Monday, July 04, 2011

The myth of New Rome

Recently a minor debate arose on the Byzans-​​L list­serv as to whether Con­stan­tino­ple was orig­i­nally named by Con­stan­tine ‘New Rome’ (in Greek Νέα Ῥώμη, in Latin Nova Roma). I’ve read this claim uncrit­i­cally a num­ber of times in a num­ber of sources, some of whom are quite good schol­ars, but it’s a bit like one of those pop­u­lar attri­bu­tions that no one ever both­ers to check because Oscar Wilde (or Mark Twain) would have said some­thing like that. We read it enough, we hear it enough, and we trust that the tra­di­tion we’ve received is accurate.

This is not ‘New Rome.’

A case was made that the use of New Rome as a name for Con­stan­tino­ple was based on a sort of power strug­gle among the Churches of the East, and while the rea­son­ing is sound and I accept the argu­ment, I’m more con­cerned with the notion that New Rome was ever con­sid­ered a name in the early period.

More at the Campus


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