Posted by Powee Celdran
Welcome back to the Byzantium Blogger! For now, I would be once again taking a break from doing long posts about history such as my alternate history stories and their follow-ups by doing another interactive one. Now this article which is more or less a break from my usual posts will be one that will basically just cover interviews with other fellow Byzantine history enthusiasts and content creators like myself. This article will thus basically not be so much anymore about Byzantine history and historical figures from the Byzantine Empire but rather about marketing the rather obscure topic of Byzantine history. Since I have written about the subject matter of Byzantine history so many times in previous articles, it is now about time to step back into the real world and not only look at the history of Byzantium but to know how this interesting although very much unknown history can be popularized to the rest of the world. This article now will discuss marketing Byzantine history by interviewing 3 other Byzantine history enthusiasts and content creators which I follow as well whereas they would give their own insights about how to market Byzantine history and if they think it has the potential to be something popular in the future the way other periods of history are like Ancient Greece, Ancient Rome, or Medieval Europe. To put it short, Byzantine history no matter how interesting it is still does not get as much attention as these other periods of history I just mentioned, or if the subject matter of Byzantine history is known then usually it is only known among scholars and historians that specialize in the field, or rather people would just know very little about it like simply the Hagia Sophia, Constantinople, or Emperor Justinian the Great. Therefore, this article aims to explain why and how it can be as popular as these said historical periods- and if it can be something that does not only interest scholars and historians that specialize in it- by asking others their point of view on how Byzantine history is not very well-known and how it can be popularized. Additionally, this article too will be part of the few articles I make once in a while wherein I do something different by doing something interactive, and this article will be exactly that.
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Now this article will be covering interviews with 3 rising Byzantine history enthusiasts and online content creators that I had the pleasure to get to know and follow lately. Here, I will be asking these 3 creators about how they view Byzantine history, if they think it is not really that popular, how they aim to market it, and if they think it should be something not only limited to scholars or historians. Additionally, these 3 content creators will also be asked a bonus question on how they think they can improve a post that does not get much attention in order to advise other fellow Byzantine history content creators about it, while this article too will feature the artworks of these 3 creators. Afterwards, this article will end with my conclusion and learnings from these interviews. Overall, this article as I said aims to discuss how to market Byzantine history and to discover whether it has the potential to be something more mainstream the way other historical periods like Ancient Greece, Ancient Rome, or Medieval Europe are, thus the only way to find out is to see what these Byzantine history content creators have to say!
Other Interview Articles from the Byzantium Blogger:
Interviews with the 3 Rising Byzantine History Content Creators
First of all, I shall introduce the 3 different individuals that will be interviewed for this article, and though they may have different points-of-views when it comes to Byzantine history, they have in common a passion for Byzantine history and to create content for it based on their passion. The first of the interviewees for the first part of this article is Byzansimp, a new and rising Youtube channel creating videos related to Byzantine history (follow on Instagram @Byzansimp/ subscribe to their Youtube channel: Byzansimp). In my recent articles which were the follow-up stories to the chapters of my Byzantine Alternate History series, I have already mentioned this particular channel and what kind of videos they create, and basically Byzansimp does a great job in making the history of Byzantium understandable to younger audiences and to those who are not really familiar with it by creating videos with original artworks and animation to clearly explain the subject.
Now I have come across the channel of Byzansimp as well its respective Instagram account ever since December of last year (2021) when it was a very new channel- which made its first video last October 2021 while its first animated history video was released last November 2021. So far, Byzansimp has created very detailed and informative animation videos on Byzantine history even covering the early history of Byzantium starting with its mythical founding by the Greek hero Byzas of Megara in the 7th century BC- which no one really discusses- before proceeding to the founding of Constantinople by Emperor Constantine I the Great in 330AD. This channel now has so far made 7 videos covering the history of Byzantium wherein its latest video covered the Byzantine Empire after Emperor Justinian I the Great’s death in 565 therefore covering the years from 565 to 602 with the reigns of emperors Justin II (565-574), Tiberius II (574-582), and Maurice (582-602) ending with the overthrow of Maurice by the usurper Phocas which thus leads to the decline of the Byzantine Empire. Now rather than explaining the history of Byzantium in this era, it’s time to talk more about the channel and I would honestly say Byzansimp although still a channel in the making does a great job in explaining Byzantine history- so far up to the year 602- by using interesting animation and keeping things simple and not too complicated the way other channels and history books do, yet at the same time it has a very smart and authentic way of explaining the history as it really mentions names and places in the way it was really said whether in Greek or Latin unlike other channels or books which just sticks to how these names and places are said in English. Byzansimp now keeps things authentic by including the Greek alphabet at times and using the actual names of historical figures such as for example using the Latin Iustinus instead of “Justin” in order to give its content a greater sense of authenticity, but overall Byzansimp is someone I would say who also aims to see Byzantine history be made more popular and interesting.
The second of the interviewees for this article is Instagram user and artist Ancient City Lullaby, who I have followed on Instagram for a very long time ever since the early days of my Byzantine content creating journey in early 2021 (follow on Instagram @ancientcitylullaby).
Now Ancient City Lullaby has done artworks on different characters from different periods of Byzantine history such as Emperor Justinian the Great and his wife Empress Theodora, Emperor Basil II, and a lot of others especially those from the 11th century as well as other historical figures from the Middle Ages like the King of Norway and former Varangian Guard commander in the Byzantine army Harald Hardrada, yet Ancient City Lullaby has a unique and consistent art style. I too have featured the art of this artist in many of my previous articles most notably chapters III, VII, and VIII of my Byzantine Alternate History series last year. Other than being artist with a unique style, I would say that Ancient City Lullaby is a fellow Byzantine history enthusiast like me with great knowledge on the subject and also aims to make it a more popular subject that could interest a wider audience.
The third and last of the interviewees for this article is Grayjoy15, who just like Ancient City Lullaby is another artist with a unique style that mainly focuses on historical figures from the Byzantine Empire and from the Viking era (follow on Instagram @grayjoy15).
Basically, Grayjoy has a unique and interesting style of art which I would say is quite similar to the previous interviewee Ancient City Lullaby, and I too have been following this artist/ creator for quite a time that I even included their artworks in a few of my Byzantine Alternate History chapters, particularly chapter VIII which is set in the 11th century. Aside from being an artist with an extensive portfolio of Byzantine and medieval themed art, I also have to say that I share a common strong interest with Grayjoy in Byzantine history and a goal to make it a more popular subject and not just aimed for scholars and historians that specialize in it. In addition, Grayjoy too has published some fictional stories with a Byzantine setting, most notably There was a Time and there will be Another under the name Jens Holland which is set in 11th century Byzantium featuring the famous Norwegian in the Varangian Guard Harald Hardrada and his time in the Byzantine Empire.
Now, as for how the interviews will work, I will post each question that I came up with separately and below them will be each of the interviewee’s own responses to the respective 4 questions, and once these 4 questions and each of their answers are done, I will move on to the bonus question in which all 3 will be asked the same one.
1) What got you into Byzantine history and why did you choose to create content on it?
Byzansimp: Byzantine history fascinated me as it was always just another 1,000 years of Roman history for me. I loved learning about the Classical Greco-Roman world, and I love to keep learning about their descendants. Besides, the Byzantine spirit of adapting to whatever situation is thrown upon them, and never giving in, is really inspiring. It appeals to and motivates me to be a better person. By sharing what I know about the empire and creating some content from time to time, I feel like I am spreading the joy.
Ancient City Lullaby: Well, I was already an artist on social media before I got into the Byzantines, and I especially liked drawing historical figures and literary characters. I got into the Byzantines after I read a book about Harald III “Hardrada”, the King of Norway who invaded England in 1066 and famously died at Stamford Bridge. What a lot of people don’t know is that Harald served as a Varangian Guardsman in the 1030s-1040s before returning home to claim the Norwegian throne. Reading about Harald in Byzantium and especially the story of how he brought down and blinded the young emperor Michael V Kalaphates really got me interested in the Byzantines, and I wanted to learn more. So, after reading about Michael V, Harald, and Zoe, I ended up reading about the Macedonian Dynasty as a whole and I really got hooked!
Grayjoy: I was first introduced to Byzantine history through a friend of mine who had just fallen down the rabbit hole, but it didn’t really click with me at first. I had a hard time with all the recurring names, but once I learned about Romanos III Argyros being drowned in his bath by his wife Zoe and her boyfriend Michael, I was completely hooked. The whole situation just had political and romantic tension akin to every period drama I had seen, and that inspired me as a writer- and since I’m particularly interested in 11th century history as a whole, it was a perfect introduction to the Byzantine Empire. After that, I was introduced to a podcast by another friend called Totalus Rankium, which I’m sure many Byzantine and Roman history fans have heard of. I’m not really a podcast listener, but I simply had to know how Michael III earned his nickname “the Drunk”! Since then, I’ve listened to all the episodes from Michael III to Alexios V Mourtzouphlos and from Constantine the Great to Nikephoros I. As to why I create content on Byzantine history, I have been an artist and a writer for a long time, and producing works pertaining to my passions is my creative outlet. Plus, the fashion is just so awesomely fantastic!
2) Do you think Byzantine history has a potential to be a popular historical subject?
Byzansimp: Indeed. I agree that Byzantine history often gets overlooked as the popular idea is that the Roman Empire ended in 476 and after that Byzantium is just some weird Greek rump state. But recently I have met more people that are interested in the history of Byzantium, probably because there are more content creators now who clarify what Byzantium really was: New Rome. So yeah, the subject is gaining popularity.
Ancient City Lullaby: It’s definitely one of the less popular ones, but it’s not unheard of. It’s definitely not very popular in the West where popular historical media is saturated with Western Europe and American history. I was looking for films set in the Byzantine Empire a while back, and there was almost nothing I could find. I’m glad there’s at least a decent sized community of Byzantine history fans on Instagram including some really great artists that I can interact with!
Grayjoy: Sadly, I do think that Byzantine history is generally unfamiliar to people. I don’t know if I had ever heard of Byzantine/ Eastern Roman Empire before my friend introduced it to me; it seems like most history classes will just teach you that the Roman Empire was sacked in 410, and that’s that. But it’s really not! I also find the lack of media content portraying the Byzantine Empire particularly unfortunate because one of the best ways to get people interested in a topic is to dramatize it. And really, a content creator wouldn’t even need to dramatize much, Byzantine history is incredibly awesome and absurd as it is!
3) How do you intend to market and promote Byzantine history?
Byzansimp: Good question. I see a great way of promoting Byzantine history is to make historical films. I’ve seen many great movies about Classical Rome and they really sell the audience the idea of Rome being a well-organized, sophisticated, and strong state with a diverse population and loyal army. That is a positive image. Byzantium right now does not have that image as it has so little cinematic coverage. I would really like to either make my own films about Byzantium in the future, or support anyone who is capable of doing that. A Netflix series will be perfect as well. These are the quickest ways I could think of to draw massive amounts of fans to Byzantium. But before I have the resources for such projects, I can only stick to making Youtube videos.
Ancient City Lullaby: I’m definitely an artist as a hobby so I don’t know if I’m marketing anything, but I definitely like to tell people about Byzantine history through my art, and hopefully get more people interested in it! Sometimes I include backgrounds/ stories about the history in my captions, though I’ve gotten away from that recently, but maybe I should start doing it again.
Grayjoy: I bring up Byzantine history whenever I can! I promote the Totalus Rankium podcast to all of my friends, post my drawings of emperors and empresses on Instagram and Tumblr, and write about the empire for both assignments in my classes and for fun. I actually recently posted the 14th chapter of an 11th century historical fiction work of mine on AO3 that covers the deposition of Michael V Kalaphates from Harald Hardrada’s point of view!
4) Considering that you are not scholars or historians, do you think Byzantine history can be something that can be interesting to everyday people and not just to a small group of scholars and historians?
Byzansimp: It is an exciting history, and if taught correctly I believe many would come to adore the Byzantine Empire. But alas the real problem is not the history, that it’s boring or anything, rather that everyday people usually don’t have the time or the reason to explore historical topics like this, as they are too busy with their actual lives. That’s why history appeals to us nerds “with no lives” or rich people who don’t need to work 9-5. So, unless there would be any changes to the schedule and lifestyle of everyday people, they just don’t have the motivation for these intellectual pursuits.
Ancient City Lullaby: Absolutely! The Byzantines were just so dramatic!! Whether it’s shady palace intrigue, manipulative lord chamberlains, murder and betrayal, epic battles, brutal executions, or tumultuous love affairs (that also ended in murder), I feel like there’s something for everyone. History isn’t boring, it’s full of drama and excitement, and I feel like anyone can enjoy that.
Grayjoy: Oh, absolutely. Anyone who likes high fantasy books, movies, and shows like Game of Thrones or Lord of the Rings would love the Byzantine Empire and its history. There are so many similarities between certain battles, characters, and relationships, but the best part is that the events and people were actually real! And its’ always crazy to compare what figures of Byzantine history were alive when more familiar historical figures as Charlemagne or Alfred the Great were.
If you have made any post that did not get much attention, how do you plan to improve it to get more attention?
Byzansimp: I will try to analyze what makes the post low quality and avoid such mistakes next time. I will also ask for opinions of the audience on how to improve and what type of content they would like to see.
Ancient City Lullaby: I think just live and learn. I know sometimes my posts about more popular figures will get more attention, and that’s just life. I try to post things that I think my followers would like, but I also want to post things that I want to draw too.
Grayjoy: Because it’s such an obscure aspect of history, most of my Byzantine related posts don’t get much interaction, and the interaction I do get is generally only from my close friends. Partly, I know it’s because of how poor Instagram is when it comes to promoting content from emerging content creators like myself, but it also doesn’t help that I choose to produce content for historical figures no one has heard of. My most recent post, for example, was of Constantine IX Monomachos, and if you go to the tag #constantinemonomachos, you’ll find four posts, and that’s it. Some of the other emperors will only have one post on a tag, so it’s nearly impossible for me to gather an audience. That doesn’t make me any less determined to continue to produce content, however. The hope is that the more posts I create, the more people I’ll reach, but honestly the most important thing for me is just to create content for myself since there’s little to none out there already. I think that’s the mindset of most Byzantine enthusiasts, but the fact that we’re also able to draw in new people to the Byzantine craze is one of the best feelings in the world.
Learnings and Conclusion
Based on the responses of the guests in this interview, Byzantium is still true enough not a very popular historical topic the way other eras like Ancient Greece, Ancient Rome, and Medieval Europe are, and true enough based on what the 3 of them said, it is hard to directly hear about the story of Byzantine Empire without learning about it through other historical periods that would fascinate your first. In the case of Byzansimp, it was through the story of Classical Greece and Rome that sparked an interest in Byzantine history and for Ancient City Lullaby it was the story of the Vikings that somehow led to an interest in Byzantine history, while for Grayjoy it was by learning more trivial matters in Byzantine history that sparked an interest in it.
In my case, the same can be said as I was not introduced to Byzantine history by learning about it directly, rather it was my fascination for Ancient Rome that led me to my passion for Byzantine history as after all the Byzantine Empire’s story was the story of Imperial Rome continued except only in a different location with a different capital being Constantinople, and a new cultural atmosphere as the language and customs as well shifted from Latin to Greek. On the other hand, no matter how obscure Byzantine history is, as based on these interviews it still has a potential to be something popular due to its very colorful stories especially all the political court intrigues, wars, fascinating emperors whether great or terrible, their interactions with other nations across the world, and the fact that their empire lasted for over a thousand years mostly because of adapting to the present situations they were facing gives it at least an element to surely make people interested in it. On the other hand, Byzantine history also has the potential to be made more popular due to how well connected it is to more popular periods in history including the Roman Empire, Medieval Europe and the Crusades, the Vikings, the Arab Caliphates, and the early history of Russia and the Slavs, and how so many countries including Greece, Turkey, Italy, Serbia, Bulgaria, Romania, Ukraine, Russia, Georgia, Egypt, Syria, Hungary, and Armenia share a common history with Byzantium, therefore because of this reason Byzantium is true enough something not unheard of. Another way people could get into Byzantium as well could be through high fantasy stories such as Game of Thrones and Lord of the Rings as Grayjoy said here as true enough a lot of elements there were based on elements in Byzantine history, and if you read on the lore of these fantasy stories more, then most likely you would soon start knowing more about the things they were based on including Byzantine history. Other than that, I would say it is really overall how fascinating the Byzantine Empire’s history is with all the battles, intrigues, historical figures, as well as it rich legacy of architectural wonders from their time that still stand including the Hagia Sophia and Walls of Constantinople together with interesting mosaics and frescos from their time that can still be seen that would make it something more popular that you would simply never get tired of it, and true enough it has already been 3 years since I learned about Byzantine history, yet I am still not tired of it.
Now, based on the answers in this interview, the reason to why Byzantine history is not really a popular subject is because of its lack of representation in the media the way other periods do such as Ancient Greece or Rome which have already so many popular movies and series made featuring it the same way Medieval or even Renaissance Europe does, as well as the Viking era in which recently there have been 2 new Netflix series released that focus on it namely Vikings: Valhalla and the latest season of the series The Last Kingdom, yet despite the Vikings and Byzantines having a lot of interactions with each other, there is not even a mention of Byzantium in them.
At the same time, popular medieval era series or films make no mention of Byzantium at all despite Byzantium playing such a role in the Middle Ages, yet the only popular media that makes a reference to Byzantium is the video game Assassin’s Creed Revelations where the Byzantine angle is still so very minimal where it is seen as nothing other but a weird and scheming civilization that only aims to do evil and nothing more, and on the other hand if Byzantium did appear in a major global film, then it must have possibly been a film that premiered more than 50 years ago and is forgotten by now. Because of how much these periods get more attention in the media basically because it focuses on the Western world, Byzantium therefore is forgotten whereas many according to Byzansimp here say the once great Roman Empire fell in 476 and what followed that was the Dark Ages later becoming the Middle Ages while the east would be either forgotten or if those who know what Byzantium is, they would think it is just some random weird Greek successor state. The truth is Byzantium had a lot more than just being what others would call occult and mysterious or corrupt, and schismatic as they really had a lot of military, technological, and spiritual innovations such as Greek Fire, the Thematic System, mechanical thrones, and a lot more worth showing in popular media including movies and TV series, however as Ancient City Lullaby said here it is not really popular mostly in the Western world because of how saturated Western European and American history is in the media. Now if Byzantium was introduced to popular media, then filmmakers would most likely portray it in a negative image showing it all negatively as a highly corrupt and scheming empire with no redeeming qualities, but the truth is Byzantium and the west equally had the same amount of corruption, violence, and court intrigue whereas all the scheming and corruption in the case of Byzantium as I would say makes it ever more interesting.
Of course nowadays, Byzantine history is actually not really as obscure as it seems as there now happens to be a growing community of content creators on social media that post Byzantine related posts and blogs that focus on Byzantine history with their own brand of portraying it, while some more popular and established history-centered Youtube channels nowadays including the factual yet concise Kings and Generals and Invicta and the more comedic Dovahhatty had already covered topics about Byzantine history as a way to acknowledge the fact that they are not what most think it is as a weird Eastern kingdom but the successor of the Roman Empire, therefore these channels aim to show more of Byzantium in order to show that the Roman Empire did in fact survive into the Middle Ages, while more popular podcasts do the job of bringing Byzantium into the light such as Robin Pierson’s The History of Byzantium podcast and as Grayjoy mentioned here the Totalus Rankium podcast.
Basically, since it may take a while before a larger worldwide interest in Byzantium would be picked up that could lead to creating a major Hollywood film on it whether for the big screen or for Netflix, the solution now to spread knowledge about the rich and fascinating history of Byzantium is to do marketing campaigns for it from posting content about it on Instagram whether trivia or artworks or making videos about it. For now, knowledge on Byzantine history can be spread as well by simply sharing your posts to your friends or sharing other Byzantine-centered content creators, Youtube channels, blogs, and podcasts to them as Grayjoy said here. Of course, in order for Byzantine history to be mainstream the way Ancient Greece, Ancient Rome, and Medieval Europe is, it must be proven that it could interest everyday people first and not just stay as a subject that only a small group of scholars and historians would be fascinated in. As both Ancient City Lullaby and Grayjoy said here, Byzantine history with all its drama and excitement true enough also has the potential to be something that can be marketable not just to scholars and historians but to everyday people as these exciting stories are really what sell. On the other hand, as Byzansimp said here, Byzantine history before being made popular should be taught properly too meaning sticking to the facts otherwise it would end up spreading propaganda and fake history. Other than that, Byzantine history when being popularized would of course not really appeal to everyone as a lot of people do not really have much time to discover it and be fascinated with it- as Byzansimp had also said here- and thus it would usually first just appeal to nerds without much of a life which is how it basically is now, however I would think that if ever Netflix releases something popular set in the Byzantine era, then possibly more people that are not scholars and historians but everyday people would start getting in to it. Now back to creating Byzantine related content, of course the best solution to market the topic is to create your own unique content and brand as that way you and your way of promoting Byzantine history can be recognized while at the same time, another good way of marketing your brand as well as Byzantine history in general is to hold regular quizzes and Q&As on your social media to get your followers who like the said subject more and more engaged.
Now in my case, I plan to slowly market and popularize Byzantine history by first of all creating content related to it whether my Instagram or Facebook posts, my blogs such as this one, my Youtube videos for my channel No Budget Films whether they are audio epics on Byzantine history or Lego films, and of course my Byzantine related artworks. Afterwards, I aim to take a step further from blogs and videos by creating a Byzantine related business in which I am in the process of doing so now in creating a Byzantine themed board game and a set of cards which feature my illustrations of Byzantine characters from the 4th-15th centuries, basically their entire history. Of course, when marketing Byzantine history, it should definitely be done carefully and factually as one mistake could somewhat give negative reviews especially since a lot of those who would follow your content are knowledgeable in the subject. On the other hand, other than my grand project of my Byzantine themed games business in progress, I am also in the process of creating another Byzantine era Lego epic for my channel No Budget Films which will be set in the 12th century. Now as this article which featured 3 rising Byzantine history content creators and their own stories of how they got into the history of it and how they want to market it, I have to say that all 3 of them really do have a vision of wanting to introduce the very colorful history of Byzantium to a wider audience and hope to one day be made into popular media as a movie or series rather than just keeping it as a serious subject for scholars and historians, and I truly admire them for that as with them I share the same views on Byzantine history and the need to popularize it. This article now is just the first part of this series of articles featuring interviews on marketing Byzantine history, as my next article will be something else like this but rather than interviewing rising creators, the next one will be interviewing already established Byzantine online content creators with years of experience, thus the answers would most likely differ compared to those by the 3 creators here. Now, this is all for the first set of interviews with Byzantine history content creators on marketing Byzantium, up next will be the follow-up to this as I have mentioned, once again I would like to give a big thanks to Byzansimp, Ancient City Lullaby, and Grayjoy for being part of this interview article, and again this is Powee Celdran, the Byzantine Time Traveler… Thank you for your time!