Archaeology Odyssey 5:3, May/June 2002


The Byzantine Empire was born in 324 A.D. with the founding of Constantinople on the site of an ancient town called Byzantium. Constantine I (306–337 A.D.), the first Christian Roman emperor, sought a site at the southernmost point of the Balkans to become the New Rome. The Byzantines even called themselves “Romaioi” and their territory “Romania.” The adjective “Byzantine” did not come into use until the 16th century, well after the empire had collapsed in the wake of the 1453 conquest of Constantinople by Ottoman Turks.

The Byzantine Empire, however, was not just a continuation of Rome—it was a new entity, combining western and eastern elements. Unlike the Latin-speaking pagans of ancient Rome, the Byzantines were largely Greek-speaking and thoroughly Christianized. They created a civilization that outlasted the Roman Empire by about 1,000 years.

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