Constantinople

The Dome Collapses. May 7, 558.

On 23 February 532, only a few weeks after the destruction of the second basilica, Emperor Justinian I decided to build a third and entirely different basilica, larger and more majestic than its predecessors, built by Constantius II and Theodosius II. Justinian chose physicist Isidore of Miletus and mathematician Anthemius of Tralles as architects; Anthemius, however, died within the first year of the endeavor. The construction is described in the Byzantine historian Procopius’ On Buildings (Peri ktismatōn, Latin: De aedificiis). Columns and other marbles were brought from all over the empire, throughout the Mediterranean. Even though they were made specifically for Hagia Sophia, the columns show variations in size. More than ten thousand people were employed. This new church was con...

Aelia Eudoxia marries Arcadius. 27 April 325.

On 17 January 395, Theodosius I succumbed to death. Arcadius succeeded him in the Eastern Roman Empire and Honorius in the Western Roman Empire. Arcadius was effectively placed under the control of Rufinus, Praetorian prefect of the East. Rufinus reportedly intended to marry his daughter to Arcadius and establish his own relation to the Theodosian dynasty. However, while Rufinus was distracted by a conflict with the  magister militum of the West, the wedding of Eudoxia to Arcadius was orchestrated by Eutropius, one of the eunuch officials serving in the Great Palace of Constantinople. The marriage took place on 27 April 395, without the knowledge or consent of Rufinus. For Eutropius it was an attempt to increase his own influence over the emperor and hopefully ensure the loyalty of the new...

The End of the First Siege of Rome. 12 March 538 AD.

The First Siege of Rome during the Gothic War lasted for a year and nine days, from 2 March 537 to 12 March 538. The city was besieged by the Ostrogothic army under their king Vitiges; the defending East Romans were commanded by Belisarius, one of the most famous and successful Roman generals. The siege was the first major encounter between the forces of the two opponents, and played a decisive role in the subsequent development of the war. More than a year after the siege begun, the Goths, also suffering, like the besieged, from disease and famine, now resorted to diplomacy. An embassy of three was sent to Belisarius, and offered to surrender Sicily and southern Italy (which were already in Roman hands) in exchange for a Roman withdrawal. The dialogue, as preserved by Procopius, clearly i...

The University of Constantinople. February 27, 425 AD.

Byzantine society was generally a quite educated one. Primary education was widely available, sometimes even at village level and uniquely in that era for both sexes. Female participation in culture was high and scholarship was fostered not only in Constantinople but also in institutions operated in such major cities as Antioch and Alexandria. Aelia Eudocia, Theodosius´ wife, had been raised and educated in traditional and classical sophist education from Athens, but her goal was to blend classical pagan education with Christianity. This was her way of using her power as Empress to honor teachers and education, something that was very important to her in her life. The original school was founded in 425 by Emperor Theodosius II at the urging of his wife Eudocia, with 31 chairs for law, phil...

Constantius III, co-emperor. 8 February 421.

Constantius was a very competent Roman general who made his first appearance in history during the early Fifth Century. Like many of the Roman Empire‘s most illustrious military men, he had been born in Illyria. It is most likely that he had attained the rank of Master of Soldiers and Cavalry in the service of the Roman emperor Honorius by the year A. D. 411. He swiftly ended the rebellion and usurpation of Constantine III by trapping him in the city of Arelate. Constantine III held out for three months, then surrendered the city after the besiegers promised to spare his life. Honorius refused to honor the promise of clemency and had the ex-emperor and his son executed thirty miles outside the city of Ravenna where Honorius maintained his residence. Constantius was appointed patriciu...

Justin´s madness forces his abdication. December 7, 574.

  As insanity invaded the mind of Justin, he became aware that he had to name a colleague for succession of his throne. Passing over his own relatives, he raised, on the advice of his wife Sophia, the general Tiberius to be Caesar in December 7 574, adopting him as his son, and withdrew into retirement. According to John of Ephesus, as Justin II slipped into the madness of his final days he was pulled through the palace on a wheeled throne, biting attendants as he passed. He reportedly ordered organ music to be played constantly throughout the palace in an attempt to soothe his frenzied mind. The tardy knowledge of his own impotence determined him to lay down the weight of the diadem; he showed some symptoms of a discerning and even magnanimous spirit when he addressed his assembly, Y...

Heraclius, emperor. October 4, 610.

In 608, Heraclius the Elder, Heraclius´ father, renounced his loyalty to the Emperor Phocas. The rebels even issued coins showing both Heraclii dressed as consuls, though neither of them had claimed the imperial title. Phocas responded with executions, among them of the ex-Empress Constantina and her three daughters. Heraclius’ younger cousin Nicetas launched a successful overland invasion of Egypt, where he defeated Phocas´ army. While this invasion was taking place, the younger Heraclius sailed eastward through Sicily and Cyprus, planning to enter Constantinople. Some prominent Byzantine aristocrats came to meet Heraclius, and he arranged to be crowned and acclaimed as Emperor before even entering Constantinople. As he approached the city, and planned the attack, the Excubitors, th...

The New Capital – May 11, 330 AD

The city of Byzantium was founded in the 7th Century BC as part of the Greek colonial expansion. Byzantium had the benefits of a large seaport in the form of the Golden Horn, as well as being positioned on the way between Europe and Asia for trade by land, and the Black and Mediterranean Seas for trade by water. In 324 AD, Constantine the Great founded on the site of the still-existing city of Byzantium, and began construction of what would be called Konstantinoupolis. Rome was too distant from the frontiers of the empire, so Constantine set about plans to make some drastic changes. Over the next six years, the city grew until on May 11, 330 AD, Constantine officially dedicated Constantinople the new capital of the Roman Empire. The city was divided into 14 regions to emulate Rome. However...

The Sixth Crusade – October 17, 1244 AD

The Crusades were Catholic Church sanctioned military campaigns during the Middle Ages, beginning with pleas from the Byzantine Empire, under Alexius I, to the Pope to help with the Turkish threat in Constantinople, in 1095 AD. The last Crusade was undertaken in the 15th Century and meant to counter the expansion of the Ottoman Empire. The First Crusade resulted in the creation of four Crusader States – County of Edessa, Principality of Antioch, County of Tripoli and Kingdom of Jerusalem. Frederick II was ambitious and many modern historians call him “the first modern ruler” because of the efficient centralized government system he established in Sicily and southern Italy. When he was three, he was crowned King of Sicily and co-ruled with his mother. He was King of Germany, Burgundy and It...

War of Candia – September 27, 1669 AD

Most of Crete had been conquered by the Ottoman Empire during the early part of the war against the Republic of Venice and its allies, which was the fifth Ottoman-Venetian War, and began in 1645. The capital of Crete, the fortress of Candia, managed to hold off the Ottomans in their prolonged siege of the city until the last two bloody years, finally resulting in a negotiated surrender on September 27, 1669. The Venetians lost Cyprus to the Ottomans in the fourth war (1570-1573), making Crete the last major overseas territory of their republic. The Ottomans were expanding their empire and wanted Crete for its strategic location. Although Venice and the Ottomans were technically in a period of peace, the Ottomans were still allied with Barbary pirates. When the Venetian fleet attacked and d...

An Empire Reunited – September 6, 394 AD

In 392 AD, the Roman Empire was split into the Eastern and Western empires. Valentinian II led the west, while Theodosius I was in charge of the east. Both emperors favored Christianity over the old pagan gods, causing tension between the two rulers and members of the Senate. Although there was wide-spread violence on a small scale throughout the empire over the two main religions of the empire, for the most part the debate of Christianity versus Paganism was theological and academic. That all changed when Valentinian was found dead in his residence on May 15, 392. This is a category of  roman empire coins. Arbogast, a Frankish general, was the magister militum of the Western empire, making him the de facto ruler upon the death of Valentinian. He immediately sent word to Theodosius, saying...

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