the leaning pillar of Hagia Sophia

Uncommon sights at Hagia Sophia

The Hagia Sophia has many important things to view when you visit, many of which are often photographed. I thought I would share a few photos of lesser known aspects of this great museum. As it happens, all of them were taken in the women’s gallery. This is what I

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Byzantine Empress Zoe

Six Byzantine women who ruled the Empire.

Almost from its earliest days, the Byzantine Empire had women who ruled – either in their own name or as regent. Typically, a male ruler who could lead armies was preferred, but intelligent and strong-willed women, or women in a fortunate dynastic spot, still found their way to the highest

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Byzantine Empress Zoe

The Top Three 11th Century Byzantine Historians

Eleventh century Byzantium was at or near its peak in terms of wealth, sophistication, and learning. Literacy reached down into its middle classes, including girls, and a number of histories written during that period have survived. The top three – in fact, the only three that I know of –

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The Omphalion (aka, the navel of the world) in the Hagia Sophia

A Rogues’ Gallery of Byzantine Rulers

It is rare to see a virtuous individual reach the pinnacle of power in any era. Byzantine rulers were no exception to that rule, with many rough and determined characters sitting on the throne throughout its eleven centuries. Some of them were pretty ruthless, but three of them (in my

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four horses at St. Mark's Basilica in Venice, Italy

A Beginners Guide to the Hippodrome of Constantinople

Horse racing was a hugely popular activity for the Romans, both in Rome and in Constantinople. In the 4th century Constantine the Great built the Hippodrome of Constantinople to hold as many as 100,000 spectators. The building itself survived into the Ottoman period that began in 1453, but the stadium

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A monastery pharmacy at a museum in Ravenna, Italy.

Sickness & Death in the Medieval World

One doesn’t often think about one’s appendix unless forced to. I was forced to in November last year when on a business trip to Tucson, Arizona for my day job. This small organ chose that time to rupture, putting me in the hospital for a week. My recovery once I

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Literary Classics Seal of Approval


I wasn’t going to blog today since my thoughts for a new posting had not quite coalesced, but then I got the following email from Literary Classics International Book Awards: Tales of Byzantium: A Selection of Short Stories, by Eileen Stephenson, earns the Literary Classics Seal of Approval Tales of

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Hagia Sophia interior from the empress's gallery

The Queen of Cities Does Not Disappoint

In March I was finally able to realize my dream of visiting Istanbul, bringing along my husband and our youngest daughter. I scrupulously planned out our 10-day visit – scheduling a number of tours for sites that I thought would require an experienced guide, while for other sites we got

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What if Basil II had been a different Basil?

On this, the second weekend in July, a reminder of what occurred this weekend a thousand years ago. Basil II, the son of Romanos II, grandson of Constantine Porphyrogenitos, and great grandson of Leo VI the Wise and Romanos I Lecapenos, was the one of the best known the Byzantine

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