American Decline

Is America Becoming Rome Versus Byzantium?

By Victor Davis Hanson Independent Institute

Our Byzantine interior and Roman coasts are quite differently interpreting their shared American heritage as they increasingly plot radically divergent courses to survive in scary times.

In A.D. 286 the Roman emperor Diocletian split in half the huge Roman Empire administratively—and peacefully—under the control of two emperors.

A Western empire included much of modern-day Western Europe and northwest Africa. The Eastern half controlled Eastern Europe, and parts of Asia, and northeastern Africa.

By 330 the Emperor Constantine institutionalized that split by moving the empire’s capital from Rome to his new imperial city of Constantinople, founded on the site of the old Greek polis of Byzantium.

The two administrative halves of the once huge empire continued to drift apart. Soon there arose two increasingly different, though still kindred versions of a once unified Romanity.

The Western empire eventually collapsed into chaos by the latter 5th century A.D..

Yet the Roman eastern half survived for nearly a thousand years. It was soon known as the Byzantine Empire, until overwhelmed by the Ottoman Turks in 1453 A.D..

Historians still disagree over why the East endured while the West crumbled. And they cite the various roles of differing geography, border challenges, tribal enemies, and internal challenges.

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