Constantinople


Constantinople
(Modern Istanbul). Capital of Byzantium (q.v.) from 324-1453, except for 1204-1261 when it was the capital of a Latin Empire founded by the Fourth Crusade (qq.v.). Constantine I (q.v.)'s motives in establishing the new capital in 324 (dedicated in 330) are not known. He may have viewed it initially as a new imperial residence, similar to those in Milan and Nicomedia (qq.v.). He may have seen it as a Christian capital, untainted by Rome's (q.v.) long association with paganism. In any case, he called it "New Rome," though people preferred Constantinople (literally "City of Constantine"), the name that stuck. Certainly its strategic importance must have been obvious to him, for it lay at the end of the Via Egnatia (q.v.) where one crosses from Europe to Asia Minor (q.v.). From Constantinople one had access north through the Bosporos to the Black Sea (qq.v.), and south through the Hellespont to the Aegean Sea (qq.v.). Once fortified with a land wall, which Constantine did, the city was difficult to take, for it had to be besieged by sea as well. It has a superb natural harbor called the Golden Horn (q.v.), which itself was fortified by means of a chain across its entrance. The massive land walls of Theodosios II (q.v.), stretching some six kilometers, were the most impressive urban fortifications of the Middle Ages. Its triple-defenses involved a deep ditch, with successive outer and inner walls. Indeed, the developed city had no real western competitors in terms of its size, fortifications, sumptuous churches, and public monuments. This explains Geoffrey Villehardouin's (q.v.) description of his fellow Crusaders being struck dumb at their first sight of Constantinople (in 1203). Robert of Clari's (q.v.) description betrays this same sense of wonderment at a city whose population may have been ca. 300,000. Venice (q.v.), the largest city in the West at the time, may have had a population of around 80,000 (Paris not more than around 20,000). What Robert of Clari describes is a city without parallel in Christendom, one filled with both Christian and ancient monuments. Its central street, the Mese, ended at the Great Palace (qq.v.), around which were situated the Hippodrome, the Augustaion (qq.v.), the baths of Zeuxippus, the underground Basilike cistern, and the churches of Hagia Sophia, St. Irene, and Sts. Sergios and Bakchos (qq.v.). Elsewhere in the city, at every turn, were monasteries and churches, e.g., the Stoudios Monastery, the Chora Monastery. Constantinople's importance to every aspect of the history of Byzantium cannot be overemphasized. The city was a bastion of resistance against Arab expansion, in which regard the history of European civilization might have been dramatically different had the Arab sieges of Constantinople in 674-678, and in 717-718, succeeded. Ironically, the most destructive siege of Constantinople came in 1204, when Christian knights of the Fourth Crusade (q.v.) sacked Constantinople and partitioned Byzantium. Constantinople's preeminent role in preserving ancient Greco-Roman civilization lasted until the city's final conquest by the Ottomans (q.v.) on 29 May 1453.

Historical Dictionary of Byzantium . .

Look at other dictionaries:

  • Constantinople — • Capital, formerly of the Byzantine, now of the Ottoman, Empire (As of 1908, when the article was written.) Catholic Encyclopedia. Kevin Knight. 2006. Constantinople     Constantinople …   Catholic encyclopedia

  • CONSTANTINOPLE — Les Byzantins usaient ordinairement, pour désigner la capitale de leur Empire, de trois termes qui correspondent à son origine, à son rôle dans la vie politique, à sa suprématie économique et culturelle: ils l’appelaient soit la «ville de… …   Encyclopédie Universelle

  • Constantinople — prop. n. the former capital of the Eastern Roman Empire; it was built on the site of ancient Byzantium, and the name was changed to Istanbul by the Turks. Syn: Istanbul, Stambul, Stamboul. [WordNet 1.5] Note: The name change was the subject of a… …   The Collaborative International Dictionary of English

  • CONSTANTINOPLE — (Byzantium; Heb. קושטנטיני, קושטנטינא, קושטאנדינא, קושטא), former capital of the byzantine and ottoman empires; now istanbul , Turkey. Under the Byzantine empire Jews were settled in various areas of Constantinople. In the fourth and fifth… …   Encyclopedia of Judaism

  • Constantinople — the proper name from 330 C.E. to 1930 C.E. of what is now ISTANBUL (Cf. Istanbul), from Gk. Konstantinou polis Constantine s city, named for Roman emperor Flavius Valerius Aurelius Constantinus, whose name is derived from L. constans (see… …   Etymology dictionary

  • Constantinople — [kän΄stan tə nō′pəl] former name (A.D. 330 1930) for ISTANBUL …   English World dictionary

  • Constantinople — This article is about the city before the Fall of Constantinople (1453). For a more detailed approach after 1453, see History of Istanbul. For other uses, see Constantinople (disambiguation). Map of Byzantine Constantinople …   Wikipedia

  • Constantinople — Plan de Constantinople Carte montrant le relief de Constant …   Wikipédia en Français

  • Constantinople — noun 1. the largest city and former capital of Turkey; rebuilt on the site of ancient Byzantium by Constantine I in the fourth century; renamed Constantinople by Constantine who made it the capital of the Byzantine Empire; now the seat of the… …   Useful english dictionary

  • Constantinople — geographical name see Istanbul • Constantinopolitan adjective …   New Collegiate Dictionary


Share the article and excerpts

Direct link
Do a right-click on the link above
and select “Copy Link”

We are using cookies for the best presentation of our site. Continuing to use this site, you agree with this.