By Kenneth W. Harl, Ph.D., Tulane University

The Christian emperor Constantine was ever pragmatic; he might only push his pagan topics so far. One plot of his, in the end, guarantee the position of Christianity: the establishment of a new capital that would be well-known as Constantinople.

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A panoramic check out of Constnatinople (Image: User:DeliDumrul/Public domain)

Four Emperors, 4 Capitals

By the time of Diocletian in the late third century, that was currently clear the Rome no longer populated the place of the capital of the roman Empire. Throughout the period known as the tetrarchy, when 4 emperors ruled, none of them used Rome as their capital. Constantine’s father and Constantine self ruled in Germany, on the Rhine frontier. The senior emperor in the West usually stayed in Milan, in north Italy. The an elderly emperor in the eastern was generally somewhere in Turkey; Diocletian’s capital was at Nicomedia. The small emperor usually lived at Antioch in Syria. Major cities were liked that were closer come frontiers and closer come the resources important to battle barbarians and suppress rebels.


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A Map mirroring the department of the Roman realm under the tetrarchy. (Image: Coppermine photo Gallery/Public domain)

Learn more about a conservative emperor named Diocletian

A brand-new Rome in Byzantium

Rome increasingly ended up being a ceremonial capital. It was awkwardly placed. Come this day, Rome yes, really isn’t the funding of Italy, at the very least not in a jae won or financial sense. Its prestige is as result of its political and spiritual significance. However, there was always a relocate to get the capital out that Rome come a much better location.

This is a transcript native the video collection The people of Byzantium. Clock it now, on The great Courses.

Constantine, therefore, in countless ways, to be responding follow me the lines of what various other soldier-emperors had done. Constantine make a significant difference here. He decided to create a capital, “New Rome,” which would certainly be Christian in nature indigenous the start. There would be no pagan gods. He chose the city that Byzantium, where we gain the native “Byzantine”—Byzantine civilization.

Byzantium to be an old Greek colony, established in the 7th century B.C. It occupies the European side of the Bosporus, the narrow strait the leads from the Sea the Marmara, i m sorry in ancient times they called the Propontis, into the black color Sea. It was a really important commercial center. Together a city, it had actually never been much more than 30,000 to 35,000 strong. Under Constantine, the city was vastly expanded. That eventually concerned number possibly a half-million—some would certainly say a million—by A.D. 500.

Constantine determined an old and also strategically situated Greek colony called byzantium as the place of his brand-new capital. (Image: Cplakidas/Public domain)

It would be surrounding by a series of walls, part 13 mile in length, and also was totally made over as the tantamount of the new Rome. A whole palace complicated was constructed. There was an royal Hippodrome or stadium wherein all the royal races and ceremonials took place. The city to be to stand for Rome in every fashion, except for the detail that it to be to it is in Christian.

Therefore, at the brand-new Rome, there to be a Senate house. Constantine handed the end pensions, tax exemptions, and also encouraged men to come and also serve in the new Christian royal Senate, conversely, the old roman inn pagan Senate Constantine might conveniently ignore.

Learn more: The an excellent Life in Rome

Building an metropolitan Mob

At the same time, Rome had actually an urban populace that was necessary to feed and pamper at good festivals, chariot races, gladiator combats. Together a Christian emperor, gladiatorial combat was wrong but chariot races were acceptable. This ceremonies had actually to continue, and to it is in effective, you had to have an audience. Constantine was insistent in ensuring the his brand-new capital would certainly have, in effect, an metropolitan mob.

One marvels how civilization were contracted to try out for this position. Nonetheless, a mob was created, city plebian, that would act as the ceremonial elite that would certainly be privileged, that would certainly be given the totally free bread and circuses the you would have actually in Old Rome. Countless of the attributes of Old Rome were reproduced in Constantinople—for instance, 7 Hills. Constantine went around naming seven hills to stand for the seven Hills the Rome, although he had to fake on one of them.

Learn an ext about what choices poor Romans had

Christianity—The faith that Mattered


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Senators in Constantinople’s brand-new Senate were motivated to come to be Christian. (Image: Unknown/Public domain)

All the this to be extremely crucial in stressing the continuity of the ancient Roman past. In ~ the same time, it significant a major change. In A.D. 330, the city was committed as an imperial city. Royal churches emerged that became the design for constructing churches in provincial cities. The roman Senate in Constantinople was motivated to be Christian and also the court to be Christian in tone. It offered its authority, the seal, behind the brand-new faith.

This to be the faith that would certainly matter. If friend wished to increase in society, it was ideal to go to Constantinople. That was best to end up being a Christian. The was best to job-related your way through the imperial government. Old Rome, the Senate that Rome, the pagans the still inhabited much that the provincial area, were increasingly taking 2nd place.

Learn much more about transforming Christianity native a minority, illegal religion to the majority, main religion the the Empire

The cultural and politics reins were currently firmly in the hand of the Christian imperial family. They would favor your coreligionists. That was the decisive act the made it feasible to rotate the roman Empire, eventually, into a Christian empire.

An Economic and Political Center


Constantinople had actually several functions to play, much more than just being the capital. It’s daunting for united state to understand, in some ways, the large importance the Constantinople. It was well-known as the “Queen of Cities” through lot of the middle Ages. Between A.D. 324—when the city was still Byzantium and maybe 30,000 to 35,000 strong—and A.D. 400, the populace increased by at least tenfold. The was attach by a vast building regimen in the city in i beg your pardon the monarchy poured out an enormous amount the wealth, generating jobs and also positions.

The 2nd important point around Constantinople is that Constantine ensured that the bishop of Constantinople was elevated to be the same of the pope in Rome, Saint Peter’s successor. The would cause a good deal that dispute, in time, in between the western and also eastern churches.

Economically, Constantinople was ideally located. It had actually an massive amount of wide range coming in native trade and also pilgrimages. The building and construction of a vast variety of imperial monasteries and churches lugged in the totality pilgrimage trade. Constantinople, in contrast to Rome, had a viable financial basis, i beg your pardon Rome walk not have actually through most of the middle Ages. In enhancement to that financial power was the reality that Constantinople was the facility of a civilian administrative professional class of a good city. It ensured there would certainly be a experienced government in location in Constantinople that might keep manage over policy, frontiers, and also armies. The could proceed to tax its citizens, other the western emperors never yes, really had. Rome absolutely didn’t sell it in the 4th and fifth centuries.

From that sense, Constantine’s city ensured the continually of a main unitary state through the middle Ages.

Learn more: Constantinople—The Last old City

The walls that saved the eastern Empire


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A rebuilt ar of the wall surfaces of Constantinople. (Image: en:User:Bigdaddy1204/Public domain)

Finally, the city took on crucial strategic function as well. A collection of floor walls, a triple protective system, to be built throughout the four miles of the expanded city the Constantine. Cisterns were placed in and there was a major aqueduct system. Those land walls made Constantinople impregnable. It’s basically a triangle on the north and also the so-called gold Horn on the shores in the south on the Propontis, or what we speak to the Sea the Marmaras. Those four miles were cut off through this impressive wall surface structure. Towers increased to 60 feet on the inner wall surfaces while the external walls had actually towers the 40 feet. There to be a moat in front of the that could be flooded. Every these characteristics meant the city was practically impregnable.

Strategically, that would prove important to the survive of the east empire. Those walls made certain that no barbarian force ever had the way to cross over right into Asia, ravage the rich eastern provinces, and cut the tax base. Constantinople, as well as its cultural and politics significance, played a an extremely strategic role. Those wall surfaces for the following 1,000 years defied invaders and ensured the survival of the oriental state. Once the city fell on might 29, 1453, it took 100,000 ottoman soldiers and two month of artillery blasting come beat it down and also overwhelm 7,000 defenders. Lock still almost didn’t take it the city.

Constantine had chosen his funding well.

Common Questions around the do of Constantinople


Q: Why walk Constantine move the funding to Constantinople?

Constantine founded brand-new Rome in Constantinople for countless reasons. He was essentially following in the footsteps of vault rulers in locating the center of the realm near battle frontiers. Constantinople had far-ranging geographical advantages, including a buffer in the Balkan mountains and naval accessibility through proximity to the sea. The city was likewise in a prime trading zone with other nations. Constantine’s strategy was additionally to hold together the empire under Christianity and by removing ties come pagan Rome, he was able to do simply that.


Q: Why did Constantinople adjust into Istanbul?

After the loss of the ottoman Empire, the Republic of Turkey sought to street itself by changing the name to Istanbul and renaming the resources Ankara.


Q: exactly how was Constantinople carried down?

Constantinople to be sacked through Crusaders that the fourth Crusade. The essential reasons were greed and debt. They were in debt to Venice and seized Zara come repay. Shortly after, they accepted a huge reward to place Alexius ago on the throne together Emperor the Constantinople. He to be murdered the an extremely next year, and also Alexius Ducas replaced him. Ducas commanded the Crusaders to leaving Constantinople, and they responded by ruinously sacking the city.

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Q: Why to be Constantinople crucial to the footrest Empire?

Constantinople was essential for the development of the ottoman Empire. Once the ottoman Turks took the city, it was a symbol of the climb of Islam and the fall of the center of Christianity, make the Ottoman empire the most an effective in every one of South eastern Europe and marking the end of the Eastern roman inn Empire.


This short article was update on may 12, 2020

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