In AD 285 the emperor Diocletian divided the Roman Empire into two parts. The eastern part, the subject of this book, became known as the Eastern Roman Empire or, after the last of the western empire disappeared in 480, simply as the Roman Empire. Only after the former eastern empire also fell in 1453 did some scholars feel a need for a name without Rome in it for an empire that had not included Rome. Although the capital of the East had usually been at Constantinople, the term “Constantinopolitan Empire” was ungainly. The renamers settled on “Byzantine Empire” or “Byzantium,” Byzantium having been the name of the small town refounded as Constantinople in 324. For better or worse, this name has stuck, though historians disagree about the right date to begin using it. This book begins with 285, when the Eastern Roman Empire began its separate existence, but the town of Byzantium had no special importance as yet. I avoid calling the empire “Byzantine” until the fifth century, when Constantinople truly became its political and cultural capital and the western empire fell away.
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