Studying the Art of Byzantine Civilization

John Komnenos and Piroshka (Irene) of Hungary

Hope everyone is having a wonderful summer break and staying safe in this humid weather. For today’s blog, I will be discussing my summer class by giving my analysis on Byzantine art history. I am taking an online summer course titled, “Byzantine Civilization.” It is a history course that could be taken by any majors within UMBC. But as a history major, it is an important course for me because I get to learn about a specialized history that I am not familiar with and that I gain the opportunity to learn history from the European perspective as well as the Asian perspective. For example, I get to learn the voices from the Ottomans, Romans, Christian and Muslims from 332 CE to 1453 . This course as noted by my professor, is the study of the Roman Empire, but known to us as Byzantium. For example, Dr. Birkenmeier argues that,”The Roman Empire did not ‘fall’ in 476 CE, but continued for another 1000 years as a vital civilization in the eastern Mediterranean. Byzantium, or more properly, ‘The Eastern Roman Empire’ is the civilization of Eastern Christianity, of Russia, of the Balkans, and of most of the middle East throughout the Middle Ages and today. While the Byzantine Empire no longer exists as a political entity, the imperial double-headed eagle still flies over the Monastic Republic of Athos (Agion Oros), which has maintained a precarious autonomy for over 1000 years.”

One of the artwork that I found the most fascinating is from the Metropolitan Museum of Art, Ancient Faces: Mummy Portraits from Roman Egypt

The artwork of the mummies as seen above are beautiful and enchanting. The mask is a representation of both ancient Egyptians and Roman features. The mask is adorned with traditional Egyptian hair accessories, makeup as well as Roman jewelry and headdress. Based on the features, the mummy mask portrays both the Egyptian and Roman elements and that makes it unique and profound. The mummy mask also seems to suggest its importance to an individual who had a high social status. The maker is unknown, and the materials are probably made from clay or the resources that are unique to Egypt. It was produced to honor someone who had died and were preparing their death through creating a mummy mask and honoring the Egyptian gods. The characteristics of this artwork demonstrates not only the social status of the individual who is to be mummified, but the diversity of the Roman Empire. Under the Roman empire, many Roman emperors aimed to renew and take care of their neighbors and the regions they colonized. For example,“Under Trajan, along with consolidation of the empire, great efforts were expended on wars of conquest in Dacia and Parthia. His accession ushered in an era of confidence unattested since the reign of Augustus. Trade and commerce flourished between the Roman empire and its northern and eastern neighbors. The provinces thrived and local aristocrats spent lavish sums on their cities.”[5] Indeed Roman emperors were making sure that their regions flourished in terms of economic, social, culture, religion, art and politics. Therefore, these artifacts are crucial to understanding the Roman empire and their history.

If you found this interesting and want to learn more about the history of Byzantine Civilization, I recommend researching using our own Priddy library and its data base for peer reviewed sources. Here is the link to finding resources at: You can also email me @mimi2491 if you want to learn more about Byzantine history.

About mimi2491

I am a first-generation Immigrant from Pakistan and I am a senior at the University of Maryland, Baltimore County. I am currently taking classes at the Universities of Shady Grove. My major is History with a minor in Public History. I am passionate about the history field and I particularly focus on history through Global or World History perspective. After obtaining my bachelors, I will be applying for a Masters program in History. My career goal is to either teach history or work in a Museum, where I can use my knowledge of history to better my community.
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