The Byzantine Empire | The Land of Bible | Full History from its Rise to Collapse
Initially, in 293 CE, Roman Emperor Diocletian divided the Roman Empire into East and West parts and introduced a new administrative system, Tetrarchy, to enhanced security. But this new system collapsed in 313 CE. After that, a huge and vast empire of Byzantine was established in 330 CE by the Roman Emperor Constantine I by uniting both administrative divisions. In 476 CE, almost half part of the Western Roman Empire was demolished. But later, in 1453 the Byzantine Empire also disintegrated in the dynasty of Constantine XI.
The word Byzantine was originated from “Byzantium” on the name of a person, “Byzas” who made a Greek colony which was named Byzantium and converted to Constantinople later. It was situated on the European side of Bosporus, a point where the Black Sea unites with the Mediterranean Sea. It had a great significance for its geographical location because it gave a route for trade to Europe and Asia. It was regarded as the Eastern Roman Empire even until its fall but after that in 1557 CE, a German Historian Hieronymus Bosch used “Byzantine Empire” in his collection of history.
In 330 CE, the Roman Empire made Byzantine as the part of “New Rome” with the Constantinople Capital. Five years ago, Jewish and Christianity was defined as Rome’s official religions by the Constantine I in the First Council of Nicaea 325 CE. Most of the people living in Constantinople and Eastern Roman Empire were Christians and they spoke the Greek language instead of the Latin. Permanence is the main peculiarity of the Byzantine Empire because it was the stable one state through ancient times.
After the death of Constantine I in 337 CE, Valentinian I, became the emperor of an undisputed Roman Empire. But he divided it into East and West parts. He became the king of the west part while he made his brother, Valens, the emperor of the East part.
Loss of the Western Part
Visigoths were the German invaders. They attacked the west part and occupied all regions except Italy. The barbarian Odoacer in 476 CE defeated Romulus Augustulus, who was the last emperor of Roman and Western part was lost. While the Eastern part was enjoying peace.
Geographical Significance and the Eastern Roman Empire
Due to the Eastern Empire’s geographical location, it was protected and was not susceptible to exterior raids. Constantinople was located on a channel. That’s why to attack the border of Capital was risky. Moreover, the Eastern part had an administrative Center and it was politically strong and had the large force to confront the invasions.
Due to its geographical location, the Eastern part survived and that was the reason that it remained safe even when Rome had demolished completely. Byzantine Empire spoke Greek language but their official language was Latin although, their empire was based on Roman law. History, literature, and Culture were educated in Greek.
In 451 CE, the religious “Council of Chalcedon” was established which distributed Christianity into Alexandria, Antioch, and Jerusalem. In the 7th Century, Alexandria, Antioch, and Jerusalem had absorbed in the Islamic empire but the Byzantine emperor persisted as the spiritual director of them.
Justinian I was the first ruler of the Byzantine Empire and he ruled over from 527 CE to 565 CE till his death. He had dominance over the land surrounding the Mediterranean Sea because his troops dominated the Western Roman Empire including North Africa. Justinian built many memorials including Hagia Sophia in Constantinople. He brought reforms in the old Roman law and made a new one which was based on the Modern concept of the state. Justinian made the empire the most powerful and significant state in Europe.
But after his death, his successor Justinian II refused to pay large taxes to Persia. The empire had to endure many financial problems due to debts incurred through wars but the successors implemented large taxes on citizens to preserve the state financially. In the 7th and 8th centuries, the Persian Empire and Slavs attacked the empire, weakened and oppressed it politically and economically. In 634 CE, Muslims also invaded Byzantine by storming into Syria. Later, Muslims seized Syria, the Holy land, Egypt and North Africa.
Siege of Constantinople
Umayyad Caliphate, Arabs having full control of Syria and Levant, started to invade the Asia Minor. Later in 674 CE, they sieged Constantinople. But in the end, their fleet was repulsed by the Greek fire, first time used by the Byzantines and siege ended in 678 CE. There was signed a truce for the next 30 years. In 717 CE, the Arabs sieged the Constantinople again. But because of the military skills of Leo III the Isaurian, Byzantines Emperor, their use of Greek fire, and the cold winter season all resulted in the victory of the Byzantine Empire again. They crushed the Umayyads in 740 CE in the Battle of Akroinon also. Because of all these defeats and internal rebels, Umayyad’s expansion stopped.
In 730 CE, Leo III and Byzantine emperors started a movement against those who resisted their theologies and preaching and displaying of Islamic images. This movement ceases until a Church Council supported the display of religious impressions in the reign of Emperor Michael III. It was allowed to venerate the Icons but not to worship them. In 843 CE, Leo V reintroduced Iconoclasm but Empress Theodora succeeded in restoring the veneration of Icons.
Many crusades began at the end of the 11th century. European Christians fought many series of Holy wars against the Muslims from 1095 to 1291 CE. Emperor Alexius I requested support from the West when Seljuk Turks were eradicating Constantinople. Pope Urban II declared the Holy war at Clermont, France. It was the First Crusade. Alexius compelled their commanders that the territory got back from Turks would become a part of his empire. But when Alexius saw that western and Byzantine forces were recaptured in Asia, then he escaped with his army.
In 1204 CE, during the Fourth Crusade, Constantinople was ripped off. As a result of it, a conflict raised among Byzantine and West. Due to the monetary crises, the Latin administration in Constantinople was established on an unstable basis. In 1261 CE, Nicaea would rescue the Capital and overpower the Latin regime. It was the place of exile of the government. Many refugees escaped to Nicaea from Constantinople.
Fall of Constantinople
Michael VIII was among the Palaiologan emperors. He ruled Constantinople in 1261 CE. At that time, the Byzantine Empire was extremely vulnerable. Emperor John V received monetary support from the west in order to encounter Turkish. But he was grabbed in Venice as an insolvent Debtor.
Four years later, Turks urged him to become vassal. So the Byzantine Empire had to pay taxes to the Sultan and also gave martial aid. In 1421 CE, Murad II signified the end of the ultimate respite. But Murad sieged Constantinople and withdrew all exemptions. Mehmed II the Conqueror proceeded with this operation after Murad.
On May 29, 1453 CE, Mehmed occupied Hagia Sophia. The decline of Constantinople signified the accomplishment of the Byzantine Empire. But when Constantine XI died, the Byzantine Empire was crumbled.
In the late 10th century and early 11th century, the successors of Micheal III laid the foundation of the Macedonian dynasty. It proved a glorious age for Basil, the Byzantine Emperor. This empire had a great prominence on its trade and economy and international fame. It gave rise to the strong basis of Byzantine arts. The powerful government of Byzantine promoted cherished Byzantine Mosaics which was the Byzantine art.
Many cultural institutions and Churches were renewed, literature and Greek history was also expanded. In North-Eastern Greece, on Mount Athos, the culture of Monasticism was centered. Orphanages, schools, hospitals were supervised by Monks. Many Russians, Eastern Balkans and Slavic people of the central adopt Christianity.
Legacy of Byzantine
It was a century of Ottomans domination. The culture of arts, architecture, and the law of the Byzantine Empire was completely destroyed and even the whole state was disintegrated.
Byzantine culture left a great influence on western intellectual and trade that’s why the Ilaria Renaissance needed support to translate Greek pagan and writings of Christians from Byzantine literature. Byzantine culture and literature also influenced Russia, Romania, Bulgaria, Serbia, and Greece who practiced its Eastern Orthodox Religion.