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Why Constantinople?

I was at Harvard's Semitic Museum (free!) today, and looked at a map, and had a thought:




So, the 'equator' of the Roman world runs NW-SE, from Britain into Egypt. Rome is practically right on the line. Tarentum, Athens, and Alexandria would also be good candidates. If you wanted to move the capital eastward, toward more of the people and wealth, then Greece, Crete, or Egypt look like great places. (Egypt's where Rome's grain was coming from anyway.) Maybe Syria or the Greek/Aegean side of Anatolia (Turkey)

Byzantium? Seems on the ass end of things. Note there's two narrow straits between the Aegean see and the Black Sea, and Byzantium is on the outer one, right on the Black Sea. And not much empire beyond it. Imagine trying to sail from Rome or Syria to Byzantium, seems rather a hassle, compared to other locations.

One thought is if Black Sea trade were really significant, much more so than I imagine it as the edge of the Mediterranean world, such that controlling the strait is important.

Wikipedia just says it had a good harbor and "Constantine identified the site of Byzantium as the right place: a place where an emperor could sit, readily defended, with easy access to the Danube or the Euphrates frontiers, his court supplied from the rich gardens and sophisticated workshops of Roman Asia, his treasuries filled by the wealthiest provinces of the Empire."

And obviously the defenses ended up being first rate. But still, it seems a weird place to pick as "eastern capital".

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Damien Sullivan
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