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Old October 16, 2001, 04:43   #1
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Expansion Pack Civs Explained: Byzantines

(modified from Ubik's original description)

Names: Byzantine Empire, the Byzantines, Byzantine
Alternate Names: Empire of Romania, the Romaioi, Romaioi (more historically accurate but possibly confusing)
Time Period: 395 AD-1460 AD
Leader Possibilities: Basil the Bulgar-Slayer, Heraclius, Alexius Comnenus, Constantine the Great, Justinian; Zoe, Theodora, Anna Comnena (if female)
Unique Unit: Cataphract (knight with improved defense and slightly cheaper to build), Dromond (early medieval ship, trireme?, with higher attack), Varangian Guard (swordsmen with greater defense)
Abilities: Religious for certain; the other is a toss between Commercial and Scientific
Great Leaders: Belisarius, Narses, Theodosius, Leo the Isaurian, Nicephorus Phocas, John Tzimisces, Michael Palaeologos

Historical Significance: Largest unified empire in Europe for most of the Middle Ages, with an organized bureaucracy, efficient government, and for a long time the most powerful and largest standing army. Unique cultural heritage, strongly based on Orthodox Christianity, whose effects are felt to this day in all of Europe; a significant contributor to the beginning of the Italian Renaissance.

In the 4th century AD the emperor of Rome Constantine I has decided to solve the poly-archy problem and get the heart of the Roman Empire away from the decadent Roman society, by moving the capital to the east. Actually, in fact Constantine has split the empire in two - something that wasn't though finalized until 395.

The City was named after him – Constantinopolis – and was build on the site of a former Greek city called Byzantion (a colony of Megara, if I am not mistaken) placed in Bosporus, the narrow strait crossing between Aegean and the Black Sea. The Eastern Roman Empire – unlike it’s Western counterpart – lasted for more than 1000 years and it represents a civilization known to us today as “Byzantine”, a name given to it by scholars later.

Of course, both the state and the inhabitants always called themselves Roman, as did most of their neighbors. Western Europeans having their own Roman Empire (reincarnated later into the Holy Roman Empire) called them Orientals or Greeks, and even later Byzantines (a French scholar, which name right now slips my mind, is responsible for the name).

Byzantion (or Byzantium) was actually – up and until the seventh century, at least – a continuation of the Roman State, preserving also the basic structures (as in demography, culture, state and otherwise) of Rome.

We could say that it was a large multi-ethnic Christian state, based on a network of urban centers, connected by adequate roads and defended by a mobile specialized army (in the tradition of the Roman Legions). But that could not go on for ever, as the Roman state had lost it’s expansionist status (the greatest strength of Rome at it’s peak) and – with some exceptions, as the Justinian period – it tried just to preserve what it had. That wasn’t easy either.

After the Arab/Muslim conquest of Egypt and Syria by 641, the nature of the state and culture was transformed. Byzantium became much more a Greek state [perhaps best seen in the emperor Heraklios' adoption of the Greek title Basileus, meaning King], all the cities except Constantinople faded away to small fortified centers, and the military organization of the empire came to be based on a series of local armies. There is then a persistent ambiguity about the beginning of Byzantine history - between the building of Constantinople by Constantine I and the mid-7th century collapse of late antique urban culture.

The seventh to ninth centuries are generally accounted a low point of Byzantine history. Little literature survives, and even less art. The period is studied above all for the history of the struggle over icons. This Iconoclastic Controversy bears witness to a continued intellectual vitality, and the emergence of one of history's most sophisticated analyzes of the nature and function of art. Constant warfare, especially against the Bulgars and the other Altaic tribes that moved west, kept the empire busy. Also the Arabs considered a constant threat and most emperors have had to go into war with them to preserve the unity of the empire.

Under the Macedonian Dynasty [867-1056], Byzantium's political power reached its apogee as former territories were incorporated in the Empire, and an element of multi-ethnicity was restored. This period is also significant as the time in which Byzantine culture was spread among the Slavs and other Balkan peoples. The Macedonian Dynasty and Emperors related to it, most notably Nicephorus Phocas, John Tzimisces, and Basil II Bulgaroctonus, are well-known for their successful military campaigns, both against the Slavs in the Balkans and the Arabs in Anatolia and Syria.

Following massive Turkish attacks in the late eleventh century, the Empire was able to maintain a lesser but still significant political and military power under the Komnenian Dynasty: the cost was a social transformation which exalted a powerful military aristocracy, and gradually enserfed the previously free peasantry. The first Komnenian Emperor, Alexius, was significantly involved in the First Crusade, helping transport the crusaders across the Bosporus to Anatolia. Later the relations between Byzantium and the West soured.

In 1204, internal Byzantine politics and the resurgent West, effectively ended the imperial pretensions of the Byzantine state. The Fourth Crusade succeeded in conquering Constantinople and making it a Latin principality for half a century. The rest of the empire was split up between the leaders of the Crusade.

The Greek political leadership, under the Palaiologan Dynasty regained Constantinople in 1261, but the "empire" was just one state among many in the area for the final 200 years of its existence. Strangely, this period was among the most culturally productive, in art, in theology, and in literature. The last remnants of the Byzantine states were conquered by the Ottoman Turks by 1460. Many Byzantine scientists and intellectuals fleeing the Turks settled in Italy, giving their own contribution to the birth of the Italian Renaissance.

What was the Byzantine civilization? A few words by Paul Halsal (distinguished byzantinologist) say much more than I possibly could:

Byzantine civilization constitutes a major world culture. Because of its unique position as the medieval continuation of the Roman State, it has tended to be dismissed by classicists and ignored by Western medievalists. Its internal elite culture was archaicizing and perhaps pessimistic. But we should not be deceived. As the centrally located culture, and by far the most stable state, of the Medieval period, Byzantium is of major interest both in itself, and because the development and late history of Western European, Slavic and Islamic cultures are not comprehensible without taking it into consideration. While few would claim elevated status for much Byzantine literature [although its historiographical tradition is matched only by China's], in its art and architecture, Byzantine culture was genuinely, and despite itself, innovative and capable of producing works of great beauty. As an area of study, as I have tried to indicate here, Byzantine studies is complex, full of conflict, and still open to new questions and methods.
Capital: Constantinople
City Names:
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Old October 16, 2001, 06:33   #2
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why not a 'greek fire' ship as a UU? they were pretty good with it...IIRC
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Old October 16, 2001, 06:55   #3
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The Dromond is a "Greek Fire ship". That's why I suggested an increased attack rating for it.
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Old October 16, 2001, 07:32   #4
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Good job Solmyr and Ubik

But the name for the ship is Dromon or Dromonas, not Dromond. It could be described as an advanced trireme or an eraly galley, choose what suits you.

And usually it wasn't equipped with Greek Fire. Some other - smaller, usually - ships were carrying the siphons that were throwing the Greek Fire. Dromones were used as transporters (for a rather small number of troops) and of course as warships.
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Old October 16, 2001, 09:06   #5
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To those who are interested in Byzantine history, here are some relevant links. (a great link with genealogy not only for Byzantine leaders but also western europe's) (an index of links - quite academical most of them, but still they have loads of info) (THE ultimate index for byzantine related links) (all around site - many sections under construction)
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Old October 18, 2001, 06:33   #6
Wernazuma III
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I think you could add a little bit about the germanic invasions on the balcans, maybe the battle of Adrianopel, and how the byzantines managed to "redirect" them westwards.
Also the efforts of Justinian I to reconquer much of those territories in the western half of the former empire and a note about his law compilation.
And finally maybe a sentence about the slavic settlement on the balcans.

Just a few thoughts...
"The world is too small in Vorarlberg". Austrian ex-vice-chancellor Hubert Gorbach in a letter to Alistar [sic] Darling, looking for a job...
"Let me break this down for you, fresh from algebra II. A 95% chance to win 5 times means a (95*5) chance to win = 475% chance to win." Wiglaf, Court jester or hayseed, you judge.
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