The “New Rome”: Byzantium and the Eastern Empire

Having secured control of both the western and eastern regions of the Roman Empire through his defeat of Licinius in 325 (1.4.2), the emperor Constantine decided to establish a new imperial city in the east. The center of gravity of the empire now lay increasingly to the east, and Constantine regarded it as essential to locate the new administrative and military hub of the empire closer to its eastern frontiers. In the end, Constantine identified a suitable site on the Bosphorus, straddling the Mediterranean and Black Seas. A settlement had already been established there by the Greeks, which they named “Byzantium.”

Constantine took over the site of this older settlement, and redeveloped it. The new Greek-speaking city would be known as “Constantinople” (Greek: Kōnstantinoupolis, “the city of Constantine”). From the outset, Constantine referred to his city as Nova Roma – the “New Rome” – which would be the capital of the empire. It was consecrated on May 11, 330. As Rome declined in power during the later fourth century, Constantinople’s repu- tation and importance rose.

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