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Mistra: a medieval ghost town in southern Greece (Gadling)

Filed under: Arts and Culture, History, Learning, Europe, Greece, Books

On a steep hill overlooking the Vale of Sparta in southwestern Greece stands
the last capital of the Roman Empire.

In 395 AD, beset by enemies, the empire split into western and eastern halves.
The Western Roman Empire was soon overwhelmed. The east flourished. Its
capital was at Constantinople, modern Istanbul. Known as the Byzantine Empire,
it developed a distinctive style of art and architecture and protected the
Greek Orthodox Church of its citizens.

Byzantium declined as civilizations always do, and suffered a serious blow
during the Fourth Crusade in 1204. The Crusaders, who had originally set off
to retake Jerusalem from the Muslims, decided to capture Constantinople
instead. With its capital gone, Byzantium shattered into three small states.
Byzantine art and the Greek Orthodox Church survived.

The Crusaders built an imposing castle on the summit of a hill overlooking the
Vale of Sparta, one of a number of fortresses to protect their new domains.
That didn't work. The Byzantine emperor Michael VIII Palaeologos recaptured
Constantinople and steadily pushed the Crusaders out of the lands they had
conquered. The castle at Mistra was handed over to the ...


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