The meaning of Constantinople in early byzantine historiography
For the Byzantine world, still marked by its Greek-Roman tradition, towns were essential elements.
We propose here to make reference less to the real Byzantine town, but more to its representation in
the historical writings of the early Middle Ages. These works, whether centred on political and military
aspects (the Histories written by authors like Procopius, Agathias, Menander The Guardsman,
Theophylact Simocatta and Nicephorus the Patriarch) or on political-religious ones (the Chronicles
of Malalas, Chronicon Paschale, Chronographia of Theophanes the Confessor), represent an invaluable
source in reconstructing the mentality and the world view held by people of that age. In their
writings this authors pay little attention to geography or natural space, instead emphasising the
imaginary and ideological symbols of an anthropic space. Their points of reference are overwhelmingly
human edifi ces, mainly cities, towns, fortifi cations, aqueducts and lately churches. Space is
represented in Byzantium as a hierarchy based on cultural and political criteria, with towns being
the only civilised spaces, and amongst these, Constantinople, the city par excellence, is the centre of
all civilization. This idea is carried to the extent that the “idea of Constantinople” as an axis mundi
becomes more important than the actual representation of the physical city itself.
Keywords: Constantinople, Byzantine chroniclers, Hippodrome, barbarian wars, the Byzantine