View of the south facade of the Hagia Sophia (also known as St. Sophia), the Church of Holy Wisdom, in Istanbul.
Construction began in 532 by order of Emperor Justinian. The minarets were built in the Ottoman era, after the church was
converted into a mosque.
The Christian Stronghold in the East
The western part of the Roman Empire broke up in the fifth century AD. The eastern part (or the Byzantine Empire, after the ancient name of the capital, Byzantium) existed from 330 to 1453. The Byzantines melded Roman legal and administrative institutions, orthodox Christian religion, and Greek language into a single unsurpassed culture. Its emperors regarded the former Roman borders as their own.
Over the fifth and sixth centuries, there were repeated incursions by Germanic and Hunnic tribes. Between 534 and 565, the emperor Justinian I, aided by his wife Theodora, tried to restore both the cultural and the territorial greatness of the Roman Empire, retaking North Africa, Italy, some of Spain, and the Mediterranean islands of Sicily and Sardinia.
At its peak about 550, the empire almost encircled the Mediterranean, encompassing its islands and parts of southern Spain, Italy, southeastern Europe, the Balkan