|| Byzantine Empire : Imperial Office
The Byzantine Empire was ruled by autocratic emperors who were the
source of governmental authority. Emperors were responsible for
upholding correct religious doctrine by placing the full force of imperial
power behind doctrinal uniformity. Emperors strove for religious
unanimity, in part to cultivate favor from church officials, but also
because they believed that the survival and welfare of the empire
depended on divine favor.
The emperor embodied living law, issued legislation, and was the final
interpreter of secular law. Ultimate responsibility for all political and
military appointments rested with him, and he had a decisive role in
selecting and removing the patriarch of Constantinople and other church
officials. The emperor was at the summit of a splendid formal etiquette,
and Byzantine society was characterized by rank consciousness and
minute attention to protocol.
|| The Empire
The Byzantine Empire is also known as the East Roman Empire, for it
was in fact a continuation of the Roman Empire into its eastern part. At
its greatest size, during the 500's AD, Byzantine included parts of
southern and eastern Europe, the Middle East, and northern Africa.
The Byzantine people called themselves Romans although they were
actually descendants of various ancient peoples and they spoke Greek.
The word Byzantine, in fact, comes from "Byzantium," which is the
Greek name for a city on the Bosphorus. The Greeks colonized the area
first, in the mid-600's BC, even before Alexander the Great brought his
troops into Anatolia (334 BC). Greek culture continued its influence long
after the region became part of the Roman Empire, in the 100's BC.
But it was when Roman emperor Constantine the Great moved the
capital of the Empire from Rome to Byzantium and renamed it
Constantinople, in 330 AD, that the Byzantine Empire really began. It
lasted over 1000 years, ending finally in 1453, when the Turks
conquered Constantinople and renamed it Istanbul.
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Christianity had a strong influence on Byzantine art, music, and
architecture. Since Constantinople was the political center of the Empire,
it also was the educational center, where future government officials
learned to read and write the language of ancient Greece. Thus this
period produced remarkable works in history as well as fine poetry, and
much religious prose. All the visual arts flourished, too.
Most of the artists worked as servants of the court or belonged to
religious orders, and they remained anonymous. Ivory carvings,
Byzantine crosses, and "illuminations," or small manuscript paintings,
attest to their skill. Almost all that survives of the Byzantine architecture
are its churches, with their glorious frescoes and mosaics. With Hagia
Sophia as an example, their architects and artisans reached heady
heights of magnificence, indeed.
For 1100 years, the Byzantine's were able to maintain control of their
empire, although somewhat tenuously at times; the empire's expansion
and prosperity were balanced by internal religious schisms and
recurring wars with enemies from the outside. Finally, weakened by
recurring waves of attack, the Ottomans overcame the exhausted
Byzantines and a new era of leadership began. The Byzantine Empire,
however, had left its mark on the culture, never to be entirely erased.
|| French revolution
French Revolution, major transformation of the society and political
system of France, lasting from 1789 to 1799. During the course of the
Revolution, France was temporarily transformed from an absolute
monarchy, where the king monopolized power, to a republic of
theoretically free and equal citizens. The effects of the French
Revolution were widespread, both inside and outside of France, and the
Revolution ranks as one of the most important events in the history of
During the ten years of the Revolution, France first transformed and
then dismantled the Old Regime, the political and social system that
existed in France before 1789, and replaced it with a series of different
governments. Although none of these governments lasted more than
four years, the many initiatives they enacted permanently altered
France's political system. These initiatives included the drafting of
several bills of rights and constitutions, the establishment of legal
equality among all citizens, experiments with representative democracy,
the incorporation of the church into the state, and the reconstruction of
state administration and the law code.
Many of these changes were adopted elsewhere in Europe as well.
Change was a matter of choice in some places, but in others it was
imposed by the French army during the French Revolutionary Wars
(1792-1797) and the Napoleonic Wars (1799-1815). To later
generations of Europeans and non-Europeans who sought to overturn
their political and social systems, the French Revolution provided the
most influential model of popular insurrection until the Russian
Revolution of 1917.
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