raits, wea; ang pect, inschappen

opposite banks cannot exceed five hundred paces, that CAP. Xerxes imposed a stupendous bridge of boats, for the purpose of transporting into Europe an hundred and seventy myriads of barbarians!?. A sea contracted within such narrow limits may seem but ill to deserve the singular epithet of broad, which Homer, as well as Orpheus, has frequently bestowed on the Hellespont. But our ideas of greatness are of a relative nature; the traveller, and especially the poet, who sailed along the Hellespont, who pursued the windings of the stream, and contemplated the rural scenery, which appeared on every side to terminate the prospect, insensibly lost the remembrance of the sea; and his fancy painted. those celebrated straits, with all the attributes of a mighty river flowing with a swift current, in the midst of a woody and inland country, and at length through a wide mouth, discharging itself into the Ægean or Archipelago18. Ancient Troy', seated on an eminence at the foot of Mount Ida, overlooked the mouth of the Hellespont, which scarcely received an accession of waters from the tribute of those immortal rivulets the Simois and Scamander. The Grecian camp had stretched twelve miles along the shore from the Sigæan to the Rhætean promontory; and the flanks of the army were guarded by the bravest chiefs who fought under the banners of Agamempon. The first of those promontories was occupied by Achilles with his invincible Myrmidons, and the dauntless Ajax pitched his tents on the other. After Ajax had fallen a sacrifice to his disappointed pride, and to the ingra

17 See the seventh book of Herodotus, who has erected an elegant tro. phy to his own fame and to that of his country. The review appears to have been made with tolerable accuracy; but the vanity, first of the Persians, and afterwards of the Greeks, was interested to magnify the armament and the victory. I should much doubt whether the invaders have ever outnumbered the men of any country which they attacked.

18 See Wood's Observations on Homer, p. 320. I have, with pleasure, selected this remark from an author who in general seems to have disappointed the expectation of the public as a critic, and still more as a travel. ter. He had visited the banks of the Hellespont; he had read Strabo; he ought to have consulted the Roman itineraries: how was it possible for him

to confound lium and Alexandria Troas, (Observations, p. 340, 341.), two 'cities which were sixteen miles distant from each other?

19 Demetrius of Scepsis wrote sixty books on thirty lines of Homer's Catalogue. The XuIth Book of Strabo is sufficient for our curiosity,



CHAP. titude of the Greeks, his sepulchre was erected on the XVII.

ground where he had defended the navy against the rage of Jove and of Hector; and the citizens of the rising town of Rhætium celebrated his memory with divine honours?'. Before Constantine gave a just preference to the situation of Byzantium, he had conceived the design of erecting the seat of empire on this cele. brated spot, from whence the Romans derived their fabulous origin. The extensive plain which lies below ancient Troy, towards the Rhætean promontory and the tomb of Ajax, was first chosen for his new capi. tal; and though the undertaking was soon relinquished, the stately remains of unfinished walls and towers attracted the notice of all who sailed through the straits of the Hellesponta.

We are at present qualified to view the advantagetages of

ous position of Constantinople; which appears to have Constan tinople. been formed by Nature for the centre and capital of a

great monarchy. Situated in the forty-first degree of latitude, the Imperial city commanded, from her seven hills, the opposite shores of Europe and Asia ; the climate was healthy and temperate, the soil fertile, the harbour secure and capacious; and the approach on the side of the continent was of small extent and easy defence. The Bosphorus and the Hellespont may be considered as the two gates of Constantinople; and the prince who possessed those important passages could always shut them against a naval enemy, and open them to the fleets of commerce. The preserva. tion of the eastern provinces may, in some degree, be ascribed to the policy of Constantine, as the Barba

itsted, the noticains of unfinis was soo


20 Strabo, l. xiii. p. 595. The disposition of the ships which were drawn upon dry land, and the posts of Ajax and Achilles, are very clearly described by Homer. See lliad ix. 220.

21 Zosim. I. ii. p. 105. Sozomen, I. ii. c. 3. Theophanes, p. 18. Nicephe. rus Callistus, I. vii. p. 48. Zonaras, tom. ii. . xiii. p. 6. Zosimus places the new city between Ilium and Alexandria, but this apparent difference may be reconciled by the large extent of its circumference. Before the founda. tion of Constantinople, Thessalonica is mentioned by Cedrenus (p. 283.), and Sardica by Zonaras, as the intended capital. They both suppose, with very little probability, that the Emperor, if he had not been prevented by a prodigy, would have repeated the mistake of the blind Chalcedonians.

22 Pocock's Description of the East, vol. ii. part ii. p. 127. His plan of the seven hills is clear and accurate. That traveller is seldom so satisfactory


ed of forthe Hellespont anin their spaci

rians of the Euxine, who in the preceding age had pour. CHAP. ed their armaments into the heart of the Mediterranean, soon desisted from the exercise of piracy, and despaired of forcing this insurmountable barrier. When the gates of the Hellespont and Bosphorus were shut, the capital still enjoyed, within their spacious inclosure, every production which could supply the wants or gratify the luxury, of its numerous inhabitants. The sea-coasts of Tbrace and Bithynia, which languish under the weight of Turkish oppression, still exhibit a rich prospect of vineyards, of gardens, and of plentiful harvests: and the Propontis has ever been renown. ed for an inexhaustible store of the most exquisite fish, that are taken in their stated seasons, without skill, and almost without labour?3. But when the passages of the Straits were thrown open for trade, they alternately admitted the natural and artificial riches of the north and south, of the Euxine, and of the Mediterranean. Whatever rude commodities were collects ed in the forests of Germany and Scythia, as far as the sources of the Tanais and the Borysthenes; whatsoever was manufactured by the skill of Europe or Asia; the corn of Egypt, and the gems and spices of the farthest India, were brought by the varying winds into the port of Constantinople, which, for many ages, attracted the commerce of the ancient world24.

The prospect of beauty, of safety, and of wealth, Foundaunited in a single spot, was sufficient to justify the choice of Constantine. But as some decent mixture of prodigy and fable has, in every age, been supposed to reflect a becoming majesty on the origin of great cities25,

23 See Belon. Observations, c. 72.-76. Among a variety of different species, the Pelamides, a sort of Thunnies, were the most celebrated. We may learn from Polybius, Strabo, and Tacitus, that the profits of the fishery constituted the principal revenue of Byzantium.

24 See the eloquent description of Busbequius, epistol. i. p. 64. Est in Europa; habit in conspectu Asiam, Ægyptum, Africamque à dextrâ : quæ tametsi contiguæ non sunt, maris tamen navigandique commoditate veluti jurguntur. Å sinistra vero Pontus est Euxinus, &c.

25 Datur hæc venia antiquitati, ut miscendo humana divinis primordia urbium augustiora faciat. T. Liv. in proem.


CHAP. the emperor was desirous of ascribing bis resolution, not

so much to the uncertain counsels of human policy, as
to the infallible and eternal decrees of divine wisdom.
In one of his laws he has been careful to instruct pos.
terity, that, in obedience to the commands of God, he
laid the everlasting foundations of Constantinople26 :
and though he has not condescended to relate in what
manner the cælestial inspiration was communicated to
his mind, the defect of his modest silence has been libe-
rally supplied by the ingenuity of socceeding writers;
who describe the nocturnal vision which appeared to
the fancy of Constantine, as he slept within the walls
of Byzantium. The tutelar genius of the cily, a ve.
nerable matron sinking under the weight of years and
infirmities, was suddenly transformed into a bloom-
ing maid, whom his own hands adorned with all the
symbols of Imperial greatness. The monarch awoke,
interpreted the auspicious omen, and obeyed, with.
out hesitation, the will of heaven. The day which
gave birth to a city or colony was celebrated by the
Romans with such ceremonies as had been ordain.
ed by a generous superstition? ; and though Constan. :
tine might omit some rites which savoured too stroug-
ly of their Pagan origin, yet he was anxious to leave
a deep impression of hope and respect on the minds
of the spectators. On foot, with a lance in his hand,
the emperor himself led the solemn procession; and
directed the line, which was traced as the boundary
of the destined capital: till the growing circumfe-
rence was observed with astonishment by the as.
sistants, who, at length, ventured to observe, that he
had already exceeded the most ample measure of a

26 He says in one of his laws, pro commoditate Urbis quam æterno nomine, jubente Deo, donavimus. Cod. Theodos. I. viii. tit. v. leg. 7.

27 The Greeks, Theophanes, Cedrenus, and the Author of the Alexan. drian Chronicle, confine themselves, to vague and general expressions. For a more particular account of the vision, we are obliged to have recourse to such Latin writers as William of Malmsbury. See Ducange, C. P. I. i.

p. 24, 25.

28 See Plutarch in Romul. tom. I. p. 49. edit. Bryan. Among other cere. monies, a large hole, which had been dug for that purpose, was filled up with handfuls of earth, which each of the settlers brought from the place of his birth, and thus adopted his new country,


tiek great city. "I shall still advance," replied Constan- CHAP. onu tine, “till HE, the invisible guide who marches before

me, thinks proper to stopzo. Without presuming u, to investigate the nature or motives of this extraordiC.: pary conductor, we shall content ourselves with the hindi more humble task of describing the extent and limits of Constantinople.

In the actual state of the city, the palace and gar- Extent.

ens of the Seraglio occupy the eastern promontory, was the first of the seven hills, and cover about one huno d red and fifty acres of our own measure. The seat of i Turkish jealousy and despotism is erected on the

foundations of a Grecian republic; but it may be supposed that the Byzantins were tempted by the conveNiency of the barbour to extend their habitations on that side beyond the modern limits of the Seraglio.

The new walls of Constantine stretched from the port to the Propontis across the enlarged breadth of the triangle, at the distance of fifteen stadia from the ancient fortification ; and with the city of Byzantium they inclosed five of the seven hills, which, to the eyes of those who approach Constantinople, appear to rise above each other in beautiful order31. About a century after the death of the founder, the new building, extending on one side up the harbour, and on the other along the Propontis, already covered the narrow ridge of the sixth, and the broad summit of the seventh hill. The necessity of protecting those suburbs from the in cessant inroads of the Barbarians, engaged the younger Theodosius to surround his capital with an adequate and permanent inclosure of walls. From the eastern

[ocr errors]


29 Philostorgius, 1. ii. c. 9. This incident, though borrowed from a suspected writer, is characteristic and probable.

30 See in the Memoires de l'Academie, tom. xxxv. p. 747-758, a dissertation of M. d'Anville on the extent of Constantinople. He takes the plan inserted in the Imperium Orientale of Banduri as the most complete; but, by a series of very nice observations, he reduces the extravagant proportion of the scale, and instead of 9500, determines the circumference of the city as consisting of about 7800 French toises.

51 Codinus Antiquitat. Const. p. 12. He assigns the church of St. An. tony as the boundary on the side of the harbour. It is mentioned in Ducange, 1. iv. c. 6. but I have tried, without success, to discover the exact place where it was situated.

32 The new wall of Theodosius was constructed in the year 413. In 447

« ForrigeFortsett »