“If we assume that the Roman Empire as a classical civilization had not perished by the beginning of the Middle Ages, but had completed an eleven-centuries’ cycle, Byzantium’s humanistic culture became a forerunner of Renaissance which returned the worship of classics and Plato's philosophy to the First Rome.”
Sylvia Ronchey, Professor of Byzantine Culture, Siena University
“The term “Byzantine Empire” means the state and political system dominating the Mediterranean world for eleven centuries. The capital of the empire was Constantinople (nowadays Istanbul). Since its creation till barbarous despoliation by crusaders it was Europe’s economical, political, and cultural centre. The New Rome stood against multiple invaders’ attacks, blocking the way to Western Europe for new peoples. The prosperity of Byzantine Empire coincided with Western Europe’s decadence. Constantinople became the centre of Orthodoxy expansion. This belief was accepted by the peoples of Serbia, Bulgaria, Albania, but its byzantine roots manifested themselves particularly vividly in Russia.
However, the role of byzantine civilization is not rated positively by all. The definition of “Byzantine Empire” was put into practice by French scientists, namely, Montesquieu, the writer and philosopher of the age of Enlightenment. It was his book “On the Spirit of the Laws” that inspired the founders of United States to frame a Constitution. As other thinkers of that time, Montesquieu referred to works of ancient Greeks and Romans. According to the west-European tradition, scorning the Middle Ages, Montesquieu characterized the Constantinople Empire as depraved and decadent. In his detailed treatise on history of the empire he gave the old name of Constantinople – Byzantium. Thanks to him, the term “byzantine” has established, becoming a synonym for despotism, treacherousness and decadence. English scientist Edward Gibbon in his “History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire” referred to an epic where the empire after the VI century is shown sunk in corruption.”
Clifton R. Fox, Professor in History Tomball College Tomball, USA
“Byzantium created a brilliant culture, may be, the most brilliant during the whole Middle Ages, doubtlessly the only one existing in Christian Europe before the XI century. For many years, Constantinople remained the sole grand city of Christian Europe ranking second to none in splendour. Byzantium literature and art exerted a significant impact on peoples around it. The monuments and majestic works of art, remaining after it, show us the whole lustre of byzantine culture. That’s why Byzantium held a significant place in the history of Middle Ages and, one must admit it, a merited one.”
Charles Michel Diehl – French Byzantinist. In 1899-1934 Professor of Sorbonne. Since 1910 - member of Academie des Inscriptions
Byzantium was an empire located half in Asia, half in Europe, It prospered for over 1,000 years and became a successful example of interaction between different nationalities. It continued Rome’s culture and stimulated the development of culture of the European civilization from the obscure Middle Ages. The ethnic composition of Byzantine Empire population was multinational, particularly at the first stage of its history: Greeks, Syrians, Copts, Armenians, Jews, Hellenized Asia Minor tribes, Thracians, Illyrians, Dacians, and Southern Slavs. Byzantium population in the VI–XI centuries included ethnic groups which became later the basis of Italian nationality. Sciences were widespread: theology (Symeon of Thessaloniki XIV, Basil the Great 300–379), mathematics (Theon of Alexandria, Leo the Mathematician (circa 790 – after 869), natural science, ethics, politics, grammar, rhetoric (Hilarion Metropolitan, Cyril of Turov), dialectics or logic, astronomy, music (Romanos the Melodist (V–VI), Andrew of Crete (VII), John Damascene) and law attaining phenomenal prime in Byzantium (Tribonian, Harmenopoulos).
The reforms of Justinian I in the field of law have exerted significant impact on development of law. By the resolution of 554, Justinian introduced the use of his laws in Italy. Justinian’s Institutiones and Digesta are the basis of many legal systems existing nowadays. The modern Russian law is heir of byzantine law and has inherited many of its frameworks.
Byzantium was the first to establish monastic hospitals and hospital care. The 12-volume work by Alexander (Lat. Alexander Trallianus, circa 525–605) on internal diseases and their treatment enjoyed popularity during the whole Middle Ages.
The first universities also originated in Byzantium. Education in Byzantium combined the Graeco-Roman school tradition and Christian upbringing; 10–12-year old boys and girls learned to read and write by the Bible and Homer’s poems. In the V–VI centuries there existed a lot of higher educational institutions, such as the Constantinople University founded circa 425, schools in Athens, Alexandria, Antioch, law schools in Constantinople and Beirut.
As distinct from west-European universities emerging since the XIII century as legally independent bodies, byzantine higher educational institutions were state-owned, with approved personnel and high salaries for professors; education there was free.
The renowned Byzantines Cyril and Methodius have laboured the Cyrillic alphabet, which allowed the Slavs’ having their own written literature.
Fund’s mission is adapting the knowledge, traditions and materials of Byzantine culture for modern communication channels, extending access to Byzantium’s cultural heritage, popularization and educating work with young people.