Overview
Timeline of Events
Religion and Spirituality
Science and Technology
Art, Literature and Music
Daily Life
Key Personalities

Overview

The eastern half of the former Roman empire, called Byzantium, emerged unscathed from the invasions and wars of the fifth century. Emperor Justinian, whose reign lasted from 527-565, was perhaps the most prominent figure of his time. Justinian reconquered the western countries of Italy, North Africa and southern Spain, and in 555, codified Roman law in Corpus Juris Civilis. By 600, Byzantium was the wealthiest, most powerful and civilized city in Europe. Although Arab invasion after 632 stripped the empire of its outlying provinces, Byzantine recovered even to the point of imposing its culture and religion upon neighboring Slavs and visiting Vikings. its capital Constantinople was the formidable center of power of the Byzantine empire. Meanwhile, Rome rose to prominence as the capital of the Western half of the former Roman empire. This Western counterpart to Byzantium was later known as the Holy Roman Empire.

During the early part of the seventh century, the Anglo-Saxons emerged in prominence in Britain. Although England was first comprised of seven kingdoms known collectively as the Hebptarchy, these soon became Christian empires upon the arrival of St. Augustine from Rome. Offa, King of Mercia, imposed unity over other English states, but his power died with him. The Vikings, raiders from Denmark and Norway, invaded the land after 800, overrunning England until Alfred, King of Wessex, found victory over them in 878. Alfred founded the English navy and started a cultural revival.

In the East, the medieval period saw the growth of the T'ang Dynasty in a united China from the seventh to tenth centuries. Its territories were vast, ranging from Manchuria to Vietnam, and its capital, Chang'an, was considered the richest and most populous city on earth. The T'ang encouraged foreign trade, and under their rule, the Silk Road to western Asia and Europe was developed and maintained. They also encouraged scholarship, and used Confucian principles to unify national culture. Despite having failed to conquer Korea in the early seventh century, the influence of the powerful T'ang Dynasty reached its neighbors and Korea in particular adopted China's political model. The last years of the dynasty, however, were plagued by rebellion and destruction. The T'ang were succeeded by the Song, who re-established Chinese unity after 960. Two hundred years later, Genghis Khan began conquest of Asia in 1190, and the Mongols under his leadership began invading China in 1210. After the Mongols captured Moscow in 1240, Kublai Khan established his reign and founded the Yuan Dynasty in China. At its zenith, the Mongol empire embraced China, Korea, Burma, Annam, Tibet and all of central Asia, the Indus Valley, Afghanistan, Iran, Iraq, Armenia, Urkaine and Russia. In 1271, the legendary Marco Polo sailed for China to meet the famed Khan, while the Mongols attempted an unsuccessful invasion of Japan. After Kublai Khan's eath, imperial unity gradually dissolved and the Yuan were overthrown in China in 1368. The Ming Dynasty restored power in China to native rule and began a period of Chinese isolation which lasted until the Opium Wars and beyond.

Explorations abounded during the turn of the first millenium, with Eric the Red's settlement of Greenland and Viking expeditions in North America. By 911, the Vikings settled in northern France and adopted the French language, religion and culture. His son Leif Erickson became a Christian and brought the Gospel to Greenland. In the eleventh century, Vikings continued their aggressive conquests, and created the Kingdom of Sicily from principalities in Italy and Sicily where Arabs, Greeks and Italians resided. Other Normans ventured father, founding the principality of Antioch, north Syria around 1100. Perhaps the greatest conquest, however, was England. Weakened by Danish invasions, England tempted Duke William to invade in 1066. The famed Battle of Hastings resulted in French victory over England and a complete reorganization of Church and State.

By 1160, the Fujiwara family had dominated Japan for three centuries. However, Japan's Golden Age gave way to civil war in the mid-12th century and the first shogun, or military dictator, emerged in the person of Minamoto Yoritomo. The shogun established his capital at Kamakura, near Tokyo, and ruled until 1219. Under his dictatorship, Japan adopted a model of government that persisted until the nineteenth century.

At the same time, the Ottomans swept through Anatolia and in 1326, captured the town of Brusa. During the next century, the Ottomans continued their conquest of neighboring lands, finally taking Constantinople. From there, the Ottomans established an empire that embraced the Islamic Near East and Mediterranean. The empire evolved a system of government based on the administrative devolution of power, with four principles institutions: the imperial, which controlled palace affairs; the scribal, which oversaw revenue collection; the cultural, which controlled religious matters, education, and the legal system; and the miltary.

In the thirteenth century, Britain experienced political birth, with the founding of the House of Commons by Simon de Montfort in 1264, and the summoning of the first representative Parliament by King Edward I in 1295. However, the end of the Medieval era in Europe is appropriately known as the Dark Ages. In 1337, England and France launched a battle that would become known as the Hundred Years' War, and which culminated with young French patroiot, Jeanne d'Arc, being burned at the stake at Rouen in 1431. The Bubonic Plague spread from China to Europe, culminating in the Black Death in England and an astronomical death toll of 25 million souls in Europe alone.