Byzantine Empire

Map of Byzantine Empire in the 6th century

The Byzantine Empire is also known as the Eastern Roman Empire, for it was in fact a continuation of the Roman Empire into its eastern part. At its greatest size, during the 500's AD, Byzantine included parts of southern and eastern Europe, the Middle East, and northern Africa.

The Byzantine people called themselves Romans although they were actually descendants of various ancient peoples and they spoke Greek. The word Byzantine, in fact, comes from "Byzantium," which is the Greek name for a city on the Bosphorus. The Greeks colonized the area first in the mid-600's BC, even before Alexander the Great brought his troops into Anatolia (334 BC). Greek culture continued its influence long after the region became part of the Roman Empire, in the 100's BC. But it was when Roman emperor Constantine the Great moved the capital of the Empire from Rome to Byzantium and renamed it Constantinople in 330 AD, that the Byzantine Empire really began. It lasted over 1000 years, ending finally in 1453, when the Ottoman Turks conquered Constantinople and renamed it Istanbul.

Christianity had a strong influence on Byzantine art, music, and architecture. Since Constantinople was the political center of the Empire, it also was the educational center, where future government officials learned to read and write the language of ancient Greece. Thus this period produced remarkable works in history as well as fine poetry, and much religious prose. All the visual arts flourished, too. Most of the artists worked as servants of the court or belonged to religious orders, and they remained anonymous. Ivory carvings, Byzantine crosses, and "illuminations," or small manuscript paintings, attest to their skill. Almost all that survives of the Byzantine architecture are its churches, with their glorious frescoes and mosaics. With Hagia Sophia as an example, their architects and artisans reached heady heights of magnificence, indeed.

For 1100 years, the Byzantines were able to maintain control of their empire, although somewhat tenuously at times; the Empire's expansion and prosperity were balanced by internal religious schisms such as Nika Riot, and recurring wars with enemies from the outside. Finally, weakened by recurring waves of attack, the Ottomans overcame the exhausted Byzantines and a new era of leadership began. The Byzantine Empire, however, had left its mark on the culture, never to be entirely erased even after the Conquest.


Byzantine Emperors
Year Name
323-337 Constantine I, the Great
337-361 Constantius
361-363 Julian, the Apostate
363-364 Jovianos
364-378 Valens
379-395 Theodosius I, the Great
395-408 Arcadius
408-450 Theodosius II
450-457 Marcianus
457-474 Leo I
474 Leo II
474-491 Zeno
491-518 Anastasius I
518-527 Justin I
527-565 Justinian I, the Great
565-578 Justin II
578-582 Tiberius, Constantinus
582-602 Mauritius
602-610 Phocas I
610-641 Heraclius I
641 Constantine III
641 Heracleon
641-668 Constans II
668-685 Constantine IV
685-695 Justinian II
695-698 Leontius II
698-705 Tiberius III, Apsimar
705-711 Justinian II (restored)
711-713 Philippicus
713-715 Anastasius II
715-717 Theodosius III
717-741 Leo III, the Isaurian
741-775 Constantine V, Kopronymus
775-780 Leo IV
780-797 Constantine VI
797-802 Irene
802-811 Nicephorus I
811 Stauracius
811-813 Michael I, Rhangabé
813-820 Leo V, the Armenian
820-829 Michael II
829-842 Theophilus II
842-867 Michael III
842-866 Bardas
867 Theophilus II
Macedonian Emperors
Year Name
867-886 Basil I, the Macedonian
886-912 Leo VI, the Wise
912-913 Alexander III
913-959 Constantine VII, Porphyrogenitus
919-944 Romanus I, Lecapenus
959-963 Romanus II
963-969 Nicephorus II, Phocas
969-976 John I, Tzimisces
976-1025 Basil II, Bulgaroktonus
1025-28 Constantine VIII
1028-50 Zoe
1028-34 Romanus III, Argyrus
1034-41 Michael IV, the Paphlagonian
1041-42 Michael V, Calaphates
1042-54 Constantine IX, Monomachus
1054-56 Theodora
1056-57 Michael VI, Stratioticus
1057-59 Isaac I, Comnenus
1059-67 Constantine X, Dukas
1067 Andronicus
1067 Constantine XI
1067-71 Romanus IV, Diogenes
1071-78 Michael VII, Parapinakes
1078-81 Nicephorus III, Botaniates
1081-1118 Alexius I, Comnenus
1118-43 John IV, Calus
1143-80 Manuel I
1180-83 Alexius II
1182-85 Andronicus I
1185-95 Isaac II, Angelus-Comnenus
1195-1203 Alexius III, Angelus
1203-04 Alexius IV
1204 Alexius V, Dukas
Latin Emperors (Crusaders)
Year Name
1204-05 Baldwin I
1205-16 Henry VI
1216-17 Peter de Courtenay
1218-28 Robert de Courtenay
1228-61 Baldwin II
Nicaean Emperors
Year Name
1206-22 Theodore I, Lascaris
1222-54 John Dukas Vatatzes
1254-59 Theodore II, Lascaris
1258-61 John IV, Lascaris
The Paleologi
Year Name
1261-82 Michael VIII
1282-1328 Andronicus II
1295-1320 Michael IX
1328-41 Andronicus III
1341-47 John V
1347-54 John VI, Cantacuzene
1355-76 John V (restored)
1376-79 Andronicus IV
1379-91 John V (restored)
1390 John VII
1391-1425 Manuel II
1425-48 John VIII
1448-53 Constantine XI, Dragases; until the conquest of Constantinopolis