The church named Holy Wisdom still stands,
but it is now surrounded by Muslim minarets.
The historian Julian Norwich wrote a magnificent three-volume history of of the Byzantine Empire, one of the most colorful and neglected epochs of human history. Gibbon is worth reading - Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, but it is not as lively or detailed about the Byzantine Empire.
Tomorrow marks the day when Constantinople fell, May 29, 1453. I have the date on my calendar. May 29th is a day of mourning for all Greeks, for all those who appreciate what this empire did for the West.
Rome fell in 476 AD and the Western Roman Empire dissolved, but the Eastern Roman Empire continued as a Greek-speaking, Christian empire until 1453.
The original name of the city was Byzantium, which gave its name to the empire. The city came to be called Constantinople, the city of Constantine, because he used his considerable power as ruler of the entire Roman Empire to move citizens and statues to the city he built up, almost overnight, like Rockefeller and the University of Chicago.
The Muslims who eventually surrounded and took over the city called it Istanbul, a name derived from "to the city." Like NYC today, Constantinople was just called it "The City."
The Byzantine Empire preserved Western culture and Greek Biblical manuscripts. The wealth of Constantinople was beyond imagination. One serving bowl was so huge that it could not be carried out by servants. Instead it was delivered on a hoist - the bowl was solid gold. The Golden Gate had plates of gold hanging from it, an open-air treasury.
The city was defended by natural features and enormous walls, but the Muslims used huge artillery to batter the walls. No one from the West came to help defend the city, but they were shocked when it fell.
|The dome of Holy Wisdom, built in 532 AD,|
188 feet high.
|Hagia Sophia is a fixer-upper today,|
a museum with Arabic medallions hanging inside.