The Byzantine Empire
The Roman Empire was split into two separate empires, one of which was the Byzantine Empire, originally known as the Eastern Roman Empire. And of course, the other half was the Western Roman Empire. The Byzantine Empire lasted 1,000 more years than the Eastern Empire, which included Rome. It collapsed in 476 AD.
The Byzantine Empire was the ruling authority during the middle ages for most of Eastern and Southern Europe. The capital city of the empire was Constantinople. In Europe, it was the wealthiest and the largest city during the time-period.
However, in 306 AD the Emperor Constantine I came to power, and it was he who made renamed the capital city from Byzantium to Constantinople, and he ruled the city for the next 30 years. During his reign, the Empire was successful and became powerful. During the beginning of the Empire, the official language was Latin, but in 700 it was changed to Greek by another emperor, Heraclius.
Christianity was also embraced by Constantine and it became an integral part of the Roman Empire for the next 1000 years. During the Justinian Dynasty, the Byzantine Empire peaked. In the year 527, under Emperor Justinian I the empire expanded and reached the peak of its power and wealth.
Justinian instituted many reforms including a major reform related to law. He ordered that all existing Roman laws be reviewed, and then had them rewritten into one book which was called the Corpus of Civil Law, or the Justinian Code.
In addition to reforming the law, Justinian also encouraged music, drama, and provided money for public works projects. Most of the art was focused on religion. Some of the public works projects included bridges, roads, aqueducts (canals that carry water), and churches. One of his best projects was a large and stunning church in the capital city called the Hagia Sophia.
In 1054, the Byzantine Empire split from the Catholic Church and Constantinople became the head of the Eastern Orthodox Church and would no longer recognize the Roman Catholic Church in Rome. There were also many wars against the Muslims during much of the Middle Ages, with the Byzantine Empire fighting the Muslims to gain control of the eastern Mediterranean.
They asked the Pope and the Holy Roman Empire during the first Crusade (battle) to get back control of the Holy Land. The Crusades lasted for hundreds of years with fighting against the Turks and other Arab and Muslim forces.
In 1453, Constantinople finally fell to the Ottoman Empire which marked the end of the Byzantine Empire. Often, before the city was attacked and plundered by Crusaders, the emperor would pay the fighters to keep them from attacking. The city of Constantinople is called Istanbul today and is the largest city in the country of Turkey.
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