Roman flag under Palaiologos dynasty (1261-1858)

The Eastern Roman Empire but simply known as Roman Empire (Hellenic: Βασιλεία Ῥωμαίων Basileia Rhōmaiōn, Latin: Imperium Romanum) or Romania, was the predominantly Hellenic-speaking continuation of the eastern half of the Roman Empire during Late Antiquity and the Middle Ages until the Hellene Revolution of 1858. Its capital city was Constantinople, originally founded as Byzantium (for that reason Western historians often called it as Byzantine Empire). During most of its existence, the empire was the most powerful economic, cultural, and military force in Europe and the Mediterranean.


The Empire at its greatest extent (c.555) under Justinian the Great

Under Theodosius I (379–395), Christianity became the Empire's official state religion and others such as Roman polytheism were proscribed. And finally, under the reign of Heraclius (610–641), the Empire's military and administration were restructured and adopted Greek for official use instead of Latin. Thus, although it continued the Roman state and maintained Roman state traditions, modern historians distinguish Constantinople from ancient Rome insofar as it was oriented towards Greek rather than Latin culture, and characterised by Orthodox Christianity rather than Roman polytheism.

The historians divide the history of the Eastern Roman Empire is divided in three periods: the Early Empire, from the establishment of Constantinople as the capital city of the Roman Empire (330) until the death of emperor Heraclius (641); the Middle Empire, from the rise to the imperial throne of Constans II (641) until the overthrow of John IV (1261); the Late Empire, from the enthrone of Michael VIII (1261) until the Hellene Revolution that deposed emperor Constantine XII (1858).

The borders of the Empire evolved significantly over its existence, as it went through several cycles of decline and recovery. During the reign of Justinian I (527–565), the Empire reached its greatest extent after reconquering much of the historically Roman western Mediterranean coast, including north Africa, Italy, and Rome itself, which it held for two more centuries. During the reign of Maurice (582–602), the Empire's eastern frontier was expanded and the north stabilised. However, his assassination caused a two-decade-long war with Sasanian Persia which exhausted the Empire's resources and contributed to major territorial losses during the Pahlavian conquests of the 7th century. In a matter of years the Empire lost its richest provinces, Egypt and Syria, to the Persians.

During the Macedonian dynasty (10th–11th centuries), the Empire again expanded and experienced a two-century long renaissance, which came to an end with the loss of much of Asia Minor to the Seljukian Turks after the Battle of Manzikert in 1071. This battle allowed the invasion of Anatolia by the Seljukian Empire and caused the assistance of the Crusaders for avoiding the Turk menace of siege of Constantinople.

During the 12th century, the Empire struggled to recover helped by the Crusaders. However, it was delivered a mortal blow during the Fourth Crusade, when Constantinople was sacked and the Empire was divided into competing Greek and Latin realms while the emperor in Constantinople was a puppet under Crusader disputes. Even so, the Hellenization of the Turk population installed in Anatolia was crucial to the renaissance of the military power of the Empire that allowed the reconquest of the major part of present-day Greece in the last few years of the 14th century.

From the 15th century the Empire was recovering its power in the Balkans and eastern Anatolia. Its recovery was such that the Roman Empire was again the main power in the Mediterranean. The swift conquest of the Levant and Egypt at the beginning of the 16th century confirmed its power and rise between the major powers of the world, but the lack of access to the Americas and its resources displaced the Roman Empire from the rise of Western powers. Its decline was a consequence of these issues, accruing with the isolation of the Empire from foreign influences.

The final centuries of the Empire exhibited a general trend of decline. The French invasion of Egypt (1798) demonstrated its weakness and, although the French were expelled, it allowed the loss of Egypt, which formed an independent Kingdom (1805) under the protection of the Western powers (mainly the British). Famines and popular discontent against the absolutist system together with liberal and nationalist ideas from Western Europe were the breeding ground for the Hellene Revolution of 1858.

List of Roman emperors of Constantinople

Constantinian dynasty (324-363)

  • Constantine I "the Great", 324–337
  • Constantius II, 337–361
  • Constans I, 337–350
  • Julian "the Apostate", 361–363

Non-dynastic (363-364)

  • Jovian, 363–364

Valentinian dynasty (364-379)

  • Valentinian I, 364–375
  • Valens, 375–378
  • Gratian, 378–379

Theodosian dynasty (379-457)

  • Theodosius I "the Great", 379–395
  • Arcadius, 395–408
  • Theodosius II, 408–450
  • Marcian, 450–457

Thracian dynasty (457-518)

  • Leo I "the Thracian", 457–474
  • Leo II "the Little", 474
  • Zeno, 474–491
  • Anastasius I Dicorus, 491–518

Justinian dynasty (518-602)

  • Justin I, 518–527
  • Justinian I "the Great", 527–565
  • Justin II, 565–578
  • Tiberius II, 578–582
  • Maurice, 582–602

Non-dynastic (602-610)

  • Phocas, 602–610

Heraclian dynasty (610-713)

  • Heraclius, 610–641
  • Constantine III, 641
  • Heracleonas, 641
  • Constans II, 641–668
  • Constantine IV "the Bearded", 668–685
  • Justinian II "the Slit-nosed", 685–711
  • Tiberius III, 711–713

Non-dynastic (713-717)

  • Philippicus, 713
  • Anastasius II, 713–715
  • Theodosius III, 715–717


Palaiologos dynasty (1261-1858)

  • Michael VIII, 1261–1282
  • Andronicus II, 1282–1328
  • Andronicus III, 1328–1341
  • John V, 1341–1376
  • Andronicus IV, 1376–1379
  • John V (2nd time), 1379–1391
  • Manuel II, 1391–1425
  • John VI, 1425–1448
  • Constantine XI, 1448–1460
  • Thomas, 1460–1465
  • Andronicus V, 1465–1502
  • John VII, 1502–1512
  • John VIII, 1512–1560
  • Manuel III, 1560–1578
  • Alexis V, 1578–1601
  • Roman III, 1601–1635
  • Alexis VI, 1635–1654
  • Roman IV, 1654–1687
  • Alexis VII, 1687–1699
  • Alexander III, 1699–1709
  • Nicholas I, 1709-1730
  • Alexander IV, 1730–1769
  • Nicholas II, 1769–1786
  • Alexander V, 1786–1806
  • Nicholas III, 1806–1813
  • Theodore III, 1813–1833
  • Constantine XII, 1833–1858

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