Unit 1 Chapter 2 Lesson 3 The Early Byzantine Empire

Government The legacy of Rome continued with the Byzantine Empire.
Geography Located between the East and the West, the Byzantines created a unique society.
Belief Systems Christianity thrived in the Byzantine Empire but eventually split into two separate churches.

The Early Byzantine Empire

ESSENTIAL QUESTION 1 What were the main characteristics of the Byzantine Empire?

In the years after the Western Roman Empire fell, the Byzantine Empire rose to great heights. This was due in large part to the efforts of a powerful ruler named Justinian I.

The Rule of Justinian During his reign (527–565), Justinian expanded the Byzantine Empire and recaptured some of the land Rome had lost. Justinian also enacted key measures at home. He is best remembered for the legal code developed during his rule. The Justinian Code regulated much of Byzantine life and served the Byzantine Empire for 900 years.

Justinian also left his mark on Byzantine society through his many public works and building projects. He built a large and impressive palace complex, where he lived and ruled with his wife and trusted adviser, Empress Theodora.Hagia Sophia Justinian also built churches and directed the building of the famous church of Hagia Sophia (HAY•ee•uh soh•FEE•uh). Visitors hailed its beauty. “Such an abundance of light poured into this church,” said one observer, “you would declare that the place is not lighted by the sun from without, but that the rays are produced within.”

ESSENTIAL QUESTION 1 What were the main characteristics of the Byzantine Empire? Answer- a sprawling empire, a well-developed legal code called the Code , and large works and building projects.

ESSENTIAL QUESTION 2 What was life like in Constantinople?

The Rise of Constantinople

Hagia Sophia was just one of the magnificent structures that towered over the empire’s impressive capital, Constantinople.

The Capital City Constantinople’s location played a key role in its growth. It stood between Europe and southwest Asia. As a result, it became a thriving center of business and trade. The wealth and energy of Constantinople could be seen in its everyday activities. The main street running through the city was the Mese (MEHS•ee), or “Middle Way.” Merchant stalls lined the street and sold products from distant corners of Asia, Africa, and Europe. Citizens also could enjoy free entertainment at the city’s large arena, the Hippodrome. 

ESSENTIAL QUESTION 2 What was life like in Constantinople? Answer- busy and filled with commercial activity where stalls lined the streets.

ESSENTIAL QUESTION 3 What two churches emerged from the split in Christianity?

The location of the Byzantine Empire on the edge of both Europe and Asia meant that the empire was influenced by ideas and goods from both regions. While the empire was built on Roman foundations, it developed its own ways. An example of this can be seen in the area of religion. Christianity was the main religion in both the Byzantine Empire and the West. Over time, however, Christianity developed differently in each place. These differences led to a split in the Christian church—and the emergence of two distinct European civilizations.

Christianity Remains Strong As you recall from your reading, Christianity emerged during the Roman Empire. By the fall of Rome, Christianity had developed a well-defined structure. At the local level, a priest led small groups of Christians. A bishop supervised several churches. The bishop of Rome was known as the pope. He was the head of the entire Christian church. After the Western Roman Empire fell, Christianity remained a strong influence in the region. Despite its fall from glory, the city of Rome remained the home of the pope—and the center of Christianity.Tensions Rise As the Byzantine Empire grew, popes and Byzantine emperors often clashed. Byzantine emperors took a great interest in religious matters. They considered themselves the final authority on religious issues. The popes, however, insisted that they had the ultimate say on such matters.

One of the most intense debates over religious power occurred in the eighth century. In 730, the Byzantine emperor Leo III banned the use of icons. Icons are religious images used by Eastern Christians to aid their prayers. The emperor viewed the use of icons as idol worship, or the belief in false gods.

The pope quickly weighed in on this Eastern dispute. He supported the use of icons. He also excommunicated, or removed from the church, the Byzantine emperor.

The Church Splits Differences between the Eastern and Western Christian churches continued to grow. In 1054, these disagreements led to a schism schism, or official split, between the two groups. The result was the creation of two new Christian religions: the Roman Catholic Roman Catholic Church in the West and the Orthodox Orthodox church in the East.

Both churches continued to embrace many of the same principles of Christianity. Still, each church established different structures and beliefs that set them apart. One of the most significant differences occurred in the area of church-state relations. 

As Roman Catholicism developed, the pope claimed authority over not just the church but also kings and emperors. Under Eastern Orthodoxy, the emperor ruled over the patriarch, the leader of the Orthodox church.

The schism of 1054 highlights how the Byzantine Empire gradually developed its own unique civilization. Rome’s influence, however, would live on. As you will read in Lesson 4, Rome’s ideas, customs, and institutions have played a key role in the development of Western civilization—and still do today.

ESSENTIAL QUESTION 3 What two churches emerged from the split in Christianity? Roman and Eastern

Review- How did the schism of 1054 affect the Christian church?

It resulted in the formation of two new churches—Roman and Eastern Orthodoxy.