The Byzantine Empire

By: Jack Nicoletti & Maddie Mathie


The Byzantine empire overcame the late Roman Empire. The Byzantine empire left a legacy of deep religion, and structured social life. The empire had great military strength, led by the great historical figures Belisarius and Justinian. The boundaries were expanded and held out many nomadic tribes. The main contributions of the Byzantine Empire are the geography, the intricate political system, their large military power, major historical figures, and rich religious culture. Many of these parts built up the empire and still influence us today.


The Geographical position of the empire most likely helped it grow and flourish more fluently and quickly because the place was in chaos and commotion after the fall of the Eastern Roman empire.

The Byzantine empire was located near the Mediterranean Sea, where it started to flourish. The empire started out as nothing much more than a bit of Asia Minor, the remnants the Eastern part of the Roman empire. They placed their capital uniquely in the center of the bosporus straights, except it was on the west side. The bosporus straights connected the Mediterranean Sea and the Black Sea. This place was a key place for trade and shipping, and it is now the border of Asia and Europe located in modern day turkey. The capital was named Constantinople, after Constantine I, the ruler of The Eastern Roman empire and founder of the Byzantine empire. Constantinople was strategically placed according to its surroundings because it could be a strong trading center and it was in the perfect place to centralize the empire. During the time of the empire, the big cities that were captured were Alexandria in Egypt, Carthage in Tunisia, Rome in Italy, Athens in Greece, and Cordova in Spain. In addition to these great accomplishments of the Byzantine empire, they also succeeded in having land almost surrounding the Mediterranean, completely surrounding the Black Sea, and covering almost the top half of the Red Sea. (Corrick 72)
Byzantine Empire under Justinian (

The Byzantine empire interacted with the environment much, especially landforms to find their way and use for cover. Byzantine people, like many other early civilizations, relied heavily on natural resources for daily jobs and daily lives. The Byzantines used the sea to transport information and goods fluently throughout the empire without much blocking them from stopping or getting harmed along the way. The Byzantines were also a big trading empire, and used ships to transport goods to other parts of the empire. Because of Constantinople being a well placed capital, much of the trade was scanned and moderated at the ports of Constantinople. In addition to the sea, the Byzantines also used land for support. They used their knowledge of the terrain aganist their enemies strategically to win battles along with also getting important building materials like stone which could be used for buildings and mosaics. Wood could be used for farmer and pheasant houses, too. (72-73)

The Byzantines had moving territory boundaries constantly because of warring and fighting with other civilizations. The Byzantines were quick and decisive with battles and how to win them. The Byzantine empire was often growing and shrinking quickly because of all the warring and fighting between the pagans and the Christians. Often times Muslims and crusaders of that type came with outrage to come and up rise against their Christian rulers. The empire was vast and expansive at many times, but it often resulted in falling back much more because the empire did not have enough men to cover all the land. The more demanding and controlling emperors usually succeeded with the empire more because they had the leader-type and was clear-minded in tough situation, thus meaning that they would win more and gain more land. The movement of goods was also important to the empire as well. The trade of the empire was crucial to the people and government because there were not many crops grown in the city Constantinople. Having fast, sleek ships that could cut through the water easily were then obviously important to the daily life of the empire. (78-80)
The Byzantine Empire (

The location of The empire influenced the culture of The Byzantines because it bordered many countries, meaning that it could adapt to new ways quickly. The Byzantines were on the border of Europe and Asia, meaning that the cultures that surrounded them were all diverse and unique in their own ways, and the Byzantines included all of this stuff into their empire in some way or another. The Byzantines thought of themselves as Romans because most of the land they started out with came from the remnants of the Eastern Roman empire. They Byzantines did not know that they actually had been descendants of many Greek people, and their languages mostly came from Greek, also. In addition to adapting to survival ways of other tribes, the Byzantines also adapted war tactics. Since the Byzantines were such a vast empire able to translate information fast, they could also pass war tactics to one another across the empire. If a certain battle tactic worked in Italy, it might also work somewhere in Asia Minor as well. If they could translate the battle tactics and win in two spots instead of losing the second, which could really build the empire bigger. Because many of the tribes that were warring surrounding the Byzantine empire, this often was useful to win battles. The culture was also impacted because of the time the religion came to be. During the fall of the Roman empire, the religions were all scattered and mixed up. Out of the confusion came Christianity, a strong religion that helped the empire flourish and thrive as one. Religion then impacted their culture because it became the heart and soul of the empire and made them all work for one common goal instead of separate individual goals. (Marston 9)

​Political System
Politics in the Byzantine empire were also loosely based around religion. Many leaders arose out of jobs within the church. It was very hard to obtain power so many rulers tried to keep the power as long as they could.

The most important role in the Byzantine political system was the emperor. The emperor created laws and once he made them law, no one could veto or overturn them. One way that the emperor decided how to control power was to appoint his own officials. He put people in place so that they would only serve him. He also chose a successor. The successor was not always a family member or son but could be a friend or military general. Many leaders only chose successors when they knew that they were going to die. Before the death of the emperor, the successor became co-ruler with the emperor. The emperor also had much power over his people, he set taxes at however much he wanted and used the money for anything he wanted. ( Corrick 24-28 )

Next to the emperor was the empress; there could be any number of empresses and they were not all the wives of the emperor, some were sisters or just friends. Even thought the empress had much power, she was rarely seen in public outside of the palace. She was never to take place in parties, celebrations, or parades. The empresses held many jobs and had seats on councils and courts. Even though a woman could not be elected emperor (empress), if the emperor were to die unexpectedly without having chosen a successor, the empress would assume the throne. ( Corrick 28, 29 )

Government was based around two groups of people: the Blues and the Greens; they were the political parties that had impact on how laws were formed. The parties arose out of two chariot teams whose colors were blue and green. Unlike modern political parties, each party was not associated with a set of beliefs; although they were known for getting a bit heated during debate. When there was a question about a law or a stand that the government was taking, the parties would choose their sides. One side would usually back the government, and the other would oppose. The Blues and the Greens were a way for the people to express their opinions and be heard by the rulers. Occasionally, both parties would agree with each other; this did not mean that they agreed with the government. In the case of the Nika riot, both parties opposed the government and led a revolt. The parties were also associated with social classes. The Blue party was ruled and made up of Aristocrats whereas the Greens were ruled and made up of merchants and the middle class. Many debates occurred when new laws were to be passed. ( Corrick 36, 37 )
The Code of Justinian (

The only known laws in the Byzantine empire comes from the code of Justinian; this code was adapted and added onto. Justinian was not alone in establishing his new code of laws. He appointed Tribonian to study former Roman laws and then replaced the earlier imperial code. Then, he wrote books for law students called "Institutes"; he made the students study these books. He also recorded trials in books of Judgements and Rulings. The Christian Orthodox based laws that the emperor wrote created many new standards. The code gave rights to women and legalized slavery. The code of Justinian also created a new process for convicting criminals. After someone was accused of a crime, they were first put in jail, then, after a certain amount of time, they were given a trial. If they were found guilty, they could lose: land, their hands, their nose, their eyes, or they could be killed by way of: decapitation, crucifixion or burning. As you can see, laws were very strict, and consequences were very harsh. ( Corrick 60-62 )

Social classes were very specific and very separated; there was aristocracy, the middle class, city poor, and country poor. Each class was known for different jobs, and houses. Aristocracy was a very elite circle of people. Aristocrats were people who had abundant wealth which wasn't many people. The way to nobility was to be of Roman descent or to have government positions. These people lived in the city close to the palace. Their houses were two stories tall, faced the countryside, and had blank walls except for the owner's name. Many houses had stables around them filled with horses. There were grand columns and large windows that faced the courtyard. They also had many servants and slaves. The middle class was very small and usually found in cities. People in the middle class were merchants or shop-owners with a few servants. Although rarely, some people moved from the middle class into aristocracy; this happened if their business became large, they had a very good education, or married an aristocrat. The only other class that lived in the city was the city poor. The city poor was the largest group in the empire because it was made up of the working class. The people worked for the city and earned food instead of wages. They rarely owned homes so they were provided with orphanages, homeless shelters, and hospitals. When they did have homes they were shanties and squalors. Their homes surrounded the palaces of the rich and the poorest surrounded the royal palace. The country poor probably led the worst lives; they were even more poverty-stricken then the city poor. They lived in huts and worked land. They were paid little to nothing but forced to pay taxes and their landlord. The people called "serfs" were not allowed to leave the land they worked without permission. The servants were only allowed to leave the land if they paid off his and his child's taxes for a lifetime. Because of this, many of the people were slaves. This meant that they were most likely not Christian because citizens could enslave other people as long as they weren't Christians. ( Corrick 32-34 )


The military of The Byzantine empire was called a "Religious Military" because it would fight for only religious causes and purposes. Despite that, it was a strong, powerful, and massive army.

The Byzantine armies fought in all different parts of the empire, from the Black Sea and Egypt all the way to over by the Straights of Gibralter. Throughout the whole time of the empire, the Byzantines were constantly pressured at all sides. Some of the Byzantines enemies were the Sassanid Persains, Arab Ummayad, Abbsaid Caliphates, Seljuk and Ottoman Turks, Bulgars, Normans, Franks, Russians/Serbs, Goths, Huns, and nomadic tribes like the Avars. Over time some of these civilizations became the Byzantines allies, like the Bulgars, Franks, Goths, and Huns. *


The Byzantines started out as the Eastern Roman Empire. At about the same time that the Byzantines came into existence, the tribes of Europe started to attack the Western Roman Empire. Many of the wealthy people living in Rome, wanting protection and safety, moved to Constantinople so they could live in a less hectic place. The city Constantinople is named because in Greek Konstantio means Constantine's and polis means city so Constantinople is Constantine's city. In 378, The Battle of Adrianople occurs. Some people believe that this is the turning point between Ancient and Medival worlds. The emperor of the Eastern Roman empire, emperor Valens, died during the battle. His successor, Theodosius I, divided the empire into two sections, East and West for his two sons, Arcadius and Honorius. Honorius took the West, making his capital Ravenna, and Arcadius took the East, making his capital Constantinople. This was how the empire was formed. *

Early History

In the third through fifth centuries, the Western Romans fall, but the East is in good condition. Theodosius II expanded the walls of Constantinople, making it almost inpenetrable for any invaders. Zeno I, the ruler in 476 when the West fell, negotiated with the Goths so that they ended their threats to the East, but were still in control of the West. Also, in the 6th Century, the first signs of Conflicts with surrounding civilizations. At this point the common enemies like the Bulgars, Persians, and Slavs start to conflict with the Byzantine beliefs and religions. Also during this time, Justinian I, arguably one of the best Byzantine Empire rulers of all time, started to regain some of the Roman boundaries across the Mediterranean. He started to recapture parts of Spain, Italy, and North Africa. Justinian also updated the code of law, making the new name Corpus Juris Civilis. The huge dome cathedral The Hagia Sofia was also constructed during this time, and it centered all the religion of the Eastern Orthodox Church. The church was brightly colored from the inside and had many colorful pictures all around the dome and base. Although Justinian did all these great things for the empire, when he died he left no treasury, meaning that the empire was yet again open to attack. This vulnerablility was taken advantage of by the Bulgars, Persians, Muslim Arabs, and Lombards. The Bulgars overtook the Balkan territory, while the Persians and Muslim Arabs took over some southern provinces like Palestine, Egypt, Syria, and Armenia. Also the Lombards over took parts of Northern Italy. Within 30 years, half of the empire was overrun by other civilizations. Despite the setback, Heraclius I set out a campaign in 627 to take back what the Persians had taken. Heraclius was surprised, though, to see the Muslims and Arabs bonded together to form one fighting force, and they go away with what land they got for the time being. *

Hellenizing Era

During this era the Byzantines started to see some good progress in their empire and they started to thrive. Heraclius I, still the emperor, made Greek the official language of the Byzantine Empire. Constans II divided all of the provinces of the empire into military type provinces called tagmata. During this time there are less urban living people, meaning that Constantinople became the biggest empire ever during this period. Arabs try to siege and attack the city of Constantinople, but they cannot because the Byzantines had superior navy and a monopoly of the mysterious incendiary weapon, Greek fire. The Byzantines eventually warded of the Arabs and freed the empire of major warring for the time being. Iconoclasm started to then arise, but then Leo III banned icons. This started revolts and riots about freedom. Eventually, Leo III had to overrule his law and the government made a new law saying that icons could be venerated, but not worshipped. Also, from 787-843, tension started to build between the Eastern Orthodox and the Western Catholic churches. *

The Sovereign Military Order of the Byzantine Eagle ( )

Golden Era

This era was where the empire started to reach its full potential and thrive under the commands of brillianant Byzantine leaders. Under the rule of Macedonian rulers, the Byzantine Empire reached its full height in the 9-11 centuries. This period also showed much war, and the Byzantines gained rule over the Adriatic Sea, parts of Italy, and much of the land of the Bulgars. By 1014, the Bulgars were completely wiped out by the emporer Basil II. The Byzantines also gained a new ally, the Kyiv. These people brought a strong mercenary force called the Varangain Guard. During this time one of the biggest fights of religious history happened, The Schism. The Schism was the final destructive outburst between the Eastern Orthodox and the Western Catholic churches. The break occured in 1054, when both sides annouced their separation from each other. In 1071, the Golden Age starts to wear down. The Normans invade Italy and the Seljuk Turks invade much of Asia Minor, diminishing the empire again. *

Byzantine Soldier in Classic Gear ( )

The soldiers of the Byzantine Empire had a wide arsenal of weapons to choose from when going into battle. The Byzantines had many weapons deriving from the late Roman period weapons like the sling, javelin, spear, sword, and more. Some of these weapons were made better by adopting some Arabian technology, thus making the composite bow. The strongest and most relied on unit of the empire was the cavalry, which were often armed with many different weapons such as javelins, spears, and one-sided swords. The Byzantines were the first people to invent task forces, which are small forces of only a few hundred men to go complete a job or something of that ilk. The infantry was often used to cover the blind side of the cavalry so that there would not be as much vulnerability for the cavalry. The mercenary force called the Varangain guard was useful during this time because it was a heavily armed unit. All the other forces were lightly armed or lightly armored, and they were made for quick moving warfare. Occasionally there were units with other weapons such as maces or sabers, but that was rare to find because there was almost none of them in the army.(*) Finally, there is one weapon that was better known than any other weapon, and was said that it could not be put out. This weapon, feared by all the civilizations around the Byzantine Empire, was Greek Fire. This incendiary weapon was a new type of fire that was a gas fire, meaning it could not be put out by water. Because of this, many civilizations were scared of the weapon. This weapon was often stored in bombs and was used in naval battles and sea battles. Because the Byzantines had a mysterious monopoly of this product, this helped them defend their cities with ships easily.(


The Byzantines decline was because of heavy pressure on all sides of the empire. Alexius Commenus was an emporer who grew the army and made significant advances against the Seljuk Turks. Shortly afterward the first crusade happened. The first crusade was actually good for the Empire, helping reclaim lost territory from previous battles. Crusades became more antagonistic, though. Manuel I Commenus was a friend to both sides of the argument so he had a hard time deciding which side to take. The Normans start to invade Italy and the Germans attack the Holy Roman people. Seljuk Turks are still a threat although they were nearly extinguished. The 3rd and 4th Crusades were the worst, over taking Constantinople and starting a short lived feudal kingdom called the Latins. In 1261, they reclaim Constantinople though, ending the Latins. Lastly, the Ottomans come and bomb the walls of Constantinople, breaking down the walls for the first time in over 1000 years. After a 2 month siege of Constantinople by Mehmed II, The Byzantine Empire ended. The ruler at that time, Constantine VII, died while defending the city from the Ottomans.*
(*= information from

Historical figures

The Byzantine Empire had an abundance of strong historical figures in military, and politics who shaped the size, and influence of the entire empire. Many of the people who were remembered for expanding the land within the empire or created new laws. One known especially for creating new laws was Justinian I.

Justinian put in place the first real code of laws, he did this to give rights to many citizens but also to give himself power (see Political System: Laws). He was known for being loved by his people and connecting with them. This was most likely because he himself was once just like them. He was born to peasants and eventually rose to power. He was first taken to Constantinople for an education by his uncle.
Justinian and Theodora (
After Justinian put in place his code of laws, he started many conquests.
Justinian ( )
He fought North Africa, Italy, and Spain. Even though he won most of these battles, he spent most of the national treasury on the military. He never gave up on one goal, though: restoring the Roman boundaries. To achieve this goal, he rose taxes and began using mercenaries in the imperial army. He appointed many army generals and men to help him plan his restoration. Eventually he did restore the boundaries, but was greedy, he wanted more.( Corrick 56-64 ) He wanted the Pope's support to regain the Latin church and the land under it's power. He persecuted Monophysites and Pagans in Syria and Egypt. The Latin church rewarded his boldness and joined the Byzantine empire and Justinian. This made the Monophysites flee to other bordering countries. These Monophysites gained support of the Muslims who fought Justinian with them. The Muslims regained a large amount of their land. When Justinian died in 565, he left the Byzantine Empire with a mammoth territory, an exhausted army, and an empty treasury. ( Filio )

One of the most important military leaders that assisted Justinian in his conquests was Belisarius. Belisarius made sure that his soldiers had the proper equipment. With his powerful army he made Byzantium the most powerful force in Europe. He protected the borders of the Byzantine Empire when he chased German Vandals who had settled in the north until they eventually fled.
In June of 533, he sailed to Carthage and defeated the army there. From Carthage, he went to Sicily and moved through Italy until he made it to Rome. There he met the Ostrogoths; they were divided so they were thought to be easily beat. He held the Goths for a year until they retreated and the land was overtaken by Byzantine government. Even after this, the Goths came back and overtook Roman cities again. Belisarius pretended to be their king and captured the cities. Again, Belisarius took Rome, this time in the sixth century. By now, Belisarius was famous and this led Justinian to distrust him. Justinian thought that he would attempt to steal the throne. In his fear, he forced Belisarius into retirement. Even though he was retired, he still had quite a following; he assembled an army to drive away the Huns. He was successful but did not pursue them further. Justinian questioned this decision and stole Belisarius' property on grounds of treachery and past suspicions of disloyalty. Belisarius died in 565, only a few weeks apart from Justinian's death. ( Corrick 63-69 )

The Byzantine Empire - Orange: Land that Belisarius expanded and reclaimed Red: Land that Justinian inherited ( )
Belisarius ( )

The Empress Theodora was the wife of Justinian and is known for having helped him make many significant decisions in the Byzantine Empire. Although she was a dancer and actress, she was passionate about politics and was an important advisor to her husband. Like Justinian, Theodora was born to peasants and also had a skill for relating to her people. She was always and advocate for the people; she believed that their opinions mattered and debated her husband to make him see both sides. She was also credited with saving her husband's life during the Nika Riot. The Nika riot occurred when the two main political powers, the Blues and the Greens, had finally reached an agreement but Justinian wanted to please neither group. They tried to revolt against him and he told Theodora that he was going to flee. She talked him out if this and cajoled him to agree with the people. Because the people respected her, they also learned to respect Justinian too. Some historians believe that because of this event, Theodora may have saved the Byzantine Empire from losing one of their most powerful leaders. ( Corrick 57, 58 )

The Empress Theodora at the Colosseum ( )

Heraclius took the throne after Justinian left Byzantium in ruins; he restored boundaries and replenished the treasury. Unlike Justinian and Theodora, Heraclius was born into aristocracy, the son of a powerful African military commander. He seized the Byzantine throne after having killed Phocas. His first accomplishment as king was to restrengthen the army. Although this took ten years, the army was strong and stable. He also established "themes" in Asia Minor. He did this so that power was properly distributed and therefore harder to break or corrupt. He used his strong army to push back the Persians and regained all of the territory formerly owned by the Persians. He filled the treasury by taxing the people. ( Corrick 72-74 ) He had a very novel idea that changed the course of the Empire. Instead of chasing the Huns away, he let them stay, but required them to protect the borders. His reign ended when Muhammad invaded Byzantium. ( Filio )


The culture of the empire was the root of occupations in the empire.
The Religion of the Byzantines was Christianity. They believed that a prophet named Jesus lived in the town of Palestine 2000 years ago and he was the son of God. Jesus was also the saver of humans and the forgiver of our sins because he died on the cross. The Byzantines also believed that all the teachings of Jesus were about Gods love towards humans. They also believed that God was merciful and forgiving of sins. The people of Constantinople and other provinces waited for a Judgment Day when God would come down to earth to judge the living and the dead, meaning that the people who did not believe in him were condemned to hell but the others would live in forever peace in heaven. The core belief of Christianity was that God appeared in three different ways: The Father of man, The Son (Jesus), and the Holy Spirit. The Byzantines openly accepted the thought that this concept was obscene, and there were many questions surrounding the topic (Marston 26).
The inclusion of Christianity into the Byzantine Empire was not slowly, but instead it happened all at once because it was the binding part of the Empire. The official religion of the Roman Empire was Paganism, meaning that they believed in multiple Gods instead of one god. At the end of the Roman Empire when Christianity started to rise, the penalty for being caught practicing the religion was prosecution. Many martyrs accepted the punishment for practicing Christianity in Rome and would be proud to get prosecuted. People describe Christian Religion as the soul of the Empire and in were the force that drove people to one common goal. When the emperor Constantine I switched to Christianity, the prosecution quickly stops. Constantine was greatly interested in the roots of Christianity (Marston 26-28).
Constantine encouraged the teaching of Christianity in Roman schools, too. Constantine built huge temples for Christianity in the towns for Jerusalem, Rome, and Constantinople. As Christianity became more popular, there needed to be more organization to the infrastructure of the religion. The Byzantines then made a hierarchy of priests that was organized to conduct masses and church gatherings. The three leading cities that were the head of the Christian Religion in the East were Alexandria in Egypt, Antioch in Syria, and Jerusalem in Palestine. Ruling above those three cities was the patriarch in Constantinople and the head of the religion was the emperor. The Emperor and the patriarch tried to work together, but they often conflicted because of they would not compromise because both had strong beliefs that sometimes interfered. As part of the Byzantine Empire and daily life within its boundaries, the Christian religion was blended in with economics and government. Christianity was the basis of the political ideas and systems as long as they ideas had to do with Christianity. Constantine said that he wanted to make the capital of his new empire a "New Jerusalem". This meant that he wanted to make the capital serve for religious practices as well as being the center of the empire. The Christian religion also inspired strong beliefs about what the Byzantine Empire stood for in the cycle of life. Some people believed that the role the Empire played in the world was "The Heaven on Earth". This meant that the Byzantines thought that the empire represented gods palace except down on earth. The church of the Byzantine Empire is generally called the Orthodox Church. Byzantines believed that the Orthodox religion was the "Correct View" and anyone who did not believe in it was wrong about their religion. This led to conflict between the Orthodox religion and the other religions. Monophysitism is a belief that meant that Jesus was wholly divine in human form but he was not in the two forms that the Byzantines thought of him as, which were Christ the man and Christ the divine one (Marston 28-30).
Hagia Sofia (

Because of faith in Monophysitism, the Byzantines carried out gruesome and sometimes gory executions’ of the believers in Monophysitism that lived in Syria and Egypt. The Syrians and Egyptians were very outraged boy this and were willing to accept any religion but Christianity after the killings, so they accepted the Islam religion when it appeared in the 7th Century. Many other countries got angered and attacked the Byzantine Empire because they heard about the cruel executions. During this time, the Byzantine Empire lost nearly 1/2 of its land because of so many people attacking them. The role of the emperor in the religion was to be the head of Christianity. The emperor was like The Pope today; planning masses and gatherings for the church and holding religious ceremonies. In the pagan Roman Empire, the emperor was supposed to be divine and sacred. In the Byzantine Empire, though, the emperor was supposed to represent "The God on Earth", or almost like a counterpart of Jesus. Each emperor is considered to be chose by God himself and be, "The sacred one". The emperor was supposed to govern on Gods behalf and carry out Gods wished for humankind. Much of the emperor’s time was spent in grand ceremonies and everything that the emperor did was under strict limitations because of religious terms and policies. The Byzantines imperial court was made to represent God's court in heaven. The emperor was positioned in a very high seat when visitors came so it appeared that he was a somewhat godly figure. The emperor’s day was completely devoted to displays of affection towards heaven and God. The armies of the Byzantine empire were called "Holy armies" because all the fighting that they fought for was to spread the word of Christianity to everyone (Marston 30-34).
The Byzantine emperor was called a "Holy Warrior" because he would lead army invasions and campaigns against invading enemies. Every victory for the empire was celebrated with extravagance and pomp because it showed Gods approval of the empire and its people. The empire was highly centered on autocracy, meaning that everyone took place in office or something high in the political world. This also meant that they were taking place in religion, too. The empire was a monarchy; the emperor appointed and dismissed all of the high ranking officers and congressmen according to how they were doing at their job. The emperor was the sole ruler of the empire, meaning that what he decided was the final decision of the empire. Overall, the Byzantine Empire revolved around God and Jesus. At the same time, though, the biggest arguments and conflicts arose in part of religion because there was much confusion about what the right religion was and what was the "correct veiw" of the empire.

Contributions from Byzantine art are mostly the use of lavish mosaics; most often used to depict bible scenes.
The outside of houses were left bare but the insides were heavily decorated with mosaics on the floors and walls. The floors were usually marble and the walls were usually glass. The glass walls were covered with mosaics which are made up of glass cubes and gold. Later, they used wall paintings to cover the walls. Like most other culture, Byzantine art revolved around religion. The most common figures were Christ, the Virgin Mary, and Byzantine Saints. There were also some strange elements of Byzantine art. People were always shown with their front forward.
Byzantine art (
Faces were usually distorted with very large eyes. ( Corrick 53-55 ) The church even made rules about how religious figures were portrayed and ordered. The church told painters not to portray depth but to evoke emotion. Painted icons were created to be carried in religious processions.
This is a mosaic in the top of a church dome, it shows how Christ was always first, then came the emperors in the order (
Icons were painted on wood. "Miniatures were small paintings of Bible stories that were found in the margins of the Bible. Most artists worked for the imperial court or the church; because of this, they could use expensive materials such as: gold, silver, and lapis lazuli. Most of these artists that worked for the church did not take credit for their work. Workers in the palace mad ivory carvings on caskets and plaques, crosses, crowns, and book covers. Even though these paintings and statues were overseen by the church, many people still thought that it was wrong to worship by way of paintings, icons, and statues. That is why most Byzantine art was destroyed during the iconoclastic Christian uprisings. ( Wharton )

Bold new ideas were seen in Byzantine architecture; the Byzantines were known for the dome structure. Most of the Byzantines relgious architecture is still around today. Ever since Chritianity became the main driving force in Constantinople, the taxes and donations of people went to building extravagant and sometimes gaudy cathedrals for the public to pray and worship in. The Byzantines used their innovative ideas and minds to make these churches, and often decorated them with art. A typical Byzantine church would have a dome in the center of a square base. The dome in the church was meant to sybolize being in the arch of heaven at every mass. Also, the churches were often enhanced with wall murals. All churches had a uniform layout except for a few exeptions. Mosaics were often used along the walls of chuches, too. In churches the figure of Jesus and Virgin Mary holding Jesus as a baby and Mary holding Jesus once he was taken of the cross were prominent figures and were often placed at the front of the church. Sometimes the figures were placed above the people and they were supposed to represent how God is with them in each mass. Orthodox churches depicted Jesus as more serene or calm, usually blessing he faithful. He was also kingly in the Orthodox churches, too. On the other hand, in Catholic churches the figure of Jesus was different. These churches depicted Jesus as suffering on the cross for our sins because that was more important to the Catholics. (Marston 60)
The Highly Decorated Interior of the Hagia Sophia and the Traditional Dome ( )

Education was not open to everyone; the people who were schooled were taught classic religion in the Byzantine Empire. Because religion was exclusive it was highly revered and honored. All men were expected to fulfill a formal higher education while most women studied with tutors. When people were young, state-run schools were available to everyone. Although they went to school, writing and speech were taught at home. A large percent of people stopped going to school when Pagan schools were shut down in the sixteenth century. The Byzantine empire was known for having one of the highest amount of people in schools.
Lecturing Hypatia ( )
Even though they were known for this, the amount of people was not nearly 100% of the population. One of the most important aspects of the educational system was the teachers. The teachers were paid by either the imperial or local government. Before they could teach, the teachers were trained and examined by government officials so they could gain a license. If teachers did not follow the governments standards they were exiled or murdered; an example of this was Hypatia. Hypatia was a follower of Plato, she lectured about philosophy on street corners. Because of her Pagan beliefs, she was murdered by the government. Another important element was literature. The weakness of Byzantine literature was the large differences between the classical past and the bold Christian present. This current literature produced no new theories in learning or philosophy. Writing was only about religion and history so this literature was not remembered throughout history. ( Corrick 48-50 ) Because Byzantine writing was not a strong point, many people studied the writings of Plato and Aristotle. The basic Byzantine education was the study of classical Greek literature. Even though males were mostly the only people to have a formal education, most writers were women.

Entertainment for the people of the Byzantine society came from the Hippodromes, which were chariot racing stadiums that let the audiences get in for free. There were two main teams of the charioteers that raced and they eventually became part of the government of the empire. These two teams were the Blues and the Greens. These were two of the four color teams of the Byzantine charioteers, and they stood for different classes of people. The Blues were symbolizing the aristocrats and the upper class, and the Greens were the commoners and the lower/middle class. These colors were two of the four colors worn by charioteers in the Hippodromes. These colors often controlled parts of the government, too. The two social classes often argued about wether or not a law should be put into action. One color would pick to defend the government, and the other color would oppose the government.
The Hippodrome of Constantinople ( )
The two sides were known for getting very intense during the debate, where the judges would evaluate which team had the better argument. The two teams didnt always oppose each other, though. One famous example of this was in The Nika riots, where both the Blues and the Greens both opposed the government. The riots were huge and eventually became out of control. The emperor at the time, Justinian I, cowered away from all the riots, scared to oppose them. He eventually gained his courage, though, and took command of the situation. He told his best general, Belsarius, to go and calm down the riots. Belsarius, being a faithful general, did as he was told. Belsarius and his troops marched through the city and killed thousands of men and women that were in the riot. The empress at the time, Theodora, also helped Justinian change his mind because she was cunning and knew that the town would be destroyed if Justinian had not done anything. The Blues and Greens continued to be until the 7th century, but were gone by the 9th century.

The people in the empire usually had moderately basic daily lives, and they were centered on worship. Byzantine daily life was very simple; people usually walked everywhere but some aristocrats owned mules or horses. The Byzantines had a very innovative water system that they inherited from the Romans. They brought water from the Thrace river for baths and fountains. They also had a way of organizing their streets that was specific to them. The Nese was the middle street from the city walls and most things were located on that street. Something located there was the Augustion was the area where forums, cathedrals, and statues were. This is where people would worship, and where local government was based. After the Augustion, was the the Bazaar district. At the Bazaar district, there were: grocery markets where food was sold, stands where imported silk was sold, many places where jewels were made into jewelry, carts where glass was blown and sold, and perfume stands. To conclude, daily life in the Byzantine empire was mostly simple but still had a small amount of structure.


The Byzantine empire was one of the most famous empires of all time. There were many empires that were bigger than the Byzantine empire, but the Byzantines were remembered for aspects other that size. The Byzantines had diverse minds and were able to skillfully hold an empire together. They adopted tactics and lessons from other provinces and included them into daily life in Constantinople. By having a protective military, sturdy political system, shrewd leaders, a friendly environment, and a bonding culture, the Byzantine empire truly became one of the most memorable and innovative empires of all time.

Works Cited

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Grolier Educational. Medieval World, Volume 2: Byzantine Empire - Constantinople. Grolier Educational 2001. Print.

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