What Is: Constantinople

What Is: Constantinople

How the Mighty do Fall
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Modern-day Instanbul has a history that reaches back millennia. Thought to have been originally founded as a trade settlement by Thracian tribes, it was eventually settled by the Greeks in roughly 300 BCE. However, during the era of the late Roman Empire, it was chosen as the site of Nova Roma, the new capital built by Constantine. More commonly, however, it was known by many names, most commonly as Constantinople, or the "City of Constantine." For over a millennia afterwards, it remained as the richest, largest, and most advanced city of Europe, and its fall to the Ottoman Empire dramatically affected the course of the world.

The city was protected by a series of defenses that protected the entire peninsula, conveniently locking out anyone the citizens didn't want--mostly "barbarian" immigrants. The city also benefited from the affluent trade routes between Anatolia (modern Turkey) and Greece, which served as the link between east and west and was a critical stopping point of the silk road and other valuable trade routes from the east. This wealth made life in the city cozy, to say the least, and soon turned it into a continental epicenter of learning and influence. Of course, as a result, everybody wanted to take the city--and many tried.

At one point, the city was reinforced with a new set of fortifications, the Theodosian Walls, which successfully guarded the city against repeated sieges. Even Attila the Hun turned around and decided the city was impregnable, which wasn't a common approach of his. Three layers of walls and a deep moat successfully protected the city against Huns, Sassanids, Arabs, Bulgars, and Crusaders alike. Needless to say, the city earned a bit of a reputation as impregnable.

One of the more famous defenses of the city was the closely-guarded secrets of Greek Fire, which allowed their dominance of the sea and created actual flamethrowers for the land defenses and sea walls alike. Pots would be filled with the flammable liquid that burnt on water and land alike, although some accounts claim siphons would propel the liquid from tubes like a modern flamethrower. Things heated up quickly when it was brought into battle.

All of that said, nothing lasts forever. The fourth crusade ended as the Venetians used the crusaders to take advantage of Byzantine politics and sack the city during a coup attempt on the emperor, leaving the city and remnants of the empire crippled. Eventually, the Ottoman Turks grew powerful enough to successfully topple what was left of the Byzantine Empire in 1453. The advent of canons allowed a bombardment of firepower that, after weeks of siege, reduced the walls to rubble. Even then, the defenders mounted valiant defenses that held the Turks off, but the defensive lines finally failed. The last Byzantine/Roman Emperor, Constantine XI, died in the gap.

Afterwards, Constantinople was renamed Istanbul and served as the new capital of the Ottoman Empire. The ever-helpful Venetians fought them for control of Greece on multiple occasions, even managing to blow up most of the Parthenon in Athens in the process, but the Ottomans were there to stay. Istanbul remained a major economic and cultural center, but, ironically, it's change of hands also spelled its decline. The Byzantines had controlled the silk road for years thanks to the location; after the fourth crusade, the Venetians had largely controlled the trade through the Byzantines. However, after the success of the Ottomans, the rising Spanish and Portuguese kingdoms decided to circumvent the Ottoman dominance of the road by finding a sea route around Africa--and then inadvertently finding the Americas. In a way, although the Ottomans remained a major power for at least a century longer, and Istanbul remains an important city to this day, the last Roman defenders had the last laugh over the Ottomans and Venetians alike.

Cover Image Credit: msecnd.net

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10 Things I Learned When My Best Friend Got Pregnant In High School

In this world where you can be anything: be a friend (and be a good one).

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Life: full of amazing, unforeseen circumstances. How you roll with the punches only reveals your strength.
True friends are like diamonds: bright, beautiful, valuable, and always in style." -Nicole Richie

I remember when I first heard the big news. I didn't want to believe it. My heart dropped. I was worried for you. What would happen? How would you get through this? Nothing we knew would ever be the same. Our world was about to change forever. I recalled the verse Isaiah 41:10, "Do not be afraid, for I am with you." I knew God was with you and would always be. I knew God needed me to be here for you, no matter what.

Turns out, you had this all in the bag. You handled everything with grace and dignity. You were strong even on your hardest days. You were overwhelmed with faith and you inspired me with your perseverance through the hardest times. I could not be more proud of who you became because of the cards you were dealt.

To Meaghan: I love you. I'm always here, no matter where. Hudson is so lucky to have you.

Here's what I learned from you and your sweet baby boy:

1. Contrary to popular belief, it is NOT the end of the world

Start making plans for the future. Pick out clothes, decorations, and toys. Help with all the madness and preparation. She would do the same for you. Plus, 9 p.m. runs to Toys-R-Us just to buy the baby some socks (because you do not know the gender yet) is always a good idea. You have to focus on the big picture. Life doesn't stop even when you want to.

2. No matter how much you want to freak out, remain calm

Getting unexpected news is never easy to hear. If needed, cry. Cry until you cannot anymore. Then, get up and be strong, she needs you. Be flexible (You want to come over to hang out? Right now? No, I'm not in the middle of ten thousand things, come on over). Be available (yes, even for her 3 a.m. insomnia calls just to see "what's up?") "Meaghan, why are you even awake right now?"

3. Radiate positivity. Always. 

This is an emotional time. The LAST thing she needs is someone bringing her down. "No, honey, you're glowing!" "You do not look fat in that bikini!!" "You are rocking that baby bump!" "Oh, that's your the third day in a row you're eating a Sonic burger for lunch? You go girl!"

4. Be ready for all the times: happy, confusing, stressful, sad, (but mostly) exciting

Mixed emotions are so hard, but look for the silver lining. With your support, she will be strong.

"Who knew picking out the brand of diapers to buy was so stressful?"

5. This world is a scary place. You never want to be all alone, so don't be. 

Like the song says, we, really do, all need someone to lean on. Just being there for someone goes a long way. "Meaghan what the heck are you doing in MY bed? How long have you been here?"

6. Lean on God. His plan is greater than we could ever imagine. 

When you don't know where to go, or who to turn to, pray! Pray for the burdens you feel. Pray for the future. Pray for patience. Pray for the ability to not grow weary. Pray for a heart of compassion. Pray. Pray. Pray.

7. Something we never knew we needed. 

Some of the best things in life are things we never knew we needed. Who knows where we would be without this sweet face?

"Hudson say Lib. Libby. L-- Come ON!" "CAT!" "Okay, that works too."

8. "Mother knows best"...is accurate, whether you believe it or not

Turns out, seventeen-year-olds don't know how to plan baby showers. Our moms have been there, done that. They want to be involved just as much as we do, so let them! Listen to their guidance. After all, they're professionals.

9. There will *almost always* be a "better way" of doing something...but, be a cheerleader, not a critic 

This is something many people struggle with in general, but it is not your DNA, it is not your place to be a critic. Let her raise her own baby. You are there to be a friend, not a mentor. ****Unless she's about to name the baby something absolutely terrible -- for the love of that baby, don't let her name that kid something everyone hates.

10.  At the end of the day, it's not what you have or what you know; rather, it is all about who you love and those who love you

Life has adapted, but for the better. We grew up, learned, and became stronger. All the while, we stayed friends every step of the way. We still have the same fun and most definitely, the same laughs.

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I'm Bringing YOLO Back

Remember like 2011 when "you only live once" was a popular saying, and if you were like me you probably thought it was stupid. Well, now I love it.

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When making decisions in everyday life, I love having the mindset that you only live once. When you're friends ask you to go out with them and have fun, go! You have to live your best and most exciting life every day so you don't miss out on amazing opportunities.

There are so many small decisions to make every day that can make life more interesting. Do you want to go out? Do it! Do you want to try something new? Do it! You want to change your hair do it!

Being scared to make decisions can stop you from having so many experiences. Make decisions that are going to make your life more exciting and more interesting.

There's definitely a point when the mindset of YOLO can be taken too far. I'm just talking about small personal decisions that you are scared to make, not ones that are dangerous or permanent.

We need to be living our most fulfilling lives now because we won't be able to go back and change our decisions in the future. One day we won't be in college anymore. We won't be able to go out whenever we want. We won't get to take part in some of the exciting experiences that are only happening now. So go out and live a great life now!

My goal in life is to never regret saying no to an opportunity that could have brought great memories and fun times. I don't want to be in my old age, wishing I would've gone out with my friends and had fun when I was younger. I want to go enjoy every single moment of my youth while I still have the chance. You only live once, make the best of the life you have.

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