Byzantium: Teacher s Guide

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1 Byzantium: Teacher s Guide Grade Level: 9-12 Curriculum Focus: World History Lesson Duration: Two class periods Program Description Rome fell in 476, but the empire moved east and lasted another thousand years. Part one of Byzantium describes how Constantine, a Christian convert, moved the center of power to this former Greek city and made it the glory of the Christian world. Part two examines the legacy of Byzantium, conquered by the Ottomans in You'll learn how Byzantine refugees helped spark the Renaissance by bringing classic Greek and Roman texts back from the East. Onscreen Questions and Activities Segment 1, Byzantium, Part One Pre-viewing questions: o What do you already know about the history of Istanbul in Turkey? o Why do you think so many people from different places have been interested in that particular location? o While you watch the documentary, keep track of the different cultures that have influenced the city s history over the centuries. Post-viewing question: Constantinople was known as the golden city by the sea because of its location and its prosperity. Discuss the factors that contributed to the growth and success of this city, including geography, politics and economics. Activity: Use maps to identify the significant bodies of water that surrounded Constantinople. Divide into groups, choose one body of water, and discuss the ways it influenced the city. Then, prepare a summary of the discussion to share with the class. Segment 2, Byzantium, Part Two Pre-viewing questions: o What do historians mean when they describe the rise and fall of an empire? Does this description fit the Byzantine Empire? o While watching the documentary, pay attention to the ways that the Byzantine way of life influenced cities and people even after its fall. What role did artists and architects play in this process?

2 Byzantium: Teacher s Guide 2 Post-viewing question: The documentary explains how the legacy of Byzantium extended to other parts of the world. Discuss the extent of the influence of the Byzantine Empire using examples from the documentary. Can you think of any examples that are not mentioned in the documentary? Activity: Split into two groups and research the history and major beliefs of Christianity and Islam. Then, create posters that illustrate your findings. Have a class discussion to compare and contrast the two faiths. Lesson Plan Student Objectives Students will understand: Rule and control of the city now called Istanbul shifted many times between 700 B.C. and A. D The city has been a center of great culture. Materials Byzantium video and VCR, or DVD and DVD player Reference materials about the decline of the Roman Empire, the split into western and eastern Roman empires, the Byzantine Empire, and the beginning of the Ottoman Empire Roll paper Rulers Markers in a variety of colors Staples, pushpins, tape, or another device to attach roll paper to the wall Procedures 1. Tell students that they will produce a large-scale time line, called Byzantium Constantinople Istanbul, to help them see what happened to a single city over the course of about two millennia, from just after 700 B.C. to just before A. D The time line will include dates and details about: leaders; military expansion or retrenchment; economic developments; social changes; and other major events in the life of the city.

3 Byzantium: Teacher s Guide 3 2. Tell students that after groups collaborate to complete the time line, each group will write a brief analysis of what the overall time line shows. 3. As a class, figure out how long a piece of roll paper you will need to mount horizontally for the time line. (If you have room to give one foot to each century, students will need twenty-three feet of paper, plus some paper for left and right margins; if you don t have that much room, ask students to calculate a new length per century or to propose an alternative to ticking off every hundred years.) 4. Staple, pin, or tape the large piece of roll paper to the wall. Direct one or several students to draw a continuous horizontal line and to tick off on it the equal segments of one hundred years each (or to proceed with the alternative mathematical plan). They should begin, on the left, with 700 B.C. and end, on the right, with A.D The students should label each tick mark with its corresponding year. 5. Divide the 2300 years up as follows, assigning a group of students to each period: a) 700 B.C.-323 B.C. b) 322 B.C.-A.D. 324 c) A.D d) If students ask why some periods are longer than others, explain that based on historians reports, these divisions mark major changes. You might add that sometimes decades went by with few developments but at other times, many significant events occurred within just a few years. 6. Share print and online resources students may use to identify key events in the city for the period they are being asked to research. Remind students of the five categories to research (stated above). Within each group, have one or two students responsible for finding facts for specific categories rather than all students collecting the same information for all categories from the sources. Students should take notes from their reading. 7. Once all the groups have done their research and collected facts for their period, ask each group to make a draft, on notebook paper, of their section of the time line for you to review. Make sure each contains the following key events (plus any pertinent information about economic and social changes). If a period is lacking information, send the students back to do more research, and review their second drafts. a. 700 B.C. 323 B.C. 667 B.C.: city founded by Greek named Byzas; becomes major port 590 B.C.: city destroyed by Persian, Darius I 479 B.C.: city rebuilt by Spartans B.C.: city fought over by Athens and Sparta B.C. Alexander the Great, of Macedonia, in charge b. 322 B.C. A.D. 324

4 Byzantium: Teacher s Guide 4 after Alexander: city independent; then attacked by Scythians 279 B.C.: tribute imposed by Celts on city; war between Byzantium and Rhodes 1st and 2nd centuries B.C.: city helpful to Rome in several wars, but city then controlled by Rome A.D. 196: city captured by Roman Emperor Severus, who razed walls A.D. 293: Byzantium named by Roman Emperor Diocletian as a new center of Roman Empire with power split between Rome (West) and Byzantium (East) 324: Roman Emperor of East defeated by Roman Emperor of the West, Constantine (first Christian emperor); Byzantium renamed Constantinople and built up by Constantine c. A.D : Constantinople considered capital of Byzantine Empire after Rome falls 527+: Constantinople further built up by Emperor Justinian I (e.g., Hagia Sophia, major Christian church; codification of Roman laws) 565+: city increasingly Greek in nature 7th to 8th centuries: many Arab (Muslim) sieges of city; Byzantine Empire shrunken d th to 11th centuries: glory of city regained under Emperor Basil I; revival of learning (art and literature: older Greek models); major invasion by Turks 1054: break between Rome (papacy) and Constantinople (Greek Orthodox) 11th and 12th centuries: city and empire hurt by Crusades 1204: city taken by Crusaders 14th century: Byzantine land in Asia taken by Ottoman Turks 1453: city of Constantinople taken by Ottoman Turks (Mehmet, or Muhammad, II); renamed Istanbul, made capital of Ottoman Empire, and revived as center of learning and religious tolerance : under Sultan Suleiman I, city at its height 1566+: years of decline 8. When you ve signed off on each group s timeline, call the groups together to discuss how they will transfer their facts to the time line on the wall. How they will word the facts on the time line so that all the groups postings are consistent? (Will they use full sentences? phrases? active voice or passive voice?) 9. After students have finished filling in the time line, ask each group to collaborate on a short, three-paragraph analysis of what the time line says to them. Ask them to comment on the history of the city known as Byzantium, then Constantinople, then Istanbul from its original founding until the late 1500s. Remind them to include examples throughout their report. Discussion Questions 1. List and discuss the most impressive and beautiful accomplishments of the Byzantine Empire.

5 Byzantium: Teacher s Guide 5 2. One thousand years is a really long time for a civilization to last. The United States civilization is about 300 years old. Do you think we ll make it to 1,000? Why or why not? What will be considered our crowning achievements? 3. Compare the power of Roman and Byzantine emperors to current international political leaders. Be sure to consider different forms of government and the routes to power available to 20th century heads of state. Make sure to note their similarities and differences. 4. Explain why certain cities are associated with specific architectural structures. List international capitals and choose one symbolic structure for each. Be prepared to defend your choices. 5. Brainstorm and discuss reasons underlying the fall of the Byzantine Empire. 6. Analyze the decision of Mehmet II to convert St. Sophia into a mosque after his conquest of Constantinople. What other options did he have? Assessment Use the following three-point rubric to evaluate students' work during this lesson. 3 points: Students timeline includes full listing of key developments in the life of the city; clearly written analysis with thesis statement and many examples. 2 points: Students timeline includes adequate listing of key developments in the life of the city; adequately written analysis with thesis statement and some examples 1 point: Students timeline does not include adequate listing of key developments; weak analysis lacking meaningful thesis statement and enough examples. Vocabulary dome Definition: A large hemispherical roof or ceiling. Context: Byzantine architects created the largest domes ever built in the ancient world. The most famous example is St. Sophia built by Justinian and Theodora in Constantinople. epic Definition: A long narrative poem celebrating the deeds of a hero. Context: The world s oldest epic hero was Gilgamesh, a Mesopotamian king who sought the plant (tree of life) bearing the secret of immortality. exile Definition: A person expelled by force from his country or a person who chooses to leave voluntarily. Context: In Rome, a group of Byzantine exiles gathered in an academic setting to help maintain and preserve Byzantine culture and ideals.

6 Byzantium: Teacher s Guide 6 mosque Definition: An Islamic place of worship. Context: After the fall of Christian Byzantium, the Turkish rulers built mosques over existing sites or converted churches into mosques where the Muslim faithful could worship. relic Definition: An object esteemed or venerated because of its age or special association with an important historical figure or saint. Context: Often there are political ceremonies or religious rituals involving relics of the past or objects believed to have sacred powers. One example was the procession of Constantine and his priests in the fourth century. Academic Standards Mid-continent Research for Education and Learning (McREL) McREL's Content Knowledge: A Compendium of Standards and Benchmarks for K-12 Education addresses 14 content areas. To view the standards and benchmarks, visit This lesson plan addresses the following national standards: World History Classical Traditions, Major Religions, and Giant Empires: Understand how major religious and large-scale empires arose in the Mediterranean Basin, China, and India from 500 BCE to 300 CE. World History Expanding Zones of Exchange and Encounter: Understands the Imperial crises and their aftermath in various regions from 300 to 700 CE. World History Expanding Zones of Exchange and Encounter: Understands the causes and consequences of the development of Islamic civilization between the 7th and 10th centuries. World History Intensified Hemispheric Interactions: Understands the redefinition of European society and culture from A.D to A.D Visual Arts: Understands the visual arts in relation to history and cultures. The National Council for the Social Studies (NCSS) The National Council for the Social Studies (NCSS) has developed national standards to provide guidelines for teaching social studies. To view the standards online, go to This lesson plan addresses the following thematic standards: Time, Continuity, and Change

7 Byzantium: Teacher s Guide 7 Support Materials Develop custom worksheets, educational puzzles, online quizzes, and more with the free teaching tools offered on the Discoveryschool.com Web site. Create and print support materials, or save them to a Custom Classroom account for future use. To learn more, visit

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