The Empire in its International Context

  • John Haldon


While many aspects of Byzantine culture are seen as very specific to the empire and to eastern orthodox imperial Christianity, Byzantium also shared a great deal with neighbouring and sometimes more distant cultures. Building techniques and traditions in the eastern provinces of the late Roman empire evolved to suit new forms of architecture, but basic methods and materials remained unchanged, so that from Islamic Iraq to the Byzantine provinces of the south Balkans there were many shared elements – techniques of stonemasonry, the construction of the dome, the use of mosaic decoration, for example, are found across the cultural divide between Islam and eastern Christianity. Less obviously, perhaps, but just as importantly, military technology provided an area for cultural exchange which involved the movement of ideas and techniques across many thousands of miles. The introduction of lamellar armour from the steppe in late Roman times, followed by the stirrup, probably via the Avars by the end of the sixth century; the introduction of the curved, single-edged cavalry sabre from the Khazars (probable, but not provable) in the eighth or ninth century; the introduction likewise, via the Avars but ultimately from China, of the traction lever stone-thrower (a precursor of the counterweight trebuchet developed by the twelfth century), and styles of fighting – the heavy cavalry charge developed in the tenth and eleventh centuries owes something to the Franks and Normans – are but a few of the important influences exercised by cultures far from the Byzantine homeland.


International Context Ninth Century Twelfth Century Sixth Century Eleventh Century 
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© John Haldon 2005

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  • John Haldon

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