A Great Empire; The Byzantines

byzantine icons

In the year 395, when the Roman emperor Theodosum I divided the empire and placed his son Arcadius at the head of the Eastern side and his other son Honorius on the throne of the Western side, he could not have known what kinds of effects this action was to have on the future. The Western Roman Empire, with Honorius at its head, was to have a short life. The Eastem Roman Empire, however, was to last almost one thousand years until it was finally put to an end by the Ottoman Empire Mehmet II when he conquered the city of Istanbul in 1453.The city of Byzantium was chosen to be the capitol of the Eastern Roman Empire. Sixty five years later, however, the name of the city was changed to Constantinople in honor of its founder, Constantine. Even though this radical change was made in the concept of the empire, the Byzantines always referred to themselves during their one thousand year long history as the Roman Empire and their nation as the Nation of Rome. After the collapse of the empire, however, historians began to refer to this empire as the “Byzantine” Empire and so it is remembered today. This empire began in 330 and lasted until 1453, for 1123 years. A struggle between Moslems and Christians began to arise in the Middle Ages. Those warriors known as the Crusaders were the most concrete example of the struggle between these two major religious beliefs.

Theodosius the Great

The most important change made when the Roman Empire evolved into the Byzantine was the change in religion. While Rome was a polytheistic society, the Byzantines accepted monotheism as the basis for their religious belief. The second greatest change that occurred in the empire was the change in language. The Roman Empire used a number of languages, but Latin was the official language of its government. Latin was used increasingly less after the founding of Byzantium and Greek began to take its place as the official language. Naturally, this change also brought with it major political changes.The Byzantine Empire began with the Emperor Constantine who reigned for thirteen years; a total of 88 emperors were to reign during the course of the empire. These emperors came from various family lines. The leading groups were from Heraclion, Syria, Phrygia, Macedonia, Commenos, Angelos, and Palaiologos. Although the Byzantines began their empire with a vast territory of land inherited from the Roman Empire, they soon lost the territories around the Northern and Eastem Mediterranean and they became an empire with generally Aegean territory. By the time of the collapse of the Empire, Byzantium merely consisted of the city of Istanbul and its immediate surrounds.



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