Research Paper on The Byzantine Empire: A Powerful Civilization

Paper Type:  Research paper
Pages:  7
Wordcount:  1900 Words
Date:  2023-01-04


The Byzantine empire also known as the Eastern Roman Empire was the extension of the Roman empire in its eastern provinces during the middle ages. It was a powerful civilization whose origin can be traced 330 AD., when Constantine, the Roman empire at this time extended the Roman rule on an ancient Greek colony called Byzantium. In 476 AD., the western part of the Roman empire had crumbled and fallen, but the eastern empire where Byzantine was situated survived the onslaught of fall for an additional one thousand years. The survival of this empire for such a long time saw it growing rich in the tradition of art, education and literature, and the rise of military service. This condition continued until the year 1453 when an Ottoman army stormed and attacked Constantinople and destroyed the empire ( Othman, 12). It was during the reign and rule of Constantine PAGE \* MERGEFORMAT xi.

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Another empire that existed at precisely the same time as the Byzantine Empire is the Islamic Caliphates. A caliphate is an Islamic state or nation under the rule of an Islamic steward who bears the title of Caliph. Caliphates are believed to have developed as polities based on Islam which later grew into multi-ethnic and transnational empires in the Muslim world. The leaders of the caliphates were religious figures who were successors of Muhamad, the Islamic prophet, and they were also the leaders of the entire Muslim community (Cleveland, 6). Historically, there were three significant caliphates which succeeded each other during the Medieval period. The first one was the Rashidun Caliphate which existed between 632 to 661 AD. The second Caliphate was the Umayyad Caliphate, between 661 and 750 AD. The third and the last major Caliphate was the Abbasid Caliphate which existed between 750 to 1258 AD. After the third Caliphate, the Ottoman Empire claimed Caliphal authority as well as a rule in other realms in the eastern and western parts of Europe and Asia.

This research paper is a historical paper that investigates the lives and times of the above mentioned two empires. The paper examines and gives an account of the Byzantine and the Islamic caliphate empires on account of religion, culture, government, architecture, and several other aspects. The aspects under investigation are historical and do not seek to give a comparison of the two empires based on the discussed elements.


The Byzantine Empire was primarily a Roman empire under the rule of the Romans. Since this empire came into existence during the middle ages, religious devotion was vital in all aspects of life. It was the custom of all the kingdoms in antiquity during the medieval period. Having become a part of the Roman empire, the city of Byzantium maintained, shared, and practiced Polytheistic beliefs until the 4th century AD. to the rule of Emperor Constantine in AD 306. The Greeks in Byzantine had adapted the Polytheistic belief from their Athenian counterparts in BC 478. When Constantine became the emperor, he moved the Roman Capital from Rome into the city of Byzantium and renamed it Constantinople (Bowersock). He did him in a quest to restructure the Roman empire and realize a new governing structure.

In AD 330, Constantine lifted the persecution on Christian practitioners in the Byzantine empire. This was a time what Christianity faced a lot of sentiments from the Polytheistic believers with reparations paid to those who lost in Christian persecutions. Constantine sought to good and social relationships with the Christians due to his belief in one true God and as an act of good will and social reforms for a harmonious kingdom.

Christianity found its roots in Byzantine, and it had a lot of influence in this exclusive Eastern Roman empire. The rise of emperors such as Theodosius and Justinian saw the further reforms of the religious policies to accommodate Christianity in society. However, in AD 381, Theodosius had suppressed Roman religious customs on public grounds on the second year of his rule. Several years later, he had succeeded in outlawing Roman and non-Orthodox Christian worship in Byzantine. His policy led to the declaration of a Nicene Christianity state in AD 325.

The outlawing of the Roman religious practices did not make them cease completely. Sects such as Nestorianism, Arianism, Monophysitism, Roman paganism, Judaism and many others found their exercise in the Byzantine Empire until the 6th Century. The factions were later destroyed by emperor Leo, and the entire state of Byzantine tended to subscribe to Eastern Orthodox as their universal religion.

The Islamic Caliphate has its religious history as well. But before one goes deep into investigating the spiritual practices carried out in this empire, it is prudent to acknowledge that caliphates are Islamic states which observe Islam as their religion.

When the second Caliph, Umar, conquered Damascus, and Jerusalem in 635 and 637 ADS respectively, he realized the need for loyalty in his new subjects. He, therefore, instituted a policy for religious tolerance in his new found lands, unlike the first Caliph who dictated that all his subjects must convert and practice Islamism their religion. The Jews and Christians in these lands receive the news of religious tolerance with great pleasure. Umar instituted the jizya tax for non-Muslims to pay in return for being allowed to practice their religion. The charge was not imposed on the Muslim believers as this was their default religion in all the caliphates.

Umar conquered the Sassanid capital, Ctesiphon in AD 637. Muslim forces aided this conquest. He was also able to conquer Egypt with the assistance of the Muslims in Syria. Babylon and Alexandria also fell under Umar's rule. In all these new lands, Umar extended the policy of religious tolerance with the non-Muslims continuing to pay the jizya tax. His government depended on the revenues raised from the non-Muslim believers, and he could also not risk a religious uprising from the outnumbering non-Muslims in his new territories. By the time the Muslims arrived in Persia, they had found Zoroastrianism as a well established national religion, and the Muslim conquest on Persia became difficult. Their faith firmly united the Persians and they considered the invading Muslims to be inferior to them. As a result of this, a Christian believer assassinated Caliph Umar in AD 644 (Cleveland).

Uthman from the Umayyad family succeeded Umar and became the third caliph. His most significant religious effect was his attempt to create a single definitive text of the Quran. He achieved this goal, although he faced a lot of criticism for tampering with religious writings. His action, however, was a significant accomplishment for the Islam religion.

Following the assassination of Uthman, a civil war ensued in the Muslim world on the question of who would become the next Caliph. The contest was between Ali and Mu'awiya. The latter assumed Islam leadership following the death of Ali. He continued the Islamic Caliphate rule and brought the civil war to an end. His continued rule saw the continuity of the practice of Muslim in all the territories that had been conquered by the Muslims. Other religions such as Christianity also found exercise in these territories although it was in lower proportions compared to Islam and Islamic worship. The Muslims in the Islamic Caliphate used the Quran as their religious text and guide in matters of their religion.


Culture is a people's way of living. It encompasses the daily activities of a community and the norms and principles that govern their undertakings. The Byzantine empire with its inhabitants during the medieval period had their way of life that they considered standard and applicable to all the subjects in this empire under the rule of the Romans. The location of the Byzantine Empire in the eastern Roman empire and particularly in Greece saw to the realm adopting the heritage of the Hellenistic age (Trapp, 25). This had the most significant effect on the evolution of culture and cultural practices in the Empire. Apart from this factor, Christianity also played a vital role in shaping the culture of the Byzantine Empire. As mentioned in the above section, Christianity was the central religion of the Empire after the Roman religious practices were banned from public practice.

With the remaining religious practices in Byzantine such as Judaism, Roman paganism, Nestorianism, and Arianism that did not die completely, there was a mixture of spiritual practices. These religions blended with the various cultural practices inherited from the former inhabitants and Byzantine associates gave a rich culture with a high degree of uniqueness (Treadgold, 43). The Byzantine culture was different from the cultural practices in Western Europe, a fact that alluded to a lot f oriental influences in the Byzantine Empire.

When it came to the composition of music, the Byzantine Empire again borrowed heavily from the Greeks way of composing music. The Greek wrote their music ecclesiastically, and this is what the Byzantine adopted. They initiated the use of lyre and pipes in their music, a culture that later spread to western Europe and in the Muslim world. Byzantine music is one of the oldest forms of music in history today.

Looking at the Islamic Caliphate Empire, things were not different in terms of cultural practices. The subjects and rulers of the Empire had their unique cultural traditions and the things they deemed right. The Caliphates were composed of different states that were progressively conquered by the Caliphs and brought under the Caliphate rule. This means that the culture in the Caliphate empire was a mixture of different cultural practices. Considering that Umar had introduced the policy of religious tolerance, it was impossible to force a standard culture in the various states under the Caliphate rule.

The caliphate empire concentrated mostly in the middle east and some parts of Europe. Egypt in Africa was also under the Caliphate Empire. This is what is commonly known as the Arabic World. The religion that is highly practiced in this part of the world is Islam. Therefore, Islam called the highest stake where culture was concerned in the Islamic Caliphate. Islamic laws and ordinances as found in the Quran were used rampantly in setting up the standards of living among the subjects of the Islamic Caliphate Empire.

Other cultures were also practiced. For instance, the Christian subjects were not banned from practicing Christianity and the cultures that go with the same. The Jews in Jerusalem also continued to practice the Jewish culture and Judaism as their religion. The Islamic Caliphate, therefore, had several cultural practices based on the different territories that were conquered and the different types of faith practiced in many areas.

Apart from the culture dictated by religion and geographical factors, the Islamic caliphate had a common perception that blossomed in the Islam world in the medieval period. This was to do with the issues of art and philosophy where knowledge was written in the paper that originated from China. Philosophers could write and sell books to earn a living, and their experience was shared and practiced in many parts of the Islamic Caliphate. They also developed the culture of making medicine. Physicians and other scholars took an interest in developing complex medical literature in the theory of the practice of medicine. Their medical knowledge was traditional, theoretical, and practical as developed in India, Persia, Greece, and Rome.


The Byzantine Empire had the emperor as the sole and absolute ruler. The power of the emperor was absolute to all his subjects, and the subjects considered him and his authority to have a divine origin. This perception made...

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