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The Byzantine Empire and
The “fall” of the Roman Empire was really only half a fall.
Although Germanic tribes defeated the Western
Roman Empire in the AD 400s and 500s, the Eastern
Roman Empire successfully fought off the invaders.
Also called the Byzantine Empire - included Greece,
Asia Minor, Syria, Egypt, and other areas.
Through the Byzantines the glory of the Roman Empire
lived on.
“Byzantine” is Greek for
“Empire of the Romans”
 Emperor Justinian ruled from AD 527 – 565
 Ordered scholars to collect laws of Roman Empire –
called Justinian Code, formed basis for Byzantine law
 Justinian changed laws to improve status of women
 All-powerful emperor and strong central
government ruled empire
 Also had effective military forces to protect its
 Built strong navy in AD 500’s
 Ships had chemical weapon called “Greek fire” –
burst into flames
 Constantinople was grand city; allowed
Byzantines to control sea trade routes
 Pope was most powerful leader in West
 Byzantines did not recognize pope’s authority –
the leader of Constantinople was seen as church
 Byzantines were divided on issue of icons – some
kept icons of Jesus, Mary, and saints in their homes
and churches
 Iconoclasts were against icons – thought this was
the same as idol worship
 Debate from this was called Iconoclastic
 Pope and bishops threatened iconoclasts with
excommunication (no longer a member of church)
 Decision led to split of Christian church in AD
 West: Roman Catholic Church (pope as leader)
 East: Eastern Orthodox Church (emperor of
Constantinople as leader)
 Still separate today – Eastern Orthodox finally did
come to accept icons
Roman Catholic
Eastern Orthodox
No married priests
Married priests allowed
Initially rejected; later
Roman pope was
supreme authority
Rejected supremacy of
pope over local leaders
Accepted view that the
Holy Spirit combines
both Father and Son
Maintained that the
Father was supreme in
the Trinity
Church of Hagia Sophia (“holy wisdom”) – ordered by Justinian in AD 532.
Considered to be an architectural and engineering wonder.
Byzantines were first to place a round dome over a rectangular building.
 After Justinian died in 565, the Empire suffered
from many wars and conflicts with outside powers
 By 650, the Byzantines had lost many lands
 Ottoman Turks (Muslims) captured
Constantinople in 1453 and ended the Byzantine
 Constantinople became known as
Istanbul, which means “Islam in
This map shows boundary changes
in the Byzantine Empire due to the
conquests of Emperor Justinian.
This map shows the decline of the
Byzantine Empire from 565 to 1050. After
Justinian’s death, internal conflicts and
invasions by Germanic, Slavic, and
Persian forces led to the loss of much of
the territory Justinian had conquered. By
1050 the empire was only a shadow of its
former self.