World History Ap Eastern/Western Europe Compare and Contrast Essay

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The Byzantine Empire: The Empire of New Rome The Byzantine Empire was the successor of the Roman Empire in the East. While the Western Roman Empire fell in 476 AD, the Byzantine Empire in the East lasted another 1,000 years. Its people never called themselves “Byzantines”; they considered themselves Rhomaioi, or Romans, and they traced their history back to the beginning of the Roman Empire. The Byzantine Empire is given a different name and considered different than the preceding Roman Empire because the Byzantines had a few major differences from their Roman predecessors: most importantly, they were Christians and spoke mainly Greek instead of Latin. Constantine the Great and the Beginning of Byzantium It is a matter of debate when the Roman Empire officially ended and transformed into the Byzantine Empire. Most scholars accept that it did not happen at one time, but that it was a slow process, and so late Roman history overlaps with early Byzantine history. Constantine I (“the Great”) is usually held to be the founder of the Byzantine Empire. He was responsible for two major changes that would help create a Byzantine culture distinct from the Roman past. First, he legalized Christianity, which had previously been persecuted in the Roman Empire. He converted to Christianity, and sponsored the Christian Church. Christianity would be a major feature at the heart of Byzantine culture. The second major step taken by Constantine was moving the capital of the Roman Empire to the city of Byzantium (the origin of the word “Byzantine”), which he refounded as the city of Constantinople (it was also sometimes called “New Rome”). Constantine’s founding of Constantinople in 330 AD is usually considered the beginning of the Byzantine Empire. By moving the capital of the empire outside Italy and to the East, Constantine moved the center of gravity in the empire to this region,

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