23 April 2023

What is the Byzantine Empire? – Know the characteristics of the Byzantine Empire

By Donald

It was one of the longest lasting and most powerful empires in history. of humanity, becoming a world power which covered much of the eastern Mediterranean and Eastern Europe, characterized by its culture, art and religion.

It featured a very novel political and economic system, and his legacy has endured through the years to this day. If you want to know what the Byzantine Empire is, you will find it in this article!

What does Byzantine Empire mean?

It was a state existed for over 1000 years. Its foundation dates from 324 AD by Emperor Constantine I, until 1453 AD, when it fell into the hands of the Ottoman Turks, marking the end of this great empire. Its capital and urban center was founded in Constantinople, which is currently known as Istanbul and belongs to Turkey.

Although his correct name is ‘Eastern Roman Empire’, some time after its disappearance, the historians of the 16th century adopted the term ‘Byzantine’ to refer to this historical period. This happens because the city of Constantinople, where the Byzantine Empire was located, had previously been known as ‘Byzantium‘.

The choice of Constantinople as the new capital of the Roman Empire was strategic, because it was in a key geographic position, was located near the Black Sea, the Mediterranean and the Sea of ​​Marmara. The capital was a city with much wealth and strong fortresses, making it ideal for a new urban center.

In this empire there was a combination of Greco-Roman culture with Christianity. From a political point of view, was characterized by a monarchical system with the emperor as the main figure of power.

As for the economy, it was a commercial power, maintaining important relations with other countries, especially the eastern Mediterranean states and Asia Minor. They produced many luxurious goods, such as silk and spices, which were highly valued on the international market.

Over the years they faced relevant challenges such as: multiple invasions by barbarian peoples, wars against the Persians and internal religious conflicts. Despite this, they remained a power for more than 1000 years, and their influence played a crucial role in the history of Europe and the world, both politically and culturally, this being the beginning of one of the most important and influential civilizations. For all this, the legacy endures to this day.

What are the characteristics of the Byzantine Empire? – Culture

The cultural influences of this empire still endure in our time. Between the characteristics most notable we have:

  • They spoke two languages: Greek and Latin.. As the years passed, Latin was displaced and the Greek language was established in its entirety. Some regions belonging to this empire used other languages ​​as Aramaic, Syriac and Coptic.
  • The art was characterized by a high degree of elaboration and religious symbolism. These expressions include the use of mosaics, icons, and illustrated manuscripts, which emphasized the use of bright colors and the creation of images that seemed to be alive.
  • As to Literaturehere the production of historical, theological, and poetic texts. They also created new genres such as bestiaries, which consisted of the description and compilation of mythological animals.
  • The byzantine music it developed according to the Greek musical tradition, which made extensive use of the human voice in combination with instruments such as the lyre. It was performed in religious ceremonies and in imperial courts.
  • With respect to The education, primary and secondary schools are created, as well as universities. His teachings focused on literature, philosophy, history, and theology. To this education they could access both men and women.
  • The architecture noted for the construction of religious and civil buildings, predominating the creation of Christian churches, among which we can mention the church of Santa Sofía in Constantinople, being Justinian I who ordered its creation. They used domes, mosaics, and reliefs, and also paid close attention to detail and religious order.

What was the official language of the Byzantine Empire?

Although Latin had been the official language of the Roman Empire for two centuries, the Byzantines they adopted Greek as the official from the 6th century AD In this period they had to fight against barbarian invasions and there was a tremendous influence of oriental culture.

The Greek that was spoken was called Medieval Greek or Byzantine Greek, and it differed from the classic by its grammar, pronunciation and vocabulary. It was used for both culture, religion and economic relations.

Byzantine literature was written in this language, reflecting the concerns and values ​​of society. The Eastern Orthodox Church also used this language in its rituals, in addition, the biblical texts were written in it.

What activities were carried out in the Byzantine Empire?

It was a complex and highly sophisticated society, which encompassed a wide variety of activities and ways of life. Some of them are:

  • The Agriculture: His main source of income was this, organized through large estates administered by the nobility and the clergy. The crops were: wheat, grapes and olive trees.
  • textile industry: It was counted on silk producing workshops in which many inhabitants worked. Before, the empire depended entirely on trade with the East, from which they bought large quantities of silk, until they managed to obtain worm cocoons to start producing their own silk.
  • Trade: They were the most important center of commercial traffic in Europe, Asia and Africa, since the capital, Constantinople, was located in a strategic position, which gave it a key location for maritime transactions. He acted as an intermediary between the East and the Mediterranean.
  • Handicrafts: In this empire a large amount of high quality objectsThey also worked a variety of materials such as ceramics, metal, glass, ivory and wood.
  • Education: Learning was valued and, therefore, schools and universities were founded in which a wide variety of topics were taught. Studying meant climbing the social pyramid.

What is the religion they practiced in the Byzantine Empire?

This civilization lent much importance to religion. Its citizens practiced various religions, as a consequence of the unification of territories and cultures.

This was changing until Christianity was established, becoming the dominant one, which caused the orthodox church became the official religion of this State. During the early years of the Empire, Christianity had to fight against pagans and heretics that threatened its position.

In it 4th century Emperor Theodosius I declared Orthodox Christianity to be the official religion, and variations of it were prohibited or the practice of other religions, although during the Middle Ages there were challenges for this trend. In fact, in the year 1054 there was a movement called the Great Schism, and due to the tensions that existed between the Eastern Orthodox and the Roman Catholic churches, Christianity split. Despite these divisions, the orthodox was the predominant throughout the empire.

Muslims managed to become part of this civilization and were allowed to practice their religion. There was also a large Jewish community, which played an important role in the economy and culture.

What were the places it occupied in the Byzantine Empire?

It was one of the largest empires of antiquity, since its territory spanned much of Europe, Asia and Africa. Some of the most important places that the Byzantine Empire occupied include:

  • Constantinople: The capital of the empire and one of the most relevant cities of the ancient world. It was located in what we now know as Türkiye. In it was the seat of government and the administration.
  • Greece: The Greek peninsula was part of the Byzantine territory. This region was home to many of the empire’s most valuable cities and was also center of commerce and culture.
  • Asia Minor: Known as Anatolia, it extended to part of the Black Sea coast. Home to several Byzantine emperors and is also considered a center of agricultural production and industry.
  • Italy: The Byzantine Empire occupied various parts of what is now Italy, such as Sicily and Calabria. It was considered a economic center and a crucial strategic position.
  • North of Africa: It was also territory of this empire, including Egypt and Libya. Characterized by a large agricultural production and for being a Cultural center.

What happened in the Byzantine Empire?

Throughout the years many significant events happened, among these are:

  1. The Foundation of the Empire: Its origin is given through the Emperor Constantine I in the year 330, moving the capital from the Roman Empire to the city of Constantinople.
  2. Territorial Expansion: During the 5th and 6th centuries, lands from Italy, North Africa and some parts of Eastern Europe were incorporated. Besides, fought against the Persians and the Arabs by territories during this period. The great stage of this empire occurred when Justinian I ruled, who won the battles that occurred at this time and ordered the recovery of territories that belonged to the old Roman Empire, which were under the power of the Germanic.
  3. Preservation and Promotion of Classical Culture: It became home to a very significant culture, encompassing topics such as literature, philosophy, architecture, and art.
  4. The Great Schism: In the year 1054 the Christian church split into two branches: the Roman Catholic Church and the Eastern Orthodox Church. This happened due to multiple disagreements and eventually Eastern Orthodoxy was established as the official religion.
  5. The Crusades: In the 11th century, Pope Urban II launched the first crusade, which was a series of military campaigns whose main objective was to recover the Holy Land from the Muslims. The Byzantines fought hand in hand with the Crusaders despite how strained their relations were.
  6. The Fall of the Empire: In 1453 the Ottoman Turks captured Constantinople, and thus the great empire fell, marking the end and beginning of a new era in the history of Europe and the Middle East.