This is part of the Medieval European History Metanode
The Roman Emperor Constantine
moved the capital
of his Empire
to Byzantium and renamed it Constantinople
on 11 May 330 CE. This Byzantine Empire remained strong long after the fall of the Roman Empire
. It did not suffer the economic depression
that plagued the West, and its cities remained strong. Constantinople was nearly impregnable
and well-placed for trade
. The Emperor drew taxes
s from Asia Minor
, and maintained a strong army
. Byzantine civilization
was the synthesis of three elements:
1. Culturally, it was both Greek
, which made it different from Western culture.
2. Its Christianity
was very Greek, with a different focus than Roman Christianity.
3. The Empire had a Roman government
, complete with very Roman Emperors.
The Emperor Justinian
(527-565) was either the last true Roman Emperor or the first true Byzantine Emperor, depending on how you look at it. He wanted to restore Roman power in the West, and sent troops all over southern Europe
and northern Africa
for that purpose. He also revolutionized the Law by instituting the Corpus Juris Civilis
, consisting of:
, which organized 1000 years of Roman Law
, a summary of major cases that set precedent
s, a summary of the Law for laymen
, the new laws
The Corpus Juris Civilis was the primary means through which Roman Law was transmitted after the fall of the Roman Empire. It became the basis of Law in the West, and was even taught at the University of Bologna in 1050.
The Byzantine Emperors conquered and lost Cyrpus
, and Egypt
. The Muslim Arab
s besieged Constantinople on several occasions, but they did not conquer it until the 15th century.
Controversy arose in the 8th century. Emperors Leo III and Constantine IV were iconoclast
s, or "image breakers". They outlawed the use of religious icon
s in worship. The "image worshippers" were known as "iconodule
s". The Iconoclastic Controversy became an attack on the monasteries
, who held much land that the Emperors craved. The army was iconoclastic, and the clergy
were iconodules. Many assassinations and skirmishes surrounded the controversy until the reign of Michael III, who restored the use of religious images in 843 and ended the controversy. Icons are still a major part of Eastern Orthodoxy
to this day.
The Macedonian Dynasty
(867-1056) was characterized by conflicts with the barbaric
tribes of Eastern Europe. Emperors in this dynasty conquered the Balkan Penninsula
and converted the Slav
s to Christianity. One Emperor stands out as particularly nasty: Basil the Bulgar-Slayer (976-1025), who lived up to his name. He completely destroyed the Bulgar
army and sent 14,000 Bulgars home blinded. Unfortunately, he was succeeded by weak emperors.
The end of the Macedonian Dynasty marked the beginning of the decline of the Byzantine Empire. In 1071, Seljuk
Turks defeated the Byzantine Army at the Battle of Manzikert. In 1204, Crusader
s diverted from their true task sacked Constantinople (see Pope Innocent III
). Finally, in 1453, the Ottoman
Turks laid a fatal siege
to Constantinople. After 50 days and many cannon
blasts to the walls of the city, Constantinople fell, and the Turkish leader Mehmed II renamed the city Istanbul