Tuesday, 31 January 2017

Early Byzantine Empire

The Byzantine Empire, also referred to as the Eastern Roman Empire, was the continuation of the Roman Empire in the East during Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages, when its capital city was Constantinople (modern-day Istanbul, which had been founded as Byzantium). It survived the fragmentation and fall of the Western Roman Empire in the 5th century AD and continued to exist for an additional thousand years until it fell to the Ottoman Turks in 1453.

Hagia Sophia in Istanbul(Constantinople)

In 330, Constantine I moved the seat of the Empire to Constantinople, which he founded as a second Rome on the site of Byzantium, a city strategically located on the trade routes between Europe and Asia and between the Mediterranean and the Black Sea. Constantine introduced important changes into the Empire's military, monetary, civil and religious institutions. The gold solidus he introduced became a stable currency that transformed the economy and promoted development.

The Baptism of Constantine, 1517 - 1524

Theodosius I (379-395) was the last Emperor to rule both the Eastern and Western halves of the Empire. In 391 and 392 he issued a series of edicts essentially banning pagan religion. Pagan festivals and sacrifices were banned, as was access to all pagan temples and places of worship. The last Olympic Games are believed to have been held in 393. In 395, Theodosius I bequeathed the imperial office jointly to his sons: Arcadius in the East and Honorius in the West, once again dividing Imperial administration.

 

Theodosius II focused on the codification of Roman law and further fortification of the walls of Constantinople, which left the city impervious to most attacks until 1204. Large portions of the Theodosian Walls are preserved to the present day. To fend off the Huns, Theodosius had to pay an enormous annual tribute to Attila. His successor, Marcian, refused to continue to pay the tribute, but Attila had already diverted his attention to the West. After his death in 453, the Hunnic Empire collapsed, and many of the remaining Huns were often hired as mercenaries by Constantinople.

Theodosian Walls

In 480 with the death of the Western Emperor Julius Nepos, Eastern Emperor Zeno became sole Emperor of the empire. Roman General Odoacer, now ruler of Italy, was nominally Zeno's subordinate but acted with complete autonomy, eventually providing support to a rebellion against the Emperor. 


In 491, Anastasius I, an aged civil officer of Roman origin, became the Emperor. He revealed himself as an energetic reformer and an able administrator. He perfected Constantine I's coinage system by definitively setting the weight of the copper follis, the coin used in most everyday transactions. He also reformed the tax system. The State Treasury contained the enormous sum of 320,000 lb (150,000 kg) of gold when Anastasius died in 518.

Anastasius I gold solidus

The Justinian dynasty was founded by Justin I, who though illiterate, rose through the ranks of the military to become Emperor in 518. He was succeeded by his nephew Justinian I in 527, who may already have exerted effective control during Justin's reign. One of the most important figures of late antiquity and possibly the last Roman emperor to speak Latin as a first language, Justinian's rule constitutes a distinct epoch, marked by the ambitious but only partly restoration of the Empire. His wife Theodora was particularly influential.

Emperor Justinian I and Empress Theodora

In 532, attempting to secure his eastern frontier, Justinian signed a peace treaty with Khosrau I of Persia agreeing to pay a large annual tribute to the Sassanids. In the same year, he survived a revolt in Constantinople, which solidified his power but ended with the deaths of a reported 30,000 to 35,000 rioters on his orders. The western conquests began in 533, as Justinian sent his general Belisarius to reclaim the former province of Africa from the Vandals who had been in control since 429 with their capital at Carthage.


After Justinian died in 565, his successor, Justin II refused to pay the large tribute to the Persians. Meanwhile, the Germanic Lombards invaded Italy; by the end of the century only a third of Italy was in Byzantine hands. Justin's successor, Tiberius II, choosing between his enemies, awarded subsidies to the Avars while taking military action against the Persians. 

Tiberius II Constantine

Following the accession of Heraclius, the Sassanid advance pushed deep into the Levant, occupying Damascus and Jerusalem and removing the True Cross to Ctesiphon. In siege of Constantinople of the year 626, amidst the climactic Byzantine–Sasanian War of 602–628, the combined Avar, Sassanid, and Slavic forces unsuccessfully besieged the Byzantine capital between June and July. After this, the Sassanid army was forced to withdraw to Anatolia.

The siege of Constantinople

The main Sassanid force was destroyed at Nineveh in 627, and in 629 Heraclius restored the True Cross to Jerusalem in a majestic ceremony. The war had exhausted both the Byzantines and Sassanids, however, and left them extremely vulnerable to the Muslim forces that emerged in the following years. The Byzantines suffered a crushing defeat by the Arabs at the Battle of Yarmouk in 636, while Ctesiphon fell in 637.

Battle ground of Yarmouk

In 681, Constantine IV signed a treaty with the Bulgar khan Asparukh, and the new Bulgarian state assumed sovereignty over a number of Slavic tribes that had previously, at least in name, recognised Byzantine rule. In 687–688, the final Heraclian emperor, Justinian II, led an expedition against the Slavs and Bulgarians, and made significant gains, although the fact that he had to fight his way from Thrace to Macedonia demonstrates the degree to which Byzantine power in the north Balkans had declined.

Justinian II

Justinian II attempted to break the power of the urban aristocracy through severe taxation and the appointment of "outsiders" to administrative posts. He was driven from power in 695, and took shelter first with the Khazars and then with the Bulgarians. In 705, he returned to Constantinople with the armies of the Bulgarian khan Tervel, retook the throne, and instituted a reign of terror against his enemies. With his final overthrow in 711, supported once more by the urban aristocracy, the Heraclian dynasty came to an end.


Leo III the Isaurian turned back the Muslim assault in 718 and addressed himself to the task of reorganising and consolidating the themes in Asia Minor. He put an end to the Twenty Years' Anarchy, a period of great instability in the Byzantine Empire between 695 and 717, marked by the rapid succession of several emperors to the throne. His successor, Constantine V, won noteworthy victories in northern Syria and thoroughly undermined Bulgarian strength. 

Leo III the Isaurian

Wednesday, 25 January 2017

Late Antiquity Period

Late Antiquity is a periodization used by historians to describe the time of transition from classical antiquity to the Middle Ages in mainland Europe, the Mediterranean world, and the Middle East. Precise boundaries for the period are a continuing matter of debate, but a period between the 3rd and 8th centuries AD is proposed.

Late Antiquity Sarcophagus 

Generally, it can be thought of as from the end of the Roman Empire's Crisis of the Third Century (c. 235 – 284) to, in the East, the early Islamic period (7th–9th centuries), following the Muslim conquests in the mid–7th century. In the West the end was earlier, with the start of the Early Medieval period typically placed in the 6th century, or earlier on the Western edges of the empire.

Genseric sacking Rome 455

Beginning with Constantine the Great the Roman Empire was Christianized, and a new capital founded at Constantinople. Migrations of Germanic tribes disrupted Roman rule from the late 4th century onwards, culminating in the eventual collapse of the Empire in the West in 476, replaced by the so-called barbarian kingdoms. The resultant cultural fusion of Greco-Roman, Germanic and Christian traditions formed the foundations of the subsequent culture of Europe.


One of the most important transformations in Late Antiquity was the formation and evolution of the Abrahamic religions: Christianity, rabbinic Judaism and, eventually, Islam; some believe that the subsequent Arab invasions marked the end of Late Antiquity and the beginning of the Middle Ages.


A milestone in the rise of Christianity ouccered when Emperor Constantine the Great confirmed the legalization of the religion through the so-called Edict of Milan in 313, jointly issued with his rival in the East, Licinius (r. 308–324). By the late 4th century, Emperor Theodosius the Great had made Christianity the state religion, thereby transforming the Classical Roman world.

Edict of Milan 313 AD

Constantine I was a key figure in many important events in Christian history, as he convened and attended the first ecumenical council of bishops at Nicaea in 325, subsidized the building of churches and sanctuaries such as the Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem, and involved himself in questions such as the timing of Christ's resurrection and its relation to the Passover.

Church of the Holy Sepulchre in Jerusalem

Islam appeared in the 7th century and spurred Arab peoples to invade the Eastern Roman Empire and the Sassanian Empire of Persia, destroying the latter; and, after conquering all of North Africa and Visigothic Spain, to invade much of modern France.

The later Roman Empire was in a sense a network of cities. Rome went from a population of 800,000 in the beginning of the period to a population of 30,000 by the end of the period, the most precipitous drop coming with the breaking of the aqueducts during the Gothic War.

Gothic War

As a whole, the period of late antiquity was accompanied by an overall population decline in almost all Europe, and a reversion to more of a subsistence economy. Long-distance markets disappeared, and there was a reversion to a greater degree of local production and consumption, rather than webs of commerce and specialized production.


The urban continuity of Constantinople is the outstanding example of the Mediterranean world; of the two great cities of lesser rank, Antioch was devastated by the Persian sack of 540, followed by the plague of Justinian (542 onwards) and completed by earthquake, while Alexandria survived its Islamic transformation, to suffer incremental decline in favour of Cairo in the medieval period.

Ruins of Antioch

In mainland Greece, the inhabitants of Sparta, Argos and Corinth abandoned their cities for fortified sites in nearby high places. In Italy, populations that had clustered within reach of Roman roads began to withdraw from them, as potential avenues of intrusion, and to rebuild in typically constricted fashion round an isolated fortified promontory.

An isolated fortified promontory

As a complicated period bridging between Roman art and medieval art and Byzantine art, the Late Antique period saw a transition from the classical idealized realism tradition largely influenced by Ancient Greek art to the more iconic, stylized art of the Middle Ages. Unlike classical art, Late Antique art does not emphasize the beauty and movement of the body, but rather, hints at the spiritual reality behind its subjects.

Byzantine art

In the field of literature, Late Antiquity is known for the declining use of classical Greek and Latin, and the rise of literary cultures in Syriac, Armenian, Georgian, Ethiopic, Arabic, and Coptic.  The 4th and 5th centuries also saw an explosion of Christian literature, of which Greek writers such as Eusebius of Caesarea, Basil of Caesarea, Gregory of Nazianzus and John Chrysostom and Latin writers such as Ambrose of Milan, Jerome and Augustine of Hippo are only among the most renowned representatives.

Late Antiquity Manuscript 

Greek poets of the Late Antique period included Antoninus Liberalis, Quintus Smyrnaeus, Nonnus, Romanus the Melodist and Paul the Silentiary. Latin poets included Ausonius, Paulinus of Nola, Claudian, Rutilius Namatianus, Sidonius Apollinaris, Corippus and Arator.

Saturday, 14 January 2017

Jin Dynasty of China

The Jin dynasty, distinguished as the Sima Jin and Liang Jin, was a Chinese dynasty, empire, and era traditionally dated from C.E. 265 to 420. It was founded by Sima Yan, son of Sima Zhao. It followed the Three Kingdoms period(220-280 AD), which ended with the conquest of Eastern Wu by the Jin.

Life in jin Dynasty period.

There are two main divisions in the history of the dynasty. The Western Jin (265–316 CE) was established as a successor state to Cao Wei after Sima Yan usurped the throne, and had its capital at Luoyang or Chang'an (modern Xi'an) Western Jin reunited China in 280, but fairly shortly thereafter fell into a succession crisis and civil war.

Hunping jar of the Western Jin, with Buddhist figures.

The rebels and invaders began to establish new self-proclaimed states in the Yellow River valley in 304, inaugurating the "Sixteen Kingdoms" era. These states immediately began fighting each other and the Jin Empire, leading to the second division of the dynasty, the Eastern Jin(317–420) when Sima Rui moved the capital to Jiankang (modern Nanjing).

Yellow River Valley

The Jin dynasty was founded in ad 265 by Sima Yan, posthumously known as Emperor Wu. He forced Cao Huan's abdication but permitted him to live in honor as the prince of Chenliu and buried him with imperial ceremony. There was a brief period of Chinese unity following the conquest of Eastern Wu in 280, but the state was soon weakened by corruption, political turmoil, and internal conflicts.

Celadon lion-shaped bixie, Western Jin, 265–317 CE.

Sima Yan's son Zhong, posthumously known as Emperor Hui (the "Benevolent Emperor of Jin"), was developmentally disabled. Conflict over his succession in 290 expanded into the devastating War of the Eight Princes. Afterwards, the empire was too weak to resist the uprisings and invasions of the Wu Hu(the "Five Barbarians").

The Eight Immortals

The Jin capital Luoyang was captured by Liu Cong in 311. Sima Chi, posthumously known as Emperor Huai (the "Missing Emperor of Jin"), was captured and later executed. His successor Sima Ye, posthumously known as Emperor Min (the "Suffering Emperor of Jin"), was captured at Chang'an (present-day Xi'an) in 316 and also later executed.

Luoyang

The remnants of the Jin court fled to the east, reestablishing their government at Jiankang within present-day Nanjing, Jiangsu. Sima Rui, the prince of Langye, was enthroned in 318, posthumously becoming known as Emperor Yuan (the "First Emperor of the Eastern Jin").

Emperor Yuan(Sima Rui)

The Emperors of Eastern Jin had limited power, owing to their dependence on the support of both local and refugee noble families (notably the Huan, Wang, and Xie) which possessed military power. Although there was a stated goal of recovering the "lost northern lands", paranoia within the royal family and a constant string of disruptions to the throne caused the loss of support among many officials. 

Celadon jar with brown spots, Eastern Jin, 317-420 CE.

The most populous region of China was southern China after the depopulation of the north and the migration of northern Chinese to southern China. Different waves of migration of aristocratic Chinese from northern China to the south at different times resulted in distinct groups of lineages, with some lineages arriving in the 300s-400s and others in the 800s-900s.




Saturday, 7 January 2017

Kofun Period Of Japan

The Kofun period is an era in the history of Japan from around 250 to 538 AD. It follows the Yayoi period. The word kofun is Japanese for the type of burial mounds dating from this era. The Kofun and the subsequent Asuka periods are sometimes referred to collectively as the Yamato period. The Kofun period is the earliest era of recorded history in Japan.


Daisenryo Kofun (Emperor Nintoku's tomb)

The Kofun period is characterized by a Shinto culture which existed prior to the introduction of Buddhism. Politically, the leader of a powerful clan won control over much of west Honshū and the northern half of Kyūshū and eventually established the Imperial House of Japan.

Imperial Seal of Japan

Kofun burial mounds on Tanegashima and two very old Shinto shrines on Yakushima suggest that these islands were the southern boundaries of the Yamato state, while its northernmost extent was as far north as Tainai in the modern Niigata Prefecture, where mounds have been excavated associated with a person with close links to the Yamato kingdom.

Kofun Burial Mound

Chinese, Korean and Japanese wrote accounts of history mostly in Chinese characters, making original pronunciations difficult to trace. While writing was largely unknown to the indigenous Japanese of this period, the literary skills of foreigners seem to have become increasingly appreciated by the Japanese elite in many regions. The Inariyama Sword, tentatively dated 471 or 531, contains Chinese-character inscriptions in styles used in China at the time.

Inariyama Sword lettering

The cavalry wore armour, carried swords and other weapons, and used advanced military methods like those of northeast Asia. Evidence of these advances is seen in haniwa, the clay offerings placed in a ring on and around the tomb mounds of the ruling elite. The most important of these haniwa were found in southern Honshū—especially the Kinai region around Nara Prefecture—and northern Kyūshū.

Kofun period haniwa chieftain.

Haniwa grave offerings were made in numerous forms, such as horses, chickens, birds, fans, fish, houses, weapons, shields, sunshades, pillows, and male and female humans. Another funerary piece, the magatama ("curved jewel"), became one of the symbols of the power of the imperial house.


Kofun haniwa soldier.

Much of the material culture of the Kofun period demonstrates that Japan at this time was in close political and economic contact with continental Asia, especially with the southern dynasties of China, via the countries of the Korean peninsula. Indeed, bronze mirrors cast from the same mould have been found on both sides of the Tsushima Strait. Irrigation, sericulture, and weaving were also brought to Japan by Chinese immigrants who are mentioned in the ancient Japanese histories.

Detail of horse chariots on a Chinese bronze mirror sent to Japan during the Kofun period (5th-6th century).

Among the many Korean immigrants who settled in Japan beginning in the 4th century, some came to be the progenitors of Japanese clans. According to Kojiki and Nihon Shoki, the oldest record of a Silla immigrant is Amenohiboko, a legendary prince of Silla who settled to Japan at the era of Emperor Suinin, perhaps around the 3rd or 4th century.

Emperor Suinin

The archaeological record, and ancient Chinese sources, indicate that the various tribes and chiefdom of Japan did not begin to coalesce into states until 300 AD, when large tombs began to appear. According to the history records in Japan (Nihon Shoki) and Korea (Samguk Sagi), Korean princes were sent to Japan as hostages. 

Sunday, 1 January 2017

The Roman Empire

The Roman Empire was the post-Roman Republic period of the ancient Roman civilization, characterized by government headed by emperors and large territorial holdings around the Mediterranean Sea in Europe, Africa and Asia. The 500-year-old republic which preceded it was severely destabilized in a series of civil wars and political conflict, during which Julius Caesar was appointed as perpetual dictator and then assassinated in 44 BC.

The construction of Coliseum started in 70 CE

Civil wars and executions continued, culminating in the victory of Octavian, Caesar's adopted son, over Mark Antony and Cleopatra at the Battle of Actium in 31 BC and the annexation of Egypt. Octavian's power was then unassailable and in 27 BC the Roman Senate formally granted him overarching power and the new title Augustus, effectively marking the end of the Roman Republic.

Wall painting (1st century AD) from Pompeii depicting a multigenerational banquet

The imperial period of Rome lasted approximately 1,500 years compared to the 500 years of the Republican era. The first two centuries of the empire's existence were a period of unprecedented political stability and prosperity known as the Pax Romana, or "Roman Peace".


The success of Augustus in establishing principles of dynastic succession was limited by his outliving a number of talented potential heirs. The Julio-Claudian dynasty lasted for four more emperors — Tiberius, Caligula, Claudius and Nero — before it yielded in 69 AD to the strife-torn Year of Four Emperors, from which Vespasian emerged as victor.

Vespasian

The suicide of emperor Nero, in 68, was followed by a brief period of civil war. Between June of 68 and December of 69, Rome witnessed the successive rise and fall of Galba, Otho, and Vitellius until the final accession of Vespasian, first of the Imperial Flavian dynasty, in July 69. The social, military and political upheavals of the period had Empire-wide repercussions, which included the outbreak of the Batavian rebellion.


Nero

Vespasian became the founder of the brief Flavian dynasty, to be followed by the Nerva–Antonine dynasty which produced the "Five Good Emperors": Nerva, Trajan, Hadrian, Antoninus Pius and the philosophically-inclined Marcus Aurelius.

Marcus Aurelius

In 212, during the reign of Caracalla, Roman citizenship was granted to all freeborn inhabitants of the empire. But despite this gesture of universality, the Severan dynasty(193 CE - 235 CE) was tumultuous — an emperor's reign was ended routinely by his murder or execution. It was the last lineage of the Principate founded by Augustus.

Caracalla

Following the collapse  Severan dynasty, the Roman Empire was engulfed by the Crisis of the Third Century, a period of invasions, civil strife, economic disorder, and plague. In defining historical epochs, this crisis is sometimes viewed as marking the transition from Classical Antiquity to Late Antiquity.


Crises of the Third Century in 235, initiating a fifty-year period in which there were at least thirty claimants to the title of Emperor, mostly prominent Roman army generals, who assumed imperial power over all or part of the Empire. Twenty-six men were officially accepted by the Roman Senate as emperor during this period, and thus became legitimate emperors.


Diocletian's reign(crowned 284 CE) brought the empire's most concerted effort against the perceived threat of Christianity, the "Great Persecution". He divided the empire into four regions, each ruled by a separate emperor, the Tetrarchy. Confident that he fixed the disorders that were plaguing Rome, he abdicated along with his co-emperor, and the Tetrarchy soon collapsed. The state of absolute monarchy that began with Diocletian endured until the fall of the Eastern Roman Empire in 1453.

Diocletian

Order was eventually restored by Constantine the Great, who became the first emperor(crowned 306 CE) to convert to Christianity, and who established Constantinople as the new capital of the eastern empire. During the decades of the Constantinian and Valentinian dynasties, the empire was divided along an east–west axis, with dual power centres in Constantinople and Rome.

Bronze statue of Constantine I in York, England, near the spot where he was proclaimed Augustus in 306.


The reign of Julian, who attempted to restore Classical Roman and Hellenistic religion, only briefly interrupted the succession of Christian emperors. Theodosius I, the last emperor to rule over both East and West, died in 395 AD after making Christianity the official religion of the empire. 

Theodosius I
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