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Turkey (Country)
Istanbul and Constantinople

What does Istanbul mean?


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June 15, 2011 12:56AM

The area around the place today knowing as Istanbul, was founded in 7th century BC. Its name was Byzantion, named after Byzas*, the king of the Hellenic city of Megara*. (Megara was and is a city just an hour away of Athens, Hellas). The development and the growing of the city was profane because of the geographical spot it was chosen. It became a great commercial centre of the period connecting the Black Sea with the Aegean Sea and the Hellenic metropolis and colonies. The city of Byzantion has had other named too. One of them is Eptalofos, which means that is surrounded by 7 hills*.

When Constantine I, decided to transfer the capital of the Roman Empire from Rome to another place with strategic orientation he chose Byzantion. This happened in 330 AD and he gave to the city the name "Νέα Ρώμη" (=Nea Romi, = New Rome, Nova Roma in latin). This name did not last for long and it was replaced by the name "Constantinople". Κωνσταντινούπολη (Constantinoupolis) means the polis (=city) of Constantine. After the separation of the Roman Empire in 395 AD by Theodosius I, the Eastern Roman Empire knew a period of great rise and blossom in many sectors; political, economical, trade, land conquering, science, etc.. Its glory was great as well due to the fall of the Western Roman Empire, being provoked by the invasion of mostly Germanic tribes into its lands*. On the other side, the Eastern Romans were expanding into the Balkans, Asia Minor and Black Sea region, Middle East and North Africa. Only Emperor Ioustinianos on 6th century AD tried to reunite the two parts of the Roman Empire by conquering the westerns lands*, but this didn't last for long. All this time, Byzantines have come in contact with lots of tribes and civilization from the North, the West and the East. Visigoths, Ostrogoths, Huns, Avars and Slavs (8th century AD), Arab kingdoms and then sultanates, Seljuks* (11th century AD) etc..

Using the Hellenic language as the official language of the state since the times of Constantine I, scripts and texts inform us that the citizens where calling Constantinoupolis as just "Polis" with P capital letter. This way they wanted to show its glory it was threw these centuries. So, during the victorious wars after the battles the sergeants, generals and soldiers were shouting loud: "Εις την Πόλιν" (=Eis tin Polin, which means "Let's lead back to Polis) in order to return to the capital, bring the victorious news and celebrate. It is said, by historians of the era, that the Arabs hearing those shouts made it, by passing the time, as Istanbul, which later used by Ottomans* gave its current name.

One Polis, variety of names!

*Have a look at the links in the Related Links section below