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Ancient Byzantium Modern name is Constantinople, an Istanbul Greek city. Ancient Byzantium was less important than Chalcedon in the early Roman Empire, although it flourished after Rome offered protection to the people there. Later in the 4th century AD Constantinopolis was made the capital of the eastern Roman empire by Constantine.
Byzantium (Βυζάντιον). A celebrated city of Thrace, on the shore of
the Thracian Bosporus, called at a later period Constantinopolis, and made the
capital of the Eastern Empire of the Romans. It was founded by a Dorian colony
from Megara, or, rather, by a Megarian colony in conjunction with a Thracian
prince. For Byzas, whom the city acknowledged, and celebrated in a festival as
its founder, was, according to the legend, a son of Poseidon and Ceroëssa the
daughter of Io, and ruled over all the adjacent country. The early commerce of
Megara was directed principally to the shores of the Propontis, and this people
had founded Chalcedon seventeen years before Byzantium, and Selymbria even prior
to Chalcedon (Herod.iv. 144). When, however, their trade was extended still
farther to the north, and had reached the shores of the Euxine, the harbour of
Chalcedon sank in importance, and a commercial station was required on the
opposite side of the strait. This station was Byzantium. The appellation of
“blind men” given to the Chalcedonians by the Persian general Megabazus (Herod.iv.
144), for having overlooked the superior site where Byzantium was afterwards
founded, does not therefore appear to have been well merited. As long as
Chalcedon was the northernmost point reached by the commerce of Megara, its
situation was preferable to any offered by the opposite side of the Bosporus,
because the current on this latter side runs down from the north more strongly
than it does on the side of Chalcedon, and the harbour of this city, therefore,
is more accessible to vessels coming from the south. On the other hand,
Byzantium was far superior to Chalcedon for the northern trade, since the
current that set in strongly from the Euxine carried vessels directly into the
harbour of Byzantium, but prevented their approach to Chalcedon in a straight
course (Polyb. iv. 43). The harbour of Byzantium was peculiarly favoured by
nature, being deep, capacious, and sheltered from every storm. From its shape,
and the rich advantages thus connected with it, the harbour of Byzantium
obtained the name of Chrysoceras, or “the Golden Horn,” which was also applied
to the promontory or neck of land that contributed to form it. And yet,
notwithstanding all these advantages, Byzantium remained for a long time an
inconsiderable town. The declining commerce of Megara, and the character which
Byzantium still sustained of being a half-barbarian place, may serve to account
At a subsequent period, the Milesians sent hither a strong colony, and so altered for the better the aspect of things that they are regarded by some ancient writers as the founders of the city itself. When, at a later day, the insurrection of the Asiatic Greeks had been crushed by Darius, and the Persian fleet was reducing to obedience the Greek cities along the Hellespont and the Propontis, the Byzantines, together with a body of Chalcedonians, would not wait for the coming of the Persians, but, leaving their habitations, and fleeing to the Euxine, built the city of Mesembria on the upper coast of Thrace (Herod.vi. 33). The Persians destroyed the empty city, and no Byzantium for some time thereafter existed. This will explain why Seylax, in his Periplus, passed by Byzantium in silence, while he mentions all the Grecian settlements in this quarter, and among them even Mesembria itself.
Byzantium reappeared after the overthrow of Xerxes, some of the old inhabitants having probably returned; and here Pausanias, the commander of the Grecian forces, took up his quarters (B.C. 479). He gave the city a code of laws, and a government modelled, in some degree, after the Spartan form, and hence he was regarded by some as the true founder of the city. The Athenians succeeding to the hegemony, Byzantium fell under their control, and received so many important additions from them that Ammianus Marcellinus, in a later age, calls it an Attic colony (xxii. 8). The city, however, was a Doric one, in language, customs, and laws, and remained so even after the Athenians had the control of it. The maintenance of this military post became of great importance to the Greeks during their warfare with the Persians in subsequent years, and this circumstance, together with the advantages of a lucrative and now continually increasing commerce, gave Byzantium a high rank among Grecian cities. After Athens and Sparta had weakened the power of each other by national rivalry, and neither could lay claim to the empire of the sea, Byzantium became an independent city, and turned its whole attention to commerce. Its strong situation enabled it, at a subsequent period, to resist successfully the arms of Philip of Macedon; nor did Alexander, in his eagerness to march into Asia, make any attempt upon the place. It preserved also a neutral character under his successors. The great evil to which the city of Byzantium was exposed came from the inland country, the Thracian tribes continually making incursions into the fertile territory around the place, and carrying off more or less of the products of the fields. The city suffered severely also from the Gauls, being compelled to pay a yearly tribute amounting at least to eighty talents.
After the departure of the Gauls it again became a flourishing place, but its most prosperous period was during the Roman sway. It had thrown itself into the arms of the Romans as early as the war against the younger Philip of Macedon, and enjoyed from that people not only complete protection, but also many valuable commercial privileges. It was allowed, moreover, to lay a toll on all vessels passing through the straits—a thing which had been attempted before without success—and this toll it shared with the Romans. But the day of misfortune at length came. In the contest for the Empire between Severus and Niger, Byzantium declared for the latter, and stood a siege in consequence which continued long after Niger's overthrow and death. After three years of almost incredible exertions the place surrendered to Severus. The few remaining inhabitants whom famine had spared were sold as slaves, the city was razed to the ground, its territory given to Perinthus, and a small village took the place of the great commercial emporium. Repenting soon after of what he had done, Severus rebuilt Byzantium, and adorned it with numerous and splendid buildings, which in a later age still bore his name; but it never recovered its former rank until the days of Constantine. Constantine had no great affection for Rome as a city, nor had the inhabitants any great regard for him. He felt the necessity, moreover, of having the capital of the Empire in some more central quarter, from which the movements of the German tribes on the one hand, and those of the Persians on the other, might be observed. He long sought for such a locality, and believed at one time that he had found it in the neighbourhood of the Sigaean promontory, on the coast of Troas. He had even commenced building here when the superior advantages of Byzantium as a centre of empire attracted his attention, and he finally resolved to make this the capital of the Roman world. For a monarchy possessing the western portion of Asia and the largest part of Europe, together with the whole coast of the Mediterranean Sea, nature herself seemed to have destined Byzantium as a capital.
Constantine's plan was carried into rapid execution (A.D. 330). The ancient city had possessed a circuit of forty stadia, and covered merely two hills, one close to the water, on which the Seraglio at present stands, and another adjoining it, and extending towards the interior to what is now the Besestan, or great market. The new city, called Constantinopolis, or “City of Constantine,” was three times as large, and covered four hills, together with part of a fifth, having a circuit of somewhat less than fourteen geographical miles. Every effort was made to embellish this new capital of the Roman world: the most splendid edifices were erected, including an imperial palace, numerous residences for the chief officers of the court, churches, baths, a hippodrome; and inhabitants were procured from every quarter. Its rapid increase called, from time to time, for a corresponding enlargement of the city, until, in the reign of Theodosius II., when the new walls were erected (the previous ones having been thrown down by an earthquake), Constantinople attained to the size which it at present has. Chalcondylas supposes the walls of the city to be 111 stadia in circumference; Gyllius, about 13 Italian miles; but, according to the best modern plans of Constantinople, it is not less than 19,700 yards. The number of gates is twentyeight—fourteen on the side of the port, seven towards the land, and as many on the Propontis. The city is built on a triangular promontory, and the number of hills which it covers is seven. Besides the name of Constantinopolis (Κωνσταντίνου πόλις), this city had also the more imposing one of New Rome (Νέα Ῥώμη), which, however, gradually fell into disuse. According to some, the peasants in the neighbourhood, while they repair to Constantinople, say in corrupt Greek that they are going es tam bolin (i.e. ἐς τὰν πόλιν), “to the city,” whence has arisen the Turkish name of the place, Stamboul. Constantinople was taken by the Turks under Mohammed II. on the 29th of May, A.D. 1453. See Byzantinum Imperium; Constantinus. - Harpers Dictionary of Classical Antiquities. New York. Harper and Brothers.
Maps are essential for any serious study, they help students of Roman history understand the geographical locations and historical backgrounds of the places mentioned in historical sources.
In the reign of Dareius Hystaspis, Byzantium was taken by
Otanes, general of the forces on the coast of Thrace. (Hdt. 5.26.) Afterwards,
it sided with the Ionians in their revolt (Hdt. 5.103), but on the arrival of
the Phoenician fleet the inhabitants, without even waiting for it, fled to
Mesambria. (Hdt. 6.33.) Pausanias, after the battle of Plataea, wrested it from
the Medes. (Thuc. 1.94.) And hence Justin (9.1.3) calls him the founder of
Byzantium. After an interval of 7 years Cimon obtained it for the Athenians. (Diod.
11.60; Plut. Cim. 5; Thuc. 1.131.) In 440, the Byzantines joined the Samians and
revolted from Athens, but afterwards submitted. (Thuc. 1.117.) In 416, in common
with the Chalcedonians, they made an expedition into Bithynia, and perpetrated
great cruelties. (Diod. 12.82.) In 408, Byzantium was besieged by the united
forces of the Athenians under Alcibiades, a wall of circumvallation was drawn
around it, and various attacks made by missiles and battering engines. These had
no effect upon the Lacedaemonian garrison; but when the blockade was strictly
kept up, and the population were dying of hunger, in the absence of Clearchus
the Spartan commander, Cydon and a Byzantine party opened the gates by night and
admitted the Athenians into the wide inner square called the Thrakion.
Favourable terms were granted to the town, which was replaced in its condition
of a dependent ally upon Athens. (Xen. Hell. 1.3. 15-22; Diod. 13.67; Plut. Alc.
31; Frontin. 3.2.3; Polyaen. 1.48.2.) In 405, after the battle of Aegos-Potami,
Lysander recaptured Byzantium, and placed Sthenelaus there as “harmost” with a
garrison (Xen. Hell. 2.2. 2). It was under the power of the Lacedaemonians when
the Ten Thousand made their retreat; in consequence of the fraud and harsh
dealing of the Admiral Anaxibius, the soldiers were exasperated, became masters
of the town, and Byzantium would have been sacked had it not been for the energy
and eloquence of Xenophon. (Anab. vii. 1. § § 5--32.) In 390, Thrasybulus
changed the government of Byzantium, which was already in alliance with Athens,
from an oligarchy into a democracy, and sold the tenths of the merchant vessels
sailing out of the Euxine. (Xen. Hell. 4.8. 25-27.) In 363, Epaminondas visited
Byzantium, drove off Laches with the Athenian squadron, and prevailed upon
several of the allies of Athens to declare in his favour. (Isocr. Orat. v.
Philip. 53; Diod. 15.79.) [1.658] In 356, Byzantium, along with Rhodes and
Chios, united with the newly-flourishing commonwealth of Cos, and Mausolus king
of Caria, in an endeavour to throw off the Athenian dominion: an engagement
which was to have taken place by sea, was prevented by a storm. (Diod. 16.21.)
In 340, the Athenians, urged on by Demosthenes, sent succours to Byzantium,
which was besieged by Philip; the combined fleet under the command of Chares met
Amyntas and the Macedonian ships, and were defeated. In the following year
Chares was superseded by Phocion, when the Athenians behaved with such
moderation to their allies, and showed so much courage against the besiegers,
that Philip was compelled to raise the siege. (Diod. 16.77; Plut. Phoc. 14.)
During this memorable attack, on a dark night when the Macedonians were on the
point of seizing upon the town, a light appeared in the heavens and revealed to
the inhabitants their danger. (Steph. B. sub voce Βόσπορος; Eustath. ad Dionys.
143.) Hesychius the Milesian, who tells the same story, adds that an image in
honour of this interference was erected to Torch-bearing Hecate. The
crescent,which is found on Byzantine coins (Mionnet, Descr. des Med. vol. i. p.
378), and which was adopted by the Turks as their device after the capture of
Constantinople (comp. Von Hammer, Gesch. der Osman, vol. i. p. 93) is supposed
to commemorate the portent. This repulse to the successful career of Philip was
one of the proudest feats of the great orator, and in his speech upon the crown
Demosthenes often recurs to it. The Byzantines, in gratitude for the valuable
assistance they had received, decreed to the Athenians the right of isopolity,
the extraordinary privilege of precedence at games and public ceremonies, with
exemption from compulsory “liturgies.” The decree. which with all the original
Dorisms is preserved in Demosthenes (de Cor. p. 255), directed that in perpetual
memory of the benefit, 3 statues each 16 cubits high, representing the people of
Byzantium and Perinthus crowning the Athenians, should be placed in a public
part of the city.
The Byzantines were afterwards engaged in perpetual warfare with the neighbouring barbarians, and were unable to keep them off either by resistance or tribute. To crown the other evils of war, their harvests were either carried off or destroyed by the enemy, till, in 279, they agreed to pay the Gauls a yearly tribute of 3000, 5000, and 10,000 pieces of gold, and at last the large sum of 80 talents, on condition that their lands should not be ravaged. (Plb. 4.46; Liv. 38.16; Böckh, Econ. of Athens, p. 595, trans.) Their sufferings in this respect compelled them to have recourse to many extraordinary measures for procuring money, and finally to the imposition of the transit duties which involved them in the war with Rhodes. Still, during this time, while suffering the penalty of Tantalus (Polyb. l.c.), they enjoyed municipal independence. (Diod. 19.77.) In this war Byzantium was supported by Attalus, king of Pergamus. Prusias, king of Bithynia, was a partizan of Rhodes, and the Byzantines endeavoured to set up Tiboetes, an uncle of Prusias, as rival for his throne. Prusias seized on their Asiatic possessions, while the Thracians pressed hard upon them on the European side; and in 219 a peace, under the mediation of the Gallo-Grecian king Cavarus, was concluded on very unfavourable terms for Byzantium. (Plb. 4.46-52.) While Rome was contending against the pseudo-Philip of Macedon, Antiochus, and Mithridates, it granted to Byzantium, for good services rendered on the occasion, the rank of a free and confederate city. Disputes arose, and an appeal was made to Rome, which resulted in a decree, proposed by Clodius, and put in force by Piso, who exhibited himself rather as a conqueror than an ally and magistrate. (Cic. de Prov. Consul. 2-4; Tac. Ann. 12.62.) It appears that Claudius remitted the tribute Byzantium had to pay, for five years, in consequence of the losses of the Thracian war (Tac. Ann. 12.63), and that Vespasian stripped it of its privileges, and reduced it to the condition of a Roman province. (Suet. Vesp. 8.) In the civil wars between Severus and Pescennius Niger, Byzantium took the part of the latter, and, after a resistance of three years, was taken in 196. Severus treated the inhabitants with his usual indifference to human life or suffering. The famous walls of massive square stones, so well fastened together by iron bolts that the whole seemed to be one block, were levelled with the earth. The soldiers and magistrates were put to death, the property of the citizens confiscated, and the town itself, deprived of all political existence (τὸ ἀξίωμα τὸ πολιτικόν), made over to the Perinthians. (D. C. 74.6-14; Herodian, 3.1--7; Zosim. 1.8.) Severus afterwards relented, and, visiting Byzantium, embellished the town with magnificent baths, porticoes round the Hippodrome, and other buildings. The name of Augusta Antonina was given it, in honour of Antoninus Bassianus. (Suid. s. v. Σεβῆος; Zosim. 2.30; Cedren. p. 252.) Caracalla restored to the inhabitants their rights and franchises. (Spartian. Caracall. 1.) It is remarked by Gibbon (Decl. and Fall, vol. i. p. 205), that the charge against Severus of having deprived the Roman people of the strongest bulwark against the barbarians of Pontus and Asia, was but too well justified when, in the succeeding age, the fleets of the Goths covered the Euxine, and passed through the undefended Bosporus into the centre of the Mediterranean. The soldiers of Gallienus massacred most of the citizens, and not one old family remained in later times, except those who had previously left the town. (Trebell. Poll. Gallien. 6.) Under Claudius II. the remainder of the Byzantines fought bravely against the Goths. (Trebell. Poll. Claud. 9.) In the civil wars which succeeded the abdication of Diocletian, the fortifications of Byzantium had been strengthened: Licinius, after the battle of Adrianople, retired to this stronghold; Constantine pursued the siege so vigorously, by constructing mounds of an equal height with the ramparts, and erecting towers upon their foundation, from which the besieged were galled by large stones and darts hurled by engines, that the town at length surrendered.
The constitution of Byzantium was at first royal; though there is some doubt about this, as Hesychius the Milesian calls Dineus general of the Byzantines. (Müller, Dor. vol. ii. p. 174, trans.) It afterwards became an aristocracy,--the native inhabitants, the Bithynians, being in precisely the same condition as' the Helots. (Phylarch. ap. Athen. 6.271.) The oligarchy which succeeded was, in 390, changed into a democracy by Thrasybulus the Athenian; and equal privileges were at the same time probably granted to the new citizens, who, on account of their demands, had been driven from the city by the ancient colonists. (Arist. Pol. 5.2.10.) After this the democracy seems to have continued for a long time. (Theopomp. ap. Athen. 12.526.) In the document quoted by Demosthenes (de Cor. l.c.) [1.659] the senate (βωλά) transfers a decree in its first stage (ῥήτρα) to an individual, in order to bring it before an assembly of the people (ἁλία). The office of Hieromnamon occurs in decrees (Dem. l.c.; Plb. 4.52) and on coins, as also does that of Archon, which probably came in with the democracy. From the habit of the townspeople passing their time in the market-place and harbour, and the number of foreign and native traders who resorted to it, Byzantium displayed the usual characteristics of a large seaport town. They were an idle luxurious race, spending their days in the numerous public-houses, where the excellent wine which was furnished by Maronea and other regions, offered great temptations. They not only tippled in taverns, but also fed like gluttons, according to Diphilus (ap. Athen. 4.132). They devoured such quantities of young tunnies that their whole frame became well nigh glutinous, and it was thought they would have been absorbed in mucilage. To sustain their valour, which took fright at the sound of a trumpet, the general, Leo or Leonidas, was obliged during the siege of Philip of Macedon to allow cook-shops and canteens to be established along the ramparts. (Athen. 10.442; Aelian, 3.14; Muller, Dor. vol. ii. p. 411, trans.) A democracy of such boon companions was not, as may be supposed, very orderly, and seems to have acted upon the “laissez faire” principle enounced by a certain Byzantine demagogue who, when he was asked what the law enjoined, replied, “whatever I please.” (Sext. Empir. adv. Rhet. § 37.)
Iron money was coined at Byzantium for the home circulation, that the silver might be used for foreign trade and the purposes of war. It was current in the Peloponnesian war, and bore the Doric name Sidareos (Aristoph. Cl. 250; Pollux, 7.106, 9.78; Hesych. sub voce Böckh, Econ. Ath. p. 596, trans.). None of this iron money is now extant. For coins of this city, see Eckhel, vol. ii. p. 26; Rasche, vol. i. p. 1636: Bandur. vol. ii. p. 456.
The dialect of the district appears to have contained many Dorisms. (Dem. 1. c.; Chandler, Inscript. Append. p. 95.)
The origin of the Byzantine church is somewhat uncertain: the modern Greeks, in their zeal not to yield to the Latins the advantage of antiquity, attribute its foundation to the Apostle St. Andrew. It is certain that during the time of Severus there were many Christians at Byzantium. (Le Quien, Orient. Christ. vol. i. pp. 8, 196; Tertull. ad Scapul. 100.3; Le Beau, Bas Emp. vol. i. p. 300.)
Ancient Byzantium was situated on the first of the seven hills upon which, rising one above another, the modern city stands; but its area occupied more than the first region of the later town. In all probability it extended over the three regions which lie behind the triangular space now filled by the Seraglio. According to Dionysius of Byzantium, its circumference was 40 stadia. (Comp. Zosim. 2.30; Gyllius, de Top. Const. 1.2.)
II. FOUNDATION OF CONSTANTINOPLE.
It was upon this gently sloping promontory, which serves as a connecting link between the Eastern and the Western world, and which nature has intended for the centre of a great monarchy, that Constantine, after determining to remove the seat of empire from the banks of the Tiber, determined to fix the city which bore the name of its founder. The modern European, as well as the Arabic (Constanije) name of the city, preserves the memory of the first emperor of the East. The Turkish Istambul or Stambul, is a corruption of the Greek εἰς τὴν πόλιν. Like the ancient mistress of the world, its foundations were to be laid upon seven hills, and the emperor called it the NEW ROME,--a title which he confirmed by a law, engraved on a column of marble, in a place called the Strategion; but, however much his capital might outwardly resemble the elder Rome, it was not permitted to bear the name of the Eternal City.
The foundations of the city were laid according to an Imperial edict (Theodos. Cod. 13.5. s. 7), in obedience to the commands of Heaven. On foot with a lance in his hand, the emperor led a stately procession which was to mark the boundaries of Constantinople. As he did not pause, the attendants, astonished at the enormous size of the future capital, asked him how far he intended to advance. Constantine replied “when HE that goes before me shall stop.” (Philostorg. 2.9.) At a later period, the honour of having inspired the choice of a founder was attributed to the Virgin Mother, who became the tutelary guardian of the city. Constantinople arose, if not a Christian, certainly not a Pagan city. The ceremonial of the dedication exhibited that strange compound of religions of which Constantine himself was a type. After a most splendid exhibition of chariot games in the Hippodrome, the emperor was carried in a magnificent car through the most public part of the city, surrounded by his guards, in the attire of some religious ceremonial with torches in their hands. The emperor bore a golden statue of the Fortune of the city in his hands. The rites of inauguration lasted forty days, though the 11th of May, A.D. 330, is considered as the birth-day of the city.
III. EXTENT, LIMITS, AND POPULATION.
The walls of Constantine across the enlarged breadth of the triangle, were begun at a distance of 15 stadia from the old fortifications, and stretching from the port to the Propontis, enclosed five out of the seven hills upon which the city stood, but were not finished before the reign of Constantius. In 401, Arcadius repaired these walls which had fallen in the earthquake that had taken place in that year. In 413, during the minority of Theodosius II., Anthemius, the Praetorian praefect, razed the old fortifications and built a new inclosure of walls. In 447 this was thrown down by an earthquake, and rebuilt in three months by the diligence of the praefect Cyrus. This double line of strong and lofty stone walls have, except on the land side, almost disappeared, but in a dilapidated state they still exist, extending from the port to the sea of Marmora for about 4 English miles, presenting magnificent and picturesque specimens of mural ruins. The wall was flanked at short intervals by towers, mostly rectangular. The extreme length of the city at this period, and it never to any great extent exceeded these limits, was about 3 M. P., [1.660] and the circuit rather less than 13 M. P. The Sycae, or fig trees, formed the thirteenth region beyond the harbour, and were much embellished by Justinian. The suburb of Blachernae was not taken into the city till the reign of Heraclius. Constantine had been most anxious to have his capital frequented: he summoned senators from Rome, and, according to the vague expression of Eusebius, drained other cities in its behalf, yet its population never became considerable when compared with ancient Rome, and modern capitals. By far the larger part of the inhabitants were Christians, but these were not estimated by Chrysostom (In Act. Apost. hom. xi. vol. ix. p. 108) at more than 100,000.
Were it even possible in any form which could be useful to the reader to trace the fortunes of the Lower Empire, within the limited space of an article like this, a sketch of Byzantine history would not fall within the province of a work, which confines itself to the age of Grecian and Roman civilisation. But as the topography of the city can hardly be understood without some knowledge of the facts of the history being presupposed, it has been thought advisable to subjoin a short summary of the most memorable events connected with Constantinople itself.
The city of Constantine, the birth of an elder and effete age, has throughout its long history borne the stamp of its parentage, and displayed the vices of its original conformation. The position of the Byzantine empire is unique; geographically it was European, but nationally it reflected the Oriental type of character. It had indeed Roman blood, but the people who had sprung from the loins of Mars, and were suckled by the she-wolf, gave it little but their name. It did not speak their tongue, and was completely severed from the old republican associations and free spirit which still survived the fall of Roman liberty. The despotism of the court of Constantinople could not endure even the forms of free institutions, and the relics of municipal privileges which inherited from Rome have had so much influence in moulding the law and constitution of modern Europe. The Caesar of the East was the counterpart of his Moslem conqueror, and the change from the Proto Sebast to the Sultan would have been one simply of name, had it not been for the superior energy and virtues of the first Osmanli princes. The one like the other had his viziers, his janissaries, his slaves, and his eunuchs alternately cajoling and tyrannizing over prince and people. Through the dreary monotony of the history of the Eastern empire, so deficient in moral and political interest, there are always coming into view the characteristic features of Asiatic tyranny:--the domestic treason,--the prince born in the purple,--the unnatural queen-mother,--the son or the brothers murdered or blinded,--the sudden revolutions of the throne,--the deposition of the sovereign, but the government remaining the same,--and the people careless as to who or what their tyrant might be. Every thing by which a people can outwardly show what is within--literature, art, and architecture, displays the influence of the East. The literature learned, artificial, florid, but deficient in elegance and grace, and without a spark of genius to illumine it. The art but the figure of their ceremonial life, deficient in all deep and sincere feeling, and showing, under the hardness of the shape, and the sameness of the expression, the dull and slavish constraint to which it was subject. A purer faith had indeed freed the later Greeks from the degradation of the seraglio, had given an impulse to intellectual development, and infused a sense of the responsibilities of power to which their Ottoman conquerors were strangers. But even Christianity failed to reconcile the conflicting elements and hostile influences of the East and West, and was itself penetrated by an admixture of Oriental thought and sentiment. And in later times, after the severance of Constantinople from the Latin Communion, the rest of Europe had no sympathy for what was considered an alien creed. Standing in this isolated position on the very outposts of Western civilisation, and cut off from that by differences of language, manners, and religion, Constantinople, unable to comprehend but rather despising that vigorous Teuton stock upon which the elder races were engrafted, did not incorporate any of those elements which have gone to make up the aggregate of modern Europe; while, on the other hand, it is difficult to trace the slight reaction that the Greek empire has had upon the West, till its fall, when it contributed so mainly to the revival of letters and the modern spirit, by the dispersion of ancient literature and culture. Up to A.D. 1204, Constantinople remained the capital of the E., or Lower Roman Empire: in that year it was captured by “the blind old Dandolo” and the French. From A.D. 1204 to 1261 it became the seat of the Latin Empire, and on the morning of the 25th of July, 1261, reverted to the undisputed possession of the Greeks.
On the 29th of May, 1453, Constantine XIII., the last of the Palaeologi, fell upon the walls of his capital, with the words, Θέλω θανεῖν μᾶλλον ἢ ζῆν. Since that period it has been looked up to by the people of the East as the seat of the supreme temporal and spiritual power, and the Sultan has become the heir of the Caesars.
More cannot be done here than enumerate a few of the leading events of which Constantinople itself has been the theatre during this long period of its existence. It would be unnecessary to refer those who wish to know more on this subject to the masterly work of Gibbon. Le Beau (Histoire du Bas Empire) is a writer less known, and though deficient in criticism, his work contains much information. The notes appended by St. Martin, the well-known Oriental scholar, will be found eminently useful. The History of the Iconoclast Princes can be read in Schlosser (Geschichte de Bilder-Stürmenden Kaiser).
The empire of the East began with the reign of Arcadius, A.D. 395. Justinian, A.D. 527--595, has the honour of being considered the second founder of Constantinople. In the fifth year of his reign the factions of the Circus and the memorable sedition of the Nika almost laid the city in ashes. A description of the buildings with which the emperor adorned his ruined capital is reserved for the topography of the city. In 616 Chosroes maintained his camp for ten years in the presence of the city. In 626 Heraclius delivered it from the Persians and Avars. In 668--675, the Arabs for the first time besieged Constantinople, but, baffled by the strength of the walls, and the strange effects of the Greek fire, fell to the number of 30,000 men. In the second siege, 716--718, they were again compelled to retreat. In 865 the [1.661] first expedition of the Russians against Constantinople took place; followed by a second in 904; a third in 941; and a fourth in 1043. In 1203 the Latins first besieged and conquered, and in 1204 took by storm and pillaged the imperial city: A.D. 1261 forms a new aera for Constantinople, in consequence of its recovery by the Greeks. In 1422 Constantinople was besieged by Amurath II., but the Byzantine empire was respited for a space of thirty years till it fell, in 1453, before the conquering sword of Mohammed II.
It would be interesting to trace the domestic character and training of the citizens which hastened the ruin of the Eastern empire. The writers of Byzantine history do not furnish many distinct statements, but hints and allusions are to be found in the rebukes of the pulpit orator, or from the petty prohibitions of the imperial code. On this subject much valuable information maybe obtained in Montfaucon (Mëm. de l'Acad. des Inscrip. vol. xiii. p. 474; Miller, De Genio, Moribus, et Luxu Aevi Theodosiani; Milman, Hist. of Christianity; and the Quarterly Review, vol. lxxviii. p. 346). While the life of the upper classes was characterised by the pomp and prodigality of civilisation without any of its ennobling or humanizing influences, the lower ranks were inordinately devoted to amusement. The athletic games of ancient Greece had given way to the vulgar exhibitions of juggling, rope-dancing, and tumbling. The drama was supplanted by mimes and pantomimes; and though no gladiator was butchered to make a holiday for the populace of Constantinople, it would seem that the interest which was concentred upon the chariot races and the Circus was a compensation for the excitement of those games which were forbidden by the new religion. The passion and animosity which sprung from the struggle of the Blue and Green factions was as furious and as bitter as any that has arisen among contending parties, where the most sacred rights of liberty or faith were at stake.
V. ARCHITECTURE AND BUILDINGS.
In the new capital of Constantine, emancipated from the restraint of Pagan associations and art, the Byzantine builders founded an architecture peculiarly their own. Of this the cupola was the great characteristic, to which every other feature was subordinate. In consequence of this principle, that which at Athens was straight, angular, and square, became in Constantinople curved and rounded, concave within, and convex without. Thus the old architecture of Greece owed its destruction to the same nation from which it had taken its first birth. (Comp. Hope, Architecture, p. 121; Freeman, Hist. of Architecture, p. 164; Couchaud, Choix d'Eglises Bysantines en Grèce.）
In describing the buildings of the city, it is more convenient to follow the historical succession than to take the topographical arrangement. For, it must be recollected, how little now remains. Where they first arose there they also fell. Constantinople, ravaged by earthquakes, fires, the internal strife, and the foreign foe, when the last of the Constantines lost his empire and life, possessed perhaps not one edifice which the first Constantine or even Justinian had seen; especially, too, as the fury of the Latin crusaders destroyed every work of art that had escaped former disasters. A plan of the city, as it existed in the reign of Arcadius, divided into its 14 regions, is given on the next page, by which the position of the different buildings may be clearly seen.
At the siege of Byzantium, Constantine had pitched his tent upon the second hill; to commemorate his success, he chose this site for the principal forum (Zosim. 2.31, 35), which appears to have been of an elliptical form. The two opposite entrances formed triumphal arches; the porticoes, which enclosed it on every side, were filled with statues of the tutelar deities of Greece.
At each end were two shrines, one of which held the statue of Cybele, which was said to have been placed by the Argonauts upon Mt. Dindymus, but deprived of her lions and of her hands from the attitude of command distorted into that of a suppliant for the city; in the other was the Fortune of Byzantium (Euseb. Vit. Const. 3.54; Sozomen. H. E. 2.5). The centre of the forum was occupied by a lofty pillar, which, formed of marble and porphyry, rose to the height of 120 feet. On this column Constantine, with singular shamelessness, placed his own statue with the attributes of Christ and Apollo, and substituted the nails of the Passion for the rays of the Sun; Constantine was replaced by Julian, Julian by Theodosius. In A.D. 1412 the keystone was loosened by an earthquake. The statue fell under Alexius Comnenus, and was replaced by the Cross. The Palladium was said to be buried under the pillar. (Von Hammer, Constantinopel und die Bosporus, vol. i. p. 162.) Besides the principal forum was a second one, which has been sometimes confounded with the other; it was square, with porticoes surrounding it, consisting of two ranks of columns; in this the Augusteum, or court of the palace, stood the Golden Miliarium, which, though it served the same purpose as its namesake at Rome, did not resemble it in appearance, as this was an elevated arcade, embellished with statues.
The Circus or Hippodrome was a stately building. The space between the two metae or goals was filled with statues and obelisks. The Turks retain the translated name of the horse-course (Atmeidan), but the ancient splendour of the place has disappeared; it is no longer a circus, but an oblong open space, about 300 paces long by 150 wide. (Hobhouse, Albania, vol. ii. p. 950.) At the upper end is a granite obelisk of rather mean proportions, and covered with hieroglyphics of poor workmanship. It is called after Theodosius, but was probably moved by that emperor, after it had been erected by Constantine, to some other part of the city. An epigram on the pedestal records the success of Proclus, praefect of the city, under Theodosius the Great, in setting the obelisk upright. (Anthol. Graec. 4.17.) Near this stands the wreathed column of bronze, which, according to legend, bore the golden tripod of Delphi, and was shattered by the iron mace of Mohammed II. Clarke (Trav. vol. ii. p. 58) treated the latter circumstance as a fiction of Thévenot; be the former true or not, the relic is now a poor mutilated thing, with one end in the ground, above which it does not rise more than 7 feet, and the end open and filled with rubbish. Fourteen churches, fourteen palaces, several triumphal arches, and eight public baths are assigned to the founder of the city. Constantine, and in this his example was followed by his successors, imitated Ancient Rome in the construction of sewers. Two large subterranean cisterns or reservoirs of water, constructed by the Greek emperors in case of a siege, still remain; one called by the Turks the [1.662] palace of the “Thousand and One Pillars,” is now perfectly dry.
PLAN OF CONSTANTINOPLE (AA, Chrysoceras, Golden Horn.)
•House of Placidia Augusta.
•House of Marina.
•Baths of Arcadius.
•29 streets, 118 houses, 2 porticoes of great length.
•Church of S. Sophia.
•The old Church.
•Tribunal with porphyry steps.
•Baths of Zeuxippus.
•34 streets, 98 large houses, 4 great porticoes.
•The Circus Maximus.
•House of Pulcheria Augusta.
•The New Port.
•The Sigma Portico.
•Tribunal of the Forum of Constantine.
•94 great houses, 5 large porticoes.
•Portico of Phanio.
•Church of S. Menna.
•Stairs of Timasius.
•32 streets, 375 great houses, 4 large porticoes.
•Baths of Honorius.
•Cistern of Theodosius.
•Granaries of Troas.
•Baths of Eudocia.
•The Forum of Theodosius.
•Granaries of Valens and Constantius.
•The Bosporian Ports.
•23 streets, 184 great houses, 7 large porticoes.
•Porphyry pillar of Constantine.
•Stairs of Sycoena.
•22 streets, 484 great houses, 1 large portico.
•Pillar of Theodosius.
•Two large Equestrian Statues.
•Part of the Forum of Theodosius.
•Baths of Corosia.
•85 streets, 711 great houses, 6 large porticoes.
•Forum of Constantine.
•Portico on left side of Forum.
•Basilica of Theodosius.
•22 streets, 108 great houses, 5 large porticoes.
•Church of Caenopolis.
•Church of Omonaea.
•Granaries of Alexandria.
•Granaries of Theodosius.
•Baths of Anastasia.
•16 streets, 116 great houses, 2 large porticoes.
•Church of S. Achatius.
•Baths of Constantine.
•House of Augusta Placidia.
•House of Augusta Eudocia.
•House of Arcadia.
•20 streets, 636 great houses, 6 large porticoes.
•Church of the Apostles.
•Palace of Flacilla.
•House of Augusta Pulcheria.
•The Brazen Bull.
•Cistern of Arcadius.
•Cistern of Modestus.
•8 streets, 503 great houses, 4 large porticoes.
•Portico of Troas.
•Forum of Theodosius.
•Column with winding stairs.
•Mint or Treasury.
•Port of Theodosius.
•11 streets, 363 great houses, 3 large porticoes.
•Baths and Forum of Honorius.
•Dock for ship-building.
•431 great houses, 1 large portico.
•11 streets, 167 great houses, 2 large porticoes.
The other still existing as a cistern, and called the “Subterranean Palace,” may be described as an underground lake, with an arched roof to cover it, supported on 336 marble pillars.
From the throne, seated upon which the emperor viewed the games of the Circus, a winding staircase called cochlea descended to the palace. This was a magnificent building, covering a great extent of ground, on the banks of the Propontis, between the Hippodrome and the church of S. Sophia, now the Seraglio. The baths of Zeuxippus, the site of which it is difficult to fix, as, while history seems to connect them with S. Sophia and the palace, the original plan places them on the other side of the city, near the harbour, were so embellished by Constantine with statues of marble and bronze, that they became came famed as the most beautiful in the world. These statues were brought from their local sanctuaries to adorn the squares and baths of Constantinople,--the Athene of Lyndus, the Muses of Helicon, the Amphitrite of Rhodes, the Pan which was consecrated by the Greeks after the defeat of Xerxes. Theodosius the younger pulled down the Dioscuri, who overlooked the Hippodrome. It was reserved [1.663] for the Latin crusaders to destroy these precious remains of ancient art, and the four bronze horses of San Marco at Venice are the only remains of the handywork of the Grecian artists with which Constantinople was peopled.
While private houses and public buildings for business, for convenience, for amusement, and splendour rose with the rapidity of enchantment, one class of edifices was wanting. A few temples, such as those of the Sun, the Moon, and Aphrodite, were permitted to stand in the Heropolis, though deprived of their revenues. (Malala, Constant. x.) But few churches were built; of these one was dedicated to the Supreme Wisdom. The ancient Temple of Peace, which afterwards formed part of Santa Sophia, was appropriately transformed into a church. The Church of the Twelve Apostles appears from Eusebius (Vit. Const. 4.58) to have been finished a few days before the death of Constantine; it fell to ruin 20 years afterwards, was repaired by Constantius, rebuilt by Justinian, and demolished by Mohammed II.
Theodosius the Great built the principal gate of Constantinople, “The Golden Gate,” so celebrated by the Byzantine writers; this gate, on the S. of the town, was that by which the emperors made their solemn entry, and stood at the beginning of the principal street, which crossed the town up to the Bosporus. Gyllius (Bandur. Imp. Orient. vol. ii. p. 595), in the 16th century, saw the remains of it. It is now sought for in vain, though a gate entirely blocked up is sometimes shown to travellers for it. The Empress Eudoxia, wife of Arcadius, ornamented her city with a palace and baths. Theodosius II. loved the arts, and himself cultivated painting and sculpture; he encouraged architecture, and executed considerable works; in his reign the walls of Constantinople were in great measure rebuilt, and the city adorned with thermae, a forum, and two palaces for the sisters of Pulcheria. In 447, after the great earthquake, the edifices of Constantinople were restored with renewed splendour. Marcian turned his attention chiefly to the aqueducts; Leo I. Thrax to the churches of Constantinople. Nothing is recorded as having been constructed under Zeno and Anastasius. Justin I., besides his great works at Antioch, contributed to the embellishments, or rather restoration of Constantinople. The reign of Justinian is the most brilliant epoch of the Neo-Greek or Byzantine architecture; and, like Hadrian, this emperor was entitled to the proud distinction of being called by his contemporaries “reparator orbis.” The great ornament of Constantinople was the temple reared by Justinian in honour of the Eternal Wisdom (S. Sophia). This, the principal church of Constantinople, had been twice destroyed by fire, after the exile of John Chrysostom, and during the Nika of the Blue and Green factions. Anthemius of Tralles, and Isidorus of Miletus, were the builders employed by Justinian to rebuild the church on a plan in which, as Mr. Hope (Hist. of Architecture, p. 126) remarks, the wisdom of man shows but little. Disregarding the cardinal rule that all architectural trick is inconsistent with good taste, they endeavoured to make it appear entirely hovering in air without the least earthly resting-place. The attempt was unsuccessful, for, in A.D. 558, twenty-one years after the dedication, an earthquake nearly destroyed it; another Isidorus, nephew of theformer, was employed to restore it; an elevation of 20 feet more than it had before its fall was given to the dome, and the originally circular was changed to an elliptical form. Though such was the lightness of the dome that it appeared suspended “by a chain from Heaven,” the circle which encompasses the dome rested on four strong arches, supported on four massive piles, assisted on the N. and S. side by four columns of granite, each of a shaft 40 feet long. Two larger and six smaller semi-domes sprouted out and encircled the central cupola. The ground-plan describes the figure of a Greek cross within a quadrangle, but on the inside was oval. (Comp. Procop. de Aed. 1.1; Agath. v. pp. 152, 153; Paul. Silentiar. ad calc. Ann. Comnen. Alex.; Evag. 4.31; Dallaway, Ancient and Modern Constantinople, p. 52.) The best description of this magnificent church is to be seen in Batissier (Histoire de l'Art Monumental, p. 386, foll.). Besides this great model of Eastern architecture, Justinian erected more than twenty-five churches in Constantinople and its suburbs. In honour of himself a colossal statue, representing the emperor mounted on horseback and in an attitude of defiance, was placed upon a column in the Augusteum before S. Sophia. This statue existed as late as the 16th century, when it was melted into cannon by the Turks. (Gyllius, de Top. Const. 2.13.) The palace was also restored by Justinian, and magnificently adorned with bronze, many coloured marbles and mosaics, representing the glories of the African and Italian triumphs. From the time of Heraclius to the hour of her fall, the outward glories of Constantinople shared the same fate as her renown and greatness. Here and there some emperor might endeavour to repair the ravages which time, nature, or violence had wrought upon the mighty works of his predecessors. In the 10th century the palace, the ceremonies of which have been described by Constantine Porphyrogenitus (de Caer. Aul. Byz.), was pre-eminent for its size, strength, and magnificence. (Ducange, Constantinop. Christian. 2.4.) A large and irregular building, each separate part bore the character of its founder, and the times.
The Latin crusaders, Mohammed II., and subsequent neglect and recklessness, have effected such results, that it may be said, with almost literal truth of the city of Constantine and Justinian, not one stone resteth upon another.
VI. GOVERNMENT AND ADMINISTRATION.
With the foundation of a new capital a new order of things in the civil and military administration was introduced; commenced by Diocletian it was perfected by Constantine.
In the hierarchy of the state the magistrates were divided into 3 classes,
•I. The “Illustrious.”
•II. The “Spectabiles.”
•III. The “Clarissimi.”
There were 2 inferior ranks conferred on those who were not raised to the senatorial dignity.
•IV. The “Perfectissimi.”
•V. The “Egregii.”
The 3rd epithet belonged to the senatorial rank, the 2nd to those of superior distinction; the 1st was granted only to
•I. Consuls and patricians.
•II. The Praetorian praefects, with the praefects of Rome and Constantinople.
•III. The masters-general of the infantry and cavalry.
•IV. The seven ministers of the palace who exercised [1.664] “sacred” functions about the person of the emperor.
•1. The consuls who, though their office had degenerated into an empty name, were still the highest officers of the state, were inaugurated at the imperial residence with the utmost splendour. The title of patricians became, under Constantine, a personal and not an hereditary distinction, bestowed on the ministers and favourites of the court.
•2. The praetorian praefects were the civil magistrates of the provinces, as the immedíate representatives of the imperial majesty: everything was under their control. The accompanying table taken from Marquardt (Handbuch der Röm. Alterthum, p. 240), gives the division of the empire under these four great officers. Rome and Constantinople were alone exempted from their jurisdiction, but were respectively under a praefect of the city, and a perfect equality was established between the two municipal and the four praetorian praefects. The “spectabiles,” in which were included the 3 proconsuls of Asia, Achaia, and Africa, with the lieutenant-generals and military counts and dukes, formed an intermediate class between the “illustrious” praefects and “honourable” magistrates of the provinces.
DIVISION OF THE ROMAN EMPIRE, A.D. 400.
I. PRAEFECTUS PRAETORIO GALLIARUM. A. Vicarius Hispaniae.
1. Consularis Baeticae.
2. Consularis Lusitaniae.
3. Consularis Gallaeciae.
4. Praeses Tarraconensis.
5. Praeses Carthaginiensis.
6. Praeses Tingitaniae.
7. Praeses Insularum Balearium.
B. Vicarius Septem Prouinciarum,
1. Consularis Viennensis.
2. Consularis Lugdunensis.
3. Consularis Germaniae I.
4. Consularis Germaniae II.
5. Consularis Belgicae I.
6. Consularis Belgicae II.
7. Praeses Alpium Maritimarum
8. Praeses Poeninarum et Graiarum
9. Praeses Maximae Sequanorum.
10. Praeses Aquitanicae I.
11. Praeses Aquitanicae II.
12. Praeses Novempopulanae.
13 Praeses Narbonensis I.
14. Praeses Narbonensis II.
15. Praeses Lugdunensis II.
16. Praeses Lugdunensis III.
17. Praeses Lugdunensis Senoniae.
C. Vicarious Britanniarum.
1. Consularis Maximae Caesariensis.
2. Consularis Valentiae.
3. Praeses Britanniae I.
4. Praeses Britanniae II.
5 Praeses Flaviae Caesariensis.
II PRAEFECTUS PRAETORIO ITALIAE. A. Vicarius Urbis Romae
1. Consularis Campaniae.
2. Consularis Tusciae et Umbriae.
3. Consularis Piceni Suburbicaril.
4. Consularis Siciliae.
5 Corrector Apuliae et Calabriae.
6. Corrector Bruttiorum et Lucaniae.
7. Praeses Samnii.
8. Praeses Sardiniae.
9. Praeses Corsicae.
10. Praeses Valeriae.
B. Vicarius Italiae.
1. Consularis Venetiae et Histriae.
2. Consularis Aemiliae.
3. Consularis Liguriae.
4. Consularis Flaminiae et Piceni Annonarii.
5. Praeses Alpium Cottiarum.
6. Praeses Rhaetiae I.
7. Praeses Rhaetiae II.
Illyrium Occidentale. 8. Consularis Pannonmae II.
9. Corrector Saviae.
10. Praeses Pannoniae I.
11. Praeses Dalmatiae.
12. Praeses Noricum Mediterraneum.
13. Praeses Noricum Ripense.
14. Dux Valeriae Ripensis.
C. Vicarius Africae.
1. Consularis Byzacii.
2. Consularis Numidiae.
3. Praeses Tripolitanae.
4. Praeses Mauritaniae Sifetensis.
5. Praeses Mauritaniae Caesariensis.
The Proconsul of Africa was directly under the Emperor, and not under the Praefectus Praet. Ital,
III. PRAEFECTUS PRAFTORIO ILLYRIC:
A. Directly under the Praefect
The Diocese of Dacia.
1. Consularis Daciae Mediterraneae.
2. Praeses Moesiae I.
3. Praeses Praevalitanae.
4. Praeses Dardaniae.
4. Dux Daciae Ripensis.
B. Under a Proconsul
C. Under the Vicarius Macedoniae.
1. Consularis Macedoniae.
2. Consularis Cretae.
3. Praeses Thessaliae.
4. Praeses Epiri Veteris.
5, Praeses Epiri Novae.
6. Praeses Macedoniae Salutaris.
A part of this last belonged to the Diocoesis Dacia.
IV. PRAEFECTUS PEAETORIO ORIENTIS. A. Comes Orientis.
1. Consularis Palaestinae I
2. Consularis Phoenices.
3. Consularis Syriae I.
4. Consularis Ciliciae.
5. Consularis Cypri.
6. Praeses Palaestinae II.
7. Praeses Palaestinae Salutaris.
8. Praeses Phoenices Libani.
9. Praeses Euphratensis.
10. Praeses Syriae Salutaris.
11. Praeses Osrhoënae.
12. Praeses Mesopotamiae.
13. Praeses Ciliciae II.
14. Comes Rei Militaris Isauriae.
15. Dux Arabíae.
B. Praefectus Augustalias.
1. Praeses Lybiae Sup.
2. Praeses Lybiae Inf.
3. Praeses Thebaidos.
4. Praeses Aegypti.
5. Praeses Arcadiae.
6. Corrector Augustamnicae.
C. Vicarious diocoeseos Asianae.
1. Consularis Pamphyliae.
2. Consularis Lydiae.
3. Consularis Cariae.
4. Consularis Lyciae.
5. Consularis Lycaoniae.
6. Consularis Pisidiae.
7. Consularis Phrygiae Pacatianae.
8. Consularis Phrygiae Salutaris.
D. Vicarius Ponticae.
1. Consularis Bithyniae.
2. Consularis Galatiae.
3. Corrector Paphlagoniae.
4. Praeses Honoriados.
(Praefectus Praetorio Orientis.)
5. Praeses Galatiae Salutaris.
6. Praeses Cappadociae I.
7. Praeses Cappadociae II.
8. Praeses Helenoponti.
9. Praeses Ponti Polemoniaci.
10. Praeses Armeniae I.
11. Praeses Armeniae II.
E. Vicarius Thraciarum.
1. Consularis Europae.
2. Consularis Thraciae
3. Praeses Haemimonti.
4. Praeses Rhodopae.
5. Praeses Moesiae II.
6. Praeses Scythiae.
Directly under the Emperor, the Proconsul of Asia under him,
1. Consularis Hellesponti.
2. Praeses Insularum.
The great framework of the Roman empire was broken up into 116 provinces, each of which supported an expensive establishment. Of these 3 were governed by “Proconsules;” 37 by “Consulares;” 5 by “Correctores;” 71 by “Praesides.”
All these were entrusted with the administration of justice and the finances in their respective districts. They were drawn from the profession of the law.
The defence of the Roman empire on the important [1.665] frontiers of the Rhine, the Upper and Lower Danube and the Euphrates, was committed to 8 masters-general of cavalry and infantry: under them were stationed 35 military commanders in the provinces; 3 in Britain; 6 in Gaul; 1 in Spain; 1 in Italy; 5 on the Upper Danube; 4 on the Lower Danube; 8 in Asia; 3 in Aegypt; 4 in Africa. These were distinguished by the titles of “dux” or duke, and “comes,” counts or companions. There were 583 stations or garrisons established on the frontiers, and the effective force of the troops, under the successors of Constantine was computed at 645,000 soldiers. From the difficulty of the levies, they were compelled to have recourse to barbarian auxiliaries.
Besides these magistrates and generals 7 great officers of state remained at court.
•1. The eunuch, “praepositus,” or praefect of the bed-chamber, under whom were “comites” to regulate the wardrobe and table of the emperor.
•2. The “masters of the offices,” the supreme magistrate of the palace, who inspected the discipline of the civil and military schools. In his office the public correspondence was managed in the 4 scrinia or bureaux.
•3. The “quaestor,” who may be compared with a modem chancellor.
•4. The “count of the sacred largesses,” or treasurer general of the revenue.
•5. The “count of the private estate,” or privy purse.
•6, 7. The “counts of the domestics,” or officers in command of the horse and foot guards, consisting of 7 battalions of 500 men each.
To facilitate intercourse between the court and the provinces “posts” were established: by an intolerable abuse the agents employed for this purpose became the official spies; and as in the new jurisdiction of the empire the “quaestio” or torture was permitted in any offence where “hostile intention” against prince or state was presumed, the terrors of malicious informations were materially increased.
The treasury was supplied by a system of direct taxation, and the word indiction was transferred from the solemn edict of the emperor to the measure of tribute which it prescribed, and the term allowed for payment. The “decurions,” who formed the corporations of the cities, were charged with assessing according to the census of property prepared by the “tabularii” the payment due from each proprietor. Besides the land-tax, which was in its operation a proprietor or landlord's tax, there was a capitation tax on all who were not possessed of landed property. Certain classes were gradually exempted, till at length it fell solely on the “coloni” and agricultural slaves. (Comp. Savigny, Abhand. der Berlin. Acad. 1822-23. p. 27.) Besides these general taxes upon industry “benevolences,” under the name of “coronary gold,” were also exacted from communities on certain occasions.
It must be admitted that the Byzantine fiscal system, though so rapacious that it extracted for the government the whole annual surplus of the people's industry, was constructed with great financial skill. One fact may be cited to show how wisely this branch of the public service was administered. From the fall of the Western Roman Empire to the conquest of Constantinople by the Crusaders the gold coinage of the Empire was maintained constantly of the same weight and standard. The concave gold byzants of Isaac II. are precisely of the same weight and value as the solidus of Leo the Great and Zeno the Isaurian.
Gold was the circulating medium of the Empire, and the purity of the Byzantine coinage rendered it for many centuries the only gold currency that circulated in Europe.
An admirable account of the internal administration of the empire, and the social condition of the people will be found in Mr. Finlay's learned volumes, Greece under the Romans, and Mediaeval Greece. See also Hullmann, Geschichte der Byzantischen Handels.
For the topography of Constantinople the following works can be consulted:--Von Hammer, Constantinopel und die Bosporus; Dallaway, Constantinople, Ancient and Modern; Andreossy, Constantinople et le Bosphore; Carbognano, Descr. Topograph. di Const.; Banduri, Imp. Orient.; Codinus, de Orig. Constant.; Ducange, Constant. Christ. - Dictionary of Greek and Roman Geography, William Smith, LLD, Ed.
Map of the Roman Empire - Places