September 29, 2012

Istanbul, Turkey: In Search of the City’s Roman Past

Exactly 1,700 years ago, in 312 AD, the Roman Emperor Constantine had a vision that changed the course of the Roman Empire – the world even – and ultimately turned Britain into a Christian country.

The vision appeared to Constantine, just before the Battle of the Milvian Bridge. His adversary was Maxentius, a rival for the emperor’s crown. Looking above the heads of his marching soldiers, Constantine saw a burning cross of light over the sun, next to the Greek words, “Ev Toutw Nika” - “In this sign, you will conquer.” The following night, Christ appeared to Constantine in a dream, telling him to use the sign against his enemies.

Constantine did as he was told. He stuck a cross on his army’s shields, won the battle, killed Maxentius, became undisputed Roman Emperor, and the rest is history - Christian history. From that point on, or so the legend goes, Constantine began his conversion to Christianity and, in time, the Roman Empire became a Christian Roman Empire.

But the heart of Constantine’s new Christian Empire was not to be Rome, but the ancient Greek city of Byzantium. In 330AD, he made it the new imperial capital; in the same year, it was renamed Constantinople in his honour (and nicknamed “New Rome”). Along with the Roman imperial court, the senate and the supreme courts all moved to Constantinople from old Rome.

Read more on The Telegraph: Istanbul, Turkey: In Search of the City’s Roman Past


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