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Tag Archives: Hippodrome

Christianity Spread in a Divided Empire

The year is 400 A.D. Andropolos paces impatiently up and down the deck of the merchant ship. He is eager to get back home; and to Andropolos, home is the city of Constantinople, a new capital of the Roman Empire. He can already see the walls and buildings of the great city shimmering in the distance. Now the ship is nearing the narrow Bosporus, the waterway where Europe and Asia are hardly a mile apart. The voyage from Ostia, the port of the old city of Rome, had been long and tiresome. Andropolos had been only too glad to leave Italy. The city that was once a hub of the Roman Empire, though still large, had a down at the heel look. Simultaneously the cities of northern Italy were becoming crowded with rough barbarians. Tall Germans also were filling the ranks of Roman legions. In times past, men such as these had been defeated again and again by Roman armies made up of men from Italy, but those victories had been won long ago and Rome had no such fighters left. Yes, Andropolos is thankful to leave Italy. Here in Constantinople the authority of the Roman emperor still counts. Andropolos shakes his head sadly as he recalls what has happened — the Roman Empire is not what it used to be. For Andropolos, though he is Greek born and Greek speaking, proudly calls himself a Roman citizen. The walls of Constantinople on the left grow closer as the ship enters the Bosporus. Soon it will dock in the harbour of the Golden Horn and Andropolos’ long voyage will be over. When he steps ashore, the first thing he will do, good Christian that he is, will be to go to the nearest of the many churches in Constantinople. There Andropolos …

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The Great Justinian A.D. 532-565

justinian

THE STREETS of Constantinople were thronged that Tuesday morning in January of 532. Public buildings were closed. Shops on the Street of the Silversmiths were barred and shuttered. The barracks at Strategium were occupied by regiments of soldiers which had recently arrived from the frontiers. The soldiers had orders to stay in their quarters, for this was a day of the people. It was the opening day of the great chariot races at the Hippodrome. Most of the people in the crowded streets wore winter cloaks and carried their lunches. Ordinary citizens did not wear Roman togas, for that was the dress of high officials. There were beggars in rags, shaven Bulgars wearing iron-chain belts, oriental merchants in turbans and flowing robes, black-haired Asians with pointed beards, Russians in furs and seamen from Genoa and Venice. At the Hippodrome, groups of local farmers led by priests were among the first to take their seats in the marble tiers above the vast arena. Banners whipped in the wind as the tiers filled up. Latecomers jammed the promenade that ran along above the highest of the tiers. The usual first-day excitement gripped the huge crowd, about forty thousand in all, but something was missing. People looked more serious than usual and spoke to each other in low voices. It was plain that they were uneasy. Their uneasiness had to do with the peasant from Macedonia who had been ruling over them for several years as Emperor Justinian. This first day of the races was the time when people could meet their emperor face to face and express their feelings toward him. They had some strong feelings about Justinian. They feared him, too, and that was the reason for their uneasiness. RIOT AT THE HIPPODROME Justinian knew that the people were complaining, but they were …

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The Greek Way of Life 700 B. C. – 343 B. C.

Olympia

In the first years of Spartan peace, Greece was filled with wandering soldiers. Their little cities needed them no more. The new governments, which Spartans appointed, looked on them as men who might make trouble and were quick to get rid of them. Homeless and with no way to earn a living, the old campaigners roamed from place to place. They became soldiers of fortune, men who fought for any general or city that offered pay and three meals a day. In 401 B. C., ten thousand of them hired themselves out to Cyrus, a prince of Persia, who hoped to steal his brother’s throne. The Army of Ten Thousand was an odd lot. There were officers and men from a dozen or more Greek states, soldiers who had fought with and against each other during the thirty years of war that had torn Greece apart. Yet, under a foreign commander, they worked well together. They made a strong force which no Asian army could begin to match. Cyrus led them far into Persia and wherever they went they were victorious. Then Cyrus was killed in battle and the Greek officers were tricked and treacherously murdered. The great army suddenly found itself stranded, with neither money nor leaders. The men were not even sure where they were, except that it was hundreds of miles from the coast of Greece. Election of Xenophon The Persian king waited for them to lose heart and surrender, as any Asian army did when it had no officers to give it orders. The Army of Ten Thousand was Greek. After a day of confusion, the soldiers called an Assembly and elected a new general, Xenophon, a young Athenian who had been the assistant of one of the dead officers. For four months he led them …

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