Portals -> History -> Byzantine Empire
Animated map showing the territorial evolution of the Byzantine Empire (in green).
The Byzantine Empire, also referred to as the Eastern Roman Empire or Byzantium, was the continuation of the Roman Empire in its eastern provinces during Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages, when its capital city was Constantinople (modern Istanbul, formerly Byzantium). It survived the fragmentation and fall of the Western Roman Empire in the 5th century AD and continued to exist for an additional thousand years until it fell to the Ottoman Turks in 1453. During most of its existence, the empire was the most powerful economic, cultural and military force in Europe. "Byzantine Empire" is a term created after the end of the realm; its citizens continued to refer to their empire simply as the Roman Empire (Greek: ?, tr. Basileia Rh?mai?n; Latin: Imperium Romanum), or Romania (?), and to themselves as "Romans".
Several signal events from the 4th to 6th centuries mark the period of transition during which the Roman Empire's Greek East and Latin West diverged. Constantine I (r. 324-337) reorganised the empire, made Constantinople the new capital and legalised Christianity. Under Theodosius I (r. 379-395), Christianity became the state religion and other religious practices were proscribed. In the reign of Heraclius (r. 610-641), the Empire's military and administration were restructured and adopted Greek for official use in place of Latin. Although the Roman state continued and its traditions were maintained, modern historians distinguish Byzantium from ancient Rome insofar as it was centred on Constantinople, orientated towards Greek rather than Latin culture and characterised by Eastern Orthodox Christianity.
The Byzantine economy was among the most advanced in Europe and the Mediterranean for many centuries. Constantinople was a prime hub in a trading network that at various times extended across nearly all of Eurasia and North Africa. Some scholars argue that, up until the arrival of the Arabs in the 7th century, the Empire had the most powerful economy in the world. The Arab conquests, however, would represent a substantial reversal of fortunes contributing to a period of decline and stagnation. Constantine V's reforms (c. 765) marked the beginning of a revival that continued until 1204. From the 10th century until the end of the 12th, the Byzantine Empire projected an image of luxury, and travelers were impressed by the wealth accumulated in the capital. All this changed with the arrival of the Fourth Crusade, which was an economic catastrophe. The Palaiologoi tried to revive the economy, but the late Byzantine state would not gain full control of either the foreign or domestic economic forces.
Manuel I Komnenos or Comnenus (Greek: ? ?' , Manou?l I Komn?nos, 28 November 1118 – 24 September 1180) was a Byzantine Emperor of the 12th century who reigned over a crucial turning point in the history of Byzantium and the Mediterranean. Eager to restore his empire to its past glories as the superpower of the Mediterranean world, Manuel pursued an energetic and ambitious foreign policy. In the process he made alliances with the Pope and the resurgent west, invaded Italy, successfully handled the passage of the dangerous Second Crusade through his empire, and established a Byzantine protectorate over the Crusader kingdoms of Outremer. Facing Muslim advances in the Holy Land, he made common cause with the Kingdom of Jerusalem and participated in a combined invasion of Fatimid Egypt. Manuel reshaped the political maps of the Balkans and the east Mediterranean, placing the kingdoms of Hungary and Outremer under Byzantine hegemony and campaigning aggressively against his neighbours both in the west and in the east. However, towards the end of his reign Manuel's achievements in the east were compromised by a serious defeat at Myriokephalon, which in large part resulted from his arrogance in attacking a well-defended Seljuk position.
Did you know...
- ... that the Byzantine Cistern of Aetius in Constantinople, once containing 250-300 million liters of water, is now a football stadium in Istanbul?
- ... that in the nocturnal Battle of Kapetron, the Byzantines in the flanks defeated their Seljuk opponents, but on the next morning learned of their Georgian allies' defeat in the centre?
- ... that Constantine VIII was crowned as co-emperor of the Byzantine Empire in 962 but had to wait 63 years before becoming sole ruler?
- ... that the Sal?hids, an Arab Christian tribe, preceded the Ghassanids as the main Arab federates of the Byzantine Empire?
- ... that exhibits in the Konya Archaeological Museum relate to the Neolithic, Bronze Age,Iron Age, Classical, Hellenistic, Roman and the Byzantine periods?
External links and resources
Societies of Byzantine studies
Journals of Byzantine studies
Byzantine studies and research institutes
- AHRB Centre for Byzantine Cultural History (in English)
- ? - Institute for Byzantine Studies of the Serbian Academy of Sciences and Arts (in Serbian) (in English)
- Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection, Washington, DC (in English)
- ? ? ? () - Institute of Byzantine Research, National Hellenic Research Foundation, Athens (in Greek) (in English)
- Institut für Byzantinische Archäologie und Kunstgeschichte, University of Heidelberg (in German)
- Institut für Byzantinistik und Neogräzistik, Münster (in German)
- Institut für Byzantinistik und Neogräzistik, University of Vienna (in German)
- Institut für Byzanzforschung (IBF), Austrian Academy of Sciences, Vienna (in German)
- ? ? () - Byzantine Research Centre, University of Thessaloniki (in Greek) (in English)
- The Oxford Centre for Byzantine Research (in English)
- ? ? - Society for Byzantine Studies of Athens (in Greek)
Bibliography and primary sources
On-line manuscript collections
Art, museums and exhibitions
- Byzantine Coins (in English)
- Byzantine Coinage, Chronological Index of Byzantine Rulers (in English)
- Byzantium 1200 (in English)
- The Byzantine churches of Istanbul, Institute of Fine Arts, New York University (in English)
- Byzantine Monuments of Attica, Institute of Byzantine Research, National Hellenic Research Foundation (in English) (in Greek)
- Byzantine Seals Online Catalogue, Dumbarton Oaks Research Institute (in English)
- Coins of the Byzantine Empire (in English)
- Digitales Forschungsarchiv Byzanz, University of Vienna (in German) (in English)
- ? - Foundation of the Hellenic World (in English) (in Greek)
- Interactive Map of Constantinople, University of Toronto (in English)
- Digital Atlas of Roman and Medieval Civilization, Harvard University (in English)
- ORBIS: The Stanford Geospatial Network Model of the Roman World (in English)
- PLEIADES: A community-built gazetteer and graph of ancient places (in English)
- ? , Hellenic Ministry of Culture (in Greek)
- LEVANTIA - Social history of the Levant (in English)
- Roman and Byzantine Law (in English)
- Suda On Line: Byzantine Lexicography (in English)
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