onstantinople was the capital of the Roman Empire. It was built on seven hills, divided into 14 regions, and was crossed by a river. It was the political, administrative, economic, religious, and cultural center of the empire. It was an exotic city, crowded, with the most sumptuous temples and lush palaces. This city had witnessed generations of inhabitants, from triumphal parades, to inaugurations of monumental constructions, ceremonies, coronations, political battles, sieges, discoveries, transactions, and cultural masterpieces. It was a city of entertainment and fashion that flourished from commerce.
The ancient Byzantion (657 BC-324 BC)
The story of the city begins before acquiring the name of “Constantinople”. It was founded in 657 BC by Greek colonists from Megara city-state, in search of adventures, territories, and opportunities. The founder would have been Byzas according to legend. The city maintained its independence as a city-state until it was annexed by King Darius I of the Persian Empire in 512 BC. Darius saw it as a potential place for building a bridge across the Bosphorus Strait to Europe. It remained under the control of the Persians until 478 BC when a coalition of Greeks led by Spartan general Pausanias countered the Persian invasion.
The city-state was captured by the Greeks and subordinated to the Athenians and later to the Spartans after 411 BC. In the fourth century BC, King Philip II of Macedonia himself tried to besiege the city, this until according to the legend, the dogs of the city barked and alerted the inhabitants who passed in defense. In 150 BC, Byzantion concluded a treaty with the ascending Rome, paying tribute in exchange for the recognition of its independence status. It was recognized for its geographical position, being difficult to besiege and capture, because it was located at the intersection of the two major commercial axes.
One vertical linking the Pontic basin through the Marmara Sea and the Aegean Sea from the Mediterranean, and the other, horizontal, terrestrial, which united Europe of Asia. Unfortunately, the Roman emperor Septimius Severus besieged, captured, and destroyed him. Historian Cassius Dio criticized him for destroying a city with potential that could become a base of operations against barbarians in Pontus and Asia. Severus rebuilt it towards the end of their reign, renaming it Augusta Antonina, and fortifying it with new walls, known as Severus’s Walls.
Constantinople during the Great Migration (337 AC–527 AC)
In 378 AC, the emperor of the Eastern Roman Empire, Valens, was walking abandoned by his guards on a battlefield. Most of his cavalry deserted, and his troop of troops was destroyed by an ambush of riotous visages. He is said to have escaped with a guard and sheltered in a peasant hut. The chalet was burned by the Visigoths, and Emperor Valens losing in flames. The defeat of the Romans in Adrianopol produced panic and agitation in the empire, especially in Constantinople.
The Hebdomon Palace, built in its own right, on the shore of Propontide, near the Golden Gate, was the place where all the emperors, from Zeno to Vasiliscus, were crowned and acclaimed. An aqueduct named after him would supply the city with water brought from 100 km from the city.
In 381 AC, the importance of the city was recognized, the second ecumenical council being held in this city. By the third canon, the position of the Bishop of Constantinople was recognized. In 395 AC, the city officially became the capital of the Eastern Roman Empire. In 451 AC, the IV ecumenical council was held in Chalcedon, and by canon XXVIII, it was established that the first place belonged to the old Rome, but the parents granted equal religious and political honors, and the new Rome-Constantinople, enjoyed it. by the presence of the emperor and the senate. The Senate was created by Constantius II, his son.
Theodosius I, who united the empire for the last time, founded the Church of St. John the Baptist to shelter his skull, erected a memorial pillar in the Taurus Forum, and transformed the temple of the goddess Aphrodite into a seat of the perfect praetorian. Arcadius built a new forum named after him near the Constantinian walls.
Theodosius II fortified the capital of the Eastern Roman Empire with new walls 18 meters high to prevent the invasion of the Huns led by Uldin, which advanced towards Thrace. These impenetrable walls seemed to resist and defend the capital for eternity. In 425, Theodosius founded a university near the Taurus Forum. While Rome decayed and was plundered by Visigoths of Alaric, even by Genseric’s vandals, or directly threatened by Attila’s Huns, the walls of Constantinople had proved impenetrable and no “barbaric” population dared to storm the prosperous capital due to its close ties with the rich. Eastern Provinces.
The forum of Theodosius the Great had a square shape, taking over the model of the forum in Rome. There his great victories were engraved. Mese Street reached the golden gate of the city. The gates were plated with gold leaf and the chapel on Constantine’s wall was decorated with statues. The wall of Theodosius II had three gates, a large golden power station, between which the emperor entered, two smaller gates, and the wall were erected a statue of elephants. Constantine’s wall did not resist, while from the wall of Theodosius small portions were kept, this being built between 408 AC–413 AC.
Constantinople in the time of Justinian (527 AC–565 AC)
January 13, 532, in Constantinople-Hippodrome, the gangs started rioting and violence on the streets, sparking a major revolt against the young and inexperienced Emperor Justinian, who was then concerned with the negotiations with the Persians. The bands were made up of Orthodox and Monophysites who disputed their beliefs and were organized into demos that differed in colors, social ranks, and religious beliefs. They were like the supporters of political parties or the microbiologists of today’s football teams.
The rebels shouted “Nika” (Victory) and wished to remove the emperor. The fires they produced included St. Sophia’s Basilica, the church north of Augstaeum, and surrounded the Hippodrome near the imperial palace ready to storm it. Some senators saw the event as an opportunity to remove the emperor after a tax dispute. The rebels were armed and controlled by their allies in the Senate. They wanted the dismissal of the perfect Ioan Capadocianul, responsible for collecting taxes, of the Tribonian treasurer, responsible for rewriting the code of laws and removing the emperor Justinian.
The anarchy had settled in Constantinople. Even when he was about to give up and retreat, Emperor Justinian was motivated and encouraged by his wife, Empress Theodora, who told him, “If salvation is only in flight, I refuse to flee. Those who wore the crown must not survive its loss. “ The emperor was ready to evacuate the palace because the sea was accessible to him. But Theodora insisted that she would remain in the city, telling him that “royalty is a purple jug.” Justinian, soothed by the Empress’s words, ordered the brutal repression of the revolt. 30,000 rebels were killed.
In 533, before leaving for the African campaign, General Belizarie’s ship was anchored in front of the imperial palace. The Patriarch offered prayers for the success of the campaign. On his return from 534, victorious, the general returns with the treasures of the Romans recovered from the hands of the defeated vandals. The treasures that came from the Temple in Jerusalem, plundered by the Romans in the year 70, brought to Cartagena by the Vandals after the robbery of Rome in 455, would henceforth be deposited in the Church of the Holy Poliut, either in the Church of the Resurrection or the New Church. The racecourse gained increasing political significance, as it was the place where the emperor was acclaimed by the people and addressed or criticized openly to senators and ministers. Public order had become a critical political issue for Emperor Justinian.
Justinian ordered the architects to renovate the church of the holy apostles built by Constantine, designed to have the shape of a cross with five domes and adorned with beautiful mosaics. This church was to become the eternal place of all Byzantine emperors. Justinian was concerned about other aspects of the city and issued laws prohibiting the construction of buildings at a height of more than 30 meters. Although the plague killed 40% of the city’s inhabitants, the population reached 500,000 during the reign of Justinian.
Constantinople in the Dark Byzantine Age (565 AC–717 AC)
From the seventh century, the Bulgarians began to impose their control over the Balkans, threatening Constantinople from the west. From the east, the Sasanian Persians threatened the Eastern Provinces. Heraclius, the son of an exarch from Africa, sailed to the capital and proclaimed himself emperor. Finding the city in a deplorable military situation, it was decided to move the capital to Carthage but was convinced by the city’s population to change its mind. The citizens had lost their right to free wheat in 618 when Heraclius realized that the city was no longer supplied with grain from Egypt following the wars with the Persians. The population of the capital began to fall by half. However, Heraclius managed to enter Persian territory and restore the Byzantine status quo in 628.
From 674 to 678, the series of Muslim attacks in the Arabian Peninsula was barely Islamized. The eastern provinces were lost, and the Byzantine territory was reduced to Asia Minor and the Balkans. But the impenetrable Theodosian walls and “Greek fire” would keep Constantinople guarded for a long time from now. Khan Tervel himself of Bulgaria, subsequently canonized, helped save Constantinople in the second siege, receiving the title of the savior of Europe.
Constantinople during the Macedonian Renaissance (717 AC— 1025 AC)
Since the summer of 717 AC, the Arab fleet has devastated rural communities, collected supplies, and plundered cities. The Arab army reached Constantinople, isolating it, building a double wall of stone. Emperor Leo was ready to redeem his gold, but Maslama, the Arab commander, told him that he could not make peace with the losers. The Arab fleet arrived on September 1 and imposed the blockade on the capital, cutting off the communication line between Byzantium and the Black Sea.
But a Byzantine squadron attacked them with “Greek fire”, an incendiary product of napalm qualities that could only be extinguished with sand and urine. Whole vessels were set on fire. Leo organized a chain of vessels between the city and Galata, blocking the entrance to the Golden Horn. The winter of 718 AC was very harsh for the Arabs. Lacking supplies, the Arabs were hungry and came to eat their camels and horses, and even resorted to cannibalism. Some swept the snow and ate buds.
The Arab army was devastated by famines and epidemics. In the spring, although new reinforcements came, Constantinople received the help of the Bulgarians. On August 15, 718 AC, receiving orders from Caliph Umar, Maslama withdrew his army after 13 months of siege. It seemed that the city of Constantinople was still guarded by the Divine Virgin.
In the year 740 AC, Emperor Leo III initiated a program of renovation of Theodosian walls that were damaged by the frequent attacks, financed by a special tax applied to all the citizens of the empire.
In 860 AC, from Kiev, Askold and Dir, two variegated chiefs, crossed the Bosphorus with 200 vessels, devastating the monasteries and other properties of the Prince’s Islands. Oryphas, the admiral of the Byzantine fleet, alerted Emperor Mihai who rejected the invasion with great cruelty. In the year 980 AC, Emperor Vasile II received a gift from Prince Vladimir of Kiev: 6000 variegated warriors. Vasile thus formed a new guard, known as the Guard of Varegilor, recognized for its ferocity and loyalty.
The book of the Diocese, which dates back to the tenth century, offers detailed descriptions of the commercial life and organization of the city at that time. The merchants were organized in corporations supervised by Eparh, which deals with issues regarding production, prices, import, and export. Each guild had a monopoly. During the iconoclastic crisis of the 8th-9th centuries, statues, icons, and Christian paintings were destroyed, including the portrait of Christ on the doors of the Chalke Gate.
Constantin V convened the council of 754 AC in which he condemns the veneration of icons, which is why, from now on, only trees, plants, and animals were painted. The Blessed Virgin Church of Blachernae appeared to have been transformed into a “fruit and poultry farm”. After the death of Leo IV in 780 AC, Empress Irina legalized the veneration of icons after the second council in Nicaea in 787 AC. The iconoclastic crisis returned in the 9th century, being solved by Empress Theodora in 843 AC, which restored the veneration of icons. Relations between Rome and Constantinople were getting worse.
The imperial palace was enlarged by Constantine’s successors until the eleventh century, becoming a complex of apartments in which the members of the imperial family and the environs, libraries, chapels, churches, offices, and a penitentiary, decorated and adorned with gardens and playgrounds. In the eleventh century, the buildings within the complex had 100 hectares, being difficult to maintain, the imperial residence was later relocated to the Blachernae Palace. In the 9th century, Emperor Theophilus built the palace Bucco Leon.
Constantinople during the imperial exile (1185 AC–1261 AC)
On July 25, 1197, AC, Constantinople was engulfed in a fire that devastated the Latin neighborhood and the area around the Droungaros Gate on the Gold Coast. In 1203 AC, commanders of armies of crusaders who were to head east, Philip of Swabia, Bonifacio de Montferrat, and the Doges of Venice, excommunicated by the pope, set about plundering Constantinople. They supported Alexius, the son of the departed emperor, Issac. But Alexius III, being unprepared and inexperienced, the Crusaders occupied Galata, destroyed the defense of the Gold Coast and entered the port.
Alexius fled, and Alexius IV, the new emperor, found the treasure almost empty. Unable to abide by the promises promised to the Crusaders, in January 1204 AC, the Protestants of Alexius Murzuphlus incited a revolt to intimidate the emperor. The great statue of Athens, created by Fidias in antiquity, was destroyed. In February, Alexius IV was imprisoned and executed, and Murzuplhus took over. He tried to repair the walls and reorganize the social life, but the troops and guards were demoralized. The Crusaders led another attack on April 6, but without success.
On April 12, they managed to attack the Gold Coast. Alexius V also fled. The Crusaders robbed, terrorized and vandalized Constantinople for three days. The bronze horses from the Hippodrome were sent to Venice, to St. Mark’s Basilica. The statue of Hercules and other sculptural masterpieces were destroyed. The library of Constantinople was destroyed and places of worship were devastated and robbed. Even the tombs of the emperors of the Church of the Holy Apostles were vandalized.
It is said that 900,000 silver marks were stolen, which were divided between the Crusaders. The Hagia Sofia was vandalized by French and Flemish soldiers who tore down the silk curtains and destroyed the holy books and icons. Some were merrily cheering on the altar and a prostitute was placed on the patriarch’s throne to play an obscene French song. The monks were mocked in their monasteries. The Venetian slabs were installed at the Imperial Palace. For the next century, Constantinople became the residence of the Latin Empire.
The population declined massively, the city became impoverished and in a deplorable state, one-third of the population came to beg on the streets. Many courtiers, nobles and clergy were exiled. Hagia Sofia became the Latin Patriarchate of Constantinople. The walls were weakening with time and earthquakes. Bronze and lead were extracted from the roofs of abandoned buildings. The monumental sculptures and other artistic masterpieces of precious metals were melted to produce coins.
Constantinople: from Palaiologians to Ottomans (1261 AC–1453 AC)
Only the Ottoman siege had to end this fabulous history of the city. From April 2 to May 29, 1453 AC, Constantinople was besieged by the Ottoman forces led by the young Sultan, Muhammad II. Ottoman forces consisting of 100,000–200,000 soldiers, with 70 large caliber guns and 100 vessels stormed the Byzantine capital, which was defended by 10,000 Byzantine soldiers led by Emperor Constantine XI. Crossing and transporting ships from Galata north of the Golden Horn on a tree trunk road, the Turks stormed the walls, repulsed with great loss.
They entered the city by digging tunnels under the walls. On the night of May 22, a lunar eclipse occurred and fog spread over the city four days later, prophesying the fall of the city. The sunset was redder among the dense and gray clouds and its reflection on the dome of the Hagia Sofia church seemed to produce a play of lights and flames as if the Holy Spirit was leaving the city. All of these were the result of an event thousands of miles away: a volcanic eruption in the Pacific.
On the morning of May 29, the Ottomans initiated the final attack. The first wave of attackers made up of Asabi troops killed the city’s defenders. The second wave, made up of Anatolian soldiers, overwhelmed the Byzantine defense of the section of walls in the northwest of the city, which collapsed due to cannon blows, even though two centuries before, the 1204 AC Crusaders entered the city through the same place.
The elite troops of the warriors finally managed to enter the city. Emperor Constantine XI was killed, dying in battle on the streets of the capital, although legends say he was rescued by angels and hidden beneath the ground, like a sleeping hero waiting to be awakened to take over the city and restore its glory. once. Giovanni Giustiniani, the Genoese commander of the Byzantine troops, was wounded and evacuated the city. Panic had erupted among the inhabitants, many of them sheltered in places of worship seeking salvation. But the prayers proved futile. For 3 days, Ottoman soldiers plundered and vandalized the city, and the inhabitants were massacred, others were raped and taken into slavery.