Movies
Byzantium the Lost Empire:
Envy of the World
(Part 3)
Mark Merlino - Home page

Of all of the episodes in John Romer's series, Byzantium the Lost Empire, Part Three
"Envy of the World" is the best at capturing a clear sense of the wealth and fame of
Byzantium. In fact, the third episode focuses solely on this theme, the dazzling and
awe-inspiring wealth of Byzantine Constantinople and the destructive envy this image
produced in Byzantium's neighbours.

In order to illustrate how the nations neighbouring the Byzantine Empire viewed
Byzantium, Romer analyzes Byzantine foreign policy. He argues that Byzantine
foreign policy was based on a sort of cultural imperialism, in which Byzantium's
wealth and technology were shown and shared with their neighbours in order to pacify
them. In this episode, Romer travels to the Ukraine and to Venice to illustrate what
Byzantine foreign policy looked like. He essentially argues that the masterpieces of
Venetian and Kievian Rus civilization, St. Mark's Basilica and the St. Sophia in Kiev
are reflections of Byzantium in these lands and that they were built as a result of
Byzantine foreign policy.

This episode also is very good at giving the viewer a glimpse of what it would have
been like to visit Constantinople at the height of Byzantine wealth and power. He
discusses Byzantine palace designs, charms, and shopping habits. This episode then
finishes with a fairly thorough description of the tragic and destructive acts of the
Fourth Crusade and subsequent pillaging of the city. He does however explain that the
pillaging of Byzantium gave considerable newfound wealth and confidence to Western
world.