Emperor Constantine And His Masterpiece Constantinople

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Constantine The Great

Emperor Constantine And Constantinople

Rome was not chosen as the capital of the state later on. It was a city-state which evolved into an empire. Because it expanded in all directions, Rome found itself in the center of the state borders. Nevertheless, this situation did not make Rome more than a geographical center. Eastern Mediterranean, which benefited from a good agriculture for 1000 years, remained a financial and cultural center. Therefore, the idea of moving the administrative center into an eastern province existed for a long time in Rome. The person who eventually realized this project was reformer Emperor Constantine.

Emperor Constantine Statue
Emperor Constantine The Great of Roman Empire.

Colossal marble head of Emperor Constantine The Great of Roman Empire.

Roman Emperors Meet Istanbul

We need to go back to the end of the 2nd Century to mention how Roman Emperors met Istanbul.

In 195, Roman Emperor Septimus Severus occupied and severely damaged the city of Byzantium which supported his opponent in the fight for throne. However, he later realized that the city was strategically located and therefore rebuilt it.

Byzantium Becomes the Capital of Roman Empire

Constantine wanted to recover the collapsing empire by embracing a new religion; thus, he chose Christianity in 325. Making a huge reform, he evolved Pagan Roman Empire into Christian one and wanted to move the capital into the fertile and rich Eastern lands. He decided upon the city of Byzantium due to its unique location in the Bosphorus. He initiated a great reconstruction in the city. Empire architects turned this originally a Greek city state Byzantium from a simple Roman province into the equivalent of Rome.

Between the years of 324-330, the city was rebuilt by expanding around four times and began to serve with the name New Rome (Nova Roma). Constantine started to build the city based on the new religion. Therefore, he commissioned a Megale Ekklesia (Big Church) which was built where Hagia Sophia is today. The church which was renovated by Theodosius in the following years was completely destroyed during Nika Revolt and Hagia Sophia was built in its place in 537 by Emperor Justinian.

Splendid Illustration Of Roman Empire’s Capital Constantinople City

Constantinople

Nicaea Consul: From Paganism to Christianity

Constantine was the first person laying the foundations of Christianity in political terms. The first ecumenical consul got together in the city of Nicaea (Iznik) in 325 and the principles of Christianity was decided upon. After the Nicene Creed, Patriarchs were assigned to some important cities and Pentarchy (Five Major Episcopal Sees) became the leading religious centers of Christianity. These cities were Rome, Constantinople, Antioch, Jerusalem and Alexandria. After the 11th century, the leader of the Western Church was Pope in Rome and leader of the Eastern Church was Patriarch in Istanbul. Rivalry between them went on for centuries. Eventually caused Great Schism of 1054.

First Christian Council Of Nicaea 325 A.D.
Depiction of Nicaea Council in a mosaic.

Depiction of Nicaea Council in a mosaic.

Constantinople As A Religious Center

Constantine built a big church named The Church of the Holy Apostles in the historical peninsula of Istanbul. Inside this church he placed 12 sarcophagus representing the apostles of Jesus Christ. When he died, he was also buried there. It emphasizes the fact that Constantine, who is remembered as a saint and Great Constantine, wanted to make the city of Constantinople into a mystical religious center.

According to some historians, Constantine had actually remained as a pagan until he died and the only reason he adopted Christianity was that he wanted to save Roman Empire from the imminent collapse. According to some others, he was a devout Christian and wanted to be seen as an apostle of Christ.

Map Of Byzantine Empire’s Constantinople With Walls Of Theodosios

map-of-the-byzantine-empire-constantinople

Separation of Roman Empire into the East and the West

Nevertheless, even the Christianity, which he saw as a uniting factor, did not prevent Rome from the inevitable break up. 58 years after his death when his heir Theodosius died, Roman Empire was divided into two: Eastern and Western. One of the sons of Theodosius, Honorius became head of the Western Roman Empire which eventually fell due to barbarian attacks in 476 and Arcadius became the head of Eastern Roman Empire which continued to exist until 1453. Arcadius was the first emperor of Eastern Rome, known as Byzantine Empire.

Map Of Eastern And Western Roman Empires After Division 395 A.D.
The division of Roman Empire. 395 A.D.

The division of Roman Empire. 395 A.D.

Constantinople: Capital of Empires for 1600 Years

Stable foundation of the city by Constantine made Constantinople continue to survive for over 1000 years. It lied in ruins during the Latin invasion and riots during the Fourth Crusade before Ottomans captured it in 1453. Ottomans were hoping to find the dream city of the East in a better condition. They rebuilt the city and made it into the capital of the rising Ottoman Empire. They built palaces, mosques, baths and mansions. The name of the city remained as Konstantiniye. The name of Istanbul was adopted in recent history.

Fate of the city was to become the capital of an empire and it remained a capital from its foundation in 300 until the collapse of the Ottomans in 1922.

Emperor Constantine The Great On A Painting

emperor-constantine-the-great-painting


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