Lecture by Lars Brownworth
Given at the Smithsonian Institute
December 2, 2009
In the 5th century A.D., the Roman Empire had two capitals: Rome and Constantinople. While Rome was invaded by barbarians, Constantinople endured for another thousand years. The Byzantine story is fraught with palace intrigue, glittering wealth, heroic leaders, and villainous scoundrels.Without the Byzantines, the Renaissance would have been much poorer, as most of the writings from Greek and Roman antiquity flowed from Byzantine pens, and the field of philosophy would lack the foundations of Plato and much of Aristotle. Roman law was codified by a 6th-century Byzantine emperor, and the architecture of the Dome of the Rock in Jerusalem and St.Mark’s in Venice is based on Byzantine models. From public hospitals to walk-in clinics, female doctors, and subsidized health care, Constantinople bequeathed a towering legacy.