Early Byzantine Period

In the 4th century AD momentous events marked the end of the ancient world and the transition to Byzantium, the Christian State of the Graeco-Roman East, which emerged from the Roman Empire.

The immense Byzantine State, natural successor to the Roman Empire, extended to the three continents around the Mediterranean and was the leading power

in its historic evolution over 11 centuries. Byzantium attained its zenith in the 6th century, during the reign of Justinian I (AD 527-565), an emperor with significant military successes to his credit. This heyday was followed in the 7th and 8th centuries by a protracted period of upheavals and realignments, the so-called Dark Ages.

Boeotia, a flourishing and densely-populated region, was subject administratively to the Province of Achaia. Cultivation of the fertile Boeotian earth was the inhabitants’ main occupation, encouraging the growth of trade. From the harbours on the Corinthian and Euboean Gulf, local products such as grain, olive oil and wine reached the markets of the major centres of the Empire. Mosaicists, masons, marble-carvers, potters, merchants and hosts of other specialized trades played a part in the diverse activities of the period. The gradual dominance of the new Christian religion is verified by the multitude of basilicas – the main architectural type of ecclesiastical buildings in that period – which have been unearthed throughout Boeotia, and are decorated with elaborate sculptures and mosaic floors.

From the late 6th century on, and after emerging from its period of growth, Boeotia began to diminish demographically and fell into decline. At the same time, Slavs settled in the region.

The visitor continues his course through the hall of the Hellenistic-Roman period (sections 9-10), from which section 11 is differentiated with a glass curtain. On stands 168-169 are exhibited coins and “treasures” of the period, as well as objects of daily use from Antikyra, a typical large port of the period (showcases 170-171).

The visitor can then observe sculptures from churches of the period and objects associated with the new Christian religion (showcase 172, stands 116-123); in showcases 173-176 and stand 124, objects are presented that are related to the funeral customs of the period.

The hall is dominated by the fine mosaic floor with personifications of the four months and a hunting scene (first quarter of the 6th century), signed by Demetrios and Epiphanis, head of an organised and prosperous mosaic workshop of the period. In the same area there is an interactive digital application about the art of the mosaicist and the mosaic floors in Boeotia, while in showcases 178-179 the materials and tools of a modern mosaicist are presented, as well as a copy of a mosaic floor from Thebes outlining the various stages of creating a mosaic.

The exhibition of the Early Byzantine period concludes with objects from daily life (stands 125-127) and objects that are associated with the professions of mason (showcase 180), marble sculptor (showcase 181) and potter (stand 128 and showcases 182-183).