An unworthy Deacon, named for the brother of God: James, striving to "work out his salvation with fear and trembling" within the Tradition (paradosis) of the Eastern Orthodox Faith. It is a strange and marvelous journey, and I am accompanied by the fourfold fruit of my fecundity. My wife, the Matushka or Diaconissa Sophia, is my beloved partner in the pursuit of Theosis, and she ranks me in every way.
A friend directed me to this nice tribute (from a somewhat unlikely source) to the Byzantine Empire.
I might make one historic technical note: The Byzantine Empire really did not know itself as such, but rather the people considered themselves - rightly so - as Eastern Roman Empire. So, their history certainly goes back further than the founding of Constantinople...even thought that is where their history technically ended.
The author of the article notes the gains the west "earned" via the Byzantine Empire after its collapse (not to mention the material gains stolen by Crusaders after they sacked the great capital in 1204), but the article made me stop and think for a while.
As a westerner living in what is arguably the pinnacle of westernism (for better or for worse and whatever it may be), I have indeed reaped many things from the Byzantines, but most significantly, I have seen fit to adopt myself into their beautiful faith. Thus in my home, in my office, and in my Church are found many of the revered and venerated Icons of that ancient Empire and that ancient Church, the Hagia Sophia.
Yep, the debt the West owes to Constantinople is largely forgotten. For a 1000 years, Constantinople was the greatest city in the world--while much of the time Rome was a half-inhabited ruin and London and Paris were muddy backwaters.
I recall the anecdote about the emperor's daughter who was married off to some Germanic ruler to help cement an alliance. She created quite a scandal in her new court. It seems she was highly literate, she ate with a fork and she bathed daily.
"Byzantium" often receives bad press because of the nastiness that sometimes played itself out in the imperial families--particularly when a succession came up. But this is hardly unique to the East Romans. And what really impresses me about the society in general was how decent it all was. The East Roman Empire was always, always on the defensive, with enemies on all sides. Constantinople could never really devote its full attention to the East when the Italians and Normans were always at their back door. But a close reading of history reveals that they were not inordinately aggressive, militarily. Yes, they tried to hold what they considered to be theirs, and recapture territory if lost, but they were simply not consumed with territorial expansion, as much of western Europe would be.