Rome’s Successor – Byzantine! Why Not!?

Between Byzantine, Islamic, and Frankish worlds, the state that deserves the title of Rome’s successor is Byzantine. Although Byzantine got most of their culture from Greece, they were able to continue and expand Rome’s traditions in many different ways.

The Eastern Roman Empire, where Byzantine Empire took shape, was better governed so the emperors were able to “fattened their treasuries, and strengthened the fortifications of Constantinople,” as well as “enjoyed important military strengths. The empire prospered as cities, industries, commerce, and free peasants increased.

The Byzantine government continued the later Roman political system such as “the close involvement of emperors in the Byzantine Church,” and Byzantine taxation. They also inherited the political mindset from the late Roman Empire that their state was “the ark of civilization” so “it had to be preserved at all costs.”

Justinian, their emperor between 527 – 565, was even very determined to revive the old Roman Empire and recover the lost Western provinces. For a few years, he succeeded in establishing an imperial authority in the city of Rome. Justinian and his wife, Theodora, devoted a huge amount to rebuild Constantinople. The church of Hagia Sophia, for example, showed Byzantine’s notable works of art. The “body of civil laws” that his group of lawyers systematically arranged also served as “the vehicle in which Roman law returned to Western Europe.”

Byzantine also took its religion from Christianity, the official religion of Rome. For them, this faith was “a compelling identity that defined their very existence.” They looked at their emperor as the protector of their church, and that the armies fought for both the empire and God. Byzantine missionaries converted many Balkans to Eastern Orthodox Christianity in the middle years of the ninth century. Moreover, promoting this religion helped them develop diplomatic ties, trade, and peace. Prince Vladimir of Kiev married the Byzantine Emperor Basil II’s sister, Anna, and converted the Russian states to Christianity. Through these ties, Basil was able to get 6,000 soldiers to help him against the Bulgars.