Ellopos Blog

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The Fall of Byzantium, I – The Identity of Byzantium


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A visitor at Elpenor’s Forum suggested a new Russian documentary about Byzantium. The film is in Russian, but thanks to the same visitor, we are given a link to the script translated in English. I didn’t see the whole film, but I read the script. Both the film (so far as I saw) and the script are interesting.

Starting, the makers of this effort remind us about the identity of Byzantium:

Constantinople, six centuries ago was the capital city of what was without exaggeration one of the greatest civilizations in world history – the Byzantine Empire.

“A rule by law, something we now take for granted, was created here, based upon the Roman codes, in Byzantium, 1500 years ago. A legal system which was to become the basic foundation of all types of laws in most modern governments was the monumental creation of Byzantine jurisprudence during the reign of Emperor Justinian.

“The system of elementary and higher education first developed in Byzantium; it was here, in the fifth century, that the first university appeared.

“The most stable financial system in the history of mankind was created in Byzantium, and existed in a nearly unaltered form for over one thousand years.

“Modern diplomacy with its basic principles, rules of conduct, and etiquette was created and refined here, in Byzantium.

“Byzantine engineering and architectural arts were unrivalled. Even today, such famous works by Byzantine masters as the domes of the Hagia Sophia amaze the world with their technological perfection.

“No other empire in human history lasted as long as Byzantium. It existed for 1123 years… During its height, Byzantium was home to one sixth of the entire world population. The Empire stretched from Gibraltar to the Euphrates and Arabia. It encompassed the territories of modern Greece and Turkey, Israel and Egypt, Bulgaria, Serbia and Albania, Tunis, Algiers and Morocco, part of Italy, Spain, and Portugal. There were around one thousand cities in Byzantium – nearly as many as in modern Russia.

“The capital city’s incalculable wealth, its beauty and elegance, amazed all the European peoples, who were still barbarians at the time when the Byzantine Empire was in its apogee. One can only imagine — indeed, history records it as such — how crude, ignorant Scandinavians, Germans, Franks, and Anglo-Saxons, whose chief occupation at the time was primitive sacking and pillage, after arriving from some town like Paris or London (which had populations of some tens of thousands) to this megalopolis of millions, a city of enlightened citizens, scholars, and elegantly dressed youths crowding imperial universities, dreamt of only one thing: invading and robbing, robbing and invading.

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