By Grace P. Morrissey ‘22
The Byzantine Empire was founded by the Roman Emperor Constantine in 330 AD. After the Roman Empire split into eastern and western halves, Constantine moved the capital of the Roman Empire to the ancient Greek city of Byzantium, which is where the term “Byzantine” comes from. Constantine then renamed the city or Byzantium, Constantinople.
Constantinople – located at the point between the Aegean and Black Seas – became the “new Rome” and the capital city of the Byzantine Empire. In later centuries, Byzantines still considered themselves to be Romans, despite the fact that they spoke Greek and practiced Eastern Orthodox Christianity. However, Byzantine society was incredibly diverse and included Christian Greeks, Slavs, Armenians, Georgians, Coptics, and Jewish populations. During the Byzantine Golden Age under the Emperor Justinian, the Byzantine Empire stretched around the Mediterranean Sea into Italy, Greece, North Africa and parts of the Middle East.
By the time of the Crusades, Byzantine territory had been reduced to the Balkan Peninsula and Turkey. In 1204, Latin Crusaders sacked the city of Constantinople, looting precious works of art and relics. The city was eventually reclaimed by the Byzantines, however they never regained their previous power or territory. In 1453 the Byzantine Empire fell to the Ottomans after Sultan Mehmet II conquered Constantinople.