Byzantine Empire: Cultural and Construction Essay

Excerpt from Essay :

One of the most brilliant contributions of the Byzantium is its contribution to modern music and the development of what the world has come to appreciate as the foundations of classical music. The Byzantine "medieval" (Lang, 1997), in fact, the Byzantium influence is considered to be critical to the development of the Greek music and the relative genius behind Greek music (Lang, 1997)

The quoted sovereign melody (Lang, 1997) is the oft punctuated contribution to the sovereign nature of today's music throughout the world. The Byzantium facilitated the sovereign method of music ostensibly from what would be the earlier influences to the Byzantine Empire. Lang continues to point to such influence as having its origins in the Orient (Lang, 1997).

Sports were a major part of the Byzantine Empire and are representative of the development of competition within the Roman Empire and subsequently to the importance of sporting events within all major empires that have since developed. After the fall of the Byzantine (Eastern Roman Empire) under Constantinople, a new age of sports and recreational activities was initiated (Schrodt, 1981).

In fact, Schrodt continues to argue that many of the Byzantium achievements were framed in contempt as many scholars concluded that the Byzantium did contribute not one iota to the "history, philosophy, or literature of the Roman civilization" (Schrodt, 1981). Therefore, many of the achievements brought to Western civilization after the Byzantium era, are not properly attributed to the Byzantine during the height of civilization.

Byzantine architecture and religious philosophy also are major components of the development of Western civilization. The architecture of Byzantine cathedrals, or religious ceremonial housing, have continued to influence the contemporary architecture of the Western world, as Catholics developed "neo-Byzantine churches" whilst the Presbyterians developed neo-Gothic churches. (Highet, 1976)

3. Economic Environment


The Byzantium system of economics was unrivaled at the height of its advancement and for centuries afterward. The relative dominance of Byzantium within the European and Mediterranean facilitated the capital city of Constantinople as the primary purveyor of trading network that enabled the nether regions of the European-Asiatic and North African regions. During the medieval period, Constantinople remained the nexus within the network of trade facilitated by the Byzantium. However, the decline of such an economic base was facilitated by the rise of the Arabs from a collective bodywork representation of Asia and subsequent invasion by the Arabs.


Indeed, the Byzantine Empire was built and had established itself on trade. The ability of the empire to generate its wealth via trade was a function of the empire's decision to control internal and external trade routes to the best of her ability. Additionally, the Constantinople nexus was able to increase trading traffic in all directions and therefore offered a convenient trade route for traders from all over to trade with one another at Constantinople. The tax levied on the trading at Constantinople facilitated the burgeoning economy of the empire.

The major trading commodities included grain and silk. Silk was a commodity cherished by all whom traded on the aforementioned trade routes. Diplomatic relations were facilitated with silk as it was also a means of currency for the empire. (Laiou, Exchange and Trade, 720) Grain was a tremendously high in demand as population increases would force the price of the raw supply of food to new heights. Additionally, the invasion by the Arabs did hinder the ability of the Byzantium to regulate its remaining supply of viable grain to the constituency of the empire. (Laiou, Exchange and Trade, 720)

Constantinople did facilitate trade of a large variety of goods. These goods would include oil, wine, salt fish, mean, vegetables, salt, timber and wax, ceramics, linen, and wooden cloth. Additionally, there were 'luxury items', such as silks, perfumes and spices. Trade in slaves was viewed with disdain by the state and ostensibly private individuals, which does point to the level of philosophic and moral development of the societal core. (Laiou, Exchange and Trade 723-746)

By the13th century, the Byzantium was in economic control of the Venetians and the Genoese. (Matschke, Commerce, Trade, Markets 771-772) This led to the relative decline of the Byzantium economy as the state was unable to establish control over the internal and external economic drivers. Eventually, Byzantium would lose control over all major internal processes that govern and regulate economic activity. (Matschke, Commerce, Trade, Markets 805-806)


As in many societies, Byzantium agrarian society favored the areas close to the sea as well as the interior of the Balkans and Asia Minor to further maintain the food supply. These aspects of agrarian society within the Byzantium assisted in establishing the Byzantine economy to facilitate its major economic engine, trade. The Byzantine society did work hard when considering the tools and techniques applied to their agrarian endeavors, which prove to have yielded a low productivity of output ratio in labor hours vs. yield. (Lefort, 232-235)

The major period of activity in the Byzantium had seen the ascension of the estate and village as central to the social organization of production within the Byzantium (Lefort, 242-289). The development of Europe's feudal society during the Medieval times was a function of the Byzantine system of state. Land owners often employed what were termed as 'wage laborers' whom maintained the land as a function of the work that was performed. The village inhabitants, whether present on the land or not, paid the taxes on the land to the state.

Population of the Byzantine prior to the 9th and 10th century was diminishing, such as during the 7th and 8th centuries. The reason for the decline in population statistics was inherently due to the epidemics such as the plague of the middle 6th century. Again, after the 9th century the population commenced to increase however, the number within the population deemed to be unproductive was also increasing as a function of the total population. (Lefort 267-270)

(Laiou, Agrarian Economy 369)


For all intent and purposes, the Byzantium had developed a relatively complex and symbiotic economic system of monetary exchange and wealth transfer which was highly integrated and relatively flexible over the course of the empire's history. (Morrison, 909-910) The system of trading and the development of the economic base was a function of the ability to track and grow the wealth base within the empire.

The Byzantium also issued a 'wealth standard' or what is termed a solidus which like gold, has a nominal value equal to its intrinsic value. (Morrisson, 918-932) The difference with gold in today's market is that there is a market value that defines that gold is traded at in the market exchange. Additionally, silver and bronze coinage was also issued whose nominal value was slightly higher than its intrinsic value. (Morrisson, 918-932)

However by the 10th and 11th centuries the system of monetary exchange within the empire had underwent a considerable change which was then followed by an economic crisis which devalued the value of the metals and hence the currency that was a function of the underlying value. (Morrisson, 918-932) The subsequent role of the Venetians in Byzantine economics would be to issue coins and reinvigorate monetary circulation within the empire. (Morrisson, 933-962)

(Morrisson 933-962)

The Role of State

The state had macro influence and a governing authority over the issuance of coinage as well as intervening via the regulation of all major aspects of the Byzantium economy. What is currently called monetary policy was the focal point of state intervention within Byzantium. (Laiou, Economic History, 255-256)

(Laiou, Economic History 255-256).

4. General Management


The Byzantine Empire was essentially religious in nature, and an austerely rigid religion at that. Art and literature took on the form of ecclesiastical and theological doctrine. Much of Byzantine art would serve as motivation for Renaissance artists. The Byzantine Empire instigated the Crusades, so effectively they laid the basis for most of the world's affairs for the next 800 years. Despite the fact that monotheistic Christianity was the official religion of the Byzantine Empire, society did not progress forward in thinking with regard to government or management during this time (Cohen). Nonetheless, through writing the Byzantine Empire contributed significantly to the preservation and transmission of classical management knowledge and skills so that other societies could benefit from past systems (Anastos 410; Tatakes).

The Byzantium had solid and contiguously governed management in the area of crisis management. Private benefactors largely influenced the general management environment and ostensibly facilitated the rise of the Church and the influence of church in state and societal affairs throughout the period of the Byzantine Empire. (Stathakopoulos, 172)

The civil and military elite that would develop within Byzantium and enable the militaristic growth of the empire were a function of the general management practices within the empire. (Stathakopoulos, 172) General management practices were inherently a function of the religious influence within Byzantium as it pertained to the establishment of religion over the population.

The crisis…

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