What Is Jurisprudence And What Does It Have To Do With The Byzantine Empire?

Jurisprudence is not only a popular field of study, but is also represents a specific set of beliefs to which most of us unknowingly subscribe in some way or another. Can you imagine a nation without laws? Probably not. Laws are set into place for specific reasons. They help set a moral standard for the society living beneath them, they help the unwary discern between right and wrong, and they help determine punishment for those who are simply uncaring. Without law, many believe that anarchy would wreak havoc on us all. Those who study jurisprudence in depth wish to enhance their understanding of law and everything else under the umbrella of law: social behaviors guided by law, and legal reasoning, institutions, and systems.

This field of study has changed a great deal throughout time, and it’s no big surprise why.

In some developing areas of the world, laws and punishments are still archaic. In the more developed regions, most believe that laws should be intuitive and that punishments should be fair, just, and lack undue cruelty. It’s for this reason that the death penalty has been abolished in much of the so-called civilized world.

For those who wish to achieve a greater understanding of jurisprudence, a study of ancient civilizations is a must. They give us an accurate representation of how laws evolve over periods of time, and might even provide insight into how they could evolve in the future. There’s no better place to start than with the Byzantine Empire.

Many Byzantine customs and laws were assimilated from Rome. As Christianity became more and more prevalent throughout the Byzantine Empire, these laws changed as well. One of the reasons this era is so important to the present day is due to how we perceive, change, and inherit the laws of those who came before us. These civilizations gave us much of what we have today.

Justinian’s Code was the basis for much of the earliest Byzantine law, but the laws of the Byzantine Empire continued to change through the subsequent centuries. Even though these changes took place, the Western world was more enamored with Justinian’s Code. This set of laws was used by western scholars of jurisprudence, which is one reason why the veiled presence of these earlier laws is so apparent in contemporary jurisprudence.  

It should be noted that jurisprudence as a field of social science maintains several core beliefs. One of the most important relies on the concept of ancient natural law, or the assumption that any legislative branch must have limitations. Another focuses on neutrality and objectivity when determining the best course for legality. Limitations may or may not be necessary in such a system. The last core belief simply focuses on questioning what law does and how it functions–in addition to why it functions.

Instanbul Was Once Constantinople

Written back in 1953 by Jimmy Kennedy and Nat Simon and later performed as a cover single by the band They Might Be Giants, the song, “Istanbul (Not Constantinople)” is often remembered as a catchy ditty involving long names that drift back and forth between (you guessed it) Istanbul and Constantinople. The grueling fact is that this song actually reflects a dark history of the modern city of Istanbul in Turkey before it actually came to be known as such. Once again, you probably put together that it was once known as Constantinople, the great capital of the historic Byzantine empire.

Originally established as part of the Holy Roman Empire, the eastern and southeastern portions of the empire’s expanse were settled predominantly by Greeks (and very likely, tribes of Thracians before them). At the site in question, the settlement was initially known as Lygos – speculated as the site upon which the Thracians settled before the Greeks. The Greek government thus renamed the site Byzantium, later to become the name that reflected the whole of the empire. But, until that time, the city itself underwent a number of name changes while still under the rule of the Romans, including Augusta Antonina – in honor of the son of Emperor Septimius Severus – as well as New Rome, most likely to reflect the city’s influence within the eastern reaches of the empire. It also reflected Emperor Constantine’s efforts to rebuild and renovate the city. Historically speaking, the name New Rome also reflected the intrinsic rivalry between itself and the city of Rome located in modern-day Italy, particularly during a time called the Great Schism when the separation of the western and eastern empires had begun to take place due to a number of reasons, including socioeconomic and religious ones.

The city finally came to be known as Constantinople during the time of Emperor Theodosius II in the 5th century A.D. This was to honor its namesake, the earlier emperor Constantine the Great, who had established Constantinople as the eastern capital in the century prior. This name would be used to refer to the eastern capital until its separation from the Roman empire and throughout its history as the center of the Byzantine empire for the following thousand years. The city acquired a mass of nicknames in this time as well, including the “Queen City,” the “Reigning City” and even colloquially known just as “the City.”

Under the rule of Constantine Palaeologus, Constantinople suffered an attack and siege from Sultan Mehmed II and the Ottoman Turks in 1453. It would later come under Ottoman rule and submit to Islamic practices. Along with an internal transformation of the city’s culture, the Ottomans also renamed the city “Konstantiniyye,” in what is referred to as a calqued translation from Greek to Arabic, essentially meaning the same thing between the two languages. Under the rule of the Ottoman empire, this new city name would persist for another 470 years before being officially and permanently changed to Istanbul (meaning “into the city”) within the established Republic of Turkey in 1928.
The name Istanbul was actually a common way for Ottomans to refer to the city of Constantinople even before it was conquered by Sultan Mehmed II. It only became official after the First World War and when occupying Allied forces had withdrawn. Afterward, the Republic of Turkey was established in 1923, and only a few years later they adopted the Latin alphabet. Up until this point, the worldwide opinion was still to call the city “Constantinople,” but Turkey would soon insist upon formally addressing it as Istanbul.
And that’s why it’s Istanbul, not Constantinople.

What is the Komnenian Restoration?

The Byzantine Empire has a long and interesting history. Originally the Eastern Roman Empire, over time it became clear that as Rome and the Western part of the empire was in decline, the Eastern Empire and it’s capital city would carry on as their own strong empire, but they weren’t without their own struggles.

After a long period of struggles, Albany-like levels of corruption, and decline, The Byzantine Empire was at a place where it needed guidance and leadership to help rebuild back to a stronger and more stable empire. This is where the Komnenian Restoration comes into play, which spanned over three emperors and took place from around 1081 to about 1185.

Wholesale Recovery

Historians view the Komnenian Restoration as a time of major reformation and recovery in financial and military ways. This also led to a stronger economy along with the ability to reclaim lost territory and secure both old and new borders. Many of these changes started with many small important steps, or “minding the details,” that helped shore up a bad situation, and started building a strong foundation. This sometimes meant taking informal provincial properties that were working and formally codifying them while at other times new changes had to be made.

Alexios I 1081-1118

The empire had just suffered a devastating defeat at the hands of the Seljuk Turks, and the Empire was facing threats from every direction. Alexios started by stopping the habit of hiring expensive mercenaries, bankrupting the treasury, who then often failed to accomplish security on the borders while emptying the treasury.

Alexios reformed the practices of the Byzantine armies to create better soldiers, officers, and more discipline. While this was happening he was able to recognize when tribal threats were too great and he created alliances with other nomadic tribes to help defend the borders successfully. He re-established relationships with the West and successfully convinced the Pope to send Western European forces via crusades which helped the Empire capture lost over the past few centuries and would never have had a chance at capturing otherwise.

Alexios was willing to take desperate measures such as melting down church artifacts and selling church land to resurrect the treasury to a healthy state.

John II Komnenos 1118-1143

John continued the wise policies of Alexios and slowly re-gained more territory by using sieges, guerrilla warfare, and tactics that emphasized a slow steady pressure, avoiding large battles that could result in catastrophe and thus slowly wearing down Turkish held lands. He further encouraged professional training and arms for the army, helping to move them from heavy local militia based to professional soldiers able to hold their own. These slow incremental changes were the steady hand needed until his death.

Manuel Komnenos 1143-1180

Steady work continued as Manuel used the lessons from Alexios and John II to continue improving the Empire. Results were sometimes mixed as a crushing surprise victory over the Kingdom of Hungary made them a vassal state but then a major loss to the Turks made movement into the Middle East slower and more in doubt. However all in all this was a successful continuation of the Komnenian Restoration.

After a succession issue, Andronikos I would end up emperor, and mark the end of the Komnenian Restoration. Hated by the aristocracy, nobility, and alienating the West, a full out revolt and instability followed, leading to the end of Byzantine’s resurgence.

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The Roman Empire, when you count the existence of the Byzantine Empire, survived longer than any other empire on Earth, more than 20 centuries. According to one prominent British historian, the decline of the Empire started with the first century of Christianity and lasted well into the Renaissance era of Europe. While it left a very large footprint in civilization, there was not a unified historical record of the Empire until after the Empire fell for good at the hands of the Ottomans.

Pieces of the Roman Empire survived in math, science, medicine, politics, and philosophy, but there was no way to really know an account of the progress and ultimate demise of the Empire. Up until late in the 18th century, much of what happened to the Roman Empire was a mystery – it was hard to know what exactly happened and why.

Edward Gibbon set out to describe it with his most well-known historical work called The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. Gibbon wrote his six-volume work in the 1770s and 1780s, with volumes published between 1776 and 1790. A British historian who was already of some repute, gained international notoriety from his work about the fall of the Romans, using primary and original source material, which was unusual for the time but soon became a model by which other historians since have been using.

Gibbon had a checkered history, being sick through most of his childhood (even almost dying several times), then becoming heavily involved in French society for a number of years as his health improved, then spending years back in England working on his Roman historical work. He tended to write very objectively and use original or primary sources for much of his information, but he seemed to be consistent with many people of the time – anti-religious, anti-Christian, Anti-Catholic – as he wrote of the Christianity-heavy Dark Ages as an era of superstition.

This was common in the Enlightenment of Gibbon’s time, when it was called the “age of reason” and rational thought. It is possible that that bias may have permeated his Roman history tracts, as he wrote that the decline and fall of the Roman (and Byzantine) Empire could be traced to two main causes:

  1. The acceptance and state sanctioning of Christianity and its inherent pacifism; and
  2. The “outsourcing” of its mercenaries.

Gibbon hypothesized that Romans and Byzantines had gradually become weak as a people and did not adhere to their initial militant and self-determining spirit, instead being willing to farm out all their military mercenary work to others – some of which did not have the same mission or goals as the Romans – and those mercenaries became such a part of the fabric of the Empire that they rotted the Empire from the inside, leaving the Romans themselves as passive and not willing to work or sacrifice for the protection of their community or culture.

As for Christianity, Gibbon said that the pacifism espoused by Christianity as it spread through the Empire further weakened the Romans and their militaristic might, and by the time the Empire was being besieged on all sides, especially by the Turks and the Muslims, the Roman people didn’t seem to have the stomach for fighting.

His work was very detailed for the time and was written in such a way that it set the standard for all future historical works regardless of the topic. Many American historians today use Gibbon as a model for their work, whether they are writing about Jamestown, the Civil War or Seabiscuit.


Do dynasties really exist these days?

Other than the Royal Family in some European countries (including England, which has existed from the start of the United Kingdom), there is talk of what constitutes a dynasty.

The word is mentioned a lot in sports – we’re I the idle of the Patriots dynasty in the NFL, where a team wins a number of championships in a small amount of time; there was the Michael Jordan/Chicago Bulls dynasty with six NBA titles in eight years; the North Dakota State dynasty, with five consecutive college-football national championships.

There are some in politics that is claimed, such as the Bush dynasty, where George H.W. and George W. Bush served as president and vice president of the United States for 20 of 28 years. But can there be a dynasty within an Empire?

In Byzantium, there certainly was – called the Macedonian Dynasty.

The Macedonian Dynasty was a period of rule within the Byzantine Empire leadership, when a non-Roman, no-Greek ruler started a bloodline of rulers that lasted nearly 200 years, from the 9th century A.D. into the 11th century. The patriarch of the dynasty was the emperor known as Basil I the Macedonian and carried through 16 emperors and empresses, with one coming to rule and two different times. Basil I’s ethnic origin couldn’t be definitively determined, but it was believed he was either Armenian or Slavic. What was known was that he has Armenians in many key positions within his leadership.

The dynasty was strictly within Basil’s family bloodline, with children and grandchildren rising to power upon deaths or assassination (Nikephoros II in 969; Romanos III in 1034). Basil I ruled the Empire for 19 years before dying in a hunting accident, when the dynastic throne was handed down to his son, Leo VI the Wise in 886 when the boy was 20 years of age. He ruled for 26 years, but he was not the longest-tenured ruler in the dynasty.

Two rulers had reigns of more than 40 years: Constantine VII, son of Leo VI, ruled for 46 years, from 913 to 959 (taking the throne just a year after his father’s death, after Alexander III), then Basil II ruled for 49 years, from 976 to 1025, taking over at age 18 for father Romanos II. The one who served two “terms” was empress Theodora, who spent one year as co-empress with sister Zoe in 1042, then was restored to empress on her own in 1055 following the death of Zoe’s third husband, Constantine IX, and she ruled until her death in 1056.

The dynasty ended with Theodora, as she had no heirs, and picked Michael VI to rule after her. He reigned for one year before being deposed in 1057 and entering the monastery. Theodora was one of two empresses during the Dynasty, as Zoe (daughter of Constantine VIII) ruled for 22 years until her death in 1050.

The Macedonian Dynasty was considered the time of the Byzantine Empire’s greatest expanse, and thus arguably a peak period in the history of the Empire. Nearly two centuries of rule made an impact on Byzantium and moved it forward, but it was the bridge toward the fall of the Empire four centuries later.

Byzantine Symbols

The Byzantine Empire, which was basically the Eastern Roman Empire, existed for about 10 centuries longer than the Roman Empire, and thus had an opportunity to make a long-lasting impression on culture, arts, sciences and philosophy through the Middle Ages and into the Renaissance period in Europe, according to personal injury lawyer in Dallas.

As with other empires, Byzantium developed and curated some various symbols and insignia that were used on battle flags, royal robes and other clothing, as well as stool pillows or other accoutrements of the Empire.

Not many of the insignias were unique to Byzantium. One could say that a couple of the more prominent symbols were “stolen” from elsewhere. We’ll take a look at these prominent insignias that were pinned to Byzantium for the rest of history.

The Cross

Known as a tetra grammatic cross, the Byzantine cross was seen on a lot of battle flags and flags that flew over the Empire in various locations.  While not necessarily a “national flag,” the gold or silver cross that bisected the flag and had four “beta” (Greek letter) in each red field in the corners was a prominent look for much of the Empire’s existence.

The cross was not originated in Byzantium, as the cross shape on the flag (which is similar to what you might find on present-day national flags like England, the Dominican Republic, and the United Kingdom) was seen on several Roman Empire flags and banners earlier than the 6th century.

The insignia was very prominent toward the end of the Empire in the 14th and 15th centuries, but it had some roots dating back to the early days of the Roman Empire. The meaning of the cross has been a subject of much debate, as even modern-day scholars can’t seem to agree.

Double-headed Eagle

The eagle symbol, in general, was prominent in the Roman and the Byzantine Empire and was representing power and dominion in both nations. At the time of the breakup of the Roman Empire and the rise of the Byzantine out of Constantinople, the single-headed eagle was prominent, but the Byzantine Empire adopted the double-headed eagle later on, and it was very prominent in the latter days of the Empire.

It is said that in Byzantium the double-headed eagle refers to the two “sides” of the Empire around Constantinople – Europe and the Near East (western Asia). The insignia started to be seen regularly in the 11th century in various artworks, and it wasn’t known to be in connection with the Empire or its leadership until at least a century later. Though the double-headed eagle has remained as a prominent symbol, it’s a bit misleading that it was an actual insignia of Byzantium.

Not only was it late to the Byzantine party yet claimed to be a genuinely Byzantine insignia, it’s supposedly not originally from Byzantium, but rather noted on some rock-carvings from the Hittite era (which is Biblical times, thousands of years before Byzantium).

Byzantium was an important aspect of world history, serving as a bridge from the Roman Empire to the Renaissance in Europe. However, it can be said that Byzantium was more important in transitioning Roman and Greek innovations into more modern times, rather than coming up with much originality – and this can be applied as well to Imperial insignia which didn’t originate in the Empire, but instead was taken from earlier applications.

Can the Bristol Royal Infirmary Chapel Be Saved From Demolition?

In this day and age, it seems we ignore the little insights that history has to offer. We throw away art, fail to teach relevant stories about the past, and we even knock down important works of architecture that offer us a teasing glance into worlds that are now long gone. Bristol, a city in the United Kingdom, plans to demolish the Bristol Royal Infirmary (BRI) Chapel in order to free up enough space for 715 flats for students to use. This chapel happens to be the last surviving piece of the Bristol Byzantine architectural style, and so a campaign has been launched to save it.

The architectural style took inspiration from Italian gothic, Roman, and local aesthetic influences of the time period. SC Fripp was the architect behind its construction in 1859, which itself marked the very beginning stages of this architectural era.

Why the city’s government hasn’t already spared the building from demolition and abandoned what many see as an unnecessary new project for living space is in question. Flats can always be built elsewhere. Why isn’t architecture such as the BRI Chapel considered important enough to preserve? The past is part of the city’s charm, and adds to centuries of culture.

The architectural style isn’t all the building has to offer. There are a number of memorials dedicated to World War I on site, and a stained glass window decorating not only the soldiers but the nurses who died in 1911. Architecture is one thing that a lot of people might not mind seeing thrown away in order to embrace the new, but bypassing remembrance of fallen soldiers is a different thing entirely.

Part of the reason the building is still slated for demolition is bureaucracy. Historic England is in charge of deciding whether or not to protect old forms of architecture or allow their destruction. Not long ago, a structure built on Small Street was graced with a ceiling around 400 years old. Conservations called upon Historic England to intervene, just as they have in the case of the BRI Chapel. Builders demolished it a single day before the organization had planned to inspect the building.

Timing, it seems, is everything.

There was an earlier campaign aimed at preserving the entire BRI building instead of just the chapel, but it failed. Those who inspected the rest of the building decided that the interior had been altered too much to fall under historical protection. The BRI has not been altered, and so there is still a chance it might be saved from demolition.

Even so, the deadline for doing so is approaching fast. Historic England has only until council planners make their final decision on whether or not to accept the application for demolition in November.

Common Byzantine Misconceptions That Everyone Should Know About

Apparently, there are a number of individuals running around out there claiming to be descended from the Byzantine royal line. If you know or hear of anyone who says they’re a member of the Palaiologos House, run away quickly. Or contact a psychiatrist–whichever you’re more comfortable with. We know that there isn’t any documented evidence for any such descendants, and so we can quickly dismiss the common misconception that they exist. Here are a few other common Byzantine misconceptions that everyone should know about.

There are two things you’ve probably heard about Emperor Constantine. He grew up in Greece, and so neither should be a big surprise. First, it is well documented that he was known as a Greek hero. As for the second thing, however, it is commonly said that he was a man who would go to any length to defend the Orthodox faith. That isn’t quite as true. There’s nothing to suggest that any of his actions were specifically meant to lend aid to such a cause.

When we learn about eunuchs in the Byzantine Empire, we might be left a bit confused as to their role. They did a little bit of everything. One eunuch might be a well-respected priest or wartime general, while another might transport goods or information for sale. Even though eunuchs were a big part of the empire, they were actually illegally made. Castration was forbidden. Some confusion stems from their part in the church. Although the church forbade their use as sex slaves, it wasn’t unheard of. It seems that the church’s problem with sexual lust has been around for quite a while. Calm down, no need to call a criminal defense lawyer Phoenix

The ancient civilization’s people had a lot in common with the modern-day American. Although the empire often went to war in other parts of the world, its own people often rioted. This didn’t necessarily happen because of unrest as a result of societal problems like we tend to believe. Instead, it happened because someone’s chariot racing team came in last place. Some of these periods of unrest escalated far beyond their meager beginnings, and not all of them occurred for such dumb reasons.

When we think of the color purple, a lot of us think of Roman emperors and senators. Purple dye was extremely expensive because of its rarity in the ancient world, and so only the most prestigious individuals could hope to acquire it. This trend continued into the Byzantine era, so much so that one emperor decided to build a room of purple walls. Imperial children who were born inside were called “porphyrogennetos” or the purple-born.

All About Byzantine Food

When we think of foreign dishes, our minds are firmly rooted in the present. We very rarely consider the past as a template for new cuisine choices, and even when we do it’s hard to find good sources of information. How did ancient civilizations prepare food? Was it tasty? Was it healthy? What would the nutritionists of today think if they were to sample a Byzantine platter, for example? Believe it or not, we do have a few ideas of what you might expect if you had a seat at an ancient Byzantine table during supper. Here’s everything you need to know about Byzantine food.

You might think that people in the ancient world had less variety available to them, and for some of the lower classes that may ring true. The more wealth you had, the more ingredients you had to cook with. Local dishes weren’t the only ones you might hope to eat, either. These ancient peoples used local waterways to transport goods from one place to the next, and so they had more to work with than you’d imagine. The variety available to the Byzantines was greater than that available to the Greeks or Romans. In particular, Byzantine people often didn’t bother cooking herbs and vegetables. Instead, they ate a lot of their food raw.

When meat was available, it might come in the form of lamb, pork, chicken, gazelle or donkey. If you’ve never had a gazelle or donkey, then you haven’t lived in the ancient world. Like most cultures during ancient eras, they ate a lot of fish, and fish was plentiful. Ancient Romans used garum, or fish sauce, to flavor much of the foods they ate. The Byzantines did the same.

The Byzantines were the first we know of to use ginger or nutmeg for cooking. Prior to this age, these kinds of spices were only used as healing devices. In particular, they would puree vegetables like carrots and parsnips, and then mash in chopped ginger, cloves, and honey in order to create a tasty meal. They ate eggs. They ate cake. They used wine to cook. A lot of what they did, we continue to do today.

Although we can find quite a few references to Byzantine food and cooking in the historical documents that have been translated, the people of the time period did not create entire cookbooks. Because of this, it’s a lot more difficult to come by entire recipes. Instead, culinary experts from around the globe have had to resort to finding lists of ingredients, manifests of goods and traded materials, etc. Sometimes tracing the routes of merchants and travelers was a good way to find a new recipe. Even so, we still know a lot less than we would like to.

What Did People in the Byzantine Empire Wear

As with many other aspects of society, the early stages of the Byzantine empire mimicked their Roman counterparts in the style of dress as well, though the Byzantines eventually adapted and adopted styles unto themselves. In the beginning, however, togas were very popular in the upper classes as formal or official dress. Often, one could denote a citizen’s class simply by the splendor of their fashion. The wealthy lawyers tended to dress in woven silks and in elaborate patterns with embroidery, while the lower classes tended toward resist-dyed and printed fabrics. Often, the poor would have to settle for only a few select pieces of clothing through their life times, as clothing within the empire was rather expensive for lower classes according to law firm practice management software.

By the time Justinian came into power, however, Byzantine fashion was altered drastically. Rather than sporting togas like their Roman brethren, Byzantine citizens now resorted to clothing called tunica, worn similar to a modern-day shirt with the fabric pinned over the shoulder. This new form of dress was worn by both men and women, and it was often worn in a similar fashion to undergarments with other garments typically worn over it, the most common of these called the dalmatica.

Throughout the time of Justinian’s rule, the chlamys (a semicircular cloak) was often worn by the upper classes with the length varying between the hips and falling all the way to the ankles. Along with the chlamys, those within the Senate would sport a tablion, a colored panel across chest or midriff. This was often adorned in certain colors and jewels to denote rank even among the senatorial class.

Women within the Byzantine empire tended to dress more often with modesty in mind. Their clothing was simply designed, most often only to cover a woman’s body almost entirely in any state, even through pregnancy. Some women at court were also adorned with bells as accessories, sometimes with bell-hooks to support their skirt. Women also tended toward wearing head-cloths and veils to cover their hair. Some descriptions also allude to women veiling their faces as well as their hair, though this not often seen in artistic depictions. It is possible to conclude that women outside higher social circles went even more well-wrapped than women of court. It is also interesting to note that these sources are dated to a time before the establishment of Islam.

Footwear was the most diverse form of clothing in the Byzantine empire. While sandals and slippers were widely popular among the lower classes, the military often wore boots (at separate times, either laced around the calf and leg or covering up to the knee entirely). Even rarer was the use of actual shoes, reserved solely for the upper classes and even further denoted by color. Green symbolized the protovestiarios, a high position at Byzantine court – often reserved for eunuchs. Blue denoted a sebastokrator, a senior court title that also referred to rulers within the Byzantine sphere of influence, as a measure of subordination to the Emperor. And red was reserved for the Emperor himself.

At one point in Byzantine history, there were even special forms of dress for court during various occasions, such as the name-day of the Emperor. Often, groups of officials would dress in blue and white while other groups dressed in red and green while they danced. These originally to denote the four popular factions during the chariot races, later simplified to the Blues and Greens. However, as heavy military stress came to bear on the Byzantine empire, this ceremonial tradition was utilized less and less until it was completely done away with after Constantinople’s capture during the Fourth Crussade.

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