The Byzantine Empire
The reign of Emperor Justinian I., known as the Age of Justinian, was the most efficient in the history of the empire.
It was distinguished by the rise of painting, sculpture, and architecture. In this reign the empire was extended; the great churches were constructed, including Saint Sophia and several hundreds others; and the famous "Code of Emperor Justinian" was written. He was succeeded by Emperor Justinian II., who was unfortunately harrassed by the Persians in the East and the Avars in the West. His reign was followed by Maurice, a weak and lawless ruler, who was overthrown by Heraclius. The latter reigned successfully from 610 to 641. His achievements in war are regarded equal to those of Scipio and Hannibal. Though several possessions were lost, those remaining were closely united and the Byzantine empire became more distinctly Greek.
In this period the empire possessed various distinguished though often cruel rulers, among them Empress Irene, who sought to unite the Eastern and Western empires by an endeavor to marry Charlemagne (who had assumed the crown of the Western The Roman Empire, though in fact he was the ruler of the Franks, a barbarian tribe based mainly in present day France). In order to carry out her scheme, the Empress blinded her own son so that he could not assume the throne, but she failed to achieve a union of the Byzantine empire with the Frankish empire pretending to be the restored The Roman Empire, for want of support in her own nation. In the reign of Constantine VII., in the middle of the 10th century, many Russian and Hungarian princes embraced Christianity and Christianized their people.
In the beginning of the 11th century the Bulgarians were conquered, but the Turks began to threaten Italy from the East, while the Normans became aggressive from the West.
From 1204 to 1261 the crusaders, known as the Latins because they originated from the Latin or Western part of Europe, occupied the empire. The Byzantine empire was now commonly called the Latin Empire of Rumelia, and Count Baldwin of Flanders became the first emperor.
At this time the Byzantine empire was divided into various kingdoms and was made tributary to the Venetians and French. Latin occupation was marked by harmful influences, since both art and culture degenerated, and its former greatness was forever lost. In 1261 the Latin Empire vanished, and the Byzantine emperors regained control, but the empire was fragmented and many of the smaller principalities still remained under foreign control.
Sultan Amurath was succeeded by Bajazet, a strong Turkish warrior, who captured Philadelphia, in Asia Minor, and laid siege to Constantinople, but the city was saved by the Tartars under Timour, who invaded Western Asia, which caused a retreat of the Turks to defend their countries in the East. Various rulers followed successively until the Turks attacked Constantinople with an army of 400,000 men under Sultan Mohammed, on April 6, 1453.
The once powerful, centuries old Byzantine Empire, the heir to Rome, had shrunk to one city defended by a garrison of 8,000 men. The Byzantines made a noble defense, but they were finally conquered, and Constantine, the last of the Byzantine emperors, was slain in the battle. The cross on the dome of Saint Sophia was replaced by the crescent of the Moslem. Christianity was exterminated, and the surviving inhabitants were sold into slavery.
Roman Aqueducts made possible the growth of Roman cities and permitted the development of a large urban civilization.