Instead of saving the Byzantine Empire, the Crusades and the Crusaders especially those allied with Venice merchants, hastened the decline of the Empire. This was because the latter sought to control the empire’ s wealth and commerce and when the Byzantine Empire was weakened by internal strife, they moved to seize and plunder Constantinople and replace the Empire with their own Latin Empire of Constantinople in 1204 (Setton et al 187). Byzantine Emperor Michael VIII Palaeologus, however, recaptured Constantinople in 1261 (Vauchez et al 829) but a civil war in 1340 allowed the Ottoman Turks to overrun the Balkan Peninsula and in 1453 to successfully storm Constantinople and to immolate Constantine XI, killing him by the walls of Constantinople and thus ending the once great Byzantine Empire (Fleming 95).
The Byzantine Empire left its mark in world history especially in the field of humanities. Humanities is defined as “ branches of learning concerned with culture, excluding the sciences” and “ has been extended to include all languages, literature, religion, philosophy, history and the arts” (The National Encyclopedia 2706). Today, there are more than 200 million Eastern Orthodox Christians in the world (Mead, Atwood & Hill 51).
The Orthodox Church is the gift of the Byzantine Empire to the world. It stemmed when a schism between the Western (Roman) Church and the Eastern or Byzantine Church erupted in 1054 “ after disputes about doctrine and authority” (Wright 486, 490) and the Byzantine Empire not only made a lasting mark in religion but also in other aspects of the humanities, most importantly in arts and architecture, languages, literature, and music. The Byzantine Empire became the heart of Greek learning and Roman law way before the Italian Renaissance and in fact, it was claimed by several scholars that the Byzantine culture triggered and influenced that Renaissance.
Byzantine missionaries created the Cyrillic alphabet for the Slavs while the empire nurtured Byzantine intellectualism, scholarship, and culture. It enriched the Greek language while encouraging the use of Latin, Coptic, Armenian and other local languages for its subjects.
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