There are some places that fascinate you, even though you haven’t got there.
Like I had mention on my earlier post, The Turkish Knight, I have a ‘fetishism’ on Mediterranean and Arab world. They are a part of the world that always haunted my mind, make me keep wondering and thinking about anything related to them. They are one of the oldest and earliest people who brought the first civilization on earth. The first cities that came in the middle of the desert, and so we all knew Mesopotamia. The people whose life and architecture depends on the Nile river water; The Egyptian. The culture that understand how is it to be ‘beautiful’ and reflected it in almost all of their work and craft; The Greeks. The kingdom whose territory and military are mightier than any of the modern nation nowadays; The Persian.
Mediterranean and Middle-East are the highest peak of an ancient civilization, alongside with India and China in the east. The world ‘ancient’ is used here, because they are considered as something that belong to the past. Their civilization used to be very sophisticated that we won’t find any other cities in the other part of the world which we could compare to them.
Egyptian, Greeks, Persians, Syrians, and Jews are already on top when the world was young. It was centuries later when Romans and Arabs took over the torch of the ‘old world’ from them.
There is one empire which I always forgot whenever I recalled them in my head. Simply because they tend to be left. It was The Byzantine Empire.
The Byzantines – in the medieval times – are the Catholic Greece, or like we all know now; The Catholic Orthodox Greece. It was the only European empire that survive in the medieval era, the era when western look up upon the Arabs world. It was the time when Baghdad rules the old world, and most of the European still living illiterate inside their castle.
The Byzantine were the brightest light that shines in the entire Europe. One of the reason why they were considered the brightest, simply because the other European still live in the Dark Ages. They were famous with their intricate and beautiful mosaic, the dome construction, the grandeur churches (they built the Hagia Sophia, the church that converted into mosque when the Turks conquest the main city).
The Byzantium city was founded in 667 BC. It was an ancient Greek city, named after its first king Byzas. In a 4th century, when the Rome became too big to handle, it divided themselves into two kingdoms: The West Rome and The Eastern Rome. The West Rome was covering all of the old Rome and the rest of the Europe, while The Eastern Rome was covering the eastern part i.e. Greece, Upper Egypt, and spot that called Anatolia, or nowadays as we all know became Turkey. The Eastern Rome was conceived in 322 AD by Constantinople, who became its Caesar, and so the Byzantines took his name for their capital city.
The Eastern Rome is dominated by Greeks. They talks in Greeks, read and write in Greeks, and they found their own catholic Greek version, a.k.a The Greek Catholic Orthodox. Some scholars speculate that this Greek Catholic Ortodoxy made the other European historian seems to ignore this people, because this Greek Catholic is considered as a ‘different version of Christianity’, a reason that seems bizarre to me.
The Byzantine is the only empire that imported silk from China, and made their own silk factory, thus make them the only silk distributors in the western world. These uniqueness and their ‘other’ kind of religion made them different from their neighbors. When the mighty Rome meets its end, the Byzantine stood still, and from that day, they become the only western civilization in the world… until the Turks conquered it in the 15th century.
The Ottoman Turks haunted Byzantine because they share borders. The other thing is because Byzantine is the only Catholic empire that survive when Muslim rules the world. They were not live in an era that would support them. Their big brother in the west (Rome) were already fallen, their ancient ancestors (Ancient Greek) were not powerful anymore. The Byzantine used to seek help to the ‘neutrals’ like Mongols, but it won’t make any big difference. After the long, tiresome battle, the Byzantine finally fell in 1453. Their fort wall can’t stand the Turks army. The Turks invaded the city, converted Hagia Sophia into mosque, and change the name of the capital city Constantinople, to Istanbul.
It was how Byzantine ended. And it was when the Turkey problems for their identity begins, or maybe, increased. Turkey found its place in Europe ever since, and fight it inside their own world.
Notes: Big thanks to Larry Gonick who retell this complicated Byzantine history to be much simpler.