Byzantium was an ancient Greek city located on the thin strip of land that connects Turkey to Greece. The Byzantine Empire was established as the Greek-speaking capital of the Roman Empire near the beginning of the 1st millennium C.E., and became a contested capital throughout the Middle Ages due to its role in connecting Europe to the Middle East.

Its location on the Black Sea made it a prosperous trading hub, and its wealth was highly contested by the surrounding empires. The waning Roman Empire allowed for Byzantium to be taken over by the Ottoman Turks in the 1400’s C.E., for which it became the capital of the Ottoman Empire.

The Byzantines were famous for their mosaics, the most famous of which depicts the image of Christ Pantocrator on the walls of the Hagia Sophia in Constantinople. This mosaic was made during the early middle ages, when the Byzantine Empire had defined a new aesthetic particular to the eastern periphery of modern day Europe. In particular, as you look through the Baidun shop, take a moment to notice the unique artistic currents that helped make Byzantine art such a unique cultural force over hundreds of years.

Today, Byzantium is known as Istanbul, Turkey’s largest city in both population and wealth. The tug of war between the west and the near east over Byzantium’s riches is seen today in the Roman columns that scatter the landscape, while the area’s many artifacts lay claim to Roman, Turkish, Greek and Persian influences.

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