The Fall of Constantinople: Being the Story of the Fourth Crusade

By Edwin Pears | Go to book overview

CHAPTER VII.
THE CONDITION OF CONSTANTINOPLE IN 1200.

IN 1200 Constantinople was the chief city of the Western world. Many circumstances had contributed to give her this pre-eminence. Much was due to her geographical position. No city at that time or for many centuries previous was so well situated for commanding influence at once over Europe and Asia. Her situation seemed pre-eminently fitted for the seat of the universal empire to which Roman ambition aspired. All the trade between Western Europe and the countries bordering on the Black Sea, and those to which that sea was the highway, must pass her gates. The Sea of Marmora and the Bosphorus, called oftener the Straits of St. George, afforded the easiest of paths for the commerce of the neighbouring countries. The Golden Horn, the natural harbour of Constantinople, is protected from every wind, and is so deep throughout half its length that even large vessels can be moored quite close to the shores, while throughout the other half it shoals off so as to afford ample accommodation for the smallest vessels. The triangular peninsula upon which the city is situated slopes upward gently from the sea on the two long sides to a ridge at right angles to the base, and thus affords an easy natural drainage. The Bosphorus, which flows past the apex of the triangle, has always a strong current running either northwards or southwards according to the prevailing wind. With rare exceptions there is always a corresponding wind blowing across the city. These winds have at all times done much to keep the city healthy, and at the present day contribute more than any other cause to remedy the mischief to which the want of simple sanitary precautions would give rise. The site, excellent for strength

Advantages of its situation.

-175-

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