Byzantrivia

da hag

Like most people, I come home after a long work day with just one thought in mind: researchin’ facts about the Byzantine Empire.

Here’s what’s up:

  • The Byzantine Empire was a large and powerful successor state to the Roman Empire, and its people considered themselves Romans. The term “Byzantine Empire” was a later term invented by historians.
  • The capital was Constantinople (a.k.a. Byzantium (a.k.a. Istanbul)), named after Emperor Constantine, who moved the capital there from Rome. Because when you’re the friggin’ Emperor, you can totally do that.
  • The Empire lasted a thousand years, from the fall of the Western Roman Empire in 476 AD to the fall of Constantinople in 1453.
  • Constantinople itself didn’t have much fresh water, so they had to build a ten-mile aqueduct to the nearest major source. This made them vulnerable to attack in spite of their giant city walls.
  • Surprise surprise, the Empire was a heavily patriarchal society. Infertility was considered shameful for women, and they wore amulets to protect themselves from the infertility demoness Gylou.
  • The Byzantine military used the mysterious substance known as Greek fire. They even made grenades by pouring the stuff into ceramic pots.
  • Eunuchs were a tricky subject. The Church condemned castration, but approved of the (supposed) result: a lack of sexual drive or personal ambition.
  • Only half of infants survived the first few years of life. Even among those who did, most adults didn’t make it past 35, with childbirth in particular taking a heavy toll. Consequently, marriages often came in the early teens.
  • The photo above is the Empire’s main church, the Hagia Sophia (later converted into a mosque, and still standing today as a museum). If you don’t think that’s pretty much the sweetest thing ever, well, I don’t know what to tell you.
  • Half a million people lived in Constantinople at its peak, making it roughly the size of, uh, Albuquerque. What can I say, cities were smaller back then.
  • Byzantine doctors believed many female ailments were caused by the so-called “wandering womb”:

    In the middle of the flanks of women lies the womb…closely resembling an animal; for it is moved of itself hither and thither in the flanks…in a word, it is altogether erratic. It delights also in fragrant smells, and advances towards them; and it has an aversion to fetid smells, and flees from them; and, on the whole, the womb is like an animal within an animal.

    Oh yeah. That was a real thing in history.

  • The national symbol was a two-headed eagle. No word on the internal locomotion of female eagle organs.

That’s all for today. If you have any Byzantine Empire facts THEN LET’S SHARE THAT SWEET KNOWLEDGE BECAUSE LEARNING IS BETTER TOGETHER OKAY

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3 responses to “Byzantrivia

  1. Nice – short and to the point. I came across a few of these facts while reading Dan Brown’s Inferno,

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