World History: Journey Across Time
The Romans admired and studied Greek art, architecture, and ideas. Roman engineers built an impressive system of roads and bridges, aqueducts to supply the cities with clean water, and a sewer system to remove waste. Despite these achievements, the large city was crowded, noisy, and dirty. The Forum served as a marketplace and public square. People from both social classes enjoyed watching the chariot races and the gladiators. The paterfamilias headed the Roman family. The Romans worshiped many gods and goddesses. As the empire grew larger, Romans learned about other religions.
Poor leadership, a failing economy, and attacks by Germanic tribes weakened the Roman Empire. As the government weakened, the Roman economy fell apart. Farmers grew less food, artisans produced less work, and businesses closed. The empire was further weakened by plague and inflation. Despite the reforms of Diocletian and Constantine, the empire continued to decline. It eventually split into the Western Roman Empire and the Eastern Roman Empire.
The Eastern Roman Empire became the Byzantine Empire. The location of its capital city, Constantinople, helped to make it safe from invaders and accessible to trade. The policies and reforms of Emperor Justinian and his wife, Empress Theodora, helped make the Byzantine Empire strong. Byzantines developed a rich culture based on Roman, Greek, and Christian ideas. The religious center of the empire, Hagia Sophia, features mosaics of saints.