Famous Byzantine People

The Byzantine Empire existed from the 5th century until the 15th century. The Empire inherited an incredibly rich legacy of ancient Roman culture as well as the ancient Greek culture, making it a center of literature, culture, arts and music for most of the medieval period.

The sheer breadth of the Empire meant that the notable writers, poets, musicians and authors of the Empire came from different regions all over the Empire. Following are some of the famous people of the Empire.

Michael Psellos

Michael Psellos was a Greek monk who lived in the 11th century. He initially began a political career in the Empire but towards the later part of his life, became a monk at Olympus Monastery on Mount Olympus.

Michael Psellos later resumed political activities and served as an important adviser to many successive Byzantine emperors. He most notably penned down a large body of literature on history, philosophy, politics and science, also penning a body of poetry. His most notable work is the Chronographia, an account of the Byzantine emperors who ruled in the first half of the 11th century.

Procopius of Caesarea

Procopius was a late antique scholar of the Byzantine Empire, writing at a time when the Roman Empire had effectively collapsed and the Byzantine Empire was forging a unique identity of its own. Having lived in the 6th century, Procopius closely followed the events of the Emperor Justinian’s reign.

During his early career, he was attached to one of Justinian’s brilliant generals, Belisarius, as a legal adviser. He most famously wrote the “Wars of Justinian” an eight-book work on the military campaigns of Emperor Justinian as well as a “Secret History” where Procopius penned down titillating and scandalous details of Justinian’s personal wife and those of his close aides. His works are the chief source of historical information about Justinian’s reign.

Theophylact Simocatta

Theophylact Simocatta was a Byzantine historiographer who lived in the 6th and 7th centuries. He is considered the last notable historiographer of the Late Antiquity and his eight-volume works on the reign of Emperor Maurice are the chief historical source of information about the period.

His works detailed the threats from Avars, Slavs and the Persians that the Byzantine Empire faced at the time. Although his style is considered not as excellent as other historiographers of Late Antiquity, his works are valued for their relevance to the period he wrote about.

Lanikos Chalkokondyles

Lanikos Chalkokondyles is considered one of the most authoritative historian of the final days of the Byzantine Empire. Living in the 15th century, Lanikos hailed from a noble family of Athens. During his lifetime, he saw the fall of the Byzantine Empire to the Ottoman Turks and briefly served the Ottoman sultans and was apparently present when southern Greek states fell to the Ottoman rule in 1440s.

Lanikos is most notably known for his “Proofs of Histories”, a work of history which covers the last 150 years of the Byzantine Empire. As an authoritative piece of history, the text offers a look into the fall of the Byzantine Empire and the rise of its rival, the Ottomans.

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