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(kŏn'stăn'tĭnō`pəl), former capital of the Byzantine EmpireByzantine Empire,
successor state to the Roman Empire (see under Rome), also called Eastern Empire and East Roman Empire. It was named after Byzantium, which Emperor Constantine I rebuilt (A.D. 330) as Constantinople and made the capital of the entire Roman Empire.
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 and of the Ottoman EmpireOttoman Empire
, vast state founded in the late 13th cent. by Turkish tribes in Anatolia and ruled by the descendants of Osman I until its dissolution in 1918. Modern Turkey formed only part of the empire, but the terms "Turkey" and "Ottoman Empire" were often used
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, since 1930 officially called İstanbul (for location and description, see İstanbul. It was founded (A.D. 330) at ancient ByzantiumByzantium
, ancient city of Thrace, on the site of the present-day İstanbul, Turkey. Founded by Greeks from Megara in 667 B.C., it early rose to importance because of its position on the Bosporus.
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 as the new capital of the Roman Empire by Constantine I, after whom it was named. The largest and most splendid European city of the Middle Ages, Constantinople shared the glories and vicissitudes of the Byzantine Empire, which in the end was reduced to the city and its environs. Although besieged innumerable times by various peoples, it was taken only three times—in 1204 by the army of the Fourth Crusade (see CrusadesCrusades
, series of wars undertaken by European Christians between the 11th and 14th cent. to recover the Holy Land from the Muslims. First Crusade

In the 7th cent., Jerusalem was taken by the caliph Umar.
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), in 1261 by Michael VIII, and in 1453 by the Ottoman Sultan Muhammad II. Defended by Greek fireGreek fire,
a flammable composition believed to have consisted of sulfur, naphtha, and quicklime. Although known in antiquity, it was first employed on a large scale by the Byzantines.
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, it was also well fortified. An early inner wall was erected by Constantine I, and the enlarged Constantinople was surrounded by a triple wall of fortifications, begun (5th cent.) by Theodosius II. Built on seven hills, the city on the Bosporus presented the appearance of an impregnable fortress enclosing a sea of magnificent palaces and gilded domes and towers. In the 10th cent., it had a cosmopolitan population of about 1 million. The Church of Hagia SophiaHagia Sophia
[Gr.,=Holy Wisdom] or Santa Sophia,
Turkish Aya Sofia, originally a Christian church at Constantinople (now İstanbul), later a mosque, and now converted into a museum.
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, the sacred palace of the emperors (a city in itself); the huge hippodrome, center of the popular life; and the Golden Gate, the chief entrance into the city; were among the largest of the scores of churches, public edifices, and monuments that lined the broad arcaded avenues and squares. Constantinople had a great wealth of artistic and literary treasures before it was sacked in 1204 and 1453. Virtually depopulated when it fell to the Ottoman Turks, the city recovered rapidly. The Ottoman sultans, whose court was called the Sublime Porte, embellished Constantinople with many beautiful mosques, palaces, monuments, fountains, baths, aqueducts, and other public buildings. After World War I the city was occupied (1918–23) by the Allies. In 1922 the last Ottoman sultan was deposed and Ankara became (1923) the new capital of Turkey.



Byzantium; in medieval Russian texts, Tsar’grad; capital of the Roman Empire from A.D. 330 and later of the Byzantine Empire.

Constantinople was founded by the Roman emperor Constantine I in 324–330 on the site of the city of Byzantium on the European shore of the Bosporus. The capital of the Roman Empire was transferred to Constantinople (the official date was May 11, 330) because of the proximity of Constantinople to the rich eastern provinces, its favorable commercial and strategic military position, and the absence there of senatorial opposition. Constantinople was a major economic and cultural center where class contradictions were concentrated. (The most important popular uprising in the city’s history was the Nika revolt of 532.)

Despite the economic decline experienced by the Byzantine Empire from the end of the seventh century, the economic importance of Constantinople grew, since most of the Byzantine cities lost their urban character and much of the commercial and industrial production was concentrated primarily in Constantinople. Until the end of the 11th century Constantinople politically and economically dominated the country. In the 12th century crafts and commerce began to decline in the city. This phenomenon was hastened by the appearance in Constantinople of Italian merchants who settled in one of the city’s districts, Galata. In April 1204, Constantinople was captured and plundered by participants in the Fourth Crusade. The city became the capital of the Latin Empire created by the Crusaders in 1204; economic primacy within it went to the Venetians. In July 1261, the Byzantines, with the assistance of the Genoese, won back Constantinople.

Until the middle of the 14th century Constantinople remained a major commercial center, then it gradually became desolate; within the city, the Venetians and Genoese seized the key positions. From the end of the 14th century the Turks tried to take the city several times. In May 1453, after a lengthy siege, Turkish troops occupied the city. Constantinople was renamed Istanbul and became the capital of Turkey (until 1923).


Dzhelal Essad. Konstantinopol’ ot Vizantii do Stambula. Moscow, 1919.
Rudakov, A. P. Ocherki vizantiiskoi kul’turypo dannym grecheskoi agiografii. Moscow, 1917. Pages 110–37.
Janin, R. Constantinople byzantine, 2nd ed. Paris, 1964.
Guilland, R. Etudes de topographie de Constantinople byzantine, vols. 1–2. Bordeaux, 1969.