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by Archaeology Newsroom

The End of Time in Byzantium

The Byzantine conception of the end of time was based on biblical prophecies, as interpreted by Christian exegesis of the 2nd and 3rd centuries, which saw world history in terms of a cosmic week of millennia corresponding to the days of Creation, and in terms of a succession of world empires, of which the Romano-Byzantine would be the last. Although the Church discouraged speculation on the day of the End, there was always a strong tendency to discern signs of its imminence in contemporary events, or to predict it according to symbolic or astronomical patterns. Both kinds of speculation intensified not only with the approach but also with the passing of the year 6000 from the Creatton, which was believed to fall at the end of the sixth century ad, Eventually, attention was focused on the end of the seventh millennium (ad 1492), but only after other, intermediate dates failed to live up to expectations The most important of these was the middle of the seventh millennium, which also happened to be the millennial anniversary of the life of Christ. Thus, even though Byzantium did not adopt the system of dating from the Incarnation, which became standard in the West, the year 1000 (or its Byzantine equivalent. ad 992) was at least equally significant in the Greek East. This was clearly a result of the belief that the Kingdom of the Saints, prophesied in the Apocalypse of the St. John, had been inaugurated by Christ, and the Christian Church and Empire were its earthly manifestation.