Rome and Constantinople
Rewriting Roman History during Late Antiquity
Imprint: Baylor University Press
110 Pages, 5.50 x 8.50 in
- Published: September 2010
Imperial Rome and Christian Constantinople were both astonishingly large cities with over-sized appetites that served as potent symbols of the Roman Empire and its rulers. Esteemed historian Raymond Van Dam draws upon a wide array of evidence to reveal a deep interdependence on imperial ideology and economy as he elucidates the parallel workaday realities and lofty images in their stories.
Tracing the arc of empire from the Rome of Augustus to Justinian's Constantinople, he masterfully shows how the changing political structures, ideologies, and historical narratives of Old and New Rome always remained rooted in the bedrock of the ancient Mediterranean's economic and demographic realities. The transformations in the Late Roman Empire, brought about by the rise of the military and the church, required a rewriting of the master narrative of history and signaled changes in economic systems. Just as Old Rome had provided a stage set for the performance of Republican emperorship, New Rome was configured for the celebration of Christian rule. As it came to pass, a city with too much history was outshone by a city with no history. Provided with the urban amenities and an imagined history appropriate to its elevated status, Constantinople could thus resonate as the new imperial capital, while Rome, on the other hand, was reinvented as the papal city.
By cleverly juxtaposing an analysis of the symbolic roles of Rome and Constantinople with careful consideration of the practical necessities of supporting their enormous size, this book offers a fresh perspective on these ancient cities. Van Dam has a gift for inverting traditional interpretations and assumptions in a way that produces new insights and raises provocative questions about the nature and purpose of these great cities. This book will cause every reader to rethink his or her view of the twin capitals of the Roman world.~Gregory S. Aldrete, Professor of History and Humanistic Studies, University of Wisconsin-Green Bay
A nuanced and eminently readable study. Van Dam has written a great little book.~Robert Ousterhout, Professor of Byzantine Art and Architecture and Director of the Center for Ancient Studies, University of Pennsylvania
Rome and Constantinople is a wonderful little book full of big ideas and spiced with juicy details and clever observations.~Dennis Trout, Associate Professor, Department of Classical Studies, University of Missouri
Erudite, engaging, and well-written, this book offers both a synthetic overview of issues pertinent to the histories of Rome and Constantinople and an interpretation of the relationship between these two urban centers. Neophytes and scholars alike will find it a rewarding read.~Sarah Bassett, Associate Professor, Department of the History of Art, Henry Radford Hope School of Fine Arts