The First Byzantine Period

(330-824)

With the partition of the Roman Empire into an eastern and a western part, Crete became part of the Eastern Roman Empire. It continued for over 1.000 years until the island was conquered by Moors from Andalusia, who for a short time established an emirate in Crete.

Head of Emperor Constantine the Great (272–337) or Constantine I or Saint Constantine. Roman Emperor from 306 to 337. Roman artwork, 4th century CE. (Creative commons: Anthony Majanlahti, www.flikr.com)

In 330, the Roman emperor Constantine the Great (Constantine I), built his new capital on the Bosphorus Strait, where the Greek city of Byzantium used to be. He called the city Constantinople after himself. Thus, he is generally considered founder of the Eastern Roman Empire. In the years that followed the Roman Empire began to crack and was repeatedly divided into a western and an eastern part. When Emperor Theodosius I died in 395 the kingdom was divided for the last time and Crete came with as part of the Eastern Roman Empire. (Only from the 16th century was it called the Byzantine Empire).

It was also during Constantines reign that Christianity became the dominant religion of the Roman Empire and Constantine is still honored as a saint in the Greek Orthodox Church.

Crete was part of the Byzantine Empire in two periods. First from approx. 330 to 824, where Crete was conquered by the Moors and for a short period was a Muslim emirate. The second time from 961 when Byzantium reconquered the island. The Byzantine era in Crete ended in 1204, when the city-state of Venice took power as a consequence of the fall of Constantinople after the Fourth Crusade.

Life on Crete in the period

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Sights from the period in modern Crete today

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