Byzantine Empire Map
Byzantine Empire Map At Its Height, Timeline, Over Time
The Byzantine Empire was one of the most interesting, unique and mysterious civilizations in world history. The history of Byzantine Empire starts with the foundation of Constantinople in many sources. The Emperor Constantine was regarded as an ancestor by the Byzantines. He was infact a ruler of Roman Empire.
Foundation Of Constantinople By The Emperor Constantine
Constantine The Great, established the Constantinople as a new city in 330 AD. He also declared it, as the new capital of the Roman Empire. Constantine had decided to move the capital due to fierce and constant attacks of their northern neighbors: Barbarians.
Following his observations, he decided on the inconsiderable Greek originated state of Byzantium. Everybody around him were surprised. However, Emperor Constantine was one of the greatest strategist of Roman history.
Time proved that he made a perfect choice. Byzantium was a key point due to its strategic position between Europe and Asia. The Bosphorus was the only seaway that connects the Black Sea and Mediterranean Sea. Name of Byzantium was changed into Constantinople and carried that name for a millenium.
Walls of Constantine and Walls of Theodosius II
Split of the Roman Empire as East and West
After Constantine’s death, the empire began to decline. Theodosius I ascended the throne when the Roman Empire was in great danger. He showed a successful administration and secured the borders. But he died unexpectedly in his 40s.
After the death of Theodosius, the empire was divided into East and West. One of Theodosius’ sons, 12-year-old Honorius, became the ruler of the Western Rome, while his 18-year-old son, Arcadius, became the head of Eastern Rome. Arcadius (reign 395-408) was officially the first emperor of so-called Byzantine Empire.
Throughout the history, people of Eastern Roman Empire had always regarded themselves as Romans. Byzantine is a given name by modern day historians. It refers to the cultural difference between the Latin-speaking Pagan Rome (of antiquity) and Greek-speaking Christian Rome (of Middle Ages).
Division Of Roman Empire in 395 AD
What Is The Significance Of Constantinople?
Constantinople was the capital of Byzantine Empire. The city was the center of the trade route between the Silk Road and Europe. Almost all major incidents related to history of the Byzantine Empire occured in Constantinople.
For instance, Hagia Sophia, one of the world’s most important architectural achivement, built in the heart of the Constantinople. Hagia Sophia, had been the biggest temple of the world from 537 to 1626.
Famous Nika Revolt broke out in Constantinople against the Justinian‘s politics. Although Justinian was regarded as the greatest emperor in the history of the Byzantine Empire, he was almost killed in a rebellion that took place during the early years of his reign.
Byzantine Empire’s Capital Constantinople
Byzantine Empire Map At Its Height
The map displays the peak of the Byantine Empire under Emperor Justinian‘s rule.
Map Of Byzantine Empire At Its Height Under Justinian 565
Greatest Extent Of Byzantine Empire With Justinian
The Byzantine Empire reached to its greatest extent during Justinian’s reign. He intentionally expanded the borders to the west. His great design was to revive the Roman Empire of antiquity. Successful generals such as Belisarius, Narses and Mundus made conquests in Europe and Africa possible.
Justinian wanted to take full control of the Black Sea and Mediterranean coasts. He also wanted to be the spiritual leader of Christendom.
Justinian reigned from 527 to 565 for nearly 38 years. He married Theodora, and declared her as co-ruler. She was known as the most powerful empress in Byzantine history. Emperor Justinian also built the famous temple Hagia Sophia in the heart of the Constantinople.
The map above shows the greatest extent of Byzantine Empire in the 6th century. Justinian’s conquests are displayed in yellow while his predecessor Justin I’s empire is depicted as orange. What Justinian had inherited, and the value he added can be clearly seen.
Conquests of Justinian On The Map of Byzantine Empire
Empire Shranks Rapidly Following The Death Of Justinian
The successors of Justinian could not preserve the exceeded boundaries of Byzantine Empire. Justinian had spent tremendous amount of wealth to build castles and walls in order to protect the borders and literally there was nothing left in the state treasury.
The rise of Arabs, Bulgarians, Avars and Sasanids caused great troubles in the Byzantine borders. The Byzantium was under attack from every direction. Emperor Heraclius managed to secure borders temporarily, but it did not last long. In a short time, most important cities such as Antioch, Jerusalem and Alexandria were lost.
Isaurian Dynasty And Iconoclasm (717-802)
Under these circumstances, Isaurian Dynasty seized the throne and put the Byzantium back on track. Isaurian emperors introduced a series of reforms. The most important of these was the prohibition of religious icons, mosaics and frescoes.
In this way, the emperors confiscated the property of the church, which was greatly enriched, and transferred it to the imperial treasury. This particular period is called as Byzantine Iconoclasm.
Isauran Emperors managed to stop the decline of Byzantium. But their harsh approach to religious issues led to division in society. Relations between Eastern and Western Churches deteriorated.
Byzantine Empire Map Under Isaurian Dynasty 8th Century
Macedonian Dynasty (867-1057)
Macedonian Emperors improved the trade, reinforced the defence, secured the borders and patronized the art. Therefore this period is known as resurgence era for Byzantium. When the last Macedonian Emperor Basil II (Bulgar Slayer) died, the empire had already reached to its natural borders.
According to some historians, Basil II was the most successful emperor of the Byzantine history on the battlefields. However, he did not appoint the person to succeed him. After Basil’s death, the throne passed to the bureaucrats who married the women of the Macedonian Dynasty.
The bureaucrats who came to the throne through marriage could not adjust the balance of power within the state. The conflict between soldiers and bureaucrats resulted in favour of the latter. With the army’s budget cut, the soldiers lost power, and all of the military gains of Basil II were quickly lost.
Byzantine Empire Under Macedonian Dynasty
Byzantine Empire Under Seljuk Pressure (1071-1204)
Doukas Dynasty ruled the Empire from 1059-1081 and Byzantine army experienced a serious defeat at Battle Of Manzikert. Byzantine wing collapsed and central units utterly routed by the Seljuk cavalry.
At this point, it is worth noting that a general (Andronikos Doukas) left the battlefield and betrayed the emperor. Emperor Romanos Diogenes IV was taken prisoner. The outcome of this war was a great disaster for Byzantium.
The decisive victory of the Seljuk Turks in the Battle of Manzikert completely destroyed the Byzantine defense against the Turkish advance in Anatolia. As a result, Seljuks quickly conquered Eastern and Central Anatolia.
Seljuk Turks Pressure Over The Byzantine Empire
Latin Invasion And Sack Of Constantinople 1204-1261
Following the Pope’s order, the Crusaders marched through Constantinople in the 12th century. Seljuk Turks overwhelmed by the constant raids of Crusaders. Byzantines took back majority of the Anatolia from Seljuk Empire. (Later lost again to Seljuk Sultanate of Rum)
In early crusades, Byzantine emperors managed to keep crusaders away from capital (Thanks to the Emperors of Komnenos Dynasty). However, the 4th Crusade turned into a disaster due to the instability of the Byzantine administration. Enrico Dandolo (Doge of Venice) attacked to Constantinople and captured it by force. (1204)
The conflict between the Catholic West and the Orthodox East has already been going on for centuries. The final separation of the Eastern and Western churches in 1054 (also known as Great Schism) paved the way for the Sack of Constantinople in 1204.
The Latin invasion lasted for 57 years and gave a great damage to Constantinople. The most cosmopolitan and rich city of the Middle Ages became a ruin in the hands of the invaders.
Byzantine Princedoms During The Latin Invasion
Fall Of Constantinople 1453
The Byzantines finally repelled the Latins. However, they could not really recover after 57 years of invasion. Turkish warlords on the eastern borders of the empire became serious threats.
One of these warlords, Osman (also known as Othman), founded a princedom that would grew into the Ottoman Empire. Seventh ruler of Ottomans, Mehmed II, captured the Constantinople in 1453. Sultan Mehmed proclaimed the city as the new capital of the Ottomans. The fall of Constantinople marked the end of Byzantine era.
Recommended Reading: Byzantine Monuments of Istanbul
Fall of Constantinople and Byzantine Empire in 1453
Byzantine Empire Map Blog Post By Serhat Engul