History, Culture, Politics, and Travel in the Balkans, Turkey, and Cyprus



The Historical Memory of Constantinople, 567 Years After the Fall

To commemorate the 567th anniversary of the end of the Byzantine Empire, I published an article with Greek Reporter on May 29, the day Constantinople finally fell to the Ottomans. If you are interested in learning more about how the Byzantine Empire and Constantinople have been viewed by subsequent generations of Romaioi and Greeks, please see the article here.

“To the triumphant Ottoman Turks, glorious Constantinople, that greatest of prizes, was now theirs. For the descendants of the Byzantines, or the Ρωμαίοι (Romaioi, or Romans) as they called themselves, the long, lingering memory of the lost city, which at times reached a fever pitch of progonoplexia, or an obsession with our ancestors, had just begun . . .”

North Macedonia

With the agreement to rename Macedonia to North Macedonia earlier this month, I published an article on what is to come next in Le Monde diplomatique.

This is a follow up on my article on the negotiations between Greece and Macedonia regarding the name change back in March.

The Ethnic Backgrounds of Byzantine Emperors

The Byzantine Empire was extremely cosmopolitan. Inside its borders lived Greeks, Armenians, Syrians, Cappadocians, Pahlagonians, Germans, Isaurians, and many others. Nonetheless, Byzantines identified as Roman, a supra-ethnic form of identity that was continued from the Roman Empire. But while this Roman identity may have bound Byzantines together, ethnic identities and divisions still existed. Byzantine primary sources are replete with references to specific ethnicities inside the Empire, such as “Armenians” and “Isaurians.” Byzantine emperors were no different than their subjects in this respect; they were an ethnically diverse cadre of rulers.

Some Byzantine emperors were never ethnically identified in primary sources. In other cases, historians used terms that could refer to both a geographic or ethnic origin. It is not an easy task to delineate the ethnic origins of the Byzantine emperors. In the following paragraphs, I will try to lay out the ethnic origins of the 90 Byzantine emperors (not counting Basiliscus, Mezezius, Artabasdos, Michael IX, Andronikos IV, John VII, or Andronikos V, all of which were short-lived usurpers or junior emperors). Continue reading “The Ethnic Backgrounds of Byzantine Emperors”

In the Footsteps of Rome: Byzantine Conceptions of Imperialism

Byzantine Eagle Outside of Constantinople Patriarchate Colossus
Double-Headed Eagle, Symbol of the Late Byzantine Empire, at the Ecumenical Patriarchate in Constantinople | Colossus

When we think of empires, size is often what first comes to mind. Empires are big not only in geographical extent, but in power and number of people, often composed of many different ethnicities. But there are two sides to the coin for being an empire: what outsiders consider a state and what that state considers itself. Despite early reluctance to accept its imperial mantle during the Republic, Romans eventually developed and accepted an idea of themselves as masters of an empire. Its neighbors, however, had long before recognized Rome’s imperialism.

But what of Rome’s successor, the Byzantine Empire? By the time Constantinople fell in 1453, Byzantium was just a shadow of former Roman glory, territory, and might. But until the end, the difference between Rome and Byzantium was that Byzantium had no doubts as to its imperial nature but as time went on, its neighbors did. Continue reading “In the Footsteps of Rome: Byzantine Conceptions of Imperialism”

Mystras, Hidden Gem of Greece

Athens and Sparta are almost synonymous with popular conceptions of Greece. Images of the cradle of democracy and the den of mighty warriors have permeated our society from textbooks to the silver screen. But now that we are over two millennia away from the Golden Age of Greece, what can the modern day cities of Athens and Sparta offer travelers?

Athens’ monuments are well known. The current Greek capital has a wealth of ancient temples, a horde of archaeological finds, and sites such as the old agora, or marketplace. And of course it boasts the Parthenon, albeit a little worse for wear after a Venetian army exploded a Turkish gunpowder magazine in the temple in 1687. Thousands of tourists flock to the city each year.

But what about Sparta? Continue reading “Mystras, Hidden Gem of Greece”

Genocide: The Cursed and Unrecognized Legacy of Armenians and Greeks

Greeks and Armenians have often had connected experiences over the centuries. They lived as neighbors since pre-Roman times, Armenians were a prominent minority in the majority Greek Byzantine Empire, and both were subjects of the Ottoman Empire.

But they also shared the most tragic of experiences: genocide. In 2014, the Greek Parliament passed law 4285/2014, which outlawed the denial of not only the Holocaust, but also the Greek (1913-1922) and Armenian Genocides (1915-1922) in the Ottoman Empire. This law not only presents a strong stance against genocide deniers, but also shows the solidarity of the Greeks and Armenians in the face of lack of recognition and continued Turkish denial. Continue reading “Genocide: The Cursed and Unrecognized Legacy of Armenians and Greeks”

The Global Migrant Crisis and the Impact of Syria

The number of migrants worldwide is at a high point: 244 million in 2015, over 40% more migrants than in 2000. While some of the migrants move by choice, a substantial number are not so lucky. The UN Refugee Agency (UNHCR) calculated that 65.3 million were forcibly displaced “as a result of persecution, conflict, generalized violence, or human rights violations,” the highest number since the end of World War II. And this number is on the rise: 12.4 million people were newly displaced in 2015. Of the 65.3 million, 21.3 million were considered refugees. Continue reading “The Global Migrant Crisis and the Impact of Syria”

Macedonia: What’s in a Name?

Macedonia established a new government a few weeks ago after several months of political deadlock. Zoran Zaev, the new prime minister, is seen as a potential hero that can save Macedonia from its recent bouts of political turmoil. But not only is Macedonia excited; Greece has been quick to open talks with its northern neighbor. Talks between the Macedonian foreign minister and his Greek counterpart in Athens are supposed to be the start to solving the poisonous issue in Macedonian-Greek relations: Macedonia’s name. Macedonia may be willing to change its name, after more than 20 years of disputes with Greece, said Nikola Dimitrov, Macedonia’s foreign minister. Continue reading “Macedonia: What’s in a Name?”

The Megali Idea: The Dream to Restore Byzantium

 Πάλι με χρόνια με καιρούς, πάλι δικά μας θα ‘ναι!

“Once more, as years and time go by, once more they shall be ours.”


Ever since the Ottoman Turks had conquered Constantinople in 1453, Greeks had yearned for liberation from the Ottoman Empire. When that independence came in 1832, it was only a fraction of ethnic Greeks that became free. Only southern Greece was part of the newly independent Kingdom of Greece, while the vast majority still lived under Ottoman rule. The mission to rescue them would consume Greece for the next century. Continue reading “The Megali Idea: The Dream to Restore Byzantium”

Create a free website or blog at

Up ↑