The Splendors of Byzantium Illuminate a Radiant Exhibition at the Met

Blake Gopnik
Washington Post Staff Writer
Sunday, June 20, 2004; Page N01


Visualize an ancient Egyptian pharaoh by his pyramid. Now imagine Caesar and the Roman Forum. Now a Viking longship with its raiding party. And now conjure up Constantinople in its heyday, as the emperor, escorted by his most trusted logothetes, greets a company of cataphracts just returned from battle.

Unless you’re a scholar, that last historical vignette is probably not calling much to mind — no stirring visions, I’ll bet, of a purple-clad monarch attended by a flock of long-robed civil servants and triumphant heavy cavalry.

And this is strange, considering that Constantinople had one of the most important empires in Western history, lasting more than a millennium and deeply affecting every culture that ran into it, from Swedish vikings to Muslim Turks

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