1. Education

Your suggestion is on its way!

An email with a link to:


was emailed to:

Thanks for sharing About.com with others!

Selective Byzantine Timeline

Highlights from the turbulent history of the Eastern Roman Empire


After enlarging the ancient Greek city of Byzantium, Constantine I renames it for himself and establishes an imperial residence there. Constantinople becomes the capital in 359, and Eastern Romans (Byzantines) come to call it simply "The City."


Justinian's reign begins. He is responsible for the re-conquest of Africa and Italy and a codification of Roman Law that affects many future civilizations. With the support of his wife Theodora (who had once been a courtesan), he puts down the Nike rebellion.


Procopius of Caesarea, counsel to the great general Belisarius and author of several official histories in which he wrote approvingly of Justinian, writes his Secret History, which is published after his death. In it he attacks the characters of the emperor and Theodora, stating:

". . . these two seemed not to be human beings, but veritable demons, and what the poets call vampires: who laid their heads together to see how they could most easily and quickly destroy the race and deeds of men; and assuming human bodies, became man-demons, and so convulsed the world." (Chapter 12.)


Heraclius overthrows the mad emperor Phocas. He institutes a system of themes, wherein the soldiers defending a district are the free peasants of that district with a stake in the defense of their homes (instead of mercenaries). This system, adopted by succeeding emperors and expanded throughout the lands, saves expense and strengthens the empire; but Heraclius overextends himself fighting history's first Holy War and loses Syria, Palestine, Persia and Egypt.


Justinian II is deposed. His nose is cut off (resulting in the name "Rhinotmetus") and he is banished to Cheron.


Justinian II regains the throne with the help of Slavic and Bulgarian forces. He proceeds to wreak havoc on all who opposed him.


Leo the Isaurian launches a crusade against the use of icons in the church and sparks the Iconoclastic Controversy, which rages for many years and ultimately results in a division in the Church at the end of the eighth century.


Irene of Athens, regent to her son the Emperor Constantine VI, obtains important concessions in the matter of the veneration of images at the Seventh General Synod of Nicaea. For this she is honored as a saint in the Greek Orthodox Church.


After canceling her son's betrothal to Rotrud (the daughter of Charlemagne), forcing him to marry someone he hated, sanctioning a second marriage (which made him a bigamist) and having him scourged with rods when he showed signs of escaping her power, Irene orders the blinding of Constantine VI and takes the throne in her own right.


Missionaries set out from Constantinople to convert the Bulgarian and Slavic peoples to Christianity. The brothers Cyril and Methodius learn the Slavic language and teach the liturgy in the vernacular; Cyril devises an alphabet (Cyrillic) for the Slavs.


The Latin Roman Church and the Greek Orthodox Church excommunicate each other.


Emperor Alexius Comnenus, having appealed to Pope Urban II for help against the Turks, greets the first crusaders from the west. Alexius sends them to Asia Minor where their victories reclaim land for the Empire.


Powerful Venetians convince the fighters of the fourth crusade to attack Constantinople before moving on to the Holy Land. The unwary residents of the City suffer the worst devastation in Constantinople's history, and Venice reaps the spoils.


Control of the city at last passes from the Venetians to the Paleologus Dynasty. The once splendid empire is now not only reduced in size but in its economic and intellectual health and freedom.


The last emperor of Byzantium, Constantine XI, leads a force of 4,000 troops and succeeds in holding off 160,000 advancing Turks for seven weeks. But the City, now all that is left of the Byzantine Empire, suffers its inevitable fate and falls on Tuesday, May 29.

Return to the Forgotten Empire


Selective Byzantine Timeline is copyright © 1997-2004 Melissa Snell. Permission is granted to reproduce this timeline for personal or classroom use only, provided that the URL below is included. For reprint permission, please contact Melissa Snell.

The URL for this feature is:


See More About
Explore Medieval History
See More About:
By Category
    historymedrenMedieval HistoryeducationEducationaf503e98480007e333821b90af503e98480008e333806599http://historymedren.about.comod526F6F742232liveMelissa SnellhistorymedrenguideKzo000ATzNIP11970-01-0110/od/index.htm0526F6F741approved/od
  1. About.com
  2. Education
  3. Medieval History

©2016 About.com. All rights reserved.