On this day in 330 AD, Roman Emperor Constantine I the Great established New Rome, also known as Constantinople (now Istanbul), as the capital of the Roman Empire. Constantine rebuilt the city on a massive scale following the model of Rome and transformed it into the most important city of the empire.
The beginning of New Rome
New Rome was built as an extension of the city of Byzantium, a settlement founded by Megarian colonists back in 657 BCE which was located in the Bosporus strait. However, Byzantium gained a lot more importance when Constantine the Great decided to establish the capital of the Roman Empire there. The emperor was aware that Rome could no longer serve as the capital, as it was too far away from the borders of the Empire and was therefore difficult to defend in case of an attack. However, Byzantium had a perfect location: it had easy access to the Danube and was one of the wealthiest places in Roman Asia. After establishing the capital there, Constantine decided to rename the city Constantinople after himself. The epithet of New Rome came years later.
During the six following years, Constantinople was modelled after Rome and transformed into the new capital. It was divided into 14 regions and temples and public buildings were built around the city to embellish it. A new square, the Augustaeum, was also built in the city centre and the Great Palace of the Emperor was placed in the south of it. The expansion of the capital continued throughout the centuries and by the 5th century, New Rome already had an area of the same size as Old Rome.
Reforms in New Rome
Aiming to strengthen the Empire, Constantine carried out many administrative, financial, social and military reforms both in the city and the government. One of the most important decisions he made was moving the seat of the government to Constantinople and restructuring it. In relation to this, he replaced Diocletian’s tetrarchy, where power is divided among four rulers, by establishing a dynastic succession.
In order to fight economic inflation, he also introduced a new coin, called the solidus, which became one of the most used currencies during the following centuries. Moreover, he successfully carried out military campaigns against the Franks, the Alamanni, the Goths, and the Sarmatians and resettled abandoned territories. However, it is perhaps the conversion to Christianity for which Constantine is mostly known. In this sense, he was the first Roman Emperor to convert to Christianism and had a key role in its development as the official religion.
The fact that all of these reforms were carried out from Constantinople led to it earning a great influence and consolidating its status as the capital of the Eastern Empire, which would later be known as the Byzantine Empire. Constantinople remained the capital for thousands of years and nowadays still exists under the name of Istanbul, one of the largest cities in Turkey. As a result, Constantine’s reign has been remembered in history as an important period of transition between the classical period and the Middle Ages.
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- roman empire
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