As the Western Roman empire disintegrated in the fifth century CE , Roman civilization continued to flourish, lasting as the Byzantine Empire in the Eastern Mediterranean for another thousand years. Centered on Constantinople--named for Constantine--aka New Rome, the Eastern Roman Empire existed as a unique mix of Roman law and urban life, Christianity, Greek culture and language, and a cosmopolitan population. As the dominant culture of the Eastern Mediterranean, Byzantine Rome distinctly shaped the politics, economies, religions and cultures of the newly-emerging states and societies in Eastern Europe, Russia and Anatolia. As such, Russia inherited a civilization much more directly linked to the Greek-speaking (and Orthodox Christian) world than to the Latin West. Russia also became the frontier/border between Europe and Asia.
The Byzantine empire developed very effective military and diplomatic techniques that helped to ensure its long survival. In fact, the adjective "Byzantine" is often used to connote enormous complexity, as in "Byzantine" diplomacy. It refers to the complexities of constant palace revolutions, coups and murders over the centuries that made dealing with Byzantine officials an extremely difficult matter.
Some things to consider about Byzantine civilization:
330 CE (the move by Constantine the of his capital to the east) - 1453 (fall of the city to the Ottoman Turks); that is still an extremely long period of time, over one thousand years for that empire to exist.
The inhabitants of the Byzantine Empire considered themselves Romans and continued to refer to themselves as Romans, even though they mostly spoke Greek and not Latin.
This was a theocratic state in which the emperor dominated the church (caesaro-papism = the head of state is also master of the church), and this was different from the situation in the west where the pope was powerful.
The emperor was, for all intents and purposes, a dictator; he made law, and there was no longer a senate. The emperor was all powerful yet anybody could rise to become emperor--it was very, complicated the machinations behind control of the throne. Wikipedia has a nice, short explanation of the emperor's titles.
Like the empire in the west, this was a polyglot empire of Greeks, Syrians, Persians, Jews, Christians, Slavs (like the Bulgars) and many others - religion was the unifying force.
The economy and trade prospered for so long, and that's what enabled the empire to maintain a small, professional, highly trained army equipped with some really high technology for the time (like the signal mirrors). The government maintained a monopoly on silk production and purple dye, which also contributed to the wealth. After the breakdown of the monetary economy of the empire in the fourth century CE, The Byzantines were able to re-establish money with their gold coin known as the nomisma aka solidus).
Urban life continued to be vibrant in the east with Constantinople reaching an estimated population of half a million.
Religion was important in the east and included two important controversies. 1st, there was the iconoclasm controversy over the use of images and icons in the church and the role of those images. Was the miracle-working power embedded in the icon itself or was it in the image represented by the icon? Should an icon be venerated or adored? 2nd, the Great Schism occurred in which Christianity split into the wester, catholic church (centered in Rome and headed by the pope) and the eastern, orthodox church (headed by autonomous patriarchs).
Some differences contributing to the church split (the Great Schism of 1054):
1. In the east patriarchs were named by the emperor who controlled the church.
The decline of the Byzantine began in the eleventh century. The economy faltered; the Crusades began; the Ottoman Turks made inroads eventually expanding all around Constantinople and into the Balkans, virtually isolating the city. On 29 May 1453, Constantinople fell to the Turks, thus ending the Roman empire.
Some recommended online lectures and websites:
page is copyright © 2008-20, C.T. Evans
For information contact email@example.com