The Byzantine Empire came into being as a territorial identification as early as 285 B.C. but took its form as an Empire towards the middle of the 4th century. The Empire then underwent many periods of rise and decline throughout its history.
The last glorious period of the Empire lasted from the 9th to 11th centuries under the Macedonian dynasty. It then began to undergo decline which finally culminated in the loss of its capital to the Ottomans in 1453 and the effective end of the Empire.
330 A.D. – Constantinople is Founded
Emperor Constantine made the city of Byzantium as his residence in 330 A.D. He consequently changed the city’s name to Constantinople and made it the capital of the Byzantine Empire.
476 A.D. Byzantine Empire survives the fall of Rome
The Western Roman Empire, which was based in the heartland of Rome in Italy, came to an end in the face of the attacks of Germanic tribes. The fall of the Western Roman Empire in 476 left the Eastern Roman Empire as the sole surviving legacy of the original Roman Empire. The Eastern portion began to be called the Byzantine Empire around this period.
526 Justinian’s Golden Age Begins
The rule of Justinian which began in 526 and lasted until 565 is often considered a golden age of early Byzantine period. Justinian undertook the ambitious plan of restoring the Empire’s glory and was successful in retaking Italy, Sicily, Rome, Spain and Africa, adding them to the Byzantine Empire. It was also during his period that some of the most iconic Byzantine architecture, including the Hagia Sophia, was constructed.
7th century – Muslims Threaten the Empire
Muslims from the deserts of Arabia began raiding out in the 7th century. They took on both the Persian and the Byzantine Empire, winning many decisive victories. The Byzantine Empire suffered losses in the face of these battlefield defeats and lost many vital provinces to the Muslims during the century. These include Egypt, Palestine, Syria and North Africa.
717 – Unsuccessful Siege of Constantinople
The Muslims followed their successes against the Empire in the 7th century by reaching as far as the capital city of the Empire, Constantinople, and laying siege to it. The first of such sieges was laid in 7th century but failed.
A larger Muslim force laid siege to the city in 717, using a land force as well as a naval force. The attackers could not penetrate the defences of the city and the siege consequently failed by 718.
9th to 11th centuries – Restoration of the Empire’s glory
The Byzantine Empire was ruled by the Macedonian dynasty from the 9th to 11th centuries. During this period, the Byzantine Empire fended off the attacks of the Bulgars, reconquered Syria from Muslim control and Greece from Bulgar control and decisively defeated a Russian fleet in 941.
The tide began to turn in late 11th century when Syria was lost to Muslims and southern Italy to the Normans. It was also in the 11th century that the Roman Catholic Church and the Greek Orthodox Church became two separate entities.
11th to 15th centuries – Decline and Fall
The 11th century began the decline of the Byzantine Empire. After decades of turmoil, the city of Constantinople fell to the Ottomans and the Empire came to an end.