A mosaic showing Alexander the Great battling Darius III The Hellenic civilisation was a collection of city-states or poleis with different governments and cultures that achieved notable developments in government, philosophy, science, mathematics, politics, sports, theatre and music. Athens was a powerful Hellenic city-state and governed itself with an early form of direct democracy invented by Cleisthenes ; the citizens of Athens voted on legislation and executive bills themselves.
Empires more often succumb to internal ailments than to external takeovers and this was the case with the Byzantine empire. As long as Constantinople strengthened the foundations laid by Heraclius - the theme system and reliance on the free peasant-soldier - the empire withstood the military attacks of the strongest armies.
When the Byzantine leaders abandoned the pillars of their success, the empire began to falter. Inflation and narrow ambition ate away at the Heraclian structure. Too much money chased too few goods during the golden age. Land came to be the most profitable investment for the rich, and the landowning magnates needed labor.
As prices went up, taxes followed. The peasant villages were collectively responsible for paying taxes, and the rising tax burden overwhelmed them. In many parts of the empire, villagers sought relief by placing themselves under the control of large landowners, thus taking themselves out of the tax pool and lowering the number of peasant-soldiers.
Both the state treasury and the army suffered. Until the time of Basil II, the Macedonian emperors tried to protect the peasantry through legislation, but the problem was not corrected.
Even though the free peasantry never entirely disappeared and each free person was still theoretically a citizen of the empire, economic and social pressures effectively destroyed the theme system. Exacerbating the problem was the growth of the church's holdings and the large percentage of the population entering church service, thus becoming exempt from taxation.
In the fifty years after the death of Basil II inthe illusion that eternal peace had been achieved encouraged the opportunistic civil aristocracy, which controlled the state, to weaken the army and ignore the provinces. When danger next appeared, no strong leader emerged to save Byzantium.
Perhaps this was because no enemies appeared dramatically before the walls of Constantinople. Instead, a new foe arose, moving haphazardly across the empire.
Around the sixth century, the first in a series of waves of Turkish bands appeared in southwest Asia. These nomads converted to Islam and fought with, then against, the Persians, Byzantines, and Arabs. When the Seljuk Turk leader Alp Arslan "Victorious Lion" made a tentative probe into the empire's eastern perimeter near Lake Van inthe multilingual mercenary army from Constantinople fell apart even before fighting began at the battle of Manzikert.
With the disintegration of the army, the only limit to the Turks' march for the next decade was the extent of their own ambition and energy.
Byzantium lost the heart of its empire, and with it the reserves of soldiers, leaders, taxes, and food that had enabled it to survive for the past four centuries.
From its weakened position, the empire confronted Venice, a powerful commercial and later political rival. By the end of the eleventh century, the Venetians took undisputed trading supremacy in the Adriatic Sea and turned their attention to the eastern Mediterranean.
The Byzantines also faced the challenges of the Normans, led by Robert Guiscard, who took the last Byzantine stronghold in Italy. In the Comnenian family claimed the Byzantine throne.
In an earlier time, with the empire in its strength this politically astute family might have accomplished great things.
In the eleventh and twelfth centuries, though, the best they could do was play a balance-of-power game between east and west. Fifteen years later, inthe first crusaders appeared see ch.
Alexium Comnenus had appealed to Pope Urban II for help against the Turks, but the emperor had not bargained on finding a host of crusaders, including the dreaded Normans, on his doorstep.
Alexius sent them quickly across the Dardanelles where they won some battles and permitted the Byzantines to reclaim some of their losses in Asia Minor. By the time of the Fourth Crusade, the combination of envy, hatred, and frustration that had been building up for some time led to an atrocity.
The Venetians controlled the ships and money for this crusade and persuaded the fighters to attack the Christian city of Zara in Dalmatia - a commercial rival of Venice - and Constantinople before going on to the Holy Land.
Venice wanted a trade monopoly in the eastern Mediterranean more than a fight with the Muslims. Constantinople was paralyzed by factional strife, and for the first time, an invading force captured the city and devastated it far more than the Turks would years later. A French noble described the scene: What damage was done, or what riches and possessions were destroyed in the flames was beyond the power of man to calculate It included gold and silver, table-services and precious stones, satin and silk, mantles of squirrel fur, ermine and miniver, and every choicest thing to be found on this earthSerfdom was gradually eliminated in western Europe during the 13th and 14th centuries as a result of economic changes that made agricultural labour less financially advantageous to lords.
During the same period, however, serfdom increased in eastern Europe, where it lasted until the 19th century. This book explores the relationship between the papacy and reform against the backdrop of social and religious change in later tenth and eleventh-century Europe. Placing this relationship in the context of the debate about 'transformation', it reverses the recent trend among historians to emphasise.
Heroes and Villains - A little light reading. Here you will find a brief history of technology. Initially inspired by the development of batteries, it covers technology in general and includes some interesting little known, or long forgotten, facts as well as a few myths about the development of technology, the science behind it, the context in which it occurred and the deeds of the many.
Slovakia: Slovakia, landlocked country of central Europe. It is roughly coextensive with the historic region of Slovakia, the easternmost of the two territories that from to constituted Czechoslovakia. The short history of independent Slovakia is one of . History of Europe - Growth and innovation: Although historians disagree about the extent of the social and material damage caused by the 9th- and 10th-century invasions, they agree that demographic growth began during the 10th century and perhaps earlier.
They have also identified signs of the reorganization of lordship and agricultural labour, a process in which members of an order of. This book explores the relationship between the papacy and reform against the backdrop of social and religious change in later tenth and eleventh-century Europe.
Placing this relationship in the context of the debate about "transformation", it reverses the recent trend among historians to emphasise the reform developments in the localities at the expense of those being undertaken in Rome.