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 and soldiers from Asia Minor, and maintained a strong army and navy. Byzantine civilization was the synthesis of three elements:

1. Culturally, it was both Greek and Persian, 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:

1. codex, which organized 1000 years of Roman Law
2. digest, a summary of major cases that set precedents
3. institutes, a summary of the Law for laymen and students
4. novellae, 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, Syria, Palestine, and Egypt. The Muslim Arabs besieged Constantinople on several occasions, but they did not conquer it until the 15th century.

The Iconoclastic Controversy arose in the 8th century. Emperors Leo III and Constantine IV were iconoclasts, or "image breakers". They outlawed the use of religious icons in worship. The "image worshippers" were known as "iconodules". The Iconoclastic Controversy became an attack on the monasteries, who held much land that the Emperors craved. The army was iconoclastic, and the clergy and laypeople 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 Slavs 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, Crusaders 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.