The early history of Constantinople. -- Next to Rome, Constantinople is the most interesting city of Europe, and the greatest scene of remarkable events affecting the destinies of mankind. It occupies to a great extent the site of ancient Byzantium, which was founded by a Doric colony from Megara, in the year 667 B.C. In the reign of Darius Hystaspes, Byzantium was taken by the Persians; by, subsequently to the battle of Plateaea, it came once more into the hands of the Greeks, by whom it was re-peopled by a mixed colony of Athenians and Lacedaemonians.
After passing through many fortunes, it was attacked by Philip of Macedon, whose soldiers were silently approaching the town on a dark night, when suddenly a light shone form the north, and revealed the danger by which the citizens were threatened. It was believed that this was a miracle wrought by the goddess Diana, to whom the inhabitants built an altar as an expression of their gratitude, at the same time assuming the crescent as the emblem of their city.
The crescent is now the emblem of the Turks, and it has been thought that they adopted it on taking possession of Constantinople; but there is reason to believe that this figure had long been the symbol of the Moslem faith. Byzantium was compelled to submit to Alexander the Great, and in later ages was ravaged by the Thracians, Scythians, and other barbarous tribes.
The Byzantines were a commercial people, and at one time enjoyed a position of great prosperity. They are described by ancient authors as an idle, dissipated set, fond of music, dancing, and gaiety, and little disposed to martial exercises, though, in the second Christian century, they resisted the Roman Emperor, Severus, for three years, and at length capitulated only on account of famine. The town was constantly full of foreign sailors, merchants, and fishermen; and, as good wine was to be found there, the carousing was deep and frequent. The citadel of Byzantium stood on the hill where the seraglio is now built, and the rest of the city lay behind the present gardens of the Sultan.
Adopted from Illustrated Universal History, 1885.
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