330 AD - 1453 AD

The Byzantine Empire, also called the Eastern Empire, was the perpetuation of the Roman Empire into the Middle Ages; it lasted from the fourth to the fifteenth century AD. It grew, over the course of centuries, into its own entity after Diocletian’s division of the Roman Empire, Constantine’s establishment of Constantinople as the capital, and the fall of the western half of the empire in the late fifth century AD.

Like the “barbarian” Late Antique and early Medieval cultures of the west, the Byzantine Empire retained many of Imperial Rome’s traditions, but lacked the west’s Germanic influences. It soon developed its own particular synthesis of politics, religion, and society. Its artistic sensibilities were, like those of Late Antiquity, informed by the Classical and Hellenistic traditions, but also by Eastern Orthodox Christianity. Byzantine art shares much with Late Antique art, including the trend toward the spiritual and symbolic. Its hallmark is also a lack of naturalism, replaced by stylized representations which purposefully ignore scale and perspective. However, the art of the Eastern Roman Empire was often quite distinct from that of the medieval west, especially as the civilizations continued to diverge. One significant type of Byzantine art is the religious icon--a venerated painting of Christ, Mary, or a saint--an artistic tradition which continues to this day.

Byzantine is also a name sometimes given to the art of the Empire’s neighboring cultures, such as medieval Bulgaria, Serbia, and Russia.

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