restricted access IV: The New Rome and Its Prince

From: 428 AD

Princeton University Press colophon
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The New Rome and Its Prince O  April , the Tuesday after Palm Sunday, Nestorius was officially appointed bishop of Constantinople in one of those complex ceremonies that mixed Roman tradition with Christian symbolism, for which the Byzantine Empire became famous.1 Theoretically, he was just a bishop like any other: at the time, those in charge of the capital’s diocese did not yet hold the title of “patriarch” or “archbishop.” Yet everyone knew that this episcopal throne had the same importance as Saint Peter’s in the West.2 Founded by Constantine as the city that had to symbolize his radical overhaul of the empire, Constantinople was gradually transforming itself into the principal Christian city of what had become the Eastern Empire ( pars Orientis), in which the emperor influenced the political and doctrinal developments of the Church.3 Places of worship and charitable foundations were being set up everywhere with the support and funding of the court. In the propaganda of the time,Constantinople was exalted as the “new Rome”with a “most saintly throne,” the “most royal metropolis of the Christian world (inhabited world),”or, more simply, the “ruling city.”4 Of course, there was also a “civic” Constantinople, with ambitious public buildings that were to some extent inspired by Rome of the imperial period. But, unlike Rome, the city of Constantine did not have a Capitol or any similar places that kept alive the memory of the pagan tradition. The monuments in the new plan for the city essentially alluded to the continuity between the great conquerors of the past and the dynasty of Theodosius , while being careful not to evoke any pagan traditions.5 During this period at least, the city might have appeared to be an uncontaminated  C H A P T E R I V organism, which made it easier to identify as the “Christian” capital of the Empire. Constantinople, which now had between three and four hundred thousand inhabitants, was growing exponentially. Around , building work reached its peak. Back in , work had finished on the first of the great water-storage tanks open to the air, the one built by Aetius close to the Adrianople Gate (Chronicle of Marcellinus, Year ).The following year, after ten years of work, new city walls were complete: veterans of campaigns in the East were used to man the towers, probably because an attack by the Huns was considered likely (Code of Theodosius, , , ).6 In , after eighty years of work, the finishing touches were made to the Constantinian Baths,later called the Theodosian Baths (Chronicle of Marcellinus, Year ; Easter Chronicle, pp. ff.).7 During the same period, a former imperial official drew up the Notitia urbis Constantinopolitanae , a list of the principal buildings of the capital.The Notitia lists four fora or public squares, six horrea (warehouses for storing goods), and four macella (food markets), as well as nineteen public ovens for making bread. The information contained in the Notitia also makes it possible to calculate the existence of at least , shops and workshops in the  stoaí, porticoed streets that were used for traders and artisans.8 The old suburb of the fourth century was gradually incorporated into a metropolis that increasingly concentrated the economy and trade of this sector of the Mediterranean. At that time, a new port was made ready, and numerous warehouses were built along the banks of the Golden Horn. And like Rome, Constantinople had accumulated a stockpile of foodstuffs that could have fed the city for a year, and which involved enormous quantities of wheat, oil, wine, and salted pork, with the associated problems of their preservation and distribution, not to mention the risk of needless waste.9 One factor of great importance to the capital was that its inhabitants had an abundant supply of water, which came from Thrace along a massive aqueduct built by Valens in  and improved upon by Theodosius I. On  April , they were not only honoring the new bishop, but also Emperor Theodosius II, who on that date turned twenty-seven.10 The grandson of Theodosius the Great was the most powerful man in the world,in spite of the clear setback he had suffered at the hands of his Persian rivals, who had forced him to yield on the Armenian question. T H E N E W R O M E A N D I T S P R I N C E  The much greater difficulties of the Empire of the...


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