Byzantine EmpireTimeline: Magnam Europae
Eastern Roman Empire
Frankish Empire and the Byzantine Empire at the conclusion of the Unification Wars in 831
|Regional Languages||Old Frankish, Slavic|
|-||Founding of Constantinople||c.330|
|-||End of the Western Roman Empire||476|
|-||Rule of Justinian||527-565|
|-||Marriage of Irene and Charlemagne||803|
The Byzantine Empire, otherwise known as the Eastern Roman Empire, was the incarnation of the Roman Empire from late antiquity to the beginning of the High Middle Ages. A predominantly Greek-speaking nation, the Byzantine people are culturally distinct from their Roman predecessors. From 476 to 800, it was the only incarnation of Rome until the formation of the Carolingian Union. Due to its differences with western Europe, Byzantine relations with the west have been lukewarm at best until the marriage of the Byzantine Empress, Irene of Athens, and the Frankish King, Charlemagne.
Ruled by emperors from the city of Constantinople, the Eastern Roman Empire was created when the Roman Emperor Diocletian split the Roman Empire into the Eastern Roman Empire and the Western Roman Empire following a century of strife in the Roman Empire. As the West fell deeper into turmoil, the East survived, eventually reclaiming a large fraction of its territory in 555 AD under Emperor Justinian I. The unification of the Byzantine and Frankish Empire, while tumultuous at first, led to religious and cultural unity, forging a new culture between the two powers of Europe.
For detailed info on the Frankish Empire's history before the point of divergence in 802, please visit Wikipedia's page on the Byzantine Empire.
Following the Crisis of the Third Century which left Rome in near-anarchy, Rome became decentralized. Emperor Diocletian created a new system of government to effectively lead the Roman Empire. This system, called the tetrarchy, created a co-emperor. This system, however, was very flawed. It collapsed in 313 under Roman Emperor Constantine I, making him the sole emperor of Rome. Enacting many policies, he brought back the Empire from the brink and moved the seat of power to Constantinople.
The unification of Rome lasted until 395, when the empire split for the last time. As the west fell, the Eastern Roman Empire stayed afloat due to their numerous reforms. The Western Roman Empire finally fell in 476, leaving the Eastern Roman Empire as the sole Roman Empire. The Eastern Roman Empire began to pick up the pieces of the Eastern Roman Empire, reaching its height in 555 under Emperor Justinian I.
As the Arabs gathered strength in Arabia, numerous wars weakened the Byzantine Empire until the Arabs began invading Africa and the Middle East. Slowly but surely, the Arabs pushed the Byzantines out of the Middle East before turning their attention to Africa. By 698, all Byzantine holdings in Asia (outside of Asia Minor) had been lost to the Caliphates. Byzantium held on to its Mediterranean holdings, but invasions from western European powers challenged their rule to these holdings.
As Byzantium faltered to the Arabs, they continued to be a force to be reckoned with in the Mediterranean. Iconoclasm became popular in the 8th century, leading to the destruction of countless religious icons and works of art. While the policy continued well into the 9th century, Irene of Athens was a noted opponent of iconoclasm.
On 803, Irene of Athens and Charlemagne married, fusing the Byzantine and Frankish Empire. The two nations, which had been opposed to each other politically, became more accustomed to each other under the actions of Charlemagne, Irene, and Pope Leo III. Charlemagne allowed Irene to remain the Empress until her death in 806. As a sign of unity between the two nations, the Franks and Byzantines invaded the southern Slavs in the Unification Wars. Despite the interference of the First Bulgarian Empire, the Unification Wars ended in a victory for the nations.
Charlemagne remained the Emperor of the Byzantines until 814, when he passed away. His son, Pepin of Italy, had close ties to the Byzantine Empire and Frankish Empire. He became emperor following Charlemagne, leading to the creation of a new dynasty that ruled the Byzantine Empire until its complete merge with the Franks under the Magnam Europae charter in 893.
The envy of Europe, the economy of the Eastern Roman Empire was a powerhouse. Due to Constantinople's key position along several trade routes between Asia and Europe, trade made the Byzantine Empire's economy very powerful. The famous Silk Road went through Constantinople, allowing for the Byzantine Empire to enjoy the goods and the income that the Silk Road brought with it. Even as the Western Roman Empire fell, the Eastern Roman Empire's economy remained strong.
The emperor of the Eastern Roman Empire enjoyed absolute power. While the senate had remained an important factor in Roman politics, the senate in the Byzantine Empire was not nearly as powerful, becoming almost obsolete. From the 7th century onwards, the Byzantine Empire was split into themes, administration divisions under the charge of a military leader known as a strategos. A strategos had almost absolute power in his district; he was in charge of both civil and military actions.
Nobles also rose in the late Byzantine Empire, competing for power with civil servants. Noble families grew highly powerful by the Carolingian dynasty in the Byzantine Empire. This power continued well into the centralized Carolingian Union, playing a massive part in the use of feudalism in the European power.
The Eastern Roman Empire, much like the Roman Empire that predated it, left a considerable mark on Europe. Its government forms were adopted by the Franks upon the centralization of the Carolingian Union. Themes were adopted in the Carolingian Union as opposed to the subkingdoms ruled by Francia. In order to avoid confusion in history, the Eastern Roman Empire, referred to as the Roman Empire before its merge with the Carolingian Union, also known as the Roman Empire, the nation was retroactively named the 'Byzantine Empire'. As early as the 11th century, the word 'Byzantine' began appearing in texts.