Dedicated to the military history and civilization of the Eastern Roman Empire (330 to 1453)

"Time in its irresistible and ceaseless flow carries along on its flood all created things and drowns them in the depths of obscurity."

- - - - Princess Anna Comnena (1083–1153) - Byzantine historian

Wednesday, February 1, 2012

The Forum of Constantine

The Column of Çemberlitaş today in what was the Forum of Constantine.

The Column called Çemberlitaş (”the stone with hoops”) was commissioned on May 11, 330 AD by Constantine the Great to celebrate the designation of Constantinople as the new capital of the Roman Empire. The column was the centerpiece in the Forum of Constantine, a grand colonnaded plaza decorated with statues of pagan gods and Christian saints. Atop the column was a gigantic statue of the Emperor Constantine dressed and adorned as Apollo. The statue toppled in a hurricane in 1106 and was later replaced by a huge cross.

After the Ottoman conquest în 1453 the cross was removed. In 1779 a conflagration destroyed this whole neighborhood and left the column with black scorch marks, earning it the nickname "Burnt Column”. Sultan Abdülhamit I had the column restored after the fire, and added the present masonry base. Its iron hoops were replaced in the 1970s, and extensive stabilization was carried out from 2004 through 2009 to keep it upright for a few more centuries.

One vision of the Forum of Constantine with the city building up around it.
Image Forum of Constantine

The Byzantium 1200 project created computer reconstructions of the Byzantine Monuments located in Istanbul, Turkey as of year 1200 AD.

The Forum of Constantine was built at the foundation of Byzantium immediately outside of the old walls. It was circular in shape and had two monumental gates to the east and west. The column of Constantine which still stands upright and is known as Çemberlitaş was erected in the center of the square. It was originally crowned with a statue of Constantine, but this fell down in 1106 and was replaced under Manuel Komnenos (1143-1180) by a cross. Otherwise the forum remained nearly intact until 1204.

The Senat House lay on the north side of it. We know from the sources that the square was decorated with a number of antique statues. Some of them that we know of are: a dolphin, an elephant, a group of hippocamps, judgement of Paris, Palladion, Athena and Thetis, Artemis. Possible ones are Poseidon, Askleipios and Dionysios.  
Forum of Constantine
Forum of Constantine before Constantine's bronze statue fell down during the windstorm in 1106.


The chief thoroughfare in the new city of Constantine led from the Golden Gate (in the wall of Constantine, not to be confused with the later Golden Gate in the wall of Theodosius ii.) eastward (passing through the Forum Bovis, the Forum Amastrianorum, and the Forum Tauri) to the Golden Milestone in the Augusteum. Before it reached the Augusteum it passed through the Forum of Constantine in which stood the Pillar of Constantine (and the Churches of S. Constantine and S. Mary of the Forum).

In the Augusteum (which we might translate Place Impériale) it came to an end, in front of the Senate house (Σενάτον) and west wall of the Palace. The Augusteum was bounded on the north by St. Sophia; on the east, by Senate house and palace buildings; on the south, by the Palace (the great entrance gate, known as the Chalkê, was here) and the north side of the Hippodrome, beside which were the Baths of Zeuxippus.

There was no public way between the east side of the Hippodrome and the Palace. According to Labarte, the Augusteum was enclosed by a wall, with gates, on the west side, running from south-west of St. Sophia to a point between the Palace and the Hippodrome; so that the entrance to the Hippodrome and the Zeuxippus would have been outside the Augusteum.

AUGUSTEUM AND FORUM OF CONSTANTINE — ( P. 104-106 ) 1 - Edward Gibbon, The History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, vol. 3 [1776]

Computer recreation of the Forum of Constantine
This image and those below used under Fair Use from Byzantium1200.
Review for comment, criticism and scholarship as allowed under FAIR USE section 107 of the US Copyright Law. In accordance with Title 17 U.S.C.
The Byzantium 1200 website published an article with computer recreations of what the Forum of Constantine might have looked like.  Considering we know so very little about the forum this article went above and beyond. 
Those who have not done so should visit the article and images published by the website and view their article on the Forum.  The artists have done an exceptional and stunningly beautiful job as these two sample images can attest.
Putting together this article was a major project that involved a great deal of thought and historical research.  The artists at Byzantium 1200 hit a home run with this one.  Well done.

(Forum of Constantine)