Foundation and Early Eastern Roman Empire   Justinian Dynasty (518 - 602)   Phocas (r.602-610)

Heraclian Dynasty ( 610 - 711 )   Isaurian Dynasty ( 717 - 866 )

  Macedonian Dynasty (867-1081)    Comneni Dynasty (1081-1204)

     Fall of the Byzantine Empire   Byzantine Military   The Hippodrome   Administration   Religion

   Byzantine Art  Byzantine Empire Maps   Glossary   Time Line   








The name Byzantine Empire is the name applied to the Eastern Roman Empire  which survived the Germanic invasions of the fourth century which toppled the Western Roman Empire and ruled for over a thousand years till the sacking of Constantinople in 1453  by the Ottoman Empire. Byzantine civilization spanned 11 centuries and three continents. When did the Eastern Roman Empire become the Byzantine Empire ? There is no official date, though most mark its beginnings with Constantine's transfer of the capital of the Eastern Empire from Nicomedia to Constantinople in 330. Some historians to date the commencement of the Byzantine Empire as early as the reigns of Zeno and Anastasius, and others to descend so late as the times of Heraclius who took the Greek title of Basileus instead of the Latin Imperator and replaced Latin with Greek as the official language, some by the accession of Leo the Isaurian. The inhabitants themselves called themselves Romans in Greek


.The Byzantine Empire was the last stronghold of Christianity in Asia Minor and one of the prime trade centers in the world, helped defend Western Europe from Muslim expansion, provided a stable gold currency for the Mediterranean world (the solidus,from which the word soldier is derived) , influenced the laws, political systems, and customs of much of Europe and the Middle East, and preserved much of the literary works and scientific knowledge of ancient Greece, Rome, and many other cultures. The Slavs and the Russians were converted to the Greek Orthodox faith." Byzantine " has become synonym for deceitful, overly complex or elaborate scheming and intrigue, due to such historians as Gibbon who branded the successors of Justinian and Heraclius as a series of vicious weaklings. Later historians have given the empire a more balanced and charitable accounting, considering the myriad of challenges it face and its ability to survive for so long .In the field of literature and learning the Byzantine civilization was distinctly conservative. The Greek classics were the basis of education. In the field of art and architecture the Byzantines archived its most original and creative expression in the brilliant frescoes,mosaics and sculptures found in such churches as the St. Sophia.



History Channel Documentary Engineering an Empire The Byzantines



Byzantium The Lost Empire full documentary by John Romer




   Map of Byzantine Constantinople




Division of the Roman Empire-Fall of the West and the Foundation Early Eastern Empire

312 AD  Battle of the Milvian Bridge

330 Constantine founds Nova Roma, later known as Constantinople

378-395 Theodosius I last Roman emperor to reign over both the Eastern and Western Roman Empire. After his death, the two parts split permanently

408-450  Emperor Theodosian builds  Walls of Constantinople,walls not breached till 1204

455 Vandal sack of Rome

476 End of Western Roman Empire


The Justinian Dynasty

(518 - 602)

518-527 soldier Justin I founds Justian dynasty

525-565 Justinian I

525 Justian marries Theodora,one of the most powerful women in Byz history

529 Corpus Juris Civilis law reforms

532 Nika riots

540-3 Plague of Justinian

533534 conquest of North Africa by Belisarius

537 Hagia Sophia finished

535-554 Most of Italy reconquered

550 conquests in Spain apogee of Byzantine expansion

570s Lombards take most of Italy

582-602 Maurice,victories against Persians,Avars and Slavs, writes Strategicon

 Phocas ( r 602 - 610 ) Phocas leads mutiny against and kills  Maurice,time of brutal repression

608  The Exarch of Africa and his son, both named Heraclius, began a revolt against Phocas,kills Phocas in 610


The Heraclian Dynasty ( 610 - 711 )

610-642 Heraclius

Empre attacked on many fronts

625 Avar siege of Constaninople fails

627 Persians defeated at Ninevah,sue for peace

632 Muhammad dies

Latin abandoned for Greek in court documents

641-668  Constans II

642 Byzantines completely withdraw from Egypt

656 civil war between the future Sunni and Shi'a factions

660 Constans kills younger bro, moves Syracuse,visits Rome.Rumored to be planning to move capital to Syracuse and killed.

668-685 Constantine IV

687 Arab siege of Constaninople repulsed by Greek fire

685-695  705-711 Justinian II

680s Slavs in Balkans subdued

695 Arabs conquer Armenia

Thematic organization of the Empire

695  Justinian deposed,nose cut off and exiled by Leontius, strategus of Hellas

695-698 Leontios

697 Carthage falls to Arabs

705 Justinian regains throne, tyranical rule leads to revolt and execution, last of the Heraclian Dynasty

711-713 Philippikos,blinded after army mutiny

713-715 Anastasios II,overthrown after army mutiny

715-717 Theodosios III

717 the strategos of the Anatolic Theme, Leo the Isaurian (the future Leo III of the Isaurian dynasty), rebelled against Theodosius' rule, Theodosius resigns


 Isaurian Dynasty

( 717 - 802)

Isaurian dynasty (717-802)

Nikephoros' dynasty


Non-dynastic (813-820)

Phrygian dynasty


717-741 Leo III

717-718 Second Arab siege of Constantinople thwarted

Empire revived with military and admin reforms

740 Ummayad Caliphate defeated at Akroinon, Arab forces expelled from Asia Minor

750 End of Umayyad Caliphate,rise of Abbasid Caliphate

New field army divisions called tagmata created

Byzantines go on offensive against new Caliphate

726 edicts against the worship of images, start of Iconoclasm to deal with abuses

727 Religious revolt in Greece put down-Exarchate of Ravenna rebells from the empire

741-775 Constantine V

civil war of rival emperors

Constantine  an even more fervent iconoclast than his father

775-780 Leo IV,upon his death his wife Irene made guardian of their son Constantine VI

797-802 Empress Irene Imperial regent.

Restoration of the Orthodox veneration of icons

787 Constantine turns 16, gains power in 790, Irene allowed to be Empress

Constantine blinds rivals,divorced wife,losses support.

797 Irene blinds son Constantine who dies of wounds

802 Irene was exiled to Lesbos

Nikephoros' Dynasty (802-813)

802-811 Nikephoros I

811 Nikephoros defeated and killed by the king of Bulgaria,who is said to have made a drinking cup of his skull.

811-844 Michael I Rangabe

Charlemagne returns Venice to Byz in return for recognition as Holy Roman Emperor

813-820 Leo V

Phrygian dynasty (820-867)

820-829 Michael II

819-842 Theophilos

830 Theodora wins bride show

842-855 Theodora regent 842-855

842-867 Michael III

860 Rus attack on Constaniople

842-867 Michael III

863 Saints Cyril and Methodios introduce Slanonic writing system to Moravia

Michael III's courtier and chamberlain Basil the Macedonian gains influence

867 Basil was crowned co-emperor, Basil assassinates Michael III and becomes emperor


The Macedonian Dynasty



842-867 Basil I the Macedonian

Macedonian Renaissance renewed interest in classical scholarship

886-912 Leo VI the Wise

last Byzantine city in Sicily taken by Arabs

908-959 Constantine VII

959-963 Romanos II

961 Crete retaken from Arabs

963-969 Nicephorus II Phocas

960s Byz armies retake Mesopotamia,Syria and  Cyprus. Otto I of the Holy Roman Empire declares himself the Western Roman Emperor,drives Byz forces to the coast of Italy

969 Young and brilliant Gen. John I Tzimiskes conspires with with Nikephoros' wife Theophano to kill Nicephorus.Patriarch Polyeuktos forces John to punish Theophano with exile

969-976 John I Tzimiskes

970 Kievan Rus driven from Bulgaria

972 Byz invasion of  Upper Mesopotamia

975 Byz conquests in Syria

976-1025 Basil II the Bulgar-slayer

civil war

989 Basil agrees to let sister Anna marry Vladimir I of Kiev, Christianization of the Kievan Rus. Rus soldiers given to Basil become emperor's Varangian Guard

990s Much of Syria added to the empire

1000s conquest of much of the Bulgarian Empire,after the Battle of Kleidion 15,000 Bulgarian prisoners taken,99 out of 100 prisoners blinded, causing Bulgarian Emperor Samuel to have a stroke and die.Byz Emp extends to  Danubian frontier for the first time in 400 years

1016 Byz defeat Khazars and occupy southern Crimea. Later Armenia and southern Italy retaken.

1025-1026 Constantine VIII, dies with no male heir, empire passes to his daughter, Zoe.and her husband Romanos Argyros

1028-1034 Romanos Argyros, his death possibly caused by Zoe and her lover Michael

1034-1042 Michael IV, adopted son of Zoe, exiles Zoe and her sister Theodora. Zoe's popular support forces her recall from exile, Zoe and Theodora have Michael blinded and castrated.

Co emperors Empress Zoe 1042-1050

Constantine IX Monomachos 1042-1055 Constantine marries Zoe 1042

1046 first contact with Seljuk Turks in battle in Armenia

1054 final seperation of Orthodox and Catholic Churches

1055-56 Empress Theodora, becomes empress at 70, last of the Macedonian dynasty.

1056-57 Michael VI Bringas

Chosen by the empress Theodora as her successor shortly before her death,forced to abdicate and retire by Isaac I Komnenos, founder of the Komnenos dynasty.


The Comneni Dynasty (1081-1204)- Crusader sack of 1204 and the Fall of the Byzantine Empire


1057-1059 Isaac I Komnenos, economic reforms of empire, abdicated due to illness


1059-1067 Constantine X Doukas, weakened army in favor of church and nobility.Army trys to assassinate him in 1061

1068-1071 Romanos IV Diogenes, marries wife of last emperor

1071 Byz city of Bari in Italy surrenders to Normans

1071 Battle of  Manazkert one of the most decisive defeats in Byzantine history. Son of  Constantine X Doukas, betrays Romanos in battle,captured by Seljuk sultan Alp Arslan .rleased on ransom. Romanos losses civil war with sons of Constantine X Doukas and blinded.

1071-78 Michael VII Doukas

Armies sent to recover western Asia Minor defeated

Devaluation of the currency

Michael resigns after army revolt

1078-81 Nikephoros III Botaneiates,retires to monastery

1081-1118 Alexios I Komnenos Alexios was able to halt the Byzantine decline and begin the recovery known as the "Komnenian restoration". His appeals to Western Europe for help against the Turks were also the catalyst that triggered the Crusades. Daughter Anna Komnene wrote history of reign

1091 Seljuk Pecheng siege of Constantinople defeated

1095 Byz ambassadors sent to  Pope Urban who urges crusade. Alexios only wished mercenaries and heavy cavalry,unprepared for large numbers that ravaged the Balkans on the way to the Holy Land,. The first disorganized group of Crusaders defeated by Turks in 1096.

Second Crusade Crusaders take Nicaea in 1097

1118-1143 John II Komnenos

Famed for his piety and his remarkably mild and just reign.made alliances with the Holy Roman Empire in the west, decisively defeated the Pechenegs in the Balkans, and personally led numerous campaigns against the Turks in Asia Minor.,putting th Turks on the defensive. Appointees chosen on merit rather than family connections.Accidently killed while hunting.

1143-1180 Manuel I Komnenos

1146 Seljuk capital of Konya besieged but not taken

1176 Byz defeat by Seljuks at Battle of Myriokephalon

1180-83 Alexios II Komnenos

1182 Massacre of the Latins in Constantinople,est 60,000 resentment against Italian merchants

1183-85 Andronikos I Komnenos Limits power of nobles,grows paranoid and violent,many executions. King William of the Norman Sicilians pillages Thessalonica. revolt against,Andronikos killed by mob. Last of the Komnenos dynasty.


 Byzantine Military  


The Hippodrome


Byzantine Art


Byzantine Empire Maps

Time Line of Byzantine History


Byzantine Empire Links


Administration of the Byzantine Empire


Religion in the Byzantine Empire




 A Concise History of Byzantium

Warren Treadgold

 Classic general history of Byzantium



Byzantium: The Lost Empire




 12 Byzantine Rulers podcast

 by Lars Brownworth



The Fall of 

Constantinople 1453

Steven Runciman

Sir Steven Runciman was one of the English language's (if not the world's) leading scholars of the Crusades and the Eastern Roman Empire. He weaves a story that is both historically accurate as well as emotionally moving


Justinian's Flea: Plague, Empire, and the Birth of Europe


The Alexiad

Anna Comnena (1083-1153) wrote "The Alexiad" as an account of the reign of her father, the Byzantine Emperor Alexius I. It is also an important source of information on the Byzantine war with the Normans, and on the First Crusade in which Alexius participated


 Ancient Coin Collecting V: The Romaion/Byzantine Culture

This book is a great resource, it introduces all of the main themes in Byzantine coinage


Byzantine coins





acheiropoietos Greek 'not made by human hands' image of Chirst, the Virgin or a saint that appears in a miraculous fashion


akakia purple silk pouch carried by the emperor during court ceremonies containing dirt from a grave to remind the emperor that he was human


apse vaulted space of Byzantine Church that traditionally held a statue of the Virgin Mary


aspasmos veneration of an icon by kissing,bowing or embracing it


Athos center of Orthodox monasticism


Augustaion main square in Constantinople


autocephalous an ecclesiastical province


autokrator Greek  'absolute ruler' one of the titles of the emperor


basileus Greek 'king' principal title for emperor


boyat,bojar member of the military landed nobility in Bulgaria and Russia


bulla seal attached to a document


Cappadocia  ancient name for a hilly region of central Anatolia with many churches and monasteries, some carved out of rock


chiton tunic worn by Byzantine men and women


chlamys long cloak worn over chiton,became part of the military insignia of the emperor


chrysobull imperial documents signed by the emperor


Codex Justinianus compilation of imperial law by Justinian I, arranged according to subject, intended to be free of repetitions and contradictions


Codex Theodosianus Latin lawbook commissioned by Theodosis II and compiled in 429, superceded by the

 Codex Justinianus


coenobitic monastic rule where all possessions are held in common


demes factions of chariot racing supporters, lead by a demarch.


Deo coronatus Greek 'crowned by God' ruler who had God's approval


Digenes Akritic national epic compiled in the 12th century of warriors who fought in Anatolia


diptych a laterally connected pair of panels made of wood,ivory or precious metal


Dromon Byzantine warship


Edit of Milan  first decree granting tolerance of Christianity issued by Constantine the Great in 313


eparchy second only to the emperor,the eparch of Constantinople acted as governor,supreme judge, chief of police and controlled trade


Ferrara-Florence Council religious council held in 1438-45 to attempt to reunite the Orthodox and Roman Church, ended in failure


Greek fire early form of napalm, projected from ships


gynaikeion part of Byzantine house or palace reserved for women


Hagia Sophia cathedral of Holy Wisdom, the first was built in 360 ,destroyed by fire in 404 by supporters of John Chrysostom,rebuilt in 415 and destroyed again in the Nika Revolt of 532,rebuilt in 532-7 by Justinian, converted into a mosque by the Ottomans called the Ayasfya Camii, made a museum in 1935


Hippodrome arena for chariot races built by Septimus Severus in 196, area for sports,triumphs and proclamations of emperors


hosios saint


icon Greek 'image' any image of a sacred personage


Iconoclasm Greek 'breaking of images' movement during the 8th and 9th centuries that rejected the sanctity of icons and outlawed their veneration, officially ended in 843


Koilas klaphtmonos Byzantine slave market


logothetes one of the ministers of the emperor treasurer,prime minister and minister of foreign affairs


milion milestone in the Augustaion which distances from the empire were measured from


Pantokrator Greek all sovereign' best known type of Christ image, bearded and blessing with right hand, holding the Gospel in the left, usually decorates central dome of Orthodox churches


solidus or nomisma Byzantine gold coin, used as a medium of international trade due to its standard weight and purity to the 11th century, the word soldiers is derived from this word.


strategos Greek 'general'


Strategikon a military manual,compiled by the Byzantine emperor Maurice (582-602


stylities ascetic moks who lived on platforms on pillars


tagmatic army professional army under the direct command of the emperor


theme military division and territorial unit administered by a strategos with military and civil power, leader of a theme were responsible for gathering levies in time of war. Soldiers were given land in a theme in return for service


taxis organization of state and church along similar hierarchical lines, in imitation of the hierarchy of the heavenly realm


vita icon icon with scenes of the life of a saint


Trisagion Greek 'thrice holy' hymn


Byzantine Empire Links 








 Foundation and Early Eastern Roman Empire