221 Constantinople Facts: History, Significance, Monuments And More | Kidadl


221 Constantinople Facts: History, Significance, Monuments And More

Arts & Crafts
Learn more
Reading & Writing
Learn more
Math & Logic
Learn more
Sports & Active
Learn more
Music & Dance
Learn more
Social & Community
Learn more
Mindful & Reflective
Learn more
Outdoor & Nature
Learn more
Read these Tokyo facts to learn all about the Japanese capital.

The present-day capital city of Turkey, Istanbul, was earlier known as Constantinople during the Middle Ages and the fall of Constantinople marked the end of the Byzantine Empire.

It was earlier known as Byzantium before Emperor Constantine constructed the new city of Constantinople in 330 AD. He gave the name of Nova Roma or New Rome to the city, but it became known as Konstantinoupolis and further changed to Constantinople.

The city was a Christian metropolis and one of the largest cities in the world during the Middle Ages. It played a significant role in the history of Europe when Constantine decided to leave Rome and build a new city as the capital of the Roman Empire. The fall of Constantinople is one of the most well-known events in world history. It began with the first crusaders attacking the city 1095 AD. After it fell, the city was given the name Istanbul and became the capital city of the Ottoman Empire. Crusaders had tried several times to take over Constantinople but met with failure until the Black Plague of the 1450s ensured that the country was weakened due to lack of manpower. The fall of Constantinople marked the start of the Renaissance Era and thereby changed the shape of history. The large population of the city, coupled with the high city walls and massive army, made it difficult to attack in its flourishing times. The secret ingredient for the famous Greek fire that could burn even on the water went down along with the city when it fell. The slaughter of the people has been documented in a number of books and movies in the 20th century.

If you enjoy this article and find it interesting to read, check out our other articles on Carthage facts and Ancient Greek architecture facts.

Facts About Constantinople

Constantinople walls were as high as 40 ft (12 m) in their prime. A process began in the 20th century to restore these damaged walls with help from UNESCO who had declared them as a World Heritage Site. The process was done with no care at all and materials used were of inferior quality. The overall process was done in a hurry and in 1999, a series of earthquakes caused the new sections to break down. The original ruins remained intact.

The founding of Constantinople was not done only due to the fact that Constantine wanted a new city with his name. He was looking to reform the Roman Empire. This is even more significant when you take into account that he was the earliest Roman emperor who embraced Christianity. He realized that the city of Rome was no longer a satisfactory capital. Although it had a long history, the former capital of the empire was too isolated from the frontiers and the politicians had total authority over the city. On the other hand, Byzantium was located in a great place with a pleasant climate. It was also easier to defend the city from attack by enemies. Constantine knew he could begin fresh here which he could not do with Rome.

The Golden Horn was a factor that Constantine considered when he decided to transfer the capital. It was an inlet in the shape of a horn that formed a natural port for the city in ancient times. Citizens of Constantinople also put up defenses in the region that consisted of a huge chain which, when raised, could stop ships from sailing out or in.

Developed during the seventh century, Greek fire was a prominent defense of the Byzantine Empire. No one knows to date what the fire was made of. It was a secret closely guarded by Byzantines. The specialty of the fire was that it could burn even on water and under it. People of the empire created a primitive nozzle to spray the material when they saw enemy ships approaching the city. This was a terrifying weapon that was crucial for defending the city.

Constantinople's History

The rich history of the city of Constantinople has been a subject of research and study by historians for a long time now. Let's look into what made the city so special and how the fall of Constantinople impacted European history.

It is believed that the site of Constantinople was a Thracian town known as Lygos. This city was founded way back in history in the 13th or 11th century BC. Ancient Greek settlers came here after it was abandoned, sometime around 657 BC, and gave the name Byzantium to it. When the Romans were at their height of power, Byzantium was given a number of names such as Augusta Antonia during the third century AD by Emperor Septimius Severus. This new name did not stick for long and Byzantium went back to its original name. When Emperor Constantine I transferred the capital of the vast empire from Rome to this city in 330 AD, he gave it the name of Nova Roma or New Rome. The Roman emperor eventually changed the name after himself as Konstantinoupolis which in time became popular as Constantinople.

The place had a good port and was surrounded all around by water which made it easier for Constantine to fortify it with layers of walls. The emperor spent a huge amount of wealth and effort to turn his capital into one of the greatest cities ever. Meeting halls, broad streets, a storage system, a water supply system, and a hippodrome – all of these were added by the emperor. It was a primary cultural and political center when Emperor Justinian sat on the throne and became the foremost great Christian city. The geographical location of the city made it very popular as it was situated between Asia and Europe. Constantinople was built on top of the city of Byzantium, taking more than six years to complete. It was completed in 330 AD. Although it might seem a long period, it was actually done at breakneck speed. Buildings and temples from all over the empire had to be brought individually to the new city as directed by the new Emperor Constantine.

The city underwent a number of attacks from many armies coming from different regions of the world and finally, it fell and became the capital of the Ottoman Empire. The name was changed to Istanbul by Ottomans and later it also became the capital of Turkey as we know it today. When the fall of Constantinople occurred in 1453 after a siege of 53 days by Sultan Mehmed II, it became a turning point in history as it was the end of the mighty Roman Empire that had lasted for a duration of 1,500 years. The death of Constantine XI in 1453 is remembered as the conclusion of the Roman Empire.

The huge population of the city - 800,000 - dwindled down in later centuries as a result of many battles and the rise of the Black Plague. The population was down to only 50,000 when the fall of Constantinople took place. The dwindling numbers of people and the army made it easy for the enemy to lay siege and sack the city, subjecting people to immense torture and suffering.

The birth of the Renaissance was a direct result of the fall of the great city. Many refugees from the city fled westward and revived a study of Roman and Greek cultures in western Europe. Moscow was declared as the third Rome mainly by Russians after the fall of Constantinople. Ottoman Turks celebrated the capture of the city by absorbing the Balkans and becoming a major threat to Europe until the 20th century.

Hagia Sophia was the largest of the orthodox churches of Europe.

Constantinople's Significance

The Roman Empire got split into two halves. While the western half fell in the fifth century AD, the other half survived by the name of the Byzantine Empire. Greek and Roman traditions fused together in the Byzantine Empire and Constantinople renamed the capital city. Although the Byzantine Empire almost succeeded to reconquer the western half of the former empire, it could never achieve its height of influence and power. It did survive until the 15th century and Constantinople was continually at the center of conflicts and politics.

Many kingdoms in Europe had launched a number of crusades by the 13th century as a way of liberating the Holy Land from Muslims. This was done in the name of religion with not much success. There was a conflict between Orthodox Christians in the east who belonged to the Byzantine Empire and Latins or Catholics in the west. A number of merchants also settled in Constantinople which made it even more powerful. In 1183 AD, Constantinople’s Latin population was massacred. This event ignited the fury of the western kingdoms but this did not hinder Constantinople in any way until 1203. The Fourth Crusade found itself inside Constantinople when the city was already going through violence. The presence of thousands of Crusaders who only had the thought of loot on their minds and the instability of the government led to the siege of the city in 1204.

The besiege of Constantinople in 1204 was hampered by terrible weather which got in the way of the Crusaders. Citizens defended the attack on the walls for more than a month when the weather changed and the Crusaders were motivated to lay siege for the second time. The second siege began with the ships of Crusaders attacking the towers with the help of strong northern winds. The towers protected the Golden Horn but it gave way and the attackers fought their way into Constantinople. The army began to panic and Emperor Alexios V fled the city. The Crusaders conquered the city. The ancient imperial capital was looted by knights and many artifacts were lost forever. People were subjected to unimaginable horror and churches were plundered.

The Byzantine Empire could not recover after the sack of Constantinople. The empire declined rapidly after the siege. The relationship between Orthodox and Catholic churches became tainted.

An army coming from the Ottoman Empire besieged Constantinople in 1453. The army was led by Sultan Mehmed II whose forces consisted of huge numbers of ships. They also had heavy cannons and over 200,000 soldiers. The people of the ancient city were heavily outnumbered, especially due to the Black Plague. Expenses were growing after the siege continued for two months. Sultan was beginning to think that the Grand Vizier’s protests were justified and they were prophetic. But the tide turned soon and someone left the gate of Constantinople open on May 29, 1453. Nobody knows who let this happen but the Sultan stormed into the city with his army. The emperor was killed and people were enslaved. This marked the end of the city of Constantinople.

Constantinople's Historic Monuments

Constantine built a number of monuments in the city to make it one of the grandest cities of the Roman Empire. Let's discuss some of these structures.

The Hippodrome was a large structure unlike anything other of the time. It was built for the purpose of hosting chariot races and historians believe that the Hippodrome had a seating capacity of over 80,000 spectators.

Constantine might be called a narcissist. The Forum of Constantine stood at the exact location of the center of the city. It was built by the emperor who also ordered the Column of Constantine. The 164 ft (50 m) column originally had a statue of Constantine on the top, which made the emperor resemble the Greek god Apollo. The column lasted for centuries - more than 700 years - when the statue of the emperor and a part of the column broke off. This happened in 1106 AD because of strong winds. A cross replaced the position of the statue which stood for several more centuries. When the city fell in 1453, the cross was taken down.

The Golden Gate was used whenever a Byzantine emperor won a war and returned to the city. He would pass through the gate which was reserved exclusively for triumphant emperors as a ceremonial route of respect. Sometimes it was also used for the entry of special guests into Constantinople. Pope Constantine entered the city via the Golden gate in 710 AD.

After the Battle of Adrianople took the life of thousands of Roman troops and also the life of Emperor Valens, his successor, who was Emperor Theodosius II, had to take measures to protect the city from invaders. He began the construction of huge double walls in the fourth century BC that were going to replace the Constantinian Wall and become the first line of defense for the city. The walls were seen as a marvel of architecture as they proved to be strong enough to withstand siege after siege. The invention of cannons made it possible to make a dent in it but in the initial days, cannons took a long time to reload and the wall was repaired in between successive blasts.

The Imperial Library of Constantinople was one of the great libraries of ancient times but it is not much talked about. The library stood the test of time for a millennium, even as all the other ancient libraries fell. The knowledge inside the library would prove to be crucial for the Renaissance movement that changed the course of politics and cultures in western Europe. It was destroyed in 1204 when the sack of Constantinople happened. It was burned and pillaged by invaders to remove any evidence of the past history. It supposedly survived for some time but all was lost in 1453 with the fall of Constantinople.

Even before it was called Constantinople, many big construction projects took place as part of the Byzantine Empire. Emperor Septimius Severus built the Baths of Zeuxippus which were famous in their time. People came in huge numbers to exercise and bathe inside. The clergy denounced these baths as a location of lewd behavior but that proved no hindrance for monks who came there. The Baths of Zeuxippus only lasted for less than 400 years when they were destroyed while the Nika riots were going on.

The Hagia Sophia in Turkey is the most recognized monument in the country. The Hagia Sophia used to be the world’s largest cathedral for about 1,000 years and was located in the city of Constantinople. The great cathedral was constructed in 537 AD during the age of Byzantine Emperor Justinian. Architectures say that it is the crowning achievement of the former Byzantine architecture including the dome that is located at the top. It was an architectural marvel of the age and people said the dome was put in place by the will of God. The monument was changed into a mosque when the city fell in 1453 and it now houses a museum seeing the footfall of thousands of tourists every day. When it was done being built on December 26, 537 AD, Emperor Justinian became awestruck by its grandeur and he exclaimed that he had outdone Jerusalem’s Temple of Solomon. The temple was already destroyed several centuries before, so there was no way to know if he was right or not.

Here at Kidadl, we have carefully created lots of interesting family-friendly facts for everyone to enjoy! If you liked our suggestions for 221 Constantinople facts: history, significance, monuments and more, then why not take a look at ancient Greek civilization facts or Byzantine Empire facts.

Written By
Srija Chanda

<p>An aspiring media professional, Srija is currently pursuing her Master's degree in Mass Communication at St. Xavier's University, Kolkata, after completing her degree in journalism. With experience in PR and social media, she has also honed her leadership skills through her participation in a youth parliament. Srija's interests include devouring books, watching movies, and exploring new places through travel.</p>

Read The Disclaimer

Was this article helpful?