The Byzantine Empire and the Roman Empire were similar. This would be due to the fact that the Byzantine Empire emerged from the Romans when Justinian took rule. These two empires had differences and similarities in religion, political authority, and military.
The Romans initially believed in Olympian Gods and Lares, or household spirits. They often bargained with the gods by offering livestock or food. This belief meant that they were polytheistic. Unlike later religions such as Christianity or Buddhism, Romans did not have a spiritual relationship with their gods. Along with already established gods and spirits, a group emerged to form a Caesar Cult. They believed that emperors turned into Gods upon death so they dedicated themselves to Caesar. Along with this cult, there grew a number of other cults such as the Eastern Mystery Cult and the isis. A reason for joining such a cult was that some people with a poor status could rise in the ranks of their cult, leading to a better life even as branded as poor. The silk roads provided a means to spread these religions for the Romans.
Unlike the Romans, Byzantine was more of a monotheistic society. They were a Christian Empire. It was for this reason that the Church of Holy Wisdom was created. This church created what was called the Body of Civil Law. A new idea emerged from this time which was the belief in religious icons. This led to Leo III to create Iconoclasm. This allowed for the smashing of religious icons. Leo III also wrote to the current pope to rid of the icons, but the unanimous idea of both the church and the people was that icons should be allowed. The significance of these events was how distant the church was from the government.
These two empires were similar in that religion was how in both societies, religion was always in opposition of the government. It was also evident in that in both eras, persecution was present.
Early Rome was a monarchy. When they ended it, society turned into an aristocratic republic. A person was either a patrician or a plebe, with the majority being the former. Because patricians dominated the senate, plebes were stepped upon until they threatened to leave Rome. The patricians finally allowed for a ruling plebe called tribune to set things right. The senate also chose a dictator in times of emergency which had a 6 month term. However, this government did not work. Another major issue for the Roman Empire was the rise of the pope. The pope had enough influence to challenge the government and produced new challenges for both religious and political authority. The last notable political challenge was that the Romans faced emperors were unable to be removed from power. This meant that if people had distaste for the current emperor, rather than being removed from power, he was simply killed. This is significant because these acts led to the high amount of successions, power vacuums, and rivalry between patricians to get to the top.
Similar to the Romans, Byzantine had more or less of an absolute ruler or emperor. Justinian, a Macedonian number and taxes lover, imposed numerous taxes. He came up with the idea of Bureaucracy. With the many taxes Justinian had imposed, one of them affected Hippodromes. This led to the Nika Riots. This was significant in that it proved evident that too many taxes do not work.
Both Rome and Byzantine were not without rivals. The Roman empire’s most notable war was the Punic Wars. This was a battle between the Romans and the Carthages for Carthage’s grain. The result of this war was Rome’s bitter victory over the Cartages. Because of this bitterness, Rome not only destroyed Carthage’s cities, but they salted their fields and built temples to tell Gods to “ditch” Carthage. Byzantines most notable war was the Gothic Wars to take control of Italy. This war was significant due to after Byzantines withdrawal from the war, Italy was left in a state of a power vacuum. Byzantine rivals also included the Persians. This rivalry lasted for centuries.
The main internal struggles both empires faced were the opposition between government and religion. Other notable struggles were Rome’s ability to quell fires and the spread of disease through the Silk Road. Rome’s society was also structured inefficiently with only the rich, the poor, and slaves. Some poor wanted to become slaves in order to be rid of taxes and to get food. Byzantines main internal struggles stemmed from Justinian and his absolute reign.
External struggles for both empires were primarily military based. They both faced smaller enemy raiders. Rome had the Franks, Goth, and Alamanni versus Byzantines Slavs, Bulgars, and Krum. They were forced to face many raids from these enemies.