Medieval Europe and the Byzantine Empire: Compare and Contrast

Medieval Europe and Byzantine Empires, despite having existed in different time periods, proved to be effective systems of governance that maintain law and order in the regions. Originally, the Byzantine Empire was under the rule of the Roman Empire until it was established in 330 A.D. by Constantine. The following discussion analyzes the key similarities and differences between the two empires.

Similarities

The Byzantine Empire and medieval Europe showed great similarities in their systems of governance and political systems. In their core political and cultural system, the two were characterized by an authoritarian and theocratic rule, which was the baseline of the powerful monarchs. The monarchs drew their power and influence from the great influence and capacity they vested in the political systems, the military, and the religious authority. The capacity to control the three components proved to be critical to retain power and maintain control of society. The nature and context of the ruling systems in the two systems saw religion; the question of faith take a lead role in the governance and control of society. For example, in the Roman Empire, Christianity was legalized by Emperor Constantine as a key component for the ruling class to induce influence and control of the society (Labatt, 2004). The dominance of Christianity took precedence in the two societies withholding profound influence in the way the society was managed. Thus, positing the similarities in the role of the church and faith in the governance of the Byzantine Empire and Medieval European societies.

Despite having existed in different time periods, the two societies served as the centers of trade. This proved to be a critical aspect of wealth creation, which was developed through the extensive trade routes that allowed the societies to engage in trading activities establishing economic opportunities and growth. For example, in the Roman Empire, trade flourished throughout the land as a result of the development of roads built across the Empire. The existence of road networks aided in transportation and communication between the cities in the Empire. This made trade flourish in the Empire, leading to the creation of great wealth (Otto, 2018). In the Byzantine Empire, with its capital based in Constantinople, it was strategically located for both water travel and trading activities. The connection to Western Europe, Asia, and Africa made the Byzantine Empire be a center for trade routes across different continents (The Art Institute of Chicago, 2004). Hence, impacting the flourishment of wealth creation and economic development of the Empire.

Differences

The Byzantine, having been formerly a territory ruled by the Roman, drew core cultures and political concepts as the basis of their society. However, key differences existed in the nature and context of the two societies. One key difference is comprised of the form and structure of government. That is, Medieval Europe constituted of small kingdoms divided through the region and ruled by kings who were constantly at qualms and conflict with each other (Labatt, 2004). The setting of the small kingdoms was informed by common cultures across the Empire, such as those who spoke common tongue like French were constituted in the Kingdom of the Franks. The Byzantine Empire, on the other hand, was ruled by one common authority that maintained the stability of the region. The unitary system of government was similar to the Roman Empire. This made the Byzantine strong and brought stability as a result of one authority being in control of the entire Empire.

The region was a key component of the two societies. Medieval Europe was under the Roman Catholic Church rule, which was based in Vatican City, Rome, Italy. This was under the authority of the Pope, with Latin as the official language. The Roman Catholic Church remained to be the only common feature unifying Western Europe in the Medieval era. On the other hand, the Byzantine Empire established the Eastern Orthodox Church following the split from the Roman Catholic Church in 1504 CE (Otto, 2018). The Eastern Orthodox Churchlike the Roman Catholic Church that is led by Pope is under the authority of the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople based in Constantinople (Modern-day Istanbul), Turkey. The Byzantine preferred Greek over Latin as the official language.

Conclusion

In conclusion, the two empires were a formidable force and source of authority that governed their respective regions. The military, religion, and trade constituted of key elements that facilitated the stability and legitimacy of the ruling authority.

 

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References

Labatt, A. (2004, October). The religious relationship between Byzantium and the West. The MET150. Retrieved November 29, 2020, from https://www.metmuseum.org/toah/hd/rrbw/hd_rrbw.htm

Otto, C. (2018, April 13). The Byzantine vs. the Roman Empire. Retrieved November 29, 2020, from http://personal.psu.edu/txp5203/Byzantine%20vs.%20Roman%20Empire.html

The Art Institute of Chicago. (2004). Western Europe, Byzantium, and the Islamic World. Vol. 30, 2. Pp. 18-27+90-91.

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