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Constantinople

Istanbul guides. History of Istanbul. Constantinople.

Constantinople was the name of Istanbul given during the Roman period.

In 324, Byzantium surrendered to Constantine, Emperor of the west. Over the next two years he re-established the Roman Empire with Byzantium as its capital and within four years he had completed his new capital which was five times as large as before. There were three different reasons why the emperor Constantine abandoned Rome as its capital: German intrusions, chaos in economy, chaos in administration.

His choice was Byzantium. The name changed to Constantinople, the city of Constantine in November 26th 326 A.D. Emperor Constantine added a lot of important monuments to the city, palace, senate. He enlarged the first Christian house of worship, the Hagia Eirene and founded the Hagia Sophia and a number of churches. He founded two theatres, 160 baths, 50 pillared halls, 8 aqueducts, and 5000 houses. After Constantine’s death Rome fell, and Constantinople became the sole capital of the Roman Empire.

The Emperor Justinian came to power between (527-565). He was of Spanish descent. He rebuilt St. Sophia which was totally destroyed in the Nika Riot, but Justinian, as Hadrian had been, a prolific builder, reconstructed the city on a magnificent scale. He was the founder of the largest underground cistern. The rapid growth of Christianity led to the construction of large buildings for worship.

His brilliant generals Belisarius and Narses regained most of Italy, Spain and the North African provinces for the empire, though the cost of doing so was to damage irrevocably the economic resilience of the state. Some historians base the switch from Roman Empire to Byzantine during the reign of Justinian. He codified the laws that until that time had existed only in decrees. He recognized the predominance of Greeks among the empire’s citizens by making Greek an official language of state along with Latin, and later Greek became the empire’s sole official language.

Throughout the ensuing centuries Constantinople successfully repulsed many assaults, from Goths, Alans, Serbs, Bulgarians, Russians and seventh-century Arabs. Its defenses held, reinforced by new walls built in the fifth century under Theodosias II. (Standing to the west of the walls that Constantine built, they are the ones that can be seen there today.)

In the 12th century, though, the knights and soldiers of the Fourth Crusade attacked and took the city, establishing a Latin Empire and occupying it until 1261 when the Byzantines reoccupied it. They continued in possession, warding off a serious and sustained late 13th-century Ottoman assault by Beyazit I, until Mehmet‘s assault and victory of 1453.

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