Byzantium" was the name of a Greek city located on the Bosphorus. When Constantine 1, the first Christian emperor of the Roman Empire, decided to relocate the center of his government to the east, Byzantium was the site he chose. The city was completely rebuilt and renamed "Constantinopolis" ("City of Constantine") in 330. The word "Byzantine" to describe this civilization and its empire was first used by historians in the 19th century. The empire came to an end in 1453 with the conquest of Constantintople by Sultan Mehmed II. Under the Turks, the city became known as Istanbul.
It is impossible to draw any clear line demarcating the beginnings of "Byzantine" art inasmuch as it is an original synthesis incorporating elements and traditions of Hellenistic and Roman art, Christian mysticism, and the creative ingenuity of people from Anatolia. As a result, its earliest stages are sometimes referred to as "Early Christian art" as well. In the course of its thousand-year history, Byzantine art went through major three phases whose features are distinctive from one another. These three phases-Early, Middle, and-Late-also encompass the period known as Iconoclastic (726-842) and the interruption of the Latin invasion and occupation of 1204-126l.
Sculpture and Steles
Architecture flourished under the Romans and with it so did the arts of sculptural relief and portraiture.
The most important Roman innovation in the art of sculpture was the emphasis on portraiture.
The importance attached to historical personages resulted in statues being erected to them. The demand for statues accurately portraying the emperor and the members of his family also played a great role in this development resulting in the sculpting of a large number of statues not only of generals and statesmen but even of ordinary citizens and their wives.
Such portraits were of the highest quality but in addition to them there was also a flourishing provincial style of art that yielded up many attractive examples that are especially to be found on sarcophagi and steles. Provincial artists also produced lovely examples of statues during this period. This is particularly true in western Anatolia, where large numbers of statues of local gods and goddesses were sculpted.
Grave steles (gravestones) are not only an art form but also provide us with documentary evidence about the past.
The styles and shapes of these steles vary considerably from region to region and from age to age. Steles were decorated with reliefs that included a figure or motif identifying the deceased or sometimes his portrait. Most contain informative inscriptions that tell us much about the way these ancient people really lived as well as about their cultures, traditions, and economies.Beads
It is likely that beads are the earliest form of personal adornment used by human beings. Decorative beads, fashioned at first from the bones of animals and birds and later from a variety of stones, have been found in large quantities in the graves of men, women, and children from the Neolithic period onward.
Among tribal cultures even today, beads are used throughout a person's lifetime and are buried along with the owner upon his death. While it is conceivable that these small, colorful, and appealing little objects were originally used for religious or talismanic purposes, there is no question but that they were also worn (especially by women) simply for their decorative value. In ancient times-no more or less so than today-the use of beads made from gold as well as from precious or semiprecious stones such as sapphires, rubies, emeralds, agates, and sards has been an indication of the wearer's economic and social status.
Beads made from gold and agate have been found in royal tombs from the 3rd millennium BC. During the Classical Greek period (5-4th centuries BC), jewelry objects made from golden beads were particularly popular. During the Hellenistic period (330-30 BC), the colorful and precious stones of the exotic cast traveled westward in the wake of Alexander's conquest of that part of the world. During the Roman period, Antioch in Anatolia, Alexandria in Egypt, and Rome in Italy became the fashion-centers of the jewelry-making industry of the day. Beads fashioned to resemble eyes of one sort or another have been continuously manufactured since at least the 6th century BC and were used for talismanic purposes to ward off the evil eye, etc.
Prior to 1500, the Islamic world, India, and China had wealthier and more sophisticated civilizations than did Europe; yet in just three and a half centuries the balance was reversed. During this period, European-manufactured glass beads were carried by explorers and traders throughout the world and they proved to be enormously popular. The result of a seemingly inexhaustible demand led to a proliferation of bead types, designs, and manufacturing techniques.