Monday, October 25, 2010

Eastern Roman Empire-the Rome that Survived to the 15th Century

Most often called the Byzantium Empire by history, the Eastern Roman Empire far outlasted its more famous Western namesake. The trade of the Silk Road made the Eastern Roman Empire one of the richest empires of the pre-Renaissance World. This wealth was a major factor in the long survival of the Empire as well a major cause of its eventual conquest, as enemy after enemy was attracted to the untold riches the Empire held.

>Triple Walls of Emperor Theodosian

With its capital city of Constantinople protected by three sets of impregnable walls, the Eastern Roman Empire lasted almost a millennium after the fall of the Western Empire. The wealth of the Empire maintained these great fortifications as well as the excellent military need to defend them.

Justinian the Great brought the Eastern Empire to its highpoint of power and prestige. During his rule Latin was still the language of the Empire. As time passed Greek became the official language. Unfortunately lesser emperors, civil wars and constant warfare with ever stronger enemies slowly whittled down the strength and borders of the Empire.

The Cathedral of Hagia Sophia, with its massive dome roof,is is an excellent example of the Roman engineering skills the Eastern Empire maintained for future rediscovery by Western Europe during the Renaissance.

The final collapse of the walls of Constantinople was brought about by a technology unknown to their builders-gunpowder. This 63cm (25 inch)siege cannon is similar to those that finally breached the walls of Constantinople in 1453 CE.

With the death of the last Eastern Roman Emperor, Constantine XI Palaiologos, at the hands of the Ottoman Turks of Mehmed II, twenty-two centuries of glorious and infamous rule of the Roman Empires ended, but not their influence. With the Renaissance, Western Europe rediscovered much of the knowledge of the Ancients, improved and expanded these ideas and eventually conquered the World, the Romans would have understood and been pleased.

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