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Rule from Constantinople

The emperors at Constantinople still ruled over Greece, Asia Minor, Syria, Palestine and Egypt – areas tied together by trade as well as the imperial authority at Constantinople. The emperors at Constantinople saw themselves as the rightful heirs of a rule that dated back to Augustus Caesar. They saw themselves as the sole and legitimate ruler of the Roman Empire.

After the disintegration of the western half of the Roman Empire, Constantinople continued to trade with the coast of Gaul, the Iberian peninsula, Africa, India and China. Constantinople remained a prosperous city, populated by Romans, Greeks, Armenians, Syrians, Arabs, Asians and some Germans, all of them united by a common Roman citizenship and belief in Christ and the Trinity. Intermarriage among the different ethnicities was common, and by the 500s most people in Constantinople spoke Greek. A few spoke Latin, but Latin was declining and used chiefly on formal or official occasions. Prejudice was common only against those who could not speak Greek or who were not Catholic – the essentials, according to some in Constantinople, for civilization. Germans made up the majority of those in Constantinople's army, and some soldiers were Huns. Many Germans labored on lands just outside the city, and some worked in Constantinople at menial jobs or as slaves in rich households.

As a Christian city, Constantinople had many churches, monasteries and convents. It had free hospitals for the sick, staffed by monks and nuns. It had alms houses for the needy and the old. It had free accommodations for the homeless and city-subsidized orphanages. And in times of need, rationing was often introduced to help the poor.

Many in Constantinople saw the world as had Augustine of Hippo: as a vale of tears in which one should not place trust or hope. But the people of Constantinople were generally enthusiastic about chariot racing. From early in the morning, young and old people and priests from all over Constantinople would begin to converge on the city's circus to view and gamble on the chariot races.


The History of the Franks, by Gregory of Tours (transl. M Dalton 1927), 594

History of the Later Roman Empire, by J B Bury, volumes 1 & 2, 1889

On the Government of God, by Salvian the Presbyter, 5th century, translation 1930

The Grandeur that was Rome, by J C Stobard, 1920

Invasion of Europe by the Barbarians, by J B Bury, 1928

Decline of Rome and the Rise of Medieval Europe, by Solomon Katz, 1955

The Fall of Rome: can it be explained? edited by Mortimer Chambers, 1963

Augustine of Hippo: A Biography, by Peter Brown, 1967

The Immense Majesty, by Thomas W Africa, 1974

Roman Realities, by Finley Hooper, 1979

The Fall of Rome, a Reappraisal, by Michael Grant, 1982

The Franks, by Edward James, 1988

The Celtic Empire, by Peter Berresford Ellis, 2001

Rome and the Barbarians, by Thomas S Burns, 2003

Justinian and Theodora, by Robert Browning, 2003

Additional Reading

History of the Decline and Fall of the Roman Empire, Edward Gibbon, 1776-81

Copyright © 1998-2018 by Frank E. Smitha. All rights reserved.