The term Byzantine is derived from the Byzantine Empire, which developed from the Roman Empire. In 330 the Roman Emperor Constantine established the city of Byzantion in modern day Turkey as the new capital of the Roman empire and renamed it Constantinople. Byzantion was originally an ancient Greek colony, and the derivation of the name remains unknown, but under the Romans the name was Latinized to Byzantium.

In 1555 the German historian Hieronymus Wolf first used the term Byzantine Empire in Corpus Historiæ Byzantinæ, his collection of the era’s historical documents. The term became popularized among French scholars in the 17th century with the publication of the Byzantine du Louvre (1648) and Historia Byzantina (1680), but was not widely adopted by art historians until the 19th Century, as the distinctive style of Byzantine architecture and art in mosaics, icon painting, frescos, illuminated manuscripts, small scale sculptures and enamel work, was defined.

The Byzantine Empire lasted until 1453 when Constantinople was conquered by the Turkish Ottoman Empire. Byzantine art and architecture is usually divided into three historical periods: the Early Byzantine from c. 330–730, the Middle Byzantine from c. 843–1204, and Late Byzantine from c. 1261–1453. The political, social, and artistic continuity of the Empire was disrupted by the Iconoclastic Controversy from 730–843 and then, again, by the Period of the Latin Occupation from 1204–1261.

Credit: The Art Story

Related Concepts

Do you have questions or comments about this entry? Please Send Us Feedback!