Visit the Byzantine Empire!

Location

The Byzantine empire was an ideal location. For a city. It was located in the center of three continents and was a crossroads of trade. It was located in the center of Europe, Asia, and Africa. The Byzantine empire was a peninsula and was protected by the water that surrounded it. It also was protected by man made walls and a moat. The climate of Constantinople was warm during the day and cool at night. Perfect spot for a vacation!


Legal system

The law code for this time was Justinian code. The Code contained nearly 5000 roman laws, which the experts still considered useful for the Byzantine empire. They had a single ruler who had all the power.

The Code regulated all areas of Byzantine life: marriage, property, inheritance, slavery, women's rights, and crimes. It contained four works. The Code, which was a collection of Roman laws, The Digest summarized the opinions of Rome's greatest legal scholars, The Institutes, which was a textbook on the law, and The Novellae which contained the new laws passed after 524.

Religion

The religion of the Byzantine empire was Eastern Orthodox Christianity. The Eastern Orthodox Church did not recognize the Pope, instead it was lead by The Patriarch who was appointed by the Emperor. The services were conducted in Latin. A few other differences between the Eastern Orthodox Church and the Roman Catholic Church were that Priests were allowed to marry, and divorce was recognized under certain circumstances.

Government

After years of wars with the Germanic tribes and the Ostrogoths, the Byzantine emperor Justinian captured almost all the territory that was once the Roman Empire. Like the Roman Caesars, the Byzantine emperors ruled with absolute power. The emperor also ruled over the church. He appointed and dismissed Bishops.

Politics were very brutal. The emperor always had to worry about being assassinated. There were a total of 85 Byzantine emperors. 29 of them were killed and another 13 resigned.

Places to visit

The Hagia Sophia, built in 537, symbolized the importance of Christianity in the Byzantine empire. Beautiful mosaics adorned the church. It's unique architectural style became a model for buildings throughout the empire.

The emperor Justinian enlarged the palace. He built baths, aqueducts, law courts , schools and hospitals. His building projects were unmatched anywhere within the empire.

The Mese was the main street of the city. It was lined with merchant stalls and even had a stone roof to shelter the shoppers.

Another famous place was the Hippodrome where citizens could enjoy chariot races and circus acts for free. It could hold 60,000 spectators.

Art/Architecture

The Hagia Sophia was built in a style that became known as the Byzantine style of architecture. Byzantine churches were built with a central dome on a flat roof. The roof was usually supported by four arches springing from columns. Often, the dome had windows and were covered with beautiful mosaics.

The Byzantine style spread to other lands where Eastern Orthodox Christianity was accepted. This style can be found in Russia and in the Ukraine.

Religion influenced much of Byzantine art. Ornate crucifixes, and religious icons could be found in churches, shrines and homes. Churches were adorned with gold, silver, marble and jewels. The Byzantines excelled at the art of mosaics made from tile.