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Map of Constantinople.
Constantinople (Roman name: Constantinopolis; Modern Greek: Konstantinoupoli or Κωνσταντινούπολη) is the former name of the city of Istanbul in today's Turkey. Today, Constantinople is the area between the Golden Horn and the Sea of Marmara of today's Istanbul. The name is a reference to the Roman emperor Constantine I who made it the capital of the Roman Empire on May 11, AD 330. It was first founded as a Greek colony with the name of Byzantium (Greek: Byzantion or Βυζάντιον). Constantine named the city Nova Roma (New Rome, Νέα Ρώμη in Greek), but that name never came into common use.

Constantinople was historically important for a number of reasons. Foremost, by the 5th century, it was the largest and richest urban center in Europe, a position it would hold for nearly a thousand years. As the capital of the Eastern Roman Empire (now commonly known as the Byzantine Empire, an Enlightenment era namesake), the Greeks called Constantinople simply i Poli ("the City"), while throughout Europe it was known as the "Queen of Cities", the richest and largest city both culturally and economically. Bezants, the only gold coin minted in Europe until the 13th century Italian florin, is synonomous with Byzantium (Constantinople), where most gold coins circulating in Europe came from and were associated with.

Secondly, Constantines assured that the "Bishop of Constantinople", who eventually came to be known as the Patriarch of New Rome, was elevated to the same rank as the Bishop of Rome (the Pope). They were "first among equals", a situation which would eventually lead to a East-West Schism that divided Christianity into Western Catholicism and Eastern Orthodoxy. Third, the city provided a defense for the eastern provinces of the old Roman Empire against the barbarian invasions of the 5th century. The 60 foot tall walls built by Theodosius II (413-414) were essentially invincible to the barbarians who, coming from the Lower Danube, found easier targets to the west rather than pursing the richer provinces to the east in Asia beyond Constantinople, allowing the east to develop relatively unmolested, while Rome and the west collapsed.

Constantinople was captured and sacked by the Fourth Crusade in 1204 (April 12), and then re-captured by Nicaean forces under the command of Michael VIII Palaeologus in 1261.

Constantinople and the Byzantine Empire finally fell to the Ottoman Empire on May 29, 1453, during the reign of Constantine Paleologos (Κωνσταντίνος Παλαιολόγος). (See the Fall of Constantinople). The Ottoman Turks called the city Stamboul or Istanbul, from the original Greek "eis tin poli" (to the city) in common usage, but still officially used "Konstantiniyye" or "Dersaaded" to name the city. When the Republic of Turkey was founded in 1923, the capital was moved to Ankara; Constantinople was officially renamed Istanbul in 1930.

See also

External links

  • Info on the name change ( from the Foundation for the Advancement of Sephardic Studies and Culture
  • Welcome to Constantinople (, documenting the monuments of Byzantine Constantinople, compiled by Robert Ousterhout, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign]

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