The Byzantine Period – Q & A

What Does the name Byzantium / Byzantine means?

Byzantium was an ancient Greek colony that was founded by a man named Byzas on the European side of the Bosporus. It became the center of the Byzantine Empire. When Constantine decided to make it the capital of the Roman Empire he changed the name to Constantinople.

Why did Constantine start believing in the God of the Christians?

At the battle by the Milvian Bridge over the river Tiber, Constantine looks up to the light of the sun and sees a cross of light above it with the words ‘In hoc signo vinces’, in this sign, you will conquer. The next night he has a dream in which Christ explains that he should use the sign of the cross against his enemies. He used the symbol of the cross with the Greek
letters XP (first two letters of Christos in the Greek alphabet) on the armor of his soldiers and he defeated Maxentius in this battle.

What were the Changes in the Byzantine Period?

First of all, it is good to realize that the name Byzantine Empire was given to it only after
the empire fell (in the time of the Renaissance in Europe). When the Western Roman
Empire fell to Germanic conquerors in 476 AD the Eastern Empire continued on as what
historians would later refer to as the Byzantine Empire. During the Byzantine period they
actually still called it the Roman Empire and they referred to themselves as Romans. They
were mainly Greek-speaking and Christians but they still used Roman laws, had the Roman
culture.
What did change was that the Byzantine Empire shifted its capital from Rome to
Constantinople, that the official religion became Christianity and the official language
changed from Latin to Greek. The orientation was now on Greek rather than Latin culture.
In Palestine, we see that the majority of Christians are Greek Orthodox.
Constantine supported the Christian church. He gave wealth to the church, he was involved
in important religious debates and he gave preference to Christians in the government.
Two of the most important churches were built, the Nativity Church in Bethlehem and the
Holy Sepulcher church in Jerusalem.
In Palestine the administration was reorganized into three dioceses:
Palaestina Prima (Judea, Samaria, coastal area and Perea) with Caesarea as capital
Palaestina Secunda (Galilee, lower Jezreel valley, area east of Galilee, west of former
Decapolis) with Scythopolis as capital
Palaestina Salutaris (the Negev, southern Jordan, most of Sinai) with Petra as capital
The Byzantine also influenced the architecture with their Roman and Greek-inspired
Byzantine style, using the cruciform transept, mosaics, frescos and other highly decorative
elements.

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