Constantinople and other Byzantine Cities
The Byzantine Empire was the continuation of the Roman Empire in the Eastern Mediterranean. While it eventually was conquered by the Ottoman Turks, it was a remarkably resilient culture, surviving for more than a millennium after the Fall of Rome. While it is often overlooked or minimized, Byzantine culture - centered on Constantinople - is much more influential than commonly regarded.
Constantinople was the largest, wealthiest Christian city as well as being the most educated and erudite center in Christendom. As the Classical Roman Era shifted towards the Medieval Era, Constantinople exerted tremendous influence on culture across the centuries, from the domed mosque of Islam and the onion dome of Russian orthodoxy to its library that saved much of the surviving ancient Greek drama, history and philosophy.
Of course, Byzantine culture is merely the last expression of Roman culture, which itself was an agglomeration and accumulation of several cultures predating it like Hellenistic, Egyptian and Mesopotamian cultures. While Byzantine culture saw a shift from the Imperial Latin to Greek, it involved rich diversity of cultures, with even Emperors coming from Serbia, Spain, North Africa, Armenia and Syria. It was a multicultural society with strong links to diverse peoples, from Hungarians and Venetians, to Armenians, Turks and Mongols. More importantly it was the city which oversaw the transformation of the pagan Roman into a Christian world. This site is dedicated to exploring Constantinople and its Byzantine Legacy.
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• St. Catherine's Monastery
While Constantinople was the largest European cities for centuries, the Byzantine Empire also had other important cities. Of course, Rome, as the first capital of the empire, is where it all began. Much of Byzantine art follows the model of earlier Roman art. For example, Hagia Sophia would not exist without the Pantheon built before it. For a long time, Thessaloniki was the second largest city in the empire. There are other cities which have great examples of Byzantine art and architecture, particularly Ravenna with its spectacular mosaics. Antioch and Alexandria, while once the greatest cities in the Roman Empire, became great centers of Christianity until falling to the Islamic Empire. Other cities are important for showing Byzantine influence continuing even after the fall of Constantinople. Venice, Sofia and Kiev are perhaps the best examples of such influences. Once part of the empire itself, Venice's great church San Marco was modeled after the Church of the Holy Apostles in Constantinople and still has the glimmering mosaics once common in Constantinople. It also has a great collection of Byzantine art in its treasury. Sofia is one of the Bulgarian cities marking the spread of Orthodox Christianity beyond the boundaries of the Byzantine Empire. Kiev, while never apart of the empire, shows direct connects, as Byzantine artisans and artist came to help make it a Christian city. Perhaps the most enduring example of Byzantine influence, found in Russian Orthodoxy, begins in Kiev. Anatolia and mainland, now in Turkey, was once the heartland of the Byzantine Empire. Cities like Athens and Nicaea, long under Byzantine control, still show signs of Byzantine art and architecture. The Islamic world was also deeply influenced by Byzantine culture especially in its earliest period, which can particularly seen in Jerusalem and Damascus. In 325, Nicaea was the location of the First Ecumenical Council, which was instrumental in defining most of Christianity to this day. The painted monastery caves in Cappadocia now have some of the best examples of Byzantine art and architecture. Remnants of the Byzantines continued in Trabizond and Mystras a short time after the fall of Constantinople in 1453, since they had acted as capitals of distinct Byzantine successor states.