Byzantine Empire

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.

Byzantine Empire

Βασιλεία Ῥωμαίων, Basileía Rhōmaíōn
Imperium Romanum
395–1453c
Solidus depicting Christ Pantocrator, a common motif on Byzantine coins.
The empire in 555 under Justinian the Great, at its greatest extent since the fall of the Western Roman Empire (its vassals in pink)
The change of territory of the Byzantine Empire (476–1400)
Capital
and largest city
Constantinopled
(395–1204, 1261–1453)
Common languages
Religion
Notable emperors 
 330–337
Constantine I
 395–408
Arcadius
 402–450
Theodosius II
 527–565
Justinian I
 610–641
Heraclius
 717–741
Leo III
 797–802
Irene
 867–886
Basil I
 976–1025
Basil II
 1042–1055
Constantine IX
 1081–1118
Alexius I
 1259–1282
Michael VIII
 1449–1453
Constantine XI
Historical eraLate Antiquity to Late Middle Ages
1 April 286
11 May 330
 Final East–West division after the death of Theodosius I
17 January 395
 Fall of Rome; deposition of Romulus Augustulus by Odoacer
4 September 476
 Assassination of Julius Nepos; nominal end of the Western Roman Empire
25 April 480
 Fourth Crusade; establishment of the Latin Empire by Catholic crusaders
12 April 1204
 Reconquest of Constantinople by Michael VIII Palaiologos
25 July 1261
29 May 1453
 Fall of Trebizond
15 August 1461
Population
 457
16,000,000e
 565
26,000,000
 775
7,000,000
 1025
12,000,000
 1320
2,000,000
CurrencySolidus, denarius and hyperpyron
Preceded by
Succeeded by
Roman Empire
Ottoman Empire
  1. ^ Βασιλεία Ῥωμαίων may be transliterated in Latin as Basileia Rhōmaiōn (literally meaning Monarchy of the Romans, but commonly rendered Empire of the Romans).
  2. ^ Roman Empire
  3. ^ Between 1204 and 1261 there was an interregnum when the Empire was divided into the Empire of Nicaea, the Empire of Trebizond and the Despotate of Epirus, which were all contenders for rule of the Empire. The Empire of Nicaea is considered the legitimate continuation of the Byzantine Empire because it managed to retake Constantinople.
  4. ^ Constantinople became the capital of the (united) empire in 330. Theodosius I was the last emperor to rule over both the Eastern and Western Roman Empire. He died in 395 AD, dividing the empire in western and eastern halves.
  5. ^ See Population of the Byzantine Empire for more detailed figures taken provided by McEvedy and Jones, Atlas of World Population History, 1978, as well as Angeliki E. Laiou, The Economic History of Byzantium, 2002.
Part of a series on the
History of the
Byzantine Empire
Preceding
Early period (330–717)
Middle period (717–1204)
Late period (1204–1453)
Timeline
By topic
 Byzantine Empire portal

"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.

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