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Posts Tagged ‘Constantine the Great’

May 11, 330 AD – The Naming of Constantinople…And Why You Should Care!

Byzantine Empire Research Topic

Byzantine Empire Research Topic via ProQuest’s eLibrary

Byzantium. Constantinople. Istanbul.  Three names for one city – one of the most important cities in the history of civilization.

The year 324 marked a turning point for western civilization, for it was then that Emperor Constantine the Great proclaimed Byzantium the new capital of the Roman Empire. On May 11, 330, he officially changed the city’s name to Constantinople to reflect the importance of the city to the world.

It is believed that Byzantium was founded by the Greeks around the year 657 B.C. The meaning of the name Byzantium is unknown, but it likely comes from an ancient Greek legend of a King Byzas.

Constantine the Great Research Topic

Constantine the Great Research Topic via ProQuest’s eLibrary

Constantine chose his new capital wisely. The city is located on the European side of the Strait of Bosporus. The Bosporus (in northwestern Turkey) is significant because it is the passage linking the Black Sea to the Mediterranean, forming part of the continental boundary between Europe and Asia. Due to its natural and man-made defenses, the “City of Constantine” was able to withstand the barbarian invasions that devastated Rome and the Western Empire in 476.

Constantine referred to his newly-named city as “Nova Roma,” or, the New Rome. After the fall of Rome, the Eastern Empire, referred to as the Byzantine Empire, lasted for more than a thousand years. From the mid-5th century to the early 13th century, Constantinople was the largest and wealthiest city in Europe. The city spawned a rich tradition of art, literature and architecture, as well as serving as a buffer between Europe and threats of invasion from Asia.

Constantinople was especially important for preserving in its libraries manuscripts of Greek and Latin authors during a period when violence and chaos resulted in the mass-destruction of books and art in western Europe and north Africa. When the city finally did fall, thousands of these ancient manuscripts were taken by refugees to Italy, where they played a key part in stimulating the transition to the Renaissance and then to the modern world. In addition, moving the capital of the Empire to the East gave prestige to the Bishop of Constantinople (Ecumenical Patriarch) and made the city a dual center of Christianity, alongside Rome. This eventually led to the Great Schism that divided Western Catholicism from Eastern Orthodoxy in 1054.

Ottoman Empire Research Topic

Ottoman Empire Research Topic via ProQuest’s eLibrary

Turkey Research Topic

Turkey Research Topic via ProQuest’s eLibrary

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

The month of May is important in the history of Constantinople for another reason: on May 29, 1453, after Sultan Mehmed’s Ottoman army stormed the city, Emperor Constantine XI was killed in battle, ensuring that the fall of the Byzantine Empire was complete. The city was then under Ottoman control and was the capital of the Ottoman Empire until its demise in 1922.

It is not an overstatement to say that the military, political, religious and artistic influence of the city on the Western world, over the many centuries of its existence, is incalculable.

Teachers: You can help your students learn more about this culturally significant city by pointing them to the great History and Geography resources in eLibrary.

Trivia Time!

  • From the date of its construction in 537 AD until 1453, Hagia Sophia (Holy Wisdom) served as an Eastern Orthodox cathedral and seat of the Patriarch of Constantinople. It was the world’s largest cathedral for nearly a thousand years. The building was later converted into an Ottoman mosque from 1453 until 1931. It was then secularized and opened as a museum in 1935.
  • Constantinople was renamed Istanbul in 1930.
  • The name Instanbul (which means “in the city”) likely comes from the word Stamboul which refers to the older, ancient Byzantium part of the city.
  • It is said that on the day when the city fell to Mehmed, a crescent moon hung in the sky. Today, many Islamic nations around the world commemorate the military victory of 1453 with crescent moons on their flags.
  • France and Britain promised Constantinople to the Russians if the Entente won World War I. (Didn’t happen due to the fall of the Russian Empire in 1917).
  • The song “Istanbul (Not Constantinople)” was released in 1953 by The Four Lads, and later recorded in 1990 by They Might Be Giants.
  • The Byzantine Empire was the only organized state west of China to survive without interruption from ancient times until the beginning of the modern age.

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