Charles Collins. There Was No Byzantine Empire


В качестве дополнения к Вводным замечаниям хочу привлечь внимание к публикации,
которую только что обнаружил: доктор Чарльз Коллинз опубликовал в электронном журнале
Bakersfield college (Калифорния) статью There Was No Byzantine Empire, в которой сформулировал
ряд положений, большинство из которых и нам – как видно из Вводных замечаний –
представляются очевидными.

Ю.А. Шичалин


Charles F. Collins., earned a BA in History from U.C. Berkeley, an MA in History from UCLA,
and a JD from the University of Santa Clara Law School. He has practiced law for 31 years and is currently
a Deputy County Counsel for the County of Kern. Mr. Collins has taught courses in the History of Islam
for the Levan Institute of Lifelong Learning.



In 1453, Constantinople was besieged and taken by Mehmet the Great, Sultan of the Ottoman Turks. Scholars have said that when Constantinople fell to the Turks that this was the end of the Byzantine Empire. These scholars were wrong because no empire of that name ever existed.

The empire that ended when the Turks took Constantinople in 1453 was the Roman Empire. This was the Roman Empire of Augustus, Trajan, and Marcus Aurelius. This was the Roman Empire that, at its peak, ruled from the Rhine River in the north to the Atlas Mountains in the south, from the coast of Britain in the west to the Euphrates River in the east.

After Constantinople fell, western scholars such as Hieronymus Wolf ( 1516–1580) in his Corpus Historiae Byzantinae began referring to the empire that fell when the Turks took Constantinople as the “Byzantine Empire”. Modern scholars, such as John Julius Norwich, the author of the very readable three volume history, “Byzantium”, routinely refer to the “Byzantine Empire” as if that name had legitimate historical antecedents. However, there is no historical underpinning for referring to the Roman Empire as the Byzantine Empire.

Constantinople was founded by the Emperor Constantine in 330. During its imperium, the inhabitants of the empire of which Constantinople was the capital referred to themselves as “Romans” and to their empire as the “Roman Empire." Even their enemies, the Turks, referred to them as “Rūmi” (Romans”) and their empire as “Rūm” (Rome).

The term, “the Byzantine Empire”, is a misnomer. There is no reason to continue to refer to the “Byzantine Empire” beyond the fact that this mistake has been made and endorsed for so long by historians. Conversely, there is much to be gained by acknowledging that it was the Roman Empire that fell in 1453. Most importantly, it is historically accurate. What we have called the “Byzantine Empire” was the direct continuation of the Roman Empire. Furthermore, historical accuracy as to the name, in itself, acknowledges the monumental achievements of the Roman Empire and its people that persevered politically and militarily against so many enemies while preserving so much of Antiquity.



Some might argue that Byzantine Empire is a more accurate term based on the theory that the city of Byzantium was the original Greek city located on the site of the later Constantinople. However, the city of Byzantium had been part of the Roman Empire for centuries before it was vastly enlarged to become Constantinople.

Others might argue that an empire that does not include the city of Rome should not be called the Roman Empire. However, Rome had ceased to be the capital of the Roman Empire long before Constantinople was constructed. The capital of the Empire had come to be wherever the reigning emperor(s) were headquartered with their legions.

Another possible distinguishing feature is that the Greek language officially replaced Latin as the language of government during the reign of the Emperor Heraclius (575-641).[4] In its most simplistic form, this argument is that an empire that speaks Greek should not be called the Roman Empire. This argument ignores the fact that the transition was not imposed externally. Greek was the dominant language throughout the eastern provinces of the Roman Empire throughout its history. The only change was that the government and military stopped using Latin and came to use Greek. The transition to the use of the Greek language is an interesting cultural phenomenon but it is not sufficient to transform the Roman Empire into an entity so different that it requires a different name.

One of the most insidious arguments for the continued use of the terms, “Byzantine Empire” and “Byzantine(s)” is that it has been used for so long that it has become an accepted convention. After all, there are many books, scholarly journals and articles that have used and continue to use these terms. Why change? The answer to this question is that historical accuracy is more important than the entrenched use of a misleading misnomer. By using the historically accurate terms, the true meaning of the Roman achievement can be seen by students and measured by scholars. The use of the terms, “Byzantine Empire” and “Byzantine(s)” does not explain, instead, it obscures. There was no Byzantine Empire that came after the Roman Empire. Instead, there was a continuation of the Roman Empire that endured until 1453…



The Roman Empire had been divided, in practice, into western and eastern political entities each administered by an emperor since the reign of the Emperor Diocletian (284-301). Diocletian had established a Tetrarchy (rule of four) in which two emperors, each with the title “Augustus”, and two junior emperors, each with the title “Caesar”, ruled the eastern and western halves of the Roman Empire.

Eventually, this system broke down and a civil war ensued between contending emperors, one of whom was Constantine. By 312, Constantine had defeated his rivals in a long and bloody civil war which ended in the famous battle of the Milvian Bridge. Constantine’s victory left him as the sole emperor of an undivided Roman Empire...



After 395, the empire was divided once again into two separate administrative and military entities. The capital of the Eastern Roman Empire was Constantinople. The capital of the Western Roman Empire was Milan until 402 when it was moved to Ravenna. Rome itself had become a declining backwater.

The Western Roman Empire went through a seemingly endless succession of weak and ineffective emperors. The real power was wielded by generals such as Stilicho and Aetius. In 476, Odoacer, a barbarian general, deposed Romanus Augustulus, the last emperor of the Western Roman Empire. Odoacer did not have himself proclaimed emperor. Instead, he returned the Imperial regalia to Zeno, the emperor of the Eastern Roman Empire in Constantinople.

The Western Roman Empire had fallen but the Roman Empire still existed with its capital in Constantinople…



After ascending to the papacy in 1198, Pope Innocent III preached the Fourth Crusade. However, the Venetians under their Doge Enrico Dandolo subverted the Crusaders into attacking Constantinople.

The Muslim historian Ibn al-Athir described the events leading to the sack of Constantinople as follows:

The king of the Rūm fled without a fight, Ibn al Athir writes, and the Franj placed their young candidate on the throne. But he held power in name only, for the Franj made all the decisions. They imposed very heavy tribute on the people, and when payment proved impossible, they seized all the gold and jewels, even that which was part of the crosses and images of the Messiah, peace be upon him. The Rūm then revolted, killed the young monarch, expelled the Franj from the city, and barricaded the city gates.

On April 12, 1204, the Crusaders fought their way into Constantinople. By the next day, Constantinople was given over to pillage and rapine that lasted three days. A Muslim has left us this tragic description of the sack of Constantinople:

All the Rūm were killed or despoiled, the Mosul historian relates. Some of their notables, pursued by the Franj, attempted to seek refuge in the great church they call Sophia. A group of priests and monks came out bearing crosses and Bibles, begging their attackers to spare their lives, but he Franj paid no heed to their entreaties. They massacred them all and plundered the church.

The victorious Crusaders and the Venetians divided up the Roman Empire. The Crusaders formed what has been called the Latin Empire which lasted 57 years.



Even after the fall of Constantinople, the Romans did not give up. Theodore I Lascaris began the Nicaean Empire which controlled a portion of western Anatolia. Gradually consolidating a functioning state, the Romans slowly fought back against the Latin emperors. Theodore and his successors built the Nicaean Empire on a strong foundation and greatly expanded its territory.

In 1259, Michael VII Palaeologus became Emperor of the Nicaean Empire. He took Constantinople from the Latin Empire in 1261. The Palaeologan Dynasty would rule the Roman Empire for another 193 years. The Roman Empire had, once again, shown that it was resilient and resourceful.



The last years of the Roman Empire were spent in a fruitless search for aid from the West. The last Emperor, Constantine Palaeologus, had spent his entire adult life fighting the Turks. He knew that the situation was hopeless without aid from the West. He did everything he could but the help that came from the West was very limited. A Genoese captain named Giovanni Giustiniani Longo came with 700 soldiers that he financed and heroically attempted to defend Constantinople.

The Turks had 60,000 soldiers and very advanced artillery. Constantinople was defended by less than 8,000 men. The defenders held out for 53 days. Gradually, the Turkish artillery smashed the great Land Walls that had never been breached. The constant attacks by the Turkish soldiery wore down the morale of the defenders. On the last night, the Emperor Constantine and the people of Constantinople attended a liturgical service in the great cathedral of Hagia Sophia for the last time. There was no realistic hope of even holding out another day but they consecrated themselves to their task. The next day, the Emperor Constantine died fighting defending his Empire.

It should be noted that, after conquering Constantinople, Mehmet the Great added to his many titles that of the Kayser-i Rūm which meant “Caesar of Rome”.



In the final analysis, the Western historians who invented the name, “Byzantine Empire”, as a way of differentiating classical Rome from the empire of the later, and they felt lesser, Greek-speaking Romans, were simply wrong. There never was a Byzantine Empire. It is a historical fallacy. The empire that finally fell that terrifying Tuesday in 1453 was the Roman Empire. We should call it what it was and give it the credit that it has deserved for so long.


Полный текст статьи Чарльза Коллинза см. по адресу: (Volume 2, Issue 1, 2014)