Posted by: ken98 | December 9, 2009

The Lost City of Constantinople

Day 89 – Ken here (W)
(DEF v.2, ch.17, pp.580-590)

Finally! We begin Chapter 17, begin the Second Volume, and begin reviewing the age of Constantine. Constantine began as the un-noteworthy son of one of the lesser powers in the multi-emperor world of Diocletian (285-305). By dogged determination, skillful political maneuvering, unprovoked retreats and attacks, and conversion to a new religion, Constantine became the sole Roman emperor and the consolidator of Diocletian’s reforms, creating and solidifying the new Roman Empire: the Autocracy or the Dominate.

One of his biggest projects was founding and building the new capital in the East – Constantinople (now Istanbul, capital of Turkey) (although Constantine himself named it New Rome). Gibbon loves this stuff – and spends almost 20 pages describing the city (See 3D Reconstruction of Constantinople). Many of the statues, monuments, etc that Constantine (to his shame) sacked from all the ancient cities in Asia and Greece still remain in Turkish Istanbul.

So… we begin a 2 day excursion into ancient, ancient Constantinople – a brand-new frontier city, constructed almost from scratch (on the site of the old small Greek town of Byzantium – thus the incorrect name for the eastern empire – Byzantine Empire) much in the late 19th century American style – a booster town, a Chicago of its times that attracted industry and politicians to its shores. Of course, that was all 1700 years ago, and so the Constantinople of that time is lost, buried under centuries of human occupation, and even buried under a new name (when it was conquered in 1453 – now Istanbul – a Turkish transliteration of the Greek “into the City – eis tein polin).

The Story

  • Gibbon gives a brief introduction to Constantinople – noting Constantine wanted a city easily defended which would be equally available to Asia and Europe for defense, and act as a bulwark against the constant attacks of barbarians through the Balkans and down through the straits of the Bosporus (from the Black Sea – read: Goths, etc – rememeber the devastating naval attacks of the late 200’s of the Goths)
  • Gibbon describes the physical situation/location of Constantinople – a triangle, surrounded on 2 sides by sea, on a very narrow strait of sea-water which joins the Mediterannean with the Black Sea (see map)
  • Description of Byzantium (very small Greek city situated where Constantinople was eventually founded)
  •  
    The Seas of Constantinople

  • Description of the Bosporus (modern: Turkish Straits, or Bosphorus) – very narrow, (as little as 1500 feet) winding strait (16 miles) connecting Sea of Marmara with Black Sea – subject of countless Greek myths and heroic tales – also short description of Asiatic suburbs of Chalcedon, Chrysopolis (or Scutari)
  • The Famous Port of Constantinople – The Golden Horn – it is an excellent port with a very narrow opening – with it’s famous chain – to close off the harbor from the Sea
  • Description of the Propontis (modern: Sea of Marmara) -a small sea that opens up between the very narrow straits of Bosporus, and the very narrow straits of the Hellespont
  • Description of the Hellespont (modern: the Dardanelles (ie straits of)) – very narrow straits connecting the Sea of Marmara with the Mediterranean – very famous shores – on one side Gallipoli (of WWI fame – and a huge national day of remembrance for Australians and New Zealanders) and on the other Troy and the ancient cities of the heroic Greek age of Mycenae (Homer etc)
  • Maps and views of Constantinople and Environs

    From North to South – the journey from the Black Sea to the Mediterranean

    Euxine Sea (modern: Black Sea) (Euxine Sea – in Greek it means Hospitable -or good host Sea – the exact opposite of what you get when you get to the Black Sea (it’s a vicious sea) – an example of Greeks naming something to “charm”/compliment its deity into being peaceful and human-friendly)

    Bosporus (modern: Turkish Strait or Bosphorus) – narrow straits connecting the Sea of Marmara with the Black Sea – Constantinople lies at the southern end – historic crossroads of Asia and Europe – the smallest distance between Asia and Europe on the sea (narrowest point = 1500 feet, 500 paces)

    Propontis (modern: Sea of Marmara) – small sea between the Aegean (Mediterranean) and the Black Sea -Constantinople lies at the northern tip of the Sea

    Hellespont (modern: Dardanelles) (narrow strait leading from Sea of Marmara into the Aegean Sea) – on one side lies the famous Gallipoli peninsula of WWI, Australia, and New Zealand fame (see ANZAC day)
     
     
     
    Maps and Pictures
     
     
     
    Constantinople

    Map - Constantinople

    Map - Constantinople, Geography

    Map - Constantinople German Map - detailled and accurate of course

    Map - German Map of Constantinople - detailled, exceedingly accurate, and user-friendly, of course


     
     
     

    Golden Horn – Port of Constantinople

    Golden Horn - painting - Boats on the Golden Horn - 18th century view

    Golden Horn - painting - Boats on the Golden Horn - 18th century view

    Golden Horn - Port of Istanbul - modern panoramic view

    Golden Horn - Port of Istanbul - modern panoramic view - from Galata, looking into Istanbul (Constantinople) - the Hagia Sophia is the great domed structure on the left

     
     
     

    Black Sea (Euxine Sea)

    Map of the Black Sea (Euxine) - Constantinople is the black dot nearly at the center, at the bottom of the Black Sea (but actually south 16 miles from the Black Sea, down a narrow salt water strait - the Bosporus)

    Map of the Black Sea (Euxine) - Constantinople is the black dot nearly at the center, at the bottom of the Black Sea (but actually south 16 miles from the Black Sea, down a narrow salt water strait - the Bosporus)

     
     
     

    Bosporus (tiny straits that connect the huge Black Sea with the Sea of Marmara and the Mediterranean)

    Modern Panoramic view of the Bosporus - from the European Side

    Modern Panoramic view of the Bosporus - from the European Side


    Map of Bosporus (Turkish Strait)

    Map of Bosporus (Turkish Strait)


    Bosporus from space (pink areas are Istanbul (Constantinople)) - look how narrow the gap is - as narrow as 1500 feet in places - Darius I invaded Europe over a pontoon bridge over this strait - Xerxes used the wider (and calmer) Hellespont to the south

    Bosporus from space (pink areas are Istanbul (Constantinople)) - look how narrow the gap is - as narrow as 1500 feet in places - Darius I invaded Europe over a pontoon bridge over this strait - Xerxes used the wider (and calmer) Hellespont to the south

     
     
     

    Propontis (modern: Sea of Marmara)

    Sea of Marmara from space - it is the turquoise water in the center of the picture - Constantinople (Istanbul) is at the far right of the turquoise

    Sea of Marmara from space - it is the turquoise water in the center of the picture - Constantinople (Istanbul) is at the far right of the turquoise


    Map of Propontis (modern: Sea of Marmara) - Constantinople is the orange dot at the top - Black Sea (Euxine) is the water at the very top of the map - that tine line you see between the two is the tiny Bosporus

    Map of Propontis (modern: Sea of Marmara) - Constantinople is the orange dot at the top - Black Sea (Euxine) is the water at the very top of the map - that tine line you see between the two is the tiny Bosporus

     
     
     

    Hellespont (modern: Dardanelles) and Gallipoli Peninsula

    Gallipoli peninsula from space - it is the long finger extending along the narrow strait of water (the strait = Hellespont or Dardanelles)

    Gallipoli peninsula from space - it is the long finger extending along the narrow strait of water (the strait = Hellespont or Dardanelles)

    Map of Hellespont (Dardanelles) - connects Sea of Marmara with the Mediterannean (Aegean Sea) and Greece and all her islands - site of famous WWI battle that helped to form the national identity of Australia and New Zealand

    Map of Hellespont (Dardanelles) - connects Sea of Marmara with the Mediterannean (Aegean Sea) and Greece and all her islands - site of famous WWI battle that helped to form the national identity of Australia and New Zealand

     
     
     

    Heroic Greece – Mycenae, Homeric Greece, and the environs of Constantinople

    Homeric Greece - Constantinople is up at far upper right

    Homeric Greece - Constantinople is up at far upper right - labelled in exceedingly small gray print - Byzantium

     
     
     

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