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• What is the Byzantine Empire?
• What were the key elements of Byzantine Christianity?
• How did Justinian extend Byzantine power?
• Why did the Byzantine Empire collapse?
• What was the legacy and heritage of the Byzantine
Terms and People
• Constantinople – formerly Byzantium; capital
of the eastern Roman empire
• Justinian – emperor of the Byzantine empire from 527 to
565, he rebuilt Constantinople and made reforms to the
• Justinian’s Code – The Corpus Juris Civilis,
or “Body of Civil Law”; a comprehensive collection of
Roman legal writings assembled by Justinian
• autocrat – a sole ruler with absolute power
Terms and People (continued)
• Theodora – empress of the Byzantine empire, Justinian’s
wife, and a fearless and powerful co-ruler
• patriarch – in the Byzantine and Roman empires, the
highest church official in a major city
• icon – holy image of Christ, the Virgin Mary, or a saint
venerated in the Eastern Orthodox Church
• Great Schism – the official split between the Roman
Catholic and Byzantine churches
The Byzantine Empire
• In 610AD, the Eastern Roman Empire officially became
known as the Byzantine empire.
• The capital city was Constantinople (formerly Byzantium)
– Center of the empire
– Favorable location for trade
– Wealth and splendor
• The Byzantine Empire promoted the
blending of Greek, Roman, Christian and
Middle Eastern cultures
• Over time, much of the art and
architecture reflected styles of Middle
East (Persia) while retaining the basis of
• Most importantly though, the Byzantines
preserved the learning and writing from
Ancient Greece and Rome.
• Much of it had been lost or destroyed in
the West by the invasions of the
• The Byzantines; however, wanted to
establish themselves separate from Rome.
• For example, they changed the official
language from Latin to Greek which
• Other ways in which the
Byzantine’s differed was in their
views of Christianity.
• While there are many
similarities, they did disagree on
a great many number of issues.
Similarities and Differences Between
Eastern Orthodox and Roman Catholic
• Services conducted in Latin
• The Pope is authority over all
including kings and emperors
• Priests are celibate (cannot
marry or have children)
• Divorce is not permitted
• Icons are allowed in worship
• Services conducted in Greek
• The emperor claims authority over
the Patriarch and other officials
• Priests can marry and have
• Divorce permitted in certain cases
• Icons are forbidden (idols)
•Both religions are based of the teachings of Jesus and the Bible
•Both have baptisms
•Both seek converts
Upheaval in the Church
• Since the split of the Western and Eastern Rome,
the Church also experienced a schism (split).
• The split cannot be traced back to one single event,
but many disagreements between Eastern and
Western viewpoints over cultural differences,
politics, the Pope, Church celebrations created a
divide in the Church that could not be repaired.
• This was known as the “Great Schism” or “East-
West Schism” made official in 1054 when the Pope
and Patriarch excommunicated each other.
Your mom is
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The Age of Justinian
• Justinian was perhaps the
greatest Byzantine emperor
• He hoped his empire would be
as great as ancient Rome.
• Justinian wanted to recover the
lands lost to the invaders and
reconstitute the Roman Empire.
• Justinian was able to take back
much, but not all, of the territory
that had once belonged to
• For his empire, Justinian organized laws
– with over 4,000 written laws, they are
better known as Justinian’s Code
– This code was based on old Roman law
– These laws defined issues such as
citizenship, marriage, inheritance, slavery,
property rights as well as criminal acts and
– This code is significant because it laid out
rules for a massive kingdom which helped
him both unify and control it.
– Many laws or legal systems today are based
off of Justinian’s Code.
Justinian the Builder
• Justinian also launched a
massive building program
• During his time, he built
massive walls to protect
• These walls helped protect
the city from attack for
over 1,000 years.
• He also had many bridges,
aqueducts and churches
The Hagia Sophia
• The greatest building achievement; however, was
the church of the Hagia Sophia meaning “Holy
Wisdom” in Greek.
The Hagia Sophia
• The Hagia Sophia is important for both
religious and architectural reasons.
• It is renown for is domes and was the
largest cathedral in the world for nearly
• The Hagia Sophia was the center of
Eastern Orthodox Christianity and was
known as the “Vatican of the East.”
• It was later converted to a Muslim
mosque in 1453 after the Ottoman
Turks took control of Constantinople.
• It remained a mosque until 1935 when
the Turkish government made it into a
• Another building worth
mentioning was the Hippodrome.
• While not built by Justinian, it was
impressive to say the least.
• Throughout the Byzantine period,
the Hippodrome was the center of
the city's sporting and social life.
• Horse and chariot racing was a
popular pastime of the ancient
• In fact, the work Hippodrome
come from the Greek hippos
(horse) and dromos (path).
• At it’s largest, the
Hippodrome sat over
• It was said to have
decorated with works
of art and tapestries.
• It also featured
statues of horses,
gods and former
• Justinian was married to
a beautiful woman
• She was very intelligent,
decisive and strong
• From all accounts,
Justinian treated her as
an equal and frequently
relied on her for advice.
The Nika Riots
• In 532, a chariot race at the
Hippodrome got out of hand and
violence and chaos flooded the streets
• Several senators saw the chaos as an
opportunity to overthrow Justinian.
• In fact, Justinian was scared for his life
and was ready to flee the city in fear.
• However, his wife Theodora
proclaimed, “it is better to die a ruler
than to live as nothing.”
• Justinian instead sent an army and the
riots were put down.
• It was Theodora’s courage that is
credited with saving her husband’s rule.
• After the revolts, the city of
Constantinople had to be rebuilt.
• Theodora aided in the rebuilding
and the construction of aqueducts,
bridges and churches which
culminated in the creation of the
• She also led a series of reforms and
laws that elevated the rights, status
and promoted equal treatment of
women throughout the empire.
• For all this, she is the most famous
woman in Byzantine history.
The Fall of the Byzantines
• After hundreds of years of glory, fortunes
changed in the Byzantine Empire
• The empire was almost continuously plagued
by different groups along it’s border seeking
– Many attacks came from groups such as the Turks,
Persians, Slavs, Vikings, and Mongols
– Muslim armies started to gain control of much of
• In 1095, the Byzantine emperor Alexius I
appealed to the Pope for help defeating the
• Seeing a great opportunity to gain back
power in the East after the Great Schism,
the Pope agrees.
• While temporarily successful, the Crusades
were an abject disaster.
• In fact, during the 4th
Crusade, the Western
armies didn’t even make it to the Holy Land
to fight the Muslims. Running out of
supplies, they attacked Constantinople
– This just illustrated how bad the feelings were
between the East and West.
• The empire never really recovers after this.
Crisis and Collapse
• Constantinople Falls
1453 and renamed it
replace Christian ones.
• Hagia Sophia is converted
from a church to mosque.
The Legacy of the Byzantine
Empire• Longevity: The empire lasted more than 1,000 years, a
rare feat throughout history.
• Cultural Diffusion: The Byzantines blended Roman
culture, Greek learning with Christian beliefs and Middle
• Preservation: Classical learning of the Greeks and
Romans which otherwise would have been lost in the fall
of Rome was continued in the Byzantine Empire.
• Law: Justinian’s Code preserved Roman law and became
the basis of many laws today.
• Spiritual: Eastern Orthodox Christianity still exists in
areas such as Eastern Europe, Greece and Russia.