Posted by Powee Celdran
I am once again back on blogging, and my first time to blog in 2015, and as I said I would continue my historical blogging especially about Byzantium. Once again, I am back discussing the grew powerful Byzantine Empire, which lasted for about 1000 years. This time the topic would not focus on everything about the Byzantines but mainly on parts of Byzantine culture. In Byzantine Greek culture, art, fashion, and architecture had an important part and these things of their from long before still live on today.
The Byzantine Empire was plainly the continued version of the old Roman Empire though a more developed version of it. Part of what the empire developed through the centuries was architecture. Throughout the centuries, architecture improved and more of Byzantine style buildings were built all over Constantinople, its imperial city, the new Rome, some of it were built beyond the city. Samples of Byzantine architecture can be found all over Constantinople (Istanbul) and in cities in Italy as it was for a time under the empire. Most of what they built though were churches but having their own form of architecture.
To describe Byzantine architecture simply, it usually consists of symmetrical blocks though with a lot of arches and arcades at the dies. Being inside a building of Byzantine architecture seems a lot more different, the interiors are quite massive with high ceilings though not such light comes in. Structures of Byzantine architecture were not designed with much light coming in through them but blocks out light leaving the indie to be cool and sometimes even stuffy with so much ornate things inside. Several arches were carved at the walls not much as entrances but for design. Above these buildings, especially churches were high and low domes. Larger churches or cathedrals had one major high dome with a late circumference surrounded by arcade windows for light to enter. The large one was supported by smaller size domes which had a semi-circular shape. The windows did not do much in bringing light but were mainly something to show colours. Most of these Byzantine architecture buildings though are churches found all over parts of Europe especial those that were once part of the Byzantine empire, some in Constantinople, some in Greece, and some in Italy. To easily identify something of Byzantine architecture, look for something made of more austere material and colour, having a round dome with jagged edges and arcades surrounding it, as well as arcades and arches at the side. To simplify it, Byzantine architecture is an advanced form of classical Roman architecture, however developing domes, circular structures, and supports.
Two panels above show samples of Byzantine fashion, the one above shows different types of Byzantine people like noblemen and women, a priest, and a guard. The lower one (my sketch) shows a sample of men and women’s fashion while the person on the right shows a sample of a Byzantine city guard and not an infantry soldier. In Byzantium, fashion played a really important part especially in the lives of the Greeks in Constantinople. Their fashion to make it simple is an improved form of Greek and Roman fashion having the same tunics and togas. However, the Byzantines improved simple Greek and Roman colours with more ornate colours and patterns even having gold and jewels attached to their togas. The materials for their outfits were not made from plain wool or cotton as the Greeks and Romans did, theirs was made of silk and embroidered with jewels. The Byzantines got silk for their outfits by trading with the far east, which was China as they found trade routes heading to China for silk. The Byzantines improved on the toga making it wider and more colorful with a set of patterns, under it was a tunic, a little tighter but with patterns too, both the tunic and toga were held up by a belt. The Byzantine fashion focused more on robes, everyone wore them especially priests having robes with simple patterns but wide and flowing, noblemen and noblewomen wore their robes with more jewels and gold, on their head they wore gold circlets with gems and their togas were clipped with large brooches. Both men and women though had similar styles.
The men wore tunics under and covered with a large cape with different patterns, the toga. The men wore belts with ornate design also holding their daggers. The women of Byzantium wore more jewellery at their head, arms, and around their necks, they also wore large togas with patterns covering most of them, under it was a tight dress with ornate patterns of gold and silver. The city guards too especially in Constantinople ha fashion as well, instead of just body armour, they wore coloured tunics under and over a large cape having patterns wrapping their padded-armour, they wore helmets or gold circlets and carried a few weapons such as swords or spears with shields too. Everyone’s hair in Byzantium ha to kept well and they had to be clean at all times and looking their best. In fact, those who wear barbaric outfits as the Germanic tribes wearing pelts, they were forced to leave the city and sent away as Constantinople was a sophisticated place where everyone dresses up and it would be inappropriate to look uncivilised. Overall, fashion had a large part in Byzantine culture, they even took it more seriously than fighting wars, this makes them a sophisticated civilisation in the Middle-ages.
Part of Byzantine architecture and Byzantine life was the arts. Artworks were made part of the architecture as excoriation and as something that made up the cities. In Byzantium, nothing was plain and colourless, almost everywhere there was something of art, which also explains their fashion and colourful mosaics. They had also developed different patterns, mostly symmetrical and a form of art, ins tea of paintings, a compilation of different tiles forming figures. Byzantine art was different in so much ways from Western European Medieval art as theirs was more detailed, more colourful, and precise. When it comes to art, the Byzantines took it precisely and did it with math and measurements, by placing it on walls and ceilings. Another toe of Byzantine art are diptychs, carvings from ivory, here they carved figures out of ivory so detailed and precise. For their art, the most important subjects were Christian figures, which is shown by seeing them especially in the walls and ceilings of Byzantium’s churches. Mosaics were the common form of art in Byzantium found almost everywhere and in many different forms. Figures on mosaics however do not show much emotion and perspective is less compared to Renaissance art though it is more extravagant lined with gold tiles. The style of mosaic art changed throughout the centuries of the empire, the earlier period did not show as much detail but more colour while in the late period, the detail was sharper but the colours a little faded. What Byzantine mosaic art often has is gold background surrounding icons of religious figures. Other forms of this art are carved ornaments on the walls and ceiling sod churches, made of gold and ivory; one of the best places to see Byzantine art is the Hagia Sophia in Istanbul and the San Vitale church in Ravenna. To describe Byzantine art, it is an improved version of earlier Roman art with more colours especially gold and even shinier, also a more detailed version of simple and dull Western Medieval art. The Byzantines too made fresco art but made the images look more detailed tan the west, they had also put some writings in their art.
Of course there was more to art in the life of those who lived in Byzantium’s empire especially for those who lived in Constantinople. For them, art, music, and literature together with wearing fashionable colour patterned clothes was part of their lifestyle. One of Byzantium’s entertainment forms is jousts in the city hippodrome, it was their way to entertain others in an action packed way rather than watching real fights like in Rome. The golden age of Byzantine literature, arts, and architecture was the Komneneian period (the Komnenos dynasty of emperors) in the 12th century, under emperors Alexios I and Manuel I, Byzantium improved more with the arts but declined in military strength. With all the arts, architecture, literature, and fashion, Constantinople was the melting pot of cultures, where different cultures from the east and west met. The negative part about Byzantium being too much into art and entertainment was that it drew the people to it more rather than making them defend their empire causing lands to be lost. After all, by having the advance arts as well as sciences, this made the Byzantine Empire the most advanced civilisation in Medieval times.
Now that’s all for now, watch out later for more of my Byzantium posts, next about the Byzantine military, hope you enjoy!