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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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:iconcypselurus:
Cypselurus Featured By Owner Dec 5, 2014  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
Very stirring description, fantastic writing :) We've been learning about this city in AP World History as of late, and its really an amazing city. Stunning architecture, and amazing it stood up so long to the powers of the east that were constantly breaking upon its walls. I honestly felt kinda sorry for the Byzantines when the Ottomans finally did take over the city- they'd stood up to so much, and even kinda limped back from the damage they suffered during the Fourth Crusade, but in the end, they were more or less completely crushed by the Turks. 
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:iconbricksandstones:
BricksandStones Featured By Owner Dec 15, 2014
Thank you for the comment! I am glad you find the history of Byzantium and Constantinople/Istanbul interesting. My impression is that history classes in Europe do not teach enough about Byzantium, the Eastern Empire is only mentioned in passing, if ever. It is certainly like this is Poland... The surviving Byzantine monuments are indeed very impressive, especially Hagia Sophia and some of the underground cisterns. However, just imagine how much is lost! The Hippodrome, the imperial palace or the largest medieval hospital in the Mediterranean....Quite tragic really. Thank you once again for taking the time to comment - I appreciate it! 
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:iconwoodsman2b:
woodsman2b Featured By Owner Jun 28, 2014
What a wonderful image ! And your description reminds me of an artwork I love : theophilia.deviantart.com/art/…
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:iconbricksandstones:
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! 
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:iconwoodsman2b:
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 :)
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:iconlupa-rutila:
Lupa-Rutila Featured By Owner Apr 25, 2014
Wonderful view, great perspective, looks so vast...
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:iconbricksandstones:
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!
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:iconlupa-rutila:
Lupa-Rutila Featured By Owner May 15, 2014
Still, even damaged, looks so majestic...
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:iconsearleit:
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). 
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:iconbricksandstones:
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!
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:iconsearleit:
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 ;)
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:iconlord-makro:
Lord-Makro Featured By Owner Feb 6, 2014
Constantinople... :)
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:iconbricksandstones:
BricksandStones Featured By Owner Feb 7, 2014
It must have been an amazing city once... with the hippodrome and all its palaces, forums, harbours and travellers from allover the world... The ancient statues and figures on the streets... thank you for the comment!
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:iconlord-makro:
Lord-Makro Featured By Owner Feb 10, 2014
it sure was... :)
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:iconlormet-images:
Lormet-Images Featured By Owner Dec 31, 2013  Professional Interface Designer
Wonderful photograph! Thanks so much for sharing the history of the place. :)
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:iconbricksandstones:
BricksandStones Featured By Owner Jan 17, 2014
Thanks! I am glad you like it! There are so many stories that one can tell about the capital of the eastern Roman empire that it was fairly difficult for me to choose what exactly should I write in this description, I really appreciate that you took the time to read it, thank you once again!  
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:iconlormet-images:
Lormet-Images Featured By Owner Jan 18, 2014  Professional Interface Designer
I thought the photo was very good. I really enjoyed reading about someplace that I have never been, but would like to travel to one day if I get the opportunity. Keep up your wonderful work. :)
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:iconpsychowolf21:
psychowolf21 Featured By Owner Dec 14, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
.......EPIC!!!!!
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:iconbricksandstones:
BricksandStones Featured By Owner Dec 25, 2013
Glad you think so! It sounds naive but I find the history of Byzantium very heroic and inspiring. Even though obviously there were many occasions when Byzantines were cruel, deceitful etc., there were some moments, like the siege of 1453, when their actions were, like you said, epic :) thank you very much for the comment and sorry for late reply. Merry Christmas (what's left of it anyway) and happy new year!
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:iconpsychowolf21:
psychowolf21 Featured By Owner Dec 25, 2013  Hobbyist General Artist
Well most history is just as heroic as it is downright sadistic. Even though the ottomans that claimed the city after 1453 assimilated into the city so given the lifespan of the city itself the amount of history going on there is amazing. for better and worse. From Greek Outpost to The imperial capitals of both the Byzantine Romans ( i know thats a weird POV) to the ottomans to the current Turks...

Merry Christmas =D
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:iconshlomitmessica:
ShlomitMessica Featured By Owner Dec 10, 2013  Hobbyist Photographer
Very Impressive. Past history (and modern too sadly) had seen so many wars, empires coming and empires disappearing. it's amazing how these walls had been preserved,almost as they were -silent witnesses of human aspirations.
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:iconbricksandstones:
BricksandStones Featured By Owner Dec 25, 2013
Hi Shlomit! Thank you very much for the comment and sorry for late reply! Your insight is very true, I suppose the trends observed by you in the  example of the walls of Constantinople mist also be evident in many historical and pre-historiacal monuments in Israel.... After all these lands were contested by various empires at least since the times of Ancient Persia. When I was younger there was a time hen I was really interested by the various wars between Seleucid and Ptolemaic dynasties which mainly took place on the territory of modern Israel... About Constantinople/Istanbul; Turkish authorities have recently rebuilt some sections of the walls to show how they originally looked but, to be honest, these renovated parts looked very fake to me and I definitely prefer the ruins...  here is the reconstructed part en.wikipedia.org/wiki/File:Car… but anyway, thank you very much once again,  I always appreciate a comment from you :)
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:iconshlomitmessica:
ShlomitMessica Featured By Owner Dec 25, 2013  Hobbyist Photographer
Here the many ruins are most of the time very damaged. the best preserved I have seen is the Nimrod fortress. yesterday I visited the roman baths of Hamat gader,  a huge complex,beautiful and in great condition.
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:iconladymarg:
LadyMarg Featured By Owner Dec 9, 2013  Hobbyist Artist
Jakże to piękne!:) Wow! Nigdy mnie nie ciągnęło do Turcji, ale chyba zacznie;)
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:iconbricksandstones:
BricksandStones Featured By Owner Dec 22, 2013
Hej! Przepraszam ze tak pozno odpisuje, zepsul mi sie samochod i potem mialem mase pracy bo na swieta wracam do Polski zawsze... Tak czy siak dziekuje za kolejny mily komentarz - naprawde ciesze sie ze mury Ci sie podobaja - Turcja jest strasznie turystycznym miejscem wiec czlowiek czuje sie malo wyjatkowy kiedy ja zwiedza, nie ma sie takiego ppoczucia 'odkrywania miejsca' ale mimo wszystko zabytki Azji Mniejszej i Bosforu sa po prostu niesamowite, oprocz Kapadocji jest napczyklad zamek templariuszy Bagras, Korykos Armenskiego krolestwa Cylicji ktore trwalo az do 1375, Trebizond czy katedra Ormianska na wyspie Akdamar... Przynajmniej te bardzo chcialbym zobaczyc a jeszcze mi sie nie udalo... Jeszcze raz dzieki za komentarz i Wesoly Swiat - oby byly jak najlepsze i mam nadzieje ze Nowy rok bedzie dla ciebie dobry!
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:iconladymarg:
LadyMarg Featured By Owner Dec 22, 2013  Hobbyist Artist
Dziękuję i wzajemnie - Wesołych Świąt! A w nowym roku jak najwięcej zwiedzania (czego sobie również życzę) ;)
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:iconledaverix:
LeDaverix Featured By Owner Dec 9, 2013  Hobbyist Digital Artist

They are a masterpiece of Military defence architecture :)  .. to bad the builders didn't see the Cannons coming :D

"one of the greatest cities of both the Antique and Medieval worlds" dont Forget the modern World.^^

..

it may sounds crazy, but somehow we have to celebrate the fall of These Walls as well :)  as it is a part of the beginning of the Rennaisance which mainly occured due to lots of academics leaving the City and moving to north Italy. When finally the conserved ancient knowledge broke free from this .. beautiful but a litle bit to religious City, and went west to the much more seculare Republics of North Italy :)    


But great Abstract,.. was a joy to read it , and the snapshot is great :)

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:iconbricksandstones:
BricksandStones Featured By Owner Dec 22, 2013
Hi LeDaverix, I am very sorry for not replying to your comment for so long. I think it provides an interesting insight into the wider context of the fall of Constantinople. However, I am always very cautious when people define what braught the ancient knowledge back to the west, I heard that Roman and Greek manuscripts were reintroduced to western Europe by Muslim Caliphate in Spain and its subsequent smaller states known as Taifas, I also heard that this knowledge was preserved by Irish monks who copied them when the rest of Europe was in turmoil, I also heard the theory that the fall of Constantinople had an impact on the development of Rennaisance as you claim and it is certainly true that 'Greek' was very fashionable in the 15th C. Italy. I would not overestimate its importance though, in the 15th C. Constantinople was depopulated, most of its libraries were looted in 1204 and, sadly, its scholars found it difficult to compete with western academics. Do not get me wrong, I am fascinated by the Byzantine empire but in its final centuries it was already much weakened and there were few refugees from the city as such, most came from other parts of Greece and Asia Minor such as Thessaloniki or Trebizond... Also, many important thinkers, like Copernicus came from regions unaffected by Byzantine culture such as northern Poland/Prussia. Still, I am sure that the fall of Constantinople had a stimulating impact on the culture of Italy... Anyway, sorry for this longish response, I think that you are to large extend right :) Thank you very much for taking you time to comment and Marry Christmas, I hope that 2014 will treat you kindly, all the best! 
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:iconledaverix:
LeDaverix Featured By Owner Dec 22, 2013  Hobbyist Digital Artist

Wow, thats a really friendly and Longe Response.. merci :D  .. didnt expect that one coming :)

My source is actually the german Wikipedia. (i know, not the best Kind of source)^^ .. 

But sure, the Reconquista had also it's effect like many other things else, like you said. Actally i have to agree to all of that.   Maybe i overrated the fall of the Walls a litle bit. But in the End it has the same effect. Maybe not the fall itself, but the Long period of decline before the fall ..  but ive got to less Information left.


btw. merci, and great Hollydays back. :)

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:iconpaul-1485:
Paul-1485 Featured By Owner Dec 9, 2013  Professional Writer
Mindblowing!
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:iconbricksandstones:
BricksandStones Featured By Owner Dec 22, 2013
Hi Paul, I am very sorry for not replying to your kind comment for so long. Thank you very much, I am glad you like this image and I would like you to wish you all the best, Merry Christmas and a happy new year! I hope you will write some more great stories in 2014 :) 
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:iconpaul-1485:
Paul-1485 Featured By Owner Dec 27, 2013  Professional Writer
Oh hello!  It's ok!  Thank you, and may you have a happy new year!  :)
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:iconironsides11:
ironsides11 Featured By Owner Dec 9, 2013
Beautiful, its always great to see your photos. :D
I don't know if you've hear of him, but I've really enjoyed the books and lectures of Lars Brownworth www.youtube.com/watch?v=oCjHA7…. He's very knowledgeable about the Byzantine/Roman Empire, and so he immediately came to mind when I saw this. xD

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:iconbricksandstones:
BricksandStones Featured By Owner Dec 10, 2013
Thank you very much for your kind comment and for the link - I just viewed it, it is a very interesting commentary - when I walked along the walls some time ago I found it difficult to identify individual gates with historical sites and events which took place near them so Lars' comments were especially interesting for me. Thanks again, I am glad you find some of my photos interesting! Cheers! 
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:iconandersvolker:
andersvolker Featured By Owner Dec 9, 2013  Hobbyist Photographer
Walls do not protect eternally, not in China, not in Berlin and not at Bosporus.
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:iconbricksandstones:
BricksandStones Featured By Owner Dec 9, 2013
You are right of course but still, this is quite sad, and, to me at least, the collapse of Byzantine empire and its state traditions is quite depressing. Thank you for the comment nonetheless :) I really appreciate that you still take some time to visit my gallery! Thanks again!
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:icondashinvaine:
dashinvaine Featured By Owner Dec 8, 2013
Beautiful. I agree with your comment, incidentally, and always found the story of Constantine XI very poignant. Constantinople seems to be a running theme at the moment, it keeps coming up. The other day there was a good documentary on it called Byzantium: A Tale of Three Cities (which can be found on youtube if you didn't see it). There was some interesting discussion about the fate of the church of Holy Apostles, and the intentions of Constantine I who was originally buried surrounded by the relics of the apostles. They also tracked down his supposed sarcophagus, the side of which contained a symbol that they intrpreted as a representation of the imperial standard, but that looked a lot like an Egyptian Ankh to me...

I also visited Leighton House in London, yesterday, the interior of which is done in oriental style and rather resembles the Topkapi palace of the Ottoman sultans, complete with domes, fountains, peacocks and Iznik tiles. I agree with your comments about the Ottoman state, too. Evocations of its splendour also seem to me tainted by association with sadism, appropriation, despotism, slavery and oppression.
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:iconbricksandstones:
BricksandStones Featured By Owner Dec 9, 2013
Thanks for the comment! I have not seen the document you are talking about but I will watch it tomorrow evening - thanks for mentioning it. Also, I frequently visit London so I will try to have a look inside Leighton House if I wll manage - you made it sound as an interesting place to visit. About the Ottomans, I really do not want to create an impression that I am prejudiced against Turkey and its history. Obviously much of their history was fuelled by Jihad and they invaded a lot of Christian realms including those that are dear to me like Cyprus or Rhodes. I also pity the fate of Armenians and Greeks of Asia Minor and I am well aware that much of the cultural heritage of the region is currently maltreated but still, Turkey is a very tolerant country by middle-eastern standards and I try not to be to judgmental about the Ottomans - I can very well understand how modern Turks can be proud of their heritage - there is a lot to be proud of. What irritates me is the glorification of invasion, conquest and domination - I am not a specialist in this but modern Turkey seems to be full of places commemorating events like - in this place Ottoman forces breached the walls and killed many of the defenders! How can one be proud of invading other people's homes? In the west people have genuinely condemned 4th crusade and events of the 1st crusade are often critiqued (even though they were less black and white than it is usually presented)... Anyway thanks for the interesting comment and sorry for the longish rant - I quite like to exchange such opinions on DA :) Thanks again!  
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:icondashinvaine:
dashinvaine Featured By Owner Dec 9, 2013
I don't begrudge the Turks their triumphalism. People should be proud of their successful and victorious ancestors

The Byzantines were no saints. The fact that they lost makes them seem more romantic, rather like the Scottish Jacobites. Similarly, the reason the Templars are more interesting than the Hospitallers is the fact that they ceased to exist and therefore became a legend. 
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:iconakitku:
akitku Featured By Owner Dec 8, 2013  Hobbyist Traditional Artist
Beautiful and so tragic! I love how your photo suggests how long they stretched. They must have been even more magnificent when they were complete.
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:iconbricksandstones:
BricksandStones Featured By Owner Dec 9, 2013
Hi! Thank you for the comment (as always), together with my wife we walked all the way along the Land Walls, it was a very long and tiring walk but it made me think how impressive they actually were and how long it took for the members of the garrison (it was a separate Tagmata known as 'walls' or something like that) to walk between the gates. I am glad you like this image :) Thank you!
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