Byzantium and the Rise of Islam LEC 4

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MARS 1F90: Lecture 4
Lecture Outline
Byzantium and the Rise of Islam
1. A study of the medieval world has to include Byzantium
a. Byzantium and the cultural heritage of Greece and Rome
b. Byzantium’s unique contribution to civilization
i. *Orthodox Christianity
ii. The *Cyrillic alphabet
iii. *Mosaics
iv. Byzantine architecture
2. The eastern half of the Roman Empire after the western half ceased to exist
as a political unit
a. The Germanic / barbarian tribes and the *Battle of Adrianople (378)
b. The eastern Roman emperor and the capture of Rome (410)
c. The eastern half of the empire continues to flourish until the 15th
century
d. It becomes known as the Byzantine Empire in the 16th and 17th
centuries
e. The Byzantines refer to themselves as Romans, their empire the
Roman Empire, and Constantinople the new Rome
3. Byzantium’s golden age under *Justinian and *Theodora
a. In this period Byzantium acquired the characteristics that made it
different from the rest of the Roman world
b. Theodora’s character and reputation
c. Justinian’s humble origins
d. Justinian’s dream of reconquering the western half of the empire
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i. Italy was in the hand of the *Ostrogoths
ii. The *Franks controlled Gaul
iii. The *Visigoths held Spain
iv. The *Vandals were masters of North Africa
e. What were Justinian’s intentions?
f. Justinian was a controversial figure
i. His commitment to Christianity and antagonism towards
paganism
ii. There was no strict separation between Church and State in the
Byzantine Empire, and Justinian sought to control both
g. Art and the dynamics of political power in the Byzantine Empire and
medieval Europe, e.g. the mosaics in the *Church of San Vitale in
Ravenna (Italy)
i. Ravenna was still part of the eastern empire
ii. The construction of the church was begun in 526
iii. The two mosaics to the left and the right of the *apse
representing respectively the Emperor Justinian and his
attendants, and the Empress Theodora and hers
1. The imperial court is portrayed in its full splendor
2. It is the copy on earth of Christ’s court in heaven
3. The message to a contemporary worshiper:
a. Christ rules the cosmos; the imperial couple rules
the empire
b. Christ grants gifts; they bring gifts
c. The Emperor is the imitator of Christ on earth and
his kingdom is the image of the kingdom of
heaven
h. Constantinople the new Rome
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