Middle Ages: The Byzantine Period

The Byzantine Empire was a large and strong civilization whose beginnings can be linked back to the year 330 A.D., when Roman Emperor Constantine I established a “New Rome” on the site of the ancient Greek colony of Byzantium. The western half of the Roman Empire collapsed in 476 A.D., but the eastern half lasted for 1,000 years, cultivating a rich legacy of art, literacy, and teaching as well as acting as a military barrier between Europe and Asia. During the reign of Constantine XI, an Ottoman army invaded Constantinople, and the Byzantine Empire collapsed in 1453.


Court of Emperor Justinian with (right) archbishop Maximian and (left) court officials and Praetorian Guards; Basilica of San Vitale in Ravenna, Italy. Image via Wikimedia Commons; © The Yorck Project: 10.000 Meisterwerke der Malerei. DVD-ROM, 2002. ISBN 3936122202. Distributed by DIRECTMEDIA Publishing GmbH. https://www.metmuseum.org/exhibitions/listings/2012/byzantium-and-islam/blog/topical-essays/posts/san-vitale

Byzantium was chosen by Roman Emperor Constantine I as the location of a “New Rome” with a namesake capital city, Constantinople, in 330 A.D. Constantine had founded Christianity — then a minor Jewish sect — as Rome’s official religion at the Council of Nicaea five years prior. Citizens of Constantinople and the rest of the Eastern Roman Empire identified as Romans and Christians, even though majority Greek instead of Latin.

A faithful reconstruction of Constantinople, capital of the Eastern Roman Empire (1200 AD) Source: byzantium1200.com https://vividmaps.com/constantinople/

In comparison to other early mediaeval states, it benefited immensely from a stronger administrative center and internal political stability, as well as great prosperity. Eastern emperors were able to exercise greater leverage over the empire’s economic capital and more successfully marshal sufficient manpower to repel invasions.


Because of its role in shaping Christian Orthodoxy, the Byzantine Empire influenced many cultures, in which today’s modern time, it is the second largest Christian church in the world. From Egypt to Russia, Byzantine architecture, notably in religious structures, can be found, art and literature flourished from 867 to 1056 during it’s time. Artists combined ancient Greek and Roman art with Christian themes, adopting a naturalistic aesthetic and sophisticated techniques. This period’s Byzantine art had a major influence on later Italian Renaissance painters.

Christ as the Good Shepard Ravenna Italy, Mosaic. Image Source: Wikipedia https://blog.mozaico.com/a-journey-through-byzantine-mosaic-art/

During the fall of Constantinople in 1453, the people migrated out all over Europe. Among those emigrants were many Byzantine scholars and artists; linguists, architects, poets, writers, astronomers, scientists, philosophers, and priests. The migration of these people from Constantinople aided in the resurgence of Greek and Roman studies, resulting in the Renaissance of humanism and science.


Byzantine culture was deeply religious, and some ideals, such as order and established hierarchies, were held in high regard. Marriage, chastity, and celibacy were celebrated and revered, and family was at the heart of society. Women and mothers were seen as vital members of the family unit since family was so important, while some women entered pastoral orders.

While moral views against women demanded that they be kept in segregated spaces and not be vocal, this was not always the case in practice. Women had their own places, known as “gynaikonitis”, where they could partake in tasks such as spinning and weaving, but other areas were not clearly divided between men and women. In comparison to the privileged classes at the peak of society, peasants, who were not a homogeneous race, had multiple social hierarchies. Peasants’ lives varied dramatically depending on whether they owned their own land or were reliant on private or state landlords. During the fourth to sixth centuries, the number of peasants who owned small plots of land decreased, and peasants became more attached to specific land parcels.


This time indicates the start of the lavish tendencies that would grow in strength over the next decades, culminating in a mad frenzy of sartorial splendor in the 11th century. The Eastern and Western Empires had been independent dominions prior to the start of the fifth century. Constantinople was on the rise, but Rome was on the decline for the next eighty years, edging closer to extinction.

Mosaic of Theodora, Basilica San Vitale, Ravenna, Italy https://commons.wikimedia.org/wiki/File:Mosaic_of_Theodora_-Basilica_San_Vitale(Ravenna,_Italy).jpg

The Byzantine costume practices owes its origins to the Roman Empire (27 B.C.E.–476 C.E. ), as well as its color and artistic traditions to the Orient and Middle East. The Roman origins are simple to comprehend. After all, the Byzantine Empire started as the Eastern Roman Empire in the fourth century C.E., and its capital, Constantinople, was briefly the capital of the entire Roman Empire.

Byzantine Costume https://line.17qq.com/articles/ibeiigebz.html

The toga, which had once been required attire for Romans, was only worn on formal occasions by the end of the Roman Empire. The Byzantines, who preferred plain floating clothing to the toga’s winding and draping, did away with the toga entirely. They selected the dalmatica, a long, flowing men’s tunic or shirt with wide sleeves and hem, and the stola for women as their most simple garments. Unlike the Romans, the Byzantines were known for their modesty when it comes to displaying their flesh.

Their outer garments had a tight fit around the waist, sleeves that reached all the way to the elbow, and the hemlines, or bottom edges, that reached all the way to the ground. Men wore a tunic and trousers under their dalmatica, and women wore a long undergarment underneath their stola and a paludamentum, or long robe, as an outer garment.

Female Pallium | Byzantine fashion, Byzantine art, Byzantine https://line.17qq.com/articles/gdollov.html

Silk was a particularly common fabric among the Byzantines. Silk was first brought to the West in about 139 B.C.E. through a long trading route that passed through the Middle East and ended in China, and supplies were small. The Byzantines wove their silk into a sturdy cloth known as samite, which was often woven with gold yarn. Silk was highly prized by rich Byzantines, who used it to produce a number of garments and embroideries.

The Shroud of Charlemagne. Manufactured in Constantinople in 814. / 12th century Byzantine silk, the basis of Italian silk production and spoils of the Crusades. https://brewminate.com/stealing-the-worm-silk-production-in-the-byzantine-empire/

To the Modern Age

There are a lot of aspects that the Byzantine Era left a significance to our word today. Though it may diminished for a very long time, it left an impact to it’s people, As I mentioned, during the fall of Constantinople, the people emigrated all over Europe, and all that they have was their living legacy, and proof be told that all those influences is still implied up to this day: through art, fashion, architecture, literature, philosophy, religion, science and etc. For what is written in the history, it is re-written by every generation, it is what they embrace and the ever evolving culture will always be influenced by it’s history.

Now, we look some of the modern ideas that is influenced by the Byzantine Fashion:

Valentino adds a BYZANTINE touch to it’s magical, MEDIEVAL couture collection 2016.

Valentino designers Maria Grazia Chiuri and Pierlpaolo Piccioli are inspired by the Roman History wich is the Byzantine Empire. Mariano Fortuny’s combination of Eastern Byzantine and Western classic aesthetics in his work in the early twentieth century influenced the designers, according to the brand.

MET GALA 2018, HEAVENLY BODIES: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination

The Metropolitan Museum of Art’s annual Costume Institute Benefit is undeniably fashion’s biggest night, and it’s the perfect event for celebrities to take sartorial chances that they may not take on the red carpet of an awards show even in everyday life. The 2018 Met Gala theme, Heavenly Bodies: Fashion and the Catholic Imagination, gave guests enough opportunities to show off their imagination.

Each celebrity is channeling medieval fashion but with a modern aesthetic; like Katy Perry, she is wearing Versace’s Archangel concept design. Priyanka Chopra in a deep burgundy velvet gown topped off with an incredible gold beaded hood. Zendaya which is channeling “Joan of Arc”. Cardi B and Jeremy Scott are the perfect representation in Catholic Imagination, as the year’s theme Heavenly Bodies. Blake Lively in Versace is looking like a saint, very regal, and has a queenly aura with the embroidered dress. And lets not gonna skip to the Queen of Met Gala, Rihanna, she has once again grace the theme for the fashion’s biggest night showing up dressed as an actual Pope, and people did not disappoint.

Ross-Simons Byzantine Collection.

Since 1952 Ross-Simons proudly offered beautiful, high quality jewelry at the best value. The American Jewelry brand recently launched their Byzantine Collection, styles like the Byzantine knot chained bracelets, watch, necklace, ring, and earrings which is handcrafted in Europe. It is made out of yellow gold and sterling silver, ornate with gemstones, diamonds and pearls. Timeless art and design that is reimagine for today, their exclusive take on a historical piece.

The Byzantine collection is still available, you can visit https://www.ross-simons.com/

These photos are based on my inspiration, my own view of how ancient fashion has influenced contemporary and changing fashion, it has nothing to do with the designer’s own inspiration and I don’t want to harm their brand, for me this is only for educational purposes and I hope we could have an expressive and open mind to this. Thank you.

Bibliography and Photo Courtesy

History.com – Byzantine Empire https://www.history.com/topics/ancient-middle-east/byzantine-empire

Livescience – History of Byzantine Empire https://www.livescience.com/42158-history-of-the-byzantine-empire.html

WorldHistory.org – Byzantine Empire https://www.worldhistory.org/Byzantine_Empire/

KhanAcademy.org – Byzantine Culture and Society https://www.khanacademy.org/humanities/world-history/medieval-times/byzantine-empire/a/byzantine-culture-and-society

MetMuseum.org – Byzantium (ca. 330-1453) https://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/byza/hd_byza.htm


Constantinople in the Byzantine period mapped

A Dreamy Journey Through Byzantine Mosaics





Stealing the Worm: Silk Production in the Byzantine Empire



Met Gala


Published by loisgomez

I am a Marketing and Merchandising for Fashion student of Visual College of Arts & Design located in Calgary. I love Fashion, I mostly do fashion sketches and illustrations and hopefully, someday, I could have my fashion brand. Most of my posts will be about history of fashion; how it started, where it all began and so much more.

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