Home / Tag Archives: Constantinople

Tag Archives: Constantinople

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 …

Read More »

The Coming of the Storm 1905 – 1913

balkan

ALREADY HEMMED in on two sides by France and Russia, the Germans were dismayed to see Great Britain join their rivals. They feared that they would be surrounded by unfriendly powers and they decided to test the Entente Cordiale. They were anxious to find out how strong it was and how far Great Britain would go in backing up its new ally. The place they chose for the showdown was Morocco, where the French, now with the approval of the British, were policing large areas and taking over territory and rights. So, in March of 1905, a German warship suddenly appeared off the Moroccan port of Tangier. Kaiser Wilhelm came ashore and made a speech. He startled his listeners by declaring that Morocco ought to be an independent country. When the diplomats of the world heard of this speech they guessed what the kaiser was up to. He did not really care whether or not the French stayed in Morocco. He was simply trying to break up the new understanding between France and Great Britain. Events soon showed that the diplomats were right. Germany summoned the European powers and the United States to a conference, to discuss Morocco’s future. The conference met in 1906, in the Spanish city of Algeciras, but instead of supporting Germany‚ all the powers except Austria-Hungary sided with France. In the end, Germany’s attempts break the Entente only made it stronger. Even before the Algeciras conference was over, French and British Generals and admirals were planning the joint defense of their countries. In 1911 came a second Moroccan crisis, when the German gunboat Panther anchored in the port of Agadir. The Germans said they were merely protecting their interests, but it was soon clear that they intended a kind of international blackmail. They said they would …

Read More »

Rivalries in the Middle East 1856 – 1912

ottoman

THE MIDDLE EAST where Europe, Asia and Africa meet had long been known as one of the great crossroads of the world. Most of its people were Moslems, but among them were many Christians and Jews. They spoke languages as different as Arabic and Latin, Slavic and Turkish. They had little in common except that they were all subjects of the Ottoman sultan in Constantinople. The Ottoman Empire — so called after its early founder, Othman — was the last of several empires to rule over a large part of Islam. Unlike the earlier empires, it was dominated not by Arabs, but by Turks. Centuries before, the Turks had fought their way west from Central Asia and founded a new homeland in the West Asian peninsula of Turkey. From there, they had pushed outward, conquering lands and peoples. In 1699, however, they had lost Hungary to the Austrians. After that, while the nations of western Europe grew stronger, the Ottoman Empire became weaker. Throughout the eighteenth, nineteenth and early twentieth centuries, the Ottoman sultans had to combat enemies both within and without their empire. Their foreign enemies were the European powers, which snatched up their outlying lands. Their enemies at home were the subject peoples, especially in the Balkan Peninsula of southeast Europe, who demanded their freedom. Unrest was chronic and the Ottoman Empire, which was usually called simply Turkey, came to be known as “the sick man of Europe.” By the 1850’s, Turkey had lost lands north of the Black Sea to Russia and Algeria‚ in North Africa, to France. Of its former Balkan holdings, Greece was independent and both Serbia and Rumania had some freedom. A native Arab dynasty ruled much of Arabia. In Egypt, a former Turkish governor had set himself up as hereditary khedive, or viceroy, …

Read More »

Russia Under the Tsars 1462-1796

tsars

IN THE LAST PART of the fifteenth century, the monks and courtiers of Moscow began to say that Moscow was destined to become the “Third Rome.” The first Rome, they said had been great as the centre of Christianity; but when the Romans had recognized the pope, Rome had been punished by destruction. The second Rome had been Constantinople, the centre of the Orthodox Church; but Constantinople, too, had briefly recognized the pope, and it, too, had fallen. Now Moscow, where the Orthodox faith still remained pure, was to become the Third Rome — the great centre of the Christian world. It would remain so, “for two Romes have fallen, the third stands and a fourth will not be.” Once Moscow had been small and unimportant, but the dukes of Moscow had been bold and ambitious, seizing every opportunity to make Moscow stronger. Sometimes they acted more like thieves than princes. Grand Duke Daniel once invited another prince to dinner, pretending friendship. When the guest arrived, Daniel threw him into prison and seized his lands. Daniel’s son, Ivan, who was called Ivan Moneybags, made Moscow the home of the Metropolitan, the head of the Russian Orthodox Church. Ivan Moneybags also became the tax collector for the Tatar overlords and he kept a good part of the taxes, for himself. Other dukes stole or bought or conquered new lands to make Moscow greater. THE BOYARS So, when Ivan III became Grand Duke in 1462, he inherited one of the most powerful kingdoms of Russia. Ivan acted very much as though he believed the story of the Third Rome. He married Sophia, niece of the last Byzantine emperor. He put the two-headed eagle of Rome on his own state seal. He sometimes even called himself tsar, which was the Russian way of …

Read More »

Prince Henry’s School 1415 – 1499

Vasco da Gama

IN 1415, WHEN ALL OF CHRISTENDOM belonged to one church and Christians battled pagan Turks instead of one another, a force of Portuguese marines set sail for the coast of Africa. They planned to attack a town called Ceuta. A stronghold that guarded the narrow passage connecting the Mediterranean Sea with the Atlantic, Ceuta was the end link in the chain of fortresses and well-armed ports that the Turks had tightened around the southern and eastern boundaries of Europe. Held in by this chain, European merchants could not trade in the luxury-filled markets of the east, pilgrims could not journey to Jerusalem and missionaries could not carry the word of God to the countless “lost souls” of Africa and the Indies. While the Turks held Ceuta, it was dangerous for the merchants of northern and southern Europe merely to trade with one another. So the king of Portugal sent out an expedition of his toughest marines. At their head he placed his own son, Prince Henry, who was young but skilled in the tactics of war. With a favourable wind driving his ships at top speed, Prince Henry caught the Turks by surprise. He sank their fleet, destroyed their docks‚ burned their town and triumphantly sailed home to announce that the sea routes were free once more. The king rewarded his son by naming him master of the Naval Arsenal at Sagres, the port of Lagos and all of the Cape of St. Vincent, the rocky headland that jutted like a pointing finger from southern Portugal into the Atlantic. Prince Henry was delighted. Ships and the sea were his love and his life and he had many ideas for the fleet that now was his to command. These ideas were the beginning of a great age of exploration. They would …

Read More »

Venice, City in the Sea 1350 – 1590

venice

The houses of Venice are “like sea-birds half on sea and half on land,” said Cassiodorus. An officer of a king of the Goths, Cassiodorus saw Venice in 537. It was a little settlement of huts built on the mud-flats in an out-of-the-way lagoon. Its people were refugees‚ Italians who had been driven from their homes by a horde of barbaric invaders. They were safe in the lagoon, for no stranger could navigate the treacherous channels. For the sake of safety, they were content with comforts that were simple at best. “In this place,” Cassiodorus said, “rich and poor are alike — they all fill up on fish.” A thousand years later, when Venice had become the richest and most powerful city in Italy, it was still a place of refuge from the wars and turmoil of the mainland. The lagoon was still an unbeatable defense. Instead of streets, there were canals and the city’s mansions, marble palaces and gold-peaked churches still hovered above the water like sea-birds, perched on 117 islands linked by nearly 400 bridges. In every way, Venice belonged to the sea and for many years the sea belonged to Venice. The descendants of the settlers commanded mighty warships that ruled the eastern Mediterranean. With their great merchant galleys, they were the lords of the trade-routes of the Adriatic and Aegean Seas and they sailed the Atlantic to England and Flanders. In the Middle Ages, the Venetians built and manned the hundreds of ships that took the Crusaders to the Holy Land — and they saw to it that the knights captured a few colonies for Venice along the way. Through the years, these colonies multiplied into an ocean empire until even Constantinople, the capital of the old Roman Empire of the East, paid homage to the …

Read More »

The Crusades 1096-1260

crusade

ON A COLD NOVEMBER DAY IN 1096, a great crowd of people gathered in a field at the town of Clermont in France. They had come from miles around and near them were pitched the tents they had put up for shelter. For some days, Pope Urban II had been holding a great council of cardinals, bishops and princes. Today he was to speak to the people and so many wanted to hear that no building was large enough to hold them all. A platform had been built in the center of the field and as Pope Urban stepped up on it a hush fell over the crowd. Pope Urban was a Frenchman and he spoke to the people around him as fellow Frenchmen. “Oh, race of Franks,” he said, “race beloved and chosen by God . . . set apart from all other nations by the situation of your country as well as by your Catholic faith and the honour which you render to the holy Church: to you our discourse is addressed. . . .” “From the confines of Jerusalem and from Constantinople a grievous report has gone forth that an accursed race, wholly alienated from God, has violently invaded the lands of these Christians and has depopulated them by pillage and fire. They have led away a part of the captives into their own country and a part they have killed by cruel tortures. . .” The people knew what he meant. He was speaking of the Holy Land, that lay on the eastern shores of the Mediterranean Sea. Here were the cities of Jerusalem, Nazareth, Gaza and Damascus. Here Jesus Christ had lived and preached and had been crucified; here Christianity had begun. Here were many sacred shrines and during the Middle Ages thousands of Europeans …

Read More »

The End and the Beginning 378- 752

martel

THE FIRST SIGN of the approaching Roman army was a thin column of dust. It rose like smoke from behind the jagged Thracian hills of Northern Greece, which sheltered the Visigoths’ encampment. Moments later, the Visigoths, or German barbarians, as the Romans called them, could feel the ground tremble with the tread of the imperial legions. The Romans were advancing, forty thousand strong, under the personal command of the Emperor Valens. Within the Visigoths’ barricade of wagons, all was confusion. Chieftains bellowed, calling their clans together. Sturdy Visigothic warriors dragged the wagons closer together in a protective circle. Horses neighed and whinnied as their riders leaped astride them; swords were unsheathed and lances brandished. A courier spurred away from camp to summon the main body of Visigothic cavalry, foraging at some distance. It was A.D. 378 and the battle of Adrianople was about to begin. Trumpets blared and the close-packed Romans marched straight toward the barbarian enemy. Suddenly, there was a thunder of hooves on the left. A great swarm of Visigothic horsemen, summoned from their foraging expedition, galloped over the hillside. They swooped down on the Romans, as an eyewitness described it, “like a thunderbolt which strikes on a mountain top and dashes away all that stands in its path.” More horsemen poured in from the right and the front, pressing the tightly massed Romans into a death trap. The men of the legions could scarcely raise their arms to strike a blow. Again and again the horsemen charged, brandishing lance and sword. When night fell, forty thousand Roman soldiers lay dead upon the field, together with the grand master of the infantry and cavalry, the count of the palace, thirty-five commanders of horse and foot corps and the Emperor Valens himself. This great defeat was to mark the …

Read More »

The Coming of the Europeans A.D. 1498-1707

europeans

MORE than two centuries before Aurungzeb’s death and even before the coming of Babur, a new kind of invader had appeared in India. Instead of thundering down on horseback from the Himalayan passes, he arrived on the coast by ship. Instead of plunder, he sought trade. Instead of wanting to conquer the subcontinent, he wanted to conquer the seas around it. This invader’s name was Vasco da Gama. He had sailed his small fleet all the way around Africa from his homeland of Portugal in southwest Europe. In 1498, just six years after Columbus discovered America, he landed at the South Indian port of Calicut. “Why have you come?” someone asked him. “For Christians and spices,” he replied. The captain’s brief answer summed up a great deal of history. Throughout the Middle Ages, Europe had depended on the East for Silk, precious stones and spices‚ such as cloves and — most prized of all — pepper. Supplies had come from India across Moslem territory. Deliveries had always been uncertain, but after the Turks took Constantinople in 1453, they became even more so. The Turks held up shipments and demanded money to let them pass. If this toll was paid, the price of the goods had to be raised. If it was not paid, the Turks would not allow the shipment to go through. Eastern goods became scarce in Europe and this sent the price still higher. It soon became plain that anyone who could bring the products of Asia directly to Europe would make a fortune. The Portuguese, as the foremost seafarers of Europe, were the first people to try to get around the Turkish blockade by setting up a sea route to India. There were other reasons, too, behind da Gama’s voyage. The pope and the European kings feared …

Read More »

The Ottomans, the Last Great Islamic Power A.D. 1299-1922

ottoman

ACCORDING to their tradition, the Ottoman Turks once belonged to the same Central Asian tribe as the Seljuk Turks. Their ancestors came to Asia Minor with the Seljuks. In time, they began to challenge the authority of their fellow Turks. The Ottomans took their name from a chieftain called Othman, who in 1299 became the emir of Seljuk lands bordering on the Byzantine Empire. Othman declared holy war on his Christian neighbours. His son Orkhan captured the city of Brusa and in 1362 Orkhan’s son Murad took Adrianople, beyond the strait and sea that separated Asia Minor from Europe. Thereafter, Murad and his son Bayezid pressed forward on two fronts–against Serbs, Bulgars and other Balkan peoples in southeast Europe and against Byzantines and Seljuks in Asia Minor. By 1400, the Ottomans had conquered Macedonia and Bulgaria, pushed the Byzantines out of Asia Minor and swept the Seljuk emirs from their thrones. In that year, however, Timur attacked the eastern Bank of their kingdom. After devastating Syria, he came back and crushed the Ottoman army near Ankara, taking Sultan Bayezid captive. He restored the Seljuk emirs to their posts. When Bayezid died in 1405, his three sons immediately began to fight over their inheritance. Their struggle raged for ten years. At last Sultan Mohammed came out the winner, with both of his brothers dead. These civil wars, coming so soon after the Mongol invasion, left the land and the people exhausted. The Ottomans’ fighting spirit soon revived. Under Mohammed and his son Murad II, Turkish armies again advanced across southeast Europe. In 1443, a huge army made up of Rumanians, Hungarians, Poles, Germans and Frenchmen defeated them. Five years later, however, they beat back another massive Christian attack in Serbia. Murad’s son Mohammed II, became sultan in Adrianople in 1451. He …

Read More »
Translate »