The Antiquities of Constantinople

By Pierre Gilles; John Ball et al. | Go to book overview

INTRODUCTION

And therefore I have sailed the seas and come to the holy city of Byzantium

W.B. Yeats, "Sailing to Byzantium"


THE SETTING

On May 30, 1453 the Ottoman Sultan Mohamet II rode into the conquered city of Constantinople, the capital and last stronghold of the Byzantine Empire, entered the Church of Hagia Sophia, and there prayed to Allah. The ancient capital of the Roman Empire of the East now lay under the Turkish sword, and a millennium of history had come to an end. Byzantium, Constantinople, Istanbul: the different names all describe the same and ever-changing city, but touch only facets of its fabled life -- Greek, Roman, Byzantine and Moslem -- that have symbolized magic and power for the peoples of the West and East.

Already a thriving commercial center in 431 B.C.E. at the start of the Peloponnesian War when it was allied with Athens against Sparta, Byzantium occupied the golden triangle of land at the confluence of the Bosporus, the Sea of Marmara, and the Golden Horn and dominated the passages between the Black Sea and the Mediterranean, Europe and Asia. The city was originally founded in 667 B.C.E. by Greeks from Megara. While the Romans held most of the Bosporus region from 74 B.C.E., Byzantium itself fell to Emperor Septimus Severus only in 196 C.E. during a fierce and bitter siege that resulted in the

-xi-

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The Antiquities of Constantinople
Table of contents

Table of contents

  • Title Page iii
  • Contents vii
  • Illustrations viii
  • Preface ix
  • Introduction xi
  • Notes xxix
  • Translator's Preface xxxiii
  • Author's Preface xxxvii
  • Book One 1
  • Book Two 51
  • Book III 125
  • Book IV 169
  • Glossary 225
  • Bibliography 235
  • Index 239
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