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Byzantine Empire
After the Western Roman Empire
fell to German barbarian
invasions in the 5th century, the
Eastern Roman Empire, with its
capital at Constantinople,
repelled the invasions and went
on to survive for 1000 more
years, preserving and spreading
the culture of ancient
Greeks and Romans
Welcome to the
Byzantine Empire
Located on a peninsula that overlooked the
Bosporus Strait
Controlled movement between Med. & Black
Key trade center between East & West
The Golden Horn
protection from
invaders: water
on 3 sides
Triple Walls
fortified open
Constantinople: A Strategic City
Where Europe & Asia Meet
Constantine and the move east
 - western Roman Empire crumbled in 5th century due to
invading Germanic tribes from the north
 - the threat to the Roman Empire was already apparent in
the 4th century as Emperor Constantine rebuilt they city of
Byzantium (a port city) on the Bosporus straight
 - 2 reasons as to why he built here:
1. he could respond to the danger of the Germanic
2. he could be close to his rich eastern provinces
 - city named Constantinople in his honor and in
330 it was the capital of the Byzantine Empire, the
New Rome
 - center of power for the Empire shifted east as a
result and the eastern provinces began to develop
independently of the declining west
 - communication difficulties officially divided the
Empire in 395
 - even though a split had taken place, rulers
in the east continued to think of themselves
as Roman emperors
 -cultural blend of people from Africa,
Europe, Middle East
 -mainly Greeks occupied Byzantium
Justinian and Theodora
Justinian was a 6th century Byzantine Emperor
considered one if its greatest rulers & his wife
Theodora was very influential in his reign
Theodora was concerned with improving the
social standing of women; urged Justinian to give
women more rights
Theodora urged Justinian not to flee when
taxpayers revolted (Nika Rebellion)
Justinian stayed and his army crushed the rebels
Theodora & Her Attendants
Justinian and His Attendants
 - in 527 he succeeded the throne from his uncle
 - described as a serious, even-tempered ruler who worked
from dawn til dusk by Procopius, his court historian
 - Justinian made good on his claim to be the head of the
whole Roman Empire, east and west
 - sent his best general Belisarius to take North Africa from
the Vandals, Rome from the Ostrogoths, parts of Spain and
nearly all of Italy
 - by this time Justinian ruled almost all the territory that
Rome had ever ruled
Belasarius Expands Empire
Belasarius was a peasant with little
military experience
He was a friend of Theodora’s.
Led the troops that crushed Nika
Appointed general of Byzantine
armies which fought a series of
wars against the Vandals,
Ostrogoths & Visigoths
Byzantines conquered these
Germanic groups and extended their
rule in the west
Power of the Emperors:
 - Byzantine emperors ruled with absolute
power like old Caesars
 - they headed the state and the Church
(appointed and dismissed bishops at will)
 - politics were more brutal (of 88 Byzantine
emperors, 29 died violently and 13
abandoned throne to live in monasteries)
Building the New Rome:
 - the Byzantine Empire is different that
western ones, difficulty of communications
gave Byzantine Empire its own character
 - citizens thought they shared Roman
traditions, but in actuality few spoke Latin
(most spoke Greek and belonged to eastern
branch of Christian church)
 - such a complex society needed some regulation,
so Justinian set up a legal panel of ten experts to
comb through 400 yrs of Roman law and legal
 - goal of the panel was to create a single, uniform
code for Justinian's New Rome, as many of the
previous laws had become outdated or
contradicted themselves
 -result was a body of civil laws known as Justinian
Code consisted of 4 works:
1. The Code --> contained nearly 5,000 Roman laws, which
experts still considered useful for the Byzantine Empire
2. The Digest --> quoted and summarized the opinions of Rome's
greatest legal thinkers about the laws (50 volumes)
3. The Institutes --> a textbook that told law students how to use
the laws
4. The Novellae (New Law) --> presented legislation assed after
-decided legal questions that regulated whole areas of Byzantine life:
marriage, slavery, property, inheritance, women’s rights, crimes
-even though Justinian died in 565 his code served Empire for 900
Justinian’s Code
Justinian had Roman laws codified and
Omits repetitions, inconsistencies, and
statutes dealing with Roman religion
Preserved Rome’s legal heritage and later
became the basis for most European legal
Creating the Capital
 his rebuilding of Constantinople was the most ambitious
public building program ever seen in the Roman world
 church building was his biggest passion as he believed it
help show a close connection between church and state
 Hagia Sophia “Holy Wisdom” in Greek built 532-537;
decorated in mosaics, lamps and candles; its beauty helped
convince Russian nobility that they should adopt
Christianity; remained Christian until Ottoman Empire
took over Constantinople in 1453 and converted it into a
mosque; in 1935 country of Turkey made it into a museum
Byzantine Architecture
Greatest form of Byzantine art
Greatest masterpiece is church of Hagia
Sophia, meaning “holy wisdom”
Huge building in form of a cross;
includes murals, mosaics, stone carvings
and insets of ivory, silver and jewels
Capped by huge dome that rests on
massive columns
 in time city became unparalleled with its baths,
aqueducts, law courts, schools and hospitals
 the main street running through the center was
Mese (MEH-see) or “Middle Way” lined with
merchants, here shoppers could buy wine from
France or tin from England, city seen as a vibrant
mercantile area and Byzantine currency was
widely accepted around Europe and Asia Minor
 free entertainment was at the Hippodrome “horse
track” which held 60,000 people
 fans cheered on their teams, such as Greens and
Blues, in 532 a city-wide riot sparked called the
Nika Rebellion (“nika” is what they yelled,
meaning conquer)
 the quelling of this revolt is often attributed to the
quick thinking and eloquent speaking of Theodora
Justinian’s Accomplishments
Expanded the Empire
Created Justinian’s Code
Commissioned rebuilding of Hagia
Helped spread Christianity
Increased women’s rights
Conflict in the Christian Church
Argument over use of
icons (religious images)
in worship
AD 726 Emperor Leo III
ordered all icons
removed from churches
b/c he believed they
encouraged superstition
and the worship of idols
Emperor’s supporters
known as iconoclasts
(image breakers)
Church leaders resisted order and were
supported by the Roman Pope
Christian church in east and west argued over
source of religious authority
Pope in Rome said he was supreme leader of
Patriarch of Constantinople opposed this claim
Eventually led to a schism (separation) in 1054
Roman Catholic Church in West and Eastern
Orthodox Church in East
The Church Divides
 the distance and communication difficulties led the West
and East (Byzantine) to split on doctrines and rituals
 outcome: Eastern Orthodox and Roman Catholic Churches
 Eastern Orthodox built on the early works of church
fathers, such as St Basil and St John Chrysostom (KRIHSuh-stuhm) who later became the patriarch or leading
bishop of the east
 even patriarchs bowed to emperor’s authority which led to
 the use of icons (religious images used by eastern
Christians to aid their devotions) was banned by Emperor
Leo III b/c he believed it led to idol worship
 this led to iconoclasts or “icon-breakers” who
broke into churches to destroy images
 1054 dispute b/t east and west came to head when
pope and patriarch excommunicated each other
over religious doctrine
 after this schism (split) Christianity was
permanently divided between the Roman Catholic
Church in the west and the Orthodox Church in
the east
Differences Between Two Christian Traditions
Roman Catholic
Eastern Orthodox
Services are conducted in Latin
Services are conducted in Greek or
local languages
The pope has authority over all other
The patriarch and other bishops head
the church as a group
The pope claims authority over all
kings and emperors
The emperor claims authority over the
patriarch and other bishops of the
Priests may not marry
Priests may be married
Divorce is not permitted
Divorce is allowed under certain
 now both churches competed with one
another for converts
 eastern missionaries tried to convert the
Slavs, they invented an alphabet for the
Slavic languages so they could read the
Bible in their native tongue
 this led to the creation of the Cyrillic
Orthodox Clerics Get Papal Apology
May 5, 2001
Pope John Paul II, in a sweeping statement of
regret aimed at healing Christianity’s EastWest divide, begged forgiveness for sins
committed by Roman Catholics
Pope John Paul II singled out the plunder of
Constantinople, now Istanbul, as an example
of Catholic sin. In an animated voice, he
called it “disastrous” and “tragic” that
assailants, who had set out to secure free
access to Christians to the Holy Land, “turned
against their own brothers in faith.”
Byzantine Art
Glorified religion
Icons in homes, churches & shrines
Mosaics - pictures made of many tiny
pieces of colored glass or flat stone set in
Illuminated manuscript
Subjects of Byzantine art appeared stiff and
artificial with calm, meditative faces to
inspire reverence
Hagia Sophia
11th Century Crusaders
Came from western European kingdoms to
help defend the Empire from invading
Muslims, the Seljuk Turks
But…for three days crusaders burned and
looted the city, stealing & destroying
priceless manuscripts and works of art
Established a “Latin Empire” in
Constantinople (lasts until 1261AD)
Fall of Constantinople
Ottoman Turks
from central Asia
attacked the Eastern
In AD 1453 the
Ottomans laid siege
to Constantinople