Episode 157 – The Culmination

Basil II in Georgia

Basil II in Georgia

We cover Basil’s last few years as he deals with the Fatimids, the Georgians and his own rebellious soldiers. We then wrap up his reign and bring our century to a close.

Period: 1019-1025

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Categories: Podcast | 13 Comments

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13 thoughts on “Episode 157 – The Culmination

  1. Hey Robin! Hope you’re enjoying your well deserved break! Seriously, thanks for consistently producing one of the best history podcasts out there.

    I had a number of end of the century questions, the first set about the new hinterlands. How was the newly acquired Armenian and Georgian territory administered? Did the emperor let the new nobles carry on as they always had when it came to governing or did they have to adopt some symbols of Roman hegemony like officials and bishops? Where these new areas rich enough to fund further campaigns? Finally, you said in this episode that Rome had never been this far before, but I thought Trajan had made it all the way to the Caspian sea of course I could just be remembering wrong.

    What does Constantinople look like architecturally? Does the city scape look any different since we last visited? Have there been any drastic new building projects?

    Also, I know you touched on this in previous episodes, but just how sophisticated and developed was Byzantine diplomacy with other states at this point? Were the Fatimids and Byzantines sending embassies back and forth like they were in the days of the Sassanid wars?

    Finally, I think in one of the end of the century episodes awhile ago someone asked about any more relations between Byzantium and Ethiopia, and you said you weren’t able to find anything. Well it may not be much, but the “History of the Patriarchs of Alexandria” is a record of the patriarchate. It was the Patriarchs of Alexandria that, until the mid 1900’s supplied the Ethiopian church with their metropolitans. In part 6 section 196, (There are links to a full English translation on the texts wikipedia page) there’s a story of how a Christian monk convinces the Mad Caliph himself to allow Christians to travel to Byzantium or Abyssinia whenever they wish and states that this action was illegal before. So, I guess at the very least this is the answer to why relations disappeared after Justinian.

  2. Bob H.

    First of all, phenomenal work! I have been very much enjoying learning about the Macedonian dynasty and their rivalry with the Anatolian magnates.
    Secondly, I have a couple of questions for you regarding Venice for your upcoming “end of the century” tour…
    1) What was the relationship between Venice and the court of Basil II like?
    2) Is there any truth to the tale that Venice was founded by Roman citizens of northern Italy looking to escape the Germanic invasions of the 5th century?
    Thanks for continuing to put out this podcast, Robin. It really is tremendous.

  3. McEwen Reil

    I have some end of the century questions.
    1. You mentioned in this episode that Basil II set gave new families power in Anatolia. Who were these families? Were one of the families the Komnenos family?
    2. What were Byzantine relations with Hungary like?
    3. How were Byzantine Relations with the Holy Roman Empire? What role did Venice play? Why did the Germans occupy Roman Italy in Calabria and Apulia as opposed to Venice?

    • McEwen Reil

      Sorry I made a typo, I should have said in question 1. You mentioned in this episode that Basil II gave new families power in Anatolia. Who were these families? Were one of the families the Komnenos family?

  4. David Krommer


    as usual, phenomenal episode. As for the end of the century question, I would like to pick up DC’s remarks above and ask you about the development of the architecture of Constantinople? How did the antique statues and monuments fare over the centuries ? I know that there was substantial destruction in the context of the 4th crusade (both by the crusaders and the panicking mob of Constantinople), but was there ever a substantial program of restoration or renovation for the antique structures? I know that Medieval Constantinople held the Hellenic and Classical monuments somewhat in awe but maybe you can discover something more substantial about it?

    Also – is there already an offical state emblem of Romania at that time? The double-headed eagle appeared among the Palaigoi as far as I am aware of…

    Again, many. many thanks for your tremendous work.

    All the best,

  5. Mystikos

    Just saw this blog post, advertising a book, titled “The Hidden Science and Tech of the Byzantine Empire” and thought it would be perfect for Robin’s promised science and tech discussion in the future. Turns out – it’s just another side of Anthony Kaldellis’ new book, so Robin already knows it. But others may be interested:


  6. John

    Do you think that there’s any reason (other than bad luck) for having such a lack of sources for the reign of Basil II? It seemed like we had better sources to work with during the late 7th through 9th centuries when the empire was in trouble but now the empire is close to its post-Heraclius peak and wealthier than before but the sources have dried up. Just seems counter-intuitive to me.

  7. McEwen Reil

    Hi Robin!
    I have some questions for the end of the century
    1. What does the interior administration of the Empire look like?
    2.What does the administration look like from the perspective of a lowly peasant?
    3.Who is directly controlling town affairs?
    4.What do they do exactly?
    It would be fantastic if you could answer these questions. Thanks!

    • Hi, thank you for the questions. Can you elaborate on a couple of things? What do you mean by “interior administration”? From the pov of a peasant do you mean what would his interactions with officials be like? And 4) do you mean what are the duties of the person in charge of a town?

      • McEwen Reil

        Sorry! some of my questions are a little unclear.

        1. I used the word “interior” which was totally useless. I’m just talking about Themes, and other interior units. (like states and provinces) You’ve talked about this before but I want to know how they worked exactly. For example, if you wanted to be a solider in a theme how do you sign up? Or alternatively, what’s the deference between a Theme and a Catepanate (like the Catepanate of Italy

        2. For your second question you’re guess is right. So in other words if you were a peasant who would you interact with the state?

        3. I wrote question 4 in addition to question 3. So yes I was referring to the duties of the person in charge of a town.

        Sorry for my unclear question and thank you for putting in the effort to understand my poorly written comment. Thanks for making a fantastic Podcast.

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