Byzantium: The Lost Empire
For more than 1,000 years, the Byzantine Empire was the eye of the entire world – the origin of great literature, fine art and modern government. Heir to Greece and Rome, the Byzantine Empire was also the first Christian empire.
After a year of filming on three continents, TLC unlocks this ancient civilization, spanning 11 centuries and three continents. Pass through the gates of Constantinople, explore the magnificent mosque of Hagia Sophia and see the looted treasures of the empire now located in St. Marks, Venice.
Byzantium, brings to life an empire that, while seemingly distant, is very closely linked to the evolution of Western Civilization. Traces the growth of the first Christian empire, one that lasted for over a thousand years and the maturity and decline of Byzantium through its conquest by the Ottoman Turks in 1453.
John Romer, the author and on-screen guide for the series, breathes life into the city and the powerful ideas that made the Byzantium a thriving cultural and commercial center while western Europe was slogging through the Dark Ages and the Middle Ages.
At its height, Byzantium housed the most precious Christian relics, including a piece of Christ's cross. Located on the border of Europe and Asia, it ruled an empire that extended across Asia Minor and the Balkans. Then, after the rise of Islam, the empire shrank until little was left outside the city walls.
Byzantium turned to Europe for help in fighting the infidels, only to have its own city sacked by the Crusaders whose help it sought. Venice, its erstwhile trading partner, carried off many of its artistic masterpieces. The Hagia Sophia, originally built as a Christian church, became Istanbul's most famous mosque.
And the scholars who had kept alive the study of Greek for more than a millennium fled to Europe where they helped lay the groundwork for the Renaissance. Byzantium, the video, takes us on a visually sumptuous journey to key locations throughout the empire, while putting a human face on the key actors in the history of this unique and vital empire. I never suspected I would find this story as compelling as it turned out to be.
Well worth a watch .. inspiring and eye opening
Tony Robinson is my boy, I will watch anything he's doing, but he's a TV presenter. Romer is an archaeologist with a talent for explaining abstract concepts like Egyptian society had no monetary system, noone common bought or sold anything in country. The rulers traded with other nations sure, but an average person worked their job day after day and got everything they needed from the state in the form of redistribution of offerings to god temples.
Specifically to all the people saying they watch 1st part, or a little bit before stopping because "he has an agenda, he talks soft, he's too excited, he's a bad presenter..."
He's not a TV presenter that does lots of historical stuff, he had a long long career as an archaeologist and is THE authority on a number of things, as he's the one that found, translated, confirmed specific things. He's the most unbiased person I've ever seen on a historical thing.
Once you're used to the way he presents stuff you will find it's just different, not lacking in any way. I think this is 5 parts? He builds on information so a phrase in part 4 has lots of context before that takes it from "quick tidbit" to "with the information leading up to this, it means so much more .
His excitedness and obsession with history/archaeology is because he is those things 100%.
This looks and may be a waste typing all this when I look up and see people arguing about the most asinine stuff. However, I stopped the first documentary I found from him for the same reasons mentioned above, then when looking for something on a specific subject, his was the only one so I said i'd watch the part I wnted to see, not the whole thing. By the time I had seen the section I was interested in, anything I thought was negative about him my mind was completely changed, and I had seen hour-2hour thing and was sad when it was over.
If anyone watches an entire series, 3, 5, 7 parts, from him I know you can at least then say you weren't missing things later that others would use to say you didn't get far enough to understand.
Lastly - His Ancient Lives doc-show focuses on 1 little town in egypt that as a whole prepared tombs in the valley of kings. He identified this place, excavated, and found enough contemporary written accounts from most anyone that lived there over hundreds of years. He put it all together in order and had found unbroken documentation of a place that's not the thing any high up scribes would care to mention ever so this kind of thing was groundbreaking.
Please give yourself another chance to check his work out. If you loathe Egyptian stuff I think his "Wonders of the World" doc show would be perfect. It's what I almost stopped for the same reasons as above, but continuing was the best thing I did. Remember, he's not and doesn't want to be a Tony Robinson, He explains facts, written/recorded, doesn't speculate to make something more interesting.
Long post but I have learned or got a true understanding of so so so many things from his work like this.
I absolutely loved this, John Romer is a god among men. Somehow he's down to earth and romantic at the same time. He really makes you feel the dreams of the people he's talking about.
It's like, when you take a tour of Washington D.C. and see all the great monuments and statues and the symbolism in the Capitol building, you really get the sense of the values of the country. Of course, reality is much more complicated and much less ideal, and it's easy to tear them down or go on about irony. Romer somehow brings both views without diminishing either.
I think a major fault of a lot of history teaching is that it either mythologizes or is too cynical, it's equally important to know the romantic aspirations of people as the pragmatic, daily decisions they made, to really understand them.
E-Juuust realized all the comments are from 3 or 4 years ago. Whatev.
What do you mean by Private?
It's a pity that when the west has the opportunity of taking back the west lost empire, the british empire who were the one for the job threw away the opportunity. Instead of forging their empire into one people, one nation one religion. They were simply interested in their own selfish gains and they prefer to use didvide and rule. That singular mistake they made in failing to merge the east and west together has resulted in todays troubles in modern world. The british empire failed to finally ones and for all put down the different btw middle east and west. The world as we know it today could have been a better place.
What? Rome never fell from power? How does this guy figure that the Roman Empire never fell from being the world major power? I must have missed something unless he means that Rome must have never tripped over a rock and actually fell over, lol.
lets by honest the turks need to give back the greeks what is rightfully theres!! they are destroying history itself, disregarding the ancient culture and historic buildings that's infront of them!! its as if they look at the once great empire that exists within istanbul as a pile of rocks that need to be cleaned away, this really annoys me. also the ottoman empire originally came as a barbarian horde they should go back to arabia and mongolia where they originally came from and stop destroying ancient church's and converting them into mosks its disgusting!!
What a genius account. It was the passion of the presenter that brought the history alive. History is about passion in the context of lives and the great and every day events this inspires. The number of negative comments on here displays only how complex society is ... and how tumultous history also is.
A very, very biased documentary, with terrible, terrible narration. With many a hypothesis are bluntly adopted as fact, this is more of an action film production than a scientific approach to history.
Why keep on calling it Byzantium?
Doing so dilutes the perceived influence that this Empire has on Europe.
IT IS the Roman Empire, all its inhabitants called it the Roman Empire, everyone in the world at that time called it the Roman Empire. Even the Muslims recognized it as the Roman Empire (one of the early Seljuk Sultanates to conquer the area called itself the Sultanate of Rome (Salj?qiy?n-e R?m)!
Doing otherwise makes it sound like its some 'other, exotic' Empire that just sprang out of nowhere and disappeared to nowhere.
Alexandria was burned 3 times. First by the Greeks (or Romans, sorry forgot which), then by the Christians, then by the Muslims. All cultures desired to save for themselves knowledge while denying it to others.
Isn't it great that with the web, vast quantities of great education and knowledge cannot be destroyed any longer?
Loved this. Today's religion will be the future's mythology. Both believed at one time by many; but proved wrong by the clever.
Great subject. Loony presenter. Part way through the sixth piece I could no longer abide the orgasmic superlatives and I watched a rerun of Frazier instead. I would still like to see more on this subject though.
Bloody annoying presenter. Sounds like he's getting off on talking about this lol slightly obsessed maybe?
a good documentary ,
religions change over time, words change, the meaning of texts are lost,
people don't change that much,always blaming one thing or the other, for this or that.
if your a muslim be a good muslim,or be a good christian ,or just a good human-being , religion of itself is responsible for ideas and laws , but after all, all writings are floored in some way or other because people are involved, and people are not perfect, religion can be the excuse for wrong actions just as anything else can be.
dude im not attacking alexander i think he did deserve his title being great, and he mixed all cultures together even when conquering persia he brought the persians back in, gave them government spots , married greeks with persians i believe in an effort to bring a kind of harmony between everyone. also he or the persians never turned their backs on ther gods like constantine. so what were the gods that the 1000s of years greeks and romans believed be4 him suddenly not good enough ? also the romans was pretty much my way way or the highway..u.s style melting pot. sure there waa all kind of different peoples but you were either a loyal roman or a roman slave. slaves were also big in ancient greece , guess they picked that up from the egyptians who pretty much started with the hebrews. but i dont get where you come up with alexanders conquests being diplomatic? he wanted the glory nothing more , to be great , so crack some eggs to make the omellette. dont see much diplomacy, still he was great
@Grey its true that religion may be misguided at times, especially in the search for a common God, specifically the psychology of turning a group of individuals into a mob.
Yes, it may be true that Rome was established on the concept of conquest... Read your history or mythology and you will find that to be absolutely true, but done attack Alexander, who assimilated most of the cultures he found reign over. Generally speaking, the great majority of his conquests were diplomatic, not militaristic in nature.
That is the only defining point between our modern Hitler and Alexander. Alexander conquered by assimilation and Hitler conquered by assassination. In my opinion that makes Alexander more intelligent, he built his armies based upon common ground instead of killing his enemies based upon the fact that they weren't his preferred class.
Perhaps, you should read some more history and take an example from someone who was intelligent enough to join all men, not snipe them away or troll them into mental retardation.
@ Grey area
So we are debating about the way the Turkish state is actively ruining the remains of byzantine culture inside it's borders and suddenly you start calling me names like Christian and racist. I am neither, i am a agnostic and i despise any form of organized religion with any form of hierarchy. Sure Christians did a lot of wrong things in the name of their fait as well but i don't see what this has to do with the state of the remains of Byzantium. If you want to turn this into a debate about Iraq or the catholic church because you've got nothing sensible to say about the subject just say so or say nothing because this is just bad debating. My point was just the double face of Turkey and it's government considering the old buildings they have and the old Greek minority.
But if you insist of going down this road then there is one big difference in the religions and the violence coming from those religions which you would now if you'd read the Bible, Koran and Hadith. The Christian texts give yo moral stories kinda like Disney does wich are easy to interpret and Christ the inspiring figure for Christians never hurt anyone but was a die hard pacifist. Then Islam wich is a collection of commands wich don't give people any freedom to interpret because it's gods word and they're pretty straight foward. Then Mohamed who is an inpiring figure for any Muslim was a warlord who enslaved screwed children and decapitated many people himself. Also islam gives us clear blueprint of how a state should be organised and how law should be so exept of a relligion there is also al political system incorporated in it.
The church is an organisation that never followed christs ideas is just the biggest mafia family wich uses christ as a way of propaganda. But everything we despise about islam can be found in the commands that god gives muslims and is part of the relligion while with the church i think you can easily say that what the church does has nothing to do with christ and his life. That's all i got to say about relligion now, not that it isn't an interesting debate and i do want to hear your response but this isn't the place for a heated and long religious debate. In the future don't start with calling people racist or something but think first. I am just an hisorian who can't stand the way a f@#$%^ up government and country like Turkey destroyed the remains of one of the beacons of civilization.
Maybe you should read some more because you start getting the american invasion in iraq in this debate (like i just said that the invasion was great) but the only reason Turkey can say and do what it want's to do without getting sanctions from the west is because it allows countries like the us to use it for strategic means and the placement of rockets and every time another counry comments on for example the armenian genocide Turkey threatens to break of all relations and everybody shuts up.
do you ever see evangelical preachers in any other religion? preaching for money? noone in any other religion or atheist like myself would give money to those scumbags. like are the people there blind? dont they see ther getting swindled? then the holy preacher hops in his bentley, rips away, eats steak and lobster and laughs himself to sleep at how stupid his fellow christians are. BRAVO MAN BRAVO
well since your so keen on rape of art and culture then ud know it works both ways yah? the christians destroyed much art and culture and beutiful mosques with intricate art and detail. which still happens now , like when u.s 2nd invasion of iraq they bombed the golden dome mosque completely destroying it, which was said to be the most beautiful in iraq . if thats not rape you tell me what is. in byzantium countless mosques and even jewish temples wwer turned over into churches , more rape. its only when the christians precious sophia is turned over they weep. the very thing they did to all others churches. im neither christian or muslim , if anything id be buddhist because its so laid back. but without a doubt i can tell you christianity is the most evil of any religion, and you are clearly christian , i can tell from your bias\racist comments. islam ive assesed is the religion of the poor low class, freedom fighters and masses of the world, christianity has become the rich-fat cat religion
I had the great privilege to live in Istanbul a couple years ago. I knew it had a tremendous history, and this doc helped me learn more. I have seen St. Peter's in Rome, Notre Dame in Paris, and several huge cathedrals in Spain. All very stunning. But Hagia Sofia is the only man-made building that has brought tears to my eyes. Words don't do it justice. By the way, in one episode the narrator says that it's a mosque. No longer. The far-sighted Ataturk, father of modern Turkey, made it into a museum years ago.
Grey area, The beauty of St. Sophia was renown all over the world. I would have loved to have seen it. That it all. You are seeing bias/racism when none exist. Take some breaths and just relax.
your grief at the hands of the muslims?? im sorry i didnt know that once a structure changes names it loses all its beauty?? would a rose by any other name smell different ?? so let me get this straight , if it was a church ud be in love right but if its a mosque ull become full of grief? that right? You should have been on george w. bushs staff because ud fit right in. a little bias/racist are we?
Belisarius, I, too, love this time period and have been reading about it. That is why I did not like this film. He glossed over too many details when there was plenty of time in the film to include them. I realize that the film media does not have the scope that a book has, but there was no excuse for the sloppy scholarship this film maker exhibited.
As for the rest of your post, I agree wholeheartedly. For instance I have been interested in the architecture of St. Sophia in Constantinople/Istanbul and have always felt a degree of grief at the changes that were done at the hands of Muslims to change it over to a mosque but that is the way of this world. I wish I could freely explore this place but know I could never do that.
Let's hope a better and more accurate and certainly less emotional exploration of this time period will be forthcoming.
This is a fantastic documentary for a history student like me. Byzantium has always been my favorite subject but it's not popular anymore these days. It is hard to get good books and documentaries about this empire that changed philosophy, art, architecture and especially modern law. And all the americans here shouldn't forget that one of the reasons Columbus could go and discover America was because of the fall of Constantinople in 1453. This empire gave us so much beauty but so little is left because of the Ottomans and the modern Turks trying to get rid of the Christians in Turkey and never took any serious effort to protect the Byzantine remains.
I liked this documentary. Very interesting and not dry. Interesting city that, Constantinople/Istanbul. Would like to visit someday.
It's the dark ages. There really isn't much surviving information. Every new king or emperor rewrote the history of his follower. Not to mention high illiteracy.
The narrator is trying to explain the culture in the same context that the culture wrote their history. That's why everything is so divine, and heavenly. The best information we have is art and architecture.
It's not biased toward religion. Roman Catholic Christianity is as guilty for the fall of Eastern Rome and Islam was. When the Turk's did invade, Western Europe offered no help.
also who the heck is that suppose to be in the doc pic? constantine? that is one ugly dude lolol
I had the same error a few times, like Vlatko said- it was on my end. I had other things running and not enough band width dedicated to the video. If your pc senses not enough band width it will give you an error. Check things running in the back ground that you are unaware of, it was some software i had downloaded trying to update for me. Once I stopped that it worked fine.
After comment posted 20 seconds ago, now shows up fine.
Won't play: black screen with text, "An error occurred, please try again later." even after numerous page refreshes.
so far I agree with most of the comments about the narrator, hes like a Byzantine fan-boy or something.
cracked me up how he describes some a$$hole playing God thinking he should be worshiped and then calls it 'heaven on earth'. what the hell buddy, that sounds more like earth on earth to me.
Interesting topic none the less though, I'll see if I can get through the whole thing.
I'm sorry, but I did not like this documentary. I stopped watching after awhile. The narrator gave a story that was one-sided. He wanted to give an wonderful story, but I kept catching incomplete details that irritated me because the rest of the story I did not know about I became suspicious. They were small details but important ones. For example at one point, he said life was good for people in this one town but neglected to say it was good for only men and certain classes of men. It was if only certain people existed in the Byzantium.
By the way, I am a seasoned traveler and love to watch films about people exploring other lands. Even Michael Palen has luggage. When this guy got off the Orient Express, he had none. WTF? He could have at least carried a bag.
Not that I prize one religion over the other, all are equally guilty in my eyes, but it was the Christians that burned the papers at Alexandria, and hence they who helped throw mankind into the darkages. The Muslims, specifically the Moores that took and held Spain for years, saved many of the Greek and Roman writings they got from Byzantium and other places and hid them in Spain. When Spain was liberated by Europeans these writings were found and spurred them into the Enlightment and the Scientific Revolution. Of course many other factors played in, like the disgust with Catholic practices like selling indulgences and supressing scientific progress. But these writings made the Europeans realize that there was a whole different way of looking at nature, man could control it through understanding it and by doing so make his life easier. The star charts found were used by Columbus on his forth voyage to the new world, and made navigation much easier and more accurate. The effect of just this knowledge made a huge impact on trade and modernization. The destruction of the ancient Roman lands you speak of was attributed to Germanic tribes in the west, not the Arabs that conquered Byzantium.
That said Islam nor Christianity has been tolerant in the past, and sure are not in the present. Both religions have always been very oppressive and controlling toward the masses. Islam was somewhat more tolerant than they are in the present in the past, Christianity has grown more tolerant with time- but I am talking about tolerance toward their own. Niether was ever tolerant of the other, or of any other religion to be honest. It is the nature of religion in general to destroy other teachings and be intolerant toward those that believe otherwise,except for the Buddhist. The Buddhist have always tolerated everyone, even those that do not believe at all- atheist. It was also the Christians that destroyed all the Aztec and Mayan writings, probably much more advanced then those in Greece or Byzantium- though this was long after the end of the Dark Ages, that weren't really that dark anyway.
also one thing thats undeniable , islam , and all ancients believed in stars and space and all that stuff, christianity wont even mention it , like it doesnt exist , wtf is that?
ionica , i totally agree with you. jerusalem which was ruled by muslims was never as prosperous and free as it was at that time . as for romans , ivd basically assessed rome was a cult based on Alexander the great. ther whole society was based on conquering and glory , almost every roman emperor visited his grave and so on. Constantine tho claimed it all in christian name, im amazed the christians went with such mass killing as just a little while before they were the ones persecuted in rome...dejavu?? israel today? just thoughts to dwell on. also the guy narrating this doc clearly needs to walk himself into oncoming traffic for the good of all humanity.
@ B Mused
No, you should get it right pal. The word Christian came along long before the protestant break from the Catholic church. The word Christian is used to referr to Catholics and protestants, you are both a type of Christian. I will not get into the silly arguement of which of you has the most blood on your hands, both have plenty. Most of the bible was written by neither of you but the Jews, or Hebrew to be exact, as they wrote the Old Testament which is longer than the new testament and therefore constitutes the majority of the fiction you call a holy book. All religions are false and blood thirsty in my opinion. As a theologian I am very familiar with the history of Christianity. Listening to you try and place your self above it all and make your claim to salvation is sickening, and a great example of how religion seperates and justifies the holier than thou attitudes of simple people.
If you feel like you must seperate yourself from the catholics then the right word is protestant. To say that the protestants have no blood on their hands, or to insinuate it like you did above, only proves how little you know of history. The first to believe in the Judeao-Christian God were the Jews. Once Jesus came along then we had Jews and Christians, as the Jews didn't believe Jesus to be the son of their God. Then Martin Luther comes along and breaks with the Catholic church in favor of personal priesthood, now we have the protestants. The differences between the three are very small to atheists like myself, your all guilty of absense of common sense to us.
I watched episode 1. I found it very tedious. No idea what the presenter was trying to say. Seemed totally vacuous - an apparently endless stream of ooohs and aaahs about buildings and pieces of monumental sculpture. Byzantium was more than an architectural style but you might be forgiven for not knowing that from this programme. Towards the end of episode 1 the sound and video were out of sync. I decided not to bother watching any more. Pity. This is a subject which is under-explored on UK television and it could have been fascinating. :-(
I'm not a Muslim. I am human. Name a religion that wiped out entire civilizations, killed every independent woman for centuries, didn't wash even for years...Don't I know history? Have you ever heard about the burned libraries, Hypatia, Galileo, ... Not so sure about "what if there were no Muslims", but I'm sure that without Christians we would have had the entire solar system colonized already...I totally agree with Ez, "No religion is worth praising over another"...but it's good to start somewhere when you want to fight against it...and for the killing girls and blind faith...it's clear: I have no chance arguing with brainwashed, FoxNews self-thought history scholars..hehee ... @rtm told ya...he reminds me of the way priests talk hence the need to use him as a punching bag, Christian way...
You must learn more history before commenting on something which you dont know..It is common in islam to blame the europeans or christians ( however you wanna call them) and say that islam was a religion of tolerance etc.... the actual truth is that if it wasnt for the arabs or muslims conquering ancient roman land there would never have been a medieval period (dark ages , which are far exagerated)..from greece to india old trade routes were slowly closing down ..... The 'ancient writings' as you put them were still tought and read in byzantium and it is when the arabs starting conquering greece that the west lost them ...
I do agree that the christian religion was the cause of much ignorance just as was every religion.But as a Muslim you should know that the religion that is the most suppresive the one that wants total submission , blind faith , law by god , still justifies slavery , or justifies genocide in darfur etc... and that burns these books , and kills little girls that go to school is islam... islam is not the problem solver but is as great if not more of a problem.
p.s he draws a very vague picture.
This guy is really annoying, his voice is voice is too quiet, soft, and weak. I like the subject, but this documentary sucks 5/10.
Please get it right catholics are not christians... There are so many points that prove that catholics do not follow the christian faith as it is explained in the bible. For example no where does it say in the bible to pray to saints, that there is such a place as purgatory, etc etc etc. Now my pont is the templars were a tool of the catholic faith directed by the pope. For example the knights came into Jerusalem and killed Jews Chistians and Muslim alike and at the dome of the rock they stabled there horses at the mosque and removed the crescent moon from the roof and replaced it with a crucifix, the emblem of the holy roman church, christians use a simple cross as a symbol in memory of the death and resurecction of christ. Wether or not you support or detest christians please get it right when talking about the holy wars and the knights templar and the role of the catholic church and their pope.
the Eastern Roman history is alive in the Balkans, these people carry the blood of kings
No religion is worth praising over another. All have made contributions and all have destroyed and murdered in the name of their so called god's. Same as most countries, ethnic groups, etc., etc. are equally guilty and innocent. Everything seems to find balance, except our pathetic ways of thinking.
I thought it was a pretty good documentary. I will admit the guy narrating is a little too excited. But I suppose it takes that kind of passion to become an authority on a particular subject. Its a little slow as well, but so are almost all history doc's. I swear though I have watched this one some where before, I thought it was on this site- guess not. If you are into Eastern Roman history you'll love this. If not you may fall asleep.
^^^ But...Byzantium was a Christian empire? What are you talking about?
Anyway, nice doc. Not many explore the "Eastern" Roman Empire...very informative and beautiful imagery
take a good look. and weep. all is lost and destroyed by this plague called Christianity. all the time the guy narrating speaking like is about to have an orgasm makes me wanna punch his face...yak! WE should kiss Islam ass for saving the ancient writings, without'em we'll still be in dark age with pedophiles priests telling us what to do..
Yummy!Can't wait to watch,thanks!
not bad. i watched it all but found it a little slow and mind numbing 6/10