Background to 700
During the fourth century Christianity had become the official
religion of the ancient Roman Empire, which stretched from
Italy to Britain and Germany, to North Africa, Turkey, Palestine
In the fifth century the Empire collapsed. Pagan people
raided, invaded, settled and formed new kingdoms: the Ostrogoths
and Lombards in Italy; the Franks in Gaul; the Visigoths
in Spain and Portugal, and the Anglo-Saxons in England.
The Eastern Empire continued under the Byzantine emperors
based in Constantinople. Rome remained a focus as the seat
of the Pope, head of the western Church.
During the seventh century, conquests carried Islam to the
eastern and southern shores of the Mediterranean, where Christianity
and Judaism continued to be tolerated.
Other ancient religions - Buddhism, Hinduism, Confucianism,
Taoism and Zoroastrianism - were established further east,
spread and interacted.