After the fall of the Western Roman Empire (pictured
in orange on the map above), the Eastern Roman Empire, also called
the Byzantine Empire, and sometimes called "The Other Roman
Empire" (pictured in green above), was flourishing. After
the fall, a new emperor came to power in the Eastern Roman Empire. His
name was Justinian.
Justinian lived in his palace in the capital city
of Constantinople. As part of his job of emperor, Justinian ran the
Catholic Church. He built a majestic cathedral, organized and
strengthened the government, and established a law code that is still
famous for its excellence today.
Except for his continual worry about a
takeover, Justinian did rule his empire wisely. But what he wanted more
than anything was to restore the entire Roman Empire to its former
glory, under his direction. To do this, he had to win back the lost
provinces in the west.
He started to wage war on the many
barbarian tribes who had overrun the Western Roman Empire.
forces did gain back a lot of land that was lost when Rome fell.
Justinian's army took back southern Spain, all of Italy, and northern
Africa, until only the Franks in the rest of Europe, and the Saxons in
But war was costly. The Eastern Empire was nearly broke.
Justinian had to stop. He had to focus on his people at home.
The big winner in all this was not the Eastern
Roman Empire. It was the Franks. Justinian had asked the Franks for help
in Europe to defeat other barbarian tribes. In the process, the Franks
pushed their own borders all the way to the Alps, and nearly all the way
to Britain. They pushed many of their rival barbarians tribes out of
By the time Justinian realized he had to focus his
attention at home, the Eastern Empire had lost a great deal of its
strength, while the Frankish Empire had gained great
strength. It is possible that the Frankish king might have tried to
conquer Constantinople. It was a piece of luck for the Eastern Empire
that the Frankish king died. As was the custom of the Franks, his
kingdom was divided into pieces - one piece for each son. His sons had no
interest in working together to defeat the Eastern Empire. The Eastern
Empire, in relief, turned its back on Europe.
Life in Western Europe became dismal. There was no
sanitation, no advances in medicine, and no towns. There was only war,
constant perpetual war, as one kingdom fought another. In Western
Europe, the dark ages had begun in earnest.
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