Marketing Byzantine History Part2- Featuring Insights from 5 Byzantine History Content Creators/ Sites on Making Byzantine History Known and Relevant

Posted by Powee Celdran

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Welcome back to the Byzantium Blogger! The previous article featured interviews with 3 rising Byzantine history content creators and enthusiasts discussing the topic of how Byzantine history can be made popular and if it has the potential to be popular. Now this article just like the previous one will be another interactive one with interviews, except this one will interview a different set of Byzantine history content creators and enthusiasts- who I recently got the pleasure to know and have followed on social media lately- who are already established in the Byzantine history online community and have already had experiences in running a Byzantine history site or publishing Byzantine era books. Just like the previous article which asked 5 questions on how to market Byzantine history, what can get people into it, and if it has potential to be popular, this one will basically ask almost the same questions but to different creators. The difference however in this article will be the 5 questions which will be tweaked from the ones in the previous article. What will basically be asked here is that if Byzantine history has a potential to be a popular subject and how it can be popularized, different strategies in marketing Byzantine history, if Byzantine history still has relevance these days, and if it can be something that can interest a wider range of audiences and not just scholars and historians. Overall, the aim of this article is to know if Byzantine history can be just as popular as other historical periods like Ancient Greece, Ancient Rome, and Medieval Europe, and again to find out if a wider range of audiences other than scholars and historians can be interested in it. Thus, the best way to find out is to ask these 5 creators what they think can make Byzantine history more popular and how they plan to market it.

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Other Interview Articles from the Byzantium Blogger:

Marketing Byzantine History Part1- Featuring 3 Rising Content Creators

The Legacy of the Byzantine Empire, featuring an interview with 3 Byzantine history enthusiasts

Byzantine History for Everyday People- 5 people react to Byzantine history quotes


Interviews with the 5 Byzantine History Content Creators/ Enthusiasts

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First of all, I shall introduce the 5 different individuals that will be interviewed for this article, and though they create different mediums of content and have different points-of-views when it comes to Byzantine history and spreading awareness of it, they do still have a passion for Byzantine history. The first of the 5 interviewees here is no other than Byzantine Tales, the same creators of the fantastic Byzantine era graphic novels Theophano: A Byzantine Tale and its sequel Basil, Basileus: A Test of Loyalty, while in between that they had also published another graphic novel being 1821: The Beginning of a Revolution (check out their site here, follow them on Instagram @byzantine_tales, Facebook: Byzantine Tales). Now I have interviewed them a year ago when I did a review on their first graphic novel Theophano: A Byzantine Tale (read it here!) and for another interview article I made I interviewed the artist of the novels Chrysa Sakel (follow her on Instagram @Chrysasakel). Overall, Byzantine Tales has done a great job in telling Byzantium’s story visually while they too have extensive content relating to Byzantine history on their social media sites which I would say is very educational especially when discussing artifacts from the Byzantine era and customs back then. Additionally, I have also been interviewed on their site wherein I answered questions about how I got into Byzantine history (read it here!). Now, it’s their time to answer a set of questions and based on their answers, let’s find out how they intend to market Byzantine history and if they think the subject can be popularized these days!

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Basil, Basileus by Byzantine Tales

           

The second interviewee for this article is Eugenios Dalianis, the creator and mind behind the very fascinating Byzantine history Facebook page and blog site Byzantine Real History together with the Byzantine Real History (BRH) Facebook group and Byzantine history Facebook page The Chronicles of Byzantium- Eugene Dalianis. Now it was through the Byzantine Real History Facebook page as well as through the Chronicles of Byzantium page where I really learned a lot about Byzantine history especially about the lives of the emperors, empresses, specific events, their relations with foreign powers, battles, religious history, and a lot more, while the BRH Facebook group as I would say is the gold standard of Byzantine history Facebook groups as for me it is in this group where I found the most valuable information on Byzantine history shared by various Byzantine history enthusiasts and content creators. Additionally, I had the pleasure to write an article for their blog site recently about the very much obscure attempt of the exiled Byzantine Empire of Nicaea and the 2nd Bulgarian Empire to recapture Constantinople from the Latins in 1235 (read it here!). Overall, one of the greatest experiences I had in my entire Byzantine history journey was learning more about the stories of rather more obscure emperors like Isaac II Angelos and John III Vatatzes through the Byzantine Real History Facebook page and blog site, which therefore definitely made me want to write for them and share my works with them, and now it is their turn to have a feature and interview on my blog site.   

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Byzantine Real History “Basileia ton Rhomaion” cover photo

The third interviewee for this article is author Emanuele Rizzardi, the author of 3 historical novels with a Roman/ Byzantine setting being L’ultimo Paleologo, The Usurper, and Lo Stendardo di Giove; all 3 were written in Italian with the second one having an English translation. The author too has a site where I had the pleasure to be interviewed in as well again about my passion for Byzantine history and my thoughts on it (check it here), and additionally he provides great information about Byzantine history on his social media sites (follow him on Instagram @ultimopaleologoemanuellerizz/ @associazione_byzantion, and on Facebook L’ultimo Paleologo- Emanuele Rizzardi/ Associazione Culturale Byzantion). Previously, I also reviewed his novel The Usurper where I also asked him a few questions on the late 13th century setting of the book and how he put the story together (read the article here!), and overall “The Usurper” although being the only book of his that I read does a great job in making Byzantium a historical setting wherein the books’ leading character the general Alexios Philanthropenos had great character development; however as I said in my article reviewing it, this book of his would appeal to those who are already very familiar with Byzantine history. At the same time, Emanuele has also appeared in a number of videos on the Youtube channel Eastern Roman History where he gives some of his insights on events in Byzantine history.

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The Usurper by Emanuele Rizzardi (left) and illustration of its lead character Alexios Philanthropenos, art by myself (right)

           

The fourth interviewee for this article is Instagram and Twitter Byzantine history content creator, internet historian, and enthusiast Shadows of Constantinople (follow on Instagram @shadowsofconstantinople/ Twitter ShadowsofConstantinople). When I began my Byzantine history Instagram account, this was one of the first related accounts I followed and through them I learned a lot not only about Byzantine history but on how to create engaging yet smart content about the subject matter, yet this site was in fact my inspiration on how I create my Instagram posts on Byzantine history. Shadows of Constantinople overall does a great job in posting content on Byzantine history especially in explaining the empire in such depth even explaining its complex society, emperors, economics, political intrigues, cultural elements, and most especially Byzantine era landmarks and sites in Constantinople making it easy to read and understand yet told in a very smart and informative way. This site too posts in a very detailed manner with many unique features including photo collages and photoshopped posters to make Byzantine history more appealing to those unfamiliar with it, thus I would really say Shadows of Constantinople is the site that could really project the image of Byzantium as something for a wider range of audiences especially if they are interested in seeing Byzantine Constantinople. Now, it is a pleasure to have them take part in an interview on my site about marketing Byzantine history.               

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Sample post by Shadows of Constantinople

The fifth and final interviewee for this article is Billy Chrissochos (follow him on Instagram @billy_chrissochos) who is the creator of Hellenic History Series and rock band Porphyra; the first is dedicated to bringing to life Hellenic (Greek) history which includes the history of the Byzantine Empire too, while the latter features symphonic metal soundtracks featuring Byzantine history (like them on Facebook: Porphyra/ Hellenic History Series and check them out his Youtube and Patreon sites too). Additionally, Billy’s sites aims to promote Greek culture and history and does a great job at it while he too runs the Facebook group Love Letters to Greece which is a hub for all things Greek from history to culture, and entertainment to sports. True enough, Billy was one of the first people I got to know in the Byzantine history online community and I had the pleasure to personally meet him when in New York, not to mention he has done a great video covering the Macedonian Dynasty of the Byzantine empire (check it out here!).

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Cover of Hellenic History series
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Logo of the Porphyra rock band
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Love Letters to Greece group cover photo

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 5 questions.

The Questions

1) Do you think Byzantine history has the potential to be a popular subject?

Byzantine Tales: Definitely! Byzantine history has a lot of potential if it becomes widely known and gets rid of some stereotypical characterizations it carries. So many fictional stories that we see on tv include events which were actually true in Eastern Roman history. Maybe turning towards the historical fact that these were the Medieval Romans who survived the Germanic migrations could be a key to attract a wider interest towards Byzantium.  

Eugenios: Definitely. Actually, we just see the power of Byzantine history unfolding right now, but NOT on a really professional level, myself including. Many videos are made in YT, articles-blogs are written online and the discussion in social media is stronger than it ever was. It’s a history that has everything, from savage political coups (fall of Nikephoros Phokas) and dramatic personal stories (Maria of Antioch) to literary masterpieces (Alexiad- Anna Komnnene) and spiritual achievements (the music Romanos the Melodist). It’s an age where you can find great military heroes (Heraclius, Basil II, Constantine Palaiologos), a time of bright minds (Constantine Porphyrogennetos, Psellos, Choniates) and an era with fascinating traditions.

Emanuele: I have to say that every story has the potential to be a good story. All the deeds of our ancestors deserve to be remembered, those of the Byzantine Empire no less than the others. In fact, the Byzantine world is so full of events, even absurd, that it has nothing to do with television series that are in fashion. Religious conflicts, betrayals, wars, palace intrigues, mad and wise emperors, great leaders, women of power… there is everything!

Shadows: My favorite question… I think Byzantium has the capability to be as popular as any other medieval history. Maybe more, it’s very unique. I think in some countries it has more of a legacy. For example, when Serbians, Russians, Greeks, Turks, and others think of a medieval European state they probably think of Byzantium much more than Western Europeans. The history itself is full of intense struggles to survive, which gives it that underdog feel which appeals to many. It’s a complex intriguing society. It had a rich and well documented material culture. I do think it might struggle to match ancient history because medieval history in general is misunderstood, and ancient history is seen as more enlightened than it truly was. Ironically, the things which were criticized about Byzantium also make it more interesting. The tales of the rise and fall of emperors, intrigue, plots, betrayal, etc. all make for better story lines than static reigns.

Billy: Yes, I do think Byzantine history has the potential to be popular among the current historical movies and series.

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Scene of imperial Byzantine Constantinople, art by Chrysa Sakel, cover photo of Byzantio Explained podcast

2) How do you think Byzantine history can be a more popular subject the way Ancient Greece, Rome, and Medieval Europe is?

Byzantine Tales: As I said, a first step would be to historically re-connect Byzantium with Rome. The argument that Byzantium is not Rome because it changed many of its characteristics simply doesn’t make sense. In the same manner, if at some point the language of the USA becomes Spanish, will we call it something different than what it is? Thus, thinking about Byzantium as the carrier of Ancient Greek and Roman culture throughout the Middle Ages up to the Renaissance could perhaps give it more credit and make it more historically popular.

Eugenios: This won’t happen only through Facebook or Instagram. Here we have to think big. A FB group is not enough. The Byzantines must take their fair share of representation in the screen, big or not. A TV show for example about the “Fall of 1453” or about Justinian-Theodora, both popular subjects, could bring much international attention to the Byzantine civilization as a whole. If the first attempt is successful, more productions shall follow. Also, a second factor is definitely the power of the Orthodox Church, especially in Orthodox-majority countries. In Eastern Europe and other places in the world, usually many readers are introduced to Byzantine history by following the life of their local parish. And I am pretty sure many Protestant or Orthodox Americans found stories about Alexios I Komnenos or Leo III the Isaurian due to their Orthodox conversion, so the Orthodox clergy has a big role to play.

Emanuele: I think it is amply demonstrated that it is not very important what we talk about, how we talk about it. In the Western world, for example, Celts, Vikings and Republican Rome are in fashion simply because they are well-known subjects in which there is a lot of investment in commercial terms. Yet the past is full of films and TV series on absolutely unknown themes and on which no one would have ever bet that instead have proved to be sensational successes. Let’s think for example of Star Wars. So, the Byzantine world has all the potential to become “famous” if you can give it the right notoriety and create something interesting for the people.

Shadows: In order to make it more popular it has to be represented in the popular view as a continuation of the Roman Empire and as a civilization which continued elements of Late Antiquity. I think Constantinople is a source of popular fascination which gives Byzantium a unique spotlight, to those who truly understand what a grand city it was. It gives Byzantium an edge in its intrigue. So displaying the wonders of Constantinople really brings people in. I believe a high budget movie or show depicting medieval Constantinople would capture the popular imagination. It is contrary to what people picture of the medieval period, it’s architecture, population, size, wealth, beauty, and continuity from Constantine to 1204 give it a beautiful story arc. I also think the Arab siege of 717 could be used as a story to create interest. But overall, just historians not excluding them from textbooks and classes would go a long way. Many narratives leave the Byzantines out for the most part, in comparison to the huge part they played. I think there is overall a growing interest in it, because it’s intrinsically interesting and historians are becoming more open minded than in the past. The biases which condemn Byzantium to a lesser status are being lifted.

Billy: Well, even Ancient Greek history as popular as it is, it is usually portrayed or written without any Greeks in mind so it never quite resonates as much as King Arthur or Viking or Roman lore. Being a continuation of Ancient Greek history, Byzantium can fill a wonderful gap in medieval history. Even though it has a Greek perspective it is the most multicultural in my opinion. The Germans, Arabs, Ethiopians, Vikings, Russians/ Slavs, Indians, Chinese all pass through its lands, commerce, and exchange ideas, or have wars with. You literally do not have to invent nationalities to partake in its history like most modern Western European movies do to make them more attainable to a wider audience.

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Mosaic of Emperor Justinian I and his court, Ravenna
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Byzantine navy using Greek Fire against the Arab fleet, 717-718 Siege of Constantinople

3) What are some of your strategies in marketing Byzantine history and the content you create?  

Byzantine Tales: One word. Social media! Since Byzantium is not such a popular historical period and quite unknown even among people who belong to the book industry, I rely completely on internet marketing. It’s really helpful that I create comic books, so I have plenty of visual material to choose from and post.

Eugenios: “By word of mouth” that in the online dictionary, it means lots of sharing in social media. However, in Byzantine Real History we are currently working on the creation of original professional documentaries about the Medieval Roman Empire, documentaries with a real budget, real money so to create a TV show for Byzantium. Right now, we don’t aim too much on marketing, but more on the accuracy and quality of what we write and produce.

Emanuele: I think I’m the worst person to talk about marketing. For me, Byzantine history is a pleasure, so I speak exclusively of what I like and how I like it, of the research I am doing at a certain moment and of the books I have published. But, if I were interested in marketing, what I would do is look for parallels with famous series, films, events of the moment, especially for young people, and make it clear that Byzantine history can be interesting in the same way. The main purpose should be to make people understand that history is fun and not that boring that only highly educated people in the university study.

Shadows: My strategies so far have been mostly for Instagram, as it has been my main platform thus far. Of course, visuals are very important, because on Instagram it’s the main thing. But I also use locations and especially lots of hashtags to spread my content. I try to use hashtags from different languages, as my main targets aren’t necessarily just native English speakers like myself. Greeks and Turks for example are huge parts of my audience. I try to make some customized visuals, though I am not an artist, I am good at mashing things together in a photoshop style way. I try to make my profile different, maybe someone else posted the same photo but I try to make the text stand out with great information. I have been building a Twitter platform with now over 3,500 followers, which isn’t high but growth has been great lately. My strategy there is different, tweets are shorter. So, I have to come up with a shorter thing which captivates people more to retweet it. But it’s reaching people! And I am working on a website, which isn’t ready, to be able to in depth on these topics. I will obviously use my platforms to market it. As for now I am not marketing anything in a financial sense. In the future I’d love to try a podcast, but we will see!    

Billy: In my music I created a rock opera that tells a story of a Greek princess from the Macedonian Dynasty of Byzantium called, Anna Porphyrogenita. She marries Vladimir the Great of the Kievan Rus. Her cousin Theophano marries Otto II of the Ottonian Dynasty. They both bring Greek civilization and Greek Orthdoox Christianity to those worlds. Once you fill in the gaps from the historical sources you find very relatable figures that could serve as role models for young kids today. So I can market it through music, my art, and hopefully on a TV series we are currently working on to bring to the masses this wonderful world. I give you the first scoop for that right here for your blog!

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Map of the Byzantine Empire in 971, by Byzantine Tales
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Porphyra rock band/ Hellenic History series cover

4) Do you think Byzantine history is still relevant these days especially when it comes to the situations we are facing now?

Byzantine Tales: Sure. Almost everything that goes on in Eastern Europe or the Middle East has something Byzantine in it. Nowadays, we see a lot of videos explaining the Kievan Rus, how they came to be a Christian nation through their contacts with Byzantium and the baptism of Vladimir. So, yes, what I describe pretty much explains how Byzantium fits with the process of trying to understand geopolitics around this area.

Eugenios: It’s always relevant, because it still influences the minds and hearts of people in so many ways, good or not, and this is mainly due to the fact that many today, even in 2022, suffer from a “Byzantine withdrawal syndrome” that the events of the 15th century established. Many folks today see Russia and they dream about the glory of Byzantium, they see the Double-Headed Eagle of Kremlin and they point their fingers to the screen saying “that is the Byzantine legacy”. Others still feel very attached to Byzantine monuments, we saw people weeping with tears of grief for the Erdogan conversion of Hagia Sophia to a Mosque, even non-Orthodox people. The Patriarch of Constantinople-New Rome is still active, a real erudite and well known-respected around the world. If Byzantium teaches us something that we can apply to the current challenges is that civil wars between brothers is one of greatest hubris and the nemesis for this hubris always falls upon those that never asked for those civil wars. See for example the Roman Civil War of the 1340s between the Palaiologoi and the Kantakouzenoi and the horror it brought for the country.

Emanuele: Yes, but unfortunately historians suffer from the “Cassandra syndrome”, that is, they are able to understand the significance of the events without being believed. This was already well known in the 1930s and yet the consequences were what we know. We must not only know the story, but above all understand it.

Shadows: Probably my least insightful answer. I’m not sure exactly what situations Byzantine history is helpful in understanding. I don’t see it as important in that sense, it’s important to help understand how the world got to where it is. For me, it’s more crucial to understanding the past rather than to decipher the present. It can help explain some modern situations. I think it was more important to events a hundred years ago, before the Greco-Turkish war and the population exchange which ended the Greeks/Romans (Romaioi) presence in Anatolia. But the Greeks have dropped that identity and elevated ancient history above Byzantine it seems.  

Billy: Byzantine history is very relevant because it is the backbone of so many civilizations. Whether it is in Christianity, cultural traditions, folk dances, music- both secular and sacred architecture or the very European and American laws we have or knowledge of the Ancient Greco-Roman tradition. Without Byzantium most of Western and Middle Eastern societies would not exist.

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The Hagia Sophia, completed in 537 under Emperor Justinian I
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The Fall and Ottoman Conquest of Constantinople, 1453

5) Do you think Byzantine history should be something a wider range of audiences of different ages and cultures can be interested in and not just something limited to scholars and historians?

Byzantine Tales: It really depends because history is a sensitive subject that creates a lot of controversies. Perhaps that’s one of the charms of the field that makes it popular among non-academics. However, the same thing is also quite dangerous because, in the wrong hands history could be a tool of misinformation for a lot of different reasons. I guess that popularizing history is not a bad thing in itself but it should always follow the integrity of academic research. Unless it’s only about storytelling, entertainment, and artistic inspiration, which in my opinion, could allow some more freedom of expression or interpretation of history.   

Eugenios: Of course. Knowledge of history is not a copyright product of historians anymore. We don’t live in the time of the literary academic ghettos of 18th century. And Byzantium influenced people from Ethiopia and Iberia to China and the Rus lands. It was the imperial Orthodoxy of Constantinople that firstly arrived in the cold kingdoms of the Vikings, embassies from the Far East of the Chinese came in the lands of the Romans, traders from all the parts of the worlds, soldiers used to leave their homes in today’s England, Sweden, or Estonia so to enlist in the armies and guard of the emperor of Constantinople. It was an ecumenical empire, a state of adopting the other, through Hellenizing and Romanization.

Emanuele: Yes, that’s exactly what I claim. Unfortunately, there is a preconception that history is a boring thing, which only serves to go to university or to read long books that are of no interest to anyone. The goal of a modern historian must be precisely to destroy this current of thought.

Shadows: I think Byzantium can and should be an interest for all interested in history, beyond scholars. I think it’s broken out of the scholars-only shell. But it has ways to go. I think social media accounts like ours, the History of Byzantium podcast, video game producers, artists creating captivating depictions, and a higher quantity of increasingly accessible books are feeding and creating a growing Byzantine audience. People who are exposed to the history enjoy it; it is action packed. So let’s keep working on exposure! A large part of my objective in this Shadows of Constantinople project is to help show everyday people why Byzantium matters, that it shouldn’t be in the shadows of medieval history- it should be in the spotlight!

Billy: In my humble opinion, I think even though Byzantine history has a certain wonderful mystical aspect to it, it could be of interest to everyone. Just don’t look at it coming from Hollywood because it is a Christian Empire and world that would be represented and I do not think they like promoting anything of that sort. But many people and especially Americans are starved to have more content like that if they can get it.

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Constantinople in the Byzantine era

Learnings and Conclusion      

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Based on the responses of the 5 guests in this interview article, Byzantium again truly is not that much of a popular historical subject, but on the other hand it is in fact gaining some attention considering that many online content creators are already creating content on it while as Shadows of Constantinople said, historians too nowadays are more open minded to learn about it. Again, based on the answers of the 5 interviewees here, Byzantium does indeed have a potential to be a popular subject if again it is presented properly wherein the negative stereotypes about it such as it being an empire associated with corruption, schism, betrayal, and scandals are not highlighted too much.

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Double-headed Byzantine eagle, Palaiologos symbol

On the other hand, all of Byzantium’s intrigues, violence, betrayal, and civil wars even among family members with mothers overthrowing sons and sons overthrowing fathers included together with the deeds of their military heroes and dramatic stories as Eugenios said here does in fact give it a potential to be something made into a large-scale movie or series, thus making it popular, however I would say that if Byzantium does become a more popular historical subject, its story has to be told accurately as well, therefore if ever Byzantium is made as a setting for a movie or series, then a lot of historical research must be done first before production. Another thing as well that could give Byzantine history the potential to be a popular historical subject is first as Emanuele said here all the colorful historical figures it had including powerful women and emperors with unique stories, its interactions with so many parts of the world as Billy said here, and as Byzantine Tales said here its connection with Ancient Rome and the fact that it is the Roman Empire itself continued in the Middle Ages, and considering that the Roman Empire is a very popular period in films and series, then perhaps Byzantium being Imperial Rome’s successor can be popular too. True enough, based on the interviews from the previous post the 3 creators then said people can be introduced to Byzantium through their interest in Ancient Greece and Rome as both connect to Byzantium, and in my case, it was true enough my fascination on Ancient Rome that got me interested in Byzantium.

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Cross-section of Constantinople’s Hagia Sophia, interior and exterior

In order to give Byzantium the attention it needs and deserves, I would say it is best to present Byzantium not as an occult and mysterious Eastern medieval empire that seems like from another world but to present it as the highly advanced and organized state which was the Roman Empire that survived into the Middle Ages when Western Europe fell to the dark ages. What could also give Byzantine history the potential to be popular is to break people’s stereotypes of the Middle Ages as backwards, unenlightened, and dark the way popular media presents it as if Byzantium and all its imperial glory and splendors especially that of its highly advanced and sophisticated capital Constantinople with the Hagia Sophia and its walls is shown in large scale movies or series, then perhaps people will come to see that the Middle Ages in general was not entirely a dark time, thus people would start becoming curious about Byzantium when seeing it as something advanced during the Middle Ages wherein they all think it is the opposite. At the same time, another way Byzantium can be made popular as Emanuele said here is the obscurity of the subject as well, as he said that in the past some movies or books with an obscure and unique theme such as Star Wars became so popular, therefore Byzantium with all its uniqueness alone could appeal to many.

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Streets of Constantinople

However, as Shadows of Constantinople said here, the Byzantine Empire itself isn’t actually that much of an obscure society as it seems, as people from countries in Eastern Europe or Turkey considering that it was part of their history already know it and would think about Byzantium first when thinking about a medieval society, however people from Western Europe or North America or other parts of the world such as Asia or South America would not really think of Byzantium first when hearing the Middle Ages, rather they would think of the much rougher Western medieval world first, thus based on this Byzantium true enough just has to be marketed more outside the countries under its sphere of influence, but this still means that Byzantium is still not very known and popular since if only Eastern European countries like Greece, Serbia, Russia, and Turkey are already very familiar with it, then the majority of the world is not as those that are already familiar with it is just a small part of the world. Now when it comes to marketing Byzantine history, again all 5 of the interviewees- just like the 3 content creators interviewed in the previous post- said that it does in fact take a large scale and large budget film or Netflix series to do the job of bringing Byzantium into the spotlight.

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Byzantine (left) and Seljuk (right) cavalrymen clash at the Battle of Manzikert, 1071

True enough there are so many events in Byzantine history for a film or a series to be made about it including the reign of Justinian I the Great in the 6th century, Heraclius’ wars with the Sassanids in the 7th century, the 717-718 Arab Siege of Constantinople, the glory days of the Macedonian Dynasty in the 10th century, the fateful Battle of Manzikert in 1071, the Crusades era in Byzantium in the 12th century as well as the 4th Crusade’s sack of Constantinople in 1204, and the Fall of Constantinople in 1453. However, since this is not happening yet, the best way to spread awareness about it is through social media by creating interesting content on it the way Shadows of Constantinople or even myself does or how Eugenios does it through the Byzantine Real History Facebook page, by creating documentary videos on Youtube about it in which many channels like Kings and Generals are already doing, by doing a podcast on it just like Robin Pierson’s History of Byzantium podcast, or by creating interesting novels such as Emanuele’s historical novels and Byzantine Tales’ very visually detailed graphic novels, or as Billy does by creating a rock opera on Byzantine history that could fully bring it to life. On the other hand, in order to make Byzantium more known, as Shadows of Constantinople said here, it could start even by professors and teachers including them in textbooks and teaching them in history classes, rather than just saying Rome simply fell in 476 and what followed was the dark ages, thus this way younger people would already start getting familiar with Byzantium and what it was. For me, I would say that in order to get a wider audience into Byzantium especially the younger crowd including teenagers and young adults is by creating games with a Byzantine setting from board games to interactive online games or even video games, and true enough I am now in the process of creating a Byzantine themed board game as a means to popularize the very colorful history of Byzantium to the younger crowd.

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Great Palace Complex of Constantinople with the Hagia Sophia and Hippodrome, art by Ediacar
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Fall of Constantinople to the 4th Crusade, 1204
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Constantine XI’s final charge against the Ottomans on May 29, 1453, art by FaisalHashemi

As for the question about Byzantium still being relevant today, as based on the answers of these 5 interviewees, it in fact still does even up to this day in 2022 despite the Byzantine Empire having been gone for already 569 years since Constantinople fell to the Ottomans in 1453. First of all, with some events and conflicts happening these days such as the Ukraine-Russia conflict and 2 years ago the conversion of the Hagia Sophia back into a mosque, we can all trace the origins of these happenings in some way to Byzantium.

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Flag of the Byzantine Empire (13th-15th centuries)

For those who are from the Middle East or Eastern Europe, as Byzantine Tales, Eugenios, and Billy said here, then surely you could really see how Byzantium is evident in society and history especially in cultural aspects which includes dances and music, however I would say that no matter where you are from in the world whether in Europe, America, Asia, or Oceania, despite your country having some relations to Byzantium or none, there is still going to be one way or another that Byzantine history will be relevant. In this sense, I do not mean by tracing something in your country’s history to Byzantium but by observing current events and happenings in recent history such as political intrigues, civil wars, revolutions, and the structure of society and legal systems in general as if you observe them and if you are familiar with Byzantine history, then perhaps you could see some patterns in today’s society that were evident centuries ago in Byzantium as well, and as Billy said here too a lot of laws we use today have origins in the Byzantine Empire which is with Emperor Justinian the Great’s code of laws. This however is just the gist of it on how I see Byzantium still relevant in today’s world as I could go on forever explaining how I can see Byzantium in today’s world by studying patterns in today’s politics and society, therefore for this reason I would say that Byzantium and its history is not just relevant in parts of the world that were under their sphere of influence but in the wider world as after all, a lot of the government systems and laws used by many countries today go back to Byzantium and Imperial Rome while history too just keeps repeating itself. Now the reason to why I asked this question about Byzantium being relevant up to this day is because the more relevance Byzantium still has in today’s world, then true enough it has more potential to be popular as usually from what I know people would be more and more into the history of something if it has some relevance to events happening today.   

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Map of the Byzantine Empire by 555 under Emperor Justinian I the Great

         

And now I’ve come to the end of this interview article wherein I shall sum up everything I learned from these interviews and my reactions to it. Now as I end this post, I am happy to know that these 5 creators believe that Byzantine history can and should appeal more to a wider range of people and not just limited to scholars and historians. As Eugenios said here, the Byzantine Empire’s history can appeal to people around the world as the Byzantines in their time had after all spread their influence to and visited lands as far away as Ethiopia to the south, China to the east, and Scandinavia to the north, therefore considering that Byzantium could be dubbed as a “global” empire that way, it could interest a wider range of people.

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The last Byzantine emperor Constantine XI in the Portuguese blue and white tile art style, art by myself (created September 2021)

On the other hand, as Byzantine Tales said here and so did Billy, Byzantium could appeal more to those outside the circles of academics, but it has to be taught properly as it could spread misinformation if not taught properly unless Byzantium is simply spread through artistic or storytelling means, and true enough I agree that if Byzantium is popularized then it has to be first presented in the proper way wherein people should not only see Byzantium in a negative light as after all Byzantium being a Christian Empire that protected Christianity for centuries should deserve more respect when popularized. On the other hand, based on my observations and as Emanuele said here as well, there is still that stereotype nowadays that history and most especially Byzantine history is a boring subject limited only to scholars and professors in universities, and true enough based on my Byzantine content creating experience too, this stereotype is mostly a reality as somehow a number of my followers who are very knowledgeable in the subject of Byzantine history happen to be too serious and out of touch with the modern world unlike fans of other historical subjects like Ancient Greece or Rome who based on my experience are more well-rounded, however I do hope that over time that not only do people start becoming more interested in Byzantine history but that those who are fascinated with Byzantine history should be more well-rounded too in order to bring Byzantium out of the cage of being stuck among insiders and thus making it more accessible to more people.

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Recreated manuscript of Alexios I Komnenos with his wife Empress Irene Doukaina and their son co-emperor John II Komnenos (center), art by myself

On the other hand, as Shadows of Constantinople said here, Byzantium is true enough breaking out of this “cage” of being only known among scholars and historians as many producers online are already creating content based on it including videos, blogs, vlogs, podcasts, graphic novels, and a lot more while making their content more engaging as well rather than just presenting Byzantium in a very dry and intellectual way, and I do indeed see that based on more content not only by one creator but by a variety of creators that Byzantium is true enough becoming more and more known around the world, and considering that now a lot of people have access to the internet, the more and more the mysterious history of Byzantium can be better known, and as Billy said here as well people nowadays- especially Americans- are starving for more interesting content in the media which therefore could give a chance for Byzantium to be on the spotlight. Lastly, I would say that in order for Byzantium to get the attention it deserves, content creators must just keep posting and let more and more people be informed about the fascinating story of Byzantium before Byzantium is made more popular when made into a blockbuster film or series, and hopefully some day not too long from now, we would get a movie with a Byzantine setting on the big screen such as a Byzantine-Crusader epic film or a hit Netflix series with a Byzantine setting possibly a Justinian the Great series, but again for now content creators with myself included should keep on sharing information about the Byzantine world in order to keep the flame of Byzantium burning. Now, this is all for the second set of interviews with Byzantine history content creators on marketing Byzantium, and once again I would like to give a big thanks to all 5 of them- Byzantine Tales, Eugenios Dalianis of Byzantine Real History, Emanuele Rizzardi of Associazione Culturale Byzantion, Shadows of Constantinople, and Billy Chrissochos of Porphyra and Hellenic History series for being part of this interview article, and it was a great pleasure to have them, again this is Powee Celdran, the Byzantine Time Traveler… Thank you for your time!     

Published by The Byzantium Blogger

Powee Celdran, currently majors in Entrepreneurial Management, a Byzantine scholar and enthusiast, historical military sketch and bathroom mural artist, aspiring historical art restorer, Lego filmmaker creating Byzantine era films and videos, and a possible Renaissance man living in modern times but Byzantine at heart. Currently manages the Instagram account byzantine_time_traveller posting Byzantine history related content.

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