Constantinople Becomes Capital of a Christian Empire

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Constantinople was the former name of the city of Istanbul, Turkey. It is located on the frontier of Europe and Asia. The city was protected by a natural and man-made fortress. Three of the sides with cliffs, and on the fourth side they built up a defensive barrier. The city was founded as Byzantium in the 7th century B.C. It was renamed Constantinople 330 A.D. when the Roman emperor Constantine I moved his capital there from Rome (Encylopedia Americana). As the capital of the Byzantine Empire, Constantinople became a great cultural, economic, religious, and administrative center. During the fourth and fifth centuries, Visigoths, Huns, and Ostrogoths unsuccessfully threatened the city. In the seventh, eighth, and ninth centuries the Persians, Arabs, and Bulgarians attacked, but failed to take over Constantinople. Up until 1453 the city withstood all attacks with the exception of Fourth Crusade's treachery (The Shining Fortress).

Unlike Rome, Constantinople had several industries producing luxury goods, military supplies, hardware, and textiles. In about 550 A.D., after silkworms were smuggled out of China, silk protection became a highly profitable industry. The state paid very close attention to business controlling the economy; which is a system to which all tradesmen and members of the professions belonged set wages, profits, work hours, and prices and organizes bankers and doctors into compulsory corporations (The Shining Fortress). "Security and wealth encouraged an active and an active political, cultural, and intellectual life. The widespread literacy and education among men and women of various segments of society would not be matched in Europe until, perhaps, eighteenth-century France. Until its fall in 1453, the Byzantine Empire remained a shining fortress, attracting both invaders and merchants" (The Shining Fortress). "Constantine and his successors struggled to renew the empire. Rome collapsed under the pressure of the Germanic invaders in 476. Thanks to its greater military and economic strength, Constantinople survived for a thousand years, despite revolutions, wars, and religious controversy" (The Shining Fortress).


The Encyclopedia Americana, Grolier Incorporated, 1988, p. 653. The Shining Fortress, Internet Source, August 4, 1996.

Edited by: Kevin L. McKernan,
Researched by: Bernard O. Ijimakin,
Written by: Ingrid E. Carlson,
October 1, 1996

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