Civilization in Eastern Europe: Byzantium and Orthodox Europe
In addition to the great civilizations of Asia and North Africa forming during
the postclassical period, two related, major civilizations formed in Europe.
The Byzantine Empire, in
western Asia and southeastern Europe, expanded into eastern Europe.
The other was defined by the
influence of Catholicism in western and central Europe.
The Byzantine Empire, with territory in the
Balkans, the Middle East, and the eastern Mediterranean, maintained very high levels of political,
economic, and cultural life between 500 and 1450 C.E.
The empire continued many Roman patterns and
spread its Orthodox Christian civilization through most of eastern Europe, Belarus, Ukraine, and Russia.
Catholic Christianity, without an imperial center, spread in western Europe.
Two separate civilizations
emerged from the differing Christian influences.
The Byzantine Empire.
The Byzantine Empire, once part of the greater Roman empire, continued
flourishing from an eastern Mediterranean base after Roman decline.
Although it inherited and continued
some of Rome’s heritage, the eastern Mediterranean state developed its own form of civilization.
The Origins of the Empire.
Emperor Constantine in the 4th century C.E. established a capital at
Separate emperors ruled from it even before Rome fell.
Although Latin served for a time
as the court language, Greek from the 6th century became the official tongue.
The empire benefited from
the high level of civilization in the former Hellenistic world and from the region's prosperous commerce.
held off barbarian invaders and developed a trained civilian bureaucracy.
In the 6th century Justinian, with a secure base in the east, attempted, without
lasting success, to reconquer western territory.
The military efforts weakened the empire as Slavs and
Persians attacked frontiers, and also created serious financial pressures.
Justinian rebuilt Constantinople in
classical style; among the architectural achievements was the huge church of Hagia Sophia.
codification of Roman law reduced legal confusion in the empire.
The code later spread Roman legal
concepts throughout Europe.
Arab Pressure and the Empire's Defenses.
Justinian's successors concentrated upon the defense of their
The empire henceforth centered in the Balkans, and western and central Turkey, a
location blending a rich Hellenistic culture with Christianity.
The revived empire withstood the 7th century
advance of Arab Muslims, although important regions were lost along the eastern Mediterranean and the
northern Middle Eastern heartland.
The wars and the permanent Muslim threat had significant cultural and
The free rural population, the provider of military recruits and taxes, was
Aristocratic estates grew larger, and aristocratic generals became stronger.
fortunes fluctuated as it resisted pressures from the Arabs and Slavic kingdoms.
Bulgaria was a strong