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MANY things combine to call renewed attention to Constantinople as an historic city, with her wonderful past and her mysterious future. The picturesque old capital of the Padishah is fast fading away from our eyes, under the influence of the Treaty of San Stefano, railways, European reforms, and the ebb of the Moslem population from Europe.. Those who wish to see some remnants of Oriental life and color on this side of the Bosphorus, should hasten to visit the Moslem capital before the turban and the hadji have quite disappeared from her khans. On the other hand, an unusual stimulus has been given of late by European scholars to the history and the antiquities of this legendary "mother of dead em"mother of dead empires."



Of all the cities of Europe the New Rome of the Bosphorus, in its power over the imagination of men, can yield the first place to none save to its own mother, the Old Rome of the Tiber. And of all cities of the world she stands foremost in beauty of situation, in the marvel of her geographical position, as the eternal link between the East and the West. We may almost add that she is foremost in the vast continuity and gorgeous multiplicity of her historic interests. For if Constantinople can present us with nothing that can vie in sublimity and pathos with the memories of Rome, Athens, Jerusalem, it has for the historic mind a peculiar fascination of its own, in the enormous


persistence of imperial power concentrated under varied forms in one unique spot of our earthly globe.

Byzantium, to use that which has been the ordinary name with all Greek writers from Herodotus down to Paspates in our own day, is one of the oldest cities of Europe: historically speaking, if we neglect mere prehistoric legend, little younger than Athens or Rome. Like thein, Byzantium appears to have been founded on a prehistoric fort. Hardly any of the ancient towns of Italy and Southern Europe can show so authentic and venerable a record. There is no reason to doubt that Byzantium has been a historic city for some 2,550 years during the whole of that period, with no real break in her life, it has been the scene of events recorded in the annals of mankind; it has been fought for and held by men famous in world history; it has played a substantive part in the drama of civilization. So singular a sequence of historic interest can hardly be claimed for any city in Europe, except for Rome herself.

For nearly a thousand years before it became the capital of an empire, Byzantium was a Greek city of much importance, the prize of contending nations, and with striking prescience even then chosen out by philosophic historians for its commanding position and immense capabilities. After the lapse of nearly a thousand years, Byzantium became Constantinople, the centre of the Roman Empire. Since then it has been the capital city of an empire for exactly 1,564 years-and that in a manner, and for a period such as no other imperial city has been in the annals of civilized man. There is no actual break; although, for the dynasty of the Palæologi, from the Latin Empire down to the capture by the Ottomans, the empire outside the capital has a shrunken and almost phantom dominion. But it is yet true, that for 1,564 years Constantinople has ever been, and still is, the sole regular residence of Emperors and Sultans, the sole and continuous centre of civil and military administration, the supreme court of law and justice, and the official centre of the imperial religion.

During all this period the life of the empire has been concentrated in that

most wonderful peninsula, as its heart and its head. It has been concentrated for a far longer period, and in a more definite way, than even it was in the original Seven Hills; for Rome herself was the local seat of empire for scarcely four centuries, and even for that in an intermittent form; and vast as has been the continuity of the Roman Church for at least thirteen centuries, its life, and even its official government, have had many seats and continual movements. But from the days of Constantine, Constantinople has been, both in the temporal and spiritual domains, the centre, the home, the palladium of the empire of the East. For fifteen centuries the Lord of Constantinople has never ceased to be the Lord of the contiguous East; and, while sea and rock hold in their accustomed places, the Lord of Constantinople must continue to be Lord of SouthEastern Europe and of North-Western Asia.

This continuity and concentration of imperial rule in an imperial city has no parallel in the history of mankind. Rome was the local centre of empire for barely four centuries, and for sixteen centuries she has wholly lost that claim. The royal cities that once flourished in the valleys of the Ganges, the Euphrates, or the Nile, were all abandoned after some centuries of splendor, and have long lost their imperial rank. Memphis, Babylon, Tyre, Carthage, Alexandria, Syracuse, Athens, had periods of glory, but no great continuity of empire. London and Paris have been great capitals for at most a few centuries; and Madrid, Berlin, Vienna, and St. Petersburg, are things of yesterday in the long roll of human civilization. There is but one city of the world of which it can be said that, for fifteen centuries and a half, it has been the continuous seat of empire, under all the changes of race, institutions, customs, and religion. And this may be ultimately traced to its incomparable physical and geographical capabilities.

Mere duration of imperial power and variety of historical interest are indeed far different from true greatness or national dignity. But as an object of the historical imagination, the richness of

the record, in the local annals of some world-famous spot, cannot fail to kindle our thoughts. History, alas! is not the record of pure virtue and peaceful happiness it is the record of deeds big with fate to races of men, of passions, crimes, follies, heroisms, and martyrdoms in the mysterious labyrinth of human destiny. The stage whereon, over so vast a period of man's memory, ten thousand of such tragedies have been enacted, holds with a spell the mind of every man who is in sympathy with human nature, and who loves to meditate on the problems of human progress.

History and European opinion have been until lately most unjust to the Byzantine empire, whether in its Roman, its Greek, or in its Ottoman form. By a singular fatality its annals and its true place have been grossly misunderstood. Foreign scholars, German, French, Russian, and Greek, have done much in recent years to repair this error; and English historians, though late in the field, are beginning to atone for neglect in the past. Finlay worthily led the way, in spite of sympathies and antipathies which almost incapacitate an historian from truly grasping Byzantine history; Professor Freeman struck the true note in some of his most weighty and pregnant pieces, perhaps the most original and brilliant of his essays; and now Professor Bury, of Dublin, has undertaken the vast task of casting into a scientific and systematic history those wonderful narratives of which Gibbon gave us detached and superb sketches, albeit with limited resources and incomplete knowledge. Edwin Pears, in a fine monograph, has given us very much more than the history of the Fourth Crusade. And the incessant labors of foreign scholars are beginning to filter even into the ideas of the general reader. Russian and Greek monasteries have preserved unknown and

*History of Greece, from 146 в C. to A.D. 1864, by George Finlay, ed. by H F. Tozer, 7 vols.; Historical Essays, by E A. Freeman, 3rd series, 1879; The Later Roman Empire, from 395 A.D. to 800 A.D., by J. B. Bury, Trin. Coll., Dub., 2 vols., 1889; The Fall of Cons'antinople in the Fourth Crusade, by Edwin Pears, LL.D., 1885.

precious chronicles; and Armenian, Saracen, and Persian manuscripts have lately been added to our annals. The terrible Corpus of Byzantine histories becomes less heart breaking in its dryness and its affectation, with all the light that modern scholarship has thrown upon that record of romantic and tremendous events, told by official annalists with pedantic dulness and cold-blooded common place. Krause, Hopf, Heyd, Gfrörer, in Germany; Sabatier, Rambaud, Schlumberger, Drapeyron, Bayet, in France; Byzantios, and Paspates, in Greece, have given a new life to this vast repertory of a thousand years of varying fortune.

At the same time, the local archæology of Constantinople has received a new impulse. The political and economic changes which resulted from the course of events, from the Crimean War of 1853 to the Treaty of San Stefano in 1878, have opened Constantinople much as Japan was opened thirty years ago. European scholars and resident Greeks have been enabled to study the remains; the Sultan has formed a most interesting museum under Hamdi Bey, a Turkish archæologist; and Dr. Paspates, a Greek antiquarian, has been able in the cuttings and works of the new railway, almost wholly to reconstruct Byzantine topography. The vague and somewhat traditional localization repeated by Banduri, Ducange, Gyllius, Busbecq, and the rest, has now been corrected by scientific inspection of ruins and partial excavation. The ingenious labors of Labarte, Salzenberg, Schlumberger, Bayet, Riant and others, have been brought to the test. of a learned survey on the spot. No one could well deal with Byzantine antiquities without a thorough study of the works of the late Dr. Paspates, especially of the Byzantine Palaces, which is now accessible to the English reader in the new translation of Mr. Metcalfe (1893).

We have all been unjust to this Byzantine empire; and its restoration to its true place in the story of human civ ilization is beyond doubt the great lacuna of our current histories. What they tell us is mainly the story of its last four hundred years-when the eastern empire was dying under the mortal

blows inflicted on it as it stood between the fanaticism of the East and the jealousy of the West. Of the seven centuries from Theodosius to the Crusades we hear little save Palace intrigues, though these years were the true years of glory in Byzantine history. This was the period when she handed down, and handed down alone, the ancient world to the modern; when Constantinople was the greatest and most civilized city in Europe, the last refuge of law, arts, and learning, the precursor of the Crusades in defending Christian civilization by four centuries. Before the Crusades were undertaken by Europe, the Eastern Empire was falling into corruption and decay. But down to the middle of the eleventh century, more or less continuously from the opening of the seventh, the history of the Eastern Romans may honorably compare with the history of Western Europe, while in certain essential elements of civilization, they stood not merely first in Europe, but practically alone. If Chosroes, or Muaviah, or Haroun, or Crumn, had succeeded in blotting out the empire of the Bosphorus, it is difficult to imagine from whence we should have been able to recover either Roman law, or Hellenic art, or ancient poetry and learning, or the complex art of organized government, or the traditions and manufactures of cultured civilization. At any rate, the whole history of mankind would have taken a different course.

Neither under Roman, Greek, or Ottoman, has the empire been, except at intervals, the abyss of corruption, servility, and vice that Western prejudice has too long imagined. Horrors, follies, meanness, and pedantry abound; but there is still a record rich in heroism, intellectual energy, courage, skill, and perseverance, which are as memora ble as any in the world. Neither the intellect, nor the art, nor the religion, are those of Western Europe; nor have we there the story of a great people, or a purifying church, of a profound philosophy, or a progressive civilization. Constantinople is, and always has been, as much Eastern as Western-yet with much that is neither of the East nor of the West-but special to itself. It is a type of Conservatism, of persistency

and constancy unparalleled, amid change, decay, and defeat. This miraculous longevity and recuperative power seem to go counter to all the lessons of Western Europe; or in the West they are to be matched only by the recuperative power of the Catholic Church. The city and the Church, which date from Constantine, have both in these fifteen centuries shown a strange power of recovery from mortal maladies and hopeless difficulties. But the recovery of temporal dominion is always more rare than the revival of spiritual ideas. And in recuperative energy and tenacity of life, the empire of the Bosphorus, from Constantine to Abdul Hamid, is one long paradox.

The continuity of empire in Constantinople suffered, it is true, a tremendous breach in dynasty, in race, and in religion, by the conquest of the Turks; and, if it were a Christian, and Roman, or Latin, or Greek empire for 1,123 years, it has been a Moslem and Ottoman empire for 441 years. To many historians these 441 years have been a period of Babylonish captivity for the Chosen People. But those who are not especially Philhellen or Philorthodox, in any absolute sense, will view this great problem without race or sectarian animosities. Before the impartial judg ment seat of history the lesson of the past lies in the unfolding of genius in government and in war, in organizing nations, and in moulding their des tinies; and where these great capacities exist, there is no room to indulge the prejudices of a partisan. The two centuries of Stamboul which follow the conquest of Mohammed the Second in 1453, are greatly superior in interest and in teaching to the two centuries of Byzantine empire which precede it, and the miserable tale of the Latin usurpation. Nor has the whole Ottoman rule of four centuries and a half been less brilliant, less rich in great intellects and great characters, than the Byzantine empire from the time of the Crusades till its fall-perhaps even not more oppressive to its subjects, nor more antagonistic to moral and social progress. The marvellous city that Constantine created in 330 A.D. has been ever since that day the effective seat of such government as the Eastern

regions around it could maintain, of such civilization as they could evolve, and of such religious union as they were able to receive. That empire, that type of society, seem preparing to-day for an ultimate withdrawal into Asia. But with such a record of persistence and revival, such tenacity of hold on a sacred and imperial centre, few can forecast the issue with confidence. And that future is assuredly among the most fascinating enigmas which can engage the meditations of thinking men.

It is an acute remark of the late Professor Freeman that the history of the empire is the history of the capital. The imperial, religious, legal, and commercial energy of the Eastern empire has always centred in Constantinople, by whomsoever held, in a way that can hardly be paralleled in European history. The Italian successors of Julius and Augustus for the most part spent their lives and carried on their government very largely, and at last almost wholly, away from Rome. Neither had the Western Emperors, nor the chiefs of the Holy Roman Empire, any permanent and continuous seat. The history of England and that of France are associated with many historic towns and many royal residences far from London and from Paris. Nor do the histories of Spain, Italy, or Germany, offer us any constant capital or any single centre of government, religion, law, commerce, and art. But of the nearly one hundred sovereigns of the Eastern Empire, and of the twentyeight Caliphs who have succeeded them in Byzantium, during that long epoch of 1564 years, from the day of its foundation, Constantinople has been the uniform residence of the sovereign, except when on actual campaign in time of war or on some imperial progress; and in peace and in war under all dynasties, races, and creeds, it has never ceased to be the seat of official government, the supreme tribunal, and the metropolis of the religious system.

From the age of Theodosius down to the opening of the Crusades-a period of seven centuries-while Rome itself and every ancient city in Europe was stormed, sacked, burnt, more or less abandoned, and almost blotted out by



a succession of invaders, Constantincple remained untouched, impregnable, never decayed, never abandoned-always the most populous, the most wealthy, the most cultivated, the most artistic city in Europe-always the seat of a great empire, the refuge of those who sought peace and protection for their culture or their wealth, a busy centre of a vast commerce, the one home of ancient art, the one school of ancient law and learning left undespoiled and undeserted. From the eighth century to the thirteenth a succession of travellers have described its size, wealth, and magnificence.* the middle of the twelfth century, the Jew Benjamin of Tudela, coming from Spain to Palestine, declares that these riches and buildings are equalled nowhere in the world;" that merchants resort thither from all parts of the world." From about the eleventh century the downfall of the city began. It was ruined by the political jealousy of the Western empire, by the religious hostility of the Roman Church, and by the commercial rivalry of the Italian republics. Placed between these irreconcilable enemies on the West, the incessant attacks of the Slavonic races on the North, and the aspiring fanaticism of Musulman races from the East and the South, the Byzantine empire slowly bled to death, and its capital became, for some three centuries, little more than a besieged fortress-filled with a helpless population and vast treasures and relics it could no longer protect.


But whether the Empire was in glory or in decay, into whatever race it passed, and whatever were the official creed, Constantinople never failed to attract to itself whatever of genius and ambition the Eastern empire contained, nor did it ever cease, nor has it ceased, to be a great mart of commerce, and clearing house of all that the East and the West desired to exchange. It is still to the Greek priest, as it is to the Musulman imâm, what Rome is to the Catholic. And to the Greek from

Early Travels in Palestine, ed. T. Wright, 1868; Krause, Die Byzantiner des Mittelalters, 1869; Heyd, Levantehandel, 1879; French ed. 1885; Riant, Exuvice sacræ Constant., 1877; Hopf, Chroniques Greco-Romanes inédites, 1873.

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