no other epoch in history is so unique, extensive and yet, as much forgotten
as that of the Byzantine Roman Empire. From the founding of its new capitol in Constantinople, 330 AD to its final fall to the Turk
invaders in 1453, over eleven hundred years of history has virtually been lost
in most minds of the Western world. Ironically, it is this
exact history that has extensively shaped the Western cultures today,
especially those of the Christian faith.
event in Western history was probably more pivotal than that of the Christian
conversion of the Roman emperor Constantine I. Up to that time, Christians were
heavily persecuted by many of the previous emperors and the religion was
outlawed. That would all change in 324 AD with a miraculous military
to Christianity by Constantine I at the Milvian Bridge. From this point on,
Christianity became the official religion of the Empire. A new capitol
was established in Constantinople (present day Istanbul, Turkey) and power
was fully transferred from Rome to Constantinople in 476 AD.
It was not the end of the Roman Empire but a continuation and fascinating transformation
of Roman rule that would last for another one thousand years!
Byzantine Period, the Roman Empire and Christianity were completely
interwoven. It was the quintessential example of the UNION of church and
state. What was once the ancient world's greatest enemy of the
faith, overnight became its most devoted advocate. The classic
architecture, style of dress, and overall appearance of all that was "Old
Rome" took on a new and intricate style that the world has never seen
before or since. This was not only attributed to the influence of the capitol's new
geographic location, but also to the foremost prominence of Christianity in
the Roman world. The
evolution of Roman coinage in the Byzantine Period best exhibits the evolution
of the Empire itself.
the early years of the 6th and 7th centuries AD, the coins continue
in the tradition of Rome with stylistic similarities in Imperial portraiture and
personifications. Over time, the imagery became increasingly
religious. Previous Roman personifications took on new Christian
symbolism. Nike, the flying god of victory, now was an angel. The
globe, which was previous depicted in the emperor's hand symbolized the
ruler's dominion over the world. The new addition of a cross on top of
the globe now represented the emperor's position as leader of both, church and
halo (nimbus) was used by emperors in Roman imagery even before the Empire's
conversion to Christianity. Now it takes on a new and deeper meaning of
religious enlightenment. The
emperor Justinian II (685 - 695 AD) first issued coins that feature a portrait
of Christ. After
the period of Iconoclasm, nearly all coins minted were exclusively
religious. This concept of minimal to no promotion of the ruling
emperor on his coins was completely contrary to what coinage meant for the
Roman Empire before Constantine's conversion. After all,
Rome's initial and ONLY message on its coins for the entire duration
leading up to this conversion was specifically to promote the
emperor and state.
of the most impressive treasures of Byzantium is the main Christian church
that was built there in the sixth century by Emperor Justinian.
After previous calamities with earlier structures, Justinian ordered the
construction of a new church which was to surpass in magnificence all
earlier churches and be unlike anything the world had ever seen.
Historians write that he personally supervised the construction and made
full use of all his empire could offer. The two most famous
architects of the time were entrusted with the construction of the
building which involved one hundred master builders and ten thousand
finest and most exotic materials from all over the world would suffice for
the construction of Constantinople's new magnificent church called Hagia
Sophia, meaning 'Holy Wisdom". This included columns previously
taken to Rome from an Egyptian temple in Heliopolis, a door from an
ancient Babylonian temple and ivory and gold ornaments from
ancient temples in Ephesus, Kizikos and Baalbek. The amazingly short
duration of construction (less than 6 years!) and the revolutionary
physics of its architecture still confound modern analysis. This
wondrous monument was completed on December 27, 537 AD. During
the dedication ceremony, Emperor Justinian put aside formalities of state
and entered the church excitedly, to say a prayer of thanks to God for
allowing him to fulfill his greatest dream. As he stared up at the
massive dome and cavernous ceilings, he reflected upon the historical
splendor of the temple in Jerusalem and shouted with joy, "Oh,
Solomon, I have surpassed thee!". Sadly, Hagia Sophia was
converted to a mosque when the Turks overran and defeated Constantinople
and the Empire in 1453 AD. Incredibly detailed mosaics were hastily
covered with plaster and all Christian symbols were removed, defaced or
permanently covered. Today, the structure is a museum and has been
partially restored to its Christian-era splendor.
well-known remnant of the Byzantine Period is the stunning and unique art
of the religious Icons. This abstract spiritual style can be
immediately recognized and is evident in not only paintings and mosaics
but also the era's architecture and coins. What was once thought of
as crude numismatic issues are now appreciated as highly stylized symbols
of the Romans' devout faith.
the establishment of Constantinople as the new capitol and navel of the
Roman world, the Empire continued for almost a millennium eventually
bridging ancient and medieval history but not without its share of
enemies. Numerous challenges of foreign armies took its toll on
defenses and finally, on May 29, 1453 AD, the Muslim Ottomans overran the
crumbling city walls and the sun set forever on the greatest empire that
the ancient world had ever known.
SPECIAL NOTE: Some
confuse the Byzantine Romans with followers of the Roman Catholic
church. This is NOT the case. At the time of
the Byzantine Roman period where the center of the Roman Empire was
based in the East, the Vatican emerged in the West and tried to
influence Roman rule but never were successful.
Byzantine Romans were
CHRISTIAN ORTHODOX, NOT Roman Catholic!
During the Byzantine Period, eastern
Romans possessed disdain for the Catholic church's desire for their
subordination. With the exception of a few later period emperors
that were hoping for financial support of the Vatican as the Empire
crumbled in its final days, the majority of Eastern Byzantine Roman
emperors themselves, were not Catholic nor would ever convert.
copyright 1998 - 2004
jewelry in this section features GENUINE ancient coins that were minted
under the Byzantine Roman Empire.
piece comes with a certificate of authenticity / history sheet.
to time, authentic BYZANTINE weapons and related artifacts from
this period (and region where these coins are found) can be purchased
from this reputable source here...