Constantine & the Eastern Roman Empire

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  • 0:01 Founding of Constantinople
  • 0:50 Location
  • 1:13 Roman Law
  • 1:35 Christian Religion
  • 3:10 Lesson Summary
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Lesson Transcript
Instructor: Jessica Whittemore

Jessica has taught junior high history and college seminar courses. She has an M.A in instructional education.

This lesson will explain the reign of Constantine and his move to Constantinople. It will focus on the advantages of its location, its ties to Roman law, and its homogeneous Christian population.

Founding of Constantinople

During the 4th century, the mighty city of Rome crumbled as Germanic tribes from the north invaded its borders. In an attempt to save what was left of the Roman Empire, Emperor Constantine moved his seat of government from the weakening city of Rome to Byzantium, located in modern Turkey.

With this switch of the empire's capital from the West to the East, Constantine began what has come to be known to history as the Eastern Roman Empire, or the Byzantine Empire. However, Constantine and his people usually referred to Byzantium as Nova Roma, which translates to 'New Rome.' Making the transition from the city of Rome to Byzantium even more official, Byzantium was renamed Constantinople, after Constantine himself, around the year 330 A.D. This grand city became the capital of the Byzantine Empire.


Constantinople as a city and the Byzantine Empire as a whole were so successful because of the city's location. Located between the Black and Aegean Seas, Constantinople was perfectly situated for trade. After all, this location put the capital of the Byzantine Empire right at the crossroads of the trading routes that connected Europe and Asia. This alone made the city burgeon with wealth.

Roman Law

Adding to its success, the Byzantine Empire took the best of Rome with it. For example, Constantine continued to operate under Roman law. He also instituted some of the same welfare programs that were used in the old Roman Empire. For instance, the poorer people of Constantinople were given free bread, and many upper-class Byzantines formed social organizations to help care for the needs of the poor.

Christian Religion

Speaking of this rather altruistic social system of sorts, one of the main things that attributed to Byzantine success was its homogeneous population. In other words, most people in Constantine's empire shared one very important trait. Almost all of them claimed to be part of the Christian faith. With this, Constantine's newly relocated empire was able to flourish without needing to deal with the internal strife that often plagued old Rome.

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