"The rotting corpse of Ancient Rome's glory is still worth more than its weight in gold." - Anneliese Vancil
The Byzantine Empire or Byzantium, as it is known in English, is a state covering southeastern Europe and Asia Minor [the Middle East]. To its Greek-speaking inhabitants, it is Βασιλεία Ῥωμαίων [Basileia Rhōmaiōn], the Roman Empire, or Ῥωμανία [Rhōmanía], Rome.
The political successor of the old Roman Empire that dominated the ancient Mediterranean World, Byzantium is the sole remaining officially Orthodox Christian country in the world. The Empire considers itself to have been founded in 27 B.C., when the title Augustus was given to the adopted son of Julius Caesar by the Roman Senate. If this claim is accepted, it makes Byzantium the oldest still-independent nation on the planet.
Capital: Κωνσταντινούπολις (Konstantinoúpolis) [Constantinople]
- Latin [not spoken as a native language]
- Ὕμνος εἰς τὴν Ἐλευθερίαν [Ýmnos is tin Eleftherían] - Hymn to Liberty
Religion: Orthodox Christianity [Official State Religion]
- Βασιλεὺς βασιλέων βασιλεύων βασιλεύουσιν / Vasilèf̱s vasiléo̱n vasilév̱o̱n vasilév̱ousin [King of Kings ruling over Kings]
Demonym: Byzantine [English], ρωμαϊκός / ro̱maïkós (Roman) [Greek]
Largest City: Κωνσταντινούπολις (Konstantinoúpolis) [Constantinople]
Government: Semi-theocratic Imperial Monarchy
- Roman Senate
- People's Assembly
Population: ~300 million
GDP: ~$11 trillion
HDI [Human Development Index]: 8.7
History (15th Century onward)Edit
For several centuries, the Byzantine Empire had been under assault by Muslim armies, particularly the Turks. By the dawn of the 1400s, the once-mighty Eastern Roman Empire consisted of little more than its Capital, Constantinople, and the Peloponnese (the peninsula at the southwestern end of Greece). Fortunes changed, however, with the end of the Hundred Years War in 1433 and the merger of the Kingdoms of England & France under the Norman House of Plantagenet.
The Plantagenet monarch, Henri (or Henry) VI, judged the impending fall of Byzantium to be a major threat. As such, he organized a large alliance of European nations to drive the Turks back. Over the remainder of the century, Greece and Anatolia would be retaken. Large numbers of Muslims were either forcibly converted or slaughtered as their forces were pushed back by Christian armies. This series of wars continued well into the 1500s, until eventually Palestine was retaken. Even after the Catholic troops had withdrawn to rest on their victorious laurels, the resurgent Byzantine Empire's military continued to retake new territory. By the middle of the 17th Century, Byzantium claimed sovereignty over the entire Middle East - including the Arabian peninsula, birthplace of Islam - and North Africa. Its ability to control all of these lands, however, would fluctuate with the time period, though the claims remain in place to this day.
Tunisia and Morocco were sold to the United Kingdom in 1833 in exchange for absolution of debts. In 1879, Byzantium signed a hidden treaty of alliance with the Confederation of the Rhine. In exchange, the Austrian-led multinational state ackowledged Constantinople's hegemony over most of the Balkans and northeast Africa. When the Great War broke out in 1912 and Confederate troops crossed the border into France, the Byzantines quickly followed suit. Because Byzantium owned parts of the southern Italian Peninsula, this caused Italy to join the fight on the side of the United Kingdom and the Commonwealth of Nations, opening up a new southern front in 1913.
This action ultimately proved disastrous and had a major impact on the overall course of the war. Commonwealth troops from North America, Australia and Spain flooded into Italy to take the pressure off the United Kingdom in the West. Franco-British & American naval superiority in the Mediterranean stopped the flow of Byzantine troops to European and African battlefields. On the 11th of November, 1917, the Central Powers - the Confederation of the Rhine, the Byzantine Empire & the Russian Empire - capitulated.
Following the end of this conflict, Constantinople's political allegiance rapidly shifted. The outbreak of the Russian Revolution and the fall of its Orthodox Christian government alienated Byzantium from its traditional alliance. When the Russian Revolutionary Wars came to Europe two decades later, both the Confederation of the Rhine and the Byzantines sided with their old foe: the United Kingdom.
Now, in the early part of the 21st Century, Byzantium stands as the "Breadbasket of Europe". Its exports of raw materials and petroleum products to the West, particularly the Confederation, has made it exceedingly wealthy. However, ethnic & religious strife, particularly in Palestine, is causing increasing problems for the ancient Empire, tieing up large numbers of Byzantine troops in peace-keeping operations and forcing Constantinople to maintain a significant standing military force, sapping its economy. The future of the Second Rome seems to be standing on increasingly precarious foundations.