We visited the Pantokrator Church & Monastery (now the Zeyrek Mosque) on a rainy day in March. Empress Irene, the wife of John II Comnenus, began the building of the monastery and church on a hill close to the Blachernae Palace. Her husband finished it after her death in 1134. Irene was a Hungarian princess, and both husband and wife are Orthodox saints.
The historical record says that a Syrian named Kallinikos developed the substance known as Greek fire in the 7th century. Prior to that time, liquid incendiaries were known to Persians and other civilizations in the Middle East. But it was Kallinikos who developed this mixture into a lethally effective weapon that protected the empire from invasions and rebels for centuries.
It is rare to see a virtuous individual reach the pinnacle of power in any era. Byzantine rulers were no exception, with many rough and determined characters sitting on the throne in its eleven centuries. Some were brutal, but three (in my humble opinion) stand out for remarkable cruelty unleavened
In the 4th century Constantine the Great built the Hippodrome of Constantinople to hold as many as 100,000 spectators. Remnants of the building survived into the Ottoman period that began in 1453, but the stadium was little used following the depredations of the Fourth Crusade in 1204.
1. You will not receive more than one email from me each month.
2. It may be contentious, but I may discuss Byzantine politics from time to time. Amateurish modern politics will never be discussed.