With the split of the Roman Empire, the eastern part shifted its capital to Constantinople (formerly Byzantium) and became what we now call the Byzantine Empire. The Byzantine Empire shared many similar characteristics with Rome, although its people looked more to Greece culturally.
The east/west split of Rome and the development of the Byzantine Empire also divided the Christian world of the time into two major groups.
The Byzantine Empire was shaped in many ways by geography. Situated between the Black and Aegean Seas (hence Europe and Asia), it was at a key economic and political crossroads.
The Byzantine Empire faced a wide range of both internal and external threats and went through periods of territorial growth, as well as loss, until it eventually was taken over by another empire.
A global trend in Era 4 was the continued spread of ideas and people through different forms of human interaction, including trade, travel, and conflict.
The development of Islam in this region signaled the arrival of a new world religion that would play an important role in the political and economic shifts in this era and beyond.
Islam originated when the prophet Muhammad began spreading a belief system he said was communicated to him by God, or Allah. It developed as a monotheistic and “portable” religion, sharing common roots with Judaism and Christianity.
In this era, Islam and the political-religious states comprising the Muslim community (also known as Caliphates), represented the growing trend of the consolidation of religious and political power in empires and states.
Lesson 3: The Tang Dynasty - The rise and fall of another Golden Age?
In this era, new empires emerged and organized to take the places of the great, classical empires of Era 3. In China, after the fall of the Han Empire, several other dynasties came and went before the emergence of the Tang, which rivaled the Han in terms of territorial extent and duration.
The Tang Dynasty was seen as a Golden Age for China, as it further refined government systems and bureaucracy, advanced military power, and improved communication and transportation networks.
The Tang Dynasty had a far-reaching impact, influencing government and culture in Korea and Japan, as well as other parts of Asia. The Tang influence was limited to the west by the influence of the Abassid Dynasty, which prevented Tang expansion.
The Tang Dynasty followed the pattern of past empires. Eventual corruption, internal struggles for power, and overexpansion weakened the Tang Dynasty. As a result, the dynasty declined and fell, as had the Han before them.
Lesson 5: Kingdoms of Europe – Charlemagne and the Carolingian Empire
After the fall of the Roman Empire, control over Europe was a source of conflict between Germanic tribes in the area. Eventually, the Frankish king Charlemagne was able to unite much of present-day Europe under his control, and he led a period of cultural development called the Carolingian Renaissance.
Charlemagne was crowned Emperor of Rome by the Pope. This connection to the church, as well as his effort to forcibly convert people under his control to Christianity, demonstrated the growing link between religious power in Rome and political power in other parts of Europe.
During the rule of Charlemagne and his descendants, known as the Carolingian Empire, the modern nations of France and Germany began to take shape, and the European version of feudalism, a system where powerful lords controlled the land worked by poor farmers, began to take shape.
The Carolingian Empire was characterized by growth and unification under a strong leader, and then division and decline when descendants of the king battled for power among themselves.
Lesson 6: The Vikings: Craftsmen, Explorers, Raiders, and Trader
The Vikings were warriors who raided towns and monasteries across Europe during Era 4, but they were much more than simple bands of pirates. Their attacks and conquests, as well as their settlements in some parts of Europe, changed the power structure of Europe over time.
The Viking raids spurred European kings to develop their defenses, to tax their citizenry, and even to develop navies, especially in the British Isles. The Vikings also became kings in certain areas, and established new ruling groups in some of the places where they settled.
The Vikings not only changed Europe, but were changed themselves in this process. Kings unified their control of Scandinavia territories, Christianity became the dominant religion, and trade connected this part of the world to the rest of Europe.
Lesson 7: Sub-Saharan Africa: The Gold and Salt Connection for Afroeurasia
Sub-Saharan Africa was partly isolated by physical geography from the rest of Afroeurasia. Eventually, interactions with other regions developed as ships were used for trade along the east coast of Africa and the domestication of camels provided a reliable means to trade across the Sahara desert.
Early governments in Sub-Saharan African societies and kingdoms were organized around kinship such as family units and clans or tribes. This reflected a slightly different pattern of government than in some other parts of Afroeurasia.
Kingdoms in Sub-Saharan Africa, such as the Kingdom of Ghana, became connected more consistently to the rest of Afroeurasia through trade and gained wealth through their control of salt and gold being sent to Europe and Asia. Slaves were also sometimes part of this trade.
The Kingdom of Ghana, wealthy because of trade in gold and salt, built its government early on around kinship. As Ghana gained additional resources and territory, it developed a more formalized and regulated system and began to tax its people.
Lesson 8: How similar and different was the growth of large societies in different world zones? Comparing the Americas to Afroeurasia by exploring Teotihuacan and Cahokia
During Era 4, Afroeurasia experienced a period of great population growth, increased migration of people across the region, continued expansion of trade, and the spread of ideas and technology through cultural diffusion.
In the Americas, advanced civilizations also experienced these patterns, although on a smaller scale and in different ways.
The Mesoamerican city-state of Teotihuacan was a large city with advanced architecture, science, and art. Teotihuacan was connected to other areas of the Americas through trade.
In what is now the United States, the city of Cahokia grew into the largest city north of Teotihuacan. Cahokia was also an advanced society with lots of trade connections to other areas.
Both cities, Teotihuacan and Cahokia, were eventually abandoned as large population centers. The reasons for the fall of Teotihuacan and Cahokia are still debated by historians, archeologists, and other scholars.