Constantinople

city, byzantium, emperor, empire, capital, roman, ad and held

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In return for the assistance it rendered to the Romans in their wars with Macedon and Antiochus, the Senate conferred on Byzantium the status of a "free and confederate city" • it lost these privileges under the Emperor Ves pasian, and became an ordinary provincial town in A.D. 73. In the struggle between Septimius Severus and Pescennius Niger for the Roman Empire, Byzantium espoused the cause of the latter, hut was captured by Severus after a three years' siege, and reduced to ashes. A few years later, however, he rebuilt the city, and embellished it with porticoes, magnificent public baths and a hippodrome. During the civil wars which followed the abdication of Diocletian, the city fortifications were restored, and afforded refuge to Licinius after his defeat 'by Constantine at Adrianople in A.D. 323. Con stantine then advanced on Byzantium, and, by means of constructing ramparts and towers as high as those of the city, finally succeeded in taking it.

The name "Byzantium" now disappears, and "Constantinople" takes its place. The city is also called "Roma Nova," or "New Rome," for it is raised to the dignity of capital of the Roman Empire, thanks to its geographical posi tion, which alone is responsible for its vicissi tudes and chequered fortunes. A new political centre was required for the reunited Empire; frequent wars with Persia, revolts of Asiatic nations, incursions of Scythians, troubles at Rome and a host of other considerations de manded that the capital should be transferred further eastward. Christianity was established, the city was dedicated to the:Virgin Mary, and the foundations of Saint Sophia were laid. The old capital was plundered of its art treasures to decorate the new, and a 40 days' festival inaugurated the second founding of the city. Immigration was encouraged, schools were built, liberal laws enacted and a bishop, after ward raised to the rank of patriarch, was ap pointed. Historic Church Councils were held on the Bosporus — in 337 A.D., against the Arian heresy; in 359, when 150 orthodox bishops added to the Nicene Creed; in 553; in 681, when Pope Agatho presided; and again in 870, to condemn the iconoclasts, and when the Emperor Basil attended.

But Constantinople was not destined to tread the path of peace and Christianity. The decline had set in; the fall was at hand, and a new star had risen in the East — Islam. The city had been attacked by the Huns in 450; again by the Huns and Slays in 553, and by the Persians in 626. The Saracen conqueror, Moawiyah, besieged the walls for seven years, and finally abandoned the enterprise. A second

invasion by the Saracens under Moslemah was repulsed in 718, and toward the end of the 8th century the hero of the "Arabian Nights," the redoubtable Calif Harun al Rashid, planted his standard on the heights of Skutari, but was drawn off by concessions. During the 9th and 10th centuries Constantinople was assailed by six invasions — from Bulgaria, from Hungary, and four times from Russia.

In 1096 the Crusaders, under Godfrey de Bouillon, passed on their way to Jerusalem. The fourth crusade turned aside from their holy purpose, and decided to take Constanti nople, with the aid of the Venetian Republic. The plan succeeded, and Baldwin, Count of Flanders, the valiant leader of the Norman knights, was elected to the throne. This new dominion lasted 58 years, during which time a large European army held the city. The Latin rule collapsed when Cie Crusaders evacuated Palestine, and the Greek Empire was restored, with the assistance of the Republic of Genoa. In return for their aid the Genoese were granted exclusive rights in Galata, which they promptly surrounded with walls, behind which they claimed independence, and defied the emperor. A state of civil war ensued within the city, which was kept up till the final con quest by the Turks. Sultan Bayazid determined to obtain possession of Constantinople in 1396. He commenced this task, but had to leave it suddenly to defend his own territories against Tamerlane. Bayazid was defeated in that en counter, and taken prisoner, in 1402. Twenty years later, his grandson, Murad II, after delivering his country from the Mogul yoke, led his victorious army to the gates of Con stantinople. The reigning emperor, John Palwologus, yielded to his demands, and pur chased an alliance by a heavy annual tribute. Murad II was a true Moslem, and kept his engagements religiously. For the 30 years of his subsequent reign Constantinople was In sured against Turkish aggression. His son, Mohammed II, abrogated the treaty, and built a fort ("Cut-Throat Castle") on the European side of the Bosporus, which remains to this day. In 1453 Mohammed arrived with 60,000 horse and 20,000 foot. The city could only muster 7,000 defenders. After a desperate struggle of 40 days, the city was captured, and Saint Sophia was converted from a Christian :lurch into a Mohammedan mosque. The dust had claimed the Byzantine, the. Roman and the Greek Empires, and the sword of Othman has held the city on the Bosporus against all corners for over four centuries and a half.

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