Rule of the East: The Byzantine Empire Quiz

By: Olivia Seitz
Image: shutterstock

About This Quiz

When the Roman Empire grew too large, it had to be divided to be effectively ruled. Do you know what befell the Eastern half? Take this quiz to demonstrate your status as a history buff!

Which city was the capital of the Byzantine Empire?

The Byzantine Empire was founded on the city of Byzantium, a Greek colony. Later, it was renamed Constantinople, after the emperor.

Which Roman emperor founded the Byzantine Empire?

He founded Constantinople in 330 AD. His intent was for it to be a political and trading center of the Eastern portion of the world, just as Rome was for the west.

What was the official religion of the Byzantine Empire?

The Byzantine Empire was officially a Christian one, thanks to the conversion of Constantine through a vision he had before battle. Fortunately, a majority of the people living in the Empire's territory were already Christian.

How many years did the Byzantine Empire stand after the fall of Rome?

The Byzantine Empire outlived the western part of the Roman Empire by approximately one thousand years. It was the only ancient government to last until the modern age (with the exception of China eastward).

What was ideal about Constantinople's location?

Constantinople was founded on the strait that connected the Sea of Marmara and the Black Sea. This highly defensible position made both trade and administration easier.

What was the official language of the Byzantine Empire?

Since it was a Roman institution, the official language of the Byzantine Empire was Latin. The common tongue spoken by locals, however, was most often Greek.

Constantinople was the site of one out of five patriarchates in the Church. What were the other four?

The patriarchates were created by the Council of Chalcedon in 451 AD. The Byzantine emperor would act as both emperor and patriarch of Constantinople.

The first emperor to expand the Byzantine Empire's territory aggressively was...

This emperor had big plans when he assumed the crown in 527 AD. He conquered much of North Africa, the Mediterranean, and some of the former Roman Empire's territories.

What was an unfortunate consequence of Justinian's expansion?

The wars were costly and the Byzantine Empire did not have the funds to maintain such aggressive policy. The result was higher taxation and borders which would not ultimately hold.

Which of the following posed the largest threat to the Byzantine Empire?

The rise of Islam caused a significant reduction in the Empire's territory and Muslim armies were a constant threat to its existence. Territories changed hands many times throughout the millennium that the Byzantine Empire ruled.

Which territory was first conquered by the Muslims?

While all of these territories fell in the seventh century, Syria was the starting point of their invasion. The Byzantine Empire's earlier expansion now proved a handicap, since forces were spread too thin to maintain its borders.

What religious ideology swept the Empire in the 8th century?

Iconoclasm led to the destruction of countless icons, the religious art preferred in the region up until then. Iconoclasts believed the art should not be venerated, believing it to be a form of false worship.

What did the inhabitants of the Byzantine Empire call themselves?

History has given the Byzantine Empire its name, but at the time of its creation, its citizens identified themselves as Romans, regardless of the distinction between Eastern Romans and Western Romans.

Surprisingly, Byzantium showed which modern trait in its early days?

Those seeking the "American Dream" would have sought out citizenship in the Byzantine Empire in its day, since they were welcoming of other races and nations willing to swear allegiance to the Emperor. Former "barbarians" integrated well into society and could rise to societal prominence through their actions.

How were new Emperors typically chosen?

The seat of the Emperor was most often decided by bloodline - passed down from fathers to their sons. Not every transition was smooth, however, and there were plenty of exceptions to this rule.

Which of the following tasks was not associated with a caste system?

The Emperors actually tried to reduce social mobility by making work in farming, tax collection and shipping hereditary. The men who performed these often un-envied tasks did not always abide by imperial decrees, however.

What kept Attila the Hun from attacking the Eastern Empire?

Attila received payments from Theodosius II, which kept him from attacking. Theodosius' successor stopped the payments, but Attila never made it back from his wars in the West, so the Eastern Empire went unchallenged by the Huns during Attila's reign.

Which of these cities was not at the center of the struggle over official doctrine concerning Christ's human and divine nature in the 5th century?

Three different beliefs were set forth by the patriarchs of Antioch, Rome and Alexandria. Constantinople's representatives ultimately sided with Pope Leo I during the Council of Chalcedon.

For what, besides the wars he fought, is Emperor Justinian (483 - 565) especially remembered?

Emperor Justinian was well-learned before he assumed the throne, and he spent time and attention on civilian affairs in addition to the wars he waged. Most notable was his work to create a codified set of laws, which would guide the Empire for centuries to come.

Justinian restored good relations with whom?

Several of his predecessors, in an attempt to satisfy citizens at the outer reaches of the Empire, had rejected the tenets of Christianity established at Chalcedon. Justinian reversed this policy, choosing instead to ally the Empire once again with Rome on the religious field.

What name was given to the factions among the "demes" (Constantinople's militia) which rooted for different charioteers?

The Blues and the Greens rooted for different charioteers, and they were known for their excessive devotion to their side's champions. They didn't often agree politically, but they did come together during the Nika Riots.

What terrible disease swept through the Byzantine Empire during Justinian's rule?

Also known as the Black Death, the Bubonic plague caused devastation in the ancient world with its spread throughout populated areas. It was worst in cities, with Constantinople losing perhaps as much as 50% of its population.

What did secret agents smuggle back from China, to liberate Constantinople from Persia's trade monopoly?

The silk trade was a source of contention between the Byzantine and Persian rulers. By sneaking silkworms back to Constantinople, the city achieved a considerable measure of economic freedom.

Which of these factors led to early success for Arab conquests?

Neither Persia nor the Byzantine Empire were prepared for the vigorous invasion launched by the Islamic Arab community, and both quickly lost territory to their attacks.

What innovation stopped the Arabs from conquering Constantinople during a four-year siege in the seventh century?

To this day, historians are unsure as to the exact composition of Greek fire, but it was a highly flammable mixture that translated into a tactical advantage for the citizens of Constantinople.

What was notable about Byzantine agricultural efforts?

The windmill, a technological advancement not shared by other developed parts of the world until years later, provided more consistent, better crop yields. They also grew and ate beans, resulting in less hunger.

Which emperor launched full-scale iconoclasm?

Leo III was the first emperor to support the movement, and it was particularly fierce under his son's reign. The movement would not die out until the mid 9th century.

Iconoclasm was, for a time, tied to...

Because Constantine V was so successful in battle, the soldiers that followed him were devotedly iconoclastic, and succeeding rulers found it difficult to keep the military's support without also becoming a proponent of iconoclasm.

Iconoclasm put the emperors at odds with whom?

Most monastic communities held on to their traditions and continued the use of icons in their devotional practices, which led to a heavy persecution of monks during that time period.

Which famous ruler was annointed emperor of Romans and Christians by Pope Leo III?

The appointment came as a blow to Constantinople, which previously was accepted as the sole seat of power for the emperor of Christiandom. Charlemagne's position was a challenge that caused consternation and confusion in the East.

In the 10th century and after, which group was commonly in charge of institutions such as hospitals and orphanages?

Monasteries gradually founded and took over most of the empire's hospitals, schools, orphanages and other public service endeavors. Monasteries were also safe havens of learning.

What prompted the first Crusade?

Emperor Alexius I sought the assistance of the European militaries and received aid at the urging of Pope Urban II. Ironically, tensions between the East and the West led to the sacking of Constantinople a few years later, during the fourth Crusade.

Not long after Constantinople was reclaimed from Latin conquest during the Crusades, the emperors paid tribute to which people?

In order to maintain a tenuous peace, the Byzantine emperors of the 14th century resorted to monetary payments to keep the Turks at bay. When Murad II assumed power, however, he put an end to the agreement.

Toward the end of the Byzantine Empire, what flourished?

Even while the empire was in decline, culture and the arts had a significant impact on the Byzantines' neighbors. Much of the intellectual heritage of the empire was passed down to countries that clung to the Orthodox tradition.

What event marked the end of the Byzantine empire?

The empire came to a bloody end when Constantinople was taken by the Ottoman Turks, led by Mehmed II. Upon his arrival, the Hagia Sophia was turned into a mosque.

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