Byzantine Constantinople, located on a strategic cape between the Golden Horn and the Sea of Marmara, on the border of Europe and Asia, was the capital of the Christian empire, the successor of ancient Rome and ancient Greece. During the Middle Ages, Constantinople was the largest and richest city in Europe. To this day, it remains the largest city in Europe in terms of population.
In 324, after victories in internecine wars, the emperor of the Roman Empire, Constantine the Great, unfolds in the seventh century BC. Constantinople had the largest constructions – a hippodrome was rebuilt, new palaces were built, a huge Apostles church was erected, fortress walls were built, works of art were brought from all corners of the empire into the city. As a result of large-scale construction, the city increases several times, the population growth significantly increases due to migration from European and Asian provinces.
May 11, 330, Constantine officially transfers the capital of the Roman Empire to the city on the Bosphorus and names it New Rome, Constantinople.
Subsequently, the city grew and developed so rapidly that after half a century, during the reign of Emperor Theodosius, new city walls were erected. The new walls of the city, preserved to this day, have already enclosed seven hills – as many as in Rome.
After Theodosius died in 395, the Roman Empire was finally divided into the Western Roman Empire and the Eastern Roman Empire. After the collapse of the Western Roman Empire (476), the Eastern Empire is traditionally called the Western term Byzantine Empire or simply Byzantium, although it never was a self-name, and until the end of Byzantium’s existence, the empire was called Romaic (that is, Roman), and its inhabitants were Romans.
During the reign of Emperor Justinian in 527-565, the “golden age” began for Constantinople. After five years of his reign in 532, the largest Nika rebellion broke out in the city – the city was substantially destroyed, the Cathedral of St. Sophia burned out.
After the brutal suppression of the rebellion, Justinian rebuilt the capital, attracting the best architects of his time. New buildings, temples and palaces were built, the central streets of the new city were decorated with colonnades. A special place is occupied by the construction of the Cathedral of St. Sophia , which became the largest church in the Christian world and remained so for over a thousand years – right up to the construction of the Cathedral of St. Peter in Rome.
The “golden age” was not cloudless: in 544, Justinian’s plague claimed the lives of 40% of the city’s population.
The city was growing so rapidly that it became the first business center of the then world, and soon the largest city in the world . In the heyday, the area of the city was 30 thousand hectares, and the population was hundreds of thousands of people, which was about ten times the typical size of the largest cities in Europe.
Siege and decline
In the period from 666 to 950, the city was subjected to repeated sieges by Arabs, Bulgarians and Ruses.
During the reign of Emperor Leo Isaura in 717-741, the period of iconoclasm began, which will last until the middle of the 9th century, many frescoes and mosaics on religious themes were destroyed.
The second greatest flourishing of Byzantium, and with it Constantinople, begins in the 9th century with the coming to power of the Macedonian dynasty ( 856-1071 ). Then, simultaneously with major military victories over the main enemies. Missionary activity is growing, mainly among the Slavs, as exemplified by the activities of Cyril and Methodius.
As a result of disagreements between the Pope of Rome and the Patriarch of Constantinople in 1054, a division of the Christian church occurred, and Constantinople became an Orthodox center.
Since the empire was no longer as big as in the days of Justinian or Heraclius, there were no other cities comparable to Constantinople. At this time, Constantinople played a fundamental role in all areas of the life of Byzantium. Since 1071, when the invasion of the Seljuk Turks began, the empire, and with it the City again plunged into darkness.
During the reign of the Comneni dynasty ( 1081 – 1185 ), Constantinople was experiencing its last bloom, although not the same as during Justinian and the Macedonian dynasty. The city center was shifted to the west towards the city walls, to the present areas of Fatih and Zeyrek. New churches and a new imperial palace ( Vlaherna Palace ) were being built.
In the XI and XII centuries, the Genoese and the Venetians take up the trade hegemony in their hands and are located on Galata.
On April 13, 1204, Constantinople is captured by the knights of the Fourth Crusade, who burn it down and almost completely ruin it. The city becomes the capital of the Crusader Latin Empire, in which economic domination passed to the Venetians. In July, 1261 Byzantines, supported by the Genoese, conquered the city, and power again passed to the Byzantine dynasty of Palaeologus.
Until the middle of the XIV century, Constantinople remained a major trading center, then gradually fell into neglect, the Venetian and Genoese captured key positions in the city. Since the end of the 14th century, Ottoman Turks had repeatedly tried to capture Constantinople. After an offensive by Sultan Mehmed the Conqueror in 1452 of the Rumel Fortress, the fate of the city was decided, and on May 29, 1453, after a long siege, the city fell.
Constantinople became the capital of a strong new state – the Ottoman Empire.