• Byzantine Tales

Presenting Diogo’s tales, a fan of Byzantium from Portugal.

“Diogo‘s Tales” answers our three questions in a mini-interview regarding Byzantium.

The pictures are from his Instagram account: How did you learn about Byzantium and what did you like about it?

I remember reading a few vague references to Byzantium when I was a child in various history books or encyclopedias for kids, and by the time I was a teenager I was aware of the fall of Constantinople as one of the moments used to separate the Middle Ages from the Renaissance, and that it was partly fueled by fleeing Byzantine scholars, and from there I read a lot of the Wikipedia articles until I came across the History of Byzantium podcast in 2019, and that really helped me understand Byzantium a lot more and be very invested in the Empire's history and culture. I was amazed that as a state it managed to survive for a thousand years, using not just the military but also clever diplomacy, and as a Catholic, I was fascinated when I learned how Byzantium shaped Church history and how Orthodox Christianity developed over the centuries.

What is your favorite story/period/ emperor?

Some of my favorite stories are the ones about the early campaigns of Belisarius in Italy, and how he used cunning to conquer cities and avoid casualties instead of the usual Roman tactic of throwing soldiers at their enemies, I think it represents the shifting strategic thought of the Empire quite well. My favorite period is probably the era of the Macedonian Dynasty, and as for Emperors, I admire Heraclius and Alexios Komnenos because of their monumental efforts to preserve and restore the Empire when faced with desperate situations.

Do the people in your country learn or know anything about Byzantium?

In my country (Portugal) we don't learn about Byzantium except for small paragraphs or footnotes which mention the survival of the Eastern Roman Empire, and the fall of Constantinople in 1453. If you were to ask a Portuguese person about Byzantium, chances are they wouldn't know anything about it unless they studied about it in university or happen to enjoy reading history, but it feels very physically and culturally distant to us, partly because of our own national history stretching back to 1143, which then focuses on the Atlantic expansion, and partly because unlike the Early Roman Empire, Byzantium is absent from modern media and pop culture.

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