Online Encyclopedia

BYZANTIUM

Online Encyclopedia
Originally appearing in Volume V04, Page 912 of the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica.
Spread the word: del.icio.us del.icio.us it!
BYZANTIUM, an ancient Greek city on the shores of the Bosporus, occupying the most easterly of the seven hills on which modern Constantinople stands. It was said to have been founded by Megarians and Argives under Byzas about 657 B.C., but the original settlement having been destroyed in the reign of Darius Hystaspes by the satrap Otanes, it was recolonized by the Spartan Pausanias, who wrested it from the Medes after the battle of Plataea (479 B.c.)—a circumstance which led several ancient chroniclers to ascribe its foundation to him. Its situation, said to have been fixed by the Delphic oracle, was remarkable for beauty and security. It had complete control over the Euxine grain-trade; the absence of tides and the depth of its harbour rendered its quays accessible to vessels of large burden; while the tunny and other fisheries were so lucrative that the curved inlet near which it stood became known as the Golden Horn. The greatest hindrance to its prosperity was the miscellaneous character of the population, partly Lacedaemonian and partly Athenian, who flocked to it under Pausanias. It was thus a subject of dispute between these states, and was alternately in the possession of each, till it fell into the hands of the Macedonians. From the same cause arose the violent intestine con-tests which ended in the establishment of a rude and turbulent democracy. About seven years after its second colonization, the Athenian Cimon wrested it from the Lacedaemonians; but in 440 B.C. it returned to its former allegiance. Alcibiades, after a severe blockade (408 B.c.), gained possession of the city through the treachery of the Athenian party; in 405 B.C. it was retaken by Lysander and placed under a Spartan harmost. It was under the Lacedaemonian power when the Ten Thousand, exasperated by the conduct of the governor, made themselves masters of the city, and would have pillaged it had they not been dissuaded by the eloquence of Xenophon. In 390 B.C. Thrasybulus, with the assistance of Heracleides and Archebius, expelled the Lacedaemonian oligarchy, and restored democracy and the Athenian influence. After having withstood an attempt under Epaminondas to restore it to the Lacedaemonians, Byzantium joined with Rhodes, Chios, Cos, and Mausolus, king of Caria, in throwing off the yoke of Athens, but soon after sought Athenian assistance when Philip of Macedon, having overrun Thrace, advanced against it. The Athenians under Chares suffered a severe defeat from Amyntas, the Macedonian admiral, but in the following year gained a decisive victory under Phocion and compelled Philip to raise the siege. The deliverance of the besieged from a surprise, by means of a flash of light which revealed the advancing masses of the Macedonian army, has rendered this siege memorable. As a memorial of the miraculous interference, the Byzantines erected an altar to Torch-bearing Hecate, and stampeda crescent on their coins, a device which is retained by the Turks to this day. They also granted the Athenians extraordinary privileges, and erected a monument in honour of the event in a public part of the city. During the reign of Alexander Byzantium was compelled to acknowledge the Macedonian supremacy; after the decay of the Macedonian power it regained its independence, but suffered from the repeated incursions of the Scythians. The losses which they sustained by land roused the Byzantines to indemnify themselves on the vessels which still crowded the harbour, and the merchantmen which cleared the straits; but this had the effect of provoking a war with the neighbouring naval powers. The exchequer being drained by the payment of io,000 pieces of gold to buy off the Gauls who had invaded their territories about 279 B.C., and by the imposition of an annual tribute which was ultimately raised to 8o talents, they were compelled to exact a toll on all the ships which passed the Bosporus—a measure which the Rhodians resented and avenged by a war, wherein the Byzantines were defeated. After the retreat of the Gauls Byzantium rendered considerable services to Rome in the contests with Philip II., Antiochus and Mithradates. During the first years of its alliance with Rome it held the rank of a free confederate city; but, having sought arbitration on some of its domestic disputes, it was subjected to the imperial jurisdiction, and gradually stripped of its privileges, until reduced to the status of an ordinary Roman colony. In recollection of its former services, the emperor Claudius remitted the heavy tribute which had been imposed on it; but the last remnant of its independence was taken away by Vespasian, who, in answer to a remonstrance from Apollonius of Tyana, taunted the inhabitants with having " forgotten to be free." During the civil wars it espoused the party of Pescennius Niger; and though skilfully defended by the engineer Periscus, it was besieged and taken (A.D. 196) by Severus, who destroyed the city, demolished the famous wall, which was built of massive stones so closely riveted together as to appear one block, put the principal in-habitants to the sword and subjected the remainder to the Perinthians. This overthrow of Byzantium was a great loss to the empire, since it might have served as a protection against the Goths, who afterwards sailed past it into the Mediterranean. Severus afterwards relented, and, rebuilding a large portion of the town, gave it the name of Augusta Antonina. He ornamented the city with baths, and surrounded the hippodrome with porticos; but it was not till the time of Caracalla that it was restored to its former political privileges. It had scarcely begun to recover its former position when, through the capricious resentment of Gallienus, the inhabitants were once more put to the sword and the town was pillaged. From this disaster the inhabitants recovered so far as to be able to give an effectual check to an invasion of the Goths in the reign of Claudius II., and the fortifications were greatly strengthened during the civil wars which followed the abdication of Diocletian. Licinius, after his defeat before Adrianople, retired to Byzantium, where he was besieged by Constantine, and compelled to surrender (A.D. 323-324). To check the inroads of the barbarians on the north of the Black Sea, Diocletian had resolved to transfer his capital to Nicomedia; but Constantine, struck with the advantages which the situation of Byzantium presented, resolved to build a new city there on the site of the old and transfer the seat of government to it. The new capital was inaugurated with special ceremonies, A.D. 330. (See CONSTANTINOPLE.) The ancient historians invariably note the profligacy of the inhabitants of Byzantium. They are described as an idle, depraved people, spending their time for the most part in loitering about the harbour, or carousing over the fine wine of Maronea. In war they trembled at the sound of a trumpet, in peace they quaked before the shouting of their own demagogues; and during the assault of Philip II. they could only. be prevailed on to man the walls by the savour of extempore cook-shops distributed along the ramparts. The modern Greeks attribute the introduction of Christianity into Byzantium to St Andrew; it certainly had some hold there in the time of Severus. C The third letter in the Latin alphabet and its descendants corresponds in position and in origin to the Greek Gamma (P, y), which in its turn is borrowed from the third symbol of the Phoenician alphabet (Heb. Gimel). The earliest Semitic records give its form as 4 or more frequently X or A. The form A is found in the earliest inscriptions of Crete, Attica, Naxos and some other of the Ionic islands. In Argolis and Euboea especially a form with legs of unequal length is found t . From this it is easy to pass to the most widely spread Greek form, the ordinary r. In Corinth, however, and its colony Corcyra, in Ozolian Locris and Elis, a form < inclined at a different angle is found. From this form the transition is simple to the rounded C, which is generally found in the same localities as the pointed form, but is more widely spread, occurring in Arcadia and on Chalcidian vases of the 6th century B.C., in Rhodes and Megara with their colonies in Sicily. In all these cases the sound represented was a hard G (as in gig). The rounded form was probably that taken over by the Romans and with the value of G. This is shown by the permanent abbreviation of the proper names Gaius and Gnaeus by C. and Cn. respectively. On the early inscription discovered in the Roman Forum in 1899 the letter occurs but once, in the form .) written from right to left. The broad lower end of the symbol is rather an accidental pit in the stone than an attempt at a diacritic mark—the word is regei, in all probability the early dative form of rex, " king." It is hard to decide why Latin adopted the g-symbol with the value of k, a letter which it possessed originally but dropped, except in such stereo-typed abbreviations as K. for the proper name Kaeso and Kai. for Calendae. There are at least two possibilities: (1) that in Latium g and k were pronounced almost identically, as, e.g., in the German of Wurttemberg or in the Celtic dialects, the difference consisting only in the greater energy with which the k-sound is produced; (2) that the confusion is graphic, K being sometimes written ~ C, which was then regarded as two separate symbols. A further peculiarity of the use of C in Latin is in the abbreviation for the district Subura in Roma and its adjective Suburanus, which appears as SVC. Here C no doubt represents G, but there is no interchange between g and b in Latin. In other dialects of Italy b is found representing an original voiced guttural (gw), which, however, is regularly replaced by v in Latin. As the district was full of traders, Subura may very well be an imported word, but the form with C must either go back to a period before the disappearance of g before v or must come from some other Italic dialect. The symbol G was a new coinage in the 3rd century B.C. The pronunciation of C throughout the period of classical Latin was that of an unvoiced guttural stop (k). In other dialects, however, it had been palatalized to a sibilant before i-sounds some time before the Christian era; e.g. in the Umbrian facia-- Latin Jaciat. In Latin there is no evidence for the interchange of c fvith a sibilant earlier than the 6th century A.D. in south Italy and the 7th century A.D. in Gaul (Lindsay, Latin Language, p. 88). This change has, however, taken place in all Romance languages except Sardinian. In Anglo-Saxon c was adopted to represent the hard stop. After the Norman conquest many English words were re-spelt under Norman influence. Thus Norman-French spelt its palatalized c-sound (= tsh) with ch as in cher and the English palatalized cild, &c. became child, &c. In Provencal from the loth century, and in the northern dialects of France from the 13th century, this palatalized c (in different districts is and tsh) became a simple s. English also adopted the value of s for c in the 13th century before e, i and y. In some foreign words like cicala the ch- (tsh) value is given to c. In the transliteration of foreign languages also it receives different values, having that of tsh in the transliteration of Sanskrit and of is in various Slavonic dialects. As a numeral C denotes loo. This use is borrowed from Latin, in which the symbol was originally 0 , a form of the Greek B. This, like the numeral symbols later identified with L and M, was thus utilized since it was not required as a letter, there being no sound in Latin corresponding to the Greek B. Popular etymology identified the symbol with the initial letter of centum, " hundred." (P. GI.)
End of Article: BYZANTIUM
[back]
BYZANTINE ART
[next]
C26H28014

Additional information and Comments

There are no comments yet for this article.
» Add information or comments to this article.
Please link directly to this article:
Highlight the code below, right click and select "copy." Paste it into a website, email, or other HTML document.