The byzantine empire

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I. Strengths of the Byzantine Empire

  1. Its capital was the “New Rome” named Constantinople (originally, a Greek settlement called Byzantium)

  2. Located on the Bosporus Strait between the Black and Aegean Seas

  3. Wealthy cargo passed through its main harbor called the Golden Horn

A. Constantinople’s citizenship requirements:

1. must speak Greek

2. must practice Christianity

  1. Byzantine emperors ruled as autocrats as Caesar-papists (a pope-like ruler

as head of church and state, or theocrat)

B. Its navy invented Greek fire, a chemical weapon to destroy enemy ships

C. Empire relied on intelligence service for protection

D. Married its nobility to neighbors for alliance purposes

II. Byzantine Emperor Justinian (527 – 565)

  1. Temporarily regained some western Roman lands and N. African territory in the name of the Roman Empire

  2. Compiled the Justinian Code, preserving Greco-Roman law, becoming

basis of today’s international law

  1. Built the Hagia Sophia (“Holy Wisdom”), a magnificent cathedral to honor his dedication to Christianity

  2. Built the Hippodrome, Constantinople’s equivalent to Rome’s chariot race track,

the Circus Maximus

  1. Byzantine Contributions Because of the Efforts of Emperor Justinian

  1. Built empire on Hellenistic culture, blending Christian beliefs with Greek contributions

  2. Extended Roman achievements in engineering and law

  3. Preserved classical Greek and Roman manuscripts

  4. Contributed to the European cultural flowering known as the Renaissance



III. The first schism (division/split) occurs in Christian Church in 1054

  1. Roman Catholic (“universal”) Church in the West

  2. Orthodox (“correct belief”) Church in the East

1. Missionary Cyril converts Slavs (E. European peoples) to Christianity

2. Introduces Cyrillic alphabet, still in use in Russia today

IV. The Crusades eventually cause the fall of the Byzantine Empire by late 1200s

  1. Ottoman Muslim Turks overrun the empire

  2. Constantinople is renamed Istanbul and becomes a center of Muslim culture

  3. The Hagia Sophia is converted to a mosque, an Islamic house of worship

V. Eastern European Slavs continue Byzantine heritage

  1. Adopted Byzantine religion, law, and culture but also borrowed heavily from

Western European and Asian cultures

    1. Western Slavs – Roman Catholicism and Western European culture

    2. South Slavs – Roman Catholicism, Eastern Orthodoxy, Islam influences

    3. Eastern Slavs as largest group – Byzantine Empire and Northern

European cultures influenced mostly by Vikings that controlled the area

they called “Rus

  1. City of Kiev most important as it lay on the Dneiper River for trade

  2. Established trade with Constantinople with a treaty to end raids on this Byzantine capital

  3. Boyars, as wealthy Kievan merchants and aristocrats, worked in government positions

  4. Byzantine bishops and priests introduced Eastern Orthodoxy to Kiev through religious rituals, art of painting icons (holy images), teaching the Cyrillic alphabet, establishing schools, building domed churches, and establishing monasteries

  5. Kievan culture reached its height during the rule of Grand Prince Yaroslav “The Wise”

1). Built Kiev’s first library

2). Organized Kievan legal system, basing it on the Code of Justinian

3). Arranged marriages for his daughters and sisters to kings of Norway,

Hungary, France, and Poland for alliance purposes

  1. Kievan decline

1). Before his death, Yaroslav divided his lands among his sons rather

than declare one clear heir; civil war broke out

2). Genghis Khan, “World Emperor or king,” united nomadic Mongols of

Central Asia, overrunning lands from China to Eastern Europe

3). Mongol invaders captured and destroyed Kiev during the Golden Horde

Age, and kept western ideas away



  1. Princes of Moscow expanded territory through war and diplomatic marriages

and slowly increased their power over the Mongols

    1. Ivan III “the Great” (1462 – 1505) freed Moscow from Mongol domination

a. Ivan III became first “czar” by marrying Sophia, niece of the last Byzantine

emperor and took title, meaning “Caesar

b. Moscow takes the lead and becomes known as the “3rd Rome"

c. Orthodox Church regarded Ivan III as successor to the Byzantine

Empire and protector of the Church

d. Built the Kremlin as a fortress to protect Moscow; today it is a center

of government, religion, and culture for Russia’s capital

    1. Ivan IV “the Terrible” (1530 – 1584)

a. Centralized royal power by limiting boyars’ power and increasing serfdom

b. Blamed boyars for his wife death and became increasingly unstable

c. Set up the oprichniki (death squads) to hunt down and massacre disloyal


d. By his death, Russia lived under the tradition of extreme autocracy

3. “Times of Troubles” from 1604 to1613 erupted with succession disputes,

peasant uprisings, and foreign invasions

4. The zemsky sobor (an assembly of clergy, nobles, and townspeople)

elected 17-year old Michael Romanov as czar to end troubles; the

Romanov dynasty rules Russia until 1917 when WWI brings an end to

the dynasty
VI. Eastern Europe’s Balkan region becomes a cultural crossroads

  1. Russia’s S. Slavs descended here during the early Middle Ages; became the

ancestors of the Serbs, Croats, and Slovenes

B. Byzantine missionaries brought Eastern Orthodox Christianity

C. German knights spread Roman Catholic Christianity

D. The Ottomans’ invasions brought Islam

E. Jewish communities arose here in the Balkans and in Poland during the later

Middle Ages to escape religious persecution and pogroms (planned, organized

government-sanctioned massacres on Jews)

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