The other works of Theodosius

Other works of Theodosius could be mentioned, such as the improvement of the Harbour of Eleu- therius (at Vlanga Bostan), and the palaces erected for the accommodation of members of the imperial family. But perhaps we shall obtain a more vivid impression of the extent to which the growth and improvement of Constantinople were due to this Emperor, from the impression which the changes he introduced made upon the mind of a contemporary who had known the city from the days of Constantius. “No longer/’ exclaims Themistius, as he surveys the altered aspect of the place, “no longer is the vacant ground in the city more extensive than the ground occupied by buildings; nor is the land under cultivation within the walls more than that which is inhabited. The beauty of the city is no longer scattered over it in patches, but is now continuous throughout its whole area, like a robe finished to the very fringe. The city is resplendent with gold and porphyry; it boasts of a new forum, named after the Emperor; it is provided with baths, porticoes, gymnasia, and what was its former extreme limit is now its centre. If Constantine could see the city he founded, he would look upon a glorious and splendid scene, not upon a bare and naked void; he would behold it fair, not with apparent, but with real, beauty.” The mansions of the wealthy were now larger and more stately; the suburbs also had grown. “ The city,” continues the orator, “ is full of carpenters, builders, decorators, and every other class of artisans, so that it might fitly be described as a workshop of magnificence. Should the zeal of the Emperor to adorn the city continue, a wider circuit will become necessary, and the question will arise, whether the city added to Constantinople by Theodosius does not excel in splendour the city which Constantine added to Byzantium.”

Events of great moment in the history of the city occurred

In the reign of Arcadius, events of great moment in the history of the city occurred. In the first place, the government of the Empire, which had been in the hands of Theodosius alone for a few months, was now again divided between his sons, the West falling to Honorius, the East becoming the dominion of Arcadius. This proved the final division of the government, and prepared the way for the ultimate sundering of Europe into two worlds. For it stimulated a conflict of interests and occasioned a warfare of intrigues that strengthened the tendency for the parts of the Empire to fall apart and form, practically, distinct States. Thus, however, the individuality and independence of Constantinople came to be clearly and fully asserted in the next place, under Arcadius, the question how far Constantinople and the Balkan lands were to remain under the control of the Germans settled to the south of the Danube reached its most critical stage.

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Excessive Partition of Power

Power do change the direction of the world, direction of history and mystery.

Western and Eastern Europe

This was an excessive partition of power, and proved unsatisfactory. But the view that the welfare of the State required the attention and abilities of more than one ruler was consistently upheld, so long as Western and Eastern Europe formed integral parts of the same dominion.

As a consequence Rome ceased to be the capital of the Empire, even in the ordinary acceptation of the term. For multiplicity of rule involved, necessarily, as many seats of imperial administration as the number of rulers associated in the government of the Empire. Hence, under Diocletian, four cities boasted of being capitals. Furthermore, the selection of what cities should enjoy that honour would be determined by their fitness to become natural parts of the new organisation of the Roman world. Even Rome’s claim to be one of the capitals would be submitted to that test. And when so submitted, the claim of the Eternal City was disallowed even in that portion of the Empire which included Italy, where, for strategic reasons, the choice fell first upon Milan and subsequently upon Ravenna. When it came to the turn of the East to provide suitable seats of government, the honours were shared between Singidunum, near the modem Belgrade, and Nico- media in Asia Minor. But for reasons which will immediately appear, Constantine preferred Byzantium, and, having changed the comparatively insignificant town into a splendid city, named it New Rome and Constantinople, to become the sole centre for the administration of the Eastern portion of the Empire, and the local habitation of the spirit of a New Age.

Byzantium for its great destiny

It would appear that the selection of Byzantium for its great destiny was made after the claims of other cities to that distinction had been duly weighed. Naissus (the modem Nisch in Servia) which was the Emperor’s birthplace, Sardica (now Sofia, the capital of Bulgaria), Thessalonica were thought of for that purpose. They had the recommendation of giving ready access to the Danube frontier, along which the barbarians caused anxiety and demanded close attention. Some consideration was given to Nicomedia, which had already been selected by Diocletian for his capital It is also said, though without any serious grounds for the statement, that Constantine actually began work for a new city near the site of old Troy, under the spell of the poetic legends which associated Ilium with the origin of the Roman people. But the superiority of Byzantium to all rivals was so manifest that there was hardly room for long suspense as to the proper choice.

The old oracle, “Build opposite the blind,” which led to the foundation of Byzantium could still serve to guide Constantine in his search for the most suitable position of a new imperial city. There is no place in the wide world more eminently fitted by natural advantages to be the throne of a great dominion, than the promontory which guards the southern end of the Bosporus. There Asia and Europe meet to lay down that antagonism which has made so much of the world’s history, and to blend their resources for man’s welfare. A Power upon that throne, having as much might as it has right, should control a realm extending from the Adriatic Sea to the Persian Gulf, and from the Danube to the Mediterranean. From that point natural highways by sea and land proceed, like the radii of a circle, in all directions where rule can be enforced or commerce developed—to Russia, to Asia, to Africa, to the lands of the West. Its magnificent harbor was fitly named the Golden Horn, for it could be the richest emporium of the world’s wealth. Under no sky can men find a more enchanting bower of beauty, or have more readily the charms of nature, the portion and delight of daily life. When Othman, the founder of the Ottoman power, beheld in his dreams this fair city, situated at the junction of two seas and two continents, it seemed to him a diamond set in sapphires and emeralds. Here, moreover, men could dwell secure. Foes advancing through Asia Minor would find their march upon the city arrested by the great moat formed by the Bosporus, the Sea of Marmora, and the Hellespont.

 The straits just named could be made impassable to hostile fleets approaching from the Euxine or the Mediterranean. While armies which had succeeded in breaking through the barriers of the Danube and the Balkans could be confronted by impregnable fortifications planted along the short landward side of the promontory. “Of all the events of Constantine’s life this choice,” Dean Stanley declares, “is the most convincing and enduring proof of his real genius.” Dr. Hodgkin pronounces it, “One of the highest inspirations of statesmanship that the world has witnessed.”

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