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

Tuesday, February 16, 2021

Constantinople - Capital of the Roman Empire


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Constantinople - Capital of Western Civilization.

A friend emailed me some recreations of Constantinople off the internet. My favorite is the photo above. This one photo displays the glory of the Eastern Empire: the Hippodrome, the Great Palace and Hagia Sophia.

Many historians look down on Constantinople and the Eastern Roman Empire. Many look down because they are snobs. Many others out of ignorance.

To compare you need to look at European life outside the boundaries of the Roman Empire. For example, take Paris around the year 500 AD. It was an overgrown village of perhaps 20,000 mostly illiterate people basically living in their own filth.

In the same year of 500 AD Constantinople had a sophisticated urban population of about 500,000 people. The city was served by a strong government, a professional military, libraries, schools, hospitals, entertainment, aqueducts and more. It was also capital of a Roman Empire that stretched from North Africa to Persia to the Balkans.

Constantinople was the capital city of the Roman Empire (330–395), the Eastern Roman Empire (395–1204 and 1261–1453).

In founding the new city the Emperor Constantine stimulated private building by promising householders gifts of land from the imperial estates in Asiana and Pontica and on 18 May 332 he announced that, as in Rome, free distributions of food would be made to the citizens. At the time, the amount is said to have been 80,000 rations a day, doled out from 117 distribution points around the city.

From the mid-5th century to the early 13th century, Constantinople was the largest and wealthiest city in Europe.

These photos help us understand a vanished civilization.

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The Imperial University of Constantinople, sometimes known as the University of the Palace Hall of Magnaura, was an Eastern Roman educational institution that could trace its corporate origins to 425 AD, when it was founded by the Emperor Theodosius II.

The original school was founded in 425 by Emperor Theodosius II with 31 chairs for lawphilosophymedicinearithmeticgeometryastronomymusicrhetoric and other subjects, 15 to Latin and 16 to Greek. The university existed until the 15th century.

Eastern Roman society on the whole was an educated one. Primary education was widely available, sometimes even at village level and uniquely in that era for both sexes. Female participation in culture was high. Scholarship was fostered not only in Constantinople but also in institutions operated in such major cities as Antioch and Alexandria.

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The Imperial Library of Constantinople, in the capital city of the Eastern Roman Empire, was the last of the great libraries of the ancient world. Long after the destruction of the Great Library of Alexandria and the other ancient libraries, it preserved the knowledge of the ancient Greeks and Romans for almost 1,000 years.

The majority of Greek classics known today are known through copies originating from the Imperial Library of Constantinople. The library is estimated to have contained well over 100,000 volumes of ancient text.

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Sir Steven Runciman, historian of the Crusades, wrote that the sack of Constantinople is "unparalleled in history".

For nine centuries, [...] the great city had been the capital of Christian civilisation. It was filled with works of art that had survived from ancient Greece and with the masterpieces of its own exquisite craftsmen. The Venetians [...] seized treasures and carried them off to adorn [...] their town. But the Frenchmen and Flemings were filled with a lust for destruction. They rushed in a howling mob down the streets and through the houses, snatching up everything that glittered and destroying whatever they could not carry, pausing only to murder or to rape, or to break open the wine-cellars [...] . Neither monasteries nor churches nor libraries were spared. In Hagia Sophia itself, drunken soldiers could be seen tearing down the silken hangings and pulling the great silver iconostasis to pieces, while sacred books and icons were trampled under foot. While they drank merrily from the altar-vessels a prostitute set herself on the Patriarch's throne and began to sing a ribald French song. Nuns were ravished in their convents. Palaces and hovels alike were entered and wrecked. Wounded women and children lay dying in the streets. For three days the ghastly scenes [...] continued, till the huge and beautiful city was a shambles. [...] When [...] order was restored, [...] citizens were tortured to make them reveal the goods that they had contrived to hide.

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The Wondrous Waters of Constantinople

This computer recreation of Constantinople gives us a stunning visual of what the city looked like.

Click on the YouTube link to watch.


1 comment:

gabriele tagliaventi said...

great contribution, as always