Although falsely depicted as effete by the historian Edward Gibbon in the eighteenth century, the Byzantine Empire was the closest thing to a military superpower in the early Middle Ages, thanks to its heavy cavalry (the cataphracts), its subsidization (albeit inconsistently) of a well-to-do free peasant class as the basis for cavalry recruitment, its extraordinary defense in depth (the thematic system), its use of subsidies to play its enemies against one another, its intelligence gathering prowess, its development of a system of logistics based on mule trains, its navy (although often tragically under-funded), and its rational military doctrines (not dissimilar to those of Sun Tzu, the Chinese author of the Art of War) that emphasized stealth, surprise, swift maneuver and the marshalling of overwhelming force at the time and place of the Byzantine commander’s choosing. He declared that Christ, as Lord of Lords and King of Kings, is enthroned in heaven and all earthly rulers are subject to his authority. By the mid 14th Century, the Byzantines were confined to northwestern Turkey and Thrace, having lost most of their other lands. The empire struggled on into the 15th century, the emperors gradually losing their importance in favor of religious officials. Others place it during the reign of Theodosius I (379-395) and Christendom’s victory over paganism, or, following his death in 395, with the division of the empire into Western and Eastern halves. At this point it is common to refer to the empire as “Eastern Roman” rather than “Byzantine.”.

Wolf introduced a system of Byzantine historiography in his work Corpus Historiae Byzantinae in order to distinguish ancient Roman from Medieval Greek history without drawing attention to their ancient predecessors. The Daedalus Sea Serpent and the War for Credibility, How to Lose: A Brief History of the Presidential Concession Speech, John Adams, America’s Second President and First One-Term President, Step-by-Step Path Taken by First People to Settle the Caribbean Islands, Ancient DNA Reveals the Genetic Landscape of People Who First Settled East Asia. Robert Byron, one of the first great twentieth century Philhellenes, maintained that the greatness of Byzantium lay in what he described as “the Triple Fusion”: that of a Roman body, a Greek mind, and a mystical oriental soul. Here, a huge mosaic with geometric patterns that dates back to the Byzantine Period and would have been used as the floor of a public building in what is today Kibbutz Bet Qama, in the B'nei Shimon region council in Israel. The centuries after Justinian’s death are sometimes referred to as the Byzantine “Dark Age” and for good reason, as a series of misfortunes befell the empire. Individual pages signify the copyright for the content on that page. Thank you for signing up to Live Science. This insulted the Byzantines, who sought to be recognized as successors to the Roman Empire of old. The influence of its theologians on medieval Western thought (and especially on Thomas Aquinas) was profound, and their removal from the “canon” of Western thought in subsequent centuries has, in the minds of many, only served to impoverish the canon.

For example the Latin language in government, Latin titles like Augustus and the idea of the empire being one with Rome were rapidly dissolved, allowing the empire to pursue its own identity.

In the west, much of the territory that Justinian had captured was lost.

Iconography also developed as a major art form. “In plan it is about 270 feet (82 meters) long and 240 feet (73 meters) wide. However, considerable animosity existed between the Byzantines and the Caliphate. “Even Constantinople barely survived, and did so in much reduced circumstances.”. Search through the Prosopography of the Byzantine Empire (641-867 AD) here. In 1204, the crusaders sacked Constantinople after capturing it the previous year as a favor to a deposed Byzantine emperor. Nevertheless, the military situation stabilized in the ninth century and by the 11th century, Byzantium had gained back a considerable amount of territory that it had lost. Byzantines identified themselves as Romaioi (Ρωμαίοι – Romans) which had already become a synonym for Hellene (Έλλην – Greek), and more than ever before were developing a national consciousness, as residents of Ρωμανία (Romania, as the Byzantine state and its world were called). The Empire’s native Greek name was Ῥωμανία Romanía or Βασιλεία Ῥωμαίων Basileía Romaíon, a direct translation of the Latin name of the Roman Empire, Imperium Romanorum.

Frederick I, Holy Roman Emperor attempted to conquer the empire during the Third Crusade, but it was the Fourth Crusade that had the most devastating effect on the empire. (Image credit: Yael Yolovitch, Israel Antiquities Authority).

Heraclius and the military governors of Syria were slow to respond to the new threat, and Byzantine Mesopotamia, Syria, Egypt, and the Exarchate of Africa were permanently incorporated into the Muslim Empire in the seventh century, a process which was completed with the fall of Carthage to the caliphate in 698. Of course, integration did not take place uniformly. Icons were banned by Emperor Leo III, leading to revolts by iconophiles within the empire, including John of Damascus. This new capital became the centre of his administration. The Bulgarians were completely defeated by Basil II in 1014. Constantinople was built on the site of Byzantium, an urban center that had a long history of prior occupation. He came to power because he was the nephew, and adopted son, of his uncle, Justin I, a palace soldier who had usurped the throne. This "Fourth Crusade" never reached the Holy Land, as it diverted to Constantinople. Societies already integrated with Rome such as Greece were favored by this decree, compared with those far away, too poor or just too alien such as Britain, Palestine or Egypt. The fall of Constantinople to the Ottoman Turks in 1453 closed the land route from Europe to Asia and marked the downfall of the Silk Road. During the Crusades, the Westerners carved out principalities and counties for themselves, having no intention of handing territory to heretics. While it is said that the golden age of Byzantium occurred during his reign Justinian's rule certainly did not start off as golden. The Ancient History Encyclopedia logo is a registered EU trademark. Byzantine authorities arrested members of the factions and sentenced them to be executed. The Empire’s most catastrophic defeat was the Battle of Yarmuk, fought in Syria. During the Ottoman occupation Greeks continued to identify themselves as both Ρωμαίοι (Romans) and Έλληνες (Hellenes), a trait that survived into the early twentieth century and still persists today in modern Greece, but the former has now retreated to a secondary folkish name rather than a national synonym as in the past.

In fact, the Middle Ages are often traditionally defined as beginning with the fall of Rome in 476 (and hence the Ancient Period), and ending with the fall of Constantinople in 1453. Click to share on Twitter (Opens in new window), Click to share on Facebook (Opens in new window), Click to share on Reddit (Opens in new window), Click to share on Pinterest (Opens in new window), Click to share on Skype (Opens in new window), Click to share on Tumblr (Opens in new window), Click to email this to a friend (Opens in new window), “THE EMPIRE STRIKES BACK” The alternative “History” of Europe, Studies on the Internal Diaspora of the Byzantine Empire, Medieval History, the Life and Death of a Civilization, The Emperor Romanus Lecapenus and his Reign, A History of the Byzantine State and Society, Creative Commons Attribution-ShareAlike 3.0 Unported, Where Be Monsters? The Ottoman Turks defeated the last deffence in Anatolia and entered Europe in 1354, quickly conquering the Serbians and taking over the Venetian possesions. Lesser known is the influence of the Byzantine style of religion on the millions of Christians in Ethiopia, the Egyptian Coptic Christians, and the Christians of Georgia and Armenia. It unified its subjects with a common sense of identity, values and with an understanding of society as ultimately under God’s sovereignty.

“Art and literature flourished under his rule, and his officials carried out a remarkably thorough synthesis of Roman law that has served as the basis of the legal systems of much of Europe up to the present day,” writes Gregory. The Byzantine Empire is the term conventionally used to describe the Greek-speaking Roman Empire during the Middle Ages, centered at its capital in Constantinople. The Byzantine Empire helped shaped world events and history in several ways. Despite its longevity, its history was plagued with factional struggles, invasions by outside peoples, and religious disputes, and in 1453 the Fall of Constantinople to the Ottoman Empire ended it permanently. With the capture of Constantinople, the Roman Empire was no more. In historiography, the name "Eastern Roman Empire" is usually used to refer to Byzantine history from 395 to 476, where it was effectively a half of the Roman Empire that covered the eastern portions. Their successors supported the idea that Moscow was the proper heir to Rome and Constantinople, a sort of Third Rome—an idea carried through the Russian Empire until its own demise in the early twentieth century. Byzantine Empire Timeline.

The Lombards invaded and conquered much of Italy, the Avars and later the Bulgars overwhelmed much of the Balkans, and in the early seventh century the Persians invaded and conquered Egypt, Palestine, Syria and Armenia. Under Justinian I, and the brilliant general Belisarius, the empire temporarily regained some of the lost Roman provinces in the west, conquering much of Italy, north Africa, and Spain.

Receive mail from us on behalf of our trusted partners or sponsors? There is no consensus on the starting date of the Byzantine period. Justinian I became emperor in 527. Its political institutions remained fundamentally unchanged from those which existed … at the end of the 4th century; while the Byzantines continued to enjoy an active urban and commercial life they made no substantial advance in the technology of industry and trade as developed by the cities of the ancient world. Much of this territory had first fallen to Greek rule under Alexander the Great. Constantinople (also known as Byzantium) was to be a new city for the new Christian era, although he placed an image of the sun in its central forum bearing his own image, suggesting that his break with the old Roman cult was not complete. In the centuries following the Arab and Lombard conquests in the seventh century, its multi-ethnic (although not multi-national) nature remained even though its constituent parts in the Balkans and Asia Minor contained an overwhelmingly Greek population. amzn_assoc_ad_mode = "manual"; The loss of Jerusalem, and subsequently control of its sacred sites, dented Byzantine pride. Heraclius fully Hellenized the empire by making Greek the official language, thus ending the last remnants of Latin and ancient Roman tradition within the Empire. Yet, unless Europe reformed, defeat could follow. Actually, the term "Byzantine" didn't exist until the 16th Century (long after the Empire's end). (Image credit: Cplakidas / Creative Commons.). Constans II (reigned 641 – 668) divided the empire into a system of military provinces called thémata (themes) to face permanent assault, with urban life declining outside the capital while Constantinople grew to become the largest city in the Christian world. They turned the Hagia Sophia into a mosque, adding four minarets that rise more than 200 feet (60 meters) off the ground. “The death of Emperor Manuel Comnenus (1143-80) presaged a series of regencies, usurpations and coups.