It’s one of the most successful empires in history, and yet there’s so much we don’t know about it. Or at least there’s so much that isn’t common knowledge, when it should be. The Byzantine Empire was strong, influential, and fascinating, and we should strive to learn as much about it as we can in order to understand how it rose and fell. Here are the facts you didn’t know about the Byzantine Empire.
- Historians only began to refer to it as the “Byzantine” Empire during the Renaissance, after the empire fell. In reality, it was simply the eastern half of the Roman Empire, which had split down the middle before the western half fell. In other words, the common notion that the Roman Empire collapsed in the fifth century AD is inherently false.
- The eastern half thrived for another thousands years–albeit under a different name imposed by historians later. It was the Roman Empire, however. Its residents called themselves Romans because they were Roman. So were the empire’s practices, principles, and traditions.
- Its name stems from an ancient Greek city called Byzantium after it was founded in 657 BC. Emperor Constantine I renamed the city Constantinople (because narcissism was always a thing) in 330 AD. It would become the new capital of the Eastern Roman Empire.
- The empire fell in 1453 when it was devastated by the Ottoman Empire. There’s always a bigger fish.
- The residents of the empire influenced modern cooking. They used rosemary to flavor lamb, and as far as we know they were the first to do so. They used saffron to cook as well.
- They paved the way for morbid obesity. Or the falling price of sugar did. The empire’s citizens definitely had a sweet tooth, and they loved rice pudding and a sugary dish called grouta. They used marmalade, jellies, fruit conserves, and rose sugar to make desserts just a little bit better.
- The diet was also made up of fish, which was easy to find. They ate caviar!
- They drank wine, but the beverage started to evolve to become more flavored. They even started to drink a number of beverages that led to the flavoring of alcoholic favorites today: absinthe and vermouth among them.
- They were the first to use eggplant, and citrus fruits like lemons and oranges in cooking.