The Byzantine Senate or Eastern Roman Senate was the continuation of the Roman Senate, established in the 4th century by Constantine I. It survived for centuries, but with its limited power that it theoretically possessed, the Senate became irrelevant until its eventual disappearance circa 14th century; the Senate of the Eastern Roman Empire consisted of Roman senators who happened to live in the East, or those who wanted to move to Constantinople, a few other bureaucrats who were appointed to the Senate. Constantine offered free grain to any Roman Senators who were willing to move to the East; when Constantine founded the Eastern Senate in Byzantium, it resembled the councils of important cities like Antioch rather than the Roman Senate. His son Constantius II raised it from the position of a municipal to that of an Imperial body but the Senate in Constantinople had the same limited powers as the Senate in Rome. Constantius II increased the number of Senators to 2,000 by including his friends and various provincial officials.
The traditional principles that Senatorial rank was hereditary and that the normal way of becoming a member of the Senate itself was by holding a magistracy still remained in full force. By the time of the permanent division of the Roman Empire in 395, Praetors' responsibilities had been reduced to a purely municipal role, their sole duty was to manage the spending of money on public works. However, with the decline of the other traditional Roman offices such as that of tribune the Praetorship remained an important portal through which aristocrats could gain access to either the Western or Eastern Senates; the Praetorship was a costly position to hold as Praetors were expected to possess a treasury from which they could draw funds for their municipal duties. There are known to have been eight Praetors in the Eastern Roman Empire who shared the financial burden between them; the late Eastern Roman Senate was different from the Republican Senate as the offices of aedile and tribune had long fallen into abeyance and by the end of the 4th century the quaestorship was on the point of disappearing, save as a provincial magistrate.
The Emperor or the Senate itself could issue a decree to grant a man not born into the Senatorial order a seat in the Senate. Exemption from the expensive position of praetor would often be conferred on such persons that had become Senators in this way; the Senate was composed of statesmen and officials, ranging from the most important statesmen in the Empire such as the Master of Offices and the Master of Soldiers to provincial governors and retired civil servants. The senatorial families in Constantinople tended to be less affluent and less distinguished than those in the West; some aristocrats attempted to become senators in order to escape the difficult conditions that were imposed on them by late Roman Emperors such as Diocletian. The curiales were forced to become decurions where they were charged with participating in local government at their own expense as well as having to collect taxes and pay any deficits from their own pockets; as it was recognised that many who sought seats in the Senate were doing so to escape the harsh duties of the decurion Theodosius I decreed that they must complete their public service if they became Senators.
The Senate was led by the Prefect of the City, who conducted all of its communications with the Emperor. It was composed of three orders, the illustres and clarissimi; the members of the illustres were those who held the highest offices in Eastern Rome, such as the Master of Soldiers and Praetorian Prefects. The spectabiles formed the middle class of the Senate and consisted of important statesmen such as proconsuls and military governors of the provinces; the clarissimi was the lower class of the senate and was attached to the governors of the provinces and to other lesser posts. Members of the lower two orders were permitted to live anywhere within the Empire and were inactive Senators; the majority of active members in the Senate were the illustres, whose important offices were based in Constantinople and so were able to attend the Senate frequently. By the end of the 5th century the two lower classes were excluded from sitting in the Senate. During the reign of Justinian I the numbers of clarissimi were increased which caused many officials to be promoted to the rank of spectabiles and this in turn caused there to be an increase of the numbers of illustres, the elite class of the Senate.
As a result, a new order, the gloriosi, was created to accommodate the highest ranking senators. It is important to note that being a Senator was a secondary career for most of the Senate's members, who possessed important positions within the administrative machinery of the Empire. Whilst the powers of the Senate were limited, it could pass resolutions which the Emperor might adopt and issue in the form of edicts, it could thus suggest Imperial legislation, it acted from time to time as a consultative body. Some Imperial laws took the form of'Orations to the Senate', were read aloud before the body; the Western Roman Emperor, Valentinian III, in 446, formulated a legislative procedure which granted to the Senate the right of co-operation, where any new law was to be discussed at a meeting between the Senate and the Council before being confirmed by the Emperor. This procedure was included in Justinian's code although it is unclear whether i
Constantinople was the capital city of the Roman Empire, of the Byzantine Empire, of the brief Crusader state known as the Latin Empire, until falling to the Ottoman Empire. It was reinaugurated in 324 from ancient Byzantium as the new capital of the Roman Empire by Emperor Constantine the Great, after whom it was named, dedicated on 11 May 330; the city was located in what is now the core of modern Istanbul. From the mid-5th century to the early 13th century, Constantinople was the largest and wealthiest city in Europe; the city was famed for its architectural masterpieces, such as the Greek Orthodox cathedral of Hagia Sophia, which served as the seat of the Ecumenical Patriarchate, the sacred Imperial Palace where the Emperors lived, the Galata Tower, the Hippodrome, the Golden Gate of the Land Walls, the opulent aristocratic palaces lining the arcaded avenues and squares. The University of Constantinople was founded in the fifth century and contained numerous artistic and literary treasures before it was sacked in 1204 and 1453, including its vast Imperial Library which contained the remnants of the Library of Alexandria and had over 100,000 volumes of ancient texts.
It was instrumental in the advancement of Christianity during Roman and Byzantine times as the home of the Ecumenical Patriarch of Constantinople and as the guardian of Christendom's holiest relics such as the Crown of Thorns and the True Cross. Constantinople was famed for its complex defences; the first wall of the city was erected by Constantine I, surrounded the city on both land and sea fronts. In the 5th century, the Praetorian Prefect Anthemius under the child emperor Theodosius II undertook the construction of the Theodosian Walls, which consisted of a double wall lying about 2 kilometres to the west of the first wall and a moat with palisades in front; this formidable complex of defences was one of the most sophisticated of Antiquity. The city was built intentionally to rival Rome, it was claimed that several elevations within its walls matched the'seven hills' of Rome; because it was located between the Golden Horn and the Sea of Marmara the land area that needed defensive walls was reduced, this helped it to present an impregnable fortress enclosing magnificent palaces and towers, the result of the prosperity it achieved from being the gateway between two continents and two seas.
Although besieged on numerous occasions by various armies, the defences of Constantinople proved impregnable for nearly nine hundred years. In 1204, the armies of the Fourth Crusade took and devastated the city, its inhabitants lived several decades under Latin misrule. In 1261 the Byzantine Emperor Michael VIII Palaiologos liberated the city, after the restoration under the Palaiologos dynasty, enjoyed a partial recovery. With the advent of the Ottoman Empire in 1299, the Byzantine Empire began to lose territories and the city began to lose population. By the early 15th century, the Byzantine Empire was reduced to just Constantinople and its environs, along with Morea in Greece, making it an enclave inside the Ottoman Empire. According to Pliny the Elder in his Natural History, the first known name of a settlement on the site of Constantinople was Lygos, a settlement of Thracian origin founded between the 13th and 11th centuries BC; the site, according to the founding myth of the city, was abandoned by the time Greek settlers from the city-state of Megara founded Byzantium in around 657 BC, across from the town of Chalcedon on the Asiatic side of the Bosphorus.
The origins of the name of Byzantion, more known by the Latin Byzantium, are not clear, though some suggest it is of Thraco-Illyrian origin. The founding myth of the city has it told that the settlement was named after the leader of the Megarian colonists, Byzas; the Byzantines of Constantinople themselves would maintain that the city was named in honour of two men and Antes, though this was more just a play on the word Byzantion. The city was renamed Augusta Antonina in the early 3rd century AD by the Emperor Septimius Severus, who razed the city to the ground in 196 for supporting a rival contender in the civil war and had it rebuilt in honour of his son Marcus Aurelius Antoninus, popularly known as Caracalla; the name appears to have been forgotten and abandoned, the city reverted to Byzantium/Byzantion after either the assassination of Caracalla in 217 or, at the latest, the fall of the Severan dynasty in 235. Byzantium took on the name of Kōnstantinoupolis after its refoundation under Roman emperor Constantine I, who transferred the capital of the Roman Empire to Byzantium in 330 and designated his new capital as Nova Roma'New Rome'.
During this time, the city was called'Second Rome','Eastern Rome', Roma Constantinopolitana. As the city became the sole remaining capital of the Roman Empire after the fall of the West, its wealth and influence grew, the city came to have a multitude of nicknames; as the largest and wealthiest city in Europe during the 4th–13th centuries and a centre of culture and education of the Mediterranean basin, Constantinople came to be known by prestigious titles such as Basileuousa and Megalopol
The solidus, nomisma, or bezant was a pure gold coin issued in the Late Roman Empire. Under Constantine, who introduced it on a wide scale, it had a weight of about 4.5 grams. It was replaced in Western Europe by Pepin the Short's currency reform, which introduced the silver-based pound/shilling/penny system, under which the shilling functioned as a unit of account equivalent to 12 pence developing into the French sou. In Eastern Europe, the nomisma was debased by the Byzantine emperors until it was abolished by Alexius I in 1092, who replaced it with the hyperpyron, which came to be known as a "bezant"; the Byzantine solidus inspired the slightly less pure Arab dinar. In late Antiquity and the Middle Ages, the solidus functioned as a unit of weight equal to 1/72 of a pound; the solidus was introduced by Diocletian in AD 301 as a replacement of the aureus, composed of solid gold and minted 60 to the Roman pound. His minting was on a small scale and the coin only entered widespread circulation under Constantine I after AD 312, when it permanently replaced the aureus.
Constantine's solidus was struck at a rate of 72 to a Roman pound of pure gold. By this time, the solidus was worth 275,000 debased denarii. With the exception of the early issues of Constantine the Great and the odd usurpers the solidus today is a much more affordable gold Roman coin to collect compared to the older aureus; those of Valens Honorius and Byzantine issues. The solidus was maintained unaltered in weight and purity until the 10th century. During the 6th and 7th centuries "lightweight" solidi of 20, 22 or 23 siliquae were struck along with the standard weight issues for trade purposes or to pay tribute. Many of these lightweight coins have been found in Europe and Georgia; the lightweight solidi were distinguished by different markings on the coin in the exergue for the 20 and 22 siliquae coins and by stars in the field for the 23 siliquae coins. In theory the solidus was struck from pure gold, but because of the limits of refining techniques, in practice the coins were about 23k fine.
In the Greek-speaking world during the Roman period, in the Byzantine economy, the solidus was known as the νόμισμα nomisma. In the 10th century Emperor Nicephorus II Phocas introduced a new lightweight gold coin called the tetarteron nomisma that circulated alongside the solidus, from that time the solidus became known as the ἱστάμενον νόμισμα histamenon nomisma in the Greek speaking world, it was difficult to distinguish the two coins, as they had the same design and purity, there were no marks of value to distinguish the denominations. The only difference was the weight; the tetarteron nomisma was a lighter coin, about 4.05 grams, but the histamenon nomisma maintained the traditional weight of 4.5 grams. To eliminate confusion between the two, from the reign of Basil II the solidus was struck as a thinner coin with a larger diameter, but with the same weight and purity as before. From the middle of the 11th century the larger diameter histamenon nomisma was struck on a concave flan, though the smaller tetarteron nomisma continued to be struck on a smaller flat flan.
Former money changer Michael IV the Paphlagonian assumed the throne of Byzantium in 1034 and began the slow process of debasing both the tetarteron nomisma and the histamenon nomisma. The debasement was gradual at first, but accelerated rapidly: about 21 carats during the reign of Constantine IX, 18 carats under Constantine X, 16 carats under Romanus IV, 14 carats under Michael VII, 8 carats under Nicephorus III and 0 to 8 carats during the first eleven years of the reign of Alexius I. Alexius eliminated the solidus altogether. In its place he introduced; the weight and purity of the hyperpyron nomisma remained stable until the fall of Constantinople to the Crusaders in 1204. After that time the exiled Empire of Nicea continued to strike a debased hyperpyron nomisma. Michael VIII recaptured Constantinople in 1261, the Byzantine Empire continued to strike the debased hyperpyron nomisma until the joint reign of John V and John VI. After that time the hyperpyron nomisma continued as a unit of account, but it was no longer struck in gold.
From the 4th to the 11th centuries, solidi were minted at the Constantinopolitan Mint, but in Thessalonica, Rome, Ravenna, Alexandria, Carthage and other cities. During the 8th and 9th centuries the Syracuse mint produced a large number of solidi that failed to meet the specifications of the coins produced by the imperial mint in Constantinople; the Syracuse solidi were lighter and only 19k fine. Although imperial law forbade merchants from exporting solidi outside imperial territory, many solidi have been found in Russia, Central Europe and Syria. In the 7th century they became a desirable circulating currency in Arabian countries. Since the solidi circulating outside the empire were not used to pay taxes to the emperor, they did not get reminted, the soft pure-gold coins became worn. Through the end of the 7th century, Arabi
Constantine IV, sometimes incorrectly called Pogonatos, "the Bearded", out of confusion with his father, was Byzantine Emperor from 668 to 685. His reign saw the first serious check to nearly 50 years of uninterrupted Islamic expansion, while his calling of the Sixth Ecumenical Council saw the end of the monothelitism controversy in the Byzantine Empire; the eldest son of Constans II, Constantine IV had been named a co-emperor with his father in 654. He had been given the responsibility of managing the affairs at Constantinople during his father’s extended absence in Italy and became senior Emperor when Constans was assassinated in 668, his mother was daughter of patrician Valentinus. The first task before the new Emperor was the suppression of the military revolt in Sicily under Mezezius which had led to his father's death. Within seven months of his accession, Constantine IV had dealt with the insurgency with the support of Pope Vitalian, but this success was overshadowed by troubles in the east.
As early as 668 the Caliph Muawiyah I received an invitation from Saborios, the commander of the troops in Armenia, to help overthrow the Emperor at Constantinople. He sent an army under his son Yazid against the Byzantine Empire. Yazid took the important Byzantine center Amorion. While the city was recovered, the Arabs next attacked Carthage and Sicily in 669. In 670 the Arabs captured Cyzicus and set up a base from which to launch further attacks into the heart of the Empire, their fleet captured Smyrna and other coastal cities in 672. In 672, the Arabs sent a large fleet to attack Constantinople by sea. While Constantine was distracted by this, the Slavs laid siege to Thessalonica. Commencing in 674, the Arabs launched the long-awaited siege of Constantinople; the great fleet, assembled set sail under the command of Abdu'l-Rahman ibn Abu Bakr before the end of the year. Additional squadrons reinforced the forces of Abd ar-Rahman before they proceeded to the Hellespont, into which they sailed in about April 674.
From April to September 674 the fleet lay moored from the promontory of Hebdomon, on the Propontis, as far as the promontory of Kyklobion, near the Golden Gate, throughout those months continued to engage with the Byzantine fleet which defended the harbour from morning to evening. Knowing that it was only a matter of time before Constantinople was under siege, Constantine had ensured that the city was well provisioned, he constructed a large number of fireships and fast-sailing boats provided with tubes or siphons for squirting fire. This is the first known use of Greek fire in combat, one of the key advantages that the Byzantines possessed. In September the Arabs, having failed in their attempts to take the city, sailed to Cyzicus, which they made their winter quarters. Over the following five years, the Arabs would return each spring to continue the siege of Constantinople, but with the same results; the city survived, in 678 the Arabs were forced to raise the siege. The Arabs withdrew and were simultaneously defeated on land in Lycia in Anatolia.
This unexpected reverse forced Muawiyah I to seek a truce with Constantine. The terms of the concluded truce required the Arabs to evacuate the islands they had seized in the Aegean, to pay an annual tribute to the Emperor consisting of fifty slaves, fifty horses, 3,000 pounds of gold; the raising of the siege allowed Constantine to go to the relief of Thessalonica, still under siege from the Slavs. With the temporary passing of the Arab threat, Constantine turned his attention to the Church, torn between Monothelitism and Orthodoxy. In November 680 Constantine convened the Sixth Ecumenical Council. Constantine presided in person during the formal aspects of the proceedings, surrounded by his court officials, but he took no active role in the theological discussions; the Council reaffirmed the Orthodox doctrines of the Council of Chalcedon in 451. This solved the controversy over monothelitism; the council closed in September 681. Due to the ongoing conflicts with the Arabs during the 670s, Constantine had been forced to conclude treaties in the west with the Lombards, who had captured Brindisi and Taranto.
In 680, the Bulgars under Khan Asparukh crossed the Danube into nominally Imperial territory and began to subjugate the local communities and Slavyanic tribes. In 680, Constantine IV led a combined land and sea operation against the invaders and besieged their fortified camp in Dobruja. Suffering from bad health, the Emperor had to leave the army, which panicked and was defeated by the Bulgars. In 681, Constantine was forced to acknowledge the Bulgar state in Moesia and to pay tribute/protection money to avoid further inroads into Byzantine Thrace. Constantine created the Theme of Thrace, his brothers Heraclius and Tiberius had been crowned with him as Augusti during the reign of their father, this was confirmed by the demand of the populace, but in 681 Constantine had them mutilated so they would be ineligible to rule. At the same time he associated on the throne his own young son Justinian II. Constantine died of dysentery in September 685. By his wife Anastasia, Constantine IV had at least two sons: Justinian II, who succeeded him as emperor Heraclius, known only from an episode in which his father sent locks of his and his brother's hair to Pope Benedict II.
Church of St. Mary of Blachernae (Istanbul)
Saint Mary of Blachernae is an Eastern Orthodox church in Istanbul. The little edifice, built in 1867, got the same dedication as the shrine erected in this place in the fifth century which, until its destruction in 1434, was one of the most important sanctuaries of Greek Orthodoxy; the church is located in Istanbul, in the district of Fatih, in the neighbourhood of Ayvansaray, along Mustafa Paşa Bostanı Sokak. It lies a few hundred meters inside the walled city, at a short distance from the shore of the Golden Horn; the building is protected by a high wall, preceded by a garden. In 450, Empress Aelia Pulcheria started to build a church near a fountain of holy water situated outside the walls of Theodosius II at the foot of the sixth hill of Constantinople. After her death in 453, the shrine was completed by Emperor Marcian. Emperor Leo I erected near the church two other buildings: a parekklesion, named Ayía Sorós, since it hosted the holy mantle and robe of the Virgin brought from Palestine in 473, the ´Ayion Loúsma edifice, which enclosed the fountain.
The importance assumed by the whole complex encouraged the Emperors to lodge in the surroundings and to build there the nucleus of what would in centuries become the imperial palace of Blachernae. During the first quarter of the 6th century, Emperors Justin I and Justinian I restored and enlarged the church; the name of Blachernae may come from old name of Romanians and from a small colony of vlachsSaint Mary hosted a famous icon of the Virgin, named after the church Vlachernítissa. It was revetted with gold and silver; this icon and the relics of the Virgin kept in the parekklesion were considered by the Byzantines as most powerful, useful during a war or in case of natural disasters. The first proof of the power of these objects came in 626. During that year Constantinople was besieged by the combined armies of the Avars and the Persians, while Emperor Heraclius was away, fighting the Persians in Mesopotamia; the son of the Emperor, together with Patriarch Sergius and Patrician Bonus carried in procession along the ramparts the icon of the Blachernitissa.
Some time the fleet of the Avars was destroyed. The Khan of the Avars afterwards said that he had been frightened by the vision of a young woman adorned with jewels scouring the walls. After the end of the siege, the Byzantines learned with joy that the building of the church, which at that time lay outside the Walls, was the only one not to have been plundered by the invaders; when the victorious Heraclius came back to Constantinople, bringing back the True Cross, captured by the Persians in Jerusalem, the Patriarch received him at Saint Mary. Sometime the Emperor built a single wall to protect the church, thus enclosing in the City the suburb of Blachernae; the protection of the Virgin of the Blachernae was credited with the Byzantine victories during the Arab siege of 717-718, in 860, during the invasion of the Rus'. In this occasion, the Veil of the Virgin, which by that time had joined the other relics in the church, was shortly plunged in the sea to invoke the protection of God on the fleet.
Some days the Rus' fleet was destroyed. In 926 too, during the war against Simeon of Bulgaria, the potency of the relics of the Virgin helped convince the Bulgarian Tsar to negotiate with the Byzantines instead of assaulting the City. On August 15, 944, the church received other two important objects: the letter written by King Abgar V of Edessa to Jesus and the Mandylion. Both relics were moved to the Church of the Virgin of the Pharos. St. Mary, being a centre of the veneration of the Images, played an important role in the religious fights of the Byzantines. During the Iconoclastic period, the final session of the Council of Hieria, where the cult of the images was condemned, took place in the church; as a consequence of that decision, Emperor Constantine V ordered the mosaics of the interior destroyed, substituted them with others representing natural scenes with trees and animals. On that occasion the Icon of the Blachernitissa was hidden under a layer of silvery mortar. In 843, with the end of Iconoclasm, the Feast of Orthodoxy was celebrated for the first time in the church of Blachernae with an Agrypnía, which occurred on the first Sunday of Lent.
The Blachernitissa was discovered again during restoration works executed during the reign of Romanos III Argyros, became again one of the most venerated icons of Constantinople. The Church of Saint Mary was destroyed during a fire in 1070, was rebuilt by Romanos IV Diogenes and Michael VII Doukas respecting the old plan. According to Anna Komnene, the so-called "habitual miracle" occurred in the church before the Icon of the Virgin Blachernitissa. On Friday after sunset, when the church was empty, the veil which covered the icon moved up revealing the face of the Virgin, while 24 hours it fell again slowly. Anyway, the miracle did not occur and ceased after the Latin conquest of the City. After the Latin invasion of 1204, the church was occupied by the Latin clergy and placed directly under the Holy See. Before the end of the Latin Empire, John III Doukas Vatatzes redeemed the church and many monasteries for the Orthodox clergy in exchange for money. On February 29, 1434, some noble children who were hunting pigeons on the roof of the church accidentally started a fire, which destroyed the whole complex and the surrounding quarter.
The area was neglected during the Ottoman period. In 1867, the Guild of the Orthodox fur