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CONTEST: The Other Medieval, Part I - Byzantium

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CONTEST: The Other Medieval, Part I - Byzantium

Postby Maedhros » Sun Apr 12, 2015 9:54 am

Καλό Πάσχα!

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.

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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:

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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 Empire

The Fourth Crusade

Constantine the Great

Justinian I

Empress Theodora

Narses

Zoe Karbonopsina

Manuel Komnenos
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Re: Contest entries: The Other Medieval, Part I - Byzantium

Postby Vladimir » Tue Apr 14, 2015 8:24 am

Just a side note, a lot of Scholars rather refer to it as the Eastern Roman Empire. I know I do! :)
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Re: CONTEST: The Other Medieval, Part I - Byzantium

Postby Maedhros » Wed Apr 15, 2015 8:51 am

Yes, some do, but the Byzantine Empire is much more common (at least in English, as well as Bulgarian, Armenian and Romanian, which is about as far as my knowledge goes). One could argue that Eastern Roman Empire is more accurate but it's still anachronistic since they didn't know their empire as eastern.

What is it you do, as a scholar?
"Hinc satis elucet maiorem habere uim ad discenda ista liberam curiositatem quam meticulosam necessitatem.”
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Re: CONTEST: The Other Medieval, Part I - Byzantium

Postby Mark of Falworth » Wed Apr 15, 2015 10:56 pm

Fascinating theme for a contest! :)

I'll try to pull something together for this...
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Re: CONTEST: The Other Medieval, Part I - Byzantium

Postby richardanthonyc » Thu Apr 16, 2015 9:47 am

Those filthy lying Crusaders who took the city after being given shelter on their way to the Holy Land :mad:
SIlent enim leges inter arma

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Re: CONTEST: The Other Medieval, Part I - Byzantium

Postby Maedhros » Thu Apr 16, 2015 1:10 pm

richardanthonyc wrote:Those filthy lying Crusaders who took the city after being given shelter on their way to the Holy Land :mad:


Well, it's never that simple. Sure the crusaders were opportunistic and unscrupulous, but they also came to a Byzantine empire that was falling apart and was plagued by inner strife. It was a Byzantine prince and wannabe-emperor (Alexios Angelos) who invited the crusaders to come to Constantinople in the first place after all. Not trying to rid the crusaders of their guilt here but the picture is a bit more complicated.
"Hinc satis elucet maiorem habere uim ad discenda ista liberam curiositatem quam meticulosam necessitatem.”
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Re: CONTEST: The Other Medieval, Part I - Byzantium

Postby richardanthonyc » Mon Apr 20, 2015 2:07 pm

Maedhros wrote:
richardanthonyc wrote:Those filthy lying Crusaders who took the city after being given shelter on their way to the Holy Land :mad:


Well, it's never that simple. Sure the crusaders were opportunistic and unscrupulous, but they also came to a Byzantine empire that was falling apart and was plagued by inner strife. It was a Byzantine prince and wannabe-emperor (Alexios Angelos) who invited the crusaders to come to Constantinople in the first place after all. Not trying to rid the crusaders of their guilt here but the picture is a bit more complicated.


Oh I know, still... jerks! :lol:
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Re: CONTEST: The Other Medieval, Part I - Byzantium

Postby Adolfo » Tue Apr 21, 2015 11:37 am

Absolutely amazing this contest! Congratulations to the organizers for the original idea and I hope to see more about it in the future.
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Re: CONTEST: The Other Medieval, Part I - Byzantium

Postby Maedhros » Wed Apr 22, 2015 9:23 am

Adolfo wrote:Absolutely amazing this contest! Congratulations to the organizers for the original idea and I hope to see more about it in the future.



Thanks! :) The plan is to highlight other less known areas of the medieval in the future (hence "Part I"), so there will be more, I can promise you that.
"Hinc satis elucet maiorem habere uim ad discenda ista liberam curiositatem quam meticulosam necessitatem.”
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Re: CONTEST: The Other Medieval, Part I - Byzantium

Postby LittleJohn » Thu Apr 30, 2015 6:13 pm

Not sure if I'll have time to enter this one, but I would love to see more contests like this :D
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Re: CONTEST: The Other Medieval, Part I - Byzantium

Postby Mark of Falworth » Sat May 02, 2015 10:50 pm

This is a really cool contest idea! Theres so much fascinating medieval history that needs more MOC attention. :wink:

I thought I would build a scene showing one of my favorite battles of the Byzantines. (One they actually won! :D )
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Re: CONTEST: The Other Medieval, Part I - Byzantium

Postby Maedhros » Sun May 03, 2015 6:59 am

Mark of Falworth wrote:I thought I would build a scene showing one of my favorite battles of the Byzantines. (One they actually won! :D )


:lol: Well, they actually did, every now and then! Some suggestions if you want inspiration for successful Byzantine military endeavours are to check out the eras of Justinian, Basil "the Bulgar Slayer" or Manuel Komnenos (or maybe you already had something in mind).

Edit: Oh, I see you already built one! The ones mentioned are still fascinating to check out however ;)
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Re: CONTEST: The Other Medieval, Part I - Byzantium

Postby Maedhros » Sun Jun 07, 2015 10:03 am

RESULTS!

Many thanks to the participants! The entries may have been few but they were all of excellent quality and were all interesting in the way they highlighted different aspects of Byzantine history.

Member digger1221 reminds us of the importance of Byzantine scholars in the intellectual histoy of Europe, often overshadowed by the equally fascinating activites in Iberia. It was a beautifully clean build of a sort which I myself appreciate very much. The bust and the cross were both nice and clever little details.

Member Dubbadgrim brought attention to the long and complicated relationship of Byzantium with the Arabs in his build. The base was beautifully done and again I am a big fan of the clean build of the tower. The camel with the rugs was a nice touch.

The winner, however, in this worthy group is Mark of Falworth for his rendition of the Battle of Nineveh. I like the fact that we got a glimpse of an actual historical battle and its main players here and the build was excellently executed, with an inspiring and dynamic posing of figs which makes me long for the old Battle Contest that Josh used to host. The choice of figs and accessories was also well done, highlighting the Roman continuity of the Byzantine Empire.

Again, many thanks to the participants! And Mark of Falworth, please send me a PM with your address so that I can get you your prize!
"Hinc satis elucet maiorem habere uim ad discenda ista liberam curiositatem quam meticulosam necessitatem.”
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Re: CONTEST: The Other Medieval, Part I - Byzantium

Postby digger1221 » Mon Jun 08, 2015 3:06 am

Fun contest, thanks for hosting it! I do wish there had been more entries, but it was nice to have such a high quality entries-to-total entries ratio. Looking forward to future "The Other Medieval" Contests. :)

And congrats Mark! I had a feeling you would take the prize for this one. ;)
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Re: CONTEST: The Other Medieval, Part I - Byzantium

Postby Mark of Falworth » Thu Jun 25, 2015 1:19 pm

Wow! I totally missed this! Thanks for hosting the contest, Maedhros! :D
It was a lot of fun to participate in a medieval history themed contest, I hope you do more of these in future! :wink:
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