It is impossible to characterize this history as a whole, because it covers a period of time greater in length than the history of England from the Norman Conquest to the present day. For more than a thousand years dynasties changed. wars and revolutions took place, the fortunes of the Empire sank and rose again. Of the 107 persons who ruled from 395 to 1453 as emperors or associates of emperors, 20 were as sassinated, 1S were blinded or otherwise muti lated, 12 died in a monastery or a prison, 12 abdicated compulsion or of their own free will, 3 died of starvation. S died in battledor as a result of aceidrnt—a total of 73. Vice, corrup tion, and cruelty were the dominant features at some periods; the government was despotic; the people Were superstitious. effeminate, and ser vile. Yet the Empire lived on; the administra tion and organization remained effective; the traditions and civilization of Old Rome were maintained. Great wealth, which was a source of wonder to all visitors. was accumulated, and great armies, which were the most I.ffective in the world, were maintained. If any scholar, in spite of the complexity of Byzantine history, should attempt a generalization, probably he would say, as Frederic Harrison has said—"first, that the Byzantine Empire preserved more of the tradi tion, civil and military organization, wealth, art, and literature of the older Rome than existed elsewhere; and. seeondly, that in many essen tials of civilization it was more modern than the nascent nations of the West." These are the two facts which are most striking, its antiquity and modernity, and just here is one of the rea sons why Byzantine history is not attractive to us; its antiquity seems only an aping of the past; its modernity fails to interest us because we have reached a higher development than the Byzantine Empire ever did. • New Rome, like old Rome, had a wonderful capacity for absorbing and assimilating less civil ized peoples. The Empire included representa tives of all the races of eastern Europe. It opened to all full participation in its life. Its emperors might be of any nationality. Any bar barian of ability, if baptized, was welcome to its army, administration, and Court. This was one of the causes of its strength. A second was the position of Constantinople. The city could not be reduced by starvation. Its walls, until 1204, proved strong enough to defy all invaders. Then, too, while the Western Empire was being overrun by the barbarians, the Asiatic provinces of New Rome enjoyed an almost continuous peace. From their wealth the Empire secured the resources necessary to hold its European possessions. and to carry on the wars of Justinian. Finally, it was fortunate in having a large number of able emperors. Most of them were not brilliant per sonalities who command admiration, but rather cautious administrators, indefatigable workers, who labored slowly and steadily to strengthen the Empire, to fill the treasury, and to improve the administrative service.
The Empire, although conservative, was not wholly unprogressive. This is exemplified in
its military organization, its law, its art. and its manufactures. Thus, after the battle of Adrianople (q.v.), the Byzantines realized the fact that the old infantry army was no longer efficient, and formed a new army mainly of cavalry. The infantry they supplied with bows and lances in place of swords and javelins. They developed armor for protection. They used a smaller and more effective tactical unit than the old legion, and they recruited an army of sub jects, not mercenaries. They developed the art of fortification and the use of Greek fire. Tbey built a great navy. Oman says: "The art of war as it was understood at Constantinople in the Tenth Century was the only system of real merit existing in the world; no Western nation could have afforded such a training to its officers till the Sixteenth, or we may even say the Seven teenth Century." The Corpus of Justinian con tinued for centuries to be the law of the Byzan tine Empire. Rut it was constantly modified and expanded to suit new conditions. in the Ninth Century a new code was drawn up (see BA.sit. teA) in which the influenees of Christianity and advancing civilization are marked. In the Eighth Century a maritime code, a military code, and a rural code were developed to meet the changed conditions. The first, espeeially, is of great importance in the history of legal ideas. Byzantine art (q.v.) is treated at length else where. Here it deserves mention as an indica tion of the great influence which the Byzantine Empire exercised on Russia, on the Mohammedan caliphates in the East and West, on the south of Italy, on Venice, and on sonic parts of Frame and Germany. To - day examples of Byzan tine architecture are to he found in every Chris tian and Mohammedan country. In the mann facture of mosaics, silks, and embroidered satins, the Byzantine Empire was preeminent for cen turies. The samite and sendal of the inedhcval romances came from Constantinople.
The direct services of the Byzantine Empire to Europe were many and varied. Four, in par ticular, deserve emphasis. (1) It was the bul wark of Europe from which host after host of in vaders were neaten back. For seven centuries, almost unaided, it bore the brunt of every at tack, and thus enabled the Western nations to develop and gain strength. (2) It preserved the Greek and Roman culture and transmitted it to western Europe as the people of the young er nations became sufficiently advanced to share in the priceless heritage. dome of this culture was constantly filtering through, but during the period of the Crusades and later the transmission teas most marked. (3) It maintained the world's commerce, which for centuries was centred at Constantinople. The pupils whom Constanti nople had formed, Venice and Amalfi, wrested the sceptre of the seas from her only in the Eleventh Century. (4) It was the eivilizer of all eastern Europe, where the influence of the Greek Church, Greek art and architecture, and Greek administration is everywhere evident at the present day.