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Byzantine Empire. “New Rome” . Summary.

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byzantine empire

Byzantine Empire

“New Rome”


The Roman Empire united the entire Mediterranean for centuries. But it became too unwieldy to govern as a whole, so in 286 CE, the empire was split into an eastern half and a western half by Diocletian, in what were hoped to be more manageable administrative regions. Then, in 313, Christianity was accepted in the empire; and in 330, when Constantine converted to Christianity, he reunited the empire at Constantinople. It was still the Roman Empire, it just wasn’t centered in Rome. The empire split again in 395, at which time the eastern half became known as the Byzantine Empire. Almost 400 years later, in 800, yet another empire was established, the Holy Roman Empire centered in Rome. The Byzantines continued on as before in the east. So again there were two empires, but still one religion. That, however, was to change as well some 200 years later when, in 1054, Christianity began to be practiced as 2 entirely separate religions: Roman Catholicism and Christian Orthodoxy.

  • Diocletian
    • split Roman empire into East and West
    • Used tetrarchs (officials) to rule districts
  • Constantine
    • Built Constantinople
    • Tried to reunite E & W  (didn’t go so well… Byzantium pplprobs… like Visigoth invaders and Huns)
  • Rome slowly collapses, well, Western Rome
    • Christianity, law, and culture survive in Eastern Rome, (Byzantine Empire.)
early byzantine empire
Early Byzantine Empire
    • Early challenges:
    • Conflict with Sasanid dynasty (226-641 C.E.) in Persia
    • Invasions of Germanic groups from the north & east
  • The early Byzantine State
    • Tightly centralized rule of emperor
    • Caesaropapism:
      • Divine favor for his rule
      • Secular ruler AND played important roles in ecclesiastical affairs
    • Emperors also stood above the law
justinian his legacy
Justinian & His legacy
  • Justinian and Theodora
    • Both came from obscure origins
    • Theodora was a wise advisor
  • Hagia Sophia
    • Domed roof; heavy use of precious metals & jewels
  • Justinian Code
    • Issued the Corpus iuriscivilis(The Body of the Civil Law)
      • Definitive codification of Roman law
    • The code influenced civil law codes of western Europe
  • Belisarius and Byzantine conquests
    • Belisarius reconquered most of the W. Roman empire
    • Threats from Sasanid and Slavic peoples
    • $$$$  successors w/drew forces
agricultural economy
Agricultural Economy
  • The peasantry
    • The backbone of the Byzantine army and economy
    • Worked as share-croppers or serfs
    • Invasions of the 6th & 7th century led to the theme system (explanation in a few slides)
    • 11th century-free peasants declined
  • Consequences of the peasantry's decline
    • Large landowners shifted tax burden to peasants
    • Large landowners raised forces on their own estates
    • The pool of military recruits shrank
industry trade
Industry & Trade
  • Manufacturing enterprises
    • Artisans & craftsmen: glassware, linen/woolen textiles, gems, jewelry, gold/silver work
    • High-quality silk principal supplier of silk in Med. Basin
  • Trade
    • Constantinople, an important center for Eurasian trade
    • Bezant – Byzantine gold coin became the standard currency of the Mediterranean basin
    • Levying of custom duties on foreign goods
    • “Upgrading” commodities before redistributing them
  • Trade Organization
    • Banks- gave business loans
    • Merchant partnerships- pool resources; limit risk
urban life
Urban Life
  • Housing in Constantinople
    • Enormous palaces owned by aristocrats
    • Less splendid dwellings owned by the less privileged classes
  • Attractions of Constantinople
    • A city of baths, taverns, restaurants, theaters, the Hippodrome
    • The most popular game - chariot races
  • Greens vs. Blues
    • The two factions of fans for chariot races
    • Frequent fights in the street between them
    • In 532 G & B rioted over high taxes  left Constantinople in shambles
islamic conquests byzantine revival
Islamic conquests & Byzantine revival
  • Islamic state
    • Arab peoples conquered the Sasanid empire & part of Byzantium
    • Prolonged sieges of Constantinople
    • Byzantine survived partly because of "Greek fire"
theme system
Theme System
  • Put an imperial province (theme) was placed under the jurisdiction of a general
    • Provide military defense & civil administration
  • Peasants recruited to army in exchange for land
  • Strengthened army and agricultural economy
  • Allowed forced to mobilize quickly and resist Islam Advanced
      • ReconqueredSyria from Arab Muslims, the 10th century
      • "Basil the Bulgar Slayer," crushed the Bulgars in the Balkans
byzantium western europe tensions
Byzantium & Western Europe Tensions
  • Ecclesiastical tensions
    • Constantinople: conducted affairs in Greek, caesaropapist emperors, patriarch, iconoclasms,
    • Rome: conducted affairs in Latin, religious autonomy from imperial authorities, pope, icons,
      • (Churches in the east and west looked down upon each other )
  • 1054 – patriarch & pope MUTUALLY excommunicated each other  SCHISM
byzantium western europe tensions1
Byzantium & Western Europe Tensions
  • Political grievances
    • Germanic ppls, Visigoths, Vandals, Franks, set up successor states (and Byz leaders couldn’t do anything about it)
      • Charlemagne received imperial crown from the pope in 800
      • Otto of Saxony claimed himself an emperor in 962
      •  these directly challenged Byzantine claims to imperial authority
byzantine church
Byzantine church
  • Church and state
    • Caesaropapist emperors active in religious & theological matters
    • Constantine organized Council of Nicaea
      • Debated Jesus' human vs. divine status divine won
  • Iconoclasm
    • Instituted by Emperor Leo III in 726 C.E.
    • “breaking of icons” – destroying religious images & forbidding their use in churches  protests and riots
    • Policy abandoned in 843 C.E.
  • Greek Philosophy and Byzantine theology
    • Examining religious issues from a philosophical point of view
    • Trying to combine Christian revelation w/ Greek reason
monasticism popular piety
Monasticism & popular piety
  • Asceticism
    • Extreme asceticism and self-denial by some Christians to demonstrate their holy lives
    • "Pillar saints"
  • Monasticism
    • The earliest monasteries of dedicated hermits, ascetics
    • Reforms of monasteries by St. Basil, the 4th century C.E.
    • Monasteries
      • provided social services to local communities
      • Not centers of learning as monasteries of Western Europe
domestic problems foreign pressures
Domestic Problems & Foreign Pressures
  • Social problems
    • Generals and local aristocrats – powerful elite class
    • Few free peasants fewer military recruits and less tax income
  • Challenges from the west
    • Norman army took over southern Italy
    • Crusades by Normans, etc, carved out pieces of Byz.
    • The 4th crusade seized Constantinople in1204 (taken back in 1261)
  • Challenges from the east
    • The Muslim Saljuqs invaded Anatolia
    • Ottoman Turks captured Constantinople in 1453, the end of the empire
early relations w slavic peoples
Early Relations w/ Slavic peoples
  • Byzantium & Slavic regions
    • The peoples included Serbs, Croats, and Bulgars
    • Relationship through political diplomacy, commercial & cultural connection
  • Missions to the Slavs
    • Saints Cyril and Methodius
      • Developed Cyrillic alphabet to best represent Slavic languages
    • Cyrillic writing stimulated conversion to Orthodox Christianity
byzantium russia
Byzantium & Russia
  • Russians started to organize a large state
  • The conversion of Prince Vladimir, 989
      • Invited merchants, teachers & engineers to increase relationship
      • Byzantine art and architecture dominated Kiev
  • The growth of Kiev
      • a conduit for the spread of Byzantine culture and religion
      • The princes established caesaropapist control of Russian Orthodox church
      • Russians later claimed to inherit the imperial mantle of Byzantium