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TURKEY   >  HISTORY   >> Historic Period
Alexander the Great Roman Age Byzantine Period
Hellenistic Age Christianity

Iron Age (1200-700 BC)

The Byzantine Empire is one of the longest-lasting empires in world history. Its name, which is derived from the name of the city of Byzantium, was given by 19C historians. Byzantines always called and regarded themselves as Romans. In 330 AD Constantine made Byzantium Rome's second capital, naming it Constantinople which meant "city of Constantine".

In 395 AD Theodosius I divided the Roman Empire into two, Eastern and Western. Culturally, the Western part was Latin and the Eastern part was Hellenistic. Soon after, in 476 AD, the Western Roman Empire collapsed and the Eastern Empire survived. The Eastern Romans were Christians and changed their language from Latin to Greek.

Justinian I's successful efforts to reconquer the West followed in the early Byzantine period.

The Middle Byzantine period (610-1081 AD) began with the triumph of Heraclius over the Persians and his subsequent defeat by the Arabs. After 634 AD Arabs seized Palestine, Syria and Egypt and raided deep into Anatolia.

In the 11C, a struggle started between the generals who were great landowners and the bureaucrats. Distracted by this struggle, the emperors were unable to resist the Seljuks, who began conquering Anatolia.

In 1204 AD the Fourth Crusade seized and brutally sacked the capital and established the Latin Empire of Constantinople.

In 1261 AD the ruler of Nicaea regained Constantinople and refounded the Byzantine Empire which had to face threats from Westerners and from Turks in the East. Gradually reduced in area, the Empire finally succumbed in 1453 AD to the Ottoman Turks, who pronounced Constantinople to be the capital of the Ottoman Empire.

In this final period, the landed aristocracy dominated all provincial and central administrative positions of the Byzantine Empire. The army consisted of mercenaries and a "feudal" levy based on government properties awarded to great landlords in return for military service. The Byzantine emperors repeatedly tried to reunify the Orthodox and Catholic churches in return for Western aid against the Turks, but their efforts proved futile.

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