« ForrigeFortsett »
to death. The young Licinius was involved in his fate, with many of their noble friends. But the story that the empress Fausta, after instigating Constantine to thj murder of her step-son, fell herself by the revenge of Holena, who discovered to Constantine his wife's intrigue with a groom of the imperial stables, is at least doubtful.* The Roman populace once more asserted their freedom of comment on the actions of their princes by lampoons affixed to the palace gate, which declared that the age of Nero had returned.
After this tragedy, Constantine took his final departure from Rome; and four years later the imperial city was degraded from the rank of the capital by the dedication of Constantinople, the "city of Constantine" (a.d. 330). The accompanying map will convey a clear idea of that unrivalled site, which we can spare but a few words to describe.
Plan Of Constantinople, (aa, Chrysoceras, Golden Horn.) The voyager, who passes from the beautiful Archipelago of the -/Egsean into the vast land-locked sea, whose name was changed by Greek superstition from the Inhospitable (Axenos) into the Euxine (i.e., Hospitable), first works his way against the rapid current, which flows'for sixty miles between winding shores only three miles apart, but belonging to different continents. The channel received from the fables of mythology the name of Hellopont, and the fame of the mythic Dardanus is still preserved in the name applied to it from the Turkish forts of the Dardanelltt, which guard the entrance, near which Troy once stood. A sail of 120 miles carries us across the Sea of Marmora, the Vestibule U the Pontus (Propontis), to the mouth of the inner channel, which gives direct access to the Euxine, having a length of about seventeen miles and an average breadth of one and a-half, while its least width (600 yards between the Old Castles of the Greek emperors) afforded an easy ferry to the old pastoral tribes, who therefore called it Bosporus, that is, the Ox-ford.* The month of
* "Those," observes Gibbon, "who have attacked, and those who have defended the character of Constantine, have alike disregarded two very remarkable passages of two orations, pronounced under the succeeding reign. The former (by Julian) celebrates the virtues, the beauty, and the fortune of the empress Fausta, the daughter, wife, sister, and mother of so many princes. Tho latter (a monody on Constantine II.) asserts, in explicit terms, that the mother of the younger Constantine, who was slain three years after his father's death, survived to weep over the fate of her son."
As to the execution of Crispus, the unsparing censure of Gibbon should be compared with Niebuhr's more qualified opinion :—" If people will make a tragedy of this event, I must confess that I do not see how it can be proved that Crispus was innocent. When I read of so many insurrections of sons against their fathers, there seems to me nothing improbable in supposing that Crispus, who was Csesar, and demanded the title of Augustus, which his father refused him, may have thought, * Well, if I do not make something of myself, my father will not, for he will certainly prefer the sous of Fausta to me, the son of a repudiated woman.' Such a thought, if it did occur to Crispus, must have stung him to the quick, and might easily have driven him into » conspiracy against his father. That a father should order his own son to be put to death is certainly repulsive to our feelings, but it is rash and inconsiderate to assert that Crispus was innocent. It appears to me highly probable that Constantine himself was quite convinced of his son's guilt. I infer this from his conduct torards the three step-brothers of Crispus, whom he always treated with the highest respect; his unity and harmony with his sons are in fact truly exemplary." This conclusion ts supported by the certain falsehood of the story that Constantine was ever after tormented with remorse, and that he erected a statue to Crispus with the inscription, "To my son, whom I unjustly condemed."
* Bosphorus is a corruption to be resisted with the utmost pertinacity. The inner Ox-ford, at the mouth of the sea of Azov, was called the Cimmerian Bosporus, the outer being the Thracian. Besides the retention of the old name of Bosporus, the strait is now called the Channel of Constantinople, in Turkish Jioghas. The narrow part, at which the Old Castle* were built by the Greek emperors, is said to have been the place where Mandrocles built the bridge of boats for Darius, though the eiari spot must have been a little higher up, where the sea is more tranquil. The Old Castles were restored by Mahmoud II. before the final siego of Constantinople: they are now called Rumili-Hisar and Anadoli-Hisar, i.e., the Castles of Roumelia ("> Europe) and Anatolia (in Asia). The New or Genoese Castles were built on the summita of two opposite hills, upon the foundations of old temples of Serapis and Jupiter Urius, to command the mouth of the strait and levy the toll on vessels entering the Bosporus. Outside the month were the Cyanea Insula, so called from the colour which the volcanic rocks owe to the presence of copper. Strabo describes them u two little isles, one upon the European, and the other on the Asiatic side of the strait, separated from each other by twenty stadia (two geographical miles). The fabled motion of these rocks, embodied in the name Symplegades, is supposed to ha" been suggested by a circumstance described by Toumefort :—"Each of them consist! of one craggy island, but when the sea is disturbed, the water covers the lower parts, so as to make the different points of either resemble insular rocks. They are in fed each joined to the mainland by a kind of isthmus, and appear as islands when this i< inundated, which always happens in stormy weather." The Bosporus itself forms in iu
A.D. 330.] DESCRIPTION OF CONSTANTINOPLE. 701
this strait, where the Argonauts passed safely between the fabled rocks (Symplegacies), whose collision crushed the hapless mariner, received from early Greek colonists the more effectual guard of the two cities of Chalcedon on the Asiatic and Byzantium on the European shore, both founded by the Megarians.
In addition to the central position, and the wonderful command both of sea and land, common to the two cities, there is one feature which perfects the site of Byzantium, the magnificent harbour formed by the arm of the Bosporus, called from its shape and from the riches daily brought into it, the Golden Horn ( Chrysoceras, in Greek). The little river Lycus pours a constant flow of fresh water into this inlet, which is about seven miles in length, and, from the absence of tides in the Mediterranean, of a constant depth. The lower part expands into a splendid basin, nearly three quarters of a mile in width, contracting again to a breadth of only 500 yards, where a chain could be drawn across the mouth of the harbour. Between the Golden Horn and the Propontis lies a tongue of land, which gradually contracts from a wide base to an obtuse point, opposite to the site of the ancient harbour of Chalcedon, — Chrysopolis, the modern Scutari. The peninsula slopes down from the high ground of Thrace to the level of the sea, as if to link the continent of Europe to that of Asia; and the undulations of its descent form themselves into seven hills —a fortunate resemblance, as it was esteemed, to the site of Rome. On the last of these hills, now occupied by the Seraglio, stood the Acropolis of Byzantium, and the city spread over the point of land now covered by the gardens of the Seraglio, and probably over the three adjacent regions of the city of Constantine. It had a circuit of about four geographical miles.* But the design of Constantine embraced the whole peninsula, with all its seven hills. He professed himself to be under the guidance of a divine inspiration, alike in the choice of the site and in the settlement of its limits.f "The day which gave birth to a city or colony was celebrated by the Romans with such ceremonies as had been ordained by a generous superstition; and though Constantine might omit some rites which savoured too strongly of their Pagan origin, yet he was anxious to leave a deep impression of hope and respect on the minds of the s] tec tutors. 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 circumference was observed with astonishmeut by the assistants, who at length ventured to observe that he had already exceeded the most ample measure of a great city. i" shall still ailcance, replied Constantine, till He, the invisible guide nte marches before me, thinks proper to stop." The walls which stretched across the base of the peninsula were fifteen stadia (a geographical mile and a-half) beyond the ancient walls, and enclosed five of the seven hills: the remaining two were afterwards built over, and formed a suburb, which was surrounded with a new wall by Theodosius in A.d. 413. "From the eastern promontory to the Golden Grate, the extreme length of Constantinople was about three Roman miles, the circumference measured between ten and eleven, and the surface might be computed as equal to about 2000 English acres. The suburbs of Pera and Galata,* though situate beyond the harbour, may deserve to be considered as a part of the city; and this addition may perhaps authorise the measure of a Byzantine historian, who assigns sixteen Greek (about fourteen Roman) miles for the circumference of his native city. Such an extent may 6eem not unworthy of an imperial residence. Yet Constantinople must yield to Babylon and Thebes, to ancient Rome, to London,! and even to Paris."
windings a chain of seven lakes. According to the law of all estuaries, these seven windings are indicated by seven promontories, forming as many corresponding bays, on the opposite coast; the projections on the one shore being similar to the indentations on the other. Seven currents, in different directions, follow the windings of the coast. Each has a counter-current, and the water, driven with violence into the separate bays, flows upward in an opposite direction in the other half of the channel. It is from this cause that an upward current, constantly thrown into the Golden Horn, serves the same purpose of preventing the stagnation of its waters, that the tide does in our own harbours.
• In some respects the site of Byzantium resembled that of Carthage.
+ The emperor's silence respecting the mode of this intimation is supplied by the imagination of later chroniclers, "who describe the noctural vision which appeared to the fanry of Constantine, as he slept within the walls of Byzantium. The tntelar genius of the city, a venerable matron, sinking under the weight of years and infirmities, was suddenly transformed into a blooming maid, whom his own hands adorned with the symbols of imperial greatness."
In imitation of Rome, the city was divided into fourteen wards (regiones), and provided with public buildings for business, state, and recreation. The chief Forum, which was of a round shape, stood upon the second hill, on which Constantine had pitched his tent during the siege of Byzantium. Its centre was marked by a AD. 330.] BUILDINGS OF CONSTANTINOPLE. 703
* Galata, on the projection which contracts the mouth of the Golden Horn, on the side opposite to the city, corresponds to the ancient Sycae (or Fig Trees), which formed the Xlllth region of the city.
t This was the London of Gibbon"s time. What would he hare said of the London of1S65 »
column, composed of ten cylinders of porphyry, each 10 feet high, upon a pedestal of white marble 20 feet high, and surmounted by a bronze colossus of Apollo, supposed to be the work of Phidias. The statue of the Sun-god,—whom the artist had represented with a sceptre in his right hand, the globe of the world in his left, and a crown of rays glittering on his head,—was invested with Christian emblems,* and made to do duty as the image of the emperor—a medley of heathenism, Christianity, and imperialism, which may be regarded as a fit type of Constantine's system of government in church and state. The site of the splendid HipPodrome—destined to be deluged with blood by the factions of white, red, blue, and green—is still marked by one of the goals (rnetcB), a curious bronze pillar formed by the entwined bodies of three serpents, whose heads supported the golden tripod dedicated at Delphi by the united Greeks after the defeat of Xerxes. Other trophies of art were transported in immense numbers from all parts of the Hellenic world, to adorn this building and the whole city, which, like the empire itself, owed its splendour to the plunder of the universe, not to a spontaneous growth of art.f Stripped of its innumerable statues, the Hippodrome (in Turkish, atmeidari) served the Moslem conquerors as a place for equestrian exercise, till it was burnt in 1808 in a revolt of the Janissaries. From the emperor's seat in the Hippodrome, a private Btaircase descended to the Palace, which, together with the dependent courts, gardens, and porticoes, covered a considerable extent of ground on the shore of the Propontis, between the Hippodrome and the church of S. Sophia. This, the principal church of Constantinople, built on the site of an old temple of Wisdom, suffered for its proximity to the Hippodrome by being twice
* An ancient author asserts that the rays of the snn were replaced hy the nails of the Passion. Afterwards Constantine gave way to Julian, and Julian to Theodosius, and at last the statue fell in the reign of Alexins Comnenus, and was replaced by the cross. The palladium was said to be buried under the column, the mutilated fragment of which, still standing, is called the burnt pillar.
t These inestimable treasures of Greek art were destroyed at the taking of Constantinople by the Latin Crusaders and the Venetians in A.D. 1284 ; their only remains being the four bronze horses, which adorn the piazza of St. Mark at Venice. Since that time Constantinople has suffered moro from the Greeks than from the Turks.
t In the court called the Forum Augusteum, one side of which was formed by tho palace and the other by the church, stood the Milliarium Aurcum, not, as at Rome, a gilt marble pillar, but a spacious edifice, the centre from which all the roads of the empire were measured, and on the walls of which the distances to all the chief places were inscribed.