Why was Constantinople called the "New Rome"?

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Dec 20, 2016


Because, as of the deposition of Romolus Augustulus in 457 AD, Constantinople was the remaining Capital of whatever was left of the Roman Empire.


As the extent of the Empire had become unwieldy, Diocletian divided it in two halves among his generals in 285 AD. Reunified under Constantin, the territory was divided again under Theodosius (392 AD).

Constantinople, capital of the Eastern half, lived a semi tranquil life for a few decades while Rome, capital of the Western section, was under continuous attack of the Germanic tribes. These, one after the other, took over the city and large parts of its Italian, Spanish and French territory.

The very Western Emperor was deposed by Odoacer king of the Erulians in 457 and, a few years later, Theodoric king of the Goths who had replaced him, moved the Capital to Ravenna.
At that point Rome became simply obsolete, and Constantinople (See of the Eastern Roman Emperors) assumed unofficially the title of Second Rome.

The Eternal City did not remain insignificant for long as its Christian Bishop soon gathered respect and political power to become a weighty actor on the European exchequer.

But capital of an Empire Rome no longer was.
Furthermore, the Holy Roman Empire founded in Reims by Charlemagne in 800 AD, did not have a capital that could reclaim that title. Charles, and his children and nephews after him, moved around between Aachen, Bamberg and Paris never really fixing anywhere an Imperial See to speak of. Within years (with Pepin and Charlemagne’s help) Rome became the capital of a secular kingdom, but her empire was to be merely a spiritual one. Constantinople could therefore legitimately claim the vacant title.

It may be interesting to note that one thousand years later, at the fall of Constantinople under the Islamic onslaught of 1454, the Imperial Eagle flew to Moscow on the wings of the Orthodox Christian Church and Moscow assumed the, again unofficial, title of Third Rome.

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