The Byzantine Empire (page 2)

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By — McGraw-Hill Professional
Updated on Feb 3, 2012


In the Byzantine Empire, the Orthodox Church and the state were mutually dependent and supportive. The entire purpose of the state was to serve as an ideal society on earth, one that carried out all of God’s commandments. There- fore, the state supported the Church and ensured it a great many privileges, such as tax exemption. The Church, on its side, supported the state and cast a mantle of righteousness and morality over all its policies and actions—no matter how warlike.

During the first millennium AD, two main forms of Christianity developed: the Roman Church in the west and the Orthodox Church in the east. The differences between the two have to do with doctrine, liturgy, and the authority of the ecclesiastical courts; they are also to some extent by-products of the estrangement that had grown up between the Greek and Latin halves of the old Roman Empire. Each of the two, of course, considered itself to be the true Church, rejecting the practices of the other. The final schism between the two churches occurred in 1053, when Michael, the Patriarch of Constantinople, condemned certain practices of the western Church as blasphemous. To this day, the churches remain separate; we refer to them as the Roman Catholic and Eastern Orthodox churches. During the first millennium, the words Catholic and Christian are synonymous; the Roman and Orthodox churches wielded enormous power over affairs of state throughout Europe until they were first challenged by new denominations in the 1500s.

Christianity is a missionary religion; therefore, it was part of the overall purpose of the Byzantines to convert all the people of their world to the Orthodox faith. In practical terms, this meant converting the princes or leaders of the various kingdoms and tribes, because, according to custom, the people would worship as their leader worshipped. The Bulgarians converted to Christianity in 870, Mieszko of Poland in 966, and Vladimir I of Kievan Rus in 988. Bohemia also became Christianized in the tenth century. In the mid-ninth century, the great Byzantine missionaries Cyril and Methodius established the Slavic system of writing and translated the Bible into Slavic. Cyril gave his name to the Cyrillic alphabet in which Russian is written.

Practice questions for these concepts can be found at: 

Europe - From Byzantine Empire to AD 1000 Practice Test

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