During the Post-Classical period, Christian culture took hold in Eastern and Western Europe, but separation of citizens and invasions ultimately aided religious diffusion in Eastern and Western Europe over time. Eastern Europe had far surpassed Western Europe in trade, economics, and political unity. Eastern and Western civilization had very different government structures. The Byzantine Empire was ruled by an Emperor and instead of using direct rule, they used civil service to effectively run the empire.
In contrast, Western Europe was divided into different ‘countries’ only by which language was spoken and the feudal system was prominent, without any centralized government until the late Middle Ages. Although both civilizations were predominantly Christian, Christianity led to a major divide between the two. Clashes between the Pope and the Patriarch over who had more authority and power, including interpretation of practices within the church, ultimately lead to the Great Schism.
The Christian Church split into the Eastern Orthodox Church and the Catholic Church. Along with religious differences, Western Europe and the Byzantine Empire had extremely different economies. Practices of manorialism lead to an agricultural base economy with little outside trading of Europe, while the Byzantine Empire became the wealthiest empire in Europe because of Constantinople. Constantinople was the major trading stop in Europe on the Silk Road and was often referred to as the bridge between Europe and the rest of the world.
While the Eastern and Western European civilizations had vastly different qualities, they surprisingly had some things in common, such as: importance of faith and religious art. Christianity played a major role in both of the governments of Eastern and Western Europe. In the Byzantine Empire, the Patriarch had direct influence on politics, just as in Western Europe, where the Pope was regarded as higher authority than the king. Religion played an important role in peoples everyday lives in the Eastern and Western societies.
Both civilizations were devoutly Christian due to their common ancestor, the Roman Empire, which had a large influence over the government and the people. Art was prominent in Eastern and Western societies’ culture, as well. There was a common trend in religious features in art of both the east and the west. Although the art in each society was mostly religious, the actual substance in the west was all architecture and the east was all literature.
During the Middle Ages, Western Europe developed somewhat of a love-hate relationship with the world. They were at the mercy of invasions, but were also keenly aware of the power of Islam. Most Europeans saw Islam as a dangerously false religion and obvious threat. At the same time, Europeans actively copied a host of features from Islam, from law to science and art. They also imported products and technologies from Asia. This process of imitation accelerated during the centuries of Muslim control.
A key discrepancy for Europe at the end of the Middle Ages involved how to gain greater control over the benefits that came from world contacts, while reducing the sense of threat. The new civilization developed an active sense of global awareness partly through weakness, and partly because of the advantages that Europeans learned from contacts which influenced them greatly. All in all, both of the Eastern and Western societies significantly differ from their rise to power, all the way through their declines, but they also shared a variety of similarities, surprising enough.