Byzantine Empire

By Brigid Kennedy

Location Setting

In 330 A.D., Constantine ( a roman emperor ) moved his empire East to a city called Byzantium. The Byzantine empire is a peninsula that is located along the Mediterranean Sea. The location of this city was ideal for trade. The capital of Byzantium is called Constantinople. The capital adopted its name when the roman emperor Constantine moved east to Byzantium.

The strategic location of Byzantium was great. The city had water that protected all 3 sides. They had triple walls that protected it on the side that it was open for attack by land and eventually, Constantinople still felt that north side needed more protection so he strung a long chain across the deep harbor.


The government in Byzantine was simple. They had one ruler and this ruler had all the power over the whole city. One of the most famous rulers was Justinian. Justinian became the emperor if the Eastern Roman Empire in 527. Justinian did many things for the Roman Empire. Some of the things he did was create the Justinian code, a law code based off of the 12 tables, he rebuilt Rome and many churches. One of his most famous churches is the Hagia Sophia. This church was known as " holy wisdom " in Greek.


Rome had two main kinds of churches between the Western part Of the empire and the eastern part of the empire. In the eastern part of the Roman Empire, the dominant religion was Eastern Orthodox Christianity. The center of the religion was in Constantinople. The main language that was spoken in services was Greek and the head of the church was called the Patriarch. In the Eastern Orthodox Church, the Patriarch believed that the pope was not the supreme leader and that the patriarch should control the church in the east. He also was aloud to get married and get a divorce under some circumstances. In the east, icons were worshiped. They were not used for religious symbols.

In the western empire the center of the religion was in Rome. The head of the church was the pope and the services were conducted and Latin. The pope felt that he should be the supreme leader of the entire church. The pope was not allowed to marry and divorce is not aloud. In the Roman Catholic Church icons were used as religious symbols but they were not worship.

Over time, differences between the Eastern Western churches continued to grow. In 1054, matters came to head when the pope and patriarch excommunicated each other in a dispute over religious doctrine. This cause Christianity to permanently divide between the Roman Catholic Church in the West and Orthodox Church and east.

Art and Archetecture

In Byzantium, religious subjects were the sources of most Byzantine art. Icon were the most popular art form. They portrayed saints and other religious figures. Icons were displayed on the walls the churches, homes and shrines. The Byzantines were also great at making mosaics. ( pictures made of many tiny pieces of colored glass or flat stone set in plaster ) The making of mosaic art was hard to master. Even a skilled painter had trouble mastering the art of mosaics.

In Byzantium, architecture was a strength. The Byzantines mastered the art of building new roads, fortresses, aqueducts, domes, monasteries, and other buildings. When the most famous buildings that was built is the Hagia Sophia. The Hagia Sophia is one of the most largest and beautiful churches in the Empire. Hagia Sophia still stands today as one of the world's greatest architectural landmarks. The style of byzantine architecture is still used today and cities and towns of North America.

Places to Visit

While your in Constantinople, there are a few places you might want to check out. One of them is the Hagia Sophia. The Hagia Sophia was completed in 537 A.D.. The church represented the beginning of what became known as the byzantine style of architecture. It has an amazing interior and the architecture is unbelievable. Another place that you might want to check out is the Carthage National Museum. This museum contains a wide selection of artifacts an exhibition from the Punic, Roman and Byzantine periods of Carthage. Lastly one of my favorite places to check out would be the Hippodrome. The Hippodrome was like a modern-day arena for the Byzantine Empire. The Hippodrome could hold up to 60,000 spectators. The Hippodrome offered wild chariot races and Circus acts. Those are some places that I think you should check out while you're in Constantinople.