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that's nobody's business but the Turks
December 12, 2003 6:32 AM   Subscribe

29 May 1453, Constantinople fell to Mehmet II, sultan of the Ottoman Turks. With it fell the last stronghold of Christendom in the East. Founded by Constantine the Great, the Byzantine empire had lasted 1129 years.

During which time it created the Cyrillic alphabet, was sacked by the 4th crusade, precipitated the great schism, and created some of the most beautiful religious art of the ancient world. Sailing to Byzantium?
posted by leotrotsky (22 comments total) 1 user marked this as a favorite

 
...just finished John Julius Norwich's Short History of Byzantium. Very entertaining. You've got to appreciate the foresight of an empire running on UNIX...
posted by leotrotsky at 6:44 AM on December 12, 2003 [1 favorite]


Oh, also 'Mehmet' and 'Turks' are pop-under-y, for those poor fools without Mozilla.
posted by leotrotsky at 6:51 AM on December 12, 2003


derail

You know, I can no longer read the word Constantinople or Istanbul without the They Might Be Giants song running through my head.

Sorry, just thought I'd share the meme.

/derail
posted by dejah420 at 7:04 AM on December 12, 2003


Dejah 420: So why did Constantinople get the works?
posted by TedW at 7:14 AM on December 12, 2003


TedW - You know as well as I do that that's nobody's business but the Turks.
posted by bradth27 at 7:18 AM on December 12, 2003


Why the name change? The name is merely a Turkish contraction of Constantinoupolis, with the Turkish article I on the front, just as Smyrna became Izmir and Nicaea became Iznik. The intermediate form Stamboul was commonly used in the 19th century.

Also, notice the post title, folks.
posted by leotrotsky at 7:26 AM on December 12, 2003


this post....it's, it's - byzantine!

Constantinople falls, impalings up 3600 percent. In other news...

posted by troutfishing at 7:27 AM on December 12, 2003


If they didn't have that wall, the Bulgars would have finished them off 500 years before the Turks did. Thought they were sooo big!

The song, by the way, is from the 50's. TMBG did a neat version of it, but it's not theirs. I had it on a children's songs LP in the 70's.
posted by Mayor Curley at 9:39 AM on December 12, 2003


If they didn't have that wall, the Bulgars would have finished them off 500 years before the Turks did. Thought they were sooo big!

"If they didn't have that wall," Constantinople would have fallen several times. Since the 7th century, they had found themselves under seige by the Avars, the Arabs (several times), and the Russians, as well. Heck, the Turks' taking of Constantinople in 1453 is noteworthy not because of the seige but because it was the first time it actually succeeded. That said, Tsar Symeon of the Bulgarians was a very very interesting character who had close interactions with Patriarch Photius of Constantinople and who could be said to have had a legitimate claim to the Byzantine throne.

Another possible etymology for "Istanbul" is that Mehmet II declared his new capitol to he "In the city" which, in Greek is/was (depending on pronunciation preference) "Eis tan/teen poli".

Also, up until the 1920s, it was not uncommon for Greeks to refer to themselves as "Romii". The Byzantine Empire (or as they themselves called it, the Roman empire) was still so fresh in their mind that that they still called themselves Romans... Greek-speaking Muslims in Turkey still refer to their language as "Romaika."
posted by deanc at 10:18 AM on December 12, 2003


Istanbul (not Constantinople) was a gold record for the Four Lads in 1953.

The Residents did a Constantinople on Duck Stab--which is the song that comes to mind for me.
posted by y2karl at 10:45 AM on December 12, 2003


Well, even old New York was once New Amsterdam. Why they changed it, I can't say... People just liked it better that way.
posted by greengrl at 11:02 AM on December 12, 2003


The Fourth Crusade is my very favorite example of Idealistic Furvor being subverted to the ends of capitalism: the fact that the aims of the Idealistic Endeavor were pretty awful in the first place just makes it all the more horribly ammusing.
posted by hob at 11:15 AM on December 12, 2003


Istanbul is one of my favourite cities, as I have always been fascinated by both the Byzantine and Ottoman Empires.

For a fun, pulp fictional history of Justinian II, check out Justinian by Turtletaub/Turtledove.
posted by Razzle Bathbone at 11:28 AM on December 12, 2003


With it fell the last stronghold of Christendom in the East.

I guess that's why Armenia is Christian and has been since 100 AD or why the President of Lebanon must by law be a Christian. Nope, no Christian communities east of Greece, that's for sure.
posted by Pollomacho at 11:49 AM on December 12, 2003


I guess that's why Armenia is Christian and has been since 100 AD or why the President of Lebanon must by law be a Christian. Nope, no Christian communities east of Greece, that's for sure.

I think the keyword here is "stronghold." You will find, if you look, that these areas of the world were both ruled by the Ottoman Turks and/or the Arabs, who conquored them by force. Which makes them subjugated peoples, certainly communities, but not strongholds.
posted by hob at 12:11 PM on December 12, 2003


I wouldn't tell an Armenian he's ruled by Turks, not if you want to live very long. What about the Thomite Christians of Persia and Iran or the Nestorians of China and Central Asia? I suppose the Ethiopian and African branches of Christianity would really be Southern rather than Eastern. Arabs and Turks incidentally were and are not by nature automatically Muslims, neither are Europeans strictly Christian. Syrian Christians for instance were during the Middle Ages and have been since, instrumental in the Arab struggle raising vast armies that rode along with their Islamic counterparts. Close to the same period in history Western European Christians were establishing colonial strongholds in the East such as Goa (seized by Portugal 1510). As other Christian strongholds existed at that time and have since the final fall of the Byzantines, I'd say that the categorization of Constantinople as the last eastern Stronghold of Christendom is a rather bold statement, particularly as it is mainly on the European side of the Bosphorus.
posted by Pollomacho at 2:19 PM on December 12, 2003


Howabout Russia? Moscow is East of Istanbul, no? Hell, I think even St. Petersburg might be East of Istanbul.
posted by mr_roboto at 2:50 PM on December 12, 2003


Howabout Russia? Moscow is East of Istanbul, no? Hell, I think even St. Petersburg might be East of Istanbul.

Funny, the Muscovites thought just around those same lines:

The Apollinarian heresy caused the downfall of old Rome. The Turks used their axes to shatter the doors of all churches of the Second Rome, the city of Constantinople. Now [in Moscow], the new Third Rome, the Holy Ecumenical Apostolic Church of your sovereign state shines brighter than the sun in the universal Orthodox Christian faith throughout the world.
posted by deanc at 3:43 PM on December 12, 2003


Byzantium as an empire was pretty much extinguished as a real power after its sacking in the fourth crusade.
A Byzantine emperor retook Constantinople from the Franks in 1262, but only a stump of the former empire remained, weakened, and which could not avoid being overtaken finally by the Turks. At the time Constantinople fell to Mehmet, there were several Greek feudal statelets independent of the Byzantine emperor, states which fell to the Turks a decade or so later.
Nicetas Choniatis described the pillage and barbarity of the Frankish conquest of "the City" in a furious account:

No one was without a share in the grief. In the alleys, in the streets, in the temples, complaints, weeping, lamentations, grief, the groaning of men, the shrieks of women, wounds, rape, captivity, the separation of those most closely united. Nobles wandered about ignominiously, those of venerable age in tears, the rich in poverty. Thus it was in the streets, on the corners, in the temple, in the dens, for no place remained unassailed or defended the suppliants. All places everywhere were filled full of all kinds of crime. Oh, immortal God, how great the afflictions of the men, bow great the distress!

deanc: Greeks still refer to themselvesas Romyi (singular: Romios). Note the url path in leotrotsky's first link! (romiosini refers to the Greeks as a whole).
posted by talos at 4:55 PM on December 12, 2003


I'm a byzantinoramus, and it's fascinating to see such an informed conversation about such a long dead empire in this sort of popular forum.

Metafilter - Tales of Byzantium, sheepse, and more!
posted by troutfishing at 6:24 PM on December 12, 2003


News filter strikes again! Can we go a day without talking about war in the Middle East just once? Please?!
posted by Eamon at 8:34 PM on December 12, 2003


Hear hear, Razzle Bathbone. I love Istanbul -- any city that's been the capital of multiple empires winds up with some mighty interesting stuff.

I've been there four times (well, on two visits to Turkey) and I think I could never get tired of the place.
posted by Vidiot at 4:43 PM on December 13, 2003


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