The History of the Byzantine Empire: 565-800
1. The Hisrory of the Byzantine Empire in 565-800
In the VIIth century, the Byzantine Empire lost Egypt, Northern Africa, Syria, Palestine, and Mesopotamia, the emperors weren't able to retain the territories of 565. In 567, Seville and Cordova (Spain) were conquered by the Byzantines. The Gothic War (569-572) led to the fall of Byzantine Africa.
The Lombards invaded Italy in 568 and conquered most of the peninsula. In 578 they took Ravenna, the last Byzantine outpost in Italy. In Spain, the Byzantines were gradually driven out of their possessions by the Visigoths.
Only a few territories remained under Byzantine rule in Spain and Italy: theExarchate of Ravenna, the theme of Sicily and some other coastal cities. Emperor Maurice tried to reconquer lost territories, but his campaigns were unsuccessful.
In 602 Maurice was deposed by Phocas, who initiated a policy of iconoclasm and persecution of Christians. Under his rule, the Byzantine Empire lost its prestige and became an object of mockery. The Avars and Slavs ravaged the Balkans, and in 626 they besieged Constantinople itself.
The situation began to change only after Heraclius came to power in 610. He stoped the persecution of Christians, launched a military campaign against the Persians and recoveredlost territories. However, all these successes were undermined by the Arab conquest of Syria, Palestine and Egypt in 634-641.
2. The Expansion of the Byzantine Empire under Justinian
Justinian I was one of the most powerful emperors of Byzantium. Under his rule (527-565), the empire reached its greatest extent since the time of Constantine I.
During Justinian’s reign, many new laws were enacted (the most famous being the Code of Justinian), churches were built (Hagia Sophia), and great construction projects were undertaken (such as the fortification of Constantinople).
Justinian also reconquered large areas that had been lost earlier: Italy (including Rome), North Africa, Spain and southern Gaul. Although these conquests were temporary (most of them were lost soon after Justinian’s death), they significantly increased the power and prestige of Byzantium.
3. The Loss of the Byzantine Empire After Justinian’s Death
After Justinian’s death in 565, his successors were unable to retain allof his conquests. In Italy, Lombard armies slowly drove backthe Byzantines; by 700 only a small strip of land around Ravenna remained in imperial hands. Spain was reconquered bythe Visigoths; only a few coastal cities (such as Valencia) remained under Byzantine control.
African provinces were lost to Muslim Arabs; only a few coastal towns (such as Tripoli) remained under imperial rule. By 800, mostof Justinian’s conquests had been reversed and Byzantium had shrunk back to its original size at the beginningof his reign.
Despite these territorial losses, the Byzantine Empire remainedone of the most powerful states of its time. It continued to playa significant role in European and Mediterranean affairs until its final fall to the Ottoman Turks in 1453.