Byzantine Empire

Byzantine Empire

Byzantine Empire, successor state to the Roman Empire (see under Rome), also called Eastern Empire and East Roman Empire. It was named after Byzantium, which Emperor Constantine I rebuilt (A.D. 330) as Constantinople and made the capital of the entire Roman Empire. Although not foreseen at the time, a division into Eastern and Western empires became permanent after the accession (395) of Honorius in the West and Arcadius in the East.

Throughout its existence the Byzantine Empire was subject to important changes in its boundaries. The core of the empire consisted of the Balkan Peninsula (i.e., Thrace, Macedonia, Epirus, Greece proper, the Greek isles, and Illyria) and of Asia Minor (present-day Turkey). The empire combined Roman political tradition, Hellenic culture, and Christian beliefs. Greek was the prevalent language, but Latin long continued in official use.

See the table entitled Rulers of the Byzantine Empire for a list of all the Byzantine emperors and the years they reigned.

Early Centuries

The characteristic Eastern influence began with Constantine I, who also introduced Christianity. Orthodoxy triumphed over Arianism under Arcadius' predecessor, Theodosius I, but violent religious controversy was chronic. The reigns (395-527) of Arcadius, Theodosius II, Marcian, Leo I, Leo II, Zeno, Anastasius I, and Justin I were marked by the invasions of the Visigoths under Alaric I, of the Huns of Attila, and of the Avars, the Slavs, the Bulgars (see Bulgaria), and the Persians. After the Western Empire fell (476) to Odoacer, Italy, Gaul, and Spain were theoretically united under Zeno but were actually dominated by, respectively, the Ostrogoths, the Franks, and the Visigoths, while Africa was under the Vandals. During this period arose the heresies of Nestorianism and Monophysitism and the political parties of Blues and Greens to divide the Byzantines.

Revival and Hellenization

Under the rule (527-65) of Justinian I and Theodora, Byzantine power grew. Their great generals, Belisarius and Narses, checked the Persians, repressed political factions, and recovered Italy and Africa, while Tribonian helped the emperor to codify Roman law. During Justinian's reign a great revival of Hellenism took place in literature, and Byzantine art and architecture entered their most glorious period.

Much was lost again under his successors. The Lombards conquered most of Italy; however, the Pentapolis (Rimini, Ancona, Fano, Pesaro, and Senigallia), Rome, Sardinia, Corsica, Liguria, and the coasts of S Italy and Sicily long remained under Byzantine rule, and at Ravenna the exarchs governed until 751. The Persians, under Khosrow I, made great gains against the empire, though Emperor Maurice temporarily checked them in 591.

The emperor Heraclius (610-41) defeated the Persians but was barely able to save Constantinople from the Avars. Muslim conquests soon afterward wrested Syria, Palestine, Egypt, Africa, and Sicily from the empire. Heraclius's attempt to reconcile Monophysitism and orthodoxy merely led to the new heresy of Monotheletism. His military reorganization of the provinces into themes proved effective and was continued by Constans II (641-48). Constantine IV (668-85) saved Constantinople from Arab attack.

The 7th cent. was marked by increasing Hellenization of the empire, outwardly symbolized by the adoption of the Greek title Basileus by the emperors. The church, under the patriarch of Constantinople, became increasingly important in public affairs. Theology, cultivated by emperors and monks alike, was pushed to extremes of subtlety. Literature and art became chiefly religious.

Under Justinian II and his successors the empire was again menaced by Arabs and Bulgars, but the Isaurian emperors Leo III (717-41) and Constantine V stopped the Arab advance and recovered Asia Minor. The grave issue of iconoclasm, which they precipitated, led to the loss of Rome. In 800, during the reign of Irene, the Frank Charlemagne was crowned emperor of the West at Rome. Thus ended even the theoretical primacy of Byzantium over Europe.

A Truly Eastern State

The political division of East and West was paralleled by a religious schism, intensified by the patriarch Photius, between the Roman and the Orthodox Eastern Church, later culminating in a complete break (1054). In all aspects the Byzantine Empire, having lost its claim to universality, became a Greek monarchy, though Constantinople still remained the center of both Greek and Roman civilization. Compared with its intellectuals, artists, writers, and artisans, those of Western Europe were crude and barbarous, though sometimes more vigorous and original.

In the empire the administrative machinery was huge, and competition among the courtiers was intense. Complex diplomacy, intrigue, and gross violence marked the course of events; yet moral decay did not prevent such emperors as Basil I, founder of the Macedonian dynasty, and his successors (notably Leo VI, Romanus I, Constantine VII, Nicephorus II, John I, and Basil II) from giving the empire a period of splendor and power (867-1025). The eastern frontier was pushed to the Euphrates River, the Bulgars were subjugated, and the Balkan Peninsula was recovered. Russia, converted to Christianity, became an outpost of Byzantine culture. In the unceasing struggle between the great landowners and the small peasantry, most of the emperors favored the peasants. Economic prosperity was paralleled by a new golden age in science, philosophy, and architecture.

The Ebb of Power

With the rule of Zoë (1028-50) anarchy and decline set in. The Seljuk Turks increased their attacks, and with the defeat (1071) of Romanus IV at Manzikert most of Asia Minor was permanently lost. The Normans under Robert Guiscard and Bohemond I seized S Italy and attacked the Balkans. Venice ruled the Adriatic and challenged Byzantine commercial dominance in the East, and the Bulgars and Serbs reasserted their independence.

Alexius I (1081-1118) took advantage of the First Crusade (see Crusades) to recover some territory in Asia Minor and to restore Byzantine prestige, but his successors of the Comnenus dynasty were at best able to postpone the disintegration of the empire. After the death (1180) of Manuel I the Angelus dynasty unwittingly precipitated the cataclysm of the Fourth Crusade. In 1204 the Crusaders and the Venetians sacked Constantinople and set up a new empire (see Constantinople, Latin Empire of) in Thrace, Macedonia, and Greece. The remainder of the empire broke into independent states, notably the empires of Nicaea and of Trebizond and the despotate of Epirus.

In 1261 the Nicaean emperor Michael VIII conquered most of the tottering Latin empire and reestablished the Byzantine Empire under the Palaeologus family (1261-1453). The reconstructed empire was soon attacked from all sides, notably by Charles I of Naples, by Venice, by the Ottoman Turks, by the new kingdoms of Serbia and Bulgaria, and by Catalonian adventurers under Roger de Flor. At the same time, the empire began to break down from within—the capital was at odds with the provinces; ambitious magnates were greedy for land and privileges; religious orders fought each other vigorously; and church and state were rivals for power.

Eventually the Turks encircled the empire and reduced it to Constantinople and its environs. Manuel II and John VIII vainly asked the West for aid, and, in 1453, Constantinople fell to Sultan Muhammad II after a final desperate defense under Constantine XI. This is one of the dates conventionally accepted as the beginning of the modern age. The collapse of the empire opened the way for the vast expansion of the Ottoman Empire to Vienna itself and also enabled Ivan III of Russia, son-in-law of Constantine XI, to claim a theoretical succession to the imperial title.

Bibliography

The classic, though biased, work on Byzantine history is Gibbon's Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire. More recent standard works are those of J. B. Bury, C. Diehl, A. A. Vasil'ev, G. Ostrogorsky, and N. H. Baynes. See also studies by J. M. Hussey (1967, 1986), R. J. H. Jenkins (1967), D. Obolensky (1971), S. Runciman (1971, 1977), M. Angold (1985), J. Herrin (1987, 2008), J. J. Norwich (1995), and E. N. Luttwak (2009).

Empire, southeastern and southern Europe and western Asia. It began as the city of Byzantium, which had grown from an ancient Greek colony founded on the European side of the Bosporus. The city was taken in AD 330 by Constantine I, who refounded it as Constantinople. The area at this time was generally termed the Eastern Roman Empire. The fall of Rome in 476 ended the western half of the Roman Empire; the eastern half continued as the Byzantine Empire, with Constantinople as its capital. The eastern realm differed from the west in many respects: heir to the civilization of the Hellenistic era, it was more commercial and more urban. Its greatest emperor, Justinian (r. 527–565), reconquered some of western Europe, built the Hagia Sophia, and issued the basic codification of Roman law. After his death the empire weakened. Though its rulers continued to style themselves “Roman” long after Justinian's death, “Byzantine” more accurately describes the medieval empire. The long controversy over iconoclasm within the eastern church prepared it for the break with the Roman church (see Schism of 1054). During the controversy, Arabs and Seljuq Turks increased their power in the area. In the late 11th century, Alexius I Comnenus sought help from Venice and the pope; these allies turned the ensuing Crusades into plundering expeditions. In the Fourth Crusade the Venetians took over Constantinople and established a line of Latin emperors. Recaptured by Byzantine exiles in 1261, the empire was now little more than a large city-state. In the 14th century the Ottoman Turks began to encroach; their extended siege of Constantinople ended in 1453, when the last emperor died fighting on the city walls and the area came under Ottoman control.

Learn more about Byzantine Empire with a free trial on Britannica.com.

This is a list of people, places, things, and concepts related to or originating from the Byzantine Empire. Feel free to add more, and create missing pages.

A

Aachen Cathedral, Acacius of Constantinople, Academy, Aegean Sea, Aegyptus (Roman province), Aelia Eudoxia, Aelia Flaccilla, Alans, Albania in the Middle Ages, Alexander of Constantinople, Alexander III of the Byzantine Empire, Alexios Doukas Philanthropenos, Alexios I Komnenos, Alexios II Komnenos, Alexius III, Alexius IV, Alexios Philanthropenos, Alexios Strategopoulos, Alexius Studites, Alexius V, Alp Arslan, Amalric I of Jerusalem, Ammonius Hermiae, Anastasius I of the Byzantine Empire, Anastasius II, Anatolia, Anatolius of Constantinople, Andronicus I Comnenus, Andronicus II Palaeologus, Andronicus III Palaeologus, Andronicus IV Palaeologus, Anicius Manlius Severinus Boethius, Ankara, Anna Comnena, Anna Dalassena, Anno Domini, Anthemius, Anthemius (praetorian prefect), Anthimus I of Constantinople, Antioch, Antony I Kassymatas of Constantinople, Antony II Kauleas of Constantinople, Antony III Studites of Constantinople, Antony IV of Constantinople, Arcadius, Arsacius of Tarsus, Artabanes (general), Artabasdus, Asia Minor, Aspar, Athanasius I of Constantinople, Athanasius II of Constantinople, Atticus, Augustaion, Avars

B

Baldwin I of Constantinople, Baldwin I of Jerusalem, Baldwin II of Constantinople, Baldwin II of Jerusalem, Baldwin III of Jerusalem, Balearic Islands, Bardas, Bari, Basil I, Basil II, Basil II Carnaterus, Basil Skamandrenus, Basiliscus, Battle of Ad Decimum, Battle of Adrianople (378), Battle of Adrianople (813), Battle of Adrianople (1205), Battle of Anchialus, Battle of Callinicum, Battle of Civitate, Battle of Frigidus, Battle of Kleidion, Battle of Manzikert, Battle of Mons Lactarius, Battle of Myriokephalon, Battle of Nineveh (627), Battle of Syllaeum, Battle of Taginae, Battle of Tricamarum, Battle of the Volturnus (554), Battle of Yarmuk, Belgrade, Belisario, Belisarius, Beyazid I, Bithynia, Blachernae, Bogomils, Bohemund I of Antioch, Boniface of Montferrat, Boril of Bulgaria, Boris I of Bulgaria, Bosporus, Boukoleon Palace, Bulgaria, Bulgars, Byzantine architecture, Byzantine aristocracy and bureaucracy, Byzantine Army, Byzantine calendar, Byzantine complexity, Byzantine currency,Byzantine dance, Byzantine diplomacy, Byzantine dress, Byzantine economy, Byzantine Empire, Byzantine Greeks, Byzantine Heraldry, Byzantine law, Byzantine music, Byzantine navy, Byzantine novel, Byzantine Senate, Byzantine Studies, Byzantine text-type, Byzantium, Byzantine scholars in Renaissance

C

Callinicus I of Constantinople, Callistus I of Constantinople, Callistus Xanothopoulos, Cappadocia, Carthage, Castle, Catalan Company, Cataphract, Chariot racing, Charlemagne, Charles Annibal Fabrot, Charles I of Sicily, Childebert II of Austrasia, Church of the Holy Sepulchre, Cilicia, Codex Theodosianus, Column of Justinian, Comnenus, Conrad III, Conrad of Montferrat, Constans II, Constantine Chliarenus, Constantine I of the Roman Empire, Constantine II of the Roman Empire, Constantine III of Byzantium, Constantine IV, Constantine IX, Constantine Lichoudas, Constantine V, Constantine VI, Constantine VII, Constantine VIII of the Byzantine Empire, Constantine X, Constantine XI, Constantinople, Constantius II, Corpus Juris Civilis, Cosmas Atticus, Cosmas I of Constantinople, Council of Basel, Council of Chalcedon, Council of Clermont, Council of Lyon, County of Edessa, Crimea, Crusade, Crusader State, Cumans, Cyprus, Cyriacus of Constantinople, Cyril of Alexandria, Czargrad

D

Damietta, Dara (Mesopotamia), Dark Ages, De Administrando Imperio, De Ceremoniis, Demophilus of Constantinople, Despotate of Epirus, Despotate of Morea, Diocese of Asia, Diocese of Pontus, Diocese of Thrace, Dobruja, Donation of Constantine, Dorylaeum, Dositheus of Constantinople, Dubrovnik, Duchy of Athens, Duchy of the Archipelago, Durrës

E

Eastern Orthodoxy, Eastern Orthodox Church calendar, Emperor, Empire, Empire of Nicaea, Empire of Trebizond, Enrico Dandolo, Eparchy of Krizevci, Epiphanius of Constantinople, Epirus (region), Eudocia, Eudocia Macrembolitissa, Eudoxia, Eudoxius of Antioch, Euphrosyne (9th century), Euphrosyne Doukaina Kamaterina, Eusebius of Nicomedia, Eustathias, Eustathius Garidas, Euthymius II of Constantinople, Euthymius Syncellus, Eutyches, Evagrius of Constantinople, Evagrius Scholasticus, Exarch, Eastern Orthodox Christianity

F

Fall of Constantinople, Filioque clause, First Council of Nicaea, First Crusade, Flavian of Constantinople, Fourth Crusade, Franks, Frederick I, Holy Roman Emperor, Frederick II, Holy Roman Emperor, Fulk of Jerusalem

G

Galata, Galla Placidia, Gennadius Scholarius, Geoffrey of Villehardouin, George Gemistos Plethon, George Maniaces, George Syncellus, George of Trebizond, George Pachymeres, George Xiphilinus, George Acropolites, Gerasimus I of Constantinople, Germanus I of Constantinople, Germanus II of Constantinople, Germanus III of Constantinople, Glycerius, Godfrey of Bouillon, Golden Horn, Grand duke, Great Moravia, Great Palace of Constantinople, Great Schism, Greece, Greek fire, Greek language, Greeks, Gregoras Nicephorus, Gregorius Palamas, Gregory Cyprius, Gregory Mammas, Gregory Nazianzus, Gunthamund

H

Hagia Sophia, Haroun al-Raschid, Helena Dragas, Hellenes, Henotikon, Henry of Flanders, Heraclius, Heraclonas, Hermit, Hesychasm, Hexagram, Hilderic, Himerios (admiral), Hippodrome of Constantinople, History of Africa, History of Albania, History of Arab and Ottoman Egypt, History of Bulgaria, History of Christianity, History of Cyprus, History of Europe, History of Islam, History of Italy, History of Palestine, History of Roman and Byzantine Greece, History of Sparta, History of the Levant, Hormizd IV of Persia, Hugh of Vermandois, Huneric, Hungary

I

Iconoclasm, Idolatry, Illus, Images of Jesus, Irene (empress), Isaac I Comnenus, Isaac II Angelus, Isauria, Isidore I of Constantinople, Islamic architecture, Istanbul, Ivan III of Russia

J

Jesaias of Constantinople, Johannes Bessarion, John Agapetus, John Bekkos, John Camaterus, John Cappadox, John Chrysostom, John Glykys, John Grammaticus, John Hylilas, John I Tzimisces, John II Comnenus, John III Ducas Vatatzes, John IV Lascaris, John Kalekas, John Malalas, John Maron, John Nesteutes, John of Ephesus, John Scholasticus, John the Cappadocian, John the Patrician, John V Palaeologus, John VI Cantacuzenus, John VII Palaeologus, John VIII Palaeologus, John VIII Xiphilinus, John XII of Constantinople, Joseph Bringas, Joseph Galesiotes, Joseph II of Constantinople, Julian of Halicarnassus, Jurisprudence, Justa Grata Honoria, Justin I, Justin II, Justinian I, Justinian II

K

Kaloyan of Bulgaria, Karl Eduard Zachariae, Karl Krumbacher, Kaykhusraw I, Kerak, Khazaria, Khazars, Khosrau I of Persia, Khosrau II of Persia, Kievan Rus', Kilij Arslan I, Kilij Arslan II, Kingdom of Cyprus Kingdom of Thessalonica, Komnenian army, Krum, Kyiv

L

Latin Empire, Latin Patriarch of Constantinople, Leo I of the Byzantine Empire, Leo II, Leo III, Leo IV Chozar, Leo V, Leo VI, Leon Styppes, Leontius, Leontius of Byzantium, Leontius Theotokites, Liberius (praetorian prefect), Licario, Licinia Eudoxia, Lindos, List of battles 601-1400, List of battles 1401-1800, List of Byzantine Emperors, List of military commanders, List of Patriarchs of Constantinople, Liutprand, King of the Lombards, Liutprand of Cremona, Lombards, Longinus, Lordship of Negroponte, Louis VII of France, Lucas Notaras, Luke of Constantinople

M

Macarius of Constantinople, Macedonia, Macedonius I of Constantinople, Magister militum, Manuel Charitopoulos, Manuel Chrysoloras, Manuel I Comnenus, Manuel II of Constantinople, Manuel II Palaeologus, Manuel Moschopulus, Manzikert, Marcian, Marinus, Matthew I of Constantinople, Maurice, Maximianus of Constantinople, Maximus of Constantinople, Maximus II of Constantinople, Maximus Planudes, Medieval architecture, Mehmed II Mennas of Constantinople, Mercenary, Methodius I of Constantinople, Methodius II of Constantinople, Metrophanes II of Constantinople, Michael Autoreianus, Michael Cerularius, Michael Choniates, Michael I Rangabe, Michael II, Michael III, Michael IV, Michael Kurkuas, Michael of Anchialus, Michael Psellus, Michael V, Michael VI, Michael VII, Michael VIII Palaeologus, Middle Ages, Middle-Eastern archaeology, Monasticism, Monemvassia, Monoenergism, Monophysitism, Monothelitism, Morea, Mount Athos, Muawiyah I Mundus (general), Murad I, Mystras

N

Narses, Naval history, Nea Moni of Chios, Near Eastern archaeology, Neilus Kerameus of Constantinople, Neophytus I of Constantinople, Neoplatonism, Nephon I of Constantinople, Nestorianism, Nestorius, Nicaea, Nicephorus Bryennius, Nicephorus Callistus Xanthopoulos, Nicephorus I, Nicephorus II, Nicephorus III, Nicetas Choniates, Nicetas II Muntanes, Nicetas of Constantinople, Nicetas the Paphlagonian, Nicholas Chrysoberges, Nicholas Grammaticus, Nicholas Muzalon, Nicholas Mysticus, Nicholas of Myra, Nika riots, Normans, North Africa during the Classical Period

O

Odoacer, Olga of Kiev, Orhan I, Osman I, Otto I, Holy Roman Emperor, Ottoman Empire, Ottoman Triumvirate

P

Palace of Porphyrogenitus, Palaeologus, Palermo, Pantheon, Rome, Patriarch Anastasius of Constantinople, Patriarch Arsenius of Constantinople, Patriarch Chariton of Constantinople, Patriarch Constantine I of Constantinople, Patriarch Constantine II of Constantinople, Patriarch Cyrus of Constantinople, Patriarch Euphemius of Constantinople, Patriarch Eustathius of Constantinople, Patriarch Eutychius of Constantinople, Patriarch Fravitta of Constantinople, Patriarch Gennadius I of Constantinople, Patriarch Gennadius II of Constantinople, Patriarch George I of Constantinople, Patriarch Ignatius I of Constantinople, Patriarch John V of Constantinople, Patriarch John VI of Constantinople, Patriarch Macedonius II of Constantinople, Patriarch Nectarius of Constantinople, Patriarch Nicephorus II of Constantinople, Patriarch of Constantinople, Patriarch Paul III of Constantinople, Patriarch Peter of Constantinople, Patriarch Proclus of Constantinople, Patriarch Sisinnius I of Constantinople, Patriarch Theodotus of Cassiteras, Patriarch Timothy I of Constantinople, Paul I of Constantinople, Paul II of Constantinople, Paul IV of Constantinople, Peloponnesos, Persian Empire, Petchenegs, Peter the Hermit, Philip of Swabia, Philippicus, Philotheus Kokkinos, Phocas, Photius I of Constantinople, Phrygia, Polyeuctus of Constantinople, Pope Adrian I, Pope Adrian II, Pope Alexander III, Pope Gregory II, Pope Gregory III, Pope Gregory VII, Pope Innocent III, Pope John VIII, Pope John XIII, Pope John XXII, Pope Leo I, Pope Leo III, Pope Martin IV, Pope Nicholas II, Pope Paul I, Pope Pelagius II, Pope Stephen II, Pope Symmachus, Pope Urban II, Pope Vigilius, Population of the Byzantium Empire, Praetorian prefecture of Africa, Praetorian prefecture of Illyricum, Praetorian prefecture of the East, Presian, Prince Lazar, Principality of Achaea, Principality of Antioch, Procopius, Pronoia, Pulcheria, Pyrrhus I of Constantinople Church of Christ Pantokrator (Constantinople)

Q

Qaestor

R

Ravenna, Raymond IV of Toulouse, Raymond of Antioch, Raynald of Chatillon, Renaissance, Richard I of England, Robert Graves, Robert Guiscard, Robert of Ketton, Roger de Flor, Roger II of Sicily, Roman Empire, Roman law, Romanus I, Romanus II, Romanus III, Romanus IV, Rome, Romulus Augustus, Rossano Gospels, Rüm

S

Saint Nicephorus, Saladin, Samuil of Bulgaria, San Gavino, Sardis, Sassanid dynasty, Scutari, Second Council of Nicaea, Second Crusade, Seljuk Turks, Serbia, Serena, Sergius I of Constantinople, Sergius II of Constantinople, Severus of Antioch, Shivta, Sicilian Vespers, Sicily, Siege of Rome (537-538), Silk Road, Sisinnius II of Constantinople, Sixth Ecumenical Council, Sögüt, Spear of Destiny, Stauracius, Stefan Dragutin, Stefan Dusan, Stefan Uros V, Stephan of Amasea, Stephen I of Constantinople, Steven Runciman, Strategos, Suidas, Sutton Hoo, Sviatoslav I, Prince of Kiev, Synod of Constantinople

T

Tagma (military), Tancred, Prince of Galilee, Tarasius of Constantinople, Taticius, Teia, Tervel, Thema, Theme of Iberia, Theodora (6th century), Theodora (9th century), Theodora (11th century), Theodore Eirenicus, Theodore I Lascaris, Theodore I of Constantinople, Theodore II Lascaris, Theodore Metochita, Theodoric Strabo, Theodoric the Great, Theodosian Walls, Theodosius Borradiotes, Theodosius Branas, Theodosius I, Theodosius II, Theodosius III, Theodotus II of Constantinople, Theodulf, Theopaschite, Theophanes, Theophano, Theophanu, Theophilus, Theophylactus of Constantinople, Thessaloniki, Third Crusade, Thomas I of Constantinople, Thomas II of Constantinople, Thrace, Thrasamund, Three-Chapter Controversy, Tiberias, Tiberius II Constantine, Tiberius III, Timeline of Belgrade, Timur Lenk, Tongue splitting, Trabzon, Tribonian, Tryphon of Constantinople, Turkey, Turkic people

U

Uzes,University of Constantinople

V

Valens, Vandalic War, Vandals, Varangians, Venice, Verina, Viking, Visigoths, Vitalian, Vladimir I, Prince of Kiev

W

Wallachia, Walls of Constantinople, William II of Sicily

X

Y

Yaroslav, Prince of Kiev

Z

Zadar, Zeno of the Byzantine Empire, Zoe of Byzantium, Zoe Karvounopsina, Zealots, Thessalonica Zoe

Search another word or see Byzantine Empireon Dictionary | Thesaurus |Spanish
Copyright © 2014 Dictionary.com, LLC. All rights reserved.
  • Please Login or Sign Up to use the Recent Searches feature