Monthly Archives: November 2016

The visitor was profoundly impressed by the appearance of the city

With the accession of Theodosius I a brighter day dawned upon the Empire. He not only subdued the Goths, but converted them into allies, and persuaded them to put 40,000 of their brave troops at his service. He even induced their aged king, Athanaric, who had sworn never to set a friendly foot upon Roman soil, to visit Constantinople. The visitor was profoundly impressed by the appearance of the city. “ Now,  said he,  I see what I often heard of, but never believed, the renown of this great city.” Then, surveying the city’s situation, the movement of ships coming and going, the splendid fortifications, the crowded population made up of various nationalities, like streams coming from different directions to gush from the same fountain, the well-ordered troops, he exclaimed, “ Verily, the Emperor is a god upon earth; whoso lifts a hand against him is guilty of his own blood.” Upon the death of Athanaric, which occurred about a fortnight after he reached Constantinople, Theodosius buried the body of his guest with royal honors in the Church of the Holy Apostles, and, by this act of chivalrous courtesy, bound the Goths more firmly to his side.

Only disturbers of the peace of the Empire

The barbarians, however, were by no means the only disturbers of the peace of the Empire with whom Theodosius found it necessary to deal. Society in the Roman world was distracted by the conflict between pagans and Christians on the one hand, and by the keener strife between Christian sects on the other, and it was the ambition of Theodosius to calm these troubled waters. For this laudable end he employed the questionable means of edicts for the violent suppression of heathenism and heresy. To destroy the old faith of the Empire was comparatively an easy task, although it involved him in a war with the pagan party in the West But to uproot the tares of heresy was a more formidable undertaking; they were so numerous, vigorous, and difficult to distinguish from the true wheat For the space of forty years, the views of Arius on the Person of Christ had prevailed in Constantinople, and the churches of the city were in the hands of that theological party. Only in one small chapel, the Church of Anastasia, was the Creed of Nicaea upheld there by Gregory of Nazianzus, and despite his eloquence he was a voice crying in the wilderness. But Theodosius, having been won over to the Nicene Creed, determined to make it the creed of the State. Accordingly, upon his arrival in Constantinople on the 20th of November 880, he sent for Demophilus, the Arian bishop of the city, and commanded him either to accept the orthodox views or leave Constantinople. Demophilus had the courage of his convictions, and, bidding his flock in S. Sophia farewell, left the capital in obedience, as he said, to the injunction, “When they persecute you in one city, flee ye to another.” All the churches of the city were now transferred to the orthodox party. The Arians, however, maintained religious services according to their own tenets outside the city walls, in the district known as the Exokionion (quarter of the outside column). The name was due to the presence there of a column surmounted by a statue of Constantine. Owing to their association with the district, Arians were sometimes designated Exokionitae. The district lay immediately outside the gateway in the Constantinian walls already noted as the Ancient Gate of late Byzantine times, and as Isa Kapoussi since the Turkish Conquest It can therefore be readily identified, and, curiously enough, under the disguise of a Turkish garb—Alti Mermer, the Six Marbles—the locality still retains its old name. For the Turkish designation is due to a misunderstanding of the meaning of the term Exakionion, a corrupt form of Exokionion frequently employed by Byzantine writers.

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Constantine is building the new Capitol

How to make a decision which will change the world forever. Yes surely we die but to make the name live forever…. That’s something… Here we go you can see a little part from the book Constantinople below…


Apart from the advantages offered by its situation, Byzantium had little to recommend it to Constantine’s regard. It presented neither ample room, nor a large population, nor convenient and splendid buildings to favour the rapid growth of a metropolis. Of the tongue of land on which the town stood, only the portion to the east of the line drawn from the present Stamboul Custom House, on the Golden Horn, across to the Seraglio Lighthouse, on the Sea of Marmora, was occupied. In the bay beside that Custom House lay the harbours of the town, where shipping, traders, and merchants did mostly congregate. The Acropolis stood on the rocky hill now enclosed within the Seraglio Grounds, and there several temples were found, that gods and goddesses might unite with men in the defence of the citadeL Against the steep side of the Acropolis, facing the blue expanse of the Sea of Marmora and the hills and mountains of the Asiatic shore, two theatres were built, while a stadium lay on the level tract beside the Golden Horn. The huge structure of the Hippodrome, which Severus had begun, was waiting to be completed, and to the north of it were the Baths of Zeuxippus and the adjoining public square which bore the same name. All this did not constitute a rich dowry for the future capital But perhaps to the founder of Constantinople that fact was not a serious objection; the greatness and splendour of the new city were to be his own creation.

When precisely work upon the new capital commenced cannot be determined, but the year 828 A.D., as already intimated, may be regarded as the most probable date. The circuit of the fortifications which should guard the city was marked out by Constantine himself with solemn ceremonial, and comprised the territory that stretched for nearly two miles to the west of the old town. The northwestern extremity of the enclosed area reached the Golden Horn somewhere in the neighbourhood of the Stamboul end of the Inner Bridge, while the south-western extremity abutted on the Sea of Marmora, at a point between the districts to which the Byzantine names Vlanga and Psamatia still cling. The most precise indication of the line followed by the landward wall of Constantine is found in the Turkish name Isa Kapoussi (the Gate of Jesus), attached to a locality above the quarter of Psamatia. The name refers to an ancient gateway which stood in the Constantinian fortifications, and survived their disappearance until the year 1508, when it was overthrown by an earthquake. It is mentioned in late Byzantine days as “ The Ancient Gate,” and on account of its imposing appearance as “ The very Ancient Beautiful Gate ” (Antiquissima Pulchra Porta). It was the original Golden Gate or Triumphal Entrance of the city, and, like Temple Bar in London, reminded the passing crowds both of what the city had been, and of what it had become.

Kapoussi Mesdjidi

The name of the adjoining church, now known as Isa Kapoussi Mesdjidi, probably suggested the Turkish appellation of this interesting and important landmark. The addition made by Constantine to the size of Byzantium was certainly considerable,, and the astonishment of his courtiers at the scale of his plans had some ground m reason. But the response of the Emperor brings us into closer touch with the emotion which animated the occasion. “I must go on,” said the founder of New Rome, “until He stops who goes before me.” It was a reply in harmony with the declaration made at another time, that he founded the city at the Divine command, jubente deo. The principal agent in a transaction of great moment often feels himself to be the instrument of a higher will than his own, and is haunted by the thought that he builds more wisely than he knows.