Compare and Contrast Medieval European Society and the Byzantine Empire

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Compare and Contrast Medieval European Society and the Byzantine Empire


Initially, the Roman Empire ruled the Byzantine Empire as well as the society in the other parts of Western Europe. The establishment of the Byzantine Empire occurred after the Roman Empire collapsed. Its establishment was based on the notion that Western Europe was declining. There was a limited contact between these entities as the Byzantine as well as other parts of Europe became diverged. This created a platform on which knowledge was shared. This paper aims at differentiating and matching the medieval society in Europe and Byzantine Empire.


Among the major similarities between Byzantine Empire and the medieval society in Europe was the existence of a dominant religion which was Christianity. At the time of the rule of the Romans, Christianity was legalized by Emperor Constantine. This outlawed torment and punishments for those who acknowledged Christianity as their faith. Through this legalization, Christianity spread at a very fast rate across the society of Europe.

By the time when Constantine died and the Roman Empire collapsed, people believed in the existence of one God and Christian faith became a dominant religion among the European society in the medieval times and within the Byzantine Empire. Christianity had a vital role to play in the definition of the Byzantine government as well as the European society in the medieval times. Patriarchs influenced governance directly in Byzantine Empire. The Pope in Medieval Europe was considered as the highest religious authority with powers and influence in matters of politics (Cooper, 2008).

The medieval society in Europe as well as the Byzantine Empire saw themselves as the Romans. Citizens in these empires called themselves Romans. Latin was instituted by their governments as their official language. In terms of culture, hippodrome was the circuses of both entities. They were also characterized by horse races and gladiatorial fights. Additionally, Byzantine emperors as well as the emperors of the other medieval faction in Europe had Caesar as their title. The noble class was not recognized in the empires before the introduction of the feudal system within the medieval Europe although the distinction of this class was clear in these societies (Cooper, 2008).


In regards to governance, Byzantine Empire had a centralized system. The empire was ruled by an Emperor with authority that came from God. A religious ceremony was held to crown this leader. This implies that the religious and political powers of the emperor were unconditional. Contrary to a centralized governance in the Byzantine Empire, the society of the medieval Europe formed several and different regional kingdoms after the decline of the Roman Empire. Although the leaders of these kingdoms were their ultimate rulers, their political power was shared with powerful nobles. Additionally, the religious powers of the pope reigned over these kingdoms. Pope also had political influence because it was claimed that his ruling authority came from God. Therefore, the Pope was responsible for bestowing authority to the secular rulers (Spielvogel, 2009).

In terms of daily operations, the empire had trained bureaucrats who were appointed on meritocracy basis. These assisted in governance. The systems of the medieval kingdoms were relatively decentralized with local authorities’ leadership. These authorities comprised of the nobles who claimed authority on the basis of the ownership of land. Therefore, the nobles performed duties that included initiating projects, taxation and formulating laws. People acquired these positions on the basis of nobility titles, privileges and birth places. There were times when kings’ authority was not recognized by the nobles. In Byzantine Empire, regions were known as theme. The military under the Emperor’s instructions governed them (Spielvogel, 2009).

Although the Europe society during the medieval times and Byzantine Empire were mostly Christian societies, the religion also divided these societies. The Patriarch and the Pope clashed on issues of who possessed the greatest authority and power in interpreting religious practices within the church. The clash led to Great Schism which split the church. Catholic Church was retained by the medieval society in Europe and the Byzantine Empire formed the Orthodox Church (Spielvogel, 2009).

There were different economies for the medieval society in Europe as well as the Byzantine Empire. Manorialism was practiced by the medieval society. This included economies that were based on agriculture and this minimized trade outside Europe. The Byzantine Empire possessed the bridge that linked Europe to the other parts of the globe. This created an avenue for international trade which was transacted via the bridge. This made Byzantine Empire the richest in Europe (Holmes, 2001).


The medieval society in Europe and Byzantine Empire had common similarities that included supreme church leadership although they had varying denominations in Christianity. Although most of their cultural practices were acquired from Greeks, they considered themselves Romans. Their major differences were in the kind of economic and political systems that they had. In Byzantine Empire, there was a centralized system and the Emperor was the sole ruler. In the medieval society in Europe, there were the nobles, kings and the Pope who claimed religious and political authority.


Cooper, F. (2008). Empires and political imagination in world history. Princeton [u.a.: Princeton

University Press 61-64

Holmes, G. (2001). The Oxford history of medieval Europe. Oxford [u.a.: Oxford Univ. Press.

Spielvogel, J. J. (2009). Western civilization: Volume I. Australia: Thomson/Wadsworth 234-235