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Byzantine Constantinople-de.svg
History of Istanbul

Byzantium ( ancient Greek Βυζάντιον , Latinized Byzantium , modern Byzantium , Turkish Bizans ) was a c. 660 BC. Colony city of Doric Greeks from Megara , Argos and Corinth founded at the southwestern exit of the Bosporus . Byzantium became a mediocre city in the Roman province of Thracia under Roman rule .

Due to its favorable location on the European coast of the Bosphorus, on the eastern tip of a peninsula between the Sea of ​​Marmara and the Golden Horn , Byzantium was expanded by Emperor Constantine I from 326 to 330 as the new capital of the Roman Empire and subsequently called Constantinople . After the Turkish conquest of the city and the Byzantine Empire named after it, it was the capital of the Ottoman Empire from 1453 to 1923 , from which today's Istanbul emerged . Ancient Byzantium is roughly on the site of today's Fatih district of Istanbul.

two drachmas from Byzantion, approx. 350 BC Minted, cow on dolphin, Incusum


Finds from the Neolithic near today 's Kadıköy district and from the Bronze Age in the Sultanahmed district show that the banks of the Bosporus were inhabited very early. This strait was already of decisive importance for the Greeks. The ships that supplied Athens and other poles with grain from the Black Sea region passed here. To secure this strategically important point, which is also a key point of the land connection from Europe to Asia as well as the sea route from the Aegean to the Black Sea , Megarian settlers founded around 685 BC. The first colony on the Asian side of the Bosporus: Kalchedon ( Greek Καλχηδών), on the site of today's Kadıköy.

In the area on the European side, already settled by Thracians , it happened around 660 BC. A second city was founded by the Megarians, together with colonists from Argos and Corinth . The Thracian name of the new settlement, Byzantion , was later interpreted as that of one of the legendary leaders, Byzas of Megara. The new foundation, the area of ​​which roughly corresponded to that of today's Topkapı Palace , was located on the eastern tip of a peninsula bordering north to the Golden Horn and south to the Sea of ​​Marmara . Since this place was much more suitable for the founding of a city, Kalchedon was from then on considered the “city of the blind” because its residents preferred the uglier place to a more beautiful one.

Due to their location, the two cities were affected by almost all wars that took place in the Greco-Asia Minor region in the centuries that followed. During the Ionian Uprising , both cities were besieged and captured by the Persians , after which parts of the population moved to other Greek Black Sea colonies such as Mesembria . After the unsuccessful campaigns of the Persians against Greece, Byzantion became oligarchic . 478 BC It was taken by the Spartan Pausanias . This ruled there for two years, but was then driven out by the population. Since 476 BC Chr. Byzantion had a democracy as a form of government.

Both Kalchedon and Byzantium (from 476 to 405 BC) were members of the Attic-Delian League , the latter with a very high tribute. 411 BC After a conflict with Samos both converted to the Peloponnesian League , but as early as 409 BC. Both cities were recaptured by Alcibiades for the Attic League. After its dissolution as a result of the Peloponnesian War , Byzantion entered 378/377 BC. In the newly founded second Attic Sea League . From 387 B.C. Kalchedon was under Persian rule, 357 BC. However, it was liberated by the Persians from Byzantium. In the following year Byzantion left the now weakened Attic League. 340/339 BC The Macedonian king Philip II besieged Byzantion in vain. This maintained its independence under his son and successor Alexander .

Kalchedon was founded in 315 BC. Besieged by Zipoites , but Antigonus broke the siege. 302/301 BC The siege was successful, and Byzantion negotiated peace. 281 BC Both cities entered the anti-Seleucid alliance. 220 BC There was an economic war of Byzantion against Rhodes . In the wars against Philip V , Antiochus III. and Perseus both cities sided with the Romans , 202 BC. However, Kalchedon was conquered by Philip V. 196 BC In BC Titus Quinctius Flamininus proclaimed the freedom of the Greeks, Byzantion became civitas libera et foederata .

Under Emperor Vespasian (69–79) Byzantion was incorporated into the Roman Empire as part of the province of Bithynia et Pontus .

After the city was founded in the 4th century BC. BC had experienced an economic boom through the control of sea trade, its growth was slowed down by the tax liability towards the Roman governor. Septimius Severus had the city destroyed in 196 AD as a punishment for aiding his rival Pescennius Niger , but it was rebuilt at the intercession of Caracallas . In 258 Byzantium and Kalchedon were plundered and destroyed by the Goths .

On May 11, 330 AD, the Roman Emperor Constantine the Great made it his main residence , expanded it generously and officially named it Nova Roma ( Νέα ̔Ρώμη Nea Rhome ). A little later, however, it was given the new name Constantinopolis (Greek " Κωνσταντινούπολις ", city ​​of Constantine ).



  1. Thucydides 1:94.
  2. Also Th. Preger: The founding date of Constantinople. In: Hermes 36, 1901, pp. 336–342.

Coordinates: 41 ° 1 ′  N , 28 ° 59 ′  E