The Byzantine Empire, also referred to as the Eastern Roman Empire, or Byzantium, was the continuation of the Roman Empire in its eastern provinces during Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages, when its capital city was Constantinople. It survived the fragmentation and fall of the Western Roman Empire in the 5th century AD and continued to exist for an additional thousand years until it fell to the Ottoman Empire in 1453. During most of its existence, the empire was the most powerful economic, cultural, and military force in Europe.
Βασιλεία Ῥωμαίων, Basileía Rhōmaíōn
The change of territory of the Byzantine Empire (476–1400)
and largest city
|Historical era||Late Antiquity to Late Middle Ages|
|1 April 286|
|11 May 330|
• Final East–West division after the death of Theodosius I
|17 January 395|
|4 September 476|
|25 April 480|
|12 April 1204|
• Reconquest of Constantinople by Michael VIII Palaiologos
|25 July 1261|
|29 May 1453|
• Fall of Trebizond
|15 August 1461|
|Currency||Solidus, denarius and hyperpyron|
Part of a series on the
|History of the
|Early period (330–717)|
|Middle period (717–1204)|
|Late period (1204–1453)|
"Byzantine Empire" is a term created after the end of the realm; its citizens continued to refer to their empire simply as the Roman Empire (Medieval Greek: Βασιλεία Ῥωμαίων, romanized: Basileía Rhōmaíōn) or Romania (Medieval Greek: Ῥωμανία), and to themselves as Romans (Medieval Greek: Ῥωμαῖοι, romanized: Rhōmaîoi). Although the Roman state continued and its traditions were maintained, modern historians distinguish Byzantium from the previous Roman empire as it was centred on Constantinople, oriented towards Greek rather than Latin culture, and characterised by Eastern Orthodox Christianity.
Several events from the 4th to 6th centuries mark the period of transition during which the Roman Empire's Greek East and Latin West diverged. Constantine I (r. 324–337) reorganised the empire, made Constantinople the new capital and legalised Christianity. Under Theodosius I (r. 379–395), Christianity became the state religion and other religious practices were proscribed. In the reign of Heraclius (r. 610–641), the Empire's military and administration were restructured and Greek was adopted for official use in place of Latin.
The borders of the empire fluctuated through several cycles of decline and recovery. During the reign of Justinian I (r. 527–565), the empire reached its greatest extent, after reconquering much of the historically Roman western Mediterranean coast, including North Africa, Italy and Rome, which it held for two more centuries. The Byzantine–Sasanian War of 602–628 exhausted the empire's resources, and during the Early Muslim conquests of the 7th century, it lost its richest provinces, Egypt and Syria, to the Rashidun Caliphate. During the Macedonian dynasty (10th–11th centuries), the empire expanded again and experienced the two-century long Macedonian Renaissance, which came to an end with the loss of much of Asia Minor to the Seljuk Turks after the Battle of Manzikert in 1071. This battle opened the way for the Turks to settle in Anatolia. The empire recovered during the Komnenian restoration, and by the 12th century Constantinople was the largest and wealthiest city in Europe. The empire was delivered a mortal blow during the Fourth Crusade, when Constantinople was sacked in 1204 and the territories that the empire formerly governed were divided into competing Byzantine Greek and Latin realms. Despite the eventual recovery of Constantinople in 1261, the Byzantine Empire remained only one of several small rival states in the area for the final two centuries of its existence. Its remaining territories were progressively annexed by the Ottomans in the Byzantine–Ottoman wars over the 14th and 15th centuries. The fall of Constantinople to the Ottoman Empire in 1453 ended the Byzantine Empire. The last of the imperial Byzantine successor states, the Empire of Trebizond, would be conquered by the Ottomans eight years later in the 1461 siege.