Eis tin polin – Istanbul .
27 May 2009
What's in a name ?
From the New York Times:
Published: Sunday, August 11, 1991
To the Editor:
In his review of "Turkish Reflections" by Mary Lee Settle (July 14), Roderick Conway Morris is only partly right when he says that the Greeks who lived in Constantinople were calling the city Istanbul "at least a hundred years before the [ Turkish ] conquest."
"Istanbul," as Mr. Morris notes, is a contracted form of eis tin polin, which in Greek means "in the city" or "to the city." The Greeks, however, never referred to Constantinople (Constantine's polis, or city) as Istanbul. They simply called it i polis, not unlike New Yorkers referring to Manhattan as "the city."
If the people of Constantinople were in the city or going to it, then they said eis tin polin. Since Greek nouns and place names are declined, the Greeks would never use the dative case ( eis tin polin ) when "the city" ( i polis ) was the subject of the sentence. Eis tin polin is a prepositional phrase and would only be used as such, not as the name of the city. That would be the equivalent in English of saying "to Albany" (or "in Albany") is the capital of New York. EVANTHIA ALLEN White Plains
Milestones in the History of Hellenism in Constantinople
· 658 BC Greek colonists from Megara establish on the coast of Keratia bay a new city named Byzantium in honor of its founder Byzantas.
· 324 AD The city of Byzantium, initially as "New Rome" and later as "Constantinople", becomes the capital of the eastern segment of the Roman Empire. As capital of the Byzantine Empire, Constantinople was for eleven centuries one of the most important political, military, religious and cultural centers of Anatolia, a fact which explains its reputation as the "Queen of Cities".
· 1204 Impregnable since the times of Constantine the Great, the Byzantine capital is conquered in the spring of 1204 by the soldiers of the Fourth Crusade. The three days of plunder and violence which followed the conquest, destroyed a large portion of the city, which was not able to restore its original brilliance even after the restorations of the Byzantine emperors in 1261.
· 1453 After five centuries of resistance to the campaigns of the turkish tribes of Anatolia, Constantinople finally falls in the hands of the Ottoman Turks. Muhamed the Pillager, recognizing the Patriarch of Constantinople as a political and religious leader of all orthodox citizens within the limits of the Ottoman Empire, grants him a series of priviledges in order to ensure the orderly survival of his followers under the ottoman rule. One of the names given to Constantinople by the new conquerors is "Istanbul", a linguistic corruption of the greek phrase "eis tin polin" meaning "to the city".
· 1821 With the support of the Great Powers of that time, the revolution of Greeks in mainland Greece against the Ottoman Empire results in the creation of the independent Greek state (1830). Patriarch Gregorios V is hung at the gate of the Patriarchate in Fanari (Constantinople) as accountable to the sultanate for the rebellion of his flock; the gate has since remained shut as a symbol of mourning. Several other leading figures of the church and society also lost their lives along with the Patriarch, and orthodox churches in Constantinople were set on fire.
· 1839 to 1856 In the framework of the great reforms of the 19th century which were aimed at curtailing the rapid decline of the empire, efforts were made to improve the status of minorities, an event which allowed them to rapidly flourish in the economic and cultural arenas.
· 1914 At the verge of the First World War, the hellenic community of Constantinople is living the last days of its golden age. According to ottoman archives, the non-muslim population of the city account for almost half of a population of approximately 900,000. The great majority of the non-muslim population is comprised of the Greeks, followed by the Jews, Armenians and few Europeans. Although the Turks represent the majority of the population, it is the extensive commercial, industrial, economic activities and international cultural ties of the minorities which give Constantinople its cosmopolitan prestige of that era.
· 1918 to 1920 After its defeat along with the Central Powers in the First World War and the Peace Treaty of Moudros, the Ottoman Empire is divided between the allies of the Entente into spheres of influence, with Constantinople coming under International Control. As part of the allied occupation forces, Greek warships are positioned in the lower Bosphorus, while a Greek military delegation is stationed in Constantinople.
· 1919 Greece, under the leadership of Venizelos, lands a military force on Smyrna in May. This is the start of the Asia Minor Campaign, which three years later will result in the decline of the front and the dramatic retreat of Hellenism from Anatolia.
· 1922 The news of the destruction of Smyrna raises panic in the hellenic community of Constantinople. Fearing Turkish reprisals, many Greeks who had openly sided with the allied occupation, start the long road to become premature refugees. It is estimated that only in the period from October to December 1922, 50,000 non-muslims fled from Constantinople. Almost all of them headed to Greece.
· 1923 The Treaty of Lausanne defines the compulsory population exchange between Turkey and Greece. The Greeks of Constantinople, Imvros and Tenedos, and the muslims of Western Thrace are the only populations to be excluded from the exchange. Despite the International reassurances regarding the safety of their lives and property, a large number of Greeks abandons Constantinople for Greece, to the extent that by March 1923 the Patriarchate estimated that "the remaining Greek community in Constantinople is about 250,000 while about 150,000 have left".
· 1930 The Accord of Greek-Turkish Friendship is signed in Ankara between Venizelos and Inonu. On the one hand, the normalization of the relations between the two countries allows the improvement of their respective minorities, yet on the other hand, isolated nationalist elements in Turkey (such as the "Vatandas Turkce konus" or "citizen of Constantinople, speak in Turkish!") apply assimilation pressures. By 1935, the Turkish census for Constantinople accounts the Greek orthodox community at 125,046.
· 1942 to 1943 In the midst of the Second World War, Turkey passes the "property tax" or "varlik", with the intention of improving the government's finances and curtailing the black market which flourished due to the war. The level of taxation with respect to total capital was 232% for the Armenians, 184% for the Jews, 159% for the Greeks, yet only a mere 4.9% for the Turks. Although they only accounted for 0.55% of the national population, the Greeks of Constantinople were thus held accountable for 20% of its taxes. The inability to meet these extreme levels of taxation resulted in the closure of dozens of businesses and their transfer together with considerable land and housing to Turkish hands in exchange for degrading amounts of monetary compensation. The minorities, which even after liquidating all their property still owed taxes to the government, were transfered to the depths of Anatolia for slave labor at government projects under very adverse conditions.
· 1955 The night of the 6th to 7th of Spetember, the Turkish mobs were let loose in the streets of greek neighbourhoods in an orchestrated orgy of violence and plunder. Over 4,000 Greek businesses were ruined, more than 2,000 homes burgled, churches and schools were incinerated, and cemeteries desecrated. While the Turkish government admitted a toll of 3 dead and 40 wounded, later reports raised the actual figure to 15 deaths. The Worldwide Council of Churches estimated the damages at $150 million, although other sources raise the value at $ 300 million. In the aftermath of these events, a new wave of Constantinopolitans abandons their homes in search of safe haven.
· 1964 In March, the Turkish government responds to the escalation of tensions in Cyprus by deporting the Greeks of Constantinople as "dangerous to the internal and external security of Turkey". At the same time, Turkey freezes their properties and bank accounts. By September of 1965, the number of deportees, without including their accompanying family members, reached 6,000. According to official population statistics, in 1965 the orthodox christians in Turkey amounted to 76,122 (from 106,611 in 1960).
· 1974 The Turkish invasion of Cyprus revives the climate of fear and insecurity for the Greek community of Constantinople. In the months following the invasion, hundereds of Constantinopolitans head for Greece.
· 1974 to 1995 The members of the Greek minority are constantly decreasing. In the summer of 1993, the estimated size of the Greek community in Constantinople was around 2,000. Today, due to the advanced age of these few remaining Constantinopolitans, the Greek community is likely to be even smaller.
Note from the Translator: As set forth by the Treaty of Lausanne, the counterpart to the Greek minority in Turkey, namely the muslim minority in Thrace, has been allowed by the government of Greece to flourish to approximately 140,000...
Translated by Leandros Arvanitakis from Margarita Poutouridou's text in Kostas Sakellariou's photo album "Oi Teleytaioi Ellnves tns Polns" (The Last Greeks of Constantinople), AGRA publishers, Athens, Greece, 1995. Many of the figures regarding the Greek minority in the later years have been taken from Alexes Alexandris' book, "The Greek Minority of Istanbul and Greek-Turkish Relations, 1918 to 1974", Center for Asia Minor Studies, Greece, 1992.
1.Why did Constantine I choose Byzantium as an alternate capital ?
It was a sleepy fishing village in 324 AD .
Because it did not have earthquake damage . It lies on a relatively stable part of the European plate northwest of the North-Anatolian Fault .
See http://andreswhy.blogspot.com "Istanbul Earthquake 2009"
Note that Constantinople did not suffer significant earthquake damage in the 1 700 years following . Compared to (say ) Ephesus .
He modestly renamed it after himself .
But it was too big a mouthful (too many phonemes) . So it became simply "The City" . This morphed to "eis tin polin"
In the vernacular there was only one City .
Why did this not happen to Rome ? ("All roads lead to Rome") . Because Roma is short and sweet . And "Ad Roma" does not sound as strong . At a deep level , Rome was still acknowledged as THE city .
2.The Library .
The Constantinople Library held many original manuscripts from the Greek , Roman , Alexandrian and Middle Eastern cities . Many would be dynamite to any of the established religions . (The nitty-gritty about the Council of Nicea , original testimonies by the Apostles , the Arian heresy , the only surviving records of the large Christian community in Asia (destroyed in the aftermath of the Mongols) , etc , etc)
See http://andreswhy.blogspot.com "Salvino Armolo D'Armati :The most influential human in the last thousand years"
He invented spectacles around 1300 AD . These then spread like wildfire around the Mediterranean . Including Constantinople . The caretakers realized that they probably could not survive much longer (circa 1346-1348) ,when the Black Death caused a major shrinkage in population , with no hope of replenishment .(See http:andreswhy.blogspot.com "Fractal Collapse of Societies")
So they frantically started copying and disseminating . Using anybody who could see using the new glasses . To quote History Today (Nov 2008 p40) : "Ancient texts were studied , meticulously edited and commented on by large numbers of intellectuals , who enjoyed patronage."
But the originals ?
Where could they find a safe haven ?
Especially the politically sensitive ones .
They were obviously aware of their value , but the last persons they would like to have them were the Moslems .
Venice , France , Normans were out after the Fourth Crusade (Sack of Constantinople 1204) .
Likewise any Western Roman Catholic Country .
This leaves the north .
John VIII (Paleologus) must have tried a last effort at the Council of Ferrara-Florence in 1438 AD .
There he met and made an alliance with Albrecht II , the Emperor of the Holy Roman Empire . (The Austrian-Swiss version) .
He was on the skids , but strong enough to protect the Library , but not aligned with the Vatican , France or Venice .
Mar 18, 1438 - It was in the midst of these troubles that the electors met at Frankfurt to choose a new Emperor, but Albrecht's claims were so predominant that on the 18th of March, 1438, he was unanimously requested to take the helm of state. Thus after a lapse of 130 years we had a Hapsburg Emperor . A role they played for the next 500 years .
These documents have been used for leverage for half a millennium , but their location has been forgotten as the inheritors died off because of inbreeding .
The original documents seems to have been securely sealed in containers (amphorae) and sent northwards by ship over the Black Sea .
So , the most likely scenario is that a large part of the Constantinople Library is still sealed up in the original containers in the original Hapsburg Castle . ( Enough scholars would have survived to indicate the sensitive documents . The others would have had no interest to a medieval lord , but he would have kept them secure . Buried in a deep dungeon .)
A real treasure , much more valuable than gold .
Museums and Foundations would pay literally billions of US dollars for these documents .
It is doubtful if any sensitive documents would have been kept here .
But the rest : the lost works of Euripides , Plato , Socrates , etc .
The location is Castle Habichtsburg , Brugg , Switzerland .
(Look for Greek amphorae using earth-sounding sonar or radar) .
Gnomically yours ,