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Byzantine Empire

BYZANTINE EMPIRE

BYZANTINE EMPIRE. Constantine I, the first Christian emperor of Rome (reigned 306337), established a new eastern capital in 330 at a site unrivaled for its beauty and unmatched as a center for administration and trade. The Greek colony of Byzantium had prospered on its exports of salted bonito and other seafood. Now renamed Constantinopolis (modern Istanbul), it was destined to be the capital of the later Roman or Byzantine Empire for eleven hundred years.

The civilization of Constantinople is sometimes misunderstood as a poor imitation of classical Greece and Rome. From the perspective of medieval western Europe, however, Constantinople was a city of magic and mystery. Early French epics and romances tell of the wondrous foods, spices, drugs, and precious stones that could be found in the palaces of Constantinople.

Byzantine culture never ceased to develop and to innovate, and this is certainly true of its cuisine. Among favored game were the gazelles of inland Anatolia, and wild asses, of which herds were maintained in imperial parks. The seafood most appreciated by the Byzantines was botargo (salted mullet roe), and by the twelfth century they were familiar with caviar. Fruits largely unknown to the ancient world but appreciated in Constantinople included the aubergine (eggplant), lemons (via Armenia and Georgia), and the orange. The Byzantines were the first to try rosemary as a flavoring for roast lamb; they first used saffron in cookery. These aromatics, well known in the ancient world, had not previously been thought of as food ingredients.

Byzantine cheeses included mizithra (produced by the pastoral Vlachs of Thessaly and Macedonia) and Cretan prosphatos. As for bread, the bakers of Constantinople were in a most favored trade, according to the ninth century Book of the Eparch, a handbook of city administration: "bakers are never liable to be called for any public service, neither themselves nor their animals, to prevent any interruption of the baking of bread." Mastic and anise were among the aromatics used in baking.

The distinctive flavor of Byzantine cookery is best represented by sweets and sweet drinks. There are dishes that we would recognize as desserts: grouta, a sort of frumenty, sweetened with honey and studded with carob seeds or raisins; and rice pudding served with honey. Quince marmalade had been known to the Romans, but other jellies and conserves now made their appearance, based on pear, citron, and lemon. The increasing availability of sugar assisted the confectioner's inventiveness. Rose sugar, a popular medieval confection, may well have originated in Byzantium.

Flavored wines, a variant of the Roman conditum (spiced wine), became popular as did flavored soft drinks, which were consumed on fast days. The versions that were aromatized with mastic, aniseed, rose, and absinthe were especially popular; they are distant ancestors of the mastikha, vermouth, absinthe, ouzo, and pastis of the modern Mediterranean. A remarkable range of aromatics, which were either unknown to earlier Mediterranean peoples or used only as perfumes or in compound drugs, were added to Byzantine spiced wines: spikenard, gentian, yellow flag, stone parsley, spignel, valerian, putchuk, tejpat, storax, ginger grass, chamomile, and violet.

Two influences combined to produce the great range of powerful flavors at the heart of Byzantine cuisine. One was the Orthodox Christian church calendar, with its numerous fast days on which both meat and fish were proscribed: the rich (including rich abbots and ecclesiastics) gave their cooks full rein to produce fast-day dishes as piquant and varied as could be imagined. Byzantine pease pudding, a fast-day staple, was aromatized with nutmeg, an eastern spice unknown to the classical Greeks and Romans.

The second influence was that of dieticians. Ancient Greek and Roman dietary manuals had been addressed to experts. The Byzantine ones, however, were written for nonspecialists. As in classical Greece and Rome, physicians relied on the theory of the "four humors" (blood, phlegm, yellow bile, black bile) and prescribed diets aimed to achieve a proper balance of humors in each individual. The effect of each ingredient on the humors was therefore codified so that the desired balance could be maintained by a correct choice of dish and by a correct adjustment of ingredients, varying for the seasons, the weather, the time of day, and each individual's constitution and state of health. Dieticians sometimes recommended vegetarian meals, eaten with vinegar or other dressing. Spices and seasonings became ubiquitous, used both during the cooking process and at the table to amend the qualities of each dish. Fresh figs, if eaten in July, must be taken with salt. A daily glass of conditum, strong in spikenard, was recommended in March; anisaton, anise wine, was appropriate for April. These Byzantine dietary manuals are important sources of culinary history; botargo is first named in the eleventh century by the dietician Simeon Seth, who notes that it "should be avoided totally." The earliest work in this tradition is Anthimus's On the Observance of Foods, compiled by a Byzantine physician for a gothic monarch in the early sixth century.

The food of the poor of Constantinople was no doubt limited, though a poetic catalog of a poor family's larder (Prodromic Poems 2.3845, probably twelfth century) includes numerous vegetables and locally grown fruits along with a considerable list of flavorings: vinegar, honey, pepper, cinnamon, cumin, caraway, salt, and others. Cheese, olives, and onions perhaps made up for a scarcity of meat. Timarion, a satirical poem of the twelfth century, suggests salt pork and cabbage stew as being a typical poor man's meal, eaten from the bowl with the fingers just as it would have been in contemporary western Europe. The staple of the Byzantine army was cereal foodwheat or barleywhich might be prepared as bread, biscuits, or porridge. Inns and wine shops generally provided only basic fare. However, in the sixth-century Life of St. Theodore of Syceon, a Byzantine text, there is a reference to an inn that attracted customers by the quality of its food.

Annual fairs were a focus for the food trade. Important fairs were held at Thessalonica and Constantinople around St. Demetrius's day. Constantinople was known for specialized food markets. Sheep and cattle were driven to market to Constantinople from pastures far away in the Balkans, and eastern spices followed long-established trade routes through Trebizond, Mosul, and Alexandria. The populist emperor Manuel (11431180) liked to sample the hot street food of the capital, paying for his selection and waiting for change like any other citizen.

Medieval travelers to Byzantium did not always like the strange flavors they encountered. Garos, the fish sauce of the ancient world, which was much used as a flavoring by the Byzantines, was unfamiliar and often unappreciated. Many disliked resinated wine (comparable to modern retsina), which was simply "undrinkable" according to one Italian traveler, Liutprand of Cremona. However, foreigners were seduced by the confectionery, the can-died fruits, and the sweet wines. William of Rubruck, a thirteenth-century diplomat who was looking for presents to take from Constantinople to wild Khazaria, chose dried fruit, muscat wine, and fine biscuits.

The cuisine of the Byzantine Empire had a unique character of its own. It forms a bridge between the ancient world and the food of modern Greece and Turkey. In Constantinople astonishing flavor blends were commonplace. For example, roast pork was basted with honey wine; skate was spiced with caraway; wild duck was prepared with its sauce of wine; there was garos, mustard and cumin-salt, and black-eyed peas served with honey vinegar. Old recipes were adapted to new tastes; whereas ancient cooks had used fig leaves, thria, as edible wrappings for cooked food, during Byzantine times vine leaves were used in recipes, the precursors of modern dolmades.

When the future emperor Justin II (reigned 518527) walked from his Dalmatian homeland to Constantinople in 470 as a penniless young man seeking service in the Imperial guard, we are told that he had nothing but army biscuits to keep him alive on his long march. This paximadion, or barley biscuit, makes the perfect link from the ancient, via the Byzantine, to the modern period. A classical Roman invention, popularized in the Byzantine Empire, it has many modern descendants: the Arabic bashmat, baqsimat, the Turkish beksemad, the Serbo-Croat peksimet, the Romanian pesmet, and the modern Greek paximadi.

Beyond the old boundaries of the Byzantine Empire, Byzantium's greatest legacy to western cookery may be summed up in these four things: the table fork, which entered Europe through Italy; marzipan, which appears to have originated in Armenia (the word is of Armenian origin); the samovar, which moved northward into Russian culture via the Greek Church; and the Cult of St. Nicholas, together with the gingerbread cookies associated with this Christmas saint.

See also Balkan Countries; Greece, Ancient; Mediterranean Diet; Middle East; Rome and the Roman Empire.

BIBLIOGRAPHY

Few Byzantine texts relevant to food are available in English translation. They include the following, cited in the text of the article: The Book of the Eparch [text, translation and studies] ed. by I. Dujcev. London: Variorum Reprints, 1970. The Works of Liudprand of Cremona, tr. by F. A. Wright. London: Routledge, 1930. Anthimus, De observatione ciborum: On the Observance of Foods edited and translated by Mark Grant. Totnes, Devon, U.K.: Prospect Books, 1996. Three Byzantine Saints, translated by E. Dawes and N. H. Baynes. Crestwood, N.Y.: St. Vladimir's Seminary Press, 1977. [Includes the Life of St. Theodore of Syceon.] The following, also cited above, are at present available only in Greek: Poèmes prodromiques en grec vulgaire, edited by D.-C. Hesseling, H. Pernot. Amsterdam: Müller, 1910. Simeonis Sethi syntagma de alimentorum facultatibus, ed. B. Langkavel. Leipzig: Teubner, 1868. Timarion, tr. by Barry Baldwin. Detroit: Wayne State University Press, 1984. The Mission of Friar William of Rubruck, translated by P. Jackson. London, 1990. For more information see: Dalby, Andrew. Siren Feasts. New York: Routledge, 1996. Chap. 9. Dalby, Andrew. Flavours of Byzantium. Totnes, Devon, U.K.: Prospect Books, 2003. A. Kazhdan, et al. The Oxford Dictionary of Byzantium. New York: Oxford University Press, 1991.

Andrew Dalby

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Byzantine Empire

Byzantine Empire, successor state to the Roman Empire (see under Rome), also called Eastern Empire and East Roman Empire. It was named after Byzantium, which Emperor Constantine I rebuilt (AD 330) as Constantinople and made the capital of the entire Roman Empire. Although not foreseen at the time, a division into Eastern and Western empires became permanent after the accession (395) of Honorius in the West and Arcadius in the East.

Throughout its existence the Byzantine Empire was subject to important changes in its boundaries. The core of the empire consisted of the Balkan Peninsula (i.e., Thrace, Macedonia, Epirus, Greece proper, the Greek isles, and Illyria) and of Asia Minor (present-day Turkey). The empire combined Roman political tradition, Hellenic culture, and Christian beliefs. Greek was the prevalent language, but Latin long continued in official use.

See the table entitled Rulers of the Byzantine Empire for a list of all the Byzantine emperors and the years they reigned.

Early Centuries

The characteristic Eastern influence began with Constantine I, who also introduced Christianity. Orthodoxy triumphed over Arianism under Arcadius' predecessor, Theodosius I, but violent religious controversy was chronic. The reigns (395–527) of Arcadius, Theodosius II, Marcian, Leo I, Leo II, Zeno, Anastasius I, and Justin I were marked by the invasions of the Visigoths under Alaric I, of the Huns of Attila, and of the Avars, the Slavs, the Bulgars (see Bulgaria), and the Persians. After the Western Empire fell (476) to Odoacer, Italy, Gaul, and Spain were theoretically united under Zeno but were actually dominated by, respectively, the Ostrogoths, the Franks, and the Visigoths, while Africa was under the Vandals. During this period arose the heresies of Nestorianism and Monophysitism and the political parties of Blues and Greens to divide the Byzantines.

Revival and Hellenization

Under the rule (527–65) of Justinian I and Theodora, Byzantine power grew. Their great generals, Belisarius and Narses, checked the Persians, repressed political factions, and recovered Italy and Africa, while Tribonian helped the emperor to codify Roman law. During Justinian's reign a great revival of Hellenism took place in literature, and Byzantine art and architecture entered their most glorious period.

Much was lost again under his successors. The Lombards conquered most of Italy; however, the Pentapolis (Rimini, Ancona, Fano, Pesaro, and Senigallia), Rome, Sardinia, Corsica, Liguria, and the coasts of S Italy and Sicily long remained under Byzantine rule, and at Ravenna the exarchs governed until 751. The Persians, under Khosrow I, made great gains against the empire, though Emperor Maurice temporarily checked them in 591.

The emperor Heraclius (610–41) defeated the Persians but was barely able to save Constantinople from the Avars. Muslim conquests soon afterward wrested Syria, Palestine, Egypt, Africa, and Sicily from the empire. Heraclius's attempt to reconcile Monophysitism and orthodoxy merely led to the new heresy of Monotheletism. His military reorganization of the provinces into themes proved effective and was continued by Constans II (641–48). Constantine IV (668–85) saved Constantinople from Arab attack.

The 7th cent. was marked by increasing Hellenization of the empire, outwardly symbolized by the adoption of the Greek title Basileus by the emperors. The church, under the patriarch of Constantinople, became increasingly important in public affairs. Theology, cultivated by emperors and monks alike, was pushed to extremes of subtlety. Literature and art became chiefly religious.

Under Justinian II and his successors the empire was again menaced by Arabs and Bulgars, but the Isaurian emperors Leo III (717–41) and Constantine V stopped the Arab advance and recovered Asia Minor. The grave issue of iconoclasm, which they precipitated, led to the loss of Rome. In 800, during the reign of Irene, the Frank Charlemagne was crowned emperor of the West at Rome. Thus ended even the theoretical primacy of Byzantium over Europe.

A Truly Eastern State

The political division of East and West was paralleled by a religious schism, intensified by the patriarch Photius, between the Roman and the Orthodox Eastern Church, later culminating in a complete break (1054). In all aspects the Byzantine Empire, having lost its claim to universality, became a Greek monarchy, though Constantinople still remained the center of both Greek and Roman civilization. Compared with its intellectuals, artists, writers, and artisans, those of Western Europe were crude and barbarous, though sometimes more vigorous and original.

In the empire the administrative machinery was huge, and competition among the courtiers was intense. Complex diplomacy, intrigue, and gross violence marked the course of events; yet moral decay did not prevent such emperors as Basil I, founder of the Macedonian dynasty, and his successors (notably Leo VI, Romanus I, Constantine VII, Nicephorus II, John I, and Basil II) from giving the empire a period of splendor and power (867–1025). The eastern frontier was pushed to the Euphrates River, the Bulgars were subjugated, and the Balkan Peninsula was recovered. Russia, converted to Christianity, became an outpost of Byzantine culture. In the unceasing struggle between the great landowners and the small peasantry, most of the emperors favored the peasants. Economic prosperity was paralleled by a new golden age in science, philosophy, and architecture.

The Ebb of Power

With the rule of Zoë (1028–50) anarchy and decline set in. The Seljuk Turks increased their attacks, and with the defeat (1071) of Romanus IV at Manzikert most of Asia Minor was permanently lost. The Normans under Robert Guiscard and Bohemond I seized S Italy and attacked the Balkans. Venice ruled the Adriatic and challenged Byzantine commercial dominance in the East, and the Bulgars and Serbs reasserted their independence.

Alexius I (1081–1118) took advantage of the First Crusade (see Crusades) to recover some territory in Asia Minor and to restore Byzantine prestige, but his successors of the Comnenus dynasty were at best able to postpone the disintegration of the empire. After the death (1180) of Manuel I the Angelus dynasty unwittingly precipitated the cataclysm of the Fourth Crusade. In 1204 the Crusaders and the Venetians sacked Constantinople and set up a new empire (see Constantinople, Latin Empire of) in Thrace, Macedonia, and Greece. The remainder of the empire broke into independent states, notably the empires of Nicaea and of Trebizond and the despotate of Epirus.

In 1261 the Nicaean emperor Michael VIII conquered most of the tottering Latin empire and reestablished the Byzantine Empire under the Palaeologus family (1261–1453). The reconstructed empire was soon attacked from all sides, notably by Charles I of Naples, by Venice, by the Ottoman Turks, by the new kingdoms of Serbia and Bulgaria, and by Catalonian adventurers under Roger de Flor. At the same time, the empire began to break down from within—the capital was at odds with the provinces; ambitious magnates were greedy for land and privileges; religious orders fought each other vigorously; and church and state were rivals for power.

Eventually the Turks encircled the empire and reduced it to Constantinople and its environs. Manuel II and John VIII vainly asked the West for aid, and, in 1453, Constantinople fell to Sultan Muhammad II after a final desperate defense under Constantine XI. This is one of the dates conventionally accepted as the beginning of the modern age. The collapse of the empire opened the way for the vast expansion of the Ottoman Empire to Vienna itself and also enabled Ivan III of Russia, son-in-law of Constantine XI, to claim a theoretical succession to the imperial title.

Bibliography

The classic, though biased, work on Byzantine history is Gibbon's Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. More recent standard works are those of J. B. Bury, C. Diehl, A. A. Vasil'ev, G. Ostrogorsky, and N. H. Baynes. See also studies by J. M. Hussey (1967, 1986), R. J. H. Jenkins (1967), D. Obolensky (1971), S. Runciman (1971, 1977), M. Angold (1985), J. Herrin (1987, 2008), J. J. Norwich (1995), and E. N. Luttwak (2009).

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Byzantine Empire

Byzantine Empire Christian, Greek-speaking, Eastern Roman Empire, which outlasted the Roman Empire in the West by nearly 1000 years. Constantinople (Byzantium or Istanbul) was established by the Roman Emperor Constantine I in ad 330. The area of the Byzantine Empire varied greatly, and its history from c.600 was marked by continual military crisis and heroic recovery. At its height, under Justinian I in the 6th century, it controlled, besides Asia Minor and the Balkans, much of the Near East and the Mediterranean coastal regions of Europe and North Africa. Of its many enemies, the most formidable were the Arabs, who overran the Near Eastern provinces in the 7th century; the Slavs and Bulgars, who captured most of the Balkans, and the Seljuk Turks. From 1204 to 1261, it was controlled by usurping Crusaders from w Europe and, although Constantinople was recovered, Byzantine territory shrank under pressure from the West and from the Ottoman Turks, who finally captured Constantinople in 1453, extinguishing the Byzantine Empire.

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Byzantine Generals problem

Byzantine Generals problem The problem of devising an algorithm that will decide whether a collection of generals, who communicate using messages some of which may be lost due to deficient transmission, agree to carry out an attack on a target. This is a reformulation in familiar terms of a problem that occurs in the design and development of distributed computer systems.

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Byzantine rite

Byzantine rite: see Orthodox Eastern Church.

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