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, 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

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

A Beginners Guide to the Hippodrome of Constantinople

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.

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Hagia Sophia interior from the empress's gallery

The Queen of Cities Does Not Disappoint

In March 2016 I finally realized my dream of visiting Istanbul, bringing along my husband and our youngest daughter. I scrupulously planned out our 10-day visit. I scheduled a number of tours for sites that I thought would require an experienced guide, while for other sites we got the audio

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What if Basil II had been a different Basil?

On this, the second weekend in July, a reminder of the Tomos Unionis, handed down for over a thousand years. Basil II was one of the best known Byzantine emperors. He was the son of Romanos II, grandson of Constantine Porphyrogenitos, and great grandson of Leo VI the Wise and

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The Road to Manzikert by Brian Todd Carey

Review: The Road to Manzikert by Brian Todd Carey

The Battle of Manzikert, like the Battle of Hastings fought five years earlier, began momentous changes to its country. This book ( covers a wide swathe of Byzantine military history – from Justinian’s wars, to early battles between the Byzantines and Islamic armies, to Manzikert in 1071. The epilogue briefly

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Emperor Justinian I mosiac

Things the Byzantines have taught me.

History has been a lifelong interest of mine, although I arrived late to the Byzantine party. The gradual accretion of knowledge of the Roman empire in the west, and English history – my early favorites – as I grew up gave me bits and pieces of history at a time,

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What’s in a name?

The fans of the eastern Roman empire, known popularly as the Byzantine Empire, will often quibble about its capital’s name – insisting on continuing to call it Constantinople rather than Istanbul. Their loyalty to the old empire is estimable, but perhaps misplaced so far as the city’s name is concerned.

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