire" are historiographical terms created after the end of the realm; its citizens continued to refer to their empire simply as the Roman Empire (Greek: Βασιλεία Ῥωμαίων, tr. Basileia Rhōmaiōn; Latin: Imperium Romanum), or Romania (Ῥωμανία), and to themselves as "Romans".Several signal events from the 4th to 6th centuries mark the period of transition during which the Roman Empire's Greek East and Latin West diverged. Constantine I (r. 324–337) reorganised the empire, made Constantinople the new capital, and legalised Christianity. Under Theodosius I (r. 379–395), Christianity became the Empire's official state religion and other religious practices were proscribed. Finally, under the reign of Heraclius (r. 610–641), the Empire's military and administration were restructured and adopted Greek for official use in place of Latin. Thus, although the Roman state continued and its traditions were maintained, modern historians distinguish Byzantium from ancient Rome insofar as it was centred on Constantinople, oriented towards Greek rather than Latin culture, and characterised by Eastern Orthodox Christianity.The borders of the empire evolved significantly 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. The Byzantine–Sasanian War of 602–628 exhausted the empire's resources and contributed to major territorial losses during the Early Muslim conquests of the 7th century, when it lost its richest provinces, Egypt and Syria, to the Arab caliphate. During the Macedonian dynasty (10th–11th centuries), the empire expanded again and experienced the two-century long Macedonian Renaissance, which came to an end with the loss of much of Asia Minor to the Seljuk Turks after the Battle of Manzikert in 1071. This battle opened the way for the Turks to settle in Anatolia.
The empire recovered during the Komnenian restoration, and by the 12th century Constantinople was the largest and wealthiest European city. However, it was delivered a mortal blow during the Fourth Crusade, when Constantinople was sacked in 1204 and the territories that the empire formerly governed were divided into competing Byzantine Greek and Latin realms. Despite the eventual recovery of Constantinople in 1261, the Byzantine Empire remained only one of several small rival states in the area for the final two centuries of its existence. Its remaining territories were progressively annexed by the Ottomans over the 14th and 15th century. The Fall of Constantinople to the Ottoman Empire in 1453 finally ended the Byzantine Empire. The last of the imperial Byzantine successor states, the Empire of Trebizond, would be conquered by the Ottomans eight years later in the 1461 Siege of Trebizond.Constantinople
Constantinople (Greek: Κωνσταντινούπολις, translit. Kōnstantinoúpolis; Latin: Cōnstantīnopolis) was the capital city of the Roman Empire (330–395), of the Byzantine Empire (395–1204 and 1261–1453), and also of the brief Crusader state known as the Latin Empire (1204–1261), until finally falling to the Ottoman Empire (1453–1923). It was reinaugurated in 324 from ancient Byzantium as the new capital of the Roman Empire by Emperor Constantine the Great, after whom it was named, and dedicated on 11 May 330. The city was located in what is now the European side and the core of modern Istanbul.
From the mid-5th century to the early 13th century, Constantinople was the largest and wealthiest city in Europe. The city was also famed for its architectural masterpieces, such as the Greek Orthodox cathedral of Hagia Sophia, which served as the seat of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, the sacred Imperial Palace where the Emperors lived, the Galata Tower, the Hippodrome, the Golden Gate of the Land Walls, and the opulent aristocratic palaces lining the arcaded avenues and squares. The University of Constantinople was founded in the fifth century and contained numerous artistic and literary treasures before it was sacked in 1204 and 1453, including its vast Imperial Library which contained the remnants of the Library of Alexandria and had over 100,000 volumes of ancient texts. It was instrumental in the advancement of Christianity during Roman and Byzantine times as the home of the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople and as the guardian of Christendom's holiest relics such as the Crown of Thorns and the True Cross.
Constantinople was famed for its massive and complex defences. The first wall of the city was erected by Constantine I, and surrounded the city on both land and sea fronts. Later, in the 5th century, the Praetorian Prefect Anthemius under the child emperor Theodosius II undertook the construction of the Theodosian Walls, which consisted of a double wall lying about 2 kilometres (1.2 mi) to the west of the first wall and a moat with palisades in front. This formidable complex of defences was one of the most sophisticated of Antiquity. The city was built intentionally to rival Rome, and it was claimed that several elevations within its walls matched the 'seven hills' of Rome. Because it was located between the Golden Horn and the Sea of Marmara the land area that needed defensive walls was reduced, and this helped it to present an impregnable fortress enclosing magnificent palaces, domes, and towers, the result of the prosperity it achieved from being the gateway between two continents (Europe and Asia) and two seas (the Mediterranean and the Black Sea). Although besieged on numerous occasions by various armies, the defences of Constantinople proved impregnable for nearly nine hundred years.
In 1204, however, the armies of the Fourth Crusade took and devastated the city, and its inhabitants lived several decades under Latin misrule. In 1261 the Byzantine Emperor Michael VIII Palaiologos liberated the city, and after the restoration under the Palaiologos dynasty, enjoyed a partial recovery. With the advent of the Ottoman Empire in 1299, the Byzantine Empire began to lose territories and the city began to lose population. By the early 15th century, the Byzantine Empire was reduced to just Constantinople and its environs, along with Morea in Greece, making it an enclave inside the Ottoman Empire; after a 53-day siege the city eventually fell to the Ottomans, led by Sultan Mehmed II, on 29 May 1453, whereafter it replaced Edirne (Adrianople) as the new capital of the Ottoman Empire.Dometius of Byzantium
Dometius (? – 284) was bishop of Byzantium about the period 272–284.
He was a brother of the Roman Emperor Probus. He converted to Christianity, and entered the clergy when he was baptised by the bishop of Byzantium Titus, whom he succeeded.
He had two sons, Probus and Metrophanes, who also became bishops of the same city.Eleutherius of Byzantium
Eleutherius (Greek: Ἐλευθέριος, died 136) was the bishop of Byzantium for approximately seven years (129–136 AD). He succeeded Bishop Diogenes. He was in office during the rule of Emperor Hadrian. His successor was Felix.History of the Byzantine Empire
This history of the Byzantine Empire covers the history of the Eastern Roman Empire from late antiquity until the Fall of Constantinople in 1453 AD. Several events from the 4th to 6th centuries mark the transitional period during which the Roman Empire's east and west divided. In 285, the emperor Diocletian (r. 284–305) partitioned the Roman Empire's administration into eastern and western halves. Between 324 and 330, Constantine I (r. 306–337) transferred the main capital from Rome to Byzantium, later known as Constantinople ("City of Constantine") and Nova Roma ("New Rome"). Under Theodosius I (r. 379–395), Christianity became the Empire's official state religion and others such as Roman polytheism were proscribed. And finally, under the reign of Heraclius (r. 610–641), the Empire's military and administration were restructured and adopted Greek for official use instead of Latin. Thus, although it continued the Roman state and maintained Roman state traditions, modern historians distinguish Byzantium from ancient Rome insofar as it was oriented towards Greek rather than Latin culture, and characterised by Orthodox Christianity rather than Roman polytheism.The borders of the Empire evolved significantly 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. In a matter of years the Empire lost its richest provinces, Egypt and Syria, to the Arabs.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 in 1071. This battle opened the way for the Turks to settle in Anatolia as a homeland.
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. Its remaining territories were progressively annexed by the Ottomans over the 15th century. The Fall of Constantinople to the Ottoman Empire in 1453 finally ended the Roman Empire.History of the Jews in the Byzantine Empire
The history of the Jews in the Byzantine Empire has been well-recorded and preserved.Laurence of Byzantium
Laurence (Greek: Λαυρέντιος, died 166) was the bishop of Byzantium for eleven years and six months (154–166 AD). He succeeded Bishop Euzois. He was in office during the rule of Antonius Pius and Marcus Aurelius. His successor was Alypius.Oxford Dictionary of Byzantium
The Oxford Dictionary of Byzantium (often abbreviated to ODB) is a three-volume historical dictionary published by the English Oxford University Press. With more than 5,000 entries, it contains comprehensive information in English on topics relating to the Byzantine Empire. It was edited by Alexander Kazhdan, and was first published in 1991. Kazhdan was a professor at Princeton University who became a Senior Research Associate at Dumbarton Oaks, Washington, DC before his death. He contributed to many of the articles in the Dictionary and always signed his initials A.K. at the end of the article to indicate his contribution.Philadelphus of Byzantium
Philadelphus (? – 217) is referred as the first bishop of Byzantium after the eight-year administration of the Church of Byzantium by a priest whose name has not been recorded. He was bishop for six years (211–217).Plutarch of Byzantium
Plutarch (Greek: Πλούταρχος), (died 105) served as Bishop of Byzantium for sixteen years (89 – 105 AD) in succession to Polycarp. When he died, he was buried in the church of Argyroupolis, as were his predecessors.
The persecution of Christians by Emperor Trajan took place in 98, during the bishopric of Plutarch.Polycarpus II of Byzantium
Polycarpus II (Greek: Πολύκαρπος Βʹ, died 144) was the bishop of Byzantium. According to ancient sources, he remained in office for seventeen years, but Church historian Nikiforos Kallistos mentions that Polycarpus II was the bishop of Byzantium for three years (141–144 AD). He succeeded Bishop Felix. He was in office during the rule of Emperor Antonius Pius. His successor was Athenodorus.
The relics of Polycarpus II were kept in a coffin made of marble.Polycarpus I of Byzantium
Polycarpus I (Greek: Πολύκαρπος Αʹ), (? – 89) was a bishop of Byzantium. He succeeded Bishop Onesimus in 71 AD, and served in that office for eighteen years until his death in 89 AD. His last eight years of office (from 81 AD) were during Emperor Domitian's persecution of the Christians.
His relics are deposited in the Cathedral of Argyropolis.Rufinus of Byzantium
Rufinus I (died 293) was Bishop of Byzantium from 284 to 293.Sedecion of Byzantium
Sedecion (Greek: Σεδεκίων), (? – 114) was a bishop of Byzantium. He succeeded Bishop Plutarch in 105, and served in that office for nine years until 114. He was in office during Emperor Trajan's persecution of the Christians.Stephanus of Byzantium
Stephenus or Stephan of Byzantium (Latin: Stephanus Byzantinus; Greek: Στέφανος Βυζάντιος, Stéphanos Byzántios; fl. 6th century AD), was the author of an important geographical dictionary entitled Ethnica (Ἐθνικά). Of the dictionary itself only meagre fragments survive, but we possess an epitome compiled by one Hermolaus, not otherwise identified.Theme (Byzantine district)
The themes or themata (Greek: θέματα, thémata, singular: θέμα, théma) were the main military/administrative divisions of the middle Byzantine Empire. They were established in the mid-7th century in the aftermath of the Slavic invasion of the Balkans and Muslim conquests of parts of Byzantine territory, and replaced the earlier provincial system established by Diocletian and Constantine the Great. In their origin, the first themes were created from the areas of encampment of the field armies of the East Roman army, and their names corresponded to the military units that had existed in those areas. The theme system reached its apogee in the 9th and 10th centuries, as older themes were split up and the conquest of territory resulted in the creation of new ones. The original theme system underwent significant changes in the 11th and 12th centuries, but the term remained in use as a provincial and financial circumscription until the very end of the Empire.Titus of Byzantium
Titus (died 272) was Bishop of Byzantium from 242 to 272.