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Interesting Facts about the Roman Empire III
Posted In: Ancient Civilizations  9/3/12
By: Yona Williams

When you think of silk production, ancient Rome is probably not a place that first comes to mind. However, it was not easy to get the worms responsible for generating this valuable good. In this article, you will learn how they came to Rome, as well as other interesting facts about the Roman Empire – including information on significant emperors.

Dating the Birth of Christ

It was 534 when Dionysius Exiguus (also known as Dennis the Little) established the system of counting the years starting with the birth of Christ. However, he made a few errors in the calculation, and the birth of Jesus most likely took place around 6 BC. Herod the Great, who appears in tales of Jesus' birth in the Bible died in 4 BC. The system created many centuries ago is still used today.

A Deadly Banquet

When the new church Hagia Sophia (Holy Wisdom) was dedicated, the Emperor Justinian held a banquet in 537 that involved the slaughtering of 6,000 sheep, 1,000 oxen, 1,000 pigs, 1,000 chickens, and 500 deer. The church goes down in history as being an important building of Byzantine art and architecture.
From 542 to 543 AD, the plague crippled a great deal of the civilized world. Some sources state that up to 10,000 people died on a daily basis in Constantinople when the plague was at its worst. Not everyone that caught the sickness would die. For example, Emperor Justinian was a victim of the plague, but he recovered from his symptoms.

Silk Production in Constantinople

It took bribery to bring the means to start producing silk in Constantinople. Emperor Justinian persuaded two Persian monks who had lived in China to make a trip to bring back silkworm eggs concealed in hollow bamboo canes. This allowed Constantinople to begin silk production around 550 AD. These worms were responsible for all of the silk-producing caterpillars in Europe that are still in the continent during modern times.

Off with His Nose

In 695, when the leader of a group of rebellious Constantinopolitans named Leontius got a hold of the emperor Justinian II, he had the leader's nose cut off. He felt that if the ruler was disfigured, then he would never attempt to regain his position over the people. However, Leontius was overthrown by troops under General Tiberius (who later became Emperor Tiberius III) in 698. In an ironic twist of fate, Leontius lost his nose in the same fashion as Justinian, who reclaimed the throne seven years after Tiberius came into power. Both Leontius and Tiberius III were publicly humiliated and executed by Justinian II

Blind War Efforts

It was 40 years that the Byzantine emperor Basil II engaged in war, but he was ready to put an end to the battles in 1014. In his possession was 15,000 Bulgarian prisoners. He decided to blind all but 150 of the captive people. The 150 were only blinded in one eye, who were used as guides for their blinded comrades. For every 100 blind men, a one-eyed leader brought them back to the Bulgarian capital of Ohrid. When their ruler, Samuel, saw the remnants of his army, he suffered a fatal stroke at the sight of his helpless men. When the ruler died two days later, Basil II was given the title of Bulgaroktonis, which translates into "slayer of Bulgarians."


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