Saylor.org's Ancient Civilizations of the World/Byzantium’s Influence in Eastern Europe
Legacy[edit | edit source]
The Byzantine Empire was gone, but its legacy continued. Within the Byzantine commonwealth, in the states that shared Orthodox Christianity and were strongly influenced by the Byzantines, Byzantine culture lived on. Immediately after the fall of Constantinople, Ivan III of Russia declared Moscow to be the Third Rome, inheriting the Byzantine legacy. The Russian monk Philotheus of Pskov famously wrote, “Two Romes have fallen. The third stands. And there will be no fourth.” In addition, the Byzantine Empire kept Greek and Roman culture alive for nearlya thousand years after the fall of the Roman Empire in the west. It preserved this cultural heritage until it was taken up in the West during the Renaissance. The Byzantine Empire also acted as a buffer between Western Europe and the conquering armies of Islam. Thus, in many ways the Byzantine Empire insulated Europe and gave it the time it needed to recover from its chaotic medieval period. The Byzantine Empire has largely been overlooked among historians until recent times, or else considered inferior to its Roman predecessor. The eighteenth-century historian Edward Gibbon saw its history as one long period of decline, and another historian, William Leckey, commented, “The history of the empire is a monotonous story of the intrigues of priests, eunuchs, and women, of poisonings, of conspiracies, of uniform ingratitude.” However, as we have seen, the Byzantine Empire went through various periods of prosperity and decline, rose to great heights and suffered terrible losses, as it was beset from all sides by a vast array of enemies eager to capture its lands. Only recently have Western historians begun to appreciate the important legacy of the Byzantine Empire.