After the collapse of the Roman Empire in 476 C.E., much of the Mediterranean basin was in disorder with no leadership. Germanic tribes from the north had conquered the last emperor and claimed the land their own. But in the east, a new empire was blooming, the Byzantine Empire. The Byzantine Empire was both similar and different from the previous Roman Empire, and its greatest ruler, Justinian, made it his main ambition to regain the lost territory, and power of Rome.
The empire of Byzantium was the only classical empire to survive the erratically difficult period of time some 500 years after the turn of the millennium. Problems such as epidemics, diseases, declining populations, economic contraction all contributed to fall of Rome. Political turmoil, social unrest, and outside military threats also ravaged the late Roman Empire, causing its demise. Yet Byzantium managed to hold onto power throughout this time because it controlled many key sea routes coming to and from the eastern Mediterranean Sea. The Byzantine Empire also had many of its roads and waterways still intact, as well as methods of long distance communication, with a set of authoritative institutions from the preexisting Roman Empire. Byzantium became a prosperous center of commerce. Because of these economic and political strongholds, Byzantium quickly gained recognition as an empire that produced fine manufactured goods including silk and items of interest. This example of economic strength is similar to the type of economy that the earlier Roman Empire relied on. Rome was very well know for its manufactured goods, offering items of great trade value such as glassware, jewelry, bronze items, linen and wool textiles, iron tools, and pottery. Thus, the Byzantine Empire carried on the Roman legacy of heavy dependence on industry and trade (Marston 80, Evans 121, Adkins 254).
Roman standard of law and influence were also carried on by the Byzantines Byzantine ambassadors and representatives traveled east and introduced writing, Christianity, law codes, and political organization to Slavic peoples in Eastern Europe stretching to regions of western Russia. This helped integrate many different cultures into one, thus bringing unification to the area east of the Mediterranean. This way of spreading different concepts to areas neighboring the Byzantine Empire goes hand in hand with the format the Romans used. This influenced touched both the areas of Northern Africa and Western Europe the same way it touched the Roman Empire. The introduction of multicultural interaction with surrounding lands helped result in the advancement of the Byzantine Empire in ways similar to how the Romans rose to power.
Remarkably, the Byzantines built an Empire that was closely similar to the Romans in how they ruled themselves. Both empires had governments that were focused tightly around a strong centralized political system, with an emperor overseeing political, military, judicial, financial, and religious issues. The latter emperor, Constantine of Byzantium, also carried on the Roman tradition of lavish spending, building a new capitol filled with museums, libraries, and artistic treasures. In addition, he constructed glorious marble churches, palaces, public buildings, and baths (Evans 103). These examples of government, as well as cases of how emperors lived, show further similarities between the Byzantine and Roman Empires.
Although there were many similarities between the Byzantine Empire and the Roman Empire, there were also various differences. Perhaps the most prominent difference is established in the way the Byzantines ruled portions of their empire in comparison to the way the Romans ruled portions of their empire. The Byzantines developed political and social adjustments in the face of Islamic conquests (something Romans never had to deal with for a very long time). The arrangement that Byzantine rulers composed was called the theme system. Under the...
Please join StudyMode to read the full document