Who is the Third Roman Empire? It is a question that has existed since the fall of the Western and Eastern Roman Empires. After the fall of both empires, certain states believed themselves to be the successor of the Roman legacy. Of the numerous states that staked their claim, I believe that there are only 3 states, with a legitimate claim to the title of the Third Rome.
After conquering Constantinople in 1453, the Ottoman Empire laid claim to the Roman legacy. They ruled over a vast, multi-ethnic empire like the Roman’s once did, with the empire including Armenians, Jews, Assyrians, Arabs, and other ethnic groups. The Ottomans also incorporated Eastern Roman administrative practices such as the millet system, which grouped people based on their religious identity, with Jews, Christian’s and Zoroastrians each composing their own millet, which allowed them to use their own religious laws and customs rather then being forced to use, Sharia Law. However, the Ottomans strongest case for being the heirs of Rome, is the fact that their empire ruled much of the same land’s and people the Eastern Roman empire once did, and ruled from their capital of Constantinople. The continuation of Roman practices and being nearly geographically identical with the Eastern Roman empire gives the Ottomans a credible claim to the title of the 3rd Rome. North of the Ottoman juggernaut laid the massive Tsardom of Russia, their archenemy and another claimant to the title of the 3rd Rome.
After the fall of the Eastern Roman Empire, the Tsardom of Russia became the center of Orthodox Christianity, popularizing the idea of the "Third Rome being in Moscow". This idea was promoted by the Russian Tsars who emphasized Russia's role as the sole defender of Orthodox Christianity which was the official state religion of the Eastern Roman Empire for centuries. Beside sharing the same religion with the Romans, the Tsardom of Russia also had many cultural similarities with the Eastern Roman Empire, as the Russians borrowed from Roman art, architecture, and culture. This is most visible in the Greek based Russian alphabet and the iconic onion domes prevalent in Russian architecture which were based on Eastern Roman design, making Russia the most culturally and religiously similar of the 3 empires to the Roman Empire.
Another archenemy of the Ottoman Empire, The Holy Roman Empire also claimed to be the "third Rome", however unlike the Ottoman and Russian empires the HRE claimed to be the successor of the Western Roman Empire, rather then the Eastern Roman Empire. With their being no Roman Empire out west, the HRE believed it had the right to assume the title, as it was the most powerful Western European state since the fall of the Western Roman Empire and controlled the former Roman provinces of Gaul and Italia. Another important aspect of the HRE’s claim of being the third Rome was the Empire’s control over the city of Rome, and the Archbishop of Rome, the Pope, recognizing their rulers as Roman Emperors. Having the Catholic Church recognize them as the Roman Empire gives them a great deal of legitimacy, as the church was an integral part of Roman Civilization during the 4th and 5th centuries. And during the dark ages, the Catholic Church played a crucial role In preserving various aspects of Roman heritage such as classical roman literature and artwork. This makes the Holy Roman Empire the only claimant to the title of the third Roman Empire to be recognized by a credible Roman Institution.
In conclusion, all three of these claimants to the title of the third Roman Empire have a case. With the Ottomans claim being based on their geographical location and the people they ruled, the Russians claim being based on their religious, and cultural affiliation to the Eastern Roman Empire, and the Holy Roman Empires claim originating from the absence of a western Roman Empire and the Catholic Church recognizing them as the legitimate Roman Empire. Of these 3 Empires who do you think is the 3rd Roman Empire? The Ottomans, Russians, or HRE?