Post-classical history

Picture Section

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1. Mount Athos on the Chalkidike peninsula, northern Greece, from the sea, the site of numerous Byzantine monasteries from the ninth century onwards.

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2. St Catherine’s monastery, Mount Sinai, Egypt, built by Justinian in the mid sixth century. The enclosure protects the Burning Bush, which had attracted Christian monks as early as the fourth century.

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3. Land walls of Constantinople, a triple line of defence completed in 413 under Theodosius II, from the west, showing the moat (now filled) and outer wall, the middle wall with towers and the inner wall with taller towers.

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4. The walls of the citadel of Thessalonike, probably constructed in the mid fifth century, with over twenty gates and a hundred towers, from the north.

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5. The Aqueduct of Valens, inaugurated in 373, central Constantinople (photograph taken in 1966 during the construction of the underpass at Saraçhane).

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6. The base of the obelisk of Theodosius I in the Hippodrome, Constantinople, south side, showing the emperor and his sons seated in the imperial box, flanked by senators and soldiers, receiving tribute from kneeling barbarians, erected in 390.

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7. Silk roundel (22cm × 19cm), probably from Syria or Egypt, of mounted Amazons hunting leopards, late seventh to eighth century. It reflects the persistence of secular and mythical subjects woven on silks in the Christian world of Byzantium.

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8. Lead seal of Synetos and Niketas, general kommerkiarioi of Koloneia, Kamacha and Fourth Armenia during the reign of Anastasios II (713–15). The emperor is shown standing on the front (left) with the titles of the officials on the back (right).

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9. Clay pilgrim’s flask (ampulla), with St Menas standing between his two camels, probably from Egypt, sixth or seventh century.

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10. Frontispiece of the Bible of Leo, made in Constantinople, c. 940, showing Leo presenting his Bible to the Virgin, who in turn gestures to the figure of Christ. Leo’s beardless face and childish fair hair indicate that he was a eunuch, a fact confirmed by the titles noted in the inscription beside him: patrikios (of patrician status), sakellarios (treasurer) and praipositos (major-domo of the palace). The inscription on the frame is an epigram Leo composed, which compares his humble offering with that of monks who offer their souls to the Virgin.

11. Gold coins all from the mint of Constantinople.

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11a. Justinian II (685–95): solidus with a portrait of Christ, bearded and with long hair on the front (left), and of the emperor standing and holding a cross on the back (right).

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11b. Justinian II (second reign, 705–11): solidus with a portrait of the youthful Christ with short curly hair on the front (left) and of the emperor and his young son Tiberios holding a cross on the back (right).

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11c. The Empress Irene (797–802): solidus with her own portrait on both front and back, in marked contrast to normal imperial coins.

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11d. Constantine VII (945–59): solidus with a portrait of Christ on the front (left) and of the emperor holding an orb and a cross on the back (right).

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12. Karanlik Kilise, Cappadocia, Turkey, a rock-cut church of the eleventh/twelfth century. The volcanic tufa of this region allows churches, monasteries and houses to be excavated, creating underground structures that are warm in winter and cool in summer.

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13. Karanlik Kilise, Cappadocia, Turkey, interior fresco of the Last Supper showing Christ with the Apostles and two-pronged fork, twelfth century.

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14. Tenth-century ivory plaque of Christ crowning Otto II and Theophano, to mark their wedding in 972, with inscriptions in Latin and Greek that identify the two figures. The smaller figure kneeling at Christ’s feet below Otto’s stool is John Philagathos, who begs Christ to help him with the familiar Greek formula, ‘Lord help thy servant’. He may have commissioned the plaque.

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15. Two miniatures from the Khludov Psalter, mid ninth century, illustrating Psalm 68 (left; folio 67r), with Jews at the crucifixion likened to iconoclasts whitewashing an icon of Christ, and Psalm 52 (right; folio 51v), with St Peter trampling on Simon Magus, the first heretic, while the iconophile Patriarch Nikephoros tramples on John Grammatikos, the iconoclast heretic. The heretics’ love of money is represented by a sack of gold coins.

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16. The sea view of Hagia Sophia, the Great Church of Constantinople dedicated by Justinian in 537, showing the eastern apse and the central dome.

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17. Mosaic of Christ flanked by Emperor Constantine IX and Empress Zoe, from the gallery of Hagia Sophia. Originally, Zoe’s previous husbands had been depicted. In June 1042, when she married Constantine, her third husband, the inscription identifying him was changed and all three faces were reset. Constantine presents a bag of gold to Christ, and Zoe holds a scroll with her husband’s name: Konstantinos, Emperor of the Romans, faithful in Christ.

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18. Interior of Hagia Sophia showing the east end and the dome, with Muslim invocations on the shields hung at the level of the galleries, where the imperial mosaics are just visible. Above these the pendentives, decorated with sixth-century mosaics of seraphim (winged creatures with faces), support the dome from the four corners of the base.

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19. Mosaic panel from the church of San Vitale, Ravenna, dedicated in 547, showing Theodora and her ladies-in-waiting. While the empress wears her formal crown, jewelled collar and purple cloak, the silk dresses, jewellery and red shoes of her companions reflect elegant court style.

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20. Mosaic panel from the church of San Vitale, Ravenna, showing Justinian and Bishop Maximian, who completed the building in 547, with priests and soldiers.

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21. Icon of Christ from the Holy Monastery of St Catherine’s, Mount Sinai, painted in encaustic on wood (85cm × 45cm), sixth or seventh century. Christ as Pantokrator, the ‘Ruler of All’, is shown in an architectural setting, holding a thick Gospel book with jewelled covers and raising his hand in blessing. The asymmetrical treatment may reflect theological definitions of his two natures, human and divine: one eye appears to judge while the other is more forgiving.

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22a. Gold coin of Constantine I (306–37) with a Victory on the back (right) minted at Nikomedeia (diameter 21mm, weight 4.5 gr).

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22b. Gold coin of Basil II (976–1025) with a portrait of Christ on the front (left) and Basil and Constantine holding a cross (right) minted in Constantinople (diameter 21.5mm, weight 4.38 gr). Byzantium preserved a gold coinage of reliable fineness over 700 years.

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23. Chalice of Romanos II, sardonyx, gold, cloisonné enamel plaques, with representations of Christ and saints, and pearl decoration, c. 960. This is the type of Byzantine luxury gift sent to foreign powers. It might have formed part of the loot taken to Venice after the sack of Constantinople in 1204.

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24. A sixth- or seventh-century earring made of gold decorated with semi-precious stones on nine loops that hang from a circular frame of notched gold wire enclosing two peacocks flanking a monogram with the letters N A E T O (probably a family name, not deciphered). The suspension loop is missing.

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25. ‘Greek fire’ from the manuscript of John Skylitzes’ Chronicle, probably made in Sicily in the twelfth or thirteenth century. The caption for the image reads, ‘The fleet of the Romans setting on fire the fleet of the enemies’, and shows the Byzantine mechanism of the siphon and its projection of burning liquid.

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26. Mosaic of Theodore Metochites from the Chora monastery in Constantinople, restored by him between 1316–21. He is identified by the inscription on the left as the founder and chief minister, logothetes tou genikou. Wearing his court costume and turban, he presents the church to Christ. The central inscription identifies the church as ‘the dwelling place of the living’.

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27. The ‘Triumph of Orthodoxy’, an icon painted in Constantinople, c. 1400 (39cm × 31cm). It is a copy of an earlier icon that commemorated the restoration of icon veneration in 843. On the upper level, Empress Theodora and her young son Michael III (left) and Patriarch Methodios and priests (right) flank an image of the Virgin and Child. Below, a group of iconophile martyrs and holy figures, including the fictitious nun Theodosia (bottom left) carrying a cross and an icon.

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28. Frontispiece of the Psalter of Basil II (976–1025), probably painted in c. 1000 in Constantinople. The emperor is shown blessed by God, crowned and armed by the archangels and surrounded by military saints. Below him, courtiers or defeated enemies fall prostrate at his feet.

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29. The west front of San Marco, Venice, completed in the twelfth century, largely in Byzantine style. The horses (see below) stand on plinths above the central door.

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30. Two of the four ancient classical bronze horses brought to Constantinople probably by Theodosius and set up over the entrance to the Hippodrome, and then taken by the Venetians after 1204 and erected on the west front of San Marco.

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32. The poor widow appeals to Emperor Theophilos while he rides out to the Palace of Blachernai. An illustration from the Chronicle of John Skylitzes probably made in the twelfth or thirteenth century in Sicily. The emperor shown with a halo is identified by an inscription, as is the Palace. The widow is one of two women presenting their petitions.

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31. The monastery of Hosios Loukas, Steiris, central Greece, eleventh century, with the domes of the two adjacent churches: the earlier foundation dedicated to St Barbara and the main church enriched with mosaic and marble decoration.

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33. The Chora monastery in the north-west corner of Constantinople, in a photograph taken in the early twentieth century. Founded in the sixth century, the buildings were restored, expanded and redecorated by Theodore Metochites in 1316–21.

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34. The monastic church at Daphni, central Greece, dedicated to the Mother of God. Founded in the late eleventh century, it was extended with a Gothic exonarthex and cloister by Cistercian monks (1207–11) and remained under Latin control until the Ottoman conquest of 1458.

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35. Exterior of the church of the Virgin Paregoritissa at Arta, constructed by the Despot Nikephoros I Komnenos Doukas in c. 1290.

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36. Interior of the church, showing the mosaic of Christ Pantokrator in the central dome.

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38. Illustration from a Commentary on the Book of Job, copied by Manuel Tzykandeles in 1362, probably in Mistras, depicting four people in a rural setting observed by Christ. The letters between the two couples refer to chapter 27 of Job’s tribulations, when he defends his own faith in God: ‘Men shall clap their hands at him and hiss him out of his place.’ The hats, cowl, long-sleeved tunic and the woman’s dress suggest clothes worn at the time of painting.

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37. View of the castle of Mistras, founded by William II Villehardouin in 1247, with buildings of the late Byzantine city on the slopes of Mount Taygetos.

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39. John VI Kantakouzenos presiding at the Church Council of 1351 that condemned the anti-hesychast writings of Barlaam of Calabria and others. He is surrounded by four bishops (Kallistos, Patriarch of Constantinople, Philotheos Kokkinos of Herakleia, Gregory Palamas of Thessalonike and Arsenios of Kyzikos), monks, soldiers and courtiers. One of the rare pictures of Byzantine church councils.

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40. Manuel II Palaiologos and his wife Helena blessed by the Mother of God, with their three children, the porphyrogennetoi, John, Theodore and Andronikos. They all wear their imperial costumes and hold crosses. The image occurs in the manuscript of the writings of Pseudo-Dionysus, copied for King Charles VI of France, which Manuel Chrysoloras presented in the emperor’s name to the monastery of St Denis, north of Paris, in 1408.

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41. ‘Making Lead’, a page from an Arabic translation of the pharmaceutical treaty of Dioscorides, De materia medica, copied in 1224 by the scribe ‘Abd Allah ibn al-Fadl. Many Greek copies of this famous text have annotations in Arabic, indicating that they were read in Muslim countries, such as the copy that Romanos II sent to the Caliph of Cordoba in the tenth century.

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