THE Empire of Nicaea was a successor state to the Byzantine Empire, or rather a ByzantineEmpire in exile lasting from 1204 to 1261 CE. The Empire of Nicaea was founded in the aftermath of the sacking of Constantinople during the Fourth Crusade and the establishment there of the crusader-run Latin Empire in 1204 CE and was ruled by the Laskarid Dynasty. When the forces of Michael VIII Palaiologos recaptured Constantinople in 1261 CE, the Empire of Nicaea, an empire in exile no more, effectively became the Byzantine Empire once again, until it ultimately fell to the Ottoman Turks in 1453 CE.
The sacking of the Byzantine capital of Constantinople shattered the Byzantine Empire. As the Latin crusaders and their Venetian backers established themselves in Europe and in the Aegean islands, three Greek successor states rose up at the peripheries of the empire. The first, and furthest away, was the Empire of Trebizond on the southeastern edge of the Black Sea. Next was the Despotate of Epiros, in modern-day Albania and northwestern Greece. Finally, there was the Empire of Nicaea, centered on the ancient city of Nicaea and controlling northwestern Anatolia.
In addition to the maelstrom of new states were the Bulgarians to the north and the Turks to the east. Battles were fought frequently, alliances were made and broken just as quickly, and who was preeminent in the region was decided by an ever-changing game of thrones. Trebizond was too far away from the center for it to be a serious candidate to reunify Byzantium, and thus it was the Latins, Epirotes, Nicaeans, and the Bulgarians who became the chief contenders for Constantinople.
AMASTRIS (c. 340/39-285 BCE) was a niece of the Persian king Darius III (r. 336-330 BCE) through her father Oxyathres. She was married in succession to Alexander’s general Craterus, the tyrant Dionysius of Heraclea, and finally to Lysimachus of Thrace. She founded an eponymous city in Paphlagonia and was the first queen to issue coins in her own name.
Amastris was the mother of four children, was supposedly divorced so that Lysimachus could marry Arsinoe II, and was allegedly murdered by her sons for interfering in their affairs. Despite their divorce, Lysimachus still avenged her death by killing her sons. Scholars have mostly ignored Amastris and left the few known details of her life as contradictory as the ancient sources present them. Yet, the little-known queen is arguably the first true Hellenistic queen as she embodies the entanglement of Persian and Greco-Macedonian traditions.
As the daughter of prince Oxyathres, the brother of the last Persian king Darius III Codomannus, Amastris was in effect the last surviving Achaemenid princess. Although her mother is unknown, the only woman associated with her father is an Egyptian concubine called Timosa. After the Battle of Issus (333 BCE), Alexander the Great found Amastris among the other royal and noble women left by Darius at Damascus. During the grand wedding ceremony at Susa almost a decade later (324 BCE), when the Macedonian high commanders were married to Persian and Median women, Alexander gave Amastris to his general Craterus – the only companion besides Hephaestion to wed a Persian princess. Historians maintain that Craterus, famously devoted to Macedonian tradition, repudiated Amastris in order to marry Phila, the daughter of the Macedonian regent Antipater. As Macedonian royalty and nobility practiced polygamy, Craterus did not have to separate from one wife to marry another. Craterus, at any rate, would soon fall in battle (321 BCE).
Han purple was an ancient Chinese pigment which is thought to have been created as early as 800 BCE, but the most famous examples of its use date back to around 220 BCE when it was used to paint the Terracotta Army and murals in the tomb of the first emperor Qin Shi Huang at Xi’an.
Han purple peaked during the Han Dynasty, then declined, and then vanished from the historical record entirely – along with knowledge of how to make the color.
It was not until the 1990s that scientists were able to replicate it. The process to make the copper barium silicate pigment was extremely intricate. For one thing, it involved the grinding of precise quantities of various materials. And for another, it required heating to between 900 and 1,100 degrees Celsius. Amazing that the process was discovered so long ago!