On the Romans & Byzantines. Is Western Rome and the Byzantine Empire different thing or continuation?

A bit of a left field question but…

Why don’t we call them Constantines? If you wanted to see a “clean break” from when the “Romans” stop being “Romans” it’s arguably the time when Emperor Constantine the Great converted the empire to christianity and made Constantinople the new capital.

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The crisis of the third century and Diocletian’s split of the empire weren’t too far apart, and as long as the Legions still maintained something of the iconic Roman feel to them (which they lost towards the end of the Empire), it’s still kind of the same for me.

For sure, but Diocletian’s split permanently changed the structure of the empires in a way that never happened at any other point in history.

Because Constantinople was a rename of Byzantium, the original city name.

Excellent document :slightly_smiling_face:

Constantine didn’t convert the Empire, he barely allegedly converted himself on his death bed, according to witnesses that were all Christian themselves and thus had an interest in saying he did that. What he did was legalise it, but it took roughly a century for Christianism to become state religion, and even then Paganism didn’t disappear overnight. Conversion to Christianism wasn’t a turning point as much as a process, and in history it’s the case more often than not.

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Christianity in the 4th century was dominated in its early stage by Constantine the Great and the First Council of Nicaea of 325, which was the beginning of the period of the First seven Ecumenical Councils (325–787), and in its late stage by the Edict of Thessalonica of 380, which made Nicene Christianity the state church of the Roman Empire.

With Christianity the dominant faith in some urban centers, Christians accounted for approximately 10% of the Roman population by 300, according to some sources. Roman Emperor Diocletian launched the bloodiest campaign against Christians that the empire had witnessed. The persecution ended in 311 with the death of Diocletian. The persecution ultimately had not turned the tide on the growth of the Christians that had already organized to the point of establishing hierarchies of bishops. In 301 the Kingdom of Armenia became the first nation to adopt Christianity. The Romans followed suit in 380.

In April 311, Galerius, who had previously been one of the leading figures in the persecutions, issued an edict permitting the practice of the Christian religion under his reign. From 313 to 380, Christianity enjoyed the status of being a legal religion within the Roman Empire. It had not become the sole authorized state religion, although it gradually gained prominence and stature within Roman society. After halting the persecutions of the Christians, Galerius reigned for another 2 years. He was then succeeded by an emperor with distinctively pro Christian leanings, Constantine the Great.

Christian sources record that Constantine experienced a dramatic event in 312 at the Battle of Milvian Bridge, after which Constantine claimed the emperorship in the West. According to these sources, Constantine looked up to the sun before the battle and saw a cross of light above it, and with it the Greek words “ΕΝ ΤΟΥΤΩ ΝΙΚΑ” (“by this, conquer!”, often rendered in the Latin “in hoc signo vinces”); Constantine commanded his troops to adorn their shields with a Christian symbol (the Chi-Ro). How much Christianity Constantine adopted at this point is difficult to discern; most influential people in the empire, especially high military officials, were still pagan, and Constantine’s rule exhibited at least a willingness to appease these.
The accession of Constantine was a turning point for the Christian Church. In 313, Constantine issued the Edict of Milan affirming the tolerance of Christians. Thereafter, he supported the Church financially, built various basilicas, granted privileges (e.g., exemption from certain taxes) to clergy, promoted Christians to high ranking offices, and returned property confiscated during the reign of Constantine utilized Christian symbols early in his reign but still encouraged traditional Roman religious practices including sun worship. Between 324 and 330, he built a new imperial capital at Byzantium on the Bosphorus (it came to be named for him: Constantinople)–the city employed overtly Christian architecture, contained churches within the city walls (unlike “old” Rome), and had no pagan temples.[11] In 330 he established Constantinople as the new capital of the Roman Empire. The city would gradually come to be seen as the center of the Christian world.

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In terms of political system and culture (other than spoken languages), it is just a ring-species problem but in “4D” dimension, where the cliches about “Western Rome” are somewhat frozen.

For the spoken languages, linking languages and nationalism seems to be quite a modern thing (Not to mention whether people in antiquity or in the medieval ages had nationalism). What Is the Link Between Language and Nationalism? | Shortform Books

In any case, continuity can be deceiving. Two slices separated by hundreds of years on a certain timelines of one civilization considered as “continuous” in history may also be more different than several civilizations that are geographically far apart from each other but in the same age. Imagine an Englishman traveling to Vietnam, or an Englishman returning to Britain in 1523. The former is considered an exotic trip, although the latter lacks almost any modern material and most spiritual civilization.

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To be honest, I’d be just fine with the ‘romans’ if they had a different name. Because as others have pointed out, there are at least 4 civs that are already ‘romans’ in every sense of the word.

Call them something else and they’d be perfectly fine. The Gauls, for example; that was where the last holdouts of the western roman empire held out the longest.

That single change would completely fix my issues with them existing as a civ.

The concept of nation itself is relatively recent and didn’t exist at the time. Language however was considered important enough in the Roman Empire that speaking latin was at some point a prerequisite for citizenship.

jein, at least not for the greek part and not (so explicitly like in modern societies) for those who automatically gained their citizenship.

I just realized that this entire thread is just the philosophical Ship of Theseus all over again.

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Yeah, that’s what I think about whenever the question of the romanity of the Byzantine Empire is brought up.
Although in this case I think it would be more about a fleet of ships of Theseus with the crew sometimes changing ship and then the members of the crew and the parts of the ship being replaced again.

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Tbh I think civilizations often function like that

Like the Franks, Goths

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I love philosophical discussions. Just not when it comes to AoE2.

I do have the Ship of Theseus argument in terms of replacing original ES content, but that’s about the extent I’m willing to go to. Historical arguments are difficult to formulate with only cursory knowledge on the subjects.

Yeah it’s ancient as philosophy. Does an identity exist as an independent substance (Descartes’ res cogitans) or it’s just a matter of arbitrary definitions (Hume)? Originally was the Aristotle’s problem of what properties need a certain substance to be defined as that.

@Player870583437 thanks for the replies, there are enough elements from both sides for people to form their own opinion. I agree with some of your statements but I can assure you I don’t have a western or Anglo Saxon agenda lol. That would be petty. Byzantines are probably my favourite civ by the way.
So my conclusions are subjective in the sense that I tend to see the late Roman empire as its own thing (286 - 640 circa) while before that it was classical Rome and after that it was Byzantine and a more distinctly “grecocentric” culture, for many factors we already discussed. You instead tend to value more the continuity of the political entity known as Roman empire but we both addressed facts that everyone can check and decide which vision suits best!

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Romans = Western Roman Empire = Italy, North West Africa, Croatia, parts of France and Germania

Byzantines = Eastern Roman Empire = Greece, North East Africa, Asia Minor, the Levant

Romans are culturally Latin/Italic, Byzantines are culturally Greek. So, two completely separate entities.

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The Romans controls the British Isles too…

More like the territory of the kingdom of England. They never made any lasting inroads into Hibernia (Ireland) nor the lands above Hadrian’s Wall (Scotland), so I wouldn’t say they controlled the entirety of the Isles.

Yes, that is, only England and it remained so until the 13th century, when Longshanks began his conquest of Wales and Scotland…