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AN03b

Unit03: Age of Exchange and Encounter

Ch.11

Timeline: 4th C. - 15th C. CE


FQ: To what extent was the Byzantine Empire similar/ distinct from its Roman parent?
Main Idea: The term 'Dark Age' is often used inappropriately and inaccurately. While there may
be some justification in applying the term to portions of the former (Western) Roman Empire
after the 5th C., it did not apply to all areas, and most certainly did not apply to the Eastern
portion- Byzantium. After Rome split, Byzantium flourished for a thousand years. It extended
Rome's track-record of achievement in the arts and sciences. In some ways, it reached heights
that Rome never attained. Like classical Rome, Byzantium supported its military, cultural, and
scientific endeavors via a vast bureaucracy and commercial expansion. Along with the good
came the bad- Byzantium suffered from the same issues that plagued its Roman parent.
Corruption, foreign invasions, and poor leadership would bring down this civilization as well.
CCSS...
I. The western portion of the Roman empire finally collapses in c476. But, the young Christian
church (to be known as The Roman Catholic Church), led by the Bishop of Rome (to be known
as 'Pope') develops as the central civilizing force. Within the Church, much of the Roman
Empire's knowledge and creativity is preserved. The Eastern portion of the empire c"ontinued to
thrive based on the foundation established by Emperor Constantine."
II. Byzantium
A. Location
1. Greek commercial seaport in Asia Minor.
2. Linked commercial routes between the East and the West (Aegean Sea <=>
Black Sea).
B. Emperor Constantine
1. 4th C. Roman emperor
2. Begins construction in this city that he will refer to as 'New Rome'. The city is
later renamed Constantinople.
C. Role
1. Becomes the eastern capital of the Roman Empire to aid in the governing of
this vast empire.
2. Becomes the sole capital when the western half of the Roman Empire
collapsed under several stresses:
" "Barbarian" Invasions
" Financial Chaos
" Corruption
" Poor Political & Military Leadership
" Constantinople had many of the geographic benefits that Rome had.
Particularly as it relates to trade routes.
" Can you reasonably expect the society centered around Constantinople
to differ from that around Rome?
III. Characteristics of Byzantine Civilization
A. Government
1. Ruled by emperors who saw themselves as heirs to the legacy of Julius
Caesar and Augustus. Former Roman territory in Western Europe was viewed as
property belonging to the empire now based in Constantinople.

AN03b

Unit03: Age of Exchange and Encounter

Ch.11

2. The government was similarly organized to that of Rome and the emperor had
absolute secular power (Imperator). The outward appearance of a republic,
evident in Rome, was lacking in Byzantium. Institutions were similar (ex. Senate),
but the similarity was more appearance than substance.
3. The Byzantine emperor was the religious head of the Christian Church (which
later became known as the Eastern Orthodox Church). The emperor's golden
throne was wide-enough to accommodate the emperor and Jesus, who was his
partner in rule. In Western Europe (formerly the western half of the Roman
Empire), religious leadership was increasingly associated with the bishop of
Rome- the future 'Pope'.
4. Citizenship requirements, at a minimum, were the ability to speak Greek and
membership in a Christian church.
B. Cultural
1. Greek replaced Latin as the language of government.
2. Byzantine emperor was the religious head of the Christian Church (which was
the Eastern Orthodox Church) and ruled in Jesus' name, unlike Rome.
3. 'Church and State' became tightly linked. The Eastern Christian church never
accepted the sole leadership of the Roman Bishop. [both these religious parties
will claim infallibility due to their perceived roles as Jesus' voice on earth].
C. Learning/ Arts/ Science: Continued ancient Rome's pursuit of knowledge, art and
entertainment:
1. Universities: The literary arts and speech were emphasized. These universities
produced the government officials who would, at some point in the future,
execute the day to day routine of imperial gov't. Access to this level of education
was not limited to men.
2. Architecture: The Hagia Sophia is one of the most famous examples of
Byzantine architecture, but it isn't the only one by any stretch of the imagination.
It is representative, however, of the close relationship that developed between
church and state. It also is a fine example of the advancement in building designs
that arches and domes represent.
3. Hippodrome: The Byzantine counterpart of the Roman Coliseum. It had a
seating capacity in excess of that found in Shea Stadium (~60,000 vs. ~56,000).
The variety of entertainment was as diverse and equally brutal at times. A
difference between the two, however, was that competitive events (ex. chariot
racing) in the Hippodrome were often between contestants that were either on
the Green or Blue team. Over time, these colors/ contestants acquired a political
affiliation that reached as high as the imperial throne. Hence, if you supported a
particular color, you were identified with a particular political view.
IV. Emperor Justinian (527 565)1
Known for his long work hours and ability to go long periods of time without sleep. He was
determined to reacquire the western half of the ancient Roman empire and this quest brought
great honor and distress to his reign. Included among his noteworthy endeavors were:"
A. With his armies lead by the able general Belisarius, the former western provinces of
the ancient Roman empire were reconquered.2
B. Funded massive building projects within Constantinople (Domed churches, roads,
defensive walls, arenas, etc...) that exceeded even Augustus' awesome projects in

AN03b

Unit03: Age of Exchange and Encounter

Ch.11

Rome. Turns Constantinople into one of the most fortified cities in the world.
C. Assigned Greek and Latin scholars to the task of compiling, editing, and simplifying
the laws of ancient Rome and Byzantium. The scholars referenced legal texts that dated
from the Pax Romana period (ex. the reign of Hadrian) to the 6th C. The result was the
Corpus Juris Civilis (Body of Civil Law). This work is better known as The Code of
Justinian.
D. The secret of silk production was acquired by missionaries sent to China. When the
missionaries returned with the silk worms and seeds of mulberry trees3 the ancient silk
monopoly long maintained by the dynasties of China came to an end.
V. Eventual Collapse- c1454
Byzantium could not escape the forces that usher the downfall of other great empires and
political bodies."
A. Since political and religious power was vested in the government, political or religious
controversy often resulted in public protests and civil unrest.
B. Grand projects bankrupt the treasury.
C. The constant pressure was being applied by peoples encroaching on imperial lands:"
" Nomadic peoples like Mongols and Turks.
" Arabs from the Umayyad and Abbasid Caliphates.
D. Among Byzantium's enemies you can add the marauding Christian Crusaders that
plundered Byzantine towns in search of booty."
VI. Why It Matters Today.
Byzantine culture deeply influenced Eastern Orthodox Christianity, a major branch of modern
Christianity."
1 To acquire an alternative rendering of the reign of Justinian (and his wife- Theodora) you may wish to read The Secret Histories,
by Procopius. Published by Penguin.
2 Success was short lived, however, as Rome was destroyed in the process and the population had dropped from 1 million people
(at the cities height to 40 thousand).
3 Mulberry Trees produce the leaves that silk worms consume.
Materials/Sources: Refer to the course calendar for additional materials, assignments and pertinent due dates.

World History: Patterns of Interaction"


Slide Presentation"
Hagia Sopia: Epitome of Byzantine Architecture <http://www.fotopedia.com/magazine/stories/mgTEIhFiiCg/
Hagia_Sophia_the_Epitome_of_Byzantine_Architecture> accessed Jan. 2013