A palatine Rome

The new city of Constantine was modeled on Rome. He started with the Greek city of Byzantium …

the city’s first and original hill, an unchanged traditional Greek acropolis, topped by an ancient temple to Aphrodite, with a theatre for both holy and less elevated spectacle on its seaward side.

And built out to make his “Glorious Rome”. On the fourth and highest hill, an imperial mausoleum like those in Rome.

the bare foundations of her family’s tomb … on the fourth hill

An imperial forum like the many in Rome …

on the second hill. It would hold a new forum, named for Constantine

A milestone like Rome’s …

The city’s milestone. All distances in the east were to be measured from it. Like the golden milestone that sat in Rome’s forum and had long held the distances from the City to the major cities of her empire.

As great a circus like Rome’s …

“We are remaking the arena to hold more than one hundred thousand.” “A Circus Maximus”, she said, though Rome’s great circus held even more.

and a palace as good as Rome’s …

“Behind will be the palace, facing the sea with ready access to the Circus. It will outshine anything ever built on Palatine hill.”

But it was the palace that dominated, took the city’s prime location …

this city of glory would be a palatine city, a King’s city, more new Alexandria than new Rome.

The palace area, not the public forum, was its centerpiece. Contrast the layout of new and “old” Rome and you have the contrast between the early empire and the fourth century world.

It started on the model of Rome or Alexandria. Now it is seen through the lens of its later history. It was elaborately Christian, the first “new Jerusalem”, the most golden medieval [1] [2], a bulwark [3] or victim of Islam. Walk its remainders and you are in a mix of Christian and Islamic [4] [5]. Not “Glorious Rome”.

To keep in touch with the fourth century, I must look back from then, not from now. The city of Constantine began as a Roman city that expanded an old Greek city, like so many before it. As the century progressed, it changed, as the empire changed, but at the beginning, it was typical.

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