Which city was the capital of three empires, including the Roman, Byzantine, and Ottoman?
And the answer is: Constantinople.
Known today as Istanbul, Constantinople was a strategic port city located at the crossroads of Europe and Asia. In 330 A.D., the Roman Emperor Constantine rebuilt the city as "New Rome." It went on to serve more than 1,000 years as the capital of the Byzantine Empire, before becoming the capital of the Ottoman Empire in 1453.
While most historians would agree that the Roman Empire fell around the 5th century C.E., Roman Emperor Constantine forged a new seat of power in Constantinople that all but left behind its Roman past. Founded in the ancient Greek city of Byzantium, Constantinople remained distant enough from the burning of Rome to survive and even thrive throughout the Middle Ages. In fact, Constantinople was able to defend its borders and maintain internal security for around 11 centuries.
Within the walls of Constantinople, inherited aspects of ancient Roman culture helped create an atmosphere of innovation for pursuits in art, science and technology. Byzantine artists honored the remnants of the fallen empire by incorporating Roman styles and building off of Roman traditions to create new, grand creations. One notable mention is the famous Hagia Sophia, a church with a dome so high it was said that it hung from a chain from heaven. While it was transformed into a mosque when the Ottomans claimed Constantinople, it remains a masterful work of artistry and architecture.
Unfortunately, much of the ancient and medieval art and literature was lost during the First Crusade. After the fall of Alexios Angelos, the son of a deposed emperor who reclaimed the throne for a short time, the French and Venetian army to whom he had promised riches decided to release their anger unto Constantinople, setting fires across the city. Countless works of art were lost. In its wake, a third of Constantinople was left homeless. The city was never quite able to recover, and the last of the Roman Empire fell to the Ottomans in 1453.
Learn more about Constantinople below.