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Imperial Passions, The Porta Aurea, by Eileen Stephenson

Imperial Passions – An Excerpt

For those of you interested in 11th century Byzantium, here is an excerpt from my novel, Imperial Passions – The Porta Aurea. This scene takes place in the church of the great monastery of St. John Stoudion, not far from the Porta Aurea (Golden Gate) of Constantinople. It marks the

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The Empress's Spot in the Hagia Sophia

The Empress’s Spot

The Hagia Sophia is a treasure house of history – a building still standing and magnificent after 15 centuries. I could spend a week just examining its many parts and still find something new. But on my first visit I was especially interested in the green circle of marble in

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Byzantine Art – A historian’s view, Part 2

I continue my interview with Professor Lawrence Butler here. He has some great recommendations of places to visit when you’re in Istanbul! Q – Having spent some time in Istanbul, what other buildings do you recommend visiting to learn more about Byzantine architecture, and what makes those buildings special? A

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Byzantine Art – A historian’s view. Part 1

Recently, I had the good fortune to attend a lecture at the Smithsonian titled The Artistic Legacy of Byzantium, given by Professor Lawrence Butler at George Mason University. He was kind enough to agree to an interview with me on Byzantine art and his work in Istanbul. His BA is

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Vlad Dracul, also known as Vlad the Impaler

Vlad the Impaler & the Byzantines

Most of us have heard of the legend of Vlad Dracul, also known as Vlad the Impaler, and later simply as Dracula. This prince of Wallachia was known for viciously impaling his defeated enemies – a brutal practice during a brutal time. Not being much of a fan of the

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Signature in red of Constantine XI Palaeologos

Byzantine Personal Naming Conventions

The use of surnames was only needed as populations grew and groups of people no longer lived in villages where everyone knew each other. That was the situation in ancient Rome, where the population grew to over one million at its height. Surnames in the Eastern Roman Empire were used

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Byzantine fork, Dumbarton Oaks Museum in Washington, DC

Byzantines Did It First!

I was recently reading a book about the city of Paris and the author mentioned that a particular hospital was the “first hospital in Europe”. I had to shake my head at his ignorance of the history of the Byzantines, but it inspired me to make a list of a

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Lesser Known 11th Century Byzantines, Michael Keroularios

Lesser Known 11th Century Byzantines Part 4 – Michael Keroularios

Michael Keroularios was one of the more unusual of Eastern Orthodox Patriarchs. He was thought to have been born around the year 1000 in Constantinople, where he became an Imperial bureaucrat. John Skylitzes’ history first mentioned him as having been tonsured in 1040, along with his brother-in-law, John Makrembolites (the

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Lesser Known 11th Century Byzantines, George Maniakes

Lesser Known 11th Century Byzantines, Part 3 – George Maniakes

Another oft forgotten but towering (literally) figure of the 11th century Eastern Roman Empire was the general George Maniakes. Known for his great height and strength, as well as his temper, he successfully routed Arabs who occupied part of what is now Syria in 1030 when he held a fortified

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