In what ways did Byzantium carry on the legacy of Rome?

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When the Roman Empire fell, it did not fall as a whole simultaneously - Byzantium carried the torch while order changed and empires regrouped. The empire of Rome in the west had fallen to the invaders from the Germanic regions but in the east the Byzantine part of the empire held up. Over a thousand years it stood as a fortress against Arab expansion.

The Byzantine Empire kept the fires of the previous civilization burning - and added new innovations. The Greek language, research and attitude to learning were protected whilst the Romans imperial administration was kept and Roman laws enshrined. The religion of Greek Orthodox worship converted many new immigrants to an alternative form of Christianity glorifying it through its new religious art. Constantinople was in a fulchrum position between east and west becoming the conduit of culture for new migrants. Byzantium's 'capital' was diverse, prosperous and vibrant and influenced other influential civilizations of the Middle Ages. Up until the the empire fell in 1453, Byzantium's cultural influence, religious ambitions and political ideas had produced fruitful results among the eastern Europe peoples including in Russia - indeed the Russians eventually claimed the legacy of Byzantium.

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What was Byzantium's legacy?

Dating as far back as 330 A.D., Byzantium was formed by the Roman emperor Constantine I, who created "a new Rome" from the early Greek colony of Byzantium. This eastern portion of the Roman Empire surpassed the western half for more than a thousand years; moreover, during this period, a tradition of art, literature, and learning flourished. Very significantly, Byzantium became a military buffer between the threat of invasion from Asia and the European states. This powerful and culturally rich Byzantine Empire eventually fell in 1453 to an Ottoman army, following their storming of Constantinople where Constantine XI ruled.

  • Because of its geography, the eastern part of the Roman Empire proved less vulnerable than that of the west and, thus, offered greater protection for the empire.
  • Under the rule of Justinian I (527-565 A. D.), many monuments of great architecture were built, including Hagia Sophia. 
  • Justinian I also modified and codified Roman law, creating a legal code that endured for centuries and helped form the modern concept of the state.
  • During the late 10th and early 11th centuries, under the rule of Basil, the Byzantine Empire enjoyed a golden age in which Greek became the official language of the state and ancient Greek literature and history were taught.  Basil's imperial government patronized cultural institutions and the arts, and a culture of monasticism began which administered to orphanages, schools, and hospitals.
  • Even though the Byzantine Empire was ended by the Ottoman conquest of 1453, the great culture of Byzantium, with its language, literature, art, and theology, yet flourished. This Byzantine culture exerted a tremendous influence upon the Western mind since scholar of the Italian Renaissance turned to Byzantine scholars for assistance in translating Christian and Greek writings.
  • Byzantine culture continued its influence upon countries practicing Orthodox religion, such as Russia, Bulgaria, Serbia, Romania, and Greece. 

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