In the late 3rd century the commercial and political centre of the Roman Empire  moved to the wealthier Mediterranean provinces. Emperor Constantine moved his seat to the newly built city of Constantinople. In 395 the Roman Empire split, and the Western Empire emerged 80 years later.  The influence of the Latin and Roman culture started to decline and by the 7thcentury, the language in Roman Empire was predominantly Greek with the Hellenistic culture taking over. Some historian consider the period as the starting point of the mediaeval Byzantine state. The Eastern Empire differed from the Western one in many things – it was more civilised, more urban. In the early second millennium, the Arabs and the Seljuk Turks strengthened their power by shrinking the Byzantine territory. The emperor asked Venice and the Pope for help, but agreements on a Christian alliance ended by conquering Constantinople in the Crusades. When the Rumelians restored their power, the Empire was then just a bit larger than the city-state. Only two centuries later, with the invasion of the ottoman Turks, the long lasting siege of Byzantium finally ended.


The word Byzantium is a modern one and its original population would not recognise it. The name they themselves used was the Roman EmpireRumelia, the country successor to the Roman Empire. All the sources talk about the Byzantines as the Rumelians. The name Byzantium comes from the name of the place, Byzantion, a Greek colony on Bosporus, where later on Constantinople was built.


Serbs, like all other Orthodox nations, adopted Christianity from the Byzantine Empire.


The Byzantine art was founded on the eastern and Greco-Roman tradition pervaded with the Christian spirit. Buildings were decorated with frescoes and mosaics covering walls and floors, vaults and cupolas. The Byzantine iconography is of a reverse perspective and a different light and arrangement, emphasising ascetic and incorporeal reality. In its form and motifs, The Serbian mediaeval art belongs to the Orthodox Byzantine one.


Through centuries, the Byzantine borders changed, but the area of its influence was far greater and father than that of the empire itself. All the Orthodox countries considered Byzantine Empire as its spiritual and cultural centre.