“Glory to God who has thought me worthy to finish this work (Hagia Sophia). Solomon, I have outdone you.” – Justinian I

The Byzantine period starts with the division of the Roman empire to East and West. The collapse of the Western Roman Empire that followed this division accentuated the position of the Greeks in the empire and eventually allowed them to become identified with Eastern part of the empire (Byzantine) altogether. Constantinople became the center of the empire, and the center of Hellenism, when Constantine the Great turned Byzantium into the new capital of the Roman Empire, from then on to be known as Constantinople.

The Byzantine Empire was the predominantly Greek-speaking eastern half continuation and remainder of the Roman Empire during Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages. Its capital city was Constantinople, originally founded as Byzantium (hence the term Byzantine). The Byzantines survived the  fall of the Western Roman Empire in the 5th century AD and continued to exist for another thousand years until Constantinople fell to the Ottoman Turks in 1453. During most of its existence, the  Byzantine empire was the most powerful economic, cultural, and military force in Europe.

Justinian I - Byzantine emperor
Byzantine Greeks

Several events from the 4th to 6th centuries AD mark the transitional period during which the Roman Empire’s east and west divided. Under the reign of Heraclius (610-641 AD), the Empire’s military and administration were restructured and adopted Greek for official use instead of Latin. Historians distinguish Byzantium from ancient Rome so far as it was oriented towards Greek rather than Latin culture, and characterized by Orthodox Christianity rather than Roman polytheism.

The Byzantine Empire had a multi-ethnic character during most of its history however it became identified by its increasingly predominant Greek element but all its western and northern contemporaries. The use of the term “Empire of the Greeks” (Latin: Imperium Graecorum) in the West to refer to the Eastern Roman Empire and of the Byzantine Emperor as Imperator Graecorum (Emperor of the Greeks) were also used to separate it from the prestige of the “old” Roman Empire within the new kingdoms of the West.

External Links

Byzantine period, additional reading

The Byzantine empireGo!
Constantine the GreatGo!
The Hagia SophiaGo!
Byzantine ArchitectureGo!
History of ConstantinopleGo!

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