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Last year on January 10th, I read about Saint Ammon, the Egyptian Ascetic.  This year I again am struck by the words written of him:

 THE VENERABLE AMMON, EPYPTIAN ASCETIC

For fourteen years, Ammon prayed to God and struggled to conquer anger within himself. He attained such perfection of goodness, that he was not even conscious that evil existed in the world. He was particularly knowledgeable in Holy Scripture. He died at the beginning of the fifth century.

 He was not even conscious that evil existed in the world.  I love this concept.

Lars Brownworth created a free podcast that has both kept me entertained and taught me about a huge chunk of history.  Each night when the kids go to bed I spend an hour or two cleaning up, preparing schoolwork or food, or drawing.  The perfect way to fill in that busywork is with podcasts.  This free podcast series called 12 Byzantine Rulers is about 6.5 hours long, and it has sparked a love of history in me.  I plan to read more about the Byzantine world, and Brownworth gives reading recommendations too.

The Hagia Sofia was a major character in this story, and when the podcast told of the 1453 Turkish take-over of Constantinople I was heartbroken.  The church looks different now since it was turned into a mosque and then a museum and has been through earthquakes, but many who visit the Hagia Sophia say it is the most amazing place they have ever been.  It was built in only 5 years and finished in 536AD by Justinian.  5 years!  I hope to either commission or (someday) draw an historical version of the Hagia Sophia in an architectural style to hang in my living room.

Besides the Hagia Sophia the podcast offers so much adventure and political drama and mystery.   There are many characters to hate and love.  Brownworth speaks of the tensions between the East and West parts of the empire and in the end says that when Constantinople is overrun, all the scholars escape to the West.  He points to that as the beginning of the Renaissance.  He even makes the claim that without the Byzantine empire, we would not even know of Plato. The people of Constantinople were well-educated and thoroughly mystical people.  I love itit‘s better than any film I have seen lately.  Enjoy!