At the turn of the VI-VII centuries. Byzantium quickly lost part of its possessions, both in the West and in the East.
In the middle of the VII century. The Byzantine territory was halved compared to the time of Justinian. Now it increasingly took the form of a medieval state. Instead of the Roman title “emperor” began to use the Greek “basileus”. The official state language was Greek. The number of cities has decreased, in all spheres of the country’s life there has been a decline.
A certain stabilization of the Byzantine state occurred under the first Basileans of the Isaurian dynasty. Its founder Leo III Isaurus saved the empire from the onslaught of the Arabs, who in 717 besieged Constantinople. The Arab fleet of 1,800 warships entered the Bosporus. Thanks to the tireless energy of Leo III and the courage of the defenders of the city, the Arab attack was repulsed, and their fleet was burned with “Greek fire”.
In the VII
century. Among the Byzantine clergy, a movement against veneration of icons and holy relics spread. He was openly supported by Lev III. In 726, by his decree, he ordered everywhere to replace the crucifixion with an ordinary cross; later he ordered to whitewash the images of all the saints, first of all the Virgin Mary. So in Byzantium a long conflict, known as Iconoclasm, erupted.
Most likely, this speech of the emperor was caused by the evocative wealth of the monasteries, and its icons symbolized. The confrontation between iconoclasts and icon-worshipers lasted more than 100 years and embraced all sections of the population.
For the first time the Byzantines used the “Greek fire” in the 70’s. VII century. It was a combustible propellant mixture, which was made from oil, tar, saltpeter and sulfur. It was invented by the Byzantine scientist Kallinik. With the help of special pipes, this mixture was spewed onto enemy ships or siege mechanisms, exceeding them in ashes. To survive even swimming was impossible, because the mixture burned and on the water. Terrible weapons repeatedly brought
the Byzantines victory. The secret of its manufacture was kept secret.
The movement was accompanied by the destruction of icons, torture, executions, expulsions of icon-worshipers, and most importantly – the confiscation of church and monastic property. Finally in 843 the icon-worshipers won. The cult of icons was restored, and the iconoclasts were excommunicated. However, this internal struggle weakened Byzantium.
Improvement is observed in the period of domination of the Macedonian dynasty, which is often called the “golden age” of Byzantine statehood. At this time, a luxurious etiquette of the Byzantine court is formed and a strict ceremony of reception of foreign ambassadors.
X century. The story of Liutprand, the ambassador of the Italian King Berengar, about the court ceremony in the palace of basileus
In Constantinople, the palace is directly adjoined by a room of amazing splendor and beauty, which the Greeks call Magnaurus, or the Golden Chamber… Before the imperial throne stood a tree of gilt iron, and on its branches sat a variety of birds, also of gilded iron, and each bird she sang something. The throne itself was designed in such a way that it seemed low, then it rose high up. On both sides the throne was guarded by huge lions made of gilded metal or wood, they were beating their tails on the floor and roaring, opening their mouths and moving their tongues…
In that hall two eunuchs led me to the emperor. When I entered, the lions roared, and the birds sang. When I prostrated for the third time before the throne and raised my head, I saw the emperor that first he was sitting a little higher than me, almost under the ceiling of the hall and dressed in other clothes. How they did it, I do not know…
An exceptional role in strengthening the international position of the Byzantine state belongs to Emperor Basil II. For a long time he fought with the Bulgarians. The decisive victory over them basil won in 1014, the Byzantines surrounded the army of the Bulgarian king. Many perished, and even more were captured. Basil II ordered to blind almost 14 thousand prisoners. Only one hundredth was left one eye. These one-eyed guides were to conduct their blind comrades to the Bulgarian Tsar. For this savage act, Basil II received the nickname of the Bolaroboyets.
Through the efforts of Basil II Byzantium returned the territory of the entire Balkan Peninsula, part of Syria, Mesopotamia, Asia Minor and the Caucasus. Under his reign, Byzantium once again became the mighty state of the Eastern Mediterranean.
From the middle of IX c. the period of the heyday of the Byzantine cities begins, which was the result of the development of crafts. The center of the manufacture of luxury goods, the main intermediary in the trade between Asia and Europe was Constantinople. Mighty walls, luxurious palaces, churches and monasteries, arches and statues full of ships harbor “Golden Horn”, a multilingual motley crowd – all this gave Constantinople a special attraction, especially for foreigners. And next to the noble palaces were the shacks of the poor. Nowhere was there so much silk and gold, soldiers and priests, nobles and dignitaries, as in the Byzantine capital, but nowhere was there so many beggars, cripples and thieves.