What Was The Byzantine Empire?
Short History of Byzantine Empire and its Capital Constantinople
Byzantine Empire was literally what was left of Ancient Roman Empire. The Byzantine Empire is known as being one of the world’s longest living state, surviving for 1058 years. (lasted from 395 to 1453)
The story begins in 330 A.D. during the reign of Constantine the Great.
Short History of Byzantine Empire And Constantinople
The Foundation Of Constantinople (330 A.D.)
Roman Empire had vast borders when Constantine managed to secure his seat as the Roman Emperor. He wanted to create a new city in the east. He chosed Byzantium for this purpose. (former Greek city-state)
Romans reconstructed and adorned the city and named it “New Rome” (330 A.D.) which eventually became the famous Constantinople. Greek: Konstantinoupolis
The successor of Constantine was the emperor Theodosius. He divided the massive empire as the East and the West in 395 A.D. One of his son Honorious inherited the Western Rome, the other son Arcadius inherited Eastern Rome.
However, after a while most of Western Europe (formerly the heartland of the empire) fell to so-called barbarian invaders (476 A.D.)
According to some historians, Emperor Constantine had predicted this disaster. That was the main reason he moved his capital from the city of Rome to Constantinople.
Eastern And Western Roman Empires After Division
Theodosius split the empire in two between his two sons: Honorius (West) and Arcadius (East). Arcadius was literally the first emperor of Byzantine Empire.
Why Eastern Roman Empire is called Byzantine?
After the Goths invaded Rome, Western Roman Empire collapsed. Its sister, Eastern Roman Empire survived almost a thousand more years until the fall of Constantinople in 1453 A.D.
Eastern Roman Empire was renamed as the Byzantine Empire by the historians in the Modern Era. Greek speaking Eastern provinces developed a unique culture after the division of Roman Empire. This is known as Byzantine.
The word Byzantine is derived from the first name of the Istanbul: Byzantium. It dates back to ancient Greek world.
Byzantine Empire Brief And Short History
Golden Era: Emperor Justinian’s Reign (527-565)
Emperor Justinian was known as the most remarkable emperor of Byzantine Empire. He was a great general and statesman. He had very successful generals named Belisarius and Narses.
His ultimate goal was to recreate ancient Roman Empire again. He expanded the Eastern Roman Empire’s borders into Middle East, Northern Africa and Western Europe.
Byzantine Empire Map
For some historians Justinian was the last of the Classical Roman Emperors. He wanted to create the Ancient Rome once more and reclaimed the lost lands of Roman Empire once more.
Today Justinian is known for Constantinople’s greatest building, Hagia Sophia (Ayasofya). Finished in 537, it reigned as the largest and greatest church of Christendom for a thousand years.
Justinian is also famous for creating Codex Justinianus, which is the codification of Roman law by the order of Emperor Justinian.
He left a vast but vulnerable borders to his successors. Great Byzantine emperors reigned at times through the centuries after Justinian, but none of them were great enough to save the Byzantine Empire from an eventual decline.
Nomads From Central Asia: Seljuk Turks (1071)
In the 11th century, the Seljuk Turks migrated from Central Asia and built a powerful empire in Persia. This unstoppable force had become the eastern neighbors of Byzantine Anatolia. The battle between the Byzantines and Seljuks was approaching.
Seljuk Turks’ decisive victory at the Battle of Manzikert in 1071 effectively neutralized the Byzantine resistance to the Turkish invasion of Anatolia. When the Byzantine struggle against the Turkish failed, Seljuk Turks had the chance to take over great parts of Eastern and Central Anatolia.
The march of Seljuk Turks from Asia to the eastern borders of Byzantine Empire. Batlle of Manzikent also marked in the map. The battle opened the gates of Anatolia to the Turks.
Sacking of Constantinople by Crusaders (1204-1261)
Following the Pope’s order, the Crusader armies of Europe marched through Constantinople in the 12th and 13th centuries. They battled with the Seljuk Turks and overran them. Byzantines took back majority of the Anatolia from Turks until they lost it to Seljuk Sultanate of Rum.
Furthermore, during the IV.Crusade, The Latin army even attacked, conquered and sacked Constantinople. Latin invasion lasted from 1204 to 1261 and it was finally repelled by a Byzantine prince.
However, the Byzantines and Greek Orthodox Church never forgot this terrible period. Some even claimed “Better Turkish turban than Latin Miter” before the fall of Constantinople.
It is important to note that Eastern and Western Churches had never built good relationships up until 1950s. The Orthodox Patriarch and Catholic Pope finally buried the hatchet and shook hands in modern day Istanbul.
Latin Invasion Of Constantinople
Siege of Constantinople depicted by famous painter Eugène Delacroix. This artwork is displayed in Louvre. The Sack of Constantinople caused the great city to become a cowtown.
Fall of Constantinople And The Byzantine Empire
By the late 13th century, Byzantine Empire’s power was much reduced in Anatolia. The Byzantine army never really recovered and strengthened after Latin invasion. Turkish warlords on its eastern borders around Nicaea (İznik) and Söğüt (Bilecik) had become serious threats.
One of these warlord principalities, established by a chieftain named Osman Ghazi (Othman), grew into the Ottoman Empire. Ottoman Turks in 1453 conquered the imperial capital of Constantinople (Istanbul) and soon thereafter swept away the last vestiges of Byzantine rule. The Ottoman Sultan was known as Fatih Sultan Mehmet. (Mehmet The Conqueror) proclaimed the Hagia Sophia a mosque.
Byzantine Empire History & Attractions Tour By Istanbul Private Guide
If you are interested to see the Byzantine Empire‘s heritage in Istanbul, consider joining the tours carried out by Serhat Engul. Please check Private Tour of Byzantine Istanbul website for more information.
More About Byzantine History
- Byzantine Monuments in Istanbul
- Byzantine Empire Map
- History of Double Headed Eagle
- Byzantine Empire Facts
- Spread Of Islam and Byzantine Empire
Short History of Byzantine Empire by Historian Tour Guide in Istanbul