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In Rome itself, Christians were imprisoned and tortured, or thrown into the arena to be devoured by lions. But persecution simply gave the sect even greater cohesion and powers of resistance - a fact not lost on Emperor Constantine. In 313 Constantine granted freedom of worship to all religions, and Christianity later became the state religion.

Before the end of the fourth century, a patriarchate was established in Constantinople with ecclesiastical jurisdiction over much of the Greek East. The basilica of Hagia Sophia (Holy Wisdom), whose construction in Constantinople was ordered by Emperor Justinian in 532, became the spiritual focus of Greek Christendom.
Constantine made an immense contribution to the spread of Christianity, but he failed in one of his primary aims. He wanted to unite all Christians in one Church, but in fact he succeeded in splitting them.The Christians of the West claimed that the Pope in Rome was the leader of Christendom. Those in the East recognised the Patriarch of Constantinople as their leader. These two forms became the Roman Catholic Church and the Eastern Ortodox Church. The Byzantine emperors maintanied a large Christian empire covering much of Asia and North Africa until a new dynamic religious force apperaed in the East. This was the religious faith of Islam

In the early seventh century, the emperor in Constantinople presided over a realm that included not only Greece and Anatolia but Syria, Egypt, Sicily, most of Italy, and the Balkans, with outposts across North Africa as far as Morocco. Anatolia was the most productive part of this extensive empire and was also the principal reservoir of manpower for its defense. With the loss of Syria to Muslim conquest in the seventh century, Anatolia became the frontier as well as the heartland of the empire. The military demands imposed on the Byzantine state to police its provinces and defend its frontiers were enormous, but despite the gradual contraction of the empire and frequent political unrest, Byzantine forces generally remained strong until the eleventh century.

The tide turned in the 9th century under dynasty of emperors which included Michael III (842-67), and later Basil's dynasty, which held the throne of Byzantium for the next two centuries. Basil's successors extended the empire's boundaries to the Euphrates, and made considerable inroads into Bulgaria.
The empire's revival continues under Basil II (976-1025), a man of strong will and courage , whose reign gave Byzantium a period of prosperity and expension as great as that enjoyed under Justinian. So succesful was his campaign agains the Bulgars in the Balkans that he became known as Basil the Bulgar-Slayer. When Basil died in 1025, the empire had reached a peak of success, though at the cost of overstraining its economy.

Byzan Church

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