01.07 Collapse of an Empire Travel Journal
1. What was Justinian I’s role in the decline of the Byzantine Empire? First, his constant wars and the rebuilding of Constantinople after the Nika Riot caused serious financial problems for the empire. The reconstruction of the Hagia Sophia alone cost about 320,000 pounds of gold. Second, Justinian left the Byzantine army scattered across the empire. Many units were occupied fighting fierce nomads. One of these groups, a Germanic barbarian tribe called the Lombards, had managed to conquer much of northern Italy. The thinly-spread Byzantine forces fought to prevent the Lombards from pushing further into Italy. Finally, during the last years of Justinian’s reign, the empire suffered from several attacks of bubonic plague. Called Justinian’s Plague by modern historians, the illness killed millions of people. This created a severe shortage of human power, which weakened the military and the government. 2. What challenges did the Byzantine Empire face from foreign forces? The Slavs fled the attacking Avars and traveled south, deeper into the Balkans. Many Slavs settled in this region. After this, the Avars themselves decided to attack the Byzantines with armies made up of conquered Slavs. In 626 CE, the Avars laid siege to Constantinople, and the Sassanids advanced toward the city. Using soldiers trained in themes in Asia Minor, Heraclius defeated the Avars and drove away the Sassanids. He then used war payments by the Sassanids to refill the Byzantine treasury Arab armies swept across Persia and Byzantine territories in North Africa and East Asia. They then turned their attention toward capturing Constantinople. The Arabs attacked the city twice, in 674 CE and in 717 CE, and were defeated both times. The Byzantines were greatly aided by a weapon called Greek Fire. This weapon spewed fire at attacking ships, causing them to burst into flames. By the 800s, fighting against the Byzantines had so weakened the Arab forces...
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