Seraphim Danckaert is Director of Mission Advancement at St. Tikhon's Orthodox Theological Seminary. He holds an M.Div. from Holy Cross Greek Orthodox School of Theology and is a Ph.D. candidate in theology at Vrije Universiteit Amsterdam.
Even though the city of Rome fell in the fifth century, the Roman Empire continued in its Eastern lands for hundreds of years. Nowadays, historians call this Eastern Roman Empire by another name — Byzantium or the Byzantine Empire — as an easy means of distinguishing the pagan, Latin-speaking Empire of the first centuries of this era from the Christian, Greek-speaking Empire which remained the Mediterranean’s most powerful and prosperous state in late antiquity and the Middle Ages.
John Romer is an amateur historian and archeologist, who has produced a number of long-form documentaries on some of the world’s greatest civilizations. In 2007, he wrote and starred in an ambitious documentary titled “Byzantium: The Lost Empire,” produced for The Learning Channel. As the promotional description put it:
For more than 1,000 years, the Byzantine Empire was the eye of the entire world – the origin of great literature, fine art and modern government. Heir to Greece and Rome, the Byzantine Empire was also the first Christian empire. Now, after a year of filming on three continents, TLC unlocks this ancient civilization, spanning 11 centuries and three continents. Pass through the gates of Constantinople, explore the magnificent church of Hagia Sophia and see the looted treasures of the empire now located in St. Marks, Venice.
The full documentary is embedded above. It’s definitely worth watching. Even if some of the interpretations are questionable, it provides a compelling introduction to the cultural significance of Byzantium — and includes striking footage of many important archeological and ecclesiastical monuments. Romer does a particularly good job of conveying a sense of wonder and discovery, bringing the viewer along with him as he explores the vivid remains and lasting significance of the past.