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Byzantine Empire

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(Eastern) Roman Empire
Βασιλεία Ρωμαίων (Greek)
Imperium Romanum (Latin)

Flag of the late Empire Imperial Emblem
The Byzantine Empire during its greatest territorial extent under Justinian. c. 550.
Capital Constantinople1
Language(s) Latin until the 7th century, Greek thereafter
Religion Roman paganism until 391, Orthodox Christianity thereafter
Government Monarchy
 - 306–337 Constantine the Great
 - 1449–1453 Constantine XI
Legislature Byzantine Senate
Historical era Late Antiquity-Late Middle Ages
 - Diocletian splits imperial administration between east and west 285
 - Foundation of Constantinople2 May 11, 330
 - East-West Schism 1054
 - Fall of Constantinople to the Fourth Crusade 1204
 - Reconquest of Constantinople 1261
 - Fall of Constantinople3 May 29, 1453
 - Fall of Trebizond 1461
 - 4th cent4 est. 34,000,000 
 - 8th cent (780 AD) est. 7,000,000 
 - 11th cent4 (1025 AD) est. 12,000,000 
 - 12th cent4 (1143 AD) est. 10,000,000 
 - 13th cent (1281 AD) est. 5,000,000 
Currency Solidus, Hyperpyron
1 Constantinople (330–1204 and 1261–1453). The capital of the Empire of Nicaea, the empire after the Fourth Crusade, was at Nicaea, present day İznik, Turkey.
2 Establishment date traditionally considered to be the re-founding of Constantinople as the capital of the Roman Empire (324/330) although other dates are often used.[1]
3Date of end universally regarded as 1453, despite the temporary survival of remnants in Morea and Trebizond.[1]
4 See Population of the Byzantine Empire for more detailed figures taken provided by McEvedy and Jones, "Atlas of world population history", 1978, as well as Angeliki E. Laiou, "The Economic History of Byzantium", 2002.
Emblem of the Palaeologus dynasty

The Byzantine Empire (or Eastern Roman Empire) was the name of the Greek part of the Roman Empire which survived into the Middle Ages. Its capital was Constantinople, which today is in Turkey, and is now called Istanbul. Unlike the Western Roman Empire, its people spoke Greek, not Latin and had a largely Greek culture and identity.[2][3][4]

Start of the Empire 330–476 AD

In 324, the Roman Emperor Constantine I moved the capital of the Roman Empire to the city of Byzantium, and he renamed the city Constantinople. 150 years later, after the city of Rome was slowly taken over by Germanic people, the only remaining capital of the Empire became Constantinople. The remaining Eastern empire had a smaller territory than the original Roman Empire.

The Empire in trouble 476–717 AD

Wars in the West

The Byzantine Empire tried to take back Rome and Italy from the Germans. Between 530–555 AD, the Byzantines won many battles and took back Rome.

These gains did not last however. More Germans came and eventually Italy and Rome was lost again. Worse was to come when Avar and Slavic peoples came to take modern Bulgaria and Greece from the Byzantines. Gradually, after the 560s the invaders won much of the Balkans. These invaders were later followed by the Bulgarians. The Avars and Bulgarians were both Turkish peoples at first. They ruled over Slavic people called "Sklavinai" and slowly absorbed Slavic language and customs.

Wars in the East

After western Rome was captured by Germanic people, the Empire continued to control modern Egypt, Greece, Palestine, Syria and Turkey. However, another Empire, known as the Persian Empire, tried to take over these lands for itself. Between 224–628 AD, the Romans and the Persians fought many battles, with many men killed in the fighting. Eventually, the Persians were finally defeated in modern-day Iraq, near the ancient city of Nineveh in 627 AD, allowing the Byzantines to keep their lands.

After this, another enemy appeared: the Arabs. The Byzantines were economically damaged by the battles with the Persians. They could not withstand the Arabs. Palestine, Syria and Egypt were lost between 635 and 645. However, the Byzantines defended Asia Minor (modern Turkey) and the Arab advance stopped.

Recovery of the Empire: 717–1025 AD

In 718 AD, the Arabs were defeated outside Constantinople, ending the Arab threat in the east, but leaving the Byzantine Empire severely weakened. In the west, the Byzantines launched a number of attacks against the Bulgarians. Some of these were successful, others were not and led to the deaths of many emperors. Over time, the Byzantine Empire would became weaker as it loss land to outside invaders.

Recovery in the west

Between 1007–1014, the ambitious Byzantine Emperor Basil II attacked Bulgaria many times and eventually won a great victory. Later, he fully recaptured Greece, adding it back to the Byzantine Empire. He then went on to conquer Bulgaria, which was completed in 1018.

Recovery in the east

In the east, the Arabs once again became a threat to the Empire. However, Basil II's attacks won many more victories. Much of Syria was restored to the Empire and Turkey and Armenia were secured. After 1025, the Arabs were no longer a threat to the Byzantine Empire.

Decline of the Empire 1025–1453


After the Byzantine Emperor Basil II died, many unskilled Emperors came to the throne. They wasted the money of the Empire and reduced her army. This meant that she could not defend herself well against her enemies if they would attack. Later, the Byzantines relied on mercenaries, soldiers who fought for money and not for their country, so they were less loyal and reliable and more expensive. Due to this system that depended on mercenaries, military generals were able to rise to power and usurp it from the elaborate bureaucracy, a system of administration where tasks are divided by departments.

Invasion of the Turks 1071–1091

A large number of people known as the Turks rode on horseback from central Asia and attacked the Byzantine Empire. They took all of Turkey from the Byzantines by 1091. However, the Byzantines received help from people in Europe. This help is known as the First Crusade. Many knights and soldiers left to help the Byzantines but also to secure Jerusalem for Christians, which at the time was in Muslim hands.

The Byzantines survive 1091–1185

The Byzantine Empire survived and with the help of the Europeans took back half of Turkey from the Turks, with the other half remaining under the Turks. The Byzantines survived because three good Emperors ruled one after the other, allowing the Byzantines to grow strong again.

The Byzantines become weak again 1185-1261

After the three good Emperors, the remaining Emperors ruled badly and again wasted a lot of money and soldiers.

In the west, the Europeans betrayed the Byzantines and attacked their capital, Constantinople. The Byzantines lost their capital in 1204 and they did not take it back until 1261. The Byzantines were then divided into many smaller Greek states that were fighting with each other for the throne of the Empire.

The Turks take the Byzantines 1261–1453

After the Byzantines took back Constantinople, they were too busy fighting the Europeans who had betrayed them and could not find enough soldiers or money to fight the Turks. Eventually, all of Turkey was lost by 1331.

In 1369, the Turks crossed over from Turkey and into Greece, taking over much of Greece between 1354–1450. The Byzantines lost so much land, money and soldiers that they became very weak and begged for help from the Europeans. Some soldiers and ships came from Italy and the Pope to assist the Byzantines when the Turks attacked Constantinople in April 1453. They were very outnumbered though, and the walls of Constantinople were badly damaged by cannons used by the Turks. At the end of May 1453 the Turks captured Constantinople by entering through one of the gates along the walls and the Empire came to an end. The city was plundered for three days. At the end, the population which had not been able to escape, was deported to Edirne, Bursa and other Ottoman cities, leaving the city deserted except for the Jews of Balat and the Genoese of Pera. After that Constantinople became the capital of the Ottoman Empire, which it would be until the 1900s, when the capital was moved to Ankara, a city in the Asian part of Turkey.


The Empire had many achievements:

  • They protected Europe from eastern invasions
  • They majorly preserved Greek language and Hellenistic culture
  • They preserved many Roman traditions that had been lost by Western Europe
  • They kept a lot of knowledge for us to read about today
  • They produced much fine art with a distinctive style
  • They were the protectors and sponsors of the Christian Orthodox Church
  • They used good architecture that people use today
  • Their cities had plumbing which is in use even today
  • A lot of beautiful churches and mosques in Turkey and Greece today are either made from Byzantine buildings
  • They made several inventions, such as flamethrower and "Greek fire," a kind of napalm
  • They made advances in many studies, like political studies, diplomacy and military sciences


  1. 1.0 1.1 Kazhdan, Aleksandr Petrovich (1991). Oxford Dictionary of Byzantium. New York and Oxford: Oxford University Press. p. 344. ISBN 978-0-19-504652-6 .
  2. Haldon, John (2002). Byzantium: a history. Stroud, Gloucestershire: Tempus Publishing. ISBN 1-4051-3240-X .
  3. Kaegi, Walter Emil (2003). Heraclius, Emperor of Byzantium. Cambridge: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0-521-81459-6 .
  4. Kaldellis, Anthony (2007). Hellenism in Byzantium: the transformations of Greek identity and the reception of the classical tradition. Cambridge, United Kingdom: Cambridge University Press. ISBN 0521876885 .