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Bill Thayer

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This webpage reproduces a section of
The Buildings


published in the Loeb Classical Library,

The text is in the public domain.

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Book I (Part 3)

p61 6 1 Such is the nature of this bay. And the Emperor Justinian adorned it with buildings on all sides and thus made it still more notable. 2 On the left of the bay he found the martyr's shrine of St. Lawrence, which previously had been without a ray of light and practically filled with darkness, and he remodelled it, to speak briefly, and consecrated it in the form in which it is now seen. 3 Over against this, in the quarter called Blachernae, he built the Church of the Virgin which I just described.56 4 Further on he established a shrine to St. Priscus and St. Nicholas, an entirely new creation of his own, at a spot where the Byzantines love especially to tarry, some worshipping and doing honour to these saints who p63have come to dwell among them, and others simply enjoying the charm of the precinct, since the Emperor forced back the wash of the sea and set the foundations far out into the water when he established this sanctuary.57

5 At the far end of the bay, on the ground which rises steeply in a sharp slope,58 stands a sanctuary dedicated from ancient times to Saints Cosmas and Damian. When the Emperor himself once lay seriously ill, giving the appearance of being actually dead (in fact he had been given up by the physicians as being already numbered among the dead), these Saints came to him here in a vision, and saved him unexpectedly and contrary to all human reason and raised him up.a 6 In gratitude he gave them such requital as a mortal may, by changing entirely and remodelling the earlier building, which was unsightly and ignoble and not worthy to be dedicated to such powerful Saints, and he beautified and enlarged the church and flooded it with brilliant light and added many other things which it had not before. 7 So when any persons find themselves assailed by illnesses which are beyond the control of physicians, in despair of human assistance they take refuge in the one hope left to them, and getting on flat-boats they are carried up the bay to this very church. 8 And as they enter its mouth they straightway see the shrine as on an acropolis, priding itself in the gratitude of the Emperor and permitting them to enjoy the hope which the shrine affords.

p65 9 Across the bay the Emperor built a martyr's shrine which had not existed before, by the very strand of the bay, and dedicated it to the martyr Anthimus. 10 The foundations of the shrine are washed by the caressing flow of the sea in an altogether charming manner. 11 For the incoming waves do not rise up with a roar and break on the stones there, nor do the breakers thunder aloud like those of the sea and divide and break up in a foaming mass, but the water comes forward gently, and silently touches the land and then quietly draws back. 12 And extending back from the beach is a smooth and very level court (aulê), adorned on all sides with marbles and with columns and glorying in its view over the sea. 13 Beyond this is a stoa with the church inside rising in the form of a quadrangle to a great height and made beautiful by the charm of its stones and by the gold applied to them. 14 And the length exceeds the width only by the extent of the sanctuary, where alone the sacred mysteries may be performed, along the side which faces towards the east. So much, then, for this.

7 1 Beyond this, just about at the opening of the bay, was built a Church of the Martyr Eirenê. This entire church was constructed by the Emperor on such a magnificent scale that I, at least, could not possibly do it justice. 2 For seeking to rival the sea in lending beauty to the land about the gulf, he set all these shrines, as in an encircling necklace, round about it. But since I have mentioned this Church of Eirenê, it will not be amiss for me at this point to recount also the incident which happened there. p673 Here from ancient times were buried the remains of no fewer than forty holy men; these had chanced to be Roman soldiers who served in the Twelfth Legion, which in ancient times had been posted in the city of Melitenê in Armenia. 4 So when the masons were excavating in the place which I have just mentioned, they found a chest shewing by an inscription that it contained the remains of these very men. 5 And God brought to light this chest, which thus far had been forgotten, with an express purpose, partly to assure all men that He had accepted the Emperor's gifts most gladly, and partly because He was eager to repay this great man's beneficence with a greater favour. 6 It chanced that the Emperor Justinian was suffering from a grievous affliction, since a dangerous discharge had set in at the knee and caused him to be tortured with pain; and for this he himself was chiefly responsible. 7 For during all the days which precede the Feast of Easter, and which are called days of fasting, he observed a severe routine which was unfit not only for an Emperor, but for any man who was concerned in any way with state affairs.59 8 Indeed he had gone two whole days quite without food, and that too while rising regularly from his bed at early dawn and keeping watch over the State, and constantly managing its affairs by word and deed from early dawn to midday and equally into the night. 9 And although he went to his couch late in the night, he immediately rose again, as if he could not endure his bed. 10 And when he did take nourishment, he p69abstained from wine and bread and other foods and ate only herbs, and those, too, wild ones thoroughly pickled with salt and vinegar,b and his only drink was water. 11 Yet he never took a sufficiency even of these, but whenever he did take a meal, he merely tasted these foods he liked and then left them before he had eaten enough. 12 Hence, then, his malady gathered strength and got beyond the help of the physicians, and for a long time the Emperor was racked by these pains. 13 But during this time he heard about the relics which had been brought to light, and abandoning human skill, he gave the case over to them, seeking to recover his health through faith in them, and in a moment of direst necessity he won the reward of the true belief. 14 For as soon as the priests laid the reliquary on the Emperor's knee, the ailment disappeared entirely, driven out by the bodies of men who had been dedicated to the service of God. And God did not permit this to be a matter of dispute, for he shewed a great sign of what was being done. 15 For oil suddenly flowed out from these holy relics, and flooding the chest poured out over the Emperor's feet and his whole garment, which was purple. 16 So this tunic, thus saturated, is preserved in the Palace, partly as testimony to what occurred at that time, and also a source of healing for those who in future are assailed by any incurable disease.

8 1 Thus was the bay called the Horn given distinction by the Emperor Justinian. And by erecting buildings he elaborated into a thing of great beauty the shores of the other two straits which I have just mentioned, in the following p71manner. 2 There happened to be two sanctuaries dedicated to the Archangel Michael, standing opposite one another on either side of the strait, the one at the place called Anaplus,60 on the left bank as one sails toward the Euxine Sea, the other on the opposite shore. 3 The men of ancient times called this point Proöchthi,61 because, I suppose, it projects far out from the shore-line there, but now it is called Brochi,62 for with the passage of time names are corrupted through the ignorance of local residents. 4 And the priests of these two shrines, seeing them utterly dilapidated by time and having become fearful that they would fall in upon them at any moment, petitioned the Emperor to restore both of them to their ancient form. 5 For it was not possible, during the reign of this Emperor, for any church either to be built for the first time or to be restored when it had fallen into disrepair except with imperial funds, not alone in Byzantium, but in every part of the Roman Empire.63 6 So the Emperor no sooner had found this pretext than he at once tore them both down to the foundations, so that none of their previous untidiness was left. He rebuilt the one at Anaplus in the following way. 7 By a stone quay he made the shore-line there curve inward to form a sheltered harbour and he transformed the sea-beach into a market. 8 For the sea at that point is very calm, and makes possible trading with the land. 9 And the sea-traders tie up their skiffs along the p73stone quay and from their decks exchange their merchandise for the products of the land. 10 Behind this shore-market extends the court (aulê) in front of the church. In colour this court resembles beautiful marbles and snow. 11 Those who promenade here delight in the beauty of the stones, while they rejoice in the view of the sea and revel alike in the breezes wafted from the water and in those that descend from the hills which tower over the land. 12 A circular (enkyklios) stoa surrounds the church and is lacking only on the side towards the east. In the centre stands the church, adorned with stones of an infinite variety of colours. 13 The roof soars aloft in the form of a dome (tholos). How could any man do justice to the work in describing the lofty stoas, the secluded buildings within the enclosure, the charm of the marbles with which both walls and pavements are everywhere arranged? 14 In addition to these an extraordinary amount of gold has been applied to every part of the shrine and looks just as if it had grown upon it. 15 This same description can be applied equally well to the shrine of John the Baptist, which the Emperor Justinian recently dedicated to him at Hebdomum,64 as it is called. 16 For these two shrines happen to resemble each other closely, except that the shrine of the Baptist chances not to be on the sea.

17 Now the Church of the Archangel in the place called Anaplus was built in this way. 18 And on the opposite bank is a site somewhat removed from the sea, naturally level and raised to a height by courses of stone. 19 There has been built the other shrine of the p75Archangel, a work of extraordinary beauty and unrivalled in size, and because of its magnificence worthy both of Michael, to whom it is dedicated, and of the Emperor Justinian, who dedicated it. 20 Not far from this place he restored in the same way a holy shrine of the Virgin which had fallen into disrepair a long time before, and it would be a long task to study this building and describe in words its majesty. But here follows the long-awaited portion of my narrative.

9 1 On this shore there chanced to have been from ancient times a remarkable palace. This the Emperor Justinian has dedicated wholly to God, exchanging immediate enjoyment for the reward of piety thereby obtained, in the following manner. 2 There was a throng of women in Byzantium who had carried on in brothels a business of lechery, not of their own free will, but under force of lust.65 3 For it was maintained by brothel-keepers, and inmates of such houses were obliged at any and all times to practise lewdness, and pairing off at a moment's notice with strange men as they chanced to come along, they submitted to their embraces. 4 For there had been a numerous body of procurers in the city from ancient times, conducting their traffic in licentiousness in brothels and selling others' youth in the public market-place and forcing virtuous persons into slavery. 5 But the Emperor Justinian and the Empress Theodora, who always shared a common piety in all that they did, devised the following plan. 6 They cleansed the state of the pollution of the brothels, banishing the very name of brothel-keepers, and they set free from a licentiousness fit only for p77slaves the women who were struggling with extreme poverty, providing them with independent maintenance, and setting virtue free. This they accomplished as follows. 7 Near that shore of the strait which is on the right as one sails toward the Sea called Euxine, they made what had formerly been a palace into an imposing convent designed to serve as a refuge for women who repented of their past lives, 8 so that there through the occupation which their minds would have with the worship of God and with religion they might be able to cleanse away the sins of their lives in the brothel. 9 Therefore they call this domicile of such women "Repentance," in keeping with its purpose. 10 And these Sovereigns have endowed this convent with an ample income of money, and have added many buildings most remarkable for their beauty and costliness, to serve as a consolation for the women, so that they should never be compelled to depart from the practice of virtue in any manner whatsoever. So much, then, for this.66

11 As one goes on from there toward the Euxine Sea, a certain sheer promontory is thrust out along the shore-line of the strait, on which stands a martyr's shrine of St. Panteleëmon, which had been carelessly built to begin with and had suffered greatly from the long passage of time; this the Emperor Justinian removed completely from the spot and in its place built in a very magnificent manner the church which now p79stands on this site, and he thus preserved to the martyr his honour and at the same time added beauty to the strait by setting these shrines on either side of it. 12 Beyond this shrine, in the place called Argyronium, there had been from ancient times a refuge for poor persons who were afflicted with incurable diseases. 13 This, with the passage of time, had already fallen into a state of extreme disrepair, but he restored it with all enthusiasm, so that it should provide a lodging for those who suffered in this way. And there is a certain promontory named Mochadium near the place which is now called Hieron.67 14 There he built another church to the Archangel, one of peculiar sanctity and inferior in esteem to none of the shrines of the Archangel which I have just mentioned.

15 He also dedicated a shrine to the martyr Tryphon which was finely built at a great cost of labour and of time so that it became an object of altogether indescribable beauty, in a street of the city which is named Pelargus.68 16 Furthermore he dedicated a shrine to the martyrs Menas and Menaeus in the Hebdomum.69 And on the left as one enters the gate which is known as the Golden Gate, this Emperor found a martyr's shrine of St. Ia, fallen in ruins, which he restored with all sumptuousness. 17 Such were the labours accomplished by the Emperor Justinian in connection with the holy places in Byzantium; but to enumerate all the sacred edifices which he built through the length and breadth of the whole Roman Empire is a difficult, nay, an altogether impossible task. 18 However, when it becomes necessary for us to mention any city or p81district by name, the sanctuaries in that place shall be recorded at the proper point.

10 1 So the churches, both in the city of Constantinople and in its suburbs, were built as stated by the Emperor Justinian; but it is not easy to recount in my narrative each one of the other buildings erected by him. 2 But to speak comprehensively, the majority of the buildings and the most noteworthy structures of the rest of the city, and particularly of the Palace area, had been burned and razed to the ground when he undertook to rebuild them and to restore them all in more beautiful form. 3 Yet it has seemed to me not at all necessary at the present time to recount these in detail, for they all been described with care in my Books on the Wars. At this point, only this shall be set down, that this Emperor's work includes the propylaea (propylaia) of the Palace and the so‑called Bronze Gate70 as far as what is called the House of Ares, and beyond the Palace both the Baths of Zeuxippus and the great colonnaded stoas and indeed everything on either side of them as far as the market-place which bears the name of Constantine. 4 And besides these he remodeled the building known as the House of Hormisdas, which is close by the Palace, so altering and transforming it altogether into a more noble structure as to be really in keeping with the royal residence, to which he joined it, making it greater in width and consequently much more admirable.71

5 And there is before the Palace a certain market-place p83surrounded by columns (peristylos), which the people of Byzantium call the Augustaeum. This I have mentioned previously72 when in the account of the Church of Sophia I described the bronze statue of the Emperor commemorating the work, set upon a very tall column made of fitted blocks. 6 To the east of this market-place stands the Senate House, surpassing description by reason of its costliness and every element of its construction, the work of the Emperor Justinian. 7 There the Senate of the Romans assembles at the beginning of the year and celebrates an annual festival, observing always the ancient tradition of the State. 8 Six of its columns stand in front of it, two of which have between them the wall of the Senate House which faces the west, while the four others stand a little beyond it; all of them are white in colour, and in size, I believe, they are the largest of all columns in the whole world. 9 And the columns form a porch (stoa) which carries a roof curving into a vault (tholos), and the whole upper portion of the colonnade is adorned with marbles which rival the columns in their beauty, and the roof is wonderfully set off by a great number of statues which stand upon it.73

10 Not far from this market-place is the residence of the Emperor, and practically the whole Palace is new, and, as I have said, was built by the Emperor Justinian; but it is impossible to describe it in words and it must suffice for future generations to know p85that it happens to be entirely the work of this Emperor. 11 We know the lion, as they say, by his claw, and so those who read this will know the impressiveness of the Palace from the vestibule (protemenisma).74 So this entrance, which they call Chalkê,75 is of the following sort. 12 Four straight walks stand in a quadrangle (tetragonos) rising heaven-high, equal to each other in all respects except that those which face south and north, respectively, are both slightly shorter than the others. 13 At each corner there projects a sort of structure (anastasis) of very carefully worked stones, ascending with the wall from the ground to its very top, having four sides, to be sure, but joined to the wall on one side, not detracting from the beauty of the structure, but actually adding a sort of grace to it by the harmony of the similar proportions. 14 Above them rise eight arches, four of which support the roof which curves over the centre of the whole structure in the form of a suspended dome (sphairoeidês), while the others, two toward the south and two toward the north, rest upon the adjoining walls and lift on high the vaulted (tholos) roof which is balanced between them.76 15 And the whole ceiling boasts of its pictures, not having been fixed with wax melted and applied to the surface,77 but set with tiny cubes of stone beautifully coloured in all hues, which represent human figures and all other kinds of subjects. 16 The subjects of these pictures I will now describe. On either side p87is war and battle, and many cities are being captured, some in Italy, some in Libya; and the Emperor Justinian is winning victories through his General Belisarius, and the General is returning to the Emperor, with his whole army intact, and he gives him spoils, both kings and kingdoms and all things that are most prized among men. 17 In the centre stand the Emperor and the Empress Theodora, both seeming to rejoice and to celebrate victories over both the King of the Vandals and the King of the Goths, who approach them as prisoners of war to be led into bondage. 18 Around them stands the Roman Senate, all in festal mood. This spirit is expressed by the cubes of the mosaic, which by their colours depict exultation on their very countenances. 19 So they rejoice and smile as they bestow on the Emperor honours equal to those of God, because of the magnitude of his achievements. And the whole interior of the building, as far as the mosaics above, is clothed with handsome marbles, not only the upright surfaces, but the whole of the pavement as well. 20 Some of these marbles are of Spartan stone78 which rivals the emerald, while some simulate the flame of fire; but the most of them are white in colour, yet the white is not plain, but is set off with wavy lines of blue which mingle with the white. So much, then, for this.

11 1 As one sails from the Propontis79 up toward the eastern side of the city, there is on the left a public bath. This is called Arcadianae, and it is an ornament to Constantinople, large as the city is. 2 There this Emperor built a court (aulê) which lies p89outside the city, and it is always open to those who tarry there for promenades and to those who anchor there as they are sailing by. 3 This is flooded with light when the sun rises, and when it passes on toward the west it is pleasantly shaded. And the unruffled sea flows quietly about this court, encircling it with its stream, coming in from the Pontus like a river, so that those who are promenading can actually converse with those who are sailing by. 4 For the sea preserves its depth even though it reaches up to the very foundations of the court and so is navigable there for ships, and by reason of the deep calm which prevails it brings together those on land and those on the sea so that they can converse with each other. 5 Such, then, is the side of the court which borders on the sea, adorned by the view over it, and breathed upon by the gentle breezes which come from it. 6 Columns and marbles of surpassing beauty cover the whole of it, both the pavement and the parts above. And from these gleams an intensely brilliant white light as the rays of the sun are flashed back almost undimmed. 7 Nay more, it is adorned with great numbers of statues, some of bronze, some of polished stone, a sight worthy of a long description. One might surmise that they were the work of Pheidias the Athenian, or of the Sicyonian Lysippus or of Praxiteles. 8 There also the Empress Theodora stands upon a column, which the city in gratitude for the court dedicated to her. 9 The statue is indeed beautiful, but still inferior to the beauty of the Empress; for to express her loveliness in words or to portray it p91in a statue would be, for a mere human being, altogether impossible.c The column is purple, and it clearly declares even before one sees the statue that it bears an Empress.

10 I shall now describe the labours which were carried out here by this Emperor to ensure an abundant water-supply. In the summer season the imperial city used to suffer from scarcity of water as a general thing, though at the other seasons it enjoyed a sufficiency. 11 Because that period always brings droughts, the springs, running less freely than at the other seasons, used to deliver through the conduits a less abundant flow of water to the city. 12 Wherefore the Emperor devised the following plan. At the Imperial Portico,80 where the lawyers and prosecutors prepare their cases, as well as all others who are concerned with such matters, there is a certain very large court (aulê), very long, and broad in proportion, surrounded by columns (peristylos) on the four sides (tetrapleuron), not set upon a foundation of earth by those who constructed it, but built upon living rock. 13 Four colonnaded stoas surround the court, standing one on each side. Excavating to a great depth this court and one of the stoas (that which faces toward the south), the Emperor Justinian made a suitable storage reservoir for the summer season, to contain the water which had been wasted because of its very abundance during the other seasons. 14 For receiving this overflow of the aqueduct p93when its stream is spilling over, this cistern both furnishes a place for the water which for the moment can find no space, and provides a supply for those who need it when water becomes scarce. 15 Thus the Emperor Justinian made provision that the people of Byzantium should not be in want of fresh water.

16 He has also built palaces at various places, completely new ones, one at the Heraeum, which they now call Hieron, and another at the place called Jucundianae.81 But I could never adequately describe in fitting words either their magnificence and their exquisitely detailed workmanship or their massive bulk. 17 It will be sufficient to say simply that they are regal and that they were built under the personal supervision of the Emperor and with the help of his skill, while nothing was disregarded, excepting only money. The sum of this indeed was so great that it cannot be computed by any reckoning.

18 There too he skilfully contrived a sheltered harbour which had not existed before. Finding a shore which lay open to the winds from two directions and to the beating of the waves, he converted it into a refuge for voyagers in the following way. 19 He prepared great numbers of what are called "chests" or cribs, of huge size, and threw them out for a great distance from the shore along oblique lines on either side of the harbour, and by constantly setting a layer of other chests in regular courses upon those underneath he erected two very long walls,82 which lay at an angle to each other on the opposite sides of the harbour, rising from their foundations deep in the water up to p95the surface on which the ships float.83 20 Then upon these walls he threw rough-cut stones, which are pounded by the surf and beat back the force of the waves; and even when a severe storm comes down in the winter, the whole space between the walls remains calm, a single entrance being left between the breakwaters for the ships to enter the harbour. 21 In that place also he erected holy shrines, as I have already recounted,84 and stoas and markets and public baths, and practically all the other types of buildings, so that this quarter is in no way inferior to the Palace-quarter within the city. 22 And he also constructed another harbour on the opposite mainland, in the place which bears the name of Eutropius, not far distant from this Heraeum, executed in the same manner as the harbour which I have just mentioned.

23 Now building operations carried out by the Emperor Justinian in the imperial city, to describe them in the briefest terms, were about such as I have recounted. The one detail which remains to be mentioned here I shall straightway set forth. 24 Since the Emperor maintains his residence here, it results from the very magnitude of the Empire that a throng of men of all conditions comes to the city from the whole world. 25 Each of them is led to come either by some errand of business or by some hope or by chance; and many indeed come whose affairs are not in a happy state at home, in order to petition the Emperor; and all these become residents of the city because of some compulsion which is either urgent, p97imminent, or threatening. 26 And in addition to their other difficulties, it comes about that these persons are also in want of quarters, being unable to pay the hire of any stay here. 27 This difficulty the Emperor Justinian and the Empress Theodora solved completely for them. For very close to the sea, in the place called Stadium (for in ancient times, I suppose, it was given over to games of some kind), they built a very large hospice, destined to serve as a temporary lodging for those who should find themselves thus embarrassed.

The Loeb Editor's Notes:

56 Chap. iii.3.

57 The Emperor's passion for erecting buildings at the edge of the water is frequently criticised in the Secret History (viii.7, xix.6, xxvi.23).

58 Modern Eyoub.

59 Cf. the description of the Emperor's observances and habits in the Secret History, xii.27, xiii.28‑33.

60 Modern Arnautkeuy, about four miles up the Bosporus from Byzantium. Procopius has slipped away from the "three straits" of the city.

61 Literally, "projecting banks."

62 "Knots," perhaps from the many fishing nets used there.

63 Cf. Justinian, NovellaeLXVII.

64 Modern Macrikeuy, see p55, n. 3.

65 That is, men's violent lust.

66 The reader should compare the very different account of this foundation given by Procopius in the Secret Historyxvii.5, 6.

67 See above, Chap. iii.10, and the description of Hieron in WarsIII.i.8 and Secret History, xv.36.

68 "Stork."

69 Modern Macrikeuy.

70 See n. 2, p85.º

71 See above, Chap. iv.2.

72 Cf. Chap. ii.1.

73 The description, while not clear, seems to imply a structure tetrastyle, prostyle, with one column on the return at each (p83)side and the doorway between the two rear columns. The ambiguity of the word tholos, which may mean either a dome or a vault, makes it impossible to determine from this passage whether there was a dome over the porch or a tunnel vault extending back from the central intercolumniation.

74 Cf. Libanius, Orat. XI.232.

75 The Bronze (Gate); mentioned also in WarsI.xxiv.47.

76 Presumably this structure had four impost piers at the walls on the interior near the corners. These piers carried transverse and longitudinal arches which formed an interior cruciform plan, supporting a dome over the centre.

77 I.e. by the encaustic method of painting.

78 Verd-antique.

79 Modern Sea of Marmara.

80 Mentioned also in the Secret History, xiv.13 (see the note there). The cistern which Justinian dug under a part of the (p91)building is probably the one now called Yeri Batan Serai, a short distance west of the Church of St. Sophia. Cf. also Downey, "The Architectural Significance of the Use of the Words Stoa and Basilikê in Classical Literature," American Journal of Archaeology, XLI, 1937, pp204 f.

81 Both on the Bosporus; cf. suprap41.

82 i.e. breakwaters.

83 Procopius's description indicates that the "chests" were caissons, in this case probably boxes without lids, which were weighted with stones and sunk.

84 Chap. iii.10.

Thayer's Notes:

a A logical choice of saints for Justinian to pray to; they were doctors. See this good article with bibliography and several paintings of them, and the brief article in Catholic Encyclopedia there referred to.

b This devotional exercise seems to have struck Procopius, whether Justinian engaged in it for the entire duration of Lent as it would seem here, or just for the Easter triduum as in Secret History, XIII.29; see also my note there.

c Just the same, our author tried to do that elsewhere (Secret History, x.11); the result makes for entertaining reading.

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