A Brief History Of Byzantium


I am indebted to the anonymous author of this excellent summary of the principal developments in Byzantine history. If anyone can identify the author of this piece I would be delighted to acknowledge their immensely helpful work.

For the second item on Constantinople, written in 1912/13, I have reproduced exerpts only and am grateful to the Catholic Encyclopaedia: 'Constantinople'.

See also: Byzantine Heraldry

See also: References To The Vlasto Family

See also: A Vlasto Family Genealogy

See also: The Massacres Of Chios

See also: St Irenaeus, Vlasto & Foundation Of The Early Christian Church

Byzantium: The Shining Fortress


When we speak of the fall of the Roman Empire, we should not forget that in fact only the western portion of that empire succumbed to the Germanic invaders. In the east, the eastern Roman, or Byzantine, Empire stood for a thousand years as a citadel against the threats of expansion by the Muslims.

The Byzantine Empire made great contributions to civilisation: Greek language and learning were preserved for posterity; the Roman imperial system was continued and Roman law codified; the Greek Orthodox church converted some Slavic peoples and fostered the development of a splendid new art dedicated to the glorification of the Christian religion. Situated at the cross-roads of east and west, Constantinople acted as the disseminator of culture for all peoples who came in contact with the empire. Called with justification 'The City,' this rich and turbulent metropolis was to the early Middle Ages what Athens and Rome had been to classical times. By the time the empire collapsed in 1453, its religious mission and political concepts had borne fruit among the Slavic peoples of eastern Europe and especially among the Russians. The latter were to lay claim to the Byzantine tradition and to call Moscow the 'Third Rome.'

Byzantium: The Shining Fortress

At the southern extremity of the Bosphorus stands a promontory that juts out from Europe toward Asia, with the Sea of Marmora to the south and a long harbour known as the Golden Horn to the north. On this peninsula stood the ancient Greek city of Byzantium, which Constantine the Great enlarged considerably and formally christened 'New Rome' in A.D. 330.

Constantine had chosen the site for his new capital with care. He placed Constantinople (now Istanbul) on the frontier of Europe and Asia, dominating the waterway connecting the Mediterranean and Black seas. Nature protected the site on three sides with cliffs; on the fourth side, emperors fortified the city with an impenetrable three-wall network. During the fourth and fifth centuries Visigoths, Huns, and Ostrogoths unsuccessfully threatened the city. In the seventh, eighth, and ninth centuries, first Persians, then Arab forces, and finally the Bulgarians besieged – but failed to take – Constantinople. Until 1453, with the exception of the Fourth Crusade's treachery, the city withstood all attacks.

The security and wealth provided by its setting helped Byzantium survive for more than a thousand years. Constantinople was a state-controlled, world trade centre which enjoyed the continuous use of a money economy – in contrast to the localised systems found in the west. The city's wealth and taxes paid for a strong military force and financed an effective government. Excellent sewage and water systems supported an extremely high standard of living. Food was abundant, with grain from Egypt and Anatolia and fish from the Aegean. Constantinople could support a population of a million, at a time when it was difficult to find a city in Europe that could sustain more than 50,000.

Unlike Rome, Constantinople had several industries producing luxury goods, military supplies, hardware, and textiles. After silkworms were smuggled out of China about A.D. 550, silk production flourished and became a profitable state monopoly. The state paid close attention to business, controlling the economy: A system of guilds to which all tradesmen and members of the professions belonged set wages, profits, work hours, and prices and organised bankers and doctors into compulsory corporations.

Security and wealth encouraged an active political, cultural, and intellectual life. The widespread literacy and education among men and women of various segments of society would not be matched in Europe until, perhaps, eighteenth-century France. Until its fall in 1453, the Byzantine Empire remained a shining fortress, attracting both invaders and merchants.

The Latin Phase

Constantine and his successors struggled to renew the empire. Rome collapsed under the pressure of the Germanic invaders in 476 (see ch. 5). Thanks to its greater military and economic strength, Constantinople survived for a thousand years, despite revolutions, wars, and religious controversy.

Justinian (527-565) was the last emperor to attempt seriously to return the Roman Empire to its first-century grandeur. Aided by his forceful wife Theodora and a corps of competent assistants, he made lasting contributions to Western civilisation and gained short-term successes in his foreign policy.

The damage caused by devastating earthquakes (a perennial problem in the area) in the 520s and 530s gave Justinian the opportunity he needed to carry out a massive project of empire-wide urban renewal. He strengthened the walls defending Constantinople and built the Church of the Holy Wisdom, which still stands in the city. The dome of the church is an architectural triumph with forty windows circling its base, producing a quality of light that creates the illusion that the ceiling is floating.

Justinian also reformed the government and ordered a review of Roman law. This undertaking led to the publication of the Code of Justinian, a digest of Roman and church law, texts, and other instructional materials that became the foundation of modern Western law. Justinian also participated actively in the religious arguments of his day.

The emperor's expensive and ambitious projects triggered outbreaks of violence among the political gangs of Constantinople, the circus crowds of the Greens and Blues. Since ancient times city dwellers throughout the Mediterranean formed groups, each pursuing a set of economic, social, and religious goals. Much like contemporary urban gangs, members of the circus factions moved about in groups and congregated at public events.

In Constantinople the Circus took place in the Hippodrome, a structure that could hold 80,000 spectators. There contests of various types were held, including chariot races. The Blues and Greens backed opposing drivers and usually neutralised each other's efforts. In 532, however, the Blues and Greens united to try to force Justinian from the throne. The so-called Nike rebellion, named after the victory cry of the rioters, nearly succeeded. In his Secret Histories, Procopius relates that Justinian was on the verge of running away, until Theodora stopped him and told the frightened emperor:

I do not choose to flee. Those who have worn the crown should never survive its loss. Never shall I see the day when I am not saluted as empress. If you mean to flee, Caesar, well and good. You have the money, the ships are ready, the sea is open. As for me, I shall stay.

Assisted by his generals, the emperor remained and put down the rebellion.

Justinian momentarily achieved his dream of re-establishing the Mediterranean rim of the Roman Empire. To carry out his plan for regaining the lost half of the empire from the Germanic invaders, he first had to buy the neutrality of the Persian kings who threatened not only Constantinople but also Syria and Asia Minor. After securing his eastern flank through diplomacy and bribery, he took North Africa in 533 and the islands of the western Mediterranean from the Vandals.

The next phase of the conquest was much more exhausting. Like warriors before and after him, Justinian had a difficult time taking the Italian peninsula. After twenty years, he gained his prize from the Ostrogoths, but at the cost of draining his treasury and ruining Rome and Ravenna. Justinian's generals also reclaimed the southern part of Spain from the Visigoths, but no serious attempt was ever made to recover Gaul, Britain, or southern Germany.

By a decade after Justinian's death, most of the re-conquest had been lost. The Moors in Africa, Germanic peoples across Europe, and waves of Asiatic nomadic tribes threatened the imperial boundaries. Ancient enemies such as the Persians, who had been bribed into a peaceful relationship, returned to threaten Constantinople when the money ran out. In addition, the full weight of the Slavic migrations came to be felt. Peaceful though they may have been, the primitive Slavs severely strained and sometimes broke the administrative links of the empire. Finally, the empire was split by debates over Christian doctrine. Two of Justinian's successors succumbed to madness under the stress of trying to maintain order in the empire.

Heraclius: The Empire Redefined

Salvation appeared from the west when Heraclius (610-641), the Byzantine governor of North Africa, returned to Constantinople to overthrow the mad emperor Phocas. Conditions were so dismal and the future appeared so perilous when Heraclius arrived in the capital that he considered moving the government from Constantinople to Carthage in North Africa.

The situation did not improve soon. The Persians marched through Syria, took Jerusalem – capturing the 'True Cross' – and entered Egypt. When Egypt fell to the Persians, the Byzantine Empire lost a large part of its grain supply. Two Asiatic invaders, the Avars and the Bulgars, pushed against the empire from the north. Pirates controlled the sea lanes and the Slavs cut land communication across the Balkans. At this moment of ultimate peril, the emperor decided to throw out the state structure that had been in place since the time of Diocletian and Constantine.

Heraclius created a new system that strengthened his army, tapped the support of the church and people, and erected a more efficient, streamlined administration. He determined that the foundation for the redefined empire would be Anatolia (present-day Turkey) and that the main supply of soldiers for his army would be the free peasants living there, rather than mercenaries. In place of the sprawling realm passed on by Justinian, Heraclius designed a compact state and an administration conceived to deal simultaneously with the needs of government and the challenges of defence.

Heraclius' system, known as the theme system, had been tested when the emperor had ruled North Africa. Acting on the lessons of the past four centuries, he assumed that defence was a constant need and that free peasant soldiers living in the theme (district) they were defending would be the most effective and efficient force. He installed the system first in Anatolia, and his successors spread it throughout the empire for the next two centuries. Heraclius' scheme provided sound administration and effective defence for half of the cost formerly required. As long as the theme system with its self-supporting, land-owning, free peasantry endured, Byzantium remained strong. When the theme system and its free peasantry were abandoned in the eleventh century, the empire became weak and vulnerable.

Heraclius fought history's first holy war to reclaim Jerusalem from the Persians. By 626 he stood poised to strike the final blow and refused to be distracted by the Avar siege of Constantinople. He defeated the Persians at Nineva, marched on to Ctesiphon, and finally reclaimed the 'True Cross' and returned it to Jerusalem in 630.

Heraclius was unable to savour his victory for long, because the Muslim advance posed an even greater threat to Byzantium. The Muslims took Syria and Palestine at the battle of Yarmuk in 636. Persia fell the following year, and Egypt in 640. Constantinople's walls and the redefined Byzantine state withstood the challenge, enduring two sieges in 674-678 and in 717. When Byzantium faced a three-sided invasion from the Arabs, Avars, and Bulgarians in 717, the powerful leader Leo the Isaurian (717-741) came forward to save the empire. The Byzantines triumphed by using new techniques such as Greek fire, a sort of medieval equivalent of napalm. The substance, a powerful chemical mixture whose main ingredient was saltpetre, caught fire on contact with water and stuck to the hulls of the Arabs' wooden ships. Over the next ten years, Leo rebuilt those areas ruined by war and strengthened the theme system. He reformed the law, limiting capital punishment to crimes involving treason. He decreed the use of mutilation for a wide range of common crimes, a harsh but still less extreme punishment than execution.

The Iconoclastic Controversy

From the beginning, the Byzantine emperors played active roles in the calling of church councils and the formation of Christian doctrine. Leo the Isaurian took seriously his role as religious leader of the empire. He vigorously persecuted heretics and Jews, ordering that the latter must be baptised. In 726 he launched a theological crusade against the use of icons, images or representations of Christ and other religious figures. The emperor was concerned that icons played too prominent a role in Byzantine life and that their common use as godparents, witnesses at weddings, and objects of adoration violated the Old Testament prohibition of the worship of graven images. Accordingly, the emperor ordered the army to destroy icons. This image-breaking, or iconoclastic, policy sparked a violent reaction in the western part of the empire, especially in the monasteries. The government responded by mercilessly persecuting those opposed to the policy. The eastern part of the empire, centred at Anatolia, supported the breaking of the images. By trying to remove what he considered an abuse, Leo split his empire in two.

In Byzantium's single-centred society, this religious conflict had far-reaching cultural, political, and social implications. In 731 Pope Gregory II condemned iconoclasm. Leo's decision to destroy icons stressed the fracture lines that had existed between east and west for the past four centuries, expressed in the linguistic differences between the Latin west and the Greek east. Leo's successors continued his religious and political policies, and in 754 Pope Stephen II turned to the north and struck an alliance with the Frankish king Pepin. This was the first step in a process that half a century later would lead to the birth of the Holy Roman Empire and the formal political split of Europe into the east and west (see ch. 9).

There was a brief attempt under the regent, later empress, Irene (797-802), in 787, to restore icons. In 797 she gained power after having her son – the rightful but incompetent heir – blinded in the very room in which she had given him birth. Irene then became the first woman to rule the empire in her own name. She could neither win widespread support for her pro-icon policies, nor could she put together a marriage alliance with the newly proclaimed western emperor Charlemagne, a union which would have brought east and west together. As Irene spent the treasury into bankruptcy, her enemies increased. Finally in 802, they deposed her and exiled her to the island of Lesbos.

The conflict over iconoclasm and Irene's ineptitude placed the empire in jeopardy once again. Her successor, Nicepherous (802-811), after struggling to restore the bases of Byzantine power, was captured in battle with the Bulgarians in 811. The Khan Krum beheaded him and had his skull made into a drinking mug. Soon the iconoclasts made a comeback, but this phase of image-breaking lacked the vigour of the first, and by 842 the policy had been abandoned.

The iconoclastic controversy marked a period when the split between east and west became final. Eastern emperors were strongly impressed by Islamic culture, with its prohibition of images. The emperor Theophilus (829-842), for example, was a student of Muslim art and culture, and Constantinople's painting, architecture, and universities benefited from the vigour of Islamic culture. This focus on the east may have led to the final split with the west, but it also produced an eastern state with its theological house finally in order and its borders fairly secure by the middle of the ninth century.

The Golden Age: 842-1071

For two centuries, roughly coinciding with the reign of the Macedonian dynasty (867-1056), Byzantium enjoyed political and cultural superiority over its western and eastern foes. Western Europe staggered under the blows dealt by the Saracens, Vikings, and Magyars. The Arabs lost the momentum that had carried them forward for two centuries. Constantinople enjoyed the relative calm, wealth, and balance bequeathed by the theme system and promoted by a series of powerful rulers. The time was marked by the flowering of artists, scholars, and theologians as much as it was by the presence of great warriors. It was during this golden age that Constantinople made its major contributions to Eastern Europe and Russia.

Missionaries from Constantinople set out in the 860s to convert the Bulgarian and Slavic peoples and in the process organised their language, laws, aesthetics, political patterns, and ethics, as well as their religion. But such transformation did not take place without struggle. Conflict marked the relationship between the Roman and Byzantine churches. The most significant indication of this competition was seen in the contest between the patriarch Photius and Pope Nicholas I in the middle of the ninth century.

Photius excelled both as a scholar and religious leader. He made impressive contributions to universities throughout the Byzantine empire and worked to increase the area of Orthodoxy's influence. Nicholas was his equal in ambition, ego, and intellect. They collided in their attempts to convert the pagan peoples such as the Bulgarians, who were caught between their spheres of influence.

The Bulgarian Khan Boris, as cunning and shrewd as either Photius or Nicholas, saw the trend toward conversion to Christianity that had been developing in Europe since the sixth century and realised the increased power he could gain by the heavenly approval of his rule. He wanted his own patriarch and church and dealt with the side that gave him the better bargain. Between 864 and 866 Boris changed his mind three times over the issue of which holy city to turn to. Finally, the Byzantines gave the Bulgarians the equivalent of an autonomous church, and in return the Bulgarians entered the Byzantine cultural orbit. The resulting schism between the churches set off a sputtering sequence of Christian warfare that went on for centuries.

The work of the Byzantine missionaries Cyril and Methodius was more important than Bulgarian ambitions or churchly competition. The two, who were brothers, were natives of Thessalonica, a city at the mouth of the Vardar-Morava waterway that gave access to the Slavic lands. They learned the Slavic language and led a mission to Moravia, which was ruled by King Rastislav. The king no doubt wanted to convert to Orthodoxy and enter the Byzantine orbit in order to preserve as much independence for his land as he could in the face of pressure from his powerful German neighbours. Cyril and Methodius went north, teaching their faith in the vernacular Slavic language. Cyril devised an alphabet for the Slavs, adapting Greek letters. The two brothers translated the liturgy and many religious books into Slavic. Although Germanic missionaries eventually converted the Moravians by sheer force, the efforts of Cyril and Methodius profoundly affected all the Slavic peoples, whose languages are rooted in the work of the two brothers.

Byzantium continued its military as well as its theological intensity. Arab armies made continual thrusts, including one at Thessalonica in 904 that led to the Byzantine loss of 22,000 people through death or slavery. But during the tenth century the combination of the decline in Muslim combativeness and the solidarity of Byzantine defences brought an end to that conflict. Basil II (963-1025), surnamed Bulgaroctonus, or Bulgar-slayer, stopped the Bulgarians at the battle of Balathista in 1014. At the same time, the Macedonian emperors dealt from a position of strength with western European powers, especially in Italy, where their interests clashed. Western diplomats visiting the Byzantine court expressed outrage at the benign contempt with which the eastern emperors treated them, but this conduct merely reflected Constantinople's understanding of its role in the world.

By the eleventh century, succession to the Byzantine throne had degenerated into a power struggle between the civil and military aristocracies. On the other hand, the secular and theological universities flourished despite the political instability, and the emperors proved to be generous patrons of the arts. Basil I (867-886) and Leo VI (886-912) oversaw the collection and reform of the law codes. Leo, the most prolific lawgiver since Justinian, sponsored the greatest collection of laws of the medieval Byzantine empire, a work that would affect jurisprudence throughout Europe. Constantine VII Porphyrogenitus (912-959) excelled as a military leader, lover of books, promoter of an encyclopaedia, and surveyor of the empire's provinces. At a time when scholarship in western Europe was almost non-existent, Byzantine society featured a rich cultural life and widespread literacy among men and women of different classes.

The greatest contribution to Western civilisation made during the golden age was the preservation of ancient learning, especially in the areas of law, Greek science, Platonic and Aristotelian philosophy, and Greek literature. Unlike in the West where the church maintained scholarship, the civil servants of Constantinople perpetuated the Greek tradition in philosophy, literature, and science. Byzantine monasteries produced many saints and mystics but showed little interest in learning and teaching.

Decline And Crusades

Empires more often succumb to internal ailments than to external take-overs and this was the case with the Byzantine empire. As long as Constantinople strengthened the foundations laid by Heraclius – the theme system and reliance on the free peasant-soldier – the empire withstood the military attacks of the strongest armies. When the Byzantine leaders abandoned the pillars of their success, the empire began to falter.

Inflation and narrow ambition ate away at the Heraclian structure. Too much money chased too few goods during the golden age. Land came to be the most profitable investment for the rich, and the land-owning magnates needed labour. As prices went up, taxes followed. The peasant villages were collectively responsible for paying taxes, and the rising tax burden overwhelmed them. In many parts of the empire, villagers sought relief by placing themselves under the control of large landowners, thus taking themselves out of the tax pool and lowering the number of peasant-soldiers. Both the state treasury and the army suffered. Until the time of Basil II, the Macedonian emperors tried to protect the peasantry through legislation, but the problem was not corrected. Even though the free peasantry never entirely disappeared and each free person was still theoretically a citizen of the empire, economic and social pressures effectively destroyed the theme system. Exacerbating the problem was the growth of the church's holdings and the large percentage of the population entering church service, thus becoming exempt from taxation.

In the fifty years after the death of Basil II in 1025, the illusion that eternal peace had been achieved encouraged the opportunistic civil aristocracy, which controlled the state, to weaken the army and ignore the provinces. When danger next appeared, no strong leader emerged to save Byzantium. Perhaps this was because no enemies appeared dramatically before the walls of Constantinople.

Instead, a new foe arose, moving haphazardly across the empire. Around the sixth century, the first in a series of waves of Turkish bands appeared in south-west Asia. These nomads converted to Islam and fought with, then against, the Persians, Byzantines, and Arabs. When the Seljuk Turk leader Alp Arslan ('Victorious Lion') made a tentative probe into the empire's eastern perimeter near Lake Van in 1071, the multilingual mercenary army from Constantinople fell apart even before fighting began at the battle of Manzikert. With the disintegration of the army, the only limit to the Turks' march for the next decade was the extent of their own ambition and energy.

Byzantium lost the heart of its empire, and with it the reserves of soldiers, leaders, taxes, and food that had enabled it to survive for the past four centuries. From its weakened position, the empire confronted Venice, a powerful commercial and later political rival. By the end of the eleventh century, the Venetians took undisputed trading supremacy in the Adriatic Sea and turned their attention to the eastern Mediterranean. The Byzantines also faced the challenges of the Normans, led by Robert Guiscard, who took the last Byzantine stronghold in Italy.

In 1081 the Comnene family claimed the Byzantine throne. In an earlier time, with the empire in its strength this politically astute family might have accomplished great things. In the eleventh and twelfth centuries, though, the best they could do was play a balance-of-power game between east and west. Fifteen years later, in 1096, the first crusaders appeared (see ch. 10), partially in response to the Council of Clermont, partially in response to the opportunity for gold and glory. Alexium Comnenus (1081-1118) had appealed to Pope Urban II for help against the Turks, but the emperor had not bargained on finding a host of crusaders, including the dreaded Normans, on his doorstep. Alexius sent them quickly across the Dardanelles where they won some battles and permitted the Byzantines to reclaim some of their losses in Asia Minor.

Subsequent crusades, however, failed to bring good relations between east and west, whose churches had excommunicated each other in 1054. By the time of the Fourth Crusade, the combination of envy, hatred, and frustration that had been building up for some time led to an atrocity. The Venetians controlled the ships and money for this crusade and persuaded the fighters to attack the Christian city of Zara in Dalmatia – a commercial rival of Venice – and Constantinople before going on to the Holy Land. Venice wanted a trade monopoly in the eastern Mediterranean more than a fight with the Muslims. Constantinople was paralysed by factional strife, and for the first time, an invading force captured the city and devastated it far more than the Turks would 250 years later. A French noble described the scene:

The fire...continued to rage for a whole week and no one could put it out....What damage was done, or what riches and possessions were destroyed in the flames was beyond the power of man to calculate....The army...gained much booty; so much, indeed, that no one could estimate its amount or its value. It included gold and silver, table-services and precious stones, satin and silk, mantles of squirrel fur, ermine and miniver, and every choicest thing to be found on this much booty had never been gained in any city since the creation of the world.

The Venetians made sure they got their share of the spoils, such as the bronze horses now found at St. Mark's Cathedral in Venice, and played a key role in placing a new emperor on the throne. The invaders ruled Constantinople until 1261. The Venetians put a stranglehold on commerce in the region and then turned their hostility toward the Genoese, who threatened their monopoly.

The Paleologus Dynasty (1261-1453), which ruled the empire during its final two centuries, saw the formerly glorious realm become a pawn in a new game. Greeks may have regained control of the church and the state, but there was little strength left to carry on the ancient traditions. The free peasant became ever rarer, as a form of feudalism (see ch. 8) developed in which nobles resisted the authority of the emperor and the imperial bureaucracy. The solidus, the Byzantine coin which had resisted debasement from the fourth through the eleventh century, now fell victim to inflation. The church, once a major support for the state, became embroiled in continual doctrinal disputes. Slavic peoples such as the Serbs, who had posed no danger to the empire in its former strength became threats. After the Mongol invasions of the thirteenth century destroyed the exhausted Seljuq Turks, a new, more formidable threat appeared – the Ottoman, or Osmanli, Turks.

Blessed after 1296 with a strong line of male successors and good fortune, the Ottomans rapidly expanded their power through the Balkans. They crossed the Straits into Europe in 1354 and moved up the Vardar-Morava valleys to take Serres (1383), Sofia (1385), Nic (1386), Thessalonica (1387), and finally Kosovo from the South Slavs in 1389. The Turks won their victories by virtue of their overwhelming superiority in both infantry and cavalry. But their administrative effectiveness, which combined strength and flexibility, solidified their rule in areas they conquered. In contrast to the Christians, both Roman and Byzantine, who were intolerant of religious differences, the Turks allowed monotheists, or any of the believers in a 'religion of the book' (the Bible, Torah, or Koran), to retain their faith and be ruled by a religious superior through the millet system, a network of religious ghettos.

In response to the Ottoman advance, the west mounted a poorly conceived and ill-fated crusade against the Turks at Nicopolis on the Danube in 1396 that led to the capture and slaughter of 10,000 knights and their attendants. Only the overwhelming force of Tamerlane (Timur the Lame), a Turko-Mongol ruler who devastated the Ottoman army in 1402, gave Constantinople and Europe some breathing space.

The end came finally in May 1453. The last emperor, Constantine XI, led his forces of 4,000, half of whom were Genoese, to hold off the 160,000 Turks for seven weeks. Finally, the Ottomans, with the help of Hungarian artillerymen, breached the walls of the beleaguered city. After 1123 years, the Christian capital fell.


(Gr. Konstantinoupolis; city of Constantine)
Capital, formerly of the Byzantine, [then] of the Ottoman, Empire.

The Modern City (as described in 1912/13)

Constantinople occupies one of the most beautiful and advantageous sites in the world, uniting as it does Europe with Asia and putting in communication the Black Sea and all Southern Russia with the greater part of Europe and Asia, and even with distant America. It is surrounded by water on all sides except the west, which is protected by walls. Its sea front is about eight miles in length. The air is generally pure, and the climate very temperate. Constantinople forms a special district (sanitary cordon) divided into three principal sections, two in Europe and one in Asia. The two European sections are Stamboul (ancient Byzantium), whose suburbs border the Sea of Marmora; Galata and Pera, more or less Europeanized quarters, with many villages rising in rows along the green hills that look down on the Golden Horn and the Bosporus. The Asiatic section is Scutari (Turk. Uskudar; Chrysopolis) and Kadi-Keui (Chalcedon), with their extensive suburbs on the Asiatic shore of the Bosporus, the pleasant coasts of the Gulf of Nicomedia, and the Isles of the Princes. The city is divided into ten quarters or circles, each with its own municipality. The population is estimated (1908) at 1,200,000 inhabitants, four-fifths of whom are in Europe. There are about 600,000 Turks or other Mussulmans; the remainder include, in order of numerical importance, Greeks, Armenians, Jews, and foreigners of various nationalities.

The Bosporus separates Europe from Asia; it is about eighteen miles long and varies in width from about half a mile to a mile and a half. The Golden Horn separates Stamboul from Galata and Pera, extends inland for about four and one-half miles and ends abruptly at the Valley of the Sweet Waters beyond Eyoub. Two wooden bridges unite Galata with Stamboul, which latter section is mostly inhabited by Turks, and still preserves its ancient ramparts with their towers and gates.

The chief monuments of the city are: St. Sophia, the magnificent church built in the first half of the sixth century by the Emperor Justinian, now a mosque; about 2000 other mosques (e.g. the Suleimanieh, the Ahmedieh, the Bayazidieh, Mohammed's mosque, etc.); many ancient churches; beautiful fountains; imposing 'turbés', or tombs of sultans and other great personages; the Seraskierat or war office, with its enormous tower; the Tcharshi, or bazaar (more than 10,000 merchants); Yedi-Kouleh or the Seven Towers Castle, where ambassadors and other men of note were often imprisoned; the palace of the public debt; the large post office; the old seraglio of the sultans. The imperial museum has a remarkable collection of sarcophagi and another of cuneiform texts. In the Galata section the Genoese Tower (over 150 feet) attracts attention, as in Pera the residences of the ambassadors. Beyond, on the European shore of the Bosporus are the large palaces of Dolma-Baghtché and Tcheragan, also the Yildiz Kiosk, the residence of the reigning sultan. On the Asiatic shore are the palace of Beylerbey, many beautiful mosques, and the great Mussulman cemetery at Scutari, the Selimieh barracks (largest in the world), the magnificent new school of medicine, quite close to which is the little port of Haïdar-Pasha, whence starts the railway line to Bagdad.

Early History Of Byzantium

Constantinople was founded c. 658 B. C. by a Greek colony from Megara; the site was then occupied by the Thracian village of Lygos. The chief of the Megarian expedition was Byzas, after whom the city was naturally called Byzantion (Lat. Byzantium). Despite its perfect situation, the colony did not prosper at first; it suffered much during the Medic wars, chiefly from the satraps of Darius and Xerxes. Later on, its control was disputed by Lacedæmonians and Athenians; for two years (341-339 B. C.) it held out against Philip of Macedon. It succeeded in maintaining its independence even against victorious Rome, was granted the title and rights of an allied city, and its ambassadors were accorded at Rome the same honours as those given to allied kings; it enjoyed, moreover, all transit duties on the Bosporus. Cicero defended it in the Roman Senate, and put an end to the exactions of Piso. Later on, the Roman emperors entrusted the government of the city to prætors, at once civil and military magistrates, who maintained, however, the earlier democratic forms of government. For a while Vespasian placed it under the Governor of Mæsia. The city continued prosperous to the reign of Septimius Severus, when it sided with his rival, Peseennius Niger. After a siege of three years (193-196) Severus razed to the ground its walls and public monuments, and made it subject to Perinthus or Heraclea in Thrace. But he soon forgave this resistance, restored its former privileges, built there the baths of Zeuxippus, and began the hippodrome. It was devastated again by the soldiers of Gallienus in 262, but was rebuilt almost at once. In the long war between Constantine and Licinius (314-323) it embraced the fortunes of the latter, but, after his defeat at Chrysopolis (Scutari), submitted to the victor.

The Christian City

It has quite lately been established that Byzantium received its new name of Constantinople as early as the end of 324 (Centénaire de la Société Nationale des Antiquaires de France, Paris, 1904, p. 281 sqq.). Nevertheless, the solemn inauguration of the new city did not occur until 11 May, 330; only after this date did the Court and Government settle permanently in the new capital. It was soon filled with sumptuous edifices like those of Rome; like the latter it was situated on seven hills and divided into fourteen regions; in the matter of privileges also it was similar to Rome. Among the new public buildings were a senate house, forums, a capitol, circuses, porticoes, many churches (particularly that of the Holy Apostles destined to be the burial-place of the emperors). The most beautiful statues of antiquity were gathered from various parts of the empire to adorn its public places. In general the other cities of the Roman world were stripped to embellish the 'New Rome', destined henceforth to surpass them all in greatness and magnificence. Traces of Christianity do not appear here before the end of the second or the beginning of the third century. In 212 Tertullian commemorates the joy of the Christians at the defeat of Pescennius Niger ('Ad Scapulam', iii: 'Cæcilius Capella in illo exitu Byzantino: Christiani gaudete'). About 190, an Antitrinitarian heretic, Theodotus the Currier, a native of Byzantium, was expelled from the Roman Church (Phiosophoumena , VIII, xxxv; St. Epiphanius, Adv. Hær., liv). A probably reliable tradition makes the Byzantine Church a suffragan of Heraclea in Thrace at the beginning of the third century. In the fifth century we meet with a spurious document attributed to a certain Dorotheus, Bishop of Tyre at the end of the third century, according to which the Church of Byzantium was founded by the Apostle St. Andrew, its first bishop being his disciple Stachys (cf. Rom., xvi, 9). The intention of the forger is plain: in this way the Church of Rome is made inferior to that of Constantinople, St. Andrew having been chosen an Apostle by Jesus before his brother St. Peter, the founder of the Roman Church.

The first historically known Bishop of Byzantium is St. Metrophanes (306-314), though the see had perhaps been occupied during the third century. It was at first subject to the metropolitan authority of Heraclea, and remained so, at least canonically, until 381, when the Second Ecumenical Council (can. iii) gave the Bishop of Constantinople the first place after the Bishop of Rome. (For the exact meaning of this canon see Hefele, Hist. des Counciles, tr., Leclercq, Paris, 1908, II, 24-27.) Fuller details are given in Fischer, De Patriarcharum Constantinopolitanorum, catalogis (Leipzig, 1894); Schermann, Prophetenund Apostellegenden Nebst Jüngerkatalogen des Dorotheus und Verwandter Texte (Leipzig, 1907); Vailhé, Origines de l'Eglise de Constantinople in Echos d'Orient (Paris, 1907), 287-295.

Constantine had chosen this city as the new capital of the Roman Empire, but owing to his wars and the needs of the State, he rarely resided there. His successors were even more frequently absent. Constantius, Julian, Jovian, and Valens are found more habitually on the Danube or the Euphrates than on the Bosporus; they reside more regularly in Antioch than in New Rome. It was only under Theodosius the Great (379-95) that Constantinople assumed definitive rank as capital of the Eastern Roman Empire. However, its ambitious prelates did not wait so long to forecast the future greatness of the new city. In 339 Eusebius, and in 360 Eudoxius, quitted the great Sees of Nicomedia and Antioch for what was yet, canonically, a simple bishopric. Both the city and its inhabitants suffered much during the Arian controversies; the Arian heretics held possession of the Church for forty years. Honourable mention is due to two of its bishops: St. Alexander, whose resistance and prayers were crowned by the sudden death of Arius in Constantinople; and St. Paul the Confessor, a martyr for the Faith. We must add the eighty martyrs put to death simultaneously by Emperor Valens. St. Gregory of Nazianzus restored religious peace in this Church early in the reign of the aforesaid Theodosius. From the council of 381 may be said to date the ecclesiastical fortunes of Constantinople. Its bishop began thenceforth to claim and to exercise ecclesiastical jurisdiction over the six provinces of Thrace, hitherto subject to Heraclea, and soon over the twenty-two provinces of Asia Minor and Pontus, originally subject to Ephesus and Cæsarea. These rights of supremacy, though usurped, were acknowledged by the twenty-eighth canon of the Council of Chalcedon (451), from which time the bishops of Constantinople ruled over about 420 dioceses. In 431 began an almost continuous conflict with the Roman Church, that was crowned with success in 733, when an Iconoclast emperor withdrew from the jurisdiction of Rome all ecclesiastical Illyricum, i. e. more than a hundred dioceses. About the end of the ninth century, when Photius broke with the Roman Church, his own patriarchate included 624 dioceses (51 metropolitan sees, 51 exempt archbishoprics, and 522 suffragan bishoprics). At that time the Roman Church certainly did not govern so great a number of sees. At this period, moreover, by its missionaries and its political influence, Constantinople attracted to Christianity the Slav nations, Serbs, Russians, Moravians, and Bulgars, and obtained in these northern lands a strong support against the Roman and Frankish West.

This ecclesiastical prosperity coincided with the political and municipal grandeur of the city. At the death of Theodosius the Great (395), when the Roman Empire was divided into two parts, Constantinople remained the centre and capital of the Eastern Empire. The Western Empire was destined soon to fall before the onslaughts of the barbarians. While its provinces were held by uncouth German tribes, Constantinople alone remained to represent Christian civilization and the greatness of the Roman name. Simultaneously the city was enlarged and embellished, particularly under Theodosius II, Justinian, Heraclius, and Basil the Macedonian. In 413 it reached its actual (1908) size on the right bank of the Golden Horn, under the city prefect, Anthemius. In 625 Heraclius added the famous quarter of Blachernæ with its venerated church of the Blessed Virgin, whose image was considered as the palladium of the city. The circumference of the walls was then (and still is) eleven or twelve miles. They were often rebuilt, especially under Tiberius III (c. 700), Anastasius II (714), Leo III (740), Nicephorus I (803), Theophilus (831), Michael VIII (1262), Andronicus II (1316), John VII (between 1431-1444). To protect the territory of Thrace from the invasions of the barbarians, Anastasius I, in the early part of the sixth century, built a great wall about fifty miles in length and about twenty feet in breadth from Silistria to the Lake of Derkoi. The ramparts of Constantinople had many gates: the principal one was the Golden Gate, the terminus of the Triumphal Way. On the Sea of Marmora numerous havens gave shelter to boats and barques; the present unique port of the Golden Horn had not yet been created. The strongly fortified Great Palace was a real town. Other splendid palaces adorned the city (Boucoleon, Chalké, Blachernæ); many graced the European and Asiatic suburbs. Hundreds of churches and monasteries, thousands of clerics, of monks, and nuns, attested an intensely religious life. The church of St. Sophia alone, the glory of Justinian's reign, owned 365 estates. How vast these domains were may be judged from a law of Heraclius (627) that established 625 clerics as the number necessary for the service of St. Sophia. The little church of Blachernæ had 75 endowed clerics. The names of at least 463 churches are known, 64 of which were dedicated to the Blessed Virgin. As early as 536, 68 superiors of local monasteries were present at a council in the city.

So many rich churches and monasteries, imperial or private palaces, not to speak of the luxury of the court and the great imperial dignitaries, naturally excited the covetousness of barbarian peoples. Constantinople had, therefore, to sustain numberless sieges; it was attacked in 378 by the Goths, by the Avars and Persians during the reign of Heraclius (610-41), by the Arabs during the reign of Constantine Pogonatus (668-85), and again by the Arabs under Moslemeh in 717; many times also by Bulgarians, Patzinaks, Russians, and Khazars. But the city always defied its besiegers, thanks to the solidity of its walls, often to the valour of its soldiers, but chiefly to the gold that it distributed in profusion. More grievous, perhaps, were the domestic conflicts that broke out in almost every new reign: the quarrels between the Blue and Green factions that clamoured for imperial favour in the races of the hippodrome; the conflagrations and earthquakes that sometimes levelled the city with the ground, e. g. the conflagration that broke out during the Nika revolt (532), on which occasion Justinian nearly lost his throne, more than 80,000 persons were killed, and fire destroyed the greater part of the city.

Heresy And Schism

When Photius (d. 891) began the schism consummated by Michael Cærularius in 1054, the Byzantine Church had, since the death of Emperor Constantine in 337, been formally out of communion with the Roman Church during 248 years (55 years on account of Arianism, 11 on account of the condemnation of St. John Chrysostom, 35 on account of Zeno's Henoticon, 41 on account of Monothelism, 90 on account of Iconoclasm, 16 on account of the adulterous marriage of Constantine VI). On the whole, therefore, Constantinople had been out of communion with the Apostolic See one out of every two years. During this period nineteen patriarchs of Constantinople were open heretics, some of them quite famous, e. g. Eusebius of Nicomedia, Eudoxius, Macedonius, Nestorius, Acacius, Sergius, Pyrrhus. On the other hand must be mentioned several orthodox bishops, e. g. St. Gregory of Nazianzus, St. John Chrysostom, St. Flavian, St. Germanus, St. Tarasius, St. Methodius, and St. Ignatius, the opponent of Photius, whose virtues and literary fame compensate for the scandalous heterodoxy of their confrères. Nor can we omit illustrious monks and hymnographers like St. Romanus (Melodus), the greatest liturgical poet of the Byzantine Church, St. Maximus Confessor, St Theodore, the noble abbot of the famous monastery of Studium (Stoudion), and many others who suffered martyrdom during the reigns of Iconoclast emperors.

Many councils were held in Constantinople, sometimes against heresies, sometimes in favour of them. Chief among these councils are: the ecumenical councils of 381, 553, 681, and 869; the Trullan Council (692), very important for the history of canonical legislation; the councils of 712 and 878 which ratified, respectively, Monothelism and the revolt of Photius against Rome. The schism of Photius was not at once followed by its worst consequences. The learned but ambitious patriarch was yet living when union with the Roman Church was re-established by Emperor Leo the Wise in 886; he obliged Photius to quit the patriarchal throne. From that time to the patriarchate of Michael Cærularius (1043-1049), in spite of the Filioque question, relations with the papacy were generally cordial. There were indeed, at the beginning of the tenth century, some difficulties caused by the emperor's fourth marriage, but in this conflict both the opposing patriarchs attempted to obtain from the Roman Church justification of their conduct. It was only under Michael Cærularius that the schismatic condition was finally confirmed, almost without any apparent motive and only through the bad will of this patriarch. After long and sharp disputes between the two Churches, the pope's legates, with the approbation of the imperial court, deposited, 15 July, 1054, on the altar of St. Sophia the Bull of excommunication against the patriarch. This act resulted in a popular revolution. Five days later Michael Cærularius replied by excommunicating the pope and the azymite Latins. The weak-minded and lewd emperor, Constantine Monomachus, dared not resist the all-powerful patriarch. It must be noted, however, that, unhappily, the idea of schism had long been familiar to the minds and hearts of the Greeks. The first period of the schism was coeval, especially at Constantinople, with a remarkable literary revival, inaugurated as early as the tenth century by the Macedonian dynasty and carried to its perfection under the Comneni and the Palæologi. This revival, unfortunately, did not affect favourably the morality of the population, being chiefly an unconscious return to models of antiquity, indeed a kind of neo-paganism. We owe to it, however, beautiful works in literature, architecture, and painting.

Imperial Succession; Crusades; Latin Empire Of Constantinople

After the division of the Roman Empire in 395, Constantinople beheld the passage of many great dynasties: that of Theodosius, prolonged by adoption until 602; that of Heraclius, from 610 to 711, with intrusion of several usurpers; that of Leo the Isaurian, from 717 to 802; the Amorium dynasty from 820 to 867; that of Basil the Macedonian from 867 to 1057; finally from 1081 to the Frankish conquest in 1204, that of the Comneni and the Angeli. Succession, of course, was not always regular; even in the legitimate dynasties murder and cruelty, it is well known, often marked the accession of an emperor. Sometimes the streets of the capital were on the same day decked with flowers and drenched with blood. Nevertheless, till the middle of the eleventh century, the empire held its own in Asia Minor against the Arabs. The latter were now gradually supplanted by their co religionists, the Turks, who, towards the end of that century, occupied most of the Asiatic peninsula and set up their capital at Nicæa, not far from Constantinople. Then began the Crusades, that great overflow of the West towards the East, started by the pious wish of all Christian Europe to deliver the Holy Sepulchre. Constantinople saw the crusaders for the first time in 1096. The contact between the two civilizations was not cordial; the Greeks gave generally to the crusaders an unkindly reception. They looked on them as enemies no less than the Turks, except that the crusaders, marching in the name of Christ and backed by all the strength of the West, appeared much more dangerous than the Mussulman Turks. On the other hand the Franks were only too ready to treat the Greeks as mere unbelievers, and, but for the opposition of the popes, would have begun the Crusades with the capture of Constantinople.

These sad quarrels and the fratricidal conflicts of Christian nations lasted nearly a century, until in 1182 Emperor Andronicus Comnenus, a ferocious tyrant, ordered a general massacre of the Latins in his capital. In 1190 the Greek patriarch, Dositheus, solemnly promised indulgences to any Greek who would murder a Latin. These facts, together with the selfish views of the Venetians and the domestic divisions of the Greeks, were enough to provoke a conflict. The Greek Emperor Alexius III had dethroned his brother and stripped his nephew of all rights (1195); the latter sought a shelter in the West (1201), and, together with his brother-in-law, Emperor Philip of Swabia, with Venice, and Boniface of Montferrat (chief of the projected crusade), he turned aside the Fourth Crusade and directed the knights, first to the siege of Zara in Dalmatia, and afterwards to Constantinople. In spite of the formal veto of Innocent III, the crusaders laid siege to the city, which soon surrendered (17 July, 1203). Emperor Alexius III took flight. His brother, Isaac Angelus, was taken from prison and crowned emperor, with his son Alexius IV. The crusaders had hoped that the new emperors would keep their promises and reunite the two Churches; confident of this they wrote to Innocent III (August, 1203) to justify their behaviour. But the imperial promise was not kept; indeed, it could not be executed. In November, 1205, Alexius IV broke off all relations with the crusaders. Thereupon the hostility between the Greeks and the Latins was in almost daily evidence; brawls and conflagrations were continually taking place. Alexius IV and his father were dethroned and put to death (February, 1204) by a usurper who took the name of Alexius V Murtzuphlos. The latter made haste to put his capital in a state of defence, whereupon the crusaders began a second siege. After several onslaughts the city was taken (12 and 13 April, 1204) amid scenes of great cruelty; the slaughter was followed by an unbridled plunder of the countless treasures heaped up during so many centuries by the Byzantine emperors. The holy relics especially excited the covetousness of the Latin clerics; Villehardouin asserts that there were but few cities in the West that received no sacred booty from this pillage. The official booty alone, according to the same historian, amounted to about eleven millions of dollars whose purchasing power was then of course much greater than at this day. The following 9 May, Baldwin, Count of Flanders, became emperor; Boniface of Montferrat obtained Thessalonica and Macedonia; the knights, various feudal fees; Venice, the islands and those regions of the empire that assured her maritime supremacy. This new Latin Empire, organized according to feudal law, never took deep root. It was unable to hold its own against the Greeks (who had immediately created two empires in Asia, at Nicæa and at Trebizond, a despotate in Epirus and other small States) nor against the Bulgarians, Comans, and Serbs. After a much-disturbed existence it disappeared in 1261, and Constantinople became again the centre of Greek power with Michael Palæologus as emperor.

Latin Patriarchate

Together with the Latin Empire a Latin patriarchate had been established in 1204 at Constantinople, on which occasion the Greek patriarch took refuge at Nicæa. Notwithstanding the missions of Cardinal Benedict a Sancta Susanna (1205-1207) and Pelagius of Albano (1213), negotiations, and even persecutions, the Latins failed to induce all their Greek subjects to acknowledge the authority of the pope. In its best days the Latin patriarchate never numbered more than twenty-two archbishoprics and fifty-nine suffragan bishoprics, situated in Europe, in the islands, and even in Asia Minor. However, the Latin Patriarchate of Constantinople outlived the Latin Empire, after the fall of which the Latin patriarchs resided in Greece or in Italy. From 1302 the Holy See reserved to itself the appointment to this office and united with the patriarchate first the Archbishopric of Candia, later the Bishopric of Negropont; this was still the situation as late as 1463. A consistorial decree of 1497 reserved this high title to cardinals; the rule, however, was subject to many exceptions. In modern times a contrary practice has prevailed; the Latin titular Patriarch of Constantinople ceases to bear this title only on entrance to the Sacred College. Of course, after the fall of the Latin or Frankish Empire in 1261, the Latin patriarch could not deal directly with the Catholics of Constantinople; they were committed to the care of patriarchal vicars, simple priests chosen usually among the superiors of religious orders resident in the city, Observantine or Conventual Franciscans, and Dominicans. This lasted until 1651, when the Latin patriarch was allowed by the sultan to have in Constantinople a patriarchal suffragan bishop, who was free to administer the diocese in the name of the patriarch. Finally, in 1772, the Holy See suppressed the office of patriarchal suffragan an appointed patriarchal vicars Apostolic, which system is yet in existence.

Restoration Of Greek Empire; Efforts At Reunion Of The Churches

Having anticipated a little we may here take up the thread of our narrative. By the recovery of Constantinople in 1261, Michael Palæologus had drawn on himself the enmity of some Western princes, especially of Charles of Anjou, brother of St. Louis and heir to the rights of the aforesaid Latin emperors of Constantinople. To forestall the crusade with which he was threatened, the Greek emperor opened negotiations with the pope and accepted the union of the Churches. It was proclaimed at the Ecumenical Council of Lyons in 1274, and was confirmed at Constantinople by several particular councils held under the Greek patriarch, John Beccus, a sincere Catholic. It was not, however, accepted by the Greek people who remained always inimical to the West, and, on the emperor's death in 1282, it was rejected at a council held in the Blachernæ church. Thenceforth the rulers of Constantinople had to reckon with the ambitious claims of Charles of Valois, brother of Philip the Fair, and of other Latin pretenders to the imperial crown. The city itself was remit by the theological disputes of Barlaamites and Palamists arising from Hesychasm (q. v.), also by the domestic dissensions of the imperial family during the reigns of the two Andronici, John Palæologus, and John Cantacuzene. With the aid of Turkish mercenaries John Cantacuzene (the hope of the Palamists) withstood the legitimate emperor and conquered the city.

The Byzantine Empire was now in face of its last and greatest peril. The smaller Greek Empire of Trebizond controlled since 1204 a part of its Asiatic provinces. The Fourth Crusade had caused almost all the islands and a great part of its possessions in Europe to fall into the hands of the Venetians, Genoese, Pisans, and local dynasts. It feared most, however, the new empire of the Osmanlis that was rapidly overflowing all Asia Minor. The Osmanlis were originally a small Turkish tribe of Khorassan; in the thirteenth century they had settled near Dorylæum (Eski-Shehir), whence they gradually annexed all the sultanates and principalities of the Seljuk Turks and others. As early as 1326 Brusa in Bithynia had become the centre of their power. A Genoese fleet soon conveyed their army into Europe, where they took Gallipoli in 1397. Thenceforth, while the popes were especially anxious to save the Greek East and Constantinople, the Byzantines, excited by their priests and monks, appeared daily more hostile to the West and exhausted their opportunities in useless theological disputes. The memorable defeat of the Serbs and Bulgarians at Kosovo in 1389, and that of the crusaders at Nicopolis in 1396, seemed to indicate the hopelessness of the Byzantine cause, when the Mongol invasion of Timur-Leng (Tamerlane) and the defeat of Sultan Bayazid at Angora in 1402 combined to assure another half-century of existence to the doomed empire.

Scarcely had Manuel II heard of the Turkish disaster when he pulled down the mosque in his capital and abandoned his negotiations at Rome, where he had initiated proposals of peace, but only for political reasons. However, the Turkish power had not been destroyed on the plain of Angora. From June to September, 1422, Sultan Murad II laid siege to Constantinople, which he nearly captured. Though finally repulsed, the Turks tightened daily their control over all approaches to the city, which only a new crusade could have relieved. At the Council of Florence, therefore (1439), the Greeks again declared themselves Catholics. This formal reunion, however, imposed by the emperor and again rejected by the Greek nation, could not in the beginning be proclaimed even at Constantinople, in spite of the election of a patriarch favourable to Rome, and of Western promises to help the Greeks with men and money. Mark of Ephesus and after him Gennadius Scholarius were omnipotent with clergy and people, and infused into them fresh hatred of the Latins. Nevertheless, the promised crusade took place under the direction of Cardinal Giuliano Cesarini. János Hunyady and Iskender-Beg (Scanderbeg) performed miracles of valour, but in vain. The crusaders were completely defeated at Varna in 1444, and nothing was left to Constantinople but to perish honourably. The reunion with Rome, as accepted at Florence, was at last proclaimed officially in St. Sophia by Cardinal Isidore, Metropolitan of Kiev (12 Dec. 1452). It was thus fated that Emperor Constantine Dragases, the last heir of the great Constantine, was to die in the Catholic Faith.

Fall Of Constantinople; Capital Of Ottoman Empire

When the tragic hour struck, the emperor had only about 7000 men, including all foreign succour. Since March, 1453, the Turks, to the number of 200,000, had invested the city; the preceding year they had built on the Bosporus the redoubtable fortress of Rumeli-Hissar. Their fleet also held the entrance to the Dardanelles, but was prevented from entering the Golden Horn by a strong iron chain that barred its mouth. But Mohammed II caused seventy of his ships to slide on greased planks behind Galata; in this way they entered the Golden Horn (22 April). He then cast across it a bridge of boats broad enough to allow the passage of five soldiers abreast, while his troops, constantly renewed, kept up without ceasing their attacks by land. Eventually the defenders were exhausted by the toils of a continuous and hopeless conflict, while their ranks grew steadily thinner through death or wounds. The population gave no help and was content to taunt the Latins, while waiting for the miracle of Heaven that was to save them. Finally, 29 May, 1453, about 4 o'clock in the morning, a furious assault of the Turks broke down the walls and gates of the city, and the besiegers burst in from every side. Emperor Constantine fell like a hero at the gate of St. Romanus. St. Sophia was immediately transformed into a mosque, and during three days the unhappy city was abandoned to unspeakable excesses of cruelty and debauchery. The next year, at the demand of the sultan himself, Gennadius Scholarius, Rome's haughty adversary, was appointed Patriarch of Constantinople, and soon the Greek Church was re-established, almost in its former position.

Thus was granted the sacrilegious prayer of so many Greeks, blinded by unreasoning hate, that henceforth, not the tiara, but the turban should rule in the city of Constantine. Even the name of the city was changed. The Turks call it officially (in Arabic) Der-es-Saadet, Door of Happiness, or (chiefly on coins) Konstantinieh. Their usual name for it is Stamboul, or rather Istamboul, a corruption of the Greek expression eis ten polin (pronounced stimboli), perhaps under the influence of a form, Islamboul, which could pass for 'the city of Islam'. Most of the churches, like St. Sophia, were gradually converted into mosques. This was the fate of SS. Sergius and Bacchus – a beautiful monument built by Justinian, commonly called 'the little St. Sophia'; of the church of the monastery of Khora, whose splendid mosaics and pictures, mostly of the fourteenth century, are among the principal curiosities of the city; of the churches of the celebrated Pantocrator and Studium monasteries, etc. Other churches were demolished and replaced by various buildings; thus the church of the Holy Apostles gave way to the great mosque built by the conquering Sultan Mohammed II. The imperial tombs in this church were violated; some of their gigantic red porphyry sarcophagi were taken to the church of St. Irene. The latter is the only church taken from the Greeks that has not been changed into a mosque or demolished; it became, and is yet an arsenal, or rather a museum of ancient weapons.

The sultans in turn endowed their new capital with many beautiful monuments. Mohammed II built the castle of Yedi-Kouleh, the Tchinili-Kiosk (now a museum), the mosques of Cheik Bokhari, of the Janizaries, of Kassim-Pasha, of Eyoub, where every sultan at his accession is obliged to be girt with the sword of Othman, etc. Bayazid II built the Bayazidieh (1458). Soliman the Magnificent built the Suleimanieh, the most beautiful Turkish monument in Constantinople. His architect Sinan constructed fifty other mosques in the empire. Ahmed I built (1610) the Ahmedieh on the foundations of the imperial Great Palace, a pretty fountain near St. Sophia, etc. The buildings of the old seraglio at Seraglio Point are also of Turkish origin; nothing is left of the Byzantine imperial palaces that once stood there. The Blachernæ palace has also disappeared; its church was accidentally burned in the seventeenth century. Not far distant are the important ruins of the palace of the Porphyrogenitus. When the Turks took Constantinople, the hippodrome was already in ruinous decay. There remain yet three precious monuments of ancient imperial splendour: the Egyptian obelisk brought thither by Theodosius the Great, the Serpentine Column brought from Delphi by Constantine, and the Byzantine monument known as the Walled-up Column. Near them has been constructed, on the plans and at the expense of the German Emperor, William II, a fountain in Byzantine style. The Turks have also respected some other relics of antiquity, especially the columns of Constantine, Marcian, Theodosius, and Arcadius, the aqueduct of Valens, and many of the great subterranean cisterns.

The Turkish City

This is not the place to narrate the later history of the city, so often the scene of sanguinary events, revolts of the Janizaries, palace-revolutions, etc. In 1826 Mahmud II suppressed the redoubtable prætorians, but the tragic domestic revolutions go on as before. In 1807 a British fleet threatened the city, which was courageously defended by Sultan Selim III and the French ambassador, General Sebastiani. In 1854 Anglo-French armies encamped at Constantinople before and after the Crimean expedition against Russia. In 1878 the Russians advanced to San Stefano, a little village in the European suburbs, and dictated there the treaty of that name. In 1821 the Greek patriarch, Gregory V, with many bishops and laymen, was hanged on the occasion of the outbreak of the Greek War for Independence. In 1895-1896 the capital, as well as the provinces, saw many Armenians massacred by the Kurds, with the complicity, or rather by order of the Government. Even the dreadful physical catastrophes of former times have been renewed; great conflagrations in 1864 and 1870 destroyed entire quarters at Stamboul and Pera. In the latter place many thousands of lives were lost (most of the houses are built of timber). In 1894 an earthquake laid low a great part of the Bazaar and killed several thousand persons. The city is now undergoing a slow process of cleansing; it is lit by gas, and there are some tramways in its streets, most of which are still very narrow and dirty, and are at all times obstructed by vagrant dogs. A cable railway joins Galata to Pera.

COUSIN, Histoire de Constantinople depuis Justinien jusqu'à la fin de l'empire (8 vols., Paris, 1671-1674); HUTTON, Constantinople (London 1900); BARTH, Constantinople (Paris, 1903); DU CANGE, Constantinopolis christiana in De Byzantin histori scriptoribus (Paris, 1687), XXII; BANDURI, Imperium orientale sive antiquitates Constantinopolitan (2 vol. fol., Venice, 1729); MORDTMANN, Esquisse topographique de Constantinople (Lille, 1892); VON HAMMER, Constantinopolis und der Bosporos (Budapest, 1822); BYZANTIOS, Constantinople (Greek, Athens, 1851); CONSTANTIOS, Constantiniade ou description de Constantinople ancienne et moderne (Constantinople, 1846); RICHTER, Quellen der byzantinischen Kunstgeschichte (Vienna, 1897); GEDEON, Constantinople in BOUTYRAS (Greek), Dictionary of History and Geography (Constantinople, 1881), III, 929-1121; RIANT Exuvi sacr Constantinopolitan (Geneva, 1877); BOUVY, Souvenirs chrétiens de Constantinople (Paris, 1896); CUPERUS, Tractatus pr liminaris de patriarchis Constantinopolitanis in Acta SS., ed. PALMÉ, August, I, vi-ix, 1-272; LEQUIEN, Oriens christianus (Paris, 1740), I, 1-350, III, 793-836; GEDEON, Patriarchikoi pinakes (Constantinople, 1887).
GERLAND, Geschichte des lateinischen Kaiserreiches von Konstantinopel (Hamburg, 1904); KRAUSE, Die Eroberungen von Konstantinopel im 13. und 15. Jahrhundert (Halle, 1850); PEARS, The Fall of Constantinople, being the Story of the Fourth Crusade (London, 1885); IDEM, The Destruction of the Greek Empire and the Story of the Capture of Constantinople by the Turks (London, 1903); STAMATIADES, History of the Capture of Byzantium by the Franks and of Their Domination (Greek, Athens, 1885); KALLIGAS, Essays on Byzantine History from the Former to the Latter Capture of Constantinople (Greek, Athens, 1894); VLASTO, Les derniers jours de Constantinople en 1453 (Paris, 1883); POUJOULAT, Histoire de La conquête et de l'occupation de Constantinople par les Latins (Tours, 1855); D'OUTREMANN, Constantinopolis Belgica sive de rebus gestis a Balduino et Henrico, imperatoribus Constantinopolis (Tournai, 1643); MORDTMANN, Belagerung und Eroberung Konstantinopels durch die Turken im Jahre 1453 (Stuttgart, 1858); VAST, Le siège et la prise de Constantinople d'après des documents nouveaux in Revue historique, XIII 1-40.

Transcribed by Douglas J. Potter

From the Catholic Encyclopedia, copyright © 1913 by the Encyclopedia Press, Inc. Electronic version copyright © 1997 by New Advent, Inc.

Byzantium: Author unknown. Constantinople: S. Vailhé

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