Dividing the Roman Empire into East & West

Becoming one of the largest empires in history is an incredible achievement. The Roman Empire gained this status through continued expansion, conquest, trade, and internal development.

Rome, however, eventually became so large that the government had difficulty ruling and protecting its vast territory. Many tribes were moving into Roman lands and could not be stopped due to the weakening of the Roman leadership and political instability.

In 286 BCE, the Emperor Diocletian decided to divide Rome into two sections to try and stabilize the empire. For 100 years, Rome experienced more divisions and in 395, it finally became The Western Empire and The Eastern Empire.

This division changed Roman life and government forever. There were now two emperors in each half and they governed independently. The capital of the Western Empire was Rome and the capital of the Eastern Empire was Constantinople. Following this split, the Eastern Empire thrived. Constantinople was well-protected because it was on a peninsula that could be easily defended. It was also located on the frontiers of the empire allowing imperial armies to respond more easily to external attacks and threats.

The Eastern and Western Empires had similarities and differences. They both considered themselves Roman and celebrated the history of Rome. Although they governed separately, their forms of government were similar and they enforced some of the same laws. However, as time went on their differences grew, especially in religion, language, and culture.

The Western Empire spoke Latin while the Eastern Empire spoke Greek. The Western Empire was Roman Catholic and practiced traditional Roman culture. The Eastern Empire was dominated by the Eastern Orthodox religion and had a more diverse culture influenced by different people. The Western Empire suffered from multiple invasions by barbarian tribes and was finally sacked in 476 CE.

The Eastern Empire, also known as the Byzantine Empire survived for almost 1000 more years before being overtaken by the Ottoman Empire in 1453.

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