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Chapter 9
EQs: Why is Byzantium called the
“Second Rome”?
How did Byzantium flourish while
fending off Muslim and Barbarian
• It was Constantine the Great who began the rebuilding of Byzantium in 324, naming the city
Constantinople and dedicating it in 330. This
founding marks the early beginnings of the
• Constantinople became the sole capital of the
Eastern Roman Empire
• The death of the complete Roman Empire in 476
AD marked the birth of the new Roman Empire
in Constantinople. Greek influences resurfaced.
• Greek thus became primary language in the 6th
• The empire was renamed Byzantine after the
city Byzantium which was renamed
• The empire benefited from being the focal point
of trade from east to west and vice versa
• The greatest of all the
eastern emperors was clearly
Justinian (c.482-565), who
reigned for thirty-eight years
between 527 and 565.
• Justinian was a reformer in
the fashion of Augustus
• It was Justinian's desire to
restore the Empire -- both
East and West -- to all of its
former glory.
• In fact, it has been said that
his desire to restore the
former Roman Empire was an
obsession (Nova Roma)
• His greatest accomplishment toward this end
was the revision and codification of Roman
law. Justinian understood that a strong
government could not exist without good laws.
• The Byzantine laws had grown too numerous
and too confusing.
• Justinian created a commission of sixteen men
to bring order out of all the laws.
• These men worked for six years and studied
more than 2000 texts.
• In 534, the commission produced the Corpus
Juris Civilis – the Body of Civil Law (Justinian
• Contained laws pertaining to religion, anti-paganism,
heresy crimes and anti-Semitism
Theodora’s Influence
• Justinian was aided by his wife, Theodora
(c.500-547), the daughter of a bearkeeper
at the Hippodrome, and was no less
ambitious than her husband.
• In 532, mob violence erupted in
Constantinople. These riots were called
the Nika Riots ("Nika"= "Victory!"), and
grew from political unrest over the
government's fiscal measures.
• Rival factions of Blues and Greens
(admirers of rival chariot-racing teams)
fought in the streets over the results of a
chariot race (kinda like soccer hooligans).
• Some Byzantine Senators saw this riot as
an opportunity to overthrow Justinian
• Justinian wanted to leave the city during
the riots, but two of his generals
(Belisarius and Narses) and his wife
Theodora, persuaded him to stay.
• Theodora took it upon herself to raise a
personal army, an army that eventually
killed 35,000 people in a single day and
expelled the plotting senators.
• Justinian’s successors began to concentrate on
protecting the eastern frontier from Muslim
• The Byzantine Empire managed to withstand this
threat, but not without losses
• Byzantine control over the Mediterranean realm
began to slip as the Arabs built a strong navy
• Byzantium also held off a siege of
Arab ships by using a new weapon called “Greek
• The empire lost key points in Phoenicia, Palestine
and Egypt
The Bulgars
• The most serious
challenge to Byzantium
was Bulgaria
• Bulgarian kings were
feisty and resisted
Byzantine rule from
Constantinople’s founding
all the way thru the 11th
• 1014 – Basil II finally
defeated the Bulgarian
threat; he blinded their
captive soldiers and bribed
as many of their generals
to gain their favor
• Similar to early China
• Emperor ordained by God, was head of Orthodox
• Women held considerable authority throughout the
empire’s history
• Theodora (NOT Justianian’s wife) exerted her power
as emperor
• An elaborate bureaucracy (China similarity again)
supported the emperor, one educated in Greek
• Members of this bureaucracy could come from any
social classes, though aristocrats dominated
• This bureaucracy regulated trade (Silk Road) and
food prices as well as taxed the peasants for
• Military organization similar to Roman organization
• Peasants served the army in return for land grants
that could be passed down via inheritance
• Empire depended on control over
countryside (rural base)
• A large controlled peasant
class was crucial to providing
tax revenue to the empire’s
• The empire was not very
urbanized; Constantinople was
only large city
• Trade was crucial
• Held together the network of
trade that linked China/India to
the newly emerging European
• Life was centered on secular
Greek traditions
• Orthodox Christian artwork
was took mosaic form, which
even brought controversy
(icons were considered graven
Religious Influence and Issues
Little innovative artistic creativity
emerged from Byzantium save those in
the forms of religious arts and
architecture (still influenced by Rome
and Greece)
The construction of domed churches (ie.
Haggia Sophia) continued Roman
architectural forms
The creation of mosaics and icon
painting flourished, enough to cause
controversy…a brief clash over
iconoclasm ensued (concern that icons
were idols)…eventually it disappeared
What did occur was a rift between the
West (Rome and Catholicism) and the
East (the Orthodox Church of
Byzantium)…the Greek Bible was
translated into Latin…popes got involved
with the iconoclasm issue…Charlemagne
becomes declared the “true heir of
In 1054, the schism was made official
(thanks to an argument over bread and
sex) as pope and head of the Orthodox
church excommunicated each other
Spreading Byzantium
• Emperors realized they
could gain influence over
other areas by spreading
Orthodox faith in Slavic
“Cyrillic” language
translation to various
“barbaric” societies
• Missionaries like St. Cyril
and Methodius went into
Eastern Europe and
Kievan Russia and
brought them a new
language and a new faith
• Each area was absorbed
into the Byzantine Empire
through this conversion
The Rise of Eastern
Europe and Russia
• Slavic peoples migrated into Russia and eastern Europe
during the Roman Empire…they were simple
agriculturalists organized in tribes and villages
• They practiced animism, had rich oral traditions and
songs to tell their histories
• Some established trade on rivers, and began interacting
with Byzantium…the traders gained political
• A monarchy emerged in Kiev in the 9th C and flourished
as a center of commercial trade…Byzantine influence
began with the conversion of Vladimir the I to Orthodox
Christianity in the late 10th C.
• Vladimir preferred orthodox Christianity because it
gave him direct power as ruler/controller of the
faith…Roman Catholicism beckoned for control by the
Institutions and Culture
in the Kievan Rus
• Kiev borrowed much from Byzantium, but
was unable to duplicate the bureaucratic
• Rulers favored the Byzantine style of rule,
a god-like king who was leader of the
church, devotion to God’s power, to saints,
churches and iconic figures…even
polygamy stopped and Russian priests
were allowed to marry and have children
• Literary styles emphasized religion and
politics while art mainly depicted religion
• Peasants were free farmers and the landed
aristocracies (boyars) had less political
Kievan Decline
• Began in the 12th century when rival
princes established competing
• Asian invaders seized territory as trade
diminished due to Byzantine decay…the
Mongols were sweeping in from central
Asia, blocking commercial contacts
with the West
• The culture, however, survived, because
the tolerant Mongols did not interfere
with local customs, just politics and
trade…as long as tribute was paid, the
Russians were left alone
Byzantine Decline
• The major force that caused Byzantine
decline was the Turks who converted
to Islam
• Seljuk Turks – fierce nomadic warriors who
came from Central Asia and took their
Asian provinces which provided food and
taxes (Manzikert,1071)
• Byzantium pleaded to European
Christians for help, they got it in the
form of the Crusades, but this
eventually led to a greedy pillaging of
their dying empire
• 1453 – Beginning of the Ottoman
This Week…
• Tuesday: Document Analysis Pg 207
• Wednesday: PERSIA Chart on Byzantine
• Thursday: I/O on Byzantine Empire (see
next slide for topic questions)
• Friday: Chapter 9 test пѓ Notes Due
Byzantine I/O
• Topic questions for discussion
• #1: Discuss the Byzantine Religious,
Political and Social Structure. Is it
“truly” a second Rome?
• #2: In what ways is the Byzantine
Empire similar/different to China?
• #3: How is Russia a stepchild of the
Byzantine Empire? Why was the rest of
Eastern Europe not dominated by
Byzantine culture?
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