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Siege of Constantinople

The 1453 Siege of Constantinople (painted 1499)

Constantinople was the capital of the Byzantine Empire and, following its fall in 1453, of the Ottoman Empire until 1930, when it was renamed Istanbul as part of Mustafa Kemal Atatürk's Turkish national reforms. Strategically located between the Golden Horn and the Sea of Marmara at the point where Europe meets Asia, Constantinople was extremely important as the successor to ancient Rome and the largest and wealthiest city in Europe throughout the Middle Ages, it was known as the "Queen of Cities."

The city has had many names throughout history. Depending on the background of people, and their language and ethnicity, it often had several different names at any given time; among the most common were Byzantium, New Rome, Constantinople and Stamboul. Usually, the name Constantinople refers to the period from its founding by Constantine I to the Muslim conquest.

The loss of Constantinople to the Ottomans sent shock waves throughout Europe. Soon afterwards, the Balkans fell to the Ottomans. Although important commerical ties with Stamboul continued, Europeans never forgave the Turks for seizing Europe's remaining link to the Roman world that had shaped Europe's administrative and legal systems and which, through the Catholic tradition, continued to inform her Christian faith. Turks and Muslims were demonized as the other, who opposed progress and the true faith. No effort was made to enquire whether God's voice might also be speaking through their religion. Europe continued to mourn the loss of Constantinople, yet Europe had not been consistent friends of the city they claimed to hold in such high esteem.

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