• Ortakoy Mosque, Istanbul - Turkey
  • Cistern Basilica (Yerebatan Sarayi), Istanbul - Turkey
  • Topkapi Palace, Istanbul - Turkey

Byzantine Empire

Map of Byzantine Empire in the 6th century

The Byzantine Empire is also known as the Eastern Roman Empire, for it was in fact a continuation of the Roman Empire into its eastern part. At its greatest size, during the 500's AD, Byzantine included parts of southern and eastern Europe, the Middle East, and northern Africa.

The Byzantine people called themselves Romans although they were actually descendants of various ancient peoples and they spoke Greek. The word Byzantine, in fact, comes from "Byzantium," which is the Greek name for a city on the Bosphorus. The Greeks colonized the area first, in the mid-600's BC, even before Alexander the Great brought his troops into Anatolia (334 BC). Greek culture continued its influence long after the region became part of the Roman Empire, in the 100's BC. But it was when Roman emperor Constantine the Great moved the capital of the Empire from Rome to Byzantium and renamed it Constantinople (Istanbul today), in 330 AD, that the Byzantine Empire really began. It lasted over 1000 years, ending finally in 1453, when the Ottoman Turks conquered Constantinople and renamed it Istanbul.

Christianity had a strong influence on Byzantine art, music, and architecture. Since Constantinople was the political center of the Empire, it also was the educational center, where future government officials learned to read and write the language of ancient Greece. Thus this period produced remarkable works in history as well as fine poetry, and much religious prose. All the visual arts flourished, too. Most of the artists worked as servants of the court or belonged to religious orders, and they remained anonymous. Ivory carvings, Byzantine crosses, and "illuminations," or small manuscript paintings, attest to their skill. Almost all that survives of the Byzantine architecture are its churches, with their glorious frescoes and mosaics. With Hagia Sophia as an example, their architects and artisans reached heady heights of magnificence, indeed.

For 1100 years, the Byzantine's were able to maintain control of their empire, although somewhat tenuously at times; the Empire's expansion and prosperity were balanced by internal religious schisms (such as Nika Riot) and recurring wars with enemies from the outside. Finally, weakened by recurring waves of attack, the Ottomans overcame the exhausted Byzantines and a new era of leadership began. The Byzantine Empire, however, had left its mark on the culture, never to be entirely erased even after the Conquest.

Byzantine Emperors

Year   /   Emperor
323–337 Constantine I (The Great) 
337–361 Constantius 
361–363 Julian (The Apostate) 
363–364 Jovianos 
364–378 Valens 
379–395 Theodosius I (The Great) 
395–408 Arcadius 
408–450 Theodosius II 
450–457 Marcianus 
457–474 Leo I 
474 Leo II 
474–491 Zeno 
491–518 Anastasius I 
518–527 Justin I 
527–565 Justinian I (The Great) 
565–578 Justin II 
578–582 Tiberius, Constantinus 
582–602 Mauritius 
602–610 Phocas I 
610–641 Heraclius I 
641 Constantine III 
641 Heracleon 
641–668 Constans II 
668–685 Constantine IV 
685–695 Justinian II 
695–698 Leontius II 
698–705 Tiberius III, Apsimar 
705–711 Justinian II (restored) 
711–713 Philippicus 
713–715 Anastasius II 
715–717 Theodosius III 
717–741 Leo III, the Isaurian 
741–775 Constantine V, Kopronymus 
775–780 Leo IV 
780–797 Constantine VI 
797–802 Irene 
802–811 Nicephorus I 
811 Stauracius 
811–813 Michael I, Rhangabé 
813–820 Leo V, the Armenian 
820–829 Michael II 
829–842 Theophilus II 
842–867 Michael III 
842–866 Bardas 
867 Theophilus II

Macedonian Emperors

867–886 Basil I, the Macedonian 
886–912 Leo VI, the Wise 
912–913 Alexander III 
913–959 Constantine VII, Porphyrogenitus 
919–944 Romanus I, Lecapenus 
959–963 Romanus II 
963–969 Nicephorus II, Phocas 
969–976 John I, Tzimisces 
976–1025 Basil II, Bulgaroktonus 
1025–28 Constantine VIII 
1028–50 Zoë 
1028–34 Romanus III, Argyrus 
1034–41 Michael IV, the Paphlagonian 
1041–42 Michael V, Calaphates 
1042–54 Constantine IX, Monomachus 
1054–56 Theodora 
1056–57 Michael VI, Stratioticus 
1057–59 Isaac I, Comnenus 
1059–67 Constantine X, Dukas 
1067 Andronicus 
1067 Constantine XI 
1067–71 Romanus IV, Diogenes 
1071–78 Michael VII, Parapinakes 
1078–81 Nicephorus III, Botaniates 
1081–1118 Alexius I, Comnenus 
1118–43 John IV, Calus 
1143–80 Manuel I 
1180–83 Alexius II 
1182–85 Andronicus I 
1185–95 Isaac II, Angelus-Comnenus 
1195–1203 Alexius III, Angelus 
1203–04 Alexius IV 
1204 Alexius V, Dukas

Latin Emperors (Crusaders)

1204–05 Baldwin I 
1205–16 Henry VI 
1216–17 Peter de Courtenay 
1218–28 Robert de Courtenay 
1228–61 Baldwin II

Nicaean Emperors

1206–22 Theodore I, Lascaris 
1222–54 John Dukas Vatatzes 
1254–59 Theodore II, Lascaris 
1258–61 John IV, Lascaris

The Paleologi

1261–82 Michael VIII 
1282–1328 Andronicus II 
1295–1320 Michael IX 
1328–41 Andronicus III 
1341–47 John V 
1347–54 John VI, Cantacuzene 
1355–76 John V (restored) 
1376–79 Andronicus IV 
1379–91 John V (restored) 
1390 John VII 
1391–1425 Manuel II 
1425–48 John VIII 
1448–53 Constantine XI, Dragases; until the conquest of Constantinopolis.