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Byzantium (Greek: Βυζάντιον, Byzántion; Latin: BYZANTIVM) was an ancient Greek city, founded by Greek colonists from Megara in 667 BC and named after their king Byzas (Greek: Βύζας, Býzas, genitive Βύζαντος, Býzantos). The name Byzantium is a Latinization of the original name Byzantion. The city was later renamed Constantinople and briefly became the imperial residence of the classical Roman Empire, and then subsequently was the capital of the Byzantine Empire, the Greek-speaking Roman Empire of late Antiquity and the Middle Ages. Constantinople was captured by the Ottoman Turks, becoming the capital of their empire, in 1453. The name of the city was changed to Istanbul in 1930 following the establishment of modern Turkey.

Contents

History

The origins of Byzantium are shrouded in legend. The traditional legend has it that Byzas from Megara (a town near Athens), founded Byzantium in 667 BC, when he sailed northeast across the Aegean Sea. Byzas had consulted the Oracle at Delphi to ask where to make his new city. The Oracle told him to found it "opposite the blind." At the time, he did not know what this meant. But when he came upon the Bosporus he realized what it meant: on the east shore was a Greek city, Chalcedon. However, according to legend, they had not noticed the land that lay a half-mile away. Byzas founded his city here on the European coast and named it Byzantion after himself. It was mainly a trading city due to its strategic location at the Black Sea's only entrance. Byzantion later conquered Chalcedon, across the Bosporus on the Asiatic side.

After siding with Pescennius Niger against the victorious Septimius Severus, the city was besieged by Roman forces and suffered extensive damage in 196 AD. Byzantium was rebuilt by Septimius Severus, now emperor, and quickly regained its previous prosperity. The location of Byzantium attracted Roman Emperor Constantine I who, in 330 AD, refounded it as an imperial residence inspired by Rome itself. (See Nova Roma.) After his death the city was called Constantinople (Greek Κωνσταντινούπολις or Konstantinoupolis) ('city of Constantine'). It remained the capital of the Eastern Roman Empire, which is called the Byzantine Empire by modern historians. This combination of imperialism and location would affect Constantinople's role as the nexus point between two continents: Europe and Asia. It was a commercial, cultural, and diplomatic magnet. With its strategic position, Constantinople did control the route 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 (though not officially renamed until 1930) and it has remained Turkey's largest and most populous city, although Ankara is now the capital.

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Emblem

Though associated with the Sassanid Persians and with Mithradates VI Eupator (who for a time incorporated the city into his empire)[1], by the late Hellenistic or early Roman period, the star and crescent motif had been associated to some degree with Byzantium. For example, 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 a six-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 light in the sky, without specifying the moon.[2] To commemorate the event the Byzantines erected a statue of Hecate lampadephoros (light-bearer or bringer). This story survived in the works 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.[3]

It is unclear how the symbol of a particular goddess (one of many[4]) would have been transferred to the city itself. If the Byzantines adopted the crescent and star as a symbol of their city after the events of the mid 4th Century BC, one is forced to wonder why they waited several hundred years before putting the symbol on only some of their coins.

Later, under the Romans, cities in the 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."[5] 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.

Notable people

  • Homerus, tragedian, lived in the early 3rd century BC
  • Philo, engineer, lived ca. 280 BC–ca. 220 BC
  • Epigenes of Byzantium, astrologer, lived in the 3rd–2nd century BC

See also

Notes

  1. ^ Andrew G. Traver, From Polis to Empire, The Ancient World, ca. 800 B.C.-A.D. 500, Greenwood Publishing Group, 2002, p257
  2. ^ "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 p5-6; "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 he 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, p126-127
  3. ^ Vasiliki Limberis, Divine Heiress, Routledge, 1994, p15
  4. ^ "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, p16
  5. ^ Michael R. Molnar, The Star of Bethlehem, Rutgers University Press, 1999, p48

References

  • Harris, Jonathan, Constantinople: Capital of Byzantium (Hambledon/Continuum, London, 2007). ISBN 978 1847251794
  • 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 0195046528

External links


Byzantium (Greek: Βυζάντιον, Byzántion; Latin: BYZANTIVM) was an ancient Greek city, founded by Greek colonists from Megara in 667 BCE and named after their king Byzas (Greek: Βύζας, Býzas, genitive Βύζαντος, Býzantos). The name Byzantium is a Latinization of the original name Byzantion. The city was later renamed Constantinople and briefly became the imperial residence of the classical Roman Empire, and then subsequently was, for more than a thousand years, the capital of the Byzantine Empire, the Greek-speaking Roman Empire of late Antiquity and the Middle Ages. Constantinople was captured by the Ottoman Turks, becoming the capital of their empire, in 1453. The name of the city was changed to Istanbul in 1930 following the establishment of modern Turkey.

Contents

History

File:Coinage with Byzas 2nd 3rd century
Coinage with idealized depiction of Byzas, founder of Byzantium. Cast in Thrace, Byzantium, around the time of Marcus Aurelius (161-180 CE).

The origins of Byzantium are shrouded in legend. The traditional legend has it that Byzas from Megara (a town near Athens), founded Byzantium in 667 BCE, when he sailed northeast across the Aegean Sea. Byzas had consulted the Oracle at Delphi to ask where to make his new city. The Oracle told him to found it "opposite the blind." At the time, he did not know what this meant. But when he came upon the Bosporus he understood: on the opposite eastern shore was a Greek city, Chalcedon, whose founders were said to have overlooked the superior location only 3 kilometres (1.9 mi) away. Byzas founded his city here on the European coast and named it Byzantion after himself. It was mainly a trading city due to its strategic location at the Black Sea's only entrance. Byzantion later conquered Chalcedon, across the Bosporus on the Asiatic side.

After siding with Pescennius Niger against the victorious Septimius Severus, the city was besieged by Roman forces and suffered extensive damage in 196 AD.[1] Byzantium was rebuilt by Septimius Severus, now emperor, and quickly regained its previous prosperity. The location of Byzantium attracted Roman Emperor Constantine I who, in 330 AD, refounded it as an imperial residence inspired by Rome itself. (See Nova Roma.) After his death the city was called Constantinople (Greek Κωνσταντινούπολις or Konstantinoupolis) ('city of Constantine'). It remained the capital of the Eastern Roman Empire, which is called the Byzantine Empire by modern historians. This combination of imperialism and location would affect Constantinople's role as the nexus point between two continents: Europe and Asia. It was a commercial, cultural, and diplomatic magnet. With its strategic position, Constantinople did control the route 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 (though not officially renamed until 1930) and it has remained Turkey's largest and most populous city, although Ankara is now the capital.

Emblem

Though associated with the Sassanid Persians and with Mithradates VI Eupator (who for a time incorporated the city into his empire),[2] by the late Hellenistic or early Roman period, the star and crescent motif had been associated to some degree with Byzantium. For example, some Byzantine coins of the 1st century BCE and later show the head of Artemis with bow and quiver, and feature a crescent with what appears to be a six-rayed star on the reverse. According to accounts which vary in some of the details, in 340 BCE 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 light in the sky, without specifying the moon.[3] To commemorate the event the Byzantines erected a statue of Hecate lampadephoros (light-bearer or bringer). This story survived in the works 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.[4]

It is unclear how the symbol of a particular goddess (one of many)[5] would have been transferred to the city itself. If the Byzantines adopted the crescent and star as a symbol of their city after the events of the mid 4th Century BCE, one is forced to wonder why they waited several hundred years before putting the symbol on only some of their coins.

Later, under the Romans, cities in the 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."[6] 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.

Notable people

  • Homerus, tragedian, lived in the early 3rd century BCE
  • Philo, engineer, lived ca. 280 BCE–ca. 220 BCE
  • Epigenes of Byzantium, astrologer, lived in the 3rd–2nd century BCE

See also

Notes

  1. ^ Daily Life in Ancient and Modern Istanbul Robert Bator, Chris Rothero p.8
  2. ^ Andrew G. Traver, From Polis to Empire, The Ancient World, ca. 800 B.C.-A.D. 500, Greenwood Publishing Group, 2002, p257
  3. ^ "In 340 BCE, 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 p5-6; "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 he 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, p126-127
  4. ^ Vasiliki Limberis, Divine Heiress, Routledge, 1994, p15
  5. ^ "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, p16
  6. ^ Michael R. Molnar, The Star of Bethlehem, Rutgers University Press, 1999, p48

References

External links


1911 encyclopedia

Up to date as of January 14, 2010

From LoveToKnow 1911

BYZANTIUM, an ancient Greek city on the shores of the Bosporus, occupying the most easterly of the seven hills on which modern Constantinople stands. It was said to have been founded by Megarians and Argives under Byzas about 6S7 B.C., but the original settlement having been destroyed in the reign of Darius Hystaspes by the satrap Otanes, it was recolonized by the Spartan Pausanias, who wrested it from the Medes after the battle of Plataea (479 B.C.) - a circumstance which led several ancient chroniclers to ascribe its foundation to him. Its situation, said to have been fixed by the Delphic oracle, was remarkable for beauty and security. It had complete control over the Euxine grain-trade; the absence of tides and the depth of its harbour rendered its quays accessible to vessels of large burden; while the tunny and other fisheries were so lucrative that the curved inlet near which it stood became known as the Golden Horn. The greatest hindrance to its prosperity was the miscellaneous character of the population, partly Lacedaemonian and partly Athenian, who flocked to it under Pausanias. It was thus a subject of dispute between these states, and was alternately in the possession of each, till it fell into the hands of the Macedonians. From the same cause arose the violent intestine contests which ended in the establishment of a rude and turbulent democracy. About seven years after its second colonization, the Athenian Cimon wrested it from the Lacedaemonians; but in 440 B.C. it returned to its former allegiance. Alcibiades, after a severe blockade (408 B.C.), gained possession of the city through the treachery of the Athenian party; in 405 B.C. it was retaken by Lysander and placed under a Spartan harmost. It was under the Lacedaemonian power when the Ten Thousand, exasperated by the conduct of the governor, made themselves masters of the city, and would have pillaged it had they not been dissuaded by the eloquence of Xenophon. In 390 B.C. Thrasybulus, with the assistance of Heracleides and Archebius, expelled the Lacedaemonian oligarchy, and restored democracy and the Athenian influence.

After having withstood an attempt under Epaminondas to restore it to the Lacedaemonians, Byzantium joined with Rhodes, Chios, Cos, and Mausolus, king of Caria, in throwing off the yoke of Athens, but soon after sought Athenian assistance when Philip of Macedon, having overrun Thrace, advanced against it. The Athenians under Chares suffered a severe defeat from Amyntas, the Macedonian admiral, but in the following year gained a decisive victory under Phocion and compelled Philip to raise the siege. The deliverance of the besieged from a surprise, by means of a flash of light which revealed the advancing masses of the Macedonian army, has rendered this siege memorable. As a memorial of the miraculous interference, the Byzantines erected an altar to Torch-bearing Hecate, and stamped a crescent on their coins, a device which is retained by the Turks to this day. They also granted the Athenians extraordinary privileges, and erected a monument in honour of the event in a public part of the city.

During the reign of Alexander Byzantium was compelled to acknowledge the Macedonian supremacy; after the decay of the Macedonian power it regained its independence, but suffered from the repeated incursions of the Scythians. The losses which they sustained by land roused the Byzantines to indemnify themselves on the vessels which still crowded the harbour, and the merchantmen which cleared the straits; but this had the effect of provoking a war with the neighbouring naval powers. The exchequer being drained by the payment of 10,000 pieces of gold to buy off the Gauls who had invaded their territories about 279 B.C., and by the imposition of an annual tribute which was ultimately raised to 80 talents, they were compelled to exact a toll on all the ships which passed the Bosporus - a measure which the Rhodians resented and avenged by a war, wherein the Byzantines were defeated. After the retreat of the Gauls Byzantium rendered considerable services to Rome in the contests with Philip II., Antiochus and Mithradates.

During the first years of its alliance with Rome it held the rank of a free confederate city; but, having sought arbitration on some of its domestic disputes, it was subjected to the imperial jurisdiction, and gradually stripped of its privileges, until reduced to the status of an ordinary Roman colony. In recollection of its former services, the emperor Claudius remitted the heavy tribute which had been imposed on it; but the last remnant of its independence was taken away by Vespasian, who, in answer to a remonstrance from Apollonius of Tyana, taunted the inhabitants with having "forgotten to be free." During the civil wars it espoused the party of Pescennius Niger; and though skilfully defended by the engineer Periscus, it was besieged and taken (A.D. 196) by Severus, who destroyed the city, demolished the famous wall, which was built of massive stones so closely riveted together as to appear one block, put the principal inhabitants to the sword and subjected the remainder to the Perinthians. This overthrow of Byzantium was a great loss to the empire, since it might have served as a protection against the Goths, who afterwards sailed past it into the Mediterranean. Severus afterwards relented, and, rebuilding a large portion of the town, gave it the name of Augusta Antonina. He ornamented the city with baths, and surrounded the hippodrome with porticos; but it was not till the time of Caracalla that it was restored to its former political privileges. It had scarcely begun to recover its former position when, through the capricious resentment of Gallienus, the inhabitants were once more put to the sword and the town was pillaged. From this disaster the inhabitants recovered so far as to be able to give an effectual check to an invasion of the Goths in the reign of Claudius II., and the fortifications were greatly strengthened during the civil wars which followed the abdication of Diocletian. Licinius, after his defeat before Adrianople, retired to Byzantium, where he was besieged by Constantine, and compelled to surrender (A.D. 323-324). To check the inroads of the barbarians on the north of the Black Sea, Diocletian had resolved to transfer his capital to Nicomedia; but Constantine, struck with the advantages which the situation of Byzantium presented, resolved to build a new city there on the site of the old and transfer the seat of government to it. The new capital was inaugurated with special ceremonies, A.D. 330. (See Constantinople.) The ancient historians invariably note the profligacy of the inhabitants of Byzantium. They are described as an idle, depraved people, spending their time for the most part in loitering about the harbour, or carousing over the fine wine of Maronea. In war they trembled at the sound of a trumpet, in peace they quaked before the shouting of their own demagogues; and during the assault of Philip II. they could only be prevailed on to man the walls by the savour of extempore cook-shops distributed along the ramparts. The modern Greeks attribute the introduction of Christianity into Byzantium to St Andrew; it certainly had some hold there in the time of Severus.

C The third letter in the Latin alphabet and its descendants corresponds in position and in origin to the Greek Gamma (P, y), which in its turn is borrowed from the third symbol of the Phoenician alphabet (Heb. Gimel). The earliest Semitic records give its form as y or more frequently k or The form is found in the earliest inscriptions of Crete, Attica, Naxos and some other of the Ionic islands. In Argolis and Euboea especially a form with legs of unequal length is found / 4. From this it is easy to pass to the most widely spread Greek form, the ordinary In Corinth, however, and its colony Corcyra, in Ozolian Locris and Elis, a form < inclined at a different angle is found. From this form the transition is simple to the rounded C, which is generally found in the same localities as the pointed form, but is more widely spread, occurring in Arcadia and on Chalcidian vases of the 6th century B.e., in Rhodes and Megara with their colonies in Sicily. In all these cases the sound represented was a hard G (as in gig). The rounded form was probably that taken over by the Romans and with the value of G. This is shown by the permanent abbreviation of the proper names Gaius and Gnaeus by C. and Cn. respectively. On the early inscription discovered in the Roman Forum in 1899 the letter occurs but once, in the form 3 written from right to left. The broad lower end of the symbol is rather an accidental pit in the stone than an attempt at a diacritic mark - the word is regei, in all probability the early dative form of rex, " king." It is hard to decide why Latin adopted the g-symbol with the value of k, a letter which it possessed originally but dropped, except in such stereotyped abbreviations as K. for the proper name Kaeso and Kal. for Calendae. There are at least two possibilities: (1) that in Latium g and k were pronounced almost identically, as, e.g., in the German of Wurttemberg or in the Celtic dialects, the difference consisting only in the greater energy with which the k-sound is produced; (2) that the confusion is graphic, K being sometimes written I C, which was then regarded as two separate symbols. A further peculiarity of the use of C in Latin is in the abbreviation for the district Subura in Roma and its adjective Suburanus, which appears as SVC. Here C no doubt represents G, but there is no interchange between g and b in Latin. In other dialects of Italy b is found representing an original voiced guttural (gw), which, however, is regularly replaced by v in Latin. As the district was full of traders, Subura may very well be an imported word, but the form with C must either go back to a period before the disappearance of g before v or must come from some other Italic dialect. The symbol G was a new coinage in the 3rd century B.C. The pronunciation of C throughout the period of classical Latin was that of an unvoiced guttural stop (k). In other dialects, however, it had been palatalized to a sibilant before i-sounds some time before the Christian era; e.g. in the Umbrian facia = Latin facial. In Latin there is no evidence for the interchange of c with a sibilant earlier than the 6th century A.D. in south Italy and the 7th century A.D. in Gaul (Lindsay, Latin Language, p. 88). This change has, however, taken place in all Romance languages except Sardinian. In Anglo-Saxon c was adopted to represent the hard stop. After the Norman conquest many English words were re-spelt under Norman influence. Thus Norman-French spelt its palatalized c-sound (= tsh) with ch as in cher and the English palatalized cild, &c. became child, &c. In Provençal from the 10th century, and in the northern dialects of France from the 13th century, this palatalized c (in different districts is and tsh) became a simple s. English also adopted the value of s for c in the 13th century before e, i and y. In some foreign words like cicala the ch- (tsh) value is given to c. In the transliteration of foreign languages also it receives different values, having that of tsh in the transliteration of Sanskrit and of is in various Slavonic dialects.

As a numeral C denotes 100. This use is borrowed from Latin, in which the symbol was originally 0, a form of the Greek B.

This, like the numeral symbols later identified with L and M, was thus utilized since it was not required as a letter, there being no sound in 'Latin corresponding to the Greek B. Popular etymology identified the symbol with the initial letter of centum, " hundred." (P. GI.)


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Wiktionary

Up to date as of January 15, 2010

Definition from Wiktionary, a free dictionary

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English

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Proper noun

Singular
Byzantium

Plural
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Byzantium

  1. The ancient Greek city situated on the Bosporus, named Constantinople in AD 330, and now known as Istanbul.

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Related terms


Genealogy

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Simple English

This article is about the city. See also Byzantine Empire.

Byzantium (Greek: Βυζάντιον) was an ancient Greek city. The name "Byzantium" is a Latinization of the original name Byzantion.

The city became the center of the Byzantine Empire, (the Greek-speaking Roman Empire of late Antiquity and the Middle Ages), but at that time it was already called Constantinople.[1]

Contents

History

Legend

The origins of Byzantium are not clear. There is only a legend. It tells a certain Byzas from Megara (a town near Athens), founded Byzantium, when he sailed northeast across the Aegean Sea. He had askeed the Oracle at Delphi where he should found his new city. The Oracle told him to find it "opposite the blind." At the time, he did not know what this meant. But when he came upon the Bosporus he realized what it meant: on the Asiatic shore was a Greek city, Chalcedon. It was they who must have been blind because they had not seen that obviously superior land was just a half mile away on the other side of the Bosporus. Byzas founded his city here in this "superior" land and named it Byzantion after himself.

History before Constantine I

Byzantion was mainly a trading city due to its strategic location at the Black Sea's only entrance. Byzantion later conquered Chalcedon, across the Bosporus.

When it fought with Pescennius Niger against the victorious Septimius Severus, the city was besieged by Roman forces and suffered extensive damage in 196 AD. Byzantium was rebuilt by Septimius Severus, when he had become emperor, and quickly regained its earlier prosperity.

Center of the Eastern Roman Empire

When Roman Emperor Constantine I decided to move his capital to the Eastern part of the Roman Empire he chose the place of Byzantion because of its strategical value. He refounded it, in 330 AD, as Nova Roma. After his death the city was called Constantinople ('city of Constantine'). It remained the capital of the Eastern Roman Empire, which was later called the Byzantine Empire by historians.

Emblem

Following the legend the citizens of Byzantium claimed the crescent moon as their state symbol, after an important victory in 670 BC. However, the origin of the crescent moon and star as a symbol dates back much earlier - to ancient Babylon and ancient Egypt [2] [3]. But Byzantium was the first city that used the crescent moon as its symbol. In 330 AD Constantine I added the Virgin Mary's star to the flag.[4]

Notes

  1. After the fall of Constantinople to the Ottoman Empire, the city became known as Istanbul to the Ottoman Turks, but that did not become the official name of the city until 1930.
  2. Charles Morris (1889), Aryan Sun Myths: The Origin of Religions. Page 67
  3. Rupert Gleadow (2001), The Origin of the Zodiac, Page 165
  4. The crescent moon and star was not completely abandoned by the Christian world after the fall of Constantinople. The official flag of the Orthodox Patriarch of Jerusalem is a labarum of white, a church building with two towers, and on either side of the arms, at the top, are the outline in black of a crescent moon facing center and a star with rays. (http://www.fotw.us/flags/rel-orth.html)

References

Other pages

  • Constantinople details the history of the city before the Turkish conquest of 1453.
  • Istanbul describes the modern city.

Other websites


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