Byzantine Empire Essay Sample

  • Category: History,
  • Words: 731 Pages: 3
  • Published: 21 May 2021
  • Copied: 139

Before the Byzantine Empire was established, many different events happened to kick start this long lasting empire. The split of the Roman empire separates Rome into east and west. Whilst the west side declines quickly and it’s emperors are assassinated, the east side begins a whole new culture and expansion, the Byzantine Empire. This new culture would be the first to accomplish many historical elements of culture and expression. However, this culture was not the mere result of the people who occupied the Byzantine Empire, but also the ones who ruled it: the state. The state helped to introduce patriarchs, icons that would later become very controversial, architectural feats, along with minor introductions such as codes and the beginnings of a well educated society. These actions would either help the culture flourish, or drift a wedge between the differing opinions.  

Caesaropapism is a term used to describe when an emperor becomes a head of state and church combined. Justinian is a prime example of caesaropapism in the Byzantine Empire. Rather than following in the steps of Constantine and electing someone as a bishop or a pope, Justinian took a different approach. He introduced patriarchs, who were known as religious leaders of the Orthodox Church. These patriarchs would help to represent the ever growing Orthodox Church as it began to flourish in the Byzantine empire. Justinian would influence these patriarchs in what they said towards the public. This helped to spread the influence of the church to Justinian’s people, a way in which he uses his state power to help spread culture. In addition to caesaropapism and patriarchs, Justinian develops a code, helping to try and end religious quarrels in his community. Justinian is quickly able to unite his people under a certain cause just as his predecessor Constanine did for Rome. In fact, Constantine is able to help the culture of Byzantine spread long after his death. By establishing Constantinople and Justinians rebuilding of the once powerful capital in its current place, it allowed for wild events to take place such as the Hippodrome and for many different food stands and entertainment to be set up in a strong capital. Both Justinian and Constanine help to establish means of power regarding church and state that allows the culture to have free space to grow, such as the Orthodox church and its traditions blooming throughout the empire and Constantinople becoming a great place for events of high quality entertainment to take place. 

Not only was the combination of church and state a massive influence on their spread of cultural beliefs, their architectural feats directly showed what the emperors truly did to help the spread of culture. Justinian developed law schools, hospitals, and many different necessities for his people that gave them security. However, Justinian's most important and impactful piece of architecture is widely regarded as the Hagia Sophia. The Hagia Sophia tells a beautiful story of the Byzantine culture, of Arabian culture, and of the true work that needed to be done in order to achieve a goal of that caliber. The Hagia Sophia was worshipped by the people of Byzantine as one of the biggest Christian achievements ever. In fact, returning back to the growth of the Orthodox church and Christianity, the Byzantine Empire is soon introduced to icons, small pieces of architecture featuring religious figures and were often worshipped. Icons quickly became a controversial subject due to the Arab’s disapproval because of their religious beliefs and the overall split in the empire determining whether or not icons were appropriate. Many believed the emperor didn’t have the jurisdiction to determine whether or not icons would be allowed in the area. The emperor quickly made his decision, and banned the use of icons. This caused riots throughout the cities as a tragic event called iconoclasm happened. The term represents the destruction of these icons. Iconoclasm is an example of this emperor, Lao III, causing a divide in their culture, and drifting a wedge between the two opposing sides of his empire. This stunted the growth of culture as the many different icons representing their cultural beliefs were destroyed or otherwise damaged permanently. However, it did increase the power the emperor had over religious matters. This was a prime example of the state affecting cultural development in a less than positive way. On one hand, the works of Justinian’s architectural feats allowed the making of the Hagia Sophia, perhaps one of the most influential religious buildings in the world. On the other, Lao III banned the use of icons, temporarily causing a drift to form between his empire and slow the rate of cultural expression. Both Justinian and Lao III caused huge events that would forever change the culture and course of the Byzantine Empire.

 

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