Topics: Greco-Roman World - Byzantium (667 BC-1453 AC)

Byzantium (667 BC-1453 AC)

Byzantium (Latin: BYZANTIVM) was an ancient Greek city, founded by Greek colonists from Megara in 667 BC and named after their king Byzas . The name Byzantium is a Latinization of the original name Byzantion. The city was later renamed Constantinople and briefly became the capital of the classical Roman Empire, and then subsequently was the capital the Byzantine Empire, the Greek-speaking Roman Empire of late Antiquity and the Middle Ages. Constantinople became the capital of the Turkish Ottoman Empire in 1453 and the name of the city was changed to Istanbul in 1930 following the establishment of modern Turkey.


The origins of Byzantium are shrouded in legend. The traditional legend has it that Byzas from Megara (a town near Athens), founded Byzantium in 667 BC, when he sailed northeast across the Aegean Sea. Byzas had consulted the Oracle at Delphi to ask where to make his new city. The Oracle told him to found it "opposite the blind." At the time, he did not know what this meant. But when he came upon the Bosporus he realized what it meant: on the east shore was a Greek city, Chalcedon. However, according to legend, they had not noticed the land that lay a half-mile away. Byzas founded his city here on the European coast and named it Byzantion after himself. It was mainly a trading city due to its strategic location at the Black Sea's only entrance. Byzantion later conquered Chalcedon, across the Bosporus on the Asiatic side.

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. The location of Byzantium attracted Roman Emperor Constantine I who, in 330 AD, refounded it as an imperial residence inspired by Rome itself.  After his death the city was called Constantinople (Greek Konstantinoupolis) ('city of Constantine'). It remained the capital of the Eastern Roman Empire, which is called the Byzantine Empire by modern historians. This combination of imperialism and location would affect Constantinople's role as the nexus point between two continents: Europe and Asia. It was a commercial, cultural, and diplomatic magnet. With its strategic position, Constantinople did control the route 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 (though not officially renamed until 1930) and it has remained Turkey's largest and most populous city, although Ankara is now the capital.

The Byzantine Empire

The Byzantine Empire or Eastern Roman Empire, was the Roman Empire during the Middle Ages, centered on the capital of Constantinople, and ruled by Emperors. It was called the Roman Empire, and also as Romania by its inhabitants and its neighbours. As the distinction between "Roman Empire" and "Byzantine Empire" is purely a modern convention, it is not possible to assign a date of separation, but an important point is the Emperor Constantine I's transfer in 324 of the capital from Nicomedia (in Anatolia) to Byzantium on the Bosphorus, which became Constantinople (alternatively "New Rome").

The Empire remained one of the most powerful economic, cultural, and military forces in Europe, despite setbacks and territorial losses, especially during the Roman–Persian and Byzantine–Arab Wars. The Empire recovered during the Macedonian dynasty, rising again to become the pre-eminent power in the Eastern Mediterranean by the late 10th century. After 1071 however, much of Asia Minor, the Empire's heartland, was lost to the Seljuk Turks. The Komnenian restoration regained some ground and briefly re-established dominance in the 12th century, but declined again under their successors. The Empire received a mortal blow in 1204 by the Fourth Crusade, when it was dissolved and divided into competing Byzantine Greek and Latin realms. Despite the eventual recovery of Constantinople and re-establishment of the Empire in 1261, under the Palaiologan emperors, successive civil wars in the 14th century further sapped the Empire's strength. Most of its remaining territory was lost in the Byzantine–Ottoman Wars, culminating in the Fall of Constantinople and its remaining territories to the Muslim Ottoman Turks in the 15th century.

Source: Wikipedia
Byzantium (667 BC-1453 AC)
The Byzantine Empire under Justinian ca. 550Source: Wikipedia