Location of Byzantion
The etymology of Byzantium
is unknown. It has been suggested that the name is of Thraco
It may be derived from the Thracian or Illyrian personal name Byzas.
Ancient Greek legend refers to King Byzas
, the leader of the Megarian colonists and founder of the city.
: Βυζάντιος, Βυζάντιοι, Latin
; adjective the same) referred to Byzantion's inhabitants, also used as an ethnonym
for the people of the city and as a family name.
In the Middle Ages
was also a synecdoche
for the eastern Roman Empire
. (An ellipsis
of Medieval Greek
: Βυζάντιον κράτος, romanized
: Byzántion krátos
: Βυζαντινός, Latin
) denoted an inhabitant of the empire.
of Latin Byzantinus
yielded "Byzantine", with 15th and 16th century forms including Byzantin
, and Bysantin
as well as Byzantian
The name Byzantius
were applied from the 9th century to gold Byzantine coinage
, reflected in the French besant
), Italian bisante
, and English besant
, or bezant
The English usage, derived from Old French besan
), and relating to the coin, dates from the 12th century.
Later, the name Byzantium
became common in the West to refer to the Eastern Roman Empire
, whose capital was Constantinople. As a term for the east Roman state as whole, Byzantium
was introduced by the historian Hieronymus Wolf
only in 1555, a century after the last remnants of the empire had fallen, and whose inhabitants continued to refer to their polity as the Roman Empire (Medieval Greek
: Βασιλεία τῶν Ῥωμαίων, romanized
: Basileía tōn Rhōmaíōn
'empire of the Romans'), had ceased to exist.
The origins of Byzantium are shrouded in legend. Traditional legend says Byzas
(a city-state near Athens
) founded Byzantium in 667 BC when he sailed northeast across the Aegean Sea
. The tradition tells that Byzas, son of King Nisos
(Νίσος), planned to find a colony of the Dorian
Greek city of Megara. Byzas consulted the oracle
, which instructed Byzas to settle opposite the "Land of the Blind". Leading a group of Megarian colonists, Byzas found a location where the Golden Horn
, a great natural harbor, meets the Bosphorus
and flows into the Sea of Marmara
, opposite Chalcedon
(modern day Kadıköy
). He adjudged the Chalcedonians blind not to have recognized the advantages[example needed]
the land on the European
side of the Bosporus
had over the Asiatic side. In 667 BC he founded Byzantium at their location, thus fulfilling the oracle's requirement.
It was mainly a trading city due to its location at the Black Sea
's only entrance. Byzantium later conquered Chalcedon, across the Bosphorus on the Asiatic side.
Byzantium was besieged by Greek forces during the Peloponnesian War
. As part of Sparta
's strategy for cutting off grain supplies to Athens during their siege of Athens, Sparta took control of the city in 411 BC, to bring the Athenians into submission. The Athenian military
later retook the city in 408 BC, when the Spartans had withdrawn following their settlement.
After siding with Pescennius Niger
against the victorious Septimius Severus
, the city was besieged by Roman forces and suffered extensive damage in AD 196.
Byzantium was rebuilt by Septimius Severus, now emperor, and quickly regained its previous prosperity. It was bound to Perinthus
during the period of Septimius Severus. The location of Byzantium attracted Roman Emperor Constantine I
who, in AD 330, refounded it as an imperial residence inspired by Rome itself, known as Nova Roma
. After his death the city was called Constantinople
(Greek Κωνσταντινούπολις, Konstantinoupolis
, "city of Constantine").
This combination of imperialism and location would affect Constantinople's role as the nexus between the continents of Europe and Asia. It was a commercial, cultural, and diplomatic centre and for centuries formed the capital of the Byzantine Empire
, which decorated the city with numerous monuments, some still standing today. With its strategic position, Constantinople controlled the major trade routes between Asia and Europe, as well as the passage from the Mediterranean Sea
to the Black Sea
. On May 29, 1453, the city fell to the Ottoman Turks
, and again became the capital of a powerful state, the Ottoman Empire
. The Turks called the city "Istanbul" (although it was not officially renamed until 1930); the name derives from "eis-ten-polin" (Greek: "to-the-city"). To this day it remains the largest and most populous city in Turkey
, although Ankara
is now the national capital.
By the late Hellenistic
or early Roman period (1st century BC), the star and crescent
motif was associated to some degree with Byzantium; even though it became more widely used as the royal emblem of Mithradates VI Eupator
(who for a time incorporated the city into his empire).
Some Byzantine coins of the 1st century BC and later show the head of Artemis
with bow and quiver, and feature a crescent with what appears to be an eight-rayed star on the reverse. According to accounts which vary in some of the details, in 340 BC the Byzantines and their allies the Athenians
were under siege by the troops of Philip of Macedon
. On a particularly dark and wet night Philip attempted a surprise attack but was thwarted by the appearance of a bright light in the sky. This light is occasionally described by subsequent interpreters as a meteor
, sometimes as the moon, and some accounts also mention the barking of dogs. However, the original accounts mention only a bright light in the sky, without specifying the moon.
To commemorate the event the Byzantines erected a statue of Hecate lampadephoros
(light-bearer or bringer). This story survived in the works of Hesychius of Miletus
, who in all probability lived in the time of Justinian I
. His works survive only in fragments preserved in Photius
and the tenth century lexicographer Suidas
. The tale is also related by Stephanus of Byzantium
, and Eustathius
Devotion to Hecate
was especially favored by the Byzantines for her aid in having protected them from the incursions of Philip of Macedon. Her symbols were the crescent and star, and the walls of her city were her provenance.
It is unclear precisely how the symbol Hecate/Artemis, one of many goddesses
would have been transferred to the city itself, but it seems likely to have been an effect of being credited with the intervention against Philip and the subsequent honors. This was a common process in ancient Greece, as in Athens
where the city was named after Athena
in honor of such an intervention in time of war.
Cities in the Roman Empire
often continued to issue their own coinage. "Of the many themes that were used on local coinage, celestial and astral symbols often appeared, mostly stars or crescent moons."
The wide variety of these issues, and the varying explanations for the significance of the star and crescent on Roman coinage precludes their discussion here. It is, however, apparent that by the time of the Romans, coins featuring a star or crescent in some combination were not at all rare.
- ^ Speake, Jennifer (2003). Literature of Travel and Exploration: A to F. ISBN 9781579584252.
- ^ Kazhdan, A. P.; Epstein, Ann Wharton (February 1990). Change in Byzantine Culture in the Eleventh and Twelfth Centuries. University of California Press. p. 1. ISBN 9780520069626. Byzantion term remained used for constantinople.
- ^ The Rise of the Greeks. https://books.google.com/books?id=KynUBgAAQBAJ&pg=PT22: Orion Publishing Group. 2012. ISBN 978-1780222752.
- ^ a b Janin, Raymond (1964). Constantinople byzantine. Paris: Institut Français d'Études Byzantines. pp. 10ff.
- ^ a b c d e f g Georgacas, Demetrius John (1947). "The Names of Constantinople". Transactions and Proceedings of the American Philological Association. The Johns Hopkins University Press. 78: 347–67. doi:10.2307/283503. JSTOR 283503.
- ^ Room, Adrian (2006). Placenames of the World: Origins and Meanings of the Names for 6,600 Countries, Cities, Territories, Natural Features, and Historic Sites (2nd ed.). Jefferson, NC: McFarland & Company. ISBN 978-0-7864-2248-7.
- ^ Pliny, IV, xi
- ^ "Byzantine, adj. and n.". Oxford English Dictionary. OED Online.
- ^ "bezant | byzant, n.". Oxford English Dictionary. OED Online. ISBN 9780198611868.
- ^ Kazhdan, Alexander P. (1991). "Byzantium". The Oxford Dictionary of Byzantium. Oxford University Press. doi:10.1093/acref/9780195046526.001.0001. ISBN 978-0-19-504652-6.
- ^ a b Balcer 1990, pp. 599–600.
- ^ "Egypt, Greece, and Rome: Civilizations of the Ancient Mediterranean," Oxford University Press, 2nd Edition, 2004, p. 302
- ^ Daily Life in Ancient and Modern Istanbul Robert Bator, Chris Rothero p. 8
- ^ Andrew G. Traver, From Polis to Empire, The Ancient World, c. 800 B.C.–A.D. 500, Greenwood Publishing Group, 2002, p. 257
- ^ "In 340 BC, however, the Byzantines, with the aid of the Athenians, withstood a siege successfully, an occurrence the more remarkable as they were attacked by the greatest general of the age, Philip of Macedon. In the course of this beleaguerment, it is related, on a certain wet and moonless night the enemy attempted a surprise, but were foiled by reason of a bright light which, appearing suddenly in the heavens, startled all the dogs in the town and thus roused the garrison to a sense of their danger. To commemorate this timely phenomenon, which was attributed to Hecate, they erected a public statue to that goddess [...]" William Gordon Holmes, The Age of Justinian and Theodora, 2003 pp. 5–6; "If any goddess had a connection with the walls in Constantinople, it was Hecate. Hecate had a cult in Byzantium from the time of its founding. Like Byzas in one legend, she had her origins in Thrace. Since Hecate was the guardian of "liminal places," in Byzantium small temples in her honor were placed close to the gates of the city. Hecate's importance to Byzantium was above all as deity of protection. When Philip of Macedon was about to attack the city, according to the legend she alerted the townspeople with her ever-present torches, and with her pack of dogs, which served as her constant companions. Her mythic qualities thenceforth forever entered the fabric of Byzantine history. A statue known as the 'Lampadephoros' was erected on the hill above the Bosphorous to commemorate Hecate's defensive aid." Vasiliki Limberis, Divine Heiress, Routledge, 1994, pp. 126–127
- ^ Vasiliki Limberis, Divine Heiress, Routledge, 1994, p. 15
- ^ "In 324 Byzantium had a number of operative cults to traditional gods and goddesses tied to its very foundation eight hundred years before. Rhea, called "the mother of the gods" by Zosimus, had a well-ensconced cult in Byzantium from its very foundation. [...] Devotion to Hecate was especially favored by the Byzantines [...] Constantine would also have found Artemis-Selene and Aphrodite along with the banished Apollo Zeuxippus on the Acropolis in the old Greek section of the city. Other gods mentioned in the sources are Athena, Hera, Zeus, Hermes, and Demeter and Kore. Even evidence of Isis and Serapis appears from the Roman era on coins during the reign of Caracalla and from inscriptions." Vasiliki Limberis, Divine Heiress, Routledge, 1994, p. 16
- ^ Michael R. Molnar, The Star of Bethlehem, Rutgers University Press, 1999, p. 48
- Balcer, Jack Martin (1990). "BYZANTIUM". Encyclopaedia Iranica, Vol. IV, Fasc. 6. pp. 599–600.
- Harris, Jonathan, Constantinople: Capital of Byzantium (Hambledon/Continuum, London, 2007). ISBN 978-1-84725-179-4
- Jeffreys, Elizabeth and Michael, and Moffatt, Ann, Byzantine Papers: Proceedings of the First Australian Byzantine Studies Conference, Canberra, 17–19 May 1978 (Australian National University, Canberra, 1979).
- Istanbul Historical Information – Istanbul Informative Guide To The City. Retrieved January 6, 2005.
- The Useful Information about Istanbul. Retrieved January 6, 2005.
- The Oxford Dictionary of Byzantium (Oxford University Press, 1991) ISBN 0-19-504652-8
- Yeats, William Butler, "Sailing to Byzantium",
Last edited on 26 March 2021, at 20:03
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