Did you think I would miss today's post? Not today, my friend.
To the right is a picturesque shot of what modern Anatlya, situated on the Meditereanean in Southern Turkey, must have looked like during the apogee of the Byzantine empire (or any other time for that matter, but stick with me, ok?)
One may well imagine the early Byzantine soldier staring at these mountains wistfully, gazing at a similar awe-inspiring sunset and wishing, perhaps, for more peaceful times.
My inspiration? I have been reading Sir John Julius Norwich's epochal History of Byzantium. Actually, I am reading the truncated version. It's thorough, though a whirlwind and easy to forget the particulars of all the minor emperors. One thing, however, is for sure: the succession of emperor to emperor, reign to reign was often a very bloody, despicable affair. At least in the first 500 years of the Empire, assinations and usurpation was often the norm, even as barbarian or middle eastern hordes stood eager to engulf the Empire's all-too-often vulberable borders.
Americans take for granted their liberty to elect officials to office and form of government. We do not have psychotic rulers standing in the Elipse (a present-day cultural equivalent to Byzantium's Hippodrome) planting a purple boot on the trembling neck of a previous Emperor or failed usurper, before ordering him blinded and thrown into prison at best, or tortured and then sent to a furnace at worst.
No, we tolerate a barbarism far more hidden in its ugliness though fundamentally the same: crimes against life, i.e., abortion, euthanasia, human embryonic stem cell research and the like.
Though what of events of greatness? For me, one event stands out so nobly above all the rest that it encapsulates all that is great about Byznatium and its sense of destiny.
On September 24, 628 A.D. Basileus (Emperor) Heraclius returned most triumphantly to Constantinople after saving the whole empire from the Persians, an event for which posterity must thank him (lest we'd be speaking Farsee today). Before him went the True Cross, rescued from the Persians who stole it, while cheering crowds thronged behind the city's legendary walls, awaiting to see it placed in Hagia Sophia, one of the greatest churches in all of Christendom.
This is greatness. If only the rest of the Empire's history was so magnificent. Every age faces towering obstacles. We just need to surmount our own.