Dividing the Roman Empire into East & West
Growing into one of the largest empires in human history is an incredible achievement. The Roman Kingdom, then the Republic, and then the Empire, gained this status through more than a thousand years of expansion, conquest, trade, and internal development.
Eventually Rome 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 weakening Roman leadership and political instability.
In 286 CE, Emperor Diocletian decided to divide Rome into two sections to try and stabilize the empire. For a hundred years Rome experienced even more divisions until the empire was finally divided in 395 CE and became the Western Empire and the Eastern Empire.
This division changed Roman life and government forever. There were now two emperors in each empire, 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, mainly in the aspects of religion, language, and culture.
Romans in the Western Empire spoke Latin while those in the Eastern Empire spoke Greek. The Western Empire was Roman Catholic and practiced traditional Roman culture, while 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 eventually collapsed in 476 CE.
The Eastern Empire, also known as the Byzantine Empire, survived for almost 1,000 more years before being overtaken by the Ottoman Empire in 1453.