Shining Light of the East: Exploring the Legacy of the Byzantine Empire

Byzantine Empire *Take a Journey through time and explore the Great Byzantine Empire *See the Magnificent cities of Constantinople and Ravenna as they were in Medieval times!

Discover Byzantine Empire Architecture, Art, Culture, Emperors, Timelines, Warriors, Mosaics, Music. The Great Empires Golden era, Fascinating History, and Much More!

Byzantine Architecture

The Jewel in the crown of Byzantine Architecture has to be the stunning Hagia Sophia Read more about the Byzantine Architecture >>

Byzantine Art

Byzantine Artists loved to used ceramic mosaics inside Churches for Religious themes Read more about the Byzantine Art >>

Byzantine Cities

During the golden years of the Byzantine Empire, magnificent cities were built such as Constantinople and Ravenna Read more about the Byzantine Cities >>

Byzantine Culture

The Byzantine Culture was highly influenced by the empire's religion 'Christianity and was also influenced by the orient Read more about the Byzantine Culture >>

Byzantine Emperors

Byzantine Emperors such as Constantine I, Theodosius I, Leo I, and Justinian I ruled the Byzantine Empire with authority Read more about the Byzantine Emperors >>

Byzantine Empire Timeline

The Byzantine empire has some glorious periods from the 9th Century under the Macedonian dynasty Read more about the Byzantine Empire Timeline >>

Byzantine History

The History of the Byzantine Empire is a compelling one which has it's origins in the old Roman Empire Read more about the Byzantine History >>

Byzantine Mosaics

Byzantine mosaics were a very popular form of art in medieval times, they were extensively used in the Byzantine empire inside churches to depict religious themes Read more about the Byzantine Mosaics >>

Byzantine Music

Byzantine music itself was a harmonious mixture of the Roman legacy of the Empire Read more about the Byzantine Music >>

Byzantine Paintings

Byzantine Paintings flourished under the Byzantine Empire and often depicted religious themes, Icon painting was very popular and the Virgin Mary, Jesus and the Church were often painted Read more about the Byzantine Paintings >>

Byzantine Politics

Byzantine Politics was centralized with Byzantine Emperor holding supreme power and influence Read more about the Byzantine Politics >>

Byzantine Weaponry

The Byzantine Empire had one of the most formidable armies - The Varangian Guard in the medieval period Read more about the Byzantine Weaponry >>

Capital of Byzantine Empire

The Capital of Byzantine Empire was called Constantinople, it was one of the most magnificent cities in all medieval history, with incredible power and wealth Read more about the Capital of Byzantine Empire >>

Fall of Constantinople

Constantinople was one of the most magnificent medieval Cities was destroyed and looted by Ottoman Armies in the Siege of Constantinople Read more about the Fall of Constantinople >>

Famous Byzantine Kings

Famous Byzantine Kings such as Justinian The Great and Constantine I were revered leaders of the Byzantine Empire in the Middles Ages Read more about the Famous Byzantine Kings >>

Famous Byzantine People

Famous Byzantine People Such as Theophylact Simocatta have given us a detailed account of life of Byzantine People Read more about the Famous Byzantine People >>

The Byzantine Empire was located in the Eastern half of the Roman Empire.

After the fall of Western Europe in the 5th century, the Byzantine Empire continued its existence in one way or the other until the 15th century.

“The Byzantine Empire was a bridge between ancient and medieval Europe, a link between the classical world of Greece and Rome and the emerging culture of the West.”

John Julius Norwich, British historian and author.
Byzantine Architecture Hagia Sophia at Dusk

The Empire was notable for taking Christianity as the official religion in the 4th-century following which it became one of the most important political entities of Christendom.

The Empire reached its pinnacle in terms of culture and power in the 10th and 11th centuries following which a period of decline began culminating in the fall of the Empire at the hands of Seljuk Turks.

Capital of Byzantine Empire

The foundation of the Byzantine Empire was laid when the Roman Empire was divided into Eastern and Western halves during the 3rd century.

By the 4th century, the Eastern Roman Empire had its capital at Constantinople and grew largely independent of the influence of the Western Empire.

Byzantine Empire

While the Western Empire fell in the 5th century, the Eastern Empire continued to exist and became later known as the Byzantine Empire.

It reached its territorial peak in the 6th century. By the 7th century, the Muslim threat began facing the Empire’s frontiers.

Byzantine Empire

“The Byzantine Empire was the longest-lasting empire in human history, and it left an indelible mark on the world.

“The Byzantine Empire was the longest-lasting empire in human history, and it left an indelible mark on the world.”

In the early 13th century, Constantinople was sacked and this marked the beginning of the Empire’s rapid decline. The end of the Empire came in 1453 when Constantinople fell into the hands of the Ottoman Empire.

Byzantine Empire Key Events

  • 395 – The Roman Empire is divided in two.
  • 476 – Collapse of the Western Roman Empire. 527 – 565 The Reign of Justinian.
  • 1054 – The Eastern Church Splits from the Western Church.
  • 1204 – Constantinople is captured by the Crusaders.
  • 1261 – The Byzantines defeat the Crusaders and drive them out.
  • 1453 – Constantinople is conquered by the Ottoman Turks.

Byzantine Empire Religion

The official religion of the Byzantine Empire was changed to Christianity in the 4th century.

It was adopted in such a manner as to vest a maximum of powers in the Emperor’s hands and to consider him a shadow of God on Earth. So the Emperor was believed to carry divine sanction.


Christianity in the Byzantine Empire came to be called Eastern Christianity, in contrast to the western Roman Catholic Church.

Unsuccessful attempts were made to impose Christianity on all subjects of the Empire and although these attempts were half-measures, persecutions of minorities took place intermittently.

Byzantine Architecture Church

The version of Christianity as practiced in the Byzantine Empire was considered more orthodox than the rest of the Christendom and for this reason, it is often termed the Eastern Orthodox Church today.

Byzantine Empire Art

Art in the Byzantine Empire was deeply affected by the doctrines and views of Eastern Christianity.

During the early period of the Empire, mosaics were most commonly used to depict religious motifs. It is interesting to note that art from the Byzantine Empire was highly esteemed and valued in Western Europe.

Byzantine Mosaic Art
Byzantine mosaic art was beautiful and the theme was often religious

“The Byzantine Empire was a beacon of culture and learning in the medieval world, preserving and transmitting the classical knowledge of Greece and Rome to future generations.”

Warren Treadgold, American historian and author.

As the Empire expanded, the influence of its art forms expanded as well. As a result, elements of Byzantine architecture can be seen in areas as far as Egypt.

Byzantine Art

Byzantine Empire Language

In contrast to the Western Roman Empire, the Eastern Roman Empire, and later, the Byzantine Empire, had long used Greek as its primary language. Latin was formally used in government affairs until the 7th century.

Byzantine Music Manuscript

The prominence of Greek was also owing to the fact that it was commonly used by the Church and in matters related to Christianity.

Later, as the Empire expanded, limited rights were given to a number of other languages as well. These included the Syriac, Armenian, Coptic and Georgian languages.

Even Vulgar Latin continued to be spoken by a small minority within the Empire.

Capital of Byzantine Empire

Byzantine Empire Economy

Until the later part of the Middle Ages, the Byzantine Empire was the strongest and largest economy in the whole of Europe.

One of the key reasons for this was the size of the Empire and its geographical significance. Constantinople, the Empire’s capital, became a veritable trade hub for merchants all over the world.

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Although the economy took a hit following the threat of Muslim invaders after the 7th century, it was revived between the 10th and 13th centuries.

Most of the Empire’s trade was through maritime routes and the Emperor’s government kept close control of all economic activity by having a monopoly over the minting of coins.

Byzantine Empire Decline

The Empire’s decline began in the late 12th century. Internally, the Empire’s administrative structure had succumbed to the power of the aristocracy while externally, most of the Empire’s frontiers were being ravaged by different invaders.

Varangian Guard Byzantine Empire

To make matters worse, the seat of the Emperor frequently became embroiled in palatial intrigues, coups, and executions.

An ill-conceived attempt by Isaac II contacted the forces of the Fourth Crusade in 1203 and persuaded them, with payment, to sack Constantinople to reinstall him and his heirs on the imperial throne.

Battle during Siege of Constantinople Theodosian Walls Golden Horn harbour

“The Byzantine Empire was a world power, with a highly organized government, a powerful army, and a sophisticated economy. Its influence extended far beyond its borders and its legacy can still be felt today.”

Averil Cameron, British historian and scholar of Byzantine history.

This finally culminated in a large-scale invasion of the capital of the Empire, pillage, and plunder of the city, massacre by the crusaders, and ultimately, the sizing up of different portions of the Empire and their division between different parts of the crusading army.

Byzantine Empire Fall

In 1204, the Byzantine Empire was split up into states, namely the Despotate of Epirus and the Empire of Nicaea.

By 1261, the Empire of Nicaea had defeated most of the other contenders in the Byzantine Empire and gained effective control of the Empire’s territory.

Byzantine Empire animated

By this time, the Empire was economically, socially, and politically weakened. Civil wars returned as the seat of the Emperor became the point of contention once again.

Serbian ruler Stefan IV conquered most of the Empire’s territories in the first half of the 14th century and established the Serbian Empire. He was subsequently defeated by the Ottomans who conquered most of the Balkans.

Whatever remained of the Byzantine Empire fell in the Ottoman siege of Constantinople in 1453 despite a brave attempt at defense by the last Emperor, Constantine XI.

Byzantine Empire Summary

The Byzantine Empire was the most powerful Empire in Europe after the fall of the Western Roman Empire all the way until the later Middle Ages.

The Empire was formerly the Eastern Roman Empire. Unlike the Eastern Roman Empire which had Roman as the official language, the Eastern Roman Empire had Greek as the official language and had a Church of its own.

fall of rome

In time, this Church came to be known as the Eastern Orthodox Church.

The Byzantine Empire was immensely powerful and had the strongest economy in all of Europe well into the 10th century.

It remained powerful until the fateful plunder of Constantinople by the Fourth Crusade which slid the Empire into a decline from which didn’t recover until the Empire’s fall to the hands of Ottomans in the 15th century.

5 Great Books about the Byzantine Empire

“A Short History of Byzantium” by John Julius Norwich
This concise yet comprehensive book provides an engaging overview of the Byzantine Empire from its founding to its fall.

“Byzantium: The Surprising Life of a Medieval Empire” by Judith Herrin
This book explores the history of the Byzantine Empire, including its society, culture, and politics, and argues that it was a dynamic and influential civilization.

“The Byzantine Empire” by Cyril Mango
This book is an authoritative and detailed overview of Byzantine history, art, and culture, written by one of the leading scholars in the field.

“The Oxford History of Byzantium” edited by Cyril Mango
This collection of essays by leading historians provides a comprehensive and up-to-date overview of the Byzantine Empire and its legacy.

“A History of the Byzantine State and Society” by Warren Treadgold
This book is a thorough and detailed examination of the political, social, and economic structures of the Byzantine Empire, written by a renowned expert in the field.

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5 Museums where you can Discover Byzantine Life in the Middle Ages

The Byzantine and Christian Museum in Athens, Greece
This museum has an extensive collection of Byzantine art, including mosaics, icons, and textiles, as well as artifacts that showcase daily life in the Byzantine Empire.

The Benaki Museum in Athens, Greece
This museum has a collection of Byzantine art and artifacts, including jewelry, ceramics, and coins, that provide insights into the daily life and culture of the Byzantine Empire.

The Metropolitan Museum of Art in New York City, USA
This museum has a collection of Byzantine art, including mosaics, sculptures, and manuscripts, that showcase the artistic achievements of the Byzantine Empire.

The British Museum in London, UK
This museum has a collection of Byzantine artifacts, including coins, jewelry, and ceramics, that provide insights into the daily life and trade of the Byzantine Empire.

The Istanbul Archaeological Museums in Istanbul, Turkey
This museum has a collection of Byzantine artifacts, including mosaics, sculptures, and coins, that showcase the history and art of the Byzantine Empire in Istanbul, the former capital of the Byzantine Empire.

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Top 10 Events of the Byzantine Empire

Founding of the Byzantine Empire in 330 AD by Emperor Constantine the Great

Adoption of Christianity as the state religion by Emperor Theodosius in 380 AD

Reign of Emperor Justinian I (527-565 AD) and the codification of Roman law

The Nika Riots in 532 AD, which threatened the rule of Emperor Justinian I

The Arab-Byzantine Wars (634-750 AD) and the rise of Islam

Iconoclasm (726-843 AD), the controversy over the use of religious icons

The sack of Constantinople by the Fourth Crusade in 1204 AD

The rise of the Ottoman Turks and the fall of Constantinople in 1453 AD

The Council of Florence in 1439 AD, an attempt to reunite the Eastern and Western churches

The legacy of the Byzantine Empire, including its art, architecture, and influence on Eastern Europe and the Orthodox Church.