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camp had stretched twelve miles along the shore CHAP. from the Sigæan to the Rhætean promontory ;
XVII. and the flanks of the army were guarded by the bravest chiefs who fought under the banners of Agamemnon. The first of those promontories was occupied by Achilles with his invincible Myrmidons, and the dauntless Ajax pitched his tents on the other. After Ajax had fallen a sacrifice to his disappointed pride, and to the ingratitude of the Greeks, his sepulchre was erected on the ground where he had defended the navy against the rage of Jove and of Hector; and the citizens of the rising town of Rhæteum celebrated his memory with divine honours." Before Constantine gave a just preference to the situation of Byzantium, he had conceived the design of erecting the seat of empire on this celebrated spot, from whence the Romans derived their fabulous origin. The extensive plain which lies below ancient Troy, towards the Rhætean promontory and the tomb of Ajax, was first chosen for his new capital; and though the undertaking was soon relinquished, the stately remains of unfinished walls and towers attracted the notice of all who sailed through the streights of the Hellespont."
# Strabo, l. xiii, p. 595. The disposition of the ships, which were drawn upon dry land, and the posts of Ajax and Achilles, are very clearly described by Homer. See Iliad ix, 220.
"Zosim. l. ii, p. 105. Sozomen, l. ii, c. 3. Theophanes, p. 18. Nicephorus Callistus, l. vii, p. 48. Zona , tom. ii, l. xiii, p. 6. Zosimus places the new city between Ilium and Alexandria, but this apparent difference may be reconciled by the large extent of its circumference. Before the foundation of Constantinople, Thessa
We are at present qualified to view the advan. XVII. tageous position of Constantinople, which ap
pears to have been formed by nature for the tages of
centre and capital of a great monarchy. Situated nople.
in the forty-first degree of latitude, the imperial city commanded, from her seven hills, the opposite shores of Europe and Asia; the climate was healthy and temperate, the soil fertile, the harbour, secure and capacious, and the approach on the side of the continent was of small extent and easy defence. The Bosphorus and the Hellespont may be considered as the two gates of Constantinople; and the prince who possessed those important passages could always shut them against a naval enemy,and open them to the fleets of commerce.
The preservation of the eastern provinces may, in some degree, be ascribed to the policy of Constantine; as the barbarians of the Euxine, who in the preceding age had poured their armaments into the heart of the Mediterranean, soon desisted from the exercise of piracy, and despaired of forcing this insurmountable bai rier. When the gates of the Hellespont and Bosphorus were shut, the capital still enjoyed, within their spacious inclosure, every production which could supply the wants, or gratify the luxury, of
lonica is mentioned by Cedrenus (p. 283), and Sardica by Zonaras, as the intended capital. They both suppose, with very little proba. bility, that the emperor, if he had not been prevented by a prodigy, would have repeated the mistake of the blind Chalcedonians.
* Pocock's Description of the East, vol. ii, part ii, p. 127. His plan of the seven hills is clear and accurate. That traveller is sel. dom so satisfactory.
its numerous inhabitants. The sea coasts of
СНАР. Thrace and Bithynia, which languish under the XVII. weight of Turkish oppression, still exhibit a rich prospect of vineyards, of gardens, and of plentiful harvests; and the Propontis has ever been renowned for an inexhaustible store of the most exquisite fish, that are taken in their stated seasons, without skill, and almost without labour. But when the passages of the streights were thrown open for trade, they alternately admitted the natural and artificial riches of the north and south, of the Euxine and of the Mediterranean. Whatever rude commodities were collected in the forests of Germany and Scythia, as far as the sources of the Tanais and the Borysthenes; whatsoever was manufactured by the skill of Europe or Asia ; the corn of Egypt, and the gems and spices of the farthest India, were brought by the varying winds into the port of Constantinople, which, for many ages, attracted the commerce of the ancient world. The prospect of beauty, of safety, and of Foundation
of the city. wealth, united in a single spot, was sufficient to justify the choice of Constantine. But as some decent mixture of prodigy and fable has, in every
y See Belon. Observations, c. 72-76. Among a variety of different species, the pelamides, a sort of thunnies, were the mos celebrated. We may learn from Polybius, Strabo, and Tacitus, that the profits of the fishery constituted the principal revenue of Byzantium.
2 See the eloquent description of Busbequius, epistol. i, p. 64. Est in Europa; habet in conspectu Asiam, Ægyptum, Africamque à dextrâ : quæ tametsi contiguæ non sunt, maris tamen navigandique commoditate veluti junguntur. A sinistra vero Pontus est, Euxinus, &c,
CHAP. age, been supposed to reflect a becoming majesty
on the origin of great cities, the emperor was desirous of ascribing his resolution, not so much to the uncertain counsels of human policy, as to the infallible and eternal decrees of divine wisdom. In one of his laws he has been careful to instruct posterity, that, in obedience to the commands of God, he laid the everlasting foundations of Constantinople;' and though he has not condescended to relate in what manner the celestial inspiration was communicated to his mind, the defect of his modest silence has been liberally supplied by the ingenuity of succeeding writers, who describe the nocturnal vision which appeared to the fancy of Constantine, as he slept within the walls of Byzantium. The tutelar genius of the city, a venerable matron sinking under the weight of years and infirmities, was suddenly transformed into a blooming maid, whom his own hands adorned with all the symbols of imperial greatness. The monarch awoke, interpreted the auspicious omen, and obeyed, without hesitation, the will of heaven. The day which gave
birth to a city or colony was celebrated by the Romans with such ceremonies as had been ordained by a
Datur hæc venia antiquitati, ut miscendo humana divinis, primordia urbium augustiora faciat. T. Liv. in proem.
He says in one of his laws, pro commoditate urbis quam æterno nomine, juberte Deo, donavimus. Cod. Theodos. 1, xiii, tit. v, leg. 7.
« The Greeks, Theophanes, Cedrenus, and the author of the Alexandrian Chronicle, confine themselves to vague and general expressions. For a more particular account of the vision, we are obliged to have recourse to such Latin writers as William of Malmsbury. See Ducange c, P. 1. i, p. 24, 25.
generous superstition;" and though Constantine chap. might omit some rites which savoured too strongly of their pagan origin, yet he was anxious to leave a deep impression of hope and respect on the minds of the spectators. On foot, with a lance in his hand, the emperor himself led the solemn procession, and directed the line, which was traced as the boundary of the destined capital; till the growing circumference was observed with astonishment by the assistants, who at length ventured to observe, that he had already exceeded the most ample measure of a great city. “I shall still advance,” replied Constantine,“ till he, the invisible guide who marches before me, thinks proper to stop.” Without presuming to investigate the nature or motives of this extraordinary conductor, we shall content ourselves with the more humble task of describing the extent and limits of Constantinople.
In the actual state of the city, the palace and Extent gardens of the seraglio occupy the eastern promontory, the first of the seven hills, and cover
d See Plutarch in Romul, tom. i, p. 49, edit. Bryan. Among other ceremonies, a large hole, which had been dug for that purpose, was filled up with handfuls of earth, which each of the settlers brought from the place of his birth, and thus adopted his new country.
e Philostorgius, 1. ii, c, 9. This incident, though borrowed from a suspected writer, is characteristic and probable,
f See in the Memoires de l'Academie, tom, xxxv, p. 747–758, a dissertation of M. d'Anville on the extent of Constantinople. He takes the plan inserted in the Imperium Orientale of Banduri as the most complete ; but, by a series of very nice observations, he reduces the extravagant proportion of the scale, and instead of 9500, determines the circumference of the city as consisting of about 7800 French teiscs.