Byzantine Empire

   A thousand years ago Constantinople was probably the largest and richest city on earth. It was the capital of the great Byzantine Empire. About a million people lived in Con­stantinople, and visitors marveled at its huge palaces, beautiful churches, and many shops. One visitor wrote that if he described a hundredth part of its wealth, it would seem like a lie and no one would believe it.
   In a.d. 330 Constantine, the Roman emperor, had moved the seat of government from Rome to the old Greek city of Byzantium. Constantine named his capital New Rome, but most people called it Constanti­nople (Constantine's city), or still used the old name, Byzantium.
   After Constantine died, the emperors who succeeded him found it difficult to rule the vast Roman Empire. In 395 the empire was officially divided; the lands in the east were ruled from Constantinople and those in the west from Rome. In the 100 years that followed the division, Rome lost most of the lands of the Western Empire (Italy, Spain, France, Britain, northwest Africa). In the east, however, the emperors still ruled. This part of the Roman Empire, ruled by emperors living in Byzantium, is known as the By­zantine Empire. But the rulers of the Byzantine Empire still called themselves Romans, and, for a time, the Byzantine Empire was still called the Eastern Roman Empire. The language of the Eastern Empire was Greek, rather than Latin, the Roman language.