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Submitted on
December 8, 2013
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Shell of an empire by BricksandStones Shell of an empire by BricksandStones

These are the ruins of the Land walls of Constantinople located in modern Istanbul (Turkey). They are over 1500 years old and for more than 1000 years they protected the capital of the Eastern Roman empire and one of the greatest cities of both the Antique and Medieval worlds. It is impossible to fully describe their history in a single paragraph. Throughout the ages they have withstood numerous sieges by armies of the Sassanid Persia from the territory of modern Iran as well as by Avars from the Balkans and Slavs from Bulgaria and Rus. The Arab armies of the first Jihad which swept across Europe, Africa and Asia were stopped and defeated beneath these walls. Their might impressed visitors from all corners of the world including Vikings from Norway such as Harald Hardrada, French and Norman leaders of the first crusade as well as countless pilgrims and ambassadors from regions as diverse as Spain, Ethiopia, Armenia, Scotland, Poland, Khazaria (where Judaism was adopted as the official state’s religion), Syria, Persia, India and even China. Today their abandoned ruins are covered with flags of Turkey and numerous commemorative plaques recall how they were conquered by the Ottomans nearly 1100 years after they were built. In essence they are made to serve as a monument for the Ottoman military glory and feature in numerous films about the siege of Constantinople in 1453. To be honest I could never understand such glorification of conquest, rape and plunder, Ottoman Empire was a fascinating state with intriguing culture and history but the fact that conquest, invasion and domination were so important in its identity never appealed to me. I would very much prefer to associate these walls with the heroism of the defenders and the security which they granted to the inhabitants of Constantinople for so many centuries. Lastly, they are in a way a burial monument of the last Byzantine Emperor, Constantine XI who died defending them and his body was never found. There are no other burial monuments of Byzantine Emperors because the 900 year old church of the Holy Apostles when they were buried since the time of emperor Justinian was deliberately erased to the ground by the Ottomans so these walls just have to do.

PS. I did not mention the fourth crusade here because the crusaders who sacked the city in 1204 and plundered its wealth massacring most of the inhabitants made a breach in the sea walls and not the land walls of the city.      

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woodsman2b Featured By Owner Jun 28, 2014
What a wonderful image ! And your description reminds me of an artwork I love :…
BricksandStones Featured By Owner Jul 12, 2014
Hi Dylan! Thank you for viewing and you are right - the theme of Theophilia's work is closely related. It is a very nice piece of art - I enjoy her gallery very much - she is a productive and popular artist :) The two falls of Constantinople are some of the saddest moments in history (at least to me). I get sad whenever I think about them for more than 10 minutes. It is such a shame the city is not preserved, so much is lost forever! Modern Istanbul is nice but it is very difficult to embrace the layers of Byzantine capital beneath the Ottoman and Turkish city. The atmosphere is very different - within the old town there are houses which sometimes look as if takes from the countryside - with chickens goats etc. I like Ottoman empire but Turks were less urban than Greeks so the face of the city changed enormously - much more than Jerusalem for example... Anyway, thank you once again and sorry for late response! 
woodsman2b Featured By Owner Jul 12, 2014
I feel the same about the falls of the City... At least it had 1000 years of incredible history :)
Lupa-Rutila Featured By Owner Apr 25, 2014
Wonderful view, great perspective, looks so vast...
BricksandStones Featured By Owner May 12, 2014
This place was quite impressive, at least for me as a tourist. It is right in the center of Istanbul but the walls of Constantinople are surrounded by almost abandoned, desolate area covered by grass where people have their little gardens growing tomatoes, potatoes etc., also there were some homeless people around so the scale of the ancient walls created even bigger impression because there were no other buildings around.  Just imagine three lines of those walls swarming with Byzantine soldiers and a moat full of water.... in the late Antique and medieval period this must have been one of the most amazing cities in the world... Its a shame so much of it was destroyed... but that is a truism, thank you for the comment and as always - sorry for late response!
Lupa-Rutila Featured By Owner May 15, 2014
Still, even damaged, looks so majestic...
Searleit Featured By Owner Mar 16, 2014
No matter how much time passes one can still see the greatness of that ancient city and its architecture.
It's easy to imagine how impressive it must've been to those living in the times of old (meaning before it was
conquered), and as always the description gives it so much "life" and credibility.
What I really like about that picture is the angle - it gives us a perfect view both into the past (the ruined wall)
and what is now (the buildings on the left). I find this very symbolic (at least as symbolic as the trash scattered all around). 
BricksandStones Featured By Owner Mar 19, 2014
:) thanks for the comment, I am glad you like the contrast between old and new, it was not intended but difficult to avoid given that the walls are in the very center of a bustling city which has couple of million inhabitants. To be honest, my impression of the old town of Istanbul was that it was very run down, as soon as you would turn off the main street there were a lot of beautiful old, wooden buildings with no windows or doors and there were chickens and other farm animals leaving there. Even though Turkey is a reach country by now and many parts of Istanbul are amazingly modern, the old town still seems as if it never regained vitality after the collapse of the Ottoman Empire, I was quite surprised by this and I spend a couple of days just visiting all the 26 medieval orthodox churches which are preserved as mosques in the old town. Also, I think that the splendor and majesty of Constantinople before it was sacked by the crusaders in 1204 is simply impossible to imagine now. The scale of destruction through the ages is so big that I honestly think there is no way to even imagine how it looked 900 centuries ago.... At least that was my impression and sorry if this response seem a bit 'over the top' but was really shocked by how much of the ancient city is lost. The visit to Istanbul was interesting of course, but at time it was also very depressing... Its not only the fault of the Turks though, western crusaders ravaged Constantinople as well and this was the beginning of the end... As always - thank you for kindly taking the time to comment - I really appreciate it!
Searleit Featured By Owner Mar 20, 2014
Your welcome and thanks for such a long and detailed 
replies as hardly any one responds in the way you do :)

Yes, I think that shock and depression is unavoidable
when you go to that kind of places and then again some
cultures take on an entire different view at historical objects.
(I get those feelings about every ruined castle by the way - doesen't
really matter that it's 600 years old and no one lived there
for a really long time, somehow whenever you hear the word
"castle" you imagine all that splendour you read about, although
you know it's long gone, you still unconsciously expect to see it
there). And anyway - some places really ancient in Poland were also kept 
in a poor conditions until recently and no one really bothered - I guess
that there's time and place for everything so who knows? Maybe we'll
live to see those ancient cities restored to it's former glory (maybe not wholly, 
but one shouldn't be that demanding ;)
Lord-Makro Featured By Owner Feb 6, 2014
Constantinople... :)
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