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Ancient Rome Tutorial Response Paper

Ancient Rome Tutorial Response Paper

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Kathleen FitzgeraldJanuary 6, 2006Tutorial-RevisionDefeated & Outnumbered in Constantinople
Money does not make the man; nor does wealth ensure the safety of a city. As anancient Roman locus of power, and later, the Roman capital itself, the city of Constantinople had always been a flourishing center of wealth and intellect. Jewelsshone from the Christian churches, and the city’s intellectual state was equally asthriving, with philosophy and scholasticism eventually taking root.
1
“Till the eleventhcentury, Byzantium had been a splendid and dominant power,…and throughout thetwelfth century, Constantinople seemed to be so rich and splendid a city, the Imperialcourt so magnificent, and the wharves and bazaars so full of merchandise,” that nothinglooked to permanently challenge its dominance.
2
No wealth, however, could have prevented Constantinople from the population losses it suffered between 1200 and 1453.When Byzantium (the Empire which initially contained Constantinople) lost control of Anatolia to the Turks in the late twelfth century, all of Byzantium suffered, as it wasforced “to abandon forever to the Turks the lands that had supplied most of their soldiers.”
3
Soon overwhelmed by both the Turkish and the large Latin forces, Byzantiumlost control of Constantinople less than a century later, during the Fourth Crusade of 1204.
4
But Constantinople’s population and army were still large enough to fight back only 50 years later, battling alongside the Byzantine Imperial authorities to reclaim the
1
Steven Runciman,
The Fall of 
Constantinople (Cambridge: The University Press, 1969),6.
2
Ibid, 2.
3
Ibid, 2-3.
4
Ibid, 3.- 1 -
 
city.
5
Although the Byzantine Empire “needed more money and men than it possessed,”Constantinople’s population was evidently not immediately decimated by the loss of Anatolia and could still defeat fairly large armies.Everything changed, however, with “the Black Death in 1347, [which], striking atthe height of the civil war, carried off at least a third of the Empire’s population.”
6
Realizing Byzantium’s army now needed even “more men than it possessed,” the Turksattacked the Empire, and continued to take land, until all that was left of the Empire wasan encircled Constantinople.
7
As a result of the Fourth Crusade, the civil wars, and theBlack Plague, Constantinople no longer had the flourishing population it once possessedduring its heyday in the 1100’s. In the travel memoir of Stephen of Novgorod, a manwho made a religious pilgrimage to Constantinople in 1349, much is said about the sizeof the churches and the compact nature of the dwellings, but nothing is said about peoplemoving along the busy streets. Novgorod describes a city, which was
once
densely populated.
8
Most churches and buildings are noted as “not far from” one another, and Novgorod describes the city itself as a “great forest,” one that is “impossible to get
5
Ibid.
6
Ibid, 4.
7
Ibid.
8
George P. Majeska, “Wanderer of Stephen of Novgorod,”
 Russian Travelers toConstantinople in the Fourteenth and Fifteenth Centuries
(Washington, District of Columbia: Dumbarton Oaks Research Library and Collection, 1984), 40. In his memoir,recounting his religious pilgrimage to Constantinople probably during Holy Week in1349, Stephen of Novgorod repeatedly discusses the jewels and ornate designs of thecity’s architecture. With observations like, “there are so many sights there that it isimpossible to describe it,” (p. 38) to his description of St. John’s church as “very largeand high, covered with a slanted roof. The icons in it are highly decorated with gold andshine like the sun. The floor of the church is quite amazing, as if set with pearls; no painter could paint like that.” (p. 40)Steven Runciman,
The Fall of Constantinople 1453
(Cambridge: The University Press,1969), 5. Runciman describes in detail the thriving intellectual side of Constantinoplethrough the 1300’s.- 2 -
 
around without a good guide.”
9
The only reason for building so compact a city is to fit alarge population within a smaller area. Omitting descriptions of a once bustlingConstantinople population was not by accident. Steven Runciman explains why:Constantinople, by the close of the fourteenth century was a melancholy,dying city. The population which, with that of the suburbs, had numberedabout a million in the twelfth century, had shrunk now to no more than ahundred thousand and was still shrinking…Of the suburbs along theThracian shores of the Bosphorus and the Marmora, once studded withsplendid villas and rich monasteries, only a few hamlets were left,clustering round some ancient church.
 There were many visitors to fourteenth century Constantinople, who noticed its“sparse and poverty-stricken population.”
As the city continued to change hands, itsrulers and remaining residents lived in a constant state of fear, trying to be ready for theinevitable Turkish onslaught.
 This unstable, “dying city” would soon watch helplesslyas Mahomet Bey and his Turkish forces swiftly moved their encampment within 1 mileof the city’s walls on the 5
th
of April 1453, threatening the lives of all who lived withinthose walls.
 - -Having built a castle six miles from Constantinople’s walls during March of 1452,Mehmet the conquerer and his men, rumored to number somewhere between 160,000 and400,000, waited exactly one year from that date and then swiftly moved towards
9
Majeska, 34, 36, 44.
10
Runciman, 9.
11
Ibid, 10.
12
Ibid, 21. This is the sentiment of Emperor John VIII in the 1440’s, but it is likely thesame pervasive feeling of anyone who dealt with that same perilous situation during thattime.
13
Nicolo Barbaro, trans. J.R. Jones,
 Diary of the Siege of Constantinople 1453
(NewYork: Exposition Press, 1969), 27.Leonard of Chios, trans. J.R. Melville Jones,
The Siege of Constantinople 1453: SevenContemporary Accounts
(Amsterdam: Adolf M. Hakkert, 1972), 15.- 3 -

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