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Ch. 2
This webpage reproduces a chapter of
History of the Later Roman Empire

by J. B. Bury

published by Macmillan & Co., Ltd.,
1923

The text is in the public domain.

This page has been carefully proofread
and I believe it to be free of errors.
If you find a mistake though,
please let me know!


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Ch. 4

Vol. I
p67
Chapter III

Constantinople

A map of ancient Constantinople.

Thayer's Note: Another map of the city may be found onsite in an Appendix to Procopius.

§ 1. Situation, Walls, and Harbours

The history of a thousand years approved the wisdom of Constantine in choosing Byzantium for his new capital. A situation was needed from which the Emperor could exercise imminent authority over south-eastern Europe and Asia, and could easily reach both the Danube and the Euphrates. The water passage where Asia and Europe confront each other was one of the obvious regions to be considered in seeking such a central site. Its unique commercial advantages might have been alone sufficient to decide in its favour. It was the natural meeting-place of roads of trade from the Euxine, the Aegean, and northern Europe. When he determined to found his city by this double-gated barrier between seas and continents, there were a few sites between which his choice might waver. But there was none which in strategical strength could compare with the promontory of Byzantium at the entrance of the Bosphorus. It had indeed some disadvantages. The prevailing winds are north-easterly, and the arrival of sea-borne merchandise was often seriously embarrassed, a fact which the enemies of Constantine did not fail to insist on.1 The frequency of earthquakes2 was another feature which might be set against the wonderful advantages of Byzantium as a place for a capital of the Empire.

While the whole trend of the passage through which the waters of the Euxine reach the Aegean is from east to west, the channel of the Bosphorus runs from north to south.3 At p68 the point where it widens into the Propontis, the European shore is broken by a deep narrow inlet which penetrates for more than six miles and forms the northern boundary of a hilly promontory, on which Byzantium was built. This inlet or harbour was known as the Golden Horn, and it is the feature which made the fortune of Constantine's city.

The shape of Constantinople is a trapezium, but the eastern side is so short that the city may be described as a triangle with a blunted apex. On three sides, north, east, and south, it is washed by water. The area of the city "is about four miles long and from one to four miles wide, with a surface broken up into hills and plains. The higher ground, which reaches an elevation of some 250 feet, is massed in two divisions — a large isolated hill at the south-western corner of the promontory, and a long ridge, divided, more or less completely, by five cross valleys into six distinct eminences, overhanging the Golden Horn." These two masses of hill "are separated by a broad meadow through which the stream of the Lycus flows athwart the promontory into the Sea of Marmora."4

Constantine found the town5 as it had been left by the Emperor Septimius Severus, who had first destroyed and then restored it.a The area enclosed by his wall occupied only a small portion of the later city, lying entirely to the east of a line drawn southward from the modern bridge.6 The central place in old Byzantium was the Tetrastoon, north of the Great Hippodrome which Severus built but left incomplete. In the p69 north-east corner rose the fortified Acropolis, on which stood the chief temples. Against the eastern side of the hill, close to the shore, were a theatre and amphitheatre (Kynêgion); on the north a Stadion, for foot-races; on the north-west, the Stratêgion, an open space for military drill.

The area of Constantine's city was about four times as large. He built a wall across the promontory from the Propontis to the Golden Horn, about two miles to the west of the wall of Severus. Of this wall of Constantine nothing is left, and its course can only be traced approximately; for within a city the city was enlarged, a new land fortification was built, and the founder's wall was allowed to fall into decay and gradually disappeared.7

The New Rome, as Constantinople was called, dissimilar as it was from the Old in all its topographical features, was nevertheless forced to resemble it, or at least to recall it, in some superficial points. It was to be a city of seven hills and of fourteen regions. One of the hills, the Sixth, lay outside the wall of Constantine, on the Golden Horn, and had a fortification of its own. This was the Fourteenth Region. The Thirteenth Region lay on the northern side of the Horn (in Galata) and corresponded to the Region beyond the Tiber in Rome.8

Constantine was more successful perhaps than he had hoped in attracting inhabitants to his eastern capital. Constantinople was dedicated in A.D. 330 (May 11),9 and in the lifetime of two generations the population had far outgrown the limits of the town as he had designed it. The need of greater space was met partly by the temporary expedient of filling up the sea, here and there, close to the shore, and a suburban town was growing p70 up outside the Constantinian wall.10 The desirability of enlarging the city was forced upon the government,11 and early in the reign of Theodosius II the matter was taken in hand. Anthemius, Praetorian Prefect of the East and pilot of the State during the Emperor's minority, may be called, in a sense, the second founder of Constantinople; the stones of his great wall still stand, an impressive monument of his fame.

The new line of circuit was drawn about a mile to the west of the old. The Anthemian wall did not extend the whole way from sea to sea. It was planned so as to take advantage of the fortification round the Sixth Hill, within which the Palace of Blachernae stood, but this north-western quarter of the city has been so changed, partly by subsequent constructions and partly by demolition, that it is impossible, at least without systematic excavation, to determine how the line of defence ran in the fifth century.12

The wall which was constructed under the auspices of Anthemius (A.D. 413)13 sustained extensive damages from an earthquake in A.D. 447. It was then restored and strengthened by the exertions of the Praetorian Prefect Constantine, and a new outer wall was erected.14 At this time the city might have been exposed at any moment to an attack of the Huns, and the whole work was executed with incredible rapidity in the course of a few months.

The fortification, thus completed and enlarged, was never afterwards structurally altered. It consists of five parts. The inner wall, which was the main defence, had a mean thickness of about 14 feet, and was strengthened by ninety-six towers, 60 feet high, about 60 yards apart. Each tower had two chambers, of which the upper, entered from the parapet of the wall, contained munitions, and was always occupied by watchmen. p71 Between the inner and the outer wall was a terrace (peribolos) from 50 to 64 feet broad. The outer wall was only 2 to 6½ feet thick, and it was built for the most part in arches; it too had ninety-six towers, varying from 30 to 35 feet in height. Outside the wall was an embankment,15 61 feet broad; and outside the embankment a ditch, of varying depth,16 also 61 feet broad, and divided by low dams.

The fortification was pierced by ten gates, of which five were exclusively for military purposes. The two sets, civil and military, were arranged alternately. The chief and most famous entrance, nearest to the Sea of Marmora, was the Golden Gate. It may have been erected by Theodosius the Great as a triumphal arch in memory of his victory over the rebel Maximus. This imposing structure was pierced by three archways and was built of huge square blocks of polished marble. Above the central archway, on either front, it bore the following inscription in metal:

haec loca Theudosiusº decorat post fata tyranni.

aurea saecla gerit qui portam construit auro.17

This designation of the arch as a gate suggests that Theodosius may have already contemplated the enclosure of the city by a new wall.18

The other four public gates were those known by the names of Melantias, Rhegion, St. Romanus, and Charisius.19 The stretch of wall descending from the Gate of St. Romanus into the valley p72 of the Lycus, and then ascending to the Gate of Charisius, was known as the Mesoteichion or Middle Wall, and when the city was attacked the enemy usually selected it as the most vulnerable portion of the defences. The gates divided the wall into six sections, each of which had its own division of the garrison, distinguished as the First, the Second, and so on. In each section, except in the short one between the Golden Gate and the sea which was manned by the First division, there was a military gate giving access to the terrace, and these gates were distinguished by the number of the division. Thus the military gate between the Porta Aurea and the Porta Melantiados was known as the gate of the Second.20 The gate of the Sixth, north of the Porta Charisii, was called the gate of the Xylokerkos, from a wooden circus which was near it.

It was twenty-five years after the completion of the wall of Anthemius that the sea-walls of the Constantinian city were extended along the Golden Horn and the Marmora to join the new line of fortification. This work seems to have been carried out under the direction of Cyrus, Prefect of the city, in A.D. 439.21

The Thirteenth Region, beyond the Golden Horn, known as Sycae, and subsequently as Galata,22 was not fortified, and, though formally a part of the city, it was virtually a suburb. The regular communication with this region was by ferry,23 but the Golden Horn was also crossed by a wooden bridge of which the southern end was at Blachernae.24 In the sixth century this was replaced by a bridge of stone.

The Golden Horn itself was the great port of Constantinople. But there were also small harbours on the Propontis. At the end of the fourth century there were two: the Harbour of Eleutherius or of Theodosius,25 and farther east the Harbour of Julian, also known as the New Harbour, and after the sixth p73 century as the Harbour of Sophia.26 At these wharves the cornº-ships from Egypt were probably unloaded, for between them were situated the Alexandrine grain magazines.27 In the fifth century the harbour of Eleutherius, which Theodosius the Great had improved and honoured with his own name, was filled up and disused, but a small new harbour was built near it known as the Portus Caesarii.28 It was probably not till a later period, but before the end of the sixth century, that the port of Hormisdas (afterwards known as that of Bucoleon) was constructed.29 These small harbours on the Propontis were a great convenience, indeed a necessity. For the frequently prevailing north winds often rendered it very difficult for ships to round the promontory and enter the Golden Horn. In that gulf the chief landing-place was the Portus Prosphorianus, also called the Bosporion, under the Acropolis and close to the Arsenal.

§ 2. Topography and Buildings

In founding a new city, one of the first things which the practical Romans provided was an abundant supply of water.b The construction of aqueducts was a branch of engineering which they had brought to perfection, and it was a task of little difficulty to bring in water from the northern hills. A ruined bit of the old aqueduct is still a striking object in the centre of the city.30 Many reservoirs and cisterns, both open and covered, supplied the inhabitants with water;31 and, a hundred years after the p74 foundation of the city, there were eight public baths (thermae), and 153 private baths in the fourteen Regions.32

Constantine accorded to the citizens of his new capital the same demoralising privilege which Rome had so long enjoyed, a free supply of bread at the public expense. The granaries of Africa were still appropriated to the needs of Rome; the fruitful lands of the Nile supplied Constantinople. There were five corn-stores; there were twenty public bakeries, and 117 "steps," from which the bread was distributed to the people, in different parts of the city.33

A visitor to Constantinople soon after its foundation would have been struck by the fact that there was no public sign of pagan worship. The gods of Greece and Rome were conspicuously absent. If he were a pagan, he might walk to the Acropolis and gaze sadly on the temples of Apollo, Artemis, and Aphrodite, in which the men of old Byzantium had sacrificed, and which Constantine had dismantled but allowed to stand as relics of the past.34 From its very inauguration the New Rome was ostensibly and officially Christian.35 Nor did the statue of the founder, as a sun-god, compromise his Christian intention. In the centre of the oval Forum, which he laid out on the Second Hill just outside the wall of the old Byzantium, he erected a high column with porphyry drums, on the top of which he placed a statue of Apollo, the work of an old Greek master, but the head of the god was replaced by his own. It was crowned with a halo of seven rays, and looked towards the rising sun.36 The column, blackened by time and fire, and injured by earthquakes, still stands,37 the one monument of the founder which has survived. Within the pedestal beneath Constantine is said to have placed the Palladium of Rome and several Christian relics.

Lofty columns, as Imperial monuments, were a feature of p75 Constantinople as of Rome. Theodosius the Great, Arcadius, Marcian, Justinian, all had their memorial pillars like Trajan and Marcus Aurelius. That of Marcian, the least interesting, still towers in the centre of the city;38 and the site of the sculptured column of Arcadius, erected by his son, is marked by the ruins of its high pedestal.

The Tetrastoon (Place of the Four Porticoes), on the First Hill, was the centre of old Byzantium. Constantine laid it out anew, and renamed it the Augusteum in honour of his mother, the Augusta Helena, whose statue he set up here.39 Around it were grouped the buildings which played a principal part in the political life and history of the city. On the north side was the Great Church dedicated to St. Sophia, the Holy Wisdom, which was perhaps founded by Constantine, and certainly completed by his son Constantius.40 On the east was the Senate-house, a basilica with the customary apse at the eastern end. On the south was the principal entrance to the Imperial Palace, and near it the Baths of Zeuxippus.41 The Augusteum was entered from the west, and here was the Milion (Milestone), a vaulted monument, from which the mileage was measured over the great network of roads which connected the most distant parts of the European provinces with Constantinople.42

p76 Passing the Milion one entered the great central thoroughfare of the city, the Mesê or Middle Street,c which led, through the chief Fora and public places, direct to the Golden Gate. Descending the First and ascending the Second Hill, it passed on the right the palace of the rich eunuch Lausus,43 which was a museum of art, and on the left the Praetorium, where the Prefect of the city administered justice.44 Then it reached the oval Forum of Constantine, generally known as "the Forum," on the north side of which was the second Senate-house. Continuing our way westward we reach the Forum of Taurus, adorned with the column of Theodosius the Great, which could be ascended by an interior staircase. In close proximity to this space was the Capitolium, in which, when a university was established, lecture-rooms were assigned to the professors.45 Just beyond the Forum was a monument known as the Philadelphion,46 perhaps an archway, where an important main street branched off, leading to the Church of the Holy Apostles and to the Gate of Charisius. Following Middle Street one passed through a place called the Amastrianos, and then bearing south-westward reached the Forum of Bous, so named from an oven shaped like an ox, in which calumnious legend said that Julian the Apostate had burned Christians.47 The street soon ascended the Sixth Hill and, passing through the Forum of Arcadius,48 reached the old Golden Gate in the wall of Constantine. Just outside this gate was the Exakionion, perhaps a pillar with a statue of Constantine, which gave its name to the locality.49 Farther on, before reaching the Golden Gate of Theodosius, a street diverged leading to the Gate of Pêgê.

Many streets must have diverged from this thoroughfare, both northwards and southwards, but only for three have we direct evidence: the two already mentioned leading one to the Pêgê p77 Gate, the other to the Church of the Apostles, and a third close to the Augusteum, which conducted to the Basilica and the quarter of the Bronzesmiths (Chalkoprateia),50 where the Empress Pulcheria built a famous church to the Mother of God. The site of the Basilica or law-court can be determined precisely, for the Emperor Justinian constructed beside it an immense covered cistern, which is still preserved,51 a regular underground pillared palace, well described by its Turkish name Yeri Batan Sarai. Julian had endowed the Basilica with a library of 150,000 books, and it was the haunt of students of law.52 The proximity of the cistern seems to have inspired an anonymous writer to pen the following epigram:53

This place is sacred to Ausonian law;

Here wells a spring abundant, here a rill

Of legal lore, that all who run may draw

And studious throngs of youth may drink their fill.

The Church of the Holy Apostles stood in the centre of the city, on the summit of the Fourth Hill.54 It was built in the form of a basilica by Constantine, and completed and dedicated by his son Constantius.55 Contiguous to the east end Constantine erected a round mausoleum, to receive the bodies of himself and his descendants.56 He placed his own sarcophagus in the centre, and twelve others (the number was suggested by the number of the Apostles) to right and left. This mausoleum remained intact till the Turkish conquest, and many emperors were laid to rest in it; but the church itself was rebuilt in the sixth century. In its new form it was the most magnificent ecclesiastical building in Constantinople, next to St. Sophia, but it was less fortunate than its greater rival. After the Turkish conquest it was destroyed to make room for the mosque of Mohammad the p78 Conqueror, and no vestige remains of it or of the imperial burying-place.

§ 3. The Imperial Palaces

The Great Palace lay east of the Hippodrome. Ultimately it was to occupy almost the whole of the First Region, extending over the terraced slopes of the first hill down to the sea-shore.57 Thus gradually enlarged from age to age it came to resemble the mediaeval palaces of Japan or the Kremlin at Moscow,58 and consisted of many isolated groups of buildings, throne rooms, reception halls, churches, and summer houses amid gardens and terraces. But the original palace which was designed for Constantine, and to which few or no additions were made till the sixth century, was of more modest dimensions. It was on the top and upper slopes of the hill, and was perhaps not much larger than the fortified residence which Diocletian built for himself at Salona.59 It is reasonable to suppose that the two palaces resembled each other in some of their architectural features; but the plan of the palace at Salona can hardly serve as a guide for attempting to reconstruct the palace at Constantinople;60 for not only were the topographical conditions different, but the arrangements requisite in the residence of a reigning sovereign could not be the same as those which sufficed for a prince living in retirement. It is indeed not improbable that Constantine's palace, like Diocletian's, was rectangular in form. It was bounded on the west by the Hippodrome, on the north by the Augusteum, and on this side was the principal entrance.61 This gate was known as the Chalkê, called so probably from the bronze roof of the vestibule. Immediately inside the entrance were the quarters of the Scholarian guards, and here one may notice a resemblance to the palace of Diocletian, in which the quarters of the guards p79 were close to the chief entrance, the Porta Aurea.62 On the western side of the enclosure, towards the Hippodrome, was a group of buildings specially designated as the Palace of Daphne, of which the two most important were the Augusteus, a throne room, on the ceiling of which was represented a large cross wrought in gold and precious stones,63 and the Hall of the Nineteen Akkubita, which was used for ceremonial banquets.64 It is possible that the Tribunal, a large open terrace, lay in the centre of the precincts. On the eastern side were the Consistorium,65 or Council Chamber, the Chapel of the Lord,66 and the quarters of the Candidati and the Protectors.67

If all these buildings, with other apartments and offices,68 were, as seems not improbable, arranged symmetrically in a rectangular enclosure, there was outside this enclosure another edifice contiguous and in close communication, which might be regarded either as a separate palace or as part of the Great Palace. This was the Magnaura.69 It was situated on the east side of the Augusteum, close to the Senate-house, and the passage which connected the Great Palace with the precincts of the Magnaura was near the Chapel of the Lord.

On the sea-shore to the south of the Palace was the House of p80 Hormisdas, which Constantine the Great is said to have assigned as a dwelling to Hormisdas, a Persian prince who had fled to him for protection. In later times this house was enclosed within the grounds of the Great Palace.70 The sea-shore and the lower slopes of the hill, for a long time after the foundation of the city, were covered with the private houses of rich senators, which were destined gradually to disappear as the limits of the Imperial residence were extended.71

There was another Imperial Palace at Blachernae, in the north-west of the city. We know little of it in early times, but in the thirteenth century it superseded the Great Palace as the home of the Emperors.72

Much more important in the fourth and fifth centuries was the Palace of Hebdomon on the shore of the Propontis not far from the Golden Gate. The place has been identified with Makri Keui, which is distant exactly seven Roman miles from the Augusteum.73 Here there was a plain suitable for a military encampment, and it was called, in reminiscence of Rome, the Campus Martius. The Emperor Valens built a Tribune74 for the use of the Emperor when he was reviewing troops, and to him we may probably attribute the foundation of the palace which was afterwards enlarged or rebuilt by Justinian. The place was sanctified by several churches, especially that of the Prophet Samuel containing his remains, and that of John the Baptist which Theodosius I built to receive the sacred relic of the saint's head.75 All the emperors who were elevated at New Rome from Valens to Zeno and Basiliscus were crowned and acclaimed at the Hebdomon. The Campus Martius was to witness many historical scenes, and more than once when the city was visited by earthquakes the panick-stricken populace found it a convenient refuge.

§ 4. The Hippodrome

The site of the Hippodrome corresponds to the modern Atmeïdan, which is the Turkish equivalent of the word, and its orientation (NNE to SSW) is exactly marked by three monuments which lay in its axis and still stand in their original positions. Of its general structure and arrangements we can form an idea from what we know of the Circus Maximus at Rome, which seems to have served as its model when it was designed and begun by Septimius Severus before the end of the second century.76 But it was of smaller dimensions,77 and, completed by Constantine, it had many peculiarities of its own. As there was not enough level ground on the hill, the southern portion, which terminated in a semicircle (the sphendone), was suspended on massive vaults, which can still be seen. The nature of the site determined an important difference from the arrangement of the Circus Maximus. There the main entrances were at the semi-circular extremity; here this was impossible, and the main entrances (if there was more than one) were on the western side.

At the northern end, as at Rome, were the carceres, stalls for the horses and chariots, and storehouses for all the appurtenances of the races and spectacles. But above this structure, which was an indispensable part of all Roman racecourses, arose the Kathisma, the unique and characteristic feature of the Hippodrome of Constantinople. This edifice, apparently erected by Constantine, was a small "palace" with rooms for the accommodation of the Emperor, communicating with the Great Palace by a spiral staircase.78 In front of it was the Imperial "box," p82 from which the Emperors watched the races — the Kathisma or seat which gave its name to the whole building. Immediately below the palace there was a place, probably raised above the level of the course and known as the Stama,79 which was perhaps occupied during the spectacles by Imperial guards.

Down the middle of the racecourse ran the spina (backbone), a long low wall at either end of which were the goals round which the chariots had to turn. The length of a race was generally seven circuits, and it is probable that the same device was used at Constantinople as at Rome for helping the spectators to remember at any moment the number of circuits already accomplished. At one extremity of the spina seven dolphins were conspicuously suspended, at the other seven eggs — emblems respectively of Neptune and of Castor and Pollux, deities associated with horses. As the foremost chariot passed the turning-point, an attendant removed a dolphin or an egg. The spina was adorned by works of art, and three of these ornaments have survived the Turkish conquest. An ancient Egyptian obelisk of Thothmes III, which had been brought from Heliopolis, was placed at the central point of the spina by Theodosius the Great, on a pedestal with bas-reliefs representing the Emperor and his family witnessing races.80 The choice of the position for this monument was doubtless suggested by the fact that Augustus had placed in the centre of the spina of the Roman Circus the obelisk which now stands in the Piazza del Popolo. South of the memorial of Theodosius is a more illustrious relic of history, the bronze pillar shaped of three serpents whose heads had once supported the gold tripod which the Greeks dedicated to Apollo at Delphi after the great deliverance of Plataea. Constantine had carried it off from Delphi when he despoiled Hellas to adorn p83 his new capital. The third monument, which stands farther south, is a column of masonry, which originally rose to the height of 94 feet and was covered with plates of gleaming bronze. The bronze has gone, and the upper half of the pillar.81 There were many statues and works of art, not only along the spina, but in other parts of the Hippodrome, especially in the long promenade which went round the building above the tiers of seats. The façade of the Kathisma was decorated with the four Horses of Lysippus,82 in gilt bronze, which were carried off to Venice by the Doge Dandolo, after the capture of the city by the brigands of the Fourth Crusade, and now adorn the front of San Marco.

The accommodation for spectators may have been larger than in the original Circus Maximus, where, according to a recent calculation, there may have been room for 70,000 or 80,000.83 The tiers of seats rose higher; it appears that there were over thirty rows. Special seats, probably on the lowest row, were reserved for senators,84 and it was customary for members of the Blue Faction to sit on the west side of the building, to the right of the throne, and those of the Green on the east.

The spectators entered the Hippodrome from the west. We know that there was one main entrance close to the Kathisma, and it was probably known as the Great Gate.85 We may consider it likely that there was another ingress farther south, though its existence is not expressly recorded.86 The only other issue of which we hear in early times was the Dead Gate, which, from is name, is supposed to have been used for carrying out corpses. It seems to have been somewhere in the eastern wall p84 of the building.87 In later times there was a gate into the Palace near the Kathisma, but in the fifth and sixth centuries the only passage from the Hippodrome to the Daphne Palace was through the Kathisma itself and the winding stair which has been mentioned.88

Since the establishment of the Empire, chariot-races had been a necessity of life for the Roman populace. Inscriptions, as well as literary records, of the early Empire abundantly illustrate the absorbing interest which was found by all classes in the excitement of the circus, and this passion, which Christianity did nothing to mitigate, was inherited by Constantinople. Theologians might fulminate against it, but their censures produced no greater effect than the declamations of pagan satirists. In the fifth and sixth centuries, charioteers were as wealthy a class as ever; Porphyrius was as popular an idol in the days of Anastasius as Scorpus and Thallus had been in the days of Domitian, or Diocles in those of Hadrian and Antoninus. Emperors, indeed, did not follow the unseemly example of Nero, Commodus, and other dissolute princes, and practise themselves the art of the charioteer, but they shared undisguisedly in the ardours of partisanship for one or other of the Circus Factions, which played a far more conspicuous part at Constantinople for a couple of centuries than they had ever played at Rome.

The origin of the four Factions, named after their colours, the Blues, Greens, Reds, and Whites, is obscure. They existed in the last age of the Republic,89 and they were perhaps definitely organised by contractors who supplied the horses and chariots when a magistrate or any one else provided a public festival. The number of the rival colours was determined by the fact that four chariots generally competed in a race, and there consequently arose four rival companies or Factions, requiring considerable staffs of grooms, mechanics, and messengers, and supported p85 by what they received from the givers of the festivals, who paid them according to a regular tariff.90

In every class of the community, from the Emperor down, people attached their sympathies to one or other of the rival factions. It would be interesting to know whether this partisanship was, like political views, frequently hereditary. In the fourth century a portion of the urban populations, in the greater cities of the east, was officially divided into partisans of the four colours, and used for purposes which had no connexion with the hippodrome. They were organised as quasi-military bodies, which could be used at need for the defence of the city or for the execution of public works.91 In consequence of this official organisation, embracing the dêmos or people, the parties of the hippodrome came to be designated as the demes,92 and they were placed under the general control of demarchs, who were responsible to the Prefect of the city. We do not know on what principle the members of the demes were selected from the rest of the citizens, most of whom were attached in sympathy to one or other of the colours; but we may assume it to be probable that enrolment in a deme was voluntary.93

Like the princes of the early Empire, the autocrats of the fifth and sixth centuries generally showed marked favour towards one of the parties. Theodosius II was indulgent to the Greens,94 Marcian favoured the Blues, Leo and Zeno the Greens, while Justinian preferred the Blues. These two parties had risen into such importance and popularity that they completely overshadowed the Reds and Whites, which were gradually sinking into insignificance95 and were destined ultimately, though they p86 retained their names, to be merged in the organisations of the Greens and Blues respectively.

While the younger Rome inherited from her elder sister the passion for chariot races,96 the Byzantine hippodrome acquired a political significance which had never been attached to the Roman circus. It was here that on the accession of a new Emperor the people of the capital acclaimed him and showed their approval of his election. Here they criticised openly his acts and clamoured for the removal of unpopular ministers. The hippodrome was again and again throughout later Roman history the scene of political demonstrations and riots which shook or threatened the throne, and a modern writer has described the spina which divided the racecourse as the axis of the Byzantine world.97 It may be said that the hippodrome replaced, under autocratic government, the popular Assembly of the old Greek city-state.

§ 5. The Suburbs. Population

The Romans whom Constantine induced to settle in his new city found in its immediate neighbourhood as favourable conditions as they could desire for the villeggiatura which for hundreds of years had been a feature of Roman life. From Rome they had to travel up to Tibur or Tusculum or Lanuvium, or drive to the seaside resorts of Antium and Terracina, if they did not fare further and seek the attractions of the bay of Naples. At Constantine their villas were in the suburbs near the seashore and could easily be reached by boat. We may divide the suburbs into three principal groups: the western, extending from the Theodosian Wall to Hebdomon; the banks of the Bosphorus; and the Asiatic coast from Chrysopolis (Skutari) south-eastward to Karta Limên (Kartal). The suburb and palace of Hebdomon have already been described.

On the European side of the Bosphorus, outside Galata, was the suburban quarter of St. Mamas, where the Emperors had a p87 house, which in the eighth and ninth centuries they often frequented.98 Farther north was one of the two places specially known as the Anaplûs — a confusing term, which was also used in the more general sense of the whole European bank of the straits. This, the southern Anaplûs, corresponds to the modern Kuru-Chesme; the other is at Rumili Hissar. Between these places were the suburbs of Promotus and Hestiae (Arnaut Keui), where there was a famous church of St. Michael, founded by Constantine and rebuilt by Justinian. This must not be confused with another church of the Archangel at Sosthenion, of which the name is preserved in Stenia, about two miles north of Rumili Hissar. On the Asiatic side, opposite Stenia and in the neighbourhood of Kanlija, were the suburbs of Boradion and Anthemius.

Opposite Constantinople itself were the towns of Chrysopolis, beautifully situated on the western slopes of a hill, and Chalcedon, now Kadi Keui. South of Chalcedon the coast turns and trends south-eastward, to form the bay of Nicomedia. Here were the suburbs of Hieria (Fanar Bagche), Drys, the "Oak" (Jadi Bostan), Satyros, Bryas (Mal-tepe), and Karta Limên. At Drys was Rufinianae, the estate of the Praetorian Prefect Rufinus, where he built a monastery and a mansion; confiscated after his death it became imperial property, and we find the palace sometimes occupied by members of the Imperial family. At Hieria, Justinian built a famous palace as a summer retreat, and in the ninth century Theophilus chose Bryas for the same purpose. These suburbs look across to the group of the Princes' Islands, so admirably situated by their climate for villa-life; but in the days of the Empire they were not to Constantinople what Capri and Ischia are to Naples and what they were to become in modern times; they were covered with convents and were used as honourable and agreeable prisons for fallen princes.

All these suburban quarters in both continents formed a greater Constantinople connected by water-roads. If we suppose that the population of the city itself and all these suburbs approached a million, we shall probably not be much over the p88 mark. There are no data for a precise calculation. A writer of the fifth century declares that it was generally admitted that the new city had outstripped Rome in numbers as well as in wealth.99 But unfortunately the population of Rome at this time, and indeed throughout the Imperial period, is highly uncertain; recent computations vary from 800,000 to 2,000,000.100 They vary from 500,000 to 1,000,000 for Constantinople; the probability is that in the fifth century its population was little less than a million.101


The Author's Notes:

1 Eunapius, Vit. Aedes. p23.

2 Thirteen are recorded between 395 and 565. The most serious were those of 447, 480, and 558.

3 Dethier (Der Bosphor und Cpel. p65) gives the length of the Bosphorus as exactly 27 kils. and the narrowest breadth between Rumili and Anatoli Hissar as 550 metres.

4 Van Millingen, Byzantine Cple. p2.

5 Besides the miscellaneous notices in histories and chronicles, the chief sources for the topography of the city are: (1) Notitia urbis Constantinopolitanae, an inventory of the principal buildings and monuments in each of the fourteen regions. The author says in his preface that he describes it in its perfect completion, as it has been transformed and adorned by the labours of Theodosius II (invicti principis); and we can fix the date of its composition to A.D. 447‑450, as the double wall of Theodosius is mentioned (p242 ed. Seeck). See Bury, Eng. Hist. Review, xxxi. p442 (1916). (2) The Πάτρια Κωνσταντινοπόλεως, a work of the end of the tenth century, first published by Banduri, and known as the Anonymus Banduri, but recently edited critically by Preger. The Antiquities of Codinus is only a corrupt copy of this work. (3) The treatise De cerimoniis of Constantine Porphyrogennetos (10th century). (4) Petrus Gyllius, De topographia Constantinopoleos (16th century). Much information is also derived from the descriptions of other foreign visitors, in the later Middle Ages, which need not be enumerated here. Of modern books the older are of little value now, except Ducange's Constantinopolis Christiana. For the more recent see Bibliography, II.2, E.

6 The wall of Severus appears not to have reached the southern coast of the promontory but to have turned eastward, south of the Hippodrome.

7 One of the gates, the Porta Aurea (also called Old Gate), survived the Turkish conquest and was destroyed by an earthquake in 1508. The Turks knew it as Isa Kapussi. Van Millingen, ib. 21, 30.

8 Other points of resemblance were the proximity of the Great Palace to the Hippodrome, recalling that of the Circus Maximus to the palaces of the Palatine; and the erection of a building called the Capitolium on the Second Hill. The Milion in the Augusteum corresponded to the Milliarium in the Roman Forum. As Rome had a hieratic name, Flora, so the personified city of Constantinople had a corresponding secret name Anthûsa (Flowering). See John Lydus, De mens. IV.25, 5051; Stephanus Byz. s.v. Συκαί; Paulus Silent. Hagia Sophia, v.156 χρυσοχίτῶν Ἀνθοῦσα. In Chron. Pasch., s.a. 328, it is said that the Tyche or personification of the city was named Anthusa.

9 The Encaenia of the city were celebrated annually on this date. Cp. Hesychius, Patria, p154.

10 Cp. Himerius, Or. vii.7, p522 (reign of Julian). For the growth of the population in the fourth century compare Zosimus 2, 35; Eunapius, Vit. Aedes., p22; Sozomen, II.3.

11 Themistius said (Or. 18, p223), in A.D. 384, that "if the city goes on growing as it has recently, it will require next year a new circuit of wall."

12 See the interesting discussion in van Millingen, op. cit. chap. viii.

13 Cp. C. Th. XV.1.51; Socrates, H.E. vii.1.

14 The building of the wall in sixty days is recorded in inscriptions, of which two, one in Latin, the other in Greek hexameters, are still to be read on the Porta Rhegii. The Latin runs:

Theodosii iussis, gemino nec mense peracto,

Constantinus ouans haec moenia firma locauit.

tam cito tam stabilem Pallas uix conderet arcem.

See van Millingen, op. cit. p47.

Thayer's Note: For a photo of most of the Greek inscription, and another of the gate itself, see Roberto Piperno's page.

15 Τὸ ἔξω παρατείχιον.

16 It is still 22 feet deep in front of the Golden Gate.

17 The legend is quoted by Sirmond in the fifteenth century, and has recently been confirmed by the discovery of holes in the stones, in which the metal letters were fixed, by Strzygowski; see Jahrb. des k. deutschen arch. Instituts, Bd. viii. (1893).

18 Against the view (of Strzygowski) stated in the text, E. Weigand (Das Goldene Tor, in Ath. Mitt. xxxix.1 sqq.) has argued that Theudosius is Theodosius II and the tyrant John (see below, p222), that decorat, construit auro, mean gilding, not building, and that the structure was originally built as a gate of the Anthemian wall.

19 The road issuing from the Porta Melantiados led to Melantias and Selymbria. In later times it was called the Gate of Selybria and is now known as Selivri Kapussi. Since the later fifth century it was also known as the Gate of the Pêgê, from a holy well close at hand. The Gate of Rhegion (named from the town on the Marmora at Kuchuk Chekmeje) was also known as Porta Rusia (a reference to the Red Faction of the circus). The Gate of Romanus is that known to the Turks as Top Kapussi (Cannon Gate). The most northerly gate, that of Charisius, was also called the Gate of Polyandrion from the cemetery which lay outside the city near this point. The traveller to Hadrianople would quit the city by this egress, and it is called by the Turks the Gate of Hadrianople (Edirne Kapussi).

20 Ἡ πύλη τοῦ δευτέρου. It is convenient in modern languages to call these gates the Second, Third, etc., military gate; but the true nomenclature prevents us from asking the question, where was the First?

21 Chron. Pasch., sub a. Cyrus was afterwards credited with the subsequent additions to the land wall which were due to the Prefect Constantine, and has even been identified with him. Cp. van Millingen, p48.

22 We do not meet this, the modern name of the region, before the eighth century. See Theophanes, A.M. 6209 (A.D. 717).

23 The ferry started close to the Arsenal, near the modern outer bridge. A gate in the sea wall at this point was called the Gate of the Ferry (τοῦ περάματος).

24 Pontem sublicium siue ligneum, Not. urb. Cpl. p241. The stone bridge was built by Justinian, Chron. Pasch., sub a. 528.

25 At Vlanga Bostan.

26 At Kadriga Lamini.

27 Horrea Alexandrina, also the Horreum Theodosianum, in the Ninth Region.

28 Perhaps in the reign of Leo I. Van Millingen would identify this harbour with that which in later times was called Heptaskalon (seven piers), op. cit. 301 sqq.

29 Another harbour, the Kontoskalion (short-pier), is first mentioned in the eleventh century. Van Millingen locates it between the harbours of Caesarius and Julian.

30 An extension built by Valens A.D. 368.

31 The remains of the cisterns have been studied in full detail by Strzygowski and Forchheimer, Die Wasserbehälter Cpels. Strzygowski had identified the Cisterna Modestiaca (A.D. 369) with Sarrâdshchane, near the aqueduct of Valens. The Cist. Aetii (c. A.D. 368) was on the Sixth Hill near the Tekfur Serai; the Cist. Theodosiana near the mosque of Valideh. The Cist. Asparis (A.D. 459) is probably Kara Gumrûk, in north-west of the city, outside the Constantinian wall. The Cist. S. Mocii is Exi Marmara (see plan).

All these were open reservoirs. Of the covered may be mentioned Cist. Maxima, in the Forum of Constantine, and Cist. Philoxeni, near this Forum, neither of which has been discovered; Cist. Basilica (built by Justinian), adjoining the Basilica, identified (with certainty) with the Yeri Batan Serai; and Cist. Illi (A.D. 528), identified with Bin Bir Derek (= 1001 pillars), W. of the Hippodrome.

32 See Not. urb. Cpl.

33 80,000 loaves were distributed daily. Socrates, II.13.

34 John Malalas, xiii. p324. Theodosius I turned the temple of Aphrodite into a coachhouse for the chariot of the Praet. Prefect, ib. 345.

35 Augustine, De civ. DeiV.25; Eusebius, Vit. Const. III.48. There is, however, no reason to reject the statement that Constantine consulted the advice of astronomers in laying out the city (John Lydus, De mens. IV.25).

36 Constantine Rhodios (in his poem on the Church of the Apostles, 71 sqq., in Revue des Études grecques, ix.) quotes four verses, as an inscription on this column, dedicating the City to Christ. But they are certainly not of the Constantinian epoch.

37 It is commonly known as the Burnt Column. The Turks call it Chemberli Tash, hooped pillar.

Thayer's Note: For a photo and further details see the Çemberlitaş page at Turkey Travel Planner.

38 South of the Mosque of Mohammad the Conqueror. Incisions on the pedestal have made it possible to recover the inscription:

principis hanc statuam Marciani cerne torumque

Tereius vovit quod Tatianus opus.

The column which stands near the N.E. shore of the promontory, under the Acropolis, probably commemorated the victory of Claudius Gothicus over the Goths. It bears the inscription Fortunae reduci ob devictos Gothos.

39 Chron. Pasch., sub a. 328; Hesychius, Patria, 40, 2. The site of the Augusteum is the place which the Turks call Aya Sofia Atmeïdan.

40 Dedicated in 360, Socrates, H.E. ii.43. For the later sources ascribing the foundation to Constantine, see Antoniades, Ἔκφρασις τῆς ἁγ. Σοφίας, i.3. Close to St. Sophia was St. Irene, which was certainly built by Constantine, Socrates, I.16, ii.16.

41 Built by Severus, improved and adorned with statues by Constantine. The Zeuxippus was between the Augusteum and the Hippodrome, but did not touch the Hippodrome, as we know that there was a house, and therefore probably a passage, between. See the epigram of Leontius, Anth. Pal. ix.65. It seems likely that this passage is meant by the Diabatika of Achilleus, through which the Hippodrome could be reached from the Palace gate. The Achilleus was probably a statue (Bieliaev, Byzantina, i. p132), not a bath as some have supposed. The Zeuxippus was in the Augusteum, for acc. to Chron. Pasch., sub 197, it was in the middle of the Tetrastoon. Ebersolt places it outside the Aug. on his plan; but p20 places it "between the Chalkê and the Milion."

42 Ebersolt supposes that the Augusteum was entered through gates (Le Grand Palais, p15). But the evidence relates only to a very late period (Nicolaus Mesarites, ed. Heisenberg, p21; beginning of thirteenth century).

43 He lived in the reign of Theodosius II.

44 The section of the street between the Augusteum and the Forum was called the Regia (Royal Street). The colonnades on either side had been built by Constantine and were adorned with statues and marbles. Chron. Pasch., sub a. 328. There seem to have been colonnades (ἔμβολοι) along the whole length of the Mesê.

45 See below, p231.

46 It is said to have been so called from a representation, apparently plastic, of the meeting of the three sons of Constantine after their father's death. See Patria, p177.

47 Ib. 180.

48 Now called the Evret Bazaar. The Sixth Hill was known as the Xerolophos.

49 "The Exakionion was a land wall built by the great Constantine. . . . Outside it stood a pillar with a statue of C.; hence the name," Patria, p180.

50 Cp. Bury, The Nika Riot, p111.

51 Technical description in Forchheimer and Strzygowski, op. cit. 212 sqq.

52 Cp. Agathias, iii.1.

53 Anth. Pal. ix.660.

54 This hill was called Μεσόλοφον (central hill), and hence popularly Μεσόμφαλον (navel), Patria, p219.

55 It is described by Eusebius, Vit. Const. iv.58. See Heisenberg, Apostelkirche, 99, 110.

56 The mausoleums of Diocletian at Salona, of Augustus and Hadrian at Rome, would have naturally suggested the idea. Cp. Schultze, Konstantinopel, 13, 15. Heisenberg (op. cit. 100, 116), however, thinks that Constantine only contemplated his own burial in the rotunda, that the other twelve sarcophagi were meant as cenotaphs of the Apostles, and that Constantius converted the building into an Imperial mausoleum. The question is difficult, and depends on the interpretation of some phrases in Eusebius, loc. cit.

57 Its northern limit near the shore was marked by the Topoi, a place which has been identified by a tier of seats. See van Millingen, op. cit. p256.

58 Or the Turkish Seraglio which replaced it.

59 For the construction and plan of this palace see Hébrard and Zeiller, Spalato.

60 Ebersolt was influenced by the plan of Spalato in his conjectural plan of Constantine's Palace, but I have shown that his reconstruction does not conform to our actual data (see B.Z. 21, 210 sqq.). He has also sought analogies at the palace of Mschatta in Syria.

61 Over this entrance was a painting representing the triumph of Christianity. Constantine with a cross above his head was depicted with his sons, and at their feet a dragon pierced by a dart sank into the abyss.

62 On the right side of the entrance. At Constantinople the Scholarian quarters were in front of the entrance and were traversed in order to reach the interior of the Palace.

63 The Augusteus is referred to by Eusebius in Vit. Const. iii.49, and iv.66.

64 But this hall consisted of two parts, probably separated by curtains, one on a higher level in which the banquets were held, and the other a reception hall (triklinos). The building is ascribed to Constantine in Patria, p144.

65 Probably a rectangular building like the Consistorium at Mschatta. It was used not only for meetings of the Council but also for the reception of embassies and other functions. In later times there was also a small Consistorium for use in winter.

66 Ὁ Κύριος. Ascribed to Constantine (Patria, p141). It contained relics of the true cross.

67 These porticoes (Chron. Pasch., loc. cit.) were probably replaced in the same area by the Halls of the Excubitors and the Candidati after A.D. 532.

68 Ebersolt has not made due allowance in his plan for the private apartments of the Emperor and of the Empress, or for the quarters of the Chamberlains and numerous palace officials. The Master of Offices must have had a bureau in the Palace; likewise the two ministries of finance and the treasuries were doubtless within the precincts. He tacitly assumes that the Palace of Constantine as a whole remained intact when later additions were made and the Imperial family ceased to reside in Daphne. This assumption seems to be unwarranted. It is probable that many of Constantine's constructions were removed in later times to make way for others.

69 See Patria, p144. The great Hall of the Magnaura was a basilica with three naves. In the tenth century it was a very magnificent building, but we cannot be sure that the descriptions of it apply to earlier times.

70 The façade of the House of Hormisdas on the sea-shore is still preserved (generally known as the House of Justinian, who resided there before his accession). About 100 yards from here there were till recently remains of another imperial edifice. Both buildings doubtless formed parts of the Palace of Bucoleon. See van Millingen, p275 sqq.

71 The author of the Notitia of Constantinople describes the First Region as regiis nobiliumque domiciliis clara, and enumerates 118 mansions.

72 It is mentioned in the Notitia. For the position of the palace see van Millingen, 128 sq.

73 See van Millingen, chap. xix; Bieliaev, Byzantina, iii. p57 sqq.

74 Van Millingen takes it for granted (p326) that the harbour was the little bay east of Makri Keui, but Bieliaev thinks that it was at Makri Keui itself, houses and gardens now covering the place where were once the waters and quays of the port.

75 Sozomen, VII.24.

76 Descriptions of the building will be found in Labarte and Oberhummer, opp. citt.; in Murray's Handbook to Constantinople (the part written by van Millingen), pp39 sqq.; in Grosvenor's Constantinople, i.319 sqq. (a minute reconstruction, of which many details cannot be substantiated); in Paspatês, Great Palace, 38 sqq.

77 The dimensions of the Circus are given by Pollack (Circus Maximus, in Pauly-Wiss.) as follows: length of course = 590 metres (2000 Roman feet); length of building including carceres and semicircle = 635 m;º breadth of arena = 80 m; breadth of building = 150 m. Van Millingen estimates the Hippodrome as "between 1200 and 1300 feet in length and about half as wide." Grosvenor makes it longer and narrower (1382 feet long, 395 feet wide). Van Millingen had probably exaggerated the width, but it is not unlikely that the area occupied by the seats was larger in the Hippodrome than in the Circus Maximus.

78 The earliest mention of the staircase (κοχλίας) is in Chron. Pasch., s. a. 380. It is not clear whether the door of Decimus, which is connected with it here, was at the bottom or the top. The Kathisma could also be reached from the hippodrome itself, as is clear from the story of the Nika riot in A.D. 532.

79 Also known as the Pi. See Constantine Porph. Cer. i.69, pp310, 338; 92, p423.

80 The obelisk is 60 feet high. The bas-relief on the north side represents (1) below — the erection of the obelisk; (2) above — the Kathisma with upper and lower balconies; Theodosius with his two sons is seated in the upper, on either side are courtiers and guards. On the east: (1) above — Kathisma, as before; Theodosius holds crown for the victor in a race, and in the lower balcony are a number of persons, including musicians; (2) below — a Latin inscription recording the erection of the obelisk. On the south: (1) above — Kathisma, Imperial family in upper balcony, courtiers in the lower; in front on steps two mandatores, addressing the people for the Emperor; (2) below — a chariot race. On the west: (1) above — Kathisma, Imperial family in upper balcony, barbarians bringing tribute in lower; (2) below — a Greek inscription on the erection of the obelisk. These reliefs supply some material for a conjectural construction of the front of the Kathisma.

Thayer's Note: For several photos of the Obelisk of Thothmes III; plus other photos of the remains of the Hippodrome, the Columns of Constantine, of Marcian, and of the Goths, and the Aqueduct of Valens, see Roberto Piperno's page on Roman monuments still visible in Istanbul.

81 As to its date we only know from the inscription which remains on the pedestal that by the reign of Constantine VII in the tenth century it had suffered from the injuries of time (χρόνῳ φθαρέν) and required restoration. Paspatês (op. cit. p42) gives the distance from the Egyptian obelisk to the bronze pillar as 94 paces.

82 It is said that they were brought from Chios by Theodosius II.

Thayer's Note: For two excellent photos of the horses and comprehensive details on them, including a reconstruction of the Kathisma, see The Horses at St. Mark's in Venice by Tom Wukitsch.

83 In the time of Augustus; in that of Constantine, perhaps it was more than double (Hülsen, in Jordan, Top. d. S. Rom. I.III.137). Paspatês calculates that the Hippodrome accommodated 60,000, Grosvenor 80,000.

Thayer's Note: For further discussion of the seating capacity of the structure in Rome, see the article Circus Maximus in Platner and Ashby's Topographical Dictionary of Ancient Rome, a more recent work than Jordan's Topographie.

84 Marcellinus, Chron., s. a. 528.

85 Const. Porph. Cer. i.68, p307. The existence of a principal gate here is generally admitted. The position of the entrances is discussed by Labarte, loc. cit. His assumption, on grounds of symmetry, that there were gates on the E side exactly opposite to those on the W is arbitrary. The question of the gates is important in connexion with the Nika riot of A.D. 532. See below, Vol. II, Chap. XV.º

86 It is assumed by Labarte, and is probable on grounds of convenience (to avoid congestion).

87 Labarte placed it near the Sphendone, but there is no evidence. If conjecture is permissible, it may have been in the centre of the eastern wall, where the Skyla gate was afterwards constructed (probably by Justinian II).

88 The absence of any entrance here may be inferred from the circumstances of the suppression of the Nika riot. I have shown that in the seventh and eighth centuries there was a covered hippodrome on the E. side of the great Hippodrome (and about half as long) between it and the Palace grounds; but there is no evidence that it existed in the fifth or sixth century. See Bury, Covered Hippodrome, 113‑115.

89 The Reds and Whites, at least; some think that the Blues and Greens (Veneti and Prasini) arose under the Empire.

90 Friedländer, Roman Life and Manners, ii.27.

91 The part taken by the demes in restoring and extending the walls of Theodosius II at Cple. is recorded in Πάτρια, p150. See van Millingen, Byz. Cple. pp44, 79. The name of the 3rd military gate, Rusion, may refer to its construction by the Red deme. In later times we have cases of the demes defending the walls. For the organisation at Alexandria, cp. M. Gelzer, Studien, p18.

92 Δημότης was used to designate the member of a deme, and δημοτεύω was used in two senses — (1) neuter, to be a δημότης; (2) trans., to arm δημόται for military service (Theophanes, A.M. 6051). μέρη was the ordinary word for the circus parties.

93 There is abundant evidence to show that the demes included only a portion of the urban population (see Rambaud, De Byz. Hippodromo, pp87, 88; Reiske, Comm. ad Const. Porph. de Cer. pp28, 29).

94 He changed the seats of the Greens from the right to the left of the Kathisma (John Mal. xiv. p351).

95 Thus in an important passage of Theophylactus Simocatta (who wrote early in the seventh century), Hist. VIII.7.11, only two parties are recognised, εἰς δύο γάρ χρωμάτων ἐφέσεις τὰ τῶν (p86) Ῥωμαίων καταρἔκτωκε πλήθη.— The history of the demes has been investigated in the important article of Uspenski, Partii tsirka i Dimy v Kplie in Viz. Vrem. i.1 sqq.

96 The popularity of the circus with the Romans of the sixth century is noted in Cassiodorus, Var. iii.51, 11: illic supra cetera spectacula fervor animorum inconsulta gravitate rapiatur. transit prasinus, pars populi maeret: praecedit venetus et ocius turba civitatis affligitur. Cp. Salvian, De gub. Dei, vi.20‑26.

97 Rambaud, op. cit. p19 quidam axis fuit quo Byzantinus orbis universus nitebatur.

98 That there was an imperial house here in the fifth century seems to follow from the fact that in 469, on the occasion of the great fire, Leo I stayed at St. Mamas for six months. He constructed a harbour and portico (Chron. Pasch., sub a.). The question as to the locality was cleared up by the late J. Pargoire, who has definitely identified many of the more important suburbs in his valuable articles (see Bibliography, ii.2, E).

99 Sozomen, H.E. ii.3. Chrysostom (In Acta Ap. Hom. xi.3) gives 100,000 as the number of Christians and 50,000 as the number of poor (sc. Christians) who need public assistance. But we can base no conclusion on figures which are clearly Chrysostom's own guesses. How wildly he guessed is shown by his estimate of the wealth of Constantinople in the same passage. He reckons the value of all the real and personal property to be a million pounds of gold (i.e. over £45,000,000), "or rather twice or thrice as much."

100 Beloch and Lanciani respectively. There have been many estimates, based on area, the corn distribution, the number of houses and insulae (apartment-houses), etc.

101 It would be too long to go into the evidence, which has been thoroughly sifted and criticised by A. Andreades in his articles Περὶ τοῦ πληθυσμοῦ and De la population de Cple (see Bibliography, ii.2, C), in which he has refuted the arguments of E. A. Foord (The Byzantine Empire, 1911) that the population was 500,000. His conclusion is that the population was between 800,000 and 1,000,000 at the end of the fifth century. I may observe that the number of domus given in the Not. Urb. Const. is 4388; the domus are the palaces and houses of the rich. The number of the insulae or apartment-houses in which the poorer lived is not given. Now in Rome, in the time of Constantine, the number of domus was about 1790, and the number of insulae more than 4400. It is reasonable to suppose that the number of insulae in Constantinople, though not more than double (like that of the domus) the number of insulae in Rome, was at least considerably over 2000; and this would bear out Sozomen's statement (see penultimate note) that the new city was more populous than Rome. — As to the population of Alexandria the available evidence tends to show that from the early period of the Empire down to the seventh century it was not less than 600,000. For Antioch, Libanius (Epp. 1137) gives 150,000, which is much too small. Acc. to John Malalas (Bk. xvii. p420) 250,000 perished in the earthquake of A.D. 526. He was an Antiochene and a contemporary.

Thayer's Note: For a brief discussion of the population of Alexandria, see Bevan's House of Ptolemy, p97.


Thayer's Notes:

a For the destruction, see Dio, LXXIV.11‑14. For Septimius Severus' restoration of the city, I find many loose references, including the statements that he rebuilt the Hippodrome and that he named the city Augusta Antonina "in honor of his son", but no primary source: all these parrotings ultimately derive, however, from the article Byzantium in the 1911 Encyclopedia Britannica, and are thus very credible. I suspect Marcellus, but have been unable to find him online. (If you have better details, please drop me a line, of course.)

b An obvious necessity, but the Romans were unusually focused on it; one has only to remember the extremely ancient sewer system upon which Rome itself depended. Vitruvius dances around the subject in Book I of his De Architectura (especially I.I.10 and I.IV.9‑12) and Book VIII.

c A summary article on the Mesê, with bibliography, can be read at The Other Side of Byzantium.


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