What Is: Constantinople

What Is: Constantinople

How the Mighty do Fall

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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Two Roads Diverged, And Other Cliches

The famous poem that everyone quotes to describe big decisions still rings true.

Adulting is hard.

To any adult, this is a fairly repeated point. Almost everyone who has to “adult” will say this in their lifetime, and they will say it many times.

But what they don’t tell you is why it’s hard. They don’t explain that you must now make choices on your own, that you have to decide what is best for you.

I’ve just begin to realize this. And the next hard part is telling somebody you love you’re deciding something that they may not like or that will be extremely hard.

The consequences of all of our actions resonate more deeply than we realize, and sometimes it’s a shock to everyone we have to tell. Sometimes it's hard for them to wrap their brains around what is happening. And truth be told, it can be even harder for you to wrap your head around some things, too.

But you do it; you tell that person. And eventually, even though it feels awful, it ends up alright.

Because the best part about adulting comes from this hardship. The resolution, the gratification from knowing that this is truly the right choice is something that everyone feels after some hard decision. And I did. I felt the peace that comes from knowing that at this time, I made a decision that is the best for me. And the affirmation of peace that comes from knowing that is one of the best feelings.

Adulting never becomes easier – or at least I’m convinced it doesn’t. You just learn how to deal with it. You learn how to make hard decisions, and you learn what comes of them. And eventually, you gain the support of those that mean the most to you. In the end, those who love you always have your back they’re always in your corner.

And you truly find that when you have to adult, and choose the road less traveled by (and yes-that will make all the difference).

Cover Image Credit: The Odyssey Online

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I Refuse To Let My Grades Impact My Educational Experience

I’ve always had a strange relationship with grades, but some of the best lessons come from the worst ones.

As we enter mid-January, we begin to reach the point in the year where New Year’s Resolutions start to fade. The gym starts to look less and less appealing, our fridges are no longer full of fruits and vegetables, and our textbooks start to weigh down our bags.

We lose sight of the motivation we might have felt three or four weeks prior, and we fall back into old habits. Personally, I’ve had many failed resolutions regarding my schoolwork and grades. I

feel like the best New Year’s Resolutions come from ambition, not an obligation, and as my second college semester quickly approaches, I’m becoming more nervous to jump right back into such a competitive environment.

I’ve always had a strange relationship with grades. I’m a terrible test taker; truly, I am, but I can write a killer English essay. I like getting good grades, and of course, I always work towards achieving that, but sometimes it’s easy to lose sight of that.

In high school, I was friends with a group of incredibly smart people who got much better grades than I did. Without meaning to, their discussions about a certain test or assignment made me anxious and like I’d never be as smart as them.

In my sophomore year of high school, I made the decision to stop sharing my school grades with others. It was a small change, so small that I had to make little effort in working to maintain that decision, but it came to have one of the biggest effects on the state of my self-value.

With this mentality, the most valuable lessons I took with me came from some of my worst grades. In my junior year, I took an AP History course, and it was one of the most challenging classes I had that year.

I put hours of effort and time into assignments and in studying, but I still couldn’t scrape above a low B. This was at first very frustrating, but more than anything, that class taught me how to study, how to step up and ask for help, and how to stop comparing yourself to others.

College was a surprisingly seamless transition for me. The workload was definitely increased, but I found myself managing it in a way that prioritized my well-being, not my need to get the best grade in the class.

I worked hard by doing my best, and I could not be happier with the results. It’s been nice having a break from the constant workload, and while I still worry that the transition back into it will be tough, I plan on giving it nothing less than my best.

Education is tough. There’s really no getting past that, and the numbers that come with it will have a significant weight on your self-esteem. There will good and bad days, and, even at the risk of using a cliché, your attitude is what’s going to count in the end.

Instead of letting resolutions fade this year, I encourage you to step away from forced change and focus on what is going to make you your best self. These are the changes that will stick with you for a lifetime.

Cover Image Credit: Pixabay

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