Constantinople

Byzantium
Constantinenoble, Constantinoble, Constantynenoble, Constantynoble, Costentineoble

A seaport in northwest Turkey, today it is known as Istanbul.

Saving the appearance of Leo I in Geoffrey of Monmouth’s chronicle as Arthur’s enemy during the Roman War, none of the Arthurian tales that include Constantinople reflect its actual history during the Arthurian period.

An “Empress of Constantinople” makes an appearance in the Welsh tale of Peredur. While visiting Britain, she chanced to see the noble Peredur in a tournament. Peredur fell in love with the Empress at first sight, and he sent all of the men he defeated in the tournament to do honor to her. Later the two met, and the Empress revealed herself to be the same woman who had earlier given Peredur an enchanted stone, which had enabled him to defeat the afanc, a monster that plagued the King of Suffering and his sons. In gratitude and love, Peredur accompanied the Empress to Constantinople and ruled for fourteen years before returning to Britain.

In Chrétien de Troyes’s Cliges, the empire of Constantinople and Greece is ruled in succession by Emperor Alexander, Emperors Alis and Alexander, and Emperor Cliges. In the Vulgate Merlin, it is the birthplace of Sir Sagremor (Sagramore); Emperor Hadrian is his grandfather or uncle. The Vulgate Lancelot tells us that Helain the White – the son of Sir Bors – eventually became its emperor. Floriant and Florete gives the empire to Emperor Filimenis, who went to war with ArthurSir Floriant married Florete, Filimenis’s daughter, and inherited the empire.


Emperors who ruled there in the traditional Arthurian period were:

  1. Marcian (450-457)
  2. Leo I (457-474)
  3. Leo II (474)
  4. Zeno (474-475)
    Emperor Zeno ruled during two periods. He sent the Ostrogoths under Theodoric I into Italy to drive out the Germans.
  5. Basiliscus (475-476)
  6. Zeno (476-491)
  7. Anastasius I (491-518)
  8. Justus I (518-527)
  9. Justinian I (527-567)

Between 527-565, which should encompass for the Arthurian period as given by the early chronicles and the Annales Cambriae, the empire was governed by Justinian the Great, who restored a great many of the territories lost to the German tribes, including Italy itself.

Geoffrey says that the Byzantine emperor contemporary with Arthur was Leo, and G. Ashe identifies him with Leo I. In Cligés, the imperial family of Constantinople is given the tree shown above, illustrating its kinship with Lot of Lothian.


Constantinople | 0 to the 9th century AD

Foundation | 330 AD
Originally founded as Byzantium in 657 BC by the ancient Greeks, the city was later rebuilt and enlarged by the Roman Emperor Constantine the Great in 330 AD. He renamed it Constantinople, making it the eastern capital of the Roman Empire. The city’s strategic location at the crossroads of Europe and Asia facilitated trade and military operations, and ideas between Europe, Asia, and Africa.

Roman Period and Byzantine Capital | 330 – 7th century
In the fourth century, Constantinople became a significant political, administrative and cultural center within the Roman Empire. The city housed libraries, academies, and schools that preserved and promoted classical Greek and Roman knowledge. It also became the center of Byzantine art, literature, and music.

In 395 AD, the division of the Roman Empire into the Western and Eastern Roman Empires, Constantinople became the capital of the Eastern Roman Empire, commonly known as the Byzantine Empire. The city continued to thrive as a center of trade, culture and governance.

Theodesian Walls | 5th century
In the fifth century, Emperor Theodosius II reinforced the city’s defenses by constructing the Theodosian Walls. These walls played a crucial role in protecting Constantinople from various external threats.

Nika Revolt | 532
In 532, the Nika Revolt erupted in Constantinople, a massive uprising against Emperor Justinian I. The revolt was brutally suppressed, resulting in significant damage to parts of the city. Justinian, however, embarked on a major rebuilding program, including the construction of the Hagia Sophia.

Hagia Sophia | 537
The Hagia Sophia, originally builts as a cathedral, was completen in 537 during the reign of Justinian I. It became a symbol of Byzantine architecture and a center of Eastern Orthodox Christianity.

Arab Siege | 674-678 and 717-718
Constantinople faced sieges by Arab forces in the seventh and eighth centuries. The city successfully withstood these sieges, preserving its role as a key stronghold of the Byzantine Empire.

Iconoclasm Controversy | 8th – 9th centuries
The Byzantine Empire experienced the Iconoclasm Controversy, a period marked by the prohibition of religious icons. This controversy influenced the cultural and religious life of Constantinople during the eighth and ninth centuries.

Cultural and Economic Prosperity
Constantinople continued to be a thriving center of culture, trade, and learning during this period. The city’s location facilitated trade routes between Europe and Asia, contributing to its economic prosperity.

Byzantine-Arab Wars
Throughout the seventh and eighth centuries, Constantinople was periodically threatened by Arab invasions. The Byzantines, under various emperors, successfully defended the city against these external threats.


Sources
Cligés | Chrétien de Troyes, late 12th century
Peredur | 13th century
Vulgate Lancelot | 1215-1230
Vulgate Merlin | 1220-1235
Post-Vulgate Suite du Merlin | 1230-1240
Floriant et Florete | c. 1250–1275