We will celebrate Orthodox Easter by introducing a new contest here on Classic-Castle, focusing on the bastion of Orthodoxy in the Middle Ages: The Byzantine Empire
Byzantium is the name that we today apply to the Roman Empire in the Middle Ages. Its inhabitants, however, knew themselves and their empire as Roman and nothing less, laying claim to the combined heritage of Christianity, the Ancient Roman Empire and Ancient Greek learning. While the predominant language of Byzantium was Greek the empire was vast and multiethnic with many different peoples being represented, most importantly Armenians, some of which reached high positions within the empire, even occasionally the throne of the emperor himself.
While the frontiers of the empire were in constant flux, sometimes reaching far away to Syria, Hungary or Italy, sometimes barely covering the capital of Constantinople (Istanbul), this same capital, often known simply as the City or as New Rome, remained the sacred center of Byzantium throughout its time. The city of Constantine, the biggest Christian city of its age, was in the Byzantine worldview the center of the world and the seat from which the Emperor ruled as the viceroy of God. It fell to a crusading host in 1204, marking the end of Byzantium as a force to be reckoned with. Constantinople was, however, retaken in 1261 and Byzantium was restored, albeit as a shadow of its former days, remaining until the City fell again in 1453, this time to the Ottoman Turks.
The emperor and his court was of immense importance in Byzantium, both in reality and as an idea. Apart from the obvious functions of ruling the empire and leading the army he would also fulfill certain liturgical functions in the Great Church of Constantinople (Hagia Sophia) as well as take part in countless solemn courtly ceremonies. There was also much mystique associated with the emperor, who would sometimes be thought to possess certain fantastical or astrological abilities. All this did nothing of course to stop many emperors from being decadent and hedonistic murderers who as often as not ended up being deposed, blinded or simply killed by rivals after short and violent reigns.
Another immensely important symbol in Byzantium was the Mother of God. Whereas she is primarily known as the Virgin Mary in the West, it is Mary as the Mother of God that is stressed in Eastern Christianity, and especially in Byzantium. She was the protector of Constantinople itself and an icon of her was often used as a battle standard of the imperial army. It is also believed that this powerful image of Mary in Byzantium contributed to the fact that so many women came to power in Constantinople, acting as the earthly reflections of the Mother of God, just as the emperors acted as the earthly reflections of Christ. RULES
The rules are simple enough: build something inspired by Byzantine history! You may build in any scale and mosaics are welcome as well (Byzantium was well-known for its mosaics after all - or why not build an icon of the Mother of God for example?). Third party accessories are allowed and so are custom minifigures.
I will judge based both on the quality and creativity of your creation and on historic relevance, this is about learning new history after all. Historic relevance can of course mean many things, but my point here is that I want the creation to be recognizable as Byzantine or to tell us something interesting about Byzantine history.
I will, in good Byzantine autocratic tradition, judge all by myself, meaning that each and everyone is welcome to attend, regular members as well as mods and admins.PRIZE
Yes, there will be a prize. Since I have put this contest in Medieval Life and since the focus is on history, the prize will be a bit unconventional, that is, a book:
The winner will receive Byzantium: The Surprising Life of a Medieval Empire
, by acclaimed scholar Judith Herrin. It is an accessible book for a general audience but of utmost academic quality.How to enter and deadline
There is a topic for entries in Castle MOCs. Please post your entries there and keep questions and discussions on Byzantium here. The deadline is the 31st of May (Orthodox Pentecost!).
Here is a brief timeline:
330: Emperor Constantine moves the Roman capital to Constantinople, on the site of the ancient city of Byzantion.
527: Justinian I is crowned emperor, heralding the peak of Byzantine power in the Middle Ages.
568: Most of Italy is lost to Langobards.
634-: Loss of Egypt and most of the Middle East and North Africa to Arabs.
716: Treay between Byzantium and the Bulgars, leading to a Bulgar realm in the Balkans on old Byzantine lands.
726-842: Iconoclasm. Fierce battles and theological disputes regarding the place of icons and images in Christianity. After much fighting the icons were allowed still.
1018: Bulgaria annexed by the Empire, under the emperor Basil ”The Bulgar-Slayer”. The Balkans Byzantine territory again.
1054: Schism between the churches of Constantinople and (Old) Rome, deepening a rift that would lead to what we today call the Orthodox and Catholic churches.
1071: Devastating defeat at the hands of the Turks at Manzikert.
1204: Constantinople conquered by Franks and Venetians in the Fourth Crusade.
1261: Constantinople conquered by Michael Palaiologos, reestablishing a Byzantine Empire.
1453: Constantinople falls to the Ottoman Turks.And further reading:Byzantium 1200
: A page with reconstructions of how Constantinople may have looked like in Byzantine times.Early Christian Monuments of Ravenna
: A page with mosaics and buildings from the Byzantine age of Ravenna.Hagia Sophia
: Photogallery and some information on Hagia Sophia, the Great Church of Constantinople, now a museum in Istanbul.
And some Wikipedia-links:The Byzantine EmpireThe Fourth CrusadeConstantine the GreatJustinian IEmpress TheodoraNarsesZoe KarbonopsinaManuel Komnenos
"Hinc satis elucet maiorem habere uim ad discenda ista liberam curiositatem quam meticulosam necessitatem.”
- Augustinus Hipponensis