Constantinople, capital of the Turkish empire, called Stamboul by the Turks, was formerly the ancient town of Byzantium and capital of the Byzantine or Eastern Empire. A colony from Megara settled it about 658 B. C., and its commanding position caused it to be fought for by Persians, Gauls, Greeks and Romans. In the fourth century Philip of Macedon lay siege to it, but was driven off by an Athenian army.
The story is that the Macedonians' whereabouts was discovered by a crescent which shone out in the sky; so, ever since, a crescent has been the badge of the city. In 330 A. D. Constantine was so taken with its fine site that he made it his capital, giving it his own name, by which it is now known. Of the 26 sieges and eight captures it has suffered, that by the crusaders in 1204 was the worst, when all that was beautiful in the city, the church-treasures and even the bodies of the dead were plundered.
In 1453 Constantinople fell before the conquering Turk and has never been besieged since, chiefly, in modern times, because of the renown of the Ottoman empire and, later still, because of the jealousy of the European powers, which would not allow any one of them to capture the prize of the Bosporus.
Stamboul or Constantinople proper stands on the site of old Byzantium, south of the Golden Horn, a creek five miles long, half a mile broad and deep enough to float near to the shore the Turkish ironclads. The 14 miles of walls first built by Constantine still encompass the city. Stamboul, like Rome, has its seven hills, where over 200 beautiful mosques and countless chapels rise from a mass of tumble-down, ill-smelling wooden houses and long rows of picturesque bazars.
There are many suburbs, including Eyyub, where is the mosque in which every sultan must gird on the sword of Osman before he ascends the throne. No Christian is allowed to approach the holy place. The trade of Constantinople is large and mostly in the hands of Europeans. There are 20 miles of fortifications along the Bosporus. Railroads now connect Constantinople with Paris and other European cities and also with towns in Asia Minor. Population, 1,200,000.
The New Student's Reference Work (1914) pg. 447.
|The Near East; Dalmatia, Greece and Constantinople||1913|