The Roman Empire had been founded in 27 B.C.E. following the fall of the Roman Republic (509-27 B.C.E.). By the fourth century C.E. the Roman Empire had grown very large, extending east into Asia Minor (which included modern-day Turkey) and northern Africa, including Egypt. In 395 C.E., following the death of the Roman emperor Theodosius (347-395 C.E.), the vast empire was divided into two halves, with the Eastern Roman Empire having the city of Constantinople, once known as Byzantium, as its capital. The Western Roman Empire, centered in Rome, came under increasing attacks from barbarian (people from foreign lands) tribes, and in 476 C.E. the Roman emperor was killed, leading to the downfall of Rome. Only the Eastern Roman Empire, known now as the Byzantine Empire, survived.
The Byzantine Empire that survived the fall of Rome was no minor civilization. Its capital, Constantinople, was one of the great early cities, with a population of nearly one million people, several imperial palaces, and a vast system of roads, shops, and public spaces. It also included the major cities of Alexandria in Egypt and Antioch in Syria. While most of western Europe failed to develop during the Middle Ages (c. 500-c. 1500 c.E.), the Byzantine Empire established powerful armies, a complex system of government and church officials, and trading networks that spanned the Middle East and Asia.
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