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Three Millennia of Greek Literature

Vasilief, A History of the Byzantine Empire

The empire from Constantine the Great to Justinian

The foundation of Constantinople


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Page 4

The object of the Emperor Constantine in founding his capital was to build a distinctly Christian city that should be the metropolis of Christendom. Its splendors, its refinement, its art and culture, its wealth, its power, its fame as a center of learning and of piety are unforgettable even to-day. In the presence of its gentlemen and great dames, the knights and ladies of Western Europe were mere boors and hoydens. Wrecked, plundered and mismanaged by the Latin knights, a calamity from which it never recovered, there was enough of its culture left, when the Turks finally laid hands on it, to scatter over Europe and regenerate the West. The Renaissance, that wonderful awakening from the darkness of the Middle Ages, was largely due to the learning brought into Europe by the scholars of Constantinople, fleeing from the Turk. Those scholars had kept the light of the old classic culture burning during all the years of European darkness and ignorance. If Constantinople could have been spared and Christianity saved in the Near East, the results to civilization would have been incalculable. What a glorious city a Greek Constantinople would be today, if it had always stayed Greek, with its long traditions and its immense treasures of ancient culture!  - From: G. Horton, The Blight of Asia

Constantine, with the insight of genius, appraised all the advantages of the position of the city, political as well as economic and cultural. Politically, Constantinople, or, as it was often called, the New Rome, had exceptional advantages for resisting external enemies. It was inaccessible from the sea; on land it was protected by walls. Economically, Constantinople controlled the entire trade of the Black Sea with the Aegean and the Mediterranean seas and was thus destined to become the commercial intermediary between Europe and Asia. Finally, in the matter of culture, Constantinople had the great advantage of being situated close to the most important centers of Hellenistic culture, which under Christian influence resulted in a new Christian-Graeco-roman, or Byzantine, culture. Th. I. Uspensky wrote: The choice of a site for the new capital, the construction of Constantinople, and the creation of a universal historical city is one of the indefeasible achievements of the political and administrative genius of Constantine. Not in the edict of religious toleration lies Constantines great service to the world: if not he, then his immediate successors would have been forced to grant to Christianity its victorious position, and the delay would have done no harm to Christianity. But by his timely transfer of the world-capital to Constantinople he saved the ancient culture and created a favorable setting for the spread of Christianity.

Following the period of Constantine the Great, Constantinople became the political, religious, economic, and cultural center of the Empire

Cf. Ancient Greece and Christianity (text in Greek only) ||| Byzantium : heir to the Graeco-roman antiquity 

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