The Byzantine Empire

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I was wondering if any historically minded Kiwis could help me understand a thing or two about the Byzantine Empire.

1. I understand that the Byzantine is a label applied by historians rather than by them themselves. Did they really consider themselves Romans, called themselves Romans and see the direct link between themselves and the ancient empire?

2. This being so, why didn't they get more respect? Again, not an expert, but I know of Charlemagne and the Holy Roman Empire tried to claim the legacy of Rome and many people did for all the Dark Ages. Constantinople was sacked by Crusaders. Why weren't the Byzantines afforded any of the respect or honour even though the legend of Rome was alive in the aristocracy of Europe? Was it to do with Orthodox Christianity or them speaking Greek? Or were the finer details of legal succession just not appreciated at the time?
 

Lorento

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1. They sure did. They called themselves Romanoi, called themselves the Eastern Roman Empire and saw themselves not as the successors to the Roman Empire, but as the actual Roman Empire, just reduced in size and removed from Italy

2. Well, LEGALLY speaking, the Eastern Roman Empire's claim was to the lands that were given to it after the empire was split under Theodosius, IE: None of Western Europe.

However, with no actual Western Empire, they argued that they were the successors to both. Unfortunately, the Pope crowned the Holy Roman Emperor in order to take away the claim. And it does boil down to religion, the Pontiff really wanted to cement the idea that HE was the supreme Patriarch, as opposed to the Patriarch of Constantinople.

But legal claims mean nothing. The reason the Byzantines were not afforded the same respect as Rome was because the Byzantines did not have the strength to assert themselves over the Western Nations, especially after the Arabs fucked them in the arse. We respect Rome because they were winners. The vast majority of Byzantine history is about reversals and embarrassing defeats.

I'm an Ancient History guy though, so my main speciality is Rome, not Byzantium. But that's how I understand it.
 

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1. They sure did. They called themselves Romanoi, called themselves the Eastern Roman Empire and saw themselves not as the successors to the Roman Empire, but as the actual Roman Empire, just reduced in size and removed from Italy

That's what I figured. A legal continuation of the Empire that inherently inherited the Roman Claim in the absence of the other Emperors. Succession and Continuation are terms that get confused but I did mean Continuation, as in the minds of the Emperors they were the Roman Emperor. I appreciate that you said this wasn't your specialty but all the way up to the end (in the mid-1400s right?) the Emperor of the Romanoi figured himself as part of the chain of Emperors going back to Caesar Augustus? What was the title of the Byzantine Emperor?

However, with no actual Western Empire, they argued that they were the successors to both. Unfortunately, the Pope crowned the Holy Roman Emperor in order to take away the claim. And it does boil down to religion, the Pontiff really wanted to cement the idea that HE was the supreme Patriarch, as opposed to the Patriarch of Constantinople.

But legal claims mean nothing. The reason the Byzantines were not afforded the same respect as Rome was because the Byzantines did not have the strength to assert themselves over the Western Nations, especially after the Arabs fucked them in the arse. We respect Rome because they were winners. The vast majority of Byzantine history is about reversals and embarrassing defeats.

It's probably just projection on my part (since you can tell I'm confused why the Byzantines weren't afforded the respect of Rome) but I had figured that their claim would mean a lot considering the nature of government at the time being claiments to thrones. I know that there was a lot of realpolitik involved. I just thought it would count for more than what happened.

How did diplomacy with the Byzantines work? Did the rulers of Western and Central Europe refer to them as the Romanoi and the leader as "the Roman Emperor", since that's what I am assuming he styled himself as?

And, if your speciality is Rome, what is the relation between the Papacy and the Roman Empire? Are the Popes the heirs to the authority of the Caesars? Or did they claim as-such?

I'm fascinated by the concept of Continuity of Government and so-forth and this is like the most interesting ancient example of it with the Romans. I think its genuinely interesting that into the 1400s these people still called themselves Romans, that the Roman Empire lasted so long as a legal entity with a clear unbroken history.
 

Lorento

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I appreciate that you said this wasn't your specialty but all the way up to the end (in the mid-1400s right?) the Emperor of the Romanoi figured himself as part of the chain of Emperors going back to Caesar Augustus? What was the title of the Byzantine Emperor?

Correct. The last Emperor of Rome was Constantine XI, and he and all of his people would have referred to him as such, though they hadn't held Rome for almost a thousand years.

And, if your speciality is Rome, what is the relation between the Papacy and the Roman Empire? Are the Popes the heirs to the authority of the Caesars? Or did they claim as-such?

Well, that actually goes back to the original form of the Christian Church. Originally there were the Five Pentarchs, who ruled the most holy sites in the Late Empire. Rome, Alexandria, Constantinople, Antioch and Jerusalem. Now, by the time the Great Schism occured between Rome and Constantinople, the other three pentarchies were ruled by the Muslims. So the Bishop of Rome used the prestige of the city and the resulting power vacuum in the west to carve out what would become the Papal States. In which case, he then wanted to be considered the ONE representative of God on Earth.

So no, the Pope never really thought they were the successors to the Caesars, after all, one of them crowned their own successor state in the Holy Roman Empire.

It's probably just projection on my part (since you can tell I'm confused why the Byzantines weren't afforded the respect of Rome) but I had figured that their claim would mean a lot considering the nature of government at the time being claiments to thrones. I know that there was a lot of realpolitik involved. I just thought it would count for more than what happened.

Well, technically they would have lost that claim in the West, at least in the eyes of Catholics, when the Pope crowned the Holy Roman Emperor. Plus, the Byzantines were the shield of Christendom and far away from the kingdoms in Germany, Italy and France. I just think they weren't especially concerned about the Byzantines politically, as they didn't have the strength to retake the lands of the old empire.

Though culturally, I imagine they respected the HELL out of the Byzantines. Who couldn't, Constantinople became a trade capital of the western world during its glory years.

Oh and they probably would have referred to them as the Eastern Roman Empire. Just to emphasise that their claims lay in Arab lands, not the lands of Italy, France and Spain.

I'm fascinated by the concept of Continuity of Government and so-forth and this is like the most interesting ancient example of it with the Romans. I think its genuinely interesting that into the 1400s these people still called themselves Romans, that the Roman Empire lasted so long as a legal entity with a clear unbroken history.

I quite agree. As legal entity, the state of Rome, from the beginning until the fall of Constantinople, lasted over 2100 years. That's testament to its power and glory, that there were still people, even as the Turks shot the walls with their giant cannon, who lived and died as Romans.
 

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When the Frankish Crusaders first arrived in the Byzantine lands, they expected to be welcomed and feted as fellow Christians, but instead the Byzantine emperors saw and treated the Franks as uncivilized western barbarians and semi-heretics who could be manipulated as pawns in their machinations against the Saracens. The culture shock for the Franks was huge; to them, the Byzantines were decadent Greek hedonists and unworthy, incompetent custodians of the Holy Land. The Franks thought they were doing the Byzantines a favor by fighting the Saracens, but at every turn, they felt obstructed and taken advantage of by opportunistic Byzantine officials and merchants. The Byzantine armies sat idly by and let the Frankish armies do all the heavy lifting, before swooping in at the last minute to claim the spoils of victory, and the Franks deeply resented them for that and never let it go.

Every subsequent crusade strained relations between Franks and Byzantines until the inevitable outbreak of open conflict in the Seventh.
 

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When the Frankish Crusaders first arrived in the Byzantine lands, they expected to be welcomed and feted as fellow Christians, but instead the Byzantine emperors saw and treated the Franks as uncivilized western barbarians and semi-heretics who could be manipulated as pawns in their machinations against the Saracens. The culture shock for the Franks was huge; to them, the Byzantines were decadent Greek hedonists and unworthy, incompetent custodians of the Holy Land. The Franks thought they were doing the Byzantines a favor by fighting the Saracens, but at every turn, they felt obstructed and taken advantage of by opportunistic Byzantine officials and merchants. The Byzantine armies sat idly by and let the Frankish armies do all the heavy lifting, before swooping in at the last minute to claim the spoils of victory, and the Franks deeply resented them for that and never let it go.

Every subsequent crusade strained relations between Franks and Byzantines until the inevitable outbreak of open conflict in the Seventh.
You do know that the Fourth Crusade ended up sacking Constantinople right? Open conflict happened way before the Seventh.
 

millais

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You do know that the Fourth Crusade ended up sacking Constantinople right? Open conflict happened way before the Seventh.
I misphrased that. I meant open conflict as in a rift that could no longer be bridged. By the Seventh, there was no chance for making amends. But unlike the Franks and the Greeks, there is yet opportunity for you to mend your bridges with our community, if only you would eat the hat.
 

Foltest

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The Byzantine Empire get a lot of shit. Some think that they were weak and sucked in warfare, which was far far from truth. In total, the Empire manged to outlive the western roman empire by nearly 1000 years and until the end fought with fire in their blood. In fact, Justinian I got really close to reconquer the western part of the former empire the 6th century.
They acted also as a bulwark against Islam for a long time.
 

Darndirty

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The byzantine empire is a fascinating subject if your into history, just take a look at this

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Political_mutilation_in_Byzantine_culture

Being an emperor was the most dangerous thing in the world in byzantine. They were crueler to themselves then any enemies, then there is the Bulgarians that regularly fucked them and even turned some of the emperors skulls into drinking vessels. Then there was the chariot riots where a riot erupted over a horse race that almost turned into over throwing the emperor. JustinIan is the one. Byzantine was an amazing mixture of amazing architecture feats, and absolute madness. If you like learning about ancient Rome or carolingian empire, do yourself a favor. They regularly castrated children of over thrown emperors, eunuchs taking power. I swear Byzantine was more akin to game of thrones then you can imagine.
 

Caesare

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When the Frankish Crusaders first arrived in the Byzantine lands, they expected to be welcomed and feted as fellow Christians, but instead the Byzantine emperors saw and treated the Franks as uncivilized western barbarians and semi-heretics who could be manipulated as pawns in their machinations against the Saracens. The culture shock for the Franks was huge; to them, the Byzantines were decadent Greek hedonists and unworthy, incompetent custodians of the Holy Land. The Franks thought they were doing the Byzantines a favor by fighting the Saracens, but at every turn, they felt obstructed and taken advantage of by opportunistic Byzantine officials and merchants. The Byzantine armies sat idly by and let the Frankish armies do all the heavy lifting, before swooping in at the last minute to claim the spoils of victory, and the Franks deeply resented them for that and never let it go.

Every subsequent crusade strained relations between Franks and Byzantines until the inevitable outbreak of open conflict in the Seventh.

Wasn't there a time when the Byzantines massacred all the Italian businessmen and merchants in the city and even murdered an Italian priest who oversaw a church or some type of ministry in Constantinople? I remember hearing that this along with many other things and what you mentioned were some of the reasons for the sacking.
 

Darndirty

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Wasn't there a time when the Byzantines massacred all the Italian businessmen and merchants in the city and even murdered an Italian priest who oversaw a church or some type of ministry in Constantinople? I remember hearing that this along with many other things and what you mentioned were some of the reasons for the sacking.

They killed all the Venetians. At that time Venice was a major sea power and actively encouraged crusaders to attack Constantinople. Basically a cold war between the two great sea powers on the Mediterranean. After byzantine learned of their actions there was a large massacre of Venetians. That whole area of the world was a giant cluster fuck at the time....still is realy. If I remember right Venice is the one that supplied them with all the ships in the seventh? Crusade with the price being that the destroyed Constantinople on their way to the Holy land. But I could be wrong.
 

Lorento

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The byzantine empire is a fascinating subject if your into history, just take a look at this

https://en.m.wikipedia.org/wiki/Political_mutilation_in_Byzantine_culture

Being an emperor was the most dangerous thing in the world in byzantine. They were crueler to themselves then any enemies, then there is the Bulgarians that regularly fucked them and even turned some of the emperors skulls into drinking vessels. Then there was the chariot riots where a riot erupted over a horse race that almost turned into over throwing the emperor. JustinIan is the one. Byzantine was an amazing mixture of amazing architecture feats, and absolute madness. If you like learning about ancient Rome or carolingian empire, do yourself a favor. They regularly castrated children of over thrown emperors, eunuchs taking power. I swear Byzantine was more akin to game of thrones then you can imagine.

The phrase 'Byzantine plotting' was created primarily due to the number of power struggles in the Empire. It's like the Third Century Crisis of the Roman Empire, only permanent.
 

Cosmos

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You do know that the Fourth Crusade ended up sacking Constantinople right? Open conflict happened way before the Seventh.

Relevant:
mtwLG9m4-0fOpShHtT_Aye9X5leoSZDRiAx7ld5MoHU-2.jpg
 

Vitriol

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I was wondering if any historically minded Kiwis could help me understand a thing or two about the Byzantine Empire.

1. I understand that the Byzantine is a label applied by historians rather than by them themselves. Did they really consider themselves Romans, called themselves Romans and see the direct link between themselves and the ancient empire?

2. This being so, why didn't they get more respect? Again, not an expert, but I know of Charlemagne and the Holy Roman Empire tried to claim the legacy of Rome and many people did for all the Dark Ages. Constantinople was sacked by Crusaders. Why weren't the Byzantines afforded any of the respect or honour even though the legend of Rome was alive in the aristocracy of Europe? Was it to do with Orthodox Christianity or them speaking Greek? Or were the finer details of legal succession just not appreciated at the time?
1. They considered themselves roman. I believe the most common totle was rhomanion or something similiar.

2. They were referred to by the rest of the west as The Greek Empire or the empire of the greeks, the lack of respect largely came from strained diplomatic ties following the not so much the great schism but the later iconoclast controversy within the empire from about 700-860 ad although really it was a matter of strength. While the empire was strong up to manzikert and again immediately after the alexiad they were respected. Enough indeed to prompt the crusades and indeed the byzantine legacy remained prestigious- princesses of imperial trebizond were highly sought after for generations after the sack of byzantium and the fall of the komnenus.

As others have pointed out the sacking of constantinople by the forth crusade was the result of the byzantines attempting to limit venetian trade. The venetians were supplying the transport for the crusade and that was the price they demanded. Interestingly venice itself was technically part of the byzantine empire although it had been defacto independent for about 200 years. The reason the venetians elected a doge was that their first native ruler was appointed both anthypatos and doux, that is proconsul (a civil office, typically elected from the patrician class) and dux (a military officer with imperium).

What was the title of the Byzantine Emperor?

The title of the emperor changed overtime from augustus imperator to basileus autokrator. Basileus meaning sovereign and autokrator being the route of the modern title autocrat.

Edit to add:

To understand the byzantine empire you have to understand that the roman empire divides into five distinct periods, with ranks, offices and titles changing both name and function greatly between them.

1. The Principate: 30ad- 3rdcentury- in the early period the emperors while dictators ruled what was still recognisably an oligarchy rather than an autocracy or rather was not all that more autocratic than the late republic and its series of Dictators-for-life. This is the empire most people think of when they think of rome.

2. The dominate: third century -seventh century- here the trappings of roman oligarchy were done away with, and the empire was split in two between two (or occasionally four) autocratic emperors who portrayed themselves as absolute rulers in a manner distinct from the principate. The urban roman aristocracy largely disappears from the military in this period becoming the equivalent to the modern .01% in the us. Their place in the military and administration is taken by provincials and barbarians loyal to their general and the emperor rather than rome.

3. The Thematic Empire: seventh century- 1071 following the loss of the west the east entered into a number of administrative reforms which ended with an autocratic emperor with a divine right to rule, over a military aristocracy and complex civil bureaucracy. This period saw the codification of roman law and the move from latin to greek. The practice of creating parallel regional military and civil hierarchies jointly answerable to the emperor created a system that gives rise to 'byzantine' as a descriptor for something complex in the modern world. The system generated considerable intrigue however while the empire both expanded and contracted in the period it generally remained the most economically and militarily powerful force in europe. The theme system collapsed in disaster at manzikert in 1071.

4. The Komnenian Restoration.-1071-1203 The reconquest of anatolia and subsequent defeats of the turks by the Komnenian dynasty saw a reversal of previous decline however this state was organised much more along the lines of a traditional early medieval feudal kingdom despite retaining many titles and offices of its imperial past the practical power and structure was essential feudal in nature albeit with a superior who had a degree of personal power that wouldn't be seen in the west until the absolute monarchies of the renaissance. Despite the reversal in fortune accomplished by the komnenian emperors this period saw the empire fall from preeminence in europe as the frankish successor states formed the basis of modern europe and rose in power and importance. The fall of the komnenian dynasty saw the reborn empire slide into a series of civil wars that left it weekend enough to fall to the fourth crusade in 1203.

5. The palaiologos revival 1261-1453. In 1261 the greek successor state of nicea retook constantinople from the crusaders and re established the empire. Despite some early successes this empire was feudal in nature and did not possess the advanced economy or administration of previous regimes. The emperors in this period relied on mercenaries and political machinations including forcing orthodox bishops to submit to rome. The mercenaries bankrupted the empire resulting in high taxes and the religious issues culminated in a rump state with very little support from its inhabitants. The image of byzantium as a hopeless, decadent ruin comes from this period although in truth depopulation of constantinople meant the wealth and economic importance of the empire was gone long before the city fell as the italian merchant republics completed their takeover of med trade.

The last three parts are all referred to as the byzantine empire although each is in reality very distinct which makes understanding the subject byzantine.
 
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Ponderous Pillock

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Give the Byzantines credit, those walls were over 600 years old, that's pretty impressive they stood up for so long.

What's perhaps more impressive is that even during the era of Gunpowder cannons which were rapidly making such walls obsolete elsewhere, the walls of Constantinople were able to stand against such things.

Even the Dardanelles Gun could not crack the city's walls.

It actually took a lazy guardsman leaving a gate unlocked for the city to fall.